Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Butte, Montana, and the Montana Youth Conference

As I write this (at least, when I started..), I'm on the road again. I am, at this moment, traveling from Butte to Billings, Montana. Yes, I'm riding in a car, and cutting out half of the state of Montana from my itinerary in the process. Montana is beautiful and all, but two weeks in this state is enough. Well, at least, if I spend much longer here, I'll have difficulty reaching my destination on time, or having any freeboard time for other stops.

For more about the artist, and examples of his work, check out www.ohrmannmuseum.com. 

Many of the sculptures had a door on the side which you could open to see the heart inside.

I'll skip the details about pushing my bike up a hill on the way to Georgetown Lake, and getting a ride with someone down the other side, about eating a whole 12" pizza and a piece of pie in one sitting, of getting honked at and yelled at a few times, of being approached by yet another ~60 year old, who couldn't help but reminisce about his own travels when he was my age.. (as a side note, it seems those who traveled at a young age, independently, and with limited resources, carry a distinctive bearing with them throughout life, such that I think by the end of this trip I'll be able to easily pick them out of a crowd).

A well traveled section of railroad
A section of the road which, after hours climbing, I got a ride from the top down the other side.
At any rate, after the shortest week I've had so far, as far as riding distance, I arrived in Butte, Montana for the Montana Youth Conference, a localized spinoff of the GYC movement. I was actually a day early, so I stayed with Phil Keating, from the CouchSurfer network. As it turned out, he lives at the very top of the hill that is Butte, and I apparently took about the steepest road up, so I spent an hour and a half just climbing the hill. There's no way I was riding back down that road.. 

Old enough to be a grandparent, but unmarried, Phil was intrigued that I would see the Bible as a fully inspired and authoritative book. After he took me out for breakfast, I rode my bike down to the World Museum of Mining for a tour of one of the many mines in the area, then stopped by the Berkley Pit, one of the most toxic sites in America, possibly soon to begin contaminating the Clark Fork River. I worked my way progressively down the hill, as I wanted no reason to have to ride back up town. 
Part of the recreated historic town at the World Museum of Mining

Our mine tour guide

The map above is a side view of the tunnels underneath Butte Montana.

It's amazing how well head lamps worked to light the tunnel.

In the mines, fire was a particular danger. There was one fire in a mine in Butte that killed 122 people - almost everyone in the mine.

One of the most toxic sites in America - the Berkeley Pit.

The tunnel out to the viewing platform of the Berkeley Pit

When I arrived at the church for the Montana Youth Conference, there weren't even a dozen people present - and of those, only three of us were guys. As it turned out, until Friday afternoon, I was the only unmarried, non-speaking male present at the conference. At that point I was joined by three more, all of whom were at least 4 years younger than myself. Although I arrived unregistered, I was quickly put into the P/A booth, as I knew about as much as anyone present, and they were a little short staffed. 

Having a small group, eating all our meals together (cooked by the Garrett's, who were also cooking at FaithCamp, where I was two weeks ago), sleeping on the same campus, and basically spending all waking hours in the vicinity of each other, in a context where everyone is there by choice, and through common interest, leads to a certain level of bonding that doesn't happen often in solo travel. 

Henry Johnson, the main speaker for the event, spoke on the book of Job, and what it (and the rest of the Bible) tells us about the sort of suffering God goes through because of us, what was at stake for Jesus to die on the cross, how it is that God's nature being defined as love (as opposed to simply loving) 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friendly People and Wild Animals

Click on images to see them larger.

It's looking like 1 post a week is about all the more I can maintain consistently. I'm going to start transitioning from basically summarizing each day to only writing about the most striking experience of the week, or of whatever topic has captured my mind lately. I will keep up the photography for sure, however, and let them fill in details for me. 

Last Sunday night I was in Hayden, Idaho. The pastor of the church FaithCamp was at was our pastor 10 years ago, and he gave me permission to spend another night sleeping inside the church. Before I left on Monday, I was prayed with by the pastor, as well as a couple ladies who were cleaning the church.
My campsite at FaithCamp
The lighting was good..
As I headed out I had a lot of energy, so for 5 miles maintained around 20 miles per hour. After about 10 miles of such intensity, I stopped at a convenience store to rest a minute. (As an aside, I've found that stopping when I'm going strong is typically a bad idea, as I generally lose the energy high). While I was there, after some brief dialog, a lady traveling back home to Puyallup, Washington gave me $5 to buy a real meal at the next town. (I was eating fig newtons).

