Saturday, August 14, 2010

Good to meet ya' Archie

"Life is a bundle of great little things."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

There is nothing more pleasant than waking to the sound of a rushing river. This was the case in Oxbow, Oregon as the sun burned off the morning dew and brought to life the smell of sap and pine. A fleece lined jacket took care of the morning chill while a steaming cup of coffee made everything just right.

On the road by 6:30 a.m, we hugged the shoulder as we passed through sun drenched valleys and mountain tops speckled with late season snow. As logging trucks passed with their first load of the day, I was in awe of their cargo; the size, the smell, the years it must have taken the trees to mature. It was a shame to see them hauled away.

With 45 miles on the odometer our pace slowed as we rolled into a diner. A gentleman approached the table. Around 5'6'', he was stooped, with a white beard, and eyes that were soft and kind. He stood with his arms behind his back, made reference to our cycling gear and asked if we were on a trip. I mentioned we were riding for cancer awareness, I was a survivor, and we're riding coast to coast. He listened, nodded, turned, and simply walked away. Slightly baffled, we shrugged and waited for the waitress to appear. She was glad to see we had met Archie. No, he was not the owner. No, he didn't wait tables. In fact, he didn't even work there at all. She said he appeared occassionally, spoke to customers, walked through the kitchen talking to the staff, and cleaned a table every now and then. He was retired and everyone just loved to have him around.

A few minutes later, Archie reappeared. He started speaking of his red Ford Festiva and how it got 48 miles per gallon. He was terribly proud of his daughter as she recently graduated from college. He lives next door to the diner and loves Idaho with all his heart. He is a poet, and this is what he wrote.

The Idaho Invitation
by Archie
Come share it with me
Touch the softness of morning
See the dawn on the meadow
Feel the warmth of the sun
Hear the cry of the Osprey
Hear the trumpeting chorus
Of the Elk in the valley
Know your day has begun
Try rafting the rivers
Glide and sore with the Eagles
Hear the backcountry calling
Make the summit your goal
Feel the skis in the powder
Sing the song of the mountain
Feel the Idaho heartbeat
Creeping into your soul
Come on,
Come and share it with me
Oh! One more thing.
Air so pure you won't want to exhale
With that, Archie paid for our coffee, shook our hands, got in his red Ford Festiva, and lead the group safely through his town.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Slow Down

"Slow down and enjoy life. It is not only the scenery you miss by going too fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why."

-Eddie Cantor


I hope all is well in your part of the world. I'm writing from the porch of a hostel in a little town called Mitchell. It's about 80 miles outside of McKenzie Pass. The porch is really cool. The roof extends well beyond the door offering cover from sun and rain. There's a beat up pair of cowboy boots by the door next to a sign that says "Please remove spurrs before walking on wood floors." I don't know what the population is, but I haven't seen more than 10 people since I arrived. Every now and then you see a muddy truck with a dog in the back. The owner hops out and heads in to the burger/bar for a shot of Jack Black, a burger, or to sign up for Friday's amateur boxing night. Anyway, they serve up a burger the size of your face ... well, not yours sweetie ... let's just say the burger was huge! The fries are so big they flex when you pick them up. The guy that served it bought the place about 5 years ago. He didn't seem like the owner of a burger joint to me. He had a thick grey beard that hung to his chest with yellow nicotine stains on his face and fingers. He told me he and his wife moved out there because he had a job on a ranch. The job fell through so they bought the burger place and stayed. It's kind if funny all the twists and turns a person's life will take.

I hope you enjoy the photos! As soon as I get cell phone service I'll give you a call. Talk to you soon.



Monday, August 9, 2010

Fear of Success-McKenzie Pass

“Hiding a talent is not exclusive to any one particular group of people, young, old, black, white, Latin. It doesn't matter. It's universal. The idea that you have a gift or talent is always kind of threatening. Most of us are afraid of our success, that we will actually be great.”

- Laurence Fishburne

As I write, I feel incredibly content. It is a contentment derived from the realization that a personal victory has been achieved. I awoke this morning at the foot of Mckenzie Pass. It is one of the first "real" climbs of the trip. Up to this point, I had convinced myself that if I stared long enough at a topography map the route would suddenly be ridden with ease. This, of course, would not be the case.

McKenzie Pass was closed and we were forced to take the lower route, Sustaine Alternate, which involved 34 miles of consistent climbing with 4800 feet of elevation gain. The remaining 60 miles involved rolling terrain.

