Nice Day For a Ride

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Sturgis: nice place for a party. Bad spot for a Covid gathering. This was my first visit, in 2017.

It’s August 8, first day of the 80th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally. I was supposed to be there, among 500,000 riders gathering from all over the US.

For nearly a year, I’d planned an 18-day, 4,000-mile trip that would take me and four riding pals through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana — en route to South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Then, Covid happened.

I cancelled.

Despite the pandemic surging around the world, a quarter million Harley riders still showed up for the event. Few masks, little social distancing, huge crowds, lots of beer.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Social distancing, Sturgis style. This is the 2020 rally.

I chose to stay home.

Today, when I was supposed to be in Sturgis, I rode to downtown Carbondale instead.

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On my way to Carbondale, a 1.5-mile adventure. It’s my first ride since hip replacement surgery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe I Spoke Too Soon

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The big seven-oh.

Exactly four months ago, I celebrated my 70th birthday.

As the first male in my family to make it that far, I was feeling pretty invincible.

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Party time!

“I’m genetically blessed,” I gloated to a crowd of 50 friends and family. “I’ve got all my original parts: hips, knees, wisdom teeth, tonsils, adenoids, appendix. And, my hair.”

Turns out I may have spoken too soon.

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Ready to ski again.

This morning, I got a new right hip.

With rehab on the horizon, I’ll be good as new by ski season.

But damn. Karma is a bitch! Next time around, I’ll be a little less cocky.

 

 

What a Week: Seven-OH!

This week was one for the ages.

I celebrated three major anniversaries.

Fifty: It’s been 50 years since I began teaching skiing. Not 50 years of continuous service, of course. I taught for two years at Alta’s Alf Engen Ski School, while a student at the University of Utah — then took a 46-year hiatus, before starting all over again at the Aspen Snowmass Ski School in 2018. Today, I celebrated my 50-year teaching anniversary by becoming a certified ski instructor. At Buttermilk this afternoon, I was awarded Level 1 Certification status by the Professional Ski Instructors of America. It only took half a century!

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At Buttermilk this afternoon, a few minutes after learning I’d become a certified ski instructor.

Sixty: 60 years ago this week, I took my first ski lesson. It happened at Squaw Valley, California, just days after the 1960 Winter Olympics ended there. Skiing was one of my earliest passions, before I even knew what passion was.

Seventy: 70 years ago, on February 24, 1950, I entered this world at Peralta Hospital in Oakland, California. Turning 70 last week was a big deal. I’m the first male in my family to make it this far. It’s a very pleasant surprise to be a healthy 70, and be doing the things I love with the people who mean the most to me.

These three life milestones — 50, 60, and 70 — were reason to celebrate last week, so that’s exactly what we did.

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Takes a lot of lungs to blow out 70 candles. It was quite the inferno, as 50 friends and family gathered in Carbondale on Tuesday to celebrate my 70th birthday.

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Here’s what the cake looked like before it was on fire.  Great cake, and thank you, Yvonne, for your extraordinary baking skills!

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The RVR Barn was a perfect venue for the party.

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Wine stewardesses.

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Every table had two bottles of J Lohr, selected to pair well with Slow Groovin ribs, baked beans, Mac ‘n cheese, cole slaw, and cornbread.

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On my birthday, Sarah and I took a hike around the neighborhood with our unofficially adopted daughter, Brittany.  She journeyed to Carbondale from Southern California to be part of the week’s festivities.

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One of the highlights of my week was taking Brittany skiing at Snowmass  it was her first time on skis.

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I had the privilege of giving her a private lesson. It began on the “magic carpet” in the Elk Camp Meadows, Snowmass’ beginners area.

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Brittany caught on quickly, going from a Level 1 (Never Ever) to a Level 3 — in one day.

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Her visit, and my week, ended too soon. The memories will live on.

Remembering Betsy

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Betsy in La Quinta, 2008.

This blog is dedicated to riding.

Today was Betsy’s last ride.

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Big stretch!

After being a gentle, loving presence in our lives the past 16 years, Betsy has moved on to kitty heaven. Intestinal cancer finally took her from us. Today’s blog post honors Betsy’s memory.

She was never very far from Sarah. They were inseparable.

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Betsy and her sister, Lucy, had great times together. They rarely found a chair they didn’t like. In our La Quinta home, they were in this chair more than we were.

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We will treasure the memory of our two girls. Now, Lucy is our remaining fur baby. They were best buds, almost from the beginning.

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Betsy had an affinity for Sarah, but once in a while, she graced me with her presence, too.

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She loved staying warm by the fireplace.

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She was a big fan of having her picture taken with Sarah. Betsy was the best cuddler. Ever.

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She even stared down deer when they visited us.

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We’ll never see another Calico without thinking of Betsy.

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A nightly routine here in Carbondale was for the three girls to have quality time together. Sarah read, while Betsy and Lucy sat in her lap.

This was before Betsy got sick.

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The last few months have been challenging. Betsy’s cancer slowly ate away her strength. But right up until the end, she always found a place in Sarah’s lap.

This is our last photo of Betsy, shot two days ago.

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We gave Betsy a loving, comfortable home since 2004. In turn, she gave us a lifetime of memories.

If you have a memory of Betsy, please honor her by sharing it with us.

We love you, Betsy.

Home at Last!

After 23 days on the road, I’m ready to be home.

With any luck, I’ll be in Carbondale by tonight, sleeping in a familiar bed.

One final breakfast on the road, and I’m on my way. The Peace Tree Juice Café was so good last night I’m giving it a re-run this morning.

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Latte breakfast at at the Peace Tree. Peace and love to everyone!

***

US Highway 491 is the road east out of Monticello. In 17 miles, I cross from Utah into Colorado. Doesn’t look any different, but feels really good. Just that much closer to home.

At the junction of Colorado Highway 141, I turn north. I’ll be on this road for the next 56 miles, through Slick Rock and on to Naturita – Spanish for little nature.

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In Norwood, it’s Sunday morning and the streets are empty.

Just east of Naturita, I turn onto Colorado Highway 145, which takes me to Norwood, 15 miles away. Norwood sits on a mesa at 7,000 feet, with vistas ringed by the La Sal Mountains to the west, the Uncompahgre Plateau to the north, the San Juan Mountains to the east, and Lone Cone Peak to the south.

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Welcome to Norwood.

Norwood, which sits in the San Miguel River Canyon, is named for Norwood, Missouri – the native home of a first settler.

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The spectacular Unaweep Canyon follows the San Miguel River, just outside of Norwood.

Leaving Norwood, I ride along the San Miguel River until reaching Leopard Creek Canyon, 17 miles away. Here, I turn north, away from the river, onto Colorado Highway 62. Twenty minutes later, I roll into the town of Ridgway.

Ridgway began as a railroad town, serving the nearby mining towns of Telluride and Ouray. Railroads and ranching have always been part of the Ridgway story. The town is named for Denver and Rio Grande railroad superintendent Robert Ridgway, who established Ridgway in 1891. Today, there’s a Ridgeway Railroad Museum at the southwest corner of US Highway 550 and Colorado Highway 62.

Ridgway went through some tough times beginning with the collapse of the silver market in 1893, the demise of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad in the 1950s, and the controversial plan by the US Bureau of Reclamation to construct a large dam that would inundate the town. In this case, inundate means burying the town in water.

The town’s people persevered, and Ridgway made a comeback. The dam was built elsewhere. And, the 1960s filming of two prominent Hollywood productions, How the West was Won, and True Grit, brought recognition to the community.

Ridgway sits at the junction of Colorado Highway 62, which brought me here, and US Highway 550 – which will bring me ever closer to home.

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There’s a lot to do at Ridgway State Park.

I ride past Ridgway Reservoir and Ridgway State Park on the way to Montrose, 26 miles away.

I’ve been to Montrose a dozen or more times, but remember little about it other than this: Dave hates the place. He intensely dislikes all the stoplights. He says nuts to Montrose for making him sit on his overheating Harley for what seems like forever at red lights. He detests the way Montrose ruins the rhythm of a ride that’s gone so well for the last bunch of beautiful miles, then you sit in traffic for 30 minutes.

Last summer, after an interminably long journey down Main Street, with a stop at pretty much every signal, Dave called me on our helmet-mounted intercom system. He wanted me to know he plans to have his ashes spread at one of those signals – just to spite Montrose.

I think he’s kidding.

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For lunch, I have my first (and last) hot dog of the trip.

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Yum?

The city of 19,000 has every imaginable food franchise along its busy main street – Highway 550 – including (from south to north) Applebees, Chili’s, Papa Murphy’s, McDonalds, Sonic Drive-in, Denny’s, Starbucks, Wendys, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, Little Caesar’s, Subway, Burger King, Wienerschnitzel, and Long John Silver’s. What a slice of Americana!

Homesick for Montrose, Dave?

***

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Olathe Sweet Corn.

From Dave’s All-American city, I continue north, through the corn town of Olathe, home of the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, held every August. This year, the two-day event begins on August 3 – this Saturday – when you can see country music star Craig Campbell.

He’s sure to perform his hit single, “See You Try,” the story of a relationship that stays flirty and fun even after years of marriage. Campbell didn’t write the song, but says he instantly gravitated to it because of its personal connection to his own experiences with his wife, Mindy Ellis.

Campbell will be headlining the music lineup at the Sweet Corn Festival. This year is the 28th anniversary of the festival, a celebration of the town’s role as king of sweet corn.

Olathe brings me to Delta, built as a trading post for early settlers and the Ute people. Go Utes!

The town is named because of its location on the delta where the Uncompahgre River flows into the Gunnison River.

In Delta, I turn east on Colorado Highway 92 and ride along the northern edge of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area – 62,844 acres of protected lands that include whitewater boating and world-class gold medal trout fishing.

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Rafting on the Gunnison River, in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

***

It’s about 20 miles to the town of Hotchkiss, named after local pioneer Enos Hotchkiss. From here, I have a pretty good idea how to make it home.

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In Hotchkiss, 65 miles from home, I make my last gas stop of the trip.

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208.2 miles since Monticello. $12.19 for 3.75 gallons. That’s 55.5 miles per gallon, almost Prius-worthy.

I turn north on Colorado Highway 133, roll through the slumping coal towns of Bowie and Somerset, and ride along the North Fork of the Gunnison River. For several beautiful miles, I follow the outlines of Paonia Reservoir and Paonia State Park.

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By the Paonia Reservoir.

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Almost home!

In 16 miles, I arrive at 8,770-foot McClure Pass. It’s one of the steepest paved roads in Colorado, requiring drivers – and riders like me – to climb an eight percent grade. The last time I rode over McClure pass, in August 2018, was with my favorite passenger, Brittany Kühn.

From the pass, the road descends steeply toward the town of Marble, summer home of Slow Groovin’, named last summer as the Best BBQ Ribs in Colorado. Who made that pronouncement? Dave and I did, after sampling ribs at 12 BBQ joints all over the state on our 2018 Rocky Mountain Rib Rally.

Pretty awesome that the best ribs around are right in my backyard.

I say right in my backyard, because it’s exactly 28 miles from Slow Groovin’ to our front door in Carbondale.

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Slow Groovin’, exactly 28 miles from our front door!

***

Highway 133 takes me past the turnoff to Marble on Gunnison County Road 3, and I continue north toward home. I pass the charming town of Redstone, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Redstone was established in the late 19thcentury by industrialist John Cleveland Osgood as part of a coal mining enterprise. Today, with a population of 130, Redstone’s economy is built around tourism.

A dominant feature in town is the Redstone Castle, a recently-reopened 42-room Tudor-style mansion. Redstone sits on the Crystal River, which I follow for the remaining 16 miles to Carbondale.

Two hundred sixty-eight miles from this morning’s start in Monticello, I’m home.

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2:35 pm. Home at last!

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Relaxing on back patio.

***

The last three weeks on the road have been more fun than humans should be allowed to have.

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The posse.

Along with Dave, Scott, John, Jim and Randy – I rode 5,517.9 miles, visited six national parks, had one country fried steak breakfast and four fish-and-chips dinners.

We crossed high mountain passes, still covered in snow – and rode through searing desert heat. We sailed on ferries through gorgeous archipelagos and across international borders.

We saw volcanoes, lighthouses galore, and learned why some towns are just plain funny. We rode over the world’s most famous bridge, several of the world’s best motorcycle roads, and became positively poetic among the Redwoods.

Twenty-four Canadian Fun Facts later, we learned a lot about Canada, eh.

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Final Canadian Fun Fact; those are six American bikers in front of a Victoria landmark, the Empress Hotel.

This year’s blog ran more than 35,000 words – what publishers would place somewhere between a short story and novella.

If, by some miracle, you learned something in the consumption of my daily blog posts over the past 23 days, you’re welcome.

Until next year …

Vroom, vroom.

vroom

***

Day Twenty-Three Summary: I’m home!

Click here to see today’s complete route from Monticello to Carbondale.

I’m home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  The license plate for cars, motorbikes and snowmobiles in Nunavut was once in the shape of a polar bear. Its license plates today feature a polar bear, inuksuk, three sets of northern lights and 25 stars.

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Nunavut bear-shaped licence plate, now a collector’s item.

 

Fun With Hogbacks

Dream Your Ride - Utah Route 12 Hogback

My reaction is the same every time I’m on Highway 12: I’m terrified, and I love it.

Utah Highway 12 is a road I never tire of.

Sure, it scares me, especially the hogback section that elicits the same sphincter-tightening reaction every time.

But hey, I can do this.

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First, breakfast at Bryce Canyon Coffee Co. note the latte is made with nonfat milk. The diet has started!

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Never mind. The diet begins when I get home.

***

I leave Tropic and push eastward, toward Esaclante, 40 miles away. Escalante is a small ranching town with about 800 full-time residents. It’s named after Silvestre Velez de Escalante, a Franciscan missionary and a member of the first European expedition into southern Utah.

Escalante sits at about 5,820 feet. It feels hot and dry, almost desert-ish. Annual precipitation averages only about 10 inches. Hard to believe I’m almost at 6,000 feet.

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Just past Escalante. It’s a beautiful day to ride.

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I ❤️ Highway 12.

After Escalante, the road begins to climb, steeply in places, on its way to more than 9,600 feet. Fourteen miles up the road, by the Kiva Koffeehouse, I cross the Escalante River on the way to the hogback.

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That’s the Kiva Koffeehouse, above right, and the Kottage, lower left.

The Kiva Koffeehouse & Kiva Kottage, open May through November is at mile marker 73.86 on Highway 12. It offers a place to stop, view Escalante Canyon, and even stay for the night if you have an overwhelming aversion to hogbacks.

A kiva, if you must know, is a large circular structure, used by Pueblo Indians for religious rituals and political meetings. Or, today, for koffee konsumption.

This kiva is an architectural gem, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. As the brainchild of artist Bradshaw Bowman, it was a labor of love. Bowman (no relation to Dave) was the founder of Bowmanite concrete stamping and is considered the father of decorative concrete. He seemed to make a point of leaving concrete out of the Kiva.

The circular building, which took five years to build, is crafted from wood, stone and glass. Bowman, who studied engineering at Stanford, learned as he went along to be an architect and builder.

It took him two years to collect the 13 Ponderosa Pine perimeter logs that serve as support columns. Each of the log columns is more than 40 inches in diameter. The smaller interior logs and rafters are Spruce. The sandstone walls were quarried from an onsite quarry that the family has owned since homesteading it in the 1860s.

Bowman completed the building at age 87. He died two years later, on Christmas Eve in 2000.

***

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There’s a scenic viewpoint about 200 feet from the Kiva Koffeehouse.

The hogback is about halfway between the Kiva Koffeehouse and Boulder, about 14 miles away. For the uninitiated, a hogback is a long narrow ridge or series of hills with a narrow crest and steep slopes with nearly equal inclines on both sides. As you might guess, the name refers to its resemblance to the back of a hog.

Boulder, a town of about 200, takes its name from nearby Boulder Mountain, a vast timbered plateau of the Dixie National Forest that rises to 11,316 feet.

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Much different from Boulder, Colorado.

The 30-mile long portion of the highway that ascends and descends Boulder Mountain is known as the Boulder Mountain Highway. It climbs to an elevation of more than 9,600 feet, and winds through a huge aspen grove, before descending into the town of Torrey – gateway to Capitol Reef National Park.

The town of Boulder, with two world-class restaurants, sits at 6,700 feet. You can eat at Hell’s Backbone Grill, a James Beard Award semifinalist the past two years – and voted Best Restaurant of the Rockies by Elevation Outdoors magazine in 2017. Or, you can try the Burr Trail Grill, known for its pickled beets and gingerberry pie. Both eateries offer amazing food, especially when you consider their remote location and minimal population.

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Hell’s Backbone Grill serves up some mighty fine meals. You might enjoy their springtime carrot soup.

From Boulder, it’s about 36 miles, over the heavily forested mountain, beyond the tree line, past beautiful Aspen groves, to the town of Torrey. Torrey sits at 6,830 feet, at the northeastern terminus of Highway 12.

The town was established – you guessed it – by Mormon settlers. It was initially known as Youngtown, after John Willard Young. Mormon fun fact: Young is one of the few individuals to have been an apostle of the Mormon Church without ever having been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Today, the town of Torrey is named after one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, Col. Jay Torrey. Torrey – the town, not the Colonel – is considered the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park, only 10 miles to the east.

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In Torrey, I meet a large group of riders from France. They’re all on rented Harleys.

***

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Spectacular views are everywhere you look in Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef National Park has 241,904 acres of colorful canyons, ridges, cliffs, towers, arches, buttes and monoliths.  The area is named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks a bit like the US Capitol building.

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Bike’s looking pretty good with three weeks of dirt.

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I’ve accumulated one day’s worth of dirt.

To get there from Torrey, you simply head east on Utah Highway 24. Because the highway is a main east-west route across Utah, there’s no toll or fee to ride through most of the park. As I journey through Capitol Reef, the town of Fruita is ahead. It had been long abandoned in 1955, when the National Park Service purchased Fruita to be included in Capitol Reef National Park. Today, few buildings remain, except for a restored one-room schoolhouse.

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It’s hard to find a bad picture in Capitol Reef …

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… unless you put yourself in it.

Fruita’s orchards are thriving, under the ownership of the National Park Service. Visitors to the park are welcome to consume ripe fruit from any unlocked orchard – including cherry, apricot, peach, pear, apple, plum and mulberry.

