Wednesday, November 27
The crew and I walk up the low hill. As we approach the area of Dale’s camp, I walk more slowly in order for Bridget and Spike to announce our arrival. When I hear Dale’s welcome to the crew, I make my appearance.
“Good morning, Dale!”
We chat for a few minutes. In that conversation Dale mentions that his bicycle’s wheel is still bent, even though he’s worked hard to straighten it. He spins the wheel to show me. It doesn’t exactly spin. It turns and it wobbles as it turns.
“I can still ride the bike. I’ll just look funny going down the road,” he says with optimism.
I get to the purpose of my visit.
“I’m going into Yuma to pick up some groceries. Do you want to come along? I’ll probably go to Wal-Mart.”
I explain that I first need to unhitch my trailer and take care of a few other things before I’ll be ready to leave.
“I’ll go online and see if I can find a bike shop.”
“Gee, that would be great,” Dale says as the crew and I start our return to our camp.
Later . . .
I pick up Dale with his bike wheel, and we head out from Mittry Lake on the Laguna Dam Road to Yuma. Spike’s on the bench seat already prepared to nap and Bridget is in her bed between the front seats.
“I found a bike shop. It’s on 4th Avenue,” I announce. I hand Dale a map I’ve drawn showing the location of the bike shop as well as Wal-Mart on Araby Road.
I spot a water vending machine at the corner gas station and pull in. Dale and I fill up our water jugs (25 cents each) and before we leave, Dale makes a phone call. Cellphone signal isn’t good at Mittry Lake.
Yuma’s streets are busy.
It’s probably a combination of lunch hour traffic and people out shopping for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving celebration. However, we find the bike shop easily. It looks like a high-falutin’ place that probably sells expensive bicycles.
“I’m going to walk Bridget and Spike while you’re in there,” I tell Dale.
By the time the crew and I go around the block and return, Dale is waiting for us, smoking a cigarette in the parking lot.
Bridget and Spike hurry up to him, with me trailing, holding their leashes.
“They look so happy,” he says, smiling. Then Dale explains that the bike shop guy recommended a place up the street about three blocks.
“It’s called The Mission. They fix bikes.”
The Mission operates a large thrift store.
As I drive us into the parking lot, Dale points to the bike shop down at the end of the lot. “This is more like it,” he says cheerfully as I pull up to the shop and park.
“Well, how’d it go?” I ask as Dale climbs into the passenger seat after putting the wheel in the back of the PTV.
He mumbles something I can’t hear.
“What’d you say? I couldn’t hear you.”
“I’m humbled,” he repeats, looking straight ahead at the bike shop through the windshield. After a pause he adds, “They didn’t charge me anything.”
He explains that he was talking with the guys and it came out that he’s homeless. Then he relates the progression of the wheel repair which ends up with the repair guys giving him a new wheel with a new tire. Dale offered to pay . . . “And the guy said to pay if forward.”
I pull the PTV over to park in front of the thrift store. Dale had mentioned when we arrived that he could use another pair of pants.
Off we go to Wal-Mart . . .
On the way we marvel at the kindness of strangers. I tell him my story about the day my brakes failed and a young man named Brian helped me and wouldn’t accept payment. Instead he gave me his phone number with the offer to drive out to my next camp if I had any problems.
I told Dale, “I sat at the wheel while Brian handed me that slip of paper with his phone number and I said I’d break down and sob if he did one more nice thing for me.”
Dale admits he was about to do the same thing at the bike shop.
He tells me how the country’s financial mess of a few years ago resulted in the loss of the home he and his wife worked so hard to fix up. He had to get away. He spoke kindly of his brother who got him the bike and the bus ticket.
The bus dropped Dale and his bike in downtown Yuma.
“Oh, Dale! You rode your bike through this mess? You are so brave. I would’ve been terrified.”
“It was kind of scary,” he agrees.
On impulse I turn into a Jack-in-the-Box.
“Let’s get something to eat. My treat,” I say, looking over at Dale. “Do you eat this kind of food?”
Soon I’m scarfing down a chicken fajita and Dale is chomping on a burger. We both agree the fries are really good.
“It’s funny how much you appreciate things that you haven’t had in a long while,” he remarks. Before taking another bite of his burger, he adds, “It’s hard to get enough protein when traveling on a bike. No meat, of course.”
Continuing toward Wal-Mart, Dale makes a request.
“If you see a tobacco shop, I need to get some.” I reveal that I smoked many years ago, but when the price went up to eight dollars a carton, I couldn’t afford it and quit.
Dale laughs. “A carton is almost fifty dollars now.” Then he explains that by buying loose tobacco and rolling his own cigarettes, he’s spending about twenty percent of the cost of a carton. “I’m not smoking much now that I’m riding the bike a lot.”
We find a tobacco shop around the corner from Wal-Mart.
Our grocery shopping completed, we head back to Mittry Lake. It’s almost dark.
“Well, gee, Dale. I don’t think they expect you to bring a covered dish. It’s not like you’re carrying a convection oven on the back of your bike. If you don’t go, at least come down to my place.”
I pull over to take a photo of oddly-shaped pink clouds against the blue sky.
At his camp, Dale unloads his water jugs, bike wheel, and groceries.
“Gosh, I have everything I need,” he mumbles. He thanks me and we say good night, as darkness has already fallen, even though it’s not yet six o’clock.
The Perfect Tow Vehicle carries the crew and me down the hill to our camp. Gee, I should’ve thanked Dale for giving me such a wonderful day. I know I got more out of it than he did.
Happy Thanksgiving to all from me and the crew!