Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Day 23 - June 29, Alder to Ennis, 24 miles

The power was back on at the Adler campground by 7 pm last night, so we had water once more and could complete our prep for the ride to Ennis today. We decided on a shorter day today since the route climbed about 4 miles at a steady 7% grade.  This was another unnamed pass.  At the top we got to watch cattleman with their big tractor trailer trucks transferring cattle to the upper pastures for summer grazing.  Sherri asked one of the drivers how many cattle their trucks could haul.  He said, “50,000 pounds or about 30 pairs.”  We believe the pairs he was talking about were cow and calf.  

One of several Historic Markers about the Gold Rush in the Alder area. 

View back down into the Ruby Valley to Alder on our way up the pass

One of several Cattle trucks moving cattle to summer pastures from the top of the pass

Ennis is a very nice tourist town of  1000 people - great restaurants

Monday, June 28, 2021

Day 22 - June 28, Dillon to Alder, 52 miles

Today we road a wonderful road with slightly rolling hills.  Lots of fun on a tandem 🙂.  The route had several nicely spaced towns where we could stop and refresh in the shade and refill our water bottles.  Nice change from the previous two days with long distances between services.  The weather was perfect with no wind or a tailwind all the way.  Grandpa Lee’s advice for riding in Montana was to get off early to avoid the mid-day northerly crosswinds and the heat.  Navigator Sherri confirmed that there would be crosswinds out of the north.  So we made sure to get to our campsite by 1 pm today. Along the way we saw an accident where a trailer had gotten loose from whatever was pulling it, flew off the road and took out a power pole.  Oh no we said !  Sure enough all the towns up valley have no power including our campground and all the convenience stores.  The campground is on well water driven by an electric pump too. Today the “flexibility card” was played on us!  The stores have no lights and can only take cash, but we were able to buy all our perishables ASAP, and they are on ice in one of our dry bags. Mark’s Grandpa always said, “Having a little cash can get you out of a lot of trouble”

Interesting stop today was Beaverhead Rock.  Named for the Lewis and Clark expedition by their guide Sacajawea.  Distinct landmarks were key to navigation at that time  

Family of geese at the campground.  The pond and rocks in the background are from gold mining by dredging machine from the mid-eighteen hundreds

We’ve got shade!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

June 27 - Day Off at Dillon Montana

We are playing our “flexibility card” today and taking the day off.   We are off to Alder tomorrow via Twin Bridges. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Day 21 - June 26, Wisdom to Dillon, 68 miles

Today was our longest ride yet with two passes to cross.  We took Montana Hwy 278 south from Wisdom to I-15 and then the I-15 frontage road north to Dillon.  The road surface was very good all the way, and the views always inspiring.  America is really a very big and beautiful country with lots of natural resources. The town of Jackson at mile 18 was the only place with services until we reached Dillion. Today we saw 7 bike tourists headed west and 3 headed east at the end of the day on the way into Dillon.  And we saw more cattle gazing in the huge Big Hole valley between the Bitterroot and Pioneer mountains than we have seen anywhere else in our lifetime.   The mosquitoes were out in full strength!  They flood irrigate the fields in the valley which creates perfect conditions for the mosquitoes.  Needless to say after two tough days in a row we will be looking for a shorter day tomorrow.

Horse corral and horses adjacent to our campsite at Wisdom

The Bitterroot mountains on the west side of Big Hole Valley 

The Pioneer mountains on the east side of the valley

The first pass of the day, Big Hole Pass.  The second pass had no sign and no name.  Both passes had 7% grades 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Day 20 - June 25, Sula to Wisdom, 40 miles

Today we crossed over Lost Trail Pass (7000 feet) made a left turn and over Chief Joseph Pass (7251 feet).   The real climbing started about 8 miles before the summit and averaged around 7% grade.  For folks from Colorado, the climb is similar to riding from downtown Golden up Lookout Mountain, continuing past the Nature Center to the high point of the road.  The road down to Wisdom has beautiful - fresh new pavement for about 20 miles - very nice.  We stopped at Big Hole Battlefield Visitor Center, a heart wrenching sad part of American history.  Camping in Wisdom tonight.

We are seeing more bike tourists now.  After leaving Missoula we met Ben and Haley and have been leap-frogging with them along the route for a couple of days. At  “The Crossing” restaurant here in Wisdom we ran across four other tourists staying in town tonight.

