Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22 - Lake Bistineau, Louisiana


On wheeled machine, maximally efficient,
A wheedler, a creeper, a crawler, a dawdler,
Across and to whatever willed.
Long with us, long valued, with us still,
And proudly had as choice fulfilled.

A pack horse, a conveyance simple,
For some, a flying machine,
Though this by all be not easily seen,
As with those of the slanted gaze
The more by motors amazed.

A slowing machine;
This wheedler, this creeper, crawler, dawdler,
And it is slow we need,
Let’s collectively concede.

We have the fast, the plenty, the many,
Our usual choices and constant change.
We’re pointed, we prefer, we push, we plan.
Harried we be, many the man .
We go and go, more of the same
The best available, we often claim.
Possibly, though, a limited where, a limited there!
This pattern perceived, none nurturing fare.

Pass that person with friendly wave,
Or sober visage grave,
Never will you them know, though,
Until slower, each of you go.

Run in falling rain
Get only slightly wet,
From this water, only frontally met.

A simple thing, touring,
On a wheeled machine so efficient,
Wheedling, creeping, crawling, dawdling,
Across and to whatever willed.
Fleshing, threshing for this missed more;
A willed, wheeled trip deeper possible
For those so postured,
Both in and out.

Pat Sewell

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15, Wednesday, Lake Bistineau

I’m home, hard by the A/C, breathing deeply trying to pull in some cool. It’s 102 degrees outside. The sun beats down, palpably hot to the touch, cooking plants and small animals instantly. Heat rises from the dusty earth, shimmering, simmering, setting this place on uninhabitable for the sentinent and the sensible. And I wonder, can I include this consequence in my insurance settlement? “He was sent back to Louisiana in July and August, your Honor, against his will and intent, ripped from a containing coolness on the open road and thrust protesting into that furnace without time to prepare.” Should be worth at least a multiple of that for a leg lost.

Most important body parts returned with me. I did leave some basic trust behind at the crash site but, while important, it is weightless. The kindness of people at the scene, at the hospital and of those since have restored much of the basic trust lost. Sherrie’s cousin, Zondra, and her husband, Wally Gunneck, came for us, retrieving broken bike and body, then fed and cared, taking us ultimately to my daughter, Sauny’s, father-in-law, Jim McWethy, and Robin’s home in Minneapolis. They finished the good works towards us with their food and kindness, and we made it home July 14, bike and gear to follow.

The trip is over as shockingly quick as it is hot here. My mind hasn’t shifted all the way back yet, that “here but not here totally yet” thing, the very thing touring on a bike is antidote to. I’m recovering quickly with increased ability to walk and move each day. Looks to be true that the broken collarbone is the only enduring consequence I’ll have. Not bad for a 60+ mph collision with a car. I’ll take it. Plan to see if my clavicle needs plating surgically to speed recovery and rehab. Lance Armstrong had his plated. We both ride bikes, and I did pass him one day when I had a tailwind, though he’ll tell you he was in France that day.

The trip was a grab bad containing many delights, an accordion played with sweet and sour notes, a rodeo to be read on many levels.

It was worth it in every sense. Dave and I had a great time together. We’re both more fit and have added immeasurably to our trove of memories together. We met and enjoyed many people of similar mind and inclinations. We went as deep and slow as long as allowed and feel the better for it. Our appetite has been stimulated, not quenched - despite its ending. We’ll tour again, and we will communicate with some of those we’ve met. Hopefully, we will retain our fitness and our optimism and trust. We will be more careful if we can figure out how to be. I’m thinking a circumnavigation of Ireland next summer. Stay tuned.

Pat Sewell

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12, McGregor, Minnesota

Now I can say today for sure, despite the overuse of the phrase, this be another case of best laid plans gone awry.

Dave and I were eastbound on Hwy. 2, four miles east of Fosston, Minnesota, riding to the extreme right side, right lane of the four-lane highway. It was a clear day, visibility unlimited, dry road surface. We were humming along with a major tailwind, feeling the power and claiming it as our own. Life was good and obstacles non-existent. Then things got curiouser and curiouser right quick. An automobile traveling 60 mph or so slammed into the rear of my bicycle throwing me ultimately to the pavement after a few important in-between interactions with that automobile. It was driven by a woman my age - so she was certainly not old - who had not seen us until the last moment at which time she swerved to miss us, too late to miss us but soon enough to not run right over us. Subsequent to striking me, she spun a few times and ended up facing west in the median, while Dave and I ended up in a tangle of bodies and bikes.

The car’s front right fender was pushed in, the headlight smashed and, likewise, the windshield as if it had struck a large deer. The rear rack of my bike was crushed, left side pannier ruptured, the left axle on the rear wheel sheered off and a significant dent put in the aluminum cross tube. The rear tire blew out spontaneously 20 minutes later. The frame was bent. Reconstructing the impact from the damage to the car and bike, it appears that the rack put the light out, my buttocks bent the fender and my shoulder smashed the windshield. The car also struck my left calf muscle, knocking my foot out of the toe clip and tearing some ligaments in my left ankle. Extensive bruising and swelling is the chief result of this run-in. Couldn’t have picked a better body part to encounter the car. When the windshield was struck, my left collarbone was broken - the only bone damage. Can hardly object to this outcome; no head and no spine damage. David was brought low by the cannonball I had become, bouncing off the car and suffering some loss of skin. His bicycle was not damaged. He landed on top of me. I’m glad I was able to cushion his fall, being ever the sacrificial one.

It is a cautionary tale. We had become complacent in retrospect. So many miles, so many cars behind us, and we had been missed every time until then. We had ridden narrow shoulders with heavy traffic many times without incident. But it is clearly a gamble, obvious to anyone thinking clearly; a roll of the dice! One motorist looking down or talking on their cell or just drowsy and inattentive and bam! Sobering! I don’t have the final conclusion yet, but I do feel very fortunate to be here writing this.

We hate it that we are not able to complete the trip. And Dave’s family and Cristina will not allow him to go on now, so it’s home soon and for me, rehab. I think the mule is totaled but maybe rehab for it, too.

Pat Sewell

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10, 6:30 p.m., Mentor, Minnesota

As the sign says, we’re in Mentor. Dairy Queen, grocery store, bar and bank. A complete, modern town; with a campground without a shower but with a toilet that only the jointly fearless and desperate would enter, much less experience the actual use of. They say every tooth has its own ecology, its own bacterial flora, that they have established a homeostasis there, and I figure if that’s true then the toilets in these little towns have their bacterial homeostasis as well and there well might be previously unidentified bacteria that could take hold of those of us from a different climate and whop us around intoto or in isolated body areas worse than Tacy did in Wolf Point with that deep screamer massage. She took us by the feet and slammed us on the floor and against the wall and called it a good thing, and I suppose she was right because we are here today. Got us used to continuous intractable, no-solution pain, if nothing else. Bike ride as continuous child birth.

We rode 75 - 80 miles today and have penetrated deep into the flanks of Minnesota. So far, there have been no National Guard units to oppose our advance. We are spending money at the convenience stores and bars to pacify the locals and so far, so good.

A flat tire was had by Dave today. A small wire from tire road debris laid his tire low. It took tweezers to remove it. Why we had tweezers cannot be explained as we had off-loaded all heavy items while crossing the Cascades. It may be a case, again, of the unlikely falling on the undeserving which is why we flagelate each day to keep this type of outcome coming. Why leave things up to chance with so much at stake everyday you roll out of your tent. Flagelation, incidentally, is much more likely to get results than rain dances unless you are a fillopino because they have worn that particular device out trying to twist the universe in their direction. Might still work for flat tires - I’m not sure. We did fix the tire - with much effort. I had, just earlier, remarked on how remarkable it was we had not had a flat. Now you tell me, was that related? Did my comment bring on the flat or was it the wire or did we get the flat because we voted democratic or have a fundraiser going for Slobodan Milosevic. There are slippery slopes everywhere. Enough to raise fear to tread, much less roll a tire across the country.
We pitched our tents but sheltered under a nearby tin-roofed pavilion
as we are partial to shade, and shelter in this climate unpredictable. It occurred to us, and maybe to you, that we have lived outside almost seven weeks now. That couldn’t happen in the south - in the summer, of course, we would have been well done - cooked through and through, our skin 100 percent melanoma or squamous cell cancer. Here it is possible and let me congratulate Dave - throw a bone to his fans, so to speak - on selecting our route. If you can tolerate hail, lightening, freezing temperatures and head winds, this route is a piece of cake. The rains came to the plains and do remain since our arrival. Didn’t keep us from a walk to the local pizza place - filled with locals. Saw a bunch of late thirtyish women drinking beer and oohing and aahing over cell phone pictures. Assumed children. Wrong! Dogs! Some things are forever.

We have three days to get to McGregor where we will visit with Sherrie’s cousin, Zondra, She is avoiding my calls, but it will not work. She cannot stand the political and existential truth that I intend to bring to her and immerse her in. There’s hope for everybody. We just need to throw out the information we are and start completely over. Only good can come of it. And that includes “W” but you didn’t hear it from me. This is a politically-neutral journal, and I have better things to write about.

Pat Sewell

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 9, 7 p.m., Turtle River Campground, North Dakota

Dave putters about with his buggy and gear while the sun sets in the grove of trees where we camp. We covered 100 miles today. Nine hours in the saddle - long enough to render an adolescent numb from the waste down - no problem, of course, for the non-secular celibate. The wind blew and blew today, in the correct direction, towards the east. This is how it is supposed to be, but hasn’t been, and we’ve struggled to not take it personal. We succeeded in this effort and today just see randomness restored and us, like in most things, just collateral beneficiaries or victims, as the case may be. It’s a powerful thing blowing by Lance Armstrong and him maybe they say on steroids, though I don’t want to believe it. We left him in our dust and all other pretenders to the throne. No doubt in us after today that we could turn and make it to Patagonia by September.

