Monday, August 22, 2011

8.14.11 Day 53 Happy Birthday!

I left the campsite bright and early today so I could make it to Seattle at a decent hour. I wasn’t feeling too well this morning. The past few nights and mornings have been really chilly so I was beginning to get a bit of a cold. My head hurt and my body was feeling sore. After leaving Spokane, I was surprised by the landscape of eastern Washington. It was almost desert like and extremely windy. I always assumed the whole state of Washington was full of evergreen trees and scenic mountains. I passed several wind farms and at one in particular, I stopped to get a picture and just happened to see Mount Rainier in the distance. Its crazy how much snow there is still on it. After a few quick pictures, I continued on towards the Cascades. Going through Snoqualmie pass was pretty cool. Quite scenic for an interstate.

Eastern Washington wind farm with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Columbia River gorge

Snoqualmie Pass

Starting to see signs of civilization again.

Welcome to Seattle. Portal to the Pacific

It felt strange arriving into the city. I’ve been in such desolate areas for so long now that Im not used to being in traffic and seeing buildings. Downtown Seattle is pretty impressive. Ive always been told it’s a small city but it certainly has a big city feel. Im excited to be here and to see my brother on his birthday but I kind of feel like crap today. I get through downtown seattle and get to my brother’s apartment just outside of downtown. He is outside waiting for me.

“that’s a lot of stuff! Welcome to Seattle!”

Haha, good to see William again. Last time I saw my brother was at my grandfathers funeral so it was nice to see him on good terms. I hadn’t been really letting him know exactly what time I would be there so he was tracking me on my spot so he knew when I was close. Haha. He helped me carry my stuff upstairs, showed me to my room then I got a shower. All cleaned up, we hopped in his car for a quick tour of Seattle.

First stop was the Pikes Market. Its basically a big flea/farmers market and also has the famous Pike Fish Market where the employees throw and catch fish. The market was pretty cool and jam packed since it was a weekend. At a seafood market, we got a tuna ceviche and some shrimp cocktail. So good. Fresh too. It was great to have something other than burgers or generic bar and grill food. At the Pikes fish market, we hung around for a while waiting for some flying fish. A girl and what looked like her date walked by us and we heard her say that they no longer throw the fish because of PETA. Not a few minutes later, a couple of fish went through the air, haha. I hope her date saw it.

Nom nom nom nom

It all looks so fresh and massive. so hungry....

Er hu. I love this instrument.

Flying Fish!


After Pikes, we walked around parts of downtown, went to Nordstrom so my brother could buy a pillow and went to get some more food. We stopped at Pikes Place Chowder and got some seafood bisque which was amazing. We left downtown after a while then headed to the locks where the boats were raised and lowered from Puget Sound and Lake Washington. There we also saw the Fish Ladder which was really cool. The locks is a really cool area and there are not many places that have viewable fish ladders. Once I got bored of fish, we went to see the “Troll.” Its basically a huge troll statue underneath an interstate overpass. Apparently there used to be a lot of bums and vagrants here so the city decided to build this troll to keep people out and now it’s a big attraction. It’s actually a pretty cool statue.

Steel drums. they sound so cool.

Seafood Bisque. incredible.

I’ve heard some good things about Seattle, but Im really seeing for myself how cool this city really is. Almost everywhere you go there is a scenic view, a cool neighborhood or some kind of attraction. I can see why people deal with the cold and constant rain. For dinner, we went to Chinatown and ate at a small Taiwanese restaurant. Its impossible to find good Taiwanese food in Atlanta. This place was really good and authentic. Although the stinky tofu wasn’t the best, the beef tendon was the best Ive ever had. The beef noodle soup with the hand sliced noodles were good and the pork chops were great too. It was great food and I will be back one day. After dinner, we got some bubble tea then called it a night.

The locks.

Fish ladder

Now they are down.

This is the postcard view of Seattle and its only a few blocks from my brothers apartment. How cool is that?

The troll. and yes thats a VW bug under his hand.


China Town

Beef Tendons. its much better than it sounds.

Beef noodle soup and porkchops.

My bro. We are a family of foodies, its amazing how we are not all extremely overweight.

Stinky Tofu. another one that tastes better than it sounds.

My trip thus far. south to north then coast to coast.

Back at the apartment, we hung out and talked for a bit then put on a movie with my Netflix account. We watched Kung Fu Dunk with Jay Chou. Totally cheesy movie but it was something to watch. Its been a pretty good day. It was strange being around so many people and in a big city again. I felt odd and out of place for a while. Im just so used to being in the middle of nowhere now among massive mountains and animals so hearing the city noises, seeing the mass amounts of people and feeling crowded was such a bit change. I felt strange all day, it wasn’t until dinner that I started to feel comfortable and used to my surroundings. But all in all, Im happy to finally be on the West Coast with my brother and get to see the place he has been living the past few years. Im actually quite impressed with Seattle and could see myself living here. I would have to spend some time here in the winter before I made a move here though. Im not a fan of cold weather. Ive been to a decent amount of places now and I think this is the first time Ive actually felt like I could stay in one place for a while. Not sure if its because Im with family, or if its because I really do like the city. It is a great city…..

