Saturday, March 24, 2012

Royal Enfield road trip: 'My Bullet loves me'

Royal Enfield and a Harley-Davidson on a road trip together.
Jeff Nordstrom of Yakima, Wash. took the scenic route to get his 2009 Royal Enfield G5 serviced at Ural Northwest. Accompanied by his brother Jamie, on a Harley-Davidson, Jeff and his Royal Enfield now headed for home. His story continues:

By this time, over 300 miles and six hours in, my contact points were beginning to get a little tender. At Ural Northwest I noticed an Enfield with the other style of solo seat. I chose mine because it is a little longer and wider, and I thought it would give me a few more options to adjust my riding position. But when I felt the other saddle, there was at least an inch of pleasantly soft padding. I then checked my brother's ride, and that seat, in addition to being ridiculously wide, also had a good inch of softness. I had always considered my seat as firm and supportive, but it now just seemed hard. It is an improvement over the stock seat, but it provides about as much cushion as a mouse pad.

The service took just over an hour. With stretched legs, and less one more layer of insulation, we headed for home, the scenic way. East on Smith Road until it joined 542 east. We fueled at Demig where 542 meets 9, and headed south to Sedro-Wooly for a quick lunch. From Sedro-Wooly we joined Highway 20 east toward the North Cascades Scenic Highway. I had heard several people talk about the North Cascades and what a great ride it is, so I was excited.

Ural Northwest offered a look at a softer seat for a Royal Enfield.
Highway 20 started out running through a wide flat agricultural valley for quite a while before we got into the foothills and eventually started some mountain climbing.  It took awhile to get into the really rugged scenery, but we got there. There were a lot of curves, and the speed limit, as with almost all of the ride to this point, was right in the middle of where the Royal Enfield thrives. Highway 20 was posted 45 to 50 mph almost the whole way.

Unfortunately, due to road work, over 30 miles were 30-mph construction zones with a couple of single lane sections where traffic was only allowed to go one direction at a time. That caused a severe traffic build up.

At least we were sitting and waiting in some beautiful mountain landscapes, and in temperatures in the mid-70s. The road was cut through steep, high granite mountains. Glacial waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs all around us. Crystal-clear streams ran along either side of the road, wide and still in places where you could see big trout swimming in peace. In other places the stream-bed narrowed and turned into raging white water. We reached almost 5,500 feet elevation at Washington Pass; a big change from the less than 100 feet we were at just a couple of hours earlier in Bellingham.

It must have been difficult to keep eyes on the road.
The east side of the Northern Cascades descended into a stunning valley with majestic high walls on three sides, where the road took a big sweeping left that turned us to face the steep slope we had just descended, then a sweeping right and another big sweeping left that took us out of the mountains and into a more arid area of open plains.

Shortly after leaving the Scenic North Cascades Highway, Highway 20 heads into the western-themed tourist town of Winthrop, Wash. Winthrop appeared to be a big attraction for motorcycle riders, because there was a steady flow coming into town from all (both) directions. It would have been a pleasant place to stop and look around, but thanks to a wrong turn in Bellingham, and road construction over the mountains we were at least a couple of hours behind schedule, and we were beginning to weary.

We continued to Pateros for a last refueling stop, and brief reminiscing about the 1987 Pateros Apple Pie Jamboree 10K run that Jamie won. I suggested that we check to see if any local historians have a plaque somewhere around town to commemorate the event. He suggested that we just get home. He managed to shed another layer of insulation, though I don't know where he was keeping it, and reluctantly remounted the Harley.

We were both sore and tired. Though he wanted to get home as soon as possible, Jamie did not want to get back on that bike. In an effort to make him feel better about the prospect, I had him feel the seat on my Bullet. He was shocked at the lack of padding, but I don't think it made him any less apprehensive about getting back on.

It was after 6 p.m. when we pulled out of Pateros, and we still had over 150 miles to go. We decided that go we would, and we would go hard. The speedometer on the Bullet has read about 7 mph over actual speed. That means that the speedometer would have to read 67 to keep a 60-mph pace, which was the posted speed limit. But through this trip it seems that my speedometer cable may have come a little loose, because it was bouncing between 60 and 70 mph. With my 240-plus pounds, my little 500 single has always had a little trouble getting me over an actual 65 mph — but 65 mph would be my target in an effort to hasten the conclusion of this trip.

It looked that I was only running at about 60 mph, so in an effort to gain some speed  and relieve my contact points, I laid on the tank with my feet on the rear pegs and my chin on the handle bar. That cut my wind profile and got me about 5 more mph. We chased over the Beebe Bridge, through Orondo, touched East Wenatchee as we crossed back over the Columbia, and joined back onto Highway 2  through Cashmere and Dryden. I must admit at this point I did get some pleasure from knowing that my brother, on the motorized lounge-chair he was riding, was hurting even more than me.

We pulled off the side of the road as we joined Highway 97 to re-insulate ourselves as sundown was fast approaching. We really wanted to get out of the mountains before it got dark and we would not be able to see the deer before they stepped onto the road. No more enjoying scenery; we were in a mission to get home as soon as possible. We had mountains to climb, and my 500 single had some work ahead of it. I was able to keep the speedometer bouncing near 67 mph at the top of its stroke, which I took to mean I was going about 60 mph when we were climbing, and 65 on the downhill side.

It worried me a little to pass through Ellensburg without fueling, especially with as hard as we were running, but we were in a hurry. So we pressed on to I-82 for the final leg home. There are some steep hills between Ellensburg and Yakima, with a posted speed limit of 70 mph, so I was wide open all the way except down hills. By the time we were descending the last ridge overlooking Selah, my low fuel light was flashing with some urgency. We managed to get into Yakima and hit a last refueling stop before rolling through town to our homes. Jamie stated it was another five miles that he was really dreading.

Apparently my little Bullet felt the urgency to get us home quickly as well. Speaking to Jamie the following morning, he told me that he paced me climbing Blewett Pass on the way home at 72 mph, and had me at over 80 mph at times on I-82. My Bullet loves me.

Jeff and his Royal Enfield G5 make it home.
My odometer read the round trip at 699 miles. My brother swears his said 666 miles, which he is determined to believe, as it is indicative of the evil we suffered. Although there was significant gnashing of teeth, there was very little weeping. We suffered, but I am not ready to liken this trip to the Tribulation.

Time: 16 hours,15 minutes
Distance: 666 miles or 699 miles depending on your outlook
Fuel consumption: 11.5 gallons
Mileage: 60.8 mpg

1 comment:

  1. Vikram3/25/2012

    What a great story! I really enjoyed reading this.


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