Month: July 2014

Day 82 – Ione, WA to Colville, WA

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Day 82 – Ione, WA to Colville, WA – 37 miles

From here on out, it will be mountain passes, combined with the availability of overnight lodging that dictate our daily mileages. Today we had a “minor” pass to climb, Tiger Pass. This climb started about 4-5 miles into our day and consisted of 6 miles of climbing in the granny gear, complete with switchbacks / hairpin turns. We figured this would give us a taste of the mountain passes we have coming up, except at a smaller scale. We started our riding day at 7 am, figuring we had fewer miles to go today, and it was nice & cool riding! We did great! We stopped once to rest and drink some sports drink. I think when we do Sherman Pass (22 miles uphill), we should be on our bike by 5:30 am because we’re having some hot weather around here & it’s going to take us all morning (maybe more) to get up that mountain!

We came to a small resort about 15 miles into our ride. Our map showed that there was some sort of a convenience store & a restaurant there. The restaurant didn’t open until 11 and the store was quite sparse but we were very glad to be able to pick up some food. Since our overnight stop was before the next town, we knew we needed to pick up lunch, dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. We got some tunafish & cracker snack packs, a half dozen eggs, instant cream o wheat, some turkey dinner sausage, and she sold us 2 brat buns from the restaurant supplies. That should do us thru breakfast tomorrow but it’s not going to be enough to get us over Sherman Pass! We’re going to have to find a grocery store tomorrow!

We got to the Bacon Bike Hostel at about 11:30 & it was getting quite warm by then! (Even at 7:30 pm, the temp was 96F) There were signs directing us in off the road and we walked the bike down the gravel drive (not far). I called Shelley, the owner and she told us to go on in & make ourselves comfortable. When we walked in, we were pleased to see a nice comfortable big house awaiting us! We immediately opened our food bag and ate our lunch (tunafish cracker snack packs), followed by showers and laundry.

Once again, I am amazed at the generosity of our WS hosts! Shelley and Barry built this house with the intent to open a bike hostel and they lived in it while building their family home. Their home is now built so this place is open for bicyclists to stay for free! (They take donations to pay the electric bill & for laundry soap, cleaning supplies, etc.). It is very comfortable with a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms (each sleeps 4) with nice, comfy beds and laundry downstairs. She said a previous WS guest stocked the fridge with Gatorade and pop, which we’ve been so grateful to have in this heat!

Tomorrow we’re planning a very short day of riding. This will give us a chance to do some grocery shopping, rest our legs and mentally prepare for our biggest climb – up Sherman Pass. Sherman Pass (5,575′) is a couple hundred feet higher than Marias Pass and we’ll be starting from a much lower elevation. It looks like about 22-25 miles in the granny gear. There are 4 more passes to climb in the following 5 days, so this is where we see what we can do! Hopefully these past 3500 miles of riding has strengthened and toughened us to tackle these mountain passes! This is where we need those words of inspiration from all those coaches (Butch, are you reading this? Coach Woj? 🙂 ), coach-types and encouraging friends! Thanks for your positive words, positive thoughts, & prayers!!!

Check back for pics… OK – here are some pics:

Our route heads up into those mtns:

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Curves, switchbacks – and watch for cattle!

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Bike Hostel:

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Beautiful sunset:

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Day 81 – Newport, WA to Ione, WA

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Day 81 – Newport, WA to Ione, WA – 54 miles

They’re calling for record heat in this area this week, so we got up at 5 am hoping to beat most of the heat. We were each bundled up in our long-sleeved wool shirt against the morning’s cool air and at the nearby McDonalds when they opened at 6 am. Then, on the bike a half hour later. A guy at McDonalds warned us that there was road construction n SR20, so there was no discussion as to whether to take the quicker route (SR20) or the road on the other side of Pend Oreille River (the Adventure Cycling route).

Riding on the east side of the river also kept us in the shade of the adjacent mountains, so it was comfortably cool and we rode in our long sleeves for the first hour or two. The scenery today was absolutely beautiful! The calm, blue waters of the Pend Orielle River provided a perfect reflection of the evergreen-laden mountains on either side. It was a gorgeous morning!

