I know I’ve left the coast and entered the Inland West when I see Ponderosa Pines, hear Western Meadowlarks, see Chicken Fried Steak on menus and am called “Honey” by the woman behind the diner’s counter.
After enjoying a wonderful rest day with Lucy Reid and Bernie Bernheisel down the Methow Valley, more angels appeared in the form of former colleague, Steve Oien, and his wife, Hanne, who invited me to stay with them at their place just south of Mazama. A hike up to a spectacular valley view just above their place, plus good food and conversation, made for an unexpected treat that night.
(Bernie and Lucy at Bernie’s place on the Methow River in Carlton, WA)
(Hanne and Steve on the ridge above their place near Mazama)
The next three days centered around climbing mountain passes. In my trip planning I had glossed over how mountainous the Northeast corner of Washington state is — I rode over Loop Loop Pass (4000 ft.) to the Okanogan Valley, then over Wauconda Pass (4300 ft.) to Republic, then over Sherman Pass (5600 ft.) to Colville in three consecutive days. Relentless seven-percent grades are a good workout when fully loaded down with cross-country gear!
More angels appeared in the Okanogan Valley where former neighbors Jeannie and Jack Spurlock met me at a tiny RV site in Riverside, WA. They were testing out their new, luxurious camper-van, which they plan to take to Alaska this summer, and plied me with beer and dinner after my 74-mile Loop Loop day as well as coffee and eggs the next morning to get me going on my way through Tonasket and over Wauconda Pass. It was a treat to see these friends in such an out-of-the-way place.
(Jeannie and Jack on their maiden voyage with a fancy new camper-van)
And yet another, completely unknown road angel appeared in downtown Republic as I sat by the curb trying to assess my camping options for the night. A car stopped and the driver asked, “Are you doing the Northern Tier (bike route)? Want to stay in my yurt?” The kindness of strangers is an awesome thing!
In Colville I ran into a couple from Portland, OR — Holden and Helene Hughart. Holden is doing the same ride as I am, after retiring at the end of last year. He started in Neah Bay well after me and is making double-time in part because Helene is serving as his sag wagon and thus he doesn’t have to carry a full load on his bike (plus he looked to be in much better bicycling shape!). Nice people. It was fun for me to ride for half a day with Holden, chatting all the way, after all my solo days to date — he was nice enough to ride at my pace. By today he is already well ahead of me and will finish at Quoddy Head lighthouse in Maine before the end of July.
(Helene and Holden at the Beaver Lodge Cafe between Colville and Ione, WA)
Coming out of Colville yesterday, as I was looking at my map searching for a work-around to a detour, a worker asked, “Where you headed?” “Maine,” I replied. “Is this the right direction?” “NO,” he retorted, “the airport is back that way!” After much laughter and good conversation, he wished me Godspeed.
I had my first 90+ mile day from Colville to Newport, which is right on the Idaho border. Unfortunately this otherwise lovely day was marred by FOUR dog attacks along a ten-mile stretch of road through the Kalispell Indian Reservation. Loose dogs are a hazard peddling on rural roads, but this was a bit much. If it weren’t for the pepper spray that I carry right on my handlebars, I might have spent last night in the Spokane emergency room.
This remote corner of Washington state has a different culture from Puget Sound, for sure. I have overheard conversations in the diners expressing enthusiasm for Trump, dissecting Hillary’s emails, and discussing where the militias will meet to resist the urban hoards when the nuclear bombs hit. Seriously. Yet despite the extreme politics, people are friendly and I get many more waves from passing rigs than the few who don’t give me an inch on the road. People I talk with are uniformly encouraging, even enthusiastic, when they hear about my trip. Such encounters renew my faith in America and the generosity of Americans regardless of stripe.
I entered Idaho this morning. One state down, 15 to go! Thanks for your interest and your positive thoughts. I hope you are enjoying the postcards from rural America in my photo gallery — we sure do have a beautiful country out here.
— Dave (posted from Sandpoint, Idaho)