On the way up to Sandpoint, Idaho, I saw a sign advertising the chance to see a live wolf, so I pulled in. At this place they had all the expected pro-wolf propaganda, and after I'd looked around a while, they brought out a baby wolf, which I got to pet. Baby wolves are quite soft.. A couple people have since told me that the wolves they are introducing in these parts aren't the same as the wolves that used to live here, they're the more wild creatures from the harsher Canadian environment, and as such are quite destructive and difficult to control.
Wolf cub
When I got to Sandpoint, I stopped at a frozen yogurt place. Perhaps not the best use of money, but as I was about to leave, a guy came up, seeing my bike, and tried to introduce me to WarmShowers.org, a site for touring cyclists, and prospective hosts. I was already familiar with the site, but said I was looking for a place to stay that night, so he gave me directions to his house, telling me just to go in the back yard when I got there, as I would probably beat him (he was also riding his bike).
A recumbent I saw outside of Super 1 Foods in Sandpoint
Someone died here..
It's not everywhere that such an attempt would be made to return lost merchandise..
The next day I rode into Montana. By the way, Highway 200 is beautiful! At one point I stopped for a rest and heard some rustling in the bushes. I crossed the road, and saw two tan colored foxes eating berries off a bush. When I got close enough I could touch the bush they were eating from, the one spooked, and ran off into a clearing, while the other completely froze.

I saw dozens of dead butterflies along the road through northern Idaho and just into Montana

That night, I made it to the house of Jerry and Yvonne Eller, who I'd met at FaithCamp. They have a big house, but all the kids are away from home. I stayed up till after midnight talking to Mrs. Eller, and then had too much on my mind to get to sleep. A part of me really wanted to stay an extra day, but decided to go on after getting all my clothes (and shoes) washed. I was sent off with a bag of dried apples, a loaf of home made bread, some honey, and fresh blueberries, and an invitation to their home in Georgia when I get there.

My room for the night
People in this area of the country are nice on the road, usually giving me a good 6-8 feet when passing, sometimes moving into the other lane. I got passed by a couple wide semi-truck loads, but they gave me plenty of space. Every once in a while I'll have someone slow down and follow till they have the opportunity to pass safely.
The Clark Fork river. I followed it all the way to Missoula.
Oh, there's a lot of dead deer along the road.. All the way from so fresh they don't smell, to so old they don't smell. I've probably seen a dozen or more in the last week.
A heard of bighorn sheep right across the road from me
The next night, Wednesday, about dusk, I pulled into a property with a lot of machinery, and asked if I could sleep there for the night. The guy told me he wouldn't have a problem with that, except that he lets his dog out at night, and his dog isn't as nice as he is.. I'd leave with tooth marks. However, there was an overgrown Forest Service horse coral I could sleep without any problem in just up the road.
A public "drinking fountain" along the road
On Thursday I picked up a wire in my tire off the road, but it took me a while to figure out what it was. I could hear it scrapping against my fender. I pulled it out, and amazingly, my tire hasn't lost any pressure since then. While I was along side the road, a vehicle pulled into a turnaround near where I was, and the lady asked if I wanted a bottle of cold water, which I gladly accepted. All my water by this point was quite warm.

A few hours later, a Suburban pulling a boat pulled into a road and waited for me. When I got up to where they were, the guy driving told me if I needed a place to stay, his house was 8 miles ahead, and he had a place where travelers could stay, eat, rest, shower, whatever for free. I said I'd think about it, and they headed off to the lake - the opposite direction I was traveling.

