Oh, yeah. Best vacation yet. Except for the dropping-the-bike thing...
Day 0 (the day before the ride)
I wash and wax my bike, lube and check the chain, and check the coolant and oil. Oh, my beloved, shiny bike! I’ve polished it and waxed it and it’s spanking clean and ready for the trip! As I finish checking the oil, I put the kickstand out and let the bike go down on it. Shit!!! The kickstand isn’t fully out, and the bike goes down, with me on it, frantically (and hopelessly) trying to keep it upright.
The bike pins my leg to the ground, and I call my fiancé Paul on my cellphone, which thankfully I had in my pocket. Paul’s on his way: he asks that I don’t try to pick the bike up myself, as that would hurt my already-injured back. I wiggle my leg out from under the bike, but the plastic Birkenstock clog I’d been wearing is left wedged under there.
I’m shaken, but feel pretty OK, so I go to sit on my tool chest, wearing wool socks and one Birkenstock, waiting for Paul to come (he lives about 1.5 km away). What’s that on the ground near my fallen bike? The frame slider? It is! The protective product I’d spent over $200 on has snapped off, as if it were made of ceramic, not steel. What the hell did I pay so much for? Nothing. In fact, I think the Birkenstock clog did more to protect the bike than the stupid frame slider did.
When we get the bike back up, there’s some cosmetic damage (about $200 worth, as it turns out later), but the bike starts easily, and doesn’t seem to have suffered significantly from the drop. The bruises I got from trying to keep the bike from going down are pretty spectacular a few days later, though. Eventually, Yamaha will make amends for the failed slider, but that doesn't come until later.
I’m very upset. Why didn’t I check the kickstand before resting the bike’s weight on it? Why did the frame slider snap? The night before the big ride, too! It takes me a couple of hours and a vodka-and-Fresca or two to calm down. “OK,” I say to myself, “I can ride this bike, and it’s still my beloved Little Red, even if it’s scratched up some.”
I get out the silicone spray, and Paul waterproofs his jacket and gloves (I’d done mine in the afternoon). We go to bed.
Day 1 (Friday: it begins)
We give ourselves a little time to sleep in, but not much. We’re up at 7:30, having packed the night before, and head down to the parking garage with our tail-bags and tank-bags. We load up our bikes, check our gear, check our tire pressure, and head to a gas station to pump the tires. We each snap a few shots of our bikes at the start. His black bike looks smart in its black soft luggage; my red-and-black one looks well-put-together in its red-and-black soft luggage.
It feels like we’re well set-up for our trip: our luggage looks compact and slick, and I know that inside it, everything is neatly tucked away in waterproof and protective individually-labelled Ziploc bags. Paul’s got his radar detector up and running. Our riding gear is colour-matched, in good shape, and recently waterproofed.
The day starts out cool but bright. We head off for the border through the morning rush-hour traffic. Sometimes we get a little irritated with dozy drivers, and then we cut the line to wait in the crosswalk: we can always beat anything with 4 wheels off the line, and while it may be rude, it doesn’t actually inconvenience anybody. We do it twice, and then we’re out of town and on the highway.
There’s a bit of a line-up at the Peace Arch border crossing, but it’s not too bad. When we get to the guard, he requires us to remove our helmets, so he can check our faces against our I.D. A minute or two later, we’re off into the U.S. About 10 feet into the U.S.: we have to secure our I.D., and put our helmets and gloves back on. Then we’re off to find a gas station again: we need fuel.
We ride to Sea-Tac, where we stop for lunch at a Denny’s. We’re seated next to a timid, middle-aged woman and a pushy, loudmouthed man, whom I believe at first to be a couple having relationship problems. Then, from their conversation, I think they might be a woman and her therapist. Only after overhearing more of their conversation do I realize they’re a prospective multi-level marketer and her would be-victimizer – I mean, benefactor. No, I mean victimizer. It’s a bit annoying to be seated next to this guy pushing “Salad Master” on this woman, but it’s also kind of funny: Paul and I poke fun at them behind their backs, and I whip out a Sharpie and a sticky-note, writing in bold letters: “SALAD MASTER RUINED MY MOTHER’S LIFE”. I chicken out on showing this to them at their table, and settle for posting it on the exit door.
Still, it’s funny as hell to me: a portrait of America.
I tried to pay for lunch with debit, and the woman at the cash register told me they take debit. But it turned out they only take credit cards, so I paid in cash. This is the first – but not the only – time this happens on the trip; I get the impression that Americans employed in the service industry don’t know the difference between credit and debit transactions.
It’s a long ride down the I-5 to Portland. Paul takes point, because he’s got the radar detector. He saves us from a patrol that was hiding in the long grass on the median. Every now and then, another motorcyclist comes along on the freeway, but they’re always either slower than us and not as aggressive, or totally testosterone-poisoned and apparently reckless; we come up with this one-liner at a rest stop: “Hey, is that your dick wrapped around the throttle?”
We ride all day, and find that the Throttle Rockers Paul bought us are a truly great invention: we each come independently to the conclusion that we can relax our grip a bit, get some circulation, and keep our joints from freezing in death-grip position.
Paul and I have great partnership on the road. We work traffic as a team: the leader chooses a space, moves into the lane, makes space for the follower, and then we switch sides to put the leader in the lane-dominant position. It’s like a dance, and it probably is impressive, maybe even confusing, to those who see us in action. When we pull it off particularly smoothly, it makes me smile.
For the first part of the day, from 8 o’clock until about 3 pm, I get steadily colder and colder: I layer on more of the clothes from my tank bag, until I’m wearing 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, and a jacket with a liner. I also happen to be waterproof, though it doesn’t rain. About 3 pm, the temperature finally starts to get comfortable; we’re nearly through Washington State, and it’s finally becoming sunny. By 4 pm, I feel great; the temperature’s finally to my liking. As we’re pulling into Portland, around 4:30, it’s too damn hot. But we’re so close to the end of our day’s ride, I don’t want to stop to layer down; I settle for zipping open the vents on my jacket, and just live with the sweat.
Paul’s got the directions to our hotel in the map pocket of his tank-bag. He leads us to our hotel, where we disembark, stiffly, and I stay with the bikes while he checks in and gets our parking access worked out. It turns out that we can get into the parking garage easily with our hotel keys, but we can not get out: the exit gate is triggered by a pressure sensor, and no combination of us and our bikes is heavy enough to set it off. Eventually we will work out a system which has us leave the garage one at a time via the entrance ramp, with one of us outside on foot, waiting to open the entrance gate for the other.
Our room is on the 2nd floor: no view to speak of. But it’s a comfortable space with a king-sized bed, a Jacuzzi tub just feet from the bed, and enough floor-space for our hard-packed soft luggage to spew its contents. It’s a good thing I’d labelled all my Ziplocs: everything I own is black, and even with the labels, it isn’t always quick and easy to find what I want.
Oh, hardship – not! While Paul steps out for vodka and mixer, I fill the jet tub with bath salts and foamy shower gel. I have a lengthy, hedonistic soak in my mini-spa, playing the hot-water jets all over my body. When I get out, I sure don’t feel like I’ve been riding all day!
I slip into a slinky little black dress, brush out my hair, and Paul and I – after a few drinks of 100-proof Absolut Black in 7-Up – stroll around the neighbourhood, looking for a spot for dinner: Paul wants to wine and dine me and take me out dancing in the city. A few blocks from the hotel there are 3 Mexican places on the same street corner: we check them out, and they’re all essentially fast food.
Rather than wine-and-dine on fast food, we decide to try out the restaurant in the hotel. Paul orders a yummy chicken, and I get a Cobb Salad, which I have with a nice Californian Pinot Gris. I’m a little tipsy, and very, very happy to be in Portland, having motorcycled the distance from Vancouver with my lover with whom I have such effortless, great teamwork. The hotel room, the sensual, bubbly bath and the slinky black dress help the romance along rather well: Paul and I both feel “honeymoony”, and it’s easy for me to fawn on him a little.
After dinner, we use the hotel’s business centre to research the evening’s entertainment, because we realized that Oregon still allows smoking in clubs and we therefore don’t want to suffer through the goth club we’d selected online from Vancouver. We settle on a club that looks like something out of Gastown that’s having an evening of house music. We’re tired from a day’s riding, but we still head out after a couple more drinks in our room, taking a cab to Portland’s “Old Town” (which really does turn out to be the equivalent of Vancouver’s Gastown).
Good thing we packed light shoes; we wouldn’t have wanted to be out on the dance floor in our riding boots! Actually, I don’t spend a lot of time on the dance floor: we get a table that’s a converted opium bed, and it’s on a sort of balcony overlooking the dance floor. There’s a statue of some less-popular Asian divinity in the corner, but it leaves plenty of room to dance. Paul hits the dance floor a bit more than I do: it’s hard not to want to move, no matter how tired you are, when the atmosphere is happy and the music’s good.
I lean over my end of the opium-bed-table and make friends with the girl who’s sitting at the next table alone: Hillary. She’s 22 or so, and waiting for her boyfriend. Eventually the boyfriend shows up. His name is unforgettable: Rich Poor. He even showed us his I.D. Richard Poor: hilarious.
Richard’s in the military. He’s at least 10 years older than Hillary, but what the hell: they’re nice folks, and we chat and dance with them on the balcony. Rich thinks that our target destination, Crater Lake, is snowed in (an opinion expressed earlier that afternoon by another local we’d talked to in a Fred Meyer parking lot when Paul’s oil light demanded that he buy a quart of motorcycle engine oil). Rich recommends we try the Columbia River Gorge.
Paul and I consider this hitch in our plans: later on I’d formulate it thusly:
(1) Make plan.
(2) Engage plan.
(3) Throw plan out the window.
(4) Have adventure.
We had also considered going to Cougar Hot Springs, but it’s in mountainous terrain too: probably also snowed-in. So we decide to stay in Portland another night, do a shorter ride up the Gorge, and hit another nightclub on Saturday.
Back to the hotel room. Mmm. Then to sleep, around 2 am.
Strangely, my eyes flick open at quarter to 6 and I can’t get back to sleep. That’s usually Paul’s problem, not mine: he often snaps awake before he’s rested, while I can easily snooze until the afternoon. Not this time. Oh, well; I think maybe I can get a nap in later.
Day 2 (Saturday: adventure mode engaged)
Paul and I both hated our HJC helmets by the time we’d arrived in Portland (his was ill-fitting, and mine actually opened its visor when I shoulder-checked at speed). So on Saturday morning, after having custom omelettes and way too much bacon at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, we hit the hotel’s business centre again and use Google to find places likely to sell motorcycle helmets in Portland. Rich Poor had recommended a place in Beaverton (Tigard, actually), but we don’t really want to navigate to a suburb to buy helmets; we think Portland ought to offer what we want. We visit 3 places, but don’t find anything; staff at one of the shops suggests the same place Rich had. So we head back to the hotel, Google the place the locals recommend, then ride out to Tigard.
There seem to be a lot of pirate enthusiasts on the streets of Portland. Eye patches. Skulls and crossbones. Head kerchiefs and tight pants. I like it, but there’s no time to look.
At the dealership in Tigard, they’re having a “freestyle” event. There’s a ramp set up for jumping, and a row of old motorbikes as the hurdle to jump. We don’t stay for that, though: the first table we see has what I want: a helmet in a red that matches my bike perfectly. The vendor swaps the pads in it with those from another helmet so it fits me, and sells me my new helmet with an extra visor for $155. Oregon has no sales tax. Paul also likes something on the table, which is remarkable after all the wanderings we’d done, trying to find helmets, in the morning; he buys a helmet and an extra, super-shiny-dragonfly-style visor for $135. Paul swaps the sexy visor in for the stock clear one right away.
