The Perfect Morning Ride
As I write this, the temperature outside is 103. These heat spells don’t usually last too long, but I want to ride my bike now. Unfortunately this is too hot to go for a ride. I’m not a happy camper if I don’t ride my bike. My wife will confirm that flaw in my character.
But I have a solution. I ride in the early morning hours before the sun broils our landscape. The hours just after dawn offer some wonderful enticements to be outdoors. There is less traffic on the roads, a plus for a cyclist. I feel great for the rest of the day if I have burned some calories and managed my stress. But the best reason to honor the alarm clock is our scenery here in Walla Walla. It is even more delightful than usual in the early hours of the day.
My favorite morning ride is up Cottonwood Road south of town. Between Powerline and Foster Roads — the view of the hills is splendid. Catching the sight before the sun breaks the horizon is beautiful. The hills are back-lighted and the air is clear. A couple loop options are about 18 to 20 miles, with several finger off-shoots that can add four to eight miles each.
The valley lends another memorable vista in the morning. My favorite place to go for viewing is the pavement end of Scenic Loop off Five-Mile Road. Those willing to ride on gravel can go higher up Scenic for an even more commanding panorama.
Another great ride in the morning is up Mill Creek Road to the east and then south. A few miles out of town, trees line the road. Together with the creek, they make the air so fresh and pleasant.
For those that say ‘ugh’ in the morning, I apologize. I am a morning person. Cyclists looking for a place to ride later in the day when the temperature might be hot should choose Mill Creek. The shade in the upper part of the ride is a welcome relief, and the return is mostly downhill back to town. It is 13 to 14 miles to the pavement end, and the return is the same way back.
Cottonwood is another good option in the evening. The setting sun makes the greens and browns a beautiful contrast worthy of any painter’s brush or photographer’s lens. Many artists have captured the scene fantastically, but there’s nothing like seeing it with my own eyes.
My efforts to show the landscape’s beauty with some photos were only marginally successful. I refocused from panoramas to shots of my favorite close-ups. The merry-go-round is in a home’s front yard. The site was a grade school at that location 110 years ago. When my 17-year-old daughter was about four years old, we were riding by, daughter in tow in a trailer. While stopped for a break, the home owner suggested she ride on the carousel. I was amazed at how little friction it had. Pushing the merry-go-round was like spinning a finely-tuned bicycle wheel- it just kept going.
Tourism Walla Walla and the city have cooperated to produce an excellent map of recommended bike routes in and around town. They are free. To get one or to ask for suggestions or directions, Allegro Cyclery on Main Street downtown is there to help.
And as for my other flaws, well, I won’t go into that. My wife might, though.