Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Arriving in Rivendale...Hamilton MT
As it turns out, Iris, Alex, and I were not the only ones to face adversity on that long hot, waterless trek from Dillon to Wisdom, Montana. Just as we rehydrated and set off down the road to cover the last 20 miles to attain Wisdom, Tony's other tire blew a hole and he could not go on. Iris and I rode ahead while Alex stayed back to help him try and patch it up. The tire was beyond repair! A while later, Tony went by with his bike in the back of a pick-up truck, and was transported over Chief Joseph Pass the whole 77 miles to Hamilton. Iris and I described him as a "Lucky Bum!" So Tony technically did go through Wisdom, but then turned left and West and went straight up the mountain pass and down into Hamilton where he was put up for the night by a millionaire at a mansion! Lucky Bum!
Meanwhile, back in the farmlands, Alex, Iris and I attained our destination of Wisdom, but the place was swarming with mosquitos. So we retreated into a restaurant where they refused to close their front doors. These people were either crazy or tough, or they just wanted travelers to suffer the wrath of the quarter-sized Wisdom mosquito! As we ate a hot dinner, I uploaded my request for funds or chart orders to my Facebook page mainly because its hard to make it to Canada on nine bucks! Within minutes of posting it, donations began pouring in... a dollar here, 20 dollars there, a chart order here, a payment there...by the end of dinner I had 300 bucks and felt better about not starving on this quest and filled with gratitude that the readers of this blog value the experience and the story. So thank you dear readers!
These three British cyclists rolled into town headed east and we watched them across the street at the gas station battling swarms of mosquitos. After they came and talked to us, they decided they were going in on a hotel room for $54. The three of us decided to brave the mosquito infested campground a half a mile West of town. I had to put all my bug armor back on just to set up my tent. We decided to place our tents extremely close together so we could make hot chai from within the tents and pass them to each other. I decided to boil the water in my tent, and I had them hand over their mugs and quickly zip the tent back up. After boiling the water and dropping the chai tea bag in, I unzipped the bottom of my tent door and placed the chai outside and quickly re-zipped my tent door so no mosquitos got in. Then Iris opened her tent, quickly reached out to grab her chai, and then re-zipped it. Within ten minutes we were all sucking down hot chai teas inside our tents laughing about the days events and wondering where Tony was staying at, unaware of his plush lodgings.
The next morning the mosquitos were in grand attendance when I woke up, stuck to the screens of my tent yearning for a crack at my skin and my blood. I reached up from my sleeping bag and started thumping them away with my fingers. That was a fun game for a time. After I got bored with thumping mosquitos, I donned my bug armor rain gear and ventured out into the wild campground, wondering how fantasy characters in novels ever dealt with the bugs, and making a mental note to always describe the bugs in future novels. I located the bathroom and it was a horrendous building with a non-flushing port-a-potty swarming with mosquitos. As I peed, I kept dancing in place because the foul beasts were attempting to make a landing on my privates, and that was not happening! Had to cut it short and run for my tent!
I quickly packed up my tent and informed the Ninja Prince and the Wise Princess that I'd meet them in town at that crappy diner for hash browns. I attached my saddlebags to Magellan (I like taking everything into my tent at night in case I need anything) and rode back to town for some hot tea and hash browns, about the only thing a vegan can order off a Western diner's breakfast menu. I found the three British guys eating there and asked to join them and we shared fantastic stories over hot tea and breakfast. Alex and Iris showed up just as the Englishmen were departing for Dillon. I decided to ride out first to try and get some distance since I'm the slowest with all my gear. We had a humongous pass to cross called the Chief Joseph Pass. I thought of my good friend and musician Jozef, who did the marvelous music for Return of the Magi, and thought I'd take a picture of the sign if I saw one.
