Archive for July, 2011

Lowell, ID to White Bird, ID

Rude horn honks: 2

Miles: 71

Total so far: 3,965

Looking almost one mile down into the Salmon River Valley from on top of White Bird Hill

I stopped and took this picture on July 2nd in Montana, and I’ve been contemplating what it means to me for some time:

A fork in the road?

The purpose of the sign is not quite clear, but this was seen at a fork in a road, the right side went off in the direction of one of those nice decorative ranch entryways.  The left side of the fork went towards an uninviting fenced gate that was plastered with no trespassing, no hunting, no fishing, go away signs.  Someone clearly has a sense of humor about the subject, and I admire that.  I suspect the “no trespassing” individual may not be as mean as he/she seems and this could be proof.

Signs are free to interpret as we may however and I’ve spent a lot of time on this one.  Am I to believe that life is a choice between Camelot (where the rains come only after sundown) and certain death?  I think not.  But there are risks, aren’t there?

This ride is risky.  I make fun of the rude horn honking and the “brush-back passing” that goes on, but there is real danger in riding these canyons and roads with no shoulder, trusting in my fellow motorists not to make me a hood ornament.

Risky.  Yes.

This ride has rewards.  If I’ve communicated anything at all in this journal, I hope I’ve communicated the sense that I am in the process of sorting out my thoughts, my emotions, and perhaps coming to some conclusions regarding what to do with my passions, my heartaches, the memories, and all that accumulated baggage that’s been kept up in the attic for too long.

Most of all, I hope that I’ve been able to touch the hearts of those who know the losses.  That’s not easy to do, so I’ve used this journey to speak to you.

Rewards.  Yes.

There is a comment submitted by a man who suggests that his heart aches for me to the point that he has considered it may be better not to have a child than to experience what I have in the loss of Carlie.  Let me pause on that one.  Perhaps like me, he grew up doing drills where we hid under our desks at school in the event of a nuclear attack.  Think about how that might affect one’s desire to bring a child into the world.  I cannot say I was immune to thoughts of this.

Bringing a child into this world is risky.  No question.  Among the blessings I’ve had, all things compared, all things are shaded grey in comparison to the technicolor thrill of helping a life into this world, leading a child into the experience we know in ours.  Prior to Carlie’s birth I thought I knew something of love.  No… I found love in the perfection of her little hand.  I found love in my heart that was but waiting.  This is truly life’s greatest blessing.  The gentleman who commented knows this.  He has a four year old.  That’s why his heart aches for me.  I understand that, but know that I will go to the end of this life eternally grateful for what I had, what I learned, and even though our time was short, it was the best of my life.

Rewards.  Yes.

I experienced Camelot.  That lives in my heart forever.  I took the risk and I am eternally blessed because of her.

As we emerge from the miles of the Clearwater National Forest, the countryside opens up some

For awhile today, we turned south and traced to South Fork of the Clearwater River

We took a breathtaking descent into the Salmon River Valley on the White Bird switchbacks

At the bottom of the canyon, this span for US 95 rises above


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Gary Stella

Gary Stella

Gary Stella, from Kenosha, Wisconsin was in a collsion with a drunk driver on Speptember 21, 1979, at the age of sixteen.  Gary survived the collision with severe spinal injuries.

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Lolo Hot Springs, Montana to Lowell, Idaho

Rude horn honks: 1

Miles: 87

Total so far: 3,894

Descending with the Lochsa River to our left for the entire day's ride.

I look at the alarm clock and it’s 4:30am.  Despite my desire to sleep, the process of waking will take hold now, and there is little I can do to prevent it.  I will fall asleep again, but it will be the in and out of slumber marked by dreams until the alarm goes off at 6:00.   We are within a stone’s throw of Lolo Creek.  Camping this close to the banks of a creek when the morning will be chilled is a recipe for damp wet mornings, but the campground needed us here because they were cleaning up after some sort of a rock concert two nights before.

I hear water drops hit my tent floor.  This tent will do that on cold wet mornings.  It doesn’t leak, it is the condensation from inside that runs down the rain fly until it catches up on a wave in the fabric.  The water collects and then drops.  It’s not much, my gear will remain dry.  The tent will be soaked from the dew and we’ll pack up wet tents again.  In the cold.

I snuggle back down in my sleeping bag and go for the bonus sleep – that little I can squeeze out before it”s time to get going again.  Think of the warmth of the bag; breathe; don’t think of anything else…sleep will come.

“Good morning Sal.”  I give my usual greeting upon reaching the alarm clock and silencing it’s morning roust.  My comment is returned with a mumble from her tent about the cold, but we are up.  The routine is well established, first dress in the cycling clothing of the day, supplemented by knee warmers, gloves, and layers covered over with the heavy rain jacket — whatever we have for warmth.  No socks and shoes — we’ll be walking around on wet grass.  Flip-flops, the non insulated non-water proof variety.  Cold toes are in our future.  Pack the sleeping bag, the Therma Rest mattress, the clothing bag, get all the gear ready and pitched out of the tent.  Grab the food pannier (right front) and exit the tent, leaving the last warmth of the morning.  Our day begins.

Ascending Lolo Pass

After we fix breakfast and secure our equipment to the bikes we ascend what is left of Lolo Pass.  This will end our time in Montana, as the pass marks the Idaho border.  One more state behind us, only two more to complete.  Descending, we enter a new environment entirely, marked by two deer I surprise just at the top of the pass.  I would expect mule deer, but these are clearly white tail.  The trees suddenly change.   There are pines here I do not recognize, and red cedars appear.  Giant red cedars.  maybe they are all that big.  I have no way to know.  There are ferns in the understory.  Ferns?  The mountains of the river valley are steep.  Consistently steep.  You-will-need-rope to get up these, leave the horses behind steep.

Only one more border crossing remains

A peek over the top

I take a picture of the terrain as we begin descending Lolo Pass, but I miss taking a picture of the highway sign that says, ” Road Curves the Next 99 Miles”.  Really? Really.

Red cedars. Big ones.

Soon we are alongside the Lochsa River and I come to understand why we are on a winding road for 99 miles.  We will trace this river the rest of the day.  The white water is spectacular, but it’s obvious the run-off has the water levels too high to work safely.  There are no rafts on the water.

We begin a section of the ride that has no services (water, food, gas stations, etc.) for 65 miles.  We had planned to camp at a forest service primitive campsite on the Lochsa River, but the riding is so spectacular, we do not want to quit, so we push on to Lowell.  Down the river we go…

Some of the white water on the Lachsa River

More river than the rafts want...

Safe landings in Lowell, Idaho...and a picture with Peter Townsend to prove it (not really he says he's Tom Petty)


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to David Scott Berry

David Scott Berry

David Scott Berry was on his way back to college when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver.  David was 25 and he was from Mena, Arkansas.  The crash took place on May 25, 2008.

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Into the Bitterroot

Hamilton, MT to Lolo Hot Springs, MT

Friendly horn taps: 3

Rude horn honks: 1

Near-miss “brush-back passes”: 1

Miles: 65

Total miles so far: 3,807

The Bitterroot River as we leave Hamilton

First, two housekeeping notes:

1. We are headed into Idaho tomorrow and my information is that I will not be able to post this blog but very intermittently as we will be quite remote going near the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.  This may last a few days.

2.  If Anne Marie Irizarri is still following the blog, I want to post for your brother, but the picture I have will not work.  Can you please ship a jpeg photo to carl2ride@gmailDOTcom?  Thanks.

We left Hamilton today and made our way north to Lolo and then turned west into the Bitterroot Mountains.  We are approaching the Idaho border and will cross it tomorrow, along with topping out Lolo Pass.  Our mileage tells me we are within a thousand miles of our projected mileage for the trip, and this is quite a milestone for us.

I am exceedingly proud of Sallie and her efforts to make this ride enjoyable, and her determination to make the trip a success.  As one rider put it, “I can only think of perhaps three people in the world I can make it through a trip like this without killing the other person.”  Sallie has been the best companion in a tough jorney, but in some ways, we’ve been doing this for more than 13 years.

Into the Bitterroot Mountains

Today we ran across several cyclists going the opposite direction and we spoke with a few.  There are enough of them at this point that if we stopped with each group or cyclist, we may not finish our own day’s ride.  This makes sense, as the cyclists that start from the west find it too cold and snowy to begin much earlier, particularly this year.

Fred and Bill. Bill is going from Canada to Denver and Fred joined him for a portion of the ride.

When we saw Fred and Bill, they were hammering along with a tail wind. This is Bill's rear wheel, pulling a Bob Trailer. Note the carbon spokes.

This is Jose from Chicago. He's going from Seattle to Boston, to Florida, to San Diego, to Seattle!


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Don Leppert

Don Leppert

Don Leppert, from Parma, Idaho was killed in the middle of the early morning hours on February 19, 2005 while delivering papers by a drunk driver.  Don’s death took place on his wifes’s birthday.  He was 42 years old.

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Chief Joseph Pass, MT to Hamilton, MT

Continental Divide crossings: 1

Total Divide crossings so far: 9

Miles: 64

Total miles so far: 3,742

The Bitterroot River as it flows north in the Bitterroot Valley

This is July 4th weekend.  The holiday falls on a Monday, so all over the country there are big plans being put into play.  While the nation celebrates, there are those who approach the date with a heavy heart.

I want to re-visit a topic I brought up a few days ago, regarding roadside memorials.  Allow me to explain that I did not wish to photograph any of the many, many roadside memorials we have encountered on this journey. For the purpose of this blog, regardless of how intimate some of the posts I have written, I thought it intrusive that I use a memorial photo in this journal.  That is…

...until I saw this one today.

At a wider angle, it looks like this.

Not only is this one freshly decorated, but the caretaker of this marker of the heart took the time, trouble, and tools to the site to mow the grass and decorate the cross with a red white and silver pinwheel on the top, a fresh teddy bear just below, new flowers, and the other decorations seen.

