The Triumph Tour of Gentlemen

 The Triumph Tour of Gentlemen

Can you tour on a Triumph Bonneville T 120? Of course you can. You can “tour” on any motorcycle capable of maintaining safe highway speeds – which in some areas approaches 80 mph.   The question is always how to define “tour” and what sort of trip you want.

For me and a few of my friends, a great “tour” is about 4 days long.  Most of us have done much longer journeys of a week to several weeks, but with the demands of jobs and families there is much to recommend the 4 day adventure. Many people can shave a Friday and Monday off their allotted vacation time, and leaving on a Friday and returning on a Monday can eliminate some of the morning and evening megalopolis traffic crush.

We’re also averse to the “Iron Butt” sort of trip.  By keeping the mileage down we’re free to stop anywhere for almost any length of time – for a picture, a break, a surprise hot rod show in a small town, time lost to construction or…ahem…getting lost.  I plan each day to be about 250 to 350 miles in length, which is absurdly short to folks who prefer to roam the freeways. Our preference is two lane back roads that are seldom used by almost anyone, and they eat up time, even at brisk speeds.

From the Seattle area, and perhaps yours, you can cover a lot of interesting pavement in a 1,000 – 1,400 mile loop. The coast of Oregon, the friendly folks and spacious skies of Canada, the wonders of eastern Washington, the California northeast tangle of wondrous roads – there are years and years of options for such trips.

Where to stay? Although most of the folks who go with me can afford finer accommodations, my preference is 2nd or 3rd tier motels. The Internet will pop up several in any town you expect to visit.  I prefer to phone for reservations in person, rather than using the computer. You can tell a lot about a place by the voice and manner of whomever answers the phone. With a small motel, you are probably talking to the owner, who is eager to help and has lots of information about local attractions and restaurants.

Just back from such a four day wander, and the experience proves the point – at least to me.

I plan these trips in an old school way using paper maps. An excellent use of time during our dreary days of February rain.  Using computer technology and applications might be more efficient and faster, but certainly less fun. Once the route has sort of been finalized (it is never actually final) the word goes out to friends, and eventually a group of five to eight people will be formed.

In this case we had six people, one of whom had never done a group trip and had returned to riding recently – and that provided some interesting perspectives along the way.  Two people on 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120s, and four on BMWs – a pair of 1200 RTs, a R1200S, and a K1200S, if I have the model nomenclatures correct. The title of “Triumph Tour of Gentlemen” is thus a bit of a stretch, but the author gets to title!  One of the people was new to everyone else, which is a bit of a risk, but it worked out very well.

A word to the women: I’m well aware that women can and do ride, and we usually have at least one female in the group.  On this occasion it was all male, and they were all, indeed, gentlemen!

We met for breakfast and set of for Canada by the most interesting way to get there. The North Cascades Highway is considered by many to be the most beautiful road in Washington, with a pause for lunch in Twisp and then north to the little town of Oroville.  Perfect weather certainly got us off to a great start.

Our motel was the Camaray, and I consistently forgot to ask how it got the name. Our rooms were clean and well-equipped, and I was surprised by the pool, which I did not expect for such modest lodgings.  Added interest came from the beer brewery across the street, Eva’s diner a half a block away for breakfast, and a fine restaurant across the other street that served the wares created by the brewery. I was not that hungry, and not ordering anything proved wise, as all of my friends ordered more than each could eat, so I had a fine amateur smorgasbord!  Our mileage for the day was an easy and gentlemanly 263 miles of great weather, fantastic scenery, and gently violated speed limits.

Back in the room I noticed something hanging in the shower, a black and gray fabric something that I took to be some sort of do-rag that Brian wore under his helmet, even though I could not recall him using one. Later I learned that he had seen it and had the same reaction about me!  Further investigation behind the shower curtain revealed two items. The black and silver number was actually a bra, and next to it was some sort of grey camisole thingy.  We thought this highly amusing. The next morning, after a shower, I discovered two more items tucked away in a corner of the shower curtain. Panties!  One pair for an average size woman and one for either a small woman or a girl.

Being a boy scout, I returned them to the office. The owner did not see the humor of this at all, and was embarrassed and a bit peeved at her housekeeping staff. I assured her that the discoveries had been fun for us, and her motel was a treat. We hope to stay there again.

After breakfast we headed for the Canadian border, a scant 8 miles away. Crossing the border was easy and took only a few minutes, the Canadian border guard figuring correctly that six middle-aged or older men on motorcycles did not constitute much of a threat to the good people of Canada.

Off to Osoyoos and the Peachland Hot Rod Show.  There was confusion as to its location, as there is also a town called Peachland a few dozen miles north. At this point we realized most of our super smart phone and GPS technology was not working very well in Canada (for various reasons), and none of us had brought maps!  I ALWAYS carry paper maps, but somehow I’d spaced this time.

After a stop for fuel and some conversation with a couple of locals, we found the hot rod show, and were gobsmacked.  It was huge!  Far more than a mile of all sorts of vehicles of every modified description.  We quickly got separated into groups of two or three, and spent way more time than expected ogling and inspecting and in some cases wondering why the owner had gone in a particular direction.

Back at the bikes we realized that we were now far behind our tentative schedule, and our planned route for the rest of the day would be very long. Eric suggested returning south and then heading east on Canadian 3, which was the brightest idea of the trip.

I’d been there 30 years ago, but forgotten that the ride from Osoyoos to the east on 3 is a magical experience.  I rode for 100 miles non-stop, and it was a highlight of the trip.  Patrick and Will decided to romp ahead, and disappeared into the future.  Kirk and Brian stopped for pictures here and there, and I spent most of the time riding by myself, which was fine by all.

