Scott Goes International, Part 9

Day 9: Tuesday, August 28

Route: Hood River, Oregon, to Mitchell, Oregon

I slept like a baby in the king-size bed in my hotel room. I got up and opted for the complimentary breakfast. I’ve only seen these at Holiday Inns, but they had an automatic pancake machine. This marvel of technology lets you push a button on one end and receive fresh pancakes from the other end in about two minutes.

I got a bit of a late stop on the road, finally rolling out around 10:30. I went south on Oregon Highway 35 into the Mount Hood National Forest. Clear skies made for great views of Mt. Hood. I turned off onto Forest Service Highway 44, which connects Highway 35 to US Highway 197 at Dufur. Soon the pine forests turned into rolling hills covered with grass.

Highway 197 followed the ups and downs of the land, climbing up Tygh Ridge before descending into Butler Canyon. Butler Canyon opened into the Tygh Valley, then the road climbed Juniper Flat – a plateau bounded by the White River on its north side and the Deschutes River on the east. On the south side of Juniper Flat, Highway 197 descended into the Deschutes River Canyon and the city of Maupin.

After leaving Maupin, Highway 197 climbed another plateau, topping out at Criterion Summit before meeting up with Highway 97 and dropping into Cow Canyon. At the bottom of Cow Canyon, I turned off onto Oregon Highway 293, which wound its way through the Antelope Creek Canyon toward the city of Antelope.

I should have done some research beforehand, because Antelope is a nearly abandoned city. The city, formed in 1901, rose to some notoriety in the 1980s when members of the Rajneesh movement, a controversial religious movement based on the teachings of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In the early 1980s, the Rajneesh movement moved into Antelope, and effectively took over the city government by outnumbering the original residents through new voter registrations. Antelope was renamed to Rajneesh in 1984. In 1985, several of the Rajneesh movement leaders were implicated in criminal behavior, including a mass food poisoning attack and a plot to assassinate a US Attorney. Shortly after, the Rajneesh commune in Antelope collapsed and the city was renamed to its original name. A large number of abandoned buildings stand decaying in the city. Had I known all this, a stop would have likely been in order.

Highway 293 twisted its way through the Antelope Creek canyon. The canyon opened up to a valley of rolling hills dotted buttes and edged with steep-sided cliffs. At Antelope, Highway 293 met up with Oregon Highway 218, which runs to Fossil.

Highway 218 ran past the Clarno Palisades, one of the three parts of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The monument was established in 1975, and is well-known for well-preserved layers of fossil plants and animals that lived in Eastern Oregon between 5 and 45 million years ago. The area around the Palisades was like riding through a John Ford movie. The highway wound its way around the base of exposed rock formations more reminiscent of the American Southwest than what one things of the Pacific Northwest. I stopped at the picnic area for the Clarno Palisades for a stretch.

The Clarno Palisades are about 18 miles west of Fossil. They are made of ancient volcanic lahars, pyroclastic mudslides, that formed between 40 and 54 million years ago when the area was a semi-tropical rainforest. Researchers have found fossils of ancient four-toed horses, rhino-like brontotheres, crocodiles, and other jungle animals in in the rocks around the palisades.

I walked around for a bit, stretching my legs and drinking water to stave off dehydration. While walking around, a couple of BMWs rolled into the parking lot. The riders were visiting the area from Alberta, and had actually been at Horizons Unlimited! Small world!

I was still about 70 miles from the main Fossil Beds Visitor Center, a drive which a sign at the palisades said was two hours long. I looked at the time and saw I would be cutting it close to the center’s closing time. I bid farewell to the Canadians and made tracks for the visitor center.

Making great time is hard when the scenery is so amazing! Dropping down into Fossil the road twisted through small canyons, occasionally giving views of the Butte Creek Valley below. From Fossil, I turned onto Oregon Highway 19, the “Journey Through Time” Scenic Byway, which followed Butte Creek, one of the many tributaries feeding the John Day River.

Just south of Spray, Oregon, I ran into construction on Highway 19. The road was ground up for repaving, but I didn’t see anyone working on actually paving the road. The loose gravel on the road from grinding and preparation for chip sealing was thick at times, keeping speeds down. I kept my bike in the wheel tracks that had been worn into the gravel, but occasionally those tracks disappeared. Ten miles passed with no sign of workers, then 20 miles passed with no sign of road workers. Who grinds up 20+ miles of road at a time before paving? Finally, as I neared the Fossil Beds Visitor Center, the workers appeared – nearly 30 miles from the start of the construction zone.

I stopped at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, in the shadows of Sheep Rock. The Condon Center is the main visitor center for the Fossil Beds National Monument. The center has many fossils on display of plant and animal life that used to make Eastern Oregon home. The area around Sheep Rock was where Army soldiers first found a multitude of fossils while searching for gold in 1865. The paleontology center is named for Thomas Condon, who accompanied the soldiers to the area after learning of the fossil finds.

After seeing the visitor center, I went south on Highway 19 for a few miles and turned onto US Highway 26 toward Mitchell. Highway 26 runs through Picture Gorge, a narrow canyon cut through deep layers of Columbia basalt lava flows by the John Day River and Rock Creek. The canyon was named for the Native American pictographs found on the canyon walls.

I stopped for the night in Mitchell, Oregon (population 130). Mitchell was founded in 1873 and sits at the bottom of a small canyon. The city calls itself “The Gateway to the Painted Hills” because it’s the only city in relatively close proximity to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

I stopped into the Mitchell Stage Stop for dinner and to use the WiFi. The building looked almost as old as the city itself. I ordered myself a bacon jalapeno cheeseburger and fries. The burger was enormous and delicious. My can of soda was cold and was given to me accompanied by a glass mug pulled directly from the freezer.

Across the street from the Stage Stop was the Mitchell City Park. The city allows RV and tent camping at the park, and it’s a popular stop for bicyclists riding through the area. I set up my tent along side a gurgling creek and had the whole park to myself for the night.

Distance: 250 miles, 2,089 total.

