Over the last two & a half days I rode down to Wenatchee (& back! Duh!) and again confirmed to myself: the North Cascades is my absolute favourite road of all times. A few highlights of the ride:
1. Left at around 7am on Wednesday: border was a breeze at that time of the day. Seeing as I travel incredibly light (a very small backpack only), the US inspector did look at me with some suspicion when I said I would be away for three days. He had to ask: "Where's your stuff?". In adapted computerspeak: WYSIWIG (what you see is what I got!). Seemed to satisfy him…
2. Took the Chuckanut to Anacortes to have breakfast at the Farmhouse restaurant. It was really, really foggy in the Skagit valley: somehwat damp start to the ride. Nice to get the worst out of the way right at the beginning!
3. The stuff before & after the passes between Marblemount & Winthrop was just meant to be disposed of. For me, the real thing was the ride through the passes. So I went all the way throught the twisty bits and had a blast. It was still early... so I turned around and did it again! And turned around and went on to Winthrop. Traffic was a bit heavy though but if you stopped and chose your time well it was fine.
4. Spent Wednesday night in Winthrop: Hog Central! To add to what J_Scott wrote a while ago ("I'm starting to wonder who the posers REALLY are!"): in recent months I too have come to really respect the average Harley rider. And when I say the average Harley rider I mean the sixty-something retired professional that has all the little bits and pieces on his bike, has all the gear (and I am beginning to think this is not because of the image but because this is their thing, their hobby, their pleasure). These guys cover thousands upon thousands of km every year. They love the country and love their country (whether it is Canada or the USA) and they are doing what they love. Kudos to them.
So on Wednesday night there were like 20 Harleys in town... and I was the sole sportbike representative. This at the far end of the best sportbike road in the Pacific Northwest (my opinion, not necessarily to be agreed by anyone else). There was one KLR650 as well, but that seemed to be it.
5. On Thursday I rode down to Wenatchee and back. If you like long drones through pretty much the desert this is fine. This is not particularly my scene, but now I have done it and as Forrest Gump said: "That's all I have to say about that".
6. Thursday evening changed the cruiser:sportbike ratio quite a bit. Saw many sportbikes: even a couple on beautiful matching red Kawa 1400’s! Met with a guy from Coquitlam on a new-for-him VFR in beautiful condition. He was on his way to (amongst other places) the Grand Canyon. Unlike me, he pretty much had everything except the kitchen sink on the bike. Come to think of it, I wonder what that shiny hollow thing was that was sticking out of his one bag …..
7. For those of you that like eating (and who doesn’t?): I found Heenans Burnt Finger Bar-B-Q (across the river from “Downtown” Winthrop) an absolute pleasure. They have smoked ribs (beef, spare, baby back) that is just superb. Smoked on the premises and the owner grills steaks over coals from a wood fire. Didn’t have the opportunity to try the steaks (or the chicken for that matter) but the ribs are special. From the road this place looks like the pits, but the patio at the back overlooking the river is delightful.
8. I decided to leave Winthrop early this morning to try to avoid the traffic. This turned out to be a good news/bad news story. I left Winthrop at 6:30 this morning and I did in fact miss just about all the traffic: what a joy and pleasure! Same as when I came: I blasted through the passes and had enough time to go back and do it again!
The bad news? It was cold. It was VERY cold! Unlike the cruiser types I do not have a thermometer on my bike so I do not know HOW cold it was. However: I find my bike’s coolant temperature a good indication. Typically on a warmish day the coolant temperature hovers in the low 80 degrees C range. On a cold day on the highway this drops to about 73°C. Last year on a very cold stretch through Manning Park it dropped to 62°C. Today: new record! As I went over the top of the Rainy Pass area the bike’s coolant temperature (then up to a balmy 68°!) started dropping… and dropping…. And dropping…. right down to 59°C! To me it felt like it was pretty much at freezing temperature that time of morning at 5,000ft+ altitude. Fortunately it started warming up again as I dropped towards the twisty bits. From then on it was pure adrenaline: damned if I know what the temperature was!!
9. For you guys doing this ride: BEWARE OF DEER!!! Just this side of Winthrop I came upon a carcass of a deer killed by a cage. It looked like it might have happened last night, in any case later than Wednesday afternoon when I last passed there. Within a quarter of an hour of starting I had met two groups of deer crossing the road and came upon two more groups later.
10. I was expecting a line-up at Peace Arch but it turned out I was like third in line when I got there! Happiness! Through in 5 minutes!
i) No speeding tickets!
ii) No near misses
iii) No bad moments
iv) No rain
A complete joy to the soul. I attach some pics that I liked best (so far!).