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An adventure on-road


By kumakahn - Posted on 08 March 2016

Well, like most of us, Winter has had me riding on-road for the last few months, and sometimes not at all, and I am getting itchy.  So, when I had to go to Moscow, Idaho for work on February 28th, I chose to ride instead of drive.  What's more, I rode up Highway 95.  I left late on Sunday the 28th, and had booked a little cabin at an RV resort in Grangeville for that night.  The ride to Grangeville was fairy nice, with only one slushy area in the curvy roads around Cambridge, until I got just past Riggins.  Then, as the sky darkened with both the disappearing sun and ominous blue clouds, it started to rain, a lot. I found myself going up Whitebird Pass with visibility that was, well, not optimal.  Between the driving rain on my face shield, this little car that refused to pass me, and what I thought was a pretty good headlight on my F800 GS Adventure, I could only see about 50 feet ahead of me. I just went fairly slow and made it down the pass. 

The RV resort was just below the pass.  But, that damn little car just kept right on my tail, and I had never been to that RV resort before.  By the time I saw the sign for the RV resort, way back from the road, I was almost past it.  I pulled over and walked the bike backwards to the entrance.  It was pitch black, raining, and I was tired.  When I got to the entrance, I wheeled the bike around and put my foot down to - nothing.  No ground.  I couldn't see it in the dark, but I was in an area that sloped off quickly.  The bike went over, with me barelly able to keep it from falling and hitting hard.  I tried to do the backwards lift.  But, it was too heavy with all my gear on it.  (I had full camping gear, not knowing for sure where I would end up that night.)  I had just removed my dry bag when a truck pulled into the entrance, and I waved them to help me.  A nice old guy helped me lift the bike, which seemed pretty easy at that point.  I don't know if it was the removed dry bag or his help.  I started it back up with both of us undamaged, except for my pride, and rode into the RV resort for the night.  Given how windy and cold that night was, I was glad for that little cabin. 

It snowed a little that night and was windy as hell.  It was still windy the next morning.  But, the roads were dry by 10:00 a.m., except for some icy spots in the canyon going down to Lewiston, which I navigated very slowly and carefully by keeping to what seemed like a very narrow dry strip in the lane.  The warmth of Lewiston felt good, and I stopped for water and a break at the little park near the gas station and Days Inn at the entrance to Lewiston.  Then, on up to my business in Moscow.

After finishing up in Moscow, I decided it was too late to ride home that night, and it was supposed to snow in New Meadows that night anyway.  So, I headed up Highway 95 to CDA and then on to Spokane to spend the night with my father.  I have always loved that ride between Moscow and CDA, and that afternoon was bright and calm.  Any troubles I had on this whole trip were worth that short ride.  Sunny, with no wind or rain, and a long, windy road surrounded by incredible scenery.  I highly recommend that ride.  

I had to get back to work.  So, the next morning I was off again.  And, again it was raining, and windy, and about 34 degrees.  I took the longer but lower route home to Caldwell, Idaho, going down I-395 through the Tri-Cities and Pendleton.  For about a hour, I had no rain and light wind.  The rest of the way past Baker was not fun.  As I turned onto the highway past the Tri-Cities, I hit a rain squall, and for about ten miles it was pouring, and so foggy that I could barely see 100 feet.  Then, it was calm again.

I was worried there would be snow on Dead Man's Pass above Pendleton.  So, I made sure I hit the pass around 3:00 p.m.  There was no snow, a little rain, and a lot of wind.  At some points, I felt myself sitting way forward on the bike as I went up the pass, because it felt very much like the wind was trying to lift my front end right off the road.  As I came around one curve and the wind hit me so hard I had to use all my strength to stay in my lane, I swear my front end almost lifted off, and I thanked my lucky stars for good tires, sort of dry roads, and a slightly lowered front fork.  That F800 GS seemed to have way too light a front end when I got it.  So, lowering the forks about 8 mm was the first thing I did to it - that and new springs.  I also put little bags on the engine bars I installed, and they helped balance the weight. 

After Dead Man's Pass, I knew from experience that the ride to the safer areas above Baker was going to be windy, and it was.  Last year, I saw a large pick-up and trailer blown right over in that area, in lighter winds than I had that afternoon, and I was a bit scared.  The gusts must have hit at least 40 miles per hour quite often, and I was struggling to stay in my lane and on the road, pushing on that windward bar hard.  I have done a lot of riding in high winds, and I learned from experience that leaning into a gusty wind is a very bad idea.  When a gust suddenly stops or reverses, as they do a lot in that area.  It is too easy to end up leaning exactly the wrong way.  Use the bars - it is easier to adjust quickly.

After resting at that last rest stop after Baker, I enjoyed the next curvy 80+ miles in light winds, no rain on a really fun stretch of highway.  It did make me miss my Kawasaki Concours.  That stretch of road is so much fun on a big, fast bike.  But, it was still fun on my loaded up 800.  In retrospect, I was probably as foolish as the people I met in Moscow thought I was for taking that trip on a bike.  But, I get downright depressed when I can't ride, and I'm glad I did it. It got me out of my winter dulldroms.  

As for the bike, my embarrassing little mishap that rainy night in Grangeville did no damage - just a small scratch on the engine bar.  Those bars paid for themselves pretty fast.  

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