Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mountains, wilderness, 3 more states, and two bear-y interesting encounters!

The next morning our oft-together traveling gang hit the road for 78 miles from Jackson to Darby, MT. Climbing about 2500' vertical feet up and over Chief Joseph Pass was the highlight of the morning. The Dutch (and the rest of the boys, who'd camped in a different park the night before) ended up taking an alternate (dirt) road over a different pass, thinking they were saving time and effort because it was 3 miles shorter and 300' less elevation at the pass. Boy were they wrong, however, as they all limped into Darby several hours after I did, having endured a very rocky, treacherous, white-knuckled descent. Robin, Zack, and Tony actually took a wrong turn and climbed up over the 8000' mark on an even worse road and had to turn around and backtrack several miles once they figured it out. Robin had 2 crashes and two tire blowouts on the rocky terrain, and from what they said, they were very lucky to have made it back in as good of shape as they did. I, on the other hand, rode the regular road up over Chief Joseph Pass, not the alternate, and was blessed with the smoothest new pavement ever, with nearly zero traffic, on both the long, challenging climb and the long, delicious descent. Here is the pass and part of the descent:

Darby was a cool, little town and time there involved using the internet at the public library, hitting the local laundromat, camping at an RV park, grocery shopping, and sleeping with the Dutch folks. Wait...that came out wrong. I camped with them! And, I had a random conversation with Dan the Motorcycle Man on the streets of Darby for about half an hour. He had driven across the country as an 18-year old kid and was really interested in hearing about my experiences on this bike journey. He was a super cool and super interesting guy. Here is a shot of Dan and me:

And here is a ridiculously named Darby Physical Therapy clinic/gym:

The ride from Darby to Missoula, MT was a solo one because I slept in longer than the Dutch but left before all the other guys. It was an easy day of mostly downhill and little wind, with a perfect temperture of around 80 degrees. I cruised and headed straight to the ACA when I got into town.

The headquarters for the Adventure Cycling Association (whose maps we're following) is in Missoula and they offer free ice cream, internet, and soda to touring cyclists passing through town. They took my photo and put it up on the wall along with everyone else that has toured through town in 2010. It was interesting to look up on the board and see faces of people that I've met throughout the country. After an hour or so, RobinNickZackTony arrived and we spent some time just talking to the ACA staff about our trips. We had our photo taken as a group and tacked up on the wall. Then one of the original founders of the ACA thought it was interesting how we all had started as solo tourists but somewhere along the line had become a group of five, so he took some more photos of us and asked us a lot of questions about our trip. Apparently our story may end up in either one of the monthly ACA magazines or in some kind of photo exhibit at some time in the future. I'm not sure why the five of us starting solo and riding together would be all that interesting - I imagine people meet and ride together all the time on the TransAm trail. Maybe it was a slow day and the guy needed something to do....hahahaha.

In Missoula, the Dutch went to the Motel 6, the boys and I went to a bike hostel, and Jerry and Phyllis were at the Red Lion. We boys decided to take a full rest day in Missoula which we spent using the internet, sending things home from the post office, lounging around, walking around town, eating, napping, getting bike supplies, and listening to live music in the park. The others decided to also take a rest day in Missoula; it is a cool little town and you should definitely go there if you haven't been. It's got a good vibe and a lot of things to do.
Well-rested after a day off in Missoula, everyone hit the road in various groups toward the next destination, Lochsa Lodge, about 60 miles away. The morning portion of the ride was a long, gradual climb and we had a nice paceline going for much of it. True to form, Robin blasted ahead and none of us wanted to try to hang with him; then, true to form, a while later I blasted ahead and no one tried to hang with me. We crossed the border from Montana into Idaho at Lolo Pass (5300'), in the same area where the men of the Lewis and Clark expedition nearly died of starvation just over 200 years ago. The terrain in that area is really densely wooded and is comprised mostly of really steep hillsides; though I was just pedaling up and down hill on US Highway 12, I really gained an appreciation for what those men endured in their quest to find the West. This is the climb up toward Lolo Pass:

The pass itself:

