Thursday, June 23, 2011

Over the Hump
By Michael

Our last photo with our fast, 35mm prime lens. It soon after
rolled 40 feet down a hill and into the raging Kootenai Creek.
Despite her valiant attempt, Windy's cousin, Rosalee
(pictured wearing newborn Cora) could not catch the lens
as it whizzed by her. Everything has been wide angled since.

We successfully crested the Continental Divide this past Sunday at 6,393 feet. While this pass is low by comparison (I crossed via Colorado’s 11,312 Monarch Pass on a motorcycle 20 years ago), the last few miles are steep. You’ve likely been in a car on grades like this, whizzing past the line of lumbering semis that seem parked in the right lane. On this day, the semis were passing us while we inched up, petal-to-the-metal in second gear, hazard lights flashing, hoping nothing breaks. Even worse: it’s hot, we couldn’t use the AC, and I was trying to convince Windy and the girls we needed the windows up to reduce our drag coefficient.

Good times with Great Uncle Michael.

But the climb was worth it: our time in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley was filled with food, drink, family, and new friends. Windy’s Aunt Vicky, Uncle Michael, and cousin Aubrey hosted us in their two-story log cabin in Stevensville, the oldest continually inhabited home in Montana. It was built the year Custer led his men into the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Our timing was spot on as it coincided with a visit from Windy’s cousin Rosalee and her family. All five older second cousins had the time of their lives risking life and limb on the trampoline, setting up forts alongside the fast-moving brook on their property, filling up on marshmallows by the bonfire way past bedtime, collecting chicken eggs, and hiking with the adults on the dramatic Kootenai Creek Trail.
Eleanor and cousin Orion with the 1867 log cabin behind.
Frances and Ara hit it off.
Windy’s aunt and uncle are fixtures in the town of Stevensville; they own and publish the local newspaper The Bitterroot Star. While there, they introduced us to Gene, Robbie, and daughter Ali, owners of the Stevensville Hotel. Seven years ago, this family bought this building (used as the town’s hospital more than 100 years ago) and turned it into a warm and inviting 7-room hotel that feels much more like a B&B. Surprisingly, they bought the place after wrapping up their cruising lives in Australia aboard their 60-foot Laurie Davidson-designed ferrocement ketch. Despite selling their boat years ago and planting roots so far from the shore, they’re all eager to get out cruising again and have the business up for sale to make it happen. Meeting them, listening to Gene’s entertaining recounting of some of their adventures, seeing that Ali turned out okay (she was born while they cruised and spent her first five years afloat), and sharing their photo albums with our girls, fueled our desire to get to Puerto Vallarta and Del Viento.
Talking shop with cruising veterans Robbie, Ali, and Gene
(at Windy's great grandparent's dining room table we
hauled across the country).
We left Stevensville late yesterday morning, faced a string of steep grades all of the way to picturesque Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and woke today in Moses Lake, Washington. Today we’ll finish up in Port Angeles, Washington, our western-most destination—from there it’s all downhill to Mexico.

If I ever open my own beauty salon, I will steal this name.


  1. I love Coeur d'Alene. My dad has family there and we went many a summer. Sorry to hear about the camera. I hope that doesn't mean that the beautiful pictures are gone from the blog!

  2. Great photo's along with a great story! Your adventure is well underway and you're still a long way from your new boat. It's been great following your travels.


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