Back from the Palouse & April 23 Ride Report

Day’s Verse:
Jesus called loudly, “Father, I place my life in your hands!” Then he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46ish

They call ’em the Palouse Hills, and rightly so, as far southeastern Washington does have its share of impressive hills. But I’d like to suggest another name: The Palouse Wind Tunnel. More on that later; I’m jumping ahead.

Instead of telling a long-winded tale, let me give you the highlights — but only if highlights also includes low points, because unfortunately, this trip to Pomeroy had very little to recommend it. Check beneath the fold for “highlights” of the trip, in no particular order.

On Friday evening, after driving back from Dayton, I mowed the lawn and then went to Good Friday dinner with our journey community from church. It was nice to spend the evening with friends rather than by myself.

And a quick ride report. Today I rode 75 miles, extending the 55-mile RTS #5 ride by riding to and from Marymoor, which was the official starting point. The front riders took it easy today so I was able to keep up with them almost the entire way. The RTS rides are interesting in that there’s no regrouping, so if you fall behind at a stoplight or going up a hill, you either speed up to catch the group, or you stay behind alone forever. I hung on until maybe 10 miles from Marymoor, after which I slowly fell farther and farther behind. Even so, I averaged 17.4 mph to that point, and averaged 17.0 mph total, with an average heart rate of 148 (that means I was working pretty hard overall). Dad and I took a slightly hillier way back, avoiding the Sammamish River Trail, which slowed my average a bit. Why? Because today was the most gorgeous day we’ve had since last August, sunny and highs in the 60s, and everybody else went for a bike ride or a walk on the trail. I finished the ride in shorts and short sleeves. As a result, it also appears that I’ve managed to get my first sunburn of the year, including starting an excellent fingerless bicycle glove tan that I sport every summer.

Pomeroy training experiences:

  • Gorgeous views on the drive down. I carpooled with the trainer from Feet First, Lisa Quinn, and we kept exclaiming “Wow, this is so beautiful!” and having to stop the car to take pictures. I will put some pictures up as soon as I’ve charged my camera battery.
  • Pomeroy (population 1,400) is the only town in Garfield County (population 2,400). Garfield County, my hosts proudly informed me, is the ONLY county in the entire country not to have a stop light. Now there’s a claim to fame.
  • We stayed at the Purple House in Dayton, a 37-mile drive from Pomeroy. I had to give myself 45 minutes each day to commute. I’ll post pictures of that too, because its decor is really indescribable. Unspeakable might be another way to put it. I think most of the decorations fall into the “objects d’art” category.
  • Pomeroy has a four-way stop and a highway through town, no stop light, no turn lanes. Calling our Day 2 ride a “road ride” is exceptionally generous. How do you convince people to use lane positioning and scanning to communicate our destination when, as one of the teachers said, “We don’t need to signal because everybody knows you and they already know where you’re going”?
  • On Thursday during our nominal road ride, it snowed wet smacks of snow on us. The three teachers huddled stoically, hands tucked into pockets or armpits, shoulders up around their ears. I had encased myself in the GoreTex I’d only brought just in case, and I was still cold and miserable. They looked much colder and more miserable than me. Thinking back, every single training I’ve done this year I’ve been rained on. Every single one. Two I’ve been rained and snowed on. Dear God, please, let Zillah be sunny, calm, and 60° next Thursday and Friday.
  • I still feel so frustrated at the way the teaching gig worked out. In the same week, we taught trainings in Waitsburg (10 miles from Dayton) for two people and Pomeroy (37 miles from Dayton) for three people. Two separate trainings. I taught Pomeroy and Eileen taught Waitsburg. What a completely idiotic waste of money and time! It cost $680 for me drive to Pomeroy to teach three people. Eileen costs less — she starts in Spokane — but even if I’d gone, at least we could have combined the classes and only sent one bicycle trainer. That aside, teaching a class of two or three people is really difficult, and I don’t think the students get as much out of it. It’s hard to get people to play off of each others’ ideas when you have a couple people just staring at each other.
  • I made a dreadful mistake and had my three students ride their bicycles 2.5 miles to the skills drills course at the county fairgrounds. This involved a mile on the highway. Not only were they totally unprepared for riding on the highway, which they consider to be the most terrifying thing possible, but with the slowest person’s top speed at 5 to 6 mph, it took us 30 minutes each way, an hour roundtrip. AN HOUR. I needed that hour. Never again.
  • Also never again: 2″ masking tape to delineate the skills drills course. Putting it down was fine, but taking it back up was a nightmare of picking tiny tape scraps off the asphalt in blowing wind and spitting rain — and that was with the three students helping.
  • Wind. They’re very excited to have wind farms going in all over the hills. Everywhere you look out there, you see wind turbines. Every day I saw multiple convoys transporting wind turbine parts on the very narrow highways. This is because it’s windier than heck out there. On Thursday after class, the snow had stopped and I decided to go for a bike ride. I was itching to explore those gorgeous hills. I started with a 40-mile route I’d pre-planned, but less than a mile into it, a sign informed me I was transitioning to a “primitive road.” That means packed dirt and gravel. I persisted for much longer than I should have and was rewarded with some truly stunning views. The green hills — foothills to mountains, really — with their brown crop lines, and in the higher elevations off to the distance snow on the hills; blue sky; puffy white clouds; wind turbines turning; the grass blowing. Nothing to hear but my squeaky brake and the wind in the grass. The wind boosted me up the hill, which felt really quite easy. Then I decided to turn around and do a different route, and that’s when I realized it was windy. I couldn’t live somewhere that windy all the time. It was relentless, like riding uphill forever. Even so, I rode to Waitsburg with the intention of doing a 20-mile route I got from a racer who did the Tour of Walla Walla last year. But by the time I’d fought the wind all the way in to Waitsburg — a mere 11 miles — I had lost the will to keep pushing on. I threw in the towel and turned around… and immediately found myself flying along at 32 mph. I hadn’t broken 13 mph the entire ride out. It took me half as long to ride home as it did to ride there. I felt depressed at not finishing my ride.
  • On the way home, Lisa and I stopped at Palouse Falls. Very cool! My camera battery was dead so I didn’t take any pictures, but Lisa did, and when I get them from her I’ll post some of those, too.
  • We also stopped for almost an hour and a half on I-90 at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass while WSDOT people frantically removed a rolled-over semi truck that blocked all but one of the lanes (this news article says it was hauling onions. Somehow that makes me happy). We had so much time parked up there that I got my bike off the back of the car and rode it down to the choke point to see what was happening.

I don’t really know what else to say about this trip. It was long, in many ways: Miles, time, emotions. Ian was in New York City the entire time I was gone. T-Mobile didn’t have coverage in Pomeroy (shocking, I know) and I didn’t want to incur any huge roaming charges so I talked to him for a grand total of 3 minutes the entire week.

Although the Palouse Hills were beautiful, I found it depressing out there, all the dying, economically depressed small towns just barely clinging to life. As for the class, the participants at the training, although dutiful, didn’t exhibit any particular enthusiasm for the content. People constantly interrupted us with messages for one or the other of the participants. Overall the best I can say is that now I’ve been there. It gives me a new bar for what a long drive involves. That’s all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.