Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 6, May 31, Sunday Okanogan American Legion Park

Loup-Loup Pass behind us and a 20+ mile run down the mountain afterwards to this small town on the banks of the river of the same name. The ride up was twelve miles of continuous exquisite pain - exactly like I would imagine a three-hour root canal without anesthesia or maybe water boarding. Large parts of me constantly fought the fantasy of a pickup truck coming by - with homemade lemonade and music and an insistence that I allow myself and gear to be carried to the top. Only the desire not to tell a lie for the rest of my life kept me from flagging one down. We get what we ask for in this life and we got it on this climb.

Early in the climb we met Todd , who was biking to his garden to plant root crops, and thank goodness for that. Dave had bent his chain while shifting and we were without solution though possessed of the right tools and Todd saved us. A master chain fixer, but also firefighter, plumber, gardener, public service junkie and would be state representative. He had a lot of hair, a big dip and the skills we needed. Said a hurricane blew him out of Key Largo to Las Vegas and then here. Wants to reform politics. He gets our vote.

There’s a 72 hour limit on the camping in this little park by the river. Showers are 50 cents and the camping is $3.25/night/person. We’re the only campers but there has been a steady stream of shower takers. It’s a nice amenity that the American Legion makes available and one that is seemingly common so far on our route. I wonder why not in our area of the country.

Last evening at our cabin by the river I watched a pair of woodpeckers agree to make a nest in a cottonwood snag. Black backs, gray collars, rose breast: both sexes. He won her over with a fine site and a wonderful display of his wings as he climbed and encircled the snag and as he sat atop it. He had family on his mind and a place to make it happen on the bank of a beautifully singing river and she took to the idea while I watched.

The woodpecker preens
And awaits a mate
By snag
By God
All water is holy

Today I saw also a shrine at roadside:
2 crosses: one large, one small.
Both had sun-bleached flowers - some fallen to the ground.
The smaller cross had a tattered rosary - its cross and many beads were missing.

Life and death cycling.

Pat Sewell

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 5, Saturday, May 30, 10 a.m.

Cruel, steep slopes, unrelenting.
Snow, stone, rushing water;
They, my pleas, go unnoticed.

May 30, 2009 Mazama, Washington. Washington Pass is behind us now as is our innocence. 5400 feet straight up. More vertical than the ladder on a Louisiana water tower. Painful enough to elicit a “what were we thinking” that repeated itself like a metronome, a drum beat to the absurd. Once over, though, and a six-mile downhill to our camp it became “piece of cake” with leaden legs and “the little train that could.” The human mind grasps pain, remembers it, laments it for others, but doesn’t re-experience it acutely; hence, the crank can go on and the next pass call - against all good sense. What is that reward? The curiosity and desire for freedom that drives the child from the crib, as he falls on his head, an ego need to escape our earthly bonds? I’m not sure even with reflection but do know it’s a nice itch to scratch and seems to come with the original equipment - as clearly as does the love of a good rain, a good night’s sleep and some well-seared red meat - and I could go on: PG13 to Triple X.

We’ve come to rest for a good breakfast after four days of eating brown stuff - like brown rice. Dave, as a chef, has mastered the nutrition free meal and I that of chief non-contributing complainer. Everybody has their role imperatives and their mountains ahead.

Pat Sewell

Day 5, May 30 (Evening Entry) Winthrop, Washington

East through a broadening valley,
Creeping aridity, falling humidity
It is the pumps now that bring the green
From the river nearby in this scene serene.

Downhill from Lone Fir Campground hard by a creek filled with snowmelt at 30 MPH. Payday for yesterday’s climb of 33 miles. Blew into Winthrop with barely the turn of the crank; a tourist town on the banks of the Methow River filled with mountain bikers and motorcyclists. Hot shower night for us with a cabin on the river and a break from Dave’s rice and lentils. This an easy day of recovery from the Washington Pass climb.

I remain haunted a bit by a scene I passed going up yesterday.

A viewing point, a pull over
In the distance, snow and lake
He sat on a rock, looking out
His clothes were slack now
He was bent, balding and his skin yellowish
She stood near, leaning in toward him,
Her hand on his head, smoothing his remaining hair
Disheveled at his collar;
Petting on him, looking into his face, talking.
Her body was young and taut
And spoke of a future,
Grandchildren for him, I imagined.
“Bring your kids here honey.”
“I’ve always loved these mountains.”
“I will, Dad, and I’ll tell them of this day.”
“I’ll tell them you brought me here.”
“We’ll camp and talk of you”;
Then a kiss on his forehead.
And we were all swallowed by our mountains.

