Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Small-town dating"

I don't remember what she said, what the context was or what it was in reference to, but I know one of the first things I said to her the first time we got coffee was, "Well, the great thing about living in a small town is that even when you don't know what you're doing, someone else does."

"Where'd you hear that?"

"It's on a plaque above the Palace cash register."

"Is it like that here?" She'd just moved to town from the city.

"Pretty much."

"Well, we'll see, I guess."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Excerpt from "The Wall"

... We'd sit there for hours, our asses on the ledge, our legs dangling above the sidewalk below. We had two games we liked to play. One was acorns. We'd collect acorns and throw them into the busy three-lane, one-way street. First one that gets run over, the thrower gets a point. Play to 10. The other game was "What's up?" Any girl that walks by, you ask, "What's up?" If she keeps walking, no points. If she says what's up back, one point. If she stops to talk, two points. No one ever got to 10 points. One incredibly cold night, Champagne and I rode our bikes around the city scavenging Dumpsters for treasure. In the Trader Joe's Dumpster we scored bouquets of half-dead flowers and stuffed our bags with two bouquets each. We rode to The Wall and tried to give them to college girls as they walked by. It was a tough sale. Not only was it cold, it was between fall and spring semester, the university was dead, everyone was gone. We sat and sipped whiskey from my flask to stay warm, but I was wearing Converse, my feet were frozen. Champagne said, "What's up?" to two girls that walked past. They stopped to talk. We gave them a bouquet each. We talked with them for awhile until I dumbly mentioned something about a girl Champagne had recently hooked-up with. Then they left, saying they had to go back to their dorm, it was too cold to stand around. To this day, Champagne contends that he would have got that girl's number had I not blown if for him. "They would have invited us back to their dorm!" I still feel a little bad about it. Well, I told him, at least we still have one bouquet each ...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"The Great Thing About ..."

"The Great Thing About Living in a Small Town," a 'zine, issues No. 1 and 2, "Then and Now," forthcoming ... seriously. Excerpts coming soon ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last, best

... It occurred to me the other day that, while this Montana thing is probably my end-all-be-all, you've been to India and New Zealand and the Upper Peninsula. It's only the "end" of my road, just another of your One of the Best Places. ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chasing her down the block ...

Tuesday night at the Brewery, I saw a girl I'd never seen before (very rare here, especially this time of year). I fantasized about talking to her, but I didn't. The more I looked at her, the more she seemed familiar, like we'd met before, but I couldn't place it. She was dressed awkwardly, very not-giving-a-shit: a floral print dress over white long underwear, well-worn hiking boots, a silly floppy-eared hat. It wasn't until she left that I realized that life is too short to not talk to her. I chased her down the block. I don't remember how I introduced myself or what we talked about on the block-and-a-half walk to her car. I don't remember her name. I do remember her telling me that she was in Whitefish visiting a friend, was spending Thanksgiving in Polebridge, works for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Council, and, of course, lives in Missoula. The next day, lying in bed, I thought about her more and realized how I remembered her. I had never met her before; she looked a lot like Rose, E.T.'s sister. E.T. and I, Rose and her boyfriend (now husband), John, and E.T.'s parents went to a wedding in Morningside years ago. We all spent the night at E.T.'s parent's house in Irwin. At four in the morning, Rose and I were the only two still awake. We were sitting at the kitchen table, sipping from a bottle of tequila. I don't remember what we talked about, but I distinctly remember her asking me if I thought E.T. and I would get married. "If we can make it through the next six months, I think we'll spend the rest of our lives together." We only made it four more ...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Canadians/Comedians ...

Living in an almost-border town, Canadians consistently double our population on the weekends. They come here to avoid the commie Canadian taxes, buy electronics at the Best Buy in Kalis-hell, and drink their faces off. They come in tuques -- not wool caps or knit hats. Locally chided as "Comedians," Canadians are despised by everyone but the business-owners. I'm often reminded how I "wouldn't be here" if it wasn't for the Canadians supporting our economy. I live in Whitefish, but I'm a teacher -- I'm in it, but I'm not a part of it. I can't come up with a valid reason why I'm as reactionary as the rest, though. It's bullshit, really. This summer a Canadian in a Hummer (license plate "HUMMMER"), probably drunk, ran a stop sign in the middle of town. I yelled at her, "Stop at stop signs!" She yelled back, "Fuck you!" When I told this story, the frequent reaction was to lump the Canadian nation together, all five Providences Hummer-driving-drunk-drivers. Sort of stupid, ay?

We've been walking in the woods a lot lately ...

Cody and I at Skiumah Lake, Great Bear Wilderness Area. Hugs for puppies ...

