IdahoSeptember 30, 2016 in the United States
After leaving Bozeman I decided to take two days to ride to Ryan and Christina's place near Seattle. The first day was a relatively short drive, only about 300 miles. First I made a necessary stop at the new day bakery to pick up breakfast, and some snacks for the ride. I actually drove by the bakery at first, but saw a sign that said fresh donuts and the place looked like a real bakery so I turned around. I'm glad I did cause they had some delicious confections inside. A scarfed down a cinnamon roll and then headed for the post office. Special thanks goes out to Mike Lambert for shipping me a resupply of dehydrated food I had made over the summer. I picked up the package which had some surprise jerky included. Just what I needed for a pick me up in between breakfast and dinner.
Soon I was on the interstate. I was on a very familiar road, I-90, but I was in Montana where the speed limit is 80. I am welcomed to the road with large fast moving tractor trailers which are far in excess of the truck speed limit which is only 65 or 70. After jockeying for position, I settle in to the elevated speed limit. The road heads for Butte, Montana and I see signs for chain up areas ahead. Soon the road starts to climb and the large trucks fade away in the mirrors. Beautiful curves start to wind up into the mountains and then come back down on the other side. Despite the high speed limit this was probably my favorite stretch of interstate I've been on to this point. The road is smooth, windy with banked turns and appropriately marked corner entrance speeds. The scenery is also gorgeous.
My goal for the day is to get to the Knife Edge Campground which is a free campsite with 5 spots located along the Lochsa river in Kooskia, Idaho. This part of the trip brings me up and over the Rockies. I get onto route 12 in Lolo, Montana and I see a strange sign. It says motorcycles use caution for the next 35 miles. The sign has a cryptic image of a motorcycle with arrows on either side of the rider. I find the "motorcycles use caution" signs to be redundant as I'm always using caution, but I appreciate the warning never the less. I then see signs saying that there won't be a gas station for about 90 miles. I look at how far I've gone on this tank and should have about 50 miles to spare which is enough to keep going despite elevation changes.
The road begins to twist, and soon there are no more straight sections of road, it is one turn right after another. The other vehicles I see are mostly motorcycles and sports cars. I think I know what that cryptic sign meant, this is going to be a fun ride. Before I know it I've climbed to the top of the range and am on the border of Montana and Idaho. It is 5 or 6 o'clock (I'm uncertain because I think I'm right on a time zone border), and there is a visitor center that has just closed. I talk to a fellow rider who is headed the other way. We trade beta on the roads and wish each other safe travels. The path I am on now is one that Lewis and Clark blazed before there were roads or even detailed maps. Those guys had a real thirst for adventure. I come to a sign that says winding road next 99 miles, and the day continues to be a beautiful ride. This part of Idaho is absolutely beautiful. I am in Clearwater National Forest and this is the most scenic national Forest I've come across. Trail heads and now closed for the season campgrounds line the roadside. My backup plan should there be no sites left at the knife edge is to continue along the road till I find a suitable place to sleep. Luckily I arrive and there is one spot left. All the other campers are in gigantic RVs who look like they've been there all summer. I set up my tent and it's almost invisible compared to the RVs. Soon after my tent is up, a large truck pulls in, circles around once and leaves disappointed. If I had been 20 minutes later, that could have been me. It gets dark soon and I plan my next day. I decide to drive clear across Washington as some rainy weather is approaching. The long drive the following day encourages me to go to bed early.
6:30, which I realized was really 5:30 arrived and I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed. I pack up camp and hit the road before anyone else in the campground is awake or the sun is visible. I'm in a fairly deep valley so direct sunlight won't be for a few more hours. The road continues to wind and descend. It didn't seem all that cold out but my hands started to get cold from the wind chill. My heated grips heat my palms but my finger tips are numb. I stop on the side of the road to warm up my hands, and it's a great time to snap a few photos. I search for some breakfast but don't see anything along the roadway worth stopping for. Soon I'm in Lewiston, which is the biggest town I've seen that morning. I pull over and do a quick Google search, yielding a near perfect 4.9 star review of a bbq joint. Upon closer inspection, they are open for breakfast and I make a b-line for breakfast. I skipped oatmeal and decided to have one good meal to fuel the ride. It was a great choice. I also order a hot chocolate that comes with whipped cream on top. A perfect way to get rid of the chill in my hands. The online review was accurate. Breakfast was delicious and just what I needed.
The national Forest in Idaho was lush with trees and a river. Eastern Washington looked like a dessert. Still beautiful, but a stark contrast from the morning. The roads for the first half of the day were a lot of fun, but they soon became straight, and dessert turned to irrigated farmland. Crops I have yet to see emerge from the landscape; onions and wine grapes. As the day goes on I get closer to Seattle and Enumclaw. More and more cars fill the roadway as I enter the Cascade range. Again I start to ascend, this time the temperature drops noticeably as I go into the last mountain range I'll cross going east to west. Another beautiful and green mountain range within a national Forest. I'll have to revisit these places when the weather is favorable.
Before I know it the day is nearing its end and I've hit my first real traffic since Massachusetts. I can't say I was happy about it having left at 6am, and it's now about 6pm. The traffic is so bad that I can't get off the exit I wanted to. I go to the next exit and turn around after realizing that is the only way I can go unless I want to add another hour and a half to the ride. Upon reaching Ryan and Christina's home, I can finally relax. A long but productive day.
Pictures: The Lochsa river. My favorite sign on the trip. More river. A much needed breakfast. The pancakes we not on the side, they came with the meal! Idaho is winning.Read more