We Fly 4 Tammy

***Note*** I wrote this, last year, in mourning of the loss of our dearest friend, Tammy Townsend, and wanted to publish it on my own blog as I thought of her. 

—————————————————————————————-

This is a story about hope and the power of the human spirit.  It may not end the way you want it so, if you’re into idyllic, fairy-tale endings, you may want to skip this. 

It’s another day at the shop. We work at a motorcycle dealership and it’s one of the best in the business. The music is bumping and people are buzzing around, looking at the shiny pretty things that they want to ride/photograph/dream about. We barely notice the collectible Desmosedici RR that we walk past, ad nauseam.

This is jaded.

Her head is bald but you can’t tell if it’s a fashion choice or the side effect of chemotherapy.  You can’t tell because she has more energy than you, and you are half her age.  It’s got to be a fashion choice.  Portland, man.

This is presumptuous.

The handsome fella who’s holding her hand has a  heavy look in his eyes.  He’s smiling but you can see the weight of the world on his shoulders even though he saunters around like he owns the joint. His eyes sparkle every time they look at her cute bald head.  It’s not a fashion choice, you realize. Fucking cancer, man.

This is an awakening.

Her name is Tammy. She wants to go fast.  I mean, really fast. Not like just down-the-street-doing-wheelies-fast, but “hey who’s the fastest cat on a motorcycle around here” kind of fast.  She wants to set a world speed record kind of fast.  She wants to leave tire-skid marks on the tarmac kind of fast. She wants to give cancer the big middle finger while hollering at the top of her lungs kind of fast. She wants to be on a sexy shiny Ducati on a world-renowned track kind of fast.

This is humbling.

There’s a resident fast-guy, Christian, at the shop.  Every shop has one that claims to be good but this guy, with his perfectly trimmed and shaped handlebar mustache, is legit. He’s shaking with excitement at the prospect of showing Tammy around our local playground, Portland International Raceway. I volunteered my motorcycle (a Ducati Multistrada 1200S) for the job, because who doesn’t want to be a part of someone’s soul? Who doesn’t want to don a shiny armor suit and be the knight that rescues a fair damsel in distress? Fucking cancer, man.

This is anticipation.

Tammy conquered the track with the help of our fast-guy knight-in-worn-leather-suit and the shiny loud braaptastic Multistrada and, you know what, she conquered the cancer, too. All while laughing and smiling and being this sister we all wish we had. Patrick, her handsome other half, surprised her with a new shiny Ducati and grabbed one for himself too, and they showered the world with their presence and miraculous spirits and the world rejoiced. Tammy was a flight attendant in another life, so we all flew for Tammy. That’s the motto which was adopted by her adoring fans. “I fly for Tammy”. Flight Steward humor.

This is rejoice.

This is the part that hurts. This is the part that makes you ball up your fists, tightly, and curse at life. Fuck you for being unfair. The part that makes this author clench his jaws at the travesty of the whole thing. Through the social network of Facebook, the message was conveyed that the cancer has come back in force and she’s back in the hospital and it’s not looking good. The word hospice was thrown in the mix. The words “transition to God” were read with teary eyes that are trying to reconcile and not lose hope.

This is not fair.

How do you move on? In my humble opinion, you mourn and cry and lean on each other. You say things like “life is short so hug a stranger and love one another”. You see her and hear her in every corner of the shop that came to life whenever she came in, laughing and spreading her excitement and you get teary eyed. You try to be the person that she saw in you, kind and giving and human. You honor her by embodying the very essence that she made you feel you have, because you did a simple and kind thing for a simply kind person.

This is life.

May you rest in peace, sweet Tammy. We love you and wish to never forget you, through travel and exploration of life on this little blue planet.

This is the truth.

Star Gazing

The truck, a Nissan Patrol, was cruising through the Iranian night at a casual pace and the world was filled with stars, clouds, and tree tops rushing past my eyes.  My 8 year old eyes hadn’t seen the world just yet, but the sky was always the limit and it was clearly visible that night.  An unbroken gaze with it would reveal more stars with the lack of light pollution in my periphery.

The motorcycle, a Ducati Multistrada packed with camping gear, was cruising through the mist laden narrow road, cutting through the Cascades.  My 37 year old eyes had seen the world, and in the wet road ahead things cleared up, one mile at a time.  Miles, a Navy vet who I work with, led the way at a safely brisk pace on his Multistrada.  There is something soothing about the symphonic melody of the Italian built L-twin motor and, if you’re not careful, it can put you into a trance. 

Miles, not afraid of the rain!

Miles, not afraid of the rain!

The Nissan Patrol hummed along the highway and my father would, from time to time, look back into the truck bed to see me blissfully star gazing.  Creedence Clearwater Revival was barely audible over the noise of the inline-6 work truck engine.  There were no bills to be paid, or deadlines to be met.  There were fleeting thoughts of what the future might bring, easily distracted by the Milky Way’s appearance across the night sky.  I bundled up, more, in my make-shift bed of comforters and pillows that my dad had arranged in the back of the Patrol.

The rain wouldn’t let up nor be agitating enough to complain about and our rain proof gear was doing a good job keeping us warm and dry in the cool early June Oregon morning.  The freedom of coming to peace with a situation is empowering.  Miles pushed along and missed the turn-off for Rte 242, McKenzie Pass.  I laughed in my helmet because I knew just the sort of zone he was in, looking forward and through the trees that lined the very green Cascades.  Two gears down and I passed him and motioned for a U-turn.  He let me lead us through the pass, but I had to stop.  The Douglas Firs were like green and brown giants, towering over these two small and seemingly insignificant mortals.  Miles understood the zone I was in, in full admiration of what’s above.

The bottom, west entry, of McKenzie Pass. 

The bottom, west entry, of McKenzie Pass. 

The ghost of my past isn’t an angry apparition brimmed with war filled rage, as it should be.  It’s a wraith, warm with memories of blankets and pillows in the back of pickup trucks, classic rock’n’roll and the crisp voice of my dad, telling me stories of riding motorcycles in the open roads of pre-Khomeini era Iran with a pretty girl on the back.  The pretty girl who I dreamt about, nightly, as a distant memory of a mother’s embrace. 

At the top of McKenzie Pass, the scenery shocked our senses and took the shape of what I imagine the moon would look like, if I somehow managed to ride Archie, the Multistrada, through its rocky terrain.  Miles and I, tried desperately, to communicate through wild gesticulations and gestures that there’s a sight to behold ahead.  The Dee Wright Observatory, a seemingly medieval guard tower on top of the moon, stuck out above the fog and mist and we had to dismount to discover.  The waterproof motorcycle gear proved a sanctuary of warmth while the wind and fog blew around us, undeterred and impervious to its nagging.

The cab of the truck cut through the wind and kept me oblivious to the highway wind.  Snuggled, as a kid shamelessly does, in my fort of pillows and blankets I wondered about my dream girl, angel of American toys, and motherly beauty.  I worried about atomic bombs and schools that were ruled by stick and ruler wielding nuns, who’d hit you if you didn’t eat your meat and veggies.  How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?  Pink Floyd wasn’t a name to me.  Just a sound that felt good in my ears.

Down McKenzie Pass we went, the pace picking up as the tight switch-backs gave way to lazy turns, best enjoyed in accelerated motions, and the fog and rain slowly gave way to warmth and sunshine.  Welcome to Sisters, Oregon, full of trinket laden store fronts being browsed by trailer dragging, SUV driving retirees.  The sensation of dryness, and the lazy comfort it brought, led us to an instantaneous desire for sustenance.  Pizza and soda is a great way to celebrate sunshine and tourists.  On the other side of my phone was the sweet voice of my Valentine, Ann.  She was glad that we were safely eating pizza in a town she’s never been to, but promised to see it all with me.  That’s the sort of promise I can get behind.

The Nissan Patrol came to a squeaky-brake stop and I woke up to the sound of my dad.  The trip was over and it was time to go to bed.  The sweet warmth of my truck bed camp-out was so good that I remember not wanting to leave, but got up and went to bed.  Or I was carried.  The next day, I woke up and immediately missed being on the road.  The stars are so much brighter on a dark road in the middle of nowhere. 

Miles and I worked our way through the sunshine of central Oregon high desert, looking to pitch a tent near a body of water.  The destination was Cove Palisades State Park.  On the map, it looked like two bodies of water that converged together making it look like someone drew an upside down peace sign hand gesture.  In the middle of the desert, any shaped water feature seems like a good idea.  Greeted by the sight of the grandly carved canyon filled with the green-turquoise waters made us audibly laugh in our helmets.  My old friend, the Milky Way, showed its face that night and I forgot about my bills, my deadlines or responsibilities for a few hours.

