*

Following in the Footsteps of Lewis & Clark

Aug 9 – And there it was … the final day. Despite the civilized (hotel) accommodations, neither of us slept well. But that couldn't curb our eagerness to saddle up one more time to get the day’s work done. The weather started out dreary like yesterday but soon started to cooperate and by the end of the ride we were enjoying a beautiful, sunny day. The route took us on back roads out of Astoria toward Fort Clatsop, the reproduction of the expedition's winter quarters in 1805-1806. We actually snuck in a little before the park opened so we had the place to ourselves and frankly it was a little spooky. Without other tourists around, it was easy to imagine that members of the expedition had walked away moments before on some important errand. With the fort visit complete, we hit the road for the final few miles. It was sort of like a nice, relaxing victory lap knowing that family and friends were waiting for us at the Lewis and Clark monument on the promenade at Seaside. And, of course, there was one last hill thrown in for good measure! And then it was done. Finished missions are funny things – the whole idea from the start is to finish but it's hard to walk away from something after making such a significant investment in time and energy. Nonetheless, it was time to do just that. With the beach as our backdrop, we rolled up to a great welcome, lots of photos, and a huge embrace. Having said our farewells, we offered final hugs before heading off to well-deserved family celebrations. Total miles for the day – 23.6. Miles to go – 0.

The Institute was heard from today

The final hug

Finally made it!

The reconstructed Fort Clatsop

The winter quarters of the Corps of Discovery

The forest around Fort Clatsop

The deep dark forest ... the environment around Fort Clatsop

Sunrise over the Columbia River at Astoria

Aug 8 – We're both getting anxious to reach the coast now. After three months on our bikes, after 3,000 or so miles of effort, we want to see the Pacific Ocean. It's like waiting for Christmas! Today's ride took us from Clatskanie to Astoria – a short hop but an important staging point for the final run to Seaside the next day. The weather was very Lewis and Clark-ish … they encountered many wet, overcast, dreary days while in this area and today was just that. It doesn’t make for the most relaxing day on a bike but it really put us in exactly the right frame of mind for our last couple of days. You can see, feel, and smell the environment here. Heavy moss grows on the trees. The forest is thick on the hillsides. The clouds are low in the sky. Here the Columbia is broad and embraces ocean–going ships waiting for their piece of the commerce action. The ocean is literally right around the corner. Tomorrow’s ride to Seaside will be the final leg – very exciting in some ways but very sad in others. Total miles for the day – 33.3. Miles to go – 22.5.

US Hwy 30 ... heading to Astoria

Aug 7 – Today’s ride from Scappoose to Clatskanie was largely uneventful until the end. The hillsides were heavily forested and the air is heavily laden with the feeling of the ocean. The morning was actually overcast and cool … far different than the blazing heat we endured so recently. In fact, it never really warmed up at all. Despite the cool weather, we were so looking forward to a shower at the Bike Inn in Clatskanie. But, not so fast! We found out the Bike Inn was permanently closed. Thank goodness the city has a public campground. But, not so fast! The campground no longer allows camping. The next camping option was several miles away … farther than we really wanted to go. It was turning out to be one of those kinds of weeks. Luckily, we ran across Becki who, after hearing of our situation, invited us to camp in her yard which we readily agreed to. We really enjoyed getting to know her and her husband and daughter and even got an in-depth tour of the castle next door! The kindness of strangers is an amazing thing. Total miles for the day – 43.2. Miles to go – 57.

Beaver Falls Road east of Clatskanie

Aug 6 – Today’s ride from Troutdale to Scappoose was heavily laced with navigational challenges but presented neither significant hills nor significant beauty. We launched out under overcast skies after a leisurely breakfast with Pete, Phil, and Debbie. The first task the day was to navigate through Portland … no small task given the roadside construction projects and a bike path that seemed to frequently jump from one side of the highway to the other. We stopped often just to review the map so our progress was a little slow. One thing we did enjoy seeing while looking down from a city bluff were the huge port facilities. It was a solid reminder of the extensive commerce that flows through this part of the country. After successfully making it through Portland, we headed on up the south side of the Columbia to Scappoose. The countryside there is a blanket of thick forests. You can definitely feel the difference in the air now … the daily warmth (no more cool mountain days or broiling desert days), the humidity, and the smell of the broad river. The ocean is definitely close! We had the pleasure of enjoying another excellent celebratory dinner with Pete, Phil, and Debbie before they headed back to the comfort of a hotel (what's up with that?) while we camped. How fortunate we are to have the support of so many wonderful people throughout this amazing adventure! Total miles for the day – 37. Miles to go – 97.5.

Portland's port facilities

Floating houses on the way into Portland

Heading out for the day's work

Brother Rat support!

Aug 5 – Given the discomfort caused by the arid, windy eastern part of the state combined with a few misbehaving drivers and roads with limited shoulders, Oregon was not high on our list of favorite states. That might have changed today. The closer we got to Portland, the more cyclists we saw and the roads and trails seemed to be more cycle-friendly. In fact, the last couple of days included many miles on dedicated, paved bike trails that allowed us to enjoy cooler temperatures under the dense canopy created by thick, hillside forests. Our ride today from Cascade Locks to Troutdale was very pleasant but was marked by our gradual transition from remote to rural to suburban to urban areas. We cranked through many miles early in the day on the Historic Columbia River Highway which gave us a chance to visit Horsetail Falls and then Multnomah Falls. Unfortunately, the latter, due to its beauty and fame, attracted theme-park sized crowds. It was a little crazy and quite unsafe … traffic, people walking in the road, a delivery truck, people not paying attention, and so forth. We stopped there mainly for water and a bathroom break but it was soon evident that we had become a minor side attraction. Other cyclists, wannabe cyclists, and all manner of curiosity seekers stopped us to talk about our gear and the trip. It’s always nice to share our story but we probably lost the better part of an hour trying to get out of there! Then we got to the hill (there's always a hill). After completing the climb of the day, we found ourselves at Vista House which offered magnificent views of the river and the gorge. It also offered a chance to mingle with crowds of other people … again. After enjoying the nice downhill glide on the other side, we moved on toward Troutdale in the ‘burbs of Portland where we had planned a celebratory dinner with Debbie and our dear friends Pete and Phil (who flew in from Virginia specifically for this event). What a great way to celebrate! Total miles for the day – 33.1.

Looking east up the river from Vista House

Historic US Hwy 30 - what a pleasure.

... as if normal hills weren't bad enough!

A bike path all to ourselves!

Sunrise over the Columbia River - at the Bridge of the Gods

Aug 4 – Rest day!

Aug 3 – Because of the extra miles we did yesterday (unintentionally), today turned out to be rather short … which is OK. After catching some breakfast in Hood River (best breakfast of the trip!), we started our run onward to Cascade Locks. Thank goodness we're now out of the arid eastern part of the river basin and in the gorge. The morning air was cool, the sky was cloudless, and the tree-covered Cascade Mountains were gorgeous. Our first miles were on the interstate once again … it's safer than it sounds but definitely not preferred. Once off the highway, we found ourselves on a very pleasant back road under a beautiful canopy. We eagerly attacked the one significant hill of the day only to discover that it was much steeper than we expected … probably one of the steepest of the whole trip. It was a beast but the reward, of course, was a great downhill! The day was capped off by crossing the river over the Bridge of the Gods – with steel-grate decking – to visit our friends (Tom and Sofia) in Stevenson WA. This bridge is part of the Pacific Crest Trail and was featured in the book and movie, Wild. The excitement level is definitely building as we close in on our goal of completing this wonderful adventure. The ocean is near, the toughest hills are behind us, and family and friends will soon arrive to help us celebrate the completion of our little expedition. Maybe it's time to start scheming on our next adventure. Total miles for the day – 23.6.

A deceptive start to the hill - this one turned out to be a beast

Aug 2 – Today took a couple of interesting twists. But we seem to have interesting twists every day – why should today be any different? Our intended route was a relatively short hop (34 miles) from Deschutes River State Recreation Area to Memaloose State Park. The morning was positively gorgeous as the sun came up over the river so we set out on a happy note despite the winds already being problematic. We had a quick 15-mile segment to The Dalles with the goal of finding breakfast. That actually went well and included stunning views of Mt Hood. In fact, our views of the gorge were changing fairly rapidly now from the desert conditions farther eastward to a decidedly more green appearance. Once again, we were moving into a different ecosystem. Our next stop for the day was going to be the state park after we climbed what looked to be a rather daunting hill. As we reached the base of the hill, Doug’s friend Allen stopped in on us for some very friendly and much appreciated words of encouragement. Then the real work began. We forged up the hill with gusto but made time for short stops along the way to take in the spectacular views of the gorge and this amazing river. Having conquered the hill, we moved on in search of the state park. We searched, and searched, and … finally realized we had passed it at some point … and it was now back up the hill. Not wanting to go back to find it, we moved on toward Mosier thinking we’d find a solution somewhere. We didn’t find a solution but we found ice cream which was almost as good! Now we’re off plan, we're tired, and the available camping options were still farther away than we wanted. After passing through Mosier with no luck we were heading on toward Hood River when we ran across two women who had paused their own ride. To make a long story short, one (from Hood River) invited us to camp in her yard which turned into us camping on the floor in her very nice workshop. As a cyclist (it turns out her husband is as well), she understood us and was a very gracious hostess. We ended up having a very comfortable evening. Total miles for the day – 40.6.

Looking back at the road we just climbed

Looking back to the east from the top of our climb

Almost to the top of a tough climb. What a view!

A beautiful view of the gorge

The amazing rock walls of the gorge

Sunrise in the Columbia River Gorge

Aug 1 – We rose early in an effort to beat both the heat and the winds today as we rode from Roosevelt WA to Deschutes River State Recreation Area in Oregon (our last crossing of that state line) … and we were largely successful. As we prepared to depart before 6am, we had the privilege of witnessing an amazing sunrise over the river. Without a cloud in the sky, it was a sight that simply couldn't be ignored. Unfortunately, we had the work of the day in front of us so we got on the road and forged ahead. The Clif bar and coffee breakfast might have met some nutritional requirements but it just can’t serve as a real breakfast. That would have to wait until we arrived at the first town of the day – Biggs – which was a long 35 miles away with no opportunity in between for shade or a water refill. And breakfast we did! And then we went across the street and had lunch. On this trip, we take advantage of all meal opportunities. While this part of Oregon and Washington can’t compare with the sheer beauty of the Rockies in Montana, the Columbia River gorge deserves respect for its immense scale if nothing else. The river is huge, the gorge is huge, the rock walls and cliffs are huge. The Missouri River might be longer but the Columbia holds the imagination with its raw power and scale. And we had a bonus view today - as we rounded a bend in the road, there in the distance stood the snow-clad flanks of Mt Hood. Now we really feel like we’re getting close to the end! Total miles for the day – 39.5.

John Day Dam

A long winding climb

West of Roosevelt

Finally in the Columbia River Gorge as we depart Roosevelt

Jul 31 – Today’s ride from Umatilla OR to Roosevelt WA turned out a little better than yesterday. We were off the busy highway for a while (always good) and back on the path less travelled. It was hilly without a doubt and there was no shade (not in this part of either Washington or Oregon) but it was an Arizona kind of pretty as we continued westward down river basin. Then it started to get hotter and windier … and a little less fun. But we made it to Roosevelt. It's really surprising that this area is so arid when the river basin contains so much water. As we set up camp, it was interesting to watch the commerce in the river basin – commercial trucks on the highway across in Oregon, trains on both sides of the river, and barges moving both up and down the river. This was actually a dream of then-President Jefferson … to promote commerce in this new land to add to the overall prosperity of the fledgling United States. He certainly didn’t envision today's particulars but I think he would be both proud and impressed. Total miles for the day – 50.1.

More wind turbines ... you know what that means

Future wine!

The Columbia River west of Umatilla

Jul 30 – Today was not a mixed bag. It just wasn’t much fun. We had planned on a 59-mile push from our campground (Pierce’s Green Valley Campground – we don’t recommend it) to Crow Butte Park west of Umatilla. It was the longest remaining day so knocking it off would be a nice accomplishment but we worried about the mid-day heat. The answer? Rise at 4am and be on the road by 5am. Unfortunately, the winds were just unreasonable even at that early hour. They we reported as 14-15mph but flags were straight out so we know the localized winds were about 20mph or better. And of course it was a headwind. We made it as far as Umatilla (32 miles). There one bright spot of the day was to see the Columbia River about 4 miles into our ride. It’s easy to forget just how massive this river is. We can only imagine what Lewis and Clark felt when they first saw it. We'll remain along the Columbia for the remainder of this journey. It’s likely that we'll enjoy headwinds until the end thanks to prevailing conditions. Darn. The forests of the east and of the mountains are now gone. Here in the river basin (for now, at least), we're enjoying the majestic canyon walls and the immensity of the river. It’s certainly very different from where we started. There’s plenty of agriculture here without a doubt … particularly, grapes! How did we get lucky enough to enjoy so much diversity in this country? Total miles for the day – 32.

Hat Rock - so named by Capt Clark

Welcome to Oregon

Finally at the Columbia River!

Jul 29 – Today was a bit of a mixed bag. We packed up at the Lewis and Clark Trails State Park and quickly covered the 4 miles to Waitsburg in the beautiful early morning light for yet another convenience store breakfast. And as seems to usually be the case, there was a trio of local men in residence pondering the affairs of the world. They quickly took an interest in our trip and asked some really good questions … some about the trip, some about our gear, and some about the pros and cons of taxing or licensing cyclists so they can help pay for the roads they use. It was actually a pretty good and candid discussion. Once done with breakfast, we headed out to get the work of the day done. We started out with a very gentle downhill run and thoroughly enjoyed it knowing we had a little 1000' climb coming up soon. Think of that as being roughly equivalent to a 100-story building. It really was a nice little climb in the morning air on a lightly traveled road. And it offered some stunning views back into Waitsburg. So far so good. With the tough work done, we braced ourselves for a nice downhill glide all the way through Walla Walla and on to the campground. But that didn’t happen. The rest of the day was spent going up and down significant hills as the day got progressively warmer. This was a major bust in the map which provides general elevation profiles so one can be somewhat prepared for each day's challenges. It turned out to be a pretty tough day. At least the scenery was decent as we continued our journey through the southeastern part of Washington. One interesting note – we saw hemp being grown outside of Walla Walla. That was different! We finally pulled into our campground (Pierce's Green Valley Campground) ready for a little rest. Total miles for the day – 49. Miles to go – 351.

Eastern Washington agriculture

A quick rest before heading onward to Walla Walla

Looking back into Waitsburg

Heading out of Lewis and Clark Trails State Park

Jul 28 – Today's ride from Pomeroy to Lewis and Clark Trails State Park west of Dayton was a bit of an ordinary day for this trip – beautiful morning sun, a number of miles covered early, then a hill. The hill rose about 1000' over about 8 miles – not a terrible challenge. While the wind wasn’t cooperative, it wasn’t troublesome either. As we rode along, we followed a path actually taken by Lewis and Clark on their return journey to the east in 1806 but only because that’s where the road is now. Nonetheless, it was exciting to see the land they saw even though much of it is now under cultivation. We're essentially following a westward course south of, and parallel to, the Snake River as it works its way to meet the Columbia. Though this part of eastern Washington is very hilly, the farming and ranching industries are very active here. It’s actually very similar in appearance to parts of Idaho and Montana. Today marked a true turning point in the journey … the potential for little delays started to become evident as we started seeing some of the wineries this part of the country is known for. And since this is a journey of discovery, we felt like we needed to do some “discovering.” Thank goodness the campground was close … we couldn’t have gone too far after “discovering.” Total miles for the day – 42.

A good portrayal of the relationship of the rivers and Lewis and Clark's path

A bit of an uphill grind

Wind turbines ... a bad sign for us as it means steady winds

Heading northwest out of Pomeroy

Jul 27 – Today was a bit of a milestone day … we headed cross-country out of Clarkston enroute to Pomeroy to start our search for the Columbia River! What we got instead was … you guessed it, a long uphill grind (about 2000' over about 11 miles) into a ferocious headwind. The sustained winds were 19mph with gusts far beyond that. The uphill grind was expected and should have been no problem but the wind made it very challenging. In fact, we had to pedal down the back side of the hill just to move forward! These are the kinds of days that help us appreciate the better days. Total miles for the day – 29.2.

... and the uphill grind into the wind continues.

The uphill grind begins

Heading west out of Clarkston along the Snake River

Jul 26 – Rest day. At this point, we're spending as much time planning our end-of-trip activities as we are on the upcoming miles. A question has come up about us not using a GoPro camera to record video. The original intent was to do just that. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy and practical as one might think. We need to remain focused on road conditions and traffic and the GoPro camera takes some effort to set up and use. It becomes a distraction we can't afford. Then there’s the difficulty in getting the video file downloaded and eventually transferred to the blog. Updating the blog is challenging enough without all that. At the end of the day, it was just more of a hassle than we wanted to deal with.

Jul 25 – Today was that really good day! We came to realize that Winchester essentially sits atop a mountain. And with that little bit of elevation comes cooler temperatures at night … especially when you camp beside a lake. This morning was quite brisk but amazingly clear and beautiful. A family of ducks was active and noisy early and the mist wafting across the surface of the water was enchanting as the sun started to rise. We probably should have spent more time just staring but coffee and breakfast were calling. We packed up and headed into town to eat before heading out on the only road heading in the right direction … unfortunately, the road was marked “Closed to through traffic.” Great. It was reminiscent of the flooded roads we experienced many miles ago. The questions were 1) was it really closed, 2) what were the alternatives, and 3) how far would we have to backtrack if it really was closed? It turns out that the road wasn’t closed at all – they were just trying to limit traffic that was passing through due to construction delays on another road. So not only was our planned route open to us … we just about had it all to ourselves! We enjoyed a really nice and relaxing 7-mile run out of town across the top of the mountain in cool and refreshing morning air … a real treat. Then we got to The Edge. And we do mean The Edge. The road curved a little to reveal a beautiful valley way down below. It was just spectacular in the early morning light, but … wow … it was way down below. We figured there would be a little run at the start of the descent and then things would flatten out as we passed through farms. Not in this case. We headed over The Edge and quickly built up speed. We screamed through one hairpin curve after another … the curves being so tight that the GPS-based bike computer got confused and couldn’t tell which part of the road we were on. There were no guardrails. The outside of the curves had a sheer drop off that we tried hard to ignore. And this went on for 8 solid miles. We saw only one car during that whole time. No amusement park ride exists that can compare to the sheer thrill of that descent! We both had the same thought when we got to the bottom … “Lets do that again!” Long, straight descents (like going into Helena) allow one to just “let go” and glide. No braking is needed. This descent from Winchester had us tapping the brakes occasionally as we exercised at least a minimum amount of caution while passing through shaded areas or areas with a little debris. We're crazy but not insane. That being said, it was crazy fast and exciting! Most of the rest of the ride was also downhill but it wasn’t steep … just good riding conditions as we passed through the last of Idaho and came along the banks of the Snake River with eastern Washington looming on the other side. We eventually pulled into Lewiston ID and then crossed the bridge to Clarkston WA (get it, Lewiston and Clarkston?) in time for a late lunch. This marks the end of map section 6 of 7. Only one more map section and 473 miles to go! Total miles for the day – 44.6.

Made it to Washington!

The Snake River with eastern Washington in the background

The Edge

Misty morning lake

Jul 24 – And today must’ve been payback for yesterday. Our ride from Kamiah to Winchester started with an anticipated 11-mile climb up to a plateau and into the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. No problem there – the morning was cool and most of the climb was in the shade. But the rest of the day was considerably worse than anticipated – up and down steep hills through farmland, no shade, and always into the wind. To top it off, there was essentially nowhere mid-day to stop for relief until near the end of the ride. Plain and simple – today was not fun. We need these days though to make sure we truly enjoy the good days. Given today's pain, there must be a really good day coming soon. The good news is that we ended up at Winchester Lake State Park to camp for the night … a really nice, heavily wooded recreational spot that even had a campsite specifically set aside for cyclists. Being worn out from the ride, we set up camp and then walked the short distance to town for dinner. We don’t normally spring for elaborate desserts but we did today. We earned the right to consume those calories. Total miles for the day – 46.1.

Winchester Lake State Park

We're definitely in a different ecosystem now

Up on the plateau - beautiful Idaho farmland

Almost to the top of the plateau - entering the Nez Perce Indian Reservation

Jul 23 – Today was payback for yesterday (like yesterday was bad!). Up at 5am, enjoying the quiet of the thick forest, watching the thin mist in the tops of the trees as the sun peeks ever so slowly over the mountain, and … an elk bugles! Now that’s a really big deal. First of all, their bugle evokes vivid images of the sheer majesty of the animal itself. Secondly, it's an obvious sign that elk are present in an environment where they’ve been decimated in recent years by the introduction of wolves into their habitat. It’s a very good sign for the elk, a great sign for the re-balancing of the environment, and a good sign for the recovery of an economy that relies on the hunters. Once packed up, we headed out to breakfast in Lowell … a mere 26 miles away. Now there's some motivation for you! It was a tough ride though … mostly downhill, no significant wind … we just couldn’t keep our eyes on the road! The scenery was just that amazing. Our route started out along the Lochsa River which eventually became the very appropriately named Clearwater River. Crashing rapids, quiet pools, boulders, eddys … it has it all. Eventually, our route took us to lower elevations where the beautiful mountain forests of fir and cedar gave way to Ponderosa Pines … and very hot temperatures. The temperature in Kamiah was reported as 102° shortly after we got there. Not so much fun. But we might have set a trip record – 178.1 miles in the last three days. And the rivers are all flowing west now! Total miles for the day – 56.0.

What a nice getaway home!

Continuing downhill toward Kooskia

The Clearwater River just east of Lowell

Heading downhill along the Lochsa River

Heading out from Wilderness Gateway Campground

Jul 22 – We have seen such grandeur on this trip that we're picky now. Today had such potential but it just seemed to fall a little short. We must always remember to keep our daily observations in perspective to prevent disappointment when beauty is all around. Honestly though, today had a rough start. It was darn cold and humid at Lolo Hot Springs. The tents were wet and getting everything dried before departure wasn't an option – so everything got packed wet with wet, shivering fingers. The campground’s restaurant had suffered a power failure the night before so nothing was available this morning (the power was restored just as we finished packing up). Luckily, fate smiled on us and a fellow camper in a motor home offered us hot coffee … followed by a conspiracy theory diatribe on the impending destruction of the VA. With that great start to the day, we pushed off to conquer the final (and steepest) 7.5 miles to the pass. We cruised through that with no problem and safely arrived at the visitor center just as foul weather threatened. We consumed multiple cups of hot chocolate each as we toured their exhibits and waited for the pesky little system to pass. Once the coast was clear, we shot down the very curvy western slope of the mountain along the beautiful Lochsa River and through endless dense forests of Douglas Fir and immense cedar – a true natural treasure that we just don't fully appreciate. Eventually, we found ourselves at the Wilderness Gateway Campground administered by the US Forest Service … worn out and starving. There are basically no services in this part of the country. It’s a good thing we carry supplies for these situations. Total miles for the day – 59.9.

