International Selkirk Loop

I’m excited to be off on another adventure! This trip kind of snuck up on me- wrapping up a school year is always a busy time, and this year there were two additional layers to that busyness: my youngest daughter graduating from my school, Liberty Christian School, and my youngest brother getting married in California. To add to it, I pulled my calf muscle at the wedding on June 7 and have been nursing it along the past couple weeks. Last weekend, I did a preliminary pack of my gear, tuned the bike up on Thursday evening, then did a final pack on Saturday night.

I always do a final pack and even after multiple tours somehow manage to remove a few items and pare down the weight just a little more.

I have been looking at this route for a couple years with interest. It is marketed by the communities along the route as very motorcycle and bicycle friendly. I sent a way for a map packet that includes maps showing distances and elevations, a guide of the towns with things to see and do, and an overview map. Not having trained as much as I usually do leading up to a tour, I’m going to see how my body does and probably start off with lower miles.

Anyway, if you are reading this, I invite you to follow along over the next ten days or so and enjoy the adventure! As soon as I get to a town with strong enough WiFi, I will post pictures!

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Day #7 Missoula MT

Today was more of a celebration ride into Missoula than a high-mileage day. I came into town from the south, crossing over the Bitterroot River and into town. All sorts of people were out, tons of them on bikes, and it being a Wednesday, they have “Lunch at the Park.” There were bands, food vendors and probably 2,000 people. Apparently this goes on every Wed during the summer.

I had a great lunch, cruised the downtown area, then went to a place I have wanted to visit – the Adventure Cycling Association Headquarters. They are a great resource for all the things I have done with cycling over the years. The building is a former church and as they have added wings they have kept the open beam architecture.

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Day #6 Lolo Pass

I was awakened to the patter of raindrops in the middle of the night! It came down steady and as daylight grew, it was apparent it was here to stay. Packing up camp in the rain is always an interesting process. I pack up everything inside the tent in the waterproof bags I always carry. Then I unhook my tent from the inside and collapse it, leaving the poles and rain fly up as well as the ground cover. Then it’s a rush of quick trips to get everything to the bike and into the panniers as quickly as possible. The last thing is to pack the soaking wet rain fly and the ground cover. I put them in their own bags and strap them to the outside of my bags- they are soaking wet anyway and more rain on them won’t matter.

The cyclists I met last night joined me for breakfast at the local Powell Lodge. We just weren’t too enthusiastic to head out into the pouring rain for the 13 mile climb up to Lolo Pass. I finally headed out at about 9:00am. It was 42 degrees out and only got colder as I climbed. About 4 miles from the pass, the grade increased to 8% for a couple miles before falling back to 5-6%. I watched the temperature continue to drop on my cycling computer and at 36 degrees, it started to snow! 

Thankfully, I was only a mile from the top. I rolled into the Visitors Center and peeled down to thaw out. Another cyclist was there, having come up from the other direction. The Rangers had coffee and tea and hot cocoa for us which was much appreciated. As we waited out the snow, Jamie and Genevieve joined us, then two other cyclists heading west. So we hung out and exchanged stories as touring cyclists do.

 Since we are at the Idaho/Montana border, the time was changing. So by the time the storm broke up enough to be safe and it had turned back to a light rain, it was 2:30.

I put on every later if clothing I had and headed out, letting gravity do its thing, and descended the pass.

The weather broke as I got down to the Bitterroot Valley, with the sun occasionally showing its face. I found a place to recover and dry out, hoping the wet weather has passed.

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Day #5 Apgar CG to Powell

It was nice to wake up to the sound of the river 50 yards from my campsite. I made a breakfast of dehydrated eggs and sausage, packed everything up and hit the road. 
Today was 60 miles of a slight uphill, following the Lochsa River. At one point I shot a video about the ride and made note of how good the shoulders were. Not 5 minutes after the video (right after I passed Split Creek Pack Bridge), the shoulder disappeared and would come and go for the remainder of the day. 

I spent about 45 minutes at the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station. It was built in the 1920’s and they have preserved all the buildings and have a lot of the local history to share. 