We have some unwritten rules for rides like these that work for us. Of course Kirk did not know them, as they are unwritten and nobody had told him.  For your potential interest then:

  1. Always ride your own bike at your own chosen pace.
  2. If you are the leader, you have some responsibility to keep an eye on the people behind you.
  3. If you wish to go faster, that is fine. Just allow plenty of space and always pass on the left.  (In countries that drive on the right)
  4. You are now the leader. If someone or two go with you, a new and smaller group has been created.
  5. If you are wont to stop for pictures, letting people know ahead of time is nice, but not required.
  6. If you prefer to ride at a slower pace or have a motorcycle that requires it, good for you. Please do so rather than trying to keep up at a pace that is uncomfortable. Those in front will be happy to stop once in a while for the group to coalesce.  If they do want to do that, don’t ride with them.
  7. The person with the shortest fuel range should fill the tank whenever anyone else does.

We re-convened at a gas stop, which was handy as Wil and I both had that little angry low fuel yellow light blaring at us from the instruments.

There are actually three ways to cross back into the US. The first will take you down to 395 on the way to Spokane. The second will take you to Keller and then on to our stop for the night in Colville.  But we went for a third, taking 3B short of Castlegar and heading for the border south and east of Rossland. Serious error. As we cruised toward the border we passed a large sign stating that the border was open from 9am to 5pm. I assumed I’d read it incorrectly, and recalled a jest from earlier in the day when I asked “What happens if the border is closed?”  Now I noticed that there was no traffic at all on this highway.  Then we came across two people in-line skating down the middle of the road.  Uh oh. Then a 2nd sign repeating the first, and finally the border – closed as advertised.

Now it was getting toward very late afternoon. We returned to Rossland to find our way to the correct border crossing and got lost – again.  I led the group on a bizarre wending way up a series of stepped narrow roads between houses on the cliff, which some of the members of the group thought was terrific.  After stopping to chat with ever-friendly Canadians – twice – we eventually got back to the border crossing we should have gone to in the first place.  The US border guard was also friendly  (another stereotype shattered) and once on US soil my phone worked again and I could call the motel in Colville to assure them we were still intending to be there. 

Our motel this time was the Selkirk, which has little to recommend it. My friends all decamped up the street for dinner, while I rode to the local Safeway and picked up vittles for a relaxing picnic on the park bench in front of my room.  Alas, this motel did not feature discarded women’s underwear.  Our mileage today was about 350 miles, due to our self-inflicted route errors, but everyone agreed it had been a fantastic adventure.

The next morning we loaded up with a fine meal at a restaurant with an outside table, and then were off to Sherman Pass and on to Republic.  Then down toward the Grand Coulee dam, with an empty road and great scenery.  Patrick had never seen the dam, so it made for a handy stop, with lunch afterward, and then a short detour to a vantage point high above the damn I had never seen before.  Kirk had decided to spend more time at the visitor’s center, so we missed him at lunch, but he was sure he could find Waterville by himself.

The ride to Waterville was pleasant but also taxing, as we were up against a very strong headwind. This is tiring on a Bonneville with only a fly screen to deflect, especially at, ahem, elevated speeds, and I was tired by the time we got to Waterville.

This was our shortest day, at about 220 miles or so, but that was fine.

The historic Waterville hotel is an absolute treat, and a must stop for your travels. David the proprietor has a wild and wacky sense of humor, but also a wonderful facility. He refused to check us in before we had a tour, as there were several options.  In the end, Brian and Eric and I had a vast suite, with three beds in separate locations, a living room, two exits, and a completely equipped kitchen.  Patrick and Wil had a two bed room upstairs, and Kirk, who caught up to us, had his own room.

Once disadvantage of this hotel on a Sunday is that there are no restaurants open after 5pm. However, the mini-mart up the street had beer and snacks, which was really all that was needed after a hefty lunch. We relaxed on the porch.   David came out to announce that our mutual friend Robert had e-mailed him to state that I had an underwear story for him. I related the Oroville tale, and David brought out a huge box of miscellaneous underthings left by previous visitors!   He asked me not to take a picture and post it, because many people have no sense of humor.  Then he uttered the funniest line of the trip.

“You don’t make any money renting rooms. The real profit comes from selling stuff like this on e-bay!”   (He was kidding!)

Our last day began with a spirited romp up to Twisp for fuel, and then a return over 20 to Marblemount and then home.  Alas, the weather that had been so nice had turned, and we spent the day in and out of wind and very cold rain.  I hate intermittent rain days, because your gear gets wet, and then the rain stops and your gear is evaporative cooling you as it dries (when you are cool enough, thank you) and then it rains again.  Especially if the water proofing fails on your jacket, and then your pants, and finally boots.  Much worse for Kirk the rookie. He had read the weather reports and believed them – NOBODY does that – and had not brought any rain gear at all. Nice that a T 120 has heated grips, at least.

Due to the weather and various end points, we actually said our farewells in Twisp, and came across each other at various points on the way home. I paused in Marblemount, for example, for a cup of hot coffee and a candy bar while I waited for the rain to let up.  Alas, it did not, so there was nothing left to do but ride home to a long hot shower.

All told, 1,040 miles, and it was bliss.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2018                       David Preston




About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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1 Response to The Triumph Tour of Gentlemen

  1. Eric Bell says:

    Hey Dave, thanks for writing this trip report. It was a really enjoyable four days.

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