Vilmar's Coast to Coast:
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 13, 1997
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE…..AGAIN
I firmly believe one should have contingency plans and if I learned nothing else while I was in the USAF it was to have a backup plan for the plan. Just in case.
Yesterday Dennis and Scott started to talk about going through Canada to Vancouver and then down to Portland. So I broke out my standby plan of leaving today instead of tomorrow to get a chance to break up the 5000 foot elevation gain in the climb to Ochoco Pass which, according to Ikenberry, was not going to be pleasant. Being so late in the game I was not about to chance wrecking my knees doing all that climbing in one if I didn’t have to. And if I did break it up I’d be cutting it too closely to my train reservations. I was not too sure he was going to do it as he hadn’t really mentioned anything directly to me so when he confirmed it this morning I just left. I was not so much upset as I was disappointed. We started as a group of 6 to do this thing and now 860 miles from the end, he decides to go a different way. It would have been nice to celebrate our accomplishment together but obviously something else was at play here that is not readily apparent at face value. I was not sure how this would effect Kurt but with Dennis and Scott still at the hostel another day, I was confident Kurt would go with them. I thought about it quite a bit and came to the conclusion Kurt had more in common with Dennis than with me. Plus, the route they planned to take would make the trip shorter by 2 or 3 days and Kurt had earlier expressed a desire to finish sooner than later so I made up my mind to leave. I may be wrong in my assumptions but…..
The evening saw rain hit Missoula and with clouds hovering around I took off. Ran into Dave, an East bounder headed to Portland, Maine on a recumbent. He said showers were behind him but that they were not too bad. Wrong answer!! I hit some pretty solid rain and with big trucks cruising by it was downright ugly. One got just a foot or so from me to pass yet the other lane was free. What is it that makes these truck drivers such assholes? Do they think the truck is an extension of their penis and they are cock fighting on the road? Trying to show who has the bigger dick? ASSHOLES!!!
The weather had me in a quandary about what to do so I stopped at the restaurant in Lolo Hot Springs just a few miles before the pass and had lunch.
I tried to wait out the rain but was not successful. Considered staying at the campground located nearby but then over the next few days things would get even iffier if the passes to come were worse than I expected. On top of that, services were few and far between for the next several days, too. So I made a break for Whitehorse 26 miles away. Got to the top of the pass and as if in a sign, the sun came out for a few minutes. My disposition immediately improved.
This whole area is incredibly underdeveloped and a true wilderness. It should stay that way, too.
Lewis and Clark came through here in 1804 and 1806. The Nez Perce Indian tribe also used the trail for buffalo hunting and when Lewis and Clark went to cross this area, they were befriended by these kind Indians for guide assistance. Only to be betrayed decades later by our government and forced to a reservation.
Got to the campground and still saw a little bit of sun so I set up my tent quickly and put all my gear inside. Then I went exploring down by the Lochsa River. What a glorious ride today was when I got over the pass and had the Lochsa to keep me company. Right now it is low but I can just imagine its rage and fury when Spring comes along. The whole area is so peaceful and quiet and relatively little traveled.
Back in the tent I stuffed my face and did some reading about Lewis and Clark that I picked up at the visitor center at the top of the pass. Am next to an elderly couple in their motor home and am envious. Although this trip has been, for the most part, fun, on days when it is cold and rainy I long for the comfort of something more than wet weather gear or a tent.
The rain began again and I suspect it will be ugly all of tomorrow! YECH L !!
As it stands, I am now in the 9th state of my journey having crossed the border at Lolo. I sure hope Betty Boop holds up OK and that I do not have trouble with broken spokes, etc. I dread the thought of having to do roadside repairs in the rain and cold.
Along the way I passed a large stand of cedar trees called Devoto Grove where their stauesqueness was reminiscent of the Redwood National Forest. They were tall, majestic, and smelled beautifully. Like giant guardians protecting the river valley. Also had a golden eagle launch itself into flight just 25 feet from me. He was perched ion a rock by the side of the road and I didn’t see him until this dark shape vaulted into my line of sight and crossed in front of me.
THURSDAY AUGUST 14, 1997
FROM MISERY TO ECSTASY
Talk about extremes! This was a day of them. First, I slept for 11 hours!! Then, having had to answer the call of nature, I crawled out of my tent and spied some stars in the sky. Ever hopeful, I went back to sleep. Up at 530 there was absolutely no blue in the sky but my friends, the mosquitoes, were out in force so I hurriedly packed up, got some water and hurried out of there in the cool of the 58 degree morning. I still do not have the knack for properly balancing my apparel because shortly after I began I started to sweat---and promptly got cold from the wind trying to evaporate my damp clothes.
It was a nice, mostly downhill jaunt for the whole day. Just me and Betty Boop hugging the banks of the Lochsa River. What a gorgeous piece of geography! Noticed lots of turnoffs where one can pull off an RV and free-camp. This is good for my future travels!! Also had lots of access roads for hiking and lots of campgrounds.
Every turn in the road exposed another valley, or more rapids, or wildlife. This went on for 66 miles of absolutely no services, gas stations, etc. In a car, it would have been a little over an hour of "ooohs and aahs." For me it was an all day affair.
So far have gone through two pens on this trip. Must be writing too much!
Fed out of my handlebar bag for a good portion of the morning---fruit, candy, pastries, pop tarts, banana, and a snickers bar.
As the morning progressed I noticed more and more blue splotches in the sky. This was good. My spirits began climbing and a huge area of blue exposed itself and the sun actually came out for a while. How glorious. Then it clouded up again and got ugly. A turn in the valley left the dark clouds behind and all was well again in my little two wheeled world. Eventually more and more blue dominated the skies and 10 miles from Lowell it cleared up totally. I was so happy!! What a difference from yesterday when I actually experienced vapor coming out of my mouth!
Saw lots and lots of waterfalls feeding the Lochsa. It’s pretty well known that running water sure has a calming effect on a person and with as much water falling from the hillsides and running down the valley as there was, I should have been calmed into an absolute catatonic numbness. What with being able to observe several ospreys, stellar jays, and other wildlife, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.
The road I am on, Highway 12, is relatively new and prior to it, there was no way to cross this part of the state. Snowbound as much as it is most of the year, this must have been a formidable opponent for Lewis and Clark. Their diaries are fascinating to read and speak volumes for their trials and tribulations—from horses falling down off the trails into the valleys below resulting in damage not only to the horse but to the goods they carried; to a lack of water, lack of food (necessitating the slaughter of colts for sustenance) to illness, fallen trees blocking their paths, swollen, rushing rivers, snow, etc. And I think I have it bad!!! In our society we really have no concept.
Got to Lowell and had a huge lunch at the café. A slab of ham on one plate with a second plate containing 2 eggs, hash browns, and toast. All washed down with copious amounts of coffee and carrot cake, too.
Pulled into the Wild Goose Campground and ran across 3 bikers (Norm, Charles, and Bjorn.) They’d met a few years ago on a west coast ride and get together periodically to ride together. They are going from Boise to Missoula and back. Norm’s going to San Antonio to teach and the other two are renting a car and going to the Tetons to do some climbing.
Stayed near the water’s edge (it’s now called the Middle Fork Clearwater River), got my feet wet, watched a mother Merganser with her 8 baby quackers, and also watched Charles fish for trout and saw the temp shoot up to 98. YEEHAW!
What a difference from yesterday! Currently at 1280 feet in elevation. It’s the lowest since Kentucky and the temperatures the highest since Tribune, Kansas on the 18th of July. I do believe the heat is on. Charles told me I could expect heat and dry weather for the next 7 days.
By 7 PM the temp was down to 80. Sure made the highs more tolerable. Be better if I’d had had a shower!
FRIDAY AUGUST 15, 1997
Fell asleep last night just as the nearly full moon peeked its head over the mountains. Its reflection off the river lit up the night. Dozed for a while and awoke to see it set over the same mountains not far from where it arose. Slept very well on a large, long commodious picnic table. I farewelled the guys as they were headed for a restaurant two miles up the road to eat. I knew I’d be fast asleep by the time they returned and in the morning I’d be up way before them.
Awoke a couple of times and listened to the various forest noises and the rushing of the river waters and then got up for good at 530 to be on the road 20 minutes later.
Stopped at the Clearwater Fork Café in Syringa for breakfast. Got way too much food—a huge 12" diameter pancake, 2 biscuits in sausage gravy neither of which I could finish. Drank lots of coffee, though. In chatting with the waitress, I found out the town is named after the state flower and in keeping with tradition you can expect the restaurant to be decorated in typical decor—lots of dead animals on the walls.
Anxious to move on, I left the restaurant and in a few minutes had this deer bolt across my path on the road. It bounded quickly from one side to the other, tail flashing white while flipping and flapping, rear legs kicking in the air as it scampered up a hill. Then, as I passed, it looked down at me with a haughty air of defiance (if deer can have those) as if to say, "now what, Bud?" What a great sight.
And that was just the beginning. A few minutes later I heard a screeching in the air, looked up and saw I was close to an osprey nest. I hung around a bit and they kept screeching in anger at my intrusion. They seemed to float lazily in the air, back and forth until they realized I was no threat at which time they returned to their nest. As witnessed at Earthquake Lake, they love making their nests on the top of poles or dead trees. Obviously a good vantage point and easily observable for signs of danger from a good distance away.
Continued to Kooskia and was admiring how beautiful the river valley was and how nice it’d be to own a piece of property there where there were no houses when, no sooner said, there was a house across the river. Thinking it strange that there were no bridges anywhere for miles around, I began to ponder how the house got to be there. Went down the road a spell and I saw an aerial tramway cabled across the river. Now THAT must have been expensive to build!!! How they got all the building material to the other side must have been a project onto itself.
The tram could take 4 people in it and was shared by several homes. The cars were parked on my side of the river, the homes on the other. Nice piece of work! Sure is a good way to keep out door to door solicitors!
Entered the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. How misguided we were as a government back then. But little really has changed. We continue to make stupid policy decisions only to regret them later. Since the policy was to move all Indians to reservations, they were all hunted down regardless of any previous association they may have had with the white man. But the Indians kicked some ass, too. (That’s for tomorrow, though)
Saw an incredible amount of blackberry bushes with huge, luscious berries on them but there was no place to lay down my bike off the roadway and I did not want to run the risk of going over a bunch of blackberry thorns so I did not get to sample any. Too bad! They brought back memories of when, while in England, Danny would come along and help us pick berries on the side of single track roads. We’d come back with full buckets and then gorge on them right off the vine, in pies, and in pancakes.
In addition to the wildlife previously mentioned, I also saw Canadian geese, mountain goats playing around on hillsides, a family of deer (a buck, two does, and three fawns) on the opposite side of the river. The buck caught sight of me over 150 yards away and bolted immediately into the woods with the rest hot on his heels. Also saw ducks and what looked like a falcon.
Began to climb gradually out of Harpster to Stites and then hit a 5-6% grade climb to Grangeville. Found out that route 14 to Elk City is just as beautiful but not as crowded as the road I’d been on from Lolo. So it looks like I have another reason to return. Betty Boop wanted to go to Elk City because the road was flat. She does not like hills. Smart girl.
Got to Grangeville, found the park, then the pool, then the bike store. Picked up a kevlar spoke (Thanks, Scott, for the tip!!) and also had them adjust my rear derailleur Seems to be OK now. Will know for sure tomorrow. As in many other places, I found out the library had access to the internet but it was only for use by the librarians. That’s the worst load of shit I’ve heard. Half the librarians I met couldn’t spell ISP much less maneuver around the WWW. So I tried a computer store and heard the same old sob story. Geez, you’d think folks were asking for the moon.
Got some groceries and returned to the park to stuff my face. The park was full of pre-pubescent rug-rats with nothing better to do but hang around waiting for the pool to open. As luck would have it, the pump failed so the pool was closed. So I went another day without a shower. It wouldn’t be so bad if I wouldn’t have gotten so sweaty during the day and then had this scummy feeling film of grunge on my body. I will definitely get a shower tomorrow. Probably a hotel room, too. I feel like going to a hotel tonight because the weather looks really ugly off in the distance but since I am already set up, I’ll stay here.
Did much of today’s writing from the shelter of a pavilion in Lion’s Park. Rain pounded the roof and I was so glad I decided to stop here versus moving on and then getting caught in this mess. Amazing how these storms develop so quickly. Clouds from one direction meet up with wind and clouds from another and KABOOM! --- thunderstorms! In between downpours I moved into the tent.
SATURDAY AUGUST 16, 1997
ALONG THE BANKS OF THE SALMON RIVER
The storms of last passed quickly and by 8 PM blue skies were rampaging after the dark clouds. I went to sleep hoping the clear weather would last and when nature called at midnight I noticed that in the far off distances of the park, sprinklers were operating. Now, if there’s one thing bikers do not like in parks it is sprinklers operating at night. The sound of the water beating on the tents is too close to that of rain and since rain really is not our friend on these trips, neither are renegade sprinklers. It means our tents will have to be put away wet. YECH!!
And as expected, about 2 AM I got doused but stayed dry inside. Good thing I am a sound sleeper or the th-chucking sound of the sprinkler heads making their rounds along with the rhythmic sound of the splashing water on me would have driven me crazy.
It was 44 degrees when I awoke so I packed in a hurry and went to the Camas Café (right across from the bike shop) to warm up and drink coffee. The café is named after an edible plant whose bulb was much procured by local Indians. It was either eaten raw or steamed. Scarfed down some pancakes, read the paper, saw the Dow tumbled 250 points but was not concerned. Just a normal cycle of the market to guarantee continued growth.
By 7 AM I was on my way to White Bird Peak. Also caught up with Norm, Charles, and Bjorn. They’d arrived in town yesterday and seeing the pool closed and the rain begin, decided to stay at a motel. I left them near the top of the pass and rocketed down for almost 7 miles at 25-33 MPH.
I was able to look out over the terrain the Nez Perce used to their advantage to defeat the US Army in the various skirmishes. It is formidable terrain full of little valleys and hillocks. Picked up the Salmon River and rode it all along to Riggins.
What a magnificent ride! Stopped to read an interpretive sign, looked down into the river and saw this HUGE fish. OOOOH! For a fishing pole!!--and license!! Like many others in Idaho, there were quite a few places to camp and stay for free along the road. Many were run by BLM and along very pretty spots on the river.
Got to the campground early and could have gone on but I’d told Kurt I’d wait for him here. I suspect he left with Dennis but I did not want to take the chance he’d combine 4 days into three and meet me. River Village RV Park is not a bad place. It sits on the Salmon River and the tent sites are right on the edge of the property facing the river. I sat around and watched folks floating down the river rapids on organized trips. Didn’t look like too much fun being in a raft with a bunch of other folks. Would have been better to do it alone or with one other person.
Wandered around town looking for laundry soap and couldn’t find small packets so I asked the park manager if she knew where I could find some but she just offered to let me use some of hers. Really nice of her. I also took a MUCH NEEDED shower. Man, was I filthy!! If I’d had been in a tub, industrial stain remover would have been necessary to take out the bath tub ring. YECH! Later on went to pee and the bathroom had just had pot smoked in it. Very distinctive smell that once smelled is never forgotten. The kids were hanging around trying to look innocent but I knew better!
SUNDAY AUGUST 17, 1997
WHERE THE TRIBES MET
Turns out that today was less severe than I had imagined it would be. I was a little miffed at myself early in the AM when I just could not get much over 10MPH. Tried cranking hard but to no avail. Kept conking out. I was fairly certain it was not the grade in the road which, although not flat, could not have exceeded 2% in grade. Amazingly enough, though, after stopping for coffee and breakfast I zoomed right along. I’ll need to experiment on this some more. Maybe I’m leaving too early and it’s too cool. Maybe it’s because I am alone and have no one to pace with. Maybe lack of sunshine to motivate me…………or lack of something else!!!!!!
