“Leaf Peeping in the Northwest”
11 Oct 11
The heavy rain from the night before had fizzled out but the clouds were still the color of lead, and the wind was blasting out of the south. Susan and I were waiting for a slight break in the weather to roll out on our latest MotoRaid. This time we were off to enjoy the beautiful fall colors in the North Cascades. Our destination for the first leg of the journey was over Stevens Pass, east to the Columbia River, and then north to the little town of Waterville, WA.
We made it almost 10 miles before the rains cut loose on us. We’d been watching the weather maps all week and knew that once we got over the pass the weather was going to improve. The only problem was, that was going to take us about 1-1/2 hours of wet riding and include crossing a 4000 foot mountain pass. You see by the lack of photos that we just pulled on our winter gloves and gutted it out. There really wasn’t much to photograph anyway as the clouds were right on the deck for much of the crossing.
Eventually we rolled into Coles Corners for fuel and got the sense that the rains were done for a bit. Our ride through the Tumwater Canyon was gorgeous! The blue skies, white clouds, and fire red leaves made for a wonderful photo any place you looked.
We skirted around the edge of Wenatchee and continued north on Hwy 2. The wind was whipping up the waters of the Columbia and the air temperature was dropping but at least it had stopped raining. I was actually beginning to dry out a bit.
When we pulled up to the Waterville Hotel I was not surprised that we were the only ones there. I had called the manager/owner Dave the day before and he’d said, “well, we’re sort of open, but wrapping things up for the season”. Dave said they would have a room available. There was a sign on the door that said use the phone on the porch and call the hotel number…eventually Dave turned up and got us settled into a classic old hotel room on the second floor. Brass bed, claw foot tub, transom windows over the doors…the whole place was like walking through a museum. I spent an hour just walking up and down the halls examining all the old photos and antiques.
Susan and I walked to the pizza joint and got a large pepperoni and mushroom, which we brought back to enjoy in the hotel parlor. Dave cracked open a beer for him and Susan, and shared pizza and stories with us. The rest of the evening was spent tucked into our cozy little room watching our gloves dry 🙂
12 Oct 11
We were up and out of the hotel early. The 39 degrees was a bit brisk, but manageable. Our route took us out through a series of rolling farm roads and then down McNeil Canyon Road. We crossed back over the mighty Columbia at Chelan Falls. A little breakfast (and a warm up) at the Apple Cafe in Chelan was a welcome stop.
We had a fairly short day planned. Up through Twisp and Winthrop, and then overnighting at the Mazama Country Inn. Just before Twisp I saw the sign for the US Forest Service Smokejumper Base…well, we had to check that out.
We were welcomed with open arms at the base and treated to a private guided tour of the base. Our guide was Pat Johnson, a smokejumper and all around nice guy. He walked us around the grounds and into the parachute loft. Pat explained how they pack their chutes and equipment, deliver supplies and tools to the jumpers once they’re on the ground, and covered the early history of the smokejumpers. What an interesting side trip, and totally unexpected.
We walked around the town of Winthrop taking photos and reading the historical sign boards. I noticed the Winthrop Town Marshall standing on a corner talking to a tourist. As soon as I locked eyes with the marshall we both said…”hey, I know that guy”. It was Ken Bejema, one of my former BLEA recruits. We did a little catch up and he posed for a photo with Suzie. What a good dude. The day seemed to be full of them.
So we motored on up to the little dot on the map known as Mazama. We were ready to be off the bike for the day but when we learned that the restaurant at the Mazama Country Inn was closed, and it was the only place to eat…we passed on the tiny little room at the inn. Back to Winthrop it was. After some lunch and iPhone searches we decided on the River Run Inn.
Bam! We landed on our feet again! The place was great. Right along the river, rimmed by golden cottonwoods, deer running along the river bank…sweet. We walked around the grounds and explored the river. Then it was time to get cozy in our room and wait for the full moon to rise.
13 Oct 11
Burrrrrr! Clear and cold was the order of the day, 30 degrees and frost on everything. Our motorbike was going to stay parked for a few more hours. That was fine with me. I wasn’t in any hurry to chip the ice off the saddle, but it did mean BBQ Pringles for breakfast. Yummy!
By about 1000 we were suited up and rolling westbound on Hwy 20. We had to cross two passes over 5000 feet in elevation. I was expecting it to be cold, that was a given, but I was concerned a couple of times when the thermometer readout said 30! The roads were mostly dry, so smooth and steady got us safely over the mountains. Cobalt blue skies and snow-capped peaks dominated the scenery. Stunning!
Eventually we pulled into a little hamburger stand in the town of Marblemount. By that point I was starving and anything would have been good, but my deluxe burger and fries was delicious.
We enjoyed a little Moto GP time along the quiet backroads down to Darrington and then into Arlington. The 54 degrees felt almost tropical compared to our chilly morning. By 1500 hours we pulled into the garage, popped off our helmets and happily flopped into our nice warm house.
Well that’s about it for now. Stay tuned for the movie version, coming shortly.