Sunday, June 25, 2017

Awesome-sauce on Lolo Pass

It all started four years ago with Awesome Friend Garth who rides a motorcycle.  He hatched a plan of riding to Canada on said motorcycle and began inviting anyone who is fortunate enough to count as his friend, along on the trip.  The problem was, at that time, Husband, who is one of those fortunate friends, did not own a motorcycle.  In fact he had not owned a motorcycle for a very long time and those one or two periods of his life in which he did own one, were very brief.  But he wanted to go, because anything AFGarth does ..... is awesome.

My heels immediately dug deeply into the ground, so to speak.

"People get hurt on motorcycles.  People die on motorcycles."  And so it went for a year or so.  I even enlisted the support of Experienced Motorcyclist Friend Steve**, who wisely counseled, "Don't do it."

Needless to say, Husband didn't go to Canada.

But I eventually gave in.

Fast forward to now.

Much to Husband's joy, AFGarth hatched a plan for another ride.  And this time I was on board (figuratively and literally) along with Dear Friends Steve**(see above; note the irony) and his bride Robyn ....

and New Friend Dallas, who lived locally until his career took him and his young family to China ..... yes, China .... as in .... Asia.   He popped back to the U.S. to visit friends/family and to do this ride.

The plan:  Six days, 1400 miles (turned out to be 1500 for us), through Washington, Idaho, and into Montana, then back through central Oregon.  The highlights:

First day, it was hot.  97 degrees.  We rode through the famous Columbia Gorge on the Washington side where, in my opinion, it's prettier because you can see Oregon better from across the river.  And Oregon hits a scenic home run in the gorge.   Husband and I decided en route that we couldn't NOT stop and see Favorite First Son and family who lived about 20 miles out of our way.

Favorite First Son and grandson.  
We managed to keep the visit very brief, which was not easy, and we caught up with our group in Walla Walla, where we spent the night in a Best Western.  315 miles.

Second day.  It was not quite as hot, fortunately.  165 miles.   We went through a portion of Washington similar to (and not far from) its gorgeous Palouse area (where we visited a year ago), then had lunch in Lewiston, Idaho, and on to the small town of Kamiah (pronounced Kamy-eye) which sits on the banks of the Clearwater river and is where we spent the night.  

Since he knew we'd have time, AFGarth had called the local LDS (Mormon) bishop and arranged a service project for us to do.  Hence we spent a few hours doing yard projects for K, the sweetest lady you'd ever meet.  Her humble home and yard was awash with what most observers would call junk, but to her, it held dreams of potential.  It was easy to see that without help, very little, if any, of her dreams would reach fruition .... the shed she planned to paint, the potting sink she wanted to make, the fence she was going to mend, and on and on.   As we worked, she flitted about joyfully in her flowered house dress and pink straw hat, telling us of her plans for this and that, and how blessed she was to have her own little home and garden that she was able to purchase some 15 years ago for $15,000.

Afterwards, she invited us in for "hors d'oeuvres" of fresh fruit, home-brew cider, and hot dogs baked in biscuit dough.  We sat in her tiny cluttered kitchen, at a small table neatly set with a fresh table cloth, where she continued to express her appreciation for her blessings.   It was a lesson of gratitude and humility that none of us will ever forget.  And no doubt, if any of us ever pass through Kamiah again, we will be visiting K.

Third day.  Perfect weather.  There is something in Idaho/Montana called Lolo Pass.  It is up there on the list of great motorcycle rides.  Of course Husband had been wanting to ride it.   And better yet, with AFGarth.

Lolo Pass takes you through scenery for which Idaho gets little credit.  Most of the time, the only part of Idaho that travelers see is along I-84 which, sadly, passes through the very unimpressively brown lower portion of the state.  The middle/upper portion is one of the best kept secrets because it is .... stunning.

Who knew?  At the far end of that 99 miles, we diverted up to Missoula in search of pizza for Dallas because, apparently, China doesn't have a Papa Johns "where they make the best".  We spent that night in some homely little cabins in Darby, Montana, where it seems that fly fishing and rodeos rule.   195 miles.

Fourth day.  283 miles.  Back into Idaho and after lunch in Stanley we came upon a road which, by common consensus, outdid Lolo Pass.  It was through or near the beautiful Sawtooth mountains (or was it the Bitterroot mountains?) .... with all the classic tight, hairpin curves ..... qualifying as pure motorcycle-Nirvana.   The more timid ones in our group (me) just hung on and leaned with the curves.    That night we stayed in an Airbnb house in the historic small town of Idaho City, where Steve and Robyn celebrated their 33rd anniversary, and where I slept on the top of a bunk bed.

Idaho City is the result of one of the biggest gold strikes, second to the one in California.  In its heyday during the 1860s, it was the largest city in the Northwest.

No explanation for this.
Fifth day, 295+ miles.  Realizing that we would be within five miles of my One-and-Only-Best-Sister-Ever, Husband and I diverted over for a quick, twenty minute visit.  We seem to have developed a tendency of arriving at their home in non-conventional ways.  Last time it was in a 40 foot motorhome.  This time, in helmets on a bike.  The detour put us about 30 minutes behind our group and needless to say, we blew through some long back roads of eastern Oregon and reached the prescribed rally point in the charming town of Prairie City, 45 minutes ahead of them.   From there we passed through John Day which, coincidentally, was hosting a BMW motorcycle rally and we found ourselves among dozens of kindred BMW riders.

We lunched with fellow rider, Kim, a longtime friend of Steve & Robyn, who just happened to be there for the rally.    

We spent the night in Mitchell, Oregon, which, if you are familiar with this town, you will be wondering, "Why on earth!?"

In spite of the fact that it still contains residents and a smattering of businesses, it is on the list of ghost towns which is not surprising since it has obviously seen better days.  The character of the ramshackle buildings that line its one street in the "business district", is in a class of its own .  We stayed in the very over-priced Sky Hook motel, circa sometime in the 60s(?), perched on a hill overlooking the town.

Sixth day, 223 miles and home.  Obnoxious high temps were forecasted, so we started early, stopped for breakfast in the delightful town of Sisters (of course), and parted ways for the home stretch.  Later in the day, everyone reported that they had arrived home safely.  

Thoughts:   There were no Harleys, nor beer drinking, nor even a tattoo (that I know of) in our group.  If not for Dallas' leather jacket and jeans, we'd be hopelessly dismissed as nerds in our padded mesh gear and ample helmets.  But a better group of people with whom to ride, you will never find.   I don't know how we deserved to be among them ...... needless to say, for the honor, we, like K of Kamiah, are grateful.

P.S.  All details that I have inevitably omitted, hopefully will be compensated for with pictures.

P.P.S.  Does anyone know who the heck was Lolo and why the pass was named after her/him?

P.P.P.S.  Thank you Garth, for your time and effort in making it happen, for your patience in keeping us all herded and on schedule, and for simply being awesome; and thank you Steve, Robyn, and Dallas for your wonderful company.  Let's do it again sometime!


  1. Garth should plan these trips like I plan girls camp. An overall theme, mantra, tshirts, skit nights, a cooking crew... and then the big fireside afterwards for guests to see the big slideshow!!

  2. Jealous and so glad you had a grand time!!

  3. As the youngest sister of AFGarth, I just wanted to say THANKS for this amazing blog post! It was so fun to hear your version of the trip and see more pictures. And for the record, you're right. Garth is awesome!

  4. Loved this! What a fun adventure! You have me daydreaming about being an empty nester with Favorite First Son. :)