PNW2011 – Day 7

Aug 19, 2011 – Managing to get up and get things mostly packed before 9am meant that we had a pretty good chance of getting away early.

On the way out of the campsite, we stopped at the General Store and had breakfast muffins, and checked out the current Vampire Threat!
Not much to worry about – threat level was Medium. The area around Forks has certainly tried to capitalize on the popularity of the Twilight books and movies, there were Vampire references all over.

Escaping the vampire threat, we headed north to Clallam Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway. As we got closer to the town, the fog got thicker and thicker.

Stopping at the gas station just outside of Clallam Bay for a bio break, I let myself get talked into going further northwest to Neah Bay – the most NW town in the continental US. I was attracted to the twisty road and the helpful clerk at the gas station insisted that the view was absolutely worth the ride.

As Louise and I discussed heading to Neah Bay or directly to Port Angeles, the fog seemed to get thicker.

But I managed to override Louise’s concerns and we headed up the road to Neah Bay – on a crazy twisted road in the fog. I was happy, but Louise was miserable. Her VStrom wasn’t handling the curves and dips very well and she wasn’t having fun. Add to that the fact that because of the fog, we couldn’t even see the damn ocean not even 15ft from the highway edge!

That was a bust and with Louise now a little grumpy, (and justifiably so), I promised no more crazy roads for a while. Instead of the crazy road to Port Angeles closer to the coast, we went back up to Highway 101.

It became pleasantly warm as we road past Lake Crescent …
with the road still curvy but not crazy twisty. Traffic really picked up on the NE end of the lake and we road through road construction pretty much all the way into Port Angeles.

It was along this stretch of the road that one of the funniest things happened to Louise. While riding slow because of the construction, the guy behind Louise was tailgating a bit, but Louise found a way, accidentally, to make him back off. With the 45 liter panniers on the VStrom, it’s pretty wide, and Louise was weaving a bit in the lane. No problem until “bonk” – she clipped one of the orange safety cones between the lanes, and sent it spinning into the air! The guy behind fell way back and gave Louise lots of space after that!

Eventually the construction petered out and we were in Port Angeles, where before heading to the Black Ball Ferry Terminal, we stopped for gas.

When we arrived at the Ferry Terminal, we found that there was going to be a bit of a wait. So we parked the bikes with the herd …
… and went off to a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat. While I paid for the meal, Louise sauntered off to the tourist information office to see about a hotel in Victoria. Since we were going to sort of “take the weekend off”, the plan was to find a relatively nice hotel for a couple of nights. She settled on the Embassy Inn just behind the BC Legislature Building. Not long after lunch, it was time to board the MV Coho and unlike most other ferries, all the bikes were held back and boarded last and since we were pretty much off to the side of the herd, we were nearly the last on.

A fellow on a brand new BMW R1200GS, tricked out in a brand new BMW riding suit and helmet was beside us in the line and offered to take a picture of us: He was a really nice guy though – he had just recently retired from the US Army where he’d flying Kiowa’s – one of the Army’s Recon/Attack helicopters and was moving to the US Coast Guard to fly helicopters. This was his “between gigs” trip.

Just off shore, there was a really thick band of sea fog. This ship …seemingly just appeared off to one side, looming suddenly through the fog.

The ride across the Juan de Fuca Strait was pretty smooth and clear once we got further away from Port Angeles. On the way into Victoria Harbour we went past a couple of cruise ships docked for the night. These things are HUGE! There’s thousands of people aboard each one of these things!

Being the last on the ferry, meant in this case, we were the last off, and it was a slow grind through the line up for Canada Customs and Immigration.

The Embassy Hotel was literally 1 block from the ferry terminal – straight across the street! However, what the hotel had in location, it totally lost in rooms and ambience. We parked and checked in, then hiked off to our room. It turns out it was on the upper floor of the hotel annex – and no elevators! So we headed up the stairs, then peeked into the “room”. I’m sure you’ve seen on TV the quintessential long-term motel room? Well this was that style – and since it was right over the pool, it was noisy. The final straw was the folks a couple of doors down yakking it up about how much of a party they were planning for that night! Louise said nope, no way. So we went back down to reception.

We walked up to a different clerk than the one who checked us in, and Louise tells him that sorry, but we’re checking out. The clerk gets all panicky and asks why? We told him that we were not impressed with the room, and that we were going to go find another hotel to stay at. With that, the clerk asks if he can offer us another room in the main hotel building, say a nice suite? We shrug, ask how much more, the difference was acceptable, so we took a key and headed on up to have a look.

The room was alright, more like a small apartment than a hotel room – bedroom on the left, living room on the right and galley kitchen, and it was a corner unit. It was pretty stuffy though, and the bedroom would pretty much stay that way the entire weekend. Anyway, we decided we’d take it, and went back down to get our gear. Later on I asked for a floor fan to be sent up so we could get some air moving.

Once we’d showered, changed and got the fan running, we went out to get some food and wound up at Milestone’s for food and drink!

PNW2011 – Day 6

Aug 18, 2011 – Too early it seemed, we woke up, showered and set off in search of breakfast. Along the way, we spotted this naval artifact … even though I did some googling, I still haven’t figured out what this is – I only know from the designation on the side, “DD445”, that it’s from the USS Fletcher, a US Navy Destroyer built in WWII.

Some gizmo from the USS Fletcher

Some gizmo from the USS Fletcher

The Red Lion InnWe decided on the Corner Cafe, that we had seen the night before when we were looking for dinner. The locals – there was an entire corner that had about 10 folks from the local mill (I think) – all stared at us as we sat down, the kind of thing you see in movies! After a pretty good brekkie, we headed back to the Red Lion to pack up.

Raymond to ForksToday, we were headed for sparkly Vampire country – Forks on the Olympic Peninsula, well actually the Three Rivers Resort, about 15 minutes from Forks. For those reading over, say 40 years old, Forks has become famous with the teen and young adult crowd as the setting for the Twilight series of movies.

Anyway, by just 11am we headed, stopped at the gas station to tank up … Louise filling up … and we hit the road heading north. We stayed in forest for a while, and at about 130pm we stopped for a bit of a stretch.

By around 3pm, the highway came very close to the ocean and ran parallel for quite a few miles. We stopped and took some more pictures …

We arrived in Forks in the late afternoon and stopped at the Forks Coffee Shop for a sandwich and a coffee, before continuing out to the campsite a few miles from town. Somehow it didn’t look like the Forks Coffee Shop that I recalled from the movie Twilight, but maybe that was movie magic at work.

Anyway, we zipped along a really fun backroad from the highway to the campsite at the Three Rivers Resort. While the resort is a little bit of an exaggeration, it was nice; and it really caters to fishing – there’s a cleaning station right at the campsite, and the general store was loaded with fishing supplies and gear.

Once we had the campsite setup, we got a snack from the restaurant at the General Store, chatted a bit with some folks, did some laundry, then hit the sack.

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 5 Part 1

Aug 17, 2011 – Today saw us on the bikes for a long time and seeing a pair of related natural sites. One of the highlights of the trip in general was to see Mount St Helens. I’m sure everyone knows the significance of Mount St. Helens – if not click here. Today also marked the last time we would be on an Interstate Highway.
PNW2011 St Helens Map

I did forget to mention the dinner and a show that we witnessed the night before – after we checked and had the campsite setup, the man and woman that were running the campground got into a huge fight, yelling, screaming, F-bombs all throughout. We really thought for sure that they were both quite mad and would kill each other. But finally they were separated for a few moments, and the woman took off on the dude’s mountain bike! The guy came out from where-ever he was yelling and hollering first at whatever started, then when the realized she had left on his bike, we really went wild. Eventually he did calm down and a hush came over the campground.

I can’t recall much about waking up at the campsite in Cougar, but obviously we did. We mostly packed and the made some tea ate oatmeal for breakfast, here’s Louise either packing the stove or firing it up …

Breakfast at Cougar

Breakfast at Cougar

While we were packing up or eating, one of the more colourful long-term denizens of the campground came by with his little dog for a chat. He was a bit of a scary guy in that he was missing some teeth, had long stringy hair that looked kinda feminine, but he was balding, and he … had man-boobs – really big man-boots. He had on short shorts and a pink tank top or something like that – hard to recall now. He was a gravel truck driver or something and stayed in the campground in a junky old trailer. The dog, a little Pekinese, was pretty cute though! I didn’t take any pictures of him, but in retrospect I should have – just to prove the description.

Ape Caves SignAs I mentioned before, one of the goals for this trip was to see Mt. St. Helens and I had originally planned today’s route and mileage with that in mind. However, if you recall from yesterday’s post, we had seen a signpost for something called the “Ape Caves”. With a name like that, who could resist checking it out?

So we headed out, back the way we came for a few miles until we got to the “Ape Caves” turnoff. The road in to the caves parking lot was pretty quiet and fun to ride. After a few more miles riding we came to the parking lot …
Ape Caves Parking Lot

The Ape Caves themselves are actually lava tubes and don’t have anything to do with apes … sadly. The story on the apes is that back before the caves were discovered in the early 1900’s, some Boy Scouts were out in the area camping and at the same time some prospectors or surveyors were working. The Scouts were up on a ridge above where the men were working and spotted them below. Being smart-ass kids, they started whooping it up and tossing pumice stones down onto the men. The men, not really being able to see clearly what was up on the ridge thought they saw “apes” tossing boulders down on them! Then later when the caves were discovered the story of the “apes” on the ridge was recalled and the locals put the two together – probably realizing the tourism benefits even then!

The lava tubes called the Ape Caves are one network of tons of similar formations all over the mountains of that area. The Ape Caves lava tube was formed in the long ago past by some lava from Mt St Helens running underground. After the discovery of the caves, they were added to the National Volcanic Monument.

This is the small building at the start of the trail that leads to the cave …
Ape's Headquarters Building … and called the Ape’s Headquarters because the Scout troop that found the caves renamed themselves to reflect their role in finding the caves in the first place. Note that I may have some of the details wrong here – I’m going from memory – but I have the gist of the story!)

Once inside the cave through this entrance …
Ape Cave Entrance

We took quite a few pictures down in the caves and some were pretty cool, like this one …
Inside the Ape Cave To see more Ape Caves pictures, click here for my Flickr page on Day 5 where all the pictures from that day are.

Cave entrance from insideIt was really dark down, I mean pitch black, as you might expect. Our little flashlights and headlamps didn’t throw too much light and it was pretty erie down there. After about 30 minutes of hiking along in the gloom, we turned back to the original entrance. It was pretty hard hiking since, because it was chilly in the caves, we left our riding gear on, including the touring boots, which aren’t made for hiking in! Eventually we got back to the entrance, and headed back to the bikes.

So it was now close to noon and we still had to get to Mt St Helens and then out to Raymond for the night. Back on the road we whipped past Cougar and continued on to the infamous Interstate 5 that runs north-south in Washington. Pulling onto a freeway for only the second time on the trip, we booted along for only a few minutes until we pulled off onto the road leading up to Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt St Helens. But first – lunch! We stopped at Burger King just off the highway, sat down to a fine lunch of a Whopper and fries. While we were sitting there eating, a fellow biker all leathered up rolled in on a custom painted Hayabusa and sat near us. We chatted a bit, he had taken the day from work in Portland, OR, a ways south and had ridden fast from there to the Burger King for lunch, then he’d be heading back south. Just a day trip on the Interstate for him.

St Helens in the distanceBack out on the road, we soon left the built-up area behind and headed into the woods on a wonderfully twisted road. At some points we could see Mt St Helens off in the distance and As we climbed and headed east, getting closer the landscape became more and more barren … the trees thinned out and we started seeing stumps that were totally blown apart. To see all the pictures we took of Mt St Helens, click
here for my Flickr page on Day 5 where all the pictures from that day are.

I’ll add more tomorrow!

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 5 Part 2

Aug 17, 2011 – At the end of Part 1, we were zipping along the Spirit Lake Highway on our way to the Johnston Ridge Observatory overlooking Mt St Helens. The highway itself was pretty new, the original track out this way was severely damaged by the eruption. The scenery changed mile by mile the closer we got the mountain – fewer trees and more barren landscape.

Mt St Helens over the Ridge

Mt St Helens looms over the ridge ahead …

By mid-afternoon, we rolled into the parking lot and made the short hike up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Ian near the Observatory with Mt St Helens over the shoulder

Ian poses near the Observatory with Mt St Helens over the shoulder

The stump on the right side of the picture was one of the trees that was blasted by the eruption.
Blasted Stump

Blasted Stump

We spent a good hour wandering around the Observatory, surrounded by people of all ages and kinds – it’s a popular place. And here’s the vista we all came to see …

Mt St Helens - looking south

Mt St Helens – looking south

– extremely disfigured mountain, scarred terrain and mudflow channels. Awesome, spectacular – and strangely disquieting, it could erupt at anytime! Although, we’d probably have at least enough warning to get back west out of the danger zone – we hope!

Some lady walking past Louise taking my picture offered to take a picture of us together, and for whatever reason, Louise closed her eyes! She does hate her picture being taken, so maybe this was her way of saying “if I can’t see it happening, maybe it isn’t happening!”

Louise and Ian

Louise and Ian at Johnston Ridge Observatory

By 5pm or so, after a quick Latte and snack at the curb side trailer diner place, we mounted up again and headed for the coast. What I thought would be just a quick 1 hour run to Raymond actually turned out to 2 hours of riding into the setting sun. The last few miles of the road was pretty boring too, mostly straight, few turns and not much scenery.

Golden Lion Inn

Golden Lion Inn

Finally by 8pm or so we arrived in the little town of Raymond. The original plan was to camp at the local municipal campground, but once we found it, (GPS directions have issues with small city blocks!), it turned out to be … a parking lot for RVs and 5th wheel units, no grass anywhere. So after a couple of minutes of barking at each other, we decided to head back to the town proper and check out the Golden Lion Inn, whose sign we saw from the highway going past.

We went in with pretty low expectations, which were confirmed when I paid for the room – $65 all in. But we were pleasantly surprised with the room itself! The main room was old fashioned but clean, and the bathroom was recently renovated and was bright and clean with big fluffy towels! Excellent – expectations exceeded!

Bikes parked right in front

Bikes parked right in front

After getting all unpacked and stuff, we set off in search of some food, but all we found was some junk food at the local 7-11. Tomorrow we’d be heading for Vampire country, so we figured we’d better some sleep!

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 4

Aug 16, 2011 – Today we traveled down a good portion of the Columbia River gorge and then back up into the mountains just south of Mt St Helens, for a total of about 248 miles. The goal was to get to a campground in Cougar, WA.

After a rather bland but free breakfast at the hotel, we geared up and pulled out just before 10am.

Packing up at the BW WallaWalla

Walla Walla isn’t that big, so we got out on the highway pretty quickly. One thing that surprised us was that we didn’t see any Walla Walla onions … anywhere. Not in town, not along the highway coming in and leaving. Nothing. It’s like Walla Walla onions never existed. Or maybe Walla Walla onions are a figment of my imagination … or it’s a completely different Walla Walla.

Anyway, back out on the road, it was surprising how much the terrain had changed compared to the previous day. It was more rocky and beige on both sides of the river, but the river gorge itself was pretty spectacular. There were some very large barges, some filled with grain and others empty slowly making their way up and down the river.

Near the Columbia River

Near the Columbia River

River Barge

River Barge

We started out crossing the border into Oregon for a few miles before crossing a bridge taking us to the north side of the river. This was a secondary highway – the wider freeway was on the south side.

On the bridge going north

On the bridge going north

It was hot, real hot, so we pulled off the highway onto the road to Yakima and stopped a little place for a drink and a rest … and some shade!

Stopped for a drink and shade

Stopped for a drink and shade

Anther hour or so along the highway, and we made it to the turn-off where we headed north to Cougar – and we were headed back into the mountains. I have no idea what I was looking at here: Trees? Clouds?

Trees? Clouds?

Trees? Clouds?

Or the “Apes Caves”? WTH?
Apes Caves?

Ape Caves?

More on the Ape Caves later. Heading up the road we got higher in altitude and further into the mountains. Tunnels!



By just before 5pm, we arrived at Cougar and started looking for the campground. We toured the Municipal Park and Campground, but it wasn’t what we were looking for. So we stopped in at the Cougar Gas Station and General Store to top off the tanks and check in on where the campground was. It was a long hot day, as Louise’s look here shows …

A Tired Louise

A Tired Louise

Turns out the campground was less that 5 minutes further up the road, so off we went, set up camp, made some dinner, had a shower, and hit the sleeping bags …

Campsite at Cougar Campground

Campsite at Cougar Campground

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 3 Part 2

Aug 15, 2011 – After riding southwest (mostly) along the Clearwater River, we came across the little town of Lowell, ID.

Lowell, ID

Lowell has a population of 24, no wait … 23!

We needed some gas, so we filled up at the Cougar Canyon Service Station. This was a bit confusing because one of our destinations later was … Cougar, WA, where we camped for the night.

Cougar Canyon Gas - Lowell, ID

Cougar Canyon Gas – Lowell, ID

We also needed lunch, so we parked in front of the cafe next door – Ryan’s Wilderness Cafe …

Ryan's Wilderness Cafe - Lowell, ID

Ryan’s Wilderness Cafe – Lowell, ID

The food was pretty good, and the fruit pie that I had was delicious! Next to our table was a couple that Louise had chatted with briefly back at the Lolo Pass summit. It turns out that this was their second trip across the US – the first they did in 2010 on bicycles. Here’s a shot of the interior of the cafe:

Interior of Ryan's Wilderness Cafe

Interior of Ryan’s Wilderness Cafe

We continued on down the highway along the river and stopped for a bio break where Louise took this “candid camera” shot of me …

Candid Camera

Candid Camera

Here’s a pretty good picture of how we had the bikes loaded …

Bikes loaded

Bikes loaded

Eventually, the further southwest we went, the scenery changed from mountains, rivers and trees to hills, bush and far less green.

Dry and tan - looking back at Louise

Dry and tan – looking back at Louise

Dry and tan fields replaced green mountains

Dry and tan fields replaced green mountains

After a few miles of winding road through fields and the towns of Lewiston/Clarkson we reached Walla Walla, WA for the night. We thought at first that we’d camp at a “campground” but one of the big lessons that I learned was that a “campground” in most cities, usually meant a parking lot for RVs. At Walla Walla, it went one step further – it was actually a gated community!

So tired, hot and a little frustrated, we spotted the Best Western Walla Walla and wheeled in for the night. After getting the gear off the bikes and into the room, Louise needed to grease her chain, so while I duck-walked the bike around the parking lot, Louise crouched down by the rear wheel and sprayed lube on the chain. Yes, we did get some stares from some of the folks in the parking lot. After a shower and change we crossed the street to some mexican food chain restaurant, like the old ChiChi’s if anyone remembers that. The best part of a totally forgettable meal was the ice-cold Dos Equis beer!

Ice-cold Dos Equis beer!

Ice-cold Dos Equis beer!

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 3 Part 1

Aug 15, 2011 – I know it’s taken a long long time to get these posts up, but when we had the internet, I was too tired to write anything, and when I was not too tired we had no internet! Lame excuses I know, I should have just got it done.

Now when I first laid out the route for this trip, I was consciously trying to stay as far away from Interstates and freeways as possible. Instead I wanted to ride secondary highways and see smaller towns and hopefully some more rustic places to stay when we weren’t camping. The roads turned out to be everything I was hoping for, but there were two other aspects of the trip that I hadn’t considered – mountain passes and interesting people. Yes, I knew early on that Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway on Day 2 would be spectacular, but I hadn’t thought of any of the other passes that we’d be going over – never even looked at the maps to see what passes were there! So it was a bit of a surprise to find another spectacular pass today – Lolo Pass between Montana and Idaho.

