It was during my daughter’s wedding reception at our home, December 2019, when I teased the idea of doing an extended motorcycle trip and asked if she’d like to join me. The idea at the time was to go north, a direction we’ve seldom gone, to Yellowstone, to Glacier, into Canada up to their Glacier National Park, wind our way southwest to Vancouver and ride the coast Mendocino where we’d head through the valley to Yosemite, trek over the Sierras, cross Nevada back to Bountiful. It was a grand plan.
Both Addie and her husband are US Army. Addie was deploying before too long and Bryan was wrapping up his training at the DLI in Monterey, so we had a small window to do this in.
Inviting her to come along also meant evaluating our current rides; hers was a Honda Rebel 500cc and mine, a Triumph Tiger 800Xc.
The more we talked about potential off-road travel on this journey it became clear the Rebel might be out of its element, so we determined the Tiger would be her ride and I would acquire a second motorcycle, a Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200Xc, and not just any Explorer, I wanted to find one that matched the color and trim level of the 800 and after a bit of search, I found one in Florida, bought it and had shipped to Bountiful to start its prep.
This began with panniers, essential to long-term motorcycle travel, and a shake-down of the Explorer; disassembly, baseline all fluids, suspension and new tires.
And then March, 2020, came along.
I started a YouTube channel, UTADV, to chronicle the trip prep and log previous rides through Utah to keep me focused and my momentum going to pull everything together we’d need for such a ride, with new requirements dictated by a global pandemic. This shifted our prep into camping to be better sequestered from the public. We acquired better sleeping bags, dehydrated meals, food prep and cooking gear, coffee storage and brewing, water storage and purification, laundry, riding protection, comms, navigation, photography support, first aid and trauma kits, tools and spares, a range of layering that would keep us comfortable from freezing to the century mark and a way to pack it all up. Oh, and masks and hand sanitizer.
The Tiger 800Xc was in good shape except for a pesky coolant leak I thought I squared away with new hoses. It got new tires, baselined all fluids as well, new brake pads and a valve adjustment.
The Explorer 1200Xc got some other updates along with a valve adjustment and added storage options to accommodate the amount of gear for all the riding conditions.
By the end of April both bikes were well sorted and prepared and the gear was all coming together nicely to meet our needs and keep us comfortable for the 3500+ miles that lay ahead.
And then Canada closed.
This was a logistical rewrite for the most part. The original plan changed a bit, having us terminating the trip in Monterey where I’d leave the Tiger 800 for Addie to keep riding while stationed at the DLI, and I’d continue my trip back to Bountiful.
With a new route and a push back on our departure date, we decided to go clockwise through the PNW, starting in Monterey going up the coast and heading east along the border through Washington, Idaho and Montana, then south through Wyoming to Utah. This meant having to get both bikes to the west coast with only one rider. That’s where the trailer came in.
I bought a new 10′ utility trailer and outfitted it with two locking wheel chocks that staggered the bikes on the bed evenly distributing their weight.
With the bike and gear prep coming together, it was time to for Addie to get some hours and miles on the Tiger to get used to the bike’s handling characteristics. She came out to Bountiful for several days where we logged some time on as many road conditions as possible, though nothing could come close to the curves of the Pacific Coast Highway, but some experience was better than none and it gave me an idea of what additional protective gear she would need; a better helmet and protective riding pants. Little did we know.
Day three of our training rides put us into the dirt. We mounted the graded road of the old Pony Express trail to give her a sense of how the bike seeks out its own traction, sitting back on the bike and letting the front tire find its grip. It’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not used it, but she was dialing it in very well.
Along the way we came upon a huge grader heading our direction taking up the majority of the road but leaving room to pass on the right. I told Addie through our helmet comms to follow my line past the machine but realized too late as I was going over the loose berm the grader was creating before I had a chance to warn Addie.
And then she crashed. Hard.
I watched her go down in my rear view mirrors. Her front wheel caught the foot-and-a-half inch deep berm and sent it to the left, dumping the bike down at 30 mph and throwing Addie off to the right while it barrel-rolled 180 degrees over the top. By the time I whipped around and made it back to her, she was righting the Tiger.
She had some road rash under her protection, an indication of the immediate heat build-up during a slide, and suffered a concussion, but all her riding gear did the job of protecting her head and body. The Tiger took a couple of big hits, one taking out the windscreen on the top of the instrument cluster and another that bent the mounting frame for the right pannier along with lots of cosmetic scrape and gouges to help tell the story.
