Sunday, August 26, 2012

West Coast Adventure - Day 12

It's not hard for me to imagine that any trip that involves a lot of travel, and lasts for more than a few days, is bound to have at least one day that just sucks. Today might have been that day for me...only time will truly tell.

I woke up to cloudy skies and rain hovering offshore, over the Pacific. The forecast for the area indicated that any rain should be moving out by about 11:30AM and there would only be a 20% chance of rain after that. I'm flexible, so I waited. I listened to the morning service from the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church. I showered. I packed. I took my time getting ready and it was only 10:30AM. It still hadn't rained in Hoquiam…and really didn't look like it would. I decided to head out for a late breakfast, figuring by the time I was done eating any threat of rain would surely have passed.

I got out my trusty smart phone and started searching for places that would have brunch or breakfast. The first one that caught my eye was a place called The Blue Bacon Restaurant and Lounge. WHAT!? Any place that had the word BACON in the name of the restaurant had to fantastic. It was just a few miles down the road so I packed up and headed out. I quickly learned that BEACON and BACON look really similar on my phone screen. The Blue BEACON Restaurant and Lounge was what I found…and it was clearly a dive. I decided to risk it. I'll spare you the details…it's sufficient to let you know the omelette was not the best I've ever hard, nor was it the worst I've ever had. The texas toast was slathered in real butter and was delicious. If you're ever in the Hoquiam area and feeling adventurous…and maybe a little lucky…feel free to stop in at the Blue Beacon…their bacon was actually pretty good.

By the time I got back to Black Max, it was about 12:05PM…and it was almost sprinkling. Just enough to be noticeable. Bugger. I hit the road and it actually didn't do much more than spit at me all the way from Hoquiam down to the state line…and that's when the coastal highway turned on me. You would think that after 7 years of riding a motorcycle, I would have come to understand that a 20% chance of rain means you're bound to get rain. If there was a 20% chance of something good falling out of the sky, like gold coins or puppies, nothing would ever happen. But with rain and a motorcycle, 20% might as well be 100%.

Just after 2:00PM, as I rounded the bend where 101 meets the Columbia River as it dumps into the Pacific, the coastal "drizzle" started. It's not really rain, it's not really mist. It's just wet…which, I guess, makes it rain. To make it more fun, traffic was backed up on the bridge heading into Astoria, Oregon. So, I inched along, damp and disheartened. If I'd had my wits about me, I'd have read the signs at the end of the bridge, put my liberal arts education to good use, and taken US-30 out of Astoria and directly to Portland. Instead, I took 101 all the way down to Tillamook. A ride that normally should have only taken about 90 minutes. It took almost 3 hours…and it "rained" the entire time. Traveling 101 when it's raining would probably have been bad enough. It was cold, only about 60 degrees, and the wind was blowing pretty fiercely on the parts of the highway that actually got close enough to the coast where you could see the ocean. The kicker is that it was Sunday. The day when everyone who headed to the coast for the weekend was now heading home. That's why traffic was backed up over the bridge. That's why the normal 3 minute trip through Seaside took almost 30 minutes. By the time I got to Tillamook, I had been sitting on Black Max for almost 4 hours without a break.

My original plan had been to stay on 101 all the way down to Lincoln City and then head east to Canby, to my aunt and uncle's place. The decision to take a left on 6 and head east early was not a difficult one to make.

The ride up through the Tillamook National Forest actually redeemed the day. The rain quit almost as soon as I moved away from the coast and within a few miles I was out of the danger zone. Highway 6, through the forest, is a beautiful ride. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to have the sun shining…but after 3 hours of rain, I wasn't going to complain about the dry conditions even if it was overcast. I somehow managed to find a break in traffic and the first 30 miles of the ride were spectacular. I had the mountain highway practically to myself. It was only as I was exiting the National Forest that traffic once again picked up and stayed heavy all the way to Canby.

As I rode out of the Oregon Coast Range, the overcast skies lightened and the air temperature had warmed up to around 75. By the time I got to Portland I was almost dry.

If it hadn't been for the rain today, I'd have probably actually been a little disappointed that the coastal highway doesn't really run along the shore up here. It's coastal in the sense that you're near the coast. There are only a few places where you actually get to ride close enough to the shore to see the ocean. However, having the forest between the highway and the ocean helped protect me from the wind and even some of the rain. So I welcomed those tall trees anytime I was riding through them. The ride through the Tillamook National Forest was definitely the silver lining in what could have been a completely miserable day.

I'll be hanging around Canby until Wednesday, when I'll head back to the coast…crossing my fingers and hoping for sunshine. :)

The route I planned
The route I took

3,424 miles...just a few more to go
Tomorrow is another day and another road (just not a very long one.) :)

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Chad Cole