Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review of the trip


This may be the last entry for this blog. It is a kind of FAQ addendum to the more detailed state-by-state accounts of my coast-to-coast trip (solo).

 Bike: a 12-year-old Specialized hybrid “Hard Rock”. (Various equipment aspects considered below.)
     I had debated whether to get a new bike for this trip, a road bike. I decided not to, with the belief that adequate, rather than luxurious, equipment can suffice, in other endeavors as well as this one. My hybrid has 3X7 gears, raised (traditional style) handle-bars and 1.5” tires. Often on downhill and flat stretches I could have gone faster with a wider gear spread and thinner tires, but speed—getting as fast as possible from one point to another—was certainly not a primary concern for this trip. The bike was comfortable and stable, serving me well.

Miles biked: 3,535.

Basic route: Savannah, GA—AL—TN—KN—MO—KS—NE—WY—ID—WA—BC, Canada—WA—OR.

 Basic plan for choosing routes: avoid cities and use low-traffic secondary routes as much as possible.
      I planned the route using MapQuest, before setting out, and followed it quite closely until western ID and heading NW on the BC segment that was unforeseen at the outset. I had a print-out of a table with three columns: route number (one row for each route), town where that route would be taken and other towns along that route, and miles on that route. In most states, there was a info center near the entrance where I could get a free road map.

Number of flat tires: 5
Two in Nebraska within a 24-hour period—one of them being a slow leak, one in eastern Wyoming, a slow leak in western Idaho, and a tack sticking through the tire 10 miles from Portland, OR. I put on new Bontrager Eco tires just before the trip (about $28 each). They were well worn by the end, especially the rear tire. One blogger found that “a tire manufacturer talks about…1250-3000 miles for their standard tires; …a cycle shop in San Francisco talks about 1500-4000 miles.”

Days on the road: 60
This includes four days at my cousin’s home in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the extra travel time to get up there and down to Oregon, rather than going directly to the Oregon coast from Idaho, as originally planned. The trip would have been further shortened if I had taken a more direct route to Oregon rather than swinging up through the Tetons to Yellowstone (three nights in Yellowstone). I would guess that a Georgia coast to Oregon coast could be done fairly easily in 7 weeks or, pushing it more, in 6 weeks.
     People in good shape with road bikes and supported could of course do the trip much faster. A much shorter coast-to-coast route could also be followed: for example, the San Diego to St. Augustine route followed by one tour group.

Approximate total cost: $2,700
Here is the breakdown of this total.
Food: $1081
Overnight: $824
  • Motels: $678 (12 nights). This includes two nights with Ruka in a very nice State Park inn. The other nights were in low-budget, locally owned motels, most of them around $45 a night.
  • Campgrounds (mostly state or national  parks) $96.00. In Yellowstone, bicyclists pay only $6 a night.  Other states also charge considerably less for bicyclists than for other campers; e.g. $9 in TN, $12 in WA.
  • Camping in non-fee spots off the road (most nights): $000.00. Isolated wooded areas, national or state forests with no fee, relatives (five nights), on land or in buildings of people met on the way (three nights).
  • Other: $50 ($30 for two nights found through a hospitality organization and $20 left with thank-you note in another place)
Bike: $530
  • Before the trip: new grips (broader base to rest palms—glad I got these), mirror, tune-up, chain cleaned, cheapest gloves in shop (served me well). Murfreesboro Outdoor & Bicycle: $130
  • 2 pairs of mountain bike shorts. Aero Tech Designs (excellent) $112.80
  • Specialized Helmet, Lezyne tire pump, seat, all of which worked great throughout the trip. Perry Rubber Bike Shop Savannah, GA (excellent!)$203.28.
  • New cassette, with a new seat post thrown in and adjustment of brakes. CycleWerx, Cape Girardeau, MO, Excellent service. $62.41. 
  •  Two new tire tubes and mounting charge. In Laramie, WY. $19.06
  • Biking shoes: $000.00 I wore a pair of running shoes that were no longer cushioned enough for running but were fine for the bike. I could at times feel in the feet why one would want a stiffer shoe but did not regret having gone with my running shoes. However, it might be that a lower quality running shoe would not have worked so well. Mine (Asics Gel Nimbus) have extra cushioning and excellent ventilation.
  • Panniers: $000.00 My do-it-yourself panniers saved me a couple hundred dollars. I lashed together two knapsacks found lying in closets and placed them over a waterproof bag strapped to the bike rack. (In this picture, my helmet is hanging down from the front of the bike, making the left bag look longer than it was.)

Later in the trip, I bought a larger bag for the foundation, placed the knapsacks over this, and then my sleeping bag in the waterproof bag over the knapsacks. The two bags were strapped around the bike rack; straps for the more or less balanced knapsacks were not needed. A bungee cord from the rear of the bike rack up over the top bag and onto the front of the rack kept the bags from sagging backward.

 Miscellaneous: $314
  • Getting to starting point (camping, food, gas): $200
  • Ferries: $48 (2 ferries to Return to WA from BC and Seattle-Bremerton)
  • Postage: mailing of sleeping bag, then of passport $9
  • Water resistant bag (worked okay but will get high-quality waterproof one from LL Bean for next trip) & cheap (in quality as well as price) sleeping bag to serve until I got my good one through post $19.00  (Wal-mart)
  • Sweatshirt:  $13
  • Replacement of lost hammock straps: $25
 To compare my costs with costs of commercial, coast-to-coast bike tours:
  •  Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers: $7,700. “Mostly camping with some motels/hotels”; 52 days: San Diego to St Augustine; does not include lunches)
  • Cycle America: $6,385. 64 days, camping only, all meals provided, bike repair extra.  
  • America by Bicycle: $4,650 for 33-day trips, 3-to-a-room motels (supper not provided); $6,550 for 53-day trips with 3-to-a-room motels; $11,230 for single occupancy.
  My “bike” and “miscellaneous” costs would not have been covered in commercial tour packages. My motel costs could have been lowered considerably by taking advantage of housing offered through hospitality services such as  http://warmshowers.com/  (especially for cyclists; I met two just out of college who were benefiting from this service for their first time; they were very pleased with their host’s hospitality.) or http://www.couchsurfing.org/.
      While checking the web addresses for these sites, I came across “Women on the Road”. In both hiking and biking trips, I’ve often thought that it is probably much easier psychologically and less risky for me as a white male to do solo trips than it would be for a woman or member of a racial minority. My brief look at “Women on the Road” indicates that it could be a helpful—and inspiring—site for women who want to hike or bike solo.

Return home: This is not included in my total since I rode home with some of my kids. I would guess that one going solo might need to think of about $750 for lodging near and getting to an airport, ticket, and shipping of bike and equipment.  
Camping equipment: Hennessy Hammock. Lightweight, compact, durable, excellent mosquito net, separate rain fly. Nice in the woods, not so good in sage brush areas or when exposed to high winds or heavy rain. I have slept on it on the ground to keep bugs, etc. out.  If I do another long, unsupported trip, I will consider taking a two-person tent rather than—or as well as—the hammock.