Wilderness Gateway Campground - can you see our tents?

Continuing westward along the Lochsa River

Devoto Memorial Grove of cedars

Our path westward from Lolo Pass along the Lochsa River

Lolo Pass - entering Idaho for the last time

Jul 21 – Back on the road. Today's ride from Hamilton to Lolo marked the approach to our ride over Lolo Pass tomorrow. But it was one of those funny days where we looked at each other over lunch and thought, “why not go all the way to Lolo Hot Springs?“ After all, it was only another 25 miles or so … and all uphill. What the heck? Either we're getting good at this cycling thing or we're in a parallel universe. Regardless, we easily cruised through the miles to Florence, had a great lunch, finished the run to Lolo, and then finally made our much anticipated turn to the west after so many days of working our way through the mountains. Probably like Lewis and Clark, we know we're almost to the home stretch. We have less than 650 miles to go with well more than 2,000 behind us. We're eager to get over Lolo Pass and on to Idaho and Washington enroute to Oregon and the powerful Columbia River. With that thought to motivate us, we relished the climb as we left the Bitterroot Valley and entered the densely forested valley containing Lolo Creek and US12. Tomorrow’s descent down the western slope of Lolo Pass into Idaho has been described to us as 99 miles of curves. Let's hope it's as fun as it sounds! Total miles for the day – 62.2.

Our view of Lolo Creek as we head west to Lolo Hot Springs

Lolo Peak - Elevation 9096 ft

The Bitterroot Mountains

The Bitterroot Mountains north of Hamilton

Jul 20 – Rest day!

Jul 19 – We rode up the Bitterroot Valley from Sula MT through Darby to Hamilton MT today – a beautiful and easy ride (except for that pesky headwind). This valley is a really well kept secret. It’s quite lush, has plenty of farms and ranches, and is ringed by mountains to the east and west (still enjoying a little snow). It is part of what is known locally as the “banana belt” because of its relatively mild climate (by Montana standards). We stopped for a quick but excellent lunch at the Little Blue Joint in Darby. It's worth a visit. After dropping off our bikes for a little TLC in Hamilton, we were picked up by Doug's friends Bob and Pam who treated us to an excellent dinner followed by a relaxing walking tour of Hamilton. Tomorrow will be a rest day. We'll head to Lolo on Sunday and then back into Idaho across Lolo Pass on Monday. Total miles for the day – 34.9.

The beautiful Bitterroot Valley

Heading north

Heading out of Sula, MT up the Bitterroot Valley

Jul 18 – Today’s ride from North Fork ID to Sula MT was a tough one though we had a pleasant and restful night along the Salmon River – absolutely beautiful scenery and the sound of the river made it easy to sleep. Amazingly, our tents were dry in the morning! So often the rain fly is wet in the morning from a combination of rain/dew/respiration so the early part of the day is spent drying things out. Sometimes we just pack the gear wet and let it dry after we set up later in the day. The dry start to the day was evidence of the low humidity level. Anyway, today was planned to be a 25-mile climb of a little over 3,500' as we passed over Lost Trail Pass (very significant in the story of the Corps of Discovery). This was followed by a descent of 2,500' over 12 miles … all while negotiating a very lengthy road construction project. This was another run over the Continental Divide and marked our return to Montana – there's one more significant pass before we start heading for lower altitudes. Luckily, the construction folks were great and took good care of us. As you might imagine, the views were simply spectacular. It's unfortunate that we had little time for photos due to the construction and the related beehive of activity. This was not the time or place to get distracted. We're now in the Bitterroot Valley. Tomorrow's objective is Hamilton – our first hotel visit since leaving Great Falls. Time for a little comfort! Total miles for the day – 37.3.

Made it!

The climb to the pass

On the way up to Lost Trail Pass

Gibbonsville, ID on the way up to Lost Trail Pass - a camping spot called Broken Arrow. Do you know why?

Jul 17 – We rode from Agency Creek Campground to North Fork today. Before we could even get started, the two couples also camping there (in RVs) made us a couple of cups of great coffee and gave us freshly made banana nut bread with chocolate chips! If only we could start every day that way. The ride itself started along Agency Creek and was easy and very picturesque. It was really the final eleven miles of the descent from Lemhi Pass on the dirt/gravel road. Once at the bottom, we stopped in Tendoy for a bite and discovered to be the alleged birthplace of Sacagawea. We even visited the Sacagawea Interpretive Center in Salmon. The Idaho side of Lemhi Pass is a lush, beautiful valley (now called Lemhi Valley) and was important to both the Shoshone and Lewis and Clark. The highway up to and through Salmon was along the Lemhi River and then the beautiful Salmon River. It's great fishing and rafting country. We camped right on the banks of the Salmon River – a stunning backdrop that we really enjoyed. Total miles for the day – 47.2.

The Salmon River at North Fork, ID

The Salmon River valley north of Salmon, ID

Sacajawea - at the Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Salmon, ID

Along the Lemhi River

At Tendoy

Continuing our descent from Agency Creek Campground

Jul 16 – Today was awesome. We took off from the Clark Canyon Reservoir at a respectable hour after enjoying some morning nourishment courtesy of Tony … to include great cowboy coffee! As anticipated, the road was all uphill but it was nice and cool and traffic was light so the work was pleasant and we made good time up the valley to the turn off for Lemhi Pass. Montana has some remote corners (we've seen many of them on this trip) but this area along the Idaho state line seemed particularly remote. The 20 miles to the start of the gravel road went quickly and we found ourselves finally facing the uphill challenge of the day. At first, the grade was mild but that didn’t last long. It became quite steep about 5 miles from the top … a tough, little grind. Of course, we're cruising the Continental Divide at this point so one has to expect a few uphill challenges. Here we had to contend with a steep grade, a gravel road, and now elevation (diminishing oxygen) – 7,373' at the pass. A challenge we didn’t anticipate was cattle. The approach to the pass goes through open range areas with plenty of cattle … and the cattle were not happy that we were intruding on their space. Some were startled and moved along easily. Some were not so accommodating and stood their ground … in the road. We really had to perfect our cowboy skills to move the bikes along up the mountain at a careful pace while keeping an eye on the various cattle and while herding the more uncooperative beasts along. And then there was the challenge of dodging all the gifts the cattle left in the road for us. The climb was tough but the scenery was really spectacular and definitely worth the work. Going over the pass marked our entry into Idaho. It was really amazing to stand where Lewis and Clark stood so many years ago and to see what they saw. After enjoying a little lunch and celebration at the pass, it was time to move on and tackle the downhill route to Agency Creek Campground. Ordinarily, we'd enthusiastically celebrate a thrilling downhill ride after a demanding uphill grind. But this road was excessively steep, very curvy through the canyon, and dirt/gravel so we were very cautious with it. We celebrated the successful completion of the downhill but mostly because neither of us got hurt on the descent. Total miles for the day – 38.9.

Our descent to Agency Creek Campground

... looking ahead into Idaho. No Columbia River in sight.

Looking back to where we came from ...

Finally at the pass!

Herding cattle!

The approach to the pass begins!

Lemhi Pass is somewhere off in the distance

The morning sun on the reservoir

Jul 15 – Our ride from Dillon to Clark Canyon Reservoir today was nice, short, and easy despite being all uphill. The uphill grade was relatively gentle, the winds were manageable, and the temperature was mild – relatively speaking, it was a great day for riding. For a short time, we had the pleasure of riding with one of the team leaders for an ACA group riding the TransAm trail. It's actually a little surprising how many other cyclists we've seen along the route – and oddly, most have been people riding alone. The reservoir (known to be a great fishing spot) is our last camp before we tackle Lemhi Pass tomorrow – one of our major trip milestones and one of the major obstacles on our route to the west much like it was for Lewis and Clark. Our route today started out in the broad valley we've seen for many days but quickly transitioned to a winding path taking us a little farther up into the mountains. So far, the route into the mountains has been pleasant with few challenges but we anticipate plenty of challenges in the next few days. We were joined in camp again by Doug's friend, Tony. He brought cold beer and cooked an awesome dinner for us. Just as importantly, he had great intel on the next day's ride over Lemhi Pass. It tops out at 7,373' … and is a dirt/gravel road for the final 12.5 miles. That will be tough. As a finale to the day, we celebrated Doug's birthday with cupcakes (one with a candle of course!) and adult beverages! Total miles for the day – 24.8.

Stormy weather over the reservoir

Clark Canyon Reservoir - Camp Fortunate is now underwater

Heading south along Beaverhead River

Heading south out of Dillon

Jul 14 – Rest day! We showered and shaved, did our laundry, picked up more bug spray, ate lots of food, and kicked back a couple of brews. Our target tomorrow is the Clark Canyon Reservoir … only about 20 miles away but all uphill and reported to be a little desolate (which is why we're taking our rest day in Dillon). It’ll serve as our jumping off point for our ride over Lemhi Pass the next day. That'll be a significant milestone for this adventure … it's where Lewis and Clark crossed the Continental Divide. Our approach to the pass will be a 36-mile climb of roughly 2,000' … followed by a 7-mile descent of roughly 2,500'. We’re more worried about the descent than the climb.

Jul 13 – Today's ride from Twin Bridges to Dillon was a short one but one that was long on history. Nearly twelve miles out of Twin Bridges, we reached Beaverhead Rock … an impressive monolith central to the Lewis and Clark saga. It was a major landmark known to Sacagawea in her childhood and recognized by her in 1805 as the Corps of Discovery continued its trek to the west. It was a sure sign that the Corps was near the lands of the Shoshone. We could easily see it for miles. Lewis and Clark could probably see it for several days before they reached it. Total miles for the day – 27.2.

Riding into the flank of a storm cell. We've traveled from the flooded lowlands to where irrigation is now required

A closer view of Beaverhead Rock

Beaverhead Rock

Montana agriculture

Jul 12 – Today was one of those days that combines the esoteric pleasures of distance cycling with the plain and simple joy of sightseeing. Our departure out of the state park was almost magical as we passed through a very rugged, narrow canyon while passing in and out of the emerging sunlight. Unfortunately, the family of mule deer on the hills above was not enjoying our intrusion on their day. Like the Corps of Discovery, we were again following the Jefferson River (now that the Missouri River is behind us) through a broad, expansive valley while keeping an eye on the snowcapped mountains ahead that seem to get closer every day. They had to elicit the same thought for the Corps as they did for us … “Darn! We should have packed our skis!” The road was fairly flat, the winds calm, and the weather gorgeous. We easily cranked through the miles while soaking in the world. We were really fortunate to stumble upon the Bill White Bike Camp in Twin Bridges. It’s a camp situated on the banks of the Beaverhead River just for touring cyclists. We offer Bill White and the City of Twin Bridges a salute for making this nice facility a reality. Tomorrow we head to Dillon and a day of rest as we contemplate the big climb to Lemhi Pass on Tuesday (the 16th). Misquitors very troublsome. Total miles for the day – 41.7.

Beaverhead River

Bill White Bike Camp

More snowy mountains

Heading into the canyon

Our view departing from camp

Jul 11 – Today was almost a carbon copy of yesterday – right down to the noisy night and the great breakfast. We're convinced that the train system maintains its horn training school in Townsend. And they only train at night. But that’s OK … we like trains. Have you heard that we also like breakfast? Montana is a big state and there's plenty to enjoy. As we cruised along from Townsend to the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, we couldn’t help but continue our appreciation for the surrounding mountains. Then we saw the real mountains off in the distance. Big mountains with a healthy mantle of snow. There might be a snow-cyclist in our near future … here in July. Today we passed through the Three Forks area … the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers … the official beginning of the Missouri River … and the real beginning of the arduous trek through the mountains as the Corps of Discovery continued to search for the elusive passage to the Pacific coast. This was a major milestone for both us and the Corps. We were lucky enough to be joined in camp this afternoon by Doug's longtime friend Tony. He offered great company and cooked an awesome steak dinner for us! We're looking forward to seeing him again later in the trip. Total miles for the day – 47.6.

The Jefferson River and snow capped mountains!

The Jefferson River

Snow capped mountains in the distance

Montana wheat

Jul 10 – After a less-than-restful night (think planes, trains, and automobiles), we packed up and saddled up in search of nourishment. The morning meal is really critical to fueling the day. And besides, let’s be honest, we love breakfast. Today's ride from Helena to Townsend was pretty typical – uphill, into the wind, totally awesome scenery. We spent the day in a broad, expanse of a valley, with exceptional views of majestic ridges on either side. We're definitely in the mountains now! The slopes on both sides were amazing shades of green and yellow. The spring has been so wet and cool that Montana as a whole is incredibly green and lush. While the trip is amazing at any time, we're incredibly lucky to be doing it this year. We also spent many miles within view of Canyon Ferry Lake … another beautiful lake formed by a dam on the Missouri River. Total miles for the day – 38.7.

Contemplating our next move

Canyon Ferry Lake

Beautiful Montana valley

Rapeseed under cultivation

Roadside beauty

Montana wheat

Jul 9 – Last night was the wettest we've experienced on this trip. The rain started around 3am and continued until after our departure at 9:30am … one of our latest to date. We just kept hoping the rainclouds would move on and allow the sun to warm us up while everything dried out. No such luck. Accepting our fate the same way Lewis and Clark did, we packed our wet gear and moved on … to breakfast just down the road. Of course, the breakfast place wasn’t open so we enjoyed yet another gas station meal – the only thing available without digging into our reserves. Today's ride from Holter Lake to Helena covered the last miles of the Missouri River Wolf Creek Canyon Recreation Road. It's an amazing feast for the eyes that is largely unseen by travelers on the interstate. It needs to be another entry on your bucket list. Total miles for the day – 41.4.

Helena sunset

After a punishing climb, we had a great view down into Helena ... and a fast descent!

At the south entrance to Wolf Creek Canyon

Jul 8 – With our respective family visitations complete, we set out from Great Falls with Holter Lake in our sights. It’s a beautiful lake – and popular recreation area – created by a dam across the Missouri River. The only difference from the prior river lakes we've seen to date is size. This far upstream, the river is admirable but not the inspiring force of nature seen as recently as this morning. And with a smaller river one gets a smaller dam. While the river might finally be losing some of its upstream punch, the topography is picking up the slack. As we left Great Falls, we could see mountains in the distance. Shortly after lunch, we were among them … and speechless. The scenery is simply breathtaking. Another interesting twist with the smaller river and the mountains … now we saw innumerable people fishing and boating where before the river's powerful current made these activities much more risky. While the day was largely overcast all day, we hoped to get into Holter Lake before the afternoon storms rolled in. We got to within about 4-5 miles before a storm cell crossed our path and then decided to sit there. We waited just out of it's reach for about 45 minutes before deciding to endure the weather and make progress. After we got to the lake, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Of course. Total miles for the day – 53.5.

Holter Lake

The Missouri River flowing through Wolf Creek Canyon

Mountain Palace in Wolf Creek Canyon

Wolf Creek Canyon scenery

Wolf Creek Canyon scenery

A more docile Missouri River

Leaving Great Falls

Jul 3/Jul 7 – These were rest days. We had a great time visiting with family, getting the bikes cleaned up and ready for the next 1,000 miles, and exploring Fort Benton and Great Falls. What a great part of the country! If you’re traveling through Great Falls and need bike work done, Knicker Biker is your “go to” place for great service. They're awesome, professional, and very knowledgeable. While in Great Falls, we also roamed through Hoglund's (a “must visit” store for all your western clothing needs in Great Falls), ate great food, and explored the numerous and extensive museums of both Fort Benton and Great Falls. A notable part of our visit was a two-day stay at the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton – a beautiful and noble rest spot first opened in 1882 right on the banks of the Missouri River. It was magnificent. Also of great interest was being able to see the rifle surrendered by Chief Joseph (a Winchester model 1866 Yellowboy) at the Bears Paw Mountains in 1877. You'll have the read about it's history on your own. It's significant. We also saw the Great Falls of the Missouri. It's another iconic piece of the history of this great country. Lewis and Clark had to portage around five sets of falls in the vicinity of Great Falls. The first encountered (the most downstream) is known as the Great Falls. It's typically dry given the hydro plant immediately upstream. However, this year has been very wet and water is flowing over the entire breadth of the spillway – a sight we'll probably never see again in our lifetime. With the excessive water flow, the Great Falls appear as close as probably possible to how they were in 1805 when Lewis and Clark saw them.

The Great Falls of the Missouri River

Black Eagle Falls - in Great Falls

Chief Joseph's Rifle

The Missouri River at Fort Benton

Jul 2 – The plan for today's ride offered no noteworthy aspects except that we would complete the final leg of this map segment (4 of 7). We would meet up with our wives (always a pleasure!) in Great Falls but the ride itself out of Fort Benton wasn’t unique … or so we thought. The day turned out to be quite cool and very overcast – pretty good riding conditions all things considered. We bundled up and headed up the hill out of town (it seems to always be uphill first thing in the morning). Today's initial climb was about 4 miles in length as we left the Missouri River behind … something we're getting used to. But then things leveled out and we found ourselves making good time through a narrow but beautiful valley enroute to lunch and a hot cup of Joe in Highwood … the only place to get food and water between Fort Benton and Great Falls. And it turned out that that bar is closed on Tuesdays (today). Luckily, we plan for those kinds of surprises. We broke out a little food of our own and fired up the camp stove. We were determined to have food and coffee! And we were even serenaded by cows while we enjoyed our picnic! It was great! As we were preparing to leave Highwood, a gentleman drove up … very curious, of course. To make a long story short, our mention of Lemhi Pass (coming up in the next couple of weeks) somehow prompted a lengthy discourse on the pros and cons of various types of nuclear power plants and their associated fuel types. It was a little weird. Fully armed with this knowledge, we forged onward only to discover the true challenges of the day – serious hills. The first hill seemed to go straight up and turned from pavement to gravel making our footing a little dicey. But we ground it out and rested at the top content with that achievement. Then came three more hills that were more challenging. One of these hills thankfully included a nice long downhill to a bridge over Belt Creek. But just like the popular saying about free lunches, we’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as a free downhill. To our amazement, we discovered that Belt Creek seems to run through the Grand Canyon. The terrain was absolutely beautiful … and the canyon exceptionally deep. And the climb out very punishing. And we still had the two other climbs ahead of us. By the end of this day, we were both totally spent. It was a tough day. Our arrival in Great Falls (actually, Malmstrom AFB) marks a significant milestone. We've now completed nearly two thirds of the total planned mileage – just under 2,000 miles. Who would have thought it possible?! This was always planned as a lengthy rest stop so we could get our bikes cleaned up and lubricated, visit the local Lewis and Clark related historical sites, and visit with our wives. It’s also an opportunity to offload unnecessary gear (maps no longer needed, gear never used, etc.) that can be sent home. Its also an opportunity to reflect on our achievement to date and to start planning for the next phase … passage through the mountains. That’ll be a serious challenge that will require careful consideration of clothing for cooler weather along will full food and water-carrying capability. Total miles for the day – 47.8.

 

Looking back at our climb up from Belt Creek

Too gorgeous for words

Jul 1 – Today’s breakfast in little, old Denton was probably one of the best on the trip so far. It wasn’t fancy – just top quality. The local gents also having breakfast there were very curious about our trip and treated us like we belonged. It was really nice. You just never know where those little moments of excellence will pop up. We finally got on the road under cool and overcast skies but the sun didn’t take long to make its mark on the day. With just a hint of a tailwind, we made good time toward the northwest and Square Butte. It’s a massive feature that dominates the skyline and is visible from many miles away. Our route took us around the base of the butte on the east side and then turned us north on the back side as we headed to the small town of Square Butte. In a car, one would speed around the butte in a matter of minutes – we had the pleasure of seeing the butte from many angles over the course of hours. It's magnificent. The route around the base also included a steep descent to Arrow Creek with the Arrow Creek Hills on either side. It plunged us into a topographic environment different from what we’d seen just a mile before – definitely more arid with more sagebrush but still thriving ranch land. We arrived in the small town of Square Butte ready for nourishment at the “Square Butte Country Club” … but it was closed and for sale. Not a good sign. Luckily, Geraldine was only 7 more miles up the road. As we pulled up to the diner there, we drew the interest of a young lady with lots of questions. By now, you'd think we’d know better – she was a newspaper reporter from Fort Benton (our destination for the day). She wanted an interview (of course) so we agreed to visit with her as soon as we got to town. The remaining miles went by quickly, we did the interview, and then set up camp so we could start working on finding dinner. And dinner we did find. We had a marvelous dinner at the Grand Union Hotel on the banks of the Missouri River – a true treat in a gem of a town. Put it on your list. It was nice to finally be back along the river! Tomorrow's destination is Great Falls and a reunion with our wives! Total miles for the day – 62.0.

Looking north - the Missouri is only a few miles beyond

Square Butte

Arrow Creek Hills

Jun 30 – After a great breakfast in Lewistown, we headed out of town for Denton. There's no service support between these two towns so planning was important but the distance wasn’t too bad – it wasn’t a significant challenge. As before, the topography was varied between vast tracts of agriculture and substantive ranch lands. The day was overcast. We continued to see snow on parts of the surrounding hills. Of significance is the fact that we crossed over the Judith River today – so named by William Clark to honor a girl in Virginia he hoped to one day marry (he eventually did). Tomorrow we head for Fort Benton – about 60.5 miles. Total miles for the day – 38.5.

Country solitude

The Judith River

A tranquil duck pond

Jun 29 – This was a rest day. We got our laundry done, took thorough showers, caught up on some reading, and enjoyed some good local food and beer. Tomorrow we head for Denton.

