Our morning in Superior, MT was a rough one. I woke up before the other guys and walked down to the hotel lobby for breakfast. I sat there eating store-bought french toast and waffles, half watching clips from the previous night’s Democratic National Convention. Dakota came in next and was not looking good. The right side of his jaw was swollen and he was obviously in pain. His wisdom tooth had been sore the past couple days and overnight it had swelled and become extremely uncomfortable for him. He had hardly slept that night.
We were far from anywhere that might have a dentist so we knew we needed to get to our next town, Wallace, before he could get it checked out. Having had an abcessed tooth of my own before, I remembered that garlic was a powerful remedy for tooth infections. I ran to the local grocery store to buy a clove of garlic for him. He peeled one piece of the garlic, soaked it in warm water for a few moments, and then chewed on it and held the pieces where the infection was. It burned and was difficult, but he held it for a good minute or two before spitting it out. It provided some relief and pepped him up, but he was still very uncomfortable.
Just before we left, I opened my rear pannier and noticed that my things were wet inside. I emptied it out to find that an entire water bottle had emptied into my bag. It’s waterproof, so it simply held the water in a puddle at the bottom. My tent, sleeping bag liner, and pillow were soaked through. I wrung them out, dried them as well as I could, and and set my sleeping bag liner and pillow in my rear basket to air dry.
Next, we needed to visit a grocery store for our day’s lunch. While we were there, Dakota ran over to a pharmacy to see if he could find something that would help. While there, he was told by an employee that he needed a prescription to get antibiotics, but that they sold amoxicillin for fish that was the same as that for humans. He bought some and took a dose before we head out.
We rode about thirty miles before stopping for lunch. It had gotten very hot, a little over 90 degrees, and we were feeling exhausted already. We ate our lunch and slowly packed up, dreading our next twenty miles to Wallace. To get there, we would need to cross Lookout Pass, a thousand foot climb. Over the course of our break, while it continued to get hotter, Dakota was feeling worse and worse. He concluded he wouldn’t be able to ride to Wallace. There had been a couple eating lunch at a nearby picnic table and G.O. went over to ask if they could give Dakota a ride to Wallace in their pickup truck. They ended up not having room, but this interaction turned out to be very valuable.
As G.O. explained the situation, the man started asking questions about Dakota’s condition. Where the swelling was, whether he had a fever, when the pain had begun, whether he was on antibiotics. It turns out that he was a doctor. He stressed to G.O. that Dakota needed to visit a dentist or clinic immediately. If it were to get worse, it could have serious consequences. We began walking around the gas station asking people with trucks if they could help drive him west. After asking around for a half hour, we found a man with a flatbed truck willing to give him a ride. We tied his bike to the bike and said goodbye.
G.O. and I got back on our bikes and head towards Lookout Pass. Because of construction, the descent was closed to cyclists. At the top, we could call for a shuttle that would drive us down to the bottom. It only ran until 6PM and we were tight on time to make it to the peak. We rode quickly to the foot of the pass. We stopped, put our headphones on, ate a snack, and got ready to push up the pass. We were both excited for this ride. What we once dreaded now excited us. Now that our bodies and minds are stronger, we look forward to these challenges. We blasted up the pass and reached the top exhausted. I went to call the shuttle and found that I didn’t have phone service. Before I could panic, I heard a girl shout “Do you guys want a ride down?”
We walked to her van, not sure if she was the official shuttle or a friendly passerby. She opened the rear of her van to reveal a touring bike and camping gear filling it. She had ridden across the country by bike in the southern US and was now driving a van around the country! She helped us load up our bikes and began driving us down. She was heading to Spokane so our destination, Wallace, was on her way. She drove us to a brewery downtown, where Dakota was waiting for us. He had been able to see a dentist in Wallace and was now on antibiotics and painkillers.
She joined us inside for a quick beer. We talked about our experiences on the road so far, our favorite places, and books we enjoyed along the way. She left towards Spokane, and we rode out to get some groceries. We walked in unsure of what to get. We were tired and didn’t feel like cooking. We were eyeing the hot foods section when the worker there said she was closing up and would give us a great deal. As we picked out items that we wanted, she continued to fill up a paper bag with corn dogs, burgers, taquitos, and more. Finally, she wrapped up the bag, stuffed to the brim and slapped a price sticker on it. Just $2.99. We were giddy. Before we could leave, she ran up to us again to give us a bag full of french fries. We left the grocery store ready to search for the town’s campsite. Our phones didn’t have service in town so we rolled around searching for it.
As we rode, we passed a big group of adults sitting in folding chairs along the sidewalk, drinking beers, eating, and laughing together. We pulled over to ask them where the campsite was. Before we could ask them our question, they were bombarding us with questions. “Where are you riding?” “Are you riding for a cause?” “Do you want a beer?”
Before we could find out where the campsite was, we were already sat down at this block party eating our dinners while chatting with the locals. They were all inviting, smart, and hilarious. They told us about the history of Wallace, including its designation as “The Center of the Universe” In the center of the town, there was even a manhole cover declaring it. We were at a block party at the center of the universe. What could be better?
When we finally got to asking about the campground, one of the locals, Elmer, said, “Why don’t you camp at my place?” Then he said, “Actually, let me do you one better. I’m renovating a house that my mother used to live in. We’re going to turn it into an airbnb. I’ll give you the keys and you can set up there. How does that sound?”
“That sounds great, Elmer!”
He walked us to the house and gave us a brief tour. It was built in the late 19th century and was a registered historic place, one of the first homes in town. It was full of mid-century furniture and the walls and shelves were full of exotic souvenirs from around the world. We had two beds and a couch for ourselves that night.
From the beginning of the day, my mind kept coming back to some advice my friend Allison’s dad had given us at our going away party before the ride. He was a former Marine and had passed on one of their slogans, “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome” This day was a challenge. Things didn’t go as planned and we faced obstacle after obstacle. But by keeping a positive attitude and being able to change course quickly, we ended up having one of our most memorable days of the tour so far.
Next stop: Coeur D’Alene