About Richard
The Journey
World Friends

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Report: #30
Date: 10/08/03
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Subject: Games of Mind and Chance.
Written: 15th September 2003, Minneapolis.

You might think, from my previous chapters, that the life of an ICBM is all excitement, adventure and exotic experiences. Especially if what I've written has painted the masterpiece in your mind that I intended. Much as I'd like you to continue under that impression, and I'd like it to be true, and though I don't mean to spoil your dinner; that's not the entire picture. The other day I almost fell off my bike!!

I guess that was kind of lucky (that I didn't, I mean) and it was sort of stimulating, which is a kind of excitement, but I suppose that it's a fairly mundane event for most people; depending on how you look at it.

I wonder if you're beginning to get my point. You don't want to read about me almost falling off my bike, I'm sure. And I don't really want to write about it. But sometimes a couple of months can zip by leaving me without a cataclysmic event, thread of interconnected (or otherwise) dramatic happenings, nail-biting adventure, or outstanding character met, to regale you with stories of.

If I was Martin Scorcese (a movie maker) I'd conjure up some visual device to signify the passing of large amounts of time, so it's not too incongruous when the actors reappear quite a lot older. That might be a somewhat boring part of the movie, a bit like the beginning of this report. It could also be a sequence depicting hundreds of miles and miles and miles of featureless, flat land with endless, countless monotonous telegraph poles streaming by, at the pace and excitement of an Oldsmobile Cutlass car.

You're probably now imagining something like The Prairies. The mind-stretching Prairies, of Canada and USA. Now slow it down to the speed of milk turning. [Yes, something between catatonic and sloth.] Now your vision should resemble pedaling against a gale across the Prairies. Oh, and one last touch; Talk to yourself and say stuff like; "America has a car manufacturer called General Motors. Couldn't they be specific?"

There you are. Now you can understand why a lot of people choose not to ride the way I've come. Even some of the most hardened traveling cyclists shudder to think of it.

"Why on Earth would you ride across there?" is a question often asked of me.

The answer is that I am endowed with some special super-powers that only very few people have. Or know they have.

My powers? One is to observe the repetitive and seemingly unchanging, and yet derive fascination and variety. For instance, I would hear the short grass rustle as something unseen dived for cover at my approach. I would find different ways of looking at the grass, such as staring at it directly, looking out of the corners of my eyes, or looking ahead whilst still trying to see it, in attempts to see what was probably a gopher.

My other super power is an ability to go inside my brain to extract more interesting things from my past (difficult as that is for you to believe). Though usually it's the eighth deadly sin to watch the distance meter count up, I would do so as it counted eg. 19.70, 19.71, 19.72 etc, and think of things that happened to me in those years. Or I would count up and down in Japanese, and start again if I made a mistake.

I'd try to guess the distance to a grain elevator that I could see up ahead, which would usually take forever to reach, perhaps even triple forever if the wind was extra tough.

I'd calculate, and keep recalculating, the time it would take me to get to the next stop. I would shorten the distance by just focusing on the next time I would take a drink of water; typically every four miles (6Km) And I'd look forward to it.

I'd try to figure out ever more imaginative ways to get one particular Billy Joel song out of my head, perhaps even resorting to making up my own songs.

I'd attempt to fathom out why some people I met in these areas had never seen the sea, nor had an inclination to see it. What would that be like?? You'd really have to trust the TV.

And why, in a particular area of Saskatchewan, it was considered late if you weren't a Grandmother by the age of 39!! If you're a woman, that is.

And I suppose that's why the age of consent is 14 in Canada!!!! 14!!!!!

Then, could these no-see-ums' that landed on me in invisible, itching, biting clouds, actually clean my skin for me. And could I take my mind off it while they did it, and let them do it without scratching or brushing them off.

And then I could let farmers know that I was helping them in their plight and blight, by killing grasshoppers under my tyres. Or did I?? Were they just jumping clear at the last instant?

CRUNCH!!! No, not always.

Perhaps the farmers would be more apt to give me tent space.

I didn't get to counting road-kill. Except one. One beaver. Died in the USA.

Just don't stare incessantly at the road, or at the white line, or the space 6foot front.

Small things take on a different significance in the vastness. Significances that would be lost in speed.

And I thought of my friend, Maarten's description of the grain elevators in Patagonia (I think), -like ships in the waves of a sea of blowing wheat.

And the farmers gave me spaces.

And graces.

As did the other folk.

And the badlands of dinosaurs, near Drumheller; and Regina, and Winnipeg passed by.

I dipped back into the USA, though the view didn't really change.

Thief River Falls, where Fred, Stacey and Grant welcomed me to their table, though I had differing views on gun-control laws.

More spaces and space. Across the Mississippi. And more small things.

And then Minneapolis. Mill City, in the Gopher State.

And there I found something big, that is usually small; an enormous, red, inflatable novelty game piece. A giant, red pawn being towed and carried around the city as part of the BUG: Big Urban game, by a group of puffing, panting, enthusiastic participants, to the amusement of most. Including myself.

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