Day 27: Bismarck, ND to Napoleon, ND

Brian Richardson

We hit the road again this morning after a solid day off in Bismarck. A nice paved bike path kept us off the busy streets until we got out of town. Once outside of Bismarck, it didn’t take long to lose all signs of the bustling capital city. We are back in small-town North Dakota and our maps tell us that services will be few and far from here until Fargo.

The terrain today was more of the same rolling hills we’ve had for much of North Dakota. We passed by corn fields and cow pastures and enjoyed the mild temperatures. After a few days last week in the upper 90s, a cloudy 70 degrees felt great. We arrived in Napoleon at around 3:30 this afternoon after biking 73 miles with a decent headwind.

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My grandmother sent me an email the other day with some questions that she wants me to answer in the blog.

“I’d like to hear what you three do in a typical evening. Do you have to search for a park to sleep in or do you know exactly where you will go? Do you eat at restaurants?  Sit with locals for meals? Do you stay up talking with other riders at campgrounds?”

The beautiful thing about the bike trip is that there isn’t really a ‘typical evening,’ but I’ll describe what we did today once we got to Napoleon to give you all a general idea.

The first thing we did was go to the local grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days since we’ll be in pretty remote territory.

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Next, we had to find a place to stay tonight. Our maps said that camping is allowed in the town park here. We asked the owner of the grocery store about the park and she pointed us in the right direction. When we got to the park, we unpacked our stuff and took a little time to unwind from the day. I did some stretching (my legs are real sore from battling the headwinds today), and Wes switched his front and back tires (the back tire wears down more easily, so moving it to the front helps it last longer).

Wes swaps his tires

Wes swaps his tires

The town park has a shower (this is not always the case), so we rinsed off and then I washed my bike clothes in the sink and hung them up to dry. We still had some time to kill before dinner so we hung out at the park for a bit.

Brian playing on the playground

Brian playing on the playground

Around 6pm we walked over to The White Maid family restaurant. We did not sit with any locals tonight, but it’s not uncommon for people to approach us when we’re at a restaurant and ask about our trip. I have been cooking most of my meals myself (this is partly to save money, and partly because I love cooking), but I usually join Evan and Wes for dinner and then make mine afterward.

Back at camp, I read (A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson), journaled, and wrote this blog post. We’ll probably play cards soon (hearts is our go-to game, but if anyone has any recommendations for 3-player card games, they would be much appreciated). There aren’t any other cyclists staying with us tonight, but on nights that there are, we share stories about the trip so far and discuss our plans for the road ahead. Bed time is usually pretty early, around 9 or 9:30, and we could probably fall asleep much earlier if the sun didn’t stay out for so long.

Thanks for the questions Nana! If anyone else has questions or suggestions for the blog, feel free to email them to us at BikeLoud2019@gmail.com.


Day 26: Break-Day in Bismarck, ND

Wes Malinchock

I pretty much live for the break days on bike trips. After a week, or in this case ten days, of spending six hours a day on the bike it feels great to take a day off to rest and prepare for the next leg of the trip. This time we decided to take a day off in Bismarck, North Dakota. We normally like to take days off in smaller towns but we found a nice and cheap place to rent for our day off so we even got to spend our time off inside!

I got to sleep in this morning and take it easy as I enjoyed not having to pack up my things or be anywhere in particular. After getting up, I walked through the suburbs of Bismarck to grab some breakfast and groceries. Luckily our place came with a washer and dryer so we also got to do some much needed laundry! After we were all done with our separate morning routines we took a look ahead at our maps and planned out the road ahead to our next break day somewhere along the Wisconsin border in seven or eight days. We also planned our escape route out of the city tomorrow to get back on the Adventure Cycling route.

North Dakota Heritage Center and Museum

North Dakota Heritage Center and Museum

Later in the day Brian and I visited the North Dakota Heritage Center and Museum. It was a lot of fun to learn a little more about the state we had biked half way through already. My favorite parts were learning about the native peoples who live here, seeing the fossils that have been found in areas we biked through, and learning about the nuclear missile silos spread throughout the state. It does feel kind of strange breaking our daily routine of biking, and sometimes it gets a little boring just hanging around. However, I know tomorrow our legs will be much better for it and we can take on the next leg of the trip and start looking forward to the next break day!