Chris, Anna, and I enjoy the view from our bush-whacked, almost-summit of Link Mountain, Whitefish Range. We could not make the summit before dark ...

A long drive to the Finger Lake trail head, Tally Lake Region, a short walk to Finger Lake. Cody and Althea getting at it ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Looking back: Bike racing, 2011 ...

Last March, like at the start of Rolling Thunder, I began my racing season so optimistically ...

... Now, eight months later, like 10 minutes into Rolling Thunder, bleeding knees and an uninterested look on my face are now metaphors for my 2011 season.

Season highs: Racing Tour of Walla Walla (and not crashing), winning the Big Mountain time trial at the Great Northern Stage Race (by 45 seconds), and winning Rocky Mountain Roubaix (right on)
Season lows: Breaking a spoke 30 seconds into Last Chance Cross (then face-planting two minutes later), Cow Country Classic (Headline: Montana Road Race State Championship draws twenty people ... in all classes), and getting tacked at the Clinton Road Race (damn kids)

Goals for 2012: Get my Cat. 1 touring upgrade. Race mountain bikes one or two more times. Crash less.

See you in 2012 bikes/bike racing; bring on the snow, La Nina ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ousel Peak, Bob Marshall

Me, Cody, and Anna, our new buddy from Oakland, California, climbed Ousel Peak in the northern Bob on Friday. 4,000 feet of vert. in about 3.5 miles.

Welcome to 8,000 feet, sea level dweller!


Like a shark out of water.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jesus for the dogs ...

Me and Lewis and the beasts atop Whitefish Mountain.

I'm back to school. My kids are ... really good. I won't elaborate; I don't want to jinx it. My little crew of ESL/ELL kids remind me why I do this ...

Slim Cessna's Auto Club came to the Flathead. It was, well, the best thing to ever happen in the Valley ... musically. Sorry Russ Nasset and The Revelators ...

Cyclocross is happening, but not so much to me. The Helena race was officially my worst, and shortest, race ever. I'll do my best at the Kalispell races and Rolling Thunder. Then the bikes collect dust until February ...

The Big Mountain season ski pass has been purchased. Now I just need to get skis. I'm planning on taking avalanche awareness courses in November. Winter is coming ...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Labor Day weekend

My Labor Day weekend: scenic hikes, whiskey drinks, shotguns, and dogs.

Lewis and I and the four dogs spent the night at Rainbow Lake in the Ten Lakes Region along the border. Twenty-eight miles of dirt road 'til the trailhead ...

After a pretty easy hike in, we made it, awesome ... now we just need to figure out how to get down there.

We figured it out ... after one sketchy false start ... Cody nearly got clocked in the head by a softball-sized tumbling rock ...

We're a half-mile hike to Canada. We made chili mixed with macaroni and cheese for dinner. We brought a lot of beer. It was good.

Cody's psyched about life.

We hiked back out.

We drove 28 miles back down the road and then to Olney to meet up with pals at the Burk Family Cabin on the Stillwater. (Take note, local idiots: The Burk family owns 350 acres, 349 undeveloped. They've refused all offers to develop even one acre of the property, and even turned down one offer of more than a million dollars. It's good to know that "in this economy," it's not all for sale. Primitive areas > condos/toy ranches/multi-million dollar bullshit summer get-away mansions/buying this feeling called "West," etc.)

We shot guns ... shotguns. I'd never shot a gun before. I've always played the word association game: "I say 'gun,' you say the first word that comes to mind." While most say deer, food, fun, I've always said convenience store robbery, gang violence, death.

Terra's a total badass, I'm incredibly awkward firing the firearm.

Dale says, "Mind the gap." I did not mind the gap.

Cody and I then indulged in more quiet pursuits. Canoe over carbon bike next summer ...

Spent the cold night in my hammock and woke up to breakfast burritos on the wood-fire grill. Went home to recover with a long ride.

Good three-day weekend. Interesting ...

One week until I'm back to school.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Ben's gone back to Pennsylvania to finish his schooling. Major bummer. But, I've got to give the guy credit, he's going for it, pursuing his life-long dream of joining a frat and going to Daytona Beach for spring break to get babes. Get prosperous, dude!

Before he left we went and did some touristy stuff in The Park.

We drove The Road. (Touron fever forever.)

We walked to St. Mary Falls/Virginia Falls. Almost four miles round trip! (My first Glacier hike since ... 2008.)

We ate pie at Park Cafe in St. Mary. (Libby Cafe is still winning my affection for best pie in the state, though.)

We climbed Divide Mountain.

See. (One hour up, two hours down.)

