I heard an interview with an author by the name of McPhee while listening to Oregon Public Broadcasting from the app on my phone the other day. Although I am not familiar with his work I was made to believe that he is quite prolific. He is also famous for his in depth research into all of his subjects. He spends about a year living what he needs to write before each of his books. On one of these forays outside his own head he found himself not wanting to take his usual notes, not wanting to remember minute details of every moment of a day and scribble them all away later on for further reflection. He didn’t want to do anything but the task in front of him, selling beans. I identified with this greatly. I have been agonizing over my unwillingness to sit down and write and to have it clearly laid out before me like that made me feel better. This trip is about doing what we want more than what we’ve promised or are supposed to. So I am sorry to keep you waiting in the dark but I am not sorry for the last few days. For the last week and a half I have been selling bushels of the proverbial beans.
In general we have been following the Northern Tier ACA bike route since we left Glacier. The route has proven lovely and wonderful and very friendly. It’s amazing how accommodating small towns are to bikers when they know we are coming. Joey and I have wondered how much communication the ACA has with the local governments in the towns we pass through and my conclusion is probably not much. They are always stoked to see us but no one seemed to know that we were following a specific route. I have made a mental note to offer my services as a “community liaison” if we return to Missoula.
We took back roads away from the park and up through Whitefish. Then we went further north up to Eureka and we were so close to the border I got a text from Verizon alerting me to turn on my international roaming. That didn’t last long though because we rode down the west side of Lake Kookanusa where Grizzlies outnumbered spots with decent cell reception. Just kidding we didn’t see any bears, just signs to watch out for them but there was no service at all. This was one of Joey and my favorite parts of the trip so far. The views were spectacular from our high perch about 200 feet above the water. We picked raspberries and marvel at the five cars a day that passed us. There was a big group of riders with a support van that passed us the first morning we were on the backside of Kookanusa. They were doing a two day group ride from Libby and I assume all had carbon fiber bones from how fast they were going. They zipped by us early in the day and we continued on the fairly difficult (what we would learn to expect as normal later on) steep rolling terrain. Later in the afternoon, right about the time we were beginning to look for a campsite, two guys riding what I can only describe as naked Touring bikes flagged us down. They told us they had just started the northern tier a few weeks ago and the group ride had offered to carry their gear to Eureka for them. All Joey and I could think was “I am so glad we aren’t them.” The group ride and their support stations had cleared out before they could reach them and now with no food of their own their only hope was to reach Eureka by 6 for the group dinner. We gave them what food we could spare (which wasn’t much we don’t carry extra anything) and wished them well…..those guys were so screwed.
But we weren’t! After the lake we kept along the route and chugged along. We spent Fourth of July drinking whiskey and making flower crowns on some national forest land in Northern Idaho. Then we spilled out onto Lake Pend Orielle. This thing is HUGE. we were along this lake for three days. We camped on a peninsula into it, we rode on a raised bike path on it, and we battled the rain that came with it. We camped on some state forest land and such and when we got to Sandpoint (an adorable town I would not mind returning to) we broke off the route and headed south to Spokane through Spirit Lake (another town I wouldn’t mind going back to). We had decided to go to Spokane for my birthday. In Spirit Lake it also became a trip necessity. The fuel pump on our trusty MSR dragonfly camp stove blew out that night.
Luckily this was the only night in a week we had paid to camp and so we had a fire pit to cook dinner (and hot showers to take our mind off it). But this still meant we couldn’t go into the backcountry again without replacing the part. We tried to Amazon Prime a new part but we learned when you use general delivery 2-day shipping turns into “you can have it next Wednesday” shipping. We couldn’t wait that long so we made it our mission to find one in Spokane.
The city has come to really bum us out. The day we went into Spokane was one of the roughest on the trip. We struggled through some unsettlingly disorganized construction zones (“safety is our top priority” ha yea right) and got yelled at for sitting on someone’s front lawn. All that and I got a wasp stuck in my shirt! All this made me really need some place where I was safe and dry and allowed and unscrutinized and so I bought us two nights in a hotel as a birthday gift to me and a sorry gift to Joey and Ru for putting up with my pilot car break down. We had a great time in Spokane. We walked around like tourists, saw all the historic waterfront and waterfalls, ACQUIRED THE FUEL PUMP, took many glorious showers and ate take out Chinese food in bed. 24 seems alright to me so far.
Ru is growing. The day we left Spokane we knew it to be true. Joey is still valiantly pulling the nug as far as he can every day and I am carrying as much water and food for him as I can. But we are definitely slowing. We went north through the Spokane Indian Reservation to hook back up with the route. Oh man do they have some hills. It is beatific in the plateaus and farms surrounding the Spokane River but man is it steep. Everyone has been super nice to us here (to make up for the terrain I guess). Now we have spilled onto the Columbia where Grand Coulie Dam has made it Roosevelt lake. I cannot say it is easier but we are going to meet back up with the route this afternoon when we climb Sherman Pass. We have a lot of passes ahead of us to the coast, here’s to the granny gear you wonderful wonderful old bird.
P.s.–I write this on the morning of day 63, 7/12/16 and we are at mile 2560