Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Bunch of Who-Haw

Two days ago, I received a letter from a certain public-spirited organization (whose positions, I support). The envelope has the following emblazoned across the front, "Do you think the government should tell you what to believe, how to live, and whom to love?" The envelope also informs anyone perusing it the it contains "REGISTERED MATERIALS. TO BE OPENED BY ADDRESSEE ONLY. The envelope also contains a "Sealed Survey Enclosed for Addressee."

Even as I write this, I am opening the envelope. I can hardly wait to see the Sealed Survey Enclosed for Addressee. But first, the cover letter.... This organization knows me well, because all of its appeals are based on my own political and social views. While I do not consider my politics extreme, I do know that they are not mainstream, and the tenor of the letter is not nuanced. And perhaps for supporters, an organization doesn't want nuance, but I do want some. I want some thoughtful reflection in fundraising letters, in sealed surveys, in discourse that examines the important issues of today. I'm tired of the cheerleading.

This could be a very long post, and if you wish, you can just skip the rest of this, just a warning!

The cover letter states that the enclosed Personal Freedom Survey "... is [my] chance to speak out on the current state of personal freedom in America." So I'm going to do that, statement by statement.

  • Do you believe that the government should always need an individualized warrant to obtain access to Americans' private information, including phone, email and banking records?

    I think I understand what's behind this statement: concern about an overreach of our government's police and security agencies. I don't believe that citizens have an unqualified right to privacy, so no, I don't believe that the government should always need an individualized warrant to obtain access to private records. I trust in our judiciary to draw the fine line.

    Our Constitution is muddy. Our politicians and jurists (and citizens) should be asking not only what does our Constitution say about privacy (evidently, not very much), but also what notions of privacy do we want to weave into our society. But that debate and implementation need to follow the constitutional promises of search and seizure and due process.

  • Do you support the use of your tax dollars to fund abstinence-only education that promotes a particular religious viewpoint while denying young people access to reliable information about conraception?

    Okay. Certainly the public schools shouldn't be teaching that kids shouldn't be having sex because Jesus says they shouldn't. But maybe the public schools should be saying that early sexual exploration is not a good idea. I do believe that middle school and high school students in public schools should be taught truthful information about puberty, the biology of sex, sexuality, contraception, abstinence, and responsible choices. I know some parents don't want their children taught about sexuality in the public schools, and some accommodation should be made for their religious beliefs.

    The core principle, though, should be that sex education should be fact based (all the facts, please), as well as values based, and the values must be taught without reliance on religious teaching or attribution.

  • Are you alarmed by efforts like Proposition 8 in California, which seek to single out and limit the rights of one group of people based on their sexual orientation?

    Of course I'm alarmed about any effort that would seek to limit constitutional rights to any group of persons, based on an intrinsic physical or genetic trait of the persons in that group. The implication of this action by the voters of California goes far beyond the actual Proposition 8, and establishes the right of a majority of exclude a minority from constitutional protections. It's a huge problem.

  • Do you believe that strengthening the wall separating church and state is fundamental to the health of our democracy and that our laws should be based on the Constitution, not on any one religious view?

    I'm leery of the term strengthening, because use of that word assumes that the wall between church and state has somehow been weakened. I think the religious conservatives who proclaim that our nation's founders were inspired by God, and that we began as a Christian nation are being irresponsible with the historical facts of our nation's founding. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin all had what would be considered nonconforming beliefs with just about any strain of today's fundamental and pentacostal denominations.

    These men knew firsthand the perils of state-supported churches. They clearly espoused a society with a diversity of belief, or non-belief. That vision should continue to serve our nation. Laws that favor religion run afoul the constitutional prohibition of the government not establishing religion. On the other hand, religious practice that runs afoul the law of the land requires that religious practice be given close scrutiny to prevent the government from persecuting citizens solely on the basis of their religious practice.

  • Do you believe that state-by-state efforts to restrict access to abortion and birth control are making it harder and harder for millions of women to protect their health and defend their fundamental freedom?

    This cover letter is hitting all the big issues. Abortion is a settled right in constitutional law. Unfortunately, medical science has radically changed the circumstances of pregnancy since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. I think that many of the state efforts are reprehensible. I believe these efforts are detrimental to the respect of the rights of women, and to constitutional law. Having said that, I recognize that these efforts will continue, and maybe that is a good thing, because these efforts (on both sides of this question) force the debate to continue: abortion is a truly bad end to any pregnancy, but so far our society has refused to provide the kind of resources, education, contraception, adoptive alternatives to stop abortion. Our society is not yet serious about finding a way to end unwanted pregnancies.

    Also, each pregnancy carries its own circumstances. Women have compelling reasons for visiting an abortion clinic. For the vast majority, their decisions are painful and difficult. The state laws establishing juvenile reporting, waiting periods, and mandatory counseling only compound the women's pain, while doing nothing to resolve their impossible situations. These laws have a particular kind of cruelty.

  • Do you oppose the promotion of religion in our public school through the teaching of creationism and intelligent design?

    Public schools should provide a secular, factual education. If, for example, I belonged to a religion that taught that the earth was the center of the universe, and that the sun and the planets circled the earth, should I demand that those beliefs be taught in the public schools? I suppose I could clean those beliefs up a bit, and talk about a Ptolemaic System, so that the courts and the public might be fooled into thinking that my beliefs were scientific, instead of a rehash of a creation story in my religion's bible. Are my demands justfied now that I have a "secular" version of my beliefs to teach in the public schools?

    The problem of many religions is that their belief systems are closed and circular. Their specific beliefs are not amenable to scientific analysis. Belief trumps science every time. And so, some school districts demand that science teachers teach their students "secular" lies about scientific truth. Consequently, those students understand the world in a fundamentally different way than it exists, and the students are disadvantaged in other parts of their academic pursuits and careers.

    Of course, private and religious schools should be able to teach their values and their beliefs. But students still need to be accountable for knowing the scientific explanation of evolution, which does not include creationism and intelligent design.

Okay, I applaud the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the work that it does, but I am disturbed that it sends out a letter that uses loaded language, and passes off a poll that seems designed to push for a particular response, rather than truly find out my opinion on its various subjects. More to the point, the organization wants money, which probably explains most of the language and rhetoric of the piece. I guess I'm OD'd on propaganda.

"Do you think the government should tell you what to believe, how to live, and whom to love?" Well, it sure would have made things a lot easier! If, I needed a boyfriend replacement, the government would just send me one! Why didn't I think of that?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's Going On?

In the debate over health care and health insurance reform, legions of voters are packing town meetings to harangue their congressmen and senators about the perils of reform. If the protesters are anything like the population at large, many of them are uninsured or underinsured. Some of them are, no doubt, unemployed. Some of them have exceedingly costly health plans, and the rest are covered by their employers or by Medicare.

What puzzles me about these town hall meetings is the anger and incivility of the protesters. These meetings aren't about discourse, or about debating health care options, the meetings are about embarrassing and hounding Democratic office holders. If this is the political discourse of the future, I don't want any part of it.

The protesters should be heard, and the legislators do need to answer concerns. But I'm really amazed at the naïveté of the protesters, and perhaps the legislators, too. The protesters were demanding to know if their legislator had read every part of a bill that is thousands of pages long. I suppose the legislator could ask the protester whether he or she had read the Bible cover to cover, or some similar nonsense. People were demanding to know if the costs of the legislation were known, or why the legislation included death panels, or whatever scare tactic the right-wing wackos could concoct in the proposed bills.

The protesters are scared. They are afraid of an unknowable scary future, but you know what? That future is going to come to pass one way or another. You can angrily shake your finger in the face of your congressman, but at the end of the day, you're still unemployed without health insurance or any kind of reasonable access to health care. You can decry escalating costs and the moral problem of passing grinding debt to our children, but you still have a system that denies millions of people access to basic health care. You have a system that rations health care to those who can afford pay for it, for those who can afford private insurance, and for those who are covered by employer plans or by Medicare.

You can scream at your legislator that health care reform is socialism, but that doesn't fix our broken system of getting health care to those who need it.

The rhetoric around this issue is damaging, and may torpedo any meaningful reform. That would be a terrible outcome. I am confident that we have bright minds that can devise innovative solutions to really tough health care problems. Yes, health care is expensive, but it doesn't need to be nearly as expensive as it has become in the United States. We need to tone down the rhetoric and get a bill passed that will cover everyone, focus doctors on patients rather than procedures, and prevent American families from bankrupting themselves through astronomical health care costs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Been One of Those Days

I've been meaning to get to the latest Economist since 7 a.m. It doesn't seem to be in the cards. This retired state puzzles me, because I always run out of time. Happily, supper is in the oven, and it's been a wonderful, if another lost day.