  
I did not take a camping stove or dishware, wanting to keep my gear to a minimum . Doing so could of course have further diminished food expenses.

Food staple: Quaker Oats’ Chewy Dipps Chocolatey Covered Granola Bar. I went through dozens of boxes of these. Other companies’ chocolate covered granola bars were also fine but not as frequently found on grocery shelves. Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to carry, and tastes good. Two bars are 280 calories, about the same as an energy bar but less expensive. On hot days and solo, I didn't mind licking the melted chocolate off the wrapper.

Drink staple: powdered Gatorade mixed into water. I took Cousin Roger’s advice to have energy drinks, not just water, while biking. I have heard and seen many amens to this advice.
     Well, I probably should also mention coffee. Usually just with breakfast, but occasionally at other times of the day.

Some practices that worked well:
  • Use of strong, double-sealing freezer bags to keep powders and small items. Takes up less space than the original packaging and the space diminishes as the item is used.
  • Baking soda spread in the shoe greatly diminishes foot odor.
  • A small box of powdered laundry detergent emptied into a freezer bag served me for the whole trip. It did not take up much space and was nice to have for washing clothes by hand or in places that did not have a vending machine for detergent.
  • Sunglasses. I got headaches or sore eyes when I went too long without these. One pair broke early in the trip. I paid $18 to a drugstore for a pair but returned them since they did not fit well. The clerk told me that Dollar General might sell them. Sure enough, I got a pair that fit and worked well and lasted the rest of the trip—for $3.
  • Sunscreen. Cousin Roger advised me to use #50 every day and I did, apart from long-shirt days toward the end of the trip. But even then, if I did not apply it to forehead or nose, I would feel the effects. I would guess that most people could have some pretty uncomfortable, if not miserable, days if they neglected this. Since I was heading westward, I would usually wait until later in the morning to apply it to more than the neck.
  • Cousin Roger had recommended Bag Balm. I did not find it but did find Equate Vitamins A & D Ointment: “Treats and prevents diaper rash [the equivalent of which can plague bikers’ sweaty butts]… Protects and soothes minor cuts and burns [such as saddle sores gained early in the trip]”. The $2 tube lasted me the whole trip. Following Roger's advice, I would apply it before starting out just about every day in the first half of the trip. I used it less in the last half, especially in the cooler temperatures.
  • During the day, I most frequently refilled water bottles in fast-food places where filtered water is on tap in the drink machines on the customer’s side of the counter. Here, one doesn’t have to ask a server for help—or feel obliged to order something. Public libraries and parks are also good sources.
  • Public libraries for internet access—and for relief from hot afternoons or rainy days.
  • Keeping the bike chain oiled and clean. I oiled the chain about every other day, wiping off the excess oil with a small rag that I kept in the pocket with the oil, spare tubes, extra cords, and rear light.
  • When I needed the rear light, I attached it to the clip of my top bag since it would have been hidden if mounted under the bike seat.
  • Rest days. Roger's tour had one rest day for every 8 or so days on the road. I had a similar ratio. Some of my rest days involved short rides of 40 miles or so in the morning, early check-in at a motel or camp-site, and late check-out the next day.  
MOSTS
Most miles in one day: 131 miles (Kahlotus to Wenatchee, WA)

Most exhilarating ride: climb into Yellowstone from the Tetons. But several others came close, throughout the US.

Most sobering time physically: My blog for the fifth day of the trip says “I felt pretty beat by the end of the day.” Actually, I felt faint and I was feeling some pain in my chest as I set up camp in a hidden place off the road. As I lay in my hammock, I thought, “If this is how I feel now, how much further can I go?” Fortunately, I did not have long to go before reaching home, exhausted, and resting up there. I probably had biked too long and hard in heat and hills for that stage of the trip. I may also have been dehydrated or eaten too little. In future trips, I think I should limit myself to no more than 75 miles a day at least for the first week. Throughout the rest of the trip I never felt as low physically as I did that night.

Friendliest state: Nebraska.

Friendliest towns: Fredericktown, MO and Hannah, WY

Most surprising natural beauty: in Idaho. I had no idea of the geographic variety and spectacular scenery here. Wow.

Strongest wind: the one that blew me off my bike in Nebraska, at the tail end of a thunder storm.

Most stressful times: getting caught on a narrow shoulder in late Friday afternoon get-out-of-Boise-into- weekend-vacation-land traffic in what would otherwise have been a beautiful stretch along the Payette River North Fork rapids. Warding off hypothermia while descending from Stevens Pass in WA.

Strangest town: Cairo, Illinois.

Strangest sights: suddenly coming upon areas ravaged by tornados just a couple weeks earlier, in GA and AL. Flooded plains of the Mississippi, the Missouri and other rivers .

Most sobering experiences: Interacting with a hitch-hiker asking for change as I passed by and a guy sitting in the shade of a tree on the edge of a grocery store parking lot, his head down, a sign roped around his neck saying “Need help”. Not interacting with a bag lady in Seattle.
     An awful lot of people were kind to me tho’ we were strangers. How kind have I been to others? How kind will I be? 

Most extreme juxtapositions: Jackson, WY v. the Tetons; W. Yellowstone v. Yellowstone National Park.

Favorite side-of-the-road camp sites: among pine trees in GA and ID; barn in KS just south of the NE border.

Favorite Yellowstone campground: Canyon Village. Great campsites for bicyclists and hikers and reasonable cafeteria with decent-quality food.

Worst campsite: in bushes and young trees swarming with mosquitoes along a feeder stream of the Platte in NE.

Most important practice: keeping in regular touch with family—especially dear, tolerant Ruka.

Best breakfast places: Chatters Restaurant in Lyons, GA; Route 55 Cafe in Cascade, ID.

Best food: Robin’s. And Ray does pretty well at the grill.

Most wonderful event: Terri and Dave’s wedding! The theme of community that was throughout their ceremony and pre- and post-celebrations beautifully underscored experiences and reflections I had throughout the trip, concerning people I met for the first time, friends, and family.


Some recurring images and notions
  • wind—spirit (both these words are used to translate one word in Hebrew and in Greek);
  • mountain chains—not the groups of mountains but chains placed over the mountains as bike chains placed over gears (what force drives these chains and how does it interact with the global spin?);
  • the pilgrim’s way, rather than the pilgrim’s final destination, as shrine;
  • westering: “When we saw the mountains at last, we cried—all of us. But it wasn’t getting here that mattered, it was movement and westering… The westering was as big as God, and the slow steps that made the movement piled up and piled up until the continent was crossed.” Red Pony by John Steinbeck. 
  • the westering magi
  • Albion (William Blake)
  • sea – chaos, as in biblical Hebrew texts: at the beginning and end of our journey (?), the white plastic bag in sage brush, the ear-numbing motorcycle muffler, the hoot of a teenager, the “get off the road” yell from a red pickup, the middle finger, the crash, the long blast of a horn in a Yellowstone parking lot, the thug, the flood…
  • the-thing-in-itself: the buttercup, the clump of pine needles, the exhausted hitchhiker, the snow, the generous ranchhand, the mountain, the beautiful bride, the orchard, the smiling groom, the cliff, the flat tire, the tack, the peak, the living water…
Some refrains
“Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”
“A great good is coming--is coming--is coming to thee, Anodos."
“Brothers and sisters, I love you all.”
“To life!”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pacific Ocean


I plan to add more here about the final part of the trip, but until then this picture indicates a key point. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

British Columbia!




