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24 Hours to Southern Washington

This time of year the weather dictates my riding schedule more than anything. Because the weekend looked dry and free of frozen precipitation, it seemed like a great opportunity to get on the bike and make a quick trip to my sister’s house in southern Washington. I had been needing to visit her for some time as I’ve been building a web site to highlight her artwork ( and we needed to go over some project related items, so it made sense to combine the work with pleasure and make a bike trip out of it.

I invited my friend Mike to go along. He and I have known each other since the 3rd grade and share a love of motorcycles, getting our endorsements within a few months of each other three years ago. The idea was to leave from our jobs mid-day on Friday and meet up somewhere, then ride together the rest of the way. We coordinated our departure times at 1pm and planned to meet at the Steigerwald Lake wildlife refuge parking lot in Washougal, Washington.

Steigerwald Lake wildlife refuge
Steigerwald Lake wildlife refuge

Unfortunately Mike got stuck in stop-and-go traffic on I-5 heading out of Portland and arrived a little more than an hour late. Stop-and-go on a motorcycle is not fun and I felt bad for him, but he had his usual “Whatever, man. Let’s ride!” attitude so that’s what we did.

The route was SR14 eastbound, and as usual we got stuck behind a series of slow cars and a semi. We pulled over at the Cape Horn viewpoint

Viewpoint at Cape Horn, SR14, Washington
Viewpoint at Cape Horn, SR14, Washington

and took some photos, then continued on to the Chevron in North Bonneville for a snack break. Mike ate carrots, I ate a Snickers and Frappucino. I keep telling Mike that calories don’t count when you’re on two wheels but I don’t think he believes me.

There was a 20 mph headwind but we could tell that it was gradually easing up as we continued eastward. We stopped again at a rest area just west of Lyle for a bio break and Mike took the opportunity to snap a few photos

Rest area, Mike's bike
Rest area, Mike's bike

of his bike with the setting sun over the Columbia River in the background. I saw a guy walking up the trail below the viewpoint carrying a tri-pod and camera bags. Obviously he recognized the photo opportunity as well.

Mike commented that his hands were starting to get fairly cold with his warmer-weather riding gloves so I offered him my cold-weather gauntlets. He passed, and we continued down SR14 to the junction with Highway 142 northbound at Lyle.

Turning left we headed up 142 which followed the beautiful Klickitat River. Many sections of the road were in the shade and some spots were wet but the temperature was above freezing so we had no worries about sliding. Being mid-February the oak trees in the river valley were still devoid of leaves. Although we were out of the east wind, the air became noticeably cooler as we rode north through the river valley. Even though I was dressed for the cold weather, I could tell it was probably getting colder than Mike’s gloves could handle so I pulled off the road and dug out my cold-weather gauntlets. When Mike rolled up behind me I extended them to him and with a big grin he gladly accepted them. With warmer hands, we rode onward.

By the time we reached the top of the river valley to continue east toward Goldendale, the sun was getting close to the horizon. Our intention was to gas up in Goldendale before heading out into the hinterlands where my sister and her husband live, 30 minutes east of town. By the time we rolled into the Chevron Mike’s low fuel light was flashing. We filled our tanks and headed east on the Bickleton Highway.

The temperature was getting noticeably colder by the mile. The last two miles of the trip were on gravel and dirt road, wet and slightly muddy in many places. I stood up on my pegs but the forward pegs on Mikes Suzuki M50 didn’t allow that so he took the bumps sitting down. By the time we pulled into the driveway of my sister’s house the sun was below the horizon and only twilight illuminated our arrival. The temperature was 35 degrees and dropping quickly.

Part of this trip involved an equipment experiment. My sleeping bag, although very lightweight and compact, wasn’t overly warm so I purchased an ultra-thin but high-tech liner from REI to add some insulation without bulk to my sleeping system. My sister and her husband have a wood stove and their house is usually hovering around 80 degrees inside, much too warm for my tastes, so Mike took the guest bedroom while I pitched my one-man tent on the back deck and chose to test out my new sleeping arrangement. We stayed up until close to 11pm talking, before our mutual yawns told us it was time to call it a night. I went outside and crawled into my sleeping bag.

The temperature outside dropped to 20 degrees, but that didn’t keep the coyotes from howling. I was surprised to find out the sleeping bag liner I bought — seemingly made from spider silk and smoke — did a wonderful job keeping me warm. Because the air was so cold, however, any piece of flesh exposed became painfully cold. Even though I wore a fleece hat and had the sleeping bag cinched up around my head, I still had spots that couldn’t be completely covered. The rest of my body was perfectly comfortable, however. At around 1:30 am I had to go to the bathroom and decided that I had proven my sleeping bag liner worked as advertised and decided to spend the rest of the night on the couch inside.

The next morning there was a gray layer of frost on our bikes. We drank tea and coffee and ate hot breakfast sandwiches, then Tami and I worked on her web site for a while. Not wanting to get home after dark, Mike and I began packing up and loading our bikes. We rolled up the driveway and with a couple of “meep-meep” toots on the bike horns, we were on our way back home.

Mike and I rode through Goldendale on 142, back the way we came, but turned north toward the tiny mountain communities of Glenwood and Trout Lake.

Mike and his Suzuki M50
Mike and his Suzuki M50

The road descended down the side of a river valley and Mike and I took the opportunity to snap several photos of both the scenery and each other as we rode by. The river wound its way along the bottom of the valley below and we could see the road ahead doing the same down the other side of the valley.P2200016

I relied on my bike’s GPS to help us navigate the two-lane country roads between Glenwood and Trout Lake. We caught glimpses of Mt. Adams, skirting and shy behind cloud cover. Just before reaching Glenwood the clouds lifted and we got a good shot of the mountain.

Mt. Adams southern face
Mt. Adams southern face

We stopped at the General Store in Trout lake eager for a corn dog, but they were fresh out so we decided to press on and have lunch in Stevenson.

SR141 south is a beautiful drive interspersed between forest and small farms and ranches. Property values are substantially higher than one might expect, however, due at least in part to the scenic beauty of the area. It wasn’t long before we got stuck behind some slow cagers, however. Maintaining caution, we followed behind until we got to SR14 at the confluence of the White Salmon and Columbia Rivers. Turning west, we picked up our pace under beautiful sunny skies and the glistening river to our left and continued on to Stevenson.

We parked our bikes in front of the Skamania County Courthouse and walked across the street to the Big River Grill for lunch. Mike had a reuben with tomato basil soup and I had a grilled salmon sandwich with the soup as well. Rested and fed, we went back outside into the sunshine. I intended to cross back over to Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods into Cascade Locks, while Mike would continue west on SR14 before crossing into Oregon either via the I-205 or I-5 bridge. So we shook hands, said our goodbyes, and continued on our separate ways.

Just west of Stevenson I crossed the high, narrow and fairly scary Bridge of the Gods. The swift wind tilted my bike sideways several times over the short bridge span, but I’ve jumped out of airplanes before so it wasn’t as scary as it would have been otherwise. I paid my toll, then got on I-84 for a quick ride to Troutdale, then home to Sandy.


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