It was probably one of the dumber rides we’ve done. Certainly the dumbest I’ve ever done. A torrential downpour at speed – 70, er, more like 75 miles per hour – fully loaded on worn out knobby tires, sandwiched between semi-trucks with no rain gear whatsoever. This was dumb! After a good hundred-foot hydroplane, I was lucky that Justin also wanted to get the hell off the highway.
We took solace in a run-down hole-in-the-wall attached to a gas station which happened to serve “burgers.” Our rain-soaked gear, clothes and gadgets exploded over a full third of the dining area. I plopped down my good ‘n’ wet gear on a table hosting this generation’s “Jay & Silent Bob” without a word. Luckily, this generation is reliably so absorbed with their smart phones that 20 minutes passed before one of them looked up to chuckle and remind us that we were (still) wet. At least the heater was on.
Fast forward an hour and a half… Hot coffee, Oreos and sub-par meat sandwiches were shoved so fast into our mouths that we had just enough time to feel “okay” before we felt foul. But digestion had set in motion and internal heat was being produced. Nothing was dry, but at least I could feel my fingers again! They buzzed for most of that last hour or so. Gassed and geared up – rain having subsided – we did the last two-thirds of the trip faster than the first. It was the lousiest, as well as the last day of our trip, but if that’s the worst of it then we had a fantastic few weeks on the road.
Sand Dunes, Fire Escapes and an Old Fashioned.
To begin our twenty (+) day adventure, we spent time with loved ones in Portland, camped at Cape Lookout, found an “alien” species that had washed ashore and then took the next five or so days to travel from one Oregon coastal town to the next. We wound our way up Highway 101 popping in and out of the lush green fingers that reach toward the sea from the confines of the forest. In Pacific City there were serious sand dunes to concur, as well as lots of wind, a haystack rock, beers above the beach and unbreakable wineglasses (long story). Canon Beach – short and sweet – provided a light drizzle, cold treats, more winding roads, a ranch full of bunnies and the best… the infamous… Bill’s (Brew Pub) Blackberry Beauty, a Pale-Ale brewed with local blackberries.
By the time we hit Astoria, a warm bed and a clean (shared) bathroom were more than welcomed. It was a chance to take a deep breath and a hot shower. But it was so, so much more. Our accommodations were the recently renovated – and wholly awesome – Commodore Hotel (insert angelic choirs). It’s a sort of prohibition era meets mid-century modern meets contemporary “cocktail,” climaxing at the first-floor-attached coffee house residing in an interior designer’s wet dream. I loved it, of course.
The night we arrived was spent on the ledge of an old – but sturdy – fire escape. The windows were left tantalizingly open and the opportunity was taken. We sipped whiskey out of a flask, watched cars roll past, talked about life and our future, and ate carrot cake. Our only encounter with a staff member consisted of a single warning: “don’t fall!” We all had a laugh, he strolled away, and then Justin and I ventured up the very exposed, likewise unprotected ladder to the roof. We’ll be going back to this hotel. Soon I hope.
The town itself is charming. Maybe we were delusional. Maybe we desperately needed a change of pace. But the brewery (surprised?) with its strong beers, the French cafe stockpiled with unorthodox magazines and killer desserts, even the dingy two-story thrift store… charming. There’s a lot of character in this town and, compared to the carbon copied coastal towns, it was refreshing to be in a place that seemed to have a little personality. To celebrate our arrival, I tried to keep up with Justin during a spiraling climb to the lookout of a hollow column atop a tall-ass hill on the outskirts of Astoria. It’s ornamental. The view captured my breath before I got to it. I edged around the petrified, albeit somewhat courageous, wallflowers pensively pressing themselves against the tower walls. I tried not to smirk, but it was funny. You’d have to be there, I think.
The goodbye was bittersweet, but a little over 24 hours later the road back to Portland made its call. We were off to watch my eldest sister in her first play on its second night. She killed it. Post performance, we “kicked it” with my brother and sister-in-law, went on walks with my nephew and his mildly loopy grandfather, swore to quit drinking for a few days, rode back to Seattle to unload/reload and (that night…) had an Old-Fashioned.
Tourist Towns & Drive-In Movies
After our brief stint at home to attend a birthday party, repack and have a candle-lit dinner, we hit the road yet again. This time it was “The Trio” – Justin, his father and I – headed west. We made the most of a beautiful day, speeding eagerly into Port Townsend after a short ferry ride. Meandering about the cute tourist-rich town, we wished for the things we don’t have… and likely never will. We laughed at the under-dressed and under-protected “Road Pirates.” Then laughed at their equally, yet inversely, over-dressed and overloaded husband-and-wife-on-back duo making the “arduous” journey (69.2 miles) from Gig Harbor to Port Townsend. Am I being prejudice? Maybe, or maybe I just find joy in observing the many flamboyancies that are found in the motorcycling community, including my own. A little later, Justin’s father, dubbed ‘The Captain,’ headed home and we rode to our “castle” on the cliffside. The building was beautiful, the grounds were ‘meh,’ but the room, plain as it was, had a bed and a shower. Once settled, we headed to my very first drive-in movie. What could be better than a drive-in with the one you love? Howsabout a drive-in movie on your motorcycle! Long line and grumpy owner aside, the experience was quite cozy, even better considering there was popcorn (which I also love).
