Saint John - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 10, 2020

Saint John

Today’s ride

Today?  What happened to yesterday, I can hear you asking with concern.  Don’t panic, stay tuned.

Today’s ride begins in Colfax, a short 15 mile drive north from here.  It’s the second ride we’ve started from Colfax (the first was last week’s loop through Palouse and Garfield), and hopefully it won’t be the last.  Colfax is a great cycling hub, with well paved quiet roads radiating out in all directions.  We have at least three other rides planned that start from here: west to Endicott, east to Kamiak Butte, and southwest down Penewawa Creek.

Today though, we’re heading northwest to Saint John.  We picked it from the candidate list because of orientation and weather.  There’s a fairly strong east wind blowing today, and an erratic route north seemed like it might leave us fighting a strong head wind less here than on the other rides.

It will be warm and summery today, topping out in the  high 70’s, so we get an early start, leaving home at 9.  A half hour later we’re biking north out of Colfax up the evocatively named Green Hollow Road, reflecting on the one drawback to rides beginning from Colfax: the town straddles the Palouse River, and most routes out of town begin with a steep climb away from it.

It’s our spot! We’ve started out from Colfax twice now, and parked in front of this brilliant hawthorn both times.
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Before leaving town we pause to contemplate the Codger Pole, one of the top tourist attractions in Colfax. Read the fine print for the story behind it.
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Some Saint John Eagles and Colfax Bulldogs face off for the last time.
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Taking my seat with the old codgers.
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The first ten miles are quite lumpy as we follow Green Hollow Road over a series of low ridges and down into the intervening hollows.  Very quiet, appealing riding, we’re often in the shade as we cycle through conifer woods and pass fields bright with blooming balsamroot.  At the low points we bike past basalt outcropping where the creeks have done their work over the ages and cut through the loess overburden.

Finally, we top out at the final crest and drop into Pleasant Valley and the junction with Highway 23.  I’ve gotten a bit behind as usual with a few camera stops, and I expect to find Rachael impatiently tapping her foot in the sun at the intersection.  Instead, I find her relaxed and chatting with a young couple from Seattle, down for some weekend cycling.  

We all chat for several minutes more, discussing the local road network and the best route back to Steptoe where their car awaits them.  Without thinking, I offer up my GPS for them to look at to get their bearings.  As we bike off, Rachael gently chastises me: “That was pretty stupid”, she tactfully observes.  She’s right, of course.  Hopefully we haven’t exchanged The Virus.  If we have, at least I have their photo in case any contact tracing is called for.

On the stiffest grade of the day, climbing up Green Hollow Road from Colfax. Always nice to conquer the worst first.
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In the hollow, Green Hollow Road.
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Barn of the Day, Green Hollow Road.
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Two toms, Green Hollow Road.
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The view north, Green Hollow Road.
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No post yesterday, so I’m allowed a second barn today to catch up. Just pretend you’re seeing it a day late.
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On Green Hollow Road.
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Giant centipede.
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A Palouse appaloessa.
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Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks! I especially liked this one because it rhymes.
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2 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltOne of my sisters has Appaloosas... and I like rhymes and puns.
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyBrilliant!

A Palouse appaloessa stands still
At the top of a more or Loess hill
Two cyclists rode by
Saw a reason for why
There's a Loess appaloosa pun thrill!
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2 weeks ago
At the final crest on gorgeous Green Hollow Road. The best miles of the day.
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The west face of Steptoe Butte, viewed from the crown of Green Hollow Road.
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At the end of Green Hollow Road, we finally catch up with the bikers we’ve been tailing for awhile. They’re a rare sighting out here. I think they’re the first we’ve seen other than on the bike path between Pullman and Troy.
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The final ten miles to Saint John are all on Highway 23, as we follow it gently downhill alongside Pleasant Valley Creek.  With half of today’s ride on Green Hollow Road and the other dropping through Pleasant Valley, I was certain just from the names that this would be a fine ride.  

The miles go quickly, but we’re challenged by the ever present 15 mph winds. Fortunately they’re quite variable though, changing direction with each bend in the road - now a headwind, now from the side, now pushing us from behind.  Fortunate, because it breaks up the work and gives us respites.  We’ll appreciate it on the ride back when we have the same variability rather than a steady push uphill into the wind.

We make quick work of it when we arrive at Saint John - take a few photos, bolt down a quick snack, hide in the trees, and soon we’re on the way home.  We make good time the whole way, keeping cadence and barely stopping because we’re in a bit of a hurry.  We want to be back at the car by about 1:30 and home by 2 so we can take a shower without intruding on our hosts (to be explained below).  And we nail it.  I bike up to the car at 1:29 and we arrive back in Pullman at precisely 2:00.  Five minutes later, Rachael is heading upstairs to take a shower in our host’s residence.  Rah, Team Anderson!

