This morning was filled with steam. Lovely buckets of moisture evaporating into the sweet Californian sunrise. I imagined I was a rockstar as I rode through the chilly precipitation. The fog can be like ones own fog machine. Sing a loud song and break through the curtain like a regular superstar for all the onlookers to admire, until a deer steals the scene. The occurance of a young buck, looking to capture the crowd and take the limelight, lead me to hit my brakes and honk. Ain’t nobody got time for deer lurking in the fog.
That was actually the first deer I have seen run into the road since Minnesota. A real reality check.
Anyway, the fog is still beautiful. Actually, this morning and last night have all been beautiful. A seemingly unreal sequence of events that feel a bit like a dream, or magic. Let me start at the beginning, like any good storyteller.
Yesterday evening I stopped at a lovely coffee joint in Fort Bragg, CA for a cup of tea to warm up after my toe wiggle in the ocean. I drank tea and typed up a blog about smells as the clock ticked and tocked, the way it tends to do. Soon I looked up to see heavy shadows being cast, and to my dismay remembered that dark hits about six thirty here. I finished my tea and skidaddled back to Little Wing and the tent that would be sheltering me that night.
I would soon find more reason for dismay, as my search for a place to pitch a tent revealed that beach front in Mendocino cano county was not free. In fact it was $25-$35 away from the label of free for a camper. Damn.
My options were limited by gentrified campsites, so then the real search began. It was getting dark and I was scouting land that appeared a little more public while also being able to hide the trespassing motorcycle and rider. I found a cemetery that appeared to fit the bill. It was a back entrance. Gated, but not labeled with NO TRESPASSING signs. I made my way up, and — after some weaseling — got Little Wing covertly parked. My determination was that tent camping was out of the question, and my sleeping bag would not do well on the leafy wet earth I had found in a hallow tree grove. Instead, I layered on my rain gear and settled in like a mummy on a softer spot.
I was good for a whole half hour in this secret spot, until my gut did a flip flop in response to breaking twigs, and rusteling underbrush. There were some old fast food bags crumpled and tossed amongst the bramble that guarded my small sleeping spot. A clear sign of life, left as refuse, it floated through my brain as I heard the loud cracking that could only be footsteps to my foggy, gut instinct blinded, brain. I roused from my leaves and made for Little Wing, and quick as my fumbling hands could, we were out. Off to another campsite, a fruitless endeavor it turned out.So instead I made it to the nearest town.
It was dark when I arrived in the small town of Mendocino, but even in the dark I had no trouble identifying the large number of dread heads and sandal sporting humans. So California. I pulled over by a liquor store which I thought doubled as a bar. I heard told once that the best person to ask for a good camping spot was a bartender, so that was my attempted mission in parking where I did. It was not a bar though, just a liquor store. On my way towards the door the store was inundated by a few waves of young men. I waited as five boys made there way in, and then I made my exit. I continued on down the street in search of a bar. It was another fruitless effort. I had crossed the street when a BMW roared past me going back towards the liquor store. He made a U-turn near my bike and made a short brake to look. The rider then rode over, to the side of the street I was standing on, and parked at the grocery store.
I have come to learn from experience that bikers are as good as anyone to ask when looking for a place to stay. I have not yet put into practice the bartender theory, but I have tested the biker one and to great results. This being the case I made my way to the BMW rider. Before my short,nonchalent strides could reach him though he disappeared into.the grocery store. At this point I was standing across the street, and almost directly in front of, the liquor store. I cast my gaze that way as I wondered my next step. It was then I noticed that four of the five boys who had entered the store as I was leaving were there, standing infront of the business, tossing back a bottle of some sort. I made my next step. I stepped off the curb and crossed the street to the boys.
I don’t generally make stereotypes, but I do make observations. Not all bikers are good for a hint on a place to pitch a tent, but some of them sure are. I know this because I’ve observed them give me good advice. In my observations I have noticed that young men with dreads or long hair seem to have a penchant for things street related, this isn’t true for all long hairs ofcourse. Nor is it true that all humans standing in front of a liquor store are meant to be approached, but when life places three long haired young men with a young dreaded man in front of a liqour store it is probably safe to assume they are approachable. My gut said yes, my observations said yes, and so did my feet.
