Day 91: Recharged and loving the ride through the Nez Perce into Washington

I left Grangeville a man on a mission – to end the day free and clear of Idaho. I’m sure the potato haven is great and all but it reminded me too much of the worst parts of the Plains and after the rest I got I felt a much needed surge in strength. But more importantly I wanted to make it into Washington, because if I made it into Washington I’d be that much closer to the Pacific.

After devouring the continental breakfast at the Gateway Inn I was off, with 2,200 feet of climbing ahead of me… And nearly 5,000 of descending in the second half of the day into Lewiston and Clarkston. After what I dealt with getting into Grangeville I wasn’t concerned. And then I was off:

I felt great straight away. The climbing began right away but it was gradual through the crisp, cool air. And then I saw a place I so wish I could have stayed:

That’s a real place!

The cruise was going very well, with just a hint of something that told me I was rolling into the northwest – there were a couple rain drops that hit me as I rode. Maybe I was reading too much into it but it’s the kind of small thing that signifies a change in the landscape, and I’m all about changes in the landscape out here.

In short order I made it into my second Indian reservation:

The more notable thing about the picture above is the road. I had a wonderful shoulder to call my own on 95 for a stretch with a rumble strip to boot. But wait, there’s more! I loved the two-tone treatment. It meant that I didn’t have to concentrate so much on the road. I could let my eyes wander and take in the Camas Prairie with the safe black road always in the corner of my eye. I’m not always this lucky.

But after a while the road went back to the Idahoan curiosity of gravel pressed into tar. I don’t understand why they do this. I was left with a thin strip of smooth for myself:

I may not be much for riding through farmland but I have to give credit where it’s due. This part of Idaho was pretty spectacular. The saw blade profile that beat me up two days previous had essentially been stretched out; I’d spend 20 minutes or so on a gradual climb, then a few minutes flying down a hill before doing it again. I actually love this kind of riding, which is funny, because when the situation is compressed it’s by far my least favorite kind of riding. But the other thing is I would occasionally get nice little surprises like this:

Eventually I made it to a historical site right when I was ready to take a break (a rarity):

And it was a three-fer!

The Lewis and Clark panel gave me a bit of unexpected reassurance:

“The worst hills we ever saw a road made down”.  So it wasn’t just me…

I kept on cruising down 95, feeling great. But then right outside Craigmont it happened. It finally happened.

A flat tire.

I had wanted so badly to make the coast without a puncture but in reality it was bound to happen some time. I blurted an expletive not out of insecurity but because my flow was disrupted. I really was riding strong and I was in the zone. Taking 20 minutes to install a new tube was enough to throw it off.

The Schwalbe Marathon tires are unbelievably reliable and even with a puncture I’ll never tour without them. The puncture protection layer has done me so well out here, as there are plenty of cuts in the outer layer of the tire that never got deep enough to hit the tube underneath. But nothing is totally impervious:

Yeah, there was no way that sliver of metal wasn’t going to make me lose air.

I replaced the tube and then did some wheel truing while I was at it:

Using the brakes as a gauge was ok but my precious wheels need to get in a truing stand once I’m done with this thing.

After the fixes I was back in the groove in no time, loving the roads I was on:

This is good stuff. Bombing down a fast downhill then climbing back up to earn another.

I stopped for lunch at a rest area in Winchester, where I was going to stop for the night coming out of Kamiah. What I didn’t realize was that Winchester is where the road would finally tip down. I knew this because I saw my favorite road sign:

Followed by my next favorite road sign:

6% going down on a bicycle is a true joy in life.

The descent was fantastic. I couldn’t take the road for myself, I had to maintain control with all the car traffic. But I was flying down and out of the prairie with more gorgeous views:

I eventually made it to the Nez Perce National Historic Park, and even though the afternoon was wearing thin, I only had 15 miles to go, and they were all downhill. I decided to check out the museum:

I sat in on a 25 minute film about the Nation’s history and life today, and felt a sufficient amount of white guilt. These are wonderful people based on all the interactions I had with them, and I left with a tremendous amount of admiration for their commitment to their traditional beliefs and ways of life.

But then the road took me out of the reservation:

And before long I was in Lewiston:

It almost felt strange seeing heavy industry. It’s been some time since I’ve ridden through it and it seemed strange to see this kind of economic activity outside the Rust Belt and firmly in the inland Pacific Northwest (which is what they call this country on the news).

I finished the day on a wonderful hike/bike trail along the Snake River:

And just before making it into Washington saw quite a sculpture made out of metal canoes:

And then crossed the river into Clarkston and my 16th state:

It was a great feeling. I knew I’d feel recharged by making it into a new state, and I was right. I’m getting so, so close. I feel it.

With favorable rates I opted for a Motel 6 for the night to celebrate a good day on the bike but for another reason as well – I’m nine short days from dipping that wheel in the Pacific and I don’t think I’ll have a roof over my head at night before then. Additionally an old friend has made some arrangements for my arrival on the coast and I now have a motivator to make it in in good time. But I have to crawl before I can walk. I’ll be straddling the Oregon/Washington border for the home stretch but before then I have to reckon with some mountains on the road to Walla Walla…


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