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.

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.

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.


California road trip day 9

And that was it. Post road trip silence.

After a really relaxed final evening it was time to gear up for the final time on this road trip. Time to head home. The final leg from Olympia to the border was straightforward with just a couple of refueling stops.

The only issue we had was my comms headset failing. A couple of bent connection pins were found, but they couldn’t be straightened without breaking off. My fault entirely for over-enthusiastic fitting every day. We were down to one way comms, Elliot to me for the final few hours. It was now even more apparent the value inter-bike comms  bring to a long road trip. No small talk, no encouragement, no checking in. Just the occasional hand or head signal. It was a strange experience having been able to talk freely for the previous eight days, but we coped, simply just agreed who was lead, what certain signals meant and off we rode.

The big question would be how easy would it be getting back in to Canada? Easy for me, I was on my shiny new Canadian Passport, but what about Elliot? He had a UK passport and cancelled citizenship certificate. As it happened, the crossing was painless. Elliot’s explanation was satisfactory, he was back in the country and I quickly followed. 

One thing was on my mind, maintain concentration. How easy would it be to get within a few miles of home, let the brain switch off and pay for that lapse. Before heading away from Pacific Crossing, I reminded Elliot to keep focused until we arrived home. And so it was.

We pulled up outside the garage having travelled some 2400 miles, 3800 Km over nine days. And that was it. Post road trip silence. Engines off, helmets off, gloves off, brain off.

Both the Ducati and the Suzuki had performed impeccably. This road trip was twice the distance of my 2010 trip and Elliot had never ridden further than Squamish and back. It was a vey special experience that we’d shared. I’m pretty sure a lot of fathers dream of adventures like this. A motorcycle road trip on the west coast of north America with one of my sons. A very special experience, although it won’t be unique in that my other son is talking about where he’d like to ride to in the future. 

So, father and son still talking, bodies and bikes intact. I’d call that a success.

I’ve already indicated that another trip is likely with my other son at some point. Whether there’s another solo roadtrip or maybe another with Elliot before that, well, I wouldn’t bet against it. There’s something about being on the road, just moving on from place to place. Maybe there’s some past nomadic tendency buried deep in the consciousness that surfaces when one tackles these trips. Maybe it’s my way of shedding the 9-5 existence just for a brief moment, to appreciate the freedom that being on the road can offer. Having said that, my nomadic escape still requires a hot shower and decent bed.


California road trip day 8

We were wet. We were very wet. We were very wet indeed.

Day eight and rain was forecast from Eugene to Portland, and the forecast was correct. Our end point for the day was Olympia, Washington. We had around 300 miles to cover and it was all Freeway. Not an exciting prospect.

We had a plan. Oregon, the home of zero sales tax. Elliot was looking for a small, bike portable tent and I was looking for an iPad. Finding somewhere to sell me the electronics proved to be far harder than getting a tent. Roseburg, nope. Eugene, nope. Hmmm, at this rate I’d run out of Oregon. Elliot was fine, he’d picked up his tent and tarp. The goods were firmly bungied to his bike and we set out from Eugene towards Portland. The weather was closing in fast and we tok the opportunity to stop under a Freeway bridge to don the waterproofs. Good timing too, as within 5 minutes we entered rain that lasted for   a good couple of hours. Portland was my final chance to pick up the hens teeth version of the iPad I was looking for and finally BestBuy delivered the goods.

Coffee break as the rain was finally easing off. We were wet. We were very wet. We were very wet indeed. I’m pretty certain a sizeable puddle formed beneath our draining gear, this was possibly wetter than day one.

We’d booked through again and for the final night we scored big time. The hotel was terrific. Fantastic food, jazz in the restaurant and a gorgeous view out of the window. If there was a way to close out the trip, this was most definitely it.The positive was that we’d toughed it out. No more rain to dampen us, it was now an easy ride to Olympia.

Tax free purchases, check. Dry kit, check. Well fed and watered, check. Day eight, check. Ducati and Suzuki performing well, check.

Hopefully the border crossing on our final day wouldn’t prove difficult.

Washington road trip day 5

This was the first experience of two wheeled road trips for Lesley and she handled it impeccably.

Weather checked, not looking good. The 10 degree drop that occurred between leaving home  on Saturday morning and waking up on Sunday morning had remained and it made riding chilly. The traffic speeds experienced the previous day were probably going to be the norm if we headed to Seattle so the decision was made. Head for home.

Despite being on scooters, the bikers that joined us on the 8.45 ferry to Coupeville were happy to chat as we made our way across the Sound. I’ve found bike snobbery to be fairly uncommon here which is refreshing. No inferiority complex, no ‘cc’ envy and I can certainly handle that.

The ride home was pretty uneventful. We made our way back up Whidbey Island, on to the mainland and back on to the minor roads. Chuckanut Drive was once again appreciated and after a personal and Vespa re-fuel in Fairhaven, it was on to the border. An easy crossing, no line up thank goodness. I’m really not sure what the border guards think when a couple of scoots show up and the riders say they’ve been as far as Port Townsend. I think the Vespa’s are always seen as 50cc machines, so the guards just probably shake their heads in private.

650 Km had been covered over the 5 days. Lesley hadn’t even ridden a scoot until April, so to complete the trip was a great achievement. I’ve also learnt one or two things. I became frustrated at having to keep pulling over for cars when we were riding the 101. The scoot will cruise fine at 60-70 mph, but when traffic is moving faster, I felt I had to get out of the way. Again, it comes back to being on a scoot. If I was on a motorbike I just feel that car drivers wouldn’t be as impatient, it’s all part of that ‘scoots are 50cc town things’ mentality.  I’d have covered many more miles on the Ducati, however, this was a slow tour, it was the scootour and so remembering the guiding principles of fun and relaxation, the time away was successful.

Would I scootour again? At the moment I’m not sure. I’d need to find more minor roads to really get the best out of a road trip by Vespa, so I’m going for 7/10, which isn’t bad for a first experience.

Washington road trip day 4

That’s the thing about road trips. Planning on the go is permissible.

Port Angeles and maybe a trip up the local mountain that was the plan. Today we’d push a little further in to the Olympics. Highway 101 was a route I’d traveled before, in 2010 on my first road trip and earlier this year on the California trip. The route has some of the most spectacular scenery in Oregon and California. The stretch to be covered today was unknown territory though.

This road trip had a couple of guiding principles. It had to be fun and it had to have adequate downtime to relax. It turned out that the northern section of the 101 wouldn’t meet either of those needs. The stretch being ridden by two intrepid scooterists was populated by fast moving and plentiful traffic. Despite the Vespa’s 70 mph capability and a 55 mph posted speed limit, it was clear that traffic was in the 70 mph plus zone. The thought of 50 or so miles having to pull over every few hundred yards to let big rigs rumble through was not in the least appealing and certainly wouldn’t be fun or relaxing. Something had to be done. That’s the thing about road trips. Planning on the go is permissible.

A well placed roadside coffee stop appeared, a true java oasis that offered a warming shot of espresso and maybe more importantly, wifi. Out came the iPad, maps fired up and a decision taken to turn around. A combination of the road and weather conditions (chilly and not improving) really made it an easy choice. We’d stick to minor roads around Port Townsend.

So that was day four. Not the originally envisaged expedition, however the Vespa’s were still on the road soaking up the miles without complaint. Fun was re-established as we discovered a desolate beach and relaxation Was in the shape of another delicious late lunch at blt coffee.

Given that the weather forecast for the rest of the week isn’t too encouraging, the scootour may well head north again.