We rode through more prairie but a wet one with potholes and lakes and trees., There were breeding ducks of all types everywhere. I predict a particular good year for coots. I saw every specie - and black terns, Avocet and here once arrived, yellow warbler, American Redstart, eastern bluebird, and orchard oriole - without binoculars or effort.

The accents remain thick with a continued clear effort by most to sound like they were in that movie, Fargo. A state policeman stopped us - our first encounter with the law. His accent was so bad, and ours so foreign to him, that we had to use sign language to communicate. He was concerned for our safety and did not find the meth, the cocaine, the MJ and the opiates we’ve been selling to finance our trip and raise money to retire Slobodan Milosevic’s legal expenses. He let us go, expressing surprise that sensible people would do what we are doing but admiring it, nonetheless - not the trip but the willingness to share a traffic lane with 18 wheelers and make them blink first. We say no way they want the insurance premium from a double homicide, our position.

The road today leaving Devils Lake, a four-lane US highway, had a gate on it. Just like a cattle gate, and it was open. Imagine what such a gate would be needed for, then ask yourself why anyone would live in an area where four-lane highways get closed. Now ask which seems worse to you - living through winters that require roads to be closed or sharing a traffic lane with 18 wheelers. Each man to his own poison and you takes your chances.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7, Towner, North Dakota, 4 p.m.

The rains have come and stayed today. We remain camped in the small park in Towner, just off Hwy 2, 50 miles east of Minot. Our tents are pitched but we shelter, except for naps, under a tin-roofed enclosure where the rain sings. Around us the dove sing, as well, and a robin mother feeds her nesting young in the rafters above us; a peaceful marooning it is, a forced day off the bike - a “could be worse” situation made the most of. A gentle rain, a gentle day with gentle companions. We’ve played cards to pass the morning with Lindsay and Cormac; a not so gentle game of Hearts. I will not reveal the winner because it’s not important, but you should know it wasn’t any of the others. The game was in a spirit of ego ablation since they are both divinity students. No one seemed to achieve that higher state while pettiness, greed, deception and the formation of unholy alliances were much in evidence; the thin veneer of socialization stripped quickly in all, before the first card was dealt. Dave, in particular, flew his flag high and mighty until it came smashing down. “Pride goeth before the fall,” sayeth “W.”

Lindsay and Cormack (no relation to Cormac McCarthy, despite the similar first name) left us at 4 p.m. riding out in a small spot of sunshine, a brisk wind from the east and towards towering dark thunderheads - with the optimism of the newly married. Storms, like death, are for other people, and we shall overcome a tradition, anyway. Perhaps, they needed a break from the relentless interview we had subjected them to. I had to hold Dave back many times in many ways as he drilled into the center of their belief systems. They left knowing, at least, one of us can play Hearts and that we are interested in the song and mysteries of the universe. We’ve elected to make it a day off and cut back on the voluntary suffering. The involuntary being just that.

The accents of the people are thickening like the trees. This would have been a good area to make that movie, Fargo. We’ve seen no pregnant female deputies yet, so that part may have been made up. We have seen some male deputies who looked pregnant but maybe because we saw them from the side. I talked to one about crime which he said he didn’t know much about but there wasn’t much. He had the movie accent to tell me this which I appreciated since we’ve seen no movies since before Anacortes. There used to be meth labs in the county “but we got some boys who like to go after druggies, and we got eleven labs out of here last year.” I talked to him in a filling station in Granville. The station owner looked like Moby. I thought he was Moby, but he denied it in one of the movie accents which I know Moby doesn’t have, so now I believe him. Sooner or later, you’ve got to start believing in something. I don’t believe, however, David is ever going to win another bocce Frisbee chase game. Today’s results: Pat 8; Dave 3. He seems to lack something in these games, nerve, verve, imagination, coordination, gumption - I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out for him.

Pat Sewell

July 7, Towner, North Dakota , 8 p.m. (2nd entry)

If you want the low-down, go to the bar in Towner - that’s the Long Horn Bar downtown, cate corner to the Ranch House Restaurant and three blocks removed from Zion Luthern and St. Cecelia’s Catholic, both of which would do well to have as many attendees as Simon, the owner, has at the Long Horn. It was a low ceiling, low light, high smoking facility. Entering from the front, a long bar - Simon behind it - was to the right. Behind the bar, every kind of beer and whiskey. The walls elsewhere were covered with beer signs and pictures of scantily-clad women leaning or otherwise oogling cars or motorcycles. It wasn’t clear what it was that was causing them to oogle or why they couldn’t be fully clothed while doing so, but apparently there is a sub-specie of female in North Dakota that is desirous of having her picture taken this way. It doesn’t, at first glance, look like they would be warm enough dressed as they are in North Dakota most of the year, even though it is said these are hardy people around here. None of these women were actually in attendance so we, after making sure we had seen every picture so as to not show favoritism to one over the other, spent our time at the bar talking to Simon and a few of the locals.

Simon talked, even though he looked tired and didn’t like to look right at you when he did so. He didn’t smoke but was sharing the air with those who did, and the air was mostly smoke. So he shouldn’t be in the bar business too much longer if he is doing any breathing at work. We learned from him: the young are leaving, the farms are consolidating, the trains will not stop at the grain elevator unless a large minimal number of railcars are filled, he would rather live in Arizona, last winter was too long and too hard and that corporate farms are coming in and changing the way things are done.

Several patrons echoed these opinions and added information about: canola smelling bad, it taking seven round bales of hay to get a cow through winter, thirty million dollars worth of cows died during this hard last winter in the Minot area and the grain evac has made moving grain a whole lot easier. One of the friendlier chain-smoking patrons facing us and constantly enveloping David in smoke told us of his failed efforts to get his 16 year old daughter off meth. “It bothers me in a way and in another way, it don’t. I tried to help, kept her here for four months, didn’t let her run like her mama does, but she went home to her mama and got back on it. Done what I could. She’s got to want to quit.” He consumed six beers and 12 cigarettes while telling us this sad story of his fatigue and failure to help her get off drugs.

We bought the first two beers, and Simon gave us the second two. More friendly people. We didn’t offer advice to anybody about anything, just got the low-down while holding our breath. The pictures were not for sale. We didn’t want them anyway.

Dinner was at the Ranch House Restaurant. Hamburgers. You have to order the deluxe if you want something other than meat and bread. There is a lot to learn here.

Pat Sewell

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, Monday, Towner, North Dakota

Fifty miles east now of Minot. I’m buggyless now and using Panniers. Dave has a new tire and a repaired derailleur. We are ready for the second half of this contemplative crawl. A short distance east is the geographic center of North America - or advertised as such by the town of Rugby. Today marks six weeks on the road, as well, so we are half-way through the 12 weeks we allotted and on time. This is surprising, both that we are half-way at half-time and that we are here at all. The whole trip seems a lot more doable all of a sudden with this milestone.

The landscape is changing with our progress east. Birch trees, Ash, Chinese Elm - some large and even some forested areas are appearing. One’s gaze is interrupted - no longer are the crop and grasslands limitless. It’s very green and lush. And corn has made its first appearance along with soybeans. Clearly, there is moisture - perhaps, too much - according to some we have talked to. Lakes without river exits are expanding, and some of last year’s corn crops are gone unharvested. Climate models for global warming project more precipitation up north here and less in the south and west. Correct? Or is this just seasonal variation?

All the sports news worth reporting:

Pat 10 Dave 5 Bocce frisbee chase
July 6, 7 p.m. The crowds loved it
No horseshoe game since the first one
Dave phobic of rematch.

Pat Sewell

July 6, Monday, Towner, North Dakota (2nd entry)

We’ve met and visited with Cormac and Lindsay this evening. They are honeymooning on their bikes - Seattle to Boston. He is a hospital chaplain in training at Harvard, and she, in graduate divinity school there. They fit in the “young take a break before you get swallowed by career” group with a honeymoon twist. Cormac is quaker. Lindsay UCC and intends to be a minister with a congregation. We had a nice tread-softly discussion about theology, mythololgies, the difficulties of the minister’s role and the brief occupancy of man on the planet since its origin, touching softly on our possible short-term presence and more heavily on the clumsy and destructive nature of our presence until now, finishing at least from my side with a nod to the pessimistic. They proceed into their careers with a sober, but convicted, sense and hope they can be helpful. It will require a dogged contemplative crawl to do so.

Their blog: Lindsay and

They got bike gear and panniers for wedding presents- indicating a very positive, practical streak. Will serve well. Say hello to them from Pat and Dave. They travel east but sleep late - so maybe?

Pat Sewell

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5, Minot, North Dakota, 9 p.m.

Noise seems to be our companion this trip. It’s not what you expect when you think about the great open spaces but how often do you get what you expect unless it is what you expect but don’t want. We’ve had the train since Whitefish, the road noise - crowding trucks blasting by - the obnoxious “screw you, get off the road honks.” We’ve had the thunder of the night as in two nights ago when the deities sat down on our tents unsatisfied with their own campsite and tonight we have race cars at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds.

It’s Sunday night, and we’re in Minot, North Dakota, camped at Riverside RV Land behind the Holiday Inn. Just across the road there is a continuous roar of racing machines designed to make the most noise possible while moving from A to B. Roar, actually, is inadequate as a term. Someone hearing this for the first time, say a virgin to the noise of the uncensored internal combustion engine, would have to go off planet to explain such a sound and would quickly exhaust their repertoire of demonic-related sounds. They have been running now for three hours and show no signs of abatement. Makes me wonder whether North Dakota is worth donating to the Palestinians to solve those pesky problems with the Middle East.

We rode 58 miles from Stanley today. Not a big day but respectable. Camped with us is Alan and Grace, reversing our course across the country. And Laurie, at 17 traveling alone until she met the other two - and headed to Anacortes, as well. She does not carry a gun but does have a knife. She only journals, having sent her books home. The world is largely flat to her, devoid of obstacles. Alan plans to enter grad school, Ph.D. after the trip, Ed. Sociology. Believes education only institution that gives an opportunity to offset other cultural failing. He has the optimism of the young - “not yet mortal yet,” as Michael Ondaatje, author of “The English Patient” would say. His educational landscape is as devoid of obstacles as the physical landscape looks to 17 year old Laurie.

