Brianís Cross-USA Bicycle Tour

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© 2001,

Day 10 - Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Blueslide, WA to Sandpoint, ID
69 miles, 3423 feet of climbing

Some days you wake up and know you're not looking forward to riding. A couple of days ago the rain had conveniently stopped before sunrise. Not today. There's nothing worse than having to break camp and pack a soggy tent while it's raining. Even riding in the rain is better than that! Taking a rest day today wasn't really a good option, as I would have been reduced to eating my bagels with peanut butter and jelly (and assorted snacks) for the next four meals. 

I had one of my bagels for breakfast and headed south on 20 in the rain. Much to my surprise, I encountered another campground with a cafe just five miles south - it wasn't listed in any of my books. 

So I went in for a "real" breakfast. Moments later, one of the locals showed up for coffee and had struck up a conversation with the cook and I. Apparently he and a few buddies of his had done some bicycle touring in France in '55. Soon we began to discuss route particulars, as the cook pulled out some maps from behind the counter. 

Just for a change of scenery, I crossed the Pend Oreille River at the town of Usk and rode on the east side instead of the west. I was wondering why these towns existed along the river, until I saw the plants where they make the logs and load them onto logging trucks. 

I realized I had crossed from Washington into Idaho when the type of pavement changed just before the intersection with US 2 - no big welcome signs when you're on a little road. After that, I headed east on US 2 to get to Sandpoint. 

I stopped for a snack at a gas station about 15 miles west of Sandpoint and had a conversation with the cashier. 

"Which way are you headed?", she asked. 

"Sandpoint.", I replied. 

"Do you know what you're getting into?" 

"Umm, a big hill?" 

"No, five miles of construction. They've got the road all torn up and it's all dirt."

"Oooohhh..." 

"Maybe you could flag down a pickup truck to get a ride through the construction."

(Shouldn't be too hard to do in Idaho, I thought.) 

Now I've ridden on dirt before, so I wasn't too particularly worried. But I thanked her for the advice anyway and continued on. 

Nine miles west of Sandpoint I hit the construction area. It was 7 miles instead of 5. At that point the road immediately turned to dirt, with no shoulder and bearly wide enough for an RV, much less a truck. The rain had turned much of the dirt into mud. 

Luckily I was able to come up with a plan. An RV pulling a car with Ohio plates in front had slowed down to 10 mph through the construction zone. So I just pulled in line behind him and rode in his tire tracks. Smooth going for a while, and I could certainly keep up with his 10 mph pace (18 mph maximum in some spots). Cars and trucks piled up behind up us for as far as the eye could see, but as long as it was the RV that was holding up the traffic, nobody honked. I even had to coast and apply the brakes a couple of times. 

Soon the road got worse, with ruts appearing everywhere - I had to back off from the RV to be sure I could react to the ruts in time. I noticed it had stopped raining and I had wanted to take off my raincoat and grab a sip of water, but there was no stopping now. Then parts of the road had big chunks of gravel embedded in the dirt/mud, bouncing me and the bike up and down like a jackhammer. 

One time I was braking to avoid getting too close to the RV, which had slowed to 6 mph up one of the hills, and I had to dismount, since I was losing my momentum as the somewhat solid dirt I was on instantly changed to mud. I pulled off the the side, waved a few cars by, then ran up to the top of the hill with the bike (only about 20 steps or so), got back on and found a place in line again. Felt like a mountain bike race! 

When they said construction 7 miles they weren't kidding, it was the *whole* 7 miles that was torn up! I could have given up and waited for a pickup to give me a ride, but I wouldn't have been able to get through the area faster, would I? :-) 

Once I got into town I had no problems finding the mountain bike shop to get my long-awaited replacement pedals. Due to their location, they get a lot of bike tourists passing through. The guys at the shop asked if I had the Adventure Cycling maps, and I explained the story that I originally had the maps, but then didn't think I was going to take Highway 20 through Washington, so I gave away the maps, etc., etc. He mentioned that the maps used a better route that crossed the river and avoided the construction! Aaarrrgghhh! 

"I have a reservation for one night - could you change it to two nights?", I said as I checked into the hotel for the evening.

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