JohnWayneAndSpandex2Only three or four hundred more miles to go. I was peddling along in the heat of summer with 800 or so other bicyclists bound from Texas to Kansas in the annual trans-Oklahoma bicycle trek known as Oklahoma Freewheel. I was on a long, straight stretch of remote highway, half-dozing at the handlebars when Lynne Carbo from Louisiana pulled up alongside without my noticing.

“Wake up!” she shouted.

Startled, I almost abandoned my bike and stampeded across a cow pasture. Her giggling trailed back to me.

Almost everyone knew who I was within a day or so into the ride. Not only was I a journalist and photographer writing for a popular Oklahoma magazine, I was also an old, gray-haired geezer who should probably be rocking in the shade rather than pounding a bicycle nearly 500 miles across the state, sleeping in a tent. A couple of other peculiarities set me off as well: my bike was the only heavy, knobby-tired mountain bike in a fleet of featherweights with skinny tires about the size of my little finger. I wore jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap while my associates were all helmeted and aglow with skin-tight ‘bicycle wear,” like the colorful butterflies Jennifer Wurl from Texas chalked at intervals on the pavement.

But, hey, would John Wayne wear Spandex?

“What bet did you lose?” some asked.

“Bet?”

“Why else would you ride across Oklahoma on a mountain bike wearing jeans?”

From the stress of peddling, my toes broke out of my sneaker. In Guthrie, two black brothers named Anthony and Gregory fed me the best barbecue in Oklahoma from their little concession wagon at the park where we camped. During a delightful visit, Anthony noticed my toes.

“You must be rich,” he decided.

“How’s that?”

“Only really rich guys would dress all raggedy.”

Riders were making bets that the old guy on the mountain bike would never make it to Kansas. But day after day, there I was on the road again, grinning and snapping photos.

“You are one hard-core dude,” trekkers acknowledged.

“You gotta be tough riding like that.”

Every time I pulled off to stretch out in the shade for a combat nap, riders coming by slammed on brakes. Like they expected me to lie down and die.

“You okay?”

I finally had to hide in the woods to get in a fifteen-minute nap.

We pulled across the Kansas line on the seventh day. A lovely woman approached in wonder.

“Did you read The Bridges of Madison County and see the movie?” she asked.

“Loved both of them.”

“I thought you would. You remind me of Clint Eastwood in the movie. You’re rugged, you’re a photographer, and you’re simple.”

I took it as a compliment.

“We who were Human on Vrodia Kirkos, at least we who were still part Human, had waited a thousand years for our own kind to come again—but none ever did. We longed for a signal, a sign, but the universe remained silent, eternal and unchanged. . .” Look for Charles W. Sasser’s new Science Fiction Sanctuary to be released soon.

Also being released soon is Back In The Fight, a U.S. Army Ranger combat book predicted to be a NY Times bestseller. A Thousand Years of Darkness, The Return, and War Chaser are other current novels by Charles W. Sasser