The rain started before we went to bed. Overnight rain is good, but it kept on raining. It was not the sort of rain that was heavy enough to call the day off so we got packed and ready to go, but our hearts were not in it. It rained harder. Shall we stay another day then?
We were packed already so the following morning we said our farewells to Paula, the boys and the lovely town of Sandpoint. Steve, Paula’s friend was going to come round at the weekend and help take stuff to the dump. “That counts as a date in North Dakota”. Heading East, we were being educated.
Lake Pend Oreille as the name may suggest, is shaped like an ear and we were on the Route 200 pedaling around the lobe. Now, along with the untidy nests of Ospreys, some on top of electricity pylons and bridges. There are increasing numbers of Bald Eagles, which are huge and wonderful.
We pass an Irish bar. It may have been run and owned by a Ukrainian, but enough surfaces had been painted green with a huge enthusiasm for all things Irish.
At Clark Fork we took the Heron Road, an alternative, quieter road. It took us through a beautiful valley on an appallingly surfaced road. Passing between Idaho and Montana it looked as if neither wanted to pay for its maintenance. Back in Scotland we have so many roads like this. They sit there, unloved, part of a twenty five year maintenance rotation that is now seventy five years behind schedule.
Nights are drawing in, getting dark earlier as we ride East. We passed into Montana and camped, unaware that we had gone through a time zone for the first time in our cycle touring careers.
We were in Sanders County, which being my name, I know a little about. It originated in the town of Dudley, in the Midlands of England. My family moved just twenty miles from there, so it was encouraging to see that some relatives had been a little more ambitious.
Route 56, North into the Cabinet Mountains is spectacular. A’ U’ shaped glacial valley if school boy geography serves, it has snow-capped mountains all around and is a gem. Whenever we stopped, mosquitos pursued us with a vigour that would make any puncture a double misery. ‘U’ shaped valleys have slow moving, meandering rivers and standing water.
We stopped for second breakfast in a bar. Little Joe, until quite recently had been a town, qualifying for that status as it had a Post Office. With just three inhabitants it was the smallest town in the USA, which bought it a bit of fame. It lost the Post Office and things have gone rather down hill now. Route 56 had a dark side, so many memorial crosses, and we asked in the bar about them. Bad winter weather, deer and elk and of course alcohol make this beautiful road one of the most deadly in the country. ” You wait to you turn onto Highway 2. It’s even worse there”. And so it was.
Leaving Libby the next day, our hosts Keith and Jan wished us well ” it is not a bad ride, quite similar to what you had yesterday, just a bit rolling”. Which was strange as the profile on our map indicated a hard day of continual climbing. Always trust your map and never think that you know better, are the key principles of safe navigation. Well Keith, 3,600 ft of climbing, sweltering temperatures and 73 miles do not equate to an easy day.
We met a Norwegian solo cyclist going the other way. “I like to average 100 miles a day”. What a guy. Today he was doing a 130 mile section and we are pathetic.
So pathetic that we took a motel room just short of Eureka, unable to gather the energy to camp. The sky outside darkened and then an almighty storm hit. As deep puddels formed and the wind blew garbage along the road, we had made the right choice.
Channel surfing, I lay on my rather erratically sprung bed. In no particular order I now want or need, a big truck, lots of medication and some fast food or my life is far from complete. I want it now and I will consolidate all my debt and get it on credit right now. It is quite persuasive. The storm rumbles into the night, or it may be a passing Harley.
We headed towards the mountains of Glacier National Park, blue in a heat haze on the horizon. These will be our last mountains before we enter the dry central plains. Already it is warming up and we have the first Cockroaches in our bags ( No idea how they get in). A single fly lands on Esther’s panniers and rides it for several miles. Another fly does the same trick.
We pass over the rail track many times and ride through wild meadows with the smell of Camomile and Clover held in the hot air. It pushes 98*f as we ride into Whitefish at the end of the day. Like every town we ride towards, it is always 5 miles further than it should be. The big climbs into mountains are next.