Jun 28 – Well now. We're going to recalibrate a word today - “gorgeous.” But more on that in a bit. We had a little breakfast at the bar in Winnett (population 182) this morning before heading into another positively amazing morning. Today's ride was a little different than any previous day. We've experienced our share of uphill and downhill segments as we've slowly made our way to this point. But today was seriously uphill – all uphill for the first 46 miles. Literally. And the further we went the steeper it got. Today's “hill” topped out at just over 4,700' as we crossed over the Judith Mountains on Montana Route 200. This is where we redefine “gorgeous.” If you’ve never been here, its time to get out of that easychair. There's still snow on the far reaches of the mountains but it was quite warm where we passed over. The scenery is jaw dropping. Buttes, mountains, horses, cattle, snow, and lots of Ponderosa Pine trees. Photos just can’t adequately capture the view. After the pass, we had about 9 miles down into Lewistown (this is where we enjoyed the “all downhill” segment). We did this part in considerably less time than the uphill segment but our top speed will remain classified. We wouldn’t want to scare the women and children who might read this. Many more miles lay in front of us so we reserve the right to recalibrate “gorgeous” again. Misquitors very troublsome. We typically don’t like to provide the last names of the people we meet in order to respect their privacy. However, we need to make an exception with Dylan Buehler whom we met today in Lewistown. We needed some bike repair work done but the bike repair shop listed on our map for Lewistown had been sold. We did a little internet research and came across Dylan. We called ahead and explained the requirement. Despite his other obligations, Dylan set everything aside when we rolled into town and got the issue resolved quickly and professionally. He’s awesome. If you’re rolling through Lewistown and need support he’s your man. Total miles for the day – 56.6.

From a day long past

Resting at the pass over the Judith Mountains

What a view!

Jun 27 – With the threat of severe storms last night, the Sand Springs convenience store owners allowed us to camp in their garage. What hospitality! And of course then it didn’t rain – the storm cells went right around us. Better safe than sorry. This morning was one of those spectacular mornings where you just want to sit out on the porch with a cup of coffee and watch. But we were on a mission so we had a bite to eat and launched off toward Winnett. As before, there is only one place along the way to get water – a state rest area 20 miles away – so we made that our interim target. To add to our joy at the beautiful morning, we had a bit of a tail wind and most of the way to the water point seemed downhill. We made it there in 1.5hrs! The views in the early morning light were beyond description. The best photo opportunity of the day was a herd of bay horses in a rich grassy pasture in the early morning light with an amazing backdrop of small buttes. The only problem is that we were going downhill at 30+mph. It just wasn’t worth burning through our brake pads to get the shot. At one point, we crossed over 3,100' elevation and the microclimate changes were very apparent – far different from St Louis at 465'. After a quick stop at the water point, we crossed the Musselshell River and “enjoyed” the flip side of all the downhill. Yes, there were many hills but, as before, the drivers were courteous and we cruised through the remaining miles to Winnett with no problems. The verdant fields of wheat bordered by an abundance of rapeseed (think Canola) presented quite the visual feast. Off in the distance we could see snow on the Judith Mountains. We’ll be going through there tomorrow on our way to Lewistown. Total miles for the day – 44.2.

In Winnett looking west at the approaching storm

The Musselshell River

Montana at a higher elevation

Jun 26 – While we didn’t get any rain last night, the humidity was substantial so we had to dry everything out before packing up and heading up the road a little for breakfast. With a little food in our bellies, we headed out on Montana Route 200 and discovered a re-paving project in progress. The road definitely needed it and the new asphalt surface was silky smooth! After about 10 miles, we were back to the old, rough road. Darn. As usual though, the weather forecast was wrong – no tailwind. That being said, it wasn’t substantial in any direction so it wasn’t a real factor for us. The day itself was beautiful with temperatures in the mid-70s. Certainly nothing to complain about there. The scenery here is definitely trending to more sagebrush but we still see plenty of cattle and fields under cultivation. We saw two cyclists heading east … with the prevailing wind. It's actually a little surprising how many we've seen on this trip. With any luck, we'll head to Winnett in the morning (44 miles with only one water point mid-way) and then to Lewistown the next day (another 52.5 miles) for a little bike repair work. Total miles for the day – 32.

Montana sagebrush

Jun 25 – After a quick bite of breakfast with John, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways – he headed north and we continued west toward Jordan. The first 10 miles in the crisp morning air were something to behold. The day was gorgeous, the sun was warming our backs, the road was relatively flat, and the wind was actually minimal, for a change. Aside from our pedaling and the occasional vehicle, the only sounds were the insects, birds, and cattle. It was just a glorious few miles. Then we got to the hills. Honestly, we dislike the wind more than the hills so these hills were not a significant challenge. The scenery was still gorgeous as we alternated between beautiful (and huge) cultivated fields, pastures hosting cattle, and badlands-style country. We saw a number of both deer and antelope amongst the cultivated crops. A cyclist traveling alone in the opposite direction told us about the bar in Jordan that had great food – it always good to get that sort of Intel! Besides, the thought of good food is a major motivator when you’re burning 5000+ calories a day. After 31 miles, we arrived at the single available water point and cooked up a little lunch – the dehydrated meals they make these days are actually pretty tasty. After lunch, we were off to conquer the next 36 miles. As happens this time of year though, we watched storm cells develop in front of us. Prudence dictated that we hold up 10 miles short of Jordan for a while until the worst of the rain passed. We finally got to Jordan safe and sound, set up camp, and went in search of that bar. We weren't disappointed. Tomorrow's target is probably Sand Springs but we're supposed to have a tailwind and that seems to always make us dream of bigger goals. We'll see. Total miles for the day – 67.1.

That was a long tough climb

Beautiful wheat field

They found dinosaurs here!

Jun 24 – The Montana winds are living up to their reputation. Today's sustained winds were probably 18mph making today a challenge. But we had our newest friend, John, to help us in trading off the wind breaking duties. He veers off to the north in the morning to continue on the Northern Tier route – we continue west into central Montana. The terrain in Montana continues to evolve. Today we saw plenty of cattle and ranch land but also started to see more sagebrush so we feel that we’re moving out of the plains and getting more into the wild, wild west! Tomorrow’s target is Jordan – another small town in the hinterland of Montana. It'll be a 67-mile day with only one water point enroute … nothing more. We're looking forward to getting to Fort Benton and Great Falls soon to see the smiling faces of family and friends. Total miles for the day – 48.6.

... and the scenery changes so quickly

Typical Montana vista

The Yellowstone River at Glendive

Jun 23 – Today was shaping up to be an easy ride from Wibaux to Glendive. We enjoyed a great breakfast at The Palace and then headed out of town in a mild wind but under beautiful, sunny skies. The terrain is now trending more to buttes and mesas with fewer of the gently undulating carpets of cultivated fields we saw farther to the east. Not long out of town, we noticed another cyclist up ahead! Before long, we caught up with John (from New Jersey) who happens to be riding the Northern Tier route this summer. His route and ours follow the same path through this part of Montana so we rode together into Glendive and will ride together tomorrow to Circle. And with new friends comes good fortune … John had already arranged for a Warm Showers stay in Glendive and we became invited as well. Liz was a superb hostess. Total miles for the day – 30.4

Interesting Montana landscape

A new traveling companion

Jun 22 – Winds today were 26mph or better for essentially the whole day. It was good that we took today as a rest day. The tents, properly secured, are fine in the wind. And our sleeping gear is fine as well. But once out of the sleeping bag, one must find shelter from the wind and the cold. So, we hung out at The Palace … great food and great people. We also spent time at Beaver Creek Brewery. And we spent as little time as possible outside between the two. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Wibaux Museum. They have a ton of artifacts related to both the history of Wibaux and Montana. An interesting piece there is a gasoline-heated iron. That had to be a treat to use! The forecast for tomorrow looks promising for an easy ride to Glendive.

Remember ... we need lots of calories

A gasoline iron?

Jun 21 – And just like that we're out of the badlands of North Dakota and into the eastern Montana prairie. It's really interesting how quickly the terrain can change. Today’s ride was a short jaunt from Medora ND to Wibaux MT … only 36 miles. Only today's wind made yesterday’s wind seem easy. The sustained winds today were reported to be 21mph from the west but the gusts were far beyond that. We made it to Wibaux exhausted and beat up from the effort. Tomorrow's mid-day winds are forecasted to be 26mph and higher for a period of six hours or more. So we're doing the prudent thing and resting in our tents tomorrow. We'll saddle up again on Sunday when the winds are forecasted to be more tolerable. As stated in many of our other posts, we look at this as being no different that what Lewis and Clark had to endure – and just like them we'll be adaptable and make the best use of our time. We've now covered 1,546 miles of the total planned mileage. Here's the odd event of the day – while sitting at breakfast in the tiny town of Medora ND this morning, an acquaintance of Doug's from Prince William County VA walked in. We really enjoyed talking to him for a while but what are the odds of that happening? Total miles for the day – 36.

Big Sky Country

Finally made it to Montana!

Jun 20 – We seem to never be disappointed on this ride. Today we started in Dickinson with a target destination of Medora. This is our last stop in North Dakota – tomorrow we enter Montana as we continue westward. While the terrain wasn’t overly challenging today, the winds were a little tough. Not insurmountable … just a little tough. The interesting thing is that we were clearly leaving the more traditional farming and ranching country of the northern plains and cutting through the edge of oil and gas (O&G) country. Despite being routed away from the Bakken oilfield, we saw plenty of O&G support activity, it's related traffic, and even a few well jacks. The terrain has been getting noticeably more rough over the last several days and today we were in for a dramatic entrance to the badlands of North Dakota. The views were stunning as we cruised along. It's really dramatic, given our start in flooded St Charles with its heavy forestation in the lowlands, our passage through the southern and then the northern prairies, our transition through the small buttes and cinder cones of North Dakota, and now our entry to the badlands. This country is incredibly diverse in so many ways. We’re amazingly lucky to be able to appreciate it at the speed of a bicycle. Though not on the same route we followed today, Lewis and Clark were almost certainly similarly amazed. Our route to Medora included a back road that eventually crossed over I-94 before leading us to an entry ramp to the interstate. Yes … part of our route is on the interstate which certainly has its exciting aspects. As we approached the bridge over the interstate, it became obvious that crossing the bridge was out of the question – it was blocked for maintenance work, end to end and side to side. The back road didn’t go any further west. Going back east to the next interchange meant a 10-mile reroute … not a realistic option on a bike. Please don’t ask how we did it … just know that we got onto the interstate safely. That’s enough on that subject. Medora’s cultural high point is the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. It showcases many aspects of the growth of North Dakota and explains why its cowboy culture was, and remains, so important. Total miles for the day – 40.5.

The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame

The North Dakota Badlands

Our intended route to the other side of the interstate

Who wouldn't want one of these trucks?

An oilfield well jack

Jun 19 – This was a scheduled rest day – definitely time to get the laundry done and run some errands.

Jun 18 – We set a new record today – it was 40°F when we got up at 5:00am this morning. That's just too darn cold! But we admittedly slept well with the cooler temperature. We headed out of Beulah today destined for Glen Ullin … a short, relaxing day of 33.5 miles. We need to point out here that the recommended route through this part of North Dakota deviates from the river and the general Lewis and Clark route because of modern day heavy traffic around Williston ND, due to development of the Bakken oil field. So, at this point we're riding more to enjoy the countryside than to enjoy the river. We get back on track with the river at Fort Benton, MT. Now, back to Glen Ullin … the weather forecast called for rain all along the route to Dickinson for the next 24+ hours. That means our mission was to find a place to camp in Glen Ullin that had an option for some sort of shelter (a picnic pavilion, for example) if the weather got really ugly. Glen Ullin didn’t fit the bill so we thought “only 12 more miles and we can be in Hebron with maybe a better camping situation.” Well, one thing led to another and we eventually decided to push all the way to Dickinson. It was a combination of meager camping options, impending weather, a tailwind (for a change), and reasonably smooth terrain. Our average speed in the 79th mile was 21.7mph … not too bad for being on loaded touring bikes. We were highly motivated to beat the storm! As we cruised into town, a motorcyclist pulled up beside us and said “I heard you’re enjoying a nice ride to Oregon! Good luck!” Our fame continues to grow. Side note – Dickinson is where Theodore Roosevelt delivered his famous Independence Day speech in 1886. Total miles for the day – 84.15.

