Saturday, 22 November 2008

Asheville - Pendleton (November 21)

Day 68

Some snow flurries; a word which makes me think of McDonald's; such is the power of advertising and Americanization. The sky soon blued, but it remained perishing, especially during lengthy downhill sections. I tried out a couple of hand warmers Trisha had given me, which were like big tea bags, and rubbing them created a little heat inside my gloves, although not for long. They turned my hands black as well. It's difficult to go to the toilet when you're on as busy road. You have to find a secluded turning, somewhere to prop your bike, walk off the road a bit so as not to be seen with a bright yellow coat and then try to find the requisite body part under all the tucked in, overlapped layers of clothing. I know I look pretty stupid with my leggings and too small helmet perched atop a woolly hat, which explains why men stare, and women smile, inwardly laughing at my nerdishness; it also explains why one girl pointed and laughed out loud. I'm ready to go home that's for sure – back to a life of being ignored and unquestioned in Britain. I saw a mock Scottish castle and the Charles Rennie McIntosh typeface on a sign, reminding me of lovely, damp and dingy old Scotland.

Today I headed in the wrong direction (not in error) because tonight's Scrabble player lived nearly a hundred miles south and a little bit west, rather than towards Charleston to the east. Crossed into South Carolina, the final state of my journey, when the wind almost whipped the bike from under me, a feeling akin to going down in a lift. Cars continued to honk at the audacity of a cyclist on their roads, which is a problem I didn't encounter in the West. Out of my way weird man on a bicycle, I can't bear to be delayed by one second. No, get out of MY way, I'm saving the planet.

Arrived in Pendleton and went straight past a sign reading 'WELCOME ADRIAN' in the dark and my hosts phoned me as I careered down the road. Eliza & Colin were in the middle of remodeling their house and living in a small part of it with their two small children, Molly & Aidan. There were also two pretty 'chocolate point Siamese' type moggies (one had chocolate points and the other ginger) called Rainbow & H-Vac (short for heating, ventilation and air conditioning – places he liked to hide). Both my hosts worked as math teachers at a local university, Eliza was from these parts and Colin hailed from California (where he used to cycle to the beach with a surf board under one arm). They cooked up a fine dinner of pork with apple & onion sauce, butternut squash, beans and carrots, along with oatmeal porter. Eliza did this neat thing where she asked the children what was the favourite parts of their days and encouraged them to ask others at the table.

Bill had already warned me that Eliza would “kick my ass” on the Scrabble board and that is exactly what she did. So often when playing someone better I get myself into this pathetic state of mind where I can't do anything right, my opponent gets all the luck and none of my bingos will fit. In reality I'm being outplayed and should accept it. Every word she challenged of mine was a phony (BAIN, GRONK + others) and of course when I queried her OUTDRIVE it was there. At times like this I hate Scrabble and I hate myself. In one game she picked up both blanks and all four Ss goddamnit! In the cool light of day, I know that it wasn't so much a question of luck, more that she made her own luck. In the third game she played GIANTESS & INTREAT (I knew better than to challenge) but I produced two back to back beauties (BINGERS & SCOOTING) to win by a few points and salvage4 a modicum of pride.

I slept in a bare room in what they called 'the other house' and the pretty kitties lay next to my legs. In the morning we sat down to blueberry scones, then went out to hear a church choir in the town square.

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