What I was really looking for was a restroom, however. Finally I spotted a nondescript manufacturing place with a generic sounding name on a rather small sign, but lots of vehicles in the parking lot. I went to the visitors entrance, where the reception desk was empty, but there was a sign saying that no public restrooms were available. As I was getting ready to leave, an imposing looking guy came around the corner in a big, dark colored pickup, wearing sun glasses, and asked what I was looking for. With an edge of sarcasm in my voice, I said I was looking for a restroom, but they weren't available. About then someone came out the front door. "Hey Mike, open that door. This guy needs to use the restroom." I was let in, past a keypad lock. I saw a sign about leaving lab coats in work stations. As I came out, both men were waiting for me, 'though the guy in the pickup left right away. I couldn't help wondering, but was afraid to ask, what sort of manufacturing, in the middle of nowhere, would require such high security? (Maybe it's not excessive security, but in my imagination it was quite notable.)
I guess I'm on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Except for the bilingual signs, there was no way to tell. 
When I got up to the place, Orange Acres Couchsurfing Community Center, as it's called, I found something quite interesting, but I'll let the pictures describe it for the most part. As it turned out, there were about half a dozen other people staying at this place, a building separate from the guy's house (Jeff Halvorson is his name), including a long time cycle tourist (5 years, about 40,000 miles, China, Mexico, the US..) probably 3 times my age, who I had the privilege of talking to a bit. It's quite nice being able to talk to someone who knows the joys and difficulties of your life far better than you do, and can give a first hand account of what you have only read about.
The outside of the community center
Looking into the free-use kitchen, where there was also freely available food, for those interested.
Looking into the TV room. The open door leads to the hallway to the left. 
The entrance hallway. The boards on the right are sayings and thanks from past guests.
When it came time for me to leave on Friday, Jeff cycled with me over the crest of the hill. Well, he rode in front of me, as my legs hadn't warmed up yet. After a while he stopped and waited, and told me it was all downhill from there, we shook hands, and I went on.

Downhill was right.. Man, that was steep! I started braking when I got over 30 miles per hour. Finally when I could see the bottom of the hill in sight, I let it out, and road it down, topping 43 miles per hour at the bottom, and then coasted for 3 miles before needing to peddle again. (The tailwind helped.. I actually watched myself accelerate on a slight incline!)

Once I was in Missoula, I needed a place to stay. To make a long-ish story short (ask me about it if you want the full details), after getting my chain and rear sprocket replaced on my bike, I got picked up at the Bicycle Hangar and have spent the last couple nights with Jim and Nina Roberts, who have been gracious hosts.

At church, a rather tall man, Ben Mccart, asked if I'd be interested in going with him and his wife Minnette to their house for lunch. I guess around here people don't have a problem with taking guests half an hour to their house, and then driving them back afterwards. The meal was simple, essentially beans and rice, yet the company was excellent. I always find it encouraging to be around people who speak with conviction, and seem to know their Bibles and the Spirit of Prophecy writings as though they spend a lot of time there..

Monday, July 15, 2013

The First Week

Week 1
Cycled distance to date: 214 miles
Last week distance: 173 miles
Distance transported by car: ~40 miles
Hills I had to push my bike up: 7
Longest day: 10.5 hours
Longest ride: 50 miles
Money spent: $71

As I've gone a week behind on my post, and as few of you who are reading this would have the time or interest in reading a 5000 word post, I'm going to attempt a hyper day-by-day summary of my trip to date.

Left Walla Walla at 1:30, traveled 50 miles, arrived at 8 pm. At 15 miles I was already tired, and stopped for a rest in Dixie, where a man told me of hitchhiking around following the Grateful Dead, and riding a 10 speed around the big isle, and how it toughened him. He said he was proud of me for taking on the challenge. About 35 miles into my ride for the day, I passed a father and son riding through a small town, with no gear. I guess they wouldn't count as cyclists...

When I arrived at my intended destination, the guy living there was hesitant to let me sleep there, citing neighbors, coyotes, cougars, deer, cats, and mosquitoes. He seemed as reluctant for me to leave as I was, and eventually decided I could sleep in the orchard anyway.

A striped hill north of Dixie

One of the early hills I had to push my bike up. This one wasn't nearly as substantial as the one I'd encounter later.

Sleeping in an orchard

I left my camp site at 9:30, traveled 50 miles, and arrived at 8 pm. After 10.5 hours, I still had not made my intended destination at night fall. Perhaps the most physically difficult day of my life. Temperatures over 100 degrees. Spent close to 4 hours on a single hill. Drank well over a gallon of water. Had a girl in her early teens fill up one of my 3 liter CamelBak reservoirs at a farm house, went a couple miles, and filled it up again, along with the other one. Decided there was no way I could do two more days like this. Told God that if he wanted me at FaithCamp, he would have to get me there, and planned to shorten my ride for next day.

