Cruisin' the Rockies!
Spokane to Grand Coulee Dam
We took a quick run over to Grand Coulee Dam this weekend to meet with some friends from the western Washington and Portland areas. This is an annual ride for the Kawasaki Vulcan group I ride with in the local area. Grand Coulee is only a two-hour straight line run from Spokane, and quite frankly, the route is a bit boring, so we decided to take the scenic routeÔÇª
To get the distance out of the way so we could arrive at the interesting part of the trip, we ran straight out on Interstate 90 from Spokane to Moses Lake, Washington. The earlier reported construction on this part of the Interstate west of Spokane seems to be completed, and itÔÇÖs smooth sailing all the way. We jump off the super slab at exit 179 and head north on state Hwy 17 to Soap Lake. Again, good smooth roads and not a lot of traffic on Saturday morning.
We continue north along Lake Lenore and through Sun Lakes State Park to the Dry Falls. This road is fun to ride. Much of it is water on one side and vertical rock cliffs on the other side, with a few sweeping turns thrown in for good measure. Again not much traffic and weÔÇÖre making good time, enjoying the bright sunshine and the tunes from the GhostÔÇÖs CD player.
Dry Falls is the prehistoric site of the worldÔÇÖs largest waterfall, which was once more than 6 miles wide and 600 feet high. It eroded a channel through the basalt rock formations of the high desert more than 20 miles long. The remains of this channel are now Sun Lakes and Lake Lenore. There is a visitor information center at the north end of the dry falls near the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 2.
North of the Dry Falls is Banks Lake, a 28 mile long man-made reservoir covering more than 24,000 acres. It was filled with water pumped up from the Grand Coulee, and is the source of most of the irrigation water used in this part of the high desert, as well as a popular location for water sports and fishing. Hwy 155 runs along the eastern shore of the lake between Coulee City and the dam, with several good campsites and parks along the way.
We arrive at our motel in Grand Coulee in the early afternoon, and check out the local recreational facilities (casino) as we wait for the rest of the group to arrive from Seattle. The Coulee House Motel is an older facility whose one claim to fame is a great view of the Grand Coulee Dam. There are a couple of visitor information centers around the dam, and excellent views of the dam from points on both sides. Access to the dam itself has been severely restricted since 9/11 and you can no longer ride across the top of the dam or tour down inside. There is a laser light show here every night at 10 PM during the summer, using the walls of the dam as a viewing screen.
We enjoyed watching the light show, then after consuming a few adult beverages with friends, we retired to our room for the night.
Sunday morning started with a hearty breakfast at the Melody restaurant & lounge next to the motel. The same building also houses a small bowling alley and the townÔÇÖs only movie theater (1 screen, showing Thursday-Sunday evenings only).
A short hop north to an unnamed blacktop access road through the Colville Indian Reservation, and weÔÇÖre headed north on state Hwy 21 to Republic, WA. Hwy 21 has a freshly chip-sealed surface, and thereÔÇÖs still some loose gravel in the center of the road and between the tire tracks. Still itÔÇÖs a nice ride through parts of two national forests and along several flowing creeks and streams. ItÔÇÖs also open range and we have to stop a couple of times to let small herds of cattle cross the road.
A quick fuel stop at Republic as we connect to Hwy 20 eastbound to Kettle Falls and US Hwy 395. The traffic picks up considerably on 395 as we head back to Spokane. ItÔÇÖs mostly two-lane highway here, but we take advantage of the several available passing lanes along the way to get around several RVs and pickups towing boats. As we enter Spokane from the north, we cut off on a couple of back roads to get to the east side, and home again to Idaho.
In all, our trip was about 450 miles with an overnight stay at Grand Coulee. The ride could be done in one day, but then youÔÇÖd miss the laser light show. A straight out and back run from Spokane to the dam on Hwy 2/174 is less than 300 miles for the round trip. If you plan on riding in this direction during the rally, just remember that this is desert country, and the daytime temps are forecast in the high 80ÔÇÖs to mid 90ÔÇÖs for the week. Drink lots of water and use plenty of sunscreen.
Cruisin' the Rockies!
Cruisin' the Rockies!