The learning curve on the damn bike was never ending. Whenever I thought I had it right, someone would come along with a better idea. Back I would go to my very primitive shop to try to duplicate it with my insufficient tools. Some of the time I succeeded most of the time I didn't.
After a winter of tinkering I thought I had the bike ready to go. When I say bike, I mean Bike. I didn't own a motorcycle, sure I had as a kid but not at the time of the Great Adventure. At that time I owned a regular bike. One bought from Craig's list. Twenty-five bucks for a light weight Schwinn girls bike. Okay when a guy like me rides it, we tend to call it a step through frame. Whatever you call it, the bike was worn out when I got it but I didn't care. I liked the size and look of it.
Living alone in a big old house gave me the time and room to work on the bike. I hadn't ridden a bicycle in 40+ years on the day I bought it. I didn't even know if I could. I was determined to relearn the long lost skill. By the way, regardless of what they say, you do forget how to ride a bike. You are a little braver maybe, when you relearn, but that's about all. Okay it does come easier than the first time, but at least I didn't just jump on and ride away.
A month after buying it I felt better about myself and had even lost a few pounds. The bike trails were an interesting ride, but way too challenging for an old man. Still it was a fun adventure riding through the parks and down the winding creeks. The flats and downhill runs were a blast the climbs were a challenge. Sometimes I won but mostly they won.
In desperation I began to look for help with hill climbing. I almost went to a geared bike, but I didn't think that with my old brain I could pick up gear changing at least not 21 times. I experimented with electric bikes then ended up with a gasoline engine on the Sissy Schwinn as I had begun to call it.
I bought the engine because it was a do it yourself project and cheap. I quickly found myself in over my head. Yes I could bolt it up but the directions for assembly of the smaller parts were just awful. In the end I screwed it up. I had to beg a small engine mechanic to teach me how to undo the damage I had done. The help was worth twice the price of the engine, because I learned how to fix it the next time. If he had charged me, I would have paid it gladly but he didn't. He took pity on me since I am old and retired.
"Hell Mike, all I did was tell you what to do, you did the work."
"Yeah but till you told me I had no idea what to do. I would never have gotten it going otherwise."
"Well hell us old farts have to stick together. Besides like I said, "Weren't no skin off my nose. Now hand me that torque wrench over there."
I handed over the wrench willingly. I would be his tool boy for a week if that was the charge but it wasn't of course. I left the dirty, smelly shop after a few more minutes of 'thank you' time. I drove the car home for one of the last times that morning. It wouldn't be much longer until the insurance ran out and the tags came due. I had sworn that I would not renew either. It was going to be bike or starve for me.
Why not, I could pay all my bills either online or through the mail. Everything I needed was within five miles of my house. If I went ten miles in any direction I was out of town, so why not cut out the expense of the car. If I needed something I couldn't carry on the bike, what were kids for. Well in my case one step kid and her husband would have to do.
I did make one concession to the fragility of the bike, I rebuilt an electric version with two 250 watt motors. The range was small but in a push I could get to the donut shop. That bike was slower, had less range, but really was more dependable. As long as the batteries were charged it would go. There were no electronics to screw up just a simple on off switch.
I was practicing my future life without an autombile that afternoon. I was at the lake with a couple of antigue cameras making pictures of the fishermen who lined the banks. They chose the banks at the marina not because the fishing was better but because one could drive up to the spot. Nature within reach of a modern bathroom seemed to be the way to go.
It was sometime that afternoon while looking at the world upside down on a bit of ground glass that it came to me. If you want to see life one last time, you have to slow down and get out of the metal box. Yeah I know, I had already made the bike decission or I never would have thought that way. I chose the bike for other reasons but I was beginning to see other posibilities.
The thought of seeing the world at a slower speed kept running around in my mind. I finished shooting the film in the holders, then carefully packed the camera away. The hard leather case went into the metal basket which was tied to the homemade pvc bike trailer. The trailer had been made for my ebike's batteries. It was easy to convert with nothing more than a metal basket attached with a bungee cord.
During the four mile drive home, I started the math. If I could average 15 miles per hour, I could do about 100 miles in a day. "Hold on," I said to myself. "You are going about this all wrong. Forget how far you can go in a day and thing where you can go next in a day. If it's ten miles or a hundred, go place to place not just run till you are out of daylight. It was another 'oh yeah' moment.
