Sunday, June 27, 2010

Curves and more Curves - Day 3

Imagine the fluid motion of a downhill skier carving S-shaped curves through new powder with a rhythm that looks effortless, but takes a dancer's concentration and repetitive daring attacks of the mountain like a bullfighter. One false move and the music will end in discord, the artistry destroyed. That is what a biker experiences.

For most touring motorcyclists there are few more satisfying events than when riding a powerful machine on a highway slalom course of perfect turns. First left, then right, lunging and leaning into each corner as if to make it submit to the sidewall grip of the two tires. Then accelerating out of each curve as if whipped by a chain of skaters, hurtling almost out of control over the ground as if on blades cutting into ice. The rider pushes the machine while studying the road immediately ahead as if searching a typewritten page for the smallest error, simultaneously scanning the landscape on both sides the road for potential deer or other wildlife, or even an ignorant driver pulling back onto the pavement like a plane onto a runway oblivious to the aircraft coming in to land. Carelessness, by you or the errant motorist, can send you onto the shoulder or clamping hard on brakes in defence. There are risks, as there are in any adventure, but care and caution reduce that concern without depriving the two-wheeled traveler of the thrill of conquering the highway.

Today was spent vanquishing 600 kilometres (350 miles) in three States on some of the best asphalt to be had. Departing around 8 am we zipped over the undulating drylands of the southeastern corner of Washington.  In the process we passed vast fields of grain that were literally mimicking the waves of the ocean in the wind, small American towns with stately courthouses decked out in preparation for the Fourth of July and lazy creeks and small rivers meandering through deep cut ravines to feed the demands of the great Columbia river. We were headed for Idaho and then Missoula, Montana, via the Lolo Pass Highway #12. We were familiar with this matron of great biking roads, having ridden it several times before. It boasts almost 200 miles of enough weaving and winding to thrill everyone from the most seasoned biker to the novice crouching over the stubby handlebars of a crotch rocket. There are seemingly countless 40 mile per hour bends the road that cling to the banks of the Lochsa River.  It is the river that gave birth, and still gives character, to this route.

Before starting Lolo Pass, we had a warm up and diverted to Lewiston Hill. It is a series of 30 mile per hour switchbacks, dropping a scenic 1500 vertcal feet down the steep hill above the Idaho town of the same name. We rode it both ways today, once for fun and once for photos.

All in all it was a great day of sunny skies, safely scraping foot pegs on corners and enjoying great divergence of scenery. Just wait until I tell you about tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I use to autocross cars, and the s curves you describe sort of sound like our ins and outs between pylons. I also use to be a passenger on a certain motorcycle, and on one dirt road, we took a tumble, throwing me in the air to land on the 200 lb driver. I, at that point, gave us being a passenger on a motorcycle. I limited my adventure to the race track.