Scott Goes International, Part 8

Day 8: Monday, August 27, 2018

Route: Osoyoos, BC, to Hood River, OR

Woke up around 5:30 a.m. because my Couchsurfing hosts were leaving at 6. The sun was just coming over the mountains east of town. I made sure both kidneys were still there, loaded up the bike, and got ready to go. I said goodbye and thanked my hosts for their hospitality and headed to Timmy’s for breakfast before heading for the border.

I started my ride south before 7 a.m. There was no traffic on the road and nobody in line at the border station in Oroville, Washington. I cleared through customs and headed south on US Highway 97.

A few miles into the States, I turned onto a side road that paralleled Highway 97 on the west side of the Okanogan River. This road flowed through farm land taking many twists, turns, ups, and downs. I rejoined Highway 97 when the road ended at Tonasket.

Highway 97 wound its way south through the Okanogan Valley, with the view interspersed with the brown foothills of the Cascades and adjacent Kettle Mountains and the green farms lining the Okanogan River.

The Okanogan met the Columbia near Brewster and the road entered into a canyon, following the Columbia as it flowed into Lake Pateros, impounded by Wells Dam. Wells Dam provides hydroelectric power to several communities around Washington and Northern Oregon. I stopped for a break at the dam information center.

Northeast of Chelan, I turned onto US Highway 97 Alternate. “Alt 97” is a nearly 40-mile-long route that splits off the main highway near Wenatchee and winds along the south shore of Lake Chelan and into Knapp Coulee before following the west bank of the Columbia and meeting up with US Highway 2 at Sunnyslope, Washington.

I turned onto Highway 2, which shared an alignment with Highway 97 and headed west. As I approached the city of Cashmere, Washington, I saw a sign for the 9/11 Spirit of America Memorial. I was surprised to see a memorial to the events of 9/11 this far west. Having served in the Army after 9/11, I decided to make a stop.

The memorial had a bit of a troubled history, being rejected by other Washington cities, including the capital Olympia, before being given a home in Cashmere. The memorial is centered around a sculpture made from steel from the World Trade Center and a concrete block from the Pentagon. A circle of bronze statues – a firefighter, flight attendant, office worker, and member of the military – stand facing outward in a circle in front of an American flag. Today the flag was flying at half staff for the death of Senator John McCain. Though the memorial is next to a park with a children’s playground, the memorial itself was quiet, allowing visitors to reflect on the tragic events and the lives lost on 9/11 and in the ensuing military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As I continued west, I decided to take a short detour to Leavenworth. Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town nestled in a canyon along the Wenatchee River. The town is a popular spot in winter time when it is decorated and lit up for Christmas, and as a base for skiers going to Stevens Pass.

I grabbed myself a kielbasa at Rudloofs Pizza Und Brats. I got there about a half hour before they opened, so I waited patiently outside. I was customer number one for the day. $8 gets you a quarter-pound sausage covered in sauerkraut and a bag of chips. The kielbasa had just the right amount of spice and was a good lunch.

I left Leavenworth and headed east to get back on Highway 97. Highway 97 wound its way through Blewett Pass. After several miles of twists and turns, the green forests gave way to the brown, grassy Columbia Plateau, dotted with giant wind turbines.

The Kittitas Valley Wind Farm, as it is named, covers more than 6,000 acres and has 48 turbines installed. Overlooking the city of Ellensburg, Washington, the farm produces more than 100 megawatts of energy, which is enough to power 26,000 homes each year. The turbine’s towers are 262 feet tall from the base to the hub, and the blades are each more than 100 feet long and weigh about 7,000 pounds. While writing this, I learned there was a visitor center offering tours. Maybe next time.

After reaching the floor of the Kittitas Valley near Ellensburg, I turned onto Washington Highway 821. I had seen Highway 821 on my map and was immediately drawn to its many curves contrasting with the gentle sweeps of Interstate 82 to the east.

Highway 821, named as the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway, runs for 25 miles between Ellensburg and Selah. The highway is an old alignment of Highway 97, which was bypassed in the 1970s. Along the are many recreational spots where you can fish, swim, or camp. I chose to keep going.

Looking at the walls of the canyon, you get a sense of the long geologic history of the area. Layers upon layers of volcanic rock laid down over the ages. According to one of the historical markers in the canyon, the area was once a vast plain of rolling hills. Twenty-five million years ago, the first lava flows covered the land. Streams and lakes reformed and the cycle continued again for the next 15 to 20 million years. The visible layers in the canyon are part of one of the largest lava fields in the world, covering large swaths of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

At Selah, Washington, where Highway 821 emerged from the canyon, I turned onto US Highway 12 and headed west. This portion of Highway 12 was known as the White Pass Scenic Byway. I think scenic was an understatement. The road was downright gorgeous.

The White Pass Byway starts at the confluence of the Tieton and Naches Rivers below beautiful brown bluffs that look like they’d be just at home in the deserts of Utah or Arizona. I really had no idea the vast range of geographies I would see in Washington. The byway follows the Tieton River, at time inches from the edge, through a narrow canyon as it climbs toward White Pass. The entire way, giving a contrast between the dark greens of the foliage along the river and the brown hills above. Several campgrounds and day-use areas dot the banks of the river. Just west of the summit, the Tieton River is impounded by Tieton Dam – a 319-foot-tall concrete and earth dam – forming Rimrock Lake.

Near the summit of White Pass, I was graced with an amazing view of the Clear Creek Valley. The deep valley, though covered in trees instead of exposed rock, was vaguely reminiscent of views in Yosemite National Park. On the initial descent from the summit, I stopped at the viewpoint for Mt. Rainier. I could see where Rainier was, but unfortunately, most of the mountain was shrouded in clouds.

When I reached Randle, I turned south onto US Forest Service Highway 25. FS Highway 25 meanders along the east side of Mt. St. Helens. The road was mostly good, but there were a lot of portions where the underlying earth was slipping away, requiring riders and drivers to keep an eye out for rim-bending dips. Along the way, I passed many bicyclists coming down into the Randle area. I wanted to take FS Highway 99 to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint to look at Mt. St. Helens, but given it was getting late in the day, and my posterior was sore from the long ride, I felt a 32-mile round-trip addition to my day was not in my best interest, given I was still 80 miles from Hood River, Oregon. Instead, I was presented with many turnoffs with stunning views of St. Helens.

I turned onto NF Highway 90 near Swift Lake and then onto Curly Creek Rd. which climbed a ridge before heading down toward the Columbia River. I stopped at the McClellan Overlook which had a panoramic view of Mt. St. Helens and the surrounding lands. Parked at the overlook was a Ducati ST4. The owner must have worn himself out with riding around the area, because he was taking a nap on a picnic table. Curly Creek Rd. dropped onto Wind River Rd., and wonderful serpentine route with many tight twists and turns that dropped me onto Washington Highway 14 at Carson.

I took Highway 14 east a few miles to the Hood River Bridge crossing at White Salmon. After being on the road for 11 hours, my knees and butt were in some serious need of relief. I decided I’d cross over to Hood River and look for a hotel room for the night. I felt I deserved it.

I knew what to expect this time with the Hood River Bridge’s steel grate deck. Adding to the fun was a crosswind blowing upriver that was doing its best to push me into oncoming traffic.

I booked an “Express Deal” through Priceline and got myself a room at the Holiday Inn Express. The desk clerk was kind enough to let me leave my bike parked in the covered area in front of the main entrance. I got myself a cold can of Angry Orchard from the gas station next door to the hotel and took a relaxing dip in the hot tub to ease my tired muscles and joints. After almost 440 miles, by far my longest day ever on a motorcycle, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to ride that long again. A hot shower and comfortable bed capped off the day.

Distance: 437 miles, 1,839 total

Scott Goes International, Part 7

Day 7: August 26, 2018

Route: Nakusp, BC, to Osoyoos, BC

The morning sun woke me up early, around 6 a.m. Maybe it was also the excitement and trepidation of leaving Nakusp. The entire trip to Nakusp, I had been riding with Greg. Something felt calming about seeing him in front of me on the road. Well, Greg is retired. Greg didn’t have to be back to work in a week; I did. I knew this was coming, and Greg had told me I’d likely be returning home alone. Greg planned to see more of British Columbia and Alberta. My return to California would be my first long trip alone. I laid there in the tent for a while planning out my day.

Starting early the previous night, it had rained in Nakusp. The rain was welcome, as it helped reduce some of the smokiness, but at the same time I wasn’t looking forward to riding in it. My rain gear had melted back in California, and I had not bought replacements.

I packed up my camp in the cold morning air. Amazingly, the items that had been hanging on the clothesline had dried despite the rain. I guess the stand of trees around camp had provided enough of a cover that the rain couldn’t get through.

I said goodbye to Greg. He offered some encouraging words, and reminded me to ride my own ride. Greg had every bit of confidence that I could handle the trek home by myself. Greg assured me that though I would be alone, motorcyclists are never truly alone – they look out for each other. A handshake and a hug later, and I was on my way.

It was shortly after 9 when I finally hit the road, taking BC Highway 6 out of Nakusp toward Fauquier. The ride out of town was chilly, and I had to stop to put on my thermal jacket liner. Since Horizons Unlimited was over, several other motorcycles passed as I put on the liner, each one raising a thumb at me to make sure I was all right.

I arrived at the Fauquier ferry and waited in a long line of cars and motorcycles. The Fauquier ferry was different from the ferry I had taken in Washington. They did not allow motorcycles to skip the queue and go directly to the front. I ended up at the back of the ferry with another rider on a BMW. We chatted for a bit about where we were from. He was familiar with the Northern California area, and had ridden many of my “home roads.”

I rolled off the ferry behind a couple minivans and RVs, and made the climb up the Monashee Pass. As I was climbing the pass, it started raining. The rain wasn’t heavy, but it was steady. The road didn’t start getting wet until I reached the top of the pass. My riding jacket and pants did a good job on their own of keeping me dry.

The rain had an added benefit – it was no longer smoky. I had been able to see Arrow Lake while crossing on the ferry, and I was able to see the forest as I rode through the pass. The green and brown trees were a beautiful contrast to the gray skies. The reflections of the clouds on the damp pavement, added to the beauty. As I descended the pass, the highway followed Inonoaklin Creek as it wound down the hills as it flowed eventually into the Kettle River. I stopped for pictures where the road passed McIntyre Lake. I was enjoying the solitude and the natural beauty of the Monashees.

That’s one of the good things about riding alone. I could stop whenever I wanted if I saw something interesting. Greg always told me if I wanted to stop if I wanted, he had no problem waiting for me, but I felt bad doing so because I felt like I was holding him up.

I turned onto BC Highway 97 in Vernon. The rain had stopped, but the air was still cold. While waiting at a stop light in Vernon, I saw a CF-18 circle around overhead. It flew off before I could get my camera out to take a picture of it.

I continued south on Highway 97 past Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake. I stopped in Lake Country and visited my first Tim Horton’s. It’s mass-market coffee, but everyone tells me it’s a place to stop when you’re in Canada. The coffee was good, and the sausage and egg sandwich filled me up enough to satisfy my hunger for the time being. Other customers were so nice, asking how the ride was going, and even inquiring as to where my license plates were from. Two customers seemed shocked that someone would ride all the way to Canada from California on a motorcycle.

In Kelowna, I gassed up and made a quick stop at Walmart. I had been looking for Canadian flag stickers since I arrived, but had no luck finding any. I thought for sure Walmart would have them, as they always seem to have a small souvenir section. Apparently the Kelowna Walmart was different. They didn’t have a souvenir section, and they didn’t even have Maple Leaf Flag stickers in the customization section of the automotive department. Perhaps they’d be easier to find near the border where all the tourists go.

From Kelowna, I turned onto BC Highway 33, which wound through the West Kettle River Valley. The rain picked up again through the valley, but it still wasn’t so bad that I had to stop. The scenery, once I entered the valley was amazing – green trees, reddish brown grasses, gray clouds. I stopped several times to take pictures. Highway 33 seemed to be the road less traveled, as I didn’t see as much traffic as I had on Highway 97.

It was beginning to get close to the time where I would have to think about finding a place to stop for the night. I knew there was a provincial park in Osoyoos, but when I had checked the previous day, it was almost full. Also, I didn’t want to sleep on the ground again after spending the last week in a tent. I decided to give the Couchsurfing app a try.

