Just needed to get away
The weather around home lately has been overcast and the temperature has been up and down so much I have no idea what to wear on any given day.
So I started to look up weather reports.
Day 1 Tacoma to Omak, WA
I chose to head north to ride hwy 20 since I have not gone that route before. To avoid traffic delays I chose to roll up I-5 through Seattle to Arlington. Fueled up and heading east on Hwy 530 up to Rockport on Hwy 20.
Hwy 530 is a country hwy that is fairly well traveled. It's never remote but is scenic and nice nonetheless. If you like to ride faster than, well, everyone else, you'll be passing often, but their are plenty of places to do it so no worries. A fair number of curves and dances through the trees keep it from being boring and you even find a few chances to toss it into some tighter curves. It does feel fairly country and even throws up a few nice views.
Hwy 20 is also quite heavily traveled, at least on the west side of the summit which is unfortunate because it's lots of RVs and Trucks out looking at the scenery. That means you have to work through them if you want to be able to really enjoy the road instead of staring at the back of some vehicle that blots out the sky. Each time I cleared a group, I ended up rolling past quite a few photo opportunities because I didn't want to be stuck doing zero miles and hour again while they struggle with the concept of corners. [Sidebar: If you're out for the day and want to poodle and stop to take pics Hwy 20 on the west side is a great road on which to do that. Ride up shoot lots of photos and ride back and get some lunch].
Along the top and down the east side the road is fairly tree-lined and because you're heading into a more desert like area the scenery changes. It's nature so it's still good, but it's just different.
The entire road is basically a perfect surface. Clearly well maintained I imagine in no small part because it's one of only a couple of ways over to the east side and if you're coming from the north part of the state it's the first one you come across.
Along the bottom I actually got caught it the remnants of some rain. Large drops of rain began to hit me but it never rained/poured. The road, however, was wet so clearly I had just missed something more intense than my summer riding gear was designed to handle.
Shortly thereafter you'll roll into Winthrop which is a complete tourist town, but it's small and quaint so that didn't spoil it. It's not a town of five where you're remote and alone, but it's pretty and is a good place to take a break and get gas.
Uh Oh, Rain!
After working for a little bit from a park bench up on the porch of the Town Hall I got gas at the end of the main street just in case and then continued east. Not long after leaving town I could see the sky was darkening quite a bit. I don't recall seeing rain on the schedule and for sure I did not request it, but you could see it in the distance coming down pretty hard....and I had no rain gear at all.
Fortunately at Twisp, the next town, I turned north to stay on hwy 20 to make my way to Okanogan. Unfortunately the rain began to catch up with me as I made my way up the mountainside. More large rain drops started hitting my visor and gloves....very much feeling like the very front edge of something much heavier coming up behind.
Giving a little more throttle I decided to try my best to outrun it hoping to stay dry. And why not, I was nearly the only vehicle out here so I was free to move about more freely. The road was a little rough in spots, but nothing nasty and being a mounting climb it twisted and turned which made it fun to lean into as I carved through the mountain corners. I caught a truck and then just after the crest another rider. Neither of which were in a hurry. The road was open enough that I got by in no time allowing me to ride at my pace. The sky was brighter and I no longer felt any splashes of over sized rain drops so I relaxed. The trip down just after the summit was tight but predictable allowing me to ride with pace and drop down into Okanagan. Turning left it was a quick trip down the road to Omak, WA where I would spend the night.
Day 2 Omak, Wa to Moses Lake via Coulee Dam, Keller and Republic
After the short thunderstorm last night I awoke to an amazing sunny day with blue sky and fluffy clouds so I took a walk around town after breakfast. It's a scruffy town with older buildings but there are a few bright spots. Some quaint areas and a pretty artistic looking bridge.
Started out well enough
Crossed the bridge and left town via Hwy 155. The plan was to go down a ways then cut across to Hwy 21 and then onto 20 east toward Inchelium....buuut I missed the turn so ended up riding down to Coulee Dam instead. Hwy 155 is not technically challenging but has some great views and of course in Coulee there is the whole giant dam thing.
Stopping to enjoy the view I ascertained what I needed to do to get back on track and to the roads I was really out here to do. I headed down to Wilbur then north through Keller, across the ferry and up Hwy 21 to reconnect with the route heading east, Bridge Creek Road.
The road to Wilbur was boring and straight....so long......
Found a gas station on the outskirts then headed north toward Keller. It starts out pretty nice through fields around various industrial sized farms, but it's not too far down the road when things get a little more exciting.
There is a speed limit sign that just did not make sense to me as it was far slower than I would expect way out here in the countryside but then the road started to get super tight and suddenly i understood why the government made this choice...to try and save people in cages from plummeting to their death. Of course I had to desire to listen and being the only vehicle on the road I found myself braking late and flinging myself over. Of course at one point I did stop to take a few pics.
The road twists and turns quite a bit all the way down to the Ferry....loved it!
A very short and completely free ferry ride later and I continued north along hwy 21. For a while you get the company of an amazing lake and stopping often for photos is nearly mandatory. The road curves around enough to keep it fun and I'd recommend making sure you stay in front of vehicles so you're not stuck puttering along. Of course if you're in the mood to sight see this section of road is perfect. I did find the gravel at the side of the road a little soft so make sure you're careful, especially if hopping off. My kickstand sank quickly until I found a better spot.
Into the mountains
A few miles later or gently curving yet beautiful road I took a right turn onto Bridge Creek Road. The entire experience changes as you start to gain elevation and get back into a section of tighter curves as you climb up toward the summit.
On the other side as you enter Inchelium you quickly realize there aren't any road or direction signs. At the gas station turn left, down the block and at the stop sign turn left again to begin heading north along the Columbia river which at this point looks like a lake!
Scenic with pretty good pavement you will eventually get to Hwy 395. I got gas and a snack before making my way toward the town of Republic heading west on Hwy 20.
At Republic, you turn left again and now head south on Hwy 21 back toward Keller ferry.
The Last Leg
After getting something to eat in Wilbur and doing some work using the cafe's wi-fi, I left Wilbur via Hwy 21 because it looked less monotonous that the other routes you could take. While this was technically true the dead straight roads made this last hour and almost half (doing the speed limit at all times of course even though there was nothing around and you could see for miles) got a bit tedious. There were a couple of spots that were quite beautiful and I stopped just to get un-bored.
I rolled into Moses Lake, pulled over to look for a motel, found one and promptly took a wrong turn. A mile and half down the road I saw an old style Motel sign and then newly remodeled. It was the Sage and Sand and for under $60 I couldn't complain at all. The room I had was really quite nice for an older motel trying to step up it's game.
All in all a very long and very good day of riding. So many sights, good roads and plenty of curves to keep me from wanting to murder someone.
Day 3 Heading back home
Today's ride was always going to start with some highway as I headed from Moses Lake to Yakima. Fortunately it was great weather and the view was generally very good and of course once you're at the gorge in George you can let it soak in.
There was a group of riders from Iowa who, it turns out, were there to spread the ashes of their chapter president so it was pretty neat to be a small part of that by joking around with one of the members.
At Ellensburg you head south. I recommend you leave the highway and take Canyon Road. It's very scenic and just a lot nicer way to get from point A to point B.
From there you head to Yakima where you can get a coffee and wi-fi if you need to check in with work or want a break. There are plenty of services just off the Hwy after you turn north onto 12 before going too far. As you take the exit you wonder if you made a mistake and then suddenly there is everything you need right in front of you.
Staying north there hwy 12 veers off and you begin to climb toward Chinook pass. It's not as scenic as hwy 12 but there are some good corners and passing is easy enough and when you get to the top it's breath taking.
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