Greetings from Tom in International Falls, Minnesota


Took a motel room yesterday for the third night since starting this ride. I had multiple reasons for doing so. First, Deb has sent me a general delivery re-supply package to the post office here and it has not arrived, so I have to wait until Monday. Second, it rained all day so I spent the day doing laundry, mending, food shopping, and having a sit down breakfast at a coffee shop. Third, after three days averaging 80+ miles a day, I need a rest. Fourth, I’ve been wanting some time to put my thoughts to paper.

Pedaling a bike for four to six hours a day with breaks in between offers a lot of time to think. Some of these thoughts are will-o-the-wisp thoughts: there and gone again. Some are calculations of miles and time to the next destination. Many are simple observations of the landscape I’m riding through. Some take the experience of riding and turn it into a metaphor with deeper meaning. And of course, there is the on-again, off-again music in my head.

The evening of the 24th

Used this Sunday to ride without all the gear to Kabetogama VIsitor Center in Voyagers National Park – a 53 mile round trip from International Falls. A nice way to spend an “off” day.

The next morning, 7/25

Have been wanting to finish the conversation that I had started yesterday morning, but last night I fell asleep early. So, on my thoughts while pedaling:

Bicycling back in Washington state from the Cascades to the Idaho border involved crossing 5 high passes: Rainy (4855 ft), Washington (5477 ft), Loup Loup (4020 ft), Wauconda (4310 ft), and Sherman (5575 ft). The approach to each of these passes, as you might imagine, required a slow methodical steady pace – often in my lowest gear and with many, sometimes long, rest breaks. My average speed could be 6 mph or less. On the east side of each of these passes, the ride was all downhill. I could fly at 30+mph, an exhilarating ride. The same was true when riding through Glacier on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

My thoughts while on these rides would often be metaphorical. Riding a bike can be a lot like life: times of struggle and even pain, wishing this hill would just end. (Even times when you need help from outside of yourself, like when I stuck my thumb out and the Smyths picked me up.) These difficult parts of the ride are accompanied by those easy downhill stretches when the hard part is behind you and now you’re flying down a 6% grade. The accompanying music in my head while riding these passes was a Joan Armatrading song called “Bottom to the Top.” The refrain I would sing:

To the limit here we go
From the bottom to the top
Gonna tell all of my friends
Say I can run on any track

Some move more quickly
You know they can stand the pace
Others move slow
But they get there just the same
I know I want first and not just a pace
Keep on pushing babe

~ “Bottom to the Top” by Joan Armatrading

I have more thoughts along these lines, but they will have to wait for the next blog post.