Day 12 Saturday 7/18/09
Sandpoint, ID to Clark Fork, ID
508 total miles
It promises to be another hot one. I am still in the Motel 6, getting my courage up for the upcoming 3 days ride to Whitefish. It's 193 miles-- but will probably end up being more, as the Noxon campgraound today is another 5+ miles up the road past the Montana Rt. 56 turn-off at Heron. Yesterday was really hot and took a lot out of me. While the road grade wasn't bad, the traffic planning for bikes wasn't the best. There really is no great way from Hayden up to here other than US 95, a really busy highway which although has a speed limit of 65 is frequented by big trucks and cars speeding in excess of 80. The shoulder almost disappears for sections and the rumble strip cutouts sometimes take half of what's left of a 2 foot margin. In places there were construction zones and the orange barrels took over what was left of the shoulder-- I was fortunate to have about 5 miles of uninterrupted brand new pavement all to myself that hadn't yet been open to cars- it was a good solution to an otherwise dangerous section. I will be glad to get off that highway today! On the other hand there were some great sections as well, including the dedicaed pedestrian lanes across the long bridge across Pend Oreille into Sandpoint. I arrived late in the afternoon/early evening with the sun flashing on the lake out of the west-- very scenic place. Decided to splurge and tatke a motel for the night vs. Looking for a campground and riding in the dusk. It was a good choice, as I got cleaned up, and went across the street to a bar and grill that served up a great ahi steak. I met some nice people, including Tammy, a truck driver who is repurposing her career from running a canvas and awning business for 20+ years to a life on the road. She lives here in Ponderay, but enjoys the change of scenery and activity of the road after raising 3 children-- and she always has a beautiful place to return to when she is finished hauling a load. She also takes some marvelous photos which she showed me a few of-- images of nature, elk and mountains in Banff, and the Oregon coast, and of course, one of her Peterbilt truck! The ride from Sandpoint to Clark Fork along the north shore of Pend Oreille was breathtaking. The lake was formed during the ice age and a glacial ice dam formed, with a sheet almost a half a mile thick in places. The mountains to the east literally fall into the lake nearly 2000 feet. When the ice dam from the glaciers broke Glacial Missoula Lake fomred in the valleys to south and east covering thousands of square miles and causing massive torrents which carved out some of the dramatic canyon passages in the surrounding areas. Stopped for while along the way to watch an osprey fishing over the shallows of the eastern part of the lake. The remarkable bird patiently stalked his prey, hovering over the spot where a fish was near to the surface, then swooping and diving into the water in a big splash-- all talons and wings flapping. 3 attempts before finally success! Made it to Clark Fork and stumbled onto a restaurant called the Squeeze Inn which is run by a wonderfully colorful lady named Janet and her daughters. Made friends and had dinner with a couple of motorcycle tourists from Missoula who originally were friends who met at a bike shop they used to work at a few years back. Micah is a carpenter, and Garth is a math teacher at Loyola High School and Marine reservist. Both enjoy their bicycling as well as motorcycle touring so they were interested in my trip. One thing led to another and we learned that Janet also takes tent campers at her home just up the street, so we ended up having a delicious meal, (tonight's special was a Basque prix fixe menu with snapper, squid, tomato garlic soup, salad , crusty bread-- and if you had any room left, huckleberry ice cream) great conversation, all at an affordable price and a comfy place to pitch our tents and grab a hot shower. Our waitress was Janet's daughter, Tia, who is a very talentted young woman and who is headed to study opera at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the fall. As it turns out, she was also an applicant to the Leni Fe Bland Foundation annual music contest in Santa Barbara for young and promising talent-- which has a family connection for me, as Leni is the wife of my late grandfather Lee Fe Bland. Tia will apply again next year and we wish her great success.