Our Tommy (USA Day 82)
With a short, flat road down to Missoula on the Bitterroot Trail, sectioned off from the traffic, today’s ride was gleefully easy. We played a double bill of HiFicycle, firstly ‘Help’, which stands out as the best written Beatles album so far in this game, and Lemon Jelly’s ‘Lost Horizons’ which is silly and joyful and even better than I’d remembered. Perfect for cycling.
The Bitterroot Trail is a bottleneck for cyclists. If you’re doing the Northern Tier, Lewis and Clark, TransAmerica, Great Divide, you all get piped down this one cycle path, so we passed dozens of cyclists squeaking their way to some significant point or other on this continent. The lustre was only slightly taken off today’s shine by a brief conversation with a woman who stopped for a chat, at first perfectly fine, but then she asked,
“So what d’you think of Tommy Robinson?”
I told her, without really holding back, how much of a hatemonger I believed he was, and how much violence and fear he was responsible for. Honestly, I should’ve saved my breath.
She shared an image of England, particularly the midlands, that was so inaccurate it hurt. We’d been over-run, she told us. “It’s bad here, but over there it’s terrible. That’s what he’s speaking out against.” She mentioned various types of crime, mainly sexual, that she believed were carried out daily on our streets in the name of a violent and dangerous religion. I mentioned the mass shootings over here carried out by madmen who falsely think they’re doing it for their god (again, why engage?) but she said they were acting alone. I mentioned (ugh, WHY) the crusades, and she said they were only protecting their holy land. She brought up Sharia Law, then some Muslim Pirates from the 1800s, then asylum-seeking populations ruining rural peace. I asked why, in a country that was supposed to be secular, people of another, peaceful, religion, would threaten her way of life. She said that Thomas Jefferson had read the Qur’an and he knew that it was evil so he started the navy.
Throughout this whole conversation I was holding a bag of jelly beans.
Eventually, I just had to assure her that as many Muslims as Christians were lovely, that scary people exist, that bad men will always misread religion if they want and not to trust anything she hears on Fox News. Then we cycled on, bristling, knowing we didn’t make a jot of difference, a little less full of beans even if you count the ones jangling in my pocket.
Missoula is lovely. Let’s focus on that. We got a new tyre at REI for my back wheel that’s suffering from pretty regular punctures holding all the weight of my back panniers. Surly provides some adequate tyres with the Disc Trucker, but we need something much surlier on that wheel particularly. Then we pootled over to the Adventure Cycling headquarters, to worship at the altar of the two-wheeled God, by which I mean eat a free ice cream, meet the lovely employees and look at the excellent picture wall of tourers old and new. If you’re going through, find us on there! We were feeling political and riled, so put our hometown as London, EU. It’s still true for now.
Now we’re a couple of miles south, with Craig and Sherri, who have a brilliant CrazyGuyOnABike journal about their cycle tours HERE. Craig has been following my blog and kindly invited us to stay once we got to Missoula. Not only is this a lovely gesture, but it puts him in a wonderfully powerful position. I’d mentioned a few days ago how I really missed good English stilton. Out comes the stilton. Sherri had noticed from Amy’s pictures that I eat a bunch of carrots. She’d made carrot cake. See, this is the kind of personalised treatment that quite frankly I could get used to. If everyone we stay with would just check my blog, it’d make the whole trip a lot simpler. And for anyone reading this who will meet me down the road, cor, I don’t half miss my enormous pile of diamonds.
Today: 56 miles
Total: 3,877 miles