8.13.11 Day 52 Just another day on the road

8.13.11 Day 52 Just another day on the road

Today is a fairly short day to Spokane, Wa so I let the sun and other campers wake me from my slumber. At some point early in the morning, I heard a couple of kids running through our campsite shouting. I peaked my head out to see what was going on, mostly because when they woke me up I was dreaming about being chased by a bear so I was a little paranoid, haha. We took our sweet time packing up. I even rode the bike to the store and bought a cup of coffee, then carried it back in the tank bag being super careful not to spill any. It didn’t work. It must have been 11am before we got moving because at our first gas stop, I was hungry and told Giancarlo I was eating at the café next door. He decided to join me so we Bsed a bit more and had one of the best omelets ever.

A few miles down the road from the café, I turned south to head towards Spokane and Giancarlo turned north to Canada. I was tempted to head to Banff as well but realistically knew it wasn’t in the cards this time. It was a hot day riding down towards Idaho. I stopped a few times to take off layers and drink some ice water. I wasn’t making very good time but I didn’t care, its only a 250 mile day. I followed the Flathead river for a while before meeting up with I-90. The interstate actually turned out to be a little interesting. It went around some mountains crossing into Idaho. It didn’t provide any spectacular views or anything but it was flat and straight. I crossed the northern panhandle of Idaho so I was not there very long. It would have been cool to see Hells Canyon but it just wasn’t part of the route this time.

Soon enough, I was in Washington and arriving in Spokane. I had originally planned to camp at a state park in Spokane but as I neared the park, it was still right in the middle of the city so I decided to keep moving. I got out of the city and started looking for campsites. After camping in Glacier, its difficult to find a campsite that wasn’t disappointing. I called around a few places and got a hold of one that said it had some good off the path sites so I went that direction. When I showed up, it was a large family RV park. I figured that the tent sites they told me about were way off in a corner somewhere so I paid and went in. Well, I feel like I was lied to because when I got to the “site”, it was basically a patch of grass between a circle of Rvs. I wasn’t too happy, but at this point, Im already here. I just want to unload, shower and rest. I spent the remainder of the night reading and fell asleep pretty early. Tomorrow, Ill arrive in Seattle.

8.12.11 Day 51 Giancarlo and the Glacier

8.12.11 Day 51 Giancarlo and the Glacier

Long ride to Glacier National Park today. I think the mileage is in the 400s or so. My ride there is pretty uneventful, just lots of backroads up to the interstate. There didn’t seemed to be many people on the road in the area so I cruised right along at 80-85 for most of the morning. Got on I-90 for an hour or two before getting back off to take backroads the rest of the way into GNP. Riding through the backroads in the middle of nowhere in Montana is great for scenery and good riding, but sometimes I have no idea when Ill be able to get gas again. You ride in areas that are just completely desolate and as my fuel consumption gauge ticks off the numbers, the slower I start riding and the more my brain starts freaking out. I havnt seen a car in ages so if I run out of gas here, I might be pushing for a long long time.

Signs for the next town are a welcome site, but then we you get to mileage indicated, its just the road that leads into the town with no gas stations any near. Nothing to do but keep moving. Then out of nowhere, I see a sign for a gas station and with only .2 of a gallon left, it’s a very welcome sign. I pull off the main road and head into the small town. At first, I don’t see the gas station so I start to get worried again, but off in a little corner is a single pump next to some lodge. The only fuel they have available is 93 which is odd for this small town. After fueling up, I keep making my way towards Glacier. Another hour or so down the road I come across the last town before the park so I figured I would fill up again and get some lunch. The only restaurant in the area is the Silver Bullet which is a bar and grill type place. This place looks interesting, there is a camo painted van in the parking lot along with tons of other huge trucks. I should fit in just fine. As soon as I walk in, silence. People at the billiards table stop and look up, the bartender stops wiping the glass and everyone else just stops and looks as I squeak my way to the bar. Im not sure I own a big enough cowboy hat to be in here. I feel a little out of place, but whatever, I just need food. I sit down and the bartender just looks at me. “Ya need something?” he asks.

“Yeah, how about a menu?”

