Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 16. Mosby, MT to Jordan, MT

Hill Ranch Oasis overnight was the highlight of the day, and a crowning stay of the trip so far.  

Delores and Phil Hill opened their home as a BnB 16 years ago with the theme "Where Friends are Family". Delores said that she and Mr. Hill, whom had recently passed in January, simply loved people and enjoyed getting to know their guests.  

Well as you can imagine, Delores and her family (Mike and Gala) were superior hosts and they indeed make you feel like family.  

As it turned out, I was the only guest for their five room BnB in their basement.  Each room was themed and I chose the Elk room for the night.  After a bit of rest time in a welcoming recliner, I went upstairs to have dinner.  The table was spread with steak, vegetable stir-fry, mushrooms, salad and ultimately ice cream for desert.  After we said grace, I feasted.  Delicious.  
At dinner I met Elliott and Connie Sue, who were invited guests for dinner.  Elliott and his family had been drilling in an area nearby (20 miles I think) since 1941. Much of the crew and others associated with his endeavors often stay with the Hills.   Unfortunately, the well they had been working on turned up dry that day.  That was an immense amount of work to end up dry...for nothing.  I am sure it had to be a huge disappointment, but you would never know that by his gregarious, friendly nature.  During and after dinner we sat around and talked about a wide variety of topics. A much more enjoyable evening than sleeping in my tent. 

After dinner, I retired to the basement where I caught up on some route map plans and read "Olive Kitteridge" under the watchful eyes of some very large deer mounts on the walls and one gape-mouthed bear rug on the floor.  One deer had, by my count, 15 points.  

The Hill Ranch runs angus beef cattle as well as a large herd of sheep, but this is also great area for hunters of mule, whitetail deer, elk, antelope and prairie dog.   

After a restful night of sleep in the Elk room, we enjoyed an immense stack of pancakes, bacon and cups full of coffee.  If I had one more serving, I would have to return to the Elk room for a nap.  I seriously considered it.  I did not, however, and it was time to head to Jordan, MT. 

After we said our good-byes, Gala escorted me out and two border collies came around to make sure I got off safely.  

The route today was a short 52 miles.  It was either stop in Jordan or make it about a 120 mile day to Circle, MT.  Easy choice.   It was warm this morning, as I started the day wearing my short-sleeved South Africa kit.  It got hot quick, so I was grateful to retire early today.  I spent most of the afternoon at the Hilltop Cafe staying out of the heat.  As it cools down, and it will cool down quickly, I will set up camp under a cottonwood tree at a local campground.  

I did take advantage of the time to do a bit more thorough bike maintenance. Everyday I check the basics, tire pressure, chain lube, etc.  Today I gave it a more thorough checkup, adjusting the brakes (and they needed it), dérailleur alignment, tightening the cables, bolts, screws etc. The rear tire is already showing heavy wear under the load, so I will rotate them in a week.  I plan to take it to a shop in Fargo for a more professional checkup.  (For those that are wondering, I do have a spare tire).

Tomorrow will be another relatively short 68 mile day to Circle, MT.   It will be hot, so that will be fine.   

This just in, Montana is one big state.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day 15. To Mosby, MT

I awoke this morning and opened the tent only to be glared at by two deer.  Previously, I awoke in Lincoln to a fawn munching in the neighbors yard, then looked across the street to see one "grazing" in front of the post office.  I had a stare-down with one on the roadside yesterday as I pedaled slowly by.  I saw them literally walking in the street in Missoula. They do not appear that elusive, frankly.  

After a quality scone and coffee at the Rising Trout Cafe on Main Street in Lewistown, I was off on an 84 mile day to Mosby, MT. I was just on the outskirts of town, when off to my left on a hill I saw a sentry of cows lined up on the ridge, as if watching over town. They were not very good at this apparently, as I cycled by them, undetected.   

The route itself started off as 10 mile climb up Horseshoe Bend. However, it was predominantly a downhill ride, hence. With the Judith And Moccasin Mountain behind me, the terrain turned to more wide-open ranges, plateaus and hay fields.  As if to solidify the point, my mid-morning stop was at a hardware/convenience store in Grass Range, MT. There I had a banana, peach, and hummus, while being entertained by the new owner's children.  

Winnett, MT was 25 miles further where lunch was a BLT and some very sweet tea.  

