Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Like A River

"The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets." Christopher Morley.

I got up this morning intent on riding. A flat, no spare tube (why that matters is for another time). Undaunted, I run errands, stop at a bike shop and hustle home.

The slog - it was a total slog - found me, finally, at the top of Lookout Mountain. Overweight, without a lot of high-end training this spring and a ride looming. Still, the view was gorgeous and I had enough gas in the tank to make it home with my dignity intact.


My diary from Bikecentennial says I spent tonight, forty years ago, in Virginia City, Montana, finding a bike inn after 60 inconsistent miles that day. Reedsport, Oregon was 1140 miles (and three-ish weeks) in the rear view. Starting out alone (as an "Independent") I'd made a riding friend named Glen. Riding mostly together (more on that later), we had gotten almost to Yellowstone.

The pages are filled with references to events long ago lost from memory. There are long climbs and terrifying descents. The weather is gorgeous along the coast and pouring rain in the "desert region"of eastern Oregon. There are bars, diners and snack foods. 

Lost on the pages, but still vivid in my memory was an old saloon in the small Montana town of Wisdom. One paved road - the way in, and the way out. There was a wooden Indian on the porch. Inside, weathered tables, creaking stools and a worn bar. The beers are cold, and rejuvenating. 

Some days I am strong, the hills mentioned for their views, or not recorded at all. Some days it takes everything I have to remount after a rest. There are flats, mechanical breakdowns. There is rain.

This is 1976. Gore-Tex had been invented only a few years before and was not widely available. Riding clothing mainly consisted of jean shorts, t-shirts and running shoes. The best any rain gear could do was keep one warm. You can imagine what wet cotton feels like pressed against a cycling saddle.  

The wilderness areas of Idaho were beautiful - lush, dense forests that seemed to extend forever. It rained for several days straight, and I was soaked. One night, unable to find a room in a very small town, I took refuge in a laundromat, dried out something to wear in the sleeping bag and, improbably, pitched a tent in a driving downpour. It was still coming down in ark-planning proportions the next morning.


I was all of twenty-one. I would make it.

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