Forest Fires

Make America Bike Again – Day 19

Those aren’t clouds on the horizon. That’s smoke from last July’s forest fire in the Flathead National Forest of western Montana. Fire crews are already on the seen. And how do two local entrepreneurs respond? Did they get all caught up in the drama of having a forest fire in the neighborhood?

I think that they coped with the situation quite well. Here, are a couple of committed merchants making the best of the situation and set up just off the highway. The sign says, “Lemonade for Sale.” When we first met them they were waiting for the next car to come along. They had no difficulty focusing their attention on a passing tourist riding a bicycle. To add some zest to the story, while Robert was talking with the girls a passing motorist pulled up and bought two lemonades; one for the driver and one for Robert. Another trail angel gets its wings.

As you can see, the fires are visible from the highway and burning right behind these houses near Lincoln, Montana.

We are approaching the continental divide. Decker Pass is just a few miles down the highway. Those are the last mountains that we will see on this trip. From there it will be high plains and eastward flowing rivers. Tomorrow, we reach Great Falls, Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Goodbye Idaho

Make America Bike Again – Day 15

Robert rose early. Packed, made coffee and oatmeal, and on the road by seven. He found good water at the old ranger station. There was more water at the Wilderness Access Campground, but Frank was already gone, heading east toward Lochsa Lodge.

We were closing in on Missoula, Montana, the navel of the bicycle touring world of North America. Both the Northern Tier and the Lewis and Clark Trails pass right through the city, and the Great Divide Bicycling Route passes very near. It is also the home of AdventureCycling.org. This has to be a good area for meeting other touring cyclists.

IMG_1376

First to arrive was Doug. As the distance narrowed Robert waved and applied the brakes. Doug did the same. I crossed the road onto the other shoulder. (Remember, I’m the bicycle that keeps Robert on the road.) Right away Doug informed us that he is in the race. Having no clue, as usual, Robert asks, “What race is that?”

“The ACA one,” Doug replies. “I’m racing across America, east to west.”

“How long have you been on the road?”

Six weeks,” replied Doug. “Technically, it’s already been won. Most racers go west to east. One of those racers has already finished. I just want to finish.”

The Adventure Cycling Association stated this race just a few years ago. The course follows the association’s TransAmericaTrail  from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. Participants have to travel under their own power and self-supported. Most elect to go west to east, but a few, like Doug, choose the more challenging east to west route. You can read more about it on his blog: RideAllNight.wordpress.com.

Robert reached Lochsa Lodge by early afternoon. A breeze carried the smell of smoke and the sounds of not so distant helicopters. Frank was no where to be found. He must have taken a lunch break and kept right on going. For such a remote area, Lochsa Lodge was a busy place this time of year and a welcome stopping place for the traveler ready for a break and a good meal.

While Robert ate lunch, a large group of young cyclists arrived. They too were going east to west on a fully supported, charitable fund raiser. The earliest arrivals dropped their bikes, draping them over the grassy lawn, and close to the front doors, the bathrooms and the food.  Next came a hotshot crew, rotating out from their time spent on the fire line. They were followed by a small group of distinctly overweight motorcycle riders, dressed in Harley garb. Some carried sidearms.

Robert returned to the campsite just in time for an afternoon thunder shower. The tent and rainfly went quickly up. As the rain increased Robert grabbed his book and climbed inside for an afternoon snooze.

We would cross into Montana tomorrow. After the storm ended and dinnertime approached Robert found a meaningful way to honor the local Idaho gods. He donated a pair of Nike tennis shoes to the local lost and found, and lightened our load in the process. About 5 pm, who should roll into camp but the three lingering cyclists from our original group, Don, Frosty, and Gerry. We were back together again…minus 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Gem

Make America Bike Again – Day 6

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the Little Prince, “Is that somewhere it hides a well…”                    Antoine de Saint-Exupery

By this same logic, a bicycle tour is beautiful because of the hidden gems that are revealed along the way. One of these gems has got to be the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Yes. It’s true that during the summer there are many tourists, RV’s, and trucks. That just lends support for touring it on a bicycle.

Another reason for the bicycle preference is that just a few miles down the road … between the towns of Hood River and “The Dalles…” the Historic Columbia River Highway becomes hiker/biker only. There’s an invigorating blend of climbing into sunlit Oregon forest, views that compel a stop, and finally, an exhilarating descent into the river valley below. The pictures speak volumes.

Look at the craftsmanship in the 100 year old guardrail pictured in the header. What a narrow roadway! This was one of the first public highways built in the Pacific Northwest. Construction began in 1913…about the same time that Henry Ford began making automobiles affordable. According to the highway engineer for the project, it was designed to make: “Those points where the most beautiful things along the line might be seen in the best advantage, and if possible to locate the road in such a way as to reach them.”

The incredible stretch of downhill roadway in the picture above could easily be mistaken for a location somewhere along Europe’s Mediterranean. To feel it through the tires of a balanced and stable touring bike was a joy. To ride with the knowledge that there could be no cars or trucks following to close behind, with their irritated and distracted drivers, just adds to the moment. This stretch of highway called the Historic Columbia River Highway is truly a gem, waiting to be discovered along the Lewis & Clark trail.

When the highway was conceived, its purpose was to build access to places of great natural beauty. Now, one hundred years later the balance has shifted. Within the more popular national parks and scenic areas, waiting for a parking space with the engine running and the air-conditioner on, is the norm. There are many good reasons for remembering how much fun it can be to ride and travel on a bicycle.

 

 

Columbia River Gorge

Make America Bike Again – Day 5

Touring bicycles travel close to the earth. Loaded with gear the days roll by at about 10 or 12 miles an hour. It is a relatively slow speed, perfect for unplugging from the digital world and just right for noticing the little things in the natural world, with all of the senses engaged. Maybe that’s why cyclists smile a lot. On day 5 we would make just 28 miles. The pace was particularly slow that, but IMG_1265it wasn’t our fault. We were beset with overflowing beauty at every turn. It was a day of climbing into panoramic views, followed by the twisting road of an inevitable descent into shadow, forest, and the scent of old leaves. We were touring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is a must see and experience for the touring cyclist and bicycle.

 

By evening we reached another of Oregon’s fine network of campgrounds with hiker/biker sites in the town of Cascade Falls. An Adventure Cycling Association tour group of about 15 riders was already there setting up camp. We were right on the river, and a local brew pub a short walk away.

By the time we returned to the campground, the ACA group had already started a campfire. For the second time in as many days Gerry got out his guitar and many voices rose in song.