Ely to Eureka - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

July 11, 2014

Ely to Eureka

The beautiful side of America - but today showed its ugliness as well
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PLEASE SEE if there are children in the room. Cover their eyes. Because what follows is the uglier side of American life. Reported as it happened.

It's been a long, hard day. We've been on the road for 12 hours, much due to my snail-like progress on repeated passes. The last, into Eureka, was one too many and I stopped to regain my breath and morale. I let the bike roll to a stop and stood just on the road side of a shoulder no more than 75cm wide and largely filled by rumble strip. A pick-up came up the hill. I waited, from politeness, until it had passed and then turned the pedals again.

Red lights came on at the back of the truck. A black-and-white dog with its head out the window jerked from the braking. White lights replaced the red and the pick-up reversed fast and uncertainly. Accustomed to the random kindness of Americans, I assumed a kindly, dog-loving couple was about to offer a lift to town.

Instead, a bearded man with his face on fire looked out beyond his dog and shouted, with a vehemence that would blow a schooner adrift: "What the fuck you doin' over here? Git the fuck back over there, you motherfucker!" What made it better is that a sign every hour has told us we were on The Loneliest Road in America. No long lines of traffic snarled behind us.

I was too astonished to do anything. I just looked and, like a butler obliging his master, said: "Certainly, sir!"

He accelerated away, puzzling the dog all over again, then stopped beside Karen, innocently on the road's edge a short distance on. She got a tirade which ended in "...you dumb cunt."

We were left with the feeling of having seen a giraffe dance or a whale jump hoops. It was too improbable and spectacular to feel shaken. It was show, verging on black comedy. We shrugged at each other, concluded the asylums had opened unwisely, and felt sorry for a doubtless unhappy man. And we rode on, as much or as little outside the narrow shoulder as we'd been before.

I assume he must feel at home here in Eureka. There's a delightfully chaotic supermarket just up the hill which has a familiar white window sticker with a silhouette of a pistol. But instead of, as everywhere else, banning firearms, it says "Your gun is welcome here" - but asks that it stay in its holster unless a need arises, in which case it urges "judicious marksmanship."

It's so contradictory. Far from the shop being run by hard-faced men with paunches and an air of permanent discontent, the sweet and grey-haired woman called me "Hun" and then ran into the street to shout:"Sir, sir! You've left your book behind!"

The kindness is what I've grown used to here. It's so common that normally I wouldn't have mentioned it. But I do, because of the contrast with the man in the pick-up. This is a beautifully kind and courteous country: it's a shame one bastard is intent on spoiling it.

Well, maybe not just one. I remember, when Seattle was introducing more bike lanes, a car sticker that read: "Fuck you: I'm American! I'll drive where I like." It was a sentiment widespread enough for someone to turn a penny from printing it.

Well, a similar sentiment has applied today. There isn't much to look at in Nevada and the slowness of mountain cycling passes calls attention to what otherwise would be missed. Which is a shame, because what I'd have missed is hours of brown beer bottles and silver drinks cans.

"Fuck you!", the sentiment seems to be. "I'm American: I'll throw my litter where I like."

Now, I've seen litter elsewhere. Lots sometimes. But usually it's in ugly heaps, the wound of countries too poor to enjoy proper rubbish disposal. But this is the richest country in the world. It also has wide open spaces - lined with beer bottles, drinks cans, food wrappings and anything else that can be hurled through a car window.

"Fuck you! I'm American!"

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...then flat again
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And then up again... all day long
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Today's ride: 127 km (79 miles)
Total: 5,322 km (3,305 miles)

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