Spokane to Aspen


Fall 2018


Denis Kertz, ©2018


Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - Naperville, IL


This yearís bicycle tourís highlight is a family visit.It starts in Spokane, WA, passes through Boise, ID, and ends near Aspen, CO.I have nephews and nieces in these 3 locations.The first location, Spokane, is convenient because the Amtrak Empire Builder train has a stop in Spokane so it is easy to get my bicycle to my start via the train.This Amtrak Empire Builder train is the same one I took last year when I got off at East Glacier, MT.This year is only different in that I stay on the train a little longer before getting off in Spokane,


The other convenience about the train is that I can handle all the travel by myself.I live 1.5 miles from the commuter train station in Naperville that takes me to Chicago Union Station for the Amtrak train.A limited number of bicycles are allowed on the commuter train during the week outside of rush hour and any time on the weekend.


On the weekend, the train is available hourly at 8:33, 9:33, etc.The Amtrak train leaves at 2:15 pm so there is plenty of time to get to Union Station.However, bicycles occupy the space reserved for handicapped devices and handicapped devices have priority and you never know how many bicycles might show up for a train.So I was planning to take the 9:33 train which left a couple more trains as options if necessary.


This Saturday was forecasted for heavy rain in the morning.That made me decide to take an earlier train to avoid having to ride to the station in the rain.When I was thinking about leaving for the station around 7:30 it started raining heavily.However, it stopped raining for a while just after 8 so I rode to the station at that time and caught the 8:33 train.


One issue with getting a loaded bicycle on the commuter train is that you have to lift it up several steps.When the train arrived I watched for the handicapped car which was at the front of the train.I was dismayed when the handicapped car was past the platform - I didnít know how I would be able to get the bike on the train.However, the conductor called to me and pointed to a second handicapped car that was by the platform.Still, it was a job to lift the bicycle up 3 steps from the platform.The conductor helped out by lifting the rear of the bicycle.


Since this commuter train stopped at every station along the way, it took a little more than an hour to reach Chicago Union Station.Then I had to kill over 4 hours waiting for the Amtrak.


Last year was the first year I was able to just hand Amtrak my bicycle for them to put in the baggage compartment.In previous years I always had to box it up in an Amtrak box.What was especially nice last year we (myself and another cyclist) were asked to walk our bicycles first to the baggage compartment but not this year.I was expecting the same this year but when it was obvious that wasnít going to happen I asked the station attendant and he motioned for me to bring my bicycle up front.Eventually I rolled my loaded bicycle to the baggage compartment.It seemed like the baggage guy was prepared to take my loaded bicycle (but Iím not sure he was aware how much it weighed) but I removed my 4 panniers and the duffel bag where I had my sleeping bag and tent.I carried them on the train, carrying the 2 smaller front panniers to my seat, putting one overhead and the other under my seat.


Luckily the train was not that full and I had a 2-seat row to myself.That made sleeping much easier by allowing me to stretch across the 2 seats.As usual I didnít sleep great but I got a reasonable amount of sleep.


The big question with Amtrak is always how close to on time it will it be.Since the freight trains own the tracks, whenever there is a conflict with an oncoming train Amtrak loses and has to pull off to the side to wait for the freight train to pass.The next morning was looking good as we had an hour wait at Minot, ND, 30 minutes more than planned.However, we lost time after that and by the time we reached East Glacier the train was a couple of hours behind.That meant the 1:40 am scheduled Spokane stop was going to be later.


I was also expecting that I would have a seat mate for my second night on the train.Last year I got off at East Glacier but there were a lot of folks waiting to get on.The conductor had told the other cyclist who was going to Seattle that the train would be full so I was expecting the same this year.Maybe last year was an anomaly or maybe the difference was last year was Monday night and this year it was Sunday night.In any event, apparently only a few folks got on at East Glacier and I was able to get some sleep before the Spokane exit.


I went to sleep somewhere around 9 pm and by the time we stopped at Spokane the train had made up about an hour of the 2-hour delay.I collected my panniers and duffel bag and walked down to the baggage car where I was handed my bicycle.15 minutes after getting off the train I was packed and ready to ride.


Planning for this trip I had an interesting decision to make - whether to get a motel for the night or crash in the station.Obviously, the later the train the less sense it made to waste a motel night.On the other hand, my nephew had warned that the train station wasnít in a great part of town.I ended up emailing the Spokane police department to solicit their advice about safety.I was warned that there was a homeless population around the area and some of them could be aggressive.The police lieutenant who responded said he wouldnít advise staying in the station and if it were his decision he would get a motel.


So I made reservations at a Dayís Inn that was just a couple of blocks away.I had my lights ready and it was a quick ride to the motel.When I made the reservation I was careful to make sure I could check in at that time in the morning.The reservationist suggested I could make a special check-in so I wouldnít have to worry about checking out at the normal checkout time.That made sense to me but when I checked in the attendant said there was a $20 early check in fee and I complained that I was just quoted a $59.99 rate.As it turned out this $59.99 rate got me checked in early and it was good until the next dayís normal checkout time.So in effect I got a night and a half room for the normal room rate - a good deal.


Mon, Sep 03, 2018 - Naperville, IL to Spokane, WA


Between sleeping on the train and sleeping at the motel I got a reasonable nightís sleep and the motel had a decent continental breakfast.


The plan for the day was to visit my niece and nephew since I rarely get to see them.Even better, my sister, Judy, was in town and she turned out to be my personal chauffeur for the day.Later in the morning, she came by and picked me up and drove me to my nieceís house where I met Isaac (6) and Abby (nearly 4) for the first time.Unfortunately, Krissyís husband, Matt, works for the fire department and was working so I was unable to meet him.


Later, we arranged to meet with my nephewís family at an eating place, the Fieldhouse, in Liberty Lake for lunch.There I met my nephew, Dan, his wife, Steph, and their 2 sons, Logan (12) and Brant (10).It was a great lunch time since there werenít many others around.


After lunch Judy took care of Isaac and Abby so Krissy could complete some errands and we drove back to Danís place and visited on the deck for most of the afternoon.Then Judy drove me back to the Dayís Inn where I made some final preparations for the start of the tour in the morning.


It was a great day starting with a good end to the train ride and ending up in a motel for 2 nights while paying for one night.Then meeting up with my niece and nephew families with a personal chauffeur was just right.


Day 1: Tue, Sep 04, 2018 - Spokane, WA to Coeur d'Alene, ID [58.5, 6:03, 9.6 mph, +1,998', -1,724']


I ate breakfast again at the Dayís Inn continental breakfast.This was better than yesterday because I figured out they had sausage patties that yesterday I thought were pancakes.They also had a scrambled egg patty so I had a sausage and egg sandwich on a bagel.I also had a bowl of granola.


I decided not to hurry leaving to give the rush hour traffic time to calm down.I left about 8:45.Since the dayís route to Coeur díAlene was almost all on the Centennial Trail, all I had to do was ride about a mile to get on the trail.I headed north on the one-way Division Street.Since it was busy I just rode on the sidewalk.


Every trip has a problem and the only question was how soon would it happen.For this trip the answer was immediately.I noticed right at the start that my trip computer wasnít working.I have a wireless unit and I replaced both batteries before I left home so I was sure a battery was not the problem.I tried adjusting the spacing between the magnet on the wheel and the transmitter but that didnít work.I was hoping there was some interference in the area that was messing up the signal.


I kept riding north to the Spokane River where I would pick up the trail on the south side of the river.I almost crossed the river when I noticed the trail below the elevated street.So I stopped and made my way down to the trail.Then I played around with my trip computer again.Finally, I removed the display unit from its holding unit and put it back again and it started working again.Apparently the display unit lost sync with the transmitter and replacing the display unit caused it to go through the sync routine again.That was a relief to have that out of the way.


The trail was nice riding.It was paved with a couple of short stretches that were on the street.I rode through part of the campus of Washington State at Spokane and Gonzaga.


It was 23 miles to the Idaho border, an easy ride on the flat, paved surface.I reached the Idaho border at 11:30 so I thought it would be a short day since that was the half way point to Coeur díAlene.


Krissy had warned me that the trail was convoluted around Post Falls and that was the case.I thought they did a pretty good job of signing the trail so I didnít have any problem following the trail, until I reached a T-intersection where the bicycle sign pointed in both directions.I turned right and found out that was the wrong way.So I turned around I saw signs again for the trail.


I crossed a major intersection and then rode on what looked like it could be the trail but it dead-ended.So I turned around and rode back.I asked a cyclist at a light and he pointed to the major intersection to pick up the trail.When I got back to the major intersection, I was confused until I saw the signature yellow wiggle line of the trail on the pavement off to my left.I guess the construction at the intersection must have hidden a sign or distracted me but I got back on track.


That got me into Coeur díAlene where I ran into another issue.I followed trail signs that led to a U-turn in the trail and I figured that couldnít be right.After backtracking I finally pulled out my cell phone and checked Maps.ME which showed the trail.It also showed that the U-turn was correct since it was followed by another U-turn that got me riding along the lake shore.


There were good views along the lake shore and folks were out on the long beach enjoying the day.The day had started out with a low of 45.It was about mid-50s when I started riding and it was in the 70s by early afternoon.


I lost the trail again when it neared the city park but Maps.ME saved me again and I got back on track.The trail led me to where I picked up Sherman Ave.There I was lucky enough to meet another guy riding a BMX bicycle and I asked him about a grocery store.He knew there was a Safeway and he googled it and showed me where it was, a little less than a mile away.


I did my first real food shopping since I expected to end up at a campground and would need my own food.Maps.ME showed me how to pick up the trail again when I left the grocery store.The trail led me to Lakeshore Drive with the trail alongside the road.The problem, however, was there was a big hill heading east and the trail could not get me to the intersection of the Interstate and ID97 where my campground was.


I had checked beforehand and it looked like I needed to pick up Yellowstone Trail, a road.There was a sign for the turnoff and a sign that pointed that way as a bicycle detour so I was confident it was the right way.


The Yellowstone Trail climbed significantly followed by a significant descent.Then it became a gravel road and climbed some more.Then it changed back to paved and descended back to the intersection of I80 and ID97.The Camp Coeur díAlene was just south of the intersection where I got a tent site for $21.That was better than I expected since their website listed a tent site as $30.I suspected I got an after Labor Day rate.


The site was fine so I set up and cleaned up.Then I ate from my new groceries.


Finally, I adjourned to the laundromat to plug in and write my notes.Thatís when the next real disaster hit.I couldnít start my Linux application on my chromebook and I didnít know why.After fiddling around I gave up.Then I got the bright idea to use Google Docs to record my notes and that appeared to work.However, I think this required an Internet connection which wasnít a problem since the campground had WiFi.


A longer than expected day, partly due to route finding and partly due to some significant climbing at the end of the route.


Day 2: Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Coeur d'Alene, ID to St. Maries, ID [48.9, 5:33, 8.8 mph, +2,943', -2,889']


It wasnít a great night since I came down with a sore throat.This actually started yesterday afternoon when I felt my throat get a little raw.I thought it was because I didnít drink enough but obviously it was the start of the sore throat.If I had realized what was happening I would have bought some throat lozenges at the grocery store.As it turned out it wasnít really bad but I donít sleep great to begin with and this didnít help.


In the morning I had breakfast in bed in my tent - cereal with powdered milk and a bear claw.Getting some food and liquids seemed to help the sore throat.Everything considered, my throat was fairly decent throughout the day and better than last night.


I left just before 8 am, and my trip computer failed again.I had removed the display unit last night so I could record the trip statistics.I replaced it in the morning and pushed my bike up a small hill back to the office/restroom complex and that movement was recorded but nothing recorded when I actually started riding.I tried yesterdayís trick again of removing and replacing the display unit but that didnít work.Then I looked at the 2 contacts on the display unit and 2 contacts on the receptor unit and rubbed both of them.Then when I replaced the unit everything worked.So I think this was just a contact issue.


The route today was along the east side of the lake on ID97 that is considered a scenic byway.Initially the road hugged the lakeshore with just a little shoulder which wasnít all that useful because the shoulder was up against a guard rail much of the way.There was also a surprising amount of traffic which turned out to be rush hour traffic since about an hour later there was just an occasional vehicle which is what I was expecting.


After a few miles the road left the lake shore on a fairly steep, 400-foot climb.Most of the rest of the time the road was above the lake with houses built on the hillside by the lake.Most of the homes had steep driveways and a few had a parking space by the road and then a stairway down to the house.A number of these homes had their own boat landing.And, of course, there were many realty signs along the way.


The lakeshore was very irregular and winding, working around a number of bays, some small and some large.A couple of the large bays had marinas.


After the initial climb the road was rolling with very few actual flat spots.After about 23 miles there was another steep climb similar to the first.At the top of this second climb the road was resurfaced and I was able to turn the bike loose on the descent, reaching 35 mph.


I descended into the small town of Harrison around 11:30, the first place with food for the day.There was a cycle haus that had drinks and some food but nothing that interested me.There was a grocery store next door where I got some throat lozenges that helped my throat.Then there was a small restaurant where I had a burger and soup, which I got to help my sore throat.


I left around 12:30 feeling better and I needed to because I faced the longest, steepest climb of the day, a 600-foot climb.Starting with this climb the road had about a foot of shoulder.At the top of the climb the scenery opened up to farm land and the lake was left behind[D1] .In a short while ID97 ended and merged into ID3 and the traffic increased noticeably.This is probably because both ID97 and ID3 pulled traffic from I90 and fed into ID3 at this point.


Then there was a 3-mile descent on another reasonably good road and I cruised down on the descent at about 30 mph.Then it was flat the rest of the way to St. Maries where I arrived at 2:30 pm.


I had initially planned to camp just outside the town but decided a motel would let me take better care of my sore throat.There was also a bridge into town that was under construction with a one-lane crossing.This would have made camping more difficult with inconvenient access to town.


In town I found the Pines Motel which was the only motel and got a room for $75 but it was on the second floor.At first I was going to muscle the loaded bike up to the second floor but thought better of it and carried the rear panniers and duffel bag up to my room and then the bike with the 2 front panniers.


