Yesterday’s ride was the best of my vacation so far. I started in Lillooet after spending the night in the super tiny hotel room above the stairs and took the south route towards Hope. Highway 12… if you can call it a highway… stretches from Lillooet to Highway One. It winds and twists along the valley wall with climbs and drops that had me shifting up and down almost continuously. Definitely a lesson in motorcycle touring. The scenery was gorgeous and the turns… some of them… very stressful. Hairpins dusted with gravel, rough single lane roads with blind turns bracketted with cludged cement guardrails over a massive drop on one side and torn chain curtains barely holding back the crumbling cliff face on the other side… it was a very exciting ride.
I met a pair of motorcycle riders during one of my stops on the Number One. They were thrilling at the turns and curves of the Trans Canada. I humbly suggested they try highway 12 their next turn out.
They were riding out to Vancouver for the long weekend. They were rather impressed when I told them I was riding for two weeks. Of course I didn’t tell them I wasn’t riding every single day. They didn’t need to know that part.
I stopped in Hope for some coffee at the Blue Moose cafe (Blue Moose in Hope, Chartreuse Moose in 100 House? Is this some weird franchise idea?) before zooming back out onto the Number One. I have to say, traffic on the Trans Canada between Hope and Vancouver moves pretty damned fast. Keeping up with the general speed of everyone else I nearly had to shift into fourth. Turning off towards the border was a very sudden drop that had me feeling like I was crawling.
The border guard was remarkably bored and disinterested in me. I was so sure the two bright blue bags lashed to my bike with bright red and green bungee cords would spark some kind of curiosity but it took him less than five seconds to peg me for a very simple tourist. Less than five minutes in line and I was in super commercial product land. The quantity of advertising increased tenfold, as did the preponderance of shops for everything and anything.
I didn’t have any solid plans for the route I’d be taking but there were plenty of signs telling me where to go and in about an hour I found myself flocking with the herd down the I-5 at roughly legal speeds. My motorcycle doesn’t have the Miles Per Hour marked in with the Kilometers Per Hour so I’ve had a lot of practice working out 1.6 times 35, 40, 50 and 60 mph in my head. (shorthand: 1.6 times equals [1 times] plus [half] plus [a tenth]: 40 mph = 40 + 20 + 4, or 64 kph)
After sundown, though, the rules seem to change and people on the I-5 tend to go about as fast as they’re physically able. Again, shifting up into fourth became a distinct possibility.
Needing to eat I decided to turn to Foursquare again to find someplace along the way. I was tempted by the Skagit River Brewery as they had plenty of good reviews and were pretty close. I found the place just fine although it took me a few passes around the block to find parking. They have a large patio with picnic tables and a fairly sizeable dining lounge with a small stage in front of the windows to the brewery.
Since I knew I needed to ride away right after dinner I decided against trying their micro brews. I went for an italian soda instead as I’m also trying to avoid too much soda pop these days. I was startled to discover their italian sodas arrive topped with whipped cream. My surprise was apparently evident as the waitress offered to take it back and make a new one without the topping. I was grateful for that. When I finally got to drink it I found it was pretty much the same as the club soda drinks I’ve been making with fruit juice: tasty without being overwhelmingly sweet.
Their food was quite good and the portions, as always in America, huge. I ordered the chicken penne and was rewarded with a serving table sized bowl of pasta with some chicken and a single whole wheat bun. The stuff was so good I nearly finished what, in my estimation, probably would have fed two people.
The pub also hosts blues musicians in the evening, which was… okay. The band was fairly skilled, but the volume was way above restaurant level. Given that I wasn’t trying to have a conversation with anyone I would have been fine with it but everyone else was trying to have a conversation over the music and that made a big mess of it.
I probably could have handled it for a while if it hadn’t been for the children. I don’t know if it was kid’s night at the Blues Bar and Microbrewery Pub but I had four children bracketed around my table, all under the age of five, and all making some kind of extreme noise. One girl, around two or three, kept putting her hands over her ears and SCREAMING. Just a wordless, high pitched shriek that felt like rail spikes driven through my ears. Evidently she wasn’t thrilled with the volume of the place either. Another toddler, barely over a year, was wailing away at the table with an entire set of cutlery. Not only was his mother NOT attempting to stop him she was, in fact, joining in by tapping a spoon along with him. Cute and endearing in a home setting, nerve rattling in an adult restaurant setting already too filled with noise.
And, honestly, children at that age are still developing, aren’t they? Is taking them into a loud bar environment really the best thing for them? Shouldn’t the parents be concerned about the effect on their developing ears?
I enjoyed the food and drink but I will never, ever go back there again. If I do, I’ll bring my earplugs and communicate with my servers in gestures and writing.
I then spent a couple of tense hours trying to find someplace to bed down for the night. I had decided to enter a popular vacation area on a long weekend, the last of the summer, without any kind of reservations. What was I thinking? One hotel clerk assured me that everything was sold out between them and Tukwila. I had no idea where Tukwila was, but it sounded far. Turns out it’s actually still north of Seattle.
One clerk suggested a Comfort Inn might have a couple of rooms left and directed me to exit 182. “Just turn right off the exit” she assured me. I found the exit, took it, and the exit split. Taking her advice to heart I took the right fork… and just before I disappeared around a corner saw the sign for the Comfort Inn pointing down the left fork.
The mistaken exit wound in some serpentine fashion that had me lost and confused and riding on some westbound highway I hadn’t planned on. Getting desperate I took an exit that promised a Motel 6. I never found it. I rode up and down the road that proclaimed to host a Motel 6 on it somewhere and only found a Sunset Motel stuck in behind a Denny’s, the orange sunset neon sign only half illuminated. The sun in the sign looked more like it was sinking into mud rather than setting over the horizon. The place was all class. Along with your key you were issued a generic TV remote. Apparently people steal them on a regular basis.
Parking my bike around the back of the motel, just below the steps to my room, I was greeted by a young woman walking back to her room with a fresh bucket of ice.
“Nice bike!” she called to me.
I looked up from unhitching the bungie cords and thanked her.
“My dad used to ride one just like it.” she said before dissappearing around the corner.
The sentiment, although meant to be friendly, definitely had me attributing as much age as ride hours to my aching joints and muscles.
The room was decidedly short on power outlets and I wound up unplugging the TV and minifridge to charge up my electronics. The outlets were all incredibly loose as well. I had to bend the forks of my CPAP maching a little to keep the plug from falling out of the wall. Even then the plug sat in the socket at a 45 degree angle. I’m amazed it stayed in at all.
But enough for now. I have to get up early tomorrow to ride to Portland and back. The room in this hotel is so incredibly much better than yesterday’s motel that I’ve decided to keep it for two days. I’ll race down to Portland, check it out for a few hours and stop back here on my way towards Vancouver.
Tomorrow, if I have the energy, I’ll write about my brief visit to Seattle.