P9260312. Photo: Idaho Quarter
A Bike tour From Portland (Troutdale) to Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho. Eleven days of riding 530 miles (plus 40 miles of hitching). The return was made on the Empire Builder Amtrak train at Sandpoint, ID.
For the tour Matt and Carye bought new custom built Bike Friday (www.bikefriday.com) folding bikes that are made in Eugene, Oregon. Neither Carye or Matt own cars, so investing in a reliable, flexible bike for travel was important. However the bikes arrived two days before leaving, so getting used to new bikes while on the road, was literally a pain in the butt! By the end of the trip, gears, seat and handle bar placement, and proper riding shoes were figured out. Everyday of the ride had awesome weather (not too hot, not rainy), and Carye and Matt met many friendly people, ate as much pizza and icecream as desired, and enjoyed some beautiful scenery (though Washington wheat fields get dull to the eyes after 20 miles). The fourth day brought bad luck – 4 flats (at once!) caused by Goathead thorns, and wind in the face most the day. Also a family of earwigs hitched a ride in C & M’s camping gear, and it took about a week to finally see the last one. Idaho is a cyclist paradise (what a secret). From The State Border near Coere D’Alene to just before Bonner’s Ferry, there were many bike paths, nice scenery, and most flat routes.
Day 1:Troutdale to Hood River (55.6 miles)
Highlights: Gorgeous Columbia River (Get the bike map from ODOT). Ride to Council Crest, Ride by Falls, bike-ped paths on the old historic highway.
The campground listed on the bike map for Hood River was not there. We decided to treat ourselves and stayed at the Hood River downtown hotel. Hood River is a super nice town – though sad the Carousel Art Museum is closed and moving elsewhere. Also on this route, between Cascade Locks and Wyeth, do not take the Wyeth Bench Rd (aka Herman Creek Rd), it is a horrible grade hill, and you are better off taking the I-84. Note about I-84, it’s not the most pleasant experience, but it’s not bad, In order to bike to Hood River, you will need to get on I-84 at several points – The shoulder is pretty wide at most places, and it’s a good idea to wear some bright orange!
Day 2: Hood River to Maryhill, WA (52.5 miles)
Highlights: The old historic highway section is really neat: it goes through the Mosier Tunnels (now just for ped/bike), The section through Mosier town, and to Rowena’s Crest was on low traffic streets. No need to get on I-84 at all all the way to the Dalles.
The crossing over to Washington on the bridge in the Dalles was difficult. It was so windy and the sidewalk so narrow we had to walk. Biking to hwy 14 across the wind was also difficult. But once on hwy 14 heading East, the wind was at our bikes, and we cruised past the Maryhill Museum (Too late in the day to stop!) and stayed at the Maryhill State Park (back down by the river).
Day 3: Maryhill to Crow Butte (58.2 miles)
Highlights: Cruising sometimes 20 miles an hour easily with the wind at our back on Hwy 14. Lovely more deserty scenery, waving to trains. A Stop at Stonehenge.
From the campground, we hitched a ride in a pickup back up the top of the hill to hwy 14. The road was a major truck route, and the shoulder was pretty much missing for the first section of the hill, we decided htiching was the safest option. We enjoyed stopping at America’s Stonehenge. I had been there before, but never thought I’d bike all the way! Crow Butte park was father than we thought. We could see it, but then had to ride about 4 miles all the way around and out to it. The RV park was expensive, and did not offer "primitive camper" sites.
Day 4: Crow Butte, WA to Hat Rock Park, OR
Highlights: Early morning hike past deer to the top of Crow Butte. Discovering the way over the I-82 – there is a bike route, but you need to go on the may freeway before the bike route appears, then you exit, cross under and go over on the otherside. Umatilla was nice little town to check out. At first we were excited about the Lewis & Clark Bike/Ped Bath, but it turned into a bad situation.
The wind in the gorge changed from E to W today, so we had to push hard for 20 miles, going about 5-8 miles an hour. Very hard reality after the day before. The road moved away from the Gorge and was now less interesting. Onion (Walla Walla) trucks passed us all day, leaving onion skin trails. We crossed back to Oregon, and instead of the main road decided to follow the Lewis & Clark trail to Hat Rock State Park. Unfortunately it turned into a bad idea. The path was badly marked and kept changing from paved to shared road, to bark-dirt to gravel. After a gravel section we discovered that we had rode through thorns and had 4 flats at once. We pulled out 15-30 thorns and only had two new tubes, One tube needed to be patched 7 times. We were able to ride out to the main road and hitched a ride with a priest. The State park had a commercial RV park that we stayed at.
Day 5: Hat Rock to Walla Walla, WA (25 miles + 23 miles hitched
Highlights: Bicycle Barn in Walla Walla was awesome, they took care of us and our flat saga – and would not charge for labor because we were traveling. Thank you Reggie!! Walla Walla is a lovely town. We also had other nice folks give us lifts throughout the day.
Carye’s bike had another flat in the morning. We were able to ride to the turnoff to Walla Walla where we hitched a ride, rode a little, got another flat, then got another ride. Outside Walla Walla we enjoyed an old style soda fountain/gift shop. After the afternoon in the Bike Barn – with goo in the tires to prevent anymore more thorn flats, C & M were good to go, and eager to eat an entire pizza in town. There was on camping nearby, so the Travelodge motel allowed some "free" hot showers.
Day 6: Walla Walla to Central Ferry, WA (57 miles + 10 hitched)
Highlights: Nice Campfire at a nice state park (Central Ferry)
The ride today was tough, Carye’s body was tired of the bike and wanted a rest, The first part of the day was okay, but after Dalton, the ride was never ending (according to Carye) At Dodge, it was getting dark within 45 min, and with 10 miles to go, C & M hitched the rest of the way to the park.
Day 7: Central Ferry to Colfax (36.6 miles – lots of hills)
Highlights: Arriving at our destination in the early afternoon, Staying on Lisa and Mike’s lawn, Top Notch eatery.
While a short day mile-wise, the wheat country hills were never ending. We started the day with 7 miles going uphill. In Dixie we stopped at garage sales. In Waitsburg (cutest town ever) we had icecream shakes and got free cucumbers from the antique shop. We were going to stay at a motel in Colfax (at first look , doesn’t seem like a nice town, but it grows on you!), but before we did, we met Lisa and Mike outside the city park, and they invited us to camp on their lawn. Lake Oswego transplants with two small children they loved meeting Portland travelers. They knew about Bike Friday, and Mike does a lot of long distance biking as well. For dinner we highly entertained at the Top Notch Diner, where the 17 year-old host/waiter was hilarious, and amused us. We had more icecream!
Day 8: Colfax to Spokane (61.3 miles)
Highlight: Knowing that the next day we would have a day off (finally!)
This was a long hard day as well. Everyone we talked to said said the drive was pretty with rolling farmland hills. Yeah – if you are in a car. The hills were long, and not rolling, and the scenery was yellow wheat fields. Though we did enjoy watching a fox running around. Carye’s cousins live in Spokane – at the top of the hill of course. Washing laundry, showers, and hanging with family was fabulous. Also was glad to not hitch finally.
Day 9: Spokane – No bikes whatso ever
Day 10: Spokane to Coure D’Alene Idaho (52. 1 miles)
Highlights: Ride down the hill to the giant Red Wagon slide in Downtown Spokane. Bike paths all the way baby! Riding 10 miles with a German-american recreational cyclist.
Today we travelled via the Centennial Bike Path (40 miles from Spokane toC D’A Idaho). However the path on the Washington side is badly marked, and we travelled 6 miles out our way since the first section is on the road with little signage. If anyone is taking this trail please inquire on how NOT to miss your turn – it’s really not obvious. After we got back on again we enjoyed riding along with a nice German-american woman to the Idaho State visitor center. At lunch at the center Carye had a freak bee sting on her cheek. The bike path continuing into Idaho was very well signed and marked and paved. Coeur D’ Alene was a nice town – with a boring shopping street (Sherman Ave). We stayed at the Tamarack RV park, that literally is a mini forest now surrounded by bigbox stores. The RV park is more of a monthly rental kind of place, with no real camping. There was one tiny patch of grass next to the dumpster that we rented for the night for a mere $25!
Day 11: Coeur D’ Alene to Round Lake State Park, ID ( 37.1 miles)
Highlights: Bike Path along US 95 for part of the way out of town, and an early arrival to a really nice, real forest campground for only $12 a night with FREE warm showers.
We had a short set back in the AM, Matt biked over a screw, so we had to stop to fix the flat. Wonderful nice flat bike ride all day. Arrived early enough at the campsite that we could take a hike around the lake, and make food not in the dark. We were one of three others camping in the park, unfortunately one guy was a little creepy, and scared the crap out of Carye. The quiet and solitude did not help.
Day 12: Round Lake Park to Bonner’s Ferry, ID
Highlights: Another bike path from where we camped to Sandpoint, ID. We finished our journey all in one piece!!
The old bridge into Sandpoint has been turned into a bike/ped path. I was so wide! We stopped in Sandpoint to check out the amtrak train station, (on a dirt road on th outskirts – strange!) and bought Idaho souvenirs. The ride to Bonner’s Ferry was also easy and Flat except for one long hill at the end. We met another long distance traveller heading West from Fargo, ND. We had pizza for lunch AND for dinner on our celebratory day. In Bonner’s Ferry our Idaho hosts Linda and Ben picked us to take us to Moyie Valley Ranch, 8 miles from the Canadian Border.
We spent 5 days on the ranch, and it rained pretty much the whole time, so we never did bike over the Canadian Border! Shoot! But we made friends with the Cows, Sheep, and Horses, and started a Cob Oven project (although only the foundation got finished) and experienced a highschool reunion party for Ben and Linda’s eldest daughter.
On our final day of our trip We folded our bikes into our canvas bags, and took the train from SandPoint (leaving at midnight) all the way back to Portland, in one day!
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