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 - Tatteredalbumblogspot.com. (atlasblogspot.com.) 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 Broquest.com 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. Broquest.com, 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 Broquest.com 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 Santa.com. 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

June 15 Bad Medicine Campground, Bull Lake, Montana

The mosquitoes swarm in the shadows. Only the bright sun discourages them from feeding on us, and it’s a surprise to me. Hadn’t counted on them, and the deet runs low. Resource depletion and scarcity. We run parallel to the world on this one. Could lead to deet looting, but the sight of unbitten skin would be tell-tale, and the villain identified. That’ll probably keep us both in check.

We came up Hwy. 56 from 200 and the campground on Bull River, a short ride but the prettiest stretch yet. The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness parallels our route up the Bull River Valley. We climbed but at a civilized and breathable rate, constantly fed by the scenery of the river, field, green trees and snow-capped mountains. Perhaps it was the previous days rest but we floated up here, an effortless suspension in the scenery.

Dave McWethy arrived at 8 p.m. last night to stay until Sunday morning. He brought food - fresh fruit, cheese, bratwurst, eggs, bacon, wine - and we feasted. He survived the interrogation about the outside world we submitted him to and today a tour with us and his dog, Ziggs, through the Ross Creek Valley to see the old growth cedars there. He’s the new voice here at Lake Wobegon. Dave and I both are tired of what either of us has to say. I wrote of the trip to the cedars - see below. Tomorrow we’ll make Libby, Montana, and resupply. We’ve had an easy three days, and hopefully our muscles are ready to go. Mosquito blood loss may be a future variable. We’ll see.

Pat Sewell

June 15, Ross Creek Cedars

The sun paces overhead, recklessly casting off energy in all directions, arriving here as shafts and pools of light; search lights that probe, wherever permitted, this valley’s floor. The valley creek flows full probing as well and each; the sun, this creek have arranged and rearranged the form of this land and the life here. They have worked in symphony with time and weather, with lightning and even in this remote, less trampled place, the hand of man, to do so.

First growth cedar giants, as large as 16 feet in diameter, reach as high as the eye to compel the sun’s continued sustenance having gained the ascendancy here. Alive as a grove for 500+ years, many lay bloodied and burned; as criss-crossing barriers to passage, as stark and blackened snags and as creek blocking piles. Those fallen play a part with the rocks in stream song and direction, sometimes as partner; with force of water in the bringing down of a brother cedar through a channel changed; a fall after a fall after a fall. The creek sings a song, strident and insistent, running hard with snow melt, away from it though in the deep shadows of the big cedars, among the fern beds it is just faint choir to the songs of the birds, and the winds rustling of the seedling and bough. The varied thrush, the warbling vireo, the pink-sided junco, the hermit thrush, and others sing for food and family. The creek tears at roots, rolls and crushes rocks, making sand of the eons and forces its way down virgin path to have its say there. The burned snags, lightning lit and now flamed out, serve as a second cavern and nest site and as fodder for bug and forest floor.

For those of us passing through, time stands still in these old cedars and yet looking around the business of life and death and the relentless interminable passage of time scream with signs. Nothing is still in this valley. It pulses with impatient change, all ultimately sun bidden. This beat goes on to the drum of the pileated woodpecker making its square holes; and to us picking our way through this story of everything. A filled cup in a willed walk on the wild side.

Pat Sewell

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 16, June 11, Clark Fork

An eight-mile run for breakfast at Mom’s Café, on Hwy. 200 again. Called 200, no doubt, because 200 bicyclists are killed weekly on it. Most of the deaths, I’m sure, are unintentional and sort of like deer kills only with less damage done to the car. Locked into our pedals, we rarely go through the windshield when struck like the deer causing the driver to careen off to great consequence. I remember in Methow County, Washington, there were signs cautioning drivers about deer hazards detailing 400+ killed annually at $374,000 damage. So far, I’ve seen no signs cautioning drivers about bicyclists. We are being failed by signage, if not society. Perhaps PETA can help.

“Mom” fixes a mean breakfast: two eggs over-easy, home fries, sausage, biscuit, tomato juice and slice of lemon and coffee - $5.95. You learn to appreciate a good cheap breakfast when you are hungry most of the time.

