To Be, or Not to Be

Jeffrey here. Joey’s in our large yellow drybag.

Apologies to our Followers. Yesterday’s emailed post came with a number, rather than a title. I take responsibility as Joey’s scrivener, what with Joey lacking fingers. I neglected to type the title. It’s on the blog post itself: ”Less Climbing, More Talking”.

Today there was more climbing.

Before we left Coeur d’Alene, I spoke with Auntie as best I could.

Auntie is from Gujarat. Her Hindi is better than her English. She cleans at a motel—a hard job that I can tell you she does well. Her husband works nearby; I didn’t recognize the name of the company. Her son runs (and perhaps owns) gas stations in Wisconsin and Illinois. Auntie seemed to enjoy our encounter as much as I did. Her family’s story is America’s story.

I pedaled us onto I-90 East.

Coeur d’Alene Lake
The road climbed. This sign’s lights were flashing. I was relieved to see no ice on the pavement.
After pedaling uphill for miles, we neared the Fourth of July Pass and the steep descent that follows.
Fourth of July Pass
This town must have a history.
Some of the shoulder was narrow or gravelly. Much of it was like this. I stayed alert and didn’t feel unsafe on today’s 73 mile journey.

We had to top two mountain passes today. On the ascent to Lookout Pass, I stopped to talk with a father and daughter whose car had blown a tire on a pothole.

L to R: Conrad, a spare tire, Beth (holding one of our Ambassador cards). I offered to help but I was useless.

Conrad retired from work in finance. Beth is an Oregon farmer with a doctorate from the University of Washington who supplies organic eggs to her community. They are en route to see family in South Dakota.

Beth is kind, cheerful, and unflappable: good traits for a mother of three. She figured out how to release the tire from a tether that stumped her father.

Talking with Beth reminded me that well-meaning, educated people can differ civilly on the issues of the day. Most of us want to do the right thing. Sometimes philosophical and religious traditions clash.

I think of cases pending before the Supreme Court concerning women’s health rights (on which several religions disagree), ostentatious prayer by a faculty member at public school sports events (at a school that belongs to the whole community, of every sect and persuasion), and discrimination against some who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender and family. These thoughts make me worry for America’s future.

But on one thing all religious traditions agree. Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee. Treat a stranger like a citizen. Love your new neighbor as yourself. The devil’s in the details, but that’s devil we can deal with.

After Conrad installed the spare tire, we left our new friends. I pedaled through a cold rain. Then the sun emerged. Mountain weather!

The road was bare.
At this point, we had climbed steadily for 12 miles, interrupted only by rest stops disguised as photo ops.
Lookout Pass. When we crossed the Continental Divide in New Mexico on the 2017 Ride to California, we were over 3,000 feet (915 meters) higher. But the approach from mile-high Albuquerque was much more gradual.
Montana! Mountain Daylight Time! The Ride’s 41st state!

We descended 10 steep miles to Saltese, an unincorporated settlement very different from our Manhattan home.

I think it’s good that our vehicle flies the Stars and Stripes, and that I can pass for the country boy that I am at heart. I got a warm welcome from a man grilling a slab of meat outside.

Teri runs the motel and lives next door. She kindly gave me a nurse’s 10% discount and invited me to give her a holler, even at night, if I need anything. She didn’t have to do either.

Teri has lived here for forty years. She’s fun to talk with.
My nice little room is the last one on the right. Our machine is parked on the porch by our door.

This ”town” has one street with a few buildings. I ate at the only eatery.

I had fish and chips. It was delicious.
The music was loud and country. The lighting was darker than it seems in the photos. There was an electronic casino. The men all wore brimmed caps; I expected this and wore one too Everyone was pale like me. I was the oldest person in the joint. Not my sort of place but I didn’t mind. People were enjoying themselves.
A few of the ruminant heads on display.

Tonight’s question is, To be, or not to be? Should I follow our mission of talking about immigration, refugees and asylum, in this place, with these good people, who believe things I think are (to be blunt) nuts? Or should we go on our way quietly tomorrow?

I decided it’s best not to stir the pot. If someone approaches me, perhaps after seeing our vehicle or our Human Rights First sign, I’ll be happy to talk.

Otherwise, this time I’ll let them think (if they notice me at all) that I’m an inoffensive cyclist from NYC.

That alone may help to repair a little of what’s broken in the world.

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