Kenny Wickstrom » Motorcycle travel story

Motorcycle travel story by Kenny Wickstrom

From Seattle to Chicago

Kenny Wickstrom, 39, lives in Hainesville, Illinois, USA.  He started riding by disobeying his mother and buying a Honda GL500.  After college, he found employment as an engineer in in northeastern Illinois and continued his riding by purchasing an Honda CBR600.  After marriage and 2 kids, he changed steeds to a BMW K75S.  It was in 1997 that Kenny learned about touring with a trip to Colorado.  He has taken a trip every year since then.  His traditional marriage has ended, but not the one that ties him to motorcycling.

Seattle to Chicago via Mt Rainer, North Cascades Nat'l Park, Hell's Gate Canyon, Little Fork, BC, Jasper Nat'l Park, Banff Nat'l Park, Glacier Nat'l Park, Sun Valley, ID and 1700 miles in 3 days. The total trip lasted 10 days and traveled a distance of about 4000 miles while visiting 7 states.

Well it's another hectic week at the office, however this one-week ends more a much sweeter note - a motorcycle vacation.  Wednesday - kiss the girls goodbye, do a full day of work and fly to Dallas for a business meeting on Thursday.  Return Friday morning about 1AM.  Get ready for a Friday 8AM meeting with the senior management.  Leave work by 12:30PM in order to have time to travel 25 miles home, get lunch, pack for 10 days of motorcycling all in time to be ready for the limo pick-up at 2:00PM.  Like I said...another hectic week at the office.  This just gets me to the next adventure - flying standby to Seattle.  Things look great when I get to O'Hare.  I'm early so I can hop the earlier flight to Minneapolis.  Once in Minnie, there seems to be a bright note in that a Seattle flight is still boarding.  Then the hope is dashed when I find out that this flight is way oversold.  Well, I survived much anxiety over the next 4 hours until I received a boarding pass for Seattle.  Finally, I am in the same city as my motorcycle, if only the others were here too.  Bob arrived a few hours later and Jon the next morning as planned. The volunteers for this mission are Bob and his wife's '96 BMW R1100R (as opposed to either of his Harley's); Jon and his '96 Honda VFR750; and Me and my '94 BMW K75S.

This is another ship and ride adventure.  Mine and Bob's bikes were shipped from Deerfield, IL on July 14th.  Bob and I arrive in Seattle on July 23.  Since Jon now lives in Boise, he rode to Portland on the 23rd and then he met us at the shipping company on Saturday (7/24) morning.  Fortunately, our bikes arrived in good condition.  It took just a few minutes to pack our luggage and get on the road.  The first stop was a gas station and then Denny's to put together the day's strategy.  With full tanks and tummies, now we were ready to climb Mt Rainier.  The weather was fog and drizzle as we left Seattle.  We made our way to Paradise, however there wasn't much to see other than the lodge and lots of snow due to the fog.  After a few pictures, we left Paradise to find better weather waiting for us on the east side of the Cascades.  We rode Hwy 410 until it connected back with US 12 outside of Naches, WA where we stopped for a snack.  The ride took us almost into Yakima where we turned north onto Hwy 821.  This wound its way through a canyon where the crosswinds nearly blew us off the road.  As we crossed Interstate 90, there was a sign saying Seattle was 109 miles, my odometer read 250 miles out of Seattle...appears like we took the long way.  We continued up Hwy 97 into Wenatchee.  It took a couple stops to find a room, but the Ramada had a few left.  It was convenient since there a steak place across the street.  Over dinner, Bob declared "If the roads don't seem twisty, you're not going fast enough."  I asked if this meant he would be selling his Harleys for a CBR900RR.  He didn't think so, but he did say he now wanted to keep Kathy's bike (is was up for sale).  312 miles

Lesson 7-24: If the roads don't seem twisty, you're not going fast enough.