Couchsurfing is a website and app where hosts offer up space for people to spend the night, be it simply a couch, a spare bedroom, or a mother-in-law unit. The stays are free, as opposed to other sharing sites like AirBNB. Though staying with a stranger is not something I would typically do, I thought I’d give it a try. I made a couple requests for places in Osoyoos and would check back for my results as I got closer. I was hopeful someone would be amenable to my last-minute request.

At the town of Rock Creek, I turned onto BC Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway, to make my final approach toward Osoyoos. Highway 3 crosses Anarchist Pass and skirts within a quarter mile of the Canada-US border in some places. Heading west toward the descending sun, I saw amazing displays of light rays piercing the clouds. Descending into Osoyoos, I navigated the tight switchbacks of the highway, unfortunately being stuck behind a slow-moving RV at the front of a long line of cars. I enjoyed the view of Osoyoos Lake on the descent.

When I arrived in Osoyoos, I checked Couchsurfing to see if I had any responses. I got one from a user named Janet. Janet had a private room with a cot available for the night. A warm, dry room and not sleeping on the ground sounded great. I confirmed my stay and told Janet I would be arriving shortly.

I made a stop at a local store, and finally found myself some Canada stickers. Border towns to the rescue!

The room was not a stay at the Ritz, just a bedroom with a camping cot, but I didn’t care. I’d be off the ground and warm for the night. Janet and her boyfriend Colin, a retired-RCMP officer, were nice people. Janet was quick to offer up a hot cup of tea, and made dinner. I chatted with them about my time on the road, and the differences in police work in Canada and the United States. After dinner, they took me to the local ice rink, where their friend Paulo works. Unfortunately, the rink didn’t have any skates available in my size, so I didn’t get to hit the ice. Instead, I got to help Paulo with some of the end-of-day ice maintenance. I didn’t get to drive the Zamboni, but I got to help Paulo measure the thickness of the ice.

I slept well on the cot, and even managed to hold onto my kidneys! Tomorrow I would say goodbye to Canada and re-enter the United States. Thanks for your hospitality, Canada. Your people and land have been beautiful.

Distance: 264.5 miles, 1402 total.

Scott Goes International, Part 6

Part 6: Horizons Unlimited Canwest

Did not do a lot of riding once we arrived in Nakusp. Nakusp is a small town, only about 3 square miles, so there isn’t much need to ride around. The campground is right on the edge of the central business district of the village.

I’m told the views of Arrow Lake are spectacular. Unfortunately, the entire time I was in Nakusp, the sky was filled with smoke from fires raging all over British Columbia. Regardless, the town was still a nice place.

The night we arrived in Nakusp, we had dinner at the Leland Hotel. The Leland purports to be the “oldest continually operating hotel in British Columbia,” having opened in 1892. The hotel has a garden and patio overlooking Arrow Lake, along with a dining room and bar/card room. The nachos are good, as was the beef dip sandwich.

Prior to Horizons Unlimited starting up, I took the opportunity to walk around the village. There are a bunch of small shops selling things from books to antiques, along with a supermarket and hardware store where you can get almost anything you might need.

Thursday morning, I had a breakfast burrito at Broadway Deli. The tortilla, some called it a “wrap,” was green, but the burrito itself was good – chock full of eggs, peppers, potatoes, and sausage.

I walked around town and picked up some souvenirs to take home, and I mailed a postcard home.

The smoke lingered the entire time I was there, but the waterfront walk was still nice. There’s a Japanese garden with colorful flowers, and many benches to sit and look at the lake.

For those who haven’t been, Horizons Unlimited is a gathering focused on traveling by motorcycle, though they welcome people in any type of vehicle. Presenters give talks on their own travels, tips on taking your own journey, and maintenance tasks you might have to do on the road. If you are looking for inspiration or information on taking your own motorcycle journey, HU is a good thing to attend.

I took the opportunity to take a class on off-road riding skills on the first day. Al, the instructor, is a Canadian police officer and police motorcycle instructor. Much of the class covered low-speed techniques that would benefit a rider both on and off road. I found the class so informative, I took it twice. Al had also set up a course on the old baseball field with some off-road-type obstacles to practice your newly acquired skills. Though, at Al’s recommendation, I steered clear of some of the larger obstacles to prevent any possible damage to my bike.

Something I like to do when I travel is to visit the local police station. I enjoy meeting other officers and learning about how their experiences are both the same and different. When meeting the officer, I always bring a patch from my department to trade for theirs. In the case of Nakusp, police services are provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I walked over to the station, which was only two blocks from the campground, and met Corporal Moffat. Corporal Moffat was more than happy to find me a patch, which took a bit of searching around the office. She even gave me some stickers and temporary tattoos for the kids!

During some down time, Greg and I took the opportunity to visit the Nakusp Airport to see the fire helicopters coming and going. After visiting the airport, we went to Nakusp Hot Springs.

The hot springs are in the Kuskanax Valley northeast of Nakusp. The road was a fun, windy two-lane road that climbed into the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains following Kuskanax Creek. The trip to the springs was worth it, if only for the ride up. The hot springs had two pools kept at different temperatures. The hot pool was said to be at 104 degrees, but felt hotter. The larger, cooler pool was kept at 97 degrees. While in Nakusp, I still had tightness in my leg, but a soak in the hot springs loosened it up quite nicely. On the way back to town, we stopped to look at Gardner Falls, just off the side of the road.

Just walking around town, I could tell that the stereotype of the polite Canadian is true. I did not meet a single person who did not greet you as you walked by on the street, and all of the people in stores seemed genuinely interested in making sure your experience was a good one. I would think Nakusp would be a great place to visit just as a relaxing getaway.

Scott Goes International, Part 5

Day 5: August 22, 2018

Route: Hunters, Washington, to Nakusp, British Columbia

I woke up around 7 a.m. and looked out the front of my tent to see a very nice sunrise over the lake. Smoke in the air had the side-benefit of warming the reds and oranges of the sunrise. Made my coffee while Greg was still sleeping and just sat and watched the stillness of the lake. The silence was beautiful. Soon Greg got up and we broke camp to head for Canada.

We checked Greg’s Butler Map to decide if we wanted to continue up Highway 25, or cross the Columbia River on the Inchelium-Gifford Ferry. The map labeled the Inchelium Highway as a “gold” road, meaning it was, as Greg called it “Motorcycle Heaven.” I made the choice that we would take the ferry and take the gold road.

We got on the ferry a little south of Gifford. The ferry crew allowed us to the front of the line so we would be first off. The ride on the Columbian Princess took about 10 minutes.

We headed north on Inchelium Highway toward Kettle Falls. While the road followed the river and had many wonderful views, it was not at twisty and “Motorcycle Heaven-ish” as the map made it out to be. It did not seem all that much different from the stretch of Highway 25 we had ridden yesterday between Fort Spokane and Hunters.

We passed through many areas that had been burned by recent fires. We also saw fire crews in the area doing their work to make sure the fires were out. We stopped for gas in Coleville at the junction of Washington Highway 20 and US Highway 395. While the pumps were open, the store was closed, presumably because of the fires. Burned trees and brush went right up to the back edge of the parking lot at the station.

We turned north on Highway 395 and headed for the border crossing at Laurier. Along the way, we passed through small timber communities that showed that logging was still alive and well in Northern Washington.

Laurier was definitely one of those towns that if you blinked you would miss it. It seemed that no sooner did I see the sign for Laurier, then I saw a giant maple leaf flag flapping in the breeze. There she was – Canada! Reaching the international border felt like a huge milestone for me. It hit me, I rode a motorcycle from California to Canada!

Crossing the border was quick and easy. The Canadian Border Services Agency agent was polite and didn’t delay us too much. I got my passport stamped (something you have to actually request) and I was sent on my way. We pulled over over a few hundred meters (we’re now using metric) past the border station to stop and take pictures and exchange handshakes at the sign welcoming us to British Columbia.

We headed north on BC Highway 395 for a few mile – er, kilometers – and turned onto BC Highway 3 toward Castlegar. We rode the shores of Christina Lake then climbed up Bonanza Pass in the Monashee Mountains.

We stopped in Castlegar for lunch. We tried to go to Tim Horton’s for my first visit. However, they were closed. There was a sign saying they were open during construction, but also a sign of unknown age saying they were closed for an employee party. We may never know the true reason, but if it was because of a party, I’m a little disappointed we weren’t invited. I thought Canadians were supposed to be polite. We ended up at A&W, another place we don’t have back at home. I ordered poutine, and found it to be quite good for fast-food poutine.

Castlegar was really smoky. I ended up putting on my N95 mask for the remainder of the trip. We hopped on BC Highway 3A which followed the path of the Kootenay River. At Brilliant, we passed an old suspension bridge that, looking back, I would have liked to have stopped and gotten a picture of. Some might say it was a brilliant suspension bridge.

At Playmor Junction, we turned onto BC Highway 6 for the final stretch to Nakusp. Highway 6 had everything you could want on a motorcycle – fast sweeping turns, tight twisties, and magnificent views (when you could see them through the smoke).

At a few places along Highway 6 the smoke was really bad. The N95 was helping a bit with sparing my lungs. We passed along one stretch of highway, north of Slocan along Slocan Lake, where the road was built into the cliff above the lake. The smoke was so bad I could not tell how far down the lake was, nor could I tell how high the cliff was above me. It was almost like I was riding a road in the sky, and was slightly vertigo-inducing. Below you can see the difference between a smoky day and clear day.

Now, here I was, at least 100 kilometers into Canada, and I had not switched my speedometer to metric. I had switched my GPS to metric, but it was almost impossible to see in the sun. The road signs gave a maximum speed of 100 km/h, but I didn’t know how fast that was. I was trying to do the conversion in my head, but grew tired of it and just went with the flow of traffic. One thing I did notice was, the distances seem to pass faster in kilometers as opposed to miles.

Soon enough, we were rolling into Nakusp. We headed for the municipal campground, where Greg’s friend, The Wookie, had already acquired us a campsite. We dismounted, stretched our legs, and said our hellos – we were here!

We set about putting up our camp, home for the next four days. While doing so, something happened that would end up being a common occurrence over the next few days. I hear a voice say, “Is that Greg?!” It seems Greg is fairly well known by other Horizons Unlimited attendees.

Now for a few days of relaxation, inspiration, and education.

Distance: 221 miles, 1,137 total.

Scott Goes International, Part 4

Day 4: August 21, 2018

Route: Richland, Washington, to Hunters, Washington

As I mentioned before, we slept without tents so we could spend less time packing up in the morning. While hanging around camp last night, a cat wandered into our camp site. I don’t know who the cat belonged to, but it had a collar on it. Perhaps it was the KOA’s cat. In any event, Greg made friends with the cat and it stayed at our site all night sleeping on top of Greg. Greg said the cat made his night.

We got up around 6 a.m. to get to the B Reactor tour.

B Reactor was the first large-scale nuclear reactor ever built. It was built as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The story behind the reactor was fascinating. The construction of B Reactor went from trying to find a suitable site, to planning, to construction, to production in 21 months! Plutonium created by the reactor was used in the first test of an atomic bomb at Trinity, New Mexico, and in “Fat Man,” the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. B Reactor, and the Hanford Site as a whole, were instrumental in ending World War II.

The tour of the reactor itself was great. I was fully expecting to have to go through a bunch of other exhibits and side rooms before we got to see the reactor, but that was not the case. We went through the entrance, into a hallway, then through a set of doors right onto the reactor floor, in full view of the giant face of the reactor. I found the whole building to be fascinating.

The tour gave me a realization: something like B Reactor could not be built so quickly today. There are too many bureaucratic hoops to jump through and environmental red tape to cut through. The permitting process itself, at a minimum, would take longer than the entirety of the Hanford Project took from conception to completion. The reactor, though its ultimate purpose was destructive in nature, is a symbol of a different age, and a testament to the ingenuity and dedication of the American people.

After our tour, we got back on the road and headed north with the goal of getting as far north as we could get before we decided to stop for the night. We hopped on Interstate 192, then US Highway 395. One thing about this area of Washington is that it seems to be an endless stretch of grasslands. As far as the eye could see were brown fields of grass. But once again, I noticed that the roads simply appeared to be placed on the ground and followed the contours of the land instead of cutting through it.