We soon realize what awful helmets our HJCs had really been, or what a superior product the new ones represent. Our new helmets (both Scorpion brand) are snug-fitting, lightweight, and stay closed properly. The multi-stage visors also offer us a range of openness, from just-a-crack to wide-open, with a rubber flange to seal them well when fully closed.
For lunch, we try to find a Mexican place Paul had glimpsed from the freeway, but we can’t find it. While on this fruitless search, in a Tigard parking lot, we both decide it’s not worth the effort involved to cart our old, hated helmets back to Canada, and we leave them sitting, side by side, on the curb of a parking-lot planter.
Before heading out for our ride through the Gorge, we hit a Taco Del Mar (situated in a remodelled service station from the 50s) for lunch. I snap a picture of the quaint building with our bikes together in front of it. I’d wanted, in the morning, to try to recapture some lost sleep with a nap before heading out riding for the day, but by this time I feel like I’ll make it without a nap, and we head off.
The Gorge is – forgive me – gorgeous. Paul takes us off the highway at some arbitrary point, and we’re on a picturesque, winding back road with lots of interesting places to stop. We get off the bikes for a short hike at Bridal Veil Falls and take lots of photos and a couple of videos. My camera’s batteries die (damn! I’d said in the morning that I should pack extras, but forgot). We continue along the non-highway road that Paul discovered, and we stop at falls after falls, each with its own configuration of moss and rocks, pools and rainbows. Paul continues to digitally document the amazing beauty of more falling water than should be possible anyplace.
At 4:30 we decide to head back into Portland and have some dinner; we get off the side road and back onto the highway. Paul’s oil light comes on again about ¾ of the way back, so we pull into the slow lane and take it easy. I’m happy to discover that I’m getting my bearings in Portland, and when he waves me into the lead position, I find our exit and our hotel without trouble.
We dine more simply on Saturday night: at a Red Robin a couple of blocks from the hotel. I feel even more ridiculously happy than the night before: alone with my Love, adventuring in the sun, and planning more fun. We dine on the patio and hold hands. A strange blue bird (maybe of the jay family, maybe not) joins us on the patio, attracts everyone’s attention with its unusual voice and plumage, eats the French fry I throw to it, and takes off. Ironic that the Bluebird of Happiness (like I said, I was ridiculously happy) should visit us at a restaurant named for a red bird.
We learn that the railcars in Portland are free between our hotel’s local station and all points downtown. So we walk the couple of blocks to the station, and catch a ride on a conveyance that looks like a cross between a SkyTrain and a trolley-bus. I feel certain that this railcar is being driven by a real driver, but the announcements are automated: “Next stop So-and-So. Doors to my [the driver’s] right.” And then in Spanish.
We alight in Old Town, just a few blocks from the club we’d been to the night before, the Pala. Before going in, we walk around the block into Chinatown. The Hung Far Low Building makes us laugh. We have unspectacular lemon chicken at the Wong Kee, and then head to the club.
The act there on this night is a performer called “Spinnaface”, who wears a hub-cap spinner over his face, a hoodie with “Spinnaface” printed across the front, and white gloves like Mickey Mouse. The opening acts are very rap-based, very hip-hop. Not my groove. And the crowd! You wouldn’t know, if it weren’t for the décor, that this was the same club as last night: nobody’s relaxed or even remotely friendly. There is an angry, competitive vibe inside the club as well as out on the street. I’m exhausted (4 hours sleep, remember), and Paul doesn’t like the music either, so we turn in early, heading back to the hotel in a cab driven by a man with a West Indian accent. Our cab has to take a peculiar route out of the neighbourhood because one of the bridges is out for construction; we get behind two girls in very short skirts on bicycles. They aren’t very sensible girls, or maybe they’re drunk; they certainly don’t have expert control over their pedal bikes. But it’s fun to look at them riding bicycles in short skirts like that, and while we’re all commenting, none of us are complaining.
