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Olympic Peninsula


I’ve always thought that my idea of an adventure would be to just wake up one morning, get into my car and start driving and go someplace I’d never been before, with no plan in place, just a few maps and the road ahead of me. And to drive and drive with no concept of time and no worries and thoughts about when I would be back. While I’ve done solo road trips in a car, doing the same thing on a motorcycle seemed just a little bit more adventurous and demanding. Not to mention a little stupid – I’ve been riding for a grand total of six months. I’d done a couple of longer rides with a group and I commute to work daily, but I wasn’t sure if this was experience enough for something more challenging.

I had so many concerns initially – what if I was stranded on a lonely road? What if I had engine trouble? What if I took on a route that was too much? What if I ran into bad weather? What if a 250 cc bike really wasn’t cut out for a long road trip? What if?

Fortunately for me, the motorcycling community consists of some of the most supportive people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. They patiently answered many of my questions and helped me to prepare better for my trip. I bought a TourMaster magnetic tank bag, raingear, a bungee net and a tire repair kit. My motorcycle insurance didn’t cover towing in case of a breakdown, so I joined the AMA and enrolled in their MoTow program. I put together a list of all the Yamaha dealers in the area (this came in handy later on!). Some friends showed me routes that they had done which gave me a better idea of places to go and see on the loop. Destination Highways Washington outlined many excellent routes I could explore on the way.

There were many other good suggestions that I didn’t take on – like listening to my MP3 player on the way – I thought this would interfere with my concentration on the road plus I really didn’t want even music to interfere with the experience. Or getting a CamelBak to drink water during the trip – I just stopped frequently enough and drank from my Nalgene water bottle. At times like that, I really wished I had a modular helmet – taking your helmet off frequently can be annoying!

I bought maps of the area, but I left the final route unplanned.

I had to wait until I had a longer holiday and good weather. For a while there, it seemed like I would have to wait until next summer before this happened. And then finally, this week came by and I decided to just up and goal.

Friday night, I packed up a few essentials in my mini-tank bag and a small satchel. My minimalist tendencies always kick in when I go on long trips and this is fortunate as I didn’t want to overload my little 250cc. I packed a toothbrush, toothpaste, chap stick, soap, lotion, socks, underwear, a spare t-shirt, some granola bars, a camera, phone charger, cigarettes, two slim books, a water bottle, maps, glove liners, a balaclava and rain gear.

I put all the expensive things in the tank bag to take with me whenever I had to park the bike and walk around. The other things – like clothes and books went into the satchel which I planned on leaving behind and could afford to lose if somebody with thieving tendencies came upon it. ;)

In hindsight, I should also have taken a clean cloth to wiper down my helmet visor, windshield and mirrors, at least one extra visor, pajamas, and my Motorcycle Owner’s manual.

Day 1 – Saturday, October 22, 2005


I woke up early on Saturday morning and loaded up the bike. I secured the satchel to the back of the bike with a bungee net and stuck the tank bag on to the tank with the map window showing directions for the first leg of the journey.

The plan for the day was to ride to Edmonds, take the ferry to Kingston, and ride to Port Townsend from there to stay the night.

The first thing I did was to ride to the nearest Chevron to fill up the gas tank and roll the odometer to zero. My bike has a 2.5 gallon tank, and I can ride for approximately 110 miles before hitting the reserve. Since gas stations on my route were few and far between, I had to be very careful and keep track of how much fuel I was using.

I rode to Redmond and got onto 405 North and took the exit to Woodinville. From here, things went to hell, as the route parted ways with Google Maps’ instructions. The next two hours were a harried nightmare consisting of stopping at various gas stations, getting conflicting directions, making wrong turns wherever possible and riding absurdly long before realizing that I was on the wrong track.

Somewhere near 10 miles of my destination, I ran into a young Harley rider who was also heading to the ferry and he suggested that I follow him. My profound relief gave way to the slightest twinge of anxiety as he made abrupt lane changes and turns while giving me about a second of advance notice. I don’t know if this was just about him trying to act cool or a genuine lack of awareness. In any case, it cost me dear, when we finally reached the ferries and headed to pay the fare, and he made a sudden right turn. I should have slowed down enough and turned slowly. Instead, I jerked to the right and felt my bike toppling over to the side. We got it up in a few seconds, but I *cringed* at looking like a rookie. A police car drove slowly toward me and the cop grinned and asked me if I was okay. Only my pride, I mumbled, as I made my way to the toll booth, swearing inwardly at myself. The last time I had crashed was in my first week of riding when I was newbie doing turns in a parking lot. Fortunately, the bike was unharmed except for my front break twisting slightly so that it was slightly awkward to use.

As an interesting aside, I am more sensitive about crashing than most male riders are, because as a female rider, I feel like any stupid thing I might do on my motorcycle, reflects on female riders in general, unfair thought that might be.

I paid my $4 fair for the ferry and was informed that the next ferry was at 11:30 AM – meaning a 20 minute wait ahead. I rode to the head of the line past the rows of cars, because motorcyclists and bicyclists have special privileges on the ferry – they get to ride on and off before the cars. There were a couple other motorcyclists – the aforementioned Harley rider and his girlfriend, and a BMW rider with his wife. A Suzuki Marauder turned up later.

The BMW rider was an old guy who had ridden up from Olympia for a daytrip. We chatted for a little while, with his wife standing by silently, even though I tried to include her in the conversation many times.

It was the same with the Harley rider. He seemed nice enough and chatted a bit, while his girlfriend looked coldly down at me and didn’t speak a single word. I remember gazing at her and wishing I looked as good as her, with her perfect long, blonde hair, perfect body, perfect makeup, perfect leather outfit and perfect skid lid, and feeling frumpy in my leather jacket, mesh pants, full face helmet, loosely braided hair, glasses and no trace of makeup. And I remember thinking that it didn’t matter- that I got envious, admiring looks wherever I rode anyway. That when people saw me, they didn’t so much scrutinize my hair and makeup, as much as they gazed at the image I represented – the look of wild, dangerous, uninhibited freedom. And the feeling I got when I rode my bike hard, with the roar of the engine ringing in my ears and the wind whistling past me, riding down straights, and leaning and twisting through curves, was something that a backseat rider would never have. I wouldn’t exchange it for all the good looks in the world.


On board the ferry, we parked our motorcycles right at the front, so we would be first to get off. From here, we parted ways. I made my way to the top deck and bought a sandwich and apple from the restaurant and found a window seat. The ferry ride was less than 30 minutes. When I got to the lower deck, the other riders had already left. I got off and rode to the closest gas station to refuel. It sounds a bit paranoid, but I got into the habit of refueling at every major town I came by. It was always only a couple of dollars worth, which made it seem even more trivial and unnecessary. I always got some amused looks at gas stations where I had to go inside and pay. “You put anything in there?” :)

I asked an old guy for directions to Port Townsend. I showed him my map to indicate the route I wanted to take – Highway 104 until I neared Discovery Bay, and then 101 for a stretch before taking WA-20 into Port Townsend. He said that he was going to Port Gamble himself and I should follow him and take that route instead. “Down 104, that’s just cattle country!” I agreed and we headed back toward our respective vehicles. I was pulling on my gloves, when I saw him start up and take off without so much as a glance in my direction! I wonder if he completely forgot about me as soon as he got into his truck. :P

In any case, the route he had recommended was easy enough to find on my map. It went by Port Ludlow and Port Gamble and looked over the waters of the Puget Sound.


I took off on 104 and came by Port Gamble sooner than I’d thought I would. It was a tiny, little picturesque town which seemed to have been primarily a logging town years ago. I parked her for a while and walked over to the bay. There were stairs that led toward the beach and the logging mill. Unfortunately, my motorcycle boots and gear were not comfortable enough to walk around in for long periods of time, and I wasn’t inclined to take them on and off every time I wanted to explore. Instead, I found a patch of green grass and sat down to look over a magnificent view of the bay. The sky was the bluest blue and the waters were sparkling and clear. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day.

There was a tiny little general store near the edge of the town, where I stopped for a coffee. I got curious looks from the locals, something that I would soon get used to.

I reluctantly left the town and got back onto 104, following it toward the bridge over Hood Canal. As I approached the bridge, I prayed inwardly – “Please let it be paved. Please let it be paved.” For a rider, there is no worse nightmare than riding over a bridge with metal gratings. My prayers were answered. There were some stretches of metal gratings, but there were strips of concrete on them which some thoughtful soul must have put in place for the benefit of us two-wheelers.

From here, I diverged from my route and took Paradise Bay Rd.. Past Port Ludlow, it turned into Oak Bay Rd., via Irondale, to Rhody Dr., and finally onto WA-20, following it all the way into Port Townsend.

The first sight that greets you as you enter Port Townsend, is the numerous boat yards. I later found out that boats from all over the country are sent here to be repaired. I didn’t stop though, meaning to find Fort Worden first so I would know for sure that I’d have a place to sleep at night. Once I found the hostel, a nice old guy told me that I would have to come back at 5 PM, as the hostel was only open between 5 PM and 10 PM for checking in. I had two hours to kill, and really needed some nourishment, so I took off and went toward downtown Port Townsend.