Here’s a new feature in the journal: The Definition Puzzle - I give the definition, you submit what you think the answer is. Fax to 318-868-7705. I will be the decider just like George Bush was but with good judgment. My decision will be final. There will be no appeals. The winner will receive an undisclosed prize in an undisclosed place. There may be considerable cost involved for the winner. Only one definition may be submitted No shot gunning allowed. The more ludicrous answers and their submitter will be disclosed if I choose to do so and have gone uncompensated to not do so. Y’all come.

First definition: “A blood flood contained to restive hinterlands”

David is stumped. What is it?

Pat Sewell

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 15, June 10 - On the peninsula in Pend Oreille Lake at Island View RV Park

On the peninsula in Pend Oreille Lake at Island View RV Park- but I couldn’t prove it.

Interview with clerk at bike shop, Sandpoint, Idaho - “You guys doing the Northern Tier, huh!? We see y’all all the time. Everybody’s going east this time of year, still happy they survived the Cascades. Later in August those from the east get here. Look pretty beat up. Just hang their head and shake it saying, ‘I just want to get home,’ and they’ve got the Cascades ahead, the poor guys.” “Me,” he continued, “I just ride around here, don’t break a sweat. Don’t understand why you do it, really.”

Why, indeed, do they persist at this point 450 miles to Anacortes and 3,850 behind them? To avoid the asterick! They don’t want to be Roger Maris and die with it. They’ve got to finish on their own power what they begin; a sick situation but human enough. Many is the human folly perpetuated for less reasons.

Each day in microcosm we face the same decision. Get to our goal or give. Today the state park, for which we aimed and carefully measured out our strength, was closed. This led to a search for a night’s refuge. We were first in the town of Hope, then East Hope and finally literally and figuratively beyond Hope. We climbed steep roads so up that the front of our bikes lifted with the effort to climb. Exhausted we arrived at Island View RV and secured a nice tent spot - shady with deep soft grass and a hot shower for 25 bucks. We would of paid $1000 at that point.

Our ride today was on heavily trafficked roads with us squeezed to the side between road and railing. Only route through this area to the east so little choice to the map makers at Adventure Cycle. We were warned several times that “Ignorance prevails around here” and “Rednecks don’t believe bicyclists should be on highway” - our experience would affirm this.

We did see a moose and bald eagle as did fifty thousand motorists.

We continue to meet many friendly, helpful and curious people - many with military ties to Louisiana. Most complain retrospectively of the heat. A B52 pilot from Barksdale. A Special Forces trainee from Fort Polk, Vietnam era, sculpting now with his own gallery, “hated the mosquitoes”, too. We also hear references to our governor, “Boy did he flame out - trying to follow up Obama.”

Still no news magazines to be had anywhere. I feel a need, for completeness sake, to report an overlooked, journal wise, crisis incident involving David’s dental situation. My reticence has been overcome by my sense of responsibility to faithfully record our journey. While in Sedro Woolley, the first night camping, David lost a porcelain crown - front top, third to the left facing him. This caused, at least appearance wise, a 30 point IQ drop and would have seriously handicapped our ability to fruitfully engage those we met. I looked at him, and I was ashamed. Not even his mother would have gone anywhere with him. So we got some super glue and stuck it back on - a little crooked, maybe, but back on. And - so far, so good. I thought of it tonight when I spotted him checking it for looseness.

A tooth from his mouth freely fell
Afterwards, he wasn’t smart, you could tell
We got some glue and stuck it back
His IQ came up 30 points - that’s a fact.

Stopped at Used Bookstore - bought The English Patient, William Trevor short stores, and Gabriel Marques’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Don’t need the extra weight, but these called loudly to us.

Read in USA Today that Americans produce 4.6 pounds of trash a day per person. That gives Dave and I a 9.2 allotment to produce our fair share. I think we’re close just with banana peels, candy wrappers, rice wrapping, bean cans and chocolate milk cartons. We’re doing better on the carbon footprint thing except for exhalations. On steep slopes, there is a breath per turn of the crank. That’s a lot of CO2. Figure 3000 cc’s minimum. Then, there is the methane and sulfur dioxide produced by Chef Dave’s diet. We may be an environmental hazard - particularly for those following close behind. We did have a couple, parked here in their football length RV, marvel at how we can carry our world in our buggy. “That’s amazing,” she said. “Look at that,” said he - both reacting to a visit to the zoo.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 14, Tuesday, June 9,

Breakfast in Usk after a fog-delayed start. Oatmeal and raisins for me - Dave, an omelet with a pound of hash browns - always a pound or more. “Why”? we ask. “This is potato country - and logging country and men need a lot to eat, but they are not working now. The mills are closing. People are getting laid off. There’s no work. Homes are getting foreclosed on.” Everybody chiming in now - a couple at the next table - the waitress. “It’s the system. Inflation will be worse than Germany when it took a wheelbarrow of money to buy a meal. We need to go back to the Gold Standard. Prices have got to come down. The cattle are not worth anything, yet steaks are still high - don’t make sense.“ Social unrest in this river city for breakfast. Nice, friendly highly pessimistic people who see the fabric of this area fraying rapidly.

