A great sleep here by Lake Koocanusa. Chipmunks are buzzing outside our tents in the morning. Breakfast of champions – Starbucks coffee and Pop Tarts.
It’s 2.5 miles up to exit the park, but nothing too bad. Jack wonders aloud what the word Ponderosa means. We know it as a type of pine, oh yeah, and that ranch in Bonanza. [I later looked it up – it means “heavy” in Italian, as in strong and powerful.]
Out onto Kikomun Newgate Road and we find a not-so-subtle headwind. We plow straight into it, adding in some hills. Maybe 15 mph in the face – quite the morning grind. Turning onto 93/3, we are greeted by a 300′ hill up to Elko. A chore in the headwinds.
We reach the Elko Convenience Store for morning snacks at the 10 mile mark. Cheez Puffs are on target for me, while the guys pick up donuts and pies. A couple of friendly codgers are there in support of an ongoing Continental Divide bike ride and we talk a long while with them.
Our route follows 93/3 from here, which will have traffic and possibly more exposure to winds. The maps also show a 21-mile “gravel alternate.” We’ve ridden on quite a few gravel paths before, most of them quite acceptable for our Surlys. Ref: Erie Canal NY, Land Between the Lakes KY, and out of Mobridge SD.
We ask the 2 guys and then the store clerks about this road, and learn only that it indeed exists and that logging trucks use it. OK, let’s give it a go. A mile or so through neighborhoods takes us across the Elk River and onto a single lane River Forest Service road. Let the gravel begin.
We gamely try it for nearly a mile, hoping that the surface will improve. The verdict is finally declared – it’s horrible. Big lumpy rocks that can’t be forded with speed, at least not on a loaded touring rig. That means the opposite is true, that we’re forced to granny along at 4 mph uphill OR downhill, weaving and dodging and bucking. It’s not that we’re in a hurry, but the prospect of 4-plus hours of labored riding on this surface is not appealing. Besides, it’s pretty hard on the bike frames and spokes, not to mention our backbones.
We turn around, backtracking to the highway. Despite the traffic, it’s much better passage. following the Elk River due north on its western side. Headwinds are still present, but not as bad as in the morning, and cliff walls help shield them at times. It’s actually a great ride with gorgeous views. This must be a flyfishing mecca, too. We see numerous boats on the river, and run into a group suiting up into waders at one pullover.
We can look back across the Elk River from the highway and see the dusty evidence of logging trucks heading south on that gravel service road. A cyclist would have to ditch for sure. It was a good decision to avoid it.
Lunch in Fernie. Fernie looks like a fun little town, artsy and crunchy. The 2nd Avenue promenade area is developed and attractive. Near the railroad tracks we found the Blue Toque Diner. Excellent eats – my poached eggs with salmon and spinach with white cheddar sauce…mmmm does it get any better than that?
Another 20 miles to Sparwood. A continued beautiful roll along the river. A few miles outside town the rains open up on us. Enough to get us into rain gear, but then we play the off & on game the rest of the way.
I hit up the grocery for ibuprofen (my knee savers), chips, and beer. There is supposed to be a good Mexican place somewhere around here too, but milling around the plaza can’t find it.
At the Causeway Bay Hotel, Phil decides he wants a single room tonight, so Jack and I will share one. Showers, phone calls, Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption, pizza delivery, The Fugitive. Three movies involving prisons, plus pizza and Pepsi. Man!
Today’s Ride: 51.8 miles
Today’s Climbing: 2,201 feet
More Stats: http://cyclemeter.com/
Tour Total So Far: 428.3 miles