The scene is this: hot, sunny, and in the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. We focus in on two possibly homeless girls on bikes. They sweat profusely. One burps, interrupting the constant buzzing screech of the cicadas in the heat.
Welcome to our life.
Okay, so we left off in Lumberton, MS last week. We had spent many an hour working away in the library, and generally just schmoozing it up in the air conditioning.
Once the post was posted and we had exhausted all further excuses for loitering around, we headed out into the blazing sun and hit the road. We didn’t have many more miles to go to achieve our 55 mile goal, so soon entered Baxterville, which was made up of exactly two businesses: one Family Dollar and one teensy convenience store.
As we were stopped in front of the Family Dollar checking the map to see what camping possibilities we had, a car full of folks pulled out, collectively gave us the stink eye, then proceeded to drop trash right into the road as they drove off.
Where are we??? One thing we both sorely miss about home is the attitude of protecting the earth, recycling, not using plastic bags unnecessarily, and you know, stuff like not dropping your garbage out the window…
(Okay, I know, there are litter bugs back home as well)
Anyways, after being aghast at such a display of inconsiderate behavior for a few moments, we rolled on to a community center down the road. I admit, this town was so teeeensy tiny backwoodsy that I was surprised there was even a community center.
It was a small brick building with a couple busted up picnic tables out back. We situated ourselves, making sure not to sit on any rusty nails poking up through the fractured seats and table tops, and dined on a fine meal of beanie bean burritos.
Stink set the tent up out back, and as night fell, I set out to find a place to fill my water bottles. I had seen a Chevron gas station sign off in the distance as we pulled into the parking lot earlier, so in the burgeoning darkness, I headed that way.
Only, I couldn’t see the sign in the distance anymore. It should’ve been a beacon of civilization, like a lighthouse in the boon doggies. But it wasn’t there! Eventually I rolled up to the unlit busted up ol Chevron sign, and there wasn’t a gas station in sight…
By now, night had taken over, and I turned round and headed back the way I came, toward the little bitty convenience store by the Family Dollar. On my way to the Chevron sign, I had passed a dog that was, uhm, vocal about my proximity to his territory. On my way back by, he discovered that his gate was wide open, so proceeded to give me chase down the road.
I put the pedal to the metal, er, uh, well, I put the pedals to the air, circularly, with much speed. It was pitch black out now, and I couldn’t see schmidt, but the subtle sounds of a beastie coming from directly behind me spurred me on.
I was pretty sure I’d have to jump off the bike and dash inside and slam the doors of the teeny mart, but when I reached the low wattage buzzing lights out front, the beastie dog was no longer at my heels, and I was able to dismount without needing a change of underwear.
Once I finished filling water from the hose spigot outside, I headed back home towards the community center. As I approached, I saw the headlights of a truck pulling into our super sneaky stealth campspot. No bueno.
I reached the truck as dogs and people piled out left and right. Tweaker people, dear readers. They swarmed around (and out back, though I didn’t know it at the time, their wild dogs were circling around the tent, seemingly intent on eating Stink). I’m serious when I say they were a gang of tweakers; they were straight wigging out, doing lots of crazy arm motions, talking in a way that was more incomprehensible than a mere deep southern Mississippi accent, and generally, just behaving in a way obviously indicative of not being quite right in the head.
But they were nice!
The lead tweaker, who seemed less tweaked out (thankfully, as he was the driver), said they came down to the community center once a day to fill up buckets of ice. I went inside with them, and it was so nice and cool, compared with the hot muggy outside. Tweaker leader said we could camp out in there for the night, if we just locked the doors in the morning.
