By J. Andrew Rodriguez
Cycling in Walla Walla leaves you breathless. Not because you’re going up the occasional winding hill, flanked on either side by wheat fields in their emerald youth. Nor because you are screaming down another hill overlooking acres of vineyards or apple orchards. It’s that the Walla Walla Valley just feels like a cyclist’s dreamscape. That’s because it is; I’ve dreamed on these bicycle rides many times. No, every time.
Here there is abundant sunshine. On a ride you are likely to encounter the glancing shadow from a circling red-tailed hawk, deer, elk, coyote and other wildlife. This area has a network of rural roads that give you dozens of options for rides of any length. The foothills of the Blue Mountains, crown jewels of this valley, offer beautiful settings for challenging or easy-going mountain biking.
You’ll want to linger here, where the breezes sing harmony with resident and migrant songbirds. Once, very early on a bright summer morning, I heard a lone Western Meadowlark atop a telephone pole on Hood Road. I stopped to be serenaded. I pulled out my smartphone to record the angelic sound. On a whim, I cranked up the volume, hit the play button, and pointed it in the Meadowlark’s direction. At first, silence. Then he sang back. It was the Meadowlark’s song, but we traded it over and over again until I moved on. It was just the two of us, lingering.
This cyclist-friendly community has, well, a lot of cyclists. No need to worry about riding alone when in town; you’ll find plenty of company. Local cyclists are happy to show you routes, invite you on a ride, make dining suggestions, point out their favorite wineries and help you fix a flat. And they won’t stop talking about the great cycling here.
Group rides happen throughout the week. Walla Walla’s two excellent bicycle shops, Allegro Cyclery and the Bicycle Barn, lead rides three to four times a week. The local Wheatland Wheelers Bicycle Club host very popular ice cream socials on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, from May through August, at Wildwood Park, meeting at 6:00 p.m. With three different levels of ride according to ability, the ice cream socials are particularly family-friendly, as parents, with kids on small bicycles, are led on a slow trek along the Mill Creek trail before returning to the park to enjoy scoops of ice cream. At one such social almost 100 people attended, all kids at heart when it came time to serve up the ice cream. The Wheatland Wheelers also sponsor the Ann Weatherill Cycling Classic, held on the third Saturday of every June.
Go to wheatlandwheelers.com for information such as routes, a map, a calendar of events, articles, and a forum to learn about cycling in the Walla Walla Valley, one of the best places to be on a bicycle in the Pacific Northwest.