We had taken a rest day in Tonasket and had watched the temp gauge climb to 102*f. Canada has a lot of empty space and we would be riding just a few miles south of the border for much of our ride across the US. Too much geography and not enough history, is what some say of Canada and so long away from the ocean for us. Worried about the 3,500 ft climb of Wauconda pass, we had no idea what to expect.
The whole town of Wauconda was put up on eBay. The winning bidder pulled out, but the advertising was priceless. Neal and Maddie Love sold everything they had in Seattle and bought it with just about no idea what they were doing. This weekend is the one year anniversary and there is a big party, with a big belt buckle prize, for the man and woman who shoot the most ground squirrel.
High meadows, full of flowers gave way to a dryer landscape as we dropped down the mountain to the dry East side. Sage bushes and the smell of pines, tar and heat filled our dry nostrils and throat. We had a place to stay thanks to Paul and his yurt.
Republic is high and cool, which is a good thing. Yurt’s are big and open and cold, when it is just above freezing outside with an amazing star filled sky, which it was. We watched the stars rotate through the circular hole in the roof of the Yurt. An early start to climb the Sherman Pass. At 5575 ft, the highest in Washington and it had a bit of a reputation amongst touring cyclists for being steep and nasty. Perhaps our anxiety threshold has been raised a notch or two by riding in New Zealand but we thought it was easy, a nice ride even.
It was just above freezing at the top and a very fast descent of 40mph+. We race down the mountain towards the Columbia River with numb fingers and ears. It looks like a lake, it is so wide and we have the one truly dangerous moment of the day as we go over it on a long narrow bridge. We want to be over it as quick as possible and do not stop for photos.
We reach Colville after 50 miles and have time on our hands. “You got a place to stay? Want to come to my cyclist hostel?” We were not sure.”It’s free”. We were staying at the hostel. Shelly and her husband Barry have built the most perfect, home from home for cyclists to stay. We rode through flat fertile grass growing land, dotted with beautiful barns with the sun at our backs to the hostel at Hotchkiss Road.
Another perfect day. We had been told that the drivers of East Washington would not give us much time, and yet here they were waving and giving us lots of space as we rode along Highway 20 towards Ione. The Beaver Lodge cafe was good fun if you do not mind taxidermy and catering in close proximity. A visit to the salad bar could be an anxious time for a vegetarian.
We met a lone touring cyclists as we started the descent. No idea what his name was and definitely a bit of a barm pot. “Already done 60 miles and I am stealth camping”. I looked at his drive. Two chain rings and not more than six at the back, the guy was an animal. With jeans and a hat he looked like the least likely cyclist to have white bar tape.
Ione was another good place to stay. The Cedar Lodge RV park, and Gabe the owner are great company and a must stay for the touring cyclist.
The next day had an almost flat profile for the first time since the coast. In bike terms ‘it was a day for the sprinters’. For us it had the promise of an easy ride for the first time in a very long while and we were so looking forward to it.
Some how we manged to find a 1,000ft of climb as we biked along side the Pend Oreille River.The road was lined with tall trees hiding glimpses of rural properties at the end of long drives. This is remote country, but the kids were screaming and laughing. Fifty five miles into the ride we got to Newport. We went on a few miles to a campground and the mosquitos descended on us on the way. This was horrible, and we turned back to camp where we had been almost an hour earlier. We had managed to turn an easy day into a hard one that ended late.
We were in Idaho with little or no celebration other than motor cyclists without helmets. Things are calm here and people wave and wish us a good day. We pass at least half a dozen nests with Osprey screeching at us not used to touring cyclists.
Sandpoint, at the end of the day was beautiful, a bit of a cycling hot spot and a good place to rest for a day. To be honest eastern Washington and the start of Idaho have been some of the best touring cycling on our journey and we have had great weather as well. I think we would be recomending a trip here to all our bike pals.