Cheerios on the French Broad River

I always dreamt of hiking the Appalachian Trail, so after spending the 4th of July in NYC I booked a one way flight to Charlotte, NC. I rented a mini cargo van as the most practical means to navigate remote Appalachia at my whim, while also providing a secure and mobile place to sleep amidst the unplanned, unfamiliar, and remote travel ahead.

I later made my way to Asheville, NC deciding to rent a bike to explore town and Pisgah National Forest. I googled some shops, but the rates were high, the availability low. I called some places on Craigslist, leaving messages since no one picked up. The odds weren’t looking good. I was getting fed up with the hunt so I took a break to get some food at one of the local craft breweries.

While sipping a juicy IPA, I received a hilarious text from someone named “Brewce” using an unfamiliar number. The relationship escalated quickly when he text me a risqué photo of a bike he had for rent. I called him and set a time to swing by. He promised to meet all my requirements for time, equipment, and price…”no problem.” It seemed too good to be true.

I drove over to his little unit in a storage facility just before the posted closing time. Brewce had the bike set up ready to go. Brewce, had steel-blue eyes, effortless shoulder length salt and strawberry hair, and like many cyclists, was trim, had perfect thrift-store style, sun-kissed skin, and an ageless smile.

Friendship is an unexpected thing, part vulnerability, part circumstance, one hundred percent magic.

When you connect with a stranger who immediately makes you curiously aware of your weaknesses and strengths, your frustrations and your passions, the before and after of your life disappear. Whatever you had imagined as possible is changed forever.

Brewce’s rawness and humility stripped me bare, and wrapped me in generosity and humor. What was left was space, infinite space, free of secret scripts, and imagined barriers. The byproduct of that vulnerability was intimacy, the intimacy that exists in friendship that usually takes years to build. This mirror allowed us to appreciate one another as part of the same beautiful, ridiculous whole.

I ended up renting the bike and staying in Asheville for longer than I had anticipated thanks to Brewce’s hilarity, hospitality, and friendship.

One day, Brewce invited me to join him and his girlfriend to go floating on the tree-lined French Broad River. Jennie Lou was a voluptuous and radiantly lively women with a personality that matched her curves. She was the woman I imagined Brewce would be with, a woman the original Hollywood dames would have drank  beer with. There we were under a highway bridge drinking beers as we chatted and filled up inner-tubes. It begin to rain, but just the perfect amount for a float in the hot, humid days of a Blue Ridge summer. The regal, yet flat and muddy French Broad was unlike the creeks and dry drainage channels we have in deserts and mountains of Southern California where I am from.

We carried on like old friends as we drank beers and enjoyed the cloud-filled sky, cool water, and warm intermittent rain. Brewce told stories as we drifted down the river like tied-up Cheerios in a bowl of chocolate milk: A woman drove off the bridge landing there four years ago. They just removed the car last year. Our place is over there. It’s kind of a dump, but it’s cozy and the landlord doesn’t suck. Home prices/rents have skyrocketed due to the breweries and artist moving in.

We landed at a perfectly situated river adjacent saloon where we dried off and enjoyed beer and food as banjo music played.

On my last day in Asheville I stopped by Brewce’s shop to say goodbye. The bike, the money I handed him, formalities. I told him he should charge more. I had found so much more than an affordably priced bike on Craigslist. We drank a few beers in his shop, and generally just enjoyed each other’s company and existence as we floated in the river of life that makes up this vast, mysterious world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.