I went looking for adventure (and brother did I find it)
* This actually started life as an email to a friend and then I decide it would make an interesting post.
My weekend ride turned out to be quite an adventure. We had a great ride down to The Dalles, OR. The highlights for me were Lyle Canyon Road and Old Columbia Highway which is just a little detour off I-84 that ends at an overlook with some spectacular views.
Now that's what you call a motha-humpin' twistie!
A group of six of us made the trip, the best part of which was a 30 mile loop up Lyle Canyon and down another canyon whose name I don't recall. Three of us were in the fast group well ahead of the pack in Lyle Canyon and on some of the other twistier roads, John on a Honda Blackbird XX, Leo on a new Connie and me on my Honda Hornet ubermachine.
John and Leo set a blistering pace and I chased them through most of the fast parts. It was an absolute blast; keeping the revs up through the tight twisties, using engine compression to brake into the curves and then pulling hard out the other side.
The view from a lookout along The Old Columbia Highway. That's the Columbia River and I-84 near The Dalles, OR
On the way home on Sunday, we took a detour from the main forest service road over St. Helens up to the Windy Ridge lookout, which is about an hour and a half from my house. We stopped at the bottom of the road for a rest and Randy, who was leading the ride, suggested that one of us faster riders should lead because he was going to take it easy and look at the scenery.
That bright yellow Aerostitch riding suit just may be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Keep reading and you'll find out why.
John suggested that I lead but before I could, Leo took off in a shot so I chased him up the mountain. He was absolutely flying and I was having a blast in formation right behind him, really getting after it. Almost every curve was marked 20 mph and some were legitimately 20 mph curves but most were not. It was really hard to know which ones to believe but it was pointed out that WSDOT is not in the business of enhancing the experience of speeding motorcyclists.
We burned our way up the hill for about 10 miles when John went around me on an outside curve, which surprised me because I was really hauling. Honestly, I don't check my mirrors much in those situations because no one ever passes me when I'm flying through the twisties, and especially not on an outside curve. Just a couple of minutes later John passed Leo and we all fell into a pretty tight formation at that point.
A few minutes after John passed us, I was on Leo's tail heading into a curve and I entered it just as Leo disappeared from my view. I got a quarter of the way around and saw skid marks and white marks on the road and a cloud of dust rising off to my left where there was a steep embankment.
The scene of the crime. I effen hate decreasing radius turns! So does John. ;-(
Leo had stopped in the middle of the lane in front of me so I pulled to his right and then he moved to the right as well to try and turn around. I very nearly hit him and made full use of both brakes.
It was a totally surreal slow-motion moment that couldn't possibly have lasted more than a second or two while I tried to compute what had happened. On some level I knew, on another I was in denial, refusing to believe that a crash had occurred and on yet another it was exactly what I was expecting, given how John was riding.
I had a horrible feeling that John was at the bottom of the ravine or impaled on one of those freaky burned out and broke trees around the volcano, because neither he nor the bike were anywhere to be seen. It was an easy thousand feet down, once you crossed a dirt access road.
I can't even describe the relief I felt when John popped up in his bright yellow Aerostitch suit. The rider landed in a clump of bushes on the near side of the access road and the bike was buried in the scrub on the far side, 10 feet shy of the drop-off. He was completely uninjured, not so much as a scratch, bruise or even soreness. The bike is a total loss but his riding suit and helmet both did their jobs and they are now both spent.
What's left of John's Blackbird XX in its penultimate resting place.
I took a few hours away from work on Monday to help John and another rider retrieve the bike, which was an adventure all its own. The handlebars were broken off, the front forks were no longer connected to the frame and pieces of the bodywork were all around.
I am very sore from spending over an hour trying to heave the leaking, broken bike into the back of a pickup. How is it that John isn't even a little sore while I didn't crash but I'm sore as hell?
John was quite embarrassed and apologetic. He was being a total squid and he knew it, showing off for his buddy Leo, who he works with but had never ridden with. He said the first thought that entered his head after he crashed was that none of us would want to ride with him again.
It struck me as curious that when the most cautious riders I know go down they get hurt badly while John walked away a little poorer but unscathed. I think it's because they had farther to fall. John's head was only a foot from the pavement when when he exceeded his traction limit. The lesson must be just to ride like hell... right?