I also periodically stopped at historical markers along the road that talked about the Lolo Trail, up on the ridge line to my north. This was the trail Lewis and Clark used to transit this portion of the Bitterroot Mountains, what they described as the most difficult part of their journey. I visited one spot today that Lewis and Clark transited on September 15, 1805 on their way out to the Pacific. They had come down off the ridges to fish for salmon. But they stayed high on the ridges because it was easier for travel on horseback. It was also following the trail that the Nez Perce used when they went east to hunt buffalo. On the way back east in 1806, they started up the trail against the advice of their Indian guides, and were forced to backtrack and wait for a month in May 1806 for the snow to melt.

Today, I was passed by a cyclist from Vancouver WA who is doing the “TransAm” route from Astoria OR to Yorktown VA. This was a route that became popular in 1976 as the Bikecentennial route that over 4,000 people did (in whole, or mostly in part) to celebrate our country’s bicentennial. It was the beginning of what became the Adventure Cycling Association, of which I am. Life member. I am looking forward to visiting their headquarters in Missoula MT when I get there.

When I got to the resort at Powell this afternoon, I spotted two touring bikes parked in front of the store. I needed to ask where to camp and thought I would see who was inside. I met Jim (Jamie) and Genevieve, who are a couple weeks in to their journey along the TransAm route as well. (I’m following the Lewis and Clark Trail, but it is the same route as the TransAm from Kooskia to Missoula, so I half expected to meet some TransAm folks along this stretch.)

Anyway, the clerk heard us talking about our cycling adventures and said, “We get a lot of you though here. You can camp for free on the back lawn, or go down the hill to the campground and pay $14.” We elected to camp on the back lawn.

We ate dinner together and spent a couple hours talking about life, politics, education and cycling. Jamie and I hit it off because we are both passionate about getting youth on bicycles. He works with a juvenile delinquent program and gets kids riding. Genevieve is passionate about education as is Jamie, so we spent a bit of time talking about educating today’s young people. They live in Silver City, NM. 

Tomorrow is the last 13-14 miles up to Lolo Pass.

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Day #4 Winchester to Apgar Campground

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. 

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Day #3 Pomeroy to Winchester, ID

Partly cloudy skies greeted me today. I got on the road and did a quick (well, 6mph quick) 800′ climb up to the Alpowa Summit. There were clouds 3-4 miles to the south but the winds were so strong that I was getting rain drops on me as I stopped for some pictures. 
Then it was an exciting descent of 5 steep miles and more gradual downhill to the Snake River. Lewis and Clark had taken the Snake on their way out to the Pacific, but they followed “the forgotten trail” an Indian trade route on the eastward return. In the photo below, you can see the trail still visible on the hillside.

I passed through Clarkston, crossed the bridge and entered Idaho and the town of Lewiston. At this point I followed the Clearwater River for about 12 miles before heading south on US95, through the Nez Perces Reservation. There were regular roadside historical markers along the route. I passed through Lapwai Valley (butterfly in Nez Perces) and came to the town of Culdesac(!)

At this point my route started up the Old Winchester Grade. In 8 miles, I climbed about 2500′ and had four vehicles pass me. It was a beautiful ascent and I felt like I was flying over the valleys and wheat fields below.

The grade topped out at about 4300′ and there are rolling hills as far as the eye can see- and now, plenty of forest interspersed with the farms.

I am staying at Winchester Lake State Park and just met a group of students from Pasco who are here for a year end trip, connected to Broetje Orchards. 

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Day #2 Walla Walla to Pomeroy

I woke up to rain! At least I was under a roof for the night. After saying goodbye to the West’s, I ventured out and headed toward Waitsburg entering rolling hills of wheat fields.

The rain was light with occasional downpours of 5-10 minutes. What a difference a few days makes- Monday I was riding in triple digits. Now it was in the low 50s and wet.I was musing about these beautiful hills and the image that came to mind was of God outing His finger on this land and leaving a fingerprint, with ridges and valleys in a unique pattern. And here I was like a microscopic creature, ascending and descending. 

I stopped in Waitsburg to “wait” and see if the rain would ease up- no such luck! So I decided to saddle back up and resigned myself to a slow, wet day. 

After passing through Dayton, I began the long gentle climb up to Pomeroy. At about 1pm the rain finally stopped and by 4pm the sun had broken through. As I was passing through Pomeroy, a neon sign caught my attention- “PIZZA” was flashing in purple and red. I had to stop. I ordered a 16″ (it’s all they had) and promptly downed half of it. The waiter kindly wrapped the rest up for my breakfast tomorrow. I rode out of the east end of town and set up camp at the Garfield County Fairgrounds. Tomorrow I will enter Idaho.

On a different note, today was the “Rivalry Ride” through the land of our school’s Division 1B opponents. Yesterday I went through Touchet. Early on today, I passed the baseball field where our baseball tarn suffered its last heart-breaking defeat just a few weeks ago in the State Tournament. Then it was Waitsburg, Dayton, and Pomeroy. In my two short years at Liberty Christian, I have already seen some great games and matches against these schools. It’s on to a new division next year for our school, with some new teams. But I have some great memories from these rivals.

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Day #1: Richland to Walla Walla

The journey has begun! Today was the final day of school at Liberty Christian for the 2015-2016 academic year. There was lots of activity throughout the campus with some performances, classroom parties, the last high school chapel, and preparations for a school tradition- the year-end all-school picnic. The front of the campus was set up with a water theme this year: there were slip-n-slides, kiddie pools, and water guns. When school was dismissed at 11:30am, the fun really ramped up! A hot dog linch and water play extended into the afternoon. What a great way to start the summer break for the students and families!

At about 12:45, a lot of the students and parents took a moment to gather around my bicycle and me. The Principal, Mrs. Bjur, said a prayer over my trip and  it was a a great way to start my first pedal strokes, having the students cheering and clapping as I rode out.I left the school campus and headed east, crossing over the Columbia River on the I182 bridge and riding a portion of the Sacajewa Bike Trail through Pasco, riding along the north shore of the Columbia. I skirted along the edge of Sacajawea State Park, where Lewis and Clark spent a few days camping on their way to the Pacific. It is located at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I headed inland to cross the bridge over the Snake then turned south again to the Wallula Gap. 

Just before crossing the Walla Walla River,I came to the site of Ft Walla Walla. It is now underwater due to the construction of the McNary Dam, but was a main trading post for the fur trade and pioneers from 1811-1855.My route then turned east and started rolling gently through wheat fields. The Blues Mountains slowly got larger in the horizon- I will be traveling through them in the next few days. Nestled at the bottom of the western slope is the town of Walla Walla, my destination for the night.I am staying with the West family; they are friends from California that moved to Washington shortly after we did in 2014. I was their daughters’ Principal years ago and we share a love for cycling, a fellowship in our faith, and a connection due to our move to the Northwest.


The things you see along the side of the road-

  • life preserver- bright orange of course. I debated putting on for higher visibility but kept pedaling by…
  • hub caps…always lots of hub caps
  • a Washington State license plate
  • A crib mattress and a pink blanket
  • lots of birds hit by cars 😦 … And plenty of live ones- I had to navigate through a flock of geese along the river; outside of Lowden I was attacked by a black bird that I’m sure had a nest nearby!
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The Lewis and Clark Expedition Summary

When the fledgling United States was only 26 years old in 1803, the Mississippi River formed its western boundary. Even though the vast continent beyond the Mississippi was administered by Spain, it was only sparsely inhabited by “Indians,” French and English trappers, and illegal homesteaders. On the Pacific coast a few Spanish missionaries lived among the Indians, and ownership of the region was claimed and disputed by Spain, Britain, and Russia.
Where others saw barren land and conflict, Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third president, saw opportunity. In what many saw as folly, but history later confirmed was brilliance, Jefferson convinced Congress to purchase the Louisiana Territory for 3 cents an acre, thereby doubling the size of the United States.

In 1803 Jefferson selected Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead an army expedition of 30 men to explore this new land. His instructions to Lewis stated:”The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by its course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.” Even with the inconsistent spelling and stilted grammar of the times, the instructions are still very clear.

Over the next two years the “Corps of Discovery” travelled 7,000 miles from St. Louis, up the Missouri River, over the Rocky Mountains, down the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon, and back again. In this epic American exploration of unknown territory, they lived off the land, made maps, acted as ambassadors to curious and mostly friendly Native American tribes, and documented many new species of plants and animals.

By the time of their return in 1806, traders and settlers were already pushing westward into the new territory—a process which in many ways defined the United States for the next 100 years. Even today, the phrase “Go west, young man,” still rings with adventure and opportunity.

Over the next week, I will be traveling along a small portion of their journey. I will be highlighting portions of their journal from their return trip in 1806, highlighting local history of some of the towns I will be traveling through, and of course sharing about my experiences on the bike. I hope you enjoy!

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Only two days until launch day for the tour! This is a training ride I did a few weeks back.

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