Monday, August 17, 2015

Motorcycles, ferries, and crepes .... our first Big Trip.

Even though Husband has dreamed of this for years, I shrugged it off.  A motorcycle trip?   Hours of being wind-blasted while straddling a noisy death-machine with no AC or cup holders?  Hmmmmm.... If I HAD a bucket list, this would not have been on it.

We rode a tandem bicycle together for years.  We've even done some hundred-milers in addition to a few long-distant trips involving several days, with our over-night supplies stuffed in panniers, and hand-washing our cycling clothes in motel rooms, hanging them on the bike each night, in hopes they dry by morning.  (Hint:  You can zap that last bit of dampness out of socks, in a micro-wave.)  Husband navigated the steering, gears, and brakes like the pro he is, with me peddling for all I was worth behind him and leaning in the curves on the downhills.  I like to think this gave me a bit of experience for what was to come .....

The motorcycling rides started out gradually, adding miles each time.  Then we packed a change of clothes in the side-bag-case-thingies, and did our first overnighter to the beach, staying in a motel.  

It was fun .... and we didn't die.

Except ... the actual riding part was a little boring because there was no verbal communication on the road.  Motorcycles are somewhat loud when you are sitting on one, not to mention the wind noise.  We had a few hand signals, but that was it.   So Husband ordered a blue-tooth, battery-powered intercom system  ... an option for which our helmets are designed, and the experience was transformed.  You push the On button and although it shipped from Italy, a female voice with a New Zealand accent (whom I named Cecily) announces, "Intercom connected" and we can then chatter away to each other to our hearts' content.  It also connects to Husband's phone ..... (we have yet to figure out how to connect it to mine), and callers are quite shocked to learn they are talking to someone on a moving motorcycle.  To them, Husband sounds like he's sitting at home.  

It also comes in handy when we need the GPS feature from his phone to direct us to an unfamiliar destination.  A (non-Cecily-sounding) "still small voice" murmurs, "Go three point five miles and merge right onto Highway 318".   We haven't bothered studying in the manual as to why the GPS speaks only to me, the backseat passenger.   So I then point the way to Husband who, when the Still-Small-GPS-Voice is speaking and the intercom is temporarily disconnected, hears nothing.   And so it goes.

We looked at different routes for our Big Trip.  How about down the Oregon coast .... for the, like, billionth time?  

"I've lived here my entire life and have never traveled up the coast of Washington." ..... I said.    

And I suggested using our backpacking gear and camping along the way.  

"It's a good way to save some money and get some use out of our stuff", I said.  

So we did.

Loaded up

We spent our first night at Fort Stevens State Park, on the northern tip of the Oregon coast.  One motorcycle and one small tent hardly uses any of the space in your typical camp site, especially compared to the towering motorhomes across the way.  

At the South Jetty, near Astoria

The next morning we rode into Astoria seeking our favorite breakfast chain, Pig 'n Pancake.  Then we crossed The Bridge into Washington. 

Next stop was the historic lighthouse (built in 1856) at Cape Disappointment, on the southwest tip of Washington.  Apparently its name relates to the treacherous "bar" over which ships must cross to enter the Columbia River.    Many vessels which attempted to cross in ill-fated conditions, now reside on the ocean floor  .... including the ship with the entire original load of building materials for the lighthouse.

Lighthouse selfie

Then we headed north.  I have always wondered why so few towns sit along the Washington coast, when Oregon has so many.  Now I know why.  Much of it is marshy with miles of lakes and wetlands.  Although it's exquisitely beautiful to see, it's hardly build-able.  The upper portion of the coast is an Indian reservation.

   Our second night we camped at Quinault Lake, a lovely jewel nestled in the rain forests of the Olympic National Park. 

Sorry.  The white blur in the background is the lake.  It deserves a better photo than this.  

 There's a classic old 1920s lodge overlooking the lake about a mile from our campground, and walking in its doors is a step back in time. 

  They kindly allow us non-patron campers to enjoy the leather couches, stone fireplace, and early 20th century ambience of the lobby while charging our phones ..... and in our case .... Cecily's batteries.  

Continuing north we happened upon the small town called Forks.  Forgive me for having never read the "Twilight" series, and for being generally clueless of its setting.  We quickly noticed how the town capitalizes on the fame of being the fictional home to vampires and/or werewolves, even though the movie wasn't actually filmed there.  (Coincidentally, it was filmed in areas close to where we live.   T'was news to me.)

Moving on, we encircled Lake Crescent, another breathtaking Olympic Peninsula jewel.  Seeing it, or anything else for that matter, from a motorcycle is quite a different experience than from a car, to say the least.  In-your-face, show-stopping, ridiculously scenic, and oh-my-GOODNESS.

We entered familiar Port Angeles, another of my favorite spots in the Pacific NW, where we have previously caught ferries to cross over to Victoria, BC, on Vancouver Island .... be still my heart.

 That it was not on our itinerary this time was almost a cruel tease, because Victoria is magical.  However, since our passports are temporarily in the hands of our federal government, in the process of being renewed, it wasn't an option.   Oh well.  On to Port Townsend, another charming town between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains, and our third campsite at a campground nearby.  After setting up our tent, we rode the five miles into town for dinner at a charming old brick restaurant on the water's edge.

I'll pause here to note one of the negatives of motorcycling -- the clothes, known as "gear".  In my previous post, I mentioned the protective jacket, pants, helmet, etc., that we wear every inch of the way.  So when we arrive at wherever we are going, we either walk around looking like RoboCop, or stash our gear on the bike which involves stripping off an outer layer on a public sidewalk.  Not to mention the inevitable unflattering helmet hair.  

After dinner, we suited up again for the ride back to our camp.  Upon arrival, Husband discovered his wallet was missing.  

"I've got to go back!" he said.  "I left it on a post on the sidewalk where we changed."  And he took off back to town.  A little while later I got a dejected phone call.  

"It's not here,"  he said.  We then discussed canceling credit cards and whatever else was probably never-to-be-seen-again in his wallet.  

When he got back, I searched again through the crevices of the bike and then checked the pockets of my own jacket ..... where I found the wallet.  Our jackets are nearly identical.  He had put his wallet in mine, by mistake.  (After we got home, I got out my embroidery thread and there are now some cute little flowers asserting my femininity on the collar of my jacket.)

The next morning we rode to another northern Washington town called Kingston to board a ferry for a brief crossing over to Edmonds, WA.  Here on the Kingston dock, we discovered a small sidewalk eatery selling crepes, which we ate for breakfast, which then inspired fond crepe-memories throughout the day.  Best food of the trip.  If you are ever in the area, please go there and give them your business so they will STAY open and be there when we go back!

 Fortunately our plan was to cross back over this same ferry later in the day after visiting some delightful relatives in the area as well as an RV dealership we had discovered on a previous trip, the year before.  Don't ask.  We're just weird that way.  So yes!  More crepes!  

Did I mention I LOVE ferry crossings? 
Covering the helmet hair.

The glamour of motorcycle attire on a hot day

 Ferries are best when you're on bikes, or a pedestrian, or as we discovered, on motorcycles, rather than in cars.  It's much cheaper AND THEY PUT YOU IN THE FRONT OF THE LINE.  As we came back for our return crossing, we met up with a flashing sign that read, "Four hour wait for ferry".  The line of cars was endless.  But we took a chance and went up to the front where a kind crossing guard waved us ahead to where motorcycles gather for the ferry.  There we sat, hobnobbing with the dozen or so other bikers, like a Hell's Angels pack, waiting for the official person to wave us in.  

Then the engines roar to life in a testosterone-riddled, macho, strut-your-stuff sort of way, and we all roll on board.  Oh yeah.  However, it was then I noticed that Husband had mistakenly put on my helmet, which sported some very tastefully placed daisy stickers.  So much for being a Hell's Angel.

The last night we stayed in an inexpensive motel in Chehalis (Motto: Upscale, Compared to Camping), taking a break from the tent, and returned home the next day via Longview, WA, and the quaint little Oregon town of Vernonia, where there is a funky, yet wonderful(!) Mediterranean restaurant called the Blue House Cafe.  Naan bread and hummus .... need I say more?  (Be sure to check out the bathroom.)

The heat that last day was ridiculous so we stopped at a Les Schwabb to borrow their water hose and soak our shirts under our jackets.  This massively-awesome tip came from an experienced friend, and it works wonders with our mesh-vented jackets.  Instant AC.  If you didn't know this until now, you're welcome.  

So we're finally to the end of this overly-long post about one of the best trips of our year.  There's something about minimalist traveling, be it on a bicycle, or backpacking, or motorcycling that just speaks adventure to me.  We covered over 830 miles in four days, and I'm ready to go back out and do it again.  I've got to hand it to you, grand old state of Washington.  Well done.  You are gorgeous.   So keep it up.  Keep that scenery sparkling, the ferries floating, and the crepes cooking, 'cause either on two wheels or four .... we'll be back.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Move over running, hiking, backpacking, camping, etc., etc.... Make room for MOTORCYCLING

Yes, you read that correctly.

Who knew?  Not me, for sure.  I would have been among the last to predict this one.

Explanation:  Husband is highly susceptible to his friends.   If they're doing it and it looks fun, he wants in.  Simple.As.That.
He owned a bike for a few minutes (it seemed) many years ago in a past non-motorcycle-trained life, due to the dubious influence of a previous group of friends, but after a truck nearly cut him off on the highway, he sold it.  Nope.  Too scary.

Enter a new, updated group of motorcycling friends and the conversation reopened at home.  I was in the Dead-Set-Against-It camp.  After nearly losing a dear friend in a deer-related accident ..... I mean .... really??

But after much study, thought, and discussion..... I softened because there is a LOT one can do to lower the risk:

1.  Ride a bike equipped with something called ABS brakes.  Heaven only knows what those are, but if you have them, your odds of a crash are immediately lowered 37%.
2.  Be smart.  Take classes.  Practice.  Don't start on a bike too big or powerful to handle.
3.  Learn from the experts.  Take more classes.  You're never done with the learning and practicing.
4.  Dress for it.  Wear the complete head-to-toe protective gear.  This includes full-face helmets, made-for-motorcycling coat and pants, boots and gloves.  And if it's hot outside ..... sorry.  Wear them anyway.  "All the gear, all the time" is the motto.
5.  Be visible.  Our jackets are bright, neon yellow.  The bike, as you can see, is orange .... although that was just luck on our part.  The other bike on the short list was already sold.

I love this guy.  
I quickly realized that if I started banking a dollar for every time someone tells me, "No matter how careful you are .... you cannot control the other drivers on the road.".... I would soon collect enough money to buy some really cute designer shoes.  So in other words, yes, you're completely right ...... and we know.  That's the first lesson of Motorcycling 101.  The Husband takes this very seriously.  I was not even allowed on the back seat until he had put in over 1000 miles of riding.   He set up his own drill course in a large empty parking lot and spent hours weaving around and through "cones", which were actually tennis balls, cut in half.  And even I, as the backseat rider, am responsible to watch the surroundings as well.   We know that even though we are almost embarrassingly bright and flashy out there, we are to assume that no one sees us and plan for it.  So bottom line .... there ARE a lot of accidents involving injury and death, BUT according to the stats, you can move yourself well away from the high-risk group.

However, due to all this new info, I now find myself critiquing other bikers, bless their Harley-loving hearts.  MOST of them don't cover up enough to protect their non-invincible skin.  TOO MANY of them speed or dart between lanes and cars as if all other vehicles on the road are made of harmless pixie dust.  And again TOO MANY aren't very visible in their black leather duds.   It's easy to see why so many accidents happen and why the whole lifestyle has a bad rep.   So I apologize if you feel judged, but the truth is .... we care.  We want everyone to ride happily into old age.  And please know, that Biker-Husband has done, and will continue to do, everything reasonably possible to keep us safe..... short of staying home and missing out on something completely AWESOME.

And AWESOME it is!  Wow!  I had no idea!

Next post:  The trip.