Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wander Around Washington - 7-20-07

Colfax to Walla Walla

The motel was serving breakfast at 6:00, so I had some eggs, donuts and coffee before I hit the road at 6:30. My route today is simple, Hwy 26 to 127 and then follow Hwy 12 into Walla Walla.

The weather is perfect, not too hot, 80s instead of higher and while I don't have a tailwind, at least the winds there are aren't slowing my down too much. The hills, on the other hand, can put a bit of a damper on forward momentum. This terrain reminds me of western France, the hills aren't particularly huge or steep but the terrain is constantly rolling. Everything is a bluff or a gorge or a gulch or a ridge and I'm glad I'm traveling with a fairly light load.

An hour southeast of Colfax on the road to a tiny town called Dusty, I see a crop dusting plane spraying the fields, I snap a few shots with my pencam and decide a bit to late that it might not be the smartest thing in the world to stare in slack-jawed amazement as a plane buzzes overhead dropping some kind of insecticide.

At 9:00 AM I cross the Snake River and begin another climb. If I'd gotten an earlier start or if my bike said "Harley Davidson" on the side instead of "Hasten Slowly", I might have been able to knock the hundred or so miles from Colfax to Walla Walla by early afternoon but I'm really just wanting to make it to Walla Walla while the bike shops are still open.

At 12:30 PM I'm 30 miles northwest of Walla Walla. I stop in a town called Dayton for a double cheeseburger washed down with some milk and Gatorade. I've also been following my usual practice of munching M&Ms, cashews, granola bars and other goodies from my front basket as I ride. I have a nice phone chat with Bike Alliance board member Jean Byrne. Jean lives in Walla Walla and even though she out of town traveling today, she fills me in on what shops I should stop at when I get to town.

I roll into Walla Walla around 3:30 PM. Hwy 12 becomes a big, freewayish road here but I spot a parallel bike path and take the first exit that connects me up with the path. I follow the same strategy I did when I rolled into Spokane, I try to follow the signs and the traffic flow towards downtown and I make my first stop at the town visitor center.

The lady at the visitor center gives me a nice bike map of the area and also starts to fill me in on the various wineries and the local Onion Festival. Wine and onions are OK but I tell her what I'm really looking for right now is ice cream. She directs me to a shop a couple of blocks away where I have two scoops of mocha fudge served in a waffle cone.

My next stops are Allegro Cyclery and the Bicycle Barn. In both shops, the guys I chat with say nice things about the other shop. I ask my usual questions to get a vibe of the cycling in town. There is some terrific road riding in the area but there has also been an uptick in cruiser bike sales. And there is a BMX track in town, so I figure I should go check that out. Both Steve at Allegro and Reggie at Bicycle Barn are very generous with their time answering my questions on a Friday afternoon.

After checking out the shops, I head over to a local coffee shop, planning on using their internet connection to get some work done and blast a report up to the blog. But Laura Stone sees my bike and gear and she's got a question for me, she's touring cross country and wonders if I've got advice on a route to Portland.

Over coffee we discuss her options for routing and her trip. Laura is from Athen's Georgia ("like REM?" I comment. "Yeah, or like the B52s, " she counters.) and she's been riding cross country and working at various organic farms as part of WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms -- I think I got that right.) Anyhow, we talk about touring, headwinds, my family, her family and a bunch of other stuff. When I ask her if she could change one thing that would make life better for cyclists, she thinks for a minute and replies "shoulders on every road. Wide, clean shoulders."

She'll be looking for work when she gets to Portland and I give her my card. "I know people," I say, "urban chicken people, bike co-op people, foodies...I know lots of people." I'd told her about my indirect route to Portland and advised against it for her. We mapped her a straighter shot, but the wind in the Gorge may be a problem. "But at least it'll be pretty," I tell her.

Laura heads off to her aunt and uncle's place (most of her touring bags are already there, that's why the bike looks so lightly loaded in the picture) and I want to check out the old fort and the BMX track so I head there.

After doing some touristy gawking at the fort and taking some pictures of the BMX kids, I find a quiet spot at the edge of town, roll out the bivy and settle in for the night.

Day's stats:

Dst 114.3 miles

Ave 11.0 mph

Mx 28.0 mph
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