The Land of the Guns and the Home of the Fear

“You travel with protection don’t you?” asked the man outside the post office. “You know… a gun? A hunting knife? A big hammer or something?”

“Um… well no…” I replied, taken aback. “We have the dogs I suppose.”

“You are a braver man than me,” he said, an unfaltering wall of intensity. “Aren’t you scared of being attacked?”

“Attacked by who?”

“Crazy people!” he said with a trace of indignation entering his voice. “Crazy people are everywhere. I sleep with a gun under my pillow. I would never leave the house without my tazer.”

The man, a Michael J. Fox-esque bastion of middle America, lifted up his sports jacket. A tazer was indeed sitting upon his belt, sheathed and poised to defend against the crazed masses.

“Make sure you always camp in well lit areas…” he continued. “I’m serious! You’re not going near the border are you?”

“Yeah… actually…”

“Man, be careful!” he interrupted. “You should be carrying a hammer or something. Those crazy Mexicans will slit your throat for a dollar. These are hard times in America.”

The sun hadn’t set on our first day of cycling in America and I was already being told to arm myself with guns… knives… hammers? Was cycling across America really so dangerous? And when in American history did open resentment of black people transfer over to Hispanics?

Several days later we pulled over to a roadside diner in rural Florida on an icy morning. The sight of smoke and smells of grease lured us into a hut lined with license plates and confederate flags. A plaque proclaiming the right to carry concealed weapons commanded the line of sight upon entry.

We had only just opened our styrofoam containers loaded with hearty servings of biscuits and grits when a family walked in. Word of our bicycle trip with dogs came quickly to their notice and the father in the camouflage hunting cap began questioning us.

“You two carrying a gun?” he soon asked, as if this was as an everyday follow up to how’s it going? and how ‘bout this weather?”

“I wouldn’t even know how to use a gun,” Zoa replied, trailing off into laughter.

“Well there’s not much to it,” the man said with amusement at this strange breed of city folk. “You just point it and pull the trigger!”

The daughter, a picture of blonde cheerleading innocence, weighed into the conversation by lifting her purse towards us.

“I bought a gun only the other day,” she said. “A woman down the road sold it to me real cheap. I carry it everywhere with me.  You got to be ready to protect yourself.”

“Against who?” Zoa asked. (I hadn’t passed on the enlightenment from the Tazer Man at this stage.)

“You know… against bad people!” the father added with a hearty laugh.

As we continued pedaling west through Florida past giant ‘correctional facilities’ and teams of prisoners cleaning toilets and collecting roadside rubbish, the warnings continued.

The most intriguing warning of all though didn’t come until a small farming town in Texas. A retired lady had finally exhausted exchanging her favourite quilting tips with Zoa, when the talk turned to the local wildlife of the Texas Hill Country.

“There are panthers in these here hills and they can be mighty dangerous. If you happen upon one,” she said pointing to Paco, “you have to be prepared to throw that little dog of yours at the panther and run.”

We scanned her face for traces of sarcasm. None registered.

For a country so wrapped up in its own ideas of freedom, it is amazing how many Americans are choked by fear. Maybe we are passing along in our own little happy cycling bubble, but as we continue across the country we are meeting nothing but generous folks who go out of their way to help us out.

Footnote: Now that we have written about how friendly everyone is, it would be fitting that we shall be mugged sometime in the following week. So to all you crazy folks out there, be warned. We are armed with spare spokes and a multi-tool and we are not afraid to use them…

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15 thoughts on “The Land of the Guns and the Home of the Fear

  1. Loved this posting so much! Yeah, I think the contradiction can simply be explained in one word “indoctrination”. Basically people (mostly in rural poor areas, mostly in the South and Midwest) have been indoctrinated – you need a gun to protect yourself. Look at the movies, the video-games, the TV programs, what the pastor says! Guns are everywhere so one has to have one not be left behind. But most folk are really very kind people. We had the same kinds of experiences while cycling the US, very generous friendly people going out of their way to help us, no strings attached, but also driving big pick-up trucks and carrying guns while going to church to pray. Same people, no conflicts in their minds about any of it! Amazing. I think they just want to fit in their social environment and they simply don’t question or analyse their choices. They go with whatever the flow is supposed to be, period.