Everybody has their opinion as to the cause. I have noticed to this point the impossibility of finding a major news source in print as we have passed though these small towns. Today in Newport and Old Town - two days ago in Kettle Falls - no New York Times, Wall Street Journal or major news magazine. “We tried to carry them - nobody buys them,” the clerk at Safeway said today. Found a USA Today finally but not a full meal. Saw Tiger won “The Memorial” tournament. Mother would have been disappointed for Phil Michelson.

Rode 40 - 45 miles through North Pend Oreille Valley. Beautiful. Looks like the Rhine with low mountains crowding shore - without the castles. We’ve been told that the “Californians are buying up the place” and that “they’ve about run off the Ku Klux and Survivalists.”

We had rain off and on and continuous cold. Froze last night in this area. Currently 40 degrees, sun setting with light streaming through the thick stand of pines we’ve camped in. Hot showers - free with the four dollar camp fee.

Came here from Old Town on Old Priest Road. Saw no old priests or young boys. Did see one POW MIA flag flying with an American flag beside it, pit bull in the yard, an old camper on blocks and a “wood for sale” sign at the drive entrance - maybe the last survivalist.
Noticed a possible training effect. On big long hills my doubt is gone
that I can make it, the burn as well. It’s becoming just a time issue. Finished today thinking I could have gone further.

Repairs tomorrow for Dave’s bike shimmy, we hope, in Sandpoint. Our first state is behind us now. Idaho only 60 miles wide.

Pat Sewell

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 13, June 8, Monday Cusick, Washington, County Fairgrounds

Camped among the pines within smell of neighing horses gathered at the county fair barn here by all the little adolescent girl horse people for a workshop. The parking lot full of dualies and horse trailers and the camping area, likewise, with tents and pop-up campers. The men - fathers, I presume - are pooled up, many nearby listening to continuous music, drinking and telling tall tales audible clearly in our camp over the music. I guess I’m going to have to whip some ass for quiet, but my plan is to first lay low and then send Dave. The mamas help with the horses, erect the tents and inflate the mattresses in a clear differentiation of roles in these western families.

We’re refugees from the cold and rain of Tiger Pass and Beaver Lodge. Left early - too early, in cold - too cold and rode down the mountain screaming around hairpin curves on wet roads while wet - too wet. My hands and feet out in front of a motionless me down mountain, just blocks of ice - no sensation. So cold couldn’t operate brakes. Had to use my mouth to squeeze the brakes. (Don’t try it). Dave’s bike shimmied again, so the mystery thickens.

Had breakfast in the town of Ione on the North Pend Oreille River. A beautiful valley and a big breakfast that I ate with my elbows since my hands useless (Don’t try it). Had seen on the map the name “Ione” and have continued to enjoy memories evoked of the old friend of my mother who introduced her to Dad in 1924?

The ride up valley beautiful to Cusick and this campground, lush green fields, a long full river, cattle ranches, mountains half-sheathed in clouds. Met only two more bicyclists - a couple riding in tandem - the Northern Tier like us - blowing and going. Man in front, possibly Baptist.

We be tortoises so far. Did have a bigger day out of the mountains. Sand Point, Idaho tomorrow.

