1k loop from Portland

May 25, 2016

 

My day started at 4:13 a.m. I was already 13 minutes late to the meet up location. Luckily I had set out all my clothes and packed all my gear the day before so it only took 10 minutes to text Ben that I was running late, get dressed, and ride the 2 minutes to the gas station we were meeting at. Not the way I wanted to start the day.

 

After topping off our tanks, running through the first leg directions, and taking the requisite 0 mile selfie we were off and running at 5 a.m., our official start time. Portland was still dark and the traffic was light as we jumped on I-84W and then I-205S. This little shot down the interstates was just to add a few extra miles to the trip so we would hit the required 1,000. Soon we were headed west through some suburb to meet up with Rt. 26 that would take us up and over Mt. Hood. Now I knew when planning this trip that riding on the mountain in the spring was a gamble with the weather, especially this early in the morning. However, we needed the extra miles that going over the mountain provided and I knew the roads. I figured that if we took a longer route later in the day then we ran the risk of getting lost and making an already long day that much longer. This rationale would prove itself to be both ironic and hilarious later. As sure as we live in the Pacific Northwest, we saw rain as soon as we started gaining elevation. We threw on rain pants at a closed weigh station, cursed the mountain, and road on. As the temperature dropped the fog grew thicker making great views spectacular and as we crossed from the west side of the mountain to the east all of the rain, fog, and clouds suddenly dropped away revealing the peak of Hood. That’s when we felt the temperature drop. The east side was easily 10 degrees cooler. Just when I was sure that I was going to develop a little frost bite the temperature started to thaw. We were dropping elevation rapidly and starting to see more sun. By the time we hit Hood River the 60 degree temperature felt warm, but we were still frozen so we stopped in a diner and grabbed some breakfast. After this it was the interstate and the high dessert.

 

We filled the gas tanks again and jumped on I-84W and started to boogey. The sun was out and we had warmed up and it felt could to be doing 80 m.p.h. I had put in ear buds and was traveling to my own private soundtrack as we followed the Columbia River east. Soon the green faded to the tan of the high dessert and we had a bit of a head wind to contend with but we were truly warm for the first time since we had left and traffic was still light. Before we knew it we needed to stop again to fill up. We were 200 miles in and in good spirits. Ben asked how much longer we had to follow the river. Apparently the headwind was jostling the sporty a lot more than my softail. I assured him that it wouldn’t be more than another twenty minutes because we would be getting back off the interstate to take two lanes to Walla Walla, Washington. So we saddled back up and jammed on. Fortunately for Ben the interstate turned away from the river about 5 minutes later and the head wind died off.

 

I made a mistake and we ended up passing our exit. This ended up being a happy accident as the next few miles were a winding mountain pass just outside of Pendleton, OR. When we got off at the next exit and stated down the road I realized that I had probably made a mistake. We stopped at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Pendleton and the valley that surrounds it, a great view to recheck the map. Lucky for us, the road we were on went back down the hill and met up with OR-11 the road we were supposed to take north. The way down the hill was a steep grade with 10 m.p.h. hairpins through ranch land so we were dodging cows the whole way down. This was my favorite stretch of road on the whole trip. When we met up with OR-11 we had lost a good 45 minutes, but we had gained a little padding in our overall miles and had avoided having to ride through another town. We made quick work of OR-11 and were in Washington in no time. We stopped for gas in Walla Walla just as Ben was about to run out. I had to piss so pad that my teeth were floating. I headed right into the gas station only to be told they didn’t have a public restroom. Then the owner came around the corner and told me it was my lucky day because I was a biker and her husband was a biker and she liked bikers and let them use the bathroom.

 

We hit the road towards Lewiston, ID on US-12. This leg was slow going as we dealt with traffic and construction but it was definitely the prettiest road we would see all day. The rolling hills of southeastern Washington make for some seriously good roads. Ben would have me tell him the name of the road again later so he could note it in his phone for later trips. The whole way into Idaho I kept one eye on the clouds. They had grown dense again and were starting to darken. We knew there was a chance of hitting rain across the border. When we hit Lewiston I knew we were once again pushing Ben’s fuel limitations so I was keeping a close eye on my rear view and sure enough, he dropped from sight. I had a gallon can on the back of the bike so I turned around to go find him. When I got to him he was in a car dealership parking lot and gas wasn’t the problem, his shift linkage had let go. He headed in to the service department to look for some help. He came back out with the manager who took the other linkage bolt back inside and came out with a replacement. We were back up and running in about 10 minutes, it was incredible. We hit a gas station and then blasted out of town heading north to Coeur D’Alene. 

