Beth Dixon: Day Eleven

Tuesday, Sept. 27

Typical for me, I shut off my alarm and went back to sleep. I'm not a morning person. Must not have slept too long, though, because the bike was packed and ready to roll about 8:30am. I returned my room key to the hotel lobby. Walking back to the bike, I was waylaid by an older, portly, short woman who must have made her husband deaf by now. The type who talks non-stop without saying anything important but thinks everyone shares her opinions. I took me a while to get away from this woman without being rude about it. If I had heard, "Well, aren't you brave to be riding that motorcycle all by yourself?" one more time I think I would have screamed.

I rode through Newport and stopped at the Chevron conveniently located at the intersection of 2 and 20. With a full tank of gas, I headed west on 20. It wasn't too far down 20 that I hit the corner marked with the lowest speed for the entire trip -- a hairpin u-turn marked at 10mph. Nice dry, banked pavement too. My speedometer did not read 10mph around that corner. :-)

This part of Hwy. 20 is narrow, two lane. Some good pavement, some bad pavement. Little in the way of towns or roadside attractions, especially since all the resort areas were closed. Lots of tall evergreen trees, large areas of flat or rolling dead- grass fields, rocks. Sometimes I could see a river off to my right. It, too, was wide and flat. There was very little traffic. It would take a long time to find my dead body should I run wide in a corner. About the time I completed that thought, I passed a sign for a U.S. Army survival training facility.

I was cold. It was still fairly early and the warmth of the sun wasn't penetrating through the trees. I was wearing a long- sleeved t-shirt under my jacket. The vents in the jacket were zipped closed and the jacket liner snapped in. Under my leather pants were long johns. My leather gloves weren't keeping my fingers from getting stiff. Close to the river and in the shade of the trees, it was cold and a bit damp. Sometimes I would be in the sun and it was a little warmer, but there were so many trees I never had a chance to warm up before I was back in the shade again. As time went by and the sun began to warm things up, I was gaining altitude. I probably should have stopped to put my electric vest on, but there were few places to pull off the road.

Republic boasts a hotel with a sauna and a hot tub, according to their sign. A good thing to know if I need to stop along 20 one night. The hot tub sounded great to my chilly ears.

The road and the scenery started to get boring just east of Tonasket, and the gas in the tank was getting low. I stopped at a gas station/mini market in Tonasket. I filled the tank, then sat in the sun to eat a sandwich. By the time I was ready to leave, I was thoroughly warm for the first time all day.

Out of Tonasket and heading toward Omak, the scenery is still boring. I'm not a "dryside" person. Flat or rolling fields. Scrub and dead grasses. I can see that at home. It had warmed up, though, for which I was grateful. It was warm enough to keep me comfortable for the rest of the day.

I took 20 through Omak. A 25mph zone all the way. Yuck. The Ducati just hates going that slow. She complains at anything under about 35mph. By the time I was through town, I was ready to give my clutch hand a break and work the throttle hand instead. What traffic I did come up on was easily passed. There were very few corners with gravel in them. I was having a good time practicing "roll on the throttle through the corner" technique.

Three in the afternoon found me rolling through Twisp. Another 25mph zone. One "bad" thing about the Duc is that she's bright red and has a very distinctive exhaust note. It's impossible to sneak through a town. I feathered the clutch to keep my speed to the legal limit because there is _always_ a cop in Twisp and one in Winthrop just down the road. I gassed up here, though I wasn't particularly low on gas. I knew I could make it over the Cascade Mountains if I did. I didn't remember too many gas stations in the mountains. A couple two-up on a cruiser pulled into the gas station. The pilot asked me how I could ride "leaned over on your head like that?" I replied with my best not-quite-innocent smile and "Well, if I go fast enough, the wind holds me up." He wasn't quite sure what to make of that. :-)

I continued through Twisp and into Winthrop. Another 25mph zone. I turned left at the stop sign to follow 20. Through more flat fields and rolling hills of dead grass, through a few more small towns, and I was at my favorite section of Highway 20.

 I love mountains. Big, rocky ones covered with trees. This part of Highway 20 is the North Cascades Scenic Highway. Gorgeous. Well-paved 4-lane through some of the most beautiful mountains anywhere. The road is suitable, and signed for, people driving motorhomes. I ignored the signs for corners posted at 40mph and above. The couple of corners posted at 35mph I did pay attention to, but I slowed more than was needed. The last time I rode this highway, the lower-speed corners seemed tighter to me. This time, I was probably traveling slower -- the corners didn't seem as tight in some spots and I spent more time looking at the scenery.

It's a beautiful area. Trees grow thick up the sides of the mountains, until the rock peaks stop them. There was some snow still on the highest peaks. It was very clear even over Rainy Pass (which is almost always cloudy) and the sky was an endless deep blue. There is little along the road other than signs pointing to various camping areas, lakes, trailheads and the like. And, in late September, there was very little traffic. Just for the sake of tradition, I hit DoD nominal along one of the longer straight stretches -- and found myself grinning like an idiot inside my helmet. It was one of those rides where everything just came together perfectly. This was one of those rides I'll remember for a long time.

By the time I'd reached the bottom of the mountains, I was getting tired and needed a break. It was provided, unexpectedly, by road construction. The flagger said we'd be waiting for a while, so engines were turned off and folks got out of their cars to stretch. I saw Mary and her husband walking their little dog, so we chatted for a bit. They were headed home to somewhere near or on Whidby Island. Once on our way again I followed them for a while until I found a place to pass. It was nice to follow an older couple in a sedan and not see the brake lights come on in every corner. Rather different from the majority of the cages I'd followed.

I stayed on 20 heading west all the way to I-5, rolling past scenery as varied as the factory in Concrete and the exceptionally well-kept park in Elk Grove. On I-5 headed south, Seattle was my final destination for the day. I like northern Washington on the coast side of the mountains. It's beautiful there. I was rolling along with traffic, looking at scenery and thinking about a shower and dinner. Coming into Seattle, the skyline highlighted by water reminded me much of San Francisco. The Space Needle instead of the Transamerica tower, but much the same feel. I'd been warned about rush hour traffic, but didn't see any traffic I considered bad. Of course I could ride in the commute lane, but if traffic isn't at a complete stop in every lane of the freeway it's better than rush hour traffic where I live. I rolled through Seattle looking for a large hotel very close by. About the time I started seeing signs for Sea-Tac airport, I knew there'd be a hotel close. I took the exit posted as having an EconoLodge, but found a Holiday Inn instead. I checked in, rode The Slut around to where my room was and started carrying luggage upstairs. A couple with a teenage son parked next to me and started talking about the bike. They guessed it was from Italy. I didn't stay to talk long -- the pizza and beer they were carrying was making me hungry.

After a quick shower, I called Rebecca. I'd meet up with her tomorrow evening. I wandered down to the lobby, picked up some brochures for various local attractions and ate dinner in the dining room. It was late, so I was one of the very few people there. Had a nice conversation with the waitress. Back to the room to make a few phone calls, including checking up on John Daker. Finally crashed without waiting for the late night news.

Next: Wednesday -- the day I couldn't decide what to do....

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