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Wednesday 19th June: River Delta Resort Campground to Sandpoint (Idaho, USA): 54.5kms

Ride Time: 3hrs 43mins / Ave Speed: 9.11mph

We packed up late this morning, after a long chat with Eddie. Dennis also came to see us off, so we gave him one of the small koala toys that we give to people we like. He told us he’d cherish it for the rest of his life! His exact words and I believe him!

Saying goodbye to Eddie at River Delta Resort. What a great bloke!

We hadn’t been looking forward to the ride into Clark Fork. The ACA maps had a warning about this section. The road had no shoulder and curved several times up and around a cliff face which meant we’d be unsighted a lot of times by drivers. Add to this a wicked headwind and a lot of hills and you can imagine just how happy we were to make it to Clark Fork safely.

While the 200 alongside Clark Fork River was pretty shitty, the views were still awesome!
The opposite banks of the Clark Fork River reflect the thick forest surrounds.

We stopped at a cafe on our left after the first one we passed was closed for renovations. The owner of Scotchman Coffee (named after the imposing Scotchman Peak that oversaw the valley) was a young girl happy to see some new customers. We had a good chat with her as we sat around taking our time over our coffees. She told us, much to our amusement, that her name was Robin Hood. If that didn’t get a smirk from us, when she told us her husband’s name was Dustin Hoffman, I nearly spat a mouthful of coffee across the room! Only in Idaho!!!

Owner Robin Hood at Scotchman Coffee, Clark Fork. We missed meeting Dustin Hoffman!!!!

The 200 was just as bad on the other side of Clark Fork, but we finally got off it at Denton Road, a narrow service road leading up to the small town of Hope. It was virtually traffic-free and had great views out over the Clark Fork River, which we had been following, and also of Lake Pend Oreille, a vast, very deep inland waterway used mainly for recreation.

Sharyn rests beside the 200 alongside the Clark Fork River, Idaho.

Coming into Hope, we navigated around a new bridge construction project which had closed the road to cars. Not us, though. We could walk around it like pedestrians, something we’ve done many times. We try not to let detour signs get in our way! We found a spare table in the shade on the verandah of the local market-cum-cafe-cum-bakery. After Hope, there was no shoulder and very little hope of not becoming somebody’s hood ornament!

With the niggling hills, strengthening headwinds, no shoulder, blind bends, and increasing traffic, the 200 was fast becoming the favourite candidate in the race to get us killed.

Highway 200 from the safety of Denton Road. The Clark Fork River empties into Lake Pend Oreille.

We were pretty shattered, and our nerves were severely frayed when we pulled into the Walmart in Sandpoint. We gladfully bought some more camping gas and food, as well as some beers for our Warmshowers host, Travis. About three blocks from Travis’ house, we were hailed down by a woman on a bicycle. Cindy was a newly ordained Warmshowers host, so her name wasn’t in the system as yet. She was disappointed to hear we had already organized another host as she was keen to meet other similar-minded cyclists. She kept us on the sidewalk for some time, but we reassured her she’d get plenty of guests coming her way soon as Travis was about the only one in town.

Travis is a young fellow who has also done a lot of cycle touring, including overseas. He has a small but very stylish house with two dogs. As he had other things to do, he gave us a quick rundown on the local area and left us to our own devices for dinner. It didn’t take us long to find the nearby Matchwood Brewery for a few well-earned ales and something to eat. Its large internal space just made the lack of people inside seem even more obvious. It didn’t bother us, though, and we relaxed while watching a thunderstorm roll through.

A bit fuzzy, but this is Travis, our Warmshowers Host in Sandpoint.
The Matchwood Brewing Co. Sandpoint.
Calming the nerves at The Matchwood Brewing Co. after a trying day on the 200.

Shazz was happy too. It was our first internet connection since Libby. She used the connection to chat with our next Warmshowers host in Newport, Washington for tomorrow night and organize a time and place to meet as he didn’t live in town.

It’s meant to rain tomorrow as well. Bummer! We walked home and had a couple more beers with Travis.

Thursday 20th June: Sandpoint (Idaho) to Newport (Washington): 54.5kms

Ride Time: 3hrs 50mins / Ave Speed: 9.12mph

Travis was up early and cooking us breakfast, which we appreciated. All fed, we got away by 9 am, rode the short distance through the town center, and out onto the Highway 95 bridge. A stiff headwind punctuated the 2km ride across the bridge. It seems that is all there is nowadays.

The 2km-long Sandpoint Bridge over Lake Pend Oreille. That’s the promenade we’re on!

The bridge has a wide promenade that is fantastic for pedestrians and cyclists. It keeps you clear of the traffic well and is a nice welcome mat for visitors. About three-quarters of the way across, we met another couple from Montana who were starting a loop ride around the area. We warned them about Highway 200, but they wouldn’t spend much time on that one.

