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Knickerbiker Selkirk Adventure
July 1-14, 2007

The Knickerbiker gang for this trip, which was led by Fern Kissel, assembled as planned in Spokane on July 1. The participants were Joe Estey, Doug Paulson, Lois Horowitz, Sylvia Nielsen, Merle and Susan Vogel, Doc Faulkner, Ken King, Harry Baldwin, Jeff Gianformaggio, Rita Cohen, Susie and Stogs Stogsdill, Joi Brewer, Judith King, Jackie Helleis, Gene and Shirley Flatt, Jim DeShazo, and of course our leader, Fern Kissel. Some flew to Spokane and others drove in. As people arrived at the hotel, the parking lot was quickly populated by bicycle assemblers. The weather was ideal, so everyone was in high spirits. Fern went shopping to assemble our happy hour supplies (Knickerbikers need to eat, you know), while others rode into town for forgotten bathing suits. The hotel has a superb pool! Since we arrived so early, many of us rode the short distance over to the Spokane Centennial Trail, which runs for 37 miles along the Spokane River. There's another 24 miles in Idaho, too! We only went 15-20 miles; that was enough to make sure the bike was in working order and to whet our appetite for the fun to come. After a great get-together where Fern gave us the scoop on our upcoming trip, we all went to dinner. Since it's a short day tomorrow, people are OK with delaying our departure a bit.

While this tour may be remembered as "That time when the record heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest," the scenery more than made up for the weather. All the little towns, starting with Rockford on the first day and ending with Newport and Usk almost two weeks later were good examples.
We all enjoyed the spectacular 72-mile Coeur D'Alene Trail, a flat dedicated bike path (no motorized vehicles), with great weather and fabulous wildlife. We spent the night near the end of the trail in Wallace. The whole town is an historic site, as well as being the "Center of the Universe." Apparently the EPA was messing with the huge silver mine in the area, and declared it to be polluting the streams. But rather than proving they were polluting, the EPA said the mine had to prove they weren't polluting. So some folks at a local bar decided to designate Wallace as the Center of the Universe, daring anyone to prove it wasn't true. This is one version of the story anyway.
Other memorable moments are the fourth of July in St. Regis, Idaho, a layover day in Sandpoint, Idaho, on the shores of huge Lake Pend Orielle, enjoying the weekly farmers market and more quaint stores. Ken liked watching the kids swing out over the river on a rope and dropping into the cold water.
There were a few mountain passes on the ride to negotiate, but the downhills on the other side were more memorable. Some foods stand out as well: root beer floats almost every day and a special treat of ice cream with freshly picked raspberries, courtesy of Carol Graham, Executive Director of the International Selkirk Loop, whom Fern had contacted months earlier. She came over to the Visitors Center on her day off to greet us, take our picture, and feed us! The International Selkirk Loop is partially funded by establishments on the loop, and our job is to thank the ones who are members and tell the ones who are not members to join up now! Carol recommended an excellent café in Bonner's Ferry, where several of us ate lunch. The ice cream didn't seem to spoil our appetites!
In addition to the wildlife sightings and the 100-year-old buildings, there were many odd sites as well. One was the "Glass House," a structure built in 1952 by a mortician who apparently had a lot of embalming fluid bottles on hand. Actually, he collected these brick-like bottles from his friends in the business, and ended up with 500,000 of them! His house, which is in the shape of a clover (picture three circular rooms) contains 1,200 square feet, and is surrounded by attractive gardens, including the seven dwarfs and Snow White. They seem to fit right in to the whimsical property. (See for pictures.) Another was the historic paddle-wheeler in Kaslo, British Columbia, that used to ply the waters of Kootenay Lake. The boat had fallen into disrepair, but the people of Kaslo applied for and obtained a grant from the province to restore it to its previous elegance. Today, its gold leaf, polished wood and shiny brass fittings are a real attraction in town! The Kootenay Lake Valley is a little-known treasure off the beaten tourist routes and relatively undeveloped, its thickly forested mountains and pristine waters are gorgeous!
We stayed in New Denver, BC, that night, in the Villa Dome Quixote, a series of domed buildings that is unique and even "hobbit-like" according to some. It's not easy to describe, but picture several very large wooden-shingled hemispheres in a small town. "Dome Quixote" is an apt name.
Nelson, our next destination, appeared to be a hippy throwback complete with an organic food co-op, vegan restaurants, and young people with piercing, beards and tattoos wandering the streets. Think Haight-Ashbury in 1967.
Continuing to follow the Selkirk Loop, we crossed back into the US through a very small but important checkpoint. According to a local in Metaline Falls, Washington, a huge hydroelectric plant that supplies Seattle with some 72% of its power is very close to the border and buried deep underground in abandoned mines. The Pend Orielle River flows into the Columbia not too far from here, and it's a major water source for Seattle as well. Ken and Joe met up with Don, who is about as colorful character as you want to meet. He is the 70-year old sheriff, town greeter, story teller, ex-everything, including French Foreign Legion and Chiang Kai-Chek bodyguard. There were too many stories to relate here, but they were all memorable. The majority of the residents are "Confederates" who tote guns. Pend Orielle County is one of four counties in the U.S. that doesn't pay a lot of attention to Federal or State governments, according to Don.
After spending the night in Newport, home of a large, interesting historical museum complete with farm implements, log cabins and little school rooms. It's in the old railroad station. In the morning we headed back to Spokane to celebrate our accomplishments. Special thanks go to Fern for organizing it and to Doc for driving. We couldn't have done it without you both!

Ken King

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