Her equestrian training kicked in. She got back on the Tiger and we rode back to asphalt where we found a spot to take a moment and collect ourselves and to better assess the Tiger. We cut an interview about the ride and it was clear during our conversation that she wasn’t up to riding the hour and half back to Bountiful. The Tiger checked out road worthy except for a smashed turn signal, so I parked it and Addie and I rode two-up on the Explorer back to Bountiful.
Mindy joined us on our return to the head of the Pony Express Trail where we loaded up the Tiger in the back of the Silverado and made our way back home. We continued the interview the next day.
Toward the end of the interview I asked how she felt about going ahead with the PNW ride. “I feel more ready for it,” she said. Wow.
I should’ve stopped us both and let that grader pass us before heading on.
Addie left back for Monterey after we decided to push our departure date back two more weeks giving me some time to rebuild the Tiger and get it road worthy.
The rebuild went well with all parts arriving in time except for one critical piece, the windscreen.
I loaded the Tigers on the trailer and left Bountiful for Monterey with an over night stop in between.
June 13 and 14, 2020
Addie’s husband, Bryan, picked up a BMW 800GS and after runnings errands for last-minute stuff the three of us took a ride up Carmel Valley Road. This was the first time Addie rode the Tiger since the Pony Express Road and she was anxious to get back on and stretch both their legs. It was a good stretch.
The next day we met up with another Tiger rider who happens to be another Brian and we rode the PCH from Monterey to Lucia where we had a good lunch and created new friendships.
The absence of Addie’s windscreen became painfully apparent on our return to Monterey facing gale force headwinds – just a sign of things to come for her, though she never once complained.
June 15, 2020 – Monterey to Ocean Cove
While we had maps and a plan, we approached our travel with an open end, knowing from experience that things don’t always follow the plan, especially on motorcycles, and that’s okay, part of the reason we ride. The end point for this first day was Gualala, California.
We left sunny Monterey only to be enveloped in fog as we made our way around the bay to Santa Cruz. From there blue skies got us to our first stop – a regular one for Mindy and I every time we’ve ridden the PCH – Pigeon Point Lighthouse. This time it was closed to the public due to COVID-19.
While we’re connected through our helmet comms with the channel always open, stopping gave me a chance to see for real how Addie was doing and how the Tiger was performing. Both were doing just fine.
We stopped for breakfast in Half Moon Bay and made our way to The City, being careful to dodge its civil unrest and attempt a short detoured route to the Golden Gate Bridge. Which I failed. I got us lost somewhere near Twin Peaks. Time for the Zumo navigation device which got us to the shuttered Golden Gate Visitors’ Center, sensing a pattern here, where we motored on to Battery East Park giving us a great view of my most favorite structure in the world.
And then, of course, we did the tourist thing on the other side of the Gate at the H. Dana Bowers Rest Area.
It felt like the time of our lives had officially begun.
We picked up the PCH and wound through the twisties over Mount Tamalpias, down to Stinson Beach and on past the Bolinas Lagoon onto the Shoreline Highway and the world’s most coveted motorcycle riding.
We stopped at Nick’s Cove for lunch, which was shut down except for curbside service which did not discourage us in the least from sampling their incredible crab cakes. On to Bodega Bay and Fort Ross where we began to fatigue from the wind and the winding so we stopped at Ocean Cove, a spot off the grid that has an exceptional campground.
Our first camp set-up went together quickly; two tents and mess gear to get dinner rolling and we scoped out the area and made friends with neighboring campers.
It was here where we began to witness a bit of a phenomenon; grown men who approach the Tigers, mouths agape muttering something about someday or wildest dreams or we’ll kill ourselves. And then when they see Addie they become incredulous and dickheaded and say things like, “Did ya ride that big bike here all by yerself?”
Being off grid we had a chance to put our InReach Explorer satellite communicator to use and send emails to our respective spouses who’d be otherwise worried if we didn’t check in on the amazing first day of the PNW tour.
June 16, 2020 – Ocean Cove to Fortuna
To say that if you don’t ride a motorcycle you wouldn’t understand is kind of passive-condescending, but, really, you wouldn’t. I know folks who are all but paralyzed by fear that I ride a motorcycle and now I’ve gone and dragged my daughter into this morass. She’s had a bit of conditioning, riding with me since she was nine.
For some that exposure seems to seep down deep into nerve endings and converges on the cerebral cortex waiting for another moment of rushing the pavement past beneath your feet, delivering you to a place that seems different just because you got there on a motorcycle.
And the imprinting on memory is indelible and is recalled as easily and instantly as twisting the throttle open.
It’s not a way of life, it is life. There’s riding and then there’s what to do while waiting to ride. For Addie, this became in efficacy when she bought her first ride.
And that spot in her cerebral cortex is on fire.
We slept well, save for the slammed import sedan scraping its way over every speed bump in the campground. We visited the cove that morning and got moving.
It’s always good to get back on the bike. Always. It’s a reset with optimistic anticipation for whatever the day may hold. For us, that day, is was traveling through a favorite area of California, from the Point Arena Lighthouse up to the Mendocino Headlands.
Point Arena was closed, surprise, and that was okay – less exposure, less risk, the price of doing this trip during the pandemic.
We stopped at the Harvest Market for lunch which we consumed in the parking lot and while we were getting back on the bikes, another former rider had to stop and regale us with the tale of his physiological disassembly, not unlike bragging about a deployment gone wrong, only the IED was a woman on a cell phone behind the wheel. He spoke with such pride, only we couldn’t discern whether it was because he survived the accident or because that he was in the accident.
We took our heightened sense of vulnerable meatbags on death machines back out to the most dangerous motorcycle road in America. The Shoreline Highway took us through Fort Bragg and eventually inland to Leggett to join the 101, which apparently was too leisurely and safe for the Zumo, that decided to take us on a detour 106 miles out of our way starting at Gaberville taking us to incredible altitudes to Alderpoint where after the road deteriorated into something apocalyptic. Potholes as big as our bikes where there was asphalt. I kept looking for Wil Smith walking along with a German Shepherd. As I was getting more nervous by the mile I’d see Addie in my mirrors standing on her pegs letting the Tiger do its thing beneath her with that tall front wheel floating over obstacles and craters.
We finally connected into Highway 36, taking us back west again to Hydesville where we filled up and got back on the 101 for a few more miles to Fortuna where we decided to find a motel room, too exhausted and beaten up by our detour. Now, writing this, I wish we’d taken the time to enjoy that more. Uncertainty is a bitch.
June 17, 2020 – Fortuna to Bandon
Riding a motorcycle messes with time, space and perspective. Hours seem like minutes on warm, dry, curvy roads and minutes like hours on freezing wet ones. Miles fly or crawl by the same way – nothing stretches the road like shivering regardless the speed. And perspective is always rechecked for me the moment a large flying insect hits my visor and I watch guts and fluid streak up that plastic shield, making me more prudent about my own guts and fluids.
Our third day out would validate all these continua as we left Fortuna to go visit some giants. The 101 took us north to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. In the video I indicate that Mindy and I had visited here before, but I was wrong. That was the Avenue of the Giants that we managed to skip during the previous day’s adventure.
But these giants were just as spectacular.
I also said in the clip that time moves differently among the redwoods. Not sure what the scale, maybe 1:10, one redwood year to ten human years, probably greater.
But spend any amount of time here and open your eyes and look around and you’ll find you’re surrounded by reminders of just how temporary you are along with how puny. Kind of like a motorcycle.
I think it’s good to be reminded of that often. Keeps you in your place.
We stopped at Crescent City for lunch at a nice micro brewery that by some twist of fate was still open. Actually, we entered the northern part of the Left State where things take a dramatic 180 degree shift to the right.
Before lunch we had to get our lighthouse quota for the day at Battery Point.
Another thing that keeps you in your place is coolant leaking out of a radiator fitting. We made our way to Bandon, Oregon in hopes of finding a spot to camp, though our search was in vain. When we stopped to consider options I noticed the fluid’s white residue on the engine guard and cover of Addie’s Tiger. This would change things up a bit for us, so we decided to find a motel instead where we could better think things through.
June 18, 2020 – Bandon
The price of adventure is a wrench in the gears, so to speak, or for us a leaking radiator. In my conditioning to go worse-case-scenario (WCS) in just about any situation involving a machine, I was calculating what it would take to ride two-up back to Monterey, get my truck and trailer and come back the six hundred plus miles to pick up the Tiger and go home another 1000 miles.
So, that was dumb thinking.
The nearest Triumph shop was in Portland, which was currently on fire with protests, so that was out of the question. Then I remembered tucking away two tubes of magic goo called JB Kwik Weld, and not withstanding my suspicions of anything misspelled, I had a hunch that this stuff would solve all our problems or at least seal a hole and get us back on the road. It does have “weld” in its name.
So, on the morning of our fourth day I left our tidy motel room to discover two things; the smell of fresh donuts being fried and a wash bucket with clean towels next to the bikes.
See, despite WCS, our luck landed us at the Lighthouse Cove Inn that’s right next door to Pastries&Pizza.
Things were lookin’ up. You don’t notice details like these when you’re in WCS mode trying to problem solve by coming up with the worst solutions imaginable. Coming out of the room that morning to a fresh sudsy wash bucket from the good folks at the Lighthouse Cove Inn along with fresh donut smells coming from just a few feet away was a wake-up-and-chill call.
I got coffee and donuts for us and started the teardown of the 800Xc.
I got the shrouds off to expose the radiator and saw from the residue left behind by the coolant that the lower outlet to the radiator was leaking at the weld. The weld was broken, so what better fix than JB Kwik Weld? And I don’t even know how to weld. Addie does. All I had to do was mix a little goo from each tube and then apply it around the outlet at the base of the radiator.
It’s not very pretty – function, not form. To hedge our bets, I found a large coffee thermos that converted into a vessel to hold the hard-to-find coolant that to which Triumphs are particular.
Once the Kwik Weld set we decided to test it out by loading up the Tiger and ride it two-up to Coos Bay and back in high gears laying on the throttle, cooking up temps beyond normal to see if the weld would hold.
And it did. The PNW Tour would continue! I wasn’t too sure how Addie felt about that, especially when we cut the episode that afternoon, Day Four of the PNW Tour, that’s inserted above, but after that ride to Coos Bay on her bike without a windscreen, I got an entirely new appreciation for what she was going through every stinking windy, windy mile.
We celebrated that evening with fine Irish pub fare at Foley’s. We ate there the night before, too, and enjoyed so much we decided to go back.
June 19th – Bandon to Lincoln City
In my vast experience of motorcycle touring I cannot recall a better culinary cusp that we call breakfast than this one.
What may be so much hyperbole about a simple American pastry, if any donut deserved the French nomenclature, it was these. Worth the trip to Bandon alone, though while you’re there you’re going to run into some very nice people.
Before hitting the road we decided to get the lighthouse thing out of the way for the day.
We hit Coos Bay, again, stopping for a photo op.
And then on to yet another lighthouse, quickly forgetting we’d already filled our quota. This place, though was worth the stop. If Oregon had a poster child, it would look like this.
The Umpqua River Lighthouse is also the active barracks of the US Coast Guard. It has a great museum, so I’ve read. It was closed.
From Winchester Bay we made our war farther north to familiar territory, a little town Mindy and I frequented on trips to Eugene to visit our daughter Katie, then an architecture student at the University of Oregon. Go Ducks. It’s the inlet town of Florence.
We stopped for lunch there and drew a small crowd to our ADV Triumphs and to one of their unique riders who’s blonde ponytail was becoming a bit of a trademark.
As we were prepping to get back on, a string of Harleys pulled in across the street, giving onlookers a kind of Jets v. Sharks context. I’m not sure which we were in this culture clash, but I did mange to dump the clutch and kill the Explorer in the grace of our egress of Florence. Addie rocked it, saving face. Lunch was good, though.
North of Florence we discovered Heceta Head, where there’s another lighthouse and a beautiful beach.
We stopped for another photo op at the Yachats River confluence where I got my favorite image of the trip, at least to this point.
We covered an easy 75 miles or so that afternoon, but were getting tired pretty quickly. A look at the Zumo found a KOA in Lincoln City that became our destination for the day.
This is what tough combined with determination and grace looks like.
KOA’s are usually a safe bet for an adequate campsite, far from the ideas of dispersed or primitive camping in planning this trip where it was easy to overlook that we’d be beat up at the end of every day, at least as long as we were hugging the coast.
We got a nice spot and set up camp.
