This is the final installment of the Bike Ride – a day-by-day log. To start from the beginning, go here.
Today was a long ride. We had about 84 miles to cover. It looked like it was going to be a late start, so I took off after a big breakfast. I rarely eat a breakfast, but that meal has certainly been critical on this trip.
The first 10 miles were great. The wind was at my back and the road was not terribly busy. I was tempted when leaving town to ride a rails to trails route that extended about 50 miles and would have avoided the road. However, most of the route is designed for mountain bikes and I would have had a tough time with skinny tires.
At 10 miles I hit the first uphill and the wind switched to my face. It started warming up, so it felt like it was going to be a slog. But, for every uphill there is a downhill. Much of the first half of the day involved heading down Hell’s Canyon. This meant following alongside a river. The contrast between the water and the dry mountain sides is impressive. It gives you a real sense of the importance of water.
The second half of the day was a real switch. Out of the desert and back into forest. Although we were nominally going downhill, it was windy and I had to pedal constantly. Robert had the best animal sighting today. A yearling black bear ran across the road in front of him. Several other people saw it happen and confirmed it. Therese sighted two badgers running across the road as quickly as their short legs could take them. As for me, all I spotted were deer and birds.
I could argued that I am halfway to the north pole. At one point I crossed the 45th parallel. Okay, I haven’t pedaled that far.
The day was to end in Pollock. We had a dificult time finding it. Although it was on the bike route map, it was nowhere to be found on the road. Therese estimated where it might be and we called it good. A long day covering about 84 miles of windy, but pretty country. From there we backtracked in the car to McCall, ID. to spend the night. There weren’t many options for spending the night near where we rode. McCall was nice and we met up with Nancy. Despite the reunion, everyone was too tired to do much and we were spread out in different hotels,
We started by driving a bit past where we left off the day before. Little did we realize that salmon season was in full swing. Places along the river were jammed with cars and hopeful anglers. The ride looked promising with a long downhill with the river. At the end of the day we knew there would be a steep climb and then another long downhill.
It was surprising how quickly we left the forest and ended back in high desert. There was plenty of water in the river bed, but grass and little else on the hillsides. Even so I find the scenery to be beautiful, quiet and deserted.
We turned off the main highway to climb what was the old highway. This was on the Nez Perce reservation and the road went past an infamous battle site where the Nez Perce war started in 1877. The climb went on forever, up switchbacks and through scrub land. It was possible to look up and see the aray of switchbacks reaching into the sky. While daunting, this was the most spectacular part of the ride so far. Looking back down into the valley was thrilling. All of us commented on the same thing at the end of the day. Awe inspiring. Getting to the top of White Bird Summit was a relief.
We stopped short that evening. I thought about continuing another 20 miles, but everyone else had enough riding for the day and we had gotten off to a bit of a late start. The next day was going to be extra long. Surprisingly in Grangeville, where we stayed, we had our best meal of the trip. A small restaurant in a small town with a very limited menu. Yet the food was excellent, prepared with care and would have fit well in the Houston restaurant scene. Stop by the Twisted Cellar if you ever get a chance.
Bradon and I left early. We hoped to ride the 108 miles to our next stop. The first 40 miles looked to be easy and was mostly downhill. However, following that it was steadily uphill and there were no services for the remaining miles. We would definitely need support. The plan was to meet at mile 48 to get fresh water and lunch.
The ride out of town was stunning. We rode through fields of mustard, wheat, barley and oats. All of this was through a rolling countryside. It was mainly heading downhill. After 15 miles, we suddenly faced a steep descent through switchbacks, loose gravel and hairpin turns. Of course, I hit the fastest speed for the entire ride on this stretch – just under 50 mph. Exciting and a bit frightening at the same time. Later I learned that Joe had tried to ride his disk brakes all the way down and they started to freeze up on him. Therese had to pick him up and ferry him down the remaider of the climb. Therese also came upon a biker who had overlapped with us for several days. He was fully loaded, carrying all his own gear. He was heading from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. He stopped and was walking down with his bike because of the steepness and weight. Therese gave him a ride to the bottom.
I pushed on and rode to the meeting place. The ride was on a pretty narrow road, but uneventful. This stretch of the highway is usually filled with large trucks, but today was Sunday so it was relatively quiet. I waited for quite a while before Bradon joined me. He had stopped in a prior town for coffee. I was at the point where there were no further services and waited over two and a half hours. We were both worried that something had happened, especially with the steep descent. It turns out that the rest of the group had gotten off to a late start. It was very frustrating not knowing what was going on. Cell service is nonexistant in most of this part of the country. It has even been rare to have a WiFi connection most of the time where we have spent the night. Ughh, sounds like a “first world” problem.
I ran out of time to make the full 108 miles. I stopped after 87 as it was starting to get late. It was also getting difficult. The route was getting steeper going uphill and the road was increasing rough. Bradon and I both caught the sag wagon and joined the rest of the group, who had driven ahead, at the Lochsa Lodge. Tomorrow is the ascent over Lolo pass. All along the route we have been told that it will be very difficult. I’ve ridden it once before and did not recall it being that tough. But, I was younger then.
An early start to get over Lolo pass. Only 14 miles to the top and then it looks like a gradual downhill from there into Missoula. Only 60 miles to ride and it should be a breeze.
The pass was difficult, but not bad. We’ve ridden worse passes on this trip. Perhaps it is because all of us are stronger than when we started. Wonderful to get on top and be at the Montana border. It almost makes me wish I had a few more states left to ride through. We waited at the top for everyone to show up so we could get a group photo. It was nice to see that we all could make it this far.
Coming down the pass was great, but the steep downhill did not last long enough. After just four miles we had a slow, steady grade downhill following a creek. Native Americans had called this creek “no salmon.” On the other side of the pass the river was called “has salmon.” It is an important difference. Naturally, the wind picked up and was in my face. It is a bit frustrating knowig you are riding downhill, yet having to pedal hard to keep moving.
It was disheartening to get closer to Missoula. Increasingly along the road there were cabins anf homes. Signs of civilization, but detracting from all the beauty I had experienced for the past 11 days.
We all made it, though there were two flats today. I have been fortunate. No flats over the 645 miles that I rode. It has been fun. Next time I would like a longer ride.