Day 9
June 13th, 2004
Yakima, Washington

Today was another early start.  Medford is a long way from Yakima on backcountry mountain roads.
The morning was cool and sunny, and it was refreshing not being rained on.  We were pulling out of the motel parking lot a few minutes after 7 am, bound for southern Oregon and the rendezvous with Don "Freestyle" Cortez.

My mind was on Dennis Ryan.  It was about this time he would hook up with me for the ride to the Bay Area.  His absence was being felt.  He had been on my mind since I arrived in Jasper, and only the good humor of my friend VJ kept me from thinking of him more.  It was good I had a old friend along for this portion of the ride.  Someone who knew Dennis and could relate.

I thought about him a lot the last couple of days.  When I was out on the West Canada prairies I remembered how much he liked pizza.  I smiled as I rolled a scene across my mind theatre of a afternoon in Montana.  The sun was setting over the mountains in the KOA campground in Polson.  I asked him, "hey brother wha'cha want for supper tonight?" 

"I dunno, how bout Pizza?" 

"Didn't we just have that last night?" 

"Nooooooooo that was 2 nights ago."  I knew damn well it wasn't, but I went along, and off to the Pizza Hut we went.

Sunday mornings in Yakima are like those in most American cities.  Quiet, and hassle free.  Most sleep in on Sundays and this weekend was no different.  Residents were home sipping orange juice and reading the paper, a few might even have some kind of political show on like, "Meet the Press."  But not us, we had an appointment with destiny to keep.

We lost the route trying to escape the city, and had to turn around in the parking lot of large new car dealer.  
We finally found U.S. 97 south and began one of my all time greatest ride days.  Folks let me say now, the following ride to Medford will go down as one of my favorite days.  The roads, scenery, and the intangibles were all lined up to make an unforgettable ride south.
​U.S. 97 has all the intangibles.
The day started off with a bang as U.S. 97 leaves I-82 and swings southeast through the Yakama Indian Reservation.  At first the route seemed nothing special, but a few miles later it took us into rolling hills, and grasslands.  It was a quiet ride and I was lost in thought as I soaked in the scenery.

Gently, the highway took us up in elevation, making us lean the bikes in the gentle sweepers.  We passed a few ranches with their accompanying livestock gates and pens.  The kind of landscape found on U.S. 97 does not exist back east.  The wide, smooth, deserted highway, hummed under my tires.  

The temp gauge was reading 65F, but clouds appeared on the peaks up ahead.  The hills on the reservation came in about 3000 ft.  Not the granite towers of British Columbia, but beautiful.  The curves had a nice spacing.  Lean it, come back up, ride normal, then lean the opposite direction on the next curve.  All the curves were sweepers, nothing intense, but enough for a good time.

We came around a long sweeper, my line was good, and the loaded bike was stable, when I finished the lean I was amazed at what I saw up ahead. 

A perfect rainbow was bending over the hilltops a short distance away.  I slowed to make sure VJ saw it.  We both took to the side and gazed up at the sky for a moment.  Silently, we continued on, and when we came around the next turn my mouth dropped open.
There, ahead on the eastbound shoulder, the rainbow ended.  For the first time in my almost 50 years I was at the end of the rainbow.  It curved over the highway, and poured down a hillside, in plain view.  It looked as if it was coming out of the ground.  It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. 

I took the rainbow as a signal to continue what I love to do-riding my motorcycle to the most beautiful places on the planet, meeting great folks along the way, and living life to its absolute fullest.  Not many get to do that, and for whatever reason He has allowed me.  I do not take one mile of it for granted.  I know God has a lot of stuff going on, and he doesn't worry much about where I ride my motorcycle, but every once in a while he throws out something to let me know I do it ONLY because he lets me.
VJ took this picture of me standing in the rainbow.
I stood in the rainbow for a picture and when I held my arm up to exam it, my glove looked yellow and my Roadcrafter blue.

The Lord sends us signals in many ways, most of the time we miss them because we are always in a hurry, but he never stops trying.  Like the leaf in Vermont (click here for that story) I took this as a gift from him.  He was letting me know all was good, and this trip is a good thing.

The opposite end of the rainbow could easily been seen on the nearby hillside.  I wanted to go there too, but the terrain looked too tough to handle in a Roadcrafter, but its was not far away, a hundred yards at the most.
We took a few more pictures and the rainbow started to fade.  A minute later I walked back to the 1300.  VJ looked over and asked, "ready to ride brother?"  "You know it,"  I said with a smile, and punched the starter of the 1300 bringing it to life.  Its high tech snarl echoing in the hills.

A few miles later the wind picked up, and it quickly grew dark, and wouldn't you know, it was raining AGAIN, but only slightly.  Passing through Satus Pass we met several north bound riders.  They were on Gold Wings and cruisers.

Goldendale appeared down below as we dropped off the mountain.  Like grocery items on a belt, the buildings kept drawing closer and closer.  When the Mcdonald's came into view, VJ's right flasher came on, and in we went.  I KNEW he was going to stop here.  I didn't mind, I was in the mood for an apple pie.

An attractive young lady was serving as the shift manager.  Her blond hair and blue eyes were classic Hollywood.  Not the overly done yellow, but light brown almost. Her name was Autumn and her smile could take any Long Rider away from the road. 

"So you have a sister named Spring?" 

She laughed and blushed, then answered,  "Nooooooo I don't have a sister named Spring." 

I asked her if she could accept any Canadian coins.  I still had about 5 dollars remaining in my pockets.  She said apologetically, "no I don't think so."  "Really?"  Using the surprised tone this time.

I took my order and found a booth, where a local quickly informed us it was raining this morning in Portland.  I quipped. "dang brother, I'm GLAD we ain't over THERE."  

Time to check messages and make a few phone calls.  It was hard to talk on the phone because the couple in the booth behind us knew one of the clerks.  The employee spoke loudly and covered anyone I was trying to listen to in Alabama.   They were talking about health check ups.  I mean this lady spoke about seeing a doctor on a regular basis with the passion of a evangelists.  " Everyone should see a doctor twice a year, its soooooooooo important, you MUST see your doctor, its IMPORTANT to see your doctor regularly."  She was pleading and wiping her head, hell I was about to jump up, " oh yes, yes, yes, I'm a heathen, not been to a doctor in 2 years oh how could I been so bad," as I threw myself at her feet.

Morning break ended when I stood and zipped up the Roadcrafter.  "Brother lets hit the road," it was all VJ needed to hear.  I waved good bye to Autumn as I dumped my tray in the cans.  You can judge how well a fast food joint is the minute you walk in.  Just look to the trash cans and tables.  If the cans are stuffed and overflowing strike one, if the tables are dirty and not wiped strike two, and if you see a long line strike three and you're out of there.  I don't know what it is that makes fast food employees afraid to take out the trash and wipe tables.  You'd think the dining are was Chernobyl and the area behind the counter shielded in lead at they way they refuse to come out from behind it to clean up.

The skies were clearing up, and the ride was good down to the Columbia River.  I learned of a working Stonehenge replica that was located in the area.   I researched it and found it was located on a hill in Marysville.  The map put it at U.S. 97 and SR 14.  We missed it the first time, but when we stopped to ask someone, I spotted it on the hill overlooking the river.

We doubled back, went up the hill, and found it right where it was suppose to be.  Indeed it is a full size replica of the original, and working.  It was fascinating.  It was built as a memorial to WWI vets.  The joker that built it went to England copied everything down.  All I know is, at summer solstice it does something special. 
​Here I am at Stonehenge, waiting for the summer solstice.
While we were at the monument we met a young Kawasaki Concours couple from British Columbia, they slept in a field the night before, she was eating some kind of chips and salsa as we spoke.  I took it to be their lunch.  Trying to stretch their Canadian dollars as far as they could.  Been there myself, and not that long ago.
​A Canadian couple enjoying sport touring, American style.
The view down below was great and we took a few pictures.

Having satisfied my curiosity, it was time to move on.

