Mountain High 

As, for some reason, I’m not allowed to write letters to the Indy editor, I’ve got no option but to use this bully pulpit of mine to cast a piercing beam of clarity upon an issue I face daily as a bike commuter: Automobile drivers stopping in the middle of the road for no reason.

You see, hardly a day goes by that I don’t encounter a scenario like this: I roll up to an intersection where I’ve got a stop sign, so I stop. Cross traffic isn’t required to stop, so I wait my turn as vehicles roll by. Very frequently, a traversing car stops and begins to wave me across the road. Behind them, a line of vehicles stacks up, confused at this person’s erratic behavior and growing slowly more impatient as they simmer in a cloud of exhaust.

Cars and bikes are required to follow all laws so everybody knows what to expect on the street. Being predictable is very important. So when a car stops for no reason at an intersection—or worse, at a green light—it creates a dangerous situation for everyone. In addition, it pisses off the drivers waiting in line, who may come to see the bike as the reason for the hold-up.

So, my plea to drivers: Don’t stop if there’s no stop sign. If you’re stopping out of pity for cyclists, I’m here to tell you it’s unwarranted. We’re free from internally combusting cages, feeling the wind in our hair, stopping to talk to one another and noticing the little daily variations that give our commutes, and our lives, touches of color you just can’t perceive at 35 miles per hour.

And to fellow cyclists, I say stand your ground when a car stops for you illegally. You’re not the one holding up traffic, the driver is. With a calm wave and a friendly smile—and possibly a finger pointed at your stop sign—encourage the car to continue on its way. We’re in a period of transition, where more people will join the cycling ranks and more drivers may feel guiltily impelled to break the law and create dangerous scenarios for all of us. I can tell you from experience that refusing such a “nice gesture” can feel mildly asshole-ish, but in this instance it’s up to all cyclists to remind automobile drivers to follow the rules of the road.  

Stepping down from the soap box, I urge you to hurry over to the Canoe Rack, where Paddle MT presents an Introduction to Recreational Kayaking at 6 PM on Thu., Aug. 14. The boat and the gear are part of the deal, so all you have to do it call 251-0040 pronto.

Toss some cash and festive spirit to our neighbors to the west as you head to the two-day Huckleberry Festival, which begins on Fri., Aug. 15 in historic Wallace, Idaho. Everything you’d expect—bake-offs, kids activities, raffles, and a street sign demarcating the Center of the Universe—await your posse after a short drive down I-90. Call (800) 434-4204.

Those Great Burn Study Groupers just won’t quit, and this week they want to take you on an overnight trip to Sheep Mountain on the Idaho-Montana state line on Sat., Aug. 16. Call 240-9901 for the details.

The Be Active Bitterroot organizers are Mountain High rock stars this week, with a total of three activities on tap. The first is the Peterson Lake Hike, which leaves at 8:30 AM from the Conoco station in Florence on Sat., Aug. 16. This 10-miler is relatively difficult, but the payoff’s huge. Call Tim at 777-3523 by Aug. 14 to sign up.

If water’s more your bag, Paddle MT offers another option this week, the 10 AM Open Water Kayaking class on Sat., Aug. 16. It takes place up on Flathead Lake, has some prerequisites and comes with an instructional DVD, so call 251-0040 and register. 

And we’re back to those Be Active Bitterroot folks: At 10 AM on Sat., Aug. 16, take on the easier Bear Creek Waterfalls Hike, the meet-up spot for which is the Westview Family Center in Hamilton. Call Diane at 375-9110.

Once that hike’s just a sweet, sweet memory, those same Be Active Bitterrooters hit you again with the Monthly Moonwalk “Spirit Moon,” which begins at 8 PM
at Stevensville’s Fort Owen State Park on Sat., Aug. 16. Historian Ellen Baumler provides the creepy stories of frontier haints and modern-day spooks. Call 375-2606 or 542-5533.

A week of free photography classes begins on Mon., Aug. 18, in Yellowstone National Park, and the daily meeting spot is the Old Faithful Inn, where classes begin at 10 AM and 1 PM with cameras on hand for you to use. There are also evening classes at 5:30 PM in the Snow Lodge Meeting Room. Visit americanpark

Finally, a family-oriented, four-day bike tour along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene, which begins on Thu., Aug. 21, is a perfect way to train the next generation of bike commuters. Call Renate at 329-3107.

So, to review, the next time we meet at an intersection, you follow your sign and I’ll follow mine. Peace.
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