A young Theodore Roosevelt in Dickinson

Too weird!

Taking a break

The path forward through western North Dakota

Jun 17 – Yesterday was a tough day but, as seems to be the norm after a tough day, today was really nice. Even though it was chilly (we are pretty far north after all), the sun was out and the breeze was manageable. We had a nice coast out of Washburn down to the river and then a long, long run of pretty flat terrain for a good part of the day. The majority of the scenery was farmland again. The agricultural might of this country is really something to behold … but let's save that discussion for later. Flags and the patriotism they represent have our attention today. It seems that the more we get away from major population centers, the more we see American flags … and veterans memorials and sometimes POW/MIA memorials … but mostly flags. They're in front of homes, they adorn vehicles, they're prominently displayed in front of businesses. Hazen has a different “hometown hero” proudly honored on every light pole downtown. Beulah has a flag banner on every light pole. Certainly the Fourth of July is coming soon but we’ve seen this for weeks. It certainly touches us directly. We hope it touches others as well. We need more of that kind of patriotism. On a less intense note, we visited the Fort Clark Historic Site outside of Washburn this morning. This is now a archeological site providing insight into the period up to about the 1860’s. It’s not a place people traveling on the highway would ever see but it's definitely worth a visit. We cruised into Beulah mid-afternoon, set up camp in the city park, then walked back into town for a relaxing dinner. Total miles for the day – 48.8.

Setting up camp in Beulah

One of Hazen's heroes

A lodge location at Fort Clark

The Fort Clark Historic Site story

Looking north at a bend in the Missouri

Jun 16 – Today could have been a beautiful day … but it wasn't. The skies were angry all morning with rather cool temperatures, a heavy overcast, and strong winds from the north … just about all contrary to the forecast. But at least we had nice views of the river and courteous drivers. So we just took our time as we cruised up to Washburn from Bismarck. A ride like this is a little less intense. Yes, one fights the wind but the slower pace gives one time to ponder. After a tasty lunch in Washburn, we cruised over to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and then to the associated replica of Fort Mandan. The interpretive center is small but very nicely done. Of particular interest there is a clasp from the original journals kept by Lewis and Clark. Apparently, a post-expedition transcriber/editor gave the clasps away to his friends as mementos so this is quite a rare item. The replica of Fort Mandan is a couple of miles away and is also nicely done. They believe the original fort is about 10 miles upstream and, unfortunately, now within the river channel. The fort is significant in that the Corps of Discovery built it and then spent the winter of 1804-1805 there. Total miles for the day – 45.

The Missouri River as it appears at the Fort Mandan replica

Fort Mandan replica

Uphill and into the wind.

Jun 15 – Today turned into another rest day. We still had errands to take care of and the weather wasn’t cooperative anyway.

Jun 14 – Today was a rest day but the wasn’t much resting going on. After breakfast, we did laundry. After laundry, we went to the local bike shop to get a little TLC for our bikes. While the bikes were being taken care of, we walked to a nice lunch spot and then headed over to Pioneer Park to see the replica of the keel boat used by Lewis and Clark. It was very nicely done. After picking up the bikes, we made probably one of the more important decisions of the day … we stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream! We followed that with a wonderful dinner with more of Doug’s relatives … Paul, Jody, and Christy. The meal was excellent. The conversation was better.

Keel boat replica

Jun 13 – Yay! Today we entered another state – North Dakota. With a little coffee and Clif bars to inspire us, we hit the road early under cloudy skies. The plan was to ride to the Hazelton Recreation Area (in North Dakota – about 55 miles) before proceeding onward but we had a reserve plan to ride all the way to Bismarck if the winds were really in our favor as forecasted (about 80+ total miles) … and they were! It's difficult to not take advantage of the resources offered … just as Lewis and Clark did. Besides, the rec area had no services … no water, no food nearby, etc. so it wasn't an ideal camping option to start with. The skies finally cleared up as we pedaled along through more beautiful farming country. Sometimes we were down close to the river … sometimes we climbed up on the bluffs which offered spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Where South Dakota seemed like endless farmland, in North Dakota we started to see cinder cones and small buttes. There's definitely a difference once you cross the state line. We finally pulled into Bismarck after dodging a few thunderstorm cells--totally spent from the day's effort. There used to be a time when we would have impressed ourselves with a ride like this on a light road bike. Doing it on a fully loaded touring bike is a whole different animal. We’ll be taking care of laundry and small bike issues as well as visiting a few local sites. Total miles for the day – 88.6.

Checking the route

Making progress

A lonely tractor waiting to start the day's work

Jun 12 – Last night was probably our coldest – it was 45°F when we got up. Thank goodness for good gear. Today we rode from Mobridge to Pollock. The skies remained threatening but we didn’t see any rain. The winds were not significant and it was cool all day – an all around good riding day though we had some significant hills to climb. As usual, we had the pleasure of seeing a few deer and lots of cows. A quick scan of Pollock (the newest town in SD) led us to what seemed to be one of the few eating establishments that was open. We walked in and drew instant attention from the three patrons. Lots of good questions … lots of good discussion. It turns out that one of the patrons worked at the local newspaper. So, yes … we got interviewed again! The newspaper staff was great and gave us lots of useful local information. We were directed to a great campsite at the municipal park. It was actually pretty comfortable – no other campers so we had plenty of privacy. We also had a little rain overnight but nothing serious. Total miles for the day – 42.

There's certainly plenty of wind here for these turbines

We could have stared at this view all day

Jun 11 – After a somewhat restful night in Akaska, we were awaken by the cries of distant coyotes and soft patter of a few rain drops. Both stopped as 6am rolled around … the typical time when we get up. Breakfast was good but was definitely a heart attack waiting to happen! There's no such thing as the heart healthy option in this part of the country. And then we started out for Mobridge … with the first 11 miles up and down the hills on a dirt road. That was a little tough and we know it won't be our last dirt road. The rest of the ride was fairly typical … lots of farm land, cows and sheep, a handful of pheasants and ducks, and courteous drivers. We enjoyed an excellent dinner with Doug's cousins Glen and Kathy. It’s always nice to see friendly faces! We'll head to Pollock tomorrow and then we enter North Dakota the day after. One of the main attractions for us is the Mandan village near Bismarck. Getting close! Total miles for the day – 27.4.

South Dakota roads - designed with a straightedge!

Plotting our next move

Jun 10 – Mother Nature smiled on us today. After a good night’s rest we enjoyed a beautiful morning. The climb out of Bob’s Resort was easy, the emerging morning was gorgeous, the roads were great, and the winds were in our favor. Today's ride was up on the prairie as usual as we headed to Akaska … population 42. We have definitely moved out of the woodlands. We inadvertently spooked a deer hiding the tall grass in the drainage ditch beside the road. He/she bounded off gracefully when we got too close! We enjoyed Akaska but in reality it was a little spooky – it seemed like a Potemkin Village. Let’s face it … a lot of tiny towns wither on the vine or, at best, maintain a somewhat unkempt appearance. Not Akaska. Everything was neat and orderly. All the buildings were being cared for. Even the vacant lots were well maintained. They clearly work hard to garner their share of the fishing tourists. Whatever they're doing, they need to export the concept to other small towns. Lunch and dinner were at the only dining spot in town … voted as one of the 10 best restaurants in South Dakota according to the owner! And we believe it. The food was excellent. Total miles for the day – 36.4.

The Statue of Liberty!

There are a lot of long, straight roads in South Dakota

Jun 9 – Rode from Pierre to Bob's Resort at Forest City. It turns out that Forest City was an active town in days gone by – it's now under water thanks to the Oahe Dam (at Fort Thompson) on the Missouri River. Uphill coming out of town of course. Into a very tough and gusty wind today on the plains. Stopped by the Oahe Dam visitor center for a quick break from the wind – ended up enjoying cookies and juice with a group who had just finished services at the Oahe Chapel next door. They were very interested in our trip and our gear … especially the solar panels. For those who don’t know, we're each carrying a small solar charging system so we always have the ability to charge cell phones, head and tail lights, and bike computers while camping … no matter what campground services might be available. One gentleman said he'd seen our TV interview! We're adjusting our plan a little with the anticipation that the wind will be our constant companion going forward - shorter days (less than a 50-mile target) are needed. Seeing more deer and antelope. We had a really nice dinner at Bob's Steakhouse. It seems to a norm here … all inclusive camping areas because there's nothing else around. Total miles for the day- 55.

Beautiful vistas

Oahe Chapel

Jun 8 – Today is a well-deserved rest and laundry day in Pierre.

Jun 7 – This was a day of tough decisions but we’re getting to the point where we're probably starting to mirror the actual challenges of the Lewis and Clark expedition pretty closely. We got out of Chamberlain early and had a good but very hilly 25-mile ride to the center of the Crow Creek Reservation (of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe) and into Fort Thompson. It’s been interesting to see how the heavily forested countryside in Missouri has gradually given way to the prairie of South Dakota. Much of the prairie is now farmed of course but you can certainly get a good feel for what it might have been like for Lewis and Clark.

We arrived in Fort Thompson looking for an early lunch but found a community of very limited capabilities. In addition, the main campground administered by the Corps of Engineers was flooded. Their alternative campground offered nothing but a vault toilet. The primitive campground was certainly doable but not a great option for us (no food or water nearby). To make matters worse, tomorrow’s weather calls for high winds from the north and thunderstorms. So we made the tough decision at 10:30am, after already riding 25 miles, to go onward to Pierre … another 65 miles. And that route had literally nothing to offer along the way hut one convenience store. No camping options and nowhere else to get food or water. It was an endurance test to be sure but we did it successfully through the prudent use of water and nutrition breaks and sheer determination. The wind was on our flank most of the way which made the riding particularly challenging – no doubt much the way that Lewis and Clark were challenged. It was tough but we got the job done. Total miles for the day – 90.5.

The river as seen from the prairie

Jun 6 – We thought today would be a challenge. After leaving Snake Creek Recreation Area, we would have to start with a 2.5 mile climb and then crank out the remainder of the 47 miles with no services enroute. That means no grocery stores, no convenience stores. No options for eating but more importantly … no options for getting water. But heck … sometimes the world smiles on us. After a quick breakfast at Snake Creek RA, we got on the road by 7:40am. We crushed the climb (no wind … and we're getting pretty good at hills) and enjoyed a really gorgeous morning on the road. The views of the river from the bluffs were truly amazing in the early morning light. And then the wind kicked up but it was a tailwind (for a change!). We completed 43 miles by noon … a new record! We happily cruised in to Chamberlain for lunch and then found that the campground we planned to use was … drumroll please … under water. To make a long story short, the only feasible solution was another hotel visit. But the early arrival allowed us to strategize on the next couple of days. Tomorrow will be easy and short but then we'll have a day similar to today on Saturday … somewhere between 55 and 60 miles this time with (likely) no services as we finish this leg and arrive in Pierre. Total miles for the day – 47.

Our intended campground in Chamberlain

Jun 5 – Because of the distance between camping locations, today was shorter than normal. We launched out of Burke after a convenience store breakfast and headed once again into a stiff headwind. The scenery was largely a repeat of the last several days – very pretty farm country. Near the middle of today's ride we came upon a road repair project. The flagman said he had no instructions on how to treat bikes so it must be OK for us to go on through! So we did. We got a few odd looks from the construction crew of course but we passed through with no problems. And then irony came into play. The last several miles were downhill to the river … and that’s when our headwind shifted to become a tailwind. Sigh. We’re now comfortably situated in the beautiful Snake River Recreation Area for the night with plans to head to Chamberlain tomorrow. Total miles for the day – 24.