We get back to the hotel. Another Absolut Black. Another night of mmm with my lover. And a plan to get up and head for Washington State on a smaller, more winding highway.
Again, after way less sleep than I want or need, my eyes snap open and I’m awake. At least this morning it’s 7+ hours sleep; an improvement over the ~4 I’d gotten the night before.
Day 3 (Sunday: the Coast, the Bridge, and the Olympic Peninsula)
We leave the hotel just about check-out time. Checking out is complicated by the necessity of taking our key-cards out to the garage with us to operate the gate. Paul is already somewhat stressed out by finding something like 17 missed calls on his cellphone, which he’d thought had been turned off, and when one of the straps on my bag snaps, and some other things break and/or go missing, our tempers are a little frayed. To top it off, the key-cards have expired by the time we get our bikes loaded, so we can’t actually get out in any case. Paul goes to the front desk, and someone there operates the door, but doesn’t really keep it open long enough for us both to get out; Paul squeaks out just as the gate closes: it’s really close, and laughing about it eases the tension.
We head out of Portland on Route 26 to the coast. It’s about 80 miles to the town of Seaside, over the mountains. There are few stretches with passing lanes, and for some reason, the slow drivers seem to have a horror of being made to drive in the lane designated for them; the net result of which is that we pass on the right a lot, sometimes having to weave between lanes (because some drivers in the slow lane actually do belong there). We see one suicidally stupid driver of a mid-sized sedan, in a location WITH a passing lane, actually pull over the double yellow line, into an oncoming lane, on a curve on a hill, to get past the Speed-Matching Club of the Pacific Northwest. He hits a patch of sand in that oncoming lane, and kicks up an unholy dust cloud, probably losing his tires’ grip in the process.
I understand where the guy’s coming from; I get as impatient with the Speed-Matching Club as anyone; but he still comes off as little more than a reckless dick.
We stop in Seaside for lunch. An authentic Mexican restaurant where I eat way too much, but I have to, because it’s so good. Paul has beef fajita, and he keeps feeding me mushrooms and onions from it, because he loves me.
Off we go again, north from Seaside on the 101. It’s windy. Hella windy. I put on every shirt I have packed, and layer long underwear under my jeans and rain pants over them. I end up wearing 7 layers on my torso: 8 if you count the jacket liner. Plus a tube-scarf. Paul and I tire out our necks and arms, fighting the wind the whole way.
The border between Oregon and Washington on this route is the Columbia River. The bridge over it is a freaking ROLLER COASTER! Well, that’s how it seems to us as we climb the long wind-up to the bridge and then go screaming down a slope that seems as tall as Burnaby Mountain. But that’s not the end of the bridge: there’s still a mile-plus of floating bridge and then a short trestle bridge segment. Then we land on Washington soil and I turn to Paul at the first stoplight and shout over the wind and our motors: “I wanna do it again!” We stop and Paul takes a few shots of that bridge; it was memorable. But we ride on.
Once in Washington, the truly weird place-names start: Dismal Nitch, Cape Disappointment, Deception Pass and so on. Who named these places? Really happy period for the settlers, I guess.
We ride north, winding along the coast, fighting the wind, and apparently (by the signs) following the Tsunami Evacuation Route. At one point, the highway goes straight for a mile or more through a seaside swamp. I’m leading, and the wind is so strong, I’m leaning hard on my left handlebar, as for a hard turn. I look in my mirror, and Paul’s leaned over like you see in pictures of racers on a curvy track. But there are no curves, just the wind that wants to push us off landward into the reedy muck.
I’d seen the name “Cosmopolis” on one of our maps and asked Paul to stop for a photo when he saw the “Entering Cosmopolis” sign on the highway. He’s leading by then, and when he pulls over, Cosmopolis is everything I expected from the size of the dot on the map: there are even abandoned vehicles by the sign at the town limits. We snap a picture of me by the sign, then go and stop for gas in town. Planning ahead for the evening, I ask if there’s a liquor store; there isn’t. Considering that there’s a vodka drink named “cosmopolitan”, the town's name is even more ironic: the gas station only sells beer.
Eventually we make it to a more sheltered stretch of the 101. We get onto the Olympic Peninsula and ride through a wasted wreck of a city called Hoquiam. It’s practically a ghost town, but a giant, sprawling one. A few people still live there, hanging on to a hopeless vision of I know not what: the town looks like it has been in the process of shutting down and shrivelling for at least 10 years. On the highway, which winds through Hoquiam, it seems that nearly all the businesses are closed. The streets are wide and empty, and I can’t wait to be shot of the creepy place. Thankfully, the highway signs are easy to follow.
The rest of the Olympic Peninsula is a motorcyclist’s dream: picturesque, winding highways with good pavement and – on a sunny Sunday, at least – little traffic. Twisties that challenge the rider and keep me awake without threatening to kill me. Oh, and some beautiful vistas. We pass La Push as the sun is moving low into the west, and the yellow light is filtering through the thinnest band of trees, casting long stripes on the highway. It’s beautiful, but Paul and I are tired, so we press on to Forks.
At Forks, we check into the Olympic Suites (“Suites for the Price of a Room!”). Having looked up this facility from the comfort of our Portland hotel’s business centre, we know it’s a clean, pet-free, no-smoking motel that costs about $15 a night more than other motels in Forks. We quickly learn that the rooms are all suites, actually small apartments, with full kitchens and balconies.
We take the luggage off our bikes, and I empty my tank bag so we can forage forth for alcohol and dinner. We end up buying Mike’s Hard products from a gas station (real liquor is only available on weekdays in Forks, and on weekends you can only buy barley-malt products, but fortunately there were non-beer options), and picking up fixings for cold-cut lettuce-wraps at the Forks Thriftway. I pick up a Forks T-shirt for my kid there, too: she’s a fan of the Twilight novels, which are set in Forks.
Back in our motel suite in Forks, we drink Hard Lemonade and eat lettuce wraps, trying to find something appealing on cable TV. There’s nothing, so we turn it off. The sun goes down over the Scotch broom outside our balcony door. Paul calls his kids, and I try to call mine, knowing she’d be excited to hear from Forks; she doesn’t answer her phone, and neither does my mother, who’s responsible for her. Oh, well: I soon give up trying.
Paul takes a shower in the obviously recently-renovated bathroom, and I sit on the toilet cover, keeping him company. Then I run a bath, but the way the plug apparatus is set up, there’s part of the drain pipe – a part that wouldn’t get cleaned by hotel staff – touching the water, so I fill a sandwich bag with water and use that as a plug, keeping me safe from the drain that gives me the heebie-jeebies.
During my bath, the concierge rings up: water is dripping into the suite below us. Obviously the renovations didn’t take into account the bathtub’s overflow outlet. Thinking about it later, I realize I never even looked into whether the plug apparatus worked (that is, I don’t know if the tub was ever intended to be used for a bath). I want to be accommodating, so I cut the bath short (all the hot water’s used up anyway), get dried off and head into the bedroom.
In the bedroom, Paul and I have a giddy, silly few moments searching for hidden cameras. We break out our flashlights, and look inside the smoke detector, in the closet, and behind the mirror. It’s just such a silly occupation, with much climbing of furniture and speculation about places to hide cameras, that we’re both laughing out loud. Once we determine that the cheapness of our bill is not attributable to the proceeds of internet porn, we have another wonderful night together, and get some sleep.
Again, my eyes snap open at dawn. Well, that’s almost 8 hours sleep, anyway. I guess my body only tolerates minimal sleep in hotels; maybe it’s paranoid.
