Yesterday morning we hopped on our bikes, as we do most mornings, and headed south into Oregon. Walla Walla is so close to the WA/OR border that we end up doing a lot of cycling in our neighboring state. Since there's a perfect city park for a rest stop in Milton-Freewater, it's a rare ride where we don't end up there at some point on the ride.
The ride started the same as many of our rides: ride to Milton-Freewater for a quick pit stop at Yantis Park. There are decent rest rooms, plenty of picnic tables, shade trees, and even a nice sink with running water in the shelter where we usually stop.
We then headed west to Lower Dry Creek Road, passing numerous apple orchards on the way. Apples are starting to get red!
Up until this point the roads are primarily quite flat in the valley, but once we reach Lower Dry Creek Road, we started hitting some rollers and a long gradual gain in elevation as we continued south.
Here's the elevation profile for the full ride. So far we're still on the less steep portion to the left of the profile, but things would start to change soon.
I always seem to have a difficult time on Lower Dry Creek Road, with its rolling hills and gradual ascent, so Barry did his best to motivate and coach me along, coming up with some "Bear-isms" for me, like "This is the last climb," and "It's all downhill from here", "it's like the bike is pedaling itself," and "it doesn't even feel like a hill". These pithy sayings are optimistic, but unfortunately never quite true. But I do appreciate his efforts!
There's a steep, short climb at the end of the road as it climbs up to meet Highway 11. Then, after crossing the highway and enjoying a nice descent (the dip about 1/3 of the way from the left on the elevation profile), there is a very long climb to a ridge prior to descending into the small town of Weston. The scenery is gorgeous, though, and we especially loved this beautiful barn. A sign said that it was built in 1916.
Once we got to the top of the ridge and almost to Weston, we looked down and could see the "empire" of Smith's Frozen Foods. (No relation!) There is a nice descent into town, but you can't go too crazy, as there is a stop sign and left turn at the bottom.
Weston is small and quaint and was quiet on this Sunday morning since most everything was still closed. Love little historic downtowns like this!
Weston has one of the cutest public libraries I've ever seen. Fun-sized, just like in Belize!
Not much action at the Police Department!
After checking out Weston, it was time to head a few miles west towards the next small town, Athena, not too many miles down the road.
There was a long climb out of the other side of Weston. On the elevation profile above, we're at the high point and pedaling up and down the little bumps in the ridge. The worst, as Barry would say, really is almost over at this point...or so we thought.
We crossed Highway 11 again and had a nice descent into Athena.
Athena also had a charming historic downtown with a slight edge on Weston because it had a bike lane. Surprising in such a small town, but we'll take it! Though with the amount of traffic at this time of day on Sunday, we really didn't need it.
Some of the old buildings were a little shabby and/or boarded up and for sale. Ripe for historic preservation...let's hope someone sees the potential here, as the architecture is gorgeous.
Leaving Athena, we climbed back up to Highway 12 and turned towards the north. There's a huge shoulder on the highway, and soon we'd hit a several-mile descent. Sounds great, right?! Well, up high on the ridge, all of a sudden there was a strong wind blowing -- right in our faces. We really hadn't had any wind all day, and when we least needed it and from the worst possible direction, there it was. Even pedaling downhill can be challenging with a stiff headwind, so we had to put our heads down and pedal hard. So much for this part of the ride being fun. It was simply to be endured.
We were relieved to reach our turn at Lower Dry Creek Road since the minute we got off the highway, the wind didn't seem as bad. The lower we went, the less of a factor wind was.
Once we got back to the valley and were cruising fast along Old Milton Highway, heading north back to Walla Walla, I realized I could really use a cold beverage. The water I had left was very warm, as was the day (mid-90s), so it was just not refreshing. We've been wanting to stop at this little Mexican place, Jalisco Market, right at the Oregon side of the border, so today was our chance.
It proved to be a good choice indeed. This place is Mexican-run and completely authentic, homemade tortillas and salsa (muy caliente!), and everything made to order. The food was delicious and inexpensive, and the sodas were exactly what we needed at that time -- sugar and caffeine. We don't drink sodas normally, but on a long, hot bike ride, we make exceptions.
I wasn't all that hungry (mostly thirsty), so ordered just one Taco Placero (pork), but Barry went for broke and got the huge Burrito Veggie.
We just adore little places like this and will certainly be back!
We finished up our ride by riding the last ten miles or so back for a total of 62.7 miles (for me, Barry did a bit extra to get 65). I hadn't intended to ride a metric century (62.5 miles or 100K), but riding with Barry, I often ride more than I planned. It's those "Bear-isms" that get me!
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.
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