Asking these young men about camping lead to a church and a chat with four fascinating humans. Justin and Frank were friends from Pennsylvania, living in Puerto Rico, visiting Northern California for the warmer months. They were on their way to San Jose in a car to pick up a friend from the airport. The other two men, Gabriel and Mirko, were Italians, straight from Italy. Two brothers traveling America. They started in Southern America, I believe, and had made their way up. There story was a little difficult to gather because their accents were thick, and they didn’t always know how to say what the wanted to say in English. They were hitch hiking their way around, something they had been doing across many countries for about two years.
Justin told me that Frank and him had just met these guys and would be giving them a ride, but they were on the search for cheap camping too. Frank’s girlfriend had the car, but if we walked to the church and met up with her I was more than welcome to follow them to a campsite they’d heard of.
Because I had no better leads, and because these young men fascinated me, I followed them. We walked about seven blocks to the sound of dubstep which Mirko had tuned in on his portable boom box.
Imagine a 5’5″ twenty-four year old man. Scruffy five or six-o’clock shadow. White tank top under an unzipped hoodie. A beanie covering the top of a shaggy mane, and a 12″ by 6″ boom box in hand. It was a painting, right there, a piece of art.
Complaints were made by Mirko’s dreaded brother, and so Mirko switched over to a station playing the Bee Gees about the time we made it to the church. A quick dance party ensued as my four walking companions soaked in the new sound. I was taken over by laughter. What a lovely group of galavanting men.
We made our way to benches under stained glass windows and sat beneath the church. The moon and stars were visibile. The sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing into the United States was audible as Mirko shut of the radio, and we listened, instead, to a young man playing an acoustic guitar. The two Italians, myself, and two men who had been sitting with the musician at the benches before us, soaked it all in.
The musician’s name was Moonshine, or at least that’s what he told us. When he introduced himself I asked him to repeat just to be sure, and then introduced myself as Diamond. It was humourous because I am certain that the name on his birth certificate isn’t Moonshine, and I’m certain that’s what he thought of me — just another street name, except mine isn’t. I felt welcome at once.
Mirko and Gabriel started up a game of football (soccer) with a tennis ball. They insisted I join, and then Justin came back and joined in as well. Four humans who had just met, sitting below the light of stained glass windows and a near full moon, being serenaded by crashing waves and Moonshine.
Justin had been finding out about the ride/camping situation, and that’s why he and Frank were missing around the benches. Here’s the deal, Gabriel and Mirko wanted to hitch a ride from Mendocino to Fort Bragg. Frank, Justin, and Brittany (Frank’s girlfriend who hasn’t been introduced yet) wanted to camp near Willits, which is only about 25 miles out of Fort Bragg. I wanted to SLEEEEEP so I was going to follow my five new found friends back the way I came to discover a free tent site. Anything is better than being a wrapped up mummy in a cemetery… or something like that.
Frank came back with news that Brittany was ready to go so the Italians agreed to walk me back to Little Wing and the car would meet us there. We left the three gentlemen at the benches, Moonshine, Steve, and Whatshisname were left to guard the moonlit night and stained glass windows from the still of the night.
We formed a caravan. Little Wing behind the car. Myself following my five, newfound, traveling companions, and we were off to Fort Bragg. When we arrived the car pulled into a parking lot, so Little Wing followed. When my companions got out of the vehicle they told me that we were stopping for a few beers, and asked if I was game. I’m not drinking right now (motorcycle journey and all that jazz), but I agreed to go along. The bar scene was fruitless, but it gave us a chance to chat some more. The crowd started to get hungry after a few bar hops. Brittany (who I had finally been introduced to) had chicken soup and round loaves of bread to make bread bowls out of, but she didn’t have enough for all six of us. A new destination was set, we went back to our vehicles, and we were off to Safeway for dinner.
Frank was sent inside to get the bread to be used for bowls. Some odd delineation was made and Frank was followed by Justin and the Italians, leaving Brittany and I to start on dinner, which is apparently going to be made in the parking lot.
Frank and Brittany had two dogs. She started by letting them out of the car and then she took out a sad little camp stove which she was going to heat the soup on. I volunteered to cut into the bread and make them into bowls, and as I did that she layed out a blanket on the woodchip filled curb we were parked near. She proceeded to set up the stove and a candle was lit. As I hacked away at bread loaves with my pocket knife she fed the dogs and we talked about all things camping and such.
The boys made their way back with two more hunks of bread, which I then took the knife to. The conversations turned to Italian cusine as we waited for our creamy chicken soup to heat. As conversation of pasta and roasted eggplant filled the parking lot with a kind of class that only an Italian can bring, we continued stir the pot. An interruption was made, and Frank informed Brittany that this stove was, infact, just a food warmer. Something to be set on a counter at a fancy place to keep things from getting cool. In response he was met with crinkled brows filled with puzzlement, and then laughter. I offered up my popcan stove, but Mirko and Gabriel had a better options. As I looked up to the near-full moon, and stars that were starting to become muted by sea salt fog, they told the us that their option was only two minutes away by car. We all loaded up, and the caravan rode out.
