Father's Day Weekend
I've been riding a BMW for six years now - first the K75S, quickly replaced by a R1150RT-P. Being a single-seater, the RTP left my now 7 1/2 year old son at home when I went on rides.
Two weeks ago, my 2012 GSA joined the RTP in the garage. The RTP is my bike, the GSA is without a doubt "John's bike". We've gone on a few half-day trips to get him acclimated to riding pillion. He's loved every minute and has acted responsibly at every opportunity to act irresponsibly on the back of the new bike.
Last week, I asked him if he felt up to going on an over-night moto-camping trip with me. I laid out all the down-sides for a kid his age:
1. No mommy.
2. Committed to spending lots of time on the back of the bike as we cross the Cascade crest to find reliable dry riding and camping on the dry side of the curtain in Central Washington.
3. If the weather does go bad, or you decide you want to go home, it takes a long time to get there - and through the bad weather if that's the reason we're bailing for home.
He's been tent camping his entire life, so he's fine with the outdoor part. It's the being outside on a motorcycle for extended periods of time - and not falling asleep while riding - that were my pre-trip concerns.
We had plans to meet friends for breakfast Saturday morning, so that meant a late start. We finally left home north of Seattle at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, heading down I-405 towards Bellevue and I-90 east towards Snoqualmie Pass.
The weather on the wet side of the Cascades got moister the closer we got to the summit of the pass. We'd planned on stopping to fill the tank in North Bend, but the trip computer said I had another 120 miles left in the tank, and it was only another 45 miles to Snoqualmie Pass. So we pressed on.
It was raining at Snoqualmie Pass as we filled up with 89 octane. From the 3000' summit, we could see the puffy white clouds and blue skies to the east, confirming the reasoning behind our plans for heading east. Within 10 minutes of further travel, the rain abated and the clouds dissipated.
Just a few miles short of Cle Elum, I got the three taps on my shoulder, meaning my passenger had an issue that needed addressing at my first safe opportunity to pull over. As I was planning to stop for food and provisions in Cle Elum, I nodded my head in acknowledgement and we rode in to town.
A quick lunch at a burger joint followed by a stop at the adjacent Safeway for root beer for John, regular beer for Dad, and deli sandwiches and chips for dinner at camp later allowed us to get back on the road, headed for the N. Fork of the Teanaway River. After ten minutes of slogging through Cle Elum, the speed limits rose and we continued the 15 miles along SR 907 towards the Teanaway Rd., where we turned west and headed in to the Cascade Mountains. After approximately 15-20 miles, the pavement ends and the dirt and gravel begins. Another five miles of dirt brought us to the Beverly Campground, our home for the evening.
We set up camp and then enjoyed our dinner while rain showers teased us with occasional drops. We went and threw rocks and sticks into the river, and neighboring campers let John borrow a gold pan so he could try to earn his keep on the trip. Finally dusk came around 9 pm, and John started exhibiting signs of being ready for bed.
Panning for gold
I was concerned that the large group of twenty-somethings camped at the end of the campground would party all night long, but they drank so much so fast they were all passed out by 10 pm! All we had as background noise was the sound of the river splashing through the rapids.
I awoke the next morning to the sounds of John stirring in the tent. When I opened my eyes, John was there, waiting for me to wake up so he could proudly say "Good morning, Daddy - Happy Father's Day!". That made the whole trip for me!
Breaking camp Sunday morning
We got dressed, packed up, ate a few cereal bars to keep us going, and rode back to Cle Elum for a proper breakfast at The Cottage Cafe, one of those places you hope to know about in every town you pass through. Reliable food, friendly service, and no franchise or corporate chain. After a hearty breakfast of Eggs Benedict for me and scrambled eggs, sausage and pancakes for John, we got back on the bike and headed towards the Teanaway River area for a second time. This time, we passed the Teanaway River Road and continued along 907 until it joins with and becomes US 97. US 97 rises up and over Blewett Pass.
On the flats before the ascent to the pass, there was a line of three cars and a large motorhome clogging the two-laned highway. Dotted yellow lines and five miles of arrow-straight pavement made passing them a breeze. Also a breeze was the 30 mph tailwind that kept things relatively quiet as we passed the string of slower vehicles. Thanks to the wind, I had no idea we were going 90 mph until I looked down at my speedo as I merged back into my lane. Then my radar detector started flashing lights, and I began looking around for other flashing lights. I don't know what set off the detector, but my heart rate settled down to normal after a few minutes.
After making the pass around the slower vehicles, we encountered no one ahead of us until we reached the summit of Blewett Pass. Miles and miles of beautiful sweeping mountain curves with no one else to slow us down! We paused for the obligatory photo at the pass, and then continued down US 97 to the junction with US 2.
We turned left/west and headed towards the quaint Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, where I got three taps on my shoulder. At a red light, I was informed that it was time for a potty stop, so we pulled into the gas station at Icicle Junction at the west end of town.
Once the pit stop was complete, we began the journey up towards Stevens Pass. The ride through Tumwater Canyon along the Wenatchee River was amazing, as alpine snow melt is in full swing and the river was roaring through the canyon. Hanging waterfalls spraying jets of white water high on mountain cliffsides contributed to the overload of scenery. It wasn't just the Wenatchee River that was at high flow. Every river and stream we encountered anywhere along the trip was full and loud with melting snow.
As we worked our way up to Stevens Pass, the sun began to disappear and the temperature began to drop. Soon the rain showers began. We stopped for a photo at the pass, but also to put on a fleece layer under the riding jackets, and so I could switch to the waterproof gloves.
Seconds after leaving the summit and heading down, the deluge began in earnest. Sheets of water were flowing across the road. Fortunately, a construction project narrowed four lanes into two, and the resulting traffic slow-down brought speeds down to ridiculously safe levels. After a few miles of rain, it slowly died out as we descended further down the Skykomish River valley. By the time we reached the town of Skykomish, the rain had stopped.
The remaining hour or so of riding down US 2 and into civilization was uneventful.
John was an amazing passenger on the bike, and we never had any issues with safety, comfort, gear, or equipment. He said he had a great time, and he says he can't wait to go again - so we've planned another one in two weeks!