Two-hundred and fifty bicyclists arrived in Chewelah on Saturday, Aug. 4, to prepare for a six-day, 419-mile bike ride that started at the city park on Aug. 5.
The 14th Annual Ride Around Washington (RAW), called the “Pedal Palousa”, first headed east up Flowery Trail Road to Spirit Lake, Idaho then looped around to head south towards Palouse. The riders will return to Chewelah on Friday evening, Aug. 10 after stopping in Cheney on Aug. 9.
The Cascade Bicycle Club out of Seattle, which organizes the event with volunteers, plans a different route each year around Washington.
RAW committee member Charles Ruthford said this year they combined two of their favorite rides from the past.
Those two routes were the “Forgotten Corner” in Northeast Washington and one that took place in the Palouse area.
“We knew people would tire of six days in the Palouse or six days in the trees,” Ruthford said. “So we tied them together.”
The riders are treated well on this bike ride, which is kept small compared to other rides Cascade sponsors by limiting it to 250 riders. This is the first year they had full attendance, with about half of the riders on their first RAW.
It costs $930 per participant which includes three catered meals a day, a shower truck with 16 showers stalls and unlimited hot water, and trucks to transport everyone’s gear to each stop. Also, three massage therapists are available on site daily in addition to a bike mechanic from Montlake Bicycle Shop.
At the end of each day most of the riders camp at a designated location, which is usually a school or park. There is also a lunch stop on the route, as well as a morning and afternoon water stop.
All types of riders of any age and skill level participate RAW. They come from all over the country although the majority are from Western Washington. Ruthford said there are a few riders that come from as far as the East Coast and many from Oregon and California as well.
RAW is not a race, but a chance for riders to stop and see different parts of Washington and, in this year’s case, Northern Idaho. The organizers encourage riders to do some sight seeing and learn about the areas they visit on the route.
The RAW Flash, the daily newsletter that is created prior to the ride, is handed out each day to give an overview of each area they travel through. They also have nightly rider meetings to present the next day’s route and other interesting information. Don McLaughlin of Chewelah presented a 15 minute presentation about Chewelah’s history at the first rider meeting on Aug. 4.
Ruthford said they decided to start the “Pedal Palousa” in Chewelah when they spotted the park along the route in October. He said it looked like a great place, and liked that it was away from the metropolitan area many of the riders see when at home.
“It’s a pleasant place,” Ruthford said.
Dennis Mathews, a rider from Vancouver, WA who has been on several previous rides, said Northeastern Washington is “beautiful country.” He also said he appreciates that the “Pedal Palousa” is a loop ride so they do not have to worry about their cars as some routes end at a different place than they begin.
RAW is also a good way to stimulate the economy in the small towns they visit.
Since all the riders had to arrive in Chewelah on Aug. 4, and dinner was not provided that night, many people ate in town. Mathews and a friend ate at Sporty’s. Many others could be seen eating Subway sandwiches around camp.
Also, Owen’s Grocery in Newport, where they stopped on Sunday for lunch, even opened just for the RAW riders since they are usually closed that day.
Furthermore, Juanita Holmes, RAW volunteer and long-time rider, said many of her fellow riders are excited to go bowling at the Chewelah Bowling Center when they return on Aug. 10.
RAW also has many fun elements including drawings, hawaiian shirt day, and a helmet decorating contest. The grand prize drawing is a free ticket to RAW 2013.
“It’s like going to camp every year,” Holmes said. “You see people you know since many of the same riders go every year.”
The Cascade Bicycle Club has over 14,000 members and is one of the largest clubs in the country, Ruthford said. Its mission is to create a better community through bicycling. Ruthford said they provide ways to get people to ride together and are also an advocate for bike trails and bike lanes, and educate riders on bicycle safety.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: A pair of riders head out for the first day of the “Pedal Palousa.” That day was a 72-mile ride to Spirit Lake, Idaho. Jared Arnold photo