Until Next Time…

by sara dykman

Did we tell you we finished?

We did!

Finishing at the Arcata Plaza

Finishing at the Arcata Plaza

It has been two weeks since we arrived in Arcata, CA and completed the bike49 loop.  But it hasn’t felt like the end until today, with the five of us spread out across the country.  Before, when people asked us how it felt to be done I would shrug and say some standard response about how it had not sunk in. Honestly it felt the same, sure we were not bike touring any more, but we were still together most of the day, still biking, still camping in backyards not our own, and still traveling around together.

But let’s back up.  After we bombed down Fickle Hill (my favorite hill) into the town where we had grown into bicycle advocates and good friends, it was time to call the trip officially, unofficially over.  Officially bike49 was complete; we could pack up our bags, exchange high fives, and head to new- if not greener- pastures.  Officially we had pedaled 15,325 miles through 49 states in 391 days.  We had shared our adventures with over 7,000 students around the country.  We had patched 79 flat tires.  Unofficially, however, bike49 was not over.

ALASKA

YUKON-1

welcome to delaware

WEST VIRGINIA (state 29)

Officially we were done, but unofficially there was still much to be done… We still had to celebrate.  We rented a car and headed down to Sacramento where Tommy and Aaron’s family threw us a grand party.  We were no longer bike touring, but we were still eating our meals together, still cheering and quarreling like brothers and sisters, and still riding our bikes.  We were still bike49.  When the party was over we went our separate ways and bike49 was complete.  Today when I woke up, my bike49 buddies were in different states, and I was about to start another adventure- work.

From Sacramento, Matt and Alyssum carpooled out to Colorado, putting off work for the time being in favor of mountain biking adventures. He has become intent on writing a book about the yearlong experience and looks forward to using the “transition” period to get started. In the Fall he will return to Arcata for a semester to finish his degree.  After a few weeks in Colorado Alyssum will return to the college town as well to work at the local bike store (see after a year we still all love bikes).  Tommy and Aaron are going to spend the summer in Sacramento and then head to Croatia with family to visit their roots. Throughout the trip Aaron filmed about 50 hours of video with the goal of editing it down and producing a short documentary. And I took the train out to Glacier National Park to spend the summer studying amphibians in the park.

It is exciting to start something new, but I still feel the loss of bike49’s completion.  For so long I had this goal, this vision, to hold onto.  Before the trip, I could use the idea to motivate me and planning gave me excuses to talk to Aaron, Matt, and Tommy frequently and always with no lag in the conversation.  On bike49, the goal of moving forward, moving towards another state, gave me a purpose and a goal I could achieve.  And bike49 made finding adventure easy; every day we were put in new and unpredictable situations.  So now bike49 is done and it feels like I have lost something.

But while I have lost much, I have gained so much.  The last year of biking has given me stories to hold onto for the rest of my life.  Meeting the people of this country has given me humility and respect.  I no longer underestimate one stranger’s ability to help another stranger and then become friends.  Seeing the wild, undeveloped lands of this country has given me another reason to fight for the protection of these wonderful places and make choices as I live my life that help our Planet.  Bike49 has taught me about public speaking, about soliciting sponsors, and about making a website. Bike49 taught me how to live, 24 hours a day, with the same handful of people, and still be friends.  I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had, the friends that have shared in these adventures, and (of course) the 49 states.

Speaking of 49 states, I have a bit of unsettled business with 13 of them.  In September I broke my ankle swinging on a swing, and had to miss 13 states.  Granted many of the states are small (Iowa to Rhode Island), I still want to ride my bike through them.  So for now I will spend my summer in my favorite mountains, studying my favorite animals, and then sometime soon I hope to continue on part two of bike49: bike13.  I hope to continue giving presentations at schools, writing blogs, and posting photos on bike49.org.

