Travel companions

A diversion from the AM sun and road tilt, I expectantly spool up Schwalbe tire tracks and craft scant hint fictions about the pair of cyclists I am trailing. One rides the shortest line, the other the smoothest. One creates a clearly defined imprint in the sand, breaking off the track’s edges the way small ocean waves whittle and then abandon crumbling ledges on the beach. The other’s marks sometimes completely disappear to return in softer or wet patches. They are moving quickly and leave early in the day, once a woman doing wash in front of her house tells me my two friends came through at noon, it’s 4:00.

And Tom and Sarah and I will ride as friends, we’ll meet up after two more grey afternoons, exchange of cyclists’ news, easy familiarity, remarks on bicycles and gear then making way for deeper themes. From western Australia (Tom originally from England), they started fourteen months ago in Banff, Canada, followed the Great Divide trail and onward through Central America, now this continent. Relaxed and efficient habits of having been on the road a long time, riding companions accepting my quirks for a span, fellowship and tales and kindnesses creating a cheerful team approach to the route, camping, cooking. We share an aesthetic for challenging rough dirt ways, for taking the long way to a destination, our riding animated by the thought that a detour on a beautiful track is worth the hours or week. Chats with both about books and ideas, future ambitions, Tom’s willingness to drink Cusquena Negra in the middle of the day a happy intersection.

It changes things, not worse or better, but different. Usually when I ride alone, and that is usual, I sway into an overt sociality with local people I meet, craving the contact for the spontaneous energetic spark, each conversation and encounter updrafting me higher into the place, giving me a certain sense of it, a crucial part of my being there. Touring with people that I know and care about is a contrasting way with the culture and landscape, affording chances to articulate and share subtle details, a quieter engagement, more serious than is possible in a flicker of a brief meeting, less heat or exclamation point, more sustained reflection on what is there or not. I appreciate the chance to undermine my habits for a while, we’ll part in affection and serious promises to ride together in future (Canning Stock and Munda Biddi in ’13 you say, Tom?).