Hot springs, or just hot feet?

Today was a lesson in humility.

The flags were flapping with a strong breeze out of the northeast (the direction we were headed), so I decided to go with strength in numbers and left breakfast with a group that usually rides at a pace that is comfortable for me.

Trouble is, I usually start slow and warm up for about five miles before I ramp up to cruising speed. Steve (pictured the other day at Teton Park in a yellow jacket) led the way out of town at a blistering pace. I knew within a few miles that this was not a sustainable pace for me for 90+ miles. When a tendon behind my left knee started complaining, I dropped off the back (after taking a pull at the front).

I would pay for that error for the next 80 miles.

Pretty soon I decided that finishing in time for dinner was my only goal. I expected to be on the road for 10 hours.

Relief came when we turned onto US Hwy 20 West. The good news is that got us out of the headwind. The bad news is that that is inconsistent with getting to Boston.

We rode through the crumbling town of Shoshoni.  On the way out of town we passed what might have been a trailer park and might have been a junkyard, I couldn’t tell.

5A6A9C98-0427-4DA0-94F6-CAE2FB68FF32We headed into the Wind River Canyon and the day changed for the better. By this time I was riding alone, at my own pace, with no desire to try to keep up with anyone.9D4A8989-5BF6-4396-85C9-996740AA4B97

Wind River Canyon is phenomenally beautiful. We rode through three short tunnels and had lunch at the “Wedding of the Waters.”

White people are funny. Someone “discovered” the Wind River and named it (at least he didn’t name it after himself). Someone else “discovered” the Big Horn River (and also didn’t name it for himself). Only years later did they figure out it was the same river. Rather than change one or both names (or find out what the people who already lived there called it), they decreed that our lunch spot would be henceforth known as the “Wedding of the Waters”, and upstream would be the Wind River, downstream the Big Horn.

We rode into the town of Thermopolis, home of a hot springs. 7741E692-FDD1-42A3-8DA5-ED93282307FBWe were encouraged to stop and take the waters. I was afraid that, were I to get into a hot spring at that point in the day, I wouldn’t want to get out. If I did get out, I didn’t think I’d have 40 miles left in me. I looked, but did not get wet.

A hot spring at the end of the ride, especially with massage therapists, would have been a great idea.63D83E46-29C7-4ECE-B9F0-79FCBF00710E

At mile 80, as tends to happen on hard days, my feet were on fire. I took off my shoes and used my water bottle to cool them down. This made the last 13 miles survivable. Now I know why you can buy shoes with vents you can open under the toes.

I finally joined forces with Kevin at that water stop and rode into town with him.

Steve later confessed that his speedometer wasn’t working in the morning and he had no idea he was going that fast.

I finished riding at 2:30, about the same time as usual.

Thursday we climb Powder River Pass, a 25 mile climb. We climb almost 9000 feet for the day. The pass tops out at 9666 feet, and we ride >90 miles again before we say goodbye to the mountains. Time to get some sleep.

Idaho

Here we are, in Idaho.

I can’t think of Idaho (or U. Utah Phillips) without thinking of Rosalie Sorrels. Rosalie was a folksinger from Boise. My favorite song of hers is actually a cover of a Shel Silverstein song.

03 You’re Always Welcome At Our House 1.m4a

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Rosalie Sorrels. Rick Ardinger/Courtesy of Red House Records (from the NPR link below)

Rosalie’s dark humor extends beyond Shel Silverstein’s songs. She also recorded a set of “Hostile Baby Rocking Songs”, the songs she sang to her children when she was at her wits end. She is not well-represented on YouTube, and the album “be careful, there’s a baby in the house” appears to be out of print. (I found it on Amazon for $182.27. It is available for loan from my local public library.)  For those who find these songs offensive, remember that singing hostile songs and abusing children are very different. I work with children who are victims of what the medical field refers to as “non-accidental trauma”. I do not consider that funny.

02 Baby Rocking Medley.m4a

As an aside, I want to put in a plug for public libraries. The library is one of the greatest public services government provides. I am happy to pay taxes to support libraries. I find it ironic that the “Little Free Library” movement has caught on so heavily in my hometown, as we have a phenomenal public library system. (Guess what? It’s free! And it’s not so little.) My kids got library cards when they were very young and we made weekly trips to the library – on Monday – early release day from school and my day off. We got to know the staff, some of whom are still there 20+ years later. I still go almost every Monday, even without the kids. When my daughter (now a college graduate and newly-minted Social Worker) visited from college, we always went to the library on Monday.

