Being back at Tom’s after Bashford’s I addressed the front-end the following morning and all that the problem was is that it just needed loosened and re-tightened. Bummer as it could have been taken care of at Bashford’s but it was a piece of mind doing it in a shop even though it was 300 miles out of the way. After the nearly dry tank from the slab run was replenished and a test ride to prove the forks were somewhat more capable, I pull up into Tom’s shop and he’s sitting on the porch looking at an atlas.
“Ready to go?” I ask since Tom was planning on staying out with me if the run back to Phoenix didn’t happen.
“Well…hhhhm. That’s what I was a thinking.”
“Let’s leave tomorrow first thing.”
“Well hold on a minute. Let me get situated here and think.”
Tom thinks a moment dragging on a cigarette looking in the distance with a gulp from his beer on ice, “What about the morning after tomorrow. Make sure we’re squared away.
“Works for me.” I easily reply.
So here we are heading back west again towards California with a stop over at Alamo Lake which Tom had in mind east of Parker, Arizona. Being a State Park situated in the middle of BLM we skipped on the admission and set up camp just inside the boundaries of public land where it’s our damn right to sleep for free. The land around the lake offered a birds eye view of a basin of sorts inside a wall of jagged peaks pocking out of the grade leading up to their foothills. Saguaro cacti and creosote along with ocotillo reaching for the sky growing out of ground that would make the Okies run west. Unforgiving land. I had questions and Tom didn’t want to hear them. With each one that I would let loose, Tom would reply, “Shut up, Houston. I don’t know.” Time was chill and the first night was so good we decided to hang for a second. Taking time to ride around a bit to check the dam and hit up the only store around on an RV park where an 18-pack cost $20 and we enjoyed each and everyone of them along with overpriced cups of ice cream that couldn’t be helped. What can I say? Tom mentioned he like ice cream so I got two cups that don’t even include wooden paddles for spoons. We had fire each morning and evening eating the baked potatoes and boiled eggs along with fresh turnips from Tom’s garden and I even kept the greens which proved wise boiling them down in the water with rice.
Leaving Alamo Lake we rode to Parker where a couple of Tom’s friends were snow-birding for a few weeks nearby and met up with them at Nellie B’s bar. The bar is situated at the end of a forest road congested with every kind of vehicle you can imagine from ATV’s to Cadillac SUV’s, it was rather ridiculous and it set off my spidey-senses on what we were getting ourselves into. It turned out to be nothing more than a Disney World of desert junk feng shui situated just perfectly right with the landscape and the older crowd just couldn’t wait to get in to buy beer and food and listen to live music. I liked how it was set up but it was nothing more than just another bar with another campy facade. We hung long enough for Tom and his friends to catch up and we split fairly quick. The idea was to find a place along the road to sleep but it was so congested with the ATV crowd and people shooting rifles so we crept out of Parker, crossed the Rio Colorado into California and found a BLM road on the north side of the road.
And there he sat.
“You have got to be shitting me.” I said aloud to myself cresting the hill spotting a rattle can army green Chevy Lumina just over the next rise.
I pull in where he sits with the side door open, “What’s up Tod? I ask with a shit eating grin.
“You following me?” He laughs and we shake hands.
Tom walks over and I introduce the two of them and to hit it closer home, “Tom, this is who I met for breakfast when I left your place the other week.”
I expected to see Tod again since we were both in the same general area but this soon, unexpected and on some public land road where roads such as these are in ridiculous numbers is ridiculous in itself. What’s even more serendipitous with the whole situation is how I met Tod in November of 2011 at Grande Isle, Louisiana and here the both of us are still in the wind.