Day 19 - June 24, Hamilton to Sula, 37 miles

Today we continued to Sula Montana. We climb Lost Trail Pass coming up tomorrow. When we have a significant climb our tactic is to stay where there are full services as close to the pass as possible.  Sula is about 13 miles from the pass with a full service campground and cabins. Today was Mark’s chance to pick out an alternative route away from the highway.  He did not disappoint!  The 15 mile detour involved extra climbing and about 10 miles of gravel roads!  (Sherri had no comment)

We found an outstanding, out of the way, bicycle shop on our ride today - Red Barn Bicycles.  Best bike shop since Walla Walla.  A great full service shop specializing in mountain biking.  Very helpful with good info on our upcoming route.  The owner said that logging was moving out of the area and many of the old gravel logging roads are being closed to vehicles and getting used by gravel riders. 

A six seater beats a tandem!

Welcome sign for the Sula campground

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Day 18 - June 23, Missoula to Hamilton, 45 miles

Today’s route followed the Bitterroot Trail bike path directly from our Missoula “day off” hotel all the way to our destination in Hamilton.   The Bitterroot Trail is 51 miles long, following US Hwy 93 and the Bitterroot River south out of Missoula.  Unfortunately we ran out of time to stop by the Adventure Cycling offices in Missoula - maybe another time. Everyone is heading out following COVID isolation & getting reservations is very difficult.  Our off day involved planning and booking at least a week out.  Stealth camping is not an option.

It was a pleasure to be on a bike trail all day thru another beautiful river valley!   Today we saw three pairs of cyclists fully loaded and heading south just like us.  Missoula is the crossroads for a number of major bike touring routes, so maybe we will have some fellow travelers for a couple of days. 

The Bitterroot River from the bike path as we leave Missoula

A shot of the bike trail

To our right and west of us as we ride are the Bitterroot mountains which we crossed via Lolo Pass a couple of days back.  Reminds us of riding in the Arkansas River valley 

In the distance on our left and east are the Sapphire mountains

Many of our friends and family are entrepreneurs in their own right and very interested in business ideas.  We see these wood bundles for sale everywhere we stop

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Day 17 - June 21, Lochsa Lodge, Idaho to Missoula, Montana, 56 miles

After several days of steady climbing we made it over Lolo Pass !   Whew!  The last few miles were steep.  We would ride for 300 feet of elevation gain take a break and then do it again. The state lines for Idaho and Montana meet at Lolo pass and the time changes from Pacific to Mountain. Our “entering Montana” and “entering Idaho” pics were taken on top of the pass. There was no “entering Idaho” sign on our route into Lewiston. The visitors center  was closed but the bathrooms were open and the water fountain was on.  First water fountain we have seen working on the trip.  We had a long downhill run to Lolo where we picked the Rails to Trails Bitterroot Trail, smooth and paved, which took us right to our hotel!  June 22 is a much needed day off !

At Lochsa Lodge we met a friendly couple Greg and Mary from Missoula.  Greg knew all about our tandem builder and components we’re using.  I think Greg knows about tandems than I do.  On our descent from Lolo Pass we stopped at the Lolo Hot Springs for lunch and met Tracy and Tim from our home state of Colorado.  Tracy and Tim are riding all over the western US this year and are just about done with their current adventure.  Great to get tips and ideas from the experienced!

We made it !

Welcome to Idaho!  (Actually 184 miles ago 🙂)

Welcome to Montana!  (Full of stickers and graffiti)

And Mark says, “Its all downhill from here Sherri!”  Sherri says, “Yeah right.”  There was a headwind all way down 😞

Diet is really important!  You too can make it over Lolo pass if you just carry a gallon of chocolate milk!  Now there is the sponsorship we should get!  And yes Carol and Ann, we fit all these thermoses in the frame bags along with everything else we packed!

Day 16 - June 20, Lowell to Lochsa Lodge, 67 miles

Belated Happy Fathers Day to all Fathers!  This posting and well wishes come late but there are NO cell towers in the wilderness and very limited WiFi at the campground offices.  The ride from the Three Rivers campground at Lowell to the next full services at Lochsa Lodge was both beautiful and the most challenging yet.   The river changed from the Clearwater to the Lochsa as we continued along US Hwy 12.  The traffic was very light today making for a pleasant ride.  Just like the ride from Orofino the day before, the route was continuously gently uphill in the forest.  About half way through we did get our first headwind which slowed us down a bit.  Lochsa Lodge was a great site to see at the end of the ride.   Mark says, “What a great Fathers Day!”  Believe it or not there are still 13 miles to go to get over Lolo Pass tomorrow. The low point for this climb was 600 feet at Clarkston and the pass tomorrow is at 5300 feet. 

The beautiful Clearwater turns into the beautiful Lochsa at Lowell - wonder if my good friend Chris the kayaker has boated this river?   

Yes we were ready to enjoy the lodge when we arrived !

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Day 15 - June 19, Orofino to Lowell, 55 miles

On today’s ride we experienced more hot weather than any other day so far.  Thank goodness the route stayed close to the Clearwater river!  The cooling effect was a real blessing.  We are learning that a lot of crossing country riding involves logistics - especially what where & when to eat. Long days with little or no services make you think about how to stock up on food and water for the following day.  Camping again tonight.

The Clearwater is beautiful but it also kept us cool

Day 14 - June 18, Clarkston to Orofino, 50 miles

Today we continued on US Hwy 12 following the Clearwater river all the way to Orofino.  Very gentle but steadily uphill.  There were a couple of nice State Park rest areas with water along the way but no other services.   At breakfast at the hotel we had met a group called LifeCycles.  They’re riding across the US ending in Delaware.  Their ride is named Trans-Am 2021.  They have 8 young men riding with six leaders riding and providing sag services. Very nice and friendly group.  During the day we crossed paths at one of the rest areas and rode together for about 20 miles until Orofino.  Their daily mileages are higher than ours so not likely we’ll see them again. Orofino had temps above 90 so a nice pizza place with cool air was great for lunch.  WiFi has been sketchy so posting a day late.  No phone service for the next several days.

LifeCycle group packing up at the hotel

Riding with the LifeCycles group - nice paceline

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Day 13 - June 17, Pomeroy to Clarkston, 32 miles

Today we rode over our first mountain pass, Alpowa Summit. Not nearly as high as Colorado passes but you start the climbing at a much lower altitude.  We learned that the fields of yellow flowers are Canola and awe also learned that the fields of beans we have been riding past are lentils.  These crops are new to us.  The exciting part of the day was the descent of Alpowa, all the way down to the Snake river.  A drop of over 2100 feet.  

Our first mountain pass!

Fields of Canola

The Snake River

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Day 12 - June 16, Dayton to Pomeroy, 40 miles

The route today was a gentle climb for most of the day.  Great way to get our climbing legs in shape.  And cool temps once again.  We are free camping at the Pomeroy city park - a nice change from the recent few nights at hotels.  No rain in sight! When we arrived in town someone from the newspaper caught up with us and asked for an interview.  The local newspaper is The East Washingtonian.  Not sure when it will be published.  A little later when out for a walk we met a young couple also riding east on their way to Clarkston today.  They had stopped to charge the batteries for her Specialized eBike.  Apparently she uses the eBike to pull their trailer.  They carried a fast charger and could charge both batteries in about 90 minutes.   We wondered about this since the 40 mile section we rode today had zero services. 

The downtown Pomeroy Garfield County building.  We learned that these towns that are 30 to 40 miles apart in this area were spaced for stagecoach stops. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Day 11 - June 15, Walla Walla to Dayton, 30 miles

Yesterday was a day off in Walla Walla.  Walla Walla has a much revived and thriving downtown.   There is a excellent bike shop called Allegro, which has all the gear for every kind of cycling, including lots of bike packing accessories. For all the wine lovers, Walla Walla has 120 area wineries, many with downtown tasting rooms (guessing 30 or 40). 

The route to Dayton today was on backcountry roads with no traffic and through amazing wheat filled hillsides.  Harvesting starts in a couple of weeks.  Theses hills are steep!   We don’t see how they keep the tractors or harvesters from tipping over!   The route followed the valleys steadily climbing to Dayton.  Once again we bring cool weather, clouds, and rain.  Shortly after we got to Dayton it started pouring rain.  The high today was only about 70 degrees. 

