Kettle Falls, Washington – We had a short day today as we prepare for the first of four big climbs across Washington. Tomorrow we will have to climb about 4200 feet to Sherman Pass, the longest single climb of the trip (though Logan Pass was higher).
The last few days have been great, really exceptional weather and interesting people along the way. Riding out of Whitefish, we stopped in Olney about 20 miles away, only to be flagged down by Joe, an oil worker Joe (Olofsson) and I had met in Cut Bank a week earlier. As before, he was full of pride for Western Montana, contempt for Eastern Montanans (“Those flat-landers over there, they don’t even know what a tree looks like”), and exaggerations about the abundance of free food to be gathered from the wilderness (“Just drop a bare hook in the water, you’ll catch a fish in no time”). He had his troupe of 5 kids out back chopping wood in preparation for Winter. Great coincidence running into him again. Also in Olney, we met Thad, the one-eyed tournament Walleye fisherman. He talked for about 10 minutes about fishing before ascertaining that none of us actually fished. Undeterred, he then continued for another 5 or so minutes before we could escape. Good came of the encounter, though, as he directed us to a back route from Trego to Libby that supposedly would save us 50 miles. Turns out 20 is closer to the mark, but it was an amazing road nonetheless, with virtually no traffic and through thick forest the whole way. I saw a wolf, luckily not too close up.
Joe and Coop had some bike trouble and caught a ride the last 30 or so miles into Libby, and by the time Tom and I rode into town they’d secured accommodation for the night at the home of Bill Pepper, the produce manager at the local grocery store. Bill and his wife Linda were extremely gracious and hospitable, feeding us and letting us sleep inside, escaping a cold night, while Bill regaled us with stories from different outdoor adventures he’s had. We ran out of stories long before he did. By the end I think everyone had decided to move to Montana one day.
Since then, we’ve crossed into and out of Idaho, which is thankfully much narrower than Montana, and are a good chunk of the way into Washington. We’ve got a lot of climbing left to do, but are within spitting distance of the coast. (Well, 350 miles, anyway.)
In Clark Fork, ID, we met James Junget, operator of the local bike shop and amateur bike historian. He had an amazing collection of custom bikes he had built himself, and he fixed a couple nagging problems with Tom and Joe’s bikes.
In other news, Joe has graciously continued to lose at Hearts, thereby treating the rest of us to snacks and beer.