Baker City to Missoula
a day off in Baker City, to rest my sore buns. I toured
the Oregon Trail Museum here, in a building that
was once a combination ballroom / natatorium (indoor swimming
pool). A few of the museum docents told me that they learned
to swim in its pool.
World War II, the pool was paved over, and the building was used
as an arms factory. The upstairs ballroom has been restored,
and the former pool/factory floor houses many interesting exhibits
related to early western life.
Baker City late Friday morning, July 9th. I had been up
most of the previous night, building my last dispatch page- a
royal pain to upload using dial-up service. On my way out
of town, I mailed home another 9 pounds of stuff.
out of town, I climbed Flagstaff Hill (a speed bump), then climbed
the driveway to the National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
(a seriously steep hill!). In the parking lot at
the top was a loaded touring bike without a rider.
checking out some of the outdoor exhibits, when the bike and its
rider, Simon Plummer from the U. K., pulled up. He was riding
the TransAmerica Trail in the other direction and was less than
600 miles from completion. We talked for almost two hours.
We compared rigs- he's using a Bob trailer- and he gave
me many tips for the road ahead of me.
is an IT consultant in the U. K., and he's also maintaining a
web site, but is not carrying a computer. He's using libraries
and internet cafés to upload his pages via blogger.com.
He described the process, but it seemed a bit beyond my abilities
as a fledgling web designer. Check
out his site here.
headed into Baker City, and I went into the Interpretive Center
to look around. I ended up spending almost two hours inside.
The place is fascinating! It really makes life- and death-
on the Oregon Trail come alive.
dioramas depict families traveling west in wagon trains with all
of their possessions, including livestock, seeking a new life
in the Oregon Territory. Other displays, including movies
and recordings, are effectively used to make you feel like you
were there with them, sharing the excitement and danger of their
the museum feeling like I have it easy on my trip. The bicycle
is the most efficient form of transportation known. I travel
two to three times as far as the pioneers did on a typical day.
The natives could be friendly or hostile then. Today they are
overwhelmingly friendly. Some of the campsites I've visited
are probably no better than the pioneers experienced, but the
motels today are certainly a lot nicer!
hoped to get into Idaho on my first day out of Baker City, but
due to my late start and my extended visits outside and inside
the Interpretive Center, I didn't quite make it.
stopped at a county campground (Hewitt Park) near Richland,
OR, after 50 miles. It was a pretty spot on the Brownlee
Reservoir, but inhabited by noisy fishermen who were up most
of the night, and more bugs than I've ever seen in one place.
The walls, floors, and fixtures in the bathroom and shower were
completely covered with gnats, moths, and mosquitoes.
next morning began with a healthy climb to the town of Halfway,
OR, where a junior rodeo would be held that evening. I
wish I could have stayed to watch it, but I needed to move on.
into Hell's Canyon at Oxbow, OR, then rode along the Snake River
until crossing into Idaho at Brownlee Dam. I set my watch
ahead one hour to Mountain Time.
miles, it was nice to finally cross a state line. Not that
I was happy to leave Oregon- the state and its people were beautiful,
and I'll be back.
few miles, I camped in Idaho Power's Woodhead Park Campground,
a nice spot on the Brownlee Reservoir with great, clean, free
showers. That evening, the wind piped up to gale force out
of the South, the direction I was headed the next day.
morning began with a seven mile climb out of Hell's Canyon, with
a nice breakfast break three miles up at the Gateway Café.
I made it to Council, ID, 50 miles
later, and, unable to find a campground, collapsed in the cheap,
but clean, Starlite Motel.
the day, I saw tons of BMW motorcycles, heading for this coming
weekend's national BMW Motorcycle Owners' Association in Spokane.
some initial climbing, I had a nice downhill cruise for about
30 miles. Near the bottom, I crossed the Salmon River, and
back into Pacific Time! The time zone follows the meandering
paths of the Salmon and Snake Rivers, and I crossed it several
times in each direction.
miles, I pulled into a restaurant in Lucile, ID. There was
a loaded touring bike with a Burley cargo trailer parked outside.
I went in and found Steve from Portland, who is heading the same
direction, but turning north towards the middle of the TransAm
to finish near Chicago.
invited me to join him for dinner, and I accepted (no arm twisting
required.) He is a student at Lewis and Clark College
in Portland. I enjoyed our conversation, but our meeting
would be brief, as Steve was planning to ride another 20 miles
to White Bird that evening, and I was done for the day.
dinner, I coasted to the campground behind the restaurant, picked
an out-of the-way spot next to the river, and headed for the
shower. On my way back to my campsite, Steve pulled up
with two other riders, Kyle and Lisa, who were westbound on
and Lisa graduated this spring from the University of Virginia.
Kyle is from Bergen County, NJ, not far from Oakland, home of
the Hoelands! Lisa is from Ohio. Kyle is planning
to go to Medical School, Lisa to Law School (yuppies in the making!).
I generally have been enjoying my solitude, it was nice to spend
some time with other riders, even if I am older than their parents.
up my tent without the fly, since it was warm and dry, and fell
asleep looking at the stars through the tent netting. I
woke up the next morning to find Kyle sleeping on the picnic table.
Is that tent camping's version of the couch, perhaps?
me for breakfast at the same restaurant. He is also Jewish,
and said that if we entered most of the towns along the route
together, we'd probably more than double the Jewish population
out of the restaurant parking lot ahead of Steve, since he was
rearranging his gear. As there was a substantial climb ahead
and I don't climb very quickly, I expected to see him shortly.
I haven't seen him since.
a 20 mile downhill cruise, I came to White Bird. Here, I opted
to take the suggested alternate route to the top of White Bird
Hill. It's less steep than the main road, but five miles
longer, with many switchbacks. Unlike the main road, it
is almost completely devoid of traffic.
not very long, it was the hardest climb
I've ever done. It took me four hours to ride eleven miles!
The temperature hovered near 100°, and the asphalt softened
in the sun, so it felt like demons were reaching up from the road
to grab my four tires.
At one point,
while I was still moving, I looked down and saw a column of ants
marching in the same direction. They were passing me.
of the day made up for it! The next 36 miles were downhill.
I made a brief stop for supplies in Grangeville. With a
population of 3,226, it's one of the larger towns on this section
of the route.
started down the steep grade from town, a red pick-up with a bale
of hay and a large dog in the back waited patiently behind me
until he could see far enough ahead to pass safely. As he
passed, he called out, "You're gonna LOVE this hill!"
was right! The road dropped and twisted for 11 miles, into
a canyon as beautiful as Picture Gorge in Oregon. I coasted
the whole way at between 30 and 35 mph, enjoying the ride so much
I was laughing out loud the whole way down. The views will
stay with me, as I wasn't about to interrupt my joy to take pictures.
bottom, I rode in the canyon along the Clearwater River, and entered
the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Since I was still reading
Steven Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, an outstanding book
about Lewis and Clark's journey, this was a fascinating place
I was, 199 years after the Corps of Discovery passed through this
very place- by the grace of, and with the help and guidance of
the Nez Perce. Without the Nez Perce, Lewis and Clark would
not have been successful, and would probably be unheard of today.
Arguably, what is now the continental U.S. could have been very
different today, shared between the U.S., France, Spain, and Britain.
I highly suggest reading the Ambrose book, to see how truly important
L & C's expedition was in shaping our country.
through the town of Kooskia (pronounced KOOS-key). and camped
at the River Junction Campground, an absolute pit! The bathrooms
and pay shower were filthy, and the mosquitoes ate me alive.
I showered as quickly as I could, and collapsed in my tent to
eat a cold dinner.
a short distance into Kooskia for breakfast Wednesday morning,
Then started my 70 mile climb up the Lolo Pass, following in the
footsteps of Lewis and Clark. Lolo, crossing the Bitterroot
Range of the Rocky Mountains, was the major obstacle for the Corps
of Discovery in both directions, taking months to cross each way.
gradual climb up the Lochsa River Canyon (pronounced LOCK-saw)
was beautiful. Once I passed Lowell and began the climb,
the road was without any services other than primitive campgrounds
for 66 miles.
plenty of birds and mule deer on the way up, but no moose or bear,
though I kept looking for large game.
halfway up, I stopped at the historic Lochsa Ranger Station.
The docents, the Humphreys, were a retired couple who live in
Tucson in the winter, and Maine in the summer. I had a great
time visiting with them. They lived near Philadelphia for
almost 30 years! Dr. Humphrey was a chemical engineering
professor at Penn, then Dean of that school. During this
time, the Humphreys lived on Ridley Creek, just south of Philadelphia
in Delaware County. He later taught at Lehigh and Penn State
on the porch and rested for a while at the Ranger Station, watching
a group of hummingbirds do battle over a feeder.
Wednesday night at the Wilderness Gateway Campground, a U.S. Forest
Service facility with flush toilets, but no showers. My
shower bag did the trick.
point while I was there, a man in the campsite just next to mine
broke both of his legs wile he was chopping wood. The sites
were fairly far apart, and very private. I noticed the emergency
lights as night fell, but had no idea what had happened until
another camper filled me in the next morning.
early Thursday morning, so I could get over the pass before the
end of the day. I stopped for lunch at the Lochsa Lodge
in Powell, 13 miles short of the summit, and had a great Reuben
sandwich. Then, I made my summit push, getting there at
7:00PM, which instantly became 8:00PM, since I crossed into Montana,
and back into Mountain Time at the top.
the summit, it took me 15 minutes to coast the eight miles down
to Lolo Hot Springs, an historic spot turned tourist trap.
The Lewis and Clark expedition, along with their Nez Perce guides,
stopped and enjoyed themselves at this spot, after crossing Lolo
into a motel there, since the campground looked about as inviting
as River Junction, back in Kooskia.
I coasted down to the town of Lolo, stopping at the site of "Fort
Fizzle". Here, in 1877, Nez Perce under Chief Joseph,
who were trying to avoid relocation into a reservation, slipped
around a fort which had been hastily constructed to block their
after Lolo, I entered Missoula, and pulled up to the headquarters
of Adventure Cycling
Association, the organization that planned and mapped the
TansAmerica Bicycle Trail, as well as many other routes.
There were ten loaded touring bikes parked outside.
inside and signed in. There were cycle tourists milling
about everywhere. I signed in, but felt completely anonymous.
I wasn't expecting a hero's welcome, but I guess I wasn't expecting
to be ignored, either.
around for a few minutes, then walked outside. I went to
take something (my phone?) out of the bag that holds my valuables,
and bobbled my camera. It dropped onto the sidewalk with
a heartbreaking crunch, plastic pieces flying in all directions.
I gathered the pieces, sat down under a tree, and just about cried.
the camera specifically for this trip. It's a bit heavy,
but has otherwise been perfect. I know I have to expect
occasional unexpected expenses. Most of them are unavoidable-
like bike or equipment repairs. But to suffer a major expense
for no other reason than my own stupidity was tough to bear.
back inside Adventure Cycling to ask about a camera shop, and
things began to change for the better.
there were all a part of an Adventure Cycling group, westbound
on the TransAm. I had been ignored because the staff thought
I was a part of their group. As the group packed to leave,
they realized I wasn't.
AC's Education Coordinator, introduced himself and gave me a tour.
He grabbed a Polaroid camera and took my picture for their wall.
Another staffer, a laid-back guy maybe a little older than I,
inquired about my bike and trailer- an unusual setup, he said.
He asked if he could take my portrait for their gallery.
me a model release form to sign. The form named the photographer
as Greg Siple. "Are you Greg", I asked.
Siple co-founded Adventure Cycling, and is still their Art Director.
As a member of Adventure Cycling, I have been reading about him
for years. In fact, he is one of the major inspirations
for my trip (as I would guess he is for many cyclists riding across
the country). You can read more about Greg here.
had me grab my bike and meet him on the other side of the building,
where he took my picture. He spent quite a bit of time with
me, even as it grew late on a Friday evening. He gave me
a sticker which reads, "I ride, therefore I TransAm",
which I will proudly display on my bike. We talked about
my trailer, the most unusual part of my rig, and its pros and
cons. He took me back to the photo gallery, which had large
prints from the original Bikecentennial TransAmerica Tour in 1976,
all over the walls. (Greg was on that trip, of course.)
Greg told me that
these photos were kept here as an inspiration to the staff.
Although the equipment and clothing has changed in the 28 years
since that tour, not much else in the photos has. The sport
is growing, but people still do the TransAm and other tours for
the same reasons, and enjoy similar experiences as the original
group. Though laid-back, Greg was clearly excited about
what he had begun here, and how Adventure Cycling has encouraged
so many people to tour on a bicycle.
an honor to meet and talk to Greg Siple, and an even greater honor
that he asked to take my portrait. And, on top of that,
after I put the pieces back together (and an initial hesitation
on its part) my camera seems to work!
I left Adventure
Cycling and headed to REI. Earlier in the week, I had stopped
at a library and ordered some waterproof Ortlieb panniers (saddle
bags) from rei.com, and had them shipped to their Missoula store.
I picked them up at the store, and tried them out. They
mounted to the bike without any interference with pedaling, a
big concern because of the short wheelbase of my small wheeled
Bike Friday. And, I got all of the gear from my trailer
in them! That means a huge weight reduction without losing
the trailer home. The package weighed 32 pounds! With
an increase of about 5 pounds worth of new panniers, I reduced
my load by 27 pounds, and reduced my drag at the same time.
(Yes Woody, you were right!) I discuss this more here.
bought a new saddle in Missoula, and sent home my Brooks.
While many long-distance cyclists rave about the comfort of Brooks
saddles, for a few people they just don't work. It seems
that I am one of those few. I also replaced my helmet, which
had inexplicably cracked in several places, and had my bottom
bracket (the set of bearings around the pedal axle at the bottom
of a bike frame) repaired at the Bike Doctor, where I found excellent
two days in Missoula, building this page, testing and adjusting
my new rig, and sitting out some rain. I was ready to leave
on Monday morning, July 19th, headed for Yellowstone.