A rainy winter day is a perfect time to ponder a bicycle ride across the dry side of Washington state.
That's the destination for Ride Around Washington 2012, announced last week by the Cascade Bicycle Club.
The 400-mile supported bicycle tour rolls out Aug. 5-11 through the Ponderosa pines to the wide-open hills of the Palouse and back again. Along the way, riders will spend a couple of nights in western Idaho.
My son and I bicycled previous RAW tours that individually visited these regions. The roads are for the most part well maintained and very low-traffic. There's just enough terrain for a little challenge everyday, but not so much to create exhaustion.
Participants in 2012 will face an average 66 miles per day, with daily climbing of about 3,000 feet. SAG support and rest stops are available on every day's route.
For convenience to anyone driving to the start, the tour begins and ends in Chewalah, north of Spokane. The overnights are, in order, Spirit Lake, Idaho; Post Falls, Idaho; Palouse, and Cheney.
Palouse, which takes its name from the surrounding rolling countryside, is a layover day with an optional ride. I remember riding down to the Snake River in RAW's visit there in 2004, while a local wheat farmer brought some riders, including my 13-year-old son, out to his place to ride combine and drive a 4-wheeler (his highlight of the trip).
In 2012, bicyclists will ride through the Pend Oreille River Valley, and along the shores of Haden Lake and Lake Coeur D'Alene early in the week. After negotiating the ups and downs of the Palouse and climbing Steptoe Butte, the riders will return past columnar basalt rock formations and follow part of the Centennial Trail along the Spokane River.
2012 marks the 14th anniversary for RAW. Although details aren't post at the RAW website yet, participation is generally limited to about 200 cyclists.
Registration is first-come, first-served to Cascade members beginning Jan. 10. (Spots will be made available to non-Cascade members later if any exist.) Check the Cascade event website for details about all 2012 rides and how to register.
Photos above from 2012 RAW.