Monday, November 24, 2014

Tour of Idaho T1 2014: PTSD & The Search for Spot

Back at Home

It was "mission accomplished" and all was well. I had conquered the challenge and could resume my normal life. But I found that psychologically, it was a hard thing to do. Over the past several weeks (and especially during my Tour week) I had been following every detail on Martin's Tour of Idaho Facebook group. This Facebook page was where everyone posted their questions, comments and ride reports. Most importantly, it's where Martin communicated announcements, changes to the route and the progress of the guys who were riding the Tour for points. I was still following every detail. I was happy to be done, but I also felt like I wanted to go back and ride some more.

Shawn & Mike

When I last saw Shawn and Mike, it was the morning of Day 6 in Lowell. The gas station had opened late, so we were getting a late start. I got out of there as soon as I could, since I was determined to make it to Wallace that night. Shawn and Mike had decided to shorten Day 6 by only riding about 50 miles of the route for the day, then taking a highway detour up to The Lochsa Lodge. They'd stay the night there and then go to Wallace the following day, putting them one day behind me.

Mike and Shawn at Sundance LO
From what I understand, things didn't go exactly like that. I'm not sure what time they finally got going out of Lowell, but they rode the first 50 miles over the Van Camp and Fish Butte trails, and then rode up to The Lochsa Lodge. But there were no rooms available. They still had a good amount of daylight left, so they decided to keep going. They went back down US 12 and came to the same construction closure on the Saddle Camp road that had sent me on a 30-mile detour. If they had known about this closure and the route around that I had taken, they could have gone around this closure without extra time or miles, since they were coming from the other direction on Highway 12. But as it turned out, they ended up waiting at the construction site until the crew was done for the day, which was about 4 pm.

They rode all of Windy Ridge that evening and made it out to the 4th of July Creek trail head on the North Fork of the Clearwater, then turned up FS 250 and ended up staying the night, under the stars, at the Noe Creek Campground. That must have been quite a night -- the thunder and lightning storm that I went through along the state line road above Wallace also passed over them that night as they tried to sleep on the ground with no shelter. I joked with Mike later that they should have packed that abandoned raft they almost used for shelter the previous night on the Selway. Sleeping on the ground on a stormy night with no tent, sleeping bags, pillows, hair dryers... I have a feeling they didn't get much real rest that night. ;-)

Mike's new, well-ventilated boot
At first light, they hit the route again and ended up in Wallace by about 10 am. They decided to just spend a nice, restful day there and finish Day 7 the next day. They were in Wallace during the annual Huckleberry Festival, so they got to experience some authentic North Idaho culture.

Day 7 (Day 8 for them) was also wet, but went just fine and they made it to Sundance Lookout. I briefly thought about jumping on my big bike and meeting them up there, but I wasn't all that eager to go out into the wet and cold again. I wanted to re-experience some of the Tour, but not THAT part of it. ;-)

The day after they finished, Mike posted to the Facebook group that he had gone to the doctor to have his ankle checked out. Turned out it was actually broken! What??? I have had a lot of sprained ankles in the past, but had never broken a bone. Mike had been limping around and his ankle looked swollen and bruised, but he was still able to put some weight on it and it seemed to be improving each day. I just thought it has a painful sprain, but I guess I should leave the medial diagnoses to the docs. ;-) They told him at first that they were going to do surgery, but they decided to just give him a walking boot and let it heal. But wow, what a story! Mike had finished the second half of the Tour with a broken ankle. He's a super nice guy, but also a true tough guy who has the x-rays to prove it! And Shawn deserves a ton of credit as well... I don't think Mike would have been able to make it without the help and encouragement of his riding buddy.

Martin made this Facebook post a couple days later:
Alright folks. Will you please join me in welcoming Steve Taylor (#33), Shawn Black (#34) and Mike Powell (#35) to the fold. Tracks verified. Awesome, awesome job fellas.
So there it was, the accomplishment was official -- I was #33!