It was a nice, gradual, and yes, winding downhill to Lochsa Lodge in Powell, ID. There were some very tall cedar trees as well:

I ended up sharing a cabin at Lochsa Lodge with the three Dutch folks and Phyllis and Jerry. They all had beds, but they offered to let me roll out my sleeping pad on the floor so that I didn't have to set up my tent that night - for that I was grateful because on a trip like this it's always nice to have a dry, covered place to sleep that doesn't involve getting your tent wet! The cabin:

I rode alone the next morning because I got out of Lochsa late for two reasons. First, I lost my camera (luckily the owner found it wedged in the slats between the seat and the backrest of a log chair I'd sat in in the lodge), and second, I met and talked to two really nice (and cute) touring cyclists. These girls were on their way from Portland, OR to somewhere in Maine and we had all kinds of things to talk about. Here are the store (see the chair that tried to swallow my camera) and Jess/Alexa/me having a great time getting to know each other at roadside before leaving Lochsa:

Once I got on the road, it turned out that it was good that I'd left late because the weather had gotten quite hot and I was passing some REALLY GOOD swimming holes on the Lochsa River. In one very private hole, I skinny-dipped and ate lunch on the riverbank boulders. Another hole was right alongside the road at a spot where most of the current funneled between two very large boulders into a strong but very narrow center current only about 10' wide, while the water at the river's edges was nearly slack and quite deep. So, you could swim around lazily on the either side of the river and then to get to the other side you only had to brave a swift current for a very short time. I did just that, and was rewarded at the other side of the river with a white sand beach with a couple of really big, beautiful evergreen trees growing straight up out of the sand. Best of all, I was alone in this magnificent place. I swam and swam, back and forth from one side to the other, cooling down from a hot day of cycling. I just kept waiting for some other cyclists to pass by, to show them what a sweet spot I'd found, but I had the place to myself for almost an hour before I decided to leave.

At the end of that 68-mile day was the town of Lowell, ID, and Phyllis and Jerry were in the town's one restaurant when I got there. Fortuitously, I walked in a mere few seconds after a group of guys they'd been talking to had invited them to stay at their REALLY nice home just up the road rather than camping or getting a hotel. Phyllis and Jerry were thoughtful enough to ask the guys if I would be welcome to come up to the house as well and they said "the more the merrier".

The man that owns the place is a contractor from near Seattle, WA named Rick Sutter and he built the home as a getaway cabin where he and his friends could stay when coming up to hunt in the Idaho wilderness. When we rode across the beautiful bridge and up the steep driveway to the hillside home, we were all taken by how nice the place was. We were further taken aback when Rick invited us inside and showed us around. Rick, it turns out, is not just any ordinary hunter - he is a very dedicated, very accomplished hunter. There were game "trophies" literally THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE HOUSE. There were autographed photos of famous hunter dudes from the Outdoor Channel. Some the animals I can remember him having in the house were a large brown bear/grizzly, mountain lion, bull moose, elk, beaver, wild turkey, bobcat, raccoon, fox, pronghorn, and deer. There had to have been a hundred different animals mounted and on display. This guy definitely keeps the local taxidermist in business and, while I'm not a hunter at all, it was really quite interesting to listen to Rick tell stories of Idaho life and hunting life in general. When he showed us to where we would sleep, we were all giddy as he gave us the full run of a gorgeous and fully furnished apartment above the garage next to the house; it had two bedrooms, 5 beds, a kitchen, satellite television, and a full bathroom. After spending so much time in tents, crappy hotels, and under pavilions in city parks swarming with mosquitos, this place seemed like paradise. The rushing river which was only 50 yards away was audible even with all the windows closed. Then, in a move that REALLY did seem too good to be true, Rick invited all three of us down for a steak dinner, complete with garlic bread, salad, and beer, as well as pie for dessert. What generosity!!! Here are some photos of where Rick's house sits near the river, as well as of some of the animals he has inside the house.

The next morning, Phyllis and Jerry left really early but I stayed to watch the Tour de France on the satellite TV. When Rick and his buddies left that morning to go back to Seattle, they left me in the house, saying to stay as long as I wanted and to just lock the door when I left. Amazing. Oh, and when I left, I had gotten about 2 miles down the road when Rick and his buddies drove by in their big, white Dodge diesel pickup truck, swinging wide into the other lane to give me plenty of room, and yelling words of encouragement at me to spur me on. And, to top it off, when I got literally around the next bend in the highway, what did I see on the "Adopt-A-Highway" sign? This two-mile stretch of highway had been adopted by none other than.......the Rick Sutter family.

The ride from Lowell to Grangeville, ID continued downhill along the Clearwater River. This stretch of riding after Lolo Pass has proven to be the easiest of the entire country, with little wind and a consistent downhill grade.

Ultimately I had to climb hard, then moderately, again to get into Grangeville and I had traded the dense forest for some high-plain farmland with severely rolling hills, the kind that look easy to ride but in fact are more challenging than one would think.

In Grangeville...voila...I met up again with all 8 other people and we camped free in the city park. The public pool in town lets cyclists come in and use the pool and take a shower for just $3, so several of us enjoyed the lovely sunny day by cooling down in the pool after a really hot, shadeless ride. And, as I've seen in various states throughout the country (Kentucky, Kansas, and Idaho in particular), there were more signs warning of the dangers of methamphetmine usage. It must be boredom that drives meth usage.

The boys and I got up at sunrise and quickly packed to hit the road, both to avoid the heat and to get a head start on the big climb that presented itself first thing that morning. The climb was average...5-7%...and about 8 miles long...but the best part was the incredibly delicious descent from the summit. It was far and away the best riding of the entire trip. There was very little traffic, the roads were smooth, the views of the White Bird valley were huge and panoramic, and it was an Energizer Bunny descent - it just went on, and on, and on, and on...... Honestly, it was the most exhilarating bike ride I've ever taken, even better than the descent of Haleakala, because I never had to apply the brakes during a 10-mile descent and I maintained a consistent speed of 35-45 mph!!! This is the bridge at the bottom of the glorious descent, taken from the deck at the White Bird coffeehouse (I wasn't willing to pull out my camera while riding that fast!):

After an extended coffee and scenery break at the White Bird, MT coffeehouse, the group of us hit the road and immediately formed a five-man peloton, a fast paceline that enabled us to cut the wind and travel at a much higher speed. For several hours and close to 50 miles we raced on Highway 12 along the beautiful Salmon River, gracefully slicing our way to Pollack, ID. At one point we stopped at a white sandy beach along the way for some river swimming and a rock skipping contest (I won because no one can hang with me when it comes to rock skipping...boo ya!!).

That afternoon, after a really crappy lunch with really crappy service from a snarky waitress in Riggins, ID, we rolled into Pollack. There is nothing in this little village save for a few homes and a small lodge/rafting company. We stopped at the lodge for some shelter from the late mid-day 95-degree sun and the nice kid at the front desk gave the five of us two huge pitchers of ice water and a big bowl of grapes. He also let us hang around in the lounge on the couches to watch a movie, take a nap, read a book, or use the lodge's WiFi connection. While we were chilling out there, a man who we later learned is Jimmy Smith came and introduced himself, saying he is a cyclist as well and wanting to know more about our trip. A couple of hours and many bike stories later, Jimmy told us he was the lodge's cook and caretaker and he invited us to camp out in his yard at the end of the lodge and eat a home-cooked meal. Not long thereafter we were pitching our tents on the grass near the loudly tumbling Rapid River; eating appetizers of chips and salsa, Clementine oranges, and cherries from the tree across the street brought out by Jimmy's sweetheart Julianne; drinking cans (yes, cans) of a really hoppy microbrewed IPA; hungrily devouring piled-high plates of Jimmy's pasta with bison meat and spicy tomato sauce ; and finally, very contentedly, savoring a delicious pineapple upside down cake freshly-baked by the lodge's intern, Joy. That night I slept as well as I have in a very long time. Some pics from Jimmy's place:

Rising early again, this time at 6 a.m., Tony and I took off alone before the other guys, this time on our way to Cambridge, ID. It was another fairly easy day, with some moderate climbing and a lot of long, gradual descending. We stopped a couple of times for coffee or food, and rolled into Cambridge 75 miles later the very very hot late afternoon. Arriving in the city park where we planned to camp, we happened upon our Dutch friends, as well as Zach and Robin who'd passed us earlier. Nick, Jerry, and Phyllis arrived later and we once again had our 9-person group intact. Zach and Robin decided to, instead of waiting for the next morning's light, leave the city park at 10:00 pm and ride through the night to the next day's destination in order to avoid heat, wind, and camp boredom. They invited me, but I chose not to go because, while I thought it would be really fun, the ride was going through Hell's Canyon (on the Oregon/Idaho border) and I really had been wanting to see that country by the light of day. I can see riding through some ugly, desolate country at night (say Kansas, or parts of Wyoming or Colorado), but there was no way I was going to give up seeing some really beautiful mountains and canyons just to get to the next destination a little quicker.

That night, I made a terrible decision to sleep without my tent. The mosquitos were not so bad initially but they got worse as the night went along so I had to wrap up tighter and tighter in my sleeping bag; the problem was that it was 70 degrees outside and I had a 30-degree bag so I spent the night sweating, sleeping, awakening to apply bug spray or swat bugs away from my face, and basically just being miserable. The Dutch had set their alarms for 3:00 a.m. so they could get an early start on the climb and then arrive in Hell's Canyon by daylight, and while I had previously thought I'd never get up at 3:00 to ride, this morning I couldn't get up quickly enough and get the hell out of there. It turned out to be TOTALLY worth it because the climbing in darkness while gazing at a cloudless sky full of stars was epic, and we arrived in the canyon at the perfect time. The descent was dimly lit and cool, and the shadows on the mountains as the sun rose was quite spectacular. It was one of the coolest and most beautiful scenes I've seen on this entire trip and the pictures don't do it justice. Tony and I rode on and off with the Dutch in the early morning darkness and light before splitting off on our own and taking our time to begin the trek through rural eastern Oregon. Here are photos from that early morning ride:

Finally....after 2.5 months....I'm back in Oregon again, and it feels weird!

Riding through Hell's Canyon on the way toward Richland, OR was a not all that difficult and it was quite pretty. In fact, ironically, when my camera memory card filled up and we stopped for me to swap it out for an empty one, that was the exact moment that a bear, (the only bear I've seen on this trip, even including throughout all of Yellowstone National Park) walked right in front of us, only about 150 feet away! It stopped, put its nose in the air, licked it, and turned to stare right at us. We didn't want to hang around because it could have caught us in an instant, so we slowly backed away and only took one quick photo...sorry it's blurry.

Throughout Hell's Canyon, the heat just kept climbing somewhat mercilessly. By the time we caught up with the Dutch on a big climb near the end of our riding day at around 1:00 pm, it was already over 100 degrees. Here's Tony and I topping the last mountain of the day:

We all dropped down the other side of the climb, a steep 7% descent, into the fertile oasis of Richland, OR together ready for some cool air-conditioning and some food.

After some delicious lunch and some lazy library time, Tony and I decided to grab a hotel room and that is where I currently sit, while the Dutch decided to camp. (Tony and I could think of nothing less pleasant at that moment than sitting outside in the 100+ degree heat with minimal shade in a crappy city park without bathrooms.) We had some really crappy dinner at a local crappy restaurant, we met up with Nick (who arrived and happened to rent the motel room next door), and we just generally have been lazy, lazy, lazy after our pretty leisurely 69-mile jaunt today.

It's kind of surprising and amazing that I can now call any 69-mile ride a leisurely jaunt, but things have really changed after all this time and effort expended on my bike recently. I have a much greater sense of ability, as well as my limits, and I have a much different concept of endurance, which I have begun to measure now in hours rather than in minutes and seconds.

