The Other Cascade Loop Northwest Motorcycle Ride

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Enumclaw Powersports


The Other Cascade Loop

Leave the lederhosen home, but bring your passport

Certain riders live for May 1 st.

WADOT targets this date as the day to open SR20, the North Cascades Highway. After weeks of cleaning and snow blowing, May 1 marks the first day you can typically get across the road to Winthrop, ride south to Leavenworth and over Stevens Pass back to Puget Sound. Or reverse the route. Meanwhile WADOT moves south for the task of getting Chinook Pass on SR410 open by Memorial Day.

But there's another Cascade loop ride that's just as fun. You won't be going through the accordion clad, yidely-yidely town of Leavenworth, but you will need your passport.

It all started as a need for a ride. After six months of rain and snow and ice, I was ready to do some serious riding again. I need a few hundred miles on the road just to get back in the groove and then the fun begins. I got in the groove and then some.

On the first Saturday in May, I taught a Packing Light Packing Right seminar in Smokey Point. Checking the weather a few days beforehand, I emailed the marketing coordinator at the store and advised her I would be coming on my bike with all my touring gear, no car, no props – just the essentials.

After the seminar I picked up SR530 and rode to Darrington, then north to Marblemount for a buffalo burger at the Buffalo Run. Surprisingly I was the only rider dining that day at this summertime biker hot spot. Was everyone else home shining up their chrome?

I hooked up my Gerbings and rode east on SR20. Traffic was noticeably light and that was good, of course. Past Newhalem, Ross Lake and Diablo Lake I ascended into alpine highlands of the Cascades. At Rainy Pass the snow was still five feet deep and I lit up the heated clothing. While the main road had been cleared, accesses to the campgrounds and hiker pullouts were not. I rode through Washington Pass and descended to Winthrop. Downtown had some foot traffic, but it was nothing compared to the summer months. What a great time to tour!

As I rode toward Pateros, the sky opened up and I pulled out to don rain gear and luggage covers. Got gas at Pateros and then I rode south to camp alongside Lake Chelan for the night. I rolled in, the rain stopped and I set up a comfortable campsite.

While many State Parks are booked up by mid-February, the smaller and often nicer camping resorts are not. I would put Lakeshore RV and Camping in Lake Chelan near the top of the good list along with other favorites like Timberlake Campground in the Columbia River Gorge. Super clean, green grass, nice tent pads and close to downtown. As camping goes, it does not get much better.

Sunday I packed up and hit the road. US97 North to Old Highway 97. You must ride this road. Just past Pateros, Old 97 flows through the fruit lands of Brewster Flat and along the west banks of the Okanogan River. Stunning scenery and nominal traffic compared to US97. Eventually the road merges onto SR20 East and you ride into Omak.

I headed north up US97 until I got to the next small road – Highway 7 (not the same as that one in Tacoma). I headed north and took the Loomis-Oroville road west. At Loomis,I pointed the bike north and rode past the lovely Palmer Lake to Nighthawk. I hung a left on Similkameen and entered the Canadian Border at the Chopaka entry. There were no vehicles in front or behind me. The usual questions and answers.

  • Where do you live? – Seattle

  • Got any guns? – No

  • Got lots of money? – No

  • Why are you coming here? – Lunch

  • How long will you be here? – Lunch

  • There were still no vehicles in front or behind me. I was waived through. Busy day at the Chopaka crossing.

    The next turn, west on BC 3. Now I could tell you to go get lunch in Osoyoos to the east, but I don't recommend it. I tried it. Had a hankering for Mexican food. Arrived in Osoyoos and asked a German lady at a Greek fruit stand if she knew where a Mexican restaurant was. She gave me her best 'No.' Figured I'd do better if I asked someone who probably knew best, so I found a guy of Latino decent who simply shook his head back and forth. I wasn't in the mood for Tim Horton's or a Greek taverna so I headed west on BC 3.

    Overlooking Lake Osoyoos from CA3

    BC 3 is a nice road. At times it's rather twisty, there are services about every 60 km or so, which brings us to an important topic. Kilometers. First thing you'll see as you enter Canada is a sign "Think Metric – 80 kmh = 50 mph." I did this as best I could, but when a turn comes up marked 50 kmh and you come through it at 50 mph – well… I just can't do the math that fast!

    At the RCMP road block I was complimented by the Mounty about wearing full gear. "We don't see many people dressed like this through here – most of the time they have on those skimpy helmets and jeans." "Do you ride" I ask. "No – but I sure deal with a lot of road rash victims." My license and registration are current and he waves me through.

    Enjoying the twisties along BC 3

    The next big town is Princeton - a good place to stop for fuel and a break. The fun is just ahead. As you leave town you literally are riding across the top of a narrow ridge and making your way toward Manning Park. You climb in elevation and glide through some nice corners. I can't say the pavement was at its best but as long as I kept looking ahead I could come up with a pretty smooth, though not always optimal line. There are plenty of passing lanes along the way too, so getting stuck behind a slowbie never lasted too long.

    But for every slowbie, there were 10-20 cage racers. I was quite surprised. Most straights were marked at 90-100 kmh, yet many cagers were hitting 120-130 kmh. Now I'm not saying I was clocking them or anything… I just get so used to Highway 99 in Lynnwood where the speed limit is 45 all-day-every-day and most folks are going 30-35. To say most Canadians on CA 3 that afternoon were in high excess of the speed limit isn't an understatement.

    Nonetheless, the road is beautiful and the corners are worth taking the time to get to. Coming out of Manning Park I arrived at Hope, a nice four-exit town. BC 3, 5 and 1 come together here. Sometimes you gotta do a little slabbing to get to the next dose of the good stuff. BC 1 is simply a straight slab of freeway. After an hour you arrive in Abbotsford and head south down 11 to the Sumas border entry. The questioning begins:

  • Where do you live? – Seattle

  • Where did you come from? – Highway 3 (but really my mama)

  • Got lots of money? - No

  • The US Customs officer reviews my plate on his screen. Another set of questions ensues:

  • What is your license plate number sir? - Y-A-M-A-M-A

  • What state? - Washington

  • YA-MAMA. Why did you get that plate? - Because Yamaha was already taken?

  • He gave me a funny smirk and waved me through.

    Staying off I-5 is the goal of course. SR9 is nice but I took it down another layer. Get out your atlas and follow along. SR547 east, west on SR542, left onto Mosquito Lake Road, left onto SR9 and south to Arlington for - you guessed it - Mexican food. It was a great ride – but it's good to be home.

    Taking a ride on YAMAMA always puts a smile on the authors face

    Looking for a nice alternative to the usual Cascade loop? Try this international twist.

    TM/Spring 09

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