We had stopped at the hot springs because it was at the base of Big climb. The Lost Trail Pass (7014 ft) and the Chief Joseph Pass (7241ft). Fortunately we didn’t lose any altitude between the first and the second. They are only a mile apart but on different roads so they count as two diff passes. Also the high plains here are already 5000 ft so not as bad as it sounds.
When we got to the summit there was a rest stop and a bunch of people from Adventure Cycling had food stop set up for a ride they were doing up the same road. They saw us and treated us like family. Gave us food and drinks and the riders there had a million questions about our ride. The riders were only doing a 5 day ride around Montana, so they were quite impressed.
Once over the passes we dropped in to a valley called The Big Hole. So named because of the mountains all the way around. The Big Hole river runs through the valley. There is a national monument in the valley for the Big Hole Battlefield where the US government ambushed the Nez Perce Indian camp and killed 90 people, including women and children. Quite a moving interpretive center there.
Further down the road we came to the village of Wisdom. Gas station, 2 bars, c store and a really nice motel:) Yesssss. The valley is known to have really bad mosquitos for a certain time in the spring. Yep they do. To camp there would have been torture.
We pushed out of Hamilton pretty early for no other reason than we had slept good and were ready to get going. I went into town the night before to the Bitteroot Brewery for a barley pop and food. Just so happens that they had the best blues/jazz band playing. I really had a fun time listening to them.
From Hamilton to Sula is pretty flat and ride thru the Bittereoot Valley, very wide and really pretty. Our goal was to get to a hot springs at the bade of Chief Joseph Pass. All was good until the last 5 miles when we started climbing. We didn’t expect that at the end of the day. It wasn’t for very long but really woke us up from a nice easy cruise.
Lost Trail Hot Springs was pretty old but we’ll kept and worth what we paid. Really relaxing and nice.
From the hot springs to Lolo was more flat and more beautiful valley w mountain peaks to look at. After a while its so routine we stopped sending pictures cause each one is so unique and amazing but when I take a picture, it just doesn’t reveal the awesome beauty and the scale of how big things are.
We had a bite to eat in Lolo and then got on a dedicated path north towards Missoula. Missoula is so cool. We spent two days cause we were tired and needed supply etc. We would have gladly just thrown out the anchor here and stayed. Very vibrant town . Night life was always going, bikes and outdoor life is what it’s all about in Missoula. We went to a river(they have 3 that come into town and leave as one). Apparently the town put something in the river to make a wave that people go out and surf on that one wave in the river). Missoula has the only surf shop not on a coast.
After a nice stay at The City Center Motel we had to get going. (We also stayed at a city center motel in Hamilton, no relation). We retraced some of our route back to Lolo and then south past there to Hamilton.
We were nervous about getting over Lolo Pass. We are getting better at it with every one we climb, buy it is srill pretty hard. So we got up early and ate breakfast and were on the road early. There were a few miles to warm up on before we actually started climbing and we kind of needed it to get the stiffness out of our legs. We’ve kind of developed a routine that we climb for a mile and rest, repeat as needed until the grade gets too steep and do .75 mile etc. Lolo was a little different, there were historical markers from Lewis and Clark and we tried to make it to them before we stopped. Worked out pretty good and learned a lot of cool stuff in the process. At the top of the pass there is a really nice visitor center and we hung out there for an hour, since it was the first phone and internet signal we have had in 4-5 days. Having caught up on social media we headed down from the pass w/o a peddle stroke for miles. About time.
At the bottom of the hill we saw signs for “moose crossing” . We looked and looked for one, but no luck. Deb started calling “here moosey, moosey, moosey”. For some reason that didn’t get much result;) Because of the pass we had decided to stay at Lolo Hot Springs and go for a soak. Pretty nice.
The motel in Lowel was another one of those 1950 style buildings. 6 rooms w outside doors, gravel out front. Air conditioner was a later addition and they just cut a hole in the wall and stick in a window unit. It was clean though and we were tired so it was great.
For the next 66 miles we followed the Lochsa River along side of the road, it got to be a joke after a while (Oh look there’s a river along side of the road). We saw a lot of people rafting on the river and there was plenty of white water to make it interesting. The route was also too long for us to make it all the way to Powell, so we camped along the bank at The wilderness Gateway state park. Really a pretty place and very relaxing.
Packed up the camp site and had coffee, got on the road pretty on time (Oh look there’s a river along side of the road:) The sky was dark and stormy looking all day and we expected rain, but all day long it would only spit a little and never really rain. We reached Powell just as the rain finally got series, pulled into Lochsa Lodge and they had a really nice cabin style room with a gas fireplace. It was really nice. The day had been pretty cold and dark and the the canyon kept getting more and more narrow. We also were gaining altitude all day so by the time it started to rain we could see our breath. That fireplace was the perfect thing right then.