As I suspected, the going was tough because the bugs were in high feeding frenzy and bees joined the massive horseflies and unreal mosquitos. I could see the forested mountains in the distance, and in full bug armor, with water bottles topped off with awful tasting well water, I rode like a mad man toward the summit. Alex finally passed me about an hour and a half later, as I found myself ascending the longest slowest curviest road yet. It just kept ascending and curving, and just when you thought you were approaching the top and would round a curve, there would be another curve way off in the distance uphill! The slope was not that intense, but the Wind was blowing now, and the bugs had renewed their attacks. I finally had to stop and take off some bug armor because the heat and sweat became unbearable. I just hoped I didn't break another spoke, and resolved to give the TREK dealer in Missoula a piece of my mind if I ever made it down there. The big surprise was that, although I saw Iris approaching from behind at the bottom of one of those crazy curves, I managed to stay ahead and beat her to the top of Chief Joseph Pass, where I proudly took a picture of the sign for Jozef. Then it was all downhill to the 93 Junction and a cool rest area. I flew down that hill like a madman on caffeine and met Alex at the rest area.
When I rolled up, Alex was off his bike swatting the heck out of horseflies. But he refused to kill any bees. He said they were peaceful and that although they would land on you, they wouldn't bite, as they just needed some salt. I caught his wrath later when I "accidentally" smacked a bee on Iris' arm. We broke out our cook stoves and made some lunch and tea and were enjoying ourselves thoroughly (except for the horseflies), when an athletic couple pulled up on their touring bikes just emerging into Montana from Idaho.
We made the usual introductions and all talked about our origins and destinations and the whys, wheres, hows, and who's of our individual stories. They were from California and were heading up through Idaho and Montana to Glacier and then going to visit her family in Minnesota, where Tony was from. The woman reminded me of a superhero, with amazing Wonder Woman legs that I could not stop staring at. Her thigh muscles alone were supremely impressive. Turns out that they were both Triathletes where you run, bike, and swim extreme distances as part of a race. The guy looked like my best friend and yogi Brett from Hawaii, and I told him so. They were a pleasant couple and we looked forward to seeing them along our path north.
We got going and I took the lead excited to charge Magellan down this great hill we had been hearing about. It was still another 38 miles to Hamilton, but we were determined to make it the full 77 miles, especially when we had just conquered the hard part, the first 39 miles uphill! The downslope was exhilarating as usual, but dangerous, as lots of fallen rocks littered the shoulder, so you had to keep weaving into the road around fist sized rocks to avoid crashing! It was a hair-raising ordeal, but exciting, and after a couple of more near-death experiences with a several families waving at me from inside cars, I made it to the flatlands after 11 concentrated, tiring miles! And of course, right when I hit the flats, the headwinds swept in to ruin the day, so I stopped at a gas station in Sula, bought a juice drink, pulled up a chair on the wooden covered deck, and propped up my feet to await my slower companions. My extra weight had to win out sometimes! After Alex showed up he got himself an ice cream for a dollar and propped his feet up too. After many minutes went by we wondered if Iris was still braking down the mountain (she's terrified of going too fast - her Capricorn Sun keeps it cautious)...but eventually her bike came rolling down the hill, followed by the triathletes that we had met at the rest area.
The Triathletes were so tired from the day of travel that they decided to camp in Sula and rented a tent site for 15 bucks and tried to entice us to stay with them by buying a six pack of Coors beer. But I didn't drink and Alex and Iris, although enchanted by the offer, were more interested in making our destination. The local clerk, an elderly woman with one of those deep voices that sounded like she had to push one of those buttons installed in her throat (but she sounded that way naturally), warned us that there would be a ton of traffic in Darby ahead due to the annual "Redneck Olympics". She said that a bunch of rednecks got crowded together in a stadium to watch all kinds of competitive feats like who could saw logs the fastest and swing a sledgehammer hardest, etc. It sounded fascinating so we thought we'd hurry on ahead to check it out, joking that Tony would be amongst the crowd cheering for some farmer climbing a greased pole or something equally idiotic and crazy. But then again most people thought we were the idiots or crazies for riding our bikes across the country!.
