Sunday, July 18, 2010
Broken Spokes and the Truman Show
A Strange Awakening
"Hello Kelly, are you in there?" a compassionate soft voice asked from outside my tent. I was startled awake but still on that strange bridge between worlds where you have no clue what's really happening. Oh yeah, the bike mechanic had called before I fell asleep saying he'd be by at 5:15 AM and it was time to go out and meet him and try to get Magellan back in riding shape after throwing a couple of shoes, I mean spokes. I rubbed sleep from my eyes and said, "Hey! I'll be right out."
I slipped out of my sleeping bag and the bitter cold of morning chilled my naked body, but I quickly slipped into my padded cycling shorts, a t-shirt, my rain jacket and put on my shoes to go meet this guy named Nick Pairitz. He worked for the government in environmental studies and had to be at work by 7 AM, which gave us a few hours to tinker with Magellan.
I got out of my tent and shook his hand. He stood medium height with an average build, but his eyes were indeed compassionate and his aura friendly. His sideburns were Elvis long and he had a goofy smirk that said he knew more than he was letting on. I later found out that he had a degree in engineering from Cornell, from the local citizenry.
We pulled Magellan into the Bike Camp main building away from the sleeping three wise women, but I knew we would not be able to avoid waking them up with our repair noises and conversations, so I hoped they were early risers like most elder cyclists. From the looks on their faces later, they would have liked to have about 30 more minutes of sleep but they understood that I wasn't going anywhere without this repair.
Nick turned the bike upside down and went straight to work like a master, but patiently explaining each step after I said I wanted to watch and learn. I told him about Jackson and my first broken spoke, and now that I had two more, I really wanted to learn to fix it myself. He showed me the right tools to get and I watched him work quickly, efficiently, and patiently, with explanations like a good teacher would give. He even brought along a portable tire truing machine where he tightened or loosened the spokes with special spoke wenches and showed me how to do it. You have to turn them in the opposite direction of Righty-Tighty-Lefty-Loosey!
Once we finished our work, I shook his hand and payed him $25 and he went off to work. The three wise women were already packed and gone too,leaving me at Bike Camp all alone. I crawled back into my tent and kept sleeping until the greenhouse effect began cooking me, and forced me to wake up and take a free shower.
It turns out that the Town Council voted on an agenda that a man named Bill White brought up to use $10,000 of his personal wealth to build a cycling camp for all the numerous cyclists that come through Twin Bridges. The town had slumped into the woes of the economic depression and even the local grocery store had closed down. A year after building the free cyclists camp (they accept donations to pay for upkeep and to pay back Bill over time) the grocery store reopened along with a few other businesses like the JUmping Rainbow Espresso business started by a young couple in their front yard. They imported a coffee bar stand about the size of a caboose and set it up right in their side yard with a doorbell that rings inside their house. When someone walks or drives up to order a drink, they just pop out of their house and make an amazing drink. I rode over there and ordered a soy vanilla chai and retreated into their netted siting area where they have a table surrounded by chairs. I was so groggy still that I ended up spilling two-thirds of my drink all over the table. They were quick to help me clean up and also made me a new drink to replace the one I had lost. I took a deep breath and was glad to be having a rest day in Twin Bridges, wondering when Alex and Iris, and Tony would show up. After writing and checking email for a few hours I went over to the local grocery store to check on food and not only Alex and Iris, and Tony showed up, the ACA group rode through town as well, and I hugged Bryn and Amber. Unfortunately they were on a schedule and had to make it to Dillon before nightfall with their ACA (Adventure Cycling Association) group leader. Apparently people pay $4000 to join a cycling group with an experienced guide to do the famous journeys across America. So I bid them safe journey and showed Alex and Iris the amazing and FREE Bike Camp. We ended up having dinner with Tony over at The Shack, which was recommended by some motorcyclists at the top of that Ennis overlook, in fact the former owner of the restaurant, Patti was the one to mention it. I had a medium no-cheese vegan pizza and it was delicious.
After dinner, we cycled back over to Bike Camp and wished that every town had a cool bike friendly attitude like Twin Bridges. Apparently other towns in the region along the famous TransAmerican Trail are thinking of doing the same thing, so Bill WHite may have started a legendary trend, as cyclists bring lots of money into these small western towns on a daily basis to stimulate their economies. I had downloaded the Truman Show on my I-pad but we wanted to wait for our Unicyclist friend Sky to catch up but decided to head back to the General Store and purchase popcorn and watch it anyway inside the Bike Camp main screened-in building. It was a pleasant break to be resting the legs, have Magellan back to full mechanical health, and be accompanied by friends again.
