Heyburn to Wallace

There are few things more peaceful than camping near a lake with birds quietly singing in the early morning while rain lightly falls. That was our Wednesday morning. The temperature dropped considerably, which was nice because I was starting to complain about hauling our larger warm sleeping bags in our panniers instead of our ultralight ones that pack down into the size of a Nalgene water bottle. I even had to zip my bag up last night — a first for the trip.

Heyburn State Park is wonderful. I’m sure it will be a bit different on Friday night with Page and Vance because so many more campers will be here, but it is one of the gems we’ve discovered on this trip.

An observation: our lives are so busy and schedule-driven it is hard to mentally adjust when both are removed. Last evening as Natalie read her book I had nothing to do and found it hard to just sit and stare at the fire. I kept thinking I needed to be doing something. Having tons of bandwidth allows me to fill these gaps at home with wasting time watching YouTube, which for some reason my brain processes differently than watching a fire spark or cranes swim by on the lake by our tent. I think I need to learn to live my normal days a little more like I’m forced to live on my vacation days. I need to stare at the fire.

We left the campground about 9:30 AM. We kept thinking it would rain on us so we were prepared for it, but the rain didn’t come. It was nicely overcast for the majority of today’s ride.

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is awesome. The trail is paved the whole way and is railroad grade, so even though we were riding uphill all day, it was hardly noticeable. The pilings used to create the original railroad bed were contaminated mine pilings (the contamination wasn’t understood at the time), and when they decided to try to rectify the problem the most efficient way to do it was to seal them in with asphalt. The result was a beautiful trail.

It is extra peaceful to be able to ride without having to pay attention to (worry about) cars. The 60 miles seemed to fly by. We could have kept riding when we arrived in Wallace. We are excited to do this same trail again with Page and Vance on Saturday.

We ate a big meal at City Limits Restaurant in Wallace. We weren’t particularly healthy in our selection of food. This sometimes happens when we’ve ridden all day. But it sure tasted good.

We bought supplies at a grocery store. Thankfully we were stuffed so we were modest in our purchasing. We rode back to the hotel and I gave the hot tub a try. This is saying something, as I am a champion soaker, but I couldn’t stick it out. There were enough chlorine fumes to make my eyes water and make it difficult to breathe. I called my soak short and retreated to our room. The hotel has a redeeming grace: you can park your bikes inside in a conference room. We are happy the bike isn’t outside as it is supposed to rain again in the early morning.

We are so excited to have Page and Vance join us tomorrow. This is the first time someone has been crazy enough to join us. We hope this isn’t the last. We will be redoing some of our favorite sections with them, including the Route of the Hiawatha and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Here are a few photos from today.

Tandem tandems

We slept well in our hotel room in Wallace. It was a good night to be inside because it started raining early and continued to rain through the morning. It is one thing to sleep in a tent in the rain and entirely another thing to pack up a tent and all your gear  in the rain. Our hotel room helped us avoid this.

Vance and Page woke up early in Missoula and drove to Wallace to pick us up at the hotel at 9 AM in order to make the shuttle timing work. It is a little less fun to be on a schedule, but we had arranged with someone to help shuttle Vance’s truck to a safe location and needed to accommodate them driver’s schedule. We loaded our bike with theirs and drove to Lookout Pass (ski area) where we started our ride. The shuttle worked out perfectly and we were able to position the truck in a good place for us to recover on Saturday evening.

We introduced Vance and Page to Pete-style navigation by getting off route right at the beginning of our ride and had to go off-road over a rough 4-wheel drive road and up a steep embankment to get on route. It was great having four people to push the bike when we went up the embankment. Had it just been Natalie and I we might have had to unload the bike first.

The ride from then on was a beautiful mostly downhill trek on dirt roads. It was a bit cold but not a problem.  We rode a short segment of the Route of the Olympian out to the tunnel and trestle as an out-and·back and then started the Route of the Hiawatha. This time we spent more time reading the various signs along the trail and learning the history of the old rail line and the people who operated it. The railroad is an amazing engineering feat, but perhaps the most amazing aspect of it is the ingenuity and perseverance of the people who not only constructed it but kept it operational for so long.

Tonight we are in a hotel in Avery — the same one we stayed in last week. Last week we needed the shower because we were hot and sweaty. Tonight we needed it because we were a bit chilled (except for Vance — he is a human heater).

It has been great to ride with Vance and Page. We’ve done these adventures for several years now and could only share them with people through this travel journal. Now we get to share the experience first hand. It creates a few small logistical needs, but it’s overwhelmingly worth it to have people we love and enjoy with us.

Today we rode a little over 40 miles, mostly downhill. It was an enjoyable ride and both bikes worked well. Tomorrow is a bit longer and also involves a shuttle, as we head back to Heyburn State Park and are trying to skip the highway portion of the ride that had us on a small shoulder with logging trucks.

Here is a link to photos from the day.

Avery to Heyburn, the right way

We slept great in the Avery Hotel. We had plans to meet our shuttle at 4 PM so we had to leave around 10. I’ve grown to appreciate the times we are not tied to a schedule, but having a shuttle through the dangerous part of the ride is totally worth the inconvenience of a schedule.

Before we left we looked in a train museum and an old passenger car in Avery. One thing Page has helped us do better is to stop along the way to learn about the area and its history.

The ride to St Maries was the perfect temperature. We had enough cloud cover to keep the sun off but not so much as to bring rain. It was totally dry. The road follows the St Joe’s River the entire way. About 20 miles from St. Maries, we had lunch at a roadside cafe. Again, it was fun to slow down, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. 

