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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Down the Chute

July 20, Day 18 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

What a difference a day makes…especially a rest day. Sunday morning found us at The Church of the Nazarene in Grangeville, Idaho. We felt most welcome and at home. We shared TheHopeLine with the pastor as well as one of the adult Sunday school classes. Two of the members presented us with checks, which we encouraged them to simply mail in to TheHopeLine. They immediately understood the value of what TheHopeLine is all about and felt compelled to give. What an encouragement!

the PlateauWe like Grangeville, Idaho. The people are very friendly and the town is small and isolated enough to allow access to all services within walking distance. The motel proprietor granted us a grace period for checkout. So, after church, we returned to the motel and checked out. Soon, we were cycling through beautiful wheat fields on a large plateau. Even the temperature had moderated on this day. We spotted our first deer sighting of a day that would be filled with them.

View atop the ChuteFifteen miles later, we plummeted into the river valley. We dropped 1,500 feet in a flash, and found ourselves in a completely different world. The view at the top of this drop defies explanation, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Not even our cameras could really do it justice. With the luscious golden wheat fields behind us and to our sides, mountains splashed with evergreen trees and remnants of desert were visible 180 degrees in front of us. The backdrop on this canvas were distant mountains. Those hills were a darker hue of bluish gray, which provided a rich contrast to the evergreen forests in front of them. It was a multi-dimensional scene, a parabolic painting that we couldn’t fully absorb without swiveling and nodding our heads about as far as they would go.

A local stopped his pickup as I was taking photos topside to warn me about the switchbacks at the bottom. He said there were two 10-mph switchbacks that were dangerous if we didn’t slow our bicycles. It was a valuable warning. We were headed down the chute, but in a good way. The descent was steep, and we applied the brakes constantly to slow our heavy loads. Our descent was more of the elevator type rather than the typical, more gradual escalator. And the road conditions were not that great. Consequently, we rode with extra caution, which served us well as we could enjoy more of the fabulous view on the way down.

At the bottom, we cycled beside a river for several miles when a deer darted out in front of Debbie. Just as quickly, it leapt to the other side of the road and cleverly vanished out of sight, despite thin cover. After a late lunch in Kooskia (pronounced Koo Ski), we headed up Route 12, which we will follow for a few days. Route 12 will take us to Montana through Lolo Pass.

This latter portion of our ride was reminiscent of our “honeymoon on wheels” in 2010. Today’s path essentially merged with the Lewis and Clark Trail when we hit Route 12, the bicycle trail that we followed on our previous cross-country tour. Route 12 runs adjacent to the Clearwater River. Light Sunday evening traffic, comfortable temperatures, and the sound of rushing water from the river made for a pleasant ride into Lowell, where we stayed for the night. A few more deer sightings and no cell service reminded us that we were soon to enter the wilderness, if indeed we had not already done so.

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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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The Ups and Downs of Bicycle Touring

July 17-18, Days 15-16 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

I got up early in search of a great cup of coffee and, thankfully, the local coffee roaster was right across the street from the Riggins Motel, where we had a very comfortable sleep last night. And boy did we need it after biking 81 miles in…guess what…intense heat, again topping 100 degrees!

Farmland east of Cambridge, IdahoWe had an early, but slow, start yesterday through construction and an unfriendly US Route 95, with which we’ve developed a love-hate relationship. Route 95 offers awesome scenery, but treacherous travel. After a midafternoon Subway stop, we had an easy downhill ride into the bottom of a canyon formed by the Salmon River. You can enjoy a portion of that ride in the video below. You may want to reduce the volume due to the wind noise.

Bridge across Salmon RiverRiggins claims to be the “Whitewater Capital.” If you are a stranger in town, the locals ask, “Were you down on the river today?” I felt like saying, “No, I had more fun racing down the canyon on two wheels, not a rubber raft!”

When it comes to bicycling, however, what goes down, must go up. Down a canyon, up a canyon…there is no way around it. Today, we had 27 miles of high traffic zooming by us on 95 north before we hit the uphill out of the Canyon. Motorcyclist and DogWhen I stopped for my umpteenth bathroom break, a character drove up beside us at a highway rest stop with an eye-catching motorcycle helmet. He mentioned that his dog has done more in her lifetime than most people ever do! Check them out. (I did receive his permission. Not so sure about his dog, Uma.)

