Monthly Archives: May 2010

Day 8 The Ride Home

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Luggage is packed and all are ready to ride at 8:00 am. Today’s plan is to visit Leo’s brother, Marlin, a builder, who has a very unique home on the Snake River. Yes, Leo does have as many siblings and relatives as he and Dean have bottles of wine, and thank goodness. Their hospitality and efforts on our behalf have been indispensable and are very much appreciated.

Marlin’s home is an artistic creation in an idyllic setting on the Snake River. Our visit takes in a wonderful tour of his home and a sharing of family history and interesting stories.

After our visit with Marlin, the group heads for I-84 and the inevitable end of the trip in a few short hours. We all have had a great deal of fun and a lot of laughs while sharing experiences that were not always of a joyful nature.

The weather is spectacular, and the temperature actually is reaching highs that were a distant memory. By the time the group reaches Umatilla, there is a mass strip session in a gas station parking lot as mounds of polar fleece are stuffed into saddle bags.

To digress a bit, our lunch stop, today, was in La Grande at Pizza Hut…… now not much has been said about George on this trip, and rightly so – he is soft spoken, friendly, always has a smile, competent and a model of moderation. George is also a soup eater reminiscent of a food taster in the royal courts of the middle ages. While the rest of the group has been eating fried and heavily carnivorous meals, George has been ordering a bowl of soup or a salad. Please notice that the words “has been” were used.

After the get together the day before at the Harley dealership, George has a big helping of sports bar food (must have been crossing all that desolate countryside in the morning), then at dinner (really just dessert) it is a milkshake, and final coup is lunch at Pizza Hut where he has the meat lovers pizza. The rest of the group feels guilty that they have not been a good influence on George. Luckily, we are able to get over the guilt, pack up “to go” boxes and head on to home in perfect weather. Other than a stop or two for gas or to stretch our legs, we do take in a scenic turn-out above Pendleton where the weather and vantage point conspire to create a magnificent view of eastern Oregon towards the Columbia River.

Our final push is into Washington on I-82 and then to state routes 240 and 243 to the Vantage bridge and highway to our respective homes. In ending the traveling part of the trip, it is fitting to relate something George shared with us in Riggins the first night. He called and told Linda, his wife, he saw a road sign that reminded him of her, it said, "Soft Shoulder." Now, that is good!

Day 7 – The return of Bill’s BMW

We leave the hotel and casino at close to 8:00 AM to be in Boise to pick-up Bill’s repaired motorcycle and return his rental Harley. Bob, the ever cheerful purveyor of doom, tells the group that there will only be gas available on a very desolate stretch of road, state road 225, between Elko, NV and Mountain Home, ID at one place about 100 miles from Elko and the mid-way point. Bob’s description of the road ahead is quite bleak, including the road having no shoulders and very few places to safely stop.

The ride is on a two lane road that passes through interesting rock formations and several recreation areas, but there is little evidence of any other human habitation. The road is quite fun to ride with all its curves, which keeps everyone’s mind off of the fact that all gas stations and pumps they pass, last worked a very long time ago. Finally, after 100 plus miles of riding we enter the town of Owyhee on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and a set of operating gas pumps appear accompanied by a relatively large grocery store that serves the reservation. Although 3 of the bikes would struggle to make the whole trip to Mountain Home on a single tank, one definitely would not make the entire stretch without having this fuel stop. Everyone is glad to see the gas and have the ability to get off their bike. Mr. Happy asks Leo if he is glad to see gas. Leo still has not warmed up to Mr. Happy, but the trip is not over.

Bob, not to be outdone by his previous bleak assessment of the route just covered, relates that the next portion of the road is so desolate that the first half will appear to have been an urban riding experience. The cheery band of bikers roars off down the next stretch to Mountain Home. Upon arriving in Mountain Home, it is generally agreed that one, everyone is glad no one broke down, and two, Bob, unfortunately, does not exaggerate.

