Note: At the end of May, six riders participated in the annual Nick B Brown Birthday Motorcycle Tour. This year we visited “the forgotten corner” of Washington. A big thanks to my dad for taking the time to write and allow me to publish the following story. Part 1 covers the pre-ride details. Stay tuned for the rest of the story…
I get an email from my daughter suggesting we reprise our Nine Pass Tour from last year:
Here’s a tentative plan for a NBB 40th birthday ride. We were thinking leave on Friday, return on Tuesday. What do you think?
Day 1: Home to Twisp
195 miles, 4 hours
Day 2: Twisp to Colville
208 miles, 6 hours
Over Loup Loup Pass; n on 97 to Tonasket; DH 34 to Oroville; DH 11 to Curlew; DH 50 to Hwy 395; S on DH 65 to Kettle Falls; E on Hwy 20 to Colville
Day 3: Colville to Republic
236 miles, 7 hours
DH 14 to Tiger; N to Metaline Falls; S on Sullivan Lake Road to Le Clerc Creek Rd (east side of river); Newport; Chewelah via Flowery Trail Rd; N on f Hwy 395 to Colville; Kettle Falls; Republic via Sherman Pass
Day 4: Republic to Twisp
155 miles; 4 hours
Day 5: Twisp to home
195 miles; 4 hours
And I get an email to “The Usual Suspects” from my son-in-law:
We’re doing another NBB birthday motorcycle trip this year, but we’re adding two days in honor of my 40th birthday and to give us time to explore some pretty cool-looking roads in northeastern Washington. I’m even going to wash my bike for the occasion!
The dates are Friday, May 24th, through Tuesday, May 28th.
We’re roaming from town to town on this, so it’s probably easiest to make your own lodging arrangements, but I expect we can certainly meet up for post-ride refreshments and food. Of course, these towns are small so we’ll all end up in the same place anyway.
Please drop me a line if you’re interested in coming. I would love the company!
Sounds like fun – I’m in! It looks like Dave is in. And Mark and Laura! And the ride is sold out – waiting list only for those slow to respond.
The Riders & Their Rides
My daughter is 37; my son-in-law will be 40; and I’m … well, old enough to be their father … old enough to know better, some would say. Together we are “Les Canards Sauvages,” a name for our tiny motorcycle gang coined on a previous ride to Banff by a Luxembourger innkeeper there.
Loosely translated it means The Savage Ducks. At the time we all rode Ducatis (Ducs). My daughter and son-in-law still ride Ducatis (a Monster 796, and a 900 Supersport) and I’m a lame Duc now, in their opinion, riding a BMW K1300S; a sport bike in a Tuxedo. It sounds like something between a Japanese sport bike (Angry Bees) and a muscled cruiser (Angry Potatoes) … maybe like a hunting cheetah … very fast … very focused … a low and forward center of sonic gravity. BMW marketing folks would love to hear me talk this way!
Les Canards Sauvages are at the core of a somewhat larger and looser group we self describe as “The Usual Suspects.” Dave rides a BMW K1600LT; a beautiful touring bike tricked out with some extra electronics and lights. If Porsche made an SUV, it would be as strong, powerful, and refined as Dave’s bike. Oh wait; Porsche makes the Cayenne. So I’d guess Dave’s bike is the Cayenne of motorcycles – comfortable, powerful, and refined. His wife Karen rides a smaller BMW but won’t be joining us on this ride as she’s starting a new job. Mark and Laura ride a pair of Suzuki V-Stroms. This is a terrific crossover bike … part road bike, but very capable off road. High clearance, stand on the pegs, fun!
When we ride as a group, it is helpful to be able to talk to each other and a few years ago, we bought ScalaRider G4 headsets. Pairing them with each other lets us talk so we can coordinates stops for fuel, food or hijinks. It lets us consult when we make a wrong turn. Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!
Did I mention hijinks?
This is fun. Imagine three or more of us, riding in a close, staggered-trail formation. We’re fast approaching a car we want to pass. Over the intercom, “On my mark, left blinkers on … three, two, one, … mark!” The turn signals come on at exactly the same time. “Pass on my mark … three, two, one … mark!” Our revs come up and we shift to the passing lane at exactly the same moment. This is precision flying, better than the Blue Angels. I truly hope those around us appreciate the formation.
We can do a coordinated ballet of left and right leg stretches in the same way, but that’s just messing with people’s heads. At least we hope so.
