Today: 73.52 miles Total: 470.5 miles 9.13.10
It’s 8:19pm and I’m almost convinced there is a bike god. Let me quickly summarize my day so I can get to the goods.
I wasn’t as cold last night. I was up and out at 7:18am. I did a good impression of a warm-up jog across the park to the bathroom. In reality, I was seconds away from peeing my PJs. I didn’t eat breakfast before I left. At the grocery store I bought peanut butter and I couldn’t pass up a fresh, frosted cinnamon roll. Banana and PB rounded out the $1 breakfast.
2 hours in, I hadn’t covered much distance. Some hills and a headwind as I climbed out of Malta were the reasons. At least that’s what I told myself. Miles finally started disappearing, a feeling I hope becomes the norm. After 40 miles I stopped for lunch: the 3 leftover burritos from last night. I ate literally on the side of the road, in the shoulder.
Around 3pm I met Willy. I was just starting to become super emo, and was thinking about ending my trip for the first time, when I saw a biker coming my way in the distance. I had been thinking how this wasn’t a good use of my time. That, for some people, this kind of ride is good, and good for them. But for me, maybe it isn’t right. Mainly becaue I need to always be doing something–and while this is something, maybe I’ve realized that I need to be doing something productive, something meaningful.
I was thinking how useless this trip can be perceived. But out from behind a semi emerges a cyclist, Willy. About 100 feet away, he crossed the road into my shoulder and said “hey” before he was even across. We cover the basics: of routes, of cycling, of weather, and of one another. He’s 20-something with long blond nappy hair and a sturdy build. He’s wearing a standard grey tank top, no helmet, and using an old 10-speed with a much different style setup than I. He left NY 2 months ago on his way to Portland, where he’ll find a job. He told me to get off of 2 in North Dakota and take 200, which is further north. He’d been on the rode for 2500 miles and I was the first bike tourer he’d met. I told Willy he’s about to enter the COLD region. He told me “well, I’ve got a couple of hoodies,” as he pointed to his non-waterproof panniers and a cheap sleeping bag, rolled up, exposed, and strapped on top of his bags. He’s going to get cold.
This encounter was reenergizing. With its perfect timing, it excited me about the journey I was on. I had met Willy in the middle of NOWHERE, 40 miles from the nearest running water or shelter of any sort.
I arrived in Glasgow some hours later. It’s a small town. The population has plummeted from 22k to 3k over the 45 years that my new friends, Norma and Ron, have lived here.
Ron owns a the small bike shop that I passed on my first lap through town. I saw a house beside the road with a little “bike shop” sign on the sidewalk and a kids bike mounted over the front window. Having not seen a bike shop since Wheaton’s in Kalispell, 470 miles earlier, this was a relief. It reminded me of the Salt Lake Bike Collective inside–a bunch of tools and lots of old bikes being refurbished.
“Heeeelllllooo?” I repeated over and over, with no response in the unlit, dusty building. “Hellloooo.” Nearing the back of the shop, I see a gentleman, Ron, walking toward the back door.
Ron owns the shop. He wears jeans, a lovely matching denim shirt, suspenders, and a railroad hat. He slowly but carefully, finger by finger, removes the glove from his right hand before he reaches for mine. He has been in the business for 25 years. This building is new to him and he is working hard to renovate it, he explains, as he downclimbs steep cellar stairs to measure storm windows.
“Hey, how wide is a 2×6? An inch and a half?” I can see he’s a nimble 75-year-old as he explains the big plans he has for renovation of the building.
“So, where do most of the bike tourers that come through town camp?” I ask, unassumingly.
“Well, most of them stay with me,” he replied, 2 minutes after shaking my hand for the first time, without hesitation. And, like that, he started a friendship and the process of getting my bike and me back to his house.
I held his ladder for him as he trimmed branches over the sidewalk, and then watched him move it so I could hold it as he trimmed his neighbor’s–a new candy apple shop in a building that he also used to own.
I followed his truck as he drove the 1.5 miles home. Every hundred yards, he pulled over and patiently waited for me.
“Anymore, it’s just Norma and I in this big old house,” he explained as he opened his garage to reveal a virtual bike museum. He helped me move my bike into the garage, although their 2 cars remained parked on the street.
Ron invited me right into his house, showed me the bedroom which I could sleep in, and asked me if I wanted a hot shower before or after we ate. This single sentence comprised so many selfless gestures that I could barely contain myself as he handed me a clean, folded towel.
I met Norma in the car as we drove to Pizza Hut for dinner. Ron ordered each of us a single trip to the salad bar. Almost laughing at the prospect of that filling me up, I ordered a large cheese pizza. They ate 1 piece each. I ate a large cheese pizza. Ron, without hesitation, treated.
For the rest of the night, I listened to great stories. Photos of the grandchildren appeared from wallets before I could finish half a large pizza–a feat typically concluding in roughly 8 seconds. Ron and Norma are healthy, energetic people, and after dinner they gave me a wonderful driving tour of Glasgow. They told me about their 8 kids, 17 grandkids, and 8 great-grandkids.
It’s incredible that such inviting, warm, and welcoming people live everywhere. They have treated me like the family that they are so proud of.
Ron knows all about bikes and State Farm Insurance. Norma can rattle off a mean story and finish Ron’s every sentence. And they secretly hold hands as Ron drives.
I’m disgustingly full.