This year, my sixth consecutive attendance of the Western ST Owners Club gathering, started from our home in Grants Pass, Oregon. Rick was back in the saddle, this year on his 1983 Honda VF750 Interceptor, for his third WeSTOC. Not bad for a 20 year old young man. Rick and I rode up to Grants Pass 10 days early to spend some time relaxing, rafting the Rogue River, and enjoying the excellent motorcycle roads around our Oregon home. On Sunday, July 29th, long time friend and fellow ST1100 rider Hal Rumenapp joined us at the "Ranch" for our semi-traditional steak BBQ the night before the ride to Kimberly. After some great food and reminiscing, we all hit the sack fairly early in anticipation of tomorrow's great adventure.
Day 1, July 30: The Ride to...
At first light, we were all up, ate breakfast, and were on our way. This year, instead of taking the "short cut" we took two years ago to the Bend gathering, Hal thought it better that we stayed on paved roads. Something about getting his "chrome" tarnished ;-} Instead, I led us East through the Cascades via the scenic Oregon byways of SR 234 through Gold Hill and Sam's Valley to SR 62 through river rafting communities of Shady Cove and Trail. The road winds its way, sometimes gently with sweeping curves, and sometimes aggressively tight twisties, following the Rogue River most of the way to its source at Boundary Springs, near Crater Lake. Our first stop was relatively early in our trip just inside the Umpqua National Forest and 80 miles from home. The stop was for pie at Beckies Cafe. This is always a must stop for us, as her homemade pies "are to die for." With our taste buds and tummies happy we continued on up SR 62 to SR 230 where 62 splits off to Crater Lake and Fort Klamath. We have taken this split and the Crater Lake loop a number of times in the past, and I can heartily recommend it as one of the most scenic in North America. Today we bypassed it and rode on though a tunnel of big trees to Diamond Lake for fuel. Rick's Interceptor will be the limiting factor on this ride due to its, somewhat, smaller fuel capacity compared to the STs. Hal's stock 94 has 7.4 gal, and my 94 with Ron Major fuel cell has a 10.8 gal capacity. In reality, Rick seems to get about 180-220 miles from his 'Ceptor's 6 gal tank. I get between 400 and 500 miles from a fill, depending on speed and headwinds.
After fuel, we continued through the deep woods, now on SR 138 (Diamond Lake Highway), to the high desert thoroughfare of U.S. 97. this is a very heavily traveled 2-lane road that carries 18 wheelers, RVs, autos, and all other travelers wishing to go from the I-5 at Weed California to the Canadian border via central Oregon. There is a great explosion of expansion in Central Oregon and Washington East of the Cascades. This is part of the fairly recent trend of population flight away from the urban sprawl that has become the West Coast of the United States. This expansion has resulted in a great influx of travelers into this area. Hwy 97 shows the signs of this with its obscenely overcrowded condition most of the time. Weekday or weekend, day or night, this is a painful road to travel as slow moving 18 wheelers and RVs hold up miles of traffic with little chance to pass due to opposing traffic. This should definitely be a 4-laner.
We made our way north on U.S. 97 through the towns of Chemult, Crescent, and La Pine. As we passed through La Pine, my mind passed back to memories of Rick and I and our snowmobile adventure in the Paulina Creek area of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument last winter, December 2000. We had a blast riding the many, many miles of trails in this deep forest, where the only way to get around during the winter is by ski, snowshoes, or snowmobile. Our guide on that ride lived WAY back in the forest and commuted to work (as a snowmobile guide) via snowmobile. For fun he went for snowmobile rides at night. Anyway, it was warm and clear as Rick, Hal, and I toured out Honda motorcycles through the "elfin forest."
In short order we arrived in Bend, Oregon. Bend is one of the fastest growing communities in the Northwest. It is also one of the most grid locked of the small towns in Oregon. U.S. 97 and U.S. 20 cross in Bend, and the combined heavy traffic from these two overcrowded major highways serves to back traffic up during most of the day as it must stop at dozens of traffic signals through town, as there is no bypass for Bend yet. We stopped for an extended period in Bend to re-fuel and do some shopping (GI Joe's had a lot sale going ;-}
We continued on 97 through Redmond, Oregon where we turned east on SR 126 to merge with U.S. 26 in Prineville. We turned off of 26 just before Mitchell onto SR207. As we traveled north on 207 through the low chaparral and junipers of the high desert around Redmond and Mitchell, the countryside gradually turns to rolling hills and valleys to steep canyons and heavily forested mountains. Our route also took us through the spectacular John Day Fossil Beds. One day I will have to return to explore this magic place more thoroughly. It was while crossing one of the high mountain passes between Spray and Hardman that we hit our first rain. It started out slowly at first, and I thought we might luck out and skirt the main downpour, but within minutes we were being drenched. A quick stop to cover and stash our electronics and we were on our way. Within 10 minutes we had ridden out of the cloudburst and didn't see rain for the rest of our trip north.
