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journal 1976: memo book I

Memo Book I

June 10 – June 30

June 10– Derby 82530.6

grocery – $6.94 J.

82530.6       Derby

82694.8  9.4   Dodge City       5.36 P

82881.5  9.9   Las Animas      5.33 P

[?]                     4.44 J            10.69

881.5             11.38

530.6            |  .69|

340.91 ÷ 193 = 17.9 mpg

83049 camp west of Cotopaxi

Left Derby about 9:00 am. Steve had come over from El Dorado after work the night before. Hot windy day 97° in western Kansas, 91° in Denver at 3:00 pm. Stopped at Kingman for groceries and beer. Had jalapeno cheese and club crackers for lunch with milk and oranges. Uneventful trip. Thought of Colorado College now and then, especially coming through Pueblo where 50 curves under an overpass (I don’t know why that sticks in my mind, I think it’s where I told Stew Richie the new 14 inch tires only averaged 12000 miles). Apprehension and depression slowly dissipating as I drove. The bike trip may be a waste of time, but I think I am a writer, no other choice, and it’s not a bad way to waste time. Drove till about 8:00 or so, pulled over by the Arkansas River peacefully rushing along. Wonder how many miles it will meander, how many days before it reaches Derby. (Oh yes, saw a blue O Dome. I’m sure I shipped it.) Looking forward now to the bike trip– the old lust for adventure, test of will– and besides, everybody has to do something.

June 11–

83058.7    9.2    Salida 5.15 P

83244.2    9.1 69 J        5.82 P

groc.         4.42 J

83413.5   10.1

83582.2      8.0     5.00 J

0.11     16.61

June 12

83760.4       10        6.00 J     6.50 P

83956.5        10.1     3.45

84132.2        29.3            5.55       9.95



Return to June 11. Got early start. Rained a little between Gunnyson and Salt Lake. Sundown light over the salt flats, blue, violet clouds hovering on the mt. tops. Spent the night at an auto park on I-80 west of the Pequop turnoff east of Wells, Nevada. Cool night.

June 12– Headed off early again, made it to California 4:00 p.m. Amazing. I love it, no denying it. A life unique in the history of man (not necessarily better, but definitely unique. Found Joan A. in the book, went to see her. She’s a free lance writer, unemployed. Left public school, studied journalism, worked at the S.F. Chronicle as copy editor, flipped out, as she put it. Taught journalism. Good to see her. But talking of life and art etc. brought on the fit of depression again, feeling of wasting time on a bike trip, feeling of homelessness, rootlessness. At the same time, added another possibility of where to go in the fall. She knows writers, people it would be good to talk to. Came to see Barb and Peck. Raised my spirits, which depression doesn’t really describe– more a mixture of elation, frustration, guilt at not writing, and excitement stimulated by the environment and seeing old friends and talking with them, while at the same time sad at knowing will only talk a day or hour, and then not see again for who knows how long. Behind it all the idea that this wandering has to stop– though I love it like hell. Talked to Peck about mathematics. He’s working on problems of pharmakinetics and is interested in the problems of mathematical modeling. All interesting to me and my recent rebirth of interest in math as idea, a part of the universe, as transcending abstraction and tool for understanding transient chaotic world of matter and energy.

June 13– Will read a chapter in a book that Peck is writing (the chapter, not the book). Friends of Peck’s came by from San Luis Obispo, used to be in the Army, private general internist now. Had met before in ’73. Had breakfast, then went to Bodega Bay to see Ken and Eloe Melmon, Prof. of Pharmacokinetics at Berkeley Med School, for whom Peck is writing the chapter. One of those strange shaped redwood beach houses up on the beach grass coastal hills overlooking the sea. Fantastically calm, comfortable people, two children, Debbie, Brad. They all seemed happy, no better word. While Peck and Ken discussed the chapter I took Peck’s bike and rode through Bodega, saw St. Teresa’s Church, Freestone, heading toward Sebastopol but the road was torn up, turned left, looped around onto Occidental, down the Bohemian Highway to Freestone again, back down Bodega Highway to the house. Sun going down, the hills, cattle grazing above, Eucalyptus trees, wind rolling grass. Why not be a romantic. Die Welt ist doch so schön, wenn sie auch vergeht. Dinner, corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, fruit salad, artichokes, Dos Equis dark beer. Good to talk to people. Comfortable.

