Also, no need to post this in multiple forums.
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The Whitefish Hostel is pretty great! We've actually got them listed as a shuttle resource on the pdf I referenced above. =)
Overnight costs. Europe is 1/4 or 1/3 the cost of USA. The US is unbelievably expensive for housing. Campsites in the US are as expensive or more expensive as motels/pensiones/hostels in Europe. You get a private room with a bed and small breakfast and maybe shared bathroom in Europe for the same price you pay for a campsite at a park in the USA.
In about 3 weeks I'm going to start up the coast from San Francisco to Portland...
Are you sure the train is actually cheaper? I have often found flying to be cheaper, so don't rule it out without checking.
No Amtrak to Victoria - need to get there by ferry. Several options exist and I think others can speak to that. There is a ferry from Seattle but my recollection is that it is $$$. You could take the Amtrak Cascade to Vancouver from Seattle and then take BC Ferries to Victoria - if you're coming up the coast via the Starlight that means an overnight in Seattle. I'm sure there might be some other options.
You’ve got to respect the 50lb weight limit as well. The weight weenies in Seattle made sure I was aware of this the last time we traveled on Amtrak (and right now it probably is the last time sadly).
I believe the answer is no for tandems on Amtrak.
I am assuming that it will be decently dry east of the Cascades. Is this a bad assumption to be making?
Is it feasible to bike comfortably in the vicinity of the I-90 corridor from Ellensburg to Seattle if I were to shorten the eastern loop?
A nice route west from Council Bluffs is to follow the Platte River to Kearney, NE, where the Oregon Trail route joins the river and follow the Oregon Trail to Portland, OR.
Some challenges on your proposed route:
Journals from riders on the John Wayne/Ironhorse Trail state that much of it is loose ballast.