Day 21: The rainforest couple

by James

We woke up Tuesday, June 7th, to McCrae’s small-town morning heat. As is typical, Mike got up before I did and, though I heard him rustling around the tent, I rolled over, shut my eyes, and told myself to keep sleeping. The heat has a way of discouraging that.

No reason to rush, though. We had an easy day ahead: only 35 miles to Conway. Sometimes we inevitably have short days because of the locations of willing CouchSurfer hosts. After the 95 the day beforehand, we welcomed a lazy morning.

We decided to let the tent stand awhile to let the morning sun dry away the dew. We walked over to the convenience store, banking on quaint McCrae not to steal or vandalize our camping gear.

Temporary home beneath the water-tower.

We sat at our table in the store, practicing our usual pastimes, Mike at Jack and me at rabbit. I sipped a hot, black coffee drawn from an industrial-sized pot.

After we’d both used the facilities to clean up, we went back to the tent and disassembled. Before getting out of town, we wanted to drop by City Hall to thank Pam, grab a picture, and use their assuredly cleaner facilities to change into the bike gear.

We wheeled to City Hall, meeting some guys in a pickup truck outside the Hall who were familiar with our story. Apparently, a good portion of the town was keeping tabs on us. I guess when you live in a town of 600, unkempt cross-country bikers are a hot rhubarb.

When we went into the small building, Pam generously offered us the bathroom to wash up and do whatever else. The bathroom was attached to the town’s courtroom, which we found incongruously formal and therefore very entertaining. We changed and filled our water-bottles and I should’ve hit Mike with the gavel but didn’t.

McCrae courtroom
"Bailiff, get these idiot bikers out of here."

We got a picture with Pam, that sweet woman, and another gal from the office, then were on our way.

Mike with Pam
Mike looks more like Blackbeard by the day.

The ride was uneventful; I don’t remember any of it.

I do remember getting into the McDonald’s around lunchtime, which was adjoined with a Shell station, because our roosting there was contingent on the presence of a power outlet available for use. I had to search the place high and low1 after Mike had come back saying the well was dry, eventually finding a hanging extension cord snaked behind a gambling machine of some sort. The ladies at the register told us to have at it, so we set up shop for a few hours there.

We split from the McShell headed for the outskirts of Conway, where our host Samantha and her boyfriend expected us at 6PM. We pulled into their neighborhood looking like Mormon missions in a Blondie video, timidly unsure of the house we’d be knocking on. Luckily, Richard and Samantha stepped out of a front door and welcomed us onto their property.

We took the bikes into the backyard and locked them into Richard’s shed, afterwards stepping into the climate-controlled comfort of their home.

Mike and I chatted with Samantha and Richard and showered alternately, as has become the routine on arrival to a CouchSurfing host’s place. We learned that Samantha (and, by association, Richard) were planning to go live in the uninhabited rainforest for a year carrying only a machete and a fire-kit, which I thought was crazier than a shithouse rat2, but it sure made for interesting conversation.

Wonderful hosts
Awesome hosts, doing what awesome hosts often do.

Samantha and Richard had a very entertaining dynamic that I’ve noticed trends with successful couples: Richard would often give Samantha a hard time in good humor. He’d play counterpoint to most any stance she’d take. Mary Jean and John Jordon had a similar way of rustling the other’s feathers.

These lightweight disagreements create a healthy, playful tension between any two people, especially a couple. Perpetual agreement is boring and who the hell wants it soft all the time anyway?

Samantha whipped up a delicious meal of chicken and pasta. Mike and I sailed through our plates while S&R told us about Samantha’s trip to Italy, her stay in Miami studying various tattoo artists, and a spontaneous vacation the two had taken to New Mexico, sleeping in cars and exploring caverns.

After the table had been cleared of food, the four of us sat in the living room, each using a computer in some way. Samantha, Richard, and I all sat on one couch. I half-mindedly recaptured the route for the day in GMaps while joining Richard in wisecracking on the object of Sam’s pastime: Sex and the City 2. Sam listened to the movie through earbuds while we tried to figure out what in gods name the dumb bimbos were doing, sans sound.

After a few sweet minutes of this, Mike and I dropped hints indicating we were ready to lay a headstone on the day, which Richard immediately picked up on. Before we even had the electronics tucked in, Richard had laid out enough sleeping material to suffocate a small elephant. We dug in and let the couches anesthetize our senses away.

  1. I really wanted to write and chow on apple pies

  2. and, if you’ll recall, I’ve been spending 8 hours a day on hundred-degree pavement, chased by 10-ton trucks, and surrounded by pungent, dead animals.

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