October 7 2011 by Jason Fogelson
The heat wave seems to have broken when I wake up this morning at the BEST WESTERN Othello Inn. I share the hotel's breakfast room with a group of power company linemen, and we all compliment the morning's fare. Excellent biscuits and gravy, just the kind of stick-to-your-ribs food to keep you going as you climb poles all day -- or ride a motorcycle through beautiful countryside.
I load up the Electra Glide, and depart town in the direction of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is a 30,000-acre area administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge was established in 1944, and much of its land is that unique canyon and eroded hillside that was formed by the great floods that created the Columbia River Basin. The area is an important stopover for migratory waterfowl, and is famous for its population of Sand Hill Cranes. I didn't see much wildlife during my ride through the Refuge, but I did see great, unspoiled natural beauty in every direction, miles and miles of land untouched by human habitation. It's a fascinating place, a desert terrain that seems to have abundant water at the same time. I've never seen any other place like it.
I proceeded west from the Refuge, and decided to follow my nose and see where I wound up. I knew that I couldn't go too far wrong -- my goal tonight is to stop in Leavenworth, and I will have to cross an interstate in order to miss it. As long as I continue to head west and north, I can't get too lost. Or so I thought.
I ride through an area called "Frenchman Hills," which is a region with those parallel hills that were formed by the receding flood way back post Ice Age. I find myself on rural roads through farmland. It must be apple-harvesting time, because stacks upon stacks of apple crates are gathered at the corners of each orchard. The crates are about four feet square, and they're piled about 8 or 10 crates high, 10 crates wide and 30 or 40 crates along the road -- building-sized piles of apple crates every mile or so. That's a lot of apples. The farmers I see working don't seem too frenzied or harried, they're just methodically driving their forklifts and tractors, laden with crates that they add to the piles.
I'm enjoying the ride and the scenery, and I think I'm headed in the right direction. Suddenly, I encounter a sign that reads "PAVEMENT ENDS." The pleasantly smooth paved road that I've been following for miles dwindles to rubble and gravel in my path. I decide to backtrack, and then to ride north instead of west for a while. A few miles up the road, I come to a "T" intersection, and a sign I've never seen before: "PRIMITIVE ROAD." I park the bike, study my map for a few minutes, and realize that I have no idea where I am. I pull out the old iPhone, and -- full 3G coverage. Out here where the streets have no name and pavement is a limited resource, the information superhighway flows like a river. I plug in my destination, and get simple directions to put me back on the right track.
I climb back on the Electra Glide, and ride according to the iPhone's instructions. One turn leads me to another gravel road. I decide to chance it, feeling confident in my ability to manage the big bike on a well-maintained surface. I remember the essentials -- keep a light grip on the handlebars, make sure all inputs are smooth, and keep your eyes high. I breeze down the gravel road for about 5 miles, emerging on Route 262 none the worse for the wear.
From there, I'm able to get back on track for a one-exit blast on I-90 to George, then back off the highway to pick up Route 28. I stop for a breather in Rock Island, and linger for a while at a lovely park near the Rock Island Dam. I ride through the town of Wenatchee, the Apple Capital of the World. I pass the BEST WESTERN Chieftain Inn, which would be a great base of operations in town. You could easily attend events at the nearby Gorge Amphitheater, which is an awesome venue for major artists.
I ride north on US 97 until I come to the village of Leavenworth, my stop for the night. I haven't eaten lunch yet, so I decide to tour Leavenworth's downtown.
Now, I've been to some wacky towns in my day, but Leavenworth may take the cake. Wacky in a good way, I hasten to add. Leavenworth is a Bavarian village nestled in the foothills of the Chelan Mountains. The architecture is Bavarian, the stores are Bavarian, they even have mountain goats wandering through town. Downtown Leavenworth is a walking village crowded with gift shops, art galleries and restaurants -- many of them Bavarian. There's even a nutcracker museum in Leavenworth.
I pick an unassuming little place called The Soup Cellar for lunch. I order a bratwurst with sauerkraut, of course -- and it's excellent. I'm getting into the Bavarian vibe.
I ride just beyond downtown, and park at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Icicle Inn at the Icicle Village Resort. The Inn is one component of a resort that includes a movie theater, spa, arcade, miniature golf course and other amenities. The front desk clerk invites me to park my motorcycle beneath the entry canopy, as the forecast calls for rain tonight and he doesn't want my bike to get wet. Very thoughtful.
My room is the Mozart Suite, a very elegant hotel room with a comfortable seating area, kitchenette, fireplace, soaking tub and balcony in addition to a very comfortable king bed. I may never leave. I decide to try the hotel's restaurant, J.J. Hills Fresh Grill, for dinner tonight. When in Bavaria, do what the Bavarians do -- so I ordered the pork schnitzel, a Bavarian specialty. Yum. One of the highlights of dinner was when the bartender switched on the restaurant's model railroad, an O-Scale (1:48) engine with four cars that circumnavigates the restaurant on an elevated wall-mounted track, passing through tunnels in two walls in the process. I love model trains, and have always dreamed of setting up an elevated track in my house. This one might prove to be the inspiration...
After dinner (and bread pudding for dessert, I have to admit), I retired to the Mozart Suite for a well-deserved night of rest. Tomorrow is my last big day of riding, pushing back into the Seattle area. There's plenty of road to cover on the way.
Miles Traveled: 148
NEXT: DAY FIVE: LEAVENWORTH TO EDMONDS