Written by Neon
I had just turned onto pavement for the first time in a few days. The woman beckoned to me from a driveway, offering shade and water. It turns out, the woman’s name was Bonnie and she and her siblings were in the midst of selling off her late mother’s belongings so they could sell their parents house. She, too, was an avid adventurer, though obligation had brought her back to Montana. She was trying to make the best of it and get out biking with her niece when she could, though I could feel her yearn to be done with the work and back to her life. Bonnie spoke of her time as a photographer in Peru fondly, recalling specifics of areas she hadn’t been to in over a decade. I found a kindred spirit at a yard sale, and she got to share some of the lessons life had taught her so far. I pedaled off an hour or so later with that water she had offered and the soul boost I hadn’t known I needed.
It was late in the day and I saw a building in the distance. Getting closer, I saw their sign, ‘Halfway House Bar and Grill’. As I pulled up, i noticed a lanky older man sitting on the porch. “Do they serve food at this bar?”, I asked. He replied, “I think so, never had their food. You can go in and check.” As I pulled my bike up, we got to chatting about where I’d come from (Canada) and where I was going (Mexico). Dan pointed out his new-to-him Moto-Guzzi in the parking lot, and spoke of the history of the Italian company. He then asked me about biking and admitted to finding bicycling more and more enjoyable as he aged. His friendly demeanor pulled me in as the conversation deepened to he and his wife having kids young (he helped deliver their youngest son in their teepee!) and being idealistic hippies moving to Montana years ago. Dan got his first job as a joke, though became the hardest worker they had. By age 40 he was a grandfather and had recently become a great-grandad in his 60s. I shared with him about learning to appreciate my family as I aged and he commiserated, saying his kids are catching onto that as well. As he finished his beer I headed into the bar for some food, but not before this kind man gave me directions to his house down the road “in case anything happens.”
As I was sitting at the bar of the Halfway House eating my meal, a spritely grey-bearded man came in and sat himself a couple chairs down from me. Everyone behind the bar seemed to know him and I became curious. I struck up a conversation with him, and John opened up like he’d been waiting for someone, anyone, to ask about his life. John had been a hippy back in the day, though also spent time dabbling in multiple businesses along the way. He was wearing a t-shirt from the bar in Seattle he used to co-own, “right across he street from the original REI Co-op on Capitol Hill”, and told me about a night he was tending bar there in the 60s and it filled with nudists. He spoke fondly of his two daughters and his dogs. John’s eyes saddened when he spoke of his wife, though talked openly about the struggles of caring for a mentally ill spouse for decades until all the meds she was on caused her liver to fail. The sparkle in his eyes returned when he told me about his recent joint replacements- both knees and hips! A man in his late 70s, he was so happy to once again be out cutting wood on his grandfather’s land. As he was paying his tab and getting ready to leave, he gave a long hug and directions to his trailer, “in case you need a place to sleep.” He also gave me one of his beers because I told him it was my favorite.
I had been warned to be wary of people along the Magruder Corridor, so was relieved to see a man and his young son camped in Poet Creek Campground. The father looked at me with admiration as I pedaled up, saying “good job” encouragingly as I sloppily dismounted my bike. The spot next to theirs was open, so I began setting up camp. Father and son came over. “I’m Jason and this is Gabriel, he’s a bit talkative so I figured we’d introduce ourselves.” They then hung out as Jason and I talked about gear, hiking, and biking. Jason als told me about a freshly dead moose a quarter mile or so upstream. He and his son were out for their first father/son trip, ad both seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. I was nearly out of stove fuel, so they graciously let me use their campfire to cook my dinner. Over the evening, I learned about Gabriel’s siblings and Jason’s wife back home. The pair had to be back by the weekend because the family put on a big horse auction. I could hear the reverence Jason had for his wife as well as the love for his kids as we spoke into the night, long after Gabriel had gone to sleep in the nearby tent. Far past my bedtime, and nearing 10:45, I made my way back to my tent and passed out. The next morning, we all heard wolves howling and as soon as my tent flap was open, Jason and Gabriel came by to let me know the nearby moose carcass had been munched on and dragged out of the stream, but they hadn’t seen any wolves. A while later, they packed up for the day and drove off. I packed up and began a greuling uphill pedal to the sounds of wolves calling to one another.
I pedaled into the campground after dark, grateful for the brightness of my headlamp. As I pedaled past a crew sitting around their fire, I hear “Is that the girl on the bicycle? We thought it’d take you days to get here!” I pulled up to their fire and told the foursome about losing my brakes on the last couple miles of the 15-mile descent off the Magruder Corridor and one of the men said he wasn’t sure his car’s brakes were gonna make it. The other guy, John, said for me to come back in the morning and he’d take a look at my brakes, he thought the cables just got stretched out. The next morning I returned and as John’s helping me with my brake (or lack thereof) situation, his wife offers me some toast. The other guys wife makes me a sandwich for the road. Then John cleans my chain as well and we all sit around the fire to chat for a bit before I head off and they continue packing up. About an hour later, they pass me on the road, though stop to check that everything is alright before heading on their way.