He reluctantly hands me a menu and I quickly pick something and order. Burger and fries. Should be nice and quick and also cheap if I need to make a quick getaway. Everybody returns to their activities after a few minutes. I get my food and inhale it and make my way out the door before anyone tries to put a six shooter to my back. Back on the road to Glacier. Theres still a long way to go so I just keep racking up miles. Small town after small town. I see a couple of other riders but I just need to keep moving. I finally pull into Glacier and ask about campgrounds. Apparently there is only one campground with vacancy and its right inside the gate so I make my way there first and pick out a spot. After dropping off my bags, I return to pay for the site. As Im filling out my info, a guy on a KLR pulls up and we start talking. We decided to share the campground since its $20, which is double of most parks. We both unpack and throw up our tents. Giancarlo is from Santa Rosa, CA and is taking a few weeks to ride around Canada and maybe head towards Alaska. We chat for a bit while setting up then decided to go ride the Going to the Sun road that goes through Glacier National Park. We are leaving a bit late in the day so we will more than likely be riding back in the dark. The first couple miles just looks like any other forest, but then you start getting some pretty amazing views of snow capped mountains and ice fed waterfalls. As the road goes up the mountains, the views become even more fantastic and we stop often for pictures. Its another one of those places where its impossible to ride through without stopping multiple times. There is some road construction so we have to ride through miles of gravel and rough terrain. Easy enough for his KLR but the sport bike doesn’t like it too much, especially with the high amount of preload I have dialed into the rear damper. At the peak of the pass, Logan’s Pass, we stop again to rest and take a few pictures. There is a herd of Bighorn Sheep right near the visitors center and on the road so we hang out and watch for a second on the bikes. Its so stereotypical of what you hear about bighorn sheep. They were just grazing and occasionally, out of nowhere, a couple of them would start fighting and ramming their horns into each other. After a few minutes, it was time to hit the road, its already 8pm at this point and we still had a few miles left of the road. We also made plans to have dinner at the restaurant near our Apgar campground and they closed at 9. We go down a few more miles through construction then stop at the first overlook which had glacier markings. We weren’t sure if this was actually our first glacier sighting or not. What’s the difference between this particular patch of ice and the others we saw?

After the look at our first glacier, it was time to turn around. I wanted to continue through the last couple of miles but knew there was no way we would make it to the restaurant before it closed it we did. After crossing back over Logan’s Pass, we both shut off the engines on our bikes and coasted the whole way back down the mountain. With no earplugs in, all I could hear was the whizzing of the brakes, the slapping of the chain and the rushing of the water down the mountainsides. I’ve come a long way to see ride this road so I took my time coasting down and savored every last view. From here to Seattle, there would not be a whole lot to see. Basically just two days of interstate so I enjoyed this as much as I could.

At the bottom of the mountain, I finally clicked it into gear and started up the bike. We arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes before it closed and asked the hostess if it was okay. She said it was fine, it happened every night at the park. After we got seated, I/ went next door to the store and bought some firewood and water for the evening. Dinner was so so, I had the barbeque chicken with the huckleberry sauce. Huckleberry seems to be a big deal in this area so I figured I’d give it a go. I couldn’t tell a difference between this bbq sauce and any other. Giancarlo got the roasted chicken and it looked just like fried chicken from KFC. Any visitors to Glacier should just avoid the restaurant at Apgar. The Moose Drool Ale, however, was quite tasty.

Back at the campsite, I started up the fire and we settled in for the night. We shared a few ride stories and ride plans. Giancarlo was heading over the border the next day into Banff. Ive heard the area around Banff is amazing and the Ice Fields Parkways supposedly blows GNP out of the water but unfortunately, its not part of my route this year. I couldn’t fit it into the schedule with having to fly in and out of seattle for work. Maybe next time when I do my Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia ride.

Giancarlo turned out to be a really cool guy. He’s somehow I could definitely ride with and hang out with for a while. He even bought our dinner. Its funny to think about the chance meetings on the road. You wonder about the “butterfly effect.” If I hadn’t stopped at that cowboy bar, or the last overlook to lube the chain and remove some layers, would I have chosen that campground? If I hadn’t dropped off my bags at the campsite first, which I normally don’t do, would I have seen Giancarlo pull up to the drop boxes? He was just another rider on a KLR, what possessed me to talk to him for so long and offer to share my campsite? Who know, sometimes you just get a feeling I guess.

At some point, I asked Giancarlo if he read much. I just finished reading one of my books called “A Walk Across America” by Peter Jenkins. For some reason, I just had a feeling he would like this book so I thought I would pass it on. The first couple of pages are missing from me tearing them out to start campfires but he thought it was hilarious and said the book has a story and character. When I handed it to him, I told him when he finished with it, to pass it on to the next motorcycle traveler he met. Then I had this brilliant or stupid idea to date and sign the book. The motorcycle community can be a small world and I thought I might see this book again one day. How cool would that be?
Tonight, I was that guy keeping up the neighbors. It was pretty late before we turned in and I could hear Giancarlo turning the pages in the book as I drifted off.