August 14, 2001

8/14/01 Whitefish, MT

57.1 / 6280 miles

I'm so used to camping out that it's still hard to get used to city noises. Took a while to get to sleep but when I did, I was out like a light.

Kind of chilly this morning. Had to wear wind pants and a jacket. I had hoped to eat at Café Jax (highly recommended) but after waiting 20 minutes for them to open up according to the schedule on the door, I gave up. I can always count on a sugar buzz from a liter of coke at the local gas station.

Took a nice quiet side road out of town but cut it short when it was a choice between the highway or another climb. The highway wasn't too bad this time of morning so it seemed like a good choice.

But as the morning went, it got hotter, the road busier and the shoulder kept disappearing. Not much to do but keep trudging on. You might wonder what I do or think about during those times. Lately I've been singing wordless melodies. That's one reason I want to learn to play an instrument; so I can recreate those songs.

Otherwise, I usually write these journal entries, sometimes two or three times in my head. Someone suggested a tape recorder but I'd need hours of cassettes and more hours to listen to them. I just get ideas. Talking with pastor Chris last night, he told me the town is on hard times. The lumber mill is cutting back and things like tourism just haven't taken up the slack. I keep wondering what could help these small towns out. Because without them, us big city yahoos won't have anywhere to go when we want to escape.

One idea that keeps popping up is to turn the unused or underutilized rail system into a 'light rail' for the rural areas. Think back before the 4 or 5 monster diesel engines pulling 200 railroad cars. In the beginning, trains were small and multipurpose. I'm sure they could build a highly efficient engine that would pull maybe 10 cars. There are so many things you could do with it.

Try a short commuter to bring the grandparents into the city from the farm, or that telecommuter that wants to live outside the city but doesn't need the bullet train ride to work. Government services could be moved from city to city. Dental and medical care could be on a routine rotation. How about a multi-car shopping mini-mall that could be moved. Then there's always a B&B train that would help couples get out for the weekend. Another idea would be an out-and-back restaurant car with maybe an after dinner movie, just like the airlines. And get Bill Gates to build some high tech science labs that could be moved to different schools every week. And this isn't even considering all the support services this could generate, especially in the heart of Main Street small town America.

The government should own and upkeep the rails while the independent operators ran their own trains. Because the trains are smaller and travel at slower speeds, there would be much less wear and tear on the tracks. A whole cottage industry could be just building wood and steel cars. The ideas just keep coming: a library train, web design office for face-to-face for rural businesses, etc. Leaning so heavily on "economics of scale" have almost snuffed out the young entrepreneurs out there and depleted the vitality of everywhere outside the 'big city.'

But wait! Up ahead is a tandem pulling a B.O.B trailer. George and Sharon Miner left Vancouver, WA, last September on a perimeter tour of the USA, starting down the Pacific Coast. So they're almost done with their 14,000-mile trek. After meeting Shinji yesterday and these guys today, my 8500-miles seems kind of wimpy.

Geroge & Sharon

Was able to get off the highway for awhile before the last push into town. A car pulled up ahead and Kelly Wheeler got out to talk. He owns "Derri-Air" Air Seats, a company that makes air cushioned bicycle seats. After hearing about my ride, he wants to send me one to use on the ride. "Just let me know where to send it," He says. Cool.

Kind of a white knuckle ride the last couple of miles into town. Stopped off first at Glacier Cycling to say hello to Jan. She's a good friend of Liz, the librarian in West Yellowstone, MT, where I gave my talk to the kids.

Went over to the Bunkhouse Traveler's Inn & Hostel and talked to Marina. She said they were closed during the day (like a real hostel) but that there would be plenty of room tonight since it wasn't the weekend. I decided to get something to eat. Back outside I met Mike James.

Mike is stopping here for bike parts and just started the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. When I said the GPR was part of my original route, he said he was looking for someone to ride with too. Now all my alternate plans to ride south using the Great Parks Route are in question. Here I thought I wouldn't meet any other Divide riders!

After getting some lunch, I sat around weighing the plusses and minuses of each route. The clear winner was the Divide. It's what I've been preparing for this whole time. The only downside is it will push my finish date way back! Maybe even mid-November. If Mike gets his parts tomorrow, he was looking to do at least a short ride out of town. That won't give me a day off but it sounds as if he's not in a rush to finish the GPR too soon either.

A lot to do tomorrow morning. I had the bike shop go over the bike and they were generally pleased with how well it's held up. Really only some minor adjustments and a stuck headset. I'll head to the outfitters tomorrow and see if there is any other gear I need.

Mike and I stopped off at the Bulldog Saloon. After sitting for a while, the bartender walked up to us and said "You guys haven't been here before? You want something, step up to the bar. No waitresses!" We had a few burgers and compared stories.

Turns out Mike is a Mechanical Engineer from Chicago. Loved his job, but it just seemed time to move on. Besides that he is also an accomplished mountain bike racer. He said he was getting burned out on it and need to get the fun back in his riding.

Ended that day back at the hostel watching movies with a few other people. Had a few beers too many before going to bed at 2PM.