Anyway, day 3 of the PNW trip found us waking up in Missoula at the Holiday Inn. Louise wasn’t hungry, but I was a bit so I snuck out and got a Latte and a muffin from the hotel lobby store. Both were very tasty! Then we started packing up the bikes.

Packing the bikes at the HI in Missoula, MT

Packing the bikes at the HI in Missoula, MT

The nice thing about this hotel was that we got a room on the ground floor just around the corner from the lobby, so getting the stuff out to the bikes was easy. In addition, the night before when we checked in and I asked where to park the bikes, I was told to just leave them where they were – right out in front of the lobby doors – that way the staff could keep an eye on them all night. I like hotels like that!

While we were packing the packing the bikes we noticed another VStrom parked right beside the doors.

Another VStrom - in Missoula

VStrom in Missoula

This VStrom was almost an exact match for Louise’s – same year, similar luggage mounts, Givi top case, black, and engine guards. If I recall it was also from Alberta! We didn’t meet the owner though.

It was about 10am when we pulled out of the hotel parking lot and got on our way out of Missoula. It’s actually quite a picturesque place with a major river running through the city, crossed by a few wide bridges. Past the bridges and farther away from the river, the highway out of town sported the usual big box stores and chain restaurants.

Our destination for today was Walla Walla, WA, but first we had to go over the Lolo Pass. There’s a little town called Lolo in western Montana, that’s where we split off of the highway and onto Highway 12, heading west into the mountains. It was a fairly short but twisty ride up to the summit of Lolo Pass, where a well maintained Visitor’s Center was located.

Lolo Pass Visitor's Center

Lolo Pass - 5225 ft

We stopped and the first thing I noticed was that the parking lot was mostly empty! In fact the motorbikes easily outnumbered the cars. This was a far cry from the previous day on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway at Logan Pass, where the parking lot was packed and the highway almost bumper to bumper.

The Lolo Pass parking lot

More motorcycles than cars!

We talked to a few folks – one older couple from Europe were driving around the west, eventually heading back to Calgary for a couple of days before flying back home. They asked us what they could do in Calgary and we suggested Heritage Park and the Calgary Tower. There was another couple on BMWs that Louise spoke with for a few minutes. They were from Chicago and were relatively new to motorcycling, but they had ridden a similar route from Chicago to Seattle on bicycles and decided to try it on motorcycles. We’d run into them again a little later.

A couple of guys were already in the parking lot when we rolled in and left just before we did. They were riding KLR650 bikes all on backcountry trails! No roads for them. They looked a little rough from more than a week on the trails.

Just as we got back on the bikes a guy on an older bike picked than specific time to come up and chat. He talked and talked and talked – just one of the few “characters” we’d meet on the road. I wish I had taken a picture of him so I could recall his bike and what he looked like.

Shortly after pulling back out on the road, we noticed a sign – Caution – Twisty Road – next 100 miles”. Excellent!!

Here’s an example of the twisties – and one of the first pics I took from the bike, holding my camera upside down to take the shot! (I rotated the pics in iPhoto before uploading them).

Twisties west of Lolo Pass, ID

Twisties west of Lolo Pass, ID

The highway down from Lolo Pass follows the Clearwater river and we stopped once just to take a couple of pictures …

Taking a pic of Ian taking a pic

Taking a pic of Ian taking a pic along the Clearwater River, ID

Taking a pic of Louise taking a pic of me

Taking a pic of Louise taking a pic of me stopped by the Clearwater River, ID

Continued in Part 2!

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 2 Part 2

Aug 14, 2011 – After wandering the Logan Pass visitor centre, we headed back to the bikes and set off down the western side of the pass. Here’s where words failed to describe the view both down the valley and back up behind us as we descended down. The road down was under construction most of the way – the pavement was pretty well stripped off, down to dirt and the construction crews had been watering the roadway to keep the dust down. This made some of the corners a little dicey on the bikes.

Going down the west side of Logan Pass, road under construction

Once we were past the construction, the pavement was nice and smooth, the road brilliant, and the views breathtaking. I’m not sure that any of the pictures either of us took can really show what the views were like.

West side of Going-to-the-Sun Highway, from the bike

There were parts of the road where the road was almost as spectacular as the scenery in terms of the roughness. Lots of twists, a few tunnels and surprisingly, not as much traffic as I thought there’d be.

Twisty roads going west on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway

West down the Going-to-the-Sun Highway - one of a few tunnels

Tunnel Entrance west on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway

Our neighbour at Johnsons Campground has suggested that we stop at a cafe in West Glacier called Eddie’s. It was just after noon or 1pm or so – somewhere along the highway we’d switched from Mountain time to Pacific time so we were a little confused with the exact hour. So we rode around until we found Eddie’s, then we rode around some more looking for a place to park. As usual, there’s safety in numbers and we eventually just parked the bikes beside a couple of others.

Parking at Eddie's, West Glacier

Parking the bikes at Eddie's

While the food was OK, the service was really bad – so unless there’s not much going on at Eddie’s if you’re there, I can’t really recommend it. There were some more interesting people we met though.

First, in the picture above there’s a bike in the top right corner of the picture – it’s from Indiana. Turns out the guy riding that bike, from Indianapolis, was on a big adventure after retiring and was riding west to the coast to see his daughter in San Diego. He was pretty much making up the route on the fly and we got talking about roads and routes in Washington, and I suggested a couple of different roads based on the Destination Highways Washington book I have covering the best rides in the state. He left, and we did shortly after.

Second, while we were getting geared up to head out, we got talking to a guy riding an nearly new Harley parked on the left side of Louise. He’s from Reno, Nevada and owns a motorcycle parts store there. He had tons of stories and it was kinda hard disengaging to get going!

The rest of the day was to simply involve riding south to the small city of Missoula, past the large Flathead Lake in western Montana. We opted to go down the east side of the lake, which is a bit shorter. As we rode just south of the small town of Bigfork at the north end of the the lake, the thermometer on my bike was reading 39 C, so we stopped at a gas station somewhere in Woods Bay.

While we were stopped there sitting in the shade drinking water, we experienced the first of what was to be a regular occurrence on this trip.

Papa's Market in Woods Bay, MT

Water and Shade at Papa's Market

Someone would come up and ask Louise some variation of “Is that your VStrom?” In this first noticed case “Kevin” drove up in open sided Jeep, and started asking about the VStrom because he has one at home. He stopped at the store for a coke, but wound up chatting with us for almost half an hour! When we told him our planned route to Missoula, he said – no, no you have to take this other more fun road, the one we’re on is booorrring. He volunteered to have us follow him back to his place to get a map so we could see what road it was.

I managed figure out the road with my laptop, then plugged in the GPS’s and downloaded the new route. It added about 20 miles to the route but promised to be much more fun. We could easily make up the time on the Interstate into Missoula. With our drinks finished, we saddled up and headed back up the road about 8 miles the way we came to the intersection with Highway 83, aka Swan Highway, aka Daryl Soltesz Memorial Highway. I don’t know who Daryl is or was, I just looked on Google, but I suspect a Montana State Trooper killed in the line of duty. What ever the road is called, Kevin was right, this was a great road, very scenic, little traffic, and great pavement.

Pavement on Highway 83, Montana

Pavement on Highway 83, Montana

We stopped at Seeley Lake for gas and I think the temperature was over 40 C at this point – darn hot!

Getting gas in Seeley Lake, MT

Getting gas in Seeley Lake, MT

Then we did about 15 minutes on the Interstate and arrived at Missoula, then started looking for a motel. After a few minutes of driving past some dumps, we settled on a the Holiday Inn, which turned out to be an almost new building on the edge of downtown Missoula! Very nice place at a great place.
Holiday Inn at Missoula, MT

Holiday Inn at Missoula, MT

After I’d checked in, I asked the clerk for a dinner recommendation and he suggested a brew pub a few blocks away called, I think, the Kettlehouse – memory’s a little faded now. The meal was good, the service a little sketchy, but the walk down and back to the hotel was nice. We then proceeded to crash for the night.


PNW 2011 Trip – Day 2 Part 1

Aug 14, 2011

Looking west up to Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway

Wow, OMG, Holy &^%@ – These words were repeated over and over again today as we rode the Going-To-The-Sun Highway over the Logan Pass and through the Glacier National Park. The views were stunning and the riding was oh so great. The only downside to the whole day was the massive amount of people milling around the Logan Pass Summit.

Logan Pass parking lot

The day started with getting up after a pretty good night’s sleep in the new tent. This wasn’t the first night in the new tent though, we used it for 2 nights a few weeks ago when we went on the VStrom Run to the Hills ride in the Kananaskis. There was a really brief thunderstorm that the edge just caught us, for a single flash, crash and brief splash early in the morning. Louise’s earplugs worked well, but we still got up fairly early.

After packing everything up, we headed down to the Johnson’s Cafe for breakfast. The breakfast menu is a little different in that they serve the food “family style” – essentially everything that you order comes out on one plate, then you spoon off what you want onto your own plate. The food was excellent and as is the case for most American food establishments, the quantity of food was huge. It’s hard to leave hungry! We stopped at the office to try to connect with Robert over FaceTime, but the internet at the campsite wasn’t good enough or it blocked video out. Anyway, this dog:

Hairless Husky - 15 years old and suffering from cancer

was 15 years old and was wearing a shirt because he’d lost his hair from cancer. The shirt was pretty nasty though, but the dog’s owner promised to get him a new one soon!

The Going-to-the-Sun Highway begins pretty much at the Glacier Park gates where we paid our $12 each park entrance fee and stopped just inside the gates at the information centre to apply some sunscreen and take a few pictures.

Does my butt look baggy here?

Only the shadow knows ...

Starting out on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway

We pulled back out on the road and headed west towards the Pass. The road started innocently enough, but as we got higher and higher, the road got more and more interesting. Once we got to the pass we thought we’d been on the best the road had to offer, but no … the best was yet to come. But more on that later.

Going-to-the-Sun Highway looking east

We stopped at the pass where we parked the bikes with a number of others (safety in numbers) and went for a little walkabout. There’s still some snow at the pass – it only opened in late May.

Louise and snow at Logan Pass

Walkabout at Logan Pass

Inside the info centre and store I found a hoodie sweater (because I needed another layer – I was chilly last night) with the Going-to-the-Sun on it, bought it and I think I’ve worn it every day since.

There were a number of bikes parked in the lot, but all were up front at the end of the car-parking rows.

Motorcycle Parking Only

PNW 2011 Trip – Day 1

Aug 13, 2011 – After nearly a year of planning and thinking, we finally left on what will be our second longest motorcycle trip ever – this one will be 2 weeks and 2 days. It’s also Louise’s first trip on her new VStrom. We spent nearly all Friday night packing and getting everything ready, and on Saturday morning, we got the bikes packed up and by 10am, we were on the road! Well almost, we had to stop for gas first and then it took almost 45 minutes to actually get out of the city, but, OK, by 145am we were on Highway 2 south of Calgary.

The plan was to head south to Nanton, then take Highway 533 to the Cowboy Trail – Highway 22 south. We’d stop at Pincher Creek for some food and gas, then continue down past Waterton National Park, through the Chief Mountain border crossing into the US and stop for the night at Johnson’s Campground in St. Mary, Montana, right on the eastern gate to the Glacier National Park.

Along the way, I learned how to take photos with my Sony pocket cam, from the bike. We had a great meal at Johnson’s Cafe and met some nice folks on a motorcycle from Salt Lake City, Utah, who camped right next to us.

Tomorrow, we tackle the Going to the Sun Highway over Logan Pass right through the Glacier National Park.

So here’s some pictures!