Part 3 of 3.
A 7,763 km trip from Rocky Mountain House to San Diego following the Pacific Coast Highway and returning via Lake Tahoe, Lake Payette, and Waterton/Glacier National Park.
Day 15 – 3rd July.
Salida – Lockeford – Plymouth – El Dorado – Placerville – Lake Tahoe – Carnelian Bay.
Breakfast was oats for me and cereal for Jen, followed by Greek yogurt. We left Salida at 6:15 a.m. and continued north on Hwy 99 for about 6 miles and then in the small town of Ripon we turned off the highway on to the Jack Tone Road heading due north and straight as a die past mile upon mile of fruit and nut trees to Lockeford. Then we followed Hwy 88 northeast through Clements and west of the Camanche Reservoir to Ione. From Ione we took the Golden Chain Highway north through Plymouth to El Dorado where we stopped for refreshments.
We had a cup of tea sat outside the El Dorado Grocery and Deli on Pleasant Valley Road in the old town.
Somewhere south of El Dorado the treed landscape had suddenly and dramatically changed to cattle country and as we neared El Dorado , the road that had earlier been fairly straight and boring twisted and turned as it climbed toward El Dorado, Diamond Springs and Placerville.
At Placerville we joined the El Dorado Highway, Hwy 50. A fast sweeping road that quickly took us to Camino. We were parallel to the Pony Express Trail as we carried on through Kyburz deep in the forest.
Soon we were in sight of Lake Tahoe.
As the freeway came to an end, we followed the river valley all the way into South Lake Tahoe and stopped at a busy Starbucks for lunch.
We relaxed over a leisurely lunch and then headed on up Hwy 89 along the west side of Lake Tahoe, stopping at a popular lookout where we took photo’s of the beach and Fanette Island at Emerald Bay.
Some sharp hairpins and twisting, narrow, mountain roads eventually took us in to Tahoe City where we filled up at the Shell gas station.
From there, the last leg of out journey for the day was a short ride north to Carnelian Bay and we arrived before noon, The Tahoe North Shore Lodge where we had reservations was easy to find and fortunately, after a very short wait, we were able to check in early (no charge this time).
Unpacked, we headed to the lake for a stroll and walked along the beach and back to the Lodge via the nearby 7-11. While sitting on the garden seat outside our room, we sipped Bud Light and I wrote up my diary.
The hotel owner came by and chatted. She more or less told us her whole life story while Jen chatted to her about trees and plants. I decided to head back to the beach in the afternoon as I was determined to swim in the lake especially as we may never go back to Lake Tahoe and I wanted to be able to say I’d swum in it!
The water was cold and refreshing but I did succeed in having a swim. Afterwards we showered and went for pizza at the nearby pizza restaurant. After our meal we had a stroll around the Carnelian Bay neighbourhood before finding ourselves back at the Lodge. We sat outside our room again and sipped a glass of Chardonnay, while chatting and watching the world go by.
At 7:30 p.m. we realized we’d been up since 4:30 a.m. local time and it felt more like 11:30 p.m. for us. We knew we would soon be heading to bed.
In the short time we had been at the Lodge we had learned the life history of the owner, from being born in Hong Kong to a Portuguese mother and English father, moving to the US in the 60’s, having a career as a correctional officer, then owning a restaurant in Reno, writing a cookery book, and now being a grandmother. She was an interesting character!
On day fifteen we had covered 295 kms.
Day 16 – 4th July. Independence Day.
Independence Day. Day off sightseeing around Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City.
Breakfast was yogurt and Liptons tea from the 7-11 next to our motel, followed by a walk along the pier to Garwoods Restaurant where we booked a boat taxi ride to Tahoe City.
Wonderful clear water!
We didn’t have long to wait and according to the schedule we would be back at about 3:00 p.m.
In Tahoe City we spent time looking in the tourist stores and had a snack lunch sat on the beach. It was hot and eventually we drifted in to a cafe where I had a frozen yogurt and a coke while Jen drank a bottle of water. We sat where we would me in the mist of water sprayed over the outside deck to cool the clients.
Later I bought an Independence Day t-shirt at a roadside stall and we made our way back to the marina to catch our taxi back to Carnelian Bay. After waiting past the expected time, someone who told us the taxi boat was broken down. There was nobody around from the taxi company but we talked to a very helpful marina official who called the water taxi operators and found out the boats propeller had become tangled in some rope.
I spoke to the operators myself on the guys phone and the lady told me the taxi might be at the jetty in about half an hour assuming they got free of the rope; otherwise we would be able to catch the next shuttle at 4:40 p.m. – assuming it was repaired by then.
So we wasted some more time in Tahoe City buying t-shirts and a bracelet for Jen and I found out that if necessary, we would be able to get a bus. However, we didn’t have to do that as the taxi was back in service for the 4:40 sailing.
On the way back the taxi boat Captain was very excited when he found out I had been born in Wales as he had been born in Cardiff, less than 25 miles from my birth place. He was a great jovial character from a family that had traced their roots back to the 1300’s.
Back at the Tahoe North Shore Lodge we cracked open a couple of beers and had dinner while we waited for the expected 4th of July fireworks. We also packed as much as our gear as we could ready for an early start in the morning. Finally, we had a walk around the village and along the beach hoping to see some fireworks. Although we did hear fireworks off in the distance, in the end we didn’t see any before we went off to bed.
On day 16 we had covered zero kms on the bike.
Day 17 – 5th July.
Carnellian Bay – Nevada border – Truckee – Sierraville – Calpine – Oreagle? – Quincy – Susanville.
Another reasonably early start as we were up well before 6:30 a.m. and were on the road soon after breakfast. We rode north up the west side of the lake to the Nevada border for a quick photo-op …
… and then back-tracked to take highway 267 to Truckee where we turned onto secondary Highway 89 heading north.
Soon we had ridden through Sierraville, and Calpine and in the Grey Eagle Valley near Quincy we stopped at the Graegle Store and bought gas at the Chevron gas station. Graegle was an interesting ‘Planned Recreational Community’ with nice cabins in the trees and facilities around a small lake.
Soon we turned on to Highway 70, continuing northeast, and found ourselves in deep Angus cattle country.
We were amid the pine trees as we rode up over the ridge and into Quincy and decided to find somewhere to stop. Seeing a Papa’s Donuts in East Quincy we pulled up and went in. The locals eating donuts and drinking coffee stared at us as if were aliens and seemed somewhat unfriendly. There was no sign of anyone serving and nobody at the counter. No one offered any help or explanation either.
I would have helped myself to coffee from the flask on the counter but that was empty, so after a few minutes we left. As there was a supermarket further down the road, we stopped for a snack and a drink there instead.
After Quincy we continued north on Highway 89 through Crescent Mills and Greenville. At Lake Almanor, we turned on to Highway 147 to follow the east shore of the lake. This was very pretty pine tree covered country and we rode up and down the switchbacks along the lake side until we turned east on Highway 36 toward Susanville.
Descending steeply down out of the mountains north of Keddie and Coyote Peaks, the temperature gradually increased and we could see the town of Susanville sprawled out on the plain below. Near Goodrich Creek we passed a historical site where there was only the brick chimney stack left of a building. This is the last remnant of the old Tunison’s roadhouse, famous for a murder there in 1942. Later in 1961, the gas station and cafe, then known as the Little Red Barn Cafe, was destroyed by fire, leaving just the chimney that we saw.
There were very many properties for sale, especially along Almanor Lake. A clear sign of the recession at the time, I thought.
Just after noon we checked in to the motel in Susanville and walked over to the nearby Wal-Mart to buy food for lunch and dinner.
While Jen had a rest in the room, I walked around the immediate area and took photo’s of that part of east Susanville.
Back at the motel we decided to go for a swim. I went across to the pool just opposite our room and Jen joined me a few minutes later. By then I had been mobbed by a group of kids in the pool. Jen was particularly upset by a little boy in arm bands, whose family had left him there on his own. It was a long time before his mother and grandmother came back to the pool area and sat on some loungers at the edge of the pool. Even then, they didn’t take any notice of the poor kid. We thought he was quite vulnerable really.
In accordance with our usual procedure, we packed for an early start and had dinner in our room. Then after dinner we went back to the store and bought juice boxes and snacks for the following day expecting it to be every bit as hot as it had been since San Diego
I set our alarm for 4:30 a.m. and although the breakfast area was normally only open at 6:00 a.m. I arranged for us to get in earlier. Although this meant we would only be able to have a cold meal of yogurt and cereal.
On day 17 we had covered 268 kms.
Day 18 – 6th July.
Susanville – Alturas – Oregon Border – Valley Falls – Alkali Lake – Riley – Hines.
We were up early again and breakfast of toast and yogurt before riding out at 5:30 a.m.
Hines was our destination for the day and we wanted to be there before the heat became too oppressive. As we rode through Susanville it was cool but not cold and the temperature was around 15c. We had t-shirts and sweaters under out jackets and were wearing lightweight summer gloves.
There was a wonderful view of Susanville as we climbed up out of the valley on Hwy 139 north. The sun was just creeping up over the ridge as we swept up the curves and over the ridge. Soon we were riding through trees and scrub very reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands.
We passed Eagle Lake as we climbed to 5,000 feet and soon stopped to add our liners and warm gloves in the early morning cold. The elevation of the nearby Fredonyer Peak is 7947 feet. It was now only 6c and we didn’t fully warm up until we stopped for a warm drink in Alturas. The only sign of life early on the Sunday morning was at a Deli where we stopped for granola bars and warm drinks while we waited until we were warm enough to carry on.
North of Alturas, we passed Goose Lake. Beautiful countryside surrounded us with cattle grazing in the valley. Trees and scrub covered the hillsides at over 4,500 feet.
Even though we knew California was in a period of extreme drought, we were still surprised that Goose Lake was totally dry.
In New Pine Creek at the north end of the lake, we stopped for photos at the Oregon State line.
The day was warming up and it was now 28c. At the end of the lake we stopped at the Safeway supermarket in Lakeview to use their facilities and by now we were warm enough to remove our liners and swap gloves again. There was no lake to view from Lakeview and hadn’t bee for about two years.
Not long after, we had to stop further north at Valley Falls at the intersection with Hwy 395 and Hwy 31 for a short break as I was really hot and had to take off my sweater and open all the vents on my jacket and pants. Jen did the same.
We continued on the 395, passed the dramatic Lake Albert; an Alkali lake with some water but mostly a salt flat smelling strongly of sulphur. As we crested the ridge, we had a fantastic view of Mt. Shasta in the distance to our west.
According to the map we would be going through the community of Wagontire but I assume there’s not much there as all I saw was a gas pump and a couple of single wide homes, despite the fact the map shows they have an airstrip. I guess it was somewhere nearby.
Between Alkali Lake and Riley the road is straight and fast and there was no traffic whatsoever. I topped 160 kph as my GPS indicated 152 kph, before Jen told me to slow down. I noticed it was 31c at the time.
Soon we were in Hines after six hours on the road. It was 11:40 a.m. and 34c. We were glad we’d had the early start as it was shaping up to be extremely hot in the afternoon.
We called in at the Rory and Ryans Inn motel where we were offered a first floor room, but I opted for a ground floor room where I could see my bike outside and that meant going back after 1:00 p.m. when that room would be ready.
So, we went over the road to Subway for lunch only to find a horrendous line up. Plan B meant carrying on to McDonald’s and we enjoyed a leisurely meal there.
After checking in back at the motel I parked my bike in the shade of the entrance. By now it was 2:00 p.m. and 34c.
During the afternoon we swam in the pool and relaxed in the hot tub before showering and heading over to the nearby supermarket. We purchased fried chicken and fries at the food counter for dinner later and added yogurt and white wine.
We spent the evening over dinner while watching TV and sorting out our gear ready for the morning. I moved my bike from the front entrance to outside our window as soon as that side of the building was in shade.
In bed we watched an Animal Planet show about Bigfoot and set our alarm for 5:30 a.m. – almost a lie in!
On day 18 we had covered 500 kms.
Day 19 – 7th July.
Hines – Oregon Trail – Cambridge – Ontario – McCall/Payette Lake
At 6:00 a.m. we had breakfast in the motel. As I loaded my bike I noted it was 6:37 a.m. and already 20c.
