8. Harmon: Pavilion

Harmon, Arkansas

Evening, 23 Sep ‘11

I am working on my routines, slowly evolving them. Sick of the Internet, didn’t even try to log on today.

Probably tomorrow I’ll find a Taco Bell or something in Yellville or Mountain Home. I’m learning the wifi spots are common, even in out of the way places. The fast food joints are the surest bets … but the food at MacDonalds, after two such experiences, is not something I’d care to subject myself to again.

I still feel like sending out a journal, so I will write briefly from this weathered picnic table, under the weathered pavilion, behind the volunteer fire department building in Harmon, Arkansas, where I’ve been told it’s OK for me to spend the night.

Very pretty countryside here along Hwy 62, east of Harrison, but it’s the worst pickings I’ve seen so far for private campsites. The country is mainly open, at least along the highway, all fenced in and dedicated to cattle ranching. Not accommodating for off-the-grid campers like me.

Harmon is not really a town, just a little cluster of houses with a store. I didn’t even set up my tent. It won’t rain, and there are no bugs here, at least this late in the season. I just unpacked my bike and spread out my bedroll on the concrete floor.

The bugs are raising a racket in the brush all around me, but none are in evidence where I sit. There’s quite a breeze coming out of the west, but my down bag will keep me warm when I settle in to sleep. Still quite a lot of traffic roaring by on the highway.

I’m enjoying a $4 bottle of  2008 Glen Ellen Merlot from California. I picked it up at the first outpost of civilization I saw when I got onto Hwy 65 heading south. I asked the lady if such a cheap bottle of wine would make me sick. She assured me it wouldn’t. She was right. It’s actually pretty good.

I also asked her if there were any breakfast places along the way heading south. She told me I’d have to go along the old Hwy 65, through Omaha. Take the turnoff from the new, divided road, about a mile south of there. Outside, I consulted the relevant page from my DeLorme Atlas, and saw that it would take me a bit out of the way, but I decided to do it nevertheless. Good choice.

Charlie’s Diner was fantastic. And the prices – especially for someone who lives in the New York area – were unbelievable. When’s the last time you’ve bought restaurant coffee for 75 cents? Not Starbucks gourmet blend, but perfectly acceptable. Believe me, I drank my money’s worth. I had the western omelet with hash browns, biscuits and gravy. After that I ordered a full load of French toast.

The waitress was real cute too – 25 years old, born and raised in Omaha, AR. (I chatted her up, of course.) She had long straight hair, interesting thin lips, a provocative blouse that featured massive air slits along her upper arms, and an eye-catchingly slender figure.

One guy at another table said to her, “Long time, no see,” and she responded that she’d been out for a spell, dropping a seven-pound male baby. That added up with one of the notices I’d seen posted on the window outside, requesting the immediate need of a baby sitter for two little kids. Which bolstered my faith that some kind of jobs are still out there, wherever you go… maybe one for me too, whenever I get finished with my traveling.

I thought to myself, “Doggone, if I was 35 years younger, available, and living out in these parts … there’s nothing I’d rather do than dedicate myself to making babies with a delectable young waitress like the one who attended me so well and sweetly around the middle of today.

I sneezed up a storm. My allergies are not as severe as they were at Mom’s place in Kirkwood. They’ve let up at points. But generally, something or other has kept the sinuses flowing. Especially in the first half of the day.

As I ate, I read a bit more out of my 1924 vintage book on Secret Societie & Subversive Movements, by Nesta Webster. I plan to finish it before I get to Jonesboro, then mail it home with some clothing I used in St. Louis but don’t expect to require farther down the road. That’ll lighten me up a bit.

For once, I’ve set the alarm on my iPod – 6 a.m. Pretty drastic.

I’ve enjoyed sleeping in as late as I’ve felt like doing since I started the cycling portion of my trip. No hurry. Just get into the rhythm of it.

But as the days grow shorter, I’ll need to get up earlier to use what daylight there is for traveling. And it seems like good policy to clear out of this semi-public spot smartly in the morning. Also, the road is pretty well traveled, and it doesn’t have a great shoulder. So I want to get in some kicking time before the traffic builds up.

As I get into the rhythm of bicycle traveling again, get used to being unwashed, scratched up and insect bitten, to living out of my bicycle bags and taking things as they come, I wonder sometimes why I’m doing this.

It isn’t easy. Today I went through the most hellacious patch of road I’ve encountered so far – a stretch of 8 or 10 miles through and around Harrison, heavily traveled, with no shoulder. It required all my concentration and no little nerve. I’m sure I pissed a lot of drivers off. “What’s that idiot doing out there?” I spent as much time looking into the rear view mirror on my glasses as I did scanning the road ahead and minding the surface for litter, rocks, cracks and the like.

But definitely this is worth doing. Routine transmutes itself. Consciousness transforms.

One of the aspects I find most interesting is how I sleep. After the first few rough nights … so deeply and restfully. Last night I had the most fantastic and powerful dreams. In two transfusions. The first, up to about 1:30 a.m., when I woke up to take a pee and to contemplate how I was feeling, and the second between then and whenever I woke up for good, probably a little after 8 a.m. That’s because it takes me about 45 minutes to get all my stuff packed up, loaded on the bike, and it was 3 minutes after nine, local time, when I was out on the highway and rolling again.

Last night, again, I slept in a beautiful spot. About 3 miles north of where 265 joins 65, still in the very southernmost part of Missouri. Just above and to the eastern edge of the large, artificial lake at Table Rock. In fact, I could see the lake, to the west, through the trees, when I went out hiking before I set up camp.

I’d shoved back onto some high ground, well away from the road, where it was quiet and well forested. In the middle of the night, there was a heavy mist. I could see the droplets rushing past my eyes, almost like a psychedelic show, when I got out of my tent to relieve myself.

Usually I pee into a flask, specially designated for that purpose, but for some reason, last night, I felt like stepping out into the woods.

Guys my age normally get up to pee in the night, at least once. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t like stepping out of my tent – especially in the summer, when I normally do this kind of traveling. It’s usually a hassle to keep all the insects out, or else I have to carefully run down and kill the ones who get in. So it’s easier to perform this necessary operation into a plastic bladder than it is to go outside, as you might expect a normal person to do.

Please don’t be critical of me for including a mundane detail like this. I’m sure that Thoreau or Montaigne, were they living in the 21st century and doing what I’m doing, would have been just as graphically unmerciful.

In the morning, when it was time to get moving, some birds – ravens or jays – were cawing loudly, as if telling me to get a move on.

Since I’ve battled with several photo-compressing programs for hours without success, I’m going to break my promise again and send three pictures with this letter. I hope a mere three pictures will not appropriate too much space in anybody’s mail box, and I hope my stern, high-tech advisor friend in California – plus another of my (European) friends, who works hard to keep me honest – won’t be too rough on me for going back on my word, yet again.

One of these days, I may actually figure out how to do that photo-compressing trick. I will take another stab at it after my frustration has subsided a little more. Meanwhile, I will put the long letter and several dozen photos from Missouri on hold.

  • #7931 – Arkansas Traveler. Passing the coveted border, sometime in the latter half of this morning. 

http://www.archive.org/details/Don_Richardson-Arkansas_Traveler

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Arkansas_Traveler_(song)

  • #7941 – View of where I’m sitting now – at the table to the right. A couple hours ago, when it was still light. 
  • #7940 – View of the lovely Ozark Plateau. Looking to the northeast, from the pavilion in Harmon, where I’ll sleep tonight. 

Sent from the Yellville Public Library.

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