Pat Sewell

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 2, May 27 - (noon entry) Concrete, Washington

70+ mile passage along Skagit River - through fir forest. Many creeks, ferns, dense growth and big logging trucks who do not care to share the road. Met an Indian who told us so. A smoker but a concerned man. Said tobacco was sacred in his tribe which I think is an old term for addictive. Road gentle on us - a few swells but none that brought tears or regrets; temperature, bicycle friendly, with 15 degrees differential sun to shade. Mountains loom not far from river’s edge - many snow-capped and with an ability unusual for the inanimate to strike fear in the heart and anticipatory fatigue in the legs. Only a sincere and practiced capacity for denial keeps us moving forward knowing and not knowing at the same time. It is said to be uphill from here; the party being over, so to speak. Eight miles to Rockport and a camp. Have been advised to seek out Rockport Bar and Grill tonight by more than one tatooed bench sitter - and by Kat “Just meow if you need me,” our waitress, who served up a massive reuben that rated a 5 on my reuben scale. I intend to do reubens across America and have that question - burning in so many minds - answered finally of who makes the best reuben.

Pat Sewell

Day 2, May 27 - Skagit River, Washington

Day 2, May 27 (Evening Entry)

Camped at Steelbend Park - on the banks of the Skagit River, Rockport, Washington.

A lot of the roads between here and Concrete, our noon stop, go up. It’s a habit thing. So if you are riding and want to go there, you go up. No choice. No matter who you are or how important. We, of course, are not important. We are anonymous and just passing through which makes us a little like a light breeze, so light the houses and lives here are not shaken by our passage. We are a channel unwatched, the tree that fell unheard; however, the uphill does not go unnoticed by all body parts that have nerve endings. They have had their loud say and even now are calling for the Ibuprofen.

The ride from Concrete was not invisible, though, to at least one driver. Let me know if you see her. Female, fortyish, pulled back brown hair, medium build, smoker, drives with one hand on the wheel, one on the horn, entitled in her mind to all the highway, resentful of bicycling, not afraid to kill - perhaps even drawn to it. Driving a green Jeep Waggoner that needs washing, had a dent in the front right fender, probably from earlier bicycle kill. She let me know I was seen and unappreciated. Came by close, horn blaring, boiling with indignation underlain by venomous rightousness. She missed, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this, but it certainly served as punctuation in a battle uphill otherwise done anonymously and no bad thing that was, given the contrast she offered.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 1 May 26th - Anacortes, WA

An inauspicious beginning. Separated and lost from each other in the first five minutes. How did that happen? Assumptions; they’ll do it every time. I thought. He thought. And then we were instantly enveloped in a maze of possibilities. Luckily though without credit, we came upon one another in relatively short order and after a fruitless assignment of blame to the other and no new information we got underway. We had bike paths for a while - a lulling experience that left us ill prepared for the main highway out of Anacortes. Here we hit traffic enough to call into question our survival and noise enough to deafen us. Surviving that, we had 25 miles of rural riding through crop land bordering the bay. Piece of cake - tailwind and flat. Good idea this trip, knowing all the while this interlude like all others was just interlude and ahead lay a reckoning.

By evening we were in River City Campground, Sedro Woolley, Washington, best known, derided and revered for the construction of logging equipment that has cleared the Northwest. There by the Skagit River we spent our first night on the road and met a fellow rider - a woman pulling a buggy with a dog in it and with panniers for a total of 215 pounds of weight. That’s when we first realized our inadequacy and came to feel that perhaps we didn’t have accurate bicycle self-awareness. She made us feel puny, worse than the kid that got the sand kicked in his face at the beach until he learned to play the piano.

We slept well, though, and lived to face the day as there is little choice for any of us who make it through whatever night.

Pat Sewell

Monday, May 25, 2009

Introduction - Anacortes to Bar Harbor Bicycle Trip

Summer, ’09 Anacortes to Bar Harbor Bicycle Trip
Monday, May 26

Why do it? Every man’s question. “You’re crazy - lost your mind or what”? “I envy you; wish I could go, I admire what you‘re doing.” A bell-shaped curve it is, like all things. Some like it at home, some like it hot. What’s in a word, an idea, an actuality? - a ride across the nation on a bicycle, a rear wheel in the Pacific, to a front wheel in the Atlantic; with just 4300 miles in between? No pioneers are we though, as our path has been well beaten by many before, following the northern tier map of the Adventure Cycling Association. Still, when it’s you turning the crank, it has the strong certainty of brave new ground.

Point A, Anacortes, Washington. Last meal downtown at Calico Restaurant with well wishers, excitement, sadness, trepidation, curiosity, self doubts; a full meal if any is.

We peddle with 65 pounds of gear, one buggy and an illusion of self-sufficiency. We have ahead of us an undeniable reality, much of which is uphill.

Our goal is Bar Harbor, Maine, by September 1. We should be able to walk there by then and with the world’s most efficient machine to propel us, should be a lark - provided of course, we don’t come to our senses, get struck by a speeding virus or a log truck.

We intend to camp and feed ourselves except for the occasional restaurant stop. We have an expectation of fellow travelers on these high seas, people equally drawn to whatever this means to them.

My companion is David Tisdale, someone who has shared bicycle and boat paddling adventures with me for 36 years and is none the wiser than I as a result. My intent is to shift as much weight into his buggy while he sleeps as I can, and he will do likewise. That’s what friends are for.

Pat Sewell