Good last day.

Later, dude.

"Aw, there ain't no laws in Montana." (You should click that link and listen.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Three years ago today ...

"Platte, South Dakota," August 2008, written August 2011.

We drove east through the hot August afternoon. The landscape slowly transitioned from brown and yellow to green and blue. The hills were rolling, the road either up and down or down and up. We came over a rise and saw a vast expanse of water at least a half-mile wide. The Missouri River. It was early -- we could still drive a few more hours, keep heading home, but we knew this was where we wanted to spend the night. We'd been desert dwellers for the day; we'd finally found our oasis. We wanted to swim.

We drove over the bridge and into the nearest town, we needed supplies: Ramen, beer, wine. We stopped at the first convenience store gas station.

Before going in I put Monica's silly, over-sized sunglasses on and clipped Cody's leash onto his collar.

"Follow my lead," I told her. "I'll follow Cody's."

I walked into the store with Cody, his leash in one hand, the other arm rigidly extended at shoulder height. I walked around the store like this, "blindly" feeling around, occasionally bumping into the aisle display racks of Pringles and candy bars, Cody aimlessly guiding me to the coolers in the back of the store. I opened a cooler door, grabbed a six-pack with my extended arm and, Cody leading the way, walked back to the front of the store, saying nothing.

"Did you find everything okay, sweetie?" Monica asked me, already waiting at the counter with an open purse.

"I did, darling, thank you. Did you get the Ramen and the wine?"

"I did. Is red okay?"

Cody meandered on his leash, pulling toward whatever it was he wanted to smell. The clerk looked confused, but said nothing. Monica paid, we said thank you, and walked out.

We parked the car under the bridge beside a sign that read "No overnight parking." I grabbed my pack -- tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and cook stove -- and the night's rations and we walked along the shore until we found a small, sandy cove just big enough for the tent, just below a sand dune, just out of view from the parking lot.

A few hundred yards away, down the river, cows grazed and sipped from the water. A barbed wire fence lead across the land and into the river, separating them from us. Cody laid in the sand, paws out, and stared at them intently, occasionally barking, keeping them at bay. In the distance, beyond the fence, there was a red, wood barn with a white roof and white trim. The sun was beginning to set behind us.

We set up camp and pitched the tent, unable to stake it down in the sand, and walked, beers in hand, to a small dock near the bridge. We sat with our feet in the warm, black water and felt it gently flow south. We stripped down to our underwear and jumped in. I dog paddled, never getting my hair wet; Monica swam, wind mill-style, to the middle of the river and back. We sat on the dock, air drying, and drank some more. She inched toward me and rested her head on my shoulder. Her brown hair, wet and cold, thick like a mop, draped half over my shoulder, half down my back. She told me her hair smelled like bananas. I told her maybe we shouldn't go -- maybe we should just make this our home. We could try to get money wired to us. We could make an appointment with a realtor in the morning. We could put a down payment on the farm with the cows and the barbed wire fence that led into the Missouri. The gas station up the road had everything we needed. She said she liked the looks of a red bar with white trim. We listened to the cars crossing the bridge above us, woosh, and the rubber-tire-on-concrete hum echoing off the water below the bridge. The mosquitoes were getting bad. The sun set behind us. She never took her head off my shoulder.

"We should probably go back to the tent," I told her. "Lets make that Ramen."

"Yeah," she said, "and there's a bottle of wine in the bag, too."

The next morning we stopped at the same gas station where we'd bought the supplies the night before. We bought another six-pack from the same cashier from the evening before. We didn't say anything and neither did she. We continued east.

This is an excerpt from "The Self-Described Bonnie and Clyde," a longer story that will maybe one day be released in some fashion.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

To the Yaak and back!

Yaak Valley, Cabinet Mountains, Purcell Mountains.

The "To Yaak and Back with the Dog in the Trailer" bike tour went off without a hitch; oddly, nothing went wrong other than a cut on my finger, a sunburned nose, and a lot of mosquito bites. Five days, 240 miles pedaled, 8 walked (two climbs, one about eight miles long, the other about 13 and at times incredibly steep, were just too much for my knees), 13,000 feet climbed, about 90 lbs. pulled. The trailer actually made it. Cody didn't get heat stroke. I didn't even flat once. Awesome.

Cars at least slowed down to read this.

Cody's not psyched.

Day 1: Home to Murray Lake, Trego, 38 miles.

Day 2: Murray Lake, through Eureka and Rexford, to a slick little spot near the Koocanusa Bridge, 32 miles.

It's gunna be a good day in Rexford.

Got rained on all night at Koocanusa.

