300 miles hitchhiked 8 miles walked 28.85 miles biked 9.5.10
After getting to sleep at 5:30am because I was choosing iPod songs, I woke up at 7:15am and finished packing my car, had a good breakfast with the Hills, gave them each a rock from Alaska, and Robin and I took off—exactly 11 feet before I pointed out that Robin forgot his bike. Considering he was going to Stanford for a year with plans of biking around campus, having his bike is important. I gave him my bike rack to use for the trip, we loaded the bike on the back of his ride, and then went through Bozeman for the last time. He dropped me off at the N. 19th on-ramp to I-90 where I stood with my sign for an hour.
Lots of smiles, but it took 23-year-old bible student Richard to finally pick me up. I had been really cold standing there, so I was grateful. Within 20 minutes, we were in a torrential downpour in his unsuitable car, but, of course, being Montana, it didn’t last long. We talked. We got to Helena in a couple of hours and he dropped me off at the first thing in town. A Wal-Mart. He had to continue north to the 200 person town of Augusta where he was to lead a backpacking trip for bible students at this 63 person bible college. He offered me a bible–it wouldn’t be the first I was offered during this trip. I needed to get out the OTHER side of town, according to a friendly guy without any legs who was rolling down the sidewalk in a wheelchair. So, I walked. And walked. And 2+ hours and eight miles later, I finally arrived what I deemed to be close enough to the exit of Helena. Carla, Robin’s mom, had packed me some PB&J’s, one of which I finally ate. I was watching the rain move into Helena, really cold, without camping or rain gear (it was all with my bike, in Kalispell). After only 20 or so luckless minutes, a car’s driver pulling out BEHIND me (further up the road, where they could only see my back, not me and my sign), yells, “We’re going to Kalispell?” I turned around, met Hanna and Andreas, a recent law school grad, and jumped in the back. Actually, I just gave them a thumbs-up and jumped in the back before I said anything. They were super mellow, so I calmed my nerves and shut up. All they asked for was a good story. Before I got out of their car in Kalispell, I gave them just that: a tale of a crevasse fall, alone, near the summit pyramid of Nevado Ishinca, a 18,000+ mountain in Peru.
Hanna and Andreas dropped me off right in front of Wheaton’s bike shop in Kalispell.
The shop was closed. It was 5pm, I had nothing but a peanut butter and jelly and Chacos and a closed shop. Luckily, Pat, the shop manager, lives upstairs and willingly came down to open up for me. We gathered my gear, and I assembled all of my new stuff–panniers, rain gear, lights, a new seat, etc. Pat was very helpful and I thanked him for keeping track of what was to be my livelihood for the next 3 months. Well, I didn’t know how long it would take to bike home to Chesterland, Ohio, but I had a little under 3 months until I had to be home for Thanksgiving. At 5:19pm I started to ride. I was thousands of miles from home, sitting on a new and mysterious bike, in an unknown town, with ZERO information about where I was going. Within 5 minutes, a relentless storm was pelting raindrops on my pasty white, out-of-shape legs. It was raining SO hard. “WHAT am I getting myself into?” I thought. I rifled through my unorganized and shiny new panniers (“saddle-bags”) searching for the newly-purchased raingear. My bike fell over as I leaned it against a pole, unfamiliar with what was soon to be the biggest issue of the tour: a loaded bike without a kickstand.
I rode and rode, eventually finding myself in the dark, in the rain, in the middle of nowhere, in a state of confused happiness.
With front and rear lights flashing, I pulled onto a random dirt US Forest Service road, set up my tent, ate Carla’s last peanut butter and jelly, and crawled in for my first night on the road.
As I wrote in my journal that evening: “Riding my bike had a pretty WTF feeling. Like ‘what am I getting myself into?’ Camping alone, in backcountry bear country, somewhere I don’t know if it’s legal….that’s actually scary for me.”