So for now I want to thank everyone that has supported and made our dreams come true. A big thanks to our sponsors (see the bottom of our website) for all your wonderful (and sometimes delicious) donations. Another thanks to folks from every state we have met that have helped us with a bit of everything: a meal, a place to stay, advice on the roads, a donation, an opportunity to speak at a school.  The opportunity to make friends with so many wonderful people made a year long bike tour not only possible but worth it.

alabama

welcome to kansas

welcome to oklahoma

texas 3648x2736

welcome to california

Thanks again for your support.  Until our next ride.

Ride on,

Sara and the bike49 team

Taking the misty dugway home

After a year on the road we predicted our trip might end anticlimactically. We’d roll in on the 101, passing through the towns of Fortuna, Loleta, Eureka, and finally Arcata – all very nice riding, but flat and predictable. It would be just another day so that’s why we chose a back route with 6000 feet of extra climbing and dirt road solitude, punctuated by a final descent down Fickle Hill, a 10 mile long hill leading right into the town of Arcata. Our trip from Scotia to Arcata proved adventurous and strenuous but the reward, I think, was worth it.

It was the evening of June 9th where we really started to chime in about this being our last night of camping, last meal cooked, last time to cook with our beat up pots and pans, and so on. It was also the last night of having to search for a spot to camp and weigh the option of knocking on someone’s door or just going ahead and camping in a field, the benefits of being plainly visible versus those of trying to hide ourselves. Throughout our trip we’ve always done our best to be straight forward with people when there’s no public land so we started by trying to knock on some doors.

We tried knocking on each of three houses near a junction of Showers Pass Road and Kneeland Hill Road, most likely the only few we would find over the course of the next 10 miles. Knocking on a stranger’s door in any part of the country can be unnerving, but this out in the boonies area of Humboldt County is better known for its massive Marijuana grow operations than its Midwestern style hospitality. Texas and the deep south might be the first place you look to find a “redneck” but the lesser known, coast logging redneck, is the second type of person we might come across on this almost vacant stretch of road. The third type of person, and the one we’re hoping for, is the grass fed cattle farmer or small homesteader whom we think might relate to our journey and be willing to offer us a spot of grass.

The first knock, led by Sara, with myself as distant background support, went as poorly as possible. A wiry guy in his mid 30s came out of the house as we opened the fence gate. He had dark clothes, dark hair, and dark circles under his eyes to match. He claimed he had no water he could offer since it was unsafe to drink and certainly didn’t seem sad about the fact. We asked our usual leading question about knowing if there is any place to camp or any people that might let us camp and his reply is one that we quoted for days. “There’s nowhere you can camp on this road. It’s all private property and no one’s going to let you just camp. That’s something you should have thought out and planned before you started this trip.” The other two knocks were fruitless as well, with perhaps fortunately, no one answering the door.

In the next few days as I told this story to some cycling friends I mentioned that we’d knocked on so many doors throughout the country and this was probably the worst response we’d gotten. With so many people nervous to leave their doorstep and scared of the people they might run into, we’d found some of the most shady characters right here on the north coast, barreling past us in their jacked up pickups. It’s sad for an area that also offers so much. My friend Matt laughed and said, “You had to travel all the way around the country to find that out!”

But focusing on the people, and in this case the negativity of the get-off-my-land kind of folks, is not what I wanted to do on the last day. This area, as with many areas of the West, is special to me because of the landforms and scenic beauty. Climbing into the hills during the late afternoon of our last night there was an idyllic scene surrounding me, one that you’d picture existing in Ireland or the Swiss Alps in springtime. There are clusters of weathered looking oaks on some aspects but mostly green grasses blanketing the hills. Lower down there are an equal mix of the two environments with the swaths of prairie looking like clear cuts. In some areas the geology is too unstable to support trees and in others it’s the unfavorable mineral balance in the soil. The sun is shining bright but with it comes a thick, moist breeze, which gives the air mass body and density. These are days you want to be outdoors from sunup to sundown.