Day 4 (Monday: Forks and beyond)
I hit the “Forks Information” button on the room phone and talk to someone called Stephen. He tells me that both of the places which serve breakfast in Forks are on the 101 (which is the main street in town) and easy to find. We leave our luggage in the room, and ride back along the 101 in Forks, looking for the “you-can’t-miss-it” places Stephen had mentioned. We end up at the Forks Coffee Shop, which is decorated in true forester style, with saw-blades and deer-heads; it looks like the robins-egg blue vinyl upholstery has been there since 1961. I snap a few pictures for my kid, even going outside to capture a few signs and flags bearing the name “Forks”.
Another couple on a motorcycle trip (riding 2-up on a cruiser) come in and are seated across from us. They’re from Canada too, and they misinform us about the Port Townsend ferry: they believe that even motorcycles need to make reservations with that ferry service. We ignore their advice, on no basis whatsoever, and we turn out to be right.
We have our hearty breakfast at the Forks Coffee Shop: Paul has steak and eggs, and I have a waffle with sage-flavoured sausages. Paul reads, on a laminated brochure at the table, that the Forks Chamber of Commerce offers “Twilight Packages”. So after breakfast, we get directions from the waitress (it’s on the 101, like everything else in Forks), and pop in there before we head back to the motel for our luggage.
At the Chamber of Commerce, which is obviously a converted family home, I speak to a Quileute woman named Anita. She’s a former teacher, who’s read the Twilight books, and wants to explain every item in the “Twilight Package” to me. These turn out to be selected pamphlets for local businesses, each of which has some (often remote) connection to characters or events in the books. Anita is chatty, but friendly, and I find it hard to get away from her, even though I’m trying because Paul looks like he’s in agony, having been cornered by an older woman whose conversation is rather rambling.
I’m curious to know what the Quileute think, generally, of being cast as werewolves, and of having their legends co-opted by some writer who’d never even visited the region before writing. Anita tells me that the wolf legends are a real part of the Quileute origin stories, and that – on the whole – the publicity that the Quileute are receiving as a result of Twilight is good for their economy.
Before I can buy a “Discover Forks, WA” magnet and get away, Anita takes me around a corner to view a sort of shrine built into a converted closet on the first floor. A Twilight shrine. It’s a bit weird, but it’s understandable: nothing this big has ever happened to Forks before, and of course it’s sensible for the Chamber of Commerce to embrace it. Still, the shrine… it’s a bit much.
Paul and I head back to Olympic Suites to load our bikes, stopping only to pick up camera batteries at the hardware store; the clerk there is chatty, too, and we have to tear ourselves away from him as well. People in Forks seem lonely.
When our bikes are loaded, Paul and I head north and east, on more winding, gorgeous roads, and along a deep-blue lake called Crescent Lake. We stop a couple of times for pictures on Crescent Lake. We keep going until Port Townsend, where we stop for gas and lunch before missing our ferry by 10 minutes. We have a bit of fun, however, at the gas station: Paul surprises me by walking up to me in a businesslike fashion, before I can refasten my tank bag; he grabs my helmet (still on my head) and squeegees the bugs off. I grimace inside the helmet, pretending to let him brush my teeth. He looks so serious: all business. And my helmet is clean; he's still serious: it's all part of the service, ma’am.
Lunch offers some amusement too: we sit on the patio, pitching morsels of food to a sparrow. The sparrow likes French fries, but not lettuce. It likes bread, but not cheese or chicken (“Here, cannibal, cannibal, cannibal!”), or carrot. Somehow it can tell the difference between carbohydrate-based foods, either by sight or by the sound it makes when it hits the pavement; when we throw anything but carbohydrates, it doesn’t even express the slightest interest.
We buy our tickets for the ferry, and go wait at the dock, snapping pictures and studying maps. After more than an hour’s wait (and an iced mocha each), we get on the ferry. I look all over the car deck for wooden motorcycle wedges. Washington State Ferries doesn't ever provide them, according to the motorcyclists (on heavy Gold Wings) loaded on the ferry behind us; these motorcyclists claim that the crossing is always calm.
