I have made it to Washington. I will be in Seattle tonight. I am sitting in a bedroom in Spokane. There was a distinct lack of service between Wisconsin and Idaho. I'm working on a wireless network belonging to Tiffany and Nate Kuehl, Scott Haddock's (heretofore referred to as Haddock) sister and brother in law. More to come on those cats. I left off wet in Marquette, and, with the exception of the day of previous publication, I have been doing a long, hard burn across the country. This information will come at you chronologically.
I only made it 135 miles from Marquette before it got dark. I made camp in Wakefield, MI. Lined along the shore of Sunday Lake were dozens of 5 to 7 foot wooden racing motorboats. They looked like the miniature versions of Governor's cup regatta boats. There were to be outboard boat races in the morning. The campsite was five bucks. Best price next to free. The previous occupant of my campsite left a huge quantity of wood. With some of my clothes still wet from my excursion in Christmas, I built a fire and dried out my clothes. At this point, I would like to thank my father for teaching me how to build a fire. I was always good at setting things on fire, but to keep (or let) that fire burn was generally a bad idea. I dried my clothes on wood that smelled like frankincense. I guess that it was seasoned sugar maple, and what I was smelling was caramelizing sugar. I went for a walk after sundown and admired the stars and the moon. I haven't seen stars like this for entirely too long. All of the women in all of Michigan are gorgeous. I think they need to pass an 8 on "am I hot or not" in order to live there. There's an outpost of beautiful women on the border between North Dakota, and Minnesota as well, but I haven't gotten there yet.
Wisconsin and Minnesota today (8/3). I am trying to make time, so I'm burning through these states as fast as I can! There's not much in Northern Wisconsin. I'm taking route 2 throughout these states. About midway through, I saw a group of 15 people huddled around a stake bodied truck. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. The stake bodied truck was filled with 3 cubic yards of corn, 1 cubic yard of the largest cabbages I've ever seen. These things would feed Paul Bunyan for a week. And 3 mexican children unloading these beasts. The way they were massed, I don't think these people had seen this many vegetables in one place for a decade. This must be the small town version of a farmer's market. There were peppers, cauliflower, and honeydew melon as well. I waited in this roller coaster line and picked up a few ears of corn and a duck pin ball sized honeydew. When I got back on my bike, the electric starter wouldn't work. Nor would the head or tail lights. Most importantly, neither would the turn signals. I must have blown a fuse. Thank goodness for kick starters. Back on the road, and on the search for a replacement. There are no SPE 14 fuses in the entire state of Wisconsin. Trust me, I checked. I picked up a 30 amp fuse, and hoped it would work. It did, for awhile. I'm going to check for a short when I get to Seattle. I think it's in the horn or the turn signals. I am also going to replace the rear shocks. They were shot before I left, but now I'm bottoming out over every substantial bump. I crossed the border into Minnesota through Duluth. I always knew that Lake Superior was big. I could tell at Pictured Rocks. Duluth really gives one an appreciation for the sheer mass of water that it holds. To exit the town, you must ascend a 700 foot cliff, the top of which effectively impresses upon you the fact that you can't see the other side, not because of haze, but because of the curvature of the earth. I stopped in to a leather shop in Warba called Casper's. The collar of my touring jacket is falling apart. Not only did Tami Snyder-Witz Fix the collar, she matched the leather perfectly. Although, it's supposed to be our secret, she doesn't want to do any sewing at work that she doesn't have to. You can find them on www.caspersleather.net. If you're ever out here, on/off beer means "on premises"and "off premises". Across Minnesota and almost to the North Dakota Border. It's time to set camp again. I found an out of the way campsite (down 5 miles of more unpaved roads... yay) called Ulland's. I treed my foodstuffs (including the honeydew, ostensibly for breakfast), and set out to find what made this place special. Ulland's is on Lake Sarah (I didn't know this until today), facing the sunset. There are campers, RV's and trailers galore. At least 50. Most of these cats have built decks and screened porches off of their trailer. There is a very small beach scattered with children's toys, and the lake is hopping with fish. What caught my eye were the 2 folding chairs set up on the beach facing the sunset. They were occupied by an old couple. Watching the sunset and holding hands. They were retired, and had always loved this lake. They made it a tradition when they moved out here, to watch as many sunsets together as they could. I didn't catch their names, and they didn't throw them. It must feel so good to be a part of something that lasting, and that special.