Tommy climbs the steep dirt out of Bridgeville

Tommy climbs the steep dirt out of Bridgeville

Sara shares some of her final thoughts for the documentary

Sara shares some of her final thoughts for the documentary

Lupines in bloom

Lupines in bloom

After we realized it would be another pirate camping night – no better way to leave this world than the way we were brought into it I think – we quickly find the perfect spot just two miles from the cluster of houses. At first the sign reads Palco lumber company and we’ve got no problem camping there. They’ve helped to clear the west coast of the old growth forests over the past 150 years, the least they can offer is a piece of grass to a few travelers. But just beyond the sign is a Russ Ranch evidence of changing times. The name Russ sounds so familiar I’m sure I can talk my way out of this one if any problems arise. But there is no confrontation. We slip around a fence and set up on a road cut in the side of a hill, conveniently sheltered and secluded.

The fog rolls in and when it reaches as far east as these hills, 2000 feet above sea level, it usually blankets the area quite quickly and thoroughly. We watch the air stream through the trees, roll up the hillside, jump the road cut, and continue on headed skyward. You could wave your arms around and capture some of this stuff. It’s down jacket weather but it’s also June 9th. The two don’t seem to go together. This is also great picture weather and with the same enthusiasm that I went through roll after roll of digital film in the desert and mountains I jumped around looking for the best angles to “capture the moment” from.

The last time we pushed our bikes down a dirt road to camp

The last time we pushed our bikes down a dirt road to camp

Oaks and prairie

Oaks and prairie

Beans and rice had probably been our most common meal of the trip, prepared and dressed so many ways, so it was only fitting to end the trip with more salsa, chips, cheese, refried beans, cilantro, tortillas, fresh onions, and about 10 more ingredients that make the meal more than just beans and rice. After dinner the fog turned to mist and mist to light rain. And since we don’t “party hard” we were scooted into our tents by 9:30.

And last dinner on the road

And last dinner on the road

You guessed it, last morning on the road

You guessed it, last morning on the road

Not wanting to be complacent, we left the campsite around 8:00, also knowing we had some ground to cover before meeting some people at the top of Fickle Hill. With just a small climb ahead of us, we soon took off on several miles of downhill dirt road descending. The bikes were soon covered in light dust from the dry roads but wet air. Descending on a dirt road with a loaded touring bike is actually pretty stable but if you start to lose control you’ll go down hard like slipping on marbles. That descent left Aaron and Andrew (a friend who joined us for two days) with a pair of flat tires but that was just the beginning of our failing outfit. My bottom bracket had unscrewed itself and the sealed bearings were failing – in layman’s terms, a big screw down near the pedals was falling out – so every mile or so I got off my bike to hand-tighten it. I also was prone to flats with a rear tire that was beginning to shred like those truck blow-offs you see on the side of the road. This spaced us out so while Sara had taken off to get a head start on the hills ahead, she was probably just further distancing herself up the road.

Screwing in bearings the day before

Screwing in bearings the day before

While I’d hoped for sun and a deep blue sky that comes with the clean coastal air, the fog still added a great element to the landscape. Looking forward and backward I could usually see someone from our group of six slowly making their way up a series of snaking switchbacks. I took landscape photos with a hint of a human element to them. As Alyssum and Andrew caught up after fixing some flats, I noticed Alyssum had suffered a slow speed crash, increasing our number of mishaps for the day. I finally got a hold on my mechanical problem, flooding the bearings with oil after the seal had cracked away. That provided a temporary fix to the problem for the rest of the day.

Spectacular landscapes

Spectacular landscapes

Cattle farming is the primary legal use of the land

Cattle grazing is the primary legal use of the land

Aaron and Alyssum

Aaron and Alyssum

We climbed higher and reentered the clouds turning the paved roads wet. But the pavement was a sign we were closer to Arcata. At a ranch a guy stopped to tell me that their dog had scared Sara so in turn she hit one of the dogs and destroyed some fence. It was all very matter of fact with no emotion on his part. I told him the dog must have bit her and then humorously envisioned Sara pulling out a row of fence posts with brute strength. He told me the Sherriff and the owner went on the down the road to talk with her and that gave me concern as to what happened and what the truth was.

