The past week of the trip has been a whirl of dogs and raptors and art and friends; a wonderful few days. What’s been sticking in my mind is a conversation I had with RKO’C – we ranged all over the place, but talked especially about s*cial m*dia. I’m embarrassed to admit it but I don’t remember exactly how R and I first connected; it might have been via a third person’s blog, but I’d put money on Twitter being the channel. On top of that, we’d just eaten an incredibly delicious meal that had been, in large part, generated by a Facebook post and some actual phone calls (it’s Rebecca’s story, it’s great, and I will let her tell it). In spite of all the backstory, we spent a lot of time being sad about what the two big platforms have become. IMHO Facebook is just an evil company – lacking any compelling reason to stay I deleted my account last winter. And Twitter, where I’ve established some of the most important relationships of my (current) life, has become a slough of bile and stress. People who are very important to me are active on Twitter, so I need to make my peace with the platform, but I have noticed that not spending much time there as I ride has done wonders for my mental health. Not being able to obsessively refresh news sites to keep abreast of the latest torrent in the Trumpian shit maelstrom might be a contributing factor, too! I’ll leave the ‘why’ behind social media suckiness to smarter people, but lots of internet history suggests that unmoderated, “freedom of speech” defaults on platforms enable the folks with the most power and/or the least amount of give a shit as regards behavioral norms. “We can’t censor (except when we do).” is a ridiculously weak position, but it’s inexpensive for the platform – hate speech as an externality: pollution that the community has to absorb.
I checked Instagram the morning after we talked about all this to find that Olivia Laing had just published a piece in the Observer titled ‘I was hooked and my drug was Twitter’. To state the obvious, Olivia was way ahead of me in understanding what’s going on on a personal level with s*cial m*dia. And, duh, R & I are not the only people wrestling with wanting a broader community but being daunted by platforms’ toxicity.
As further proof that talking with friends over Mexican beer and tequila gives one UNIQUE INSIGHT into the state of the world, we also discussed human/machine integration and the next morning Alexa read us a headline about implantable gadgets. We marveled at Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis and the next afternoon as I rode the Pacific Electric bike trail I passed a fellow riding a beautiful replica of the bike from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.
Spending a couple rest days in Kingman with Lauren McGough was a delight. She’s house-sitting a place with raptors, wire-haired viszlas (a favorite breed), a sweet long-haired dachshund, a tortoise, horses, pigeons, chickens and a garden that looks like heaven. I rested, Lauren did some NAFA work, we saw the latest superhero blockbuster with a young neighbor and I got a little experience with drone-training falcons and with the amazing capabilities of the latest generation of falconry telemetry. So cool! I also got to hold and strike the hood of Lucy, a lovely mellow crowned eagle.
Lauren also arranged for me to meet Harry McElroy – a giant in the art and practice of falconry. When I first read A Rage for Falcons, I went through the bibliography and tried to lay hands on all the books referenced. The one that was farthest out of reach was Desert Hawking, Harry’s first (AFAIK) book. I never dreamt that I’d be visiting with him – and with a eagler who has flown big birds all over the world!
Tuesday, April 30 started with drone training a falcon (I learned a LOT from Lauren) and ended with a ride from Kingman to Needles California. I decided not to ride the big climb to Oatman, AZ and instead dropped down I40 to the Colorado River and then popped north until it was time to cross to Cali.
Wednesday was a wonderful ride along Route 66 to Fenner. I slept in one of the funkiest campsites of the trip: the side yard of a truck stop/convenience store, nestled up against a koi pond.
I continued on 66 the next day – got about 2 miles into the ride and encountered a big ROAD CLOSED barrier.
I looked at the maps on my phone and the shortest alternate route to Amboy added 40 miles. To heck with it, around the barrier I went. It turned out to be no big deal. A bunch of bridges had been undermined by a storm (2 years ago) and weren’t safe for cars and trucks, but zipping across them on the bike was no big deal. I was in Amboy before noon and decided to wait out the heat of the day at the gas station While I was waiting, Keith and Bill rolled in on their way east and we hung out swapping stories until it was time for me to push off towards Twentynine Palms. My plan was to get 20 miles or so of the next day’s ride to Yucca Valley out of the way and camp in the desert. I just kept riding though, and did a long afternoon and evening pedal all the way into Twentynine Palms.
The next day was, initially, an easy short trip into Joshua Tree, where I paid respects at the Desert Oracle offices, then had a long lunch at the saloon across the street. Then I set out for Heidi Schwegler’s Yucca Valley Material Lab. The GPS did me wrong again and I arrived later than I wanted to. Heidi had just pulled in from a long drive, we were both tired, so she showed me to my digs for the night, a comfy trailer, and Lotte and I zonked out.
The sun came up on us and a forest of Joshua Trees – what a spot! Heidi, her husband D and I drank some coffee and talked about my trip and her work and then it was time to shove off. A long descent and then a turn to the west into a 40 knot headwind and a long climb. I’d sent Rebecca my ETA when I’d started out and pretty quickly after the turn it was obvious that 1:30 or 2 PM was fantasyland.
In the fullness of time I arrove chez RKO’C. Lotte promptly fell in love with the older of Rebecca’s two Brittanies, I managed to make a beer-in-the-shower Modelo disappear pre-shower and all was well. I wrote upstream a bit about our conversation, but I’m going to circle back and rave again about how tasty dinner was – the mole especially. We also talked Coopers’ hawks (I listened, actually), critter training philosophies and other A+ topics.
The next morning we took a walk up the hill to check on a redtailed hawk nest. Also seen: a kestrel divebombing a different redtail, a probable prairie falcon, valley quail and some band tailed pigeons. Yes!
The ride down into Los Angeles was a great cross-section of what I think of when I think Southern California: orange groves and ranches, warehouses, industrial areas and cranes, eucalyptuses, Spielbergian suburbs, Craftsman style bungalows and rosebushes. I hove to in The Brewery just before dark on the 5th and have been relaxing here since. I’m going to spend more time here, making plans for time in California and for the trip back to the northeast – stay tuned!