Day 21: White Bird, Idaho to Grangeville, Idaho

The sign lies; the old route actually goes up higher, maybe another 300-400 feet! Old route takes a right at the sign.

21 Miles. Only 21 miles and I was spent. It all started out well enough. I slept in the White Bird, Idaho, municipal building. I slept until about 04:00 am and then there was a very loud “bang.” I figured somebody was just shooting a rattlesnake somewhere and went back to sleep.

What I didn’t notice was everything was very dark. From the school house, I had seen some street lights when I went to sleep but didn’t pay much attention. The loud “bang” was a pole transformer blowing out. Not long afterwards, a crew showed up to repair things. I awoke to voices and flashlights, very powerful flashlights, shining everywhere. There must have been six or so people working on replacing the damage. It wasn’t an easy task, the pole isn’t on the road and is halfway between the highway above and the main road I was on.

They had to manually lug all that equipment up there to make the repairs. With all the rattlesnakes in the area, that must be a joy. I had considered going up to the local swimming hole before going to sleep but was warned that the area is crawling with rattlers, especially around sunset and I opted to avoid a confrontation.

The pole that needed repairs, in the dawn light.

Breakfast was not an option. The one cafe that does serve breakfast didn’t open until nine  and the convenience store was not opened on the previous day, so I couldn’t stock up on anything. I set out as the sun was rising, hoping to make it over the pass in good time.

The climb up to White Bird Pass is long, arduous and hot. There is almost no shade at all and the sun just pounds down on anyone exposed to it. I started around sunrise, but by 10 am, it was stifling. I did have a good quantity of Gatorade and water, so at least I had liquids.

In spite of suffering the heat, the views were breathtaking.

Looking back from whence I had come. This is about a third of the way up the climb.The schoolhouse I started from is in the upper right-hand corner of the photo.
The road just keeps going up and up. The new modern highway is way off in the distance on the upper-left of the photo. At one point this road joins it for about a mile. Add 100+ degrees F to really enjoy this.

In all, I spent about six hours climbing. I ended walking for about the last 1.5 miles  (2.5 km), it was just too steep in my weakened condition to pedal. The new, modern, highway is an alternative, but it so busy with tractor trailer truck traffic and speeders that this older road is the better alternative. As it is, the old road does join the new highway for about a mile, and it is no joy.

I rolled into Grangeville, Idaho in mid-afternoon and made a beeline for a Mexican restaurant. I still wasn’t that hungry but knew I had to eat. I can recommend the Palenque Mexican Restaurant as an excellent place for a hungry biker. I must have looked a mess, yet they treated me with kindness, caring and lots of cold drinks and the food was very good. I had Arroz con Pollo (Rice with chicken) and finished it all. I ordered from the luncheon menu, hoping for smaller portions, but it was still huge.

I decided, once again, that I just wanted to be indoors tonight and opted for a hotel. I’m going to break the bank, but the heat is killing me.

After a shower and nap, I walked into town for a milkshake, I’ve been yearning one. I had one at a place called Yummies. The fellow that runs the place told me he has been thinking about expanding into something to go along with the ice cream business. I suggested he think about an idea that my father-in-law had, the late Roger Veilleux. Roger was from Maine and thought that a fast-food business based on beans and potatoes would be a winner. I agree. So many people like beans and baked potatoes. The trick would be to come up with a cone-like container for beans and a convenient way for someone to walk away with a ready-to-eat baked potato. Idaho, being the Nation’s potato capital could easily fill that bill. I could see the young man’s gears in his head whirring. If he tries this and succeeds, you heard it here first.

Grass-fired steam tractor.

One of the great things about hiking and biking, as I’ve mentioned before is getting to see the local towns through a different lens. As I walked around Grangeville this evening, I took in many of the historic markers around town and this tractor caught my eye. It looked big, heavy and powerful and ran on burning dried grass, or wood when they could get it. It was impressive looking and I could just see them out in the fields sweating away, feeding fuel into this monster to keep it running.

Not far from where I am staying there is a museum of Mammoth bones that have been found in the area. This area of the world is known for its mammoth finds. As much as I should spend some time seeing all this, I will head out in the morning. It is essentially a long, gradual climb to Missoula, Montana from here and I could be there in a few more day, it is about 166 miles.

Author: Dennis Blanchard

Dennis Blanchard was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He and his wife Jane moved to New Hampshire in 1980 where he has climbed thirty 4000-foot mountains, biked the trails and enjoyed the wilderness. Never living very far from the Appalachian Trail, Dennis was always aware of the seductive siren’s call to hike it. Dennis is an electronics engineer who has freelanced for amateur radio, technical and motorcycle adventure magazines. He now lives in Sarasota, Florida.

1 thought on “Day 21: White Bird, Idaho to Grangeville, Idaho”

  1. hey dennis i think you need some bend type weather
    it around 9 am and 54F, supposed to hit 80 F today.
    i’l have to look at a map of idaho now to see where you’re at.
    anyway, i hope at some point you hit weather a little cooler.
    hang in there buddy.


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