Day 5… le fin

Day 5

Day 5 woke up somewhat early going by the past few days’ record. Got up, showered and went to Linda’s Restaurant again to get breakfast. Breakfast was a hotcakes shortstack and a side of eggs. The pancakes of course turned out to be so super-size that I could only manage to eat about a quarter of the serving.

I wanted to take the shortest path home that I could while still catching a couple of good roads on the way. I crossed back over into Washington, heading north towards Goldendale and then on a little backroad – Bickleton Highway – that would lead through Bickleton and end at Mabton, where I would get on 82W and then 90W home. The backroad was about 60 miles long and a little out of the way but it really paid off because it was completely remote and scenic. You know it’s a good ride when you’re not checking your speedo, but just going with the flow and responding automatically to the road without thinking about it. The towns that the road went through are hardly even deserving of that description, but it’s what you would expect going through rural America.

Hitting 88W was a reality check of the dreary freeway slabbing through miles of arid desert that lay ahead before I was finally home. I wanted this part to be over quickly. :| Got off at a little town called Buena to catch another supposedly scenic backroad to Moxie City. The road led through the Yakima wineries and I suppose it was pretty but the dry heat was getting to me and I was getting a little hungry by now.

Stopped at Moxie City and went to the grocery store to get supplies for lunch, then rode over to the local state park and sat in a shady grove of trees to eat a well deserved lunch and a bit of a nap.

From here on it was back to 82W where it had gotten really windy – almost as bad as it had been on the gorge. I slowed to a 60mph crawl in a 70mph speed limit zone, which sucked but I didn’t feel safe going any faster when the wind was trying to rip my head off every few minutes. :| Got off at Ellenburg and took Highway 10 to Cle Elum so that I could go a bit slower. It helped a bit with the wind because there was more tree cover.

Getting on I90 at Cle Elum turned out to be a nightmare because of a massive traffic gridlock. The view of the bumper to bumper traffic miles ahead made me worry that that’s how it was going to be all the way to Seattle. This turned out to be unfounded though as the freeway split up into more lanes and traffic finally started moving. I managed to get up to a comfortable 70-80mph pace for the rest of the ride. It was a relief and a delight to finally be riding back through typical Pacific Northwest foliage with the cool weather and the evergreens fringing the freeway. I had never quite noticed how pretty I90 was for an interstate. It was still a bit windy but exceedingly manageable. I pondered all the things I would do when I got home to figure out how I could beat the wind the next time – install my old windshield, try to get a closer fitting jacket so the wind wouldn’t billow around in it, see the suspension could be tweaked at all to make it handle better etc.

I got into Seattle at around 6:30PM – way later than I had hoped – but it was still sunny out. Rode into the parking lot, parked, unloaded. I was home. It wasn’t quite the ride I had had in my head when I had started out, but it had had its moments.

Photos coming soon.

Days 3 and 4

Day 3 saw me leaving Redmond and heading out west towards Sisters. It seemed like a charming little town which I unfortunately didn’t stop at. The weather continued to be marvellous and the route I picked to head towards Eugene – 126 and 20 west turned out to be neat little roads – remote, winding and twisty. There were a few Snow Zone signs which made me a bit nervous, not wanting a repeat of the previous day’s experience, but fortunately all the roads were wide open.

The best ride of all was a little winding backroad called Brush Creek Ln. that led south from Sweet Home to Springfield. It was a glorious lazy, winding road that ran through rural lands with little farmhouses and sloughs – my favorite kind of road. :)

From Springfield, I got on I5 and took the quickest path to Dexter, OR. It was great to see the old familiar faces of people I hadn’t seen in almost a year! I found a spot up on the hill to pitch my tent – happy to finally be using it.

The party was good and mellow. Nobody got shit-faced and fell in the ditch this year, but we did have the gigantic 10 foot bonfire and a live band.

Day 4

Day 4 – Sunday – saw me waking up later than expected (mostly on account of being woken up by loud, chirping birds – why on earth do they do that?! – and not being able to go back to sleep for  while). Got breakfast, said my goodbyes and took off, this time north on I-5 for the shortest path to Portland. I managed to ride 120 miles non-stop before I finally reached PDX.

Had lunch at my favorite Cuban restaurant – Pambiche – sugarcane juice, fried plantains and an appetizer plate of Cuban goodies. I managed to not have a siesta and got back on the bike to head to the Columbia River Gorge.

I was hoping to ride both sides of the river and spend the night at a friend’s place in Washougal. Alas, like the rest of this trip, fate had other plans for me.

The ride started off on the old Columbia River highway which was a cool, historic road that would have been rad to ride early in the morning some weekday, but was absolutely tourist hell on a late Sunday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend. After about 15 miles of crawling along at 20mph I finally got on I-84 which I rode about 100 miles through Hood River and The Dalles.

At The Dalles I crossed the bridge over into Washington to head east to see the mock Stonehenge monument. This is when what had been a glorious day slowly turned into hell with side winds that threatened to rip my head off every few minutes. It was scary enough that at one point I just stopped, feeling a little paralyzed with fear and wondering how to get the hell out of there. I finally wound up going 15 mile east to see the Stonehenge, took some pictures and then went off to find a campground. The closest one was full up though and I ended up crossing back into Oregon to find a motel in Wasco. I called my friend to tell him that I wasn’t going to make it to Washougal after all. :|

So here I am now, in Dinty’s Motor Inn (I kid you not). Dinner, a hot shower and a warm, soft bed has taken the edge off a bit and I’m feeling a little less bummed about my best laid plans all going to hell.