After cleaning up I walked a block or so up town to My Kitchen which had a spaghetti special for $10 that was decent and a lot of food along with a soup option that I took advantage of.I felt better after that.Then I stopped at a convenience store and got 2 soup noodles in a cup that just required adding hot water.My room has a microwave so I got that to help with treating my sore throat.


Day 3: Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - St. Maries, ID to Deary, ID [56.5, 6:30, 8.7 mph, +3,438', -2,730']


I slept okay.My sore throat was gone but I had a runny nose.I just kept some tissue by my bed and took care of business when I had to.After I woke up my runny nose was pretty much gone but I was stuffed up.Still this was turning out better than I had expected.


I had breakfast at a small cafe next door - 2 large pancakes and a side of ham.It was a pretty good breakfast.


I left town at 8:30, backtracking through town until I got back to ID3.Almost immediately there was a fairly steep climb of 270 feet followed by a short descent and then the climbing resumed with another 600-foot climb.This route was labeled the White Pine Scenic Byway.It was fine but not what I would consider a scenic byway but I guess everything has to be labeled so it attracts tourists.


After some up and downs there was a 430-foot descent and then a gradual uphill.After 15 miles, ID3 split left and I took ID6 right.Both ways would eventually get me to Deary but ID6 was considered a better cycling route and it also offered a couple of alternative routes.


Six miles later I came into Enida, a small town where I was hoping I might find a small store but instead I found a small eatery.So I stopped and had a burger.I was also considering whether rerouting to Potlatch to Moscow to Lewiston might be better because there were more services.However, there wasnít much in Potlatch and it was another 20 miles to Moscow which was more than I wanted to bite off for the day


So I continued on my route to Deary via ID6.However, there was a big hill in the way and I had to climb 700 feet on what was becoming a very warm day, with a high expected in the upper 80s, too high for my taste.The good thing was this climb was a twisty climb which alternately offered shade and relief from the sun.


This was followed by a descent which gave all of the altitude back on a similar twisty descent that was great fun flying around corners at 30+ mph.This eventually flattened out as I approached Harvard where I needed to make some decision about my destination for the day.There was an RV Park 2 miles outside Harvard that I considered and there was a small eatery in Harvard.However, I had only covered 35 miles and it was only 2:30 pm.Stopping at this point would have made tomorrowís route harder but, on the other hand, there was no motel or campground in Deary so I would have to find some place to camp in Deary.


In the end I pushed on to Deary after stopping in Harvard for a cold drink.At an intersection I took ID9 to Deary and immediately had a 400-foot climb as my reward.The rest of the way was rolling into town with ID9 ending and ID8 taking me the short distance into Deary, population 506.I made my usual one pass through town to see what services were offered.


There was a bakery and a food store.I stopped at the food store for a cold drink.As I was drinking outside the store I saw what looked like a town park across the street that I hoped was my camping spot.When I rode across the street to the bakery to check it out there was a police officer exiting the bakery so I inquired about camping and he didnít see any problem.


The bakery closed at 5 pm and it was almost that time so I ordered a pepperoni pizza for take-out.It was a 12 inch that was more than I needed but I took care of it.


A little later I set up camp on a nice, flat piece of lawn.There was also a restroom where I was able to clean up.However, I found a sprinkler head so the question was whether I would get wet if the sprinklers came on overnight.In any event, the choice to push on to Deary looked like it was working out great.


Even better, later I fired up my PC to record my dayís trip.Since I lost the ability to boot up to Linux on this PC I had started using Google Docs to write my notes.I wasnít sure whether this was going to work when I didnít have WiFi access but when I started up my chrome browser and went to the Google Docs tab it showed that it was working offline.So the next time I had Internet access Google Docs would sync up with the official document.This was working out way better than I had expected.


This turned out to be a good day.My choice to push on to Deary worked out great and Google Docs was just fine too.Even my trip computer worked flawlessly today.


Day 4: Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Deary, ID to Lewiston, ID [47.3, 4:04, 11.6 mph, +842', -2,712']


With my runny nose I didnít actual sleep until after midnight and then sleeping was okay.The big news was I dodged the sprinkler assault - maybe this wasnít the day for sprinkling.But I wasnít totally confident until I was packed up and out of the park.


I was at the bakery next door at 7 am when they opened up.I had a tasty breakfast burrito and a bear claw along with coffee.


I left town just before 8 on what promised to be an easy day.It was just a little over 40 miles to Lewiston and all downhill except for a little climbing just outside of town.Overall, I lost about 2,000 feet of elevation including a 4-mile stretch of 7% downhill.


There were 3 log trucks in the first few miles, one coming and two going and there was no shoulder.The log trucks were a fixture throughout the day.


Todayís scenery was much different than the previous days.At first there were very large, hilly wheat fields that had been harvested with patterns in the field according to the passes of the harvester.Then there was the big 4-mile 7% descent to the town of Kendrick in the Kendrick-Juliatta Valley.†† It was a tug of war between taking time to admire the scenery and flying down the hill.There were large brown/yellow hills on both sides.


Kendrick was a town of 300 that had a lot more services than one would expect in a town of this size.I stopped at a grocery store for some milk for my cereal breakfast.There were no small milk containers so I made do with a vanilla protein shake - just what I needed to power me down the hills.There was a nice park right across from the store where I enjoyed my second breakfast.


The scenery was great the rest of the way.After 31 miles ID3 ended and merged into US12 that I took to Lewiston.Originally I wasnít going to go to Lewiston but I decided a rest day was probably sensible, particularly since the next dayís trip was 70 miles with a mile of climbing.


When I got to the outskirts of town I had to decide where I wanted to stay.There were several motels on the outskirts but they werenít near many eating facilities.I found an Inn America that was just across the Clearwater River that looked like a good location.I called and was quoted a price of $172 and asking for an AARP discount didnít appear to work.


The motel was easy to get to and when I checked in I asked again about an AARP discount and this time I got a 10% discount.I also got a room on the first floor although I saw later that there was an elevator so a non-first floor room would probably have been okay.


After cleaning up I walked to a fairly nearby Mexican restaurant for a decent meal.At 3 pm, I was the only customer at that time.


Then I learned the motel had a guest laundry just a couple doors down from my room.I didnít really have to do laundry but I figured I might as well since it was so conveniently located.After all, what could go wrong?


As it turns out, everything.First, the soap dispenser vending machine ate my $2 and let the soap hang on the lip of the dispenser.So I had to get the front desk to open the machine to get my soap.That was the easy part.Next I tried to deposit $1.50 in quarters and the washer took two of them and then balked.Again I had to get the front desk to take a look.A woman jabbed with a paper clip and appeared to get the money unstuck.But when she deposited the money again the washer had cleared out my settings.I wanted to use cold water for my more delicate fabrics and we couldnít change that.We tried everything to reset the machine with no success.Finally, I turned off the hot water hose and that looked like it worked.But when I checked later it was hosed and it was flashing ďNo h2oĒ.


So in exasperation, I got the front desk to refund my soap and washer money and I just rinsed everything in my roomís wash tub.Then I stuck the wet clothes in the dryer which actually worked.Such an ordeal for what should have been a convenient way to do my wash.I was sorry there was a guest laundry.


Other than for the laundry fiasco, it was a great day.It is hard to complain about a day that is mostly downhill with great scenery.


Day 5: Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Lewiston, ID


I slept fitfully for the first half of the night but then I slept well and didnít wake until 7 am which is a late sleep in for me.The motel had a continental breakfast which was fine.


Later, I decide to walk downtown to check out a coffee shop and the city library.It was a bit of a hike, about a mile, but a nice walk.As I neared downtown around 9:30 there were folks setting up along the street.This was Lewiston Roundup Rodeo week with a 10:00 parade.As luck would have it the coffee shop I stopped at was upstairs where I had a good view of the parade.Of course, the best part was all the cowgirls riding horses.The interesting part was the pooper scoopers periodically following the parade to take care of horses that werenít potty trained.


After the parade I walked to the Lewis & Clark Information Center which was at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, not far from where Lewis & Clark camped.Then I stopped at the library on my walk back.There was an Albertson grocery store a couple blocks from the motel and a Subway that I visited.Then I retired to my room for the rest of the day.


One bit of good news is that the weather is cooling off a bit.Today was about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday and the high tomorrow was projected to be 81F and then highs in the 70s the rest of the week.


Day 6: Sun, Sep 09, 2018 - Lewiston, ID to Grangeville, ID [76.1, 8:35, 8.9 mph, +4,309', -1,760']


The continental breakfast didnít start until 7 am on the weekends.When I went down just before 7 a number of folks had beat me to the breakfast.I had a waffle, biscuits and gravy, and a bowl of cereal. Today was expected to be a hard day so I wanted to get off to a good start.


I left just before 8 and retraced my route back across the bridge.Then I picked up the frontage road until it ended back on US12 East.I rode US12 back to the junction with US95.Along the way I saw a bike path along the road that I didnít know about. It would have avoided some miles on US12 but US12 had a wide shoulder and traffic was relatively light on a Sunday morning.


After 9 miles, I picked up US95 south.US95 generally had a wide shoulder but it was sometimes a little rough.More importantly, it had rumble strips in places and when there was a guard rail it made the shoulder often useless for riding.


One good thing about the dayís route was there were several small towns along the way where I could get a cold drink.At Lapwai, I stopped at a grocery store with a deli for a ham and egg sandwich.I didnít really need food yet after my big breakfast but I decided it was better to take advantage of food while I could.


The scenery was nice, first along US12 and then before the real climbing started on US95.There were several large wheat fields on the side of big hills that had nifty patterns from the harvesting passes.


I stopped for a cold drink at a restaurant along the road about midway between Lapwai and Culdesac, which was at mile 23.Shortly after Culdesac the climbing started and gradually got steeper over the next 10 miles.I climbed at 6, 5, and then 4 mph over this stretch.There wasnít much to do other than keep pedaling away as I gained 3,100 feet of altitude.


At mile 36 and 1:45 pm I crested the climb.This was the halfway point for the day in terms of mileage but not in terms of effort.The rest of the way was a little downhill with some occasional moderate climbing.


Just at the top of the crest there was a sign for a Rest Area.I took the turnoff hoping to get some water to fill 2 of my water bottles that were empty.I did that and also got a cold drink since there was a service station that was part of the rest stop.


I made good time the rest of the way.I made a final stop at Cottonwood that was 15 miles from Grangeville.The rest of the way was mostly flat and there was some headwind as the road turned eastward as it approached Grangeville.


I reached Grangeville at 5:30, a tired puppy after a long day.I was in no mood for camping at that point so I headed downtown where I knew there was a motel and figured it would be cheaper than the 2 motels along US95.I got a room for $65 that was the fall rate but not as cheap as I thought it would be.


After cleaning up I walked a block back to the main street and found a pizza joint where I had a medium pepperoni pizza.I finished all but 2 slices which I took back to my room for desert.


A long and hard day, the hardest of the trip so far.


Day 7: Mon, Sep 10, 2018 - Grangeville, ID to Riggins, ID [56.8, 5:54, 9.6 mph, +2,188', -3,616']


I slept pretty well and should have after a hard day.I woke up to a novel feeling - I could hear out of both my ears, with neither being clogged up.I took that as a good sign but by the middle of the day they were clogged up again.


I walked to the restaurant next to the pizza place where I ate last night for breakfast, recommended by the motel owner.I had the pancake combo with a piece of ham that was about twice as big as you usually get.


I headed out just after 8 am.I expected a fairly easy day on the way to Riggins, 46 miles away.There was an early big climb but then there was an 8-mile, 2,750-foot descent and then just a slightly uphill route the rest of the way to Riggins.


Starting out there was a view of the Camas prairie for several miles until the steep 2-mile ascent took me to the top of White Bird Hill.At the top there was a fabulous view of the Salmon River Canyon below that I wasnít prepared for.I stopped several times along the 8-mile descent to admire the view and to take photos.


At the bottom I stopped at the small town of White Bird.I stopped at a store just off the road for milk for my second breakfast but it only had a few cold drinks.Instead I had to descend the short hill down to the town where I got milk and cereal at a small store.After eating at the park across the street I climbed the steep but short hill back to US95.


As I started riding again I was passed by another touring cyclist.He stopped shortly to check his map and we talked a bit.He was riding the Transamerica route starting from Virginia and had less than 2 weeks to go.†† I was surprised to learn he was riding the Transamerica since I had no idea it came through this part of Idaho.But then I realized US95 would take him into Oregon whereas my route split off from US95 at New Meadows and took ID55 into Boise.


This guy was half my age, carried half the amount of gear, was in better shape at this point in his tour, and was quickly out of sight. The rest of the way to Riggins was one continuous scenic sight as it followed the Lower Salmon River through the canyon.The day turned out to offer great scenery all day.


Just before reaching Riggins I saw a side road labeled Timezone Road and that reminded me that the upper half of Idaho was Pacific time and the lower half was Mountain time.This was where the time zone changed.


As I pulled into Riggins shortly after 2 pm, I rode through town looking for a campground.There were several RV Parks but they looked like they were strictly for RV vehicles.That was a total surprise since Riggins purpose in life was to provide river rafting.After I reached the other end of town I doubled back and stopped at the library where I met the Transamerica cyclist again.He had found a place at the end of town where he was able to just throw his tent up.


I turned around and headed toward his find but checked places again.I stopped at the RV Park that I visited earlier that looked like it didnít offer camping and talked with the owner.He offered other suggestions including a BLM campground on the other side of the river.He said it was about a half mile but it turned out to be a mile.But it was free and had outhouses and it had a river where I was able to dunk myself to clean up.


I debated eating from my food supply but elected to cycle back to town and had a good chicken sandwich.Then I returned to my campsite and settled in for the night.


A much easier day than yesterday and the best scenery of the trip so far.


Day 8: Tue, Sep 11, 2018 - Riggins, ID to McCall, ID [50.4, 7:17, 6.9 mph, +3,752', -579']


I was packed up and back at the same restaurant as last night for breakfast.It was almost 2 miles from campground to restaurant.I had 2 very large pancakes and ham.It was a good breakfast.


The weather was overcast which was a change.A couple of times the sun tried to peek through but the clouds won most of the day and helped keep the ride cool.


I was on the road by 8:30.It was only about 50 miles to McCall but most of it was climbing.The first 24 miles climbed 2,000 feet.Then there was a 10-mile level area.Then the final 12 miles climbed about 1,200 feet.


Last night when riding back from the restaurant I had a pain in my upper right thigh near the knee cap.Iíve never had that before but I guessed it was tendonitis.This morning I had the pain again when I hit the road.It was a mild pain that worried me if riding was going to make it worse.So I started the day in easy gears trying to make sure I warmed up properly.


Todayís scenery didnít challenge yesterdayís.The route followed the Little Salmon River upstream and the river wasnít the presence that the Lower Salmon River was yesterday.Also the hills were not as imposing and they were covered with evergreens.


After about 12 miles I stopped at an RV Park that had a camp store.They didnít have regular milk but did have chocolate milk so I used that with my cereal and it was okay.I didnít really need another breakfast this soon but it looked like it would be some time before anything else was available.


The shoulders on the road today were somewhat of a disappointment.Much of the road surface was covered with chip seal which is not the smoothest surface.Worse, for the shoulders they tended to spray the chip seal somewhat unevenly under the theory that the shoulder wasnít that important but this made the shoulder somewhat uncomfortable for cycling.Then near the end of the long first climb the shoulder was uniformly covered with chip seal like the main lane and this made shoulder riding more comfortable.However, the cost was they made the shoulder narrower, about 18 inches wide.With a lot of big trucks passing through it was hard to stay on the shoulder without falling off into the loose gravel, which I did a couple of times and nearly dumped the bike.


After 37 miles I reached the flat part of the route.The scenery opened up with some wetlands and then ranches with grazing cattle.


At 2:30 I stopped in New Meadows at the junction of US93 and ID55 for a bite to eat.When I left I left US95 behind and took ID55 9 miles to McCall.Soon there were signs of road construction the rest of the way.A good part of the road was steep and it was hard riding.Worse, the shoulder was very variable, sometimes nonexistent and other times cracked up and difficult to ride.


The best thing was there was a one lane road ahead.This had the effect of grouping all of the oncoming traffic together.When I saw the oncoming traffic I just stopped on the shoulder to make it easier and safer for everyone to pass.Then when I got to the one lane section, our traffic got grouped together.Of course I couldnít keep up with the group so I just let the group pass before getting back on the road.


This stretch of road was very difficult.I had to stop a number of times to rest and I usually donít have to rest often when climbing. I was actually half hoping they wouldnít let me ride through the one lane section and would force me to ride across on a pilot vehicle but the one lane section wasnít very long.At the steepest part several of the construction guys were laughing that someone would ride this stretch on a loaded bicycle.


I kept plugging away watching out for traffic and finally reached the top and then coasted into McCall around 5 pm.Then I pulled out my phone and did a google maps search for motels and found one that looked attractive on 3rd street not too far from the lake.When I got there it was full but there was a Scandinavia Motel across the street and I got a room for $79 which wasnít too bad in a resort town although this was likely an offseason rate.


There was a Subway nearby which took care of dinner for me.


A hard day with almost no descending.My bad leg didnít hurt at all on the hardest climb so I didnít know what to make about that.


Day 9: Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - McCall, ID to Horseshoe Bend, ID [83.5, 7:49, 10.7 mph, +1,291', -3,576']


I slept well and when I got up I felt fine.I had thought with my leg problem and the hard day that maybe I would need to take a rest day.I also thought McCall would be an interesting place to take a day off.Then I checked the weather forecast and saw rain was forecast for tomorrow afternoon.So I decided since I felt good that it would be better to ride today, hopefully make Horseshoe Bend, and then need only the following morning to get into Boise and avoid the rain.


The nearby food mart also had a little cafe inside, Old Town Station Cafť, so I walked there for breakfast.I had a pancake, eggs, and bacon.This place had a limited menu so I could only get a single pancake but it was a large one.Since this wasnít quite as filling as I wanted I grabbed a ham and egg sandwich on my way out.


It was a chilly morning, barely above freezing, and projected to get only in the low 60s in the afternoon.I put on a long sleeve jersey with a short sleeve jersey and a light jacket along with my rain gloves and that was good to get started when I left at 8:30.


Traffic was fairly heavy leaving town on ID55 with a so-so shoulder but not really a problem.After 22 miles there was one steep but short climb but most of the way was downhill, gradually for the first 40 miles and then dropping 2,000 feet over the next 20 miles, and then almost level for the last 20 miles into Horseshoe Bend.


The scenery was a big valley with surrounding forested hills.It was overcast so things looked a bit dreary.


After 29 miles I rolled into Cascade and had a tasty smoked turkey wrap and a cold drink.