When I stopped for the night, my hosts, chosen  ended up seeming somewhat uneasy about my presence - or at the least, threatening enough to not be overwhelmingly hospitable. Allie, the daughter, told me she would have invited me in, but her mom is too paranoid.

Left the house of my reluctant hosts late, though I forget when. I arrived at my destination around 6:30, having traveled 36 miles. A much easier day than before. Stopped at Subway, and caught up on internet stuff around mid day.

In Rosalia I camped in the park by the swimming pool. Before I'd gotten set up a young lifeguard came up, and in high intensity extrovert fashion, gave a rapid fire burst of questions and statements of how jealous she was of my trip, before leaving almost as quickly as she'd come. Once all was quiet, I tried sleeping on the lawn, but it was too bright, so I moved into the rest room.

People ask how I get power. Here's an example, from Rosalia.

I made it out of town around 11:30, and reached Spokane around 3, having ridden 33 miles.
I was already awake when the guy came into the restroom at 8:15, but was still in my sleeping bag. He was surprised to say the least. After stopping by the store, I got going on the highest speed ride I'd had to date, pulling up some hills as fast as 15-20 miles per hour. Right at 2 hours, though, I hit a physiological brick wall. Apparently the chocolate pudding I'd eaten for breakfast was burst energy. Fortunately for me, I was at the top of the long hill into Spokane, so having energy was not particularly necessary.

In Spokane I met up with my friend Petr, who took me on a 8000 mile semi-truck trip this winter. He got me lights for my bike, then took me to his parents house were I was fed a good meal, and met up with my good friend Julia. After we'd been at the house a while, Petr picked up his sister-in-law Maria, and we went to Hayden Lake. Peter went swimming, Maria and I did not.

He dropped me off at Faith Camp right about dark. Almost no one was expecting me. I pushed my bike into the woods where people were camping, and set up for the night.

Entering Spokane, on the road they kick cyclists off onto.

Maria, Petr's sister-in-law

Friday, Sabbath, and Sunday:
I'm not sure if I can keep everything separate for each of these days, so I'm putting them all together. I registered for camp, paying only $15 for camping, and deciding not to pay for meals. I had no concern about food, however, as the Jones family, who I'd known from before, took me on for a few meals, treating me almost like a son. Harnisch's had invited me, as well as Garrett's, but I'd told neither of them that I'd be there, so they were pleasantly surprised. Mrs. Garrett and Jessica were cooking, so they gave me some food as well.

I met up with Peter from Walla Walla, who I'd seen various places before, but never talked to. He gave me a meal, declining offers from me to share back, saying the equivalent of "eat, for the journey is great."

I also talked or listened in on conversations with former missionaries to places such as China, Thailand, Africa, and India. I took part in the youth choir, realizing just how much I took for granted the discipline of the choir I am a part of in my home church. I became friends with new people, and gave out over half a dozen contact cards.

The talks were inspiring. At one point Jon Wood, the main person for Faith Camp, said we talk of finishing the work (of spreading the gospel), but at the rate we are going, we've barely started. He quoted from an evangelical pro-missions speaker as saying that we wait for a special call to go into missions, but don't wait for a special call to pursue our own career. Who gives us the right to make the distinction?

Several people directly encouraged me to go into foreign missions, saying that as a young person, my influence is greater, and . Well, here's the thing: I want nothing more than to serve God with all my life, but before I can go and serve Him, I have to first know Him, and at this point I can't say I do. Whether he is calling me to foreign ministry or not, at this point I cannot tell.

One of the speakers talked about how we as Adventists should reach out to Muslims. He walked through Christian history, and showed how many times those of the east, modern Muslims, have been the hand of God to deliver or reproach his people. He quoted Martin Luther as saying that fighting against the Turks (who essentially saved the reformation, by destroying the Pope's armies), was resisting the visitation of God.
Afterwards I heard a former Muslim talking with some people about areas in which he disagreed with the speaker. I was struck by how he carefully pointed out, however, that God was working through the speaker as well, just as Luther and Zwingli had disagreed, and yet God worked through them both.

Over all, Faith Camp has been inspiring, and has given me a lot more to think about. It has given me a chance to completely recharge mentally and physically, for the next phase of my trip, and I'm glad I re-routed to come up this way.

