We continued climbing our rail trail for a further 16 km today. We enjoyed the ride, the trail felt like a proper rail trail, often with the land falling away on either side. We saw many deer and they were all curious. It was a beautiful morning, cold and fresh, about 2.5 deg C. It was to turn into the perfect summer day, warm and cloudless. There is a tunnel on this section which is now closed for safety reasons and we had to push our bikes up a very steep incline to get around it. The summit of the climb is at Lookout Pass where there is a ski resort. After this we were in Idaho. Then it was downhill! On the downhill section we turned through a small parking area at a trailhead and of course a large and fairly aggressive dog came for us. We shouted at it and then I expained to the owners that we have had so many dogs chase us and asked them please to control theirs. "Go back to California!" yelled the woman. Now see, to us this is a compliment, assuming we are Californian, as so far it is the state we have felt most at home in! We just laughed, quote of the trip that was! "Go back to California" :) makes me smile just to say it! Welcome to Idaho! We had only been in the state for about 2 km! New record. After this we continued downhill to Mullan where we would start the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes cycle route. This is a fully sealed 72 mile path to Plummer. We are not going to ride the whole thing but would recommend it so far. It was downhilll for us at rail grade and a perfect bitumen surface. The surrounding woods are beautiful. The interstate traffic whizzes by but nicely srparated. The backstory is that in the 1800's silver mining in the area caused a large amount of toxic waste, mainly lead and other contaminants. In those days they thought nothing of wrecking the environment and so these tailings just accumulated until they were used to build the railway. When all the mining closed down and the raillway ceased operating they decided to seal the trail as it was the best way of keeping all the toxins from ruining the surrounding countryside further. There is a river as beautiful as any we have seen, crystal clear and full of trout which runs alongside the path, however there are strict guidelines about avoiding the toxins. So you may not use the water at all, even if filtered, even to wash with, so no spa baths! You are not allowed to deviate from the trail and if you do so and walk on the dirt, you should cover your mouth and nose! You should only eat at the benches provided. And so on... seemed a bit ridiculous to us, particularly as we could not even fill up a drinking bottle with water in Mullan; there was no public facility i.e. water tap, available for this!
We were quickly in Wallace which is a pretty town. We bought some cold milk and breakfast cereal to eat and saw a bench outside the county courthouse to do so. A bloke came out to check us out I think, although he was friendly. He was also armed with a gun and tazer. We had a good chat. He had spent time in Perth and Albany when in the navy, and had even visited Uluru. He told us that Idaho is a Red State which in his words means it is conservative and republican, and that the crime rate is low because everyone is armed. Also that Washington, Caifornia and Oregon have deteriorated in recent years. He felt that the water in the river was fine and the local kids swam in it all the time, but said we were better off getting water in town. We did so at the miners park going out, but there was only the hand basin in the toilets, so luckily we carry water bags otherwise you could not do it. The bubbler outside did not work. We miss Utah where there were taps everywhere for everyone to use, even in such a desert like state. Here there is a raging river and yet water is the hardest thing to come by!
We stopped again at Kellogg and as there was a Dominoes pizza place I went to get one. "How much is a large pepperoni?" I asked. "$8.47," said the girl behind the counter. So I ordered one and went back to where Mike was sitting, to wait. When I thought about it I realised this was crazy. A large pizza had never cost us so little! I assumed it would be smaller than expected. When I went in to collect it, it was 14 inches. I said thanks and took it with the receipt, which said $16.99. I queried this, only to be shown the receipt in full which showed I had been given a $9.00 coupon! So basically the discount was more than the pizza! Winner! Very nice of the cashier to apply the discount without me knowing. We then stopped at the Walmart Supercentre which was also just on the cycle route, and then rode about another 5 km and found a spot to camp. The mosquitos obviously do not mind the toxins as there are a million of them!
We were woken after 23:00 by a dog barking aggressively and constantly very nearby. We could not figure it out but it seemed that someone was walking along the cycle path nearby with a dog. The barking continued for a long time and stayed in the one place. Eventually it stopped. You got the feeling that the passerby was having a look, otherwise why wouldn't they have called the dog off and gone on quickly? Weird! Anyway, it was not a great night's sleep. We woke at 04:30 as we have had a time zone change here. The light was the same as 05:30 so that was fine. We packed up and moved on a couple of kilometres to the next bike path vault toilets and picnic table where we had breakfast. It was a lovely day. Sitting there we decided to get the hell out of Idaho today, and into Washington. We have found this last week in northwest Montana and Idaho depressing. Everything just feels wacked-out here; we feel out of place. The route has been great from a scenery point of view, but we are made to feel that travelling by bicycle or even just being from somewhere else is viewed suspiciously. These conservative states or areas are not welcoming at all. I guess that is the coonservative or republican mindset, follow a narrow path and keep those blinkers on. Even the people who have approached us and spoken to us have done it as if to say "it's a little strange what you are doing". We decided to try to make it to Spokane, Washington State, today. This would mean a 120 km day. The weather looked good, bit of a headwind. We would not ride to the end of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Plummer, but would leave it at Cataldo, go on to some minor roads, then hit the interstate for about 17 km. We would then go back on some minor roads to Higgins Point on the shore of the Lake Couer d'Alene and follow the North Idaho Centennial Trail to the state border where it links up to the Spokane Centennial River Trail. We have not had a rest day in over a week, so it felt a big ask but we thought we could do it. We would book a hotel stay for 2 nights as a bit of a reset.
We set off towards Cataldo and surprised a moose who leapt over the low fence alongside the path and then gazed woefully back at us. He had two friends on the other side of the path. This was our first moose sighting of the trip and so cool that we were so close to them. Mike spotted three more moose in the distance later on. They were beautiful. After we left the path and rode along a quiet road alongside the interstate we could see that the west lanes were closed and so the whole road was single lane only, no shoulder, as they resurfaced it. It had us a little worried but we were so lucky that the roadworks ended just as we joined it! We had a 6 km climb along the interstate and it was busy and loud, and the shoulder not quite a wide as those in California, but it served it's purpose. On the way down, after our coffee break, Mike got a rear wheel puncture as the tyre picked up a large drill bit that went through the tyre's side wall, and both sides of the tube. Luckily it happened at an emergency pull off area so we had space for him to unpack and fix it. He replaced the tube this time as it had a double puncture and he also had to place a boot in the tyre. Leaving the interstate a few kilometres later, we had tremendous views of the Couer d'Alene which is obviously a toast of the Idaho panhandle. It is a large and beautiful lake and very much a tourist hotspot. We took a very minor road, which as one point was single lane only. We turned off it towards the lakeshore to get to Higgins Point, only to be met by, yes you guessed it, "Private Road, residents only". Nothing for it. Back up the hill to approach from another way. In the end we got to the North Idaho Centennial Trail which took us effortlessly round the lake, bypassing the town, several parks and many very unfriendly/miserable Idahoans. Even the cyclists on the path did not glance at us. The town and suburbs of Couer d'Alene is completely immaculate, plenty of green grassy lawns, flowers, pine trees, sparkling water, complete with "No trespassing" signs on the BEACH. It was a strange experience as it looks quite a bit like Sweden or Finland but it's sort of too perfect. Anyway, we whizzed along and took a break just after the town at a highway rest area which backed onto the bike path. We decided with 53 km to go at 12:30 that we were comfortable booking the hotel room in Spokane, which we did. We continued on the cycle path. I must say that the path is worldclass. The surface is very high standard and quick, and the path is very well planned, you barely have to slow down as it avoids many cross streets and so on. It is 23 miles in total to the state border on the path and we really enjoyed it.
We took another rest just before crossing the bridge to Washington State. We were really happy to leave Idaho, but for a minute I thought, "What if Washington is no better?". Well, we needn't have worried. The Spokane River welcomed us as we hit the Centennial Riverside Trail and it was beautiful. Within a few kilometres a cyclist, James, pulled up alongside us and proceeded to have a very animated conversation with us about our trip, asking all sorts of questions, very enthusiastic. He rode along with us for about 15 minutes! Then another woman on a bike had a chat, wished us a great ride! It was amazing and we have said it before; how can crossing a state border take you to a different world? We felt so happy! After this we passed many walkers and cyclists and everyone smiled and said hello! We stopped for a break and Kelly came over with his dog, Bella, and had a long chat to us about our trip and told us about places to visit in Washington. Even the dog looked happy! We just realised how much the culture of those other states had effected us. We weren't even able to put in long days on the bike, we were just subconsciously really down about it. We have had these experiences touring in Europe where you go from one country to the next and it is so different, well I guess the USA is really many small countries and some you will love and some you will hate. We rode into Spokane with a spring in our pedal stroke and the river trail was perfect. The city is very cycling friendly. Both James and Kelly mentioned the city issues with homelessness and drugs, etc. which that bloke at the County Courthouse in Wallace, Idaho also told us about. We just wonder about the conservative/republican view which he expressed "We don't have those problems here because everyone is armed". Is that not just a different sort of problem? We look forward to two nights in a hotel in Spokane and we are VERY happy to be in Washington!