The day Sean and I traveled the Great Klickitat Circle, the weather was clear and comfortable. Often in summer the heat comes down like a sledgehammer.
Blasting down deep forest hallways, a rider feels a deep sense of truly getting away from it all.
The price on this long-abandoned pump in Glendale was just over a buck a gallon. Makes you nostalgic, eh?
This laughing deer skull reminded us why we ride sober, wear full armored gear, and stay alert.
Mt. Hood shines above the great Columbia River while the 100hp Valkyrie waits for the twisties.
An advantage of riding the Columbia River Gorge (Washington Highway 14) is that a biker can stop to watch the parasailers take jumps off 4-foot rollers.
Does this road make your throttle hand twitch? If you can't bring your bike out to Washington, rent. (See sidebar.)
Klickitat Washington Circle
Motorcycles are so niche that when we purchase a bike we are also buying a lifestyle associated with the make and model. We ride Harleys because of the raw power and the company's rich history but our love of baggers stems from their connection to the open road. In an age of cookie-cutter customs, a bagger reflects the needs of riders wanting a workhorse and thoroughbred; a bike for people more interested in cruising than talking about cruisers.
We set out to cruise the ancestral lands of Klickitat Indians aboard an '08 Harley Davidson FLHX Street Glide and a powerful '00 Valkyrie Interstate. At the north end of the 50-cent toll Hood River Bridge, connecting Hood River, Oregon, to White Salmon, Washington, we began our adventure by heading west on WA14 towards the Mt. Adams Wilderness.
With the wind scratching our faces and the sun warming our leathers, we up-shifted into Sixth gear. The 96-cubic-inch engine overshadowed the Sex Pistols' "Holidays in the Sun" glaring from the Harman/Kardon stereo as we rode deeper into a land rich in folklore but lacking services.
Klickitat mythology explains the mountains surrounding their land in southern Washington originated when Supreme god Tyhee Saghalie and his sons Klickitat and Wy'east moved to the lower Columbia River. The brothers quarreled over land, so Saghalie made Klickitat move north of the river and Wy'east south to bring peace in the valley.
The fighting resumed when the brothers fell in love with a woman named Loowit. When Loowit chose Wy'east, Klickitat was so saddened, that he forever hung his head in shame. So angered by his sons quarreling, Saghalie transformed Wy'east into Mt. Hood, Loowit into Mt. St. Helens, and the saddened Klickitat into Mt. Adams, explaining the mountain's flattop.
Exploring the land Klickitat and Wy'east fought over and passing picturesque views of their eternal resting places, let us remember the old cave explorer's motto: "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time."
Columbia Gorge To BZ Corner 11 Miles
Golden grasses and emerald oaks painted the scenery as we carved north, leaving the Columbia Gorge via alternative WA141. Fifteen- to 25-mph constant-radius turns trace along the White Salmon River and paved our way into Washington's interior. A sign explained that we had "left a natural scenic area;" implying the road ahead would be sub-scenic.
Through a stop sign, we continued north following signage to BZ Corner and passed a fruit stand selling local cherries and huckleberries, for which the region is famous. Entering Husum, locals employ mailbox defenses, including steel shielding and hanging the boxes from chains to deter mailbox baseball attacks on a lackluster Friday night. With views of Mount Adams' 12,276-foot peak in sight, we throttle into BZ Corner 4 miles later.
BZ Corner To Glenwood 19 Miles
Since The Logs restaurant had stopped serving lunch, the only eatery in BZ Corner was a gas station/grocery store at the WA141/BZ Corner-Glenwood Highway junction. Sandwiches cost $3-5 and riders can fill up on food, fuel, and hydrate before heading off into the high desert. Riding east onto the BZ Corner-Glenwood Highway, little traffic and maintained pavement allowed us to set our own speed limit. We passed thickets of oak and maple trees swaying to an intermittent breeze while signs warning of cattle crossings failed to deliver as promised.
The highway threaded through pines and poplar trees that obscured the next series of 40-mph turns ahead. Entering a clearing outside of Glenwood, we found dramatic views of Mt. Adams, vultures hang-gliding overhead, and 25-mph, right-angle corners bending around property lines. Once in Glenwood, we carved east onto East Main Street. We passed an old gas station advertising the presence of a "lead anti-knock additive," while the adjacent Glenwood General Store bragged about cold drinks and $1.75 slices of pizza. We continued east, leaving Glenwood and Mt. Adams in our mirrors as East Main Street became the Glenwood-Goldendale Highway outside of town.
Glenwood To Klickitat 32 Miles
Six miles outside of Glenwood, a green sign points to an unpaved road leading visitors north to a viewpoint overlooking Klickitat Canyon. The 1/2-mile road is traversable, albeit rutted. Back on the Glenwood-Goldendale Highway, we continued east alongside amber and green ponderosa pines and a landscape painted in sun-bleached colors. In early Spring, the scenery is colored with wildflowers and swatches of green. Twenty-four-miles after leaving Glenwood, we arrived at a junction and made a soft right leading towards a stop sign before heading westbound onto WA142 towards Klickitat.
The camber-less road flicks back and forth like a metronome on full tilt, and the sparse landscape affords riders the visibility needed to carry high corner speeds. The highway lost its centerline and guardrail as we began our descent towards the valley floor, leaving nothing to block our view or catch our fall.
Constant-radii downhill turns straddle the hillside while providing views of the valley during our descent towards Klickitat River. Traffic is uncommon but vehicles did appear around corners. Previewing the road ahead helps give riders the lead-time needed to avoid accidents. Reaching the valley floor, we rode atop the banks of the Klickitat River into Klickitat, where gas and snacks are available.
Klickitat To Lyle 17 Miles
Bald eagles and red tail hawks fish for steelhead and Chinook salmon as we made our way south towards Lyle. Afforded with great visibility and considerable traction, the 30-mph corners offered us a chance to use the Street Glide's six-speed transmission. Outside of Lyle, signage explained we entered a National Scenic Area.
Lyle To The Hood River Bridge 11 Miles
We carved westbound onto WA14 back to the Hood River Bridge as an Osprey plucked fish from a lagoon adjacent the Columbia River.
Traveling 91.5 miles through southern Washington, we rejoiced knowing that lean angles and uninhabited wilderness were explored. We left only a carbon footprint and killed three hours in a land so beautiful even the gods couldn't share.
Klickitat's head still hangs in shame but the Native American tale has taught us to share what you love. Klickitat and Wy'east could not share their land, but we can share Washington's best-kept secret with our riding friends.
Sean Coker writes about and photographs motorcycles in Oregon.
Bruce Hansen is author of Motorcycle Journeys Through the Pacific Northwest (Whitehorse Press).
Begin at the north end of the Hood River Bridge, near White Salmon,Washington
WB on WA14
NB on alternative WA141/Underwood Cutoff
EB BZ Corner-Glenwood Highway
EB East Main Street/Glenwood-Goldendale Highway
WB WA14 back to the Hood River Bridge
Where To Rent A Bagger For This Ride? Bruce Hansen Tells All
If you live far from the perfect roads of Washington and Oregon, but still long to ride these magnificent roads, you can take advantage of local businesses that cater to visitors.
When it's got to be a Milwaukee bike, go to Paradise Harley. The friendly people there will make sure you get a sparkling new Harley in perfect condition. Sean and I used Paradise to get the beautiful Street Glide we photographed for this article. I suggest you buy the insurance. If a truck backs over your rental Harley while you are in getting a sandwich, you suddenly own $23,000 worth of junk. Paradise will offer to loan you a helmet and rain jacket for free, but I think you should bring your own riding gear. Be ready to pass a skills test before they turn the bike over to you. Be sure to check the website and/or call for information when planning a trip that involves motorcycle rental.
10770 SW Cascade Ave.
Tigard, OR 97223
If you want a full-service experience, contact Doug at Northwest Motorcycle Adventures. He offers fully equipped Suzuki V-Strom 650s. You have hard bags, a first aid kit, maps, jumper cables, a fuel transfer pump, and more. Some people say he also provides a latte machine. Doug can set you up with riding gear, including helmets, jackets, and pants. His outfit is at the airport. Sometimes Motojouralist Sean Corker is available for a personally guided tour of the Pacific Northwest. Ask about this service when you call.
Northwest Motorcycle Adventures
By appointment only
13150 NW Airport Way, Bldg 2
Portland, OR 97230
If your idea of a bagger is a Triumph Rocket, Ducati Multistrada, Goldwing or Harley Electra Glide, check out Oregon Motorcycle Adventures. This fine company offers 11 different bikes for rent. It also has helmet rental and discounts for rentals over five days. Ask for Pete or Janet.
Oregon Motorcycle Rentals
19093 S. Beavercreek Rd., PMB 135
Oregon City, OR 97045