I thought I would finish this before the year was out...almost. Doesn't matter, looking forward to the next big trip and thanks to all who followed thus far. Here is the last day of my big noob ride.
110913 Day 12
Up at 0630. Foraged for some wood once again and made a small fire to get going. Something about fire and warming up in the early morning that motivates you for the day. Ate a light breakfast of an Odwalla bar and some coffee. Sat by the fire and updated my journal and studied maps. Plan was to hit Mt. St Helens and then maybe camp out near Packwood. I had plenty of time to do whatever. Packed and rolling by 0800. Weather was looking nice and clear for the day once again. The air had a nice morning briskness to it while riding through the woods.
Rolled by little town of Parkdale and noticed sign for Mt Hood Railroad so took a look see. Had a small depot in town but no equipment to see. Moved on using hwy 281 to get to town of Hood River. Took a lap around town but it was pretty dead. Saw a red V-Strom and a few other ADV bikes parked around in town. Heading to bridge crossing of the Columbia River got gas at station near entrance. Had to go through construction to get there and that sucked, lot of convoluted local detours and equipment all over the place. A total clusterama. After gas got disoriented by the AFU construction signs pointing to the bridge entrance and ended up making a loop back in to the construction zone hell. Had to wait for quite a while and was getting pissed, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Bridge of DOOM across the Columbia
Finally got to bridge entrance and it had a toll for 50 cents or something. I was initially happy about moving again but that was pretty short lived as I rode onto the brutally uncomfortable steel grating of the bridge deck. The bike felt super weird and not in a good degree of control due to the parallel running steel grating surface and the wind blowing me all over. Not a good feeling. I muttered things like oh god and holy shit in my helmet more than once traversing the thing. To make matters worse, there was more construction going on in the middle of the span and guess who got the next stop sign turn, yes my dumb ass. The woman holding the sign said she didn’t like having to stop motorcycles since they don’t seem to like the bridge deck. I told her that not only did I not like it but it was scary as shit with the wind. I held there long enough to take a couple photos. Getting the “slow” sign to get moving was welcome but not without more scary riding having to change lanes in the middle of the bridge traversing the grating. It really sucked and was the most uncomfortable I have felt on the bike yet. Gravel was nothing compared to this bridge.
Hey let's stop the motorcycle dude he already looks pissed, gee thanks
Bridge deck is not fun on a motorcycle
View down the Columbia, the wind is hard and constant around this area
Surviving the bridge and getting on pavement was nice but again for only a short moment. Heading west on hwy 14 now on the Washington side, the wind was absolutely howling. I got buffeted all over my side of the road. Every time another truck would pass in the opposite direction I got even more blasting and flopping. Great fun - not. The best part is the several tunnels that have to be negotiated where the wind flows through them like a big venturi. The turbulence was crazy around the tunnels and the only thing keeping me going it seemed was the weight of the bike. I had to pull over a couple times to take a break as the ride was mentally taxing in the unpredictable wind blasts.
Tunnels equal wind blasting from hell
Observed some wind surfers out on the river going crazy fast in the high winds. Extreme fun takes many forms which all border on stupidity.
Some folks have learned to embrace the winds
Gratuitous train shot, SD90MACs I think
Eventually heading up the Wind River road to Carson was a welcome break from the wind. Stopped in Carson at the general store thinking they might have a nice deli to get a sandwich from. Looked ok like a mom and pop place from the outside, inside was clean but certainly very generic without much character. Nothing interesting to eat and all they had for “deli” type items was fried and over cooked 7-11 type food. Not my style. Got a hodgepodge of packaged foodstuff and bailed out.
Carson General Store, disappointing food selection
Rolling north up the Wind River basin became yet another fun and twisty exercise through the woods. Some chunky spots in the road but overall not bad. Up to the Swift Resevoir and the turn off to Cougar was a fun ride.
View to St Helens along the Wind River hwy
Took the FS road 25 north towards St Helens. Less maintained road and more chunky with some frost heave in several areas. Ok for the Strom and no issues, just need to pay attention to the surface changes with most holes and bumps easily avoidable. Would not be fun in my stiffly suspended Miata but was a hoot on the motorcycle. Weaving and twisting through all kinds of different corners in the woods, next to bluffs and up and down steep grades. It was a lot of fun and quite fast due to the fact that there was nobody out there and conditions were great.
Windy River along FS Road 25
Made it to FS road 99 to WIndy Ridge viewpoint and Mt St Helens National Monument area. Road was about 17 miles to view point. Again, practically nobody out here so was able to ride at what ever pace I felt comfortable with. Very nice screaming up the turns to what became open vistas with big views out along the barren valleys and hills that had been blasted by the St Helens eruption. Several pull out points to take photos of the interesting and spectacular scenery.
Heading up the Windy Ridge road east of Mt St Helens
Some areas on road with rock fall that required some caution. Lack of vegitation and steep pumice covered bluffs all around provide plenty of debris to end up on the road. Lack of vegitation also provides a great visual look ahead on the road so there was several cases where I got some really good corners in and practiced my cornering technique at speed. Excellent ride. Saw a couple other motorcyclists enjoying the area as well with one particular sport rider really hauling ass heading in the other direction. No moto dude hand waving here, just total concentration on the ride.
