Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

End of The Road - For Now

I had a nice final night on the road in Yakima, Washington last night.   It's heavily populated by Latinos, with lots of great authentic Mexican food, and so I had a good dinner, and rode in the 75 degree warmth a few blocks from my hotel.  Late spring and summer in Washington can be quite nice, with it staying fairly light until after 10pm.    The morning was nice too -- gorgeous and clear and relatively warm, although I knew I'd need my heavy coat going over Snoqualmie Pass so I had unpacked it the night before.  It was showing cool and cloudy in Seattle and going over the pass too.   I didn't need to make a sticky note for the windshield -- didn't even need to get the atlas out for a look.
No one ever quite believes me when I say Yakima is the "Palm Springs" of Washington.  Hell, the comparisons are quite obvious aren't they?   I headed out of town for a few miles on I-82, which doubles as US 97 and US 12, past the sign declaring the obvious and headed towards Yakima Canyon.  This is one of the best, and prettiest motorcycle roads in the state.  It was the old highway between Ellensburg and Yakima until the Interstate was put in, and now it's SR 821.  It winds along with the river all through the canyon, and there's so little traffic they will close it down for events such as bike races.  There was some sort of bike race and some road blocks leaving town, and I was afraid the canyon would be closed as well, and was quite happy to see it wasn't taken over by the crowds of Lance Armstrong wanna-bes.
For roughly 30 miles the road winds along the side of the canyon with the river and the old Northern Pacific mainline, now a rarely used BNSF Railway alternate route.  In the sun it was pleasant and warm, in the shade, a tad cool and I'm glad for the heavy coat.  The old road continues as WA-10 (the old US 10) East from Ellensburg at the top of the canyon, but the section between Ellensburg and Cle Ellum where it continues on as I-90 were closed so i was forced onto I-90 at Ellensburg.  This stretch of I-90 is simply awful -- the trucks have worn deep ruts in the road surface, and the traffic can be heavy, although this Saturday morning it was light. 

I could see heavy dark clouds up on the pass, so I pulled off in Cle Ellum to check the weather and top off the tank.  An incoming massive 5th Wheel driven by an elderly couple who shouldn't be driving that big of a rig pulled in ahead of me at the gas station and while I was waiting for a pump, I asked the lady who disgorged herself from the contraption if they had come from the pass and if it was raining.  It was, she said.   So, after filling up, I struggled into the rain suit -- hoping that as usual, it would, after all that effort, keep me dry and hold off the rain.  Any biker will tell you the surest way to keep the rain away is to put on your rain suit, and guarantee of rain comes when you ride into a storm thinking it won't rain.

And I stayed dry almost to the top of the pass, and I was thinking the rain suit guarantee worked.  Then it hit -- and not just a light grocery store produce isle mist that we tend to get a lot of.  This was a heavy downpour.   I knuckled down and gritted my teeth in the face of the storm and rode on through, cursing up a storm.  Wouldn't you know the last 40 miles would be in rain on the last day of an epic journey.  

Its a long rough ride down Snoqualmie Pass anyway, and even longer when one is doing it in the rain. I remember at the end of the Corner to Corner ride Tony and I did in 2008 from Key West to Cape Flattery.  After we left Cape Flattery and were headed to Seattle, I passed a sign saying "US 101 South" knowing we could ride it down to San Diego.  At the time, after crossing the entire USA I had the fleeting tempting thought to keep going and turn off down 101.   There was no such temptation today, nor was there a road to tempt me at all.

The rain finally stopped as the pass tapered off in Issaquah, and it was dry the final 15 miles to the house. I had packed up my i-Pod when I changed into the rain suit, but my head was singing the Kathy Mattea song "18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses.  Ten more miles, on his four day run..."  And so I pulled into my driveway after being gone nearly three weeks.  It looked like my house hadn't been lived in for quite some time, with weeds growing everywhere and fallen pine cones and even a paper in the driveway.  I've got my work to do the next few days.

I killed the engine and sat there for a moment leaning back against the t-bags, reflecting on the journey and realizing that I'm home again.   This was the last time I'd unpack the bike for a while.   The bike after the storm is now a filthy mess and so a day detailing it is in order as well, as is a trip to the bike spa at Downtown Harley Davidson for some new oil and a once-over after this long trip.  The bike performed flawlessly, and shows just what an incredible bike HD can builds -- it's 6 years old and now has almost 60,000 hard miles.

So just how long was this trip?   Here's some stats: 
  • Miles:  4,400 on the nose.  (Hows that for a coincidence?  starting odometer 51511, ending 55911)
  • Days on the road:  19 (May 15 to June 2)
  • States traveled through:  13 (TX, LA, MS, AR, OK, MO, KS, IA, NE WY, UT, ID, WA)
  • Harley-Davidson t-shirts bought: 13
I also took quite a few pictures, took lots of notes and had lots of creative ideas on the road, which will prove fruitful in the months ahead.  I've seen even more of this great country, and fallen in love with parts I've never seen.   I can't wait to get back on the road again.   Just got to figure out where - and when.   And, as Alison Krauss sings, "As long as they keep building roads, and there ain't no more highways to be found", I'll be able to figure out something.

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