Halfway through the ferry ride, I’m getting pretty anxious for our bikes’ safety: the ferry is rocking quite significantly. Paul senses that I’m nervous, and gallantly offers to let me stay upstairs where it’s warm while he goes down to the car deck to steady the bikes. After another 5 or 10 minutes, I realize that poor Paul is wrestling two bikes by himself, and the waves are really rocking us strongly now. So I pack up my stuff, layer up my gear, and get down there. I sling myself onto my bike, and secure my tank-bag. My right leg gets a workout every few seconds as the ferry’s movement rocks the bike off its kickstand. It’s cold and windy, but I don’t want to put my helmet on yet; Paul’s got the hood of his fleece hoodie up, and I use my tube-scarf as a snood.
We can see the ferry dock; we pull in for landing. I’m worried that the ferry attendants won’t give us enough time to warm the bikes up, and I’m right; when we start them up, one of the deck crew gives us the “cut it” hand-signal. Grr: I hate having to abuse my bike. When we get off the ferry, I lead, taking it easy until my temperature sensor tells me it’s OK to ride harder.
But we don’t really get much hard riding; not right away, anyhow. It’s a rush-hour ride from the ferry to Burlington, where we will pick up the I-5 again. We’re in heavy traffic, through what seems like miles and miles of construction. Every now and again there’s an orange sign saying, “MOTORCYCLES USE EXTREME CAUTION,” and I can only guess it’s because the surface is oily; it sure looks dark. We don't have any trouble, however.
From Burlington to the "Sunset – Mt Baker" exit in Bellingham, we tag-team with a Harley rider. He exploits the holes we make in traffic, and we do likewise with him when he gets ahead of us (once). We leave the I-5 briefly at Sunset, but decide to carry on and seek fuel even closer to the border, at Blaine. Our median speed between Burlington and Blaine is probably 145 km/h.
We get gas at Blaine, and directions to the duty-free store. Paul and I each buy a bottle of duty-free vodka: they have my favourite brand of Polish potato vodka for about half the price I’m used to. The crossing into Canada at the Pacific Truck Crossing is easy, even with vodka in our tank-bags. We make our way back to Route 91 at about 5:30 in the afternoon.
We’re not long on the 91, heading west, before Paul has trouble with his temperature light: it’s flashing green, which is something it’s never done before. We pull over in the emergency lane and Paul gets out the manual from under his seat. I sit contentedly on the cement pylons lining the road, reliving happy memories of Portland and La Push. Paul seems really frustrated that his manual doesn’t say anything about a green light, but we’re close to home, and he determines just to grit his teeth and get the ride over with now.
Somewhere in the next 30 km, Paul realizes that the green flash is a reflection from his dragonfly-coloured helmet visor. He tells me at a stoplight on Marine Way. I just smile: I’m happy it’s nothing serious, and that it won’t require investigation.
We part ways at Broadway and Victoria. I head down Vic to my parking garage, where I unload my bike, wash and lube everything, and polish my helmet and fairing with acrylic polish. By the time I’m done with that, Paul’s on his way over; I’m not upstairs for long before he arrives.
It was his idea to get the “Twilight Package” from Forks, so I wait until he arrives to give it to my kid. She’s thrilled. When her friend calls, she interrupts, bursting with the news that Paul and I had been to Forks; she describes the T-shirt I bought her, and the pamphlets in the bag. She even brings the paper bag from the Forks Thriftway out to the living room: she likes it.
Paul and I break out our duty-free vodka. We’re exhausted, but elated. It’s been a wonderful run, with no major problems. Our bikes, gear and luggage all performed well. Our original plans (destination-wise) ran aground, but we innovated, enjoying the freedom. We worked well together, and savoured all the joy, love, and adventure.
When we go to make drinks, the Fresca’s flat, so we bring out a new bottle from the cupboard. Ice. Glasses. A toast: to THE BEST VACATION EVER.