In addition, two German cyclists, an older wily Taoist old man who talked about going with the flow of wherever their hearts lead them and his wife/traveling partner a beautiful woman with a slight impairment to her voice box who you really had to strain to understand showed up. I could tell they both really enjoyed listening to my Soulful playlist when I played it on the I-pad. And in addition to them, a guy rolled up to camp going east named Dean who was about 43 and his wife just left him. He was interested in changing his life and living a life of raw adventure as well as online dating. When he first rolled up, he had his shirt open and you could see hair on his chest and he seemed like a player, with his website called crazyguyonabike.com As it turns out, he has joined an online dating community site and when he's approaching a new town he arranges a date or two and meets up with cool woman he likes on the road. I thought it was a fascinating way to meet people who would be interested in dating a recently single long-term adventurous traveler. Most dating sites where people list their interests are sometimes silly in their descriptions of what they like because everyone seems to have the same cardboard desires: going on walks, reading, working out, long walks, sharing meals, going to movies. But when Dean put down that he was into cycling and travel, he really meant it and could prove it by his bike and his bob cart and his pictures. As it turns out he had met a really cool nurse/healer named Julia in Missoula and she decided to join him in his travels by car as she drove all the way from Missoula to spend the night with him at Bike Camp. So we had quite the crew there visiting and talking, and interacting and Julia was really into astrology and I did a mini interpretation for both Dean and her and they enjoyed it. As a result of our friendly interactions Julia invited the four of us to stay with her in Missoula when we came through next week! This would give me a chance to go to REI to replace my tent and a TREK dealer to see if I could get a better rim!
It was so good to watch the Truman Show with Alex, and Iris, and Tony. I had watched it at my mom's in Loveland so the scenes were fresh in my mind but always hilarious. I love Jim Carey as we both share that wacky, witty, comedic Gemini Moon!
I discussed with them afterward the idea that we are all in our own sort of Truman Show, where we've accepted the reality we've been presented with, but that there were other dimensions of emotion, and mind, and archetypes and the spiritual realm which most people utilized but also ignored. The physical world and its needs took precedence and we out here on bikes had a special opportunity to minimize our worldly needs so we could refocus on these other grand dimensions. I mean, of course you could totally make your travels about seeing and visiting physical sites but that when you also cultivated an awareness of symbols and watched your heart and mind, and as my good friend Peter always says, learn to trust and follow your heart in all things, then the adventure took on a magical component beyond just mere travel. We talked about that into the late night hours and then finally all retreated to our little tent huts.
In the morning I went to the Jumping Rainbow Espresso to have another amazing soy chai and they even had an employee working for them, how cool! I sat down to write a blog post and waited for Alex and Iris and Tony to come and get me so we could ride down to the next town called Dillon, just 28 miles to the southwest. Tony had tire trouble with flats and had to hitch a ride to Dillon to get to that other bike store I had contacted while Alex and Iris forgot to come get me because Iris had taken so long waking up, that they thought I had left without them. So I hopped on Magellan and proceeded to travel against some mild headwinds over ten miles of construction on a gravel-laden shoulder that seemed to only let you go at about 8 MPH, very slow going. I rolled past the Beaverhead National Monument and then the terrain became hilly, but just up and down small hills for the last ten miles into Dillon.
When I rolled into Dillon, Alex sped up beside me and then everyone showed up. It seemed that they had the bead on a good FREE campsite down by a river. So we went on into town and found that Dillon was quite large. We hit the local Safeway grocery store up for groceries and charged our cell phones and devices before exploring the town on our bikes. There were many cool cafes and unique shops but they were all closed as we had arrived late after sleeping in at the cozy Bike Camp. We stumbled upon a couple outside the Courthouse and the man was supposedly on the City Council so I asked him where we could camp for free, because we were traveling across country and were on a budget and didn't want to pay for an expensive KOA site. He directed us out to a campsite down by the river too and said even though it was technically illegal to camp overnight there, that no one would bother us, so we did! We rode out there and had to set up our tents among a swarm of mosquitos by a river. I wondered how the ancients dealt with the pests. Once Alex got the fire going they seemed to become less of a nuisance. So we set up our tents, except Tony who was waiting patiently for the sun to go down to see if the law would come along and kick us out, but they never did.
I cooked my Taste of Thai Oriental rice noodles and spiced them with some dried Shitake mushrooms, stir fried tofu, and Thai peanut sauce and it was beyond delicious. Alex and Iris went with the cheaper Ramen Noodles and hated every bite after I let them taste my vegan cuisine. Tony went with the spaghetti and tomato sauce favorite fallback and cooked way too many noodles. After eating and hanging out we had hot chai tea and retreated to our tents for some good sleep, hoping not to be woken up in the night with police shining flashlights in our eyes! They never came, even though a police car did drive by while we were cooking and the officer noted our fire. The City Councilor probably told the to leave us alone in such a small town.
The next morning I popped up first with my rooster alarm, packed up my tent and gear and was on my way into town to check out the Sweetwater Coffee Shop. I wanted to go to the other more dangerous sounding Bad Ass Coffee Shop, but when I rode by Sweetwater, I saw several cyclist bikes that looked like the ones camped at KOA when we had driven by the night before, so I stopped to talk cycling shop. There were three cyclists in there, and two were riding tandem, a young couple, while an older guy in his forties named Mark, who was riding with a cause of raising money to help stop de-finning and wonton slaying of sharks in asia through his site endfinning.com They couldn't believe I was carrying four panniers plus my huge backpack!
The Chai was indeed sweet and I added a shot of espresso because we had a very challenging 65 mile ride ahead to Jackson MT and Wisdom MT. I didn't know if we would make it because it was uphill over two very large passes. Something deep down sensed trouble ahead, but I didn't know what to make of this feeling. I just knew it would be challenging. When the crew showed up we filled our water bottles and we visited the local health food store. I was really wanting to buy some soy vanilla creamer so I could treat them to some amazing chai around the fire later that night. I distinctly remember wanting to buy a six pack of healthy ginger ales, but I opted for Almond Dream vegan ice cream instead to give me a nice kick in the early going. Later I would regret this decision deeply.
The ride started off great and we found the frontage road that would lead us down to the highway that turned back Northwest toward Jackson and Wisdom. I remembered coming to this area to attend a National Rainbow Gathering back in the summer of 2001 which occurred in the mountains up above Jackson. It would be nice to visit that little town again with a different mission this time. Before I packed in two boxes of my astrology book Celestial Renaissance: A Revolution of Astrology, and I was determined to set up my epic astrology circle again and teach whoever came the ancient wisdom of the stars. This time I was passing through as the Traveling Magi en route to a new life of Locational Independence and to meet Alisha, who might just be the true love of my life, if only I could learn to love and honor my deeper visionary self first and foremost. It was fascinating to reflect on how my life had changed so dramatically since those early days in Asheville NC. I had hitched a ride from other rainbow folks from NC all the way to Jackson WY to attend the gathering. I remember standing by the bonfire of the Jerusalem Camp at 3 AM with my good friend and spiritual brother David Alexander English and we watched the Northern Lights in amazement.
The Wind started off great that morning with 42 miles uphill to Jackson, a hard day ahead. I was grateful for the cooperation of my new nemesis, the WIND! However, I soon learned to respect and yearn for the Wind when all kinds of mosquitos and horseflies started harassing me. It was so intense that I almost crashed Magellan into a ditch trying to swat at them! And the Sun was blazing down as if it meant to melt us into butter patches. Tony shot ahead and left everyone eating his dust, while Alex and Iris blasted ahead when I stopped to take my first picture of the scenery, as usual. I couldn't upload it to Facebook with no service in the desolate area. I decided that I'd rather be hot than a meal for the bugs, so I put on my heavy rain jacket and my synthetic rain pants so that I had full armor against the pests. Even though it hurt me to do so, I began silently praying for the Wind to return, realizing the good side of a nice breeze, but not wanting a malicious headwind either.
As a result of being so hot and sweaty under all that rain gear, I was sucking down water at an accelerated rate. The others had long disappeared over the horizon and I was struggling up the first of two gigantic climbs. Unfortunately, on the downslope of the first climb when I was supposed to be enjoying a rushing easy ride, the headwinds kicked in slowing my descent hard. I had to pedal just to go 8 MPH on the downslope which is never fun, and my camel back full of water was exhausted. I still had my two water bottles full, but I started scanning the horizon in search of a cafe or gas station, worrying about possible dehydration if my water stores ran dry. When the Adventure Cycling Map that Alex carried said NO SERVICES, and warned us to stock up well, I realized they were serious. There were no services anywhere in sight, not even farm houses. My lips were chapped and dry from the beating wind and I was down to my last water bottle with over 18 miles to go. My throat was dry and the wind turned against me as I began my ascent up the largest climb of the day, wondering how I could possibly make it. I had reached that point in the ride where everything was beginning to ache and there was nothing you could do about it but ride hard and pray for good winds and currents. After several applications of lip balm, and another hour of trying to conserve my last water bottle's contents, I truly learned how to drink and enjoy a good gulp of water. I would squirt the nourishing liquid into my mouth and just hold it there over the course of a mile or so and just swallow little by little as the highway swooped underneath my tires, truly enjoying the water trickling down my parched throat.
