Cambridge, Idaho to Halfway, Oregon

Highway 71

Day 73.  Today we do a zig zag heading Northwest to the Oregon border then Southwest to Halfway, Oregon.  It's only sixty-some miles but we are descending toward the gateway to Hells Canyon and that means hotter weather.

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Highway 71 meanders up to an unnamed pass (elevation 4,131).  The country is dry, dotted with shrubs and tall dry grasses.  More distracting, particularly at seven to nine miles an hour are the Mormon Crickets.

They're not actually crickets, according to Wikipedia, but katydids.  They are big and black and ugly. Most of the time they are on the road eating other dead Mormon Crickets so we can add cannibal to the description.  Cannibal Mormon Crickets.  At times the numbers and infestation get s so bad that they turn the road blood red.

One farmer had a string of derelict farm equipment that progressed from simple John Deer ploughs to the large Steampunk like contraptions that resemble large mammals.

After the pass a fabulous 48 mph descent into the valley, the temperature rising as we go, toward the Oregon Stateline.   We stopped at on little cafe, proudly inviting all conceal carriers to come in in.

Oregon Stateline

After seventy two days and three thousand miles we've entered into our tenth and last state. It's not the rainforest, misty, ferns, and rainy land we've come to expect, but rather hot, tan, and relatively treeless arid mountain landscape.

For the wetter version of Oregon we have to pass Mackenzie Pass. Until then we will be in the arid west.  It's hot and dry and we have a little series of climbs ahead of us. It's nice that most of the group was together to mark this final Stateline of the trip.

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So many weeks ago we spent over two weeks ploughing through Virginia until I crossed over to Kentucky. Oregon seemed so far and remote away.  Each day's ride was a bit of dread as the reality of biking across America came upon me.  But I feared quitting more and kept at it. Now here we are, and I am part of that "we."

I can't remember when I shifted from "I'll try to get through this" to "I'll actually do this" to, now, "I'm enjoying this."  My guess is Carbondale when I realized that Mike's bike would work for me. Then Missouri or Kansas when I felt stronger and able to crank out the miles.

The culmination of all that is to stand here on the final leg of this journey.

Highway 86

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It's hot but we are reminded by Scotty's Store that at 94 degrees this is considered a cold spell because last week it was 117. So we are making sure we keep hydrated and our water bottles are refreshed.

Scotty also charged three dollars for a huge heaping of huckleberry ice cream.  That, combined with a gallon of water made it a good stop.  We have anywhere from thirteen to fifteen miles left and in this heat - that's a good thing.

We crossed back into Pacific Time again, this time for good.

Halfway, Oregon

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The town of Halfway got its name because it's post office was halfway between the mining boom towns of Pine and Cornucopia.  The former is now under water and the latter is a ghost town. Halfway remains.

It's a small town, population just shy of 300, but has two good cafes and saloons.  In December 1999 the town accepted an offer to temporarily rename itself Half.com (an offer made by an internet company of the same name) in exchange for $110,000 and twenty computers for the school. It was, it proudly proclaimed, the first dot-com city in America.

We went to the Main Place where huckleberry shakes are just $3.50.  The water and Arnold Palmer came in and it was, to us after sweating and cycling through the heat, was a vision of complete refreshment.

They also offer a huckleberry margarita and martini so a stop after dinner was in order.  Tonight we're staying (camping) at the Halfway RV Park.  It's a little cramped but among friends that's no problem.

Halfway, Oregon to Baker City, Oregon

Day 74.  Today was supposed to an easy 53.5 miles from Halfway to Baker City.  So we started at 7:30AM and headed south again to Richland.

We've been going North, South, Northwest, Southwest since Colorado but rarely just west, but after Richland it looks like we turn West seriously.

But first we had to get up the hill or pass between Halfway and Richland.  It was only 3,653 feet.  A little steep but otherwise John and I just slogged through it.  Hills and climbs are my Achilles heel, I can get through them but it my speed lingers between 4 to 7 MPH.

But for every foot we climb, we drop more, and the descent after the pass was another incredible thrill ride into a valley, with the town of Richland off in the distance, a shining destination, with this gray ribbon of a road unfurled against the hillside as I coast down it in speeds reach 47 MPH.

