Rachel Pilley
yahoo-geocities1999 American Lung Association Big Ride Across America

THE BIG RIDE ACROSS AMERICA 1999

Rachel Pilley - Rider #82


JOURNAL - PART 2
JUNE 12-18
SPOKANE, WA - MISSOULA, MT


DAY 6 - JUNE 19/ 99
SPOKANE, WA - SANDPOINT, ID

People seem to be getting up ealier and earlier. This morning rumour had it that some people were up and taking down their tents at 0430 hrs. I myself didn't get up until 0520 hrs and even then it was a struggle because I was up half the4 night coughing. I don't think I really fell asleep until about 2, but amazingly enough I was up, on my bike, and feeling great. We left camp shortly after 0715 hrs and enjoyed the Centennial Trail for about 30 miles or so. IT was a little better than the trail experience into town as it was rolling along beside the Spokane River and was unihibited by cars, or intersections. Jim and I were really enjoying the ride and before we knew it we were at the Washington / Idaho state border. We snapped off a coupld momentous pictures and then mozied on again.

Once we reached Coeur D'Alene we turned to head north towards Sandpoint. For the first time this ride we really enjoyed a good tailwind. It was nothing to keep a pace of 20 plus mph going, and with a little effort were were cruising comfortably at 28 mph.

By noon we had riden over 55 mi and all piled into a cafe for lunch. It would seem as though people are beginning to get comfortable with the routine now and realize that it is definately advantageous to get the majority of miles out of the way before stopping to refuel as the going never seems as easy afterwards.

After lunch we did see some beautiful scenery. Farm houses beside small rivers with snow capped mountains in the background, and then as we entered Sandpoint we had to cross a long low bridge that crossd Lake Pend Orielle. The lake was huge and the bridge weas nice so it made for a few fun photos.

We got to camp and then after showering we were shuttled off to dinner in town. The Eagles catered our meal this evening and it was scrumptious; however, after riding 80 miles a day any food tastes good, but tonights was exceptional.

We had some time before the last shuttle back to camp so we Scott, Dave, Jim and I wandered the sleepy tourist town strip. We came across a hop-scotch painted onto the sidewalk and the next thing you know, Scott, Dave and I were tossing coins and hopping down the sidewalk having a great time. It was a good time and a good laugh.

I am back at camp now and I am running out of light. Everyone else is already in bed, some are still writing journals or postcards, but the majority are sleeping. There is one person camped about 20 ft. behind me and I can hear him snoring; I guess tonight is a night for the ear plugs.

DAY 7 - JUNE 20/99
SANDPOINT, ID - THOMPSON FALLS, MT

For every positive day that we have one has to expect an opposite and equal action.; I just didn't expect it to happen the very next day. Today we had 87 miles, which actually wound up being just about 90, and they were rolling hills. The scenery was beautiful as we rolled past Lake pend Orielle and we kept our eyes open for some moose. I wasn't fortunate enough to see any but apparently a group ahead of me did.

Right from the moment I got on my bike I knew I was in trouble. I kept on waiting for my body to warm up, but after I hit the 35 mile checkpoint I realized that it just wasn't going to happen. I think it was due to the big tasty breakfast that I had stuffed into my gutt. When we were in Sandpoint the meals were catered by the Eagles and they really outdid themselves. Dinner the night before had been exquisite and breakfast followed suite: eggs, bacon, sausage, buiscuits and gravy, cereal, yoguart, porridge, fruit, etc. etc. Let's just say it was a good Sunday morning breakfast, but perhaps it didn't break down into quick energy too quickly. The whole day was a struggle. I just couldn't get my body used to being on the bike. The scenery was great, so was the company, but it was difficult going.

The amazing thing is that when i got into camp at Thompson Falls, Montana I was hearing eveyone else voice the same complaints as I had: hard going and sore knees. It was quite bizzare how everyone had had a really great ride yesterday but a real struggle today. Mind you, when i got to camp the guy who has the cyclocomputer with the altimeter built in informed me that we had done a cumulatiev elevation gain of 3100 ft, so that made me feel not so bad about how my body was groaning and complaining.

