Saturday, 25 October 2008.
My intent today was to reach Sumas, Washington by the end the ride. A geocaching event was going on and three of my friends from the caching forums would be there waiting for me. No choice now - gotta drop the hammer and get moving.
Leaving from Butte, the weather was cold but clear. It got colder as I climbed the Continental Divide toward Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The drive was beautiful again today, with a lot of twisting and climbing, even on the major highway that is I-90. Because of my time limits and great distance to cover (almost 700 miles), I only stopped once for pictures on this side. I figured you folks have seen enough mountain shots for this trip. I took this picture because of the interesting rock sticking out of the side of the mountain (it's several stories tall), and because of the bright yellow trees. They look coniferous, but I thought conifers were also called "evergreens" for a reason. I'm going to have to look into why certain strips of these trees had turned bright yellow.
After crossing the pass and heading down the western slopes of the mountains, the temperature improved by at least ten or fifteen degrees as I decended into Idaho. By the time I had passed through Coeur d'Alene, I had seen dozens of motorcyclists (granted that it was a weekend, but I hadn't seen another bike since leaving Butte until that point) and several folks were driving convertibles with the top down. I stopped for gas and got back on the road. With the weather improving, so was my mood and I was ready to put down some miles.
Washington state seems very flat and a little barren after leaving the crags and forests of western Montana. Still, it is a beautiful change and made for some easy riding that allows the mind to wander (a little - it IS still a motorcycle, after all). The Cascades still lay between me and my destination, but they were not going to be as challenging nor as tall as the Rockies by any means. I did stop to take one picture on my way through the central part of the state. It shows how flat most of the area is, and it also shows another interest of mine - railroading. A local railroad museum was just starting their collection and this early 1900's boxcar was their roadside attention-getter. It's in great shape for being over a century old.
I had turned off I-90 after passing through Spokane, choosing to take the more direct route of state highway 2. The ten-mile stretch of mountain road from Waterville to Orondo was another great ride on a gently twisting highway. The picture shows a house overlooking Lincoln Rock Lake, I believe. If it had a few trees around it, it would be my perfect retirement home. As the road dropped into the Wenatchee River valley after Orondo, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I knew that Washington state was famous for apples. I just didn't realize that they all came from this one valley. Row after row after orchard after orchard of mostly bare apple trees. One roadside stand that I drove past advertised over 100 different varieties of apples. (On a side note - who the heck does he plan to sell those to? Everyone else in the entire valley owns a dozen apple trees of their own, apparently mandated by city ordnance or something). I called Ed, one of the cachers, and asked him how far I had to go. I was apparently still more than three hours out, and it was already 5 o'clock. Looks like it's going to be a long one.
I only made one other stop between Wenatchee and Sumas, just to take a picture. I passed through the very sureal town of Leavenworth just as I was entering the Cascade range. The entire town, including the fast food joints and hardware store, are all done up like a German alpine village. With the snowy crags as a backdrop, it felt for all the world like I had fallen into southern Germany. As it was a Saturday evening, there were hundreds of tourists around checking out all the little shops. I pulled off long enough to get a picture and then moved on. Dark was coming on quickly and I still needed to get out of these mountains. I actually wound up crossing the last rise (Steven's pass) just at dusk. It was above the snow line and the temps were in the 30s, so I spent about half an hour worrying that the patches of melted snow on the road had refrozen into black ice. If I slid to the edge, I would have plenty of time to contemplate my screw up before I hit the bottom.
I was slowed down significantly when I got to the coastal side. It turns out that highway 2 becomes a local road for several miles before meeting up with I-5. It took me half an hour to cover the last 10 or 15 miles. Finally, around 9 o'clock, I arrived in the border town of Sumas. Even though the two who lived out of town still had a hundred miles to drive that night, they patiently waited for me to get there. As I had not eaten all day, we met at Bob's Burgers and Beer. Despite the cheesy name, it was a great lodge-type restaurant and bar with excellent sourdough burgers and HOT chocolate that takes the edge off the cold. The others sat and watched me eat and we talked for about an hour before the restaurant closed. Everyone walked out with me to check out the bike, then we loaded up and drove back to Tee's apartment (she's the cacher who lives in town). The guys headed home andI wound up crashing on Tee's couch for the night as I was exhausted from riding 687 miles and crossing both the Rockies and the Cascades. I am now over 3060 miles into this trip, and these meetings with friends are still the highlight of my trip.