Cove Palisades State Park.

Cove Palisades State Park.

Wanderlust – noun: A strong desire to travel.  And maybe see more stars, in the sky, than I possibly could in crowded cities of lights, horns and loud music.  Thanks for the truck rides, dad.  They fill my dreams with memories of the wind, the hum of an engine and miles of stars.  

Archie the Multistrada, my favorite form of transportation, and stars as far as the eye could see in the Oregon high desert. 

Archie the Multistrada, my favorite form of transportation, and stars as far as the eye could see in the Oregon high desert. 

Iron Butt “Bun Burner 1500”

Ode to my motorcycle: A collection of plastic, metal, carbon fiber and liquids, combustible and lubricating, all mixed together in an Italian factory by men and women who drink wine and eat prosciutto. These are my kind of people, building my kind of motorcycle, and it is perfect.  Its perfection lies not in its design and appeal but in that when I turn it on, it turns me on and gets the little synapses in my head all fired up at the thought of the next adventure to work play explore race and camaraderie. 

            Sweet Wife Ann is, as she would say, a “good sport” about most of these shenanigans.  I wouldn’t dummy it down like that, but she once uttered a magical sentence in a time of doubt and questioning: “If you win, I win.”  She might shake her head or roll her eyes at my constant braaping jargon about this bike that bike this ride that ride, but she’s right there pushing me out to do these things because if you win, then I win.  In came the idea of an obnoxiously long and fast ride just to prove that it can be done, pushed by a group of egomaniacal motorcyclists that love to wear patches of been there done that on their leather outfits., The Iron Butt Association. They have cute little names for the challenges like “Saddle Sore” and “Bun Burner” but, you know, you have to label bits and pieces of life so that they are easier to tell apart.  As most motorcyclists will knowingly joke about this kind of thing, every big ride starts out with 10 willing participants who whittle down to 6 maybes which break down to 5 for-sures and ends up with 3 dudes who are ready to go.  But first, you need a witness for the IBA(Iron Butt Association) Bun Burner ride, who will attest to your insanity and wish you well travels and kiss you on the lips with wishes of your timely return.  Ok, maybe only I got kissed on the lips as our witness was Sweet Wife Ann. 

            The heroes of this tale are PJ, Dave, and yours truly.  After a quick interview, plastered on Facebook, by dear friend and MotoCorsa hype-man/Grand Master/General Manager Arun Sharma, we took off only to stop for fuel.  Three of the same bike with three totally different men set for the same destination of miles and fuel stops and burned buns with hopes of doing it all under 36 hours while blasting past Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and back to sweet beautiful welcoming Oregon. We climbed towards the still white with snow Mount Hood, as we headed southeast and the chill of the mid-June Sunday morning grew more intense by the minute as the air temperature steadily dropped until the thought of sliding off the road became all too seemingly possible.  Damn the water pack, which I wore, for getting colder and colder and setting in a chill through my back. Once over the mountain, the terrain changed dramatically from a sea of Douglas Firs to the high desert of Central Oregon.  As I stood up on my perfect motorcycle and swiveled my head from left to right, I saw more white and tall mountain peaks, in that moment, than ever in one place in this one life.  Recognize this beauty and this day.  The Universe does not disappoint.

Route 26, just west of Madras, OR

Route 26, just west of Madras, OR

The three steeds, all Ducatis, from left to right: 2013 Multistrada 1200GT, 2013 Multistrada 1200 Pike's Peak and 2015 Multistrada 1200 ST

The three steeds, all Ducatis, from left to right: 2013 Multistrada 1200GT, 2013 Multistrada 1200 Pike’s Peak and 2015 Multistrada 1200 ST

Central Pastime is a hole in the wall place in a hole in the wall town in the middle of nowhere Oregon.  The Chevron gas station attendant overheard we 3 groaning about being hungry and thirsty and suggested we bypass the chain store national undercooked bread sub joint for a ma’n’pa restaurant.  Who am I to say no to this sort of invitation, so we obliged and after a few wrong turns, walked into a relic that echoed with country music and folks who know who everyone is, except for these three strangers in strange outfits, dragging their sorry asses through their watering hole.  As I’ve traveled, I’ve come to find that a club sandwich is a safe bet in nearly any dining establishment, at nearly any hour of the day.  I will happily report that the iced tea was cold and fresh and the club sandwich left me with the desire to go back to Burns, OR, just so I can have another serving of Central Pastime’s deliciously friendly meal. 

And then we became 2. PJ was not fairing well.  As it turns out, 3 hours of sleep prior to an IBA ride is not the prescription for success.  This here is a marathon not a sprint, so no wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.  We jokingly prodded at him to see if a bit of peer pressure would wake him up and relight the fire in his heart, but my dear friend was spent and toast.  Ego is a deadly thing if unchecked but PJ had no qualms with saying “I’m done, boys.  I am sorry.”  He stayed behind to catch some mid-day ZZZ’s andhead back home, his pride a little bruised but his body saved for another adventure on another day. 

Dave and I connected our helmet Bluetooth devices, like aliens chattering about their next planetary domination, as we blasted through southeastern Oregon’s desert, towards our next gas stop.  You don’t know fear and loathing until the destination, in the middle of nowhere McDermitt, NV, arrives with promises of fuel and water falsely plastered on a digital map.  We might have panicked a bit but ego is a hell of a thing and we calmly walked around and pretended to not be THAT worried until a car pulled into the abandoned gas station we were coolly trotting in and the driver said “hey, guys, there’s an open gas station around the corner!” Rejoice, Texaco! It’s time to invest in a fuel canister if I’m going to keep having these adventures.

Winnemucca, NV, came after the desert turned into mountains that were rocky and grand.  No evergreens here – just rocks and sand.  We could see for miles ahead and would wave at the random set of motorcycles, going the opposite direction.  It seemed like Dave and I were the only two wheelers going into the desert while everyone else was going north towards green lands of rivers, waterfalls and lakes.  Before we hopped on the big slab of superhighway, our souls needed ice cream.  Oh, strawberry shortcake, how I love thee. The kind gas station attendant popped open a fresh bag of ice so that we could fill our water packs with the cold respite of icy water to take away the dry heat of northern Nevada.  We were happy.  The speed limit was 75MPH but our bikes didn’t see the south side of 90 until a road construction site slowed us down to a paltry 70.  It’s funny how when you come out of the big city and trot around the desert, road construction crews don’t go out of their way to make your exit and entry to the highway a luxuriously seamless affair.  At Battle Mountain, NV, we took a bumpy and off road vehicle worthy exit only to bounce our way back to the highway after a Formula 1 fast pit stop to fill the tanks and empty our bladders.

The question of “why do folks live in this area?” often creeps into my head as I ride past an area that doesn’t agree with my sensibilities.  Between Battle Mountain and West Wendover, along I-80, the living seemed grim and dry but then I remembered that Nevada is nick named “the Silver State” and this area, in particular, is home to a heavy and shiny metal that has its mention in every facet of world economics: Gold.  We climbed Pequop Summit as the sun gave one of its most dramatic shows of graceful settings through the high definition viewing portals of our rear view mirrors.  Thankfully the behemoth Ford Explorer in front of us had selectedan acceptable speed through its electronic cruise control, so we could revel in the golden light peaking through the mountains west of us. It lit everything to and fro in the most brilliant of colors that it nearly made me a believer in the power of gold and its draw to this desolate place. And then everything turned white as we coasted downhill towards West Wendover, NV.  Bugs covered the front of each machine, rider and helmet in a thick sheet of high speed insect killing spree.  I dialed Sweet Wife Ann, hoping to hear her voice before it was too late as we entered Utah.  She wanted to hear about everything but I just wanted to listen to her.  It’s my nightly routine, taking in her sing-song tales of office politics, water fountain gossip and her genuine worries over government politics.  Those little shoulders bear much weight and if she can talk about things, they get diluted.  If she talks about things, I get to listen.  If I get to listen, then she’s mine and I am forever grateful and serene. 

West Wendover, NV/UT, just before the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway

West Wendover, NV/UT, just before the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway

Everything was white because the land, east of Wendover, UT, is covered in salt.  It’s the sort of place that the gods of speed and world records use as their church so that mortals can come and pray.  I’ve only seen it in fantasies on television and magazines and dreams.  The Universe never disappoints.  Thank you for putting me there, next to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  I wanted so bad to touch it and steal a scoop to bring home so I could be reminded that I was there, having an adventure with a perfect stranger in front of me, cutting a hole through the pitch black of the night with our LED high intensity headlights.  I stood on my pegs and howled at the 90mph wind as we cut through it, westbound towards Salt Lake City.  Time was of the essence, so I bowed to the Universe and promised my return as the air took on the scent of freshly sprinkled water and salt and the horizon took on the hue of light pollution from a large city.  Utah is beautiful, whether by moon light or sun. 

In Ogden, UT, we stopped to eat a meal and decide where we would end the day’s adventure so that we could rest up to finish what we started the next day.  It was nearly 1AM and 3 cups of coffee later, the town of Rupert, ID, became our next target.  Delirium hadn’t taken hold of us, yet, but fear of the dark, so full of elk and deer, kept us from going 100MPH through the nothingness that’s between northern SLC and Rupert, ID.  Was I tired or was the wind getting stronger?  Was I exhausted or was an indicated 55 degrees, Fahrenheit, really chilling me to the bone?  

7AM pajama clad hydraulic clutch lever bleeding action!

7AM pajama clad hydraulic clutch lever bleeding action!

Rupert, ID, greeted us with a gas stop and a Tops Motel, managed by a sleepy 3AM motel manager who kindly checked us into a very comfortable room with two clean beds and the best 4 hour nap a man could pay $64 for, during an adventure like this.  In 18 hours, we achieved Dave’s hope of 1000+ miles in less than 24 hours – The IBA Saddle Sore 1000.  We updated our social media and woke with a slight panic of time having gotten away from us.  Once my clutch lever fluid was flushed, we saddled up and took off towards Boise, ID, where I found a surprise of Southern proportions: A Cracker Barrel.  Southern style cooking, slightly out of place in the North West was such a welcoming sight.  A few glasses of very sweet iced tea and some eggs, grits, cheesy potato hash casserole, and chicken fried steak were not the best idea. The body wants rest and calm while it digests that sort of maniacal feast, not to be bounced around the highway winds at near triple digit speeds.

In Oregon, we decided to slow down a bit so as not to get a speeding ticket and potentially disqualify ourselves from this nutty riding bet.  I don’t know if it’s really enforced by the IBA, but it kept us behaving, mostly.  There’s something intoxicating about riding a finely tuned Ducati that blasts the mountain sides with the singsong of its engine note, especially when the roads get curvy.  Any idiot can go fast in a straight line.  It takes dedication and trust to go fast through the curves of life, roads and highways.  Pick a line, dedicate to it, and follow through.  Life is a motorcycle ride through a curvy road and you cannot question your decision whilst mid-way through it.  Hold on and go – don’t be brash and you’ll be fine.  At Deadman’s Pass Lookout, we stopped to look at what lay beneath us and were greeted by a friendly man named Mark, whose first love was a 1963 250cc Ducati Diana in Southern California.  He’s got more miles under him than Dave and I combined, and we fancy ourselves long distance riders.  After much story sharing, Mark left us with this thought about how to keep a marriage with guys like us a successful affair:

“You should let your man do the things he wants to do with his motorcycle, from time to time, so that he comes back home to you rejuvenated and refreshed.” 

The wisdom of Mark, who lit up at the sight of two modern Ducati land rockets.

The wisdom of Mark, who lit up at the sight of two modern Ducati land rockets.

As we met with the mighty Columbia, the highway became increasingly beautiful as the Columbia Gorge formed around us and became the beautiful piece of interstate highway that people in the Pacific Northwest do not take for granted.  Things came to a sudden halt at The Dalles, OR, because of road construction and Dave and I were suddenly fearful of failure.  We had 3 hours left to finish our 1500 miles, and had already completed it but needed to stop somewhere and have a receipt printed for proof that we came, we saw, we conquered our challenge.  Once the reality that traffic had zero intent do move set in, we did the only thing which would allow us to finish: cheat.  The right shoulder of the highway became our personal lane to salvation and completion of this arduous task.  Slowly we crept past miles and miles of cars, trucks and weary 18wheelers and quickly took exit 44 to Cascade Locks, OR, where I know a place full of willing participants in “who wants to be a witness to my shenanigans?”

Tired and ready for the ride to end, but still happy not to be sitting at a desk.

Tired and ready for the ride to end, but still happy not to be sitting at a desk.

Thunder Island Brewing, in Cascade Locks, is one of the most picturesque places to sit down and have a pint of craft brewed deliciousness.  We, the tired, dismounted our steeds and disrobed our riding jackets, gloves and helmets.  It seemed as if all eyes were on us as we stumbled into the beer hall and heard an angel sing a verse: “would you like a beer?”  Why, yes, I would.