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The day now takes on the aura of the surreal as we all meet at the Harley Davidson dealership where Bill returns his rental bike in the midst of a dealer sponsored bike rodeo. If anyone in our group, except Leo, has ever wondered what it would feel like to be an infidel, they now, no longer have to wonder. I have always wanted to pull up to a Harley event with three Japanese and two German bikes.

While the rental is processed, I wander the store looking at the large display of brass knuckles, large belt buckles and knives and everything imaginable “Harley”. Just kidding, I did not see any brass knuckles. Meanwhile, Marly and Danielle are analyzing the Harley swagger, male and female, and the interesting custom bikes that all seem to be missing any semblance of a muffler.

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We obtain rooms in Ontario, OR, and say our goodbyes to Leo’s brother Darrell and Cousin Cheryl. Without their support, our trip would not have had a happy ending. So our profound appreciation to them for all their time and effort on all of our behalf without which we would have been sunk!

As has become customary, we start our evening with snacks and, yes, the magical wine that just keeps appearing. Rather than a fine cheese like Bre, we had to settle for Ontario’s K Mart’s best – two boxes of “Lunchables” and a bag of pretzels and Jalapeno kettle chips. Again, nothing but the finest for this sophisticated wine toting group. This is also a celebration of the return of Bill's BMW and a display of the offending, but very expensive, part.

As the dinner hour comes and goes, so do our plans for fine dining (in Ontario an oxymoron), and we settle on sharing the entire dessert menu at the local Denny's. If the trip were not close to over, we would have to name the trip in honor of a cardiac blockage.

Day 6

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We eat a nice healthy breakfast of donuts, apple fritters and like kind fare — washing it all down with boutique coffee — yum! The weather is just wonderful — sun and warming temperatures that reach onto the 60's. Today's destination is Elko, the site of the cowboy gathering much like our hometown's Spirit of the West. Lunch is scheduled to be in Winnemucca, which we consider something of a half-way point between Reno and Elko even though Winnemucca is a bit closer to Elko than Reno.

Part of the magic of traveling in Nevada and some other progressive states (and most probably under populated states in comparison to those on the west coast) is the speed limit of 75 mph. As we ride towards Elko, we begin to realize that most drivers in Nevada consider the speed limit as a mere suggestion and a poorly made one by the Nevada Department of Transportation. All manner of vehicles pass us at high rates of speed despite our valiant attempts to adopt to local customs.

At one of our several stops, we get a group shot proving somewhat that we really are riding motorcycles as opposed to getting together in a different restaurant every night for dinner and a picture. Again, a passerby volunteers to take our picture for us and returns the camera.

We arrive in Elko in the early evening and check into one very large hotel and casino complex where we quickly unpack the bikes and open some more wine that not even David Copperfield could keep taking out of Leo's and Dean's motorcycles.

Plans are made for tomorrow when we will head to Boise by way of Elko to Mountain Home. Bill's BMW will be ready to go and Bill needs to be there to collect his bike before the shop closes. We have Leo's brother Darrell as a back-up so that Bill will have his bike to ride home. Of course, there is the additional factor of needing to return the Harley Street Glide rental.

To make Bill feel better about the his bike repair, we all played the penny slot machines in the casino, with Leo leading the pack in losses at the slots. No one has the heart to ask Marly how she did at the Black Jack table.

As the trip comes down to the final two days, it is clear that we all are making the best of the opportunities we have to enjoy ourselves. So up early tomorrow for the last two days of the trip.

Day 5

We have abandoned all sense of being adventurers, and the departure from Winnemucca for Reno is kindly referred to as leisurely, as compared to slothful. At about noon we are able to head for Reno and luxury suites arranged by Dean.

This trip has morphed from a cross between Jeremiah Johnson and the Donner party to Cleopatra on her barge cruising the Nile.

Many members of the group warily are waiting for an event to occur to cause the reappearance of Mr. Happy. Apparently, today might must be his day off.

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Traveling towards Reno the temperature begins to rise with each mile. Soon the temperature is in the 50's, at which point we stop in Fernley to sun ourselves, in full motorcycle gear, in the Walmart parking lot. Not even the writers for the Beverly Hill Billies could have made the Clampetts look this sophisticated.

Prior to this stop, we bought gas in a town called Lovelock - in a state with legalized gambling and prostitution, we do not even want to venture a guess as to how the town got its name.

Every ones' spirits have soared with the bright sunshine and higher temperatures.

The scenery in Nevada along I-80 is remarkable for its ruggedness and unusual features such as the Nightingale Hot Springs that have some form of geothermal research or commercial development. As we approach Reno, the vegetation changes and takes on a live-like green as compared to the previous miles of alkaline sands, bare ranges and occasional snow capped peaks. This is a result of the benefits of the watershed produced by the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Truckee River which runs through Reno.

Dinner was along the Truckee River at the Wild River restaurant in the heart of the downtown, but Dinner would not have been possible though if we had not had a GPS to locate our accommodations for the evening of luxury suites that had no working ventilation system. Now, being seasoned travelers used to coping in adverse situations, Marly goes to a nearby casino to gamble where the ventilation system is working quite well, Bill is doing laundry — a domestic side of him we had not seen until just this moment, but is quite appreciated by everyone. Dean, Danielle and Leo go grocery shopping and by late afternoon we are together for cheese, crackers and fine wine which just keeps appearing out of Leo's and Dean's saddle bags. One has to wonder, but would rather not, if they brought anything else such as a change of clothes???

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As previously mentioned, we proceed to a nice restaurant after which we walk the downtown area enjoying and admiring all the sights and lights. We get a group picture in front of the Reno sign taken by a passerby who not only is kind enough to take our picture but even gives us back our camera.

Now an odd thing happens. As we walk into the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Danielle, beaming, asks Dean if he remembers their last visit some 30 years ago, and she mentions the souvenir ashtray they have from that visit. All Dean can do at this point is say he only remembers the ashtray. One has to believe that Danielle's look of there was much more to remember probably means the astray was not a door prize from their last visit.

Day 4 Moto Trip

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Today was a day of preparing for the new destination of Nevada, better weather, and Winnemucca for the first night. And you might be thinking, all problems are behind us now, well not so fast. When the time comes to go pick up Bill's rental Harley, which Leo is renting with his HOG membership, Leo's bike fails to start. The reader may have guessed by now that Mr. Happy makes his appearances most frequently when misfortune strikes a motorcyclist. This event of Leo's bike not starting makes the day's events quickly rearrange themselves, and a leisurely ride to Winnemucca becomes more a desire than reality.

The Harley Davidson dealer quickly responds to Leo's misfortune with such speed and expertise that we are led to believe they have quite a bit of experience picking up disabled Harley's. At the same time, Marly calls the Honda dealer at home to seek an answer as to why she has no heat in her heated grips and can not have any reception on her bike's radio. It is a mystery since all the fuses in the bike are good, as was discovered when Bob checked them the previous morning in 30 degree weather in the parking lot in Ketchum.

With Instructions of where to look from the mechanic at home, it is discovered the wires were unplugged and never reconnected after the pre-trip servicing. Off Marly rides to the Boise Honda dealer seeking a quick repair.

By 1:00 PM, we all meet at the local Harley dealer, Marly with her fixed Goldwing Trike, Bill with his rental Harley Street Glide and Leo with his repaired Sportster, which was only suffering from loose battery connections.

The group heads to Winnemucca with great haste as compared to the hoped for leisurely ride with lots of photo opportunities. The day's only photo opportunity is of Leo and Mr. Happy.

Heading south we ride in high winds to the town of Jordan Valley, Oregon, where we eat at the a Basque cafe called the J.V. Cafe. We eat a great meal and listen to customers coming from Nevada, where we are headed, describe the high winds we are heading into and all the state troopers who will be waiting for us should we speed.