My bike had sunk in the asphalt outside our room due to the heat, so I left the motel a permanent impression of my centre stand as we departed at 7:00 a.m.
Hines and the adjoining town of Burns are set in one of the many basins – flat areas that are the remains of ancient lakes surrounded by a ridge. We rode through one basin after another then followed the Malheur River Valley (Malheur is french for misfortune) through impressive canyons.
A Harley bike had crashed out on one of the sweeping corners. The rider was still there with two buddies and a construction crew that had been working nearby. We were obviously not needed, so we rode on past. Not surprisingly, a few minutes later a highway patrol car with lights flashing and siren blaring passed us heading the other way – presumably racing to the scene of the accident.
Speeding on through more canyons we rode into the city of Vale, more or less our halfway point for the day. After stopping for juice and a granola bar each, I bought a coffee at the Starlite Cafe and we sat in the shade of the trees near the Lions Club fountain by the Oregon Trail information sign.
Vale was the first stop in Oregon for pioneers following the Oregon Trail and also the start of Meek’s Cutoff.
Seeking a more direct route across the high desert and central Cascade Range, Stephen Meek, an experienced mountain man, led 200 wagons across the arid plains west of Vale, towards the Cascades. Unable to find water the wagon train turned north but by the time they reached The Dalles, at least 23 people had died. A movie called Meek’s Cutoff was made of this incident.
After filling up with gas in Vale we headed for Ontario. Threading through Ontario we crossed the Snake River into Idaho and on through Payette, heading north on Hwy 95.
It was quite warm now at 34c. In Cambridge, where Hwy 95 turns east we stopped at Bucky’s Cafe for an early lunch at 11:30 a.m. From Cambridge we had less than 100 kms to go to our destination at McCall on Payette Lake. In Bucky’s I had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and Jen had chicken soup.
As we rode on through the onion producing area of Idaho, we passed mile upon mile of sagebrush wilderness and irrigated farmland. We also saw water-logged fields of green plants and wondered if they were rice paddies.
After Alpine, the highway turns north and as we traveled on there were gradually more trees and farmland irrigated with spigots. We started to see treed hills ahead and north of Glendale as we entered the west edge of the Payette National Forest. From there it was heavily treed all the way to New Meadows.
At New Meadows we turned east off Hwy 95 to Hwy 55 and continued through Lardo to McCall. We soon found ourselves behind two logging trucks – a sure sign there were plenty of trees nearby! I passed one of the trucks as it meandered through the forest but then got to the speed limit as we entered McCall.
We arrived at the Best Western motel at 2:00 p.m. (we were back in mountain time) and had to wait for half an hour before we got the keys to a room. The hotel entrance was finished in a log style which was very nice and suited the mountain setting.
As we waited, I spent the time in the lobby copying photo’s from my SD cards to a USB key and deleting security messages from out home security system.
As soon as we unloaded, Jen started doing some washing and by 4:30 p.m. we were totally settled in for our short stay. I once again moved my bike from the front of the motel to a parking bay near our room and noted the odometer reading for the day.
On day 19 we had covered 399 kms.
Day 20 – 8th July.
McCall – Day off exploring Payette Lake.
We had a good sleep in the motel in McCall and a leisurely breakfast. After that we walked down to the lake and found the ticket office for the lake cruises where we bought tickets for an afternoon cruise later in the day. We had a walk by the lake, checked out the various stores and eventually stopped at the Toll Station Restaurant for lunch before heading back to the dock.
We had booked an hour and a half cruise on the Idaho and it was cooler on the lake but it was very enjoyable. The Captain talked informatively about the lake the area and the fishing which included Mackinaw (lake trout), Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout among others. The lake is apparently known as the best trophy fishing lake in Idaho.
The lake shore was dotted with beautiful and expensive looking homes, numerous sandy beaches and a spectacular mountain backdrop.
The town of McCall is now a recreation and tourist destination but started off as a logging town with a lumber mill on the lake shore that was still operating into the 1980’s.
After our cruise, we bought cheese and crackers on the way back to the motel and then went for a swim in the motel pool. I checked over my bike and in the evening we ate in our room while watching TV.
