The time has come once again to slip the surly bonds of work and touch the face of America (to paraphrase one of Reagan’s more articulate speechwriters). Paul and I decided to get the band back together after my solo venture around the country last year, so the two of us set aside about three weeks to reprise our Alaska adventure with a new destination. We talked about a couple of options, including a long ride through the South to Key West, but the Upper Peninsula of Michigan kept coming up as we weighed the pros and cons of each route. Paul had met a couple of touring riders on his ferry ride down from Skagway to Washington, and they had really sold him on the UP as a destination. I took a look at some routes and kept finding more and more good roads and national parks along the way, so the UP was selected.
Over the next month or so I picked a route and booked places along the way. After our troubles with housing in Jasper and Dawson City on the Alaska trip, I wanted to have a bed for the night locked in. The tradeoff is that we are riding to a set destination each night, which takes away a little from the spontaneous feel of the thing. But the truth was we were doing that same thing in 2019, just without a particular lodging in mind. I’m hoping that this will improve the trip without taking away the “it’s the journey not the destination” feeling of the open road.
The outbound trip is straight riding every day, after a brief sojourn in Vegas to cleanse the mind. Once we hit the UP, though, we’re taking a couple of days off to spend on Mackinac Island, the vacation destination for this area of the country. Then its a long haul down to Chicago for a long weekend. The outbound trip then ends just a bit up the road in Milwaukee before we turn and head home down Route 66. Along the way we’ll be passing through more than 10 national parks (if all goes as planned), several monuments, and some of the best roads in the country.
I woke up in Billings with 3 states to go to complete the continguous US loop that I’d set out to do. Since my final state was Oregon, and I still had to head home, it made sense to head to Klamath Falls to stay over at mom’s house. Unfortunately, with K Falls at the opposite end of Oregon, this meant that I was looking at about 1,000 miles for the day’s ride.
So, up early and on the road at about 5:30am. I gassed up in Billings and hit the expressway headed west. The horrendous bug swarms from the night before were still in bed, thankfully. But I’m guessing that this was primarily because it was freakin’ cold. I started out with just my riding suit on over a t-shirt, but quickly pulled over and layered up as it dropped into the 50’s. I didn’t regret this, as it quickly dropped further into the 40’s and didn’t get up over 70 until about noon.
With the sun behind me and proper gear on, I took advantage of the 80mph speed limit to eat some miles. The land was increasingly interesting as we moved west, and I’ll admit that it was difficult to pass exit after exit directing me to Yellowstone. If I’d had even a little more time, I would’ve made the detour. I passed through both Butte and Bozeman, and realized that all of these “B” cities looked really nice and quite livable…at least through the lens of summertime weather.
I climbed up into the mountains and crossed into Idaho, pretty high up in the “finger” part of the state. I dropped down into Coeur d’Alene, gassed up and had a quick lunch break, and crossed the border into Washington. I made a quick stop in Spokane to take a photo and got back on the road, headed south towards Oregon.
I crossed the Columbia and continued on the I-84 (I believe), which travels along the edge of the river. It’s really an amazing road, and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to explore the area some more. I hit the. US97, which leads straight to K Falls and hung a left. The road climbed through a winding, tight canyon and spit me out into the high prairie lands of northern central Oregon. Traffic was light and I cruised at reasonable speeds south through the fields and small farm towns through the middle of the state.
I passed on the outskirts of Bend and headed into the forest around Mt. Bachelor as the sun’s light faded. At about the same time the smoke from the California fires moved in, creating this hazy hellscape, with the trees silhouetted around me and smoke swirling through the air. I’ve done these dark drives enough to know that I should take advantage of the traffic on the road to forge a path for me. I tucked in behind a semi and set the cruise control at a more moderate pace to finish out the drive.
About 16hrs and 1,069 miles after I left Billing,s I pulled in to mom’s driveway. Cracked a beer. Went to sleep. Good day.
Taking a rest day tomorrow, then hitting the road back to California on Thursday.