Day 3: Lake Koocanusa to Yaak, 44 miles including a 13-mile, 4,000 foot climb, half of which we were forced to walk, we made it!

Get a beer at the Dirty Shame Saloon, eat the best Reuben ever, spend the night, free, eat some breakfast, start heading home ...

Three-mile climb to here, 10 more to go.


Big, big props to Gloria, owner of the Dirty Shame, for the free cabin for the night and a $5 breakfast that included two Belgian waffles with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, home fries, toast, orange juice, and coffee. She made me promise I'd call her when I got back to Whitefish so she'd know we got home safely.

Day 4: 60 miles, Yaak to Libby, for pie, Libby to the River Bend Bar for a beer and a veggie burger, the River Bend Bar to 10 miles east of there, the Fisher River.

Potential swim spot near Turner Mountain ruined by horse flies.

Leaving the River Bend Bar with a gut full of veggie burger and Ranger.

I waded out to this rock on the Fisher River, away from the mosquitoes, and sat with my feet in the water for a long time. I ate a peach, drank a Double Haul, and felt good about being here. I suggest you try it, too.

Day 5: 65 miles, no towns, no services, limited paved roads, home.

I'm in Montana, but I'm not sure where I am; there is no town, just coordinates on a map ...

I really hope I'm going the right way.

I cut 40 miles off the trip -- most of which would have been on Highway 93 -- by riding/pushing the bike and trailer east and uphill for eight miles on nameless, dirt forest service roads, dodging the occasional logging truck, not really sure if I was going the right way. I saw a small, hand-painted sign for Tally Lake, I went with it. After three hours of searching, pushing, pedaling, and one wrong turn, I popped out on Star Meadows Rd., 20 miles from Whitefish, pavement all the way home. I hustled back to town to meet the 6 p.m. Jersey Boy's happy hour deadline -- $1.50 slices and $1 cans of PBR. Pedaling my 248th mile, less than a block from Jersey Boy's, I got the first and only earful of the trip: "Get a car you fucking hippie! You're blocking the road!"



1) In 240 miles, I saw three other cyclists -- two tourers and a woman in full Spandex on a three-speed cruiser in Libby.

2) Props are also due to my cute waitresses at Jax in Eureka, the Libby Cafe in Libby, and my bartender at the River Bend Bar on the Kootenai.

3) The pie at the Libby Cafe is definitely as good as advertised.

4) I have now drank at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, Montana's most southeastern bar, and the Dirty Shame, Montana's most northwestern bar.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer and "Summer"

June 9, Great Bear Wilderness Area, in no less than 10 feet of snow.

June 15, Upper Whitefish Range, XC ski trip to a night in Hornet Lookout.

June 30, Swan Valley, Hall Lake, still mostly-frozen at 6,000 feet.

July 15, Sand Point, Idaho, passing out in a park.

July 16, Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, detour on the way to Seattle.

July 20, Dragon's Tail, Glacier National Park, me and Chris Lewis not letting go of winter.

August 3, Lower Whitefish Range, Lake Mountain, Cody giving the nation of Canada the evil eye.

August 28, Skiumah Lake, with Lewis, Althea, Barlow, Clyde, John, and Cody. Some of us were dogs, some of us weren't.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Late late-season conditions

It was 40 and pouring in the Valley Thursday; meanwhile, it dumped about two feet on Big Mountain. Alissa, Cody, and I went up to hike ... and shred. It was my 21st time up since January 15, just under 50,000 vertical feet hiked!

Dusting off the "winter" equipment.

It's really cold.

Green valley, white mountain.

Cody's flyin'!

In other news, I raced the Herron Hammer ... a mountain bike race. A lot of climbing, a lot of single track, a lot of fun. I need training wheels for the descents. I finished third in the "Cat. 2" about two minutes back. I've ridden my road bike twice in the last two weeks. Cow Country is two weeks away, 90 miles long. Our stage race is a week later. Then, June 19, back to Pittsburgh until the end of July. And then there's that girl in the pictures above ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recently ...

Me and Ben went to shred the Whitefish skate park. I shredded the 10-foot-deep bowl ... with running shoes on Crank Brother's pedals ... and no helmet. Maybe I'm not really shredding ...

Sunday we -- me, Ben, Chris, Josh, Dale, Terra, and Alissa -- shredded the Middle Fork in a raft. The water was cold; we got wet, we got drunk, we had an awesome time. The night ended at Blue Moon karaoke with my "USA! USA!" rendition of "Born in the USA." At least five people left during the performance. My "screamo" version of "Okie from Muskogee" preceded this. It was pretty much the best day in a long, long time.