yeehaw, it's chesaw!!! (and the clown, and the saloon....) - Seattle towards Minnesota - CycleBlaze

July 28, 2007

yeehaw, it's chesaw!!! (and the clown, and the saloon....)

I woke up at 5:30. Actually, I woke up at 3:30 because the watch I used was set to the Central time zone, but easily went back to sleep.

Knowing I'd need a good, hearty breakfast for the day of climbing I had ahead of me I went with the powdered donuts and chocolate milk, and I bought some snacks to eat later. I filled one of my three water bottles with Gatorade, then began the long climb out of town.

I started riding at 6:00 sharp, taking note of the bank's marquee which said it was 68 degrees.

I climbed and climbed up a very steep, very quiet road.

What a difference a mere thirty degrees makes... I could smell the cut hay, and as I climbed out of the valley the scenery became more and more beautiful.

Hawks screeched overhead, and the sound echoed. Everything was so QUIET.

My route took me through Chesaw. When I looked it up at the library yesterday, MapQuest said it was 36.5 miles. The road sign at the edge of town said 26 miles.  We'll see.

The names of the streets, rivers, and mountains out here are great.

"This town ain't big enough fer the two of us, Sheriff."
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Along the way I stopped to eat a muffin, one of the snacks I had bought. Two thirds of the way through it I was amazed to see the nutrition information. There were 220 calories per serving. A serving size was one third of the muffin, so 660 calories for the entire thing.

It was starting to warm up some. I always stop in the shade if at all possible. Out here, the only shade was from a telephone pole.  I positioned myself in its shade, but to my surprise I found that if my head, torso, and legs were in the shade, my stomach wasn't. I just wasn't able to shade my lower back and my stomach. How odd.

I finished my muffin.

I climbed for over twenty miles then, all of a sudden, I started going downhill. Really fast.

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I stopped at the General Store, one of two buildings, and went inside to look for lunch. There was a lot of stuff crammed onto the shelves, most of it dusty and all of it overpriced, but there was nothing I could eat for lunch.... it was all canned goods, insect repellant, fly paper....

After cooling off a few minutes and drinking a pop, I asked the cashier if there was anything to eat. She said not really, but the bar had food. I thought it was surprising that she directed me to her "competitor," and she must've read my mind. ''I own them both," she said with a smile.

I finished my drink and strolled next door. As I was walked in I half expected to see her at the bar, wearing a different hat and saying, "Yeah, I'm the barkeep. And the mayor, and the sheriff... So you jest keep on rollin' stranger."

She wasn't. The only other person was the waitress/bartender. Deputy sheriff? And no one came in while I was there.

I sat down at a table and ordered a mushroom Swiss cheeseburger and a Coke.

It was tolerable.

I learned that Chesaw is only three miles from the Canadian border. "But there's no road from here to there," the waitress added.

By the way, my cyclometer measured the distance from Tonasken to here as 29 miles.

I bought some Gatorade at the General Store and left about 1:00. After a few miles of climbing (see picture below), I started dropping into the next valley. As usual, the temperature climbed as my altitude dropped.

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I passed Beth Lake and took a picture of a kid swinging into the water. I've taken a lot of pictures over the years, some of which have turned out pretty good in spite of my lack of photography skills. If you take enough, just by the law of averages you're going to get some good shots. The picture below is in my top three favorite pictures of all time. I keep going back to it and have decided to give it some additional significance by saying that it's like taking a bike trip. You do all the preparation, go to your starting destination, and grab the rope/climb on your bike. You can swing back and forth for a while, but eventually you let go. At that instant, when you release the rope (turn the crank for your first time on the trip), you really have no idea about what's going to happen, you just let go......  

.......and the Adventure begins.

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It continued to get hotter, and around 2:00 I stopped at an intersection to look at my map. Taking a wrong turn in a car is inconvenient. On a bike, you could lose half a day.

When I tried to start riding again, I found that my left foot and my front tire were stuck to the road. The tar in the road had melted because of the heat. It's not possible to get it off, and once I started riding again it collected things from the road and made a funny sound the rest of the day.

Once in the valley the road leveled off and I began following the Kettle river. In addition to the heat, I now had a headwind.

A woman on a racing bike with aero bars passed me, but I was going so slow in comparison that our conversation was only about fifteen seconds long. 

She's from Canada.

The heat, the headwind, and getting passed by someone who wasn't even sweating? None of it mattered because the moment I'd been waiting for was coming.... Ronald McDonald's gravesite.

I have to tell you... I felt a little guilty wanting to see the burial place of The Clown, the one responsible for bringing so much love and plaque-building lipids to the hearts of so many millions of people. I was kind of ashamed of the fact that I didn't even know he was dead. (And isn't it interesting that one of the world's most recognizable clowns was from such a remote area?) Still, the excitement built until, finally, there I was....

...only, I didn't remember him having a pointy beard down to his chest. Or such a sallow face. Or being so skinny.

Looking closer, I saw that it's Ranald McDonald, not Ronald McDonald.

I continued riding, disappointed on the one hand for my silly mistake, but quite happy on the other hand that Ronald is alive and well, exploiting clowns to sell cheeseburgers.

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The hot, humid headwind lasted the rest of the way to Curlew (pop 1,285), about twenty miles, and by the time I arrived I was hot and tired. I bought a cold drink from the General Store and held it to my neck and forehead for a few minutes before I even opened it. Then I drank it very slowly inside the store, which was about fifteen degrees cooler than outside.

When I asked Joyce, the cashier/owner about the cycling camp, she cocked her head sideways and thought a minute. "I think she's still doing that," then gave me directions to her house.

