Day 15: Sanctuary at the Jordans'

by James

No pictures for today. I only took 3 and they’re not especially worthwhile.

Over the course of the trip, Mike and I have developed the near-acrobatic ability to sleep side-by-side on a small area without rolling into (or onto) one another. We had this specialized training to thank when we awoke on June 1st, each somehow contained to his own side on the double bed in room 103 of the Parsons Inn.

At some point in my filmy, vague memory, I remember Mike getting up to go outside. I rolled around groggily, slightly discouraged at the loss of my glasses and my reluctance to use contacts, and tasting the sour, morning grit in my mouth.

I held a mental telethon and when donations hit ten-thousand, I threw my legs over the edge of the bed and shuffled five feet over to the bathroom. Improvement in the eyes! Now a grapefruit pink instead of a cherry red. Unfortunately, my body still felt weak.

We did the pack thing and had a hell of a time dislodging our bikes from the room. When we hit the street, I felt like Bela Lugosi at a pep-rally.

We biked down the street to a Sonic, sat down at an outside table, and watched women race around on rollerblades. They didn’t appear as tired as we were, but they weren’t far behind. I ordered a breakfast sandwich, which appeared wilted but tasted delicious.

Mike and I talked a little about the day to come. We had only 55 miles or so before we hit the Jordan homestead in Henderson. Mary Jean and John Jordan aren’t related to Mike, but they’re good friends of Sue, Mike’s grandmother, who’d given us great chili and a place to sleep on our first night.

The relatively low mileage for the day came as a relief to me because I was feeling rough1.

We finished up with breakfast and digested for a few minutes, afterwards pedaling down to a pharmacy to pick up a glasses repair kit. I came back out of the surprisingly well-kept pharmacy, repair kit in hand, and sat on the hot pavement fixing my glasses.

The glasses were fixed, my vision restored, and we began the trip to Henderson.

The day’s ride was uneventful. We’ve seen Tennessee now for over 400 miles and the terrain hadn’t changed much since Columbia. No flats, no broken spokes. There was much grunting from me throughout the day — I was totally worn out and, in all likelihood, sick.

We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall barbecue shack for lunch where we ate sandwiches, topped in slaw, that were as big as our heads. I enjoyed my staple desert, Snoballs.

An older couple approached us during lunch and asked the usual string of questions. The woman mentioned that she had connections to the paper and would pen a few sentences about us, which I found odd considering the scant amount of information she had on us, but still sweet.

On the last leg of the ride, a horsefly bit me on the backside, which was an invigorating kick, and shortly thereafter I was chased down the street by a brown mutt who was apparently unfazed by motor vehicles and almost certainly owned by one of the Good Ol’ Boys2.

Luckily, we arrived shortly afterwards at the gravel driveway of the Jordan ranch. Mary Jean, a peppy, youthful lady, met us at the door and gave us a warm welcome. She invited us in, sat us down in the living-room, and had cold drinks in our hands before we could even peel off our pungent gear.

We met John Jordan, a lean man with sharp, friendly eyes. John has a deep, steady country voice that indicates experience and worldliness without pretension or effort.

John spent many years in the Navy as a jet-engine mechanic. He and Mary Jean told us a few stories about living in Japan and Okinawa, which included experiencing a Japanese funeral and John, alongside the whole family, getting propositioned by a hooker3 in the narrow streets of Chinatown. John kept us roaring with his sage, blunt wit.

John really impressed me. He struck me as a proficient man, comfortable in his element. He came across as simple and relaxed. He clearly enjoyed himself as often as possible, occasionally grilling Mary Jean playfully and responding with snappy one-liners wherever appropriate.

We met Johnny Jordan, son of Mary Jean and John, and then Mary Jean sat us down to a taco dinner. Mike and I devoured an unrecorded number of tacos, only halting when the ground beef ran dry. Thankfully that happened just as I was getting full; what may have ensued if the portion was larger is unclear. The meal was capped with a refreshing slice of strawberry pie each, the taste of which haunted me later that night.

At one point, Mike and I were walking from the porch to the inside of the house, by way of the garage. I stood admiring a Ford Ranger which lay dormant next to a bigger truck. I liked the Ranger because of its basic, understated design and matte paint-job. It seemed less showy and more friendly relative to other trucks. Eventually Johnny appeared and told us it was his truck and that he’d bought it for $1400. He and John had fixed it up, which consisted mainly of replacing valves4.

At that point, I experienced something new: I became overcome with the urge to buy an old car and fix it up.

Part of the attraction to riding a bicycle a long distance is that I actually understand (for the most part) the mechanism that drives the bike. Should the bike break down, odds are I can fix it or find a shop with tools that’ll allow me to fix it. But beyond that practical perk, I find satisfaction in leveraging a piece of technology I understand.

Having a similar understanding of cars would be gratifying, and it’s something I may pursue after the trip.

Mike and I spent most of the evening chatting with the Jordans, enjoying the incredible benefits of furniture, and reading. I was thrilled to be around such engaging company and immensely relieved at the prospect of a rest day in such hospitable circumstances.

At one point, Mary Jean phoned a newspaper man who was interested in talking to us about the trip. She’d initially thought he’d show up for an interview the next day, but in the middle of her conversation, she asked us if we could interview tonight. We took a quick look at our shabby clothing and worn appearances, shrugged, grinned, and agreed.

It took the reporter over an hour and a supplementary phone call to finally arrive at the Jordan place. Luckily, our wait was interspersed with an entertaining situational commentary from John. When we finally walked onto the back patio to meet the disheveled newsman, he fumbled around hopelessly with a pad of paper and made nervous, half-complete jokes.

He shakily took a few pictures, asked us a few basic questions, and managed to lose his place in his notebook multiple times, finally eliciting the collective help of the Jordans to find his place once again. I enjoyed watching him scribble shorthand on the thin yellow sheets.

At one point he began to tell a long-winded joke and couldn’t remember where it was headed mid-way through. He paused and said he was only telling it to prolong his return to the car, where his angry wife laid in wait. This was probably funnier than whatever joke he was setting up to finish.

At near midnight, under the incandescents on the Jordan porch, this was a strange and wonderful scene. After the ordeal, we went inside and conked in short order.

  1. I know this part of the story contains a lot of griping, but stick with it; it gets better.

  2. the very same Good Ol’ Boys who will eventually run us down in a booze-fueled, 4x4-powered rage.

  3. I swear I’m not intentionally pushing this trend

  4. whatever that means

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