It's better than any Disney ride.

Almost everyone had stopped at the cafe.  Corn Beef Hash and Eggs - really well done and tasty and then we filled our water bottles and headed West toward Baker City.

Flagstaff Hill

We're following Highway 86 which runs only from Baker City to Richland along the Powder River.  This has an added benefit that the mile markers start in Baker City so it was a countdown to our destination.

The Powder River runs to the East in this dry, scrub canyon.  It's hot, dry, and there is no water except for the river which runs by us.  As tempting as that is, there's a fair amount of algae in the river.  A sign (Bill said later) that it is formed by a lot of agricultural runoff.

But then the river left us completely and now we were just on this plateau (called the Virtue Flat) with just igneous rock, scrub and vast nothing for as far as I could see except for sparsely snowcapped mountains way in the distance.   It felt like Nevada.

And I was going slow, really slow.  John had kicked in his homing beacon mode which he sometimes does when he feels overheated, and he will just go, and go, without hardly any stops on auto-pilot until he reaches our end destination.  (Then he will nap for almost twenty hours depending upon the heat exhaustion.).

So it was just me and Phil, kindly putting up with my slow pace since he is the sweep past this nothingness.  We're used to rural, but this is beyond Wyoming.  I've run out of words to describe it - no ranches, no roads, nothing.  Empty. Barren. Desolate.  Just igneous rocks. Tan.  Sage green scrub.

Plus it was a climb so I put on the podcasts and just kept going, occasionally stopping for water, since anytime I looked down it would be a constant drip-drip-drip of sweat pouring off my head in this heat.  I called them fat tears because when a fat cell dies it get just one tear.

Finally we reached Flagstaff Hill, and then from there it suddenly became a little easier coasting over the top plateau and then down toward Baker City.

Oregon Trail Ruts

In the 1840s, particularly once South Pass was discovered which was an easy, covered wagon "friendly" crossing of the Continental Divide hundreds of thousands embarked upon this massive journey west.   We've joined back up with the Oregon Trail after leaving it back in Wyoming.

There is a massive Interpretive Center here outside of Baker City, but it would be another mile bike ride, in the heat, and an elevation gain of 370 feet.  I just didn't have the heart to do it.

We did stop at the roadside marker and walked the hundred feet or so to see the ruts from the wagons and oxen passing by here in such numbers so many years ago.  They only travelled about thirteen miles a day and the entire trip took about six months.  Such journeys do not exist anymore.

Baker City, Oregon

Baker City, Oregon is situated in a valley between the Wallowa Mountains to the east and the Elkhorn Mountains, part of the Blue Mountains to the west, with the Powder River running through the center of downtown on its way to the Snake River. Interstate 84, which runs Southeast from Portland to Salt Lake City also runs through the valley by Baker City.

The valley is green with irrigated fields including this odd scene where a farmer has placed over a century of cars and farm machinery along the edge of the property. What made the sight memorable was the single white horse walking through it as a curator inspects the exhibits.

A long hot day is rewarded with ice cream (Huckleberry Shake), a Greek salad, and two deviled eggs.

We're staying at the Mountain View RV park which also has a sizable mobile home portion to it as well.  The camping area is shady and grassy so we are content. The office and general store facilities are decorated as if we are in an ersatz old West Town complete with a repeating loop of banjo music playing. Thankfully the music turned off at 9:00PM.

There's been a definite trend in where we stay. Back through Virginia, Kentucky and parts of Missouri we were mostly in churches.  Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas were city parks, county fairgrounds, and state parks.  Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and since have seemed to be mostly private RV parks.   Exceptions abound of course.

Most have been nice and some, like Halfway, Montana, have been tolerable.  Now after seventy days I am able to sleep perfectly soundly and happily in my tent or hammock.  In fact (I think I've written this before) I preferred the churches to even the hotels.

A good basic dinner, sloppy Joe's, beans and macaroni salad.  I've dropped the beer. It was too expensive chipping in twenty dollars every ten days or so when I drink maybe seven beers, and instead bought a medium size bottle of Bacardi and have been enjoying a cuba libre or two in the evening.

