Tuesday 30 July 2013

A Day Lost


The minutes and then the hours tick by ...
Current Location: Eureka, Northern California
Wasted Kilometres Today: 33.8
Total Distance Cycled: 13,958 km

Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed. We all know that. Today was one of them.

What was meant to be a straight forward 80 km ride to the Redwood “Avenue of the Giants” began to come unhinged before we even left our campsite. We lost a lot of time packing up as I oiled the chain (a job I’d meant to do the previous night) and Judy hung around the women’s “restroom” charging her phone – a necessity as we had just received a welcome email telling us we are going to be joined by American friends we made in Ayuttayah, Thailand. We need the phone to make contact as they close in on us by car.
Victorian style period building in Eureka.
 Once owned by a lumber merchant, it is
 now a gentlemen's club.

Finally charged up and with the bike running smoothly we made a dash to view some of Eureka’s Victorian style period buildings, a town described as one of the prettiest in Northern California. Then it was time for business – stocking up on food and buying a U.S. Sim card for the phone. That’s when the wheels fell off.
Architects' offices

We became lost in Eureka’s confusion of one way systems, speeding traffic and red tape as we tried to buy that Sim card. Verizon suggested a new phone, and U.S. Cellular couldn’t seem to lower themselves to provide something so simple.
Archimedes may have climbed out of his bath and shouted, "Eureka, I have it," but we didn't have that tiny little card. Oh, for the days in S.E. Asia, where the nearest 7/11 would fix us up in five minutes.

Minutes Turn to Hours

We cycled around town becoming increasingly frustrated as the minutes became hours and we could see our 80 km ride stretching out into the evening.

“We’ve never had a day like this,” said Judy the Stoker from the back seat. The cycle computer was clicking up the kilometres but we were going in circles.

Nutters and Dropkicks

To add to our annoyance was a collection of dropkicks, drongos, and half crazed drug and alcohol affected nutters who wandered the streets – the tandem was enough to attract their attention.
“I’ve never seen so many space cadets in one place,” came the back seat commentary as one lurched, dazed and confused towards us. A half metre high, single rope barrier was too much for him and the lights changed in time for us to make our escape.
Another babbled and garbled and waved his fists in the air as we swept by.

PR Role

We gave up trying to find a supermarket in one direction, turned around and finally found another. Judy went in and I took up my pose as public relations officer dealing with tandem security and answering questions from passing shoppers.  Fortunately the questions were slow coming today – I was in no mood for them and maybe it showed - so I was able to turn my attention to people-watching and was inevitably drawn to the size of them. As usual, some were grossly overweight.

Vertical or Prone

One particularly unattractive individual shuffled by, his girth so wide only his head told you he was vertical and not horizontal. He had ugly tattoos on his forearms, some gadget threaded through an ear lobe and he hoicked repeatedly onto the footpath before lighting a fag. He eyed me with suspicion; I eyed him with disgust until eventually he shuffled off out of my sight.
2.50 pm and we make the
decision - we are not leaving

After an eternity, Judy returned having cracked both the food and the Sim card, but there was a delay with the latter and we would have to wait. The minutes ticked by, and I could see darkness beating us to our destination.
Judy disappeared again to finally sort the phone. A man picked his way through a trash can beside me and then went on to the next one.

Cups of bad coffee.
Judy remerged. We bought terrible coffee from a Burger King and as we drank it we decided we couldn’t possibly cycle to our intended destination before dark. The sensible decision was to return to the campsite where we had spent the previous night.

“It’s not the most successful of cycling days,” said Judy in a moment of rare understatement.
At last, Judy makes contact.

Money Please

As consolation, Judy went to buy wine. I went back to my PR role. A man wearing dirty blue jeans and a faded black hoodie with a “Raiders” logo was waving a cardboard sign which read, ”Need Money or Food Please”. Most people ignored him, but eventually a small blue Ford paused for a moment and the driver handed him a note.
It was 3.11 pm. We were going nowhere.
The man made his second approach to me. “Got some money, a few cents?”
A bottle of "Fat Cat" to
help get over the day.
Haight Ashbury may be
long over, but the label
describes the wine and
then in a throwback to
another era concludes,
"Dig That?"
 A response flashed through my mind and was on the tip of my tongue before I knew it.
The mall promised wifi access
 in "every corner."The small
 print added,"coming soon."  

 33.8 km spent going around
in circles.

I was fed up, and I thought of the few people we’d seen begging on the streets of S.E. Asia. Somehow they maintained a kind of dignity about it. Here there were grossly overfed people, as well as desperate people asking for money or food. It was doing my head in. How did you make sense of this? My sympathy level was at a low point but I hesitated. Who was he? Why was he begging? Someone must have loved him once, maybe even now. I didn’t know his background. Maybe there was good reason he had his hand outstretched like that. What terrible things had happened in his past? Was it his fault he was like this? Even if it was, did that make him any less of a human being.
I shrugged and turned away and left unsaid the words crashing around in my skull ...“Do I look as though I’ve got ATM printed on my forehead?”



  1. M&J, Well, its that time. Rabbit, rabbit! Actually, I'll write your variation of this backwards, "tibbar etihw " so that good luck will flow in reverse to y'all. You need it more than me with all that traffic whizzing past you daily. I googled that expression and it is an old English superstition.

    Glad to see on your blog that you liked Eureka so much that you spent a second night there. What a bad day! I loved Stoker's "frog plates" comment.

    My friend John biked successfully to San Fransisco and flew back home July 30. He's soon headed to the Ukraine to visit his daughter in the Peace Corps, so he still won't yet discover what typical retirement is for him.

    Have a very successful journey through CA!
    I'm missing the road and the beautiful Pacific coast, but I'm enjoying staying married.

    All my best. Tom Stehn Corpus Christi TX

    1. Judy was completely miffed that you beat her, but we didn't have wifi and she definitely remembered. Look out next time. Great to hear from you, and it was also great to meet you and John. You can imagine our surprise when he walked into our campsite at Sunset Bay State Park. We new we were going slowly but that was ridiculous.
      Stay well.


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