I’m still trucking… been a bit out of touch as I’ve had good company recently. Busy soaking it all in as I enjoy the final leg of my trip. This post was intended to be published a few days back, but the cafe was closing before I could finish it up. Pretty wild that my trip is coming to a close. I’ll be posting again soon to bring things up to speed on the blog. I’m currently in Winthrop, WA staying with a great couple who let Charlie and I stay with them to get out of the rain and Washington Pass clears up. Heading out shortly (Morning of 8/16).
Day 100, August 7th – Libby, MT (rest day)
The rest day was a good one. After a morning coffee and computer binge I went back to camp for lunch and found a farmers market going on in the nearby parking lot. That’s where I met Bitsy, the crazy haired huckleberry jam lady. I was asking a few questions about huckleberries and got to sample some frozen ones her friend had. To me, the were tangier and stronger in taste than a blueberry. I opted to buy a jar of huckleberry jam and she insisted I have another jar on her since it bothered her that this one jar had slightly less jam. Thanks for the extra jar Bitsy. Groggy from lunch, I ventured to a local swimming spot someone had mentioned to me earlier. Not nearly as cold as the Kootenai River that it feeds into. It was a great place to cool off and laze the afternoon away. Feeling a bit cleaner and refreshed, I decided to have a couple of refreshments at the brewery in town. Apparently it has only been open a week. I was impressed considering the beer I tried was very good. I was talking to a few previous residents at the bar who were returning for the blues fest in town this weekend. Sounds like I arrived day too early.
That night I made noodle soup and enjoyed it with some bread from the neighboring grocery store (if only all my camp spots were this convenient!). My camp site neighbor, Steve, came over and chatted for a bit. He offered me some wine but I had decided to have the TPA I had been carrying in my pannier since Whitefish. Steve filled me in with a little town history. Apparently their was a huge asbestos problem in Libby due to a mine which was mining vermiculite and later found to have asbestos. The vermiculite was common in building insulation and soil conditioner, so it was in the air, trees, top soil, housing insulation, etc. He said the cleaning operation is one of the costliest EPA projects to date. His daughter (or was it son?) is/has been part of the effort. Glad it’s been cleaned up significantly before my arrival.
Acts of kindness: 2 – Bitsy gave me a free jar of jam; Steve came over and visited and offered me some wine
Day 101, August 8th – Libby, MT to Sam Owen Campground (near East Hope, ID)
Once again I enjoyed the convenience of the grocery store this morning over some coffee and breakfast in their cafe (and wifi, which I did not know of before). Back on the road I made it about 11 miles before stopping to do some hiking. I hiked a couple miles of the Old Highway 2, much sketchier than the current Highway 2. After the hike I pedaled another half mile to hike the Kootenai Falls and explore the nearby swinging bridge. This is when the dreaded leg cramps returned. After stopping to stretch and attempting to massage out what seem to be knots, I was able to slowly continue my hike. My huckleberry and peanut butter tortillas must’ve been the cure because it fueled me through the rest of my day.
All of today’s riding has been through mountain gorges with pristine rivers and lakes. I’m really enjoying this part of the country. I’ve always loved getting a swim in… and being in an area where I can pretty much jump in a body of water about anywhere to cool off AND see my toes beneath me is great. I was thinking I’d make it a short day (~50 miles) and have another 50 miles to Sandpoint tomorrow, but it’s the weekend now and available campsites are hard to come by. I stopped at a grocery store for a few dinner items, one item being tortillas which only came in what seemed like a 20 pack. The clerk suggested a campground down the road which was free. Outside of the store I met Paul, who lived near Sandpoint and was out on a motorcycle ride. He invited me to swing by his place on my way through town tomorrow if I wanted to shower, do laundry, or just hang out.
The suggested free campground down the road was full so I continued on. I actually passed into Idaho tonight! I ended up missing the turn to the 2nd campground I picked out, and in Clark Fork where my map said there was a campground the locals could only suggest one 8 miles further down the road. So that’s where I went… and that one was full too. But lucky for me, the campsite host was a pretty cool guy and let me camp in his little plot for $8.
The campsite was in a great location near the water. The campground is located on the east side on Lake Pend Oreille. This lake is big… really big. On top of that, the lake is crystal clear (like every lake around here I guess) and a perfect 75 degrees. I got a quick lake shower in upon my late arrival and had dinner in the moonlight on the shore before crawling in my tent for the night.
Acts of kindness: 3 – Store clerk suggested a free campsite for me; Paul invited me to his home; Campground ranger let me camp on his plot.
Day 102, August 9th – Sam Owen Campground to Sagle, ID
I wanted to take my time today. This section of Idaho is beautiful and it’s also pretty narrow. Bike a full day and I’d surely pass through it. So, instead, I decided to take Paul up on his offer and swing by his place before exploring Sandpoint. When I first arrived to Paul’s address, Paul wasn’t home but his wife Jill and 3 daughters were. She had been informed I might swing by so it was not a total shock some shaggy biker was standing in her driveway when she walked outside. Jill is awesome. She let me help myself to the laundry machine and meanwhile she put together a tasty homemade lunch. I chatted with Jill about my trip and learned a bit about her past as well. She’s done a lot of cool things and lived in a bunch of cool places. She grew up racing road bikes and mountain bikes (mountain bikes back when they were all stiff frames), was a dive master and botanist teaching diving and doing research in the Pacific NW and tropics, taught in a school in Hawaii, and more. Paul’s past is equally interesting, having spent a good number of years living in Alaska helping guide backcountry snowmobile tours and snowboarding. They were previously living in Oregon, but Paul decided they needed some snow in the winter so they settle on this area of Idaho where there’s great access to the outdoors every season.
