On Monday, I left my Dad’s house at 1pm Pacific Standard Time. I took my time in the morning working out, showering, playing with the many kittens they have, walking the garden with my little sister, and taking some quick photos. It took me almost two hours to get to Pullman, Washington, where I had originally planned to meet my friend Morgan for lunch, but obviously I was running late. On the way there, I had stopped to get gas, postcard stamps, and deposit some money into the bank. I also had some trouble along the way with my spare gas can leaking on its own, no matter how much I tightened the cap, so I had to figure out a better solution to the way it was packed.
It took me almost two hours to get to Pullman, Washington, where I had originally planned to meet my friend Morgan for lunch, but obviously I was running late. On the way there, I had stopped to get gas, postcard stamps, and deposit some money into the bank. I also had some trouble along the way with my spare gas can leaking on its own, no matter how much I tightened the cap, so I had to figure out a better solution to the way it was packed.
Once I got to Pullman, I met Morgan at Jimmy Johns, right in the middle of the Washington State University campus and Greek Row. He was kind enough to send me off with some funds for the trip and a Saint Christopher Medallion – the patron saint of travelers. I had also attempted to see my grandparents at their studio, but they weren’t in.
From Pullman, I traveled North on highway 27 through towns I had grown up near and traveled to for either my soccer games or my sister’s basketball games. I passed through Palouse, Garfield, Oakesdale, and Tekoa. I had to stop and get gas in Garfield, and I wish I would’ve taken a picture of the gas pump to show you how archaic it was, but I forgot. It was so hot, I was sweating bullets and my camelback, which I had filled in the morning, was over half empty; my brain was like a scrambled egg. This is probably why I accidently took 27 all the way up to Tekoa, before realizing I should have gone to highway 95 from Palouse. When I was in Tekoa, I came to a t intersection with one sign pointing left for Westbound highway 27, and one sign pointing right for Northbound highway 60. I was very confused and my GPS was not working in the middle of nowhere, so I pulled to the shoulder, put my hazards on, dropped my kickstand, and began to pull out my map. In an instant, I felt my bike rocking to the right. I hadn’t realized it, but my front tire was partly on asphalt, partly on gravel, and the gravel only went about two feet before it sloped off at least 10 feet down to a field of weeds. I did what I could to not let my bike fall over, but the gravelly shoulder gave way under my foot. Before I knew it, my bike was resting on my enormous saddle bag, I was muttering a flurry of swearwords and sarcastic remarks like, “well that’s awesome,” and the occasional passenger vehicle would drive by and stare. I took a couple minutes to regain composure and realize that my ridiculous gas can was leaking, again, this time straight into my bag. At this point I kept thinking I must’ve put my Saint Christopher medallion on wrong, or something. When I was back to nearly composed, I attempted to lift my bike up. Nope, nothing. The heat was too much, I was still sweating like Lebron in a playoff game, and the soft shoulder made it incredibly awkward. A car that had passed by only a couple minutes before with a mother and her two daughters had come back by for the second time, and I was thoroughly embarrassed. I noticed them drive about 200 feet and turn around, likely to see if they could help. All I could think about was how I did not want these three to get hurt helping me, so I better life this sucker up now. I bent my knees, remembered the lines in my Soldier’s Creed: “I will never accept defeat. I will never quit.” And dug deep. To my surprise, I lifted the beast, what I estimate to be about 450lbs with all my gear, and settled it back onto the pavement. At this point, a UPS driver had pulled up and was getting out of his delivery truck to see if I needed help and the woman and her two girls were pulling up to make sure I wasn’t broken down. Still shaken, I expressed my thanks for their concern, and they were on their way.
After all that, I checked the map, figured out where to go, and got the heck out of Dodge…. Er Tekoa… stupid town. I was, and still am, taken aback by the selflessness of some people, and how they will go out of their way to help even the most random of strangers. Though they didn’t end up physically helping me, those people definitely encouraged me to dig deep, and I’ll probably never forget that moment, the epitome of being an awkward turtle. Trust me, it was awkward.
