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Monday, 24 July 2017

Critters... CraZy and Camo...

Firstly... this may be a long one...
Secondly... if you read only one paragraph... read the end one...

In the last few days since hopping off my bike and swopping that mode of transport for the 4 wheeled version I have been happily residing in Arizona. My friends Louize and Mark have not only been putting up with me... my incessant chatter and my slightly restless nature but have also kindly helped me to continue putting ticks on my bucket list... but more of that in a minute.

The ride had ended but my brain hadn't really caught up as we swept westwards towards Phoenix watching the ever changing ... ever fascinating landscape shift and metamorph as the miles ran beneath the wheels. The ease of travel in stark contrast to the sweat and the toil for every inch (in places) only a day before. Gone though was the deep connection to those inches... with no sounds and smells and touch to ingrain each inch of travel forward into my soul... and my soul cried silently for that which it had lost. 

Settled in Arizona the programme to 'keep the CraZy one entertained' had been well thought out with stuff sorted for almost every hour of the days left here. But first ...  clothes shopping!!

I had literally no underwear and 1 pair of filthy shorts. The 505 bike shop had kindly supplied me with 2 clean t shirts but the rest had to be shopped for.
Once the different sizings were sorted it took no more than 10 minutes (I dont like THIS kind of shopping) to achieve the first goal of the day!

The next day Mark had happily (with his arm possibly twisted behind his back) agreed to take me out on a little ride on the desert trails. I hadn't yet got to cycle through the desert and this was an opportunity to put a little tick in another box. This was PROPER desert. The Cacti here are like you see in the movies... tall and imposing and of proper cactus shape! They are protected round here and this is one of the only areas they grow in... the Sonoran desert (Mark and Louize feel free to correct me if I have any of this wrong).
The trail was fantastically technical with quagmires of sand ... lots of rocks and the odd small cactus to avoid running over.
The trail started to stretch up and even with a days rest in a car... my legs just weren't gonna do uphill. They staged a rebellion and so we turned the bikes around and chose a gentle downhill instead.
On the ride several lizards skittered out in front of us ... so swift in movement that it was impossible to see what they looked like.... beyond the blur.
It was a short ride as I have been informed that round here people just don't go out in the summer cos its too hot. And it was starting to get warmer. I was used to cycling in well over 30 degrees C as that's what I have essentially been doing every day for the last month but it was probably just as well we stopped after 1 hour as although my brain is eager to keep moving and doesn't yet get that I have now stopped riding... the rest of my body has had enough and needs a little rest and recuperation. It just seems a shame to waste this sunshine!!

The evening brought a new kind of fun... critter hunting... in particular scorpions and spiders.  Mark and Louize have a black widow spider living in their gardrn that is out most nights so we first managed to grap a look at that. Its small and appears do insignificant but bites from that little thing can cause huge problems and dead flesh on the bitten limb. It was really cool to see it not more than 30cm away from my hand... the red patch on it's abdomen clearly visable. Result! Then out came the UV light... and almost as soon as that had been switched on ... glowing there in the gravel was a scorpion. This one had very small pincers which meant that it's bite (sting) was most definately worse than it's bark!  When the UV light was removed it was almost impossible to see it amidst the gravel... showing how easy it would be to get stung. But very cool.

Louize and Mark had friends round for dinner and it was a lovely evening. At some point it was mentioned that I was dying to see a rattlesnake in the wild. They mentioned that they had had a couple at their house recently... whereas Louize and Mark have never had one in their garden.
Apparently they are not that common a sight so I resigned myself to not seeing one on this trip.

The following morning... the phone rang. Snake at the front porch!! Literally charged out of the house to the friend's house a few doors dowm... there ... hiding in the corner behind the plant pot was a real live Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. He was perfectly calm... no rattling going on... his tongue flicking in and out a little more perhaps as he caught our scent on the wind but no agistation at all. I was less than a foot away from this magnificent reptile... with no glass to separate us. It was one of the highlights of my whole trip as I love these creatures. I wasn't worried about getting bitten because as with anything in the animal world... if you leave them alone... they will leave you alone. I was just so chuffed to get so close in the wild!!!

