The Pacific Northwest tour of the states, where do I begin? It’s honestly like nothing else I’ve seen or ridden. It’s really hard as I’m sure the guys that joined us on this tour will tell you, to quite put into words the enormity of the beauty that surrounds you every single minute of everyday. It really is a case of – it has to be seen to be believed. Think of riding in the USA, what is the first thing that springs to mind?

For me before I went over and recced these two USA tours it was “Isn’t it just loads of long straight roads?” I’m sure I’m not alone in that thought, because let’s face it why would we as motorcyclists want to fly over the other side of the world, just to ride in a straight line? But let me tell you a little known secret to us Brits, if you look in the right places and believe me we did, you find roads and scenery that blows anything you can find in Europe out of the water. You just wouldn’t know it was there. It’s an all star line up of 11,000ft mountain passes, National Parks with animals roaming free right in front of you, and twisty roads through alpine forests and past flowing rivers – all making for day after day of jaws hitting the tank bag!

So let’s kick this off with meeting our riders and their steeds.

Tour Magellanites

Nigel & Yvonne Farmer – R1200GS – This dynamic duo are no strangers to a Magellan tour, having done several of our European trips. Nigel the little speed demon threw that GS around mountains, over them and through them with Yvonne egging him on the whole way! Even when they went off on a magical mystery diversion down an interesting pot holed, gravel road!

Stuart Briggs – R1200GS – Lovely Stuart from Yorkshire. A very composed and smooth rider, again no stranger to a Magellan tour, it was a joy to follow the happy chappy – except for the time he scared everyone absolutely witless when he vanished off of the 11,000ft Beartooth mountain pass for half a day! After a rescue mission back up the mountain consisting of the support truck, spare bike and two of the Magellan team we found out he was just peckish and went straight to lunch for a deep fried cheesecake! He was always a sucker for a hearty American meal, especially the brownie ice cream sandwiches.

Adrian Green – R1200GS – Always with a knowing smile on his face! Another Magellan regular Adrian along with Stuart joined us for both tours in the states. A chauffeur in the UK, his skill was evident as we followed him around the twisties. He also had a knack for dry humour that had us chuckling all day!

Bill Douglas – R1200GS – Bill is a real child at heart who delights in making me jump around every corner and chasing me around with caterpillars, but as soon as he gets on his bike it’s serious all the way making sure everyone is happy and safe. Living in Washington State he was a font of information having helped us on the recce tours. He was also pretty good with bringing me and Felix coffee every morning!

Felix Billington – Honda Goldwing – Our fearless leader rocking around on the QE2!  Occasionally ferrying me around having a nap on the back! As always he led the tour and made it look effortless! For those of you who have read Billy Byfield’s blogs, you will know Felix features as Batman and David (below) as his butler Alfred. This was demonstrated beautifully if i do say so myself, when on the side of the road Felix commandeered use of David’s sat nav as his had stopped working.

David Billington – R1200GS – David to some, Alfred (Felix’s butler) to others, but an all round nice guy to everyone. Riding the same bike as he rides in the UK he rocked around on his rented GS with no trouble at all, bringing whimsical jokes and endless little nuggets of information all the way.

Terry Groves – F700GS – A former police dog trainer and again Magellan regular Terry, cruised around on the 700 with incredible smoothness and efficiency, maybe too efficient in one case. You remember the time I’m talking about! 😉 he’s also pretty nifty with a camera, taking some absolutely cracking shots throughout the tour.

The support truck crew
Judy Douglas – Dynamite comes in a small package as Bill would say. What an absolute rockstar she is! Not only for putting up with Bill but for hauling a massive F150 ford truck with a trailer and spare bike on the back! She handled it like an absolute pro! It was a pleasure to co pilot with you. We love Jude! We also love the treats she kept in the truck for those times we stopped and got peckish.

Chester the dog – The tour mascot otherwise known as Chester who belongs to Bill and Jude. He is a cute little Shih Tzu, who loved pushing my laptop off my lap in the truck so he could have cuddles.

