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.

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 2

I’d never been pulled over for being under the posted speed limit before

The target for day two was Deception Pass. We’d ridden over the bridge between the mainland and Whidbey Island the previous day but didn’t have a chance to stop and take in the views. So back north for around 20 minutes. Well, it would have been but for an unscheduled stop.

I’d heard that the police in Washington came down hard on speeding bikes so when I noticed a local Sheriff’s car tailing us I made sure that we were not over the posted limit. I hadn’t noticed the limit change from 50 to 55mph so the scoots were hanging around 50, certainly no slower. A highway patrol car passed us in the opposite direction and soon after the Sheriff’s car pulled off. Okay to pick up the pace a bit now I thought. Seconds later I spot a highway patrol car, lights on steaming up on us. “pull over right” I shout to Lesley over the comms. What I wasn’t expecting was for us to be recipients of the flashing lights.

Lesley has pulled over and I joined her. The officer was out of his car and opened the conversation. I was simply wondering what on earth we’d done. Lane discipline was fine, not speeding. Was we ‘racing’ I thought to myself. I was not ready for the next few words (I paraphrase). “you were only riding about 35mph and causing a tailback. If there’s more than 3 cars behind your obliged to pull over. It’s the law. You were holding locals up who might be late for work or church (it was a Sunday). They might try and pull some crazy passing moves”. There are times when one has to pick the battles. The fact that we were no more than 5mph under the posted limit and not the 20 thrown at us was annoying. However, if this was justa ‘telling off’ and license check we’d be on our way soon. I kept my mouth shut. No problems were found with our documents and we were on our way. I’d never been pulled over for being under the posted speed limit before. Surreal, bizarre and I seriously doubt that a bike would have been pulled. This was simply scooter discrimination.

Lesley and I headed off, our heads spinning with what had just happened. From now on whilst on Whidbey Island it would have to be “quick, speed up, the police are watching” if ever we saw another squad car.

Back to the real reason for the trip. Deception Pass, as named by Captain Vancouver, was indeed quite a spot. Until the 1920’s, a trip to Whidbey began with a short ferry ride. The ferry was replaced by a very high bridge that’s quite the tourist spot. The local State Park was also worth experiencing if only to sit on a log and take in the views.

The afternoon was planned to be at Fort Casey near the Coupeville ferry terminal. Unfortunately I underestimated the fuel and we turned around, heading in to Coupeville. As it turned out, it wasn’t a bad move. Coupeville was a smashing little tourist spot. A wander on to the beach area, along to the pier. Just kicking back and watching the water. All very relaxing, and a fine way to let the head start to sort out the mornings events.

A quick Vespa mention. The scoots really do attract attention. At times some far more conspicuous bikes are not being given a second glance, it’s the Vespa’s drawing the admiring looks. I’m guessing in some ways people are just not expecting to see two scooters from BC. Scooters are 50cc town things. The truth is these GTS 300’s are living up to the letters. Touring on these bikes is a real pleasure.

Comfortable and peppy they’re great for minor roads, easily keeping up with traffic (despite what the local law enforcement think). My vision of the alternative road trip is alive and well.

Day two had turned out fine, despite the run in with the law. Having said that, I can see being pulled over for being very close, but under the posted speed limit will be a boring anecdote for year to come.

Washington road trip

After a number of training rides it’s time to go for the real thing.

I’d hatched a plan at the tail end of last year. Lesley wasn’t over interested in doing the motorbike thing for herself and the Ducati was too small to tour together. What to do? The inspirational idea was slow-tour or more accurately, scootour. I sold the concept of touring minor roads on Vespa’s. The catch was that we only had one scoot and to tour we needed a larger engine scoot that required a motorcycle license to ride unsupervised. Minor details, the Washington scootour was on.

A new scoot for Lesley was required and a local dealer, Vespa Metro delivered the goods. A returned GTS 300 Super in white at an unbeatable price. As good as this deal was, it left me with a problem. I was riding a GTS 250. How could the more experienced rider be on a less powerful scoot? Vancouver’s other Vespa dealer, Urban Wasp came to the rescue as they happened to have a few discounted GTS 300’s available. I eventually settled on an identical scoot to the one I had, just with the larger engine as that way I could transfer the colour-coded top box which would save $$$.

1208-Washington-01The scoots were purchased and kitted out. My Vespa had the side crash bars transferred along with the top box. I fitted the flyscreen from the 250 on to the white scoot, bought a matching top box  and sourced a cool smoked flyscreen for my black scoot. The Vespa’s were ready to roll.

Lesley passed her bike knowledge so could ride under supervision and, as the weather improved the training rides started. First locally on quiet roads, then on to busier, faster roads and eventually a couple of longer rides to Mission and Harrison Hot Springs. On the BC day weekend a final, longer ride to Bowen Island by ferry was fitted in.

After a number of training rides it’s time to go for the real thing.

Washington awaits. The tour will run down the coast as much as possible island hopping off Seattle and possibly on to the Olympic National Park.

Scootour 2012 is go.