Even though the headwinds were fierce, the gentle downslope made up for it and you could go pretty fast. I had to stop and pee at this weird restaurant called the Naughty Moose. I wondered what went on there after hours, wink wink... As I came out of the bathroom, I saw this stuffed mountain lion growling at this stuffed wolf, a locally famous re-enactment of the primitive territorial squabbles of beasts. Once I was back on the bike, Alex and Iris were long gone and I vowed to overtake them, but didn't. I rolled passed a stadium full of cheering people watching the Games, but I couldn't hear much with my I-pad blaring in my ears. When I rolled into town I found my friends lounging in a city park in the shade listening to live country music. The mostly older people in attendance looked thrilled to be there (not!). And the band was singing songs about how they didn't need marijuana and long hair to be free, just guns, god, and a bunch of other culturally indoctrinated Fox-News related desires. I joked around saying to my companions, "That's right, you New Yorkers need to sit here and get cultured!"
I crossed the street and went into a gas station where an entire family of five or six greeted me enthusiastically and said they had waved at me going down the pass. They wanted to hear all about my adventure so I gave them the cliff notes version and they were highly impressed. When I found the drink section, I saw a Monster drink and remembered that it had saved my life on a trip across the country where I almost fell asleep at the wheel driving. I remembered the intense rush of energy that it gave me and kept me up screaming and yelling exciting things and thinking grand thoughts through the night. It was just the potion i needed at the end of the day to beat my friends the last twenty miles to Hamilton. I walked back across the street and sat under a tree and drank the Mega Monster drink and told Iris and Alex that they were going to taste my dust, but they just laughed and didn't believe it. I felt like I had a secret I was going to pop on them as we rode. I was excited!
The gurgling, sparkling crazy liquid flowed down my throat and burned into my stomach to begin working its magic while they sat sucking on frozen milk that would make a solid thud in their bellies and hopefully slow them down. I knew I was going to be wired! They were both going down, and I knew it, as long as I could catch one or two hills and jam ahead. But I had made my bold prediction and I was ready to put the Monster rush to work! My phone beeped and I had a voice mail from Tony saying he was in Darby. We wondered if we should ride around town looking for him, but figured since the sun was going down, he'd be making his way to Hamilton too. So we just blasted forward finding ourselves in a race with the mighty sun again.
I got ahead and won the first ten miles as the Monster potion fueled my legs and pounded my brain with excitement. I had to stop atop a rise as I saw an amazing vision of the Sun sinking into a bowl carved into the top of a mountain. Just when I snapped the picture and uploaded it to Facebook, I glanced back and saw Alex and Iris barreling up the hill threatening to pass me. I got so excited that I kicked Magellan into motion and sped ahead in low gear screaming with excitement. Little did I know, but Tony was waiting at the next gas station and I was so focused on riding hard that I didn't even hear him screaming my name as I sped by with the wind and fury flowing over my soul. Alex stopped to greet him and gave up the race with my wild horsey self, but Iris knew she could easily pass me on the flats, so she charged ahead and began to close the distance.
She says she wasn't racing now, but in my heart I knew she was giving it her all, trying to pass me on multiple occasions. But the traffic was intense and my bike was too thick on the narrow shoulder of the flats for her to pass. I knew she would catch me given the opportunity but I looked down at my odometer and was going 20 MPH! I vowed not to let it slip beneath 20 MPH. Luckily the drink masked my fatigue, because it takes a lot of energy to maintain that speed with that much weight with a crazy ambitious Capricorn on your tail! And I knew we would get plenty of rest in Hamilton so I gave it every last ounce of strength. She was not winning this race!
Five miles to go! I knew she didn't know where my friends lived, and she thought we had 8 miles to go. I just had to keep up my pace. I kept looking back and she was gaining on me when I was fortunate enough to hit a hill. I turned back and waved at her as I sped ahead. I got ahead but we hit the flats again and she began catching me! I glanced down and my odometer had fallen to 19 MPH, and I got excited and mad and stood up and pedaled hard to get back up to 20 MPH. I was literally screaming at Magellan to go faster! She was putting her full court press on and I needed one more hill if I was going to keep her behind me, but there were no declines in sight. So I just kept pedaling like a madman knowing I had to get to mile marker 45, after passing 43. Two more miles! My Monster drink overcame her as I saw her falling behind. I could tell she had given up and I cruised through the last three miles and turned on Golf Course Road to find my friend and fellow astrologer, Lisa Allen's house on the corner of Daly street. Her house was surrounded by a moat of plant life with a few openings in it for going through. Iris never made it, as she missed the turn and they all ended up downtown, but managed to find their way over later.