By the time SR 207 merged with SR206 the terrain had changed and was becoming the rolling hills, sparse of trees, that is the approach to the Great Columbia Basin. As we entered Heppner, Oregon we were well into sage and cattle country. We stopped for a break in Heppner, as it had been a long 4 hours for Rick on his sport bike and we all wanted to top up our fuel before our last leg to Kennewick where we planned to stop for the night. After a bit, we were on our way merging with SR 74 and riding from shallow valley to shallow valley and cattle ranches until taking a more northeasterly track on SR 207 toward the Columbia River. As we dropped down into the Columbia Gorge, the landscape opened up into a treeless prairie. We took I-84 a short distance to I-82 and crossed the mighty Columbia at Umatilla, Oregon.
We reveled in the smoothness and efficiency of travel on the interstate as we rode the last leg of the day into Kennewick, Washington. Hal checked his lodging guide and found a Motel 8 just off the 82 near Kennewick. We checked into our rooms, and after a nice meal at Applebee's next door, and a swim in the indoor pool, we all sacked out for the night in anticipation of what tomorrow's adventures would be. The GPS showed 487 miles for today.
Day 2, July 31: Arrival...
We all got up and met in the breakfast room for our complimentary continental breakfast. It wasn't the best in which I have ever partaken, but it wasn't the worst (by a long shot) either. Once gassed up(burp ;-} and underway, we crossed the Columbia once again, this time on U.S. 395 at Kennewick. We continued north up 395 which gradually turned into a mode of efficient transport once away from the urban sprawl of the Tri-Cities. Kennewick and surrounding areas are the destination of much of Washington State's urban flight. The surrounding landscape continues to be high prairie and rolling hills as our route leads us up and out of the Columbia Basin. Mr. Valentine's little invention saved us the embarrassment (and cost) of an "efficient travel award" several times along this heavily patrolled super slab.
After U.S. 395 merged with I-90 at Ritzville, and we continued northeast toward Spokane, Washington, the scenery gradually changed from rolling grasslands to high desert chaparral and juniper, then finally just as we got into Spokane, into confer and hardwood forest. We stopped to fill our bellies with food at a Wendy's, then gassed the bikes and headed due north on U.S. 2 toward our next stop which wouldn't be until Canada.
Once out of the vicinity of Spokane the traffic eased up, and by the time we turned off onto SR 211 we were virtually alone on some of the best motorcycle roads in the country. We followed rivers and creeks through forested mountains and across fertile valleys of farms and ranches as we rode SR 20 and 31. This area has much of the look and feel of the location of Sly Stallon's "First Blood" movie. After Metaline Falls, we wound through some very tight twisties for about 20 miles until the isolated Canadian border crossing at Boundary Lake. In the last 5 miles before the border we saw, in the street, a cow elk, a deer, and two black bear cubs. I started to look for Disney's anamatronics designers nearby, as it looked like something designed to fool visitors into thinking there were wildlife still in the U.S. ;-] As we approached the Canadian border crossing office, it looked deserted. Looking a bit farther up the road, I saw there was a covered area for vehicles to park while border guards searched for various contraband. There, several very frustrated and flustered travelers looked to be having their auto completely disassembled by a single female border guard. She was distracted in her search as the three of us approached on our bikes. The frazzled occupants of the auto under search signaled us to come on over with wordless expressions that said "hey, see what's happening to us...just wait 'til she gets to you..you'll be here all night!" When I pulled up opposite the guard (having crossed a few borders before) I shut off my engine and raised my face shield and gave the female guard a cheery "Good afternoon, ma'am." She temporarily left here search of the frazzled traveler's auto and came over to us. In a very stern, un-smiling, business tone, she asked us if we were traveling together. Did we have drugs, dangerous weapons, firearms, explosives, etc.? We answered in the negative. She asked where was our destination. After answering.."Kimberly, B.C." she eased up a very slight bit as she asked if we were part of the big motorcycle rally there. Once we answered in the affirmative, she motioned us on through, to the astonished looks of the frazzled travelers and continued her search of their auto. A total of 3 minutes max delay for us.
