5 Day Fall Ride to Eastern WA & Idaho Part 1


The calendar has ticked down and fall has arrived one more time. Despite the fact this means winter is looming out there ready to flop down over all the twisty roads I love like a wet rag, I love the fall. Normally it's still pretty nice with a fair amount of sunshine and blue sky along with slightly cooler air that just seems refreshing and the leaves beginning to change makes the scenery really start to pop.

Looking back and rides missed due to fires and air quality issues and ahead at my schedule I felt the urge to fit something in if at all possible. I've actually ridden quite a bit this year, but my faithful ready excuse is, how will I feel mid winter about having wasted an opportunity.

I had a couple of routes planned already that I haven't done yet this year so I dusted them off to see what might work. This summer, my main two factors have been the weather and air quality from the various fires still active in the region. Looking up current conditions, that's California out; too much chance the air and possibly roads might be affected by fires. Rrrr. I haven't been down there in a few years now and according to my Butler Map for N Cali there are a bunch of roads that I have to ride.

I could swing down to Oregon again, but the fire along the river near Multinomah falls has the potential to really mess that up and my last ride was with my son along the coast and the one before than was to my mother in Beaverton.

I also have a route that leads out to Eastern Washington and Idaho loop that is a combination of some roads I've done before with some new ones recently discovered. Air quality looks good, but it's going to be a bit cooler than I would like.

In the end I was swayed by the most recent Rider magazine which had an article written by a father and son who rode all of Hwy 20 across N Washington. My route was not 100% the same as I prefer more technical twisty roads whenever possible, but the spirit of the article got me over the finish line and decision was made to head out that direction.

With the weather in the mornings being quite a bit cooler than I have grown accustom the last few months I decided to break out my winter kit. I hate bring too much stuff but would be able to remove layers if things warmed up too much.

Day 1 to Omak, WA

I decided to start the trip with a shorter/simpler route. In part because it allowed for a later start time so I could avoid the area commuters but also so that it would be a bit warmer. Not my normal fare, but this trip is going to be a little more about scenery than apexes. I would relax and enjoy myself today and not worry about the more highway cruise style of road on which I would spend my time.

I took Hwy 18 up to Hwy 90 and headed over the pass to Cle Elum where I took 970 North toward before connecting with Hwy 97.

These secondary highways offer some decent scenery (inset photo: nice barn/farms along the highway) and further along I even allowed myself to follow a "historic homestead" down a few miles to some town that still occupies period buildings though a bit put off by the 'No trespassing/stopping/turning around' signage. No worries, I'll leave you in peace and continue on my way.

Once I hit the Columbia River, I chose to stay on the western "ALT 97" side purely because looking at Bing maps it seemed to be closer to the water so I hoped it would provide nicer views.

97 rolls all that way up to Omak without a lot to distract you. You do go through Chelan, as in Lake Chelan, but school was letting out to busses, kids and parents were everywhere.  I did, and would recommend, touring Okanogan which is just a few miles south of Omak. It's a neat oldish town with a few cool buildings if you're into that sort of thing.

Omak offers an older scruffy area (my specialty) with a couple hotels (I like the Rodeway because it's cheap and the breakfast isn't horrible) and few, actually pretty good restaurants. Alternatively you can head up the hill to a much more modern area with fast food, Safeway and even a Walmart. I would take advantage of the Safeway deli roast chicken on my second day in Omak heading back this way (Day 4).

Day 2 Omak to Spokane

Overcast and cool, the morning was nice enough but I could feel moisture in the air evidenced from just a few droplets on my bike cover.

Today's ride would take me across the Colville Indian Reservation, up to Kettle Falls before heading down and around to Chewelah before hitting the Flowery Trail Rd (I swear that's its name) then south to Spokane for the night.

Leaving Omak, I rolled along Hwy 155 and took in the scenery. Part of my goal this trip was going to take my time enough to really enjoy the landscape and views because each day was a little shorter than I often do during the summer when I have more hours with which to play.

