Early Season in North Idaho
Sometimes you just wanna hop on your bike and go for a ride. Several weeks ago, Travis and I decided that we needed to climb down off our bar stools and look for opportunities for a fun early season ride. We knew we wanted to do an overnight trip, but we had no real experience with multi-day bike travel. That being said, Missoula is basically an adventure base camp, and 360 degrees of options materialized before us. The idea of staying on safe pavement seemed to reign supreme for the first large ride of the season. Travis suggested the Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes, a 72-mile, bitchin'-smooth bike path that goes from Mullen to Plummer, Idaho.
It’s a converted railroad bed that has been voted one of the best bike trails in the country. We checked some info and decided it would be a sweet and relatively foolproof ride. I mean, there's only 1,000 feet of elevation change over 72, miles which means it’s essentially flat. Shoot, I thought, I’ll ride my track bike.
This thought inspired Travis to show a bit of solidarity and ride his track bike, as well. It was decided: 144 miles round-trip, self-supported, on fixed-gear bikes built for the velodrome rather than randonneuring. Why not? Our friend Alex was like, “You guys are crazy!” Hey man, we’re just some dudes who like to ride bikes of all kinds.
Track bikes it is! I rode my Bianchi Super Pista and Trav rode his new All City Thunderdome.
We figured with a light bikes and huge gears we could crush miles like a fat kid slamming down a plate of burgers.
Since we were on bikes with no gear-carrying ability, the idea of camping or packing anything other than the essentials was out of the question. We did some planning and decided to stay in Harrison, a quaint little town right at the mouth of the Coeur d'Alene River on the lake of the same name. Half price lodging in the off season was another draw.
We parked in Kellogg, with the idea that we would only have to wear our packs for the 40 miles to Harrison. We would do the remainder to Plummer and back to Harrison without any gear. We could also do the same the following day on the way back -- drop our gear at the car, and cruise to Mullen and back to the car.
We got a leisurely start on Easter Sunday, April 20, beginning with smiles and laughs, off on the longest ride either of us had ever attempted on a track bike.
The whole trail follows the Coeur d’Alene River through loamy forests and waterfowl -ich wetlands.
We handled the first 20 miles with no problem, distracted by gorgeous scenery and positive attitudes. But once we hit an open marsh section we were faced with a strong headwind the lasted for all of the 20 miles into Harrison. Hungry, road-weary, and tired, we made our way into one of Harrison’s few watering holes, where we replenished with pizza and a pitcher of IPA.
With full bellies and a third of the ride done, we were feeling pretty good. Too good. We fell into deep comas after checking into the lodge. We woke up at 8:30 p.m., starving, and went to grab some more food before riding the remainder of the way to Plummer and back in the dark. Luckily, we got some grub before the bar closed.
We were the only people out on Easter evening.
The last 15 miles to Plummer and back to Harrison in the dark along the lake was by far our favorite part of the whole trip. Without gear, and in the cool evening air, our bikes felt like rocket ships. It was calm and a bit creepy cruising through little hamlets. I mentioned that this place seemed like where Jason Vorhees might have grown up.
In what seemed like the fastest 15 miles I've ever ridden, we made it back to our lodge for some much-needed rest.
When we woke up and hopped back on our bikes in the morning, we began to feel the gravity of the trip really settling in. After the first ten miles or so, our aching knees and sore butts started slowing us down. So, every 7 to 10 miles, we stopped for snacks or beers or to just enjoy the incredible scenery. That was the whole point of this trip anyway, just ride bikes in beautiful places.
We made it back to the car in the early afternoon and decided to call the trip rather than risk our good vibes being tainted by saddle sores for the last miles.
Just kidding! We dumped our packs and crushed seven more miles, reenergized by the thought of going fast with no gear. In the end, we felt like we'd accomplished what we set out to do: Ride well over 100 miles without coasting. We also drank many beers, saw so much scenic beauty, and had an overall great time. I can't wait to do it again.
So, get out there and ride your bike, and don’t be scared to be a little unconventional. I mean, that’s what its all about, right?
Tip for this ride: You can get information at the website of Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails. For a couple of additional accounts on the riding the trail, and to learn about other ways to do it, check out Julie Huck's post Knitting Club Tackles Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and Greg Gizinski's A Family Ride on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.
Favorite local bike shop: Missoula Bicycle Works.