 

We rode nice sweeping roads north through Idaho under dark clouds. But every time we thought we were headed under rain, the road would sweep us out of the way and around the rain. We finally caught a few sprinkles but only for about five minutes. The going was again slow as we dealt with traffic and we hit Coeur D’Alene around 4:30 p.m. 3 hours later than I planned but we had ridden 530 miles. We stopped for lunch. We were more than halfway done and we needed some time to refuel ourselves and get off the bikes. Ben and I spent most of lunch talking about how fast we needed to go to stay on the new schedule to try and arrive back in Portland by 1 a.m. We also decided that we would make it in plenty of time before last call. I reminded him that we were at the farthest point on our route so every mile now was one closer to home. When we hit the road again Ben took the lead and I was happy with the quickened pace he was keeping. 

 

We rolled into and through Spokane, WA in what seemed like minutes and were soon cruising down I-90W with sunshine and almost no traffic. Ben was keeping us between 80 and 85 m.p.h. and it felt like we were riding for the first time that day. When I pulled in front of Ben and led him off an exit to a gas station he took off his helmet and asked me what was wrong. I told him that he was about to run out of gas and he couldn’t believe that we had logged another 110 miles. I agreed, it felt like it had only been about 20 minutes. We quickly hit the road again and flew through another 110 miles. It was during this leg that I noticed the sun getting lower and it felt like we were racing it towards Seattle. Man, if we could get to Seattle around sunset or just after, we would be making up serious time. As the sun finally started to touch the horizon Ben pulled off at a scenic overlook. I was really hoping he was just stopping to enjoy the view and that his bike wasn’t having any more mechanical issues. Ben got off the bike, removed his helmet, and said that he had to stop because even in the middle of trying to crush 1,000 miles in a day we were still on a motorcycle trip and it was moments like this that made a trip. Sometimes you just have to love your friends. We snapped some photos and watched the sun set and then rode on. We shot down a hill and over a bridge that crossed the Columbia River and ran into a nasty headwind as we started up out of the valley on the far side. Ben looked like he was about to pass a semi when he pulled back in behind it and settled in at 50 m.p.h. I knew we needed to be going much faster so after a couple minutes I passed the truck and Ben fell in right behind me and we were doing 80 again. Quickly after that we hit our next gas stop and Ben explained that as he had tried to pass the truck his right foot peg spun around as the wind hit him and he lost his footing. We commented again on how easily we were putting down the miles, threw on another layer to prepare for the temperature drop over the coming mountain pass now that the sun was down, and hit the road. This was the last gas stop before Seattle. 

 

As soon as we were on the interstate and up to 80 again I saw a sheriff ahead and slowed us down to the speed limit. After we were a couple miles past him I started to accelerate when I saw his lights. As Ben and I pulled over I was trying to figure out if had been able to clock us but it didn’t seem likely. Turned out the sporty had blown its running lamp. The sheriff was a nice guy and when he saw that ben was carrying fuses and bulbs, he escorted us to the next exit to a well lit gas station and wished us luck. We ended up having to scavenge a bulb from one of the turn signals and we were back on the road, but we had lost an hour. Then we were in the Cascades on a mountain pass with pitch black conditions and dealing with construction. When I saw that we were being pushed from four lanes to one, I sped up to pass as many cars as possible. I thought Ben was behind me as I hit the construction. I lucked out and ended up behind a car that was doing 65 m.p.h. as we were pushed from far lane to far lane and then back into the oncoming lanes. 

 

When we finally hit the end of the road work I moved over to wait for Ben and was passed by a car. Then I was passed by another car. I started worrying that Ben had laid it down so I slowed to a crawl and then started to pull over to call him when he finally came up on me. I gave him the lead and immediately knew something was wrong. He was sitting in the right lane riding between 50 and 55 m.p.h. I knew something had spooked him. The roads were so dark that it felt like we were riding into an infinite of nothing. On top of everything the sporty had blown another running lamp. I rode next to him while the roads were empty so we had twice the headlights. This seemed to bolster him and he would ride a little faster. When we would see headlights in the rearview I would get behind him to act as his running lights. Finally we got passed by a semi doing about 65 m.p.h. and Ben fell in behind him and kept up. It was the fastest we had ridden in what felt like hours. All the slow going and darkness had caused the fatigue to start setting in. At this point we had been ridding over 19 hours. Finally Ben took an exit 30 miles outside of Seattle.

 

This was the first gas stop where this trip seemed hard. The last leg had drained our motivation and energy levels. Ben had hit and uneven bit of pavement trying to merge over for the construction that had almost taken him out. He also was still wearing tinted glasses so he couldn’t really see. We took a few minutes to relax. Then we addressed the running lamp again and settled on just running the hazards so cars would see the Sportster. Then I gave Ben a pair of clears and pounded a Red Bull. Ben reassured me that once we hit Seattle we could book it because he knows those roads inside and out. We were now bound and determined to make last call in Portland. Once we hit the road we flew up on I-405S and started making our way around Seattle with a quickness. The renewed speed and having traffic to dodge filled me with new motivation and the Red Bull most certainly gave me wings. I could tell by the way Ben was riding that he was feeling good again too. Then we hit construction. Four lanes merged down to one and we were standing still in a line of cars. Traffic slowly started creeping and eventually moved at about 30 m.p.h. but it was sucking all of the energy out of us again. Even after it ended we weren’t going much faster than 60 m.p.h. By the time we passed Tacoma I was starting to see double, I was tired. When we finally passed Olympia and were headed south on I-5 I wasn’t sure if I could keep going much longer. I ran some math in my head. If we could wait another 20-30 miles before getting gas than we would only be about 30 miles from hitting 1,000. I took the lead again and cracked open the throttle a little more and began to push. About 10 miles down the road Ben started flashing his brights so I relinquished the lead and followed him off the next exit. He was right, we needed to stop and take a break.

 

We were 70 miles away from finishing at this point and it felt like a lifetime since we had started. I grabbed another Red Bull and a bite to eat. We took our time re-layering against the cold and there was no enthusiasm left in our conversation. We threw our legs back over the bikes out of some grim obligation and pulled out of the gas station. We climbed the hill to the on ramp completely resigned to the fact that this next leg would be worse than the last. Ben took the lead and got us up to 70 m.p.h. I was surprised to find myself alert and sharp again. The mixture of energy drink and adrenaline in my system were doing their thing. I was cruising a long easily again and knew that we were going to make it. 20 miles down the road Ben took an exit. We got to the top of the off ramp and he pulled off onto the gravel and asked how many more miles. We were 42 miles to 1k. He turned off his bike and I knew we were in trouble again. Ben got off the bike and said in 42 miles he was pulling off and finding a church parking lot to sleep in. I said ok. Then after a moment of silence he told me he was done. He was seeing triple and he couldn’t keep his bike straight. I told him I was clear headed and alert and that maybe he needed a Red Bull, but he was resigned. It had been 22 hours and he couldn’t go on, it wasn’t safe for him. I didn’t know what to say so I asked him what the plan was. He said he was going to go to the gas station at the bottom of the hill and call H.O.G. to get a tow home, and that I was going to ride on and get my thousand miles. I wanted to try and talk him out of it but he was certain and I didn’t want to push him past his limits and get him hurt. So we hugged and got back on the bikes. He headed to the gas station and I got back on the road.

 

The last 42 miles were fairly easy but not as exciting as I had anticipated. See, I knew that I would make it, not finishing had never been an option for me and until that moment finishing without Ben hadn’t been either. It was bitter sweet as the odometer turned to 1,000 and I honked the horn several times because I had told Ben I would so he would know. It seemed the least I could do for him. I had been riding for 22 hours and 30 minutes. There was no internal celebration for me. I just switched my focus towards getting home. As I shot through Vancouver, WA and over the bridge into Portland. I couldn’t shake this feeling that even though I had rode the miles I had somehow still failed. The last few miles to my place were surreal and when I pulled into the driveway I was just happy to be going to bed. I parked the bike in the garage, took a photo of the odometer, and sent a selfie to Curtis. It was over 23 hours after it had started. By the time my head hit the pillow I had seen every minute of the last 24 hours, 1026 miles across 3 states, and had some amazing times with my buddy Ben. As the entire trip ran through my head, all I could think was that was one hell of a good day on the bike, I should do it again sometime.

 

 

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