Transit

Today it’s easy. I’m straight on and have a prime standing spot. Where I board, remaining on two feet is almost obligatory.

The bing-bing-bong sounds and two doors slide somewhat jerkily towards each other. I register the comforting bump of rubber kissing rubber.

Some days it’s like that. Calm, relaxed and with the added benefit of personal space. Other days it can be backpacks, shoulder bags and the occasional challenging odour. One thing’s for sure, the journey always has a hint of unpredictability about it, yet at the same time, it’s entertaining. I can easily lose myself in the heady mix of people watching and taking in the world outside.

Somewhere else in the city a failed armed forces drone pilot has been a little too heavy-handed on the joystick and I’m forced back against the glass screen. That sudden change from motionless to purposeful movement that results in people resembling stalks of wheat swaying in a breeze. The familiar hum of acceleration gives way to harsh white-noise. It’s time to take in my surroundings.

Skytrain. I've become very acquainted with the Metro Vancouver transit system.Inside it’s a mix of middle distance stare, daily papers, dominant white ear buds and the occasional ‘beats’ by Dr Dre, wrapped over a nodding head. I scan the carriage, hoping to catch sight of someone engaging with life. It’s not to be, expressionless faces and heads bowed to the gaming gods are all I see.

Outside a silver disk is still visible but is giving up its reign, being replaced by a palette of blue, white and red. Below is a trail of metal bugs, rolling along like a form of mutated caterpillar, no two parts of its long body matching.

My gaze travels along the ruled lines of roads, past houses and towers to the natural world. Rising in the distance are those captivating, sugar sprinkled mountains. My heart rate slows, my chest rises and falls at a relaxed pace. There really isn’t a better sight in the morning. I’m infused with awestruck and a sense of peace. The din that surrounds me has unconsciously been turned down from ten to two. Warmth rises from deep within me and escapes through my open mouth. All too quickly my trunk starts to strain, wanting to keep itself upright, fighting the deceleration. The failed drone pilot is busy playing with his human cargo. Bong, and a disembodied voice announces another stop. The soundtrack is paused and doors slide open. Middle distance stares and nodding heads leave for who knows where. Replacement ear buds and backpacks shuffle into the confines of the carriage. I briefly get close up and personal with a sheet of thick black polyester mounted to someone’s back until the wearer manages to turn ninety degrees. Swish, thud, sway and we’re off to the next stop.

I play the inside/outside game for a few more stops. The doors slide open and although I want to rejoin the world I’m confronted by a paparazzi like crowd blocking my path. With a deep breath I broaden the shoulders and assess whether it’s a ‘hit the ten-pins’ or a ‘parting of the seas’ morning. A pathway appears and I’m off.

This is my morning ride. Although the route is repeated, the differences can be subtle or dramatic. Today was a good day, but there are times when the world outside is grey. On those days, clouds can envelop me within the carriage as I long for the uplifting sight of those mountains. Life is more bearable when the day starts with the Lions in view.

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Seaside wrap up

The excitement of Cannon Beach was obviously too much. Thoughts of activity slipped away to be replaced by thoughts of, well, nothing. Having said that the holiday culture need was satisfied by paying a visit to the Seaside museum. As with past walking tours and museum visits, a familiar pattern to the history of the town emerged. Welcome to Seaside, OregonHardy pioneers, entrepreneurs, and fierce fires all stepped forward to take their bow. I may have to abstain from west coast culture for a while as its becoming a single story with highlights that can be swapped in and out of any of the towns or cities. The museum was actually full of informative exhibits. As Seaside is such a small place it was interesting to thumb through the old school photos. The growth of the town was very visible through the expanding grad class.

A lazy morning turned in to a slow lunch. A perfect holiday pace that continued in to the afternoon with another visit to bygone days, this time courtesy of a wander around the antiques and collectables mall. Maybe it’s an ageing thing. There’s just something comforting about unearthing artefacts from ones childhood. Simpler days. One great fund was an original Life Magazine from the actual day I was born. A must purchase if ever there was.

Seaside beach, Oregon The day wound down with a slightly energetic walk along Seaside promenade. It’s a lot narrower than some of the marketing pics make it look, however it’s a good long walk. Combine the prom with a beach stroll and you have a great way to close off the day.

After a déjà vu final day it was time to head back north. The weather was turning and the Megler Bridge across the Columbia had an air of mystery about it as the far side was shrouded in mist. Once back in Washington, Dismal Nitch provided the perfect photo opportunity for an end of holiday snap.

To spice up the drive home, lets face it, who wants to sit on I5 when there are alternatives, we decided to head across country to Bremerton and take the ferry to Seattle. Excellent choice.

View from the Bremerton Ferry approaching Seattle

The Puget Sound was a millpond, the sun was shining and the sights coming in to Seattle were sumptuous.

So that was it. An Oregon coast break. As wonderful as living in the Lower Mainland is there’s something very special about walking mile long, almost deserted beaches. The beaches absolutely lived up to their reputation of being stunning. I’m certain that I’ll be beside the seaside again.

Head on over to Flickr for a full set of pics from the Seaside trip.

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Namesake beach

It would be wrong. Travelling to the Oregon coast and not visiting Cannon Beach would be unthinkable. So, a day at namesake beach it was.

I’d ridden around Cannon Beach on my first motorcycle road trip in 2010. Back then I was on a tight schedule and couldn’t spare the time to stop. It felt good to be able to put that right. The strange thing was that the town area was nothing like what I thought I remembered. It would appear that I was suffering from bikers delusion. In 2010, Cannon Beach was early on day two of a six day excursion. I guess places simply blended together, and so in 2013 I was greeted by an unfamiliar town.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Although still very much a tourist-centric town, Cannon Beach seems to have set out its stall as providing a more ‘upscale’ experience than Seaside, at least in the town area. If you’re just looking for access to a great beach there’s nothing to choose. Oregon schools had returned for the new year so I have no idea how busy the beaches can get in summer. At the tail end of August, although not deserted, there w as plenty of space.

Cannon Beach can also differentiate itself through the presence of the large Haystack Rock which certainly adds character to the area. The rock reminded me of the even larger beachside giant at Morrow Bay in California. I’d spent a wonderful afternoon in Morrow with my young family back in 2000, cue melancholy moment.The town area of Cannon Beach has none of the Seaside amusements, prefering to focus on the arts to persuade its visitors to part with their cash (or maybe to part with their credit card is more appropriate). So within a short drive one can have two very different holiday experiences.

It was back to Seaside for the evening meal and a walk along the promenade. The simple joys of walking and observing reminded me that this holiday was about relaxing. I wasn’t fussed about what the towns offered, the beaches were great to stroll along. The beaches provide the perfect place to let work related stresses get blown away.

A spectacular, melt in to the ocean sunset viewed from the Lewis and Clark commemorative statue rounds off a very agreeable day.

 

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The two sides of Seaside

The receptionist at the hotel in Olympia seemed very underwhelmed when we mentioned that Seaside was the next destination. Her advice was to make sure we took in Cannon Beach. Later on it would become clear what her advice was based upon.

Seaside Oregon

After another roadworks littered drive, Seaside! Seaside has made its claim to fame as the end of the Lewis and Clark trail. It seems that the claim is stretching things slightly as the expedition stopped at Fort Clatsop and sent a working party to what is now Seaside to produce salt to preserve food for the journey back east. I’m not going to call out Seaside on a technicality.

First impressions? Accommodation excellent, beach amazing. Time to explore some more. The short walk in to town turned up a local cafe and what appeared to be a rather interesting antiques hall. More about that later. Walking back to the suite, the second side of Seaside surfaced.

Seaside beach

The walk west along Broadway became a walk back in time. It was seaside in the more English style, compete with arcades. The only missing piece was the ‘Kiss me quick’ hat. So from the very European (Dutch/Belgian coast) beach to a very British seaside experience all within the space of a few hundred metres. I’m guessing that the hotel receptionist in Olympia has been exposed to ‘Kiss me quick’ Seaside and not the great beach. My preference is undoubtably the sandy Seaside, one of multi-mile beach, constant crashing of waves, rolling dunes and wide open space rather than the more manufactured Seaside. The pont is that there’s a choice. Although the town is small, the Pacific frontage is wide and deep enabling those that prefer their downtime to involve nothing more than nature to get exactly that. Want dodgems? No problem, Seaside can do that too.

Dinner was taken in the rather fine Pacific Way Cafe in the adjoining town of Gearhart. Well worth the short drive both for the food and taking in yet another stretch of super sandy, lightly populated beach.

The holiday was shaping up well in terms of offering mental downtime.

 

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Heading to Seaside

After much deliberation the Sunshine Coast was consigned to ‘another time’. BC Ferries were the sole reason for a vacation 180 degree. As much as the scootour would have been fun, combined ferry fares exceeding $300 were simply too high. BC loses out to south of the border. The Oregon coast called loud. Some swift research unearthed a very cool looking place in Seaside. I’d ridden through Seaside on my 2010 road trip so was familiar with the area. It’s reminiscent of the Belgian/Dutch cost and that’s not a bad thing. Pre holiday excitement kicked in.

A great idea from Lesley. How about staying somewhere Sunday night. Olympia was an obvious choice do me and having secured the rather pleasant Red Lion hotel at a great ‘Hotwire’ rare, everything was in place. Time to test the Nexus cards again.

The previous crossing went somewhat wrong as there was a ‘problem’ with my card. This time, easy. The card repaid the cost of enrollment as a one hour line up for the great un-nexused was a 30 second breeze across the border. The North American version of holidayng abroad had really started.

Despite very heavy traffic either side of Seattle, a combination of stalls, accidents and so many cars, the holiday mood prevailed. The overnight accommodation was perfect and a relaxed end of day meal closed out the Seaside trip, day one.

 

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Back to reality

A relaxed breakfast, final wander around the town and on the road. Time to head for home.

Cascades

The traffic was certainly heavier than Friday. Driving felt more pressured, I had to keep up, the pace was faster. Consequently, the ride back through the Cascades was not as enjoyable. However, the horizontal relaxed state returned at he first pit stop. At the western side of the mountain range you’ll find the North Cascades Visitor Centre and whether one is entering or leaving the range, it’s worth stopping off. The exhibits, 3D map, film show and short hikes are informative and restorative. We followed a trail to a viewing point and were totally awestruck. The Picket Range, some ten miles in the distance appeared like painted scenery in and old movie. Breathtaking and yet so tranquil. The impromptu stop had certainly restored the sense of serenity that the weekend had instilled.

A final zip up I5 and the long weekend was over. Winthrop can be a great escape in the summer. Yes, it’s touristy, but if one puts aside that view and maybe treats the town as somewhere to lodge whilst taking in the surrounding beauty , the place makes sense.

Although good things can come to an end, the great thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is that the good thing can be revisited easily, it’s not a one off, holiday experience. Not only that but there are also many more ‘good things ‘ just waiting to be explored. One of the aims of relocation was to change my quality of life. Some might say that an 8000+ mile change wasn’t needed to do that. In my case, swapping the built environment of Europe for the outstanding natural environment of Cascadia has been worth every mile.

 

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Winthrop weekend day 2

Soporific or chilled. A fine line maybe. In the morning I’d probably side with the former. The afternoon was more the latter.

Museum

Winthrop plays host to the Shafer Historical Museum. The mainly outdoor attraction is filled with artifacts from the age of giants. Large, mechanical farming and mining equipment was scattered throughout the museum grounds and neatly provided interest whilst walking to the buildings. The early years of Winthrop are neatly captured here and with entry by donation, it was well worth the visit. One thing certainly struck me and that was despite making things from alternative materials, smaller and more efficient, a lot of appliances, tools and transport we use now aren’t really too different from what was on offer a century ago.

The temperature was certainly rising and despite the forecast of showers, nothing remotely wet turned up. The pace was so laid back that soporific was definitely the feeling for the morning.

Winthrop

The afternoon was spent relaxing at Pearrygin State Park a wonderful place to stop, break out a book and just let the afternoon drift away. The park is a campsite and I’d guess a pretty popular day attraction as well. Water sports and just being horizontal appeared to be the most popular activities.

An easy evening, walking around town, which doesn’t take long, dining and more walking. There was a bar with live music but I didn’t venture in – far too active for this stay.