When I arrived home I spent the evening with my attention split between developing film and thinking about the roadtrip. It's how I had come to see the fantasy and that's all I expected it to be. I had no idea that I could ever pull it off.
With the film hanging to dry, it was time to think about dinner. There was plenty of cans on the porch and plenty of things in the freezer but I chose to go out to dinner. I might as well test the limits of the bike, I thought. I gave some thought to the drive through at one of the burger in a bag places, but decided to test the limits with a little smaller first step.
The bike started after a few pedals in my driveway. I lived almost downtown so traffic on the road by my house was an issue. I liked to know the bike was running before I pulled out. I always waited until there were no cars in sight in either direction but still one never knew.
I angled the bike to what amounted to a left turn but was more oblique than a turn. The five or six block ride to the restaurant was anticlimactic. I had to make sure I could make safe lane changes since I was traveling slower than the other traffic but it wasn't a real issue. I just had to take my time and roll with the punches.
When I pulled up near the door to park, I removed a rather large chain from the small leather box on the front of my bike. I ran it through the front wheel and then through the frame. The chain and lock weren't much of a deterrent for a man with a pickup truck, but they would probably work for a kid walking by. Parking it in as busy a spot as possible, I hoped would make a thief thing twice. He sure as hell wasn't going to roll it away.
Inside the restaurant I was able to sit at the front window. I could keep an eye on the bike while I ate my meat loaf special. I pointed the bike out to the waitress. I know it was silly but I was always proud of my bikes. Even though they were all bruised and rusty.
After dinner I just reversed everything and found myself home again. I pushed, pulled, and lifted the bike into my storage room. It would rest there through the night. I stopped in the kitchen just long enough to make a glass of diet coke before climbing the stairs to my den. On my way to the upstairs den, I walked right by the TV. Since it wasn't time for the evening news, the TV was of no use to me.
I checked my email, then started my research. The idea of the bike trip had been nagging at my brain. I had some distant memory of having read a story but I could for the life of me find it. Even the internet with all its vast amounts of useless information couldn't help me pull it up.
There were lots of monumental decisions to make even more minor ones. If I could swing the great American road trip, and that was a huge if, what would I do about my everyday life. What would I carry, what would I leave behind, what the hell would I do for money.
"One problem at a time first take a small trip," I told myself. "Do it for one week. then you will have a better idea of what you need to have with you on the road."
So I dropped the grand plan for a while and went with the one week plan. I figured the first thing I would need for the trip was money and the access to more. I did not particularly want to carry cash. The little bike would attract attention I knew, but it didn't scream money like a new Harley would. People would most likely think I was an old drunk. That was especially true with the way I dressed. My step daughter called it modern derelict style. she swore that I could pass as a homeless man any day.
Still I didn't want to carry a lot of cash on me. ATMs for cash and one credit card for everything else was the answer. I had already solved one problem since I had an atm card and it was also a credit card. But where to carry it. If some young thug with a knife said give me your wallet, I didn't want to think about it and get killed for the delay. I had for years carried twenty bucks in my wallet, and the rest of my money in a piece of antique leather in my pocket. It was held together with a bit of bike inner tube. I didn't see any reason it wouldn't work for a credit card as well.
Since things tend to get lost in my soft brain, I went to the shop/lab and looked for an old camera case from which to cut a bit of leather. I found one from the early 1900s. Nobody would ever appreciate my collection of old cameras and junk anyway. I used a utility knife to make a rough cut along the seams. The leather formed a nice little case for the credit card, my drivers license, and social security card. I wrapped my cash around it and then secured it with that bit of inner tube.
At that point the wallet was a complete throwaway. It held nothing of value. "Give it up old man," would get a leather envelope with twenty bucks cash and a whole bunch of things that looked like credit cards but weren't. Expired and useless phone cards filled the decoy wallet. Plan ahead was my motto. Expect the unexpected and you just might survive till tomorrow.
The money on the road thing looked doable. Next thought I had was what could and should I pack in the trailer. I had built myself several trailers looking for the best one. None of them proved to be head and shoulders about the rest so it was a toss up as to which one I would use ... I did know one thing for a fact, the more I packed, the heavier the load, the worse the performance of the bike would be. It was my guess that the bike would be only marginally up to the task anyway.
If I went from motel to motel and ate at diners along the way, I would need to pack very little. I would also be broke after about ten days. I knew I had a lot of planning to do. It would require a lot of compromises to make the road trip work. I didn't want it to be an anything goes vacation kind of trip, but one I could sustain should I want to do it at any time.