This was a fun descent!

Snake River Recreation Area - can you see the road descending from the left?

Jun 4 – We rode from Pickstown to Burke today. After coasting down to the Fort Randall dam in the early morning light, the next 5 miles were all uphill to the prairie. In fact, today's route was all uphill … and into the wind, of course. Seriously! Let’s hope there’s a corresponding day soon when we do nothing but coast downhill. The views were typically beautiful – views you'd never get from a car – but this was undoubtedly one of our toughest days so far. Totally worn out, we stopped in an ice cream shop to celebrate our achievements and ponder the coming days - we still have four more riding days to Pierre with tomorrow being the shortest this week at 27 miles. Campsites in the municipal park offered us some much needed rest. Total miles for the day – 46.7.

Jun 3 – This was a scheduled rest day but the weather was gorgeous so we made the best of it. After breakfast we walked down to take a peek at the hydroelectric plant just down the hill. We discovered a visitor center for the plant (run by our good friends at the Corps of Engineers). After wandering around in the visitor center for a few minutes, we found out there’s a tour of the powerhouse! Who could pass that up? We signed up and got the procedural briefing from the tour guide – “I’ll drive my truck down to the powerhouse and you’ll follow me in your car.” I pointed to my feet and told her this was our transportation. “What?” I explained that we're on bikes … we don’t have a car. “What?” “We're on bikes.” “Well, I’m not allowed to let you ride in my truck.” No problem … “we'll just walk.” She politely explained that “it’s a long way” as she pointed to a satellite photo showing the entire area and the relative distance to the powerhouse. I explained that we just rode our bikes here from St Louis … I think we can walk to the powerhouse (a mile and a half perhaps). She finally gave up and said “OK.” This was clearly new territory for her. So off we went! She met us at the guard shack, we did the tour (which was great!), and then we hoofed it back to the local restaurant for lunch. Piece of cake. The afternoon was spent cleaning gear, catching up on finances, snoozing, etc. It was a nice relaxing day all around.

Excess water discharge - 60,000 cfs

Fort Randall hydroelectric plant at Pickstown

Jun 2 –Today should have been a nice 46-mile ride along the river to Pickstown. By now, we all know the river has its issues. Because of flooding we had to divert up to the prairie which added about 4 miles and lots of hills to our route. Before leaving Springfield we got a good glimpse of the river from a bluff. The flooding is still widespread. Our revised route took us through both Avon and Wagner where we stopped for a snack. At both places we were recognized as the cyclists featured on Fox News! That interview has taken on a life of its own. So much for a low-key trip. Even the cows followed us as we went through one area. They must get their news from Fox. All that aside, the ride was a good one through the farm country and backroads of South Dakota. Tomorrow is a rest day so we're in a hotel by choice for a change. Time to get some laundry done! Total miles for the day – 50.

Our adoring fans

The view from Springfield

Jun 1 – Another beautiful day but my oh my, that wind! Today was planned to be a short day (calculated at 27 miles) and it was that but a 16 mph wind in one's face will make any distance seem long. We started by climbing up out of the river floodplain onto the prairie … a rather lengthy climb that caused a lot of teeth gnashing. While going up we could hear numerous wild turkeys in the brush. The whole experience really gives you a taste of what Lewis & Clark experienced – the river itself with its own environment, climbing to the prairie to explore, and the wild game they might have hunted. This is exactly why we're here and it's amazing! We finally arrived in Springfield – our destination was the Springfield State Recreation Area – and had lunch in a bar with our new friend Angie while Vince looked around town for a piano to play. They told us about the locally famous boat being built around the corner which we had to see. It was a seemingly huge sailboat that appeared to be all aluminum. This guy had to be a serious boat enthusiast! We have to put a plug in here for South Dakota's chain of recreation areas. They take this business seriously – the rec areas so far are first class and well maintained. If you like the outdoors, put South Dakota on your bucket list. Total miles for the day – 30.5.

The boat in Springfield

A friendly place to shop in Springfield

Heading down the road in South Dakota

May 31 – Under a beautiful sky, we rode northwest out of Vermillion toward the Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area just west of Yankton. But alas … just one mile into the ride we suffered our first flat tire. That set us back a little but we still made great time through some pretty South Dakota farm land. Good planning kept this minor inconvenience from becoming a major issue. Most of our time today was on back roads … really back roads. It seemed like we went an entire hour at one point without seeing a motor vehicle. Interestingly, we met Vince and Angela along the way … they're also riding the Lewis & Clark trail! They would become good travel friends. Total miles for the day 43.5.

Lewis & Clark SRA

May 30 – Today was a great weather day. After a bit of breakfast we headed out to the trail that would lead us along the river before heading upcountry to Vermillion SD. Right off the bat, we had to ‘recalculate' as our path to the northwest out of town was flooded. We're starting to see a repetitive theme here. But that’s OK – it was just nice to ride in the sunshine again and today should be a relatively short 38 mile jaunt so no problems … right up until we had to cross the Big Sioux River. Big problem. The river was flooded and the road closed … of course. Now that’s not a huge problem when you're in town and there are multiple options. But in the relatively remote northwest corner of Iowa, that’s a bit of a challenge. Interestingly, we ran into a TV reporter at the offending crossing trying to get some footage of the flooding. To make a long story short, we gave a TV interview describing our adventure and how the flooding was impacting us. Yes … we're now famous in two states. After the interview, we ‘recalculated’ a revised route and pushed onward to Vermillion … adding several miles to our original plan. Vermillion is a pretty town that serves as the home of the University of South Dakota. Total miles for the day – 46.

Our intend route across the Big Sioux River

Our intended route out of Sioux City

May 29 – We carefully weighed the weather forecast today (which was for rain all day) … and assumed it was wrong again. For the most part, it was. After the morning rain stopped and the fog lifted we took a chance and set off for Sioux City. We had a few sprinkles along the way but nothing serious though the clouds looked threatening all day. After a quick lunch in Sloan, we cranked out the final 20 miles to Sioux City through extensive farmland. As we came into town, we made sure to visit the monument to Sgt Floyd on our way to the hotel. Sgt Floyd was the only member of the Corps of Discovery to die during their entire trip. The view of the river from the monument was gorgeous but even here the river is quite flooded. As we checked into the hotel, a German couple came in. They're also on bikes and in the process of riding around the world! It tends to put our little bike ride around the countryside into perspective. Onward to Vermillion tomorrow. Total miles for the day – 44.

The monument to Sgt Floyd

Heading to Sioux City

May 28 – We weren't hopeful of making progress today after thunderstorms pummeled the area throughout the night and into the morning. In fact, the forecast for the day was for rain all day with the possibility of severe thunderstorms. But the weather radar didn’t match the forecast. We needed about four hours to get to Onawa and the gap between storms seemed to match perfectly so we jumped on the opportunity. We made good time despite the stiff headwind most of the way. The route lay in the floodplain of the Missouri River which gave us a nice flat course with great views of the nearby Loess Hills. We're in a hotel again as a matter of necessity. We need protection from the fierce storms each night but we also need relief from the campgrounds. There's been so much rain that campgrounds can only offer soggy swampland to tent dwellers like us. Total miles for the day – 41.

North to Onawa!

May 27 – Woohoo! The weather forecast was wrong again! Today was going to be another rest day while we watched it rain (again) but no rain fell so we quickly packed up and headed out. First stop – the Lewis & Clark monument just north of Council Bluffs. The monument doesn’t mark the exact location (that’s about 20 miles to the north) but in essence it commemorates the general location (on the bluff) and occasion of Lewis & Clark’s council with the Otoe Tribe in 1804. After that stop, we headed northward to Missouri Valley for the night. Total miles for the day – 32.

Commemorating Lewis & Clark's council with the Otoe Tribe

May 26 – Rest day. Threatening thunderstorms have followed us to Council Bluffs but the forecast is offering hope. Our optimistic gaze is now focused to the north. In the meantime, we're enjoying the wildlife in Dennis and Judy’s backyard. The deer, turkeys and various birds have provided a wealth of entertainment while Judy has provided a wealth of calories! And to think that we were worried about losing too much weight on this trip!

How could we refuse?

May 25 – Today was a repositioning day. Clearly unable to win the battle against Mother Nature, Jeff agreed to drive us to Nebraska City to try to get us on the far side of this persistent weather pattern. It has caused significant flooding throughout the Missouri River valley which has adversely impacted our journey. The required detours just aren’t feasible on bikes. While the weather and detours are frustrating they haven’t dampened our spirit for the trip. We'll just pick up on the other side and forge ahead. The advantage is that we're now back on schedule and have time to visit the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center there in Nebraska City. Oops! Nebraska City is flooded! The road we would have taken from there northward to Council Bluffs was totally under water. Thankfully, Jeff was a true hero and drove us all the way to Council Bluffs. In many places, the water was all the way to the edge of the pavement on both sides of I-29. We can only imagine the devastation felt by the farmers and local communities. We're hopeful that well be back on the road in the next couple of days now that we've leapfrogged so far forward. Total mileage now driven – 160.

This was our planned route to the north out of Nebraska City

May 24 – Today was touristy day … thanks to the hospitality of Jeff and Susan, we saw the Museum of the Frontier Army at Ft Leavenworth KS and the childhood home of Amelia Earhart in Atchison KS. While in Atchison, we surveyed the state of the river. They said it was bad and the highway to Missouri was closed (our anticipated crossing point) … they weren’t kidding. There’s no way we could have come across yesterday on our bikes as planned. Jeff and Susan then treated us to a fabulous authentic Turkish dinner. Cooking like that explains why we're gaining weight on this trip!

Amelia Earhart's childhood home

May 23 – With great eagerness, we got an early start with our sights set on Atchison KS. We took a well-deserved break in Smithville after 11 tough miles on a ruthless road. To cut right to the chase, we managed to cycle ourselves right into a corner. Flooded roads now kept us from going either north or west. We checked local knowledge, MoDOT, and the police – there was no reasonable way to get to Atchison on a bike. And St Joseph wad flooded so that was out of the question. Thankfully, Jeff and Susan came to the rescue and fed and housed us while we figured out our next move. Total miles for the day – 11.

May 22 – With good weather and a final McDonald's send-off by Don, we made a mad dash for Watkins Mill State Park. What did we encounter along the way? Another flooded road. As before, we analyzed the depth and risks and decided another wading adventure was in order. Yay. This was already becoming an annoying habit but what could we do? After covering some really good miles (33 by noon), we had a delicious burger and set out for the final few miles. Another ROAD CLOSED sign? We laugh at those now! We’re not afraid of a little walk in the water! That is until we saw that this time the water was at least 4ft deep. Now we had to get creative with a new route. With Doug's great nav skills, we were quickly on a new path to Watkins Mill … only to find on arrival that they’d had so much rain (with more coming tonight) that their campsites were like swamps. Once again, we had to adapt and cover an additional 6 miles to get to a hotel in Kearney MO. Through some adept coordination, we were met at the hotel by our Brother Rat Jeff and his wife Susan who prepared a truly amazing dinner of antelope and venison a la Lewis & Clark! What a great treat that was! Total miles for the day – 56.

Into the murky depths again!

They're really serious this time!

