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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Separation

Make America Bike Again – Day 13

It would be a fifty mile day, ending at an RV campground near Kamiah, Idaho. The canyon opens up at Kamiah. The Forest Service has an office there. That’s where Frank and Robert waited for the others to catch up, to come riding through the last curve in the road. Still no cell phone service; not in this part of Idaho. When the last of the employees left the parking lot for the day, they did too.

The day had begun in Myrtle Village, a lovely USFS campground carved out of tall cedars on a bend of the Clearwater River. As the touring cyclists set up their tents Don asked the camp host about the possibility of buying beer from some of the RV campers. Without much of a reply, Norm climbed into his golf cart and left, reappearing with a grin and a bunch of beers on the front seat next to him. He passed them around and shared a good story about unintended consequences, having once won a camp host hospitality award and then had to travel to Washington DC to receive it.

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They didn’t have a campfire that night. Didn’t need one. Robert has a story he likes to tell about changing his name from “Bob” during one of those midlife challenges. Didn’t tell it. He had already told that one earlier in the trip. Instead he asked Norm, the oldest one in the circle, how he had become a man. Norm didn’t hesitate. He explained that it happened rather late in life. He said with pride that he had become a man by learning to love his second wife.

It turned out that most of these aging cyclists, manhood had begun with a similar kind of heart-opening experience. Gerry and his wife had adopted and raised a daughter. Frank had raised a son. For Don, it was winning custody of his son and daughter, and then raising them alone. Robert had a similar story about raising and emancipating his children. Frosty listened and then shared his view: that manhood had arrived through the exploits of his single years, after he and his first wife divorced.

They talked and laughed while the last beer disappeared. As darkness filled the canyon a group of coyotes raised their voices in song, messing with the camp dogs.  When things finally quieted down, everyone was ready to call it a day.

Frank is the group’s early riser. As usual he was first up, first packed and first on the road. Robert and I weren’t far behind. Gerry was next. Don and Frosty hung back together in the parking lot. We wouldn’t see them again for two days.

Hello Idaho

Make America Bike Again – Day 12

This picture was taken with Robert’s IPhone camera by an entrepreneur from the Washington side of the border. A techie from Seattle, perhaps?

No. He was a retail marijuana shop owner. He advised us to turn around and go back to his shop in Clarkson, Washington in order to stock up. “You’ll get busted for sure if you try to buy anything over here.”

As he returned the camera, Robert said, “Most of us are from Colorado. There’s plenty of pot back home. But, we only put good clean air in our lungs.” They laughed together, talked about places to eat in Lewiston, and went their separate ways.

Before Lewiston, the morning had been spent riding in the sparse traffic and warm sunshine of southeastern Washington. The hills wore a rugged beauty, draped in the colors of wheat or alfalfa.

 

 

 

After Lewiston, the highways became busy with construction and trucks for the first few miles until we reached Forest Service land. All the bikes carried long, flexible poles with at least one reflective flag at the end. That’s me on the upper left with the orange one. It can get quite creative. Gerry has the flag of Ireland. Frank, a string of Tibetan prayer flags. Don tops his array off with a US flag. Frosty has a sign. Five cyclists, all at least 60 in age. All in pursuit of good health and happiness and inspired living. For that to transpire, each one must be capable of being seen from a long way off by approaching traffic. When the shoulders get narrow and the traffic heats up, flags and reflective clothing are essential. Hello Idaho, were here, thousands of nonpolluting touring bicycles and their cyclists crisscrossing your beautiful state every summer.

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.

 

Touch The Earth

Make America Bike Again – Day 8

Yesterday, we reconciled with the Local Gods. We rose early, loaded up our gear, and left Oregon’s Interstate highway system behind. Waiting for us on the other side of the Columbia River was smooth road, sparse traffic, and a nice little tailwind.

An easy forty mile day was unfolding. Nothing but two-lane blacktop all the way to Roosevelt, Washington. On the map it looks tiny. Once there, we found a cafe/store with delicious hamburgers, friendly people, and a campground that wasn’t even listed on our ACA map. An excellent day came to a close with a full moon rising above the Columbia River.

 

Honor The Local Gods

Make America Bike Again – Day 39

From Alice’s Attic there’s only about 80 miles of county highway to cover. Then, nothing but asphalt all the way to the airport through Minneapolis’ extensive bicycle trail system. We have two full days to do it. After the miles Robert and I have covered, should be like a downhill slide.

Except for one thing. The weather report calls for two days of rain and thunder showers.

We have to be at the airport on Friday morning. At least, Robert does. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be disassembled, boxed up, and shipped back to Denver by then. I know it seems unfair. But, really, I could use a break. I’ve been holding him up by the shorts every day for the last 39 days.

You get the picture.IMG_1540

Can you see the water drops falling off the roof? It’s raining right now!

We have encountered local spirits in every state we’ve crossed. If they like you, they simply don’t want you to leave. And, they generally like us the touring cyclists. We move so slowly across the land.

(I know these things. Daedalus, my namesake, was descended from a line of demigods. One reaching all the way back to Hephaestus and Demeter. She is the goddess of agriculture and the harvest. He’s the god of craftsmen and artists, metals and the forge, and by logical extension, volcanoes.)

Out of Oregon we faced high winds. Idaho, it was brush and forest fires. Exiting Montana I had a broken chain. A flat tire on the way out of North Dakota. Now, two days of rain.

Robert’s the one with the opposable thumbs. I do hope he finds a way to appease the local gods.

Pre Trip Planning

From Astoria Oregon to Akron Ohio

Here we are riding up Independence Pass between Twin Lakes and Aspen. It was mid September. The aspens golden. The summer tourists gone. Nearer to the top we stopped on the narrow shoulder and admired the view. Up ahead a car sweeping down the pass heads towards us. It slows to walking speed, slow enough for a woman on the passenger side of the climate-controlled SUV to open her window and ask, “Are you all right?”

Blue Sky and Golden Aspens
Independence Pass, Colorado

“Never better!” Robert replied, smiling and returning her gaze.

It was our first bike packing tour. In that moment on Independence Pass, I knew that we would one day be doing more tours together. Denver to Aspen over 5 mountain passes and camping along the way. What I didn’t understand then, is that I, the touring bicycle, I would become the voice of these adventures.

My name is Daedalus. My namesake  was an accomplished inventor and craftsman in ancient Greece, and the first man to fly. He made his reputation by building a maze under the palace of a Minoan king to house the dangerous Minotaur.  It was several millennia before the lives of deVinci or the Wright brothers. But, Daedalus never received much credit or recognition for it. His spirit must be restless. Because he seems to have found his voice in me, a Novarra Mazama touring bicycle made by REI.

Independence Pass was several years ago. The time for that next adventure is almost here. With four friends we will soon be leaving on the bicycle adventure of Robert’s lifetime, from Astoria, Oregon to Akron, Ohio, his hometown. We’re not out to set speed records. This is for pleasure, for unplugging from the drama and stress. Robert would like his parents to enjoy it as well. They’re still living together in Akron. Neither one is able to travel anymore. Hopefully, they will recognize and vicariously enjoy the journey into the heartland of this magnificent land. My goal is to search for beauty and inspiration while pedaling through each day. The best of it I will share on this blog and on a Facebook page of the same name. Curious? Why don’t you follow along?

 

 

 

 

“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