We stopped for lunch at the Odessa Drive-In in Odessa, Washington. Odessa is a farming community with a population of less than 1,000 people. The town was actually named for Odessa, Ukraine.

I had a bacon cheeseburger, which was great. Greg had the special, a cheesesteak sandwich, which he said was also delicious. Mom-and-pop places are the best.

After leaving Odesssa, we rode through additional farmland, the road following the undulating topography of the eastern Washington shrub-steppe. Oddly enough, the road was freshly paved, yet I saw maybe one other vehicle aside from our motorcycles. Who exactly was this road paved for?

At Wilbur, Washington, we turned onto east US Highway 2 for a few miles. Wilbur was another farming community, nearly the epitome of “Small-town America.” We then turned onto Miles-Creston Road, a twisty road connecting US 2 to the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Most people, when they think of Washington, think of a place with mountains and evergreen forests. However, much of Washington is largely grassland, especially eastern Washington, which lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. I did not see my first Washington evergreens until we got onto Miles-Creston Rd.

Miles-Creston Rd. dropped us onto Washington Highway 25. We made a quick stop at Fort Spokane, a former U.S. Army outpost located at the confluence of the Columbia and Spokane Rivers. Fort Spokane was the last frontier outpost built by the Army, and was used to keep a buffer between the native Coleville and Spokane tribes from the newly established city of Spokane, 50 miles to the east. After the Army moved out, the fort was used as a boarding school for native children and a tuberculosis sanatorium.

After leaving Fort Spokane, we headed north, finally stopping at the Hunters Campground outside Hunters, Washington. We got a site right on the shores of Lake Roosevelt, with a great view of the lake. Walking along the shores of the lake, I saw a few deer, and multiple flocks of geese. The hills on the opposite side of the lake were evidence of the glacial origins of the land in the area. The hills were made up of loose sandy material left behind after the glaciers melted.

After sundown, I went and sat on the dock near the campsite and watched the stars come out. The smoky skies had cleared just enough to allow the stars to shine. If you keep looking up, you’re bound to see something special. I watched a meteor streak across the entire length of the sky from east to west.

Tomorrow, we cross into Canada.

Distance: 197 miles, 916 total.

Scott Goes International, Part 3

Day 3: August 20, 2018

Route: Maryhill, Washington, to Pasco, Washington

I awoke at the Maryhill State Park Campground to the sound of water being shot out of sprinklers at our bikes. They needed a wash anyway. I had a feeling sprinklers might come on the night before, and had wisely removed my riding gear off the clothesline and into the tent. Greg, on the other hand, had wet gear. I quickly re-aimed the sprinkler head away from the bikes and we went to work drying them off.

It was a smoky morning, blue skies had given way to dirty brown with an orange sun. Some might say it looked post-apocalyptic.

Made my coffee in my cheap Chinese Jetboil knockoff and then boiled some more water for oatmeal. I’ve never seen instant oatmeal go bad, but I think I had a bad packet. The “apples” had turned black. So much for breakfast.

We got on the road and headed east on Highway 14 toward Richland, Washington. Once at Richland, we had a choice to make. We both wanted to visit B Reactor in Hanford, part of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park. The problem was, there was only one tour a day on most days, and it was at 8 in the morning. We surely weren’t going to make it today.

A few miles east of Maryhill, we saw a sign reading “Stonehenge.” Odd, I thought Stonehenge was in England. It turns out the Maryhill Stonehenge was built in 1918 as a memorial to those who had died in World War I, most specifically those service members who were from Klickitat County, Washington. At the time the Maryhill Stonehenge was built, it was still believed that the original Stonehenge had been used as a site for human sacrifice. The designer of the Maryhill Stonehenge, Sam Hill, thought the replica was a fitting reminder that man was still being sacrificed to the god of war.

Maryhill Stonehenge had a great view of the Columbia River Gorge. I stopped and paid my respects to the fallen.

While walking around Stonehenge, I remembered I had brought a Geocoin with me. Geocoins are trackable items associated with Geocaching. I had picked the coin up near home, and I planned to drop it off at a geocache along my travels. As it turns out, there was a geocache at the site of the Maryhill Stonehenge. Greg helped me locate the geocache – his first – and I placed the coin inside for the next person to come along and move it.

After a while at Stonehenge, we continued east. Highway 14, as opposed Interstate 84 on the opposite side of the Columbia River, followed the contours of the land instead of cutting right through it. The ups and downs of the land, and the twists and turns of the river, made for an enjoyable ride.

When we reached Richland, which was very smoky, we headed for the Manhattan Project NHP visitor center. The docent at the desk was happy to put us on the list for a tour the following day, so we had to make a decision. The tour would take a big chunk of time out of our day, and we wanted to get to Nakusp by the afternoon of the 22nd. In the end, we thought viewing an important part of history was worth the time.

So today ended up being a short day. We went ended up getting a site at the Pasco KOA campground. Because of the early day the following day, we didn’t even set up our tents, we simply put our sleep mats and sleeping bags on the ground. Tonight, we sleep under the stars – presumably, since we can’t see them through the smoke.

We took a little ride to a local fast food joint for lunch. Despite other mom-and-pop options being around, we also like to eat at places we don’t have at home. So Arby’s it was. Sitting in the air-conditioned restaurant was better than being out in the hot, smoky air. One thing though … what the heck is going on in Washington. Greg found a bag containing what appeared to be a white crystalline controlled substance on the floor in front of the register. Stay classy, Pasco! Last time I was in Washington, I found a similar bag outside a 7-Eleven. Do bags of drugs rain from the sky in Washington?

Distance: 133 miles, 719 total.

Controlled substances flushed: Approximately 1 gram. Drugs are bad, mmmkay.

Scott Goes International, Part 2

Day 2: August 19, 2018

Route: Newport, Oregon, to Maryhill, Washington

I spent the night on Steve’s couch with my leg wrapped, elevated, and heated. Woke up around 8 a.m. and found my leg to be feeling much better. It was still a little tight, but I could walk mostly without a limp.

