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.
At the Dam Visitor Center: