|Local Rider's Journal||6-24-98|
Greetings from the stupendously beautiful town of Missoula, Montana, where I am holed up at the Doubletree Inn drying out my tent and furiously saving and naming pictures on this day off. Since the last letter we've followed the Clearwater River for two days from eastern Washington and across Idaho, then camped in the utter wilderness at the base of Lolo Pass, then yesterday rode the 11 miles of 3 percent grade and 4 miles of 6 percent grade to Lolo Summit- 5500 and something feet. The payoff was a 35 mile ride down from the summit into Missoula, which after the road leveled off from the initial 6 percent grade descent, I averaged over 25 miles per hour on the very gradual slope at the base into town!! What a thrill.
I've been taking about 150 pictures a day and I so wish I could send you all of them each day for you to view. Just impossible of course. The attached files are a collection of images: gte6-24a.jpg, gte6-24b.jpg, gte6-24c.jpg, gte6-24d.jpg. After the end of the Big Ride you will be able to cross the USA from bicycle perspective with pictures taken more or less each mile of the journey.
The night before we ascended Lolo Pass to the summit we camped in a deserted logging site in the utter wilderness. They had to keep watch for cougars and bears which had been spotted in the area. They warned us not to leave camp for any reason without an escort vehicle. I actually saw a cougar or mountain lion (I don't know how to tell them apart) jump across the rode from high on a cliff on the right to the bushes on the left side of the road just after we left camp. Gulp. With OK's Cascade Company proving delicious hot meals and wonderful hot shower trucks, and GTE providing complete mobile satellite internet and phone service, then only inconvenience we had to "endure" was pitching out tents on the gravel and sand remains of the logging camp. This turned out to be a blessing as it rained during the night and the gravel absorbed it - otherwise we would have awakened to find out tents awash in mud. I'm sure that morning will still come at some point during the trip. The pictures I'm sending attached to this and the following three notes show our journey from camp in the wilderness near Lolo Pass, up and over the pass into Montana, then into Missoula. I've tried to give something of the feel of cycling through this wonderful journey - but this scrawny bit of pictures and text does not even begin to represent the amazing and wonderful adventure this is turning out to be.
The good news from the cycling end is that my Greenspeed trike has turned out to be EXACTLY the right tool for the job. EVERYONE wants to have my trike. I could have any bike on the ride if I cared to. (NO WAY!) Every time I stop a crowd gathers around it and ask questions and wants to ride it. (Rides are denied until the end of the ride - too much at stake.) On Lolo Pass while many people were suffering grinding away and panting and many others were walking, I was just sitting back in my easy chair and spinning away - never out of breath. And then on the wonderful flat straightaway at the bottom on the Montana side - I led a group of young "hammerheads" for a full hour at 25 miles per hour all the way into Missoula. What a thrill. Just the right combination of slight downhill grade and aero efficiency from the trike to let me accomplish the amazing (for me) feat. NO ONE is poo-pooing the trike now. And after 12 (?) days on the Big Ride - nothing is aching or sore and I'm feeling better and stronger every day. This ride not only is possible - but has become FUN!!! Wish you were ALL here.
Must go to sleep now to catch the 4 am hotel courtesy car back to camp and begin 4 more days of riding - across the Rockies. I'll write again in 5 days from Billings, Montana.
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