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It's a romantically beautiful summer evening in northern California, the heat of the day having passed, the sky and earth echoing brilliant colors against each other as if making love. I'm alone, riding my bicycle through a redwood forest on my way to a campsite, where my riding buddy and I had agreed to meet. Towering above like giant sentinels, the trees feel alive, welcoming, as if the spirits of the forest are ceremoniously receiving home a prodigal son. I roll into camp, and Fred (my traveling companion) is already there. It's only been about six hours, but we're as happy to see each other as if it had been a few days. Our campsite, nestled in the forest, is next to a meadow, where elk feed at their leisure.

We settle in and started cooking our usual pot of stew, which usually consists of grains, vegetables, and canned meat - whatever we found, and liked, on the grocery store shelves. The day's ride included a series of steep climbs, so we were wondering how our British friends (one a student from Oxford, the other from Bath), also making the same southward trek from Oregon to California, had fared. True to form, they roll into camp just as supper is almost ready, this time with two 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor and a bottle of tequila, but little or no food. Fred and I are happy to see them. They've become a source of inspiration, for which we are happy to provide scraps of nourishment. Typically, they'd roll into camp around 7:00 or so, with nothing but their bicycles, their tent, and alcohol, and they'd get down to business - the business of having fun. They'd start drinking, or fire up a J, or both. Then they'd wander around the various campsites, introducing themselves to anyone and everyone, partying the night, if possible.

In the meantime, Fred had already met two other riders, whom we'd invited to supper. Recent graduates of Boston College, they became known to us over the next few days (they were also traveling the same route) as "Watch Girl" and "Chocolate Detective." As the stew cooked, the party was on.

Ilana (Chocolate Detective) asked us why we slept in separate tents. We told her that if we didn't, we'd get on each other's nerves. She shot back, "Your two tents!" (You're too tense!) Bam.
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