Riding the Glenwood/Klickitat Loop

After a great day riding along the upper Columbia River Gorge from Lynnwood to Lyle, Washington, we were ready to tackle day two: several hundred miles of riding a loop near Mount Adams, an additional leg of the Columbia River Gorge east to Kennewick, and a jog west back to Naches where we had a private AirBnB for the night.

Spoiler alert: The day did not go as planned because my bike broke down just outside Paterson, Washington. Details to follow. Despite the hiccup, we covered 272 miles and found the loop outside Lyle to be the best part of our weekend bike trip. Let’s focus on the bright spots, shall we?

Glenwood / Klickitat Loop

After an early morning, contactless checkout from the Lyle Hotel, we backtracked about 10 minutes to fill up on gas and head north toward BZ Corner and Glenwood. We read about this loop in Motorcycle Journeys Through the Pacific Northwest and it sounded like an ideal morning ride.

It ended up being my favorite part of our trip! The weather was beautiful, the road was well maintained, both Mount Adams and Mount Hood were in full view, and there was hardly anyone on the road.

Viewpoint Loop

Just east of Glenwood on Glenwood Highway I noticed a gorge to our left through the trees. The night before at the Lyle Hotel, in response to hearing our plans for the next day, the owner’s friend had mentioned that Washington had its own ‘Grand Canyon’ near Klickitat. We thought this might be it!

There are no markings or signage, just a dirt road veering off into the woods (the road shows up on Google Maps as Viewpoint Loop). There were giant holes and muddy spots that were not ideal for our bikes, but we navigated to a clearing and parked under some amazing old trees.

I caught a glimpse of Mount Adams ahead of us, and sure enough there was a trail leading to expansive views of the mountain and canyon below. We could just make out the sound of the Klickitat River, White Creek, and Outlet Creek — all visible through the trees. The viewpoint was incredible, and I’m thrilled we found it!

Goldendale Viewpoint

Halfway between Glenwood and Klickitat we found ourselves at an incredible viewpoint overlooking the Klickitat Wildlife Area. Brian had a mild heart attack when he encountered a snake slithering across the road so we needed to stop for him to take a breather. As it happened, our stop was along a wide, safe berm with a bird’s eye view of the surrounding valley. Well worth the stop, snake encounter or not!

Wishram

We had a lovely ride from Klickitat back to Lyle, following the river through the mountains and forest back to route 14. I can’t say enough about that amazing loop route!

In stark contrast, the ride from Lyle toward Kennewick along the Columbia River Gorge was barren, hot, and for me, miserable. We attempted to break things up by stopping at some viewpoints overlooking the river, Mount Hood looming in the distance like a mirage.

We also veered off the main road to check out Wishram and its historic locomotive. It was a disappointment — it’s so tightly packed into a pavilion you can’t truly marvel at the machine.

Paterson

After Wishram, we began entering the high desert, noticing the ground turning brown, the trees disappearing, and exposed rock as far as the eye could see. We’ve driven through similar areas before but not on the motorcycles — cruising through the heat, going 70 mph, looking down a straight road without towns or services for 80+ miles was less than ideal.

My bike is not designed for this kind of incessant assault, and neither am I. After about an hour of speeding straight toward Kennewick, I finally had to admit I was getting tired and that I wasn’t really having any fun. We pulled over to regroup, drinking some water, gulping down a granola bar, and reassessing our plan. Neither of us really saw the point in continuing to Kennewick given the riding conditions so we decided to turn north at Paterson, try to find a gas station, and shave 80 miles off our loop back toward Naches.

As soon as we resumed riding down the highway I knew something was wrong with my bike — it was incredibly loud. We quickly pulled over, and sure enough, my exhaust was split completely in two. Not good.

We made it to Paterson, my Buell bawling all the way there, where we thankfully found some unmanned, non-retail gas pumps. As we filled the tanks, we noticed a fire station nearby with trucks pulling in and out. Hoping against hope, we limped my bike to the station to see if we might be able to finagle some sort of repair.

Huge shout out to the crew at Benton County Fire District 6 Station 2 for letting us have full access to their shop tools, scrap metal, and hose clamps. Brian was able to makeshift a splint in the blazing heat that would hold my exhaust together until we could drive the 30 miles north to Prosser where there were services.

The Buell tried to shake off his handiwork every step of the way, but we made it to AutoZone and after a quick alleyway repair, we had it in good enough shape to make it to our AirBnB in Naches.

Riding Home

We woke up the next morning to a radar full of green. Given the exhaust situation, there was no way we could take the Buell back home via Cayuse Pass as we had originally hoped, and the radar made that drive even less feasible.

Instead, we set out on I-90 to cross the Cascade Mountains as quickly and safely as possible, flying through the pouring rain and grateful for our waterproof gear. We made it home mostly in one piece, ready for hot showers and a recovery day before re-entering the work week.

Our motorcycle weekend ended up being 720 miles round trip over two and a half day, and we never did make it to Kennewick or Cayuse Pass. However, we had an awesome time exploring the upper Columbia River Gorge from Vancouver to Lyle, and we found a new favorite loop via Glenwood and Klickitat that I would ride again in a heartbeat — likely on a new bike.

After 11 years, I’m finally going to retire Buella and upgrade to a bike that’s better equipped to handle our longer adventures. At least I’ll never forget her final ride!

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