16 days from Oregon to Hyder,
Alaska, the Yukon & the Alaska Highway
3700 miles / 5954 kilometres
Here is part 1.
Here is part 2.
DAY 9 (Sunday)
did I not download a weather app to use for this trip? I'm stupid. We were
constantly looking for weather info for where we were going - it wasn't
always easy to get.
We woke to a day of dryer weather - and news that a guy towing a vintage
camper had backed into the moose head outside of an office cabin. It made a
hole in the camper, which he covered with duct tape. Oh, Canada!
We headed back out onto the Alaska Highway, going South, and it was becaming
much more scenic than it had been the day before, and it stayed beautiful
all the way to Ft. Nelson. This is definitely the Alaska Highway "sweet
spot." I was so glad the weather was better and the scenery was lovely
again, because the drive the day before on the Alaska Highway was boring,
from a scenic perspective.
While the scenery was lovely this day, the ride was quite a challenge at
were miles and miles of road that were just dirt and gravel, because
of construction. At one point, while following the car in front of me, I
realized that our south bound traffic was in two different dirt lanes -
SOMEONE was wrong, but which line of traffic? I chose to follow the car in
front of me, and after a bit, found out he was one of the people that chose
the wrong lane - the bulldozers were headed straight for us. So I had to
ride over a mound of dirt on the left, back into the correct lane. I looked
for a place where someone else had done it, and over I went in those tracks-
and somehow, I made it, despite almost going over on my bike. And then I had
to do it AGAIN, later. Ugh, ugh, ugh. But otherwise, the construction zones
were just fine - smooth and hard-packed gravel or dirt, all dry.
Boulder Canyon, a hiking trail head on the side of the road, for a
rest and to take many photos, and then pushed on. The
ride continued to be beautiful. There were so
many metal bridges to cross, they stopped bothering me. In addition to
the vast construction zones, there were also some gnarly ascents and
descents, and I concentrated so hard, I often missed the scenery around me,
or quickly forgot it, like
these goats - I guess I did see them at the time, given how far over
to the left I got on the road, but I quickly forgot them, because I was
concentrating on the ROAD. Our one page (two-sided) flyer from the Lake
Watson visitor's center continued to be oh-so-helpful - we always knew where
the next camp site, hotel or gas station was. We stopped for an early lunch
at Testa River Services, which is a really nice place - I had cream of
broccoli soup and homemade bread, and it was just what I needed. Would have
been nice to camp there, but it was much too early to stop.
We stopped at the Fort Nelson Visitor's center, to see if they had a
one-page guide to the rest of the Alaska Highway and, indeed, they did! They
also had free Internet! And a curling arena next door! Not staying in Fort
Nelson was a mistake - it had options for camping, it had things to see -
and I was really hungry to SEE something - a historic something. But we
pushed on. There was a lot of construction through town, but I did well.
for the night at Bucking Horse. We were looking for the nearby
Provincial Park, intending to camp, but didn't see the sign (we did the next
morning - it's TINY, on the left side of the road). Instead, we stayed at
the "resort" on the right. It was the most uncomfortable sleep of the night,
because of the bed. And, for the second night in the row, our bathroom had
no door. WTH? But it was oh-so-quiet, and the food at the cafe was rather
awesome for both supper and breakfast. There was a TV in the room, and we
watched Men in Black yet again. I
also nearly fell out of bed when Dale Watson appeared, selling Canadian car
insurance. How did THAT happen?!
DAY 10 (Monday)
This was a hellish day, and one of the worst I've ever had riding a
motorcycle. I hoped it would be the worst of the trip (spoiler alert: I was
wrong). It started off okay: we had a fantastic breakfast (I had pancakes,
something I rarely have, and they were awesome!) and played on the Internet
and laughed over some of the things for sale in the resort's gift area. As
we road down the road, we saw in the distance what I hoped was a moose,
because I've never seen one, but which was, in fact, a young couple walking
with two pack horses - I guess they were coming from Alaska. Later, I saw a
black furry round face looking at me out of the brush on the side of the
road and realized it was a wolverine.
But later in the day, the wind gusts became horrific, almost pushing me
entirely off the road half a dozen times. We stopped for gas in Wonowon -
what an incredibly sad place. It's nothing but semi trucks and gas stations
and sad houses wind wind wind wind. We stood in the dirt parking lot,
watching trash race across the road and parking lot and fields, drinking
iced coffee and hating the day. We got back onto the road, and the side
winds got WORSE, harder and more sudden. I was terrified. But I was managing
to go 50 miles an hour most of the time, which was actually amazing for me,
but was not at all satisfactory for the truckers on the road, two of which
tried to push me off the road, passing me as close as they could, driving
mostly in my lane, then pulling completely into my lane before they had
passed entirely, so that I had to slow down and swerve. I couldn't see their
license plates, because, yes, I would have absolutely reported them. I had
to find a place to pull over to calm down. Stefan didn't think it was any
big deal, and even laughed at my reaction, which didn't help.
Later in the day, we found out that the winds caused widespread, severe
damage across the state, toppling power lines and trees - it was the lead
story on the evening news. Google it - there are tons of stories about how
horrible the winds were that day all over BC and the damage they caused.
We got to Fort John, and I wasn't having fun anymore. It took forever to
find the visitor's center - I was desperate to do so, because I wanted a
weather forecast. I walked in and almost started crying. I just sat there
for an hour, trying to get on the Internet (it's the only center that
requires a registration to use the Internet, and the registration doesn't
work via smartphone - only laptop) and reading through brochures and looking
at a map, trying to figure out how to end this trip early and just get home
ASAP. I was done. But the weather reports said the wind gusts were even
worse south of us, and would be just as bad, maybe worse, the next day. We
decided to gamble on the weather in Jasper National Park, even though
weather forecasts weren't great - rain was predicted.
left at last, and the gusts were much less. The wind was still strong, but I
can deal with a constant, strong wind - but not sudden, severe wind gusts. We
got to Dawson Creek and rode to the visitor's center, where an amazing
center staff person enthusiastically provided us with terrific info about
possible routes and camp sites. I bought a Dawson Creek t-shirt - I felt
like I'd earned it, having ridden 987 km/613 miles of the Alaska Highway,
and having almost died on it from wind gusts and murderous truck drivers.
Most people begin the Alaska Highway there; we were ending it. And I was
happy to say goodbye. I stayed at the visitor's center while Stefan went to
get photos at mile
0 of the highway - I just wasn't really in the mood. Then we went for
pizza at Boston Pizza, a chain all over Canada - and I have to say, the
pizza was dang delicious. And I finally got to use my American Express card
- the only credit card I have with "the chip", something everyone in Canada
and Europe has, but most cards in the USA don't.
Then I almost dropped my bike as I tried to leave the parking lot - just
suddenly wobbled making the simple turn into traffic. It was a bad day. I
was tired and frustrated and over it.
Leaving Dawson Creek and heading east, we had to make this incredibly crazy
climb on the road. It was a super sharp incline. And we were behind a semi
that was crawling. Did I bitch about it? I would have been much more
comfortable going faster on that hill on my bike, not 10 miles an hour in
first gear. No, I did not bitch. I did not get mad. I stayed far enough
behind him so he could see me in his rearview mirrors, and when the passing
lane appeared, I passed, and I waited until I was well past him to get back
in the correct lane. That's how I treat truckers when they are struggling on
the road. How about the same consideration, dickheads?
night, I wanted to camp again. I just really had this burning desire to be
in the tent again. We rode to Swan lake Provincial Park, and it turned out
to be the perfect choice: we got a camp site far from most everyone else,
and there was GRASS to pitch our tent on. After we set up, I took a walk, by
myself. I was on the verge of tears. I wasn't having fun anymore. We barely
went 200 miles this day. We'd been doing more than 300 miles some days, and
well more than 250 miles most days. I walked to a bridge and watched what I
think were beavers or muskrats in the water, who had been startled by some
very loud, obnoxious party boat people. Nothing like going somewhere
beautiful in nature and playing really loud music and shouting every three
minutes. I stood there and looked at the water and just thought - what am I
doing? How can I like this trip again? I came back to the camp site, Stefan
started a fire, and I wrote in my travel journal - so I could later bitch
and moan on the Internet, the result being what you are reading now.
I was not looking forward to another day of riding in the wind. But we just
had no choice - we had to push on, and even if we didn't, there was no where
worth staying for.
DAY 11 (Thursday)
The morning was calm. I was so glad. But, of course, the wind gusts started
just as we were finishing our packing. By the time we hit the road, they
were back. And they were bad - not as bad as the day before, but bad. As
soon as I would see a semi behind me, far in the distance, I would find a
place to pull over and let them pass. Stefan was frustrated with all the
pulling over, I'm sure - but I didn't care. I wanted to live. It was
humiliating to see a big Harley pass me, no problem - but the KLR just
cannot handle the wind well. The wind gusts stayed bad all the way to, and
past, Grand Prairie - which is quite the ugly boom town.
Outside of town, I saw a big building and a sign saying Dinosaur Museum. I
took that turn off! Because... Dinosaurs! Oh how I needed dinosaurs. That
would take care of everything! It was something to SEE! And the building was
new and the banners were new and the parking lot was full - of pick up
trucks. And I had a sinking feeling. And we walked to the front door, and
there was a small sign: not yet open for the public. So much sadness. We
would never experience the Philip
J. Currie Dinosaur Museum... and certainly not on the day I needed it
At some point, driving through some part of Alberta, we saw a sign saying
Chris Hadfield would be in the town in October. Seeing Chris Hadfield also
would have made everything better.
