No Services For 88 Miles

Make America Bike Again – Day 14

Imagine a stretch of two-lane highway so remote that there is no gasoline or diesel. No cell phone service either; at least not with Verizon or AT&T. But, if you’re on a touring bicycle carrying your own food, good water and camping gear, it can be more than enough. The scenery, serenity, and the wild freedom of solitude…can actually make it worth while.

After an early start at Kamiah, Idaho, Frank and Robert stopped for a second breakfast at a wide place in the road named Lowell. That’s where Frank discovered that one of the struts that held the front rack to the wheel axle was broken. He put together a band aid fix with zip ties, a needle nosed pliers, and lots of bicycling and engineering experience. Better add inner tubes and a few tools to the above list. And, soon we were off again.

IMG_1378The sign next to Robert and me commemorates a decision by the US Congress not to flood this area with water. This was one of the consequences of the passage of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, which kept the Selway, Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers flowing free. Congress does get it right sometime.

Frank and Robert rode together for most of the day. By mid afternoon the river’s many sand bars looked very inviting. Frank, with his broken front rack, didn’t want to take the time. If it broke apart on a downhill run, that could be dangerous. He kept going toward a campsite named Wilderness Access, while Robert took some time and went for a swim. It was only a day’s ride to the Montana line; time to begin making peace with the Local Idaho Gods.

 

So many sand bars and photo ops along the way. Maybe the other three cyclists would catch up. Instead, Robert met up with four Canadian motorcyclists, two-pairs of fathers and sons, vacationing on their BMW’s. It felt good to see the generations recreating together, and, easy for me to reminisce about my own son, Icarus, and good memories we made when he was growing up on Crete. If you’re at all interested in an exciting recreation of this enduring myth, or would like to know what really happened in the sky that day so long ago…then you should read my story. It’s very good. I know you’ll like it.

The men talked for a time, long enough for the shadows of evening to creep into the canyon. Robert explained that he would be wild-camping that night. It simply means carrying your tent and gear into a remote place, camping out, and leaving no trace. He first learned about it as a young Boy Scout in Ohio. To assist with getting through until morning, one of the motorcyclist fathers provided a liter of water. Everyone said their goodbyes. One by one the power plants of the motorcycles came on, headlamps burned bright, and they were gone, leaving us to the solitude of the canyon and to our own device.

 

 

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How Will the Hidden Gem Appear?

Make America Bike Again – Day 9

 

We follow the Columbia River from one small town to the next. The splendor of the gorge and the imposing volcanoes are behind us. We’re on a broad plateau made of  basaltic lava, disected somehow by the erosional power of a mighty river with geologic time on its side.

 

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Traffic is sparse. The sun is hot. The channel of the river guides us. We’ve even got a bit of a tail wind. So much like yesterday! We cover fifty more miles and in good enough time to reach an eclectic hamburger shop with milkshakes handmade from real ice cream, still open and waiting for us in Umatilla, Oregon.

We stay the night in an RV campground. As we sit down to dinner with our propane stoves and our freeze dried food, the trail angel appears. Her name is Judi this time. She’s a walnut farmer from California, traveling the country in her RV. She offers wine, cheese, and of course, walnuts to share. All she wants in return is to be serenaded. Gerry gets his guitar and we sing songs together, long after the wine is gone.

It was an amazing evening, a hidden gem. Even the Local Gods were entertained and that’s a good thing, because the border with Washington is just a few miles away.

 

Eagles in the Sky

Make America Bike Again – Day 2

Our first full day on the road, the earth seemed to reach out and welcome us. By mid-morning a hazy sun presided over a deep blue sky. It was the right temperature for bicycling, never getting hot and staying in the 70’s. Before it ended we would leave Astoria behind, travel about 40 miles and camp at a flyspeck of a campground called Gnat Creek. Twice that day eagles soared aloft. We could see them easily: two over a wetland area at mid-day, and two more over our campsite that evening. What an omen! What a day!

It is a short ride from Fort Stevens to Fort Clatsup, a national park commemorating the completion of the Lewis & Clark expedition. There are some statues and historical reconstructions. Lewis and Clark spent a full winter in this area, with Sacajawea’s connections and guidance, before returning to St Louis.

IMG_1204At the park we met two very curious and friendly volunteers. They wanted Robert to complete a survey. They wanted to know who we were and where we were going. He explained that he was a writer, always looking for characters and scenes for his next book. They wanted his card. (His latest book is an acclaimed work of historical fiction set in ancient Greece.) One host replied that she loved history and was an avid reader. This was just the first day! Already, we were connecting with others along the way, sharing our stories, and growing the network of readers.

Eagles are chief among the winged creatures. They soar, not just in the highest reaches of the sky, but nearest to the gods. In Greek mythology eagles are the bird of choice for carrying messages and directives from Zeus. With their help the King of the Gods gained control over thunder and lightening. He used an eagle to carry out the punishment of Prometheus. And, he used a pair of them to determine the proper location for the Oracle at Delphi.

In so many traditions and cultures, the eagle has been used to represent strength, leadership, and vision. I believe that today’s eagles are messengers. To encounter them at the beginning of an adventure or journey such as this one, is both invitation and blessing. (My ancestor was a demigod. I know these things.) I believe that Robert and each of his friends is being offered a wellspring of courage and vision from the natural world, to empower both their individual dreams and the collective quest of this bicycle tour. The energy will follow them, whether the path is an asphalt road or goes deep within.

 

“Icarus, Nice Wings!” The Art of Emancipation

Wings have the power to elevate; not just the pilot, but the reader and the onlooker too.  Writers, artists, and poets have inspired with these images since the beginnings of time and art. The ancient Greeks provided us with the archetypal story of the first flight. From high school Mythology class I knew the first flyer as Icarus,”the boy with wings who flew too close to the sun.” I could feel that the same fire within me.

artist: Frank Frazetta

That myth remains forever modern – singing its song of independence, freedom, and sometimes the tragic vigor of youth.

Icarus was fortunate in one regard. His wings were a gift from his father, a famous inventor/scientist named Daedalus. And, even if the father’s warning was ineffective…the one about not flying too high…Icarus clearly had his father’s blessing. Which brings us to the heart of this blog post.

Greek postage stamp
Greek stamp

For me, high school was in Northeastern Ohio. It was 1970, a time and place in which law and culture coalesced to pressure all young men into college, the military, or jail. On a Monday morning in May and just a few miles down the road from my high school, four students were shot and killed at Kent State University. Nine were wounded. The bullets were fired…not by Islamic extremists…but by members of our community, heavily armed and wearing US Army uniforms. It was my first mass casualty event. I would graduate in June.

Two years later the military draft became a lottery. Blessed with a high number, I dropped out of college and took to the metaphorical skies. It would be my emancipation…from dependent youth into free thinking and independent man...a year of traveling throughout Europe and the Mediterranean by thumb and backpack, falling in love, and beginning the research that would l inspire and inform my writing and my parenting. The wings that carried me aloft and into that journey were a gift; one given to myself. Selfish? Perhaps, but I assert that young men instinctively look to their elders for guidance on how best to emancipate. The window is short. Parents

artist: Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta

The inherent weakness of the gun model for emancipation is the one size fits all approach. Too many lonely young men foolishly mistake guns for their own budding manhood, get angry, and fire away at peers and teachers in public school settings. In my lifetime the list of mass casualty events has grown far too long. As a father with grown children, I strongly recommend the wing builder option. It’s highly individualized, much less destructive than gunfire, and time honored for empowering the heart and soul of a youth.

Wings have always been meant for flying in the light and warmth of the sun. 

For more about the story of Icarus and Daedalus, I recommend a page-turning reinterpretation  of the first flight: Icarus and the Wing Builderhttps://goo.gl/EkySso

Signed:  Daedalus     February 3, 2017