I love Idaho! And it just hit me a couple of days ago that my trip is coming to a close soon (!) -- so I'm trying to absorb as much of this beauty as I can...
Yesterday's ride was 55 miles, all downhill following the Lochsa river- U.S. hwy. 12, the road we were riding on, was completed in 1962-- before that, this section of the state was impassible to motor vehicles. Even now, there are very few towns--after almost a hundred miles of winding road, Lowell was the first town I've seen for a long time! But people did come though this country before the highway was built, and in fact, Lewis & Clark's travels took them over the very ridge that parallels the road. Their diaries tell of extreme challenges in this area, as their Indian guides took them over the mountains following the buffalo trails. In his (badly misspelled!) account of their journey, Clark writes:
"The road though this hilley countrey is verry bad passing over hills and thro-steep hollows, over fallen timber... crossed a mountain 8 miles with out water and encamped on a hill side on the creek after decending a long steep mountain... party and horses much fatigued"
Anyhow... the last time I wrote I was in Yellowstone, and from there I went to Bozeman and stayed with the O'Haires for a week. Casey and Jake and I left their house last Thursday (July 24), and will ride together until next Saturday, when I go on ahead to finish the last week of my journey along... we have had a good week so far, although we had to ride on the interstates a lot in Montana and that was sometimes harrowing and always noisy. I must say, Montana and Idaho just don't design their roads for cyclists... the non-interstate hwys rarely have shoulders, and there are too many blind curves to ride in comfort. But the Scenery is incredible, so it's bearable. :)
Yesterday's ride, as I said, followed the Lochsa, and that river is so glorious! It flowed swiftly and purposefully down the mountain, frothing and tumbling and laughing and sometimes becoming fierce and white with foam as it went over the boulders in the river bed. At one point yesterday, we had to pull off the road to let some R.V's go past-- and we looked over and saw the most delightful waterfall cascading down the moss-covered rocks. And to make things even better, there was a black raspberry bush right nest to it, its branches fairly dripping with those berries. We picked and our hands turned deep purple and so did our lips. We carefully climbed down the slippery rocks and stood under the shockingly cold water, laughing and so happy to have found this treasure by the roadside. It felt so good, because the day was getting hotter, and out wet cloths kept us cool for the rest of the ride.
When I crossed the Idaho border (and crossed my third and last time zone!), the landscape totally changed. For the past 2,000 miles I've been riding though prairie and sagebrush, and all of a sudden there are lush forests and green everywhere! There was an immense ceder grove by the road the other day, and it was like a rain forest compared with the dry landscapes I've been passing though! Feathery, fern-like plants grow under the canopy of trees, and it's dark and cool in the midst of all this foliage... Did I mention that I love Idaho??
When we rode into this campground last night, it was filled. But almost immediately, two different people offered us space in their sites, so we are camped next to a family from Lewiston, Idaho, on their annual family vacation. They absolutely refuse to let us pay for the site, even though we're staying for two days, and they even offered the use of their propane grill. And then this morning, they took us tubing! Just yesterday, I was standing on the edge of the river wishing I could find some way to go floating on it--and then they just offered. It was so much fun, and this river moves FAST... there were a few stretches of sort-of white water, and then there were calm stretches where the water was twelve feet deep and there were huge fish swimming. There are bits of Pyrite floating in the water like golden glitter, and they glint and glimmer when the sun hits them. The family is going again later and they invited us... what a NICE layover day this is!
On Tuesday of last week, we got to Missoula, MT. Home of the Adventure Cycling Assoc. (those are the kind folks who make the maps I'm using...) they said that I am probably the youngest woman to ride the trail solo (because even though I've ridden with people quite a bit, I'm still technically by myself). And they said that Jacob O'Haire is the youngest person to be riding though on his own bike (not on a tandem or something)!
Missoula was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed being there. And something that made it even more special, is that I got to see my dear friend Betsy. See, way back in Kentucky on night, I think it was in May, I was feeling like I really wanted to talk with someone. So I tried a while bunch of people, and NO ONE was home. Then I found Betsy's phone number and dialed it... After talking for a minute, she told me that her boyfriend had just moved out to Dillon, MT. And that she was planning to go out to see him some times at the end of July. Excitedly, I told her that the TransAm rout was going to take me through Dillon right about July 25th, and so we mad tentative plans to meet up in two months... Well, after a few more phone calls over a period of several weeks, we had it all worked out--I was going to be in Missoula on July 29th-30th, and she would drive up with Mark and somehow, we'd meet up. In the evening of the 29th, I called Mark at work--and he told me that Betsy's car had just broken down in Buffalo, Wyoming... Hopefully, he said, they would get things worked out and they'd arrive in Missoula the following night, but... Needless to say, I spent the next day nervously anticipating their phone call. And miraculously, it worked out! I was staying with Casey's friend in Missoula, and at 10:30 on Weds nigh, Betsy pulled up in front of the house. It was so wonderful and unbelievable to see her, and although we didn't have very much time together that night, we ended up meeting at different points along the way, both yesterday and the day before. See, on Thursday morning I knew we had to leave early, so I convinced Betsy and mark that it would be really fun if they drove up to meet us after we had climbed Lolo pass. So late that afternoon, about 10 miles over the Idaho border, the olive drab V.W. bus drove up with orange juice for all. It would be downhill for the next 20 miles, so there was finally time to TALK. Betsy and I sat at the edge of the overlook, listening to the river and watching the beauty around us. It was so good to see her, and I realized as we talked, that although traveling is a wonderful thing, you can't do it forever. At least, I can't. It is great to meet new people, but it's also hard to CONSTANTLY interact with strangers, even though they are nice, and occasionally/often, become friends. Betsy is only the second person I've seen (in almost 5 months) who I knew before I left on this trip. And I also realized how hug deprived I've been. :) Seriously, it was so good to be able to show affection for someone and feel comfortable touching them... Ours is truly a touch-starved culture.
And then on Thursday night, was said goodbye and Mark and Betsy took the van up on the ridge top, following the old Lewis & Clark trails, and camped up there in the middle of a thunderstorm. The rest of us pedaled down to a USFS camp ground. Then yesterday, as we were riding along, there was the olive-drab V.W. parked on the side of the road! Then we heard a yell, and there was Betsy and Mark up on the hill, climbing down toward us. So we had our last rendezvous sitting in the van, and it was so much fun. It was just so neat that we were able to full the whole things off, and as we hugged each other goodbye for the last time, I felt so much renewed energy from her visit. Now I'm doubly looking forward to NBTSC, and seeing friends.
August 6th '97 Wed. (Council, Idaho)
I'm staying with a homeschooling family tonight, after spending a lovely layover day with them in their house in the middle of the Payette Nat'l Forest. It was a sorely needed rest, even though we spent a layover day only three days ago. We've had HOT weather and tough climbs these last three days, and tomorrow will be a 75-miler, mostly uphill -- and as we will be getting to Hell's Canyon, it promised to be a HOT day. But I will be entering Oregon, the tenth state on this trip of mine, and it will be exhilarating (though, I repeat, HOT :).
Well, I guess this will be my last letter before I see most of ya at NBTSC, but think of me in Friday the 15th, when I dip my front tire in the Pacific Ocean! I'm almost there, only a few mountain passes to go!
Love you all,
International Human Powered Vehicle Assoc.