Niko’s Kantina Ride: Lost in time

Listening to that engine running again pumped me with energy, we were on our way south-ish once again!

We were on our way back towards Yakima, cross the Chinook pass. Plenty of snow there this time. Our hosts for the night were Joe and Susan, couldn’t wait to see their ranch, vineyards and what not. We came to their place early in the afternoon, turned off the bikes and switched to wine, of which there is plenty in that household. Great times, lots of catching up to do since we last met. We did a whole tour of the property, which took us a couple of hours, then steak for dinner and as I mentioned my little quest for random domestic weapons, Joe shows us his shy collection. I think I counted eleven, and since we were on a private property it was only right to try them. Next day we improvised a shooting range and pew pew pew! That was a fun morning!

Since it became a little tradition already, when I start explaining my intended route I get told about a really scenic place, just about kind of close to there. This time was no exception, so we head south, southeast towards Joseph, to see Hells canyon. What we didn’t know, is that the “cabin” the Hattrups kindly offered us to use, will be our mutual dream house!

We rode hard and fast, some straight roads, busy cities, bypassing Walla Walla through some ranch roads, where everyone was waving to us as we’d be long time neighbors. As we cross to Oregon we learn that on gas stations you have to wait till the pump guy hands you the pistol (gas pump pistol). Over the Tollgate pass when it starts to rain. HORIZONTALLY! Not to mention the snow and cold. But it lasted just a couple of minutes, it felt like an eternity though. We get to the cabin at night time, get beer and food from the local shop and head home to rest. It really felt like home. Fireplace and a good set of speakers. With no cd’s on hand, we ended listening to the local country music station. A very American day indeed.

Next day we took the long way round to Imnaha, riding through canyons, chasing Elk and being chased by the respective Elk, two big bucks actually … We end up at this bar/deli/grocery store, it seems lost in time. An oldtimer drinking beer from a jar, some snacks that seem to have been there before the mature lady running the store was even born. We get some snacks and head up towards Hat point overlook, to see the BIG canyon. More snow, cold and silence later … Best place to be on that day. Wish I’ll return one day.

When we had to take off next day, we had a real hard time to leave that place behind. The scenery, people and the cabin! I could stay there for a month. However, those places were behind us already! And we were on our way towards Halfway. Pretty scenery and an outstanding cold, after climbing up I recall that we passed a sign claiming that the road is not maintained. It’s cold enough that this stuff could freeze I think, and sure enough in that same corner BC1 starts riding its own line. We hit ice. At least it got warm all of the sudden … No drama, we get over that un injured and proud of our riding skills.

Since our riding skills were proven and the weather got pretty pleasant, we hit dirtier roads. Losing stuff and bottoming all shocks on a couple occasions. Yeah, we have more riding skills than brain.

We spent a night at a trailer park, gave another point of view on life in the States. People living in RVs, but nevertheless very warm and friendly.

More canyons, HWY 26, Painted mountains and we are back in the Cascades. What has the future in store for us, I can only guess, but sure we’re gonna make a good story out of that.

Niko’s Kantina Ride: Hold on for deer life!

I spent two days off the beaten path and had the best ride on this continent so far!

After I left that little town I set my sight on some dirt roads. But before that I had to get a local phone number for data, so I can write this blog  and keep in touch with friends without breaking the bank. It took an awful a lot of time to get the thing working, which resulted in sitting in a Taco bell (for free Wi-Fi) for about two hours! I sat opposite to a bicycle traveler, we exchanged a few nods and wonder why he’s riding that damn thing.

By the time I was leaving the big road towards Twisp I was feeling frustrated because of all the time I’ve lost sitting inside. It was a wonderful day, I fuel up and head on towards Cooper Mt.

As soon as I hit the dirt I notice a huge sign saying that the road is closed due to a landslide. There was nothing that could stop me at that point. I proceed and in a couple of miles I get to this closure. I look around, no one to be seen, so I snuck through.

Not a big deal passing the road slide, but after that the road got to a junction to a logging road. I had to take it in order to get to the top. Mud and ruts, not too much fun with bald tires. Soon the elevation brought the cold and the cold brought the snow. The hell, scenery was outstanding. Not a living soul in sight, just me, the dirt road and this beautiful place I could call home for the day!

