Day 6: Avery to St. Maries. St. Joe river road - Idaho Trails 2019 - CycleBlaze

September 13, 2019

Day 6: Avery to St. Maries. St. Joe river road

My wife called at 7:30 AM. I didn't know it was possible to receive calls when Wi-Fi is my only connection to the outside world.

Getting away was slow. I ordered two breakfast burritos, intending to take one on the road, but ended up eating both for breakfast because they were small. Finally on the road around 10 AM. I should have started much earlier.

First I went a block down the road to look at the Milwaukee Road coach. I discovered it yesterday when it was nearly dark. Now I can see it better.

It was built in 1947 as a lounge/dining car. One special aspect of this particular coach is that it's named "Avery". The town of Avery is named in honor of Avery Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller, a big investor in the Milwaukee Road railroad.

Restored Milwaukee Road lounge/dining car built in 1947.
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The lounge end of the coach is fully restored and looks amazing. The dining end of the coach is a big empty space filled with exhibits. The rail car is a free museum.

The lounge area is restored. The dining room at the opposite end is just an empty space with exhibits.
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Galley in the middle.
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This 1911 advertisement is interesting. It definitely wasn't the first passenger service from St. Paul to Seattle. Two other railroads already operated from St. Paul to Seattle.

Poster announcing the launch of passenger service in 1911.
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The Avery train depot is next to the restored rail car. The rails were removed a long time ago. Now the building is used as a post office, library, community center, and Forest Service work center.

Train depot in Avery.
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Today I pedal 49 miles downstream on St. Joe River road. Several people suggested that I should take the unpaved trail instead of the road, even though the road has almost no traffic. The road has no shoulder, with grass growing to the edge of the traffic lane. After 3 days on traffic-free bike trails it was a bit of a shock to share a narrow road with cars and trucks.

St. Joe River road in Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
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The first few miles are in Idaho Panhandle National Forest with campgrounds, picnic areas, and a ranger station. Almost no traffic.

St. Joe river.
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After 17 miles I crossed the river at the ranger station to have a look at the unpaved trail. It looks easy enough, but would definitely be slower than the paved road. So I went back to St. Joe River road.

I crossed this bridge to have a look at the Milwaukee Road Scenic Alternate trail.
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The Scenic Alternate Trail is open to motor vehicles, is mainly used for fishing access. Almost no traffic, driving slowly.

The surface is flat and easy, but slower than the paved road.
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Back across the river to the paved road.
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The paved road is a scenic byway. Very low traffic at first.
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I departed the National Forest soon after the ranger station. Suddenly the riverfront has small private campgrounds for fishermen. And traffic started to build, including log trucks. But still very light traffic, maybe one car per minute.

Outside of the National Forest I saw many private fishing camps. The gravel rail grade is visible across the river.
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Today had decent weather. Mostly overcast but only a few spits of rain. High of 68F (20C).

I stopped to look at a roadside logging exhibit. It explains that homesteaders arrived in the 1880's, but by 1895 most of the land was owned by giant timber corporations. Logs were skidded down the mountains with steam donkeys, then floated down the St. Joe river during spring high flow. Everybody went bankrupt in 1930, but the industry revived in the 1940's using roads and trucks. Logging continues today, mostly by large companies such as Potlatch.

St. Joe River Scenic Byway has no paved shoulder.
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There are no stores on today's route. A sign advertised a store 1/2 mile off the route in the village of Calder. I should have crossed over to Calder to pedal the final miles to St. Maries on the unpaved rail grade.

Roadside waterfall.
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Traffic got steadily heavier as the valley widened near St. Maries. I had to stop for 10 minutes due to road construction. Afterwards I had long periods of NO traffic interrupted by short periods of intense traffic.

I had a conversation with the flagger holding the stop/slow sign. I mentioned I was pedaling back to SPO-kan. He looked at me funny, then said, "Oh, you must mean spo-KAN". Lesson learned. I'm surprised I didn't notice earlier that my pronunciation was very wrong.

Eventually the valley widens and farms are common.
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I traveled west most of the day. Wind was calm at first, but but grew to about 10 mph in the afternoon. It slowed me down noticeably.

St. Joe river in St. Maries, Idaho. Very wide near where it flows into Lake Coeur d'Alene.
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I arrived in St. Maries (pronounced St. Mary's) at 5:15 PM, much later than expected. Traffic would have been more pleasant if I arrived two hours earlier.

St. Maries is a logging town through and through. Population 2443. It seems to be thriving even though it's very much a 1-industry town.

It's interesting to see what passes for old in different places. A log cabin built in the 20th century? This cabin is built with 18th century construction techniques. Dado joints instead of nails.

St. Maries, Idaho.
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Downtown seems to be doing well. Few empty storefronts. It seems like most logging towns are struggling. It's nice to see a logging town that is doing well.

St. Maries is a thriving logging town.
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I walked to the opposite end of downtown to have a look at the school. I have never seen a public school with gender segregated entrances. The left portal says GIRLS. The right portal says BOYS.

Elementary school in St. Maries.
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Tonight's home is the Pines Motel in St. Maries. $86 for a concrete block room with A/C, fridge, and microwave, but no breakfast. On the edge of downtown close to several restaurants but not close to the supermarket. Dinner was pizza and half a pitcher of Bud Light. Good beer wasn't easy to find.

Pines Motel actively promotes cycling the Bitterroot 300k route. They offer to help cyclists make reservations for a 4-day motel tour. And they offer a free shuttle for cyclists who aren't comfortable biking the busy and narrow 15 mile road to Plummer. I'm not doing that road.

The woman who checked me in at Pines Motel knows the Goodman extended family in my tiny faraway town of Oakland, Oregon. What a small world!

The temperature was still in the 60's (>15C) after dark. Definitely a warming trend in the weather. Tomorrow should have great weather.

Distance: 49.3 mi. (78.9 km)
Average Speed: 10.4 mph (16.6 km/h)
Ascent/Descent: +472/-750 ft. (+144/-229 m)

Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 260 miles (418 km)

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