I parked and walked around down the few streets that comprised downtown. It reminded me a little bit of Portland, OR, with its hip, artsy teenagers smoking outside the cafes, the film institute across the street, the little independent theatre next door, and the numerous boutiques and used bookstores. I got a coffee and took a closer look at my maps and my copy of DH – Washington, to figure out where the main Destination Highways were located. After coffee, I went outside to smoke my first cigarette of the day, and smiled as I listened to the artsy teenagers bantering and reminding me of similar moments outside the Communist Cafe(my name for it) in downtown Portland.

I got back to the bike and rode around near the water then back into town. The weather, the green hedges and trees, the winding country roads and pastures reminded me a little bit of rural England. It was really a very nice, little town for a motorcyclist. I could imagine myself living there, and waking up on Sunday mornings and cranking up an old Triumph and riding around the countryside. :)

Back to Ford Worden to check in. I got a dorm room bed for a princely sum of $20. The best part was that there was no one else in the women’s dorm, so I practically had the place to myself. The hostess was very nice and I chatted with her a little bit. She exclaimed that she didn’t have many lone females dropping by without a reservation. I grinned and said that I hadn’t expected them to be full up at this time of year. She indicated to the Rules and Regulations quite a few times to make sure I understood them – things like clean up after yourself, stick the sheets and pillowcases into the hamper in the morning, do not hog the bathroom etc. I laughed at one of the rules that said – “You are expected to keep the place tidy. Your mother will not clean your mess up here.”

She informed me that there was an all-you-can-eat pancakes breakfast in the morning. Yummy!

I unpacked and cleaned myself up a little bit. There were still a couple more hours of daylight left, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to move a muscle. I made my bed and lay there looking out the window for at least an hour, before I reluctantly got out and went to scavenge for food.

Since there was still some daylight left, I followed the trail to the lighthouse to take a few pictures and then rode down to The Commons within Fort Worden, which served a buffet dinner. I got in line only to find out that dinner was $15 a plate! I swore under my breath but stayed put, as I was too tired to go find another place. There seemed to be a regiment of soldiers stationed there, all of whom were in line for the buffet. Fort Warden used to be a WW1 barracks, so this wasn’t at all surprising. I made small talk with the lady in front of me, who informed me that she was there for a scrapbooking event along with 85 other members of her organization.

The food was splendid – vegetarian pasta, grilled salmon, lasagne, steamed broccoli, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, salad and black forest cake for desert. I almost never eat enough at a buffet for me to get my money’s worth, but the food here was delicious enough to make it worth it.

At 7 PM, I rode back to the hostel, and changed and got into bed. I spent some time looking at some more maps and scrutinizing some of the tourist brochures for the various towns I would encounter to decide on which ones I wanted to visit.

I finally turned the lights out at about 9:00 and lay listening to my iRiver until I fell asleep (I blush to say that I did listen to Born to be Wild). I’d like to say I slept like a baby, after the eventful day, but it was not so. Still, all things considered, I slept fitfully until my alarm went off at 7 the next morning.

Day 2 – Sunday, October 23, 2005

“I can make you pancakes.”

I don’t reckon there are too many people who wake up the minute the alarm goes off while they are on vacation, and I don’t see why I needed to be amongst the few that did. I have in fact perfected to a fine art the act of turning off the alarm, rolling over and tucking myself firmly into the blankets in a smooth, synchronized move.

I finally woke up at 8:30 AM, showered and got dressed and went upstairs to the all-you-can-eat pancakes breakfast, only to find that it was also an eat-all-you-can-make pancakes breakfast. There was one other lodger there drinking coffee and he laughed when I told him that I had never made a pancake in all my life, and I wouldn’t know the first thing to do when it came to pancake-making. He pointed out that there were instructions on the box, to which I responded that I never read the instructions on the box while on vacation. He asked me if I was British, which I thought was odd. I asked him if he wanted to breakfast with me at The Commons, and he declined.

I left him in the kitchen and headed back to my dorm to get my wallet. As I walked out, I saw him standing at the head of stairs, grinning.

“I can make you pancakes.”

Too late though. I already had visions of a breakfast buffet floating in my head, and I declined. That was the last time I saw him.

The breakfast buffet however was over as I found out to my astonishment that it was almost 10:30. They made me an egg and sausage muffin sandwich and a coffee. Poor substitute indeed!

I ate quickly as I was anxious to hit the road again. I walked back to the dorm, grabbed my belongings, left a $5 bill for the hostess, and headed out to my motorcycle. It must have rained in the night, as it was dripping wet. I wiped down the seat with paper towels, strapped my luggage back on, let the engine run for a bit, before getting on. My hostess stood in the window waving goodbye to me. I waved back and rode away from the hostel, down Battery Way, and out of Fort Worden.

