As a female commuter cyclist, much of my riding is in town, in a skirt, avoiding flashing oncoming traffic. When afforded the time for longer rides, skirts are graciously thrown to the wind for bike shorts. The elemental nature of a roadie seeks the yellow brick road – a practical journey, embedded with spiritual components, and sprinkled with indulgent rewards. It is summertime in Northeast Washington, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better ride than any here.
Northeast Washington is known for her rural communities, embroidered with long rolling fields and farms, and an intriguing heritage. The lack of crowds, subtle beauty, and ride varieties makes this region a road cycling priority. Winding your way through National Forest land offers a sense of its wildness. One of Colville’s Women on Wheels (WOW) member Beverly Ferraro’s everyday rides exemplifies the local cycling experience: “Today, on my 46 mile ride along the Columbia River, I went around a corner and saw two black bear cubs and then heard the mama off in the woods. It made my day!”
Loop rides are abundant, and the views resemble Hollywood back drops, courtesy of the dry, sunny days unique to this corner of the state. Start with a ride that gives you a taste of the region with little commitment. I call these jaunts creamsicle rides: short, sweet and savory – leaving you jones’n for more.
Hotchkiss/Artman Gibson/Route 20 Loop
In under 20 miles, this loop provides a gratifying leg stretcher if you’re driving through Colville and need to get out and roll. These country roads are easily accessed from town and have little auto traffic with views of farmland, forests, and picture-perfect homesteads. There’s even a little bike hostel nestled into the hillside.
For this ride, park at the Colville Chamber of Commerce on the south end of town near the roundabout and take Hawthorne Street to Garden Homes Drive. Follow Garden Homes to Graham Road on your right. The first part of this loop is a bit of a burner, and as you head up the hill on Graham, take a right on Hotchkiss, where you encounter initial elevation gain, then kick back and enjoy the ride as the rest is (mostly) smooth sailing. Take a left on Artman Gibson Road, then a left on Route 20 back to Colville.
Local cyclist Amiee LeBlanc Gloe extends the journey by taking Kitt Narcisse, at the Hotchkiss/Artman Gibson junction, and describes this ride as unmatched in pastoral beauty. End your ride at Lovitt Restaurant for a taste of local fare – farm-to-table dining with atmosphere.
Kettle Falls/Orin Rice/Colville Loop
This ride is a locals’ favorite, embodying a rural ambiance of undulating fields quilted with farms, and offers fun start and finish options. I fell in love with the awe-inspiring scenery on this ride, catching my breath and wondering if I was in Ireland.
Park at Bradbury Beach on Route 25 in Kettle Falls and make this venture a biathlon with a swim in Lake Roosevelt, or park at Northern Ales in town to end with pizza and a pint of local craft beer. Ride Route 25 along the Columbia River to the Orin Rice Road, then up and over to Colville for a 46 mile loop. Or take a left off of Route 25 on Pleasant Valley Road (if you can endure the chip seal) to experience an even deeper country landscape. This route is about as close as it gets to riding a wave in the Inland Northwest; the price is a cleansing physical demand, rewarded with the Zen moment of the ride. Remember to drink in the floral scents while sucking wind on your ascent. Check your brakes before dropping in, as the decent is wild and free.
Lynn O’Connor, member of ColVelo, Northeast Washington’s cycling group, is partial to looping this ride backwards from Colville to Orin Rice. “Cresting the hill from this direction is the most striking display and best view of the Kettle Crest Mountain Range that I have ever seen,” she says.
Taste the Local Riding Scene at Blazing Saddles
Maybe you’ve tried a few Northeast Washington routes and know you can negotiate your path with many options, but you’re not quite satiated. The Colville Rotary Club hosts the Blazing Saddles Ride on September 20, with approximate 40, 60, or 100 mile loop options, as well as a family fun ride. It’s a stellar way to experience new terrain and meet the local cycling gang. The courses are well organized and will be attended by cyclists who are celebrating the recent designation of State Highway Route 20 as Washington’s first interstate bike route.
Your ride will include, and ends with, the Blazing Spoons Chili Cook Off – a festive event with live music, spirits, and family friendly activities. Register at blazing100.org. To join Northeast Washington’s cycling forum or to view mapped routes, check out ColVelo’s website: Colvelo.org.