Tue, 09 Jun 2009
They don't have hills here. Theey have grades. Today we finished climbing the Alpoa grade, descended into Lewiston, crossed the Snake river, went through "Hell's Gate" into Idaho, then climbed the Old Winchester Grade Road up to the tiny town of Winchester and Winchester Lake State Park.
The two grades were totally different. Climbing the Alpoa was very difficult. It was cold, misty, and the headwind from the previous day was still there to impede us. For the first time, Gary and I rode in a paceline and traded pulls. This made it possible for us to sustain the blinding speed of 8 MPH up the long grind.
I was warm at the top, but quickly cooled of as we descended through the fog. I was seriously thinking about stopping to put on long finger gloves and booties. The descent lasted five miles. About halfway down we broke through the clouds into a sunny, but still windy, Lewiston/Clarkston valley.
Reaching Clarkston, we had a dissapointing second breakfast at a restaurant with a sort of "Elvis meets Little Mermaid" theme. (First breakfast was at a joint in Pomeroy that was totally pirate. Gary did some laundry at Hell's Gate State Park as I took photos of Hell's Gate, an impressive pair of igneous rock formations on opposite sides of the Snake River. On the Idaho side, there is a big quarry that seems to be grinding up Hell's gate and selling it. I guess even the devil himself isn't safe from market forces.
A few more hours of griding into the wind and we arrived at Jaques in CulDeSac, Idaho. The diner was a very nice place. Gary had a whole pizza. I had a Rufus sandwitch, and apple pie a la mode. The Rufus was basically a turkey sandwitch named after a wild turkey that had lived by the diner till he was shot last year during turkey season. They showed us a scrapbook of photos featuring Rufus, and pointed out his grave.
Ever since we arrived at CulDeSac, Gary had been whining about how bad he felt. The next item on our riding agenda was the Old Winchester Grade, a 2500 foot climb. Gary didn't feel like doing it. He complained that his legs were dead, etc... I pointed out that it was still early (3PM) and that we could probably walk up the Winchester before dark. There were really no good camping options in CulDeSac. Eventually Gary agreed that we should push on, but his heart wasn't in it.
Well, you couldn't tell how bad he felt from the way he actually rode. Gary beat me to the top by about 15 minutes.
The Old Winchester was a glorious climb. Conditions were perfect. It was sunny, but mostly the sun was to our backs. It was warm, but there was an intermittent cool breeze that kept me cool. The grade wasn't trivial, but it was nowhere near as steep as any of the Pennsy hills.
But the real glory of the Old Winchester was the windy, switchbacks that climbed out of the valley giving us stunning views of the countryside. This was a narrow, smooth road with no shoulder. Steep drop-offs gave me a bit of vertigo, but also added to the "edgy" nature of the climb. These drop-offs would have been far scarier if there was traffic, but maybe a total of ten cars passed us during the hour and a half it took to get to the top. We could see cars on the upper or lower switchbacks long before they reached us.
Near the top, the cultivated wheat fields ended, and the vegitation turned to conifers, mostly pine. At the summit, I found Gary waiting for me. He said it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.
As bad? I thought the climb was wonderful! If we aren't out here to go up roads like that, what are we out here for? To me, riding like we did today is exactly what I came for. If we see or do nothing else of merit the rest of the trip, the overall trip is still worth it because I climbed the glorious Old Winchester. to get up the hill. the restaurant for several years
|© 2009 C.T. Nadovich