I last checked in during my layover in Missoula, Montana and what a stop that was! The artist responsible for the cover art of The Fox Trails lives in the city and I had the pleasure of signing over a special copy of the book to her. Thank you,Teshia. http://teshiaart.com/
Leaving Missoula late in the afternoon of the 20th, I pedaled about 30 miles to the city of Alberton where I had a chance meeting with three whitewater rafting guides: Austin, Alex and Andrew. “You should camp here tonight and we’ll take you rafting tomorrow…” Don’t mind if I do. Tomorrow actually became tomorrow but a little rain wouldn’t stop us from floating down the Clark Fork in the Alberton Gorge. Austin Crisp has been guiding whitewater expeditions professionally for over 10 years and Western Waters http://www.westernwaters.com/ is lucky to have him.
My new friends Andrew and Alex…What a job they have…
My first time rafting whitewater would prove to be an amazing addition to the excitement of this bicycle tour!
At Sandy Beaches, we find one of the largest exposures of Argillite in the world. This Precambrian layer dates back even before Glacial Lake Missoula and shimmers green and purple on the cliff side. This particular stretch of the Clark Fork river is gorgeous. A very talented photographer named Mike Malament runs Montana River Photography and from June until September, he stands on the rocks at the gnarly Tumbleweed rapid and takes the photographs of all boats that pass. You can see his work here… http://www.montanariverphoto.com/ Mike was kind enough to let me use a few of the pictures he captured of my float and they’re awesome!
I stayed here in Alberton for three beautiful nights before moving on.
Anxious for the road and some serious progress, I pushed the pedals over 100 miles -up and over Lookout Pass and into Idaho. Farewell, Montana and welcome to Pacific Standard Time.
Upon entering Idaho, I rode the Trail of the Coeur d’ Alene’s through the panhandle and then climbed over Forth of July Pass. In my explorations of freedom, nothing compares to the rush of barreling down a mountain pass at top speeds, not even skydiving. You have to earn it though.
I picked up the Centennial Bike Trail and rode that out of Coeur d’ Alene and entered Washington en route to Spokane for a visit with relatives. My father has a sister named Teresa that he didn’t meet until 2001. She was given up for adoption by her mother before she met and married my grandfather. After all those years, she decided to track down her birth mother who is unfortunately deceased but she was able to find my father and my great grandmother. Teresa and my uncle Mike live on the north hill in an unbelievable home and to stay in this luxury was quite the contrast to what I’ve been used to on this tour.
It just so happened that my cousin Cameron was home on break from school and I’d stay with them for three nights. Teresa made a scrap book with photos and the original letters of correspondence that she had with Catholic Charities, my father, and my Great Grandma during the process of finding us. Reading the hand-written letters from my Great Grandma was a surreal experience. Teresa and Mike were extremely gracious and accommodating during my visit. Their son Cameron is nearing the end of college and the beginning of paying back $200,000 in student loans. He lives in L.A. and studies acupuncture. How does one go about paying back such a debt? We had some deep conversations. He admires my explorations of freedom and I enjoyed his company thoroughly.
I had breakfast with Teresa and said farewell, leaving Spokane that afternoon and pedaling 60 miles after lunch. I arrived in the quaint town of Creston with the setting sun and found an empty roadside chapel.
It was still and peaceful inside and a beautiful calm came over me. I stayed the night here in meditation and prayed for friends and family back home. In order to experience the freedom of travel and meeting new friends like I do, one has to sacrifice a piece of home. To those of you reading this, I know that I haven’t been the best at keeping in touch with calls and letters but do know that I love you and I think about you. No matter how far I go, you can always reach me.
From Creston, I began the hardest miles of this trip thus far. I pedaled north toward the Grand Coulee Dam and hit a heavy wind and some hilly roads.
At the top of this one, a concerned high school teacher from Wilbur stopped to make sure I was alright, even offering me a ride all the way to Okanogan, 80 miles north. I politely declined and told him, “I’m content with cycling.” Little did I know…
From the hilly wheat fields, I descended into the Columbia River gorge for the first time on one of the craziest downhill stretches I’ve ever encountered. What goes up, must come down. I thought I’d be able to bike on top of the Grand Coulee Dam but ever since 9/11, armed guards keep this monstrosity on lock down. Being the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States, you can see why they might think a guy like me on a bike might be a threat to national security.
I’ve never seen so many power lines. Climbing out of the Columbia River Gorge was insane. The heat came and beamed down on me as I crawled up hills more desolate than any of North Dakota’s Badlands. There were no trees, no crops and no animals for miles, only sage brush. I ran out of water and didn’t sweat for 2 hours.
The wind blew relentlessly, right in my face and all I could do is breathe it in and imagine its power entering my muscles to keep me going. At one point a dust devil came and rocked my world with its tornadic pelting. A red cloud lingered overhead and threatened to rain blood down where the wind-storms stirred the earth. This is the point where I think back to that nice school teacher from Wilbur and the ride he offered me in the morning…but these struggles are a part of my freedom too and I have to remind myself of this often. I stopped at a farm in desperation and took alms for water. The farmer filled my canteen, letting me know that I’d see Bridgeport in about 20 miles and that it’s mostly downhill from here. Once again I descended the Columbia River Gorge and the landscape came alive with orchards and fruit as far as the eye could see. What a relief! I pushed up the river before dark after 90 unforgiving miles and put the punky in Brewster for the night. I camped right on the Columbia River in the open air under a sea of stars and woke up to this glorious rising sun…
My legs are taxed so I decided it would be best to rest today in preparation for the road to come. I’ll be riding one of America’s most scenic roads, the Cascade HWY as I proceed through the remainder of Washington. Definitely not the easiest trail I could’ve chosen but I love the mountains and I’ll pedal into them with enthusiasm and presence. In 80 miles I’ll make the Washington and Rainy Pass, back-to-back. Yee-hah. Blow me a kiss on the wind and wish me the best of luck. Until next time…