5,000 miles - West by Northwest

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by selkins, Aug 9, 2008.

  1. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,514
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    This trip was largely unexpected. DarkRider and I had long planned a trip down the middle bits of the Continental Divide Trail. I'm not sure whose idea it was originally, but I know it was my idea to extend a trip that was intended to start at the north end of Grand Teton Nat'l Park, to begin instead in Helena, Montana. Big mistake.

    I'll spare you all another telling of our sadly short-lived tour down the CDT. DarkRider tells the tale with appropriate pics here.

    So, to back up a bit and start from the beginning. I live in the Frozen North of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had been anticipating this ride for months, even more so when I bought a new (to me) 1200GS from azabeemerboy. My old F650GS has been deteriorating with a surge/stall issue that the dealer can't seem to remedy, so I was ready for something new. I thought it would be one of the new 800GSs, but azabeemerboy's bike caught my eye. Thanks, Barry, it's been a hell of a ride so far!

    So, getting to the interesting bits of the American West requires a journey through the Great Plains. Not all bad though, as I have a soft spot for dusty, dried up towns and wide open spaces.

    Places like Marmath, North Dakota...

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    Had a great burger and iced tea in a great road house just down that dusty road to the right.

    You also run across little surprises, like a rodeo in a little Montana town called Ingomar. Barely more than a ghost town most of the year, but not on the day I happened to pass by.

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    The town had an historic little bar. A cold beer would have been nice, but I still had miles to make to Roundup, MT; so another iced tea had to suffice.

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    This history of these plains towns is ever-present. Like this old Montana hotel (in Levina or Harlowtown, I think), clearly once a ritzy place, but today an abandoned shell.

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    So, I arrive in Helena after three days of riding, and DarkRider and I have our little misadventure... A day later DarkRider was on a plane home for surgery, his bike safely parked at a friendly local dealer who'll hold it till he's recovered enough to ride it back to Texas.

    What to do now?
    #1
  2. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,514
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    After getting DarkRider on a plane I got on my bike and with little sense of where I'd go, I got back on US-12, which I had ridden all the way from Minneapolis, and turned my wheels west.

    Keep going down the CDT? Wellll, not sure I want to try that solo at this point.

    Head south toward Colorado? Been there, done that.

    Head east toward home? Pffft!

    Head north? I could go to Glacier Nat'l Park, but no further, as I didn't bring my passport, dammit!

    West it is! I've always wanted to go around the Olympic Peninsula. And if I put on some good miles, I might even be able to hit Reno in six days, when my lovely wife would have a day in a hotel there before returning from a wilderness backpack trip she's on. Hrm, it would be awfully good to "visit" with her after being apart for a week and a half...

    That settles it. Westward ho!

    Highway 12 through Missoula and then up and over the Lolo Pass.

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    A great camping spot just off the road for the night

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    Great part about this campsite was the edible treasurers all around. Very yummy in the morning oatmeal.

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    Cooling my dogs in the Lolo River

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    See that just over the river? That big pile of mountains and trees? That, my friends, is one of the largest contiguous roadless areas left in the lower 48. It doesn't have a name or a designation, but god help us Americans if we can't afford to call it what it is - Wilderness - and leave it be for the wild things, and for those strong, young, adventurous souls who can strap on boots and backpacks and see it the way God meant it to be seen.

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    Enough preaching for now. The long winding road down from Lolo Pass eventually gave way to Lewiston, Idaho, and then the rolling, wheat-covered hills of far southeast Washington. Beauty of another kind...

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    A surprisingly good lunch of salmon and berry pie dessert in Dayton, WA.

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    Onwards and forward through some of the less interesting scenery of middle-eastern Washington State, just south and east of Hanford, one of the most polluted sites in the entire US of A, I'm sad to say (not surprisingly, no tourist signs pointing the way). Wrapping up the day with some great views of Mount Ranier from Highway 12.

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    And then a swell, twisty detour up Nat'l Forest Road 25 along the east side of Mount St Helens Nat'l Monument. Would have loved to have gotten closer, but the road had been washed out earlier in the year and was closed. :cry

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    You can see a little steam rising up from one side in this close-up.

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    I had hoped to camp out in some random spot of the Nat'l Forest road, but I discovered to my chagrin that my tent's zipper had finally blown, which meant no bug screen. I found a nice spot to pitch, but in about 5 minutes there were about 60 mosquitoes on me. Guess a motel in Morton will do the trick this night.
    #2
  3. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,514
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    Morning comes and I leave Highway 12 after more than 1500 miles.

    But for now, north, and the Olympics. It wound up being a long day, starting off sunny and fine, and winding up cloudy, rainy and chilled in Aberdeen, WA - where I reconnected with US-12 on the ocean's shore.

    But first, to sample the season's bounty from a roadside fruit stand. I ate LOTS of cherries the next couple of days:

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    Then, the Olympic Range

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    So, don't get me wrong, I get the whole 'renewable resource' thing with forests. And you know what? If you can renew that resource in a human lifetime, I'm okay with that. But let me tell you, if you've walked in an ancient forest, with trees hundreds of years old spread over you like arches in a cathedral more grand than human hands could ever construct, well then you know that's no tree farm; and anyone who tells you they know how to 'renew' that forest is a liar. So, I can handle logging, but it seems to me we've "renewed" enough of our ancient forests - enough that we can leave the best of the rest alone. So, when I see stumps this size, I know someone lost a big piece of their soul cutting it down...

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    Okay, REALLY, no more preachy, preachy. :D

    The terminus of US-12 in Aberdeen, WA.

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    Then, I follow US 101 down the coast. I had driven up from San Francisco with my darling wife a year ago, as far as Tillamook, OR - so I figure I can close that gap.

    Oysters are big in this part of the coast...

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    Oyster hill next to that dock and oyster factory...

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    US101 is tough to beat...

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    The Lovely Wife and I had hoped to eat at this place a year ago, but it was closed then. Not this time...

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    Karla claims it's the best smoked fish in the world. Having tasted it - salmon and black cod still warm from the smoker - I can't say I doubt her.

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    Now it was time to cut inland. The coast was great, but I had been down US 101 south from here - and Reno was calling just a couple of days away.
    #3
  4. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,514
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    I-5 from Salem to Eugene, then Highway 58 over the Cascade Summit, past Crescent Lake, and a campsite off the road just north and east of Crater Lake Nat'l Park.

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    The next morning on to Crater Lake, with a detour down some interesting looking forest roads. Given more time, I'd spend a few days wandering them...

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    The forests here are much drier and more sparse, but the trees were lovely

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    Crater Lake is awesome, literally - it filled me with awe. A day later I ran into a couple touring on a Harley from near Minneapolis, following almost a perfect reverse trail of my route. They raved about Tahoe and wondered whether Crater Lake was worth a detour. For me, well, let's just say Tahoe wasn't worth the 50 mile side-trip.

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    A lunch that hit the spot in Klamath Falls.

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    Then, Klamath Falls to Reno.

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    With a stop for home made pie and coffee.

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    Banana Cream, in case you're wondering.

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    I made it to Reno and stayed on the strip in a motel where the manager let me park the bike in his video-surveilled parking spot. Good thing, the night life and attendant cast of characters were...fascinating. No pics I'm sorry to say.

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    The Lovely Wife (tm) was getting in the next afternoon, so I took the detour to Lake Tahoe. The best part was the pastry and coffee. Otherwise, we're talking a case study in 'lifestyles of the conspicuously wealthy'. Where I had expected views of the lake and mountains, I was treated more often to gated driveways to homes that crowded the lakeshore and kept the great unwashed at bay. A couple of days later I had a great chat with a young couple in central Nevada. I said hello and knew I'd like them when I saw the womans mountain bike tattoo and their bumpersticker that sported an outline of Lake Tahoe, emblazoned with 'Rich Golfers Suck'.

    My best pics from Tahoe:

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    Then, back to Reno, my first ever 'In-and-Out' burger

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    And then, the surprised wife :D Let's just say she was happy to see me. :wink:

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    She was exhausted (not TOO exhausted!) and hadn't showered in nine days. My kind of woman!

    The next morning she flew home and I hit the road for the 1900 mile trip back to the frozen north in three days. Just a few more pics from Hwy 50 through central Nevada and Utah.

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    This Austin, NV bar looked like a great place to hang sometime.

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    The infamous shoe tree ostensibly started when a young couple, engaged to be married, stopped under the shade of the tree on a cross-country road trip. An argument ensued, and was resolved when the young woman took her betrothed's shoes, and tossed them high in the tree, shortly before leaving him - shoeless in a remote desert - as she drove off into the sunset.

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    A nice little surprise. Petroglyphs on a Hwy 50 pulloff.

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    Old boxer veterans and new boxer rookie.

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    And finally, a desert shower to cool the day. The rest of the ride was endurance and the Great Plains. Hope you enjoyed the report!

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    #4
  5. zadok

    zadok Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2007
    Oddometer:
    998
    Location:
    Western Australia
    Great ride and write up, mate. Crater lake pics look nice. :D
    #5
  6. DarkRider

    DarkRider Middle-aged Man

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Oddometer:
    610
    Location:
    West Texas
    Beautiful pics Scott!:clap I'm glad you were able to salvage our failed episode to survive the CDT and actually turn it into a ton of miles, some great food spots (Karla's - YES!!!:dg) and a rendezvous that'll serve your man-credit needs for many years to come.

    Excellent report. Now if only some of those dirt roads had rocks on them....really big rocks....:evil
    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    57,519
    Location:
    Toronto
    Spectacular!! Awesome adventure! :thumb

    :lurk
    #7
  8. joedoe

    joedoe Armchair Adventurer!

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    88
    Location:
    S.E. Washington State
    Great ride, great food.
    It doesn't get any better than that.
    #8
  9. GhostRunner

    GhostRunner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    296
    Location:
    Boise, ID area
    Very nice write up and pix. I'm familiar with most of those western places. You made it sound like the great trip it must have been. Good job!:clap
    #9
  10. selkins

    selkins No hay banda!

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,514
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    Thanks for the kindly words, folks!

    Yeah, Sean, I thought of you often. Having you along would have made the ride all the better -- just not the Reno part.

    Next time we keep the pigs off the ATV trails!!! (I'm thinking Appalachia.)
    #10
  11. Snowbeard

    Snowbeard maybe a bigger hammer

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    151
    Location:
    Vancouver Island/British Columbia
    really enjoyed that ride report! THanks!!!
    #11