16 days from Oregon to Hyder, Alaska, the Yukon & the Alaska Highway
  August 2015
3700 miles / 5954 kilometres
part 3
Here is part 1.

Here is part 2.

DAY 9 (Sunday)

IMG_1617 Why 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 times: there 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.

trailhead for Boulder Canyon We stopped at 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.

We stopped 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.

Dawson Creek, Mile '0' on the Alaska Highway We 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?

Camping at Swan Lake Provincial Park That 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 most...

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.

Looking out the window It 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.

On the way from Hinton to Jasper National Park. Jasper National Park At 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 earrings. We also saw a "motorcycle" that we just don't understand, in terms of its appeal.

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.

Obligatory tourist photo We 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.
Back at Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel Back at Rampart Creek Wilderness HostelWe 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 Hiking around Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel"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.

Picnic area south of the town of Fields in Yoho National Park. It 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 playing Keno.

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.

Waiting for the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry in British Columbia Crossing Arrow Lake by Ferry in British Columbia We 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 USA...

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.

Sunset in Lake Roosevelt National Recreation site. We 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)

We 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).

Me at Fort Spokane I 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.

IMG_1795c From 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 time, right?

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 hilarious.

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.

stop at St. John's Bakery Somehow, 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 need boring!

But, of course, the Motorcycle Fates are total hags and hate when I'm happy.

As 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 worse.

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 IMG_1820aroad. 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.

Here are all the photos from this trip.

Also see: Return to the broads abroad home page

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