Thursday, July 17, 2008


Before this trip, Idaho was a state that I was barely aware of. You'd say "Idaho," I'd say "potato" and that's about where the word associations would end. But after my past few days in this state, I know I will be back. While I have yet to see a potato field, I have traveled through canyons, along rivers, and past golden hills. The terrain has far surpassed any expectations that I had.

As I left Missoula on Tuesday, it looked like bad weather was finally going to catch up with me. The Weather Channel was calling for rain in western Montana and in Idaho and the sky was thick with clouds. A light drizzle fell as I retraced thirteen miles out of Missoula. However, after I turned west toward the Idaho border, the clouds began to break up. Within the hour the sun was shining.

To get to the Idaho/Montana border, I had to climb to Lolo Pass at 5,235 feet. I had yet to see a bull moose on this trip and, unlike a grizzly, which I also have yet to see, I wanted to see a moose. I finally did at the top of the pass.

After reaching the pass the remainder of my day was spent descending through Lochsa Canyon. U.S. 12, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, meanders along the Lochsa River with mountains rising on each side.

This stretch of winding road stands out among many outstanding rides. National forest surrounds the canyon, so there were several NFS campgrounds to choose from. As the sun set behind the mountains I set up camp at Wilderness campground.

Yesterday I finished my ride through the canyon and once again began climbing. I hit a low of 1200 feet and rose to 4300 feet. Unfortunately, I have a lot more ascending and descending between here and the Pacific. Once again much of my riding was along rivers, which provide a beautiful setting for biking.

As I approached the steepest part of my climb on a busier U.S. highway, a guy on a motorcycle rode up next to me. He told me that he had biked the Transamerica thirty years ago and he wanted to warn me that at the top of the hill the road was covered in gravel and that I should take an alternate route. Sure enough, for the seven mile 7% grade descent, crews had covered the road in an inch of loose gravel. This seemed like a great way to kill bikers and motorcyclists. Fortunately, after a mile I was able to turn off onto Old 95, a stretch of switchbacks that took me down into White Bird, my destination for the night. Old 95 provided unimpeded views of the surrounding hills.

White Bird offered two options for dinner, I chose the one that my hotel clerk described as "classier," which I believe meant that I had less chance of getting caught in a bar fight. As I ate my burger at the empty bar, to my great surprise, my Uncle John walked in. My uncle had emailed me earlier in the week that he may try to fly out to Idaho to see me on the road, but I hadn't heard from him so I assumed he hadn't made it out. In fact, he flew into Missoula, went to Adventure Cycling and bought a map, and followed the route I have taken over the past two days, stopping occasionally to ask people if they had seen me pass by. Two rafting guides told him that they had seen me eating breakfast and put him on track toward White Bird. It was great to see him. We had a few $1.75 drafts at the bar and caught up, as some locals came and went.

This morning I rode out of White Bird with the plan to meet my uncle for breakfast either twenty or thirty miles down the road before he returned to Missoula. He drove the stretch of road stopping occasionally to take pictures. Fortunately, he was behind me when I had my third flat tire. A sharp metal pin worked its way through my rear tire. With my uncle's help, I replaced the tube quickly and was back on the road.

I had been warned that this section of Idaho heats up. A sheriff's deputy pulled over as I was taking a picture to recommend places where I could swim. Since my uncle and I ate and he headed back, I have been sitting out the afternoon heat in the Riggins Public Library/City Hall.

My last 100 miles in Idaho includes a stretch on a rails-to-trails bike path that will be a welcome break from the increasing truck traffic. Then, tomorrow, I cross the Oregon border.


Anonymous said...

I shouldn't have been surprised that John tracked you down on the route, but I was amazed. I think his next goal is to set foot in all 50 states! Alaska on the weekend & now MT & ID. Great photos of Idaho and with John. 9 down and 1 to go. What memories you will have of your dream ride!!


Anonymous said...


Your pics of Idaho are wonderful! Great that John was able to meet you in Idaho! What a fantastic trip you are having!

Aunt Maureen

Anonymous said...

I don't know who's more adventurous/crazier -- you or Uncle John. I'm just jealous.


Sarah P said...

Wow - now THAT's a devoted uncle. I can just imagine him tracking down anyone he could talk to with your description to find you.

We rode the Denali bus with some folks from Idaho, and they had great things to say about the state. Your pictures are great!

Watch out for the moose, especially the mamas with their babies. Alaskans warned us that they're more dangerous than bears.

Anonymous said...

Thatis so awesome that Uncle John caught up with you and you could have a few cold ones. The picture is great! Take care!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said that my next goal should be to set foot in every state. I have already done that as a result of my trip to Alaska last week. The beauty in Montana and Idaho ranks with the beauty of Alaska. Brian is quite accurate in saying that this part of the country is worth seeing. I am sure I will be back now that I have gotten a better glimpse of it by tracking down Brian.

I give Brian a lot of credit for what he is putting himself through. He must have nerves of steel as he pedals alongside of 18 wheelers and the other types of crazy drivers. The roads I saw were in good shape except for that one he got off. He must have had a guardian angel on that segment. It was scary going down the grade with loose gravel in a car. I couldn't imagine doing it on a bike. I took his route on the return and the switchbacks were many, but it was a safe journey and full of beautiful sites.

I was happy to find Brian in a small town which had a population of around 30 people. It was easy to spot him. I only had three places to look: the two bars and the motel. I found him at the first bar. Those cold beers and hamburger sure were tasty. I haven't seen beer for a $1.75 in a long time, especially in oversized glasses.

What Brian is doing is phenomenal. He sure can pack away the food and drink after a long day of riding.
The temperature on the day I left was 97 degrees at one point, and worthy of a dip in the Salmon River. Later that day I took an inner tube down the river for 90 minutes. The water sure was cold, but very relaxing. The stillness/quietness on the river
was beyond belief. Brian sure has been lucky to experience all of this good stuff.

Brian you are now on the home stretch and you'll be looking back on this trip the rest of your life. Enjoy all that's left of it.

Uncle John