I wondered early on today if I was in England. Pedestrians on the American River Bikeway were consistently in the left lane, bicyclists passing to the right. The world turned upside down when compared to other bike paths. A list of trail rules explained the California system, which was indeed opposite of the norm. I adjusted to the change after briefly considering a one man resistance to the death.
As I moved south the surroundings became more ominous. Signs warned against trespassing and loitering. A tall fence loomed over the trail to my left, topped with menacing rows of barbed wire. I looked for a train rolling round the bend, but this was not the famous prison about which Mr. Cash sang. The lifers rotted out of sight of the Bikeway somewhere to the east. Instead I was seeing the new anti-terrorism measures put in place to protect the Folsom Dam and the city of Sacramento from and Al Qaeda attack.
Not a pretty present. Much of the past had been tarnished by the dam as well. Small communities formed during the gold rush era, like Mississippi Bar, Mormon Island, and Negro Bar had all been drowned underneath Lakes Folsom and Natoma, a smaller reservoir to the south. The old settlers would not even recognize the hills overlooking the river. They were badly damaged by hydraulic mining techniques used in later years.
The day was hot as I passed these tawdry leftovers of man's hubris. I drooped like a wilted flower with osteoporosis as I went. A voice came out of the shadows of Rancho Cordova Community Park, shouting at me. "Do you want a hamburger," he yelled. A short black man with a scruffy beard came running towards me. I demurred. He insisted. I followed.
Dave was a homeless man who had bought more meat than he could eat. He cooked on a small Coleman stove, a bottle of spices his only condiment. I don't know if I've tasted a better burger on the trip. He shared a beer as well. I gave him some money, although he had not asked for any. He had assumed from my pack I was a drifter as well. The most giving people seem to always be those who have the least.
|Dave, his Coleman stove, and a praying mantis.|
Dave was from Brazil, adopted with his sister by a pair of Minnesotans. He had worked a variety of jobs as an adult, but the accumulation of money was not a passion of his. I detected no sign of mental illness. Being homeless and wandering the world like the nomads of old was simply the path he had chosen. I felt blessed that he had come across mine.
My hosts this night were Kyle and Erika. Erika's aunt Shiloy is a friend of mine from Greenville. Kyle is her boyfriend. The young couple is making their way in the world in a more conventional fashion. Erika works for Mary Kay, climbing the complex ladder of the cosmetics company. Kyle's ladder is more literal as he toils in home construction, for a business run by his father. They have already purchased a home of their own, which they shared with me for the evening. A scrumptious dinner of pork carnitas (think Mexican pulled pork) and fried ice cream at a local restaurant completed the equation.
20 miles/3930 total miles