mark goes to camp.... - Seattle towards Minnesota - CycleBlaze

July 29, 2007

mark goes to camp....

I was awakened by these words coming from the TV in the next room:

 "And thus spake Abraham to the Lord...." 

Oddly, though, the speaker sounded just like Bill Clinton.

That was at 5:00.

I thought it was odd that Jack or Linda would be listening to a televangelist, especially at 5 AM. Later, while riding, I realized that they probably turn it on and listen to it as white noise, and that it probably wasn't Bill Clinton.

I wanted to wake up early so I could be out of their place by the time they left. While I was eating the toast and orange juice that Jack had fixed me for breakfast, Linda casually asked, "Aren't you going through Colville? That's where we're headed. Why don't you let us give you a ride?"

My thoughts, like coins in a coin sorter, deposited themselves on either side of the equation:
* That's CHEATING!!!!!!!
* It's not a competition.
* You'll be missing scenery here because you're in a hurry to get to North Dakota? Really?? North Dakota?!?!?!
* This is a vacation - you're supposed to be doing what you WANT to do, not what you're SUPPOSED to do.
* You're lazy.
* It would be rude to decline.
* Rude? Now you're really stretching.
* You are SO far behind schedule.
* What schedule? This is a vacation.

I get offers for rides all the time. I typically decline.

Finally, after the last of my thoughts dropped through the sorter. I said...

"Sure. That'd be great."

I think a lot of bicyclists are insistent upon moving in the direction of their goal using only their own locomotion. For example, on coast-to-coast rides some people absolutely insist on dipping their wheel into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; unless they traverse that extra 50 feet into the water, they didn't "complete" the trip. Getting a ride  across a dangerous bridge is anathema... it's just not done. I get it. A part of me is the same way. It's the challenge. 

And yet, another part of me says that's ridiculous. This is a vacation! It isn't a have-to-get-it-done-at-all-costs trip, it's a go-when-you-want-stop-when-you-want trip. That's what bicycle touring is all about.... having fun. 

I felt a little embarrassed about accepting a ride and later, writing all of it down in my journal, for a brief moment I honestly thought about lying. (Now, THAT'S a weird sentence: I HONESTLY thought about LYING...???)  Really, it would've just been neglecting to tell you about it.

I ask myself why I considered it, why I even felt embarrassed. What does it matter if I accept a ride? I'm on vacation and can catch a ride if I want. 

Yet there remains this niggling voice in the back of my brain that tells me I need to make it all of the way on our own.  Again, I ask Why. Is it just another example of toxic masculinity? Is it because I enjoy the challenge? Do we each need to determine what's "fun" for ourselves? I'm conflicted, even now, and am interested in reading your comments.

I do know this:    When I talked to Heather later that day she said, "You're STILL in Washington??? Am I going to be driving all the way to IDAHO to pick you up??" 

At that point, I felt pretty good about my decision.

Just before we left the saloon Jack gave me a T-shirt.  The front of the shirt says Curlew Saloon in small print over the left breast. On the back it says, "Government Policy: If it ain't broke, fix it til it is!" And beneath that: "You just can't fix stupid" 

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I continued my trip in Colville. All morning I felt like I was really dragging, then finally realized I was going up a very low grade incline.

At Crystal Falls I stopped for about fifteen minutes to eat the brownie Linda had given me. It was wrapped in foil, and still warm when I opened it.

The road got steeper as I pedaled, and the day was fairly warm. Within a few miles of Ione (pop. 479), there was a steep downhill. As usual, the temperature climbed as my altitude decreased. Ione would be the end of the day for me because there is nothing for another 51 miles. If I want to go farther I'll have to sleep on the side of the road. I was looking forward to an air conditioned motel room.

I rode the 44 miles to Ione without a good break. My legs felt like lead weights, but since I was planning on getting a motel I went ahead and pushed myself.

In Ione, which is on the Pend Oreille river (pronounced PON-duh-ray), I stopped at Los Sanchos to get something to eat. It's on a bluff overlooking the river, and I noticed some type event going on below. Then I noticed the hundreds of people along the shore and in the water. Yes, hundreds, in a town with a population of 479.

After about fifteen minutes, a waitress finally noticed me and, after ordering, I asked, "What's going on down there?"

"This is the last weekend in July... Down River Days. People come from all over.  It looks like right now they're having the snowmobile races."

Two thoughts:
1) God is punishing me for accepting that ride... so much for a hotel or campsite.
2) What the hell?!? Snowmobile races on water? I later learned that yes, it was snowmobiles. They start on land and by the time they hit the water they're going more than 60 mph. If they slow down they sink very quickly, thus the specially-designed crane to collect them from the 50-foot-deep water, and the divers on standby to help collect the riders. Apparently they sink with entertaining regularity. Here's a random video I found online. Start at 1:30 to see the snowmobiles.   Snowmobile races 

not a great picture, but in the very center you can see the snowmobile
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The service was impressively slow. I overheard a customer complain about it, and the waitress replied:
"We only have one cook."
"But this is a small town. I know people are looking for jobs."
''Yes, but the owner will only hire Mexicans to keep the food 'authentic.'"

