We stopped at the gas station on our way out of town to regroup. While superheroes were regrouping, I went in to take a leak, leaving my bike in the midst of the mass of superheroes. When I got back, the mass had regrouped on the sidewalk, and Zing reprimanded me for leaving the bike where cars might need to go. This was not the first time Zing reprimanded me about something I did that was thoughtless or selfish, but for some reason I felt like I needed to talk to him more about it. The rest of the heroes went on ahead, since Zing was supposed to be sweeping, while Zing and I had our tete a tete. When we were done, a macho cowboy middle-aged republican type man came over with a chip on his shoulder and asked us what we were about. Zing told him we were the superhero riders, a service organization, full of love. The man repeated "a service organization, huh?" seemingly not believing Zing. A staredown ensued for a few long seconds, and finally the guy backed down and walked away. Zing the alpha male! Perhaps the owner of the campsite where we had stayed the first night in Pecos had spread a rumor that we were Rainbow Family, and somehow that was a bad thing, like the Rainbows are a terrorist organiszation or what? But most people in Pecos loved us, giving us unsolicited food and money and hospitality. I can't remember if I decided to change my superhero name to Mindful Chaos after that conversation with Zing, or if it was after I started off one time without my helmet from the Beloved Gallery.
It was relatively flat till lunchtime. We have one big hill, where we meet another superhero who pulls over in a car with a baby. She had been on a ride many years before and Zing and her have an joyous reunion (what are the chances?). Just when we stop for lunch, I get a call from a dear young friend asking me to come to Atlanta where he was subjected to an exorcism from a lunatic stranger with his mom's consent (she's no fundie, but she is pretty desperate about how to control his behavior), which from his description sounded violent, nonconsensual and the closest thing to rape a male can experience without being penetrated (but who knows, he does exaggerate sometimes). It was the last straw for him and so I agreed to come and see how I can help him with his mom and with his life. He said he could wait till I was done visiting the Possibility Alliance. The combination of thinking about his situation, an unrelenting headwind and steep hills made it hard for me that afternoon. On one hill I had stopped to catch my breath and pray for strength. Just then Superchili comes up from behind and starts telling me a joke. She tells me about zigzagging up and demonstrates. I found out later that her gears were not working. Even though the joke was not that great, I am now in love and get going again. SC tells me some more jokes (better than the first), biking by my side, and then she resumes her co-sweep duty and heads back to check on Crimson who is somewhere behind us (the other sweep). I go on ahead and catch up with One Earth Nun and Metta. Metta just smiles. One Earth goes at a really slow pace and I try to stay behind her, but can't go that slow (she has 24 gears, and I only 21...). I pass them and then catch my breath at the top of the hill as they pass me again. "I don't know if I can do this". "I have faith in you"--says One Earth. It doesn't get any better when a cute nun who almost bit my head off one time now has faith in me. Well, I go slower and they get way ahead of me, out of sight. I decide to wait for the sweeps. I wait 1/2 an hour and start getting worried. They are the youngest members of our troupe. They are young women alone on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere in the USA. So I head back, despite protocol requiring not to go back until all the group decides on it. I only last about 2 more uphills (which WERE downhills going the other way) before I am out of breath again. I break another protocol and use my cell phone to call Metta (well I figured she would give the phone to Ruby since she can't talk). Pea answers and I realize that this number I dialed is Metta's land line. He tells me that Rainbow Rider is recovering well. He tells me to just wait some more, and sure enough I see Superchili and Crimson Seeker over the horizon. Crimson had a flat and then lost her skewer, which SC helped her find. I get ahead of them (SC must be exhausted by now) and am met about 5 miles before the rendezvous point by the woman who met me in Albuquerque (forget her name). She has a camera pointed at me and says sorry but she is only interviewing female superheroes for some project, but offers me a burrito, which I decline, since I am not yet hungry. By the time I make it to the gas station, I am met with a party of superhero cheerleaders singing "Chaos, Chaos!", and I feel like I just finished the Tour de France. Hands come off the handlebars and go up in the air. A burrito is offered and this time accepted (after I get off the bike--not quite Tour de France). I thought they would be worried or upset that they had to wait so long, but no, they are cheering me on! The same ecstatic reception is reenacted for Superchili and Crimson Seeker a few minutes later. Superchili has already exhibited superhuman strength and so gets a ride from our hosts in Las Vegas (NM) for the next 5 miles. This was one time where we actually had a pre-arranged host in town. Our hosts were a couple and their daughter who knew Metta. We are all pooped and barely find enough strength to set up tents. Some folks stay in our hosts' house. The next day we are awakened by Zing rapping with guitar accompaniment. He is a good rapper and no rap would be better to wake up to. One Earth and I are on cooking again. One Earth stays to cook lunch. I also stay in the morning for a bit to prepare puri indian flat bread, and so am late to the Goodwill store where a clothes sorting party is going on. I tackle a bed which noone knows how to put together. Turns out it's a bunk bed but missing a piece. The manager of the store is in ecstacy after she gets the Imploding Supernova of Love, which I had to miss so I could go help with lunch.
I don't remember what else transpired that day, except games were played (I think we did the one where people write one line of a story on a piece of paper, put it in a hat, and then someone reads them randomly, inviting 3 people to tell a story using that line, but only one is true. Then the rest of the people have to figure out by asking a few questions of the storytellers, which is the true story), music was made and good food was cooked and eaten. I think it was also that day when superhero headquarters called to say that beloved Tamar was diagnosed with liver cancer. I had known her from visiting Dancing Rabbit, where she lives. I have fond memories of playing music with her for a maypole dance, and One Earth Nun also had met her and loved her at DR. But Zing was hit the hardest; he is a really good friend of Tamar's and he was grieving for the rest of the day. Why her, we thought? She tries to live so healthy. Memories of young Israeli boys dying in the war came back to me (Tamar was born in Israel, like me), nature's order reversed, with parents burying their children. But Tamar was not worried or upset, unlike all who have known her. She is still alive as far as I know, and may outlive me, living in the present.
The next day we had the best job: cleaning out public hot spring baths a few miles from Pecos! After figuring out the technicals of siphoning, we were hard at work scrubbing algae off walls (Zing stayed behind, still grieving, and Farfalu and Superchili (someone correct me here, did SC come at all to the springs?) went back after preparing lunch, to offer support). We had a great soak in different temperature baths, and Infinity Kid claimed that it was like a rite of passage for him to get in that scalding water and overcome his fear. After the soaking we had dinner with the woman who got us the hot spring job and her family at the World College. We met some of the students earlier--from all over the world, trying to learn about peace and sustainability. We each said something to them, but I didn't feel very inspired, leaving the PR to Blue, who loves public speaking. I wish I could show them what it means to live peacefully and sustainably, which I am sure that none of them do, being unrepresentative of most of their countries which are poor and could not afford to go to college abroad.
Neither One Earth nor I (we were on ritual team) remembered to bring superhero badges to give to our hosts (and she didn't get mad at me!). But we gave them a supernova treatment nonetheless. After supper, we went to listen to Frances Moore-Lappe. She is well meaning, but in my opinion she is not radical enough, flying and driving all over, writing books instead of growing food, sharing resources, and coming up with local technologies. Wealthy liberals love her though. She is like that mathematician from the joke I told Blue that morning about the engineer, physicist and mathematician who walk around the city putting out fires. In brief, the engineer puts out a fire with 3 fire extinguishers, without much thought, just pragmatically. The physicist puts in lots of thought and the fire almost gets out of control by the time he puts it out with just one short squirt of extinguisher in the place he calculated would be optimal. The mathematician thinks for a long time, does calculations, the fire is out of control and the building burns down, at which point she says that she has has proven a solution exists (or the way it plays out in our world is "Science and Technology will figure out a solution"). End of joke. Zing refused to even go listen to her talk, and I understood why after I heard it.
The next day One Earth and I were on hunting and gathering, with One Earth doing mostly gathering and helping the cooks and I took about 5 trips to the farmers market, because the cooks kept forgetting ingredients (or did I forget some too?). During that time there was one team which went back to the Goodwill store, while another team supposedly went to the dog pound to walk some dogs. I got to the dog pound late, no superheroes. They were across the street at the community center washing windows and sweeping floors. The first thing I see when I get there is a dejected Infinity Kid, washing windows in slow motion. "They want us to wash the upper windows where the bird poop is, but they have no ladder". I offer my shoulders to him instead, and he lights up, climbing up and picking up the pace. After a few windows I am tired. Ruby has just found a bird that might haver flown into a window and is not moving. We help her find a box and some water for the stunned bird and then we go look for Farfalu and Superchili who turn out not to be any lighter than Infinity Kid. But Farfalu is a brilliant engineer and realizes that if one person sits in a chair and another person stands on the back rest than not only will I not get tired from people standing on me, but we could parallel process, with two cleaners going on at once, with Ruby handing paper towels and cleaner spray. The windows cleaned, I headed back to help the cooks and see if they need any more supplies, taking the bird with me, only to have Superchili run out to say that Ruby would rather drive the bird on her bike. The bird recovered and flew away the next day.
Later that day (or was it earlier?), there was a radio show:
where Zing, Farfalu, Superchili, Infinity Kid and True Blue went while I was hunting and gathering. Ruby Hummingbird made a late appearance returning a headlight I had borrowed the night before for our bike trip back from the hotsprings, to the radio show host who was a friend of our hotspring host. It is worth listening to this show for more details about how superheroes make decisions (deep consensus), expenses ($35/week, unless you can't afford it, in which case other superheroes will cover for you), a gift economy, and other things I missed.
The next day we biked towards Taos, refreshed and rested, except Superchili was sick. Sagegal and Pea came for a few days. I found it much easier than the first few days even though there were some serious mountains to climb. I was yodeling and just happy to be using my body, breathing the clean mountain air, and seeing some beautiful sights. Superchili drove on ahead in Sagegal's car. We found a sign at the top of a mountain pass: County Line Dance. It was clear that SC wanted us to dance, and we did some Israeli folk dances--which when it works and people are in the mood is better than even good sex as far as I am concerned. We stopped at a blueberry farm which Superchili arranged for us.It was to be Zing's and my last night with the Superheroes. The next day we were to head back to catch the Southwest Chief to La Plata, MO, home of the Possibility Alliance and Superhero headquarters. People were somewhat sad. Metta decided to break her vow of silence, which shocked everyone. I convinced True Blue to let Infinity Kid sleep in her tent, hoping it would only lead to Good Things. One Earth Nun and I played some music together on our wind intruments.
I tried to say something happy and encouraging before I left, based on the producers of the LOTR movie version of Aragorn's speach at the Black Gate (of Mordor). Later I actually wrote down some more and here it is:
"Superhero riders! When I look into your eyes, I see the same sadness, the same grief, the same fear that freezes my heart. There may come a day when our hearts will harden for good, when the hearts of all people will give in to despair, but that day is not today. There may come a day when nature's beauty and balance will be spoiled by the greed and selfishness of men and women, but that day is not today. A day may come when war and destruction rule the earth, when people have been enslaved by machines, but that day is not today.
Today our joy will overcome sadness, our love will overcome fear, our courage will triumph over apathy. Hardened hearts will melt! Eyes will see God in each other! We ride now to serve and uplift all beings! We ride now for freedom, for love, for joy, for the earth, for spirit. Ride forth and serve!"