We headed for the city of Grand Cache, and it felt like it would take
forever to get there. We stopped at the side of the road, in a place where
the wind wasn't blowing, and as we stood there, we saw and ADV rider at
last, coming from the direction we were going - and he was wearing rain
gear. And soon, so were we. It poured just before we got to Grand Cache,
which is perched atop a mountain. We stopped for pizza, and thought about
staying there and heading for Jasper the next day. We road over to the
information center - it was 5:30 local time - and the staff was locking up
and leaving for the day. Which is OUTRAGEOUS. Shame on the information
center of Grand Cache for having crappy hours - and it wasn't even Labor Day
yet! As we stood there, stunned in the parking lot, Stefan suggested we push
on to Hinton, a much bigger city, right at the entrance to Jasper - we could
get up the next day and be in the park in just a few minutes the next
morning. I decided that it was only 4:30, since that's what it felt like (we
were still feeling British Columbia time), and agreed.
was the right decision. In fact, the ride was lovely and relatively easy.
And dry. And there was NO ONE behind us. I mean - NO ONE. It's wonderful to
ride with no one behind you. I had been so tired before we took off from
Grand Cache, but suddenly, I was energized and enjoying the motorcycle ride
again. We kept seeing rain in the distance, but stayed dry. After an
excellent ride, we got to Hinton, and went all the way across town to a
Super 8. The room rate was around $200! No. We went back and I pulled into
the Tara Vista Hotel, which said Internet was included. With tax, it was
half the price of the Super 8. And the receptionist suggested we park next
to a truck next to the office, and we were thrilled with the suggestion, as
it meant our bikes were under cover, and it rained that night. The room was
not pretty. There were cigarette burns everywhere. It needed new furniture.
It needed fresh paint. I didn't care. The Internet access was terrific, so I
updated all my
travel-related social media accounts. I stood at the window and looked
out over town, to Jasper National Park. It was obviously raining heavily
there. I hoped it wouldn't be the next day.
A side note: Twitter is way easier to update with poor Internet access than
anything else. If you want to provide updates while on the road, Twitter is
definitely the way to go. You can create a gateway to your Facebook account
so that anything you post to Twitter gets posted there as well.
DAY 12 (Friday)
The next day, it
was clear over the mountains of Jasper National Park. We got a huge
breakfast at the restaurant nearby our hotel - yes, I had pancakes AGAIN, I
probably won't have them again for a year or more - and then headed to
Jasper National Park. I screwed up and got a pass for more days than we
would actually needed - I had thought we would be stopping in Canadian
national parks through Friday, and it turned out, we weren't.
first, the views were nice in the park - we were coming into the park from a
different angle than in 2010, from the North East. We
saw an elk (actually, the elk saw me - and I did not feel comfortable
being that close to it), and later, we pulled over and took lots of photos -
things were good.
But in the city of Jasper, it started to rain, and any
views of the mountains were going or gone. As a result, nothing looked
the same as our last visit.
We stopped for something warm at Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge - which
is the same place we stopped for lunch last time we were in Jasper NP. If I
were to stay in a hotel in Jasper rather than a hostel or camp site, this is
definitely where I would stay - it seems more simple than the others, and
the staff is super nice. They have an outstanding gift shop; I'm not much
for buying things on a bike trip, but I bought three - yes, three - pairs of
also saw a "motorcycle" that we just don't understand, in terms of its
Then we road our bikes down to the Sunwapta
Falls viewpoint. It is an amazing sight. We hadn't seen it last time.
We pushed on, in the rain. I wasn't hating the ride, despite not being able
to see much... until I remembered the oh-so-steep incline on the Icefields
Parkway that goes up past what is now the Glacier Skywalk. And I remembered
the goats. Last time we were here, there were goats on the road. And then, I
was on a Honda Night Hawk that was much lower to the ground and easier to
deal with on hills, in terms of having to stop and start. If goats were on
the road, like last time, I was screwed - stopping and starting on that
sharp, steep incline would be impossible for me on the KLR. "No goats, no
goats" I chanted as we headed up and up and up. Happy happy - no goats!
