Triumph Bonneville Touring 2017 Part II
For this adventure I had the great benefit of friends to increase the enjoyment. Four of them, to be exact. Even better, we were on 5 different brands of motorcycle. It takes a village.
Me on my Triumph Bonneville T120
50 years of experience – medium speed bike
Donna on a Honda CFX700 Cruiser
Several years of experience – slow bike
Rick on a Ducati Multistrada
Decades of experience –fast bike
Pat on a BMW R 1200R
Lots of experience and track days –fast bike
Gary on a Kawasaki 650 Versys
Years of experience – medium speed bike
The plan was to meander across Washington to the Southeast, ending in Lewiston, Idaho, Day 2 would take us South into Oregon to Ukiah. Along the way for Day 2 and 3 we intended to pause for pictures at ghost towns located on or very near pavement, as most of our motorcycles are not that dirt friendly. Visiting ghost towns was the stated reason for the trip, which in motorcycle terms is synonymous for the excuse. It’s not enough to just sail off into the hinterlands for no reason, is it?
Day 3 would end in Sisters, Oregon, and the last day would be a route virtually identical to the first day of my ride to California two weeks ago, but in reverse.
Most of the group rides I plan begin at our Friday morning brekkie meetings, which occur every week that does not coincide with a holiday. The group varies from about 4 regulars to a maximum of 13 or so, and sometimes there’s a half day or so ride after. Alas, most of these people have actual jobs, so those rides are a tad rare.
Leaving on July 14th and returning on the 18th, we had the advantage of a forecast of no rain for the entire trip. I can deal with that.
The trip across Washington was uneventful, and I have done it many times before. A highlight is lunch at “Sonny’s” in Washtucna, one of the few functioning businesses left in what was once a bustling burg. The original owner won the restaurant in a high stakes poker game next door at the Grange hall, and I was told that back in the day these games drew well-heeled or pro gamblers from all over the northwest.
The ride from Washtucna to Lewiston is one of my favorites featuring a 20 mile romp on a winding and hilly back road SR 261 to Highway 12, and then on to Clarkston/Lewiston. Every time I am struck by the large signs denoting the path of the original Lewis and Clarke expedition. The sheer labor involved staggers the mind. Amusingly, I rode this route for several years before the origin of the names Clarkston and Lewiston sank in!
The Cedars Inn in Clarkston is clean and cheap, and features a pool. A pool is welcome after a day’s ride in mid-90s heat, until you realize that is gets quite cold at night and the pool retains that lack of heat. Wow!
Up and at’em the next morning, after a small breakfast featuring the waffles you make yourself – I love those! The roads winds south into a downward canyon tour of multiple curves and scenery so spectacular you have to pull over for pictures, which we did. And almost no traffic as well.
At the bottom you reach “Boggin’s Oasis.” For years I’ve referred to this small eatery as “Boggin’s Run,” and I don’t know why. For that matter, I’m not sure why it’s called an Oasis. It sits by a river at the bottom of two steep canyons. A great place to stop if you want to be free of interruptions, as there is no cell phone service. In this case the group decided the waffles were not enough of a breakfast, so we chose to sit at an outside table, bask in the sun and scenery, and enjoy a long and laugh-filled full breakfast meal.
Which put us far behind the time schedule in my head. No matter, as this did not seem to concern anyone but me. We resumed our travels and coursed toward LeGrande, where I got lost. I missed the sign or signs for the small highway I was looking for and found myself in downtown LeGrande. I was looking for a shady spot that could fit 5 bikes so we could assess my error, and I found a parking lot next to a lot of blocked off street signs. To my delight I discovered that LaGrande was holding a hot rod show!
I’ve had a “rule” for over 40 years. A car show in a small town means I’m going to stop. Nobody disagreed with this sensible position, and a glance at the map showed a small highway that led to Ukiah, our destination for the evening. It was about 65 miles. My original route would be about 100 miles longer. It was after noon already and well over 90 degrees, so all agreed to a sensible change of plan. Dump the ghost towns quest, enjoy the car show, and off to Ukiah! Perhaps next year for the ghost towns.
The car show was spectacular. There were more entries than I would’ve thought (several blocks of them), and of a much higher quality than I could have hoped for.
We reached Ukiah in the late afternoon, after some fantastic roads. It was exciting to see a coyote in a field looking at me curiously. Along the way Pat and Rick raced on ahead to play. I was by myself somewhere in the middle, and Rick and Donna out of sight to the rear. Pretty much perfect – the pleasure of riding alone and the benefits of riding in a group combined.
The “Stage Stop Motel and RV Park” in Ukiah was a treat. Elderly owners Louise and Don look like they might teach Sunday school, and have 6 small cabins, and spacious manicured lawns for campers. Our visit began well.
