Monday, August 20, 2007

Disaster, narrowly averted.

Leaving Bend, I approached La Pine at about 6pm, while I considered
whether to stop there or continue on to Gilchrist, the next town. A
Best Western billboard promising a pool and spa sold me. I could
already feel the hot water on my poor tired legs.

The Western, a rather upscale one with a conference center, was
booked. This was rather shocking, as La Pine is a town of 1585 people
and this was a week night. Hotel #2 (of 3), also booked. (It's too
soon for burners, so Shriners must be in town.)

Only the Westview Motel had any vacancy. I balanced the Westview vs
Gilchrist; 15 miles, could be one hour, could be three, depending on
conditions. I chose the Westview, as the day had been windy and rainy.

I was checked into La Pine's last vacant room (a charming 70s era
kitchenette with green shag) by a socially awkward, stuttering teen
named Reno.

Afterwards, I chatted with Reno and another guest about my bike, which
had caught their interest, and my trip. I was talking routes with
Reno, specifically mentioning how I was headed on along 97 for
Klamath, when he observed that 31 was a better route for me. I
consulted my map, and realized that I had jumbled the 3 Wally Glen
approved routes in my mind. I had actually reached my turnoff, but
was preparing to continue along 97 to Klamath, which would've put me
100 miles off course.

Whew! So let me just recommend the Westview Motel in La Pine. Charming
70s decor, and friendly owners who know their neighborhood.

My own personal Jesus.

I rolled into Bend this morning with some errands in mind. Wall charger for the iPhone, better sunscreen (my face is a ham, as my new friend Tony would say), a replacement for my punctured 5-gallon water cube (can't pass the desert without it). I located a big box strip mall that met all my needs.

As I approached the mall from the road, I spotted a guy loitering by the roadside with an overladen bike. Another distance cyclist! I rode over to him and shouted, "Where from, where to?" I am so glad that I did.

This was Ken Bettencourt. Ken is riding from New York to Alaska to San Diego to Key West, back to New York. Ken is already 16 months and 13,000 miles into his trip. By the time he's done, he'll have clocked 20,000 miles over two years. Ken has a stage three cerebral cancer. He has already outsurvived all predictions for his longevity.

When Ken was diagnosed, he went through surgeries and chemo. One of his surgeries left him temporarily unable to talk, and it took him a year and a half to recover his full mental faculties. The chemo devastated him, and he knew that it would kill him along with the disease. He set out to do something more with his time than rot in a hospital.

The first time Ken set out for Alaska, he got about a thousand miles from home before a recreational vehicle hit him, totalling his bike, and hospitalizing him with smashed ribs and a broken knee that required the insertion of four pins. He set out again as soon as he was physically able, four months later.

Ken survives on odd jobs that he picks up along the way. Whem I met him, he was out with a cardboard sign, looking for work. His wealthy family doesn't support him in his endeavor, either financially or emotionally.

Ken is a survivor. Through it all, he has remained determined and buoyant, laughing at the odds to keep himself in good spirits while he uses whatever time he has remaining to experience life in a way that most people will never know. He is the single most inspirational person I have ever met, and I am better for it.

You can learn more about Ken on his own blog: