30.7 mi / 12.6 mph / 889 ft. climbing
Home: Rex’s AirBNB (former) Garage
After yesterday’s 1400 ft. climb up from the Snake River, we had another 800 ft. to go. At which point we would descend to…the Snake River. Hmm. At least the river will be 200 ft. higher than the point at which we left it in Lyons Ferry? But climbing 2200 ft. to descend “only” 2000 ft. ain’t a very good bargain. Except that 2000 foot downhills are kind of fun.
First though, the climb. Although the road diverges from the Snake River, it at least follows its tributaries that flow down from the Blue Mountains to the south: yesterday the Tucannon River and today Pataha Creek. Not only does that make the climb gradual, it also means that we’ve been riding through human-scale farms and ranches built the traditional way, around natural water sources, rather than the later industrial agriculture brought on by the Columbia Basin Project that we’d been riding through a few days ago. Once again, that meant the landscape was greener and more full-of-life than aerial images had led me to believe.
Pataha Creek brought us surprisingly-close to the summit, leaving less than 3 miles for us to climb at the steeper grade created by road-builders when they decided to diverge from the river-carved curves of the landscape. While it wasn’t a particularly monumental climb, the sign at the top showed that we were in fact higher than we had been at Snoqualmie Pass when we crossed the Cascades. The big difference here was that it was Alpowa Summit rather than Alpowa Pass, so unlike Snoqualmie Pass where we passed between (and even under!) the much-higher mountains, here we could see for miles in every direction. To miles of fields. Paradoxically this makes the higher elevation seem a lot less impressive, as the views suggested that we could have simply been in a Midwestern Plains state.
What was impressive was the long descent back into the Snake River gorge. Twelve miles of descent, hands-on-the-brakes steep for the first half, easy-pedaling speed for the second half, we also had a construction zone in the middle that gave us car-free periods interspersed with bursts of traffic.
We stopped at Walmart in Clarkston (replacing our Chromecast that we’d left plugged into the TV in Monroe, among other things), and then crossed the bridge into Lewiston, and our 12th US state: Idaho! (sorry, no photo).
We were early enough in the day that we found a park along the border-defining Snake River to make lunch in, and then wait for check-in at our AirBNB before Rett’s therapy appointment. A 13% one-block hill was the final bit of work (Rett wisely just pushed the bike up it) before settling into a well-deserved rest.
Days 2 and 3
We booked three nights in Lewiston, so that we would have time to figure out where to head next in this especially-unscripted phase of our nomadacy. Rett hadn’t really done any riding in “The West” until now, so we didn’t have any basis to know how her mind and body would react to the climbs and the distances and the climate, especially since her mind and body had frequently been wracked with fear during the end of our previous phase of riding. But this ride through an incredible variety of conditions across Washington showed that her confidence and skill were higher than they’ve ever been, so that gives me a lot of confidence in choosing our route forward. Of course I need to be careful to not say “well, if she could do this comfortably, we can push more!”, and instead say “we can push the same, and remain comfortable and happy.”
We didn’t book three nights in order to take shelter from rain, but shelter from rain is what we got for multiple days, so that was a lucky coincidence. I did our usual grocery-run, but except for an hour spent in the hot tub, I don’t think Rett even left the unit. The unit itself was a one-room (plus bathroom) converted garage, but with a full kitchen, a setup we’ve never quite stayed in before, but works perfectly for us. There’s a bed where you might expect a kitchen table to be? Perfect, Rett likes to eat in bed anyway!
Another nice coincidence during this downtime was that our New Zealand visa application (required if you want to stay longer than 3 months) was approved! This was actually quite a stress point for us, because one of the main things New Zealand wants evidence of is that you intend to actually leave their country at some point. Good evidence of such intent is: property ownership in your native country (uh, nope…), dependents you need to get back to (hmm, doesn’t seem like it), jobs you need to get back to (whoops, not that either!) We literally gave them a link to this journal (among other things) to show that we’re travelers who intend to continue traveling (and have already entered and left two other countries). Who knows if they used that in their determination, but either way, we’re approved! We can now spend up to nine months in that upside-down country in the southern hemisphere. Using funds contributed for this express purpose by our wonderful family and friends at our wedding, we went ahead and purchased a one-way flight to Auckland, departing from Seattle in mid-October (and don’t worry New Zealand, we’re going to purchase a one-way out before our 9 months are up!) It’s something we’ve been dreaming towards since even before our wedding nearly five years ago, but I was still surprised how excited I found myself now that we finally know it’s happening!
Nonetheless, we decided to continue eastward at this point, onward to Montana!