My dear cousin Robin (Taylor) and her husband Ray are less than 15 miles from the Canadian-US border. What a joy to be with them and their children and grand-children. Today their daughter-in-law Alyssa kindly allowed me to tag along with her and a friend to hike on one of the numerous trails in the mountains surrounding the Vancouver area.







 

Any weight I may have lost on the bike trip has been regained during these few R & R days. I'm thinking that if I am to make my original goal of arriving on the Pacific Coast I should leave before I become too heavy for my bike seat. But, dang! it's pretty nice to be hanging around in their house, sleeping in a bed from my grandparent's house, having early-morning discussions about what it means to be part of a faith community, and, in the evenings, "remembering with twinklings and twinges" the days of our youth, reflecting on how we have been shaped and view those being shaped around us, amd exchanging anecdotes about our children that might be translated as prayers of thanks, intercession and blessings. So, who knows, maybe I'll stay here until I can see the snow spread from the peaks around us down the mountainsides to the city streets.  Maybe... but I feel myself being pulled by the Ocean, or as Kayitesi called it long ago, the Motion.

Typical Canadian-Americans enjoying authentic Canadian-American meal. 

Washington



Lewiston Id to Kahlotus, WA (90 mi.)
Lewiston Id is just across the Snake River from Clarkston, Washington.

Snake River, coming out of Clarkston

My first time ever in this state was on a blue-sky-high-in-the-low-80's day. From outside of Clarkston on, the ride was through sparsely populated areas: after the climb of several miles out of the Snake Valley, high plains, mostly of sage brush but some wheat and cattle areas.

I had supper in Starbuck, pop. 130. The owner-cook-server was sitting on her front porch waiting for customers when I biked up. She and her husband have had the cafe for 21 years. She gave me a book on the history of the town to look at as I had fresh salad, a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and a real-deal strawberry milkshake. Starbuck too had once been a booming railroad town; like others it was named after a rail official. This official was one who donated a bell for the town's church.

I thought of camping at a state park twenty miles or so after Starbuck but after one of the steepest climbs yet (the less traveled a road, the steeper the grades) and more up and down, I decided against it when I saw the gravel road that would take me to it dropping out of sight. I continued on until a T where I would have to go east to go west or south to go north. I decided on the latter.



By the time I got to Kahlotus, pop. 200, the full moon was up.  I waved at guy on an ATV as I passed. I then heard his motor notch up and come in my direction. It sounded like we were going about the same speed although his motor was laboring. He yelled, "Wait up!" I braked. "Where are you going?" I gave my standard summary. "Where are you staying?" Then my standard vague answer. "Want to stay at our place?" Uh, well, wow, sure, thanks!

His wife watched us come up the gravel road past a couple of other houses and a trailor or so to their hilltop house. She was holding a beer for him and would soon go in, after asking what I would like, to get a glass of ice water for me. An already open sliding glass door led into the unfinished basement, plenty cluttered but nothing, Lonnie told me, compared to the mess it was in when they bought it. One room had a mattress in it and there was a full bath. Sarah brought down a towel, soap, and shampoo. We went upstairs. Their 6, 8 and 10-year olds were watching "Family Guy." They glanced towards Lonnie and me as we entered, then turned back to motionless, unsmiling stares at the television until I greeted them. They all then turned and smiled and, at my request, introduced themselves. A bit later, as they neared the end of their goodnight hugs for their parents, I asked for mine and they each gave me a sweet, accepting one. A line of conversation could not extend very far with Lonnie; I'm guessing  he would score very high on a test for ADD. Maybe an after-effect of his fifteen years of bull riding, similar to boxer's dementia, or something going back further that encouraged his taking up bull riding. While warning me about cougars in the area, he also told me of seeing his father aiming a pistol at his face. I think the idea was a cougar had attacked him and his father was considering shooting at the cougar. Maybe. Or was his father like a cougar--no telling when he might go after you or what damage he might inflict? Sarah would watch Lonnie as she listened to him, watched him as he went to the computer to locate a town, jumped up to open the living room window, went back to the computer for a few seconds, then back to the window. We looked at various routes through Washington for a few minutes with commentary about their nature staying at a pretty general level. That was fine. I excused myself to go down and sleep....and slept well.

Kahlotus to Wenatchee (131 miles)
This was the trip's most miles in one day:  from the west's sage brush of the dry high desert to the central, irrigated orchards at around sea level. I had had no conception of the hundreds of square miles of orchards--apple, apricot, cherry--and how tightly together their trees could grow.  Also many vineyards.

One of the thinner orchards, but I liked its setting

Wenatchee to Goldbar (94 miles)
Up to Stevens Pass of the Cascade Mountains, starting out bright and warm:


Cloudier, nearing the top:

Just as I reached the top, Ruka called and I chatted. I was light-hearted and perhaps light-headed at finishing this gradual, thirty-mile climb from Leavenworth, a city which requires all its buildings to be in Bavarian style.


That the sun was setting did not concern me. I looked forward to the long coast down.


But soon after starting, the cold evening air was made colder from the wind of the fast descent down the steep grade and the moisture of the clouds combined with that of my shirt which I should have changed after the climb. I was soon shivering and stopped to put on my windbreaker, but this was not enough. I slowed way down but the shivering increased and my arms started shaking. Near the end of the steepest part of the descent, I turned onto a narrow, wooded road, changed my shirt, added a sweatshirt, wrapped myself in the sleeping bag, and jumped and strode around until warm again. Back on the bike, I could pedal for longer stretches, which helped to stay warm enough in the mist and, later, rain.

It had been dark for some time before I reached the first settlement. Yellow security tape was around the row of four buildings on one side of the main street; the other side of the street was torn up. On to the next town: Goldbar, 20 miles away, in the rain. The bike held up well.

Gold Bay to Mt. Vernon (65 mi.)
I slept in until about 9:30. Soon after leaving the motel, I rode under a service station overhang to put on my rain jacket. While doing so, I heard a loud bang from nearby.  I would soon see the two cars involved in a accident that would bring four ambulances. I wondered about the relationship of the space between the service station and the accident scene and where I would have been if I had not stopped to put on the jacket.

A couple hours in the rain later, I came to this chapel with a sign inviting passers-by to "Pause and Pray".

Three pairs of one-person seats in the shape of traditional pews on the inside

The rain stopped about the time I arrived in Snohomish where Marlo had mailed my passport that I would need for Canada. I picked up the passport, had lunch in a grocery deli just a few buildings away from the post office and rode on in a gray but relatively dry afternoon.

Mt. Vernon to Surrey, British Colombia: 60 milesI finally had breakfast at a Denny's in Washington State, in honor of Sherman Alexi's Smoke Signals. If you don't yet know that movie, watch it before the week is over! You might also want to check out his his collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and his later work.

Morning scene: hope 


Bellingham: first and about my only glimpse of  a Pacific Ocean bay
on the way to BC.
(There was a route up that is closer to the water but I, um,
missed it.)  So, still further to go on the western route.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Idaho


Island Park to Mud Lake (94 mi.)
I was hot and tired from the headwind so looked forward to cool refreshment when I biked into Rexburg around 3 pm. I found a city of empty streets and closed stores. If I had entered this town of 17,000 the way I left it, I might have been better prepared for the emptiness.  From 15 miles away, I would be able to see the city's temple, "this House of the Lord" for which  "The finest materials were used... including wood imported from Africa and stone and tile from Israel", this temple with "a white quartz finish... [and] water-proofing compound allow[ing] dust to wash off in the rain, keeping the temple a radiant white," this temple with a gold-leafed statue of the angel Moroni... installed atop [its] spire" (http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/rexburg/).  No wonder the central business district was unsullied on Sunday. Only a couple of the fast food franchises and superstores were open: their workers had the look of outcasts--grim, harried, guilt-stained. I even heard one laugh demonically when a co-worker referred to his teacher's reprimand for using  "an 's' word". Having had access to the info from which the above quotes are taken might have kept my thoughts from going the way they did as I pedaled away from the city. When I looked back, the structure dominating the city reminded me of a "white-washed tomb" and as I advanced through the emptiest land I had yet been through, I wondered how what was within paralleled what was without: plenty of sagebrush but nothing else. No cattle, no antelope, no fences, no houses.  Apart from a glimpse of those in the few cars that passed, I saw only one other person. He was sitting in a fold-up chair next to his pick-up parked by a fuel tank adjacent to an 8X12 shed. I thought of biking down the dirt way to ask him what he was doing there but imagined him smiling and tossing his cigarette toward the leaking tank.

After 20 miles of biking through this desolate land, a bridge took me over Interstate 85. Just before leaving Rexburg, I had thought of getting another cold drink but decided I would wait until where, after twenty miles through the empty land, my Route 33 would intersect Interstate 85; I assumed there would be a service area there... Nope. Just a state storage facility and a closed weigh station. As I crossed the overpass, only one car and a pick-up were coming from the north, huddled together, and one car from the south. This on the weekend of July 4.

After ten more miles of the same, and as the sun was setting, I came to Terreton: a few houses and thousands of cows packed together in a couple stockyards, but no store or service center. When I got to Mud Lake (pop. 300), five miles further, I was thinking I would camp in the sage brush; that was okay but I was concerned about my dwindling water supply, especially since the map indicated the next morning's ride would also be through sparsely populated land.

I braked in front of a slumping house where a woman was watering her meager front lawn. As I started towards her, a twelve-year old ran into the house. She did not look up. Before I got up to her, a stern-faced man in a wife-beater came striding out. I extended my hand and said "Hi, I'm Tim. I'm on a bike trip and wondering if I could have water from your hose." He shakes my hand, smiles and says "I am Jorge. The water from the hose is drinkable but bottled water is even better. Let me get some for you." He brought me an armload of bottles from the house.  I told him that I could not carry all but would use a couple to refill my bottles. After I did so, he asked where I would stay and, not hearing a specific place identified, asked if I would like to camp in their yard--or, better yet, in the barn behind their house. The woman he worked for usually kept a tractor there but it was now in the fields, leaving enough space to sleep. "Well, thank-you!" He brought out a denim quilt to lay on the floor to keep my sleeping bag from getting dirty and provide cushion.

I slept well.

Mud Lake - Arco (51 mi.)
I left Mud Lake just before sunrise, pulling my windbreaker's sleeves over my hands for lack of gloves, the temperature being in the low 40's.  Within an hour after sunrise, it would be warm enough to continue in short sleeves. More empty high desert except for a couple clumps of buildings scattered through the 900-square-mile domain of the Idaho National Laboratory, center of research on nuclear energy. 

On the edge of the INL is Howe, where three tractors side by side were pulling hay balers. Not the balers that I see in the farms around Murfreesboro leaving one bale at a time, to be later loaded onto a wagon. These were raking the hay up into walled-in machinery that pushed out cubed packets of around 50 bales that would be stacked into long walls of hay. To later be sent to stockyards such as those I saw yesterday, I would guess.

I arrived in Arco just before noon, July 4, and got a place in a motel with a laundry room. Arco, pop. 1026, has a sign proclaiming it to be "the first city ever lit by atomic power".  That night I sat in front of my room to watch the town's fireworks set off on the hill directly across from the motel. 

Arco - Bayhorse Campground, west of Challis (85 mi.)
Gorgeous, blue-sky, 70's day. First 15 miles were straight toward a snow-capped mountain, then a sharp turn to parallel its chain.


I had lunch at the Mine Hill Grill, on one corner of Mackay's downtown intersection. The walls had pictures of recent high school football and volleyball teams--and scholastic all-stars, whose number equaled that of the players on the football team: 19.

In the afternoon, Tess called as I was beginning an ascent out of the longest valley.

What I was looking at while talking with Tess.

She asked if I ever got bored on this trip.  Never. Before I started on this trip, a friend from church said he had read about some who biked across the country and said their biggest challenge was boredom. I don't understand that.  There have been times when I have been tired, puzzled, uncertain, uncomfortable, irritated, discouraged, concerned, or struggling, but never bored. I had been biking for a couple hours through the valley where we talked: way too little time for sensing I had really seen it, really taken it in.  And so it is for the other places I've biked through, even the hundreds of miles of corn fields in Nebraska.

Soon after Challis, a caution sign warned that bighorn sheep could be on the road but I did not see any as I went through the canyons leading to Bayhorse Campground and beginning the ascent to Stanley.



Bayhorse Campground - Stanley (64 mi.)
Last night, as I came into the little campground, I met Shirley walking to the old SUV she camps in as she goes around the country working on her family geneology, which goes back to an assassin for the king of Normandy and, perhaps, to the owner of Quebec, she says. This morning, she called over to ask if I would like to share her eggs and coffee for breakfast. Sure!  We talked about her research and travels through this sparsely inhabited land: the tenuous nature of existence and the wonder, the beauty, the goodness glimpsed, rejoiced in, between the tombstones. And today's ascent up Salmon River gorge to Stanley would be an extra special glimpse.