I stopped to take some pics while a dog across the street made sure I and anyone else around understood I was to stay on my side of the roadway. The gray sky and cool temperatures confirmed my choice of a more winter based wardrobe.

At the town of Nespelem, where you can get gas if you need, it's a left turn at the rest area down a block, left, then right onto C St which becomes Cache Creek Rd as is heads up into the hills. After a couple of quick tight turns the road settles in to some fast sweeping corners before also giving something a little bit more technical if you're prone to right wrist twist therapy. Road surface is just fine, but today, as I gained altitude my visor started to pick up dropplets of water and the road surface became damp. It wasn't raining and I wouldn't say the road was soaked, but it wasn't dry either so I dialed it back and concentrated on being smooth. No worries, no drama.  As I drop back down to the valley floor I connect with Hwy 21 and turn north. Best to my recollection my turn onto Bridge Creek shouldn't be too far up the road. One thing to note, Indian Reservations aren't really known for signage. Unlike most areas where miles to go and up coming street signs abound, it's a bit more local knowledge based navigation.

Bridge Creek is another mini mountain pass with all the twisty turns you'd expect. It's not a major pass so you don't ever open up to some epic view but you can have quite a bit of fun up here before the road opens back up and takes you into Inchelium. Your choice here is the short ferry across, or like me take a left to head North to Kettle Falls. As soon as I hit Inchelium-Kettle Falls road I am confronted with pack gravel. Crap. Hmmm. I guess I could do the ferry...but maybe this doesn't last too long. I decide to relax and let it ride for a while. Fortunately the pure gravel isn't all that long and I find myself back on pavement soon enough riding along, I think what is still Columbia River.

I fill up in Kettle Falls, then ride the couple miles east along Hwy 20 to Hwy 25 which heads south on the east side of the body of water I just rode up from the west side. It's a pretty nice view here and there, but nothing mind blowing though still better than hitting Hwy 395 to head down to Chewelah. Besides, there are a few nice roads between here and where I'm going.

Just north of Hunters I catch up with a couple of bikes and choose to ride along in a make shift pack with them for a bit until I just can't go that slowly any longer and make my way by.

Left at Springdale Hunters Rd and am treated to open sweeper but ever curving road. Not a lot of difficulting technically speaking, but very pleasant because the road is all country with not a lot out here as I wind my way along through the hilly area.

Lunch Break

Eventually I make my way to Chewelah where I see some bikes at the curbside an realize what I thought was a bank was actually a coffee shop so I stop to hop online to check in with work while enjoying a peanut butter sandwich I brought along with the Americano I purchased.

As I sat enjoying the coffee and taking a couple of photos a couple riders came down from the Flowery Trail direction. I ask them what they thought of it. She said it was awesome and he said it was pretty cold up there.

Last Stint

Having shed all my warm clothing and still feeling pretty warm sitting in the sun I heeded the advice from the young sport bike rider and put my windproof shirt and winter gloves back on. Roasting as I start the Versys, I question my decision. Leaving town Flowery Trail Rd heads uphill steeply almost immediately and the temperature does in fact drop quickly.

The road surface is pretty good. No major issues there. As far as the road overall I'd say that its good and it is curvy, but I would not call it great as I tend to rate roads based upon being more technically challenging. It's fast and flowing so I you can fly along this road without much fear which can be fun.

After Flowery is the town of Usk where I was suppose to head south on Hwy 211, but I decided to roll through town and across the cool bridge because blue sky was beginning to poke through the cloud cover so I wanted to see what kind of view could be found. Usk looked so small I was hoping I could stop mid span, but there was almost an endless stream of cars. I settled for quick snap from one end.

Photo stop over I settled in to the commute into Spokane to find a place for the night. Temperature was just perfect so I spent a bit of time walking around doing some street photography.

Route Map




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