Let me also state that some of what I am going to say may seem a little bizarre, and if it does, thank God you are not in a position to understand.  To understand is to know grief from unaccountable loss.

I should also state that I believe in Rule #1:  It has been my observation that we do a terrible job in our culture when dealing with death, and grief in particular. So if this is bizarre to you, I can only say, let it go for now, and think about it as time goes on.

When Carlie was buried in the Rawlins cemetery, it was January and the earth was frozen.  When frozen fill is used, it settles considerably in the spring when the frost comes out of the ground.  The marker that was pictured in the Rawlins photos was placed too close to the fill used, and when spring came the marker began to collapse into the grave.  There were other problems with the cemetery crew and this was too much for me.  We had a meeting of the minds, and repairs were completed to stabilize things, but not to my satisfaction.

My solution was to take matters into my own hands.  I got some nice topsoil, a soil tamper, and ordered some Kentucky Bluegrass sod.  The tamper I used is a motorized unit, often referred to as a jumping  jack tamper.  It makes a lot of noise and attracts a lot of attention.  I think that’s when the cemetery crew learned on their own to let me be.  I tamped the soil, filled in and leveled the area with fertile topsoil, I placed new sod on the  grave site and rigged a 50 gallon barrel in the back of my Jeep with a hose so I could go and water the sod frequently, not only until it took root, but on a regular basis thereafter.

Of course, that patch of turf grew faster than anything in the cemetery, so I would mow and trim the grass weekly, if not sooner.

I’d bet a month’s pay they were talking about me down at the local diner.  Maybe they were consulting with local therapists to find out if someone should intervene.  I hope not, because most therapists would want me committed (see Rule #1 above), but that’s for another topic.

Here’s the bottom line.  This was excellent therapy for me.  As bizarre as it may sound to the uninitiated, this was something I could do in a situation where I was otherwise quite helpless.

So…back to the caretaker of this site for Stephanie in Montana.  I will publish the pictures I have here of your work.  My guess is the fresh signs of attention may be related to the upcoming holiday, and to the extent that you went to tidy things up, I think I can say I cannot image what it is like for you, but I know what it was like for me, and you have my sympathy and my respect.

Please…everyone have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day as we move forward past yet another marker on the calendar of our hearts, and perhaps elsewhere too.

Looking behind us as we travel north through the Bitterroot Valley



Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Jeffery Vale Anderson

Jeffery Vale Anderson

Jeffery Anderson was a Sheriff’s Deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  His hometown in California was Lancaster.  On April 28, 1984, Jeff was off-duty driving with his fiance, and was killed in a motor vehicle collision with a drunk driver.  His fiance was critically injured.  The collision took place one month before they were to get married.

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Bannack State Park, MT to May Creek Camp Ground (Chief Joseph Pass)

Friendly horn taps: 2

Miles: 65

Total so far 3,678




Gate post on a ranch

*Wriiten on 7/1/2011; Posted from Darby Montana on 7/2/2011*

The Montana route so far has been a series of fertile green valleys and fairly significant mountain passes. No sooner do we complete the climb of one pass, we drop into a valley that is surrounded by mountains, cross the valley and make for another pass. The passes have not been extremely steep, long, or really high in altitude (today we did the highest, Big Hole Pass at 7,400′). The route itself is amazing, because the terrain is so diverse and stunningly beautiful.

Big Hole River

We can tell we are much higher in latitude also. It does not get dark here until well after 10:00pm, and we were told in the town of Wisdom that they only average 32 days of frost free weather a year. That’s for a valley at 6,400 feet above sea level. We were told they can’t grow alfalfa here because of the frost.

We were witness to heavy frost last night at about the same altitude, as we had to pack our tents while still full of ice this morning. I thought it was because the campground was situated right on a creek bank (creek banks are nice for camping, but quite cold in the west – cold air descends, etc.), but perhaps at this latitude this is common for the first day of July.

Although we are having cold mornings until we drop significantly in altitude tomorrow after clearing Chief Joseph pass, the days have been quite nice with highs in the 60’s. Today there is little wind, so we had a near perfect day for cycling this beautiful state.



Descending into the Big Hole Valley with the Beaver Head Mountains in the background

The only common complaint among cyclists we meet is the mosquitoes are out with a vengeance. The Big Hole Valley must be the northern hemisphere headquarters for mosquitoes. The entire valley seems to be one large irrigated hay field, and that is prime real estate for the little fellows. I’ve seen bigger mosquitoes, but the numbers here are impressive. With all the frost, I’d sure like to know how they survive, but they seem to thrive.

One rancher was complaining that the hay in the valley wasn’t getting tall enough, quick enough, and another said, “Maybe the mosquitoes ought to pull it up a little more.” I’m sure they would if they could.



Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Stephanie Mae Andring


Stephanie Mae Andring

Stephanie Andring was killed at the age of 14 riding in a vehicle with a drunk driver. She was in her first year of high school, a Junior Varsity Cheerleader, and involved in the performing arts. Stephanie was from Metter, Georgia. 

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