May 21 – It rained pretty much all day so riding was out of the question but the day turned into a real gem of an experience nonetheless. We stopped in the motel office for coffee as we prepared to walk the 1.5 miles in the rain to the nearest McDonald’s for breakfast and map study time. The motel owners invited us to just take their car! We were struck by the generosity of the offer but settled on letting them give us a ride – that in itself an amazingly generous offer from complete strangers. After settling in at McDonald's, a gentleman approached us with great curiosity. We explained our work and in the process developed a genuine friendship. Don A. turned into an amazing ambassador for the community. After taking us to lunch, and then to the local newspaper office (The Lexington News) where we gave an interview to the editor, he took us to the Battle of Lexington Visitors Center and Museum for a complete tour. To top it all off, he joined us for an excellent Mexican dinner and in the process introduced us to the mayor! We cant express enough how welcome we felt in Lexington.

May 20 – Thunderstorms in the Kansas City area continue to challenge us but today we caught a break. The forecast was for clear weather until violent thunderstorms were due to arrive in the late afternoon. With our eyes set on Lexington, we got an early start and headed west through some amazing farm country. The road was nice and the drivers courteous as we pushed onward. We had 30 miles under our belt before lunch – a record for this trip – and stopped in Higginsville for lunch after visiting the nearby Confederate Memorial State Historic Site to pay our respects. Thinking we were out of danger from the storms (from a time standpoint – Lexington was only another 10-15 miles) we relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Then we checked the weather radar. We quickly scrambled back onto our bikes and got on our way. The storm front was a little closer than we thought and was now easily visible in front of us as we pressed on into Lexington. The rain and thunder started soon after our arrival and continued all night. Luckily, we're in a hotel again but this isn't our preferred travel plan. It's more than a little frustrating. Total miles for the day – 50

The Confederate Memorial State Historic Site

Beautiful Missouri farm country

May 19 – Rest Day – We took advantage of the hotel opportunity and did laundry, cleaned our bikes, ate real food (a lot), and slept in real beds (a lot). We’re planning to go to Lexington tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Given the series of storms moving through the area, we’ll probably be in a hotel again tomorrow night.

May 18 – Day 5 was a challenge. Bad weather was in the forecast but we were hoping to get to Higginsville before it hit. The weatherman did not nail this one. We had a good shower before we even left camp and then had to watch the weather carefully as we approached Marshall. A particularly ugly storm cell was moving across out path and we wanted nothing to do with it. It spread and really blossomed so we took refuge at a really interesting farm that produces cleaned and enhanced seed for other farmers. They were very gracious and let us sit in their office for a couple of hours while it poured outside. We eventually caught a break and hustled down the road to Marshall but Higginsville was clearly out of the question. Given the forecast for more rain that night in Marshall, we could see that camping wasn't realistic and headed to a hotel. Total miles for the day – 18.

No explanation needed

May 17 – Happy to be moving on, we headed out early this morning for Arrow Rock State Historic Park (you might have guessed this one – near Arrow Rock). Unfortunately, this was our last day on the Katy Trail, as it headed more to the south and our course started to turn more to the northwest. Being on roads now meant we had to contend with motor vehicles, pot holes, and the like. Admittedly, most (but not all) drivers were very courteous and gave us plenty of room. The Arrow Rock campground was very scenic but the were no food options. Being the wise planners we are, we dug out some of our emergency dehydrated meals and chowed down! Total miles for the day – 51.

The Katy Trail

May 16 – Our target on Day 3 was the Hart Creek Conservation Area (near Hartsburg). After a long day, we reached the access road only to find that it was more than a mile of very rough road – a distance we'd have to cover again the next morning. It felt like the road was shaking us and our bikes to pieces. That was a non-starter so we quickly searched for other camping options further up the trail. The nearest one fizzled out so we moved on with increasing urgency as the sun was getting closer to the horizon. We ended up at a place called Cooper's Landing. It sounds a little resort-ish but was a lot more like Woodstock – lots of people, very few restrooms, lots of music, beer, etc. But heck, we were tired. It would do. Total miles for the day – 59.

How can you not like the view?

May 15 – Day 2 took us from Klondike Park to Steamboat Junction Campground near Bluffton. As luck would have it, we had a technical challenge to resolve which forced us to detour to a bike shop in Washington. Remember all that stuff about flooding? We had to wade through shin-deep water covering the dirt road that led to Washington. This qualifies us for the Amphibious Warfare badge! Two pickups slowly drove through the water beside us … both drivers rolled down their windows to say hello but neither offered to help. We were obviously having too much fun. With the technical challenge resolved, we pressed on to the campground with wet socks and shoes. It turns out that we had it to ourselves so we enjoyed a good night’s sleep with only the sounds of some very vocal owls. Before hitting the sack, we paid due tribute as called for on New Market Day. RVM. Total miles for the day – 56.

Taking a little break

We're having some fun now!

Drying everything out

May 14 – The adventure begins! We could not have asked for a more incredible day for our launch from St Charles. The weather was gorgeous as we said our farewells to family and friends and headed west on the Katy Trail. We have to offer a tip of our collective hats to the State of Missouri – the Katy Trail is a magnificent rails-to-trails success story. It’s a state park that’s 240 miles long and only the width of the original railroad bed. Its like a cross-state superhighway for hikers and cyclists. After a quick lunch at a biker bar in Defiance, we were off again. Remember the GEICO commercial where the squirrel intentionally runs out in front of a car to cause an accident? That squirrel lives in Missouri. While happily trundling along, Parke nearly wrecked trying to avoid the rascal as he literally ran under the front of Parke’s tire. What a start to the trip! We finally reached Klondike Park (near Augusta) mid afternoon and set up camp. The forecast was for thunderstorms that evening and the weatherman nailed it. Despite the thunder, lightning, heavy rain – we got it all - our tents kept us safe and dry. Everything outside the tents had to be dried out the next morning delaying our departure by about an hour. It’s a good thing we're doing this for the fun of it! Total miles for the day – 27.

The start in St Charles!

They have a sense of humor in Defiance

May 12 - Well darn (those weren't the actual words we used). We arrived in St Louis yesterday and quickly saw just how bad the flooding is on the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers. It turns out (based on local knowledge) that the towns of Alton and Grafton have been shut down. In addition, the flooding has shut down the two ferries needed to get us through the second day. Luckily, experience led us to build extra days into the overall schedule. We had today (and have tomorrow) to recon the route and figure out an alternative start plan. After checking the route carefully, we found that we could start In St Charles, MO vs our original start point in Wood River, IL. This is the point where Lewis joined the expedition anyway so our sense of adherence to history is somewhat satisfied. In addition, the Katy Trail forms a big part of our early ‘expedition' and it’s closed before St Charles so it would drive the shift to St Charles anyway.

All that being said, we’re still on track to start on Tuesday, May 14th. The new schedule puts us one day ahead of schedule but we’ll have no trouble burning that with weather and rest delays. So … in essence … we're still on schedule.

Before today’s recon, we toured the museum at the base of the Gateway Arch and also Bellefontaine Cemetery … the burial place of William Clark. The floor map In the museum makes the distance look so much more manageable!

That doesn't look so far!

Apr 25 - After a good night's sleep and a nice hot shower, we headed out for Lexington. The planned distance for the day was 28 miles ... an easy walk in the park after our last few days! We stopped for breakfast and then began to head down Rt 11. It was wonderful to be back in the Shenandoah Valley and witnessing its springtime beauty at 10-12mph. There is a peace and solitude that you can’t experience in a car at 65mph with the air conditioning cranked up. We arrived at the Virginia Military Institute shortly after 1:00pm feeling great after having accomplished our goal.

Apr 24 - We were back in the saddle by about 9:00am and were immediately challenged by a series of continual climbs in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was tough going with many opportunities to dismount, walk, and push the bikes up the steepest hills. There were some incredibly beautiful views though that more than made up for the challenging roads. Once we got to the Blue Ridge Parkway overpass at Swift Run Gap, we really enjoyed the downhill coast (at 35mph!). We stopped for lunch in Elkton and then moved on to Fishersville - and got lost. Actually, the roads had changed from what was in the bike computer and it got confused. So we had to resort to the unthinkable ... we had to ask for directions! We eventually arrived at our campground at Stuart’s Draft right at dark and settled in. The planned distance for the day was 53 miles but we had to also make up the miles we didn't cover the previous day. Those were a couple of long back-to-back days. 

Apr 23 - We packed up and departed Bealeton Aerodrome around 8:00am and travelled westward along some very peaceful country roads - the planned distance for the day was 61 miles. Some of the roads were gravel roads, but fortunately they were well-packed. We were seeing the really rural side of Virginia! By early afternoon, we still had not gone through towns with facilities (i.e. food). We finally rode through Rapidan, VA and found a general store selling homemade bowls of chili for $1.85! What a deal! We pressed on through the afternoon and realized the rolling hills were no longer nice and gentle. Within five miles of our destination (the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area), we were so exhausted that we stopped at South River United Methodist Church to camp for the night. The pastor was amazing and very accommodating - he even brought us red beans and rice and water. Thank you to Pastor Plymale and the congregation of South River UMC!

Apr 22 - First day of the big training ride! We left Dumfries on a cool but beautiful morning shortly after 9:00am and arrived at the Bealeton Aerodrome about 12:30pm - total distance about 26 miles. It was really a great day for cycling! The gently rolling hills were no problem despite our fully loaded bikes. After setting up camp, we headed off to town for a late lunch/early dinner, then prepped for the next day's ride, and hit the sack for some much needed rest.

 

Almost there!

Chili!

Bealeton Aerodrome

On our way to Lexington!

Apr 20 - Final training ride before we head to Lexington on Monday. Thatll be a 4-day ride followed by a few more training and re-packing days before we head to St Louis.

Intro

Exactly 215 years after the Corps of Discovery left Wood River, Illinois, Doug and Parke will begin an exciting cycling adventure to follow their path through the western United States to the Pacific! We'll start on May 14, 2019 with a target completion date about 12 weeks later. We'll certainly miss our families and friends during this time but hope you'll follow our progress here or even cheer us along when we pass through your neighborhood.

The Plan

To the extent possible, we'll generally follow the original route of the Corps of Discovery as they traveled west with a couple of side trips. We'll begin at Wood River, IL on May 14th and then cycle our way to Council Bluffs IA, Pierre SD, Dickinson ND, Great Falls MT, Missoula MT, Clarkston WA, and Seaside OR. The Corps originally travelled up the Missouri River but the path of the river has changed slightly over the last 200+ years. That and the need to follow roads mean that we'll deviate a little but we'll follow a very close approximation of the original route.

There will be a few visits with family and friends along the way plus a few hotel visits but the majority of our days will end at a campsite. Nominally, we'll cover 300 miles every six days followed by a day or two of badly needed rest and laundry duty.

Aside from the many Lewis and Clark museums along the way, our side trips will include Atchison KS (birthplace of Amelia Earhart), St Joseph MO (to see the Pony Express museum), and the dam and reservoir at Fort Peck MT. A key point of interest will be our crossing of the continental divide at Lemhi Pass on July 16th (fingers crossed!).

If all goes according to plan, we'll finish at the Oregon coast around August 8th! But hey ... we all know what they say about plans and first contact. The key here will be flexibility.

Training

April 20 - After literally years of planning, we finally had the opportunity to ride together today at Quantico. Awesome 30-mile ride! And just in time - we head to Lexington Monday with plans to arrive Thursday.

The intrepid explorers!