Trying something new

Dear huge fan base;

During my recent travels I really enjoyed writing this blog.  Since returning home I have missed the writing as much as I miss the freedom of the road.  I have actually drafted a number of additional posts which sit unpublished on my dashboard. When I think of hitting the “publish” button, my heart tells me that they no longer fit in this bookended format. The Great Affair was intended to mark a point in time, a journey with a beginning and an end. That journey was real but also very symbolic. It was a point in my own life that I chose to share.  But now it feels like the roads of that specific journey ended along railroad tracks between Chicago and Rochester and additional posts will show me clinging to the past or trying to fit everyday life into a travelogue of what now feels like a wonderful dream.

Perhaps the events, people and sights of my trip seem like a dream but The Great Affair itself is a philosophy not a dream and I would be a sorry person to abandon that philosophy.  I searched for who I was on the wet roads of the Northwest and one thing I found is that I love to write and love to know you are reading.  I will not let that part of me go and I intend to celebrate it going forward.

Earlier today I started a new blog called A Cultivated Habit www.acultivatedhabit.wordpress.com with the intent of continuing to write…about anything.  I will be developing the site further over the next week or so and I hope that you check it out, subscribe and comment about what you read.

Remember – you can only be young once but you can always be immature.

A day in Chicago

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. “
– T.S.Elliot

So we arrived close to 10 hours late into Chicago; missing not only our various connections but our patience and a lot of quality sleep as well.

Amtrak put me up in a fancy Hyatt hotel and gave me $52 in cash for cab fare and food. This was nice and all but I saw the room rate they paid ($92) and together with the cash this delay totaled over half my ticket price. How this company makes any money is beyond my comprehension.

But why waste brain power on that when I was basically getting a free summer Sunday in Chicago! I woke and got my day started by walking from my hotel (that cab fare was going to pay for at least two iced lattes or maybe one and a cookie) and i headed directly for the lake. At nearly 1000 degrees Kelvin outside and humidity of close to three hundred percent I knew that I would need a breeze and proximity to water.

Low and behold I found my first architectural wonder – Soldier Field. Home of the mighty Chicago Bears or more lovingly “Dahhh Bearsss” for you SNL fans.

From there I made my way along the shore past the aquarium to famous Grant Park (masterplanned by the Olmsted Brothers 1907) and the Buckingham Fountain. It was here that my cab fare was blown on that cruel mistress, the iced latte. I sat in the shade and called my sister to check in. After a brief chat and some photos of children chasing bubble created by a guy with two sticks, some string and a huge bucket of soapy water, I was back on the path towards Navy Pier. And I really did not care much for that so lets move on.

From the hot, touristy and overcrowded pier I headed fpr a walk along the river to take in some architecture. New York may have a lot of skyscrapers but building for building Chicago kicks butt. This is the home of the skyscraper and it is a lesson in history and a lesson still be taught today with some excellent new structures reaching skyward.

By this time my feet were hurting having only Tevas to wear and I still had to see Michigan Ave (the famous “miracle mile” and Millenium Park.

I came up to street level on Michigan Ave and lets just skip that too because I did not like it that much either and its hard to type on a moving train.

But Millenium Park – oh I did love that. Some more photography at the sculpture called “Cloud Gate” by Anish Kapoor (more loviny known as “the bean”). This sculpture is so amazing because it reflects both the viewer and the skyline of the city back to the viewer in a way that says “you are at the center of all of this that you see.”

Adjacent to Cloud Gate is the new Pritzker Pavillion. Now I always complain about Frank Gehry but everytime I see one of his works I love it. This was no exception. In a city known for large public sculpture this is yet another great and functional example. It also helps that there was an orchestra playing.

At the far end of the pavilion is the new addition to the Chicago Art Institute (addition by Renzo Piano 2009) This addition has been featured in many of the architecture mags and I was excited to see it. Even better though is the awesome bridge that takes one up to the observation level from the Prizker; crossing the street as it does. Its so simple and so cool.

Dropped a few buck at the museum store as I am prone to do at museum stores and made a call home to check on my peeps. All was well as it has been throughout my trip.

By now my feet where enfuego and I was jonesing for another iced anything and a cookie of course. I started back towards Union station grabed a bite on the way and settled back into Amtrak waiting mode. We only took off 30 minutes late but it is already 2:50 eastern time and we are still in Indiana. Oh well I am on my way home and ready for it in many ways.

