I pass up a breakfast in Patterson – too early. These little towns all look deserted. Cracked wood, rusty siding, collapsed trailers, weedy and sandy sidewalks, cars on blocks, downed trees strewn around, piles of junk and trash.
Hortense is just a crossroads, but it has a truckstop. The lady who cooks my super cheap and greasy breakfast has the flu. A trucker trudges out the door to “go earn a few more dollars.” Accents make words nearly unintelligible to me. A few people talk to me for a minute, but they seem worn down. Everyone moves slowly.
Many, many miles of quiet, heat, and meditation. An hour goes by without cars or people. I ride with my gaze focused short, so the road splits in two. It help snap my mind to attention when I resume a distant focus, giving me a burst of nowness. But the mind is a sleepless rebel, a frenetic fountain, a cosmic receiver. It won’t stay quiet long. It’s okay. Often it makes me laugh loudly. I remember Luke and I videotaping interviews of each other, asking questions like, “So you’ve pleaded guilty to charges of assaulting female skiers with live reptiles?”, while the interviewee would try to answer without cracking up. I think of followup questions, like “Do you think what you did was wrong?” I’m not sure why Luke is coming to mind so much recently.
When I hit Folkston, I think I deserve ice cream. I spend $5 at Dairy Queen, enough to turn the blood in my veins to soft-serve. A few miles more and I turn into the Okeefenokee Swamp Parkway. It’s several miles long. The ice cream catches up to me, and I feel an urgent need for a toilet suddenly. The last 1.5 miles are ridden with much anticipation. I rush gratefully through a men’s room door, do my penance for the ice cream, and feel fine again. My afflictions are delightfully short and sweet.
The map makes it clear I’ll need more time to see the park, so I picnic, then find a camp spot in the treefarms along the long entry road. Deer snort goodnight around me.