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.

Hardy 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.

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.1308-Seaside-06

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.

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

1308-Seaside-20So 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.

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.


Seattle underground tour to Twin Peaks tourist

Seems like sewing was a very lucrative business in Seattle in the late 1800’s.

I’d seen Seattle from on high, it was now time to check out Seattle from below. The city’s underground tour is based around the Pioneer Square area, one of the oldest districts. However, before going underground, i passed by one of the most prominent landmarks, the Smith Tower.

The building which opened in 1914 certainly satisfied by need for architecture with personality. As much as I love the natural environment in my new home, I still miss the built environment of old Europe. Okay, the Smith Tower is barely out of nappies (diapers) when compared to the history that Europe offers, however, it does have a certain unique look with its tower portion extending some 12 levels above the bulk of e building. I didn’t get a chance to go inside and up the the observation deck, but I do think it would be a worthwhile visit and an alternative to the Space Needle.

Just down the hill from the Smith Tower is Pioneer Square. The area lays claim to being Seattles first neighbourhoods and seems to have been through a period of regeneration. Certainly the guide on the tour had plenty to say about the areas ‘seedier’ past, more of that later. The focal point of the square is a pergola which was home to a past street car terminus. Apparently, and I quote the tour guide, “the fanciest subterranean restroom in the country” lies beneath the square, now inaccessible due to the need to make safe the ground around it. Here’s what a 1910 article in a Seattle publication, Pacific Builder and Engineer had to say….

“The man of travels will find nowhere in the Eastern hemisphere a sub-surface public comfort station equal in character to that which has recently been completed in the downtown district of Seattle”

I can’t really add any more to that. Next stop, underground.

Back in the mid 1960’s one Bill Speidel, a local journalist turned PR guy decided that Seattle needed to retain the history it was fast losing. It seems a real case of Joni Mitchell’s ‘paved paradise‘ was being enacted as more old buildings were bought up, razed, and replaced with parking lots. Bill was a real champion for preserving and regenerating the the old downtown area and the underground tour is a result of his drive and enthusiasm. You can read lots more about how Bill’s advocacy and the underground tour on the official site. So what exactly is the underground tour? In 1889 Seattle suffered its own great fire in the downtown area and it turned out to be a great opportunity to deal with issues that the low laying land created, particularly the sewerage. Essentially humongous amounts of earth were slid down from nearby hills to raise the downtown ground level up one story. Brick buildings that remained post fire now had a new basement, and it’s these areas that form the underground tour. The tour takes 60 – 90 minutes and the time simply shot by. Walking through long disused levels of buildings below street level, listening to the guides great stories from Seattle’s past was time well spent. A fun and interesting experience. Now about the booming sewing trade. Around the time of the gold rush, Seattle had set itself up as a staging post. Prospectors that travelled through the city were offered gambling entertainment and were also able to have their ‘clothing repaired’ at one of the numerous sewing establishments. Seems like sewing was a very lucrative business in Seattle in the late 1800’s as the city’s income was bolstered by taxes on these two popular businesses.

It was time to head out of Seattle. I’d thoroughly enjoyed my short stay and will certainly return as there are still sights to see, for example, I want to take a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.

Before heading back north there was time for a small detour. I’d found out that I could be a Twin Peaks tourist really easily. Just 30 minutes out of Seattle is Snoqualmie. Cast your mind back to that 90’s, weird, wonderful and surreal TV hit, Twin Peaks. The lodge and falls that appeared in the show are actually at Snoqualmie. Curiosity had gotten the better of me and I wanted to walk in Agent Coopers footsteps.

The experience didn’t disappoint, the falls were truly awesome. The falls are high. Very high. Higher than Niagara, in fact nearly 100 feet higher than the Niagara Falls. The water that rushes over the edge seems to then hit a stage of slow motion around a third of the way down before resuming it’s fast running onslaught. The spray was phenomenal. Despite the viewing area being higher than the falls, it was like walking in to a shower of rain. I could gush on about Snoqualmie Falls for a long time. It captivated me. The elegance and gracefulness of falling water juxtaposed with the raw power at the top and bottom of the falls. It was a very special experience. The Salish Lodge is recognizable as the Great Northern from the outside but over twenty years have passed since the show and it now looks very different inside. I didn’t notice any references to the show whilst wandering the area and I guess that the areas doesn’t need Twin Peaks as pulling power, not when the falls are so spectacular.

It was time to head off and find some “damn fine coffee“.

Riding to Mount Baker

Finally I’d reached the uppermost parking area and the views were more than spectacular.

I had to retake my motorcycle test when I arrived in BC, just like I had to retake my car driving test. That was four years ago and whilst on the riding course I struck up a friendship with James. Although we don’t get together frequently! It’s always a pleasure to meet up, especially when it  means there’s a ride involved.  And so it was over the Labour Day weekend.

Having already taken on two, two-wheeled roadtrips over the summer I opted out of the Lilooet loop and agreed to a day trip to Mount Baker. I’d ridden with Lesley to Baker last year but was not able to reach to uppermost parking due to the roads still being under snow. I knew this time would be different, I knew the road was open all the way up.

Needless to say holiday weekend traffic did its best to undo the good intentions and Highway 1 was a car park of M25 proportions. Having satin line as half a dozen bikes rolled past on the shoulder, I decided it was time to follow suit. James and I came off at the next exit and replanned the route to the Sumas border crossing. I rather like this being a Canadian citizen thing as I had yet another trouble free crossing. In fact the guy checking my passport was more interested in finding out more about my Ducati for his mate on the phone. Onwards to Baker.

The road to the National Forest is single lane and a mix of sweet curves and longish straights. Plenty of opportunity to lean and let-rip (within posted limits of course). The real jewel though was at the end of the road.As the road gets further in to the park so the curves get tighter, hitting hairpin status as the journey up becomes mountain pass like. Although a bit slow due to that darned holiday traffic, the ride was enjoyable, plenty of time to take in the increasingly superb views.

The number of parked vehicles on the verges increased, I was near the top. Finally I’d reached the uppermost parking area and the views were more than spectacular. A good ride was topped off by amazing views. There really is something very special about being up above the snow line on a warm sunny day.

Having taken in the views it was time to descend and eat. The ride down and out was every bit as entertaining as the ride up. Late lunch was taken at a somewhat rustic looking bar before Maple Falls, and they served up a pretty delicious lamb burger.

Having endured Highway 1 a few hours prior, an alternative route home was planned. We  crossed back in to Canada at Aldergrove and made our way along Zero Ave where we hit our final delay, an RCMP spot check on motorcycle helmets (the law has recently changed here) and licenses. I noticed a large Harley being loaded on to a flatbed with the rider in conversation with an RCMP officer. Hmmm, shouldn’t really assume, but it didn’t appear to be a mechanical issue. The officer that checked my license had told me there were more unlicensed riders around as fuel prices were high. I’m left wondering how these unlicensed riders get plates for their bikes. Maybe I’m just naive. Anyway, Harley rider and passenger were not looking too pleased.

A quick squirt up the 99 and we looped through New Westminster, James splitting off and heading home. Me likewise. Even though we’d no comms, riding with someone else is more fun, there’s a feeling of leader and wingman about it.

Another day, another ride. This has been an amazing two wheeled summer and with the Music Therapy Ride coming up, it ‘aint over yet.

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.