tobacco flats, eureka, quilts.... - Seattle towards Minnesota - CycleBlaze

August 3, 2007

tobacco flats, eureka, quilts....

The campground was surprisingly quiet when I got up. When I packed up and left at 9:30 it became official: 

I'm now a criminal on the lam for not paying my campground fee.

This morning I met Larry and Mary, who are traveling from Boston to the Pacific Coast. They recently came from Glacier National Park and said it was the "high point of the trip." Almost everyone says so, which is the reason I've been looking forward to going there for years. Going-To-The-Sun highway? How evocative is THAT?

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Talking to them I realized there are advantages and disadvantages of going either direction... west to east or east to west. For me, one of the reasons to go from west to east is that I like to sleep late. Traveling west, I would be pedaling into the sun most of the day. On the other hand, one of the reasons that some people like to go east to west (not including those early risers who have ridden 60 miles by noon every day and are done) is that, after seeing Glacier National Park, pedaling through eastern Montana and North Dakota is like having a hammer dropped on your toe.

From sixty feet.

Mind you, I personally have never been to the Dakotas... this is just hearsay. I have friends from the Dakotas who tell me it's not so bad, but they tell me from their current state of residence, which doesn't start with a direction.

At 11:38 the first car of the day passed, two hours and eight minutes after I started riding this morning. The next car I saw was at 12:49.

I keep forgetting to mention the number of deer I see. There's rarely a day that I don't see a few.

About halfway through the day today I noticed a subtle shift. I realized I was riding to get somewhere. For me, on bike trips, it's the going that's fun, not the getting there. What changed? My shifters caused the shift.

When you're riding you develop an intimate relationship with your bike. You recognize every squeak, every hum, every vibration, and you know what it means. My rear shifter wasn't working right, so I was unable to use three of the gears I regularly needed.

There's a cable tension screw on the derailleur and I thought I might be able to improve the performance using that, but the difficulty is that, in order to make that adjustment I would have to go through a Keystone Cops routine: I have to ride the bike, hop off, lean the bike against something, run behind the bike, make the adjustment, hop back on, check the shifting, and repeat fifteen times. Besides, in addition to the derailleur, the shifter itself (which is at the end of the handlebars) was making a last-gasp dying sound every time I change gears.

So now, although I'm definitely enjoying the getting there, I find myself wanting to get somewhere, and that's not normal for me on a bike trip.

I told you in the FAQ that I take one day a week off and not ride (all bicycle tourists I know do this). I've been riding for almost two weeks straight without a break, and I think it's catching up to me. I think if I can make it to Whitefish tomorrow I'll get a motel and take a day off.

There I go again... riding to get somewhere.

Getting a motel tonight will be nice, too. I'm really looking forward to shower.

I had a great tailwind most of the day, and was able to go 10-15 mph uphill. The wind was especially evident when I crossed the bridge at Lake Kookanusa and it changed to a sidewind.

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The area around Eureka, my stopping point for the day, is called Tobacco Flats.

I arrived in Eureka (pop 1,017) at 3:00, hot and ready to find a motel and take a shower. At the Information Center a woman named Linda was kind enough to make calls to the only two motels for me... both were booked.

"There's a quilt show this weekend," she said. "It's the biggest weekend of the year."

First Down River Days, then the baseball tournament, and now the Quilt Show! Aaarrgh! What's next? An Elvis Impersonator's Convention? The International Three Stooges Lookalike Contest?

Linda called City Hall and we learned that I can camp at the City Park. It has a bathroom and a shower. I just need to go to the dispatcher's office and make a $5.00 "donation" and give them $5.00 for a key deposit.

On the way to the dispatcher's office I stopped at the public library. It's closed on Fridays and, of course, today is Friday.

The dispatcher on duty looked more like a football coach than a guy who sits at a desk and answers 911 calls. He was compact and muscular, and the tight shirt he wore showed off the bulges, but it also accentuated the bulge at his waistline. He had a flat top haircut.

I gave him my $10.00 and received a key to the bathroom/shower in return.

"The sprinklers come on at 9:00. They make a great alarm clock." Then he gave a short, mean laugh, and it made me wonder if he's ever moved the clock ahead.

From there I rode to Kootenai Pizza, where I was only able to eat half of a small pizza. I sat in the corner, charging my PDA, and fell asleep.

When I woke up thirty minutes later, I was the only customer there. The owner was behind the counter around the corner making the best pizzas in town. I had a scoop of ice cream and chatted with him a few minutes, learning about all the things I could do in town that evening. The inclusive list:
1) going to see The Transformers at the movie theater or
2) going to one of the bars to do some people watching. I also learned from him that the high tomorrow is only supposed to be 88.

At the park, I set up my tent, then lay in the cool grass blogging until the thermometer finally dropped below the point at which the exertion of inhaling and exhaling caused massive perspiration.

The bathroom/shower was a room with a concrete floor, measuring about five by eight feet. It was in the corner of the EMS building, but the entrance was only from the outside. The shower itself was in the corner of the bathroom and had everything I needed: hot and cold running water.

After the shower I loaded up my dirty laundry into my now empty pannier bag (the one that held my tent/rainfly) and pedaled to the laundromat where I spent the next hour washing/drying my clothes.

Back at the tent I thought about going to the bar to watch people but decided to hang out in my tent and write.

It was still light at 10:00. I can tell I'm pretty far north.

Just about every time I stop, someone mentions the weather and how unseasonably hot it's been. I drank a lot today in order to stay hydrated: 64 ounces of Gatorade, three water bottles, and four pops.

Miles 53.27
Maximum speed 72.9 mph
Average speed 11.3 mph
Time 4:47:48
Cumulative miles 599.16

Today's ride: 53 miles (85 km)
Total: 599 miles (964 km)

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