Hills of wheat that go on forever and clouds rolling in

Jolly Green Giant on hillside outside of Dayton Washington

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Day 10 - June 13, Umatilla Oregon to Walla Walla Washington, 57 miles

Today we crossed into Washington!  Thanks Oregon for all the great bike trails and wide shoulders on the roads!  The day started with highway 730 heading east and then north still along the Columbia River.  We rode as close to the river as we had over the last 10 days.  The Columbia never ceases to amaze - today it seemed wider and more beautiful than ever.  In fact this section of the river is also called Lake Wallula.  The river kept us cool in the morning hours.  Half way through the days route we had to say good-bye to the river and headed into the high desert.  Without the cooling effect of the river things heated up quickly.  As we pulled into the hotel driveway we had our first flat tire!  What good luck to flat at the very end of the day.  Tomorrow is our first day off and we are ready for it!

The views along the Columbia never disappoint

Good-bye Oregon!  Hello Washington!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Day 9 - June 12, Arlington to Umatilla, 47 miles

Today started with more freeway riding, fast, flat & noisy.   Navigator Sherri devised a creative alternate solution.  It involved isolated backcountry roads, miles of gravel, a nature refuge with over grown abandoned roads as trails, a short dirt trail, then more gravel roads that led to Hwy 730 into Umatilla.  Fairly flat ground & quite the adventure on a tandem!  We did not see a car or even another person for many miles. 

Some serious gravel

Friday, June 11, 2021

Day 8 - June 11, Biggs to Arlington, 34 miles

The river gorge has now completely transitioned, from dense rainforest to Oak forests to fruit tree orchards and vineyards, and finally to arid grass landscapes. This part of Oregon should be hot and dry but our weather continues to be cool with cloudy skies.  The standard bike touring route crosses over to the Washington side of the river at Biggs.  However, the Washington side along highway 14 does not have the services we need for 84 miles, so that route was out of the question.  The Oregon side has been fantastic with wonderful lightly traveled highway 30 and bike paths in the forest for most of the first 270 miles.  But that ended today and our alternative route took us along I-84.  The freeway shoulder was wide and smooth and we felt quite safe.  But the traffic noise was a bit much.  Compensating for the noise was the continued beautiful landscape and mostly flat road. 

Arid landscape along the east Columbia River Gorge

John Day dam - so many dams, each with power generators, a lock for the barges, and a Salmon ladder

Freeway riding …

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Day 7 - June 10, Hood River to Biggs, 48 miles

The tailwind was strong today blowing up the river gorge and the windsurfers were out taking advantage.   We were too far away to take a good picture, but they must really know what they are doing. The river gorge is very wide, has lots of cliffs and very few places to launch from or take out.  We can’t imagine tacking back to your launch point against the wind we had today!  The most interesting part of the ride today was the descent from the Rowena Crest on the “Rowena Loops”, especially with the strong wind buffeting us.  Gotta love those 200mm rotors!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Day 6 - June 9, Cascade Locks to Hood River, 19 miles

We camped last night and it rained most of the night.  Morning brought sunny skies so we dried out before packing up. We knew that there was a steep climb shortly after starting but we didn’t realize what we were in for.  We turned onto the climb and the road sign that said “Steep Herman Creek Road”.   We exchanged a few anxious words about how “steep” it might be and forged ahead.  We really didn’t know how steep a road we could handle with a fully loaded tandem.  The road quickly turned up to 11% and we were doing better than expected.  A mile and a half into the climb the grade jumped up to 20%!!  We were off and walking the last really steep half a mile!   Walking your bike while bike touring is something you read about but think you will never have to do.  Feeling humble …

Good morning sunshine !

Drying out and packing and breakfast …

More beautiful views of the river gorge from the bike path 

Stunning view of Mt Adams from the River View Inn, Hood River

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Day 5 - June 8, Troutdale to Cascade Locks, 36 miles

We rode on I84 for the first 10 miles then we exited to the Historic Columbia River Highway.  Cars were allowed on the road for the first few miles and then the road turned into a paved bike trail - no vehicles allowed.  Today was a sightseeing day with beautiful waterfalls, views of the river, more amazing rain forest, and negotiated a long staircase manhandling the loaded tandem.  

One of multiple beautiful falls.


Bonneville Dam from the bike path

Part of the stairway