By the time I got going again, it was 5:30PST, and it was still hot out. I took my arms out of the sleeves of my jacket, but kept the jacket wrapped around my waist. My GPS was still of no help, but I figured once I got onto 95, I would begin to see signs for I90 East, and from there I’d get to Missoula. On the Eastern horizon, above the rolling wheat fields, I could see an ominous looking thunder cloud, right in the direction I needed to be, I stared at this beast until I reached Highway 95.
95 took me up the east side of Coeur d’Alene Lake, which was when I realized I was definitely in Idaho, but had somehow missed the sign letting me know after Tekoa. The lake was beautiful, nestled in the rolling mountains with the sun beginning to set. Somehow, the smell of the Idaho forest was different than the smell of Oregon forests that I’m used to; it was still refreshing, though. Without stopping, I found interstate 90 and crossed the entire panhandle of Idaho. I came to the crest of the Bitterroot Mountain Range sometime around 7pm PST, when I passed under the sign saying “Welcome to Montana (Time Zone Change to Mountain Standard Time). What a relief that was! I was finally out of familiar territory and onto the great unknown: Montana! The speed limit increased from 70mph to 75mph, which to me seems crazy because the mountain roads started to get curvier. My butt began to feel real sore, my knees were starting to ache, and I was getting hungry again, but signs said Missoula was still 180 miles away. My gas tank was still reasonably full, so I pulled myself together and told myself I was not going to stop unless absolutely necessary. It was bad enough that I was running so late – I had planned to be in Missoula by 5pm – but I was still staring at the thunderhead in the distance, hoping that I wouldn’t run into rain while my jacket was still off. The air was still warm, for the most part. In the mountain range I would occasionally ride through chilly patches of air, then by instantly greeted again with a plume of warm air. Little things like this keep the ride interesting.
I rode until I saw the first sign that told me Missoula was less than 100 miles to go. Somewhere just west of St. Regis, Montana, off of interstate 90, I stopped to get gas, go pee, eat a quick snack, stretch, put my jacket on, and call my evening’s host to warn him I was running extremely late. I completed all of that, except my cell phone still had no service – thanks AT&T, you suck. The gas station’s pay phone was out of order, and the guy behind the counter was apprehensive about me using the store’s phone. Fortunately, I had struck up a conversation with an Iowa native (as his license plates confirmed) while pumping gas, who overheard that I was in need of a phone. Turns out he is a motorcycle enthusiast himself, though the Hyundai Sonata said otherwise, on his way to move out to Whidby Island, Washington. The thirty-something, ex-Navy, generous bystander let me borrow his cell phone, which had full coverage thanks to Verizon, to call my host. My host was fine with me showing up sometime after 10pm MST, and I was humbled again by the random acts of kindness by strangers. I like to sum it up to the fact that I have saved up a decent amount of good Karma and that God knows I really need all the help I can get on this trip. That, or I have one of those desperate looking faces that anyone would love to help… I’m hoping it’s not the latter.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, thank God. I discovered that, like Oregon, Montana has no sales tax; people don’t really go as fast as they want when driving – there are posted speed limits, usually 75mph, and highway patrol; and there are speed limits for day time driving, and reduced limits for night time driving. This last one weirded me out when I saw two speed limit sign poles, each with two speed signs on them, within twenty feet of each other. From far away, I thought the department of transportation in Montana must just be quirky, but one sign was day and night speed for regular traffic and the second was day and night speed for trucks; 75/65 and 65/55, respectively.
660 miles from Beaverton, Oregon, I finally arrived at my destination just after 10pm MST last night. I sent texts to all my loved ones letting them know I had survived, and fell asleep. I ended up sharing my room with a handsome chocolate lab that must be about 4 years old and passes gas like crazy. He was welcome company to have, as I don’t particularly like strange places, especially in a place I’ve never been.
The place I’m staying at is very close to Missoula and much like a hostel, so it is quite welcoming. I will stay here another night, as I’m supposed to see Rebelution and Matisyahu at some point this evening.
Now, to get the gas smell out of my saddlebags and tennis shoes…