Someday I’ll go back here and spend a weekend. This had been my favorite leg of the journey. This is the kind of place I can go to, to relax and kick back. I could imagine hiking the many trails, sipping coffee in the little coffee shops or sitting by the Bay for hours on end.


It had been drizzling when I’d woken up, and while the rain had stopped, the streets were still wet. It was dull and gray, but the air was fresh, clean and bracing. The town was like a little washed out watercolor and I felt like I was riding through an artist’s canvas. It’s the kind of morning that motorcyclists’ dreams are made of.

I rode out of town to hit WA-20 again. The route from here was pretty straightforward. The idea was to simply follow WA-20 and hit 101 to reach Sequim and then Port Angeles. WA-101 is the scenic highway that traces the Olympic National Loop, and I’d be spending most of my journey on it.

I stopped a ridiculous number of times on the way. When I had started off, it was steaming hot in just my t-shirt and leather jacket. As soon as I hit the highway at 60 mph though, it was whoops it’s cold! Let’s get those glove liners on. A little bit further, let’s get that balaclava on, let’s close the vents on the helmet, let’s put the pullover on. Those glove liners are really uncomfortable, the hell with them. Thankfully, it didn’t get any hotter, so this was pretty much my outfit for the rest of the journey. The balaclava really helped in keeping my head and neck warm, and also in cutting down the wind noise a little bit. The glove liners kept my fingers warm, but they really restricted my movement. For a while, I wished I had gotten a windshield that protected my wrists as well. I’d been against the idea of a windshield for the longest time, but I’m glad that I’d given in, and had one installed. It cut down on the wind hitting me squarely in the chest and really made a difference in my comfort level while riding.

Still, not once in my ride did I think of complaining. The way I saw it, when I was hurtling down the road at 75 mph, my body bracing itself for the shock of the cold and the winds, I had never felt more gloriously, screamingly alive than at that minute.


I stopped at Sequim and went to the visitor center to use the restroom. There were two lovely people working there – Bob and Joanne who recommended things to do. Sequim was renowned for its lavender fields, but this was a bad time of the year to see them, as they had already been harvested.

They suggested that I might want to ride north to see the Dungeness Spit – the longest natural spit in the US or the world – I forget which. The Olympic Game Farm was on the way too, and I really wanted to ride through there, but apparently motorcycles weren’t allowed in, since the animals were wild. Even cagers had to keep their windows rolled up, as there’d been stories of animals taking a bite out of elbows and other protruding bits. :)

The ride to the Spit was well worth it, even if it meant a bit of a detour from my original plan.

From Sequim, it was an largely uneventful journey to Port Angeles. I got a bit of a shock when I hit PA. I had been expecting something close to Port Townsend, but on a much bigger scale, since it touted itself as the ‘Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula’. To me it just looked like a shoddy little dead end port town. Almost all the stores were closed and there was hardly anyone on the streets. I found a café that served some hot vegetable soup which I wolfed down gratefully. My bones had been chilled through on the ride and was glad to get the circulation going again. The café had computers and internet access, so I checked my email and looked up the weather.

I made my way out of PA pretty quickly. There was really nothing to see or do in this town and I had a long ride ahead of me.

My next stop was the town of Sekiu (pronounced see-cue). However, I also wanted to make a detour to ride from the town of Joyce to Fairholm along Lake Crescent, as it was recommended as one of the most scenic rides in WA state. I decided to stop at Joyce, refuel, ride to Fairholm and back, and then continue to Clallam Bay and Sekiu.

This sign amused me as it reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman’s descriptions of various towns in American Gods.

Destination Highway 15: Port Angeles to Fairholm

To anyone who lives in Washington state or is planning to visit, this is a must-ride route. I would call it perfect, but that would be underselling it. It is 27 miles of perfectly paved and engineered roads, remote, endless twisties, fabulous views of Lake Crescent. I think I cried a little at the end of it. It was simply the best ride I’ve had in my short motorcycling life.

I’d been very cautious on the ride, paying attention to all the speed limit signs. The ride back was another story though. I rode hard and fast and far more aggressively than I had before. While I stopped many times before to take pictures, this time I was free to just fly through the route, never pausing before I was back where I had started.

Destination Highway 28: Port Angeles to Highway 112/113 Jct

Another beautiful, beautiful highway! I had a few hairy moments on this one where I found that I was going too fast and hadn’t slowed down too much on certain turns and had to lean until I was thought I would scrape my mesh-encased knees on the pavement.

At least two other surreal moments stand out in my mind – the first was riding at 75 mph on 101 and see two deer prancing across the highway within a 100 yards of me. I squeezed the brakes gently, came within 10 feet of them, they looked at me, as if to say hello, and then walked on. I rode past without needing to come to a complete stop, but my heart was beating at about twice its usual pace for a while.

The second moment was towards Clallam Bay when I approached more civilization with and I saw a giant dog sitting in the middle of the street, directly in my line of travel. It just sat there and looked at me. I was unsure of whether to stop or go on. I just slowed down and rode past it, whereupon it got up and started barking and chasing me. I rolled on the gas as much as I could and took off.

I saw a few riders going the other way and waved at them. It’s always good to see other riders on the road. There were times when I was relieved to even see SUVs on remote stretches of the road.


I reached Clallam Bay to find nothing worth stopping for. By this time my fingers were freezing and I could barely feel them anymore. My visor was coated with some kind of whitish gunk that I couldn’t wipe away by swiping my gloves over it.

Sekiu was about a mile away. It was getting dark now. I parked, and walked around to the various motels on the seafront and looked at some rooms. I wasn’t very excited to see any of them. They looked dreadful and smelled musty – as if they hadn’t been aired out in months. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, but I wasn’t keen on spending $50 to live in a dump, where none of the owners were willing to budge on the price, even if it meant not being able to fill the room.

Just as I was about to give up and go back to the first motel I had looked at, I stopped at one last place. It was owned by a delightful lady called Linda who spoke with a slight accent (from Mexico where she visits often, as she told me later), who showed in a couple of suites which had fireplaces, kitcken, the works! I told her that all I needed was a bed for the night, and she laughed and said that she didn’t see why I shouldn’t have one of the nicer room for a knocked-down price. “At least someone will get to enjoy them!” She rented me an entire cabin with two bedrooms with fireplaces, a living room that looked directly onto the sea, kitchen and bathroom for $50 – the same price the other owners wanted to charge for a single crummy, smelly room. I liked her! :)

I unloaded my gear, and rode into town to the only restaurant, to get some dinner before they closed for the night.

I slept well that night! :)

Day 3 – Monday, October 24, 2005


The next morning I woke up before sunrise, showered, crunched a granola bar by way of breakfast, and loaded up the motorcycle just after sunrise.

I wanted to get most of my riding done this day and hopefully get home by the end of the day and sleep in my own bed that night.

Destination Highway 49: Sekiu – Neah Bay

The entire morning was replete with marvelous riding. These were my third and forth Destination Highways – Sekiu to Neah Bay and back; and Sekiu to Ozette and back.

The first ride was every bit as enjoyable as the one along Crescent Lake, only this was along the Juan de Fuca Strait. It felt special in that Neah Bay is the North Westernmost point of the United States. I rode through the Makah Indian reservation on the way, but was unable to stop at the museum there as I had intended, as I didn’t want to break my momentum.

I couldn’t go all the way to Cape Flattery either, as the road suddenly metamorphosed into a dirt track. Not for the first time, I wished I was riding a dual sport!

I turned out and went back to Sekiu, stopped briefly to refuel, and finally had the opportunity to see its beauty in gleaming daylight.

Destination Highway 31: Sekiu – Ozette

I must say that I didn’t enjoy the ride to Ozette as much. It was 34 miles of riding in the remote wilderness, in the freezing cold, and I didn’t meet a single person coming the other way, which was rather disconcerting. I thought of turning around many times, but my stubborn trait of finishing what I started kicked in and made me continue until I finally reached the campgrounds of Lake Ozette. The lake was no different from any other lake I had seen and I couldn’t help being disappointed.

I rode up an extremely steep and gravelly driveway to the only convenience store and lodge in the area. “Do you have food here?”, I yelled to the old guy sweeping outside the front door. “If you want to buy some, sure!” I dismounted with relief.

There was another guy loading up a truck who asked me where I was from and what I was doing there. I chatted a little before heading into the lodge to get a coffee, a banana and a bag of chips. I realized that I was famished and wiped out. It’s not just that I don’t have much stamina – that’s always been a problem with me. But riding on an empty stomach was just not a good idea. The first rule of motorcycling should be to never ever ride when you’re tired and hungry.

The lodge itself was an interesting place. The owner had many old newspaper clippings and handwritten accounts by families who had been some of the earliest settlers there. Apparently the first settlers that had come to Ozette had been Scandinavians. It reminded me of Eva who keeps claiming that the flora and fauna here is very similar to that in Northern Sweden. The settlers plans were dealt a severe blow when the US government had declared the entire place to be a restricted area and established the Olympic National Park. The settlers had to pack up and leave for Seattle.

I read through some of the histories and looked at old maps and made a mental note to come back there in the future. There were many old photographs of rocks with drawing etched on them that looked fascinating, but I’d have to hike down the trails to be able to look at them.

I chatted a bit with Rob – the owner – and bought some blueberry breakfast bars for the road. As I was leaving, I saw that the other guy was still loading his truck. He said that he was doing his graduate studies in Environmental Studies at the University of Washington and was down there to study and analyze the waters of Lake Ozette to learn about the history of its formation and of the surrounding land. He was dismantling his equipment and leaving for Seattle that evening. He was taking the northward route though, while I was heading south. We wished each other luck and a safe journey, and recommended that I eat at his favorite Mexican restaurant on Forks, since I was planning to stop there for lunch.


The ride back was really wonderful, and I realized that I hadn’t enjoyed it before only because I had been so chilled and tired. This time I enjoyed the remoteness and the scenery and the twisting, winding road was fun to ride on. There were some stretches of open land – some that were post-logging wastelands and others that were huge fields full of grazing sheep.

I got back to Sekiu and rode to Clallam Bay for the next leg of the journey – the route to Forks.

Destination Highway 15: Sappho – Clallam Bay
Destination Highway 20: Forks to Kalaloch

I had been intrigued by Forks even while I had been planning this journey – not least because of its unusual name. The tourist brochures were studded with pictures of huge rainforest trees draped with overhanging moss, and other such flora that I had never seen before.

The town itself was as much of a disappointment as Port Angeles had been. I stopped at the Mexican restaurant, got an oversized meal – their idea of a small burrito was one which was at least 8″ by 3″ in area. I stayed only long enough to eat and took off to get back on 101 for my next Destination Highway.

The route was certainly a nice ride – I could feel the cold and wet air seeping through my gear, as I rode underneath the unusual mossy, rainforest trees. It was very bracing and relaxed riding.

This is where my motorcycling worries started though. I could feel that my engine was a little warmer on the left side. When I stopped and parked, I could hear a faint, clicking sound, like metal touching metal. I cursed myself for not having even the most basic mechanical knowledge about my machine and swore to find some class and enroll in it when I got back to civilization.

This ride was especially pleasant as it went past the Pacific Ocean. I got many scintillating views of the ocean and stopped many times to gaze and take pictures. There were many scenic beaches along the way, but as usual, I didn’t stop to go down to any of them.

By the day I reached Kalaloch (pronounced clay-lock), I was really worried about my motorcycle. The engine felt warmer, and the clicking sound was persistent. I was also really tired and Kalaloch Lodge looked so splendid and inviting, that against my better wishes, I decided to stop riding and stay there for the night. It didn’t hurt that once again, I got a knocked down price of $55 for a room in a splendid holiday resort. My room directly overlooked the sea, and I’m pretty sure that it fetched a pretty price in peak season. From my room, I could see and hear the ocean waves rise and fall.

I have to mention one thing though – while Kalaloch lodge looked so rich and opulent from the outside, the rooms on the inside were almost of motel room quality. I suppose they figured that they had such a brilliant location – directly perched on the sea – that people would come and stay regardless of the quality. And to be fair, they had a great cook and excellent service. The place was replete with snooty, rich, dressed-up, old people – the kind of people who would wear a suit and pearls to dinner – and I certainly got my fair share of very odd looks.

I unpacked quickly, leaving only my camera and other valuables in my tank bag, and followed the trail down to the ocean. The ocean shore was cluttered with huge logs – I’m not sure where they came from. I’ve heard say that during a storm, the logs could turn into weapons of destruction, as they could fly about and kill a person instantly. In fact, it is forbidden to visit some of the beaches during high tide.

I took my boots off and rolled up my jeans, and walked on the cool, sandy beach, feeling all the tension and tiredness fall away from my body. No wonder people bottle up the sounds and sell them for a fortune. I wished I had a blanket, so I could have just laid there and fallen asleep.

The waves crashed on the shore leaving shiny, frothy foam, and myriad patterns of sea algae, shells, wood splinters and other vegetation. I smiled with delight as walked looking down – what school of art would these fall under, I wondered.


I spent at least a couple of hours on the beach, before I reluctantly collected my boots and walked back up to the lodge. I set them down at the top and took some more pictures. As I was putting my camera away, an old couple was walking past me. The man looked at my boots, which were in his way, and said – “Are those for me? What size are they?” I laughed and said “Size 8.” “Not my size then. Pity.” I grinned and got them out of their way and walked barefoot on the concrete road for a couple of minutes, before deciding to put them back on.

Back at the lodge, I sat on the porch outside my room and smoked a cigarette while looking out at the ocean.

“You’re an easy rider, yes?”

