Living Dangerously…

The correct answer is NOT, ‘Just until daybreak, officer.’ I learned this when the officer responded, “You can’t do that.” “I can’t sleep here?” I pleaded, “There are no signs.” The officer replied, “Yeah, they took the signs down because there’s construction; but you can’t stay here. I wouldn’t want anyone to hit you with a $275 fine.” He cracked a wry smile as he spoke that last part; at least that’s what I thought I saw through the blinding beam of light aimed at my retinas.

I found myself in this situation at 55 years of age because I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to do—places I’ve never ridden, rock climbs I’ve never done; places I’ve always wanted to see—so I thought I should probably get to it. Like many people my age, I’ve had a career, raised a family and taken care of my parents in the waning years of their lives. I’ve also lived the racer’s life, slugging it out in the California mountain bike racing series as the oldest Semipro in the country, trying my hand at criteriums and contesting the 2001 24 Hour World Solo Championships, in which I finished less than 10 minutes behind eventual 7 time winner Chris Eatough. I am really proud of my racing palmares but they have taken their toll.

My whole life I’ve had my little bucket list, but plans to execute it were always foiled by the thought, ‘I have to get back to work in a few days.’ I hate feeling ‘on the clock’; especially when I contemplate doing something truly epic. I would much rather have no time limitations—if a rock climb takes four hours and I only have five, I feel rushed—not a good thing in the world of climbing. If a century ride will take six hours, but I don’t have time to just hang out—have a snack and shoot the shit afterward—it detracts from the enjoyment of the activity.

Jim Dover's Dream MachineSo I hatched a bohemian solution. Basically, I am now unemployed and homeless—let me add, by choice—for the next year. I packed everything I will need for the year in my truck and put everything else in storage, moved out of my apartment and quit my job managing a climbing shop in Idyllwild, California. I outfitted my truck so that I can sleep in the back if need be—like if I’m traveling to a place I want to ride but I just don’t quite make it there, it’s midnight, I can’t find a campground and I’m just plain tired. In situations like that, I can pull over and get some shuteye. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to find a ‘legal’ place to get 40 winks without running afoul of the fuzz.

What I’ve discovered is that local municipalities near the ocean really don’t want you sleeping in your car. In the mountains, no one cares. But try to park near the beach and myriad signs of prohibition will greet you. No parking, no overnight parking, no camping, etc. Given that it’s easier to be homeless—truly homeless, that is—near the ocean, I understand.

So, last night I found myself at midnight about 30 miles short of my destination in Santa Barbara. I found a place without any signs. Cool. But an hour later a light in the hands of a local deputy brought my night’s sleep to an abrupt end where I learned ‘Just until daybreak, officer.’ Is the wrong response to the question, ‘How long are you planning on staying here?’ I ended up finding a place farther up in the hills. It proved to be a great night’s sleep until I discovered that it was at an intersection used by every freakin’ person who had to be at work by 5 am!  And on my ride later in the day, I found myself riding right by where I slept.  It was 500 feet from the freeway—literally just around the corner from the place I’d been kicked out of—on an off-ramp.  With a big sign—“No Trespassing.”

My year in my truck is off to an interesting start, but I’m still having a blast. Gotta go. A 115 mile road ride is calling my name. Not that I’m in a rush…