There were not many people at the Glacier Skywalk, which hadn't been there
back in 2010 - there just wasn't anything to see in the mists, and it was
cold and wet.
stopped at the Icefield Centre, and were hugely disappointed. I thought it
would have exhibits and lots of information about how glaciers are formed,
how they've altered the landscape, how climate change is causing them to
recede, etc. - I thought it would be like the information / education
centers in USA national parks, which are always great places to stop and
learn and spend time on a rainy day, with at least a full two hours worth of
stuff to experience. Nope. The Icefield Centre is primarily to sell stuff:
food, tickets to the Glacier Skywalk and gondola, trinkets, etc. The staff
at the small information desk didn't seem to really care about helping us
and reluctant to give us any information on paper. They seemed offended that
we asked about hostels in the park. We had coffee, watched the short film in
the basement (meh), warmed up, pee'd, and pushed on. And took the photo to
the left. I don't usually allow photos in my rain gear, because, yes, it
DOES make me look fat.
There was nothing to see in all the rain and clouds, for the most part: no
reason to buy passes to the skywalk or gondola, no reason to go out onto
Columbia Glacier. It was interesting to find, in the parking lot, the
border for the glacier back in the 1800s. Glaciers have been receding
for many, many years, but in the last 20 years, glaciers have been melting
at an even more drastic, and unnatural, rate. Deny climate change all you
want to - glaciers don't lie. I don't know that from anything in the Jasper
National Park Icefield Centre, however.
pulled away and headed to Banff National Park. It was now absolutely
pouring, so much that I never saw the sign for Banff. I was doing okay - I
don't mind riding in the rain, and the roads were quite easy. I thought the
sign for the hostel would never appear but, at last, it did, and we got to Rampart
Creek Wilderness Hostel at 5 p.m. We were oh-so-happy to discover that
the site has a different manager than when we were there last in 2010. Could
we drive our bikes up into the site and park right next to the dining hall?
Sure! Could we leave a bit later
than 10 a.m.? Sure! In fact, he wasn't onsite when we got there (he was in
Golden dealing with car problems), but had left a note on the door, saying
the community hall was open, so we were able to go inside and take off our
rain gear - not just stand there in the rain, waiting.
By the evening, the other guests were two women from Toronto (originally
from Thailand), a couple from Germany, a Flemish couple from Belgium, a
Canadian guy traveling by himself, a Canadian woman traveling by herself
(and she works with the Canadian guy's mother - they figured it out while
talking after dinner), and two Canadian women who work as wildlife educators
in Banff. Over and after dinner, I somehow steered the conversation to "What's
the silliest questions you've been asked about wildlife" and "everyone share
stupid tourist stories." Yeah, I got GREAT stories. But I'm sworn to
secrecy... as I was cooking our supper (just heating up cans of soup), I
noticed there were earplugs for sale. HURRAH! I had lost the new ones Stefan
had given me earlier in the trip.
Before supper, in the fading light, Stefan and I took a stroll around the
grounds, over to Rampart Creek. Wow, it
was a creek when we were here in 2010; now, it
was a river. The hostel host told us the difference often happens in
just an hour. And the added bonus was the hostel manager's dog, who liked to
bump his leg into our legs in an effort to get food (we didn't give in).
No one mentioned anything about firing up the sauna, so I didn't say
anything - but I was REALLY in the mood for that sauna.
Holy cow did I sleep well that night... I hope my snoring didn't keep anyone
up. Hope that they, too, had earplugs. It was nice to sleep in sheets and
blankets on a cold, rainy night, and not to have to unpack our sleeping
gear. In fact, I used two blankets. As I lay there, I was reminded again of
how much I wish I could have a bunk house in my back yard for visiting
motorcyclists - but there's just no room.
DAY 13 (Thursday)
I really cannot say enough nice things about the hostel host. He was just
the NICEST guy. He looks like a young Pat Boone. Or Conan O'Brian. Somewhere
in between. Before we left, I signed the guest book again - and noticed that
all of the entries for August 2015 had been ripped out of the book.
Hmmmm.... I read some of the entries, and my favorite were the ones from
people that spend every New Year's Eve at the Rampart Creek Hostel. It
sounds like quite a wonderful time.
was sad to have such a miserable time driving through the rest of Jasper in
such horrible weather. It rained and rained and rained. IT
SNOWED AT ONE POINT. The awful weather just wouldn't stop. We stopped
at Lake Louise and sat in the restaurant of a bar, drinking coffee and
playing on the Internet, wishing for different weather. It seemed to be
letting up a bit when we finally drove on, and incredibly, as we passed the
city of Field in Yolo National Park, the rain not only stopped - the sun
came out! I could see a picnic area well off the road, with just one car
there, and I found the road down to it soon after. We drove to the parking
lot and I started taking lots of photos, saying, "Let's pretend this is how
the entire day has been!" So hard to believe we'd been driving in snow just
a few hours earlier.
We pushed on, and the ride was very winding and intense - and fun, but only
because there wasn't a semi on my ass. The rock slide that happened just as
we went past wasn't fun - a wall prevented us from being hit. Yikes! We took
the turnoff for the Golden information center. Once again, it was a fabulous
Canadian tourist information site, with a staff member ready to provide us
with all the info we needed. She gave us advice on what to see in Mt.
Revelstoke National Park - but just kept dancing around our questions about
what to see in Glacier National Park, always bringing it back to what to see
in Mt. Revelstoke National Park. She also sent us to downtown Golden, away
from the trans Canadian highway, for lunch. We ate in a pub and I gorged
myself on spicey chicken wings, surrounded by senior citizens drinking and
Actually, Golden is a destination in and of itself. There is a ton to do,
summer and winter. I wouldn't mind going there just to enjoy river rapids
and gondola rides. We left Golden and, wow, that's SOME road! It's super
curvy and, at times, steep - no where to pull over because everything to the
side of the road went straight up. I would have so loved to stop at the Northern
Lights Wildlife Wolf Center, but the road to it went STRAIGHT UP, and
I wasn't sure how long it would take. We felt pressed for time, but looking
back, I realize we weren't at all. We road through
Glacier National Park, and were disappointed in the lack of glaciers.
In fact, we never saw a place to pull off and see something interesting -
and no signs telling us to do so. I guess that's why the woman at Golden
hadn't suggested anything. There was also quite a lot of construction, and
we went through several tunnels - and I started making up and singing songs
about tunnels for some reason. It's good no one could hear me.
We made it to Revelstoke -
which, at one point, Stefan mistakenly called Rivendell - and somehow ended
up off the main drag. We had seen no signs for camp sites, and I couldn't
figure out from the literature I had where they were. Then I heard a voice
saying something in German. It was a guy that had seen us and recognized
Stefan's vanity plate on his motorcycle as German. And he's German! He's now
an artist and has lived in Canada for many years. He directed us to the
Lamplighter Campground, owned by Swiss German. It was awesome for having a covered
place to eat outside, and a
campsite kitchen, allowing us a place to hang out that evening and
read, check email, eat, etc. The downside: it's really near train tracks.
But, then again, the entire town is the train tracks. There's no getting
away from that train - and I don't mean a soft chug
chug, but loud screeching train wheels. Ugh. We obviously were
super tired, because Stefan never heard it once he fell asleep, and I fell
right back asleep every time it woke us up.
DAY 14 (Friday)
We woke to a cloudy day that threatened rain. We had wanted to go to the
Meadows in the Sky Parkway - it's super steep, with lots of switchbacks, and
was highly recommended by the visitor center staffer back in Golden - I
would be on the back of Stefan's bike for the ride. But with the low clouds,
there would be nothing to see. We packed up, and just before we took down
the tent and put away the air mattresses, it started to rain. So we laid in
the tent and I
took a couple of selfies. It was nice, actually, listening to the rain
on the tent. It would be gross to pack it up, but it's so rare we just lay
in the tent and listen to the rain. I said we needed to do a video showing
why our Aldi tent is the greatest tent ever, the perfect tent for motorcycle
travelers. I also endlessly mocked a woman I'd seen in the bathroom earlier,
who had primped ENDLESSLY in the mirror. Why in the world do some women care
THAT much about how their hair looks WHILE CAMPING? I shouldn't judge. I
shouldn't care. But she was blocking the sink and it ticked me off. I admit
it: I took a shit just to drive her out of the bathroom (it worked).
We still got out and on the road by 10 a.m.
headed down 23, and it was a terrific ride. Terrific scenery and not much
traffic. The highlight was the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry crossing. The ferry
worker was hilarious, and the mountains around the lake were gorgeous. The
ride away from the lake was also terrific. We stopped in Nakusp, and I was
smitten - very cute, quaint little town, much more authentic and less chic
than, say, Smithers or Jackson Hole. It would have been an awesome place to
stay. We ate at Three Lions Pub and had the most amazing fish and chips
EVER. Dang but that was good. And they were playing a killer 70s soundtrack:
Alice Cooper, Elton John, Warren Zevon... it was groovy. I watched the end
of the Italy v. Malta soccer game. Man, those Italians can dive...
But again, I ask you, Canada: where are the brown signs on the roadway?