I was all for it, so as the tweaker truck pulled out into the night, we pulled our bikes inside, and immediately got to work blowing up the place. He had said to keep the lights off (we weren’t officially supposed to be there), so we crawled around the linoleum floor in the dark, ate all our snacks, played on our gadgets, then eventually drifted off to sleep. We locked the door that night…
In the morning, we cleared the heck outta there, biked forever, and at some point reached a McDonald’s for a lengthy loiter. After McDonald’s, we hit the road again, and the miles flew by. A truck pulled over in front of us, and we stopped to talk with the fella inside, D’Andre. He said had seen us at the McDonald’s, and then he offered me his spare apple pie. I no thanks, but then, later, I wished I might’ve said yes. It’s not every day that someone offers you a pie…
He had a lady on speaker phone while he was talking with us, and was just plumb tickled with our adventure. He said we could come shower if we needed, cause he lived in the town we were headed for. We got his address for future post card correspondence at least, and then continued our way.
We stopped at a promising church at the beginning of town though, and asked if we could crash inside for the night (it was crazy hot out still, makes it real hard to sleep, also bugs). The pastor man Terry came and talked with us, then blew our minds cause he insisted that we let him arrange a hotel room for us for the night. We were like, “No really, we can just sleep on the floor here! We like it! No, we love it! It’s our favorite!” but nothing we said would sway him.
We’ll, we were real appreciative of what he was doing for us (real beds! air conditioning! complimentary breakfast!), and then he blew our already blown minds when he further insisted we take some dollars and eat at the Mexican restaurant conveniently located in the hotel parking lot. But we love Mexican!
After giving him one million thanks, we headed out to ride the seven miles to the hotel, and met up again with D’Andre on our way. We let him know our good fortune, and that unfortunately we wouldn’t need to come by for a shower after all. But all’s well that ends well. We arrived at the Hampton Inn, got our room checked out, took the scoots up in the elevators, and promptly came back down to hit up the Mexican joint before they closed for the night.
Free chips and salsa, check. Tasty veggie fajitas and burritos, check. Happy campers, super check. We walked “home” with protruding bellies and a waddling gait.
Showers, wifi, then soon enough, snooze town as we were tuckered out from a days riding in the heat. In the morning we made multiple strategic attacks on the complimentary buffet, that was as good as everyone kept telling us it was.
We didn’t have to be out till noon, so took full advantage of the place and pulled out with not a minute to spare. Pulled right out into a sheer wall of heat, that is. Hello reality.
We scooted along though, and were chased by dogs a few times, stopped for odds and ends like dead butterfly carcasses, lost bandanas, and babydoll heads many times, and were generally just in good spirits all day.
We ended in Natchez, MS that day, right on the Mississippi/Louisiana border, and hung about a McDonald’s for a bit, stealthily eating cans of beans for dinner. Obviously not stealthy enough though, as a nice lady came up and asked if I had ordered any food. I thought I was busted for bringing in outside food, but turned out she just thought I was destitute and wanted to buy me dinner. After realizing what she was getting at, I quickly reassured here that all was well, I just can’t/won’t eat most anything from McDonald’s and I was fine. Turns out, eating out a can is a surefire way to immediately look homeless…
We eventually left and hit up a Wal-Mart to stock up on groceries and snackums, then headed out into the night to try to find a place to sleep. We ended up in a Jehovah’s Witness parking lot. It was so hot we couldn’t sleep, and we laid out on the asphalt for hours in a catatonic state.
Eventually we must have drifted off, because in the morning we woke and scooted to the Natchez Coffee Company to drink good coffee, work on WBD stuff, and wait for a newspaper man I had spoken with the day before. He was a no-show, but we enjoyed our hours of comfortable coffee shop atmosphere.
When we left, we were finally able to cross back over the Mississippi River, and into Louisiana.
That day we ended in Tallulah, LA. We found a church at dusk and threw up our hammocks (Stink took the children’s swing-set out back, and I took a couple pillars out front) and attempted to go to sleep. Attempted being the key word here. It was miserably hot, and the mosquitoes and who knows what other hordes of biting insects were relentless. I got up and wandered around in my boxer shorts in a daze at one point late in the night. I was sleep deprived, and out of it. I came back, tried to pass out, still to no avail, and then at three thirty in the morning, got up, threw on my shorts and tennis shoes and exhaustedly weaved my way down the road, talking to myself, and probably looking like a real life zombie. I found myself at a 24/7 laundromat later, eyes drawn into the blinding fluorescent lighting inside. I wandered in, used the potty, checked out all the vending machines, watched some tv, then curled up on a wooden bench, pulled up my bandana over my eyes, and slept for a few fitful hours.
Around five thirty, I got up, walked back to the church, and crawled into my sleeping bag (it was no longer intolerably hot) and zonked for another hour. Stink woke me up then, and said we oughta get packing, as folks in the neighborhood were up and stirring, getting ready for work. We rolled to a McDonald’s and fell asleep at our table (Stink didn’t sleep much at all either, and we were both plastered in bug bites). Then we went to the library to try to get in a nap, but I made a whoopsie at one point by sorta uh, laying down on the couch, and someone had to come and tell us we couldn’t lounge like that on the public couches. Oops. Apparently they said we could use a work room, but it was already like 11 or so, so we packed up and rolled out of there.
When we left that day, there wasn’t much of anywhere to stop and take a break at, till we reached Transylvania. Seriously, Transylvania, Louisiana. It consists of one market/restaurant (The Farmhouse), an autoshop, and one dilapidated old school house that earned the spooky name of Transylvania Elementary.
We went into Farmhouse, and we’re right away made quite welcome. They let us fill our water, get ice, and asked lotsa questions about our trip. Upon hearing about our sleeping fiasco the night before, one fella called up his church in the next town to see if we couldn’t sleep there that night, when, once again, our brains were overblown with generosity because the pastorman wanted to put us up in a motel. They got it all arranged for us, and Olivia, the Farmhouse owner, gave us some bananas and other goodies. She told us to call her once we got to the hotel, and that she’d bring us dinner from the restaurant when she got off work at five. Dang, everyone is so nice, it’s nuts.
So we went back into the heat (and boy, it was a hot one that day) and chugged on till we reached the next town, and the pastorman flagged us down outside the Economy Inn and booked us a room for the night. We thanked our little hearts out and soon piled into our room and cranked the AC. I gave Olivia a call and let her know where we were, then we both laid down and immediately passed out at like three in the afternoon. Mm.. precious sleep.
I had set an alarm for five, so we woke up, turned on the TV, and rubbed out the eye crusties before Olivia showed up. Soon enough her knock sounded at the door and she came in carrying bags laden with dinner. Salads and lima beans and turkey soup stuff for Stink and the most delicious sweet potato pie too. We was in heaven. We watched the final Hobbit movie, which was god-awful, while we feasted, then zonked back to sleep after all was said and done.
The next day was another hot one, and we rode out to Lake Village, entering Arkansas on our way.
We stopped at a visitor’s center on the lake at the beginning of town (sometimes they have free coffee… also postcards, just sayin). The gal behind the desk let us know there was a grocery in town, and that there were state park campgrounds nearby. I think I asked if they were free or not, and accidentally clued her in to our… somewhat hobo-y tour style, as she then said we could camp out for just one night on the visitor’s center property. And that the door to the bathrooms would remain unlocked all night. Remember this, it may or may not come into play later…
We rode further into town, to hang out at the McDonald’s for awhile, and I looked up the Sun Flower grocery store on Google maps. I had my eyes peeled for it on the way into town, so was surprised when Google said it was back the way we’d came. I set off in search of it, and two miles later, found myself back at the visitor’s center, sans grocery store. So I went in and asked where it was. Turns out, it was literally right across the street from McDonald’s. Once I got there, it was glaringly obvious. Talk about being blindsided by technology…
Anyways, we got our grocery on, then scooted out to a lakeside park in town to chow down our beanie bean burritos. There was a huge dead catfish on the rocks, raising quite a stink (heh heh heh) but overall the lake was nice and we were able to dangle our feet in the water and relax.
When it started getting dark, we scooted back to the visitor’s center and pulled our bikes onto the huge multilevel dock porch deck thingy. It had lighting along the waters edge, so folks kept coming by to go fishing. It also attracted swarms of mosquitoes, we relentlessly bit all available surfaces. Stink went up into some trees on the lawn to sling her hammock, and I talked with some fisher folk. The guy said to be careful on the grass cause water moccasins would swim across the lake and slither up there. Gulp. Good luck Stink…
Eventually, I couldn’t stand the bugs and the heat any longer (reoccurring themes in these parts) and marched myself up to the bathrooms. I made a cozy little bed on the floor, jammed the door shut with the wooden doorstop, and zonkered out. Around one or so, Stink joined me on the floor, then headed back out around three. I cleared out at six, and slung my hammock on the dock system, fell back to sleep, woke up a few times, saw that Stink was still out, decided to let her sleep if she was able, so I went back to sleep, all the while she was doing the same with me, so we ended up sleeping in till nine!
Stink came and I packed up, and we chatted with this nice park ranger guy named Ray, who was cool, till he went off on a little political rant (like people end up doing pretty often), but then he eventually wrapped that up, and was cool again, ending the conversation right before we rode off by telling us his plans of getting a whole herd of goats. Like a hundred.
We rode along that day, and ended in Dumas, which I could easily make a low-brow joke about the name, but I won’t, because I’m a classy broad. Just kidding, I obviously couldn’t help myself and did just that when I saw what town we were in.
Anyways, we decided to ask a church if we could sleep inside (not wanting a repeat of public restroom floor sleeping night) and quickly found one. We asked a couple ladies who were heading inside if we could talk to the pastor about staying the night, and they went in to see what they could do. Soon enough, this fella Ernie comes out and says they wanted to get us a hotel room for the night. Boom, minds blown for the third time this week. Now we have to stop asking if we can camp indoors because they will insist on getting you a hotel, and we honestly are getting spoiled by all this. We have a perfectly good tent and the ground is our bed.
But yeah, after asking if there was any such possible way of persuading him to let us just sleep on the floor somewhere, we have to admit that hotels are awesome, and we’re really super duper grateful (spoiled, but grateful).
So he drives along and leads us to a Day’s Inn, books us a room, then heads off again. He told the gal at the front desk, Deborah, what we were up to, so she said that if we got bored to come and talk to her cause the cable was out and she had all sorts of questions for us.
So after we got ourselves situated in our super fance room, we went back to the lobby and had a good time sipping coffee and talking tour, and then eventually maths (she’s teaching herself calculus out of a textbook in order to be an actuary), and lots of other things were talked about that I don’t even remember, but it was all good fun. Deborah, you’re way cool and you make me want to go work on a math textbook.
After awhile, we see the two church ladies from earlier pull up outside, so we go greet them, and they wanted to chat too. So all four of us sit out in the lobby and seriously just have a grand time talkin bout this and that. Jesse West (super western bank robber name) and Velva offer to take us out to lunch at the McDonald’s the next day before they leave. We accept and make plans to meet them at noon, conveniently right when we have to be checked out of the hotel (McDonald’s is next door).
We headed back to our room, showered, and got laundry together to do in the hotel laundromat. We end up going and talking to Deborah some more, and I bring her the copy of Eat Pray Love that I had just finished reading (Momma Sue mailed it to me in Florida, so I’d been reading it while I rode all that way. From the title, I didn’t know if I’d like it, but actually it was a pretty good book, and got me laughing out loud in a few places).
In the morning, I slept in and only hit the continental breakfast one time (though I certainly did not hit it lightly…) and we lazed about, snoozing and reading on our tablets till checkout time, when we went and met up with Jesse and Velva for lunch.
More good conversation at the McDonald’s, where literally the only thing I could eat besides coffee and apple pies was a bed of lettuce with two grape tomatoes in top. But booyah, bomb diggity, cause I happen to love salad. I just think Jesse was worried I’d gotten enough to eat (she hadn’t witnessed the breakfast buffet massacre of nine o’clock).