If money is burning a hole in your pocket and  you can’t think of who to donate to, think about your local public library foundation.

The good news about today’s ride is that the forecast, which was an 85% chance of thunderstorms last night, was amended to a 35% chance of showers by this morning. The bad news is that the rain beat those new odds.

As we left Spokane, it was getting darker. Figuring on safety in numbers I headed out with a group – the folks who usually finish near the same time I do, so I thought they’d ride a comfortable pace.

By the outskirts it was raining hard enough that I was getting chilly. I stopped to don raingear and lost the group. I started to work my way back toward them until the headwind convinced me of my folly. I slowed down and waited for some other folks to catch me to help with the wind.

My flat tire brought the end of my time with that group. As luck would have it, the sag wagon showed up within a minute, so I had company while I changed tubes, and someone to hold my bike so I didn’t have to lay it down. They convinced me to take another spare tube (I still had one left, plus a patch kit), as about 50 miles of today’s route would be inaccessible to the sag wagon.

I started out again and caught on with another small group. When I stopped for a bathroom break and to change out of my raingear, I lost them. I figured I’d be riding alone for the day, thinking no one was behind me anymore.

33219AE1-73F9-46EC-9E45-669FB70B40CF.jpegAt the Idaho state line I caught someone. at the lunch break I caught up with the folks I’d started with. By that time we were on the most  incredible bike path I’ve ever seen – a paved path which skirted the shore of lake Couer d’Alene, then followed along its backwaters and the river that feeds it. We had a tailwind for the last 20 flat miles.

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Bike bridge over Lake Couer d’ Alene. (It rises and falls in steps, not a smooth incline.)

Along the path we saw a moose and her calf, then about a half dozen Great Blue Herons. All were camera shy, so no photos.

It’s hard to call 94 miles a rest day but, compared to the two before and the one to follow, it was.

There were two crashes today. One rider came to dinner in a shoulder immobilizer after a crash on the path. A shout out to Steve from Rochester for staying with him until help came.

Tomorrow we cross Thompson Pass into Montana. 10% grade near the summit. Time for sleep.

Battening down the hatches – a thunderstorm is coming any minute now. (8:30 PM my time.)

Roll up!

We hit the road today!

Enough talk! Let’s ride!

But if you need another fix of the Beatles (in phenomenal cover versions), visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/AllYouNeedIsLub

OK, I gotta add to an earlier post about 1968. We were discussing the Mexico City Olympics and the fact that John Carlos and Tommie Smith were kicked off the US Olympic team and sent home after winning gold and bronze. As Paul Harvey used to say, “here’s the rest of the story”, thanks to Dave Zirin in the Progressive.

The silver medalist was Australian Peter Norman. He wore a button reading “Olympic Project for Human Rights” on the podium that day, standing in solidarity with the two black athletes with whom he shared that podium.

He was ostracized in Australia and left off the next Olympic team. When San Jose State University erected a statue to Carlos and Smith, they left the silver medal spot empty. Carlos said he would have nothing to do with the statue if it did not honor Norman. Norman then told him that the spot was left empty at his (Norman’s) request so visitors “can climb the statue and stand where I stood and feel what it felt for me to be a part of history.”

When he died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral. And that’s the rest of the story. Sorry, no time to add links. Time to check out of the hotel and meet the Cycle America gang.

Here is our route for week one.

We’re in Everett, Washington.The mountains are in sight. Sunday morning we will dip our tires in the Pacific. (I will also seal up a vial of Pacific Ocean water to take across the country. When we ceremoniously dip our tires in the Atlantic, I will add the Pacific water to the Atlantic.) I am wearing a shirt given to me by Curtis to honor his memory. For those who haven’t read that post, he was my riding partner for my last supported tour.

My bike arrived safely. (It came out in the Cycle America trailer.) I took it for a short ride this afternoon. It goes, it stops, it shifts. The motor seems a little weak.

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It’s all fun and games until…

Some time back (March 24) I waxed rhapsodically about my first bike tour and fresh roadside asparagus. As we get closer to departure day, I remember my first planned long-distance solo tour to remind myself why I chose to make this a supported tour.

Aha! I found a photo of my Motobecane.

I outlined an epic journey. Several variations awaited me. The trip was to start by riding west from Madison to the Mississippi River. I would head upstream to the confluence with the St Croix River, following that up toward Lake Superior.

At that point my first option arose: I could turn east and head along the south shore, with a plan of circumnavigating the state of Wisconsin, or I could keep going north and follow the north shore of Lake Superior in Canada with the aim of  making my way down the west side of Michigan and ferrying back to Wisconsin. (Check out Google Maps to follow that route – easier than trying to link to a map of my route, and that way you can scout around.)

If I took the shorter route, I could also choose whether to merely circumnavigate Wisconsin (said to be about 1400 miles), or continue along the shore into the UP. Hah! So much for plans.

Less than 100 miles from home I spent my first night with friends on their farm. It was to be my last night sleeping in a bed for a while. Unfortunately, they were all sick.

Campsite selfie – airing out my stuff

I hit the road next morning. Now, southwestern Wisconsin (the driftless area) is pretty hilly. Still, it seemed hillier that morning than the day before. I struggled up climbs. I decided to cut my day short and settle into a semi-secret campsite along the Kickapoo River. (Don’t look for a map link here, I said it was semi-secret.)

Kickapoo campfire

A little aside: the Kickapoo River valley was to be dammed as a flood control project. (It would, incidentally, create new lakefront property for resorts and rich people’s summer homes.) The federal government took title to many acres of farmland (140 farms) that they intended to flood. The locals rose up and the plan was scuttled. The land went wild.

View from Wildcat Mountain

I didn’t leave that site for the next few days. I was lucky to make it out of my tent for a while each day. On about the third day I decided I was too sick to not be around other people. I packed up my camp and got back on the bike, riding to the top of nearby Wildcat Mountain, where there is a state park campground.

Fog at Wildcat Mountain

I sweated up the hill, got to the park, put down the bike, and lay supine under a hose bib, running cold water over myself. A park ranger came by and asked if I was OK. I said, “not exactly, but I’ll be okay in  few minutes.”  I went into the office and reserved a campsite, set up my tent and went back to bed. It rained for the next three days or so.

View from my tent

By the time I was well enough to get back on my bike, I had lost weight and had no energy left. Plus I’d lost about a week of riding time. Time for a new plan.

I was digitizing slides today when some of the images reminded me of the next phase of the journey.

Maiden Rock
Interior of “my” houseboat

Upstream I came to the town of
Maiden Rock. I’ll let the historical marker tell the legend of the rock (follow the link). I made it to Winona MN and met a community of folks living in houseboats in the backwaters of the Mississippi. One of them was away and they were kind enough to lend me his houseboat for the night.

Mississippi houseboat

I took some photos at dawn, and here it’s time for another aside: Years later I was working at a cooperative community and one of my neighbors (an evangelical Christian) showed me a “picture of Jesus”. Her church did full-immersion baptisms and when she developed the film of her friend’s baptism, there was  a foggy spot on the picture. She solemnly assured me that that was the image of Jesus. I told her I had a picture of the Buddha. She had to see it. It was one of my sunrise photos of the backwaters of the Mississippi. Here it is:

The reddish orb at the top looks to me like a head. Just below the head you can see shoulders (at the upper points of the star) to each side. The light emanates from the belly. Less obvious in this small reproduction is the appearance of two knees just below the belly (at the middle points of the star), as though of a figure sitting cross-legged. She studied the picture for a long time, then earnestly pronounced it to be a picture of Jesus. 

I rode up to St Paul, stayed with friends and ate until I felt semi-human again, then packed the bike into the cargo bay of a Greyhound bus and returned home. So much for circumnavigating Lake Superior, or Wisconsin, or much more than my campsite.

P.S. I forgot to mention last week that spring ended abruptly a week and a half ago with a temperature of 95 degrees and the hatching of millions of mosquitos that know nothing except the sucking of blood.

The good side of summer arrived today. Sitting on the Terrace,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA from Madisonstories.com

my feet in the water, sipping a beer, listening to live jazz. A breeze off the lake, temperature down to a totally reasonable 78 degrees. This may detract from the universality of the image, but was the icing on the cake for me – FaceTime with my Officially Adult child – college graduate last weekend, first day in a new city, first day of a new job, first day in a new apartment. Life doesn’t get much better than this; and I haven’t even started riding…