So on the subject of the end of this journey, I want to wrap this up as I started it; with another quote from Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon.

“Instead of insight, maybe all a man gets is strength to wander for a while. Maybe the only gift is a chance to inquire, to know nothing for certain. An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.”

Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to tip your waitress.

Trevor

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Not my version

Name somthing romantic. The first thing that pops into your head. Got it? Ok then, if your answer is “train travel” you win a gift certificate to the Funny Farm.

When I set out the plan to ride the train back home I imagined elegant dining cars. Maybe a dinner jacket. Even a murder mystery as we cruised through the rockies. Not so my friends.

Romantic is not the word that comes to mind when I think of Amtrak. Romantic is a quiet dinner or a picnic. Romantic is a poem or story being read to you or maybe spending the day in bed with your lover. Romatic is not uncomfortable chairs, generally rude staff (not all of them though) stinky bathrooms, a total lack of information and over priced bad food. In short Amtrak is not my version of romantic.

I have kept my attitude positive because, well what else is there to do. I spend the hours reading, chating with a few of my neighbors (more on that shortly) and watching Arrested Develpment on Netflix. How did I miss that show by the way; very good stuff.

We are now well over nine hours behind schedule and are still on our way to Mineappolis. I guage that we will be close to a half a day behind schedule by the time we arrive. All this needs is a lady holding a chicken or a guy with a goat and I could be in a third world country.

Speaking of traveling compainions (spelled like that on purpose) and lack of romance, here is a smattering of what I get to sit near:

One guy has chewed tobacco since he got on late yesterday. He brought a cooler with him and cracked a beer at 7:05 this morning while announcing that “it’s noon somewhere people”. He is sitting across the aisle from a grandmother and her granddaughter of 11. They are “on adventure together”. How’s that workin out granny?

The old man who had no clue how loud he is has been replaced by a guy playing a electric guitar (sans amp) but I think I would prefer the amp over the slapping sound of the strings.

The two boys and their mom behind me are great. The poor mom has been worried about having two kids stuck in Chicago. When she asked the conductor if she had to sleep in the station. He replied “you don’t have to sleep if you don’t want”. He was kidding but really chose the wrong time to suddenly try to be nice. What was wrong with 20 hours ago?

There is an older guy across from me who mumbles everything but feels compelled to tell me elaborate stories. I have not understood any of them but I got the sense one might have been about shoulder surgery.

There is also a guy a few seats up wearing a shirt that has a huge hand sending a message to someone he is aparently pretty upset with. Or maybe they are “number one” as I told my girls that meant.

So I will be a whole day late but I get a day in Chicago which is cool. Better yet I get a shower and some decent food. I can’t wait to see the hotel they put us up in. It might be an abandoned rail car come to think of it.

We just got to get off the train at St Paul for a “few minutes” while they do some work. There is a thing called Stockholm Syndrome where a kidnapped person feels attached to their captor. I got off the train and it was hot and crowded and I just wanted to be back on the train. I may need to be deprogrammed when I get home.

This post is for all my stalkers who have enjoyed reading and thought this was over. News Flash: The adventure continues…

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Sound Bites (with appologies to the Pirates)

So I follow the blog for the twounhappypirates: http://twounhappypirates@wordpress.com and they do this great post called “sound bites” where they give snippets from conversations or things they overheard along their trip east along a route very similar to the one I was just on. I did some of this in a previous post but with time on my hands and the ride on my mind while sitting on the train I thought I would share some stuff from my notes and copy the pirates a little.

The Most common reaction when I tell people where I have ridden from can be summed up by a a guy in a bar in Republic, Wa: “Wait you mean a bike you pedal? Dude, what the fuck?”

Comment from the hotel clerk in Eureka, MT when I said I have a bike: “Oh we get a lot of you people but your usually a lot dirtier.”

Many staff members in Glacier and even a waitress in Columbia Falls: “Watch out for bears on the road.” I never saw any but you better believe I was nervous after about the fourth time I heard it.

My new friends Christy and Bob about how life moves from one thing to another: “We had a lot of fun raising our children and now we are having a lot of fun doing this. Life is just fun for us.”

Me to BOB on many, many occasions: “Will you quit complaining! Don’t make me come back there!”. That one is for your enjoyment Craig.

The overly proud owner of a bakery in Idaho: “check out the arms on my wife. Thats the result of the bread dough kneading workout right there.”. They were very nice arms I have to say. Could be a future workout dvd.

The ticket girl at the movies in Libby after I startled her when she looked up from reading her book:
Her: I was not expecting oneone yet.
Me: Am I early?
Her: Not really. Its just that none here comes on time.
Me: Will the movie start on time?
Her: Didn’t I just say nobody’s ontime here?
Me: Well then I guess I am early
Her: Look i’t’s $7. Do you want to see the movie or not?
Me: It was nice talking with you

The movie started fifteen minutes late by the way.

Reaching Ithaka

“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”

That is from a poem by Cavafy called Ithaka. It’s beautiful. Look it up.

If you had asked me last week when I was soaked to the bone and towing BOB up Wauconda Pass if this was about the journey or the destination I would have hit you with my frame pump. If you had asked me a few days ago when I made a wrong turn and ended up 8 miles off course and only another 8 miles of soul sucking dirt road to get me into the park I would have tied you to a tree and left you for the bears.

But today, sitting and waiting for a late train, I find myself missing the journey and not the destination. Do not misunderstand, Glacier was amazing. The views, the wildlife, my cabin, the people, the meals; all of it was a delight. In some ways though it was a let down. Pedaling for 800 miles I had begun to think how nice it would be to sit in one place for a few days, to not have to pack each morning and get BOB rolling again. I often forgot the journey while dreaming of the destination.

And relaxing in the park was wonderful. With rain or threatening clouds overhead during the majority of my stay I alternated from laying in bed napping and reading to sitting in the bar drinking and reading. But after a day plus of this I missed my bike and The Road to the Sun was calling.

I left BOB at the cabin and stripped the bike down to the essentials. I did the same for myself by donning a full Nalgene race kit that I had brought. Of course I had to carry warm gear for the descent back to the Lake Mcdonald Lodge so I stuffed my jersey pockets and set out into the clearing weather for a 22 mile climb.

Clearing skys in Montana are not actually a harbinger of good times ahead. Less than a mile from my cabin I was soaked through from a cold rain that came out of nowhere. Like the sunshine It did not last though and by the time I was on the real parts of the climb I even encountered some sunshine.

I should probably tell you that they close this road to cyclists from 11am to 4pm. This is basically for the safety of the riders because with all the campers, trailers and oversized Texas limos on the road and basically no shoulder the biker will always lose. I had waited until 4:15 and should have waited until later.

The climb itself is great. Six percent or so and steady. There are some metal grates in the road that are not friendly to bikes and after a near crash on one I decided to put my foot down going over these. They day before my ride a woman on a motorcycle was hit in the head by a rock that fell off one of the many cliffs. I understand she lived but I dont have confirmation either way. You can bet I was thinking about that a lot during my ride. Later I found out that the same day as my ride another rock went through the back window of a car with no injuries.

On the way up there was traffic and stops for construction and a lot of the time I was as fast or faster than the cars. It was like the Tour but I without my EPO.

Because of road construction and an estimated thirty minute delay I was denied the top. I was getting so cold climbing through melting snow that the idea of standing still for thirty minutes was too much. Besides at this point I was actually so stuck in traffic that I got to know the people in the cars around me. Tim amd his son were sitting in the back of a pickup taking pictures of me while I rode. Gene and his wife Tracey were from Illinois and had a habit of constantly telling me that they “ain’t got hills like this where weez from”. I did not know people in Illinois talked like that Truthfully it all got too annoying but when I turned at mile 18 to start heading down they all cheered my effort. The whole thing was fun and very beautiful but I would rather climb Mt Lemon in AZ or Mitchell in NC (while the Blue Ridge is closed to cars) than do the Sun Road again.

So back to the journey. The time on the bike, alone or with the Tometskos proved to be more rewarding, peaceful and fulfilling than the destination itself.

With only the train leg left and a few days of watching the landscape go by rather than being a part of it I am glad to head home to see Yvonne and the girls but I will miss the sites and sounds and smells of being on the road for six plus hours a day.

Here are some random thoughts, observations etc;

If it were not for beer, soda, red bull and cigarettes there would be almost no trash on the highways.

