A river runs through it

Day 23 Friday 26th July 2013 – Meridian, ID to Lewiston, ID

I hadn’t really known what to expect when I choose the route from Meridian to Lewiston, other than I wanted to see more of Idaho. On my last visit, I’d really short-changed Idaho by just hacking through the panhandle to get between Montana and Washington. Now I’ve seen it, I’m so glad I gave Idaho more of a chance, as it offers some truly beautiful and varied scenery.

Oregon Route 55 with wooded hills along the Payette River valley. Cool shade and pine fragrance for miles, the road following the river, a much more varied and interesting ride than yesterday’s across the long straight stretches of the high desert. My hip feeling so much improved, that I again felt delighted to be changing through the gears for bends.

From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013

Not watching my road signs again, at New Meadows, I rode past the right hand turn to Lewiston, and started going south down the US-95 which would have brought me pretty much back to where I started. My suspicions began when I noticed that Lewiston had vanished from the road signs telling me the distances to destinations. But I still managed to go 25 miles down the road before I stopped the bike and checked the map. I turned the Trooper around and just chalked the extra 50 miles up to the fun of motorcycle touring without a Sat Nav.

After New Meadow the landscape changes to a more cultivated one, but this soon changed as I got closer to Hells Canyon, with a rockier, more rugged landscape emerging. The first part remembered me of areas in the Highlands of Scotland.

From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013

And then when I’d completed my ascent, I was treated to an amazing view of the valley below.

From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013

From this high vantage point, I dropped down into Hell’s Canyon and was again riding alongside a river, but now in the hot, desolate canyon. It’s a fantastic visual feast of a ride.

From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013
From Idaho, July 2013

The wilderness lands in America may not be the most hospitable of places, but they are very much a national treasure. I wonder whether most Americans realise how blessed they are to live in a land of such awesome and varied natural beauty.

The last part of the ride from Grangeville to Lewiston is far less interesting or beatiful as it through fields of large-scale industrial agriculture. I could have taken the more scenic route along the river, but as I was riding that route tomorrow, I chose the quickest route into Lewiston.

Lewiston is my kind of small American city, in that it is compact with everything I wanted within easy reach. The Harley-Davidson dealer I needed to visit for new gloves (yes, I lost another pair) was within walking distance of the hotel, and two bars that were recommended to me in Hell’s Canyon HD. I wish all American cities could be as attentive to my needs.

As I was unloading the Trooper, two other Harleys pulled into the hotel parking, each bearing a couple. No sooner had they dismounted than the red-haired girl from the back of one of them was being violently ill in the bushes. It didn’t seem quite the right time to go and say Hi, but she’d got it out of her system before I had got everything off the Trooper, so I did briefly stop and say hello to the other passenger. Apparently, it was the heat that had affected the red-head. It was 104F / 40C when I had ridden into Lewiston. Like me, these guys had ridden up from Hell’s Canyon, where it had probably been hotter.

After taking a shower, I headed over to the Wrangler bar, one that had been recommended in the HD dealer. There were several Harleys parked outside, and a couple of signs saying Harley-Davidson parking only. At least one cage had ignored the signs.

As I went into the bar, I was called from one of the tables. It was 3 of the 4 that had ridden into the hotel after me. The poorly red-haired lass was absent.

I joined them at their table and ordered a round of drinks. Rebel, Bushwhacker and Moose were riding out of Tacoma, WA, and had spent several days touring Oregon and Idaho. The absent member of the party was Moose’s girl, who was very probably suffering from sun-stroke. She was asleep back at the hotel, but Moose had promised to bring back some soup for her. Bushwhacker and Rebel were also a couple. Unlike Bushwhacker and Moose, Rebel was her real name. She showed me her driver’s licence to prove it. Apparently her dad had named her.

Bushwhacker and Moose were club names. Both were wearing cuts from their BFE MC. They weren’t a 1% club, more a group of guys having fun hanging out and riding together, but some of the old-school rules still applied.

As we all chatted at the table, Bushwhacker ordered a round of Fireballs. I haven’t seen these at home, but it is a cinnamon whiskey that you shoot. Not bad. On tasting the cinnamon, I said I thought it would go well with the apple flavour of cider. Apparently Rebel’s daughter does just that and drinks the Fireball mixed with a cider called Angry Orchard – it’s then known as an Angry Ball.

We ate together and more drinks followed. I then caught the sound of lots of big V-twins pulling up and parking outside, and a group of around 10 bikers came in, all wearing cuts for the Crusaders MC. Bushwhacker and Moose decided to go and say hello, and I guess, explain what they were doing there. Since they weren’t there for anything other than a beer and a burger, all was good. There’s a lot of politics in territorial MCs, and for that reason there are a lot of bars in the States that don’t allow cuts to be worn in the bar.

Moose finally decided that it was time to get the soup, and Bushwhacker and Rebel went with him. But we’d already talked about whisky and I said that if I saw them, we’d have a drink of the single malt I had brought over. Bushwhacker and I exchanged cell phone numbers to make sure that happened.

It had been a hot day, and I fancied at least one more cold beer before going back to the hotel. As I sat drinking my beer and just taking in the surroundings, Melissa, the bartender who served us when we first came in, was now off duty, and she said I should come and drink with her and group of guys she was drinking with. I’m always happy to meet new people, so I did.

They were a funny group of guys. When they heard I planned on heading to Butte the next day, they said “No, you don’t want to go to Butt, Montana” (pronouncing Butte as butt rather than beaut which I believe it should be), “you should go to Missoula instead”.

Another amusing thing, was when I told them that I had my kilt packed in my bags. “Goddam, with that accent and a kilt you’ll have all the ladies lining up. Even just that accent should do it”. To this I just waved my hand with my wedding ring, and reminded them that I couldn’t wait for Doreen to arrive in August. But in all serious, that hasn’t been my experience either time I’ve been here. Women do not throw themselves at a British accent. Sure, I get quite a few people saying they love my accent, but that’s it, just a passing comment.

After a couple of beers with some amusing local characters, whose names now escape me, I headed back to the hotel. I sent Bushwhacker a text to let him know I’d returned, in case he wanted a wee dram. Turns out Bushwhacker and Rebel had gone back to bar looking for me, but we finally managed to meet  at the front of the hotel. We sat on the benches there and chatted and drank for hours. When they had been at the bar, Rebel and Bushwhacker had picked up a Fireball miniature and a bottle of Angry Bird, so I could try an Angry Ball, and it was as I expected, cinnamon whiskey and cider do go well together, and Bushwhacker enjoyed the Highland Park.

I couldn’t help but think what kind, generous people Bushwhacker and Rebel were to do that. Bushwhacker also gave me several mementoes, including a BFE MC sticker and wristband, and a lighter. One of the things I love most about travelling is the wonderful people you meet, and Bushwhacker and Rebel were some of the best. Real nice, genuine, generous folk who it was a pleasure to pass an evening on the road with.

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