The Finest Motorcycle Road Trip Plan of All – Maybe

When I worked at Cycle Barn, and for my first year at Ride West BMW, I led two separate 3 day rides that tended to be my favorite rides of each year.

The first took place in June, and was called “Lolo Pass – or not.”  This consisted of a one day ride on more or less back roads ride to Clarkston, in the south east corner of the state. The 2nd day was used for a ride over Lolo Pass for those who had not done that. After a couple of years I developed a 2nd option for those who had done Lolo at least once. This was a ride to a little-known town called Elk River.  Elk River is a  dead end ride, unless you have an adventure bike, but the ride out and back are priceless.  Miles and miles of winding curves along a river, with virtually no traffic and thus minimal State Patrol presence.

The Idaho State Patrol evidently spends its human resources on Lolo Pass, where one of our number got a ticket for 2mph over the limit while couple rode by on their Harleys drinking beer, helmetless, wearing shorts and t-shirts.  Legally. Bah and humbug.

The 3rd day was a ride back across Washington, where we often were able to get lost with amusing results.

This ride grew over the years, and expanded, as there are dozens of options. One year a separate group made a 4 day ride out of it, spending the first day romping over the North Cascades.  At its peak almost 40 motorcycles made the trip, but I was never riding in a group larger than ten.

The fall trip was to Bend, Oregon. Once again, a one day ride to Bend with at least some corners along the way. The second day was a 300 plus mile loop to the west of Bend, and the 3rd day a meandering route back.  The last time I did this one I was gifted a tremendous return route by Gary Thye, Ride West owner Keith Thye’s brother, Oregon resident, and all around fine human being.

Fast forward a couple of years and a snafu ensued with Tom Mehren, publisher of Sound Rider magazine.  That debacle is detailed elsewhere on this site, but it was four years ago and deserves to be left in the past. The upshot was that, after years of promoting Tom’s Rally in the Gorge event, and many hours spent assisting with its operation, I found myself banned from the event!

I felt this was unfair to an extreme, and the assault on my reputation did not rest easy.  One day it occurred to me that I could combine the two three day rides into one spectacular 5 day adventure.  I thought it would be fun to offer this the same week as the Rally in the Gorge, but Ride West management thought that would just be mean.  My wife agreed that the plan was riddled through with spite, so I abandoned my nefarious plans.

It dawned on me the other day (I can be very slow) that I have never done this ride. I hope to remedy that this year.  What follows are the route plans, which you are free to use. However, I am not sure they are entirely accurate, and I have not included my preferred motels.  I’ll check it over more carefully and add the motels, should the ride come to pass.  After the route directions, I have added some highlights of the ride.

Elk City and Bend –  5 day trip

Day #1         Home to Clarkston           8am brekkie           9am start

  1. 9:00 AM depart North Bend McDonalds (fuel)
  2. EAST on I-90 to Ritzville Exit #221 – RIGHT on SR 261
  3. Across SR 261 into Washtucna (lunch at Sonny’s) (fuel)
  4. SOUTH on SR 261 and LEFT (still SR 261) to Starbuck (fuel)
  5. Through Starbuck to US 12- LEFT on US 12 (East) to Clarkston               

Day #2         Clarkston to Elk River to Clarkston  6am brekkie  7am depart

  1. NORTH on 5TH ST toward DIAGONAL ST/WA-129 0.1 mile
  2. SLIGHT RIGHT onto DIAGONAL ST/WA-129 0.3 mile
  3. DIAGONAL ST/WA-129 becomes US-12 (into IDAHO) 0.4 mile
  4. RIGHT onto SNAKE RIVER AVE                                   0.1 mile
  5. RIGHT onto DIKE BYP. 1.9 miles
  6. LEFT onto MAIN ST/US-12 E. US-12 E. 72.3 miles
  7. Pause for fuel.
  8. Continue to follow ID-13. 15.1 miles
  9. SLIGHT LEFT onto ID-14. 49.6 miles
  10. End at Elk City, ID (fuel) 64.85 miles
  11. Return on ID-14.                                                   41.0 miles
  12. Slight LEFT on MT IDAHO GRADE ROAD 9.6 miles
  13. LEFT at STOP on Main Street
  14. Grangeville, ID Bishop’s Bistro (food / fuel)               51.41 miles
  15. Through Grangeville to
  16. RIGHT onto US-95 N. 37.2 miles or so
  17. LEFT at “Winchester” sign – gas station also (fuel)           
  18. Continue on small road to WINCHESTER GRADE
  19. LEFT at STOP (T) on US 95
  20. LEFT at US 12
  21. Return to Clarkston

Day #3         Clarkston to Bend – 6am brekkie – 7am depart

  1. South from Clarkston on SR 129 through Anatone
  2. Pause at Bogan’s Run for ice cream
  3. Into Oregon on Oregon 3
  4. RIGHT on 82 at ENTERPRISE  (fuel)
  5. LEFT on I 84 at LA GRANDE
  6. RIGHT on 7 at BAKER CITY
  7. RIGHT on 26 at BATES
  8. LEFT on 126 at PRINEVILLE
  9. LEFT on 97 at REDMOND
  10. Bend
  11. Exit 137 for Revere Ave – merge onto NW Wall – right on NW Harriman