About 18 miles into our ride, we crossed the river & went into the tiny town of Usk to have a snack & take a break. We had picked up a large sandwich at the grocery store last night for dinner and between the 2 of us, only ate half of it last night. The second half was a great snack at several of our stops today. We bought some Gatorade, food bars and coffee in Usk and had a nice long break off the bike.

Heading out of Usk, we decided to check out SR20, instead of the Adventure Cycling route. The back road that we took for the first 18 miles wasn’t as quiet as we would have expected – lots of logging trucks, as well as other traffic. In hindsight, this probably was due to them avoiding the construction. Anyhow, we found SR20 to be only a little busier, but still a beautiful route! We rode along the river, past many cute cottages and a few youth camps on flat roads with some gently rolling hills. We stopped at one RV park along the River and sat on a swinging bench & enjoyed the rest of our sandwich while we spoke to a local resident.

When we got to historic Tiger, we stopped at the general store and picked up a state map, as well as information on local attractions for reading later – they’ll be read and thrown away before tomorrow morning tho! We have a significant climb first thing tomorrow morning! Someone called it, “Tiger Pass” but it is nowhere near the climbs we have coming up in the Cascades. It will give us a small taste of what is to come and give us an idea how we’ll do n the Cascades.

When we got to Ione, we stopped at the grocery store for dinner & breakfast items. Our new friends, Lydia & Ray, had recommended going to the Cedar RV Park in Ione. They had mentioned how nice the owner was, providing lawn chairs to the camping bicyclists. It sounded like a great place to camp, but with the incredible heat, we thought we should look for a place with air conditioning. We saw on the internet that Cedar RV park has a cabin they rent out, so we reserved it for the night. It doesn’t have running water but the bathroom is in the building next door, It isn’t air conditioned, but it is nestled in among the cedars and is so cool and comfortable inside! In addition, Gabe, the owner was so helpful & welcoming! What a nice place to be!

As I post this to the blog, it is 3 pm and the temperature is 98 degrees.

Brain Meanderings:
– Dolly Hunt is running for county prosecutor in this area. We imagined her campaign slogan: “Dolly – tough on crime” seems like a stretch. It did get us singing…”Hello Dolly! Well hello Dolly, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong. You’re looking swell Dolly…”

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Day 80 – Sandpoint, ID to Newport, WA

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Day 80 – Sandpoint, ID to Newport, WA – 30 miles

We knew it was going to be a hot one today and combined with the new time zone (and bodily clocks), we were up early & had breakfast at the restaurant attached to our hotel. Jim had walked over to the nearby hardware store for some metal tape to serve as a shim because we couldn’t seem to get the replacement seatpost tightened enough. We loaded up the bike and started our ride. Shawn could still feel the handlebars moving (and the stoker handlebars should be fixed – only the captains handlebars steer the bike), so we decided to wait until the bike shop opened at 10 am to see if we could get a better fitting seatpost. So we went to a local coffee shop a block over from the bike shop – great place to kill time!

We were right there at their door when the bike shop opened. Jim walked in and immediately found the exact size seatpost needed! Awesome! He quickly replaced it and then we were on our way again!

We opted out of the more meandering Adventure Cycling route on the advice of a local who told us that US-2 was great traveling – and it was! It was a beautiful ride along the Pend Oreille River! Beautiful wide river, gorgeous blue skies, mountains on either side and a second straight day of tailwinds! (For anyone who might be curious, we’re 2 days ahead with tailwinds.). Relatively flat roads and a tailwind made for a very fast (20+ mph) ride much of the way.

This area is so beautiful and the heat of the day seemed to accentuate the scent of the wild flowers and the pines. Mmmmm! Smells so nice! It is also very dry – the air is dry and the soil is quite sandy & dry, the tall grasses are very dry – this area seems to be a tinderbox. The national forest signs in the area are all saying that the danger of fire is high. I can see why!

