The Viola-Palouse Loop - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 4, 2020

The Viola-Palouse Loop

A new doctor

Today is a perfect cycling day, but we can’t get started right away.  I have a date with my new wound nurse, over in Moscow at the Griftman Wound Healing  Center.  It seems odd to drive over to Moscow, but I couldn’t find any place suitable in Pullman that could get me in on short notice.

I have a fairly lengthy first visit since I’m new to the doctor, but the outcome is all positive.  She thinks the wound looks like it’s healing excellently, though she won’t give a prognosis on time to heal without tracking me herself first.  The wound looks visibly better to me than the last time I saw it four days ago.  The open area is steadily shrinking, and the ring of new tissue around it steadily expanding.  Bodies are so amazing.

She says I seem in excellent health in general, and asks if I have any health issues.  I mention my sporadic SVT episodes, and she pulls out a stethoscope.  After she stops listening, she informs me that I apparently picked up the heart of a much younger man somewhere along the way.  So that comforting to hear.

I’m scheduled for weekly visits each Monday for the rest of the month, and with luck I’ll be pretty much healed by the time we leave the Palouse.

Today’s ride

Today’s loop takes us across the Idaho border and then back to the town of Palouse.  I could have called today’s ride the Palouse Loop; but these are all Palouse loops and that would be confusing.  I could call it the Palouse Town Loop, but I imagine we’ll have multiple versions a loop through the town of Palouse.  So I’ll name it after Viola, a minuscule Idaho community we’ll pass by on the way.  Voila: Viola!

The ride starts from home and leaves Pullman on Airport Road.  After about a mile or two we cross through the suburbs of Palouse Ridge and drop into the open.  We’re only about a mile north Route 270, the road to Moscow that the Bill Chipman Trail follows, but it feels much more open and remote here.

Eastbound on Airport Road, about two miles from downtown Pullman.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Susan CarpenterDoes WSU still house Grizzlies at the Bear Station out on Airport Rd?
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Susan CarpenterIt looks like the Bear House is still there, though they have hopes of replacing it with a larger facility giving them more range to roam. Thanks for mentioning this. I’ve never heard of it, and we must have biked right past it.
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3 months ago
A touch of Tuscany on Airport Road.
Heart 3 Comment 0
On Airport Road. So remarkable to be biking through country like this so close to town.
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A bit past the airport we come to the junction with O Donnell Road, which  I had mapped us to follow for another five miles east into Idaho to US 95.  It’s a gravel road though, and neither of us relishes an avoidable five miles of gravel so we decide to remain on Airport Road as it bends south and connects with Route 270.  

This will be one of the themes to our stay in Pullman, it appears: a trial and error discovery of which roads are paved.  If the road isn’t painted with a yellow stripe, you can’t tell with certainty from the satellite view which roads are paved and which aren’t.  We asked about this at the bike store Saturday but were told that there aren’t any reliable maps with that information.  You just have to know.  By the time we leave the region we should be able to put together a pretty decent paved road map.

Anyway.  Back on 270, we quickly exit onto the Bill Chipman Trail, follow it across the border, and then take a chance on Farm Road, another small road the goes north and eventually intersects with US 95.  Our goal is to minimize how much time we have to spend on US 95 itself, which of course will carry substantial traffic - it’s the main north-south corridor through the Idaho panhandle.

Farm Road is a winner - a delightful minor road that passes through an experimental farm associated with the university.  There’s a sign by the entrance to the farm saying access is prohibited for now, but a couple sitting nearby tell us it’s fine and the road just continues on the other side so we take a chance.  If we’re stopped, we’ll apologize and say we were misinformed.  It’s fine though - a car passes and we pass a pedestrian, but no one stops or questions us.  A quarter mile later we’re out the other side, enjoying a delightfully quiet ride through the loess hills.

On Farm Road, passing through the experimental farm.
Heart 3 Comment 0
On Farm Road. It would be very quiet and peaceful here, if it weren’t for this constant soft crunching sound.
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On Farm Road.
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On Farm Road.
Heart 5 Comment 2
Suzanne GibsonFantastic shot - all are of course, but I do love this.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI did too. I was really mesmerized by the uniform green rolls.
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3 months ago
In Idaho, nearing the junction with US 95.
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US 95 is what it is.  There’s sparse but steady traffic, and a decent shoulder that would be even more useful if it didn’t have a rumble strip carved through the middle of it.  We patiently ride north for a couple of miles until we come to a minor side road.  It’s paved and looks like it roughly parallels the highway for about five miles before reconnecting further north, so we take a chance on it.

