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51 Miles Over White Bird Pass

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6/15/12 Riggins to Grangeville, ID – 51 miles over White Bird pass

Riggins was such a beautiful little town, and one of those places I wouldn’t mind returning to some day. It is striking with the dramatic peaks right at your door step and the Salmon River rushing by with such energy.

The focus of the ride for the day is a 3200 foot climb to White Bird, elev 5235. The map shows a steep incline over Approx. 10 miles to the top, followed by approx 10 miles of winding downhill into Grangeville. However, before you even get to the town of White Bird (pop 100) to start the climb, you have to ride the 30 miles from Riggins. This initial 30 miles was essentially flat and runs right alongside the Salmon River against the backdrop of those ever present steep dramtic hills. However, there was a pretty good headwind, and I was still tired from the last few days of riding. I arrived in White Bird at approx 10:30 am ( the time changed back to pacific ) and Frank, Randy and I waited for the 1 restaurant to open for lunch. I had a delicious garden burger and those sweet potato fries that have started defining my trip.

We started the 10 mile climb at approx. 11:30 am. It consisted of a series of winding switchbacks at a grade that was doable in the the “granny” gear, but just seemed to go on forever. These switchbacks ran through miles and miles of prairie grasslands surrounded by rolling hills and mountains. Oddly enough, I actually found myself enjoying the ride and not just wishing for it to be over. The weather was perfect, blue skies and pleasant temps. Also, because we were on the old hwy 95 and not the direct route, there were few cars and we more or less had the road to ourselves.

Approx 2 miles from the actual summit, it started becoming less fun, and I struggled somewhat because my knees were screaming. Randy was kind enough to ride with me and listen to my grunts, groans and whining. He has a very cynical wit and I think we kept each other as lighthearted as possible. I wasn’t the only one hurting. At one point, a big suburban pulled up alongside and this lady and her big Bassett hound leaned out the window and yelled encouragement. She handed us Reese peanut butter cups for fuel. I politely declined as I think I would throw up if I ate anything at that moment, and asked, ” are we almost to the top?” she enthusiastically said, ” oh yes” and I pumped on, full of encouragement. She was wrong. I made mention to Randy several times over the next few miles that despite her seeming kindness, she was a liar.

We finally reached the real summit, after several false alarms, and began the ride down. The road was very winding and narrow with quite a bit of gravel, so I had to proceed slower than normal. Plus, it was getting colder and I was just plain tired. It was almost like an out of body experience. All I could think of was getting to Grangeville and that hot shower. After what seemed like forever, we got to town and found Frank and Roger at the Subway. I scoped out a motel, and Randy decided he had had enough camping and wanted a shower and bed. He doesn’t really like camping all that much, but goes along with the guys as part of their collective adventure. I think he was happy that my opting out of camping gave him an excuse to opt out as well for at least 1 night. Plus, I think he was ready to wash clothes. We met back at the Subway (thanks Sis) for dinner, and I was back in my room and asleep before 8 pm. All in all a great day – I felt a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

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