Oh, and by the way, I kind of lied earlier. We HAVE, in fact, seen another bear on this trip. We saw a bear in the mountains in Idaho that had just been hit by an RV or car; it was writing in pain in the ditch and wasn't dead yet. We all stopped because we couldn't believe what we were seeing, and then we realized that stopping right next to an injured bear might not be the best idea. This dying bear was small and we didn't know if it was Mama Bear or a cub, and we didn't stick around to find out or to even take a photo. One thing we DID discuss was how difficult it was to watch that bear dying painfully and writhing around in a pool of its own blood, and that we wished we had some kind of weapon that we could use to kill it and quickly put it out of its misery. However, since the only thing any of us had was a small knife, AND since none of us were willing to step close enough to try to accurately plunge a knife into a pissed off bear, we solemnly left and continued pedaling down the hill.

I can't believe it's only going to be a couple of weeks or less until I arrive home. Whatever will I do then, when I don't have to ride a bike for 5-7 hours every single day? Get a job? Now that's a scary proposition. :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fun people, amazing scenery, and stupid cops in Montana.

West Yellowstone, MT was a pretty cool little town, despite it's obvious attempt at capitalizing on tourism. If you look past the cheesiness, there's a cool Westernness to the town and there are a lot of old, historical log buildings. The Madison Hostel I stayed at was one of those places; included on the National Register of Historical Places, the log construction and mounted head of game animals made it feel like I was staying in the Wild West. It was $30 for a bed in a 3-person dorm room. The sink was in the room but the shower was down the hall. I got lucky and didn't have to share with anyone so I had the room to myself. Here's a view of the hostel hallway:

The next morning I decided to sleep in a bit instead of meeting the Dutch group at their leaving time of 6:30 a.m. I got up, watched some of the Tour de France on the hostel TV, and then packed and hit the road. It was a gorgeous ride past Hebgen and Earthquake Lakes. Earthquake Lake, in fact, WAS created when a massive 7.3 magnitude quake rocked the Montana hillside at midnight one night, causing the hillside to collapse and immediately form a natural, earthen dam on the Madison River. Most people made it to safety because it was in a remote area, but there were something like 27 people killed when their nearby campground was submerged under hundreds of feet of water within only minutes. The first picture below is Hebgen and the second is Earthquake (you can see where the hillside slid down and created a huge dam).

A really crazy thing happened while I was riding past Hebgen Lake. In the distance I saw a pickup truck stopped at the side of the road and a man and a woman standing alongside it. As I approached, the man put up his hand to flag me down and yelled out, asking if I could stop. I did. He pointed to my panniers (the four bags that carry my stuff and are attached to my bike's racks) and asked where I'd gotten them. At that second, I recognized the guy's voice...I'd bought them from HIM! It turns out that in the middle of nowhere in Montana, I had run into Wayne, the owner of TheTouringStore.com and the seller of all types of bicycle luggage. He said he'd driven by me, noticed my yellow Ortlieb brand bags, and known immediately that he'd likely sold them to me. Apparently, he is the only significant seller of the yellow-colored bags in the WORLD. Anyway, he took a bunch of photos of me with my bike and we swapped bike touring stories for a while by the side of the road. Then, as I was about to leave, he asked if I'd eaten breakfast. Upon hearing that I hadn't eaten much yet, he whipped out a $20 bill and said he was buying my breakfast. I argued, but he wouldn't hear me, and I graciously took the money. He said that there was an excellent breakfast place just about 2 miles up the road; he was RIGHT. The Campfire Lodge was a sweet little place, situated right on a river with flyfishermen fishing it...and while the food didn't come quickly, it was delicious. I had a HUGE cinnamon roll, and a raspberry pancake with 4 strips of thick, peppered bacon that I couldn't even finish. This is Wayne and his wife:

In Ennis, MT later that day, I met up with the Dutch again when we ended up in the same library doing blog/email stuff. We decided to camp together and there was a little fishing access area down by the river that had camping for $12 for a site that would fit all four of us. We headed down and were immediately swarmed by clouds of mosquitos (it is quickly becoming apparent that any Wyoming or Montana camping will involve the little bastards in huge quantities), but we tricked them by going swimming in the cool river for about 45 minutes. Of course they found us when we got out of the river, but with a little bug spray, a lot of handwaving, and a big, smoky campfire, we ended up being ok for the evening.

Nick and Robin later rolled into the camp, and had hooked up with two new dudes...Zack and Tony. Nick and Tony couldn't handle the mosquitos and headed into nearby Ennis to get a motel room. Robin and Zack ended up sharing our campsite. We all got up at the crack of dawn to leave...the boys and I headed to the coffee shop and then began the morning's big mountain climb (the Dutch folks were riding behind us after a long grocery store stop). I was feeling pretty powerful that morning, and I love to climb, so I stomped on it. Only Robin beat me up the hill, and he's just an animal (with a MUCH lighter bike and MUCH bigger quads than me) so I never figured to be able to keep up with him anyway. At the top, Robin and I waited for Zack and Tony and then we rolled down the 4-mile long and very steep and windy hill into Virginia City, MT for a nice, fat breakfast burrito at the tiny Outlaw Cafe.

So, let me start this next part by saying this: I ride with a rearview mirror, I am constantly looking behind me and am always aware of traffic, I obey traffic rules, and I always make sure to get out of the way of passing vehicles and give them as much room to pass as possible. Ok, so while we were in the cafe eating, someone noticed that there was a police car parked outside with its lights flashing. I walked outside to check it out and unknowingly walked into a lovely encounter with Sheriff's Deputy Chris T. He said he'd had a motorist complain of a group of bicyclists riding two abreast all the way down the four-mile hill from the summit and preventing four vehicles from passing. Then he said that there was further complaint specifically about ME, the guy in the khaki shorts with the black bike. Knowing that I had only ridden single file, except when passing another cyclist at 42-44 mph, and was constantly looking back behind me to make sure I wasn't in anyone's way, I politely and calmly tried to tell him my recollection of the descent - but he wasn't hearing it at all. He immediately shut me down, interrupted me in a raised voice, and stuck out his chest and somewhat threateningly said "oh, so you wanna argue, do you?! You wanna go to court here over this, do you?! You really want to do this, huh?" I was surprised at his immediately intimidating response to my calm words, so I again tried to explain my version of how we had descended the hill, this time using different words. He again wasn't having it, and he seemed intent on making the discussion a confrontation so I felt that the best thing to do so I didn't end up with a citation or a ride to jail was just to kiss his ass and let him get the submission he was demanding, saying things like: "wow, I never intended to block traffic or ride two abreast any longer than to pass", and "no sir, I didn't know that it is a crime to have four vehicles waiting behind you at any time", and "yes, I absolutely should have slowed down to a complete stop on the side of the road so that those vehicles could pass." Of course, it really wasn't practical to stop on the middle of a steep downhill on a road that had only about three inches of shoulder while riding at 44 mph, but I was smart enough to not say that. Officer Chris took down my name and address, went to the car to do what cops do in their cars with peoples' names and addresses, and then came back and let me go after making me kiss his ass one more time.

Earlier I had noticed there had been a woman standing nearby the whole time, about 5-6 feet away from Officer Chris and I. She had been nervously twiddling her thumbs and jangling her keys, standing with her legs crossed and her eyes glued to the ground. When I walked away from Chris, I had to walk past the woman so I addressed her and politely said "if it was you we were bothering, I apologize. It wasn't our intent to get in your way." All of a sudden she came to life and went OFF about how ALL the bicyclists always are going so slow and getting in everyone's way, and how finally THIS time she decided to call the police about it, and how our riding caused her trip from Bozeman to take an extra FIFTEEN minutes, yadda yadda yadda. I just smiled, apologized again, letting her have her rant, and then shook her hand and walked away. As I left, I heard her saying to the Officer "thank you so much for coming down, Chris....." Then it hit me that Officer Chris had probably just been trying to impress the girl. To rescue the damsel in distress. Whatever, dude.

After we left the cafe, I half expected Officer Chris to be waiting a few miles outside town to check up on us to make sure we weren't out being bad bike lawbreakers. To my surprise I didn't see him so I forgot about him. Then, about 2 hours later, after splitting off from the other guys, Tony and I had stopped off for a rest and something to drink in a different town, we saw Officer Chris again. He was sitting in his car on the other side of the road on the outskirts of town...and he gave us a friendly wave as we rolled by. Instinctively I waved back, but I immediately wished I hadn't. Jerk.

That night, we all rendezvoused after an easy 40 mile day in Twin Bridges, MT. That was a really cool little town; the people were hospitable, there were a couple of good restaurants, and best of all, there was a FREE cyclists' camp that consisted of a screened in shelter with picnic tables, a clean shower, a clean bathroom, a sink, and filtered drinking water. We had a great time in Twin Bridges, both at the camp and in town. The people that ran the restaurant and the grocery store were really friendly to us; in fact, the grocery store owner gave me some salsa for free because the expiration date was two days past, and I later found out that he will keep the store open past normal business hours if someone reports to him that there are cyclists coming into town at a late hour!

Someone in Twin Bridges had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that passing cyclists felt welcome and cared for, and I soon found out who that person was. The next morning, after Nick and I went to breakfast, we came back to the shelter and found the boys talking to some guy we'd never seen. The boys turned to me and said, "hey, tell this guy the story about the cop." I was now talking to Bill White, the man who had singlehandedly convinced the county powers-that-be that cycling tourism is quite valuable to the small towns in this remote MT county. Not only had he been able to get funds appropriated to build the cyclists' shelter (and had built it himself), but he has the ear of the county commissioner and other people that make important county decisions. He really wanted to hear my version of what had happened with Officer Chris the day before. When I told him, he just kept shaking his head in disgust and he actually got a little angry. Apparently, there have been multiple complaints from tourists and locals alike about this particular officer using intimidating and threatening behavior in situations that don't call for it. Mr. White strongly encouraged me to write him a letter, which he plans to hand-deliver to the county commissioner, and which he feels will carry a lot of weight in what is shaping up to be a decision on the future employment of the officer.

The next day's even shorter 30 mile ride to Dillon, MT was for a specific reason - Dillon is the only town of any size out in this area, and the only town that would have a sports bar. That day, The Netherlands was playing Spain for the soccer World Cup championship and we all wanted to watch the game. We did find a bar showing the soccer match (not an easy feat in MT, let me assure you), but sadly our Dutch friends were bitterly disappointed when the Spanish team scored a goal with two minutes left in overtime to break a 0-0 tie and win the title. Here's a pic taken on the ride to Dillon and a pic of the Dillon sky at sunset taken from my tent as I went to bed:

The next day's ride from Dillon to Jackson, MT was 50 miles, but it felt like a hundred. There was a nearly constant 15-25 mph headwind to battle, as well as two big climbs. I love to climb, as you know, but it's demoralizing to climb AND face such a strong wind. On the second climb of the day, I literally was riding at 3-4 mph for much of the climb, and standing up on the pedals much more than I normally do. Here's a pic of one climb, as well as of the wind blowing so hard that the weedtops were horizontal!

 The reward came that afternoon/evening at Jackson Lodge, which pipes in 140 degree water from the local Jackson Hot Springs, cools it to 102 degrees, and pumps it into a nearly Olympic-sized swimming pool. At first it was weird swimming in such a large pool of HOT water...I'd just never experienced SWIMMING in hot water. But it quickly became a really neat thing and it really helped soothe the sore muscles after a long day. The Jackson Lodge was made of logs and had animal heads mounted all over the inside...bison, bear, pronghorn, elk, moose, and even various animals from other countries that don't live here. But, for all the animals, the most prominent living creature was again the mosquito. We'd paid $10 to camp on the lawn at the lodge (that included swimming in the pool) and felt very fortunate that they let us hang out inside the lodge away from the mozzies...in fact, we even got to have a beer and watch the Tour de France. That day I'd ridden with Tony (who happens to be from Portland as well), though the rest of the same gang of eight of us was also riding to Jackson and we all met there that night so everyone got to enjoy the pool, the lodge, and dinner together.

The descent toward Jackson, the last rolling hill before dropping into Jackson, and the Jackson Lodge:

See you soon!