Day 8: Plummer to Spokane. The northern Palouse - Idaho Trails 2019 - CycleBlaze

September 15, 2019

Day 8: Plummer to Spokane. The northern Palouse

Breakfast was at the Gateway Cafe. On the road at 9:15. Total blue sky in the morning, a rare treat. This tour has been so relentlessly cloudy that today was the first time I used sunscreen.

First I pedaled north on US 95 for 6 easy miles to Worley. Moderate traffic, but also a usable paved shoulder.

Grain elevator in Worley, just before I turned off US 95.
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In Worley I turned west on Chatcolet road which climbs steadily into the Palouse region.

Entering the northern Palouse.
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I didn't know my route passes through the northernmost Palouse. I pedaled through the southernmost Palouse in 2013 and didn't realize the region sprawls this far north.

The Palouse is an enchanting place but nothing is flat.
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I really like traveling in the Palouse. The undulating landscape of wind-blown loess sediment is fascinating, and the wheat fields allow me to see the contours of the land.

The wheat is harvested, leaving behind golden stubble.
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One interesting aspect of the Palouse is that the farms are generally high in the hills while the villages and towns are at the bottom of the hills near water. The opposite of the usual pattern in the west where irrigated farms cluster in the lowest ground. The Palouse is "dry" farms that depend entirely on rainfall.

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Most of the wheat had long since been harvested, leaving golden stubble about 1 foot tall. I saw unharvested wheat in only one field.

A rare wheat field that wasn't harvested.
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Chatcolet road is paved with very rough chipseal. Kind of slow, but it got even slower when I crossed the state line into Washington and the surface changed to washboarded gravel. 4 miles of gravel to connect to WA 278 where I pedaled west 2 miles to Rockford.

Chatcolet road changes from rough chipseal to washboard gravel when I cross from Idaho into Washington.
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I didn't expect the gravel. It was hard work compared to pavement. Sometimes I could only go 6 mph because the washboards were so severe. There was no traffic, so I could wander anywhere on the road to find the smoothest track.

Chatcolet road in Washington.
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I stopped a few minutes to look around Rockford, Washington. It's a very typical farm town, population 477. Not much has been built in the last 75 years. You can tell the population is about the same now as it was in 1940.

Rockford, Washington.
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Rockford is a typical small farm town. Population 477.
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Impressive list of community supporters in Rockford.
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I had a long downhill to get to Rockford. Afterwards I climbed 500 feet back into the Palouse. And of course many big rolling hills after that. The road is never flat but is relatively well graded. Few grades steeper than 4%.

Back to the Palouse after a huge climb.
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West of Rockford I pedaled 20 miles on Valley Chapel road. Mostly in the Palouse, but the last few miles are in a canyon near Spokane.

The afternoon sky filled with high clouds but the temperature stayed about 70F.

Valley Chapel road goes 20 miles through the undulating landscape of the Palouse.
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I stopped to take pictures of Mt. Hope Community church. I'm pretty sure that Valley Chapel road is named after this church. It's surrounded by farms in an amazing setting. Possibly my favorite photo during this tour.

Mt. Hope Community Church in the middle of nowhere. Namesake of Valley Chapel road.
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I'm traveling west into the prevailing wind and there is little or nothing to block the wind. I had a headwind all day but only about a 10 mph headwind in the afternoon. It could have been much worse.

Looking back (east) towards the distant Bitterroot mountains.
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Eventually I came to the west end of the Palouse region and descended 700 feet to Hangman's Creek canyon south of Spokane.  It was the only large burned area I encountered during this tour.

Steep 700 foot descent through burned forest into a canyon.
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Now I go several miles northwest in the canyon towards Spokane. Past the occasional golf club and subdivision of homes on large rural lots. Still mostly rural and still low traffic because the deep canyon is isolated from the surrounding world.

Hangman's Creek in the canyon.
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First sign of suburbia.
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Still mostly a rural canyon.
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Unfortunately, Valley Chapel road ends with two choices. Go left and take the US 195 expressway into Spokane. Or go right on busy S. Hatch road which climbs 500 feet to the city. 2 lanes, no shoulder, and heavy traffic even on Sunday. The 2 mile climb on S. Hatch road was the only unsafe road of this tour.

S. Hatch road connects to High Drive which goes along the top of a ridge. To the south are cliffs that drop 500 feet to the Hangman's Creek valley below. To the north is a gradual slope down to downtown and the Spokane river.

Looking south from High Drive in Spokane. US 195 below.
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High drive has very nice bike lanes and park facilities. I descended High Drive all the way to downtown Spokane. Easy navigation-no turns or crossroads because cliffs were always to the left. No pedaling because it was all downhill.

A few minutes later I'm in downtown Spokane.
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I took a small detour through downtown Spokane to see the area around the Davenport hotel. It's the most interesting old building downtown. The sidewalks were crowded with conventioneers.

The back side of Davenport Hotel is the most interesting view.
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Front side of Davenport Hotel and Bing Crosby Theater.
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Then I pedaled a few blocks west to cross the Spokane river at Riverside park on the same bridge where I started the tour.

Upper Spokane Falls. Back to where I started.
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My car was parked in a commercial lot one block north of Upper Spokane Falls. I arrived at 5:07 PM, later than expected but not a problem. The sky was overcast and the temperature was a pleasant 73F (23C).

Today is the second-hilliest and second-longest day of the tour. But it wasn't extremely challenging thanks to the net descent and gentle grades. I finished feeling tired but not sore.

I put the bike in the car, changed clothes, and started driving home. After an hour I stopped for the night at Days Inn in Ritzville, Washington. The following day I drove home to Oakland, Oregon, arriving in time to attend a Planning Commission work session and meeting. An abrupt change in mental state was required!

4 miles unpaved today.

Distance: 49.7 mi. (79.5 km)
Average Speed: 9.0 mph (14.4 km/h)
Ascent/Descent: +2125/-2842 ft. (+648/-866 m)

Today's ride: 50 miles (80 km)
Total: 348 miles (560 km)

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