Naomi Sesstein (A.K.A Taco Bell connoisseur, A.K.A The person writing this) – Usually seen on a BMW F800R, except seen on this trip from the top of my laptop or passed out sleeping somewhere – having been recruited into Felix’s butler services along with Alfred, I mean David. It’s very tiring work!

Now you’ve met everyone and are sitting comfortably I shall begin…

Portland to The Dalles

And we’re off….. Oh wait a minute, no we’re not!….. 

After a night of Elk burgers at Bill and Jude’s house and a swanky dinner at the Heathman our crew had all met each other and were ready to pick up the bikes and get on the road. But of course, as you all know this rarely goes off without a few technical difficulties and the start of our PNW tour was no different! Except embarrassingly it was the guide’s bike that decided to throw a fit or more to the point not throw anything as the battery had died! With everyone sat ready to go, helmets on, engines fired up the QE2 let out a little raspberry and cut out. Half an hour, some very patient waiting, a swear word and a new battery later it was time for take 2 of the inaugural USA tour.

We rode en mass to our first stop, and what a stop it was! Vista Point. With spectacular views over the Columbia River, it was cameras at the ready and sweety time thanks to Yvonne’s little stash.

Back on the road, we followed a nice little curvy road on the way to coffee at Multnomah Falls, with the 620ft waterfall proving the backdrop for a nice latte and of course a cake. After a walk and some impressive snaps it was off to lunch with us, and after Terry had sailed right past the stop and then came back again we all sat down to a nice bowl of chilli and some burgers.

The afternoon came with a fantastic road through alpine forests with stunning views over to the 11,249ft Mount Hood, and a coffee stop at Timberline Lodge on the mountain. For any horror film buffs the lodge provided the exterior of the hotel in the film – The Shining. Luckily for us though it was just coffee and a sit down, no blood coming from the elevators!

The last leg of the day saw us going through more alpine forests onto open vistas to reach our hotel in the Dalles. This quirky little motel is what you’d describe as authentic all American digs. At the restaurant you could just chuck monkey nuts all over the floor, or in Bill’s case right at my head.

The Dalles to Joseph

The day both Billington’s got the stink eye…..

Our second day started off with a slight nip in the air and an enormous breakfast, the first of many! While me and chester cuddled up in the truck on the way to morning coffee, everybody else went to visit an unlikely drive through farm housing Camels, Zebra, Bison, Antelope… the list goes on!

Now this farm is run by a slightly eccentric guy, who opens the farm to the public on the proviso that you stay in or on your vehicle at all times. This was of course, mentioned in Felix’s sermon at breakfast and everyone managed to follow the rules except for David! – who got off his bike to catch a few pics and with it, a swift telling off by the owner.

Honestly Alfred didn’t anyone tell you it’s rude not to listen to Batman’s briefings?

Lunch time was soon upon us and was set in the tiny town of Ukiah, that has about 10 buildings in the entire town, and much to Felix’s dismay no sparkling water. Picture this if you will, riding for miles, there are no towns, no real sign of life and then you ride into the town time forgot – Ukiah.

This charming hunters cafe/bar was full of character and the only place to eat within about 150 miles each way, it’s the kind of place that conjures up images of the wild west.

Anyway, my love walked in there with all his high viz, surrounded by the other punters dressed up in hunting gear and no doubt packing, and piped up with “can i have a sparkling water please?”.

I guess you had to be there to really appreciate it, but he suddenly sounded very British in this surrounding. After the lady behind the bar had thrown him a strange look she said, “What? Is that like Pepsi?.” Suffice it to say he got a tap water and a bowl of chilli and put up with me teasing him for the rest of the day.

The ride to Wallowa Lodge, our digs for the evening had us passing the beautiful Wallowa Lake, and as we were approaching, we got the most incredible views of the water nestled in between the huge mountains.

The size was really put into perspective when I saw a tiny little white boat heading through the mountains on the lake.

As we arrived at the hotel situated right on the lake, we were greeted by deer feeding out on the grass.

Wallowa Lake to Mccall

What do you call a bunch of cyclists? ….

Our third day on the road saw us waking up to a very crisp morning by the lake. I had chosen this day to take a break from my laptop and hop on the Goldwing with Felix. Equipped with a heated seat and my heated jacket I was set up for a mornings snoozing! However, the road our route had us taking was just too beautiful to take my eyes away from. We were heading to Hell’s Canyon, the deepest river gorge in the Northwest, riding up through the forest climbing higher and higher we were experiencing a sensory overload with the sun shining down over this incredible landscape.

As we climbed up through the steep hairpins we had started to see some cyclists, we didn’t think anything of it at this point as we had only seen the odd one dotted about here and there. However as we got higher up the mountain we were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of cyclists making their way up to the canyon. Imagine this, hairpin after hairpin with sheer drops down the cliffs, the QE2 chugging around them two up and me a relatively seasoned rider crushing Felix’s hip with my legs letting out a slight squeal!

As we tackled our way past the ever growing onslaught of cyclists we were wondering how Jude was getting on. If we thought we had it tough it must have been 10 times worse for her, lugging the trailer and spare bike up the mountain! As we rounded the corner to the summit and the incredible views out over the canyon, we saw Jude parked up waiting patiently for us, what a rockstar! However, what was slightly worrying was that even though we were the last to leave we had somehow managed to get there first!

So there we were, wondering how we had made it before everyone else as there was only one road, we hadn’t caught up with anyone! As if by magic we heard the rumbles of a 1200GS –  low and behold our own little speed demons Nigel and Yvonne turned up with big smiles on their faces – after taking a wrong turn and ending up on the off road track to the canyon! Stuart and Adrian shortly followed having stopped for some pictures. But still no Bill or Terry?! So while we waited, we found out that there were 2,000 cyclists going up to the canyon that day as part of a charity ride. Our stray ducklings then came into sight with slightly traumatised looks on their faces, having taken the same off road track that Nigel and Yvonne had taken, but obviously not enjoyed it as much!

Mccall to Salmon

Are those knickers she’s waving at me??…..

Yes they were but no, I wasn’t waving them I was merely drying my washing on the back of the QE2 as we set off on day 4! And what a day it was, the morning’s ride really felt like you were out in the deep wilderness! Passing wild rivers and surrounded by alpine trees it was eerie but beautiful.

We took morning coffee at a lovely little cafe situated in a wild west town, and with a cowboy cut out for Bill to play with, we sat in the crisp air enjoying our drinks and each other’s company.

The afternoon came with more wilderness, so much so we lost Jude just before lunch! But after a few stern words with her sat nav, an hour later we all managed to sit down to another massive American meal.

After our feast we had an amazing point of interest to get to, in the shape of an abandoned mining dredger and ghost town however, to get to these little gems we had to ride up a slightly gravelled road, and while it was kids play for the mighty GS’s the Goldwing had a bit of a rest on the side of the road by the river and waited for the others to get back down.

To be honest I think Felix just didn’t want to get his new toy dirty…

The dredger went through 6,000,000 cubic yards of gravel as it ploughed it’s way up the river, before being abandoned and is huge!

As we went further into the wilderness, we were on the lookout for wildlife and the afternoon’s ride didn’t disappoint with us seeing herds of deer crossing our path as we made our way through the traffic free roads to our rest day stop in Salmon.

Rest day in Salmon

Guns, off roading and three men in a hot spring….

Our rest day in Salmon came with some real adventure in the shape of Dirty Harry guns and some off roading! In the truck as well as the snacks Bill, had packed a selection of guns for everyone to try their hand at a bit of target practice. In the mix were a 44 Magnum, a Glock and a 22 hunting rifle. When Felix and I recced the route earlier in the year we tested these guns and absolutely loved it, we thought it would be a fun experience for the guys on the tour.

Bill, no stranger to guns and a master hunter took Nigel, Yvonne, Stuart and David out to the shooting range to shoot off a few rounds. First up was Dirty Harry’s 44 Mag and boy what a kick it’s got on it! So much so, when Stuart fired his arms ended above his head and David had a proud moment when with the 22 hunting rifle he managed to shoot a perfect hole right in the middle of a nickel.

As if the shooting hadn’t been adventurous enough Nigel, Stuart and David then decided to go on the Lewis and Clarke adventure trail, a 40 mile gravel road loop through the mountains in total isolation. The trail starts about 20 miles from Salmon and leads up over the foothills into a forested section, before curving along the Montana border and down again into civilisation. Once they had remembered to stand up and use the fantastic engine braking on the GS’s the sharp hairpins became a bit easier! Suffice it to say the boys had a blast but they were very dirty when they arrived back at the hotel 2 hours later, having to hose themselves and the bikes down in the car park.

Bill, Adrian and Terry decided to have a slightly more sedate afternoon, going to the hot springs for a relaxing soak 19 miles out of town.

The rest day in Salmon really has it all. Whether it’s adventure or relaxation, and it was lovely to hear everyone’s stories from the day as we sat down to another hearty American dinner.

Salmon to Cooke City Yellowstone

Elk, Bison and Bears…..

This day riding into Yellowstone is a long but extremely rewarding day and is one of the top highlights of this tour. The beautiful 8,983km park is home to a wide variety of big animals that roam free all over the roads, giving you a chance to see these amazing creatures up close and personal.

We took lunch in a little town just outside of Yellowstone. The diner was a real 50’s American diner with pictures of all the great movie stars up on the walls, it also had the best cheeseburger I ate all trip! Now, when Felix and I came here earlier in the year you could hardly move for all the animals roaming around everywhere and as part of the briefing we had stressed the importance of exercising safety when riding next to a 700kg Bison!

As we pulled up to Mammoth hot springs with the slight smell of eggs in the air, we parked at the visitors centre to look at the animal exhibits and park info and here was when the animal sighting started in earnest! Elk roamed free right in front of us, Bison all over the road and even using the pedestrian crossings!

That evening we went over the road to a real American bar and celebrated Stuarts birthday in style… with candles on his pizza!

Rest day in Cooke City

Elk, Bison and Bears continued on The Grand Loop……

Some of our crew did the ride-out suggested around Yellowstone park, and what an experience they had! The park has some super roads, and low speed limits so as not to disturb the wild life.

Everywhere you look you can spot Bison, Elk, Deer and Antelope, we even came across a Bear playing in a stream!!

The animals are used to humans and cars etc and often stray onto the roads and into the small village of Mammoth Hot Springs where we stopped for lunch.

Here we were treated to two huge male elk facing off over a female elk, in the carpark !!

The obligatory visit to ‘old faithful’ did not disappoint with an eruption occurring within 5 mins of the time indicated in the visitor centre. Great shopping opportunities here too.

Riding back we were astonished by the constant hot springs, and boiling pools of sulphurous water, which underlined just how volcanically active the whole area is. All in all, a ride-out not to be missed.

Cooke City to Butte Montana

Stuart, Stuart wherefore art thou Stuart?…..

The day going over the epic Beartooth pass was without a doubt one of the stand out days for me, not only for the beauty and quality of riding but this was also the day we temporarily lost our lad from Yorkshire!

It all started like any other day. Once we had breakfast, we got on the bikes ready to go for an amazing morning’s ride. Hailed as “the most beautiful drive in America” the Beartooth highway in Wyoming is 68 miles of incredible scenery and lovely hairpin bends. It also stands at a dizzying 11,000 ft.

After stopping at the Rock Creek vista on the pass for some photos and some light accosting courtesy of the local chipmunks climbing in our helmets, we made our down the succession of hairpins down to our coffee stop in Red Lodge. Here we noticed we didn’t have Stuart. After a lengthy discussion and photographic evidence of Stuarts whereabouts, we didn’t worry too much thinking he must have stopped off to take some pics and thought he would turn up in a minute or so….

As the minutes got longer we were starting to doubt if we had seen Stuart on the pass at all! After 20 minutes of waiting it was time to send out the search and rescue team! We hauled the spare bike and the trailer off the truck, then Felix and Bill made their way back up the mountain, Jude and I stayed at the cafe on the off chance Stuart would pass us and the rest of the crew set off to lunch hoping they might collect Stuart on the way.

So there we were for 2 and a half hours getting increasingly more concerned when my phone rang, it was David who had arrived at the lunch stop, he informed me that Stuart was at lunch, already tucking into a deep fried cheesecake. Having sailed right past the coffee stop Stuart decided to just carry onto lunch completely oblivious to the worry he had us all in! In fairness once he found out he did look rather sheepish.

We of course couldn’t contact Felix or Bill because what 11,000ft mountain has phone signal on it? So unfortunately we just had to wait until they came back down to tell them about Stuart’s activities.

Once we had all arrived in Butte safely it was time to reveal our little surprise to the group. We had planned to take them for an all American evening of bowling in the building next to our hotel. We even had a little trophy made up for the winner.

After 2 riveting games our own little pocket rocket Jude came out as the victor – by quite a long stretch, if I’m being honest! Well done Jude, it was thoroughly deserved! With that huge win, it was off to dinner we went…

Butte to Great Falls

Since when do mermaids get a day off?….

Staying in Butte Montanna, surrounded by awesome mountains, we had the opportunity to visit the World Museum of Mining in the hills overlooking the city. We were able to explore more than 50 preserved structures with our guide, ranging from the 100 ft high head frame to the many wooden buildings of ‘’Hell Roarin’ Gulch’’, a turn of the century mining town.

The many displays and exhibits focus on mining and the related culture that made Butte, MT the richest square mile in the world in the 19th century. We also took an underground tour into the depths of the ‘Orphan Girl mine’ which was amazing. Get fitted with a miner’s hard hat and cap lamp to experience what life was like like underground, and understand what the locals saying ‘tap ‘er light’ means!

After lunch we piled on the bikes to ride through the Lewis and Clarke national forest on the way to Great Falls. The wind was howling on the afternoon ride and despite all the bikes being blown sideways, we all made it in in one piece and got ready for a night in the Irish Bar and a trip to the famous Sip n Dip, where they get local college girls to kit up in a mermaid outfit and swim behind the bar in the pool!

Unfortunately, we discovered mermaids apparently don’t work on Sundays so we were not treated to this little bit of oddness! Some of our our crew were more disappointed about this than others. Mermaids aside we still had a great night with some live music in the Irish bar next to our hotel.

Great Falls to Lolopass

How many people does it take to fix a flat tyre? Apparently 1 to fix, 7 to stand and watch and 1 to sit in the van terrified by the massive crickets!…..

This morning started with a great breakfast in the Irish bar then a short ride to the Lewis and Clarke interpretive centre. The exhibits here follow in the footsteps of these famous adventurers and where we had been riding throughout the trip. After a walk around the museum and an informative video we were on the road again and heading towards lunch.

After lunch we set out on the pretty ride to our afternoon coffee stop at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. This is a great place to see some Elk up close and personal, but also a fascinating look into the hunting culture in the US. However it was not to be as an hour into our ride from lunch we pull up to our riders all on the side of the road! Nigel and Yvonne’s rear tyre had a puncture, I suppose it was bound to happen at some point! So Felix stuck his repairman hat on and got to work with getting the tyre fixed. It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but what was really lovely to experience was people travelling on that road be it by bike or car stopped and asked if we were ok. After some poking about Felix got the tyre to a good riding condition, but we would still have to make a pit stop to get it changed, so we rode on to the nearest garage.