I do not remember ever seeing my father tear up or cry but I heard that he would occasionally do so during the period of his chemotheraphy, weeping for joy as well as for negative emotions. Today was the second time on the trip that I wept, overwhelmed by the beauty of the surroundings and the sense of its harmony with what the human is meant to be and the divine is. And in reflecting on these Moments, I saw this trip as a treatment for the cancer that has been eating away at my mind and spirit for who knows how long. A cancer that cannot be totally eradicated but can at least be checked if not--please, God--sent into remission. I have not had a thorough exam: I will go only so far in responding to the questions and suggestions of the sacred and profane saints. So I do not know the extent of the damage of moral organs and psychological networks and even on this most beautiful of days am seized by memories and visions of decay.  But this treatment of the past several weeks, this exposure to the radiation of the divine expressed in the environment and in persons, has at least allowed me to appreciate another day in the eternal day of health and life and to thank God for it.

The ascent took me past Sunbeam. It is a dot on the map indicating where an unsuccessful gold mine once was and where a lodge and a rafting outfit now operate. For me, it was a reminder of one of the first solos I sang in the small church that my father pastored in Lincoln, Maine: "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day..." With my lisp (that a friend from kindergarten says still lingers), and imprecise word-final enunciation the chorus became "A thumbbean, a thumbbean, I'll be a thumbbean for him."

Another musing on this trip: future bike trips across America with small groups of relative and friends? with others?




Stanley Lake: Rest Day
I camped in the national forest area near Stanley Lake, just a few hundred yards from two small campgrounds around the lake where I could get water.


Stanley Lake


The only biking today was 9 miles into town to use a computer in the library. Before the library opened at twelve in this tourist-centered town of motels and restaurants, mostly all of them with attractive log frames, I had breakfast in the only one of several eating places with a pile of cars and bikes around it, a bakery with good coffee--and a price to remind you that you are in a resort area.  

I was in the library until around 5, posting the blog for the Wyoming part of my trip, going through personal and school email, and considering alternative plans for the rest of the trip. I was further along than I thought I might be so, after an exchange of text messages, decided that, rather than going directly to the Oregon coast, I would head for Vancouver, British Colombia, where I could spend some time with my cousin Robin (Taylor) and her husband Ray. Why not make this a trip from C to shining C be from country to country as well as from coast to coast?

When I was about to leave, the librarian introduced Bill, the only other person in the library, to me, telling him about my trip since she and I had talked the previous afternoon.  We talked for a bit, then I went outside to read on a bench on the library's little lawn, waiting for food booths to finish setting up for the weekly dance in the square which the library bordered. Bill came out, asked what I was reading, and we continued to talk while a guy with a guitar sang country over a mike. He excused himself to look after his dog but then came back a couple minutes later, as I was checking a menu at one of the food booths. He said, "My wife and I had ten guests a couple nights ago and I still have chicken, potatoes, and dessert. Why don't you come over and eat at my place?" It was just a couple hundred yards from the library, on the other side of the road through Stanley. His caretaker's log home was on the front of the property, then a motel of 5 rooms, and his own house that he designed and whose logs he brought in from Montana, bordered on the north and east side by the Salmon River, narrow and shallow at this point. We ate on the south porch, facing the Sawtooth Mountains, whose highest peaks he had climbed. I enjoyed talking with him about the area and his family, including his mother who had recently died at 106 and his grandfather who was the first mayor of Boise. We put my bike on the back of his pickup and he drove me to my campsite.


Banker Bill B from Boise (that is not poetic license) 

Stanley Lake - between Smith's Ferry and Cascade (110 mi.)
A lot of up and down, with headwinds and, so slow that I thought the problem was limited to legs tired from the first two factors, a leaking front tire.

Late afternoon, I turned north rather than the originally planned south at Banks (pop. 17), thus committing myself to heading for British Colombia. For the next 17 miles I was climbing through the narrow canyon of the North Fork of the Payette River. I had seen a lot of white water on this trip but no stretch as long and wild as this one. I wondered if even a kayaker could make it down this stretch. But I also had to pay careful attention to the powerful stream roaring by the other side of my bike: it was Friday, summer time, and this road that would have been practically empty on, say, a Wednesday morning, and was nearly empty in the south-bound lane, was surging with motorcycles, economy cars with full luggage racks, pick-ups, RVs, trailors laden with stacks of bicycles emptying out from Boise, some heading for the wildnerness areas but most for the campgrounds and resorts around Lake Cascade. One driver particularly in need of weekend peace nearly brushed me off the shoulder after swinging his trailor into the slow lane and gunning his motor to pass a few cars, then break back into the line, thereby assuring that he could arrive at his campspot thirty miles down the road a minute earlier than if he had simply kept his place. (I have a vague memory of my right hand jerking up high in his wake: maybe a benedictory gesture reflecting my growth in patience and benevolence on this trip...maybe not.)

It was getting dark by the time I reached the Cascade valley so I began looking for a place to camp, a bit troubled by how the pedaling seemed so labored. A chained gravel drive--but no "No Trespassing" sign or houses around--led me around a hill of pines, reminding me of some of the stands in the woods behind my mom's home. The sky was clear, the air quite cool with little wind, so I did not bother with my hammock. I  laid my sleeping bag on a the mattress of pine needles and slept well.

South of Cascade to North of Riggins (89 mi.)
One of the first things I saw when I awoke was a quite flat tire. I couldn't bring myself to change it cold and hungry.  I pumped it up and set off, the wind breaker sleeves wrapped down around my hands, hoping for a decent breakfast--and continuing to brood over the question that was increasingly on my mind from about the time that the trailor had brushed me the evening before: was it right to head north?

