Saturday, April 30, 2011

Castle Rock to Olympia Washington Motorcycling

I liked the quaint friendly town of Castle Rock.  I headed out the west side of the town and passed the high school which sports the Rockets. The school has a futuristic rocket ship on a pedestal outside the main building.
After that I was on an interstate going north. After the freeway the winding roads and lower speed made a nice change. Beautiful farmland.  A blue Stellar's Jay landed in a tree ahead of me.  I almost stopped to get a picture. Two horses very interested in me did have me pull over and take their picture.
Then I came on a herd of buffalo.  What a treat seeing one rolling in the dust and a young one enjoying the sun.  The head honcho checked me out so I got his picture.
Then I was back on the freeway enjoying getting out from under a big mean looking cloud spilling water west of me.  The Harley just seemed to take me into Olympia.  The motto is Spirit - Service, People, Integrity, Results, Innovation and Team.  You know someone in beaurocracy got kudos for coming up with that acronym.
I've always liked the town enjoying every time I've passed through, sometimes on motorcycles, sometimes in trucks or cars.  It's the Capital of the State of Washington with a population of 46,478 at the 2010 census.  Wikipedia lists it as a major cultural centre of the Puget Sound region.  So far I've seen lots of cafe's and well dressed people strolling about looking like they don't have a lot to do. I'm biased to government towns, liking them on one hand, but just a little suspicious that I seldom can tell the tourists from those who work there, except for the white shirts and business skirts.  There's a laid back affluence that perhaps the hard work of governing warrants.  I'm just a little suspicious. That's all.  The Canadian elections are on Monday.  In Canada politicians have been described as 'pork barrelling'.  Riding a HOG I can appreciate the affectation.  One doesn't mind if something is pretty. Just so long as it's a mean machine. I hate waste.
I wanted Oysters in Seattle. The Oyster House here at Budd Inlet by the marina is just fine. I'm loving the raw oysters even as I write. They even have Fanny Bay Oysters and I love Fanny Bay Oysters.DSCN8907DSCN8918DSCN8908DSCN8912DSCN8911DSCN8922DSCN8924DSCN8927DSCN8929DSCN8928DSCN8930DSCN8934

Lacey Rha's Cafe, Castle Rock, Washington

I don't know why I do this to myself.  I saw the movie Falling Down. I totally related to Michael Douglas when he shot up the fast food joint because they'd stopped serving breakfast a minute before he arrived.  I've had this experience a dozen times at MacDonalds.  Yet there I was barrelling along the I5 highway on my Harley, saw the Golden Arches, and thought, "I'd like to have some breakfast." I turned off, parked the motorcycle, stood in line, and just as I placed my order, the girl said, "We've just stopped serving breakfast."  I left.
Back on the motorcycle.  I still wanted was breakfast.  Back on the highway I saw the Business I5 circle route going through Castle Rock. My friend George who has a penchant for scoping out small towns, has infallible taste in which are great, just told me he loved Castle Rock.  Maybe they had breakfast.
Sure enough, in this quaint and pretty little town of Castle Rock where the kids teams are called the Rockets,  I found  Lacey Rha's Cafe with a sign saying 'all day breakfast'.  Music to my ears.  I entered. A couple of retired people were enjoying their meal. There were a couple of recliners to assure you that you were welcome to stay and relax.  The decor was interesting. It had that uptown Starbucks feel without the chain store evil and that hometown trucker stop country feel without the smells of diesel .  l loved the pictures of old time Castle Rock on the wall.  The host, Bobby Jack,  was attentive but not hovering.  Others came and went.  I stayed. It felt like home.
I spent a couple of months as a short order cook in my university years.  I appreciate a clean grill. The hash browns and eggs were perfect. So was the sausage.  Now this was a real breakfast. I also had a side of biscuits and gravy. There was enough food source in there I could go for days on the gravy alone.  Definitely not fattening for an olympic athlete in training.  As for me, I felt loved.
I liked the americano.  I liked the uptown coffee experience with wifi thrown in but I really like the hometown cooking.  As usual George is right. Castle Rock is a place worth stopping at.  Lacey Rha's Cafe' is scrumptuous.  Now I can walk about an explore this little gem of a town. DSCN8904DSCN8901DSCN8902DSCN8903DSCN8900

Lewis River Inn, Woodland, Washington

I stayed at a lovely little motel just off the I5.  I'd planned to stay in Portland or Vancouver but after an expresso at Starbucks was good to go.  Out on the highway barrelling north I realized it was not only dark but Friday night.  Friday and Saturday night are the nights drunken stoned drivers think the road is especially theirs.  With that thought the revery of a night drive north vanished and I began to look for lodging signs.  Woodlands offered several.  And there was Lewis River Inn.
I always worry about my Harley.  I don't want to wake up in the morning to find it's gone so I like to have it out of sight and preferably chained to something.  That's a priority when I look at a place. Does the parking seem secure.  At Lewis River Inn, it has a high hedge around the lot and parking in front of rooms.  An older man and woman manned the counter. I liked that.  I trust the wisdom of older people.  They don't like to be around theft and violence.  Young people at a front counter can mean anything but older people suggests safety to me.  They were friendly too.  Liked that I was riding a Harley. Asked where I had come from. The room was only $66.  I'd paid $110 for the Hampton Court Inn and their room wasn't that much better.  The room was impecably clean.  I like that.  Big Screen TV with lots of channels and WiFi.  What more can one ask.  Lots of tasteful beautiful photographs of Thailand too.
I walked across the street to a Burger place and got Halibut and Fries with a vanilla milkshake.  A very pleasant Woodlands Police Officer came in after me. Greeting everyone in that friendly small town, we are all living here together and want to get along , way.  I went back to my room and watch Con Air.  What a great 1997 thriller.  I'd seen it before but think this time I enjoyed it more. What a cast: Nicholas Cage, Colm Meaney, John Cusack, John Malkovitch, Rachel Ticotin, Dave Chappelle, Ving Rhames , Stever Buscerni, Nick Chinlund, Mykelti Williamson.  The Convicts take over the plane that's transporting them between prisons.  It kept me up past my bed time.
I slept like a log.  In the morning I went round the corner to the main office where they had coffee orange juice voghurt and buns. I ate there and took coffee back to the room where I wrote and read. Eventually I got ready in a leisurely fashion.  After packing the Harley I drove round to the office to say I was headed out.
"You have a really good ride," the older fellow said.
I love those little places that just do everything right. Lewis River Inn was that for me.

Motorcycling the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River is the  largest river in the Pacific Northwest of  North America. ( It's historically famous for many reasons, one of which was the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  It was also contemplated earlier as a possible North West Passage.
When I personally was thankful to see it's Pacific mouth I was racing a hurricane.  The sand bar at the front of the Columbia River dictates passage at high tide.  I crossed at low tide in frightening seas.  I had the unforgettable experience of my keel smacking the bottom and bouncing back. If the boat had twisted rather than bounced I might not be here.  I'd apprised the coast guard of my decision to risk crossing rather than head out  to open sea to hopefully sit out the hurricane.
The US Coast Guard were there for me that day as I discussed the pros and cons of my plans and asked if I was missing anything.  I'd not slept  and been in riotous winds and seas so I appreciated immensely the gentleman at the other end of the radio saying, "That pretty much sums up your position.  If you choose to cross we'll keep an eye on you from shore."  The decision was mine but it was reassuring to know that if the boat floundered, the cat , the dog and I went into the brink, we'd probably be rescued as the survival suits and lifejackets would keep us afloat though we lost the boat.
Motorcycling,  there are no survival suits. Just leather and armour.  I didn't have the dog or cat with me. The cat is definitely not enamoured by motorcycle. The noise alone bothers her.  The dog is young. I'm building him up gently to motorcycling in pleasant conditions.  He's a fairweather motorcyclist already. So far so good. The Gorge might well have put him off to motorcycling all together.
The Columbia is called the windy river.  The wind was 25 knots (30 mph about) or more from west.  I came down from Goldendale on the 97 so got the cross winds before turning at the Columbia River to take the wind on my nose.  The 84 four lane free way runs along the  Oregon border. The Washington  2 lane 14 runs along Washington northern side.  I'd heard the northern route was more picturesque.
The Dalles was certainly scenic. Great open vistas of where the ice age rivers must have filled the valley and cut  this great swath of rock and shale canyon.  Rolling hills of green were broken by jagged jutting edges of bare rock.  The white capped river opened below me where countless windsurfers were actually enjoying the wind.
There was no coast guard to notify.  No soft landing. I was on my own. The trouble with motorcyling is everyone takes it for granted.  The bandits do it. The police do it.  Kids do it.  Old men like me do it.  You can spot us heading into places like the Gorge where only the intrepid would dare to go.  Or adolescents or midlife men with grey hair and potted bellies and big new Harley Davidsons with plates from foreign countries. The locals know these waters and the winds.  I suspect there are times when the gorge is just another glorious winding road. They actually have a weather channel 511 you can call to hear the 'wind conditions'.
My favourite motorcycle nagazine is Mojo. There's a girl who writes a great column about motorcycling.  She described the wind in the Gorge. I'd forgotten about her esquisite description until I was there. I remembered what she said about speed. You have to keep your speed up to counteract the force of the wind.  By trial and error I learned there was a window where I had control with the curves and balanced against the wind.  It was around 90 km or 60 mph.  Lower and I was fighting more , higher I was fighting more. I actually fell in behind these serious local big HOG motorcyclists with the the 'look', high handlebars and leather jackets saying "Vancouver Chapter of ....." a gang whose name I couldn't see.  They drove with grace like the Eagles that were hovering and gliding in the wind just above the road in places riding the wind.
I found the sweet spot.  It was somewhere between terror and bliss but I found it at times. There in the sunshine of the Gorge I felt  freedom.
I'd been told to watch my speed in the towns.  The police are watching for motorcyclists high on wind.  You'd be a fool to be high on anything else on that ride.  Bingen and White Salmon River were a sweet towns but I didn't stop. The sun was on my side and I was afraid the storm clouds above that had dropped a sprinkle of rain a few times already might any moment open up and ratchet  the whole experience up a notch above my comfort zone.
At the Bridge of the Gods I drove across the metal mesh cordoroy that feels so icky on a bike, paid the $.50 toll and was then on the 84.  The ride suddenly became prosaic like the scenery after the exhilerating experience of the northern side.  Contented I rode into Portland really appreciating the 870 lb weight of the Electra Glide.  I'd been lifted and set down 3 feet to the side once in windy conditions on my light weight Buell.  The Electra Glide was made for cruising.
As usual when life is most exciting there's no time or place for stopping for the best pictures. The best images remain those stored in memories.  Motorcycling the Columbia River Gorge like crossing the mouth of the Columbia River ahead of the hurricane will ever be stored in my best of memories file.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Ellensberg to Portland Motorcycling