June 14– Talked to Joan A. about Juneteenth (19th) the day the emancipation proclamation got to Texas.


Read Theodore Roszak: “We grow sick with the guilt of having lived below our authentic level.”


Read a little in Newton’s mathematical papers until Peck returned. Went riding around the area. I didn’t know where I was most of the time. Big fire in San Rafael, or somewhere, we went up Wolf Grade to see it better, but couldn’t, so returned to original path, to Baltimore Street Station, on around some part of the bay to Tiburon, where we ate cheeseburgers and beer at Sam’s. Out on the deck with sun, seagulls, creaking piles, view of San Fran. very scenic, leisure living sail-in restaurant etc. That night had barbecue steaks and salad, French bread. Excellent. Talked about cultural patterns, sexual freedom as expressed by massage parlors, adult book shops, etc. Peck seemed to feel that was a healthy sign, I opposed, but as usual couldn’t stick to one topic long enough in conversation to establish clear positions on either side. Noticed I seemed to ignore Barb, at least talked more to Peck. Something I need to work on avoiding. Of course ended up the evening remembering Koblenz, and practicing walking with the umbrella.

June 15– Peck woke me, but I lacked the will to rise, finally left about 10:00. Uneventful trip. Picked up an old Black man going to Napa, a man moving to Eugene whose rental truck ran out of gas and a hippy craftsman with woman on his way to reserve his pitch in the renaissance fair in Eugene. Got to Eugene about 8:00. Wrote a few entries to Elton John contest, played yachtzee with Alan and neighbor George. To bed.

June 16– Up about 8:30, bike trip through Goshen around Eugene. Alan ill. Something he et. Will showed me some of his movies.The clay animations showed promise. Mary visited by friend Cory ever since I’ve been here. Teenaged gloom.

June 17– Rode again this morning, same route, felt a little better. Looked through the bookstores for something, especially Eros and Civilization. Couldn’t find it. Got a book on set theory, probably too simple, and Cultural Anthropology. Not too excited about either one, but who knows. Be glad to finally hit the road. Hopefully the om-like breathing and pedaling will ease the mind. Thinking of conversations with Joan. Wonder if it really is strange to be concerned with death of culture, to feel that one should be concerned for its preservation if one is an artist. The fatalism seems to be a symptom (and I’m really as fatalistic as any one). Tom Stafford, or whoever sang “Spiders and Snakes,” said on radio– TV isn’t a medium, I’ve found it’s an extra large.”

June 18– Rode same route. Overtaken on the Dillard Rd Summit by another cyclist. Saw another deer. Pooped around rest of the day, adjusted seat and rear brake. Judy arrived from San Fran 7:30. Played Oh Hell until 2:00 am when Alan went to get Mary and Cory from the midnight movie.

June 19– Head for the Beach today to hit the road. Have cashed two travelers checks $20.00.

Alan and Will took us to Siltcoos Lagoon Campsite. We pitched the tent, watched the bus pull off, leaving us nothing but bikes. Cooked up corn and green beans, cup a soup. Tasted real good. Sitting around the campsite now, fire blazing away. Walked through the dunes, along the cove, the lagoon. Feeling a little uneasy. Have to relax now, take it as it comes. Don’t be so concerned with superficial ties. Wanted reality, this is it. Wind, sand, driving rain, wax myrtle, the sea. The ocean, think of the backpacker, walking the ridge of the rockies, it takes a few days to rid the mind of pollution, to concentrate on itself, the rhythms of pedaling and breathing. It will come, like the life on ship after several days at sea. Still too much bothering, doubts, disappointments, even a little fear I guess. And too subjective, introverted still, worry about myself. The time must come to contemplate the sea.

groc. 1.60 J   1.51 P

  .09 J

June 20– Late start, about nine. Lost the odometer because I forgot to cinch it down. Easy riding, but have to watch myself, letting Judy upset me too much paying too much attention to her and not enough to the trip. She settled down after a shaky start though. I’m now stopped on the first incline letting her get ahead.

