Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Sunday 23rd June: Ione to Colville (Washington State, USA): 68kms
Ride Time: 4hrs 31mins / Ave Speed: 9.3mph
It was D-Day. We were up at 6.30 am and on a mission. We had coffee, ate something, and were on the road by 7.55 am. Cloud and fog hung low around the surrounding mountains giving the place an ethereal feel.
At Tiger, a junction with a few buildings, we turned west and headed straight to the mountain. It was a good few kilometers before we saw the climb, it looked steep. We stopped, drank some water, and reassured ourselves that we didn’t have to ride it in one go. We’d take our time and inch our way up if we had to. It didn’t matter how we did it, just that we did it, that was all.
We immediately dropped down into our granny gears and began the climb. There was not much traffic to talk of as we pushed on up. The road arced around tightly into a series of “S” bends. The actual bends are the steepest sections. The long stretch between bends would have been around 6% in grade, and we found we were handling it OK. Our time spent preparing this time had paid off – so far, anyway!
The climb took one hour and twenty minutes. We were even a little surprised to realize we were at the top. It had been easier than I had imagined, and we had coped well. You can always hope for the best, but better to be prepared for the worst. We had four more passes to conquer. This one is by far the easiest, so we are not celebrating just yet, especially as the highest one, Sherman Pass, is next.
Some way over the pass, we came across Beaver Lodge, a great place to stay for lunch. We tied the bikes up next to the window so we could see them and went inside and chose a table. The process took a while (we have become used to instant gratification with service station food!), but because of our early start and good progress up the climb, we had plenty of time to sit back and enjoy it.
Although Colville is down in elevation from the pass, we still had to negotiate some big uphills as the road became something of a rollercoaster. On one such uphill climb about two kilometers long, we stopped to have a rest on the shoulder about three-quarters of the way up. While I waited for Shazz to catch up, I took a drink from my water bottle and then turned around to watch her catch me up. Just as she pulled over behind me, I spotted some movement just behind her on the other side of the road. Before I could grab my camera, a fully-grown mountain lion gracefully leaped the guard rail and, in about three bounds, cleared the one on the other side behind Shazz. It all happened so quickly that she didn’t even see it. I was utterly gobsmacked! Hardly anyone gets to see a mountain lion in the wild, we were told.
With the initial thrill of the sighting fading, we realized that we probably shouldn’t be hanging around here. In something of a controlled panic, we flew up the remaining hillside like scared rabbits, hoping that our feline friend hadn’t decided to get curious. It hadn’t, and we stopped again on the other side of the hill and regained our breath. I was stoked. I couldn’t wait to tell someone else about the mountain lion.
About six or 7kms before Colville, we got off the 20 and onto the 3846, a quieter backtrack into the town. After initially having to do some more climbing, we came out onto a hillside overlooking the town. We stopped and wondered whether we were better off staying on the 20 as it took more than a little effort this way. Still, it was all good practice for the looming Sherman Pass.
It was a long, steep descent down into Colville, and we were now glad not to be riding the opposite way instead. We eventually found ourselves in Main Street, navigating to the North East Washington Fairgrounds. The tent sites here were just basically parking spaces for trucks during rodeo season, and there was no security for the bikes if we left them to get dinner.
We quickly gave away any idea of staying there and returned to Main Street and the Selkirk Motel. The manager was a surly bloke with one tiny dump of a room left. His $USD90 asking price seemed outrageous, and we retreated to some shade across the road at the tire center to assess the situation and do some more study.
Benny’s Colville Inn was about a kilometer up the road but had plenty of free rooms with breakfast included. It also had a bar next door with a restaurant. And it was cheaper than the Selkirk. A no-brainer!
There was a large grocery store across the road where we bought some food and beers. We put them in the room for later and headed to the sports bar next door. Sitting at the bar, we related our mountain lion story to the barmaid, who had never seen one either. She was really chatty and took a shine to these two strangers. We had a great time swapping stories. In the meantime, Shazz bought a couple of bar scratchies, letting our new best friend pick them for her. Much to our surprise, she won $USD130! So, as it turned out, we had a really lovely room for nicks, and food and beers covered as well. Throw in our first mountain pass completed and a mountain lion sighting, we’d had a pretty damn good day!
Monday 24th June: Cycling from Colville to Kettle Falls (Washington, USA): 15.5kms
Ride Time: 55mins / Ave Speed: 10.34mph
We went over to the reception for breakfast. The whole room was bedecked with mounted fish. They were from all over the place. Big ones, little ones, and rare ones. The owner was quite the collector.
It was 10 am when we finally got going. It was a short day today, one we had planned on purpose, as tomorrow we had to climb up over Sherman Pass, a 36km climb that goes straight up.
We kept to Highway 2, which was pretty busy leaving Colville, but we were soon in Kettle Falls. We headed to the Visitor’s Centre, which had a campground next door. It’s just a community park, but it was well-grassed. Unfortunately, the park had its sprinklers going full bore, and the place was sodden. A quick pass of the Visitor’s Centre found it closed, obviously, no one visits here on Mondays! In fact, not too many places at all were open.
Up the road, across from the local market, was the Kettle Falls Inn. We figured a bed for the night and a good sleep before tomorrow’s climb would be a good idea. After some rest, we walked and found Ralph’s, a small local bar full of the usual regulars. Troy, the owner, was an amicable young fellow and soon had us engaged in conversation. He, too, had seen mountain lions – two of them! And told us we were now in a rare club. He took our lunch order, cooked it himself, and then bought us a beer each. Good stories are worth a beer!
On our way back to the room, we looked through the local market-cum-souvenir store. It sold everything from furniture to elaborate decorations and expensive coffees. We bought some craft beers instead and returned for an early night.
If you want to see how we went on the biggest climb for this trip, take a look at – Sherman Pass – Ready or Not! Cycling from Kettle Falls to Republic.