There was a 60 mile ride ahead and a chance of rain in the afternoon so I was eager to get going as soon as breakfast was over. After her work as a farmhand the day before, C was tired but eager to do more and Angie and family were keen for her to stay. After Angie offered to drive her to Republic or even to Riverside, our destination for the following day, C didn’t take too long to decide that she’d rather spend more time on the farm than ride up Sherman Pass. I said my goodbyes and rode off for my first day of riding alone and a taste of what’s to come when C leaves at the end of the year.
The skies were grey and I was met with some drizzle shortly after leaving, but it was fun to be riding by myself. There are definite advantages to riding with someone else, but the freedom of going at my pace was a nice change. A quick trip in to Kettle Falls got me a snack for the climb and then it was off. I had a 25c box of red hots and every mile I rode up the hill would be rewarded by a single sweet. It’s a good way for me to eat them as otherwise I’ll just chomp on them and the pack will be gone in a blink of an eye. It also gave me a short-term goal for the climb. Go a mile, have a sweet.
Even more so than with Flowery Trail the day before, the road up to Sherman Pass was lined heavily with trees on both sides. It meant that there wasn’t much of a view and so it was difficult to get a sense of how much you had climbed. Thankfully my GPS has a quite accurate elevation reading which helped. The climb started crossing a bridge by Lake Roosevelt around 1300ft and peaked out at 5575ft, the highest maintained pass in Washington. Washington Pass, 2 or 3 days down the road, is higher, but closed during the winter. Also, because we are heading from the west the climb up Sherman is the most total elevation gain for a pass. That 4200ft is about double the gain from the Going to the Sun road. Washington Pass would be more climbing, but only if we were starting from the Pacific side.
It took about two and a half hours of climbing to make it up. Time went by quite quickly thanks to the magic of podcasts. A long football phone-in podcast called 606 entertained me most of the way up. At the top I spent about 45 minutes relaxing and reading on my Kindle. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and that freedom that you get from bicycle touring is just spectacular.
All that stood between me and Ellen’s place in Republic was a 45 minute descent and 20 minutes of pedalling. Getting such a long descent makes the climb seem so worth it and even though there was a slight shower just before I got to Republic it was a wonderful ride with less rain than had been predicted.
Republic was a quaint little town sat between Sherman and Wauconda passes. Some cycle tourists probably do them both in a day, not I. We had plans to stop in Republic and it ended up being a great time. Ellen, our host, was house sitting and had another Couchsurfer staying with her that evening. She drove us to the house where the highlight was chilling in a hot tub, watching the stars and getting to know both Ellen and Seth, her other Couchsurfer who was also on a bicycle.