First day of riding: Lot of boogers

June 4 and 6, 2018 — Where the bike goes, we all go. And in the beginning, the bike went to the Knicker Biker shop in Great Falls, MT, which meant we went there, too, or at least to a hotel nearby.

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Officer John mowing — for us?

Kathy and I gave ourselves two days to get to Great Falls with time for an overnight stay with Officer John and his newly minted librarian, Maureen. Congratulations on finishing the degree at Spokane Community College.

JB at SipI most wanted to stay in the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge and O’Haire Motor Inn, which is only a few blocks away. But we did get there in time to catch the mer-persons. The locals tell us we should have listened to Piano Pat – maybe next time.

After getting Mary Jo, that would be the Principal Rider, from the airport, we went the next day to the Knicker Biker to pick up her bike (shipped from Cincinnati) and have it put back together. I told the mechanic my rear tire looked a little worn. “You don’t want that on your way across a 700-mile ride,” said the worker. So he replaced it.

I started out with a head of snot because of a cold and a head of blood because I was starting a new blood thinner medicine. I caught the cold at The Seattle Times, where I worked for the past two months and did not get a whole lot of training in. And I got the new blood thinner because aspirin did not control my underlining clot factor.

I was accused by the SAG support of slowing down the Principal Rider. At lunch, the SAG rider and the Principal Rider had decided that I should stow my bike in the truck and join in the passenger seat for the ride to Fort Benton.

Of course, I was incensed, and from Highwood, MT, where we had a nice lunch in someone’s front yard, I picked up my pace and we did the 53.7 miles with an average time of 11 miles per hour – approved by the Principal Rider.

Of course, my boogers were as big as stones and my blood boogers were as big as boulders. A shower in the Grand Union Hotel, a nice dinner (Mary Jo did all right with the trout) and a walk down by the Missouri River, made it all seem like the first day of a ride – happy to be doing this again.

MJ at falls
Mary Jo at the Great Falls, MT.

 

No country for mixing rugby and biking

The idea was to ride my bike across Montana and North Dakota and keep track of the Seattle Seawolves rugby team at the same time.

It was an idea doomed to fail.

The Seawolves vs. Austin Elite game on Saturday, June 9, was not carried on TV networks available in Jordan, MT, (pop. 386). Especially since the game was played on Friday, June 8, which shows you how out of touch I was after four days of bike riding (246 miles). I heard it was a nail-biter with Seattle winning, 20-19.

And Seawolves vs. Glendale Raptors on Saturday, June 16, while in Lisbon, ND, (pop. 2,124)? Forget it. Yes, really forget it. Seattle lost 33-11.

But I did get to see the U.S. team beat Scotland, 30-29, which bodes well for the national team going forward. Maybe a win or two in the 2019 Rugby World Cup? That would be welcome across the land – even in Jordan and Lisbon, should they hear of it.

About this bike ride: It was not my idea. My sister gets credit/blame for that. It’s her goal/obsession to ride across all of the lower 48 states. We did Iowa and Nevada in 2017. Arkansas, North Dakota and the rest of Montana were on tap for 2018. I promised to ride across Arkansas with her, but our plans fell apart due to other priorities.

I said I would be support and gear/guidance (SAG) for her on Montana/North Dakota. But when her riding partner backed out, what kind of brother would I be if I left her pedaling alone somewhere between Great Falls, MT, and Fargo, ND?

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Kathy preparing lunch the first day at the SAG wagon.

SAG duties fell to the spouses, and Kathy and Don can never be thanked enough.

JB and Don
With Don along the way in Napoleon, North Dakota.

It all started on June 4 when Kathy and I started the drive from Seattle. . .

 

 

Save the Smith so we can float it

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One of the Mad Schemes of 2016 that did not happen was the float trip on Montana’s Smith River. That’s because we did not get a permit in the lottery. I blame that on one recipient of the Mad Schemes memo who has been down the Smith twice already this year. Please share some of that good luck, Miss You Know Who You Are.

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I have blurred the ID to protect Miss You Know Who from those who did not get a Smith permit.

We’ll try again next year, probably for some dates in late May or early June. All the dates this year were in June, which obviously is a very popular time to float this river. If we don’t get a permit, we’ll try to pick up one of the cancelled trips. So be flexible in 2017, river floaters.

One more thing about the Smith: It’s threatened. Check out www.SaveOurSmith.com for the details. But here’s the general story: Tintina Resources, a Canadian mining company, wants to build a copper mine on Sheep Creek, which is the Smith’s most important tributary. The mine would go through sulfide rock, which could mean sulfuric acid forming and draining into the Smith. Not good for the rainbow, brown, west-slope cutthroat and brook trout there.  And who wants to paddle or swim in acidic mining runoff?

Make a donation, get a bumper sticker. Save the Smith . . . so we can float it in 2017, 2018, 2019, etc. etc.

The reason I tried to get Smith dates in June was to coordinate it with the Kootenai Gran Fondo in Libby, MT. I rode in it last year and said I would come back to help in 2016 but not ride. But the event has been moved back to its July 4 weekend dates, which is a problem for me and I did not attend.

It’s a great ride and has a great story behind it. John Weyhrich, who heads up this effort, has been a competitive bike racer for about 30 years and thought it his duty to give back to his sport. John did much of his training in the mountains around Libby, Montana, and saw that it was an area that could use some outside help. So he decided to put on the Kootenai Gran Fondo, which has contributed money to the Coats for Kids program in Libby, to the Special Olympics in Eureka, MT., and to a food for kids program in Troy, MT.

I do recommend it as one of the most beautiful rides in America – and one of the toughest. If you can’t make the ride in 2017, consider giving a donation.

So there are the two Mad Schemes that did not get done this year. But a couple of “if time” Schemes have been done.

Kathy and I got to the Sol duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park this spring. We made our reservations for only one night, planning to see if it was worth more time than that. It was. We spent another day and night soaking and hiking.

Solduc
You’ll hear many languages besides English while soaking.

The cabin we stayed in fit our needs just fine although it was nothing fancy (except for the price). You are far enough away from other restaurants that the on-site food is the better alternative. Not gourmet, but you’ll get your fill. The National Park Service, as usual, does a great job keeping this place going despite the challenges the NPS faces in funding and lack of attention from those people back in the other Washington.

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At the falls

Besides the soaking (hot, just right, frigid — like how can water be this cold without being ice), there’s some great hiking around the springs. We just did the walk to the Sol duc Falls, but there are others more challenging.

We also made it to Bagby Hot Springs near Mount Hood in Oregon a couple of weeks ago. It’s quite a contrast from Soleduc, much more rustic with hollowed out logs in the private “rooms” and large wooden barrels for the communal pools. The springs are about a mile and a half hike from the camp site, which is hard to find if you get there after dark (we did not — find it, that is.)

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Kathy soaking in our private log.
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Ward, his name was fun

Love the way the most basic materials and methods are used to divert the hot water and provide cold water for cooling off the baths. A tennis ball for a stopper in our log, with a piece of gutter to fill the log. Take a rock out from under the gutter and the water comes into your log. Put it back and the gutter is raised so the water goes on by.

Ward Barbee, an old friend now gone, used to tell stories about his antics at Bagby in the early 1970s. Since then, I’ve always wanted to visit. It was fun to imagine Ward there, soaking, probably a Marsh Wheeling or a joint in his mouth and his wonderfully loud laugh ringing through the trees. I thought I could hear it still.