Well, it's 1:00, and I should get going. I still have 50 miles to make today...

Choir seating section

Katya, one of the most extroverted children I have ever met

At one point 8 Canon SLR's were rounded up and shot, with camera phones, as there was nothing left. This was taken with my camera, which, not having a neck strap, was not suitable for him to carry. 
Andrew Sharon ended up staying up all night processing the video recorded from the meetings.

Jessica Garrett did much of the cooking, some of the video editing, and apparently had something to do with a scheme that ended up with water dumped down my shirt.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Journey Begins

Distance to date: 40 miles
Average speed: 11.80 miles per hour
Top Speed: 38 mph
Top Speed on Gravel: 34 mph
Money spent: $0

It was the 3rd of July, and I was 4 hours away from home, still needing to get ready to start my trip the next day. By the time we got home I had only about 20 hours to get ready - unpack, pack, figure out how to load my bike, and get a good night's sleep - before the time I had decided to leave.

While eating supper that evening, the neighbor kids came over and asked for me, asking if I could come out and play. So I obliged for a few minutes - for the last time - until they were called back home. I'll see them again when I return.

At first I thought I had plenty of space in the borrowed panniers I'm using (older than myself). Getting everything together was a bit of a challenge, though. I'd think of one thing, and then not be sure what all I'd need (clothing is a challenge - how do you decide which half dozen items to wear for the next year?), so I'd go work on something else, then switch back, something else... Finally I got everything together and started packing.

Oh, wait.. One more problem. The elastic retention straps on the panniers, to keep them from swinging or falling off, being, well, 25 year old elastic, were not worth anything, so needed replaced. Shoot! Should have gotten to that a couple weeks ago. By this time it was after normal business hours, but my mom was in town, and Walmart is still open at this time of night..

Well, after a bunch of figuring, I was able to get the straps I needed, and started loading everything on my bike. Wait. Where's all this stuff supposed to go? Do I actually have too much..?

Last minute, I decided I could live without a second backpack (overflow storage), without an extra church shirt (short sleeve), without a second option for sleeping shelter (hammock), and dropped a few other smaller items. A second pair of shoes still seemed prudent..

Ok, if you've never tried mounting fully loaded panniers on a bike for the first time, it can be a little bit of a challenge keeping the bike upright. I have a double legged kick-stand, which is supposed to help with balance issues, but in the living room, on carpet, it proved to be quite the challenge. Especially once I started putting weight on the front.

Wow, why so heavy? I got out the bathroom scale, and proceeded to weigh my bike, like any commercial vehicle - by the weight to the road per axle. For some reason 55 pounds on the front and 63 pounds on the back seemed.. a little high. But what's so heavy? I broke the load down again and did a piece by piece weight check. Balanced it a little.. Hey, I'm going to bed.. It's midnight.


The next morning, the 4th, the day my journey would officially begin.. As I'd been informed by my doctor friend that getting a good night's sleep was close to most important, I slept till I didn't think I could sleep any more, instead of setting an alarm. My last night in my bed... I never sleep as well traveling. This might be my last chance for a few weeks, till I get used to it all.

Oh, and for the first time I can remember, I slept with my phone in another room altogether, instead of next to my pillow. It was nice.

I got up, dangerously close to when I'd intended to leave. Hey, I've got 6 months to get where I'm going, what's a few extra hour's delay? So, I packed up my bike, trying to find more areas to lose weight.. finally got it all ready. Oh, I can't forget breakfast!

Finally, hugs and a prayer, "bye", and I left home.

Man, this weight up front sure makes the bike unruly. I'll have to get used to that..

First stop, picking up my last paycheck, and telling my long time employer goodbye - for the last time till I return. Ouch. My hands area already hurting a little. Must be the extra weight. I've never had this problem before. Together with my last check, covering two pay periods together, so I wouldn't have to wait 2 weeks to get the rest of it, was a $20 bill with a post-it-note saying "for banana money". Thanks Aunt Beryl!

Now the riding begins in earnest. I've gotten control of my front-heavy bike effectively enough. Now comes the steepest hill climb I'll have to deal with.. well, today at least. Came into the bottom of the hill at 12 miles an hour, and dropping fast. Huh.. there's an overturned semi-truck trailer on the other side of the road. Guess they missed the corner. Someone asks me if I want some apples. "I don't want to stop!" I say defeatedly..

