Archived: Buck Rides by Tyler Dalk

Disclaimer: This is the opening chapter to something larger. I like to explore geography – both physical and cultural geography. I like to show the dichotomy between beautiful locations and hideous people (and vice versa). This piece does contain strong and offensive language and potentially triggering sexual situations.

Interstate 5 courses up the western edge of California’s Imperial Valley like a bloated vein on a gangrenous limb. After escaping the Los Angeleno sprawl, it sets its trajectory to wisely bypass Bakersfield and Fresno, preferring the small towns and endless orchards that line the doorstep of the Diablo Mountains. In the winter, the Diablos are fetid and verdant with the coastal rains, but in the summer, they are an opalescent mass of copper-colored crushed velvet as the wild oats wave dryly in the hot winds of the San Joaquin. These miles between California’s coastal poleis are traveled quicker on I-5 than on the Pacific Coast Highway because civilization makes its presence known passively.

The natural beauty and idyllic villages of the Coastal Highway require a slowing of pace and a reanalyzing of schedules. Not so for I-5 and the Imperial Valley, the wonders of which are expressed in concrete and fertilizer. The highway itself is a feat of architectural brilliance, snaking as it does through canyons and valleys; climaxing in spectacular arched viaducts that hug the side of the mountains. Running parallel, the California Aqueduct leaches the water from the northern reaches of the state and spills them among the Valley’s walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, and myriad stone fruit and Cruciferae.

It abruptly rises out of the oppressive conditions, both climatological and socio-economic, of the San Joaquin Valley and plunges through the undulating hills, wind turbines, and cattle ranches that populate the Tri-Valley area. The Tri-Valley is the convergence of the Amador, San Ramone, and Livermore Valleys. It spurs into Interstate 580 just outside the town of Westley. For 80 miles, I-580 runs through the east Bay before marrying and taking the name of Interstate 101 in San Rafael. I-5 runs starkly north and avoids the San Francisco Bay in its entirety. Just as well. The people west of the Altamont Pass are not capable of appreciating it. I-5 is a working man. And the working man has few friends among the woke, self-important, preening effeminati of the Bay Area.

The fire conditions in the Livermore Valley, like those of the rest of the state of California, vary from year to year. One winter’s heavy rains and lush vegetation can become the next summer’s tinderbox. Fires will erupt on the mere suggestion of a spark and, when married with the summer heat and the relentless Diablo Winds, can gorge themselves on 100-acre tracts of hillside in an afternoon. Conditions do not need to be perfect for a fire to erupt. The high winds alone are enough to cause widespread destruction. But a 98-degree day, with the Diablos gusting to 70 miles per hour, punctuating a two-week stretch of rainless days is the sort of thing that sends firefighters to their benzodiazepines. It was just one such day, just two miles up the wall of the valley from the city of Livermore, when Buck Davies flicked the butt of his Camel Menthol 100 out the window of his 2010 Deep Water Blue Pearlcoat PT Cruiser.

A mere quarter of a mile down the 580, he could see the black smoke and the first licks of high flame in his rearview mirror. Fuck em, he thought. Bunch of Bay Area faggots anyway. Call Nancy Pelosi and cry to her. He chuckled to himself and pulled out another cigarette. I ought to sprinkle these fuckers all across the Bay like Johnny fucking Appleseed. Do a helluva lot more good than a bunch of fucking apple trees. Buck hated fruit. If you asked him why, he would have told you that “Fruit is for fags,” but the real reason was that he didn’t encounter a piece of fresh fruit until he was a teenager and associated it with the sort of privileged kids who made his life miserable in every school he attended in every town he lived in during his childhood.

He set his cruise control on 90 and unbuckled his seatbelt. He reached behind the seat, his hand searching blindly among the fast food wrappers and cigarette packs until he located the tub of antihistamine ointment in his backseat. It was already nearly empty and he’d only contracted the rash the previous day. Fresno whores, he thought with the sort of wistful headshake generally associated with memories of a long-dead dog. He’s spent the night at the Motel 6 in Fresno not because he couldn’t make the drive to San Francisco in a single day, but because in the decade that he had been a truck driver in California, he had always had a special place in his heart for the depravity of the prostitutes in Fresno. Must be something in the water.

Unfortunately, his most recent escapade had not lived up to memory. Fentanyl had hit Fresno, a city which to this day only exists because the government has yet to develop means to apply Valtrex by cropduster, like a tsunami. Buck could see it in the vacant stare and near-ecstatic scratching of the front-desk attendant at the Motel 6 (“We’ll Leave the Light on for You…and to keep the roaches out of sight”) and he could feel it in the brick of compacted shit that his cock had given itself a concussion against as he took the half-conscious prostitute to what Buck excitedly called “Pound Town.” Unable to climax, and unwilling to engage in vaginal intercourse, Buck had kicked her out and masturbated dejectedly. I guess it’s true what they say: ‘You can never go home again.’

Biography: My name is Tyler Dalk, and I am a 34-year-old writer originally from Petaluma, California, but raised in Denver, Colorado. My writing style is deeply rooted in my own experiences, exploring dark themes infused with touches of humor. This approach invites readers to confront challenging subjects while still finding moments of levity and amusement. I draw inspiration from many sources, including the beauty and diversity of the United States, which I’ve extensively traveled for work (having visited over 30 states in 2022 alone), the rich tapestry of human emotions, and the captivating stories unfolding around us every day. My goal, whether through my professional pursuits in journalism or my creative writing endeavors, is to enlighten people’s perspectives and inspire them to see the world as it is while striving for it to be as it should be. I will attend Colorado State University in spring ’24 to pursue my Journalism and Media Communication Degree and further develop my storytelling skills across different media and styles. In my free time, I like to hike, cook, travel, see live music, and consult my pineal gland.