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 covered the pre-ride details. The story continues on Day 1 of the tour.
And We’re Off
French Bakery serves café au lait in cups large enough to swim laps in, and heavenly croissants. Everyone shows up on time and we’re off at 10:00. Six slightly scruffy bikers in this small coffee shop cause a small stir but nothing untoward.
Over café au lait, we decide on a route over Snoqualmie Pass, over Blewett Pass, through Wenatchee and Chelan to Twisp. This will allow us to stop at the Anjou Bakery for lunch in Cashmere. (Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!)
We get a little rain over the passes but no snow. The weather is better than forecast. We are rebuilding our moto skills after a winter of disuse. So while we’re fast, we’re not that fast. This is fun. We ride into Twisp in late afternoon.
We’re in plenty of time for a birthday dinner for my son-in-law at Tappi. (Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!)
Day Two: Twisp to Colville
Eastern Washington has several things to recommend it: beautifully designed and maintained roads; light traffic; and tremendous scenery.
The roads are wonderfully twisty and there are some heroically gigantic sweeper curves that let us lay the bikes over as we thrust through them.We exercise the very edges of our tires and all distractions related to work, relationships, economics & politics are crowded out by close attention to the nanosecond physics of our ride. Motorcycling is an endeavor that rewards paying close attention and we do.
This road does have unusual hazards. This is rangeland. Cattle run free. Cow pies dot the highway and besides being slippery in the corners, they’re pretty fresh. Here’s a tip – don’t follow too close behind the bike in front of you or you’ll be stopping to clean you visor.
Twisp to Omak, north to the top of the state, east eventually to Colville, but we have to eat. We enter Chesaw and almost blow through it before we spot the Chesaw Tavern. We are not a ‘bikes and brew’ gang but the weather is threatening, there are a lot of cars in the lot, and there’s no other food for 50 miles in any direction.
As we pulled in, one of our gang dropped their bike in the slick, wet, gravelly parking lot … at one mile per hour. No harm done. No injury. They say there are two kinds of bikers … those that have dropped their bikes, and those that are about to. This is now behind us. And five of the six of us are grateful it wasn’t me.
As we walk in, the place is packed. There is a community table with every seat filled and a few empty seats each at a small table and the bar. We order Bison Burgers – never had one before but would order one again, maybe with bacon next time. People come and go from the community table continuously.
As we finish eating, we walk around and chat with the patrons. All are curious about us – who’re you – where d’you come from – where’re you going – sorry about the rain. People are just people and we enjoy the encounter. It’s rained hard while we were eating but it seems to have stopped mostly. We get lots of well wishes as we depart in a cloud of decibels.
Great roads; great riding; and speeds coming up. We arrive at the Selkirk Motel in Colville. We chose this place because it’s ‘motorcycle friendly’ and even has a ‘motorcycle washing station.’ Well, the washing station is a hose and a bucket but the staff is friendly, the place is clean if modest, and the rates are good. No TV, no phones, no Wi-Fi (This is Colville, mister). The desk clerk recommends Stefanie’s as the best restaurant in town for dinner. Stephanie recommends Zips as the best breakfast in town.
We sit next to two State Troopers at breakfast. We asked them what direction they were headed and offered to buy them breakfast as a deposit on future tickets. That’s actually a lie, but we did consider it.
Day Three: Colville to Republic
We rode south from Colville to Newton along the eastern side of the Pend Orielle River. Back up the western side of the river and due west to a ferry crossing at Inchelium (I swear, I could not make up a name like this).
Then we rode north, then over Sherman Pass to Republic.
For my money, the Sherman Pass road is the best motorcycle road in Washington. This road is heroic! Very fast, terrific pavement and engineering, sweepers that consume 720 degrees on the compass (I sometimes exaggerate to make a point, but I digress). Of our five days riding … this is it … this is why I came and would come again and again. Wow! And wow again!