As we checked in, glad to be out of the heat, I posed a question to Louise. “I don’t suppose you have… a pool?”
She laughed and replied, slowly, “You’re in Ukiah.”
Don piped in with “There’s a creek across the street.”
Louise: “If you strip down to your next to nothings you might be able to get some water on your ass.”
Oh wow – I like these people!
Our cabins were not quite ready, so we rode into town, all of three blocks, and filled up at the only pump. I then went to the store and sussed out ingredients for a picnic dinner. Everyone else would choose to walk to the only restaurant for dinner. As I came out of the store there was an older guy on a Harley, and he said “Wow – you sure see a lot more Triumphs on the road these days.” We chatted for a minute and then, unbelievably, two more Triumph Bonnevilles showed up. I wondered if there was a Triumph event going on that I had not heard about. Lance and Arnie are from Portland and were looking for a place to camp. We knew just the place!
Back in camp we settled in and met our neighbor. Tyler had a small camper and a well-used Nissan SUV. A forest firefighter and ex-Marine. He regaled us with stories of a trip to South America last year rife with myriad adventures, and then Lance and Arnie joined the group. Now we had 8 people sitting around telling stories, and it turns out that my friends Rick and Pat are both experts on old TV shows, songs, and movies, and both are skilled in multiple accents from places all over the world, as well as several movie and cartoon characters. Soon they were replaying various scenes, perhaps in the voices of an Australian and Daffy duck or any of a myriad of other combinations. One of the most entertaining evenings ever.
Sunday morning we were at the restaurant when it opened at 8am. Another very long and slow, but enjoyable, breakfast. I tried to keep myself in check, as I was itching to go but I knew we had a pretty short day. In fact, we did not depart until 10am, which is appalling by my normal standard, but again the roads were fantastic combinations of hills and valleys and corners and scenery.
We stopped for fuel in Fossil, where I managed to get lost, which is difficult in such a small town. Rick led us to the gas station, and then it was off to the West to Antelope, and then the marvelous ten miles or so up to Shaniko.
Somewhere in here we had a great group experience. Donna had an issue with a floorboard on her Honda that had come loose. By the time she explained the problem she already had the correct tool in her hand. I was impressed that none of the men felt they needed to leap to her rescue. We all stood and yakked while Donna took care of the problem herself. This is compliment to her, and a lesser compliment to the men!
We were winding down a great day heading South on 95 to Redmond when disaster came to pay a visit. Rick was leading Pat, with me close behind, and Donna and Gary back a ways. Suddenly, with no warning, there was a tire rolling down the left hand lane toward us! We think it had bounced out of the rear of a pick-up truck, but it all happened so fast we’re not real sure. Rick and Pat and I were all hard on the brakes, being careful not to hit each other. Rick was trying to read the tire as it rolled to the left toward him and then back to the right. Just as it looked like we would be OK the tire turned left at ran right into Rick’s left foot at a combined speed of about 100mph.
He did not crash, and wobbled ahead for a bit and then parked on the right shoulder. He hopped off the bike and proceeded to deliver an amazing string of profanities, as he was in a lot of pain. First thought was a broken toe. We were afraid to take off his boot lest he not be able to put it back on. Instead, we rode on to Sisters and our motel for the night. Pat and Gary and Donna and I went off to secure vittles for a picnic dinner, leaving Rick behind with ice on his foot.
Sunday dinner was at a picnic table behind the room Pat and I shared, and Rick’s toe went from agony to discomfort. By morning his diagnosis had changed to severe bruising – a very fortunate outcome given the circumstances.
Our last day began with a highlight. West from Sisters to the Lava Fields and a fantastic observation tower built from lava. Pat had never been here and was entranced. Then the fabulous twists and turns for 25 miles or so to the T at 126. From there you run North and then West and then North again on 22 to Detroit. We stopped here and there just to drink it all in.
Lunch in Detroit was another surprise. The restaurant was full of all sorts of objet’s d art that resembled motorcycle sculptures of a steam punk sort of sensibility. And all sorts of other stuff. Fantastic. As we prepared for the final 250 miles of our adventure two fellows on Harleys showed up. They had left Florida a month earlier, ridden to Alaska, and were now on their way down to the Bay Area and then across the country to home. Just a bit more of an adventure than ours!
Eventually we reached I-205 and then on to I-5 and the long slog home. Fortunately the traffic was not too horrid.
1200 miles of bliss in 4 days – and home! There were no mechanical issues, except for the loose floorboard on Donna’s Honda. My Triumph continued to return over 50mpg while running perfectly.
Next up – a four day trip into British Columbia in September.
Copyright 2017 David Preston