Cycling Oregon to Colorado, in syllables

The Teton Range on day 23 of Judy Martell's bike ride

The Teton Range on day 23 (Click to ENLARGE)

I present to you some of the delightful haikus my friend Judy Martell wrote during her solo 1,800-mile bike ride from Oregon to Colorado (via Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming), marking the completion of a goal she set for herself in 2001 at the age of 51: to self-propel herself across the United States. She’s used the route and maps established by the Adventure Cycling Association. On many counts, Judy is an amazing woman, and I’m happy to call her my friend. You can see the entire haiku collection, with Judy’s commentary and photos at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/BikeU. Judy, who lives not far from me in Durham, rides a recumbent bicycle, which makes the uphills even harder and the downhills even wilder.

In her words, here’s how Judy came to write haikus (three lines, 5/7/5 syllables) for her journey:

Judy Martell

“I was unsure of my physical capabilities in serious mountains, and began to train in earnest … but I was more worried about my mental capabilities: could I manage for five weeks without friends and family, without familiar routines, without someone to talk to daily? I decided during my training rides prior to the trip that I should perhaps find a way to focus my head through poetry. I tried writing a haiku as I rode — a short poem that captured the essence of that day’s ride.”

And that is what I love about these haikus, or “bike-u’s” as she calls them. Each one encapsulates her day. Bicycle touring is, after all, poetry in motion.

(Click on photos below to view a larger version)

The McKenzie River, Oregon on days 1-3 (Click to ENLARGE)

The McKenzie River, Oregon on days 1-3

I cross the threshold
that lies between when and now
and I begin to ride.

Always the river:
though the Cascades loom ahead,
today is today.

Someone bring me ice
to tend my two swollen knees:
I have crossed the Cascades!

Hell's Canyon region of Idaho on day 9 (Click to ENLARGE)

Hell's Canyon region of Idaho on day 9

The high desert cooks
below rain-grabbing mountains.
Trees shrink to mere shrubs.

Forty miles downhill
for eight miles straight up the pass.
Is that a fair trade?

The mule pricks his ears.
The deer freezes beside me.
Black llamas just blink

Bitterroot Valley of Montana on day 16 (Click to ENLARGE)

Bitterroot Valley of Montana on day 16

Reverence today
on the trail of the Nez Perce.
We should all seek peace.

The gold rush is dead,
but the tourists unearth it
from their deep pockets.

In a wind tunnel:
Madison Valley wants me
back in Idaho!

Togwotee Pass, WY after a 16-mile climb on day 24 (Click to ENLARGE)

Togwotee Pass, Wyoming on day 24

What a gas this is:
To be touring Yellowstone
on human fuel.

As broken old teeth
from the jaw of Jackson Hole,
the Tetons erupt.

The crickets chirped in
to coax me through the last yards
of Togwotee Pass.

Jeffrey City, WY on day 27 (Click to ENLARGE)

Jeffrey City, Wyoming on day 27

The grass bows my way.
If I’m to cross this prairie,
I must ride the wind.

This is getting hard!
I pitched my tent on concrete
In Jeffrey ‘City.’

They all race across:
squeak pigs, gophers, prairie dogs.
Some just get part-way.

Finish in Breckenridge, CO on day 31 (Click to ENLARGE)

Finish in Breckenridge, Colorado on day 31

White blends to browns, greens,
which dip to yellows, purples:
the earthly palette.

The pine bark beetles
have consumed a full-course meal.
Fire may lick the crumbs.

How does it get done?
With a little persistence
and a mountain gear!

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One Response to “Cycling Oregon to Colorado, in syllables”

  1. karel Says:

    An amazing story about someone who tries to rise up from the common life of dollars and importation. But is this a goal to behave like that. Or is it a means to get to a goal that is not mentioned yet. Anyhow, an interesting story!

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