Paul came back from running errands and gave me a tour of his frisbee golf course he built in their property out back. I believe he said there are 12 pins and 54 different course options (three 18-hole courses). I had a blast playing! I don’t think I’ve played since college. I forgot how much fun it is. After our round of 18, I prepped my things and said my goodbyes. We weighed my rig again with all my water bottles filled, spare included. Still heavy :\ Thanks again to Jill and Paul for letting me hang out on my way through (even with an unhappy kiddo with a ear infection – Hope she is feeling better!). I’m very happy to have run into Paul on my ride and the chance to have met the family!
At Sandpoint I found a great coffee spot before heading to the bike shop to get a new shifter cable. My rear derailleur cable has been fraying at my shift lever. I’ve been riding in fear of the cable separating completely so I had only been using the front derailleur since Libby, MT. With my bike running smooth again, I swung into “The Pour Authority” on my way out of town. Wow. Now these guys have one heck of a good brew selection. I was a bit overwhelmed, but decided on a brew made by No-Li Brewhouse out of Spokane. I had the Jet Star Imperial IPA. It gets my stamp of approval. Tasty. At The Pour Authority I met Drew and Rachel and their dog from Missoula, MT. Drew noticed my tour map (I carry my handlebar bag with me when I go inside) and invited me to sit with them. Drew is the chef for a cycling company who does guided tours and Rachel just finished her BAR (law) exam so they were celebrating her free time again by doing a mini road trip. We had a great chat, I really enjoyed their company. Before heading out we traded contact info and they mentioned they were looking for a campground. I mentioned to them where I was headed and they said perhaps they’d come by. Well they did show up! And I ended up sweet talking (not really) the campground into letting Drew and Rachel camp on the same site for the same cost. Nice to have company at the campground!
Acts of kindness: 5 – Laundry, lunch, frisbee golf, and all sorts of kindness from Paul, Jill, and their kids; Drew and Rachel invited me to sit with them at Pour Authority and shared a campsite with me.
Day 103, August 10th – Sagle, ID to Panhandle Campground (~20 miles south of Ione, WA)
I awoke and poked my head out of my tent to find a friendly dog nose to nose with me. Apparently he got kicked out of Rachel and Drew’s tent sometime last evening. We made a delicious collaborative breakfast this morning… and by collaborative I mean Drew pretty much did everything and I just provided tortillas which I still had plenty of. Those breakfast burritos were amazing. Bacon is amazing. Thank you Drew and Rachel for letting me mooch off your breakfast 🙂 Sadly, Drew and Rachel were headed east and I west so it was more goodbyes this morning. Hopefully I’ll see Drew in a future mountain bike trip, assuming he replaces the one that was recently stolen from him.
Today’s ride got quite a bit hazier. The fires to the west are making it harder to see the distant mountain ranges. Hopefully a haze is as bad as it gets! This are definitely looks drier and the heat is definitely turning up too. I passed into Washington this afternoon… another state border so soon! I picked up some groceries at the border and continued to pedal easy and slowly put on the miles. I ended up calling it a little earlier than planned to have time to clean up and cook. I wanted to get to bed early for an early start tomorrow to beat the heat.
Acts of kindness: 1 – Breakfast by Chef Drew
Day 104, August 11th – Panhandle Campground to Canyon Creek (East of Kettle Falls)
I didn’t get up quite as early as I hoped, but I was still riding before 6:30 AM wearing gloves and a jacket. Crazy that this afternoon it will be up to 100 degrees F. Found my first bigger climbs since Glacier, but I see I have bigger ones ahead of me tomorrow. It looks like I have a 4000 ft climb up Sherman Pass followed by another 2000 ft climb up Wauconda Pass. I better get up early again tomorrow because there are warm temps in the forecast again.
I broke 60 miles in 1:00 PM today to have lunch in Colville, WA and get out of the heat. I figured this would be just as good a spot as any to update the blog (publishing later since I ran out of time). As of today, I was planning on reaching Anacortes on Saturday (8/16). Who knows though, these mountains may prove my plans to be a bit ambitious or these forest fires may reroute me yet. After the cafe closed, I crossed the Columbia River and road up a small portion of Sherman Pass before picking out a camping spot which set me up good for the two climbs tomorrow. I raced the sun to make dinner, clean up, and set up camp.
Acts of kindness:
Day 105, August 12th – Canyon Creek (East of Kettle Falls) to Tonasket
Climb, climb, climb! Sherman pass took a good portion of the morning. On the down hill I headed into the town of Republic and had lunch. While I was eating a man came in and asked if I was the one biking. It turned out to be another cyclist who I saw parked down the road, Charlie. Charlie is an incredibly interesting rider from the UK who has been on the road for 14 years! We chatted for at least an hour about some of his trips and his current trip in the US. He is riding the lower 48 states and is currently on number 47. He’s riding out to the coast and then heading over to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming for state #48. He has been saving it for the fall to avoid tourist season. We ended up parting ways after our chat…. he was headed to the library and I was hoping to make some progress after Wauconda Pass.
After climbing Wauconda Pass things were drastically drier and the air became quite smoky as I reached Tonasket. The winds were pushing the smoke my way. I was spent by the time I reached Tonasket and sat down at a park to eat. After relaxing a bit, it was time to find a campground. Just then I heard Charlie shout at me as he road by. He was also looking for a campground so after a short search we found a great free camping spot behind the visitor center in town.
Acts of kindness: 2 – Local suggested the camp spot behind the visitor center; Charlie stopped to have a visit when passing me at lunch.