Back at the lodge, I went down to dinner at 7. They seated me at a smaller windowside table, and I ordered a glass of the Robert Mondavi Merlot along with some crab cakes for appetizers. When they brought me the wine, I saw the couple from the beach come in and get seated at the adjacent table for four.

“You got a better view than me.” I said.

“Well, you must join us then. Plenty of room here.” The guy replied.

I should mention that while I’m usually somewhat of an introvert and try to avoid company – especially during mealtimes – this changes when I am out of my environment. When I am near people who look different and interesting, the verbose, extroverted part of me surfaces, as it did now. Also, I’ve always enjoyed having conversations with people much older than me. For some reason, I find that I get along much better with them than with people of my age.

They introduced themselves as Ralph and Louise, and we proceeded to have a most delightful conversation that lasted over dinner and many glasses of wine. They were from Holland and were vacationing for three weeks in the US. They spoke with the charming accent that I associate with Europeans who do not speak English as their native language – not exactly broken English, but with some pauses, and consulting with each other on the correct English phrase to express their thought.

It turned out that Ralph had been a long-haired hippie when he was younger and had spent six months in India. He turned out to have visited more places in India than even I have – Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Benares, Varanasi. He had smoked marijuana and drunk bhaang with local people. He told me how he used to sit at the bus stops with the poor people and smoke beedis and hashish, and the rich, upper-class Indians would walk by contemptuously and sometimes throw money at them. This had been one of his many experiences with the deeply entrenched caste system in India.

He talked a bit about Osho and how Dutch youths would go and spend time in his ashrams and then return to Holland and demand to be called by their new names. “So you have a guy whom all his friends and family know as John, and suddenly he would expect everyone to call him Murundra!” I was in splits at this.

We could see my motorcycle parked from where we were sitting, and they were admiring and interested when I told them it was mine. “So, you are what they call an easy rider, yes?” Ralph said. I confessed that the movie did have a small role to play in my journey.

We also talked about the recently murdered Dutch director Theo Van Gogh and his controversial movie, its effect on the security of politicians in the country, Islamic society in Holland, the rise of right-wing politicians like Berlusconi in Italy, and Merkel in Germany, the state of politics in the US and how the current government was alienating itself from Europe and the rest of the world, socialism and globalization and feminism and women’s rights in Holland – this last in response to my question of how feminism in Holland compared to that in countries in Sweden.

Louise responded to this one and her answer was surprisingly touching – “We are very similar to Sweden when it comes to women’s rights. I was part of what they called the second wave of feminism. I volunteered and worked for domestic violence shelters, rape shelters and many other feminist causes. But I’m still waiting for the third wave of feminism to start in my country.”

The conversation also touched on Americans in general – like it always does when I am talking to any non-American. This is always touchy territory for me, because on the one hand, I can completely understand why people outside of the US dislike the country’s image and sneer at the super-size servings, the gun culture, the bad television and the entrenched insularity. But I have lived here long enough to have seen the good things that they do not and cannot see – that while there are many things to dislike, there are still many more to value and embrace.

I talked about how there were a fair number of people who were no different from me and them and who wanted to learn more and do more, of how the moral, religious brigade was not representative of all Americans, of how many good, kind, intelligent men and women I had met here, of how people are always willing to help out during times of crises – you only have to see the amount of private donations from Americans during the tsunami to attest to this, of how there would always be some amount of racial tension, but an immigrant would feel more at home in the US than in Europe. Five years ago, I had the same contemptuous attitude that they did, but my ideas have changed so much over the years. And strangely enough, even more so in the past three days during those long rides through endless country. I tried and failed to explain what it was that I felt toward this land and this country on those rides, of the fierce loyalty it inspired even in a non-believer and anti-nationalist like me.

We got kicked out at about 9 PM as the restaurant closed for the night. We exchanged phone numbers and addresses and retired for the night. I made them promise to call me when they came down to Seattle in November, so that I could buy them dinner and show them around a little bit.

On the way to my room, I thought to myself again how much better I get along with Europeans than any other nationality of people. I wonder… I’ve never felt like I belonged in any place I’ve lived in until now… maybe there is a place that is calling to me, and these are the little signs that are nudging me toward my final destination?

I fell asleep quickly, only to wake up at 2 in the morning. The room felt superheated and I had to open a window to let some air in. I looked listlessly at a copy of Town and Country – which featured dresses and jewelry in the range of $28000 and dreamily imagined myself in Vera Wang dresses and Balenciaga baubles until I finally fell asleep again.

Day 4 – Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I woke up late and threw my things together in a hurry, before heading down for breakfast. Ralph and Louise were finishing up the remains of their breakfast while I ordered. I witnessed an amusing conversation between Ralph and the waitress, as he asked her why they didn’t serve muesli. She had no idea what muesli was, and said they served granola cereal, and tried to explain to him what it was.

I ordered coffee and French toast and devoured it hungrily. I happened to mention my motorcycle troubles to Ralph and he asked if I had changed the oil. They left soon to go to the beach and he stopped to look at the oil level. He came back in a few minutes to explain that I had practically no oil left and I should buy some and refill it. How embarrassing to be told by a non-motorcyclist what I needed to do to my machine!

We went to the convenience store and bought a can of WB-40 and re-filled the oil. He also helped me hold the bike upright, while I lubricated the chain. After taking a few photographs, we finally said goodbye.

I checked out of the lodge and got back on 101 to ride down to Hoquiam and Aberdeen. The ride was largely uneventful and dull. By this time, I was really tired of riding and just longed to get home. While I had originally planned to turn north at Shelton and ride past the Hood Canal (the last Destination Highway in this area), and then take the ferry back to Edmonds from Kingston, I changed my route, and just decided to ride to Olympia and take I-5 N to Bellevue.


I stopped over at Aberdeen, only because it was unthinkable to not do so, considering I was a big Nirvana fan in the 90s. The only thing I will say about Aberdeen is that it is the sort of town where I would go stark raving mad if I were forced to live there, and probably shoot my brains out within the week. I made a slight detour to go look at the Wishkah. As far as rivers go, it was fairly unremarkable, and its only claim to fame seems to have been the mention on Nirvana’s compilation album.
I was not unhappy to put this dismal town far behind me, as I headed only WA-12 E for a 50 mile journey to Olympia. Again – a largely uneventful, listless, uninspiring journey that I was relieved to get over with.

I stopped at a Quizno’s and got a turkey and cheese sandwich with some coffee to wake me up.

I-5 and home again

The final leg of the journey was near – getting on the superslab to get back home – something that I was more than a little apprehensive about. I was acutely aware that I was riding an underpowered 250cc motorcycle on a major freeway. Still, it was the only thing to do, and really the only way home.

The ride on the superslab was interesting, to say the least. I don’t know how many times I prayed inwardly and how many hairy moments I had thinking – this lane is too narrow, and these cagers seem to be closing in on me. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that in an hour it would be over and I would be home. How curious that so many of us rant about how uninteresting and stifling our home towns are, and how inviting they seem when we are away.

I got onto I-405 N toward Renton, and got onto I-90 E towards Bellevue, and grinned happily as I got onto that old, familiar exit onto 148th Ave. It was a surreal feeling to get back into familiar grounds and see that nothing had changed. It was 5:00 PM and the streets were clogged with the usual peak hour traffic. I wanted to smile and scream with happiness at every car, at the sheer comforting familiarity of it all. I wanted to tell them about my adventures and share my joyousness with everyone. I had been away for only 4 days, but it seemed like a lifetime now. I would have cried if I weren’t so happy.

I rode first to Eastside Motosports to find out if I really had anything wrong with my engine. They told me not to worry and the clicking sound was just my exhaust heating up and was perfectly normal (felt like a right idiot then!). Relieved, I turned homeward. As I got two blocks from home, it started drizzling and was pouring down when I pulled into the driveway. I laughed happily at the perfect timing and let the rain pour over me.

I had made it. I had done my first solo journey and come back in one piece, none the worse for wear. And deep in my heart, I knew that after this, anything was possible.


I have no doubt that there will be at least some people who will read this and think that it wasn’t such a big deal and who know others who have done longer and more trying rides. That’s as may be, but to me this will always be one of the more memorable times of my life. Six months ago, I was still struggling to learn to shift gears, and now here I was, with a major ride under my belt. To me this was about overcoming so many of my ingrained fears, about pushing myself just that little bit further, about satisfying my wanderlust and most of all, about putting to rest my fears of being trapped in the monotony of my life and feeling like there is no escape. I realize now that while I will always have that underlying fear of the unknown, I also have the courage to break free and head into it, to let it swallow me and show me its wonders, and finally to release me so that I can return home a happier, wiser person.

In conclusion, I wonder if other riders have felt this strange, wondrous feeling while out on the road. That conviction of someone watching over them, that commune with something greater than themselves. I have thought often about this over the past few days. I am by nature a most anti-organized-religion agnostic, and yet on many of my lonely rides, I had a feeling that can only best be described as being connected with something higher and greater than myself. I don’t know if this is the sort of feeling people get when they go to their chosen place of worship, but if so, I understand the power of faith and why some people are more at peace with themselves and the world than others. I am unable to find words to describe it adequately. Perhaps that’s just how it should be.

Motorcycle: Virago 250
Days travelled: 4
Miles covered: ~550 mi
Destination Highways ridden: 6