Monday, May 29, 2006

To Hell's Canyon and Back

Thursday May 18th was the beginning of our first Harley adventure for the riding season.  We met our friends at Bellingham Harley Davidson at 8:45 AM and departed at 10:00 AM for our destination in the Tri-Cities area, staying in Richland, Washington for the evening.  We left with seven bikes and three were two- up (Mike and Jeannie Gilbert, Dawn and Dave Johnson, Dave Nichols, Ken and Michelle Thompson, John Dunne, and Larry and Billie Marrs) for the Hell’s Canyon rally in Oregon, with our HOG leader, Mike Kennard, waving goodbye to us.  The rest of our chapter group, including Mike, left on Friday morning.

It was sunny 500 weather as we headed down I-5 with Mike Gilbert as road captain and Dave Johnson riding sweep.  We stopped in Sultan for lunch at the Dutch Cup then headed over the pass to Leavenworth and Wenatchee where we peeled off some of our warm weather clothes and made a couple of extra stops for water in the 1130 heat.  We rode south to Richland but before we could get there we endured dust storms, wind reaching 50 mph, rain, sleet, hail, and barely visible conditions.  I kept thinking tornados and found out when we finally reached our hotel that everyone else was thinking the same thing.  There was nowhere to hide so we kept riding through the miserable conditions. The bright spot was that in a quick stop to grab jackets and rain gear, Jeff and Carlene Veltman, who left a little later in the day, had caught up to us and joined our group for the final miles.

We checked in, took quick showers, hung up our wet clothes, and walked across the parking lot to Margaritas for a wonderful Mexican dinner, some relaxing conversation before saying good night and getting some much needed sleep.  When my head hit the pillow, I was out.

Friday morning most of us slept in, consumed the complementary continental breakfast, dressed in our rain gear because of those dark clouds hovering above, drove to Starbucks for a wake up jolt, then hit the road by 11:00 AM for the short ride to the Washington-Oregon border.  We arrived to find Rita and Dave Bode already at the meeting place, so we gassed up the bikes, checked in with the Friday group by cell phone and decided to eat without them, since they were about an hour out, and get back on the road.  Someone had their cd player still playing on their bike and Larry danced me around the parking lot to the sway of the music.  Just as we were ready to ride out for the final leg of our journey, the 2nd group arrived, so we exchanged hellos and good byes and our group was down the road again on our way south on highway 84 on the eastern side of Oregon into Baker City while the 2nd group stopped to eat.  (The Friday group, Mike and Cis Kennard, Dick and Barbara Wells, Larry Brown, Rick Huggins, Roger and Dottie Schneidereit, Tina and Richard Roemmele left Bellingham Starbucks at Sehome at 6:00 AM for the long ride straight through to the rally.)

While chapter members arrived on different days and were scattered between several motels and hotels, the town of Baker City is small so we were only blocks away from each other.  We found Candie and Sky Dartt and Ron Johnson and his brother Jay, and everyone had dinner at Barley Browns Brew Pub.  We had to sit in three separate groups but everyone had a great time laughing and enjoying the evening among friends.  I had the Angry Chicken Salad:  grilled onions and bell peppers, hot pepper flakes, grilled chicken, feta cheese, served hot over romaine lettuce with a warm Caesar dressing.

Most of the group met up at the Oregon Trail Restaurant for breakfast on Saturday where Bonnie and Bob Halstead joined us and then we split up in groups choosing to ride to the dam, the interruptive center, or just relax in town.  We went with the group to the interruptive center, lunch in Richland, OR., then back to Baker City for a little shopping.

Saturday evening the party started in the Kennard’s hotel room where most of the group gathered for some sort of cold drink before the evening festivities started.  We had wrist bands as proof of registration and for that we received a pin, free tacos on Saturday night, and entry into the bike show if you wanted to enter your bike.  2500 bikers were expected for this event and our own Jeannie Gilbert won first place in the trike division.  We walked back to the Oregon Trail Restaurant for dinner and some of us went to the Veltman’s penthouse suite for a last Hoo Ra with the group before heading home the next day.

Morning came to fast and it was breakfast by 7:00AM. Everyone already anticipated the coming rain and we all dressed in our rain gear before pulling out and heading for home by 8:00 AM Sunday morning.  We crisscrossed paths with several groups during the morning.  Larry and I rode back with Jeannie and Mike Gilbert to Kennewick where we stopped for lunch together.  They stayed behind to spend a little time drying out their clothes and visiting with their daughter and grandbabies while Larry and I headed off to Yakima to meet up with Cis and Mike Kennard.

We pulled up in front of “Howard House” the Victorian home Cis and Mike own and received the grand tour.  The home was their former beauty school which has now moved down the street.  We were relaxing when we heard that familiar rumble of pipes--John Dunne and Rick Huggins had pulled up out front.  They had seen Larry and me go by while they were stopped for lunch and just drove down the road looking for our bike.  Cis and I walked to the local Mexican food store for snacks and drinks then we all watched and laughed at Mike’s favorite internet videos.  We walked through the alley to Black Angus for a dinner of appetizers, salads, steaks, and dessert.  The weather had cleared and everyone enjoyed the early evening on the third floor deck.  

I woke Monday morning to the thunder of JD and Rick’s pipes as they left about 7:00 AM for their journey home.  Cis and Mike were at work at the beauty school so Larry and I packed up our bags and waited for them to return.  Breakfast at Mels, a few stops to try and find a warm sweatshirt for me (no luck) and rain gear for Larry and we were on our way home in the rain.

It rained so hard we could hardly see the road at times--the fine gray mist of fog hung over the mountain tops and floated down into the valleys as we made our way home.  Mike surprised us with lunch at one of his favorite spots, the Angel of the Winds Casino.  Hot coffee and strawberry shortcake was all Cis and I managed but Mike ordered chicken fried steak for Larry while he devoured shrimp cocktails.  This must be a Thursday night dinner ride sometime with the group.

I think the only thing worse than riding in the cold and rain is going into a warm building and then having to put on wet gloves and ride another forty miles in the cold rain to get home.

1,100 miles down and back including side trips.  I would do it all over again to spend time with friends although I might let Larry splurge on a bike trailer.  I know I’m a wimp.  I admit it.  Who cares?

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