Got to Eugene by 5:00. Not too bad, feeling pretty good. Turns out it was mid summer nights eve or[?] so. Had a barbecue, hamburgers, potato chips, beer, even a little badminton. Neighbors George and Donna McGuinness, and some colleague at the U. I think, Luke and wife. Then to bed.

June 21– Our 5 o’clock start was delayed a little again. Had breakfast packed, and finally hit the road about 10:00, but made a wrong turn and went the wrong way on 126, looked for Main in Springfield, but actually Franklin Bld to Main was what we wanted. Off to a bad start, about 8 to 10 miles out of the way all told. Finally go right and on the way to Camp Creek Rd by 12:00 noon. Overcast and cool, but no wind, very beautiful, peaceful little valleys. Like if you had come in a covered wagon for 60 days and found such a valley with the blue-green McKenzie River flowing through, you’d decide that you’d come far enough and this was home. I always think of such places as cut off from America, no TV’s, never heard of Draino and Mr. Clean. Just self sufficient little communities. What a disappointment to find out the truth. But maybe not. The trapshoot in Walton, the shooters, seemed authentic enough. The bomb scare stove-filling station-post office. Obviously the truth is somewhere between the urban TV culture and the isolated backwoods, hidden valley rural.

Had lunch in Walterville, Danish ham, jalapeño cheese crackers, radishes, milk. Couldn’t be too bad for you I guess. Judy’s knee hurting outside Vida. Rest, hoping it will get better. But looking like we might not make it to Camp Ollalie 11 miles the other side of McKenzie Br where Alan said they might meet us tonight–

June 22, Tues, 3rd day– We made it to Ollalie, knee hurting sciatic nerve bundle style, but didn’t get worse. Camped right on Ollalie Creek. Had boned chicken and new potatoes with milk. Started off late again on morning of 22nd, about 10:00– we’ve got to do better than that. Judy’s knee didn’t respond to rest, but she gutted it all the way over the pass, 22 miles. Stopped often on the way up, this was bad for my muscles, just getting warm and then stopping, but no word from my left hip. I may have it beat by careful warmup. We made a serious error in food and water, although there wasn’t much to be done about the water, the campsite didn’t have any. So we started the day with only one qt of water and only a half bottle of raisins and some peanuts. We should have checked the map more closely, and where there’s nothing on the map, assume there is nothing. So we ran out of food, and were down to our last water when I spied an American flag through the distance. The Highway department to the rescue. Got water, but still no food. Finally got over Santiam summit, and 9 miles down the other side to Blue Lake Campsite. Will have to plan ahead better with map and food. Coming up the pass we stopped at Sahalie Falls. Impressive.

June 23– Good early start. Judy still hurting knee and pinched nerve in shoulder. Got some Heet in Sisters, seemed to get better during day on both counts. Got road advice from man and wife in Sisters, new odometer in Bend. Lots of glass on the road, discovered sliced tire in Bend, bought a new one. Stopped for a beer in Millican, took pictures, rode on to Brothers. Stayed illegally in rest area. 80 miles for the day.

June 24– Frost this morning. Trouble with Judy’s front derailleur. Hadn’t realized what a piece of junk Simplex was until I got the Suntour. It wouldn’t shift to low chainwheel, would adjust by turning whole body askew on the pipe, but then the cage would rub the chain in high. While fucking around with it I pulled the cable out of its anchor. With the splayed ends I couldn’t get it back in. Without dikes I couldn’t get the spare on either, so she just had to ride on in the big chainwheel until Hampton where I borrowed some dikes to get the spare cable on. But the problem with the derailleur persisted, so decided to buy a new one in Burns. Ate at Riley. Bought the food at the filling station general store post office. Ate in the park. So windy the swallows couldn’t make it back to their nests, would ride the wind, ducking and veering, seeking a soft spot in the wind, make 2 or 3 feet headway, buffeted, crying out signals to each other, only to be thrown back. A seemingly smarter blackbird walked along the ground. Some tremendous rides. Coming into Riley the road was straight for about 15 miles. Flat. Strong tail wind. High gear for 15 miles. Of all the joys of cycling, I think strong tailwind is the greatest (as you would expect, headwind being the worst misery) even greater than downhill, for with tailwind there is the delusion that you are the cause of such power and speed, and the astral-projection-like quality of seeing the violence of wind tossed grass and trees, of observing all this from almost total silence and calm. And in this case there wasn’t even this physical evidence of wind. Only motionless sage brush desert, making the delusion of power even greater, and more real. Cycling in the desert is a real challenge to the will. Often I would be overcome, not by physical pain, but by psychic pain, a primal loneliness different than anything. In Kansas, on the plains I know there are people not too far away. Usually trees visible somewhere, an elevator on the horizon. Some sign. And at sea the isolation is so profound it transcends the mind’s ability to comprehend it. Or perhaps I was too young to think of such things at sea. There were too many diversions on board. But here there was just the desert. And me, on my bike. Now and then a crow calling nearby, sailing over the sage. Cosmically unconcerned about you. The people of the desert appeal immediately. After two or three hours riding a little building appears in the distance. Millican, or some other, then a sign, Chevron, Texaco, whatever. You strain for some sign of life. A pickup. Two gas pumps. Nothing else. A neon Oly, Blatz in the window. Inside, people. Sitting around a table, two women, a man, and another man seated behind a counter by a cash register. All drinking beer, talking large glass doored coolers to the left. Full of beer and soft drinks. Shelves lined to the right with canned vegetables, fruits, oil. Sardines, tunafish, a display of sun glasses on the counter, peanuts, candy bars, some jack rabbit milk. Sitting there talking and drinking beer. Several empties around on the table and under the counter, like they’ve been there all day. Talk. You join them like maybe the first person they’ve seen all day. And when you leave you’re sure they will remain until dark the way you found them. They seem so uniquely separate. It is a shock to have this view shattered. At Riley I walked into the garage to find someone to fill up the aluminum flask with No-lead, to be jarred by the radio blaring disco-jerk off top 20. Pollution everywhere, if not one kind then of another. And a kind that’s perhaps sadder than that which pollutes the physical environment– that which pollutes the mental one.

Made it to Burns and decided it was time for a day off to recoup body and soul.

June 25– A day of rest, and repair and maintain bikes. Bought a front derailleur Gov[?]4.95. a Huret. Saw the Suntour rear derailleur for 8.40 which I paid 15.00 for. Took showers, washed clothes, rest. Mighty windy. Hope it stays in our favor. More trouble with the derailleur. Trouble tightening the cable anchor with the tools I brought along. Next bike trip– bring the wrenches, at least the 8-12 mm. you may never need them, but when you do, you really need them. I thought what the hell, take it in to the Burns Cyclery. Closed. A Shell station had metric wrenches. The nut broke. Auto parts had metric nuts, got one– hope to hell it holds. I’m tired of fucking with it. Wind picked up, cold. A spiritual cold. The day off may be good for body but I’m not so sure about soul. Lying in the tent about to go stir crazy with the wind flapping. But bear up oh soul, you’ve endured yet worse than this. The wind portents an evil day tomorrow, a desolate stretch, Judy’s knee not better, and wind more from the north. We will be heading NE. Vale is 112 miles and not much between. We may spend the night in the middle of nowhere. (I am officially changing the pagination of the log. The way I’ve been doing it is confusing. You never know which direction you’re going.)

June 26– 124.2


203.7   83.6   83.6 ÷ 90 = .928   7% error on odometer


  76.2   81.5



Off to a cold start. Ice under and on the dirt. Judy’s ailments seem to be better. 1st day the wind turned against us. That is we turned against it, heading NE. Also had two passes, Stinkingwater and Drinkingwater, to go over. The country a little less desert, more range houses visible. The passes were tough. Stinkingwater the worse because of several false summits. D.W. a long even grade. I felt great going over them, strong, even pace. My left knee is a little tender, but nothing serious if I watch it. If I get into a smooth steady beat, warm it up slow, it goes like hell. However after we made it to Juntura, a very pleasant place, tall cottonwoods lining the road, and ate, my spirits sank.  I think again the primal loneliness. I didn’t want to leave the green treed valley of Juntura for more desert, even though we followed the north fork of the Malheur valley. There is still nothing but a filling station for 57 miles. Also ate ham and olives and thirsty as hell. Drank the whole pint of water in 14 miles. We’d consumed almost the entire 2 1/2 qts by the time we reached the spring 22 miles away. Then things began looking up. A car with two young men from Burns turned around and came back to give us a beer. And we found a pulloff to camp outside Harper and a pickup load, family it seemed to be, from Eugene were eating and gave us two more beers. But we may regret this campsite, dry stickily grass and goatheads. Everything we have that’s supposed to hold air may not after this, plus danger to the tent bottom. Sitting now on the rocky ground in the shadowed Malheur canyon writing. Crickets, frogs, a few birds clucking. Now and then a car. Water rushing behind young willows. It doesn’t seem to be so cold tonight. 85 miles today. Not too bad. Tomorrow we leave Oregon for Idaho. One down, eleven to go.

June 27– Another pretty good day considering late start, about 9:30. 83 miles. Woke up last night by hundreds of coyotes yapping and yelling all up and down the canyon. Heard another human cough right at bedtime. In the morning we discovered a paramedic instructor at the U. of New Mexico and U of B Med[?]. We invited him down for oatmeal and Ovaltine– one reason for the late start. Another day of ups and downs of spirit. Had one really good haul, 12 miles out of Vale to the junction of 20 and 95. But the thought of desert for the next 500 miles began to weigh on me, plus a sore ass. But the irrigated farmland from Vale to Marsing (where we are tonight down by the Snake River) is interesting. Outside Vale lots of Japanese, into Idaho lots of Mexican workers. Sugar beets, onions, hops seem to be the major crops, but saw what looked like wheat now and then. Thought of desert may be depressing now and then, but being around civilization tonight was depressing in its own way. A few firecrackers thrown at us, yells, horn honking, etc. Once back in the desert I’ll probably like it again. But it’s going to be a hell of a lot hotter this time, and a bigger problem with water. I’d sort of thought of this log as a Knulp’s Gallic Wars, or something. But it’s amazing how little concerned one is with questions other than physical on a bicycle trip.

June 28– I’m ready to sacrifice the daughter for a favorable wind. It’s turned against us, and it’s amazing what a little wind and a few degrees of temperature will do for your attitude toward the desert, one way or the other. Started out early from Marsing, expecting to get to Mtn Home. But the wind came up strong from the East S.E. Hilly, desolate, hot. Wasn’t bad at first, but getting bad by Murphy. The county seat, but no grocery store! At a filling station-bar-restaurant, we decided to eat breakfast before heading on to Grandview, 31 miles. Met Chuck and wife. Drunk cowboy on his way home to Boise where there’s a job waiting for him. Impressed with the bike trip, assumed we were down and out like him, even offered to loan us his last dollars. Driving an old Fairlane. Painted pink and smoking oil.

Left Murphy after 2 beers and excellent breakfast. The cook was the mayor of Murphy. But things got bad quick. Steep hills. Hot, desolate. But every now and then a ranch house to be seen. Did the 1st 15 miles on 1/2 pint of water, but saw an increasing number of ranches close to the road, consumed water at a rapid pace, refilling from houses near by. Finally saw a big trench[?] right along the road with tall green grass around it. Took a short nap, hated to leave, starting to drag. Ass sore, hands numb, spirit weakening.

Finally made it 30 miles in 5 hours, pulled into a filling station and the thermometer read 104 degrees. Had 2 quick beers. Went on into Grandview to look for some place to camp. Asked at a 76 station. He suggested we ask permission from Gary Lawson. Sounded great. Walked the bike across the old Snake River bridge, down a lane. Too rocky to ride, about a mile to Lawson’s place. He said yes.

I went back to town where Judy was buying groceries and we walked back to find a campsite. Tired, hot, nothing seemed very good, but finally got settled on the river in soft dirt.

All kinds of birds, red-winged blackbirds, blue heron, geese. The ridges all along the Snake, clouds spotting, wind died, could hear everything. The tractor across the river, the birds and insects. Then across the river a wall of dust, a wind coming down the valley, then the trees on the opposite shore tossing, the surface of the river broken, then the wind enveloping the tent. Pretty impressive.

June 29, 10th day, Tues.– Up at dawn for an early start. Wind came on strong early, Didn’t eat oatmeal and Ovaltine to save time, which was a mistake. SE wind howling, hot, took 5 hrs to do 23 miles to Mtn Home. Spirit broken. Settled down in the park now, been here about 3 1/2 hours. The wind seems to have changed to the SW. Perhaps wishful thinking. Will see. Going to try about 15 more miles when things cool down. The wind did change, and died out completely. We cycled to Tollgate. Nice little cafe-filling station up a long draw. Former stage station. You can really imagine the fine[?] stage rolling through the long climb up the arroyo, stopping for beer and fresh horses. The climb on bike was pleasant [?], although I worry about my hands, my left one in particular. I can only ride about 3 or 4 miles before they are numb. I guess it will work itself out.

I stopped after about 4 miles of climbing, long winding road along the edge of Rattlesnake Creek draw (I think). Completely calm. A tributary, steep draw to the right, bedrock table top, alluvial material down to the road with dry creek bed, covered with yellow white grass and sage. Silence except for birds now and then, an owl, evening light, hazy with smoke of nearby range fires, the air translucent, lavender almost, a gauze over the yellow and green.

I miss Jim’s not being along tonight. The adverse times would be easier I think. And we could drink some beer at Tollgate. Camped in a dry creek bed just above Tollgate. The setting sunlight just catching the eastern hilltops. Tomorrow 31 miles without water stops. Let’s hope the wind stays SW.

June 30, 11th day, Wed.– Early start, no wind at all. A long steady climb for about 10 – 15 miles out of Tollgate. Hills green, irrigated valleys. Boise National Forest, but not many trees in this part of it. A lot of birch (I guess) in a place or two. Finally made it onto a high plateau about 10 miles from Hill City and could really haul ass. High gear much of the way. It’s amazing what difference in attitude a little wind direction can make.

Stayed on the plateau almost all day really making a lot of distance. My left hand still bothering me, but you don’t seem to mind when things are going well. Bought groceries in Hill City for brunch, then Fairfield.

Highlight of the day was me herding cows. Between Fairfield and Moonstone, a bar and filling station on the way to Moonstone, we came across a herd of cows on the road. The wranglers were taking a lunch break. We had to ride through them. Must have been a thousand of them. We were in the middle of them for about 20 minutes, a half mile at least. I was whoopin and yellin, singing cowboy songs. They trotted along ahead in rhythm to my singing. Thrilling with 50-60 head trotting along on either side of you, ahead, black angus and white face.

In Carey we found out there was 24 more miles to Crater of the Moon Nat. Monument. 5:20, already come 90 miles, headed out. Wasn’t too bad until the last 6 miles. Always the worst of the day, but these particularly bad, very bumpy, short up-and-down hills, requiring much shifting, therefore much squirming in the saddle, which does the saddle sores no good at all. All the time skirting the desolate lava landscape.

Finally made nice campgrounds scattered randomly through aa lava bed. Lots to see and think about, but recouping from bike riding not that conducive to exploration.

July 1– Followed a short trail, saw much pahoehoe lava, sunk depressions, rope pahoehoe aa with clinkers and rubble stuck on the surface. Pretty amazing.


6-20 75  215  225  235  245

6-21 61 204.3  213.6  222.9  231.2

6-22 31

6-23 80 (40.6)

6-24 90 (124.2)

6-25 337    total

6-26 83 (203.7)

6-27 83 – (281.6)      od. 82.7

6-28 62 –  340.1              62.6

6-29 36?- 378.7             41.3

6-30 114   485.2           114.0

7-1 720.6 TOTAL         300.6 od

read more (memo bk II)
© philip kimball 2015