Minnesota (2%) and North Dakota (98%) today (8/4). Honeydew for breakfast, perfectly fresh and vine ripened. I have never had honeydew this good back east. It melts in your mouth like butter. But we're not here to discuss fruits. We're to discuss bugs. On this ride across the windy state of North Dakota, I have decided that we are selectively breeding insects to have quicker reflexes (to avoid being hit by trucks) and thicker exoskeletons. Driving 65 mph and hitting most bugs, they go splat and I don't notice. There are beasts in this Dakota. I encountered 2 of them, both of which bounced off of my mask, one of which grabbed on and started grazing on the carcasses of less fortunate mosquitoes and dragonflies. These bastards are TOUGH! Because of the frenetic pace this trip has taken, everything in North Dakota takes place at a gas station or campground. For example, the bees. The Bees in ND are moronic. They don't attack people (like the one that stung me twice in Wisconsin), they attack cars and plastic signs. I can't say why, it was warm enough for them to know the difference, and there were flowers everywhere. I also picked up a bit of local candy that I've never seen back east. There were Nut Goodies (not good) which looked like a small cowflop with lumps and nougat, and Twin Bings, kind of a cherry cordial with nutty bits. These were exceptional! Palmer candy makes 'em, and if you get a chance, try one tomorrow. The farther west I get, the more barren and desolate the country is becoming. The air is drying out. I see trees once a mile and only in the distance. This is definitely grassland. A local described it as a bunch of rolling plains without a damn thing on 'em. I found the right fuse for my motorcycle among those rolling plains. I needed it later that day (thanx Mom). There is definitely a short in the bike. There are billboards all over the state that say in black on a white background "Smile" and "Have a Great Day". I couldn't be upset out here if I tried. Even if I've been blown across the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic by the 40 mph gusts coming from the North. I've been breaking frequently. The wind is exhausting. I'm going to rest well tonight. I stopped in Rugby, ND to examine the geographical center of North America. Ate a reuben at "The Hub" diner. We're back to sandwiches eaten with the hands. I know of a chain in Iowa called the Kum & Go. There is one up here in ND. That name just begs to be insulted. The sun is well past its' zenith and as my shadow grows long, I feel the race to base kicking in. The wind has died down a little and 70 mph just doesn't seem so scary fast anymore. I am cresting foothills and watching the grasses knead the ground when I see the sign. 10 miles to Painted Canyon. While I pull closer to the canyon, I watch the sun dip beneath the hills and unleash the warm resounding glow that will ease the passage into the clear cool night of the desert. As the sky pales and the colors on the horizon grow pastel, I clear the final barrier between myself and the badlands. The sun has set over Painted Canyon and I can't tell where earth ends and light begins. That image will haunt me until my chest fails to rise. I set up camp, and met my neighbors for the evening. Dylan Charles Wienckowski-Feil, and his knockout girlfriend Mo Valko. They've been travelling for about a week, and dating for about 3 years. He just finished college, and she's on break. They decided to look for America. Dylan is working hard to be a rock and roll star, Mo is working hard to finish her degree. His stage name is Dylan Charles, and you can listen to his band Jarvis at www.joejahnigen.com/jarvis.htm. They invited me to a delightful dinner of portabello burgers on bagels with salsa and avocado. Dylan is a really funny guy, and if you get a chance, ask about the bat guano in his roommate's closet. The story is classic. His songs are variously themed, but the one that sticks out in my head is a love song about trains and the civil war. They made the main course, and I brought appetizers (beef jerky) and dessert (banana runts). Banana are the best ones, and I happen to have found a tube 'o banana runts somewhere across the state. They were the first people I've had a real face to face discussion with since Cleveland. Thank you both for the hospitality, and for making me feel human again. I even got a chance to tell my favorite joke, The Aristocrats. Whiskey featured heavily in the after dinner discourse. With the wind blowing in the cottonwood and juniper, I slept like a champ, until someone spooked a couple of wild horses at 3 am, and they went tearing through the campsite at 90.
