Where does a ride really start? When you leave the driveway? During the weeks before when you research the route, change the oil, make the hotel reservations, maybe buy new tires? If you’re lucky enough to have two bikes you might ponder which one to take.
I’m from Seattle and although I did all of the above, this ride began about twenty miles out of Walla Walla, Washington where the road first started to get twisty. Anything before that dissolved into a blur of preparation. last minute chores, and four hours of finest US freeway from the Jet City.
That winding backroad into 2 x Walla spilled me through green wheatfields, past the State Penitentiary and into the parking lot at the Marcus Whitman. This hotel meets all of the MisterSmooth standards. Let’s take a look at the lobby.Looks like we’re going to need more Pledge, sir.
And each room comes with robes. Although they are not white, they’re monogrammed so I gave the Marcus a passing grade.
Like Coromandel, Timbuktu, and Tuscaloosa, Walla Walla is just a fun thing to say. In the American west, it’s an old city, incorporated in 1862. The town is about the same size that it was in 1910 (about 20,000 then, about 30,000 now). One result of this is the many streets hung with hundred year old walnut and elm trees, lined with big turn-of-the-century houses suitable for big turn-of-the-century families.
That’s the old movie theater. There are not many objects that can make that yellow Mille blend in but paired with that Camaro it’s like a daffodil in a banana factory.
Walla Squared has a pleasant brick downtown with the kind of buildings that banks used to build before money was just ones and zeros. When wheat farmers could make money and needed a place to put it, and businesses wanted to project permanence. First it was a trading town, and then an agricultural town…and then sometime in the last twenty years some smart person figured out that the Walla Walla area is a brilliant place to grow grapes.No, this business is not owned by Wendy Worthington.
Wine has taken over downtown. It seems like every other storefront is wine-related. There are wine shops, wine tours, wine tasting rooms, winery-specific tasting rooms, and apparently wild wine womens (see above).
All this wineyness is welcome after one has spent the morning at work and then ridden four and a half hours across the American west like some mechanized cowboy. The glass above contains a Dusted Valley Syrah that was rich and complex as the folds of a red velvet theater curtain. Even a hack like me could differentiate it from the swill that I usually drink.
I sat in this café, outdoors in the warm evening air, drank and snacked and read my electronic book. I listened to a woman play the guitar and sing to the room behind me. If it wasn’t for the roar of the occasional jacked up 4x4 I could have been in Europe.
In the morning I sat in the local coffee shop eating homemade coffee cake and enduring a macchiato that was ordinary at best, reading Visit Sunny Chernobyl
on the Kindle and eavesdropping on the table full of old guys next to me.
You can tell it’s a bunch of retired guys who have coffee together on a regular basis. For some reason they were talking about border crossings. There was some routine bitching about the bureaucracy of various borders and then one guy weighs in with his story of crossing the Canadian border. “We were trying to get across with an illegal Swiss emigrant [author’s note: WTF? Who sneaks into the US from Switzerland?
] and eight gallons of homemade wine.”
The guy continues, “They didn’t ask too many questions or search the car and we made it across OK. So we get down the road about a mile and the Swiss guy reaches into his pocket, pulls out a fat joint, fires it up and says, ‘Zat vas a close vun!’
So that was Walla Walla. Oh, yeah. The rumor that Walla Walla is considering adding a third Walla has no substance. Ain’t gonna happen.
The best part of touring with my crew is not that they are resourceful, intelligent, independent, and undoubtedly eclectic—although they are. The best part is that they are funny, funny guys. I haven’t laughed that much in too long. From left: Me, Major 662, Craig, Flips21, and XLR8.I just liked all these blue tones
Oh, one other thing. I stopped in Pendleton, Oregon, perilously undercaffeinated. As weak as a premature baby lamb I pondered my limited options and finally, desperately, stumbled into a funky dive called (ironically) the “Grand” Pacific. They had an espresso machine, but I was certain the coffee would be like drinking a dirty window.
