A Wonderful 6 Day Motorcycle Trip
This past week featured one of the finest motorcycle trips I’ve experienced in 48 years of riding. What made it so special?
The participants, for one thing. We had 7 riders. The age span was over 50 years and the horsepower span over 100. Those involved were:
Name Bike Area(s) of Expertise
Bill Hucks Honda CBR 250 Routes/Medical
Bowen Hucks Kawasaki Ninja 250 Youthful zest / Tinder!
Marv Travis Kawasaki ZX 14 Routes/ Experience
Tony Basile Ducati ST 4S Technology/ Mechanical
Pat Cordell BMW R 1200R Technology
Wil Wen BMW K 1200S Technology
Me Triumph Speed Triple Misc. stories?
Even better, Bill Hucks was a student of mine in 1969. Bowen is his son. Marv was a parent whose children I taught in the early 1980s.
I’ve never experienced a week of anything with this many people where nobody ever said anything I found irritating or objectionable, and each person added expertise in a wide range of areas for our evening discussions and humor of various kinds was a constant. In short, pretty much the perfect group. That is very rare.
The intent of the ride was to glue together two group rides of three days each I used to lead from 2000 – 2010. The base for one was Clarkston, Washington. Bend, Oregon for the other. Bill Hucks did a masterful job of creating the Day 3 ride route between the two.
We started our adventure from our usual brekkie group that meets Friday morning, with the intent that five of us would meet Wil Wen and Pat Cordell at the Indian John rest area on I-90. Of course, nothing ever goes to plan on these rides, which is part of their charm. First we added a backroads route that would bypass that rest area. A flurry of confusion and text messages later, we rode by the Indian John stop anyway, but Will and Pat were already heading for the alternate meet-up spot, the Chevron in Ellensburg. Turns out there are two of Chevron stations, but after more confusion the group was formed.
We rode the old Ellensburg/Vantage highway, and then crossed the Columbia and rode East on W26 for a lunch stop at “Sonny’s” in Washtucna.
I have a long history with Sonny’s, having been charmed by its simplicity many years ago. I wore my official Sonny’s t-shirt for the occasion, and we were greeted by an effusive proprietor. In our chats with him we learned that Sonny dies a few years ago, and that he had originally won the restaurant in a high stakes poker game next door!
After lunch we departed from the original plan again for a meandering route that Bill knew that featured spectacular and lonely scenery.
Our first and second night’s accommodation was the Cedars Inn in Lewiston, Idaho, which was adequate but hardly posh. A minor disappointment was that the pool I had been sweating toward for a few hours had been closed for the season!
Saturday morning began with an early romp up the Spiral Loop Road, and I made a video of it you can find on my You Tube channel – here:
We rode back down to US 12 on 95, and then into Idaho and a date with Idaho 14 and 13, which leads you onto a spectacular 70 miles or so ride to Elk City, where the road dead-ends for those on pavement bikes.
On the way back we swung left to Grangeville, because I wanted to have lunch at “Bishop’s Bistro,” a fine dining establishment that either no longer exists or I simply missed it. Snacks at a Chevron sufficed.
Next up was a 37 mile ride to Winchester, and I’d told the group to watch for the turn , marked by a gas station with a Cadillac impaled on a 30 foot tall spike in front of it. In the years since I last rode this route, road signs indicating the turn have been added, but the Cadillac and spike were removed years ago.
You ride through the miniscule burg of Winchester to reach “Winchester Grade,” one of the hidden secret great rides of all time.
This features almost no traffic, a bumpy road full of sweeping corners and some tight hairpins, framed with views of forever off to your left. There is a ditch on the right side of the road and measly or no guard rails at all on the left. It calls for utmost attention, in other words. Pat had a confusing and bothersome scare when a pickup truck swerved over the center line and was apparently trying to hit him. I had no idea, because I was up front making two videos, both posted on my You Tube channel here:
There are two videos because my GoPro, for no known reason, shut itself off and then turned itself back on again.
Back at the Cedar’s Inn, we spent another enjoyable evening in the parking lot, swapping tales and bad jokes and the occasional serious discussion while I smoked my pipe in contentment. I also learned about “Tinder,” a free phone app that Bowen and many others of the dating class use to arrange hook-ups. It is evidently not designed to meet the love of your life but to meet the love of your next three hours or so. Since the other 6 riders have all been married for decades, Bowen’s failed attempts (on this occasion) to get something going were a source of fascination for us.
The next day started very early, as most of us got up at 5am to sit out in the parking lot again (the Wi-Fi did not work in our rooms) to watch a live feed of a MotoGP race on Bill’s computer. The day’s riding treat was a rapid romp down “Rattlesnake Grade” to Boggan’s Oasis, where we enjoyed breakfast while Bowen successfully chatted up the beautiful, charming, and smart young woman who served us, and he later received a call from her. Two more videos of this ride are again on You Tube at:
Up to now the routes were reasonably familiar to me, except for the several alterations provided by Bill, but now we were into roads I had never ridden. We meandered around and through a lot of scenery on our way to Baker City. Actually, I may have ridden many of these roads about 30 years ago, but I did not know where I was then, either.