Back then he was fresh on the road and made a straight shot South, ditching the house and template behind in Wisconsin for a different approach, living out of his minivan and adjusting to the new possible lifestyle. He had questions and I answered them as best I could, the general straight forwardness of what the road can offer that can only be explained by jumping in and experiencing it first hand. Not a vacation or a year long sabbatical, the true living on the road where your home can change on a whim and directions are whatever crossroad that shows itself. Here or there? The chasing of true life which is somewhat taboo but at the same time makes up the popular American mindset of living like a tramp. A new so-called career where the classes are tested on gut instinct and there are no passing grades other than just carrying on. Our time together was short lived as he departed the following morning with a simple note that read, ‘Great meet.’ which I found on the table when I awoke. That’s all that needs to be said no more no less. People come and go, be it with locals or other travelers, numbers are exchanged and that’s all that can be done as most times are without a goodbye or a departing salutation. We have kept in touch since then via online tracking each of our travels wherever we find ourselves and urging each other to keep it up and don’t back down.
But this is true fate and truly the road provides. While at breakfast a few weeks back Tod told me when we first met on the Gulf of Mexico in 2011 that he was having second thoughts of tramping though just a week in his endeavors. He was doubting himself and quite possibly his Lumina which cost him only a couple hundred bucks. And then he said I showed up, being the first traveler he met and said my smile and attitude made up his mind to carry on and try the true living of traveling. He’s doing extremely well and seeing him again was reassurance for me as well that this is a positive approach to what we do, road dogging, not by occupation but by choice to tramp and see what can be stumbled upon just because we can and made that choice to gracefully back out from the expectations of society.
And here we are on a knoll topped off with just scrub and more dirt than you can shake a stick at looking east at the large white capital ‘P’ on the side of Gibraltar Mountain announcing the town of Parker, Arizona and RV’s peppered every which way but loose. We got a good laugh and I couldn’t get over the possible chances of this even happening could be. No plan, just totally unexpected.
Tod’s rig has changed over the last few years since we met. The maroon Chevy has been rattle-canned army green, the interior is well organized with compartments where certain items belong; food, tools, cloths and maps. An auxiliary battery that charges off the running motor which supplies him with electricity. He has a library where bungees hold in the books and he sleeps in the middle on a thermarest air-mattress with all his worldly possessions at arms reach. Minimalist, get by on what you need.
Tod was talking up his idea of marking his ride for character and thought I may take interest. “I have stencils with me.” I told him. And he was on it in a heartbeat, “42 is what is needed, the answer to the universe.” I dig out the 3″ stencils and he makes a run in town for a rattle-can and paper to make a mask. The answer came out as a subtle khaki mark upon the field of olive-drab where one has to be looking to see it, which is good as the answer has to be a chance discovery.
A good visit and a great way to initiate a visit stumbling upon each other the way we did and more importantly on the road where we still find ourselves. For three nights Tom and I joined Tod and his compatriot Fred who was stationed on the next knoll in his truck-camper to the west and we watched the Sun rise and set and Moon hold forth. We had a couple of fires in the evenings, nothing special just small ones to keep us captivated and if no fire our conversations did the job. Dave joined us on the fourth day after he served his time at work and got the biggest kick out of the serendipity of our chance encounter. I made a run into Parker for another dinner of chicken to share and more beer to drink while Tod sips on his never ending thermos of coffee and rollie smokes of the best cheap baccy that can be purchased. The last night together the wind was nonexistent and a fire was in order. I lugged a heavy ass pallet up the hill cussing the weight and thinking this thing was made out of the oldest and heaviest wood in the World only to find out it’s plastic. We burn it anyway. In the dark the billowing black smoke was disguised but we could feel it and good and well knew what could have looked like, a burning tire. The plastic dripped as faulty faucet would, raining it’s chemicals where the coals should have been and enjoying the light show and the chemical release.
The following morning it was time to split and work our way towards Death Valley where the BMW Airhead Rendezvous was happening in the next couple of days. With a proper goodbye shared this time around, Tod and Fred stayed put, not worried about where to go next and all that needed to be said on the way out it, “Keep it up guys.”
May Jackie K, the patron saint of the road look upon us as we ramble wherever we may go.
Cheers Tod and I still have the note you left three years back.