My Private Idaho

End of Week 2 — My Week in Idaho

Covered another 660k this week, through a cross-section of probably the prettiest route in Idaho. Though a bit cool still, the weather was pretty good; the traffic was light and the shoulders wide. The one word that best describes my week is rivers. Through the Snake River gorge (the deepest in North America), along the Salmon River, the Lochsa, and the Clearwater, the clear, clean, powerful rivers of Idaho were my constant companions. It was a solitary ride for the most part, apart from the many singing birds (although one angry black bird kept diving at my helmet!). I did a lot of singing myself, with apologies to Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie, who sing Blowing in the Wind and City of New Orleans a whole lot better than I do!

entering Idaho

At Oxbow we stayed at a gorgeous campsite run by Idaho Power, with big sites, large trees, manicured lawns, and great showers for only $14. That was a good deal. The power company manages the two dams along the huge Oxbow-Brownlee Reservoir, which looks to be very popular for fishermen. Although I don’t know from experience, I think that fishing must be very hard work, because the guys were loading up with dozens of beers — to replenish their electrolytes, no doubt! At Oxbow, I met Jerry, a cyclist from Glasgow, Scotland, who was also doing the TransAm. More about Jerry later.

The ride through Hell’s Canyon was spectacular. I had trouble keeping my eyes on the road, there was so much to see. Just one big climb of about seven miles, and we made a short day of it at 100k, ending up in Council, Idaho, a town of about 86 people. Myrna had purchased steaks for dinner, and I eagerly went to unpack our brand new portable barbecue. OMG! It required assembly of about 1,436 pieces — with nine kinds of screws and nuts and washers. It even came with its own tools! Gerrick and Curtis, where are you when I need you? Well, it may have taken an hour or more, but I put that sucker together perfectly — even the electronic starter works. I was pretty proud of myself. And those steaks were among the best I have ever tasted!

Wee Jerry, the Scot, ended the day in Council as well. He was suffering big time. “Is there no public transport in this country?” he asked me.He didn’t think he was going to make it to the Atlantic by August 4th, to catch the flight home. “Ah canna believe it!” he said, “We’re still going north! This is a muckle big country!” He was looking to catch a Greyhound out of Idaho to give himself a big of a boost.

Wee Jerry, the Scot, in Council, Idaho. “Ah, no. Yer not gonna take me picture in me jammies?!

The next day took us through White Bird, the scene of a major battle between the Nez Perce Indians and the US Cavalry. 100 soldiers were killed in a sneak attack early in the morning. No Indians lost their lives, but it sparked war all across the territory. The landscape has changed little since those days and I could imagine the horrific scene in the valley below me.

Friday was a cool, cloudy day and that day I met up with fellow cyclists, Dick and Chris. Dick is from Boston. When he’s not out cycling, he works for an organization call kNOw THEM, which helps CEOs of major corporations understand and resolve global conflict issues.His friend Chris was accompanying him on the Oregon-Missoula portion of the ride. Chris works with power companies on the economics of moving to sustainable energy sources.

Dick and Chris
Meeting up with Chris and Dick. Three sexagenarians riding across the country!

The road we were travelling (Hwy 12) is spectacularly beautiful. Don, Dave and Ursula, I would come back here any day and ride it again with you!

The highlight of this day, and this ride so far, was the dip in Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs. This is a rugged, natural hot spring about a mile’s hike from the highway. I grabbed my bathing suit and towel and headed up the trail. When I got to the pool, I realized this was a “bathing suit not required” kind of place. OK, I thought. I’ll go with that, stripped down and joined four other bathers. OMG! It was heavenly! Hot, clear and completely natural with big boulders ringing the pool. Dad, you would have loved this place!

And that’s where I met up with Peter and Connie, a couple from Couer d’Alene on a two-week hot springs vacation. They knew every great camping spot and remote

Peter and Connie
Peter and Connie from Couer d’Alene — hot springs connoisseurs.

hot spring in the area. I realize that although my trip is all about cycling, it’s only when I stop that I meet the nicest people.

Thanks, Peter and Connie, for the tip about the Lochsa Lodge  — we ate  what were possibly the best burgers in the US from the restaurant there, and stayed in the USFS campground for just $10!

Saturday morning I faced the dreaded Lolo Pass into Montana.This is where Lewis and Clark travelled through in 1805, on their way to claim the Pacific coast for the United States.  Myeh! It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared.  I was well into Montana before Myrna caught up to me. From there on into Missoula, our destination for the week.Yay! Today is a rest day.

Where to Next?

We leave Missoula tomorrow, bound for West Yellowstone, Montana. Until next week, then!


Sensory Overload

Florence Oregon
Dipped my back wheel in the Pacific Ocean at Heceta Beach, near Florence, Oregon — Monday, May 16, 2016.

The Journey Begins

One week on the road and we’ve crossed the entire state of Oregon — 720 km from the windy Pacific coast at Florence; through the deep woods right alongside the McKenzie River; through the vibrant university town of Eugene; up and over four mountain passes — including the Santiam Pass, where the snow is still falling. I am overdosing on the beauty of the state!


But, as my colleague, Greg D. told me, “Nobody wants to hear about how great things are, or how beautiful. They want to know what calamities you have encountered — the worse the disaster, the more interesting the read.”

OK, from the beautiful to the bad of this trip. Despite my very good maps, I have gotten lost about three times, adding many miles to my ride in the saddle. Each and every time, someone has kindly set me on the right path. The lady at the garden centre, who told me I was “way off course. Turn around and go back about eight miles the way you came.”  Or the military vet who said, “Not this way, Ma’am. Turn right ’round and go that way.” Or Jim, the US Corps of Engineers guy, who at the top of a long climb to beautiful Cougar Dam told me, “Nope, you’ve come up the wrong way. But at least you’ll have a fast ride back down!”

Cougar Dam Oregon
A wrong turn and a four-mile climb resulted in a gorgeous view of the Cougar Dam and reservoir. (Note the Golder jersey)

But if there was one word that could sum up my week in Oregon, I would say, “cold.” It has been cloudy, or overcast, or raining or snowing most days. At the top of Ochoko Pass, Myrna said we needed to call it a day — riding through the snow pellets at high altitude, I was getting hypothermic. We hunkered down in our little van, under all the blankets we had, then enjoyed a bowl of hot pea soup! I bundled up with a beanie, tights, two  jackets and hot hands under my gloves and in my shoes forhe next morning’s ride down the back side of the pass. Brrrrrrr. It was still cold!

The People I’ve Met

I stopped in to the post office in the small town of Mitchell to buy stamps. Mary, the Postmaster, has held the job for 24 years, and her mother had the job before her. She asked about the fires in Fort McMurray and then told me about the devastating flood of ’56 in Mitchell. She showed me a newspaper photo of a young boy standing on the roof of a brand new Oldsmobile, completely buried in mud. That car is now under the new highway going through town.

In Sisters, we stayed at a great little campground and there met up with Carianne, retired from the University of Oregon and her rescue dog, Sweetie. Carianne was met by  friends from Portland who were going up into the John Day fossil beds to check out the sabre tooth tigers, mastodons and woolly mammoths, not to mention the thousands of years old native sandals recently discovered. She was very knowledgeable about the area and I enjoyed speaking with her.

In Dayville, where we stopped for lunch one day, I ran into Twyla and Dave, cyclists from  Reno, Nevada who  are also doing the TransAm, but staying in motels all the way. We ran into them again the next day, as we all toiled up and over the Dixie Pass, through the rain and snow, bound for Baker City and their motel for the night. Myrna and I agreed we’d pull in to an RV Park near Sumpter , just 6k down the road. And here’s where the story gets really bad. I zoomed down the pass, water splashing up at me from the road and pouring down on me from above. When I got to the turnoff, Myrna was nowhere in sight. Should I go the three miles up to Sumpter and hope she is there? Or maybe that wasn’t the right turnoff. I tried texting. No answer. I decided to carry on down the road, thinking she would realize I’d missed the turn and come to find me.

Well, suffice to say, I rode another 36 miles (57k) down the road, all the way to Baker City. My hands were so cold, I couldn’t shift. I was so cold, the only way to keep warm was to keep pedalling. There was nowhere to stop in and get warm, and Myrna was not coming to find me. So I rolled into Baker City and headed to a saloon on Main Street. I had to ask a customer to help me take my helmet off for me. My fingers weren’t working. The waitress brought me a cup of tea and a bowl of soup. I was shaking so badly, it took me 10 minutes to tap out a text to Myrna to come and save me — which she did. The lemon ginger tea and the tomato basil soup were the best I have ever tasted. I had seconds of both. The lady who helped me with my helmet strap came over and offered to take me to her home for a hot bath and a warm bed. I am so grateful for the kindness of strangers. Maybe being on a bike means you have a kind of vulnerability that invite such kindness. And then Myrna arrived.

Technology Has Not Been My Friend!

We get so used to being connected electronically at all times. Instant updates, texts, phone calls, tweets, emails.  Well, for much of this trip, we have no cell coverage or WiFi coverage. I actually find it quite liberating. Being out in nature is by far superior to instant access to the latest news. Today, as I do the laundry at the Sumpter Pines RV Park, I am listening to CNN News for the first time in a week. I don’t think I’ve missed much. Donald  Trump is still up to his usual shenanigans, and the world is still turning on its axis. That said, Myrna’s US-purchased cell phone cannot be relied upon.  And I’m not sure the Spot Tracker is sending messages as it should (most likely this is my  lack of expertise). We tried watching “Game of Thrones” but the DVD player froze after 10 minutes into the show.

To my family, my work colleagues and my running pals, don’t worry. I’m doing just fine. This is truly an adventure of a lifetime. I  realize that riding my bike is a full-time job right now. Preparing to ride, keeping fueled, wearing the right gear,  and making sure all mechanicals are in order, not to mention spending 7 hours  in the saddle, make for a long day. The first few days I was pretty tired, but I think my body is getting used to the drill. I will follow my good friend Don’s advice, and make sure I take a rest day once a week. (Don, thank you also for the tip on the gatorskin tires. At least I haven’t had to worry about flats — knock on wood!)

Camping Food Always Tastes Great

Our little van, Priscilla, has been a great home away from home, and my support crew of Myrna and Basil are the best travelling companions I could ask for. I live for a hot, strong coffee each morning and a cold beer at the end of a long day. We make porridge with blueberries in the van each morning and chili or soup in the evening. The best meal of the week (and I learned this from other cyclists who have done this route) was a cheesy chicken burrito and a local micro brewed beer.  Ahhhhh! What could be better than that??

I am trying to keep up with daily postcards for Dad, TJ and Katie. They should start arriving soon! And I will try to keep up my blog posts weekly — and  the laundry clean!

Next week .. into Idaho and the Snake River Gorge, then on to Missoula!












No Turning Back!

I’m coming back . . . really!

So, today was my last day at work. My colleagues organized a little send-off for me, and presented me with a SpotTracker so they can keep track of my ride and make sure I’m safe. I have the best colleagues in the world! Thank you so much. You guys are awesome.

I have been playing with my new GoPro as well, and recorded my last ride in to work, just to be sure I know how the technology works.

The plan is to head out tomorrow morning early and make it to Spokane by nightfall. Good-bye Golder. Good-bye Calgary. No turning back now!