A low moan rattled my sleep. I shuddered waking up and sitting up in my sleeping bag. I rubbed my arms in the heavy woolen sweater, blinking without my glasses and taking in my surroundings. The light green nylon fabric of the tent walls glowed eerily as I sat. Ashton still was rumbling with sleep in his sleeping bag and I gently rocked him to stir.
"Morning sleeping beauty."
"Is that all you have to say to me?"
"Come on. Lets get washed up."
I drew the narrow silver canteen from the front pannier and poured it into a small wash pan and set it on top of the propane burner. I set up a mirror on a fence post and set up my shaving kit, carefully setting the badger brush on the post by the mirror and setting up the razor. The water began to steam and I poured half into the mug and set the rest aside for Ashton to wash his face. Slowly stirring the cream into a foam, I wrestled it onto my face and carefully shaved off the growth from the last two nights.
"Dude, this water is hot."
"What? You dont wash up with hot water?"
"Just do it. It'll feel better."
"You ought to keep your beard. It might keep you warm on the road."
Suddenly, that thought hit me. Warm face. I wiped off the cream and packed up the shaving things. We sat on our camp stools and as breakfast was cooking over the stove, we talked about where we were. While I was shaving, Ashton had taken a location with the lensatic compass and plotted our position on the map. Thirty miles out of Fort Bragg. We decided to fill up on gas there and one of us would move one of our panniers to the other person's bike and would hold a jerry can instead. I volunteered my front canvas pannier. Ashton stared at it, and clipped it behind my rear pannier.
"Fine. But you're carrying your own gasoline too."
We pedaled to Fort Bragg and made it there by lunch time. We bought and filled to jerry cans and hooked them to our panniers. We stopped in town for an hour or two, to replace the things we had used up last night. A new tin of beans, a tin of beef, a loaf of sourdough bread and a pack of extra socks. I stopped outside the hardware store to pick up a small hatchet. We might need firewood at some point I thought. My moped was staring to look like a carry-all on wheels. The nice thing about it all was it looked rugged. The classic looks and lines of the derringer bike, the old school seat and panniers, it was meant for this. Ashton rolled by, his panniers and carriers filled with sketchbook paper, pencils, cans of lighter fluid, some old newspapers and a small bag of charcoals. We pulled out of Fort Bragg at three and continued up old highway one.
We rode, the wind pushing against our helmets and faces. It made me wish I had bought pilots goggles from the surplus store. As we rode, the flat rolling landscape soon became a harsh, rough, terrifying yet subtle landscape. It undulated but it fought back sometimes. Highway one was truly a road built to the world. It didn't plow through the landscape like most interstates did. This truly was second to god. We rode and rode. Our tanks not seeming to grow empty. Every so often, we'd stop and stretch, enjoy the land. Ashton would pull the sketchbook out and draw. I realized then, I forgot to use the camcorder. I quickly pulled out the small powershot and set up a rig on the handlebar to record us as we went.
Winding through steep and curving road, we rode over gigantic, beautiful concrete arch bridges, walked through forests now and then and stopped for a hot dog for dinner. This time, night caught up before our tanks were empty. This time, we settled camp away from road. We drove down a small path and parked in a clearing. We pitched the tent up, locked the bikes together and started a small fire. The darkness seemed like a cold blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I missed that feeling of someone wrapped up besides you. Ashton and I certainly were missing our better halves. The girls were going on a trip with each other to Florida. Ashton had scoffed at the idea and said it was only helping the industry. He could be like that sometimes, but it was fine. We balanced each other out. I had managed to strap my mandolin to the front pannier and I pulled it out. Ashton pulled his uke out and we started to jam into the night. Our two bodies, illuminated by the slowly dying fire, our fingers jangling around, pulling out a tune as best as possible. We laughed, shared a can of beer and turned in.
Yet more to come!