Now I was pedaling through familiar roads, within range of a day ride from Arcata. I reached what I knew as the final paved switch backs and ascended them into the fog and mist once more, seeing Aaron and Tommy and few hundred feet above me.

At the top, we all ran into Sara and had to know what happened! We were relieved to find she was in good spirits and there was no Sherriff’s car or angry ranch owner. The truth was she did get nipped at by one of the sheep herding dogs and with adrenaline surging found a stick in the ditch to scare them off with. Even the owner who drove out to talk with her understood she had a right to be angry and defend herself and happily labeled her as “one tough chick, just like me.”

Given our luck so far we all agreed not to get crazy on the wet downhills. We had just one small downhill and then a climb before getting to the famed Fickle Hill. Fickle Hill was a ride we did after school every Friday, called Fickle Hill Friday – a rather brutal 10 mile climb with several steep sections of 20% grade. Surprisingly, it caught on and with Sara’s determination to lead it and be there every week, there was usually a core crew of 5 or 6 and a number of more people who would join occasionally or just for the week. Uninterested in getting back in racing, Fickle Hill Friday is how I first started riding when I came to Humboldt. The ride varied only in how far we’d go up given the daylight, weather, and goals of the group. The exertion required to get to the top is enough to clear the mind of all the stress and headache school brings, just in time to focus and be hyper-vigilant for the tortuous descent down hill. After memorizing the hill and perfecting the technique of leaning the bike over in the turns, it’s possible to get up to 55mph on a road that resembles a never ending mountain driveway.

Today, with loaded bikes and rainy roads, we weren’t going to approach that level of intensity. We sat around on the top of the hill much like we used to back in the day and brought out all of our food for a smorgasbord lunch. Our friend, Aaron, who also joined us in New Orleans, came slowly up through the fog to join us. We put on our coats, put away anything that might shake loose from our bikes and got ready to descend. There was just 10 miles between us and making the loop complete, making bike49 officially over.

IMGP6183

Top of Fickle

We made it!

We made it!

Down at the bottom we regrouped and headed over to the plaza at the center of town. We started whooping and hollering and getting any stranger to join in. If there is ever a time to be completely self centered and cocky, this was it. “Bike49 is back in town… We made it!… We’re back… Hello everyone!” A group of teenage girls joined in when Sara prompted them to scream for us. A couple of street blocks erupted into cheering while closer to downtown we just got confused stares.

At the plaza the greeting party was small, very small. We unexpectedly saw a few friends but mostly talked to reporters and talked among ourselves. It was certainly a day of no regrets that threw twists and turns at us. Now what? Off to Big Pete’s or Live from NY, the two best Pizza places in Arcata. But for the long term, who knows? How do five people assimilate back into more ordinary life after a year on the road?

Home Stretch

by Sara Dykman

When we started bike49 last May we would have been overwhelmed to think about the entire route. Instead we focused on more obtainable, short term goals.  Our first goal was getting to Coos Bay, OR for our first presentation.  The next goal was Alaska, and after that, we focused on making it back to the United States.  When we left Sacramento last week our goal was to make it to Fort Bragg, a familiar bike touring layover for the five of us.  And now, two days from Arcata, our final goal is Arcata. This is the home stretch, and it is good to be home.

Eureka is only ten miles from Arcata, our final stop.

Eureka is only ten miles from Arcata, our final stop.

We left Sacramento last week and biked to the bike friendly city of Davis, where bike lanes hugged every road and where there are enough bikers to need bike roundabouts at bike path intersections.  From Davis we climbed out of the central valley, trading fruit trees for lonely oaks as we headed to the coast.  The road lead us through the Napa Valley, California’s wine country, where the grapes are pruned and lined up like saluting soldiers waiting for the next order.   As we approached the coast, redwood trees began to replace the fancy named vineyards with perfectly pruned rosebushes.  And finally we were cruising through the narrow road shaded by the redwood forest.