It’s about 37 miles east from the Capitol Reef visitor center to the town of Hanksville, located at the junction of Utah Highways 24 and 95. You’ll find this hard to believe, but the town was named after Ebenezer Hanks, leader of a group of Mormon pioneers who established a small settlement here in 1985.

***

I turn south on Highway 95.

In 26 miles, there’s a turnoff onto Utah Highway 276, which could take me to Bullfrog. Bullfrog is a popular place on the northern shores of Lake Powell, attracting tourists, fishermen, boaters and outdoor enthusiasts.

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Houseboating on Lake Powell.

The Bullfrog marina offers a jumping-off point to begin vacationing on Lake Powell. Bullfrog is 96 river miles upstream from the main Lake Powell visitor hub at Page, Arizona. Lake Powell is considered America’s houseboating mecca. It’s home to 96 major canyons and nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline.

At the turnoff to Highway 276, I choose not to make that turn. Instead, I continue on Highway 95, rolling through Leprechaun Canyon, one of Utah’s famed slot canyons. There’s a trailhead to hike this canyon, just east of mile marker 28.

Soon, the road crisscrosses the Colorado River and winds its way to Fry Canyon, a uranium boom town during the 1950s. It’s a ghost town today.

From Fry Canyon, it’s only a few miles south on Highway 95 to Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah’s first National Monument. It features one of the largest natural bridges in the world, carved over thousands of years from the white Permian sandstone that gives the nearby White Canyon its name.

Sipapu Bridge is the largest of the three natural bridges in the park and the second largest in the United States. Sipapu, Hopi for place of emergence, has a 268-foot span. Natural bridges are formed through erosion by water flowing in the stream bed of the canyon.

Given its remote location, it’s no wonder the park has some of the world’s least light-polluted night skies. The International Dark Sky Association named Natural Bridges the world’s first International Dark Sky Park.

It’s a sanctuary of natural darkness.

***

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At one of the few scenic viewpoints on Highway 95.

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It rained along my route, but not when I was riding. #CharmedLife

I follow Utah Highway 95 for another half-hour, until it runs into US Highway 191. Here, I turn left and in five miles, I arrive in Blanding.

Blanding is a cultural blender. It mixes cowboy culture, Native American culture, and Mormon culture.

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Last time I was in Blanding, in 2016 with Dave and Randy, Dave had an O’Doul’s “non-alcoholic beer” with his fried chicken at the Homestead Steakhouse.

For years, Blanding has been one of America’s last remaining “dry” communities, with a prohibition on alcohol sales. Two years ago, in a city-wide referendum, voters in Blanding overwhelmingly decided to keep the long-standing alcohol ban. Proponents of keeping Blanding dry said prohibition is the key to the city’s character. They won.

Blanding, dry since the 1930s, will continue that way.

Most of the other dry counties in the US are in the Bible belt. Kentucky has the most with 39 dry counties; Arkansas is a shot glass behind, with 38. Other states with multiple dry counties, in order of dryness, are Tennessee, Kansas, Mississippi, Texas and Georgia. Apparently, the 21st century is slow to arrive some places.

Not all of San Juan County, where Blanding is located, is dry. If you want a beer, glass of wine, or whatever, continue north on Highway 191 for 20 miles to Monticello, the county seat of San Juan County. Settled in 1887 by Mormon pioneers (really?), Monticello was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate.

Along with much of San Juan County, Monticello grew significantly during the uranium boom from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. A golf course called The Hideout, was built in 2000 near the reclaimed site of the area’s uranium mill, using Department of Energy cleanup funding. The Hideout, with views of the Abajo Mountains, includes a three-hole course for juniors, and is ranked as the number two public golf course in Utah.

In Monticello, you can also visit the Canyon Country Discovery Center, the Frontier Museum, and Church Rock – all highly ranked by Trip Advisor. And, you can get all the alcohol you want. Cheers!

It’s nice there’s so much to do here.

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Dinner at the Peace Tree Juice Cafe. Eat your heart out, Dave!

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Vegetarian pizza and iced tea. The diet begins!

My only goal is to park the Harley, have dinner and a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s final push to Carbondale. Looking forward to returning to Colorado.

I’m coming home, Sarah! 

***

Day Twenty-Two Summary: Kiva Koffeehouse, bullfrogs and bridges.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Tropic, Utah, to Monticello, Utah.

I’m on my way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  Canada is the world’s largest source of the rare element Cesium. It is found at Bernic Lake, Manitoba. Cesium is a soft, silvery-golden alkali metal with a melting point of 83.3 °F, which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at or near room temperature.

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Cesium. Melts at room temperature.

On My Way Home

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Ever the consummate host, Dave puts my Harley on a lift in his garage and checks my tire pressure. 40 in the rear, 36 in the front. I’m good to go.

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You gotta appreciate a guy who’ll get on his hands and knees to keep me safe.

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Just after 7:30 am, I wave goodbye to the Bowman’s and head out of Henderson.

For the first time in 17 days, I’m riding without adult supervision.

I’ll be on my own for the next three days, as I head home to Colorado.

My 229-mile day begins as I ride east, paralleling the shoreline of Lake Mead. I rode this road a few weeks ago, on my way to Henderson, at the beginning of my journey. This time, I’m going the opposite direction.

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At Redstone, a rest stop in the Valley of Fire, I grab a selfie in front of a popular photo rock. It’s 94 degrees.

I continue through the Valley of Fire State Park. It’s hot here, but not nearly as toasty as it’ll be later in the day. Good thing I’m getting an early start.

North of Moapa Valley, about two hours after leaving Casa Bowman, I leave the relative calm of off-the-beaten-path travel, and join thousands of travelers on I-15 North, heading toward St. George, Utah.

I’ve gone from the road less traveled, to the road too traveled.

I’ll be on I-15 for about 115 miles. For much of the flow of traffic, that’s about an hour and a-half on the road. I’m a slow poke. It’ll take me two hours, at least.

What’s the hurry?

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While I’m riding, John arrives home in Mesa, Arizona and cools his heels by the pool. That makes me the only member of the posse still on the road.

***

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In Cedar City, hydrating at the Shell station.

By late morning, I arrive in Cedar City, elevation 5,846 feet. Cedar City is located on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau. The area was settled in 1851 by Mormon pioneers, sent there to build an iron works, because of the vast iron and coal resources only 10 miles from town.

Cedar City is a tourism gateway to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and of course, Cedar Breaks National Monument. The city of nearly 30,000 is home to Southern Utah University. It’s named after the abundant local trees, which are actually junipers, not cedar.

I was last in Cedar City two summers ago, with Scott and Dave, on the way home from Sturgis, South Dakota.

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Last visit to Cedar City, in 2015. You may recognize these guys.

In Cedar City, I turn east on Utah Highway 14, which follows Cedar Canyon for nearly 40 miles on a scenic ride that crests at nearly 10,000 feet. The road takes me through Dixie National Forest and Duck Creek Village, to the junction of US Highway 89.

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On Highway 14, in Cedar Canyon.

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That’s Navajo Lake, along Highway 14.

Here, with Bryce Canyon National Park pulling me northward, I turn left onto Highway 89. Twenty-one miles later, I head east on Utah Highway 12, a Scenic Byway that was Utah’s first All-American Road. It’s known as A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway, and is considered one of the top five motorcycle roads in the US.

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On Highway 12, at the entrance to Red Canyon.

I’ve now ridden Highway 12 four times in each direction. Without exception, it’s exhilarating, and in a few places, on the top of a hogback, terrifying. There’s this little gremlin in my head that continually reminds me, “Dude, you really shouldn’t be here.”

I ignore those voices, and enjoy 98 percent of the ride. The other two percent is the dreaded hogback.

For 123 miles, all the way to Torrey, Utah, Highway 12 is a non-stop thrill.

A few miles after turning onto Highway 12, I enter Red Canyon, home of Red Canyon State Park and Red Canyon Scenic Drive.

All red, all the time.

You have to see it to believe it.

I keep coming back, and it feels like a new experience every time.

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Getting ready to roll through Red Canyon. It was a beautiful day, then I got drenched by a summer thunderstorm 15 minutes later!

***

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On a previous visit to Bryce Canyon, in 2016. No time for hoodoos today.

Thirty-five miles after rolling into Red Canyon, I arrive at the junction of Utah Highways 12 and 63, the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. I’ve been to Bryce, with its plateaus and hoodoos, several times. Reluctantly, I ride right past Highway 63.

Today’s destination, Tropic, is only a few miles away.

Like almost everywhere in Utah, Tropic was established in the late 1800s by Mormon settlers. It’s such a common and familiar story, you could easily copy and paste those words into the history of any Utah town: “blankety-blank was established in the late 1800s by Mormon settlers.”

The organization of Tropic began when Andrew J. Hansen, William Lewman and James Ahlstrom surveyed the townsite in the spring of 1889. It included 16 blocks of four lots per block, each lot measuring one and a quarter acres. Sixty-four lots were sold at $7.50 per lot. Mormons are very organized, and keep detailed records.

Tropic began in 1892 with 15 families. Today, it’s a ranching community with about 550 residents.

Make that 551.

I’m settling in for the night.

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An early dinner at IDK Barbecue, about 100 feet from the hotel. Ribs!

***

Day Twenty-One Summary: The posse shrinks, riding beautiful Highway 12, swelling Tropic’s population.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Henderson, Nevada, to Tropic, Utah.

I’m on my way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  There are more than 2,800 hockey rinks in Canada. However, almost twice as many kids under 14 years play soccer than hockey.

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Hockey, a Canadian obsession.

Searchlight’s On: We’re Heading Home

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6:30 am, and John fires up his Harley. He’s leaving the posse and heading for Flagstaff, Arizona — on his way home to Mesa.

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Good parking lot technique. See you next time, John.

No longer the butt of our own jokes, we saddle up for the final push to Henderson, where we’re targeting an early arrival at Casa Bowman. It’s a 181-mile ride, which should give us about three hours of time in the saddle.

The posse is now down to two: Dave and me. John is heading home to Arizona, and Scott is on his way home in Fullerton, California.

What remains of the posse leaves early to minimize the desert heat. Turns out that’s almost not physically possible.

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In Baker, home of the world’s tallest thermometer. Today, as we roll through Baker, it’s 97 degrees.

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It’s an impressive structure. So is the thermometer.

Still, we ride for an hour on I-15 before arriving in Baker, home of the world’s tallest thermometer. Visible for miles, it’s a 134-foot tall electric sign that commemorates the hottest temperature ever recorded: 134 degrees Fahrenheit in nearby Death Valley. The sign weighs 76,812 pounds and is held together by 125 cubic yards of concrete.

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It’s still 97!

Baker, which sits at the western edge of the Mojave National Preserve, was founded as a station of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad in 1908. It was named for Richard Baker, an eventual president of the railroad.

The Mojave National Preserve, a 1.6-million-acre park, has sand dunes, cider cone volcanoes, a Joshua tree forest and carpets of wildflowers. The ghost town of Kelso is in the middle of the preserve. Kelso has a defunct railroad depot serving as the Visitor Center for the preserve.

From Baker, we ride 40 miles east on I-15 before exiting onto Nipton Road, which becomes Highway 164 after we cross into Nevada. We’ll follow this road for 31 miles to Searchlight, Nevada. Searchlight, with a population of less than 600, is a typical tiny Nevada town – gas stations, casinos, fast food restaurants – sometimes all under one roof.

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In Searchlight, last hot dog of the trip.

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Meanwhile, John polishes off his last hot dog of the trip — in Seligman, Arizona.

Former US Senator Harry Reid grew up in Searchlight and later became Senate Majority Leader. Reid says the most likely story as to how the town received its name was that when George Frederick Colton was looking for gold in the area in 1897, he supposedly said that it would take a searchlight to find gold ore there.

Shortly after saying that, Colton found gold in Searchlight, leading to a boom era when Searchlight had a larger population than Las Vegas.

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At a convenience store in Searchlight, I open my saddlebag and find leftover pizza. Paired with diet Dew, it makes a mighty fine breakfast.

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While we’re in Searchlight munching on hot dogs and pizza, Scott arrives home in Fullerton.

***

Searchlight sits at the intersection of Nevada Highway 164 and US Highway 395.

From here, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to Henderson. We turn north on Highway 395, and in less than 40 minutes, we arrive at tonight’s destination: Casa Bowman.

It’s 11am, and our riding day is over.

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We arrive in Henderson, and immediately the Bowman hospitality is on full display. Thanks, Gail!

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Mid-afternoon, Dave and I have our annual “receipt party,” where we take two weeks worth of expenses and figure out who owes who, and how much everyone owes (or is due). It’s high-powered math, sure to enrich the two guys massaging the receipts.

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Dinner at Bownan’s. Thanks for the hospitality!

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Best Mexican food in Henderson!

***

Day Twenty Summary: Home at last. At least Dave is.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Barstow, California, to Henderson, Nevada.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  The heaviest rainfall ever recorded was in Buffalo Gap, Saskatchewan. On May 30, 1961, 10 inches fell in less than an hour.

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Ten inches in an an hour. Only in Buffalo Gap, Saskatchewan.

Bakersfield and Barstow: Lotsa Laughs!

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A Cambria tradition: breakfast at the French Corner Bakery.

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Breakfast al fresco.

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Jim has a final cup of coffee before heading home to Sherman Oaks, California. That leaves four of us in the posse, as the rest of us head east into the hot zone.

Our Highway 1 fun fest is almost over.

Leaving Cambria, we head south on Highway 1, the Cabrillo Highway. We’re on the highway for 2.3 miles, then our coastal celebration suddenly comes to an end.

We begin our long slog inland, through the intense summer heat, toward some places you’ll probably laugh at.

Our first destination is quite popular, and very expensive.

We turn east on California Highway 46, five miles post-Cambria. We’re on our way to Paso Robles, the hub of a world-class wine region. Wine grapes were introduced to the Paso Robles soil in 1797 by the Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan missionaries. Spanish explorer Francisco Cortez envisioned an abundant wine-producing operation and encouraged settlers from Mexico and other parts of California to cultivate the land.

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Paso Robles is a wine lover’s paradise.

Since then, the wine business here has done quite well. More than 25 different varieties of grapes are grown in Paso Robles wine country. There are more than 250 wineries to process all those grapes.

Tonight, at the Vina Robles Amphitheater in Paso Robles, with a little planning ahead, we could have enjoyed wine under the stars and seen Chicago in concert. 2019 Marks the band’s 52nd consecutive year of touring. Saturday in the Park, on a Wednesday evening. The Chicago concert begins at 8 pm.

Sadly, by then, we’ll be at tonight’s destination, Barstow. Barstow is one of those places you’ll probably laugh at. More on that later.

***

From Cambria, the ride gets hot, sorta ugly and somewhat boring. Those are relative terms. Compared to what we’ve experienced the past two weeks, it’s hotter, uglier, and boringer.

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Cooling off at Blackwell’s Corner.

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The shade was welcome on a 100-degree morning.

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The epitome of motorcycle cool at Blackwell’s Corner.

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100 in the shade. Nothing bothers Scott.

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Time to ride again. Let’s roll!

An hour east of Paso Robles, just before reaching I-5, we arrive in Lost Hills, named for the nearby low mountain range. Low means the hills reach 200 feet. The Lost Hills Oil Field has more than 110 million barrels of producible reserves still in the ground, making it one of the largest in California.

In Lost Hills, we head for the day’s next laugh line: Bakersfield. With a population of nearly 400,000, Bakersfield is California’s ninth-largest city. It’s part of Kern County’s thriving oil economy, the most productive oil-producing county in the US. It’s also the fourth-most productive agricultural county, by value, in the US.

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Bakersfield oil fields. That’s not at all funny.

There’s a lot of production going on here. Bakersfield is also the birthplace of the country music genre known as the Bakersfield Sound, whose origins are in honky tonk. The two most successful artists of the original Bakersfield Sound were Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, and Merle Haggard and the Strangers.

Bakersfield is the butt of a lot of jokes. Many of them are about meth and trailer parks.

And don’t forget Bakersfield’s miserable air quality. Here’s one: Bakersfield … why trust air you can’t see?

Emissions from oil refineries and agriculture make Bakersfield the most air-polluted city in the US. The American Lung Association says the city’s air is the worst in the US for short-term and year-round particle pollution, and the second worst for ozone pollution.

Meth and crappy air. Actually, not funny at all.

***

We miss little of Bakersfield, rolling through town on Highway 58 in 105-degree heat, in slow stop-and-go traffic. It’s scorching hot!

We stay on Highway 58, and in less than an hour, arrive in Tehachapi, a city in the Tehachapi Mountains between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert.

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In Tehachapi, Dave helps guide us to our next waypoint.

After 177 miles on the road, Tehachapi is a good place to gas up and grab something cold before pushing on to Barstow, another very funny place.

First, we continue east on Highway 58, rolling past Edwards Air Force Base, home to the Air Force Test Center, Air Force Test Pilot School, and many test activities conducted by the commercial aerospace industry. Dave spent a lot of time here early in his career when he was involved in flight testing aircraft for McDonnell Douglas.

Edwards is the second-largest base in the US Air Force, covering 481 square miles. It has three lighted, paved runways, the longest of which is 15,024 feet long, with an extra 9,558 feet of lakebed runway available at its northerly end. That should be plenty for your Cessna 172, which would be somewhat out of place here, as the airspace is highly restricted.

Thousands of aviation enthusiasts who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the base show up in droves for what’s known as the Los Angeles County Air Show. Yes, Edwards is located in Kern County, but the air show now alternates each year between Lancaster, California — which is in Los Angeles County, and Edwards. The next airshow at Edwards will be in October 2020. The last one was in 2009.

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Edwards is a popular venue for its open house and air show. Note three Boeing aircraft in the middle of the frame: the 747 that carried the NASA space shuttle, the B-1 bomber, and the C-17 Globemaster III.

Not far from Edwards is Kramer Junction, where Highway 58 and US Highway 395 meet. The most popular thing to do in Kramer Junction is leave Kramer Junction. Other than gas and food, there isn’t much happening here.

Only 34 more miles east and we come to Barstow, the last source of laugh lines for the day. Johnny Carson made jokes about Barstow, Bakersfield and Burbank. The three Bs.

If you’re a Millennial and have never heard of Johnny Carson, let’s just say he was his generation’s Jay Leno, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah and Jay Leno – all wrapped in one.

