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.

Washington road trip day 3

We’d made it to the Olympic peninsula.

This was to be an easier day with limited scoot time. We’d booked in to a motel in Port Townsend for a couple of nights and would plan our next few days from there. Our destination was a short ferry trip across the Puget Sound. As it happened, the previous days aborted trip to Fort Casey could be revisited as the Fort was next to the ferry terminal.

1208-Washington-23So, first stop Fort Casey. The fort was built towards the end of the 1800’s as one of several fortifications to protect the western coastal area from attack, and much like the other forts, it never fired its guns in anger. The potential invasion never materialized, threats changed from seaborne to airborne and within twenty years of completion, the fort was obsolete, serving only as a training base. These places are facilnatng to wander around. Exploring the nooks and crannies, figuring out the use of the rooms beneath the gun emplacements, imagining what life in the early twentieth century would have been like.

After a leisurely wander around the fort it was time to mount up and mosey along to the Coupeville ferry terminal. One great thing about being on two wheels is that you’re invariably sent to the front of the line on ferry’s and this crossing was no exception. Now, the thing with scooters is that sometimes they’re not treated seriously. A scoot isn’t a proper bike and thus is ignored. This seemed to be the case today as two guys on BMW’s in front of me remained firmly in conversation with not so much as a nod of the head. Actually, I can’t complain too much as there’s been a lot of biker wave Vespa respect from others riders. I think that it’s an acknowledgement that the scoots are travelling at a good speed and properly in formation so the riders are obviously ‘proper’ bikers despite being on a Vespa.

1208-Washington-25A coffee and muffin later it was Port Townsend. We’d made it to the Olympic peninsula. The plan was to investigate the town over the afternoon and head out towards Port Angeles on Tuesday. Port Townsend isn’t a large place, investigating really didn’t take long. One great find was the late lunch stop Better Living Through Coffee. A local cafe with great food and coffee (Fair Trade, organic and where possible, locally sourced foods) with a smashing view of the Sound. Highly recommended.

Day three closed out pretty quietly. A good nights sleep was needed as the plan was to take a ride further along the peninsula tomorrow.

 

Washington road trip day 1

Seriously. Two hours fifty minutes in a line up to cross the border in searing heat, pushing the Vespa’s. Now that’s dedication.

After the challenge of California by Ducati it was time to tackle something a little less demanding. The scootour was planned to be slow touring, taking minor roads, taking it easy. It was to be Lesley’s introduction to the two wheeled road trip. Day one would be a leisurely jaunt from Vancouver to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington. And so it began, Vespa’s go wild in Washington.

It all began pretty well. Clothing for the week all packed in to the top box. Sun shining  Out at a reasonable time.  Ride to the border relaxed. That was until the dreaded crossing time signs. Pacific crossing, 70 minutes. We hit the end of the line far further back than I’d ever been. It sure looked like a long line, and it proved to be just that.

1208-Washington-04However, 70 minutes turned out to be spectacularly optimistic.  Seriously. Two hours fifty minutes in a line up to cross the border in searing heat, pushing the Vespa’s. Now that’s dedication. Yes indeed 170 minutes it was. But the reward for patience was the most human border guard I’ve ever experienced. A really nice guy, chatty even. It might not have taken away a long hot push but it didn’t add to the stress levels and I was very thankful for that.  As a first real experience of crossing as a Canadian (I’m not counting the previous road trip as I was travelling with my son who had to use his UK passport – long story, another time maybe) it has to be said that it was better than crossing as a Brit.

We were now really on our way. Time for the minor roads. In to Blaine, then along the coast, weaving left and right until we entered Bellingham. Through the city and out towards Chuckanut Drive. Now there’s a very pretty road to ride. Only two lanes, twisty, next to the coast, up and down hill. Very nice Indeed. The frustration was that having lost so much time at the border, we had to push on without stopping.

We finally hit highway 20 which turned out to be a fast and windy ride, but fortunately not for too long. Once back to a single lane things didn’t feel so fast paced. Unfortunately even though the ride pace had backed off, so had the sun. In fact it was feeling pretty chilly through the mesh panel in my jacket.

By the time Oak Harbor arrived I was starting to shiver. Not the best way to end the days ride. But, the Vespa’s had performed superbly, simpy purring along. And what’s more, lots of ‘biker waves’ from cruiser and sport bike rider. Respect for the scooterists.

So, day one of the second road trip of the year complete. Day two will be based in Oak Harbor, exploring more of what Whidbey Island has to offer.

Sicamous

It was late in August and our first trip to the interior of BC was to Sicamous, about a 300 mile drive from Vancouver. Why Sicamous? Well, it’s a bit of a long story, but a couple of months prior to the trip I’d had a mail from someone I was at secondary school with.

You may be familiar with the web site Friends Reunited. Its aim is simply to get friends back together again. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. I received a mail from Belinda, someone from the same school, same year group as me. Her name was familiar, but I really couldn’t remember too much about her. Belinda it turns out. had lived in Canada for 28 years and was currently in Alberta, near Calgary. Having noticed that I was living in BC, she mentioned that she would be on holiday in Sicamous with her partner mid to late August, and how about meeting up. So, my thoughts initially were something like, “Okay, here’s someone I can hardly remember that I haven’t seen for over 30 years suggesting that we could meet up. Let’s do it.”

Plans were made and I headed off with the family to the Interior. The drive was actually a great part of the time away. It meant leaving the more urban lower mainland, heading along the Fraser Valley to Hope and then in to mile upon mile of nothing but mountains and rivers. Our route took us along the Coquihalla Highway past Merritt to Kamloops. Having spent many years in the safe environment of South East England, coming across chain-up areas, landslide warnings and gates that obviously close off the road really brought home to me that I was living in a very different environment. Once past Kamloops, it was back on the Trans-Canada Highway toward Sicamous – the houseboat capital of Canada.

We’d booked a bed and breakfast near Salmon Arm, and what a fantastic place to stay. The room was large, very well furnished and spotlessly clean. If you’re every exploring the area I can thoroughly recommend ‘The Inn at the Ninth Hole‘ The Dutch couple that run the inn are really friendly hosts and the breakfasts are wonderful. A major plus for me was that they source as much food as possible locally, a real sustainable approach to B&B.

And so to the meeting. Actually, things worked out really well. It was an opportunity to dip back in to school days, muse over the teachers and discuss the probability of hair pieces. Belinda is one of those people that flourished outside of the formal educational environment, or to put it another way, she bunked off school a lot. But, she’s carved a life out for herself and is enjoying the delights that Canada has to offer, and it really made me question “what’s a fulfilling life?”, particularly as Lesley and I continue to battle to either generate income from self-employment or find suitable employment (that’s a whole different story, particularly if I get on to the ever-increasing income gap in BC and how earning have actually decreased in real terms over the last 25 years).

Experience tubing 

We only had a short break due to other commitments, but we had a chance to get out on the Shuswap Lake on a couple of occasions and visit nearby Vernon. Standout moments. The sheer, mostly unspoilt beauty of the area. Witnessing the devastation being caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle as many, many tress are killed off. Experiencing tubing off the back of a speed boat for the first time (despite there being no photographic evidence of me having a go – believe me, I did, and had a great laugh). Weirdest feeling of the break. Five former pupils of a now closed Secondary School in Thurrock, Essex, UK stood on a beach on the Shuswap Lake. Somewhat surreal.

More tubing

Thank you Belinda and Lavern – you were great hosts.