In any event, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Last time out, I was unable to pair my headset and it was stuck on some stupid FM radio frequency playing static at 100 decibels. So today, ride-minus-five-days, I plug it into my PC to check for software upgrades. That goes smoothly. After it’s fully charged, I reset it to factory defaults and paired it to my GPS. It’s time to test. “Film at eleven,” as they say.
And More Electronics
There are things I’m good at, and things I’m not. One thing I’m good at is making wrong turns and getting lost. So awhile back, I added a GPS navigation system to my kit. Mostly when I ride alone, I take whatever road appeals to me and get lost. Then I tell it to take me “home,” an address it knows, and Bob’s your Uncle.
Our route for this trip is 1,000 miles of off-the-beaten-path asphalt. If I simply plug in our destination each morning, it will plot a route that will steal the joy from our ride. It will choose smooth, straight, multilane highways. It will avoid Americana. It maintains a severe allergic reaction to basic comfort food – biscuits and gravy, for example. It will choose the perfect route for a four-door sedan with two adults and 2.3 children on board.
It will not choose a biker’s route.
But there’s an alternative called Base Camp. This is software that lets me plot our route along the roads we want.
I’ve not used Basecamp yet but today is ride-minus-four-days and I give it a go. I load the software on my Mac. Hey, it comes native Mac and PC ready. I do software and map updates until it eventually quits nagging about them. It has videos that show me how to use the software to create a route and load it into the navigation system that sits on my bike. It takes a few hours to get the hang of this, but I think I like it. We’ll see in four days.
It’s All About the Gear
My wife has observed that with bikers, “It’s all about the gear.” And she would be correct, to a degree. Others have observed, “It’s all about the food.” Or the, “check-your-rank-at-the-door camaraderie.” Or the, “feeling of 9,000 RPMs between your legs.” All true, to a degree.
In any event, it’s good to look the part and it’s fun to have apparel that reminds us of the good times. So it has become traditional to make up Ride T-Shirts. Photoshop, mashed up Internet graphics, and Café Press make this possible. On one ride, we were asked if we all worked for Ducati. Guess which one.
My daughter calls me; “I have an idea for T-Shirts. Can you help me with Photoshop?” We mash up a T-Shirt design to add to the collection, the first of the three below.
For the record, the white shape is the transmission cover from a Ducati 900 Supersport. These are available at Café Press for a modest price. Wonder who among us will order them?
Or Is It, All About The Weather
As ride day approaches, I begin to obsess about the weather. We will be high in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. It’s mid-May and that often means rain. I don’t despise riding in the rain, but I want to be warm and dry, and that means choosing rain gear to ride in. But we’ll also be low in Eastern Washington and in May that sometimes means it’ll be hot. I have summer gear, winter gear and shoulder season gear. Only my winter gear is waterproof.
So the dilemma is choosing just the right gear. I’d rather be: 1) warm and dry in the rain, and hot when it gets hot; than 2) cold and wet in the rain and comfortable in the hot. So winter gear or shoulder season gear?
A quick check of the weather over North Cascades Highway (Rainy Pass) shows it’ll be cold (upper 30’s or lower 40’s) and rainy with the possibility of SNOW. Crap! I do despise riding in the snow! Call me crazy. Maybe we’ll need to reroute over US2 but it’s looking like waterproof gear for this ride. The risk of hot in Eastern Washington this time of year isn’t all that significant. Maybe it’ll reach 70, tops, the ‘big maybe.’ Winter gear it is.
We’ll keep an eye on the possibility of snow and call an audible on Friday morning.
Ride Eve – Ride-Day-Minus-One
I drive a car that’s little on the outside but big on the inside. The side bags on my K1300S are just the opposite; big on the outside and little on the inside. So I’m off to pack channeling my inner Jack Reacher. Don’t need much beyond a toothbrush.
And I’m off to update our route map in Basecamp for the GPS.
We live in amazing times. With the click of a mouse I pull up weather along our route for the next 5 days. Twisp on Friday: 42-67 degrees, 20% rain chance; Colville on Saturday: 42-67, 10% rain chance; Republic on Sunday: 39-68, 10% rain chance; Twisp on Monday: 47-75, 20% rain chance; North Cascade Highway Tuesday: 50-60, 10% rain chance. No longer any ambiguity – rain gear.
But getting to Twisp won’t be half the fun. Forecast for Blewett Pass and Stevens Pass is the same: 33-40, rain/snow. But it’s amazing what weather data you can find. The surface temperature is 52 which means any snow we see will melt on contact.
Next stop, The French Bakery, where we’ll be kick-stands-up at 10:00 AM tomorrow. We all despise riding in rush hour.