Make America Bike Again
Day 22 – Eastern Montana awaits.
Followers of this trail diary know that the regular blogs began about half way into the journey, on day 24. Robert was taking pictures all along, making handwritten journal entries too. Creating a readable blog meant switching from laptop to smart phone and dealing with erratic cell phone service in Idaho and Montana.It was a steep learning curve for an aging cyclist, one who learned to write in an analog world. Since returning to Denver a few weeks ago, he has faithfully documented those early pages, starting from Pre-Launch and continuing to the present.
The result is a trail journal that starts in the middle, reaches a possible ending, but comes back around to pick up what was left behind. An inefficient use of linear time? Definitely. Differing perspectives aren’t necessarily in conflict. Not according to the wisdom of the Ouroboros; that ancient symbol for the fusion of opposites, continuous renewal, and the dual nature of life. It’s the way of the natural world. .
Day 22 was for traveling from Stanford, Montana to a wild camp just beyond Lewiston. Here are some pictures.
Pictured above is a 3d sculpture from the legend of Medusa in Greek Mythology. She was a Gorgon, a dreadful monster of the feminine persuasion, with the power to turn anyone into stone, if they looked into her eyes. Maybe that’s why Robert has his back turned to her in the picture above.
In any event, we were dealing with the Local Gods in this section of Montana. By the end of that day, they were definitely exerting their influence. At the end of the day and right at the top of a long hill, the place where we planned to camp in order to start the morning with a long downhill run, my front tire went flat.
Make America Bike Again – Day 18
Context is important. The “Bicyclist Friendly” sign is posted on the wooden post of stop sign that marks the turnoff onto a dirt road on a remote stretch of Montana State Highway 200, somewhere in between Helena, Missoula, and Great Falls. It’s rather small and has to compete with other, more imposing ones highlighting the dirt road that leads to the town of Ovanda, Montana, population about 50.
The town itself is barely visible from the road. The passing traveler needs some motivation, a reason, to make that turn and come in off the highway. The signs do the job and the town’s engaging merchants do the rest. One informed us that over 1,000 cyclists come into town every summer. It’s right on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. Over the last several decades this bicycle route has gained notoriety as the classic route across this continent. For touring cyclists it can be a summer odyssey.
The signage by the roadside was more than enough to lure the boys off the highway for a second breakfast at the “Stray Bullet Cafe.” Good food, lots of coffee, and charm. The hostess boasted that three generations of family were at work that day. And, the place was packed.
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 it 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.
Robert and Frank
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.
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.
At 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.
Make America Bike Again – Day 40
“You’re going to get wet out there if you leave today!”
It is the lighthearted voice of Donn Olsen, a cheerful generous man and the owner/operator of the Bicycle Bunkhouse. It’s early morning. Grey billowing clouds fill the sky and the sun, nowhere to be seen.
We’re seating at the table in this remarkably dry and cozy space. There’s a hot shower, a fully stock kitchen, and plenty of cots for any number of sleeping cyclists. Donn likes large groups.
So much to be thankful for.
His farm lies along the Northern Tier bicycle trail (Adventure Cycling Association,) just outside of Dalbo, Minnesota. Donn was born there. And, he returned here after his service in the military. His is the signature bicycle hostel, offering bunks, a stocked kitchen, and a hot shower to anyone who can pedal there. Guests are expected to share the accommodations. He only charges for the food and snacks used. Donations accepted. Among the bicycle touring community, his hospitality is legend.
To do the Bicycle Bunkhouse justice, here’s what his renovated barn looks like when the sun is shining.
In response to Donn’s warning, Robert explains our situation and the looming deadline of Friday’s flight back to Denver. They talk about the options. Our host advises us to go off the Northern Tier route. He produces a different map to explain the difference. His suggestion would cut the distance to the airport in half, an easy day’s ride away.
This continuing appearance of trail angels is one of great and unexpected luxuries of travel, balanced astride a bicycle seat. The encounters can become moments of great satisfaction and happiness. In all my years of city life, there is nothing to compare.
Thank you, Donn for your gifts.
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”