I was able to sleep in my own bed the night after I finished the Tour, but it was the first night of many in a row where I didn't sleep well at all. Every night, my mind would be racing with thoughts of still being on the Tour. I would be lying in bed in the middle of the night, semi-awake, thinking that I had been sleeping along the trail somewhere and I needed to get up, get back on the bike and get going. Looking back now at the first two weeks after finishing the Tour, it's obvious that I was going through Post Tour Stress Disorder. LOL. I was still watching the progress and pictures from other riders who were riding the Tour and just wanting to be out there. When I slept at night, my mind thought I WAS still out there. During the day, I was constantly feeling this urge to get out there again.

A Facebook comment I made around that time:
It's been a weird week for me too. I have dreams that I'm still riding. I half-wake up in the middle of the night in my dark bedroom and I think that I'm just sleeping along the trail somewhere and it's time to go go go. During the day at work all I can think about is riding Windy Ridge again. 99% of the people I work with have no idea what I did last week, and they still wouldn't get it even if I tried to explain it to them. I thought I wouldn't want to get anywhere near my bike after I finished the tour, but it's the opposite. I sure didn't expect this feeling of withdrawal that I have.
I should add, though, one cool story of something that happened during that first week back at work. It involved Mark Browning, who is an old friend of Martin's and a friend of mine at NIC, and Facebook friends with both of us. This is a message I sent Martin:
More evidence that our friend Mark Browning is a good guy... we had an all-staff meeting yesterday here at NIC.  Mark, being the bigshot VP that he is, was responsible for getting everyone settled down to start the meeting and introducing our guest speaker. I was just standing in the back of the room thinking about how I'd rather be out on a trail when he got up in the front of the room and said "ok folks, we're about to start" and then he saw me in the back and smiled and said "and if Steve Taylor would just find a seat we could begin" then he said "good job on T1, by the way".  He has a zillion FB friends, so I had no idea that he'd notice what I had been up to.  It was pretty cool.
So it helped me get through the week to know that someone at work noticed and actually said something to me across a room full of people who had no idea what he was talking about. :-)

The Search for Spot

(photo credit)
One of the groups riding the Tour after me was a pair of guys from Calgary that everyone called "Team Canada". These guys were tearing through the Tour and looked like they were having a blast and handling all the riding challenges with ease. They also stopped in Challis and got help from Mike McGowan and commented on what a great experience it was to talk to Mike and see his collection of vintage bikes and memorabilia.

When they were riding Day 6, Martin posted that he was worried about Team Canada. He said that their Spot (satellite tracking device) had stopped moving along the Windy Ridge trail for the past four hours and he was concerned that they were having mechanical trouble, but hoping that's all it was. We were all concerned for them, knowing that Day 6 is so long and in areas so remote that you can't afford to have any big setbacks. I was considering loading up my truck and going on a search and rescue mission. I had been looking for an excuse to ride Windy Ridge again, but I hadn't really planned on doing it as part of a search and rescue mission for hurt riders.

A "Spot 2" just like Team Canada's
(photo credit)
Someone speculated that maybe they just lost their Spot and continued on without it. Well, within about 20 minutes after that, and a few hours after Martin had reported that their Spot had stopped moving, they posted on Facebook that they were safely in Wallace, but had lost their Spot! We were all happy to hear that, and my mind immediately jumped to the idea of traveling down there to find their lost Spot. It would be the perfect excuse to get out there again, and especially to return to the North Fork of the Clearwater and the Windy Ridge trail.

Calvin Everitt, of Team Canada, posted this on Facebook the following morning:
Getting ready for the last leg. Here is the last known location of my dog spot if anyone finds him I will make a another donation to his favorite site motorcycle jazz. He was last seen at this location. 46.57397. -115.2562
This was great -- now I would not only be helping myself out of the withdrawal I had been going through, but I'd be facilitating a donation to MoJazz, which is always a good thing.

