Tuesday 4 August 2015

Cascade Loop Scooter Trip - Day 3

Despite the well crafter beers imbibed the previous night, I did not sleep well. The room and the BnB was upstairs and was hot. There was a small fan but it just did not kick out enough of a breeze to cool me down - maybe if I had suspended it from the ceiling....

I got up, took another shower (using what seemed like someone else's stuff) and then ate my, now warm, mixed fruit container. I did hear some movement in the house but when I came downstairs, I didn't see anything. I lingered by the door, trying to sniff out the breakfast that I would have liked but smelled nothing. I called out a tentative, "Thanks," but heard nothing in return.

Sighing, I left the BnB - or should i just say the Bn, and sorted my recycling as requested by the hosts. I packed my scoot and then managed to rock it off the centre stand, despite it being on a steep hill. I sped off from the street thinking, I would definitely stay in Seattle again, just not here.

One of the things that caught my eye - and had the night before - were the book boxes (Little Free Library) that I saw dotting the neighbourhood. There was even one outside the pub. I think it is a great idea to be able to take a book or donate a book at one of these. Some of them were quite fancy (they can be outside a home or business) and I was impressed that they showed no signs of vandalism.

Once out of the neighbourhood, the next item on the agenda was... coffee.

I stopped at a Starbucks, ordered a large latte, connected to the wifi with my iPad, and relaxed.Ah!

Eventually, I got back on my scooter and headed for the city centre. I parked and bought a parking voucher which just stuck to the front of my scoot. I took a photo of it just in case someone decided to help themselves to some free parking.

After a brief wait, I entered the EMP - Experimental Music Project - museum. I had heard a lot about this facility and was very impressed by what I saw.

The feature exhibit was on the costumes of Star Wars. I do enjoy those characters and am really looking forward to the upcoming movie.

After that, I went to another favourite of mine, the Science Fiction display. Some very cool displays ranging from Mars Attacks to Bladerunner to Dr. Who.

There was a fantasy section where the actual costume from the cowardly lion was on display.

The sort of historical fantasy section had things like the knight hats from Monty Python's The Holy Grail ("You English pigs!") and the Imp's outfit from Game of Thrones.

Then I went to more of the musical exhibits. One of the best is an area where you can try different instruments and either play them on your own or jam with other people in the EMP. I ended up jamming with a couple of teenaged boy scouts on a trip - fun!

There were exhibits on Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and some of their contemporaries. There was also this giant tower of guitars situated in the middle area between all of the music type displays.

So much to see! I ended up at the Warner Brothers animation section which brought back lots of fond memories from my childhood.

After almost three hours, I was pretty much done. I left and went around the building to the restaurant connected to the EMP. I had a chicken panini which was actually pretty good and then wandered back to my Beemer.

There was a motorcycling couple from California parking near my scoot. We had a bit of a chat and when I asked them how they got here, they said o the I-5. I was a little surprised they didn't take a more scenic route, but that's when they explained  - they take their motorcycles on their motorhome and then do day trips from their destination!

I left Seattle and managed to find the I-5 without too much trouble. It was a rather uneventful ride on the way home. I did take Chuckanut Drive again, giving myself a bit of a break from the fast traffic of the interstate.

When I got to the border, there was a 40 minute wait but I managed to make it to the little booth without being too cranky, especially after I jumped a bunch of the line going into the duty free for a bottle of kahlua. I arrived  at the booth and the guard was a bit annoying. He seemed to fixate on the fact that I had gone on my own and hadn't met anyone in the US. I explained a few times that I do this sort of thing every summer but he still seemed suspicious. Begrudgingly, he finally let me pass, and I headed home.

It was an excellent trip overall. The BMW performed so well - a dream compared to my Vespa 250 - and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I would strongly suggest that if you live in this part of the world (the Northwest of the US or the Lower Mainland of BC) that you check out the Cascade Loop.

Great ride!

Monday 3 August 2015

Cascade Loop Scooter Trip - Day 2 Part 2

"I was somewhere around Cashmere, on the edge of the desert, when the sugar began to take hold."

My apologies, Hunter. But I did enjoy the Aplets and Cotlets from Cashmere - and then I pressed on. By this time is was very hot - I think the temperature on my Beemer was around 36 or 37° C. 

