I successfully rode about 250 miles from Blewett Pass to Coeur d’Alene, ID. The route I took wasn’t exactly the one that I originally planned. Unfortunately the Google directions took me through some gnarly and questionable back roads, so I ended up mainly sticking to Highway 2. Here’s the three-day account:
Old Blewett Highway
In the morning, I hopped on my bike and BOB trailer loaded with camping gear and rode to work. It was pouring down rain and I was instantly drenched. After a busy day at work, I met some friends on King Street behind my office, where I loaded my bike and BOB into their Grand Cherokee. We headed over a snowy Snoqualmie Pass, I treated them to a Mexican dinner in Cle Elum, and then they dropped me off near Blewett Pass. This was the second weekend in Apri, too early in the season to be riding over these passes; lots of snow and the Snoqualmie Tunnel is closed until May 1, so I needed this boost to get me started.
It was raining during most of the drive, but it cleared up as soon as we approached Blewett Pass, thanks to a handy rainshadow effect. It was, however, dark when we reached the pass, so I quickly found a place to camp near an old mine powerhouse, set up my tent in the dark and then went to sleep.
Through the blossoming apple orchards
I woke up at a semi-reasonable hour and started riding downhill on Highway 97. Shortly thereafter I reached Highway 2 and then consulted Gaia GPS
, my mapping app. I followed mostly local roads eastward along the Wenatchee River, occasionally having to follow the highway.
Soon I reached Cashmere. I followed signs to “Riverside Park” hoping to find a bathroom, water, and power outlet. However, Cashmere proved to not be very fruitful. The bathroom was locked, the outdoor outlets were turned off, and the taps required a water key. Thankfully I carry a water key with me, but I had to move on to meet the other two needs.
Next stop was Wenatchee. I hung out at Confluence State Park for a while to recharge myself and my phone, then headed south along the Columbia Trail. My original plan had been to ride south from Wenatchee and up through the Moses Coulee via Palisades. However due to a sort-of late start and spending too much time navigating, I wasn’t making as much progress as I had hoped. It was about 1:15pm when I rolled past the Columbia Transit Center, and I knew from my prior route research that a Link Transit bus would be leaving here for Waterville at 1:30. After some negotiation with the bus driver about putting BOB on the bus (it actually fit perfectly in the wheelchair area in the back of the coach) I decided to warp myself to Waterville, giving myself over 2000′ elevation gain for $2.50. It was kind of like using one of those warp tubes in the video game Super Mario Brothers.
Then a gravel road
Nice paved road
In Waterville, a strong wind was blowing from the west; thankfully this was blowing the same direction that I was traveling, which would give me a nice tailwind. From Waterville, I headed east along a Rd 3 NW, which was nicely paved initially, but then became gravel after a few miles. The gravel surface wasn’t that difficult to ride on, except for the downhill sections where I would be tempted to pick up considerable speed causing my bike and trailer shimmy back and forth in a dangerous fashion.
After a few white-knuckled descents, I decided to head back to the nice paved Highway. There wasn’t much traffic on this stretch of Highway 2, so it was actually a pleasant ride. After a few more miles of rolling wheat fields, the highway made a dramatic descent into the northern part of Moses Coulee. I stopped for a late lunch in the sagebrush at the bottom of the coulee. Then I had to gain about 1000′ to rise out of the coulee and back into rolling wheat fields.
Descending towards Banks Lake and Coulee City
With assistance from the tailwind that helped me all day, I arrived in Coulee City at about 6PM. I found a local diner and had a yummy chili burger for dinner. After dinner, I rode south along Pinto Ridge Rd, intending to find a nice unimproved campsite in the BLM land located just south of Coulee City. As I was riding up the grade on Pinto Ridge Road, my left knee began to complain; I think that this was because my bike seat was set too low. I found a spur road off of Pinto Ridge Road and followed it west for about a mile until intercepting an old Railroad Grade. This seemed like a reasonable place to camp so I spent a few minutes searching out a flat spot devoid of rocks and cow poop, and pitched my tent there just before nightfall.
Back on Hwy 2
I woke up at a not-too-early hour, made an oatmeal breakfast, packed up, and headed back towards Pinto Ridge Road. My original plan for this day was to take a leisurely and scenic route via back roads through the Coffeepot Lake area, and then Camp somewhere near the Tilford Creek Recreation area about 50 miles east of here (as Hwy 2 flies). However, my knee started bothering me again as soon as I began riding up the gravel spur road. I took this opportunity to raise my seat, which helped but the knee was still complaining. Therefore I decided to take the easy route and headed back towards Coulee City and Hwy 2, with its guaranteed pavement.
A benefit of following Hwy 2 is that the route is peppered with a handful of small towns around 10 miles apart. A standard feature of these towns is a town park somewhere near the town center, and generally with water, power, bathrooms, picnic table, and sometimes even a picnic shelter. These parks provide nice opportunities for rest breaks; I took full advantage of many of these parks since I only needed to go about 50 miles today.
Old schoolhouse near Govan
Lunch spot in the lava
After passing through Almira, I thought I would try a shortcut along some backroads south of Wilbur. I attempted to evaluate the road surfaces on the Google aerial photo via my phone; this technique worked fairly well, sometimes I could pick out the yellow centerline and confirm that a road was paved. The shortcut I picked out looked like it would be mostly paved with a short section of gravel. The shortcut took me through the town of Govan, then became gravel. I found a spot along this road with interesting lava formations, and stopped there for lunch. After lunch I continued down Crick Rd. After fording a creek, the road appeared to dead end at someone’s farm house. Upon inspecting later on Google Earth, it looked like the road did continue, but today there was a large truck parked on the public road and it looked more like someone’s driveway, so I turned around and headed back through Govan and back to Highway 2.
Nice Picnic Shelter in Creston
After passing through Wilbur, some rain clouds started rolling through and it started to sprinkle. When I reached Creston, the rain was coming down pretty hard and the wind blowing somewhat-fierce. It was about 5:00 pm, and I was about 7 miles from the Tilford Recreation area where I was planning to camp, but the weather conditions made me rethink my plans. I found the town park next to Town Hall, it sported a very nice picnic shelter, complete with walls to block the wind, a stone fireplace in the center, and a bunch of flat benches that could be moved around. Water was available in front of the fire station on the same block. This place seemed pretty luxurious and pretty low-key, so I decided I would camp here for the night and make an early exit before anyone would notice or complain about my presence.
I made a nice veggie tofu stir fry with curry couscous for dinner, paired with Coors Banquet Beer from the local mini mart. After dinner, I put three of the benches together behind the fireplace, making a very cozy bunk. The rain subsided as night fell and I got a good nights sleep.
The weather forecast indicated showers after 11am today, so I figured that I should get an early start for a change. I woke up at 5:30am, ate an energy bar breakfast, restored the picnic shelter furniture back to its original configuration, and pulled out of Creston by 7:00 (before the town sheriff might come around and kick me out). The skies were clear, but it was very windy and cold. Usually I have to shed layers after I get going, but this time I had to bundle up more after riding a few miles down the highway.
Original pavement on the Sunset Highway
I reached the Tilford Rest Area within a few minutes. It was incredibly cold and windy here; so cold that my phone battery went from 100% to 0% charge after 5 minutes of use. Again I was thankful that the wind was blowing in my direction of travel. This rest area was near the Tilford recreation area where I had wanted to camp before last night’s downpour. I thought about spending some time exploring the area, but I was eager to make forward progress, plus the chilly wind was not all that inviting. The nice volunteers at the “free coffee” stand at the rest area gave me some coffee, a charge to revive my phone, and a baggie of oatmeal cookies.
Next town was Davenport, which had a small park with a gazebo and fine restrooms. After Davenport I found myself on the old “Sunset Highway” with its original concrete slab pavement with absolutely no shoulder. Thankfully there was virtually no traffic on this relic of a roadway.
At Reardan, I had a choice to make. I could just stay on Hwy 2 which would have been the easiest and most direct route to Spokane, however it seemed like Hwy 2 would become a busy 5-lane suburban arterial approaching Spokane. A more interesting and scenic route seemed to be to head north from Reardan and take Coulee Hite Rd to the Centennial Trail. I had been in communication with Amie’s sister, Wendy, and found out that she would be in Coeur d’Alene this afternoon and could pick me up there, which gave me some more flexibility today.
The going got tough
I headed north along highway 231, and then hoped to take Spring Creek Grange Rd road east to connect to Coulee Hite Rd. Once again I found myself on a steep dirt road. A local resident out mowing his lawn told me that the road was pretty muddy in spots, but he assured me that it did go through, so I pressed on.
After some pushing up hills and circumnavigating around some mud holes, I made it to Coulee Hite Rd. The climate transitioned from high grassy plains to Ponderosa Pine forest as I made a lovely descent into the Spokane River Valley.
Soon I reached the Centennial Trail and began riding SE towards Spokane following the Spokane River valley. I quickly realized that I had made two miscalculations about the Centennial Trail: 1) The Spokane river flowed SE to NW, which meant that I would be riding upriver rather than downriver like I was expecting, and 2) the trail was not the railroad grade that I was anticipating, with many ups & downs along the way.
Putting the handlebars to the grindstone on the Centennial Trail
I took a shortcut through Spokane along Sinto Ave and stopped at Mission Park for lunch. Then I made the final push to Idaho along the Centennial Trail. I was running later than expected due to the Centennial Trail miscalculations noted above. Thankfully, the threat of rain this afternoon never materialized.
Success: The WA/ID border
I was riding at full throttle just shy of Coeur d’Alene when I heard a voice shout “Hey Owen!” It was William, Amie’s nephew. Wendy, William, and Anna intercepted me on the trail and we loaded my bike and Bob into Wendy’s pickup. I was whisked northward to Sandpoint and directly to a winter wonderland at Schweitzer Mountain where Amie and her family were staying for the weekend.
The adventure wasn’t quite over. As soon as I arrived, the whole family headed down for dinner at a nice restaurant on the mountain while I changed out of my stinky clothes. When I took my shirt off, Amie noticed two dark spots wiggling on my torso. Ticks! I was not amused, but everyone else was sitting at the table ready to order dinner, so dealing with the ticks would have to wait. I feasted an a fine salmon dinner while the ticks feasted on me. After dinner, Amie’s mother (a former dental hygienist) expertly and successfully removed both ticks while William and Anna observed from a distance.
Amie & I slept soundly in our own room that night.
Sunday & Monday
We spent the day hanging out around Schweitzer, going to the hot tub, going snowshoeing, and then hung out at Amie’s grandparent’s house for a while waiting for our train to arrive. The westbound Empire Builder was on time and we boarded it around midnight. We had a sleeping car room and slept soundly until Monday morning when we ate breakfast through the Cascade Tunnel.
We arrived at King Street Station a few minutes early around 9:30AM. I had some pressing tasks to complete at work, so I walked across the street to my office, took a shower, and got caught up, while Amie took the bus home.
Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to take my bike home on Amtrak, since there is no checked baggage service at Sandpoint (and even if there was, I would have had to partially disassemble my bike and put it in a box). So I was relying on family members to give my bike and BOB a lift back to Seattle. During this period, I had only my fixed-gear bike available for transportation. It took almost as long to get my bike back as it took me to write this blog post (the bike won by about 3 days).