Got on top, snow storm on its way, this was it. I knew it’s gonna be cool, but I felt stupid to push on just to find another warm, but boring place to stay.

After turning on the fire, beer and a dram of whiskey it was just perfect. A can of some pork bbq stuff for dinner and my little speaker to play me some happy tunes. It was a good day.

The day after was cold, but the sunniest day I had so far. Big blue sky and a prospect of some good riding ahead. I decided to follow the Pacific crest trail (on legal roads) and then turn west towards Seattle, to visit some dear friends.

Coffee, dry the tent, brush my teeth and ready to go!

I descend to lake Chelan, a town that was a complete contrast to the wooden shacks full of trash I’ve seen on the first day in Washington. This place was so tidy I felt out of place. However I was out of food and hungry, so I stop and get me what was later to become the best sandwich I ever had. More exactly, a sliced roast beef jalapino sandwich. Amazing!

Carry on, I start to evaluate the American drivers. Different, at least to what I’m used to. On my bike I can’t cruise at very high speed. 90km/h or 55mph would be the normal cruising speed without pushing the engine. Which is just enough to piss off the regular driver. You see them approaching in the mirror, steady, then they get alarmingly close, slow down, then hit the gas again. This would last anything from 3 to 10 minutes. You can see the driver is trying to keep it cool, but it’s exasperating so he goes for it. The overtaking. 3 to 5 kmph faster than me, take all the space necessary, like you’re driving a harvester. If I really want to be bad, I just keep the same speed and have a laugh. Step down the gas pedal Billy! I’m sure that V8 Titan can move a bit faster.

On a more positive note, I really love the signs before the semaphore intersections. Telling you if it’s going to turn red in the near future. With the breaks fitted on my Klr, this is quite handy.

After I finish with the dirt section I decide to stick to the pavement and proceed west. It was early in the day and I was kind of close, so I click on a random road on the gps. 250kms at 14 o’clock, I can do that.

First I go south to Ellensburg and then west south-west. The road turns into compact gravel, 35mph speed limit, I do more. Much more. No more cars, way more scenery, this seems like the best decision I took today! Slowly the gravel turns a bit rougher. The rocks are lose and round, so it gets a bit more bouncy. I stand on the footpegs and carry on. More dirt turns into uphill climbs, less and less civilization. I found myself at a fork. The gps telling me to go right on a rougher looking road and sure I take it. It gets pretty rough and the signal is lost. Too many trees. I turn back and take the other road, because clearly that’s not the right one. The other one gets steep and rougher really soon, but I’m determined to carry on. There must be something on the other side I say to myself. It was getting dark, but it was too close to just give up and camp. I’ll carry on. Made it to Issaquah right in time for dinner at Dan and Rebecca’s place.

Niko’s Kantina Ride: Storms, sights and new arrivals

The weather forecast was awful, solid rain and heavy wind for a week.

After I settled down at the Cushmans residence, Rebecca took me for a ride around Tacoma, where we visited a car museum and had lunch with Jim. Perfect day for sightseeing, so we went to Seattle as well.

I find Seattle has one of the prettiest skylines I’ve ever appreciated second to only to Tokyo and San Gimignano. The town is buzzing with an interesting energy, everyone seems kind and happy. It must the Canadian influence…

One thing that I’ve realized at the end of the day. I haven’t seen a single weed shop. I was expecting this town to be some sort of American Amsterdam, but it seems they cope without too many problems.

However, what did surprise me and it shouldn’t, everyone seems to have guns in their household. When I realized that my hosts used to compete in sport shooting the game was on. I decided I’m going to see who and how many guns they have, starting from the closest people. So far everyone I met has at least 3. Some people keep a small handgun in their pocket while shopping in the grocery store… And this led to another game. Try and guess who’s carrying a gun in their pocket. I don’t sleep as well as I used to.
Back from Seattle we start checking on the weather. There is a heavy wind alert and much rain to come. Luckily Dan and Rebecca were very kind and let us stay for a couple of days, till the crazy weather passed.

Us? Yeah, Dane just made it from Vancouver so we were a team again!

In the following days we were not sitting doing nothing, we visited Terry and his dream garages, waterfalls, pizza nights, motorcycle maintenance and so on. Great time all in all.

I have to thank Rebecca and Dan for the hospitality and great help showing around. It was the best place to get stuck waiting for weather to happen.