Where are the brown signs with white lettering that tell me where there is a
historic building or historic house or historic fort or historic ghost town
or historic SOMETHING to spend a few minutes enjoying? Does Canada have
these at all? They have them in England... they have them all over the
Around Castlegar, things got dicey. A really horrible wreck diverted us away
from the turnoff we needed, and then we took a very wrong turn and ended up
heading the wrong way, south on Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway. I'm sure
most motorcyclists love it. I was almost in tears. It goes straight up and
there's no guard rail - you go to the edge of the road, you would go over
and straight down down down. Stefan pulled off onto a rest stop, and I
realized we were going the wrong way. And I had to turn left and go back
down. I had to turn on a hill. Did I mention I was almost in tears? I did
it, and we started going the right way, to Trail, and people were driving
LIKE MANIACS. Look, I get that Canadians drive at least 20 km over the speed
limit, as an unspoken rule. I get that. But to expect me to go 40 km or more
over the speed limit - that's not happening. We pulled off onto a rest area
to let the crazies go by, and hope for a wide gap in the traffic so we could
avoid more crazies. But wait, it gets worse: we headed to Rossland on 3B,
and little did we know... you know how I keep saying this or that road had a
steep incline, that it felt like I was going straight up? Yeah, they were
nothing compared to 3B to Rossland. It was at least a 30% grade all the way
up, I'm not even kidding. Up, up, up, up we went, at the most uncomfortable
slope I've ever ridden on. We came to Rossland and you have to make a left
turn, and I knew if I had to stop, I was screwed. So I just powered through
that left turn and hoped I hadn't just run a stop sign. Thankfully, the tiny
town of Rossland is mostly flat on the top of that hill. I pulled over and
just sat, breathing.
We headed south on 22, out of town and to the border crossing back into the
USA. We were the only people needing to go through. The guard made us go
through one at a time - that was the first time any border guard made us do
that on the trip. I pulled into the garage area, parked and removed my
helmet. "You look confused," she said. "I am! I thought I had to go back
through Canadian customs before the USA! I thought they would at least want
to say goodbye!" I think she realized I was no threat to national security.
I was a babbler. I pulled forward after she checked me out and then she
quizzed Stefan. And then we were on our way. As we drove on, a coyote
crossed the road far in front of me. I took it as a sign of welcome.
saw a sign for a campsite in Northport, but something about it didn't feel
right to me. We stopped for gas and the gas station attendant recommended
the campsite at Evans farther down the road. We drove on, intending to go
there - and deer were EVERYWHERE. We saw them on the road, next to the road,
and running along side us and then onto the road right in front of us. When
I saw the sign for the North Gorge campsite, I pulled off - I did NOT want
to hit a deer. We had the site almost entirely to ourselves - two people
showed up very late, camped, and were gone before I got up. We were in Lake
Roosevelt Recreation Area. I thought it was named for Teddy, but when
I went down to the information board to pay our fee and picked up some
literature, I found out it was named for FDR. I also found out the camp site
had just re-opened two days before, after being closed for most of the
season because of the fires which were apparently all around us. Sunset was
gorgeous - but it was gorgeous because of the smoke from the nearby fires.
There were warnings
about bears in the area - but no bear boxes, no bear-proof trash cans.
My mood was all over the place. I was horrible to be with. Every day seemed
to have something good, and then something HORRIBLE that ruined it all. I
hated the extremely difficult riding. I had been doing so well, feeling so
great, loving the ride - and it was like the motorcycle Fates were taunting
me with ridiculous challenges because I had dared to feel confident again
and enjoy myself. I desperately wanted an easy ride home. I desperately
wanted to be home. That's never happened on a trip before - where I've just
suddenly thought, yeah, I'm done, I want to be home now. Usually, I'm trying
to delay arrival. We talked about trying to make it to the state park north
of Goldendale the next day, which would mean we would get home for sure by
Saturday, but I knew we wouldn't make it to Goldendale on Friday - no way.
DAY 15 (Friday)
woke to a beautiful day at Lake Roosevelt. What a lovely camp site,
what a lovely area! The
ride south was LOVELY. How have we never heard of any
of this before? There were still a few deer - and far more wild
turkeys wandering about. We stopped in a parking lot to figure out where to
go, and a very helpful state cop pulled over just to help us figure out
where we were going. There was a scenic route we wanted to take, but he
informed us the road was closed on the other side because of fires. We tried
to go to the Kettle Falls historic site and museum, but it was closed until
11 a.m., and we needed to push on if we wanted to get home by Saturday (and
I wanted to get home by Saturday).
finally got to visit something historic: Fort
Spokane. It's not the most interesting place in the world, it's not
all that pretty, and it's not all that important in terms of national
history. But it was a historic site and, dammit, we were going to see it!
After serving as a military base in the 1800s and 1900s - it was closed when
all the soldiers were sent to fight in the Spanish American war with Teddy -
Fort Spokane became a boarding school for native American children - one of
those horrible places that beat the kids if they spoke their native language
and trained them to do servant work. I heard a lot about these places, first
hand, from tribal members I worked with in Santa Clara County, California
back in the 1990s. Their stories were chilling. I'm glad to see these very
dark, horrible things done by my country brought out into the open, fully
acknowledged and talked about. It's the only way we can prevent these things
from happening again. It's the only way we can heal. The gift shop had some
nice things - but I had no room on my bike for anything. The parks worker in
the shop was super nice and helpful. It was worth the visit. Sorry we didn't
have time to see more of it - there's a hike you can do around the grounds
(and a warning to be careful of rattlesnakes).