We had one other brief stop along the way so Vance could go jump in the St Joe River to cool off. As it is snow melt, that did the trick. Shortly after lunch we exited the nice paved road and rode on the rail-grade dirt road into St Maries. It was rough washboard. We did it to avoid traffic, but perhaps we should have stuck with the asphalt.

We made it to our shuttle meet-up point early. I had been able to share our location with our driver so he was there waiting for us with a trailer he had rigged up specifically to haul our bikes. We grabbed supplies at the nearby store and drove to Harrison. Our driver was a retired principal and told us stories of the area for the entire drive. While I had resisted the shuttle idea, now in hindsight I have to admit it was the right choice and worked out perfectly.

After unloading, just as we were beginning the next segment of our ride, we saw another recumbent tandem similar to ours (but made by a different company). I wish we had been able to talk to them but they were riding in the opposite direction.

We rode the Trail of Coeur d’Alenes from Harrison to Plummer so that we could say we did the entire trail by the end of Saturday’s ride to Mullan. On the way back to our campsite at Heyburn State Park we encountered a moose on the trail. Page had just been chased by an angry mother moose the week before in Alaska and knew to be wary of the awkward, lanky, but big animal. Eventually it moved far enough off trail for us to ride by.

The campsite wasn’t as pretty as the previous two sites we used at Heyburn, but it was good enough. We cleaned up, showered, ate dinner, and went to bed.

It was a great day of just under 70 miles of riding.

Here are some photos from our ride.

A big day

Saturday was a big ride day. We all slept well in Heyburn State Park. It was lightly raining through the night which created a peaceful atmosphere and kept the temperature just right. It stopped in time for our tents to partially dry prior to packing. The campground was much busier due to it being the weekend, but our site was surrounded by trees. We ate, walked by the lake, packed up, and hit the trail around 11 AM. We were riding the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes all day.

Our first stop was our Airbnb in Harrison where we dropped our panniers. We had a slight routing snafu which had us pushing our bikes up the steepest hills in Harrison only to find we were headed in the wrong direction. It built character.

On the way to our Airbnb we ran into another couple on a tandem recumbent and had a fun talk with them. We had caught a glimpse of them on Friday night. It is so rare to see a bike like ours! The couple’s ages were 68 and 74. We hope we are still biking like this when we are those ages. We’re planning on it!

We rode the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes uphill again, eventually making it to the end at Mullan in the evening. It was beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed sharing it with Page and Vance. Once more we felt so happy that former railways like this are being transformed into bike trails. Partway through we met another couple on a regular tandem, who had cycled across the US as well as many other places. Again — fun to talk with people who have similar interests and experiences. We also saw many beautiful and interesting birds, including a few great blue herons. What a fantastic feeling to have ridden the entire trail!

It was a great ride. The temperature had been perfect throughout the day, but as the sun went down we all quickly chilled and since we had left our panniers there was nothing we could do about it. Normally we would have had coats and pants we could put on to warm up.

We had a good dinner at a restaurant in Wallace and picked up Vance’s truck. We drove to a Walmart in Smelterville and bought supplies for the next two days, and then drove to Harrison. It was about midnight. We quickly unpacked, cleaned up, and went to bed.

Our Airbnb in Harrison is perfectly quaint, overlooking the lake. Just the right place to rest and relax. Our total mileage was 78 miles – mostly a slow uphill regaining much of the altitude we had lost on the previous 2 days.

A day of rest

Two gifts big rides give you are 1) the ability to sleep well and 2) the ability to eat a ton of food. We are taking advantage of both in Harrison on Sunday.

The Airbnb we are in is comfortable and peaceful. Because we had Vance and Page’s truck when we went shopping last night we were able to buy as much as we wanted without having to take into account how much we could load into our panniers — so we bought a lot. 

We woke up and drove to St. Maries where we went to church. It was wonderful to be in a familiar and friendly setting even though we didn’t know anyone. Several people ensured we felt welcome. It felt good to worship with them. Being able to drive the 30 miles to church again made us appreciate the conveniences of a vehicle. The distance and nature of the road were such that we couldn’t have attended in person without the truck.

Back at the Airbnb we cooked a large meal, ate, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. Vance and Page are exceptional communicators and have great insight into our world. It is fun to be doing this part of our journey together.

Last ride of the trip

Monday morning started with a drive from Harrison to Hamilton. It was tough leaving such a comfortable Airbnb, but it was also comfortable to travel so many miles in an air-conditioned vehicle. Our adventures teach us to appreciate our modern vehicular conveniences but also appreciate opportunities to travel in a slower, more immersive way. You experience a landscape differently at 10 mph with no glass isolating you from the sounds and smells. In any case, the Idaho panhandle and Montana are beautiful both on bike and in car.

As we drove to Hamilton, backtracking some of our route, it was cool to see how far we had biked. We also had some really great conversations with Page and Vance. Upon arriving in Hamilton we were excited to get riding again and we were also grateful to find the truck in good condition where we had left it two weeks earlier.

We got ready to ride and rode the Bitterroot Trail for 30 miles back towards Missoula, before turnng around and riding back toward Hamilton. We
rode from about 4:00 to 9:00 PM. It was pretty warm, and we had a head wind going north which turned into a tail wind going south as we returned to Hamilton. We enjoyed riding through pretty farmland, small towns, and mountain scenery. We were on a dedicated bike path the whole way but were close to a highway with some traffic and its associated noise. The route was part of the same trail we had done 2 weeks ago.

Total miles today were 63.5 and our whole trip total ended up at just under 730.

We found a hotel, cleaned up, soaked in the hot tub and pool, and went to sleep, happy and tired.

As we write this it is Tuesday and we are driving home. We are sad to see our adventure end but happy to think about the memories we created. We love seeing the world this way and enjoy this unique opportunity to accomplish something difficult together. It was also fun to share the last part of our trip with people we love.