August 8, 2001

8/8/01 Colville, WA

57.8 / 5880 miles

Looking up in the sky at night. I'm like a kid on Christmas morning because I'm surprised by what I see - thousands of stars. But most amazing is that I can see the Milky Way. Out here I'm spared the light pollution of the big city, and see the heavens in all it's glory.

Despite the heat of the day, the grass is covered with morning dew. Each blade with a drop of water at it's tip. As I'm packing up, Suzie brings out a tray with all sorts of goodies, a banana bread loaf, orange juice, two different kinds of fruit yogurt, a banana, and a container full of cantaloupe. What a breakfast!

Because Keith and Suzie left for work, I ended up stopping back at the store to verify directions. Even then I was unsure, that's the trouble with "unmarked road" directions.

Stoppin' off at the store

It was a steady climb, first past pastures and farmers bailing hay, then heading deeper into the timber. Because the map wasn't clear, I had no choice but to keep trudging up the incline. Sweat dripped off me as the morning got hot. Finally, after eleven miles, I reached the pass.

After a quick break, I eased the bike back onto the road and let gravity take over. I know I complain a lot of climbing just to loose all that elevation gain, but these descents can be exhilarating. And this one was better than most.

This downhill was almost constant, for twelve-miles! Top speed 43MPH but I must have broke 40MPH a dozen times. The road seemed to descend forever. Sometimes you just got to yell and shout out loud. But hold on!

Hardly any traffic until I reached the main road that follows Kettle Creek. It wasn't busy but those cars and trucks that passed me were moving fast.

Believe it or not, I crossed back over the Columbia River. Here it forms Roosevelt Lake because of Coulee Dam. Bridges can put a cyclist's nerves on edge when they're narrow with not shoulder. I waited for a break in the truck traffic before making a mad dash across.

I was hungry, so I kept to Hwy-20 towards Kettle Falls instead of following the back-roads around it. By the time I reached town three-miles later, I understood the reason for the detour. One reason was a power station that used wood chips as fuel, hence all the trucks. Found a perfect little diner called the Bulldog Inn at the end of Main Street. As I ate, the lady at the table next to me kept handing me parts of the paper after she finished with them. Good food too.

Kettle Falls

Back outside, the temperature kept getting hotter. After four months outside, my skin is kind of impervious to the sun and wind. Some might call it leather. But I knew it was sun-burnt even if I couldn't feel it so I put on some sun-block. I decided to get back on the original route and keep off Hwy-20 as much as I could, even if it meant more miles.

Colville is about 4000 people and Main Street seemed to be doing OK. I even saw a yoga business. That's pretty progressive, especially when you pass the huge farm equipment lot down the street. Asked a few girls where the library was so I could check my email.

But as I was updating my website, the older woman sitting at the next computer kept interrupting me to preach of doom and gloom, conspiracy around every corner. "Enjoy your trip across the US while you can!" she ended.

I knew she wouldn't listen but I wish I could have shown her what I've found on this trip. It's sad that it seems so part of our nature to cause others pain and suffering. But I've met more people than I can count who have not only opened their hearts to a complete stranger, but their homes and wallets too. I literally couldn't have gotten this far without their compassion and goodwill. We never hear about these people on the news, but I will profess to all that will listen, that good people out there far out-number the bad. And I see a bit of Nancy in every one of them. I can just imagine a cyclist riding by her home near Sanger TX, as she invites them in out of the heat. Sometimes I feel like one of those strays she kept on bringing home. Maybe she can find me a good home.

When I was in Winthrop, Craig told me to call a buddy of his when I reached Colville. So, after a few quick directions, I found myself headed to Bob Anderson's. A kid on a bike approached me as I just finished climbing probably the only hill in Colville. "Are you Jim?" he said. Turns out Tom, Bob's youngest, was my guide and escort.

I step through the door and instantly, I've been adopted by the family. Bob just retired this April after 25-years in the Coast Guard, most of it stationed in Alaska. He was keeping busy with years of "Honey Do's" to catch up on (just kidding). Bob said he had time to look for a meaningful job instead of doing something just for a paycheck. Kelli, besides helping raise their three kids, just finished a degree in nursing and works on-call at the hospital a few blocks away.

So we (actually Bob and I) sat around the table becoming friends as Kelli whipped up a huge meal. A quick shower and dinner was ready. Also joining us was the middle child, Kalelyn. Later, she would grill me on all particulars of my adventure. She said she's more the "sleep in a bed" traveler like her mom. Missing from the table was their oldest, Jacqui, who was at work. She sounds like the adventuresome one in the family, just like her dad. Already at sixteen, she's been talking about backpacking in Europe. Too early to tell with Thomas. He's only nine but is going on his first summer camp trip with the Cub Scouts this coming weekend. He asked me all those questions only a nine-year-old could come up with. Sometimes over and over.

You would have thought they took in cross-country cyclists all the time. I felt instantly at ease and part of the family. Craig was right, this was a great place to stop.

After dinner, Bob and I drove part of my route for tomorrow, and he gave me a quick tour of his hometown. He really seemed excited about being back. He said the kids have helped a lot too because it helps him get connected to all his high school buddies from the past. I really wish him well on "his" new adventure.

Once we got back, it was time for scrumptious chocolate cake and some internet to catch up on some email. (I've gotten kind of behind and the messages keep piling up) Jacqui come home, but just like a teenager, too much energy to sit still. After going for a run and finally eating some dinner, she stopped to say hi before heading off to bed. She promised to check out the website but was glad I had met the family.

Even after it happens again and again, I'm always humbled by people who open their homes to me, a complete stranger. How am I going to repay all this kindness! I threatened Kelli by saying I was going to tell the whole world how wonderful they were.

As everyone got ready for bed, Kelli and I traded hospital stories. It's nice to refresh that "medical" connection in my brain. Us hospital folk are a subculture all to ourselves, complete with our own language and customs. To top it off, they laid out breakfast fixin's for me if I got up before them. Like I said, I've found another wonderful family!