The open ranges were dotted with Black and Red Angus (I did not know there were Red Angus) cows early in the ride. But eventually the hay and cattle fields gave way to more harsh looking landscape of low shrubs.  The increasing count of deer carcass by the roadside eerily accentuated the harshness of the terrain.  Even so, there were continuing beautiful, predominantly purple, wildflowers to enjoy.  

Tonight I am staying at a BnB in Mosby, MT called the Hill Ranch Oasis.  It is the only accommodation for quite a few miles, including camping.  I have just arrived and am the only guest for the 5 basement rooms.  It is very comfortable and I'm enjoying the recliners and sofas, a rare treat these last weeks. Delores and her son are preparing dinner for tonight. More to come in tomorrow's post.  

Side note: I saw Boyd Creek today. Hmm. Previously, on my way into Lincoln, I had stopped for lunch at a convenience store at the 200/209 junction.  My map showed Boyd Mountain off in the horizon.  It was indiscernible and unimpressive. Figures. 

Pandora Mix: John Coltrane. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 14. Geraldine, MT to Lewistown, MT

A beautiful sunrise was the first thing I saw as I unzipped the tent.  It was a precursor to a beautiful day.  

After breakfast at Rusty's, where I was nearly a 'regular' by that point, I headed off down the road.  It was a beautiful warm morning (only riding with a jacket to start the day), with clear blue skies. The prevailing wind was to be at my back most of the day, so it was setting up as a nice ride.  

Overall it was a nice day for riding.  There was a general climb out of Geraldine until about the 15 mile mark when the road turn back into the wind for a long, steep climb up a section they called Arrow Creek.  That got the heart rate going and the blood flowing.  Once I crested the hill, the road turned back to the east the pedaling was much easier.     

As the day warmed, the clear sky began to be infested by patches of small white clouds that kept multiplying, like tribbles.  They actually gave even more depth to the Big Sky. 

The terrain was incredibly diverse, yet seamlessly welded together.  There were many elevation changes (about 3000 ft of climbing) and curves.  Each one seemed to offer a modification of the previous section.  There were prairies, mountains in the distance, rolling hills, sheer cliffs cut by the rivers, rocky outcrops and meadows.  The common thread that connected them all were the acres of red top wheat, taupe colored barley, rolls of hay and cattle farms.  

It was a quiet day.  Light traffic, for the most part, and when I took my breaks, calming sounds and motions of the wheat rustling in the wind had quite a calming effect.  Even at lunch in Benton, everything was quiet.  Only random talk of the pending harvest interrupted long moments of silence.  

Birds again grabbed my attention today.  Numerous dove, magpie and what I think are thrush were the most prevalent. Then more sparrows, my favorite, along with a couple of grouse and one pheasant.  Very cool.  Closer to the end of the ride, an American Eagle was on a fence post, took off as I passed and flew along with the wind beside me for about 50 yards or so. That was impressive. There were many others that I have yet to learn. 

Beside the wheat fields there were fields of budding sunflowers. The small bright yellow bud made for a pretty nice picture.  Also, there were clumps and patches of wildflowers, predominately purple ones.  Brenda, my wife, would have liked them.  I took several pictures of them, I hope they turn out.  

Early in the ride there was a pronghorn antelope, to go along with two I saw yesterday.  I did not get any pictures of them.  By the time I stopped and retrieved my camera from the handle bar bag, they were a distant memory.  

Ring the bell. Today ends the second week, and I passed 1000 miles for the trip. I am excited about the milestone. 

So with that... The Pandora Mix: Miles Davis, "If I were a Bell".  

Day 13. Great Falls to Geraldine, MT

As I was looking over today's route, google maps showed me a option my Adventure Cycling maps did not.  It seemed easier.  Yesterday, when I was telling Dorothy my general plans, she asked a simple question that saved the day......"is it paved?"    As zoomed down on the road from the "satellite" view.  It indeed was paved, for about 100 yards, then for the next 30 miles or so it was mud, dirt and gravel.   So apparently there are no shorts cuts.  There is a life lesson or two in this, I believe.  