Tim Climbing White Bird HillWhite Bird, Idaho, does not have white birds that we could see, but they do have great lunches. We needed one before our ten-mile climb. We went from 1,400 feet above sea level to 4,400. We inched along at anywhere between three and five miles per hour, with wind gusts at the top that threatened to topple us down the adjacent embankments. We often chose to avoid eye contact with the unguarded drop-offs merely feet to our side. Our survival instincts work well. Due to our slow pace, it took three hours to reach the summit. Tim narrates selected portions of our climb in the video below.

Deb Climbing White Bird HillHowever, there was a silver lining. A slow ride up a gradual grade beats the intimidation and danger of riding the main drag, where trucks and cars race by us at speeds of 60 to 80 mph, while we try to negotiate a rumble strip on the shabby shoulder. In ten miles of bicycling on the old road, we saw only two motorcycles and four cars. We also saw impressive scenery, as the accompanying photos attest. Now that is bicycling touring!

My favorite part of the day was finishing it. Bicycle touring has its ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. Tim and I are both worn from some challenging roads and terrain in Idaho. Climbing stresses some of the body parts as well as one’s mental edge. We’ve reminded ourselves that it is important to pace ourselves appropriate to our capabilities, and to relish the beauty around and the time we have together. It’s time for another rest day…darn it.

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Hells Canyon

July 16, Day 14 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

We suspected with a name like Hells Canyon that we could expect some challenges ahead. We also knew it wasn’t a good sign when we left the campsite late after a night of camping. What we perhaps underestimated was the heat of the day, suggesting we should have paid more attention to the place’s name: Hells Canyon. We’ve dealt with the 100-degree readings the past several days, but this one would really take its toll.

Snake River ReflectionsThe ride started innocently enough, with beautiful scenery on our ride out of Oregon, our first state. Debbie shares some brief thoughts on this video blurb about our tour in Oregon, taken in front of the Snake River, just downstream from the Brownlee Dam.

A few miles down the road, we stopped to engage with a couple from Scotland. They had much to share since they had completed most of their Transamerica crossing. While we chatted, and while the clock continued to tick, the mercury headed farther up the tube. Another impromptu roadside discussion slowed us more. Nevertheless, there was plenty of scenery to enjoy despite the heat. This panoramic video gives you a flavor for the area.

By the time we had arrived at the steep climb out of the canyon, it was well over 100 degrees. We stopped to cool down, eat, and reenergize and refocus. After a great meal, the hosts sent us out into the heat with full bottles of ice and water. We were ready.

Two hours later, we had crept up the entire hill, but the heat had taken its toll. We stopped our day short, only 40 miles on the day. But we had made it out of Hells Canyon alive.

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Thoughts from the Road

Themes or questions run through my head when I am bicycling for so many hours out in the blazing sun. I don’t know if it is heat stroke or my imagination getting the best of me. Sometimes, at a distance, I think I am seeing a cow, but at closer inspection, it is merely a rock formation in the shape of one. I saw a dried up tree branch turned upside down on the side of a hill that looked like a gray octopus with its tentacles pointing out at me as I glanced up the hill at such a strange sight.

Back to reality….I did see a shoe tree in Oregon in the middle of nowhere. The tree was literally littered with shoes! As soon as I whizzed by, I wished I had stopped for a picture. But stopping a 60-pound load is not easy to do. Another time I saw an empty corral with four stalls right next to the road. Each stall had a stuffed animal’s head poking out of the top, looking like they wanted me to take them with me on our cross-country adventure. I really did see a purple bulldozer that caught my fancy too. What a blast that would be to go dig up a few ditches.

Life on the road gives me lots of time to think and imagine. What I don’t like to imagine is getting plowed down by the logging trucks that speed by with their heavy loads, or an RV careening by with little visibility of a lowly bicyclist. Those thoughts from the road take some discipline to manage. If I give in to those fears, I would never have left Marlborough for a summer of fundraising and adventure. And can you imagine how much I would have missed?

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