When I got there I walked up to the gate and a dog started barking. Just in case it was the wrong house I tried to look lost, figuring that if it was the right house the lady would see my bicycle and know why I was there. The dog continued snarling and barking, and when it started salivating I went back downtown.

This time, I tried the Curlew Saloon. Inside, I asked about a place to pitch a tent. One of the ladies at the bar said that there was a lady who has a cycling camp, "But I haven't seen her in a while. She used to come in and leave flyers, but she hasn't been here in a couple of years." I rode back to the house, and this time I left a note saying I was at the saloon.

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I sat down at the bar between Jack, who I later learned is the owner, and Dennis, a local resident who works thirty days on a boat and thirty days off as an OSHA engineer. Jack's wife, Linda, was also part of the conversation. We all chatted a few minutes as I answered the Frequently Asked Questions, and learned some about them.

Jack (75) and Linda Heerman (about 60) are the owners. They lived together for 30 years but, interestingly, just got married on July 3rd of this year. She tells people, ''He got me pregnant." He tells people, "I got so old she finally caught up to me."

Apparently, when you've been together  for that long, you learn very subtle ways to  communicate nonverbally.  After we had chatted for about ten minutes, Linda looked at Jack, subtly tilted her head toward the back of the store, then raised an eyebrow. There was a pause of about three seconds, then Jack dropped his chin in a nod.

Then, for my benefit:
"Hey Jack, what do you think about letting him stay in our extra bedroom?"

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Jack and Dennis
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Their living quarters are part of the same building as the tavern. The master bedroom is closer to the front, and the three guest bedrooms are toward the back, separated from their sleeping quarters by the living room and kitchen. I picked out a bedroom and started unloading my stuff.

When I was finished I sat at the bar for a while, cooling off, then went to take a much-anticipated shower.

I told you up front that I'm trying to get people interested in bicycle touring. Having come this far I can say with absolute certainty that blogging is more difficult than touring. But there's something else you should know about riding if you don't already.

You're going to sweat.

While you're riding a fine film of cooling perspiration forms on your skin. If there's a breeze (and there's almost always a breeze because you create one when you're riding), then dust sticks to that sweat. When a car passes, road dirt floats up in its wake and that sticks to your skin as well. The dust and dirt are accompanied by salt deposits as the sweat accumulates and dries throughout the day. There's also the sunscreen you're been applying. By the end of the day you have layers upon layers of dust and dirt, sunscreen, and dried salty sweat covering every exposed area of your body. By the end of the day it starts flaking off in 6-inch sections.  Okay, maybe that last sentence is somewhat of an exaggeration, but you get my point.

But wait ! ! ! ! ! !    There's good news:     

It washes off ! ! ! ! ! !

A shower at the end of a cycling day will be one of the most gratifying showers you'll ever take.  Maybe that's why Howard has a plumbing addiction.

When I got into the shower, I first thought the hot and cold valves were switched. After about five minutes of jiggling with the knobs, I realized the only two temperatures I was going to get were "ice cold" and "frigid." It was physically too painful to stand under the water.

So, the question arises: What is the correct etiquette in a situation like this? I've been graciously offered the use of a shower... how would it now sound to whine because it's too cold? "Jaaaack, the waaaater's too cold..." "and this a shampoo/conditioner combination...  what'll it do to my hair?" "These towels are too rough! Don't you have anything softer?!?!?!"

Plus, there's the fact that I was already buck naked standing in the shower. What COULD he do at this point? What are they going to do when the naked stranger calls to them from the bathroom?

So today, not only are you going to read about my daily ride, I'm tossing in one free lesson on how to take a cold water shower. That's right, we, the posters at CycleBlaze, go that extra mile for you.

First, you point the shower head so it's spraying the wall. Then, you stand there for about five minutes trying to think of a way not to freeze your ass off, but nothing comes to mind. The next step, of course, is to stand there a few more minutes. Finally, you put one foot in the water, get it wet, soap it up, then rinse it. That will take about 3.5 seconds. Simply repeat, section by section, with other body parts. When you're finished, start breathing again. At that point you dry off, but with so much speed that the friction of the towel against your skin almost causes you to spontaneously combust.

Refreshed and dressed in clean clothes, I waited until my heart rate dropped below 150 then went back to the bar.

Later that evening, Jack came in from the back of the house with a wrench in his hand and said in a concerned voice, "I guess the shower was a bit cold, huh?"  I responded with a "Pfffffft" sound through my still-blue lips and waved it off, as if taking a shower with water that felt like six million needles was an everyday thing for a guy like me.

I ordered the prime rib for supper. Even though it was a small town, this one was cooked perfectly. Linda gave me a brownie covered in chocolate syrup with ice cream on the side for dessert.

Dennis and I sat around talking about his sprinkler system and other matters vital to the security of the nation, then he left to go do some work around his house.

At 8:00 the tavern closes because "You only get the drunks after then anyway."

For the next couple of hours Jack, Jeanne (the waitress), her husband Scott, Linda and I sat around as I caught up on the local gossip.

Jack and Linda were planning on leaving in the morning around 7:00. They go grocery shopping in a nearby town on a biweekly basis. I didn't want them to have to leave their house with a stranger in it so I planned to wake up early and leave at the same time.

As I was drifting off to sleep. These thoughts floated through my head....

So, Mom and Dad... It's come to this: your son has left his hard-working wife alone, fled to another state, has been eating and drinking with known profligates, and is now falling asleep behind a saloon. Where did you go wrong?

Miles 64.69
Max 39.3
Avg 9.8
Time 6:37:21
Cumulative 279.0

Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 280 miles (451 km)

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