1. Washington 2. Idaho/Montana Bicycling Across The USA

Day 8: Along The River to Idaho

The librarian in Ione warned me that a cold front would come in around midnight, and so it did. There were gusts of wind, light rain, and blessed relief. The dawn came up cloudy with a fresh wind from the south. We had 76 miles to go but it was flat, and without the heat and the climbs of past days it seemed almost easy.

If yesterday’s ride was like the Western Adirondacks, today’s ride was a bit like the shoreline of two Adirondack lakes – one that hasn’t been discovered by rich jerks yet, and one that has. LeClerk Road runs along the east bank of the drowned Pend Oreille River. It feels like a road that would get a lot of traffic on weekends when people are at their lake homes, but on a Tuesday morning it was empty. Herons fished on the shore and raptors watched for their breakfast as we rode past. Our mountain-toned legs ate up the road, and we did 30 miles in the first two hours. The houses were mostly older, small, and tucked away in the vast scenery. Across the river, cars screamed along State Route 20, ignoring it all.

Around 9am we entered the Kalispel Indian Reservation. The contrast was dramatic. Where we had been riding past ranchettes and old farms, at the border the land opened up and an open field of 440 acres stretched down to the shore. A sign explained that it was a wildlife mitigation project, paid for by the Bonneville Power Authority and managed by the tribe, to compensate for the loss of habitat caused by the construction of Albeni Falls Dam. The tribe is managing the land for geese, mallard, muskrat, deer, eagle, yellow warbler, and black-capped chickadee. A few miles up the road we got a quick overview of the Kalispel’s ambitious plans for the environmental restoration of their ancestral lands from Deane Osterman, the tribe’s Director of Natural Resources (see separate post).

Deane had to run to a tribal council meeting so we pushed on, using the “peloton” technique to compensate for a headwind. A peloton is when riders fan out in a vertical line, like geese, and take turns being in front. The lead rider breaks the wind so the ones behind him can rest. We got our average speed up from 12 miles per hour to 17 miles per hour this way, according to Jim’s handlebar calculator of speed, distance, temperature, and other things. He consults this constantly. I’m glad he does, so I don’t have to.

Past the Kalispel lands the ride turned back into cattle and alfalfa farms, with the water in the distance to the right. Deane had explained just how much damage the dams have done to the river, but a tourist wouldn’t know that. It still is beautiful. We rode into Newport-Old Town at noon, ate lunch and drank hot coffee at a Safeway supermarket cafe, met up with Sara and Catherine, and after a jolly time we headed into Idaho. Washington had been our route for eight days and about 400 miles, or one-tenth of the entire trip.

We crossed the Pend Oreille and rode eastward along its south bank. Once again, the Adventure Cycling folks had clued us into a beautiful rural road that skipped the congested highway. We had 27 miles to go to our destination, Round Lake State Park near Sandpoint. The scenery improved. In fact, it became tremendous. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Robert Redford waving to us from the roadside. Unfortunately, Californians seem to have discovered the Idaho Panhandle. We saw lots of signs for subdivisions with ridiculous names. One was named “Willow Shores” but was covered with pine trees. What was really depressing was the asking prices. Second-home McMansions, those colossal monuments to bloated ego, seem destined for this place. I hope the housing bust lasts long enough for the locals to organize a land trust.

Circular rolls of golden fresh-baled hay were scattered through fields like game pieces. Behind them were stately mountains we didn’t have to climb. Along one stretch was a series of hacking platforms occupied by nesting pairs of ospreys. This was the longest ride of the trip so far, and for the last few miles the three of us were very tired, but tomorrow is a rest day. Round Lake was cold, the showers were hot, and Sara filled our bellies with bratwurst.

By bradedmondson

Writing about social change and how it happens.

6 replies on “Day 8: Along The River to Idaho”

Trying to anticipate what root you are taking across the rest of Idaho and country – you are on a more northerly route than I took back in 1982. My advice for Idaho is if your route takes you through any town with Hot Springs in the title, that should be your stop for the night – although you might never leave your soak. Lava Hot Springs, in SE Idaho, east of Pocatello is a favorite. Is your route going through INEL as well? Spent too much of my professional life worrying about Naval Reactor Program issues at that site. Thanks for blogging this adventure.

Daniel Mackay


What will your route into Montana be?

It might be useful to project some detail on your itinerary, just a day or two ahead.

That kind of information might result in meetings with cycling supporters.


You are doing an amazing job…only 8 days to cross Washington. You must have legs of steel. I can remember crossing the Cascades in our old Ford which barely made it up the passes. Your descriptions of the countryside bring back memories from when I lived in the Northwest. Sandpoint (along with most of Idaho) was one of my favorite destinations, summer or winter. I am sad to think of it all covered with huge houses.
Keep on truckin and stay injury free.

I am guessing you will be back in NY sometime in October.


Melissa, sometimes we refer to our legs as “Lloyd’s legs” in reference and respect for Lloyd Peterson from Canandaigua who did some training rides with us, and was ALWAYS in the lead. He is 60 and training for the Highlander and has climbed Bopple Hill a few times recently.
I know you have a great sense of adventure and would love this trip and I know you could handle it ‘easily”. Sandpoint is indeed a stunning site. It has become touristy, but they have contained the shops to a small enough area that the Town has retained it’s original character….somewhat of a middle class hippy town I think. They have a sign coming into town proclaiming to be a “walking town” and cars stop anytime they see a pedestrian near a cross walk. They must ticket cars as they stop immediately every time.
We rode a short distance in a 60º rain yesterday and got power washed by big trucks for the 5 miles we were on a busy highway. Almost as effective as going to a car wash to wash your clothes. The ACA route has been great 95% of the time.


Hi Jim, Sara, and Catherine! We are following your progress! Thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us! Love, Ed, Wynette, Katelyn, Jessica, and Andrew


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