(2009) Kootenays

The Borscht Burn – A Visit With Old Friends

I was hoping for “one last fling” on Canadian roads and with Canadian friends before I left the west coast, and I just managed to squeak it in. The training schedule for the person taking over my position required that I be present on Monday the 27th, and for some reason, I was unable to take off the full week before that. Much to my chagrin, Dan would have three extra travel days after I had to be home, so for once the tables were turned and it was me who would sit home alone while he scampered about on his motorcycle. I took the three days off work allotted me and with Dan’s help, planned a whirlwind tour of some of the best roads in BC and meeting up with some of my best friends in BC. Somehow, we’d make it work.

It should be noted that some of the photos (ok, a LOT of the photos) were taken with my “on the fly” camera. That means poor composition, low quality and usually a gloved finger shadowing the corner. I really need to return to my habit of stopping for the photos that I really want.

July 21-26, 2009
Total Miles: 2,740
Mountain View, CA – Castlegar, BC
Map Link

It was Tuesday night and we were ready to head north. Dan and I checked the traffic cameras and decided to wait a little longer before heading off into the East Bay traffic and heat. Sure, the motorcycles can lane split between the stopped cars, but when you’re carrying metal panniers on both sides of your bike, you tend to feel a little wider than usual. And the sun had been baking the land all day, always warmer in the Central Valley, creating a mini Death Valley to ride though. So the relenting sun was getting low in the horizon when we scooted up around Livermore and the exit for Sacramento. Night had already fallen by the time we passed Willows and Red Bluff, finally taking a turn at Redding to find a room for the night. Surprisingly, it was almost midnight before we got our room and hauled our gear inside. Getting through the East Bay area and progressing up the always-dull I-5 in the dark of night, we had made a great start to our trip.

We got up fairly early the next morning and began the surprisingly humid and warm slog north on I-5. The Siskiyou Mountains were a pleasant diversion, as well as Lake Shasta, the Shasta Dam and of course, Mt. Shasta itself. We eventually ran out of mountains and were on the arrow-straight stretch of I-5 that slices north through western Oregon. I really don’t mind the monotony of a road like this, but I do feel very wasteful of the new rear tire I had just put on. Nothing squares off a motorcycle tire faster than a straight road and high speeds.

null
Riding by Shasta Lake

null
Climbing into the Siskiyou Mountains

null
Riding up I-5

null
Hops along the road to McMinnville

Dan saved us from more I-5 by taking an exit to McMinnville. We were to stop and see the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (also known as the Spruce Goose Museum) along the way. He followed his GPS and I followed him as we meandered though fertile lands. Hops were climbing heavenward on their delicate trellis, while corn stood tall, a deep rich green against the blue sky. We had a pleasant surprise when we realized that our GPS was taking us to a very small ferry. The metal platform could hold 9 cars and, lucky for us, two motorcycles, as we squeezed on just before it left the shore. It was a quick trip, the Yamhill River not being terribly wide or rough. The propulsion was unusual in the fact that it was an overhead cable ferry, the likes of which I hadn’t seen previously.

The Spruce Goose Museum wasn’t far from the ferry and it wasn’t long before we were cramming our gear on the bikes as we prepared to escape the heat inside one of the modern wood and glass buildings that housed the various displays. The building that we would enter contains primarily the Spruce Goose as well as an extensive variety of smaller aircraft, ranging from the Wright Brothers’ replica to WWII bombers. We walked around the displays for about an hour, taking in most of what was offered (link to those photos are here). Now it was time to boogie north. We had Portland rush hour traffic to contend with, all of southern Washington and then north past Seattle to Lynnwood, where we’d stay with friends that night.

Portland traffic was worse than I ever anticipated. The sun was broiling me in my gear and traffic was stopped. We were on what should have been a pleasant country road, but construction and a stop light, somewhere up ahead, kept us from moving at more than a snail’s pace. We finally broke out of the traffic and reached I-5, only to stop again as we snaked our way though the city bypass. What should have taken 15 minutes took an hour. My left wrist was killing me, having to constantly hold in my not-so-light clutch lever. I stared longingly at the slight space between vehicles, knowing full well that I’d fit but also knowing that Dan would never follow me. Illegal or not, I was frustrated enough to take my chances with the Oregon State Patrol. Besides, I imagined someone calling in my plate and as soon as they read “California” the officer would just throw up his hands and say “oh, one of THEM!” But I never got the chance to take my chance, instead cursing inside my helmet at the stupidity of the other 49 states for not allowing lane splitting.

We got a bit of a respite when we reached the HOV lane on the other side of the Columbia River, but that only lasted a few miles before it petered out. We finally reached the open road and made good time into Seattle, just in time to watch the sunset behind the Olympic Mountains as the city’s skyscrapers reflected back the fiery red light.

Lynnwood wasn’t much further north and we arrived at our friends Chris and Jen’s house just in time to be whisked off to a late dinner with them. We were too tired to stay up late (they had to go to work in the morning as well) and we made a short evening of it.

null
Ferry across the Yahill River

null
Just squeezed onto the ferry

null
An overhead cable to guide the ferry

null
Chickens!

null
Seattle at sunset

Jen had already left when Dan and I got up that morning so Chris saw us off. The plan was finally kick back and relax a little, enjoying some of the more entertaining roads ahead of us. We started by getting back on I-5, but only as far as Arlington, WA, a mere 40 minutes north. The sky was heavy above us and the temperature was blissfully cool. We took Hwy 9 north though the small towns of Sedro Woolley, Acme and Nooksack. We stopped in Acme for breakfast at a small place that I knew of from rides through the area when I was a “local”. Acme only consists of four buildings, so finding the restaurant wasn’t difficult. The food was as good as I remembered it.

null
Heading north on Hwy 9 near Sedro Wooley

null
Farm south of Acme, WA

null
Lunch in Acme

null
Downtown Acme

Dan and I enjoyed the rest of the ride north, crossing the border at Sumas/Abbotsford and then turning east on Hwy 3 towards Hope. The sky was still overcast but it never rained on us and the road remained clean and dry for our trip. The ride into Hope was beautiful as always, as the highway nestles itself between towering, tree-covered mountains. If only there was brilliant sunshine to glisten off the rock faces to really show Dan what this area could look like. Even though Dan is Canadian, he had never been to British Columbia. It was part of my plan to show him how beautiful this province is and why I enjoy riding through it.

North of Hope we continued to follow the road, now Hwy 1, in the shadows of the Fraser River valley. Or there would have been shadows if the sun had come out. Instead, we were stopped by some road construction and had a good 15 minute wait before we’d move again. Just as the controller gave us our “five minute” notice, it started to rain. We sat on our bikes, thankfully at the front of the line and were once again on our way.

As Dan put it while stopped at the construction site: “There’s too much to take in!” The rushing Fraser River far below us, the towering mountains above us, bridges, train tracks following the river, small towns, the curving road itself…it was all new to him. Whereas for myself, I’d been on this road at least a dozen times and had to remind myself that he was taking in things I’d seen before, even though that made them no less beautiful. The landscape eventually softened slightly and the trees thinned out considerably. The raw rock faces gained a vibrant hue that became as visually stimulating as the forests were earlier. We made a quick stop at Hell’s Gate, but didn’t ride the tram to the other side. We checked out the gift shop before leaving, a small postcard the only thing that left with us.

null
Farms along Hwy 3 in BC

null
A quick stop in Hope, BC

null
Views along the Fraser River

null
Stopped for construction

null
Construction “worker”

null
The Fraser River

null
Parking lot near Hell’s Gate Air Tram

Other than an infrequent RV, nothing interrupted our ride as we sailed into the community of Spences Bridge. There is an Inn there that I truly enjoy stopping at, where the proprietor has homemade pastries and soups to eat while looking over the Thompson River. As we prepared to enter the Inn for a tasty pastry or two, an older BMW motorcycle pulled up, it’s driver and passenger greeting us as they got off the bike. We didn’t talk to them much, but we did gather that they spoke primarily French. We all finished our meals at the same time and they left just ahead of us, heading in the same direction that we were: towards Merritt via Hwy 8. This is indeed my favorite road in all of British Columbia.