Pat Sewell

Day 13 June 8 (2nd entry) Cusick, Washington

Two competing imageries vie for an overall conceptualization of the trip thus far - on the first day of the third week; grab bag and the accordion. Go to a garage sale on a Saturday in a small town and find the grab bag section. $1 maybe, a grab. Pay up - reach in and who knows what you will get of the good, bad, useful, useless. May come away with a tool forgotten or a key that’ll open a chest somewhere with untold riches within that have been passed over by the rushing horde you and they are. May cut a finger on a rusty blade, or may draw a blank - just pick up more weight to pull up the next hill while asking yourself, “Why did I do that? Didn’t need anything.” Or buy an accordion at that garage sale, though you would probably have to be in south Louisiana - Mamou or Eunice, maybe - to have that choice. Take it out of the case - where it’s all squashed up - stretch it, sucking in some air, then compress it, then back and forth while hitting on keys randomly. High notes, low notes, sweet, sour, short and long. You’ll get all the sounds, many unanticipated, many pleasant and not so. A cacophony, if this done fast - an uncoordinated one, full of musical pain and surprises. Imagine the compressed instrument as the ride conceptualized and the notes as the elements released.

Combining grab bag and accordion may get the picture done.

Pat Sewell

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 12, June 7, Beaver Lodge, west of Tiger Pass

We left Flodelle early - a cold hole in the lodge pole - along the creek, came seven miles on flat terrain to Beaver Lodge where we’ve taken a cabin for a respite. We have a room with a view - of lake and mountains - and a restaurant nearby where we had a second breakfast - my first chicken-fried steak with white gravy and hash browns, both huge helpings; Dave, a three-egg omelet with cheddar and potatoes. We sat for three or more hours as successive bicycle tourists stopped in and visited with us.

First was Wade from Madison, Wisconsin, a high school social studies teacher (Edgewood High School “believe-achieve”) - “politics in an election year.” A rocket on a bike, he had left Anacortes last Wednesday and caught us already. Had had three flats, said “Those mountains are tough” but nevertheless, he was headed home to Madison. Todd Erickson overlapped with Wade. 6’ 7” - ponytail blonde - pigment free - friendly, engaging, iconoclastic - and wearing shorts, T-shirt and sandals with clips in the sole, on his 16th trip in 19 years - many epic. “Alaska into Mexico, all over the US.” This trip a one-month loop into Canada over to British Columbia. Thirty-nine years of age - unmarried, no debt, lives to maximize choice and self-expression. “Hasn’t found the right woman” - would have to catch him on a hill which I doubt anybody could. Goes 80-100 miles a day, “700 a week easy”, eats five times a day up to 12,000 calories, “and I still lose weight.” Lives off grid with water from a spring in the mountains east of Seattle. Talked of changing appetites and thought content, of losing “your tether” and getting a new one based on the compelling now his rides provided. We and he had a meeting of the minds on politics, drug policy, cultural programming, the dilemma of consumption as engine of the economy but most of all , the importance of not surrendering one’s freedom automatically and reflexidly. Brooke then overlapped with Todd. On a two and a half month break before getting a masters to teach the blind. She left Bar Harbor on April 11. Riding a trek 520 and pulling a buggy, she’s been 2800 miles. “Iowa sucks,” she said. “The winds will kill you coming from the east,” she said. “35 mph - took me forever to go 50 miles at three and a half miles an hour. I just stopped and cried, then I hitchhiked in a truck with a guy who stopped to shoe a horse.” She had had one fall - tearing clothes - which she was wearing but not body. Traveling alone, she often found accommodations at “Couch Surfing.com.” “Great people, travelers who offer a place for others.”
She was neon in presentation, exuberant, fearless - completely open and spontaneous.

Quite a breakfast - a feast in many ways. Towards the end, five Canadian women cyclists came in - on a three-day circle they do annually. A different world this is.

I’ve been thinking about my new office, the “cockpit” of my bicycle, the small space between seat and handle bar that must be occupied many hours of the day if forward motion is to occur. It’s like my old office. I’m there, and this is it. Make something worthwhile out of it, or I have nothing. Value these who share that space, or have nothing. No squirm room. Can’t wait until 5 p.m. or the weekend. Nothing or something, it’s about how I’m there. Object to the effort, the demands, the discomfort, the confinement, and the experience worsens. Say “Yes” and embrace it. “Look around you.” Celebrate and value the people encountered, and it gets a lot better. A life and world in microcosm between seat and handle bar - two feet or so.

Something more about Brooke, the teacher of the blind. She had a few “party tricks” - compliments to the adaptability - or better flexibility, the accounts of her travels had already demonstrated. She got on her knees, feet to her rear - then with her left hand pulled her left lower leg around to the front until it was facing behind her. She then stood - put both hands on her hips keeping them there while touching her elbows together in front of her. Last she puts her hands together behind her back, then through black magic and contortion brought her clasped hands over her head to her front without letting go of their clasping. All spectators were impressed and aghast at these feats. I do not recommend you try them without an orthopedic surgeon on call or unless you do it at work while seeking disability and worker’s compensation.