The next morning, the skys were heavy and overcast. While eating breakfast and filling water bottles for the day, I faced potential failure and physical pain. Later, while riding, any gradient change marked the beginning of my doom. I was quietly, but assuredly, marking myself for failure!

In, Relections on the Art of Living, Joseph Campbell wrote to the effect that anything you do has a still point, or, what I take to mean a time in which things are neither good nor bad, they simply are. When you're at that point, according to Campbell, you can perform maximally. Basically, I was riding out of fear rather than in the moment. I had yet to realize that "still point." But as happens so often on the bike, the observance of one's surrounding takes over and anything beyond your immediate world is no longer part of the moment. A still point often arrives.

I remember the initial challenge of the climb, but somehow the moment seemed to ease its way into the ride. A slow grind up the pass turned into one of awe as moisture-thick trees parted to make way for the deep rumble of waterfalls.

Peaches and trail mix fueled my body as I swept through turn after turn, and climb after climb. Trees and foilage, still dripping with moisture at noon, became barren and dry from elevation later that day.

Mt. Washington appeared in all her stillness as I crested the pass. While observing, I took note of the moment and declared it one of success.

Every so often there are days when you live deeply. This, I am happy to say, will be one to remember.

Friday, August 6, 2010


"An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often precursors of the things which we are capable of performing."

-Samual Smiles

While walking with controlled anticipation down the hall of the Salem, Oregon hotel, I leaned my pannier-loaded bike against the wall. I was a continental breakfast away from riding into day one. I soon found myself staring at a plate of waffles, eggs, and peaches and questioning my desire to put food in a stomach clenched tight with emotions. "Mornin'," a stranger said. "Where you headed"? I side-skirted the issue by saying, "Not far." "Lot of stuff on that bike to go not far?" he responded. There is a time, I suppose, when anticipation becomes reality. I mustered up all the confidence I had and stated, "I'm riding my bicycle across the United States." With that one admission to a stranger, I walked away from a world of anticipation and stepped into my new reality.

The air in Pacific City, Oregon (the starting point), was moist with recent morning fog. The town surrendered, it seemed, to Pacific ocean spray. Eastward mountains revealed lush greenery from time spent canopied with clouds laden with rain. Surrounding beauty, however, offered little comfort as I looked into the mountains and wondered if I would make it through the first day. Not allowing too much time to think, I swept the Pacific sand off my feet, put on my riding shoes, clipped in, and rolled away to the gentle hum of the tires. 78 miles of first-day struggle would ensue leaving uncertainty about my body's ability to cope. It seemed as though my Texas legs struggled up mountain passes both long and short. My heart rate stayed high as I grinded my way along roads of uncertainty.
For reasons unkown, I awoke the next morning and hopped out of bed with a zeal that surprised even me. My legs felt so fresh, so ready to ride, I couldn't help but look forward to the day. With new spirits I headed to the blinking truck stop dinner sign, ordered coffee, and found myself observing and listening to those around me. What I saw and heard, as simple as it seemed, changed my perspective and my mentality forever. The waitress took my order; her face was pleasant, yet lined from years of smoke and struggle. She kept holding the side of her face. When asked, she said she had a toothache. Her boss would let her take time off, but she wanted to work. To my right a truck driver with overalls and buttons that strained against his weight. The side of his head was shaved revealing a recent scar. He left a tip, grabbed his keys, hopped in his truck and went to work. Just like that, nothing said, no complaining; the guy went to work. The flag out front was half staff. The community, it seemed, had soldiers in Iraq. I'm beginning to see an America that does have standards, an America with people that ask for nothing and work for everything. An America that wakes daily, stands on its own feet, and strives, despite adversity, for a good life. I left that little diner in Coburg standing a little taller and understanding that my country is a great place to be. It will be an honor to see more.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Celebration of Life

"The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach".


In late September 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery, chemo, and radiation introduced me to a darkness I have never felt. June 4th, 2010 marked the beginning of a 57 day self-supported, 4200 mile, bicycle journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Each pedal stroke introduced me to fear and self-doubt, as well as heartfelt elation and joy. The ride was a privilege, a gift; in fact, it was a celebration of life. It showed me that I am a survivor and that maybe, just maybe, I can reach for greater heights.

My hope is that I can convey my journey in such a way as to do it justice. In an effort to collect memories, I took pictures daily and journaled nightly. Combining the two created what I hope to be assorted reflections and lessons of a special time in my life. Rather than giving a day-by-day account of the trip, I reviewed pictures and journal entries in three day increments. The significant events are what I'd like to share. I include few details such as speed and distance as they have little relevance other than meeting the August 1st return date. The following is the retelling of my story.