Along the way we came across yet another fire in this plague of disasters summer that was in the process of blowing up. Smoke billowed into the sky in a humongous plume and blew in random directions. It was surreal, as the ambient sunlight changed colors as it was filtered by the smoke, and some of the colors seemed un-natural. We repeatedly pulled to the right as various large fire-fighting trucks and other equipment came the other way, racing to the rescue. Would have made for great pics, but Bill was afraid to stop, lest we get in the way of the fire fighters or, worse, get swamped by the raging fire. I agreed with his decision.
Baker City really impressed me. Wide streets, lots of very old big buildings in fine fettle, and the Oregon Trail motel, which had a functioning pool and an attached restaurant. Your breakfast was included with the room.
Monday we rode from Baker City and spent a rather eerie hour riding through forested lands that had been involved in the big fire about a week earlier. Thousands of acres of forest showing minimal to massive damage.
I have no idea what roads we were on, although I have the route somewhere on my computer for future reference. We rode through a seemingly endless string of spectacular scenes framed by rolling pavement and corners, corners, corners.
At one point I mentioned to the group that if we came across a scene that included a fence with a horse standing next to it I would stop, as I needed a picture of my bike and a fence and a horse for my next novel. Sure enough, the next time we stopped someone said “Hey look.” Sure enough, across the road were a fence… and a horse. The horse obligingly walked down to the corner where we were and “posed” for several pictures with my bike in the foreground.
We came across deer with alarming frequency. Bill was leading, and seemed to be able to spot them before anyone else. Often they would take off running down the road ahead of us, sometimes for quite some time, before darting to the left into the underbrush.
Our destination for the next two nights (for 5 of us) was a cabin 15miles outside of Sisters in a cluster of buildings known as Camp Sherman. Pat and Will opted for a motel in Sisters, which was a good idea, as the cabin was a bit tight for 5 and would have been a challenge for 7.
Up to this point we had been enjoying day time temperatures in the high 80’s to lower 90’s, but now things began to get a lot colder. The last half of the day I realized I not worn the right jacket liner for the trip, and I began to get seriously cold. While the others dined in a Mexican restaurant, I went shopping, as I was not hungry. I managed to purchase a zip up fleece to help with the chill, and a bottle of bourbon to replace the one Tony had brought that had emptied itself the night before.
The cabin was hilarious. The first night we did not really master the heating system, and it was cold. 38 degrees cold in the morning cold. The 2nd night we built a big fire and heated the cabin to 80 degrees before bed, which meant the loft where Tony and I were sleeping was about 95 or so. Feast or famine…
The 5th day featured a ride up to the lava beds, which I had visited several times but was new to most of the others. The ride up was enlivened by deer. They were all over the place. First a family of them in a yard as we left Sisters, then one or two dashing across the road in front of me, as I was to lead this day.
When you get close to the lava fields the roads tightens up quite a bit, and I was having such a good time juking left and right that I forgot about the deer. About six of them were standing on the outside of a sharp corner, and their coloring perfectly matched the background. I did not notice them at all until I was tipping into the turn and suddenly the herdlet exploded, with deer leaping in all directions. Fortunately, none of them chose to leap in front of me.
After enjoying the Gothic tower built of lava, you have a fantastic run of 30 miles or so down to the main highway, where you turn left for about 19 miles to reach the “Aufderheide” road, which I have probably spelled incorrectly. This leads you for about 60 miles of scenery, corners, and an occasionally very bumpy ride. Then it was lunch on Oak Ridge, and another 120 miles or so back to our cabin.
At one point we pulled over for a break and a park ranger pulled up in her truck and said “Can’t you guys ride on a warmer day?” As we were all close to hypothermic, this struck home. She mentioned that the weather would be even colder the next day, with snow predicted for 5500 feet. We had been at 5200 feet several times on this day. Hmmmm.
For the final day we decided to let discretion be the better part of valor and simply ride up 97 to Yakima, and then either take 410 to Mt. Rainier or keep going to Ellensburg and freeway slog home on I-90.
This route would be less exciting, but warmer and safer – particularly if the rain began to fall.
Things got interesting at breakfast at “The Gallery” (recommended) in Sisters, when Pat strolled in with a pistol cartridge loaded with 9mm hollow point bullets – that he found lying in the street! We made a short detour on the way out of town to drop it off at the sheriff’s office.
On the way up 97 we took the little side road to Antelope and then up to Shaniko, which we all recommend. Marv has spent a fair amount of time in Shaniko and filled us in on some of the ancient and modern history and town gossip of what is very close to a ghost town.
Five of us chose the 410 route, and the disadvantage of it is that the slog home from Mt. Rainier, when you are cold and tired, can take roughly a decade of your life. On this occasion, there was very little traffic, including none of the hated and snail-like RVs. Even better, we were following a brand new pick up that drove at speeds that were comfy for a motorcycle but pretty amazing for a truck.
Once home, a very long and very hot shower, and so to bed. I was exhausted, because this was not merely 6 days of riding a motorcycle. 95% of the time it was riding a motorcycle at a fair turn of speed on a challenging road where any momentary lapse in concentration, or a misjudgment of a corner or a section of paving could have disastrous consequences. Twelve hours a day of this for six days.
Pretty much perfect, in other words.
So for 2016….
Copyright 2015 David Preston