2024 Grand Coulee Dam Loop





2024 Grand Coulee Dam Loop

By Deb Chamitoff

If I were to use one word to describe this 13 Day Bicycle Tour, it would be VARIETY!

Eleven days of touring with only one designated rest day, Doris, our leader did a great job of designing a fun and challenging tour. The variety of these daily rides kept us interested and motivated.

Every hotel was different, but all were very bike friendly….no problem bringing our bikes to our rooms. What a treat!! We stayed at chain hotels like the Best Western, and Holiday Inn, as well as privately owned and operated inns and lodges. The variety of plumbing that kept us guessing at shower time.

Fortunately, one of the participants was willing to drive the support vehicle every single day and so we were all free to be on our bikes throughout the entire tour! The group cycled about 835 km and climbed 4900 meters in 10 days of riding. Some took full advantage of the rest day. Others did not!

Interesting to me, was that out of 13 riders, there were 7 e-bikes riders! I guess it’s the wave of the future! But then again, no one ever turns on their motor! *wink*


The tour started in Grand Coulee, the home of the Grand Coulee Dam. At 550 feet tall from bedrock to its peak, the Grand Coulee Dam is approximately 225 feet shorter than the perhaps more well-known Hoover Dam, but at just a few feet short of a full mile in width, it is significantly longer. The Grand Coulee is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. We parked our cars at the very funky but accommodating Columbia River Inn. The temperatures were in the high 80’s so we left our cold weather gear in the car.

The climb out of Grand Coulee was magnificent (which is how I discovered that people were on e-bikes! They passed me like I was standing still!) The rest of the ride was equally breathtaking along the crystal, clear turquoise lakes and dramatic cliffsides. However, there was a strong headwind even the lakes had white caps!! Of course, we were concerned that the headwind would be with us during at least half of the tour until we turned to return back to Grand Coulee. The road surface was smooth and the drivers were courteous so it was a pleasant day on the bike in spite of the extra work! We arrived at the Soap Lake Natural Spa and Resort on the banks of Soap Lake and home of healing mud baths. One of the riders slathered some on her arms and she said they never felt so smooth. Some interesting shore bird sightings was an added bonus to an already spectacular day.

Most of the group went to an up-market Italian restaurant for slices of wood fired pizza! . Ron and I opted for the more “slice of life” local pub where the fare was good, but the Bingo was even better! “Rose” gave us official dawbers and cards and we learned the fine art of everything Bingo. We were one number short of winning an air fryer! 

Back on the bikes the next day heading to the Best Western Moses Lake. Ron and I stopped at the Grant County Museum where garage sale items from a hundred years ago, come to rest. The rack of comic books brought back memories! Another sunny, warm day…..until we hit a gravel road that went on MUCH longer and rougher than expected. The group was somewhat traumatized by it all, but it set the bar for the upcoming gravel sections that were relatively more manageable. Variety! 

Day 3 took us to farming country, riding along fields of amber waves of grain and bright yellow canola. Today, the winds were behind us and the sun was on our faces on our way to Ritzville. This was my favourite place. Wiki Ritzville and you’ll see why. The town is void of people but full of charm and hope! A Carnegie Library, a movie theater, iron works of art at every corner, a railroad museum shows that there is great potential. We talked with the one person on the street. I think the iron sculpture could have been him! The one and only survivor. He told us that Carnegie did donate the Library building, but not until the town purchased all the books! Carnegie was no fool! 

We are already on our 4th day of riding as we head into Spokane County Washington on our way to Cheney. We passed through a town called Sprague where very old farm trucks, and Volkswagen vans are parked on all 5 blocks. Again, not one human in sight but some beautiful antique vehicles which excited most of us! I wanted to phone Steven Spielberg to tell him to come if he needed some old trucks for his next movie! 

The day continued with a tail wind and a gradual, long climb along the sage brush landscape, and into Cheney where we suddenly crossed into a beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest area. Some had lunch in the park adjacent to the Eastern Washington University where the Seahawks have their summer training camps.

We’re into our 5th Day of riding…it’s a long one (100km) and the temperature is dropping quickly, it’s threatening rain, there’s more gravel and all the coffee shops are closed as we head to Harrison, Idaho! There was one coffee shop on the way which is closed on Saturdays and I contacted them through Facebook Messenger and asked them if they would open for us …… And they did!! Hats off to What-a-Kitchen in Fairfield, Idaho! He didn’t think we’d be riding that day as the weather was not favourable. He does not know how tough we CCCTS members are!!

We continued on and reached the Coeur d’Alene Trail, an abandoned rail trail that led us to our next stop, Harrison Idaho, our home for the next three nights at the Lakeview Lodge. According to my calculations, Harrison has the most ice cream shops per capita in the world! It’s population is 203 people, and there are 6 ice cream shops (that I found)…. Ice cream is big business in Harrison …. Again…VARIETY! Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were so cold that ice cream was the last thing we wanted!! But we had one the next day when it warmed up!


And a Little More from Nancy

Harrison, Idaho , the midpoint of our bike trip was one of the highlights. The trails offered spectacular views and great riding, and of all the amazing accommodations during our Dam trip…these rooms in the Lakeview Lodge offered balconies overlooking a lake with gentle breezes and soothing views. But the memorable and extra-special thing about Harrison (in my prejudiced opinion) was the bike shop! (bike shop/cum coffeeshop/cum happy hour base!) Taking bikes to the bike shop for minor fixes lead to reassuring positively wondrous experiences. The young men/mechanics/salespeople were generously helpful, full of interest in our trips and our bikes, accommodating, experienced and fast! They made return trips a joy and even cleaned the bikes after doing something relatively minor. Harrison itself came after a day on the trail in wind and on one bridge enough wind and rain to spoil the view.

A day off in Harrison, besides trips to coffee shops, bike stores, grocery stores (sorry we don’t get bananas until Thursday!) and wandering the trails on foot for this lazy one, included taking a shuttle bus for Glen and Carol to Wallace and riding back. They were gone by 8 a.m. on a day you could sleep in!

The trail to Spokane was as well a delight and the hotel in Spokane where we had our group dinner, outside overlooking the water and trail in perfect temperatures and fabulous choices of food at the Ruby River Hotel was a luxurious treat, but we still preferred the 8 Bar B Motel in Wilbur, Washington. Wilbur was support-driver Eric O’Higgins’s favourite place although he insists it wasn’t because his duties were over (except for delivering the packs, suitcases and gear to the Columbia River Inn). Wilbur had an enchanting statue of  who else? Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, close to the motel giving everyone who encountered it reminiscences of childhood.

Between the Coeur d’Alene trail and the Centennial trail, the wildlife count mounted to heights unexpected – who saw the most moose? Who actually got a picture? How many beaver dams? How many colours of pond lilies? How many eagles? How many cranes?  This writer is still feeling cheated – for someone who lived in the north and saw uncountable numbers of moose rumps disappearing into trees still hasn’t seen a front end – let alone got a picture! 

The trails were such a treat for oh so many miles (this is the U.S. after all, so no kilometres) without riding among traffic, or on too many highways, and the minute attention to detail leads Doris spent on research to make sure we were on safest routes and most spectacular scenery and wildlife left us in awe. The whole trip was a mastery of intense attention to detail and care  of safety. Thank you everyone for taking part and thank you especially to Doris.

By Nancy O’Higgins