With Dan somewhere behind me, I followed the Quebecois couple for a while, but was having too much fun with the “on the fly” camera to really take the corners as hard as I could have and keep up with them. Instead I tried to visually document what it is about this road that I like, even though I know that can never truly be done. By the time I rolled up to the junction of 8 and 97C, I could see Dan’s headlight in my mirrors. We took the rest of Hwy 8 into Merritt, a nice casual pace to end the day. As I made the final turn to the center of town, I was surprised to see the Quebecois couple just getting off their bike in front of the Coldwater Hotel, the same place that we had planned to stay at.

After some laughing and smiles, we went inside and each took a room, with our room being the same one that I had stayed in three years ago. It was just as jumbled as ever, with a variety of furniture styles and levels of usefulness. But the shower was hot, the bed was clean and the remote control worked. We didn’t need much more than that. After we cleaned up, we went for an unsuccessful walk to find dinner. Instead, we found that Merritt’s fame as “country music capitol of BC” was proudly shown all around the town. We discovered the “Walk of Stars” and many large murals scattered around the downtown streets. The local industry appears to be lumber and with the lack of robustness in this sector, the town was showing this. We ended up eating at the hotel which turned out to be a most excellent choice. The burger was fresh and handmade and tasted better than any I’ve had in a long time. Tasty French fries, a crisp salad and friendly service accompanied the burger and I was very satisfied. The waitress said that their steaks are even better. I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.

That night I woke up to the sound of vague rain drops splattering the air conditioner outside of our room. I was hoping for dry conditions to become dominant, as I really wanted Dan to experience British Columbia for all it had. By the time we got up and packed the bikes, the sun was peaking weakly through the eastern clouds and the heavy sky to the north looked daunting. Fortunately we were going almost directly east and we set off with little fanfare, leaving the Québécoise’s motorcycle sitting alone by the curb.

null
The Inn at Spences Bridge

null
Canadian railcar

null
The Nicola River along Hwy 8

null
Heading down the #8

null
Cemetery near Dot, BC

null
About mid-way between Spences Bridge and Merritt

null
Still enjoying #8

null
Coldwater Hotel in Merritt

We had a full day in front of us, with the first part being the most adventurous: we were to cross through Douglas Lake Ranch, British Columbia’s largest privately-owned cattle ranch. I’d been through it a couple of times, always under the gentle beams of a warm sun, but today wasn’t to be like that. The recent heavy rains had been persistent and what they had left behind was unknown.

What I knew of the road was that while most of it was gravel, there were long parts of pure packed dirt. And with this weather, I questioned what kind of condition that dirt would be in. We found out within two miles of leaving Hwy 5A. The road climbed quickly up the hillside, the steepness easing off as the pavement ended. Good, solid gravel greeted us but was soon interrupted by thick, gooey mud. Our street tires slide around in it. At one point we avoided a thick mire by riding off-road around it, taking our chances with rocks and holes in the brush along side. After coming to another soupy mix, I stopped. Dan and I had agreed that if the conditions weren’t up to our liking, we’d have no problems turning around. I suggested to Dan that now would be a good time to turn around. Sure, we *could* get through, but how long would it take? We still had a full day’s riding in front of us and this delay would cost us.

null
Early morning views of 5A

null
Heading up towards Douglas Lake

null
Dramatic clouds back toward Merritt

null
Slick mud along the way to Douglas Lake

null
I almost lost it back there

null
Smiling for the camera

We turned around and rolled/slid back through the mud, reaching the pavement again with most of the day in front of us. Fortunately, 5A north of Merritt is a fine stretch of pavement and we quickly wore the mud off our tires as we sped past some quiet lakes and bare hillsides. A final set of tight corners led us up and out of the valley and onto the ridgeline that marks the southern border of Kamloops. It was time for Tim Horton’s!