New Meadows, Idaho to Cambridge, Idaho

Day 72.  It was a cold night. Really. I kept relatively comfortable.  Once the wind died down I stuck my head out of my hammock and looked up at the Milky Way which was sharp, clear and really luminescent.

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This morning we all creeped out of our tents and warmed up on coffee while waiting for the sun to rise.

Cambridge, Idaho

A (relatively) short cycling day of 52.5 miles from New Meadow, Idaho to Cambridge, Idaho.  Much of it was on smooth downhill pavement as we dropped about a thousand five hundred feet in elevation.  It's still warm and getting hotter as we drop in elevation.  92 degrees here in Cambridge.

We've left the traditional Idaho Pine Tree climate and are back to the hot, dusty, khaki hills with occasional scrub.

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We are experiencing that weird reverse of reactions. At the beginning we would be asked, "Where did you start ?" We would say Yorktown Virginia but wasn't as impressive so we would quickly add that we were ending on Oregon.  Now here in Idaho, just a skip to Oregon, we don't get gasps and oohs until we say we started in Virginia.

Lew figured out that we only have nine more days of cycling because we have one last rest day in Baker City, Oregon.  That seems a surreally brief and close.

Soon this little foray into Never Never Land will draw to an end and I will have to head back to real life and the innumerable and myriad of decisions that must be made each day.  In Never Never Land my decisions could be counted on one or two hands. What gears to use. What to eat. What to drink. Set up the hammock or the tent.

Life is about cold water, road grades, and food fuel as we tick off the day's mileage.   I have barely watched or read the news and it is intensely peaceful to be out of the kabuki theater that makes up the twenty four news cycle.

Instead of all that reality, after a snack we find south of Cambridge, a swimming hole along the Weiser River which hits the spot on this 92 degree day.

Philip made dinner tonight.  It was really good.

Grangeville, Idaho to New Meadows, Idaho

Day 71.  An eighty-two mile today that included two two thousand feet climbs.  It's also hot, about 93 degrees, which is a bit of a break from the 103 we had yesterday.

We went up the the old Highway 95 up to White Bird Pass and down it on the decline. That was a gloriously fun rocket down lots of switch backs.

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We experienced a full range of Idaho foliage from lots of pine trees, to high desert brown hills alongside the Salmon River and then on the second climb up to 4000 feet in elevation we are back to alpine meadows.

Lucile, Idaho

Fruit Stand outside of Riggins, Idaho. There's nothing else around but this place had a great selection. I bought two peaches, a pint of Huckleberries and Gatorade.

Once in Riggins (we are biking south) we crossed back into Mountain Time Zone and we'll be here until Oregon.

Pollack, Idaho

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The map recommended we go on the Pollock Side road to avoid the traffic but part of it was closed due to a massive earth slide. No latter, we portaged through it.

Zim’s Hot Springs, Idaho

Tonight we're staying on this beautiful Alpine meadow at Zim's Hot Springs.   They have two pools of steaming hot mineral waters.  Great chance to soak the muscles after such a long day.  Interesting pool rules though…. no spawning?

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Lew and I cooked tonight.   Simple hamburgers.  Good.  With the miles and the time change against us it felt good to get in by 5:20PM.

Syringa, Idaho to Grangeville, Idaho

Syringa, Idaho to Grangeville, Idaho

Day 70.  Norm says the weather promises to be ten degrees cooler, which means low 90s today.  Still Bill and I left about 6:45AM if only to beat the heat on the climb up to the plateau.  At last night's map meeting the notes from prior groups mentioned 12 to 16 degree grades.

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First stop is Kooskia which, inexplicably - is pronounced Kooskie.  I bought some gatorade and spotted my first Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest.

Along Highway 13

Bad picture but Bill and I have seen some great wildlife.  This morning we spotted a white bird of prey - Bill doesn't know what kind but it was not, he assures, an osprey.  It had a fish clutched in it's talons and was dodging a smaller sparrow that was attacking it.

Then we saw an Osprey nest built on a platform placed on top of a utility pole.

Then we missed our turn off in Stites, and kept going along Highway 13 which leads to Grangeville anyway.  While biking along we heard this plaintive mewing cry coming from the river.  A baby raccoon was in the middle of the river, carried downstream, furiously paddling but upstream.  We could see Mom Racoon along the shore, making her way along, stopping on her hind legs, scoping out the situation until she went into the river and swam out in the middle to rescue her young and bring him/her back to shore.

Grangeville, Idaho

The climb up the plateau was long, and hot even at 10AM but not terribly steep.  Bill and I stopped for some shade and ill found some wild cherries growing so picked the ones we could reach.  Tasty.

I then stopped every now and then for water, but otherwise it was doable.   Once on the plateau, after four or five miles of climbing, it too was uphill so I wasn't making great time, but lovely fields of wheat.

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I got into Grangeville about 12:30 and saw Bill in the city park.  There was a little festival, a blues band was playing.  Bill was talking to a couple that, amazing coincidence, he had met while he was a Park Ranger in Alaska doing outreach to the remote residents there.

Lunch today at the Hilltop Cafe.  It's a small but incredibly bustling place.  Outstanding milkshakes, with full plump blueberries floating around, served in a massive glass stein.

We camp tonight, again, at the Bear Den RV Resort.  There's good wifi and I have service so I can call my family.









Powell Junction, Idaho to Syringa, Idaho

Powell Junction, Idaho to Syringa, Idaho

Day 69.  It was a nice night, made all the better because we went back an hour going to Pacific Time Zone.   So it felt like sleeping an extra hour.

Dreams distressingly about heading back to work and soon this excursion to Never Never Land will end and the obligations and decisions I have to make will expand exponentially from the ten or so that make up my life now.  We all lament that we have about two weeks left as if it is the end now, and remind ourselves with a laugh that two weeks is what most people have for vacation total.  And we are feeling like it's over now.

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

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Idaho means Hot Springs and rivers. About ten miles into our long ride (73 miles today) there was a recommended side trip for these rustic springs.

We crossed this beautiful wooden suspension bridge across the Lochsa river and were greeted by the US Forest Service's apparent endorsement or acquiesce that not only may some people taken in the Hot Springs nude, but hike there and back without clothes.  Whatever possesses them to hike nude is baffling. I get the soaking in the nude, but it's not as if the typical person's clothes are so heavy and bulky as to constitute a hiking nuisance.

Regardless we met only clothed people on the mile to mile and a half hike along a beautiful hillside forest until we came to a large Hot Springs pool.  Hot but not uncomfortable and a lovely and relaxing soak.

Highway 12

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Ever since Lolo Pass we've been following the Lochsa River down this narrow valley.  It's gorgeous and downhill but very curvy.  At the top of the pass we had the same curvy roads ahead sign for the next 96 miles.

It's not quite the Pacific Northwest rainforest we daydream about, but it's definitely more trees packed in a square miles that we've seen since leaving the Ozarks.

It's been hot. Really hot. (Later we learned up to 102 degrees.  Then there's a slight headwind which doesn't slow us down that much, but it makes me feel like I'm in a convection oven.

Jim, Bill and I paused after lunch at the Historic Ranger Station. Jim kept calling it the hysterical Ranger Station.  Nice grounds, including shady lawns that invited Barry and I to take a small nap.

Later on the road, it was getting hot so Jim, Bill and I took the opportunity to swim in a pool created by a very large boulder.  Very refreshing and a great way to get the core temperature.

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But it was all too temporary.  It was HOT and DRY and there was a breeze but it wasn't refreshing.  It was like being in a convection oven.  There were a few times when we would pass a creek or brook coming down from the hillsides, and there would be shade and briefly the temperature would drop maybe twenty degrees.

When we got into Lowell, population recently changed from 24 to 23, and went to the cafe.  There were tons of bikes outside and inside was our entire group (except of course Tom) plus three other TransAm West to East cyclists.

The staff there must be well acquainted with cyclists because she brought out a pitcher of ice water and we proceeded drink down nearly two quarts of liquids.

