Schnitzel Run – Part 2, Cranbrook, BC to Walla Walla, WA

2014 Schnitzel Run.  Lining up to re-enter Canada at the Roosville US/Canada border crossing

2014 Schnitzel Run. Lining up to re-enter Canada at the Roosville US/Canada border crossing

Hardship

Hardship makes for great travel stories.

On Day 2 of our 5-day 2014 ‘Schnitzel Run’, single digit temperatures, overcast skies and spitting rain greeted us as our group of ten riders wandered in and out of the breakfast room at our Cranbrook motel.

Our first travel day from Edmonton was cold and we hit rain.  Like all hardcore motorcyclists, we all watched The Weather Network on TV, hoping for a break in the weather.  The forecast showed rain across Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon – just where we were heading.

“Wheels up at 8:00 AM” became our standard departure time.  While Ray left our group and wheeled his BMW K1200LT back to Edmonton, Shon took the lead on his Buell Ulysses with the nine remaining riders in tow.  This is the first time this group of nine would be riding together.  On Day 1, we traveled in two groups (6 and 4 riders), and I worried this pack of nine might be incompatible.  Finding a riders who share a similar riding style, common preference for pace, and possessing similar riding practices when riding in a group, can be frustrating if everybody isn’t like-minded.

My concerns were needless.  This is a very, very experienced collection of riders.  Walker has ridden the Three Flags Classic (Mexico to Canada) umpteen times and is an Iron Butt Rider to boot; Dave, Robyn, Charlie and I have ridden to Alaska; Denis and Louise have toured to Quebec; Bjorn has toured in Mexico; Shon has ridden Texas and Arizona.

Sandpoint and Saint Maries, ID

From Cranbrook we ride south and cross into the United States.  The U.S. border agents are quick, polite and efficient, and we arrive in Sandpoint, ID by mid-morning.  The Panhandler Restaurant is our customary destination where we stop for a hearty second breakfast.  And some of us indulge in after-breakfast dessert – pie – which is the Panhandler’s claim to fame.

The Panhandler's hearty eggs scramble skillet, our second breakfast of the day

The Panhandler’s hearty eggs scramble skillet, our second breakfast of the day

The Panhandler Restaurant is renown for its pie.  Sour Cream Lemon Pie was the after-breakfast dessert of the over-indulgent

The Panhandler Restaurant is renown for its pie. Sour Cream Lemon Pie was the after-breakfast dessert of the over-indulgent

Cold and having fought rain on and off all morning, we pile into the welcome warmth of the Panhandler Pies Restaurant.  This is a family-run restaurant, and our young servers recognize us as ‘the Canadian riders’ from previous years’ visits.  We sip hot coffee while the kitchen preps our orders,  I order the Eggs Scramble Skillet, loaded with eggs, sausage,  potatoes and topped with cheese served with southern-style biscuits, all on a cast iron skillet.  This skillet of caloric overload is the typical extra large servings in U.S. eateries.  It’s way more than I usually eat, but I gobble it up anyway.  And of course, to avoid the possibility of any possible caloric deficiency, I order Sour Cream Lemon pie.  Life is good.

Shon leads us for a short stint on Interstate I-90 then south on Idaho State Road 3, a designated Scenic Byway to Saint Maries.  In and around Saint Maries are highly technical roads, genuine ‘twisties’ that take skill and concentration.  The pavement is generally good, but the pavement is narrow, very tight and with narrow shoulders (if any.)  Our group rides in close formation at a quick, safe pace.

Well planned, but unplanned

Well into Washington, the roads dry and the sun shines bright – for a time.  The cold weather and overcast skies of Idaho are long gone, and we’re in rolling countryside.  The planted fields are remarkably green and lush.  In this part of Washington State, the crops are easily 3 or 4 weeks ahead of Alberta’s.

We’re in rolling countryside, and the rural highway turns into deliciously fast sweepers.  Riding in position 8 of 9 riders, our group is riding in tight formation.  Shon is towing us at an entertainingly brisk pace, with everyone perfectly spaced apart.  Watching the 7 riders in front of me is like watching a ballet on wheels.  The line of riders moves like they’re invisibly chained together, each following precisely in the tracks of the machine ahead.  The line of bikes ahead are piloted with precision and confidence.  There are few signs of brakes being applied; the group rides as an organic whole, masterfully rolling off the throttle approaching a bend in the road, banking their bike into the turn, then smoothly accelerating up to the next curve.

(L-R:  Robyn, Dave, author, Denis and Louise).  Proof that soft ice cream makes the world a better place, and at $1.47 per cone, it tastes that much better

(L-R: Robyn, Dave, author, Denis and Louise). Proof that soft ice cream makes the world a better place, and at $1.47 per cone, it tastes that much better

This level of precision and riding skill is a joy to watch and when take a break to enjoy soft ice cream ($1.47 USD each!  When’s the last time you saw pricing like that in Canada?) and soak up some sun, I say it’s one of the best riding days I’ve had, ever.

Somehow, Shon finds these quaint, picturesque and very twisty backroads to lead us into Walla Walla.  “You’ve planned this route superbly”, I tell Shon.  He says the great roads we’ve ridden are the result of dumb luck.  “I just enter the destination on my GPS and specify ‘shortest route”, he admits.  So our excellent route is the result of good planning, because it wasn’t planned.

Mill Creek Brew Pub, Walla Walla, WA

Mill Creek Brew Pub, Walla Walla, WA

Picturesque Walla Walla, WA boasts two community colleges and a university

Picturesque Walla Walla, WA boasts two community colleges and a university

Walla Walla, WA is a surprisingly picturesqe town.  With a population of about 32,000, it’s about the size of Leduc near Edmonton.  Its main street is great for walking and is lined with shops and numerous eateries you’d expect in a college/university town.  With origins from the early- to mid-1800s, the brick and sandstone buildings along main street are like the architectural style found in the Canadian prairie towns founded in the same era.

The (un-battered) fish taco at the Mill Creek Brew Pub was a nice end to the day

The (un-battered) fish taco at the Mill Creek Brew Pub was a nice end to the day

With the sun shining, we dined al fresco at the patio of the Mill Creek Brew Pub, as recommended by some local residents.  The fish tacos I ordered were served without having been battered then deep-fried.  Our group that evening was feisty and our server, likely a college student working part time, showed tremendous patience and good humour while enduring the onslaught of jibes launched by the geriatric riders in our company.

Rain, cold, twisty roads, fast sweepers, sun, soft ice cream, and good company.  All in all, another great motorcycle touring day.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Richard says:

    ty It’s always entertaining and informative to read your
    trip narratives

  2. Bert says:

    Great read Tim. It is a great day when one finds pie.

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