Day 58: Clark Fork, ID – Newport, WASHINGTON!!!

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It all started with Sweet Peas today… That’s how you know the day will turn out well! 🙂

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In truth, the day started with a 6 am train alarm, breakfast of Idaho potato and coffee, and then (and only then) beautiful Sweet Peas. They made me think of my Mama, Mama Sancken, Mama Kotecha, and Mama Vanderkruik. I love you all, and the Sweet Peas are for you!

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I thought about hibernating near Lake Pend Oreille, but decided to continue on to Seattle. The lake was tremendously blue. Incidentally, I heard a Radio Lab show recently about color perception that has made me hyper aware of colors, blue in particular. One thought they presented was that the ability (in terms of having an individual word) to describe blue comes about rather late in the formation of most languages, possibly because of the paucity of naturally blue objects (obviously water in large quantities and the sky excluded). Homer, they say, used the term blue precisely zero times in the Iliad and Odyssey. Check out the show. Anywho, my linguistic development being what it is, I perceived the lake to be very very very… Blue. 🙂

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Speaking of Sanckens, you can only imagine my delight (and tiny fear that I was hallucinating) when I saw a sign essentially in the middle of nowhere saying “espresso next right.” Such delight! I obviously followed the directions, and found myself speaking with Tracy and her husband, the owners of The Snack Shack. Here they are in action.

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I told them how excited I am to be returning to Seattle after 9 years particularly because of my Godparents’ coffee shop. We had a wonderful conversation ranging in topics from Nevada, to sunshine, to metaphors of disease, and medical education. Best stop of the day!

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I was in such good spirits after my coffee break that I had to let even this blatant example of Idaho sexism slide. The scenery was too gorgeous to get miffed about anything. 🙂

What Idaho sign makers lack in political correctness however, they make up for in spray painted humor! I was riding along a bike path when it struck me that the bicyclists looked gassy. I thought surely someone had added a bit of flair to the road signs, but they ALL seemed to be the same! Either a persistent vandal or a commentary about digestion in Idaho. Hehe.

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After a very pleasant day of riding with only moderate wind (haha, I’m sorry… I can’t stop laughing at the gassy bikers…) and a bit of a lack of shoulders to ride on, I rolled into beautiful Newport, WA.

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The sun was directly behind the sign, eek! I not only received a welcome sign, but the state flag as well! It’s as if the state knew I was coming! 🙂

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This evening I’m at a campground that seems to be the life of the party. I called ahead this afternoon after it struck me that being a holiday weekend campgrounds might be full. I was told that they were indeed full, but that they would find room for me. Sweet! The fee is a bit more than usual, but at this point I’m fairly certain it is worth it! On Friday nights the camp hosts serve dinner (check), there is live music (check, if a little hokey), I’ve showered (thank heavens… I didn’t want to hang out with myself anymore!), laundry is washed and dried, tent is up, and blog nearly written. Seems like 8:30 bed time in my most beloved state for me!

Thank you all for encouraging me along thus far! I have still several hundred miles to go, and five moderately crazy mountain passes to conquer. But I already feel like I’m home!

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Day 57: Libby, MT – Clark Fork, ID

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Not 10 miles out of Libby this morning, I came upon a sign for Kootenai Falls. At first I had planned on only walking to the first little scenic overlook, but as I got closer to the falls and could hear the thunder of the water, I had to keep going. I spent over an hour wandering around, taking pictures, and contemplating how rushing water or ice has carved the landscape of many of the places I’ve been on this trip.

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I offered to take a picture of a man and his wife and he did similarly. We both agreed that occasionally having more than an arm’s length between your face and the camera can be a good thing! I was a goober (again) and went off hiking down the trail wearing my helmet. It just doesn’t register that I’m wearing it. Oh well, at least I was being safe on the rocks. 🙂

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The rocks have been eroded through so many years of currents… Beautiful, huh?

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Squirrel’s eye view of the path. It was good to walk around a bit!

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While walking around near the falls, I met a woman named Janice and her son. We talked for a few minutes about my trip and how glorious Washington is. Maybe 30 minutes later as I was cycling towards my turn off to SR 56, who pulls over and hops out to ask if I need anything but Janice! She was so sweet. It felt good to know that among all the drivers zooming to their holiday adventures, work, etc., I had at least two friends in Janice and her son, 🙂

After turning off of US 2 onto SR 56, two things caught my attention: how tiny the shoulder was, and how beautiful the views. This is Bull Lake. There were so many places I wanted to stop and take pictures but couldnt, as I was already biking on the white line. Boo.

I took an alternate route for the last 15 miles. It was a tad longer than the main route, but advertised quiet roads. After worrying about logging trucks all afternoon, three additional miles seemed inconsequential. That is, until I realized that the road was being repaved! Ugh. Biking on gravel is really not terribly fun, but I suppose I’d take it over logging trucks. Eventually the road became paved again and my smile came back.

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Osprey nests also helped bring my smile back… 🙂

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As did beautiful farmhouses with the majestic Bitterroot Range at their doorstep.

No potatoes to report yet. I still need to find a place to camp, but came straight to the library to check in as my phone doesn’t work here. Tomorrow I’m scheduled to enter the most wonderful state in the Union (I’m biased!). I can’t believe it. Newport in Pend Oreille County, WASHINGTON here I come!!!

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Day 56: Eureka, MT – Libby, MT

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Today’s riding companion: Lake Koocanusa! I left Eureka a bit on the late side given how “climby” I knew today’s ride was slated to be, not to mention the distance was getting towards long. I met another cyclist last night, named Mitch. He’s 20 and trying to figure things out. College wasn’t working for him, and he wants to be a screenwriter, so he’s making his way from Wisconsin to California. He rolled in late last night, and I shared some of my Amish oatmeal cookies and carrots with him as we discussed our adventures. He’s riding a mountain bike (!?!?!?) and pulling a trailer loaded with books (Lord of the Rings and a book on helpful aliens), moccasins, push-up weights (?!), a paper map of all the roads in the US, two bicycle pumps, two buckets of muesli, a 4-person tent… The list goes on. He’s a good guy, and very adventurous. He said he tried riding with people he’d met, but was always much slower. I wanted to say, “Earth to Captain Obvious!” but we just chuckled. He says he needs the moccasins! 🙂

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I stopped in precisely zero towns today over the course of 70 miles. I think I could have stopped in one. The road was beautiful and quiet, paralleling the lake until Libby Dam.

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After the dam, I had an amazing road all to myself! Old Haul Road must have hauled much at some point. Now it is quiet, running next to the BNSF tracks the last 17ish miles into Libby.

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One of my daily highlights is getting a train to honk a hello. This usually involves waving gregariously as the train passes, but even this does not guarantee anything. Huge success today, probably because I was so enthusiastic in my waving. 🙂

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Riding into Libby I contemplated waiting to let the darn tree fall, but after several hours, I kept going. Just kidding. I raced the tree. It was tremendously slow in falling. Imperceptible, really.

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Off to Idaho tomorrow! Potatoes are a must… The day will end in either Clark Fork or Sandpoint, we shall see!

Wrapping up 8 weeks here. Sending mental hugs to all, wishing happy rest-day to Ryan and Matthew in Missoula, and happy nearly-September!

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Day 55: Whitefish, MT – Eureka, MT

Riding alone this morning was a bit sad, but while I wished for the company of my friends I couldn’t help but enjoy the ride. There were very few towns today, mostly just Flavie/Guffy and the logging trucks. And this:

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(Dickey Lake outside of Fortine)

And this…

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I even found a deer jaw just hanging around. (Oh Dear…)

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Pictures really do say more than words today. Just stunning.

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I also started to think Glenster and Chris might show up at any minute. No sign of Donovans or Kotechas, though… 🙂

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This evening I explored the Eureka farmers market, purchased oatmeal raisin cookies from an Amish lady, spicy peppers from an old farmer (who gave me free carrots as well!), and a CD of Montana bluegrass/folk music from a band playing at the market. (Shelly, they are reminiscent of Nettle Honey!)

Tomorrow I’m off to Libby for my last full day in Montana!

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Day 54: Glacier Meadow RV Park – Whitefish, MT

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Amazing amazing day with a bittersweet note. Today was my last day riding with my two good friends Ryan and Matthew. When I first met them, I was riding with my buddy Jakob (Aloha Jakob!). We were getting ready to go off in our respective directions, Jakob to Colorado and me further north. Matthew and Ryan were very kind, but intimidating souls, decked out in cycling attire and sporting awesome English accents. Ryan helped Jakob out with some advice on the TransAm route, while Matthew gave me the English equivalent of Bengay for my cramping thigh muscle. I really didn’t think I’d be riding with them, but I was excited by the idea of having friends somewhere in the general vicinity. Little did I know…

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(from a while back… When my trusty orange sweatshirt was still with me…) (In order, F/Guffy, R/Tuffy, M/Scruffy aka Jackie)

On August 10th (Day 35) I met up again with Ryan and Matthew in Dalbo at Don’s bunkhouse. We’ve been quite the team ever since. It has been so wonderful to share this experience with two so genuine people. We’ve made countless camp dinners together, laughed at headwinds and loud trains, joked about PopTarts and Reese’s addictions, explored libraries, abbeys and towns, celebrated my parent’s birthdays, cheered for Newcastle, and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. Both Ryan and Matthew are strong cyclists, and I’m not joking when I say that Ryan very literally pulled me through parts of North Dakota and Montana. My contribution was as “Flav-Nav” and as resident goober. 🙂

We started off early from the campground, and had breakfast at an inn. I’m not sure whether it was gratitude, hunger, or the cold, but breakfast was delicious!

The scenery in Glacier is spectacular. The air smells like Christmas trees and citrus. I stopped every few miles to take pictures. I honestly can’t wait to come back!

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(Mark, this is for you! Each time I crossed a river, I thought about you fishing. Needless to say, I thought of you numerous times today!)

We stopped in West Glacier and I met a (carved) bear buddy:

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We stopped to swim/skip rocks in the Flathead River before continuing on to Whitefish. I loved that we weren’t in a hurry. Full day of enjoying Glacier! As we approached Columbia Falls, we met a recreational rider who told us about the farmer’s market in Whitefish, as well as the Great Northern Brewery. With that, we had our night planned!

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(Buying oodles of garlic! Should last me to Seattle…)

After shaved ice, local pizza, and huckleberry ice cream, we went over to the Great Northern for Going-to-the-Sun IPA. Too much fun! Then, Google maps conspired to make a 2.5 mile ride to the state park take an hour (the road listed led to an overgrown path onto the railroad tracks, hmm…) so we had to break out night-riding gear. Hilarity (and safety) ensued.

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As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Ryan and Eley are off to Portland, but hopefully they will make it up to Seattle to visit in just a few short weeks! Now, I just need to get there myself!

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Day 53: Cut Bank, MT – 5.8 miles West of Marias Pass

From endless flats to beautiful evergreen forests in the blink of an eye! Today the transition finally arrived. We left Cut Bank under drizzly skies but they soon turned into a hazy sort of clear that smelled of smoke. Wildfires from Idaho can reach your nose in Montana! Who knew!?!

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These guys are pretty magnificent. As I pass them, I like to imagine what this area might have looked like pre-Lewis and Clark. Speaking of which, we passed Camp Disappointment.

The town of Browning on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation was a happy surprise for me. I’d been warned by several cyclists to avoid spending much time in Browning. When the three of us rolled into the grocery store around lunch time, we were met by very kind, warm people with big hearts. Three people came over to me as I was munching on last night’s polenta and started a conversation. One of the ladies had a big scab on her knee where she must have recently fallen. When I asked her if it hurt, she told me that it had, but that it would heal because the Blackfeet are strong people. She said it with such confidence and pride I couldn’t help feeling confident and proud for her as well!

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(Ryan’s photo! Yay Rockies!)

East Glacier was really where the scenery changed. Quite a welcome change as well, if filled with a tiny sense of foreboding on my part for the climb ahead. Despite a bit of a headwind and slow biking on my side, the pass wasn’t nearly as challenging as my concern might have warranted. Ryan and Matthew waited for me at the top. 🙂

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Hurrah for Maria’s the world over, but especially both my Grandmothers and my Mama! So technically it is Marias, pronounced Ma-rye-as, but it will forever be Maria’s to me!

Our campsite is an awesome RV park just west of the pass. It is stunningly gorgeous here!!!

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Day 52: Gallata, MT – Cut Bank, MT

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Today I’m headed for Glacier!!! More about Cut Bank at next Internet access… 🙂

Cut Bank was wonderful. Only one sad blip in the day: somewhere along the road, I lost my dear orange sweatshirt! I had it clipped to one of my rear panniers, but it must have fallen off while I was riding. Cue bugles. 😦 I didn’t have that dear $9 sweatshirt long, but it provided me with great warmth and visibility while I did. It will be sorely missed. Ryan’s idea is that a small burrowing animal has discovered it and will make a nice fluffy nest out of all the orange fuzz. This appeals to my imagination more than the thought of it rotting by the roadside. Hmm…

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