About 15 miles into our ride, we stopped at a Conoco station and had some Gatorade and fresh, locally-grown blueberries! Those blueberries reminded us of how much we miss the farm stands and markets in Michigan. About 10 miles later, we had a great lunch at a restaurant recommended to us by Lydia & Ray. Shortly after that, we entered our last new state! We’re in Washington! And on our very last Adventure Cycling map of the Northern Tier!

It was quite warm (mid 90’s) when we rolled into town. We got a room at a small motel so we can get out of the sun and into the air conditioning. It’s a nice, clean, inexpensive place with a laundry mat right across the street and a grocery store one block over. Tomorrow is forecasted to be even hotter, so we’re going to hit the hay early and hopefully get most of our ride tomorrow done in the cooler, morning hours.

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Day 79 – Bonners Ferry, ID to Sandpoint, ID

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Day 79 – Bonners Ferry, ID to Sandpoint, ID – 33 miles

Today is a very good day to count our blessings! Not that every day isn’t a good day, but today we’re feeling particularly blessed! Someone is watching over us – a guardian angel, or 2 or 3! Thank you angels! Thank you Lord!

With a relatively short day planned, we didn’t feel in a hurry to get going, however having just crossed over to Pacific Time our bodies were up quite early! We packed everything up and walked across the street to the Safeway store for breakfast. We had left our food bag in the motel office overnight (this is a motel and campground, all in one) but it didn’t open until 7 am. Once we finished our breakfast, it was after 7 so we were able to retrieve our bag & get going.

Our route was straight down hwy 95 to Sandpoint. Someone had mentioned a different route but we opted to just get er done on the highway. Traffic was light (Sunday morning) so no big deal – well, until we had to climb a 5% grade for a couple miles. Well, this must be the reason someone suggested the other route! We just set about doing the climb, figuring it’s good training for the mountain passes in the Cascades. Once over the top, we were rewarded with a couple miles of a 5% grade downhill. Nice! Very fast!

We stopped in the tiny town of Naples & went in the General Store for a snack. They had a few tables & chairs where we sat & enjoyed coffee & a leisurely snack before getting back on the bike. After another 10 miles, there was a Conoco station on the side of the road, so we stopped for another off-bike break. It sure is nice to have places to stop, sit, snack and use the restroom, after so many miles of wilderness without service stops! This Conoco station was absolutely beautiful & had a cafe with the most gorgeous back patio with beautiful gardens & a stunning view! Who’d have thought!?!

Back on the bike & we were enjoying tailwinds & a slight downhill – perfect conditions for the tandem! We were very easily pedaling along at 20 mph. Then, about 5 miles from Sandpoint, Jim’s seat post broke and fell right off the bike! So we’re cruising along at 20 mph with no seat for Jim and no handlebars for me! I grabbed Jim around the waist to steady myself (and him!) and he carefully, skillfully brought us to a stop. (Good captaining baby!). It all happened so quickly and neither of us panicked but we both said a prayer of thanksgiving!

I walked back to where the seat / handlebar landed on the shoulder and retrieved them. I suppose the term for this is “metal fatigue”. This seatpost takes quite a bit more abuse than most because it supports some component of our combined body weight – and we’re not a lightweight team! So, in addition to some component of Jim’s weight on the saddle, I use several different positions on the back of the bike that put stress on the seatpost, as well. I am either sitting upright holding the handlebars in my hand or I scooch back on my saddle and rest my elbows on the handlebars (my “power position” – better engages the quads).

After trying just about every tool in his bag, Jim was able to pull the section of the post from the downtube. Then he put the remaining (much shorter) section that was still attached to the seat into the downtube and we were able to ride the remaining miles into town, although Jim was riding much lower than usual. 🙂

We checked the internet via our phone and saw that the bike shop in Sandpoint wasn’t open today (Sunday). But we saw that there were several outdoors shops that carried bike parts. The first place we stopped was just outside of Sandpoint that wasn’t yet open for the day. We hung out in the nearby Starbucks until they opened at noon but they didn’t have a seatpost for us. They directed us to another shop downtown.

