Sandpoint, ID to Whitefish, MT, Rain or Shine (or More Rain…)
Some of you may have noticed it’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog. Ok, it’s been 425 miles and two states since I’ve updated this blog. I tend to blame the lapse in posts on the Internet (which is a legitimate excuse; we’ve rarely had phone service over the past couple weeks), but I also have lots and lots of rain to blame as well as…… supreme, utter laziness. WIth that backstory out of the way here’s a highlight reel of what we’ve been doing over the past couple weeks. Since a lot has happened in 425 miles, I’ve broken this beast into two posts: Sandpoint to Whitefish and West Glacier to Havre, MT.
After we conquered the Cascades, Eastern Washington came and went and we found ourselves crossing our first state line into Idaho. Coming into this trip, I didn’t expect much from Idaho but Dustin and I ended up loving Sandpoint enough to stay an extra day there just to explore. Sandpoint is a real hidden gem with a suprisingly progressive culture and lots of young people. It’s been added to our “places we would consider moving to” list.
- Sandpoint, ID is in the Northern “panhandle” of Idaho and has a population of 7,200, the Kootenai River and lots of community
- We saw a bunch of Osprey with nests.
- We met a new friend (Warren) who was gracious enough to share his home (and his shower) with us for two days.
- Two technicians at the local bike shop (Greasy Fingers; highly recommended) told us about a critical mass-esque full moon bike ride and invited us to come along, so we did that.
- We saw this cinnamon bear (a brown-colored black bear; truly the bear enigma) between Libby and Rexford.
- And this Bald Eagle:
- And this stuff:
When we lefft Sandpoint it was raining. Warren said we could stay with him as long as we needed to (and that we were crazy) but we decided to ride in the rain because the weather forecast was predicting rain for another five days and, since we knew we couldn’t just live in Sandpoint for five days, we thought now seemed like as good a time as any to get soaking wet. So we powered through in the rain to Clark Fort (where we camped in a mosquito infested USFS campground) and then onto LIbby.
In Libby we woke up to pouring rain pounding down on our tent. After lots of deliberating and mileage calculating and weather.com confering, we decided that it made more sense to hold tight in Libby and then ride two long days once the rain lets up, rather than riding four short really wet days (since you can’t ride that many miles in the rain anyway). And thus started our life living in the Libby, MT Rosaurs (Re: the local grocery store).
- We made it to Montana!!!
- We slept in a tent, but more or less otherwise lived in a grocery store for two full days.
- On one of those days it rained for 24 straight hours. Seriously. It was pouring rain when we woke up in the tent, it rained while we walked to our grocery store home, it rained all day while I read my book next to the window in the grocery store deli, and it rained all night. Inconvenicne aside, it was really pretty amazing.
- I read 150 pages of Water for Elephants (a book I purchased at the Colville Salvation Army because I needed a book to read and it was the only one they had that was not a cook book or an Alminac. I strongly considered buying one of those grocery store romance novels since I’ve never read one, but this is actualy turning out to be a good light read.)
- We took bathroom sink showers and drank a lot of coffee. (This is what happens when you live in a groceery store deli.) We also learned a lot about the people of Libby and their eating habits.
- We ate at this old school sit-in Pizza Hut:
- Dustin drew this picture of a hard partyin’ moose and a bear stealing a four wheeler:
- I caught this giant fish:
- Dustin and I spent a lot of time singing Kootenai Joe as we rode along the Kootenai river.
- We saw this:
After two days in Libby the weather finally started to break and it was time to ramble onto Rexford, MT — population 105. We actually wanted to ride to Eureka — populaton 1,037 — but it turns out the ride from Libby to Rexford involves a lot of what Dustin and I have taken to calling “Bart Simpsons” (jagged up and down hills, one after the other).
On the ACA Northern Tier maps there are two routes you can take from Libby to Eureka/Rexford: The main route and the west side alternate. Since it was going to be raining on and off all day, who knows how hard, we decided to take the main route because there were more lodging opportunities.
- The ride was beautiful! Even in the rain with all the unexpected mountain climbing, the ride was really pretty. This whole route runs alongside Lake Koocanusa, which is really beautiful. The mountains were really pretty; the foliage was pretty; the lake was pretty. It was work — but worth it.
- Traffic wasn’t bad (probably because of the rain)
(All those vertical lines are marks from the drill bits they shove drive down into the mountain to stuff full of explosives and blow the mountain up to make the road. Crazy!)
- We slept in our tent behind a bar in Rexford and got to take untimed showers in the am.
- It did not rain all night and it was dry when we woke up in the morning!
From Rexford we trekked 72 miles (!) to Whitefish, MT. It didn’t rain (yay!) but we were on the 93 for a while and that suuuuuuuuucked. That road is really rough with a really crappy, broken shoulder, lots of gravel and a fair amount of impatient traffic. When we got to Whitefish we tried a couple campsites and found them to be full, so we turned to Warmshowers.com and ended up staying in a beautiful house with three other cycling tourists.
- There’s some good climbs from Eureka to Fortine, MT, including one steep climb that the ACA describes as “At the Historical Village turn right, then continue uphill onto unsigned Old Highway/Tobacco Road.” Word to the wise: When the ACA says something is “uphill” they are serious. (Also, I find directions like “turn right at the Historical Village” really funny and satisfying).
- The trek from Eureka to Stryker is pretty and scenic. It’s after Stryker when you get closer to Whitefish that the traffic clusterEff starts.
- Dustin and I said “Stryker?? Damn near killed her!” about 200 times and thought it was equally funny each time.
- Farm to Market road (an ACA detour off the 93) is really beautiful with lots of cows, a wide road and little to no traffic. If you’re thinking of skipping the Farm to Market road detour and just staying on the 93 (which you can do, you will still end up in Whitefish…) don’t do it. Seriously. The 93 sucks and there’s lots of traffic and a crappy shoulder and Farm to Market is beautiful.
- Between Twin Bridges Road and Whitefish the traffic shit really hits the fan. Beware.
- We are so grateful we got to meet Chuck — our warm showers host — and his other THREE warm showers guests (!), Patrick, Maria and Andrew. Patrick and Marie are riding recumbent bikes just about around the world on a year-long adventure, and Andrew is riding solo East to West from Vermont to Seattle. (Worth mentioning: Maria also told us she’s a champion rollerblader and that she and her husband (the aforementioned Patrick) have ROLLERBLADE TOURED. Like, went on a 300-mile tour on rollerblades pushing a cart with Ortileb panniers on it in front of them (they showed us a picture. It was/is amazing).
- We ate some really bomb ice cream in waffle cones in Whitefish and saw a Solstice sunset that pictures will never do justice.
- Oh, and we got to share the 2014 summer solstice with four other bike tourers eating a perfect hand-cooked dinner. How special is that?? (And it only rained for like five minutes — which yielded a rainbow!)
- I got this glove tan: