Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Ride to Winthrop through North Cascade National Park

I have been over these passes in the North Cascade National Park probably 15-20 times but never really appreciated them.  It was a road that we used just to get to eastern Washington so we could hunt deer. We used to drive it straight through usually at night.  Heck, I was allowed to miss a week of school every fall to go hunting in the hills around Winthrop.

It would be different this time.  We would ride the North Cascade Highway on motorcycles taking our time.  We were going to enjoy this National Park stopping where we want to and taking plenty of pictures.  It is a great day to ride, a sunny low 80's, with very little humidity.  So we set off from downtown  Everett taking Highway 2 to Washington State Highway 9 and ride north towards Sedro-Woolley.

We cross a lot of rivers, the Snohomish, the Stillaguamish, Pilchuck Creek and finally the Skagit River.  From here we head east on Washington State Highway 20.  The famous North Cascade Highway.  This road is closed during the winter.  Sometimes during hunting season in the fall, we would get trapped on the other side of the pass. We would have to drive an extra few hours south to get back to Western Washington.  Having to drive down to Highway 2 and going over the Cascades at Stevens Pass.

 As we follow the Skagit River, the River Gorge begins to close in on us.  After Marblemount we see a sign that says no services for the next 74 miles.    On our way to Winthrop, we will cross 2 mountain passes;  we know that the real ride is about to begin.

As we make the climb up to Rainy Pass we stop at the Mount Diablo and Diablo Lake overlook. These are some fantastic views. Lake Diablo and the Upper Ross Lake were formed from the damning of the Skagit River.  It is an incredible sight to look down at these lakes with the mountains in the background.

It is hard to compare this ride to anything that we have ridden, it was a completely different surreal experience.  Once we leave Rainy Pass we make our way to Washington Pass.  The climb to the pass has long sweeping turns and switchbacks.  There is 1000 foot drop offs on the side of the road.  Riding these obstacles in the shadow of 7000-foot peaks make this ride exhilarating.

At the Washington Pass Overlook, we take in the beauty of what we have ridden and are about to ride. Words can not express the magnitude of these expansive views.  After the overlook, it is a quick descent into the Methow River Valley.  We stop in Mazama to take in what we have just ridden.

After a short break, it is only a short 13 miles to Winthrop for a relaxing 2 days by the river at the Methow River Lodge.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Three Forks, Montana

Sometimes you pick a spot on the map and it surprises you. Three Forks Montana where three creeks come together to form the Missouri River was that surprise. Sacajawea as a young girl was kidnapped from this spot by a rival Indian tribe and in a long turn of events ended up leading the Lewis and Clark Expedition back through this same area year's later.  

I have read a lot about this ultimate 3-year road trip.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition is famous for opening up the west.  The original mission of finding a water route to the Pacific didn't work out so well. There was this little thing called the Rocky Mountains in the way.  

Sacajawea was the key to the success of the Expedition.  Literally saving their asses no less than three times.   At the end of the Missouri River, she by chance meets people from the tribe she was kidnapped from.  She is able to negotiate for horses that without the Rockies would not have been crossed.  On several other occasions, she was able to trade for food and other necessities for the trip.
We stayed at the Lewis and Clark Motel in the heart of Three Forks.  We walked to the Sacajawea Park were we discovered this story.  Unknown to us Staying at Three Forks was a good choice.

Isn't this how life is that so much happens by chance.  That we were all helped or fell into some opportunity.  The saying no man is an Island resonates throughout most of our lives, but most of us are too arrogant to admit it.   I was reminded of these things in Three Forks, Montana.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Trip Home from Arkansas: Johnny Cash's Boyhood Home and the Arkansas Delta

There are days that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Well, we had one of those yesterday. On our way to Johnny Cash's Boyhood home, we were running on Arkansas Highway 14 coming out of the Ozark mountains. Doing about 70mph once we dropped down into the Arkansas Delta, chasing crop dusters or they were chasing us. It was the coolest thing riding with those planes. Started waving at one and it turned and flew right over the top of us. Then turned around and flew beside us. Then went in front of us all while running 70mph through fields of rice.  

This was a great ride that shook the soul.   I live for these days.  This was a great trip back home.  After spending the last few days riding around the Ozarks we wanted to make a quick trip back.  But after looking at the map I saw Johnny Cash's Boyhood home off of Arkansas Highway 14.  So we decided to take a detour.  It would add about a couple hours to the trip back home.  It turned out to be well worth it.

The boyhood home of Johnny Cash is the most complete story of a public figure growing up that I have ever seen.  The state of Arkansas did a great job on this one.   Dyess Arkansas was a complete success in helping depression era families make their own way.   Who says government can't do great things. Gave families 40 acres a house and a barn.  The Cash's paid off their farm in 10 years. 

So we drop out of the Ozarks on Highway 14.  Then have to make our way back up to the Interstate 155 bridge following US highway 61 North.  Stopped for a great lunch at the Wilson Cafe.  The first time that I have had Crawfish and Grits a great meal. Now it's time to go home.  We ride on Interstate 55 but exit at Cooter to make the cut over to the 155 bridge.  

We ride on 155 until Dyersburg then it becomes an all too familiar ride back to Clarksville following Tennessee Highway 104 and US Highway 79.  We make it home for Terri to make her Quilt Guild meeting.  All I can think about is riding with Crop Dusters.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Ride to The Ozark's

We are headed to Arkansas Motorcycle Country long sweeping turns on mountainous roads that lead to more of the same.  These are the Ozarks.

Arkansas has always been a mystery to me.  A question mark in my mind.  What I have learned is that Arkansas is a very diverse state.  Drawing from its border for its identity. We have spent some time in the Delta.  The low farmland that is near the Mississippi River which culturally resembles the river communities of Tennessee and the state of Mississippi.  We are headed to the Ozarks, the Northern Mountains of Arkansas a region that is largely forgotten in the national conciseness.  A yet to be discovered motorcycle Nirvana.

We leave Clarksville around 7 am,   It is about 3 hours to the Mississippi River we cross the majestic River north of Memphis on Interstate 155 after going through Dyersburg.  Once across the river, we take Highway 412 across the flat farmland of the Delta through the Bootheel of Missouri.   The heel as I like to call it wanted to be included in Missouri when it won statehood.  Because they did not want to be part of the Arkansas Territory.  Those mountain people were said to be just dangerous and unpredictable.

It is a straight shot to the town of Paragould, Arkansas; where we find the start of the Ozarks. While making our climb into the Ozarks we run into some weather.  We ride in a driving rain for about 20 minutes.  It was short and sweet, part of the experience.

We begin our final push to our destination.  It is a fast trip on these winding roads passing through the mountain towns of Walnut Ridge and Hardy.  After 8 hours on the road, we arrive at our destination.  Crown Lake at the mountain resort of Crown Point.