Springtime is a wonderful time to ride across the country. I’m looking forward to a lovely leisurely ride across Washington state to enjoy the spring colors. This is early May and our trees are beginning to bud and the first flowers are coming out. The fields are green and farmers are active. I am taking a new route from Vantage to Washtucna, instead of the usual Route 26. This will be interesting!
Most accidents happen near home. But why does it have to be a block from home, when starting on a 8,000 mile 5-week motorcycle trip?
My bike is packed and loaded and rolls down the driveway right on time at 9:30am. A block later some coffee-swilling giant Ford F350 juggernaut blasts out of his side road; he can’t be bothered to look both ways or signal or even slow down for his left turn. Good thing my catlike reflexes saved me. Now I’ve got that Close Encounter out of the way, I can relax for the remaining trip, right? (Wrong)
Spring is the best season for touring. The scenery is lush, rich with color and growing things. There are interesting crews and farm machinery working in the fields, preparing and plowing and planting and other words that start with ‘p’. The rivers are full with spring run-off.
The mighty Columbia River is loaded with dams. Most of its height from the ocean to Canada has been tapped for power generation and crop irrigation. I stopped at the Wanapum Dam near Vantage to admire the white boiling raceway of spill water. Here, the blue water contrasts with dry sandy desert hills. Technically, eastern Washington is a desert environment with less than 14″ of rainfall annually. But its rich deep soil, sunny climate, long growing season and French latitude is perfect for apples, grapes and many other crops. Just add water. This makes the greater “Yakima valley” area the apple capital of the world, and more recently the home of any excellent wineries. I’d love to come back again with more time for a wine-tasting tour.
I rode Highway 260 from Vantage down through Mattawa, Connell (nice place due to penitentiary!), Kahlotus (a dump) and then Washtucna. This highway is parallel to our usual route 26 and only adds 25 minutes. It follows the Columbia River for a long time, with miles of tidy neat lush green farms. The grape arbors are trimmed and budding, they’re ready to start vining up the wires. The apple orchards are almost fully leafed out and being dusted by machines that look like little towed jet engines.
When Highway 260 finally veers away from the Columbia and the irrigated farms and heads east, there are many miles of open road and desert sage brush. To my left are the Horse Heaven Hills; we usually see it from the other side at Othello.
The desert colors are rich in Spring. Flowers are blooming and fresh growth lends a soft blue-green feeling to sage.
You would think that I could pull off the road and be out of traffic. The road is empty. I wanted pictures. There is a handy gravel area for an access road. I park 20′ from the pavement. Am I safe? Oh no, of course not. The road is empty because a giant lumbering farm machine is blocking traffic, and he wants my spot to let people by. Headlines tomorrow could be “Motorcycle Attacked by Giant Farm Machine” or possibly “Farm Tractor Plays Chicken with Parked Motorcycle”!
Tomorrow: the canyons of Snake, Clearwater, Leschi and Salmon rivers