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Northern Migration

Prelude to a Ride

Monday, Big Sur, California

Each summer, I migrate north to visit and ride with family and friends.  Up the coast to the Pacific Northwest, then east, north, or south (but never west), seeking sinuous roads and scenic countryside. For me, nothing compares to the visceral joy of travel by motorcycle…I might reconsider that position if I had keys (do they have keys?) to a personal jet.

New Day

Tuesday, Big Sur, California → Bandon, Oregon, 618 miles, 13 hours

Nice weather is nice.  Temperatures ranged from 54º - 109ºF, and ‘nice’ is somewhere in-between.  No rain.  Leisurely ride up US-101, occasional lighthouse, elk and deer, and stopping for pavement maintenance crews.  Of course, a stop at Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California to see Paul Bunyan and Babe.  Typically when I visit, a pre-adolescent child is posing for a photo while holding up Babe’s giant blue balls, and I’m not disappointed today.  Find a clean and reasonably-priced motel room in Bandon, Oregon, across from the pier, scrumptious fish & chips while gazing cross-harbor at the sunset.  Good start to the ride.

Lighthouses and Airplanes

Wednesday, Bandon, Oregon → Portland, Oregon, 278 miles, 10 hours

More lighthouses.  The stunning Oregon coast has many, and they’re each unique in design and construction.  Cross over the D River, Lincoln City, Oregon, which claims to be the world’s shortest river at 120’ in length (though its length varies, due to ocean tides, from 58’ - 205’).  Heading inland, stop at the restored Drift Creek Bridge in Lane County, Oregon, a wooden covered bridge built in 1914.  Then, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum near McMinnville, Oregon.  Spacecraft, aircraft (including the Spruce Goose), and mannequins with creepy eyes in vintage pilot garb.  The adjacent waterpark has a Boeing 747 mounted on the roof (seriously), with water slides sprouting from the fuselage.  On to Portland, Oregon, to visit sister, her husband, and a nephew.  Maximum temperature 107ºF today, it’s cooling off.


Thursday, Portland, Oregon

Ride-free day, sister and I drive to Hood River, Oregon, on the Columbia River, a cool town, popular for wind/water sports.  They have a Pietro’s Pizza!  Why an exclamation mark?  The town I grew up in, Longview, Washington, had a pizza parlor by the same name, and this establishment serves the same pizza we ate 50 years ago!  Awesome.

Water Wheels

Friday, Portland, Oregon → Seattle, Washington, 203 miles, 7.5 hours

On to Seattle, Washington, to connect with my brother.  Take eastern shore up the Puget Sound, ferry ride from Bremerton, Washington, to Seattle.  It’s gorgeous, Olympic mountain range to the west, Cascade mountain range to the east, and view of Mt. Rainier across the water.  In Washington, motorcycles move to the front of the ferry, with first-on and -off privileges, which is very cool.  Stop at REI’s (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) flagship retail facility in Seattle, a giant candy store for humans who dwell outside by choice.  See my brother, his wife, my niece and her family, including a brand-new grand-nephew :)

Hot Turnovers

Saturday, Seattle, Washington → Clarkston, Washington, 369 miles, 9.5 hours

With a friend in tow, my bother and I head over the Cascade mountain range to eastern Washington.  It’s hot!  Stop to assist with a vehicle rollover (patient extricated with minor injuries).  Neighbor lends us a watering hose to soak down our evaporative cooling vests, something new we’re trying out.  Soak the vest, don the vest, ride fast, and the wind draws heat away from the body as water evaporates.  It seems to help, though 111ºF is still hot to ride in.  We arrive, raisin-like, in Carkston, Washington, (across the Snake River from Lewiston, Idaho) by late afternoon.  The motel has a motorcycle-washing station.  Dinner at the casino across the street, then lights off, air conditioning on, ‘till we’re roused by daylight when this spot on the globe next faces the sun.  

Rivers Road

Sunday, Clarkson, Washington → Whitefish, Montana, 375 miles, 9 hours

Beautiful ride along the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers, then over Lolo Pass at the Idaho - Montana border.  North through the National Bison Range, then along Flathead Lake and into Whitefish, Montana.  We connect with another friend from the southeast who just attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota; he’ll ride with us for a couple of days, then return home in his 40’ motorhome towing a motorcycle trailer. 

Road Goats

Monday, Whitefish, Montana → Banff, Alberta, 401 miles, 10 hours

Our rides represent some of the best that Italy and America has to offer: Indian Chieftain, Moto Guzzi Stelvio, Ducati Multistrada, Harley-Davidson Screaming’ Eagle Road King.  Yippee.  Perhaps you’re asking (maybe not?) if American baggers (Indian, Harley-Davidson) and Italian techno dual-sports (Moto Guzzi, Ducati) get along?  Yes, they do.  Our plan to ride through Glacier National Park was jettisoned due to a fire in the park, so we find a path to the west to ascend into Alberta.  Good weather, though a bit of rain late in the day.  And an extra 60 miles because I missed the exit for AB-541 and didn’t realize it until we were on the outskirts of Calgary.  The ride through Kananaskis Country is beautiful, and we stop to interact with several goats who had commandeered the roadway.  On into Banff, British Columbia, today’s destination.

Soggy Bottom

Tuesday, Banff, Alberta → Lake Louise, Alberta → Banff, 116 miles, 6 hours

Local exploration, Banff, Lake Louise, and a drenching thunderstorm.  Soggy today; beautiful sky tomorrow.

Mountains and Sky 

Wednesday, Banff, Alberta → Clearwater, British Columbia, 431 miles, 11 hrs

Our friend from the southeast heads home, and the rest of us head toward Jasper, Alberta.  Spectacular clouds, the sky hungover from yesterday’s drunken thunderstorm binge.  Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier, in Jasper National Park near the Alberta - British Columbia border, are beautiful against rugged sky.  Many four-wheeled tourists dart on and off the roadway, necessitating only quick glances towards the frozen, slow-moving river of ice and rock.  Some luggage leaped from one of the motorcycles, not to be discovered until later, so one rider would soon be dressed very sharply after shopping for a new wardrobe at The North Face in Jasper.  From there, on to Clearwater, British Columbia, and a truck-stop of a motel, with a surprisingly diverse menu.  A bit of rain during the last hour of riding.

Ferry Free

Thursday, Clearwater, British Columbia → Nakusp, British Columbia, 263 miles, 7.5 hours 

Speed trap riding into Revelstoke, British Columbia.  Lots of motorcycles at the gas station when law enforcement drove through, attempts to identify alleged perpetrators of speed was challenging, all rode away ticket-free.  Ferry ride across Arrow Lake was pleasant, and the price right; inland ferries in British Columbia are paid for by provincial citizenry, not ferry-riders.  And there was that beautiful sky again.  A few more miles, our destination is a hot springs resort north of Nakusp, British Columbia.  Exceptional dinner at the restaurant, tapas-style, all while overlooking the hot springs and lake, very nice.

Spring Lizards

Friday, Nakusp, British Columbia

Ride-free day, other than a short ride into Nakusp for breakfast.  Day hike and basking, like lizards, in the hot springs, followed by another excellent dinner on property.

South of the Border

Saturday, Nakusp, British Columbia → Seattle, Washington, 489 miles, 12 hours

Up early for the ride back to Seattle.  Pleasant-becoming-hot weather, nice roads, and a second luggage incident: a seat-mounted bag slipped down on the muffler, melting the contents of the bag into interesting, bizarre shapes.   Apple, cherry and other hot-weather fruit orchards and requisite processing facilities speckle the Columbia River shores in eastern Washington.  

Maximus Gluteus

Sunday, Seattle, Washington → Big Sur, California, 966 miles, 16.5 hours

Up early for departure, pleasant-becomming-hotter-later weather, decide to slab down I-5 for a marathon ride home.  Smoke from wildland fires in California parallel the road; one, a 50-mile long flying dragon with a giant red eye as the sun sets through the smoke.  How does one maintain focus, and sanity, while riding hour after hour through heat, smoke, and (later) darkness?  For me, it’s handy to have a mantra for those occasions where my mind wanders (which is often).  At the beginning of this excursion, my mantra was: “Clear Road, Perfect Balance”.  Important things to have when riding.  The mantra expanded during the two weeks to: “Clear Road, Perfect Balance, Flawless Machinery, Excellent Health”.  Whenever I felt tired, unfocused, worried, or just needed a wake-up, I’d chant (that’s what you do with a mantra, right?) until I was focused and positive.  And those truck tire retread carcasses and chunks of 4x4 lumber lurking on the dark roadway at night?  No worries: “Clear Road, Perfect Balance…”.



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