We got shuttled off to dinner a little ways back into town and again had an orgy of food. This group had a whole room full of dessert, and they were good!

After dinner there was a little time for socializing before the fatigue started to set in. Sleep will be coming early tonight which is a good thing as we have a "century" (100 mi) to ride tomorrow. It will be my first century and I sure hope it will be a little easier on my body that today's 90 miles.

Well, I'm off to bed now. Goodnight.

DAY 8 - JUNE 21/99
SANDPOINT - MISSOULA, MT.

Summer solstice. What an appropriate day to do my first century! More about that in a bit.

Last night was quite the night. I went to bed early and then woke up at about midnight because it was raining so hard. The sound was loud enough to wake me a couple of times throughout the night despite my exhausted body. At one point I was a little worried about Dave as his tent doesn't have a full fly.

While I found the sound of the rain very relaxing and somewhat soothing to sleep to it was extremely powerful. The only unfortunate thing was that it meant we had to take down sopping wet tents. We really can't complain though because today was the first time it has rained on us and we have been going for over a week now and have had beautiful weather thus far.

Once I got all packed up and my gear loaded into the truck I jumped on my bike and headed the mile or so to breakfast. Once I got there I was not dissapointed. The food, as usual, was exceptional. I sat and talked to some people who I hadn't met to date (Mike Jeff and John.) They are from different places but obviously hang out as a group. It is funny that we seem like such and intermit group of 137 riders yet there are still a few people I haven't spoken to at all. I am sure that will change because more names are being learnt everyday.

After I finished breakfast I hit the road. I told Dave, Scott, Jim and Lisa that I was going to push on because a long hard day lay ahead of us. I really expected them to catch up to me in no time, but that was the last that I saw of them until camp that evening.

I was really surpised at how easily the miles were passing bny. The first point of reference was Wild Horse Plains, 25 miles outside of Thompsom Falls, and I made it in 1 hr and 40 min. The miles kept on sliding by and I was amazed at how great my body felt so I kept on going. My first stop was at mile 45 to refresh my gatorade and to take a pee break, but shortly after I was on the road again.

Checkpoint was in a small town called Dixon, at about 58 miles. I came in figuring that I would just stop long enough to give my number but when I saw the spread they had layed out I had to take advantage of it. Apparently the community group that had prepared our meals the day before (and for breakfast this morning) gave our crew all of the extra food that didn't get eaten. That meant that when we pulled into checkpoint there was pasta salad, rice, beans, cake etc. to fill up on. It was a nice change from the roadside cafe's that we had been stopping in, and cheaper too.

I stopped for lunch for about 30 minutes or so, put my rain pants back on as I had taken them off 10 miles back, and then continued with my journey. The rain was still coming down but it didn't bother me. Some people, especially those from southern states, had never ridden in rain before, yet I felt totally at home. I guess it helped that the only part of my body that was exposed to the elements was my face.

At about mile 65 things turned a little for the worse. Hwy 200, which we had been following for the past couple of days, joined up with Hwy 93. The traffic became heavier and there was no sholder to ride on. It seemed like even when there was no traffic coming in the other direction the driverss were unwilling to move over and grant the riders a little extra room. Later when I got to camp I heard some horror stories like people getting hit with fast food thrown from moving vehicles, attempted rubber hose whippings from ignorant passersby, and even flying couches. The couch issue was apparently a close call: a truck was driving down the Hwy with a couch in the back when it fell out of the truck, skidded across the road, and missed a cyclist by about 3 ft. All in all, it was not a pleasant stretch of road.

AT about mile 75 I began to wonder why the going had gotten so tough. My speed had slowed to 7 mph and it was all I could do to sustain that. We were obviously going uphill, but the grade was deceiving. After a long haul, and a coupld of rest breaks, I made it to the summit and began the decent into Missoula. It was a nice hill coming down except for that the heavens decided to open up just as I was picking up speed. The rain was coming down so har, along with my momentum, that it was hurting my face. It was hitting and stinging so hard that I though it might have been hail, but it wasn't.