Following five hours of intense desert heat, we park the Harleys in Barstow, hold back our laughter, and call it a day.

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Checking into the hotel in Barstow. For a guy who spent the last two hours in 108-degree heat, Dave looks remarkably refreshed.

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John hydrates in the lobby, looking fresh as a daisy after his two hours of furnace-like riding.

Tomorrow, we head for Henderson.

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But first, our last supper as a posse — dinner for four at Oggi’s in suburban Barstow. See you guys next year.

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“I said I wanted black olives, not anchovies!”

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After dinner, as we walk back to the hotel, I carry a box of leftover pizza. It’ll be a handy treat tomorrow.

***

Day Nineteen Summary: Bakersfield to Barstow – a laugh a minute.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Cambria, California, to Barstow, California.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh? Fifty percent of the world’s polar bears live in Nunavut, Canada. Nunavut is the newest, largest and most northerly territory of Canada. Polar bears in Nunavut are probably the most widely recognized symbols of the Arctic. The Inuit population believes there are so many polar bears in Nunavut that it’s a public safety concern.

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A polar bear and her cubs in Nunavut. Cute, until you come face-to-face with them.

Highway One: Living Large on the California Coast

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Pacific Coast Highway, a nice place for a Harley — or four of them.

Today, we’ll be on California Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, the entire day.

It’s said to be one of the best scenic drives in the world.

It’ll be our last day along the Pacific Ocean. Tomorrow, we turn inland, and begin the ride home.

Today is a celebration of the past two weeks on the road.

***

We begin by rolling south on Highway 1.

As we ride along the shoreline, we’re on the western edge of McNee Ranch State Park, whose highest point is 1,898 feet above sea level in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The park has extensive hiking trails with views of the ocean, and San Francisco.

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Mavericks Beach. Now that’s some serious surfing.

Less than 10 miles from Pacifica, on the northern edge of Half Moon Bay, is a coastal spot known worldwide for its high-octane surfing: Mavericks Beach. Anybody who knows anything about surfing can tell you stories about Mavericks, where monster waves rise as high as 60 feet. Riding waves this big, surfers can reach speeds up to 20 miles an hour.

The humongous waves break about a half-mile offshore. It’s not uncommon to see riders towed to the break by a personal watercraft, like a Jet Ski; it’s called tow-in surfing.

Mavericks has an annual big wave contest, called the Mavericks Challenge. It has an interesting twist: the event doesn’t have a fixed date. No one knows precisely when it will be held until 24 hours before it begins. You gotta be spontaneous to participate in this surf extravaganza. Don’t feel a need to travel to northern California to watch the Mavericks Challenge? You can catch it online.

The big waves at Mavericks come after massive winter storms. Unique underwater geography combines with severe weather to create some the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world. Some years, if gargantuan waves don’t materialize, the event is cancelled until the following year. There may be a Mavericks Challenge this winter. Or not.

Mavericks did not get its name from the Tom Cruise character in the movie, Top Gun. The naming of Mavericks Beach is connected to three local surfers who discovered the area in 1967.

One of the surfers brought his dog “Maverick” along, but decided to leave him on the shore. Maverick was used to swimming out into the water with his owner Alex Matienzo, and decided to swim out and join the surfing crew that day.

The three surfers decided to name the location for their dog, Maverick, a white German Shepherd who seemed to enjoy himself in the waters now known as Mavericks Beach.

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A maverick on two wheels.

***

Half Moon Bay, where Mavericks sits, is named for its half-moon shape. The area’s largest employer is the Ritz Carlton hotel, a luxury resort with two beachfront golf courses designed by Arthur Hills. The LPGA held its Samsung World Championship here on the Ocean Course in 2008. The winner: American Paula Creamer, who grew up 40 miles away in Pleasanton.

This stretch of Highway 1 is called the Cabrillo Highway. It’s named after Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Spanish explorer known for exploring the west coast. He was the first European to navigate the coast of present-day California, and is best known for exploring the coast for two years, beginning in 1542.

Five hundred forty-two miles south of here, in San Diego, you’ll find the Cabrillo National Monument. It commemorates Cabrillo’s landing at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Good things happen on September 28. It’s Sarah’s birthday, too — and our La Quinta friends Judy Hirsch (she’ll be 76 later this year) and Jim Hawkins (he’ll be 83).

***

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Pigeon Point Lighthouse — the tallest of any on the Pacific Coast.

The Cabrillo Highway continues its way south, passing Pescadero State Beach, Bean Hollow State Beach and Pigeon Point Light Station Historic Point. The Pigeon Point Lighthouse, built in 1871 to guide ships on the Pacific coast toward San Francisco, is the tallest lighthouse of any in Washington, Oregon or California. The 115-foot white masonry tower resembles a typical New England lighthouse structure.

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Scott on his phone at a rest break. As you know by now, phones have only three uses: reading news, checking on investments, and watching internet porn.

Año Nuevo State Park is just ahead. It encompasses Año Nuevo Island and Año Nuevo Point. Spanish maritime explorer Sebastián Vizcaino sailed by the point on January 3, 1603. His diarist, Father Antonio de la Ascensión, named it Punta de Año Nuevo (New Year’s Point) for the day on which they first sighted it.

From Año Nuevo Point, it’s a little more than 20 miles to Santa Cruz, known for its surfer-dude, laid-back lifestyle, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. With a name like that, it’s easy to understand how the city gets mottos like Let’s Cruz, or This is How We Cruz.

In 1769 the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola discovered the area now known as Santa Cruz. When he came upon a beautiful flowing river, he named it San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence. He called the rolling hills above the river, Santa Cruz, which means holy cross.

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John, in Santa Cruz.

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The guys gather around Scott, apparently trying to see what he’s got on his phone.

Today, Santa Cruz is a thriving beach town with a population approaching 65,000. Highway 1 actually goes through the heart of Santa Cruz, but misses the city’s major attraction: the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

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For a good time, try the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Santa Cruz is situated on the northern edge of Monterey Bay. The bay is huge. It takes us about an hour to cover the 42 miles from Santa Cruz to the city of Monterey, at Monterey Bay’s southern edge.

About two-thirds of the way to Monterey, we roll through Castroville, known as the Artichoke Capitol of the World. Castro is named for former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. Or his brother, Raul. Or San Francisco’s Castro district.

Spanish settlers (one is named Castro) brought the first artichokes to California. In 1922, Andrew Molera planted the first artichoke shoots in Castroville. By the following year, there were nine artichoke growers – and within four years, there were more than 50 growers and 12,000 acres of artichokes.

Fun fact: Marilyn Monroe was given the honorary title of Artichoke Queen in 1947 during a visit to the Monterey Bay Area.

***

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Fort Ord Dunes State Park. A nice place for basic training.

We’re almost to Monterey. First, we pass by Ford Ord Dunes State Park, once the home of the Fort Ord Army training area. The old Army facility closed in 1994, and some of the land was converted into the Fort Ord National Monument. During its peak, the base hosted as many as 50,000 soldiers – many receiving basic training there, as I would have if I’d been drafted into the Vietnam War. My 1969 draft lottery number was 236, allowing me to skip the Fort Ord and boot camp experience altogether.

The site functioned as a military base for more than 70 years until it was closed down as a result of the 1988 Base Realignment and Closure act, signed by President George H. W. Bush. Fort Ord was the biggest base to be shut down that year by what is commonly known as BRAC.

Base Realignment and Closure is a congressionally-authorized process to increase the Department of Defense efficiency by closing and consolidating military installations. Since the first BRAC in 1988, more than 350 installations have been closed.

Not far from Fort Ord is California State University, Monterey Bay. It’s located on the site where Fort Ord used to be. The university was founded in 1994 with an enrollment of 654 students. Today, it has 10 times that many. Fun fact: 64 percent of the students here are female.

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We hop off the bikes in Monterey, and do the tourist thing at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Stopping in Monterey for clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

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Yum.

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Yum yum.

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John digs in.

A tradition on these trips – OK, we’ve done it once, in 2015 as Dave, Scott and I rode together for the first time – is to stop in Monterey for clam chowder along their fishermen’s wharf.

Today marks our second time stopping in Monterey for clam chowder served out of a hollowed-out piece of French bread. Doing something twice means it can officially be called a tradition. Just like breakfast at The Stove in Mammoth Lakes.

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At Fisherman’s Wharf, after chowder.

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On the wharf, before heading south.

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John stops for chocolate before leaving Monterey.

***

If there was any justice in this world, even a shred of basic fairness, we’d be on our way to the famed 17-Mile Drive, a leisurely stroll through picturesque Pebble Beach. It’s one of the most scenic drives anywhere.

The 17-Mile Drive is the main road through the gated community of Pebble Beach. For $10.50 per vehicle (it’s reimbursed if you spend $35 or more at any Pebble Beach restaurant!), you get the opportunity to visit world-famous golf courses, see the Lone Cypress Tree, and ride past Lovers Point Park.

We’ll do none of that. The uber-wealthy snobs who own property here in the Del Monte Forest for some reason are not fans of motorcycles, and don’t allow them. No Harleys in the ‘hood.

Damn rich people.

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Here’s a sight we won’t see: the 17-Mile Drive.

Just past the southern gate to the 17-Mile Drive, we pass Carmel, formally known as Carmel-by-the-Sea. Carmel is a small beach town famed for its natural scenery and rich artistic history. Carmel has several unusual laws, including a prohibition on wearing high-heel shoes without a permit. Actor-director Clint Eastwood was elected Mayor of Carmel in 1986, and served a two-year term.

Point Lobos is just south of Carmel. The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is called the crown jewel of California’s 280 state parks. Point Lobos, with its headlands, coves and rolling meadows, is full of hiking trails. Wildlife here includes seals, sea lions, sea otters and – from December to May – migrating gray whales. The area used to be the home of a thriving whaling and abalone industry.

After Point Lobos, we roll through Carmel Highlands, then Garrapata State Park – with its two miles of beachfront and coastal hiking. From here, it’s only a few miles to the picturesque Bixby Creek Bridge, perhaps the most photographed in California — after the Golden Gate. They’re both on a pretty short list of very famous bridges.

The Bixby Creek Bridge is featured prominently in the HBO dramatic series, Big Little Lies. Turns out that using the bridge in Big Little Lies is a bit of a lie, itself.  The show is set in Monterey, and one might wonder: why would Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman and other moms take their children to and from school in Monterey by driving over the Bixby Creek Bridge? The bridge, after all, is almost 20 miles south of Monterey. Artistic lie-scence?

Before the Bixby Creek Bridge opened in 1932, residents of the Big Sur area were virtually cut off during winter due to blockages on the often-impassable Old Coast Road, which led 11 miles inland.

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The Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in California — after the Golden Gate.

Once we’ve crossed the 714-foot long bridge, it’s only 10 miles to Big Sur, named after riding pal Randy Suhr, who left the posse a few days ago in Northern California.

Big Sur has been called the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the lower 48. It’s a popular destination for about seven million people who live within a day’s drive, and visitors from across the world. The region receives about the same number of annual visitors as Yosemite National Park, but offers extremely limited bus service, few restrooms, and a narrow two-lane highway with few places to park alongside the road.

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We take a rest break in Big Sur, and suddenly John’s helmet doesn’t fit anymore.

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Jim cools off in Big Sur.

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Big Sur is a nice setting for posse portraits.

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Nice fingers!

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Pretty sure John’s enjoying the sweets he bought before leaving Fisherman’s Wharf.

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One last pic, then let’s continue south.

In Big Sur, we’re about a mile inland, nestled among redwood forests. Leaving Big Sur, we make a beeline to the coast. For the next 80 miles, there’s minimal development and maximal beauty. It’s a narrow, twisty roadway with steep drop-offs over cliffs that drop precipitously to the Pacific Ocean.

Now the fun really begins.

***

Twelve miles south of Big Sur, we roll through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 3,762-acre park is named for Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a respected pioneer and rancher in the Big Sur region in the early 20th century, who lived in the area for much of her life until her death in 1928. The park has fabulous hiking, and even scuba diving in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Area.

For the next several hours, until we reach San Simeon, it’s nothing but miles and miles of unparalleled visual charm. There are occasional places, like Lucia, Gorda, and Ragged Point, to pull over and grab a beverage. But the unending rugged beauty and lack of development is what sets this road apart.

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Last stop of the day.

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John frames Dave and Scott in front of the Pacific.

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I’ve been photobombed!

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Last roadside butt break of the day.

A few miles before San Simeon is the Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve, a 20-square mile area that protects all marine life within its boundaries, including sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals, northern fur seals and sea otters. These marine protected areas are designed to conserve and restore ocean biodiversity.

If you like elephant seals – and who doesn’t? – you’ll enjoy Elephant Seal Vista Point, the last place to gawk at nature before San Simeon. Elephant seals are huge, loud, and so ugly they’re cute. On San Simeon State Beach, about 18,000 elephant seals crowd this four-mile stretch of beach.

The peak months for viewing elephant seals here: October through March. Timing is everything.

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Elephant Seals. Everywhere.

***

William Randolph Hearst’s timing was impeccable. He got disgustingly wealthy in the early 1900s, making a fortune in the newspaper business, developing what was at the time the largest newspaper chain in the US. Hearst dreamed big, and lived large. Between 1919 and 1947, he built La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), known today as the Hearst Castle.

At the height of Hearst’s wealth, the estate around the castle totaled more than 250,000 acres. Hearst, his castle and his lifestyle were satirized by Orson Welles in his 1941 film, Citizen Kane.

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The Hearst Castle: decadence at its best.

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Pool party, anyone?

The Hearst Castle is a 90,000-square foot mansion that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Today, the Hearst Castle is a state park, and a National Historic Landmark.

From San Simeon, it’s only 10 miles to Cambria, tonight’s destination. Cambria is a charming seaside village that marks the end of our journey down the coast.

Tomorrow, we head inland. It’s time for some heat.

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Jim breaks out his new do-rag for the last hour of the ride. Dude is bad-ass!

***

Day Eighteen Summary: No surf at Mavericks, a chowder tradition continues, 80 miles of Highway One beauty.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Pacifica, California, to Cambria, California.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  There are more donut shops in Canada per capita than any other country. Canada has roughly one donut shop for every 13,000 people. Among the most common donut shops in Canada: Tim Hortons, Dunkin Donuts, and Krispy Kreme.

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Canadians love their donuts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Left My Heart … in San Francisco

Every day on the road has its nirvana moment.

Today’s will come in about six hours, when we arrive at one of the most photographed structures in the world.

First, we begin the day by rolling down the Mendocino Coast.

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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Beauty by the sea.

Less than a mile south of Fort Bragg, we come to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a 47-acre gem with plant collections suited perfectly to the mild coastal climate. Here you’ll find heaths and heathers, rhododendrons, camellias, fuchsias, dahlias, magnolias, maples, succulents, begonias and conifers.

Admission is $15. To see a bunch of plants? Turns out that’s a pretty good value if you compare it to the $33.80 admission fee to visit Butchart Gardens near Victoria, British Columbia.

We keep our botanical garden visit scorecard for this trip clean, and skip them both.

Two miles down the road, we pass Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, a 776-acre park. The reserve encompasses five marine terraces along the Pacific coast, cut by wave action over millennia as the sea level fluctuated and the land underwent tectonic uplift. Each terrace has been above water about 100,000 years longer than the level below it.

The park is named after Jug Handle Creek, which runs through it. The name Jug Handle comes from the shape of a bend in the old road across the creek. Jug Handle is roughly half way between Fort Bragg and Mendocino.

The points of interest come quickly on Highway 1, Shoreline Highway.

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I am not a point of interest. This is shortly after breakfast, with a tummy full of corned beef hash.

***

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The Point Cabrillo Light Station.

One mile farther down the road is Point Cabrillo, and the Point Cabrillo Light Station Historic Park. The lighthouse has been a federal aid to navigation since 1909. The light is only 32 feet above the ground, but because of the height of the headlands, it stands 81 feet above sea level.

Point Cabrillo, the sandstone headland on which the Point Cabrillo Light lies, was named after the Portuguese explorer João Rodrigues Cabrillo. Interestingly, Cabrillo’s voyage of exploration on behalf of Spain along the California coast did not reach as far north as the point that now bears his name.

From Point Cabrillo, it’s only five miles down the Shoreline Highway to Mendocino Headlands State Park, and the town of Mendocino, an artist colony. Ten years ago in Mendocino, Sarah and I purchased Poppies, a 4-by-5 foot acrylic beauty that hangs by the dining table in our Carbondale home.

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The artwork behind the blog’s author is Poppies, which we found in Mendocino. Why the ski instructor uniform? On the day I picked it up from SkiCo’s wardrobe department in Aspen, I just wanted to see what it looked like. Sarah posed me in front of Poppies.

Most of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places listing, and is part of the Mendocino and Headlands Historic District. The town’s name comes from Cape Mendocino, named by early Spanish navigators in honor of Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain. Mendoza means cold mountain.

For two weeks every summer since 1986, the Mendocino Music Festival is held here. Evening concerts feature the Festival orchestra, composed of professional musicians from the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera orchestra, the San Francisco Ballet orchestra, the Symphony of the Redwoods and other Bay Area orchestras.

We’re in Mendocino, right in the middle of this year’s event, which began on July 13 and runs until this Saturday, July 27. It’s a huge festival, held in a 16,000-square-foot tent overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can attend more than two dozen concerts during the festival, from blues to bluegrass, symphonies to opera, and jazz to Celtic.

The music all happens at night. So we press on, in search of culture that occurs on our schedule.

Orchestra rehearsal.

The Mendocino Music festival goes on without us.

***

Leaving Mendocino, we cross the Big River, then the Little River and the Navarro River. Fifteen miles south of Mendocino, after a beautiful ride down the Pacific coast, we arrive in the town of Elk, population 208.

Elk is home to Greenwood State Beach, Elk Rock, and the Elk Cove Inn and Spa. But Elk is best known, by bikers at least, for Queenie’s Roadhouse Café, a great breakfast stop for five hungry Harley guys. We park the bikes, walk in, sit down, and chow down.

Queenie’s does not disappoint.

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Meet Queenie. She’s getting ready to cook our breakfast.

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The salmon is being poached for Scott’s omelet. The bacon is for Dave, the potatoes are for all of us.

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Queening is working hard to make this a meal to remember.

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She cooked Dave’s bacon just the way he likes it: crisp.