I stayed at the Duck Brand Hotel. It’s really well situated but offered compact and spartan accommodation. However if the prerequisites for overnight shelter are clean room, reasonable bed and a hot sower, the Duck Brand hits the spot. The price is pretty standard for Winthrop and doesn’t really represent good value for money as there’s no breakfast included. So, for an overnight or two, the place is fine. Anything more and I’d look elsewhere.

Another day done and the mini road trip was checking the boxes.

 

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Winthrop weekend

It’s raining but I’m not at work and I’m spending time with Lesley. Time to relax and unwind for a couple of days. I’m in the right frame of mind for that to happen, mentally relaxed, letting it all go.

Acme Washington

First pit stop in Abbortsford. It’s already after 1pm. Hot coffee (too hot) and banana loaf before crossing the border. Using the Nexus card for only the second time and there’s a problem. We’re invited to go in to the office. It’s not a problem with me, it’s the card. After a fifteen or so minute wait I’m presented with my card. No explanation as to what the issue was. I don’t ask. Engaging in conversation isn’t really what Homeland Security are all about. We’re on our way.

It’s the back road route to Sedro-Woolley. An easy drive that reinforces the horizontal mindset. This time there had to be a brief pause at the Acme city limits sign. One of the great, smile, moments living on this continent is coming across familiar place names. Even so, travelling through the home of the creative supplier to Wile E Coyote was quite something. No sign of the factory, so I’m guessing they’ve outsourced to China.

Late lunch in Concrete. Roadside diner for the road trip experience. Serious lurid turquoise and pink vinyl chair and booth covers. The obligatory Fifties music belting out from the speaker sat atop an old jukebox. Such a shame that the jukebox didn’t work. It looked great though. BLT and coffee to fill a gap before heading on to the Cascades. It’s no scoot adventure, but it is another mini road trip.

Cascades

Onwards in to the mountain range. State Route-20 is an amazing road. It winds through the mountains and it’s a truly ‘close up and personal’ experience. There are too many breathtaking moments to capture, it has to be travelled to to appreciated. This time it was by car. By bike, the curves, climbs and descents would be amazing; next time.

After some 50 miles, the transition from craggy peaks to rolling peaks occurs, it’s nearly journey’s end, Winthrop.

Founded in the late 1800′s Winthrop sits at the confluence of the Methow and Chewuch rivers. The town become home for a number of surrounding mineral mine communities, however, transporting the minerals away from the area proved to be expensive. The town is now a tourist attraction providing cross-country skiing in the winter and biking/hiking in the summer.

Day one ended with a decent meal and a wander around town. Suitably refreshed and with Vancouver feeling like a million miles away it was time to turn-in.

 

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Lillooet overnighter. Day 2

A pleasantly firm bed, but a disturbed sleep. The joys of motel life.

Day two was to be a less arduous ride,about 100 Km less than day one. I was heading to Pemberton. When i set out I had no idea that the next 80 Km would be the best of the ride; pleasant surprise! The bends tightened and became more frequent. The road demanded more of the rider and on a bike, that means more fun. The flip side of the fun is needing to focus on the road far more which means taking in the amazing views became harder. The balance was to stop a few times to simply marvel at what I was journeying through. I can certainly see why this road gets bikers excited.

Duffy Lake H99

The decent in to Pemberton was slowed down by road works and following a tractor-trailer down steep inclines. The burning brake smell was not the fresh air I’d become accustomed to, and was another reminder of how a rider is so immersed in the journey.

A caffeine and calorie break in Pemberton and then on through Whistler to the final pit stop in Squamish.

I was now in familiar territory and as stunning as the ‘Sea to Sky’ from Squamish to Horseshow Bay is, I could feel myself switching out of scenery mode. Vancouver appeared and the traffic that had slowly been building up on the journey home became nose-to-tail. A short 280 Km ride. Welcome home.

The Duati had once again performed flawlessly and drawn the usual complementary comments. The bike is a GT, a Gran Turismo. Despite being physically compact, the Ducati makes for a great one person distance tourer. I’m almost certain that sport tourers and cruisers are more comfortable for really long days in the saddle, however, the GT1000 has, for me, an unbeatable combination of tourability and being drop dead gorgeous.

Road trip reflections. Once the engine goes silent and the helmet is removed, post road trip melancholy sets in. Although this was only a brief overnighter, I’d ridden through some phenomenal scenery, enjoyed the open road, the twisty road and had been at a standstill in heavy traffic. It seems to me that a road trip has all the elements that life brings. The point for me is that I can enjoy the open road, rise to the challenge and despite getting stuck and frustrated from time to time, keep going until I reach my destination. Life is a journey. Life is a road trip.

All the pics are on Flickr.

 

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Lillooet overnighter

Although I’m a late developer when it comes to biking, being in the Pacific Northwest certainly helps to make up for missed years of road tripping.

I’ve struggled to get myself in to a road trip high for this short overnighter around to Lillooet loop. Maybe in the murky recesses of my wanderlust mind, an overnighter just isn’t a road trip. I’m only riding about 650 Km and not even leaving BC. Surely that’s just a day trip. Having said that, I do need reminding from time to time that BC is around eight times larger than England and there’s plenty of scope for far more adventurous rides than this. So, an extended day trip it may be, but its still in to new territory.

Lillooet loop. Day 1The few people that I’ve spoken to seem to ride the loop via Whistler. I’ve never asked why, and just to be different I thought I’d ride the route anti-clockwise – backwards. I’m not sure if that means that I get to hear voices in my head. I like to think not.

The start and finish to the trip would be on roads already well ridden so the first part of my journey wouldn’t be the most entertaining. Hope was my first pit stop and rather than hit Highway one, I sat myself on the scenic route and ambled along. There are still moment of jaw-dropping scenery, leaning around a long tree lined curve and ‘bam’ mountains. Glorious.

Hope has always been an edge of town stop off for me. This time I ventured further in and discovered that Hope has a really quaint downtown. A Central Park area fronted by the Main Street was positively buzzing, well at a BC buzzing pace which is rather more tranquil than the south east of England.

Coffee, a very good, Fair Trade coffee, was taken at the Blue Moose. A chance to sit back and people watch for a few minutes whilst filling a hole with a muffin.

Having gassed up it was on to the Trans Canada and in to the Fraser Canyon. I’d previously only driven the canyon as far as Hells Gate, so once past there I would be in uncharted territory.

One of the great things about riding a bike is the total involvement it brings. Every sense is engaged on every km ridden. The body feels the change in temperature as one passes along a shaded stretch of road. Every bump is more keenly felt. Even the smells, be they pollen or barbecue are instantly noticed when there’s nothing between you and the environment you’re traveling through.

Lillooet loop. Day 1The ride soon became mile after mile of river, trees and steep sided rock face. An occasional glimpse of mile long freight trains gave me a sense of scale. The trains were Hornby sized against the vast mountains. I was riding as a 00 gauge miniature.

My first ‘greasy spoon’. Time for a light lunch. I’d arrived at Boston Bar. I left Boston Bar not much else to say.

Decision time approached. At Lytton I could take the direct route to Lillooet or go for the extra 100 plus Km via Cache Creek. I’m on a bike. No decision. Next stop Cache Creek.

Temperatures were rising and I was feeling both the heat and the saddle a bit too much. Despite the spectacular backstop to my ride I needed a break. In fact, such was the despiration that once in Cache Creek, Dairy Queen was screaming at me to overdose on cold, high calorie ice cream.

Lillooet loop. Day 1Core temperature stabilized, Ducati refueled, time to find Highway 99. The map view of my last leg was promising. It looked curvy. And it was. Not seat of pants, pipes scrapping the blacktop curvy, more sweeping, and that was fine by me. It was my last 100 Km and it was possibly the best road of the day. The canyon is a great ride, however, the 99 had just the right mix of open road, great views and enough twisty bits to maintain interest.

After a very easy days ride, I descended in to Lillooet, which is, and I quote, “Guaranteed Rugged”. I guess it’s just as well I didn’t make the trip on the Vespa, I’d have been run out of town for overly diminishing the ruggedness. Day one, 414 Km. Not too shabby.

The final agreeable part to a good day was finding the motel room to be clean and have a hot shower. What else can a less than hardened biker ask for.

Head over to Flickr for all the pics

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