Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
From: Roger O. Rock
Fort Peck, Montana
My day Tuesday:
Up at 4:30 AM. Not only awake, but alert, full of energy. It is calm, 17 degrees F. The
thought that last night I tuned my shifters is pleasing. I might make some decent time
today. I note that the East German college student, a former high school exchange student
who stayed with us a few years ago, now a drummer in a Berlin alternative rock band and
visiting us for a few days, is home. My car, apparently intact, is parked next to the
curb. I was not heartened, during our familiarization drive, when he asked, "how do
you drive an automatic?"
I check my e-mail: There is a letter from a friend in the music production business in
the Boston area, a mini essay really, on creativity, the need to stay grounded, appreciate
the simple life, stay in touch with one's roots. I compose a reply. Then I realize that it
is 5:40 AM; I am overdue to be on the road.
Quickly I finish dressing, thanking goodness that I loaded my bike earlier. I mount up,
roar into the street. Only the roaring isn't in my head--it's my rear tire. Flat. Back
into the garage, a quick change--thank goodness the new tubes came a couple of days
ago--back on the road, down the hill to the highway. Great momentum, for fifty yards. It
is no longer still. Wind is now out of the northeast 20-25 mph, occasional gusts from
east--so what I've got is a steady headwind with sideward bursts. Wonderful. I gear down
and grind to work, but I'm running way late, so I can't relax. Another reason I can't
relax is that I've forgotten to close all the pit zips from last night and there's a
pretty good breeze whistling through my underwear.
A wimpy voice in the back of my head is whining something about the car, about the
cold, about the wind. I slap it down with images of Iditabikers slogging through
wilderness snow against the wind, leaning into the task, eyes fixed and grim behind icy
I arrive at work. I stow the bike and coat, grab my pannier and head for the shower.
Plenty of time. I undress, start to lay out my clothes. Wrong bag. My clothes are back
with the bike. So I redress, retrace my path to the bike (about 200 yards) return the
curious looks of those I greeted moments ago with what I think is a sardonic smile.
Finally the hot water. Maybe the day will get better.
At 10 AM it begins to snow. The wind picks up. Now we have a blizzard. The German kid
drops by the school for lunch with me. I tell him, "please, please, whatever you do,
don't wreck the car." By 4:30 it is a full-blown "Swedish" blizzard
dropping--as I will discover on the way home--a smorgasbord (sorry, no umlaut) of snow.
By the time I am on the road, there is every condition I can imagine, loose snow,
packed snow, glazed snow, black ice, ice with dry snow on it, ice with water on it,
car-ground meal snow; there is standing snow and drifts, hard drifts and soft drifts;
there are ruts, some empty and glazed, others filled with various types of snow. If Forest
Gump's friend, Bubba, was a snow man, he would be able to improvise a ten minute monologue
on it. I am thinking, the few Inuit living hereabouts will finally get to utilize their
snow vocabularies, if they actually have them (All I've ever head them say is, "you
call this piddle, snow?").
So now what was my headwind this morning is a semi-tailwind that switches from side to
side and follows me down the steepest hill where--my god, these aren't drifts, they're
moguls!--I go crashing through, my arms fixed and locked on the handlebars like Casey on
the throttle. Clever me--I had the presence of mind to stick my studded front tire in my
wife's car (we work different hours in the same place) so I have only the giddy rear to
contend with until the moguls. But the Extreme's tread always finds something to hang
onto. White knuckled drivers blow by me cursing, a passing cattle truck anoints me with
the residue of its load. I'm thinking, time for my short-charged battery to go dim. It
I don't know why, but today is a day for "doubles," cars meeting cars on the
two-lane. I lose track of how many times I dive for the ditch and pack out. At least my
toes are finding my duct-taped, plastic lid-reinforced powergrips. I struggle up the hill
from the highway into our village, spin out three quarters of the way up, have to push. I
am thinking, I don't have to find my drop box. I don't have to find a place to sleep and
get warm. I have a hot shower. I have a bed. I don't complain. Life is good. I've just had
fun while commuting. Just before supper, my wife tells me. "Uh, I just wanted to warn
you, (our guest) had a little accident with your car (for the record, an 86 Pontiac with
faded paint, veined glass, a riddled roof, and a duct-taped fender worth less than half as
much as my bike). No one was hurt. There was no real damage. But we had to go to the
police station and fill out a report."
At table he sat, much chagrined, waiting to tell me. "I vas going wery, wery
slowly," he said. "I put on the brake, pumped it, but it just kept going. It vas
a wery bad day to be driving. If there's any cost. . ."
I wave my hand in dismissal, flecking the table with tomato sauce from my plate of
bicycle fuel. "That's why I ride a bike," I said, feeling a surge of energy that
told me I'll still be in the race tomorrow.
Roger O. Rock
Fort Peck, Montana
where tomorrow's "slight chance" could be....