In the dark world the natives call “January in Seattle,” I was pining for a week-long bike ride as a “carrot” to entice myself to get back to riding. I’ve covered a lot of great spots in Washington, but was looking for something different. That something different – but not too different – was Ride Idaho. For reasons I blame squarely on Ted, I keep mentally thinking of it as Ridaho, and may occasionally lapse into typing it that way, deliberately or otherwise.
Ahem. For their tenth anniversary, the basic route was thus:
So not only would I get my momentary dip o’ the wheel into Montana’s Big Sky Country, the ride had proximity to water. Since May Day, my training was primarily the Bike to Work Commuter Challenge and my Memorial Weekend treat, Century Ride of the Centuries. My overall fitness level was pretty good going into the ride, though I hadn’t done any really long weekend rides or sweltering heat training.
Day 0: Arrive in Coeur d’Alene, ID – Having driven I-90 to Spokane in April, I was eager to explore Highway 2 and some of the geological awesomeness (earth caches) it has to offer. Highway 2 is indeed pretty, though random slowdowns as it ekes through a “blink and you’ll miss it” town can get to be a bit annoying. On the other hand, it does afford one unusual opportunities. For example, in Waterville, the road was blocked off while a truck was moving a bridge span through. Watching real engineering is awesome.
I arrived in Coeur d’Alene around 4pm, wandered around looking for the place to check in. Ride Idaho’s web site was pretty clear that they weren’t providing supper, but they didn’t have any suggestions on where to eat (that I saw). Once I got my tent set up, I went on a solo bike quest for a burrito. With no plan, I was reliant on my Garmin’s faux database leading me to a convenience store. (“Oh, you didn’t say good burritos”). As we were ostensibly going to have a “rider orientation” at 7pm, dinner of champions consisted of the more benign foodstuffs available: Fig Newtons, Pringles and a quart of milk.
Day 1: Coeur d’Alene to Sandpoint, ID – The excitement of the first day means I have never been able to sleep very well on the zeroeth night. (Conversely, once the all day riding begins, I have no problem whatsoever sleeping.) I awoke at dawn, slathered sunscreen on everything likely to be exposed and packed up my camping stuff. It was still a little early for breakfast, so I offloaded some “I can’t believe I packed this” items to my car. When the doors of the restaurant catering breakfast opened, the locusts descended upon the beige-colored carbohydrates. Post-digestion happened, then I was finally on the road.
The city of Sandpoint had given us a waiver to camp at the non-campable City Beach park with the proviso that we were not to set up tents until 5pm (lest we completely dominate the park and piss off the residents – which would be bad). I was riding at a very comfortable pace, even stopping for geocaches along the causeway, but still arrived in town at 1pm. I spent the next four hours cyclecaching and enjoying an iced mocha, sandwich and the last fast wi-fi I’d have during the trip.
Sandpoint’s City Park was worth the wait. We’d be staying here two nights.
Day 2: Layover in Sandpoint – One novel aspect of Ride Idaho was they didn’t have a catering truck stalking us. Breakfasts were provided by a nearby restaurant and sack lunches provided in camp. For dinners, we were given vouchers to spend in town. I liked this a lot since it meant I could eat earlier and without crowds.
Among the activities were two optional loops, up Schweitzer Mountain or a loop around Bottle Bay. I was leaning towards the latter as the Bird Museum sounded pretty cool and I had already compulsively solved every Sandpoint area puzzle in anticipation of this route. More importantly, I didn’t want to be doing a mountain climb the day before a 90+ mile ride. But… there was a snafu with the Road Arrows switching colors. Several of us ended up not realizing this until later. As would be the case throughout the week, the other riders were so ultra-friendly that rather than turning around, I was enjoying talking with someone as we climb, climb, climbed.
The views at the tippy top weren’t really that great because of all the resort home building out that’s been done. However, 500′ lower was this gorgeous vantage:
I was feeling pretty good after all the hills, but not so good that I’d undertake the second loop so late in the heat of the afternoon. I went back to camp for a swim in the water.
Day 3: Sandpoint to Thompson Falls, MT, 87 miles. Because I had some concerns about my ability to do the ride in a respectable time with the anticipated temperatures hitting the upper 90s, I was very vigilant about sunscreen and hydration, but was still surprised when I consumed about 250 ounces of liquids during the ride. Stopping for geocaches prolonged the route.
But there’s history to be learned, too.
I was doing pretty good with these before the route had diverted off Highway 200 to very quiet roads. Then we crossed over into Montana, where the dirt roads were much better than the paved ones (at least on this stretch of highway). Scenery made up for it.
I got into Thompson Falls around 3:30 pm, giving me enough time for a shower and to find a post-ride massage. After grabbing a plate-ful of dinner, I went for a walk around town. The best view was on the Island Park, which overlooked Thompson Falls dam and the spillway.
Further off the beaten path was a cache calling attention to a marker for someone who’d gotten too close to the edge. Views like this were mine to savor.
Day 4: Thompson Falls, MT to Wallace, ID (76 miles) – Since this is Ride Idaho, we headed back into the state to the town of Wallace via a mountain pass. This we’tlander was perfectly fine with doing it in the morning. An interesting earthcache called attention to the fugliness left behind by dredging work done nearly a hundred years ago in an effort to find gold. The rest of the afternoon would follow the paved forest roads along the Coeur d’Alene river.
Wallace has a curious personality, vying for self-proclaimed center of the universe status with Fremont. Whereas Fremont has Lenin, Wallace has the Chef.
Day 5: Layover in Wallace, ID – There were a lot of potentially interesting things we could do on our day off. For me, it was Riding the Hiawatha – renting a mountain bike and tooling down the 15-mile former railway. It’s a gorgeous route and one that I would love to revisit without the chaos of a large group on a tight time schedule. (However, that chaos also permitted me to get a 10-stage multicache.)
The initial tunnel was 1.7 miles and crossed under the state line. At the halfway point, in complete and drippy darkness, is a plaque of the meeting of the two steam shovels. The engineers were impressive.
Day 6: Wallace to Chatcolet, ID – Our penultimate day took us from to Heyburn State Park via the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a flat, well-paved 70+ mile rail-to-trail. Portions would go for miles without interruption, letting me ride like I was twenty again. Adding on an extra out-and-back made this my first sub-7 hour century. (Normally I ride a leisurely 8:30, so this is a big deal to me.)
Day 7: Chatcolet to Coeur d’Alene – All good things must come to an end. The last day was a set of rolling (and not-so-) hills to Coeur d’Alene. There was a segment that had us taking a left on US-95 to hit the Washington border then come back via another trail. Some riders (cough) took the more direct route so we could get on the road sooner.
Overall, a very enjoyable ride. Totals were ~435 miles, ~15k altitude gain and ~105 geocaches found during the week. I’ll write some thoughts comparing Ride Idaho with Cycle Oregon and Ride Around Washington, as the events have very different personalities.