The ride itself turned out to be the easiest ride, by far.   The storm passed, but some clouds trailed which kept the sun from warming it up early, so I rode until lunch in jacket and warmers. As it turned out, lunch came early.  The winds were gusting in the 20s and steadily at 14 MPH.  90 percent of the time they were favoring winds and I was speeding along quite nicely. There were times I was doing 25mph, with the 75+lbs of bike and gear, with my heart rate at about 120.  That is a strong wind.  I am certainly grateful I was headed East, because the reverse would have been nearly impossible.  The wind-aided ride was not without some trepidation, in the beginning.  The road was narrow with little to no shoulder.  So when the double hitched grain trucks came roaring by, they created additional turbulence with the wind that I thought was going to pull me up into the cab with them.  When the came by, all of my touch points gripped the bike, including my toes.  After about 20 miles, the shoulder widened and it was much easier for all of us.  

With that speed, I ended up crossing the 40 miles to Fort Benton by 11 am.  I took advantage of that time and toured around the town for about 3 hrs, including lunch.  Fort Benton is the oldest continually inhabited town in Montana and has an incredible history.  As previously mentioned, it was the major port and trading post on the north Missouri River.  It thrived until the railroads came through, but has still succeeded in the agriculture of wheat and beef, since. I had time to read many of the historical markers and visit a bit with Muncie who worked in the visitors center. Some of the oldest architecture and buildings still remain.  As an additional treat, Morris and Patsy from Alberta, CA saw me reading a marker, and offered me a slice of lemon pound cake.  I feebly, initially refused and but then quickly acquiesced at their second prompting and enjoyed their cake.  They offered me the last piece, but this time I did indeed refuse. 

The terrain was rolling and dominated by wheat and barley fields, with a backdrop of the Highwood Mountains in the distance.  What amazed me is that I am riding along thousands of acres of farm land and then there is a sign that says scenic turnoff 1/2 mile.  Suddenly the earth opens up with sheer cliffs and the Missouri River.  Stunning, really.  

The wind is still strong as I climb up from the Missouri River and head to Geraldine.  I arrive in short order into the town of about 266, it says.  The town, named after Geraldine Rockefeller, is apparently very good at "6 man" football as they boast several state championships, including 2014.  

I have dinner at Rusty's bar and grill (looks to be the only option), ride my bike a couple of blocks down the street to the city park and pitch my tent.  It is a nice large park with a few tables, a kids play area and some protective trees.  Frankly, a pretty nice place to camp for free. 

I plan to grab breakfast at Rustys in the morning and head to Lewistown, MT.  About 75 miles away.  Let's hope the wind does not shift.  

So, all in all, today's ride was  

Pandora mix:   Lynyrd Skynrd.  "Call me the breeze".  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Day 12. Rainy Day in Great Falls

In a sense, it was the perfect day for a day off. It has literally rained all day in Great Falls and it's not expected to quit until the morning.   So my thoughts of visiting the State Fair have "waned"......get it?   

I am certain you noted my reference to Gene Cummings, my brother-in-law, the last few days as the tour entered Montana.   This is where he spent his formative years and his mother lives here in Great Falls.   So I had a special treat by having lunch with Dorothy at Applebee's and then heading out on a tour of the Falls, Giant Springs, and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.   Just as importantly, she was able to give me some tips about the upcoming routes - do's and don'ts.  Speaking of which, I am really looking forward to having lunch in Fort Benton tomorrow.  She tells me that much of its historical importance is due to the fact it was the terminus of the steamboats up the Missouri River, making it a critically important trading post.  In short, she turned a dreary day in Great Falls, to quite a pleasant afternoon.  Thanks you very much.  

Of the sites, the Giant Springs was quite impressive.  It pumps out 156 million gallons of 54 degree water each day.  The spring has a body of water, the Roe River, connecting it to the Missouri River.  At 201 feet, the Roe is one of this smallest rivers in the world.  Dorothy tells me that a local grade school class worked hard and petitioned to have that connecting stream given a name. They were successful and ultimately it appeared in the Guinness Record Book.  

The Interpretive Center is a must see if you are here. It is a labyrinth that tells the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The exhibits, both interactive and static, give an impressive account of their journey, including portage challenges along with their interactions and reliance on the various tribes they encountered.  

After an enjoyable rest day, it is off to Geraldine, MT tomorrow night.  With the population of about 120, I will be camping in the city park.  I called ahead today to confirm that was ok, they said...."sure".  

Pandora mix.  Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Have you ever seen the rain",  Eric Clapton: "Let it Rain".  

Day 11. Lincoln, MT to Great Falls, MT

Awaking in Lincoln, MT to 49 degrees certainly started the day off crisp. I had shirt, jacket, arm warmers and vest on to start the day.  

