The Long And Winding Road

Hank – Before leaving Grangeville I checked with a couple of locals about the road ahead. We’d heard about mud/rock slides on the main highway but our route was going to be mostly on the old Hwy 95. I was told I shouldn’t take the old highway because it’s not maintained and with all the slides that had been happening it wouldn’t be safe.

So Kathy and I slogged into a headwind on Hwy 95. We stopped after five miles and Kathy was not having a good time. Then a guy on a motorcycle rode by, turned onto a nearby gravel road, and then turned around and came to us. Paul, who lives nearby, told us we should take the gravel road right there to the old highway and follow that over the pass. There’s trees, no traffic, wildlife, and it’s a winding and gradual climb. And once we get over the other side and merge back to the highway, we should get off the highway and back on the old one again. He rides his motorcycle on these roads and he said we’ll love it.

So we did. It was great. Unfortunately, we missed the turn going down the other side to get on the old 95. We stopped at the White Bird Historical site that overlooks the site where the war between the Nez Perce and the U.S. began. From there we could see the many switchbacks of the old road.

We screamed down 95, which made Kathy very nervous. I think we dropped down about 3500 feet. She rode the brakes to keep from going too fast. Smart move on a bike with that much weight. We had to stop so she could rest her hands after braking so much. Later on we stopped in White Bird and grabbed a bite. A bald eagle circled over the Salmon River as we left town. We had a pretty leisurely ride alongside the river, which is very high and fast right now. And what a beautiful sight to ride alongside. I’ve driven this road several times but now I’ve really seen how pretty it is. Although we had a Warmshowers host available about eight miles south of Riggins, we decided to tent it there since we were beat. Today was our longest ride and we’ve been at it for eight days. Shelly’s Back Eddy Grill, a small restaurant that doubles as the Trailways bus stop, was about to close and we grabbed a beer and some wine before Shelli closed up shop. The rain started coming down real hard and after talking with us for a while, Shelli insisted we stay inside the restaurant overnight. She left us the keys and everything and told us to lock up in the morning. Kathy and I were gobsmacked. Shelli told us, “There’s no crime here.” She pulled a mattress out of a storage room and told us to make ourselves at home. Wow! How amazing it is to meet people like Shelli.

Kathy – As we headed out of Grangeville today we had some pretty strong headwinds. After seven miles I was feeling tired. We stopped to get a snack at the chain up area before heading up to White Bird Pass. I was so happy that Paul stopped by and told us about the alternate route that was more switchbacks with less of a steep elevation as Highway 95. It was a bit challenging but a beautiful ride up to the summit. Once there is when the fun began, at 4,400 feet of elevation the descent was insane! The views were incredible, but we were going SO fast down the mountainside with big trucks passing us pretty close. The winds were ripping and I told myself that I would brake often to avoid rocks in the road, potholes, and the small amount of roadway available to us on the side. I limited my speeds to 35 MPH. It was truly amazing to ride down the pass on a bicycle. I have never done anything like that before, so maybe as I get used to this I will go a bit faster but for now 35 MPH was just fine. My hands were freezing as I gripped the brakes often. It was a mixture of supreme excitement and insurmountable fright. But, it all was fine in the end.

I was a bit concerned about riding the additional 32 miles from White Bird to Riggins, Idaho as I was getting tired. We decided to press on and arrived about 5pm (actually 6pm since the time changed as we rolled into town). After 53 miles and 2,800 feet of elevation gain today I didn’t want to ride an additional eight miles and an additional 700 feet of elevation to get to the Warm Showers hosts home. So, it was a matter of winging it for shelter tonight (oh how hard it is to give up all the control in my life)! The rain was starting and we stopped at a restaurant in town and meet Shelli as Hank mentioned above. What a true angel!! Shelli not only gave me a second glass of wine for free, she refused payment, and then gave us the keys to her restaurant/bar for us to sleep in. It was raining and we were going to pitch a tent in front of her place. I think she felt sorry for us and open her place up to us. Shelli is truly an angel. We could not thank her enough for her hospitality. I am in awe that total strangers would be so kind. It really is true, their are many more kind people in this world than bad ones. Today we met Shelli, who is one of the most generous people I have ever met in my life. Thank you Shelli for everything!! As I rest my head on my inflatable pillow and cuddle in my warm and dry sleeping bag tonight, I will be counting my blessings for the wonderful people like Shelli. We are beyond grateful tonight.

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  1. Gunnar Thomason May 11, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Timaaaaaaaay!!!!! Thanks for the dog of the day.


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