July 29, 2001 - Mike and Marilyn's 2001 TranAmerican Bike Tour

Mike and Marilyn's
2001 TransAm Bike Trip
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July 29, 2001

TRANSAM 2001 > Idaho

Lolo Hot Springs, MT to Lowell, ID. (87 mi.) Mile 3536

A whole lotta Lochsa

It was cold this morning, with overcast skies threatening rain. Even though we had enough groceries for yet another meal, we still used the Lolo Hot Springs Restaurant's hot coffee to warm up before riding up the final 8 miles to the summit of Lolo Pass, the Idaho-Montana border, and the change to Pacific Standard Time. We are feeling very close to home in this familiar scenery. Our goal is to arrive on the Oregon coast August 11, where family from Washington will greet us and give us a ride home.

Dropping over the summit and down Lolo Pass into Idaho

Once over the summit of Lolo, it was all downhill for over 80 miles. However, the road was rough with little to no shoulder, and in places, there were miles of road construction involving pavement removal and new gravel. Traffic was light but we still had to contend with trucks and RVs.

The west side of the pass follows the clear, rocky Lochsa River, paralleling miles of wild, rugged Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The strong, pervasive scent of pine trees characterizes Lolo Pass more than any other segment of our trip. Yesterday I was so busy dealing with the wind climbing up Lolo Pass that I did not take pictures of Lolo Creek, the beautiful mountain stream we followed up the east side. I figured that the Lochsa River on the west side would offer even more dramatic scenery, but I was not prepared for today's dark, gray skies. Wet weather coming from the west is stopped by the mountains, giving the west side more rainfall, as we experienced today.

Miles of road construction on Lolo Pass in the westbound lane

Gray skies along the Lochsa River

Running downhill made a fast pace, but we still put in a long day in the saddle pedaling against the wind. Highlights included spotting a moose with her gangly calf browsing in a meadow. This made our Trip Moose Count = 5 (2 were seen in Grand Teton and another outside of Lander, Wyoming, wandering through the sagebrush looking lost). We also had a pine martin (a rather uncommon, large relative of a weasel) run across the road in front of us, but we did not see any of the grizzlies we know are in this area. About 30 miles from Lowell, it started to drizzle and continued intermittently the rest of the way as we stoked on down the Lochsa River drainage.

The highway follows over 80 miles of this rocky, wild river.

An eagle's nest sits perched high on a dead snag over the Lochsa River.

We were hoping that my brother and his family would visit us in Lowell or some point along the highway as we rode to our destination. They had expressed an interest in intercepting us as this is the closest point (125 miles or so) from their home in Pullman, Washington. However, we made it all the way to the campground in Lowell, and did not see them. As we were sitting in the Three River's Cafe tanking up on food and feeling disappointed, we heard my nephews' voices' calling, "Auntie Marilyn, Auntie Marilyn!" My brother and his family had made it after all, and not only that, had brought ice cream and cookies. This really helped brighten up a rainy day.

The McInturffs drove over 100 miles to visit us:
Bennett, Rylee, John, and Ian brought ice cream for us and helped us eat it.

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