Home again…

I am finally home in Seattle after having ridden from Sandpoint, ID – about 350 something miles in a day.

I had originally intended to take the scenic route home by getting on Highway 20 and going west all the way to Rockport before turning south. However, the delay of the previous day waiting at Sandpoint meant that this would be a 500+ mile route and I wouldn’t be able to do it in one day. This would mean staying somewhere in the Cascades for a night and returning home on Monday morning. Now that I was so close to home, this didn’t seem like such an appealing proposition. Jake hadn’t made it to Sandpoint either in spite of his best efforts because of the bad weather and long distance that he had had to cover. The more I thought about it and mapped the distances via various routes, I realized that taking Hwy 2 home would be the shortest possible route and would place me in Seattle on Sunday evening while it was still light out and I would be able to spend the evening with my boyfriend. Somehow it felt that the moment I entered Washington the adventure was over. I have ridden through most of my home state and I didn’t have any desire to dawdle and do any side trips.

Highway 2 it was. I headed down south from Sandpoint onto Hwy 2 and then took a couple of detours via Deer Park and Rearden to avoid going through Spokane. The side roads were nice. They were mostly remote farmlands and forests and I even went through one area with little families of birds – guinea fowls perhaps? – walking on the side of the road.

Then it was back through Hwy 2 again for the next 300 miles. I went through about 200 miles of desert – big sky country again! It started off being pretty with golden yellow landscapes vanishing into the distance. This soon gave way to rough, hostile country with gusts of wind strong enough to create little dust storms. I started having a rough time of it and spend nearly the entire time crouched down and tucked in low on my bike. Not before a particularly nasty gust blew my map window clean off the tank and into the fields. I was too weary to pull over and go look for it, and kept going, feeling really bad at the loss of a piece of what had been a vital piece of equipment on my ride.

I stopped briefly at Coulee City and talked to a bunch of Harley riders who had just spend a very rainy week at Glacier NP. This matched Jake’s version of the conditions in the park the previous day and I was relieved to have missed it after all.

I had lunch at a delightful little cafe at Waterville – a Rueben melt on rye with chips and some bread pudding. It took a superhuman effort to make myself stop for that long because I really just wanted to keep going without any breaks.

Soon I went through Leavenworth and then on to the scenic highway through Steven’s Pass. It was 84 miles of beautiful scenery that was all but lost on me. As I got within 20 miles of Gold Bar, I suddenly got stuck in hellish traffic – the kind where everything is gridlocked bumper to bumper for as far as you can see.

This is when I started cracking. Why was this happening? I’d been on the road for a month and all I wanted was to go home. I was barely 30 miles away from getting to Seattle and this just seemed completely unfair. There were no side roads I could take to bypass the gridlock either.

Some of the locals said that this was pretty normal for a Sunday evening and would get even worse as time went by. Wondering how it could possibly get any worse, I got back into the road. I started seeing occassionaly motorcycles whipping past on the shoulder. While I have never ridden in the shoulder in the past, no matter how dire the circumstance, this time I said fuck it and did the same. I was willing to chance a ticket if it won me any time and got me off the road. I got several disapproving looks and gestures from cars stalled on the highway, including one diesel truck that pulled into the shoulder to block me. I can understand their disapproval but blocking the shoulder seemed a little childish and made me roll my eyes.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it to 522. My GPS must have been had some kind of Welcome to Washington agenda, because it routed me through all the major freeways – 522W to 405S to 520W to I5S. I was tired and very thirsty and running low on gas, but there was no way I was going to pull over even for a few minutes. As the Seattle skyline arose before my eyes, I couldn’t stop grinning.

Very soon I had gotten off the James St. exit and turned onto the street that my boyfriend lives on. I pulled over excitedly outside his house and called him. When I asked him to come outside, he said he couldn’t because he was over at my place. DOH…!

I grumbled and got back on and this time rode to Capitol Hill to my place, riding through all the familiar streets and noting that – unbelievable as it might be – nothing had changed.

I pulled over into my parking spot at the back of my building and Sterling came outside and gave me a big hug. We laughed at the mix up, took some pictures a, unloaded my bike and went inside unable to stop talking and hugging. He had brought me flowers as a Welcome Home present, which made me very happy. Gotta love a guy who manages to get everything right! :) I played with my cat who didn’t seem to have missed me one bit.

On to Top Pot Donuts, ovaltine lattes and more conversation.

Later on in the night he asked me how it felt to be back and I replied that I was too soon to say, but it almost felt like it had been a dream. Everything here seemed so normal and commonplace that I couldn’t quite believe that I had ridden my motorcycle through a continent and made it back home.

And that’s how I do feel. No doubt I will spend some time analyzing my thoughts about the journey and write them down, but right now it just seems like a beautiful dream. It will take me some time to get used to life back home. I cannot wait to see all my friends again and especially spend some quality time with Sterling to make up for my long absence.

Above all, this doesn’t feel like the end of something. It’s more like the beginning of bigger and better things to come. I can’t wait to see what the future unfolds…

Update from Sandpoint, ID

Got a late start this morning after it took almost a half hour wait to get my order of breakfast at Catalyst Espresso where I had eaten at yesterday. They were nice about it though and didn’t charge me so I couldn’t be too upset.

I managed to get out on the road at 10:30AM which I didn’t mind very much because I didn’t have very far to go today – just north 200 miles to Sandpoint, ID.

I got on 93N instead of I90W and within 15 miles, I wished I hadn’t as I ploughed straight into a heavy construction zone. I had reminiscences of Alaska as we followed a pace car through about 10 miles of the worst bits. There was plenty of non-pavement, gravel and some muddy sections. It wasn’t too bad though and could keep a good pace through it all. When it was finally over, I pulled over into a vacant parking lot to unpack my tailbag and bring out my fleece lined winter gloves.

It hadn’t been to cold when I got out of the hotel but now it as freezing. It had started to rain as soon as I had left Missoula. I plugged in my heated vest and put on the gloves. For some reason the gloves kept feeling bulky and clumsy and I didn’t very much like wearing them even though I’ve worn them in the past without any problem.

I rode about 50 more miles before swapping them back with my Helds. My vest was keeping my core warm enough that I didn’t mind my hands getting a bit cold.

By this time I was on MT-200 and about 110 miles from Sandpoint. I figured I’d break it up into two parts and stop once along the way for lunch. The route turned out to mostly connect multiple fishing towns though and I didn’t see any interesting places to stop at. When I saw that I was only about 30 miles away from my destination, I decided to keep going even though it was getting past lunchtime and I could feel a bad headache coming on.

I made it to Sandpoint by 3 and stopped in the downtown area to get lunch – a blackened catfish po’ boy sandwich with a creamy broccoli soup and some decaf cappuchino.

I spent a good part of an hour agonizing over whether I should stop there for the night as I had planned or keep going. After having taken a day off from riding I wanted to keep going and not just stop. The 200 miles seemed like a teaser and I needed more. Also, if I stopped there, it would bring me to Seattle on Monday morning whereas if I kept going I might be able to make it there on Sunday night.

On the other hand, I had agreed to meet up with Jake in Sandpoint and there was no way he could catch up with me if I went another 150 miles further. I had my doubts whether he would catch up with me anyway seeing as he was in Big Timber, MT that morning and headed up to Glacier before turning west to Idaho, but it was the principle of the thing. I also didn’t want to rush through the last two day of my ride and see nothing but interstate. I’ve ridden through almost all of Washington except for the northeast part and now was an excellent chance to see it.

It was a really hard decision to make. Seattle was so close by I could almost smell the coffee. If I just got on I90 and kept going for 6 hours, I could make it home by midnight, see my cat again and spend Sunday with my boyfriend. Of course I knew that he would never let me live it down if I did this and besides it would go against the spirit of this ride, so with a heavy heart I decided to stick to plan and find a place to spend the night.

I was starting to feel really tired too so it seemed like the best thing to do even though I wasn’t happy about it.

After Missoula I got a sticker shock when I started calling around to find a place to stay. This being a resort town nothing was under $150. I finally found a Motel 6 for $57 although it was 2.5 miles away from downtown. When I got there they gave me a room for $45 because the airconditioning was broken, which I didn’t mind at all. Score!

It was also one of the nicest Motel 6 locations I have stayed at. I flopped down on the bed and slept for 2 straight hours.

When I woke up, it was about 6:30PM – I had crossed back over into Pacific Standard Time. I got on the bike and started towards downtown. To my disappointment, everything was closed and the place was a ghost town. I managed to find a cool 1920s mobster themed tapas bar that also served sushi. I got some very good decaf french press coffee and gyoza and a Black Widow roll.

After dinner, I rode back to the motel, stopping on the way to get gas. I pondered over what else to do but there weren’t very many options. Everything was closed except for the nightclubs. I could go to one of those but I wouldn’t be able to drink because I had to ride back. There was a big music festival in the park but it was outdoors and cold and rainy, not to mention sold out.

My evening appeared to have come to an abrupt end and I’m pretty sure that I’ll get the hell out of here tomorrow morning and start heading home.