I left Seattle on May 14th. It's now June 1. That's 20 days. Almost as long as the Corner to Corner ride Tony and I took in 2008 from Key West, FL to Cape Flattery, WA, though not nearly as many miles. My emotions are mixed. In a way, I'm very ready to be home, but in a way, I'm gonna miss the routine of the road, and the wonder of what I will see up ahead. I'm enjoying the road as I always do -- the scenery, the smells, the people. But I'm anxious for my house and my own bed. I alternate between loving it and wishing it wouldn't end, and trying hard not to count down the miles to home. That's why I really pushed today and did a mile over 500 -- the longest day on the road of this trip.
I had three options leaving Boise this morning, where it was sunny and 70 as I pulled out a little before 9am. I could go into Oregon and up the John Day River canyon, or I could take two routes up into the Idaho high country that merged at McCall, and then cut into Washington at Lewiston. I've done all of them in the past, but I decided on the latter, which I hadn't done since 2007 -- taking off up ID-55 along the Payette River. While it was warm in Boise, it quickly got cool as the road climbed steadily higher as it went North. There's still a fair amount of snow on the peaks, and the Payette River was running full. The road tops out and then cruises through the appropriately named Long Valley, which runs for about 50 miles and is a beautiful high-mountain valley.
Towards the end of the valley as you head North you pass over the 45th Parallel -- the point half-way between the Equator and the North Pole. It gives you a sense of just how big this world is, and how small we all are. So I drive on, pushing North and alternating between loving the mountain air, and feeling like a horse heading home to the barn.
The road drops steeply at the end of the valley and into the canyon of the Salmon River and skirting the edge of the Hells Canyon Recreation area of the Snake River. It quickly changes from lush green forest to desert in the matter of a few miles. Then just as quickly it climbs back up out of the canyon and into the Camas Prairie of Idaho. This route -- Idaho 55 and US 95 North from Boise has to rate as one of the most scenic roads ever, and wonderful on a motorcycle, with six changes in climate zones and endless changes of scenery. Camas Prairie is a beautiful flat prairie at a high altitude, and is green and lush with rolling hills as far as you can see. In many ways it reminded me of the Borders of Scotland (or perhaps it was the Scottish music on my i-Pod, I'm not sure).
I had lunch in Granger, Idaho, and spent a half hour fiddling with a jammed zipper on my lightweight leather jacket. I finally gave up and just pulled it on and off like a sweater. With that many changes in elevation and climate today, the jacket was either just right, or too cold, or too hot. I finally was able to ditch it after I dropped through the Nez Pearce Indian Reservation and crossed the Snake River at Lewiston and landed in Clarkston, Washington.
It's very obvious I was back in my home state, aside from the Washington plates on the cars. Gas was well over $4.00 a gallon. The most I paid on this trip. Indeed, my second fill up in Washington just outside Walla Walla was at $4.59 a gallon for Premium. I had paid $3.77 in Boise this morning. There is seriously something funny going on here for gas to be that much more expensive.
Between Clarkston and Walla Walla lies the Palouse -- a vast region of rolling hills and endless wheat fields. Its a very pretty part of the state, and I've always loved riding through here. It was quite different this time, as it was green -- very very green. Usually I've ridden through here later in the summer when the wheat is golden and yellow, but now it's new and fresh and about two feet high and very very green. It's a whole different look for the Palouse and it's always captivating.
Walla Walla used to be known as the home of the Washington State Prison -- and it still is, but now it's also the heart of Washington's wine country, and the wheat fields turn into vineyards and wineries by the dozen, rivaling the Sonoma Valley of California. I could have stayed in the Tri-Cities tonight, but it was only 6p when I rolled in and Yakima was an even 100 miles further up the road, and 100 miles closer to home, so I pushed it. It was nice riding in the t-shirt and it was well over 70 even at 8p when I pulled into my hotel.
But I'm worn out, and ready to hit the hay. It's 150 miles to home, and I should be there before lunch time tomorrow. I've saved one of my favorite roads for last -- Yakima Canyon, and one of my least favorite -- I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. It will be a bittersweet ending to this adventure. All rides have to end at some point. This one ends tomorrow. It was almost prophetic that the last song to come up on my i-Pod was Norah Jones, "The Long Day Is Over". Just about. Just about.