This hill is a true challenge. My speed drops to 5-5.5 miles per hour, and I hold it steady for the last half of the climb. Ah, the top is nearly in sight. I'll stop when I get up to that marker. Wait.. no, I think I can make it till the power pole.. Oh, I'm at the crest now.. I'll just stop at the stop sign in a mile.

I'm thoroughly winded after the hard climb. Man, I'm not used to this. I can't breath! For the first time in months I use my inhaler, then rest for a while.. That's better, I think I can go again.

Running across the hill tops is much easier. My target is to average 8 miles an hour - seems like a safe number. Well, I'm at 50% effort, and closer to 10. Ok, I'll slow down as I go if necessary.

Hands are still sore. Man, this is substantial. What's the deal? Ah, well.. discomfort must be ignored at a certain point. I'm loving this.. plenty of shoulder.. It's interesting that the vehicles you would most want to move over are often the ones that often move the least. Mid-sized pickups are generally good. Semi-trucks? Not likely. Now if you want a sure-fire wide-berth pass, those station wagons with a car top carrier and a couple bikes? Those are tops. Almost give a whole lane.

Tail wind is nice. I'm still averaging above my anticipated speed, while averaging an altitude gain. Twelve miles down? Yeah, this could go on for a while.. best knuckle down.

Oh, I'm hating this now.. a 5 mile gradual uphill stretch. In a car you don't even notice, but it's draining the energy out of me. Well, I'm maintaining a steady 10-10.5 miles per hour. No worries, I'll be fine.

Fifteen mile mark. Ouch. For once the pain in my rear end is greater than in my hands. Ok, I'll stop at my turn off from the highway. Only a few more miles. I can do this. Think about something else. Keep your mind busy. The pain will be more manageable. I try singing. Nope, don't have a voice right now. Ok, a little cross wind would be nice.. Still air makes it feel even hotter. I wonder... and so fade off into thought.

Ah, a shady spot along the highway! Yes! Can't pass it up.. Another couple miles and a couple substantial hills before my exit, but I can't wait.

Why did I put all my food items in my back pannier? I partially unload my bike to access a few granola bars, and drink probably a quart of water. My hands are a tad red. Must be from the vibrations.

After sitting under the tree for a while, I knock on the door of the nearby house, and ask to use the bathroom. Really it's a proof of concept, as much as anything. After a moment I'm invited in, and shown through the labyrinth of the house to the bathroom. Upon emerging again, I tentatively make my way back towards the kitchen where I'd entered the residence.

In the kitchen, the husband and wife are preparing to have guests over later. They offer me a bottle of cold water and some watermelon, which I accept gratefully. My water is getting a little warm. I tell them that I used to go to the church across the street, that I live 20 minutes away, but that I'm starting on a cross country bike trip that day, to Florida, via Maine. I get the sense that I'd have gotten the same "I can't even imagine..." response if I had only mentioned riding Michigan..

Well, time to hit the road again. Ouch! I can hardly sit down! Ok, the stop was good. Feeling much more energetic. By the time I reach the top of the next hill I don't even notice my sore seat, as moving again makes me feel so alive.

Now Here's an opportunity to set a speed record! Next up is a steep downhill stretch, followed by an up hill section of the same length. Every extra bit of energy I can get going down will help on the way up. And I want to see just how fast I can go - I've already broken my previous speed record today.

I pedal as fast as I can, but soon I can't even keep up, so just coast, all the way up to 38 miles per hour! Nice! I top the corresponding climb at a measly 6 miles per hour.

Ok, at this point I could keep following the highway - the shoulder's wide enough, but I'm getting tired of the heavy traffic anyway. Now, looking at the map on my phone, it looks like taking a back route would save me a couple intimidating hills, a couple down town left turns, and give me a little more solitude. I decide to take the option.

Man, I'm going faster now than I was in the first half! I'm loving this! Having reached the highest point between Pendleton and Walla Walla, everything's mostly going to be down hill from here.

