The “Discovery” of the Obvious: The Road Biking in NE Washington Rocks

My wife and I have enjoyed road cycling around our Colville area for decades. We also enjoy traveling to other regions and hauling our bikes with us on road trips. Exploring the cycling possibilities of a new destination is always the best way to experience what an area has to offer. Cycling provides a nice way to meet people, and get the true flavor of a place.

As we have traveled and biked, from a road cycling perspective, we will make mental notes of how an area stacks up against other areas, both positively and negatively. Here are a few such observations:

  • The Oregon Coast has spectacular ocean scenery…with semi-trucks and motor home mirrors whizzing past your head;
  • Lake Tahoe is one gorgeous 72-mile lake loop…but busy, narrow shoulders and Californized;
  • British Columbia has beautiful mountain vistas…seen largely from bustling highways;
  • Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail is a wonderful dedicated urban bike trail…but with people, people and more people;
  • Joseph, Oregon, has a beautiful cycling loop in the shadow of a majestic mountain range…but “been there and done that” in two hours;
  • Minnesota Rails to Trails provides isolated and tranquil solitude through the Northwoods… but is flat, flat, and after a while still flat;
  • Brevard, NC, is a vibrant cycling community with multiple loop rides…if you don’t mind stretches of gravel to complete the loops;

After exploring these “cycling destinations,” we’ve often thought: “This is nice, but we really have better road cycling back home in Colville, Wash. and the Inland Northwest!”

So to help my local Rotary club promote our annual Blazing Saddles Bike Ride (August 5 this year), it dawned on me that we should promote the excellent road cycling in our area more. Working with old county maps laying out the roads that I have peddled many times, I tried to articulate why “it’s better back home.” After a few nights, I “discovered” that within a 40-mile radius of downtown Colville there are over 650 miles of paved roads that are prefect for road cycling. Most of those roads (over 500 miles) are rural county roads that meander and loop through the valleys, benches, and divides that surround our community.

The Colville region is a land of low mountains and the confluence of multiple rivers. The Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt) sprawls north and south. The Kettle River flows into the Columbia from the north, and the Colville River flows into the Columbia near the town of Kettle Falls. For centuries, indigenous people gathered at Kettle Falls from points throughout the Inland Northwest to fish and to trade. On his epic quest to map a route to the Columbia River, on June 19, 1811, explorer David Thompson traveled down the Colville River valley to an overlook where he viewed the mighty Columbia River for the first time. In 1825, the Fort Colville trading post was set up by the Hudson Bay Company on the banks of the Columbia River near Kettle Falls. The accessible terrain in this region has always allowed people to travel and gather here.

The trails and pathways that provided access thought the mountains and along the river valleys for the native peoples, the mountain men, the fur trappers and the traders, later became the roads used by the pioneers and settlers. These quiet country roads are now paved, and are spectacular for road cycling.

These back-country roads were not developed as part of a conscious effort to establish a “road cycling” infrastructure. These roads were built to bring people together. These roads can be flat along the valley floor, or rolling into benches, or steep climbs up and over summits. Today, these same routes provide countless cycling options for every road cyclist, regardless of skill level, with incredible vistas and scenery as a backdrop. It is amazing that it took me so long to discover the obvious. (Dave McGrane)

Blazing Saddles Bike Ride (Saturday, August 5, 2017)

Sponsored by the Colville Rotary Club, the Blazing Saddles Bike Ride will be held in conjunction with the annual Colville Rendezvous Community Celebration at the City Park in Colville, Wash.  After the ride, enjoy all the festivities of Colville’s biggest annual festival, including food booths, vendors, and displays of the regions history and heritage. There will be live bands and performances on two separate stages into the night, with a beer garden open throughout the day and into the evening. Come ride and then celebrate.

The 2017 bike loop routes are all new. The 45 mile Colville Loop is the “signature” road cycling loop of this world-class cycling area. The 68 mile and 100 mile rides both offer a steady early morning climb over the Orin-Rice summit and then a decent down to the cool lake shore of Lake Roosevelt where after 25 miles the rides split. The 100 mile ride heads south and crosses the lake on a free ferry and returns on the west shore of the lake. The 68 mile ride heads north on the east shore of the lake. Both rides meet up in Kettle Falls and finish by way of the north half of the Colville Loop.

All routes finish and start at the swimming pool at the northwest corner of the Colville City Park. Each registrant receives a race bag that includes a long sleeve tech t-shirt. The finish line features post ride food, but you will want to explore everything that the Rendezvous Celebration has to offer. Find all the details here.

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