Have gotten feedback from variety of sources that my editorial posture is possibly either neglectful or a bit negative to Dave - this from as far away as Holland. I shall strive to be better but will not bend the truth, everybody’s got their headwinds in life, and these gross misinterpretations of my reports will just be another one if they continue.

Frisbee bocce chase game
Minot July 5
Pat 7, Dave 2 - game ends with 5 point lead or when one player
reaches 10 points.
Not a bad showing for Dave.

To support Alan Wright
Grace Conrad
Look to links to see what they support:
Orphanage in Haiti
Bicycles for Kids in Africa
Environmental Group.

Laurie Angulo, 17, Trevor City, Michigan

Attended alternative school
Had male teacher that inspired her to “do something significant”
Her mother dropped her off at homeless shelter one year ago -
“Thought I would have a better life on my own”
“Have gained confidence and feel stronger - surprised myself”
already on this trip

Can communicate with her: Angulo

Pat Sewell

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4, Stanley, North Dakota, 7:30 p.m.

The sun bears down on us - slipping between the Stanley water tower and the domed Mountrail County courthouse as it slowly sets over this flat land. To my right, a gravel road with mud puddles to either side and stretching to its right, ten or so camp trailers - none newer than 1980, if I had to guess. We’re seated at a picnic table, our tents pitched against the scrub trees and bushes that provide the boundary for this city park. A small tin-sided lean-to is nearby that has within it, against all odds, a usable toilet and shower. Across the street beside the courthouse, trustees in orange wash the sheriff cars and to our left, our old friend since Whitefish Mountain, the BNSF railway, rattles and roars.

This was a no-choice campsite and not so bad for it. The town celebrated the 4th today. An old car show - main street blocked off. A bikini contest (we found out too late about it to go) and a cook-off in the city park. Later, there will be karaoke at the Draft Horse Pub which I will attend.

We rode in from our campsite west of Raymond where we had taken refuge against the wind yesterday. Had a headwind out of the northwest today, so had a little assist. Our night camped on the prairie was memorable. I was hoping for stars but instead got storm. Towards 7 p.m. clouds accumulated to the east and north - thickened, then blackened, then layered up - looking ultimately as if everything in the neighborhood was to be eaten. I thought of those TV shows in which people chase storms and then when it gets close, they run away to safety in their cars. We had no cars. I thought about that, too. So we got in our tents, pushing the pegs deeper and hoping they would hold if and when whatever was, struck. Well, it was a big Was. Sort of like having artillery called in on your position. Three hours of thunder and lightening, driving rain and gusting winds. Our tents shook, rattled, bent, shuddered and held. Quite a show, really! Out there in the big open besieged by the worst of weather. Beat life in the motel watching TV. My tent that David had characterized as untested passed, earning his stamp of approval. We did learn the next morning in Ray - at breakfast - that a tornado was sighted to the east a bit and that two inches of snow had fallen just west of us. Another routine night camping on this dogged contemplative crawl. I can’t drop the “dogged” until the wind stops dogging us.
There was opportunity for a bocce ball frisbee chase game. Dave did not win this one. Dave did not get a point in this one. I report this in my role as sports editor. As such I have no investment in who won or lost.

Tomorrow, Minot

Questions: What’s the capitol of North Dakota?
Clue: It is not Toronto.

How many congressmen does North Dakota have?

Pat Sewell

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3, Friday, Williston, North Dakota, 7:30 a.m.

A gap in the journal - filled with headwind and effort that emptied me of all but superficial considerations like for instance, survival. The wind beats you down, an unrelenting force unresponsive to any plea or promise. It’s exam week on the bike. You can run but you can’t hide, and nobody is coming for you. If you wish to move forward, you just grind and grind. And there is no top as with a mountain pass. You have to wait on the whims of the weather. No time out of the toilet bowl for the rat. There is analogy here, but I will let you make it.

We’re in Williston, North Dakota now - and at the moment, under a shelter in Harmony Park waiting out rain. We’re enjoying free coffee and donuts from the filling station across the street. “It’s on us, you guys have got a tough day.” Last night we were in this same park for a brass band concert by the city band. Free hamburgers then. Friendly people everywhere. Virgil Sypherson directed the band, was easily 80, the performance center they played under to a crowd on the green lawn named after him. John Phillip Sousa, an American medley, rousing patriotic music, flags flown of North Dakota, the US and Canada, a close neighbor here, just 40 miles north. Hamburgers by the Lions Club with grilled onions. Virgil, incidentally, was the band director at the local high school for over 40 years.

We camped in Davidson Park next to the ball park where we watched this year’s state champ, Williston High - now playing in the American Legion League whup up good on a hapless team from Fargo -- this after the band concert.

Bill Temple of camped with us as did Fred Lomas. ( We had met Bill in Glasgow and overlapped briefly with him until this visit. He has been riding since the mid 70’s and is unique in many ways to those we have encountered. Sleeps on the ground - no tent, no pad. Wanders a bit, says not clear which way will be going. Rides a bike he paid $60 for years ago, no clips, minimal useful gears, calls self “slowest guy on the road.” Friendly, open, self-effacing, white hair, white beard, smiles a lot. Calls himself an “odd duck” but we found him charming. “I love the open spaces, the prairie, the rural roads; I just go, then one day I say, ‘I’ve had enough’ and I quit - don’t really know why.” Loves the camaraderie he feels with people he meets and believes North Dakota is one of the friendliest places he’s been - loves going to the little towns and seeing what’s going on. “Pops up” in the morning - ready to roll within five minutes, and I saw this happen this morning.

Fred is semi-retired insurance person who rides “to get the cobwebs out” - calls riding a “mental enema - empties things out.” He’s headed west after starting on May 16. Loves the little towns and will stay here for the 4th of July festivals. Check both of these guys on the web and send them a “hello” from “Pat and Dave.”

Many impressions, many contrasts to assimilate. This is a rich soup - which we sip, sometimes thin but with little nuggets that can be fished out - that are intensely flavorful and nurturing.

We are abandoning the Northern Tier route and going with Hwy 2 - all the way to Duluth. It’s four-lanes with a shoulder - safer, hopefully quieter, fewer blasts by passing trucks. Everything subject to change, however, at anytime.

Pat Sewell

July 3, 6 p.m., Hwy 2 West of Tioga (3rd entry)

Dave returned from a heroic (his characterization) successful search for water. Battling tall grass and ticks (one), he ventured one and a half miles a field trespassing in the spirit of community contribution and returned with a bag of lake water - said to be clean, cool and chemical-free. Proud was he and deservedly so, hence this special late edition entry in the journal done willingly in spite of writer’s cramp. He reported other life forms in addition to the much talked about tick attack - a duck with blue cheeks, a straight-up tail, bouncing and bouncing around a similar duck - presumably in a mating ritual or some less useful male attention calling behavior. That would be a Ruddy Duck. They winter - many, maybe not that one, in Louisiana on Lake Bistineau. He did not band it, so we will never know if that one does, but hey - no harm done on a mission accomplished.

Pumped up by this water-finding success, he edged me out in the Frisbee bocce ball chase game, his first victory in such. He now likes the game. Go figure. My clothing was binding my throws and it went unrecognized until too late.

We know these lands now by their wind
And think well of them and these winds their kin
The hummock, hillocks, crinkled sky, the waving grass
A stretched land, a folded land, nurturingly vast.
Lie low in these hollows, be with the grass and sky
Wind tossed be it all and yet nothing be awry
These lands know this wind, as now do we
Such as it is, devoid of tree and deaf to plea.

Pat Sewell

July 3, 4 p.m., on Hwy 2 West of Tioga (2nd entry)

We will know these lands by their winds -

I am in the shade of a parked combine that is hooked to an antique tractor. Neither are functional and neither are we. “Stopped” we are actually, by a merciless wind, straight out of the east and contrary to the nature of things, according to Hoyle and others. Fourteen miles north of Williston Hwy 2 turns due east and into this wind. We persisted against it with its battering gusts for several hours - making 3.5 to 5 mph. Until on the crest of a hill, the wind at its peak, we caught a glimpse of the limitless and featureless horizon before us and either lost all heart for the struggle or came to our senses, depending on your point of view, and sought refuge - at least until the wind died. “Live to fight another day,” he said, I said. “We have nothing to prove, right?” we both asked. “This can’t last forever.”

We pitched our tents behind a rise that gave slight shelter and have spent the last five hours reading and napping - until now. Dave’s gone for water at a nearby pond - which we will purify - as we have little, and we will make a night of it here. We’re sailors becalmed, explorers waiting out a blizzard, a sandstorm! In this land of endless waving green grass and pounding wind, it is easy to use these metaphors and feel a little better than just a bicyclist stalled 50 yards from a well-traveled four-lane highway. Our feed stores are minimal - a plum, few cherries, some crackers, a little cheese - unless the water is useable - then we’ll have a treat of beans and rice.

I’ve finished the book “The English Patient” - the movie was good but doesn’t do it justice. Read it if you haven’t. Re-read it if you have. Haunting themes and wondrous accounts of the struggles of attachment. It’s been a great companion, and I have that sense of sorrow one can get when a good book is finished.

We should have a night sky as memorable as the book tonight, if not overcast.

Pat Sewell

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1, Wednesday, Culbertson Mountain, City Park

The fireworks pop already, and the flags are on display for the coming Independence Day here in Culbertson where we camp in the city park, the town green and neat. The Missouri River flows nearby, and there is a broad valley of well-irrigated crops. It all seems a world apart from Wolf Point and its bleak economics and reservation problems.