Tyre fixed and it was on to riding one of the finest motorcycling roads in America. Located on the border between the states of Montana and Idaho – The Lolo Pass is 99 miles of beautiful scenery and twisty goodness. Our digs for the evening came in the shape of log cabins once more, about 50 miles onto the pass.

Lolopass to Spokane

Lights, Drone, Action….

We were up and ready early to tackle the rest of the Lolo Pass and what a ride it is, even the crisp coldness didn’t detract from the fun this road has to offer. Riding as a group we zig-zagged our way down past the river and through the trees to our morning coffee stop in the small town of Koosia.

After a thrilling morning it was time for lunch and some filming! About 10 minutes from lunch is the amazing old spiral highway with hairpin after hairpin leading to the summit, and the jaw dropping view overlooking the state split between Washington and Idaho.

Felix had brought the drone along and this was the perfect road to film our riders coming up the hairpins to the top to meet us. We left our guys with instructions and set off to set up and begin the look out. While Felix was in charge of the drone, I was put in charge of telling him when I could see them and where… easy right? Well …. not quite as it transpired!

After being stood at the top for 15 minutes and being asked 20 times can you see them? I was yet to spot our troop, at this point I was seriously wondering if not having my glasses on had meant I missed them when we heard some engines approaching from behind lead by Terry!

Pleased that it wasn’t my eyesight that made me miss them – but just Terry leading everyone in the wrong direction we sent them back down onto the right road, and eventually got some absolutely amazing footage.

Well done guys!

Spokane to Winthrop

Spectacular sunsets at Sun Mountain Lodge…..

Our last but one day was sadly upon us and we had a real treat in the shape of Sun Mountain Lodge to get to this evening. The rustic mountain retreat with a spa, fine dining, a wine cellar and a fully stocked bar is Washington State’s premier mountain top lodge, and it really doesn’t disappoint with spectacular views out over the mountains.

We set off nice and early with a view to getting in and enjoying the delights of the lodge. Nigel and Yvonne of course were leading the pack to get in the pool first! It was another day of epic scenery as we headed towards the Cascades and skirted the Canadian border. We were in the American backcountry with us passing through little sleepy towns with real cowboys and no phone signal, through burnt out forests and past flowing rivers.

We all arrived at the hotel nice and early, and after some well deserved relaxing we sat down to drinks and watched a pretty impressive sunset to end a lovely day.

Winthrop to Enumclaw

The last leg ……

So here we are! The last full day of riding and what a day it is, our morning started with riding the North Cascades and again in a tour full of the finest motorcycle roads in America this one is no exception!

Leaving early we journeyed the 86 miles through the forest and outstanding mountain range to morning coffee. After continuing on the North Cascade road for a few more miles we stopped off for a bowl of chilli before riding on to the spectacular deception pass.

The beautiful bridge here on route 20 connects Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island and we park the bikes up to take a walk over taking in the incredible views where you can spot grey Wales and seals swimming in the clear water below.

After a 20 minute ferry crossing back over to the mainland we rode on towards the hotel, the road here was especially fun!

A nice little twisty back road through the trees had everyone arriving into the hotel with big smiles, if not a little rushed to get ready for the amazing Italian dinner lined up!

The next morning we rode the last few hours to get back to Portland and drop the bikes off. As a treat we found another twisty mountain road that passes Mount Rainier and Mount St Helens, the weather was thankfully on our side providing incredible views over to the Mountains and some great picture opportunities. After dropping the bikes off we once again met up where it all began over at Bill and Jude’s for more elk burgers and laughs about what an amazing trip we had just completed!

Lastly…

So there you have it! The first Pacific Northwest tour knocked out of the park. That just leaves me to say thank you to our wonderful riders and driver Jude. We had an amazing trip with you all and we hope you take home the memories of the trip of a lifetime – we know we did!  For those of you who have read through this and want to join us on the next American trip – we look forwards to riding with you next year.

Ride safe and see you next time 🙂

Naomi
Marketing Manager

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