Friday, August 28, 2009

Our summer vacation...1,650 miles in 6 days

When you tell most people that you are going on vacation, they immediately think of national parks, beaches, amusement parks, museums, resorts, etc. When you tell friends that don’t own a motorcycle that you are taking the vacation on the bike, most sort of wince and ask why. When you tell them that you are also going on vacation on the bike with three other couples, most people can’t even imagine the experience. Well Larry and I could and we waited impatiently for the months to tick away and it was finally time to leave. What a way to go!

We arrived at Sehome Starbucks, a favorite pre-arranged spot to gather for rides, have a cup of coffee to wake us up, and a last pit stop for about an hour. Dave and Lorie, Dave and Dawn, Bill and Marla, and Larry and I all had our bikes packed with rain gear, snacks, drinks, clothing, leathers, whatever you can get on your bikes and still ride it (for some of the women that included hair dryers and curling irons). We headed off at about 7:00 AM on August 19th for our first destination of Seaside Oregon.

We took the Keystone Ferry from Whidbey Island and rode down the Hood Canal in 90 degree weather. Just north of Raymond we stopped for lunch and after several minutes our server, who was a young college age male stopped and looked at Dave M. and said you are the “alpha male”. Now as my husband pointed out, probably all men who ride a Harley or participate in manly man sports, think of themselves as an alpha male, but there is always one who just stands out, and that would be our Dave M. I did however point out to him that in a pack of wolves it is not the alpha male who is the true leader, but the alpha female and that would be Lorie. Dave quickly jumped to a new topic as we smiled and laughed.

We slowly peeled off the layers of clothing as the day wore on and we rode south. Just before Astoria Oregon, we were glad we still had the jackets on, as the sea breeze whipped across the inlet making white caps across the water. A little evening traffic and tourists manipulating the roads and we arrived at the Sundowner Inn in Seaside. It was kickstands down and we quickly unpacked, showered, and moved our chairs outside where we gathered for a cold drink before dinner. We were only a block away from the main drag in town and the restaurant had a thirty minute wait so we walked down by the beach to watch all the bonfires that were being lit and fueled by young twenty-thirty somethings. We strolled down the other side of the street and browsed through a small art/gift shop before heading back to the restaurant. Well it was another thirty minutes before we were finally seated and some of us were eyeing the seagull bread as we waited. Norma’s restaurant has been featured in Sunset Magazine, Bon Appetite Magazine, and won an AAA award. Full and satisfied we headed back to our rooms for sleep and an early morning ride down the coast.

Thursday morning we pulled out of Seaside at 7:00 AM and stopped for breakfast at Manzanita. The local café had great food and service. We stopped in Tillamook but it was a little early for ice-cream. We took the self guided tour then headed back down the coast. The fog shrouded the trees in a ghostly outline as we took the twists and turns down the coast road. We took a break in Newport Beach to walk along the wharf, get a shot of caffeine, see the wax museum, and Lorie bought her taffy. Next stop was Florence for lunch and we found a little place that was almost closing for the day but gladly served us lunch with a smile on their faces and joked with us. We spent most of the day riding in a light fog all the way down the coast, finally finding sunshine before we arrived in Coos Bay. A pit stop for gas and we headed to the local Harley dealer. When you are on a bike you just need to stop and see what they have that is different, new, or must have. It was a nice break and now we were on our way to Roseburg to our hotel for the night. Misdirection by a not-so-nice local had us headed up the freeway to a wrong exit and then winding our way back through unfamiliar streets until we could see the hotel sign. It’s always one bad egg that causes a stink, but the hotel staff and the restaurant staff were nice and that (and our cocktail hour) made it all better.

Friday morning we had a continental breakfast at the hotel and then headed out. The morning was spent winding our way around the mountain road next to the Umpqua River. It was a beautiful ride and the river had small rapids, quiet ponds, and occasionally you would see a fisherman standing in the stream. Crater Lake loomed ahead of us and it is hard to image the enormity of it. I have flown over the lake numerous times going back and forth to California but up close it is breathtaking. We had lunch at the lodge before we headed down the south east side towards Klamath Falls and then headed north to Bend. Dave took us on a spiraling road to the top of Pilot Point where you can look out at the whole valley below and every way you turn there is a mountain to see. Bill ordered pizza and Caesar salads for an army while we sat around laughing and talking in Dave and Lorie’s hotel room. We sat in the hotel lobby breakfast area to eat dinner and tried our best to give away the extra food to anyone who wandered to close to our tables.

Rise and shine. Breakfast at the hotel and we were headed north to Mt. Hood. I always get a little nervous thinking about mountains and steep hillsides, even more so on a bike. The climb up Mt. Hood really wasn’t bad at all. Mostly trees and an occasional steep slope but the roads were wide and well maintained. The Timberline Lodge was majestic standing just above the tree line. It wasn’t very crowded and plenty of parking. We walked up a not so steep incline but wearing motorcycle boots is like wearing five pound weights on each foot and counting every step. In today’s world I don’t think you could every duplicate the craftsmanship that went into building the lodges that dot our national parks. The timbers came from old growth trees that mills don’t even have the machinery to cut now days. Skilled laborers, and locals who were trained, built and made everything in the lodge from the wrought iron hinges, fireplace screens, the benches, and woven floor to ceiling woolen drapes in Indian designs. It is definitely a bygone era that needs to be preserved and treasured.

Back down the mountain and over to Parkdale for lunch in a little converted gas station to café. Dave M. grew up in this area of the woods so he showed us where he used to fish and swim in the summers at Lost Lake (E-e-kwahl-a-mat-yam-lshkt, meaning “'heart of the mountains”) (Oregon has 19 lakes named Lost Lake) near the little town of Dee that is no more. The tree lined road gently took us upwards to a quiet little resort that was full up. We stopped for ice cream at the store and a photo opportunity of the most photographed spot of Mt. Hood. Back down to road and on to the Columbia River. We went through Mosier and stopped at the Rowena Crest for a brief rest and a view of the river below. This was the old road, named the King of Roads, along the Columbia River and the roads and rock walls were built by the WPA and it is considered one of the twenty-five most beautiful roads in America. We pulled into our hotel and as usual took our showers, had a cold drink, and Lorie had made dinner reservations at Romul’s, an Italian restaurant. Lots more laughter, stories, and memories to treasure.

Sunday morning we crossed back into Washington and drove west up the Columbia River before heading north into the Columbia River Gorge towards Mt. Adams. We stopped at Trout Lake for a quick break then up into the farm lands and winding, twisting roads that were both breathtaking and heart stopping at times. Down the tight and very narrow road, where the fog line on the other side of the road sometimes disappeared over the edge. We stopped in the old mill town of Klickitat for lunch. The mill is gone with only the cement floors remaining and some old rusted machinery left standing to the edges. We made a loop and headed north to the Maryhill Winery. They have a beautiful grass 4,000 seat outdoor amphitheater built into the sloping hillside where they hold outdoor concerts during the summer months. Musicians played on the garden terrace covered with grape laden arbors that led into the wine tasting room. We drove down the road to Stonehenge, a WWI monument dedicated to the local soldiers who lost their lives. It sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River and while it is an amazing sight to visit it is also a stark reminder that these men fought so that no one after them would have to sacrifice their lives; and yet memorials are still being built for each new war to honor the sacrifices of our young men and women. We were back to our hotel in time to take a short rest before meeting up for cold drinks, conversation and dinner. I can’t remember the name of the little restaurant where we had dinner, but the service was great and the servings were large.

Day six, Monday morning, and we are heading home. We were on the road by 7:00 AM and made good time. Usually on a Monday morning you have the typical big rigs crisscrossing the state to deliver goods and clogging up the roads. We must have been just ahead of them. We made a couple of pit stops before heading up the river road at Yakima towards Cle Elum where we gassed up. We headed up Blewett Pass and stopped at a little restaurant that Dave M. said serves the best meatloaf sandwich, so most of us sampled the recommendation. We slowed down for Leavenworth but didn’t stop; we were close to home and wanted to get over Stevens Pass and ahead of the commute traffic on Interstate 5. We dropped down on the other side of the pass, stopped for gas, cold drinks and removed some of the cold weather clothing we were still wearing. We took the direct route home which was stop and go in Monroe and then began the challenge of dealing with traffic and crazy drivers. Trying to keep four bikes together on the freeway in a staggered formation is pretty hard to do when cage drivers only care about where they want to be and think bikers should just move out of the way. One particular driver split the group, rode the bumper of Bill and Marla, honked when we passed him and found a safe distance to move back into the lane, moved over and up on Dave and Dawn when they also signaled and moved over; then the cage driver honked and moved his vehicle towards them. The driver backed off when he saw Dawn’s camera and we do have a picture of his license plate for proof of road rage.

The rest stop at Smokey Point couldn’t have come at a better time. Breath in, breath out...feel the tension leave… We were only about an hour away from home now. The ride home would be easier since most of the traffic was behind us now. Over Bow Hill and now we waved and pulled off one by one as friends headed on to our own homes.

It seems like longer than six days and yet I wasn’t ready for it to end, except of course I would have had to stop and do laundry someplace along the way if we had been gone any longer. Next year we will have the trike and I can pack more. Yipee! Next year? Wonder where we will go.

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