After surviving the ride through the Yakima Proving Grounds and the subsequent wind storm, we discovered that the rest of the Palouse to Cascades rail trail is not ready for prime time. The railroad ballast still lines the trail, meaning we would have to push our bicycles for a few hundred miles through the rest of Washington. It was, we decided time for a detour.
Thus, over the past week, we have traveled through Moses Lake, Ritzville, Sprague and Rosalia and earlier Friday evening crossed into Idaho. We have made use of frontage and dirt roads through desolate, dry country. We have become accustomed to the freight train warning whistles at all hours of the day and night. We have seen how the construction of new roads and recurrent flooding have destroyed once vibrant communities. We have learned much about freight trains, what they carry and where they travel We have stayed in inexpensive motels, camped in the Rosalia town park and in the Heyburn State Park, the oldest state park in the Northwest. We have chatted with motel owners and guests, folks hanging out in their lounge chairs and several individuals in cafes and restaurants. We have witnessed several acts of kindness among community members and have also been the recipient of their generosity.
We have been introduced to summer and winter wheat, fields of hard shelled peas, lentils and barley. We have gained leg strength as we climb in elevation. We have learned that Ritzville is famous for their wheat (once claiming be the wheat capital of the world) and because it was where the majority of the volcanic ash from the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption landed, forcing road closures for several days. Similar to what occurred in Gander, NF after the 9-11 attacks, Ritzville hosted several out of town visitors until the ash could be cleared.
Last Thursday on our way from Sprague to Rosalia, after several gorgeous but challenging climbs, we came upon the town of Malden, much of which was destroyed in a wildfire last Labor Day. It was eerily quiet, not much rebuilding was taking place and the remnants of homes and vehicles were still visible. As I cycled through, I saw an older gentleman, digging through his home’s charred remains. A short time later I had the pleasure of meeting Paul as we were in the same restaurant in Rosalia. He shared that he was ecstatic when he found pieces of their Nativity set in the rubble.
A little later in the new coffee shop in Rosalia, we met Bill O’Keefe, who was teasing us about our ride and offering to take us either to Plummer, Idaho or Spokane, WA to get wider tires. Though we laughed at the time and said “No”, as the day progressed and we stared at the hills we would need to climb out of Rosalia, we decided we should really reach out to Bill. Trouble was we didn’t have his contact information. In a small town, however, it didn’t take long to find him
By Thursday evening, we had his contact information and sure enough he and his partner, Tonya agreed to take us the 29 miles to Plummer on Friday afternoon. That meant Pat and I had several hours to talk with local townspeople. For three hours, we held court in the Red Brick Café. An older gentleman (91) named Rudy appeared and acted as though he knew me. As we chatted, I learned that he had won two Emmy’s for a program he put together years previously entitled – RV, an American Odyssey. Rudy told us that he traveled all the backroads of the country and loved every minute of it. And sure enough, he went out to his truck and brought in those two Emmys.
When Bill and Tonya arrived to pick us up, Bill said, “hey let’s take a detour to the Steptoe Butte State Park” Bill describes himself as a spoiled farm boy who was riding motorcycles by the time he was 14. This part of Washington is his home and he thoroughly enjoys each and every moment and is a consummate storyteller. After a somewhat terrifying ride to the top of the butte (over 4,000 feet) we were introduced to spectacular views of mountain ranges in the distance combined with the contrasting green and yellow fields below.
Shortly thereafter, we arrived in Plummer and thanked them profusely. We are thrilled to be back on a paved rail trail once again – the Trail of the Coeur d’ Alenes. After a very quick eight-mile downhill ride, we have set up camp at the Heyburn State Park.
Follow us as we spin our wheels
Shevonne and Pat