Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 78 – Kalispell: Gender is not a disability

Tuesday August 5, 2014, 13 miles (21 km) – Total so far: 3,650 miles (5,875 km)

After I drop off the bike at the shop, I head out to explore downtown Kalispell. The downtown is several blocks long and wide. The brick buildings are mostly one and two-story with functional design. None of it shouts past opulence; this was obviously never a mining town.

Actually, Kalispell started out as a division point on the Great Northern Railway in 1891. One of the Conrad brothers, who had become a wealthy merchant through his businesses in Fort Benton, convinced the owner of the railway to bring the railroad through Conrad’s new area of residence. Conrad and Hill were old pals, and in the way of the wealthy with connections, the railroad came to town after Conrad bought up land and platted a site. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 79 – Kalispell – Upper Thompson Lake: The need for an attitude adjustment

Wednesday August 6, 2014, 48 miles (78 km) – Total so far: 3,699 miles (5,952 km)

The ‘grumbles’ threaten to overwhelm me this morning. My list of woes is inconsequential but extensive, as personal gripes tend to be. I get out on the road around 7.30 am – a late start for me, but I just couldn’t pry myself off the sleeping pad this morning. My breathing was wheezy; it was already warm. It’s been hot and smoky for a while now, and the forecast shows it will likely last another 5-7 days. My motivation was bit low this morning as I thought about riding in more heat and smoke, on shoulderless roads with lots of high-speed traffic, and in pleasant but not outstanding scenery. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 80 – Upper Thompson Lake: The call of the loons

Thursday August 7, 2014, 4 miles (6 km) – Total so far: 3,703 miles (5,959 km)

The early morning sun filters through the pine needles in horizontal shafts. The smoke has settled in the night. Its density scatters the light into a million pieces and gives the open forest a gentle, amber glow. It is like some grand designer has pulled out all the harsh LED lighting and put in old incandescent bulbs. I did not put on the tent fly last night, so I can peer upward through the mesh to the thick air and the cover of pine boughs above.

It is silent. The toads have ceased their midnight chorus. They’ve given up and gone home for the day. If you don’t have a chick by sunrise, you are probably out of luck. The birds are quiet or somewhere else. The stillness flows in through my pores and settles in my bones. This is exactly what my soul needed. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 81 – Upper Thompson Lake – Libby: From (forest fire) ashes to (asbestos) dust

Friday August 8, 2014, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 3,747 miles (6,031 km)

“It’s a death trap. Really. There have been so many fatalities on this road, it’s very sad. But they did a lot of work on it in the 1990s, so it’s better than it used to be,” said the camphost two days ago at Logan State Park where I refilled water bottles. She is referring to the road I’m on – Federal Highway 2 west of Kalispell. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 82 – Libby: The nation’s deadliest Superfund site

Saturday August 9, 2014, 5 miles (8 km) – Total so far: 3,752 miles (6,039 km)

Trappers and traders from British fur companies explored the Libby, Montana area in the early 1800s. Miners began working the area in the 1880s. But it was vermiculite, discovered six miles northeast of town in 1881, that would provide many people in town their livelihoods, and ultimately, take their lives away. Vermiculite is a useful product – it is used in home insulation, fertilizers, construction materials, absorbents and feed additives, among other things. Unfortunately, the vermiculite ore here also naturally contains tremolite asbestos which is incredibly toxic to humans. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 83 – Libby – Bull River CG: Where is the oxygen bar?

Sunday August 10, 2014, 50 miles (81 km) – Total so far: 3,802 miles (6,120 km)

The smoke settled in very thick yesterday afternoon. The temperature reached 93F. If the pines had been eucalypts, you could have fooled me that I was back in summer-time Australia. I spent much of the afternoon lying on the grass in the shade at Fireman’s Park. There was a family reunion being held in the picnic shelter, and I could not help but wonder how many of those present were living with lung disease. Just across the street is a vacant lot with a sign saying to Keep Out because hazardous asbestos material is present. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 84 – Bull River CG: Baking – sweet treats and heat

Monday August 11, 2014

If you felt this crappy on a work day, you’d just call in and take the day off. And that is essentially what I’m doing today. I’m calling in sick to the bike ride. Actually, this is part of my ride one day/rest one day attempt at keeping my asthma under control. But I don’t know if it is working. My lungs have lost their raspiness which is not a good sign. When they are raspy, it at least means some of the airways are open and the mucous moves. Now my lungs are so tight, there is no rasp left. It is just tight wheezing and short breaths. I feel as if the lower 2/3 of lungs are useless. I cannot get a deep breath. If I try, I cough a feeble, useless cough that hurts enough sometimes for me to wince in pain. The pleurisy-type pains in my lungs are nearly constant. And the smoke is even thicker again today. When the air is visible and the sun seems like it is shining through thin stratus, even though it is a clear day, then that is enough for me to feel like crap. Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 85 – Bull River CG – Plains: Reference points – The day I almost die

Tuesday August 12, 2014, 67 miles (108 km) – Total so far: 3,869 miles (6,227 km)

When I was 16, I got myself into a very bad situation. I didn’t know how to get out of it. And I didn’t want to involve my parents, the police, or other authorities because I was afraid I would be suspended or expelled from my high school. I was living at a public, residential high school for ‘gifted and talented’ students on a college campus. I had hated my old high school but loved my new school. I was so grateful for being selected to attend. So when I found myself in a really awful situation, I tried to extricate myself on my own. But I had not had a lot of life experience at that point, and when it got so bad I was afraid for my life, I confided in one of my friends from the college campus. He took me to the house he shared with his boyfriend, a recent college graduate. And that is how I met Mike.

Mike got me out of that awful situation and talked me through my fear, anger and pain. He sat with me one afternoon and said, “Emily, in life you will come across reference points. These events and situations will help you measure and assess things in life that come after. These are important because they help you react to situations later in life and help you gauge their seriousness. Reference points help you say, “It can’t get any better than XXX, or worse than XXX”. Reference points also help you stay out of bad situations because you can better see them coming. You have just found your reference point for evil. While it is awful now, you will be okay. And you will be stronger for it.” Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 86 – Plains – West Shore State Park: The ‘killer’ campsite

Wednesday August 13, 2014, 64 miles (103 km) – Total so far: 3,933 miles (6,330 km)

Around 6 am, the hiss and squeal of an approaching train wakes me. Then it goes pounding by in a rhythmic squall of noise. It is the first train to wake me. Even though they’ve been travelling through all night, their passing only barely registered in my consciousness. I never fully woke. I was too exhausted to be woken.

Now, I enter the day feeling like I have a hangover. That’s no fun if you didn’t have any fun to produce it. I’m lying half-on, half-off my sleeping bag, stretched out diagonally across the tent. I never made it into my sleep sheet, but I must have gotten a little bit cool at some point in the night, because the fake silk sheet is bunched around my shoulders and torso. Maybe you can have a hangover from too much adrenalin? Read more

Montana 2014 Part 2 – Day 87 – West Shore State Park – Kalispell: Queen of Sheba

Thursday August 14, 2014, 29 miles (46 km) – Total so far: 3,962 miles (6,376 km)

Whoosh-crash-shhhhh. Whoosh-crash-shhhh. The sound of the small waves tumbling gently to shore is a soothing start to the day. The rain that was supposed to arrive overnight is tardy. Yet, when I zip open the tent fly, I see that the sky is leaden and full of the promise of precipitation. I’m not in any hurry to get going today – I’m just heading 30 miles up the road to Kalispell. Read more