Schnitzel Run – Part 3

Sun and warmth, finally.  Just before our standard "Wheels up, 8:00 AM" departure, Walla Walla, WA

Sun and warmth, finally. Just before our standard “Wheels up, 8:00 AM” departure, Walla Walla, WA

Walla Walla, WA – fueling woes

Our Travelodge motel in Walla Walla is a well used, tired facility.  Our room is cramped, with barely enough room around the second queen-size be to make one’s way round to the bathroom.  The motel seems full, accommodating at least two other motorcycle touring groups.  Besides our Alberta group, there are bikes from B.C., Washington and Oregon.

The sun returns

Sun and warmth greet us, finally.  It’s a welcome relief to much of the previous days riding which has been mostly cold and wet.  The temperature in the mid-teens feels almost summer like, and everybody strips the cold weather liners from their outerwear.

Sunday morning departure in a small, college town may be a challenge.  Where to find a gas station that’s open?  Somebody returns from a quick reconnaissance run and reports an open Chevron nearby.  “Wheels up at 8:00 AM” is our standard practice and we roll out of the parking lot on time.

At the nearby Chevron station, five of our nine begin fueling.  With all five of us drawing on premium unleaded storage tank simultaneously, its pump is overloaded and can only deliver a trickle of fuel at each nozzle.  The attendant is notified of the problem, runs in and out of the building numerous times, to no avail.  It takes some twenty minutes for me to fill the Stelvio’s tank, and others simply give up in frustration.  Ironically, with the low rate of fuel delivery, the automatic shutoff on my nozzle fails to kick in and while talking to Robyn, the tank overfills and I’m standing in a pool of gasoline.

After wiping down the gas tank with paper towels and a few choice cuss words, we head towards Enterprise, OR.

It’s good to be on the road again.  It’s one of the few times in the past two days the heated grips aren’t turned on, and the sun makes me happy and optimistic.  When touring, starting off in the morning always injects me with optimism, and as we say in our household, the “happytude” index is very high.

Shon is leading at his normal quick, relaxed pace.  The group is following in a compact, precise formation.  We begin our ascent, climbing quickly in elevation and the temperature plummets.  Snow begins to appear at the side of the highway, I switch on the heated grips, and the Stelvio’s display is reading a frigid 4 degrees Celsius.  It’s cold.  I had stripped down to just a t-shirt and had removed the insulated liner from my Olympia jacket.  “When are you going to pull over and stop, Shon?”, I keep thinking.  Everybody must be as cold as I am.

Departing Walla Walla was mid-teens warm, but the temperature quickly drops to 4 C. We’re bundling up here

Robyn, Shon, Bjorn, Denis, Louise, Dave and Charlie, ready to roll.  Down the road, they'll encounter hard rain en route to Enterprise, OR

Robyn, Shon, Bjorn, Denis, Louise, Dave and Charlie, ready to roll. Down the road, they’ll encounter hard rain en route to Enterprise, OR

Shon stops at a gravel pullout and it’s almost a comedic as everybody jumps off their bikes, scrambling for jacket liners, heated vests, and fleece pullovers.

And it’s raining, again

Bundled up and warm again, it starts spitting rain and when we arrive in Enterprise, OR we’re soaked and cold.  The little granny-run hole-in-the-wall diner we’d visited for breakfast last year has closed its doors, likely for good.  Locals recommend the Red Rooster Cafe.

The Red Rooster Cafe is a charming eatery.  It’s Sunday morning and there’s a nice crowd  happily dining away.  Clean, modern and with contemporary decor that could be found in any large city cafe, it’s woefully understaffed.  There is only one server, and she says her counterpart called in ill.

Our group of nine is seated at one large table, and it doesn’t matter the first cups of coffee takes eons to arrive.  We’re busy warming up, chatting about the miserable cold, wet weather, and trying to dry out.

Breakfast at the Red Rooster Cafe.  A scramble of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, smothered in cheese.  Welcome hearty fare for a cold, wet day

Breakfast at the Red Rooster Cafe. A scramble of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, smothered in cheese. Welcome hearty fare for a cold, wet day

The Red Rooster Cafe waffle

The Red Rooster Cafe waffle

Our lengthy breakfast stop in Enterprise recharges our batteries and the next section of road takes us over the mountain via  Rattlesnake Pass to Asotin, WA.  It’s one of the most interesting, technical motorcycle roads I’ve enjoyed in the region, and one I’ve waxed poetically about before.

The road linking Enterprise, OR to Asotin, WA is one of the most spectacular motorcycle roads in the west

The road linking Enterprise, OR to Asotin, WA is one of the most spectacular motorcycle roads in the west

Bjorn displays a moment of spontaneous travel joy.  Dave (wearing helmet) is caught by surprise

Bjorn displays a moment of spontaneous travel joy. Dave (wearing helmet) is caught by surprise

Getting to know you

One of the joys of travel is getting to know one’s fellow travelers. I’ve never ridden with Walker (R1200GS) and learn he has ridden the famed Three Flags Classic (an annual motorcycle rally that runs from Mexico to Canada) multiple times and is an Iron Butt Rider.  At home, Robyn is an enthusiastic gourmet cook, as am I.  We learn that Louise (F800GT) and husband Denis (R1200RT) grew up in Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula.

Food is a big part of these motorcycle tours, and somewhere in a conversation Louise reveals she makes tourtiere, a family-size meat pie originating from Quebec.

“You make tourtiere?”, I ask Louise, enthusiastically.  Robyn gets sucked into the conversation.

“Yes, I make it the same way my mother makes it”, Louise replies, then going on, explaining the ingredients and her Alberta variation.

Robyn and I listen intently to her, and I chip in, “Louise, you should host a tourtiere-making day at your house this fall to teach us how to make this dish.  It’s something I always wanted to learn how to make.  I’m sure there would be a lot of (BMW club members) who would be interested.”

Louise cautiously pauses before asking, “How many people do you think would be interested in attending?”

“At least fifty!”, I say, and Robyn, Denis and I are laughing hysterically at the look of horror on Louse’s face.

Robyn and the author in Asotin, WA after crossing Rattlesnake Pass.  No surprise on this tour, it's raining

Robyn and the author in Asotin, WA after crossing Rattlesnake Pass. No surprise on this tour, it’s raining

At the end of the day, we arrive in Missoula, MT and it’s still raining.  We roll into the motel later than usual, and there is little time to wash up, remove wet gear and gather for supper.  We straggle in small groups to the Tamarack Brewing Co., the restaurant the motel clerk recommends.  It’s a long walk, and threatening more rain.

The restaurant is surprsingly busy and we have to wait for a table.  I ask the pretty, young hostess for a table for nine.  She leaves for a moment to check seating availability and returns to inform us there will be a short wait, and then turns to Shon and asks, “What’s your name?”  She scribbles it on her wait list.

“Shon, did you notice she asked for your name, not mine? And I’m the one who asked her for the table.  But she wants your name”, I say.  Jeez, that’s the price of growing old, I guess.  Old men don’t show up on the radar of pretty, young women.

The restaurant displays a stack of awards earned over the past few years – “Best New Pub”, “Best Pub Restaurant” and the like, so it looks like a good choice, and it is.  Service is quick and all agree the various entrees all receive high marks from our table of motorcycling food critics.

Good eats at the Tamarack Brew Pub, Missoula, MT

Good eats at the Tamarack Brew Pub, Missoula, MT

Naturally, it’s raining for our Wheels Up, 8:00 AM departure.  The Red Lion Hotel parking lot is unnervingly slick.  It feels like somebody’s sprayed a layer of oil on the pavement, and then added rain water.

Motorcycling in Montana is always a joy.  Speed limits are high, traffic is sparse and the police have, in past, shown tremendous leniency for wayward motorcyclists who dally at the edges of the acceptable ‘speeding’ rate of travel.

This day, I’m riding in position number 8 of nine riders.  We’re on a secondary 2-lane rural road, and moving briskly.  And yes, it is raining and I’m concentrating on the group ahead, with Charlie on his K1200GT in front of me and Robyn on his R1200RT riding ‘tail.’  The rain drives harder and Charlie motions with his left arm, arcing it over his head like the ‘C’ when you’re dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA” song.

What’s going on?, I wonder.  Does Charlie need to adjust his gear for the rain?  I slow, checking my mirrors and they’re filled with the tell-tale blue and red flashing lights.  Robyn slyly pulls around and continues on.  Charlie pulls over to the shoulder.

Behind me are two black Montana Highway Patrol vehicles, a Ford Taurus pulls in behind me, and a Ford Explorer behind him.

I know the drill and pull off my helmet right away and stand beside the bike waiting for the Trooper’s directions.  Approaching me, the Trooper asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?”

“Uh, 130-something clicks”, I mumble.  Meanwhile, Trooper #2 is standing in the ditch near his Explorer, right hand on his holstered pistol.

The Trooper doesn’t reply, but says to Charlie stopped in front of me, “You can go, Sir.  You weren’t speeding” and turns to me and says, only you and the guy near the front with the big bags were speeding.  I clocked you going 81 in a 70 zone.”  Charlie gets on his K1200GT and leave me alone with the two troopers.

Eying Trooper #2 with his hand on his pistol, I slowly reach into my jacket’s breast pocket and pull out my registration, take my wallet out of the thigh pocket of my riding pants, take out my driver’s licence out and hand them over.

The trooper takes them to his car and tells me I can put my helmet back on – a sympathetic gesture because it’s still raining, but not hard.  Not wanting go through the involved process of inserting ear plugs and put the helmet on knowing the trooper will return to talk to me, I stand there, patiently awaiting the paperwork.

He returns and says, “That’s forty dollars.”  I’ll tell you it’s a strange feeling for a Canadian to be standing on the side of the highway and forking over forty dollars cash to a police officer, in public view.  But I do and he takes the cash, returns to his car.  A few minutes later he returns with the paperwork – a combined citation and receipt showing I paid $40 USD for the infraction of driving at 81 mph in a 70 mph zone, and he explains carefully that my payment is not an admission of guilt and I have the choice to appear in traffic court.

He hands me the paper, wishes me a good day and returns to his vehicle and waits for me to mount up.  When I’m ready to merge back onto the two-lane road, he moves his vehicle partially block the lane so I can safely resume my way and the two patrol vehicles follow me up to speed and then pull off, cross the road and set up their speed monitoring on the other side.

This is my $40 dollar ‘sportbike permit’ I tell my friends.  A small price to pay for the privilege of enjoying Montana’s fabulous roads.

Libby, MT – lunch and a new tire

Robyn recommends Henry’s Restaurant in Libby, Mt., and it’s a great stop.  We’ve left the rain, but it’s still overcast and more rain is likely.

Henry’s is one of those old-fashioned eateries you don’t see much of any more, at least not in our part of the world.  It looks to be straight out of the 1970s, and prices are old fashioned, too.  A patty melt for $7.95 and chocolate milkshake, one of the best I’ve enjoyed in years ($4.25) is a bargain.  It’s one of those simple meals that isn’t fancy, isn’t expensive, just good, solid fare at a reasonable price.  I like these kind of restaurant ‘finds.’

At our lunch stop, Shon sees the rear tire of his Buell Ulysses has worn to the cord.  While some of us are still lunching, he ventures off in search of a motorcycle shop an he finds one a few blocks away.  They’ve got a tire in his size, and Bjorn elects to stay with him until the new tire is mounted.  They instruct the remaining seven riders to proceed to Fernie, BC, our last overnight stop.

From Libby, we ride north and approaching the U.S.-Canada border, the rain begins to pelt down on us.  It’s Monday, the last day of Canada’s Victoria Day long weekend, and traffic returning to Canada comes to a stop on the highway.  We join the 3 or 4 kilometre queue waiting to cross into Canada at Rossport.

We sit for a couple of minutes, the traffic moves ahead two car lengths, then we shut down and wait a couple of minutes.  This stop-start move ahead a few feet and wait again sequence goes on for 1-1/2 hours, mostly in hard rain.  Shortly after stopping, I retrieve an umbrella and sit there, sheltering myself from the cold rain.  This little travel tip was passed on to me by good friend Wolfgang Simmert, who acknowledges that renown world motorcycle traveler Ted Simon, the author of Jupiter’s Travels, was the person who passed this tip on to him.

Carry an umbrella and wear clean underwear.  Words of wisdom for the intrepid traveler

Carry an umbrella and wear clean underwear. Words of wisdom for the intrepid traveler

4 km lineup on the highway waiting to re-enter Canada at Rossport port-of-entry

4 km lineup on the highway waiting to re-enter Canada at Rossport port-of-entry

Sitting on the Guzzi with an umbrella triggers a round of laughs and knee slapping by my companions and the camera quickly comes out to preserve this memorable sight.

Crossing back into Canada is uneventful.  The Canada Border Services agent is quick, efficient and polite.

We arrive at our final overnight stop, Fernie, BC, and it’s been a long day.

Denis and Louise recommend the Curry Bowl Restaurant (see our dining section for a review) and their ‘exotic’ Asian cuisine is a welcome change to the American fare we’ve had over the past few days.

Mango shrimp curry

Mango shrimp curry

Bjorn demonstrates a 'Scandahoovian' eating technique

Bjorn demonstrates a ‘Scandahoovian’ eating technique

It’s another relaxing meal after a long day.  Everybody enjoys their meals, even those unaccustomed to ‘exotic’ Asian cuisine.

Our last day, Fernie to Edmonton, is a transit day.  It’s a ride the majority of us have done countless times, and it’s more ‘droning’ along than fun.

Still, this year’s Schnitzel Run was a resounding success.  The roads were fabulous, the food memorable, and the weather, generally, was abysmal.  Outstanding companionship is what made this tour stand out.  Riding with a large group of experienced, capable and proficient riders was a great joy.  And that made the horrible weather inconsequential.

Complaints were few a far between.  One couldn’t ask for a better way to start off the 2014 motorcycle riding season.


  1. Richard says:

    great narrative “umbrella man”, that your new persona name.

  2. Bighopper says:

    I wasn’t aware that Bjorn had gotten into the OZ ‘HUGGING’. I will have to thank him for keeping everyone LOVED! in my absence.

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