Meanwhile, Lisa came running out of her house and hugged my neck. I also met her super cool triple Earth Sign daughter with Jupiter Rising, named Chrissy, an enthusiastic girl who is devoting her life to the archetype of Beauty in beauty school. When the others finally rode around the corner I had already had a tour of the premises and was inside the house discussing dinner options. It turns out that Lisa had made a fantastic vegan soup for our arrival and we all sat down to a wondrous feast, surrounded by Lisa, her 18-year old daughter, and several of her young pretty friends, including Haley a healer druid herbalist who was also interested in astrology and a few other odd and interesting characters that kept going and coming. They're house was more of a communal pad for the emerging youth than a regular home, and when the man of the house, Lisa'a eccentric husband Ray came through the door, things got really fascinating fast. As it turns out, we are both gamer geeks with a passion for fantasy adventure. He is also a musician about to start back up the band he had back in the day, and was at an amazing turning point in life when we all looked at his chart. He was a very cool guy and loved astrology as well. It was great to see the whole family and their friends talking about astrology so excitedly. Chrissy was especially knowledgable about astrology pulling facts about her friend's charts from her brain like a file with her Virgo rising self. She obviously respected and learned from her amazing mother, rather than resenting her and being embarrassed by her magical craft. Lisa was also a healer, with her recent addition of herbalism and dowsing to her gifts.
Ray had such a rush connecting with me (A gentle Pisces who could barely get a word in edgewise with the two talkative women of the house, but Aries rising himself, so he had his moments of heroic conversation. At one point he said, "Dude, I feel so connected with your soul that I bet you could guess the Dungeons and Dragons book I have in my bathroom right now! I'll give you 5 bucks if you can guess it!" His gaze turned intense as he began beaming the image right at me. At first my logical mind started thinking off all the possible books it could be and it was overwhelming, so I switched it off and opened up my right brain to feeling the force. The first thing I felt was the psychic power emanating from Lisa by the sink, feeling that she was confident I could guess it. I hated trying to guess people's signs when they find out I'm an astrologer. It betrays there lack of knowledge about what true life-changing insights they could actually gain from astrology. I often felt a surge of anger over the mediocrity of humans when I heard those excited but mysterious words, "Oh! Oh! Try to guess my sign?" I understood why they liked to do that, but it was sad that our culture so devalued such a mystic art, science, and spiritual path. When I looked into Ray's eyes, I felt a force coming from him and I closed my eyes and the powerful and evocative image of an old Second Edition Dungeons and Dragons book from the 80's popped sharply into my mind called Fiend Folio. So I just said it simply, "Fiend Folio?"
He was blown out of his rocker, if he ever had a rocker, because I had guessed the exact book he had in the bathroom, and he was flabbergasted as he grabbed my shirt and guided me into the bathroom to reveal that my guess was indeed correct! As he wandered about the house collecting a dollar here and a quarter there to come up with my five bucks talking to himself in disbelief, the others were listening to Lisa and her daughter Chrissy rattle on about astrology. It was great to see Iris, a potential astrologer herself, experience people her age talking astrology like it was second nature to know this language. I hoped it inspired her to learn more!
Ray came around the corner and handed over the five bucks, three dollar bills and eight quarters, and had to give me a big bear hug, and said, "You have irrevocably altered my existence dude. I had a lot of faith before but now...whew!" He just stared at me with large eyes that said the universe had been restored to whole.
