“Do a Favor For Two People”
Sleepless and dog-sick in Heber City, Utah, at the base of the great Wasatch Range. The entire town is decked out in parade regalia. I’m huddling under covers at six thousand feet in a freezing hotel room.
Dropped off by Matt Hallermann at nine a.m. because Chris C. was getting vanned into SLC for a birthday party. Me and Kyla–both sick– and tired Adrianna had the whole day to kill in Heber City.
First stop: breakfast at the Hub. We were escorted into the kiddie alcove (was it my pajamas, pillow and banjo? Or Adrianna’s nose-barbell? Or…?)
Split up afterward, and I walked two miles to a massage studio, but they were booked solid.
Hit the St. Joseph’s Thrift shop, left my dirty shirt in the park for some lower-level packrat than myself…and then got a manicure at Beatrice Dribble’s School of Cosmetology. For an hour, a sixteen year old kid named Maddy bent over my chewed cuticles and filthy, serrated nails while I drilled her about her interests.
Good luck in your two thousand buck cosmetology studies, girl, don’t forget to hit the regular school books, too, OK?
Ms. clean nails (no polish: toluene is carcinogenic) then caught a nap, or tried to. Air conditioning turns all that gunk in my nose into quickcrete–hey, I could make a little sculpture.
Lie awake a half hour between two and three, and bolt up because a month has gone by, and I forgot to do a favor for two people.
Note: this is a flashback to the very start of the 42below ride. A day when a hotel manager saved my bacon by chauffeuring me out of freeway hell near Princeton, N.J.
OK, so what can I do to thank “Sir John-a-lot” of Lawrenceville, N.J. ? Hotel employee by night (I think), closet humor-writer by day (think: John Kennedy O’Toole). I know: I can write a blog.
Day two, riding out of Somerset N.J. was epic in oh-so-many ways.
For an hour I left with a motley gang of would-be speedsters, so uneven in ability and polish that I spent most of the time zipping up and down the accordioning ‘peloton’ (I use this word though it doesn’t describe the raggedy-ass band of young men jamming down the road) yelling, “you’re not supposed to accelerate when it’s your turn at the front! HEY. LIGHTEN UP. Keep riding like this and you’ll break everyone’s legs!”.
Like some diligent but very unappreciated Aussie shepherd.
Now, I KNOW it wasn’t personal, but I got dropped. Ased directions from local commuter types for ‘Phlemingham road” or whatever, and of course was misdirected. Ended up going south–the correct direction, wrong route–on a freeway . This would be the first of many lessons on the uselessness of our untested cue sheets. Heart racing, I scooted through broken glass and freeway debris off the nearest exit . I was going south, but really didn’t feel like being on the freeway to Philly. There’s something just so wrong about a bicycle on that thoroughfare. As if the predatory motorists mostly pity but sometimes condemn you.
A faceless motel, don’t even remember the chain (6? 8?Red Roof?) was the sole feature of the cloverleaf I was spat out of . Pulled up, asked for help, and the Russian maid directed me to the manager.
He took a look at me, the cue sheet, and the bike and said ” Didn’t they give you a MAP?”
“Wait here a few minutes”.
This gave me time to paw through my messynger bag, and realize I didn’t even have the laminated card with everyone’s cell # on it (this would later prove to be a lifesaver, so now it’s duct-taped to my left cankle). That bag usually has everything (plus a little) I might need: food. Arm warmers. Extra gloves. Spare tube. Journal. “Active wipes” (strange pre-moistened towelette, our noble sponsor). But no info about whom to contact.
It was a Darwinian moment, to be sure.
A few minutes of self-loathing and hope passed. “It’ll work out” I told myself. “Your natural charm an’ all….who wouldn’t help a middleaged woman on a bike who never carries a phone or money?”.
John (that was all he divulged) pulled out a map, pointed to where I needed to be.
I told him that I was happy to HITCH to the next destination, assuming that New Jersey has a “mass murderer/normal” likelihood ratio of less than one per thousand.
“We’re at about two per ten thousand, but don’t go near the Pine Barrens, that’s where they bury all the bodies. The mob, an’ all….”
I realized a kindred spirit. Silly. Quick on the draw. It’s rare, especially on the fly like this, and so I wasn’t THAT surprised when he told his staff he was quitting for the day (I hope he was night manager, otherwise he just did a two hour shift to save a lost wombat).
Need I say I slipped him my “mud life crisis ” card (thinking: “please don’t take this wrong”)?
Need I say he drove me through a sketchy part of some town where–yea, verily– the denizens lurked about in (to me, wabi-sabi beautiful) tumble-down buildings, waiting for…what? A lost cyclist to sell drugs to?). All the while narrating about “No man’s land” etc.
Reader, he hauled me and bike at least a quarter of an hour, across some huge river, glancing at the cue sheet.
“How ever to thank you?” I bellowed above the noise of three hundred thousand morning cicadas on a misty green back road.
“Do a favor for two people, and you’ll have repaid me”.
I thought about that for the next mile. Of course he was referring to his size. Yes, he was a plus-size guy with heart to spare, and a wicked hilarious, active (underutilized, unless he IS a writer by night) mind….
So now I have a couple of favors to do…
Thanks John, if you’ve ever clicked onto my blog. This mud’s for you.