null
Back down to 5A

null
Farmland along the way

null
Tim Hortons in Kamloops – but what’s that in the window?

null
“My precious”

A fairly quick stop for hot chocolate and donuts (mmmm – Boston Crème with chocolate icing!) and then we were on our way, slogging along the rather industrial and uninteresting Hwy 1 as it cut east towards Salmon Arm. But before we could get that far, we dropped southeast on 97 towards Vernon. While not quite as scenic as 5A, it was an appreciated replacement for Hwy 1. Hwy 97 is nothing but farmland and singed trees. The forest was making a good recovery from the fires that had raged through there in 2003. I was glad that we hadn’t dallied too long in the mud of Douglas Lake. We still had Hwy 6, a ferry and then yet more Hwy 6 to traverse before we would get to our destination: Castlegar and our friend Jim’s house. In our dash across 97 we made good time, pulling into – and right through – Vernon just after noontime

null
Farmland along 97 near Falkland

null
Church along 97 near Falkland

East of Vernon, Hwy 6 starts at a sedate pace: traffic and small towns keep the speeds down, allowing time to ogle the farmlands and wish that the weather was nicer for better visibility of the distant mountains. But soon enough the towns were gone, the traffic had turned off and the road was in the mountains themselves. We stopped in the town of Lumby for a break and a fuel stop, only to be practically surrounded by very old but very mechanically sound motorcycles. In talking with a couple of riders, we learned that the Velocette Motorcycle Club was having their national rally nearby. This explained the high number of classic motorcycles we had been seeing all morning. It was amazing to think that these bikes were on the road (and running) and covering the distances that they were, even after 50 years. There are some photos posted here of the bikes we saw.

The highway turned into a two-lane tour of pristine tree-covered mountains. Views were infrequent; instead my eyes were limited to the seductive curves laid out before me. Alpine lakes, rushing creeks and colorful wildflowers kept me company as I bombed my way up and down mountain passes. Sometimes the road twisted almost painfully along the edge of a steep cliff wall, while other times it stretched itself out like a cat in the sun.

The roller coaster came to a slow end, taking a long time to reach the shores of Arrow Lake and the small cable ferry that crosses it. Our timing was perfect and we managed to squeeze our bikes onto the deck just before it was ready to leave the dock. A top-heavy logging truck swayed precariously as the ferry crossed in a steady wind, but the boat was stable and our bikes didn’t shift. A couple of passengers stopped to talk with us about our bikes and even offered to take our picture together. The trip was so short that Dan didn’t get a chance to enjoy the workings of the ferry nor the long views up and down the lake. Instead, we were soon on our way up the other bank for a quick stop at the local grocery store before completing the last leg of the day’s journey.

null
Heading up Hwy 6 out of Vernon, BC

null
Hwy 6 heading for Needles, BC

null
Dan leads us down to the Needles ferry

null
Riding the ferry

null
Here we are!

The ride north from the ferry landing at Fauquier always surprises me with how relatively dull it is compared the trip from Vernon. But what it lacks in road-type technicalities it makes up for in visual beauty. The pavement matches the lake’s shoreline until it reaches the quaint town of Nakusp, where it then takes a radical turn inland, racing up and into the mountains again. As we passed the town of New Denver we stayed south instead of taking the awesome, but much longer, detour across 33A to Kaslo. Instead, we followed along the banks of Slocan Lake, the road perched high above the water but still far below the towering mountains. I’m always amazed at how I can ride for literally days in southern BC and still be riding through impressive mountain ranges. As we rolled towards the town of Slocan I noticed that the clouds that had been decorating the sky all day had become ominous. They were that sickly brown color that indicates rain – and not just a sprinkle, but a downpour. I saw roughly five drops of rain hit my visor, marveling over their incredible individual size, when the rest of the sky opened up. The landscape was sodden within seconds. I looked in vain for a place to pull over, as I knew that while I would stay dry in my waterproof gear, Dan was following me in mesh riding gear – something that would soak through faster than the rain could fall. But the side of the road consisted of a thin strip of pavement and then a very long drop to the lake, not a good place to pull over in any kind of weather. Eventually the road pulled away from the lake and the shoulders got wider. I pulled over to see if Dan wanted to put on his rain gear. It was probably a futile gesture, but chose to err on the side of caution. Dan kept on riding; apparently he was already soaked and figured that rain gear would be superfluous at that point. It was better to just get there and get changed. I caught up to him and the weather cleared up as we neared the bustling town of Castlegar.

null
Riding north along Arrow Lake

null
Continuing along Hwy 6

null
Crossing over towards New Denver

null
Passing the tourists

null
Views along Slocan Lake

The evening was spent eating brats and beer and homemade borscht, sitting around and talking about everything from motorcycles to zippers. The crowd slowly diminished as guests staying elsewhere made their way out. Eventually the few left said good night to our hosts and it was time to hit the sack.

That Saturday morning was a little hectic, as there were a few different rides going out at different times and from different starting points. I felt a little special, as there was an “early dirt ride” heading out just because of my particular travel time constraints. But most of the dirt riders chose to go on that ride, so it must not have been a bad idea after all. There is a whole new set of pictures from that ride over here, if you’re interested.
We arrived at Christina Lake just in time for an early lunch and by the time Dan and I were ready to hit the road, it was noon. Here is where our paths would separate and our trips would take radically different directions. Together we rode south the short distance to the border. Our crossing was unremarkable and we continued south along Roosevelt Lake to Kettle Falls. There, in a damp parking lot, we pulled over to say farewell. Dan would stay on the road until Wednesday afternoon, while I would return home in time to be at work on Monday. I was excited for Dan to explore on his own and see things that he hadn’t seen before. I wasn’t as excited about my ride. I knew that I had about 1,000 miles of mostly straight, mostly desert road to cross in the next day and a half.

As soon as I left Dan it started to rain. The next half hour was spent in a light drizzle, just enough to keep the roads wet and my speeds not as quite as fast as I wanted. But eventually the rain diminished and I was left with clouds – lots of high, fluffy and beautiful clouds. Living in California, I rarely see clouds anymore and it is a big piece of the weather that I miss from living in Seattle. I tried to enjoy the overhead scene as much as possible before it eventually petered out over the dry deserts that I’d reach soon enough.

The ride down Hwy 25 was pleasant and relaxing. It’s not a demanding road and the views were pleasing, if not a little sedate. The lake (still Lake Roosevelt) was rather non-descript and the trees consistently covered the rolling hills. Despite the fact that I have dozens of maps at home, for some reason I didn’t bring any of Washington State. But now I realized that I didn’t know the eastern roads quite as well as I thought I did, so I stopped to pick up a map at a gas stop. Now I could visually see the spider web of road options before me and which one would best lead me on a fairly direct (but not I-5) route home.

null
Heading south along Hwy 25 in Washington

null
Central Washington

null
Clouds! Glorious clouds!

The route stuttered slightly as I worked my way through the northern farmlands of the Palouse, Washington State’s rolling and rich fertile lands, before opening up to wide vistas of golden grains and chocolate-colored soil. A brief stint on I-90 quickly dropped me off on 395, my intended route for almost the entire rest of the trip.

I was tired. Despite using my new ear buds and iPod to distract me, I was ready for a break. The wind was hot and blowing, the sky was hidden behind a vague, dull curtain of clouds and the road was fast and boring. I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes. I found a rest stop near Connell that provided some soft green grass and tall, shade-bearing trees. I took off my helmet and stretched out on the grass for a few minutes, enjoying the solitude but still recognizing that it was hot out and I had many more miles to go.

null
Fertile fields in the Palouse

null
Long roads cut through Washington

null
Getting closer to the Columbia River

null
The Columbia River

Back on the road, I eventually reached and skipped by Kennewick and Pasco. Skirting to the east to head more directly to Pendleton, OR, I indulged myself in a little “back road therapy” and took Hwy 37, diving deep into hill country before spitting me out unexpectedly into the heart of Pendleton. A quick fuel stop (complete with directions on how to get back on 395) and I was once again on my way.

null
Mint! Acres of mint! Oh did that smell good

null
Back road detour to Pendleton, OR

null
It was a really good detour – this is the tail end or it

null
Lone barn along the way

The afternoon sun sank slowly to the west as I enjoyed first the open fields of northeastern Oregon and then the sharp contrast of the ___________ Scenic Area. The sharp corners, thick trees and peek-a-boo views were a welcome change to the dry desert I’d been seeing for the previous three hours. When I passed by the turnoff for Ukiah I realized that I would re-tracing a route that Dan and I had been on for our first long-distance motorcycle ride. Still, heading in the opposite direction over a year later left lots of surprising scenery. The road wound easily along a river that had cut its way deep into the hills, limiting my views to the gentle corners ahead of me and the trees towering on either side. Traffic had been very light all day, passing a car here and there as I reached them. Here, I caught up to two other motorcyclists, obviously out for a more casual ride than I was. They weren’t very helpful in letting me pass, so on a fairly open curve I rolled on the BMW’s throttle and blew by them, cutting over the line as I left them behind. Once again, I had the road to myself.

I finally reached John Day, where the motel situation seemed to be less than available for getting a room. Instead, I confirmed with the gas station that it was only about an hour’s ride to Burns, OR and figured I’d just do a final “push” to get there, hoping that the dying daylight would hold.

As soon as I headed out of John Day I was stuck behind a truck. He lumbered up the grade as I watched sexy corners slip by my wheels. I was still listening to my music (this is the first trip I had music for in over 10 years – the novelty hadn’t worn off yet) so I tried to enjoy my time and speculated on the agricultural supplies on the flatbed in front of me. With time, the road offered me a way around the truck and I was free again. A long valley led to a quick, switched-backed rise up over a pass where I was surprised by some peculiar clouds in the hills: forest fires. I was close enough to see the line of smoke from the leading edge of the fire but fortunately the road was not closed and I was able to keep riding.

Trees crowded the road from both sides and as the sun slunk further down to the west I was very concerned about deer. There’s no way to really avoid a deer as they are fast, unpredictable and often invisible before they jump in to your path. The best I could hope for was a fast ride into Burns before I lost all light. The forest never did give way to open space and the sunset was nice, although not spectacular. In a dusky twilight I rode through the entire town of Burns, determined not to pick a chain motel, but even more determined not to turn around when I realized that I had come to the end of my options. A lovely and well-appointed room was soon mine and I had a relaxing evening to myself.

null
Riding through Oregon on 395

null
Forest fire south of John Day

null
Fun with the late day sun

I awoke at 6am the next morning, compliments of the Harleys that revved their bikes outside my window as they prepared to leave. The GPS kept insisting that I head west to I-5 and then south to home. There was no way I‘d fall for that trick. I kept south on 395, still debating on just when to cross over into the Bay Area. I guessed that probably the most fun and comfortable route would be down to Reno and then up and over Donner Pass on I-80. I headed south again on 395 and the terrain was 180 degrees different from what I had ridden through last night. I was amazed that Oregon can require a 55mph speed limit on a stretch of road that goes to the horizon with nothing other than sagebrush to look at. Mindful of the ruling that any vehicle caught doing more than 20mph over the limit can be impounded, I flew along at 85, enjoying the brisk pace. A story that the front desk clerk told me last night about a driver hitting a black cow on the road that night was brought back to mind as I passed the very large carcass of a black cow along the side of the road. Maybe 55mph wasn’t such a bad idea, at least at night.

null
Heading south into Chanderler State Park

null
Lake Albert in Chandler State Park, Oregon

null
Lakeview, Oregon

null
Countryside in northern California

null
Horseback riders go by while in Standish, CA

null
An unusual fence along 395

Once I reached the southern border of Oregon I was again on a route that I had previously been on with Dan. Most recently, it was while I was on the VFR that I delivered from Reno to Seattle in June. Back then, the weather had been cool and damp and rather dismal. Today it was hot, bright and relatively bland. I continued to curse the heat, as it made me sleepy and I could feel droplets of sweat trickle down my back. Salty sweat formed on my face, drying quickly when I lifted the visor for a while and then another layer would materialize when I closed it again.

In northern California almost ran out of gas. I had been pushing my mileage and figured that I could make it to Susanville. But just south of Alturas the reserve light went on. I still had a couple of bars left on the fuel gauge and figured I could do it. As I approached Litchfield I seriously wondered about the wisdom of pushing it in the hot, dry high desert when walking or waiting for help would be miserable. Two miles past Litchfield in the tiny junction of Standish, I found a gas station and after filling up the bike (hey! I still had a gallon of gas!) I gave myself a break inside the air conditioned store. Now it was time for the final push home.

I chose to stay on 395 through Reno, reasoning that the heat of Nevada would be negated by the cool temperatures of Donner Pass and the high speed of the highway would get me home that much faster. I was very wrong, at least about the temperatures and speeds over the pass.
Reno was indeed hot – not quite 100* – but at least I could keep moving. The signage is good on the interstate system and it was a quick couple of turns before I was on I-80 and heading for the relief of the mountains.

null
Horrendous traffic on I-80 west of Reno

As soon as the road crossed the NV/CA border, I realized that my ideals were set too high. Traffic was not about to open up and in fact, due to construction, the east-bound lanes were down to a single lane and at least three miles of stopped traffic. At least I was still moving. As the two lanes of traffic on my side of the median kept moving, I kept waiting for it to open up. But what I found was that while the semis rode in the right lane, chugging slowly up the pass, the RVs were trying to pass them on the left, chugging almost as slowly up the pass. The auto traffic piled up behind them. And once the RV moved over, the pace picked up slightly, but none of the cars would ever move back to the right lane, as though fearing that they would never be able to change lanes again. I cursed repeatedly in my helmet about the stupidity of other drivers and the limited relief I was feeling by taking this route. At one point, traffic had slowed down to almost a standstill. I couldn’t take it any more. Beyond the heat and frustration, the bike was running hot. I had to keep moving. I gleefully employed that “not illegal” maneuver allowed in California: lane splitting. I very carefully made my way between pick-up trucks, RVs and semis, taking care in the narrow lanes. This helped my mental state incredibly and I think the motorcycle appreciated it as well.

The rest of the pass was still clogged with traffic but we were at least moving at a decent clip. The views were, as always, beautiful but this time I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get home and I was finally getting close. But then I got to Sacramento.

Traffic was stopped. The heat was unbearable and the sun was intense. I immediately started to lane split, relishing the politeness of cars as they sidled out of my way when they saw me coming. And then I reached the Harley rider. He too was trying to lane split, but he was afraid that his bike wouldn’t fit. Naturally from my perspective I could see that he would, but he just didn’t get it. I was directly behind him and he kept checking his mirrors, refusing to move over to allow me by. Apparently, if he couldn’t fit then I – on my big BMW with Touratec panniers – would never fit. I rode his rear wheel for a while, hoping that he’d get the message and let me by. Finally, a slight break in the traffic gave me the option of jumping directly into the right lane, passing him and then darting up between the lanes before he even had a chance to react. I wasted no time in leaving him behind to fumble with his throttle.

The rest of the ride home was smooth. I came upon two more Harleys who wouldn’t split nor let me pass, but again I was able to circumvent them and continue on my merry way. I reached home at a surprisingly early hour, making me almost at a loss for what to do with the rest of my weekend.

Tell me what you think! I want to know!