The North Cascades Highway opened for the season mid-May. It’s closed by snow in the winter so, when it opens, it is our preferred route across the Cascades. Its smooth pavement and wide clean shoulders are a sport-touring dream.
Most of our riding partners have standard five-day work weeks, so it was only Marv and I for this trip. We set out from my house Wednesday morning, rode south to the Skagit River, and turned east on the South Skagit Highway. After winding along the river to Concrete, we shifted over to Highway 20. That’s the point at which Highway 20 begins to turn into a scenic river road. The deeper into the mountains you follow its winding path, the more spectacular the views become, until you’re finally at Washington Pass.
After you snake past Liberty Bell Mountain, you begin the descent to the dry side of the Cascades. As the miles peel away, the land gets drier, and the trees get smaller. The undergrowth we’re so used to seeing on the west side of the Cascades is now gone, having succumbed to the drier weather and harsh winters of Eastern Washington.
Following Highway 20 east to Omak, we made the turn onto Highway 155 rather than taking our accustomed Columbia River Road, as we wanted a change. I don’t like to ride my favorite roads too many times in one season because, if I do, they won’t be my favorite roads for long. With me and motorcycle routes, familiarity breeds mild boredom. I prefer a lot of variety, interspersed with bits of randomness. So we wound along Highway 155, and turned east on Cache Creek Road. This was our second trip to this area this year, but it was the first time we’d take the highly-twisty Cache Creek route over to Highway 21. On the last ride over, the roads were quite sandy, and we hadn’t taken that route because we thought we would enjoy a less-twisty, clean road more than a sandy, tight-cornered road. It was in splendid condition, and we enjoyed it.
Highway 21 was a great way to wind up the day as we headed north to Republic. We even caught sight of a moose in a swampy pasture alongside the road.
We stayed at the Northern Inn, a good place at a good value, and had dinner at Esther’s, a Mexican restaurant which was pretty good too.
Our route home began in Republic on Highway 20, and ended in Sedro Woolley at the junction of Cook Road and I-5. We’d had a good ride on uncrowded mid-week highways.