The ride today was brutal with a disabling headwind that reduced our best speeds to four mph at times. Seven hours, 60 miles. It was pretty, though, along the Missouri - the route traveled by Lewis and Clark who wrote of flourishing here with the plentiful game. We rode, at times, in the lee of the escarpment on the north side of the river where the land was tortured by erosion and had many bizarre shapes - some capped by stones - that would be called Hoodoos in Utah. These had many swallow nests, as mentioned in the Lewis and Clark journals. We felt we were riding with history, knowing these things - took some of the sting from the effort required.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30, Wolf Point Mountain, 6 a.m.

We are in the Plaines now - a word adapted from the original. To ride a bicycle is to ride in place. Do that for six to eight hours, and a town of the same description drops into place - not suddenly, though. You get to see the water tower for two of the eight hours as it recedes a pace with your approach. Much of this area is Indian reservation, and it is not hard to understand why the founders selected this land for them: 15 inches of rain; two seasons “winter and July”; no pesky trees to block a man’s view, nor hills; a mosquito population adapted to fly in the wind and attack in packs and a constant wind organized against you regardless of direction being traveled and so dry that all moisture within is sucked without at the same rate you’re losing blood to the mosquitoes.

Since the Indians came to settle in much of this area, things have improved a bit with the addition of casinos and bars. So that no one is inconvenienced as they search for one or more of these places, they have been put everywhere - in all buildings that are not a grain elevator or post office. A lot of these are lucky places because the name says so - “Lucky Lil’s, Lucky Bill’s, Lucky Bob’s or Montano Lucky Phil’s” - They get that “Lucky” in there somewhere because the Indians clearly are lucky to have so much opportunity to gamble and drink within any arms length. I can’t be sure if they are all actually lucky and winning a lot because there are no obvious expressions of wealth in view. There are a lot of cars on blocks in front of their trailers and deteriorating homes, but that could be their way of hiding their success so as not to arouse envy in their neighbors. I’ll keep you posted, literally.

June 30, Wolf Point Mountain, 7 a.m.

The American flag flies high and proudly over the Wolf Point Post Office this morning - pointing clearly to the west. We, in contrast, are heading east, into the sharp unrelenting teeth of this gale-force wind. The weather man has advised of the buildup of a system of thunderheads with hail - “up to one inch” - and gusts approaching from the southeast, advising caution - which for us bicyclists would mean keeping our helmet on as we get pelted and blown about into the traffic lanes. What is the better part of valor; battle it out with the elements or tuck tail and head for a lay-up, allowing the depleted vessel we be a restorative interval? Checking closely within ourselves for a need for further penance and self-flagellation - after two days of non-stop immersion in that type of thing, we have elected the latter, calling it, now that the decision has been made, an expression of wisdom extraordinaire. There are those who, no doubt, will see it as cowardly, -- a larger group approaching the infinite who will be indifferent to it, but we are not letting this interfere with our ability to imbue this decision and this our day with the significance ordinarily extended to a near-death experience - while out here totally anonymous. A talent pervasive among us humans.

Pat Sewell

June 30, 6 p.m., Wolf Point Mountain (3rd entry)

Our u-turn this morning - when faced with the wind and storm - has been worthwhile. A morning nap after a full breakfast. An afternoon nap after a massage (and more about that later). Neither of us anticipated the eagerness our bodies had for this extra sleep and rest. Seems time off is a physically agreeable thing. A stop also mitigates against the development of bicycle phobia which can attack you unexpectedly at the sight of your bike when you awaken in the a.m. and is associated with the desire to believe you are in a dream, that this can’t be real, and when that abates and reality sets in, an uncontrollable urge to buy an airline ticket home regardless of cost. So far, this reactivity has been manageable.

We are almost across Montana and around 500 miles from Minnesota. Minnesota, as I recall, is practically to Maine in a very general, non-specific, semi-deluded way. So, we are very encouraged.

We did have a massage. Tacy, an off-duty ER Trauma and OB nurse, provided it. She grew up here and knows the local people, the state of the Indian nations and the quality of health care - and gave us quite a tour of these considerations. She also gave us a massage which was just short of a roffing, a deep tissue screamer. Hard to keep our mouths shut with many tender points. It was an excellent, if at times, uncomfortable and hopefully, helpful massage.

Tacy’s description of the Indian circumstance here was troubling:

1) high unemployment - up to 70 percent
2) high teenage pregnancy rates “babies having babies”
3) high addiction rates -- alcohol, meth, gambling
4) generations of welfare dependency -- “all they know now”
5) lack of economic opportunity -- tax businesses too much and an
unreliable work force
6) high levels of violence -- Indian on Indian with poor law
enforcement and prosecutorial function
7) corruption and cronyism in the tribal councils that impede
needed change
8) meddling and tribal council intervention in medical activities
and treatment in Indian health service - with resultant declining
access and quality of care
9) neglect of the young by addicted parents with poor nutrition and a
lack of any useful developmental attention
10) high incest and child sexual abuse rate - “If you make it to eight,
you’re lucky.”

Not a pretty picture if even partially correct. She added that the town is dying. The young non-Indians are discouraged by all of the above and because they do not see a future here for themselves, are leaving.

Her description of medical care here for non-Indians was not much rosier - aging, worn-out, over-worked doctors - though the facilities are good. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners “middle level providers” do help. She remains committed to the community and to helping the Indians. “They are this way because that’s all they know. I’d be that way, too, if I had been born into it. I think, ‘There but by the grace of God go I.’ ” Would we all be able and willing to understand complex social problems with compassion - and with the understanding that however negative things are, they make sense in light of all the contributing variables - and that demonizing and blaming do not a contribution to needed change make. This situation clearly is maximally difficult and not unlike the problems of the Mississippi Delta in some ways. Both situations have countered the best intentions of many up to now. They can burn out well-meaning people. An amazing human drama, though, is to be seen from the seat of our bicycles not visible when you roll through with the windows rolled up, the AC on and stop only at the historical point signs. One of the benefits, this closer look.

Pat Sewell

June 30, 8 a.m., Wolf Point Mountain , Breakfast Place (2nd entry)

The Old Grill, Hwy 2 and Main. Looks like an old drive-in restaurant, the ordering post still standing for the cars. Inside, morning light lies on the dark tables and booths, each with a red phone for ordering, if you can wait. Full of patrons - most, other than us, repeats. The waitress knows them. They exchange greetings, questions: “How’d it go?” “The appointment’s tomorrow.” “Oh, you nervous?” “Not really just hate the wait.” This with a thin guy who recently lost weight. It looks like we’re all thinking cancer, I think. She brings us coffee before the ordering, A friendly smile, short, graying hair, her own teeth, looks trim, exercised. “How many old men have left you money in their will,” I ask, adding that I’m doing research on this subject. “Ha!” she laughs, and then, “That hasn’t happened but funny you should ask. A woman came in the other day, handed me a small package. I opened it, and it had the most beautiful sapphire ring I’ve ever seen in it,” nodding her head in amazement, “couldn’t believe it. She said I’d always been nice to her. All I did was send her some flowers recently when she was in the hospital. Imagine that, prettiest sapphire ring I’ve ever seen.” Told me she had worked at the Old Grill for 27 years. “Wouldn’t do anything else. I’ve had offers to work, but I always said ‘no’ - I love doing this.” “Is that your grand-daughter?” I asked, indicating a four year old on a stool behind the sink behind the counter, playing as if washing dishes. “No, just a little girl, needs some help,” her reply.

It isn’t happening to us, we’re doing it. A warming morning light in a breakfast place in Wolf Point, Montana.

Pat Sewell

Monday, June 29, 2009

June 29, Wolf Point

The names of the towns are running together in my mind - you would think they would stand out - stick - the high cost in effort to get to them. And some do.

Passed through Nashua. How did that get in Montana? Inverness,
Glasgow, Malta. Rumor has it that the railroad people charged with the duty of naming these towns simply spun the globe and pointed. Seems too loaded with Scottish names for this to be true.

We’re in Wolf Point. If it has a coyote, a raven, a buffalo, a wolf as part of its name, it’s Indian. It is 50 or so impossibly difficult miles from Glasgow. You could put down in a helicopter anywhere between the two and swear you’re in the same place, only thing changed was the intensity of the wind and the rising temperature. 101 degrees at 4:48 p.m. - a matter of record now. This temperature and wind will desiccate and preserve a run-over ground squirrel in less than one hour and does worse things to a bicyclist, but we are denied the final solution they are afforded - though we certainly contemplated it. We had thought, of course, that once cleared of the mountains it would all be music and roses. Turns out we have bicycle dumb ass syndrome. Riding in the plains is just another form of torture. I’m surprised Dick Cheney didn’t think of this. Today I would have told anything about me or anybody else, even violated HIPPA to get off that bicycle before the distance law allowed. The natives say they have two seasons here, “winter and July” and July has come early.

We did have some interesting stops enroute. I took the time to have a cup of coffee with four locals at a bar in Nashua. We had an extremely intense and non-fruitful exchange of ideas that left nobody changed nor more enlightened - about all the important subjects: global warming, global trade, corporate greed, failed regulation, lack of regulation, religion, the need or lack of for a third political party, the self-absorption and blindness of the scientists in the world who only want to perpetuate their careers: all this in 20 minutes and at mega decibel levels. This is getting to know the locals in surround sound. I left them with a strong sense that a guy on a bicycle may have different opinions than they and with the overt label, “You guys are blind idealogues, but it was fun talking to you all.” We parted friends, and they bought the coffee. Turns out, I found out later, the guys of the Bellingham 7 had stopped before me and prepped these guys to give me maximal hell when I showed up, and they were ready for me. It’s good to have friends who think ahead for you. This group is staying in Wolf Point, as are we, tonight. Everybody’s toasted! We will continue to leap frog with them another 100 miles to Williston, then they will turn south to Iowa. They’ve added a lot to our trip since the Issac Walton,

Wolf Point is on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and near the Missouri River which we now parallel. The Milk River, which we have followed for days, occupies the historical Missouri River watershed, the Missouri having been diverted by an ice dam thousands of years ago. I do not expect our quality of life to be improved by this eventually. There are many Indians here, all dressed as civilians, having lost their culture at Wounded Knee and to carbonated drinks.

