Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes was a smash hit

This cycling trip was all about "The Accident" so let's just get that out of the way, particularly as it occurred just two miles into the ride. I was taking a picture of Dollie from the bike seat when she stopped. I couldn't figure out why she was getting bigger in my viewfinder until I just about plowed into the back of her at 20 miles per hour.

The last picture before the crash
With only one hand on the handlebar, the swerve-and-break maneuver was doomed from the start. The bike went down and I kept going until the feet tied to the pedals came into play, cracking me like a whip face-first into the pavement. A dropped watermelon sound echoed through my head as my jaw broke and dislocated and I'm not even sure how I hurt my right hand as badly as I did. Plus my head bounced like a basketball off the pavement.

Crashing makes me sad
So we stopped the bleeding from the cheek I'd opened up right underneath the purpling eye and Dollie asked me what I wanted to do. Well, I did what any self-respecting cyclist would do: I got on the bike and kept riding. In my defense, the decision to keep riding was made mere minutes after taking a blow to the head.

On the way to Smelterville

The Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes is a 72 mile converted railway path that runs from Mullan to Plummer in northern Idaho. For those readers unfamiliar with Idaho geography, the trail basically crosses the Idaho Panhandle. The trail is remarkably flat and the smooth pavement allows riders to glide along relatively effortlessly. Still, it'd be a lot cooler without the bone fractures.

Arrival at Kellog

The first third of the trail goes through several historic mining towns:  Wallace and Kellog being the most prominent. There were piles and berms of mining slag on either side of the trail. Near Kellog, we rode past the infamous Bunker Hill Mine, site of a Superfund cleanup where several feet of lead-poisoned topsoil had been removed from most of Kellog. After the cleanup, grateful residents applauded with all three hands. With my purple eye, dislocated jaw, and scraped lip, I probably looked like someone who had drank early and often from the Bunker Hill well.

Osprey, shrieking at us
You have not been anywhere until you've been to Smelterville and once we left the town with the least alluring name ever, it was all rural countryside until Harrison, about 40 miles later. The Coeur d' Alene River would be our pathside companion and we observed bald eagles, osprey, Canadian geese, ducks, and deer living life along the numerous lakes, marshes and river as we cycled past. We did not see any moose but their muddy tracks cris-crossed the paved bike trail as we wandered amongst the many Chain Lakes.

Lake Coeur d' Alene
In the late afternoon, the Coeur d' Alene River suddenly widened and just like that, we arrived at the very large Lake Coeur d' Alene, near Harrison. We stopped for some drinks and ice cream. My mouth did not fit right, my teeth were all loose (they were fractured, I just didn't know it yet) and eating ice cream was quite the painful challenge.

"ooo-ooo-o-ooh" moaned the Chacolet Bridge
Several miles past Harrison, we hit the 10-mile (to go) marker and just past that the trail entered a causeway that took us across the lake on the Lake Chatcolet Bridge. The wind was blowing through the metal railings which emitted an eerie "ooo-o-o-o-ooh" sound as we cycled past, just like a father scaring his young children at night. It took a long time and years of therapy for my girls to forgive me.

Easy for you to say
Once on the west side of the lake, we could see our campground across a narrow arm, just a few miles away. Unfortunately, we had to pedal 15 more miles to get there. Also unfortunately, the last 7 miles of bike trail were all uphill in a cruel trick to play on cyclists after 65 miles. Persevering, we finally plopped down in blessed relief at the Hn'ya')pqi'nn Trailhead. Trying to pronounce the name with a dislocated jaw was nigh impossible.

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz...

...oh, what a relief it is!

We had made arrangements for Dollie's mother to pick us up, but alas, she was not getting cell phone reception at the campground. We had to ride another 8 miles to the campground, up a nice little 6% grade as I cursed cheap cell phones. But we did arrive at the campground just in time for sunset. It was a joyous reunion with Ibuprofen before cutting our vacation short, returning to Roseburg and bone graft surgeries. You could say the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes was a smash hit!

Nice sunset, but pass me the ibuprofen
For the rest of the pictures, please visit
my photo album of this scenic ride.

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