My first thought was that I could push or pedal the bike to a safe place if worse came to absolute worse. I would need to be able to either fix it or have someone come get me. If I was in a safe place I could wait till my step daughter or my son in law could drive to pick me up. Or maybe I could just have a taxi drive me to the bus station if the bike was toast. For any of that I needed a cell phone.
Yes I am the only American rich or poor who does not own a cell phone. Dear God, I thought, I am going to have to waste the evening looking up cell phones on the net. Anything I ever tried to buy on the net became a nightmare of decision making. There were far too many choices to make about anything.
Almost immediately I was asked, Do you want a lower priced per minute contract service or a pay as you go service. I had to research that before I could even consider telephones. So I spend two hours with google running from site to site. I had narrowed it down to a couple of plans then gave up for the evening.
Sometime you just get lucky. Some days things just come together. The right information falls into your lap at the right time. The right time being when you need it and as important when you are informed enough to know that it is the right information. When I woke up, I started the coffee then went out for the morning paper. I found that the weather was warm even at 7am. It looked as though springtime had arrived in the south.
In the morning paper I found an advertisement for one of those prepaid cell phone companies. One that only dealt in prepaid. I had decided from the night before's research to stay away from tradition companies who had an add on prepaid service. Their plans looked a lot more complicated. They were most likely trying to encourage the customers to move to a contact service. No doubt the contract service would be more profitable in my case at least.
The add was for the phone through a major discount superstore. I could buy the phone for 13 bucks. It came with double minutes for as long as I owned the phone. Most likely I would never use them up, since they would rollover as long as I kept buying more minutes. I had decided that I would never answer the phone just make outgoing calls. As a matter of fact it was my plan to not even turn it on till I needed to call someone.
When the store opened, I rode the bike to it. I purchased the phone and one of the new AA battery chargers for it. The two together would fit in the palm of one hand. The phone gave me a sense of security that would most likely be worth the price.
With the phone situation resolved, I stopped for lunch. It wasn't at a restaurant that time. I stopped at a grocery store Deli. From it I bought a tuna salad sandwich and their smallest container of cole slaw. Both items and a can of diet coke found their way into the leather case on the front of my bike.
The drive to the park would have taken probably fifteen minutes in my car. On the bike it took almost twice that. I didn't mind since it was a warm spring day. It was just chilly enough for the bomber jacket. I hated that the bomber jacket wasn't original, but I think I would have had to pay much more than the bike had cost me to get an authentic one. It was all just part of an illusion anyway. I thought to myself even then that it was a good thing I realized it.
Lunch at the park was something I hadn't done nearly often enough, I decided. Sitting on the park bench near the parking lot looking back at the bike was kind of entertaining. I got to watch people stop and look her over. Everything from small children to old men stopped to take a look. I drew the line when they started to touch things. I stood several times to go put a stop to it, but always the people seemed to know they had gone to far and stopped without being told.
I sat looking out at the city reservoir and thinking I should have brought a camera. To bring one of the truly retro cameras, I would almost have need a trailer. I had some really large ones for sure. Still there was the smaller one. I had a Russian knock off of the famous leica world war two vintage camera. Now that would have been something. Classic America bicycle, Chinese engine, and Russian camera, I suppose that would make the true man without a country. At least not a country preference in things, only in ideas.
I got home around three and turned my thoughts to a tool kit to take along. In order to do that I needed to decide what I could or would fix on the road and what I would not. Tires and tubes definitely a yes on that. Would I fix broken spokes and control levers of course. I could adjust the carburetor without too much trouble. Replace the spark plug and plug wire, that wouldn't be a real problem either. Re tighten the bolts and mounts would have to be done for sure sometime during the trip.
Things I would not do were pretty daunting repairs. Fix a broken piston, rod or clutch, no way I would tackle that on the road. So the list of tools took care of itself all but making and assembling them. I started that afternoon. I rode the bike to the auto parts store five blocks from my house. I bought a very inexpensive set of metric wrenches.
At home I cut the large ones in half. I kept the box end half and put the open end half in an old peanut butter jar. I added a screw driver with changeable blades, the original spark plug wrench from the kit, a small pair of wire cutters, a small vise grip tool, my chain break tool, and a few links of both the motor and bike chains. The large plastic peanut butter jar was full but the top still screwed down.