A bike path extends from the bridge nine miles to the tiny town of Sagle. It runs alongside the highway (which has a great shoulder) and dips up and down the whole way. We constantly found ourselves pushing up these short, steep hills into the same fierce headwind that was sapping our energies and hindering our progress. By the time we reached the Dufort Road turnoff, we were already shattered. The ACA route takes you down Dufort Road, supposedly because it is a quiet route away from the main traffic in the area. Unfortunately for us, the reality couldn’t have been further removed. We were constantly having to pull off the now narrower road to let passing cars by without being a road hazard.

The wind, which had been a southerly till now, somehow turned around 90 degrees and blew from the west straight into our faces. Along with the very hilly nature of the road, we felt like we couldn’t pull a trick. The road had become a nightmare for us, and we still had a long way to go.

The challenging Dufort Road just before the rain.

Challenging as it was, it still had one more trick in store for us – rain! We could see it coming from over the mountains in front of us. We hurriedly got off the road before we got really wet and sheltered under a eucalyptus tree which kept us remarkably dry. While we stood there astride our bikes, an old guy pulled up in his car, got out, and told us in no uncertain terms that we shouldn’t be riding on this road, it was way too dangerous and had caused numerous accidents with cyclists over the years. “Good to know,” I said, but here we are. He left, content that he had chastised us. To what end, I’m not still sure!

According to the Google Maps profile, we still had three very large hills to conquer before Newport. This seemed way too dangerous on this now wet road with no shoulders. We changed our plans and headed down to the bridge, which crossed over to Priest River. This would negate us having to do more climbs in the wet, but it meant joining the busy State Highway 2.

The Pend Oreille River at the township of Priest River. We scrambled to get out of the rain.

As we arrived safely at the bridge, the skies opened up. The temperature plummeted as we crossed over and into Priest River. We would have to find shelter and fast. Highway 2 was thick with trucks, so we pushed our bikes up a dirt track on the side of the road, which acted as the footpath. At the top of a hill, we found the Infinity Cafe. Thankfully it was open, and a big guy was standing at the door waving us in. He could see we needed shelter and a hot drink. He promptly showed us in, asked us where we were from, and they assured us that we could order whatever we liked and he’d pay for it.

So we ordered some coffee and a muffin each, and, sure enough, he paid for it. Thawing out a bit now, we invited him to come over and join us. Ranger Rick, as he introduced himself, was a 68yr old retiree from the armed services, a practicing survivalist, and a giant of a man. He’d lived in the area since his retirement, trained Navy Seals, and taught survival skills in the local school. It was pretty easy to imagine him doing it too! He said he owns lots of guns and swears the Russian Military is operating deep in the backcountry in camps undetected. Thankfully he wasn’t packing today!

The colourful and generous Ranger Rick at Priest River.

We spent about 40 minutes talking with Ranger Rick, another of those colourful characters you meet along the way who make it all the more interesting. The young girls behind the counter obviously had a lot of time for him.

The last six miles from Priest River to Newport were mostly downhill, some kind of payback for enduring the dangerous Dufort Road. The last part of the ride crosses over the Pend Oreille River and into Newport itself. The river forms the state border between Idaho and Washington states.

We parked our bikes out the front of a Safeway and went and stocked up on beers, coffee, tea, muesli bars, jerky, etc. It was just enough time to gather supplies before Ed, our new Warmshowers host, arrived in his big GMC dualie pickup truck. The bikes easily fitted in the enormous back tray, and we climbed up in the cab and headed to his place. Ed lives eight miles out of town on 80 acres of land. His house sits atop a large hill looking back over the Idaho Panhandle. We were pretty happy not to have had to ride out there!

As Ed had family around tomorrow, he asked if it would be OK to put us out the back in his RV for the night. “Of course,” we said. We had no idea just how big this RV was. It was basically an over-length caravan. I’d always wanted to look inside one, and now I had the opportunity.

Ed and Penny’s RV. All the comforts of home. Newport, Washington State.

The van had a single master bedroom with a king-size bed and a full-size ensuite, it was enormous! The kitchen-Living area featured leather lounges, a full range of appliances, and a generous island bench. Satellite TV and an expensive sound system rounded out the appointments. It was just like a house – a REALLY nice one!

Back in the house, our bikes safely in his gigantic shed, we met his wife, Penny. We opened a beer while Penny finished cooking dinner, then sat down for a pleasant evening, learning about their family, the house, and what they thought about the world. It was plain to see they were conservative people. This part of the state is noted for it. So, we managed to keep some of our maybe conflicting views to ourselves. These two were very nice, hospitable people, and there was no way we would make them feel uneasy or insulted in their own home.

More great Warmshowers hosts, Ed and Penny, just out of Newport.

By the time Ed showed us around the grounds, we were all content to call it a night, and we returned to our palatial digs. Days like this can be testing, but there’s always something or someone who comes along and makes it all worthwhile. We’ve had our share of both today.

Read on to see what happened now we’re in Washington State – Pre-climb on the Panhandle: cycling Newport to Ione.