Editor’s Note: Here’s our third report from Bob Kaspar on the road, as he rides coast to coast from California to his hometown near Boston, Mass. As Bob wanders, so does his mind.
I’m not the least bit shy about asking for information and/or directions. So while biking around Flagstaff, Arizona, on a layover day, I noticed a group of baggage-laden touring bikes parked outside a restaurant and thought this may be a good way to get some information about the highway conditions on I-40 east of Flagstaff.
I went inside and picked out the likely group, speculating that it must be the ones wearing tight, brightly colored clothes covered with road grime. I walked over and and asked if they were the cyclists parked outside. We all laughed because it was obvious and therefore, basically a stupid question. In any case, we got to talking about various things and as I was about to leave someone asked where I was from. I generally respond that I’m from the Yosemite area because most people don’t know where Oakhurst is.
A woman in the group said that she was from San Francisco and so I added that I was actually from Oakhurst, figuring that she might know where that is. “I know where that is,” she said. “I have two friends who just bought a golf course up there.”
I replied, “You mean Reid and Charlie who run Sierra Meadows?”
Explaining their venue was only about a quarter-mile from where I live, and that my friend Robin co-sponsors musical events with them in which I often assist, I said that, in fact, we had done just such an event only a few days before I left. We were all amazed and made the obligatory comments about it being such a small world, etcetera.
I have a theory about coincidences. A coincidence, I suppose, could be described as an intersection of one sort or another between lives. But the intersection between my life and the woman from San Francisco was only recognized because I happened to add the last detail, that I actually live in Oakhurst, to the conversation. Otherwise, the intersection would have never been recognized.
I was once nearing the end of a three-year relationship with a woman when we happened to have a conversation that led us to discover, to a point of absolute certainty, that we had actually met in passing on the other side of the country seven years earlier. Had we not had that exact conversation we would have been forever unaware that we had met years before we realized. It’s only these intersections that we become aware of by stumbling upon accidentally, that we recognize as coincidences.
It follows that, for each one of these intersections we stumble upon by accident, there must be countless ones of which we remain forever unaware. They must be happening all the time. I guess this is similar to “six degrees of separation,” a theory which postulates that everyone is connected to everyone else by a maximum of six steps which can be determined by asking hearsay or “friend of a friend” type questions.
This has been analyzed statistically by numerous mathematicians in an apparent attempt to prove, well, something. It’s a very human thing to want to study the mystery out of stuff and I suppose I’m as guilty of that as any.
But, I digress from my digression.
The point is that the “six degrees of separation” theory is an ultimately clumsy and unnecessary attempt at quantification limited, like most research, by its own fundamental assumptions. Not surprisingly, I like my “occasionally stumbling upon one of what must be countless intersections” theory better, basically because it’s just so much more fun.
It doesn’t require lapsing into hippie wisdom about the inter-connectivity of all things or indulgence in statistics. It allows for much more daydreaming and curiosity about the people you see or meet. Have I connected with or crossed paths with that person before? Conversely, will I connect or cross paths with that person in the future and not recognize it? It’s a simple non-mystical fact that the world must actually be much smaller than we perceive and that these unrecognized life intersections must be happening constantly. For me the fascination is that it can’t be proven but it must be true.
I’ve made exactly two emergency-911 calls in my life. The first was several days ago when my friend whom I’ll call, with nothing but affection, “Meathead,” waved a gun at me and took a shot. See article below for more on that.
The second one was two days later, about 10 miles east of Flagstaff on I-40.
I was riding along on the shoulder and was passing through an area of shiny things which I thought were AAA batteries. On closer examination I saw that they were ammunition rounds.
The highway had been strewn with nine millimeter and 7.62 millimeter rounds. The 9mm is a handgun round and the 7.62 is the standard Warsaw Pact, AK-47 round. Some empty boxes indicated that they were manufactured in Romania. There were also some magazines and ammo boxes. Knowing this wasn’t exactly a 911-type emergency, I called anyway, for lack of a better number to call. The Arizona Highway Patrol responded and cleaned it up. One officer remarked that this was not an entirely uncommon occurrence.
Read earlier installments of Biking With Bob: