29 April 2008

Mountain Interval

I knew about mid-week, that Saturday was going to be a good day and I wasn't about to miss a minute of it. Walking up to the bike just as the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon, the temperature on the weather station as I walked out the door read 19 degrees, pretty chilly. With the vest plugged into the bike, I toed the transmission into first and began my journey east to the mountains.

There was only one place that I needed to be about mid afternoon and that was in Kellogg, Idaho. No problem seeing as how that is right about smack dab in the center of where I was planning on wandering around today.

Riding into the sunrise on the meandering two lane roads that I had been choosing randomly as I made my way towards the Idaho border, one thing that was rather apparent, was the absence of any other motorcycles or cars for that matter. I felt like a thief stealing a portion of the day for myself, sneaking it away from all of the other people who were taking for granted the beautiful morning, tucked away in the warmth of their beds as I rolled through the frosty air on the vast empty stretches of two lane highway bathed in the golden hues of the late April Sun. With the foothills of the Rocky Mountains slowly rising into view on the horizon, I thought to myself, "This is going to be a good day."

Post Falls, Idaho came and then went; as did Coeur d' Alene thus beginning the climb up the Fourth of July pass into Northern Idaho. For a piece of the I-90 super slab, this is a fun stretch of road with long sweepers that force you to pay attention. At the foot of the pass to the east of the first range of mountains, lies Cataldo Mission up on the crest of a grassy hill. With 110 miles on the odometer since I left the house this morning, I made this my first stop of the day. The only other people around, was a family from British Columbia who had pulled into the parking area at the same time that I did, climbing out of the car and bracing themselves in the cool mountain air, they stared at me like I was from another planet riding around in this temperature. "C'mon now" I thought to myself, as I observed them stealing glances my way as I shed my gear, "You can't tell me that it's too cold to be out wandering around in this, considering where your from." I tried to remain ambivalent to their gawking, only smiling politely when one of them made eye contact with me.

Also known as the Mission of the Sacred heart, Cataldo Mission was built between 1848 and 1853 and is the oldest building in the state of Idaho. I stepped back and quickly took this picture after the family wandered out of the frame. The building of the Mission was a product of the combined effort the Jesuit Missionaries and over 300 Couer d' Alene Indians. More information on the Mission can be found here.

After spending enough time to stretch my legs a bit, I geared back up and headed for the hills that surrounded this area. I knew that I would be riding slower now so I stowed my Gauntlets away and dug through my tail bag for my lighter warm weather gloves. Among other things that I have been carrying in my tail bag were two books, one is a copy of "Mountain Interval" by Robert Frost and the other is "Don Quixote de la Mancha" by Miguel de Cervantes.

In the April issue of Cycle World, Jeff Buchanan did a brief essay on "Retracing the very real route of the fictional Don Quixote." Buchanan wrote that "If ever there was a literary personage that possesses the wanderlust so prevalent in the consciousness of motorcyclists, it is Quixote".......I bought the book the next day.

Whenever I am out riding and I stop for a moment, I like to sit down beside the bike and read a little bit (Mind you, I do ride where people usually aren't abundantly present on my days off, therefore there is usually no one around to witness my alone time with said bike and book). The more I read in the book, the more I realize that Buchanan hit the nail on the head in his modern day interpretation between Quixote and Motorcyclists. The other book, "Mountain Interval," I thought would be appropriate for the part of the world that I was going to be riding in today, so I pulled it off the bookshelf and packed it on the bike.

Finding out of the way places around here was no trouble at all, instead of taking a right turn to merge back onto I-90, I just went straight and in no time found myself turning off onto the first dirt road that came into sight. I followed the well groomed fire roads that followed the Couer d' Alene river, the only other signs of civilized life that I found were the occasional bridge that spanned the river and a Mennonite church tucked away in the mountains. Approaching various forks in the road, my only plan was to take the one less traveled, no maps accompanied me today, I didn't care where I was headed, only that I was headed away from everything for a while.

Mountain meadows along the Couer d' Alene river.
About an hour had passed since I left the Mission, and I decided to rest along side the meadow pictured above and read a little before heading back to Kellogg to hook up with a friend that was moving to the area. I took this quick picture (above) and read a little bit of Cervantes. I sat there for a while in the grass soaking in the sun like a fly on a window pane, appreciating the warmth especially after the relentless winter that we have endured around here, I always forget how "Solar powered" we humans really are until I am without the Sun for a spell.
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The morning seemed to be passing too quickly and I thought that I had better start my way back. I didn't bother to check, but I was pretty sure that I didn't have a phone signal up here and I thought that I should start riding back to someplace where there was the possibility of one in case my friend was wondering when I might arrive. The whole time up in the mountains I didn't see or hear another soul, very refreshing.
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I eventually did hook up with my old friend and we spent a nice afternoon together getting him somewhat unpacked and settled in before the end of the afternoon. I decided that I should start back home before the sun went down out here in the hills, just in case the temperature dropped below freezing and all of the standing water on the highways (Byproduct of the snow melting on the side of the road) began to freeze.
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As I descended out of the mountains and back into my Palouse country, observing the setting sun peaking out from behind the clouds that had formed on the horizon, I realized that the Robert Frost book that I had packed, never got read; it just went along for the ride into the mountains with me. I began to think of some of the passages that I had read in the past (I've read them all at one time or another, more than once, trust me) that were in the book and one crept into my head almost instantly.
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Thinking about my strategy today that seemed to work perfectly, that is, taking the road that was a little less traveled whenever I approached a fork in the trail and was left with a choice; I was reminded of the very first passage in "Mountain Interval". For brevity, I will only post the last verse, mainly because the last sentence of that verse reflects exactly how well today went for me. In closing, I was right about what I thought when I began my day while others slept in their beds. Today was in fact a "Good day."
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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost


Ride well my friends.
E.T.

3 comments:

irondad said...

I've spent some time riding around Sand Point and Lake Ponderay. Coeur d' Alene seems to stretch forever to the North. After I read the article I checked Don Quixote out from the library. I've since renewed it. May have to buy it. Seems better read a little at a time for pleasure rather than being a task to get done, doesn't it?

Earl Thomas said...

Irondad, Reading small bits at a time works perfect for me. It's a big book and I'm in no hurry to finish it. It does make a nice travel companion for those times when I need a rest. I smile constantly while reading it.

irondad said...

The best thing about reading the tale of Don Quixote from La Mancha is the assurance that there's someone crazier than me!