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” “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

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