Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tim Quietly Conquers Idaho

Tim Quietly Conquers Idaho

Reminisces of an amazing bicycling savant

In 1998, Tim visited me here in Idaho to triumph over some great mountains. This was the same summer that Roger Maris’s fabled home run record was finally surpassed. Days after work, friends begin asking; “How many homers did Sosa and McGwire slug out over the fence, and what high mountain peak or ultra-marathon feat did Tim accomplish today?”

This was Tim’s third visit to Idaho. We had been close friends since 1969, when in fourth grade we used to construct elaborate mazes for each other in Mrs. Adams’s class. Tim was probably the quietest boy there. We were both shy on our outsides and would regressively mirror our quietude into each other, with these evermore-challenging paper traps -trying so hard to stump one another. Though we were mostly silent boys, our constant Tom-Sawyer-foolery, did not make us the apples of Mrs. Adam’s eye. When I wrote about this before, in a memoir called “Solid Oak View Memories”, which ended up published on our alumni website, Tim strongly defended himself, by saying that other children back then also partook of the Huck-Finn-Foolery and were constructing elaborate mazes during instructional periods.

It only occurred to me later, that Tim was defending himself, because, now in his forties, he still lived with his mother and that when she got wind of this newest paper trap, that she might still say, “Tim what was it that you and Jim meant to do by constructing small baffling mazes in class?” Especially now that Tim had struggled at Virginia Tech, withdrawing from school there the year after his fathers agonizing defeat by cancer.

Upon Tim’s non-victorious return from college, it was easy to see the burden manifest in his pinkish face -and now with his dad not around for emotional and financial support. Out of our high school group, Tim and I were the only stragglers left, apparently destined to scrabble through life with a series of underpaid janitorial and maintenance man jobs.

And I with my own far-fetched emotional trauma recovery plan from Plutonian, Idaho.

Perhaps we became closer friends through default. Nonetheless, our friendship grew and besides often working together, we begin training for elaborate athletic events. Together we would construct intricate bike routes traveling through the hilly labyrinths of Virginia suburbia, often bicycling in fifty-mile neighborhood loops all the way down to George Washington’s Home at Mount Vernon. Tim would usually draft me, letting the pull of my wind drag him along, as back then I was the stronger rider, probably from all those basketball years.

When I first moved to Idaho, It was another big blow to Tim as he had two wonderful sisters, but no brother and now I- his brother from another mother was essentially gone. When he came out here, we essentially jumped back to where we had left off with our friendship. Allowing little time for altitude adjustment Tim started pumping up hills his first week out here. Evidently, after I left Virginia, the bicycling hobby we enjoyed together grew into an all-consuming passion for Tim. He would take weekend trips; in one-day ride all the way from Boston to Rhode Island, and back alongside busy highways –unless of course for his magical mystery tour, he could predetermine some elaborate backdoor blue-jay-way labyrinth for doodling through.

He looked good too. Healthier than I had ever seen him. This bicycling Zen of his had even allowed him to break whatever barrier it was that was locking in his shyness and people discovered that once you scratched the surface with Tim that he was filled with unlimited intelligence and richly humorous insights.

Compared to conditions back east, chugging up the 44 miles to Galena Summit from Hailey was a cakewalk for Tim, with its elements of good road surface, steady grade and sparse traffic.

The second week of his trip, he decided to go for broke and do the fabled Dollarhide Summit loop on an old mountain bike. Exactly, what some people might consider ninety-eight miles of agony was something Tim embraced. The bike he rode didn’t even have shocks. He started out from Hailey around ten. I was hoisting rocks with Gene Olson for some chimneys in Lane Ranch and told Tim that I would drive out Warm Springs around seven –until I could find him.

Tim had gone straight out Croy Canyon, over Richardson Summit and that back ways towards Fairfield. Unfamiliar with the area, he became temporarily bewildered, but soon figured out the answer to the maze with his oversized map. He took the correct turn at that inviting sign below Soldier that says “Ketchum 55 miles”.
A sign that every spring some Fairfield cowboy gets his dander up and tries to romanticizingly wahoo over the pass; only to get quagmired in mud, and then has to wander unprepared, back to town, with blister boots and tail between legs. Then call Dick York and with a ticked off gaze, ride shotgun in the retrieval tow truck never establishing eye contact with the fellow travelors in the area, who all know he’s the durn fool that tipped it this year.

Tim pedaled steadily. He startled an occasional fox or superquiet rabbit into the sagebrush. While chugging up that long rocky dirt grade, he passed some sparse campers. Being the middle of the week and not yet hunting season, there weren’t many folks around yet. He noticed the ninety-foot tall Indian face chiseled in stone by mother nature, which guards over one of Idaho’s perpetually best hot springs, but even though nobody was soaking today he didn’t take time to temporarily sooth his legs.

Tim had bigger fish to fry than what Warswick Hot Springs could provide.

The steeper grade leading to Dollarhide summit remained to rise over as Tim continued pumping and grinding furiously to defeat everything that stood in his path. As he weighed up the hill, he wrestled with bumpy ‘warshboards’ and rocks that could throw you, which twinged his arms to sleep with their constant pounding. Dust filled the chain rings, but the little two hundred-dollar bike held up amazingly with only one flat.
Tim flew like Steve Miller's eagle past Carrietown, a ghost town I had been haunted by enough to write about.

He made it to the summit around 5:30. To loosen up he took a few victory hops. Later on, I took a photograph of him standing there with his bike and believe that this depiction deserves placement on a pedestal next to a shimmering waterfall birdbath.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At 7:30 I came around Frenchman’s bend, discovering Tim halfway between there and Rook’s Creek. His arms were sore, he was a mite dusty and the headlamp burned out from the rattling bumps. But he was in high spirits. I duct taped a fresh flashlight to his handlebars and insisted -nay forced him to sip a cool Budweiser for 'loosening up'. He started to speak about the trip and some of its tedium, but insisted that he would try to complete the full loop. I went back to Baldy View Apts., where in darkness, around ten o’clock -exactly twelve hours after he had begun, Tim, in his oft-silent manner, returned victoriously from his mighty Herculean effort.

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