Next stop was Leavenworth. This was a popular lumber town during the beginning of the 20th Century and was the railway headquarters but from the 1920s on to the 1960s,  the popularity took a definite dive as the railway headquarters moved to Wenatchee. Then, the citizens decided to do something crazy - they decided to make a Bavarian village out of the town. 

Today, everything from the gas station to Starbuck's has a Bavarian theme. It's a fair sized town and it's cool that everyone agreed to get on board. Apparently Winthrop got their idea to be a theme town cam from Leavenworth. 

I loved everything about the town - except the utile public toilet. Ugh - I thought I was back in Italy where some places don't have seats for the toilets. Luckily, I managed to hold off.

Anyway, as I wandered around this pretty town I thought, well, if you are in a German town, you must have a German lunch! I stopped in at a the Icicle Brewery pub that had a nice looking menu and, more importantly, shady tables outside - and even more important, served a nice variety of beers!

I ordered a flight of beer (although the waitress called it something else) which featured their specialty beers. They were all delicious and very pleasing! I resisted the temptation to order a pint of each.... 

To accompany the beers, my lunch was the charcuterie plate (Farm to Table Meat and Cheese) which had an excellent assortment and was perfect to nosh on while I sipped my beer. 

All too soon, my plate was empty and my 4 little glasses were dry. It was time to move on. 

First stop was this cool water feature in Monroe - I don't think it has any special use except decorative - although it might be some sort of water management. I just thought it looked really nice!

Then I stopped at the Iron Goat Trail. There was this nice caboose (something you don't see very often, especially in Canada) at the trailhead. 

There were a variety of walks so I took the one that seemed most novel (and, again, involved a manmade structure), the Big Long Wall. It is a snowshed that was built to project the railway that used to go through. The photo at the interpretive centre had a picture of water rushing over it in a giant waterfall but, unfortunately, there was no waterfall for me to see! Still, it was impressive, out there in the forest, and was over 600 metres long! That's 6 football fields (or 5 and a half Canadian football fields!). 

After I left the Iron Goat Trail, I headed towards Seattle. Traffic became gradually more crowded until it was stop and go. When I finally got into the city limits, I just happened to drive by the BMW Motorrad! I felt a pang of belonging!

I ended up in the city centre about two hours before my checkin time of 6pm at the B and B. Not enough time to go to the EMP, but too early to checkin. I basically drove around Seattle in rush hour for a couple hours until I finally made it to the B and B. Total distance for the day was about 390 kms. 

OK - this is my first experience with AirBnB. I have booked several places with VRBO - but always a whole apartment, etc. I have booked B and Bs when travelling around the UK and Ireland and had fond memories of these places. Well appointed rooms, friendly hosts and a great breakfast. I was kind of looking forward to this sort of thing in Seattle. Sadly, it was not to be.

I still haven't decided whether I will put an honest review into AirBnB because there are around 48 reviews of the place I stayed and all of them glow with how wonderful the room was, friendly the hosts, etc, etc. I don't want to be the only jerk that disagrees. But I will tell you about it here.

I arrived and parked my scooter on a hill, managing to figure out how to get it on the centre stand without pushing it onto the grass or letting it drop onto my legs. Not easy, though!

The BnB was part of a bigger house. I arrived and knocked on the door. I had booked through a women name Luyao but her husband answered the door. He was not exactly unfriendly but didn't exude warmth, despite my attempts to be chatty. He pointed me in the direction of the room and up the stairs I went. 

The room was clean, that's for sure, but rather spartan. There was a double closet full of shelving - if I wanted to stay for a couple of months, I would have had room for all of my clothes as well as a few other boxes of belongings. There was a desk with a chair and a small fan on the floor. The bed itself was ok but the pillows meant for sleeping (not the decorative ones) were pretty flat and small and there were only two. I was hoping for a TV but none was in evidence. There was wifi, thank goodness, so it was a good thing that I had brought my iPad. 

In the write up for the BnB, they had said that shampoo and soap would be supplied for people staying short term. I went into the bathroom and the only shampoo and soap were half empty containers in the shower and a used piece of soap. Oh well, I thought, I got to get clean and I went ahead and used what was there. 

As for the B and B part - well I was welcome to use the kitchen, according to the instruction sheet, but there was nothing about breakfast being provided or food, for that matter. I didn't want to buy a loaf of bread in the morning just so I could have 2 pieces of toast!