I asked Calvin one last time if they had any news:
Any word on Spot? I'm thinking about going on a rescue mission later today if he hasn't been found yet.
And got this answer:
That would be awesome steve, I'm afraid all we have now is his last coordinates.
I loaded the waypoint into my navigation app on my phone and could see the exact location where Spot was supposed to be. There was one other group of three riders passing by that location that day, so I checked with them before deciding to go. They said that they hadn't seen Spot, so he was still out there and needed to be rescued. I loaded up my truck with Wralf, all my gear and a sleeping bag and pad. I planned on just sleeping in the truck that night, then riding and coming home the following day.

On FS 250 at Hoodoo Pass, looking down into the North Fork of the Clearwater drainage
Another shot from Hoodoo Pass... I would guess that things aren't usually this green on August 31, but it had been a wet year.
I found a nice camp spot along the North Fork, just a half mile or so up the river from the Noe Creek campground.
North Fork of the Clearwater next to my camp spot.
Another beautiful shot of the North Fork.
The night before the search, obviously suffering the full effects of PTSD.
Sunset on the North Fork that night.
I rolled out my sleeping mat and bag in the back seat of the truck and even had my favorite pillow. I was actually surprised at how comfy it was, and there wasn't a sound to be heard other than the gentle whisper of the river next to my camp site. It was just so peaceful... I didn't even realize it at the time, but this was the big turning point in my sleeping troubles. I had experienced vivid dreams that kept me from sleeping through the night ever since finishing my Tour. But this night in the truck, on the eve of returning to Windy Ridge, after two solid weeks of restless nights, I slept great! This turned out being exactly what I needed and I didn't have any more sleep-disrupting dreams after this. Pretty cool.

Delicious camping breakfast of oatmeal and an energy shot.
This is the start of the trail that Team Canada had taken, which was an alternate that I had missed. Spot was supposed to be located near the intersection of this trail and Windy Ridge.

I took a short side trail to Junction Mountain Lookout, which was a highlight of the day.

The view to the north from Junction Mountain, which gives you a great look up the bottom of Black Canyon
Beautiful spot along the Windy Bill trail.
I was glad this one had been taken care of already, because it was probably too big and on too steep of a slope to jump over while riding solo. I would have been sawing for a while.
A neat old bridge on the Windy Bill trail... getting close to Spot
When I first started up this trail in the morning, it was totally covered in horse tracks. I was a little concerned about running into a group of horses, since the trail was narrow and steep and it would probably be hard to get past. But within a quarter mile, there was a fork in the trail, and the one I needed to take had no horse tracks, but just faint motorcycle tracks. So I rode for several miles without worrying about horses. But then I came to another intersection and the horse tracks were back. I followed these tracks for at least two or three miles until I came to what was apparently their destination. It was a flat creek-bottom area that looked like a popular hunting camp -- I was guessing that the group of horseback riders had been there in the last day or two. But it was a mess! The trail was very rough and dug out from all the horse traffic and the camp area was even worse -- the ground was totally torn up (especially near the trees where the horses had been tied up), there was hay and manure everywhere, and there was even a little garbage left behind. I'm personally not against horses -- I think they're great animals who are intelligent, gentle giants who can be great companions out in the woods -- but I get tired of them getting a "free pass" when it comes to riding on trails. The anti-motorized crowd complains about damage done to trails by motorcycles, but I can tell you that horses are far more damaging than responsibly-ridden bikes, and the horseback riders seem entitled to ride anywhere they please.

Anyway, after leaving Camp Crap, I was getting very close to Spot. Trying to help figure out where exactly to focus my search, I had been thinking a lot about scenarios to explain how Spot could have been lost. I knew that three other guys had ridden the route since then and didn't find Spot (I'd find out later they had taken the alternate route, continuing on Windy Ridge and going over Cook Mountain, so they didn't actually ride past Spot). So I was imagining that Spot was probably not in plain sight, and most likely tumbled off the trail when Team Canada was riding a rough section, or maybe there was a spot where a tree was down and they had to ride just off the trail to get over. So as I was getting very close to the waypoint on my navigation, I was paying a lot more attention to the area off the trail in the tall grass and bushes... and then I almost ran over it! Spot WAS right in plain sight in the middle of a smooth section of trail. I was surprised to see that he was still blinking, and still tracking, after about three days. And if he had fallen in the trail just about a half mile further down the trail, he probably would have been trampled by horses.

I picked him up, told him everything would be okay, and put him in my pocket. Since he still had power, I knew that his owner would probably notice that he was on the move, so I was looking forward to that.

A side trail I took around a different side of Cook Mountain... it was pretty primitive, but beautiful.
These Windy Ridge flowers sure light up when the sun comes out.
A nice view along Windy Ridge near Camp George
This is another spot where I got a picture during my Tour, but it was much prettier on this day with the sunshine.
This is another trail in the area that I rode that day

I rode a few extra miles of roads and trails that day before heading back down to the truck. I had ridden a really nice loop of single track that day, including most of Windy Ridge and the Windy Bill / Junction Mountain trail, which was a Tour of Idaho alternate that I had missed on my Tour two weeks prior. By the time I got back to the truck, it was mid-afternoon and I had done all the riding I cared to do that day. It had only ridden 75 miles, which showed me that I was still capable of feeling like I had ridden a full day without riding over 200. ;-)

I put Spot up on the dash so he could get a good view of the sky and hit the road, this time driving down the North Fork all the way to Pierce and back home through Lewiston and Moscow. Once I got back into cell range, I started seeing the talk on Facebook.

Calvin said:
So it looks like someone has resurrected spot and he is moving. 46.56872 -115.26231. We'll just have to wait to see who it is.
Looks spot is at a full on sprint, just hit the 250 at 445 pm. 46.68454 -115.35675
When I got in cell range, I added:
I told you I was going to rescue him.
Steve I was really stoked to get an email from spot. Where was he? On the trail or the ditch? Thanks buddy I owe you one.
Right in the middle of the trail, about a quarter mile from the windy bill - windy ridge junction... which is exactly where he told us he was.
Calvin was very appreciative and even offered to pay for my fuel for the trip. I told him just to include it in his donation to MoJazz. I really didn't care about the cost and the time it took. It was very therapeutic and cured my PTSD.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tour of Idaho T1 2014: Day 7, Wallace to Sundance Lookout

Red Light Garage (photo credit)
Knowing that Day 7 was shorter and easier than just about any other day on the Tour (especially with the new finish at Sundance Mountain), I wasn't in a hurry to get going out of Wallace. I had also been up very late and had Kathy with me in the morning, so I was going to enjoy a nice, relaxing breakfast before leaving.

We walked over to the Red Light Garage restaurant for breakfast. It's quite a charming little place, just like so much of Wallace, where old buildings are re-purposed and remodeled into various businesses.

The Red Light Garage, decorated from floor to ceiling
After a very nice breakfast with Kathy, I got geared up, packed up and ready to go for the last day.

Getting ready for one more day!
I had mixed feelings getting ready that last morning. I was almost finished with a major accomplishment that I had been planning for the past several months, but I kind of didn't want it to be over. During the previous six days, I was living the T1. Every moment of the day and night had been about the Tour of Idaho. When I wasn't riding the bike, I was thinking about the bike, or the route, or what to eat, where to sleep, and on and on. It's just such an engrossing experience, and it's hard to be done and imagine going back to your ordinary life. The mental focus required really challenges your ability to stay on task -- allowing your concentration to lapse while riding can be disastrous. When you eat, breathe and sleep one thing for hours at a time over several straight days, it's a little hard to be done. I wanted to be done, but strangely, I didn't.

A couple of very nice Facebook posts by Martin that morning:
It looks like Steve Taylor will finish a very adventurous T1 epic today! Keep your fingers crossed!
 I want to give Steve Taylor props for his meticulous preparation - among the best I've encountered. I'll still have to look over his track, but if it's as good as I think that it is, his is a stand out trip. There are some folks who venture to the flagpole less prepared and I know beyond a reasonable certainty that if their gps breaks they will be eaten by bears before they ever get out of the woods. Yet Steve had enough comprehension of the geography of Idaho and knowledge of the roads and trails that he was able to improvise, on the fly, a way around the fires north of Elk City. And he kept going! I think that Steve now understands our recommendation concerning bright lights. Anyway, good on ya man. Best of luck today!
Leaving Wallace, it was a cool, damp-feeling morning. The skies were overcast, and you could tell that it wasn't going to be a warm, sunshiny day. I rode as hard and fast as my hands would allow to get as many miles behind me as I could while it wasn't yet raining. As I climbed up out of Wallace into higher elevations, it started getting colder. I was slowing down a lot to shake out and flex my hands to try to deal with the numbness that now seemed worse in the cold.

The fog rolling in early on Day 7
It seemed like having a low side crash had become a daily occurrence, but this time I hit the ground a little harder. I overcooked a curve to the left and locked up the back brake trying to get slowed down. The rear end slid to the right and Wralf and I went down to the ground. It happened in a fairly wide spot in the road, so I was never in any danger of going off the road, but it's still not much fun to crash. I wasn't hurt and neither was the bike, so I picked it up and continued.

Guess what? Another low side crash.

Moon Saddle
Al at Moon Saddle... I think he prefers the sunshine.
I left the bike idling while I took the above picture of Al and I realized that he looked as cold as I was and was probably shivering more than me:

Shortly after leaving Moon Saddle, the rain came. I found a spot, once again, to hide out in the trees to try to miss the heaviest part of the shower, but it was a heavy rain and the branches weren't very thick. I was getting wet anyway, and I knew that I would have dry clothes at the end of the day, so I took off out into the rain.

I started having a lot of trouble with my touchscreen around this time. I was having a really hard time even getting it to work at all without going crazy, because I didn't have any way to get it dry and no way to keep the rain off the screen as I was trying to use it. I was also having trouble getting my phone to charge. Through the entire Tour to this point, my phone was set to full brightness, set to never go to sleep, displaying real time navigation and recording a track. Doing all these tasks at the same time required me to to have it plugged into power the whole time, or else the battery would die pretty quickly. For some reason, probably because of the wet, the different charging methods I had (a charger powered off the bike's battery and a spare battery pack) weren't providing enough power to stay ahead. As I went, my battery was slowly losing charge. If I kept using it the way I had been, it would be completely dead well before the end of the day. If I remember correctly, I think it was down to 27% when I decided to power off the display, put the phone in one of my bags, and only get it out when I really needed it. The good news was that I was getting close to the point where I wouldn't need my navigation any more the rest of the way, since I was now riding in my back yard.

My Facebook post that I wrote to go with the picture below:
Pretty wet today... the worst part is that my touchscreen phone that I use for navigation goes crazy when it's wet. So right now I'm hunkered under a tree hoping the rain lets up. But it just feels like a cold, drizzly all day thing.
It was wet, cold and miserable for about an hour.
The road just below Spyglass Peak
Finally, about the time I passed by Spyglass Peak, the rain let up. Plus, I was now at the point where I didn't need navigation at all for rest of the day. From Spyglass, the route follows the main road down to Magee, then up Independence Creek and then the 14-mile Independence Creek trail. I had ridden this trail a few times already this year, so I was in very familiar territory.

By the time I was starting up the Independence Creek Trail, the sun was trying to poke out. That sure was a welcome sight, since I was so cold after the wet road ride across the ridge near Spyglass. Now there was a little sunshine and I was riding a trail, which would naturally warm me up anyway.