Forgot that I was back on Mountain Time yesterday so when I thought I was going to bed at 9 it was 10. Up at 530 and it was 630. Dammit.
Last night I chatted with Dave Hicks from Baker City and he invited me over for salmon steaks but I didn’t feel like imposing. It was the first time anyone offered anything like that on this trip. He gave me his address and phone number so that when I get to town and can’t get on the internet, he’d let me use his computer. That was pretty nice. I should have taken him up on his offer for dinner!
Another beautiful night. God must be pleased with me. To the west I witnessed an explosion of color on the clouds as the sun set. Minutes later, to the east, I watched a full moon come up over the mountain tops. Took my binoculars to it and saw birds, far off in the distance, zoom past that silver disk. Reminded me of the Moody Blues song which goes, "cold hearted orb that rules the night, removes the color from our sight; red is gray and yellow white."
Moments like these make me want to live forever for I can never tire of the wonder of nature and what God created.
Stopped at the first café I came across—in Pinehurst on the left side of the road and had quite a formidable breakfast. Spoke to the waiter, Marcus, who wants to go to the USAF Academy to become an OSI agent. I warned him to not tell anyone that as the academy is usually a grooming ground for pilots! His uncle was OSI and Marcus sees himself working for the CIA or the FBI. Quite a young man involved in all sorts of activities in school and out of school. Has a 4.0 average, works part-time, is camp leader for a Christian Camp for kids, does drama, is captain of his football team, does Internet service assistance to locals, etc. I hope he makes it.
After leaving the restaurant and greasing my chain (it was squeaking) I felt like I could pedal forever. The bike functioned smoothly and the roads, although uphill, were not too bad at all. I expected much worse.
Picked up the Little Salmon River as I continued to climb. Lovely scenery all around.
Crossed the 45th Parallel outside New Meadows. It’s the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator. While in New Meadow, I took a break for coffee and pie at the Heartland Café. Was witness to a guy display his infatuation with a waitress by leaving her a $16 tip for a $4 meal. I’d overheard him ask her what time she got so assumed they knew each other a bit. She probably would have met him after work anyway but I think the tip cemented the deal. But good needs bad to balance it so I also saw another waitress fly into a rage, yell that she quit and that she’d, "had enough of this shit!" and storm out slamming the door behind her. Sure got the attention of all the restaurant patrons! I can just imagine what the talk would be about at the end of their collective shifts!
Passed Tamarack with its wonderful smell of fresh sawn pine boards. There were logs in huge piles ready for the mill but kept under a spray of water. Tons and tons of 2x4s, 2x6s, 4x4s, etc. on the hoof and ready to go, all lined up in row after row and in various stages of dryness.
Cruising down the hill I surprised the hell out of a doe and her 2 fawns. They scrambled from the roadside, beat hooves over the fence and stood there staring at me, ears inclined forwards, wary of my every move. I snapped a couple of photos and left them in peace.
Cruised into Council where, years ago, Indian tribes used to meet to discuss their inter-tribal differences, make treaties, and participate in ceremonies. Wanted to stay at a motel but at $35 a room in one and $25 at another with no TV or private bath the decision was easy---I stayed at the park. Picked up some food at the local corner grocery, ate, contemplated my navel, washed up as best I could and set up under a slatted roof pavilion. Sat there for a while watching, with much trepidation, a whole shit load of clouds drifting towards me. At 845 PM with the sun about to set I was half-way committed to sleeping under the pavilion with my plastic sheet at the ready in case it showered in the middle of the night. This area is not supposed to get much rain at all in the summertime and if I were west of the Cascades it’d be a horse of a different color so I was betting on a come that it would stay dry.
Then I chickened out and talked to the sheriff (oh, by the way, the sheriff dept., Post Office and Library are all within spitting distance of the park) and he said if it were him he’d put up a tent. Just as I started to do so the wind picked up. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s report to see who won.
I'd appreciate your feedback on this site.
Send me your thoughts!
Copyright Vilmar F. Tavares 2005