The Rockford file - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 19, 2020

The Rockford file

Tomorrow looks like it will be an absolute rainout, with a steady, solid rain in the forecast for the entire region.  Today looked pretty questionable too, so we’re pleased when we wake up this morning and open the forecast.  It’s improved over the night, and it looks like we’ve got about a six hour cloudy but dry window in the heart of the day.  It looks a bit drier to the west, so as soon as the morning rain tapers off we load the bikes in the car and drive west 25 miles to Rockford.

One of the positive things about having been exiled to this cabin is that it pushed us further north, near parts of the Palouse we wouldn’t have explored otherwise because the drive would have been too far.  Rockford is quite far north - not that far south of Spokane, really.  The country here feels transitional, like we’re tapering off the northern edge of the Palouse.  More forest, a bit less loess.

We’ve mapped out a cherry of a ride for today.  From Rockford we bike south for six miles down the stem of the cherry on Route 27, the road that continues south through the town of Palouse to Pullman.  When we reach Fairfield we’ll turn east and execute a 30+ mile loop before returning to Fairfield and biking back up the stem again to the car.  With luck, we’ll get back before the rains set in again.

Looking a bit chill, biking south from Rockford into the wind.
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Heading south on Route 27. Nice enough, but we’ll look forward to reaching Fairfield and getting off the highway.
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North of Fairfield.
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In Fairfield we leave the highway, turning onto the beautifully named Prairie View Road.  Passing through this small nondescript town I have my eyes peeled for something I’m hoping to see but don’t: a storefront for Ye Galleon Press.  You might remember this photo of a storefront we saw in Oakesdale on our Steptoe Butte Ride.  I couldn’t make sense of its name at the time, but Frank did the research and solved the case for us.  Ye Galleon Press was a small publishing company that published primarily regional works.  The linked article is an interesting read, and gives a bit of perspective on what life must have been like in the past in these small Palouse communities.  The article lists Fairfield as the home of Ye Galleon Press though, not Oakesdale; so I presume what we saw was a branch outlet.  I’m looking for the home office as we bike through Fairfield, but don’t see it.

We do pass a farmhouse whose yard is filled with a more interesting than usual collection of rusting junk though.  It’s the Lost Dutchman Museum, the creation of the late Andy Gortsema.  What’s scattered across the front lawn catches your attention, but a photo of the interior looks fascinating too - a room jam packed with paraphernalia, mostly involving small gas engines.  Andy died just a few years ago, so I wonder what the fate is for this place.  Has anyone taken it over?

In Fairfield. Every town in the region has a crop tower or three. It’s a good thing that I didn’t put a quota on myself.
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It’s a Ford. One of several antique articles on display at the Lost Dutchman family museum east of Fairfield.
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Prairie View Road is every bit as beautiful as its name promises.  It’s primarily the by now familiar Palouse landscape, with rolling hills and wide vistas.  It feels a bit different up here though.  The soil is a shade darker, the crops a bit more varied.  The oldest crop towers are branded to the Inland Empire Pea Growers Association, so maybe we’re out of the wheat belt here.

The countryside is lovely, but so are the buildings and towns.  There seem to be more intact old barns and farmhouses up here than down further south.  Maybe the land was just more densely populated, so there were more that might survive?  And Waverly, the next small town we pass through, is quite interesting.