We ate at a Chinese restaurant tonight - the only diners at the time. The proprietors were Chinese, whose ancestors pushed out of Africa 40,000 years ago, deviated north around the Hindu Kush, then south along the Pacific coast into China separating as they did from some fellow travelers, cousins actually, who ultimately crossed the Bearing Strait land bridge and ended up in, among other places, in the Americas - Wolf Point Mountain - having survived in the process a few pandemics, starvation and US government duplicity. The Chinese who fed us had ancestors who somehow survived their own trails and sent their progeny here against all odds to introduce tofu to their sugar-obsessed cousins. Such is the peculiar way the world sometimes tries to heal itself against all odds. David had some of the tofu and gave it a ten on a ten scale. I had the Mongolian beef and recommend it should you ever have no choice but to spend the night in Wolf Point, Montana. Hurry, though, because I’m not sure they’re going to make it.

Pat Sewell

Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 28, Glasgow, Montana, Trails West Campground

A touch of The 3rd World in Glasgow. Closest RV park in town, and we were limping. Would have accepted a gentle drawing and quartering to get off the bike. 72 miles, much with a headwind, under a hot sun and through mosquito hoards. Pain and struggle enough to question the whole endeavor - a feeling I presume will clear with a good night’s sleep.

June 28, 11 a.m. Saco Mountain

OB’s Café for breakfast. Left Malta early anticipating a tailwind, but had to fight a headwind the last 27 miles and clouds of mosquitoes. We had been warned by a drunk Indian in Shelby to beware of the Saco mosquitoes, laughed a lot when he said it. Laughed all the way across the parking lot to his car as he looked back at us. Soothsayer, shaman, trickster? They come in hoards or packs like wolves and will take you down and drain you quick. Our deet only partially helped, so we’ve taken refuge in OB’s Café hoping for a climate change that’ll kill them. The desperate are desperate. That change is rumored, though widely dismissed by the ideologically impaired. Will not happen at any rate within our time in Saco. Spent last night in Malta camped in City Park. Mosquito sprayer came by at 3 a.m. fogging. Passed closer than that bear did to my tent, filling it with emulsified diesel fog replacing all the air and filling it with sound as loud as that train in Whitefish that came through my tent. Perhaps this is the Chinese year of the mosquito - or at least week. Built a sail yesterday for the tailwind that isn’t. Perhaps we are not the main event. These wide open, straight roads are a challenge. Endless horizon. Like pedaling in place. You have to trust and be patient, as in most things worth doing.

Met our first pair coming from the east - Ryan and Nathan - ( They expect to be in Anacortes in two weeks, with the winds and Cascades and Rockies ahead. Best laid plans?

Pat Sewell

Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 27, 6 a.m.

The wind early in the willows.
The water over the weir
This morning dawning clear.

June 27, Malta

How do you talk about a rodeo in Small Town America on a Friday night? We did attend, and it was a cultural spectacle - really an extravaganza. The stadium was full; the arena, an acre of black dirt. There were chutes to release the animals, cowboys, cowgirls, people cheering, American flags flying, a clown and a glib announcer with non-stop action! Calf roping, teams and individual; saddled broncos, bucking bulls, barrel racing, cheering crowds, rodeo queens, tractors and Dodge pickups on display. I could accept it as all this and just a community coming together for what they like to do, a celebration of their heritage and identify - and did. Much was made of “our shared history” - of the “American” quarter horse and his importance - of preserving “our values and traditions.” The rodeo queen shared in the written program her motivation to be queen to be a spokesperson for just such. And on the fences and out of the mouth of the announcer, a continuous flow and presence of hard sell. The fence panels called for the use of non-smoke tobacco products - that solid old family value dip and every chute that released a bucking bull or horse was from this or that bank or construction company. The costumes of the participant - and most of their gear worn had long lost any utility for the bulk of the observers and even participants - and yet the lingering identification. Understandable and harmless - but in another way, jingoistic foolery, consensual fakery, a masquerade ball. We have to do something with ourselves while stuck on the planet and this is one of the solutions these people have settled on. I did learn, too, from the announcer that Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a great place for a vacation in the summer if I love golf and now you have. This was the long reach of marketing seamlessly woven into his barter.

The adult male competitors on the bulls and horses often bit the dust which mixed with that already in their mouths, both of which they spit out publicly after their fall while waiting for the girl earned in this traditional way locally. The children of these unions were sent from the “Bank One” chute atop a sheep; lying prone on the sheeps back initially and then often happily trampled underfoot - protected by a bicycle helmet, to great applause. So, the beat goes on. Actually, I loved it. With my sociologist cap on, I may be the grinch that stole the rodeo. You can ignore that.

The ride from Chinook to Malta was a magical mystery tour without a drug assist. 70 miles with a tailwind that should have a proper name like those in the Sahara Desert that bury and desiccate people. We were here by 1 p.m. and still could walk and talk, an uncommon condition for us when we get somewhere. The terrain was flat - along the Milk River valley - with some excursions into the rolling hills - the traffic was light - unlike mosquitoes. These are a specially-adapted breed or strain that can intercept a moving object at the speed of sound and hold on. Imagine blowing across America, head down, grinding, the landscape and your life flashing by, dead ground squirrels filling your gaze, and you are suddenly completely covered by mosquitoes that have materialized from clear air and are busy sucking more blood than can be replaced from you. Well, that’s what happened. They are air eddy experts and come up drafts intent on the filling. We survived but are now semi-bloodless and in acute deet intoxication, which is not all bad.

We’ve camped in the city park in Malta. No shower, no hot water. More big cottonwoods and more mosquitoes. The locals came for afternoon barbeques and horse shoes; those that weren’t at the 25th Anniversary Appreciation dinner and dance downtown for the Valley Pharmacy. A simple place, friendly people, mosquitoes.

I went to the dinosaur museum. This area very productive of fossils, saw Leonardo, a complete 77 million year old complete specimen of a mummified dinosaur and a list of the plants identified in his stomach. Discovery Channel has done a special on him. Later I met the ranch owner at the street dance who found him on their property. Got her - the ranch owner’s wife’s picture = two degrees of separation from Leonardo, the mummified dinosaur.

Since we have had such a wonderful tailwind, I have devised a sail out
of RVC pipe and plastic sheeting to capture the anticipated wind tomorrow. It is untested and may be a hindrance when going downhill or in a truck blast. We’ll see. Could give me a 5 mph edge on Dave if it works.

Glasgow tomorrow.

Dave lost the second Frisbee bocce ball. Chase game 8 to 1. This was the Blaine County Championship. I relate this result not to crow but for the sake of completeness. He seems discouraged in this area and beginning to question if he can compete in this league. I am encouraging.

Met Gary Harbaugh in Water Works campground in Chinook. From near Santa Cruz. Riding a gull wing motorcycle, pulling a trailer. A retired navy veteran and police officer. A man, too, of strong opinions and a patch to match on his vest for every one. Enjoyed “taking it to them” - them being these different than he, which included most Californians, all politicians and the “liberal media.” Had the ability to project sympathetic views on us as long as we lay low which we did. He roared off on his six cylinder machine in complete agreement with us, who remained completely invisible to him, to do battle with legions of straw men who litter his landscapes. One man, one vote and one of us just got neutralized. A nice guy, really. Had a lot of flag patches, each a flag for his sunrise.

Pat Sewell

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 26, Chinook Mountain, 6 p.m.

(As we awakened in Hingham) --- The sun arose to a clean sky and once above the horizon, pushed light through our camp casting long shadows from the ash trees crowding our tents. In these trees, mourning turtle doves sang mournfully, but beautifully, as they do. Mother loved watching and hearing these birds in her last few years sitting on the back porch in Boyce. Hearing them sing seemed a requiem for her and these dying towns. We could see it, and the people said it was so. Rural America dying here, fading away. The barber in Chester told us of closing motels, businesses, car dealerships. “There’s nothing here anymore for the young people. They’ve got to leave.” He had cut hair for 22 years. Charged $10 apiece for a buzz cut of two of our cycling friends. We left our mournful camp, though in a good mood, and rode here to Chinook where we camped at the city water works. It is free and has a shower. And there is a rodeo in town at 7 p.m. which I will report on later. There are also mosquitoes, deet-resistant mosquitoes. But you can never have everything your way. The Milk River runs near enough to see and hear, and we are beneath a grove of old cottonwood trees, worth by themselves, the price of admission.

Today’s ride was downward over rolling plains, sufficiently similar for long periods that the eye began to seek change and variety. A tree along the landscape could capture and hold your gaze. Dead things at roadside became objects of curiosity, if not concern. A snake, a skunk, a porcupine, an antelope and the ground squirrel. Those little guys seem to have been born to die to a blacktop road. They are everywhere in various stages of decomposition. Freshly hit, they puff up and round out, get real cute and look like they should be for sale at the children’s store. With a little age, they become flattened, desiccated skins that remain identifiable. I think if you took one of these and added water like you do with freeze-dried food, they would reconstitute. Ted Williams’ family should have tried this method to preserve him. It would have been cheaper. There are many of these little creatures. They go out on the highway, bouncing, tail held high, like they want to get hit - like little Jihadist; death on the highway, the highest form of existence they aspire to. I saw one snake, too -- a diamond-back something or other. We were gong 18 mph, it was dead, but it still caused diarrhea, vomiting and all the hair on my body to stand up and threaten to fall out. That was at Mile 378 on Hwy. 2. It is recorded in my lizard brain as a deep neuronal rut. I will never forget it, and therapy will not help.

We continue to leap frog with our friends. Stuart of lives after his concussion, and he and his buddies did a century yesterday. The Bellingham 7 also were spotted.

