Tuesday 29 July 2008

Trip to Seattle

As I sit here in front of the computer, I am basking in the glow of success after completing my Vespa ride on 50ccs to Seattle and back. Woot!


Odometer Reading - 8661 km

I left yesterday morning,, taking the Albion Ferry once again. I take a photo almost every time I cross lately because the ferry will stop running when the Golden Ears Bridge is complete in 2009. I’ll miss the ferry, especially since I get to jump to the front of the line on my Vespa!

When I got to the border, I had a good chat with the US border guard who couldn’t quite believe I was headed for Seattle. He was pretty amazed at my mileage and wished me luck. Pretty cool!

As I rode into Bellingham, 2 hours after I left home, the weather was still sunny but wasn’t particularly warm. I stopped in the downtown area and parked at a meter that thankfully had some time still on it as I didn’t have any US change on me. As I looked at a couple of restaurants, I was famished as I hadn’t had any breakfast yet.

The first place that grabbed my attention was the Horseshoe Cafe. Looking closer, it seemed pretty empty and was more a bar than a cafe. Around the corner, though, was a restaurant called Little Cheerful. It was busy and smelled good!

I sat down and the waiter greeted me with a “Howdy”, not something I usually hear in Canada. The breakfast I ordered was the Cyclops (one egg) and was very tasty - especially the hash browns mixed with fried onions. I didn’t feel that the portions were huge - they were just right. The coffee was excellent - heady praise from a guy that usually drinks only latt├ęs.

I left Bellingham and headed down Chuckanut Drive. I stopped near a viewing spot and took a snap of the ocean. Sad thing was, there was a car parked beside me with a person living in it. I’ve heard about people living in their cars but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it happen.

Chuckanut Drive was one of the most beautiful rides I have taken.

Imagine, I’ve lived just a couple hours north of the drive and I’ve never taken this scenic route.

It was delightful!

At Burlington, I took the road - under construction, lots of rocks, “motorcycles use extreme caution” - to connect to SR 20 and headed towards Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Islands.

Just before I crossed onto the island, I went to the Swinomish Northern Lights Casino. I spent my customary $5 and lasted almost a half an hour!

I liked the dedicated motorcycle parking at the casino - I’d love to see more of that sort of thing.

The island road was a nice ride but because it was a main highway, and I didn’t really go off that road, the scenery was just OK.

The photo above was one of the exceptions - Pass Lake just past Desolation Pass. This part of the ride was over 40 miles so it took a while.

Odometer Reading at Deception Pass - 8807 km
Fuel used - 0.879 gallon

At the south end of Whidbey Island I took the ferry to Mukilteo on the mainland. It was a $3 ferry which lasted about 20 minutes.

It was a very enjoyable ride on a mostly empty ferry. I had time to eat a bowl of Ivars clam chowder.

Before I went back t the car deck, I took this photo from above of my Vespa.
After docking, I rode south into Seattle. As the weather warmed up, the traffic increased - something that I’m used to from riding in Vancouver (I actually don’t mind riding in traffic).

Odometer Reading at Seattle - 8925 km

Last night I stayed at the Moore Hotel - downtown, clean, and cheap ($74). It was a pretty small room but fine to sleep in. I dumped my stuff, parked the scooter in a secure parking lot, phoned the family to tell them I had arrived safely, and headed to Pike Market to grab a bite.

I ended up at the Soundview Cafe and had an excellent meal of crab cakes accompanied by a nice glass of zinfandel.

That night I got together with Navin, a university fraternity buddy I hadn’t seen in over 25 years. We had a great time catching up on each others lives and mutual friends.

We went to an area called Fremont (Fremont Troll pictured above) and hoisted a few pints at a bar called the Red Door. The years seemed to disappear as we chatted and laughed about things past and present. We finally ended up at the Whisky Bar, near my hotel, for a final night cap before I retired to the room at about 1 AM.


Feeling a bit fuzzy in the morning, I had a cereal bar and headed out into Seattle.

I like Seattle. I like Vancouver more but seems to be a similar type city - sort of a parallel universe version of Vancouver.

I went to the secure parking which only charged me half price because I was on a scooter. Nice!

I left the garage and rode north up a series of giant hills. Poor Vespa! I made my way past forbidding I-5 signs through different parts of Seattle - Lakeview, Kenmore, Bothell and ended up in Woodinside! This was a surprise because that’s where Navin lives! I didn’t try to find his house but at least I’ll know for next time.

I eventually connected with Highway 9, making my way through traffic and construction, stopping at Snohomish for breakfast/lunch. It’s a great little place with western looking false fronts...

That is, except for the neo classical Roman building!

Stopped at Grilla Bites for a great coffee and and sandwich (turkey, avocado and bacon).

Big Lake - Odometer Reading: 9070 km
Fuel used - 0.952 gallon

I continued on Highway 9 because around Big Lake, the traffic disappeared. It was a great riding highway, nice curves, not too hilly, lots of trees.

I stopped at Sedro Wooley for a pop and, despite the beautiful square downtown and the nice residential streets, the rest of the downtown core looked pretty nasty.

Maybe the fact that it started to rain coloured my impression.

I continued on Highway 9 until the Lynden turnoff and then through the border and home. It was the soggy portion of the ride but I stayed warm and relatively dry as I had expected a lot more rain than I actually got.

At home, I parked the Vespa, hung up all my rainwear to dry and sat back, feeling success at completing what was for me a challenging ride. And only 2 or 3 near death experiences!

Now, where to go next summer.....

Final Odometer Reading - 9183 km

Total Distance - 522 km

Average consumption - 94.5 miles/gallon OR 3.65 L/100km

Saturday 26 July 2008

Seattle Bound

Couple of things for today's blog.

First, the comments on my last entry were very engaging for me to read. As I tell my kids at school, I don't care if you agree with me, just make sure you tell me why. I appreciate the time people take to comment - I know that I read a lot of different blogs but I'm terrible at taking the time to comment. Many thanks.

Second, a reader made a comment today on a blog entry from over a year ago (A Recovered Stolen Car and a Ride in Pitt Polder). His comment was this:
Alex said...

Sounds like you're really taking that thing wherever it can go.
By the way, I've been bouncing an idea of taking my Vespa ( Now a 70cc due to an upgrade) across the rockies... Anyone have a suggestion as to the fastest route across, starting from Vancouver....That obviously wouldn't get me run over by an 18 wheeler?
...Ultimately, I'm considering getting across Canada
on my Vespa. But first things first.

I replied:

I think a ride across the Rockies is great - I would suggest using Google maps and check the "Avoid Highways" box.

I'd like to go across Canada too but not this summer....

I'm also interested to see if anyone out there in the blogosphere has a route from Vancouver to the Rockies?

Finally, it looks like I'll be heading for Seattle on Monday. I have a long lost University buddy that I'll meet up with there, I've planned out a route on Google Maps, and the weather looks like it will be OK. I have to say, I'm getting excited! More info to come soon!

Thursday 17 July 2008

Carbon Footprint

Ahh, the carbon tax. A perfect way for me to make enemies of my friends and tick off everyone else I meet.

But first, a little background.

The government here in BC has decided to add a tax to our gasoline - which is already taxed - to help reduce consumption and, therefore, to reduce pollution. It also applies to home heating, propane and diesel.

The tax is stating at 2.4¢ a litre (about a dime a gallon) and will rise each year. In four years it will be about 7 and a half cents. To help compensate people during the initial phase, every person in BC recently received a cheque for $100 to make it revenue neutral - sort of a way to ease you into it.

With our gas hitting $1.50 a litre ($6 a gallon), a lot of people are mad about this.

Not me.

In fact, I wish it was more. Yeah, I know it’s an unpopular stance.

Many people will not change their driving habits or what they drive if they’re told that the environment is suffering. But hit them in the pocket book and, lo and behold, people start driving less, buying fewer SUVs, and thinking about riding a bus, taking their bike or even (gulp) buying a scooter!

I think this is exactly the kickstart that people need to make real change to our environmental challenges. The only problem I have with the whole carbon tax thing is that it’s not certain that the money will go to fighting climate change.

How about this? Add 25 cents a litre ( a buck a gallon) and put that money straight into something that will really change how we do things. Public transit, zero emission vehicles, you name it.

Did I tick you off?

I’ll get off my soapbox now....

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Summer's here!

Ahhh, summer... here at last.

A few days ago, we had a family luncheon in West Vancouver. The day was so nice that I thought I’d take the scoot and meet the family at my brother-in-law’s newly renovated house.

The ride was pleasant and warm from Maple Ridge to Vancouver. Once I was downtown, the traffic increased but was fine.

To get to West Vancouver, the road goes through a causeway in a huge park called Stanley Park. After the causeway is the famous Lions Gate Bridge which connects West Vancouver (part of the North Shore) to the city of Vancouver.

The causeway is three lanes so there was one going to West Van on the day I was riding. I was a bit worried about keeping up but the traffic was a bit congested so I had no problems.

The most exciting part was when I was on the Lions Gate Bridge. (Above picture from here) I’ve been on a few bridges already but not one so scenic and so high! It was a bit windy which was a bit scary but the thrill of being up on top of the world was amazing!

When I reached my brother-in-law Rob’s place, my little nieces and my year-old nephew were very excited by the Vespa. I didn’t take them for a ride but they had a blast posing on the seat.

Then I did what I always do when people admire my Vespa - I invited Rob to take it for a spin. He was gone for about 15 or 20 minutes (I was just a little bit nervous) and returned with a large smile on his face.

There were some beautiful views off of their deck. In the picture above, there is a great photo of the Lions Gate Bridge. Behind the bridge are the trees from Stanley Park. The city is beyond that.

After a great time,. I headed back through Vancouver, taking this photo of a couple of Vancouver’s tourist attractions, Christ Church Cathedral and a tour tram. Unfortunately, when putting away the camera in my pocket (as the light turned green) I jammed the lens and now my new camera from Japan (which isn’t covered by the warranty in Canada) is kaput. Oh well, at least summer’s here!