When I ride cross-country, I am painfully conscious of how vulnerable I am. The most obvious; cars and trucks scare me. But there are plenty more subtle threats. For example, consider the road’s berm, which I consider to be anything to the right of the painted line defining the roadway. Sometimes, that’s a two or three-foot drop, straight down. Lose concentration, ride off the road and it’s going to be a bad news day. And then there is the problem of what to do when two semi’s approach each other, and you are right next to the trailer of one. When that happens I just pray “Please, don’t hit me, please don’t hit me.”
To combat all these bad things, I wave to all the cars and trucks that give me wide berth. (I strongly believe in positive reinforcement.) The waving to cars and trucks soon morphed waving to every Joe, Phil, and Denny I see. Some guy would be walking or standing by the road and I’d shout out “Good morning!” or “Good afternoon!” and give them a hearty wave. Riding down highway 101 and approaching Lincoln City, Oregon, I’m thinking to myself, “Why am I waving to everyone? For all I know, one of these guys could be a serial killer!” And I resolved to stop waving. The wisdom of my choice soon became apparent with the next guy I saw: a fisherman walking up a creek embankment. Dirty, with a scowl sharper than a knife. Even from this distance I can see the scars on his face. Obviously a serial killer. I ignored him and pedaled on, looking for a place to camp and pitch my tent. After a few miles, I came across a place that seemed like a good possibility; a mobile home park. I stopped and walked up to a door.
Knock, knock, knock. No answer. Went to the next place. Same thing. Went to a third place. Again, no answer. Went to a fourth place. Knock, knock, knock. No one home. Just as I was walking down the home’s steps, a car pulls into the drive, and a guy gets out.
It was serial killer man.
Serial killer man gets out of his car, looks at me and says:” What’d you want?”
“I’m looking for a place to camp tonight.”
“You can camp here on my front lawn.”
I think “Oh yeah, I’ll bet that’s what you say to all of your victims.” But my lips say “Gee, thanks!”
So as SKM climbs the porch steps, we introduce ourselves. His name is Bob, and last year he was in a serious car accident that almost killed him, hence the face scars. He also suffered some brain damage and has had a hard time finding a job. So he fishes a lot for his meals. After some chit-chat I unpack my sleeping bag and make myself dinner. I decide the weather is warm enough to forego putting up my tent. Bob comes out and starts to chat. His wife left him and he misses his son.
Bob offers me some salmon and I accept. It’s delicious. Bob figures he needs $60,000 a year to pay his debts. I offer the best advice I can think of: Learn how to operate heavy equipment. At dusk we bid each other good night, and I crawl into my sleeping bag. Not putting up the tent was a mistake; in the morning I am soaked by the evening dew. I pack up and continue my journey to Boise, Idaho.
When I see the next pedestrian, I give him a hearty wave and wish him good morning.