Suicide Kills

July 26, Day 24 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

On a day in which we crossed the Continental Divide, we were reminded of a sober topic on either side of it. It seems you find it wherever you go…youth suicide is a very serious and prevalent issue these days.

When we shared information about TheHopeLine with a retired social worker in Anaconda, Montana, last night, he affirmed our work. “You’re in the right place.” he said. “Suicide is a real problem with the youth around here.”

Later today, our hosts at a bed and breakfast did the same. “There were five suicides this past school year in the Butte (Montana) school system,” they said.

Let’s face it. Just about all of us know someone who has been affected by youth suicide. It seems epidemic in our society. What once was considered an extreme measure contemplated by a very few has now become commonplace. When today’s youth struggle with life, suicide is an option that comes to mind more often than it did in the past.

The problem with suicide is that it’s irreversible. Sure, it will solve your issues, but it will also kill you. Gone are the unfulfilled dreams and desires. That person who you were going to marry will never meet you and fall in love with you. That child who you were going to raise will never come into being. Your potential impact on the world will be lost forever. Choose to liveI discovered this sign after writing the first draft of this post. I’m not sure whether the architect was addressing abortion or suicide, but it seemed appropriate to share it.

Suicide is no longer an issue we can turn away from. It’s all around us. What is the cost to our society of this plague? While some up-and-coming countries in this world have vast human resources that help them advance as a culture, many of our young minds, it seems, are being laid to waste. The roadside signs when entering Montana’s communities raise awareness to the scourge of meth abuse. When it feels like any reason to continue living is gone, where do those at risk turn?

THL-LogoSuicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yet, there is always hope. That’s what we emphasize as volunteer hope coaches on TheHopeLine. There is always hope. We’ve found that people contemplating suicide have lost all hope. Their thinking is clouded. They need people to come alongside of them to help them see a better way, to provide them with clear thinking.

In 2013 alone, TheHopeLine intervened in the lives of over 3,000 young people struggling with suicidal thoughts. Debbie and I encourage you to consider pledging support to TheHopeLine, if you have not already done so. Do it in the name of that person you know who has ended their life, or on behalf of that person who is seriously considering doing so.

Your contribution to TheHopeLine can help make a difference in the lives of young people who are struggling with this issue and can’t seem to find their way through their problems. You can pledge online at this webpage.

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Perseverance Pays Off

July 25, Day 23 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

After eclipsing the 1,000-mile barrier yesterday, Debbie and I were feeling pretty good about things. However, not every day goes as planned, or is easy. And one shouldn’t take life’s blessings for granted. That was today’s lesson.

Continental Divide Just aheadWe had two choices this morning: ride frontage roads and the Interstate, or travel Montana Route 1. Each path leads to the same destination, but gets there in opposite directions, circumventing a mountain range on either side. Neither of us wanted to ride the Interstate again, so we opted for Route 1.

The sign read, “Road Construction next 27 miles,” yet there was none. It may have been an apologetic gesture acknowledging a chipped tar surface and the intention of the authorities to address the matter in due time, while appeasing the natives with their good intentions. We continued on our path anyway, and soon encountered rumble strips and a relatively narrow shoulder. The road conditions, however, weren’t the major issue on this day. A headwind cut our travel speed in half. Eventually, we realized that we were climbing, ever so subtly, but climbing nonetheless.

These factors came together to form a coalition of adversity aimed to sour our experience. Traveling was slow and discouraging. Sights of snow on distant mountains, denoting the Continental Divide, acted as a flicker to keep the flame alive. PhilipsburgThey would grow larger and closer as the day wore on. However, after 28 miles, we landed in the town of Philipsburg, which provided a wonderful diversion from the stress of traveling through our adversity.

Philipsburg is a small town with some Western culture and style. People were gathering for a weekend celebration. After lunch at a barbecue joint, we visited a candy store, but not just any candy store. This candy store had some scale to it, coated with a healthy layer of nostalgia given the décor and selections. Check out the photos.