Ah well, win some, lose some, right? Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I want to find the shortest path back to Seattle so that I can get there by afternoon and chill out and enjoy the rest of the day in  my old familiar neighborhood. But I’m not holding my breath.

Day 1 of Memorial Day Ride…

I left home at around 2:30PM on Thursday evening to catch the 3:00 ferry to Bremerton. Made it there a few minutes before they started loading. Rode on, parked, went upstairs to the deck and took a few photos of the gorgeous skyline with the Space Needle in the distance.

The ferry ride was about an hour spent in silence and contemplation. Finally for a long ride by myself, I think. Alas, fate had other plans for me.

Got off the ferry a little before 4:00PM, rode off and promptly missed the turn to 403 and got hopelessly lost. Google Maps stopped working so my GPS fob was useless. Finally made it back on the freeway in 15 minutes, thinking – “Away I go! To freedom! The open road! The wind on my face!”

And got stuck in a bumper to bumper traffic for the next 1.5 hours in 80 degree weather and a rapidly overheating bike, not to mention a slowly cooking me.

Apparently the Hood Canal bridge closing up north was forcing a lot of people to take a detour south and head back north via the route I was on. To think that the only reason I hadn’t taken it was because I wanted to avoid the gridlock in Tacoma. :|

At one point the heat got so unbearable that I pulled off the side of the road. I saw another bike stopped a little ways ahead and rode up to her to see if she was okay. She was, we chatted a little, then got back on the road and rode side by side for a little while. Her name was Dina and she rode a Harley Sportster. She was a typical Harley rider in leather jacket, chaps and a half helmet – the kind I never dreamt I’d be chatting up, but bad traffic makes for strange bedfellows. She was pretty cool too so I invited her to stop with me at the next rest stop where I planned to wait until traffic got better.

Finally we reached Belfair and I saw a McDonalds which appeared to be an oasis (a clear first indication of a heat stroke), I turned off the main road and went in to get ice cream and a long drink of cold water.

We waited in there and chatted about our biking adventures. She had had an interesting life – she had lived in England, New Mexico, and all over Washington state. She rode and camped a lot.

We sat there for about an hour by which time the traffic had subsided. I was beginning to have doubts about ever reaching Astoria before 10:00PM (when the hostel said they would be closing) especially with the Memorial Day traffic heading down 101 towards the coast. The heat had sapped a little bit of my strength and I wasn’t looking forward to riding another 200 miles before dark.

I decided to ride with her to Olympia and then south towards Kelso, where I’d decide to either head south to Portland or west to Astoria.

It was dark by the time I got to Kelso, so Portland it was! Portland, and Sarah, and a pint and a soft, warm bed for the night.

And so here I am, getting ready to load up the bike again and head on south to the Deschutes area in central Oregon. They say there is an obsidian flow that you can walk through. More on that tomorrow.

Off soon….

It’s almost the long weekend!! A few more hours before I skip town. I am taking the day off tomorrow and WFH today so that I can leave early and ride down to Astoria. I’ll spend all of Friday wandering down the Oregon coast, enjoying one of the most scenic rides in the United States. On Saturday I need to be in Eugene, OR for a party in the evening (same biker party I went to last year), so depending on where I spend Friday night, I’ll have to find some cool roads to explore during the day.

The party should be great. I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of people that I made friends with last year and haven’t seen in a while. Last year they had a HUGE bonfire and flaming tetherball, which was good times. ;) Sarah’s riding down from Portland too and between the two of us, you can bet there will be trouble.

Whenever I am ready to get out on Sunday morning, I’ll hit the road again and head up north to ride the roads around the Columbia River Gorge both on the Oregon and Washington side. I’m not sure if I can do both banks on the same day or if I’ll have to split it up to the next day, but I intend to spend the night at a friend’s place in Washougal chatting again about bikes and his big adventure ride from last year. Monday morning I’ll be seeking to find the fastest way home and get back to Seattle mid-afternoon so I can relax and maybe catch a SIFF film.

It strikes me that this is the first time since the summer of 2007 that I will be doing a somewhat long solo ride! While I have ridden a lot between then and now, it has always been with other people – a little strange for a loner like me.

All my bags are packed  and waiting to be hitched to the bike. I’m bringing my tent and sleeping bag as I intend to camp for at least a couple of nights (solo camping! eek! yay!). I’m bringing my netbook and of course my camera and attempt blogging while on the road. Basically I’m trying as much as possible to simulate my upcoming X-country ride on a smaller scale to work out all the kinks and get a better idea of what I need to bring along and what to leave at home.

A few more hours!! Can’t wait… can’t wait!! :D

Rolling hills, pouring rains, hailstorms, flaming tetherballs… oh my!

Rolled back into town a couple of hours ago. Too late to do a writeup, but I did manage to upload photographs. The highlights are posted under the cut. Try and connect the dots. :)

This is my favorite one out of the best ride I’ve done in Oregon.

All photos here: And some under the cut.