Niko’s Kantina ride: Choose the border crossing

Crossing the border was easier than expected!

I spent some time deciding which border crossing should I take, smaller and remote, where the officer has more time to harass you OR be more relaxed. Or the busier crossing, where they are used to international travelers and have less time to harass you, but decide faster they don’t like you.

I chose the first one. Decided to get there early and bring them some coffee. Luckily the Saturday night was late and so was I on the border. No coffee either. It was probably a good idea. Fingerprints, picture and I was in the U.S. in no time! There goes the most iffy border crossing on this journey. I guess if Trump was president I’d still be in Canada. Just guessing.

Soon as I cross the border I smell that funny herbal scent. I try to figure out which plan it is, till I get told from a native that it’s harvest time. Of course, marijuana is legal in Washington. I’ll remember this state by this smell, which is ever present.

In the continued boost of confidence I decide it’s time for some more dirt. I find some marked unpaved roads on the gps that seemed to be going in the right direction. Without second thought I take it. Beautiful riding, smooth and scenic. I soon discover that the gps had no idea about where these roads are going, but neither did I. The smooth road turned into 4×4 tracks, then into single tracks, hiking trails …

The KLR 650 is a very capable bike. But the panniers and spare tires made it low and slow. If I wouldn’t be an Istrian I’d probably give up, but our motto is: “Die before giving up”. I muscled up that stupid hill and down again. Now I know what BC1 is capable of and I’ll keep it for future reference.

The dirt road dumped me just below Sherman pass, after I ride that beauty, I end up in Republic where I stop for a picture and a guy in a camo vest asks me with his deep voice: “Are you lost?“. The way he asked made me feel like they don’t appreciate foreigners around here. As I ride further I realize I’m in a huge ranching area and things started to make sense. Beautiful scenery anyway, had a wonderful ride this day.

Ended up in Tonasket, a really small town on a crossroads. Nothing much to do there, I stay in a motel and watch the political debate but quickly switch to a James Bond movie, more credible anyway.

Niko’s Kantina ride: Missing link

The following days were a mix of riding and staying at the most beautiful town in the world.

After I left Lytton I spent another day of crazy good roads, with some off the pavement entertainment. Spent the night in Lumby, where I met Phil, a heli logger. Big guy with an appetite for many beers. He gave me some firewood, I reciprocated with some beer, shared a couple of stories and had a good evening. Really nice these Canadians!

If I ever get eaten by a bear it was this guys fault. Spot the problem.

The day after was an off-road mayhem. It was time to test BC1s capabilities on dirt. Pretty decent based on the fact that is probably over packed and the rider isn’t quite in shape. Took some service roads, got lost a couple of times and I’ve even seen a bunch of bears! A mama with her cub, eating trash and then a guy who was so scared it was comical. I admit that I’m not too relaxed either. Always have this scene of me fighting a grizzly in my mind. And I can never get to a positive outcome. So I’m very happy to keep it like that. A work of fantasy.

Oh, and then I’m late again. Always this fighting with sun, and I never win. It’s my top rule to start looking for a place to spend the night at 16h sharp. It never happened so far. Usually I find a place just before dark and that’s really annoying. I like to savor the setting. It will get better I hope.

That day I was actually on time and I set my mind on a motel. It was raining for 2 days on and off and I couldn’t dry my gear. Note, it is very important to dry your tent, otherwise it will start getting a pretty peculiar aroma. More about that next time.

Hotel, but where? It was Friday and I am determined to party. After fuelling up, I talk to the gas station lady. A figure that would quite possibly come from a Tim Burton cartoon. Long thin black hair, wide teeth and a squeaky voice. Quite interesting, but certainly a nice person. She told me that tonight here in Nakusp, there is sure something going on in The bar, but if you want to have a ball, go to Nelson, the most pretty town ever been. Hmmm …

It was a 134 kms to there, doing the loop through Kaslo, as I was instructed by Conrad. Rain and cold, but it was probably the best paved ride so far. The asphalt grips like magic here and I was there in no time.

By 20:30 I was showered, fed and in the mood for some nightlife. I stayed for two nights in the end, because if a town with 10.000 inhabitants can manage to keep more than two places open and they play blues and rock, and metal! I have to know it better. Natives provided much fun as well, really friendly people. Till next time Nelson!

The metal part of the night
The more sensual part of the night for some…