In early June, my K1300S turned 10,000 miles, a milestone birthday of sorts on our Northern Washington Tour. Three Days – Seven Hundred Miles – Nine Passes – Ten Destination Highways – great RPM fun.
Friday morning’s normally a workday, but not today. Four of our motorcycle band known as ‘Les Canards Sauvages’ (because we ride Ducatis) meet at Seattle’s French Bakery. They serve Café au Lait in cups large enough to swim laps in and Almond Chocolate Croissants; the perfect start to our ride.
Kickstands are up at 10:30 but not toward our first planned pass. The North Cascades Highway has snow from an overnight storm so we reroute across Stevens Pass. US 2 is sometimes an evil highway. Long strings of campers, logging trucks tailgating six feet from your rear tire, and speed tax collectors strategically waiting – waiting that is for 80 mph bikers finishing a passing maneuver.
Why do campers creep through beautiful twisted roads at 45, only to accelerate to 70 in the few straight parts? That’s the cruelty of this road, the source of its evil. But today there are no campers, no logging trucks, no officers selling tickets. Warm sun. Cool air. Smell of the forest. We cross Stevens Pass – a fast start to our adventure.
We stop at the Anjou Bakery in Cashmere for lunch. Holly and her girlfriend sell us baguettes and Aranciata. They hit on us in a low key – not meant to be sung to. We spend the night at a B&B in Twisp, Washington.
Saturday morning we rise early, not because of alarms but because the road is waiting. After breakfast we take US 20. It’s cold over Loup Loup Pass but warms as we ride through Okanogan and Omak. We take it easy rediscovering our biker super powers tarnished by winter.
At Omak, we take WA 155 across Disautel Pass; turn left on BIA 13 and onto the wonderfully curvy Cache Creek Road. Speeds are coming up and the road is getting more challenging.
Left on WA 21 and right on Bridge Creek Road take us eventually to another mountain pass. No sign and no map name it. We dub it ‘Do Not Pass.’ The scenery and the smell of the mountains make this a delight. What is not delightful is the road condition. It’s full of deep potholes. Some of the potholes have potholes. My daughter claims to have seen a wrecked VW Beetle in the bottom of one – but she sometimes exaggerates. We pick our way through the busted pavement and down into Inchelium.
Inchelium is a ferry terminal town and home to Ruby’s Bar. We stop to ask if they serve food. “This is a bar, mister. We’ve got fries and Papa John’s Pizza.” We order fries and ask about sodas. “This is a bar, mister,” but he rustles up bottled water and a root beer.
The owner warms up to us, his only customers, and we learn he just bought the place. There’s a sign on the door, another above the bar, “No Fighting!” And below that is an ’86 list’ – people who’ve been banned for fighting. The last two names – banned for life. He’s trying to clean it up.
One whole wall is a huge roll-up door. They must roll it up at 3:00 AM and hose the place out. Our gear is armored; Carbon Fiber and Kevlar – we might need it later if we stayed. But it’s actually a fine joint in the early afternoon; the fries are good; the A&W cold; and the conversation interesting.
We head north on County 3 toward Kettle Falls. From here, all the way back to Twisp, the roads are seriously spectacular; the pavement perfect, the engineering perfect, the scenery perfect. Traffic is perfectly absent as are speed tax collectors. We turn left on WA 20 and cross Sherman Pass.
We continue through Republic and cross Wauconda Pass on the way to Tonasket. Down US 97, back through Omak and Okanogan, back across Loup Loup Pass to Twisp. We’re radio equipped. As we churn through some great twisties, the lead rider announces, “Bridge on the exit from this sweeper. Looks like a grated deck. Might want to be upright for this one!” Might?!?
The road back across Loup Loup has been straightened during the day, our super powers are at full strength. We are flying in formation – fast and free. We spend a minute playing tricks on drivers over the radios. “On my mark, stretch your right leg … three, two, one, mark.” And we do. We approach a long straight stretch, “On my mark, left blinkers and pass … three, two, one, mark. Right blinkers and return … mark.” The Blue Angels couldn’t execute more crisply! It’s mildly entertaining in a juvenile sort of way but we soon tire of the game and simply enjoy the ride.
At dinner back in Twisp, we applaud the guitar player and he joins us at our table between sets. Turns out he’s a biker so we talk bikes and rides and share personal histories. This is part of what makes biking fun!
On Sunday, the North Cascades Highway is bare and dry. This is Destination Highway ‘DH1.’ Rated 92.3 out of 100, it’s the best motorcycle road in Washington. DH describes it, “… a long series of wonderfully diabolic curves and sweepers, many linked, take you up around rock faces and through rock cuts … among the soaring forested mountains … “ across Washington Pass. Like a curtain falling, the sun ends and the rain begins at the eponymous Rainy Pass. Bike doesn’t care if it’s wet. In our dry gear, neither do we. So the RPMs come down a bit and the time in this magnificent forest stretches pleasantly. The rain ends when I put the bike in the garage 3 hours later.