Seeing the Route 66 thread reminded me of a trip I took a few years back, when I was a youngster at 69, I had one of the best trips of my life; I rode my motorcycle from Seattle, WA to The Dalles, OR and not one mile on the “Super Slab”. Since I'm no longer able to ride a 2 wheeler it’s time to think about doing something like this and more with “Escaping Reality”.
This is my story:
September 6, 2007
These last 2 days I took a little 563 mile trip with an average moving speed of 39.8 mph. Obviously I didn’t spend any time on the “super slab” freeways. That’s right, from Seattle, WA to The Dalles, OR without riding even one freeway mile and the average driving speed can attest to that.
The trip started simply enough at 6:30am riding by way of the Seattle’s Farmers Market, up through China Town, over to the Mount Baker district and then down the Rainier Valley to Renton where I stopped for breakfast about an hour later. This trip started during the “morning rush hour” and by not taking the “main roads” I didn’t get stuck in the morning traffic. As I was eating breakfast in Renton I was able to see one of the freeways, all the traffic was at a standstill. Gee golly whiz, to think I missed all the traffic tie-ups.
After breakfast I continued my little trip going through Maple Valley, Black Diamond and Enumclaw getting on the Enumclaw Chinook Pass Road going past Upper Mill and White River before getting on State Highway 410.at Greenwater where the road turns south towards Snoquera, Mt Rainier and the Mather Memorial Parkway. Now this is where I planned on connecting to State Highway 123 and heading south to US Highway 12. There turned out to be one little problem - - State Highway 123 south to my next connection point US Highway 12 is closed. Oh my, now what will I do? There were, perhaps, several more options than I was aware of but at the time turning east and continuing on US Highway 410 over Chinook Pass and then Yakima seemed most logical at the moment. That would add over 100 miles to the trip to The Dalles but what choices were there? There was no way I was about to turn back now. Had I thought of the map on my laptop, which I had with me, perhaps I would have planned a better detour. But then, I didn’t think about using it.
Any way, I continued on State Highway 410 pass Morse Creek, American River, Kettle Creek, down through Cliffdell, Pine Cliff and Nile on into Naches for fuel.
A few miles prior to Naches there was a turnoff to Highway 12 and White Pass but I was running low on fuel and didn’t know if I’d be able to make the next fuel stop if I were to take the turnoff. I felt my only safe option was to go into Naches and fuel up, which I did.
From there I took the Naches Road through Gleed into Yakima where it was time to stop for me to “fuel up” with some lunch.
After my “fuel up” ‘twas time to hit the road again. Off to Union Gap before going onto US Highway 97 and then State Highway 22 through the Yakima Indian Reservation towards the town of Mabton. Close to Wapato there was the wonderful aroma of concord grapes. It was so tempting to stop and pick some but there was about 3 hours riding left so I continued, past the hop fields near Toppenish on to Mabton and the Mabton-Glade Road up to Bickelton. That was 20 miles looking at wheat fields while going steadily uphill on a road where for every turn I would have to slow from a blazing 50 mph to 20 and 25 mph. And there were plenty of those turns plus a couple 15 mph switchbacks. I considered it blessing to have finally crested when I reach the Bickelton High School and was able to start going downhill again. I was now on the Bickelton-Goldendale Road which soon changed to Goldendale Highway. There is some spectacular scenery on the downhill side but no place to pull over to take pics.
Two and a half hours and 104 miles after leaving Mabton I finally arrived in the town of Goldendale, an attractive agricultural community of about 3,000 inhabitants. Ah yes, now I can stop, stand up, stretch and walk for a few minutes.
It’s almost 4:00 pm, another 50 miles until I arrive in The Dalles. This trip started at 6:30 am, almost 10 hours ago and I’m ready to call it a day so off I go out of Goldendale onto Highway 142 towards Klickitat, Pitt and Lyle, where I top off the fuel before heading up the Columbia River towards Murdock and Dallesport and cross the river into Oregon and the remaining 4 miles to The Dalles and the motel.
I checked into the motel at 5:30 pm, 11 hours after starting this ride, went to my room and crashed. I wasn’t hungry, the large lunch in Yakima had kept me filled, so dinner wasn’t necessary though a good cold beer would have been nice but I just didn’t want to hop on the scoot again to find a store and buy some. I contemplated starting this story but that’s as far as I got. Hmm, the Colts and Saints are playing this evening so why not find the game on the TV and watch? The next thing I remembered was waking at the end of the game. That must mean I was tired. I downed a couple Aleve, every joint in my body seemed to be rebelling from 11 hours on the scoot, turned back the covers of the bed and didn’t wake again ‘till my alarm went off at 6:30 am the next morning.
September 7, 2007
That cell phone has the loudest danged alarm I’ve heard. Took a few seconds to get it shut off, sure hope it didn’t wake those in neighboring rooms.
After a shower and with coffee in hand it was decision time; what route to take to get home. Obviously I wasn’t going to follow the same route I took getting here but did I really want to ride the super slab? Not really. Not only would it cancel my original idea of staying off super slabs but it would also entail riding 80 plus miles against the usual heavy westerly winds that always follow the Columbia River. No!! If I were to have to ride to the Portland-Vancouver area I would do it on the Washington side of the river following Highway 14 but would still entail riding I-5 from Vancouver. Okay, that’s not an option. Let’s see what’s available.
Okay, Garmin’s MapSource shows I can follow Highway 14 to Wind River Road and head north to Carson, Stabler and then go onto Meadow Creek Road. From Meadow Creek Road I would follow Curley Creek Road and then to National Forest Road, (NF), 90. Oh what a pretty and relaxing ride. Let your imagination tell you the type of ride those roads are and you’ll see what I mean.
Now I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s back up to the motel again. I made my decision that at all costs I would not ride any super slab. I packed up all my belongings, other than the ‘puter and camera it all fit into a plastic grocery bag, checked out and went for breakfast. After paying for my meal I headed out to Gracie and met a fellow biker on a BMW who was just arriving for breakfast. We chatted while I put on my riding gear and he took his off. He had same situation as I had with Highway 123 but instead of going towards Yakima from Naches, as I did, but he backtracked to Highway 12 and White Pass before turning south. He made the better decision. Oh well, next time.
It’s about 9:30 now and time to start the journey home. Once I crossed the river back to Washington I followed the river west on Highway 14 to Wind River Road. About a 25 or 30 mile scenic ride bucking the westerly wind. The wind was strong enough that 18 wheelers passing from the other direction had no turbulence effect whatsoever. I was able to stop a couple times for pics; one stop even leaning on my topcase for stability wasn’t enough to keep the wind from blowing me around. Once on Wind River Road it was time to relax and enjoy the ride.
By time I reached NF 90 I was already in the forest. Ah yes, thick trees again. One thing that was a little discerning was the sign or two that said NF 25 to Randle was closed. Now that’s not a good sign, and no pun is intended. Part of this return route included NF 25. Not to duplicate my mistake of the previous day I made the decision to pull over at the next spot, pull out the ‘puter and check out my options. But right now NF 90 had turned into a good twisty so it’s time to enjoy the ride right now and worry about NF 25 later. It wasn’t long before I came upon a road construction site and had to stop for a while. I was one of 3 bikers stopped at the head of the line and overheard the flagger say NF 25 was open; the signs simply hadn’t been removed yet. Well, that certainly simplifies things.
Finally we were allowed to proceed, we bikers, that is. We would be able to squeeze between the pieces of equipment. Others would have to wait a few minutes. The other 2 bikers sort of left me in the dust after the first couple of twists; it was getting to be more than I felt confident with. At least I realize my limits. Soon I came to the turnoff to NF 25. Hmm, there’s a sign right in the middle of the road saying NF 25 is closed. Okay, is it or is it not closed? I had to find out and the best way was to simply proceed up the road.
It was perhaps only a couple hundred yards up the road and there was another biker “relaxing” alongside the road because of a dead battery
. My first question to him was if he needed any help and he assured me someone was already coming to help. Once that was determined the next question was the road being opened or closed. He assured me it was open to Randle.
I don’t think I’d gone a mile and there was a sign about road construction. Heck, that’s not a problem, I’m use to that. I slowed when I saw the blacktop end and the gravel begin. To my surprise when I “dropped” off the blacktop the gravel was deep; the handle bars were flipping all over the place and I can imagine my feet were also. I was able to stop with any damage being done and get back under control. The rear wheel spun a little as I got going again. I then stopped and asked the guys on the grader how far this lasted. Once they were able to stop laughing at watching my previous antics they assured me it would be only a few more yards.
Once on solid ground again the grin came back to my face. The twisties I was going to take at my own pace. Then there was the sign, “Falling Trees Ahead”. Sure enough equipment was on the road removing felled trees. Riding over some of the branches still on the road reminded me of the 2X4’s of the training course. Those instructors must have known I’d be doing and made sure I was ready for it.
One thing about these twisties, there seemed to be small amounts of gravel at the most inappropriate spots, there’s no guard rail on the east side of the road so when riding north if you screw up it’s straight down. Okay, it could be the same riding south but it’s more obvious when it’s right next to you.
I finally arrived in Randle and my connection to US Highway 12, about 1:30 pm. NF 25 is about 35 miles long and my average moving speed for that portion was a whopping 29 mph. Time to fuel up again and get a double tall latte’. By now I really need my java jolt.
The remaining 111 miles of the trip are quite uneventful. Through the towns of Glenoma, Morton, Elbe and beyond there was nothing to slow me down until hitting Puyallup when the stop and go riding began and continued until I reach home. The average moving speed of 32 mph pretty much attests to that.
I arrived home at about 6:00 pm to the greeting of my faithful dog, Bubba. As I pulled into the alley there he was waiting at the gate, tail wagging and barking his welcome.
Would I do something like this again? Another trip forgoing the super slab at much as possible? You’d better believe I would – and – will. Next time I may even plan the route a little better.