Wednesday, August 03, 2005

stagnationisachoice



on the back of my pink t-shirt...yes, it’s pink because i do have that kind of confidence, i have written with permanent marker “canada to chile.” i’m not a good conversation initiator. in fact, i'm not good with people i don't know, especially large groups. in fact, i could probably go to a doctor and be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and be pumped full of pills, but i choose not to, because i believe that, yes, most humans are social creatures, but to different degrees. but i find myself wanting to talk to people, so the back of my t-shirt is bait. if anyone bites, i’ll reel them in. and i’ve been catching some this big here in yellowstone national park where i currently sit atop the continental divide contemplating whether i want to urinate in the pacific or the gulf. here are excerpts from my conversations with several different fish (don't worry, i gently removed the hooks and threw them all back) i'm red, everyone else is orange.

are you really riding your bike all that way?
yep, as long as it continues to be fun.
well, better you than me.
ok.

the gangs in central america will kill you and steal your bike.
thank you.

i think it’s great what you’re doing, i’ve been wanting to ride my mule from missouri to mexico for twelve years, but my wife and kids say i can’t do it.
the only things you can’t do are the things you don’t do.

can i take your picture?
sure---if you give me a dollar.
ha ha ha.
(picture taken, no dollar given)

excuse me, oh god, i’m so embarrassed, it’s just, well, i was struck by your remarkable beard.
no worries, amigo, it happens all the time.

can i shake your hand?
sure if i can have a lick of that ice cream.
he he he.
(hand shaken, no love on the lick)

chile’s a long way from here.
yes.
do you really think you’ll make it?
i hope so, but who knows what will come up in the in between. where are you from?
springfield, illinois.
i’ve never been there, is it nice?
it’s a boring, miserable place to live.
(pause) so why do you live there?
because that’s where the job and money are.
ok.

so how can one come to yellowstone and not do old faithful? i arrived and found that show time was in fifteen minutes (+/- 10 minutes). there were already about 200+ people seated all around, and i joined them, but preferred to stand. there’s quite alot of pressure on old faithful to perform. the old boy let out a couple preliminary squirts and i even heard some “boo’s” from the highly critical audience. but sure enough, expectations were met when the geezer of a geyser shot it straight up about 200 feet in the air. and as if on cue just for me, midway through the eruption, i heard one of beethoven’s finest. orchestrated musical accompaniment? nope, just some joker’s cell phone. when the show concluded, i heard one teen-aged girl say to her parents, “ok, i’m bored now, can we go?”

the average american can sit idly for 80 seconds. if that seems short, i challenge you to try it. sit in a chair for two minutes and do nothing. try to remember something you’ve forgotten. no tv, no ipod, no internet connection, no cell phone, no newspaper, no blackberry, no palm pilot, no book. just you and your head. seriously try it. anyway, i mention this because next i went to grand geyser which was predicted to erupt at 12:30 p.m. +/- 90 minutes. i got there around 11:15 and waited. people would, as if i looked official or something, come and ask me what i was waiting for. here are excerpts:

what are you waiting for?
grand geyser should be erupting soon.
when?
soon...at 12:30 plus or minus 90 minutes.
what does that mean?
well, it means it could erupt in one second or in about an hour or so.
really?
yes.
(they sit down and wait...)
(...80 seconds elapses)
well, we’re not as dedicated as you, good luck!
ok.

and grand geyser was indeed spectacular. and if you’re curious, it erupted at 12:38 p.m. how do i know this? because some guy yelled, “not so bad! it’s only 8 minutes late!” and if you’re more curious, yes, somebody’s cell phone went off during that one too.

here is another unrelated but captivating, to me anyway, excerpt:
mom, can we please stop going to these places where we have to get out of the car and walk? let’s just go to the places we can drive to and see.

i was walking around a beautiful area called mammoth hot springs. a guy is walking the other way. there is a tinge of recognition in our exchanged glances. enough to cause a mutual lapse in our gaits. “darren?” “hIrSch?” and then a big hug. a friend i hadn’t seen in over five years. a solid guy, he’s walked the appalachian trail, cycled west to east across north america, and is even hardcore anti-mcdonald’s. he had his bike with him so we took off and went for a soak in some sweet thermal pools and caught up on the intervening 1800 days between our last physical contact. we camped out together that night and he fed me a cinnamon raisin bread almond butter sandwich and some delicious pasta. what a great guy. what a great surprise that our paths collided like that. luck? fortune? providence? fate? destiny? choose your noun.

and so while darren and i were setting up camp, we had two people offer us food. darren and i are both vegetarians. both offers of food were carnivorous cuisine. so we, quite tactfully and diplomatically, refused both offers with several reiterations of appreciations for the kindness. and the first guy seemed cool with it. no worries. but the second guy got to talking to us. and then he mentioned how he had “the demon” chicken the previous night...as if darren and i were judging him. which of course we weren’t. we were just explaining to him that we were vegetarians. we weren’t pulling any “holier than thou” stuff. and of course, the whole episode made me think about this blog and how it was (and hopefully not is) interpreted.

i almost hit a bison on my way out of yellowstone. it was early in the morning (my favorite time to push the pedals) and i had the road to myself (before the rv’s pulling suv’s pulling boats pulling trailers get going). the 2,000 pound beast, upon seeing me, retreated to the woods. i too retreated to the woods, and cleaned my shorts.

so yes, it’s true, yellowstone is crowded, but for good reason. and i am a contributor to those crowds. some do, but i don’t let it get me down. i think it’s great people are out and about and enjoying it and doing something cool. being on my two feet amongst the crowds and not just riding my bike has led to some interesting observations. people smell funny. some like $80 for 3 fl. ozs. of some “designer” fragrance. some like detergent. some like cigarettes and alcohol. it sets my olfactory sense in overdrive. on the flipside, of course, is what they smell as they catch wind of me. and to everyone, i must say, it’s “eau de hIrSch le human.” and there will soon to be a commercial with beautiful half-naked women running through mazes of flowers whispering my name and advertising my redolence. if you’d like to order some, i’ll wipe a bandana in my armpit and send it to you if you email me your address. the best part? it’s free. and god knows there’s plenty of it!

so here’s something too. i was on this surprisingly very lonely road in yellowstone standing next to one of the seemingly endless geothermal points of interest. and just down the way, maybe 100 feet or so, a geyser started spewing. and it was quite a show. i saw a man and a woman standing right next to it snapping pictures. when it had finished, i rode down and stopped. immediately, the man, strangely quite proudly, announced to me:

well, you missed it!
missed what?
the eruption.
oh no, i saw it from down there. it was pretty awesome, eh?
(somewhat disappointed) but, but, how did you see it, we were the only ones here...
(pointing) i was right over there with my bike.
(regaining pride) well, you really didn’t get to hear what it sounded like as it cascaded down these cliffs...and that was the best part!

and then, as if on cue, the geyser spewed again. and the conversation was over.

i went to an all you can eat breakfast buffet. it opened at 7:00 a.m. i was there at 6:59. it closed at 10:30. i left at 10:50. i could barely swing my legs around the bike. i cursed myself again for this giving in to gluttony. and i made a solemn vow that i would not eat food again for a week. and that personal promise lasted for about two hours.

then, it was on to grand teton national park which i had never seen and enjoyed immensely. for 50 miles the famous skyline of craggy peaks seemed to increase in elevation as i approached. i stopped at a pull off to take a break:

you’ve got a long way to go to chile my friend.
yep
how long will it take?
i really can’t answer that, maybe i’ll be there in march or august or maybe december...
wow, i wish i had the time to do something like that but (correcting himself)...well, i guess i could make the time...
there you go, sir, that’s exactly it!

i don’t carry a stove. i love cous cous. this doesn’t present a problem because cous cous fully hydrates even with cold water in about fifteen minutes. however, i went into a convenience store and noticed one of those hot water dispensers. the light bulb lit. so i got my peanut butter container (my bowl) and put in the dry cous cous. then i nonchalantly and smoothly (both of which adjectives i am not) strolled up to the hot water and pushed the button. problem. the hot water valve was some sort of turbo pressure release so i managed to both scald my thumb and almost, but thankfully not, spill the cous cous all over my crotch. but it all worked out, no one seemed to notice, and the plastic peanut butter container only marginally melted.

and now, i am in jackson, wyoming. the kind people here at base camp communications are allowing me to sleep in their office for a couple of nights. i went to the town square to read some ayn rand. an old lady sat down next to me. we began to chat. she is on vacation with her family. she used to live here before world war ii. she says it disgusts her now. she says there are too many people. i told her it will only get worse. she agreed. i asked her where she lives. she said orla, texas. a wide spot in the road, she said. population less than 10. she owns a small grocery store there, has for years. i asked her what she thought of places like wal-mart. she said that they, quite simply, destroy places like orla and stores like hers. but she says there’s nothing anyone can do about it. her family came back and the conversation, which was really just beginning, ended.