The trail was VERY wet, slippery and full of deep puddles for the whole way until it got rocky and steep near the top. I came out on Bunco Road at the upper end and knew that it was just a matter of time now.

Independence Creek Trail
Facebook post: "Made it through Independence
Creek trail and now on Bunco Road and FLYING

toward the finish, trying to beat the next
storm system coming my way."
My Facebook post from Bunco Road:
I really got dumped on today in the mountains above Wallace. Wet and cold. But the weather cleared for my run through Independence. Really wet and sloppy, but fun. On Bunco now heading for Anuth.
Once I was on Bunco and on such a familiar road and so close to the finish, I rode like a mad man. Other than my hands being sore, I felt great! Riding for that many hours for that many days put me in a mental state of complete confidence in my ability to handle the bike. As long as I was careful on corners and easy on the back brake, I could go as fast as I dared... and I was being pretty daring.

When I was first reading about the Tour of Idaho almost a year before this time, there were some things that I thought would happen that didn't. One thing that I thought was that I would have a really hard time passing within 10 minutes of my house without wanting to just go home and be done. Wow, that was SO wrong! I was so motivated to keep going and I was so excited to be almost to the finish! I thought my butt would be totally sore, but it wasn't, thanks to my new seat.

Coming down the hill on Bunco Road gave me a good view to the west, and it didn't look good. I could see some really dark clouds coming, so that motivated me to go even faster, without any stops or breaks. If I could ride fast enough, maybe I could beat the rain.

Near the top of Hoodoo Mountain... dark clouds coming.
Hoodoo Mountain
From the bottom of Bunco, through Athol, then Clagstone Road to Blanchard, I was going as fast as I could. I could see that rain was coming, but I was trying to get to the finish before it hit. I turned to go up Hoodoo Mountain and tore up that road, sliding around almost every corner like a flat track racer.

I stopped at the top of Hoodoo to quickly grab a picture, and then I was off to Priest River. I could see that I wouldn't beat the rain -- the dark clouds to the west extended to the north where it was obvious that there was already some serious rain coming down on Priest River and Priest Lake, so I was heading right into it. But it didn't matter -- there was a warm, dry truck with a change of clothes waiting for me out there somewhere.

Just as I was getting to Priest River, the cold rain started coming down on me. The temperature was only in the 50's, which was just so unexpected for mid-August. This time, I didn't even think about taking cover from the rain -- I was so close to the end and I knew that even if I got soaked, it wouldn't be for long.

I hadn't spoken with Kathy since that morning in Wallace, but she was doing an awesome job of keeping track of where I was by watching my tracking points. It was awesome that she was just as excited as I was about me finishing the Tour. She posted this on Facebook:
So proud of my husband! He's currently in the home stretch...
With perfect timing, she left home and was waiting on the road close to the Sundance Mountain Lodge, which is right at the bottom of the hill before you start climbing the mountain. At this point, I had been riding through a cold, miserable rain, but I wasn't going to stop. I rolled right up to the driver side window and said "I'm almost done! I'll see you in a few minutes!".

This was a part of the route that I hadn't ridden before. Martin had only announced that the new finish was going to be at Sundance Mountain after I had already started my Tour. I had only loaded the new GPS track showing the way that morning while sitting at breakfast in Wallace, but I didn't even bother getting my phone out. It was so wet that it probably wouldn't have worked, plus as far as I knew, the battery was dead anyway. I figured "how hard can it be to find the top of a mountain?"

Sundance Mountain Lookout!
Fortunately, my instincts led me directly up the right road road. It was a good, freshly-improved gravel road as it climbed, and then, about a mile from the top, I turned off onto a rocky, steep jeep trail. Riding up this rough road was a little slow-going, but it helped to warm me up a bit.

And finally, there it was! By the time I got to the top, the rain had stopped, and the clouds cleared away just enough to reveal a decent view of Priest Lake and the Selkirks.

I climbed up the tower and had a nice visit with Chuck, who was the volunteer manning the lookout. He invited me inside where he had a heater, and man, did that feel good! When I took my phone out of my bag, I was surprised to see that it still had about 10% left on the battery, so I stopped the track recorder, got a few pictures, posted on Facebook and got a text from Kathy that she was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. Life was good!

Chuck told me a funny story -- he said that a few days earlier, he was riding his ATV down the jeep trail to go to town for supplies and ran into a Cadillac Escalade making its way up. It just looked out of place -- a $75,000 Cadillac just doesn't belong up there, but you can't tell that to the owner. It's funny, but I think the Escalade in the four-wheeling community is like the big ADV bikes in the off-road motorcycle world. Big, super expensive, heavy, way too luxurious and an owner who won't believe you if you tell him where he shouldn't go with that thing. It's the same on two or four wheels. Anyway, Chuck said he had to laugh when he passed them and could see the looks on the faces of the driver and passenger, apparently a husband and wife. The husband looked like he was enjoying himself behind the wheel, while the wife was just glaring at him the whole time, non-verbally saying, "How could you take my baby on this road!?" I had a hunch, so I asked him, "Did they have Washington plates?" Chuck said, "Yeah, they did! How did you know that???" LOL. I'll bet they were wearing matching Cabela's outfits too.  ;-)

My Facebook post: "It's 50 degrees and raining, but I made it!"

For being a rainy day, it was great how things opened up nicely once I got to the top.
Priest Lake
I got back on the bike and started down the jeep road. I figured I'd be riding all the way back down to where I had seen Kathy, near the Sundance Mt. Lodge, but she surprised me by driving the truck up the gravel road right to the bottom of the jeep road. She even backed the truck in, dropped the tailgate, set up the ramp and had the tie down straps all ready to go! She's just so awesome.

Kathy's Facebook post, which perfectly summed it up: "Mission accomplished! Steve, Al and Wralf have completed the Tour of Idaho. 1400+ miles, 7 days, desert, mountains, rain, heat, lightning, forest fires, evacuations, flat tire, torn knobbies, new friends, old hero and TONS of fun and adventure! Incredible job!"

The tire made it without any major failures., but lots of minor ones. It was looking pretty bald by this time.
Not only did Kathy bring me some warm, dry clothes, she thought of a couple other things that I didn't expect. She brought me a thermos full of hot apple cider AND a rice bag that she had heated in the microwave and packed in an insulated bag.

We got some really nice pictures between Sundance and Priest River. It had turned into a very picturesque evening, and I was enjoying the warm, dry clothes, hot apple cider, rice bag and just sitting back and being a passenger.

A picture with Kathy's phone, which has an HDR mode that's like cheating.

Mike Powell added this post on Facebook after I had finished:
Steve is a great rider and a total class - act guy. A man of conviction, he's a fantastic representative of his faith. I'm so much better for knowing him. Great job, Steve! !
I never had any conversations about my faith with Mike, but I was glad that I apparently handled myself in a way that gave this impression. My dad mentioned that he had seen what Mike said and thought it was really nice. I was glad to make Dad proud.

Kathy and I drove down to Priest River and had a great dinner at the Priest River Hardwood Grill. The clothes she had picked out for me were from my 55-pounds-heavier days, and even back in those days, I probably wouldn't have worn them outside the house, let alone out to eat. LOL. I swear I looked like quite the special kid. "I have fuzzy pants!" and "I'm warm!" where two things I felt compelled to keep shouting out with a silly voice. From head to toe, I appeared very disheveled, wearing baggy, non-matching clothes that looked like they were fresh from a rummage sale (or maybe several different sales... late in the day, after all the good stuff is gone). But I didn't care -- I was with my sweetheart and we were headed HOME, where I would get to sleep in my own bed that night.

The Tour of Idaho is an experience I'll never forget!

Day 7 Stats: 190 miles, 8 hours, 40 minutes
Day 7 Track