Following the Sun

Following the Sun by John Hanson Mitchell

Book: Following the Sun by John Hanson Mitchell Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Hanson Mitchell
found a good restaurant under the arcades where we shared a roast suckling pig. I was hoping he’d forget our evening plans, and in fact after the third course he began reminiscing about our old friendship in the United States and what each of us had been doing since college days when we had lost track of one another. He thought my expedition a mad lark and began grilling me on its purpose.
    â€œYou mean to say you’ve got some idea you’re going to find the essence of the sun on this trip?” he asked.
    â€œIt’s just a pilgrimage. You know all about pilgrimage here in Spain, Santiago de Compostela, the romerías , the gypsy pilgrimage to Roccio and all that.”
    â€œYes, but where’s your center? Pilgrims are always going to some actual place.”
    â€œWell, I’ll find it. It’s somewhere north of here, at the end of the rainbow.”
    â€œBy God, I’d like to do that. Throw it all over, hit the road, as they say, ride all day, quench one’s thirst by night, free at last.”
    I was dreading what was to come next.
    â€œI’ve got an idea,” he said, pensively. “What if I were to come with you?”
    â€œYou’d hate it,” I said. “Up every morning, ride roads with dangerous trucks, sleep in cold meadows.”
    â€œFreedom.”
    â€œNo. Rain. Days of rain. Broken equipment. Flat tires. Look at me, I’ve lost weight. I’m gaunt with hunger.”
    â€œWell, maybe just a jaunt. A week or two. I’ve a bike somewhere.”
    I nodded. I couldn’t say no to my old friend, but I figured he’d forget by the next day.
    He went off to work in the morning, and I began scouring the city for a derailleur, which by late afternoon I had found and installed. I went back to the apartment and had coffee with Griggs’s wife, Desdemona. She was a pleasant woman with a wide circle of women friends, who seemed much amused by her American husband. At home in their third-floor apartment, she and Griggs played very well the role of the quiet bourgeois couple, setting out a fine table and offering me sherries in cut glass. But I could tell it was only another act in the theater of Mr. Timothy Griggs and for all I knew, the life of Desdemona as well—she had darting black eyes and a worldly air. He brought up the idea of joining me again at dinner and Desdemona seemed to like the idea very much, possibly to be rid of him for a few weeks.
    â€œI’ll join you at Burgos,” Griggs said. “We’ll ride out to Santiago in the pilgrim style. Fix our hats with cockle shells like true mendicants and ride through winds and rain,” he announced.
    â€œIt will indeed be rainy, probably windy too, but really, I’m not going that way.” I said. “It’s too far west. I want to get up into France by April.”
    â€œWell then we’ll meet at Hendaya, go up to Biarritz along the coast and stroll the promenades in the old style. I shall wear white flannels.”
    â€œNot what I had in mind, Griggs, I was going to follow the old Santiago pilgrim route north.”
    â€œThere’s a great beach there, though. Sun. It’s one of the old-fashioned sun spots of decadent Europe.”
    â€œI know, but I want to keep moving. I want to get to Scotland by June.”
    â€œScotland?” he shouted. “Why in God’s name would one want to go to Scotland? But never mind. I shall meet you in France, in Bordeaux. We’ll ride up through the Médoc and drink at the vineyards.”
    There was no dissuading him, so I arranged to call him in a week to see if he still wanted to come, and promised to meet him in Hendaya and ride up along the coast for a bit.
    Early the next morning, a gray day with lowering clouds in the north, I set out once more, dodging trucks and buses to get to the narrow road heading toward the old university city of Salamanca. I was thinking of Gil Blas, the picaresque

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