The official business started with going to the gym with Michael. He and I had our usual square dancing discussion. It's useful to me to hear how somebody else thinks about square dancing, the club, dance etiquette, level snobbery, etc. I usually keep these thoughts to myself, so it's nice to have a sounding board to hear something new, and to try out ideas.

Gym. I want a gym-toned bod with the emphasis on toned, but alas, I'm really very blobby. Oh, I know. Body image. Blah, blah, blah. I don't hear you! I think I'm losing the battle with gravity, but I'm doing pretty well back at the gym. I just wish I could see some instant results. About the only consistent result is that I'm hungry all the time. Hmmmm.

Back on the home front, I saw those two excellent tomatoes wanting to be eaten. I suggested to my better half that he and I go shopping for parsley. $65 later at Safeway, we were home making a tuna stuffed tomato. It was delicious. These local farm grown tomatoes make me think I'm going to be at the farmers' market this weekend, too. The tomatoes have this celestial (or maybe platonic) tomato taste. Ummmmm.

Ron gave me a back rub. We took a walk. I'm cooking some stuffed poblano peppers for dinner. Life is good.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

District 9

Ron and I went to see District 9 on Friday. It's a compelling, believable film about the Other. Human kindness doesn't fare too well here. This is sci-fi movie making at its finest. This is an action flick with attention to story. You'll come out of the theater scratching your head and wondering is this what humanity means.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Montgomery County, Maryland Agricultural Fair

Wednesday, our friend Michael, Ron, and I headed off to the County Fair. I haven't been to a fair in a decade, but as a kid, I was there (Latah County Fair) every year with my 4-H projects. I was a townie, so my 4-H projects didn't include large animals, but I entered many cooking, sewing, forestry, and electricity projects in the fair over the years.

So it was with very fond memories that I headed out to Gaithersburg, and the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. It might not be the experience of my youth, but I was sure the fair would have good times in store.

Contented Cow

Who can resist an adorable cow? This one was being groomed, and looked like she was enjoying herself. And why shouldn't she? She's at the fair! She's a Contented Cow. She's about two weeks away from being hamburger. I didn't whisper any of that to her, because I didn't want her to worry about anything. Cows have feelings, too. In addition to this bodacious bovine, we saw some very cute bunnies, which are just a couple of weeks from stew. But they were really cute, for as long as they are around. Reminds me a little of the Twilight Zone's To Serve Man. Do you suppose that rabbits ever think about things like that? Do they know what's going to happen?

Deep Fried Oreos

Food = Death. At least that's what this fair specialty appears to be offering. It tastes pretty good, though. Oreos are dipped in a sweet batter and fried. They are served very hot, and you can create a small nuclear meltdown in your mouth if you eat them too soon or too fast. It's just as effective as pizza mouth. The Oreo loses its crunch in the transformative process, but it still definitely tastes like an Oreo. It's an evil food, but worth it. And did you really come to the fair to eat healthy food? Fair = Adventure.

Lots of Country Ham Sandwiches

Did I mention that I had a Country Ham Sandwich in addition to the Fried Oreos? Michael and I have been to fairs before, so we understand the food and the animals. I think this may have been Ron's first county fair. So this was an anthopological experience for him. I'm not sure that he actually looked at the pigs and saw ham sandwiches, or someone's 4-H project that was going to yield a lot of Christmas money. The ham sandwich was delicious (although I did manage to squirt barbecue sauce on my wrist while overshooting my sandwich). And let's face it, pigs are cute. These were suffering some from the heat and the humidity. The stalls had sawdust on the floors, and the sawdust was soaked down with water, but the pigs still were taking it easy in the heat. These are big, beautiful animals, and I do feel qualms knowing what I know about their demise and my complicity in it.

Fried Dough!

Ah yes, the Midway! When we got to the fair, we hopped on a shuttle, that took us to the top of the fairgrounds, then we walked through the exhibit and barn areas to the Midway. Fried Dough. Well that just about sums it up! I saw the sign, and it captures much of the essence of what a county fair should be, while leaving you scratching your head, and wondering where you can find some Kettle Korn.

Michael and I rode a couple of kiddie rides. The really big rides didn't appear to be operating. I guess the crew was waiting for all the high school kids to get there for the evening. So we road some rides that tossed you around a bit, but didn't even come close to tossing your cookies. Not that we wanted to.

Freak Out

We had enough tickets to take one more ride, and we had to Freak Out. Wow. This is a great ride. I was praying for it to end before it did, and I'm not religious. You sit in seats at the end of a pendulum. At the highest part of the swing, you are approximately 70 feet above the ground, and it's a scary view. Michael and I both said, "Shit!" at exactly the same time. I said, "Jesus Christ" a couple of times, and am pretty sure that I meant it. The little kid sitting next to Michael kept saying, "Wait, it gets better!" He asked his friend when it was all over, "Want to go again?"

A young couple in their twenties was seated across from us. His face was white during the whole experience, and his girlfriend was laughing at him. You should go to the county fair just for this ride. I had such a sense of accomplishment when I stepped away from this ride. This is an awesome experience.

Oreos, Michael, Kettle Korn

And that was our day at the county fair. Pigs, Kettle Korn, Freak Out, and Oreos.

Something New Around Here

I just got around to it, but I've merged all of my commentary blogs (my recipe blog remains separate). I did this so that all my fans could find out all the dish about me in one convenient location, Doodle Today. I haven't completely revamped the navigation on this blog, but that will be done soon. In the meantime, I'll try to keep you informed of all the interesting crap that happens to me, like I'm having another cystoscopy in a week or so. Undoubtedly, you'll find all of the details here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy's Healthcare Debate

I'm just about over the health care debate. It's just another example of the Republicans making outrageous charges (Pull the Plug on Grandma), and the Democrats immolating themselves. It is not a public debate that has any substance, and our politicians seem incapable of providing any leadership. No wonder the American people are upset (if misguided).

For the record, the Republicans (with a few exceptions) have sunk pretty much lower than a sewer beneath a whorehouse. This "public" outcry about a public option is a staged event by the Republicans to embarrass and demoralize Democrats. The Republicans have declared Duck Season on the health care reform. The Republicans don't believe in Town Hall Democracy; they just shout down the opposition. Folks, this is not a debate.

As for the Democrats, they are as dithering as ever. I'm not going to call them spineless in the face of the Republican onslaught, but in war, you fight the enemy where you find it, and the Democrats do not have a coherent message about reform. They need to get their act together.

So here's my take on it:

  • Socialized medicine

    Why not? Unsocialized medicine certainly isn't working. As for government involvement in healthcare, it's already happening. Medicare is expensive, and it needs to be revamped, but nobody calls it socialized medicine. I think the government has a large and important stake in health care, regardless of the insurance company lobbyists. I'm really pissed that our lawmakers are not even discussing a single-payer option. As for a government insurance option, it's a pale alternative, but really should be considered. The health insurance industry is out of control. It's a greedy middle-man infrastructure that is sucking cash out of the rest of us.

  • Rationed Health Care?

    Just about every conservative pundit is claiming that the administration plan will ration health care. I'd just like to point out that the current health care system rations health care. Millions of people receive no health care. Millions of people use emergency rooms, and leave the bill to the hospital, and ultimately the taxpayers. Millions of people pay for their health care out of their own pockets and can't afford treatments that would heal them. The fact is that we have a health care system that rations health care in arbitrary, injurious and expensive ways. I believe that that the insurance industry is afraid that the administration may actually try to rationalize health care, that the government might demand a system that is based on health outcomes rather than the number of procedures performed. The current system really is broken

  • Death Panels

    I can't finish this without discussing death panels. There's a lot to say here, first being that the Republicans raising the issue are lying through their teeth, and they know they are. Of course, a lot of gullible people believe the Republicans, too.... It's a scary world outside the Beltway. On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to visit a health provider and have that provider talk about palliative care, hospice care, and other kinds of end-of-life decisions, and have Medicare cover the cost of that visit. This whole death panel mess is about as low a debate as I've ever seen the Republicans go. They Republicans need to pull the plug on it.

I want to know what the final plan is going to include. I hope it is a real reform that heads us down the road to controlling costs and to providing quality health care to all Americans. And if that's socialism, I'm all for it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sex Offense

The Economist published an interesting editorial1 and article2 about America's sex offender laws, how those laws are unjust and misguided in their purpose.

The problem stems mainly from the sex offender registration and residence laws in each state. The laws vary from state to state, but often impose onerous requirements on offenders many of whom have served their prison terms and have paid their debt to society.

The problems with the current regulations are that they often do not have a nuanced approach to preventing future sex offenses and to returning the offender to society. Most sexual offenses are between consenting parties. Some offenders have been convicted for acts that are no longer offenses (e.g. sodomy). The vast majority of the offenders are not sexual predators or child molesters, yet often the registry and residence laws treat all sexual offenders in the same way, and do not make distinctions about the kind or severity of offenses.

Our politicians score cheap political points by passing oppressive laws that severely limit where registered offenders can live, where they can work, and with whom they can associate. The public clamors for information from the sex offender registries, not realizing that the registries make no distinction between sexual predators and high school kids who got caught sending indecent photos on their cellphones.

People who are on the registries are discriminated against in employment and housing. They are frequently harassed, and sometimes murdered. We don't paint other categories of crime with the same broad brush. Our society certainly shouldn't treat all 650,000 sexual offenders in the United States in the same way, either. Our states need sane registration and residence policies that target dangerous sexual predators, and leave everyone else alone.

I think it is interesting that the articles about the injustice being done to sexual offenders were published in the Economist, and not in an American publication. Sometimes the land of the free isn't so free. I guess this topic is just too hot to tackle in the United States.

1America's Unjust sex laws, p. 9, The Economist, Vol. 392 Number 8643, August 8 - 14, 2009.

2Unjust and ineffective, pp. 21 - 23, Ibid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Last Weekend

I've spent most of the last 26 years feeling disconnected from where I came from. All of my DC friends know I'm from Idaho, but the most direct manifestation of that is my fascination with potatoes. I get back to my hometown usually a couple of times a year, but often I just fly in, and fly right back out again. I haven't had an opportunity for a long time just to take a car trip around the Pacific Northwest.

This last week, I came back for my second high school reunion that I've attended this summer. They were three weeks apart, and worth the effort getting here. This last weekend was Moscow High School's class of 1969 reunion. It had a good turnout of about 80 people, and we look pretty good, considering the mileage.

6 p.m. Friday night, most of us met at Mingle's, a bar down on Main Street to talk and drink. When I walked in the door, Steve, a classmate and former neighbor grabbed me and immediately introduced me to Ben, whom I did not recognize at all (sorry, Ben...), and drinks all around. Many conversations, explanations, and exclamation later, I stumbled back to the hotel at 1:30 p.m. feeling quite warm and fuzzy. It was a real joy to see all of these men and women after forty+ years.

I ran into three men who were my best friends in grade school and junior high: Bruce, Paul, and Clay. Bruce, Clay, and I had survived the rigors of Mrs. Jantzen, and Mrs. Day. Paul was a neighbor kid with whom I had grown up. I was deeply touched to see them and hear their stories. Clay's sister, Maggi, crashed the reunion, with loud and wonderful results.

I walked away from Moscow and Potlatch when I moved back to DC. I'm going to be much more careful about staying in touch with these men and women who made me part of who I am. I want to remember and honor that.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jerry's Excellent Adventure

Last Monday, I headed out West to see my friend Jerry. He has been on a cycling trip across America. Our original plan was that I would catch up with him in the wilderness fastness of Northern Idaho, but alas, Jerry biked too fast.

That's getting a little ahead of my tale. I had a nonstop AirTran flight into Seattle. I upgraded to Business Class (yay!!). The flight arrived ontime at SeaTac, and I was in a rental car headed south on I-5 before 10 a.m. PDT. I'm getting ahead of myself, again. I had a window seat. I enjoy flying across America, because I'm always awestruck at how big this nation really is. From the air, it mostly looks empty. I love looking at the topography, seeing the mountains, the farmlands, the towns and cities below. Sometimes I know what I'm looking at, and other times I don't, but it's a fascinating and amazing kaleidoscope below.

Because of the time change, I was hungry about the time I hit Kelso, WA. After a tasty bean soup and a tuna sandwich, and a flirty waitress, I headed on down to Oregon, missing the I-205 bypass around Portland, my mistake.

Welcome to Downtown Portland. I knew that US26 crossed I-5 somewhere in Portland. Just as I was about to despair, I saw US26 East on a sign, and I believed in miracles. The miracle was shortlived, because I first missed the turnoff, and instead of being on US26, I was headed directly across the river into downtown. I turned around and headed back across the river, took the exit ramp, and found myself in the middle of a detour that ended in a parking lot. I ended up on SR99-E going south. I pulled into a Shell station, and they hadn't a clue where US26 East was. I turned around and headed north to run into US26, bigger than life. Then I got to see many, many miles of beautiful Portland stretch out before, then Gresham. Many a stoplight, many a store, many a strip mall, and not a few places to buy liquor. I finally stumbled out of the metropolis and headed on the open road.