I know that sounds like a ten minute job however it actually took all afternoon. Well, all that was left after my leisurely lunch at the park. I spent the evening playing with my computer. That began another chain of thought. What would I do about my email and the forum which I used to answer all my bike questions. I had to have at least some access even if it wasn't instant access. It looked as though it was back to the web for me.
I researched it all evening and the best I could come up with was a simple inexpensive laptop with a wifi card. I could prowl around small towns looking until I found a hot spot, then just piggy back on their signal. I had a list of obvious places that might have an unencrypted wifi. Not to mention about any upper class neighborhood with cable connections. Many of those would have small parks within signal reach. I would never have thought of that.
My list of take alongs was beginning to grow. I knew that before I made the final decision I would need to cut it down. There would be neither space nor pull capacity for a complete set of spare parts. At some point I would have to declare the bike toast and walk away. It was the point of building frankenbikes. They were disposable.
Still for it to leave me stranded was not my plan at all. So I had to decide what repairs I would make on the road and to prepare for them. That meant some spare parts as well as my tool kit.
So inner tubes but not tires went into the box. The odds were far greater that I would have tube problem rather than tires go bad. All my tubes had slime in them so I was still not likely to have a problem, but I liked the idea of being ready. If you carry tubes you need tire levers so they went into the tool jar as well.
I had a spark plug wrench so I tossed a spare plug into the box as well. Since the plug wire was so fragile I added one of those to the pile. I decided to add a generic cable to the parts pile. I had no idea that one would break but you just never know. Since I had a cable, I put in a pair of cable cutters which also cut wire. Electrical tape would be a must of course. It appeared as though I had thought of all the small repairs I could make on the road and was pretty much prepared to do so.
Since the weekend was coming I decided that it might be a good time to do a rehearsal for the trip. I had all the repair gear and tools packed onto the bike trailer. The metal basket part of the trailer wasn't nearly full so I turned my attention to camping out. Some campgrounds had electricity but I preferred to make my plans as if they did not.
I decided that there would probably be two kinds of camps I had to prepare for. One the quick over night camp out while I was on the move, and the other when for one reason or another I decided to stay a while. Each would most likely require its own plan.
Even just an overnight camping spot would require some serious thought because I would be there longer than just sleeping. I couldn't possibly stay on the bike all my waking hours. I would most likely start early and go for eight or so hours. Anyway you cut it that would leave me 16 hours to fill. Most likely ten or more of those were going to be in the camp space.
Even if I ate dinner before I pulled into the campground I would be hungry before bedtime. Then there was coffee and breakfast. If I make coffee I have to have a heat source. Almost all camp spaces have a fire pit. a few have fire wood for same, most don't. Even those that do charge way too much. Charcoal was a better deal but it also had it's problems. Five pounds of charcoal take up a lot of room end it weighs five pounds. There was almost always a store outside the campground if not inside that sold over priced charcoal.
Those same stores sold limited and way over priced food items. Even so it was less expensive than eating out. The best alternative was to shop in a supermarket before going to the campground. I planned to buy food items that wouldn't spoil then repackage the left overs to carry the next day. It meant probably eating the same food possible for dinner and breakfast the next morning but I expected that I could survive it. I needed to have room in the trailer for buying a couple of meals and some charcoal before I arrived at the campground.
Without a doubt I needed to carry shelter and sleeping material. I had absolutely no plan to camp or travel in freezing weather so lightweight material was not only possible, it was necessary. The rain plan was a lot like the bike repair plan. If it rained, find someplace indoors to hang out or check into a motel. Some things just weren't reasonable to expect of myself. With that in mind a simple tarp of rip stop nylon was good enough for a lean to type shelter as well as a bike rain cover. Six plastic tent stakes were cheap, light wight, and didn't take up much room so they went into the trailer as well. I figured twelve feet of white nylon cord would be enough to hold the tarp to the ground. The size of the tarp gave me a few minutes thought. I didn't want it any larger than I needed, not did I want to skimp on it. I decided on an eight foot by ten foot size. I figured if I needed a larger one I was doing something wrong.
I chose a 30 degree sleeping bag. I bought a wide rectangular one. I could always add a thin blanket inside for cold nights or use the blanket alone on really warm nights. Both could be rolled small and weighed very little so were ideal for my purpose.
For cooking I chose a deep frying pan about a foot across. I cut the handle down so that it would pack better. It would most likely be harder to handle but it seemed a fair compromise. I left a couple of inched of the handle into which I drilled a quarter inch hole. I could always slip a screw driver in the hole if I needed it. I also added a coffee pot with no works. I suppose it was actually a metal tea pot more than a coffee pot. With it I could boil water or cook soup and the like. It was small enough to fit nicely into my kit.
I had my list for the next days shopping. When I finished printing it out, I noticed that I had worked past my usual bedtime. The planning was good therapy for me. I slept like the dead.
I spent the week making more plans for the weekend test of the road trip plan. Even though the big plan was made there were lots of small plans to make. One of my last minute purchases was a large, good quality pocket knife. No I opted out of the Swiss Army knife craze and went for a standard one blade stainless steel tool. I expected that it would get plenty of use.
Since conceiving of the road trip, I had been saving plastic utensils from the fast food stores. I especially liked the little pack with a knife fork and napkin. They were small enough to cram inside other things yet those and my pocket knife promised to be more than enough for the trip.
After I packed the trailer I realized that I would have almost no room to add anything at all. It changed my plans slightly. I most likely would not be stopping on the way in for groceries. I thought then that I could unpack the campsite, then run out for food. Not unpack totally just the bulky items.
I was like a kid waiting for Christmas all week. When Friday morning came I was completely packed and anxious to start. I had chosen a municipal campground about 25 miles east of my hometown. I didn't need reservations so early in the season I was told when I called ahead. Since the park didn't allow power boating there wouldn't be too many fishermen I was assured. Recreational campers would be competition for the limited number of spaces later in the season but so early on it was just the fishermen.
Friday morning I ran the bike down the drive to start it, then I warmed it up for several minutes. It was better to hook the trailer up after the bike was warmed up. If I had to restart the bike later, while pulling the trailer, it would be easier with the warmed up engine.
I pedaled the bike with strong strokes then dropped the clutch. The engine caught and rattled to life. The cheap Chinese engine was like an old mechanical big ben alarm clock. It would run most of the time but it sure as hell didn't hum. I let it warm up for several seconds before killing the choke. I locked the clutch with a bit of inner tube before I pushed it in place for the trailer. I could easily lift the loaded trailer, even so I manoeuvered the bike to the right spot for the bolt up. The house was locked and everything turned off when I ran my check list.
1.Gas tank full- extra quart in the trailer. Extra one ounce bottles of 2cycle oil. Those I had placed into disposable prescription bottles purchases from the local drugstore. The extra quart bottle of gasoline I could refill and then drop in one of the pre measured ounces of oil. It seemed to be an easy way to replenish my gas on the road. Not that I expected to need it on that trip. Nonetheless to be a real test everything had to be the same.
2. Camping gear and my two cooking utensils were all in place.
3. Bike tools in the extra large plastic peanut butter jar were all accounted for
4. Spare parts in place.
Looking back at the trailer I realized it wasn't running over as I had expected. I had managed to keep the load fairly sparce. I could likely have fitted in some grocery items if I had planned a little better. Since I wasn't sure how it would pull over a long haul, I had likely done the best thing by packing light.
I left the house on what I expected to be an under three hour ride around 9 A.M. Getting from my house to the back road leading to the neighboring town wasn't easy. It was a busy traffic time of the day, so I went through a lot of neighborhoods to avoid the commuter routes.
For the first twenty minutes I was obsessed with the trailer and how it was doing. I had tested it with similar weight, but never exactly the same configuration. It seemed to pull well enough. It was the long haul aspect that concerned me. A bike trailer has to be light weight so everything was subject to weight, strength, and cost compromises. It wasn't giving me any problems so it slipped from my mind shortly after I hit the open road.
I kept my mind on the drive and avoided letting it wander too much. I desperately wanted to take off the soup pot I wore on my head. State law required me to wear a helmet, but I resented it deeply. Some insurance company paid some politician to vote for the helmet law. Still the vegetable thing didn't appeal to me either, so I would have worn some kind of helmet probably but not the one I had on. It was just too much helmet for a motor biker doing twenty miles an hour top end.
My average speed was more like fifteen miles per hour. I was in no hurry and personally didn't feel the bike I had built was stable enough for the thirty it was capable of doing. Maybe on a bigger heavier frame it would have been safe but not on my little light weight frame.