It was a clear, beautiful day, but apparently, just two days before, it had
been super smokey and there had been no visibility. We were now not only out
of our rain gear, but out of any warm clothes as well.
there, we road on, and at some point on that ride, we lost each for the
first time ever. It was scary. I didn't see Stefan pull off for our left
turn, and I didn't see the road we were supposed to take - the road I was on
was starting to incline significantly, and there was a steady wind, so I was
super concentrating on the road ahead, not on Stefan behind me. We lost a
good 30 minutes - I realized Stefan wasn't behind me so I found a place to
pull over and wait for him, assuming he'd stopped to take a photo. After
what seemed forever, he came riding up - he'd been waiting for me back at
the bottom of the hill. I wish we could find a helmet communication system
that works for us but, so far, we haven't.
We headed to Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, to the parking lot that looks
out over the dormant Ice Age waterfall, a 3.5-mile-wide chasm of basalt,
with a drop of 400 feet. It's spectacular! It would be a great place to stay
for a day or two, camping in the massive chasm and hiking around. Why have I
never heard of this?
Heading East on US Highway 2, the
dust devils dotted the golden landscape. Those are really fun to see
from a car. They
are terrifying to see from a motorcycle. We stopped for lunch at Billy
Burger, where the burgers are delicious, the staff is SUPER friendly,
the vast salt and pepper shaker collection has some classic and
jaw-droppingly racist items (any of you who have grandparents from the
Midwest or the South have seen many of these), and the display
on the wall is about the crop circles and aliens. I just HAD to buy a
Billy Burger t-shirt, and Stefan is threatening divorce over it.
We pushed on, through incredibly depressing and very stinky towns like
Othello - the poverty was sad, the smell from the orchards was horrible, and
the dinosaur sculptures in Gunther(xx?) were confusing. We saw a drone while
getting gas in some sad, grim town, hovering over the intersection. We
headed to the Hanford Reach National Monument, thinking there would be
camping, but there wasn't: fishing, hunting, hiking, all yes - but camping
is forbidden. It's a surreal landscape.... Stefan said he felt like he was
in Area 51. It was just us out on winding roads with semi trucks and locals
in pickup trucks. And it was getting dark. And then it was dark. And it was
a Friday night, and that means drunk drivers. I was scared, but determined.
We made it to Sunnyside and still could not find a camp site anywhere - and,
as usual, gas station convenience store folks had no idea where one was. One
person, in answer to "where's the nearest camping", said, "Um - Mt. Rainer?"
Another woman recommend a place about 10 miles out of town, but the more she
described it, the more it sounded like a migrant encampment.
So we stayed in a hotel. We were really down about spending our last night
in a hotel - and then a guy came out of his hotel room to have a look at
Stefan's bike. He was riding a gorgeous Triumph, and had a Tiger back home.
And he stood talking with us for more than an hour about back country routes
and motorcycles and what not, and I swear, he saved our last night. He was a
DELIGHT. It was so great to talk about our various trips, including this
one. A perfect last night for our vacation.
DAY 16 (Saturday)
I woke up in the night shivering. It was FREEZING. That never happened the
entire time we camped on this trip. Also, I had dreamed that Stefan left me
for a neighbor named Jan. Stefan found the room heating system, and I
recovered from both freezing and the bad dream. Later that morning, I woke
in a great mood. The ride the day before had been way, way longer than we
intended, but it meant we were getting home TODAY, if nothing went horribly
wrong, and would have time to get Lucy as well. And Max the cat would be
waiting for us. But I also knew anything could go wrong. Again, I was so
hoping for a boring ride. We would be riding roads we'd been on many times
before, and they had never been bad - so everything would be great this
Before we left, I posted a comment to Facebook Stefan had said that morning:
"Nothing says 'classy hotel' like having a bottle opener mounted in the
bathroom near the toilet." The responses from my friends on Facebook were
We left and road on the frontage road alongside of Interstate 82, rather
than getting on it, and then turned left onto state road 22 to Toppenish,
then caught 97 South, headed to the Columbia Gorge. People were flying down
97 - Labor Day weekend traffic in a hurry to get somewhere - and I went into
pull-offs a few times just to let the cars and semis and others go past,
even though I was going at least 10 miles over the speed limit. I didn't
want anything to endanger me getting home that day.
I remembered St.
John's Bakery, a place we had passed at least twice on other trips and
never stopped at. I told Stefan at one of our rest stops that I really
wanted to go there. So we did - and it was fantastic. Here's
my Yelp review. We had a snack of some kind of pastry I can't
pronounce - it was a flaky spiral pastry filled spinach and cheese - along
with coffee, all fabulous. And then we bought a pastitio small enough to put
it in our little cooler on Stefan's motorcycle, atop one of his panniers
(Spoiler Alert: we baked it for supper that night AT OUR HOME, and it was
awesome). The sisters were super nice, and we felt a little like we
were back in Eastern Europe. I loved that feeling. I so wish that
place wasn't so far away from us.
So, I thought, hurrah, here's my bookend for the trip. The rest of the trip
will be just getting home, it will be boring, and I am FINE with that. I
But, of course, the Motorcycle Fates are total hags and hate when I'm happy.
we approached the city of Goldendale, the wind gusts started again. And
these were worse than any I've experienced ever in my life. Worse that the
Alaska Highway. Worse than Nevada last year. And the gusts just kept getting
There I was, climbing higher and higher as we approached the Columbia Gorge,
and the gusts getting more intense - faster and harder and more sudden, from
the front, then the left side. By the time we entered the Gorge at Maryhill,
I was going just 20 miles an hour. And then, once we were in the gorge and I
almost got pushed off the road yet again, 10. It was the only way I could
stay on the road.
It was hard to find a place to pull over the let the massive line of cars
that built up behind me over and over again to pass, but I managed. A couple
of times, I pulled over and just sat breathing for five minutes, trying to
calm down. There were times when I could feel myself slightly lift out of my
seat when a gust of wind hit me. Stefan road behind me, his custom-made
emergency blinkers flashing, sometimes hard to see, no doubt, when the sand
could blow up onto the road from a gust. Most people were kind, and gave me
a wide berth as they passed me. A few decided to punish me and lay on their
horns as they plowed by as close as possible. I didn't care. All I wanted
was to live. All I wanted was to get home. I screamed a few times when a
side wind would be particularly bad. I hate Zephyr. I hate him above all the
other gods man has invented (and that would be all of them).
I was in that mess for more than two hours. 44 miles took me two hours. It
didn't get better until Bingen, but I pushed on, and we finally stopped at
Stevenson. I didn't say much. What was there to say? I do know that the
KLR is notoriously bad in wind gusts. I know that I'm not imaging how
bad it was, or how difficult it was. Later, I looked at a couple of weather
web sites, trying to find what the wind gusts were. One site said there were
none, one said they were 40 mph. I just do not know how people live in the
gorge - the wind would make me insane.
Why did we go through the Columbia Gorge? There's no choice if you want to
go to Portland from the East. And we've been lucky: the only time we've been
in the gorge with horrible gusting winds was when we've been in the car;
somehow, when we've ridden on state road 14 on the Washington side
oh-so-many times, it's been fine. Knowing what we know now, sure, we should
have gone up to US Highway 12 and headed over to I-5. But we were avoiding
Interstates like the plague. We just had no idea the gorge would be so bad.
On we went. The huge backup to get onto I-5 South in Vancouver and get into
Portland didn't bother me. The crazy Labor Day traffic didn't bother me. The
sudden rainstorm didn't bother me. I just didn't want the wind to start up
again. I just wanted to be home. We pulled into our driveway after 4 p.m.,
and I parked in the drive way, went into the house, took off my biker
clothes, changed into something more comfortable for the car, and called the
Indigo Dog Ranch to say we were on our way to pick up Lucinda. Nothing was
going to keep me from bringing her home that day.
And nothing did.
And that night, we ate pastitio.
are all the photos from this trip.
Tips for Women: Getting Started as a
Motorcycle Rider (just to ride, not necessarily to travel as well)
Return to the broads abroad home page
For Women Who Travel By Motorcycle
(or want to)
Advice for Women
Motorcycle Travelers: Packing
Advice for Women Motorcycle
Travelers: Transportation and Accommodations Choices
From Oregon to the "Lost Coast" of
Northern California (Horizons Unlimited 2010 California meeting) -
Oh, Canada...Two-Week Canada/USA Tour by
Motorcycles (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta,
Montana, Idaho) - September 2010
Oregon, Idaho, Yellowstone, &
More - June 2011
Lake, Oregon 2011 (photos only)
camping trip in Eastern Oregon, May 2012 (weekend before Memorial
Pinchot National Forest / Southern Washington State, July 2012,
two 1/2 days, 322 miles.
California, Nevada, Southwestern Oregon, September 2012
Utah & Nevada, June 2014
Any activity incurs risk. The author assumes no responsibility for the use
of information contained within this document.
A Broad Abroad | contact me
The content of this page is by
by Jayne Cravens, 2015, all rights reserved