Winding Road Next 77 Miles...

23 May 2006
Calgary, Alberta

...and then some.

Leaving North Bend with a full tank of gasoline we continued north along Highway 101.  It's been years since I've been this way.  Not much has changed.  It's still a beautiful ride that can become quite frustrating when stuck behind someone who cannot even do the speed limit.  We wheeled on up to Tillamook to visit the Mecca of cheese.  Because of the late start we got combined with the traffic we encountered and the lunch date we had in Troutdale, Oregon we ended up having only one-half hour to take the self-guided tour of the cheese factory.  Turns out that was about all we needed.  With Tillamook marked off our list we turned east.  A short while later we found Tad's Chicken and Dumplin's where we met with Dennis, Karen, and Garth.  I made the silly mistake of eating an order of fries and a piece of chicken.  I'd pay for this a couple hours later when we had to stop so I could wake up again.  I really don't do well eating on the road.

We got into Kennewick, Washington an hour or so later than we had planned but Juli still had dinner waiting for us.  I've known Juli for about as long as I've known anybody outside of my family.  She was a friend of my sister's when we were but wee folk many years ago.  Somehow or another we managed to maintain contact over the years and she was more than happy to put us up for the night on our way through town.

Once again getting a late start the next morning (we really need to work on that) we continued north and east into Idaho.  The goal was to ride across Lolo Pass.  Tamara has never been across this road and knows it only from my stories and the numerous times I've told her about the "Winding Road Next 77 Miles" sign at the bottom of the canyon.  So we're tooling along when just south of Greer, Idaho we got stopped at a road construction site for about 15 minutes.  Turns out this delay was actually a blessing in disguise.  More on that later.  We finally get out of the construction site and back into the twisties.  Of course now we've got a whole conga line of traffic in front of us that needs to be passed before we get to the real twisty part.  Traffic passed, we continued on.  A couple miles or so out of Lowell, Idaho is the famous "Winding Road Next 77 Miles" sign.  I gleefully pointed out the sign to Tamara as we approached it from around a corner.  Her response?  "You have got to be kidding me!!  You mean we've got seventy-seven more miles of this?"  Apparently she thought the seventy-seven miles started long before that.  At the time I wasn't sure if this was a good thing for her or not.  Either way, we still had seventy-seven miles of winding road to cover and she wasn't about to get off and walk.

The fifteen minute delay we encountered earlier came into play here.  All this time I'd been watching the GPS to keep track of the Severe Thunderstorm Warnings popping up around us and in our path.  As with the rest of this trip we seemed to be just catching the edges of the storms.  Either the leading edge or the trailing edge, but the edge none-the-less.  This leg was different only in the severity of the storms.  These storms, according to the GPS, were pretty bad.  I didn't realize how bad until halfway through a nice sweeper to the left we came across three trees down across the road.  These were no little saplings either, these were at least twelve inches in diameter.  There were many more trees down across the road along the way.  A few miles further down the road there was a crew cleaning a group of trees off the road.  I'm not sure from where the crew came nor how they decided to start at that point but for one reason or another there were even more trees across the road after we passed them.  If that road construction hadn't delayed us like it did we would have been in the middle of all that blowing of wind and falling of trees.

After clearing the pass it was just a matter of a hop, skip, and a jump before we were in Butte, Montana (gotta love Montana's 75 mph freeway speed limit) and settled down for the night at my Dad's house.

Not-so-early this morning (we REALLY gotta work on that) we headed north out of Butte.  About the time we got to Wolf Creek the wind started up out of the west.  What is it with the wind on this trip?  It's never a head wind or a tail wind.  It's always got to be a cross wind, typically from the left, and trying to tear us to pieces.  The border crossing at Sweetwater was pretty much a non-event and we were on our way once again.  Today I learned something about the XM weather service available on my GPS.  The NEXRAD RADAR does not extend very far north of the 49th parallel.  The satellite picture is there, but the RADAR is nonexistent.  I know this for a fact because as we were approaching Calgary, Alberta we were staring into the belly of a beast of a thunderstorm but nary a hint of it on the GPS.  The satellite picture showed the clouds but according to the RADAR picture it was clear as a bell.  This was far from the truth.  It was dark, it was raining like hell, and there was lightning.  None of which showed on the GPS.  In our typical fashion, we arrived just as the storm was blowing through and all we got of it was wet roads (and more wind).

Tomorrow we turn back west and head for our final state on this fifty state tour.  We'll be in Alaska for a few days before heading back to the Lower-48...

I'm not sure what kind of Internet connectivity we'll have for the next week or so.  If you don't hear from us for a while, don't get too concerned.  We'll be in good company.

-Are We There Yet?

Travel Stats:
Kilometers Traveled Today 781
Total Average Speed 95.5
Total Moving Average Speed 112
Kilometers Traveled Total (including "local" travel) 21,748

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