Two minutes later we were making our way into a bumpy grassy area that gave me a few wake up jolts. Our line of vison was filled with stars, airstream trailers, and lights. Circus lights to be exact. When we stopped and my five companions piled out of the car I asked “What is this? Are you kidding?”
I was answered by a hushed Justin who said “I don’t know.”
Justin was a handsome man, about 6’3″ and shoulder length hair. About 25, He was quiet, and reserved, but I saw his face crack just the tiniest bit as 22 year old Gabriel stepped up beside us to say “It is the Circus,” and then Mirko and him were gone, taking the pot of soup with them.
Brittany and Frank joined Justin and I as I dismounted Little Wing. I was laughing and looking at the twinkeling lights under the stars, who’s twinkling was slowly being lost to the fog.
“It just makes me so happy,” Frank said as he looked toward the big top. The four of stood there and stared, all nodding our agreement, me giggling.
I grabbed my camera and took some pictures and made way to the tent. The circus was quiet despite the presence of all the people, so I tried to be silent as I walked towards the tent. Justin joined me, but had no answer when I asked if he thought we could go in. Gabriel appeared at my shoulder and said “Yes, come look.”
We went inside and marveled at this crazy dream come to life. I snapped some pictures, and Gabriel told us that he and Mirko had set up the big tent. That was their job. It had only taken them two days. He then told us Mirko had finished heating the food, so we made our way back to Little Wing and the car. Brittany had laid out the blanket and the candle again. The warming ‘stove’ was set up with a steaming pot of soup set on it, freshly heated from a gas burner in one of the old Airstream trailers that circled the circus tent. Bread bowls were handed out, and my silver teaspoon was used to divvy out the soup before everyone consumed it with the provided plastic spoons.
Without warning the lights on the tent were shut off, and a group of giggling girls were heard running, speaking fast Spanish. Gabriel explained, in his thick Italian accent, that the girls were probably in the tent and were suprised when the generator was shut down. “The lights aren’t usually on. They have to use a generator here so they keep them off, I’m not sure why they had them on.”
As we sat eating beneath the hazy light of the moon and the lone candle, I don’t think I was alone in thinking that the answer was magic for a few travelers passing through. Beautiful, beautiful, stunning, dreamlike, magic, which in fact was just science and reality. We sat around the slowly emptying pot of soup laughing and conversing. Someone made the decision to use their bread bowl to clean the pot up. All six of us, seated cross legged on the blanket, followed suit. Dipping our bread into the pan and eating it with our fingers. Another beautiful thing among strangers, fading moonlight, and the magic of a circus.
When it had got sufficiently late the Italians made moves towards the camper which they were staying in (their place of residence for the last month since the Circus had picked them up) and we made our way back to our own caravan. Little Wing and the car fiund themselves back on the road after many exchanged hugs and smiles. We were off to find a campsite to pitch our own tents.
This morning I woke early, despite going to bed at midnight. The sounds of early morning traffic woke me from my slumber. I took down my tent as my other three companions continued to rest. The sun welcomed me back to the blacktop as I left the turnout we had made camp at, 10 miles out of Willits.
Sun warmed the fog from the night before, reminding me off the precipitation that had snuffed out the lights at the dinner party. The sun turned the salty damp into a fog, where I felt free to imagine I was a rockstar.
Last night though. The magic of strangers, the beauty of travel. It’s like stained glass and circus lights. Boomboxes and crashing surf. Giggling adults and Moonshine’s guitar. Breadbowls and football. Foreign travelers sprinkled in amongst us more travelers. Life is full of fun suprises mixed amongst the evaporating steam. Shocking reminders that bring us back to the beautiful reality.
Good storytellers generally have a moral to the stories they tell, so here’s mine. Stuttered and unconnected as it might be.
The deer of life, so to speak, can run out of the fog. If one fails to notice it they migt miss a crucial bit of life. Following the gut, gets one out of the cemetary and into the joyous circus. Look up, observe, be a rockstar and break bread with the surrounding humans. They all have something to offer. Don’t let the deer steal the limelight for good. Let the negative things run pass, move onto a better option, and just let life take the lead.
I’m off to live some more stories.