Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wine, Women and Wheels in Walla Walla

This is my first post as a member of Team Two Wheel. I am also a member of Zuster Cycling –a women’s team based in Spokane with a membership of avid road, mountain and cyclocross racers. In search of Spring, 10 of us roadies headed to Walla Walla last weekend for 3 days of riding the rolling rural roads in warm(er) temperatures.

Yes, there was some drinking of the fine beverages produced locally –we managed to visit 5 wineries in 2 days. No, we did not ride to the wineries. It is hard to fit more than 2 bottles in a jersey pocket, so we did our tasting in the afternoons after riding.

Our group rented a giant house south of town. Friday morning was sunny, but the blades of the wind turbines marching up the Oregon hillsides were generating some serious juice. We headed out on the Waitsburg Loop –a classic Walla Walla route on a must do list for rides in the region. After skirting around downtown Walla Walla, our ride mistress Nattie K. (a Cat. 2 road racer) sent 4 of us off the front with the idea of organizing a group to chase us down. After a half hour or so, we started chatting and sight seeing and sort of forgot about being the break away group. Before long, 2 members of the chasing peleton were in sight and we happily let them join the group and share the work for the remaining rollers on the way to Waitsburg. A “must see” in Waitsburg: there is a camel (1 hump) in a pasture just south of town. He is also sometimes seen strolling down the main drag with his owner.

After re-grouping, we started the return trip with a long climb out of Waitsburg. Remember the mention of the whirling wind turbines? Well now it was time to pay the piper. Four of us worked together into the gusty headwind howling up from the wilds of eastern Oregon. That song from the late 70’s started going through my head: “Short people got no reason…” Two riders in my group top out at about 5 foot 2 if they really tease out their hair. At 5 foot 9, their drafting effect on for me was limited to my hips and knees. Let’s just say that the fine wine drunk later in the day was earned and appreciated.

Saturday’s ride took us a way I had never ridden before. We made a loop out to the west and then headed south to Milton-Freewater. Does anyone know what the deal is with the frogs in Milton-Freewater? Not live frogs, these are human sized figures that pose in front of nearly every business in town. There is even one fishing off a bridge and another half way up a telephone pole.

Didn’t see one on a bike, though. We followed the road to its end at Harris Park as it wound up the Walla Walla River Canyon. A long gentle climb, a fun twisty decent, very few cars –big fun!

Our fantasy of spring riding died on Sunday when we rolled out into the 32 degree morning, rode around the block and back to the house to layer on more clothes. Mittened and balaclavaed, we headed south and east into the wheat fields and vineyards. The wind turbines were still –hallelujah – but heavy snow/rain clouds over the Blues suggested that we trim the ride from 50 to 35 miles. BTW, the little handlebar mounted Garmins are really great for this. All you need to do is hit the “home” button.

I can’t say enough about the quality of riding around Walla Walla in every direction. Tons of rural roads, very little traffic, gorgeous scenery, a milder climate and it is only a short 2 and a ½ hour drive away. This is the 3rd year I have gone for early season training. I am heading down again for a weekend in April. And oh yeah, those wineries. On this trip, we sampled the product at Bergavin, Tertullia, Dusted Valley, Patit Creek and CAVU. The winemaker and owners were pouring at 4 of the 5 wineries. I mention them all by name because their wines are terrific, they are small business owners and if you support the Buy Local and Farm to Table movements, visiting these wineries and buying some wine (which you will once you taste it) is a great way to do it.

As my husband always says to me when I head out the door on a ride, “Keep the rubber side down.”

-Wella Clairol

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