I’m all alone in a greasy roadside diner in Mesa, Arizona. Debbie brings me a pot of coffee, black. I’m still in a state of minor discombobulation over last nights accommodations.
When I rolled out of bed yesterday morning, I strolled into the living room, taking a seat in a large plush leather chair. I spun it to give me a view of the pool, taking in the rays of the morning sun through the slatted blinds. Neil Youngs book, “Shakey” lay open beside me.
Not rushing myself or my host, I took my time, welcoming the day. After spooning a double portion of Straw Propeller Organic Oatmeal into my mouth, I lounged around with a guitar, singing songs with Matt Hopper.
Out the back door is a neatly landscaped yard, a desert oasis. Even though it’s reaching the upper eighties, the swimming pool has a bite to it. I test the waters, entering with my best cannonball.
In the early afternoon, in a McDonalds parking lot, I prepare to pedal east. Matt drives me there. We’re approached by a young man as we casually eat lunch over the top of my bike. I sense the lad is hungry so I walk inside and buy him everything he wants to eat, plus three cookies.
My map routes me along the city canal in Phoenix. There are friendly folks cycling and leisurely strolling the pathway. Shoeless Jo and I take a rest at a bridge crossing.
I exit the canal and begin navigating the surface streets. When I reach the river, I cross over, taking in the view of the Arizona State University stadium.
I think I’m on the outskirts of Tempe. From what I gather, Filiberto’s is the local Mexican fast food favorite; one on every corner. Taking a seat on the small outdoor patio, I make out with a carnitas burrito. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
Mesa is ten miles further up the road, pedaling from one traffic light to the next, each one spaced a half mile apart. The temperature is cooler now that the sun has gone down. I decide to go further, my lights blinking front and rear.
Jo is along for the ride, resting in his wagon for the entire 39.16 miles from Phoenix to Mesa. He’s very vocal all day, singing to me in his dog voice. I sing along with him. People must think I’m nuts. Shoeless and I are both barking back and forth at each other.
Once I land in Mesa, I land inside of The Rooster. It’s a country bar, a tavern. The sign lit up out front lures me: Live Music Tonight. Jeremy Graham and Steve Larson are on stage, swapping songs back and forth. There’s a good number of people inside, jabbing their jaws, swigging from their mugs; some are shooting billiards. I take a seat close to the stage and listen carefully to the lyrics. What Jeremy sings resonates strongly with me: “I’m grateful for this brand new day, and a world that’s never looked so clear”.
Now it’s 10pm and I’m biking further east through the night. I’m unsure where I’ll be sleeping. I consider the backside of a fire department. And then a church. A church shouldn’t care if I sleep on their lawn. But maybe they will because there’s security cameras attached to every corner of their building.
I ride through a motel parking lot, thinking I’ll just grab a room. I’m looking for the office. There isn’t one. Strange. I’m approached by two men with flashlights. They want to know what I’m doing there. They appear to be the neighborhood watch type and share with me that I’m on the wrong side of town and there’s no rooms available.
Miles up the road I walk into The Miles Motel. Under the cover of darkness everything appears copacetic. After handing over seventy nine dollars, I’m given a key and instructions. Going back out to my bike, there’s a man who looks like he’s spun on drugs looking it over and he’s talking with Jo. Jo was patient with him as I was too. But it’s late and we’re tired.
Entering the room was like receiving a firm punch in the face from the Marlboro man. And there’s chaos in the parking lot, and also directly upstairs from me. Outside, a man is looking for a spoon. Another man is completely drugged and stumbling. At midnight I lay my head down. Moments later, a knock at the door. I’m not expecting any company. My heart skips a beat. I look through the peep-hole. A hooded stranger looking for another strange one. He wants to come in and see “Dave”. I give him my best Cheech & Chong impression through the dead-bolted door, shouting back, “Dave’s not here”.
I slept with one eye open. In the morning I mentioned to the motel clerk that there’s blood stains on the floor, no bathroom tissue, the TV’s missing and that I won’t be staying there ever again. He didn’t seem surprised.