Syringa, Idaho

Idaho is quickly coming to the top of my list of having the worst roads.  The only good thing about it is that the potholes, ravines and cracks are avoidable.  The worst, I think was in Kentucky with these cracks that ran across the pavement every eight to ten feet.  The front wheel would hit it and "kerchunck" the hands would get hit.  Then the back wheel, "kerchunck" and the behind would get it.  Then it would repeat and it would be like the Chinese Water Torture.

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Seven and half miles to Syrnga, a town named after the Idaho state flower, and the River Dance Lodge - a nice grassy complex of a cafe, a bar, log cabins, and luxury canvas tents, and (for us) places to camp.

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Sadly the cafe's vaunted, praised, and highly recommended Huckleberry Pie from all the Eastbound cyclists we talked with, was out.  But they brought out Huckleberry Ice Cream and we sat out on the patio, trying desperately but unsuccessfully to arrange the sole umbrella and table and chairs to give four people scurrying around like lizards out of the sun.

Lew spotted the sprinklers and soon all of us were standing by the sprinklers letting the water douse and cool us off.

The ice cream was really good, but interrupted when Bill exclaimed, "Oh my gosh a bear.  A two year old black or brown bear was walking across the road from the river and through the property.  Bill, who later admitted he did everything Rangers tell people not to do, went over to get a closer look.

It's a nice camp spot, and there is ample shade under the trees and once the sun set, a nice breeze.  Tomorrow is looking good - only forty or so miles but part of it is a steep climb up to a plateau where Grangeville, Idaho rests.  It's a larger town - population three thousand- so hopefully I will have cell service which I haven't had since leaving Missoula.

Missoula, Montana to Powell Junction, Idaho

Lolo Pass, Idaho

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Day 68.  When Lewis & Clark returned from their explorations they reported to President Thomas Jefferson that they were unsuccessful in finding a fabled "northwest" water passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.  Instead, Captain Lewis wrote that the "most practical route" to the Pacific included 340 miles of land of which "140 over tremendous mountains which for 60 miles are covered with eternal snow."

That route was Lolo Trail, southwest of present day Missoula, that was so densely forested, that the only way to cross it was with an experienced guide.For fifty years it was accepted as the route to the west.

In 1857, while scouting a railroad route, Lt. John Mullen declared the Lolo Trail as "utterly impractical" and predicted that it "can never be converted to any purpose for use of man."

Starting in the 1920, Highway 12 was built to parallel the Lolo Trail.  It took forty years of intermittent efforts, including by WW II POWs, to complete the road.  The entire highway was paved and opened to motor traffic in 1962.

Today we bike the near forty-five miles from Missoula to Lola Pass, about 5,200 feet in elevation.  It marks three major milestones for us.

First, it means we have officially entered into Idaho and we are here to stay until we cross into Oregon.  This means we are on our ninth of ten states.

Second, it means we will be following rivers that flow west into the Pacific Ocean.  In fact during the descent, there was a sign that read, "Curvy Roads for the next 99 miles."

Third, we have crossed into our last time zone - the Pacific Time Zone.  We are now anywhen from one hour to three hours behind the rest of the country.

We have followed this ever shifting, changing, but almost always present white line along the right side of the road here.

We have followed this ever shifting, changing, but almost always present white line along the right side of the road here.

The ride up was long and hot, but not miserable.  I attribute that more to our improved condition.  The ride down was just another thrill ride, well worth the slow ascent at 4 to 5 miles an hour.  Down, fast and around curves.  Our only complaint was the pavement which was cracked and bumpy in places.

Gone are the bare hills, sprinkled a little with trees - the hills here are densely forested.  We are entering the Pacific Northwest - home to Sasquatch and salmon and tall cedar trees.

We stopped at a very peaceful grove of cedar trees, called the Devoto Grove after a local Conservationist and Historian who cherished them.  Lovely pathways amount these immense trees, and wonderfully cool and clear river that we sat by or (in my case) in to cool off.  A lovely break from the heat of the day.

Tonight we are camping at Powell, in a US National Forest Campground.  The Lochsa river runs by our camp site and the sound of rushing water will be heaven to my ears once it's bed time.  Predictably there are lots of trees and so I will be in the hammock tonight.

