While in the Walla Walla area this summer, we've been doing a ton of road riding, as you know if you read this blog regularly. Most of our rides have stayed in the Walla Walla valley south of Highway 12, with occasional jaunts farther south into the hills beyond Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
Recently we've explored a few new roads (to us) north of Highway 12. These are hillier routes but also have almost zero traffic since there's just nothing up there except a few farms and large tracts of land.
The first "northern" route we tried was Touchet North Road. We'd ridden to Touchet, a tiny little town west of Walla Walla, numerous times (blog post on this route here) but never north of town. For this ride we simply continued north after stopping at the little convenience store for a rest room break.
Here's a map of our approximate route (blue line). We started in College Place and headed west to Touchet, which is right where the blue line crosses highway 12. The new part of our route continued due north of 12.
This was an absolutely gorgeous ride. Although there were a few rolling climbs, they weren't too terrible and were totally worth it for the scenery and beautiful shades of greens, golds, and blue sky.
We crossed the historic Johnson Bridge.
Here's the rebuilt bridge, all spiffy and freshly painted.
And here's what you see looking down from the bridge -- the Touchet River. Lovely!
Here's a non-historic bridge just off the Touchet North Road where we took a short break before turning around, about 10 miles north of Touchet.
There's another nice view of the Touchet River from this bridge.
And this charming farm in the distance.
On the way back to Touchet, we split up since Barry was riding faster than me. He missed out seeing this Kingfisher on a wire, looking down at the water for fish.
Another day a couple of weeks later, we decided to try heading north of Highway 12 again, this time from the tiny town of Lowden. Here's a map of our route from College Place, heading west to Lowden (designated by "L'Ecole No. 41" on map), then northeast into the hills, south to Walla Walla, and west to return to College Place.
There's not much in Lowden, not even a convenience store. But there are two wineries. This one, L'Ecole No. 41, is in an old schoolhouse that has been beautifully preserved. Since we had no capacity to carry wine with us on our road bikes (and certainly didn't want to take on any extra weight), we had to give it a miss this time...darn!
Passing the winery and heading northeast, we began a gradually uphill grind that was fortunately not too steep. We were lucky at this point in the ride to have a strong tailwind as we'd fought a stiff southwest breeze when riding west.
The terrain and scenery was similar to the Touchet North ride, with a few farms dotting the otherwise empty land. We went miles and miles without seeing a car. Nice!
Barry would hit mile 10,000 for the year 2014 on this ride. He's a machine!
Looking south and east, the Blue Mountains in the distance were lovely -- not to mention this impossibly blue sky filled with white puffy clouds.
Zooming in a bit...so beautiful. You can see how they got their name "Blue Mountains".
We took one rural road after another, still heading generally northeast, before making a right turn to begin heading south to Walla Walla on Lower Waitsburg Road.
Although we thought it was going to be all downhill after the climbing we'd already done, in reality Lower Waitsburg was very rolling, with the toughest climbs we'd done all day. With the wind now back in our faces, this was a difficult stretch.
We did like the "Bikes on Road" signage, however. This is a popular road for Walla Walla cyclists, though our first time riding it since we've been staying farther south and west in College Place.
Between the hills and wind, I was getting really tired by this point in the ride (approximately 40 miles in). Barry was sweet enough to stay with me and let me draft off him to help me get through it. Fortunately, once we got back to Highway 12 and crossed it heading south, things got a lot easier. There are many more trees and buildings in town that help block the wind, so it doesn't build up such a velocity as out in the farmlands and plains.
Right after crossing Highway 12, I stopped to take a short break by the side of the road and found this sign. We knew that Walla Walla had received this honor, and after staying in this area for two months, we can agree with it -- this is a very friendly city. And we love that!
We'd hoped to stop in at Grandma's Kitchen for lunch as we headed through downtown Walla Walla but found it closed on Sundays. So instead, we headed over to the Cenex gas station just west of downtown.
A Cenex? Let me explain: our farmer friend Jennifer had told us that on Sunday mornings only, a chef there makes wonderful beignets. Unfortunately, we were too late for those as it was lunchtime by now, but I did nab this delicious homemade pastry that I presented to Barry in honor of his 10K mile achievement. Although I've never actually had a beignet, I don't think this is one, but it surely was good (yes, he shared a little!)
All in all, we decided that this ride was one of the most difficult ones we've done in this area, so we may or may not do it again, but it was definitely worth doing once. And if the wind had been lighter, it wouldn't have been quite so tough.
Seems that wind is going to be with us here most days until we leave here later this month; it's just a part of fall. And fall comes early here. It's just about time for these warm weather loving "birds" to start heading south, but we have a few more adventures left before we go, so please stay tuned!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs