American Legion Riders, American Legion Post 104, Aloha OR, Mike Graves Commander
A day of hooky, a day away from work, a day needed for the soul. The sun rose like it did every day, but it was brighter that spring day, as I was going riding -all day long. The route was an easy one to navigate, Camas to Yakima then back to home via the super-slab. 385 miles was the plan, and the course was set for the next eight hours.
I crossed Portland in the early morning hours, to avoid the rush hour traffic that begins before 7 AM. HWY 26E, to I-5N, 84E, and then 205N into Washington to State route 14E. A route we all know and loathe, but living here in the center of paradise, we tolerate.
Once on WA-14 I was set to enjoy the ride. The two lane twisty road out of town was just the start of the day. I left Camas and immediately remembered why I loved this route, why don’t I ride this more was my only thought. I stopped at the Cape Horn Overlook. It is narrow and it’s on a corner, so go in slow and pay attention to the road before the view grabs your attention. Looking East up the Columbia River Gorge you realize we are so small in the overall picture. The Ice Age melt-off left its mark on this area eons ago.
The road rises and falls, twists and turns mile after glorious mile. Pass the Bridge of the Gods and Bonneville Dam. A stop in White Salmon for gas and a stretch was mandatory. The local shops were just opening and the gas station wasn’t busy yet. The terrain begins to change in this part of the gorge; from the wet of Western Washington to the dry of Eastern portion of the state. Nestled above the scenic Columbia River is the Maryhill Stonehenge. This is a full size astronomically-aligned replica of the Stonehenge in the UK. This memorial was completed in 1930 as a memorial to the men and women of WWI. This was the first memorial for WWI veterans and was started while the war was still being fought by road builder Sam Hill. This is also where I turn off WA 14E and pickup US 97N.
Sweepers and windmills stretch out before me. Highway 97 is a ribbon of a road that cuts through vineyard laden hills and farms, while Mt. Adams sits looking over it all. Just past Goldendale the road rises and climbs while Satus Creek runs along the road feeding trees and sparse brush. Once in Yakima, I was ready for fuel of my own, and to top off my tank. I found Miner’s Drive-In off of 1st St., they have been slinging burgers, fries and shakes since 1948 and it hit the spot.
As I headed out of Yakima on Hwy 12W/97N, I watch the small towns disappear and the farm lands grow, before they gave way to the forest. I turned off 97N and stayed on 12W, avoiding State Route 410. I started following the Tieton River towards Mossyrock Washington. The nearly 90 miles of this leg is a twisted blessing for motorcyclists. The one big surprise for me was the tunnel and then amazing view at Rimrock. I was suddenly looking at lake in the middle of the woods, directly after a long tunnel, be sure to watch where you are going or you could end up in Rimrock lake.
Small towns dot Hwy 12 from Rimrock Lake to Mossyrock. There are plenty of open roads that can easily be crossed by large animals, like the Elk I saw right before Packwood, so use caution and good judgement. There is a nice little, yet gravel covered, parking area just before Mossyrock to view Riffe Lake for those that are willing to travel off pavement. From Mossyrock to the interstate is 20 miles of sweeping corners then straight a ways that prepared me for the 60 mile blast down I-5S. The saving grace on this stretch of super slab is the 70 MPH posting. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on where I had been and the sights, sounds and smells of the open road.
I felt good after a day in the saddle, rested and reinvigorated. My mind was clear and calm like the lake, something I could draw on when back at work. As I am sure my mind will wander down these roads more than once, hopefully my body will as well.
Tony Mazelin, ALR 104