There is a lodge up the road, called the Lochsa Lodge.  They have an excellent restaurant so our group ate lunch there.  I had the Salmon Salad which was really good.

We invited to our table a young thirty year old woman, Amanda, from West Virginia who is soon a self-contained solo tour west.  She left Yorktown May, 15 and has been plugging away taking only three rest days thus far (when we have taken nine.)

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She is the recipient of a charitable grant from Warrior Expeditions - a non profit that helps combat veterans "hike out of the war."  They have supplied her with the bike, the equipment and the maps which are hers to keep after the ride.

She served in combat six months.  She has four semesters left and will return to school in August after biking across the country in West Virginia.  She wants to do medicine.  We were all quite taken with her, and she is a credit to our country and to the Navy.

I joked to John afterwards when he was marveling at her description of all the weapons training that she had, "She had a plan to kill all of us if need be."


Lew ordered a cobbler which was massive, and we all laughed when Bill tried to grab some ice cream.

Lew ordered a cobbler which was massive, and we all laughed when Bill tried to grab some ice cream.

Today is Norm's Birthday so Christine bought him a TransAmerica Jersey and I have hidden it in the woods.  We will send Norm out on a "mission" that will require him to go to three different places and gather clues that will lead him to his gift on a stump here in the forest.

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This is a lovely Campground. No bugs. Lots of shade from cedar and pine trees.  The Lochsa River running by makes a wonderful sound to go to sleep.

Missoula, Montana, Rest Day

Day 67.  Rest days are nice but they aren't "needed" like they used to be.  I still did my laundry, and John, Barry, Lew and I went out for a nice breakfast at "The Shack."  Good omelettes and it was nice to have a solid breakfast that did rely on standing around a table and having granola outside.

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Lew also wanted a haircut.  I finally found an open barber yesterday, but I found another Barber by the restaurant which was run by an eighty-one year old fellow with a non-stop working man's prattle and jokes.  Lew Loved it.

Lunch at the ACA where they put on a great BBQ and we had a chance to meet more of the team, including Arlen, who is the head of tours.

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After lunch, Norm, Christine, Jim, Bill and I walked up to the Ace Hardware and bought inner tubes for $15 and then took a free bus up river.  We got out after thirty minutes or so and then put in for a wonderful, cool, and relaxing three hour float back into Missoula.

Nice dinner tonight and now we are starting on Map number three.  (Only two left).  I can remember how worried and exhausted I was when we completed map 12 in Christiansburg, Virginia.  Now it seems that they are just flying by.

Ice Cream tonight at Big Dipper with an near constant line of about fifty to seventy people.  The ice cream was good, but not that great.  Still - a nice end of rest day treat.

Darby, Montana to Missoula, Montana

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Day 66.  Heading out today for a sixty four mile trek down the Bitterroot valley to Missoula.   The last forty miles or so are on a bike path between the towns of Hamilton and Missoula.

Now that Barry has his neon-Eighties-colored socks, I put on my Colorado socks from Gina, we are now finally able to meet John's fashion flair. His orange and neon green socks have been a bobbing mainstay of the TransAmerica view from the beginning.

In 1976, after three years of planning, telephone calls, and letters, the Bikecentennial route across the United States was created.  A little more than four thousand people signed up to ride from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia to celebrate our country's 200th anniversary.

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This included our own then thirty year old Bill Forman, who rode half the trail as a guide and the remaining portion on his own.  Some participants only did sections, and some were as young as fourteen.  Almost no one wore bike helmets.

Since then, the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) has maintained the route and the maps, tweaking it for changing road conditions so that the roads taken have either less car traffic or wide shoulders or (preferably) both.  Services like bike shops, cyclist hostels, convenience stores, and cafes featuring do-not-miss dishes come and go and listed as well.

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The ACA has expanded the routes, not just across the country (there are Northern and Southern routes) but also routes along each coast, major rivers, and along historical trails like the Natchez Trace and the Lewis and Clark Trail.  There are currently over forty bike routes.

