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Plan No Plan: Riding the Five Corners part 3

A Guide to Biker Valhalla

By Joshua J. Dugan

�continued from Part 2

Our third day on the road started off late again. Who cares, we're on plan no plan. We ride when we want to and stop when we want to. This run is purely about the journey, not the destination, not even a little bit. The first few miles were just a little rough. Hell, I even missed a shift, haven't done that in a while. We decided to cruise down to a bike shop in Pendleton, Oregon, we'd heard about while going through Walla Walla. More beautiful rolling hills of wheat, sun at our backs, and the smells of the harvest all the way to Walla Walla. Since we had to take a little detour and ended up on 125 into town from the North we just happened to rumble past the Walla Walla State Penitentiary. Since we were going by anyway we thought it would be a good idea to get a picture or two at the gate so we pulled over and parked. I had just gotten my camera out of my bag when a guard started yelling at us. I couldn't understand what he was saying and neither of us were convicted felons, so I strolled up the road to see what all the fuss was about. Well, come to find out they don't like people stopping near the property and especially don't like people taking pictures of the prison without approval. Something about pre-staging a jail break came up in our conversation. He was nice enough not to throw us in jail after me proving I hadn't taken any pictures. OK�so maybe I got one or two but don't tell anyone

After that interesting interlude, we continued down 125 which eventually turns into 11 at the Oregon border. Wide open spaces again and off to Biker Valhalla I go. We bombed through the wavy fields and were treated to an incredible aerobatic display by a crop duster pilot with nerves of steel. Wow, this dude was doing some fancy flying. Barrel rolls, wing-overs, dives into what looked like about 10 feet off the ground. All that with wave after wave of heated air and varying air density to deal with. Truly amazing, thanks man�whoever you are. We hit Pendleton about noon, a perfect time to swing by Phantom Cycle for a little break. We ended up hanging out there talking for a while with the owner about rides, our plan no plan, and Sturgis. He had his brother's '91 FXR in the shop that he had done a total custom rebuild on. It was slammed, black and trick. Too bad the Revtech 100 motor he put in ate itself 200 miles later. It'll be a warranty repair job but still a major pain for his brother. It happens sometimes. All of his t-shirts have skulls all over them and I like skulls so I just had to add one to my collection. We laughed about the skulls and the shop owner pointed out a simple fact, "Skulls are cool, people like them because everyone's got one." I hadn't thought of it that way before but it's very true indeed. With a chuckle we picked up a couple of t-shirts and headed down the road again. Since it was getting hot as hot gets we decided to break our no interstate rule for a little while and bomb down I-84 to I-82 then cross over back into Washington. That highway was like a frying pan with lots of tractor trailers thrown in for fun. Flat, hot, and boring wasn't what we had envisioned for this trip so we blasted our way along those 50-something miles in record time and turned west on US14 which just so happens to be the next leg of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Now this road is cool. Perfect condition; wide, smooth and fast. It wanders along the northern shore of the Columbia River all the way to Vancouver. There are lots of twists and turns and ups and down and some of the most beautiful scenery of our trip. It gets a little windy in spots as you continue west. It's so windy on a consistent basis, in fact, that sailboarders have made a bunch of parking spots along the road. If traveling on US14 remember this: watch out for oblivious people crossing the road with their sailboards. We hammered along US14 at about 70 mph pretty much unimpeded except for the occasional tractor trailer full of Walla Walla Sweet Onions that had a tendency to puke an onion or two off the back as we approached. Watch out for flying onions. I don't imagine it would be a good thing to catch one in the head at 50+ mph. This road was a good choice because of the wind carrying the little bit of coolness there was from the Columbia River up our way. Don't get the wrong impression, I'm not a total wimp about the heat thing. I just prefer a little cool air once in a while and don't want to live in an oven. If people want to live in an oven that's good with me, freedom has lots of versions and visions.

I'm not new to riding motorcycles and I'm mature enough of a rider to know that stuff does happen that you don't want to happen. People do get scared and people do get hurt on bikes, well okay, technically it's usually the impact after they leave their bike that hurts. Anyway, I haven't been scared on a bike for a long time. I've been cut off and angry at people and their inability to use their head for its designed purpose more than once. That happens almost every day in western Washington. I'm man enough to admit it�I got scared this day. There's a tunnel along 14 that scared me shaky. Shelby blasted though this tunnel in a curve and just as he cleared the other side I entered as a tractor trailer was coming through towards me across the yellow line and as a gust of the often powerful wind whipped me to the left pretty damn hard. Listen up. Never let your guard down even if you're in Biker Valhalla. If I weren't totally and completely dialed in at that moment I would have either been plowed by the semi or eaten a rock wall at 50 plus. There's pretty much only one way to get to be an old biker and that is to be a smart biker. Listen to and learn from yourself. Listen to and learn from other bikers. Most cagers have the luxury of getting in a wreck walking away and kicking themselves for "should have done this" or "could have done that." More often than not, we don't have that luxury. If we go down it's not a question if we'll be hurt, but how badly we'll be hurt. Admit it to yourself and deal with it.

