Day 15 Sunday, July 24 North Fork, ID to Wisdom, MT 53 miles
This has been an unbelievable day. I feel like I got out of my legs what I could today. Rode as far as the little town of Wisdom, MT (don’t you love that name? It far surpasses Boring, OR!). Short day mile-wise, but made up for it in climbing. I knew that the two casually rolling days of following the Salmon River were over and that now I would need to make my way over the Continental Divide which demarcates the state line between Idaho and Oregon.
I was pleasantly surprised by the severity of the climb. I was told as soon as I left North Fork this morning that I would start climbing. At Mile 17 I knew I had been ascending, but I found myself wondering when the “real” climb was about to start. It finally did and for the next ten miles it was a push getting to the summit of Chief Joseph Pass. Then suddenly I was at the top and I could have sworn that there must have another five miles of climbing. That’s a great feeling when the top arrives before you expect it.
The real story was not the severity of the climb. It was the Hitchcock-like scenes fighting off determined horseflies for the final miles of the climb. I am serious here! Itwas actually getting dangerous. And horseflies are not something to take lightly. They are like regular flies on steroids. With the steepness of the grade I was only averaging about 6 mph which apparently is slow enough for horseflies to keep up with me. And with the sweat pouring off my body I must have been an attractive and delicious meal. The scene was straight out of the “The Birds” by Hitchcock as the horseflies kept multiplying in numbers. It was a real trick trying to ride, swat flies that were biting, and keep my bike going straight so that the big vacation trailers wouldn’t sideswipe me. I am one of those animal-loving folks who will take a spider outside so as not to harm it. Today, however, I can’t tell you how much pleasure I got out of swatting the five or six horseflies that stalled too long on my leg or arm. Sorry , St. Francis of Assisi. It’s purgatory for me!
In contrast, I am having a blast tonight. I haven’t seen any touring cyclists for over a week since leaving the Transamerica Trail at Austin Junction last week. There has been a strange convergence of about 15 cyclists all of whom are traveling across the US (and me who is riding in circles!). There is a group of 3 college grads who are doing this before life requires responsibility and a schedule. One man, KC, is on a sort of pilgrimage of personal growth like me and blogging as well. There is a father, son and daughter-in-law as well as a couple of men from Yorktown, VA. I asked the bartender at the local bar (yes, I did drink a beer for hydration purposes!) if this was a regular occurrence here at Wisdom. She said, “No, you guys all just converged on us all at once.” Hah…as I am writing this another cyclist just pulled into the park where I am camping. The college boys are out welcoming him now to our impromptu Wisdom Cycling Club.
I write today on a Sunday when so much of my community is sitting in pews in a church. I actually tried to make arrangements to worship in the town of Salmon this morning where the pastor was preaching on “Wherever you go, there you are” but my legs had more miles in them and I felt called to keep moving despite a chance to slow it down for a half day and connect with the Presbyterian community. I have spent much of the day thinking about this attraction to the road and nature and the journey and why joining for a church service felt like a detour from this pilgrimage.
I will dedicate a separate blog entry for that as it is points to the cultural life in the NW and the apparent split between church people and the “spiritual but not religious.” If I thought I was the only one who felt this call to nature and the road as being just as sacred as the church I would keep my lips zipped up. But, people keep telling me this same story and I know there must be something to it. I keep thinking, “Why are we trying to invite people into a church building when God is richly present just outside the doors?” More to muse on as I pedal my way into the Big Sky country of Montana and where I was born.
Gotta run. We have a strange convergence of cyclists here Wisdom tonight and I can feel “party” in the air.