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Bozeman, Montana

Saturday, July 31, 2004

I met Patrick at Lindley Park in Bozeman, MT. At the time I was in the parking lot, shading myself from the hot, late morning sun. While I was cooking up some food inside the van, he pulled up alongside in his black VW jetta. I noticed his car was filled to the gills with biking gear, so I said hi and asked him if he was on a biking adventure like I was.

What followed was about a 3 hour conversation, mostly lead by Patrick, focusing on his past biking adventures and life experiences in general. Having quit his warehouse job for a Yellowstone Park concessionaire a week prior, he had come to Bozeman and was living out of his car.

He gave me the nickel tour, showing me how he managed to stow all his belongings and still have room to sleep laying down on one side of the back seat with legs outstretched into the trunk. Fortunately for him he was small in stature. I can't have imagined me shoe-horning myself into the same space. Heck, sometimes I think my van is constraining, but after looking at Patrick's setup, never again will the thought cross my mind.

Fueling Patrick on this day were thoughts of exploring the biking opportunities in and around the Bozeman area but he would have to wait, for he was now on the mend. He quit his job because he had developed bronchitis and his employer wouldn't give him enough time off to kick it. His job involved going in and out of a cooler, which further aggravated his already infected condition.

His plan was to rest up for a few more days then strike out on a job search. He had grown fond of Bozeman and wanted to stay. He was concerned however, with the ongoing arrival of students in droves as the start of the school year at Montana State University was two weeks around the bend. He would be in competition with them for odd jobs that didn't pay well and would grow scarcer by the day.

Clearly Patrick was addicted to road and mountain biking. He talked at length about all the single and doubletrack trails he's mountain biked and the miles upon miles of pavement he's road biked. I was just amazed by his memory for detail, indeed I had met a hardcore biking guru. But he wasn't always this passionate about bicycles. His current state of infatuation had been going on for the last 7-8 years. Prior to that it was motorcycles. Having logged more than 250,000 miles on a variety of bikes he's owned over the years (see pic above), it's easy to say he's seen a fair cross section of the country, far more than most of us ever will.

I liked Patrick, he had an easy going way about him. After learning he was going to the shelters in town for food I fed him lunch and gave him a stockpile of vitamins. He then started talking about his life, how it was filled with many twists and turns of fate. You see, he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. On his own at 15, he was one tough dude and frequently pushed his life to the edge of destruction. By the time he was 20 he had two accidents, the first in a car and the second on a motorcycle.

The bike crash maimed his left foot, seriously enough to lose his heel and part of his arch. He told me he has to be extra careful of his skin grafts. The second accident took him out of action for a long while, during which time he experienced much pain. When the doctors stopped writing pain prescriptions he took up with the bottle for relief. It was a dark time in his life. But his indomitable spirit pulled him out of this hole. And it was the same spirit I could sense now. His current situation would certainly be a downer for anyone but he exhibited to me hope that things would get better and a firm belief that things happen for a reason. I sensed no bitterness in Patrick, never once did he blame anyone for his situation, he took it all in stride.

Patrick had been homeless in the past. At one point living in the back of a Nissan pickup truck for 1.5 years back in California. He shared with me many of his car-camping experiences and amazed me by his tolerance to discomfort and inconvenience.

Patrick told me he was slowly entering a transitional stage. He felt the growing need to be more responsible, to be more available to his family (he is the youngest of 7 children). Promising his elderly mother he would go back East to see her in October, he thought maybe that was the clean-break he needed to get a leg-up on life once again.

Before we parted I took down Patrick's cell phone number. I plan to call him in a few weeks to check up on him. I hope the future holds new promise for him.

Good luck Patrick!

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