Day 25: Richardton, ND to Bismarck, ND

Evan Malinchock

The Abbey was still fast asleep as we woke at the even earlier time than usual of 5:30. We woke up extra early to account for the time change that was just down the road not more than ten miles from where we slept.

Misty morning ride

Misty morning ride

Our groggy eyes and tired legs were welcomed to a beautiful sun rise ride where there was a cool mist rising across the plains. We could see antelopes galloping through fields and over hills. The morning was pure beauty that was followed up with amazing riding through sleepy towns that were closed on this Sunday, rolling "hills" that us North Carolinians would consider mountains, and pastures of cows seemingly judging us as we zipped on by.

North Dakota has been such a pleasant surprise in every single way. The towns have been so hospitable and the people have been absurdly kind at any given point. The scenery was something I would have never expected, over every crest of every hill there's another new wonder, from painted canyons (or as Brian calls them "nooks n' crannies"), to mountain ranges. We've experienced such natural diversity and beauty from a state that is often made fun of for being so boring, and once again my presumptions have been shattered by this amazing trip.



Day 24: Beach, ND to Richardton, ND

Brian Richardson

We’re only a day and a half into North Dakota, but I have to say it’s definitely a top-four state of the trip so far.

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We were on the interstate again this morning, but as Wes mentioned, I-95 makes for really pleasant riding. The rumble strip and 10 foot shoulder gave plenty separation between us and the cars, which were few and far between. We traversed rolling hills with a strong tailwind for 26 miles into Medora for breakfast.

Repping Be Loud! out here in Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Repping Be Loud! out here in Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Medora is a small town inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is surrounded by a stunning landscape of painted cliffs that looks like something out of a Dr Seuss book. We rode by the Cowboy Hall of Fame on our way to the bike shop there. Wes and Evan picked up some spare tubes since we had two flats yesterday.

Medora Cowboy Hall of Fame

Medora Cowboy Hall of Fame

36 miles down the road, we hit Dickinson, MT, which is the end of map #4 of the Adventure Cycling map set we’re using. Each section covers several hundred miles of the Northern Tier bike route, so it feels like a big milestone whenever we finish one. While we were sitting inside a gas station for a lunch break in Dickinson, a brief, but heavy rainstorm rolled in. Had it been 15 minutes earlier or later, we would have gotten soaked out on the road!

22 more miles of rolling hills got us to our destination of the Assumption Abbey in Richardton. A friend had told us that the abbey here, connected to St Mary’s Church, regularly hosts cross-country cyclists. We were welcomed in by Father Charles (Father Odo usually helps out the cyclists, but he was busy) and given warm beds and showers. Supper was at 6pm in the dining hall with Father Charles and all of the other monks.

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Dinner with the monks

Dinner with the monks

Today was our ninth consecutive day of riding since our last break-day in Whitefish. We’re planning to ride into Bismarck tomorrow and take a much-needed day off there. That means tomorrow is a very special day that I call “break-day eve.” I can hardly wait.

Day 23: Circle, MT to Beach, ND

Wes Malinchock

I felt well rested waking up in Circle, Montana after our shorter 50 mile ride the day before. We had breakfast at a gas station in town and hit the road around 8 am. Unlike the day before, we were expected to have a pretty solid tail wind all day. However, I was a little worried about doing a 90 mile day after we had two short days previously. We were also all starting to get a pretty fatigued from being on the road so long since our last break day.

Fortunately, the tail wind came as expected and we had a pretty easy time pedaling the first 40 miles. For the next half of the day we would be on the interstate which worried me a little bit. I had ridden the interstate before in Wyomong on my 2013 bike trip and although the hills were more gradual and the shoulder was wide, we got a lot of flat tires from debris in the shoulder and truckers were generally pretty rude. I guess the interstate culture here is much different, because I was very surprised to find how pleasant riding the interstate was today! Although, I did get one flat tire, the shoulder was very nice and the truckers seemed happier to see us there than sharing the back roads we had been on so far! Plenty of cars and trucks gave us a friendly honk and wave as they passed, which was a nice morale boost for us as we baked in the 90 degree heat.

Before I knew it we were at the North Dakota border and just three miles away from our destination town of Beach, ND. When we got there we found what I had called a "classic bike trip town" that featured a nice shady park next to a pool that we were able to use to cool off and a restaurant bar. Towns like Beach are exactly what I think of when I remember my 2013 bike trip, and when I look back on this trip I'm sure it will stick out to me as another perfect bike trip town.

Goodbye Montana!

Goodbye Montana!

Day 22: Wolf Point, MT to Circle, MT

Evan Malinchock

On paper today was supposed to be one of the easiest days out of the entire trip. On paper it was supposed to just be 50 miles of soft rolling hills in gorgeous blue bird weather. It ended up being one of the more physically exhausting days of the trip so far.

Wind is the biggest game changer on the prairie when you're 5'8" and weigh 135lbs (at the start). We had a massive headwind all day that persisted from the very first pedals of the ride that never did let up at any point in time. Climbing is manageable, you can put your head down and spin your legs up to the top of a hill, but with wind you're constantly in a battle of taking two steps forward and a hop back.

The thing that made today exceptionally rough was the brutal sun and heat that we encountered. Even at 8 am we were being baked by the massive Montana sun, and this was only the beginning. A bank's weather clock in Circle read that it was 99° today when I arrived, dripping sweat for the first time on this trip. It's insane that not even a week ago it was snowing in sheets and I was nearly hypothermic.

The road behind

The road behind

The road ahead

The road ahead

The final little nagging thing about today was that there was a constant set of rolling hills that you could never get a rhythm on the climbs or descents. You'd spend all the climb fighting the wind, sun, and the grade just to be faced with many more hills like the one we just climbed marching on to the horizon. There wasn't even a break on the descent, the wind made going downhill almost as strenuous as climbing.

I'm quickly learning that a perfect day on paper is dooming that day for failure more often than not unless the mileage is 0.

Day 21: Glasgow, MT to Wolf Point, MT

Brian Richardson

The towns in Eastern Montana are few and far between so we have had to really plan ahead and research where we can stop for food, water, and camping. The two towns ahead of Glasgow are Wolf Point (58 miles) and Wibaux (116 miles). It was a little tempting to try and make it all the way to Wibaux today, but I think we were wise to split the journey up over today and tomorrowand not push our luck. My legs definitely aren’t complaining about having two short-ish days.

Our route today took us off of Highway 2 and onto the older, quieter, Highway 1 (they’re pretty creative with naming the roads out here) for about 40 miles. To our left were the train tracks of the Great Northern Railway. To our right was the headwaters of the Missouri River. During our time on HW 1, we saw a total of three cars and one combine.

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Tonight we are camped out at a biker hostel behind Steamboat Dry Goods Store. We had some extra time this afternoon so we washed our bikes and put on fresh chain lube. My Long Haul Trucker feels clean and fast and ready for some more big miles.

Spending long hours on a bike everyday has given me a lot of time to think. During the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on how much I have to be thankful for. For starters, we’ve been incredibly fortunate with the fair weather and pleasant roads so far. We have found safe places to stay every night and met a lot of generous people who have helped make this trip successful and enjoyable.

More importantly though, I am thankful that I am able to be out here at all. I am lucky enough to be young and healthy and to have grown up in a community that allowed and encouraged me to pursue my passions. It is not a given that I can do something like this and I should not forget that.

The mission of the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation is to help young people battling with cancer to pursue their passions as I have been lucky enough to do. Lauren Lux, the coordinator for all of the AYA patients at UNC hospitals does amazing work to give adolescents and young-adults the experiences that every young person deserves, but doesn’t always get to have. The money we’re raising for this trip goes directly towards achieving that goal. I am thankful for the generosity of everyone who has contributed so far; we’ve raised $6,635 as of today!

Day 20: Malta, MT to Glasgow, MT

Wes Malinchock

I'm beginning to get into the swing of the bike trip. We got up at 6:30 am on a beautiful morning in Malta, Montana. I packed up my tent and gear faster than I had in the previous days as I slowly get my system for packing streamlined. After breakfast in a local coffee shop we headed out for our ride to Glasgow. The milage worked out perfectly today: 70 miles. This is just about the average daily mileage we needed to keep in order to complete our trip on time!

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The terrain for today was more hilly than the last few out here on the plains. It was nothing like what we saw in the mountains, but we had some long climbs throughout the day. At the tops of the hills we climbed we got great views of the surrounding grassy pastures and rocky mesas. One thing that everyone kept warning us about in Malta were the mosquitos. We had some pretty vicious mosquitos the night before, but people warned us they would get worse as we followed the Milk River east. There were points in the day where you would ride through a swarm of them on the road and every car's bumper that we passed was practically covered with mosquitos. However, we were lucky enough to have some pretty strong winds that kept them away from us for the most part as we rode.

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What was great about today was that it all felt very natural. It was what I would call an "average" day on the bike trip. For most of today I felt like I was just going through the motions of the day, like I was following a routine. I really enjoyed finally finding some stability in our trip even though we spend each night in a new place. Going into our third week out here tomorrow I am glad to say that I am beginning to feel at home on my bike.

Day 19: Havre, MT to Malta, MT

Evan Malinchock

My day started in the worst way, at the worst time, in the worst place imaginable. I was woken at 1am by Brian running his tent up to the (half) gazebo where I had my sleeping bag laid out. This series of events was far too confusing for an Evan that was just now abruptly awoken from his slumber but it all made sense in an instant. A wave of water from the sprinkler nearby worked its way up from the foot of my sleeping bag to my face leaving me wet, awoken, and above all, pissy.

I quickly picked up my sleeping bag and pad and rolled up my panniers and tried to find somewhere dry for the time being. While one half of the park was being sprayed down the other half remained dry as I seeked shelter near a tree. After an agonizing and freezing thirty minutes I ran to where the sprinklers were just on and set up my sleeping pad and bag directly under a street light, where I would try to sleep with little success until I was awoken at 6:30 by an eager Brian.

I packed up my sopping wet clothes and bag and rode 100 yards to a grocery store where I was met by an equally ticked off Wes and Brian. They have been waiting for a good bit so they took off and I promised to meet them in less than 30 minutes. On my way out bad thing #2 happened, my earbuds decided to stop working all together, so I went to buy some BlueTooth ones in the cheap. Of course these promptly ran out of battery.

Then on the road my bike decided it was time for me to have the first crash of the trip. While adjusting my light the handlebars turned throwing me off the bike, miraculously landing on two feet on a sidewalk. Unfortunately though, one of my panniers was laying next to me with a broken clip. After a half an hour of jerry rigging my pannier clips I then hit the road.

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I'm thankful to say that the rest of the afternoon was not nearly as eventful as my morning portion but nonetheless it set a tone for my day while we rode rough roads for 90 miles in the hottest weather yet through a literal swamp that's infested with bloodthirsty mosquitoes. But through all of this suffering and massive annoyances, I have a massive stupid smile on my face right now, and honestly I can't wait for tomorrow. This is the magic and the spirit of the bike trip, it takes one (or many events) that could ruin someone's day and turns it right. It just takes one good meal, tailwind, or view to wipe away all sorrow in the moment and even if you cannot remember that positive you always go to bed with a smile on your face.

Day 18: Shelby, MT to Havre, MT

Brian Richardson

Today we were blessed with a tailwind, which is quite the boon for a biker; it’s like a buy-one-get-one-free sale for miles. We took advantage of the conditions and rode 103 miles all the way into Havre (pronounced “have-er,” “hay-ver,” or “haw-ver,” depending on who you ask).

As of yesterday, we are officially through the Rockies and into the Great Plains. We’ve been told by a few people that the best views are behind us and that it will be flat and boring from here until the end of North Dakota. I was given a similar warning during my cross-country ride in 2015 when we left the Colorado Rockies and hit the Plains of Kansas; everyone we talked to would comment on the monotony of the open fields. Based on my experience, however, the Great Plains are anything but boring.

It’s true that the scenery is not always as dramatic as it is in the mountains out west, but it has its own, more subtle, beauty. Today we saw four or five pronghorns standing out in the wheat fields, we watched giant freight trains travel back and forth on the tracks that run parallel to Highway 2, and followed the rainclouds as they circulated around us. With so much flat, open space, you feel like you can see the curvature of the earth on the horizon in every direction.

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We could tell that we were within a few miles of a town when we could see a grain elevator rising up above the road ahead. Most of the towns we passed through today had populations of about a hundred. Havre, where we are camping tonight, has a few thousand people and feels like a metropolis by comparison. We’re camped out in a park in town and will probably be going to bed pretty early after our century ride today.

Double rainbow in Havre after a quick evening shower

Double rainbow in Havre after a quick evening shower

Day 17: East Glacier, MT to Shelby, MT

Evan Malinchock

Today was a very rough wake up, possibly the worst of the trip so far. After having a fairly sleepless night due to the extremely cramped quarters of the biker and hiker hostel behind Serrano's Mexican Restaurant, I woke up to a gray morning that visually looked cold. Before we even left the hostel the sky's began to open up with a freezing mist. After a half hour the drizzle turned to a full on snow, and I was unlucky enough to not have a pair of gloves.

Yes, that is snow. Yes, it is June.

Yes, that is snow. Yes, it is June.

I couldn't feel my hands, and I couldn't/didn't want to open my look directly ahead because the icy-rainy-snowy mix felt like needles when they hit my eyes. I coasted into the Blackfoot Nation and the small town of Browning looking like a human icycle. I couldn't squeeze my brakes so I overran Larry who was pointing out a grocery store where I could possibly purchase gloves that would save my now purple fingers.

Once I walked into the Teeples Market, I crumpled (subconsciously) next to a produce refrigerator, which made my chills even worse. After Brian pointed this out to me we migrated across the street to Taco John's where we would wait out the wintry mix for another two hours in the warm embrace of Taco John's.

After the warming experience we saddled up and rode to a hardware store to buy gloves and continue another 50 miles to Shelby Montana in the new warmer flats of Montana. On our way out Larry punctured his tire twice, really cementing this day as an all time worst. After we hopped back on our bikes we began to crank out miles like never before. The lack of climbing and presence of a tail wind was far more advantageous than I could ever imagine.

Larry fixes his second flat of the day.

Larry fixes his second flat of the day.

After reaching Shelby we made a jump decision to split a motel room (that would be cheaper than any campground in the area). This was a well deserved reward after such a painful slog of a day.

Pretty accurate 

Pretty accurate 

Day 16: Whitefish, MT to East Glacier, MT

The days back on the road after a break day are always hard, especially if you're looking at a long day of biking where we cross the Rockies in the rain. It did not help that temperatures were in the low 40's this morning with little chance of rising as we climbed the continental divide. We had some nice quiet back roads out of town that took us into Columbia Falls in the morning for breakfast and some pretty views of the Rockies. Even though the rain was holding off so far, one thought kept crossing my mind: I do not want to be on a bike today.

Headed towards the Rockies

Headed towards the Rockies

Last time we crossed the continental divide in Wyoming on my 2013 bike trip I remember it being one of the hardest days of the trip. Our route took us on a 35 mile climb up Powder Pass, and it took all day to climb. I really wish we had taken this route instead. The road was not very steep and followed a river all the way up. We got gorgeous views of snow capped mountains all day and traffic wasn't even that bad. The rain I was expecting eventually came in cold and strong, but it was only about 10 minutes before it cleared. Before I knew it we only had 20 miles to the top of our 86 mile day, and a tail wind had just picked up. By the time we got to the top I felt silly for being so grumpy this morning about having to leave our break day. We definitely needed the break, but being on the road today was awesome. We made great eastward progress for the first time in a few days and had some great riding.

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We ended the day at the Backpacker Inn right behind the famous Serrano's Mexican restaurant we had hear about from our friends who stopped here on their 2010 bike trip. The accommodations here at the hostel include bunk beds with foam mattresses and a shower! Places like this have been my favorite to stay at on this trip, especially with temperatures tonight forecasted to be in the low 30's. We hit the restaurant and after our meal I was about ready to fall asleep at the table after 7 hours of biking today. Now that we've got the Rockies out of the way our trip looks to be getting a little bit flatter and more direct on our journey eastward.

Day 15: Break Day in Whitefish, MT

Brian Richardson

When we took our first break day in Twisp, we had been riding for five days straight. Compared to that, we had eight solid days of biking before today’s break in Whitefish. By the end of yesterday, my legs were definitely feeling some cumulative fatigue and so I was ready for some well-earned time off today. It was cold and rainy for most of the day-perfect weather for not biking.

In the morning I walked over to the grocery store to stock up on breakfasts and lunches for the next couple of days. Even though it was 50 degrees and raining, the 20 minute walk was pleasant. I wasn’t in any rush, so I explored downtown Whitefish for a while. This is a seemingly obvious, but pretty remarkable part of a break day; without seventy miles to put in, you can really take your time and enjoy simple moments like walking to the store.

In the afternoon, we went to the local bike shop. Whitefish has one of the last real bike shops for a couple hundred miles, so we loaded up on the essentials: spare tubes, patch kits, and, of course, chamois butt’r. A few days ago, my rear tire finally gave out (after 5,000+ miles), so I have been using our spare foldable tire. At the bike shop, I got a new rear tire and folded the spare back up to hold on to in case we need it later.

We grabbed an early dinner with Larry at Jersey Boys Pizza. I don’t think we’ve mentioned Larry in the blog yet, but he’s a biker from Seattle that we met up with in Newport and have ridden with a good bit. We plan to ride up Marias Pass and into East Glacier with him tomorrow.

Continental Divide, here we come

Continental Divide, here we come

Well, after a long day of absolutely no biking, I’m exhausted and ready to go to bed.

Day 14: Eureka, MT to Whitefish, MT

Evan Malinchock

Waking up before a break day always seems to be the height of that day. Eureka, Montana was a little town that was so small that our group of three felt like the largest crowd in town at any time. I packed up my tent up and hopped over to the gas station for a quick coffee and bathroom break before a good five hours in the saddle.

The second I stepped out of the gas station the wind seemed to shift and pick up, and more so Wes and Brian took off about 30 minutes before me. After an hour of laboured pedaling I caught up to Wes on a side road and we made it to a town for breakfast. Little did we know Brian took a longer route that he claims climbed up a mountain and added an extra three miles.

After a filling breakfast we set off into the wind for another grueling four hours of Montana cycling. We passed lakes and rode through forests, I think. My eyes were either fixed on the road immediately under my front tire, at the back of Wes or Brian's jersey (where the map of Montana seemed to constantly mock me), or staring blankly ahead of me as I pedal mashed to Whitefish.

Big storm rolling into Whitefish

Big storm rolling into Whitefish

Once we pulled up to our airBnB, the sky darkened, so we piled into the condo to take naps and choose our rooms!

Day 13: Libby, MT to Eureka, MT

Wes Malinchock

Today we had a beautiful ride up the western side of Lake Koocanusa. We started out in Libby riding old logging roads through the forest on a chilly morning. Eventually the road joined highway 37, where we would spend most of the rest of the day on alongside the reservoir.

Wes and Brian at the Lake Koocanusa Dam

Wes and Brian at the Lake Koocanusa Dam

Highway 37 is a long, hilly, and very exposed road that skirts the western side of the reservoir. Because it is state highway, we went into the day expecting heavy traffic passing us at high speeds as we struggled on the many steep climbs. However, we found that the road was almost deserted all day! I think we were passed by maybe five trucks all day.

Bridge across the Lake Koocanusa

Bridge across the Lake Koocanusa

By the numbers this should have been a very hard day of riding. When we got to Eureka we had done 73 miles with 7,600 feet of climbing! Luckily we had some help from a strong tail wind and beautiful views from the road of the lake and its rocky cliffs. We were definitely very tired at the end of the day, but I am sure that we will remember this as one of the most scenic days of the trip.

Day 12: Clark Fork, ID to Libby, MT

Brian Richardson

Two new states in two days! We were in Washington for ten days, so it felt pretty great to cross over into Montana just one day after entering Idaho. Along with the state-border crossings, there have been several other signs that we’re making real progress eastwards.

Big Sky Country!

Big Sky Country!

Today we switched time zones from Pacific to Mountain, losing an hour in the process. That means we had one less hour to make it into town today, and it means our typical 6:30 am wake-up tomorrow might be a little tougher than usual.

There has also been a dramatic change in scenery. We’re through the high plains of Wautoga Pass and the rolling grassy fields of Colville, and are now making our way through some iconic Montana terrain. Today we biked through the foothills of the Rockies and we could see snow-covered peaks looming in the distance. We climbed and descended among the pine trees, rode along the beautiful blue waters of Bull Lake, and dropped down alongside the Kootenai River.

Kootenai River

Kootenai River

Around lunchtime, we stopped at Kootenai Falls and took a quick day-hike down to the water and across a swinging bridge. Big thanks to Steve Rothwell for telling us about this hidden gem!

Evan and Wes look out at Kootenai Falls

Evan and Wes look out at Kootenai Falls

One more sign of our eastward progress is that, after close to two weeks, I feel like I’m adjusted to the day-to-day routine of the bike trip. My body is used to sleeping on the ground every night and spending long hours in the saddle every day. The daily unpredictability of the trip also feels more normal to me. I am content not knowing how hilly or windy the road ahead will be or where I’ll be pitching my tent when we get to town. I know that we have plenty of hills and headwinds ahead of us, but I’m confident that we can deal with them when the time comes.

Day 11: Newport, WA to Clark Fork, ID

Evan Malinchock

This is my extremely short ode to Idaho, the most unexpectedly enjoyed state I've ever been to.

First state border of the trip!

First state border of the trip!

We woke up in our campsite literally on the border of Washington and Idaho and got on our bikes and immediately stopped to enjoy a McDonald's breakfast, a troop 845 classic (though we agreed it was much more overhyped than anything in our cohort). Within a handful of pedal strokes from the parking lot we left the state of Washington behind and entered our shortest lived state of Idaho. From then on the road to Sandpoint was one that skirted along a lake with many abrupt climbs and descents through woods and on shorelines before we faced the legendary Sandpoint Bridge.

Wes takes on the Sandpoint Bridge

Wes takes on the Sandpoint Bridge

(Mom this is for you) you would be happy to know none of us had the desire to jump off this bridge and much like the McDonald's that preceded the bridge we all agreed that the fabled bridge that kept former troop 845 cyclists awake at night out of fear of its height was actually a disappointing height, not more than a typical diving board at a pool. But something that was not a let down was the town of Sandpoint, a sort of Bohemian paradise in the middle of north Idaho.

Since the beginning of the bike trip I've drank (at least) one bottle of kombucha a day, if not for it's micro-bio health benefits then for it's flavor. Sandpoint is the home of the best of the trip that I've had so far, so this town has taken the cake for me. To pair this kombucha I had an eggless and flourless brownie that was superb!

After leaving Sandpoint we continued along Lake Pend Oreille to the small hamlet of Clark Fork Idaho. Here we stayed with a warm showers hosts who owned an all-home-made restaurant in this town with a population less than 400 people. She offered to host us at her restaurant, the Squeeze-Inn, and give us extra pasta to carbo load for the next day! Back at her home we set up our tents and played with her adorable month old husky puppy, Aisha.

Evan and Aisha relax after a tough day

Evan and Aisha relax after a tough day

Idaho has been more than great to us, beautiful roads, wonderful food, playful puppies, and even better people. Though Idaho was our shortest state I have nothing but fond memories and kind words to say about this state.

Day 10: Just Past Colville, WA to Newport, WA

Wes Malinchock

This morning I woke up inside on a mattress! Thanks to our hosts, the Bacons, and their amazing bike hostel along our route we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to finish Tiger Pass. It is a much smaller climb than the previous passes in the Cascades (I actually didn't even know it counted as a pass until someone told me at the bottom), but as we had seen when we started it the day before the roads were steeper than any we had seen before!

We rode 24 miles up the pass to breakfast at Beaver Lodge, where we found some kind of motor cross event going on. However, we were too hungry to ask questions and went into the cafe for an ample breakfast. After breakfast it was only a few more miles until we hit a great winding downhill section into the Pend Oreille River valley. This section may have been my favorite so far with lots of hair pin turns followed by steep, straight sections. What a decent!

The westward blowing flag in this picture is the real stop sign for an eastbound biker

The westward blowing flag in this picture is the real stop sign for an eastbound biker

In the valley we were met with our first real head winds of the trip. We all took turns pulling the crew up the valley until we got to Newport right on the Idaho border. It's pretty astounding to me that we were able to knock out the Cascades and Washington in only ten days. Going into the trip I was dreading this section and I am glad to be sitting just a couple hundred feet from the Idaho border in our campground tonight. I know Idaho and Montana will bring more challenges with the Rockies and more sparsely spread towns, but I am excited to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Day 9: Republic, WA to just past Colville, WA

Brian Richardson

“If you are presented a great opportunity-take it...you are only gonna be in that spot once! It's not a race.”

Ed Billings, the leader of my cross-country ride in 2015, gave us the above piece of advice before we started this trip. Our plan today was to ride about 84 miles and camp at Bear Ridge, but this afternoon we stumbled upon exactly the kind of opportunity that Ed was talking about.

We had spent the morning climbing and descending 3,500 feet over Sherman Pass, then pedaling up into Kettle Falls and over some rolling hills into Colville. The cool morning temperatures hadn’t lasted long, and by midday it was above 90 degrees. There was a pretty serious ascent out of Colville, perhaps the steepest climbing we’ve seen so far. The sun was beating down hard and shady spots were few and far between.

Evan powers up the hill outside of Colville

Evan powers up the hill outside of Colville

Our maps indicated that there was a biker hostel ahead and we stopped there, hoping to fill up our water before pushing the last 24 miles into camp. Shelley and Barry, the owners of the hostel, have been hosting cyclists on their property here for nine years. While we filled our bottles and mentally prepared to head back out into the heat for a few more hours, they offered us clean beds, showers, a washer and dryer for laundry, and a home-cooked dinner. So much for those last 24 miles.

View off the back porch of the hostel

View off the back porch of the hostel

We are only the second group of cyclists who have come through this touring season, and the hostel was still not fully set up, so we were more than happy to help unload boxes, vacuum the floors, and clean the bathrooms. After we finished tidying up, we headed over to Shelly and Barry’s house where they host a weekly Friday dinner with a variety of guests, including any bikers that happen to be spending the night. Dinner consisted of three separate homemade soups with fresh vegetables, one of which was made with morels collected by one of the guests (a distinguished mushroom hunter who had gathered 25 gallons of morels the day before). Dessert was a selection of no fewer than eight varieties of ice cream.

All of the food was delicious, but what made the night was the communal atmosphere of the meal. There were fifteen guests in total, including Shelley, Barry, the three of us, and two other cyclists. Most of us had never met before but, by the end of the meal, we had gotten to know everyone and felt truly at home.

We cannot thank Shelley and Barry enough for their generosity and their willingness to open up their home to complete strangers. We also owe a huge thanks to Ed Billings for reminding us to enjoy opportunities like this.

Day 8: Tonasket, WA to Republic, WA

Evan Malinchock

Flexibility is an important skill to learn for anyone who aspires to attempt a high adventure trip. I am a very rigid-minded human who focuses on tangible goals, so when things don't go as planned I feel some small version of failure set in. Today was a wonderful exercise in flexibility as we got trapped by rain storms.

We woke up at different times and rolled out separately from the small town of Tonasket, Washington, with Brian leaving first followed by Wes, then myself. The first "task" of the day was to climb Wauconda Pass (pronounced like Wakanda from Black Panther). This pass was a weird mixture of short steep climbs and never-ending false flats in humid and hot conditions over 26 miles.

The scenery looked like something straight out of a western movie as we passed rolling ranges with exposed Rocky cliffs, tall pines doting the hills, and babbling creeks weaving in between the sagebrush along the road. After reaching the summit of the pass in the "ghost town" (or what's left of it), we all passed out on the side of the road. When we looked at the time, we realized that there was more than enough daylight to climb up Sherman Pass, our steepest, and most intimidating pass.

Top of Wauconda Pass

Top of Wauconda Pass

As we descended 15 miles on awful, weak, downhill-flats with strong headwinds, we reached the quiet town of Republic to be met by thunderhead clouds hanging over the ridge that Sherman Pass is situated on. Plans changed and now we're staying the night in the Republic Fairgrounds looking forward to yet another early morning wake-up and exhausting pass summit at the beginning of tomorrow. Though our plans and aspirations for the day have shifted, the optimism is still high as we completed a big day under tough circumstances!