The Big Hole, a title open with possibilities.

Trip Start Jun 19, 2006
Trip End Aug 25, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I have broken the Continental Divide for the first time, Chief Joseph Pass, the first of many from what i have read. I have gone over the 7,000 foot elevation mark twice in the last two days and I an nearly out of Montana. In the following states the heights go over 9,000 and then 11,000, dear God. It was certainly good for me to take some R&R in New Meadows, it seemed to charge up the batteries, though like any rechargable battery they rarely get back to their initial energy level. I have been trying to get up earlier to try and beat some of the heat, that usually means I get on the road by 8 A.M., however that is not a steadfast rule.
I am zooming through Montana and working on being in Wyoming in the next few days. I think I can almost see light at the end of the Mountain Climbing tunnel, or perhaps that is the white light people talk about seeing when they are knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door. In any case I am charging towards that light! From New Meadows I had a casual ride down to White Bird, Idaho. The terrain was accommodating but the air was thick with moisture and it really brought out the most of the 95 degrees. White Bird was a unique little town with its own charm and backwoods sense of justice. I stayed at the Swiftwater RV park where Alfred the megalomaniacal proprietor is will to talk to you about his life and his plans for world domination, well at least curing Western Civilization's transgressions caused by the 'Orientals'. He is intelligent but not really suited for the poor working class town, what I mean by justice, there is one bar/restaurant in town and he is 86'd due to I think obnoxious philosophy. He has a walled compound in this town and wonders why they don't really like him. How does a man find himself in a situation like this, a sad twist of Fortuna's wheel? He was gracious to me because i would listen and ask few questions, on the rare opportunity he tried to come up for air. He even allowed me to stay in the Rec room which was nice as the humidity finally snapped at night into a righteous thunder storm.
The next day I decided to tackle one hell of a hill, Grangeville hill, which rose up some 3,200 feet in about 11 miles. It was a long climb that found me going up in a series of switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. It was very exposed and got hot very quickly. I stammered up and then rolled on to Grangeville for a brief stop. Talked with a few locals and then pressed on to Lowell. I went through the Nez Perce Indian reservation, which this area of the country is very historically linked to them. In 1877 they had their march to try and get across to Canada, there were several battles, with the worst masssacre coming in Big Hole Montana. The ride to Lowell was nice but as I arrived a thunderstorm welcomed me and I needed to find a suitable campsite. I did, in a group of pines that kept me nearly all dry, unlike the other bike camper that I met there. He is Rick and a middle school principal from White Salmon, Washington. He got pretty well soaked, which he didn't seem to mind, he was a pretty positive guy that was biking to Bozeman, Mt. I went to bed rather early that day as there was nothing to do in the rain and I had finished reading my book. The only thing that was worth watching was the young kids that were camped close by and that they were not behaving as though they were on the same plane of reality as the rest of the campers, I may be wrong but you rarely see people in shorts and nothing else doing some sort of spinning and singing out in the rain and then moments later staring blankly into the fire for more guidance. I slept and awoke early, but the principal was gone. I stopped and had a healthy diner breakfast, hashbrowns are at the heart of my furnace.
The ride from Lowell was beautiful, one of the most so far. It followed the Clearwater river and then the Lochsa, the latter being just beautiful. The road followed these rivers with a gradual climb over the course of the day. You didn't hardly notice that you were gradually climbing with the river by you. There is a lot of wilderness country here and good opportunities for some extended backbacking. This is all in and apart of the Lewis and Clark trail, I can't imagine how they traversed this land two hundred years ago. The run from Lowell to Powell had no services for the 66 miles of the road, so it was peaceful but no real opportunity to fuel up the furnace, Gatorade and Powerbars just keep the sugar level from dropping to critical. I biked most of the day and near the end I ran back into the Principal, Rick. We were both headed for the same campground and road a while together. I really haven't come across many other riders thus far and those coming the other way seem to come in spurts.
The campground at Powell was nice and it set us up for a nice early accent over Lolo pass into Montana. I stopped off at the Lodge at Powell, it is adjoining the campground but is a private run business. Had an excellent Buffalo Burger with melted Blue Cheese, highly recommended. When I got to camp I saw that there were two other bikers there, Jim and Stanley. Jim was the older gentleman that I had ridden with from Council to New Meadows but he faded before i could say good by. He is a hearty rider who nearly finished this ride last year but a broken clavicle in Wyoming cut the trip short, he is finishing it this year. His Side kick is the pancho in this team, Stanley rides very slowly and is a bit of a hazard as Rick found out when he rode next to him the following day. Stanley has trouble keeping his ride going straight and took Rick down. The four of us had an enjoyable conversation and we were all going over the pass the next day.