I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Vancouver, Washington. It's really hard to believe I left the Hampton Court Inn in Ellensburg this morning.  My Harley Electraglide and I have covered so much ground.
It was a really nice morning ride from Ellensburg to Yakima.  Ellensburg, named after Ellen, the wife of the first settler, was definitely cowboy terrain.  Leaving the valley the northwest wind running 15 to25 knots hit me on the side making it difficult to hold the bike steady.  There were tumbleweeds and dry rolling hills.  If felt like I was riding through a Louis L'Amour novel.
At Yakima the terrain opened into Washington's wine country with farmland. The town had lots of Mexican influence too.  I drove around but didn't stay.  The sun was out and riding was really comfortable out of the wind.  At the trucker stop in Yakima I filled up with gas and had a coffee though. I'd also bought a couple of maps of Oregon and Washington State and had them along.
The fellow sitting next to me asked where I was heading. When I told him, he said,"It's a really pretty ride to take the Washington side of the Gorge. "  He showed me on the map. "We're planning on taking that route to Portland in a couple of weeks time. It's one of our favourites.  Bit of wind though."
Heading back up into the mountains I actually saw fields of purple sage. I wish I'd taken a picture but I thought there'd be more and a better place to stop. There wasn't but I sure have a better appreciation of Rider's of the Purple Sage.  It's so beautiful to see a purple carpet at the edge of pine.
I was on 97 going south heading into the mountains again. I think the summit elevation was 3000 this time.  Chilly and windy but with the sun out it was a joy to ride.
I stopped at Goldendale. It was a little town that advertised itself as as outdoorsman centre and appeared to attract deer hunters in season.  I filled up with gas again and had a grilled cheese sandwich in this small Chinese restaurant. An older fellow wearing a Gospel Rider vest came in after looking over my bike.
After he sat down and I 'd finished my second cup of coffee getting some heat back in my body, I walked over to where he sat and asked, "As another Christian rider, can you advise me whether or not the route along the Washington or Oregon side of the Columbia has less wind."
He laughed, "That's biking the Gorge.  No one can know till you get there. It's called the Windy River. The scenery is picturesque on the north though."  He said.
"That's what I heard," I answered.
"Where you coming from?" he asked.
"Vancouver, Canada."
One of the youngers cards at the table next, said, "You should have brought one of those beautiful Vancouver girls down with you. They sure are beautiful there.  A fellow your age must have a daughter." He and the men and woman at his table were laughing good heartedly.
"You're right the girls of Vancouver really are beautiful.  I always tell men looking for beautiful women to check out the churches.  Stop for awhile at the one with the most beautiful women. You'd be surprised what you can pick up there. "  I said.
"Now you're sounding like the minister here." he said turning to the fellow I'd spoken with.  He was laughing too.
"God bless."  I said after paying for the meal, leaving a tip and gathering my gear.
The trip from Goldendale to the Gorge was cross winds central.  I was glad when I finally got to the Columbia and turned right heading west. The wind was 30 knots on the nose.  Going around corners a blast would still catch the bike so  I had to hold on for dear life. It was better than steady cross winds.  I was thankful for the weight of the Electraglide too.  If I'd seen a big fat biker Mama hitch hiking I'd have offered her a ride just for ballast.
Out in the Columbia River everyone was windsurfing in the Gorge. I don't know why they bothered. You could wind surf just as well with a Harley.
A couple of fellows with long hair long grey beards sporting leathers with Vancouver Branch of some Biker Gang passed me at a stop. I joined in behind them  for awhile admiring how they kept in formation while I was scurrying about behind them like a dog trying to keep up.  They even had high handlebars and made that look easy.
I crossed north at the Bridge of Gods taking the freeway into Portland.  The sun stayed with me.  It was an awesome ride. Now I've got to find accomodation for the night.  DSCN8892
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vancouver to Ellensburg Motorcycling

Snoqualmie Starbucks was a terrific pitstop.  When I got back heading east on the I90 the winds had increased.  15 to 25 knots is perfect for sailing but something else riding on a motorcycle through mountain passes.  I had come in search of sunshine and like alot of prayers I hadn't specific about altitude and wind conditions so didn't quite get what I had hoped for.  I was fortunate that I kept ahead of the rain though. The sunshine kept breaking through above me. When I got into the mountain pass with snow still on the ground it not only looked cold, it was cold.
This brought me back  to thinking about fashion and the need for a biker cod piece. What I wondered about, was the name 'cod piece'.  Wouldn't the name change with size? Some might sport a 'minnow piece' while others might wear a "whale piece".  Given the propensity these days to name women according to cat's, pumas, cougars etc,   might an entertaining designer not name one a 'catfish piece'.  Being of the west coast I really think I'd want a 'salmon piece' myself ,but perhaps not pink salmon.  May rainbow or even lake trout or simply a pike piece given the value of alliteration.
I'd lost  all feeling there myself by the time I broached  the peak of the mountain. My legs despite the chaps were also numb. On the way down hill I had to flex my fingers in the gloves to keep them prepared for shifting.   120 to 140 km with wind and a sprinkle of rain in that austere barren winter pass was definitely chilling.    I filled up gas at Cleelum, a really rustic pretty little town.  The washrooms were heated so  I took a while to get my gear straightened out, thankful no one had to actually 'use' the washroom.  After that I was down in the valleys where the cows and windmills made a nice picture op.
Ellensburg is the town where the Central Washington University is located..  It's also famous for it's rodeo. It has quite the thriving little campus with lots of red brick  buildings and lots of off campus apartments.  I finally found my way to Hampton Courts.Hotel after driving around town before the sun went down.   The fellows at the Hampton Court  reception were tremendously welcoming.  I parked the Harley outfront chaining it to a lamp post. I can see it from the room. The room is magnificent.  It's a waste in a way being alone.  I did turn the heat way up and immediately ordered a pizza.  Now I'm going to watch tv and fall asleep.  The fact is the challenge made the ride that much more special.
Tomorrow the weather is for higher temperatures and more sunshine.  I'm looking forward to heading south.  I've never been in this area. It's like Manning Park but the forest is bit more civilized. Great streams and mountain views.  The freeway system is awesome.  DSCN8880 DSCN8882DSCN8881DSCN8883DSCN8884DSCN8885DSCN8887DSCN8890DSCN8893

Chilliwack Flowers, Tom and His Cabin, Ford Truck and Trailer, Gilbert

I had these pictures from the weekend. I took pictures of flowers.  Then Tom and I headed out to the Okanagan for the turkey hunt with Gilbert.  The truck broke down so we had the trailer towed away and dropped of the truck at Chilliwack ford. It was great to get together and talk about Jesus, the Canadian Elections, planes and boats, motorcycles, girls and Gilbert. Gilbert had a great time with the boys. DSCN8864DSCN8862DSCN8860DSCN8866DSCN8865DSCN8871DSCN8868DSCN8870DSCN8873DSCN8875DSCN8877