Pedaling along rt.2 in Montana one morning we came to a sign that said Fort Peck two miles.Having ridden 25 miles so far that morning we decided to take a break,maybe get a coffee and a doughnut.
Pulling into town our progress was haulted by one of the many freight trains that crisscross Montana daily.A beat up multi-colored pickup truck,with hay chaff and baling twine in the body was sitting at the crossing wainting for the train to go through.The driver was a women in her early seventies,her hair was in large rollers,she was tanned and weathered from years of farming.I rode my bike up along side the pickup and asked her if there was a store in town.Evidently the noise from the train had prevented her from hearing me pull up,so when I spoke it jump her into the air.Once she recovered from the scare she said"as soon as this train passes you'll see the store right in front of you."Where are you going " she asks,and I tell her Maine.When you are in the west and you tell people you are going to Maine on a bicycle,you always get that same look of awe."Did you say Maine"as thou she may have heared me wrong.
When the train passed we saw the store she was talking about,as she had said it was right in front of us.There also was a small city park next to it.The plan was to get a coffee and a snack,go sit in the park,rest a little refuel and head out for another 25 miles.Which would take us to dinner time.As we came out of the store,the woman in the pick up was waiting for us."Have you ever heard of the Fort Peck Dam " she asks.Hell we had never even heard of Fort Peck until a couple of minutes ago.She explains that the Fort Peck Dam is the largest earth filled dam in the world and that it backs up water for miles on the Missouri river."You need to see our dam before you leave town"our new friend tells us."Where is it"I inquire."Nine miles down this road over her" she points.
Well now its time for me to explain some simple facts of bicycling to her.We are headed east is the first point I make.The second point is that she is pointing west.The third point is that nine miles to the dam and nine miles back is eighteen miles.I tell her that we would like to see her dam and that I'm sure it is impessive,but we just don"t have the time to spare going nine miles out of our way.What she saids next is why I'm writing this article.
"Nine miles out of a life time is a very short distance."These words have remained with me the pass three years and I'm sure they always will.What a wise old lady she was.We didn't go see the dam that day and it bother us the rest of the trip.The fact that we were in to much of a hurry to get home that we couldn't stop to things of interest says a lot of us as a people.
The following year Cheryl and myself repeated my bike trip,only in a car this time.When we got to Fort Peck Montana,we went to see the dam and it is impressive.My lady friend was no where to be seen.I which she would have been,because I would have told her she taught me a lot that day.
So as you go through your days think about Nine miles out of a life time is a very short distance.