Seattle To Spokane And A Lap Of Lake Coeur D'Alene
I had heard lots about the 100 Years of Motorcycles rally the past few years. The oddly named rally had took the tiny hamlet of Rosalia, Washington (population 650) for the past three years, and had begun to overwhelm it. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, it probably was, but considering friction between the promoter and the town, and a complete lack of tourist infrastructure, it was a partnership with a half-life.
So, for 2008 the 100 Years was moved to the spacious Spokane County Fairgrounds, which is easily bigger than the entire town of Rosalia. While I would have loved to ride up there from Southern California, my schedule didn't permit it, so I had to settle for a far shorter trip from Seattle. Luckily, I've got friends...including some new ones. Local builder "Dreamy" Steve Huff secured me the use of one of his customer's bikes; a Road King...with 23-inch ape hangers.
The Columbia Gorge is the last respite from flat desert on the way east.
Just about everywhere in Western Washington there are views of massive Mt Rainier.
The trip out to Spokane from the Puget Sound consists of dramatic alpine landscapes, followed by flat-ass desert. About 300 miles, of which only the first 100 is interesting. A great side trip on a journey east out of Seattle (on the west side of the Cascades) is Snoqualmie Falls; however we already covered that in Baggers, so I skipped it. However, on the east side of the Cascades, just to the north of I-90, is the hamlet of Roslyn. Better known as the fictional Cicely of the early '90s TV-series Northern Exposure, it's a very frontier-looking place with lots of rustic buildings, and best of all, some very welcoming bars and cafes like the Brick and the Roslyn Caf. It's a good destination in itself, but it wasn't ours this day.
Just east of Roslyn is Cle Elum, home of McKean's Drive-in. The archetypical greasy spoon, McKean's is the home of the best fruit shakes in Washington State. As temps on the east side of the Cascades jump by 10-15 degrees over the Seattle area, a nice cold shake was just the thing before setting out across the central Washington desert. If you were wondering about the name of the place, according to Wikipedia, it's Native American for "swift water." So close to the mountains, it was probably very accurate...at least until settlers built the Cle Elum Dam.
Roslyn, WA played Cicely, Alaska in TV's Northern Exposure.
The fabulous Davenport Hotel in Downtown Spokane was our host.
After Roslyn and Cle Elum, it all goes to crap, with farms and prairie replacing the majestic Cascades. To avoid a bit of I-90, which until then we'd been bombing along, we took SR-10 east out of Cle Elum, roughly paralleling the freeway, but with a few more twists thrown in. Route 10 turns into Vantage Hwy in Ellensberg, and winds down into the Columbia River Gorge, ending at the bottom of the canyon at Vantage, naturally. Until pulling into the slightly greener, hillier region around Spokane, this last stretch of road was the last remotely entertaining ride for the next 130 miles. From there it was full-on desert (the likes of which you'd not think to find this far north), and I-90 all the way.
Ape hangars are actually pretty cool when they're set up correctly for your height. At 6 feet-tall, I'm no shrimp, but 23s were a bit much. In the mountains and down a little two-lane, they're fine. Pounding miles on the Interstate, they sucked...especially when you have no idea how much air to put in the Legend Air Shocks and you're basically riding a rigid. Other than those two little things, the King rode like a dream. With a free-flowing air cleaner and a set of only moderately loud pipes, it got out of its own way and rolled smoothly through the miles. A slick little iPod amp system on the bike had me rolling with tunes the whole way.