Todd left us in T-shirt, shorts and sandals on his world’s largest production frame bicycle as I waved goodbye wearing a down coat and gloves, cold to the core. The schools would be closed in Louisiana on a day this cold.

Pat Sewell

Day 12, June 7, 7 p.m., Beaver Lodge ------------ more reflections

A double-jointed girl on a bike with a buggy fresh in from 2800 miles, a 6’7” photographer on the largest bike made in production knocking off over 100 miles a day on the mountains and living on 10- 12 thousand calories a day. A social studies teacher from Madison, Wisconsin enroute home from Anacortes - a rocket on a bike, harder than stone, loves Obama, says his kids do, too. A female vet pulling a dog that picks up trash as demo when she gives talks to kids about “Leave no trace” - carrying total of 215 pounds, bike and buggy. Five women from Canada biking 60 miles a day on annual tour. And friendly support folks all along the way. This “Northern Tier” has, over time, created an ambience that we are drawing from. Today on our stop, we sat for three hours at Beaver Lodge greeting and meeting cyclists from both directions. A turned on bunch makes me curious about selection process and the consequence of doing this. Who, why, and what’s the outcome? Would be a good study. A population self-selected - then an outcome, might try to do that with help of Adventure Cycling.

Todd, the 6’7” guy has been on 16 tours in 19 years. Has come from Alaska through Mexico. Says Day 21 is the day when change overtakes you - “like your tether evaporating” and you become “one with the bike and experience” (my translation). We’ll see. I do know
I’m beginning to liken the cockpit of my bicycle to my office - and like my old office, see my job to be fully alive, curious, interested and willing to value what I encounter in that space. The grind is there but is not the sum of the experience. If I let it, it becomes my day. As our training kicks in, this “higher” way should be easier to achieve. The climbs behind us now - have certainly challenged my ability to see beyond the pain at times but getting easier to rise above it.

Relationship with Dave going well. We’re very compatible - no difficulty negotiating decisions nor differentiating differences. Both enjoying the people encountered. Much humor and shared chagrins at demands these bikes and climbs are putting on us. Dave says we are “equal” - I see him as much stronger - but so far I’ve kept up, if a bit slower. Both learning about bike and efficient living - camping. The camping a big addition to the experience. Both prefer to motels though hot water wonderful when our paths collide.
We go down Tiger Pass tomorrow to Ione. Reading this on the map yesterday pulled a huge file - a Google keyword - as it turned out. Dreamed of Buzz, her sister, and had flood of memories of Boyce. Shared with Dave who has encouraged me to write about it. Maybe I will. Seems as if space opening in my consciousness. Drawn to short stories. Maybe writing. Feeling more irregular, less contained, militantly expressive, out of the box. Enjoying the ride - of bike - and of my consciousness that is stripping its bounds. Never was actually fit for polite company.

Few are the counter forces, valued to constantcy, within or without, and sad and pervasive are the myriad consequences if this tendency to constantcy within is never challenged.

Pat Sewell

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day 11, June 6

O’Brien Creek over Sherman Pass to Kettle Falls, Washington. First eight miles, that pesky six percent grade - then the top. Stayed in my low gear - needed a lower one but not available - an 18 “gear inch” meaning each turn of the crank took me that far, that’s 26,160 turns to cover the eight miles. It was turn or roll backward. The temperature came up as fast as the sun and we got a good cooking, along with a humbling by incline. Only a hard won and new knowledge of the universe of the possible (think rat in the toilet bowl) got me to the top where ecstasy was to be had for having just survived.

There followed a rushing roller coaster Flight of the Phoenix down to Kettle Falls, Washington, and a beautiful camp on the banks of the Columbia River. There, under Ponderosa pines we pondered our path till now and played in the cold waters hoping they would restore us. We had neighbors in this camp that brought us fresh fruit and wondered about our judgment. A couple from Minnesota - from near our projected route. “Why would you go there - that’s where we left from to be here,” - a case of grass is greener untreated.

Our daily mileage has been lower than expected as reality has been higher and harder than expected. Mountains do not move except for the eons, not for us peons. They loom, we struggle across this land, we muddle.

