KALISPELL, MONTANA—When I awoke this morning in Spokane Valley, I planned on walking the vital and varied streets of Sandpoint, Idaho, this evening, setting out from my room at the La Quinta to find a good healthy dinner at one the pubs Ed told me about. Instead, I’m happy with a smoking room at the Blue & White Motel in Kalispell; it’s all they had left. The other places I checked on my way into town were full because the state fair is getting underway.
My photo visit in Spokane Valley went well and quickly, just as I’d planned. Things went awry in Sandpoint. Many roads were under construction, and signs denoting the pavement I was traveling were absent. Finding my way to my airport appointment took more time that the photos I captured. I tried to retrace my route, but detours and one-way streets were more than I could handle. Frustrated, I decided to get on US 2 and get out of town. But I couldn’t find the black and white shield I sought.
I turned left on a road that I guessed was US 2, but after traveling about 10 miles in construction and on freshly laid asphalt, and seeing no sigh, I reversed course and found my way back to US 2 south of town heading west. A U-turn got me going in the right direction on the right road. When the landmarks started looking familiar, I realized I’d made the correct turn in the first place and had just made a time consuming 10-mile circle. In no way eager to prolong my painful frustration, I kept going.
I saw my first US 2 East sign just short of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, right before I passed a billboard for the Kootenai Brewing Company, 2.8 miles ahead, turn left just before the river. Established in 2011, it’s right on the river, behind this fascinating metal contraption that was part of the first hydroelectric plant in the area. My server, Sorelle, young, fresh-faced, and truly happy to see me, brought a Grizzly IPA and a chicken Philly sandwich. Both of them were excellent. I had a second Griz to confirm my initial impression of a better than average IPA. Rarely has reality soothed the frustration is has previously lavished upon me.
For dessert, Blue have me an odometer present, and I was paying attention. Never let go of your 13 year-old-boy joy at simple accomplishment. But the sequential joy stopped there. Just past the state line and Libby, Montana, signs warned of construction. The the road turned to gravel and a sign to the right said “Road Closed.” I pressed on—slowly—to see how far I could get. After a long stretch of gravel, with no opposing traffic, I reached a short path of pavement and a flagger (that’s her at the head of this post). First in line at the red light, she said it would be a 15 minute wait, and I could pull forward into the shade. It was a welcome butt break.
Traffic soon collected behind me, and the flagger, a delightful woman who’s held the job for six seasons, not counting the 10 years in commercial instruction, returned to the head of the line. She said they were making US 2 “wider, straighter, flatter, and giving it new bridges.” For a biker, those are unhappy words. Still, I did appreciate the break in the shade. Until the truck with the wide load came down the road. The 18-wheeler behind me tried to pull forward and to the right to make more room, and he hit the sign warning drivers of the flagger. Score another one for reality.
Four doors down from my smoking room at the Blue & White, which doesn’t smell too bad, by the way, was a new BMW R1200RT. A barrel-chested man with a neatly trimmed gray beard and florescent green Columba poly-pro t-shirt was wiping away the bugs. Rob was from Vancouver, BC, and making a big loop through the Northwest. On his left saddle bag was an outline of North America with stickers for provinces and states he’d so far visited. Having put 52,000 km on the bike in the two years he’s owned it, he’s been to all of the provinces and states on both sides of the Canadian-US border.
Still full from dinner, I got an Pyramid Thunderhead IPA from the nearby Smith’s grocery store. It wasn’t as good as the Griz, but it went well with Rocky as I sat in a sunset breeze outside my door. In my pocket was a real, metal room key with sharp teeth. I don’t remember the last time I got one of those. The desk clerk said the Blue & White has Wi-Fi, so let’s see if I connect. I may well be today’s last reality check.