The next day the Don Quixote and Pancho team left by 6:30 and Rick by 7 and my by 7:30, what can I say i hate mornings. The ride was long but I was able to get up and over without even a stop, which was good for my overall morale. The ride to the top allowed Rick and Jim and I to visit, Stanley was to slow to make it. However to his credit some travelers had taken it upon themselves to be his support team. The man who Stanley referred to as the "General" was some sort of retired military. They were waiting at the top of the pass with fresh apricots for Stanley, he refused them, what an ingrate, I threw them into the furnace. Once at the top we all said are good byes and headed over to Montana. Rick and I rode down together with me finally being able to see how much energy you can save if you draft off a partner. We went down but into a strong headwind that wade it almost feel like we were traveling uphill at times. At Lolo I decided to take advantage of the phone service and made some calls while Rick headed on. I rode on to Stevensville for the night, I left off Missoula since it was Saturday and the Adventure Cycling office was closed. I stayed in a motel at Stevensville, I was going to camp in their "RV Park", but I see those types of parks on my drive to work out on Columbia BLVD., no thanks, not to mention it was 4:30 and 90+ degrees and the park didn't have a stick of shade in the whole place. I don't know maybe one of the residents would have invited me into their casa de meth. I got up early the next day and made my move to Sula and get ready for another big climb up to the Big Hole.
I ran into Jim again in Darby and we had lunch and he and Stanley were going to hold up there for the night, leaving a real big day the next day since they would have to go 18 miles just to get to the start of the pass. I stayed at the legitimate Sula RV park, where there weren't any longterm residents. It was here that I realized the beginning of the Big Hole was nothing more than a cycle of life with the misquitos weakening your resolve so that the flies waiting on the otherside could feast on your weary carcass. I honestly battled the buggers all night and had to retreat to my claustrophobic Bivy Sack far earlier than was healthy. I have been to the Everglades and Alaska and they ferocious buggers were more tenacious and bloodthirsty. I woke in the morning having gone to bed quite early, the manager asked me how many Misquitos I killed and laughed, seeing that i was obviously running a pint or two low. I ordered breakfast and had the hashbrowns, two eggs, and toast, my usual. The cook, an older woman, asked me suspiciously, "No Meat?", I froze and resisted the urge to order bacon out of peer pressure, God only knows what she may have done to my hash browns. The ride over Chief Joseph pass climbed about 2,600 feet in 13 miles, putting me at 7,200 feet and on the Continental Divide, a minor victory. I then rode the hill down to Jackson, with only a minor headwind. The big hole is beautiful but unfortunately I didn't see any wildlfe, I heard there is a good chance to see moose. I went to the Big Hole Battlefield Nat. Monu.. It was a moving place where Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce were nearly decimated by the cavalry but fought on and ran off the blue coats. A worthy stop for sure. I then passed on to Wisdom, Montana and sent off a few things that had been weighing me down and then pressed on to Jackson. Side note, the Postal worker in Wisdom I think might have been placed there so when he decides to go postal their will be no other co-workers for him to harm. He really was the grouchiest mailman I have ever encountered, but let's see if my package arrives, he could be some sort of postal savant that see life in zip codes...In Jackson I rode into town, there is a restaurant, and a general Merc. and the Jackson Hot Springs Hotel. It was a big fancy place in this tiny town. They allowed camping in the back for 10 bucks and you could use their springs included. It was a good deal and a worthy soak was much enjoyed. The food there was crazy expensive but the woman across the street had a decent restaurant that was much more resonable and quite good.
I woke this morning and everything was wet, no rain but everything was wet. I tried drying it out and rode on today with two climbs over Big Hole Pass and Badger Pass, the former being a 700 foot climb and the latter an 850. I return to the insect syndicate, I stopped before climbing the first pass to put on some sunscreen and the flies attacked me like some carrion on the side of the rode. I had to convince them that I was still very much alive and only looked weak, they weren't having it and they pestered me all the way out of the big hole, but I escaped. Not too big but the heat did play a factor. The rides down were nice and that is where i find myself now. It is getting late and I need to press on another 28 miles to my camp for the night. I got stuck here with a crazy thunderstorm, I must say I'm not a big fan, they just kind of siderail anything you might be doing. This with the fact that putting on my rainjacket only instantly makes me sweat like some wrestler trying to lose weight and creating my own microclimate within my jacket. Enough about that, I must be off...
Until Wyoming, Yellowstone in 2 days,
P.S. I have not seen any bikers for the last few days, until today. There was a group from Yale on a SAG wagon supported tour. They were not very friendly and I may have overheard that they had Geronimo's skull in the wagon. Skull and Bones Uber Alles!
P.S.S. People in the Red States do not appreciate my South Park Biking Jersey, especially on the back with Cartman saying"Man you guys really suck!" Meant for passing motorists or anyone else leaving me in the dust. I guess they would like it if it said "Terrorists Suck" or "If you don't believe what I believe you suck, God bless the war and our commander in Chief!" Just a thought.
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onthefrontporch on

stay away from the casa de meth
what can i say, this is such an incredible thing you're doing. it's good to know you're still alive, let alone nearly half-way across the u.s. by now. though you don't spell like an english teacher, your writings are fun to read and i like the scathing political comentary. you're doing awesome, don't shave, and keep Kerouacin' it up!

-'dharma bum'

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