July 14, 2005 – Thursday – Day 19

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 342- Trip Total: 4717 – Daily Average: 262.1 (travel days)
10am-4:30pm – 7.5 hours (with time change to Pacific Time)
Superior, MT to Boardman, OR
(-stayed at an Econolodge -) (MT,WA,OR – 21/48)

My gosh! This day went by like a blink of an eye. Seems we were no sooner putting stuff on the bike than we were taking it off. The first 200 miles in the cool of 65 degrees, and with a swift tailwind that helped make the riding easy and delightful. (We had decided that the day off AND the cool morning helped make it so great!) The last 150 miles or so, though, was super wind-buffeted in at least 95 degrees and very hard riding.

The terrain changed before our eyes throughout the day. It began as tree-filled mountain riding and we billy-goated over quite a number of high passes. Look Out pass in Montana being perhaps the most famous – and that clocked in at almost 5,000 feet. Then there was the lesser known 4th of July Pass. Both ranged upward on fairly good I-90 roadway and the descents were good, too, with fabulous views stretching green everywhere.

Then we rode out of the mountains and into dead flatland of farms and tawny wheat-colored pastures as far as blue horizon. And then, by the end of the day, it was buttes, scrub, and prairie land baking under the hot sun.


We were out on the road after having breakfast and after airing up the back tire a bit. It was 10am. As we headed over Look Out Pass there was a work zone. Some of the bright orange cones had blown or were knocked out to the middle of the roadway. I was super careful, but I clipped one of them on my foot peg as we went by. It had negligible impact.

The first 111 miles took about two hours, what with all the mountain curves as we left Montana. I guess Karen enjoyed the views. I was busy studying the highway. For a lot of the time I try to hone my cycling skills. Still need a lot of work on the turns, especially slower tight turns to the right.

We passed a number of “run-away” truck ramps. Karen wondered how the cars in FRONT of those runaway trucks must feel…

Especially on the straight-aways, it was a terrific late morning ride. It had me feeling like a speedy silver bullet whistling down a slender tube on that cool morning.

A little morning drama on the highway – I watched the scene unfold. A couple riding two-up were on a bike in front of us. They seemed on a long tour, too. She was wearing a pink top with a leather vest, he was a heavy guy with a black bandana on. They were in the left lane and in front of them was an enormously long and very big trailer truck. They kept on in the left lane waiting for the truck to move over, but it didn’t. So the motorcyclist went over to the right lane and sort of hung there for a few minutes, clearly trying to decide if he should pass on that right side, which he decided to do. I braked a little – worried about what might happen. The motorcyclist made his move to pass on the right and as he got to the middle of the truck, the trucker put on his right turn signal and started to move over into the right hand lane. I gulped and braked a bit more anxiously awaiting what disaster might happen next. Well, just in time, presumably having seen the impatient and/or stupid motorcyclist trying to pass blindly on the right, the trucker pulled back into the left lane and let him go by. I let out a big “Whew!”

The enormous L-shaped lake around Coeur d’Alene was just magnificent to view for what seemed miles – it was dark blue and shiny and populated with sunny shimmerings.

At about 12:20pm at a Sprague rest area, we stopped to munch on a couple of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Karen made yesterday. We sat on the grass under a shade tree and had a relaxing picnic. From where we sat there were great views of a harvesty-golden-grain hillside and on the grass near us in the sunshine, seagulls cawed away. Part of the highway would could be seen in the distance and Karen noted they looked like little toy cars moving along there.

As we crossed into Idaho in the morning, we moved into Pacific time and set our watches an hour back. It’s been good getting that extra hour during the day every so often when we changed time zones, but I guess it will be the other way around shortly when we head east.

Also a milestone for the trip: just west of Spokane, Washington we turned the corner to the south. Gassed up again right after our lunch break. Highest pricing of the trip! $2.50 a gallon.

A bit into Oregon we saw our first tumbleweed. It was off on the right and I was a little worried about it coming in front of us, but a big truck deflected it.

We could have probably gone on, but at 340-ish miles, we noted an EconLodge off the highway and decided to check out the pricing. Karen was pretty tired anyway and I was beginning to fade. The place was priced perfectly and there was a restaurant right next door with the best veggie burgers since Pennsylvania.

We settled in for the evening of writing, making some calls to folks we were about to visit, transferring digital images from camera to computer, and working on our routing for the next weeks.

Author: Joel Perlish

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