    Hugs to you guys! Be safe and spread our own gospel – be happy and let be happy!

    Maria

    PS: We did have an “encounter” once in Oregon. Big nasty pick-up truck wanting to run over us… not nice. Big pick-up trucks are also guns in my opinion. Better than a gun, don’t confront the “bad ones”.

    • Thanks Maria. You sum it up very well. A contradiction of indoctrination. It is a strange phenomenon.
      Sorry to hear about the pick-up truck in Oregon. Did it actually try and swerve towards you on purpose?! We find SUV’s to be the most aggressive overall… as a rash generalisation. For some reason semi-trailers have been the most courteous (bar one close call in Spain).

      Hugs back. We are slowly heading back towards Vancouver by the way 🙂

  2. Having hitch-hiked/train hopped across Canada and back, I can honestly say the best defensive weapon i’ve been glad to keep ‘neath my pillow has been a bright, pocket sized flashlight. Most “predators” will only try to farm your belongings at night, and a good blast to the eyes with a few thousand candle watts tends to send them off like startled vampire bats. Personally, though, I’d think that a couple of loyal four legged companions would be deterrent enough.

    Stay safe,

    V.

    • Hi V. I’m sure the dogs are deterrent enough, or would at least make a funny surprise if someone ever tried to open up our tent on a cold night 🙂 Can you imagine?
      Yeah, a blast to the eyes with some light is always off-putting. Normally it has been the other way around for us with cops shining headlights on our tent when we have been caught wild camping. Nice way to wake up…

  3. Hey hey ,I saw your travelling show when you passed through St John de Luz(France) a few years ago, and often wondered where you would have gotten to,I stopped briefly and asked where you were headed (at time you were wandering Europe).I was cycling a day away from my destination at the time.
    Funny how the pair of you have stuck in one’s minds and I imagine many.
    good on you both and as I have just found CGOAB.com I was looking for some info with travelling with a dog and recognised a hint of your road name…
    Best wishes and the world is a safe place with a bit of common sence as you know,I am poor dude on old bike hahaha..

    • Hi Jon,
      Cool. Thanks for hunting us down. Cycling France seems so long ago. How did your trip finish? Any travel plans brewing at the moment?
      Well, really nice to hear from you and hope we could give you a little insight into cycling with dogs.
      Cheers & fire away if you ever have any Q’s.
      Fin & Zoa 🙂

  4. I love this post.

    But now I have to add cheerful cheerleaders with purse guns to my list of things I’m afraid of.

  5. I carry a gun…two guns to be exact! *kisses each bicep*
    Yeah…these’ll protect me from the bad people!

    It was such a pleasure meeting you four! I’ve still got a small portion of that chocolate left just waiting to be gobbled up!
    I hope your travels are still treating you well. Stop by if you ever come back to Portland! We could all take a trip to Breitenbush 🙂

    Cindy

    • 🙂 I wouldn’t mess with your guns! Nor your iron fists from massaging.

      You have far too much self control if you still have chocolate left. We would love to come back to Portland and Breitenbush one day. I want my hot spring! Lovely to meet you!

      F&Z

      PS I’ll have a look at your blog. If wordpress is bugging you I’ll try and answer any questions you have.

  6. Hi there. Just stumbled across your blog. Did a road trip in the states myself last year (i’m british) n found pretty much the same as you guys- everyones so friendly but terrified! I blame Fox news.
    I even had one fellow cycle tourist force pepper spray on me- she was carrying spares! I wouldnt have a clue where to get pepper spray in the uk.
    Setting off on my next trip in september across europe. Scared of the weather not the people!
    I’ll try n catch you on your uk tour. Happy peddling
    Sarah x

    • Hi Sarah. We also received the complimentary pepper spray in the US 🙂 Never used it, but I was scared of mis-firing it into my own face.
      Where are you going to cycle in Europe? We’re in Wales so we are a little scared of the weather ourselves right now.
      Cheerio.

  7. Hello! Pagaso Springs, Durango, Molas Pass, Chaco Canyon, Cortez. Keep in touch! Got your home made New Year’s card. I have had do use my gun to defend my life several times now. Once in awhile a gun is nice. Cavemandan the old Curmudgeon!

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