We’re a bit early In the season, but I do enjoy these fields of canola bloessoms, bloessem.
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Dropping into Waverly. This is an interesting bit of country, sort of transitional. A few loess hills, a few more trees.
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For such a small town, Waverly is surprisingly interesting. This is an odd collection of services offered in this storefront. Not sure what the common thread is.
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Alternatives to a meal at the Hangman Creek Bar & Grill.
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In Waverly.
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Bird feeder? Stump shrine?
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By now, I don’t think I need to tell you what we’re looking at here.
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Bruce LellmanA lotta loess.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce Lellman Don’t get it. I’m at a loess myself.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyTo Bruce LellmanAnd that's just the top of it!
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1 week ago
From Hughes & Co., Spokane. Nice to support your local mill workers.
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Barn of the day, obviously. Some of you may have misinterpreted the previous horse shot.
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Bruce LellmanI sure misinterpreted.
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Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanAn easy mistake, really. The horse isn’t all that prominent.
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West of Latah.
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We stop for lunch in tiny Latah (pronounced with a long A, rhymes with later).  Another surprisingly interesting place, Latah must be best known for what was discovered here.  The town was first settled in 1873, and three years later the skeleton of a wooly mammoth was discovered in a nearby bog.  The skeleton eventually landed in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, so some of you may have seen it there.  I’m Pretty sure I saw it myself when I was living back in Indiana in 1973.

There aren’t many folks living here now, but a man we chatted with later in the ride said that at one time Latah was larger than Spokane.

Dropping into the next small town of today’s loop, Latah.
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Jen GrumbyWould you rather have loess now, or more latah?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyTough decision! Both, actually. Such ploessant alternatives.
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1 week ago
Another crop tower, Latah.
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Latah is the perfect spot for lunch. The town’s name comes from the Coeur d’Alene word for ‘place where we get food’. The mammoth photo, btw, is the skeleton at the Field Museum of Natural History, in Chicago. The mammoth was discovered here in Latah in a bog west of town in 1876.
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In Latah: the former White Swan Hotel, built in 1903.
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In Latah: the Ham-McEachern House. Queen Anne, built in 1886, on the National Register of Historic Places.
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In Latah.
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From Latah we held out the option of shortening the ride by rejoining Route 27 and riding it north back to Rockford directly.  The skies are still dry though, so we stick to the plan and keep working our way around the cherry: East on Wheeler Drive, climbing over a low rise and then dropping back west along Truax Road to Wheeler.  This side is beautiful too.  This entire thirty mile loop is very quiet, scenic the entire way, a great ride.

Back at Fairfield again, I don’t see Ye Galleon Press at this end of town either.  We turn north, pick up a nice tailwind, and race the final six miles back to Rockford.  We’re in a bit of a hurry now.  The sky is darkening above and we can see rain on the hills ahead.  We arrive just in time - on the drive back to the cabin the first drops start hitting the windshield.

East of Latah. Our route takes us East of this hill and over the saddle to the right before doubling back behind it.
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Rounding the bend on Wheeler Road at the high point of the day, such as it is.
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The view northeast toward Idaho, from the saddle.
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Dropping west on Truax Road.
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Jen GrumbyDespite the stormy skies, I think this scene fits nicely in the 'beckoning road' series.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI thought so too. Probably my favorite shot of the day.
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1 week ago
Here’s a beautiful find, east of Fairfield. It looks like it’s just being held up by its sheet metal siding. For how many more years, do you suppose?
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North of Fairfield we’re stopped for a minute. Rachael takes it to bike up and back this dirt road just far enough to round up her distance for the day. 45 miles!
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Dropping back to Fairfield, and still about eight miles from the car. We’re about to lose our weather. On the drive back to the cabin it will begin raining lightly.
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Video sound track: Clockshop, by Billy McLaughlin

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Patrick O'HaraMore a strawberry with a cherry stem!
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1 week ago

Ride stats today: 45 miles, 2,200’

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Michael TordoffHi. I really enjoy reading your journals.

You might not be aware but sometime in the last few days the "Northwest..." journal has disappeared from the "North America" location list on the Cycleblaze.com website. Indeed, it doesn't show up under any continent/location although I can find it under "recent" journal updates. Please can you put it back in "North America?"

Happy tailwinds, Mike Tordoff
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Michael TordoffHi yourself, Michael. And thanks, thanks, thanks! For pointing out the issue (now corrected); for the education (I’d never noticed that you could filter journals by location); and especially for following along. Nice to know you’re out there!
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