Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Bad Part of Helen's Backside - Day 2

My relationship with Harley Davidsons has always been a friendly rivalry.  That is, before today. 

Today held experiences in extremes.  We were on the road before 8 am, ready for the day's challenges and adventures.  Little did we know.  It started off as a day of magnificent mountaintop experiences as we rode as far as possible up Mt. Rainier, 3 metres of snow on either side of the road, which kept us on the cool side of comfortable.  Then we careened down a road no snake could duplicate until we reached Packwood, Washington, taking time for a decent cup of coffee and a muffin before we pressed on to our next pinnacle.   You can get near the top of Mt. St. Helen's by two routes, one from the east and one the west, both great for motorcycles.  We had chosen the eastern "backside" as it allowed us to avoid the freeway and travel the curvaceous corners of Highway 131.  It was a treat for all of us, with one exception.

Windy Ridge atop Mt. St. Helens, overlooking Spirit Lake, has special significance for me.  My father-in-law and Renae's brother-in-law had built the stone walls and other masonry there after the volcanic eruption of 1980 had taken its toll.  What's more, I had worked there too.  In fact, we passed the exact spot where I had cut and laid some stones on the back side of the wall of a lookout wall.  Thankfully, visitors could not clearly see my amateurish masonry amongst what is surely artwork.  I had no plan to stop at  that "overlook", but we did.

We were enjoying our way up the 20 mile ascent to Windy Ridge when we caught up with an older style Harley Davidson.   He was slower than us, as were most vehicles as they doddled beyond logic.  But I was in no hurry to pass, recognizing that the summit was a few miles ahead.  As well, I was tuckered out from the number of corners I had conquered so far.  But the blue Harley must have heard the clarion call of the view and at the last second he suddenly decided he would turn left and enter the "overlook " .  He was not in the left turn lane, but I was, having interpreted his slowing down as an invitation to pass.  Accelerating at the same time as he swung the old hog to the left I hit him hard, glancing off his bike with a sickening sound of crumpling metal and plastic.  Wobbling, but still upright, I was able to stop in the wrong side of the road before reaching the edge of the drop off to an unknown conclusion.

That was when the shaking began.  I mean more than normal with my Parkinson's disease.  But, amazingly, except for a dislodged highway peg, my bike was unscathed.  Not so with the Harley, its engine guard bar was bent at almost a right angle, just barely short of preventing his front wheel from turning.  He and I checked out the damage in relative silence.  He seemed to know it was his fault but no allegations where stated.   I stopped shaking twenty minutes later.  I was thankful that neither my body, bike nor our trip were ruined by what proved to be only a scare.  Honda meets Harley and comes away a winner!

The rest of the afternoon was spent descending to the Columbia River gorge and then traveling east in what became a very hot 150 miles to our destination for the day, Kennewick, Washington.  Arriving after doing a respectable 550 kilometres (300 miles) I was minus the visor from my new helmet, which had blown off earlier and ended up under George's front tire.  But tonight, while enjoying an incredible Italian meal, we all agreed that the day had certainly been eventful.  Maybe we had enough adventure for one day.


  1. You be more careful! I think I just grew my first gray hair thinking of your bike on the edge!
    Love you daddy x

  2. Bob, I certainly am amazed that you even attempt such a trip on your bike. Using your muscles to control the bike around those curves gives you some workout! Keep it up, kiddo! Bibmomma

  3. I'm wondering what happened to the other motorcyclist. Was his drivable, or was he stuck on foot?