No Oregon State Troopers were ever seen between Jordan Valley and the state line, while our speed is close to the Oregon's not so generous 55 mph speed posted on a road that begs for a twist of the wrist.

Jordan Valley is 100 miles north of the Nevada state line, and for those who do not buy gas in Jordan Valley, it is a place where they really will wish they had bought gas. The next gas station after Jordan Valley is at the Nevada state line, and Leo and his Sportster are very grateful to buy gas at the state line at any price.

We finally arrive in Winnemucca, which in native American probably means winds you will not forget . Our hotel is the Winnemucca Inn, a very nice facility with nice large rooms where bikers are known to have several drinks before dinner after an eventful day.

Tomorrow will be a late start and hoped for easy ride to Reno, where the group will have great rooms at the World Mark Reno at a very reasonable price thanks to Dean. The group is intact, and we are having a good time and an adventure somewhat different than what was planned.

Day 3

The day starts out with a leisurely pace and wonderful visit and breakfast at the Sun Valley Hotel. Again we field questions about the potential temperature extremes and routes that would be possible considering the forecast weather conditions for the next three days from hotel staff and guests.

We leave the hotel and proceed to town to pack, check out of the lodge, and for a quick stop at the local outdoor equipment store to get components for a zipper repair for one riding suit and warm gear for others. We are ready for the ominous trek into the teeth of winter in spring as we head towards our goal, Jackson, WY.

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Disaster strikes at an intersection between Ketchum and Hailey. Bill's BMW RT succumbs to the dreaded drive-shaft final drive failure that is becoming such a common event for BMW owners. As word of Bill's misfortune spreads through the line of motorcycles, each rider individually separates from the group to join Bill on a side street – unfortunately, Bob, being the farthest down the road and last to join the rescue group does not see the group on the side street and rides at high speed back into Ketchum while envisioning Bill stretched out on the road with a crumpled bike. Finally, after a cell call, Bob realizes the group is still back at the intersection on the side street wondering why Bob rode off so quickly and did not see or join them.

On the side road, Bill is able to contact his insurance company and obtain a tow truck to take the ailing bike to the BMW dealer in Boise, a 140 miles back the way we came the day before. Mr. Happy jumps out of Bob's tank bag to offer unsolicited commentary about the current state of affairs and make the statement that the BMW RT's seem suited best to serve as chaise lounges for a sun tan.

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Bill leaves with the tow truck and his bike for the ride to Boise and to rent a bike to continue the motorcycling part of the trip.

The rest of the group has lunch and rides back to Boise to meet up with Bill and get a room for the night.

Bill has been a great sport and had a great attitude considering the magnitude of he disappointment and expense of repairs.

Now the trip to Jackson is no longer feasible and new plans are formulated at dinner along with the consumption of drinks to aid the creative process. Nevada, a short distance from Boise becomes the group's new adventure destination.

Tomorrow is the rental of a bike for Bill, most likely a Harley Road King, and then off to Winnemucca, NV for the new adventure.

Day 2

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The morning greets us with sprinkles of cool rain. Plans are in place to ride to McCall for breakfast. What may have started as sprinkles quickly changes to full-fledged rain and cold as we rise out of the canyon onto a plateau and approach Meadows and then ascended again to 5,000 ft — a total gain of 3,000 ft in elevation from our start for the day in Riggins.

McCall is well know for many recreational and non recreational pursuits. The town lies along the expanse of Payette Lake, offers skiing, hunting and is home to one of the U.S. Forest Service's Smoke Jumper bases. As we depart our morning stop at the cafe, along with the warnings from Judy, our waitress, about going to Jackson, WY — along with a customer's like minded comments about our IQ, or lack thereof, we note the apparent affluence of the McCall area. Nice town – great people.