After I cleaned myself up and the shakes went away (just kidding about the cleaning part), we continued along the Columbia enjoying all the sights, smells and turns along the way. The further west we rode, the denser the forest became. At the beginning of 14 a few hours earlier you couldn't find a tree anywhere on the horizon. I doubt you could have bought a tree and raised it to maturity. Now as we approached Vancouver we began to re-enter the familiar topography of Western Washington. The mountains weren't just visible but in your face as we stopped for gas in Stevenson. After the down slope and into Vancouver we thumped along getting closer and closer to the hustle and bustle of semi-urban life. We were no longer the fastest guys on the road. Little Fast and Furious punk kids in their low riding music blasting mini-cars thinking they're slick as slick can be blasting by us on the right at 90 in a 60. Punks, I wish I could have introduced myself to them.

We broke our only rule again in Vancouver by jumping on I205 then I5 up to Kelso. I wanted to take a pit stop here to find a paint shop. I met Don King of King Grafix while at the Sun and Surf this year. Pretty impressive work and reasonably priced so I figured he'd be the guy to flame my scoot. I've got this thing for flames and skulls I just can't explain. I didn't have enough time that day at Sun and Surf to get my scoot pinstriped so I took a card and said I'd catch up to him later. I never did find his shop. The street addresses on the Westside Highway in Kelso don't seem to follow much of a traditional sequence like I'm used to. Most street addresses have a numbering sequence that either ascends or descends depending on which way you're traveling. Not so here. The city planners pulled a cruel joke on me that day. It's not funny but still not a big deal, we're on plan no plan. I'll just catch him another day.

Out of Kelso on 4 was our next route, again along the Columbia headed to the coast on the Lewis and Clark Trail. A brief stop in "where the hell are we" Cathlamet for gas. Things were considerably cooler here then we had experienced just a few short hours earlier. A recent cold front had pushed through a line of thunderstorms and dropped the temperature down to about 60 degrees. We used this stop to put on our leathers. They hadn't seen much use in the last day and a half. Fortunately we had missed the rain by a couple of hours. A guy at the gas station said the rain was just coming down in sheets. He hadn't seen a thunderstorm like that in years. Glad we missed it. Just like everything else on this run so far, things just worked out for us. It was getting on toward dusk and the cedar-laced air was still getting cooler so we decided we'd push on a little further up to South Bend along US101 before stopping for the night.

US101 is a famous road for a reason. This leg of it is in perfect condition, like all the others we traveled. Wide shoulders, smooth surface, gentle and not so gentle turns through the fir and cedar forest scooting along the coast. Just about the time we merged onto 101 we could smell the sea air being pushed east by a mild breeze. Now, being career Navy guys with pretty near twenty years of service for each of us, we're no stranger to the sounds and smells of the sea. Funny thing is that I rarely smell it or even give it a second thought while out in the middle of the ocean. I guess a little complacency with the sea had set in over the years. Now, it was obvious and intoxicatingly familiar. I guess I'm a true sailor; I miss the sea when I'm ashore and miss the land while at sea.

We thumped along the coast of Willapa Bay along the 101 just hammering along until we reached South Bend. I hadn't ever been here before but it didn't take long to get a feel for this small fishing community. They seem to get a fair share of tourist activity coming along the 101 but it isn't a tourist town like Winthrop or Leavenworth. They seem to do just fine on their own. The town had a nice feel of settled routine. We rumbled through town trying to get the lay of the land and scope a spot to put up for the night. We settled on the Seaquest Inn, which is about half a block off the main drag up a little hill in the middle of town. After stopping in front of the office we unsaddled, stretched, and tried to ease the soreness and chill that had taken over our bodies. We had managed to cover a pretty fair distance that day considering we did almost all back roads and took semi-frequent stops to check stuff out. It's nice not to be in a hurry and worry about a schedule or destination. We were relaxed and calm as we picked our room. Ya see, that's how Doug does it at the Seaquest Inn. All the rooms are different, almost all are two bedroom suites with a kitchen. He gave us a little history lesson about the town and the property. He said we could have our pick of the two remaining rooms. We picked one inside the courtyard so we could park our scoots off the street and not worry about anyone clipping them as they drove by. The rooms we saw were very nice with new beds, fresh paint and recliners. I was pretty impressed both with the Seaquest and with Doug the owner. Good people, good room, and again a very reasonable price for what we got. Just so you know, he's got a little deal going with a local restaurant owner friend of his. You have to ask Doug about it but you can get an all-you-can eat oyster dinner with soup, salad and the works for $14.95 a head. If you feel a hankering for oysters either fried, half shelled, grilled or whatever puts lead in your pencil this is the way to go. Doug is a real personable guy. We talked for a while about all sorts of stuff and got the low down on the town of South Bend, nice place.

�continue to part 4


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