June 7 - 19: Idaho and Montana (and Idaho again)

6/15 - Lowell, ID (85 miles 3269.5 total)
many of us heard the showers that pelted our cabins at lolo hot springs overnight. fortunately by morning the clouds were clearing & the sun reappeared. sari & i peddled off at our usual--between 6:15-6:20. most leave before us. a few sagged up to the top of lolo pass to avoid today's climb. others sagged at different spots during the day. after this much time on the road--for most of us over 2 months by now--we're wearing down....& sometimes out. & problems with undersides & knees continue to plague a few riders.
but oh what a beautiful morning. the air was crisp & the roads still damp after the rains. the sunshine shone brightly on the deep green pines & cedars & on the snow-capped mountain peaks. the climb to lolo pass was quite gradual. after 7 miles we were there. debby, today's subaru driver, greeted us at the top. before long, patty the chef stopped, too; as always, she was driving the van & trailer. signs along the road proclaimed we were entering idaho (again) & also that we were entering pacific time.
here's a photo of the idaho sign with, from left, jackie, judith, patty the chef, & debby underneath.
riding down from the pass was spectacular. it was a 6% descent for 5 miles--not so good (for me, at least)--but the scenery was breathtaking. & it was also cold cold cold. we could see our breath as we coasted down the shadowed side of the mountain. on the way down we saw a sign that previewed the rest of our day: WINDING ROAD NEXT 77 MILES. at first i thot i hadn't seen a decimal point: surely it meant 7.7 miles. but nope.
the "town" of powell had been noted on our route sheets at 20 miles. at that point sari & i saw a sign on the roadway to lochsa lodge at powell...back into the trees. not seeing any hint of anything else that looked inhabited, we turned off & followed a mostly-dirt road 'til we found a lodge with bikes in front of it. by now we've come to understand that "town" in these parts means approximately 2 buildings & 5 people.
most of the riders were about finished with their breakfast, so we got their recommendations & settled in. we knew it was a long day but we also knew this was the last food we would find today (except for the same-old-same-old in our bike bags), so decided to order & just wait. we could see that the lone waiter was overworked so knew we'd wouldn't be eating soon. he confirmed that there was no pie, so we opted to go with sarah's tip & order the veggie omelet. it turned out (about 20 mins later) to be one of the best we've ever eaten---crammed with crisp-cooked veggies (onions, peppers, tomatoes) & real swiss cheese melted on top. the hash browns & wheat toast were tasty, too. we felt well-fortified to tackle the rest of our day.
we were now riding along the lochsa. as we'd talk to local folks over the last couple of days, they'd rave about the lochsa drive. & i want to tell you, if you're ever anywhere near this part of idaho, go out of your way to drive it.
here's a photo of a sign that describes what the lochsa is. (they pronounce it LAHKS-ah.)
from lolo pass, it's a downhill route along the rushing lochsa river. it's called a "biker's dream." & we certainly did appreciate the downhill part, tho' today's headwinds detracted a bit from the dream. truck traffic is another distraction for bikers. the road is narrow & there are quite a few logging trucks & many huge grain trucks...along with lots of good ol' semis. a fellow in a restaurant a couple of days ago told us that those grain trucks fill up at missoula & drive the lochsa route to lewiston, where they unload the grain onto barges on the columbia. plus they're doing road construction (we're getting used to that), so we had 7 miles of washboard road from about mile 61 to 68 on today's route. but today's washboard wasn't near as bad as the one last week (or was it the week before that??).
here's a photo of the scene we enjoyed all day along the lochsa. many of the trees are cedars.
we stopped at one cedar grove named after Devoto, an editor of lewis & clark's chronicles who traversed this route. a sign informed that cedars are a very slow-growing tree, reaching maturity after 400-500 years. they can live to be 3,000 years old. my oh my they're so majestic & beautiful.
often at road turnouts we'd see people with rafts & kayaks loaded on their recreational vehicles. once we saw a whole school of brightly-colored kayaks out bouncing along the rough water.
colorful wildflowers line our route....delicate white, purple, pink, & yellow. i don't know what they all are, but i recognize the wild rose, iowa's state flower. an unusual one is called bear grass; it has creamy white bulb-like things (about the size of a baseball) atop tall stalks (about 2 feet high) & blooms every 5-7 years.
sari & i stopped at a rest area to have some snacks. we sat on a log close to the river....then didn't want to leave. what an idyllic spot. finally, as we were wheeling our bikes back up to the road, we spotted 5 gold hershey's nuggets with almonds lying in the gravel. we recognized them from the chocolate supply in the subaru. we picked them up, dusted them off, & each had one, packing the rest for later. this evening we found out that gerrie had dropped them at that rest stop. thanks, gerrie.
the weather along our route today was a constant source of surprise. one minute we'd be basking in sunshine, the next minute showers would fall....sometimes just sprinkles, sometimes more substantial. often the showers were falling while the sun was shining. the winds would often meet us head-on with gusto as we'd turn a corner, backing off a bit 'til we rounded another bend. i think weather in a canyon is like that.
at about mile 61 we stopped at the historic lochsa ranger station. the log buildings in this compound were built in the 1920's & '30's in an era when building materials were either harvested from the abundant timber supply or packed in on the backs of horses & mules, an era that ended when the station became accessible by road in 1952.
this ranger station was dedicated in july 1976 as a memorial to the history of the forest service's efforts to bring management to our national forests.
what a fascinating place. we met doug & marie eider, volunteer forest service retirees who are managing the site this week. they provided a wealth of information about the station & the area in general. you can see the oil lamps; the visitor center has no electricity. what a warm & friendly place it is, thanks to doug & marie. in 1933 doug came west from the streets of chicago with Roosevelt's "tree army," the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). he's now secretary of the national association of civilian conservation corps alumni. he & marie live in lewiston, idaho. sari & i left with the same warm feeling we've enjoyed so often as we've stopped to meet & visit with people along our way.
then finally it was on to lowell. a sign at the edge of town announces its population---24. we're staying at the 3 rivers resort in little A-frame cabins. snug. no phones. the lady in the office down the way says i might be able to use their one phone line to send/receive emails tomorrow midday. there's a phone booth down near the river for the pocketmailers to share. many folks (but not any of us riders) are camping in a large open area between the cabins. this is a big whitewater rafting area. sarah plans to do that tomorrow.
half a dozen riders chose to get their own rooms at another motel down the road. they're close to the only restaurant in town that's open for all 3 meals; the one at our resort is open only for supper. & there's no grocery store in town. this "resort" (we've now revised our notion of what a "resort" is; if you're picturing something you'd find at palm springs, you're wrong....waaay wrong) & that other motel & restaurant are pretty much lowell. at least we won't have many choices to make for what to do on our layover day tomorrow. unless we want to whitewater raft or ride horses, it'll be a good day for resting, organizing our bags, or doing bike maintenance.
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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