North Dakota (10%) and Montana (90%) (8/5). Pulling out of the badlands, I had my first of what they call out here "close encounters." A large doe decided that it wanted to cross traffic in a 70 mph zone. The girl took her time walking in front of me, but oncoming traffic was a semi with a "deer catcher" grill. A deer catcher is 3 inch steel pipe lining the grill and headlights of the truck. I knew deer were strong and fast, but I've never seen leg muscles that taught and working that hard in a wild animal. It was, as many things in my life, beautiful and frightening. The wind keeps blowin'. The Appalachians have prepared me for the Rockies, the sugar sand has prepared me for gravel roads, the grooved pavement has prepared me for any construction work, but NOTHING has prepared me for this damn wind. It's erratic and strong, with nothing to break the monotony but hills, rocks, sand and grass. My plan for eating from roadside stands is definitely flawed out here. At least it isn't Kansas. I have decided that Calvin and Hobbes lived in an area much like Montana. Where else are there random cliffs into which they could fall while riding their wagon. Uhaul trucks help break the monotony. The truck told me that the Delmarva Peninsula is the site of the largest crater in the world. I wish I had known that when I lived there. I'm going to check online for satellite pictures. OOOOH, look, something other than a hill, a rock, or grass. It's not sand either. It's a historical marker surrounded by fake dinosaurs, rusty farm equipment, and a howitzer. I didn't stop, too weird even for me. I went through Jordan MT, and there's an Attix st. If only they'd spelled it right! I pulled into Great Falls. I have planned to meet Haddock's parents, and crash at their pad. I knew I had found the right place when Dee (Haddock's mom), stepped out of the house, and shouted to a complete stranger "this is the place, come on in!" Bob and Dee live in a beautiful development at the end of a park in "suburban" Great Falls. As soon as I parked, two very young children (both 5) came running out to greet me as did Bob to shake my hand. Haddock's parents ROCK!!! Bob speaks like Garrison Kiellor, and moves like Abraham Lincoln. With a tussled head of white hair, and matching white beard, he believes firmly in taking one's time. In the fast pace of the world, he could strike one as vaguely entish. Dee is about as chock full of love and joy as a person can be. She likes dealing with children, and both of them have advanced degrees in Psychology. Dee also appreciates keeping and maintaining the things she owns. In the front driveway, she has a '68 Pontiac LeMans convertible. She has the original title, and the muscle on this car is still obvious. They just got some body work done to it, but there isn't a spot of rust on the whole car. She also makes a mean pasta salad. Bob and Dee work as foster parents. The children of whom I made mention were Brandon and Shylaray. The kids are very active, and it is good that Bob and Dee live right on a park. If I don't wind up with a few of my own, foster parenting is very much worth considering. Haddock planted the seeds of an evening plan into his parent's heads. Apparently they were to feed me steak (which they did in spades), and take me to a cowboy bar (which Bob did after dinner). They had won a full quarter of a cow in a raffle, they explained, as I ate the inch thick sirloin. After dinner, Bob took me to the Flamingo (affectionately known to the locals as the "Flaming Ho"). The Flamingo has everything a bar can offer. It's got a jukebox, live music, hot and cold running beer, a mechanical bull, full menu, and a blackjack table. We weren't there 15 minutes before 3 bachelorette parties came strolling in. They set up the mechanical bull, and a line of women started hoppin' on. I got on after a girl named Nam, who I learned later "slides horses" and that she has a horse that can slide 40 feet. The girls were doing a barhop, and as they filed onto their booze bus, I got in front of it, got their attention, and flashed 'em. They howled, I smiled, and life was good. I was hoping to get dragged onto the bus and have my clothes torn asunder as they plundered the wares of my body, but I'll accept a coupla Cowgirl cheers too. The beers out here are outstanding. Moose drool and Bike tire are 2 of my current favorite locals. I played pool for most of the night. Lost once. Why can't I play this well at home?
