Syria postcard

Off-white gravel horizon with tan peaks far away, the fall rise fall of the road, never dramatic, presaged by a sentinel line of power line poles. The main highway, two lanes no shoulder buses heavy trucks military jeeps, and sometimes the old road next to it mostly empty but prone to disappearances or disrepair. Haven’t been able to keep food down or in for a couple of days now, so pedaling in a trancey delirium, the ache of movement in an exaggerated torpor at least no more than that of laying in bed. Periodically snapped back into a caret of attention by dogs in trios or packs rasping barks into the dryness in full pursuit, nor am I much afraid of them since they cower at the show of throwing stones; I laugh out loud at myself when I’m waving at a sweet friendly family greeting me from the front of their home and switch to pantomiming rock hurling at (their?) menacing hounds snarling at my panniers and switch back to waving.

A jeep slows down. Soldiers. I grab the passenger door and encourage them to keep driving. We thereafter have a lovely chat. Earlier: dense traffic, a driver in a shiny new car rolls down his electric window to call out, “welcome Syria, welcome.” Much later: Hassan rides alongside on his motorcycle, he is wearing the white and red checked Bedouin head covering, I say I am from the yoo ess ay and he says incredulously, “Roo see uh?” I chuckle, we clear that up, he seems relieved, and then explains that Syria is not like Iran or Iraq, that I can sleep with my wife here if I want to. Earlier: The strap holding my bottle in the big carrier breaks so I am on the lookout for something to replace it with. In a shop I spot a bag of balloons, and point at one. The old man reacts with equanimity as he sells me cans of cola and one pink balloon.

The last two hours before Palmyra in misty breath darkness, easier to ride the dirt by fingertip feel on the bars and scan the ground with covert retreating glances, the way that with some stars you can’t see them by looking straight on only when you glance away. A difficult 164k day.