Instead of crossing the river into Oregon we stayed on SR 14 in Washington, and cruised along the Columbia River.  The main path of Lewis and Clark.  I bet there was some whooping it up on the long river ride to St. Louis after making it to the Pacific Ocean, and all they had to do was ride the water home, knowing they were going to make it.   In my life I've discovered the feeling of doing something great in itself, and the feeling you have when you KNOW you're going to do it.  Like the last few minutes of a championship football game and the score is such you know you can't lose, 2 outs and a 12 run lead in a championship baseball game, or the last mile of a marathon.  All compares to the emotion of the last 100 miles in a very long tour.  When you KNOW you are going to successfully complete it.  I'm fortunate enough to know the karma of ALL 4.
We got caught in a gaggle of Gold Wings and had work our way around them.  It was annoying trying to stay out of the mix.  
Riding eastward on 14 seems likes it is taking a long time.  No wonder, we missed the bridge we were suppose to use to cross over to Oregon to get Mt. Hood!  Where were the signs?  We were almost to Portland!  We pulled to a gas station and a lady putting air in her tires advises a alternate toll bridge is a little further ahead.  She says to go there, and take I-84 back east to Mount Hood.
After following her advice we found ourselves in Mount Hood at a gas mart topping off the tanks.  State law requires all stations to have an attendant.  Noway some kid pumps gas into MY bike.  I waved him off.  When we finished gassing up we took a break, and got ready to tackle Mount Hood.
SR 35 took us south right past Mount Hood.  The road twisted and once again we found ourselves carving and turning.  Mount Hood looked imposing in the distance with snow covered mountains and whistling wind.  

​"The view down below was great and we took a few pictures."
​Approaching Mt. Hood on SR 35
A deputy parked on one of the peaks startled me when I topped a hill, but I was only 5 over.  How VJ slithered pass, I don't know.

Riding and carving motorcycles at this elevation takes patience and skill.  Long downhill runs, dangerous RVs with limited vision, curves you can't see around, and opposite direction cars subject to straying into your lane.  You have to take all into account, or risk getting hurt.   We did and had a fabulous run on SR 35.

We came off 35 and picked up U.S. 26 south into Madras.  Dennis and I came through here a couple of years ago, I saw the Subway we stopped at.  The Black Bear diner in the middle of town looked good, so we stopped in for a late lunch.  I had the steak sandwich.  It was good, I recommend it if you're ever in the area.  

When we finished we saw a FJR out front, but no rider.

The riding was not good the day Dennis and I took 97 south, and it was no better today.  Good thing we left if a few miles later when we arrived at Redmond.  From there we took SR 242 into Sisters.  A crowded touristy place in peak season.  The town is called Sisters because of the 3 huge peaks in the distance.  Each one about 10,000 ft.  They are Washington, McKenzie and Bachelor, but I could be wrong, all  three are close to 10,000 ft.
Routes 242 and 126 carried us across the heart of the Cascades.  More great leaning and once in a lifetime scenery.  Tall trees and thick woods dominated the land.  I've been leaning so much I was growing tired and dropped off the pace.  Routes 242 and 126 were good, ride them if you ever get the chance.  

As we neared Eugene the traffic picked up and we choked down behind week enders in SUVs and RVs trying to get back home to Eugene.  It was getting late and I wanted to escape the slow procession I found myself stuck in.  
I was glad when we escaped the slumbering weekend traffic east of Eugene for I-5 north.  We stopped for gas further south of the city.  A lot of north bound Harleys were coming back from somewhere.  I think they had a rally close by.  

A sign read Medford was 170 miles away.  The good roads were over, now it was time to get to Medford.  With gas tanks full we set off.  Judging by the sky we had 3 hours of light remaining,  Just enough.  I don't like riding after dark, but I will if I need to.  

Riding the long downhills was fun, and to make it even better, we had a stiff tailwind to help us.  I brought the shield up a inch or 2 to reduce the blast of freeway riding.  A late afternoon sun cast long shadows on the hills.  
We took a exit about halfway, I can't remember the name.  My notes are not as good as solo, because instead of note taking in the Axim, I'm usually trying to figure out what VJ just said and to me.

I followed him to a McDonald's and proceeded to take a break.  We were about half way to Medford.  I called Don and he advised to get something to eat because he had already eaten.  The manager at this store was instructing and giving orders to the kids at will.  He was awesome.  "Don't go behind the counter when you are on break, and the other is not.  He has a job to do, he can't do it if you want to talk.  Call him later."

The ride into Medford was great.  I watched the sun slip behind the hills as I rode on.  We arrived at the Motel 6 about 9pm after a 622 mile day.  My biggest day so far this tour.  I checked my odometer, I'm well over 6,000 to date.  My usual west coast ride comes in for 7 something, I suspect I will top those numbers easily.

Don came down to meet us and we checked into our room.  We followed him back to his room where we chatted for 45 minutes.  Dennis's absence is really being felt now.  We all conceded that. 

I hope I do OK in the Hotel.  I knew the first trip out here without him would be the toughest.  We went lights out about 12 am.