The Allergy Ride: from Dusty to Hay - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 8, 2020

The Allergy Ride: from Dusty to Hay

Another terrific day, another terrific ride. The sky has cleared, the temperature is up, the wind is down.  Today we’re striking out in a new direction, exploring a different part of this surprisingly diverse region.  We hop in the car and drive west to Dusty, about thirty miles away.

Dusty is a very small place these days.  Its short Wikipedia article describes it as a tiny hamlet with a population of either 11 or 12, and two horses.  But then, it doesn’t sound like there was ever much there here. Its post office was active from 1899 to 1909, and the one room schoolhouse closed over sixty years ago.  Its most prominent feature by far is the tall grain elevator, which you can see for miles away.

Parking the car at the rest area below the grain elevator, we take advantage of the open and surprisingly well maintained outhouses and then head southwest for Hay, on the first leg of a roughly triangular route that will take us to Hay, La Crosse, and finally back to Dusty again.

Leaving Dusty, we bike past its small business district (there is also a modern store/service station across the road). Not dusty today!
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The 18 mile ride to Hay is nearly effortless as we follow tiny Alkali Creek downstream on its way to the Snake River.  It’s downhill the entire way, dropping at a nearly uniform 30 feet per mile.  For the first half of the ride we’re on State Highway 127 on its way across the Snake River to the network of roads around Walla Walla.  About halfway to Hay we leave 127 for the smaller, local Big Alkali Road, still following Alkali Creek.  127 is a quiet highway with an occasional large truck passing by.  Big Alkali Road is virtually abandoned.

The further west we go, the emptier, flatter and drier the terrain becomes.  It feels much different here than the rides we’ve been taking further to the east, and as if we’re transitioning out of the Palouse.

Southwest of Dusty, on Route 127. We’re following Alkali Creek downstream for the next 18 miles, dropping a steady 30 feet per mile all the way to Hay.
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Part of a large herd of very curious cutter horses.
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I think they call these longhorns.
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It’s surprising how substantial and well maintained the Country Bible Church is, because so few people live anywhere near it. The cornerstone dates it to 1926 and identifies it originally as St. John’s German Congregational Church, but it broke away and became independent some years later.
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Not sure if this counts as a barn or not, but I’ll assume so. Barn shot of the day.
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Ron SuchanekIt's a barn, more or Loess.
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1 week ago
On Big Alkali Road, the road loess traveled.
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Suzanne GibsonJust hope you didn't get loest...
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2 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekTo Suzanne GibsonDammit! That's what I was going to say....
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1 week ago
Not the most efficient placement. Back to the drawing board.
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Ron SuchanekDesign by Eric Trump.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekI shouldn’t read your comments while eating breakfast, Ron. I almost spewed my cereal across the table laughing.
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1 week ago
On Big Alkali Road.
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Approaching Hay, on Big Alkali Road.
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An hour or so later we roll into Hay, pleased to find that there is a small manicured grassy spot at the entrance to town.  Grandma’s Park looks perfect for a spot to sit down, enjoy our lunch, and contemplate the entirety of Hay.  From where we sit, it looks like there’s little more to Hay than a long-abandoned service station.  A few folks must still live here though, because someone is maintaining this tiny park.

Hay! We’re here!
Heart 2 Comment 4
Suzanne GibsonI hayed to tell you, but that's your second pun of the day.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonOh, shoot. You’re right, my bad. But what the hay: what’s one more pun, more or loess?
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2 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekPuns are becoming a loest art.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekThanks for helping us rediscover it, Ron. Gold star.
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1 week ago
Phillips leaded supreme, @ $0.44/gal.
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Another perfect picnic spot: Grandma’s Park, Hay.
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The next leg of the triangle, to La Crosse, is 17 more miles of the same type of empty, low profile country.  It’s a bit lumpier though, beginning with a seven mile, 600’ foot climb up Hay-LaCrosse Road to a low summit, followed by a three mile drop to the end of the road when it intersects with State Highway 26.  Hay-LaCrosse Road is even quieter than Big Alkali Road - we are passed by only a single car in these ten miles.

On Highway 26 we continue dropping for another three miles, racing along on the smooth, wide shoulder of the highway ahead of a noticeable tailwind.  When we reach the turnoff for La Crosse Airport Road we double back and start slowly climbing into the wind for about three miles until we arrive at bustling La Crosse, population 313.

North of Hay, climbing up Mud Flat Creek on Hay-LaCrosse Road.
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Still climbing up Hay-LaCrosse Road.
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At the summit! After a lazy climb up Mud Flat Creek, we cross the saddle and begin dropping toward La Crosse.
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Jen GrumbyThis photo would look great on the cover of Adventure Cycling magazine .. you could write an article for them about Alternative Pandemic Touring.
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2 weeks ago
Westbound on Highway 26 for a few miles, slowly dropping toward the Snake River. In a few miles we’ll come to the cutoff for La Crosse and double back.
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Video sound track: One Door Opens, by Richard Thompson

La Crosse was born with the completion of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company rail line from the now extinct town of Riparia in 1888.   The town sits at the junction of this line and the east west line between Connell and Colfax run at the time by the Columbia and Palouse Railway.  Both lines were eventually absorbed by Northern Pacific. 

After Dusty and Hay, La Crosse feels like quite the substantial place.  There are a few open businesses, a post office, even a few folks walking the streets.  There’s enough here to fill up the time that it takes me to finish my Apple, and then we’re on the road again.

The giant grain terminal for La Crosse Grain Growers.
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After Dusty and Hay, La Crosse feels like a bustling place.
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In La Crosse.
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A sign of a small place.
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La Crosse has several houses like this, built from small boulders.
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We leave La Crosse on tiny Scharpenberg Road, climbing a couple of miles to a low summit that gives us a huge view: west to the tips of Steptoe and Kamiak Buttes, and south beyond the Snake River to a low, snowy range that I think must be in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness northeast of Walla Walla.  

From the summit we drop a mile back to Highway 26 and begin the ten mile, gradually uphill last leg back to Dusty.

At the summit Scharpenberg Road, we get a fine view south across the Snake.
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Making tracks back to Dusty.
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Mighty tempting.
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We’re back! We’re parked below the Dusty grain elevator, which I see belongs to the La Crosse Grain Growers.
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Before leaving the day, we want to pass on this terrific video shared with us yesterday by our friends Ken and Judy.  It’s perfect for the times, and brought tears to my eyes as we watched it.  Regardless of the mad ramblings we keep hearing from the White House, we really are all in this together. Enjoy, and keep your hopes up.

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Ride stats today: 48 miles, 1,200’

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Comment on this entry Comment 3
Jen GrumbyThanks for sharing that video. We saw it awhile ago and was great to see it again!
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2 weeks ago
Eva WaltersYes, thanks so much for posting the video. Very moving.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Eva WaltersI was so pleased that Ken and Judy passed this on. We both love this song, and I was embarrassed to say I didn’t know that Robertson wrote it. Also surprised to learn that Ringo lives in Vancouver. What a great corner of the world you live in! We’re ready to emigrate, if someone would just adopt us.
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2 weeks ago