We rode into downtown Sandpoint and found the place pretty quickly in the bustling downtown shopping district. There seemed to be only 1 place to lean the bike in front of the shop, which was on the back of a bench where a couple was sitting. They had seen us coming and greeted us eagerly. Turns out this couple, Lydia and Ray, are also on a bike trip & riding a tandem! They’re from Calgary and are doing the Selkirk Loop. We talked for quite a bit before Jim went in the shop and found that they had a seatpost that would fit! He put it on the bike, took it for a test ride and it seems to be great!

We invited Lydia & Ray to join us for lunch at the brewery next door and we had a great lunch together! It’s so much fun to meet other cyclists and we hit it off so well! Great conversation! After lunch, we all went over to the beach and enjoyed a swim in Lake Pend Orielle! It’s a beautiful lake and a very nice lake, but not a Great Lake. 😉 We met later again for dinner & enjoyed getting to know this couple even more!

What a day! New friends, safe travel! Counting our blessings!

Day 78 – Libby, MT to Bonners Ferry, ID

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Day 78 – Libby, MT to Bonners Ferry, ID – 54 miles

Hard to get going this morning after our ride yesterday. We dawdled a bit before heading out but once we were on the bike, we were fine!

We decided to go off-route today & take US-2 thru Bonners Ferry. This cuts off about 10 miles and we get back on route in Sandpoint tomorrow. A few miles out of Libby, we stopped at the viewpoint for the swinging footbridge over the Kootenai River. (Shawn has had enough thrills with swinging footbridges, so we didn’t go out on it – plus we’re getting enough thrills with the day-to-day ride!). The views of the river, the rapids, the mountains were magnificent! This area of Montana is beautiful!

Before too long, we had about 20 miles in and we rolled into the cute little town of Troy. We stopped at a coffee shop and got a more substantial breakfast. We headed out, knowing we had about 10 miles to go before the Idaho border. We also knew there were a limited number of opportunities for breaks and snacks along the way. Montana had one last “gift” for us, in the form of a 2+ mile climb in the granny gear. It was a winding, curvy road with each view around the corner being more uphill. We stopped once along the way to catch our breath & hydrate and then finally, thankfully, the road started gradually going downhill. We were counting down the Montana US-2 mile markers (remember when we saw them start at 577 -after riding about 70 miles in Montana?) and saw the no. 1 buzz by, we knew we were close, then we saw the glorious, blue “Welcome to Idaho”sign. Now nothing against Montana, we certainly saw some beautiful places, but after being in this state for 17 days, we were overjoyed to say good-bye!

Just as we got to the state line, we saw a bar and thought, much as we wanted to cross the state line, it was time to relax and get a bite to eat. As we pulled up to the place a woman came out and we asked if they were open because the open sign wasn’t lit. She said yes, but they had no power. A storm came thru Tuesday night & took out a lot of trees and knocked out the power for miles. They had a generator going and were making ice to serve cold drinks. So we had pop, peanuts & chips!

We got back on the bike for a 50-yard ride, got off and took our requisite selfie by the sign. As we pulled away, a car pulled into the turn off with a touring bike on a bike rack. We could tell it was someone interested in our trip. It turns out it was Harvey, a Warm Showers host we had emailed for a night in Bonners Ferry. He was unable to host but he apologized for not accommodating us. Even though Harvey didn’t host us, he gave us a great deal of information about our route through the next few towns – a great help to us! As he got into his car, he said “you guys are doing great, you’ll be done in 10 days!” That was huge to hear! We knew we were getting close, but 10 days?? Wow! We knew at that point we would need to study the map and detail out the rest of the trip. (After looking at the details, we may extend it out to 12-14 days, take a rest day, etc.)

We cruised into Bonners Ferry on a huge (6%) 2 mile downhill. The whole time thinking that we may have to come out of this low elevation town in the morning! For now, it was a very fun way to end the day. We struggled a bit finding accommodations for the night, but luckily a Hotel / RV site in town had room for a tent and the showers were great! A real bargain for for 10 bucks!!

We walked down the street to a cafe for a nice dinner, stopped at the grocery store for 2 cans of “pop” (wink wink) and toasted the crossing of another state line! Woo hoo, only one more border to cross!!

Brain Meanderings:
– maybe Jim should get some Grecian formula for his lamb chops
– how do they make round bacon?

