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 21st June: Cycling from Newport (Washington) to The Panhandle Campground (Idaho): 54kms

Ride Time: 3hrs 12mins / Ave Speed: 10.71mph

We joined Ed and Penny for breakfast at 8 am, before they dropped us downtown and said goodbye. Shazz found a bank and got some more money out and then we crossed back over the bridge into Idaho again and headed north up Le Clerc Road with a southerly behind us for a nice change. It was our first tailwind for the trip.

Le Clerc Road runs alongside the Pend Oreille River and through the Kalispell Indian Reservation. Because the road arcs back around to the west, we soon crossed back into Washington State again.  Another first for the trip – our first dog attack. It seems on Indian Reservations, they let their dogs roam free. So this big, black labrador bolted straight out of his yard and straight at us. I quickly dismounted and put my bike between the dog and myself, instantly defusing the situation. The dog quickly lost all interest in the chase and calmed down. Once he’d had a sniff of the bike, we walked up the road for about 30m before riding off again. This strategy has worked every time so far. It seems counter-intuitive at the time, but it has served us well.

About halfway up to the campground, a bridge crosses over to a tiny town called Usk. Having plenty of time, we crossed over the 200m span and settled in for lunch at the restaurant in the Texaco service station. Here we met two other cyclists heading east. We advised them to take Highway 2 instead of crossing over to Dufort Road and related our experiences there.

Today’s ride was reasonably flat and required much less effort than the trip so far. As our first major climb is only two days away, I’m unsure if this is a good thing.

When we arrived at the tiny Panhandle Campground, the elderly Camp Host came to meet us and guided us to one of the prettiest campsites we’d ever pitched in. It was out on a river bend and had unobstructed views down the southern arm of the river in front of us. The only problem was the ground was so hard we couldn’t get our tent pegs in. So, having no choice, we used rocks to support both ends of the tent and hoped the wind wouldn’t be too unruly tonight.

The Panhandle Campground is one of the prettiest places we’ve camped.

We had our own picnic table and bear box, so we couldn’t have asked for more. We had bought some beers in Usk and carried them here. So, it was time to kick back, relax and enjoy the view. It would be a short day tomorrow in preparation for our first big climb, the Tiger-Colville pass.

Our campsite at Panhandle. We even had a bearbox!

Saturday 22nd June: Panhandle Campground to Ione (Washington State, USA): 32kms

Ride Time: 1hr 55mins / Ave Speed: 10.44mph

It had been a clear, starry night at Panhandle, the wind behaved, so the tent stood firm without any problems. We took our time at breakfast, enjoying some coffee, courtesy of coffee bags we bought in Newport at the Safeway. We hadn’t seen them before, so this was a great find.

A couple of older guys had parked their camper trailer across from us yesterday evening. It was an interesting take on the traditional foldout trailers and packed away to almost nothing. We went over to check it out, as we’d often thought about doing something like that one day.

The compact but spacious “Go” camper trailer.

The guys were happy to show us how everything worked. It had a surprising amount of room inside it and looked very stylish, to say the least. It turns out the eldest guy (82yrs old) had not long lost his wife to cancer, and he was riding across the country to raise money for research into the particular cancer that claimed her life.

It was 10.30 am when we finally got moving. We crossed over to the two elderly guys and gave them a $USD20 donation for their ride. They were very happy and wished us a safe ride. We did the same.

After the short ride to Ione, we had to cross back across the river over a grated bridge. These bridge surfaces are challenging to ride on, and falling off the bike and onto the grates is not an option. We carefully made our way across. There was no traffic to rush us, thankfully.

Safely across the bridge, we turned north onto the 31 and rode the last couple of kilometers into Ione town. Being a Saturday, there wasn’t much movement. The town looked deserted. The only open place was the service station, Porter’s Plaza 1. We peered through the window and saw they had seating at tables – perfect. We parked the bikes and entered the cluttered shop, finding a table and a couple of seats next to an elderly couple who were obviously locals.

Curiosity being what it is, it wasn’t long before we’d struck up a conversation with the couple. I’m not sure how it started, but the topic soon jumped to vintage planes, something the old fellow had some incredible knowledge of. Not being a specialty subject of mine, I just went with the flow and let him do most of the talking, something he seemed pretty comfortable with.

After exhausting every possible facet of old classic airplanes, Shazz and I excused ourselves and rode back down to the Riverview Hotel. We managed to get a room looking out over the river. It was an impressive view. The room itself was pretty nice as well.

A pretty nice room at the Riverview Hotel, Ione, to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s upcoming climbs.
Our view from the room in Ione.

We unloaded our bikes and took everything inside. Safe in the knowledge the bikes were secure, I took mine back into town to the local Foodcourt supermarket to get some beers and dinner for tonight.

Time to relax with a beer and a great view of the Pend Oreille River.

Back from the shop, we sat out on the small verandah overlooking the river. After a while, the owner came over, cutting back some long grass. It wasn’t long, and we were having a good chat. Jim is a miner and works underground in a silver, lead, and zinc mine, just like I did in our hometown of Broken Hill. So, the conversation didn’t stray too much from mining, as he was using a vernacular that I knew. Unfortunately for Jim, the mine had recently closed (as mines do). He had at least had the foresight to buy the motel for his wife as they neared retirement.

Room with a view. Ione, Washington State.
By sunset, we were pretty chill.

It’s our first significant climb tomorrow, and saying we are both a little nervous is an understatement.

Read the next episode to see how we went – Big Hills, Big Cats: Ione to Kettle Falls.