When I crossed the Columbia and passed the Boise plywood plant it smelled like Saturdays when I was growing up as my dad was always cutting something for a project.

Stop every now and then to look at the map even if you think you know where you are going and it seems like a straight road you are on.

Don’t tow BOB with a carbon fiber bike.

No matter how much or little you bring with you, you will have to much on the uphills and not enough at all other times.

Begin each journey with a direction and destination in mind and then let go of both.

“And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”
– C.P. Cavafy

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Quiet times in the Park

Yes I am still here or maybe there, whatever. Just a quick note to let my loyal readers (Yvonne, Scott, DD and my mom) know that I am alive.

Two days at McDonald Lodge in Glacier NP with no service whatsoever can be frustrating for a few hours and then it just did not matter.

I am leaving the park now on my way to Whitefish to catch a train in the morning. I will write a longer piece later today.

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Nightmare 93

On the morning of day two of this ride I was waiting for the Tometsko clan to wake up and wandered over to a nearby gas station for a cup of coffee. While I sipped my latte (even gas stations in the nothwest have good lattes) two separated riders came in to get out of the rain and eat breakfast. The first (Lydia) was going solo from somewhere in Canada to the Mexican border. She decided to do this to celebrate a long overdo move from LA back to her hometown of SF. The second was a very chatty hippie (a real one – like from the sixties and everything). This hippie whose name I never got because he was too busy talking non stop about himself, was from the Seattle area and was on his way back from having riden to Glacier. Part of his monologue was rated to the dangers of Route 93 from Eureka to Whitefish. He spun a tale of non existant shoulders and crazy Canadian drivers and a crumbling road that BOB and I would be lucky to survive.

Well that hippie did not lie. I had been dreading this day since that morning because I read the terror in the mans eyes and saw his grey ponytail shake as he spoke of “nightmare 93″.

Because I am often and recently accused of being a worrier (acused and guilty being the same in this case), I got up and on the the road as soon as the sun was up. I did this thinking that “crazy Canadians” don’t care for the early part of the day.

I was right about that as traffic was light for the first hour but also the road was actually pretty nice. Wide shoulder etc. I stopped for breakfast around me 18 at a place called “the fly” which I don’t think has anything to do with the soup special. It was a very very small place with great food and service. See the picture of just how small below. I had a nice conversation with the owner and we watched the news of the bear and the highschool kids. (as a aside, one of those kids is friends with my daughter Maddy. He was unharmed).

When I left the fly the owner said “Be careful on the road. It’s gonna get real thin”. My pancakes became lead in my gut.

Now both She and the hippie spoke the truth. The State of Montana should be ashamed of themselves for building such a monster and calling it a road. It was exactly as the hippie described.

I arrived shaken and trembling in Whitefish around noon. Glad to be alive and looking for help with my PTSD. Pizza and a light beer seemed to do the trick. While hanging out at Glacier Cyclery I met Bob and Christy Bette. I would estimage that they are in their late fifties or even early sixties and currently riding the great divide trail. A mountain bike trail from British Columbia to Mexico. They carry all their gear and camp in places they find along the road. They were amazing to say the least. Later I was at the laundromat in the next town and ran into them again. Truly great people and I wish them safety and success.

So I am changing my plan a little due to a number of factors. The main one has to do with places to stay on a few nights. As you may recall I sent home my camping gear and now go hotel to hotel. As I get further into Montana the places where I can get a room are increasingly far apart. Some days will be back to back over 100 miles. I am just too tired at this point to tackle that. So tomorrow I go into the park and the next day I will leave BOB at the hotel and climb Logan Pass with a much lighter setup. That won’t make it easy, just easier. After that its a short ride back to Whitefish to catch the train home.

Final thought: everybody in Montana is towing something. There are fifth wheels, pop ups, boats and even empty trailers presumably just so keep up with the Joneses. Pickups tow skidos, motorcycles pull little trunks and motorhomes pull SUVs. Yesterday I even saw a pickup towing a trailer with a payload of another trailer. Today I saw a UPS thruck pulling a brown UPS trailer. All the time I have been thinking about how crazy this is and I never thought that i am towing BOB around. Perhaps he is just becoming a part of me? Add that thought to the list of reasons to come home early.

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