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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yee haw, giddy-up...4th of July ride

Yee haw, giddy-up
3 days, 16 friends, 11 bikes, 2 countries, 1, 025 miles
We celebrated the 4th of July weekend with good friends on a three day Harley adventure through Canada and the northeast section of Washington State.
It is easy to forget,  living even in a semi rural town that is near enough to two large metropolitan  cities (Seattle and Vancouver BC),  that our county is not completely populated with freeways, homes, sports complexes, fast food eateries, and people too busy to take the time to be polite.  Fortunately for us, we can ride just a short distance and be in numerous local, state, or national parks, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Our group met up at Starbucks on Bakerview with plenty of time for coffee and a chance to meet and greet the MGR group who also choose this same Starbucks to start their lunch ride.  Dave, Lorie, Bill, Marla, Dave, Dawn, Glenn, Martha, Bob (Hawaii Bob), Carole (Coconut Carole), Larry, Billie, eight bikes and twelve riders heading out for the Sumas.  We made a quick stop in Sumas where we met up with Ron and Lorri, then lined up for the border crossing.  It was going pretty quick with two lanes, double checking license plates, taking our drivers license, passports or nexus cards and waving us through.
We took Canadian highway 3A, the Crowsnest Highway, east towards Hope where we made our first stop just for gas before proceeding onto Manning Park.  We passed the Hope Slide, the largest recorded landslide in Canada that happened in 1965.  Hope Slide was caused by two earthquakes that caused approximately sixty-two million cubic feet of rock and debris that demolished the western slope of Johnson Ridge.  That was the plan, but we came to a complete halt on the highway about twenty minutes from Manning Park.  Engines off and kickstands down.  Lorie walked down to talk with some of the other motorists and discovered that a semi truck had crashed and burned just up ahead of us.  The wait was expected to take an hour or two before the lanes would be open again and it was now 11:00 AM and this crash happened at 9:00 AM.  So we waited.  It was only about another half hour until they reopened one lane, alternating vehicles to slowly clear out the traffic.  We later learned that the driver had two broken legs and several broken ribs, but made it out alive.  The cab was still smoking as we went by.
In Manning Park we had a nice break to stretch our legs, Marla fed the birds and we enjoyed watching the marmots, and sipped cold drinks before heading to Princeton for lunch at Billy’s.  Breakfast for lunch can’t be beat.  Everyone was relaxed and ready to gas up the bikes and head to the Nighthawk border crossing.  We were just about to mount up when we saw Dave M. talking to a couple and a few minutes later he let Dave J. our sweep know that he earlier invited  Darren and Audrey but didn’t know if they could make it.  They missed us when we left this morning and had pulled in right behind us at Manning Park.  The more the merrier.
The black asphalt pavement beneath us was hot, no shade to wait in, and the US border crossing agents seemed to relish taking their time and making us sweat in the 80+ degree weather.  Again when it was Larry’s and my turn, our Nexus cards are what speeded us up in getting cleared to cross the border but it was a little slower going for some.  The border agent did have a question for one of our guys about black bra straps but that is all I am going to say.  Enough said!  Too much said?
 Dave led us through Oroville, Curlew, and down to Republic where we were stayed for the night at the Northern Inn.  It’s range land so you have to watch out for cows (cows got guns Marla).  The one on the hillside just watched us roll by, but the other four cows by the side of the road sort of brought us to a stop as they tried to decided what side of the road they wanted to run to.  Dinner reservations were for 8:00 PM at Esther’s Restaurant which serves Mexican food.  Lots of laughter and stories before dinner and the food didn’t stop the chatter. Lorri asked several of us what our favorite part of the day was. Larry and Ron both said the dinner and chatting with friends; she said her long, hot shower was her standout moment.  The staff brought out a big sombrero and we all sang happy birthday to Dave McNeill (his birthday is July 5th).  It was going to be early to bed because we have a full day of riding and sightseeing tomorrow in Canada.
Ron and Lorri were headed home and Darren and Audrey were headed south, so we said our good-byes before we hit the road by 8:00 AM and headed to the Danville border crossing into Canada.  The agent checked our license plates, took our drivers licenses, passports or nexus cards and had us pull through and wait while they screened us.  About thirty minutes to clear us and we were on our way.  The funny part was when the guard brought our ID’s back, he finally gave up trying to figure out who was who and just handed me the whole stack and asked if I would hand them back.  I laughed with the group and said I had passports for sale, what was the going bid.
We stopped in Grand Forks, located in the Sunshine Valley of the Thompson Okanogan region of BC for breakfast.  The town looked like a small strip mall sort of community on the west side but we found a historical town founded in 1895 with many of the old brick buildings still standing in the center of town.  Mining, lumber, the railroad, all played important roles in founding this town, and now recreation is a big draw.
We stopped in Castlegar located in the BC Rockies region for gas.  Forgetting to bring our Canadian currency and change along with us, Carole convinced me I should try one of the homemade cookies in the store.  To break a US $5.00 it was going to cost me an extra 25 cents and Martha said wait to wait, she had change and now I am indebted to her for 77 cents Canadian plus interest which she might be accruing.   Bob said Carole was a real temptress with food.  While I was inside getting my peanut butter cookie, Dave J. pulled out his tool kit and fixed my malfunctioning headphone system that was hanging by the wires.  Good to go and ready to ride.   Thanks, Dave! 
We headed north into the west Kootenay Region of BC towards New Denver located on the shores of Slocan Lake.  We stopped in Silverton to decide if we should pull out the raingear.  Several of did, as the sacrificial riders. to protect the others consequently, we only hit one small shower that lasted a few minutes but the real excitement was the lighting that hit the mountain top above us.   A pit stop, water, ice cream, snacks, and Marla laughed while we were taking layers off, that we would put it on, take it off, put it on, and take if off all day long.   
We were heading on one of the most famous motorcycle roads in BC, 31A from New Denver to Kaslo with twists and turns along the river and beautiful scenery.  YouTube has multiple videos of motorcycles with video cameras attached showing the ride down this road.  Now,  the only bad thing about this is some bikers think owning a motorcycle and having a license gives them a permit to drive crazy reckless without thought of other motorcyclists or cage drivers.  We witnessed two sets of these brainless riders.  The first ones rode Harley’s (this is the sort of rider that gives all Harley riders a bad name) and the leader, the biggest of the three with the biggest, badest bike passed in and out of our group and around blind corners and double yellow lines to show us he could ride.  The next bike was a little slower on jumping over the double yellow lines but then he followed suit.  The little guy on the sporty was just trying to prove he could keep up and in doing so pushed Martha to the far right hand edge of her lane, causing Glenn to back off, and the rest of us to back off.  What is the point of riding a great road if you can’t even enjoy it because you are trying to ride fast or keep up?  The second group rode “rice burners or crotch rockets”.  They had the same mentality the first group did with a dash of death wish thrown in.  They passed on blind corners over double yellow lines doing 60 or 70 in a 45 pulling in two at a time into our group expecting us to just move over.  When they cleared our group around the last corner in the other lane, they just missed colliding with three Harley riders that came around the corner shaking their heads.  Seconds is all the prevented a major accident.
We arrived in Kaslo as small town on Kootenay Lake with  a population of 1,000.  We scattered to several locations to find sandwiches, pizza, and cold drinks.  Larry and  I found sandwiches in the local grocery store and sat outside on the library steps (a storefront converted to a small library) to have lunch.  Glenn and Martha joined us and we watched the vacationers wander in and out of the shops as we ate our lunch and talked. 
Next stop heading south was Nelson, also known as the “Queen City” and situated  on the west side of Kootenay Lake in the Selkirk Mountains of BC.  The population is about 10,000 made up of old families, draft dodgers and hippies from the US, artists, city refugees, and vacationers.   The hillside was filled with old buildings that we could see as we passed over the bridge into town.  We gassed up the bikes, finished off our apples because we can’t take them into the US and we were ready to ride to the border at Metaline Falls. 
It was fairly quick at the border crossing and we were soon on our way south on highway 31 heading to Colville for the night.  We stopped at the junction of highway 20 where we would turn westward on the final leg of our day’s journey about twenty miles away.  Dusk and  the sun in our eyes, we needed to watch for deer that would be feeding in the fields, some of which are still unmowed, some are littered with freshly cut hay and alfalfa, and others are strewn with round bales ready to be stored for the winter. 
July 3rd and most places are closing up early and we arrived a little later.  The place next door sold fresh pizza except they were all out.  The Mexican restaurant was closed so Mickey D’s for salads.  Of course they have a good mocha frappe so that was my desert.
Who needs an alarm clock because when a Harley starts up in the parking lot you come awake right then, no matter how quiet they were trying to be, it’s the sound.  It’s okay because another five minutes and the alarm would have gone off anyway.  The motel had a breakfast bar and hot coffee so everyone had something to eat before we set off on our way home.  There is something about riding in the morning, it’s quiet, you are refreshed, the air is clear, and it’s just a great way to start the day.
As we rode out of Colville the main street was lined on both side of the street with American flags.  We took highway 20 west but before we could get more than a few miles outside town Dawn’s deer count went from 21 to 42.  We took the Inchelium-Gifford Ferry on Roosevelt Lake  for a six minute crossing and a thirty mile shortcut.  The big excitement for the day, for part of the group was when a moose decided to cross the road, bringing  our bike procession to a complete stop.  We saw everyone pointing but by the time we passed by the moose had blended into the woods.  We did see the wild turkeys, a few eagles, and more deer.  We passed over Sherman Pass and through Republic.  Over Wauconda Pass then a stop in Tonasket for gas. 
It was warming up so layers came off and we mounted up for the short trip to Omak.  The 4th of July and who would have thought the whole town closed up except one little restaurant, Magoo’s.  Back on the road to Twisp for a gas stop.  Not!  Diesel was all they and since we were just topping off everyone had enough to get to Marblemount.  Winthrop had cleared out and within minutes we were out of town and headed over the pass.  A quick stop at Diablo overlook and it was down the mountain.
Looking at the old homesteads littered across fields as we rode through the back roads was sort of a sad commentary on our real monuments and tributes to American history.  There were log homes, simple farm houses, outbuildings, well houses, smoke houses, lean-tos, chicken coops, barns, etc.  They were all in some sort of decay with roofs falling in and in some cases entire buildings caving in on themselves.  Families built new and better homes when they could, leaving the old buildings and their stories to die.  The pioneer women and men who gave up almost everything to travel west and somewhere along the way most had to lighten their loads again arriving in desolate locations with the promise of land and a new beginning.  As we celebrate the 4th of July we need to remember our roots, our heritage, family stories that we can pass down to future generations, photos that are cherished and not packed away in boxes or museums, the farmers, ranchers, miners, loggers, who took a chance and paved the way.  Those who had a dream and made it come true and built Harley-Davidson motorcycles that allow us to ride the back roads and glimpse pieces of the past.
Happy 4th of July. 
Happy birthday America.

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