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While Queenie cooks, the guys wait patiently for their food.

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Scott’s pretty excited about his salmon omelet.

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The Queen of the Kitchen, with the King of the Road.

***

After breakfast, we saddle up, and continue heading south on the Shoreline Highway. Manchester and Manchester State Park are 10 miles down the road. Both are named after Manchester, England, an early settler’s former home.

Manchester is just a mile from Point Arena Lighthouse, built on rocky Point Arena. The lighthouse is 115 feet high. It’s been in use since 1908. The final scenes for the 1992 movie, Forever Young, were shot near the lighthouse. The number one thing to do in Point Arena, according to Trip Advisor: visit the lighthouse.

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Near Point Arena, as the sun peeks through the clouds for a minute.

Past Point Arena are a series of small towns, miles apart from one another: Gallaway, Gualala, Sea Ranch, Stewart’s Point, Timber Cove and Jenner, which sits at the mouth of the Russian River. Jenner is not named for the Jenner family of Kardashian-ish fame.

As we cross the Russian River, we roll through Sonoma Coast State Park.

We’re nearing Bodega Bay, a marine habitat used for navigation, recreation, and commercial and sport fishing including shellfish harvesting. In the US, a bodega is a small convenience store. In a Spanish-speaking country, a bodega is a wine shop or wine cellar.

Bodega Bay is not known for its convenience stores, though it has a few: Pelican Plaza Grocery & Deli, and Diekmann’s Bay Store.

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Bodega Bay was a frightening place, as depicted in Hitchcock’s film, The Birds. Yes, that’s Tippi Hedren.

Bodega Bay is most famous for its role in the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds, Hitchcock’s first horror/fantasy film. The movie centers on a small California coastal town (Bodega Bay) that is inexplicably attacked and rendered helpless by massive flocks of aggressive birds.

The majority of the birds seen in the film are real, although an estimated $200,000 was spent on the creation of mechanical birds for the film. The crow attacks were enhanced by what was then called the special effects department. The special effects shots of the attacking birds were completed at Walt Disney Studios by animator/technician, Ub Iwerks. Iwerks was better known for being the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, along with Walt Disney, in 1928.

Bodega Bay is a good place to stop, gas up (I’ll pump, thank you), and look for birds. There’s even a restaurant in town named The Birds Café. No special effects needed.

***

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No special effects needed for these pics, either.

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John’s happy to finally see the sun.

 

After Bodega Bay, Highway 1 turns inland for a few miles, then continues south through Tomales and on to Tomales Bay. We’re on the east side of Tomales Bay. On the west side is Point Reyes National Seashore, a 71,000-acre park preserve located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County. There’s world-class hiking, including hundreds of miles of trails and beachwalking.

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The sun disappeared again.

We follow Highway 1 along Tomales Bay for 11 miles to the town of Bivalve. Bivalve was founded by the Pacific Oyster Company, after it established 450 acres of oyster beds there in 1907. Bivalves, of course, are aquatic mollusks that have a compressed body enclosed within a hinged shell, such as oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops.

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Point Reyes Station. Nice setting for a lighthouse.

Bivalve leads us to Point Reyes Station, Olema, past Bolinas and to Stinson Beach – a popular day trip for people in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re now only about 20 miles from The City.

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In Poinr Reyes Station, Dave helps us navigate to our next waypoint.

Stinson Beach is a great place for beachcombing especially in the winter, when the crowds are smaller, and during morning low tides. The waters off Stinson Beach are part of the Red Triangle, an area extending from Bodega Bay to Big Sur and including the Farallon Islands. Shark attacks, especially from Great Whites, are occasional within the triangle; but still, quite rare. A surfer at Stinson Beach was attacked by a Great White in 1998; another surfer was attacked in 2002.

Stinson Beach has been the setting for a number of Hollywood movies, including Play It Again, SamBasic Instinct; and Shoot the Moon.

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It’s been a long day.. Yawn.

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Scott’s wide awake.

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Jim takes a snack break.

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I’m just trying to stay warm.

***

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Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais has some great hikes, and spectacular views.

As we continue south on the Shoreline Highway, we are riding along the southern end of Mount Tamalpais State Park, whose primary feature is 2,571-foot Mount Tamalpais. The park is full of redwood and oak forests. It’s a popular hiking, picnicking and camping destination for residents of the Bay Area. The western slopes of Mount Tamalpais descend to the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach.

Six miles south of Stinson Beach is Muir Beach. Muir Beach is not named after Sarah Murr. It could be, but they’re spelled slightly differently. Muir Beach, like so many things Muir-related in this area, is named after John Muir, an influential Scottish-American naturalist who was an early advocate for the preservation of America’s wilderness.

He co-founded the Sierra Club, and devoted most of his later life to the preservation of western forests. Muir briefly studied natural sciences at the University of Wisconsin but, ultimately, chose to spend his lifetime enrolled in what he called the University of Wilderness.

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The overlook at Muir (Murr?) Beach.

In Muir (Murr?) Beach, the Shoreline Highway turns inland to go around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an 82,000-acre preserve protecting environmentally sensitive areas on both ends of the Golden Gate Bridge. More than 15 million visitors a year come to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, considered to be one of the largest urban parks in the world.

It’s only about six miles from Muir Beach to Mill Valley, on the shores of Richardson Bay, an inlet in the San Francisco Bay. Here, the Shoreline Highway joins the heavily traveled US Highway 101, rolls past Sausalito, and turns toward San Francisco.

***

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Hey, there’s a cute couple in front of the Golden Gate Bridge! Photo shot in 2017 from the San Francisco side.

We’re now in Marin County. To get to San Francisco from here, you ride about three miles south, through the Marin Headlands, and out of nowhere appears the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most famous and photographed sights in the world. The bridge spans the Golden Gate, a one-mile wide strait connecting the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

The Golden Gate Bridge has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s a pretty elite list, including the tunnel under the English Channel, the Empire State Building, and the Panama Canal.

When the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, after four years of construction, it had cost more than $35 million to build. That’s chump change by today’s standards. It was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. At the time of its opening, the bridge was both the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world.

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Building the Golden Gate Bridge seemed impossible at the time. That’s why its construction is such an engineering marvel.

With its 746-foot tall towers, Art Deco styling and distinctive international orange color, the bridge draws 10 million visitors annually, not counting the estimated 112,000 vehicles that cross the bridge daily, commuting to and from work in San Francisco.

Before the bridge was built, a ferry company took passengers and cars between San Francisco and Marin County, across the Golden Gate. It’s hard to imagine a time when the bridge wasn’t there.

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We made it!

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We weren’t sure where the bridge was, so Dave helpfully pointed it out.

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So John took a picture of it.

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Here’s his photo.

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This one’s for you, Donna.

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Southern California boy living large by the Golden Gate.

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Final bridge pic. Time to ride across it, into San Francisco.

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Hey John, could you get the camera any closer?

***

We cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and enter San Francisco’s Presidio district. The Presidio, originally El Presidio Real de San Francisco, is a park and former US military fort. It’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Presidio had been a fortified location since 1776, when New Spain established the Presidio to gain a foothold in the San Francisco Bay. Today, the park has wooded areas, hills and scenic vistas overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

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The Presidio sits on a nice piece of real estate.

Leaving the Presidio, we seem to be in the middle of an old, large, over-populated, over-priced, over-caffeinated, hyper-techy American city. San Francisco is the second-most expensive American city to live in (New York City, of course, is the priciest). Here, the median home price per square foot is more than $1,150. You can get a tiny apartment for $1 million, if you’re willing to engage in a bidding war.

***

We’re now on Park Presidio Boulevard, which takes us through seven blocks of San Francisco’s Richmond District, before entering Golden Gate Park, a 1,017-acre urban park that’s San Francisco’s version of Central Park in New York.

With 13 million visitors a year, Golden Gate Park is the fifth-most visited city park in the US, after Central Park, Chicago’s Lincoln Park, and two parks in San Diego. We’re in Golden Gate Park for less than a quarter mile before returning to block after block of old, overpriced houses and apartments in the Sunset and Golden Gate Heights districts.

It feels very urban, very congested, and very much near the end of our day.

***

In 10 miles, we should arrive at tonight’s destination, Pacifica. After a short 1.6-mile hop on I-280 south, we ride the rest of the way on Highway 1, which brings us to Pacifica, a city of about 40,000 on the Pacific Ocean, just south of San Francisco. Pacifica is about five miles due west from the San Francisco International Airport.

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We’re almost at the SFO airport, but it’s time for dinner.

With no flights to catch, we go VFR direct to the hotel, contemplate dinner, and wonder how tomorrow could possibly top today.

It will.

***

Day Seventeen Summary: Music in Mendocino, a town named Bivalve, a civil engineering marvel.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Fort Bragg, California, to Pacifica, California.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  The Moosehead Brewery in Saint John, New Brunswick, turns out 1,642 bottles of beer per minute. Moosehead, founded in 1867, is Canada’s oldest independent brewery. It has an estimated 3.8 percent share of the Canadian domestic beer market.

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The Moosehead brewery in Saint John, New Brunswick, churns out a lot of beer, eh.

I Think That I Shall Never See. A Poem Lovely as a Tree.

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Giant Redwoods in Redwoods National Park.

Today is about trees.

Big trees.

Thousands upon thousands of huge redwoods, Sitka spruce, Sequoias and more.

***

But before we see any trees, we have a goodbye breakfast at the Chart Room restaurant. We’re wishing Randy safe travels as he heads home to Seattle.

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Randy prepares for the ride northward.

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Table for six.

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What is that healthy concoction you’ve got there, Randy? Looks a lot like country fried steak. And ketchup on your canteloupe.

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After breakfast, Randy makes final preparations for his voyage north. He’ll be staying in McMinville, Oregon.

The five of us leave Crescent City on US Highway 101, now called the Redwood Highway. That should be a clue of what’s ahead.

In a few miles, we begin riding through the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. About half the 31,000-acre park is old growth forest of Coast Redwoods. It includes eight miles of wild Pacific Coast shoreline.

Here, tall trees meet the sea.

With its often-foggy weather and abundance of rhododendrons, the park is especially photogenic. If you’ve ever seen a picture of huge redwoods in the fog with masses of pink flowers at their bases, it was probably taken here.

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Redwoods and rhododendrons, co-existing in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

The highway takes us to the town of Requa, which lies on the north bank of the Klamath River. Requa is a Yurok word that translates to mouth of the creek.

We cross the Klamath River, and ride south along the eastern edge of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This 14,000-acre park is a coastal sanctuary for old growth Coast Redwood trees. The park is jointly managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the National Park Service. Many redwoods in this park reach more than 300 feet in height.

The Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is part of a complex of several state and national parks along the northern California coast. These combined parks, known as Redwood National Park, contain 139,000 acres of old growth temperate rain forests. Taken together, the parks protect 45 percent of all remaining Coast Redwood old-growth forest.

They are the tallest tree species on Earth.

***

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I love trees! Note the photographer’s feet 👍

Trees, written by Joyce Kilmer in 1913, is probably the most quoted poem in American history.

It begins:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree. 

And it ends:

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree. 

That’s something to think about, on this day spent mostly among trees.

***

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Clam Beach. It looks somewhat different from the road.

Just west of Orick, the highway again runs along the coast for miles, until reaching Clam Beach, named for the plentiful razor clams you can dig for there. The beach at Clam Beach County Park was named California’s most polluted beach in a 2017 study by an environmental nonprofit. Those clams aren’t sounding so good anymore.

We’re routed slightly inland, around Arcata Bay, as we continue south. Arcata, population 18,000, is the home of Humboldt State University, the northernmost site of the 23-campus California State University system. With a student body equaling nearly half the city’s total population, Arcata is a classic example of a traditional college town.

At the southern end of Arcata Bay is the port city of Eureka, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland. Eureka is California’s state motto. It means: I have found it. Those words were probably intended to refer to the discovery of gold in California.

Humboldt Bay is just south of Eureka. Along with Arcata Bay, Humboldt Bay empties into the Pacific Ocean. In Humboldt Bay, you’ll find a state marine recreational management area, and the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1850, Douglas Ottinger and Hans Buhne entered the bay, naming it Humboldt in honor of the great naturalist and world explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. Von Humboldt was a Prussian polymath — a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning. He was also a geographer, naturalist, explorer and influential proponent of Romantic philosophy and science.

If you have a resume like that, you get to have stuff named after you.

***

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These trees are huge!

We turn inland for several hours. That’s where the really, really big trees are.

We follow the Eel River, first rolling past Fortuna, known as The Friendly City. A few miles down river is Scotia, a once-booming company town founded by the Pacific Lumber Company. Scotia, originally known as Forestville, became Scotia when it was populated by residents originating from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. The name Scotia was chosen by a coin toss; the alternative, on the losing side of the coin toss, was Brunswick.

Scotia is only five miles from the north entrance to the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile road that’s easily the most scenic drive in the redwoods. The Avenue of the Giants is 51,222 acres of redwood groves.

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At the Avenue of the Giants visitor center.

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The trees dwarf everything, including our Harleys.

We turn off of Highway 101, and on to California Highway 254, which parallels Highway 101. Highway 254 is called the Avenue of the Giants.

The towering Coast Redwoods on both sides of the road are what give the Avenue of the Giants its name. The redwoods found along the Avenue of the Giants are Coast Redwoods, also called California Redwoods. Sequoia Sempervirens is the official scientific name for the Coast Redwood. The trees grow in a narrow band near the coast of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

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Hyperion, the world’s tallest Redwood. It’s believed to be about 800 years old.

As the tallest trees in the world, Coast Redwoods can grow to be more than 360 feet tall. The big ones have names, like Hyperion — at 379 feet, the tallest known Coast Redwood. That’s higher than the Statue of Liberty, including the pedestal.

The root structure for Coast Redwoods is unusually shallow; their roots grow only 6 to 12 feet deep. But the roots spread out as much as 50 feet around the tree, forming a broad base to hold it steady in high winds, and to gather lots of moisture.

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The redwoods make even Dave look tiny.

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We’re getting pretty good at this.

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And now, a few tree portraits.

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Have another.

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And another.

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And one more.

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And finally, a trick shot. John made the magic happen.

We experience the beauty of the redwoods for  miles, before exiting the Avenue of the Giants at its southern entrance and returning to Highway 101. From here, it’s just six miles to Garberville, a once-thriving timber town that now has marijuana cultivation as its economic driver.

Garberville is also where we stop to rest, and fill up with gas. We get to fill our tanks all by ourselves!

***

After our rest break, we continue south on Highway 101 to Leggett, 23 miles away. Leggett is home to the Chandelier Drive Thru Tree, part of a privately-owned grove that’s been in the hands of the Underwood family since 1922. The attraction of the Chandelier tree is that you can drive through it, unless you have a motor home, or are pulling a large trailer. The name Chandelier Tree comes from its unique limbs that resemble a chandelier.

The Chandelier tree is 275 feet tall, 58 feet in circumference, 21 feet in diameter. The tree’s opening, which is 6 feet wide by 6 feet 9 inches tall, was cut in the mid-1930s. Cars have been driving through it ever since, and paying for the privilege. Ten dollars a car. Unclear whether there are Harley discounts.

A number of tall trees in California were similarly opened up for cars to drive through, mostly in the late 1880s and early 1900s. The tree tunnels were cut to stimulate car tourism, a new concept at the time. The men who were paid $75 to cut tunnels in the trees did not know or care about the damage they were inflicting. Because of the damaging effects of carving through trees, the practice of creating tunnel trees has long passed.

***

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On Highway 1, the temps drop, and John adjusts accordingly.

In Leggett, we turn southwest onto California Highway 1, which we’ll be on for the duration of our visit to California. The road, known here as the Shoreline Highway, becomes super twisty as it winds its way to Rockport, about 20 miles away.

Rockport, which began as a small company town serving the timber industry, is regarded as the southern end of the Lost Coast Region. The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and undeveloped area of California’s North Coast. It was named the Lost Coast after the area lost its population base in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for highway and road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast.

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Final roadside stop on Highway 1 before heading to Fort Bragg.

There are five miles of twists and turns between Rockport and Hardy, named for R.A. Hardy, who owned a wharf nearby. The town at one time had a mill and a large hotel. There’s nothing here today other than memories.

Hardy is where we resume our ride along the Pacific Ocean. The Shoreline Highway hugs the coastline until we get to Inglenook, where the roadway is a mile from the beach because it has to go around the MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area, a state park with nine miles of coastline. The park is named after Duncan and Jessie MacKerricher, who moved to the area from Canada in 1864. They hired a staff of native people to work on their ranch, which produced butter, potatoes, and draft horses. In 1949, their descendants sold the MacKerricher property to the state of California, which made it a state park.

MacKerricher Park is only three miles from tonight’s destination, Fort Bragg. The city was founded, before the Civil War, as a military garrison. It was named for Braxton Bragg, who later became a general in the Confederate Army.

There’s no military presence today in Fort Bragg, California. The much better known Fort Bragg, is in North Carolina. It’s all about the military. Also named for Braxton Bragg, North Carolina’s Fort Bragg is the largest military installation in the world, with more than 50,000 active duty personnel.

Fort Bragg, North Carolina, trivia: Actress Martha Raye is buried in Fort Bragg, in commemoration of her work with the USO during World War II and Vietnam.

Fort Bragg, California trivia: Five old guys on motorcycles are hungry and could use a seafood dinner.

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So we stop at a Mexican restaurant and John has something sweet for dessert.

***

Day Sixteen Summary: It’s hug-a-tree day.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Crescent City, California, to Fort Bragg, California.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh? John Cabot was the first explorer to reach Canada. In 1497, after sailing by sea from Bristol, England, he arrived in what is believed to be modern-day Newfoundland. He made a claim to the North American land for King Henry VII of England. Cabot sailed on the ship Matthew with a crew of 18 men. Cabot, originally from Venice, Italy, was born Giovanni Caboto.

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John Cabot was the first explorer to reach Canada, arriving in what’s believed to be modern-day Newfoundland.

Rolling Down the Oregon Coast

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Randy and John, on the Oregon coast.

Today’s blog post could easily be written in 17 words: Riding south on Highway 101 for 215 miles along the Oregon coast. Arriving in Crescent City, California.

Done.

Except I’m incapable of being that terse. There’so much to see. And so much to say.

So, let the riding, and the writing, begin.

***

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At Yaquina Bay. So many lighthouses in Oregon!

Just north of Yaquina Bay, we pass the historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. It’s believed to be the oldest structure in Newport, and the only existing Oregon lighthouse with the living quarters attached.

The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was built in 1871, decommissioned three years later, then officially restored in 1996 as a privately maintained aid to navigation. Its light, which shines with a steady white light from dusk to dawn, is 161 feet above sea level.

Lighthouses are beautiful and fascinating historical buildings. With the advent of GPS and modern navigational technology used on ships, you’d think the people who maintain the buildings would let the beacons go dim, rather than continue pursuing an obsolete technology.

But to many mariners and even to the US Coast Guard, lighthouses are still a useful guide. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of the country’s 800 or so lighthouses are still active today. It’s hard to get a precise number, because lighthouses are divided among private owners, non-profits and the government.

Most ships and boats have GPS of some sort. But technology fails from time to time. That’s why mariners and fishermen still use lighthouses as a backup to their electronic equipment, sort of like double-checking the street signs while driving with GPS.

Except for low-tech Randy, our bikes are equipped with modern nav systems; in some case, the guidance comes from a phone lashed to the handlebars. If there’s a failure, we won’t rely on a nearby lighthouse; we’ll just radio a fellow posse member and ask for directions.

***

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The Yaquina Bay Bridge is one of 14 bridges on Highway 101 designed by the same engineer.

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The bridge could be copied. John can’t.

We pass the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and cross over the Yaquina Bay Bridge. The bridge, designed by engineer Conde McCullough, was inspired by the Art Deco era. The Yaquina Bay Bridge, built with concrete and steel arches, is one of the most recognizable of the 14 bridges on US Highway 101 that McCullough designed.

Past the bridge, we ride past the Yaquina Bay Shellfish Preserve, and then roll by South Beach State Park, believed to be birthplace of the South Beach diet. There are no fat people here.

The community of Seal Rock, just ahead of us, is named for Seal Rocks, a ledge of partially submerged rocks that parallel the shore for about two miles. At one time, hundreds of seals and sea lions rested on these rocks.

A few miles south of Seal Rock is Bayshore, which sits across Alsea Bay from Waldport. Waldport has an Ace Hardware, a Chevron station, a Mormon church and a liquor store – but is most well known for an incident that happened in September 1975.

That’s when self-proclaimed prophet Marshall Applewhite gave a lecture in Waldport on UFOs, attended by about 150 people. In the following days, an estimated 20 residents, nearly one out of 30 people who lived in Waldport, abandoned their homes and possessions and joined Applewhite’s cult, Heaven’s Gate.

In March 1997, the bodies of 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult – including Applewhite – were found dead in a house in Rancho Santa Fe, California. They apparently had participated in a mass suicide, in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following the Hale-Bopp Comet.

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In Reedsport, we stop at Dairy Queen, and John has a cone.

***

Ten miles south of Waldport is Yachats, whose name comes from the Siletz language and means “dark water at the foot of the mountain.”

In 2011, Arthur Frommer, founder of Frommer’s Travel Guides, listed Yachats as one of his top 10 favorite vacation destinations in the world. And, in 2007, Budget Travel magazine named Yachats one of the Ten Coolest Small Towns of the U.S.A. As guys who are into budget travel, we should appreciate all that Yachats has to offer. For an updated list of Budget Travel’s 10 Coolest Small Towns in America, here you go.

Yachats, with a population of around 700, has a number of annual cultural events worth noting. The Yachats la de da Parade is held each July 4 at noon. Some of the regular entries include the Yachats Umbrella Drill Team, a belly dancing troupe, and a Yachats Fire Department truck accompanied by Dalmatian miniature goats.

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The Yachats Umbrella Drill Team, showing off in a recent Yachats la de da Parade.

If you come back in November, you can attend the Yachats Celtic Music Festival, a four-day event that this year will include Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary, and Gillian Boucher and Bob McNeill.

Only a few miles south of Yachats along Highway 101 is Cape Perpetua, a large forested headland that’s part of the Siuslaw National Forest. At its highest point, Cape Perpetua rises to over 800 feet above sea level. The cape was named by Captain James Cook in March 1778, as he searched for the Pacific entrance to a Northwest Passage. Cook named the cape Perpetua because he discovered it on St. Perpetua’s Day.

For his efforts, a small point a few miles south of Cape Perpetua was named after him: Captain Cook Point.

***

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The Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of Oregon’s most photographed.

Highway 101 closely follows the coastline for another 10 miles until we come to the Heceta Head, site of one of Oregon’s most photographed lighthouses. The structure is 56 feet tall, but because it’s placed on a bluff, the lighthouse stands 205 feet above sea level.

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That’s the Heceta Head Lighthouse, off in the distance. What’s up with the green rock?

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John and Bert have their moment in the sun, at a vista point overlooking the Heceta Head Lighthouse.

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Hey Scott … what exactly are you doing?

Heceta Head Lighthouse was named after Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta, who discovered the area. Heceta Island in Alaska is also named after him. Visiting Heceta Head Lighthouse is named by Trip Advisor as the number one thing to do in the area.

Less than a mile south of Heceta Head is Sea Lion Caves, a connected system of sea caves and caverns that’s believed to be America’s largest. Sea Lion Caves is where Steller sea lions and their cubs take shelter each year. It’s said to be one of the great sea grottos of the world, comparable in size and coloration to the famed Blue Grotto in the Mediterranean.

Sea Lion Caves is a privately owned wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary. Crassly, to get to Sea Lion Caves, you enter through a gift shop, pay a $14 entry fee, and walk down to the ocean. Parking is free!

Ten more miles down Highway 101, we roll through Florence, which sits at the mouth of the Siuslaw River. Florence is at the northern end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The dunes are the largest expanse of coastal and sand dunes in North America, some reaching as much as 500 feet above sea level. They’re the product of millions of years of erosion by wind and rain on the Oregon Coast. Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel Dune was inspired, in part, by the author’s research and fascination with the area.

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The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area has some serious sand.

***

Near the southern end of the Oregon Dunes Recreational Area, we cross the Umpqua River and roll into the city of Reedsport. It was named for a local settler, Albert Reed, who founded the city in 1912.

At the mouth of the Umpqua River, just off the Pacific Ocean, is the 65-foot high Umpqua River Lighthouse, the first on the Oregon Coast. In 1851, Congress appropriated $15,000 for the Umpqua River Lighthouse. It was opened for navigational use in 1857.

We cross over Coos Bay, and in North Bend, turn west to follow the Cape Arago Highway. This takes us through Barview, which is what one apparently sees late at night after too many beers.

In Barview, we don’t even see the Cape Arago Lighthouse. It can only be viewed from afar, and that’s exactly how we’ll see it (or not). The lighthouse sits 100 feet above sea level, on an islet off Gregory Point. Cape Arago is Oregon’s newest lighthouse, built in 1934. It was officially deactivated in 2006.

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My Harley, with a nice morning view.

The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is ahead. It’s a 4,770-acre reserve located on Coos Bay Estuary. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 protected areas established by partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and coastal states. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System protects more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitats for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship.

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Bandon Dunes is a spectacular setting for seaside golf, with world-class design.

We return to Highway 101. About a mile west is the most sought-after golf complex in the US, maybe even in the world: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Self-branded as Golf As It Was Meant to Be, Bandon Dunes includes five seaside courses: Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old MacDonald, and a 13-hole par-three course: Bandon Preserve.

A sixth course, called Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch, is under construction, and expected to open for play in 2020. The Sheep Ranch, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, should be quite spectacular. With a mile of coastline to work with, nine of the 18 greens will be directly on 100-foot cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Just south of Bandon Dunes, we cross over the Coquille River and almost see, off in the distance, the Coquille River Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1895 to mark the entrance to the Coquille River and help mariners get past the ever-shifting sand bars. The light would also serve as a coast light for vessels heading up and down the Pacific Ocean. It’s been deactivated since 1939.

With nothing to guide us other than our own instincts and GPS, we roll into the town of Bandon and stop for gas. Here in Coos County, the population is around 64,000. Highly unlikely we’ll be pumping our own gas today.

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In Bandon, after gassing up, John chats with Nindy, a rider friend from Portland.

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Randy has a full tank and is ready to ride.

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We’re all ready to ride.

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Like me, John enjoys his ice cream.

***

From Bandon, Highway 101 continues south, though for the next 27 miles, the road strays from the coastline.

A few miles inland, we pass through Denmark.

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One of my favorite cities: Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark, Oregon, actually. That’s notable to me because Sarah and I were married in Dragør, Denmark – just outside Copenhagen – and I speak a little Danish.

Jeg taler om lidt dansk.

Denmark, Oregon, was founded by first-generation Danes who developed a profitable dairy industry in the area. In 1915, the community had a sawmill, a cheese factory, a creamery and a public school.

Today, it has nothing.

I dag, det har ikke noget.

***

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The Cape Blanco lighthouse, Oregon’s oldest.

We’re far enough from the coast that we miss Floras Lake State Natural Area and Cape Blanco State Park, each by a few miles. At the western end of Cape Blanco State Park is the Cape Blanco lighthouse. It sits 256 feet above sea level. The lighthouse was built in 1870, making it the oldest standing lighthouse in Oregon.

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We stop in Gold Beach for snacks.

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Snacking in Gold Beach.

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Let’s finish up those snacks and hit the road.

As the highway continues south, we finally link up with the Pacific again in Port Orford. Port Orford takes its name from George, Earl of Orford, a friend of explorer George Vancouver. As the oldest town on the Oregon coast, Port Orford is the westernmost settlement in Oregon, and the westernmost incorporated place in the lower 48. That’s a lot of superlatives.

We roll through Humbug Mountain State Park, dominated by 1,756-foot Humbug Mountain. Hiking to the top of the mountain is a favorite activity in the park.

Highway 101 stays quite close to the ocean as we head south from Humbug Mountain. In Wedderburn, we cross the Rogue River and head toward Kissing Rock, a rock formation that looks more like a shark fin than a kiss. Lore has it that the name comes from the area’s reputation as a place where teenagers gathered to lock lips.

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Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint. Scenic, just as advertised.

Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint is next in our sights. It’s a park set in the dunes. The Pistol River supposedly got its name when a militia soldier lost his pistol in the river during the infamous Rogue River Indian War.

We soon enter the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a 12-mile long, ocean-hugging stretch of highway that features scenic viewpoints, picnic areas and trailheads. It’s named in honor of Samuel H. Boardman, Oregon ‘s first Parks superintendent.

Brookings, a city of about 6,500, is just ahead, on the Chetco River. The city was named after John E. Brookings, president of the Brookings Lumber and Box Company, which founded the city in 1908. In Brookings, we cross the Chetco River.

On September 9, 1942, Mount Emily (near Brookings) became the first site in the mainland United States to be bombed during World War II. A Japanese floatplane piloted by Nobuo Fujita was launched from a submarine. The plane was armed with incendiary bombs on a mission to start massive fires in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest. The attack caused only minor damage.

Fujita was invited back to Brookings in 1962, long after the war’s end. He presented the town his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword in friendship, after the Japanese government was given assurances that he would not be tried as a war criminal.

Brookings made Fujita an honorary citizen, several days before his death in 1997.

***

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The Pelican Bay lighthouse, one of the newest in the US.

Just south of Brookings, we pass Oregon’s southernmost lighthouse. It’s known as the Port of Brookings lighthouse, sometimes called the Pelican Bay lighthouse. Whatever you call it, the lighthouse stands 141 feet above sea level. It’s one of the newest lighthouses in the US. The Coast Guard commissioned it as a private aid to navigation in 1999.

Five miles from the lighthouse, we cross into California, between Crissey Field State Recreation Site (Oregon) and Pelican State Beach (California).

We’ll be filling our own gas tanks from now on, without any help!

It’s 30 more miles to tonight’s destination, Crescent City. I can make it that far on a half-gallon of gas.

We cross the Smith River, and roll past Pelican Bay State Prison, California’s only supermax site. The prison’s primary purpose is to house the “worst of the worst” violent male prisoners from the California state prison system; 40 percent of the prison’s 2,700 inmates are serving life sentences and nearly all have histories of violence at other California prisons that resulted in their transfer to Pelican Bay. There’s a Greyhound Bus station just outside the prison’s entrance.

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Inside Pelican Bay.

Pelican Bay is a badass place that you don’t want to get anywhere near. A half-mile off Highway 101 is as close as we get.

After about five hours of riding, nearly all of it on Highway 101, we pull into Crescent City and call it a day.

***

Day Fifteen Summary: Lighthouses galore, an American Denmark, weirdness in Waldport.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Newport, Oregon, to Crescent City, California.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  The National Flag of Canada came into being in 1965 to replace the Union Jack. It is an 11-pointed red maple leaf on a white square. The flag made its first official appearance on February 15, 1965; the date is now celebrated annually as National Flag of Canada Day. The maple leaf symbolizes unity, tolerance and peace.

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The maple leaf can be found all sorts of places, from the Canadian flag, to trucker hats.

Fish On!

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We’re heading down the coast today.

For the next five days, we’ll be making our way down the Pacific coast in Washington, Oregon, and California. We’ll be mostly on US Highway 101 and California Highway 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway.

Because of our proximity to the ocean, there should be a lot of seafood involved – at least in the evenings. For breakfast, we can still expect to see an occasional chicken fried steak, or country fried steak, as the foodies call it.

Today’s ride is 243 miles, from Aberdeen to Newport, Oregon. Should take us about five and a-half hours, according to Google Maps, which is seldom wrong.

We begin by riding south on Washington Highway 105, along Grays Harbor, a 17-mile long bay that flows into the Pacific Ocean. Grays Harbor is named after Captain Robert Gray, who discovered and entered it in May 1792, while making fur trading voyages along the north Pacific coast.

What was the composition of his body? Gray’s Anatomy.

Fishing is top dog in this region. Marinas are full of large commercial fishing fleets. The biggest one is at Westport, which is at the end of Highway 105, on a peninsula at the entrance to Grays Harbor.

If you like to go out on recreational charter fishing boats in the topsy-turvy Pacific Ocean and puke your guts out, this is the place for you. The water here is not for sissies.

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Worshipping the porcelain gods, at sea. It happens.

Still, if you’re game, there’s a lot of tuna to be caught on boats leaving from Westport. You’ll be fishing 25 to 60 miles offshore. Westport charters land nearly 90 percent of Washington’s sport albacore catch. Costs are a bit more than tuna in a can: $400 per person, plus tips and extra for fish cleaning if that’s how you roll.

Remember to stop at Walgreens and pick up some Dramamine, or a similar motion sickness product.

Tuna excursions depart around sunrise, and are gone around 10 hours – dock to dock. That’s almost twice as long as we’ll be in the saddle today.

***

Just below Westport, we turn south on Highway 105.

We pass through Grayland, North Cove, and ride slightly past Tokeland. There must have been a few joints smoked there over the years. One of the best references to toking comes from the Steve Miller Band: “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker.”

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Steve Miller. He’s a joker, a smoker, and a midnight toker.

Turns out Tokeland is named after Chief Toke, who came from Chinook and Chehalis stock, and spent summers in the area that now bears his name.

Highway 105 hugs the shore of Willapa Bay. With more than 260 square miles of water surface, Willapa Bay is the second-largest estuary on the Pacific Coast.

By the time we get to Raymond, a once-booming fishing and logging town, Willapa Bay becomes Willapa River. In very recent years, Raymond has seen an influx of marijuana manufacturing, in part because of Initiative 502, passed by Washington voters in 2012. The initiative legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Maybe Tokeland isn’t so wrongly named.

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Everybody loves Raymond. Especially Randy. Here he is, in Raymond.

As Randy well knows, Everybody Loves Raymond. That was a play on words. If you missed it on Randy’s bio, posted on this blog, he was a long-time first assistant director on the hit TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond.

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We stopped in Raymond for a rest, and, well, because it’s Raymond.

In Raymond, we cross the Willapa River on the Park Avenue Bridge (twice!), then rejoin US Highway 101 South. We’re riding right along Willapa Bay, through the Bone River Natural Area Preserve, and the Niawiakum River Natural Area Preserve. These two preserves are part of an intact tidal river system that contains some of the best remaining salt marsh systems in Willapa Bay.

Highway 101 follows Willapa Bay, through the town of Nemah, then along the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge – 11,000 acres of sand dunes, beaches, mudflats, grasslands, saltwater and freshwater marshes, and coniferous forest. The refuge is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including Roosevelt elk, black bear, and shorebirds. You’ll also find several endangered and threatened species including the snowy plover, brown pelican, and marbled murrelets.

Until doing research for today’s blog post, I’d never heard of a murrelet. I would have guessed it’s a small Murr, like Sarah. Turns out I’m wrong. A murrelet is a dove-sized seabird that nests in old-growth forests.

The marbled murrelet, a member of the auk family, is considered globally endangered.

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A marbled murrelet. Endangered, and worth saving.

***

At the southern end of Willapa Bay, we approach Cape Disappointment State Park. Cape Disappointment is a headland located at the extreme southwest corner of Washington, on the north side of the Columbia River Bar. The cape got its name in 1788 by British fur trader John Meares. After a storm, Meares turned his ship around just north of the cape and therefore just missed discovering the Columbia River.

How disappointing.

Cape Disappointment receives about 2,500 hours of fog a year, the equivalent of 106 days – making it one of the foggiest places in the US. It has twice as many foggy days as San Francisco’s notoriously foggy Golden Gate.

The US Coast Guard Station at Cape Disappointment is renowned for operating in some of the roughest sea conditions in the world. It’s home to the National Motor Lifeboat School, the only school for rough weather and surf rescue operation in the US.

We’re now riding along the mouth of the Columbia River, toward the bridge that will take us south into Oregon. This area is known as the Columbia Bar. The bar is where the river’s current dissipates into the Pacific Ocean, often as large standing waves.

The Columbia River Bar is a major marine coastal hazard. Since 1792, about 2,000 large ships have sunk, in and around the Columbia Bar. It’s no wonder that the mouth of the Columbia River is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific.

The Columbia River Bar is so challenging to navigate that ship pilots earn an average annual salary of $214,000. That may sound good, but their peers in San Francisco and the Puget Sound earn between $387,000 and $450,000 a year. Nice pay for driving a boat around.

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The Astoria-Megler Bridge spans the lower Columbia River. That’s Astoria’s Cannery Pier Hotel, with a pretty nice view of the bridge.

The Columbia River forms the border between Washington and Oregon. The Astoria-Megler Bridge, slightly over four miles long, crosses the river and takes us into Oregon. To allow ship traffic up the Columbia, the bridge has a clearance of 196 feet at high tide.

The bridge was built in the mid-1960s to replace ferry service that was inefficient and subject to disruptions during bad weather. When the bridge was completed, it provided the final link in the US highway system between Mexico and Canada.

We cross the river and arrive in Astoria, Oregon, continuing our journey down the West Coast. Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, and the oldest city in the state of Oregon. The city is named for John Jacob Astor, an investor from New York City, whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria where the city is today.

Astoria’s economy once centered on fishing, fish processing, and lumber. In 1945, about 30 canneries could be found along the Columbia. Bumble Bee Seafoods closed its last Astoria Cannery almost 40 years ago, and today, the city’s economy is built around tourism, a growing art scene, and light manufacturing.

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We stopped in Chinook at the Chinook Coffee Company, and caffeinated up.

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I’ll have what he’s having.

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There’s a drive-through window, but we chose to sit down and enjoy our coffee.

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A perfect place to stop.

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Randy’s coffee removed the need for his midday nap.

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Meanwhile, Jim and Gary are on their phones, which have only three uses on this kind of trip.

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The bikes keep a watchful eye on Dave as he enjoys his coffee.

***

Highway 101 takes us across Youngs Bay and then continues south through Sunset Beach, Surf Pines and Seaside – all within a half-mile or so of the Pacific. The highway, for some reason, turns a few miles inland, bypassing Ecola State Park, Crescent Beach, and a view of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.

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Terrible Tilly, abandoned but still worth a look.

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse sits abandoned on a rock about a mile off the coast at Ecola State Park, just south of Seaside. It earned the name Terrible Tilly because of the challenges in building and operating it. Tilly was originally commissioned to guide ships entering the Columbia River. Since being decommissioned in 1957, the lighthouse has changed hands several times. It was most notably used as a columbarium – a storage place for the ashes of the dead.

Soon, we roll through Cannon Beach, recognized by its well-known landmark, Haystack Rock, one of the most famous coastline scenes in Oregon.

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The iconic Haystack Rock.

The road from Cannon Beach is called the Oregon Coast Highway. It generally hugs the coastline until turning inland between Manzanita and Nehalem, where we stop for gas.

***

We may have won the gas lottery.

As you’ll recall from a blog post last week, Oregon doesn’t allow self-serve gas pumping, unless it’s at a stand-alone station, and in a county of less than 40,000 population. Nehalem is in Tillamook County, population 27,000. Because that’s less than the 40,000 threshold for self-service, we might actually get to handle our own pumps. It’s our version of adulting.

Anyway, we’re on motorcycles and we’re exempt from the law, so we’ll fill up our own machines, thank you.

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Snacking at the gas station in Nehalem. That’s an ice cream sandwich. Surprise.

Nehalem, where we stop for gas, sits on the Nehalem River, which feeds into Nehalem Bay, which empties into the Pacific Ocean. We cross the river at a fairly narrow point and continue south on Highway 101, through Brighton, Nedonna Beach, Rockaway Beach, Bayview and Garibaldi.

We’re winding our way around Tillamook Bay. Tillamook is a Coast Salish word meaning Land of Many Waters, probably referring to the rivers that enter the bay. The rivers emptying into Tillamook Bay include the Kilchis River, the Wilson River, and a bunch of unnamed creeks.

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As has been the case almost every day in every state, there was a road construction delay.

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Randy seems to enjoy the road construction.

In Tillamook, we turn west on Oregon Highway 131, flit by Netarts Bay and the Netarts Bay Shellfish Preserve. Here, clams have been harvested for hundreds of years.

Cape Lookout State Park is just south of Netarts Bay. Cape Lookout is a sharp rocky promontory sticking a mile and a half into the Pacific. South of Pacific City, we return to US Highway 101, and turn inland for a few miles, riding through the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area.

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An unidentified member of the posse makes an unannounced pit stop on the side of the highway.

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Judging by the jacket, it couldn’t have been Randy.

The road naturally turns back toward the coast, rolling through Wecoma Beach, Ocean Lake, Lincoln City and Cutler City, located on the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s one of six National Wildlife Refuges comprising the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Siletz Bay refuge was established in 1991 primarily to return the salt marsh to its natural state. Formerly, it had been diked and ditched to create pasture for dairy cows.

From Siletz Bay, we’re only about 20 miles from tonight’s destination, Newport. We power through Depoe Bay, without realizing its cinematic significance. In one of the more memorable scenes from 1975 Academy Award winner, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the inmates from the insane asylum escape to go fishing in Depoe Bay.

During the movie’s fishing interlude, Randall Patrick McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, offers the timeless line: “You’re not nuts; you’re fishermen!”

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Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He wasn’t nuts; he was a fisherman.

***

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In Depoe Bay, we finally get a good look at the ocean we’ve been chasing most of the day.

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Late afternoon in Depoe Bay.

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Enjoying Depoe Bay.

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Where’s Randy? Must be on his phone …

From Depoe Bay we roll by Beverly Beach and past the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, near the mouth of the Yaquina River. The lighthouse tower stands at 93 feet (162 feet above sea level), and is the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. It’s one of 11 lighthouses on the Oregon coast.

Most of Oregon’s lighthouses were designed and built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1870 and 1896. They were erected on prominent headlands or near major estuaries to support commercial fishing and shipping along the Oregon coast. All nine of Oregon’s surviving – and operational – lighthouses are on the National Register of Historic Places, visited by more than 2.5 million people each year.

Once you pass the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, it’s only four miles to Newport, home of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Newport’s motto: The Coast You Remember.

We park the bikes at our hotel in Newport, and contemplate having a dinner we’ll remember.

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At dinner, the posse grows to seven, with the addition of Bert Rudman, on the left. I worked with Bert at KOMO-TV in the mid-1980s, and hadn’t seen him since then. Bert is a news director in Eugene, Oregon. He’s gonna ride with us tomorrow … sort of an Oregon host.

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A 1980s KOMO reunion.

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Randy worked at KOMO, too, and shot the above photo.

***

Day Fourteen Summary: Adulting at the pump, Everybody Loves Raymond, the Coast You Remember.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Aberdeen, Washington, to Newport, Oregon.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh? The English version of Canada’s national anthem, O Canada, was written by Robert Stanley Weir for the Diamond Jubilee of Canada’s confederation in 1927. O Canada was originally commissioned by Quebec Lieutenant Governor Theodore Robitaille for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. Because Canada is officially bilingual, O Canada has lyrics in both English and French.

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O Canada, eh?

Come as You Are

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The MV Coho: our ticket out of Canada.

Oh, Canada!

It’s been a great 23 hours, but now it’s time to head back to the USA.

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Waiting in line for the ferry to Port Angeles. We’re in lane #1, which you’ll want to remember.

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The sticker on our headlights indicates our lane assignment. Randy took a special liking to the concept of being number one.

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While waiting in line, John does some housekeeping on his Harley.

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Meanwhile, Randy’s still thinking about the number one.

There are four ferries a day in the summer season from Victoria south to Port Angeles, on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. After a leisurely breakfast, we board the second ferry of the day – the 10:30 am sailing.

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That’s the MV Coho behind me, arriving in Victoria harbor from Port Angeles. The ferry goes back and forth between the two cities all day long.

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The ferry docks in Victoria, and we’re all treated to a special show …

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We watch dozens of “Deuces” roll off the ferry, part of a huge car show in Victoria this weekend. The deuces are 1932 Fords. They’re among more than a thousand classic cars in town for the event.

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The “Deuces” come in all sorts of body styles and colors. Gotta love pink!

The MV Coho is our ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Coho is a passenger and vehicle ferry owned and operated by Black Ball Line, a private company. She’s Black Ball’s only ferry. The ship is named after the coho salmon commonly found in the Pacific Northwest.

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We load our bikes on the ferry, lash them to the wall, put wheel chicks in place, and hope for the best. It’s a little unnerving.

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Crossing my fingers it doesn’t tip over during the crossing. The seas can be quite rough.

The 23-nautical-mile crossing takes about 90 minutes. We sail directly south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Strait connects Puget Sound waters, in the Seattle area, to the Pacific Ocean.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca is about 96 miles long, from west to east. If you were to bisect it with a line running west to east, you would roughly be drawing the US/Canadian international border in these waters. This part of the border is completely unrelated to the 49th parallel that forms most of the US/Canadian border.

The Strait was named in 1787 after Ioannis Phokas, a Greek maritime pilot, best known for his claim to have explored the Strait of Anián in the service of the King of Spain, Philip II. Phokas was better known by the Spanish translation of his name, Juan de Fuca. And that’s why this huge body of water, once called the Strait of Anián, is known today as the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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John is excited as we prepare to leave the harbor.

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We’re finally underway, heading south to Port Angeles.

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John and Randy enjoy the view from the aft deck.

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Dave couldn’t pass up the chance for an onboard hot dog.

***

We roll off the MV Coho in Port Angeles, and it occurs to me I’ve never been here before. I lived in Washington state for 23 years, and have not seen this part of the state – the Olympic Peninsula. The 3,600-square-mile peninsula is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the east by Hood Canal.

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With Randy’s help, I’m now apparently in line 111.

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And so is Randy, or maybe in line 1111.

The peninsula is home to rain forests, the Olympic Mountain range, the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Park. It also has a dozen state parks, including the fun-to-say Dosewallips State Park – the eastern gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.

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In sport Angeles, we discover some tires are low on air, and fill them to the correct pressure.

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John’s not above getting himself dirty to have a properly inflated tire.

Leaving the ferry terminal in Port Angeles, we head west on Washington Highway 112 toward Pysht, a ghost town 33 miles away. We’re riding along the southern shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Pysht is a Native American word meaning “where the wind blows from all directions.”

From Pysht, or what’s left of it, the road turns away from the sea.

In five miles, at the junction of Highways 112 and 113, we have a choice: continue west to Neah Bay, about as far northwest as you can get in the lower 48. Neah Bah is 70 miles away, and on the Makah Indian Reservation. Or, we turn south toward Forks, possibly named for the silverware that’s on your dinner table.

We choose the southern route, and head for Forks.

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We’re heading for Forks, the city of Forks.

***

Highway 113, known as Burnt Mountain Road, takes us to Sappho, a former logging town named after the Greek poet, Sappho – not to be confused with the giant footwear e-tailer, Zappos.

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In Forks, Randy checks the news, his investments, or internet porn. As you know by now, those are the only uses for a phone for a trip like this.

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Meanwhile in Forks, the other guys engage with each other, not their phones.

In Sappho, we turn south on US Highway 101, and continue past Beaver to Forks. At one time, like so many Pacific Northwest towns, Forks had an economy fueled by the local timber industry. As timber fell into a years-long slump, Forks re-thought its economic plan and turned to prisons. Today, Forks relies on the nearby Clallam Bay Corrections Center and Olympic Corrections Center for more than 400 jobs.

Highway 101 heads inland after Forks, meets up with the Hoh River, then follows the river back toward the coast. We reach the Pacific Ocean at Ruby Beach, and ride south, passing the popular Kalaloch Lodge, a romantic getaway right on the coast.

A few miles past Kalaloch, we cross the Queets River and roll through Queets, population 174. The primary residents here are Native Americans of the Quinault Indian Nation. The name Queets comes from the Quinault word meaning dirt.

Side note regarding dirt: as a ski instructor last season, I learned that DIRT is an acronym for Duration, Intensity, Rate and Timing. Those terms describe ways you can change or adjust movements to get a different result, for example the differences between a short radius turn and a larger radius turn.

And that’s today’s dirt from a ski instructor on a Harley.

***

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John arrives at the Lake Quinault Lodge.

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Admiring the big trees outside the Lake Quinault Lodge.

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The lodge, of course, sits right on the lake.

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We encounter a Sasquatch by the lake.

From Queets, we turn inland again, and in less than 30 miles, arrive at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Park. The lodge, built in 1926, has a rustic style reminiscent of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. They’re similar because the two lodges share the same architect: Robert Reamer.

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Beachfront posing.

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The lodge has a beautiful lake view …

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… and is a nice place to have a beer.

The Lake Quinault Lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places. It might as well also be on the national cash register of historic places; a fireplace room with a king bed and lake view goes for $459.92 a night, including taxes and fees.

After exploring the lodge and its manicured grounds, we continue on toward Humptulips, which, along with Dosewallips, has to have one of the best place names. Ever.

But shortly before we get to Humptulips, we turn off of US Highway 101, and head southwest on the Moclips Highway. In 20 miles, we arrive in Moclips, a community of 200 residents. The town is near the mouth of the Moclips River, which empties nearby into the Pacific Ocean.

Moclips sits right on the Pacific. The origins of the word Moclips are unclear. It may come from the Quinault word meaning, “large stream.” An alternate version, from Edmond Meany, a University of Washington professor in the early 1900s, is that moclips comes from a Quinault word meaning “a place where girls were sent as they were approaching puberty.”

***

Heading south on Washington Highway 109, we cruise through a bunch of beach towns with tiny populations – Pacific Beach, Ocean Grove, Iron Springs, Copalis Beach and Ocean City. Most have a general store, and little more.

A mile past Ocean City, the highway turns east and follows the shoreline of Grays Harbor, a large bay that includes the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. Here, up to one million shorebirds gather in spring and fall to feed and rest. As many as 24 species of shorebirds use the refuge, with the most abundant being the western sandpiper and dunlin.

We follow Highway 109, crossing the Hoquiam River toward the tri-city area of Hoquiam/Aberdeen/Cosmopolis – once booming logging towns. The name Hoquiam comes from a Native American word meaning hungry for wood, from the great amount of driftwood at the mouth of the Hoquiam River.

Just a few miles past Hoquiam is tonight’s destination, Aberdeen, which sits on the Chehalis River and is home to 17,000 residents. Aberdeen is known as the southern gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.

The city is also noted for being the one-time home of Kurt Cobain — guitarist, singer and frontman for the rock band Nirvana. Cobain, who died of a drug overdose in 1994 at the age of 27, was honored in Aberdeen 10 years after his death by a sign that says, Welcome to Aberdeen. Come as You Are.

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Kurt Cobain: Come as You Are

Come as You Are is a Nirvana song, released as the second single from the band’s second studio album, Nevermind. Rolling Stone ranked Come as You Are as number 445 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Randy is a huge Nirvana fan. Come as you are, Randy. It’s time for dinner.

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Dinner at Bily’s, a short walk from the hotel.

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Really, Randy. Two country fried steak dinners?

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At dinner, Randy had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

***

Day Thirteen Summary: Ocean views, knives and Forks, Come as You Are.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Victoria, British Columbia, to Aberdeen, Washington.

We’re on our way home, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh? The Canadian motto is A Mari Usque Ad Mare. It means From Sea to Sea. The phrase comes from a Latin translation of Psalm 72:8 in the King James Bible: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

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“From sea to sea …”

We’re in Canada, eh!

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Rain, again. At 7 am, this is what we experienced on the way to the ferry.

Anacortes is known as Your Island Getaway.

Today, we’re getting away from Fidalgo Island, where Anacortes is located. We’re heading to Vancouver Island, in Canada. On our way, we’ll pass through the San Juan Island archipelago.

Islands everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Many with names. Some are just big rocks, exposed at low tide.

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Dressed for success, if you consider riding in the rain successful.

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Exquisite framing and composition. Time to leave the hotel and head for the ferry.

We begin by riding the five miles from downtown Anacortes to the Washington State Ferry terminal.

I’ve been coming here since moving to western Washington in 1979. My first trip on the ferry was in August 1979, when I rode my 1976 Honda CB550 F onto the ferry, which took me to Orcas Island. It was an overnight trip to Rosario Resort, the former Eastsound estate of Seattle mayor and shipbuilder Robert Moran.

The Washington State Ferry system is the largest ferry operator in the US. By comparison, the world’s largest ferry system is in Istanbul, Turkey. It has 87 vessels, crossing the Bosphorus Strait.   Some 300,000 people in Turkey’s biggest city take the ferry to work every day.

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In line, ready to board the ferry.

Closer to home, with 23 vessels and 20 terminals, the Washington State Ferry system carries about 25 million passengers every year, including the six of us today. The largest ferry holds up to 2,500 passengers and 200 vehicles

The ferry system is operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and is considered part of the state’s highway system. Originally, Washington state only intended to run ferry service until cross-sound bridges could be built as a replacement. But those bridges were thankfully never approved, leaving Washington residents and tourists with a wonderful way to be one with nature.

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On board the MV Chelan. We’re on our way to Canada, eh!

Thousands of commuters a day ride the ferry to work in downtown Seattle, coming from Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, and Bremerton — riding across the Puget Sound and Elliott Bay.

Our ferry ride won’t take us anywhere near Seattle. The 44-mile route is from Anacortes, through the San Juan Islands, and on to Sidney, British Columbia.

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Relaxing on the ferry. It’s 8:30 am, and Dave’s starting the day with a traditional coffee-and-popcorn.

***

We’re on the Ferry Chelan, 328 feet long with a draft of 15 feet, 6 inches. The Chelan’s two diesel engines produce 5,000-horsepower, giving the vessel a top speed of 16 knots. The MV Chelan was built in 1981 and refitted in 2004 to include a second vehicle deck. The vessel carries nearly 1,100 passengers, 124 autos — and today, at least 6 motorcycles.

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Nice window seat for Randy and John. I believe they were in the ferry’s first-class section.

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Randy, flying first class.

The “MV” in MV Chelan stands for Motor Vessel. Today, almost every ship is a Motor Vessel, because the alternative, SS (Steam Ship) is rarely used anymore.

From Anacortes, the Chelan sails west across Rosario Strait, a major shipping channel. More than 500 oil tankers pass through the strait each year, to and from refineries in Anacortes and Cherry Point, north of Bellingham.

The ferry continues through Thatcher Pass, a half-mile wide opening between Decatur Island, to the south, and Blakely Island, to the north.

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I love the fresh sea air.

From there, we pass by the northern tip of Lopez Island, the third-largest of the San Juan Islands and because of its flatness, a haven for bicycling. Lopez Island is named for Gonzalo López de Haro, a Spanish naval officer and the first European to discover the San Juan Islands archipelago.

