Total Elevation Gain (ft): 721.8
Weather: Mostly Sunny, Cool
Hillbilly Insults: 0
Roadkill: 15 (5Chipmunks, 4 Birds, 2 Skunks, 2 Snakes, 1 Raccoon, 1 Teddy Bear) Bugs Swallowed: 0
Mean Dogs Chasing: 0
In 1993, Robert Townsend wrote, directed and starred in "The Meteor Man." The film is about a reluctant superhero that gains extraordinary ability from an errant asteroid. He destroys crack houses using x-ray vision, superhuman strength and speed, invulnerability, freezing breath, telepathy with dogs and telekinesis. Although he can take to the air, the Meteor Man never flies more than a few feet from the ground due to his fear of heights.
I see a lot of roadkill when I ride and most of the time the victims are poor rodents. I rarely see birds. Not so through Eastern Montana. I wondered why these avian victims kept piling up, so I started paying attention to see if it was the same kind of bird getting hit. Sure enough, I put two and two together and figured it out, sort of. I have to confess that I have a very limited knowledge of different bird and plant species. To me, all birds are classified into three genera: sparrow, pigeon and eagle.
I spent my boyhood in Brooklyn and the local "wildlife" in my neighborhood consisted of Latin trannies and plenty of pigeons. My grandmother would take me to feed stale breadcrumbs to sparrows while she'd yell the "dirty bastard rats with wings" away. We didn't have any eagles, but I learned about birds of prey on Sesame Street and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. I can name obvious birds now, but my classification system works well enough for me. I'm not a biologist, after all. Just a guy on a bike. So, anything the size of a robin or smaller is a "sparrow." All other birds that lack talons and sharp beaks are "pigeons." Yes, the albatross is a pigeon. The predators are all "eagles."
So, back to Meteor Man.
Miles and miles passed by and I stopped being startled by the birds frightened out of brush as I rolled by. One particular species of "sparrow" that looked like a smallish robin would take flight, but just inches off of the ground. This acrophobic bird made no attempt to get higher than a foot from whatever lie beneath it whether it was water, grass, gravel or the road. Sure enough, it was the recurring remnants of these animals that I kept seeing splattered before me. As I recalled Robert Townsend flying on the streets at the level of a four-door sedan, I spied one of these sparrows nearly taken out by a Honda Civic. I cried out, "Evolve! Spread your wings and fly! Get above ten feet for Chrissakes!"
Yep, the sun beating down on me, dehydration and denial of discomfort give me time to embrace absurdity. I wonder how I'll turn out when the kids commit me to the dementia ward one day.
28 miles into the ride, I took a break at the Town Pump in Chinook, MT. It's 40 miles short of the Canadian border where following a five-day battle and siege, the Nez Perce gave in to Whitey and stopped fighting around the Bear Paw mountains in 1877 and Chief Joseph gave his immortal speech: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." Now the place has a mostly abandoned main street, a couple of bars/casinos and a kwiki-mart.
"Hey, where you from?! Is that a Hawkeye Jersey? We passed you yesterday out of Browning and honked at you. You know, in the white car," a voice rang out when I was about to remount.
It was Ida Mountain Chief, a friend of Genevieve Cochran. This friendly duo, recent basketball playing grads of a nearby tribal college, stopped to ask me about the ride. Genevieve told me to stop by her place in Harlem, MT as she's listed on the Warm Showers App. It was a kind gesture, but not far enough to justify the stop. She gave me good advice about the only place to stop in Dodson (The Cowboy Bar) and let me know that the swarm of mosquitoes would grow thicker.
Man, she was right. If I stepped off the bike to take a picture, let water or adjust something, I'd be blessed with a dark halo and no fewer than a dozen bloodsuckers on each leg and arm. The ride into Malta near dusk was disgusting.
Felix attends Pine Ridge Elementary School, home of the fighting Pine Martens. There's a kid a grade or two above him named Destiny Thunderhawk. I'm pretty sure she's just an Oregonian or a transplant from California with interesting parents, but now I'm not so sure.
I made my second stop 52 miles into the effort at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation kwiki-mart. It was a bit run down and had no place to sit. The nice young woman behind the counter said, "You can go outside to the smoking hut on the side, there's a bench, but I'm not sure if there are any drunks back there." I decided to loiter near the register with my cherry Slush Puppy and began to read the Xeroxed copy of the Hay's Newsletter.
I flipped the pages and took a look at the Hay's Elementary School Honor Roll and discovered that Western names are boring. The kids that made the list had the most excellent appellations.
Aiyana Has The Eagle. Nature Andrew Bracelet. Mulleeah Stiffarm. Madison Plainfeather. Amil Has The Eagle. Wait, who has the eagle? I'm confused. I'm thinking about renaming my kids: FeliXbox Minecraft Addict and Camille Shortfeather Flipflop.
Anaconda, Harlem, Malta, Zurich, Glasgow. The town names along the highway continue to baffle me.