We stopped at the "Welcome to Canada" sign and took some photos. Rick was a bit sore from the 'Ceptor's hard saddle but agreed to go until the next town for a break. Forty-five miles up PH 6 and 3 and we were in the little Canadian town of Creston, B.C.. That was good because we were all ready for a break and gas for the bikes. After a good rest, we headed out on the last leg of today's ride. For 87 miles we skirted some spectacular mountains, rode across farmland, through river gorges and forested mountains to our destination the site of this years WeSTOC gathering. The Trickle Creek Inn at Kimberly, B.C.
We were pretty early, but there were still many greeters there to welcome us at the Trickle Creek. After checking in with the rally organizers, sipping a few cold drinks, and kicking tires with some old and new friends, we checked into our rooms at the inn and unpacked our gear. We attended the usual pre-event participants meeting, where "DIS-organizers" John Warga and Bruce Powell laid out the " and folks were introduced to each other. Afterward some of us headed into town for a gourmet dinner at a German Haufbrau. After dinner it was back to the room late and off to sleep. The GPS showed 392 miles for today.
Day 3, August 1: The RIDE...
We met for the complimentary breakfast in the dining room at around 6:30 a.m. THIS breakfast was one of the best I've sampled under these circumstances. Very much equivalent to the Mariott Hotel in Marina Del Rey, CA or the "Finisher's Brunch" of the Baby Butt 1000. The usual suspects: eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, croissants, Danish, cereals, fruits, and the most interesting self serve Belgian Waffle maker I have ever seen. This large, free floating, cast iron contraption was virtually fool proof and had a large line every morning we were there. The dining room itself was a marvel, all done up as a hunting lodge with large log beams, rock fireplace, and stuffed elk heads on the walls. I got down ahead of everyone else and sat with Tim Yip of Edmonton, Alberta and a few of his friends. I got quite an education from these "locals" as to the best places to see, best roads to ride, and where the RCMP were patrolling. I also got the straight "poop"on radar detectors (legal in B.C. and Alberta). Rick came down, and I joined him for another Belgian Waffle. Hal and his roommate Keith Rosendahl of Southern California soon joined us and we discussed plans for today's ride. Rick was a bit "tender" from the previous two days on the his Interceptor and was all for a short ride today (IOW, no 700 milers...he's ridden with me before ;-] The final plan was for a ride out to Kootenay Lake and Balfour, then up to the scenic 31A to the ghost town of Silverton. A "shortcut" was mentioned by Hal. He saw a road on the map that looked to save us about 100 miles. This is the same guy who chastises me every chance he gets about the famous shortcut of the 1999 WeSTOC ride.
Well after gassing up and exchanging some dollars for CN "funny money", we were off on today's big adventure. A few miles out of town Hal guided us onto his shortcut. It wasn't too bad a road...for about 5 miles. Then it turned to gravel..then to washboard gravel...behind a dump truck..then the truck turned off (because the road was too rough?), and we were on dirt..then rutted dirt. Anyway, you get the idea. This "shortcut" was easily as rough and dusty as my 1999 "shortcut"...just 5X longer! 50 miles from the beginning, we arrived at PH 3A (a PAVED road). Nice trick Hal! Don't try to blame your DNF fuel sensor on ME this time ;-] We continued up 3A to the Kootenay Ferry. We promptly rode onto the ferry, as it was in process of loading. We parked our bikes and got ourselves a bite to eat and a soft drink as the ship navigated across the lake to Balfour.
The ferry ride took about 45 minutes and once debarked, we were on our way to Kaslo via PH 31. This is a quite scenic road as it follows the lake the entire way. However, there were a great number of slow RVs that we had to pass and not many places to do it. Eventually, we made it to Kaslo and decided though all were hungry, we would wait to eat in Silverton. Hal said.."there's a great place to eat there.." Famous last words...
