I try to take a motorcycle riding improvement course every 3-5 years. I had not
had one since we left for Europe in 2006 and when the ARC (Advanced Rider Course)
was put on by the GWRRA (GoldWing Road Riders Association) in Buckley, WA, I signed
Buckley is a small town about 2 and a half hours north on I-5 freeway from our house. As
the class started at 8:00 in the morning we were going to have to leave at about
5:00 and wouldn't get back until about 8 that evening. The weather was supposed
to be good for late September and we decided to make it the last camping trip of
this year. We would take two days to get to Buckley by going on the east side of
Mt St. Helens on the US Forest Service Road #25 and then the east side of Mt. Rainier
on state highways. Along the way we would visit Windy Ridge, the nearest point to
the crater of Mt. St. Helens you can drive to. (See this page for my ride up the
west side to the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center with friends from Australia.) And
we would also go to Sunrise Lodge on Mt. Rainier.
The 25 road is a paved, mostly 2-lane road that was spared when Mt. St. Helens blew
it's top in 1980, but the streams that flow down the mountain still show the effects
of the mud flows and killed trees that were washed down the mountain. The road is
poorly maintained and has lots of places where the pavement has cracked and dropped
several inches because of unstable soils underneath the road. These made for an
interesting ride. I spent a lot of time in the oncoming lane dodging the bad sections. Thank
goodness this is a little used road, hence the poor maintenance by the USFS.
The 25 road runs north from near the town of Cougar to the town of Randle going along
the east side of Mt. St, Helens. Off of it is a dead-end road that leads to Windy
Ridge, a major viewpoint that looks right into the crater. The mountain was shrouded
in clouds by the time we got there. It is the light colored background in the picture. The
new lava dome that has been forming is right over the green hill just right of the
center of the picture.
The Windy Ridge road does go through the blast zone. In the picture below you can
see trees that were laid pointing away from the mountain and others that were big
enough or far away enough that they were just killed. The hot ash and steam that
blew across this landscape happened in just seconds. But today, 31 years later,
you can see that Mother Nature is rebuilding her forest here. These are all naturally
regenerated trees. There has been no planting by humans within the National Monument.
We travelled on to the entrance of Mt Rainier National Park and spent the night in
a USFS campground. Then the next day we were on our way to Sunrise Lodge in the
The road was much better, but then it is a state highway with a much heavier traffic
load than the 25 Road.
There were scenic turnouts and lots of trees but our destination is Sunrise Lodge
with this jaw-dropping view of the mountain.
Mt. Rainier does not have a crater but it is a volcano. It is the one that is pictured
on our license plates and is shown by the television stations when they have a half-time
break in a football game in Seattle. It is easily visible from the stadium.
From here we rode on to Buckley and spent the night in the backyard of a very nice
GoldWing couple, Tim and Judy. When we had looked for campgrounds in the Buckley
area the only thing that came up was the local fairgrounds. Fairgrounds are not
generally good tent campgrounds so I got out our club's Gold Book which lists members
willing to help out others by having a place for them to stay. Our "campsite" had
a view of Mt. Rainier peeking over the ridge in the distance.
Then it was up early and on to the Advanced Rider Class.
As is standard we started with a classroom session that lasted about three hours. During
this time we filled out several sheets of paper absolving the sponsor from any liability
for our actions. We discussed traffic conditions, road conditions, rider conditions,
weather conditions, motorcycle conditions, motorcycle maintenance, rider maintenance,
After a break for lunch we went outside to the large parking lot and got ready. We
had two instructors, Randy and Randy. I never got their last names.
First was a discussion of the upcoming exercise and what it was supposed to accomplish
in rider improvement. Then one instructor demonstrated the exercise while the other
talked us through it.
Then we would line up and run through it ourselves. Each exercise was performed
multiple times until the instructors felt that we all were performing it well.
Comments were honest, whether corrective or complimentary and presented in a constructive
We had stopping practice, see above and turning practice going around cones set 50
feet apart, see left. We also had stopping while turning practice. We rode through
narrow lanes between rows of cones set in a sharp curve, see below.
You can watch a short Youtube video of this exercise at the following link:
Be sure and use your "BACK" button to return to this page!!!
This is the GPS track I had when the class was only half over. It was an even bigger
mess when we were done!
Finally it was over. We parked the bikes and returned to the classroom. It had
been a fun five hours, but tiring. We critiqued the class and got our certification
cards and parted ways. We got home at 8 PM and collapsed. We didn't even start
unpacking the trailer until the next day.
Many thanks to Randy and Randy for the class. I got some of my bad habits corrected. Now
it is up to me to continue practicing the right way to do it.
And many thanks to Tim and Judy for the campsite and bathroom.