Sunday 29 July 2012

Mille Bornes - The Olympic Peninsula Ride Part 3

Wet start to the road home
So why "Mille Bornes"? There was this card game I used to play when I was a kid - and the point of it was to go 1000 milestones or 1000 km or before your opponents - so I guess it was a race. This trip almost ended up being 1000 km so I thought it fit.

Last time, I was at the Olympic hotel in Aberdeen, Washington. This is a hotel that would be good for the Lobsters - that group of guys I cycle and hike with - or my fishing buddy Craig.  However, I would not suggest it for a family or even a spouse.

It was clean but smelled like a rehabbed smoking room - I did ask for non-smoking - meaning that it had recently been changed to non-smoking but the curtains, carpets, and, indeed, walls, still retained a nicotine and smoke aroma. It was clean but shabby. The furniture was comfortable but old and well worn. The shower was a bit grungy but clean enough. The room was certainly roomy but you didn't really want to look to closely at the carpet. The sheets were clean but the bedspread looked a bit grungy. You get the picture.

I had a surprisingly good continental breakfast where they had a waffle maker and batter - and I've only seen that once before. The coffee was good and the milk was real - not some crappy oil product - and I settled into a nice breakfast. The other guy in the room, another guest, was watching the news and then piped up about how the public sector unions just didn't get it because they weren't willing to take cuts. Everyone else was so the public sector was full of idiots. As a teacher who just grudgingly settled for a 0% increase contract after losing 3 days to a strike, I thought of starting an argument but, in all honestly, the situation may be quite different in the US than in Canada. Still, anytime people take a pay cut, their standard of living goes down - heck, that even happens when you get a zero increase - inflation ensures that you can do less with the same amount of money....

Leave Aberdeen - 8am - 537 km

I left Aberdeen just as the rains came. It wasn't a torrential rain but light which made things a bit cool and wet. I slowed down my driving a bit but everything seemed to perform fine on the road. Although the weather wasn't that great, I  thought the scenery was better here on the south coast than on the west coast of the peninsula. I continued on until I needed a quick break at the Elma (Elmo's sister?) rest stop. It was a good stop - clean toilets and large area - and there was a sort of concession stand at the stop. Operated by a vet, it was coffee by donation. He was nice guy and we had a bit of a chat while I drank my coffee.

Elma Rest Stop
Interestingly, the rest stop had a sign posted declaring that there was a 9 hour time limit at the rest stop - usually this would seem laughable to me, but thinking of the homeless people I had seen at other American rest stops on the way down to California last summer, it was actually a bit sad.

Betwixt and between good and bad weather
Half way along the south part of the road, I came upon some sunshine. In fact, I stopped, and it seemed as if there was an actual dividing line between the crappy weather I had come from and the sunny weather where I was going.

A pretty spot along Highway 12
I really enjoyed this part of the ride along Highway 12. The weather was nice, the scenery was beautiful, and the traffic was very light. I stopped a few time to take pictures on the way. I eventually connected up with Highway 101 and headed up towards Port Townsend.

Grey view from the Port Townsend ferry
Port Townsend - 11pm - 735 km
Finally, I arrived in Port Townsend. I gassed up and then made my way to the ferry. Again, I lucked out, arriving just a few minutes before the ferry left. By this time the weather had changed back to cloudy and grey, as can be seen by the photos I included. This time, the snack bar on the ferry was open and I realized that I had a bit of a chill. I grabbed a hot coffee and a wonderfully warmed pretzel for a snack.

When I got off the ferry, I took the wrong turn and ended up on the mile long U-turn route for getting on the ferry. I pulled an illegal U-turn and prepared to blast off when I saw something wonderful - a fawn wondering in front of me, out onto the road. I slowly rode back, making sure that people knew about the deer and wouldn't hit her. Sometimes taking a wrong turn is the best way to go.....

Deception Pass - 783 km

Parked near Deception Pass bridge
With the Olympic peninsula behind me, I felt I could take more time. This time, after I crossed the bridges that go over Deception Pass, I stopped and took a look around, taking a few photos wheel I was at it.

Deception Pass Bridge from the East 
I think it's a pretty marvellous bridge - construction dates back to 1935 and the bridge looks great today. Lots of other people were stopped as well. I thought of wandering down the steep path but decided to move on.