PH31A splits west at Kaslo and follows a river through some very beautiful and spectacular country. The route winds tightly through forests of confer and hardwood with breathtaking vistas of valleys and mountain peaks. The traffic was fairly light and we made Silverton (another dirt road...Hal) in about an hour. There was a lot of "old stuff" there, but no place to eat. Hal said.."there really WAS a great place to eat here in 1999...honest guys!" Yeah...right Hal. So, hungry and thirsty as we were, back we went to Kaslo where we finally found a place for greasy burgers.
After lunch we retraced out route back to the Kootenay Ferry. When we arrived there were about 30 autos and trucks waiting in line for the next boat. Naturally, we went to the front of the line with our bikes. The female "ferry (fairy) person" informed us that motorcycles no longer got "front of the line" privileges on B.C. ferries, but she would "let it go this time." She said it would be about an hour wait so I checked into the Iron Butt Motel for a little power nap. When I awoke about 45 minutes later, the parking lot was full and about 25 other bikers had lined up behind us at the front of the line. One of the riders was a STOCer who said that the "ferry BITCH" on the other end of the line had chewed them out "big time" when they tried to go to the front coming west earlier. We relayed how our ferry person was "cool with it" and put him at ease. When the ferry finally arrived, the first person off was...you guessed it...the ferry BITCH from the other side. Ooooo, BUSTED! Well she seemed more mellow than our friend had described her. She barely even glared at us ;-} Since we were already at the front, she had us loaded near the front of the boat. We were hoping that we would also get off first so we wouldn't have a lot of cars to pass on the narrow road back along the lake to Kimberly.
45 minutes later, we disembarked...not first, but near the front. Only 5 or 6 cages to pass, which we did within 5 miles. We then had a fairly clear road back to the inn. We passed on the dirt shortcut this time...sorry Hal. We had our only V-1 alert of the trip in Canada near Yahk when an RCMP "Mountie" painted us with K-band from the opposing lane. We were doing 100 kph in a 60 when the first "blurp" hit. I didn't have time to announce on the FRS, but all saw my brake lights in time and he didn't spin around and chase us. Thanks again...Mike Valentine! It was nearing dusk when we reached Cranbrook, so we found a great place to eat.
On the way back to Kimberly I demo'd the HIDs to everyone's amazement as I lit the road for 1/2 mile ahead, and everything within hundreds of yards to the sides, like a baseball stadium. It was late when we pulled into the Trickle Creek Inn. After a short time tire kicking, and an impromptu soldering clinic in the garage with my portable butane soldering iron, it was off to the room for Rick and I. The GPS showed 373 miles for today.
Day 4, August 2: A Day Off...
Rick and I decided that today we were going to hang around Kimberly and sightsee. We figured that we had traveled so far to get here, and it would be a while before we got back again, so we wanted to get a good idea of what was here. Hal and Keith, and a number of others came to the same conclusion as us. Rick and I ate a good breakfast at the Inn, as usual, then rode the bikes into town to check the sights. We met a "character" while walking around the town square. He used to work at the mine, but since retiring, has worked part time for the mining museum. He encouraged us to visit it if we had a chance. We went to the museum but got sidetracked temporarily at the library which is upstairs from the museum. Rick wanted to send an e-mail to his girl friend Jen back in Southern California. The library had computer access to the net, so he made a reservation for an hour later in the morning. We then decided to go back to the inn and wash the bikes in preparation for the group photo later that afternoon.
After the washing the bikes and kibitzing with Victor Pritzker, Rick went to the library and I went on a ride around Kimberly to see where the people lived and get an idea of the true character of the town. Kimberly is a town with an identity crisis. It doesn't know whether it is a mine town, a ski resort, or a Bavarian village. For a hundred years Kimberly was dependent on the tin mine to provide jobs for its citizens. About ten years ago the city fathers thought that the mine was closing, so in keeping with the times, they developed a Bavarian theme in the center of town. Many Germans and other folks from eastern and northern Europe emigrated to Kimberly and set up shop in the town center. Now, 10 years later, a developer has started to build a ski resort on the edge of town (Trickle Creek is part of this), and many upscale residences are being built on or near the slopes. Also, the mine is finally shutting down for good. Is it any wonder the people are confused ;-}
After about an hour, Rick came out of the library and we met Hal in the square where a Vaudeville show was going on. After the show we shopped a little then checked out the museum. It was very easy, after our museum tour, to see how the town evolved around the mine over the years. Very interesting. When we returned to the inn, Dale Wilson, AKA Warchild, was there, having just arrived aboard his CBR XX 1100 Blackbird with his daughter 11 year old Lauryn. Rick, Hal, Keith, and I took some time to soak in the spa and swim in the pool with Jeff Haar. Later, we kicked tires until it was time to line the bikes up for the group photo. After the photo Rick and I got cleaned up and rode up to the banquet on the hill above the inn.