Dave had a second serious bike crisis incident yesterday which has served to confirm my better choice of bike. Coming down at 36 MPH his bike went into a shimmy. We have both had this happen on previous bikes and a scary thing it is. Somehow, because of harmonics at his speed, the bike did its best to throw him and became almost uncontrollable - with railings on one side and traffic on the other, it was a threatening situation. He joked, “I saw the face of God.” My “mule” bike is looking better. His thoroughbred has weak ankles.

Pat Sewell

Day 11, June 6, Saturday (2nd entry)

Flodelle Creek Campground just off the Little Pend Oreille River - temperature: cold.

Let me quickly put to rest three rumors you may have heard:

1) That there is such a thing as a training bounce

2) That there is an easy day to be had crossing Washington State on a
bicycle from west to east

3) That the prevailing winds are from the west

Today was a killer. Another continuously up - with a head wind all the way from the banks of the Columbia River. We arrived in extremis - couldn’t of gone another mile. Around every curve an unexpected incline. Thinking it was going to be easier now that we were through the Cascades made it worse.

Our level of exhaustion calls for a day off - so tomorrow, unless we and our unwarranted optimism return after a night’s sleep, we’ll lay up.

We fixed Dave’s shimmy - and have a new theory of causation: not harmonics but a loose head bearing where the front fork attaches. It is worth noting that my head bearing has not needed tightening. The evidence for best bike accumulates.

Supper tonight, multi-course: cheese and crackers (garlic Triscuit) with olives and wasabe peas, rice flavored with vegetable sausage protein and chicken broth, canned fruit. And if we have room, chicken noodle soup with white chicken meat. Upon arrival, we had one-half Hershey bar and earlier, a Snickers bar each.

Satiation does not occur regardless, at the rate those mountains burn fuel. Have forgotten the conversion of work done to energy and bicycles are efficient - but in terms of foot pounds of work today: 250 pounds for 35 miles horizontal, and with ups and downs at least one mile vertical maintaining average speed of five miles an hour. Slow but with wind and uphills - just proud to be here.

Our traveling companion for the last week left us today. Her friend and ex-husband returned, and we parted at Colville. She will resume riding in four or five days, and we may encounter her again as she intends to end up in Bar Harbor as well. She gives talks to kids about “Leave no trace.” Her dog companion, Mitch, is trained to pick up trash at these presentations. We still feel puny in comparison to her power to pull and climb and intend to continue our piano lessons because of the sand in our eye thing.

Pat Sewell

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 10, Wauconda to O’Brien Creek

Breakfast of oatmeal in Wauconda. Cowboys and Indians literally. A café that’s closing because, “The landlady has lost her mind but that’s OK, the fella upstairs has got a plan - we just don’t know what it is.” - this from the soon to be displaced current owner as he took our money and his help was loading dishes and cookware in their truck. We may have had the last oatmeal served in Wauconda. If so, let’s hope it’s not the most distinctive event of this trip.

It was near freezing as we climbed over Wauconda Pass but it heated up fast as we made an 18 mile downhill run into Republic, Washington, where we reprovisioned. Compact old gold mining town now the source of Eocene fossils. Tourism their life blood.

Climbed from there to O’Brien Creek where camped beside ice cold mountain stream. Service berry, Ocean Spray shrubs, Wildrose and Penstemon blooming. This was base camp for the rest of Sherman Pass - eight miles of six percent grade, highest pass in Washington - and the fifth we’ve crossed since New Halen. Climbing all these has brought to mind for me the story of the rat in a toilet bowl. It turns out that your average rat can be placed in a toilet bowl and will swim for an hour or so before giving up and going to rat heaven unless he is taken out just before giving up. Do this - then put him back and he’ll swim another hour - and again- and again until you’ve got a rat that’ll swim all day - that will not give up. We’re that rat now, having survived to tell the tale over the last four passes. We know there’s relief ahead if we just persist. No smarter than the rat.

The poem INVICTUS: by Henley

“In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed”

Difference is, of course, we’ve put ourselves in this toilet bowl, no chance there.

