Monday, October 31, 2016

Nez Perce

Dripping wet from a rainy bike ride along the Lewiston dikes, we needed hot showers more than anything in the world. Instead, in the parking lot, we stripped down and hung our wet biking clothes on the small clothes line overhead in Thistle's head. Finding the toilet, or managing to brush our teeth, was a wander through dripping jackets and soggy socks slapping us in the face. It was a wet, stinky, steamy mess.

Thistle needed cleaning, dumping and a refilled water tank, and we still wanted showers, so we splurged and pulled into our first full-fee campground of the trip -- Hell's Gate State Campground in Idaho on the edge of the Snake River.* Awww, Hot showers! On an at-home-scale the showers would have been a one, maybe. After many days on the road they were not top notch, but darn fine. The next morning was the beginning of a wonderful day as we stepped out into the world with shower-clean bodies.

A memory jog from our friend, Greg, that his cousin lives in Clarkston, led us to a coffee date with Deanna and Parker. Having only met once previously, about 40+ years earlier, we were delighted to spend time with them again.

As well as biking the paths along the dikes in both Clarkston and Lewiston, we explored the east side of the Snake River along Highway 209 to Heller's Bar, where we camped for one night among the fishing crowd. Our bicycles on the back of Thistle looked strangely out of place in this parking-lot fishing village. Despite our weird appearance we were invited to share a campfire with neighboring folks. We love how camping breaks down barriers, but not all barriers it appears. Over the campfire, conversation turned to fishing, well, duh, and we learned that the fishermen here were made up of three groups -- the flyers, bobbers and sinkers, and although they all looked the same to us, they were all clustered within their fishing preference group. Marge pointed her finger and said "the flyers are up there on that hill, the sinkers are over there, and we're the bobbers here in this area."

After three days of Lewiston/Clarkston exploration we were ready to continue south on 95, but before we got very far, we stopped at the Nez Perce National Historical Park Museum and Visitor Center where everything changed. After enjoying the museum and a delightful conversation with the ranger, at his suggestion we changed our route to Highway 12 and then Scenic Byway 13 following the Clearwater River. It's been one of those "wow" drives as we've passed through the Nez Perce well-marked historic and archeological lands as well as inspiring geological splendor.

With late afternoon approaching we started thinking about a place to stay and could see on the map little tents east of 13, along Highway 14. And here we are! Camped at Castle Creek National Forest Campground -- just us with an entire campground to ourselves and more wow scenes.

Trees are loaded with Spanish Moss...

This morning we continue on up the road to Golden, the first of two towns on this highway. Population not posted. We'll give it a 10, which is a generous guess based on the two houses we spotted. These photos represent the business district...

High up in the Clearwater Mountains, at road's end, is Elk City. We didn't drive to the end but Wikipedia tells us it is an old mining town. Current population 200 folks.


"…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some."

~ David Mitchell

*This managed to drive our campground expenses for this trip up to a total of $55.14 for 18 days. Our average is now $3.06 per night, not bad but this hot-shower-weakness-splurge did damage our record a bit.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Sky is Falling"

Traveling this country is always a surprise, and finding first class towns is rare enough to be a delight. Two towns in the past two days have impressed us as excellent places to visit -- Sandpoint and Coeur d'alene, Idaho. Both are full of life...pubs, coffee shops, upscale boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, book stores, amazing biking and walking paths, and at their core top notch parks, beaches, and libraries.


Fun street art

Many miles of biking and walking pathways

Beautiful sandy beach and park right in the center of town

Lots of city trees

Coeur d'alene...

Tubbs Hill within the city

Many blocks of city park and biking-walking paths along Lake Coeur d'alene next to the city

Beautiful people places! Well, that is, beautiful people places according to my criteria. What about the people who think coffee from a can tastes better than a latte? Or can't locate the work clothes they need in the maze of stylish outdoor wear? Or get plenty of exercise doing physical labor and don't need, and definitely don't want to pay for, fancy parks and pathways?

Outside each of these upscale urban boundaries, rural ideals reign. A tug-of-war of conflicting values has been set in play. The divide is understandable but the intensity is puzzling. As we drive, Ed and I ponder how on the one hand folks talk about this great nation and on the other hand deride it, pointing fingers to their chosen villains. This divide is all the more apparent in this political season where fear and anger are openly provoked and displayed.

As I was writing this blog posting, I stumbled across this quote, pushing discontent, being touted by the Green Party:

"We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy." ~ Chris Hedge

Really? Is our country, our world, really this horrid? Yes we have corrections to make, serious ones, but to declare every profession is destroying that for which they stand is as destructive as declaring there is a boogyman on every corner. Every good progressive can see the flaws in the conservative fear and hate messages, but are we able to acknowledge the same flaws in our own? Serious critical thinking is required to sort out the truth from the hyperbole, and that is not easy, but we must because Chicken Little's "The Sky is Falling" philosophy is not serving us well.