After lunch, Stink and I headed over to the Mad Butcher (small town grocery stores get all the coolest names) and stocked up on beans and such. Out back, as in in the dumpster, I found a couple bell peppers, potatoes, and some apples. The dumpster divings in these parts have been slim pickings as it’s so hot and things can get a little nasty out there… so I was pleased with my finds.
We rode on and finished up in Pine Bluff that day; a town of over 40,000 people. We stopped at a couple different McDonald’s but they didn’t have outlets so we left without getting anything or loitering.
I was kinda zonkered from riding in the heat, so wasn’t much help in the decision making department, but eventually Stink got us headed to large park where we might find a place to sneaky camp. We got there and all along the road going through, it was nuts. We had pulled into a baseball stadium area and watched gangsters on horses charging through the park. Dudes shredded though on street bikes and Harleys. There was constant traffic in and out of the place. Stink went on a scouting mission and experienced more insanity even deeper in the park. Then we realized, duh, it was labor day weekend (though, I kinda think that park is probably always that nuts).
We ended up just going to a less noticeable baseball stadium and pitching the tent out behind it. It was so hot, we were sweating bullets laying there. At least there weren’t bugs in the tent though (I mean after we went on a rampage and slayed the seven or eighth mosquitoes that dared to enter our realm). Eventually we were able to get to sleep through, and woke rested, mostly.
We rolled to a McDonald’s for coffee sneaky breakfast loiter, and it was one of those fancy ones with touch screen videogames at some tables. We just happened to be seated at one, and so were soon absorbed in all sorts of intense gaming. Only one cup of coffee got spilt! (See how I twisted that to sound awesome?)
Eventually we did leave though, and made our way towards Little Rock. We kinda did like 40 something miles without stopping, so when we did stop at a small mart I kinda got a little light headed and had to sit down. I had asked the cashier lady if I could use the restroom when I went in, but she said no. When I was sitting at the table I asked if customers could use it, and she said no again… and that I couldn’t sit at that table for more than five minutes if I wasn’t eating. Outside, Stink wasn’t faring much better as a group of guys were hitting on her (“You can come stay a night at my house, I’ve got a treadmill” is not exactly the best pickup line).
So, uh, needless to say, we moved on. Anyways, we were only about six miles out from Little Rock at this point. I had been in contact with my cousin (or maybe she’s more considered my aunt) Morning Star recently about going to the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. (My great uncle Roy was married to Minnijean Brown Trickey, who was one of the Little Rock Nine, and they are Morning Star’s and Spirit’s (my other cousin) parents). My family tree is confusing. I just roll with it.
Anyways, Spirit used to work at the museum too, so Star called her up, and got us contact info for Jodi, one of ladies who works there. I had called up Jodi and we were gunna join up with a tour the next morning, but since we kicked butt and scooted our miles in real fast that day, we let her know that we’d be in the same day.
When we got there, everyone was real nice, and Jodi came out and talked with us, then gave Stink and I a private tour of the exhibits and the surrounding areas and through the school itself as well. I was really really impressed with the bravery of the Little Rock Nine, and with all the information Jodi was giving us, and learning about my great aunt, and with the whole atmosphere of the place and of the students still milling around, like it was well aware of the pivotal part in history it played. It’s hard to describe, but that scene of such outright racism and violence, yielded to such bravery and courage standing up for what’s right, you could just feel it. It was really moving, many times I cropped up goosebumps at the things Jodi was telling us about.
I guess the feeling I was getting was just a hopeful feeling for the future. In the way we were able to move on through such blatant racism of the age of segregation and “separate but equal”. I feel hopeful now too, in the way gay marriage rights have been fought for and won. And who knows what the next battle for equality will be (and many are still being fought now), but I’m reassured that we the people will come out for the better on the other side.
So, yes, I may have spent hours more going through the exhibits after Jodi left, but I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. Eventually though, the place did need to close, so we scooted on through Little Rock with much food for thought.
We scooted out to a Warm Showers host Stink had hooked us up with, and, like all Warm Showers hosts, they lived at the top of a series of increasingly steep hills. Our host, Mac was home, and quickly showed us the showers. That out of the way, we were given free roam and leisure time to lay about and read and procrastinate writing a blug post…
Eventually Mac’s wife, Amelia, and their friend who was staying with them, Avery, both came home. They cooked up a couple pepperoni pizzas, and I chopped up and roasted my potatoes, bell peppers, and a couple carrots I had stashed away. We all sat downstairs and watched the Serena v.s. Venus match (possibly the first time Stink and I had ever sat and watched an entire tennis match). After the game was won (Serena, though it was pretty close), both Stink and I drifted off to bed, quite zonkered once again.
In the morning, we had free reign till we had to leave at eleven to head towards the airport to meet up with Stink’s fa, who has flown out to ride with us for a week. I slept in till 9:30 though, and barely had any time to get a good morning loiter in. We made up a cardboard sign for “Ice Cube” (his way cool super hip nickname) and took off through the hilly streets of Little Rock at eleven to reunite BMX Club after four months of separation.
We arrived at the airport with an hour to kill, so after backtracking from the front doors to ditch our pocket knives at the bikes (I don’t wanna go to jail!), we sat by a Starbucks and sipped coffees, while a player piano directly behind Stink dueled with the p.a. system music playing throughout the airport. She had to put headphone in.
When it hit one o’clock we went up to the gates to meet our much awaited tour guest: Stink Fa.
A joyous reunion indeed, dear readers. Group hugs complete, we headed down to baggage claim to pick up Stink Fa’s bike and another box full of goodies and such.
After much anticipation, the huge box shoot off a side ramp, and we quickly dragged it through the little Little Rock airport and began assembly.
The extra box was opened up as well, and we snacked and read letters and played bikes for two hours, building up the bike in record time. The cops only came by once, and Stink refrained from using our phrase for when we spread our junk everywhere, “blow up the place”…
Stink Fa loaded up his scoot, and we packed up the our goodies as well, after making a large dent in the snack collection. We rode off and onto this great bike path, attracting lots of attention with our super cool awesome hip bike gang. The bike path took us out of Little Rock and was nice and smooth. The weather even let us off the heat hook in honor of Stink Fa’s arrival.
After getting back on the main road, we stopped at a Kum & Go gas station for our first three-man loiter, and Stink Fa did it with style and the grace of a seasoned cycletourist veteran; and that means slushies. After this, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and loaded up on such delicacies as wasabi peas, peanut butter honey crackers, and chili lime chips. Also more sustainable foods, as in the ingredients to make spaghetti for dinner.
We loitered it up outside for a bit, and once again like an old pro, Stink Fa mastered the art of sitting on the sidewalk, snacking on snackables, and loving on Beef.
We head out eventually, stopping at a church a bit later and asking the folks outside if they were cool with us camping on the property. Once we got the go ahead and filled our bottles inside before they locked up, we laid claim to a covered entrance area on the side of the building and began cooking up a mean batch of spaghetti.
After chow town, we set up our sleeping arrangements, Stink Fa gets the place of honor in the tent, and Stink & I free style it on the porch. Once complete, we walked down the road to a gas station and get in a nice late night snack/loiter consisting of a slushie, milkshake, and fritos honey bbq flavour twists. Job well done, we walked home and went to bed. Not necessarily to sleep, as I could hear Stink snacking and goofing around, and I was up till two chronicling this tale.
Pack up in the morning was done with speed and grace, and we soon made our ways over to the gas station, where we found a kitty! Stink Fa got him a tin kitty food while we munched our oatmeals and slurped hot coffee. He named him Pumpkin Spice in a nod to the coffee selection inside, but unfortunately we were unable to actually bring lil Pumpkin Spice with us for the rest of tour.
We rolled out, and straight up did forty miles without stopping till we reached this here McDonald’s we’re currently at. Poor Stink Fa. He do super awesome though, and powered along right with us.
So, that’s that.
-Elizabeth Trickey, Queen of England