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June 19, 2017 - Libby, Montana

By meriwether, Jun 19 2017 03:19PM

Happy Fathers Day All . . . from Libby, Montana -

I’m doing the Rocky Mountains at present . . . or alternatively, the Rockies are doing me. We’ll see how that goes.

Backtracking a bit, I concluded my ride up the Columbia River Gorge, and took note of the dramatic changes in the land and climate. It is almost as if a Grand Hand flips a switch - one moment the rider is surrounded by lush rain forest and plunging waterfalls, and within the space of a few miles the topography seems to transform into an arid, high desert environment. It really is quite a dramatic shift of ecosystems, and the gorge itself broadens into a high desert plain through which the Columbia seeks its way to the sea.

Aiming northeast toward Spokane, I pedaled a route that took me across the broad and treeless Columbia Plateau - shades of the Great Plains that lie to the east of the mountains. I sought out alternative, less traveled roads - instead of the busy U.S. 395 (a four lane expressway) - that took me up onto the plateau, and it was worth the effort of the climb . Spread before me was a broad expanse of rolling and open rangeland. Far off to the east, I could catch a glimpse of the western most ranges of the Rockies, speaking my name.

I headed into Spokane and last Wednesday put in a volunteer day with Spokane Habitat For Humanity as they reached the conclusion of their Blitz Build. Tony and Jonathan were the construction site managers, and I always marvel how they can juggle so many things going on at one time - meeting with inspectors, trying to instruct novice volunteers with no construction experience, planning the next stages of construction, keeping things organized on the job site. It was a good but long day. My HFH volunteer days (this was my 16th of the ride) have always been the most positive of experiences and one of the highlights of my journey - always exceptional groups of staff and volunteers with whom to lend helping hands to achieve the goal of providing an affordable home for a family in need of one.

With the Rocky Mountains looming to the East, I said goodbye to Washington State and crossed the Idaho border, heading up to beautiful Lake Cocolalla not too far from quintessential mountain town, Sand Point. I was warmly greeted by Warm Showers hosts Jim and Lisa, daughter Margo, and Buddy the dog and welcomed into their beautiful home overlooking the lake. My Warm Showers experiences have also highlighted my journey, and Jim and Lisa were wonderful hosts. The extra beer they packed in my BOB trailer saved the day at last night’s campground after a long 55 mile day in the saddle.

Mountain riding can be a bit intimidating, as high peaks surround the rider on all sides, but the routes often follows the river valleys like that of the Clark Fork and Kootenai Rivers along which I pedaled today - really quite spectacular with their forested slopes and rushing streams always seeking a lower elevation in a bid to join the main course of the river. A visit to Kootenai Falls and the Swinging Bridge today were fairly awesome and a welcome break before heading into Libby where I am this evening.

But at a certain point, one must climb to cross the Continental Divide and that lies just to the east - Glacier National Park - one of the most majestic of our National Parks. There is a little road there called Going To The Sun Highway, and it’s called that for a reason. It is one of the most amazing drives in the country, but a beast of a climb. I do have an alternate route which may make sense. I did Going To The Sun in 1982 or 83, but I was in my early 30’s then, young and vigorous. 35 years later? Hmmm . . . Decisions!

I am over 10,000 miles for my journey folks, unofficially. The official mileage at this point is a little over 9,500 miles, but I have known that my odometer is off by five one hundredths of mile for each mile ridden. Doing the math, that adds on about another 500 miles not counted by my odometer. So . . . I will raise my glass to 10,000 miles, and you are welcome to as well - have one on me!

Proceeding On . . . and Up!

* My heartfelt thanks go out once again to these folks who have made recent donations to Save The Children and/or Habitat For Humanity in support of my U.S. Perimeter Ride: Tom and Lisa Hoersten, Tony Monroe, and Sarah and Jack Puffenberger.

** Please pass this on to anyone who might be interested, and invite them to visit my website to consider supporting these two charities that do much good in the world.

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