When at last I made it into Missoula I checked my computer: Dist = 103.81 mi; Time = 6:58; Average Speed = 14.8 mph; Total distance travelled 602.1 miles. My first century out of the way! I was so proud of myself!

When I got into camp I selected an area large enough to accomodate lots of tents because it would seem that our group is growning. It originally started off in Spokane that the four of us Canucks pitched together and then Dave and Jim were with us too. From that point forward it has stayed the same but Scott has juoined uup. Today Ken from Washington DC joined us as well as well as Lynn from Colorado. Right now we have a circle of 9 tents and we have termed it Maple Leaf Lane. We got a good chuckle out of that despite the fact that we are now out numbered by Americans, however, I think that the name has kind of stuck.

There was a bit of a fiasco with the food this evening. The Church group that was supposed to have it on site but they weren't. We had to be shuttled to dinner. The food was excellent, but they weren't well prepared. They kept on running out of spagetti and had to cook more.

Worse than the problems with the food was with the facilities at the field. They ran out of hot water after about 20 people showered. This is not a good thing; 137 riders who did 100 miles in the rain unable to shower. We were a little grumpy but they made arraingements to bring in our protable showers for the morning.

After dinner a whole group of Big Riders headed off to a bar called The Press Box. We drank a few beers, played a few games of pool and then headed back to camp When we got back Laurie, Dave, Ken, Scott and I sat around Maple Leaf Lane and pooled our munchies. We enjoyed everything from Jerky to Newtons, to chips and cookies. It really is amazing how hungry we get after a couple of beers and a few miles of cycling!!

DAY 9 - JUNE 22/99
MISSOULA, MT - REST DAY

It rained last night; hard. Hard enough to wake me out of my sleep again. We got up this morning and the weather didn’t look promising. Good thing I had getting wet on the agenda for the day anyway. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. Although it was a day off I was awake at 6:50 hrs and I don’t really know how to explain it, but this trip has made me into a morning person. Breakfast was late. While we don’t get a hot breakfast on days off we still get a continental breaky but the Church group didn’t show up until after 8:30 when they were supposed to be here before 8. It wouldn’t have normally been that much of a problem but for the fact that a group of us were going white water rafting at 9. A couple of crew members and I went up to the church to see if they were setting up there or not, but by the time we got back to camp, breakfast was served.

The crew going whitewater rafting was smaller than I had anticipated, but it was a good group of people. Of the people that I usually hang out with it was only Scott, Dave and myself who went. Dave is such a character that having him along on an adventure like rafting is a riot. Every time our guide Seth told us to paddle or rest, Dave yelled out, “Captain said ‘All forward’”.

I was disappointed with the rapids. They were few and far between and not very big at all. But then, maybe I am used to BC rapids and a little spoilt by them. The water was very cold and despite the fact that we were given wetsuits and splash jackets, it was still cold without the sun to keep warming us. When we stopped for lunch we all scurried around looking for wood so that we could light a bonfire to keep warm over. We got it going and it was really nice because despite the fact that I have been camping every night, that was our first fire. Lunch was devoured and then we were back on the river again to finish out the ride. When we finished we played around on a tire swing. We tried to see how many of us we could get on and we did it minus 1. 7 out of the 8 of us all piled onto the swing.

When we got back to camp we all sought a hot shower before heading off to do our laundry. With the necessities then taken care of we jumped on our bikes and headed across the bridge into downtown. We had a craving for Thai food after someone mentioned it, so Dave, Ken, Scott and I went and filled up on spicy hot food. We left the restaurant feeling totally bloated but went riding through downtown in search of ice cream. It’s funny how we all have cravings for ice cream. We couldn’t find anywhere at first so we went to the Safeway to pick up a tub of it and while I was in the check-out line Ken came running in to tell me that a couple other riders had informed us of a place, 2 blks further on, that served Huckleberry shakes. I have never heard of Huckleberries before, but apparently they are a lot like blueberries. Anyway, everyone has been talking about Huckleberry shakes for the last couple of days and so when Dave and Scott heard were they could get them, we had to go.

After enjoying our various ice-cream desserts we headed back to camp. Scott mentioned that it would be really nice to finish out the evening with a bottle of wine and hang out by the tents. We all agreed, but as there is no alcohol allowed in camp we had to find a field to sit in. The hours passed very pleasantly; there was good conversation and it was a nice mellow close to the day.

The only eventful thing that happened was that I wandered over to the bushes to take a pee. Just as I was finding a good spot I heard a relatively large animal within a few feet of me, make a grunting - barking type noise. I took off out of there so fast. Later on Scott went to the same spot to do his business and stated that he had spotted a large raccoon. I didn’t feel so silly after that. Anyway, all in all it was a great ending to a really nice rest day.

DAY 10 - JUNE 23/99
MISSOULA, MT - REST DAY

Another day off today. It is the only time we will get two days off in a row and I can’t think of a nicer town to do it in. Missoula is great, a really neat city. Take for example the concept of a “Green bike”. Right away we when we came into town I was struck by the shear number of cyclists around, and then later on today a local told me about the green bikes. There are about 30 or 40 bikes in town that have been donated and painted green. These are community bikes. If you find one, you can use it and when you are done you just leave it on the corner for the next person. If it breaks, you can fix it yourself or take it to any bike shop and they will fix it for free. Just a little tid-bit that I thought was very representative of the Missoulian attitude.

The other really neat thing about this town is that every Wednesday from 11:30 - 1:30 an assortment of local restaurants have a food fair in the park and there is a live band playing. It was so neat. Obviously Scott and I took advantage of the opportunity as we had heard from so many locals about what a good time it is; well, they didn’t steer us wrong. It was great.
All in all it was a very full and enjoyable day today. When we all woke up (those of us in Maple Leaf Lane anyway) it was about 6:50. Considering we didn’t go to bed until almost 2 that was earlier than I would have liked, but such is life.

By the time that Ken, Scott, Laurie and I all got ready and mustered into a group to head out it was almost 10:30. First thing was to go to an internet café to check and respond to e-mails as well as update our pages. We spent at least 1.5 hrs there and the owner was so nice she gave all of us big riders a discount.

After doing the computer thing Scott and I headed off to drop off film for developing before heading back to the park for the lunch food fair thing where we met up with Ken and Laurie again.
After lunch and a little people watching we went over to a few bike stores, sporting good places and the like so that we could all make the necessary purchases for things desperately needed. I then went back to pick up my film before heading back to camp to take care of a few other chores before hitting the road again tomorrow.

It really is amazing how many little things need to be take care of and how time consuming they can become. I had to degrease and re-lube my bike, which although it is a very messy job, it is absolutely essential to a trip like this. The other chore that takes a while is the cleaning of water bottles and camelback bladders. With the heat it is a good precautionary measure to clean them out with a little bleach every few days. The bottles aren’t too bad, but allowing the camelback to drain through the hose a few times is very time consuming.

After all the chores were done we sat back and waited for other members of our usual group (Dave, Jim, Lisa) to return from a day trip to Glacier National Park, but when they didn’t return by approximately 7 pm Scott and I decided to ventur3e off for a meal without them. Instead of heading straight downtown we cycled through the university district. The streets and neighborhoods are beautiful and the motorists in this town are exceptionally considerate of cyclists, they stop and allow us to cross through busy intersections despite the fact that they have the right of way.

Anyway, as we wandered through the university district we found ourselves at the base of the foothill that has the Missoula “M”. We bumped into a couple of other riders who had just come down and they convinced us that it was worth the climb. They lent us their water bottles and off we went. The climb was steep and dusty, and it used different muscles than cycling, so it was a good workout. About 20 minutes later we reached the “M” and there was a bunch of other riders there to meet us. We hung out for a bit, took a few picutures and relaxed before beginning the descent back down.

While everyone else was heading back to camp, Scott and I went out in search of a burger for dinner. Shortly after we got back to camp the people who had gone off to Glacier Nat. Park returned. We sat around in Maple Leaf Lane and exchanged stories of the day before venturing off to our tents.

Tomorrow is the first day back in the saddle again after two days off and it is our second century day. I am looking forward to it like I never thought I would.