SEA TO SHINING SEA: Moms, racers and the Passion of Matthew

I glanced over at a small alpine lake today and saw this magnificent moose wading toward shore after a drink. BY DENNIS FORNEY
June 21, 2013

DAY 37&38 - Making friends across America.

"Some nights I rule the world, with bar lights and pretty girls, but most nights I stay at home and think about my mom.  You know, I miss her so much." FUN, Some Nights

In Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, at the higher altitudes, I noticed patches of small white flowers along the road.  Were they edelweiss, the flower made famous in the song by the same name in The Sound of Music?

They made me think about my mom. A real romantic, she loved opera and the big rich symphonies and concertoes of Brahms and Tchaikovsky. And she loved The Sound of Music.  Hearing Edelweiss always brought a tear to her eye.  That and Christopher Plummer strumming a guitar.  In her later years, after a bout with neural meningitis cooked part of her brain, my mother developed a real appreciation for Lawrence Welk.  The meningitis couldn't cook the romantic out of her.

I mentioned the opera and symphonies to Marguerite and Paul, two Netherlanders we met last evening as we converged on the same campground.  They're riding a tandem touring bicycle from east to west across the US.  We joined for cheeseburgers and chicken at the Grizzly Grill.

I mentioned that I had heard a transcription of a Bach violin concerto for marimba.  The mention of Bach sent them into a reverie.

"Some time you have to hear a live performance of Bach's Passion of Matthew," said Paul.  "Four hours but worth every minute of it.  Fantastic."

This morning, Marguerite caught us as we were making an early departure. "There's a piece of music I think you would like.  For four pianos.  Very meditative.  Transcendental."  She wrote the composer and title in my journal: Simeon ten Holt - Canto Ostenato.  Take a listen and tell me what you think.

At the top of Togwatee Pass - 9,600 feet - we crossed paths with Brian and Jesse.  Brian on a mammoth BMW motorcycle and Jesse on a juiced touring bike. From Macon, Georgia, Brian's making his way to Dead Horse, Alaska.

"Looking for work or a woman? I asked.

"No.  Just out to see this beautiful creation of God's."

Jesse's out to win an annual mountain biking race from Banff in Canada to the Mexican border via a primarily offroad course that tracks the Continental Divide. He said 120 or so cyclists started the race about seven days ago. He's in third place as of today and is averaging 180 miles a day, cycling 18 or 19 hours each day. Powerful lights on his handlebars allow him to ride at night.  "If I have a great tailwind I don't stop," he told us. A big orange plastic whistle around his necks chases off bears.  "I've seen plenty of them and a cougar.  Brown bears and grizzlies.  They take off when I blow the whistle.  The deer just stand there and look at me." When he does sleep, he pulls his bivy sack around him, lays a pack against his prone bicycle for a pillow, then sets his phone alarm to make sure he doesn't chew up too much time sleeping.

We crossed paths with him an hour later at a little store.  He rolled up, said hi, and wandered into the store.  When he came out he had his hands full of wax-paper wrapped pies, candy bars and other high-calorie snack food. As he stuffed his mouth, the 35-year-old Aussie told us he was in third place.  "The two guys ahead of me are about 100 miles out.  The nearest ones behind me are 100 miles back."

One of the leaders, he said, is a guy named Mike Hall who recently set a record for the fastest bicycle ride around the world.  "I think it was 90 days but maybe I'm mixing that up with Jules Verne.  At any rate he was doing 300 miles on some days."

When we left Jesse, he was checking the weather, looking at his maps, praying for headwinds for the leaders and a stiff tailwind out of the south for himself.

We're not trying to break any records. Yesterday we made 58 miles before we camped with Marguerite and Paul. Today, by 2:30 p.m. when we rolled into the thoroughly western town of Dubois, Wyoming, we had added another 48.

Tomorrow we're banking on flat roads and a southwest tail wind to push us 70 miles to Lander.

I hope everyone's weekend plans are shaping up nicely.

Lots of pictures after two days.

PS - It's 7:30 here in Dubois and the sun is still high.  Reminds me that we're right on the summer solstice.

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