After dinner in Republic we wander around town and down into a small nature park. As we return we spot an historic building with a plaque. It used to be John Stack’s Storage Building – Groceries, Mining Supplies, Post Office and Grubstaking. My daughter asks, “What’s grubstaking?” I pull out my iPhone, punch up Siri and ask, “What is grubstaking?” Siri gives me a result that looks barely relevant and I say something along the lines of, “Siri, you stupid witch, that makes no sense.” But if you scroll down Siri’s results you do eventually get to a definition. I punch up Siri again and say, “I’m sorry, Siri, you’re not a stupid witch.” And Siri instantly speaks her retort, “And after all I’ve done for you!” We all laugh and a memory is made. I encourage you to ask Siri my question if you’re curious.
Every restaurant in Republic is closed in the morning. We follow signs to a Firemen’s Pancake Breakfast and run into a couple who talk about the history of the town. This building used to be a hardware store until it burned down, now it’s a bank. This building used to be a church until it burned down, now it’s the library. We quickly detect a theme. These are bonefide historians. He was born in Republic and lived here for 50 years. Then he moved to Spokane where they’ve lived for 48 years. They come back every Memorial Day. We lose track of them in the fire hall during breakfast. Later, he walks up to me from across the room and says, “You look familiar.” I say, “I get that a lot” and reintroduce myself. Life’s a funny funny riddle.
Day Four: Republic to Twisp
This is our shortest day. We get a late start and arrive early after crossing Disautel and Loup Loup passes. This road is so great! As we came down off one of the passes, my GPS urged me to make a U Turn and do it again! This is not a lie; it’s the honest truth!
One of our trepidations about radio headsets derives from the fact that my daughter sings when we ride. As we cross Sherman Pass she breaks out in a spirited rendition of John Denver’s ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy.’ We all chime in, our faulty memories filling in the gaps between the lines we know, with lyrics that seem plausible under the circumstances. I truly hope there are sentient, advanced beings living on other planets orbiting other stars. I truly hope our radio waves reach them. And I would truly love to be a fly on the wall watching them try to make sense of this mash up.
Back in Twisp, we wander down to Blue Star to get coffee and stop in a grocery store for electrolyte replacements and snacks. We pass a quiet afternoon on the deck of the Twisp River Suites with Ruination IPA, chips and salsa. At the desk, they recommend La Fonda Lopez for dinner. It’s a tiny Mexican place, and I risk ordering paella. It was wonderful and the closest to real Spanish paella I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant in America. (Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!)
The owner of the hotel has run a gas pipe down to a fire pit by the river. He fires up the fire pit and we sit around the fire in the gathering dusk, spit and tell lies as they say. He brings down a couple of big bottles of wine, compliments of the house, and we meet two other guests, Steve and Sheri, who are bicycling across the country. They are retired, sixty-something, fit and excited to be at the beginning of their ride. We are all interested in each other’s stories and soon it’s pitch dark as we wander back to our rooms to sleep.
Day Five: Back Home
This is a longish day over a terrific highway, the North Cascades Highway. If you’ve ever ridden or driven it, you know what I mean. If not, that’s the only way you’ll truly understand.
As we’re riding I fantasize about the reactions of people in approaching cars. I imagine a late twenties guy in an older model pickup reacting to our freedom and sense of adventure. An ‘emotion bubble’ blooms around him, bright shimmering green, equal parts envy and vicarious enjoyment of our riding pleasure. I imagine a late forties gal, probably a spinster, driving something sensible, maybe a Taurus with 111,000 miles on the odometer. She’s blooming with an angry orange ‘emotion bubble’ because by day five we’re a little scruffy, we’re faster than she thinks prudent, way to close together in our staggered trail formation – we’re that kind of rider. Maybe she’s jealous because she’s never had an adventure of any kind in her life. We chat about my fanciful ‘emotion bubbles,’ and for the rest of the trip call out green and orange for the cars we approach or pass.
Maybe I think too much. And when did we become that kind of rider?