I went back down after the shower to go for something to eat at a local pub. I made a bit of noise at the door because I knew my hosts were there but I didn't get a response. I called out "Bye!" and left. Not sure if I will try AirBnB again.


The pub was called Mulleady's Irish Pub and had great beer! I had a flight, then a pint, and finally another pint! I also had their steamed mussels which was cooked in one of the best sauces I have ever had! They gave me a small loaf of bread to soak up the sauce but there was still some left and I was tempted to ask for another loaf or just slurp back the bowl like soup!

As I was getting ready to leave, another patron had heard me talking to the waiter about doing a scooter ride. Turns out this guy works for - wait for it - BMW Motorrad! Talk about small world. Mind you, he spent a fair bit of time telling my why the US wasn't going to carry the Sport version any more and just the GT but I said, "Hey, they weren't offering $5000 off of the GT!"

Afterwards, I went to the QFC grocery store and picked up a container of mixed fruit for the morning as well as a bottle of cherry Coke Zero! We don't have that in Canada! I returned back to the BnB, cracked open my Coke, and watched Netflix until it was time to sleep. 

Sunday 2 August 2015

Cascade Loop Scooter Ride Day 2 - Part 1

After my tequila infused sleep, I woke, feeling a tad bit dry, at around 7am. After enjoying the room shower, once again,  I headed to breakfast, complimentary, in the hotel lobby.

Now, when I'm riding my bicycle on a trip or hiking, I have no problems chowing down on eggs, sausage, and the like. But I knew what I would be doing today and, while riding does require energy, it probably doesn't require 1500 calories (logical thinking, to be sure, but remember, I am still a big guy!). So, instead of going for the eggs, sausage, and waffles, I happily plunked two pieces of whole wheat bread in the toaster, grabbed a thing of peanut butter and a banana, and sat down with my coffee to read my iPad. 

After my brekky, I packed my stuff, started up the Beemer and headed on down the highway. 

First stop was this strange radar cluster. I'm sure it is rather a simple scientific research station but it's kinda cool to think it is a secret listening post for known aliens. 

My next stop was to fill the tank in Pateros. When I downloaded the Cascades Loop guide, Pateros had a whole page dedicated to the town. I was expecting some bigger town, something like Winthrop or even bigger. What I found was a gas stations, and a few other stores, on a road parallel to the highway. Maybe I missed the turnoff and this was just the outskirts. I certainly hope so as it was rather small.

Onto the highway - and it was another nice day, although a bit hotter than the previous one. It was such a satisfying ride because of the lack of traffic. And if I found myself behind a slow vehicle that I couldn't pass, There were plenty of interesting things to look at. 

Next stop was Wells Dam. I am fascinated with manmade structures contrasted against nature. If you haven't already guessed from my blog, painting is another one of my passions, and I really enjoy painting nature that has something manmade in it. Wells Dam did not disappoint - it seemed like a very large dam and I took many photos, a couple I have shared here. Perhaps a painting is in the future?

In the hydro electric producing part of a dam, giant turbines spin, connected to generator, which, in turn, creates electricity (any questions, class?). I've seen the turbines at a local dam but Wells Dam had a very cool outdoor display featuring a turbine that you could walk right up to. It's really, really BIG! 

Another heritage marker followed and, while I didn't take a photo, it was basically talking about cattle drives. There were cattle raised in this area of the Okanogan and, during the Cariboo gold rush, the cattle drive went all the way up to Baskerville, BC where gold was being found! That's around 500 miles or 800 kms! That's a long way and that was back in the 1860s!

My next stop was Wenatchee - a pleasant surprise! It's an actual city and it was nice to ride through streets with stop lights and traffic once again. After parking my BMW C600 Sport,  I wandered the downtown core. 

They have a program that encourages sculptures to display and sell their paintings on the main street. I've included some of my favourites but there were a lot more.

Then, on to the important stuff - a visit to the bathroom and a nice mug of latte! The coffee shop was nice but, more importantly they a) had shady tables outside and b) had free wifi. Heaven!

After Wenatchee was a short ride to Cashmere. Another nice little town, one of things Cashmere is famous for is its fruit candy - Aplets and Cotlets - sort of jellied apricots and other fruit (or maybe turkish delight) which is very soft, formed in rectangles like chocolate bars, sometimes includes nuts, and covered in icing sugar. There's a version in our Okanagan in BC but it's hard to come buy and quite expensive.  

