Saturday, 13 July 2013

Hot Lava Scooter Tour 2013 - Part 2 - Longview WA to Mt. St. Helen's - July 7

OK  - one thing I want to make absolutely clear. Last blog, I detailed the rather long ride from Maple Ridge to Longview, WA. I want to reemphasize that the Vespa 250 GTS was an awesome way to get there. It purred, or buzzed, without issue for the whole ride. My Vespa does occasionally act up in rush hour, bumper to bumper traffic but never has an issue on the highway.

Enough said.

After a fairly restless night (thanks to the thin walls and banging doors of the 'quality' inn) I got up and headed down for breakfast. I must have missed something growing up because the places we stayed at when I was a kid never had a waffle maker. Truth be told, I don't even particularly like waffles but I love the little waffle machines that are in so many American motels. So, I had myself a waffle and felt happy that I had constructed it myself!

After checking out, I headed out of Longview and towards Mt. St. Helens. I was not feeling very positive about going up to the observatory - it was cloudy and cool and I figured that the top of the road would be shrouded in thick clouds. I even thought of going south across the Columbia River just to say I'd been to Oregon. However, I decided to give it a shot and headed up the highway.

My first stop was the Mt St. Helen's Silver Lake Visitor Center. I was a bit early so I hung around with the other early birds until it opened. There were some displays and an excellent film that gave good background on Mt. St. Helen's. For a charge of $5, I think it was worth it to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the whole event. Interestingly, I asked the ranger-girl if the gas station at Kid Valley was open but she didn't know (not great) but she did say that the sun was shining at the top (really great). 

I was terribly worried about having enough gas so I made sure that I filled up at Toutle - Kid Valley was not much farther along so I drove past. I then headed up the highway towards Mt. St. Helens.

I continued on the road until the next park stop, Hofstadt Bluffs. There were some interesting views here and I felt like a coffee. I asked the ranger-barista if the coffee was good and she replied that she didn't know. I then ordered a latté which turned out to be pretty awful (although at Starbuck's prices!). I also received a few texts from Canada at this time so I guess I wasn't that far away from things. 
I continued up through the mists, GoPro camera humming away. I did, in fact, get my camera the night before I left (something that I had resigned myself to not happening) and I thought this road would provide good footage. I was amazed that I could actually set up the camera by using my iPhone to preview the image and make changes to the camera settings. 

The next stop should have been the free Forest Learning Center but there were so many clouds that I thought that I wouldn't be able to see anything. 


I stopped several times on the way up as I began to encounter scenic viewpoints. Happily, as I continued my ascent, the weather slowly cleared and I was able to see some great views of Mt. St. Helens. 

At the top is Johnson Observatory. To access the observatory and the trails, there is an $8 charge - but I was pressed for time so I thought I'd just go to the viewpoint and soak in the view there. As I was standing at the front of the viewpoint, I realized that a ranger was giving a talk and people were freely moving in and out of the observatory. I further realized that I was supposed to pay the $8 even to access the outdoor viewpoint! 

I slowly and nonchalantly stepped back from the viewpoint, noticing, for the first time, the big "Stop" signs that insisted on paying before accessing the viewpoint. Oops! Luckily, I didn't get caught - and I saved myself the $8! 

I wandered back to the parking lot and began my exciting descent down the mountain - and it was a lot of fun! I zoomed by a number of bicycles which were a bit close on the road but there were no collisions. Moving from sun to cloud, I thoroughly enjoyed the twisties on the way down. I sped past numerous cyclists and was passed by some motorcycles. 

All in all, both the views and the riding were excellent and I was glad that I had made the effort to go up to the observatory. 

I stopped at Kid Valley and gassed up. I had gone 170km since the morning. 

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