Wild Boys & Abandoned Bunkers
To Justin, Port Angeles means memories, BIG memories. It was the start and end of his once weekly search for surf, and home to Toga’s. More specifically, delicious soup and Paulener. I can’t share the first two “meanings” with him with so easily, but the third… the third is for everyone. Toga’s has the sort of soup that warms your heart and eases your mind. And Paulener! A particular kind of beer that’ll lift you up where you sit, and knock you down when you try to get up to order another. I’ll gladly get my “work” done here whenever its doors are open. Fast forward to nightfall, and we’re playing a dice game (to which I was a virgin, for the record) while waiting for friends to arrive from Tacoma. Fast forward even more, and I had witnessed what was maybe history’s longest bivvy [tent] assembly. After this, time picked up again. We (now four strong) yard-camped on an eight acre piece of property home to two blonde boys, a network of trails, a homemade sauna, four-wheelers and compost toilets. The next morning, we made breakfast-by-fire in a carefully carved pit before our generous host led us along Forest Service roads, breaking off onto single-track trails hiding 75 year old military bunkers which sit above the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Stopping was necessary in order to gasp in awe at contemporary America’s only ruins, hidden as treasures for future generations to wonder over and write their names on (read: graffiti). Racing to meet our ‘cage driving’ friends at Crescent Beach, I followed with blind trust and as much speed as I could muster, hucking my bike onto lookouts (more than once), that exposed an epic horizon. A quick cell phone photo or two and we were off to the finish.
The End of America
The road to Neah Bay feels endless when you’re eager. We rode it fast. The temperature fluctuated from sweltering to freezing and back again, however we only stopped to alter our attire after realizing we’d lost our friends somewhere amidst the vicious coastal turns. After having regrouped, we hiked to a secluded beach (or two) eating blackberries and laughing our asses off along the way. The beach, blazing and bright, offered views of an ominous (and telling) cloud listlessly floating over the dynamic sea ahead of us. Shallow caves are carved into the sandstone that rose high past our “line of sight.” We scaled these sandstone cliffs searching for moments of peace and intimacy. A reminder of the great things life has to offer and how people can take full advantage, if willing. Our friendly counterparts were caught cuddling in a flag-claimed driftwood fort. Brought back to earth by the ever looming clock, we rode into town, devoured some of Kim’s cedar-smoked salmon, and left the crystal blue skies for the dense, cool blanket of fog guarding the realm against our curious gaze. This was Hobuck. A place where I was caught by an unassuming patch of sand and bucked off my motorcycle so hard Justin choked from laughter. It’s a place where many times a year the fog grows so the thick the audible ocean is invisible. We camped under moist trickling tree branches for the next few cold days. Good fun was had. Bad fun was had. And even more food by way of fire. I could hear a ‘braap-braap’ in the distance as Justin jumped his motorcycle across a narrow road that cuts through the campground – he and his bike popping in and out of the trees. After our friends bid us “adieux,” we (two) browsed the local museum, picked up more smoked salmon, slept another night and then packed up our things in a light mist that clung to us all the way to the ferry in Kingston.
Lummi Island offered us good friends, Boundary Bay Brewery, another short ferry ride with a confrontational, racist island woman… more good friends, cheese and crackers, and breathless sunsets on the rockiest beach. Then daiquiris. WAY too many daiquiris. Oh, and AROUND THE HORN! Justin and I were woken by sweet whispers “good morning” from my girlfriend’s six year-old before the click-clicking of an Xbox controller. In the time we were on the island, much was done save for riding: a hike that included 1,100 feet of elevation gain in 1.5 miles, mussels and laughs at the Beach Cafe and (more) AROUND THE HORN! Kaiser’s morning whispers and clicking continued as the days rolled past. For breakfast we ate gluten-free banana pancakes then set off on an art “walk,” followed by wine tastings and fuzzy memories, as well as more cheese, more wine and overpriced artisan chocolates. A 300 foot long, 3.4 million-dollar yacht dropped anchor offshore of the ritziest -maybe a little too acclaimed- restaurant on the Island. I was not terribly impressed, but neither were the Lummi Island locals. And I like the locals. Finally, put off until our first and only rainy day on the island, we embarked on a search for single-track and off-road adventure. After trying to summit Lummi Island’s tallest mountain, with no legal or passable trail in sight (our bikes and ourselves taking on a layer of predictable Washington precipitation), we gave up. Thus began “one of the dumber rides we’ve [ever] done,” concluding our twelve hundred mile, twenty (+) day adventure.
You can read more adventures from Kyra and Justin at: www.peanutbuttercoast.com