I walked into the shop and there was a big display with three open boxes that you could help yourself to samples (and, oh, I did!). There were tours available (which I gave a miss) so I looked at what was for sale. I found the little bars on sale for 3 for $1.50! What? That's incredible! And a box of Fruit Delights - $2! I should have brought the car and loaded up! Unfortunately, I had little room and was worried about everything melting to the consistency of molasses so I left with a box, three bars, and a sugar buzz that kept me going for the next part - but more on that later!

Friday 31 July 2015

Cascade Loop Scooter Ride - Day 1 - Part 2

After I left the beauty of Diablo Lake, the scenery just kept on coming! I was really enjoying the ride and I was only a half a day into it!

Next stop was the Washington Pass Overlook. There was a short road that took you off the highway to a stop. Now, I am usually pretty good at figuring out things but, after I parked my scoot, I scratched my head, and tried to figure out which way to go. I first went towards some picnic tables but, that was it - picnic tables. Then I walked down the hill towards what looked like an abandoned tourist information centre but, again, no luck. Finally, another motorcyclist came up to me and pointed my in the right direction. Thanks, guy!

There were very nice views as well as an excellent poem! And, no, I didn't use a giant, invisible selfie stick, I got someone to actually take my photo!

After Washington Pass, there really wasn't a lot until my lunch break at Winthrop.

Lunch may not have been the best name for the meal because I didn't arrive in Winthrop until close to 2pm. And I was pretty hungry.

Winthrop is very picturesque because of its old Western themed look. All of the businesses - even chain ones - have got on board with the old West theme. I spent a bit of time wandering the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and trying to find just the right place to eat.

So, where did I end up? At the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, of course, where else would a teacher go?

The lunch was very tasty - I had the Beer Brat which came with herbed fries (they were very tasty) and I also had a schooner of Uncle Bigs Brown Ale - not a pint, mind you, because I was trying to be good. The photo has a bite missing from the brat!

The only time I find touring by myself a little awkward is when I eat out. Most places don't expect to see just one person and have to confirm - "Just one today?" or  "Expecting anyone else?" or  "By yourself, Loser?" - well, maybe not the last one but that's the awkward part...

I demonstrated that I forgot that I wasn't in Canada when it was time to pay - I asked if he could bring the machine. You see, in Canada, we have chips on our credit cards and restaurants bring a machine, you stuff the chip end of the credit card in the machine, and then pay for your meal using your special code. You can figure out the tip on the machine and decide whether or not you want a receipt. Sometimes you can choose to have the receipt emailed to you.

In the US, however, the waiter takes away your card to use the magnetic strip, and then they print up the paper and you have to actually sign the paper and take a copy. So 2010!

After Winthrop, it was the final leg of my trip into Omak. Everything from this point looked a heckuva lot like the Okanagan in BC (although Americans spell this area the Okanogan). In fact, it seemed that I was in this alternate universe Okanagan where things were just slightly different than BC. I stopped on the way to stretch but nothing really grabbed me to want to take any photos.

I arrived in Omak and the odometer had hit about 410 kms.

I stayed at the Rodeway Inn because, well, it was supposed to be cheap and clean. It did not fail on either requirement. There was a comfy bed, plenty of fluffy pillows, a clean bathroom and shower, and was located in town. The girl on the front desk was friendly (summer job?)  and suggested a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

After an hour walk around town to stretch my legs, I headed to the Rancho Chico restaurant for dinner. The waiter started off by calling me, "my friend" so I felt good about the place right away (even though he called everyone, "my friend").  I was served a generous portion of warm tortilla chips, salsa and pico de gallo as a complimentary appetizer. On the recommendation of the front desk girl, I ordered a margarita - and it was delicious!

Then came the main event - a house burrito - big, tasty and covered with cheese and sauce. It was a challenge to get through the burrito because it was so filling but I managed, helped along with a second, and much stronger, margarita.

Feeling satisfied and just a bit tipsy, I motioned to the waiter. Instead of my bill, he brought me a complimentary dessert (sweet tortilla shell with whipped cream) and a complimentary shot of tequila!


After paying my $27 bill, I staggered back to the motel, reflected on my excellent ride, and happily watched some TV before falling into a deep sleep.