Monday, October 22, 2012

More Life, double life, The Continuous Life, and ‘because I want more’.

Back when I was at the University of Utah I occasionally sat in on lectures by Mark Strand, who at the time (or just previous, I can’t remember), was the poet laureate of the United States and who, by the way, was just way too cool to teach undergrad classes. At the time I chanced across a short story of his published in the New Yorker called More Life, which I thought then was an interesting story about a man who comes to believe his father has been reincarnated as a horse doing the tourist circuit in Central Park. I see now it’s an awful story, but for some reason it’s always stuck with me.


(Biking to day care, Missoula, October, 2012)

When I was 18 I started keeping a diary. Now the spiral-bound notebooks occupy about three feet of shelf space in the attic office. I started reading them last summer, cover to cover, and had the strange sensation of living two lives, the one I’m in now and the one I inhabited back then, and they seem oddly parallel and eerily totally completely unalike. To remember those things in detail was to recapture a lot of life.


(Missoula, October 2012)

Last week we had a baby shower at work for one of my bosses, and like a lot of people are prone to say, someone said, Well, enjoy every minute of it because it sure goes by fast. And then turned to me and said, Right, Jeff? To which I could only reply the same thing I’ve been saying to everyone who says that to me, No, this was the longest freaking year of my life.


(Kalispell, October 2012)

So today Cooper is one, and before he was born I started keeping a second diary just of him, and this morning while waiting for him to wake up I read through most of it, and was struck again, in miniature, at two lives lived simultaneously. Yeah, a long year all right. Which is fine, because I’d rather stretch things out than condense them.


(The firetruck came to daycare, Missoula, October 2012)

And then this. While searching for More Life because I was too lazy to pull my copy out of the bin in the garage which holds all my old clippings, I found this, which is actually a quite good poem by Strand, and called, more appropriately, The Continuous Life:

What of the neighborhood homes awash

In a silver light, of children hunched in the bushes,

Watching the grown-ups for signs of surrender,

Signs that the irregular pleasures of moving

From day to day, of being adrift on the swell of duty,

Have run their course? O parents, confess

To your little ones the night is a long way off

And your taste for the mundane grows; tell them

Your worship of household chores has barely begun;

Describe the beauty of shovels and rakes, brooms and mops;

Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,

That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;

Explain that you live between two great darks, the first

With an ending, the second without one, that the luckiest

Thing is having been born, that you live in a blur

Of hours and days, months and years, and believe

It has meaning, despite the occasional fear

You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing

To prove you existed. Tell the children to come inside,

That your search goes on for something you lost—a name,

A family album that fell from its own small matter

Into another, a piece of the dark that might have been yours,

You don't really know. Say that each of you tries

To keep busy, learning to lean down close and hear

The careless breathing of earth and feel its available

Languor come over you, wave after wave, sending

Small tremors of love through your brief,

Undeniable selves, into your days, and beyond.


(Sidney, British Columbia, August 2012)

And finally: it’s called My Body, but the refrain is “Because I want more”.

My body

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Even after getting after it almost every week for the past three years there is still a lot to see around here -- case in point is Glen Peak, a good-loooking 8,600-foot peak partway down the Bitterroot exactly one hour from the house (drive time includes 25 minutes on a dirt road). Glen is unique in that it has a road going half way up it. I skied part of it two winters ago but was far from the summit, and had not been back. Maybe the road scared me away.


I went up with Eric, who despite using the Bitterroot as his playground for several years had not been up it either. Much of the way up we talked about Tahiti -- namely, do you fly there and backpack, camp, eat baguettes, and get around on the cargo ferry, or do you sign up for the Costco package, fly there, and find the chauffeur standing outside immigration with your name scrawled on a placard? Anyway, it was fun to remember good times there.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Boy gets a Chariot.

You don’t have to be a biking parent to get a pretty heavy case of gear envy over the Chariot – that much is plain to see from the number of aging hipsters who tool around Missoula using Chariots to cart their pets to the park and the number of young hipsters who use them to pick up their CSA veggie allotments. We have a Chariot Cougar 1 and it’s probably the slickest piece of gear I own – and one of the most expensive.

(On the Great Northern rails to trails ride in the Flathead Valley)


In fact, of all the gear we have, this has probably done more than any other to transform ‘family life’. We got ours in April and since then have put well over 1,000 miles on it. It was used for a nine days of bike touring in the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island, and has been on bike tours in Idaho and Montana, not to mention used daily for bumps around town. Now that Cooper is in daycare, I’m averaging 18 miles a day with it as I carry him through cross-town traffic back and forth to Origins, home, and work.

While there are a handful of child-specific bike trailers on the market, Chariot is by far the techiest of the bunch. Unlike many others, with the Chariot you don’t buy the unit; instead, you get the frame and then build-as-you-go, choosing from back wheels, stroller wheels, jogger wheels, strobe lights, ski attachment, ski harness, infant seat, stroller bar, disc brakes, cup holder … well, you get the picture. An arm with a rubber mount at the end attaches to a bike, and that is the main way we use ours. Exterior styling is nice, and the Chariot is the best looking on the road. The inside, meanwhile (and I realize I sound like a BMW commercial) is well appointed. Cooper sits in a Recaro-style seat with a five-point harness and a beefy wrap-around head rest. There are two pockets and two vents. The front has a fold-away sun shade, and a mesh door that has a roll-down clear plastic screen. While most families won’t need another stroller, the stroller the Chariot makes is about the most bad-ass thing there is; you have to use one to see what I mean.

(In Sidney, British Columbia)


The multi-use platform is one of the Chariot’s main features. We store our stroller wheels on the unit full-time (there is a special place for them), and that means we can, for example, bike downtown, then unhook the unit from the bike, turn the wheels around, and walk to the park, through the market, or into a store. Since the whole things folds pretty well, it can go in the Avalon trunk without too much difficulty. On the road it tracks well, and since there is a cool strut-and-shock suspension, Cooper gets along without a lot of bouncing. While I wouldn’t traverse the summit of Sheep Mountain pulling one, it’s pretty durable, and I can run off curbs and bump down forest roads with ease. Besides the storage on the inside, there is a huge mesh pocket on the back and a large weather-proof pannier off the rear.

After a lot of riding, I do have a few qualms. The bike attachment has a backup strap that runs around the bike frame and back to the arm; it attaches to the arm using a very cheap clip that I suspect will be a real pain once we get ice and snow. Meanwhile, the arm has a backup pin that gets inserted through the arm and into the frame; due to the bulge of the cockpit it’s a real pain to get in there. (Incidentally, Chariot issued a recall of this arm late in the spring; I requested a replacement part months ago but have yet to receive it.)

(Orcas Island, Washington)


While Chariot packs a lot of features into the 26-pound bike unit, 26 pounds is still a lot to tug around. Plus, I keep a patch kit, pump, two tubes, sunblock, and water in it at all times, and when I’m taking Cooper to day care there are also diapers, bottles, cereal, spare clothes, and more. There are usually a few toys in there for him to play with, and lately there’s been a blanket and spare jacket, too. Plus the kid himself. In other words, you will never not know you are pulling it. Biking with a loaded Chariot is akin to pedaling up a neverending hill, or riding with your brakes on. A daily ride of 18 miles with a Chariot is probably more like 24 without.

(Start of the Route of the Hiawatha, Idaho-Montana border)


Luckily, a very nice friend of Laura’s gave her his barely-used two-year-old model. Kitted out, what we have would ring in at nearly $1,000 (and we don’t have the skis and harness – that’s nearly $300 more). While this is a lot of high-end gear for $1,000, $1,000 is about what I paid for my mountain bike some 20 years ago. I still have the bike, but at best the Chariot will get used for another four or five years, making the per-year cost fairly extraordinary.

Anyway, this one’s being put to good use.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

End times.

Friday night, some low clouds, some smoke in the west, and an easy drive to Butte and just beyond.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road to the Haystack Mountain trailhead is just bare earth.


Another hike, another hike foiled by bears. Turnaround point on the way up Crowe Peak in the Elkhorn Mountains.


I move a ridge over and there are no bears -- or at least they aren't hogging the hiking trail.


Sunday morning, time for two more hikes: a quick runaround in the Helena National Forest, and this beauty up to the wind-slashed tundra summit of Edith Mountain in the Little Belts.


Good hiking conditions expired at 5 a.m. this morning when snow fell from Kootenay Pass to Homestake Pass, and even in Missoula. This fat season of easy living has come to an end. Photobucket