The path out of Missoula is paved and pretty easy, it rides along a railroad track that hasn’t been used for a while. There was was a long line of coal cars on the tracks that had not moved in a long while. The rust on the tracks and on the wheels of the cars tells me this track isn’t viable any more. The path went into Lolo MT and then on through Stevensville toward Hamilton our goal for the day. The Bitterroot Valley is what we were riding thru. Very pretty and historic. Lewis and Clark went through here and there are historic/histeric markers all along the route. Deb and I stopped in Hamilton and started to look for a place to stay, the first place we went to was full up, but the nice lady at the desk called every place in town until she found a place for us. THANK YOU LADY AT BITTEROOT INN. We stayed at the City Center Motel. Right down town and short walk to a brewery. Perfect and reasonably priced too.
This tour is way too much fun , not sure if I will be able to go back to work when we get done.(sorry Rick)
The Grangeville Super 8 was very comfy and we did not want to leave. At breakfast Deb ran into two riders who were doing the same ride we are. A father and son. Turns out he grew up in Muskegon Michigan and is a Hope graduate. Deb and Carl compared notes for a long time. We have been following their blog since then to pick up tips a out the upcoming route. (I’m actually writing this on 6-19. Two days ago some jerk thru a large chunk of ice out of a moving vehicle and hit Ben, the son in the shoulder. Not cool.)
We had a heck of a time figuring out the route out of Grange Ville, but eventually got on the right road the ride was really pretty, mostly flat, except for an epic downhill down Lamb Grade Road. I wish I had an inclinometer to tell you how steep it was. It was steep and lo n g enough that the rims on Debs bike got so hot from the brakes that it blew out the front tire. It shriveled up the rim tape between the tube and the rim and cut the tube. Lucky she was just coming to a stop at the bottom of the hill.
So I fixed yet another tire. We rode on into Kooskia and had a really awesome meatloaf sandwich at the local diner.
Another 23 miles and we were in Lowell Idaho where we found an old but comfy motel right on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater river.
There was a restaurant next to the motel where we ordered and while we were waiting, two riders came in. We invited Jesus and Jeff to join us and tell about themselves. They were both riding the Trans AM Race which is the same route we are doing only they are trying to see how fast they can do it. (Totally opposite of Deb and I. We diddle around so much we may not ever get there. lol) Jesus was from Arizona and not really into racing, but doing it for the experience. Jeff was a software/computer engineer. He was trying to figure stuff out on the ride. He and his wife were on the outs. That’s as exciting as it gets in Lowell Idaho:)
We left Council heading for New Meadows. We knew from friends we made along the way that were ahead of us that this road was not really great for riding . Busy and naroww w lots of trucks. We left early and hoped that because it was Saturday the ride wouldn’t be too bad. We made 17 miles and both of us were a nervous wreck. It was a 2 lane road our side was 8 feet wide, a white line and a 60 degree bank down to the river along side of the road. We pulled into a Cafe along the route and went in to contemplate whether this was worth it. Deb starts talk8ng to the owner of the place, telling him about how nerve wracking the road is. After talking and drinking coffee for a while Deb says to him “I’ll give you $75 to take us to Grangeville (past the bad part). After a while he says I’m thinking. Deb s says $100. Deal.
So we got a ride and saved our lives for a $100. Good plan Honey.
Today’s ride was pretty short. The sky was always dark and stormy looking and it would spit and sputter all day. Finally it started to get more serious toward the end. We got into Council expecting to find a room, only to find that they were building a by-pass route around town for traffic and the had torn down the only motel in town. Plan B. Ask around town. Some guy (Pat) at the local coffee shop says “let me call my buddy”. Turns out the “buddy” is Ron who runs an RV camp site, but has an unfinished room he is making into a Hostel for bikers. We could stay inside out of the rain if we wanted. Heck yeah. Showers and laundry in the next building over. Sweet. The weather got better after a while and we sat outside under a canopy enjoying the view until bed time.
Our ride out of Brown Lee dam was pretty steep for a few miles and then leveled off and stayed pretty close to the reservoir for a while. The whole day was riding along one river or another up and down up and down. Pretty but not really outstanding. We got to Cambridge Idaho and found a room at the Frontier Inn. Nice place and a nice town. After cleaning up we went looking for food and cervesas. The little bar In town had some one out back cooking brisket and ribs and you could get a plate for 10$. We’ll take two. As we sat there eating we notice a dog in the bar (they allow dogs in Idaho). He goes up to a patron and bumps his nose into his leg the guy turns and puts a dollar in the dogs mouth and it turns and goes around the end of the bar and gives it to the bar tender. Dog gets a treat the bar tender is making a fortune. We sit for a few minutes and sure enough to dog bumps Deb in the leg and looks up for a tip. What a racket. Wish I had thought of it haha.