Day 77 – Rexford, MT to Libby, MT

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Day 77 – Rexford, MT to Libby, MT – 68 miles

HO-LY! (As Leanne would say. <3) 68 miles in the mountains! Never thought we'd be able to say that! Long, hard, hilly, no rest for the weary (until the end of the day).

We said goodbye to our kind, kind Warmshowers host, Richard. It is so incredible how kind these hosts are to open up their homes to us weary cyclists! We had a great night's sleep in a warm, comfortable bed and woke up to a pot of fresh coffee to start our day. We made a quick breakfast, packed up and were on our way by 8 am.

We knew it was going to be a hard day based on the notes on our maps and conversations with eastbound riders. Very hilly (mountainous) and very limited services. We were prepared with a sandwich from yesterday's grocery shopping (with an extra package of meat to add to it), our standard variety of snacks (bananas, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, granola, granola bars, peanut butter, tortillas and Payday bars, just to give you an idea), 4 bottles of water and an extra liter (or so) in our bags.

Our route ran along Lake Koocanusa, which is a reservoir created by the Libby Dam, which dams the Kootenai River. (See yesterday's post for a link for more information.) We had two options – east side of the lake or west side of the lake. Both options looked quite hilly on the contour map. The east side was 5 miles shorter but the wind was already blowing when we left at 8 am so we figured we'd make our decision based on which side was more wind blown. By the time we got to the bridge, we decided to take the longer, but less windy route, so we crossed over to the west side for 45 miles of mountains and woods and beautiful views! Of course, we were also greeted on the west side by a sign reminding us we were in an area of grizzly bear habitat. :-/ So, there was a lot of loud talking and singing as we rode those 45 miles. ("Talk to me!" "What else?" "In heaven there us no beer…" " Oh you can't get to heaven, in Jimmy's shoes…)

About 40 miles into this 45 miles of wilderness, we spotted another cyclist approaching from the east. His name is Durell, from Peachtree City, GA and he is riding the northern tier route in the opposite direction. He told us (in his Georgia drawl) that he & his wife sold their house and then left from the closing for the west coast to start this trip. We asked him about the fires in Washington and he said he was probably one of the last eastbound riders getting thru before they closed the road. Two days of riding thru smoke, ash & embers! You can check out his blog here: http://durellhood.blogspot.com

Several miles after our meeting with Durell, we made it to the Libby Dam Visitor Center. Civilization once again! We parked the bike & went inside to see what food they might have. We were greeted at the entrance by a tour guide asking if we wanted to join the next tour, starting in a few minutes. We asked how much walking would be involved and when she responded a mile & a half, we said no thanks and asked about food. They had a small shop where they had granola bars, candy and a small refrigerator with cold pop & ice cream novelties. We got ice cream and a can of pop and devoured them quickly. Then we joined the first few minutes of the tour and enjoyed a great demonstration of hydroelectric generation & transmission, complete with props and audience participation! After a little more wandering thru the displays at the visitor center, we decided it was time to move on. The last 15 miles into the town of Libby was mostly downhill, although winding around the base of mountains and riding into and out of a headwind. Gravity was our friend, (actually, it's not just a good idea – it's the law) so these tired cyclists made it those last few miles.

After showering, Jim ran over to the laundrymat around the corner. By the time he got back, we were both famished. We got a restaurant recommendation from the gal running the motel office and both enjoyed a fine meal (Montana beef!) at a great place a couple blocks away.

Brain Meanderings (there were a lot of them because our brains were addled by fatigue):
– Sesame Street lyrics combined with music from Rogers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma sound strangely good!
– The road to Yaak is paved with good intentions.
– There is a realtor in the area with a last name of Loveless. It is kind of a sad name and how does that name get carried on?
– Agather Road – cool name
– Our friend Diane asked why the hair on Jim's face (including his eyebrows) is growing faster than the hair on top of his head. We've been pondering the same thing!
-A jet pack for the tandem would be great to have today, but then if we had one, someone might ask us if we made it all the way to Anacortes without the use of a jet pack and we'd have to answer truthfully.

