“The new American finds his challenge and his love in traffic-choked streets, skies nested in smog, choking with the acids of industry, the screech of rubber and houses leashed in against one another while the townlets wither a time and die”
~ John Steinbeck ~ [Travels with Charley – Published 1962]
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The coffee tastes good this morning. On the river, somewhere near Lolo, Montana, the heat finally made its presence yesterday. What was I thinking dropping to an elevation of 3200 feet! Way too fast and early to be in Portland by the 31st. Yet, the name Lolo Pass was staring at me on the map. It had been years since riding it Eastbound, remembering it fairly well. The road is a must, but, I knew there was a fire somewhere, I also did not really check where we would end up. Sometimes I think and know Spirit and I are traveling through “lala land” as much as I try to pay attention, mainly elevation and weather. So the first half was excellent, first class first one hundred miles. The second half, the second one hundred miles tough going as the "do not stop" signs lined the road and the smoke reminding me of a San Francisco Bay area fog rolling in made its presence. So I took on the good half day and let go of the other ending culminating in Lewiston’s heat. Elevation 756 feet. My brain must have been on strike even if one photo I took of a swinging bridge made it all worthwhile.
A short visit in Walla Walla to have an excellent lunch with a friend we had not seen in years and on we backtracked as Highway 12 in beautiful and golden wheat land went on for many miles through rolling hills and jovial clouds playing their incessant games hiding the sun trying keep us cool. It is not really that many miles between Lewiston and Walla Walla [I really want to write "voila! voila!], barely another one hundred miles as the road quits the Snake River in Silcott and the land that feeds us is where it starts. 87 miles. No BLM or National Forests in between. I decided to check in Lewis and Clark [my favorite two guys!] State Park where unfortunately a senior citizen like me or Spirit do not get half price. I call it biting the bullet for a week as all I could see was some incredible photography opportunities I wanted to capture. The golden carpets, straw stacks everywhere, machines of all different colors harvesting, combine harvesters I think they are called, old barns, you name it including roads forking out right and left. We shall be here for a week!
First ride and I am already mesmerized by this land in all colors of gold. I find out we are actually a little late and now wish we would have been here a week earlier. The wheat has already been harvested and so has been the straw in most patches all standing tall in bails as buildings created by the local architects, the farmers. Might have to remember this next year as I was described that on windy days, the fields look like waves of golden oceans. Some patches have even been turned to dirt and the sights are as a giant puzzle with their pieces of different colors and sizes. Palouse Country it is called.
There is the main road and there are also the many forks some of them only dead end a couple miles away. We ride them all not really caring if we will get lost or not. It is slow going as we stop for photos too often and smell the sweet earth which feeds us. I already know these are going to be relaxing times and the weather in the mornings and evenings is now changing as I feel a little bit of fall in the air. Is it luck or just the slow going which makes me discover such treasures? We stopped in front of a beautiful building which is a restaurant, closed that day, but the owner was watering his plants and washing the sidewalk. We talked food and he tells me of a "Fromagerie", a cheese maker not too far. I am excited to go and visit as I also learn that one of the owners is born in the same town I was in France.
Right away we backtracked and find it off “Ward Road” a couple miles before Dayton on Highway #12 going eastbound. It is called "Monteillet". Three big white dogs, dozens of sheep and goats greet us. The owners are busy packing their cheeses in coolers for an evening Farmers Market in Walla Walla but they do stop for a few minutes to offer me a glass of wine which I turn down. My childhood memories come back as all sorts are lining a marble table being wrapped before going into the coolers which will go in their van. It is a bit pricey. I cannot afford a couple ounces of cheese for $12! I understand the love, knowledge and passion which has gone into their making, but my wallet would be screaming already due to our campsite as nice as it is and not so silently complaining. I manage to buy the most wonderful piece of Feta cheese which happens to be the least expensive and they throw in a couple homegrown tomatoes. Creamy, not salty with a restful and delightful aftertaste it will be my dinner as a salad. Busy, busy, I say my goodbyes and assure them we will be back before we leave the area.
We went a bit further West yesterday with again many stops along the way on Highway 124 this time around. More working on the land as we stopped a few times while also sunset was taking place. The golden hues took on their true colors throughout those few minutes so sublime and serene. There is a calmness that descents upon me in this area. The horizons are wide open with no obstructions and at the same time I know how hard the work is. Something to think about for those only having to drive to their food store and pick up that loaf of bread by then nicely wrapped and tied. I don’t think many realize the labor involved.
Ara and Spirit