Leaving Cascade, it felt chillier than before and I put my light jacket on again.The road continued straight with a decent shoulder.At the end of the valley, the road dropped through a canyon as it followed the Payette River downstream the rest of the way and was very scenic.There was little to no shoulder on a winding road so you had to be alert to traffic approaching from the rear and particularly with approaching curves but it wasnít a big problem.But I understand this road can have a lot of traffic so it might be a different story on the weekend with weekend traffic.


What did become a problem though was my leg again.It was fine all morning and then it started acting up again in the afternoon.It was a good thing that I could coast much of the way because the pain became a problem, even after I took an Advil.


When I neared the 60-mile mark just north of Banks there were 4 Forest Service Campgrounds along the road.None of them had water and werenít near any services so I passed in hopes of reaching Horseshoe Bend.Just after Banks I stopped along the road to take care of business on the side of a hill.Just a little walking must have done the trick because when I got back on the bike I was pain free.That was good because the closer I got to Horseshoe Bend the more pedaling I had to do and that would have been a drag with my bum leg.


I rolled into Horseshoe Bend at 5:30 and promptly stopped at a food mart and grabbed a sandwich and drink.There were no motels or campgrounds in town so I had to find some place to throw up a tent.Just past the food mart there was a town park and that looked like the best option on my pass through this town of 707.So I headed back to the town park where there was also a city hall building.I would have asked for camping permission but city hall was closed and I didnít see a police department around.


So I hung around the park until 7:30, just before dark, and pitched my tent in the most unobtrusive place and settled in for the night. Then around 9 pm a police person rousted me out of the tent.He gave me a bit of a hard time about camping in the town park saying camping wasnít allowed in town parks in Idaho although I noted I had been allowed to camp in the town park in Deary.In the end he admitted he couldnít realistically expect me to pack up and leave at night on a bicycle.


Day 10: Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Horseshoe Bend, ID to Boise, ID [30.1, 3:37, 8.3 mph, +1,826', -1,883']


I didnít sleep very well.In the morning I packed up and road back up the hill a short way to a food mart that had a Subway.I had a foot-long ham, egg, and cheese sandwich.It was basically an omelet on a foot-long sandwich.I had never eaten breakfast at a Subway.The ďomeletĒ was cooked as I waited.It was pretty good.


When I left the cafe/bar on the other side of the street that I had hoped would be open for breakfast was now open so it must have opened at 8 am.


I left town about 8:30.I was only 23 miles from Boise but there was an imposing 1600-foot hill in the way.Worse my leg was acting up again.It wasnít bad but I could feel it and worried how bad it might get on a big climb.As a precaution I took 2 Advils and never had a problem on the 6-mile climb.


Yesterday, a local had suggested doing the climb on old 55 to avoid the traffic.I considered that but decided to use the regular road.I wasnít sure if the old road might be steeper and it would not have been a good spot to try to hitchhike if I needed to.And when I looked at the route on Maps.ME it looked a little convoluted.


The scenery was outstanding.I had worried that my leg would be bad enough that I would have to hitch a ride and I would have been sorely disappointed.The great thing about riding was I could stop and check the view whenever I wanted and I did that a lot on the way up.


At the top of the Spring Valley Summit at 4,242 feet I stopped for my second breakfast which I had earned.The descent was not as scenic as the climb so I turned the bike loose.The shoulder was great for both the climb and the descent.I managed to hit 46 mph on the descent.Normally, at that speed I would have wanted to be in the driving lane but the shoulder was good enough for that speed which is unusual.


At the bottom I stopped for a cold drink and then took Hill Dr east for several miles until I picked up 21st street to my nieceís house.As expected everyone was working or in school so I rode to a nearby coffee shop to kill time.


I rode back to the house at 4 pm and Julia was home along with the kids.I spent the rest of the day getting acclimated to a family running around the house and did a load of laundry.


Day 11: Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Boise, ID


I slept really well and didnít get up until almost 8 am.Almost everybody was already gone to work or to school.I chose to walk to Big City Coffee and Cafť, a little over a mile away, that I had been to on a previous ride through Boise.When I got there around 10 am I was shocked to find it packed and a line almost to the door.I was undecided what to do and hung around for a few minutes.Then I found a round table with only one other person sitting so I sat down since table sharing at this place was common.


I ordered the oatmeal and a pumpkin muffin.Both were very good and too much food since the muffin was gigantic. I spent a couple of hours at the place and a couple tables were finally freeing up.I spent the time planning the next phase of my tour, from Boise east to Soda Springs. I mainly researched what motels and campgrounds were available along the way.


Finally, I left and walked back home, stopping at an Albertsons for a few grocery items.Then I cleaned my bike chain and pumped up the tires.


Later, we had pizza for dinner and then the crew went off to a high school football game that turned out to be a blow out.I chose to stay home and make sure everything was ready for my morning departure.






Copyright Denis Kertz, 2018. All rights reserved.