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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Cheesy Riders vindicated with 145-mile scooter quest

(Welcome to the second and final installment of Cheesy Riders Redux, the five-year reunion saga of Spokane’s only motor scooter gang.)

There’s an important lesson that an aging overweight man can learn when he enters hour six of a nine-hour grind on a glacial-paced hobbyhorse with knobby tires and no shock absorber to speak of.

The lesson is that I would not bear up well under torture.

My wiki would spring a leak. I’d cheerfully turn over relatives to the law. No secret would be safe. Let the Russians hack away.

As I also discovered Monday, there’s simply no way to mitigate the torture of riding a 49cc Honda Ruckus – a motor scooter meant for slow urban commuting – over a long haul.

You continually slide up and down on the ridiculously small saddle with no back support. You stretch one leg out. Then you stick the other leg out.

“I’m in hellllll,” I hollered into the uncaring winds as the miles dragged by.

Yet against all common sense and Vegas odds, my pal, Scott Cooper, and I – aka the Cheesy Riders – persevered.

At 7:30 p.m. Monday we parked our Ruckuses outside my cabin at glistening Black Lake. For those of you keeping score at home, we logged 145 miles over eight solid riding hours to get to this spot near the Colville National Forest. Add on another hour to cover stops for grub, sunscreen applications and whining about where we were.

Had we not been so sore, we might’ve performed a victory jig. Instead we settled for celebratory cigars on the deck, plus the sweet knowledge that no matter how beat up we felt, we hadn’t disgraced ourselves.

Not like last time.

To recap: Five summers ago, Cooper and I embarked on our first Cheesy Riders Ruckus run. We thought we’d make it to at least Ellensburg.

We followed farm roads and Hobbit tunnels in order to keep our underpowered scooters from becoming hood ornaments on some fast-moving coal train.

After 89 miles over seven miserable hours we called it quits in Ritzville.

This time we vowed not to wimp out so easily. Here are some highlights and lowlights from our first (and last) Spokane-to-Black Lake Ruckus ride.

Plans to leave Spokane early are scrapped when I tell Cooper about the expired tab on my Ruckus. So after topping off our miniscule 1.3-gallon gas tanks at a service station, we head straight for breakfast at Hogan’s diner and then the Department of Licensing outlet in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center. New tab applied, we hit the road for real at 10:30 a.m.

Arriving in Colbert after a twisty drive, we begin congratulating ourselves as if we’d just won Bloomsday. The mood sours when Cooper examines our 20-year-old wrinkled road map. We haven’t even crawled a half-inch, he points out.

We head for Elk and promptly get lost. While Cooper consults the map I begin to holler, “Help! Help!” for comic relief. My outburst startles a deer, which bolts from a nearby bush. Thank God I didn’t annoy something with fangs.

After backtracking we soldier on for about an hour and promptly lose our way again. We are saved, however, when an elderly gentleman stops his green station wagon next to us. My co-rider, who owns South Hill Hauling, approaches the oldster with map in hand, and a question: “Do you know where Diamond Lake is?” “Uh, right there,” he exclaims, pointing a crooked finger at the sparkling water across the road.

We stop at a Diamond Lake convenience store to buy a small bottle of sunscreen. “Probably should’ve done this three hours ago,” notes Cooper, as he sprays his solar-baked neck.

Following the clerk’s directions, we motor down Coyote something or other and make a right turn on Deer something or other. The roads lead us into what appears to be the backside of Newport. “Where do we find the city center?” I yell at the car stopped across from us. He points toward the next block. “Right there,” he notes in a Captain Obvious voice.

For reasons best left to the imagination, eating Mexican food for lunch in Newport may not have been the wisest dining choice for two adult men who are midway on a jostling 145-mile Ruckus campaign.

We leave Oldtown and scooter north along the Pend Oreille River. This part of the ride has scenery so spectacularly beautiful that I actually forget to bellyache for a while.

Good news! It dawns on me that our chances of getting lost again have improved to at least 50/50 since we’re following the only road going north along a major river.

We cross the bridge over the Pend Oreille. I snap an iPhoto of the scene and mistakenly dial my lovely wife, Sherry. Back in Spokane Sherry hears a lot of moaning. She worries I’ve crashed into a ditch until she hears me laughing and yelling about my sore backside. Thank God I didn’t accidentally dial my editor.

We ride into Ione for gas. Another half-tank each of premium, of course. The Ruckus needs every drop of octane it can get. Then we’re on to Tiger, where a turn takes us up that long and winding road the Beatles sang about. The “Little Ruckus That Could” engines keep the scooters at a steady-Eddie 20 mph while we climb. Amazing.

We reach the Beaver Lodge camp area about 6 p.m., and limp in for an enjoyable meal. Disaster strikes upon leaving when we realize that our Ruckuses have been stolen. No, wait a second. There they are, sandwiched between a row of huge and real motorcycles that bear Canadian plates and are piled with camping gear. Sissies. It takes real men to ride a Ruckus. Anyone can travel ride on a big bike-alounger.

Before navigating the final miles from Beaver Lodge to Black Lake, we meet Jerome Shoemaker. An enormously friendly guy, he tells us that he delivers The Spokesman-Review in the Northport area. As the Cheesy Riders depart I thank him for doing the Lord’s work. You know, distributing my adventures to the masses.

(P.S. – Here are some Ruckus Ride facts: We used 1.25 gallons of gas to go 145 miles. We didn’t consult the GPS in our iPhones because you can hardly see the screen while wearing sunglasses in the hot glare of day. And finally, we didn’t ride our Ruckuses home. Sherry came to our rescue Tuesday night in my truck and we hauled the scooters back. We may be cheesy but we’re not crazy.)

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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