La Conner - 806 km

Pretty La Conner - near the Olive Shoppe
The next stop was La Conner. I've heard of the place for years - the town, or places in the town, used to run TV ads when I was younger but I hadn't heard a lot about it lately. I thought it was time to finally check it out. I took a slight detour to get there and was glad that I did. It was a pretty waterfront area with a variety of stores selling many different things. I went into one store called the Olive Shoppe which had a huge variety of olives including my favourite, hard-to-find olives, picholines.

View from Pier 7
There were also a nice variety of restaurants and my stomach was telling me it was time for lunch. I ended up at the Pier 7 Restaurant. They had a great patio overlooking the water. I went for my favourite guilty pleasure, the rarely eaten fish and chips, and they were superb! The batter was nicely seasoned and not greasy. The fish itself inside the batter was tasty so I was able to leave about half the batter behind. This was accompanied by one of my favourite American brews, a Fat Tire.

Fish and Chips and a Fat Tire Beer - Tasty!
Back on the road again, I worked my way past Burlington and this time took the more easterly route until Sedro Woolley until I reached Highway 9. Once on 9, I had this distinct feeling of deja vu as I had taken this route before on my LX50. Once again, it felt so nice to nimbly scoot along the curves, stretches and twists rather than slog along, always aware that some truck or SUV would be up my butt, hurrying me along.

Acme dilapidated but awesome house
I made a quick stop at the Whatcom Lake Railway but, unfortunately, it was closed. Could have been fun. I then came to Acme and had to stop and take a couple photos. It seemed that Acme is an old town and the buildings are old - not wrecked or broken but not well maintained either. I loved the way the houses looked.

Van Zandt - 880 km

For some reason I stopped at Van Zandt and recorded my mileage. Not sure why as I didn't take any photos and can't find anything about the town. Hmmmm.

I continued north along the highway and then cut across to Lynden and then to Guide Meridian. I went north until I hit the Edaleen Dairy. I often stop there to pick up cheese on the way back to Canada. Their prices are so cheap compared to Canada that I always want to pick up the biggest hunk of cheese I can find. They also serve fancy coffees so I ordered a shot of espresso to keep me alert for the final stretch. The girl behind the counter was amazed that I actually ordered just an espresso - and told me just that!

At the border, I was asked a couple of questions of where I'd been, showed my passport, and then sped off.

Back in the land of kilometres, outrageous gas prices, and socialized medicine, I zipped along north until I returned home.

Time was around 4pm

Total km - 954 km - not quite Mille Bornes, but close enough!

Some thoughts on the trip 
- the scooter performed really well - especially day one where it ran for 10 hours!
- I liked the ride except that from Port Townsend to Aberdeen on the 101 is just too long. A better plan would be to stay on Port Townsend 2 nights and do a loop of the peninsula for day two and return from Port Townsend for day three.
- Aberdeen wasn't the best place to stay. Ocean Shores would have been nicer - ya, it costs more but you sure get what you pay for
- I'm not nearly as interested now in stopping at casinos
- the seat if my GTS is actually quite comfortable
- not having a windshield was great when it was hot but, because of the wind on the peninsula, my neck hurt, just from holding my head up
- Port Townsend and La Conner must be two of the prettiest towns in Washington state.
- maybe next year I'll have to go two night!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Mille Bornes - The Olympic Peninsula Ride Part 2

View from Port Townsend Ferry
The Coupeville - Port Townsend ferry is a nice ferry - not too small, not too long, not too expensive - in fact it was only $5.50 for me and my scoot. On board there were plenty of maps and brochures, comfortable seating, and a small cafeteria, although it was closed by the time I got there. I wandered around the boat, checking out all of the different levels and went outside a few times. The crossing was a bit more than half an hour and the weather was nice as we made our way into Port Townsend.

The Great Big Sea

After I arrived in Port Townsend, I drove around the main area by the water, looking for a place to eat. I was impressed by the town - it has a nice feel to it - a bit touristy but still friendly - and is very pleasing to the eye.

Water Street, Port Townsend
After parking (in a motorcycle specific spot, no less) I wandered around, looking for a place for lunch. I ended up stopping at the Water Street Creêerie, hoping to find a nice savoury crepe. I was not disappointed. I ordered the California crêpe which had turkey, cheese, avocado and lots of vegetables. After the friendly waiter delivered my meal, I sat outside, in the sun, and marvelled at the finished product. It was a massive thing, and I was a bit intimidated by its size but managed to finish it all off!

A tasty California  crêpe - but very big!
Left Port Townsend - 1pm 195 km

Troll Haven Castle
After my meal, I gassed up and headed out along the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. After the last bit of SR20, I hit highway 101 which was nice to ride as it went by both trees and sea. My first stop was Troll Haven in Gardiner, A little off the road, it is a group of rental homes but the one that is interesting is the castle at the entrance.

Next stop was my first - and as it turned out, my last - casino. For quite a while, I used to stop at every casino I was, dropped $5 in a slot machine, and stay until I either doubled my money or lost the $5. I thought I would reinstate the practice but it didn't turn out that well. For starters, I didn't have a $5 so I ended up putting $10 in the machine. I got ahead about $2 at the beginning and then started the slow spiral down to nothingness.

Fancy scooter in the casino
It was a lot like being in Vegas because you could smoke in the casino. I was also offered a drink by a cute waitress but declined as I still had a long ride ahead. On the way out, I noticed the non-smoking slots of which there were four or five huddled around the entrance in the lobby. Also on the way out I saw this beautiful motorcycle (not sure about the details, just know it looks nice) and then headed out on highway 101.

They were both nice stops to make and I would have made more similar stops if I didn't have such a large amount of distance to cover. It had taken me almost 5 hours to go 195 km. Little did I realize that I when I left Port Townsend, that I had about 250 km still to go!

I was able to get some pictures near the water as I continued on. The weather, unfortunately turned form sunny and warm to misty and cool. The top half of the peninsula was fairly good, weather wise, but things started to decline as soon as I headed south. By the time I got to Forks, with its turn off for Rialto Beach, I was in no mood to take a half an hour side trip. Bah, I told myself, I've seen enough virgin beaches to last me a lifetime! Bah!

Forks - 4:15pm   - 365 km

The last two hours were moist and cool. Luckily, I had brought a long sleeved shirt as it was cooler than I thought it would be. It wasn't exactly raining but you could feel water permeate everything. I even zipped up my side zippers on my Corazzo jacket.

A little comic relief was offered as I passed the teeny place called Humptulips.  According to Wikipedia:
The name Humptulips may have come from a local Native American language, meaning 'hard to pole', referring to the difficulty local Native Americans had poling their canoes along the Humptulips River.According to other sources the word means 'chilly region' Another possibility is that Humptulips was the name of a band of the Chehalis tribe.

I finally made it into Aberdeen at 6:15pm. I hate to be negative but the fact that Kurt Cobain was born here and started 'grunge music' became very clear as the town seemed rather, well, grungy. Maybe that's just because my hotel was cheap and I only saw along the highway. I hope so.

I checked into the Olympic Hotel ($60) and, after a nice hot shower, went to Safeway and picked up some Chinese food and a bottle of wine. I stuffed myself on the tasty food ($4.99 for two types of dished, rice and an egg roll that tasted like fish) and had two glasses of wine before I staggered to bed (from exhaustion, mind you, not the two glasses of wine).

I made it!

Aberdeen    6:15pm (10 hours riding)   537 km

Thursday 19 July 2012

Mille Bornes - The Olympic Peninsula Ride Part 1

A pretty part of Bellingham called Fairhaven - note the shiny red scooter in the shadows...
It's always a bit disconcerting when someone knows more than you do. Especially if you're a teacher.

Actually, as a teacher,   I encourage my students to show me up if they can - but outside the classroom?

You see, Bobskoot commented the other day that my impending trip to the Olympic Peninsula would be nothing but asphalt because there was so much ground to cover.

Bah - I thought - I'll have lots of time to see things.

Well, did I? Please read on for the next couple of entries - and judge for yourself!

Tuesday - 7am  - 0  km

 I got up early - strike that - super early, especially for summer. 6:20am. I had a light breakfast, made sure I had all my stuff, kissed the dog and patted the wife good-bye (it was early, after all) and headed out at 7am.

It was a bright sunny day but, being cautious, I wore my very safe outfit - armoured motorcycle jacket, jeans and hiking boots. I had an uneventful ride to the border and, as is my typical experience of late, the border guard made me feel that I was bloody lucky that he let the likes of me in the US of A. It's really too bad because I absolutely love going into the US - generally the people are really friendly and there's enough differences to make things interesting.\\

After slipping through the crossing, I headed down Portal Way and the old Pacific Highway until I reached Bellingham. I tried to turn off just the data and phone service on my iPhone so I could use an app that only required the GPS as I had downloaded all the maps between home and Aberdeen. Try as I might, I could not shut off the cell service unless I went into airplane mode. I finally gave up on the GPS and did exactly that - luckily I had printed up my Google Maps route earlier and shoved the 7 pages of maps and directions in my top case.

Incidentally, some of the roads I took were the same roads I had taken before on my LX50. It was great to compare the ride, and, although the pace was much quicker, I really enjoyed being able to keep up with traffic effortlessly and not spend a lot of time stressing about where I was going to pull off next or, worse, riding along on the shoulder, hoping it wouldn't disappear.

Birch Bay Square 44 km

Fairhaven area of Bellingham

9:15am - Fairhaven

I rode through Bellingham and ended up in the Fairhaven district, where I made my first stop. This area of Bellingham is very nice with old buildings that look to be old stores, warehouses and the like, that have been renewed and look great. I went to a coffee shop called Colophon which made a great latté and sat outside in the sun as I sipped. My only beef is the girl behind the counter asked if I was staying or wanted it to go and I replied 'To go' and then I disappeared to find the bathroom (oops, they say restroom in the US - funny since I neither can have a bath or a rest in a public toilet!). When I returned, I was given my latté in a paper cup. Oh least is was tasty.

Colophon Cafe

I continued on by taking Chuckanut Drive. Last time I was on this, I was riding my LX50 - now, on my Vespa GTS 250, the ride was a different story! Instead of a meandering peaceful ride with lots of nature (and a line up of people waiting for me) I had an exciting ride with lots of twisties and enjoyable curves. I never felt I was going too slow and still had time to pull over and take the occasional picture. Things did zoom by a bit quickly, however.

View from Chuckanut Drive

Sometime after Chuckanut drive, I ended up in Burlington where I had to make my connection to SR20 which would take me to Whidbey Island. I found the Tourist Info and the woman behind the desk happily gave me an assortment of maps to assist me. I was pretty pleased as they were all free - I'm sure the maps in Canada would have cost me $5. I carefully studied the map and, after a couple of false starts, ended up on the road that went to SR20. Funnily enough, it was the same road that I had just turned off of to go to the Tourist Info! Egads!

Pass Lake
 I went along SR20 for the next while and encountered a nice park just off the road. I went over to this lake - called Pass Lake - and took a photo before continuing on.

Pass Lake - 144 km

Bridge over Deception Pass
I then crossed this great big bridge that went over Deception Pass. It is truly an engineering marvel and is one of those things that is fine when you're on it but looks very intimidating before and after. I was then on Whidbey Island. This was still ground that I had covered before on the LX50 but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The highway was pretty busy and there were even 2 lanes each way at some points and I had no difficulty zooming along. I went by Whidbey AFB which has 2 very cool fighter jets at the entrance, angled towards the sky as if in flight. I also went by Oak Harbour which seemed a nice place.

Deception Pass
I continued on, past Coupeville, until I approached the ferry. The ferry was on the left side so I thought I had to turn left. Nope. I had to continue on the road for another mile and THEN do a U-Turn and come back to the ticket booth. I would have turned earlier but I was worried that there was some sort of checkpoint that made it so you had to go there. Nope - just a turn around! I got to the ticket booth and the nicest old guy sold me my ticket ($5.50) and said that I'd just made it! I zipped over to the ferry and got on - last. Two minutes later, we pulled out from the dock headed to Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula.

Port Townsend Ferry
Departed from ferry 11:45am - 195 km

 To be continued.....

Wednesday 11 July 2012 you are...


I really look forward to my summer scoot. There is certainly something to be said about a group ride - the friendship, camaraderie, and company - but I don't mind a solo trip either.

This summer, I want to go a little farther afield then in previous years but would still like it just to be an overnight trip.

I remember my first big trip to the US - 7 and a half hours on an LX50 to Seattle - and it was, well, a lot of fun!

This year, I'm thinking of scooting down to the Olympic Peninsula. I'd get to Bellingham, take Chuckanut drive through to Anacortes then along Whidbey Island with a ferry over to Port Townsend and then either North around the peninsula or South to Aberdeen to stay the night. Incidentally, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana were both from Aberdeen.  This entry from Wikipedia certainly intrigues me, as well!

By 1900, Aberdeen was considered one of the grittiest towns on the West Coast, with many saloons,whorehouses, and gambling establishments populating the area. Aberdeen was nicknamed "The Hellhole of the Pacific", or "The Port of Missing Men", because of its high murder rate. One notable resident was Billy Gohl, known locally as Billy "Ghoul",[3] who was rumored to have killed at least 140 men.

Google maps gives a time between 6 and 7 hours - so if I leave at 7 in the morning, I'll have lots of time to stop for a nice brekky, lunch, and take photos.Aberdeen has some good, cheap accommodations and is home to a winery!

I've got a bit of time before I figure on going so I'll think about this ride for the next couple days. Any ideas or comments would be appreciated!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Rain Test

I know people call the part of the country where I live the Wet Coast rather than the West Coast, but, come on! It's July! The rains have been here, off and on, for weeks.

When I scheduled my latest appointment for my GTS, I booked about 3 weeks ago thinking it would be a nice sunny day and that I could wander around Kits (Kitsilano a nice part of Vancouver, near the beach) while the Vespa got services.

Imagine my disgust when I got up and it was absolutely pouring! Well, I thought, time to test out just how good my rain gear truly is.

I wore my MEC hiking boots, MEC rain pants and Corazzo jacket. It should be no problem arriving dry and warm,  I thought. Boy was I wrong!

To be fair, it was absolutely pouring most of the way, and about 12° C. I got through Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and even into Coquitlam feeling pretty confident. By the time I hit Port Moody, though, I felt a strip of water right down the front of my shirt. My feet, however, were still nice and warm and I thought my lower half was dry.

A few minutes later, as I approached Vancovuer, I felt definite dampness in my shirt but the outside weather had warmed to 14.5°C. so it wasn't so bad. My feet were still dry but I had the feeling that perhaps my pants weren't quite as dry as I thought....

I continued riding through Vancouver, realizing now that my shirt was soaked. I was early for my appointment so I stopped at Mark's Work Wearhouse and bought a clearance T-shirt for 10 bucks. It was at this time that I realized that my pants were definitely wet - I just didn't know the extent.

I then road to the Urban Wasp and parked my scoot. I started to take off my rain pants when I realized that they had leaked right at the crotch - it looked like I had peed myself! Great! I put my rain pants back on and headed into the store.

After setting up my appointment, I went into the washroom and changed shirts. That solved one problem. Interestingly, my Corazzo Tempeste jacket is advertised as being waterproof - and I guess it is - but the zipper is definitely not! I was not happy about that.

My MEC pants, however, were a more pressing problem. Have you ever wandered around in a wet bathing suit for several hours? That's what this felt like. I couldn't take the rain pants off or it would look like I had had a very big accident and leaving them on gave the moisture no opportunity to evaporate. The pants have taped seams but are about 6 or 7 years old so maybe they have outdone their usefulness - or maybe they aren't good for higher speed water....

I spent the next 4 hours sloshing around Kits in my wet pants but, on the bright side, there were no major issues with my Vespa. I had asked for an oil change and to look at the transmission because of the shuddering problem. There was no mention of metal in the oil and the shudder, although not gone, is much better. It is hardly noticeable most of the time now but, on the way home, through rush hour traffic, I still heard some loud noises at time when doing a lot of stops and starts. But definitely better than before.

I finally made it home, and feeling like a 10 year old who had spent the day at the lake, I took a long shower, had a nice big glass of wine, and felt much better, and much drier.