The Banquet was one of the best that has been provided at a WeSTOC event. The food was excellent, and the entertainment was top notch. John Warga has been the official photographer at all of the WeSTOC events except the first at Park City, Utah in 1996. This evening he put on a spectacular slide show of the best images he had of these past events. Finally, the door prizes were distributed, and the Dis-organizers for next year's WeSTOC were introduced. The site was announced as Ashland, Oregon; about 50 miles from our home in Grants Pass. Maybe I can be of assistance to the Dis-organization team, as I know ALL of the good rides within 500 miles of Ashland. Good-byes were made to all and a promise to meet again next year with lots more news stories to kick tires to. As we rode back to the inn, I gave another impromptu demo of the HIDs to everyone's amazement. Rick and I hit the sack for the last night of WeSTOC VI.
Day 5, August 3: The Ride Home...
Rick and I awoke aboot (about...eh?) 0700 and packed our gear. Hal was taking a little extra time and touring Canada a bit before heading back to his home in Southern California. Rick and I planned on taking a few days to leisurely tour southern Canada and the Pacific Northwest coast on our way back to Grants Pass, Oregon. During breakfast Rick and I went over some ideas for a route home. We settled on one that would take us to Victoria on Vancouver Island for the night. We didn't realize that the upcoming weekend was THE biggest summer holiday for Canadians. All that could, would be on the road and camping the same time as we would be traveling home. This fact (and the weather) would later conspire to force us to modify our plans.
We rode the 95A down to PH3, the Crowsnest Hwy, at Cranbrook. We backtracked this, now familiar, road toward the west coast. We had heard on the Weather Channel before leaving that there was a weather front coming into Vancouver, B.C. today. So far the skies looked good and we were hopeful of a fairly dry ride today. Once past Creston and over the Kootenay River, the rolling hills and broad farmlands changed very rapidly to steep mountain passes and narrow valleys of alpine meadows. The views as we reached the entrance to each of these valleys was spectacular. Each valley had a small town and a river at one end. The mountains sloped dramatically from snow covered peaks down through thousands of feet of timber to the valley floor in one long grade. This convention continued for valley after valley as we traversed PH3. The roads were in excellent shape and RCMP presence was scarce. There were quite a number of RVs on the road, but Canada DOT provides numerous passing lanes, and most travelers were courteous in allowing us to pass. We ate lunch in Castlegar, B.C. at a Subway and gassed up both bikes. This ride has been fairly slow going because of the holiday traffic, but we were also running a bit more leisurely because of the fantastic scenery. I was trying to make our stops about 2 hours apart. Rick had definitely built up an Iron Butt over the past 4 days, but I was also cognizant of the fact he was still riding a sport bike with a narrow, almost 20 year old seat, and a fairly aggressive riding posture. Earlier in the week we had toyed with the idea of doing an SS1000 on the way home and had even laid a route out on the laptop. By the end of the week, we decided that this was too good a chance to enjoy what Canada had to offer to waste on a quick blast home.
After lunch we continued on PH3 through a decreasingly steep and mountainous terrain. The valleys became wider and longer until we arrived above the town of Osoyoos, B.C. Here Lake Osoyoos dominated a wide valley, through the center of which PH97 ran. For the last few miles into Osoyoos the road snaked in a twisty track as it dropped several thousand feet to the valley floor. The wind picked up to something just short of a gale as we entered town. It was obvious that something big was going on here as the traffic was ferocious, and the streets were filled with tourists. Also we could see ominous, dark, storm clouds to the west of Osoyoos...directly in our path to the coast. We decided that we would try to get a motel room and see if the weather looked any better tomorrow. However, after several attempts, it was obvious that there were no rooms to be had. One desk clerk said that all rooms in Canada, the Vancouver area in particular, we already taken by holiday travelers on this, the biggest, traveling weekend in Canada. We made the decision then to change our plan. We didn't mind traveling in the rain (been there done that), but there was little reason for us to ride the rain through the crowded metro area of Vancouver if we couldn't enjoy the scenery and, more importantly, wouldn't be able to find a room for the night. Visions of checking into the "Iron Butt Motel" in the rain flashed in our minds. Not appealing. So, we tuned south on PH97, crossed the CAN-U.S. border about 2 miles south of Osoyoos, and continued south toward Yakima on U.S. 97.
As we rode through the Okanogan River valley, we dodged in and out of cloud bursts. The bulk of the storm seemed to be west of us, and U.S. 97 conveniently skirted most of the squalls. The terrain was now opening up into what would eventually become the Great Columbian Basin. This is the home of the ubiquitous Columbia River. It must have driven early travelers nuts as they made their way over what, on first impression, appeared to be a huge flat plain, only to come to one steep gorge after another. Each of which required them to portage their wagons and livestock down steep cliffs, ford a raging river, then hoist what survived up the cliff on the other side. The Columbia winds a wandering path that zig zags every which way across the otherwise barren terrain from Canada to the Pacific Ocean. Somewhere south of the border we encountered an ST and rider stopped next to the road. He was talking on his cell phone as we passed. We spun a u-turn and went back to check on him. When quizzed, he, indeed, was in need of assistance, as his beloved STeed had quit on him. Rick and I dismounted and checked things out. The bike was a late model with very few miles on the odo. It was so unusual to find an ST1100 that refused to run, that we all just sat there for awhile trying to figure out what the problem was. The symptoms that the rider presented us with were that the bike had started running badly earlier in the day and quit several times. It would then restart after about an hour and be O.K. for another couple of hours. He thought he might have gotten some bad fuel, so he took on new fuel as soon as possible. Everything seemed O.K. for several hours, and he thought the problem was fixed, when it just quit again where we found him. He had called a tow truck and was going to haul it back to the nearest town. He lived in Yakima, Washington, so we knew he would be all right in any event and rode on. After getting back home and reading the e-mail liST, I learned that several STOCers had virtually the same problem after leaving Kimberly. Hal was one of those so plagued. It turned out to apparently be faulty auto-petcocks. Too bad we didn't know this at the time. It is fairly easy to bypass said valve and get the bike running. Sometimes it is tough having such a reliable bike as the ST1100, as you get "rusty" in the troubleshooting department.
U.S. 97 skirts the east slope of the Cascade mountain range as it follows the track of the Okanogan River and, finally, the Columbia at Brewster, WA. It becomes obvious as you travel this road, that the major agricultural emphasis of this region is apples. We were in "apple country" all of the way to Wenatchee, WA. As we passed Lake Chelan on the way to Wenatchee, my mind flashed back to May of 2000 when we stayed a week on the lake. It was a fine, peaceful stay, and we had a great time enjoying the solitude and gorgeous scenery.
We pulled into Wenatchee a 1/2 hour prior to sundown and filled our gas tanks and our bellies. We had traveled over 440 miles and I thought a room for the night would be a good move. Again, all rooms were filled. Rick was up for continuing on, so we headed west on U.S. 2, the scenic Steven's Hwy. This is one of the most beautiful rides in the Northwest, unfortunately it was dark, and we were not able to enjoy it like we could have. I did notice the alpine/Bavarian theme to many of the towns as we cruised through them. All lodgings were filled, and it was obvious this was the weekend destination of choice for most of the metropolitan Seattle-Tacoma megalopolis. We were on high alert for animals the entire time on hwy 2 as it was prime time and locale for them. However, for the entire 108 miles, we didn't see a single sign of 4-legged beast. Lots of 4-WHEELED beasts however, as there was a steady stream of SUVs in the opposing lane all of the way to Seattle. This made for some tough driving as I was unable to use my HIDs and PIAA 910s to full advantage. Also, I believe Washington DOT could take a lesson from Canada DOT on how to provide adequate passing lanes on their mountain roads. Also Washington drivers could use some lessons in pulling off at turnouts to let faster traffic by. We hit a bit of fog at the summit, be no rain until we were out of the mountains and within 1/2 hour of Monroe, WA. Rick wanted to see downtown Seattle during the daylight, so after several tries, we found a vacancy in a budget rate motel in Monroe. It was after midnight and we had been on the road for over 16 hours. I was getting a bit perturbed by the fact that the big chains (ie: Best Western, Motel 8, Holiday Inn) don't have vacancy/no vacancy signs outside. We had to park our bikes, get off, un-suit, ask the desk clerk if they had any vacancies, listen to their B.S as to why there weren't any in the whole world, suit back up, and ride to the next place with no "sign" then go through the whole "horse and pony show" again :-( The GPS showed 544 miles for today.
Day 6, August 4: Back home again...
The train only came by every hour, and it was on the other side of the motel (50 feet away), so we had a pretty restful night...NOT! Do you remember that "I Love Lucy" episode?..... Anyway, the next morning, after helping some kids push their dead Ford Explorer across the street to a service station, Rick and I ate breakfast then headed south on SR 522 toward Seattle. 522 soon connects with I 405 which skirts the east side of Seattle Bay. This is fantastic country...very green...you can SEE that it rains here allot (constantly? ;-} There are ferns and moss growing everywhere and on everything. The 405 runs through a tunnel of greenery, so it is impossible to see the Seattle skyline from there. Therefore, we split off on SR 520 and to pickup the I-5 and rode through the center of downtown Seattle. The harbor leading into the downtown area was inspiring. This is definitely a sea port. If one lived in this area, owning a boat would be a definite must. It is possible to travel inland waterways from Olympia, WA to well into Alaska. A person could spend their entire life here and never see all of the shoreline reachable by small boat. Downtown Seattle is much different than the last time I was there in 1974. It could be any big city in the U.S. As a matter-of-fact, it looked very much like downtown Los Angeles.
We rode for at least an hour until we cleared the Megalopolis of Seattle/Tacoma. In fact the urban sprawl was evident clear to Olympia, WA. Once clear of Olympia and the sea port, the land took on the familiar (to us) look of the coastal plain. We made one stop for gas and a snack in Chehalis, WA. Then it was back on the superslab. Many (make that MOST) of the drivers we encountered in Washington, refused to give up the left lane, even if no vehicles were in the right lane (on 4-lane highways). I finally just passed everyone by riding almost exclusively in the right lane as there was very little traffic there. The scenery consisted of wooded rolling hills and grass covered farmlands all of the way to Portland, OR and the Columbia River where it takes on the look of a sea port again. Portland is a much more laid back city than Seattle, and on this weekend it was especially easy to traverse. It may have been just because we were glad to finally be back home in Oregon after nearly a week in Washington and British Columbia, but everything and everyone seemed much more friendly here. The drivers, even though far from the best drivers I have ever seen, at least routinely drive in the right lane except to pass. Sometimes, on two laners, they also will even pull off on turnouts to let me by ;-]
The superslab ride from Portland to Eugene is one long fertile valley, mostly consisting of one farm after another, interrupted occasionally by a small town. There are very few trees or non-crop vegetation of any kind in the Willamette Valley. It resembles the San Joaquin Valley of California in this respect. Many years ago, the Willamette Valley was home to the largest population of Ring-necked Pheasant in the West. Years of modern clear-cut farming methods have eliminated the vital cover that Pheasant need to survive. The only Ring necks to be found in the Willamette are now on private hunt preserves. Rick and I stopped in Eugene for lunch and gas. Eugene is a pretty little town of moderate industry, by Oregonian standards. It is at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers. It is a college town..the home to the University of Oregon. Its once booming lumber industry a shadow of its former self, since the growth of the "environmental movement" has made it non-PC to cut trees.
Once back on the road, Rick and I began the start of, arguably, the best stretch of I-5 between Mexico and Canada. The track quickly climbs out of the valley, leaving the vast expanses grasslands a faint memory. Things rapidly become more interesting as the road winds its way through heavily forested mountains of Pine, Fur, Ash, Madrone, and Oak broken by small valleys of green grass, and punctuated by low passes. This is some of the finest "SPORT-touring" tarmac to be had anywhere, IMHO. After a couple hours of well banked sweepers and short straights formed from well maintained aggregate, well pulled out and landed at Hugo...our turnoff for home. Another 1/2 hour of technical twisties over the back roads that form part of my local "playground," we were driving up the 1/8th mile of gravel that is my driveway in the foothills of Grants Pass. Still early afternoon; we had made good time on the "slab." Ahhhh...home sweet home. The GPS showed 450 miles for today.