The whole ride I was listening to Alan Watts lectures on Taoism, Zen, and Hinduism. My brain began hallucinating in the sheer heat and I saw Indian Gods like Brahmin and Vishnu with their multiple arms rising out of the road before me. I realized that the Indian religion of Hinduism started with the conception that the universe was not a creation that had been constructed as in our Western theologies, but rather, a drama that is enacted over thousands and thousands of years during enormous ages called Kalpas with smaller subdivisions called Yugas. They thought of the supreme being as a magical child who got bored with being one unified infinite field of consciousness and began playing hide and go seek with himself/herself and that we are all manifestations of the divine all trying to wake up and realize the game, to seek ourselves in the hidden positions we've gotten ourselves into. I realized I was on my last gulp of water with 17 miles to go to Jackson and began to worry. Then I realized that on some divine level, I had tricked myself into this position, in getting way out here with no water and seeing how I would react when placed in a survival situation.
Would I be too proud to hitch a ride and stubbornly force myself to cover those 17 miles with no water? I started going through my food inventory in my mind wondering what items had high water content: I had some leftover dried shitake mushrooms, some peanut sauce, and my Braggs amino liquids (but it was salty and would make me more thirsty). So I thought dry might meet dry and stopped to chew on a dried shitake mushroom, and it worked! My thirst went a way for a while. But it wasn't long before I had to eat another, and another. My water bottle was dwindled down to the last gulp and still 16 miles to go. It was sweltering hot and I wondered if it was my destiny to feed this tired body to the bugs and be done with this mad struggle. I thought about lying down in the ditch and letting the bugs have at it so I could wake up in eternity, but my rational self refused to give in. The wind returned harsh and biting and I had to push the bike up the next pass with the top nowhere in sight. I stopped and stripped off my bug armor rain gear just to be cool and realized my undershirt was extremely wet. I had been sweating violently all day. I was wondering if I could squeeze my shirt into a water bottle and drink it, when up ahead, I heard the sound of flowing water!
I pushed my bike ahead and saw a small creek flowing right under the road through a drainage pipe. I knew the water was contaminated with giardia from all the farm animals I had seen on the land, but there were no farms in sight that I could ask for water. I stood there looking at the water with my thirst glands salivating, weighing the options of intense sickness versus dying of thirst and I forced myself to turn Magellan away slowly and begrudgingly and keep trudging up the pass, too weak to ride in the harsh wind. I was furious for sending my water purification tablets off to Canada, thinking there was no way I'd need them. How wrong I was. I weighed the option of hitchhiking against the egotistical goal of saying I rode my bike all the way to Canada. There were not too many vehicles coming down the road anyway, and I would need a pickup truck for myself and Magellan.
I slowly squeezed the last gulp of water into my mouth and held it there for a good mile, just letting it trickle ever so slowly down my throat. I thought of Alisha and how she would feel if I died out here on the road on the way to meet her and that picked up my spirit. I hopped back on my trusty steed and pedaled hard toward what I thought was the summit. But another summit appeared in the distance and the Wind came ripping down hard. I took the Buddhist approach and thanked it for cooling my skin and blessed it for keeping the bugs away, even though it impeded my progress to that little town of Jackson, which I remembered had a tiny general store and a hot springs. The last thing I would want at that moment was to wallow in a hot springs. I wanted cool nourishing water desperately, and I began chewing on another dried mushroom. I was determined to fight and alternate between pushing the bike in harsh winds and rolling down the occasional slopes. But in the end I surrendered and begrudgingly stuck out my thumb as a pickup truck had already gone by. I don't think they saw me out of their rear view mirror trying to beg for a ride, begging to stay alive in that fierce wind and sweltering heat. My mouth was dry and my lips were burning so I just kept applying lip balm. I wish I'd a bought that 6 pack of ginger ale instead of that damn almond ice cream that morning! I vowed to always buy an extra can or bottle of liquid if I made it through this.
As a few more vehicles went by, I got brave with the trucks and stuck out my thumb before they got to me, but no one seemed interested in stopping to help me now. I wondered how the others faired ahead and sent them a desperate text, saying that I was 15 miles out with no water and dying of thirst, hoping they would ride me out some awful tasting well water from Jackson. But there was no Verizon service out there in the middle of nowhere. So I trudged along wondering if this was it, wondering what effect dehydration would have on me as I stumbled into Jackson 15 miles from now. I knew I could make it 15 miles with no water because I'm stubborn that way, but it would be a long and painful unnecessary journey. So I stuck my thumb out again at the next pickup truck and they sped by as if to say, "You made you're bed and now you've got to sleep in it you damn cyclist!"
Then I had an idea. What if I held my water bottle out as if to say, "Hey I'm out of water and could use some more. Could you help a lone traveler dying of thirst?" I tried it with the next pickup truck that sped by about ten minutes later and the little black truck went on by and I bowed my head in dismay. But then as I slowly looked up I saw the driver stop ahead and turn around. It was an older man and woman, and they offered me what was left of a small water bottle and said they could transport me to Jackson. I thanked them profusely and the man named John (my dad's name is John) helped me lift Magellan into the back where they had a cooler. The lady whose name was Maryella (my stepmom is Mary), pointed to the cooler and told me it was full of ice! Oh my God! I downed the water first and then as the truck picked up speed and the howling wind rushed over my face, I watched the landscape ascend to impossible heights, and I was so glad I surrendered and took some help. I thanked the Hindu Gods of dramatic enactment for making me realize the essence of my true nature, my immortal timeless spirit that is having this amazing adventure in a body, and sucked on ice cube after ice cube, like they were the teats of eternity, rubbing their cold blocky melting forms over my lips slowly, savoring their stored coolness. I imagined the state of the universe before the Big Bang inflationary period being smaller than a dot, and pretended their frozen quality poured from the time before that primeval explosion.
John and Maryella dropped me off at their turnoff about a half a mile from Jackson. When we came over the last rise, I was grateful to the nth degree. I would have never made it over that pass and my friends would be worried sick. I thanked them from the deepest abyss of my heart and looked John right in the eyes. I told him my dad and step mom were named John and Mary, and that today they had saved their son's life. Good karma was in store for them indeed. I got on Magellan and took my short victorious ride down the hill into Jackson and found my friends sitting on a bench outside the general store, looking about as bad as myself. As i turned out, Iris had a flat about a mile ahead of me and needed the patch kit that Alex had (I had one too). The same ride that picked her up, picked Alex up as well and delivered them to Jackson. Tony alone made it all the way with no help after buying a new back tire in Dillon at the bike shop and powering ahead with the true gusto of an Aries. I felt a true kinship with both he and Alex and was anxious to see their charts.
The water in Jackson was terrible well water, but not as bad as the stuff you get in Tularosa, New Mexico. The calcium deposits run thick and you wonder how anyone lives on the stuff. But after almost dying out there in the wilds, I filled those bottles with honor and slowly drank down a few bottles of it, ignoring the taste for its life giving qualities. Today I learned how to truly drink a drink of water, to truly savor its essence, and I thanked the Universe for the lesson. After a quick meal of all kinds of random items from the store I realized that my Pay Pal debit card was down to it's last nine bucks. Soon I wouldn't be able to buy any food either. I had faith things would work out. Iris said that they would never let me starve. I wanted to hurry up and get to Nelson so I could finish writing my next epic astrology book and complete the editing of my next documentary film on chart interpretation, so I could earn some money the good old fashioned way, not begging for donations from inspired readers or selling collections on E-bay.
For some reason, clients have not been ordering astrology charts, probably sensing that I'm out here struggling to survive between internet cafes, but I've still been able to record charts and send them off digitally. I knew I could make it to Nelson, but I also heard the guards at the Canadian border would not let you enter Canada penniless. Maybe I should have sold my HD camera? Maybe my friend Melissa would start sending me money for the lap top I sold her, my loaded Dell Inspiron? When was my spiritual tithe coming from my good friend and client Lane? Maybe I should ask all my Facebook friends (802 of them) to donate a dollar on my http://www.travelingmagi.com website. Even if only 10% sent aid, that would give me 80 bucks for seeds, and nuts, and chai and noodles. I was used to getting at least 3-5 chart orders per week, and now they had dwindled to one per week after I had fully redesigned my website, which was disappointing.
I figured the economic depression had everyone down. No one needed cosmic wisdom about their character or cycles during these rough times when people just wanted to survive. After almost dying in the mosquito-infested high plains of Montana I knew their desperation. Things would pick up when I got settled in. I hoped Nick's magical repair of my two spokes would last. being woken up in the dark hours of sunrise by that engineering Saint Nick had to come with some magic! I prayed for magic as we hopped on our bikes and headed for Wisdom, Montana. I told Alex and Tony that no matter what, in 20 miles when we got to Wisdom, that I was going to interpret their charts. I was burning with curiosity now. But in fact, as it turns out, Tony would never make it to Wisdom at all!