i have hit over 1,800 miles. that’s just a little blip in the big picture. my next moves will take me south down towards a little town called mountain view, wyoming where i will meet up with some old friends from when i volunteered there for wasatch-cache national forest. and then it’s off to the 11,500 feet mountain passes of colorado....or will i stick to the deserts of utah....or both...or maybe i’ll cycle up to maine? wherever i go, i will be there, and wherever i am, there seems to be plenty of things to think about, and if i ever run out of things to think about, then that means i’ve become complacent...and complacency is stagnation, and anything stagnant just stinks.

7 Comments:

Blogger R3dcurlz said...

pink shirt ARE yummy...i would have bitten for sure. i just hope it didn't hurt too bad.

if, instead of maine, you find yourself in the austin, tx region, you gotta stop by. i think you'd like it. it might even be comforting to be in a city where the scented biker isn't that much of an anomaly. and maybe i can help prep you for the rest of the journey by teaching you some of my mad skilz to ward off those gangs. pow! pow!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to read the latest installment of Hirsch's big adventure. MAn, right there with you on the cell phone, iPod and other little electronic do-dad thing. People lived for thousands of years without being able to be reaced and minute of the day...I think that I prefer to keep myself that way. I envision you converting people along your trek and pretty soon you'll be a regular Gump followed by a bunch of followers...and they shall be known as the bearded cult.

I keep thinking of old stories from college bro. I got quite a chuckle from the last one about Janices house. Its one of thoer deals where you half remember stories most the time, but you never really ever rememebr them until you set down and realy think on it.

Good to hear that while your politics have changed your metabolism is still that of a small rodent. Don't think of "all you can eat" as a form of glutony, but rather a challange to be faced head on...4 hours at a buffett... sir, I salute you.

Speaking of eating, you remember the time you grossed out our analytical chemistry class. We're sitting together in the back of the room and Dr. Wheeler was talking about sampling food to determine mineral content. Wheelers going into great detail of the challanges faced by direct sampling of a food...he says something like "its actually very difficult to be able to get a Big Mac into the gas phase so that we can determine the contents by ghas chromotography"...and I swear, without a pause, batting an eye or thinking about it Hirsch blirts out "Dr. Wheeler, I've found a pretty easy way to get a Big MAc into the gas phase". Class losses it, the women are grossed out and most the fellas can't quite believe that he actually said it. Just another random Hirsch story...

Wish that you had a Indy date on your little cross country tour. I still worry about your pacifist butt in central america...well I figure I probably shouldn't. Your hygine + the funk growing on your chin constitutes some sort of biological weapon.

Later. Toth

Thursday, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous Ted said...

Another outstanding chapter in your "book of life." Great photos and narrative. Keep them coming!

Thursday, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous Gayle said...

What can I say but WOW!! Beautiful photos on the blog. The one with your back to the camera looking at the mountains, now is the wallpaper on my computer here at work.

I have never been to Yellowstone but would one day love to see Old Faithful. My dream is to drive Old Route 66 from Chicago to L.A. then travel up to Seattle and down through to Yellowstone, up to Mt. Rushmore then on home. I'd like to document and photograph my whole journey. Like you are doing now. But I think I'll drive in a convertible would be nice. Why don't I do it...well, hmmm...time, money. I know, I know excuses but maybe some day. I might be retired but I'll do it.

How great it must be to see a friend that you haven't seen along your way. It truely is a small world.

Again, the pictures are beautiful and your words are inspiring. Take care and keep dreaming!!

Thursday, August 04, 2005  
Anonymous TheSean said...

Yo, Hirsch.
Tried to call you again last night, man, but you must have been out exploring!
Great to meet you, and good luck! You'll have an amazing adventure, and I hope to meet you again one day. If you're ever back in Jackson, or wherever I am, you're welcome anytime.

Friday, August 05, 2005  
Blogger mikelameier said...

hIRSCH IS NOT HIDING ANYTHING WITH THAT PINK SHIRT, i WITNESSED HIM HOLDIMG HANDS with men and boys in Vanuatu

Monday, August 22, 2005  
Blogger mikelameier said...

Nice pink shirt and haircut. Keep on trucking pretty boy!

Monday, August 22, 2005  

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