All in all we had an amazing time in Hamilton for a few days, staying at Lisa and Ray's for three nights sharing meals, stories, insights, etc. Tony and Chrissy even struck up a light romance as her Mars (which shows what a woman is attracted to) was in Aries and he was an adventurous Aries. Tony was smart and kept it light, because he knew being a gentleman was the way to go since he had no intention of cutting his trip short to fall in love nor of insulting our hosts. Tony and Alex hiked the canyon into the amazing mountains the next day seeing crystal clear streams reminding them of Rivendale from Lord of the Rings. Iris and I focused on resting and I updated the blog and did some astrology charts. On the second day, our elven hostess Lisa took us on an hour tour through her garden introducing us to a wide variety of plant life, showing us the difference between the healing plantain type plants and the dandelions, and pointing out the herbal properties of as many as 15 amazing plants like Yellow Dock, St. John's Wort, and Mullen. By the end of the herbal educational tour, I felt like I knew a slice of what Christina, my ex, knew and had learned and loved about the plant kingdom. It was indeed eye-opening to glimpse the plant realms through the instructive eyes of an elven magi-druid! Check out her Blog at http://aartiana.wordpress.com/
Later that day we all sat down to watch the Matrix, and rooted for Neo against the evil machines. By the end of the day we realized that our journeys, like the Truman Show, were about breaking out of our own self- and culturally-imposed matrices that imprisoned us in a way of life bound by rules and control. We were all excitedly quoting the movie saying things like, "There is no spoon!" "Try not to bend the spoon. Instead, realize that there is no spoon. It is the self that bends." "Now you realize the difference between knowing the path and walking the path." "Mr. Anderson!" And so on. After doing laundry and getting ready to go it was already 4 PM so we asked if we could stay another day and Lisa said we could, even though her nerves were pretty frazzled from having all her daughter's friends and us in the house. The dishes alone were enough to make one pull one's hair out. So I went off to the coffee shop to record an astrology chart and the others decided they were going to do something nice for Lisa and Ray, and offered to cook a gourmet meal.
That was when they showed up at Perkins (all the cool coffee shops had closed), where I was sequestering myself to the quiet room, and asked me for ideas and monetary contributions. I taught Tony how to make an amazing stir fry with a special grill marinade sauce and had them buy some large tomato tortilla wraps and gave them ten bucks to help it happen. I told them to save me a big one for when I returned. They didn't! When I rolled through the door hours later the dishes were stacked high again, and every pan was empty. The meal turned out to be so delicious that they couldn't help themselves, even though all seven or eight people had healthy seconds too. I was disappointed but also glad that my recipe sparked so much joy. So I cooked something even more grand and used Lisa's kitchen spice rack to create food art. I boiled some noodles and poured the delectable sauce and stir fry over it, and proclaimed that it was delicious. We all went to bed with full bellies in Rivendale, and went to sleep excited about the journey to Missoula in the morning. Unfortunately for Tony, he got little sleep after staying up till 6 Am frolicking with Chrissy and talking about life, the universe, and everything.
When morning came, I popped up, collected the laundry we had done, packed my panniers, strapped them on the bike and rode downtown for a chai before departing. I really wanted to check out this coffee shop called Liaisons, and was glad I did. It was the only coffee shop that had a child care room in the back! Where was this place when I was raising my little boy? After the crew assembled and had a drink, we all set off on the next leg of our journey to the big city of Missoula with a population of 60,000. We hoped our friend Julia from the Bike Camp would make good on her offer to host us while there, because we each had business to attend to in the largest city we had seen in a while.
I did finally get to do mini-interpretations of both Tony and Alex's charts in Hamilton. Just as I felt, these guys are my spiritual homeys. Alex is a rebellious 11th house Leo born under a Full Moon in Aquarius, and his Aquarian moon is right on my Sun sign! He also has Virgo Rising with Venus and Mars in Virgo in the house of visionary artistry, no wonder he's so detailed, quick, and into visual arts as a major in college. He's got Saturn and Mars crossing his Ascendant so I warned him about channeling frustration into action and to meditate on getting disciplined about getting his true authentic act together. Tony is an Aries, but his Moon in in Sagittarius, so he has the soul of an explorer and scholar like Albert Einstein. He also has his Mars (Male force) in Aquarius the sign of the great humanitarian and inventor and his Venus feminine essence in Pisces, the sign of its exaltation and the source of his dreamy oceanic eyes. Turns out that his Sag Moon is sitting right on my Sagittarian Ascendant, so we are like spirit brothers. Very cool to have such Universe-picked companions!