by Yonnel Gardes
Fabien and Yonnel did a preride on Sunday, May 10th. We had a wonderful time, this route is really special with incredible landscapes along the way. It’s also not a traditional rando event due to the gravel sections.
Speaking of gravel, the first question is about gear. Shiggy recommended 32mm tires minimum. Initially I was leaning towards taking my gravel bike (38, tubeless) but Fabien convinced me to take our road bikes instead. So he did it on 25mm tires and I had 28mm. We got lucky and did not flat or crash. It’s a matter of luck and comfort level on gravel. I think what Shiggy recommends make sense. However, you will only encounter 14 miles of gravel out of 125 – so you will spend a lot more time on nice pavement!
- The first stretch of gravel is about 4 miles long and is also the chunkier (mp 34.2 to 38.1). It is fairly flat and goes by some nice lakes.
- The second stretch of gravel is longer (10.5 miles). After you pass the initial hill, it’s all downhill or flat on pretty smooth gravel. Watch out for cattle and hunters, we encountered both. There is a fun tunnel to cross underneath the railroad tracks and then we found ourselves surrounded by train wagons on the other side.
Another major factor on this route is the wind. Tailwinds are almost guaranteed during the first half. Fun and fast, enjoy it while it lasts! The second half is when you’ll be more exposed with dominant northwest/west winds. We got very lucky on Sunday but the day before, the wind reached 20mph.
With regard to services, there is a rest area at 27 miles and this is the last water supply until mile 72. The logical places to stop for food/drinks are at George (mp 72.4) and Quincy (mp 87.7). After Quincy, there is a 30-mile section without any supplies. We stopped at the Shree’s Truck Stop & Gas Station in George, on the left side of the road. Very convenient with a Subway and outside seating. Sage Coffee House and Bistro at mile 74.5 is another good option.
What makes this ride special is the beautiful scenery along the Columbia river and the rock formations. I was in Arizona just recently and that looked just the same, only the cactus were missing. The out and back to the river along the Frenchman Coulee is the highlight of this route in my opinion, and not just because of the name…
Shiggy did a really good job with control locations and questions. Curiously the Frenchman Hills sign is not an official control but I strongly recommend bowing to this sign and take a selfie like we did 😊
The Safeway lot at the start/end has plenty of parking. Shiggy met us at the start and end of the preride, which was really nice. Thanks so much for organizing this really cool event. I am sure all the participants will have a blast! Let me know if you have any questions. Yonnel_g@yahoo.com