In the spring of 2018, with a week between jobs, I decided to cycle tour from Spokane Washington to Missoula, Montana. This page details the trip including the route, the recommendations, the successes I had and the failures I didn’t expect, which all make for a great cycling tour!

Highlights

  • ~250 miles over 6 days
  • ~12,000 ft of climbing
  • No close encounters of the wildlife kind
  • No flats or mechanical issues! Just getting my actual bicycle to Spokane turned out to be the biggest hassle
  • Many calories consumed, mostly including Huckleberry Ice Cream

Gear

I brought along my trusty 2011 Surly Long Haul Trucker which at the time I recently had powder coated by Heritage Bicycle Shop here in Chicago. I can speak highly for the rest of my gear, including my panniers that have taken quite a beating over the years.

Bicycle2011 Surly Long Haul Trucker 58cm 700c
PanniersOrtlieb Classic Front/Rear Rollers
RackpackOrtlieb Rack Pack
Handlebar BagLone Peak Alta
Tires
Continental Ride Tour City/Trekking Bicycle Tire, 700×37
SaddleISM Typhoon
FendersSKS RaceBlade Pro XL Black Fenders
TentMarmot Fortress 3 Tent

Logistics

On average, I cycled around 50 miles per day. My plan was to cycle on roads out of Spokane to the Idaho border and catch the Couer D’Alene Trail. This would take me to the Montana border, where I caught the North Pacific Trail and would eventually plan to take a mix of back roads and frontage roads to Missoula. This was an incredibly hilly route by the way, with about 12,000 feet of climbing total and with that some nice declines as well; you can see the full map below.

Lessons Learned

  • Montana’s weather can turn in an instant, so it’s good to be prepared with all kinds of layers and rain protective equipment, even in the summer time
  • Post winter, some frontage roads and trails in this area were not groomed at all. Lots of rocks were present, and even on 37cc tires I was struggling a lot. Had I realized this, I definitely would have purchased larger tires for this tour

Day 0,1

With my bags ready and my bike box in hand, I took off from Chicago and flew to Seattle, then Spokane. All was going accordingly to plan until I reached Spokane, and only my bags showed up (my bicycle somehow was lost). After connecting with Alaska Air, they were able to find my box and put it on a flight out the following morning. So while I waited for my bike, I checked out Spokane, which wasn’t a super exciting town to me but it was nice being out in some great weather.


Once I got my bike back and fully assembled, I hit the road. Going out of Spokane had some challenging climbs but once those hills passed, the summer sun started to come down hard. After a long, cold winter in Chicago, having some 85+ degree weather was incredibly pleasant. I continued southeast out of Spokane, through the Spokane suburbs, and out into the country. Rolling hills, farmland and large shoulders for cycling. Komoot dragged me onto some interesting roads, including one dirt road that lead me to a great gas station. I met the owners there, who were super friendly and offered me some huckleberry ice cream.

Country road Route 278 eventually lead me to the Idaho border, and this translated to roads with more traffic and skinny shoulders (not the best riding). Once I hit the Couer D’Alene casino, I was able to find a closed back road (no cars, yay!) that lead me away from 278 and over to Route 95. The rest of my trip through Idaho was pleasant, with route 95 leading me to Plummer Idaho. I decided not to hop on the C’ouer D’Alene trail in Plummer, but instead decided to take the scenic Conkling Road. I took a break at the entrance to a “Family Nudist Colony” which offered more questions than answers :-). If you check the video below, this ended with a very intense downhill route, which after riding all day, felt incredible.

Finally, this lead me to the Couer D’Alene trail! Riding up to the Chacolet Lake was incredible and starting to see the set over the lake was gorgeous. There were a decent amount of cyclists and runners using the trail, but nothing like the traffic faced during the day. I ended up in the town of Harrison ID, which was very quiet on a Sunday night. I had a beer and dinner at a local restaurant, set up camp at the town campsite (me and about 2 other people were camped out there) and promptly went to sleep. The campsite at Harrison faces the lake with a nice lake view, and made for a gorgeous sunset.

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