I thought two difficult motorcycle trips this summer would mean that the third time might be the charm.
I didn’t get soaked and frozen this time, but “charm” probably doesn’t describe it either.
When I stopped in Nelson in June, the bartender in my hotel noticed that I was riding a Triumph and mentioned that there was an annual Triumph event at the hotel, taking place the following month. I usually shy away from organized events, but their website seemed relatively low-key, and I like Nelson, so I figured there would be little downside to using the event as an excuse for spending a few days there.
“Rat” is the colloquial term for a Triumph rider. It comes from the Riders Association of Triumph, who in the past would put on formal events sponsored by the company, typically referred to as “RAT Raids.” That no longer seems to be the case, and this event isn’t officially sanctioned by anybody. But the use of the name persists, so the Kootenay RAT Raid it is!
[The raid takes place in the Kootenay Region, but not anywhere near the better-known Kootenay National Park or even the Kootenay Mountain Ranges. The latter are in the Canadian Rockies west of Banff, and are the primary source of the Kootenay River that flows through this area and fills up the dam-created Kootenay Lake.]
By the time I signed up, there was no room left at the Adventure Hotel which is where the event is based. I had originally planned to keep things inexpensive/social by staying at the Dancing Bear hostel which was recommended by a few people I met in Banff and Jasper earlier this summer. But as the day approached, it became clear that the weather was going to be somewhere between “too warm” and “miserably hot.” I was also concerned about wildfire smoke for at least part of the trip. I reluctantly canceled with the hostel and booked an air-conditioned room at a motel next door, the only place in town that has a “legacy” chain name. I’m told that chains of any sort aren’t permitted in the historic downtown area these days. Good for them.
The trip up was uneventful. I left in the afternoon on Tuesday and made my way northwest from Seattle to Highway 2 east across the Cascades. Dropping down the east side of the mountains, I encountered strong winds, then lots and lots of bugs. I made a quick stop for dinner in Leavenworth, before continuing to my overnight motel in Wenatchee.
Leavenworth is a tourist trap styled as a Bavarian town. Many people seem to love it there, but I’m not one of them. Fake “old Bavarian” is bad enough when you’re actually in Bavaria. It’s stupid anywhere else. Fight me. I couldn’t find a decent schnitzel, which is my minimum requirement for anyplace Bavarian or Austrian, so settled for a burger.
Wenatchee had a motel with air conditioning, a shower, and a sink to wash all the bugs off my helmet. All I needed under the circumstances.
It’s still hot! (But at least, it’s new)
Wednesday morning I planned to continue north all the way to Osoyoos, then east in Canada on the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3), which is the same as the trip I made in June. But the area around Osoyoos was still smouldering from major recent wildfires, so I stayed south of the border. I rode up 97 as planned, but stopped in Tonkaset for a sandwich the the Creekside Kitchen (highly recommended!), before making my way east on 20 through Republic and then on to Barney’s Junction/Kettle Falls, where the road crosses the northernmost section of Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River.
I hadn’t looked at the map in detail and forgot that Lake Roosevelt, formed by the Grand Coulee Dam, extends this far north. At the point where I crossed it’s still definitely “lake” not “river” but that changes gradually as you approach the Canadian border. The lake barely ends before you hit the next upstream dam (Waneta) on the Canadian side.
Route 25 — a narrow, fun, 2 lane road — tracks the river north almost to the Canadian border. An even narrower local road continues along the river to a border crossing just south of Waneta where the Pend Oreille River flows into the Columbia. It’s a tiny crossing with a bored guard who despite my Nexus pass, gave me the most comprehensive grilling I’ve ever had while crossing in to Canada. There was nobody else waiting and he had all the time in the world. After the border there’s a one-lane bridge (and single track railroad bridge) crossing the Pend Oreille and leading to Waneta.
From there, I followed the main road to Nelson along the Columbia, and then the Kootenay River. I expected to get there early for whatever gathering might take place around check-in. Based on the information on the website, I was sure check-in would be that after. There was a ride scheduled on Thursday morning. Or so I thought.
I was wrong.