Thursday July 30, 2009, 53 miles (85 km) – Total so far: 4,004 miles (6,444 km)
We got a decent start this morning into cool weather, about 60 degrees. We’d talked last night about staying on WA 20 all the way into Ione, on the south side of the river, but Virginia gave me a hard time about getting off route, so we took the north side. Had to backtrack into Idaho for a mile or two to get across the Pend Oreille River, but it was calm and peaceful.
In some 80 miles of following this river, I have yet to see any sign of a current. I guess there’s some water flowing in or out, but I’m not sure how the water gets from one end to the other!
Mostly decent road, with a sparse commuter traffic early, let us enjoy the scenery. Not much more to say about that! 18 miles later we came to the bridge to Usk, across the river. There was a series of odd log structures on either side of the bridge.
(No, that’s not current, it’s aquatic vegetation!) I thought originally it might be some fishing structure the Kalispel Indians had set up, since they have a reservation on the north side of the river. No, according to the lady at the Usk convenience store, these were part of a log-handling scheme. There used to be a large, active lumber mill at Usk, and they’d float the logs down the river from Newport and somehow use these to pull the logs out of the river into the mill.
Back on the road, and there was six miles of road construction. What is it about these western states that, if they can’t chip-seal the road, they have to start with dirt and gravel? We sloshed our way through the mud until we got to the flagman and pilot truck. The pilot truck was mostly going slow, which I thought might be to accommodate two cyclists at the end of his train, but he seemed to be waiting for equipment to get out of the way ahead of us. Two miles of trying to keep up with the escort was a lot like work!
Finally clear of the road construction, we enjoyed six miles before anybody passed us, in either direction! Nice riding.
It wasn’t all like this, of course. There were plenty of summer or weekend homes (I guess, since there was little sign of people), some RV parks, and a few farms. Not many farms; many of the fields didn’t show signs of being worked, or decent fences, most of the fields looked like something scenic for a house to overlook.
The road surface, after the road construction, wasn’t too good. Virginia called it pseudo-cobblestone, as it was full of dips that pounded us for miles. We were glad to see the bridge back across the river.
Another short bit of road construction (the machines weren’t working as we came through), and we were ready for lunch in Ione. We got lucky and got the last motel room in town, which has a very nice view from the end of the motel.
I should have mentioned this yesterday or the day before, but there’s been an explosion of tree species since we got down lower a day or two back. Instead of lodgepole pine or cottonwood, and that’s all, we’re seeing red cedars, larch, grass and wildflowers, even some maples. I guess there’s more water here, and it’s not as brutally cold now that we’re down between 2,000 and 3,000 feet elevation. Makes for a scenic road!
I hesitate to report the good news from today’s ride, for fear of jinxing the next few days. No significant wind, minimal climbing, we got through before the heat got bad. Tomorrow we’ll have to climb over to the Columbia River, and the next day we’ve got a pass to climb with a 5,000 foot elevation change.