Although we were on a scenic bike path and should have been happy or even grateful, we had sore butts and had hit the point where we just weren’t feeling that enthusiastic about riding all day. The bike path was a smoothly paved old rail trail that followed the clear ripples of a rock bottomed river, the Coeur D’Alene River.
Ferns replaced the sage that had been the flourishing underbrush since Wyoming. I wasn’t expecting to see ferns until we entered the rainforest of Olympic, nearly on the coast of Washington. Their vibrant green seemed premature for the first week of tour.
Every bend was photo worthy, and it was quite clear that Brenton thought so too, because he seemed to stop every time that I got settled into a groove. More irritating still, was the random kerchunk from my bike every now and then, as the chain slipped a little and jolted my knees painfully. It needed a tune up, but we hadn’t had a chance to get to it.
We were constantly being passed by other cyclists and whole families that were out for a holiday bike ride who were fascinated and terribly amused by our dogs, and we never passed anyone with our heavy loads. We began to miss the highway with its ups and downs and could only appreciate the scenery in theory because of the monotony of the constant 2339 foot elevation. We noticed every ache and pain that had been creeping up on us for the last few days but had remained unnoticed while we had been distracted by the challenges and novelties of the ride thus far.
The further we rode on the flat path, the wider and deeper the river became. Soon, we lost the river all together and broke out of the woods into a vast wetland. The trail was raised about five feet on either side, and as we rode, we flushed out families of small brown ducks with mohawks of feathers cresting their little heads.
In the distance I could see a large, dark object lumbering towards us and told Brenton to get his camera ready. It was a moose, and we were at a safe enough distance to stop and get a picture and watch him wade through the shallow water.
Eventually, the path found the river again, which was no longer so much of a river but a small lake corridor, and this eventually turned into Coeur D’Alene Lake. By now, we were tired and grumpy and ravenously hungry. Time had crept along obnoxiously slowly, teasing our empty stomachs.
As soon as we pulled into the little touristy town at the lake, we ditched the bikes in the shade and grabbed a booth with an outlet at One Shot Charlie’s. We ordered a pizza and asked for the biggest size, which made the waitress raise her eyebrows. I smiled and said “We’ll have leftovers,” and Brenton interjected “maybe.” She said, “Oh, you’ll have leftovers,” and hurried off to put in our order and refill the waters that we had sucked down a few times already.
We demolished every last crumble of that pizza and shocked the waitress. Brenton said he felt refueled, but I did not. We crossed a bridge over the lake and soared down the other side, entered a state park but didn’t find camping. At one point we thought we had found a campsite and had to ride off-rode on some single track to get to it. I turned a corner, not expecting the climb ahead, and without time to even think about shifting, I broke my chain. Brenton repaired it with little difficulty, but it only added to my slowly growing frustration, and it turned out that there was no camping there either.
We rode the remaining miles of the bike path after the state park and were shocked at the lack of other cyclists and the breathtaking beauty of the enchanted forest through which we were now riding. Also different and welcome was the elevation change, suddenly the path was curvy and vertical. I relaxed a little.
We suddenly popped out of the woods at the trail head and met the highway on the Indian reservation, and to our crushing disappointment, found no camping. We explored all our options and asked around and decided that the only choice was to ride another fifteen miles to a casino where we hoped they would let us camp in their RV parking. As we attempted to cross the highway, I tried to move out of the way of a truck trying to pull out behind me by scooting to my right with my left foot on the ground and my right foot still clipped into my pedal. Zerbert shifted in her trailer and threw me off balance, as I was on a hill anyway, and I fell over right in front of a gas station for all too see.
My pride was injured far beyond my scratched and bruised body, and I hurriedly jumped back up and sped off to meet Brenton on the other side of the road, but half way there, realized that the soap I carry in my bottom bottle cage had been pushed loose with my fall and it was now crashing to the ground. I ran over it with my back tire and the broken lid allowed a peppermint scented stream to spray across the highway. My kick stand only works at certain angles and I frantically tried to balance my bike and grab the soap container rolling away from in the middle of traffic rushing passed on both sides. When I finally reached the other side of the street, I was not sure that I could add another fifteen miles to the more than fifty that we had already done that day.
However, I completed the 66 miles relatively strongly, feeling much better about the rolling hills of the highway than the flat monotony of the bike path. When we arrived at the Casino, we asked a security guy directing traffic if it was okay for us to camp there. He said sure, but that it was a long way down the road. We smirked to ourselves a little but thanked him, knowing that his idea of a long way on a bike was nothing compared to ours.
We pitched our tent on the gravel parking lot where we camped for free that night and learned from the extremely friendly Canadian RVers next to us that there was a firework show beginning soon and that we had prime real estate to see it. It was a good firework display, too.