Green Hollow Road was spectacular, but Highway 23 has its moments too.
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On Highway 23, still a few miles shy of Saint John.
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Entering Saint John, our turn-back point for the day. Rachael quickly cases the joint, finds it sadly lacking in public facilities, and turns back to commune with a juniper copse we passed a short ways back.
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Saint John is another grain town, with still a bit of life in it - not at all like Dusty, Hay, or even La Crosse. Well kept, freshly painted houses and store fronts. A nice little town.
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In Saint John.
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In Saint John.
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In Saint John.
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In Saint John.
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The final descent back to the Palouse River on Green Hollow Road, with Colfax tucked into the crevices ahead.
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The Codger Pole is great but it’s not the only attraction Colfax has to offer, by Heck.
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Jen GrumbyBy Golly (or Heck?), I think you should get a pair of those (them?) overalls and put them to the rip test!
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2 weeks ago

Video sound track: Shambala, by Three Dog Night

All the News

Yesterday. Not long after returning from Saturday’s Allergy Ride, we were a bit alarmed to see that my leg wound was seeping slightly.  Not like the situation earlier in the week when it was openly bleeding, but still enough to get our attention.  I did as instructed on my visit to the ER Wednesday - I applied pressure and elevated the leg for about 20 minutes, and it soon stopped.

So, no big deal.  We suspect it might have been triggered by the fairly strenuous ride to Hay and back though, and in an abundance of caution (the current favorite phrase, I think - everyone is doing something or other in an abundance of caution now) I decided to take the day off.  Rachael rode the bike path out to Troy and back, enjoying a safe and easily navigated route that she was already familiar with; and I did precisely nothing.  Very nice.

Next week. One other thing happened yesterday: the hot water in our apartment went out.  What luck!  

It sounds unpleasant, but it’s turned into a brilliant opportunity.  We messaged our hosts about it, in their cabin somewhere up in the Idaho panhandle.  They anticipate that it will be quite difficult to deal with because of the old, nonstandard plumbing here in the downstairs of their home.  They proposed two solutions.

For our immediate needs, they gave us access to the upstairs so that we can go up to use their hot water and use their shower.  This is why we were in a rush to get back today - we wanted to get in and get out of their place before they returned from their cabin.  This works fine, except that every time we’ve entered their unit we’ve been startled by the large, life sized stuffed bear sitting in an easy chair watching the telly.

Beyond this weekend though, they proposed that we relocate ourselves to their cabin for the next week or longer.  That way we’ll have hot water, and the unit will be vacant while the contractors have their way with it to address the hot water situation.  So, tomorrow we’re off to the Idaho panhandle for a week, leaving right after my afternoon appointment at the wound clinic.

And where is this cabin?  Why, it’s on the southern shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, just yards from the famous trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, one of the most spectacular bike routes in the northwest.  73 miles long, paved for its entire length, it follows the shore of the lake and then east up the Coeur d’Alene River deep into the Bitterroot Mountains, almost all the way to the Montana border.

I’ve wanted to ride this trail for years.  What a terrific opportunity!

Next month.  For well over half a year, we’ve had an Airbnb reservation for a condo unit in Portland.  The plan was to stay there for all of June, as the place we would return home to after completing our ride from Utah to Albuquerque.  After that we were planning to spent some time in Seattle before heading north to Vancouver for a loop of the Sunshine Coast; and then return to Portland for a short time before leaving for Copenhagen.

By now of course, we’ve already scrapped our planned spring tour in the southwest and have come to John Day and Pullman instead.  And then we cancelled our plans for July and replaced them with a month-long stay in Bellingham since we’re unlikely to be able to enter Canada by then.  Still in place though was our planned return to Portland.  

Now though, that’s changed too.  A month in Portland, in the densest coronavirus epicenter in Oregon, sounds very unappealing right now - especially dwelling on the 23rd floor of a condo building, sharing a long elevator ride with others on our way to and from home each day.  Instead, now we’ll be spending June in a small upstairs flat in Corvallis, a much smaller and quieter place than Portland.  It’s not John Day, but Corvallis is small enough that we should be able to keep our distance well.  

Corvallis is another great base for cycling.  We used to bike down there regularly when we lived in Salem, and it will be a delight to revisit some of our favorite rides from the past.  And, Corvallis is within biking distance of Eugene, Salem, and even Silverton.  We can see a few out of town rides to catch up with friends coming next month.

And beyond July, who knows?  We still have our short August reservation in Portland and our flight to Copenhagen on the books, but it feels like it’s just a matter of time before they go too.  We’re starting to stare at the map to look for other bases we could drive to with the Jetta this fall and explore more of our vast, beautiful, very confused country.  Lemonade out of lemons.

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Ride stats today: 44 miles, 2,300’

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Steve Miller/GrampiesTerrific stroke of luck. We have done the CDA at least three times. Once on our way east and twice or maybe thrice with assorted grandchildren. We and they loved it. Looking forward to your impressions.
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanYou say the Trail of the Cour d'Alenes is 73 miles long? Isn't that pretty much perfect for you Scott?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThat is perfect, one way. Why don’t you drive over nd meet me at the far end so I can get. Ride back?
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1 week ago