For those of you who are Rotarians, we stop at a lake front park in the middle of town aptly named Rotary Park. The requisite photos are snapped along with a strange twist of the Spock sign or Vulcan equivalent of a handshake as the Rotarians in the group photo all wearing three digit motorcycle rain over-gloves show their Star Trek greeting.

The remainder of the ride to Boise is accompanied by a dropping down on State Road 55 into a Canyon along the Payette River — a road dreamed up by motorcyclists and built by the Idaho Department of Transportation, to whom we are forever grateful. No description does the road justice — just go ride it!

Upon finally weaving our way through Boise to I-84 east, the group finally joins the rest of the group at the prearranged rendezvous point. Greetings and smiles are exchanged and we quickly change our route from going through the Saw Tooth Recreation Area due to high elevation and the severity of the weather and approaching front.

We choose a route directly to Ketchum (Sun Valley) heading north out of Mountain Home, ID. The road, State Road 20, quickly rises from the flats of southern Idaho onto a very scenic high plateau. Other than the abundance of rain and deer crossings, the ride is enjoyable and gratefully, uneventful.

We arrive in Ketchum in the sunshine, that quickly changes to mountain weather with rain squalls. No one seems to care as the group is off their bikes for the day, the accommodations at the Tamarack Lodge are quite nice and Deb, the manager, seems unable to do enough for us.

Ketchum and its sister town of Hailey are each one of a kind, essentially the result of enormous amounts of wealth and fame — including a large population of the beautiful people. Dinner at the Pioneer Saloon, a $9.95 prime rib special and three bottles of wine has the group ready to sell their possessions and move here,

Tomorrow's plans are for breakfast at the Sun Valley Hotel/Resort, a brief flirting with wealth and fame for us...this is something to which everyone is looking forward. Somewhat like rubbing elbows with the first class plane passengers as you make your way to your usual seat in coach or economy.

Tour Leaves Ellensburg

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Today the four-person group leaves Ellensburg, WA, albeit with the usual can't find my cell phone etc. delays. The group heads out across state on Hwy 26 to connect with U.S 95 south. The Columbia Basin greeting us with the stiff spring winds supplemented by an approaching northwest front — the words cold and windy are repeated numerous times by the time we pass through Colfax, WA and stop for lunch in Pullman, WA.

The terrain in Eastern Washington constantly changes from the lush irrigated crops to the dry land farming in the Palouse — a case of far more tractors than trees. Once across the state line and into Idaho the sights rapidly change from rolling farm lands to rivers and canyons. Then things go rapidly from the scenic to the bizarre. There is a bee keeper on the Nez Perce Reservation, south of Lapwai, ID, looking for their bees. Unbeknownst to them, four motorcycles pass through a swarm of bees and in the process annihilates the majority of the swarm. Other than losing the ability to see through the smashed corpses of hundreds of bees on helmet face shields and bike windshields, there is no cause for alarm — a large amount of Pledge Lemon furniture polish is dispensed roadside and rectifies the situation.

Quickly things return to the more mundane rolling farms lands as we leave Grangeville, ID, and ascended the White Bird Summit but changing dramatically as the U.S. 95 skirts the the eastern edge of the Hell's Canyon Recreation Area. The scenic overlook descending from the summit is well worth the stop.

At this location, Chief Joseph and his warriors teaches the U.S. Calvary a lesson in tactics and superiority.

The road from White Bird to Riggins, ID, follows the Salmon River with several wonderful opportunities for spectacular photographs. The rocky canyon walls constantly change materials from which they are constructed. By the time we reach Riggins for the night, the group stops numerous times for must have photographs of the different river views.

In Riggins the accommodations are at the Big Iron Motel — big on hospitality and light on ambiance. The price is right and the room quite satisfactory. The Riggins Rodeo just finishes before we arrive so the proprietor is offering complimentary home baked cookies, videos and beer.

Dinner is at the River Rock Cafe at the other end of town, so a tour of town is the bonus of walking to dinner and passing numerous over-indulging local rodeo fans.