Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019

Friday 14th June: Rocky Gorge Campground to Libby (Montana, USA): 72kms

Ride Time: 5hrs / Ave Speed: 8.9mph

By 9.30 am, it was already pretty warm. We began a pretty good “legwarmer” straight up a very steep hill from the campground entrance. Something which would be repeated several times during the course of the morning.

We stopped for lunch at Kootenay Marina, the only other place along the east side of the lake before Libby. We took our time as it was hot, and we needed to hydrate properly. The girl behind the counter gave us some ice for our water bottles before we left, which was very nice of her, but half an hour down the track, it was all melted.

Kootenay Marina is an excellent place for lunch.

Several creeks feed the lake, and the road dips dramatically to a bridge over each one, then climbs just as steeply back out of the valley. We would slowly climb the next hill, then, not long after, plunge rapidly down into the next creek. The whole east side of the lake is like that. We figured that an average speed of about nine mph was pretty good for us at this stage.

We called into Libby Dam for a toilet break and a rest. We could see three Bald Eagles flying way up overhead. We’ve been fortunate to have seen many of these magnificent birds by now. They never fail to get our attention.

Libby Dam a rest stop before a giant downhill run.
Bald Eagles at Libby Dam.

Not far below the dam, we chatted with fellow touring cyclists heading uphill in the opposite direction. We always stop for other cyclists coming in the opposite direction as you can share a lot of current knowledge of conditions.

Dave, Jim, and Barb were from Winthrop in Washington State. It just happened we’d be passing through there later in our ride. Dave happens to be a Warmshowers host and promptly invited us to come and stay with them when we got there. We assured him we would and told them about the road ahead. They also told us about a great free campsite halfway between Libby and Sandpoint. The Halfway Hotel on Highway 56 was a cycle-friendly place run by a couple of very hospitable guys.  It’s amazing who you meet adventure cycling and just how far and where they can take you.

Looking downstream from Libby Dam. Pretty impressive!

After getting directions to the Old Haul Road into Libby, we said goodbye and headed off. It was a long day for us, but the Old Haul Road was relatively flat after Highway 37 along the lake, and it had ample shade to protect us from the biting sun.

We arrived in Libby at 5.30 pm. It had been our longest day by several kilometers. After getting directions from a young woman cyclist to get us into town the back way, we did a lap of the main street and discovered the Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company at the end of the street. We were hot, tired, and thirsty and soon sitting in the beer garden in the shade, listening to a couple of guitarists doing their thing. They were pretty good too! The brewing company, named after the mountain range that runs west of the town, has some good IPAs. After sampling their Yaak Attack and Mosaic Smash IPAs, we made an executive decision to have a rest day tomorrow and promptly settled in the rest of the afternoon.

After a long day in the saddle, it was great to kick back with an IPA or two and listen to some music.

Down at the community park, it looked pretty rowdy and open to vagrants wandering through, so we bit the bullet and checked into the Aussie-owned Sandman Motel just up the road. With our sleeping arrangements sorted, we went back up the road to the Rausser’s Supermarket, bought some dinner and beers, then returned to the motel to crash.

We also ran into the father and son cyclists we met at Rocky Gorge Campground. They had returned to Libby via a ride with Mum, who was driving their backup vehicle. She did everything she could to keep her son inspired and on the road. She told us they had received much media attention so far. I wasn’t surprised. A seven-year-old cycle touring is very rare as it’s physically grueling and requires vast chunks of the rider’s time. That’s why you mainly see old folks like ourselves plugging along the roadside!

Saturday 15th June: Rest Day Libby (Montana, USA).

Now we have seen the worst of the winter weather (we think!), we decided to get rid of some of the clothes and other various things that we may not need anymore. We were being pretty mercenary. I even had my last shave for a while and packed my shaver. Together we posted 11kgs of gear onwards to Bellingham so that we can retrieve it later.

Back in the room, I used the bathtub to find the leak in my air mattress. I had kept a repair kit since we bought them and, hopefully, sealed the leak properly. Lying on the cold ground hadn’t been much fun lately!

Our chores were done, and we returned to the Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company for a few beers. As we’ve learned by our time here in the States, Saturdays are biker days. Great hordes of “Weekend Warriors” tour the countryside on their brand-new Harleys, trying to look intimidating. They are always dressed accordingly in their bandanas, leather chaps, boots, and vests. Although these are not of the serious “Outlaw” biker gang fraternity, they love to be noticed and make an appearance. Duly, about a dozen of them pulled up across the road and went through the painstakingly slow ritual of removing most of their leather vestiges and strutting around their bikes, trying to impress. To be fair, it’s hard not to notice them. Their bikes make a hell of a lot of noise!

Saturdays mean bikers!

Inside they took up an entire half of the taproom. We chatted to a few of them, swapping stories about the road. They weren’t very hardcore to be in here talking with us, though! Oddly enough, we’ve passed a few Outlaw motorcycle gangs on the road, and they’ve all acknowledged us with their now familiar “wave,” using their index finger to point at the road beside their bikes as they go past. I always return the gesture. It’s a respect thing. After all, we’re all bros on the road, right?!

The Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company taproom. Some really good beers here!

We had to ride again tomorrow, so it was an early departure from the pub and another visit to  Rausser’s Supermarket for dinner.

Read the next episode: Ask and You Shall Receive: Cycling from Libby to The River Delta Resort to see what happens next.