The ride started with good weather and a good attitude as well. I was off to find adventure, I told myself. I wasn't sure I could find much adventure on a twenty-five mile ride. but what the hell I thought.
One thing about the bike that I really liked was the attention it got. It would start most conversations for me. That morning it came at a traffic light on the way out of town. The woman's voice came over the chattering of her two kids.
"You taking a trip?" She asked it because of the trailer most likely.
"Where you headed?" she asked as she pushed a clinging child away. She didn't push the little girl angrily just to get her back in her car seat.
"Just over to Gibsonville. I'm really just testing the bike before I take off for places unknown," I smiled at her.
"Jeeze that would be great, just to take off like that."
"Sure all you have to do is wait till you are old enough to retire. Of course, by then a lot of the things that seem fun to you now won't be doable at all." I said it with a chuckle.
"Oh you look like you could still do most things."
"Now I'm gonna' take that as the best compliment I have had in years." I smiled over at her just as the light changed. I waited for her to pull ahead before I started down the road. It didn't take long till she was out of sight ahead of me. It made me smile as I thought of her for several more minutes. I hoped she felt a little envy for the old man on the motor bike riding off to adventure like Don Quixote.
I came back to reality when I hit a pot hole and almost wound up on my ass. I stopped dividing my attention right then. I did look off to the side often to see what I was passing. After about an hour I was well out of town traveling down a country road with flat curves. It didn't matter I was in no hurry.
When I pulled through one of those curves, I noticed the auto junk yard on my left. On a complete unthought out impulse I pulled into the drive. The office of the junk yard was an old travel trailer. A greasy man I assumed to be the owner stood in the yard cleaning a car part.
"Morning," I said as the bike's rattle stopped.
"What the hell is that?" he asked looking at the bike.
"Why it's a motorized bike," I replied.
"Jeeze, what kind of milage do you get on that toy?"
"Bout a hundred miles to the gallon."
"Damn that thing is cute." When he said it, cute came out an insult.
"Well it works for me." I took a breath then changed the subject. "Would you mind if I walked through you yard and made some pictures."
"You ain't workin' for the county are you?"
"No just an old man who like to make pictures now and then," I replied.
"County wants me to clean the place up." he said it shaking his head as if bewildered. "Go ahead and be careful place like this can be dangerous."
"Ain't got no bad dogs do you?" I said it thinking of those junkyard dog cliches.
"Dog's asleep in the office. He don't sleep much at night." I felt as though I had just been warned not to come back at night to do my shopping after hours.
I walked through the yard for almost an hour. I shot a couple of rolls of film. Oh yes I still took my pictures on film. When I finished the second roll, I returned to the gravel parking lot. I said my goodbye, then I added just a little choke to the engine and pedaled like hell. When I dropped the clutch the bike rattled into life. I was back on the road by 10am.
The ride was filled with sights and smells I had completely forgotten while living in the city. There was a chill in the air but not a bad one. I knew by early afternoon, the coat I wore would be tied to the top of the tailer. Actually by early afternoon I would most likely be in the campground.
I had arranged the time to arrive at the campsite around noon. It was my plan to empty the trailer on my campsite, then go to lunch. While at lunch, I would purchase the food for dinner and the next day's breakfast. What time to head home the next day, I had left hanging. I didn't know or care what I would do. I planned to just let the weekend unfold as fate wished it to do.
The overweight balding ranger explained the park rules, most of which I was incapable of breaking, then took my money. Since I was in the really primitive area, the fee was only $7. I handed over the credit card. The ranger assured me that if I followed his directions to the site, it would be easy to find.
Even while following his detailed directions I took a wrong turn. It wasn't a big deal, I got to tour the section dedicated to the motor homes first then I wandered into the cabin rentals. One could truly enjoy the park on just about any level.
When I got to my site, I discovered that I had the worst view of the lake. The cabins were on a little hill so they had the best view. After that the RV spaces with their concrete pads had the best view, followed closely by the improved camp spaces. The primitive spaces were indeed primitive.
The primitive campground had a frame building with showers and toilets. There was water available outside the bath house. Other than that the space had no more than a parking space cut out of the woods and a trail leading to a small clearing and tent pad. The tent pad was an elevated dirt platform some 8 inches above the forest floor. I suppose the elevation was some protection from water running into the tent as it ran off the sites over all incline.
I was able to pull the bike and trailer down the path and into the clearing. Once on the spot I removed the tarp with most of my camping gear wrapped inside. I put the bundle in the middle of the ten raised area. Since I hadn't turned the bike engine off, I was able to just turn it around and head back out to lunch.
Lunch was pretty good since I found a small town six miles from the campground. Right across from the storefront town hall, I saw the sign for Miss Lucy's Cafe. With my leanings toward greasy food it was a natural. The front of the building, which had no doubt once been a small loan company, was about half brick and half plate glass. The glass had been decorated by years of cooking grease floating in the air, by cigarette smoke attaching itself to the sticky mess. I wouldn't doubt there had been more than a few frying pan or grill fires to add a little smoke to the mix.
The short of it was that one could barely make out the interior of the cafe from the outside. The bright day disappeared as I entered the front door. The lighting was gloomy but the restaurant was alive with activity. It was well after the midday lunch time on a Friday, still almost all the dining room's 20 table were occupied. I would have sat at the counter, if there had a real counter. For some reason the counter itself was very small just enough room for the cash register and gum display rack.
To make up for the lack of counter space there were shelves with stools along one of the side walls. The shelves were high enough to stand and eat. Most likely that had been the original idea, but somewhere along the line the owner had sprung for very high stools. The whole arrangement looked terribly uncomfortable to me. I chose a small table near the front window so that I could keep an eye on my bike.
"What can I get you?" The middle aged waitress asked.
"Well how about a menu?" I asked it smiling to make sure it didn't come off as a rebuke.
"Don't have one Hon. The menu is on that board." She pointed to a sign over the pass through opening to the kitchen. She also stood pen in hand while I quickly scanned it. Her body language made sure that I knew she was busy and in a hurry.
"Okay a bowl of stew with cornbread and iced tea," I suggested.
"Any desert with that?"
"No I think that will do just fine." I had no idea the size of the stew bowl, but if it was tiny I would just ask for more. I tried to avoid sugar as it was like crack cocaine to me. One desert would lead to five more.
I barely had time to take a good look at the people around me before the food arrive. They looked mostly like blue collar workers. There were a sprinkling of what I thought might be office workers of some kind. I thought that because there were no children in the place. Women in a restaurant without kids made me think they were on a late lunch break from work.
The stew arrived in an adequate sized bowl. There were two large pieces of cornbread so it was a hearty meal. After the stew, cornbread and two glasses of iced tea, my fuel gauge read full. I left the restaurant after leaving a small tip and paying my check. I didn't even try to put it on my credit card. It just didn't look like the kind of place that would look kindly at the idea.
I almost went back inside to ask for the location of the nearest grocery store but decided not to bother. I saw a gas station convenience store down the road a hundred yards or so. I didn't want to do my shopping there but they should know where I could find a small supermarket.
Sure enough the slightly more than high school aged girl gave me fuzzy directions to the store. I followed them and promptly got lost. A man washing his car, on the side of the residential street where her directions led me, did a little better. His directions took me right past a shopping center with a supermarket.
I locked the bike on the end of a parking lot lane. I found that I could fit the bike where no car could ever park. Inside the store I took a buggy even though I didn't plan to come close to filling it. I decided that I would surely be out again the next day so I thought about two meals only. For dinner that night I bought a family sized can of chili, I also bought a box of Ritz crackers and a small jar of peanut butter. I found to my surprise that the store had a deli. I managed to pick up two bagels. It was good that I didn't have to buy a bag of them.
Since the park provided a trash can, even on the primitive sites, I picked up a small package of disposable plates and cups. The trash can was no doublt a valiant attempt to keep the park clean and to cut down on the labor costs. My shopping ended with a small Styrofoam cooler. One that would hold no more than a six pack of beer.
I secured my purchases to the trailer then took off for the park. The ride back was shorter than the ride to the store. It always seemed to be that way for some reason. I left my purchases on the site, then took a ride around the park to explore. As usual the bike made me a couple of new friends. When someone appeared to have an interest, I stopped to show off my toy.
Men and boys usually showed the interest which was fine, I certainly wasn't looking to meet women. It was a test trip just to see if a real trip was feasible, not a matchmaker thing in any form.
I noticed on my ride that there were a lot more camping trailers than there were tents. It seemed as though tent camping was on the decline. I wasn't all that surprised. Most people seemed to have decided that convenience was worth buying. They had even managed to fool themselves into to thinking they were getting back to nature. Back to nature in a plastic trailer. "That is a frightening thought," I said almost aloud.