Worlds Between Slacklines, Border Lines, and Emotional Lines.

Written by Patrick on . Posted in Blog

The most important part about bicycle touring is always being content with “not ideal” situations, limited access to basic daily needs, and swimming in sometimes socially uncomfortable situations. We all have our biases towards our fellow human being from time to time and these compulsions are perhaps just conditioned and not a reflection of our true nature. Compassion is key. You never know who will appear out of the darkness to save you. Harness these thoughts and judgments into positivity. This takes more than simply thinking you are okay with “ghetto” towns, “redneck” cities, and “slightly stupid” individuals, but living in observation of it all without analysis. The outside world has much to offer and one who holds fear, judgment, or resistance only blocks the possibility of experiencing life for what it truly is. Most of us who live in the rarified atmosphere of “modern” don’t live in tents nor travel the world at 10 MPH; but for the few who cycle and live the touring lifestyle, I am sure you can equate your experiences similarly to what I have described above. One thing to take away from living an intentional life is no matter what you look at, who you look at, or where you look, you are always looking directly into yourself. Your world is your creation and how you judge it, is how it judges you.

Melissa and I have been off the radar in regards to the website for some time. Balancing an average of 50 miles per day, fostering new relationships, maintaining a professional work life as a web developer, waking up to rain, biking in downpours, and ultimately going to sleep sticky from humidity does take its toll. I have learned a few things working on the open road, mainly that my “office conditions” are never the same, that it takes innovative thinking to meet deadlines when service is just out of reach, and that conducting conference calls while 18 wheelers blast by, constantly having to mute and un-mute the phone to make it appear to everyone on the line that I am, in fact, not actually biking in the middle of nowhere with my ear buds in, takes innovation. But through and through I have successfully met every deadline and have gone above and beyond even the expectations I had for myself.  I would not be able to conduct my work life in this way without my power source from the sun and Brunton’s Impel2 combined with the 26w solar panel which can be found relatively cheap on Amazon.com. Sure these items add weight, but living as a high-tech minimalist allows me to utilize the technology of today in a manner which takes me to the far ends of the earth without sacrificing my growing professional life. The weight is worth it. The image below is a clear, raw, depiction of the ever changing work environment I find myself in (click to enlarge). Sometimes I find myself biking down the road with my iPhone out waiting for an open wireless connection and with a little luck the universe always delivers.

Since our last post Melissa and I traveled up to the Canadian boarder, down through the small logging town of Libby, where we stayed at an Australian motel, then into Coeur d’Alene where we learned to slackline with Ethan and Steven. From there we biked across the open expanse of eastern Washington, which resembled Kansas to a large degree, landing ourselves in Leavenworth where we met Dan O’Connor [www.seebicycles.com]. The story of Dan is where this post will end because it’s a story worth detailing.

Let’s see, where did we leave off…? Glacier! Leaving Glacier National Park was bitter sweet. One cannot imagine such beauty unless you see it with your own eyes. Perhaps you imagine a huge landscape covered with glacial peaks or maybe you have studied Glacier National Park and know it’s roughly 1,000,000 acres (4,000 km2) that includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. Even with all your imagination and knowledge you would never really know Glacier National Park until experiencing it. To make an analogy which I recently read in the Power of Now:

A word is no more than a means to an end. It’s an abstraction. Not unlike a signpost, it points beyond itself. The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about honey for as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until you taste it. After you have tasted it, the word becomes less important to you. You won’t be attached to it anymore. —Eckhart Tolle

Similarly to honey, Glacier National Park is to be experienced, felt, tasted. This magical landscape has left the biggest impression on the both of us. But with every experience a new one awaits around the corner and the coast was calling. We backtracked towards Whitefish, Montana which was not a problem for us since we felt at home in Whitefish. This small Park City-esque town, with its beautiful backdrop of ski sloped mountains, Whitefish Lake, and community events around every corner, is a place I can see myself living. Whitefish directed us north 60 miles to the Canadian border then back down towards the small logging town of Libby, Montana.

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world: everyone you meet is your mirror.” —Ken Keyes Jr

I will say this once for all you real estate and investor junkies out there, if the logging in Libby Montana slows to a grind, go up there and buy land while it’s cheap. This town is one of the most beautiful places we stumbled upon. Currently it’s not the most ideal place for a “progressive” community, but the potential is there. Libby has an enchantment that would be hard to rival. As described in Malcom Gladwell’s, Outliers, this town reflects what Bozeman, Montana was in the 60′s; rough, trashy, and hickville central only to grow into a family-oriented, community-based oasis. Libby, I’m sure, will follow suit.

As you can imagine, cycling with someone day in and day out can be a challenge. Melissa and I are not impervious to arguments, miscommunication, frustration, and in some cases complete breakdowns. Perhaps it was the time of day, weather, full moon, what have you…we were on track to have a major blow up, jeopardizing the entire tour as we veered south towards Coeur d’Alene. Relationships can be an interesting ride, no pun intended, and looking back I can see more clearly what circumstances created these downfalls—mainly the lack of communication with myself. It’s a funny thing to view the past from a different light, out-of-the-box, bird’s eye view. Since then we have been very keen to develop our communication skills so that they are non-violent, compassionate, and in the consideration of each other’s feelings. Hitting these lows encouraged me to work on buried emotions which in the past have been the catalyst for argumentative confrontations with myself and others. Breathe deep, connect to your energy source, and you will find these “would be” confrontations turn into conversations of compassion.

I would like us to create peace at three levels and have each of us to know how to do it. First, within ourselves. That is to know how we can be peaceful with ourselves when we’re less than perfect, for example. How we can learn from our limitations without blaming and punishing our self. If we can’t do that, I’m not too optimistic how we’re going to relate peacefully out in the world. Second, between people. Nonviolent Communication training shows people how to create peace within themselves and at the same time how to create connections with other people that allows compassionate giving to take place naturally. And third, in our social systems. To look out at the structures that we’ve created, the governmental structures and other structures, and to look at whether they support peaceful connections between us and if not, to transform those structures. —Marshall Rosenberg

With that said, it’s obvious to those of you who follow us on Facebook that we did not kill each other and successfully made it to Coeur d’Alene. This would be the largest town yet on the tour. The central park of Coeur d’Alene outlined Coeur d’Alene Lake to the south which was constantly filled with speed boats, a single prop propeller plane, a pirate ship which would sound off with a cannon blast every departure, and a large kite sail which dragged lazily behind a boat dangling an iddy-bitty person from a series of cables. Melissa and I spent a few days here after running into Steven and Ethan who were slacklining between two large trees in the park. Want a work out? Buy a slackline. You will find muscles you never knew you had. 

Roughly two miles out of town was a deserted parking lot we came to call home. The bike path that would eventually take us the entire way to Spokane was the same path to this home. We would return to this spot nightly and set up our home which is depicted in the header image for this post. From our view point, we could see the entire town just beyond the river. There were many instances of police patrolling the open dirt field below us, but as luck would have it we were never bothered. On our last night in Coeur d’Alene Melissa and I ran into a very special human being. There are moments in life when everything turns into a Déjà vu and the world grows so quiet and time stands still. This feeling came for us when we ran into David who was offering Argentinian Tango lessons for the community. There may as well have been beams of light radiating from this gentleman. He was pure, wholesome energy that never had a beginning nor an end…just love. It was as if we had subconsciously anticipated meeting David. Some parapsychologists have advocated Déjà vu as a basis of reincarnation, saying that déjà vu experiences occur as people are living their lives not for the first time but at least the second. Perhaps Melissa and I had been close friends with David in a past life because we left the park that night with our souls renewed. If a song could put this into perspective it would sound like this: (keep reading while the music plays)

For the first time on the bike tour we had a dedicated bike path for nearly 40 miles. As stated above, this path directed us into central Spokane. We thought Coeur d’Alene was big…Spokane was another ball park. Spending time in a large city after pristine experiences with wildlife has a way of bringing out feelings of disgust in me and urges my soul to get back to simplicity and open space. To put that in better terms, “I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson. We did not spend too much time in Spokane for this very reason. Plus it seemed to be a crossing ground for transient hoofers making their way out to the coast. Hoofers, for those of you who are confused with the term, are people who travel by walking everywhere usually accompanied by a dog. They usually cannot be trusted, at least that is my experience. After Spokane we may have well flown to Kansas and biked the entire state east to west because eastern Washington proved to be no difference in landscape. Endless miles of farm land lined the highway all the way to the base of the Cascades. Hot, dry, windy, and empty.

The harvest season had just ended leaving the wheat fields alienated with tractor lines crisscrossing into sharp, dense, stubs of wheat anchored to the dirt, poking up towards the skies. [SEE IMAGE] This kind of landscape does not mesh well with tent material. Like knives to paper, the stubs of wheat had the potential to tear the bottom of our tent floor to pieces. To adapt to this problem…machete! Melissa was very hesitant to leave on tour with a gigantic blade, but as moments arose where we needed to clear cut sections for our tent I believe her feelings softened towards the machete. It was nice to be back in open country with only the gear on our bikes and music in our ears. Now, just because the farm land lasted for days, all was not as redundant as I am making it out to be. If you take a look at an aerial map of eastern Washington you will notice a huge wash-out formed by an epic flood which occurred in the ice age. From what we have been told there was a massive ice dam which broke free and spilled megatons of water across the western United States ultimately flowing out to the Pacific Ocean. Why is this relevant to the bike tour? Imagine seeing continuous farm landscape for days on end then suddenly travel five miles down a massive hill into a foreign land resembling the high desert of central Utah. Even more strange is how fast you cycle out of this new alien world only to find yourself back to farm country battling the massive dust devils.
[IMAGE 1] [IMAGE 2] [IMAGE 3]

Eventually these open fields ended leaving us a seven-mile downhill ride towards the town of Wenatchee. The world of the farm lands seemed to drop off the face of the Earth as if it was flat. Once down into the valley, orchards upon orchards filled the scenery from eye to eye. Apples, pears, peaches, and did I mention apples…? This stretch of highway must produce all of the USA’s supply of apples. Here is a question for all of you, do you remember being asked, “If there was only one item you could eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Well if your answer was apples look no further than central Washington.

As Melissa and I approached the town of Wenatchee we debated detouring into the central part of town. We may as well have flipped a coin to make our decision and randomly decided to bike the extra few miles to the small town of Leavenworth. We did not know what to expect in Leavenworth but it became clear as we approached the center of town, this was a place we would forever remember. EVERYTHING was Bavarian themed from the Subway sign to the hand painted buildings. In fact, the city code restricts you from building anything other than structures with a Bavarian theme. [SEE IMAGE] You truly feel like you are in another country. The town’s population is only around 2,000 but sky rockets to nearly 11,000 during October Fest and other events like the lighting of the town to celebrate the Christmas season. This entire town literally converts into The North Pole overnight. This photo was taken a few weeks ago to start the 2012 holiday celebrations. [SEE IMAGE]

I could write an entire post on how much Melissa and I came to adore this town but for the sake of your attention span I will quickly tell you how we came to stay here for nearly two weeks. Whenever Melissa and I arrive in a new town our automatic reaction is to find a whole natural grocer where we can pick up some organic fruits and specialty food we love. Leavenworth has one such store and after browsing around I found a shelf lined with dozens of stickers. Staring back at me was a bumper sticker displaying the words “SEE BICYCLES.” “Damn” I thought, “this is bad ass.” I envisioned attaching this bumper sticker to the lower part of Avenue’s trailer. Perhaps it would provide an extra safety element for cars to see, granting me more space on the highway. I set it down on the checkout counter and the lady working the stand stated the sticker was free, that a local guy kept them supplied. Dope, I thought, not only am I getting a cool sticker, I’m getting a cool sticker for free. 

Back in town I decided to take a look at the website [WWW.SEEBICYCLES.COM] printed near the bottom of the sticker. After looking around on the website I clicked on a link titled “A photo of me…and my two bikes.” What I saw next blew my mind…

Not only was this a bad ass sticker, who ever made it was even more bad ass! After seeing the setup above I was compelled to write the individual responsible for bringing this motorcycle/bicycle combo into reality. In the email I simply stated that I was awe inspired at seeing such a setup and vowed to do something similar later in my life. After writing the email I also noticed he lived in Leavenworth which threw me into another brain whirlwind. “Man,” I thought, “It would be super rad to run into this guy.” At this point he was famous in my eyes. Reason soon set in and I accepted there was no way I would meet such an individual, so Melissa and I went on as normal and enjoyed the town. With dawn approaching, the second night was closing fast so I recommended we go to the local brew pub before biking back to our camp spot. I ordered my usual IPA and sat back when an individual came up to me and said, “Hey, I think you just emailed me.” This is where our lives became forever changed by meeting Dan O’Connor.

I stood there star struck… “Umm, yes, YES I did!” My heart was racing. He noticed the trailer with Avenue lying peacefully in it. Our bicycles leaned up against the porch railing of the brew pub which probably matched our attire so he figured it must be “those bicycle tourists passing through town.” How the hell was this happening to me at this very moment? I was stupid stoked. Melissa meanwhile was off chatting on the phone so was not able to witness my gazed starry eyed expression. I introduced myself to Dan and naturally the conversation quickly shifted to bicycles. Minutes turned into hours. As closing time approached Dan offered us a roof over our head. We gladly agreed and spent our second night in Leavenworth at Dan’s home in an actual bed. Melissa was happy. Life was good. Over the course of the next week we explored the surroundings of Leavenworth and the Cascades. We floated a river with Dan’s family, ate like kings, wine tasted daily, and watched as Avenue made friends with the local dogs. Dan was “the unexpected” event which shaped the bicycle tour. His huge heart, yearning to share his love for nature, and openness to foster a lifelong relationship with us is something that cannot be expressed through words. Bottom line, Dan is family now. I leave you with pictures of our time with Dan since words are hardly adequate to describe the deep connection we made together.

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