Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997 23:12:03 -0500
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From:firstname.lastname@example.org (Michael Fuchs)
Fuchs Overland Dispatch, Day 3
Dateline: Tucamcari, NM
Awoke in OK City to improving weather, at an unexpectedly early hour (10
am EST--I'm staying, btw, on Eastern time so that I can go to my new job
at 8am and not notice any difference from before). The sun was burning
through the clouds; it was only 32 degrees, but promised to be 50 by noon.
This precipitated a ride.
Preparing To Ride, In Earth's Rattiest Room
I was, as hoped, less than 5 miles from town, so my total ride today was
around 10 miles, hardly a ride at all. Still, a good warmup, as I
zigzagged around an industrial area to get to the city proper. Oklahoma
City is a pretty town, with a compact and modern downtown area, rather
like Charlotte. It also has this spot where hundreds of men, women, and
children died so a couple of rednecks could make a misguided political
statement. I quickly found the spot.
Downtown Oklahoma City
The Murrah Federal Building, or rather its surviving foundation, was
surrounded by a chainlink fence, barricaded streets, and (beyond that)
some other destroyed (but still standing) buildings. Onto and into the
chainlink fence had been placed hundreds, maybe thousands, of memoria. It
is impossible to adequately describe their nature and variety, much less
their emotional content. There were flowers, wreaths, and American flags;
banners, t-shirts, and posters signed and sent by schoolchildren and
others from all parts of the country; pictures and words expressing grief,
longing, and love, for the mothers, fathers, husbands, siblings, and
little children that had died within.
To the small extent that I had thought about what I might feel when I
arrived here, I had anticipated only indignation--outrage at the
attrocity (and at those who committed it). Another form of my habitual,
and predictable, desire to kill or incapacitate evil men. So, I was
surprised when, as I peddled by, surveying the panorama of human emotion
conveyed in words, pictures, and symbols on the fence, I began weeping
uncontrollably and didn't stop for some time. There were a few other
people there, soldiers and a photographer doing some sort of a memorial
photo shoot; my back was to them by the time acid tears were leaking from
underneath my new blades. As I reached the end of the street, and went to
turn around, I paused, ashamed for others to see my crying. But, then I
thought, "how ashamed should I be to NOT display grief at such a
spectacle?" The combination of the sorrow of the tragedy, and the humanity
of people all over the country reaching out to the victims and survivors,
was unbelievably affective. Like everyone else, I had heard words to that
effect on CNN after the bombing. For some reason, I didn't experience it
at all until I actually went there. Then I got the effect, belatedly, and
Directly Across the Street
Did I mention there were pictures of real people who are dead now, poems
from their children, dates of birth and dates of death (all the same date
of death)? An official count of the number dead doesn't convey anything; a
face conveys everything.
The Man In the Picture Was Early 30-ish, A Nice Looking Fellow; The Picture Was Left By His Widow. To the Right of That, the Wooden Angel Was Left By Two Little Girls To Their Mother
On the way back, I remembered again why I ride: I felt extremely alive,
and that I was doing something. That's why I take pictures of my rides,
too--so that at at the end of my life, I can point to them and have proof
that I did something. [The next time I do this, incidentally, I will have
a digital camera, and the images will *accompany* the email. (And you
thought things were bad now. ;^)]
Western OK is all flat and cows, the distances are immense. I saw the
scariest road sign I've ever seen: "Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates."
!!! The 2nd scariest, 75 miles east of Amarillo, was "Rattlesnakes -- Exit
Now!" Not bloody likely; I'm sure I'd sooner exit anywere *else*. No
I stopped for gas at a rural place; going in to pay, I said, "Diesel, pump
#2." Unfortunately, this was not useful information; the guy behind the
counter smoothly lifted a pair of binoculars to his eyes. Looking over my
shoulder, I saw there was a clear shot out the window to the pump, though
it was some distance away. "$38.70," he declared, and gave me my coffee
The sky really is much bigger here; this is probably due to the lack of
anything taking up any space on the horizon. Entering Texas, it got even
flatter: endless, endless farms, spotted with those skeletal irrigations
devices with wheels.
Lately (not only on this trip), I've been enjoying listening to Christian
radio ministry; I find it very interesting. In fact, I'd have almost no
discomfort at all, if they'd just leave off of their diatribes against the
chimerical "homosexual lifestyle." *Born-again Christianity*, in point of
fact, is a "lifestyle".
In God's Country
According to the rest station placard, Capt. R.B. Marcy, in 1849,
described the Texas High Plains around Amarillo as "the Sahara of North
America... a region almost as vast and trackless as the ocean." I'm here
to tell you, he had no fucking idea. I did a short drive to Amarillo today
with the intention of checking in very early (before sunset), getting an
espresso drink, walking around the town, getting dinner and drinks--maybe
even savoring the nightlife on a Friday. With this objective, I bypassed
the immense strip of motels and restaurants outside of town, and found a
cheap motel in the downtown area.
From a distance, downtown Amarillo *looks* like a normal town (if a small
one). There are buildings, and blocks, and storefronts. As you draw
closer, however, one realizes that the storefronts are not for bars and
restaurants, but mostly for printing services and accountancies. Drawing
closer, it's clear that the few actual establishments are all, every one
of them, closed (at 5pm on Friday). I wandered into one of the few open
places, a florist/java joint. It turned out the java joint had closed at
4, not to reopen. "Is there," I asked plaintively, "like, a restaurant
district somewhere I've missed?" "Oh, you poor dear," the florist replied.
"This is Amarillo."
THERE IS NO AMARILLO. No downtown; it's a wasteland. It was so bad, I
checked out an hour later and drove on.
Other advantages of going west include, I've realized, *permanently*
gaining three hours. (I'm so used to having to give them back, normally.)
Better yet, when you're driving west--particularly on flat terrain--
the sunsets are *exquisitely* drawn out. I drove into the seemingly
endless desert sunset, seeing REAL MESAS! I thought those were only in
cowboy movies. I also saw my first 75 mph speed zone. Takes some of the
fun out, you almost don't even need to speed at all.
--> d a y 4 -->
Miles Travelled Today: 381.7
Total Miles Travelled: 1268.3
I've crossed the halfway point, in 3 days. For some reason, I feel like I
could drive forever -- I don't get tired. Tomorrow: Albeqerque (sp?) /
Santa Fe, where I'll try to take it easy for a while.