My shot came, and I looked at it. Hmmm. Nice crema. I tossed half of it back and was gobsmacked. This humble cup contained an espresso shot as smooth and exhilarating as Turn Six at Laguna Seca. My brethren, within this demitasse lay The Truth.The zombie bikes head for Ken and Ron’s room.
We all came together in Lakeview, Oregon. Craig pointed out that Lakeview is a town where the gas station won’t sell you gas (although they are very, very nice about it), the restaurant is sort of a stealth eatery (no sign, and the locals haven’t heard of it--as a result you can’t find it), and once we arrived at the restaurant we drank all the beer they had in stock. Seriously. As if this situation needed topped off, there is no view of the lake.
It didn’t take long for the highjinks to begin.I’m gonna switch my throttle to the
Every now and then Craig would to ride by and flick another rider’s kill switch just to make sure that we were paying attention.
Then Ken superglued his tank bag to a transformer.
Not to be outdone Craig superglued his finger to his back tire.
Once that whole space age adhesives thing was sorted out, though, we did some strafing. Here’s Craig ignoring the scenery and making it look easy to go fast on that sweet BMW.
We tried to buy coffee in Lakeview, we really did. But the concept was…lacking. Here’s the Major at the local espresso stand. You see what I mean.Cue George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers
…“I Drink Alone.”
We headed out to the desert.You think hitting a deer is bad? These guys hit back.
XLR8 just bought a brand spankin’ new Kawasaki Concours C14. It’s theoretically related to the first-gen Concours that Kawasaki made for about a thousand years, but saying that the two bikes are similar is like saying that I’m related to John Quincy Adams. It’s the truth, but the connection is pretty damn remote and the two things look nothing like each other.
Ron has owned both an FJR and a last generation Honda VFR, so he’s got some perspective. He says that the C14 is definitely more refined that the FJR, which makes sense since the C14 is more recent design.
The C14 sounds like some sort of aircraft designation (as in “the new Lockheed C14 can carry a maximum payload of 4 tons of freshly ground espresso, delivering it to our troops in the field by 0600 hours…“). Which is appropriate, as the stock exhaust has the turbine whirr reminiscent of a distant jet. Ron’s bike is very dark red but in the sunlight it gets all sparkly.
The motor in the C14 is essentially the same as the plant in the ZZR1400. Sort of like lashing up one of the generators on the Hoover Dam to a seat and a pair of bike tires that must be terrified. Running late? Press the KTRC button, hold on tight and you will arrive at your destination before you left
The zombie bike picture shows our hand (two pair, king high): Two Italian bikes, two BMW’s, and Ron’s new C14. He made us promise not to make big bike jokes but it became increasingly difficult after we had to shift a homeless guy who set up camp under the bike one night.The X-Man calculates how many unused bushels of space remain in his hard luggage.
In all seriousness, though, the C14 is a first class gentleman’s express. Just sitting on the C14 makes it obvious that the mass centralization gurus don’t all work at Honda. The bike feels lighter than it is, and in action it looks surprisingly nimble. In the swervery Ron was using all the back tire on that sparkling dreadnought without breaking a sweat.
There must have been the all time special deal on Priusus at the Ashland Toyota dealer. They were everywhere
. We were held up more than once by one of these half-caste pods. Electric, gas, the Prius can’t decide what the heck it is. One maroon Prius, driven by an enthusiastic twenty-something, actually tried to keep up with us for a while
. This turned out to be a very short while.
We pulled off at an overlook over Ashland and what should pull in? A Prius, of course. The gal in yellow chatted us all up and when asked which bike she liked best, said “The Ducati!” Those dang red bikes get all the love.
Flip just put some aftermarket pipes on the ST3. That glorious sound makes following him a lot more fun.Flip, going somewhere, enjoying the desmodromic symphony.
By and large, the weather was great. Warm, but not too hot to wear full protective gear. We did get a tiny bit of rain in central Oregon and I was drizzled on for about twenty minutes on the way home, but let’s face it I was gonna Pledge wax my bike when I got back anyway.Where I wish I was right now.
So…when’s the next ride?