• ruthannelphillips

The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos

In 1987 I rode my bicycle across the United States. I went with two of my college buddies, Reagan and Tim. It was something I had always wanted to do. I think Reagan and Tim joined me on a whim.

I had saved one thousand dollars and four hundred of that went to buying my used Trek bicycle. I also needed to buy a plane ticket back. I bought a ten speed, because that is the highest gears they had back then (or at least what I could afford). We had no Internet or cell phones. We used a fold out map and a book of campgrounds to navigate our way across the country.


We mostly followed Route 66, as there are few highways which actually allow bicycles. Our goal was to leave from the Santa Monica Pier in California and end at the steps of the Empire State Building in New York City.


I met Tim and Reagan while taking an archeology class at UCLA. We worked out in the desert, sifting through the soil to find bones and fragments at an ancient Indian site. We worked all day and drank all night, and we would have cow paddy wars. We were surrounded by mounds of cow shit, since the site was squarely in the middle of a cattle ranch.


Our class would have Bon fires and everyone would bring a musical instrument. I brought my harmonica. I can play two songs on it. Still. "Oh Susanna" and "Happy Birthday." But out in the desert, we just made noise. Bongo drums, kazoos, guitars and ukuleles echoed through the mountains.

In the mornings, our professor would check on us in our tents and cars, and make sure we had not drunk ourselves into a coma or wandered off into the desert.


I think of my two friends often. We were the Three Amigos. They gave me my nickname 'Rudy" and life was good.


The last time I saw Tim and Reagan was in Pittsburgh. We got in a fight on our trip and at the time it seemed irreparable, which I guess it was, since I never saw them again. I rode on to Providence, Rhode Island and avoided the big cities and finished my trip solo. Reagan made it to the Empire State Building in New York, and Tim? I am not sure where his bike trip ended.


Tim made his own journey, separated from his friends because of our own pride and arrogance. I knew he had AIDS and I know the trip was hard on him. Back then we did not know the path that disease would take, but it usually ended in death. And ultimately, Tim died too.


The last time I heard from Reagan he was on his way to bike across Europe. I sometimes look for him on Facebook or on the web.


My good and beautiful friends, I've been an ass and I miss you.


God speed, my amigos. God speed.

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