Mypeople talked up how pretty the ride ahead was. I needed that, otherwise I'mnot sure I would have kept moving! Stocked up on apples and plums from theorchard. One by one we all headed out, Steve to the shop, Kjetil to school,Paula to work and me to the east.
Theride was indeed pretty. And desolate. Stopped in Hope to clean my chain andvisit with the local guard cat. The Clark Fork Pantry was next, where I got aton of goodies! And, I found a couple of ladies from Ellensburg (about 3 hourseast of Seattle) to chat with. I had organized a cycling festival that wentthrough Ellensburg earlier this year and it was nice to find that connection,albeit a fleeting one.
When Igot to the Montana border sign, I stopped for what felt like entirely too long.Wanted to get a decent photo with the sign. Really wanted one of the passingcars to pull over and snap a photo - and much more importantly, share in thismilestone. I don't carry a tripod and couldn't Macgyver one together. One ortwo cars pulled into the lot but then drove off before I could run up and asksomeone to take my picture. Knowing that flagging down a passing car was toomuch to ask, I eventually rode on.
Andthe wind from the east picked up. Great. Just what I needed - a headwind. Thatwill really help my mood. I don't hate many things in life. But I hateheadwinds.
A fewmore miles, and I stopped again. Laid Marge down. Okay, I may have dropped herin the grass. I started working on an ill-conceived of rocks and twigs that wasquickly breaking my heart, and an RV pulled up. The driver got out - saw me andmy bike laying in the dirt and wanted to be sure I was ok. I said I was, but ifhe wanted to do me a huge favor he could take my photo! He kindly obliged, andI got to say hi to three shih tzus and a pomeranian.
Andthen, like the all others, he too was quickly gone. On the road either in adifferent direction, or at a far different pace than I. Found a quick respiteat the Big Sky Pantry with a couple on a road trip. But before long, they toowere off.
Ineeded help; I needed my people. I sent out my bat signal to fellow ranger J.D.I figure if there's any bike route that gets lonely, it's the Tour Divide thathe rode last summer. He stepped away from his (Canadian) Thanksgiving dinner tosay exactly what I needed to hear: This is normal... try to enjoy where you areat... focus on what lies immediately ahead, just the next mile or if that's toomuch then just focus on the next pedal stroke. Then he was off to go eat anentire pumpkin pie. So glad I was able to catch him when I did.
Withthat little boost, I kept pedaling. I kept myself company snapping photos,telling a story with my camera, even if my audience hadn't materialized yet. Irolled into Dorr Skeels campground, which was deserted. Natch. I rode aroundthe entire park to confirm, that, yes, I had the place completely to myself. Itried to focus on the beautiful calm lake view, tried to appreciate that Icould change clothes or pee or fart without any concern for who might see(smell?).
In themorning I was off with a plan to stop in Libby for lunch, then ride until darkand stop at one of the campgrounds along the way. Again I tried to occupy mymind with photos, with the story of the intrepid bike tourist, who braved theroads all by herself, composed pithy tweets, kept a smile on her face whateverthe weather, just as winter was beginning to descend. And again the lonelinessrose up. This time it was so bad I didn't bother engaging a couple guys whostopped at the waterfalls for some photos. I just got back on my bike, headdown, aiming for Libby.
Thisisn't a big deal, I told myself. I have absolutely everything I need - cookies,perfect weather, my bike works great, I had just climbed 5 mountain passes forcrying out loud. I'm fine. I don't need anyone. I have everything I need. Ihave everything I need. I have everything I need.
There'san Amtrak station in Libby. Oh. I didn't know that. Well, that's certainly goodto know. I found the grocery store, and started shopping. Tried calling myhusband Toby but he was biking to work. Ok. Called a friend and chatted for abit. Kept trying to figure out what I needed to buy at the store - for somereason I just couldn't get it together. Kept going back to the register, sooften that the staff just set aside my pile of stuff until I would finally beready to pay up. Really wanted to talk with Toby, I needed a genuineconversation about calling it quits and getting on the train home. I didn'tthink I actually would do it - but it was a possibility and I needed to stareit down now, not before I started on the next 70 miles which were with suchlimited services I would carry a gallon+ of water and 2 days' worth of foodwith me.
CalledToby's work. He wasn't there yet. Chatted with his boss. Finally bought mypathetic and strange pile of food from the deli counter and went to sit by thewindow. Picked at some food. Tried to journal but couldn't find any words.Finally Toby called. And the tears finally started in earnest. My brain wasn'tworking and I didn't know why. I couldn't pick out groceries and I didn't knowwhy. I wasn't hungry and I didn't know why.
Tobytalked me into grabbing a hotel in Libby and taking the afternoon off. Takesome time to assess and see how I felt in an hour, a couple hours, in themorning -- as this was a way out of this morass that I could hold on to.
Ifound a cheap motel. The woman working there very kindly let me use theirwasher and dryer and soap. I let a few tears of gratitude slip. In my littlewood-paneled room I turned on the tv and watched Ellen. I screwed around onFacebook. I closed my eyes. I listened to music. I called my dear old dad. AndI eventually felt better. Talked with more friends. Talked about my brain notworking right. Went back to the grocery to get the things I forgot earlier. Andyes, I did feel better.
Wokeup before the sun, not wanting to believe it was time to leave but it seemed Ishould go. And so I did, leaving Libby behind for what would surely be a verydesolate day ahead - 70 miles up to Eureka, with no services the entire way.