Without being insipid with "can't we all get alone" or "let's all be happy" or "everyone means well" could we perhaps agree to put Chicken Little aside and walk a common road toward make our shared goal a world that works for everyone.


"Today, the drumbeat has become a cacophony. The generation that has experienced more peace, freedom, leisure time, education, medicine, travel, movies, mobile phones and massages than any generation in history is lapping up gloom at every opportunity. In an airport bookshop recently, I paused at the Current Affairs section and looked down the shelves. There were books by Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Al Franken, Al Gore, John Gray, Naomi Klein, George Monbiot and Michael Moore, which all argued to a greater or lesser degree that (a) the world is a terrible place; (b) it’s getting worse; (c) it’s mostly the fault of commerce; and (d) a turning point has been reached. I did not see a single optimistic book."

~ Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Yaak River

We had billed this trip as follow the turning-color-Aspen. So far it has turned into follow the turning-color-Larch instead. We had no idea! Larch fill many of the forests we've traveled, setting them on fall fire. The Aspen have mostly already turned and dropped their leaves, although we still might catch up with them as we head south down Idaho's panhandle on Highway 95, beginning tomorrow. But today it is Larch...again...and we are sooooo smitten!

The most westerly northern highway in Montana, Highway 92, from Koocanusa Lake looked so enticing when we were there a few days ago, we returned to Koocanusa Bridge and headed northwest toward the little town of Yaak River. Today's drive surpassed the fall beauty of my Larch Glory posting although I thought that would not be possible. The road itself is a delight too and highly recommended for motorcycle enthusiasts. It was narrow and full of curves with almost no traffic (we passed only one other car), although we did need to navigate a downed tree or two, several miles of snow, and white tail deer by the dozens. We clearly rate this road a 10+ in an automobile. On a cycle it would be off the scale.

When we arrived at Yaak River we simply had to have a beer in the town tavern. It looked like the place-to-be in this town. Food, declared excellent by the Mercantile clerk, was actually horrid, but the beer was cold and the small town hangout factor was high. Music was hard rock but only modestly loud. Clientele interesting. Perfect end of the day TGIF stop after a day on the road.

The gas station...

The rest of the town...all of it! Two hundred people in the winter, four hundred in the summer...


Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."

~ Albert Camus

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Goodbye Dear Friend

"... Kord died last night, after his severe illness of two years. He was surrounded by his family, in candlelight with Mozart playing, as he drew his last breath. All in keeping with who he was." ~ Ursula
This big gentle bear of a man delivered mighty hugs of love...all engulfing, all kindness, and greatly sought after. I will deeply miss Kord's gentle strength, his deeply probing mind, and his far-reaching curiosity. He was a man who loved his family above all else, and who welcomed friends into his family with a rare generosity. I am lucky and grateful to have know this fine man.

Our Larch-wonderful journey continues as we travel the furthest north-west road in Montana. Kord and these beautiful, peaceful scenes will forever be tangled together in my mind. Rest in Peace dear Kord.


"Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone."

~ Mitch Albom

Friday, October 21, 2016

Quirky Thinking

Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day!

What kind of quirky thinking were we engaged in? Why did we think rain only happens in the Pacific Northwest in the fall? Where were our brains to engage in the idea that once east of the Cascades it would be cold, but sunny and bright? Every. Single. Day!

We left Langley on the 10th of October in bright sunshine which lasted for two days. Since then, and it is now the 20th, we have had occasional, and I might add, stunningly beautiful, clear skies, but mostly clouds and wind, accompanied with rain, sleet, hail and occasional snow flakes.

Last night we went to bed with stars shining brightly through our skylight. Both Ed and I engaged in fantasies of clear skies come morning complete with awesome views. Visions of hiking on our minds. And guess what morning brought? Yep, rain!

It's not that we are immune to hiking in the rain it's just that the views disappear and the beautiful fall leaves turn to mush underfoot. Along with reduction of the visual delights, the physical become challenging as well. Rain gear is only reliable up to a point, and then...wet seeps in! Once that happens the remainder of the day is spent watching clothes go round and round at the laundromat.

So, another cup of coffee.

Then it stopped raining and we took a walk...

And then it started raining again, and we drove to Whitefish.

We are staying in Whitefish with Steve and Meg, our sometimes Langley neighbors...bless them. Showers, Internet, washer and dryer and great hospitality.


"The storm starts, when the drops start dropping
When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping."

~ Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Larch Glory


"Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?"

~ Hal Borland