After our return from the Treasure of the Sierra Highways ride, we had talked about where to go next. We’d been to California twice this season, so we turned our heads north. There’s a wealth of great mountain roads in the BC interior, and neither of us had ridden in that area for a couple of seasons. I dug out my DH book and some old GPS files from rides I’d taken previously, and put together a route that would take us in a big loop from southwestern BC, dropping south into Idaho, Montana, and Hells Canyon in the northeastern corner of Oregon. It would be a 9-day motorcycle ride, with the first four days being in British Columbia.
We had put out feelers to our riding friends to see if anyone could make the ride. We got a few interested responses but, in the end, the only person able to make any part of it was John Parish, and he could make only the first day of the ride. John had made a ride to Maupin with us earlier in the season, and I was looking forward to riding with him again.
Day-1, Home-to-Osoyoos, BC
Marv and John met near Marv’s place in Kirkland at 8:00. Marv gave me a phone call when they left, and that gave me an indication of when I should leave to meet them in Rockport at the intersection of SR 530 and SR 20.
When I left home about twenty minutes after receiving Marv’s call, it was foggy in the Skagit Valley, and droplets were condensing on my suit and visor; it was feeling like the beginning of Autumn. I reached the designated intersection before Marv and John, and pulled into the adjacent gas station. There was a state trooper in a cruiser sitting where I’d planned on parking to wait for them, so I waited a couple of minutes at the gas station, and then went down SR 530 a ways to wait for them. As Marv and John arrived, I waved them on, and we continued to our planned breakfast stop at Clark’s Cabins in Rockport where we had our first chance to talk and catch up with John.
We took a fairly straight-forward route over SR 20, the North Cascades Highway.
After converging with SR 97 to transit the Okanogan Valley and its myriad orchards, we continued to Midway, where we went through Customs into Canada, and then took Highway 3 west to our motel in Osoyoos.
We stayed at the comfortable Sahara Courtyard Motel; I would stay there again.
The eateries within walking distance were limited so, using Yelp, I took us to 97A Pizzeria. It was a good pizza, and a good value.
Day-2, Osoyoos, BC-to-Mt. Curie, BC
John would return to Tacoma today, as planned, while Marv and I continued our ride.
We got an early start Sunday morning, and found our way out of Osoyoos, and north nearly to Penticton. Highway 97 is a scenic road with great views over the expansive Okanogan Valley where vineyards and orchards cover the slopes.
In Penticton we turned southwest and rode Green Mountain Road. It was deserted and quiet with the exception of Marv and I twisting our throttles. We passed by an area with several radio-telescopes pointed at the heavens, listening to and looking at heaven-knows-what. Marv got a chuckle from a sign we passed as we rounded a curve into the area with the telescopes that declared, “Radiation Free Area.”
We passed through a lot of pretty country, eventually taking a break at a fruit stand where we bought a couple handfuls of fruit, and sat in the shade enjoying it.
We continued on our course towards our night’s stop in Mt. Curie.
Just as we stopped at a gas station in Lillooet, we hit our first rain. We rode an hour in windy, rainy weather on a really great road. Although the scenery along Highway 99 between Lillooet and Mt. Curie is spectacular, I didn’t stop for any photos , as I was eager to get to the motel and dry out.
We stayed in Mt. Curie and, while checking in, I asked the motel desk clerk to recommend a restaurant in Pemberton. After checking in, we jumped back on our bikes and rode a few miles into the little town, had dinner in an Asian restaurant, and then returned to the motel.
Day-3, Mt. Curie, BC-to-Lumby, BC
We awakened to steady rain. We knew we were likely to have dry weather where we were headed, so we didn’t hesitate to get started. Marv was generous and loaned me the use of a heavy fleece, some glove liners, and some mid-weight gloves, I had planned for the ride as though it were a summer trip. I left all my electric gear at home, and had minimal gear for cold weather. I was fortunate he had some to loan me, or I would have been cold for a good deal of the trip.
Highway 99 is a pretty good motorcycling road. The highway has a lot of curves and moderate traffic but, when it’s wet, the fun is limited. We rode for about an hour before stopping for a break shortly before getting back into Lillooet. The rain relented, and we took a few photos at a couple of highway pullouts.
Navigating our through the reservation areas on Highway 99, we arrived at the junction with Highway 97 where we turned south and, a few minutes later, stopped in Cache Creek to get breakfast and gas. We wouldn’t see any more rain the rest of the day.
Leaving Cache Creek to the south, we took Highway 97C south to Logan Lake past the Highland Valley open-pit copper mine. It’s very colorful in a toxic way, like a drop of oil in a mud puddle. I had the same reaction as I might to a blue coral snake. I was both attracted and repulsed by the beautiful colors.
