The Columbia River turned northward, on it’s way deep into the Rockies of British Columbia: I continued east along Washington Route 12 towards Wala Wala. As the river swept to the left it appeared more as a huge lake than a 1,250 mile-long waterway. As soon as I lost sight of the companion that I had been cycling with for seven days, the personality of the route changed.

At first, my morning ride impressed me with the size of the sky. Puffy white clouds seemed to encircle the horizon. I wondered how Montana could claim to be the “big sky” state.

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I had shared the previous 30 miles with huge bluffs rising hundreds of feet above the water on either side. Floods from an eon ago had scrubbed the soil from basalt cliffs that ringed the face of the buttes. The busy railroads snaked along both banks. Traffic was light and polite, the shoulder wide with minor exceptions.

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The personality of the place and the views caused me to stop often, turning my gaze full circle, craning my neck up and down, trying to understand what this was. I spotted a mountain goat taking in the view also.

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Now, instead of the Columbia, rolling hills surrounded me, brown and sage covered range land, or coaxed into productivity with well water. The signs told me I was in wine country. Indeed, I passed at least a half dozen. I found my three friends from the previous day in the town of Touchet (too-she). The map profile told us we were climbing steadily for 10 miles into Wala . An optical illusion made us feel we were going downhill but our speed proved otherwise. And then I lost them again as they continued on an additional 25 miles and I dallied in the pleasant town.

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