We Are Stardust

Marv and I rode our motorcycles to Pendleton.

We met up with Chris and Chris.

Cary came to Pendleton.

We all rode our motorcycles to Wallace.

Dan came to Wallace.

We all rode our motorcycles around, and then went home.Route

Marv and I decided to make a group ride that included most of the guys who regularly ride with us. We cast a wide net and, after juggling the dates to include as many as possible, four others would make a ride around the Northwest Interior with us.

With the plan set and the routes determined, we decided to have the group meet in Pendleton. Cary lives about an hour from Pendleton in the tri-cities; Hemer lives in Portland; Harnish lives in West Seattle. I asked them to meet us in Pendleton because I wanted to begin the trip with a segment over the North Cascades Highway on a weekday when traffic is relatively light.  I asked Marv to stay at my place on Tuesday night before the trip so we could get a fresh start in the morning and avoid the weekday freeway traffic. I anticipated Harnish and Hemer would make the trip to Pendleton over some of the nice roads in Central Oregon.

Marv and I took our usual route over the North Cascades.

20180801_075112_MomentDSCN3885DSCN3886DSCN3887

With the road mostly to ourselves, we took full advantage of the seemingly endless miles of twists and turns and arrived in Twisp where we fueled our tanks and took a break. I sent a text message to Harnish with a status update for where we were.

From Twisp we took a series of backroads through the irrigated orchards and farmlands of Eastern Washington. The day was beginning to get very warm, but we both had evaporative cooling vests prepared for that eventuality. Around 11 am. we stopped and put them on. We had a very short break in the process, but the view was a disappointment. I always try for a nice view when we break, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. With our vests beneath our protective riding suits providing much-needed cooling, the ride became enjoyable, even though the roads were beginning to straighten.

When we stopped for an extended break in Ephrata, I was able to send an update to Harnish of our progress towards the rendezvous. I had received a note from him that he had met up with Hemer at Biggs Junction on the Oregon-Washington border. I was surprised at their location, as I thought they were going to take a more creative route.

Marv and I recharged our cooling vests and set out across the hot, straight roads through South-central Washington. Ninety minutes later we were nearing the banks of the Snake River where the roads would again become more interesting. On a stretch of road approaching Pasco, I glanced at the temperature on my display and saw it was 104°. That was surprising to me because, with the aid of the cooling vest, I was still comfortable. I could tell it was hot, but I wasn’t being worn down by it. As it happened, that was the highest temperature I would see for the whole trip.

On the southeast side of the Tri-cities area, we found a nice twisty canyon to ride through which eventually popped us out in the high, expansive wheat fields north of Pendleton. Another half-hour and we were at the Red Lion Inn getting checked in. Harnish and Hemer weren’t there yet, but I had an update from them that they were about 20 minutes away.

After getting cleaned up, we all sat around the pool for an hour or two, and then wandered into the lounge for something to eat. We agreed to have kickstands-up at 0800. Cary would ride up from his home in the tri-cities and join us in the morning.

In the morning we all assembled around our bikes. Cary had arrived before I got down there, and everyone took a few minutes to say ‘hello.’

DSCN3890

The sun was barely up, and the weather was already warm. We had agreed that the best time to ride would be mornings, and we’d try to wrap things up by the afternoon when the heat was at its peak. We rode a nice set of roads from Pendleton to Enterprise. There was very little traffic, and curves-a-plenty as we weaved our way through the Blue Mountains. In Enterprise we stopped at the Red Rooster Café for what would turn out to be a wonderful breakfast. I had a nice spinach-feta quiche, and the rest of the group also remarked that the food was good. They were friendly and accommodating to us, and I’ll certainly remember it the next time we’re in the vicinity.