I was about the only car on the road. The mountains are beautiful, and Mt. Hood is spectacular close up. The car ate up the pavement, and I arrived in Mitchell, Oregon around 5 p.m., hot and tired, but a happy guy. Jerry had already arrived at our motel (The Sky Hook), but was out shopping for food for dinner. I met him on the road to town. He was on the way back with fixin's, and I went to the store to buy some libations.

Our room was actually a suite! The owners, not having a lot of business this week, gave us a free upgrade. The Sky Hook is an old roadside hotel that the owners have (evidently) extensively renovated into a quaint, nicely furnished down home accommodation. It's not the Ritz, but it's great for crackers. We liked the room very much.

It was really nice to see Jerry. For all you Jerry fans, he's looking good! All that cycling has turned everything into sinewy muscle, and I'm more than a little envious of the results. Although I'm not sure that I want to cycle all the way across America to look like that. He gave me his killer smile as we boiled water for the pasta, and I chopped celery.

Jerry's not a vegetarian, but he's not much of a meat-eater, either. He's kind of like Ron in that respect. But an onion, celery, lemon, cottage cheese, pasta, salt, and pepper do a meal make. It was a very tasty and filling meal, indeed. I really need to reflect on my personal biases, and get over them.

The next Jerry and I decided to stay another day in Mitchell, do some hiking, poke around, find a swim hole, that kind of stuff. We had a breakfast at Route 26 Espresso, at least that's what was painted on the side of the cafe. The food was tasty, typical breakfast fare. It's open only for breakfast and lunch, and the opening time is sometimes later than the posted 7 a.m. That didn't curb our appetites. We met a local at the cafe who proceeded to tell us (several times and in incredible detail) what hike we should take in the Painted Hills national monument. I had eggs, hashbrowns, and toast. The local had sausage gravy and biscuits.

Jerry and I drove into the Painted Hills, and they are worth the visit. They are clay deposits colored by volcanic ash and mineralized water. The clay is so absorptive that it prevents plants from growing on the hills, so there is a bright, vivid hue across the hills. We hiked in where the local guy suggested. He should have given us some more incredible detail, because it wasn't quite enough to see the panorama that he promised. On the other hand, it was a very nice hike, lots of flowers, and it was just fun to be out on a trail in the middle of nowhere.

After the hike, we drove around the park, looking at several formations. We took lots of pictures, which someday will be published in the blog entry. I promise.

When we got back from the park, we headed to the Little Pine Cafe for lunch. They have a very good, if a little salty, split pea soup with ham. Jerry and I recommend the BLT. The Cowboy BBQ Burger is also very good, but very messy. It's worth the risk. Way too many flies in the restaurant on a hot afternoon: they were very friendly.

We asked our waitress and some of the other cafe help where we could find a swimming hole. They pointed us toward Spray, Oregon, about 26 miles away. We headed into the mountains.

The road winds up and down several grades, some of them kind of exciting. Just before the junction where SR207 joins SR19, Jerry pointed out a swimming hole in the creek. The creek is far enough off the road that we felt we could probably skinny dip with causing too much offense to the local population, so we did. The day was hot, and the water was not so hot, so we enjoyed the dip. Then on down the road to Spray. It's a town a little smaller than Mitchell, but a better stocked general store (although that's relative). Jerry is quite adept at assessing stores in small towns to the adequacy of a cyclist's diet on the road. It's one of the challenges of biking across vast empty stretches of America. Most of the food is expired. A long time ago.

We took a different road back toward Mitchell. We wound up a long, wooded, mountainous hill, turned a corner and were suddenly crossing an irrigated flat with some contented cows. The sun was at an angle that turned the pastures into gold and green wonders. We were taken with the beauty of the moment. And finally we turned onto US26 and headed back into Mitchell for dinner at the Little Pine Cafe.

This time we ate outside, and the flies pretty much ignored us. The location also gave us the vantage to accost all the cyclists walking up and down the sidewalk, and inquiring where they were headed, then Jerry and the newfound friend would start geeking out in the secret language of those who cycle across America. It's a secret society. Every cyclist seems to know about every other cyclist, even if they've never met. And each cyclist passes secret lore unto other cyclists so that it spreads up and down the trail. After listening to several of these conversations, and having Jerry tell me stories, I have a newfound respect for cyclists, and I was grateful to witness it's society on the move. Remember to share the road the next time you see a cyclist. It's their road, too.

After dinner, we visited Henry the Bear, then headed back to the Sky Hook. The day was magical. But I think Jerry's magical, too.

Thanks for the excellent adventure.