|East entrance to 1.7 mile Taft Tunnel|
|West entrance of Taft Tunnel|
|Dan & Wendy on a trestle|
Bicycling the Hiawatha Trail should be a bucket list item for anyone who can still ride a bike. It is a converted 15-mile railroad bed from the Montana border through a cold and dark 1.7 mile tunnel into Idaho, then 9 more tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles over a gradual 1.7% grade. We enjoyed it just as much as we did three years ago, but this time we also had the satisfaction of showing it off to 15 members of our Daze of Wine and Roads Airstream caravan. Unfortunately the hazy air quality made it difficult to see the distant trestles across the valley.
|Looking from one trestle to another|
|Cold and dark 1.7 miles|
With 9,000 men working round-the clock for twoyears and $234 million later, the Milwaukee Railroad opened in 1909, enabling a rail line from Chicago to Seattle. In 1910, one of the largest forest fires in US history burned 3 million acres, blackening skies as far away as New York. Courageous train engineers are credited with saving 600 lives racing over burning trestles to the relative safety of the tunnels or distant towns. As a result, 440 miles of the line were electrified in 1911, a novel concept that other railroad companies soon adopted. The line was abandoned in 1980 and converted to a rails-to-trails path in 2001.
|Some of the happy campers at end of the trail|
The Hiawatha was the highlight of our 14-day caravan, as was our stay in nearby Wallace, Idaho. John and Vicki Billdt, who didn't do the ride, had a huge pot of jambalaya waiting for us when we returned.
|Fascinating mine tour by x-miner|
If you like history, understated Wallace is the place for you. Most of it burned to the ground in 1910. Our campground on a creek was just three blocks from historic buildings, museums, and restaurants. In fact, it even had it's own pub! Some toured the brothel museum and others toured a silver mine and hiked the Paulaski Trail, made famous by Timothy Egan's book, The Big Burn. Some of us also rode sections of the 72-mile Coeur d' Alene trail, using Wallace as a base.
|With Cousin Vicki, one of my best childhood friends|
As frosting on the cake, Kathy and I connected with my cousin Vicki and her husband, Bob as they were passing through Wallace. We had not seem them in many years, and as we age we realize how important it is to strengthen family and friendship ties.
|MY center of the Universe|
|Kathy & me along the Snake on a 15 mile ride. Not smart!|
We were lucky not to have to evacuate any areas because of threatening fires all over the Pacific NW. Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes and to all the firefighters trying to protect them. The smoke closer to the fires had to be much worse than our inconvenience. The air quality affected us more than we wanted. I didn't ride a segment from Coeur d'Alene to Wallace because visibility was barely 150 yards.
In retrospect, we shouldn't have ridden the day we arrived in Clarkston. We were going to spend three nights in Clarkston, WA (right next to Lewiston ID on the Snake River), but left early after a sleepless cough-filled night.
|View from our campsite on the Snake River|
Our first attempt to leave on Thursday didn't succeed. About 25 miles out of town in hot temperatures climbing a steep pass, our engine overheated and lost almost all of its cooling fluid. We had no cell phone coverage. Just as I was getting ready to fix the two flats on my bike and ride back to Clarkston, a helpful state trooper pulled up and drove me into a town 15 miles away to buy more coolant. Then he drove me back, but the trip was too short because I was having too good of a time learning about what it's like to be a state trooper on remote roads. Of course, he just had to see what the inside of an Airstream looked like!
|Master griller & Cook, Davis Cook|
|Two tows at Alpowa Summit|
The new fluids got us two miles to the summit before we realized that we had a serious leak. Our terrific friends, Davis Cook and Craig Bowcock still in the campground drove up to pull our trailer back to camp and a tow truck hauled our VW back to the dense haze of Clarkston. In stark contrast to the delightful Trooper K.C. Scott, I got to learn all about the tow truck driver's anger about his online anger-management classes.
In the end, it was a happy ending because we got to see almost everybody again and enjoy one of our best spontaneous potluck barbecues of the entire two weeks. The repair shop was able to tighten a lose nut on a coolant hose by the next morning and we got one more chance to hug everyone good bye.
|Our leadership mantra|
As always, it's always nice to be back home. This time, the Willamette Valley never looked or smelled so good to us. We were serenaded with a refreshing rainstorm that reminded us that we live in the best place in the US. Kathy is catching up on all of her Assistance League board responsibilities for a major conference on September 15 in San Diego. I'm looking forward to going back to work for a couple of weeks and to resuming my training sessions to be a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for abused and neglected children.
Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 10, 7:00 PM. Kathy and I will be making a presentation to the Salem Travel Club at the public library auditorium about our month in Bali last December. We'll have many more photos than we posted in our blog back then. If you are a local reader, we hope to see you there.