McCall municipal airport was across the road from our motel
We had enjoyed our day at the lake and finished the evening off by packing and preparing for the ride to Missoula in the morning.
On day 20 we had covered zero kms on the bike.
Day 21 – 9th July.
McCall – Hells Canyon – Nez Perce – Orangeville – Lochsa Lodge – Lilo Pass – Missoula
More photos and text to come!
We were up early and had breakfast in the motel at 5:30 a.m. It was a cooler start to the day than we had experienced for a while as we were in the mountains at about 5,300 feet. Once we finished packing and loading up we rode out of the motel at 6:45 a.m. and headed back to New Meadows. We stopped there briefly to put on an extra layer and change our gloves. It wasn’t really cold but we were certainly feeling the early morning chill.
From New Meadows we were back on Hwy 95 heading north past Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area and on toward the Nez Perce Reservation. It seemed to be an extensive mining area around Hell’s Canyon.
Gold had been discovered on Nez Perce land in the 1800’s. North of Riggins, we saw evidence of hydraulic mining activity near Lucille, so we weren’t surprised to pass the intersection with Gold Rush Lane!
Eventually we stopped at the White Bird Battlefield overlook just north of the town of White Bird on Highway 95.
We had ridden back in to the Pacific Time Zone and gained an hour, so it was 6:45 a.m.
It had warmed up and I took off my sweater and swapped back to my lightweight gloves. Riding on north-east we stopped for gas at a Conoco station in Grangeville. I try to avoid ethanol but had to take the 10% regular fuel there as that is all they had on offer. It was 28c and cloudy but pleasant riding conditions. After Grangeville, we passed a mammoth site and then took Hwy 13 north to Kooskia where we turned east onto Hwy 12.
The ride through the valley along the Clearwater River on Hwy 12 is spectacular. There was some traffic – trucks, RV’s and even bicycles but nothing too much and for the most part it was just an empty winding twisty road through beautiful scenery of steep hillside covered with pine and spruce trees.
We decided we’d stop at the next place we came to for lunch but nearly an hour later there was still no sign of any civilization so we pulled over at one of the many trail head pull outs to finish off our crackers and drink some Gatorade.
Half an hour later we came to Lochsa Lodge and turned off the highway there. We had ridden some of both the Nez Perce and Clark Trails.
Lochsa Lodge was a great find – an awesome log built lodge and cabins just off the highway on the banks of the Lochsa River. We had coffee/tea and Lochsa burgers for lunch. The log beams in the roof space were beautiful and wildlife mounts on the lodge walls included elk, moose, grizzly bear, black bear, Dahl’s sheep, whitetail deer, wolverine, wolf and cougar.
I know wildlife mounts are not for everyone but it is was excellent display in a wonderful setting. In the lodge shop, Jen bought a very nice v-neck t-shirt.
As we continued our ride we reached Lolo Summit at 5,233 feet. There’s a visitor centre there , so we stopped to have a look around.
There were some other bikes there and I offered to take pictures for a couple of riders on cruisers. They talked to us in the visitor centre and were both Canadians from Moose Jaw. Outside after we looked around, there was a group of four bikes – a BMW GS, a BMW R1200R and a couple of Honda’s They all had ADV stickers on their bikes, so I donated them some Alberta Dualsport stickers as well.
As we left the summit, we crossed in to Montana and rode on toward Missoula. The Montana State border sign was captured on my bike cam.
The four bikes from the summit soon caught and passed us and I followed them all the way in to Lolo.
They turned northwest and we continued on to Missoula.
We stopped for gas and pulled in to the nearby Broadway Inn.
I had a swim in the motel pool followed by a shower and we both relaxed in the room for a while before walking over to the local stores. In Wal-Mart, we bought subway salad and drinks to have for dinner and to take with us on the bike.
Back in our room we watched TV while we ate and then had an early night.
On day 21 we had covered 440 kms.
Day 22 – 10th July.
Missoula – Flathead Lake – Polson – Coram – Glacier National Park – St. Mary – Pincher Creek
More photos and text to come!
This would be our last day in the US and it was a hot and humid start in Missoula. Again we had an early breakfast as we were up at 5:30 a.m. It was a leisurely breakfast as we were back in Mountain Time and our body clocks were out of sync. Still we were packed and on the road by 7:00 a.m.
After a few miles north-west on I90 we turned north on Hwy 93 passing cattle ranches and grain fields with the high ground providing a lush green backdrop. The view of Flathead Lake as we descended into Polson was fantastic and in Polson we stopped for our customary morning break for coffee/tea, a stretch of the legs and gasoline. From Polson we followed Hwy 35 north alongside Flathead Lake.
Along the east shore of the lake toward Bigfork, we passed many cherry and apple orchards. There are many beautiful houses and cabins along the lake shore. After Bigfork, we followed Hwy 206 north toward Creston.
North of Creston we continued past Columbia Falls and followed Hwy 2E alongside the Flathead River into Hungry Horse. A few miles further along the river valley, we stopped again at a small roadside cafe, the Glacier Grill, in Coram.
Soon we turned left off Hwy 2 into Glacier National Park where we had to buy an expensive $25 seven day pass.
As we entered the park there were signs telling visitors to expect short delays. Well, as it turned out the ‘short’ part wasn’t true at all and we had numerous long delays later in the day due to roadworks near St. Mary. But despite the roadworks, the ride and scenery along the ‘Road To The Sun’ were spectacular. Towering mountains, deep valleys, waterfalls, tunnels, and huge drop-offs. Jen had her eyes shut for the drop-offs!
Absolutely awesome country and we stopped numerous times for photos.
It was busy at the summit and we didn’t stay there very long.
The temperature reached 34c while we waited in line at traffic lights where the descent from the summit road was being graded and the parapets rebuilt. At least three major delays meant switching off my bike while pulled over in the shade of whatever trees we could find nearby.
Once we were clear of the roadworks we soon arrived in St Mary where we had a really late lunch of sandwiches and Gatorade before leaving Glacier National Park and cracking on to the border nearby.
We weren’t impressed by the sarcastic CBSA border guard who must have been having a bad day.
We were quizzed over our purchases and lectured about the tax-free allowances. I said I had all the receipts in my bag for him to check but he decided not to go to that extreme and grudgingly told us to carry on.
As I rode away I said to Jen I didn’t know why he had been so officious as the allowances are per person and we hadn’t exceeded the allowance for one person between the two of us.
Not long after crossing back in to Canada we arrived at the Super 8 motel in Pincher Creek. A storm was brewing but Jen said she was pleased to have survived the ‘Road To The Sun’!
From our room we could see the storm clouds over the nearby Ramada Inn.
On day 22 we had covered 432 kms.
Day 23 – 11th July. Arrived home.
Pincher Creek – Turner Valley – Rocky Mountain House
This was to be the last day of out trip and we left Pincher Creek quite late as we had not packed any of our gear the night before. At 16c it was now much cooler than we had been experiencing, so there was no need for an early start. At the last-minute I put on a sweater and we headed north. It was sunny but hazy over the mountains and we followed Hwy 3 passed Lundbreck and turned on to Hwy 22 north.
We had to stop soon after as Jen needed to put on her jacket liner.
It was now cloudy and quite cool so we both put on our thick gloves. We made good time on the straight fast road as there was very little traffic to hold us up. In Turner Valley we stopped and had coffee/tea at the Coyote Moon Cafe. We had cold fingers so took our time while we warmed up. As we did this we watched a cat playing with a mouse outside the window. Eventually the cat got bored with its game and ate the mouse.
Outside it was brighter and warmer and became more and more sunny as we rode north. Somewhere south of Cochrane, Jen spotted a moose grazing in the bush and soon we crossed the Bow River and kept on through Cochrane to Sundre where we stopped for gas. While we were there we ate lunch of grilled cheese panini’s at Tim Horton’s.
After lunch we carried on north on the Hwy 22 – The Cowboy Trail – through James River to Caroline. Then we followed the Oras road north and were soon home. It was about 2:00 p.m.
On day 23 we had covered 399 kms.
The final odo reading was 30,575 kms.
We had completed a wonderful journey south through Alberta, BC, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California all the way to the Mexican border and returned north through California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Montana and back in to Alberta. It had been 23 days and 7,763 kilometers of fantastic places, awesome scenery, and wonderful people.