There and Back

The photographer Robert Adams once imparted a set of guidelines for the aspiring artist: What did you do? Did you do it successfully? Was it worth doing? As I sit here back in Brooklyn, wondering what my next move is(by that I mean that while in the immediate sense my course is set, the future is dark and somewhat foreboding), I am happy to reflect upon the last few months. My goals with this trip were quite simple: Take pictures; ride my bike on a long journey. It was as simple as that. Perhaps in a more profound sense I needed to learn something about myself, but ultimately I wanted to start something and finish it. Not that what I did was all that special, after all, I met people on the road who were traveling much farther for much longer. I suppose I needed to prove something to myself.
Through much of my trip my cell phone didn’t work and I was ecstatic. For days on end I read no newspapers, saw no television and barely had a clue to what was happening in the world. What a relief not to be bombarded incessantly with advertising, media hype, political baloney, Internet Spam and all the rest of it. The only thing I had to worry about was water, food, where to rest my head for the night, and where my next picture would be. I think my mileage tally was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 miles. Here are some pics of what I saw along the way:









For you touring bicyclists out there, these are the most scenic roads that I took, beginning with:
1) Route 83 between Swan lake and Salmon lake, especially south of Seeley lake. Extraordinary stretch, possibly the most beautiful stretch of road in America.
2) Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park.
3) Route 191 going north out of West Yellowstone. The last 3rd of this route, south of Bozeman is spectacular, with anglers galore and a class 4 rapid on the Gallatin River.
4) Route 200 between Paradise Montana and Clark Fork Idaho. Very deserted stretch of road. Fascinating little towns along the way like Perma(just one guy and a store) and Clark Fork which reminds me of the town in the TV show “Northern Exposure”.
5) Route 84 between Bozeman and Norris Montana. For a stretch it follows the Madison River through one of the most extraordinary wetlands in America. Paradise for bird watchers.
6) Route 1 between Anaconda and Philipsburg Montana. After I left Butte on July 13th 2010 I was greeted by a ferocious Chinook wind that slowed my progress down to about three miles an hour even though I was riding on flat road. I passed through Anaconda (before which I was greeted by this enormous smelter and a desolate landscape which reminded me of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings) before I decided to camp on the side of the road because of the relentless winds. It was freezing that night. The next day my fortunes changed and I was greeted by the Pintlar Wilderness Area and an amazing descent down a mountain pass through it. I ended up in the town of Philipsburg Montana, which resembled a Confederate Museum. I regret not spending more time in Philipsburg.
I should also mention that my luck in terms of the weather and for the most part mechanical issues was quite good. I am hoping that the next time I go on one of these trips I’ll be able to afford a few more hotels and better meals. Convenience store food is wretched so I would plan a few mail drops along the way. An alternative to motels is to hook up with couchsurf.com. More to follow on this trip wrap-up.

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Landed in glacier Park

Wonder of wonders! Just about the first thing i saw when i entered glacier Park was a bear! I’m pretty sure it was a black bear, and, being the elusive creatures that they are, the picture I got(which I’m afraid that you won’t see now because once again the library computer that I’m writing from does not upload pics!) that I got was pretty indistinct. I know that he either saw, heard or smelled me because he jumped up and then scrambled further into the bush where he continued to frolic and rummage for grubs or whatever it is that bears rummage for.
I don’t want to mention tea party again, okay, I will: Tea party! There is something comically and diametrically opposite in the American character that can accommodate the kind of people who identify so closely with whatever it is that they stand for (I don”t think even they know what it stands for because many of the issues that some of the members support are the exact opposite of what I would construe as being libertarian…

I met a very interesting biker on the road to Glacier near Libby Montana. Doug Charleston was riding along route two when he spotted me. He had a friend driving with as a support vehicle and claimed to be riding 150 to 200 miles a day. He insisted on giving me his mirror(worn on glasses), which I never use, but accepted out of politeness and then, after ensuring there wasn’t anything else I needed, including gator aide and inner tubes, he went off on a tirade about being forced to submit to security screenings at airports and being “profiled”. Then in the very next breath complained that Mexicans should be profiled and screened at random during highway stops. Now Doug seemed to be a generous and charismatic man, deeply religious, who failed to see the essential contradiction in what he was saying. I think we should either all be profiled or none of us, but i have a problem with profiling one segment of the population because of their racial or ethnic profile.

Meanwhile, back at Glacier On Monday night, August 2nd I saw the wonderful singer Jack Gladstone at the amphitheater at McDonald Lake. Jack is part German and part Blackfoot Indian, and is full of amazing folklore about Indians and very wry and astute observations about the history of America. You can check him out at: http://www.jackgladstone.com/Oki,_Welcome.html

Leaving Troy Montana

One of the last things I did before leaving Troy Montana was to pay a visit to the garbage dump. In Troy Montana there is no garbage pick up so you bring your garbage to one place and your refuse(wood, plastic etc.) to another. It set me to thinking(yes doing that again!) what New York would be like if the Tea Party proponents got their way and we reverted back to a completely non-government style of “government”. Imagine it, everyone dragging their garbage on the train to the city dump! What if there was only one dump in the entire city like Troy, let’s say out on Staten Island, everyone getting on the Staten Island Ferry with bags of garbage and throwing it overboard…! or people leaving their garbage on the train and claiming someone else left it there!

Speaking of the Tea party, I read a commentary column in a weekly newspaper published in Spokane Washington called The Inlander by former State Senator Mary Lou Reed in which she describes a dramatic shift to the right by the Idaho Republican party that demonstrators that they have been co-opted by extreme Tea Party advocates. She describes the July fourth parade in Coeur d’Alene Idaho and a bunch of Tea Partiers riding an earth moving machine singing “This land is Your Land, This Land is My Land…”, co-opting the lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s song to their twisted message…” Ms. Reed goes on to say that, “the contradiction was striking between the baby terrifying vehicle and the familiar words of Woody Guthrie, famous for his great folksongs and his left-wing politics…the crowd where I was standing watched in baffled silence…” apparently there is no line between what the right stands for and what they are willing to steal from to convey their confused and rummage store style of politics…

It is also apparent that the Idaho Republicans must have been smoking some tea when the wrote up their party platform for the coming elections. Among other things, they want to repeal the 17th amendment to the constitution, the direct election of senators by popular vote and also abolish the Federal Reserve and restore the Gold Standard to back up the American dollar. This is the kind of paleolithic direction that the Republican party is taking and they are just regurgitating the old “States Rights” argument that the slaveocracy advocate John C. Calhoun used to advocate back in the 1830’s and 40’s. To quote William Burroughs’, “biologically speaking, the one place you cannot go is back!” Those in the tea party also advocate a loyalty oath and other Neanderthal measures. So much for “This land is Your land…This land is my land”.