Saddle Ridge Road is great.  Paved, very quiet, we enjoy the best two miles of the day as we gradually climb, passing a few small farms along the way.  We’re just thinking about lunch when Rachael rounds a bend and comes to a large, smooth fallen log beside the road.  Perfect.

Slowly climbing on Saddle Ridge Road, we enjoy some of the best riding of the day.
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On Saddle Ridge Road, Rachael pulls off ahead at a perfect picnic spot.
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The perfect lunch spot, Saddle Ridge Road.
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Unfortunately, Saddle Ridge Road is four miles long.  The first two miles were the best of the day, and the next two the worst.  Almost immediately after starting up again, the pavement ends.  It’s not too bad though, so I encourage us to continue forward - it looks like it’s only two miles.  How bad can it be?

Bad enough.  The gravel road quickly steepens, and turns into a 12-15% spike.  We bike when we can and push when we must, but it’s a slow, frustrating next two miles as we work our way up one side and down the other.  It’s quite beautiful though.  If you like gravel and have the right bikes, we can recommend it.  We don’t though, and don’t, and likely won’t be repeating it.

The dark side of Saddle Ridge Road looms ahead.
Heart 3 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekIt doesn't sound as foreboding to say "the dark side of Saddle Ridge Road" as it would if the road was named "Ichabod Crane Bridge" or "Dead Horse Gulch". Or Haunted Death Pass". They should rename it.
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2 months ago
On Saddle Ridge Road. Not really a barn, I wouldn’t say. Oh, wait - that’s a double negative.
Heart 4 Comment 4
Bruce LellmanIf that's not a barn I wonder what else it's not.
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3 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Bruce LellmanI wouldn't say it's not something other than barn, but I wouldn't say it isn't, either.
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Ron SuchanekWell said.
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2 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Bruce LellmanWell, I wouldn't go that far.
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2 months ago
Slow going on Saddle Ridge Road.
Heart 4 Comment 2
Suzanne GibsonThose roads always look so harmless in the photos. I have posted some pictures of us on challenging climbs and people commented on the nice flat countryside for cycling!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonDon’t they though? It’s so hard to get the perspective that shows it for what it is. That’s Rachael’s function in this shot.
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2 months ago
The view from the top, Saddle Ridge Road.
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Fortunately, two miles later Saddle Ridge Road ends at Four Mile Road, which is paved!  I’ve been holding my breath on this.  I’ve already been feeling guilty for talking Rachael into this fun little excursion, and have been fearing that we’d find still more gravel ahead.  Four Mile Road is another beaut though, and we enjoy a lovely ride back to US 95, joining it just north of nowhere town Viola.

Hooray! We come to the end of Saddle Ridge Road, and come to Four Mile Road. It’s paved!
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Horse of the day, Four Mile Road.
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Barn of the day, Four Mile Road.
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The northern outskirts of Viola. Can a town that’s barely two blocks long even have outskirts?
Heart 3 Comment 4
Jen GrumbyLooks like an outskirt to me!
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3 months ago
Bruce LellmanFrom here it looks as though you could skirt it to the right, so, yes it has at least one outskirt.
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3 months ago
Suzanne GibsonIt's an outskirt without a town.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonIn the middle of nowhere. Donut town.
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3 months ago

We’re barely on US 95 at all this time.  Less than a mile later we turn left on Palouse Cove Road and enjoy a wonderful few miles riding to the town of Palouse.

I want to come back to Palouse sometime for a real look, but for now we just skirt it and continue south back to Pullman on Route 27.  Paved the whole way with a reasonable shoulder and light traffic, it’s a great ride.  We’ve still got four weeks here, so I’m sure we’ll see this road again.

So, by and large a really great route, and paved for 40 out of 42 miles.  User discretion is advised on those last two however.

Heading toward Palouse on beautiful Palouse Cove Road.
Heart 5 Comment 0
On Palouse Cove Road.
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Wood lot and knoll, Palouse Cove Road.
Heart 2 Comment 3
Bruce LellmanAnd yet another barn. It must be hard for you to choose the Barn of the Day when there are so many.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanAgain, this is not a barn shot. The trees are the thing here.
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3 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonI can't say that I don't agree that this is or isn't a barn shot.
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2 months ago
On Route 27, south of Palouse. Ahead is Kamiak Butte, one of the high spots in the region. Possibly we’ll bike up there one of these days.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Kamiak Butte, from the south.
Heart 6 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyThe clouds positioned themselves very nicely for this shot!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYes. Quite cooperative. We like well behaved clouds.
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3 months ago
Palouse scrimshaw.
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Video soundtrack: Follow, by Brandi Carlile 

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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 2,500’

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