The last of our five day ride requires only that we make it to our mother’s house in the evergreen hills between Troy and Moscow, Idaho. This day seems always to arrive sooner than expected, four brothers, five days in the blink of an eye.
It figures that departure day would be the first with blue skies, we joke.
It is already warm so we forego a fire and find a place to sit in the sun, brew coffee and prepare breakfast from whatever is left in our packs.
We see while packing up why Jesse’s tail light went out yesterday. The license plate heat shield from day one was not up to the task. Much of the back end is melted, including the waterproof duffel perched there.
“Glad I didn’t pay much for that bag,” Jesse says.
starPhoto by Jeremy Abbott
We would be in trouble if we left without a group picture. “Stand on that rock there, I think,” I say to the others.
starPhoto by Jeremy Abbott
“Dang it, you guys all have glasses,” I realize.
Marble Creek fires mean we’ll route again through actively logged, patchwork forests between Clarkia and Calder. Dust was settled by days of welcome rain so passing log trucks are only a bother when they seem to swerve toward us (what’s with that?). The road leads us over mountains and into meadows where the air is filled with the smell of fern and cedar.
We went a little off-plan to intersect again with Clarkia for extra gas. We saw no closure signs from our direction and have seen no fire activity but it looks like our ad hoc direction brought us to the edge of the fire zone.
We beeline to the J&E stop in Clarkia. Well, most of us do. Where’s Jeremy? “I know he knows how to get here,” Joel remarks. We’re almost ready to send a search party after five minutes when he comes puttering around the corner.
“Chain jumped,” he explains.
We conference a moment and quickly conclude a final burger and beer would be pretty great. As she takes our order, I’m tempted to remind the proprietor of banging on the gas pump with a hammer to make it work six years ago¹ and yelling at Jeremy for going behind the bar three years ago,² but I doubt she’d remember. So I just smile to myself.
“Did you make that potato salad?” I ask the jovial lady proprietor as I’m carrying our plates and bottles inside. It was herbal and creamy, much better than the manufactured stuff.
“It was really good,” I tell her.
Sometimes the final day of riding finds us ready to take the highway and be done. This time we backtrack over the Palouse Divide, through its curves and shadows with music in our ears.
Straight lines catch my eye up a hillside along Wagner Gulch. I’m glad for an excuse to stand on the pegs a moment to get up there and investigate. I’m greeted by a decaying stone structure, unready to reveal any of its secrets.
Instead of tracking back across White Pine Flats, we take our usual route — Bear to Hatter Creek Road up Moscow Mountain.
“Did you read the sign by the gate?” Jesse asks me after we’ve put our kickstands down at the old lookout.
“No.” I heard Moscow Mountain would be open once it rained, which it definitely has, so I zipped around the usual OHV gate bypasses without a second thought.
“I think the mountain is still closed,” he says. “The sign was pretty clear.”
An iron map along the parking area depicts landscape and sentiments south of the mountain.
I stand a moment on the usual outcrop and look across the unique Palouse Hills where my brothers and I, and our parents, spent childhoods laughing, laboring and exploring. In my mind’s eye are many people I’ve stood here with across the decades, some I’m still connected with, others long gone.
We stay at the overlook only a couple minutes. We aren’t supposed to be here, after all. I pop up to the old lookout tower footings and end up at the back of the pack.
Moscow Mountain has been part of our mental landscape for longer than we can remember. We heard stories from our dad of motorcycling over the mountain to work at the mill. Our parents brought us here as kids to hike, sled and bicycle. And of course I motorcycled here regularly during my teen years.
So it is disorienting to see it changed today, bare ground where once was deep forest shade. The land is private so we can’t begrudge its use for profit. It just takes a minute to absorb.
A tree across the road proves we shouldn’t expect traffic this way. We take turns squeezing under while the others keep a hand ready to help.
“I’m going to head straight home,” Jesse tells us before we continue. That makes sense. He didn’t leave a vehicle at our mom’s house. He’ll just ride home. We share quick good-byes knowing our camaraderie will continue online.
Jeremy, Joel and I waste no time loading motorcycles into truck or onto trailer. They depart with a handshake. I planned to stay overnight before driving but realize I have energy to drive. I leave a message for my mom and head out as the sun begins to set on year eight.