Before hitting the road in earnest, I had breakfast at the famous Lambkins of Lincoln. My brother-in-law Gene Cummings grew up in that region and initially told me that their breakfast was great. I certainly cannot dispute that fact. I ordered eggs, hash browns (a staple since in Idaho that literally covers the plate), sausage and sourdough. It sounds rather standard until you taste the sausage that has a sweet veneer of molasses or similar that makes it incredible. I have a very filling breakfast, which I need since the next stop with food is 55+ miles. At my pace, carrying the load, that's over 5 hours away. 

As I take my leave of Lambkins, two older horsemen pull up in their trucks and trailers. As they shuffle in, the oldest asked me "which way you pointing horse, east or west". I tell him east. He asked me where I am headed and I tell him Great Falls for the day and Bar Harbor, ME is the ultimate destination. He responds, "Bar Harbor, Maine?", with a manner that seems to confirm to him the clown I must appear to be wearing yellow and black shirt, red socks, lime green vest and arm warmers. He bids me farewell with a "Well, good luck".  

This highlight of the ride was crossing the Continental Divide on a bicycle. I must admit, that felt kind of cool. I was climbing about the first 19 miles to Rogers Pass (the point that marks the Divide on the route) that got pretty steep right at the end. I stopped at the top for a few selfies of my bike and I. Took a quick break and started the descent that was indeed steep. The crosswinds on the descent were heavily striking my bags and my bike on the way down, forcing me to constantly feather the breaks to maintain stability.  

Once I cleared the steepest descent, I had hoped for a downhill ride into Great Falls. It should be, right? Well Gene had warned me there were some big rollers for about 30 miles after the summit. Oh boy, was he right. Some of the those rollers were sharp ascents that made me put in quite an effort that I was hoping to avoid. Just to add some fun, the wind was out of the ESE at 10-12 mph, gusting higher at times. On one 6% downhill run, the wind was so stiff I could only muster 26 MPH. That was a longer 30 miles than I had hoped for.  

As I made my way over the pass, the trees became immediately sparse and ultimately extinct. The land opened up to massive rolling fields that as one sign read was "prime cattle country". The distant mountains became extensions of the sky. This is Big Sky Country. There is a lot of both, sky and country. 

Ultimately the rollers end and there is a long downhill into Simms, some 55 milesfrom the start. In the distance, green pastures and trees appear to mark where the town will be and where I plan for lunch. I look forward to both, shade trees and lunch. I get half. As I pedal past the sign the says Simms, the auto parts/convenient store is closed (it is Sunday). The cafe looks like it has been closed for a while. Oh well, Fort Shaw is only 6 miles away. Nothing. Sun River is 4 miles away. Nothing. Vaughn is 12 miles away. Aha. So 75+ miles in, I feast on a lunchable at a convenient store.  

It really was not that big of an issue. I had packed four Mojo peanut bars, had some electrolytes and 3 bottles of water plus the MSR bladder full of water. I used them all, but was never out of food nor water.  

After the lunch feast, which was timed well since a rain storm passed, I took off for the last 12 miles to Great Falls. The winds shifted out of the west and I enjoyed a slight downhill ride to the finish.  

I am staying next to the fairgrounds where the Montana State Fair is going on. I plan to investigate tomorrow

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 10. Missoula to Lincoln, MT

Today's 78 mile trek started out quite chilly, with temperatures in the high fifties. It was several hours before it warmed up enough to me to cycle without a jacket.  No complaints here, it is much easier pedaling in cool temperatures.  

Leaving Missoula, the route was primarily on Hwy 200 and followed the Clark Fork River and then the Blackfoot River.  Being Saturday, the fishermen were already on the rivers in various flotilla, including boats, kayaks, rafts, etc.  

After about 20 miles, the route moved away from the rivers.  At that point several things started changing. The traffic that went past changed from fishermen to "explorers" with trucks topped with kayaks and pick-ups filled with four-wheelers.  The kayakers headed to more intense rapids, I suppose, and the off-roaders to explore the vast country that is Montana.    The land changed as well.  The mountains became the backdrop as the land opened up to broader fields, pastures and prairies. The auburn hued bark of the Ponderosa Pine that dominated the landscape began to be mixed with broad-leaf and white trunk stands of Birch and Alder trees.  

The main events of the day, however, were the critter sightings.

