Possum Kingdom, TXon June 13, 2004 at 1128
Sundey June 13th, and I’m in Possum Kingdom. I don’t know what this place is or even really where it is, but it’s weird. I’m on top of this mountain between Ft. Worth and Abeline, and I’m completely surrounded by the richest people I’ve seen for a long time. This place is like Bohemian Grove or something.
To sum up, I left Comanche yesterday noon and went north to De Leon, where I hung out at the Blue Moon Cafe, which is an awesome place. It’s like an old-style saloon or a barn or something, with a tiny little restaurant huddled in one corner and the rest of the room like an empty cathedral. Ended up yabbering about education theory and the WTC with this elementary school teacher named Max. Fun. Back on the road! This road was a little tough, but very pretty.
I haven’t been bothering to recount to y’all the natural splendors of the things that I’ve seen, because I have a video camera for that. You can see the tapes when I get home. It goes without saying that all this shit is very pretty, very pretty. I also have one notebook I’m using for story ideas (knocked out another couple pages yesterday, and I’m working on my idea for the Dr. Strange/A-Team thing, which involves walking upside down on clouds and Rubio’s hella cool drawings of guys with swords fighting giants), and another notebook for amusing observations along the way, for example:
The wind’s usually going about nine miles an hour from the south or southwest. Sometimes I’m travelling so perfectly in tune with the wind that I can hit my cigarette lighter and keep it going, perfectly steady, for minutes at a time. Zipping down the road with a lit cigarette lighter is very neat. I bet it would look cool on film, too.
Why do I call it a cigarette lighter? You and I both know I don’t use it for cigarettes.
I’m really using this forum as a combination diary, list of people I meet, and list of things I eat. I ate so friggin’ good yesterday.
Made it to Strawn, and here’s where the story gets interesting. I ate this awesome cheeseburger, but that’s not the interesting part. No, the interesting part is that Strawn, Texas, population 749, has the Texas champion six-man football team, and Saturday was their homecoming. So there were parades and all sorts of nonsense. I got there @ 6 pm, watched the hometown hoo-ha for a little while, and figured I didn’t really want to see the dance, but I did want to hang out with a bunch of drunk farmgirls. So my brilliant plan was, I’d ride about thirty miles north to this lake I saw on the map, Possum Kingdom.
My theory was, if there’s a place called Possum Kingdom, it’s gonna be inhabited only by people named Bubba and Luanne. I’d find a campfire on the beach, eat some catfish, and chill.
Rode north, and it was hilly and difficult. I found a CD by the side of the road and I plan to listen to it sometime. Took some nice pictures, saw all sorts of roadkill. Where 16 hits 180 I saw an entire dead cow in the ditch, two vultures picking at it in no hurry. I guess the rotting gives it a little flavor. I love Texas.
My first clue that my plan was not going according to plan was some bullshit construction on 16. There was about five miles of absolutely pointless gravel, and then a four-lane highway of surpassing straightness and niceness. There was a Whataburger.
(short digression — I have not seen a Taco Bell for seven days, yet I still see Taco Bell cups on the side of the road. wtf?)
Everything was under construction by something called “Echo Productions.” Then I started to pass gated communities. Meanwhile, all these incredibly rich and sporty little cars and giant honkin’ SUVs with big blue halogen headlights were passing me at a zillion miles an hour. What, I say, what is the meaning of this? Who wants to live in a gated community called Possum Kingdom?
I hit the Brazos River and realised things were not what they seem. I’d been passed by so many white Porches and GMC Jimmys I knew something was up (this was the point that I called Zach at, by the way). There were also bugs the size of biplanes divebombing me, so stopping was not an option. I soldiered on to the top of the mountain. It was then I noticed that clouds had appeared from nowhere, lightning was striking all around me, and it definitely looked like it was about to pelt big heavy raindrops down upon my poor honky ass. I flagged down a Hummer and said,
“I have two questions. Who are all these rich people and why are they driving so fast, and is it going to rain on me?”
Technically three questions, so he countered by answering only one of them.
“Yes, it’s gonna pour. There’s a town about four miles that way, if you can make it.”
Dark as hell, but I made it. (I have an interesting side about dark American highways, too. Later). I hit town and the first thing I saw was four cops arresting two teenagers. Possum Kingdom is not kind to underage drinkers. I distracted the officers and made them deal with me for a couple minutes, trying to find an all-night anything in this town, which there ain’t.
Turns out Possum Kingdom’s a resort for the rich folk of Dallas and Fort Worth. Nice place, too. Anyway, the cops got sick of hasslin’ with me and told me to go hang out at this bar called the Winds, which I did. I talked to the manager, Scott, who’d done some long-distance bicycling of his own, and he was cool as -hell.- He let me hang out inside as that thunder kept creeping closer and closer. I was chillin’ with these sixty-year-old lawyers who were having some kind of class reunion when the Weather Channel said there were going to be winds up to 60mph.
I videotaped this part. Me and all the staff rushed outside and cleared the patio in a big hurry, and I brought my bicycle inside to wait out the storm. I was hanging with the bartender, this cool cat named Tank, and he got me some of the dankest mashed potatoes I ever did eat from the kitchen. They had little bits of new potatoes in them and stuff. I normally -hate- mashed potatoes, but these were deeply awesome. The rain came and went. I was talking to this supercool waitress named Antonina. She was from the Ukraine, and at first I thought she said her name was Andonina. She has this awesome accent. We really hit it off and talked through the whole storm, and when it was over and time for Scott to kick everybody out, she said I could crash on her couch.
I’d like to point out at this time that I have not been roughing it at ALL. I pulled out of Austin last Sunday, and I’ve slept in a bed every night since then. People are really interested and friendly when they find out I’m dumb enough to ride my bike across America in the summer, and there have been no end of offers of good places to stay and good things to eat. I have more money now than I did when the trip started, too. America is a very nice place.
Back to the story. My bike looks like the hunchback of Notre Dame right now — I have some serious junk in the trunk. So there was no way to disassemble it and toss it in Antonina’s car — I said I’d follow her home. A fifteen minute drive — how hard could it be? Well, eight miles in the dark over unfamiliar roads that are WET, it was very difficult indeed. I’ve never followed a car with a bike before, and it’s not easy. She’d drive about three miles, stop, park, wait for me, and ten minutes later I’d catch up, and we did this over and over again until we got back to her place, a cabin on the YMCA ranch on PK Lake. This was exhilarating but extremely nervewracking. I love my bicycle and I love to do incredibly stupid and dangerous things with my bicycle, but this was dumb even by my standards. But it worked, so who’s complaining.
We stayed up until three talking about America and the Ukraine. She’d never even -heard- of Ronald Reagan — had no idea who he was — which makes me feel so very good. After all, if that Reagan jackass really did win the cold war like they’s tryin’ to pretend, seems like somebody who grew up in the soviet bloc (and was actually there for the Chernobyl incident!) would have heard of him or something, right? But she h’ain’t. Which goes to show that the neocons are FULL of it. She was also talking about learning to drive in the Ukraine, which is apparently no mean trick. They don’t seem to have that American work ethic over there.
This was, by the way, one of the only nice things I said about America all night. We are fat lazy wasteful swine, totally delusional, starting wars for no apparent reason, but at least we pull the crap off of the road after it rains.
In the Ukraine, when a big tree branch falls in the road, it isn’t your job to move it so you just adapt. You learn to drive around it. Antonina was telling me that the maintenance workers would open up a manhole, work for a little while, and when their shift was up they’d just walk off and leave the manhole open. Wasn’t their job to close it. People would walk along and fall right into it, but that was their problem. The power and the water would go out randomly, a couple times a week, for no good reason. If there’s a pothole in the road they don’t fix it, they put up a sign that says “Pothole” and leave it there for years.
(when Antonina says ‘pothole’ it sounds like ‘butthole,’ which is very charming)
Now, in the last three days I’ve ridden at least 60 miles at night. Pitch black night where I literally could not see ten feet in front of me. I could do this because I know in America the roads are clean and clear. If there’s something in the middle of the road, it hasn’t been there for very long. I didn’t see a single pothole in two hundred miles of Highway 16, much less a big sign that said “Pothole,” or a historical marker that says “this pothole has been here since 1986.” And that’s a damn good thing. The odds of me riding my bike into an open manhole cover are slim to none. God bless America.
Here are two other very good things about America:
1) People are so damn nice you can’t believe it. I know that I’ve kinda got that deck stacked in my favor — I am very aware that I am white and male and semi-cute, and therefore traditionally and through no fault of my own the theoretical inheritor of this whole mess. To be honest, that makes me feel very guilty sometimes. And I really look forward to the day when a black man, or a woman, or anybody who damn well feels like it can ride their bikes across the continent with $30 in their pocket and not think twice about it. And I think that day is almost here, if it’s not already. So that’s ANOTHER really good thing about America.
2) (technically 3 but who’s counting). Antonina didn’t know who President Reagan was. I mean, I didn’t really know who the president of the Ukraine was, but i know who Vladimir Putin is. As Americans we’re sorta accustomed to thinking we know nothing about the world, but if you turn on the news it’s nothing BUT world news. I know all about Afghanistan and Iraq and Israel and Poland and so on and so forth…a lot of the people I’ve met from other countries say, no, they pay no attention to world news at all. They say Americans are some of the best informed people they’ve ever met. I think that’s pretty cool. Americans honestly do care about the rest of the world, though we’ve got a fucked up way of showing it sometimes.
Then it was 3AM and we went to sleep. It was totally innocent, by the way. Sorry to disappoint you, faithful reader, but it wasn’t like that.
I had these weird dreams about a book with a curse on it and my dead friend Matt Stacy and mysterious forces stealing my wallet — I think I use dreams to express the anxiety that I don’t feel during the day. My bike’s sitting outside this real estate office right now, totally unlocked and unwatched, and I know for a fact that nobody’s gonna steal with it or mess with it one little bit. I don’t worry because there’s no reason to worry. But I still have this center of my brain that’s used for worrying, and it needs to worry, because if it doesn’t it feels useless. So the worry center waits until I go to sleep and then springs all these horrible visions of theft and high-speed accidents and shit like that. I really don’t mind. It’s just the way things are.
Woke up, ate some raisin bran, went swimming in PK Lake, and now here I am. I went ninety-odd miles yesterday, and I’m 250 away from Austin. I think it’s time for me to coast down the backside of this mountain and hie myself yonder to Wichita Falls, where I’ll figure out what happens next.
This message is entirely too long. Sorry about that. But it was a very interesting day.
Have fun, you hungover bastards! I’ll see y’all soon.