We met a father-son moto team making their way south along the coastline, the son part of which had very little experience on a motorcycle, let alone on a road as treacherous as they were traveling. I had an initial visit with them while Addie relaxed back at our campsite and when I returned the dad had followed me back and disclosed their dilemma; his riding companion was freezing up on turns and his anxiety was getting the best of him. They were considering cancelling the trip and heading back. He asked if Addie and I wouldn’t mind coming by for an encouraging word or two.
Which was our dilemma. It is not a good idea to put anyone without experience on any motorcycle in the best of conditions without, at the very least, a course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. It’s crazy. What I wanted to encourage is that they go inland, find some safer roads that would take them back home, but the son was determined, so we talked about technique in corners, throttle and braking, looking versus fixating, with Addie taking the lead in the conversation.
Back in camp we cut another episode, Day Five of the PNW Tour. Take a look:
Afterward we entertained other fans of our adventuring and had a nice evening with some Mountain House Stroganoff. My favorite.
June 20, 2020 – Lincoln City to Salt Water State Park
There’s something about being in a convertible with the top up in the rain. I feel the same way in a tent in the rain, which is more definable as to why – you want to keep dry – but in a rag top there’s just something more to its utility, but I can’t put a finger on it, so I’ll stop writing about it.
Being in a tent in the rain is a very close second, but only if you don’t have a few hundred miles of travel on a motorcycle beckoning you to get out there. That’s what we woke up to on day six.
We were prepared with rain gear for our packs and tank bags and convertible riding jackets and pants that keep us dry.
We wrapped up camp quickly, foregoing breakfast and coffee but picked up a delicious hot breakfast and coffee at the KOA’s host kitchen.
This was the day we’d be making that big right-hand turn away from the coast, which seemed to be taking our abandoning it personally by beating the tar out of us north of Tilamook Bay every time the 101 dipped to beach level, at Seaside especially. I watched Addie hunker down over her tank like a cafe racer through the course of the Reims-Gueux (pronounced go, how appropriate is that for a race) road course. And I’d watch her lean into the gales that were trying to coerce her off the road while she held her own against the raging Pacific seam. Cue A-Ha.
We stopped in Astoria for lunch. I have two unreasonable fears, one is of the hulls of ships and the other is of bridges. As you enter Astoria you see before you the very high and very long bridge that takes the 101 over the mighty Colombia River into Washington. And upon seeing it there was a little part of me that puckered.
I consulted the Zumo over a Subway sandwich and was relieved to find we’d be taking the 30 east to I-5 in Washington, making our way from there to Tacoma and then on to Des Moines on the Puget Sound to Salt Water State Park.
This is a beautiful campground tucked away into a canyon nestled in an urban sprawl between Spokane and Tacoma. There were maybe a dozen sites, each occupied which made me all the more grateful to have secured a reservation the day before. There’s a bridge that spans the expanse of the canyon and is somewhat of a gateway between the campsites and the sound.
Once we lit at our site the first thing we did was pull out the tents and their flys and draped them over the bikes to help dry them out a bit, at least as dry as anything can get along the Puget Sound on a cloudy day.
We took a walk out to the Salt Water State Park on the shore of the sound and got a view of Vashon Island.
Things were dry enough on our return to set up camp and get the sleep systems aired up and ready. Sleeping comfortably on and in gear that can fit into a pannier has been a challenge to dial in, but once I got the right gear figured out, I sleep well.
We had dinner, more Mountain House – noodles and chicken – and talked the evening away.
We never ran out of things to talk about. We did run out of energy pretty quickly after this exhausting day and retired at sundown. I fell asleep quickly and deep.
Gunfire woke me up at 2:45. I checked my watch. There were two bursts, first of five and the second of four shots. I’m familiar enough with the report of a 9mm semi-automatic to know what I heard. After the second volley everything went stone dead quiet. I whispered to Addie to check on her, and we both waited for any other sound. From my position in the campground, the sound came from the west of us, from the park or possibly the bridge, though the reports didn’t phase high. I waited another moment, listening if I could hear footsteps along the road or in the gravel, and then called 911.
The operator confirmed other calls were received and that a unit was dispatched. I didn’t find much comfort in that, nor did we ever find out what happened.
June 21, 2020 – Salt Water State Park to Leavenworth
I can’t remember much about the morning’s stuff, breakfast, coffee, breaking down camp, packing up the bikes, probably due to the fog in my brain from the night’s disturbances. I remember we took another walk out to the sound to see if there was any indication of the commotion from the night before, but there was nothing. No body. So we went back to our site, suited up, fired up the Tigers and picked up on I-5 where we left off the afternoon before and went north skirting Seattle to I-90 East.
Day seven would be a leisurely 145 beautiful uncomplicated miles at freeway speeds taking us to Leavenworth. Sometimes you need freeway speeds just to give you a sense of getting somewhere like normal travelers do.
We arrived mid afternoon, got a nice room at a place that had a laundry for guests, broke out a handy roll of quarters kept in a prescription bottle, and washed almost a week’s worth of clothes. Not entirely a week because some stuff worn on the outside just keeps its accumulation of what the atmosphere throws at it while the stuff on the inside can go a couple of days without putting up too much of a stink because it’s merino wool. Don’t leave home without it.
Post laundry and post nap, we wandered the faux-Bavarian village of Leavenworth.
The story goes that when lumber business dried up here thanks to a certain spotted owl the residents did a makeover of the town and turned it into a tourist attraction at which they excelled. Doesn’t hurt that it’s nestled in a spectacular canyon south of Lake Wenatchee.
We masked up and distanced our way through a scattering of folks doing the same thing and found a quaint german restaurant that was seating maybe half of its already tiny house. We ordered German sausages with sauerkraut and German mustard and enjoyed the feast with a German beer of some brew or another. It was all delicious and it made me miss my mom. Not that I ever ate most anything German that she made for me as a kid, I just missed seeing her approval of me and her granddaughter enjoying ourselves and talking about what an amazing woman she was.
We slept well that night.
June 22, 2020 – Leavenworth to Spokane
Leaving Leavenworth fresh was a great feeling; laundered, rested, fed, even healed a bit from the battering of the previous seven days along with the promise of long, fast, leisurely stretches ahead for the rest of the trip. Not that we were ever leisurely in our riding vigilance, but there’s a big difference in muscle and mind tension on the Pacific Coast Highway versus the Sunset Highway that was our route to the Colombia River.
We got an early start, my favorite kind, and once we moved free of the shadows of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, it felt good to open the throttles. The idea behind the design and build of ADV motorcycles is to create a Swiss Army knife of a machine that works well in any weather and on all roads; go anywhere with control, traction, power and comfort. Our British bikes did that flawlessly.
We stopped in Sunnyslope for a wonderful roadside breakfast at a gas station close to a recreational put-in spot along that mighty river, and then stopped again a few miles further for a photo op of green green machines.
Not quite the same green, but you get the picture. We followed Highway 2 north along the Colombia and then east at Orando taking us to Coulee City where the highway turns north again to the beautiful 155, Coulee Boulevard that hugs the shoreline of the Banks Lake.
We were settled in, hitting the trip’s stride, its rhythm of movement and still, much different than traveling in a cage – how we on two wheels refer to four-wheel vehicles. Stop on a road trip in a car and you put it in park, take off your seat belt and get out, take a pic, maybe a stretch, get back in, buckle up, turn it over and off you go.
Stop on a motorcycle and the first thing required is finding a safe, even space to do so that allows the bike to rest in its intended geometry, properly and completely deploying the kickstand, hitting the kill switch, putting the bike in gear while you have adequate footing for your boot to land on the dismount. Off come the gloves, the liners when its cooler, the sunglasses, the balaclava, and the helmet, all of which stow together safely onto a foot peg (dropping the helmet is death to its structural integrity). Remove the Kriega hydration system and take off the three-season shell if needs be and make any adjustments you may have been thinking about for the miles previous to the stop; different gloves, go warmer or cooler, lose the rain gear, whatever the pressing need maybe that you can’t attend to when you’re rolling.
When it’s time to go, reverse the above paragraph. That’s what I mean by rhythm. There’s another routine when we pull into camp and the gear we chose to use on this trip was working out well. The REI 40l duffles on the tails strapped on and off quickly and yet allowed access while the bags were attached and converted to backpacks in the event we had to go on foot.
Panniers were packed with first-out last-in making camp set-up quick and dry, and the tank bags became sorted to hold items we needed at hand along with the GoalZero system that charged from the Tigers’ 12V systems that in turn charged all our electronics from iPhones to cameras to iPads to helmet comms. We were tuned in.