Pat Sewell

Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25, 4 p.m., Hingham, Montana

Today’s trip took us by a series of little towns 6 to 20 miles apart - along the railroad - each with its tallest building - a grain elevator. Commerce is king, and wheat is commerce. They stand out as green islands on the prairie from afar. Our eyes go to them, seeking change. We are far enough into the plains to have a constant need to escape the same video. These towns have gravel streets and always a railroad crossing into the neighborhoods. The houses are small and tight against the cold. No high open porches and big glass expanses. This is serious winter weather country. The trees crowd the houses, few taller - and all are bent by the winds, like those along the gulf but without the moss. The bloom is off these little towns. Stores are unoccupied. Nothing new is in evidence. I’m told, “The kids are leaving. People are putting their farms in the WRI Program. The population is aging.” Passed a church with a hearse outside, a limousine and maybe four cars. Started to stop since it looked poorly attended. Maybe all the deceased’s friends have died or moved off. Seemed a sad situation but not so much for the deceased because just down the road we passed the cemetery. A fine high spot. Many other precedents in place already with wind-resistant plastic bouquets. The grave was lined with green velvet but had no green velvet chairs suggesting the absence of family, a possible very sad situation. The dirt from the grave was piled nicely in an old 1960 Ford dump truck - a little too close for my taste - and the backhoe used to dig the grave, likewise. Overall, there seemed to be a lack of sensitivity to those who might be attending the funeral that have a fear of suffocation, them seeing the actual dirt that is going in on top of that coffin after the words are said. Wasn’t creepy, but it was close. We were blowing by pretty fast so all of my impressions had to be quick and easy ones. It was a Lutheran Church, I think, but Garrison Keeler was not there. The wind does blow a lot here and did blow us. We covered 75 miles today without pedaling. One could make a case for a just God from this information alone if so inclined and bad at statistics.

Our camp is in the city park in Hingham under the water tower. We have a water hose for washing places that need washing, a toilet, a picnic table, deep lush green grass and enough wind to tear your hair out by the follicles. Two of the Bellingham 7 left after their tents started to shred. They will be in Maine by the morning with this as a tailwind. We’ll see if the other tents hold. The wind should be as noisy tonight as the trains have been.

Dave decided to make a change tonight - and for supper, to cook beans and rice and cheese instead of beans and rice and cheese.

This area gets 15 inches of rain a year, and everybody grows wheat. They can get outside three months out of the year without death by climate. Sometimes, even for the uninitiated, it is hard to understand the choices people make. Two ladies at the courthouse told me, “great place to live, good hard-working people, no crime.” They couldn’t remember who won the county in the presidential election “even though we count the votes.” Some things aren’t important.

Pat Sewell

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, Wednesday, Shelby Mountain

The sailor loves the wind - and hates the calm. The cyclist loves only the tailwind, accepts a calm calmly and abhors the headwind. And we had it our way just like Frank Sinatra today - 75 miles, East Glacier to Shelby with a turbo-charged tailwind. What a difference a day makes and a wind. Give us the flat and get out of the way. Restored our sense of competency in the saddle. The floating community of cyclists we have become entwined with blew through to the small campground here at Lake Shel-oola which has no lake. The Bellingham Seven, Dave and Gordon and us, so far., three guys from Oklahoma, may have continued.

The countryside has changed dramatically. Your eye can see forever. No chance of being snuck up on here, so our brains like the view. Long rolling hills with many wetlands between. Saw Wilson phalarope, northern shoveler, gray duck, mallards, blue wing teal, black bellied plover, lesser yellow legs, yellow headed blackbird, red wing blackbird, western king bird, long billed curlew, northern harrier and others. These wetlands are the nesting ground for so many birds.

I continue my investigation of motivation with the bicyclists I meet. Most have not thought deeply and give rather simple answers, “To see if I could” - “I had the time before grad school” - “My friend was doing it, so I thought, ‘Why not’.” This must remain an open area of research. It appears, though, that patterns are emerging. Old guys finally breaking loose and young guys taking a break before putting on the career traces. The one woman I have talked to was coming out of a career, seeking a new beginning - more of a classical midlife position revision. I guess we’re old guys taking a big break and seeing if we can do it. Today and getting over the two mountain ranges says we can.

The guys arrived later. Stuart, absent a significant portion of skin from a crash at 20 mph on open road, by something that deflected his front wheel, and he was down. Wrecked his helmet. His advice - “Wear a helmet.” It did “ring my bell good,” he says, and we will watch him for seqelae. If he can’t ride in the morning, he gets left. The tour is bigger than any of us.

David lost the Frisbee, bocce ball, chase game. And his tooth again. Same IQ drop - same glue solution. That’s the fourth time.

Question of the day: What is the basis of choice? Send your answer. To qualify as a winner, no questions addressed to me can be asked of the question. Wrong answers predict a bad outcome. Confusion clears eventually for some. Robert Frost started this.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, East Glacier Mountain, 3 p.m.

Someone threw a switch somewhere, and the world transformed. Actually, we pried ourselves away from the Issac Walton Inn, climbed the 17 miles to Maria’s Pass over the Continental Divide under a sunny sky, then blew down the eastern slope with a tailwind at 30 mph to big sky and rolling plains. So different it is from the tortured canyons, roaring white-capped rivers and towering mountains that crowded out the sun on the western slope. Our view to the west and north is of those mountains of Glacier Park, and they are a compelling presence but better they be behind us now. We’ve crossed the Cascades and the Rockies now. The plains are ahead. We’ve been tested and survived the two mountain ranges. Our trip name keeps evolving with the experience. The current rendition is “the dogged contemplative crawl across America.” If the tailwind we had from Maria’s Pass persists, we will drop the crawl - and maybe the dogged. We’re camped in East Glacier under aspen trees, looking back from where we came. $5 a night, showers 25 cents for two and a half minutes, if you need one. Beans and rice for supper. Pepper Jack, crackers, plums and apples for appetizer. You can’t get food like this just anywhere.

There is gradually developing a network of communicating cyclists working this route. Individuals and groups going each way - and this far out now, as this or that group overtakes, falls behind or passes another - there is talk of who each has seen, who might be seen, how they were doing, etc. Blog sites are being exchanged. It is a rolling community of sorts that is coming into being. We heard today of Double-Jointed Party Trick Brooke, who was encountered on Loup Loup Pass by seven riders who started in Bellingham. Yesterday, John and Laura caught us at the Issac Walton - laid up luxuriating as we were - and they had been forewarned about us. When a cyclist is encountered, we stop and take all the questions from opposite sides of the road, with cars flashing between - oblivious to them; “Where you going, when did you leave, who have you seen?” The Northern Tier community cycling group; no dues, no scheduled meeting but a strange consensus that this is worthwhile. “It’s the people,” as Andrew Yapp said in Eureka - and not something we anticipated.

*Small political note: Small because this is a politically and religiously-neutral journal.

Met a couple at the Issac Walton Inn, Will and Shelby Young. They manufacture and then sell water testing equipment to businesses and universities in 70 countries. Will was subjected to a lot of disgruntled feedback from the world over from his customers who were so angry and disappointed in the United States under the Bush administration - and who have expressed to him much satisfaction with the changes being made by Obama to mend our ways and our relationship with other countries. He looks through a small, but loud, window to the world providing good information to us here at home. For those of you who disagree with this small politically-neutral note, you may turn the page and agree to disagree.

Being in the sun today is like emerging from a cave. Three days of rain and inside living. Ever wonder if you had been raised in a cave and never went outside what you would think; how you would be? How about if you never had met a person? And if you did, they were always mean? What would you think about people? Is this even worth thinking about? What would you know about anything but the inside of that cave and mean people? You might pass up Mother Theresa as a meanie. This could be considered a second small political note except that’s not allowed in this journal.

Pat Sewell

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 22, Essex Mountain, 7 p.m.

Giving in to good sense, we decided to stay at the Issac Walton another day. Three hots and a cot while outside it’s 45 degrees and raining. Seemed the sensible thing this morning and now more so as the day has unfolded. The contemplative creep just added another “e” but who is counting? We are close to being the contemplative crawl. We’ve met a couple on a tandem - likewise, refugees driven in by the weather. John and Laura from Washington D.C. You can follow them on their blog Crazy Guy on a Bike. Cycling They, too, head for Bar Harbor, Maine. John, a veteran of many SAG supported tours in the Sierras and Rockies looks back on the Cascades as his most difficult riding. “Wouldn’t do it again,” he says.

Have met many people here; a Katherine Porter novel set in the Rockies. Every life worth a novel, someone said - maybe Shakespeare or did he say, “All life is a stage - each of us with many exits and entrances.” And how sweet the smell of this inn, this island in a cold rain storm. But who said, “How unique we all are and everything is, while nothing, really, is new under the sun”? The people come and go here - they leer - at the trains, at each other, us - and tomorrow the crank goes on for better or worse. A worthwhile stop in every sense, these two and one-half days. Tomorrow the Continental Divide.

Pat Sewell

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June 21, Sunday, Issac Walton Inn, Essex Mountain

A restful interlude, a soft note more appropriate to the harp than to the accordion. We arrived Saturday, after a long pull up from West Glacier following the middle fork of the Flathead River - Glacier Park to our left, Bob Marshall Wilderness on our right. Busy highway, narrow shoulder, steep climbs, hurried motorists with little time nor patience - most - for cyclists. They hustled by us: 4,000 to 50,000 pounds of vehicle, reluctantly sparing us four to five feet of asphalt. It was a trip of the better-to-miss kind, a frequently repeated rush of sound, not unlike the train through the tent in Whitefish, that would culminate in a blast of wind and noise just feet away. We trusted they would miss us. We hoped we would not wobble wrong and meet their wrong wobble and have a real unpleasant and unscheduled end to our forward progress among other things. They didn’t hit us, and we are here now, all scars internal. We caught glimpses of the beautiful raging river and snow-covered mountains between flinches and deep breaths. Arriving at this inn for a day of recovery must be akin to rolling into the oasis for a night from the bareness of a desert. Cool springs, shade, food, rest. All the good stuff.