Pat Sewell

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 9, Tonasket to Wauconda

Labored up Wauconda Pass for seven hours to cover 22 miles. Log trucks, stone trucks - all with trailers on a steep narrow curvy road. A time - pain continuum heretofore unexperienced and thank you for that. Kerry - the dog-pulling vet we met in Sedro Woolley and had reconnected with in Tonasket rode and camped with us. John Mark, as well. We camped at the Old Wauconda School - long abandoned but maintained for the purpose by Joe and Cheryl. Outhouse, running water and an assortment of birds including yellow headed blackbird and mountain bluebird. Joe and Cheryl fight fires and raise cows. She’s best with a chain saw, and he was bowlegged enough to ride one of our bicycles between his legs. Temperature dropped to freezing during the night. Spectacular moon, night sky and dawning in that high mountain meadow. Have developed a pain scale since pain appears regularly as a feature of our experience climbing these passes:

500 feet up equal to 500 units of pain which is the amount of
pain felt with a smashed thumb

1000 feet up - same as a rolled testicle* - this only applies to
some women

1500 - same as a thrombosed hemorrhoid

3000 - same as an amputated digit severed with a rusty saw

From now on when I call attention to height climbed it will send a clear signal of the pain involved. I am noticing a slight “training” bounce that may require I downgrade this scale over time.

Pat Sewell

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 8, June 2 Tonasket

A day of rest and repair - of body and chain. Dave caught a ride with bike back to Okanogan where Soren replaced his chain and brought him off his high horse about the bike he chose to make the trip with. I have suffered some serious discounts from Dave relative to my choice that I have endured good-naturedly, knowing the truth would be had eventually about which was actually the best bike, and it was this day that it has come to light. I have not and will not throw this up to him unless it is timely and necessary. We both underwent some body repair, we hope, from the day of rest and spent the time talking with people here and there. I met a man from southwestern Australia who had a junk shop. Said he had followed a woman here and was stuck. Said he was wondering about the sanity of doing such a thing but couldn’t see himself without her. Said he liked selling junk - said people buying new things was destroying the world. Said this with his new SUV parked under his portico. Said, “I knew I shouldn’t, but I got a great deal.” I met a woman who goes from town to town taking pictures of people’s eyes - with their permission and for a fee. Believes she can see the past and current medical history perfectly displayed in the iris of a person. She was sincere and cared and had had a six-week course to learn how to do this. She was busy and had to go but not before telling me shredded carrots will pull the pus from a wound. She had had a busy day seeing clients.

We also met Shannon who owns Shannon’s Restaurant - not Alice’s Restaurant. She hosts bicyclers and lets them camp in the shady yard of her restaurant. Has had “four or five thousand” over the last 20 years. Leaves her bathroom open for them. Shannon was a large and friendly person who had never sat astride a bike and yet opened her life to them - not atypical for people we’ve met on this bike route called the Northern Tier. Says something about the natives and the bicyclist. And John Mark, riding for Lupus, because the daughter of his friend became seriously ill and disabled in short order by the disease. Just graduated and riding home to Boston from Vancouver. Ate six eggs in a.m., six eggs and a quart of milk for supper. Had solar charger, “can charge anything” and loves literature. Thought religion the source of more bad than good. Was fast on the mountain and had many hard and fast opinions at age 22. Had a lot of downhill ahead of him.

We had meals at Shannon’s Place and the Maverick Bar and Grill - below are two poems written after the occasions called “Customer Service” collectively. They tell us something if we can read the tea leaves properly.

Pat Sewell

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 7, June 1, 6 a.m., Okanogan

This little park in which we camp is little more than a strip of shaded grass between a busy state highway and the river, an oasis and refuge of sorts, as it turns out for many besides us. The 50 cent showers call many in through the night as does the space offered to just pull up and sleep in truck, car or tent. The night was not without its drama with all this coming and going and with the road and river sounds. During the night our tents were moved - with us in them and unaware - beneath the highway so that the constant stream of cars passed directly over us. The truck noises were particularly intense with the 3 a.m. garbage truck a symphony of its own with its banging and backing noises thrown in. Add honking geese, early morning wood duck calls, the meadowlark and redwing black bird, the grackle and their songs; couples arguing in their overnight accommodations in the front of their smallest ever made pickup - and you get a sense of the sounds available to the non-sleeper. Good we didn’t stay in a room somewhere and miss all this. And I haven’t even gotten to the smells yet.

Strip of shaded green
Between river and road.
Hot showers, 50 cents.
Refuge, oasis, collecting place
People of the night and the wallet light.
Sounds of the night:
Slamming truck doors
Banging garbage tops
Arguing from parked front seats
Road noises, river song
The geese, the ducks, the grackle calling
A symphony in surround sound
Come unsummoned.

Pat Sewell