Vast barren landscape from volcano blast provides a lot of visibility of the road for sporting riding
Stopped at a pullout and saw a nice Vanagon with a lot of bugs on the front and Colorado plates. Found the owner an older guy taking pictures and mentioned he had a nice van. I showed him my Samba.com
t shirt I was wearing which validated my Vanagon enthusiasm. Talked to him for quite a while about travelling, places to go and what not. We both agreed that solo travel is a good way to go sometimes so you can go at your own pace (i.e. wife not always a requirement for travel fun).
Continued on to end of road and Windy Ridge vistapoint. There was a long stairway up to a vista point that looked intriguing. I was intially worried about my ankle but after getting my boots off and wrapping it with an ace bandage, it felt ok walking around in my Teva sandals. Packed some food in a daypack and slogged up the staircase. Went pretty slow and made sure I had sure footing each time I used the injured side. Got to the top of a pumice gravel covered view area and took several photos. Amazing place to see and trying to imagine the devistaing actions that took place during the eruption was mind boggling.
Staircase up Windy Ridge, yes I ascended/descended that with broke ankle
View to Spirit Lake which is home to thousands of blown away trees from the St Helens eruption
Looking into the crater of Mt St Helens
After descending the big staircase, geared up and headed back the way I came. Knowing the road a bit better this time I was able to push just a little bit more in the corners and got some really good riding in. The sun was out, there was no wind and no traffic, just open curvatures of road to enjoy. Lot of fun and really starting to feel comfortable on the bike riding hard through the turns with the optimum conditions.
Back on FS road 25 heading north to Randle was much of the same blasting through the woods on crappy road with several areas of frost heave and repair patches. Paying close attention to the surface was made more difficult with the various shadows created by the trees lining the road. Was good bumpy fun and certainly made me think twice about ever bringing my Miata up there. Had to cross a spindly bridge over a landslide area at one point that was somewhat unnerving. Saw a BMW rider with full panniers and stuff riding the other direction right after I crossed the bridge. He looked to be much more confident on the crossing than I did.
Temporary bridge crossing along FS road 25 north of Mt St Helens
Arriving at Randle after much bumpiness and twistiness was returning to a familar area that I had travelled over several times going to autocross events. Got on the hwy 12 and headed east to Packwood. The hwy here is long, straight and fast. The only problem is the hugemongous elk that hang around. Easy to go fast but knowing what is out there tended to make me ride at a much more conservative speed. At Packwood stopped for an obligatory shot in front of the Hotel Packwood.
My favorite and cheapest place to stay in the homely town of Packwood
Got some gas and headed up the Skate Creek road which crosses some foothills to the Mt Ranier NP area. Skate Creek is a fun road that takes a typical winding route along the river. Been on it before in the Miata but not nearly as fun as on the motorcycle. Many frost heave bumps and pavement patches not much of a big deal for the bike compared to trying to drive it in the car and popping your kidneys.
Got up to SR 706 and headed east to Mt Rainier NP. Entered the park and rode up to Paradise camp to take a look see. Nice road but a lot of tourists so mostly slow going. Plan was to ride all the way through the park to hwy 410 but the road was closed somewhere after the box canyon area. Went ahead and did an out an d back anyway just to see it. Never been in this area of the park so was a good opportunity to explore what I could. Got a lot of photos along the way as the weather was still perfect and great for good photos.
Mt Rainier from Paradise lodge
Purple mountain majesties...
After stopping at Paradise, rode out to the box canyon for another photo op, road was fun and exposed along this section next to a deep valley. Hiked out to the view point of the river washing through the box canyon 100 feet below. Interesting natural formation for sure. Rode back out the same route and had a good time on the winding road of the park.
Perfect day at Mt Rainier NP
Nice exposure along road 123 in the Mt Rainier NP
View into the Box Canyon formation
Back on the regular highway, got to Elbe and stopped for dinner. Passed several places to eat in Ashford outside the park but nothing really captured my interest as everything looked very tourist oriented and a lot of people at each place. Of course then I stop in Elbe at the train car diner thing which is over the top tourist oriented. Was hungry and needed to eat. Place was dead and I was the only one in my “car” section. Ordered a steak and the meal was mediocre at best. Overpriced for sure but I needed to fill the void. Tried to call Wifey but no phone service anywhere around the Mt Rainier area as usual.
Funky railcar diner in Elbe
50's style atmosphere was uniquely American for sure
After eating headed up towards Eatonville and stopped there to try to use my cellphone. It worked and after talking to Wifey decided to try to push on and make it home. Was already kind of tired but also not in the mood to hotel it in this area of the state, I have trust issues leaving my bike outside especially where I kinda know the demographic.
Kept rolling in darkness now towards Puyallup and north. Puyallup is a major pain in the ass to get through no matter what time of day it is. Today being no exception. Town simply sucks ass for driving or riding through. Stoplights and dense traffic for miles and no way to bypass. Eventually made it to the freeway after another patience testing exercise and blasted north. First real freeway riding for the entire trip so not bad. Used the express lane mostly and cruised it out. Low traffic volumes all the way to 405 and Renton. Just soldiered on and made it through in pretty good time. Made it to Mulkiteo and the ferry terminal no problem. Caught the 1000pm ferry. Took a nap on the ferry and then back on Whidbey for the ride home.
Arriving at the house was nice having the wife and dog waiting for me but at the same time a little sad knowing that a great trip came to an end. Tired and sore, I put the bike away for a well deserved rest.
3200 miles of bugs
Home at last and my dog happy to see me again
Avg mph 46.5
TTL ascent 25,675
Max El 5398