If I had wanted to ride into or through a town as busy as Sandpoint, Idaho, I would have visited New York City during Friday afternoon rush hour.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Leaving Kalispell, the road north to Whitefish and Eureka, Montana was chilly but pleasant. At one point it felt as if the temperature got down to the mid 40’s. It definitely felt like I was in a northern part of the country. I never saw any animals other than a dead cow elk that was killed such a short time before my arrival that I could still smell blood as I rode around it.
By the time I reached Eureka I was ready for a warm up. Cafe Jax served nicely. It was blue skies and sunshine and the nip in the air was departing quickly.
Just north of town I veered west and south on MT 37 and followed the east bank of Lake Kookanusa (a combination of Kootenai, Canada, and USA). I practically had the road all to myself. The scenery reminded me of the Cascade Locks section of the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington, but much longer.
In Libby I gassed up, then took MT 567 north again as I zig zagged my way westward toward Idaho. This road, to a tiny community called Yaak, was rough and narrow, one notch above gravel. I saw several signs warning of grizzlies but never saw any.
I stopped on a wide patch on the side of the road and changed into my warm weather gear, giving a loud shout every few minutes in case of bruin presence. The beasts never showed up. This road reminded me a lot of the forest service road 46 from Ripplebrook to Detroit back home in Oregon, except a bit rougher, longer, and more remote. I seldom exceeded 25 mph.
When I got to Yaak, the road opened back up to 70 mph speeds. I still had the sense that there simply aren’t very many people in Montana.
I eventually crossed back into Idaho, and it wasn’t even noon despite my circuitous route.
Sandpoint has got to be the busiest town of 6,000 people in the country. Just finding my hotel was a serious challenge, dodging lines of cars without end. I eventually found it but I was nearly two hours early with no possibility of early check-in. I parked my bike in front of a restaurant next door and checked out the situation. By the time I got back to my bike a guy on a BMW R1200 was parked next to it. We chatted briefly and decided to share a table over lunch.
His name was Paul and he ran the production crew of a TV station in Boise. Lunch itself was merely adequate but Paul and I had a good conversation. He rode north, hoping to score a motel room in Nelson, B.C. I still had 45 minutes to kill before I could check into my room so I rode to the very crowded lakeside beach park nearby (Lake Pend Oreille). I barely managed to find a quasi-legal sliver of a parking spot in the shade.
I stripped off my jacket and helmet, then sat on the ground against a decorate boulder on the edge of the grass and passed the time watching people come and go to the swimming area nearby.
At 3:00 PM I remounted and made my way back to the hotel. It was on the second floor above a restaurant on the very busy main street in downtown Sandpoint. There is a single door leading upstairs, otherwise devoid of any marking indicating its presence. I got my key from the maintenance lady and parked my bike behind the iron fence at the entrance to the downstairs restaurant’s outside dining area. It looked like my bike was in jail! At least it was secure.
My suite was massive. It had two large rooms and a large bathroom. My room looked down onto the busy intersection outside.
I had noticed something about Sandpoint; there seemed to be a pretty girl walking down the sidewalk at a rate of 10 per minute. Amazing.
My dirty clothes were starting to mount up so I needed to find laundry arrangements soon. The motel at my stay the next night in Leavenworth, Washington told me there was a laundromat within walking distance of my motel.
I ate dinner downstairs at the Sand Creek Grill. My room came with a complimentary glass of wine so that’s where the evening started. I then moved to a table on the outside deck overlooking the lake shore. I was the first customer of the evening and I had five very cute waitresses taking care of my every need. I felt like I was somebody important!
My second glass of wine was from Fort Walla Walla Cellars, a merlot, and to date was the most delicious wine I’ve ever experienced. Instead of ordering dinner, I selected two different appetizers for variety’s sake. Grilled spiced shrimp with an arugula and pear salad, followed by ‘Paradise’ sushi rolls. It was by far the best meal of the entire trip and one of my more memorable meals of all time.
Having such a great time and wishing my wife was there to share it with me, I began to feel homesick. I called the motel in Aberdeen two nights ahead and cancelled my reservation; I’d ride straight home from Leavenworth, getting home a day early.