Before leaving Enterprise, we gassed our bikes. The next section of the road was relatively straight for about 30 miles, and then became one of the sweetest roads I know. We soon arrived at the top of the Rattlesnake Grade. It’s a nicely-wrapped section of Highway 3 that goes north into Washington, and to where we would cross the border into Idaho. It was 50 miles of bliss.DSCN3903

 

After wading through the town of Lewiston, we left town at the east end and rode out on Highway 12 along the Clearwater River. About 15 miles east of Lewiston I had an expedition planned to see if the road I had planned for us to ride was paved. We crossed the river to the north at the small town of Lenore, and followed River Road for about three miles before it petered out into gravel. I stopped and reprogrammed my GPS for the alternate I had in my head. We back-tracked out of Lenore along the Clearwater for about 15 miles to Orofino where we crossed the river and rode twisty Old Idaho 7 through Cavendish and up to the junction with Highway 3. Marv and I had been on that road before, but it was new to the rest of the group, and it turned out to be a great alternate.

We had a splendid relatively-traffic-free trip north through St. Maries and on. That’s one of the benefits of getting out there on a weekday. We took a break in the shade of a Baptist church in the Rose area about 2 miles before reaching the junction with I-90.

Getting a sense from the group that they’d all had enough twisty roads for one day, we short-cut the section along the Coeur d’Alene River, and bounced up onto I-90 for a quick 30-mile run to Wallace. We’ll have to file that road away for another trip. Marv and I have ridden it before, and it’s well worth repeating. While riding down the interstate, a text message from Dan come in on my GPS that he was in Spokane, about 50 miles behind us. 

We got checked in at the Stardust Motel in Wallace, a ‘60’s-era motel with a cool neon sign.

20180802_213852

As I came out of the shower, I heard a motorcycle coming down the alley and somebody yelling. Dan had arrived! All the participants were finally present. We all finished getting cleaned up, and then walked around the little town and found our way to the City Limits Pub and Grill. The food was very good.

Friday morning came, and we left Wallace early, riding north out of town. A few miles up the road, I made the mistake of waving Dan and Hemer ahead. I thought when I did it that there wouldn’t be any more paved turn-offs prior to our next planned turn, and that it was an opportune time to spread out the group a little. However, I mis-judged where we were, and Dan and Chris missed the Prichard Creek turn-off toward Thompson Falls. Marv and Cary saw me signal to make the turn-off, so I went on and caught up with Harnish to let him know we had missed our turn. After a few minutes I decided to head after Dan and Hemer so they wouldn’t wait too long for us. I met them on the way back, and we all regrouped at the Prichard Creek turn-off.

We scooted over Thompson Pass to the town of Thompson Falls where we scored another breakfast win. I had a delicious vegetable omelet.

DSCN3913

We had a pretty good set of roads we were set to ride that day, and after our meal, we headed for Libby and the roads around Lake Koocanusa.

A bit of history: Although it sounds like an ancient tribal name of some sort, Lake Koocanusa is not an Indian name. The Libby Dam on the Kootenay River built in 1972 formed a 90-mile long lake that extended from Canada to USA. In a competition to name the newly-formed lake, the name selected was a combination of the first three letters of the KOOtenay River, CANada, and USA, thus Lake Koocanusa.

We filled our gas tanks in Libby, and then left town on the east side via a narrow locals-only type road that parallels the railroad tracks. The road was out of shape and lumpy. It is certainly the road less travelled, and the only traffic we saw was vans of railroad workers. When we reached the south tip of Lake Koocanusa, we made the trip north along the west side of the lake, and then the trip south along the east side of the lake. The west side of the lake is fifty miles of very nice twisty, if somewhat narrow highway.

The road was in very good condition, much better than it had been when we had ridden it before. It looked like it had been chip sealed in the last 6 months, but there was almost no loose material left. That, and the total lack of any traffic, made it an hour of beautiful scenery and sweet pavement curling around the lake shore. It was everything I could have asked for. The trip back south on the east side of the lake was every bit as nice, but with wider shoulders and lanes, and more sweeping curves; it is more fun at higher speeds.