Sweet Palace

Sweet Palace

View from Flint Creek PassAfter we returned to the road, we eventually turned east, avoiding the headwind. The pace of travel picked up for only a few miles as the steeper climb of the day greeted us. Soon, we were crawling up a steep ascent smattered with switchbacks. The views at higher altitude began to convert our discouragement to awe and wonder. Perseverance pays off.

The remainder of the ride was filled with magnificent scenery and easy, downhill cycling with now a tailwind. It’s amazing how quickly one’s fortunes can change when you “stick with it.”

Montana Route 1 around Georgetown LakeRolling into Anaconda to a fully booked motel scene meant camping in the city park. But after a beautiful day like today, camping didn’t sound too bad.

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Friendly Missoula

July 24, Day 22 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

We started our bike ride today at 4:30…pm! It is not that we are slackers…we just had much to do before hitting the road. Deciding on a route out of Missoula and beyond was top priority today.

Leaving MissoulaBefore today, Tim and I were not in total agreement on how we wanted to venture across the country. I had my heart set on taking the TransAmerica route because I could see my sister in Denver and my friends in Colorado Springs, where I lived for 20 years. However, with aging bikes and bodies, climbing up to 11,000 feet in the Rockies, and no civilization (and little to no water or services) throughout the Transam route in Wyoming, we chose a better route for us, one that we could both embrace.

When planning routes, it sure helps to be in the right place at the right time. We spent several hours at the Adventure Cycling Association’s headquarters in Missoula yesterday (a rest day) as well as today. We had the best of the best helping us plan and play out several possible routes. Another helpful resource is the AAA maps for the upcoming states. Unfortunately, their office is on the other side of town. Alas, we left Missoula behind schedule and headed east. Tonight we arrived in Drummond, Montana, at around 9:15 pm, after repairing our first flat tire of the entire trip.

I would love to live in Missoula. People are friendly, happy, and healthy. The scenery is beautiful, bicycles are everywhere, and a river runs through the heart of the city. It is a clean city of 65,000 people, with a wide selection of restaurants, a large university, and many activities to choose from. And from first impressions, it is filled with young people. People here seem laid back and engaging. Many make eye contact and greet you.

Cycling to DrummondIndeed, toward late afternoon, that was beginning to contribute to our delayed departure. Everywhere we stopped, people started chatting. Maybe it was the bicycles and our loads that attract their attention, or maybe it is our smiles that encourage others to talk to us. Whatever it is, it is a shock to our reserved New England state of mind. I find it refreshing and invigorating to be in Missoula. I was sort of sad to leave. The friendliness makes me proud to be an American.

Once out of friendly Missoula, we were riding along Interstate 90 (you can ride on interstate highways in some of these western states) when we stopped at a rest area. A woman came over with a bag full of cherries and offered us some. After I took a handful, she asked if we wanted anything else from her wide open cooler. How’s that for hospitality? Maybe the open sky and the vast vistas open up people’s hearts and faces around here. It makes one think about what makes a good hometown.

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Lolo Pass

July 22, Day 20 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

When I crawled out of the tent at 6:00 am, a friend from the wild greeted me. Much to my relief, he was no bigger than a breadbox and had long whiskers, the kind of critter you may think of around Eastertime. Our stay at Powell Junction was a mixed bag: roughing it outside in the dew-splashed tent while later being treated to a gourmet breakfast at the Lochsa Lodge. We knew they could dish out the cuisine in fine fashion from our passage through these parts four years ago.

Lochsa LodgeBack then, we had stayed at a campground downstream before our ride through Lolo Pass, which represented perhaps our most significant climb on our 2010 tour. That meant cycling 41 miles to make it to last night’s stay-over spot before tackling the ensuing 2,000-foot climb. This time around, we journeyed up to the pass early in the day, with fresh bodies and a nutritious breakfast making its way to rejuvenating muscles. Sparse eastbound traffic allowed a stress-free ascent. In relatively short order, we made it to the Visitor’s Center atop the pass and stopped to take it all in. We were yards away from entering Montana.