Wine country on our way to the coast

Wine country on our way to the coast

The redwood forest is something special.  We started our trip over a year ago in the redwoods, but we must have been jaded.  We had been living among the largest trees on Earth, and though we saw them as beautiful and explored them on hikes and bike rides, we didn’t stare at them with awe.  Now, one year later, we have pedaled through the forests of the Rockies, the Sierras, and the Appalachian Mountains; we have pedaled under cypress trees in the south, sugar maples in the east, and ponderosa pines in the west.  Now I ride among the redwoods and stare at them in awe, like it is the first time I have ever seen them.

Our first night back in the redwoods

Our first night back in the redwoods

I forgot how big the redwoods are.  The trees shoot skyward, impressively tall and impressively big. I picture them racing upward, fighting for the sky, watching the ground beneath them disappear.  And as we race by, I could reach out and touch them.  The highway curves, narrowly missing the giant trunks that seem to squeeze the road narrower.  The road is dappled with the little light that travels through the canopy.   The ground along the road is dappled with ferns and berries and sorrel; a carpet of green that seems even greener after our stint in the desert.  We all hoot and holler as we ride through the redwoods, this is our home turf, this is it. We are approaching the end.

Matt cruises through the redwoods

Matt cruises through the redwoods

Even a week from Arcata, we are biking through our home turf.  In college we spent our week long breaks for Thanksgiving and Spring Break biking loops around the North Coast.  Now on familiar roads we remind each other of random events that made us love touring:  “This is where we found 91 bucks”, “this is where we camped on the spring break tour part two”, “this is where Victor drank a quart of egg nog”.   And when we hit Fort Bragg, we know exactly how to get to Uncle Tom’s cabin.

Uncle Tom and Aunt Susan are Tommy and Aaron’s family, but by now they are familiar friends to us all.  Truthfully, their house is a legend.  This was my sixth time stopping by Uncle Tom’s cabin, and like the first five times I was not disappointed.  Tom and Susan built a wonderful house, but left the small cabins they lived in while building the house standing.  We take showers, warm up by the fire, spread out our stuff between the cabins, and enjoy watching the rain from inside.  Tom and Susan serve us pasta of gourmet caliber, and we eat till we can’t eat any more.  Tom pulls out photos from previous bike tours, and we all laugh.  We became friends on the tours that passed through Uncle Tom’s; we brainstormed and talked about bike49 on those tours even before bike49 had a name or route or website.

No bike tour is complete without visiting Uncle Tom

No bike tour is complete without visiting Uncle Tom

Fort Bragg was not just a great rest stop, but an important milestone.  When we hit Fort Bragg on the coast of California, we were finally done heading west.  And when we hurried out of the Pacific Ocean, during the half hour of sun we had that day, we had finally swam in the Atlantic, the Gulf, and the Pacific Ocean.  I was especially happy because it has been a dream since high school to bike across the county.  Since I broke my ankle last fall, I had not yet biked coast to coast.  But atlast, in Fort Bragg, my dream had come true.

From Fort Bragg we headed north along the coast.  The ocean is so blue and traces the slowly curving horizon.  The waves crashing on the beach turn white from the powerful collisions and act as a highlighter where the land meets the sea.  Wildflowers bloom on the hills and spray the roadsides with purples and oranges and yellows. Even more, our time on the coast is warm and sunny.  More often than not we have seen the ocean in grays, our bodies cold and wet from the rain.  Now the sun is out, the winds are gentle, and we are in biking paradise.  I had forgotten how glorious the riding on the coast could be, living here I had taken it for granted.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

It is not just the coast and redwood forests that we took for granted.  It is the roads that curl around them, and the hills that lift those roads straight up from sea level.  We have traveled many miles and descended many hills, but it is the hills here on the North Coast that I love.  We climbed Leggit Pass, the longest climb on the Pacific Coast bike route. The climb was perfect: steady, beautiful, smooth, few cars.  The downhill was glorious.  I couldn’t stop smiling as we flew down the hill.  We rode as a pack, chasing each other through the 10 mph bends we take at 25 mph.  We leaned into the curves and I screamed part from the thrill, part to egg on the others, and part to be loud.  But mostly I screamed for the fun of it, because bombing down a windy road, in a t-shirt, is my favorite thing in the world.