Sunday July 25, 1999 (Wenatchee, WA - Chilliwack, BC)

Already the day looks great, its sunny and warm.  We devised a plan that has us overnighting in either Chilliwack or Hope, BC.  We took Hwy 97 north (on the east side of the river) out of Wenatchee to Brewster.  From there we found Hwy 153 that leads to the north along a smaller river.  The weather and roads were perfect for motorcycles and we really began to find the edges of the tires.  We turned onto Hwy 20 that leads west through North Cascades Nat'l Park.  Along the way we stopped in Methow for a snack and a brick shithouse for a... well you know what (as opposed to this).  Now that we were...uh...refreshed, the ride through the park was much more enjoyable.  We pushed our gas tanks to the edge and found there was fuel to spare when we reached Sedro Woolley.  Sedro Woolley also had a cozy restaurant on the corner that took care of our personal fuel tanks.  After lunch we rode north on Hwy 9 and did some more carving through the hills.  Is this fun or what?  Along the way we came upon a group of sport bikers who were riding slow but not going to let us by.  We were only behind them a few miles and they turned towards Mt Baker as we followed the road to Canada.  We reached the border, answered a few questions like "What's your purpose?," "Do you have any illegal substances?," and "How long are you staying in Canada?" and were on our way. Just through the check point a group of Harley's were waiting to be inspected, good thing Bob's riding that "other" bike.  We followed the road north to Mission City where we jumped on Hwy 7 going east.  By this time, we decided Chilliwack seemed like a great place to spend the night.  When we found the town, after riding way east of it on Hwy 7 and then coming back west on some little back road we spotted a Holiday Inn.  They provided front row parking for our bikes. Our room gave us great vantage point to view the local wildlife.  The evening consisted of a walk to the local ATM to get Canadian cash and a Greek restaurant.  After dinner we returned to the hotel bar to swap more stories about the day's ride.  315 miles.

Monday July 26, 1999 (Chilliwack, BC - Little Fork, BC)

The morning came way to soon, but fortunately there was a Starbucks across the street from the hotel.  After a quick bite to eat and some morning beverage we were on our way to find Hell's Gate Airtram.  The morning ride took us to Hope, "Chainsaw Carving Capitol," for a gas stop and a look at the carvings.  We found the mother lode of carvings downtown in the city park.  Like all good tourists, we snapped a few photos.  The road leading north was nice, but well traveled.  We were making good time when we had to slow due to a local patrol car in the front of the traffic bunch.  We stopped at Hell's Gate Airtram to find out what the fuss was all about.  Bottom's a tourist trap, but a pretty neat one. Hell's Gate refers to the narrow passage of along Fraser's River, it is only 110 feet wide at this point.  The Airtram takes visitors from the road on the east side of the water down to the shops (gift shop, restaurant, snack bar and museum) on the west side.  There is a bridge that spans the river, but it is a long climb to the top if you are too cheap to purchase a ticket.  There are concrete structures along the sides of the river that allow the salmon to swim upstream, since they cannot really go navigate the gorge without some help because the current is too strong.  With the touristy stuff behind us and salmon chowder in us, we were ready to due some riding. We got off the main highway at Lytton on Hwy 12.  We rode for awhile before taking a break at Pavillion's General Store.  This particular general store is the oldest in British Columbia.  It also houses the post office. We continued on Hwy 1 to 70 Mile House.  Then we turned right and rode along the north side of Green Lake.  After the road turned into gravel, we found our way back to Lone Butte.  From there we went east on Hwy 24 into Bridge Lake, but couldn't find a place to sleep.  So we rode further into Little Fork.  The name is pretty descriptive of the town.  It is merely a crossroads with 2 motels (not much more than 12 rooms total).  However, the town filled our overnight requirements; a place to sleep, a place to drink and a place to eat.

Tuesday July 27, 1999 (Little Fork, BC - Banff, AB)