Oh, wait.. is this a gravel road? Gravel can be a pain! Nah, I'll just keep going. I'll be fine. Actually, this road isn't bad - smoother than the railroad right of way I've been riding on back at home.. And I'm still maintaining over 12 miles per hour. This is going well.

Country roads are nice. Way more quiet than the highway. Not a car in sight. I won't be passed again by a car till I've been back on pavement for a while.

Wait, where did this drop come from? Twenty-five miles per hour is a little fast on this steep, windy, narrow gravel road. I brake, and try to keep it under 15, sometimes pulling it down to 6 miles per hour, before letting it out again. Just a little bit scary. I have no option but to ride it down.

Yes, the end in sight! I can let it out now. Wow, I guess that is pretty steep. Um, I don't really want to break my recently made speed record... on gravel. At 34 miles per hour I stop watching the speedometer, and concentrate completely on keeping my bike upright, and maintaining the gentle curve of the road. Maybe a little prayer for safety wouldn't be a bad idea..

Safe again. That was close.

People are friendly out this way. Passing people working in their yard, they hear my bike, look up, we wave, I smile.. Country folk are so nice.

Hills now are short and quickly dealt with. Just a few more miles, then to my destination. I get passed by a few cars. They give me a full lane berth in passing. At one point a pickup, in an effort to give me enough passing distance, crosses the yellow line, and comes within a foot of hitting a vehicle in the opposing lane. Man, people out here are so polite to cyclists.

I'm hot. The irrigation ditch looks tempting. I ride on.

Finally I arrive at my destination. It's about 4 o'clock. I left home 5 hours ago, although only 3.5 of that has been riding. Wow, so close to 12 miles per hour average - half again my target! I can totally do this! Man, once I get in shape, I'll have no problem doing 60, 70, maybe even 80 miles a day! Even with a 40 pound bike, and 80 pounds of gear..


"All" the extended family is at my aunt's house, for a cousin's birthday, and 4th of July celebrations. I guess I did get a bit of a sun burn riding up.. My uncle gives me some aloe vera, etc. spray, and some old toe clips for my pedals, and I talk with a cousin about my ride up. A good friend shows up and gives me my parting gift - a Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens. Thanks Elwyn! There's no way I could have afforded a lens like that on my own. Now my prime lens collection is "complete". Well, enough..

After dark we launch some paper lanterns over the valley. Most of them behave just fine, but one crashes into a wheat field. After jumping a fence and running at top speed, in short pants and sandals, through the field, I manage to catch the lantern 4 inches above the almost ready to harvest wheat, requiring me to spend a few hours over the next couple days picking out grass seeds... now That was too close for comfort..

Elwyn, on the left, and the hosts, and relatives
On Friday I took my bike in to get serviced. Oops.. I guess I should have planned better. Looks like I'll have to pick it up Monday. That's a pain. In the evening, Elwyn, who I'm staying with for the weekend took me to a friend's house for lunch, and I listen as he and the friend - who is also leaving the area in the next week, and who won't be around when I come back - practice their respective cello and violin together. They sent us back with left overs.

The diminutive youth group. I'm in the black shirt.
Sabbath I went to the Stateline church for the last time till I return. The Junior and Youth classes generally have 30-40 young people between them, but this morning it's closer to a dozen. In the Youth class up stairs, the group is less than half the size it normally is, and all the normal teachers are out of town, so a college student fills in. I'm struck in realizing that of the 13 people who are in the room once we finish, half of them will not be there the next week. I guess everyone's going everywhere for the summer.. I'm struck by the fact, though, that I'll not even have made it to Michigan, where the first person I know after Idaho lives, before most of them are back. Man, that makes my trip sound eternal.

After church there's a picnic which all the remaining families and fragments attend, and we go up on the mountain to see a lookout tower, which we climb. After returning to the valley, Elwyn and I grab sleeping bags, and head back up, to spend the night star gazing with the Walla Walla University Astronomy Club - about half a dozen of us stay the night.

Today, Sunday, Elwyn and I went up to another friend's house, and helped them prepare their pasture - carved out of the forest - for the horse they received this morning. They're a nice family.. Their house, over half an hour from town, is tiny, and completely off grid. I could live in a place like that..

Well, I'd best get to bed. It's midnight. Tomorrow I have to pick up my bike, procure food for the next week, pack up again, then ride 50 miles. I'm hoping it goes well.