I pulled up to the police station to inquire about free camping situations. In small towns, stealth camping is feasible, I just don't want to come across looking like a threat - especially since everyone knows each other.
"There's a place about a mile outside of town - it's a rest stop. There's a picnic bench and a gazebo."
I surrendered to the fact that I wasn't going to sleep well that night, as the road alongside the rest area was swarming with traffic. The only thing that bothered me was the possibility of having an unwanted confrontation with a truck driver, but I wasn't bothered by anything but headlights and the distant calls of coyotes.
"Where are you going?"
I stopped pedaling down the broken country road and found myself face to face with the bright eyes of a woman. Her name was Susan, I would come to discover.
"I'm heading down the old country road," I reply, holding out the map on my telephone.
Susan smiled, "There isn't anything down there, the roads are overgrown. Didn't you see the Dead End sign a few miles back?"
Ah. This happened to me sometimes - around 99% of my route is decided with Google Maps using the cycling option. Google has a habit of sending me down old unusable paths, but most of the time I'm able to redirect and make it work. I did see the sign, but knew I had a 50/50 chance of making it work regardless - it's the adventure, mind you!
"We'll all right," she replied, hands on her hips, "If you need anything, I'll be here!"
I descended into Iraan physically devastated after a long and arduous ride in the sun. Forgoing my usual advice of asking for places to sleep in small towns, I decided that once the light faded behind the mountains I would hide behind a church and pack out early the next morning.
I awoke a few hours later to a rumbling engine and car headlights illuminating my tent. Certain I was caught, I grabbed my ID and started walking towards the vehicle, my intention clear: speak the truth.
It was a member of the congregation who was adjusting the air conditioning in the building for the next morning.
"Oh, it's Saturday night?"
"Yes sir! We have service tomorrow morning, come on over - we'd love to have you and hear about your story. You're completely welcome to sleep where you are - don't worry about having your gear stolen, we're a small town and we'll probably know who did it anyway."
"Yes! The blue bonnets are in full bloom by the hospital."
"I didn't see them..."
"You were probably driving too fast!"
Me and my new friend were at a loss trying to figure out a place to stay for the night. We tried all the churches in the area, and they were either closed with no way of communicating with a pastor, or busy with some sort of service. I remembered speaking with a cyclist about the possibility of sleeping at fire stations, so with the light fading we headed out for our last hope.
I called the fire chief, using the number that I found on a piece of paper taped to the door, and explained the situation.
"Would we be able to stay here for the night?"
Without a moment's hesitation, the chief replied that someone would be on their way shortly, and that we were more than welcome.
Five minutes later, George pulled up and started giving us a full blown tour of the facility - we had access to a sauna, showers, fluffy couches, coffee, and television!
"The tank in this truck can hold up to empty 1000 gallons of water in one minute," George explained, walking around a massive fire engine and gesturing with his hands. He had so much knowledge about his craft, and had been volunteering at the station for seven years. The opportunities, for him, outweigh any sort of voice that suggests he's wasting his time - medical certifications are paid for by the county, not out of pocket.
His phone cried out from his hip.
"I just got a call, you guys want to come?"
The next morning I headed out to a bicycle shop in El Paso - I needed to fix my rear wheel, it was wobbling pretty badly.
It's not unusual to have dogs bark at me from behind fences and occasionally chase me, but while I was en-route to the shop, a dog followed me for a few blocks. I got off my bicycle and spoke to her, and while I generated nonsense she seemed to understand what I was saying.
I continued on, and she followed me. AFTER TEN MILES I realized that she wasn't going to stop, so I tried finding a way to take her with me - it was as if the road was listening: a large vegetable basket showed up on the shoulder of the road, and after bungee'ing the basket to my rear rack, she rode with me the rest of the way.
When I got to the bicycle shop, she went her way and I went mine - but it was such a pleasure meeting her. Okay, that's putting it softly - I absolutely fell in love with his dog so fast, I'm devastated with her departure.
The next step of the journey is here, Phoenix Arizona is calling!
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