After the trip around the lake I was beginning to feel fatigued, but there were still some nice scenic roads between us and Bonners Ferry. We took a break at the same gas station where we’d stopped in Libby, and then made our way to the north to the two-tavern and no-church town of Yaak. The first half of Pipeline Road between Libby and Yaak is very nice. It’s well maintained and smooth. The farther north we rode, the bumpier it got. We all had spread out again, and regrouped outside the Dirty Shame Saloon.

The last entertaining stretch of road for the day was the stretch along the Yaak River, back to the junction with Highway U.S. 2. After that, it was about 30 minutes to get to Bonners Ferry. We were staying at separate motels because one of the motels only had enough rooms for four of us. Heemer and Harnish had a room about a mile closer to town. Four of us had rooms at Dodge Peak Lodge.

Our experience at the Dodge Peak Lodge in Bonners Ferry was less than satisfactory. We had reserved rooms with a queen bed and a single bed but, when we arrived, the room had only a queen bed. The staff located and brought a twin roll-away to the room, but there was very little space for it. We had been advised we could ask for and receive a military discount upon arriving, but the clerk didn’t know how to do that, so had to wait until the morning to attempt to work that out. Then, in the morning, although they advertise a 24-hour front desk, all attempts to communicate with the clerk were thwarted with the repeated comment, “We don’t open until 9”, while he was relaxing on the porch outside the lodge office. To be fair, the discount was subsequently applied, but it was not a satisfactory situation. I was left with the impression that the motel owners didn’t compensate the staff to the extent that they were interested in doing anything to make the guests comfortable, and they didn’t exhibit any of the traits one would associate with people in the “hospitality” industry. It was only one night, and the room was clean.

Leaving Bonners Ferry, we worked our way through the Sand Point area along the Pend Oreille River, and across the Idaho panhandle. We stopped for breakfast at the familiar Riverbank Café in Newport where we had an enjoyable breakfast.

We spent the most of the rest of the day following the Pend Oreille River north along the east bank to Metaline Falls, and then south on the west bank back toward Flowery Trail Road. At a break in Metaline for gas we decided we’d make an early day of it. We’d had a big dose of twisty roads and, with some thunderstorms on the horizon, decided to cut the middle out of the day and cut across to Colville.

It was still too early for us to wrap it up, so I put together an ad hoc route across Flowery Trail to Chewelah, and then up to Benny’s Colville Inn in Colville. We were fortunate to have had only a very brief episode of rain, and we were dry again fifteen minutes later.

We walked about a mile through Colville to have dinner at Stephani’s Oak Street Grill. It’s a nice place with excellent food. The prices are set correctly, the service was very good, and they treated us well. Over dinner we discussed how we would make our way home on Sunday. Cary and Heemer would ride south along Lake Roosevelt, and make their ways to the Tri-cities and Portland, respectively. Dan, Harnish, Marv and I would take the Inchelium ferry across the Columbia River and take the challenging Bridge Creek / Cache Creek route to Nespalem. We all got together for a group photo while we waited for the ferry. There was a guy waiting for the boat with us, and he was nice enough to take our photo.

Benny’s Colville Inn is a well-run establishment, but what they offered for breakfast was limited, and there were only two tables for all the guests to use. I didn’t get much for breakfast, and that was fine. I only ever eat breakfast when I’m on the road. However, I didn’t realize that it would be all day, and I would be home before having an opportunity for a real meal. After the group split up we didn’t take very many breaks.

We fueled in Nespalem, and then again in Twisp where we took a longish break before heading over the Cascades on Highway 20. The ride through the passes went well until we got within 15 miles of Newhalem where it tends to bottleneck a little on the weekends, and we struggled getting around traffic the rest of the way to Marblemount. We stopped for gas in Marblemount and, while there, we learned of a fire in the area of South Skagit Highway, so we made the decision to part company there, with the three of them turning south on Highway 530 in Rockport, and I continuing on Highway 20 to Sedro Woolley and home.

I arrived home around 4 p.m. and sent my broadcast ‘I’m home’ email to my riding friends. Everyone reported throughout the afternoon that they’d arrived home in one piece. We’d finished a very nice ride.

I was already planning the next ride we’ll be making in September.