Always wanted to do the Northern Cascades Hwy, so I convinced some interior buddies to come down and finally ride it, turned into an overnighter and our typical lack of planning/maps turned up some surprises and errors. Original plan was to stay the night in Chewelah and ride the Chewelah-Usk as well as Enterprise-Wellpinit roads as recommended by Elevation. We never got that far.
2 Days, just under 1400km total distance.
Linky. Google is also retarded and thinks Hwy 20 is still closed, so ignore that massive loop around
Started the day off with an 1.5 hr wait at the border. That old guy that usually directs traffic from the Duty Free @ Pacific Truck Crossing usually waves bikers up tot he front, but he was off for the day and the guy there would have no such games. Oh yes the fun.
Short jaunt down I-5 to exit 232 then South Skagit Hwy to Concrete (avoid the fuzz) and then finally Hwy 20. Now I must say I was expecting great things. As the kms clicked by I kept on waiting. And waiting for this, DH1, to live up to its hype and unleash its wrath on my winter numbed riding skills. Diablo passed by and finally the road started contorting and the scenery improving. Had a rest at Diablo Lake (which is beautiful) and stopped for the obligatory bike shorter than snow photo.
Once around that big hairpin on the East side the road quickly stretches out, temperature rises, and pretty soon we were in Winthrop at small town America's most expensive wannabe posh restaurant (we didn't find that out until after the food came of course). Which had us thinking, is that it, really??? Not until Diablo is this highway really worth riding. And very soon after the big hairpin it turns back into a "nice" road. Great scenery, but that's not the first criteria for DH now is it. Must say I was incredibly disappointed. So if someone asked me is a ~750km loop from Vancouver to Winthrop to ride this road worth it? A definate thumbs down, way down on that captain. If I lived in Sedro-Wooley it would be a different story but I don't, so it isn't A day incomparably better spent is ripping up Mt Baker a few times. Or a jaunt down to Mt St. Helens.
Anyways, from Winthrop we cruised Hwy 20 to Okanogan. It was very late in the day and the distance on the Google printout seemed incredibly large so we decided to toss Chewelah, find the closest twisties, and see how far we got before stopping for the night. This led us to Hwy 155 to Coulee Dam. 155 is nothing special, but devoid of traffic and sures beats 17. Took some pics of the Dam and was going to do the Visitor Centre but time was against us.
Back up 155 a few miles to Manilla Creek Rd to Hwy 21, Keller, then over Twin Lakes Road to Inchelium. Wow this was a hidden skill tester. 110kms full of 25-35mph twisties and 45mph sweepers. The challenge, however, was the road was shrunken in size to three small gravel free tracks with BERMS of gravel separating each track. I should have stopped to measure, I swear the dirt was piled a few cm's high. No 9/10s here but was still very exhausting keeping the line and ducking to avoid clouds of sand every time the rider ahead of you changed "lanes". Almost made up for Hwy 20 and definitely worth a look later in the season.
At Inchelium it was starting to get dark so we decided to forgo the ferry to Gifford and boot up to Kettle Falls for the night. Once we arrived at Kettle Falls and saw the local scene we decided screw it and headed for Colville 8 miles further down. Grabbed a room, ate a great burger at Acorns, had some beers and hit the sack.
At this point you're probably thinking WTF why didn't we just continue to Chewelah? We asked the same thing the next morning. But the odometer showed just shy of 800kms yesterday and so we made another bad decision and decided to start west and skip Usk etc.
395 up to NFD 61 to W Kettle River Road to Toroda Creek Rd, pavement is challenged, road isn't too bad though. Again hit tons and tons of sand on the road. Hit Wauconda as we missed our turnoff, which turned out great as we needed gas anyways. Shot back up to the turnoff onto Oroville-Toroda Creek Rd, which is a great gem except again for the omnipresent sand and massive potholes. The whole morning was completely free of traffic and fuzz though.
Great lunch at Oroville, 5 min border crossing (even though all one friend had for ID was a tattered driver's license - that's right, no passport, no birthcertificate, no registration - no problems getting to/from the US!). Parted ways with my riding companions as they headed for Ktown and me # 3 home.
Hwy 3 is showing the winter damage, still not too bad though as traffic was minimal. The worse part was the temperature from Manley west all the way until Hope. Must have been only 1 or 2 C. My electric vest was maxed and I was freezing. Caught the end of some rain and typical hell stop/go trying to cross the Port Mann meant total travel time from Osoyoos was 4.5 hours. Ouch.
Now if you've actually read all this you've noticed a few things:
-No pics - It was either too boring, too dangerous in the sand, or too cold to stop and take any. Sorry.
- I'm not impressed with Hwy 20. At all. Would be a great drive in a car. Next time I go to Eastern WA I'll be trying out Hwy 2.
- Sand sand sand. It really was too early to enjoy most of the roads we took. Should have waited for a few big rains to clean them off. Totally worth checking most of them out again, and if they ever repave they could almost rival Cali's best. Awesome
-We spent more time NOT riding to Chewelah than it would have taken to go there and ride the roads we wanted to ride on the east side of the Columbia. It worked out anyways, but I got home at 6pm on Saturday, so we still had a few hours to rip down and back but we didn’t know how far it was. Live and learn. Even though it will take out a lot of the spontaneity of our trips which I love, GPS is on my Xmas list
-This is my first season with an electric jacket. You don't know how much you need one of these. Makes all aspects of riding easier. Less gear, more comfort, longer season, less stops to bring core temp back up etc.
- The Columbia Valley is a beautiful area, by car or bike I'll be back to spend time hiking and enjoying it.
And finally, wow do they love their turkey hunting in Colville.