Logbook

    7.18.2009

    Long Roads

    Yes.
    Here we are.
    The road ended, literally.
    The sun set, then rose a little while later.
    Music, quiet, water, and trees.
    Staying the same place for more than 24 hours--strange?

    I really wanted to make another post sometime before we reached our final destination... or, for all practical purposes, our ALMOST final destination. Amidst the mountains and the bike repairs and the final push, that obviously didn't happen.

    I wanted to try to describe more fully all the wild and caring characters we met throughout the eastern half of North Dakota, the vast expanse of Montana, the Idaho panhandle, and, finally, Washington. I wanted to try to describe all of the scenery and landscape and environment we experienced, the varieties of trees and mountains and dirt, each conglomeration slightly different than the last. And, mostly, I wanted to try to hint at the connection between people and landscape that seemed so obvious while pedaling longitudinally, one mile at a time. There were the Spirit Lake, Fort Peck, and Blackfeet nations, the sudden change from dry plain to lush mountain valley, or the subtler changes that occur when you cross a seemingly arbitrary state border. There were the watershed moments, when the water literally flowed out from under our feet in opposite directions, toward the Pacific Ocean and the Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, all at the same time. Slugs littered the roadside west of the Northern Cascades. Tourists littered the roadsides (figuratively and literally) outside of Glacier National Park on America's Independence Day. Radically different forms of living dotted the highways and backroads we followed, even though what we mostly saw were the nests of one species, human beings (and only a rather homogenuous, unbelievably monochrome sample of that population!).

    After approximately 7 weeks on the road, or nearby it, I have a much bigger picture of this land in which I and many other folks are attempting to dwell. We didn't get to cross any national walls into Canada, as we decided not to bring our passports, and there's an almost overwhelming mass of country that remains in this country, beyond just our narrow "Northern Tier" strip along Highway 2, Highway 20, and the Empire Builder railroad--let alone the rest of this continent, and the rest of this planet (we met one guy who is planning to cover most of this world on his bicycle over the course of the next 5 to 6 years). But since graduting from college back in May, I feel even more fully educated (and rested and resolved and piqued and restless) after being briefly immersed a little more fully in this land and its people. It was splendid, reassuring, and appalling, sometimes simultaneously. I felt more sure of my self, my body, and my identity than ever before, while at the same time I felt myself dissolving into the places, the histories, and the dreams of all that we passed over on our two spinning, threadbare tires. Needless to say, I still have a lot to process.

    *

    The sun sets for a long time here in Anacortes. It passes slowly behind the mountainous islands across Guemes Channel, and the whole sky is a wash of pink, blue, orange, green, and grey for hours, until nearly 11:00pm or so. We're staying with a bunch of other campers here for the music festival, scattered throughout the large and winding yard of some new friends. They are renting a sort of luxurious beach house built in 1970, with wood paneling and funky tile and some groovy porches looking out over all of downtown Anacortes to Cap Sante Overlook, and then across Fidalgo Bay to the snow-capped Mount Baker and, somewhere off in the distance, the Canadian border. With all the festival attendees gathered in the living room, snacking, exchanging stories, and what not, we feel a bit like the Brady Bunch on spring break. Other than that, we've been trying to see some of the scenic parts of town and nature without spending money. And, we've been trying to relax and read books and take care of practical things (laundry, etc.) without spending money. And, we're trying to find food without spending money. It's been fun. Last night, we saw 5 bands play in an old port warehouse right along the water. You could see the water rising and falling and sloshing through the gaps in the floorboards underneath our feet. Mirah played some beautiful songs, and then Phil Elverum led some friends througha boisterous and profound set of Mount Eerie songs (mostly new ones that I'd never heard before). This guy has an interesting relationship to his community and surroundings here in Anacortes, whether it be the birds or the rocks or the water or his friends. I've been thinking a lot lately about how his insights fit into what I want to write about in the future.

    We've got the festival left today and tomorrow, and then, assuming we won't be able to hitch a ride down to Seattle (not everyone has pick-up trucks here, like they do in North Dakota!), we've decided to bicycle 55 miles down Whidbey Island (which means we get to see some scenic destinations, such as Deception Pass) and then take the ferry across to somewhere near Seattle, where Nate's friend will pick us up in her vehicle. Then, it will be on to Oregon and some dear people there. I'm excited to continue this wonderful time of quiet and excitement now that we're done bicycling... as long as the money keeps stretching or I find some way to earn a little cash.

    I hope to use this digital space for some further contemplation in weeks and destinations ahead, now that we've quit our full-time job of bicycling and I'm, according to the money-lenders of this world, OFFICIALLY UNEMPLOYED.