There was no cellphone service, so the waitress let me use the house phone. I called all three hotels... no vacancy, no surprise. Since I had the phone and was generally being ignored I also called the library. They're closed Sundays and Mondays. Today is Sunday.

So, that's the way it is.... I wasn't going to be sleeping in a motel or a campground.

After my meal I pedaled up the road to the grocery store and bought a box of fig newtons for supper. I also bought some beef jerky, an apple, three Clif bars, and some Gatorade. What a sad-looking supper this is. I tossed in a plastic bottle of Mike's Hard Limeade.

I play a game sometimes when I'm riding down the road. It's called, Pick A Great Campsite On The Side Of the Road. As I ride, I look for places to camp. Great Places must include scenic beauty, enough level ground for a tent, and invisibility from the road unless you're actively looking out your side window. I've found some really superb campsites this way, and have even slept in some. I regularly play it when I'm driving as well.

Looks like it's time to play in earnest this evening. I'll just ride toward the next town until I pass out from the heat or happen to find a campsite. It'll be fun. Really.

That's what I was thinking when Gary Altman walked by.  My supper was paid for and I had done some rearranging to make room for everything on my bike.

After a couple of quick initial questions he asked, "Where are you staying tonight?" I don't even remember what I said. I think I just shrugged and looked pathetic, although I might've blown him over with my command of the English language by saying something like, "ummm... down the road... somewhere."

He said he could find a place to put me up, gave me directions to his place, then disappeared into the store. As I was riding toward his place I thought about telling him that I really need to put more miles behind me... Who was this guy anyway? But I didn't....

And, boy, am I ever glad I stopped.

This section of today's posting is really hard to write. I find that I'm just not a good enough writer. My descriptions are gray compared to the color I experienced. Still, I'll do my best.

When I first arrived I was immediately shown the floating dock where I met Rose Bailey, Gary's wife. The three of us dangled our feet in the water while we talked and I learned about the history of the camp.  

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You might've noticed that I didn't say his "house." That's because there isn't a house.

Gary's dad, Mark Altman, bought this place on the river back in the early sixties. He started with a small camper trailer, and it's grown in a piecemeal fashion since then. The theme is something like... "Everything here has to be used, not new, and you have to use it creatively."

Somehow, they've managed to follow that rule for almost forty years. The place was delightful, and there seemed to be hundreds of small discoveries everywhere I looked.

Mark, now ''pushing eighty," originally built a small, office-sized one-room A-frame from discarded wood after a Down River Days many years ago. In it, there are six or seven different colors of vinyl flooring that were remnants no one wanted.

There are other trailers as well. I slept in the one they call the "honeymoon suite." I was told it was broken in by a couple on their honeymoon. Only later did I learn that the groom, Mark's dad, was ninety years old at the time.

The kitchen is in the open and, it appears, an important gathering place. In addition to the usual kitchen items, there were other interesting pieces as well.... on an overhead board shelf was a gallon can of cooking oil with a bear's teeth marks in it, a souvenir of his visit one night. In the center of the kitchen was the dinner bell, a triangular piece of metal like you see in westerns, which is used before meals (though, thankfully, not before breakfast).  There was a grill used to burn trash with the words "Butt Warmer" cut into the metal. There's talk of turning it into a pizza oven.

Eventually we swam out to an inflatable "island" where the four teenagers were playing.  

Upon our return to camp I met, in short succession, his sister Nancy, his cousin John, his teenage son Mica and three other boys, two of whom were cousins and one a friend. Later, I also met Mark and Mary Ann Altman, Gary's parents.

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When you put the hundreds of eclectic small things together... it just works. Each item at the camp seems to have some kind of meaning.

When we went back up to camp everyone began helping prepare dinner.

Dinner, which was written on the large chalkboard attached to the front of the refrigerator, consisted of angel hair pasta with grilled chicken, pine nuts, and a butter sauce. There was also chopped salad with at least ten kinds of organic vegetables and a delicious Asian dressing.

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Rose rang the supper bell and everyone gathered around.

Not only the eating, but the preparation of the meal as well, was a social event.

I learned that I happened to come during the only weekend everyone was there. Gary and Rose don't even live there. This was their family reunion.

They sure made me feel like family.

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Okay, I see I'm failing....  I'm going to take some writing classes and get back to you.

Miles 42.42 (doesn't count the 50.8 miles in the van)
Max 36.5
Avg 10.5
Time 4:02:11
Cumulative 321.42

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 322 miles (518 km)

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