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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mt. Baker H.O.G. 5th annual Ride to Republic Washingoton

It’s 6:30 AM and time to get ready to leave for the Mt. Baker HOG 5th annual Republic WA ride. We met up with the group at the Barkley Starbuck about 7:30 AM. As we were ordering coffee and chatting with friends, Dave McNeill yelled out across the parking lot to Greg Head, owner of Mt. Baker H-D. Greg was picking up donuts for the shop and after he secured the box of donuts safely away from our group (haha) he came over to visit with us before we left.

Dave & Lorie McNeill, Bob & Carole Chambers, Dave & Dawn Johnson, Glenn & Martha Hutchings, Rick & Joan White, Mike & Jeannie Gilbert, Bill & Marla Rodgers, Mike & Dana Snyder, Larry and I headed out at 8:00 AM for the Sumas border crossing. Ken & Angie Williamson met us just across the Sumas border and we will be meeting Rick & Marina Engels and Dave Engels in Republic as they return from a two weeks motorcycle vacation.

We took highway 1 through Hope to highway 3, also known as The Crows Nest Highway, and made a pit stop for gas and then on through Manning Park where we stopped to stretch our legs. The resort at Manning Park was amazing with four carved wooden logs featuring woodland animals to welcome guests. We stopped at Billy’s in Princeton for lunch and after everyone had food, coffee, or cold drinks we were ready to fuel the bikes.

We rode through Osoyoos Lake located in the Southern Okanagan wine country that stretches into the USA. The lake is the warmest lake in Canada and for recreation you can lay on the sandy beaches, go boating, bicycling, or take a wine tour. Osoyoos is The Indian name that means “narrows” referring to where the lake narrows into the Okanogan River. The temperate had reached 780 so everyone was peeling layers off and Lorie was handing out bottles of cold water when we stopped to rest.

We didn’t see the sign that said the border crossing closes at 5:00 PM but Dave M., and Bill & Marla did. They were checking their watches and wondering if we were going to make it. Sometimes being at the end of the pack and not being in charge is a good thing…you aren’t the one to worry. We made it at 5 minutes to 5:00 PM. The gates were open and we were good to go. Or so we thought. These border agents weren’t sure they wanted to process the group and called a supervisor to see if they should let us in or send us to another crossing. The agents were given he okay for overtime and we slowly began the process of being checked. Well watching our leader dismount, take off his helmet, and open his bags for inspection, we settled in for a long wait. They said it takes about 90 seconds per inspection but our law abiding biker group must have overwhelmed the 2 agents and they were not going to take any chances. When they got to our truck, Officer Davidson verified that Larry’s occupation was what she was showing on her computer. Check! She didn’t really talk to me much but then she turned to Lorie and said you’re married to an old guy--and Lorie let Dave know that when we arrived in Republic. We were almost through when they decided Rick W. looked like a desperado riding his trusty Harley steed and pulled him aside. The short story is he one of the good guys, just someone else also has the same name and poor Rick has to suffer for the actions of another. The group proceeded on to Republic while Dave & Dawn, as sweep, remained with Rick and Joan until the paperwork was cleared up.

We arrived just before 6:00 PM; just about the time Rick was being given the go ahead to join us. It was just around 420 miles on the first day of our trip. Rick, Marina, and Dave, were in the parking lot to welcome us to Republic. They were relaxed and smiling, since they had arrived at 2:30 PM. Most of the group was checked in and ready for dinner when Dave, Dawn, Joan, and Rick arrived.

Valerie arranged for her friends Rick B. and Art to barbeque hamburgers at Art’s home just down the hill. We had homemade potato salad, baked beans, green salad, and watermelon. It was a summer picnic under the tents with good friends. Valerie had music playing and Rick E. was singing along with the Mavericks. Slowly, several at a time wandered back up the hill to our hotel. Tomorrow is another day of riding and sightseeing.

We left the Shell gas station at 8:30 AM (Dave M. tried to get us up and rolling a half hour earlier but Lorie was on our side bargaining for an extra half hour of sleep). We stopped at Wauconda to see if the new owners, Maddie and Neal Love (Harley owners), of the little store would have the new restaurant open for lunch later in the day. Sadly for us, not for another week, so we waved and headed toward Chesaw where the annual 4th of July rodeo and parade was taking place. They let us roll through and we passed on a pit stop there--because it would have cost us each $5.00—and we rode on to Molson.

