The morning’s first light shined on my face, waking me from my cozy pine needle bed. It felt so good to finally be out of the heat of the desert and in amidst the pines. I sipped my shitty instant coffee sitting up against a tree in my poached camp sight on land claimed to be property of Los Angeles. What a bunch of assholes, traveling all the way up here to claim land that isn’t their’s to steal water that they don’t deserve. Some day the people of the East Side are going to band together, rise up, and kick those greedy jack weeds off of this sacred land, but I digress. The day’s objective was to ride up to Convict Lake and shuffle my tired legs up to Mt. Morrison. After bailing off my California 14ers objective, I opted to cruise home and spend a little time bouncing around some of the easier routes along the way.
Once at Convict Lake, my cumulative fatigue made for a slow transition from bike to feet. Eventually, I was hiking up the creek, a place I’d only skied before. The change in modes of transportation always affords a different learned intimacy to a place. The steep route and scramble up to Morrison was just what I needed for the day: a little alpine fun, without too much commitment. After a few hours I was back at the bike, ate some food, and was moving on towards Lee Vining for the evening.
Afternoon showers were moving in and a strong head wind slowed my bike to a crawl. My legs were dead and my tired mind cursed the extra struggle. Soon the rain began to fall, soaking my slow progress. Looking for some reprieve, I pulled into a rest stop where I met a guy riding his bike from LA to Portland. He wore a 80’s -esque jacket, a cotton hat, and some cutoff shorts. We talked for a while about our trips as he smoked a cigaret, and I marveled at his unpretentious bike set up and lackadaisical effort toward his end goal. “How is this guy going to make it to Portland?” I thought, but he assured me that this was his shortest tour yet. Feeling antsy from wasting time I wished him a safe trip and hopped back on the bike.
I rolled into Lee Vining, cool air and the scent of fresh rain blowing in my face. I reveled in the ability to be traveling by bicycle. As I neared the Mobile Mart I could hear jam band music wafting over the hills and a certain joyous energy was emanating from the nearby gas station. It was free music night at the Mobile Mart, and every dirtbag and tourist was from the area was hanging out, eating and drinking, and enjoying the night’s festivities.
“I’m glad you made it!” I hear over my shoulder. I turned to see a scruffy man with a huge smile framed between greying sideburns. “We saw you struggling up the hill in the rain on the way over,” he said, “I’m Ed. Go get a beer and some food, you’ve earned it.” He patted me on the back and walked off. Everyone was giddily drinking and eating, and there were a group of dirt laden people dancing up near where the band was playing. The parking lot was filled with every manner of dirtbag mobile, from fancy sprinter vans to old beat up Toyotas with mismatched camper shells. People asked me about my trip, and each one had a more interesting story about their own state of travel and life. I sat leaning up against a tree drinking a tall can of Tecate and wondered to myself, “Did I die? There is no way this is real.” Right then, a lady walked up and offered me a chicken sandwich. “ Yep, I’m dead somewhere out in the Sierra, and this is Valhalla.” As I ate my sandwich, Ed came back over to talk to me about my trip. I told him what I was up to and he smiled a huge contagious smile. We talked about the East Side and about his own adventures. Eventually he bought me a couple beers and we sat at a picnic table as the sun set, discussing life values. “Get out, enjoy life, live a simple inexpensive life, and you won't have to work so much,” he told me. Ed was retired now, living in Bishop and had much wisdom to give. Eventually, as the band’s set was coming to a close, Ed wished me a good night and safe travels and wondered off to bestow his wisdom on someone else. I grabbed my bike, and bumbled up the hill to find a soft place to sleep. Before I dozed off to sleep that night I drunkenly wrote in my note book: “If there is a heaven, it is in the Sierra, specifically on the East side, and it culminates ever so often at the Lee Vining Mobile Mart.”