We took a few diversions to get to Kamloops, and then on to Vernon. We stayed the night in the last motel on Highway 6 in Lumby. The Twin Creeks motel is over-priced for what it is. It seems that at some motels, ‘no smoking’ means ‘used-to-be smoking,’ as the room smelled of stale cigarette smoke. A partially-redeeming factor is that they do have a fast internet connection.
There may be a good place to eat in Lumby, but we didn’t find it. We ate at the Sisters Café where the food was ordinary and unremarkable. It was a fluorescent-lit, single room with tattered chairs, a half-dozen worn Formica-topped tables, and a TV hanging from the ceiling tuned to a news channel.
Day-4, Lumby, BC-to-Bonners Ferry, ID
We left Lumby early, looking forward to one of our favorite rides through BC. There was a great set of roads in front of us, and we had perfect weather to enjoy them.
We arrived in Needles just as the Needles–Faquier ferry docked, and we were in Nakusp having breakfast about forty minutes later.
We ate a light breakfast at Cafe Lago Ristorante, a superb lakeside restaurant, where the food was very good, and the coffee was excellent.
The three roads that would finish our day, and lead us to Bonners Ferry, would turn out to be the best of the BC roads we’d ride. Several of the highways were winding, lake-side roads with no traffic or enforcement, so we had a great time.
We had taken a ten-minute break in front of the library in Kaslo and, as a result, were ten minutes late for the ferry leaving Balfour to cross Kookenay Lake to Kootenay Bay and our continuation on Highway 3A.
When we arrived at the ferry dock, we realized we were going to have to wait over an hour for the ferry to return, as it’s a 42-minute crossing, so we went to an adjacent restaurant and had a root beer on their deck. While there, we watched an osprey flying low over the water, and were hoping to see it get a fish, but our boat arrived, and we were on the move again.
Once on the ferry “Osprey”, we noticed that the aluminum seat supports were cast in the form of an osprey.
Highway 3A south to Creston along Kootenay Lake and Duck Lake was very enjoyable, both for the views and for the curves. We crossed back into the U.S. at Porthill and, from there, it was just a short ride to the motel in Bonners Ferry.
The motel was the best we’d had to-date on this trip. The room was nice, clean and spacious, compared to what we had experienced thus far.
We rode to a restaurant and, again, we did that prior to unpacking our bikes for the night.
Day-5, Bonners Ferry, ID-to-Wallace, ID
We awakened in Bonners Ferry to steady rain. After looking at the route and the forecast, we decided to make a shorter day of it. The next stop in Wallace, Idaho would be a town where we could find interesting things to see, so I cut out the section of the route from Yaak River road over to, and around around Lake Koocanusa, in favor of an earlier finish. We had some great roads and scenery through Western Montana. Again, I didn’t stop for many photos since it was raining…still.
It finally dried out for us near Thompson Falls, and we went over Murray-Thompson Pass and then dropped down into Wallace on Nine-Mile Road. It was a very enjoyable ride, and we were even seeing some blue patches in the sky. The highway was nearly deserted and plenty twisty. The Murray-Thompson Pass Highway is in good condition. NF456 that drops south to Wallace was very good too, except for the last seven miles of Nine-Mile road. That section had some pretty tight corners, occasional loose gravel in the corners, and a few surprising pot-holes.
After checking into our motel in Wallace, we went for lunch and a walk around town where we saw a lot of old mining memorabilia and antiques. We went to lunch at a local brew-pub, the City Limits Pub, where the food was typical and unremarkable, but good enough.
We had dry weather, and so walked around the small town.
It’s changed a lot since I was last there. It’s gentrified and full of tourist kitsch. It seems every store in Wallace has a large assortment of mounted wildlife – bison, bear, moose, elk, mountain lion, etc… Of all the towns we had been in thus far on the trip, if we had to spend time in a town, Wallace was the best choice. We kept ourselves sufficiently entertained for the afternoon.
We went back to the motel for an hour or so where Marv had a nap, and I played chess and did some work on my computer, as there was a good internet conection. The Stardust Motel in Wallace was good. There was a small problem with getting the shower to work, as we couldn’t get the faucet to properly divert the water to the shower head. Other than that it was a good place to stay, and a good value.
We went to dinner later that night at the 1313 Club Historic Saloon where the food was okay. Here again, there was a large contingent of mounted animals surrounding us. There was a small, blonde grizzly bear I mistakenly identified as a wolverine, until the waitress set us straight.
It was pouring as we left the restaurant and, although we hurried back to our motel, we both got wet. I was hoping the weather would rain itself out, as I had some very good roads planned for us the next day, and I wanted to be able to enjoy them.
Day-6, Wallace, ID-to Stanley, ID
We awakened in Wallace to beautiful blue skies and dry weather. We both were ready for a day of good roads, and we got lots of them. It was chilly in the morning and, as we ascended Lookout Pass and rode towards the border back into Montana, it got foggy and very cool. We stuck with I-90 for about 20 miles before we got off the highway and took a semi-parallel route on the Mullan Gulch Road, and then took the aptly-named Camel’s Hump Road, a switch-backed, winding, adventure road that goes up and over the hill, and then rejoins a couple of main roads in St. Regis.
We had a pretty good breakfast in St. Regis and then headed for Missoula over some long Montana two-lanes. After running along the scenic St. Regis River and the edge of the Flathead Indian reservation, we stopped for a break near Dixon where we watched a long freight train go by with locomotives at the front and at the rear of the train. The snowy white peaks of the Mission Range poking up above the nearby hills reminded me that winter is coming.
The next hour was spent on busier roads and crossing through the town of Missoula. Heading south on U.S. Highway 93, we found that the farther south you go on U.S. 93, the nicer it gets. When you get to Darby, Montana it gets very good, as it twists and girates along the Salmon River; we rode it all the way to Challis. The scenery was beautiful, and it’s one of my favorite roads.
In Challis we turned west on Highway 71 and, again, followed a wonderfully-twisty road to our next stop in Stanley.
Stanley is a very small town on the Salmon River at the foot of the Sawtooth Range. A local resident recommended a restaurant about five miles south of town. We were glad we took the advice. They had a pretty good salad bar, and we both enjoyed our meals. When leaving, some locals in the parking lot said it had been down to 28 degrees the previous night, and that we could expect that again.
Our motel was right at the river’s edge with a deck having a great view of the Salmon River and the Sawtooth Mountains. I took some photos at night, and then again at sunrise.
Day-7, Stanley, ID-to-Enterprise, OR
We had been warned the night before that it was getting cold overnight in Stanley. The little town sits a mile high, and the skies were clear.
There was indeed frost on our motorcycles in the morning. Marv went out and took photographs of it while I was getting my gear together.
He came back beaming with a self-congratulatory smile, knowing that he had heated gear to make his ride pleasant. I was resigned to the fact that I would be cold for the first few hours of the day.
We gave the roads a little extra time to warm up, and left Stanley around nine. We had to cross a low ridge to get to Lowman and, as we rode higher and higher on Highway 21, I was beginning to feel the first hints of being truly cold. We were around 6,800 feet at one point, and I was very much looking forward to escaping to lower elevations and warmer temperatures.
We followed some excellent river roads, taking a few breaks along the way to enjoy the scenery. There was a stop where a rafting company shag truck had pulled out to video their rafters making their way through a section of rapids on the river. The truck would leap-frog to the interesting sections along the river, taking videos and seeing that the rafters were okay.
We stopped for breakfast at a busy café in Donnelly. The waitress was an elderly lady and was pretty nice. The food was poor, but the atmosphere of the place was okay. Just prior to arriving at the café, we had passed an incident where a trailer under tow had overturned into the ditch. There was a local LEO there running his flashing-light show. Shortly after ordering our breakfast, the LEO and the tow truck driver that had been in assistance at the wreck, stepped in and sat down. The elderly waitress and the LEO were obviously well acquainted and provided us with some mild entertainment while we ate our cold hash browns and luke-warm eggs. They exchanged cutting barbs with each other, and I wondered if they might be related. We later learned that the waitress and LEO were neighbors.
We got back on the road, making our way to the Oxbow Dam area of the Snake River, and then into the Hells Canyon National Recreation area and up to the Hells Canyon Overlook for a few photos.
We didn’t see much traffic the rest of the afternoon; just some wandering cows on the open rangeland. It was about a twenty minute ride from the Hells Canyon Overlook to where we had reservations at the Ponderosa Motel in Enterprise.
As Marv and I were unloading our bikes at the motel, three fellows approached from across the parking lot, and one called out, “Marv, is that you?”
“Yes, who are you?”
When riding with the HSTA group, they used to hook up with Pete in Central Oregon. Pete is from Hermiston, and was with two other riders doing some dual-sport riding in the Enterprise area. Marv and Pete caught up on old times and experiences while I finished unloading my bike. What a small world!
We cleaned up and went to dinner before settling in for the night. Since we had no reservations for the last night on the road, we discussed the route for the next day, and considered different ways we could get home. We ended up sticking with our original route, with a very short detour to visit Steptoe Butte. Marv had described it to me, and it sounded like something I wanted to see.
