The Sweet, Sweet Taste of Gasoline

Mount St. Helens not erupting

My first day out of Portland was an interesting one. After riding part of the hold highway, Historic Route 30, I came to a road  closure and had to backtrack about ten miles. After getting back on the main interstate I was able to cross the Bridge of the Gods into Washington (rode through the little town of Carson… how I do miss my little brother) and ride north to see Mount St. Helens. Yeah, it was cool. No, it wasn’t erupting, though I had secretly hoped it would blow while I was looking at it. A little joy ride around the south side of the mountain on Forest Service Route 90 and back was refreshing. And another motorcyclist was kind enough to zip past me at high-speed and wave. Nice guy.
We all know what it’s like to drive on a near-empty gas tank. Most of us keep an eye on the needle, head to the nearest gas station, fuel up, and continue on our way. Me, I’m an idiot at times (contrary to popular belief), for when the low fuel light came on, I decided to try to make it over one of the high passes that’s still technically “closed” (the ranger said it might have snow, but it’s been warm lately and I could try my luck if I had time; I certainly had the time, but not the gas!). So, with nerves tingling, I rode up the rough, obscure road toward Randle, WA. This road was asphalt at first… then some patches of gravel… then dirt and rock. Higher and higher into the hills I climbed, my bike sipping more and more of its precious hydrocarbon reserve. I realized I may not have enough fuel to make it to Randle from where I was; I only hoped I could coast down the other side of the hills, make it to a main road, and hitch a ride into town (probably after camping for a night and hiking 10-20 miles the next day) for some gas, which I would then have to get back to the bike (hopefully by hitching a ride from somebody planning on going up this “closed” road… yeah right). Breaking out in nervous sweats, I rode up and up and up – and came to the pass, which was completely covered in snow. I got off the bike (actually, I tipped it over when I tried to ride through the snow) and stumbled around like an idiot at the end of his rope. Here I was, just ounces of gas in my tank, several miles from the nearest road junction and 25 miles from the nearest gas. Fantastic. “It’s and adventure,” I told myself. “A freaking adventure.” So, after taking one of the bags off the bike to make it lighter, I picked it up out of the snow, spent several minutes man-handling it back onto dry ground, and began the slow descent toward the nearest paved road. I had gone one mile… two miles… three miles… out of gas any minute, now. Wait, there’s the road! Pavement! Now with any luck, somebody might, just MIGHT, drive by, though I wasn’t very hopeful (it really was an obscure road). At least I wasn’t on the dead-end dirt and gravel road any more. On I went toward the town of Trout Lake, 20 miles ahead. Too much uphill, dang; why can’t I coast down the whole way? Stupid mountains. Wait, what’s that? Another motorcycle, pulled over in the turnout? Looks familiar. Yeah, that guy that passed me earlier that day! And he’s relaxing by the creek! I pulled off and told him my situation, and he kindly offers me some gas. He had just filled up in Trout Lake and had a full tank. Being the idiotic genius I am, I took my CamelBak hose and siphoned two cups of fuel from his bike into my JetBoil. Yummy. Gas does, in fact, taste just like it smells. With this little bit of insurance I thanked the man profusely and continued on my way, puttering down the road toward the next gas station. I made it there within an hour, fueled up, and rode down Highway 141 to the Columbia River Gorge – back to where I started so many hours ago. To enter Rainier National Park would require a major detour, one that I was too exhausted – mentally, emotionally, and physically – to take. So I swallowed Failure Pill #1 and rode Highway 14 to Interstate 5, and went north to Olympia. A 395-mile day. I arrived at my CouchSurfing hosts’ place sore and stiff. That evening the three of us (their names are Kaitlin and Gabby) went downtown, where I saw the night life of Olympia (really isn’t that much, though I had an awesome tuna melt and bought the girls each a drink) and slept soundly on their comfortable couch. The next day was relaxing; I didn’t leave Olympia until that afternoon, and then rode west to Highway 101 and north toward the Olympic Peninsula. Of course, within an hour of getting on the road, I hit rain. Lots of it. I’ll condense the next several hours into a sentence. I rode into Olympic National Park, rode out, went north, pitched camp in an old, trashed lumber building of some sort on the Quinault Indian Reservation, and went to sleep.

Camp! See the car in the background?

After a restful eleven hours in the tent, I put my damp clothes and sopping wet boots back on and hit the road – in the rain. There was beauty to be seen, however, for as I entered Olympic Park/Hoh Rainforest on Upper Hoh road that morning, the clouds (kind of) parted and the sun shone through! I spent a few hours tromping around the old growth rainforest, and it was glorious. Absolutely stunning; I only wish I had backpacking gear for a week out there in the woods. Once I left the park, I continued on 101 North. And the rain started, again. I had decided that morning that I would go to the Four Corners of the Contiguous United States, so with wet feet and high spirits, I turned off onto Highway 113 in pursuit of Cape Flattery.
I was riding along behind a truck towing a boat trailer. A deer runs out in front of him and narrowly escapes a splattering. The faun wasn’t so lucky – clipped by the wheel well of the trailer, I saw several hundred pounds of wild animal go five feet up in the air and land with a thud on the asphalt, sliding several feet before coming to a halt. I pulled off the road and grabbed the dying deer’s hind legs – one nearly completely severed – and dragged it off the road. Besides the poor animal, all was well. With little ceremony the truck driver and I each went our separate ways, wishing each other a safe journey.

The Gift of the Forest!

I could go into great detail about the long, slow journey to the Cape, but I’ll just say that I did make it there, and it was beautiful. And raining. Always raining.

The ancient walkway to Cape Flattery built by the Forest People (or maybe just normal people)
Cape Flattery
More Cape Flattery

I made it back to US 101 and pulled out the BMW Owners Anonymous Handbook Dad gave me. I called a man named David in Port Angeles, who said he had a spare room, and that’s where I stayed for the evening. He and his wife Suzanne were wonderful hosts. The next day I had toast and tea with Dave and said my goodbyes. He recommended I ride up into Olympic on Hurricane Ridge Road; that was one of the best recommendations I’ve received thus far. I ascended higher and higher (this time with plenty of gas) into the Olympic mountains, sometimes in thick mist and other times with a sweeping view. I took a short hike at the summit and then headed back down, bound for Marysville and the home of my cousin Jeanna, her husband Shan, and their four children whom I had not yet met.

Hiking at Hurricane Ridge

The Olympics as seen from Hurrican Ridge Road

It was a great (and wet) ride to Port Townsend, where I rod the ferry across the Sound to Whidbey Island. North on Highway 20, I crossed Deception Pass onto the mainland, and rode south to Marysville, where great fanfare and rejoicing met me in the form of four children ready to play at all times. A hot shower and some tea later, I was settled in for a couple days of fun and games (I played Pokemon with the boys; what a blast from the past!) and even a little yard work. On the 2nd of July I rode to Seattle to visit my other cousin, Janelle. She took me out on the town; we went to Pike Market in Downtown Seattle for lunch and pastries, then up the Seattle Space Needle. That evening we went to Naked City Brewery and Taphouse for dinner, where I met Janelle’s friends and had a wonderful dinner and beer (which she treated me to, in addition to lunch and my Seattle Space Needle ticket). Back home we watched a couple movies, talked, and finally got some shut-eye. I am now sitting on the couch which served as my bed last night, preparing myself for the journey east. Off to North Cascades National Park and Glacier National Park!

The first Starbucks…
Cousin Janelle and me at the Gum Wall (It’s ALL gum!)
On the Space Needle, overlooking Puget Sound


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