It has been wonderful biking so many new roads in new forests and along new coasts, but it has been wonderful to bike familiar roads, bomb down familiar hills, see familiar faces, and feel like we made it back home.   Thinking about the route before we left was too overwhelming, but we took it week by week and now we are on the home stretch.  Now it is too overwhelming to think about it being over.  Stay tuned for that…

These birds are getting ready to leave the nest and I can't help but think of us getting ready to enter the real world once again.

These birds are getting ready to leave the nest and I can't help but think of us getting ready to enter the real world once again.

Utah

by sara dykman

Every night I write a quick few paragraphs in a small, pink, spiral notebook. It seems the most action packed days, the days when the pages could be filled with unplanned adventures, inspiring scenery descriptions, and morale-saving strangers, those are the days when repeating the day in words  is simply too overwhelming.  Instead, I side step the flowery language and superfluous grammar and just write words that in years to come will send me back to a stranger’s home or a lonely, mountain road.   Yesterday, for example, between a short- yet profane- incomplete sentence about head winds, and another short statement about the library, I wrote in my journal the words: Randy, candy, new chain.

We met Randy in Lone Pine, California and he invited us in for much needed showers and laundry.  Of course, he didn’t stop there.  I’ll never forget that bag of candy he set before us.  Knowing he was a biker himself, we didn’t even have to warn him that we would be putting a huge dent in his candy stash.  While eating candy, we quizzed Randy on locations for bike stores, grocery stores, and thrift stores in the next town north.  When Randy heard I needed a new chain, he went to his garage and got me a new chain.

But I digress.  This is not a story about California. Instead, I must skip back a few dozen pages in my spiral notebook to the red rock deserts of Utah. We have neglected writing about the desert, not because we had nothing to say on the subject, but because recounting the hundreds of miles of beautiful places we have seen is kinda overwhelming.  Where do you start?  How about a few unorganized sentences and pictures to match :

We crossed into Utah, but there was no sign.  We settled on finding the word Utah at a pizza place a few days later.

IMG_0013-14

Tommy has been dreaming of riding along side horses for some time now.  In Utah, his dream came true.

horses

Comb Ridge, a place Edward Abbey takes readers in his book The Monkey Wrench Gang, inspires me to keep climbing the hill so I could get a better view.

comb ridge

We got a nice silhouetted view of Monument Valley, one of many incredible rock sculptures time and water has carved in the desert.

monument valley

We climb the Moke Dugway, a road of switchbacks cut straight up a mesa.  Approaching the mesa you couldn’t even see where the road would take you.  It was one of the best climbs of the trip.

switchback beter

curve

Tommy and Aaron’s parents joined us for a few weeks in Utah.  It was great to have Mary and Marion around.  They spoiled us with pancake breakfasts, wonderful diners, beer, and good company.

mary and marian group IMG_0594

Mary and Marion helped us carry food and water;  that way we could spend more time exploring the desert, and less time worrying about running out of water.  Towns are small and spread out.  We needed to buy food and fill up water for 4,5,or 6 day stretches at times.  Town is also where you find showers and … art.

art

Taking a rest day to hike down a canyon to some ruins, we found the ruins full of pottery shards and corn cobs.

grand gulch 4 cliff dwelling cliff dewlling

The great thing about bike touring in Utah is the availability of public land to camp on.  On public lands managed by the Forest Service and BLM, you can camp just about anywhere, thus we would just pull of the road when we are tired and have great views at every camp site. One night, however, the winds were so strong we took shelter in a culvert.

IMGP5666

We cross several steep canyons containing precious water.   Watching the murky Colorado River cut through the deep canyon it is easy to see the effect water has on the desert.

colorado river bridge

Many people travel from National Park to National Park.  The parks are beautiful, but it might be some of the unnamed canyons we biked along or unvisited roadside mesas that I remember most fondly.

bikes sunset mnts

st george mnts canyon biking

But of course, the National Parks are incredible places, and I am so thankful they have been protect for us to see and discover and enjoy.  We explored several National Parks in Utah.  First up was Capitol Reef.

grand wash capitol bike sara peers down

Our Next National Park was Bryce Canyon.

bryce aaron hoodoos long bryc

And then we explored Zion National Park.

bike path zion

Now you see why writing a story about Utah was so overwhelming.  There was too much to say.  I could write pages about the beauty of the desert; pages about the cyclist we met; pages about how fun it was to have Mary and Marian join us; pages about how any one that has ever thought about going on a bike tour in Utah should go on a bike tour in Utah.  Hopefully I have covered the basis in pictures and the scraps of sentences.

The basis of course is that biking Utah was grand.

The (con?) man

By Matt Schiff

This story is about a man we met shrouded in suspicion and mystery; we’ve spent days discussing the facts, a source of curiosity. We’ve been told to watch for strangers but on a trip like this, you talk to people you don’t know or else the experience you would miss.

But now there is something that we really must share and in making our judgments I hope we are fair. To label someone a con-man is quite harsh, but as we review the facts his whole story could have been a farce.

On the odd chance this wild story we were told was true, the identity of the man is hidden. And if it is, we are glad to give a few bucks to a multi-millionaire.

On the odd chance this wild story we were told was true, the identity of the man is hidden behind Aaron. But really, a multi-millionaire bumming a few bucks? John, can you understand our confusion?

It was in a coffee shop we saw him sitting by himself,

At the time we didn’t know he was a man of great wealth.

We noticed his backpack and made him out as a hiker,

It didn’t much matter that we are instead bikers.

A traveler is a traveler there is no difference you see,

He is just like you and I, there will be instant camaraderie.

He told stories galore, he’d traveled so far,

From South America to Australia and even Zanzibar.

From the places he’d been his facts added up,

And the stories went on, fueled by the joe from his cup.

Then his secret came out, he was a man of great wealth,

He’d traveled the past 45 years, thanks to his health.

364 million, one less than days in year,

He could buy planes and yachts and even my soul, I fear.

His face was sunburned but not wrinkled his skin,

His beard neatly shaven, the perfect gentleman.

His gear was typical, like Merrell shoes and The North Face,

If he was a hiker, nothing seemed out of place.

We were killing time, it was a windy day,

We all decided we should walk the same way.

Over to the library we went for some interneting,

But now I must fill in the details I’ve been omitting.

He was waiting for a package, just as we have you see,

But why send such important stuff (like 5K cash) through general delivery?

“I travel around as free as a bird,

Then send for my money, it’s the Mormon connection, surely you’ve heard.

I come from a large family with sisters and brothers,

And although not biological, at least a few mothers.

A polygamist brother, no wait there are two,

There are 19 of us in all, give or take a few.”

Are you Mormon?

“Not I.

It’s my family.

I am blessed.

I’ve had 2 cups of coffee now look at what I’ve confessed.”

He was paranoid about theft, he was a private man he said,

“No pictures please, they’ll be after me, I’ll be dead!”

But here comes the whammy that blows holes like Swiss cheese,

He asks us for money, maybe he’s not so grandioseeese.

He talked about his millions like a rapper, dropping a grand here and there,

He’s even donated to other cyclists, we might get our share.

How embarrassing for him, it’s done secretly when asked,

A $20 is slapped in his palm which closes on it fast.

We’re all parting ways, what’s your name we ask,

“They call me John Hughes, it’s great our paths have passed.”

Well my name is Sean Penn and over there Doc Holliday,

There’s Meryl Streep in the crowd, we could go on all day.

If this was all truth or lies, we may never know,

His name was John Hughes,

But was he friend or foe?