The deer were prevalent.  While I am impressed, apparently others are not.  At breakfast in downtown Missoula, I saw a mother and fawn out by the river.  During the ride, I saw numerous, including a foursome that loped from the side of the mountain to feast on wildflowers in a meadow.  They were not bothered by the motorized traffic that zoomed past, but were certainly troubled by a bicyclist slowly spinning alongside the road in a bright yellow vest.  I was able to snap a few decent pictures of them before they had enough of this stranger, and effortlessly cleared the fence and the road before they scampered up the other mountain slope.  

A herd of Elk in the distance, prairie dogs comically scampering about, chipmunks laughing as they out-pace me up a hill, even a badger, should be added to the list of sightings.  Also, beavers and river otters from the days before.  

A Bald Eagle soared above my route for several minutes.  He was quite intimating, to tell the truth.  Barn Swallows, American Kestrels, Red-Winged Black-Birds and Western Tanager (very colorful) were all spotted as well.  I hope to learn how to identify more in the coming weeks.  

After a lunch stop at a convenience store, the tailwinds picked up for the last 40 miles where I am over-nighting in Lincoln, MT (pop. 1000).  Tomorrow is about 90 miles to Great Falls, MT. 

Pandora mix:   Stevie Wonder.  Yes, indeed.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stats. Week 1

We have completed the first week of the journey, eight days actually.

First, the most important stat.   Amazingly, we have already raised over $6000 dollars for AFI.  Thank you all very much for your support and generosity.  For those that have intended, but have not hit the contribution button yet, this weekend is the perfect time.   Please continue to share with those whom you know would be interested and let's blow past our goal.

Cycling stats thus far:

690 Miles
27,270 feet climbed
59 hours in the saddle
4 states
1 time zone changed

And we have only just begun.

Day 9. Rest Day

It is nice to wake up knowing that it is a day of rest with little to do but casually investigate downtown Missoula, MT.  After a large potato-laden breakfast at the hotel and a visit to the Sparkle laundry mat for a much needed wardrobe refresh, I was off to slowly pedal around the city.

My first stop was to Greenough Park, where my sister and her husband got married ever so many decades ago.  It is a 50 acre park that stretches nearly a mile along the rattlesnake creek.  It was donated by the Greenough family in 1902. Beyond its acclaim as the site of the Cummings Wedding, it is well-known for its bird-watching.  Well over 120 species of birds have been spotted in this park alone.  With my trusty Bushnell binoculars, I was able to spot of few of the more common or well-known birds.  Included in my short list was the pileated wood-pecker, cedar waxwing, kingfisher, dove, dipper and sparrows of variety that I could not identify specifically.  There were many other that I could not name, but tried to make mental notes to look them up later.  I even saw two bats swooping over the creek.   As if to validate the park for its bird-spotting prowess, several organized groups, including school children, were quietly treading through the trails with their binoculars aloft, scanning the trees.

After a slice of spinach, tomato and rosemary pie from Bridge Pizza, it was time to pedal around downtown.   It is certainly a bicycle friendly city and is almost dominated by bike traffic.  Adventure Cycling, the resource I relied on for maps and trip details, is in downtown Missoula.  After perusing a few of the shops, I picked up some needed provisions for the days ahead.  While enjoying some afternoon refreshment by the river, it was relaxing to watch small groups float by on a variety of craft and to enviously see an angler land a small trout.

After some afternoon rest, I am off for a little tapas for dinner and then to prep for the ride to Lincoln, MT.  On the road again, as they say.

 Pandora mix of the day:  Willie Nelson

Day 8. Powell, Idaho to Missoula, MT

Yesterday was a planned short day into Missoula.  Short days are needed.  

The days starts with a 2400ft climb to Lolo pass.  My initial question was will I actually be bored with the scenery as I plod to the top?   Nope.  It was sensational.  The climb itself is about 12 miles with the last 3 miles at a 6% grade that I lugged my 75+lbs of bike and gear up at a sound barrier breaking 5mph.  

With relief, I reach the top of Lolo Pass.  At the apex and off the the right is a rest area and a logged welcome center.  I take advantage of both.  In the welcome center they have a historical area, gift shop, along with free teas and coffee.  After leaving a donation in the appropriate box, I select a tea blend of Rooibos, Cinnamon, Orange Peel, and Cloves called Montana Gold.  It is quite delicious.  In the corner of the historical area is a looped film being shown surrounded by large comfortable chairs.  It looks too inviting to pass up, so I settle in for a relaxing break.  

I learn that the nearby  range is called the Bitterroot Mountains.  They get their name from the bitterroot that grow in the area.  The native legend has it that a grand matriarch of the Nez Perce, during one exceptionally harsh season, prayed and wept for food and nourishment for her family.  Her tears cascaded over her long gray hair and turned into bitterroot in the soil.  The bitterroot was staple of the diet for these Native Americans and is still harvested to this day.  

As I make my leave from the pass, I immediately enter Montana and the mountain time zone.   Changing time zone strikes me significantly.  The rest of the ride is primarily downhill into Missoula, MT.  
On my descent, there is Lolo Warms Springs.  I stop there for lunch a restaurant.  I order a chicken sandwich and get a ham and cheese sandwich (I think).  It is an odd little place that lacks for a certain attention to detail.  There is a TV on in the corner that is playing Filed of Dreams, so I am in no hurry.  I am finished eating, but wait around for the vignette of Archibald Moonlight Graham (Burt Lancaster), ending with Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones) speech, "Ray, people will come Ray".  I wish I was a cool as "Doc" Graham.  

The scenery changes into Montana, the large rushing rivers I have been following giveaway to creeks and streams.  The land is surrounded by mountains, but opens up into more meadows and fields as I descend.  Looks like prime country for Moose.  Indeed I pass signs that read Moose Crossing and Moose meadow.  But to no avail that afternoon, I did not see one.  

I enter Missoula through intermittent rain.  Storms look to be brewing, but I get in before the worst of it.  As I am working my way through town, I ride into the campus of the University of Montana, the Grizzlies.  This is where my sister and brother-in-law (Gene and Beth Cummings) went to school.  I am sure much has changed from the single room log cabin school they attended 30 years ago.  It is a beautiful campus that appears to be thriving and expanding.  I note the large white M on the mountain behind the college.   I am encouraged to climb to it....but I think I will pass.  

I had planned to camp in Missoula, but with the storms approaching, I have a decision to make.  Do I sleep in a real bed with a pillow (not a wadded up jacket) that is out of the weather and comfortably climatized, with a shower... or in a tent?   OK, so it was not much of a choice.  With a rest day in front of me, I opt for the hotel.  I use my hotel points, it is "free".  

Pandora mix of the day:   Baseball.  John Fogerty, Centerfield.  Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days.  Terry Cashman, Talking Baseball.  

"You know we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day."  -- Doc Archibald Graham.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day 7. Idaho

"...our inexpressible joy".   That was a quote I read today by Meriwether Lewis as his expedition team cleared the mountains in Idaho.    

That was my feeling exactly.   Yesterday I pedaled next to the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers. It was what I had imagined this trip out west to be.  Picture, if you will, curvaceous rivers with random Rapids, dotted with the occasional fly-fisherman. Their banks forming cliffs of pine, spruce and fir that provided cooling shade and sweet aromas.  Now imagine that for 94 miles. That was my day.  

It was a steady climb of 4200 feet into Powell, Idaho.  After some requisite oatmeal at the camp, I left about 6am to begin the route.  I took a long stop about 31 miles later in Lowell, for a full breakfast at the last cafe for 60+ miles.  After breakfast, I loaded up on energy bars and water from the convenient store for the final miles.  I took my time, stopping often to enjoy the cool river.  

To enhance the ride, along the way, there were deer, turkey, beaver and numerous birds, including osprey and geese.

As miserable as I felt during some of the trek through the desert mountains of Washington, if felt inexpressible
joy on the long climb today.  This was fun.  This is what I had envisioned and dared to dream it would be.   Very Happy.

I set up camp in the grass behind the Lochsa Lodge convenient store.  It was free.   Showers, however, were $5 bucks, but they supplied a cotton towel.  Worth it.   The camp towels that I typically use are actually quite effective, but they are not as comfortable and comparatively luxurious as cotton...."the fabric of our lives" is said. 

A couple of other cyclist camped there as well.  Joel was from Spokane, WA and was a big Tyler Johnson fan, and by extension, a Lightning fan. Needless to say we bored the other by talking hockey.  

They had a restaurant at the Lodge where the food was quite delicious.  Better than the staple Ramen noodles, for sure.   I plan to have breakfast there before starting our for Missoula, MT, which is only 67 miles away.  

