Day 11 – Victorville to Helendale
Day 11 began fortuitously – on getting the buggy out of my host’s car (where it had been stored overnight), I immediately saw that both tyres were flat. On pumping both up, one stayed flat (= definite puncture) while the other stayed up – so I repaired one with a patch and took a risk on the other holding up OK. Because I’d inadvertently bought the wrong inner tubes with me I didn’t have any spares so wanted to minimise the number of repairs I had to make on both.
One hour in and the tyre had deflated by about half, so I pumped it up again and continued on my merry way – stopping to do so for a minute every hour or so wasn’t too bad a trade-off, I thought. Anyhow, I had a surprise waiting for me further up the road.
I approached the small, one-road town of Oro Grande and remembered that Anita my host for the preceding two nights had told me about their town fayre happening over the weekend. As I got closer I could see stalls lining the road on one side so pulled over, removed my helmet, queued my best of playlist and went to say hello.
Clearly my arrival was news – I was greeted with a lot of friendly faces, waves and high fives. On stopping to dance with Karen and Mark, two stallholders who shared some choice moves with me, it was clear they knew who I was and that they’d been expecting me. Moments later the event organiser rounded the corner smiling and announced that she’d just announced my arrival to everyone at the fete over the tannoy. Turns out, I was their special guest! I said my goodbyes to Karen and Mark and danced into the main bit of the fete pulling Barbara as I went. Smaller than I thought it would be, I sort of ended up doing a dance-by of the stalls as people looked on either perplexed or non-plussed. I was relieved then, to arrive at a stall where loads of kids were gathered and who seemed interested in my arrival. We got talking (they had loads of great questions), took photos and recorded a nice bit of dancing to camera. I was then invited by Saylor and Ryder, two of the most inquisitive of the children, over to their mom’s gourmet churros stall, where I was treated to Ashley’s amazing take on a strawberry shortbread spectacular. Highly recommended!
After receiving some very kind donations and posing for a few photos I high-fived, waved and danced my way onwards, spurred on by all the smiles and generosity received. It really does give a boost to get such positive reactions and support out there. Someone asked where I get my energy from… it had to be the churros. Rounding the corner out of sight of the fete I could see my tyre was again flat so stopped for a break and another pump-up. This time it’d been only 30 minutes until it went flat. The metaphorical dark clouds were looming.
The next time, it was 15 minutes, then 10, and then an immediate flat. I only had ill-fitting tubes as a replacement so knew I now had to repair whatever was causing the loss of air. I tipped Barbara onto her side and lay her down on the dirt verge next to the road. Off came the offending wheel and I was sorted in under 10 minutes. An easy win – and now no more bother until the end of that day’s dancing – I thought.
That was when I heard them. Growling at first. Then morphing into a full on, menacing bark. Two dogs – the sort bred for attack – less than 10 metres away on the other side of the road. Outside of their fence. Heading right for me, teeth exposed, violent intent in their eyes. In an instant I was up – but Barbara was not. I slammed the wheel into its socket and pushed her upright with all the force I had. I sprint-danced off down the road to make good my escape.
Yet in my haste I’d neglected to check if everything was secure (things often come loose when putting the buggy on its side), and to put Barbara back into ‘running’ mode (where the smaller front wheel is locked in place). As it was, as I tore away from the pursuing dogs, one of my water bottles fell off and span down the road into their path, while my tripod fell back and dragged on the road. Worst of all, in ‘city’ mode the buggy seemed incapable of moving in anything but circles, so my attempts to dance away ended in me pushing the buggy closer, not farther, from my canine chasers.
At this point the leader of the two dogs crossed over the road as if to encircle me. It was like the scene in Jurassic Park when the park ranger is being hunted by velociraptors, taking him from the sides. I was honestly terrified – these dogs were not for subduing or assuaging, and they could smell my fear.
I counted myself lucky then to see a 4×4 come up over the peak of the road about 100 metres behind me. Grappling to pick up the bottle, hold the tripod and steer the buggy away from the dogs, I stood in the middle of the road, blocking the car’s path, and waved it down. I never really got a good look at the owner, but I could see he could see I was in trouble. By now both dogs were on the other side, with the car in between me and them. The 4×4 proceeded to flank me and stop the dogs getting at me for the next couple of hundred metres until we’d gone over the next blind summit in the road. Heart racing, I thanked the driver and he was gone. I didn’t look back but jumped round to the front of the buggy, switched it to running mode, span it around, slipped into the dancing harness and danced on, mentally and physically shaking from the encounter.
From that moment on I resolved to so something about my vulnerability out on the road. Since using the flag pole to fix my harness, I had nothing to defend myself with and felt totally exposed – especially when faced with an enemy that can’t be reasoned with.