August 22nd – What is Home?

The new alternator belt was due to arrive at the bike shop today, which meant I should get the bike back either late today or tomorrow. Despite how amazingly gorgeous the wilderness around here is, we hadn’t really made time to go properly hiking yet. Sure, we’d spent arguably most of our time walking around, as the town is small enough that you can reasonably walk everywhere in it. Walking around in town is really no substitute for nature walks though, so we decided to dedicate our last day here to giving the redwoods a proper walk.

We packed up some snacks, and of course some weed, and headed up the road to Redwood Park. Like every day so far here, it was sunny, about 75 degrees, and just plain fucking nice outside. We stopped several times along the way to the park to pick blackberries from the wild brambles growing everywhere.

The air got cooler as we entered the forest, and my nose was filled with the mixed smell of redwood needles, abundant chlorophyl, and just a hint of damp. Here in the shade of the canopy, it is perhaps 10 degrees cooler than out in the sun. We both take a minute to pull out our jackets and put them on before venturing down the trail. Even with the university nearby, it is quiet here, though we do run into students on the trail with some frequency. Everybody looks as stoned as we are. I had loaded a full bowl before we left and stuck in my pocket. Every now and then I would pull it out, and we’d take a few hits while walking, and then stash it again. I should mention that stashing it in between hits was purely a matter of convenience, to free up our hands, not to hide it from anyone. More than once we passed people smoking a joint, or just passing a bowl back and forth. Something I’ve always appreciated about the Marijuana culture is that it promotes sharing to a much greater degree than does the alcohol culture.

We came upon a mighty stump, perhaps 20 feet tall, 10 feet across at least, and carved with the forms of forest animals. I walked around the stump, admiring the artistry, when I spotted what looked like a relatively easy path to climb up to the top. Of course we did so immediately, and smoked a bowl once we reached the top.

We spent a couple hours exploring the trails through the park, and eventually came out onto the university campus. School was just back in session, and it looked like there was a decent amount of people wandering around stoned trying to find their classes. One thing I will say for this campus is that it’s students are very attractive. Keeping in theme with the rest of the town, the university is populated by a lot of young, outdoorsy, attractive stoners, including a lot of sexy dready girls. I’d be lying to say I didn’t really like hippie girls, and the dready girls tend to be the hippiest of them all. If I ever find myself single again, Arcata would be right up there with Austin for places to find a new mate.

Finally, around 4pm, I received a call from the bike shop letting me know the bike was ready to be picked up. Not only that, it had been easier than expected, and the bill would be about 40% less than I’d been quoted. Not too often you get a call like that from your mechanic. North Coast Cycles remains the only bike shop I’ve been to that I didn’t feel like I was getting scammed by. Though I appreciate Valdi staying open late for me in LA, I have my doubts as to the quality of his work. The owner of North Coast Cycle was both impressively competent, and came in substantially under budget. Shame he lives 2000 miles away from me.

We caught a bus to Eureka, and soon we were ready to ride back to our hosts for one more night. While we were putting our gear on at the shop, we had one of the strangest social encounters we had all trip. Another man was at the shop picking up his bike. Much of the bike had been redone with black leather and rivets, clearly going for a sort of post-apocalyptic theme. The man himself was probably 6 foot 5 inches, and very lanky, sporting a stout silver handlebar mustache. Everything about his dress and mannerisms suggest the archetypal wasteland survivor. He struck up a conversation with us, heavily emphasizing the sacrifice it requires to live on a motorcycle, but also how uniquely rewarding it is. Overall, I thought he was overly dramatic, and many of his statements run contrary to scientific consensus. For instance, he believes firmly that full face helmets kill more people than they save, and that in general motorcycle safety gear is more harm than good. This is preposterous. I’ve been in a decently high speed motorcycle accident that I was almost totally uninjured in thanks to my equipment. Similarly, I’ve been in very low speed collisions wearing less gear and been banged up decently. Besides my own anecdotal evidence, professional motorcycle racers literally all use full face helmets, and have an astonishingly high survival rate. Still, a very interesting character to come across.

After about 30 minutes of being talked at by Apocalypse man, we rode back to Arcata to enjoy our final night of relaxing and being lazy with friends. We had initially intended to leave tonight, to avoid being a further burden on our hosts, but Chelsea was quite insistent that we stay another night and leave at our convenience the next day. Seriously, such an awesome household. We picked up some beers on the way back to share with our wonderful hosts. The rest of the night was spent consuming the usual ridiculous quantities of weed and getting a nice booze buzz on as well. We went to sleep a little earlier than usual in anticipation of a long ride the next day.

Our entire time in Arcata served as a visceral reminder of the fundamental good of humanity, and helped me to really hone in on what it is I like in a place to live. Though geography and weather are tremendously important to me, home is ultimately built from relationships with people, and how homey a place is can be dependent on how easy it is to create and strengthen those relationships. Everything about Arcata promotes healthy interpersonal interactions. There is a clear sense of community throughout the town, even though a relatively small portion of the population is native to the area. Many of the things that make Austin such a special town to me are present here, but if anything in greater concentration. Recognizing Arcata as a place I could call home was definitely one of the most important things I gained from the trip.

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