Today was filled with connecting with people. I packed up camp and rode around the lake about a half mile to the little grocery store/gas station in town.
I went in to get some chocolate milk and got into a conversation with the two ladies working the counter. Upon learning I was a school superintendent they proceeded to tell me about all their local school politics and challenges they face as a rural community. It is very hard for them to get staffing and resources they need.
I got on the road and pedaled through the rolling hills of the Camas Prairie.
I passed through the town of Craigmont and did not see a soul. It was a Sunday morning and everything was shut down- everything. I was hoping to grab something to eat, but nothing was open. I did see a really cool gas station with the old style pumps.
It was an exciting descent of a couple thousand vertical feet down to Kamia- about 8 miles of 35+mph. As I dropped elevation the temperature started going up. I stopped at a cafe for lunch and had a great conversation with a couple who home schooled their son. He is now a welder and doing well. We talked about the need for people in the trades as well as academia. I shared a little about our program at LCS and they took a postcard to follow the tour.
A couple Cowboys that heard our conversation then approached me and we talked a little more about Christian education. They invited me to a rodeo going on in Kooksia, about 7 miles down the route I was taking. So next thing you know, a half hour later I’m sitting in my Lycra in the stands with a whole crowd in jeans and cowboy hats, watching barrel racing. Everyone was super friendly and I had a great time.
I started up the 100 mile long canyon that eventually leads to Lolo Pass and Montana and promptly lost cell service. The road is built right along the Clearwater River and the only sounds you here are the rushing water, birds, and the passing vehicles. The shoulder is narrow in places and I had to ride alertly.
The scenery is gorgeous and as I climb in elevation it becomes full evergreen forest. As I was cruising along, I heard another bicycle come up on me very quickly- and a voice with an accent says, “Hi! How are you? It’s beautiful out here, yeah?” He was racing in the 2016 TransAm Race, a self-contained, unsupported ride from Astoria OR toYorktown VA. These folks ride 20-22 hours per day and cross the county in like 16 days- on a bicycle. Unfortunately, he had a major mechanical issue and was stopped for 3 days in Southern Idaho waiting for parts. So, now being in last place, he decided to enjoy the trip across the country, dialing back from 200+ miles per day to “only” 150 or so. After a quick “safe travels” he quickly disappeared into the distance.
The place I planned to stop for the night had a sign out front that said they had converted from a campground to a “resort” and no longer had campsites- only cabins. So knowing I had a little ways to go I stopped at the next cafe I came to to fuel up. I sat down at a table and about 10 minutes later a couple came in, looked around, and approached me and asked if they could join me for dinner! Bonnie Jean is 82 and Forrest is 79, and they are on a road trip to Great Falls.
They have traveled around the world on multiple Rhodes Scholar trips, educational and history ventures. They shared stories about Iceland, Isreal, Australia, and all around the US. Forrest was a pretty good mountaineer/climber and attempted Mt Everest and climbed with Royal Robbins, one of the pioneers of big wall climbing in Yosemite National Park. After saying goodbye, I hit the road for another 10 miles or so upstream until I found the Apgar Campground. I’ve set up in a great site under the trees and with the rushing water of the river drowning out any traffic noise from the road a couple hundred yards away.