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PLAN NO PLAN

A GUIDE TO BIKER VALHALLA
aka Washington's Five Corners

By Joshua J. Dugan

Publishers Note: Josh Dugan and I emailed during the month of January 2005 discussing his ideas about contributing to Sound RIDER! - all the time while he was serving onboard the USS Lincoln on a Tsunami relief mission. Dugan is a member of the US Navy, a local from Anacortes and a motorcycle enthusiast at heart. We both agreed his perspective on motorcycling would be a welcome one to Sound RIDER! readers. What follows is the first of a series of articles about his trip around the state on two wheels.

PART 1

Shelby and I both returned a couple of months ago from the war in Iraq a little worn down and stressed. The rigors of another combat experience took their toll on both of us. We each took some leave after our return to spend with family. We tried to repair many of the broken hearts and bruised bonds that an almost year-long combat cruise can cause. Both of us had done our part for our country and tried our best to do our part for our families. Back to work we went in our typical nose-to-the-grindstone approach. We still needed to decompress, badly.

Shelby and I have been riding partners and friends for several years. Our riding bond would have to be put on hold for a few years because he's getting transferred to sunny Florida to pull a tour as an instructor. Parting ways with friends is part of a military career. It sucks but you do what you have to do. We decided that before he split we'd get one last blast and party down in Sturgis. As summer began to approach we decided we would plan a road trip to Sturgis in August. I had been there before and had an absolute blast but Shelby never had the opportunity to make the pilgrimage. We had a pretty firm plan on when to leave (August 1st), route to take (back roads), where to stay (the Chip). We had planned to ride out there with some of my club bros from Brothers in Arms Motorcycle Club. All was good until a couple of weeks before we were planning to hit the road�.the Navy had other plans for us. Ultimately, we didn't have the time to spare to do Sturgis right so we cancelled the trip. We both had managed to save up a bunch of leave during the deployment and still had approved leave for the first full week of August so we got to thinking about what to do as a consolation prize.

Not that I drink a lot or anything (lie) but believe it our not I do come up with a good idea or two when I've had between two and two dozen brews. I was hanging with a bro or two and came up with the idea of just riding around Washington state for fun. Shelby and I both have been stationed in Washington for several years but hadn't traveled much of it. We usually just hung out in Western Washington and rode the Cascades and Olympics on day trips with an occasional overnighter here and there. Oddly, we've been to far more foreign countries than US states. I guess that's what happens sometimes when you dedicate your life to serving something bigger than yourself.

So, on a whim we set down our plan�..no plan, just a goal of hitting the road and cruising to all four corners of Washington State in roughly four days. No specific route, no real timeline, no plans on where to stay. One rule, no interstate highways. We'd figure it out as we went. It's amazing how things work out sometimes despite not being all crazy anal-retentive about it.

I live in Stanwood and Shelby lives in Anacortes so we decided to begin the run in Burlington along 20 and head out through the Cascade Mountains eastbound. Shelby had his '98 Road King Classic freshly serviced by the very capable and down-to-earth Bill and Susan at Anacortes Iron in Anacortes. I have been really taken by Bob and Shelly at Scooter Stuff in Park. Several weeks ago Bob helped me out with a rear flat. While he was working away we got to talking about service intervals and all that jazz. Since it's all pretty simple maintenance stuff I decided to do it myself before the trip. I figured what the hell, I've always worked on all my other bikes, trucks, and cars�hell anything with a motor is fair game in my mind. I just had a bug in my butt about "really taking care" of my new Road King Classic. Besides, my scooter isn't "new" anymore. It's got a bunch of miles, a few scratches, and even a little dent. I bought the bike to ride not baby and worry about every little piss-ant detail. It's nice but not a show bike, it's a road machine inspired and designed to carry me wherever I want to go. That's exactly why I bought an '02 and didn't want or wait for the '03. I'm not a collector, I'm a rider. I don't care about resale value because this bike will be willed to one of my daughters or their very cool husband. I picked it new last summer from Jeff at Skagit Harley before the now infamous Sturgis Trip and managed to put several thousand miles on it before going on my very long and eventful overseas deployment. Jeff did right by me then and continues to do right by me every time I swing in to say hello. Good people up there at Skagit Harley. Bob from Scooter Stuff helped me realize that I should trust myself and truly learn my bike as to be one with it. Kinda funny advice coming from a guy that makes his living off servicing bikes but oh so true.

One thing I've learned as a way to choose a service place is to find one that will help you learn your bike not just take care of it for you. In my mind it boils down to trust. As adults, at the very least, we should trust ourselves. Since literally our lives depend on our machines being road worthy, we should do most if not all of the work on them and know them bolt by bolt inside and out. So with a review of my service manual, some new fluids, a little lube, and a few tightened fasteners I was ready for the run.

We met up as planned in Burlington, our one and only plan of the whole trip. The day was one of Washington's finest, roughly 80 degrees and sunny. We topped off and blasted east along Highway 20 through Sedro Wooley and began the densely-wooded Cascades climb through Concrete.

Our first scenic stop was at the turn-off above Ross Lake after passing through Newhalem. This was the first time I had ever bothered to stop here. I usually just blast past trying to push my scoot to the limit while not dying. It's a great road�.cliffs, rocks, cars, tight off-camber turns. Gets me excited just thinking about it. Thank God that damn little Honda cage finally pulled off and let us pass. The day was perfectly clear so we had a great view of the still snow-capped mountains and the teal aqua blue water of the lake. Lots of smiling tourists, even a few brave enough to approach our black leather-clad selves and complement us on our bikes, then wished us a safe journey. Go figure, maybe we're not such scary bikers anymore.

As you read on you'll sense a reoccurring theme here. Generally speaking, we were really taken back by how absolutely nice people were to us on this run. There really is something to be said about small town American values, morals and hospitality. People opened themselves right up to us, shared their experiences and their lives with us, if only for a short time. Sometimes we get all caught up in the hustle-bustle of our everyday lives, consumed by work and home that we rarely stop long enough to take it all in and really see and feel what's going on around us. We didn't have any mechanical trouble along the road but felt very confident that if we did that we would have gotten the help needed to get us rolling again.

As we blasted higher and higher up the Cascades and got more and more into the rhythm of our scoots as we left the worry behind us. The HD fuel injection system was flawless throughout our ascent, never a hiccup or fart despite the rapid climb or descent in elevation. Over the pass we zoomed and began the decent into Eastern Washington. The scenery changed almost immediately from the dense fir and cedar forests of Western Washington to the more sparsely pined forest of the eastern down slope. We had a lunch stop in Winthrop at the Winthrop Brewing Company. My suggestion, and purely a suggestion, have the Wrangler Burger and an ice cold brew of your favorite flavor. The burgers were perfect and the beer was tasty and cold. We farted around town there for a few minutes and checked out some of the local tourist stores. Pretty cool town but definitely geared for people passing through, prices reflected that fact. Hell, a town has to make a living somehow.

The road through the Okanogan National Forest is absolutely amazing. The surface is smooth and level, full of twisties with great visibility throughout. Lots of 40 MPH curves that we, of course, took at 60. I wouldn't want to run it at night too fast because of all the deer we saw, both dead along the road and alive jumping for their lives. We hammered on and on leaving more of the worries behind us. Mile after mile blended into moment after moment; a flick of the wrist, a kick to shift, and a little lean to the right or left. Each curve along the way brought me closer and closer to my motorcycle Valhalla.

We bombed through small town after small town with names such as Twisp, Okanagan, and Omak. One town much like the last, basically a wide spot in the road with a few houses and businesses to keep the supplies moving. Everything in slow motion in those towns. I grew up in a very small town as a kid before the Navy brought me to some of the biggest cities in the world so I know and miss the mentality; everything in its own sweet time. Everything in its own sweet time, just like our run.

We putted through Tonasket and avoided some gravel and road construction in the center of town. At the same time we avoided the construction we avoided our right turn out of town. Straight ahead we rambled mile after mile with the sun on our left. That should have been our first clue. Our next clue was the road signs changing from reading a merged WA97 and WA20 highway signs to just WA97. Hell, I just figured they missed a few or somebody stole them. Our final clue before hitting the Canadian border was the US Border Patrol office in Oroville as we blasted past. We just cruised by thinking "Damn, that must be some sort of district headquarters or something being this far south of the border." This was our first funny but dumb mistake. I told Shelby to pull over so we could do a map check. Sure enough we figured it out and turned around laughing at ourselves for the next 20 something miles back to Tonasket. Once we hit Tonasket we figured out which turn we missed pretty easily but still made a wrong turn up and into the high school there. It just so happened that the football field looked like a giant tent city. Little tents were everywhere. Almost looked like a biker event without the bikes. There was a moment there that I thought we stumbled into a big old biker bash. It turns out that it was just a staging areas for a bunch of firefighters battling the forest fires in the area. I didn't see any damn fires, just a whole butt-ton of firefighters.

Since the plan was no plan we didn't mind the rain delay in Kettle Falls. Go figure, who would expect it to be cold and rainy in Eastern Washington in August. Sure enough we got rained on for about an hour before we decided to bag it for the night. It was creeping up on 8:30 pm anyway and riding through the forest at night with the ever-present deer threat isn't too smart, so we pulled up to the first motel we could find just outside of Kettle Falls. We learned a couple things at that stop; not much happens in Kettle Falls after 8 pm and everybody knows it. The restaurant was closed and the motel was booked solid but the nice folks inside pointed us in the right direction, down the road into town proper. We got a room at the other motel in town. A nice little Mom and Pop motel that was clean, quiet and priced right. The woman at the desk was very hospitable and informative. She gave us the same information we had gotten earlier, not much happens in Kettle Falls after 8 pm and everybody knows it. She did however clue us into a little secret called TJ's Tavern located just three doors down the road. She said that they had cold beer and served a killer steak and prawn special. TJ's is even rumored to stay open past 8 pm (imagine that) but not sure how late it'll be for sure.

We parked our scoots right in front of the door to our room so the unload was quick and easy. We didn't pack much anyway but came prepared for whatever with tents and bags just in case we needed to sleep in someone's field for a night or two. After a cold ride in the rain for a while and ten hours on the road we were ready for a motel. The hours on the road built up a powerful thirst in both of us and seeing how TJ's was only three doors down, off we went to imbibe in some of our favorite tasty beverages. Figured we better hurry our sore butts down there before they closed on us.

We each had the T-bone and prawn special for the ridiculously low price of $12.99 each. Now this was a meal; salad, bread, potato, thick T-bone, and plump and juicy fried prawns. Shelby and I probably gained five pounds just on that meal alone. So what, we're on plan no plan.

...continue to part 2


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