I woke up to the pitter patter of little feet. It's a really joyous noise. We enjoyed a long slow breakfast of pancakes and eggs, compliments of Dee. There was packing and we headed out. Bob and Dee were headed to Spokane to hang with their daughter and son in law, and catch a flight to Baltimore for their son's wedding. I followed them halfway to Missoula, where we split up. They (thankfully) transported one of my bags for me, and my bike was a totally different ride. As I entered the rockies, the hills on the leeward side were still barren, but the windward hills had trees and shrubs. I could see, miles in the distance the full sized mountains that I was going to traverse.I am having difficulty finding the words to describe how this looked. There is nothing like it on the east coast. Everything you've ever seen on TV about the west? Triple it. Make the water bluer, the mountains more dangerous, the trees more plentiful and green. It was beyond description. I stopped in for lunch and a beer at the American Legion Hall in Paradise (Bingo every Sunday, starts at 2, all are welcome [this Paradise beats down the Paradise in Amish country hands down]). It was like sitting in a dive bar in Baltimore, with the mumbling guy at the end of the bar, and the old alcoholics, and the smelly bathrooms, and the lone bartender that opens your beer for you. Some guy told me how to test to see if eggs have gone bad (put them in a container of water, if they float, they're bad, if they sink, they're still good). When you step out though, you are confronted by a glacial blue river, surrounded by calving cliffs and pine trees fighting the land for purchase. It smells like pine.There are fields of small pink flowers. They smell almost like honeysuckle, and they are acres long. This area of route 200 from Missoula through the Clark Fork is definitely in the top five most breathtaking in the country. Signs denoting Bighorn Sheep crossing are rife across the land. I passed a guy with a blown out tire riding on his rim, he had 10 miles to the next town and expected a new tire to fit on his busted rim. I felt sorry for him, but there's nothing to be done about it. He couldn't afford a tow truck, and neither could I. I took 200 until it ended at Route 2 again. This took me straight into Spokane, and the waiting household of Nate and Tiffany Kuehl, where Bob and Dee were.
Dinner was ready when I arrived at the house. One of the two (or both, as some couples like to cook together) is an amazing cook. They made a greenbean stirfry with water chestnuts and leeks flavored with hoisin sauce. The chicken was covered in garlic and hoisin. Dee's pasta salad was on the menu as well. Apparently, Nate is into hoisin like I'm into kimchee. Eat it on anything. Nate's degree is in Chemical engineering, he's an impressively smart fellow with a highly active lifestyle. He's a category 2 cyclist (there are Cat 2 bikers with sponsorships, and Lance Armstrong is a Cat 1), and likes to swing dance. His wedding suit was zoot. Tiffany is into ceramics. She's got quite a collection of vitrified sand. It's tasteful, but not stuffy. Some of her personal works are placed throughout the house. Her personal work is largely busts and facial castings. Tiffany grasps the texture of the human body and effectively transfers it to her art. She's had alot of practice, I'm sure, as she is an E.R. doctor. She was interested in surgery, but the problem with surgery is that it is entirely peopled with surgeons. Since she is a better multi-tasker than a one legged man on a pogo stick juggling 2 straight razors, a butterfly knife, a bowling ball and a chainsaw, singing the national anthems of all the countries in the world alphabetically, she figured she might go into Emergency Medicine. She has not looked back. This affords her some interesting stories. You have heard about the guy that does the ass pennies? He's real, but he is a she. A homeless woman who never wants to be "completely broke". The hospitality and generosity of this family, as well as everyone I have met on the road has exceeded expectations on all fronts.Thank you all for everything. Next stop, Seattle.
'Cuz he's going the distance, he's going for speed
Questions?, Comments?, Hate Mail? Send it to Pete or John
08/02/06 Issue 7 - Grooves, Grates and Gravel
07/30/06 Issue 6 - Moon Over Parma
07/28/06 Issue 5 - I LEAVE TOMORROW!!!!!!!
07/24/06 Issue 4 - Why Jersey, and what's the holdup?
07/23/06 Issue 3 - Is this fraud? and Welcome to Delaware
07/22/06 Issue 2 - MVA, Headaches and Miracles
07/21/06 Issue 1 - Mission Statement