Pandora mix of the day: by suggestion ----   Hootie and the Blowfish with Time, Desert Mountain Showdown, I Go Blind.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 6. Along the Clearwater River to Kamiah

I left Lewiston early in the morning in 60 degree weather.  The dry climate temperature changes do indeed swing greatly.  High 90s at 8 pm the previous evening to a cool 67 in the morning.  I was certainly grateful, if not slightly chilled to start the day.  

Today I spent the day riding on Hwy 12, next to the Clearwater River.  Surprisingly,  I enjoyed this scenery much better than the Columbia Gorge.  First, it was accessible.  Numerous points to pull off and view the scenery or go down to the river bank. I am learning to slow the pace and intermix more breaks to take advantage of a few of picturesque access points.  (The Columbia was paralleled with railroad tracks (with heavy rail traffic) and at a distance from the road that prevented any reasonable easy access.)    Second, there were trees and winding bends with flowing rapids that made for one beautiful ride.  

The road on the 70 mile route, was narrow, rough asphalt and little to no shoulder.  So not always comfortable, but nothing remotely startling happened.  The rough asphalt was the biggest bother, but of no real concern.   A light, fresh wind was in my face in to begin the day.   After a lunch stop for Mexican food in Orpino, the heat shot up again, but the prevailing winds were then at my back into Kamiah.  

There were a few notable route detours today.  One was on a bike trail out of Lewiston, that saved me from much of the heavy vehicular work traffic.  The second was a cut through the Nez Perce park that put me out on a closed road now used for walking and biking.   A lovely, quiet detour with the elimination of the traffic. 

I set up my tent in Long Camp RV park, which is close where Lewis and Clark wintered for 6 months with the Nez Perce in 1806.  

After PB&J on a tortilla for dinner, I have enjoyed resting and recovering while spotting a few elk and a variety of birds.  Most of which I am working to identify.   My campsite I select is in the shade of a thicket of trees is next to a small creek and adjacent to a couple of motorcycle tourist.   As they roar out of camp to head out to the nearest town, they ask if I need anything.   I am sure they think my dinner is pitiful.   Grateful, not only for the offer, but that they leave me to enjoy the privacy of the camp alone. 

Tomorrow is a big 90+ mile day that is climbing most of the way, according to the map.  That one is going to take a while with lots of rest stops.  

Pandora Mix of the Day:   by suggestion, Chris Mullins.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Day 5. On to Idaho

After restful night in my tent, where I could look up through the mesh and see the brilliant display of stars.  The tranquility is a as refreshing as the thirst-quenching water.  Feeling more restored from the previous days,  I broke camp about 6am to head to Idaho.  

Based on the intel from the swimming opportunity from yesterday, I did get to Pomeroy along the way and they did indeed have a public pool.  I was so looking forward to a respite from the heat.  Much to my chagrin,  the pool did not open until 1pm.  A conundrum -- do I wait a few hours to get a chance to swim or keep moving on.   I decide to have the debate with myself at Tania's cafe (where I scarfed peanut butter coated pancakes).  The decision is an easy one.  Especially after I received fresh intel from the waitress ride on and swim in the Snake River, closer to Lewiston.  So I did.  I had to pay five dollars to enter the Chief Timothy Park, but I had a refreshing swim, followed by an ice cream bar.  Worth every penny.

The ride was good today.   As a matter of fact, except for the incessant heat, this was a very good day.  With 12mph tailwinds most of the way along with some long descents (preceded by some climbs, of course), it was an easier day. The scenery was endless rolling fields of wheat, hay, and other crops, interrupted by a small town or two.  It even came with the requisite tumbleweed to make the picture complete.  As a matter of fact, in one downhill, I was dodging tumbleweed and trucks.  My own 4D video game at 30+ mph.  

One other small highlight.  At a rest stop on the final climb, I pulled next to a building to get some shade.  In between the crack openings was a nest of birds.  Barn swallows. Their mother was feeding them and she was amazingly fast, finding food and zipping right back out again.  I watched her for several minutes as she picked out a different chick to feed in a blink of an eye.  I was mesmerized.  Nevertheless, I had a swim in the Snake River in my future, so I had to leave them be.  

Pandora: On that last note, the mix of the day will be: The Byrds, Lynyrd Skynyrd (figure it out), and Bob Marley (Three Little Birds).   

