COSMO KILLS AN ELK
January 24 Escondido to Rincon
Miles today: 16 miles to date: 41
Tycho is parked outside an old folks home. They dont like vagrants. I guess I am a vagrant. My mental health counselor has to leave today, no more safety net. Last minute repairs to the cart, more screws, more duct tape. I should be sponsored by duct tape, thats what kind of journey this is. The universe is held together by duct tape, scientists have known this since 1948, but if it were ever revealed unemployment would sky-rocket. Need a plumber; duct tape, need a new muffler; duct tape, need a new suit; duct tape, even a small building; duct tape. So the second day begins with duct tape. It is between me and the universe now, and when you have the stuff that holds the universe together, how can you go wrong?
Valley Center Parkway goes up a very long hill. Cosmo cannot pull the cart up a very long hill. It will be a long slow day. To add to the excitement there is absolutely no shoulder. To make up for that there is beautiful scenery though. Orange groves and palm trees, a stereotypical California scene, blue sky and all. It is beautiful out there, but I am here, on the highway to hell. I dont mind too much, the euphoria of the first day is still with me. I am singing. I want to be the wave, but sometimes I forget that, like when cars dont give me space on an open road and come within inches of obliterating my dog and I. It is those times that I dont want to be the wave, I want to be a screaming crowbar, thrown into their rear window. But I digress, I am a surfer, not a crowbar, riding the right edge of the road, hoping not to die.
These people hate me for doing this. I am on their road, this is no place for gypsy trash. And with this cart and a handful of trinkets and amulets, I think that I may well be classified as a gypsy, in 2 days I will be dirty enough to be trash. At one point there is a guard rail that presses us even more onto the road, Cosmo is bearing left, towards the traffic, towards certain death for both of us, I am running, sweating, yelling, we have to make that dirt patch up ahead! Get off the road! Horns. Oh my God, who is that boy in the road, hes going to get hit, damn you gypsy trash! Get a job, watch TV, be like me they scream. Damn you! But the gypsy and his trusted companion escape unscathed. They have reached to top of the hill.
A man is trying to sell a speedboat, there is some small talk, and then I am invited to have a meal. The most dangerous road in California, kills about 15 bicycle riders a year, not a smart place to walk. Yes maam. I recon Ill just eat and be on my way. Yes, I was scared a bit. Chicken noodle would be great. Milk and a piece of cake with chocolate icing. American flags everywhere; the place setting, in a vase, on the wall, above the door, on the door bell, crafts with flags, a chicken with a flag, sparkly flags, flag napkins, God Bless America!
But it is not so simple, everywhere I go there are signs spray painted on the pavement and on the roads that say: USA, and then have arrows pointing off in all directions, 50 feet straight ahead, 12 feet behind you, 300 feet to the right. I know they must be for some USA pipe company, but they are very appropriate for this walk. Where is America? I know its geographic boundaries, I have seen the maps, I could even draw it on a blank piece of paper, but I have spent so much of my life in a car and in a house and in some ways, in my own box, so I dont know where America is. But I am looking.
After a long plateau we descend a long and winding road to the Rincon Indian reservation. The sun is setting and we can see several miles ahead, where we will sleep tonight, the light is warming as the OH MY GOD AN ELK! Cosmo is not attached to the sled, I am still pulling it to give her a rest, she lunges and the elk runs toward a blind corner down the road. A primer grey 1980 Chevy Custom Deluxe hits its brakes too late. The elk is dead. We run down the road to help move the body, it is huge, the horns wider than my wingspan, and the two of us cant move it. Soon the traffic piles up all the way down the valley, people are slowing down to see the scene, and it is quite a scene. Soon 5 of us drag the body to the outside corner of the road and the traffic begins to move again.
The man who hit the elk, Derek, is in his 60s and has lived on the Indian Reservation his whole life. I told him Cosmo spooked it, but he doesnt mind, he has a huge cage over the front of his truck as though he were prepared for just such an event. He wants to take the Elk home. Racks still in good shape, not the biggest I seen, but big enough. You know its legal to eat road kill, he tells me. You should take some for you and your dog, after all, she did kill it dint she? So, after much debate I decided that yes, we could use more meat, mostly for cosmo, as her dog food is not enough to sustain her for 25 miles a day, so we accept a 20lb slab of meat, wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag. Derek cruises these roads looking for fresh road kill he tells me, usually on cold nights so if its warm he knows its fresh. Thats why I got me these here bags. Ok Derek, Thanks. As I leave he and some others that have stopped are lifting the elk into his truck.
It is dark, and it is a cold night. No road kill, but plenty killed by the road, 8 roadside shrines today to the dead, plastic flowers, stuffed animals, wedding photos, two whole families. Plastic flowers are always sad, but I am not in a place to be sad, I am surfing still. I do have one complaint, my feet hurt, and the terrain has been tough, so it is time to rest. A man who calls himself Gabby invites me to camp next to a shed and two 1950s Ford-o-Matics in his front yard. I accept and say good night.