Hidden Gem

Make America Bike Again – Day 6

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the Little Prince, “Is that somewhere it hides a well…”                    Antoine de Saint-Exupery

By this same logic, a bicycle tour is beautiful because of the hidden gems that are revealed along the way. One of these gems has got to be the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Yes. It’s true that during the summer there are many tourists, RV’s, and trucks. That just lends support for touring it on a bicycle.

Another reason for the bicycle preference is that just a few miles down the road … between the towns of Hood River and “The Dalles…” the Historic Columbia River Highway becomes hiker/biker only. There’s an invigorating blend of climbing into sunlit Oregon forest, views that compel a stop, and finally, an exhilarating descent into the river valley below. The pictures speak volumes.

Look at the craftsmanship in the 100 year old guardrail pictured in the header. What a narrow roadway! This was one of the first public highways built in the Pacific Northwest. Construction began in 1913…about the same time that Henry Ford began making automobiles affordable. According to the highway engineer for the project, it was designed to make: “Those points where the most beautiful things along the line might be seen in the best advantage, and if possible to locate the road in such a way as to reach them.”

The incredible stretch of downhill roadway in the picture above could easily be mistaken for a location somewhere along Europe’s Mediterranean. To feel it through the tires of a balanced and stable touring bike was a joy. To ride with the knowledge that there could be no cars or trucks following to close behind, with their irritated and distracted drivers, just adds to the moment. This stretch of highway called the Historic Columbia River Highway is truly a gem, waiting to be discovered along the Lewis & Clark trail.

When the highway was conceived, its purpose was to build access to places of great natural beauty. Now, one hundred years later the balance has shifted. Within the more popular national parks and scenic areas, waiting for a parking space with the engine running and the air-conditioner on, is the norm. There are many good reasons for remembering how much fun it can be to ride and travel on a bicycle.

 

 

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Columbia River Gorge

Make America Bike Again – Day 5

Touring bicycles travel close to the earth. Loaded with gear the days roll by at about 10 or 12 miles an hour. It is a relatively slow speed, perfect for unplugging from the digital world and just right for noticing the little things in the natural world, with all of the senses engaged. Maybe that’s why cyclists smile a lot. On day 5 we would make just 28 miles. The pace was particularly slow that, but IMG_1265it wasn’t our fault. We were beset with overflowing beauty at every turn. It was a day of climbing into panoramic views, followed by the twisting road of an inevitable descent into shadow, forest, and the scent of old leaves. We were touring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is a must see and experience for the touring cyclist and bicycle.

 

By evening we reached another of Oregon’s fine network of campgrounds with hiker/biker sites in the town of Cascade Falls. An Adventure Cycling Association tour group of about 15 riders was already there setting up camp. We were right on the river, and a local brew pub a short walk away.

By the time we returned to the campground, the ACA group had already started a campfire. For the second time in as many days Gerry got out his guitar and many voices rose in song.

Epiphanies and Inopportune Times

A sold out show…

and I have a ticket. A favorite author is presenting tonight at the University of Denver. Nothing to do but wait; until the sun has set, the dogs have finished eating, and rush-hour traffic has faded away. These things complete I can head over to campus, search for parking and finally, engage with the evening. Wet shadowy sidewalks fall away beneath my intentional pace. I’m eager to feel the light and warmth just inside the doors of the Newman Center Auditorium. The corner of the last block passes beneath my feet. I’m going to make it! And then, the flash of a visual epiphany in the corner of my eye. It dares me to stop, turn and take a moment. I can be so relentless when the goal is near at hand. Just keep walking, straight ahead, but then I look back to catch a glimpse. Not even seeing the front steps of the building, which are coming up fast, maybe too fast… Continue reading “Epiphanies and Inopportune Times”

“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