Day 4. Umatilla to Lewis and Clark trail State Park

Yesterday was about 79 miles of pedaling that started to take me away from the Columbia River, heading north.  The area is dominated by a wide range of agriculture, but from my perspective perched upon my trusted stead, the landscape is dominated by wheat.  The rolling hills laden with farm houses are as picturesque as you would imagine and hope.

The best part of the day was spending about 5 hours in Walla Walla to avoid the scorching heat that is oppressing all events and visitors- even the Panorama cycle needed shade. In Walla Walla, there is a nice main street with a variety of eateries and wineries that dominate the area.  I enjoyed lunch at a very laid back place called Olive, where they let me hangout in sofa chair for the better part of the afternoon, to rest, relax and escape the soaring temps.   A welcome and enjoyable break.  

The break turned out to be a great strategy, one that was developed from  lessons learned the hard way previously. At about 5pm, the temperatures dropped below 100, to about 98 degrees, and it was of the hour that required heading to the campsite.  The route was a much more rural road so I was actually closer to the fields and homesteads. Along the way I startled an elk (and vice versa) that was down in the hay field.  Unfortunately, she was away before I could get stopped, fumble for my camera and get a proper picture.   Nevertheless, it is fulfilling to just stop in the roadside silence to enjoy the choreography of her prance through the rolling wheat. 

After several dozen miles in what is still somewhat baking heat, I come to rest at the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park. I have arranged prepayment to ensure a spot, but as it turns our, that is not a problem.  I arrive before dark and have ample time to set up camp and relax a bit in the cooling of the shade trees.   The few other campers that I pass give me quizzical looks along with polite nods as they try to assess my form of transport and if there is any rationale for it.  The heat was still sapping during the ride and I am drinking water as if I am a sieve.   The campsite itself is a nice primitive site just a few feet away from a creek that I make time enough to explore for a bit just before dark.   As the day turns to night,  I comfortably settle into my tent to read and enjoy its quiet solitude.  

Earlier in the day, when I was leaving Walla Walla,  I met Fran, a fellow cross-country cyclist from London who was out buying provisions for her trip.   She was nearing the end of her Westbound tour and had stopped for the day.   We talked for some time over the experiences of such an endeavor.  We celebrated the joys, commiserated the pains, and jointly cursed the heat.   I was able to give some intel on her final days and she game me a heads up that there is a public pool in Pomeroy, a town along tomorrows route.  With great anticipation, I plan to break there early afternoon and enjoy a refreshing swim.

Pandora Mix. Today is on to Lewiston, so: Huey Lewis and the News will be our lead. Have not heard them in quite some time.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 3. Evergreen State?

Yesterday, Saturday the 18th, was 91 miles from Maryhill State Park to Umatilla, Oregon. Started the day with a flat tire and an immediate climb of about 800 feet.  Continued the day with 99 degree temps and two places for water over 83 miles.  Ultimately, I ran out of water, even draining my my additional water bladder.  A few miles out of my destination, there was the most beautiful, decrepit, whitewashed bodega where I purchased as much water and drink as I could consume.  I was exhausted and dehydrated.  Of course, the ride ended by being chased by dogs followed by another steep climb to my resting place, at last.   In Umatilla, the only place to eat within any proximity was a dive bar (being extremely polite) where the host was tossing a disgusting pot of "who knows what" out the front door that splashed near my feet,  as she was telling me they could fry me up something if I wanted it.  I ordered a boiled ham sandwich.  Not my favorite day.

So for the greater part of the last two days I have been through arid, hot climate, limited trees and scorching heat.  This sound like the Evergreen State to you? Nope. Apparently the people that named it all live in the Eastern part of the State where it rains, I was told. Where I was today gets about 6" of rain a year.

Despite all of the trials of the day, it was full of amazing views, with vineyards and fruit farms dotting  the horizons.  All of them irrigated by the ever-present Columbia River.  The natural land was of long dry grasses with rocky out-croppings and windmills, that I did not imagine in Washington.  Beautiful, but must admit I would have rather viewed them from air-conditioned transport.  Toward the end of the ride was heavy agriculture: wheat, onions, and watermelon.  Really amazing in this climate.  The Columbia River supports all of this.

The Columbia also support hydro-power through the series of dams.   They produce more than they can use and sell the great majority of their power to California, I am told.

Next segment includes a stop in Walla Walla, Washington.  Looking forward to the respite.

Pandora mix:  With windmills, vast land and the heat (including the wildfires they are fighting), it brings to mind one thing:   Earth, Wind and Fire.   That should do it.