Aug 15 2010

gust 1, 2010- To Walla Walla, Washin

Kate Murr

After a beautiful breakfast and a fond farewell to Terry and Linda, we rode to Walla Walla, the town so nice they named it twice. Though the maps told us our ride would be mostly downhill, it was ultimately a very hilly ride through the Blue Mountains, so named because the pioneers saw them blue in the distance for many miles. The mountains were covered with wheat and it was harvest time. Wheat, harvested wheat, tractors, dirt, sun, and a camel were all the sights we saw.

We made our own shade with the tent footprint stretched between the bikes and ate a tuna salad with chickpeas, peppers, and cucumbers.

Bob and Sydney welcomed us to their beautiful home when we arrived in Walla Walla. We bathed and showered and the kids took over the “toy hall”. We had a lovely dinner and lovely local wine and we answered all Bob and Sydney’s serious questions about the trip like, “but how do you get along spending so much time together?” and “do you really just trust the people who pick you up and want to give you a place for the night?”. Turns out, Bob and Sydney describe themselves as pessimists (with caveats). They have lately been very concerned about the spiraling direction and deteriorating character of America. To them, our stories of the kindness and goodness of people were surprising and heartening. Bob shook his head a lot when we told him about Mike the Medicine Man who picked us up on the dirt road and Jeff in Coleharbor, ND who brought us blankets, homemade banana bread, and money when we were camping in the city park.

Bob thinks these stories need to be told more. I’m inclined to agree.

(Photos to follow.)


Aug 12 2010

July 31, 2010- Full Circle

Kate Murr

Setting out from Butch and Cindy’s house, we felt cooler and reenergized. This was a very good thing, because we still had a lot of desolate, hilly looking landscape to traverse, and because we had a flat by the time we reached the bottom of their driveway.

Shortly after fixing the flat and visiting with some Pomeroy locals, we met Sergei, a German cross-country biker from the Ukraine who was on the 18th month and 23rd country of his worldwide journey. His bike was light and fast and his travel was so efficient that even his earphones played English lessons that he read along with as he pedaled by stashing worksheets in his front pack flip-up map pocket. Sergei had a grasp on tenacity and geography that defies comprehension.

A few miles beyond Sergei we encountered an enormous surprise: Terry and Linda from Fair Hope, Alabama. Perhaps you’ll recall that before Mother’s Day, nearly 3000 miles ago after a nerve-racking day of travel on sketchy Alabama roads, we met Terry and Linda at a restaurant and they invited us to their home. They served us Southern Comfort from an heirloom green glass eagle and gave us their master suite. They planted cucumbers with the kids, and have since sent us pictures of their growth. They taught me a lot about parenthood, motherhood, seasons of family. And when they passed us on Highway 12 pulling their unique T@B orange and silver camper trailer, we waved and laughed and nearly crashed our bikes with glee.

Terry and Linda had tracked our spot. They e-mailed and left a message that they may pass us, but I didn’t receive either message because of spotty reception. Our surprise reunion was a huge lift, and a huge gift. The pair whisked the kids and some of our gear up the mountain before us and to a campsite ahead while Stuart and I practically flew over the summit on featherweight bikes (funny if you’ve ever lifted a Surly Long Haul Trucker).

We enjoyed dinner and the discovery of HUGE banana slugs and a full sky of stars. Most of all we enjoyed our time together and what felt like a circle and a blessing for the final stretch of road.


Aug 6 2010

July 30, 2010- Hitchhiking 101: Wait for Butch

Kate Murr

This day was a scorcher. It was 100 degrees yesterday when we sought shade and a lift through the barren east Washington hills. It was too hot, and we didn’t want to push things. We agreed that it would be safer to try to hitch a ride than continue climbing the 2700 feet to the Alpowa summit.

Stuart waved at the first pickup that passed, and the driver waved back and continued driving. The kids and I sat in the shade of the Burleys and read books. Fifteen minutes later, another truck approached and Stuart waved then awkwardly stuck out his thumb. Something about the way he signaled to the driver made me think of how he might have looked in high school, at 6’1” and 120 pounds, asking the pretty girl to dance. The truck passed. Then we watched the brakes light up once…twice. The truck turned around and out popped Butch.

Butch said he decided to stop because he saw the kids. He curiously listened to our story and helped us load bikes and gear. With the air of an experienced grandpa, he answered the kids’ questions about whether or not he had a dog and if his truck had air conditioning. He said his wife probably wouldn’t shoot him for bringing us home, and when we arrived at their lovely home in Pomeroy, Cindy was actually bursting with pride over his uncharacteristic attentiveness. She was curious about our story and she shook her head for two days, saying, “ohhhh, bless your heart”.

Cindy and Butch doted upon the children, who blissfully explored the toy room in the basement, the pink kids’ room with two beds, the buckets of trucks, dolls, and dress-up clothes. Butch perched Brady beside him on a stool and taught him how to drive electric trains. He showed Jane how to unload cows from the stock car and how to attach the caboose.