Lopez is one of four San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferry system. The others are Shaw, Orcas and San Juan Islands. Today, our ferry to Sidney, British Columbia stops only at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island on its way to Canada, eh.

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The big guy looks at home in the San Juan Islands.

The San Juan Island archipelago includes 172 islands, 128 of which are named. At low tide, the number of islands rises to around 400. Some of the islands are no bigger than a rowboat and many disappear if the tide gets too high. Many of the small and medium-sized islands are privately owned.

When I lived in Bellingham, Washington in the early 1980s, I had a sailboat, Puffin, that I sailed often in the San Juans. It’s hard to overstate how cool it is to sail among these islands.

The first trip Sarah and I took together was in the summer of 1998, when we chartered a sailboat in Bellingham, and sailed through the San Juans to Victoria, British Columbia. This is my first trip back to these waters since then.

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The ferry is a nice place to nap. If you’re on your morning commute.

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All that fresh air wore Dave out.

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Randy could barely keep his eyes open, too.

***

Near the Lopez Island ferry terminal, we turn southwest, and sail the Upright Channel, between Lopez and Shaw Islands. The ferry follows the southern shoreline of Shaw Island, turns north of Brown Island, and lands in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island at precisely 9:55 am, an hour and 25 minutes after leaving Anacortes. The ferry system runs like a Swiss railway, without the rails.

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Jim, on the other hand, is wide awake.

Friday Harbor is the largest town in the San Juans, with about 2,500 year-round residents, and thousands more during the summer tourist season. Friday Harbor was not named after the day of the week. The name originates from Joseph Poalie Friday, a native Hawaiian. He moved to San Juan Island in the 1860s, raising and herding sheep around the area that is today known as Friday Harbor.

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Almost arrived in Friday Harbor.

Most everything worth seeing in Friday Harbor is within walking distance of the ferry landing. You’ll find a whale museum, art museum, community theater, bed and breakfasts, hotels and inns, restaurants, shops, and a refreshing absence of fast-food chains.

We get to experience none of that. If you’re headed to Canada, you don’t get to disembark in Friday Harbor, even for a few minutes. Don’t even bother to tell the ferry captain you need a bathroom break in town; the MV Chelan has you covered.

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My first visit to Friday Harbor since I was here with Sarah 20 years ago.

Our ferry makes a quick stop in Friday Harbor, dropping off cars and walk-on passengers, and taking on a few that are headed for Canada. We leave Friday Harbor, heading northwest through San Juan Channel, following the northern shoreline of San Juan Island.

We cross into Canadian waters in Haro Strait, another major shipping channel. It’s the main waterway for ships coming to and from the Port of Vancouver on the Canadian mainland. Haro Strait is part of the international boundary between Canada and the US. Haro Strait was named in 1970 by the commander of the Princesa Real, in honor of his pilot, Gonzalo López de Haro.

At 11:15 am, our ferry’s journey ends in Sidney, British Columbia, on the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island.

We’re in Canada, eh!

***

The world-famous Butchart Gardens is only a few minutes from the Sidney ferry terminal.

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Butchart Gardens. The posse voted to skip it, instead opting for a visit to the Victoria Harley store.

Sidney is located less than a mile from the Victoria International Airport. Victoria is the provincial capital of British Columbia, and tonight’s destination. The southernmost major city in Canada, with a population of nearly 400,000 — Victoria is a 17-mile ride south from Sidney.

A few miles of that ride are on the Trans-Canada Highway, which begins at the intersection of Douglas Street and Dallas Road, where the “Mile 0 Monument” stands. Tonight’s lodging is less than a mile from that monument.

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At the Victoria Harley dealer, Matt installed a new battery on my bike, cuz after 3 1/2 years, mine was behaving as though it might not get me home.

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Randy waited patiently in the Harley store while Matt was installing my new battery. Randy looks right at home in the Harley milieu, despite riding a Kawasaki.

As you might guess, Victoria is named after Queen Victoria. She was Queen of the United Kingdom from 1837 until her death in 1901. Victoria was preceded by William IV, and succeeded by Edward VII, for you royal fans. Her reign of nearly 64 years was longer than that of any of her predecessors, but not as long as Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since ascending to the throne in 1952.

***

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At Victoria’s inner harbor.

Victoria does have some notable historical buildings. There are the neo-baroque BC Parliament buildings, which can be seen from the Victoria Inner Harbour. There’s the Inner Harbour itself, with its cruise ship port, ferry terminal, pleasure boat docks and seaplanes coming and going.

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We arrive at the Embassy Inn, it’s 3 pm, and Randy’s already sleeping. Dude can sleep darn near anywhere. He looks so peaceful.

And there’s the 412-room Empress Hotel. About all you can say is wow. They just don’t make hotels like that anymore. At least not any we’re likely to stay in on this trip. Randy is still chafing that he was booted out of the Empress back in the 1980s for wearing jeans. The place is quite proper.

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Randy finally gets into the Empress, in blue jeans!

The Empress was built in 1904 by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Designed by Francis Rattenbury as a Chateauesque-styled building, it’s considered one of Canada’s “grand railway” hotels.

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At the Empress.

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We thought this was the main entrance. It was, last time I was here. The lady security guard (hostess?) pointed us in a different direction.

 

Other grand railway hotels include the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise – both in Alberta; the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City; the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa; the Place Viger in Montreal; and the Algonquin Resort in New Brunswick. The largest of the grand railway hotels is the Royal York in downtown Toronto.

You could easily do a grand railway hotel tour, perhaps on a Harley. It would last all summer, and leave you virtually penniless.

We’ll be sure to discuss that tonight, over dinner. Seafood, and future grand railway hotel tours.

Ah, the good life.

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Empress selfie.

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Dinner st the Steamship Grill, overlooking Victoria’s inner harbor.

***

Day Twelve Summary: Shortest motorcycle ride of the trip, about 22 miles. Most beautiful ride of the trip, 44 miles through the San Juan Islands on a ferry. Planning the first-ever Harley tour of Canadian grand railway hotels.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Anacortes, Washington, to Victoria, British Columbia (Canada).

We’re finally in Canada, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  The world’s largest totem pole was carved in Victoria, British Columbia, tonight’s destination. The totem pole, which now resides in British Columbia’s Alert Bay, is 180 feet high.

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Oooh, baby. That’s a big one.

Roll on Columbia, Roll on.

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Today’s blog post begins with a photo I inadvertently omitted yesterday. It’s three Harley studs in Mount Rainier National Park, exquisitely framed by Randy.

This morning, as we roll out of Wenatchee, we follow the Columbia River for 55 miles. We’re riding on US Highway 2, along the east shore of the Columbia.

Like the Columbia, we’ll roll on.

The 1,243-mile long Columbia is the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean. And, it’s one of the world’s greatest sources of hydroelectric power. The 14 hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and many more on its tributaries produce more than 44 percent of total US hydroelectric power generation.

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The Grand Coulee Dam is a huge power generator.

The Grand Coulee Dam, about 70 miles east of Wenatchee is the largest in the US, supplying more than 6,800 megawatts of power to eleven western states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. That’s three times more power than is generated by the Hoover Dam, which generally gets the lion’s share of attention when it comes to dams.

Hydroelectricity is such a big deal in this part of the Northwest that, in 1941, the Bonneville Power Administration commissioned folk singer Woody Guthrie to write a song about it:

“Roll on Columbia, roll on, roll on
Roll on Columbia, roll on, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
So roll on Columbia, roll on”

“Roll On, Columbia, Roll On” was part of the Columbia River Ballads, a set of 26 songs written by Guthrie for the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency created to sell and distribute power from the river’s federal hydroelectric facilities.

The song glamorized the harnessing of the Columbia River. Because of its message and popularity, “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On,” was established as Washington’s official state folk song in 1987.

Here in the upper left corner of the US, the Columbia is central to the Northwest’s identity – culturally, geographically, politically.

***

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The town of Chelan is on the east shore of beautiful Lake Chelan.

As we ride along the Columbia, we pass by the town of Chelan, on the east shore of Lake Chelan.

Lake Chelan is a narrow, 50-mile long lake, roughly midway between Seattle and Spokane. It’s a common weekend summer getaway for Seattleites.

Chelan, with a population of about 4,000, anchors the eastern end of the lake. It’s a scenic resort community known for warm sun and clear blue lake waters. Chelan has golf, mountain biking trails, all sorts of water sports, wine shops and boutique shopping.

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Scott takes a break roadside.

Today, Chelan is a recreational mecca. But it was the quest for riches, not tourism, that first brought waves of newcomers to the lake’s shore in the late 1800s. Gold, silver, copper and other minerals were found in abundance. Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir blanketed the surrounding mountainsides, and a limitless supply of pure alpine water was on tap for consumption, irrigation and later, power generation.

On the far northwestern end of the lake is the tiny community of Stehekin, surrounded by mountains up to 9,000 feet. Stehekin is accessible only by passenger ferry, private boat, float plane, horseback or hiking trail. The name Stehekin comes from a Native American word meaning “the way through.” Stehekin is in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

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You have to love the isolation of Stehekin.

Chelan is a Salish indigenous word meaning deep water. Lake Chelan has a maximum depth of 1,486 feet, making it the third deepest lake in the US — after Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe, both of which we visited earlier in the week.

Lake Chelan is the largest natural lake in the state of Washington. Ironically, it empties into the state’s shortest river – the Chelan – which flows barely four miles before joining the mighty Columbia for its run to the Pacific Ocean.

The lake was formed gradually over millions of years with the rise of the Cascade Mountains. Today, about 100 glaciers are liberally sprinkled on the nearby Cascade peaks. The glaciers store water through the summer, which helps irrigate the productive fruit orchards in the area.

***

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We arrive in Pateros, and Randy checks the news, or his portfolio, or internet porn. Those are pretty much the only choices.

Twenty miles north of Chelan, we come to Pateros, where we turn northwest, away from the Columbia. In 1900, Charles Nosler acquired most of the townsite for what would become Pateros. He named it Pateros, after a village in the Philippines he previously visited. Unsurprisingly, Pateros’ international sister city is Pateros – near Manila in the Philippines.

In Pateros, we turn on to Washington Highway 153, and follow the Methow River. The Methow is named after the Methow Native Americans, which today are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation.

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Bikes in Pateros. Note that Gary is not on his phone.

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Talking politics in Pateros.

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John keeps a close eye on fueling activity at the Pateros Chevron.

We roll through the towns of Methow and Twisp, before arriving in Winthrop, about 100 miles from where our day began, in Wenatchee.

Winthrop is known for the Old West design of its buildings, complete with false-fronts and boardwalk sidewalks. It’s home to the oldest legal saloon in Washington state, Three Fingered Jack’s, where you can get a Jack’s Country Breakfast, or a Jack Attack Burger for lunch or dinner.

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At Pardner’s mini-mart in Winthrop, Randy gassed up.

Winthrop is where we’ll park our bikes, gas up, and cool off before heading on to another national park.

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Still talking politics, now in Winthrop.

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Ice cream sandwich break in Winthrop, before heading west on the North Cascades Highway.

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Nice flowers. And John’s Harley.

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Nice flowers. And, whatever.

***

Leaving Winthrop, we’re now on Washington Highway 20, known as the North Cascades Highway. At 436 miles, it’s the state’s longest highway – and is one of the best motorcycle roads in the Northwest.

The highway’s path across the Cascade mountains follows one of the oldest roads in Washington, established in 1896 as a wagon route. Even before that, it was originally the corridor used by local Native American tribes as a trading route for more than 8,000 years.

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On the North Cascades Highway, approaching Washington Pass.

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A beautiful day for a mountain ride.

Like other roads we’ve ridden on this trip, including Cayuse Pass and Chinook Pass a few days ago, the North Cascades Highway closes every winter due to heavy snowfall. It generally re-opens by late April, and this year opened on April 18.

Soon, we enter North Cascades National Park, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Entering the park is a different drill than in most national parks. Because Highway 20 is a major east-west route, there’s no fee for entering, and no ranger gate.

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That’s Randy in the foreground. We think he’s riding a Kawasaki.

Just roll on in, on that beautiful V-twin. Or whatever it is Randy’s riding.

North Cascades National Park is a vast wilderness of conifer-clad mountains, glaciers and lakes. The North Cascades Highway was the first National Scenic Highway in the US.

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You can never have too many selfies.

Washington Pass is the highest part of the drive: 5,477 feet. The Diablo Lake overlook offers incomparable views of the surrounding Cascades. The lake’s emerald green color is caused by the sun’s reflection on glacier-ground rock dust suspended in the water.

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Randy’s buddy is driving the logging truck. The truck kept Randy, Scott and John miles behind the other guys. The trucker actually honked as he passed us.

As we round a gradual curve on Highway 20 at the Happy Creek Trailhead, near the southern end of Ross Lake, we hit the northernmost point on our three-week trip. How far north? It’s at 48.7274 degrees latitude. We’re about 10 miles south of the Canadian border, which is at 49 degrees latitude – the 49th Parallel North.

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Diablo Lake, a beautiful reservoir formed by Diablo Dam.

Diablo Lake is a reservoir that’s part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, managed by Seattle City Light. At one time, the Diablo Dam was the world’s tallest, standing 389 feet high.

About five miles west of Diablo is the town of Newhalem, site of the North Cascades Visitor Center at the west end of the national park. Newhalem is a company town owned by Seattle City Light and populated entirely by employees of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

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Don’t read too much into Dave’s body language. He was not the least bit bored.

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Caption, anyone?

The big event every summer in Newhalem is its summer mushball tournament, a form of softball played using a large, elastic-shelled ball. The event is scheduled for next weekend. Bummer that we’ll miss it.

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In Newhalem, we grab a pic in front of an old train.

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We felt right at home in Newhalem, a company town. Some of us used to work for companies.

***

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Three former KOMO-TV guys (1980s) in Newhalem.

As we continue west on the North Cascades Highway, we are clearly descending toward sea level. Newhalem is at 515 feet. The next town, 15 miles away, is Marblemount, 315 feet above sea level. Another 15 miles and we arrive in Concrete.

You could guess how Concrete got its name, and you’re probably right. Concrete was home to the Washington Portland Cement Company and was originally named Cement City.

All these towns are on the Skagit River, which we’ll follow to tonight’s destination, Anacortes.

Highway 20 takes us through Sedro-Woolley and Burlington, where we cross I-5, then roll across the Swinomish Channel and onto Fidalgo Island, home to Anacortes. Anacortes is commonly known for its Washington State Ferry terminal that takes vehicles and passengers into the world-famous San Juan Island archipelago.

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You can board this ferry in Anacortes, and cruise through the San Juan Islands. That’s Mount Baker in the background.

The name Anacortes is an adaptation of the name of Anne Curtis Bowman, who was the wife of early Fidalgo Island settler Amos Bowman. Anacortes has two major oil refineries: Shell and Marathon. The two refineries are, by far, the largest employers in Anacortes. I’m halfway surprised not to bump into my friend, Curtis Smith, Shell Oil PR guy.

At the end of a 250-mile day, we park our bikes at the tiny Marina Inn, fittingly located in Anacortes on Highway 20, where we’ve spent much of our day.

Tonight, we transition from meat-and-potatoes dinners, what you’d expect in the Paul Bunyan-like mountains of the past week – to seafood. We’re no longer lumberjacks, but men of the sea.

Our next week on the road will be along the water’s edge. Should be a lot of fish and chips, salmon, oysters, and whatever else from the sea floats our culinary boats between here and Southern California.

***

Day Eleven Summary: Roll on Columbia, North Cascades Highway, getting healthy on seafood.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Wenatchee, Washington, to Anacortes, Washington.

We’re on our way to Canada, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  Canada consumes more macaroni and cheese than any other nation in the world. Canadians eat 55 percent more Kraft Dinner or KD, than Americans do. Mac and cheese is so popular that it’s been called the national dish of Canada, and is the most popular item sold in Canadian grocery stores.

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Mac n cheese: Canada’s national food obsession.

A Day in Paradise

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Uh-oh. Morning raindrops on the Harley. That can’t be good 😂

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So we all break out our rain gear, saddle up, and hope for the best.

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Right in front of our hotel, and next to the gas station, elk were grazing.

Today, we hope to catch more than a glimpse of Washington state’s highest point, cross two recently opened highway passes, roll through our third National Park this week, and end up in the heart of the state’s agriculture belt.

We begin by turning west out of Packwood on Skate Creek Road, alternately known by the far less interesting name of National Forest Road 52. Because of its remote location and brutal weather in the shadow of Mount Rainier, Skate Creek Road is closed during winter months.

But we’re halfway through July, so we roll comfortably northwest for 10 miles or so, until reaching the Nisqually River. The Nisqually River starts on the southern slope of Mount Rainier, and empties into the southern end of the Puget Sound.

We follow the contours of the river until we find a place to cross it, about a mile east of Ashford. Ashford is the last town before we arrive at the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, just a few miles up the road.

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Everywhere you look, trees and raindrops. And Harleys. And a black Kawasaki.

At the park entrance, we show our park passes and enter through the Nisqually Entrance Historic District. It has the log entrance arch typical of all Mount Rainier entrances, a log frame ranger station, and various other structures – all built around 1926. The park’s entrance area has been on the National Register of Historic Places for almost three decades.

This entrance to the park is open year-round, though the roads through the park are not.

It snows here in the winter. A lot.

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Rain or shine, feelin’ fine.

***

Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899 as America’s fourth national park; only Yellowstone, Sequoia and Yosemite gained national park status sooner. All of Mount Rainier National Park is designated a National Historic Landmark District. This designation honors the consistently high standard of design and preservation of the park’s rustic-style architecture.

Much of that architecture is found in Longmire, a visitor center six miles from the park’s entrance. The area is named after James Longmire, an early settler in Puget Sound. In Longmire, you’ll find the National Park Inn, the Longmire Museum, and the 1928 National Park Service Administration building, which is now a Wilderness Information Center.

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Wave at the camera, guys.

Longmire, which sits at 2,761 feet, is the second-most popular destination for park visitors. The most popular is Paradise, 11 miles away on a snaking, steep highway known as Paradise Road.

In those 11 miles, we climb about 2,700 feet to Paradise. Roughly two million people a year visit Rainier National Park. Sixty percent of them go to Paradise. The road from the Nisqually park entrance to Paradise, 17 miles in all, is one of the few in the park open to car traffic in the winter.

