At first they looked at a kid’s bike trailer, but it was clear that wouldn’t do. Crisp and Smith decided to create something that would.

They secured for free an aluminum shell from a dog mushing company in Alaska on Craigslist. Home ReSource and Free Cycles Missoula had other parts, and Crisp’s own Missoula company, Crisp Water Technologies, provided the bolts and hardware to put it all together.

They sprung the surprise on Pearl over the weekend at a family reunion at her home of 47 years on Rock Creek, which she shares with son Charles and daughter Sam Cunningham. Pearl said they started the reunion tradition following the death in 2014 of her husband, S.E. Cunningham. Due to the pandemic the gathering was smaller than usual but still drew family from around the Northwest. The “chariot” was tested at home. Crisp said the hitch and tongue were rebuilt Monday night, replacing the original pole and bolt with a reinforced Unistrut.

Pearl’s ride, like that of most people who bike the Hiawatha, began in the cool damp darkness of the St. Paul Tunnel, also called Taft Tunnel. Railroad builders more than 110 years ago drilled the 1.66-mile hole through the Bitterroot Mountains to get trains from the St. Joe River drainage in Idaho via Loop Creek to the St. Regis River headwaters in Montana.

“Well, that was amazing,” said Pearl, who rode through the tunnel looking backward at the near and distant headlamps of trailing cyclists. “The whole thing just surprised me, because of its length and looking at those walls, and the rest of the tunnels as well (there are nine in all). To think that someone chipped through all that rock and mountain …”