And so were the Tigers. The Kwik Weld was working on the 800, keeping it’s cooling system pressurized and leak-free.
We passed by the Devil’s Punch Bowl, which got me wondering why so many of nature’s wonders are named after such an unsavory character. By all accounts he(she) seems to have pretty good taste.
Over Osborn Bay, through Electric City and Grand Coulee and we arrived at the Grand Coulee Dam, an impressive hydro-electric facility spanning the Columbia’s northern flow.
We doubled back through Grand Coulee and picked up Highway 2 to Spokane, picking up Highway 90 to Spokane Valley where we stopped at a KOA, completing our two hundred miles for the day.
We rested and cleaned up a bit from the day’s grime and made the trip two-up on the Explorer back in to Spokane to visit some very close friends and their family.
June 23, 2020 – Spokane to Glacier National Park
We got off to an early start, hitting a Starbucks for breakfast on the outskirts of Spokane Valley along Highway 90 which we’d take across Idaho’s panhandle through Couer d’Alene and a plethora of roadside Trump and Jesus monuments and picked up highway 28 north to Flathead Lake.
What seemed like motorcycle euphoria the day before contrasted against this day’s 273 miles, one of our longer days, but it wasn’t the miles. Ninety through Shoshone and into Mineral County is a beautiful ride at freeway speeds making quick work of a half the miles for our ninth day, but turning north on to 28 started to grind us down. Addie’s allergies had her up to a dozen sneezes per mile and once we hit the shores of Flathead Lake the wind was ferocious, especially without a windscreen. We were both hitting a wall.
We stopped in Lakeside at the Tamarack Brewing Company for lunch and respite.
If you’ve come this far in this post (congratulations) you’ll notice a pattern; on the tough days there are less pics.
In fact, I fell short a bit in my coverage expectations for this trip. I had four action cameras with mounts all over both bikes for footage, but when I found that only one of the two GoPros was actually working (the Chinese knockoffs created funky files) and that the file sizes were bigger than I had anticipated with my modest iPad for editing, I scaled down video acquisition and focused on stills.
Lunch was terrific and with an infusion of caffeine we got back on the road to our greatly anticipated destination for this journey.
We had roughly fifty miles to go to get to West Glacier. The weather backed off a bit rounding Doris Mountain into the valley that takes you to the park entrance. The plan for that evening was to camp in the park and relax, but COVID-19 restrictions not withstanding, the park was full. A quick look on the Zumo and I found and booked a spot at the West Glacier KOA Resort, and given how we were both feeling, the spot was a cozy cabin with indoor plumbing, climate control and nice beds. We deserved at least as much.
June 24, 2020 – Glacier to West Yellowstone
Well rested and more leveled out in attitude and attitude, we got an early start into Glacier, perfect in its timing as we mounted the Going-to-the-Sun road without traffic and made our way around Lake McDonald. Now, here’s where most of you are going to be disappointed. That’s as far as we got into Glacier. I’m disappointed, too, because Going-to-the-Sun road is the path to the heart of Glacier National Park and winds it’s way to the east entrance at st. Mary’s Lake. I just had a feeling.
At the east side of the lake we took Lake McDonald road, a park service road that crosses the river feeding the lake.
After some ranger residences, the road turns into a dirt double track that winds around the northwestern edge of the lake. We rode it into the remains of a fairly recent fire and saw the ground’s reclaiming of that shoreline.
With a four hundred mile day ahead, we doubled back on the Going-to-the-Sun, passing a steady stream of traffic and arrived at the small pier at Apgar.
I grew up with a word I learned young in church, a word that sometimes felt more like a punishment than a condition. The word is reverent. It has since become a feeling associated with the peak experiences in my life, from my companion launching a Chinese lantern carrying a message to the dark heavens, sitting around a campfire with my son and daughter in the meadow at Gooseberry, seeing the Milky Way with my naked eyes, to dozens more, I’ve come to appreciate its indexing of these moments in my life.
And it indexed this moment on the edge of Lake McDonald. Reverent.
We managed to get to this popular kayak put-in before the tourists and soaked in the still of the water and quiet of the air and the sanctity of being there together.
I wrote on the Facebook post of this photograph,
“I’ve watched this woman hunker down and hug her tank through crosswinds that rattle any hardened ADV rider’s nerves, and stand on her pegs letting her 500lb motorcycle float beneath her in the worst road conditions I’ve ever ridden – paved or unpacked, and lean so far into corners along the pacific coast defying physics and trusting the giant gyroscopes that are her wheels. And I heard her sneeze at lest a dozen times per mile while she fought off the worst allergy attacks she’s ever had. A motorcycle amplifies everything and doesn’t care about your size or gender, but she took this machine and lead it past thousands of miles of pavement without complaint and with grace uncommon.”
It was an honor to make this ride with this soldier.
We had a great breakfast lakeside at Eddie’s Cafe and mounted a path south to west Yellowstone. Highway 83 past the Flathead National Forest to Clearwater is a stunning ride through Montana. We had lunch in Helena and got recommendations for camping near Ennis Lake, but once we got there we decided to press on to West Yellowstone.
We lit off the Targhee Parkway stopping at the West Yellowstone KOA on Highway 20 that goes to the West Yellowstone entrance. This place was an ant hill with no regard for a pandemic.
Fortunately for us we were able to maintain distance and kept our masks on when leaving our site and sanitizing hands when we got back and had provisions aplenty to keep us fed and relaxed while we fielded questions from many passers-by about the bikes and our journey. This is the only photo I have of that experience.
That about sums it up.
We thought the park was full when we got there, but due to our campsite location we were treated to headlight shows and shadow puppets all night long on the walls of our tents in the comings and goings of RV-quarantined Yellowstone tourists.
And I’m not naive to the hypocrisy of that last sentence. There we were, too, certainly, adding to the fray. It’s just that somewhat entitled notion that whenever I visit a national park, or a backcountry campsite, or any beach, I inevitably say, “What are all these people doing in my park/site/beach?
But this, this was different. Kind of. In the crush of humanity at this KOA was no regard for the fact that this was a super-spreader event.
June 25, 2020 – Yellowstone to Bountiful
This would be the day of Yellowstone and Colter Bay and the Tetons, so we got another early start onto the Targhee Parkway where after enough time and distance to get the Tigers warmed up, the Kwik Weld gave way on the 800 drenching Addie’s left leg in hot radiator fluid. Thank goodness for riding pants.
We limped back to our campsite at the KOA (we were well before the 11:00a checkout) where I removed the fairings one more time to check out the leak. I removed the old Kwik Weld taking the surface down to the metal and applied more of the magic stuff around the fitting and laid on another coat for redundancy.
It was decision time. Ten days into this ride, 2200 miles. So much yet to see, but at the risk of a compromised motorcycle. We were 310 miles from Bountiful. We weighed options, played through scenarios, including the WCS kind, and decided to turn the other way on the Targhee Parkway and take our Tigers home to Bountiful.
The ride went off without incident and we made it home to a wonderful reception of blooms, dogs and family.
There’s a funk that settles in after a trip like this, a reckoning with real life with the white noise of travel still in your ears. We still had a few things to square away; flying Addie back to Monterey and me riding the Explorer the seven hundred miles to Monterey to pick up my pickup and trailer and make the last leg back to Bountiful.
The ride was beautiful if not a little weird not having the other Tiger in my mirrors, but there’s something to be said about solo riding, alone with thoughts and playlists and decisions that only impact yourself.
I took a different route – sick of I-80 – that crossed over the Sierras, 580 south out of Reno then the Carson Pass Highway past Kirkwood to Silver Lake.
From there the highway continues its traverse over the Sierras and drops down into the valley where I picked up surface routes to Monterey.
There. Done. 3500 miles.
I made it to Addie and Bryan’s place, the point of origin of the trip and relaxed for the evening. On the next morning I loaded up the Tiger Explorer on the trailer and made the long journey back to Bountiful.
When I returned I found that the 800’s windscreen had arrived as well. I also procured a new radiator for the Tiger and restored the bike back to its dependable condition. Shortly after I brought it back to Addie in Monterey where she could continue to ride with her husband Bryan on his GS along the PCH while they were stationed there. We also got one last ride in before I headed back to Utah one last time.
Addie has since deployed and her husband Bryan went on to graduate Airborne and is now stationed in Tacoma awaiting his deployment, so our Monterey connection is no more.
There’s another development that has put this adventure into an entirely different light. Seven months after our return I was diagnosed with stage four Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It’s an incurable, aggressive cancer of the lymph system that along with its treatment has generated a new list of peak experiences to have in the time that remains.