46.0 mi / 13.0 mph / 1570 ft. climbing
Home: Kamiah KOA
Today we ride across the Camas Prairie, a part of the West as beautiful as it was unexpected. I was familiar with the mountains of Idaho, and the dry irrigated river valleys of Idaho, but had no idea there was this expanse of cooler-climate farmland sitting 3000 feet above the valleys. Unlike Idaho’s huge Snake River Plain, or Washington’s Columbia Basin, I didn’t see any irrigation canals here, or giant rotary sprinkler systems, so the crops must all be naturally irrigated, relying on rainfall and the cooler climate in this unique zone.
So once again like our detour up from the Snake River in Washington, it brought us to farm country that feels more familiar to me. Or to be simultaneously clichéd and prejudicial, it feels more wholesome. Even though the landholdings were far more expansive than the 160-acre family farm of my grandparents in central Wisconsin, there was similarly no steel-and-concrete mechanization to interfere with our human connection to these lands.
Partway through another bike touring couple came up behind us, and we rode together-apart for a few miles. Apart because they were unusually untalkative; they were flying a Swiss flag, so maybe it was a language barrier?
We turned with them off US-95 and onto a (rare!) local road where the already-light traffic disappeared and we could just enjoy the views. And the hills. The elevation profile for the day looks “flat” for 34 miles, with a big downhill for the last 12 miles. But that downhill is so big that it obscures all the not-insignificant hills in the “flat” section.
We stopped in Greencreek for lunch. It’s a barely-a-town, but they had a community center and I asked a couple ladies at the house next door if we could sit on its bench in the shade to eat our packed lunches. “Yes, of course, or you can sit under this tree, unless the cotton is too much for you!” Moments before, Rett had spotted a lonely vending machine (the sole source of commerce in this town) sitting outside a not-open business; I doubted we’d have any luck, but not only was it operating, and in-stock with the cold drinks we wanted, we could even tap-to-pay with a credit card! The magic vending machine!
The forecast had long predicted afternoon showers and thunderstorms, and the radar showed a big one bubbling up out of nothing right behind us, so it was time to get moving east and away from it again. We heard a few rumbles of thunder, and definitely saw the dark sky behind us, but we were able to move fast enough to stay dry and free from its winds.
Finally we crested the last of many hills at the 34-mile mark, and began the 12 glorious miles down. I was glad that Rett really enjoyed it, because it was the payoff she earned with all the work and investment she did a couple days ago climbing the Winchester Grade. Even better, this downhill was much straighter than that, so we could really let it run when we wanted to.
So here were are back on the Clearwater River, after a more-extreme up-and-down than our Pomeroy jaunt up-and-down from the Snake River. This time we climbed a 3200 ft. hill away from the valley only to return to it one ride later; at least here the river had the courtesy to rise a more-respectable 500 ft. in our time away from it. Also unlike the Pomeroy route, this time there was an actual road option we could have taken along the river. But we did not. Was the huge unnecessary energy-expenditure worth it? 100% yes! Even though we obviously haven’t tried the river route. But there’s no way it was better than the Winchester/Camas Prairie route!
Also, the heat had increased dramatically the further we fell, confirming that staying an extra day in the cool highlands to avoid this had definitely been the right choice. We pulled into the grocery store in Kamiah (the first independent grocery I’ve seen with a self-checkout!) and immediately got a giant fountain drink to share between us at one of the little dine-in tables while we decided if we still wanted to camp as planned, or take a motel. The cheap motel on Google has since become apartments or something, so, $50 at the KOA it is!
At least we had a nice setup, with a good mulch tent pad, a unique covered picnic table, and good shade. And the brand-new showers were some of the nicest we’ve ever seen; Rett could sit on the seat in the tub-width shower stall shave her legs.
And there was laundry, but that was a blessing and a curse. The unventilated laundry room was brutally hot, and that’s probably what triggered one of Rett’s shaking-arms/can’t-stand overheating episodes. I helped her to the camp office, where we knew they had an A/C unit absolutely blasting cold air, and within a couple minutes of standing under it (and with a generous bottle of water from the owner), she was as good as new. Oh yeah, and then there was the curse-and-a-curse: the bugs. It’s the first time since our restart that we’ve had mosquitos, so Rett had gotten dressed in jeans and a long shirt for protection, but those clothes were also was a big contributor to overheating.
A couple more cells appeared on the radar through the afternoon and evening, but we never got more than a few drops of rain even when they passed right over us. As we went to sleep, I could hear the strong winds at the treetops signaling the long-awaited arrival of the cold front, so this should be the last of the heat for a while.