We enjoyed showers and a fantastic meal, and after the kids went to bed we ate ice cream and homemade apricot cobbler and chatted. Time with the quintessential grandparents was an experience and an answer to prayer that will stick to our bones for years.

Thank you, Butch and Cindy.


Jul 30 2010

July 29, 2010- The Brady Blog

Kate Murr

We stopped for lunch at “Canoe Camp” just outside of Orofino, where Lewis and Clark stayed for ten days to build five dugout canoes. While there, Brady assumed the character of Captain Lewis and dictated that I should be Captain Hook…Clark…no, Captain Hook, his partner. Jane was Sakakawea and Daddy was Seaman. This is an excerpt from his role-play.

The Journals of Captain Brady Merry Weather Lewis, a Rock Star

By Brady Murr (age three)

This is my canoe. I chopped it with my sword and scooped it out with a shovel. You know why I don’t have a paddle? Because my canoe floats in the water.

Onward to the Pasickic Ocean! (When we get there it will be called the Lewis and Clark Ocean!)

You’re my partner, Captian Hook. What would you like to eat? I’ve bought these tomatoes at the pinecone store—I have carrots growing in my yard at my house but they’re not ripe yet.

My house is blue with a pink roof. It is across the river.

Last night I stayed at a hotel instead of my house, because that’s the rules, I guess.

When we ride down the river we fish. We eat fish and drink river. (I have a green fishing pole).

There is a river shark in the river.

I told president Jefferson I saw animals on my trip. I saw giraffes and penguins. I called this river Penguin River. Penguins do not fly.

My dog is named Seaman. I brought him with me on the trip because he said he wanted to come. Seaman likes to play with his raccoon and sometimes he likes to play with Sakakawea. He catches fish in the water. He scared away some bears, elephants and giraffes.

Me and Captain Clark both go poo-poo in the potty, but I think they goed pee-pee in the river.

I brought three important things on the trip: baby, my sword, and my pi-tar (guitar). I hold my baby. I kill animals and pirates with my sword.  I use my pi-tar to play songs that rock out.


Jul 29 2010

July 28, 2010- At River’s Edge

Kate Murr

After saying goodbye to the Ulmers, we ran into the Ulmers at the grocery store seven miles down the road. There are some people in life, I’m convinced, that you’re just meant to run in to.

After saying goodbye to the Ulmers, we booked it down Highway 12 beneath hulking clouds along the Clearwater River. We biked quickly on the edge of the storm and water for 23 miles to Orofino, and managed only to get sprinkled on. There was a huge wind as we arrived at Orofino’s city park, then it dissipated, and that was the end of all that anticipation.

We met Roberta, who kindly invited us to stay at her home, and we also met Paul and Lee at the park who invited us to stay in town at their hotel. I made an awkward call to Roberta’s voicemail, and we ended up staying at the Helgeson Place Hotel in a spacious and spotless two-bedroom apartment suite.  But there’s more story to the hotel than that, and here it is:

Karen likes to go to work more than she enjoys her days off. She loves her job because she works in a luxurious place, everyone at her job is good at what they do, she works as part of a team where everyone helps one another, and she genuinely cares about the people she works with because they’re her community. Karen is a housekeeper at the award winning Best Western Lodge at River’s Edge.  She read her card from Lee and Paul aloud and loudly: “Thank you for all your hard work and your contribution to our success.” Beaming, she exclaimed proudly, “You’re welcome!”.

For the past four years, the River’s Edge Lodge (owned by Lee and Paul in addition to the hotel where we stayed—the Lodge was full) has been in the top 5% of 2,400 Best Western hotels nation wide. This year they’re in the top 1%, and the housekeeping manager earned the title of Housekeeper of the Year. The Lodge has been recognized for outstanding customer care, quality assurance, and design, and is managed by Tana, who says she is passionate about customer service. When I asked her how she built a team that is so enthusiastic about their work, she said simply, “We’re a team. I’m not in an office, I’m on the front line with them.”

Karen and others commented that when one person is finished with their rooms, they’ll help another person out with theirs until all the jobs are finished, and that this momentum is what motivates them to take such pride in their work. The accolades as a result of their excellence, according to Tana, are just icing on the cake. Tana, who worked in the Las Vegas hospitality world before taking on management of her father’s lodge, also says that because the team genuinely cares for one another, because they pay attention to the details of each other’s personal life, they are all extremely interested in helping each other out.

Paul made several calls to ensure our total comfort last night. The employees I learned so much from shared their food and celebration with us. Lee recognized that Brady ran across the playground with “total joy in his whole person”.  For their hospitality, teaching, and warmth we are incredibly grateful to the Orofino River’s Edge Lodge and Helgeson Place Hotel teams. Thank you.

p.s. Bernice, our room was outstandingly clean! GREAT work!