“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