The mission of the non-profit ACA is that it "inspires and empowers people to travel by bike."  It also operates tours, such as the one I am on, at all different levels of support, from self-contained to Inn to Inn.

The ACA is headquartered here in Missoula so it's no coincidence that our map for this section of the country ends at their headquarters. They offer free ice cream and soda to cyclists put their photos on the wall listing their start and finish points.

It's a little like visiting the mother ship after having followed these maps across three fourths of the country.

Wisdom, Montana to Darby, Montana

THE END OF THE RIDE IS IN SIGHT

Day 65.  Phil put up the remaining days and stops and suddenly this adventure, this journey of ours which seemed so vast and immense months ago is suddenly coming to an end.  We only have 17 more days and two of those days are rest days, until we reach the Pacific Ocean.

Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana, United States

This battlefield marks one of the several battles between the US Government and the Nez Perce tribe - the portion which refused to sign or honor the revised treaty which reduced the reservation 90% once gold was found on earlier portions guaranteed by a yet another treaty.

They refused to move onto the new reservation and the US Government then tracked and hunted them down to force them onto it.

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You can't blame the Indians.

It is universal in the history of people that when one people move into the territory of another that one of three things happen.  (1) One group is displaced and moves on.  (2) One group kills another group off.  (3) One group assimilates into the other.  This has repeated time immemorial all over the world.  The Normans and the Anglo Saxons.  The Persians and Elamites.  The Assyrians and the Babylonians.  The Mexica.

Here in the US we tried a fourth way - (4) Reservations.  We did it badly.

This battle marked a surprise attack on the tribe as it tried to move away and venture into Canada.  It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Nez Perce because although they rallied and fought back the troops, they lost many of their warriors, women and children and had to retreat so quickly they were unable to bury their dead.

The tribe holds memorials here and it  is moving to see so many of the Native American's wear veterans caps and fly American flags.  Perhaps some sort of assimilation is the best of all.

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It's a beautiful big state, but the last three days seem almost carbon copies of the same scenes.  Valleys. Grass. Cows. Horses. Vistas.  Clouds.  Here these yellow wild flowers inundate this rail fence.

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Chief Joseph Pass

These passes are getting easier to get up which is a good sign.  We're crossing the Continental Divide again for the last time and so now we'll stay on the Pacific side of things until the end.

Because we're on the Continental Divide in Western Montana we're skirting along the state line between it and Idaho.  We still have a few days before we cross into Idaho proper but thought we should document this minor crossing anyway.

We love this height marker by the sign, as if Idaho is a convenience store where the height of prospective robbers should be noted, or as Barry speculates, there may be a minimum height to get in.

Sula, Montana

From the Pass it was a glorious seven miles down.  At times I reached 40 miles an hour and it was the best thrill ride I have been on in a while.  It took us a little over a half an hour to reach Sula which was eighteen miles away.

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Things are starting to take on a more Pacific Northwest feel to them - perhaps it's the pine trees, and canoes, and bears - but there's more of that feel than the West of Wyoming and Colorado.

Darby, Montana

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We're staying in Darby, Montana tonight.  It's a smallish little burg, population 733, at the Travelers' Rest RV and Cabins.  We are staying in neither- but tenting.  It's warm - almost muggy, but there are no mosquitoes and the sun gives us a chance to dry out our tents.

Tom is not here - marking the third or fourth night that he has not stayed with the group. More bizarre, he continued to bike the additional 65 plus miles past Darby to Missoula and is staying there. We're not sure what to make of it.

We celebrate Barry's 49th birthday today with a new Yellowstone themed Buff and colorful Bison/Old Faithful Socks.

A first at the map meeting tonight.  We're starting to make specific plans for the last day when we ride into Florence and (partially) into the Pacific Ocean.  Although it's sixteen days and two states off it feels a little strange to even contemplate leaving this Never Never Land of existence in anything but hazy far off terms.  Reality is creeping about in the distance and with that - the separation of our little group of plucky cyclists of whom I've grown very attached.

How shall I start my day without Lew telling me not to wait for him or John's sly self deprecating announcement that the oldest and slowest is about to take off?