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STOKR draws record riders, great weather

| May 17, 2006 12:00 AM

BY ROGER MORRIS Western News Publisher

Last weekend may have been the best Scenic Tour of the Kootenai River ever.

There were 370 bicyclists riding around the Libby and Troy area and weather couldn't have been better.

The STOKR is a fundraiser for the local Habitat for Humanity efforts. It's a two-day ride that travels 98 miles from Libby to Troy and up into the Yaak before returning to Libby via Pipe Creek Road on Saturday. There is an alternative route of 45 miles that goes up the Lake Creek drainage south of Troy. On Sunday, the riders go up to Libby Dam via the haul road and come back on Montana Highway 37.     

"Fantastic," said organizer Susie Rice. "I think it was the best STOKR ever. It was pinch-me weather."

Rice said one rider from Spokane, Wash., kept exclaiming about the air quality during the two days of touring the county.

"He rides here from Spokane and then spends two days riding the STOKR," Rice said. "It's the air. He lives and rides in the I-90 corridor in Spokane."

Rice said riders listed the lack of traffic and friendliness of the volunteers as pluses for the STOKR. This year Jim Shadle's salmon chowder was a frequently mentioned favorite, too. Shadle and his wife Julie manned a replenishment stop on Flatiron Summit. They served oranges, drinks and cookies. But nearly 16 miles back, at the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, other volunteers were serving food on the outside deck, including Shadle's salmon chowder. Duane and Peggy Williams ladled out helpings to the energy depleted riders.

Perhaps the favorite, though, was the pie stop at the Ramlo's cabin on Pipe Creek Road just a few miles above the Red Dog Saloon. A massive volunteer effort in the weeks before STOKR has people in the communities baking pies and cookies for the bicycle riders.

"I just want to get the pie," said one lady rider at the Sylvanite School, where various salads were being served.

"You have to go to the end for that one," said volunteer Judy Hyslop.

Louis Boitano, 70, was here for his 12 consecutive STOKR. He comes from Fife, Wash., which is near Puyallup.

"I've been here every year," he said. "For the first year, I had a friend who lived over here."

He said he comes back for the beautiful country and the great food.

"I have to ride since I've been coming here every year," he said. "Susie would come over and drag me back."

Boitano heads north from Libby to Banf to ride in the Golden Triangle, a 310-kilometer ride from Banf to Golden, down to Radium Hot Springs and back to Banf via Vermillion Pass.

Last summer, the Washington resident came to Libby and worked several days on the Libby Habitat house.

On Sunday, the tour to Libby Dam started at the Libby Area Chamber of Commerce parking lot and rode past the home on Tenth Street and Main Avenue. The family stood on the deck waving to the riders and yelling thank-you.

"That turned out to be very emotional for a lot of the riders," Rice said. "When we got the dam they told me that it brought tears to their eyes."

A group of riders from Alberta, all business professionals from Calgary, have been coming to Libby for the STOKR for the past 7 years.

"It's the best," said one of the riders. "It's just the best. I don't know of a ride that is better."

A Coeur d'Alene bicyclist, stopping to wait for his wife on Yaak Hill on saturday morning called STOKR a must every year because it marked the beginning of the serious riding season. It doesn't hurt that is travels through beautiful country and the organizers take care of the riders, he said.

Bicyclists came to Libby from as far away as Alaska and fromas near as Kalispell.

"I've said from the very beginning that for me it's a heckuva lot of work, but I get to ride to ride, too," Rice said. "It's like inviting 300 people to ride with me."

Rice said the tour sometimes seems to have as many good stories as their are riders.

"You see that lady over there," she said at the start of the 98-mile ride on Saturday. "She was diagnosed with cervical cancer and rode with her doctor last year. This year she's back with friends."

Rice noted there is a rider who has to lean against buildings or vehicles to get on and off his bicycle because he can't walk without a cane, that he keeps folding up on a handlebar pack.

And there was a 74-year-old man on the tour, as well as Mary Madison of Wolf Point, who is 71.

"The stories of the riders are quite inspirational," Rice said.

The limitations on STOKR are the number of available rooms in the Libby area lodging establishments. Registration lasted less than 10 days before Rice had to close it off.