The plan for today was to go to the gun club in the morning. A typical recreation for many families in America. I love shooting... I love the competitive aspect of it greatly... BUT being British I baulked when I realised that Mark kept his weapon at home (in a safe). A discussion ensued... if you keep a weapon at home.. it is woth the expectation that you may use it in defense of your home... and this is where British and American views differ. I can understand liking shooting... because I do... but my mind is only prepared to go to the point of shooting for competition. Round here people learn to shoot with the expectation of carrying it for their personal safety and shooting anyone who threatens that. Given that most criminals in America carry weapons this seems resonable to them but was hard for me to stretch my brain to that extent to accept that as a good thing.

At the range there were a variety of nice... seemingly normal people... with all kinds of weapons including semi-automatic. The weapons you could buy was insane... weapons that would put holes in building never mind people. It was terrifying.... more because this was normal. And the weapons weren't that expensive either. A reasonable glock pistol sets you back around $500. One of the aforementioned building destroyers around $5000. Not that much for a weapon that could kill a lot of people.
Classes on self defence ... womens classes ... instructor classes... just like our local gym only with deadly intent.
Its a scary thing for me that this is normal...
Despite that I did enjoy trying to hit the target. I have shot .22's and SA80 rifles but that was a while ago so it was particularly satisfying to hit the target and get a reasonable grouping by the end of our time there. But then Mark packed up the Glock and took it home.... it doesn't seem right... as a Brit.
You can debate all day about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership but it is a fact that the right to bear arms is deeply entrenched in the American psyche and hard as it is to understand for a British person... it is their way. And so endeth this debate 😁

The afternokn was ringfenced for drinks with some friends of mine who live just north of the city and were able to randomly meet up onve again.
I met Alan and Marissa first when I flew over to Vail, CO for a weekend to climb Vail mountain with Mike Peters and the Love Hope Strength family. I knew very few people but came off the mountain with hundreds of new friends... 2 of those being Alan and Marissa.
Fast forward a few months and they came to the End Of Ride Gig in L.A at the finish of my Route 66 cycle journey. Alan .. who had participated in Everest Rocks with Mike Peters... gave me his commemorative Everest Rocks medal which I have treasured ever since. And so when it was suggested we could randomly meet up here I jumped at the chance. It was lovely to see them again at the end if another ride and they are catching up with Beki and Randy for meeting up with me randomly.  I love Random!!

Evening consisted of a very nice take out pizza and sitting down to watch 'Man in the Camo Jacket' ... the documentary about Mike Peters and his Fight against Cancer... released in the U.S on 4th July.  I watched it with tears threatening many times. It summed up the reason for my journey over the last month... summed up why I dedicate part of my life to following Mike around the country (and sometimes to other countries).. it completed the story of my journey somehow... providing a book end. I cannot find the words to express what I am trying to say but hope you get my meaning.

Love Hope Strength provides those three things for everyone involved in the charity who then work to spread it across countries to people who need it most.  My bike ride once again provided an opportunity to go out there and try to do my own small part. I received much more Love Hope and Strength in return and it reaffirmed my faith in the human race and humanity as a whole. Meeting up with Alan and Marissa is part of that family. Because of LHS I know that I can come here and find friends... people like them... and Beki and Randy (who are slightly ahead in the random meeting stakes 😁) and Louize and Mark (catching up fast) who did not know about LHS before but have provided support and friendship once again. This then stretches out to people I literally meet on the road... people like Faith and Tom that I met on Route 66 have now been joined by people like Megan H who I spoke to for 5 minutes out on a dusty road in Montana and Michelle McDowell who invited me to their family's 4th July celebrations. LHS is spreading and I am so proud to be a part of it.

My just giving page remains open for a little while longer so if you feel you are able to spare a little... please click the link below... Together We ARE Fighting Back!!

Life is so very short and so very fragile.
Life speeds by like a falling star
Is all we have is Time
Grab hold of Life and Squeeze every last drop of it out.
Make your own chances.
Fight Back
It's all there in the lyrics!
And of course...

Fight The Fear... Embrace the Randomness but above all ... as always....

Go With The CraZy!