Plan No Plan

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - I-90


Plan No Plan: Riding the five corners part 2

A Guide to Biker Valhalla

By Joshua J. Dugan

...continued from part 1

Our second day on the road started late. As we were loading up our scoots we struck up a conversation with a local lady and her sister. More accurately, they bombarded us with questions and offered up a few tales of old. They were just amazed at our bikes and asked us dozens of questions about life on the road, the Navy, and the war. Nicest folks in the world. They gave us great wishes for a safe journey and lots of support for our efforts overseas. They were promptly rewarded with a photo opportunity on our rides. That simple act of a casual conversation and a seat on a Harley probably did more for biker/community relations than anything else in their long lives. The black leather clad bros and the little old ladies shared stories, laughs and a love of motorcycles that transcended the mere moments we shared.

Once we started heading down the road again through the cool morning mountain air and got through Colville on US395, the air started to warm and the sun came out to greet us like an old friend. The dramatic change in scenery was almost immediate. We left the deep lush green of the north behind us for the rich golden-tan wheat fields of central and southern Washington. The day prior we had been hitting lots of twisties through a densely wooded forest mountain range that reached to the heavens. Now we entered an area of Washington that is very sparsely populated by much of anything except rolling hills, wide-open vistas as far as you can see, and winding roads with an occasional cluster of pines thrown in for effect. What a sight. We got back into the rhythm of our machines and the rhythm of the road. The wind in your face, the thump of the engine, the bark of the exhaust, and the little mechanical noises of primary chains, tires, and valves combined with the sights and smells of fresh cut hay, combine harvesters with their wheat, and newly spilled water vapor rising off the asphalt result in a truly hypnotic mixture of sensory stimulation. I was taken somewhere that day on that road south and when I returned I was someone else. I was one with my machine, I had reached my Biker Valhalla.

We rumbled into Spokane and helped a few lost Canadian bros find their way. Good thing we held off on our border assault the day prior otherwise they may not have been too friendly. We made a quick pit stop at Latus Harley to pick up a road trip t-shirt and shed the leathers. It was too damn hot for much more than a pair of faded jeans and a weathered black t-shirt. The sun was in full force and even hotter than before. The clouds were gone so it was 'round about 100 degrees at noon and the mercury wasn't getting at all tired of rising. We cruised down 290 across the border and into Idaho with a quick stop to exercise our freedom of choice, helmets got stashed on the bags. We rode along 290 making our way eventually into Coeur d'Alene. I'm not much on cities but that really is a nice city. Clean, pleasant and visually stunning. With the lake at its feet and the mountains at its back it made for a stunning setting. We had an awesome lunch at Froggy's in downtown. Cool joint. They have an old Triumph chopper with a flame job to greet you just inside the door. Again, I think I gained five pounds on that meal alone. So what, we're on plan no plan.

After getting some easy direction from a guy on a Honda Shadow we blasted down US95 headed for Lewiston. 95 is a really nice road. Truthfully, all of the roads we'd been on so far were really nice. The last time I had been through Idaho along I90 I was amazed at how bad the surface was. Washington good, Idaho bad-bad-bad, Montana good was the way I remembered it. I had visions of a bumpy ride through Idaho when we hit the border. Thankfully, that was apparently limited to I90 alone. Just one more reason to avoid the interstate if at all possible. Being originally from the East, I guess the wide open expanses of the West are some of the most dramatic and inspiring for me. Obviously not this trip, but I decided last year on the way to Sturgis that Montana is called Big Sky Country for a reason. This leg of the run wasn't much different. The wide-open expanses of rolling golden wheat fields shimmering in the sun mile after mile and bend after bend put me back to that place I had been taken to earlier in the day. Plummer, Potlatch, and Moscow rolled past in a waving golden blur as the miles rang up on the odometer.

As I said earlier it was hot, ya know…Africa-hot, Middle East-hot, fry an egg on asphalt hot….get the idea. Both Shelby and I being military guys and more accustomed to dealing with extremes in weather than the average person made it a habit to hydrate extremely well and cover up exposed skin with either clothing or the highest SPF sunscreen we could find. Heat injuries and severe sunburns are very real possibilities when on the road all day in the hot sun. Heat injuries can literally kill you so please pay heed to my advice….drink copious amounts of water, use sunscreen, and cover as much exposed skin as you can handle. If you start getting a headache, feel dizzy and/or nauseous…immediately find shade or air conditioning and start sipping water. It is VERY easy to get dehydrated on a motorcycle in the desert. You'll know if you have enough water in you if your urine is clear and you need to go about every hour or so. If you're not, you're well on your way to dehydration, which in turn will make you very susceptible to heat injuries such as heat exhaustion and subsequently heat stroke. Given adequate care, you'll likely recover just fine from heat exhaustion. Heat stroke on the other hand has a very high mortality rate….yes, it'll kill you.

When we rolled off the plateau from the north and down the steep grade into Lewiston we thought we'd run into a blast furnace. It was like opening the oven door a crack and standing there as wave after wave of heat blasted you in the face and arms. I felt the water leaving my body by the bucket. God bless the people that live there because He knows I wouldn't and couldn't. I didn't know it before hand but this is where we picked up the Lewis and Clark Trail that we'd eventually follow all the way to the coast. We turned onto US12 (Lewis and Clark Trail), scooted through town and over the bridge into Clarkston. Clarkston being in Washington State we no longer had the freedom of choice to wear our helmets. There's always a time for protest and opinion but breaking the law isn't it. After putting our lids back on we rumbled through town on a crazy-long detour route and continued along US12 back into the rolling wheat fields of southeastern Washington.

A few small towns rolled by, each unique in their own right, and then we entered the Twilight Zone, Pomeroy. It was a town just like so many other small towns across America. Assorted houses and businesses, some in disarray and some not so much, situated at a wide spot along the road. My motorhead mantra of oblivion stopped when Shelby yelled over to me "Where in the hell is everyone?" I hadn't really noticed it at first but there wasn't a soul on the street or in yards or in cars or in the stores or anywhere we could see. As I re-materialized there on my scoot I thought maybe he had answered his own question. It reminded us both of an old Twilight Zone episode where a family discovers that it's all alone in their town. The screen pans out for the viewer to discover that the family was only dolls in a make believe town. I don't know what was up or what was going on in that town but we weren't going to stick around to ask any questions. Being the optimist, I kind of wondered if all the people went to Biker Valhalla. I didn't see them there so they must have gone somewhere else. With a flick of the wrist we were off like a prom dress to the next town.

We rambled on for a while soaking it all in until we reached Dayton. Looked like a nice enough town and we were pretty much beat by now. We had been going through our water and Gatorade supplies pretty fast all day. Did I mention it was hot? We pulled into another Mom and Pop motel along the road. Again the lady at the desk as nice as could be and very helpful. Within a few minutes we had a clean, air conditioned room that was priced right and got a good data dump on what happens in Dayton. We got settled and took showers to beat off some of the funk we had picked up along the road. Did I mention it was hot? Off to the only restaurant in town we putted after getting a better lay of the land. We ate dinner in an old bowling alley that had been converted into a dance hall/bar/restaurant by the present owner and his wife. Nice guy, filled us in on all the gossip and explained why everything was dead, dead, dead in this part of the state….harvest. Everyone, and he said everyone, is involved in the wheat harvest from that crack of dawn until dark until everything is done. That explains Pomeroy to a certain extent but it was still weird there.

...continue to part 3

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