After a cup of coffee Greg and I packed up our bikes, locked up Steve’s house, and hit the road. We headed east on US Highway 20 toward Corvallis. There was a lot of new pavement on a new alignment of the highway east of Newport.

Along the route east, we passed through many small towns – “Small-Town America,” if you will. Towns with only mom-and-pop businesses and no street lights.

Passing through the town of Lebanon, we saw a police officer standing on the side of the road talking to a guy who was sitting on the curb. Greg and I, being Deputy Sheriffs, both slowed town, turned our heads, and watched as we passed, just to make sure the officer was all right. Old habits take over.

We got onto Oregon Highway 226 and turned toward Stayton. The highway passed through a lot of farm land and followed the up and down contours of the land. When we turned onto Oregon Highway 22 toward Detroit we started seeing signs of a lumber industry that was still a major player in the area. We passed numerous mills and shops selling lumber, along with patches of forest that showed signs of recent logging.

We entered the Santiam River Canyon and soon a dam came into view. It almost looked like the highway headed right for the Dam. The Big Cliff Dam, as it was called by large Art Deco letters emblazoned on the side, was a sign of a past time. The dam was built in the 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Willamette Valley Project. As it turns out, it would not be the only dam we would pass.

We soon arrived at Detroit Dam a few miles upriver from Big Cliff. We stopped to walk across the top of the dam. Detroit Dam was constructed around the same time as Big Cliff. It is 463 feet tall and impounds Detroit Lake. Several fishermen were lined up on the lake side of the dam.

We continued east and turned onto National Forest Highway 46 just east of Detroit Lake. NF 46 was recommended by Bruce, a neighbor of Steve, who had come to the house as we were unpacking the previous night. Bruce said the road was as good as any normal highway, but without the cars. It would be the best route for us to get to Hood River.

The road rose through the Mt. Hood National Forest. After about 30 miles, we turned onto National Forest Highway 42. NF 42 started out as a one-lane road, climbing up through the forest, eventually coming out at US Highway 26.

We crossed a wooden bridge that, although sturdy, looked like it had seen better days. As the road climbed into the mountains, we were greeted with many twists and turns, and very little traffic. Eventually we came around a bend and were blessed with a view of Mt. Hood through the trees.

Who could ask for a better view?

We turned onto US 26 and were given more views of the south flank of Mt. Hood. Despite all the fires across the northwest, we were lucky to see very little smoke throughout Oregon. After a few miles on US 26, we turned onto Oregon 35, which followed the east flank of Mt. Hood and dropped into Hood River.

After a stop to pick up food for the night in Hood River, we decided to cross the Columbia River and stop for the night on the Washington side.

We crossed on the Hood River Bridge, a 4,400-foot steel truss vertical lift bridge with a steel-grate deck. The bridge was opened in 1924 and is the only crossing in the approximately 50 miles between Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, Oregon, and the Dalles Bridge in The Dalles, Oregon.

This was my first time on a steel-grate bridge. I had heard about crossing them, and the tendency of a motorcycle’s wheels to wander with the pattern of the grate. Having to cross this bridge was a complete surprise for me. It felt strange, going over the bridge to feel the wheels wander without any input, but I made it without any issues.

We turned onto Washington Highway 14 and headed east along the banks of the Columbia. Once in Washington, we started to pick up more and more smoke. It was quite a change from being on the Oregon side. Highway 14, though it was hazy and smoky, provided wonderful views of the river and the Columbia Gorge.

We made camp for the night at the Maryhill State Park Campground. The campground was right along the edge of the river. We set up camp, then went for a swim in the river. After a long, hot day of riding, the cold waters of the Columbia felt great. The cold was also a welcome relief for my tight leg.

Went to bed under a moon that was red from the smoke. Today was a better day.

Max air temperature: 100 F

Distance: 280 miles, 586 miles total.

Scott Goes International, Part 1

This was my first international motorcycle trip. Our destination was Nakusp, British Columbia, for the Horizons Unlimited CanWest gathering. A result of a very generous and understanding wife.

I’ve already completed the trip, but I’ll be adding my daily reports as I complete them.

The Players:

Greg: A veteran traveler with trips to Alaska, Baja California, Thailand, and the American Southwest under his belt totaling more than 50,000 miles on his 2013 Triumph Tiger.

Me: Somewhat of a newbie. I started riding in 2015, and have mostly done just day rides, save for a weekend trips to Oregon and a trip to Horizons Unlimited California in Mariposa last year. I’m on a 2015 V-Strom 650.

Day 1: August 18, 2018

Route: McKinleyville, California, to Newport, Oregon

Today was going to be an easy start – a 300-mile ride up US Highway 101 along the Northern California and Oregon coasts.

Like all good adventures, we met up at Starbucks, as is tradition. We fueled ourselves up with coffee and food for the ride ahead. Little did I know that today was going to be a strange sequence of events.

Prior to rolling out from Starbucks, I rearranged the luggage on the back of my bike. I had originally placed my Camelbak between my dry bag and me. This did not give me much room to sit, so I moved the Camelbak to just behind the dry bag, resting on the end of the luggage rack.

We rolled out and headed up Highway 101 north toward Oregon. This was a very familiar road to us, hugging the California coastline through Redwood National Park. We turned off onto the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway to ride through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Drury Parkway is a former alignment of Highway 101. It is two lanes wide and winds through the majestic redwood forest. The parkway was bypassed in 1993 after construction of a longer, but faster alignment of Highway 101 with two lanes in each direction.

At Crescent City, we stopped for a bathroom break – you only rent coffee – and a stretch. As I came out of the gas station, I discovered my Camelbak had slipped off the luggage rack and had hung down behind the exhaust pipe. The hot exhaust had melted a hole into the corner of the Camelbak. I opened up the backpack and found that my rain suit had also melted, along with my windbreaker. Surprisingly, the water bladder was unharmed.

While readjusting my luggage to prevent further damage from hot gasses, a familiar-looking motorcycle pulled into the parking lot of the gas station. It turned out to be a co-worker of Greg and me. He was on his way back from a trip around Oregon and Idaho. We chatted for a bit and said goodbye to continue our travels.

