Avid cyclist Tom Scribner recently connected with Bruce Weber who is blogging about his cross-country bicycle trip for The New York Times at nytimes.com/intransit.
Since Tom's pretty familiar with the terrain hereabouts, he proposed to ride along with Bruce and map the trip from Walla Walla to Pomeroy via Starbuck on back roads. In the kind of August heat we're all familiar with but Bruce is not.
Bruce reported in "Life is a Wheel," an Aug. 14 full-page article about this segment of his journey, that he hit a wall after the first 500 miles.
"Before long, I crossed an invisible threshold, 500 miles since I left Astoria, Ore., bound for my apartment in Manhattan. But it was short-lived exhilaration. With the temperature north of 90, I began to fade. Big time."
Because of the grueling conditions of high temperatures and torturous hills, he said he needed to dial his sights back a tad and not expect to cover 60 miles every day. At least not until he was in better condition, and that was after training on rides of 20 to 40 miles at a shot over mostly flat roads.
He said Tom, a lawyer in Walla Walla, provided a ride that "especially early on, was lovely, winding through vast, remote fields of soft white wheat (the kind used for noodles rather than bread, I was told). To our satisfaction we were accompanied by a cool breeze.
And Tom's wife, Margo, an adjunct assistant professor of English and general studies at Whitman College, rode the first 15 miles with them before turning back to town to begin her day.
Bruce learned about "bonking," when you "feel the strength drain out of you (and) ... suddenly lose the wherewithal to proceed.
"Tom, a stronger cyclist (and thankfully a patient one), was fine, but I needed three or four rest stops, soaking my head from my water bottles on the mostly shadeless roadside the last 13 miles to Pomeroy; I took an awkward fall starting up after one of them."
After channeling Samuel Beckett, who got bonking - "I can't go on, I can't go on, I can't go on, I'll go on," Bruce summed up the first 500 miles with this - "So slap me if I'm getting too serious. In Pomeroy I had my second milkshake of the day. I don't believe that I've ever had two milkshakes in one day in my life. There's another landmark for you. How tragic could any enterprise be that requires two milkshakes?"
After sharing the road for two days, Margo collected Tom at Dusty for the return to Walla Walla while Bruce powered on. He's doing OK, so far, as his last post on Aug. 23 said he had made Glendive, Mont., and the North Dakota Badlands.
Many will remember the Rev. Otto Koltzenburg, 60, who lived in Walla Walla for 14 years while pastoring Assumption Catholic Church from 1988 to 2002.
Father Otto recently published "The Secret Code of the Monks: Monasticism in History," an endeavor he undertook after settling in Leavenworth, Wash., three years ago.
His interest in the subject came from his childhood in Germany. Born in Rohr in 1950, his village is referred to in 1,000-plus-year-old documents when the town was guided politically and spiritually by the Benedictine Abbey of Pruem. St. Wendelin, a hermit from the Middle Ages, is the village's patron saint.
He and three brothers grew up in this strong, traditional environment where the people remain faithful to the Catholic faith's religious customs.
He studied theology in Wuerzburg and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1981 in Spokane.
While at Bavarian monasteries, he studied theology for six years. "You get familiar with monastic life," he told Ian Dunn, editor with The Leavenworth Echo. "This has triggered my interest. I have been interested in the life of a monk and I have made it my own."
His book chronicles monasticism through the ages and gives a historical account of how politics and religion have intertwined.
"It's not that I am only focusing on contemplation because I have a rather extensive chronology, which always combines historical circumstances, which are political. Monks had to change gears and shift and adapt."
He also examines the Muslim religion and other kinds of monasticism. The book may have a European flavor, but, "The American reader has a good sense of the new world, of American history, which is very valuable and an inspiration for the world," he told Ian. "But from a European background, it is also important to look at the broader picture."
Father Otto's book is available by contacting him at 234 Mine St. No. A, Leavenworth, Wash., 98826, 509-548-5617. The $16.95 price includes shipping and handling. Online see www.sanjuanbooks.com or amazon.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8313.