Day #4         Depart 8am

  1. LEFT out of Motel
  2. RIGHT at LIGHT onto NW Revere
  3. LEFT (North) at LIGHT onto US-20 (US 97 Bus.) for .3 mile
  4. LEFT (West) onto OB Riley Road for 1.6 miles
  5. Right to become COOK AVENUE
  6. LEFT on US 20 to Sisters. Fuel at the Shell station

Stroll to breakfast

  1. Continue west on Highway 126, McKenzie Highway. 

Stop at the observatory at the Lava Fields

  1. Continue west to Rainbow. (about 45 miles). LEFT at T 
  2. At NFR 19, take a left (you can only go left) towards

Cougar Reservoir.  Also Aufederheide Scenic Highway

  1. STRAIGHT at STOP (covered bridge to your right)
  2. Oakridge – fuel and food, then SOUTH or EAST (however it’s marked) on SR 58.
  3. 35 miles or so – LEFT at Crescent Cutoff road.  (County Road 61)
  4. LEFT at County Road46 (Cascade Lakes Highway)
  5. Arrive at Bend (85 or so more miles)

Day #5         Depart 8am 

  1. NORTH from Bend on 97 to WEST on 20 to SISTERS
  2. Pause in Sisters for breakfast and fuel.
  3. WEST from SISTERS on 20/126
  4. RIGHT on 22
  6. becomes NFS 46 – becomes 224
  7. 224 to Estacada to I-205 to I-5 to home


Seattle to Clarkston:  Lunch in Washtucna.  I LOVED stopping at “Sonny’s” for lunch.  Washtucna has very few operating businesses, and Sonny’s has little to recommend it as a dining establishment.  But I loved the fact that “Sonny” greeted you at the door, took your orders, prepared the food and served it. One year we had about 25 people who showed up at about the same time (several of them had used different routes to get there) and afterward Sonny was outside smoking a cigarette and looking exhausted. We also had many memorable conversations with local residents.

In Clarkston: Just across the river is “Old Spiral Loop Road,” the finest stretch of pavement in the state. It rises from the river’s edge up and up and up for about 13 miles with dozens of corners, several of them hairpins. This ride can be done in the late evening of the first day or the morning or evening of the 2nd. It is magic.

To Elk City: You will think you are in a dream. Spectacular scenery of woods and rushing river water, and over 50 miles of corners, in each direction.  Lots of room to spread out, and one year I marveled that I was “leading” about 30 riders on this route and had been riding by myself for almost an hour. Some go faster, some slower, and some pause for pictures…it’s all good.

Grangeville:  “Bishop’s Bistro,” assuming it is still there, is highly recommended for good food and a sarcastic waitress.

Winchester Grade:  Finest road in Idaho. You find it by turning left off the main highway at the tall pillar with the pink Cadillac impaled on it.  (!) This road runs downhill for 15 miles or so. There is no traffic, and lots of hairpins. These grab your attention because there are no guard rails on the outside of the corners – just a long view into a lot of empty space. A bit of caution is advised.

To Bend:  You stop at “Bogan’s Run” after a 50 mile ride down the slopes of what could pass for the Swiss Alps, but warmer. By the bottom you will have earned a break. You have ice cream here because – everyone does!

The route from “Bogan’s Run” to Bend I have ridden in parts, but often when I did not know where I was, so there are many details along the way I will remember when I get to them.

Bend:  The motel we used had a large expanse of lawn and tables, and a covered pool. Bend also has a lively night life with micro-breweries and jazz clubs and such. I preferred a picnic dinner from the local Safeway and a lounge on the lawn, but those who walked the few blocks to the entertainment raved about it.

Sisters:  We always stopped for fuel at the Shell station in Sisters because it belonged to the brother of a friend. Good a reason as any. There are several excellent choices of breakfast fare.

Lava Fields: Be sure to catch the abrupt left turn leaving town so you do not miss the ride to the Lave Fields. Spectacular ride and pause to climb the lava tower for the scenic views. After that the ride gets better! The road is closed off to long trucks, as the hairpins are too sharp. One year a corner had highway workers with leaf blowers getting rid of pine needles that might cause problems. Bravo.  Pause to rest at the end – you will need it.

Cougar Reservoir:  Another great place for a break. Followed by 60 miles or so of intensity to reach Oakridge.  The ride back to Bend is peaceful, and by now you will be grateful for it.

Final Day:  Another several hours of winding roads with no traffic through forests and farmland.  Once you reach I-5, your last task is to hope for mild traffic for the freeway slog home.


Copyright 2015                  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?
This entry was posted in Motorcycles, Rants and Raves. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply