The hotel room is cozy, but the road beckons. Today promised to be a very memorable ride.
I head south from Grand Coulee on SR 174. The landscape rolls gradually. It is scenic, but I was hoping for more excitement to pull me from the no-coffee fog I was in. The sun rises quickly in the eastern skies as I point the bike directly into it on Jurgensen Road. Luckily, I’m only heading east for two miles until I head north on SR 21.
SR 21 is exactly the excitement that I needed. The short 12-mile ride take you from the rolling fields to steep cliffs that ocerlook the Columbia River. I didn’t count switchbacks, but they are plentiful as the road carries me down to the Keller Ferry. This stretch of Highway 21 will make motorcycle riders of all types very happy.
The Keller Ferry is a 12-vehicle vessel that crosses the 1.5 miles across the Columbia River, which is known as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake in this area. The river isn’t naturally this wide in this area. The Grand Coulee Dam is just 15 miles down stream from here and creates the easy-going pool of water known as Franlin D. Roosevelt Lake. This is the only way to connect Hwy 21. Luckily, the ferry is free.
With blue skies overhead I watch the Keller Ferry, also known as the Martha S., approach the southern shores. The basalt cliffs across the river are so big and beautiful that they don’t appear real. It is this kind of view that my meager photography skills can’t do justice.
The ferry is light with my Suzuki V-Strom being the only vehicle onboard. We make the short crossing and I climb up from the river on Hwy 21. About 10 miles from the ferry dock, I turn east onto Silver Creek road. This is a gem of a road. Some riders may shy away from the dirt surface of the road. It undulates and wraps around and over itself. The road is loose and requires a slower speed for the hairpin turns. That is completely fine with me. The slower speeds allow more time to enjoy the incredible scenery that fills the valley below. This is yet another scenic route that Washington state hies beyond the reaches of pavement. Everyone looking to make time and simply get from point A to point B misses the splendor hidden in Eastern Washington.
After a few stops, the motorcycle finds pavement and begins to burn it up. The surface heaves and swallows from its age. The V-Strom’s suspension soaks it up as I lean from peg to peg in a dance high above the Columbia River.
The road descends to the Gifford-Inchellium Ferry that carries vehicles across the upper Columbia River from Inchelium to Hwy 25 and the town of Gifford, Washington. This one is slightly larger than the first ferry. It carries several cars. The ferry jostles out from the dock. The moving water pushes the boat sideways almost as fast as the captain can power across the wide river. A skilled captain he was, as I sat on the bike and it hardly moved as he docked on the east side of the river.
From here it is just 25 miles up Hwy 25 to Kettle Falls. Kettle Falls has gas, food, coffee and most amenities that a rider may need. I fill the gas tank on my motorcycle, buy a cup of coffee and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before continuing out of town. US 395 takes me the short distance north to FR 61 or Boulder Creek Road.
The ride along Boulder Creek Road slices through the northern tip of the Colville National Forest. The scenery is again spectacular. There are ample dirt roads that branch off of the paved Boulder Creek Road for additional exploring. This area certainly whetted my appetite. I’ll have to journey back to explore Little Boulder Creek Road and other Forest Service roads around the Deer Creek Snopark and Green Mountain areas.
I continue my westward journey to the small community of Curlew, Washington. It appears that this is a former railroad stop town, but now lives on the few farmers, loggers and miners that remain in the area.
There isn’t much to explore in Curlew, so I leave town on West Kettle River Road following the snake-like pattern of the Kettle River. The river provides ample drink for plant life. The river, trees hugging the shore and mountains combine for an easy place to enjoy being alone on a motorcycle. Some roads are easy to daydream and drift off on. This is yet another road on this ride that demands attention to the quickly changing details.
Along a short straight-away is a historical interpretive sign. It talks about Ronald McDonald. No, not the clown of restaurant fame. This is the Ronald McDonald who happens to have been the first person to teach the English language in Japan. This Pacific Northwestern-born man grew up near Oregon and apparently met some shipwrecked Japanese sailors as a young lad, which sparked an interest in their homeland. Eventually, he travelled there teaching actual samurai the English language. The sign says that his final resting place is just north a mile or two. I head in that direction but soon after crossing a river the road comes to a “T” intersection. A few teenagers swimming at the river didn’t know which direction the burial site was in. I get back onto the main road and chase the sun instead as time didn’t allow for too much added exploration if I was going to make my destination before dark set in.
West Kettle River Road connects with Toroda Creek Road which makes a large curve and begins heading south. Just as the sun begins to warm the right side of my body, I notice several old weather worn buildings just off both sides of the road. The Okanogan County historical society is nice enough to place information boards to keep the curious traveler informed of the areas rich history.
The old buildings are the remnants of Bodie, Washington. It is a ghost town now, but it was once the nearest town to the gold mine of the same name that was established in 1896 and helped spur the Okanogan County gold rush. In 1902, the Bodie Mine was purchased by the Wrigley family. You know, the same Wrigley’s of chewing gum fame. They actually started what became the Bodie Mining Company in 1903. At the time, the mine was worth $1.5 million. Here we are, more than a century later and all that is left are several run down buildings that make for incredible photo opportunities right next to an incredibly fun motorcycle road.
From Bodie, the road passes through Old Toroda before connecting with SR 20 in Wauconda. My wheels push up and over the great North Cascades Highway and don’t stop turning until I reach home on the wet side of the mountains.
This trip included viewing the largest concrete structure in the United States, climbing dirt switchback mountain roads, two small ferries and finding a ghost town and mine once owned by a famous gum manufacturer. How’s that for a weekend well spent on two wheels?