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Breakaway / Breakdown

Our show last Friday at the Ursuline Centre was homey and sweet. Lots of our new friends and the people we had met in Great Falls during our time there showed up, and afterwards we went out on the town to celebrate — our first real night off. It was a weird and magical night.

The next day we had vague plans to be out the door by 5pm. But after a morning of sleeping late, followed by a series of errands, sorting, cleaning, organizing and packing, we finally rolled out of the Ursuline Centre parking lot at 10pm! Success! We achieved the only hard goal we had set for the day — to leave the Ursuline Centre with all our personal belongings, food and the play stuff, packed onto our bikes. That we only got five miles outside of town is inconsequential. Our first night was spent at a historical marker by the side of the road, with the glow of the city of Great Falls still on the horizon.

Our next few days proved to be more successful. We moved well together as a group and worked to improve our systems and rhythms. Even when putting over fifty miles on the bike, we still had time for breaks to rest, eat, swim, practice music and talk to people. It was looking like we mostly had the hang of this bike touring theatre thing.

Then, at about 5pm on our third day out, we turned off the main road to head toward a campsite and the road turned to gravel. As we came up over a hill, the line of packed dirt I had been following turned to a puddle of gravel and my bike slid out from under me. I landed hard on my knee. The wound was nasty. Sam helped me dress it and luckily, just when it seemed there was no choice but for me to get back on my bike, bloody knee and all, a truck drove by. Paul, the driver, took me to the campsite at my request, but it quickly became clear that I was going to need more serious medical attention. Paul called Search and Rescue, and a county ambulance appeared almost immediately on the site to pick me up. The ambulance transported me and Lelia (who I had asked to come with me) to Havre, while the rest of the group stayed back. After a hospital visit in Havre, a ride from a friend of a friend to the hospital in Great Falls, (thanks Christa!) lots of pain meds, a late night surgery and mixed predictions, my knee was stabilized, and Lelia and I made our way back to The Ursuline Centre, for me to begin the long recuperation process.

Meanwhile, with our estranged Rascals a two-day bike ride away in Havre, we made the regrettable decision to cancel our Havre show. I heard Havre still managed to show the Rascals a good time and that people were extremely sympathetic to our situation. The Rascals were still able to volunteer and meet the people of Havre at the Fourth of July event, handing out food watching their firework spectacular.

Lelia and I knew we couldn’t stay separated for long. With our next show in Lewistown less than a week away, and a play we still wanted to keep working on, we had to get back. We made the decision to rent a car, and while in the past I have been adamantly against Agile Rascal having a support vehicle of any kind, this time there was no debate. And because we can return it at any time, in any big city, I’ll have time to ease back into biking (and biking long distance, and biking with weight) at a rate that’s comfortable for me.

It’s funny, in the past month and a half, we’ve talked a lot the tension between individualism and collectivism. This theme has woven itself into our conversations about the history of Montana, its people and culture, and our own personal experiences, and naturally these observations have made their way into our play as well. And while there are many things that each of us could say about what this tension means to us, I can only speak for myself.

Since this accident, I’ve been thinking a lot about the contrast between how I imagined this trip and how it’s turning out. I had pictured myself as independent and free on my bike, and collective and communal off the bike. But as a veteran bike tourist and one of the older members of the troupe, I had always pictured myself in the role of the caretaker-offering sage advice and emotional support, carrying extra weight on my bike and picking up the slack. I realize now that in many ways, between the caretaker and the receiver, this is actually the easier role in the relationship.

Suddenly I am on the other end of this relationship, and all at once this collectivism thing doesn’t seem so easy. I am completely dependent on the group for everything —driving me around, carrying my belongings, even tying my shoe. Being in a position where I am forced to accept help, make concessions, be the slowest and the most delicate, I find myself wondering — how does one do this with grace?

We reunited here in Lewistown, after the rest of the crew hauled asphalt for 175 miles over three days. It’s a rare luxury, but we have a couple of days here in Lewistown to tinker with the play in preparation for our show on Tuesday. It was really sweet to be back together. This group just moves and communicates and takes care of one another really well.

As we rehearsed today, it was nice to dive back into the play, which had been so eclipsed by the week’s drama. We were still here, in this space together, and now we get to dig a little deeper, tweak and finesse things. Lewistown seems like a really nice place to be for a couple of days.


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