The first diner I came to had several cars parked in front of it: a good sign. As I parked my bike, two portly elders of the community asked where I was biking from, expressed their support and went on in. When I entered, the one's voice filled the restaurant: "This man is biking across America: feed him well!" I had the good fortune of having Dolly as my server, one with the gift of sharing her happy sisterhood in a way that assures that your coming into this cozy, oh-so-fine-smelling place, three shelves of homemade pies getting your eye as you enter, was just the right thing to do.  And I did indeed have one of the two best breakfasts of my trip (tied with Chatters Restaurant in Lyons, Georgia): biscuits with gravy, eggs sunny-side up, and hash browns with coffee of course. That was plenty but I didn't think it would be right not to have a slice of pie. Dolly, smiling, brought a huge slice with ice cream piled on top.
      Ty and Lisa, in their early twenties, sat at a table next to me, and Ty said "Weren't you biking up from Banks yesterday afternoon?" Yes. "I said to Lisa 'That poor guy. It's got to be tough biking in this traffic. Such a narrow shoulder and so much traffic." He assured me that the traffic would practically disappear once I got past McCall. They were here for the national freestyle championship in kayaking that would start in an hour or so in the Whitewater Park just a few hundred yards away.  Ty worked with a rafting company and, in one of the vendors' booths, would be displaying a rack he had developed to secure waterproof safety boxes in rafts. I asked him about the rapids I had climbed by the evening before. He said that it is possible to go down them but they are treacherous. Just two weeks before, expert kayaker 19-year old Stephen Forster came from Conneticut to run them with a friend. "He didn't make it; they haven't yet found his body." What was "believed to be [his] body" would be found two weeks after our conversation, a news article reports.
    I had been charging my phone in a plug under my table and asked Dolly if I could plug it in somewhere out of the way while I changed the tire tube. "Leave it where it is. If we need the table, I'll take care of it." It was in the same place after I finished. She wished me blessings and safety as I left.
   I biked to the kayaking site. It's in Kelly Whitewater Park, just a year old. A kayaking club had raised a few thousand dollars to work on developing a place here for learning, training, and competitions when a summertime resident at a fundraiser said she would contribute if the park was named after her sister who had died in a car accident. The organizes resisted the idea... until a $500,000 check was offered.
    In today's competition, the participants would have a couple minutes to do as many maneuvers as they could in a standing wave with a green shoulder. The more difficult the maneuver the more points. I don't have to bike out here next year to see expert kayaking: the winners in three of the classes were father Eric, daughter Emily, and son Dane (17, winner of a "World's Top Boater" award after a record-breaking European competition). They are from Rock Island, TN. Eric co-founded Jackson Kayak located in Sparta, TN. Between rounds, a Hawaiian showed how one can surf in a river:
Surfing in Idaho (beyond the kayaks in the foreground)

I left the park around 1pm, along with a year-round resident on her bicycle. She encouraged me to take a little detour a few miles away that would take me on an unlined but paved back road through the intersection of Roseberry, with its museum on one side and general store from 1910 on the other. The museum hostess outlined its history: settled by Finnish farmers, developed into a thriving community in the early 20th century as an important railroad junction, then dwindled when the railway was moved to pass through neighboring McCall--a story similar to ones I had heard from Nebraska on.



By this time, I was thinking that my decision to head north the previous day was quite alright.

The traffic did indeed go way down after passing through McCall and I pedaled in quiet for miles until suddenly coming to cars crammed side-by-side into gravel or makeshift parking lots along the narrow, fast Salmon River, aptly named for what the hundreds of fishermen were going after in this spawning season. The motels were full and campgrounds crammed or improvised along the road. I went up one steep canyon road but could not find a satisfactory place to camp, turned around and started back down, fell off the bike when braking on a steep, sandy patch, readjusted the luggage, twisted the front brakes back into place and turned my lights on, it now being dark. I asked a sherrif about a place to camp, hoping he would suggest the small town park. He said there were places in one of the primitive campsites next to the road, 6 miles north. That is where I camped. The next morning I would realize that I was between the tents of a group of bulging muscles, flesh, tatoos, and fishing rods.

Riggins - Lewiston (113 mi.; route 95 the whole way)
The morning ride was the hardest of the whole trip: a climb up an average gradient of 7% for 7 miles taking about two hours. After a relatively short descent from the summit of White Bird Hill, I was for the rest of the day back in high plains with farms of wheat fields and cattle.





Lewiston is just across the river from Clarkston, WA. I got to a motel with a laundry just after sunset. After 5 nights of camping, the shower, clean clothes, and bed felt oh so nice.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wyoming



Sidney, NE - Hillsdale WY (91 miles)
Gorgeous blue-sky day. Still head and side-winds but probably 15 mph less than yesterday. Kimball Park was the first publically available shade in 35 miles since Sidney, and in its shade the wind gentles to a delightful breeze. The shade is provided by several varieties of trees: pine, spruce, poplar... okay, that's too general. Let me start again... If I'm not mistaken there were Kentucky Coffeetrees, Red Sunset Maples, Swamp White Oak, Ohio Buckeye, Newport Ash, Burr Oak, and Sycomore... If I'm not mistaken and I read the little wood labels at the feet of the trees correctly.

Winds continually abated. I entered Wyoming around five in the afternoon. The road map given at the Visitor's Center is not highly detailed and the directions I had typed out for myself assumed that backroads would have signs indicating their name or number. After a couple hours of guesswork, back-tracking and some progress , I flagged down Jack and Melodie. Telling them where I wanted to go, Jack asked "Want me take you there in my pick-up?" I declined but their directing me to the service road paralleling the interstate saved me time and energy.  I still ended up biking an hour-and-a-half after sunset, glad for my good set of lights.

Just at sunset, coming up over a rise, I had my first glimpse of the Rockies: snow-capped peaks.

Just a few minutes after fixing a flat tire, in the late afternoon, I was delighted to get a call from my cousin-in-law and friend Daryl. He told me of reading "Born to Run," which tells of a tribe of runners in Mexico and observes that a 64-year-old (of any ethnic background) can be in as good a shape as a nineteen-year-old.

Hillsdale - Curt Gowdy State Park (40 miles)It was my first long climb since Alabama, at the foot of the Appalachians. Other places, especially MO, had plenty of ups and downs, but rarely did any one climb take more than 10-15 minutes before a refreshing descent. To get to the park from Cheyenne was pretty much a continual climb for more than two hours. Wonderful views of grass fields and rocky cliffs contrasting so greatly with the Nebraska plains made the exertion hardly noticeable. Saw antelope for the first time since being in Africa.

If I'd known a national forest area was just a few miles beyond the park, I would have continued. Still, I had a nice place to stay. I followed a gulley away from the tenting areas on the edge of the lake, into a stand of pines. I sat comfortably under my slung hammock during a light rain, leaning against my gear, reading and writing... A doe circles the rim of my slope, coming within twenty yards, senses me but is not spooked. A four-point buck follows.




Curt Gowdy State Park - Hanna (106 mi.)
That ascent of yesterday? Today a nine-mile descent, starting where 210 intersects the highest point of Interstate 80 with its towering statue of Abraham Lincoln, after whom this part of the highway is named, down into Laramie: three miles of steep-sit-up-straight-for-an-air-brake, then six more gradual miles, scarecely needing to pump the pedals. All this on 80, Wyoming being one of the few states where one can bike on the shoulder of the interstate. Then out of Laramie, about forty miles of mostly flat road giving way to hillier ascents and descents to Hanna (and on back to 80).

Across Nebraska, there was a settlement every ten miles, from the minimal silo to a few houses and shops,  to maybe a bar and a bank. You know you've left the south when the towns have more bars than churches; you know you've entered the north (I would later find) when there are more RV parks than bars. In between these settlements, farms are spread every couple miles. In Wyoming, it is often 18 miles or more that separate settlements, with no houses in between. From Laramie to Rock River was 39 miles. In between, the state sign of white letters against green background posted at the border of a former settlement seemed to officially designate Bolser as a ghost town: its name and elevation were given but no population figure. As I rode through, the weeds around the store that once sold used furniture, then liquour, then storage space--to guess the chronological relationship of its various signs--and the two broken down houses and one rusting trailor indicated that there was indeed no population to report.

Park anywhere!  Westbound lanes of US Route 287.

At Rock River, pop. 235, I stopped at "Wieners and Things", a slouching, green wooden structure added onto a former fair concession stand. A young man biking from San Francisco to Washington came out as I was entering and recommended the root beer float. Miki, a former Californian, moved with her husband to Rock River 15 years ago and started this little eatery five years ago, boasting that her food is the real deal--none of the warm-it-up-in-the-microwave stuff.



Medicine Bow, with a population in the 200's, was celebrating its 100th anniversary, resulting in what on this route was a jarring sight of several cars parked along the road. I stopped only to wait out the rain from a thunder burst, under the overhang of a small motel.

By sunset the headwind was back up to 25-30 mph and the hills increasing in size. While climbing one, I saw on the other side  of the valley to my right the largest assembly of buildings since Laramie. They appeared laid out neatly in whites and browns against the now dark green valley wall, with a clear beginning and end--but no movement of any kind within. The state sign at the turnoff indicating that lodging was there, the cool air--it would get down into the low 40's, and thunder clouds encouraged me to look for the lodging.

There were some houses on the near side of the entry road and an antelope was enjoying the fine bush planted next to one resident's house. A town hall was near the entry of the main part of town. I stopped there to ask two people about to get into their cars for directions to the motel. They laughed and said the sign had been a source of amusement to the townspeople ever since it had been put up by the state. There once was a motel in Hanna, a lot of other businesses as well, when this was a town of more than 2,000. But the motel had burnt down and other businesses closed with the last of the mining in the area... Tthe population was now down to about 800, many of the wage earners commuting to the state prison in Rawlins, 30 miles away.

The man said that since I had camping equipment I could sleep in the park. "It's okay to do it?" I asked, not wanting to get a "Move along, buddy" from the local police officer. He replied, "If the sheriff comes by, you can tell him that Judy said it's okay." She laughed. She is the town treasurer, he would let me know at the end of our conversation, and he the mayor. He said that if I wanted to take a shower I might be able to do so for a small fee at the rec center next to the park. A town of 800 with a rec center?

After parking my bike in one of the park's table areas, a brick wall to shelter nicely from the prevailing wind, I went to the center and told the clerk, Alisha, what the mayor had said. "No problem. Just go on in." She also offered a towel which I gladly accepted so that I would not have to pack a wet one. No charge at all: kindly helping a stranger on his way.

Since the cafe closed at 8, I went to Puolo's, one of the town's bars, for dinner. Tony came to greet me and offered me a drink. He was the bar's owner and his wife the server. After eating, I talked with him and two other residents at the bar. Tony's grandparents came to Hanna as Greek immigrants to work as miners alongside Chinese, Italian and German immigrants, each living in their own section of the town. Union Pacific owned the mine--and the town. It would allow no other businesses in except for a movie house and a soda shop. Other businesses developed in Elmo right next to it. Wyoming's road map indicates that Elmo is a separate town but Tony says it's just a part of Hanna now.

Tony had to go but I talked with with the two others for some time. One moved here from Las Vegas, the other from New Jersey--and a bunch of other states. Both are retired. At this point in the evening--and this point in town--the former was as care-ful-ly e-nun-ci-a-ting as e-lab-or-ate-ly exp-lain-ing the good life in this area; his friend would nod and patiently wait for a break to nuance or concisely suggest an alternative perspective. They like the quiet and the outdoors: "The downside is winter but it keeps the crud out of here."

I went back to my little camp site thinking I was among friends. The sheriff did indeed come by, turned his searchlight beam off after I turned my little flashlight off while coming toward his black SUV and shielding my eyes from the glare, returned my "Hi!" in friendly fashion, and asked if he could come and see my bike and equipment--not as an investigating police officer but as a biking enthusiast.

I slept well.

Hanna - past Table Rock (104 miles)
The least enjoyable stretch of the trip since 17 miles after Hanna it was interstate 80 for the rest of the way. After Rawlins (I suspect "the crud" sinks down to the largest towns in the bottom of the state), I crossed the Continental Divide for the first time; over the next couple hundred miles I would see signs announcing that I was doing it again...and again.  I slept in a walled-in rest area picnic shelter. The sign said "No Camping"; I figured I wasn't really camping, just sleeping as were truck drivers in their cabs and others in smaller vehicles. 

Table Rock - Rock Springs (35 miles)
A short biking day, with stay in a motel. Did laundry, grocery shopping and bought Lonesome Dove, the novel Vic of Pawnee City had brought to my attention. Its 950 pages will keep me for a while. I had read about half of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad but left all of it in the motel's trash can. It won the National Book Award last year but seemed so superficial, filled with worked over cliches: I could imagine reviewers who voted for the book tittering at certain passages, having their frames of references comfortably confirmed. I gave up on it when I got to her scene in Africa: wow, she had been on a safari--or at least seen documentaries about the bush, and with the help of Hemingway's "Short Happy Life..." used the material for her novel. Wow.

Rock Springs - Boulder (88 mi.)
One of the trip's easiest days of biking. A tail wind for the first 50 miles or so and the afternoon's head or side winds were gentle. High desert with, once out of Rock Springs, one snow-capped mountain visible to the west, then to the east a snowy peak eventually seen to be one of many between Eden and Boulder, the very beginning of its range later appearing as a small dark step from the plains to the mountains.

Boulder is where I had asked Marlo to mail my sleeping bag.  I had bought a cheapo one in Sidney's Walmart since the nights were getting too cold for the thin blanket that had been more than warm enough for the first part of the trip but the cheapo bag was bulky and would not be warm enough if the temps dropped any further.  I arrived at the post office about ten minutes after it had closed so spent the night in a campground within a mile of it. A guy checking his mail at the post office told me that that morning he scraped ice off his car window.

One positive note about the Walmart sleeping bag. It helped me to realize that I have grown about six inches on this trip:  the bag specs say that it is good for people up to 6'2'' tall yet my toes stick out the bottom with the top of my head against its upper edge. Good thing my biking shorts are of a stretchy material. 

Boulder - Gros Ventre Campground, Lower Tetons (102 mi.)
My sleeping bag was at the post office! Just in time. I spent much of the night in a near fetal position, trying to keep warm. When I gave my name to the clerk, she said before going to the shelf "Yes, you have a package."
She frowned when I told her what it was: "It seems too light to keep you warm in Wyoming." Well, that's the beauty of this (L.L. Bean) bag: a third the weight of the cheapo, less bulky, with a zipper that actually works, and good at least down to 20 degrees--twenty degrees lower than the cheapo (left next to the laundromat's garbage can) claimed to function at.

The transition from the high desert to the Tetons is spectacular. From the relatively flat, though steadily climbing expanses of sage brush, pines--oh, beautiful stretches of pine--appear during the steepest, though not grueling, climb of the day. Then at the peak, what?!? miles and miles of forest against startlingly close snow-capped mountain peaks. Not to mention  the coast down of a few miles into the valley of Bondurant.

A little log cabin cafe was in this valley. Having hit several very poor cafes and diners, I hesitated but its view of the mountains and pleasing appearance--and my desire for carbs--encouraged me to try. I was well rewarded: homemade apple crumble topped with ice cream and carrot cake topped with icing for $3.50!

In Jackson, I bought a K-Mart sweatshirt. Like the Walmart sleeping bag, the zipper doesn't work (I would find out later), but it can be safety-pinned together for some insulation in the cool evenings and mornings to come.

I arrived after sunset at the southernmost campground of the Tetons National Forest. I slept about ten hours, perhaps the first time on this trip to not get up before 7. Warm sleeping bags--oye!


Gros Ventre - Grant Village, Yellowstone (75 mi.)
"Sometimes fullness of soul overflows into utter vapidity of language." (Flaubert; sorry to say that I can't name the translator). "Fullness of soul": exuberance, alertness, freshness, praise, sustained throughout the day as I biked first through the Teton Valley with its herds of buffalo, then up into the snow-capped mountains of Yellowstone.

Tetons

"Utter vapidity of language." Any notes about my time in Yellowstone should be brief, matter-of-fact since I do not have the gifts for expressing what I see and what my tiny soul feels when in this land that has drawn so  many pilgrims.  I cannot, however, refrain from telling of my delight at what I experienced while entering through the gates of this temple.

Mountains are a locus of spiritual peaks in religious history:  Moses' receiving the 10 commandments, Elijah hearing the still small voice, the disciples seeing the divine united with the human, Mohammed receiving his call, Joseph Smith finding his scriptures. (Hmm, put a hold on that last one; I need to check the elevation of Palmyra.) So it might not be surprising that on this pilgrimage starting at the ocean--ancient symbol of chaos, reaching the highest elevations of the journey should be accompanied by a personal sense of fullness of soul, of a spiritual peak.

My spiritual high was accompanied not by a new revelation, some of you will be relieved to know, but it was accompanied by--and please accept this claim as one of delight, not wanting to boast any more than the apostle Paul wanted to boast, no matter how many times he ended up doing so (he just couldn't help it)--my spiritual high was accompanied by a miracle. I walked on water!

But check any impulse to contact the pope and nominate me for sainthood. For one thing, that process cannot be started until after the nominee's death. For another, to recall Paul, again:  it would quickly be found that "I am the worst of all sinners." And for yet another, investigation of the miracle would result in dealing with its circumstance, which could be as embarrassing as the end to Peter's walk on water. I did not sink at all (another part of the miracle) but, I will confess, the reason for my walk on water was to pass water. Parking my bike on the side of the road, I walked into the woods across an expanse of water to hide myself, for a reason akin to the first couple's hiding in the woods.

Scoffers might say, "Well, who can't walk across frozen water?" They might even refer to it as snow. But I say that considering my degree of baseness, the ability to walk on that degree of water is a miracle. And what other miracles have we participated in? The ability to move one's legs, to hear a thrush, to feel cold in the morning and heat in the afternoon, to taste spring water... So many miracles. May we all become saints!

Grant Village - Canyon Village, Yellowstone (37 mi.)
A cow moose with her calf, early in the morning. an elk peacefully grazing while cameras snap (Male voice, Brooklyn accent: "Hey, get out of the way! You're blocking our angles." Young German tourist with long-nosed camera, a few feet from the elk: "Come down here yourself then."), mud springs and vents steaming with sulphur smell, a bike path to a "natural bridge" over a narrow stream, a view of the Yellowstone River's falls through the deep canyon's walls of yellow stone.

I don't think the temperature went  beyond the 60's and the biking is easy. The road shoulder is not as bad as I thought it might be and the huge percentage of drivers are considerate.

Bicyclists and hikers are treated well here. We are guaranteed a spot in any campground even if it is "closed" to others (as all three I stayed in were) and we pay only $6 a night, less than a third what other tenters need to pay.






Canyon Village - Mammoth Springs, Yellowstone (37 mi.)
I slept snug as a bug then had a relaxed breakfast in a corner of the large cafeteria, sipping coffee while updating my journal. I did not start off on the bike until a little after 11. A steady climb for seven miles, stopping on the way to hike up one inviting hillside and enjoy the views, both close ones into the woods and the expansive ones over the lake to the mountains beyond. Back on the road, at a turnoff near the top, a young father asked about my trip, grinned appreciatively at my answers, then summarized for his two children and wife who had been in the little 4X6 building.  Then I talked for quite a while with Mike from Cleveland, OH who is biking a Montana - Yellowstone loop. He was thinking of doing a coast-to-coast in yearly segments and did Arcadia to Cleveland last year but "said to hell with the plains" and drove out to start this year's loop. My pleasant tail winds of the last few days have been his grueling head winds.

Shortly afterwards, I reached this stretch's highest peak, almost 9,000' and watched kids play in the snow. Then a 2,500' descent stretched over ten miles. Near the beginning of it, I stopped to join a herd of cars and watch a grizzly amble across the road and up the grassy hillside. A ranger said it was unusual for grizzlies to be so high up this time of year but this one seems to like it because she's not in competition  with others lower down. Several miles later, we could watch a black bear with her two cubs, who climbed to the top of a 30', whitened dead tree. Had a supper of sardines, bread and fritos, planning on a big breakfast in the center's restaurant.


Mammoth Springs - Island Park, Idaho (79 mi.)
Early on, going up out of Mammoth Springs, stopped to walk into the woods and watch elk graze. Towards the end, watched a crow worry an eagle away from its perch on a whitened log to a pine a few hundred yards away. A couple miles later,  I took a side road that I guessed would come back to the main one but stopped to ask a woman taking pictures of flowers, her husband fly-fishing a bit down river, to be sure that it would. When I told her about the eagle, she smiled brightly and said "I'm so glad to hear that. For years, we have enjoyed watching a pair of eagles and their eaglets, whose nest is just back there a ways, but we have not seen them this year. I am so glad you told me about that!"

Towns like West Yellowstone (and Jackson on the other side of the Tetons) that feed on tourists give me the heebie-jeebies (or is it the tourists, and the knowledge that I am one of them). So, after a service-station supper of a  banana, "apple pie" with enough chemicals to give it taste, coffee, and ice cream--it's important to eat well on a long trip--I crossed the ten-mile strip of Montana and continued on several miles into Idaho, staying in a campground with a view of the area's 4th of July fireworks being done on the 2nd of July.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Less Then 1000 Miles To Go

This is Marlo. I had a chance to talk to my dad as he rode through Arco, Idaho. He said he was spending independence day celebrating his independence traveling the country roads of America. As soon as he rides by a library, he'll update this blog.