Entering MontanaWe overheard a conversation from a couple who lived just south of Nashville. Our ears pricked up, since that’s where TheHopeLine’s headquarters are located. We asked for more specifics and then shared in a “well, for heaven’s sake” moment with them. They live in Columbia, just south of Spring Hill. We shared a card and encouraged them to check out this organization, which pipes hope nationwide from a small town just up the road from them.

Lolo PeakOur nearly 40-mile ride into Lolo was also easy, as most downhill rides are. During the final leg into Missoula, we met a gentleman who teaches at the University of Montana. He provided directions upon our request and, then, we shared with him about TheHopeLine. We thought it may be relevant to the students he deals with.

“Do you see any issues with your students?” we asked.

A wry smile and chuckle preceded his comment: “Do I have issues with students? Oh yes! They have a lot of issues.”

Clearly, he could relate to our cause.

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If you have not already pledged your support to TheHopeLine, please consider doing so. Your entire contribution will go directly to help young people struggling with life. You can pledge online at this webpage. If you’re wondering why it is a good investment, please read this webpage.

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Moving Meditation

July 21, Day 19 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

Lochsa RiverSeveral months ago, I started attended a guided meditation group that meets bi-weekly, and I have noticed a considerable improvement in my serenity. Breathing is most helpful in lowering stress and anxiety. Mary taught me to breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, and breathe out for five seconds. It really does relax me and if I do that 3-5 times, I always feel calmer afterwards. We seldom pay attention to our breathing, but it is an important part of life. Imagine living very long without breathing?

Deb Cycling along Lochsa RiverWhen bicycling, breathing increases my strength and endurance. Getting up hills is much easier when I’m breathing deeply. Any form of exercise requires heavier breathing in order for the blood to circulate throughout the body.

Today, Tim and I engaged in a sort of moving meditation. As we pedaled rhythmically along the river, we were mesmerized. Creek dumping into LochsaThe sound of the rushing river, as well as the creeks that pour into the Lochsa, the deep green evergreens, and the clear blue sky relaxed us to the point that we felt like we were in a meditative state. What a great way to distract us from the slight incline in elevation we had most of the day as we closed in on Lolo Pass (elevation 5,235).

Layers of Evergreen Clearwater Natl ForestThe beautiful thing about today’s moving meditation was that it lasted all day. Often, when we bicycle, we will ride along water for some time, but never ALL DAY! We stopped often, taking over 100 pictures and videos. We didn’t even notice how much our butts hurt until the last 10 miles, because we were so happy and relaxed, soaking in the scenery at every angle. Unfortunately, you the reader only see a one-dimensional view of all the beauty that we are surrounded by each day. Nevertheless, try to share our very best shots with you.

Cycling along Lochsa RiverAnother reason for today’s happiness is that we have journeyed here before. We stayed last night at Ryan’s Wilderness Inn, where we had eaten lunch on our first tour in 2010. If you read our book you will remember Tim’s conversation with a college professor at that very same restaurant. The most memorable part of the trip for me was riding along the river on Route 12. Deb and Lochsa RiverAll of our senses are activated as we ride: the sights, sounds, and smells are the three that stand out the most. The rushing water, the birds singing along the route, the smell of sage and pine fill the air.

I guess I could throw in the taste of the ice cold water in my Camelbak and the feel of the warm sun beating down on my skin, even though the ice melts too fast on these long rides and my skin is peeling like that of a snake. So, the meditative state does break down at times, but today was one of the best days on our tour so far. After those rough days of climbing and heat, we are grateful for the cooler temperatures and the sensory overload!
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If you have not already pledged your support to TheHopeLine, please consider doing so. Your entire contribution will go directly to help young people struggling with life. You can pledge online at this webpage. If you’re wondering why it is a good investment, please read this webpage.

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