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Durell Hood:

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Dam pics:

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At the Dam Visitor Center:

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Day 76 – Whitefish, MT to Rexford, MT

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Day 76 – Whitefish, MT to Rexford, MT – 60 miles

We sure enjoyed our two night stay at the Whitefish Hostel. The people that run it & staff it are so very nice – 2 sisters, Kirtlye and Lynon opened the place a year or two ago and James (a kiwi who has a hybrid kiwi-Aussie accent) also mans the shop. It is a very clean, tidy place with a vegan cafe / bakery on the first floor and two bunk rooms on the second floor. One of the bunk rooms has 4 beds and the other has 6 beds and they were completely full both nights. Each night we were the first ones in bed but our bunk mates were very quiet & we never heard them come to bed each night. It was also very conveniently located to downtown, the bike shop & a grocery store.

Each night before bedtime, we’d hang out in the cafe area of the hostel with another guest. Last night we talked with another hostel guest & cyclist, Jack Day from Des Moines, Iowa. He is 70 years old (doesn’t look a day over 55!) & on his 4th annual bicycle tour. He said something like, after you retire if you sit, you might not ever get back up… so he just keeps riding! This year, he is touring the national parks – Yellowstone, Glacier, etc. he told us he rode up Beartooth Pass (10,947′) & it took him 12 hours. When he was nearly to the top, a guy pulled over with a cooler of cold drinks and sandwiches, figuring he could use some more fuel. When he got to the top, it was dark & he had to go a few miles down before he found a campsite. What an interesting, fun guy! You can check out his adventure via Facebook: Call to Adventure – Follow the Ride

When we came downstairs this morning, Jack was already downstairs drinking coffee. It had rained (& hailed) overnight and was cool & raining again when we got up. We took our time drinking coffee, eating breakfast & chatting some more with Jack. When the rain let up, we took some pics and said our goodbyes.

We had a short bit of road construction to contend with as we left town, but it wasn’t bad. The road to Eureka and eventually Rexford, was twisty turny with some small hills. We would lose a little more elevation today, so more uphill than down. We joked that our flatlander brains don’t work so good in the mountains. When it looked like we were going on a flat or slightly downhill, we were still struggling with gravity! We took a few quick breaks, found a small store in the tiny town of Olney for snacks and then pedaled on to the Fortine Bar for lunch. Root Beer was the drink of choice, and the food was very good. We were cold in the bar and when we left, the outside temperature wasn’t any warmer! Some clouds rolled in and we got out the rain jackets. It was a good thing – there were light mountain type showers all around us, and we rode in very light rain off & on for most of the rest of the day. It was strange to be cold. Even stranger to hear all the locals talk about how hot it is going to be tomorrow! Hard to fathom that with our warmest clothes on, but we will see.

It’s such a joy to ride with a variety of scenery. The clouds and rain made for interesting shading and colors on the mountain peaks. What looked like heavy fog in the mountains was actually light rain. The skies and the mountains were so dark, we wondered if the dark trees on the nmountains were making the clouds look extra dark or visa versa.

We stopped at Eureka for groceries for dinner. We have a warm shower host for the night, but he was not going to be able to provide dinner for us, which is not at all unusual. We picked up Ramen, fresh mushrooms, and a can of chicken (to be combined with our dried veggies) for our famous noodle stew -Mmmm!

We had a bit of a climb to get to Rexford, and pulled in to our Warm Shower house around 4 pm and met Richard. We don’t like to brag about how important our visit is to the city of Rexford, but we are staying at “Hizoner” the Mayors house! Richard had a dinner date with his ex-wife-and-his best friend (his words), MaryLou. We met her and also met one of their grandsons that was visiting from Billings. They headed out for a family dinner while we made dinner in Richard’s kitchen, relaxed & worked on this blog entry & our knitting projects. When Richard returned we enjoyed some great conversation, particularly his recollections about “Old Rexford”, dealings with the Army Corps of Engineers & the creation of Lake Koocanusa. You can read about it here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Koocanusa

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Shawn got new handlebar tape to replace the tape damaged by a curious horse:

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