Day 25 Wallace to Mullan, Idaho - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

May 25, 2011

Day 25 Wallace to Mullan, Idaho

Why do motel rooms have so many mirrors? Why do they have mirrors at all? The person looking back at me from the mirror perversely placed behind the desk looks tired. A lot more tired than I actually feel, but then the mirror doesn't lie.

Fortunately, today was planned as a rest day. At least that is how it started out. The idea was to check out the railway museum in Wallace, do the walking tour of the historic buildings, and maybe go on the silver mine tour. Then we would hop up the road to Mullan to take the Johansens up on the offer of a place to stay that they had made when we met them on the trail. That all changed as the TV, left on overnight, seeped into our consciousness with its repeating weather forecast. A cold front was coming in, temperatures would drop 20 degrees, the snow level on the Lookout Pass would descend to 3000 feet. The summit of the Pass is at 4700 feet.

The day was sunny and warm, but that forecast could not be ignored. We decided to go up to Mullan (after a running tour of the train museum) and let Nancy Johansen know that we could not stay, but would make a daring immediate assault on the Pass ahead of the storm.

Wallace - maybe next time
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Historic Wallace I
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Historic Wallace II
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Historic Wallace III
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I have finally arrived at the Center of the Universe! (Try to prove otherwise)
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Historic Wallace IV
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Historic Wallace V
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Historic Wallace VI
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This is also on the list for next time. Do they have free samples?
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Despite this time sensitive plan, we still had to see the train museum. The railroad had been central to this area's history, but also the rail trails were central to our appreciation of the place today. Just yesterday, Harley had had to remind me that that multiuse trail from Mullan to the top of the Pass is called the Northern Pacific rail trail. That is how little I knew of the Northern Pacific. Now we could not miss the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum!

The Railroad Museum
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The first thing in the museum is naturally the gift shop. You would think that with no carrying capacity, we would be immune to making any purchases. Yes, but they have Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes T shirts! They have Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bumper stickers! They probably have Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bubble gum cards! We bought it all (almost)! The reason is that the trail to us is a BIG THING. It is absolutely the greatest. We can't get over it. (Are you getting the message?).

The second thing in the museum is a tribute to Harry Magnuson who led a sixteen year successful battle to save Wallace and its many historic buildings from being demolished to make room for the I-90. As cyclists we are not necessarily anti-car, but we are against letting the car willy nilly destroy countryside, quiet, and heritage. What were these I-90 maniacs thinking?

The rest of the museum comprised interesting photographic records of the railway years. We could have spent a lot longer with these, but the Pass and the Rain/Snow forced us out.

What were the crazy I-90 people thinking??
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Buy me this!
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Many photos like this in the museum.
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Evan, maybe you will learn these?
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Buy me these too.
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Last look at Wallace.
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The last 12 km of the Trail, up to Mullan were bittersweet as we really did not want the trail to end. We spent the time figuring when and how we would come back - to ride it end to end and then back again.

The trail sneaks underneath, unbeknown to those thundering by on I-90 above
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The trail map, soon to be all used up.
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This motorized vehicle had to wait for us
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The trail up to Mullan.
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In Mullan, it was easy to find the Johansen family.

It was easy to find the "Drug Store" studio of the Johansens.
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They have their weaving studio in a two story building in the centre of town that formerly housed a drug store. Other parts of the building also formerly served as the Post Office, and a liquor store. Now it is their residence, studio, auxiliary studio, store rooms, bicycle room, and more.

Do you have a mental image of a large, light, open space studio - maybe somewhere in a former warehouse in New York? A place of creativity and taste? A place where you could really live and enjoy yourself? Guess what - it's in Mullan, Idaho.

We found Nancy and son Peder in the studio. Nancy understood our urgency about the Pass, but offered a different solution. We could stay the night, and in the morning we could throw our bikes in her trailer and get a lift to the top. From there we could glide down to some safe haven, rain and snow or not.

Would it be cheating to ride to the top? I thought so. Dodie thought not. Our roommate agreement is similar to that of Sheldon and Leonard in the Big Bang Theory. Dodie breaks all tie votes. We stayed.

This turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip.

First Nancy and Peder bought us lunch, at the Coyote Café, across the street from the studio. The Café produces very decent food. Although the selections are fairly standard, the burgers, sandwiches, etc. feature generous amounts of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and such like. The fries were also good. Best, in this small town people in the café know each other, and they know Nancy and Peder. So this was our entrée to speak to several of them. Getting to do that is way better than just blowing through a place, on the I-90, or even on a bike trail.

Decent food at the Coyote.
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The Trail is BIG here. This sheet found in the Coyote.
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Mullan has an alpine feel. Duh!
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One of the people in the Café was Evelyn Smith.

Evelyn Smith can still eat pastrami with the best of them.
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The Museum is opened just for us.
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The collection is extensive.
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Mullan Museum I
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Mullan Museum II
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Mullan Museum III
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Mullan Museum IV
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Mullan Museum V
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Mullan Museum VI
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Mullan Museum VII
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Mullan Museum VIII
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Mullan Museum IX
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Mullan Museum X
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Mullan Museum XI Widows of miners sometimes turned to making mooshshine for a living.
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Dodie learns from Evelyn Smith
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The building that now houses the Johansen studio, showing the fire department 1911
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In the museum, a rarely opened old family album contains stunning photos
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A lovely child and outfit.
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In part Evelyn reminded us of Dodie's Mom, who we sorely miss, but she is of course her own person, and we hope we have made a new friend who we can visit again.

Nancy, Evelyn, and Dodie study a display in the Mullan museum.
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Back to the studio and the Johansens. We keep expressing surprise about the wonderful people we are meeting on this trip. You would think everyone at home is an ogre. But we have met a lot of people in life, and these truly are standouts.

It's nothing that Nancy and Peder (and Harley in the background, though he is in Moscow today, where he is a Geography professor at the University of Idaho) exactly did to blow their horn. It's just looking at their kindness to us, their studio(s) and home, their books, their artistic works, their support of the community, their work on documenting the history of Mullan and the history of the Finnish people here, their stable of ten or more bicycles of all styles (including Burley tandem, and a recumbent) that makes us so glad that Nancy had that flat on the trail, which allowed us to meet them.

Peder too is a wonder. He has a disability that mostly manifests as a difficulty with speech. Yet what he says and does is clear and insightful, and at 33 we see him as a wonderful son to Nancy and Harley. In addition, he is smitten with his niece Johanna, and carries many pictures of her in his cell phone. He, in turn, is her favourite. Peder learned weaving from his mother, and as far as we can see, he is now an expert in his own right.

When trying to scope out ways over the Pass by bike trail, we often found reference to the 'MultiUse Trail' or 'Northern Pacific Trail' upwards from Mullan, and perhaps down the other side as far as Saltese or St. Regis. But we never could really understand what this trail was from maps we had.

Nancy and Peder drove us up to this trail so we could see it for ourselves. The road narrowed a bit alarmingly, and there was some snow, but we made our way to what might be considered the trail head. This was a spot with a restroom, and trailheads leading to two local lakes. From here the first extreme switchback of the former railroad also was accessible. That is, except for the snow!

Once the snow is gone, one can use this trail to the summit and then join the Trail of the Hiawatha, down the other side to Pearson and Avery. The brake cables of Nancy and Harley's bikes boast Trail of the Hiawatha trail pass stickers. We've gotta come back and do this route!

The road to the Multiuse Trail trailhead
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The trail - way too much snow still.
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But this sign and trail ahead shows us what we had only read about does exist.
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Nancy ad Dodie examine conditions at the trail head.
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Signage at the trailhead covers routes to the lakes plus to the Trail of the Hiawatha
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Detail of the sign, showing the extreme switchback. Note the number of screws and washers, presumably to discourage vandals.
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You will need to zoom on this to see and understand the "you are here".
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One corner of the creative Johansen studio.
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The bikes have their own section of our own studio.
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Classic Motobecane.
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At least seven beautiful looms are in the main studio.
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Nancy explains loom features.
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One of Peder's pieces is famous!
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Peder.
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Peder at one loom.
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Many books on Scandinavia and on weaving.
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"Window to the World" by Peder
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Nancy and Dan White. Dan agreed to ferry our sorry butts to the top of the pass tomorrow. He runs the Lookout Motel in Mullan.
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The Johansens are bike lovers!
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Forrest, Beth, and Sprocket, whom we met in the street, knew a lot about local and not so local trails and roads.
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Today's ride: 14 km (9 miles)
Total: 1,490 km (925 miles)

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Marsha AbbottThe Drug Store you visited in Mullan, Idaho was my Grandfather's Drug Store. Harwoods Drug Store, owned by pharmacist Arthur J. Harwood was the quintessential old fashioned Rexall Drug complete with ice cream counter (serving hard ice cream, malts & milkshakes, handmade sodas, cherry coke & Green Rivers) and penny candy bins circa... It's A Wonderful Life. Unfortunately, when he died, the store was sold to an investor who, instead of preserving the multitude of historical artifacts, sold them to various buyers around the country. That included penny candy bins, the marble topped ice cream counter, display counters, pharmacy counter & shelves, vintage grandfather clock, & old fashioned cash registers etc. It was gutted. Harwoods was a going concern. I can still hear the sound of the screen door closing on a beautiful summer day. Art had 4 children. I am the daughter of one of his daughters. My childhood summers were spent in Mullan, swimming in the outdoor pool (no heating...just mountain water), picking huckleberries, and hoping Gramps would let me rearrange his jewelry counter (again). Loved your story.
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10 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Marsha AbbottHi Marsha, that's a wonderful story. Even though 10 years have passed, our time in your grandfather's store is clear in our memory. We did return a few times, and once did manage to say hello to Nancy and Peder. Sadly we later learned that Harley had died, and after that could get no further email responses from the Johansens. Do you know what is happening at the store in the present? One time when we returned, Dan White seemed to be installing a bowling alley nearby. I wonder what happened with that?
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10 months ago