Molson is a small, town in northern Washington, just two miles from the Canadian border. The brick school house is a treasure trove of historical items that have been donated by local families who attended the school. The ladies who volunteer at the old schoolhouse are friendly and welcoming. They will answer all your questions with a smile and invited anyone who played piano to tinker on the keys of a vintage piano on the second floor; and after a little encouraging, Dave Engels played a half minute tune. The town was named for John W. Molson a Canadian businessman who owned mining operations and owned the Molson beer company. The current population is 21 according to the 2010 t-shirts hanging in the school, despite a sign reading pop. 36 as we entered the town. If you have been to Molson before, you know that the first thing you do is head to the 2nd floor and buy a piece of homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. They were also serving an oatmeal cake, lemon bars, and several varieties of cookies. By the time our group left, they had brought out their 3rd pan of carrot cake.

On the way out of town we stopped to look at the old town buildings that show what life was really like in the old west. A shingle mill that was almost like the size of an outhouse, the jail, the old post office, settlers’ home, farm machinery, and the old bank and assessor’s office. It was a hard life with one board thick buildings and snow falling. No electricity, outhouses, and no Starbucks. We rang the old school bell and then mounted up and headed to Tonasket.

We rode through Oroville, past Spectacle Lake, and stopped in Loomis for cold drinks and ice cream before heading on our way. It was a pit stop in Tonasket for gas and then on to Bonaparte Lake Resort for lunch.

The staff was ready for us but the wind had come up so we sat inside and enjoyed the lake views. We laughed and talked about our ride, the sights (riding behind Dave and Dawn is a pleasure because Dawn has an uncanny ability to see eagles, their nest, deer, and anything else that is beside the road or flying overhead), the adventure; then, with full stomachs, we were ready to head back to Republic. We traveled about 163 miles of easy riding and more great memories of sharing the road with friends on Sunday.

Valerie had left the group early to head back to Republic to help prepare our dinner of smoked barbeque ribs. No one left the table hungry and everyone had sticky fingers but we still had room for fresh strawberries and shortcake for dessert. The wind picked up a little and a cool night breeze was blowing in so everyone grabbed a jacket or sweatshirt because no one wanted to go back to our rooms. It is too much fun when you can laugh with friends. We took a group photo of everyone who wore a t-shirt, vest, hat, etc. that read Mt. Baker HOG, Mt. Baker H-D, or Bellingham. We wore ours to Republic…where will you wear yours? We slowly meandered over to the barrel smoker that was radiating warmth and allowing us to linger outside a little longer. We sang happy birthday to Dave McNeill and that capped off the night.

There was a café open up the street if anyone wanted to venture out for breakfast, but most of us had the continental breakfast; a choice of oatmeal, bagels, English muffins, raisin bread, cereal, bananas, and hot coffee. Of course there was latte’s at the shell station or Starbucks in a bottle. At 8:00 AM we pulled out of the Shell station and headed for home. Bob and Carole met friends in Republic and were riding back home separate from the group. It felt more like a crisp fall morning than summer, so everyone wore layers or heated gear as we pulled out.

Omak was only at 760 when we stopped for a break and knowing Loup Loup Pass was still ahead, most riders opted not to remove their layers of warm clothing. There was hardly any traffic in either direction which made traveling the roads on a holiday weekend even more enjoyable.

We pulled into Twisp for an early lunch and the group split, because most places cannot accommodate an extra 20+ people for lunch without a reservation. The weather was warm but not hot and the discussion after lunch was to chance riding without the layers till we stopped at Rainy Pass or just keep them on. Most riders choose to keep the layers on.

We only had about a 10-15 minute wait to maneuver through the Winthrop traffic congestion and then we moved at a steady pace behind several RV’s and motor homes, without slowing down too much. Highway 20 in Washington has called the most beautiful mountain highway in the state. Next stop would be Marblemount and they proclaim to be the “Entrance to the American Alps.” Rain-drop keep falling our heads…but we rode on and didn’t stop at Diablo, just headed straight for Marblemount. The rain faded away and once off the mountain we could see blue skies to the north. Gas, cold drinks, and snacks and we were back on the road.

As we approached Bellingham, the bikes began to peel off, one, two and sometimes several, as everyone headed for home. We honked and waved as our friends left the group and then there were two. We stopped at Dave and Lories to unpack supplies and then headed across town for our home. 176 miles on Monday and over 700 miles total in three days. I can’t wait for next year to see what Dave M. has planned to switch up the ride. We’re ready.

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