IONE, Washington – When my day begins, I load my bike with eight liters of water in four different vessels.
That’s almost 18 pounds.
More than one cyclist I’ve met along the way has pointed out that I may be carrying too much water, that maybe one of my three-liter water sacks is enough, that maybe a water filter would be wiser.
A cycling woman I met in Newhalem scoffed not just at my water-hoarding tendencies but also at the size of my load: two full panniers, tent, sleeping bag, inflatable mattress, et cetera, et cetera.
She informed me she was climbing Washington Pass with two small water bottles and a filter.
And she did. And she passed me. And I drained all eight of my liters that day.
I never saw her again, though she told me she planned to peel off of U.S. Bicycle Route 10 in Winthrop, heading toward Colorado.
I mention all of this only because of all the days I’ve ridden, this one was ruled by water.
I left my post near the Colville River, and while I climbed into the national forest, I passed unnamed pond after unnamed pond.
Near Bible Road, a pickup stopped and the man behind the wheel yelled, “You’re not the guy from the paper, are you?”
We talked for a while before he offered me a place to stay at his ranch. Near Starvation Lake.
Soon I was riding along the Little Pend Oreille River – which, even with the diminutive “little,” is kind. It’s a creek.
I passed Camp Creek, Olson Creek and Amazon Creek.
I pedaled by Little Twin Lakes Road and South Fork Mill Creek Road.
I had salmon jerky stolen from my unsuspecting, unobservant hands at Crystal Falls.
I had lunch at the Beaver Lodge on Gillette Lake.
I made coffee at Lake Leo and did a bit of bike maintenance at Frater Lake.
Finally, I coasted down my final long descent of my tour to the Pend Oreille River valley to where I’m staying the night, in Ione.
The clear waters of the Pend Oreille are wild-seeming, nothing like the still, reservoir water of the Columbia I crossed yesterday.
The muddy waters of the Okanogan River had their charm, and the milky green Skagit River was magical on my first day of riding. But the Pend Oreille feels untrammeled in a way the others didn’t.
Maybe it’s because I’ve drunk and sweated so much water that I feel like an expert now. Or because I’ve seen creek after river after lake. Not to mention the Sound.
Regardless, when I pulled into Ione, it wasn’t water I sought. And Dylan at the Block Bar and Grill had what I was looking for.
A nice, cold beer.
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