1.The Mountain Man

Roy, First Encounter

I pedaled my bike over the rise and Roy came into view.

He was stopped on the opposite side of the road, straddling his bike–his feet planted, his body sagging on his elbows on his handlebars. His head down, I could see only the wide-brim of his black felt hat and its jaunty three-inch red, plaid band.

I went over to him, my mind racing for a howdy-phrase, but could do no better than, “You doin’ OK?”

He raised his head and I was looking down the mine shafts of his eyes.

His dust-storm-dark face—was narrow and sharp as a woodsman’s blade.  His body, lean as an axe handle, was likely just as hard.

“Yeah . . . I’m good. . . just resting.”  He looked back at the trailer he towed.  “The load of groceries must weigh a hundred pounds—a lot of it is water.”

His foot-long beard, sparse, square and, gray, stretched straight to his chest and matched his pale brown and gray shoulder-length hair.  It was as though the beard of an ancient Asian priest had been glued to the face of a woodsman.  A shark’s tooth on a string peered from the vee of his shirt.  I guessed him to be six feet tall but weighing less than a hundred pounds counting the two knives he wore.

“You living out here in the desert?” I asked.

“I’m here for a few months but I am more of a mountain man.” He hesitated as though deciding whether to go on.

“I am a free man,” he said,his voice so dry it made me thirsty.  The words themselves were made of the sand and gravel of the Arizona desert plain where we stood.  He looked down at my touring bike, then at me.

“Probably the only one you’ve ever known.”

A remarkable statement that was the beginning of a dialog which sprawled over five days.

He occupied himself taking my measure.  He studied my clip-in bike shoes and slowly scanned upward at my Lycra cycling tights, shirt, and bike helmet.  We both rode bikes, but the similarity ended there.  I was from a planet that had a few more amenities than his.

His mountain bike asked no forgiveness from the terrain, its knobby tires could tractor their way through anything.  No department store special, his Diamondback trail bike had quality hardware any serious cyclist would be proud of.  The trailer alone, if it were bought new, would not get change from a $500 bill.

“What’s your name?  I asked.

“Why do you want to know?” was the quick reply.

“No reason.  My name is AL.”  Then added, “I’m no kind of government man.”

He squinted at me for a long second, then said.  “I’m Roy.

“What makes you think I know nothing about freedom?”

“Not like I do.”  He said.  “I’ve lived the better part of 40 years on the ground or the back of a horse.”

“I’ll bet there are a couple of stories there.”  I said.

“There are a lot of stories.  I’ve got them written down.  I’m not stupid, you know.  I have some education.  I might like to get it published if I could figure out how.  I have a lot of stuff.  I don’t want to publish the mountain man stuff.  It is the thoughts, I’ve written down a lot of thoughts.  Kind of like mountain wisdom.”

“I am a writer,” I said, “and an editor and know a lot about how publishing works these days–nothing easy about it–I am writing a blog.  Do you know what a blog is?”

“Sort of,” he said. “A kind of internet journal.”

“I’d talk to you more about writing and publishing but the sun is getting low.” He said.  “You want to come find my camp?

“I’d do that.”  I said.

‘Follow this road, when the paving turns right, go straight onto the dirt.  Go left at the second or third dry wash, I am back in there.”

I asked him to write something, whatever he wanted, 500 words, if I liked it, I will publish it in my blog.

It was after 4 pm.  The temp would soon begin to cool and it would seem the sun was dropping faster.  Darkness comes to the desert like a river of ink.


17 Responses to 1.The Mountain Man

  1. Anne Fox says:

    You’ve caught the spirit, though I’m surprised that writing came up so soon. Looking forward to the next segment.

  2. Helen Herzberg says:

    Sounds like John Muir on wheels.

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    I want more. I see him, I feel him and I want more. OMG, Al- this is amazing..this is good- I mean really good. I’ve met Roy and need to know him. Thank you- thank you!

  4. Colleen Rae says:

    Isn’t it amazing how a writer can make something in real life come alive in writing? You did that. I could see and smell Roy. Thanks. Looking forward to the next installment.

  5. Laila says:

    I love your description of Roy. I could see him, and hear him. What a fine writing.

    Thank you.

  6. Histscape says:

    Wonderful words Al and I read it out loud to my Angel and the words just were so natural. The descriptions were right on. We spent a lot of winters in the Desert of Arizona and Quartzsite. Mine shafts of his eyes, now thats a winning Metaphor.

  7. Tony Bacon says:

    Al, I loved this part of your trip and how interesting he is. How did you know where to find him or did you meet him by accident.
    Tony Bacon

    • allevenson says:


      I was still in Quartzsite and the whole cruise-in jamboree was still in full bloom. There was this sense of no-one-knows-anyone, everyone-knows-everyone pervading the landscape. I gave in to the feeling that everyone was approachable. I had no idea it would lead to such an unusual encounter

  8. Alan stowell says:

    Hola Al!
    Interesting but having known you as a great sailor in PR I am having difficulty digesting your new role as a trailer-T person!
    You do write very well.

    • allevenson says:

      Life aboard a cruising motorhome is very similar to a cruising sailboat but easier. There are rig failures but road service is available. An island-hopping sailor can find more seclusion but I have pals that describe the deep woods the way you and I would describe a hidden cove. Cruising people tend to be more interesting than the average 7-11 clerk and the variety of cruising vessels is endless.

  9. Joe Jones says:

    Ok you got me hooked again, Keep on writing pal I am so looking forward to the next chapter of this interesting encounter.

  10. Good start. Looking forward to the next segment.

    • Greg Wanamaker says:

      Al—be carefull the next time you go in to a 7/11—I just know all those cashiers are reading your BLOG.
      Really good to see and hear you are doing what you want to do so well.

  11. Pure gold. This is the type of encounter that happens possibly once in a lifetime–maybe–if you are fortunate enough. I see this mountain man seems to have swapped a horse for two wheels and pedal power.

    Looking forward to the next two installments, which are already waiting.

  12. I like the photos and your treatment of them. Are you sure it’s not Joaquin Miller? 😉

  13. Catherine Scuderi says:

    I’m not much of a blogger but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. I could definitely picture the whole encounter. Looking forwad to more of Roy!

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