This inn was built in 1939 for train crews on the Empire Builder route - Chicago to Seattle. Later it became a guest inn and now serves as such for train aficionados and winter sports buffs. It sits in the old railroad town of Essex - being essentially all that remains - it, plus a few houses of what was 400 people in 1900. It is “frozen in time” as they advertise. The decor is railroad redux. Signal lights, spikes, bedding, train pictures, the china all reflect this theme. The guests come to be near this and the 30 trains that come by 100 feet from the building. They talk of trains, take pictures of the building, the trains and the pictures on the walls of the trains. We all eat on Great Northern china and buy and mail train postcards. It’s immersion in train and better than immersion in the rain we have suffered through in recent days. After a day and a half here, I think I will recognize a train fan when I see one just as I can a smoker - or often a birdwatcher. It’s a curiosity how we organize ourselves around things like this and draw something back from it. Our room cleaner was a young man from L.A. who came to work here because, “It’s the last flag stop there is in the Amtrak system.” Asked to explain his interest, he just shook his head saying, “I dunno, maybe it’s the sound or the way they look.” I was reminded of the study with young toy and doll naïve monkeys who were given a choice of trucks, trains, dolls in which the monkey sexes desegregated in their interest with the boy monkeys clearly preferring the truck and train. The women seemed to be here in support. As the receptionist told me, “Some of these guys will go out back by the tracks at 25 degrees below zero and when it is snowing to take a picture.”

The guests and staff go out - it’s a tradition - morning and evening to wave at the passing Amtrak, which toots back in greeting.

We’ve had good food here, three meals a day. Soup, cold wine, salads, big breakfast, lingering evening meals, the dinner humming with train talk - “will it be late, remember the old helper trains - the 2-10-2’s?” We also had a sauna yesterday, our first of the trip. Gave all our beat up muscles a heat treat. Turned us from limp to flaccid and immobile. Today - later, a massage. Why not, tomorrow the road again, all those car encounters of the close kind and a 17 mile climb over Maria’s Pass which as it turns out is the lowest crossing over the Continental Divide. We will consider it a deed well done to cross into the Atlantic Watershed from that of the Pacific. Our front wheel strains for that far shore.

Both doing a lot of reading. Dave finished “The English Patient” - I, William Trevor’s short stories “After the Rain” - we’ve now swapped and recommend each of these to you with a little time and consciousness to spare.

Only sour note: It is June 21, Father’s Day, and there is no call coverage. I look forward to the voice mail retrievable over the pass.

A soft and restful interlude with much introspection here. Time plenty for such. It’s so easy to be in a stream, steering around obstacles, anticipating currents, fighting haystacks; and lose sight of the river’s bank and beyond and appetites attenuated by these distractions. It is possible to even be blindsided by emergent thoughts and feelings - like a man who gets off the mat after being knocked down whose eyes are dazzled by the lights as he comes to himself again and the screams beyond the ring call him to a larger world.

This place and this bike trip would, to continue the stream metaphor, be an eddy. A calm collecting place of that which floats free and disorganized in the belly of the stream that we are a part of, that we are actually. While there are sweet and sour currents from day to day, the same can be said of the landscape within. It’s a good ride so far within both dimensions.

Pat Sewell

Friday, June 19, 2009

June 19 , Whitefish State Park, Hwy. 93

Only 35 miles today. Hwy. 93 to Whitefish. Heavy traffic unconcerned with us. Narrow shoulders. Threatening clouds. Punitive climbs. Gorgeous scenery. Burley Trailer with bent axle from bear attack. “We fought the bear, and the bear won.” Depleted upon arrival, called down to the engine room on one of the last steep climbs, “power guys, I need power.” Nothing! Called again! This time a tired voice, “You got it all cap, nothing left down here,” a sad and honest report leaving me alone on the slope - two strings devoid of muscle hooked to my pedals. I lifted them one at a time using arm and will, puppets both, and somehow limped into camp, all my people in the engine room incapacitated by the toxic fumes today’s efforts had generated. Maybe this is what is meant by the term “slamified” that plays such a big motivational role in all the energy bars. “Don’t get slamified, buy me” or something similar. This is a man as machine model. Perhaps I should have looked into this question. Can we replace as we go on, is there a need for a restorative period and nutrients. Doesn’t seem optional - the restorative period tonight.

The air today was cool and damp - like a cold wet wash rag on our faces. Hard to recall the heat of eastern Washington now with this completely different climate. Many Canadians here, but no one wants to take Canadian money, but they want Canadian business. This is not congruent.

Pat Sewell

June 19, 7 p.m. - 3rd entry - West Glacier

Just arrived at the KOA Campground out of West Glacier; a city of RV’s - a few campsites and a few little two-bedroom cabins with porch and swing, one of which we took. Our tents are wet from last night, and we are wet from the day. We came up from Columbia Falls on back roads in a heavy, cold rain. Took a 12-mile detour, six of which was washboard gravel. Beat us to death. Road wasn’t fit for the name. We were cursing the little tricksters back in the map room and then already across a mountain on this goat trail, we realized our mistake and retraced. A sour note on that accordion, for sure. It was my mistake, and I’m in the penalty box. The recovery route was almost as bad, so we arrived exhausted - looking for any safe harbor. I’m convinced after our detour that one mile of gravel is equal to four miles of asphalt experientially. I’m also convinced that if there had only been gravel roads in the west, it would never have been explored. The washboard made it hard to climb and harder to go downhill. My mule tried to throw me, and David’s buggy did throw a wheel. The quick release, released and the wheel went careening away. The dragging buggy brought him to a halt without a crash. Had he lost a wheel doing 30 mph, perhaps a more serious result. My Chinese-made American flag - attached to my bear-broken fiberglass pole was shaken loose and lost by the pounding, as well.

This was a tough day equivalent to being staked down on an ant bed in full sun at the equator. We do this for fun, of course.

It’s good, they say, to read the map
Don’t miss a turn and be a sap.
The male brain, though, likes to dead reckon
Head for those hills there that beckon.
Women, they say, will take direction
And men will say they should, upon reflection.
I said we’re alright. This way looks just fine
What the hell anyway, we’re the exploring kind.
Turns out, though, riding on gravel will kill a man
Better to read that map and stick with the plan.
I didn’t do it, and we spent 12 miles riding on rocks
Now I’ve lost face as guide and am in the penalty box.

An additional note on the Whitefish Lake State Park in Whitefish in case you ever want to stay there. Nice place, friendly people - helpful, welcoming. Designed well. Has small courtyard-type places enclosed by vegetation. Hot showers $1 for three minutes. More time extra. Whitefish Lake borders it with the mountains beyond. To the west a wall of trees, green and lush, appealing to the eye with its variety of soft greens and leaf shapes, but behind that wall 60 feet up is a train track, a very busy train track, a train every 45 minutes. This has the effect of a train coming through your living room every 45 minutes - or more accurately, your tent. Must be about the same level of sound as that within a jet engine at take-off. And the same effect as a continuously screaming baby in a movie theater. Hard to pay attention to anything else. The sound would build as the train approached, reaching a crescendo that caused every molecule within you to resonate - then de-crescendo. After four or five of these, your molecules were pretty well retrained so that they continued this activity without provocation late into the morning. Sleep, of course, was not an option except for Dave who slept through the bear attack.

Pat Sewell

June 19 - second entry - Columbia Falls

We have sought shelter under the overhang at the Western Building Center. You take your comfort where you can find it. Curtains of rain fall in all directions. The sky over the pass to the east through the mountains, gathered there like a fortress, is opaque; there is no color lighter than midnight black. Storms were predicted, and this time Mr. Weather looks to be right. Should we dress out and head into it or hang as the brothers do. Will not hurt to give it a little time. Maybe the five minute thing will kick in and we’ll have change.

In yesterday’s notes, I talked of the use of strings, or cords, going to each foot, used to lift my dead legs at the last climb into Whitefish. I decided to continue this on the ride through town today, and a strange thing happened - to lift my feet, I have to lift my head. This, when repeated, causes a continuous nodding of my head - which to an observer, looks like a nod hello. So, as I went through town nodding, the people along our path started nodding back. Other people - who didn’t, perhaps, see me - perhaps, instead, saw them - even people in cars started nodding, too. There was a wave of nodding - like the waves at a football game, that commenced and spread, ultimately affecting everybody. It was an eye opener. Turns out, by me being inadvertently friendly, a resonance was set loose on the town and a wave of friendliness and responsiveness took over Whitefish. I could have passed through looking out a slot in a black plastic bubble to find out where the friendlies were and just passed by the non-nodders and been done with it. May never have known what a friendly bunch of people lives here if I hadn’t done my part. This seems like a good thing to know; a positive inadvertent consequence of being friendly. You change things. Everybody should learn this at age two. It’s not a question of finding it. It’s a question of helping make it happen. Things are not static or already formed, after all.

Pat Sewell

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 18, Thursday, NFS Campground, North Dickey Lake

From Lake Koocanusa we made our way to Eureka and the Riverside Park for the night. $5 plus $5 deposit for the key to the communal bathroom which was worth the price of admission. It was ankle deep in water from a vigorously dripping shower nozzle. The water on the floor was warm, though, from the heavy foot traffic. The toilet worked when available and gave off an “I’d rather stand than sit” vibe. We stopped here after too big a meal at Café Jax. Our first French fries - pounds of them - and me, another reuben for my survey which is not going well for lack of subject. 5 on a 10 max at the Jax. You don’t need to travel to Eureka for a reuben if you are a fan. Maybe for the bathroom experience, yes.

Riverside Park was a gathering place for cyclists. We met Tedesco - a slight, dark, thick-haired young man fresh from destroying himself and his right knee on the Banff to BaHa Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. He had ridden 125 miles the day before - on trails over 16 hours and was bailing because of injury. Surveying the park for campsite he, proving that despite having entered this race had some good sense, headed to the hotel. And, we met Andrew Yapp. Follow him on his blog.