We started the day with breakfast at McDodd's Restaurant, they also owned the motel.  I couldn't convince Bob and Jon that the road on the other side of the ferry would be okay (if only the bartender didn't say the road is usually wet with ruts).  So we went north on Hwy 5.  I  can't say enough about the magnificent scenery.  We quickly passed the original overnight destination of Tet Juane Cache.  We also passed Mt Terry Fox, named after a courageous cancer strickened gentlemen who decided to help all cancer victims by walking across Canada to raise money for cancer research.  Jasper became the next target, but when we arrived there by 1:30 PM, we re-focused our sights on Lake Louise.  If you are passing through this area, remember to gas up in Jasper, as the next opportunity is 220 km away.  On our way south through Jasper National Park and Banff National Park we saw some mountain goats entertaining the tourists along the road.  Further down the road, I gave Jon & Bob a scare when they didn't find me behind them.  I had pulled over to snap a few pictures of a bear and her 2 cubs (they we sooo cute).  Besides the wildlife, the mountain formations were outstanding.  You could see where the rocks crashed together to make a big (really big) hill.  Lake Louise was not amenable to our liking.  We found 2 hotels with rooms, one only had singles and the other's room rate was $658 a night (breakfast was included).  We skipped town, found Hwy 1A to be a lot of fun on our way to Banff.  Banff is a happening little resort town.  We had dinner at Earl's and afterwards went to Wild Bill's where a 70's band was playing.  We stayed at Wild Bill's way too late.  Miles 400.

Wednesday July 28, 1999 (Banff, AB-East Glacier Park, MT)

Banff is a fun little town.  We did the tourist thing this morning and bought some souvenirs.  We picked our route with ambition of getting back in the states today.  We found the little road (Hwy 1A) and followed it beyond where we were supposed to turn south onto Hwy 40.  Hwy 1A today was a scenic road, but a horribly uneven surface.  We finally found Hwy 40 after doubling back and headed through Kananaskis Country.  Along with more beautiful scenery, we got to see more mountain goats and 5 big horn sheep.  We had hoped to follow a secondary road south into Coleman, but the road was gravel.  We decided 112 km on gravel probably wasn't a good time and opted for a route into Longview, Alberta.  After lunch, he headed south on Hwy 22 for 70 km of strong crosswinds.  We went east to Pincher Creek and then south towards Montana.  We stopped at the border for pictures before moving on at high rates of speed through Waterton Lakes National Park until we got to St Mary's, MT.  Even though the Lodge sign said vacancy, the receptionist at the desk suggested East Glacier for accommodations.  While stretching our legs we met a man who'd been riding his Harley since May 3rd and accumulated approx. 12,000 miles.  He even told a us story about spilling it once at Devils Gap, NC.  The road to East Glacier was full of great twisties and a huge black bull standing in the shadows.  The bull slowed us down briefly as we found our way into town.  The Sears Motel had cabins available.  They even have a Dollar Rental Car desk  We had some before dinner drinks (after a walk to THE local store) and then went to the World Famous "Whistle Stop" restaurant.  I asked about the "world famous" status and found out that it was because people from all over the world had ate there, therefore it was world famous.  Dinner and pie hit the spot.  Miles 340.

Lesson 7-28:  If you think about work while riding, the road must not be twisty enough.

Thursday July 29, 1999 (East Glacier Park, MT-Missoula)

East Glacier Park is a quiet place all night, no cars and very few people.  But the day needed to start, so we went over to the Whistle Stop for their "World Famous" (you know the reason) French Toast.  Then we did a rousing ride back to St Mary's, where you enter Glacier National Park from the east.  The park scenery is just stunning with green mountains partially blocking snow-covered peaks.  We became very touristy at Logan's Pass, by hiking around a little and taking our picture by the sign.  In the winter, the tourist center is usually surrounded by snowdrifts, so it is closed from October - April.  After leaving the pass, you come to a gigantic valley whose beauty takes your breath.  The road is notched into the side of the mountain, at one point there were stones falling on our heads - believe the "Falling Rocks" signs.  We stopped along Lake McDonald where the water is so clear you can see the bottom, well not in the middle where it is over 500 feet deep.  We left the park after having lunch in Apgar.  We took Hwy 2 to Hwy 206 to Hwy 38.  The ride along here was mostly grueling with straight roads and strong winds.  We slowed down to gape at a VW van on fire.  At Seeley Lake, we took a break at the ice cream stand and planned the rest of the days ride.  A short hop into Missoula, MT and we'd call it a day.  We found downtown and lodging at the Creekside Inn.  Once settled, we grabbed our dirty laundry and went to the high class "Green Hangar" laundry mat.  The offered free soap, had a lounge area with sofas and TVs and a courtesy phone. With clean clothes, we focused on beer and dinner, but definitely in that order.  The Press Box filled the bill with Moose Drool and Spaghetti.  The day was now complete.  Miles 252.

Friday July 30, 1999 (Missoula, MT - Ketchem, ID)

The morning got started with breakfast from the motel lobby.  Our ride took us south on Hwy 93 from Missoula.  The road was terrific and the weather was even better.  We were cruising along with Jon leading and a truck went by the other direction (like many other had already done), when Jon sits straight up on his seat with his hands raised in disbelief.  We came up along side of him and he was coasting along without power...his motorcycle just quit.  After a few foul words, the kill switch was found in the OFF position.  Jon couldn't explain what happen, but with the kill switch in the RUN position, the bike fire to life and we were onto some really nice roads.  Most of the way down Hwy 93 and Hwy 75 into Stanley, ID we pushed our bikes to extreme lean angles.  At one point, we road up on a Honda CBR900RR who was pussy-footing around behind a line of cars.  After determining the rider was a novice, I decided to move around him and the line of cars.  Oh what a feeling...passing one of the best canyon carvers and having open road out in front.  Bob and Jon were right on my heels.  Bob was really settling in on the R1100R, after only riding Harleys for that past several years.  He had been tenative on most of the previous days, but as we were approaching Stanley he just couldn't stand lingering in the third position since I couldn't quite keep up with Jon on this day.  The roads were the right combination of twisties and straights where you could really roll on power coming out of the curves.  The approaches were plainly visible making it easy to setup of the cornering maneuver.  The day sure was spectacular.  We stopped in Stanley for fuel for the bikes and us.  Jon knew of a spot for pictures.  Thanks to Bob, I have a excellent picture with the mountains in the background.  After Stanley, there was more fantastic riding into Sun Valley and Ketchem.  We did a quick motorcycle tour of Sun Valley and then went down the road to Ketchem to find a room.  We went to dinner and then found an outdoor place for after dinner drinks and more story telling.  Miles 322.

Saturday July 31, 1999 (Ketchem, ID - Forsythe, MT)

It was a tough start in Sun Valley, mostly because we stayed out way too late.  Jon headed towards home when we reached Hwy 20.  Now it was time for Bob and I to get serious about getting home.  Hwy 20 and Hwy 33 are pretty much through wasteland.  We rode past Crater of the Moon National Monument (see last year's story).  The lava did make some really cool formations.  We picked up Hwy 20 again in Rexburg and then had lunch at Me n' Stans in St Anthony.  The ride up Hwy 191 from West Yellowstone, MT was pretty.  And we got passed by an Accord SX who made us look like we were standing still and we were doing about 85 MPH.  Once on I-90, we picked Billings to spend the night.  However, we were making good time and continued until we settled on Forsythe when we desperately needed fuel.  We got fuel and then a room at the Best Western.  Dinner was across the street and Amber was our server.  For our after dinner entertainment, she suggested the Duck Days festival happening over on Main Street.  I took Amber's advice to see what Duck Days was about, however, Bob felt that sleep was a little more appealing.  Every year, Forsythe has this fundraiser were you buy a rubber duck, the ducks are then taken up river and dumped into the water.  The first one the crosses the finish line in town wins a prize.  The evening was really just a street dance.  There was a band playing a probably the whole town crowded into the 3 blocks that were sectioned off.  I just strolled through the local chaos and headed back to the room.  Miles 582.

Sunday August 1, 1999 (Forsythe, MT - Alexandria, MN)

We were back on the road again watching mile markers go by, which must explain why Bob ran out of gas at the Buffalo Gap, ND exit along I-90.  I noticed that Bob was not trailing behind and slowed so he would catch up.  He never did, so I backtracked and found him along the road.  He swore he should be able to go another 20 miles.  He admitted the idiot gas light had been on for some time.  I went to the next exit, got gas for myself and a gas can.  We added the fuel to that pretty red BMW and it fired back to life.  We were just plain exhausted when we got to Alexandria, which fortunately had hotel rooms and a restaurant.  Miles 627.