Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day #15: Ghost on Her Ghost Bike

Today's Route: Condon, MT to Bigfork, MT (49 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 623

As you may recall, my next destination is Whitefish, MT. From there, I will take Amtrak to Minneapolis, MN to meet up with Jake for three weeks of riding.

It's about 175 miles from Missoula to Whitefish. I certainly could have made it to Whitefish today, but I wanted to leave some buffer time in case I ran into mechanical problems or inclement weather. In the interest of preparedness, I opted for a few easy days instead of pushing it. So far there have been no mechanical problems (not even a flat tire!) and no inclement weather (I'm 15 days into the ride, and I've only had a half day of riding in the rain - not bad).

I'm surprised by the number of goodwill waves and thumbs up I've received from people as they drive along in the opposite direction. I've received a few flashes of headlights, too. My first thoughts have been "Oh, my lights are on," and "There's a cop ahead and so I should watch my speed." My second thought is then, "Oh, but I'm on a bike." Regardless of the form of goodwill, I've been appreciating the "hello"s. It's very encouraging.

Plus, I think the person-to-person acknowledgment is critical from a safety standpoint. The more folks that see me and that remember "girl on bike wearing yellow vest and carrying red bags," the better.

Speaking of safety, when I entered Montana, there was a sign stating that road-related fatalities were indicated on the side of the road with a white cross.

Today I found myself thinking about those fatalities. How did they happen? Did the deceased fall asleep while driving? Was the deceased drunk driving or a victim of a drunk driver? Did a deer attempt to cross the road in front of a car? Did the driver cross the yellow line to give extra space to a cyclist and end up getting hit by incoming traffic?

A road-related fatality.

This questioning reminded me of a Billy Collins's poem entitled, "I Go Back to the House for a Book." The poem goes like this:
I turn around on the gravel and go back to the house for a book,
Something to read at the doctor's office,
And while I am inside,
Running the fingers of inquisition along a shelf,
Another me that did not bother to go back to the house for a book heads out on his own,
Rolls down the driveway,
And swings left toward town,
A ghost in his ghost car,
Another knot in the string of time,
A good three minutes ahead of me -
A spacing that will continue for the rest of my life.
What if the roadside fatalities had been the ghosts that left three minutes earlier? Would they be white crosses on the side of the road, or would they instead be returning from the doctor's office?

These are just some of the things I ponder as my legs continually overturn their cycling circles.

Camp for tonight is at Wayfarers State Park. The cost for a campsite is $23. Holy expensive, Batman! Other states need to jump on board with Oregon and start providing an incentive for campers on bicycles; Oregon charges only $5 per cyclist, and that even includes a shower!

Admittedly, the campsite is quite nice. There are three distinct "rooms" to the site; the kitchen and fire pit, the sleeping lounge, and the parking garage (which can be accessed by a trail leading off from the campsite).

Two of three campsite rooms.

The campground is at the north end of Flathead Lake. After dinner I went to check out the waterfront. I got there just in time to see a storm setting in across the lake (mind you, this is a pretty big lake).

There was an older couple sitting on a bench watching the storm approach. I commented to them that it looked as though I should probably put the rainfly on my tent. They both agreed, given the storm patterns in the area, that the rain would likely not come in our direction.

So I sat out for a while on some large rocks by the lake and watched the storm morph and the lightning strike.

Enjoying the show.

There are two things I miss about being in the Midwest; one is the fireflies and the other is the storms.

Ah, beautiful, powerful storms! The sight of lightning. The sound of the thunder. And that sweet smell of rain.

Still enjoying the show, but it looks as though the clouds are getting closer.

Call me silly, but it looked as though the storm clouds were starting to reach over the lake. I decided I should probably head back.

About halfway back to came I felt the first drop, just as the winds were starting to pick up. Rain approaching! At this point, I high-tailed it back to my campsite and quickly put the fly on the tent.

I had spent a bit of time this afternoon cleaning my drivetrain and oiling the train. So I pulled the bike underneath the second vestibule, not wanting to compromise the newly clean and lubed chain. The bike is way larger than the vestibule, but at least the drivetrain is protected.

I went to deposit my food in the food storage locker (there was a mountain lion sighting in the park just last week), and then I brushed my teeth so that I could settle in for a wonderful night of hearing raindrops fall on the tent.

The winds have mostly subsided, and the drops are hardly falling. But, I must recall that storms in this part of the country are not like the tame rains that fall in Seattle and Portland. Out here under the big skies of Montana, storms will come and go as they please.

Rain, you're welcome to do your thing tonight. But I'd really appreciate it if you would take a nap while I ride the final stretch in Montana tomorrow.


  1. Best entry yet! I love Billy Collins - I find a lot of elegance in his simplicity. My first exposure to him was hearing The Lanyard on Prairie Home Companion and I was hooked.

  2. Good to hear you have finally embraced the joy that is a clean and well lubed drive train. Enjoy the ride and the maintenance.

    1. Thanks for all the lube preaching, Alex. I hope to give this chain a nice, long life.

  3. Thanks, Andy. Billy Collins is one of the few poets who tickles my poetry belly button.


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