He was retracing our path to the Pacific - had left Minot, North Dakota, two weeks back and swung casually through southern Canada. We had supper with him and breakfast. Many travels behind him - all over the west, down through BaHa, the Southern Tier across the US, then up to DC along the Blue Ridge. He thought maybe at 27 it was getting time, after this trip, to think career. Very social, he found the pleasure of bike touring to be the unexpected and the people he met. Slept on the top of a picnic table in his sleeping bag. Had only a tarp - unused this night - for a tent. Cooked some great eggs and bacon for us and entertained us with stories of his travels.

We met, also, seven cyclists - friends from Pendleton, Oregon - on the Northern Tier route to Bar Harbor. Hoped to get there mid August. They traveled without gear, with three vehicles in support. 70 - 80 miles a day. Being in their own group seemed to insulate them from others a bit, though they were friendly. They did keep the little bathroom humming and insulated a bit, as well. Science teacher, Mark Peterson, writes their blog = C2C.wardpress.

Leaving Eureka under a bright and clear sky, loaded with new supplies, we headed uphill toward Whitefish and that’s when the sleet treat struck. They say here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, and it will change,” and it did. A large dark cloud moved in from the mountain ridge to the north and boom, suddenly presto - we were under siege. Quickly, but belatedly, we put on our rain gear and were soon wet anyway. The sleet pounded us while clouds of water from above - and the road, thrown by the trucks - enveloped us. It was an unusual experience, wouldn’t happen like this in Louisiana - a gap in our education. The result was an early camp at North Dickey Lake NFS Campground where we spent the afternoon recovering body heat. I started getting reports of my frozen toes coming on line with great protestations about when a got in my bedroll at 10 p.m.

It was cozy in the tent, warm and dry. The night went well until about 2 a.m. at which time an awful racket commenced a few yards from my tent. My bicycle with the Burley Trailer was parked against a pine tree five feet from my tent. Something or someone was knocking both around. They or it were also breathing loudly, sniffing and later batting pots and pans about. This went on for some time. Dave snored through it - having earplugs in place. I assumed it was a bear and that I was safe in the tent with no food therein. This may have been a foolish assumption but proved correct. The bear came and went over one and one-half hours, each time visiting the trailer and giving it a good thrashing - ultimately leaving it upside down with its
axle bent a bit, though still usable, and its fiberglass pole broken - and thoroughly muddied. The bike was unharmed. The bear was after our cheese, trying to move our cheese - using his best effort and failing, but he left his mark on my buggy and my consciousness. It was a second lesson learned in one day. The bear was discerning in terms of food preference. He ate our Braeburn apple, declined to consume a nice bag of peeled organic baby carrots, attacked and consumed a jar of Natrella but left unmolested a jar of peanut butter. He did not mess with the camp stove.

We learned this morning from the campground host that there had been bear problems, but they were thought remedied by a death of the suspect by gun. They had taken down warning signs which are back up, and a trap is on the way for our bear. We asked that they spare the bear a bullet - their preference, too.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 16, Lake Koocanusa

Early up today. Still chilly, my down jacket as comforting as someone bringing coffee in bed - which doesn’t happen here, of course. I do get coffee ultimately, but it is more like a bowel treatment than what you usually associate with the term. David boils the coffee, so as to concentrate the toxins, then pours off the supernatant which has the appearance of tannin-saturated swamp water - and the taste. There is no cream, usually, and only rarely sugar. This isn’t oversight but intentional. He doesn’t want his creation adulterated. Very proud of it. I think he came to his opinion while a tooth was out.

Speaking of bowel treatments brings to mind the nature of the facilities in these national forest campgrounds for some of our necessary functions. Do you remember when you were young and you had an inability to accurately assess what size space you could potentially fall through; like on a board bridge with cracks between the boards; and you only hesitantly, with great trepidation, perhaps
holding someone’s hand, could cross such a perilous passage? Well, this is the way it is in these campground facilities. They have these pits with tops on them. Once the top is raised, there is nothing to keep you from falling through. You’re supposed to sit down on this and relax. This is hard enough to do if you had that childhood assessment problem but impossible if you saw the movie, Slum Dog Millionaire. The best solution is to not go in these little buildings and, instead, stay dehydrated, and when you get to a town large enough to have a German Madame, get a colon evacuation. If she has a whip, she can do double duty since this is a trip for masochists. Spares you, too, the saturation of your clothing by the smell of mountain pine scent that emits from all those little hanging paper pine trees the forest service puts in these facilities to spare attendees a full experience of our humanity.

And while I’m on the camping experience, I would like to talk of that wonderful thing - the sleeping pad. This is a one-inch thick device that inflates with the help of breath. When you have some, you blow whatever air and bacteria you can muster into a little crevice that screws tight, then lay it in your tent. It is a lot like the yogi’s nail bed and serves the same function - to sever you from your preoccupation with you and to advance your efforts to accept round-the-clock discomfort so you can finally give up on this plane of existence, your personal significance in the scheme of things and find bliss while stuck on this planet.

Those who sell these things don’t alert you to this truth because there is no truth in advertising, and it might cut into sales if there were. The good news is that since you can’t sleep because of the developing bed sores, you have more time to contemplate the exquisite and equally educational pain of the next morning’s hill climbs. All’s well that end well.

News Bulletin: David lost his tooth - third time now. Is he becoming immune to Super Glue? Is his body rejecting his tooth? Are there larger forces at work here? Was it something in that beer that dissolved the glue? So many unknowns, so little time, so little interest in the truth among the people, so much certainty unwarranted, so much constricting sameness, so much bullshit here and elsewhere.

Lake Koocanusa, the banks of which we camp, is the damed Kootenai River that begins in Canada, comes to the US, then back to Canada - hence, the name. It’s full of landlocked salmon - the coho, highly priced by those near and far. The limit is 50 fish a day, possession 100. People smoke and can them. “Sweet red meat - best you ever had” - told to us by a man in our campground without an accompanying invite to dinner. Salmon interrupticus. When you’re eating Dave’s nutrition-free cuisine, a mischance like that is as painful as the prospect of a long climb. The guy was not from the south, apparently. This lake is 90 miles long. We’ve seen a lot more -osprey than boats on it.

Pat Sewell

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 15, Rocky Gorge Campground, Lake Koocanusa, 3rd entry

5 p.m. - a sunny day since 2 p.m., a surprise, too! We slept and then awakened in rain, packed in a drizzle and betting against the odds set out to find the dry. The day before, we had come up the Bull River Valley - then up the Kootenai River Valley to Libby, Montana, home to the asbestos mine that was the source of much pain and suffering for its miners. That mine is closed now as are the timber mills, having little for many to do here. Upon arrival in Libby - to do our part for the faltering economy - we made a trip to the supermarket, as we knew supplies would be hard to come by over the next few days. We felt like Leonid Brezhnev when he came to America and went in his first supermarket. Whole system shock and judgment failure with the choices available. Had to fight grabbing at things before they could get away. Wondered how people could be so calm and walk around shopping so deliberately. Our hunger was talking in a loud way to us, and impulse control was not available. Must be what a meth addict experiences when without. Recognizing our disabled state, we restored some patience by an immersion experience in fried chicken from the deli, after which we picked up a few items for the next few days. Judgment restored.

Our stay in Libby was brief and wet. We did meet a young couple who had a trailer next to our tent site. He works on railroad tracks with a crew that contracts with BNSF to repair its rails and replace the stone ballast under the rails. This requires he move around the country at two to three week intervals. Had a big colorful tatoo on his arm, a lisp, smoked long dark cigarillos and a girlfriend named Brandi, who deserved the name. She took care of their dappled dachshund and sold Avon. Said it didn’t bother her to move around because she had grown up in the army. Described herself as shy - “trying to get over it.” They looked to me like a piece of driftwood floating down one of these raging western rivers but what’s the choice.

The whole town of Libby is somewhat adrift as are many of the towns in this region with the falling timber prices and closing mines. Reminders everywhere we go testify loudly to the interdependency of us all economically. Many don’t see the larger system as having failed them. They have their favorite parts to pound on as causative. “Canada is the problem - dumping timber on the US market.” “It’s the politicians.” “It’s us printing money.” From their perspective, they have suffered an economic ambush, and somebody is to blame.

There is a new type of roadside marker for traffic deaths, a six-foot high round red pole with a one-foot cross on top (or, in one instance, two white crosses). Many have plastic flowers around their base or wrapping the cross at top. There is no distinguishing dead motorists from dead bicyclists nor Christian from non-Christian. This may be a situation like the Mormon Church tradition of proselytizing the dead - reading them onto the rolls - even if long dead. Whatever the consequence for the dead, it does serve as a reminder of a clear and present danger on these roads. When you hit a cluster of these, you start flinching at the log trucks’ approaching roar.

Had a tailwind yesterday and today. Small favors from the Gods are appreciated, but we don’t take them personal. Would prefer their attention be on keeping the ferries afloat in Bangladesh to blowing us along if they are going to exert a choice.

One-half mile from campground we pulled over briefly to coordinate, and there on a post was an unopened Budweiser - big as life. Would you drink it? Guess what happened to it. See poem later for answer.

Sitting on a post, right next to the highway,
A bottle of Budweiser; no way you say!
There it was, though, the cap still on tight,
After 40 miles, to Dave, it was a welcome sight.
But was it beer, to me this wasn’t clear.
Could it be poison, something we ought to fear.
No problem for Dave, though, he just took a sip,
Liked it a lot, then swallowed another nip.
It wasn’t long, that bottle was completely dry.
Why was it there, he never even asked why.
He’s a man, knows right off, a really good thing
Something after a long biking day, that’ll stop the sting.

June 15 ------- 2nd Definition Puzzle

A continuous concatenation of contrived confabulations that offer their perspectives as reality to bring greater fragmentation and polarization of the populace in the hope of gaining the political ascendancy with no regard or concern for the ultimate deleterious effect this result will have on the public good and the ability of the populace to adapt to and address fruitfully, man’s serious contingencies, central to the future welfare of all - when and if they succeed in their efforts.

What is it?

Pat Sewell