DAY 68

May 21, 1999

After writing every day for this long, I've hated picking up this pen lately.  There is a thick callous forming on my middle finger where the pen rests as I write.  The content of what I write is scattered as I hurriedly write what I can to be done with it quickly.  Many descriptions and details are left out as the writing jumps from right brain to left brain style.  Next time I will consider one of those really small laptops like a Toshiba Libretto.  I can type faster and easier than I can write.  OK, enough complaining for now :-)

The phone in my room rang a little after 8am.  It was Matt, from the local paper, calling to meet me for an interview.  He arrived about 8:30am in a 4 wheel drive sport utility vehicle...a Toyota 4-Runner, I believe.  A much younger journalist than I imagined, probably early twenties.  Matt was well dressed and had short blonde hair.  The interview was more like just hangin' out and talking.   He enjoyed my stories and took a genuine interest in what I was doing.  Some reporters are just trying to get a bunch of facts down to put together a story and fill space in their paper.  I'm not sure how long we talked...hmmmm, 45-60 minutes I think. 

When Matt left, I checked out and rode to the convenient store.  I bought fig bars, Nutri-Grain bars (cherry and blueberry are my current favorites), peanut butter crackers, and Gatorade.  While pouring the Gatorade into my water bottles, I noticed that stuff was beginning to grow inside them.  YUK!  Oh well, I'll just pretend I didn't see it and I won't know the difference :-)  As I rode out of town on 12 West, I noticed a lot of traffic today.  Up until now there has been very little traffic on the road.  This section of 12 West is actually joined with 287 North.  A lot of people use 287 North to go to Helena.  The shoulder had grooves in it which made it impossible to ride on.  Instead, I had to ride the white line for the next 13 miles, then the grooves disappeared.  During that 13 miles I remained on a long uphill grade, with 30mph headwinds....That Sucked!  It seems as though, in this region, the wind always blows in one direction.  Basically out of the west blowing towards the east.  But even as I headed in a northerly direction, I still had headwinds.  The wind flows like a river as it snakes it's way around the mountains and through the valleys.  The road I'm pedaling on is it's river bed as I head upstream to the Rockies.  The Rockies?  The Rockies!  How will I handle them when I can barely tolerate this little stuff?  My body has been through so much abuse already, will I make it?  These thoughts race through my mind with a certain gravity.  All I could do was try to forget, and to think about how Lewis and Clark came through here, just a little distance off to my right.  I wonder what it was like to enter an untamed wilderness like they did?  What did they write about?   I will have to read about their adventures someday and see how they described this area.  The immediate landscape was pretty boring to me.  Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't for this darned wind!  Ahhhh!  I yelled at it, cursing it, I hated it...but the wind would not yield to me.  My whole body remained tense and there was nothing I could do to relax.  Not even singing or talking to the cows.

When I reached Winston, over two hours had passed and I'd only gone 13 miles!  Geez, I'd planned on having lunch in Helena, 30 some miles of total riding.  Man, I was moving sloooow!  It wasn't much of a strength issue, it was that I didn't want to move.  I could've pedaled much faster easily but that just intensified the wind and made me more tense.  There was a bar and one convenient store.  There was a bar on the door of the bar bathroom, it said "Bathrooms for customers only!"   I went inside the bar, which was very dark, and there was a very large man behind the counter.  He was the owner of the bar and looked to weigh 400+ lbs.  The only food he had was DiGiorno pizza.  There were 10" pizzas in either supreme or pepperoni.  I asked if he could take the pepperoni off so I could have a cheese pizza.  He said brashly, "No, you can take them off."   What a jerk, I thought,  but I was hungry.  The problem is, when you cook it with the pepperoni, you still get all the juices from the pepperoni soaking into the pizza.  If you pull it off prior to cooking, it's as if it were never there.   But that jerk just couldn't understand the philosophy of that.  So after he finished cooking it in the oven, I picked the pepperoni off and at the pizza.  It still had a strong taste of the meat which eventually made me nauseous.  On a positive note, I got to meet Rick.  He was an older gentleman wearing a work uniform that has his name embroidered on it, and wearing a baseball cap.  Rick asked me some questions and told me that I'm getting ready to enter a "hostile environment".   He was referring to the nature and wilderness that lies ahead.  He advised me to get a snake bite kit.  I was informed that there are a lot of rattlesnakes where I'm heading.  It was great to sit down and have a good conversation even if I had a crappy pizza.

Looking up at the ceiling, I noticed it was covered with one dollar bills that were stapled in a certain way.  As I looked carefully I noticed that they spelled words.  The big guy at the counter told me I'd have to give him a dollar then he'd tell me what they said, as he smiled inanely.  Apparently, one must sign a dollar, give it to him, then he uses it to write on the ceiling.  He went on to tell me that it was his little scam.  I thought it to be unique and clever, but I had no interest in knowing what it said, so I kept my dollar and he kept his secret.

It was after 1pm and I had 20 more miles to go.  The wind seemed to get stronger as the sun was heating the air.  From now on I must try to leave early in the morning, before the winds begin attacking my senses and attempting to hold me back.

I passed through the town of East Helena and rode the bike path to Helena.  After stopping at several different places I was able to get directions to a cheap motel.  On the way there, I stopped at a camera store to look at filters.  I lost or misplaced my circular polarizer and a new one is $62.50.   Geez!  This is an expensive hobby!  Needless to say, I didn't buy one.   I've decided to wait and maybe mail-order one at a lower cost.

Finding the King's Carriage Inn, I paid a total of $34.28 for a room.  Now as I sit at this small table, I ponder the road ahead.  If this journey is about 7,000 miles then I've come just past half way.  Considering the incredible experiences and people I've met so far, I could be satisfied with ending it now.  But would I regret quitting once I get home?  The important thing I have to remind myself it that this is not about any destination.  It is a journey not only on my bike but into my soul, which has no destination.  What is important to me is staying focused on my true self.  That part of me inside that can be just as complex as anyone else's.  My identity is multi-faceted, only revealing certain aspects to different people.  With most I feel very comfortable and allow my true self to come alive.  While at times I may appear quite different depending on the dynamics of the conversation.  Like the guy I encountered in Spearfish Canyon.  There I presented myself boldly ad forcefully, and I'm sure my voice was even lowered an octave as I took on this persona.  Isn't it funny how each of us may  present ourselves quite differently depending on the situation? 

Well anyway, when the quest of my self-discovery is finished, so will my trip be.  It may very well be that I don't have to go all the way to Prudhoe Bay to find myself.  I might find myself out in the Yukon somewhere, maybe swimming naked in the Yukon River :-)

Wind - Yadda, yadda, yadda...same ole story

Today - 36.52 miles
Total -  3544 miles
Avg. Speed - 7.0mph

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