We rode north from Crescent City toward Oregon. To fully memorialize the trip, I got the bright idea to stop at the “Welcome to Oregon” sign for a picture. I pulled into the turnout and came to a stop in front of the sign. As I was nearly stopped, I didn’t pay heed to the loose gravel at the edge of the turnout and locked up my front wheel. My bike started to slip and I tried to catch it. I failed. I fell over and landed on the ground like a turtle stuck on its back. As I went down, I felt a sharp pain on the back side of my left leg. I was six feet from the sign and not even out of California, and I had hurt myself doing the simplest of maneuvers! I stood up and found it hard to walk or even put weight on my leg. My immediate thought was my trip was over before it began.

Greg saw my misfortune and had stopped, as did a couple going southbound on a Harley. They helped stand my bike back up. There was no damage, thanks to my crash bars, side cases, and hand guards. Well, that was good.

I walked around for a bit trying to walk the tightness in my leg away. I also took some time to sit and stretch. Eventually, my leg felt well enough, though still in pain, to get back on the motorcycle and keep going. We decided it would be a good time to stop in Brookings, Oregon, for a snack and a rest.

While stopped at the KFC in Brookings, I hobbled over to the Fred Meyer store across the street for some first-aid supplies. I picked up an Ace bandage to wrap my leg along with some heat packs for later. When I returned to KFC, after what seemed like an eternity on my bad leg, I wrapped my leg up getting a little relief from the compression of the bandage.

We gassed up in Gold Beach and continued up the coast. The winds picked up north of Gold Beach, which is typical for the Oregon coast. The winds weren’t too strong, but more of an annoyance to deal with for what would be the remaining nearly 200 miles. For those who haven’t been to Oregon, the coast is very beautiful. Highway 101 hugs the coastline, following beaches, sand dunes, and high cliffs from California to Washington.

Normally, I like to stop and take pictures when I travel. However, due to my accident earlier, it was hard to get on and off the bike, something I didn’t want to do repeatedly, so I didn’t stop. I really just wanted to get to Newport to relax my leg.

Things started to take another strange turn.

Greg had arranged a few weeks prior to our departure to stay with a friend, Steve, who lives in Newport. Steve said it would be no problem for us to crash at his place for the night. At various places we stopped along our way, Greg was getting odd messages from Steve … “Just had lunch in Brookings and getting that last good gas before California.” … “Got room for another rider on your couch?” … “Just passed Redwood National Park.” …

Greg wasn’t able to get any response from Steve as to what he meant by the messages. It sounded like Steve was going south, while we were going north. We made a stop for gas in Florence and we came to the realization that Steve might not be home when we got there.


Greg decided we would go to Steve’s house to see if he was home and just messing with us, or if we’d need to find a campground. We got to Steve’s house and discovered he was not, in fact, home. Steve had gone south to stay at Greg’s house. It was not a problem though. Steve is a stand-up guy, and always looks out for other motorcyclists. Steve let us know where he kept a spare key and let us stay at his place anyway. I guess that’s a win.

I rested my leg and put a heat pack under it, which helped out a lot with the tightness. It appeared my leg would be OK, and I could keep on going.

I enjoyed the view from Steve’s living room while enjoying a delicious pizza dinner.

After such a strange day, I hope tomorrow is better.

Distance: 307 miles.

Gravity: 1, Scott: 0

Curacao Day 4

The great thing about vacations is you don’t have to have a schedule if you don’t want to. We got up late again today. There’s something really nice about sleeping in.

We checked out a restaurant in the Pietermaai area of Willemstad called the Scuba Lodge. Reviews told us the breakfast there was really good. When we arrived, we were greeted with seating that was mere feet from the ocean. There’s something nice about watching the waves crash in front of you while enjoying your coffee.

Despite the toast being hard, breakfast was really good. Some place we would definitely try again.

We decided to head back to Westpunt in the afternoon to snorkel at Playa Grandi. We heard Grandi was a great place to see turtles while you swim. We were greeted by many turtles, drawn to the area by the arriving fishermen who were discarding their trimmings over the side of their boats. The turtles are so graceful and did not seem to be afraid of humans. Though I didn’t try, it seemed you could reach out and touch the turtles.

Though I did my best to avoid the sea life, it seems they didn’t play by the same rules. I got stung by a jellyfish. Ouch!

Alicia, as we all know, she likes to talk to strangers. She struck up a conversation with Ard while on the beach. Ard worked for Sea Turtle Conservation Curacao. Ard was at Grandi checking on the turtles, making sure they were healthy and uninjured. Ard told us he was heading to another beach to look for more turtles. Ard had heard a turtle at the other beach had gotten stuck with a fishing hook and he was going to make sure no other turtles were hurt. Alicia asked Ard if we could come along to watch him look for the turtles. Ard was fine with it and said we could help him if we felt so inclined.

We headed for Santa Cruz Beach and me Ard and two other conservationists. Flowing into the bay in front of Santa Cruz Beach was an estuary leading to a lagoon. Ard’s plan was for Alicia and me to walk the estuary, making noise to cause the turtles to move toward the bay. Ard and the other conservationist would wait where the estuary met the bay and count the turtles as they swam past. Ard managed to spot five turtles, but he was not able to tell if they were injured because the water was so cloudy. Nonetheless it was fun to help. We are all about doing things on our vacation that are outside the ordinary.

We had dinner at Azzuro at Blue Bay. Azzuro was a fancy place that was on the jetty separating Blue Bay from the ocean. I had carbonara that was wonderful! For dessert I had some tiramisu that left a little to be desired. Tiramisu should be a little more than a martini glass filled with lady fingers and whipped cream.

Back at the apartment we got to Skype with the boys. Due to the time difference, it was difficult to catch them. Grandma told us the boys missed us a lot and they were delighted to talk with us.

After a few days with no bugs, we found a dead roach in our room. We were hoping it had just wandered in from the outside while we had the patio doors open. It made us contemplate going home early again. Being told of a $200 change fee put a quick end to that thought.

Back in the USA we take for granted certain things, like decent bathroom plumbing. For some reason, we weren’t allowed to flush toilet paper in this modern apartment. It seemed weird to us that they would rather we toss our used toilet paper in the trash. Wouldn’t the smell of old toilet paper be more of a concern?

Good thing there are two bathrooms in the apartment.