Day-8, Enterprise, OR-to-Omak, WA
When we awakened in Enterprise, we still had two more days of riding remaining. Today we would ride from Enterprise, Oregon, to Omak, Washington, diagonally from the southeast corner to the northwest across Washington’s ‘doughnut-hole’. The doughnut-hole reference is due to there being a dearth of good motorcycling roads in south-central Washington; the roads are mostly straight and uneventful. I agree to a point, but I think they’re tolerable. We began the day with very good roads, and ended with good roads, with interesting terrain changes in between. I like to see how the culture changes with the terrain.
Leaving Enterprise, we headed north towards our breakfast stop in Clarkston, taking a twisty wiggle down, and then up the Rattlesnake Grade. It’s an enjoyable road, but it was wet in some places and had gravel in some of the corners, so we took a prudent pace. We still got to enjoy its curves, having the road mostly to ourselves.
We stopped for breakfast in Clarkston at Hazel’s Café. I had pulled up to a stop sign at an intersection on the main drag, and was looking for a street number so I could pinpoint the café. I pulled out and went around the block before realizing I had been sitting right next to Hazel’s Café at the stop sign. They served a very good omelet called the “Yuck.” We both had one; it was delicious.
We found some nice roads to take us north and west. We took the twisty Wawawai Canyon Road along the Snake River, its mirror surface reflecting the rocky hills surrounding the valley. It was a very peaceful place, with anglers fishing along the river, their cars parked in the highway pullouts. I was in no hurry, and was just enjoying a period of Zen with my motorcycle.
The previous evening, Marv and I were discussing the Palouse, and Marv had suggested we take a short detour up to the top of Steptoe Butte. It’s a primordial rock jutting a thousand feet above the rolling hills of the surrounding Palouse. It is contained in a state park, and has a corkscrew road that curls around the hill and up to the top. Once there we were offered a 360 degree view of the autumn-colored farms. I had never been there, and was glad Marv suggested it.
While I was taking photos, and Marv was reading the plaques, we were approached by another visitor who struck up a conversation with us – Marv more than I.
The old gentleman with a cane slowly approached and engaged us in conversation. At 84 years of age, he said he uses the cane only at higher elevations where he isn’t so steady on his feet but, at home at a lower elevation than the Butte, he throws his cane away and jitterbugs with the ladies. We should all be so active at that age, even if only in our minds! As we were leaving, he hobbled back to his daughter’s SUV and got into the passenger’s seat.
The route from Steptoe to Omak was long and uneventful. We rode through the farmland and, upon reaching the Columbia Basin, crossed the Mighty Columbia at Electric City just below the Grand Coulee Dam. We made our way through the small town, and then took Columbia River Road across the Colville Indian Reservation to Omak.
We stopped for a fine dinner at the Breadline Cafe in Omak before checking into our motel. We had discovered this most-excellent restaurant on our last trip over to Colville with Dan a few weeks earlier so, when we rolled into town, I already knew where I wanted to eat.
Day-9, Omak, WA-to-Home
We had been keeping track of the weather developments in the Puget Sound region throughout the trip, and had heard they were getting a healthy dose of rain. We were going to take the North Cascades Highway over the mountains, a beautiful road in any weather, but it’s just not much fun to ride in the rain.
We rode from Omak to Twisp over Loup Loup Pass, enjoying the road, as it was the last dry pavement we’d see for a while. We took the back road from Twisp to Winthrop and, without any stops, we rode all the way to Newhalem. The rain started just west of Mazama, and continued the rest of the way home.
The ride over the mountains via Washington Pass and Rainy Pass was uneventful except, just outside of Newhalem, lying in the middle of the road, was a big chunk of rock that had fallen from the cliff into our lane. We both saw it, and navigated around it without difficulty. When we got to the Newhalem Visitor Center, Marv talked to the ranger, and asked her to call it in to the DOT so they could get it removed from the road before it wrecked someone. It was too large for us to move.
We cleaned our visors, and got them ready for the next and last segment of this ride. I had neglected to install the pinlock insert in my visor for fog protection, and had been having trouble with my visor fogging up for the last 90 minutes. While we were sheltered from the rain and taking a break, I installed it, making the rest of my trek west much safer and more enjoyable.
We rode the rest of the trip on Highway 20 to the intersection with Cook Road. Marv had decided to ride the last hour on the freeway, and get home early enough to enjoy the afternoon. While we were refueling at the Shell station, I was talking about our next trip; Marv was contemplating his next hour on the freeway in the rain. I received an email from him later that he was home. The 9-day ride was great, and it was over.