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Dave, having a paradise moment.

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Surrounded by trees.

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Not everyone wears the Harley orange-and-black rain suits.

Here in Paradise is the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, named for the former US Senator from Washington state. During his childhood, Jackson’s sister nicknamed him “Scoop,” after a comic strip character she thought he resembled. The nickname stuck, and he was called Scoop the rest of his life.

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Even on a day like this, hikers take off from the Henry Jackson Visitor Center and head up the mountain.

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How are things so green in this part of the world? Rain’s a lot.

It’s interesting how people and places are named. Paradise, site of the Jackson Visitor Center, got its name from James Longmire’s daughter-in-law, Martha.

When she first saw the site where Paradise is today, Martha exclaimed, “Oh, what a paradise!” She must have seen it in the summer. In the winter, Paradise receives an average of 643 inches of snow each year!

***

After clearing mountains of snow, the road east from Paradise generally opens each year by late May. We now head east on Paradise Road, which soon becomes Stevens Canyon Road.

Stevens Canyon is named for General Hazard Stevens, who made the first documented ascent of 14,411-foot Mount Rainier in August 1870. The mountain was originally named Tahoma, or “Great Snowy Peak” by the Yakima Indians. British explorer George Vancouver, who charted northwestern Pacific Coast regions in the 1790s, renamed it after Admiral Peter Rainier of the British Navy. The name was hotly contested for more than 100 years, because Americans felt the mountain shouldn’t be named after a British officer who’d never even been to the US.

Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous US, with more than two dozen named glaciers. More than 10,000 people a year try to scale the mountain, and many expeditions for bigger mountains come to Rainier for their training runs. Some mountaineers, including Sarah Murr, climb to 10,188-foot Camp Muir, which they use as a base camp on their way to summiting Mount Rainier. Sarah’s ben there about a dozen times; it ought to be named Camp Murr.

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Mount Rainier can be alluring in the summer, foreboding in the winter. Too bad we were unable to see the mountain today.

If you’re thinking about climbing Rainier, you’d better take it seriously. It’s a much bigger deal than a day hike to the top of a Colorado fourteener. From the highest trailhead, climbers gain 9,000 feet of elevation to reach the summit. That’s as much as from Mount Everest’s advanced base camp to its summit.

Rainier is less deadly than Everest. Still, the mountain in our midst kills climbers almost every year. If you’re not discouraged and still want to give it a go, here’s a great primer on climbing Mount Rainier. There are more than 50 routes to the summit. The vast majority of climbers take the Disappointment Cleaver Route.

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Scott looked ready to climb the mountain, but we had riding to do.

We’d be inclined to give the mountain our best shot, but we have places to go and things to do. On our motorcycles. Maybe another day.

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Climbing Mount Rainier is a serious adventure.

***

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Matching rainsuits. Different body types.

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Somewhat less of a coordinated fashion statement for Jim, John and Randy.

So we continue on Stevens Canyon Road, named for the first man to summit Rainier.

We pass Reflection Lake, Louise Lake, and Upper Sunbeam Falls. The road makes a hairpin turn at Bench Lake, then winds its way to the trailhead for the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, considered one of the easier hikes in the park. The hike is only about a mile and a-half round trip, with no elevation gain. Its attraction is the surrounding Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and western red cedars.

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Randy does his best pirate imitation on the way to Cayuse Pass.

Just past the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, we turn north on Washington Highway 123, which in a few miles takes us to 4,675-foot Cayuse Pass. Because of heavy snow and avalanche danger, the pass is closed every winter, and generally opens around Memorial Day weekend. This year, Cayuse Pass re-opened on May 24.

Cayuse Pass sits at the intersection of Washington Highways 123 and 410.

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It was so foggy we never saw Cayuse Pass or Chinook Pass.

We turn east on Highway 410, which will take us over 5,430-foot Chinook Pass. It’s also closed in winters, for the same obvious reasons. Chinook Pass re-opened for the summer season on May 24.

From 1940 through 1959, Chinook Pass was one of the top ski areas in the state, with a season that ran from December to June. There were numerous non-permanent rope tows that extended from Cayuse Pass to the Tipsoo Lake area. The requirement that they were temporary tows was made by Mount Rainier National Park so the lifts could be removed when the snow melted in the summer months.

When nearby White Pass ski area opened, there was no longer a need for rope tow skiing on Chinook Pass. This area is the heart of ski country in Washington state, and it gets a ton of snow. Crystal Mountain ski area, only a few miles north of Chinook Pass, received 407 inches this season, and was open for skiing on weekends this year until June 21.

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Late spring skiing at Crystal Mountain, with spectacular views of Mount Rainier.

Highway 410 is also known as the Mather Memorial Parkway, named for Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service. Mather served in that capacity from 1917 through 1929.

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Sitting on his bike, Randy can be quite entertaining.

For the next 32 miles, until we arrive in the town of Cliffdell, we are on Highway 410. By the time we get here, we’ve descended 3,000 feet from Chinook Pass. Cliffdell, originally called Spring Flats, was renamed Cliffdell in 1920 in honor of Cliff and Della Scott of Seattle. Cliff and Della were friends of the town’s developer.

Here, we stop for gas, midway through the day’s ride. Midway? Seems like we’ve been on the road forever. We’ve gone 115 miles since Packwood, and have 135 to go before arriving in tonight’s destination, Wenatchee.

***

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In Natches, we finally get to take off our rain gear.

After our break in Cliffdell, we continue east on Highway 410 for about 20 miles, following the Naches River through the towns of Pinecliff, Nile and Naches. We arrive on the outskirts of Yakima, a city of around 100,000 named for the Yakama tribe, early inhabitants of the Yakima Valley. Yakima sits at the confluence of the Naches and Yakima Rivers.

The Yakima Valley is agriculturally productive, known for its apple, grape, pear, cherry, melon and hop production. The valley produces nearly 80 percent of all hops grown in the US. Its vineyards make for an active wine region.

We’re on the northern fringes of Yakima, and never quite make it to the city. We cross over the Yakima River, and continue north on Washington Highway 823, through Selah, host to two Tree Top apple processing plants. Because of the nearby orchards and juice processing plants, Selah is often referred to as the Apple Juice Capital of the World.

Highway 823 crosses, then follows the contours of the Yakima River. Transitioning to Washington Highway 821, the road continues north to Wymer, Umtanum, and Holmes. We’re now just south of Ellensburg, home to Central Washington University.

Again, we turn onto the now-familiar US Highway 97 and roll north to the town of Peshastin, known for the Peshastin Ditch, dug by pioneers in 1889. The ditch was an important part of the overall irrigation system in the area, delivering water to the orchards on the slopes above Cashmere.

In Peshastin, we head east on US Highway 2, following the Wenatchee River toward Cashmere, notably not named for the luxurious sweater fabric. Cashmere fibers come from fine-haired Cashmere goats in the Gobi Desert, which stretches from Northern China into Mongolia. Because there’s not a lot of hair on Cashmere goats, it’s an expensive commodity. You know, supply and demand.

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If you want a cashmere sweater, it’ll somehow involve a Cashmere goat.

For some reason – seriously – the Cashmere valley was named for Kashmir, India – as a local leader said it resembled the foothills of the Kashmir region. The spelling was subsequently changed to a more Americanized Cashmere.

The Cashmere area has a rich history of fruit tree production. Apples are abundant. Pears are everywhere, particularly Bartlett and D’Anjou varieties.

Of course, if the climate is good for growing fruit, it must be hot in the summer. Yes, it is.

So it’s a welcome sight, eight miles ahead, when we roll into Wenatchee, tonight’s destination, at the end of a 250-mile day. Wenatchee, located at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers, is often called the Apple Capital of the World because of the valley’s plentiful orchards.

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How big is the apple influence here? The West Coast League baseball team based here is called the Wenatchee AppleSox. There’s an Applebee’s restaurant, a few miles from our hotel. We must be famished even uttering the word Applebee’s.

Time to park the bikes and ponder actual, edible non-apple focused meals.

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Dinner at the Rail Station and Ale House.

***

Day Ten Summary: Tiny church, big mountain, apples everywhere.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Packwood, Washington, to Wenatchee, Washington.

We’re on our way to Canada, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  Canada is the world’s most educated country. More than half its residents have college degrees. Canada’s literacy rate is said to be 99 percent. The literacy rate in the US is 86 percent.

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The campus at McGill University in Montreal. McGill offers degrees and diplomas in more than 300 fields of study.

Surf’s Up, Dude!

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Surf music, highlighting today’s soundtrack.

Today’s iPod playlist includes surf music.

Somehow that seems incongruous, as we’re several hundred miles inland. But there’s a method to my madness.

The Beach Boys are generally considered the best surf band ever. Their tune, God Only Knows, is regarded as one of the best songs of all time. Rolling Stone magazine has the Beach Boys’ tunes Good Vibrations, All Summer Long and California Girls on their list of 10 Greatest Summer Songs of all time.

That was some awesome music, part of the Southern California surf sound from the mid-1960s. It was a key part of the soundtrack of my life as I grew up in California.

Today, surfing will be front and center on our ride. It’ll become obvious in a few hours.

***

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This is Jack, our gas pump attendant at the Shell station in Bend.

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Jack helped Scott fill up. Even offered to wash his windshield.

From Bend, we head north on US Highway 97. By the end of the day, we’ll cross the Columbia River and be in Washington state.

Soon we pass Redmond, and the Redmond Municipal Airport. Known in airport lingo as RDM, the facility has direct service to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, and starting this summer – Chicago.

The Redmond airport serves Bend and central Oregon with flights on Alaska, American, United and Delta airlines. Twenty-five flights a day. A lot of people want to visit Bend.

Our goal is to leave Bend in the rear-view mirror.

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In Madras, far equipment is big.

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Sarah would be like a kid in a candy store.

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Dave, at a Shell station in Madras.

Forty miles north of Bend is the town of Madras. Madras is reportedly named for the cloth fabric of the same name, which is itself named for the city of Madras (now Chennai) in India.

Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric with patterned texture and plaid design. It’s used primarily for summer clothing. With authentic Madras, both sides of the cloth must bear the same pattern, and it must be hand woven. In the US, the plaid cotton madras shirt became popular in the 1960s among the post World War II generation of preppy baby boomers. That’s me!

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A madras shirt, from the Woolrich catalog. Preppy enough?

I was almost ready to order me some colorful Madras online. On my way to pressing the “Buy Now” button, I read that the fabric is generally regarded as belonging to the peasant class in its native India.

We’re bikers. We’ll stick with denim.

***

A few miles northwest of Madras, on US Highway 26, is the Madras Municipal Airport, once known as the Madras Army Air Field. In World War II, it was a training base for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and Bell P-63 Kingcobra fighters.

What really draws aviation enthusiasts to this area is the Erickson Aircraft Collection, rated by Trip Advisor as the number one thing to do in the Madras area. A huge aircraft hangar left dormant by the end of World War II now houses a collection of war-era aircraft.

The facility even offers rides in the airplanes, including the PT-17 Stearman, the AT-6 Texan, and a DC-3. The military model of the Douglas DC-3 was named by General Dwight D. Eisenhower as one of the four weapons that contributed significantly to the allied victory in World War II. The other three: the jeep, the bazooka and the atom bomb.

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The DC-3. At one time, they were everywhere!

More than 16,000 DC-3s were produced; 10,048 of them were military derivatives built in Santa Monica, Long Beach, and Oklahoma City. That’s a lot of airplanes. By comparison, about 10,500 Boeing 737s have been assembled (more than 15,000 have been ordered).

Many DC-3s and their derivatives are still in use today, performing functions such as aerial spraying, freight transport, passenger service, military transport, missionary flying, skydiver shuttling and sightseeing.

***

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Near Maupin, with Mount Hood in the distance.

Just a few miles from the aircraft collection is the town of Maupin, known as the Gateway to the Deschutes River.

It would make a good story to say that Maupin is named for Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City – a series of novels set in San Francisco. Like me, Maupin is a former newspaper and TV reporter. Unlike me, he’s made a fortune as a writer. You’re getting exactly what you pay for with this free blog!

Maupin is actually named for Howard Maupin, a pioneer who had a farm and ferry at the town’s location in the late 19th century.

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Sasquatch stuff is big in Oregon.

We continue northwest on US Highway 26, past the old warbirds, crossing the Deschutes River. We roll through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, home of Painted Pony Expresso and the Indian Head Casino.

Here, Highway 26 is also called the Warm Springs Highway. We leave the Warm Springs reservation after a half hour or so, and enter Mount Hood National Forest. The forest covers more than one million acres, and has more than four million visitors annually.

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We’re getting close to Mount Hood.

Ten miles into the forest, we turn northeast on Oregon Highway 35, which takes us immediately past the Mount Hood Meadows ski area. The ski area sits on the southern shoulder of Mount Hood, a 11,249-foot volcano that can be seen as far away as Portland, about 50 miles northwest.

Mount Hood is the highest point in Oregon. Its last eruptive period took place about 200 years ago. Today, Mount Hood is considered the Oregon volcano most likely to erupt. The US Geological Survey says the odds of an eruption in the next 30 years are somewhere between three and seven percent.

Those are odds we can live with.

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Near Mount Hood.

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Mount Hood is very photogenic.

***

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A skier near Illumination Rock on the shoulder of Mount Hood. Climbing Illumination Rock is said to be the most technically demanding ascent in the Pacific Northwest. This part of the mountain is not serviced by ski lifts, but there are six ski areas on other parts of Mount Hood.

Mount Hood has six ski areas: Timberline, Mount Hood Meadows, Ski Bowl, Cooper Spur, Snow Bunny, and Summit. Mount Hood Meadows, which we roll by on our way north, is the largest of the six, with 11 chairlifts and 2,150 acres of skiable terrain.

We continue north on Highway 35, and in 30 miles, arrive in the town of Hood River, a port on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. With more than 440 local apple orchardists, Hood River is famous for its hard cider scene.

But what Hood River is really known for is its wind — and windsurfing. Hood River is ground zero for the windsurfing and kiteboarding world.

We’re smack in the middle of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Scenic it is.

Locals just call it The Gorge. Best windsurfing spots: The Hook, The Hatchery, Rooster Rock, The Wall, and Blackberry Beach. Adrenaline junkies love this place. Strong western winds and big swells draw riders from all over the world.

Grab your board and go!

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Woo-hoo!

***

Hood River, 62 miles east of Portland, is our last stop before crossing into Washington state. Riding across the mile-long Hood River Bridge comes with a $1 toll for motorcycles.

It’s been a while since our last gas stop. Because of Oregon’s silly ban on self-serve pumping, we haven’t filled our own tanks for a few days.

So we roll through Hood River, cross the Columbia River and enter Washington State. Now free to pump as we please, we stop in the town of White Salmon, and fill up, like giddy 10-year-olds. White Salmon, which sits on the Washington side of the Columbia River, is named for a now-extinct species of salmon that once thrived here.

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Snacking in White Salmon.

 

In White Salmon, we turn west on Washington Highway 14, the Lewis and Clark Highway, and ride along the northern shores of the Columbia River. The highway is named for the explorers who led an expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

They were tasked with exploring and mapping the newly acquired territory, and finding a practical route across the western half of the continent. They also were asked to establish an American presence in the territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it. Seemed to work pretty well.

***

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Scott stops for hydration on a country road.

We continue along the north shore of the Columbia for 16 more miles, passing through Cook and Home Valley, before arriving at the town of Carson. Here, we say goodbye to the Columbia, and turn north on the Wind River Highway. It’s the last time we’ll see the Columbia until next week, when we’re heading home from Canada.

We follow the Wind River Highway and Meadow Creek Road for the next 20 miles or so, riding through Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The road becomes narrow and winding, and takes us to Northwoods, on the eastern edge of the Swift Reservoir.

In Northwoods, we turn north on National Forest Road 25, which will be our playground for the next 42 miles. We’re following the eastern side of Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument and Spirit Lake. The road is very twisty and said to be one of the best motorcycle roads in Washington. We concur with that assessment.

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Mount Saint Helens can be quite peaceful, when paired with wildflowers.

There’s a turnoff to National Forest Road 99, which would take us up Windy Ridge, very near the crater of Mount Saint Helens. Instead, we continue northward to the town of Randle, on the well-traveled east/west route, US Highway 12.

After 16 miles of riding along the Cowlitz River, Highway 12 leads us to tonight’s destination: Packwood.

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Final rest stop before arriving in Packwood.

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The trees were plentiful and the road was rough. We all might have to check our dental work when we get home.

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Everyone ready to push on to Packwood?

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There’s always one pirate in the crowd.

Packwood is a good jumping off spot to Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, to the south – and Mount Rainier National Park, to the north. As the crow flies, Packwood is only about 10 miles from 14,410-foot Mount Rainier.  On clear days, there are spectacular views of the mountain from here.

With sore butts after six hours in the saddle and 266 miles on the road, we check in to the Cowlitz River Lodge and contemplate our next move: dinner.

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Hey everyone … it’s Randy Suhr!

At the dinner table, we find Randy Suhr, an old (he’s on Medicare!) friend from my days at KOMO-TV in Seattle. I’ve known Randy since 1983. He’s ridden to Packwood from his Seattle home, and is joining us for the ride to Canada. To learn more about Randy, click here and scroll down to his bio.

Welcome to the posse, Randy.

***

Day Nine Summary: Fun with fabric, windsurfing The Gorge, among Cascade volcanoes.

Click here to see today’s complete route from Bend, Oregon, to Packwood, Washington.

We’re on our way to Canada, eh?

Vroom, vroom.

***

Today’s Canada Fun Fact, eh?  In Canada, the one dollar coin is called a loonie. The loonie is a gold-colored coin that was introduced in 1987 and is produced by the Royal Canadian Mint at its facility in Winnipeg.

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Yep. It’s worth about a dollar.

The Threat is High. Very High.

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Cat at hotel in Yreka, just begging to show up in the blog  it worked.

Today, we’ll cross into Oregon, my fifth state on this trip. Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California are the others. Still to come: Washington and, while technically not a state, British Columbia. OK, it’s a Canadian province, but it feels like a 51st state. More on that later.

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Ten miles from Mount Shasta. Beautiful!

As we head east toward US Highway 97, we come within about 10 miles of Mount Shasta, which towers over the valley. Shasta is a 14,179-foot dormant volcano. It’s the second highest peak in the Cascades, after Mount Rainier.