Nothing like a cold and extremely delicious beer to help finish an incredible motorcycle run. Cheers!

Nothing like a cold and extremely delicious beer to help finish an incredible motorcycle run. Cheers!

1599.7 miles, through Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and back to Oregon for bragging rights and a patch.  Our spirits needed this like our bodies need rest and water and the loving touch of our partners.  We shook hands, smiled at each other and fared one another well and went home to see our wives, who let us do things with our bikes from time to time, so that we come home to them with clear heads, ready to be filled with plans of future adventures with the machines that are acollection of plastic, metal, carbon fiber and liquids, combustible and lubricating, all mixed together in an Italian factory by men and women who drink wine and eat prosciutto.

My kind of people.

Portland to Astoria – Day Trip!

From Northwest Portland to Astoria, the way we think is most fun and rewarding.

From Northwest Portland to Astoria, the way we think is most fun and rewarding.

Location: Portland, OR > Astoria, OR

Roads Used: 30 > Scappoose Vernonia HWY > 47 > 202

Total Distance: 99.1 Miles (160 Kilometers)

Food: Fish and Chips

 

This is a common route for local Portlanders but we still meet motorcyclists who reside in the greater Portland, OR, area that haven’t discovered it, so here it is:

 

There are times that a quick getaway isn’t quite enough but your work/life schedule doesn’t allow the luxury of packing it up and going away for days, either, so what better way to unwind than a healthy dose of day tripping? For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, day trips are those rides that you can finish in one full day, 6-10 hours of relaxation, exploration, or just mindless wandering. 

 

The Portland to Astoria and back ride is a prime example of a proper day trip.  There are many roads that are fit for this but we tend to enjoy the ones without clutter of cars, trucks and trailers.   First things first, to get this ride started, get out of Portland.  Find your way to Highway 30, which heads northwest out of the city through a colorful array of industrial buildings, train depots full of locomotives, and the lovely St. John Bridge.  Once past the big green bridge, you’ll notice that the scenery starts turning green and the road opens up a bit.  There are a handful of gas stations on the way to your first destination, Scappoose, OR, which is roughly 20 miles north of Portland.

 

At Scappoose, we would suggest fueling up as there won’t be another gas station for about 78 miles.  The road and scenery changes, altogether, once you enter the Scappoose/Vernonia Highway. Train tracks and dual lane highways give way to trees, curves and two lane heavenly side roads that are resplendent with every shade of green as far as the eyes can see.  Traffic is typically non-existent on this road and so is cell phone reception (at least if you’re on the T-Mobile coverage) so keep your wits about you as the curves and corners increase in quantity and quality.  Scappoose Vernonia HWY dead-ends at Rte 47.  For this ride’s sake, take a right turn and head north towards Astoria.  You’ll barely notice as the road changes designations from 47 to 202.  You could keep on Route 47, if you like, and enjoy some of the most curvaceous tarmac, this side of the Mississippi, which will take you all the way back to Highway 30 at Clatskanie, OR.  If you do this, turn left at 30 and enjoy a leisurely ride to Astoria.  We suggest staying on 202 for a more scenic ride along the Nehalem river with a pretty big chance to see some wild elk along the grassy flatlands that come into view, once in a while, through the otherwise never ending canopy of trees. 

 

As you delve deeper into Route 202, you’ll notice the curves getting tighter, with suggested speeds of 25MPH.  Take your time and get to know the road and, if you’re in a group, keep the pace at a safe distance and don’t rush each other.  This road is too beautiful to rush through, at least the first few times you traverse through it.  Just as you wonder to yourself if there’s any more curves, the road opens up to the beautiful Youngs River which feeds into Youngs Bay at the south side of Astoria, at the very peak of North West Oregon where land meets the mighty Columbia River as it pours into the Pacific Ocean.  Follow 202 towards 101, as the signs will suggest, and into Astoria.  You’ll be treated to one of the most PNW-ish sights, which is the beautiful town of Astoria with its coastal style homes, perched on the hills with their views of the Columbia River, the amazing Highway 101 bridge that connects Oregon to Washington State.  You’ve made it and are likely ready for a bite to eat and the Pacific Northwest is well known for its incredibly fresh sea food. 

 

Astoria is well known for the cult classic movie, The Goonies, but loved by some as home to the very well-known roadside Fish and Chips restaurant, Bowpicker (1634 Duane St, Astoria, OR 97103 503-791-2942).  While there are plenty of other choices in town, equally as tempting, we suggest parking your motorcycle next to the makeshift food cart, which spent its previous life as a boat in the waters of PNW.  The fish is perfectly seasoned and fried to a golden-brown delicious, accompanied by perfectly salted chips and will not disappoint.  Take a walk around town, towards the Columbia River, and check out all of the neat shops which are shockingly un-touristy, run and filled by the locals who very clearly love their beautiful town.  Say hi to the seals that fill the air with their barks!

 

There are a few options for coming back to Portland, from Astoria.  One is to retrace your ride into town but we’ve been told that after a few hours in town, enjoying the wares and foods, hopping on Highway 30, south, is the simplest and easiest route home.  We’ll let you be the judge on how to end your ride.  We like the curves, so we might take HWY 30 down to Clatskanie to hop on Route 47, south, towards Scappoose/Vernonia HWY, back towards Portland through the first half of the ride that got adventure started in the first place.

 

Let us know how you liked this ride and any other suggestions which might enhance it for everyone else.

Burning gas

I’ve broken down and leased an EV (Electric Vehicle).  I had promised myself that this would never happen – that the sound of an internal combustion motor was going to be a mainstay in my life.  I wanted to always feel the torque build up as I wait for just the right time to shift into the next gear and ride the power wave of that fossil fuel burning mega machine and hear it crackle and pop as I decelerate and downshift in anticipation of the next sharp curve.  And then I realized something: In order to keep the fuel burning mega-hot-rods and motorcycles alive, we’ve got to find a way to make our daily commuting a cleaner effort. 

So I signed the dotted line and found myself in the driver’s seat of a bright blue, with angry blacked out “look at me, I’m sporty!” headlights and wheels, Fiat 500e.  Not a single head is left unturned when yours truly listens to heavy metal and quietly slips through the streets of peaceful Portland, OR.  I average 85 miles to the charge and my house electric bill has skyrocketed a mere $2.00 per month with the nightly charging of the Celeste Blu (not a misspell, that’s the advertised color name) not-rod, Buzz Light Beard.

Driving the quietest car on the road has somehow given me an excuse to ride perhaps the loudest motorcycle on the same public roadway with the ever-ready answer to whomever may stop me to lambast the bass boom-boom exhaust note of my fire-breathing Ducati.  I have an eco-friendly car, damn it, and I can “braap” all I want to! Plus, what’s a 5 gallon gas-tank when it gives you nearly 200 miles of joy through a myriad of curves, apexes, and blind corners? 

So, with pride, do I find myself plugging Buzz Light Beard into the garage for another day of quiet, clean, commuting with hopes that the energy required to make the electricity to run the little blue not-rod is less damaging than what fumes a turbo-charged high horsepower car may be doing to our little blue planet. 

Paradise in the Pacific North West? Go on…

I have always been a firm believer of “perception is reality”.  Through years of movies and post cards, I’ve come to expect paradise to be somewhere full of palm trees, blue waters and rum infused drinks and I think many of you would agree with me about this. 

Recently, my wife and I made a huge move and packed up the house and the dogs and drove across the country from Florida (paradise?) to Portland, OR.  Cloudy days combined with slower than average drivers, clogging the streets and highways, made me recognize why people go down south for their vacation in the sun.  And then the clouds rolled away along with the moving truck and we got settled into this new life of ours in the Pacific North West.  I wanted to say “this isn’t so bad, after all.” but found myself with the perception of “this is actually pretty perfect.

I know the locals don’t want too many people to believe this sort of talk about their beloved PNW but this land is likely some of the most beautiful and dramatic that I’ve ever ridden or driven through.  Never mind Portland’s never ending offerings of food and drinks, because that is unparalleled by most cities in the US, but the natural offerings of this corner of the country are far beyond what I’ve seen in one geographical place, any other place that I’ve been:  Wine country? Fine.  Mountains with curvy roads? Fine.  Hiking? Fine. High deserts with endless starry nights? Fine. Water features? Fine.  Your options are never ending. 

My perception of this State has turned into that of paradise.  Sure, there aren’t that many palm trees, but that mountain air will clear your lungs out and get your thought-wheels spinning about how you can better enjoy this Earth and, ultimately, protect it for your own selfish consumerism.

So, I’m going to start exploring this place and write about it, mostly so I don’t forget where I’ve been.