Part 2: 10 days in Washington State:
a Smokey Motorcycle Adventure
August 2017

Read Part 1 first!

We had planned on going on a little ghost town tour farther East in Washington state, stopping at Grand Coulee Dam before or after. But the heat was horrible, as bad, if not worse, than anything we'd experienced before on any trip ever. We really didn't want to get home to Oregon early, but we couldn't take the heat anymore, so we turned back to West, to get back into the cooler Northern Cascades. We were out of Leavenworth by 3, and we did head East for a while, on US Highway 2, then turned North onto Alt US Highway 97, and it was even more smokey than the entire trip so far. We did see a few fellow dual sport riders heading in the opposite direction, but as usual, we never stopped at the same place to talk and share info.

At Pateros, Washington, we turned off onto state road 153, and eventually took a break in the tiny barely-a-community of Methow. It had a population of 262 at the 2000 census. It has this little dirt and gravel road running along side the main road, and we stopped to cool off in the shade what we guess passes as the community's central park, which is about the size of our back yard. Methow reminded me so much of the Baskett, Kentucky of my youth, I was having flashbacks. As I thought about walking around as a child, barefoot, with my cousin, Robin, usually carrying a kitten, here came three barefoot girls from a house, walking down the dirt road to the post office. It was a nice pause to hydrate and remember. 

By the time we reached Chelen, I was having another I'm-too-hot-we-must-stop-now moment. Downtown Chelen is quite chic - there's money in and all around the town. It's not quite as rich as Sun Valley, Oregon, but still - money. We took our sweaty selves into a hip brew pup and had Pepsis (no Coke). Once my temperature had dropped down again, we headed back out.

The area has a lot of orchards, a lot of large fruit stands, and a lot of huge homesteads that I guess are the plantation owners. What worker housing we saw was, of course, horrible, but at least there were window air conditioning units in most of them. Still, no poverty or housing was as bad as what we saw in Eastern Washington state back in 2015.

The town of Winthrop turned out to be a faux, but very well done, American Old West style historic town. From there, we headed to Pearrygin Lake State Park. At the turnoff for the campsite, I saw a deer and a marmot down below the road in the tent camping part of the park. Stefan did NOT like the campground at first, and I wasn't crazy about it either, but I was tired and I just really wanted to stop, and was afraid to push our luck at finding an open camp site elsewhere. A few bikers came through, looked at the tent camping area, and drove off. The massive number of RVs in the middle of the park and near the lake was not the most scenic thing to look at, the tent site looked really exposed, and people were being loud. But the sun was setting, and the trees between us and the lake perfectly shaded our site. While Stefan went back to Winthrop for beer and ice, I put up the tent, unrolled the thermarests (air mattresses) so they would self inflate (they really do, about 50%, after a few hours), and got things unpacked and ready for supper. By the time Stefan came back with beer and ice, I knew this was a good place to camp. Stefan took a swim - I didn't, because it had actually THUNDERED while he was gone. I thought the dark skies were all smoke, but apparently, there were rain clouds up there as well. Sadly, it never rained - the wind just blew a lot. So much that a massive branch from one of the trees fell onto an outhouse on the adjacent BLM land. We had a light supper, and then walked through the entire camp site, stopping to talk a while to two dual sport riders camping on the opposite side of the site. There was, of course, a German woman camping at the site as well near us, but in the end, no one else camped next to us, including the woman on the Harley who was traveling cross country by herself - she would have been great company. We were very pleased to discover that the not-so-great looking building off to the side of the camp site, being ignored by the other campers, was another set of bathrooms. Everyone else was using the newer building, farther away, which had far few toilets, so we had this set of bathrooms pretty much to ourselves. No campfires were allowed, even in fire pits, so after suffering through a lot of bugs, we went to bed early. We were stunned at how quiet this packed camp site was! We put all our food away in our panniers when we went into the tent for the night, per seeing the critters when we came in. 

In all that delicious quiet, even in the warmth, I slept well. The next morning, two ducks came around our site, demanding food. They were adorable, but I shooed them away - I do NOT feed wildlife, and I get really angry at those who do. We cooked our breakfast on our camping stove, and I was surprised we were the only people up and around, other than the other tent campers down the way. I think everyone else was still tucked away in their campers. A shame, because when it's that hot during the day, the mornings are the BEST. And the trees protected us from the rising sun. On our third morning out, it had dawned on me to cut up some of the cheddar cheese Stefan brought in the cooler and put it in my instant grits, and I did it again that morning. Holy hanna, it was AMAZING. Why does everything taste so much better when you're camping?!? Other mornings, in case you were wondering, I had apples with peanut butter for breakfast. My usual breakfast at home is cereal, but that's just too hard to do on the bike. 

We headed out and stopped in Winthrop for some photos. A shame we couldn't spend more time in Winthrop. We like fake wild west towns more than fake Bavarian towns. When we were out of town, we saw a Fire Incident Command Post (ICP). I'm not sure where the fire was in Washington state, but it was relatively nearby. I think Stefan secretly would like, just once, to go off for a week and fight a forest fire. If he didn't lose a week of vacation, I think he'd do it.

Now we were on state road 20, going through the smokey Northern Cascades. It was still really beautiful. In fact, the area North West of Winthrop looks like it has some amazing ranches and homes - but not as ritzy as Sun Valley, Idaho, and not nearly as developed. Oh how I'd love to go up there and ride horses for a weekend. I would love to come back and do the entire Cascade Loop via motorcycle.

The road was still beautiful even among the smokey landscape, and traffic wasn't bad at all. Some of the dropoffs on the side of the road were... yeah. The Washington Pass Overlook on the North Cascades Scenic Highway is definitely worth a stop: lots of clean pit toilets, and plenty of parking, all far from the road. There is a MASSIVE amount of hiking trailheads all along 20. It's backpacking paradise, for sure. We stopped a few more times on the road, including at some large rest area on the side of the road overlooking a lake - I don't remember which one, and I took a photo of the Do NOT feed the wildlife! Folks, PLEASE don't feed ANYTHING - not birds, not chipmunks, not nuthin'. This sign does a good job of showing why. My blood boils when I hear, "Now, give him a little piece of cracker, it's okay, and I'll take a picture!" I want to turn around and say, "No, it's not okay, you are being an asshole and you are teaching your child to be an asshole." But I don't, because so many people in the USA are armed. We met an older couple from Tennessee traveling across the country in their RV. "Have you ever heard of that Tale of the Dragon road in Tennessee?" she asked us. Of course, being motorcyclists that love to travel, we had. "That road is crazy. We got on it accidentally. We didn't know what it was. You people are crazy." We laughed.

Later, we stopped at Newhalem, tucked away in a gorgeous, steep canyon on the road. It is a small company town, and historic town, owned by Seattle City Light and populated entirely by employees of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, or in local county, state or federal agencies. I wish, so much, we could have camped there that night. There are campgrounds all around, plus the grounds of the hydroelectric project are fascinating. There's a funky retro gazebo made from using recycled bushings from the Diablo switchyard, called the "Temple of Power." There's things to see all around the area, plus the famous Dam Good Chicken Dinner & Ladder Creek Falls by Night. I would have been ALL OVER THAT. But it wasn't the right time or night on this trip...

Not much farther down the road is the North Cascades Visitor Center. We didn't have to stop, but I wanted to: I like official national forest visitor's centers, because I like their exhibits, I like their gift shops, and like ranger stations, the people working there often have some great information about road conditions and what not. I also wasn't in any mood to leave the national forest, and I was looking for any reason to stop and look at something.

We pressed on for lunch at Marblemount, where we had a forgettable lunch at a restaurant there (Stefan's chili is WAY better than what I had). I really, really wasn't ready to leave Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest: I wanted one night there before we continued west, because I knew that cities and traffic would soon start. Some people love the beach; I love the forest. I feel so at home there. During lunch, I looked at the paper map of the area we had, and I saw two remote campsites back in the national forest, and it looked not-to-far away. I pointed them out to Stefan, and he noted that Cascade Road, where both sites were, started just a few feet back from where we came. After lunch, we got gas, then headed over a bridge and onto Cascade Road. The road was paved almost entirely until Marble Creek campground, the first camp ground on the road, and it already felt so remote, I went ahead and went down the very easy dirt and gravel road.

The campground is exactly what we love: it's on a gravel road far away from a main road. Each of the 23 sites are hidden from most others by tress and brush. Everything is shaded. There's a river nearby. The pit toilets are cleaned regularly and well-maintained. Each site has a picnic table and campfire ring with grill. And there's a camp host. This is from the official web site:

Situated on the banks of the scenic Cascade River in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Marble Creek campground offers some of the most stunning scenery in the northern Cascade Range. Campsites are scattered beneath a towering canopy of diverse forest. They are widely spaced and within walking distance to the waterfront, making it an ideal setting for visitors wanting to camp in a private, rustic setting. Flowing adjacent to this campground is the Cascade River, a tributary of the Skagit River, designated as a National Scenic River.

HEAVEN! There's only two downsides to this site: once again, oh-so-many biting bugs, not just mosquitos. And there's no water pump - you have to bring your own water. We manage to do that on the bikes, always having enough water for one night with no faucet or pump, because Stefan carries water bottles on either side of his crash bars on the front of his bike, a one liter bottle of water (former Coke bottle) and two liters of water in this container which you can buy from coyotetrips! Combined with the water from our little cooler (from the melted ice), that's enough for drinking, cooking the night before and the morning of, for face and hand washing and teeth brushing, and for other little cleaning needs, but just for a night and a morning.

While Stefan unloaded the bikes, I went to pay for our camp site. I'm so glad that I remembered my check book and didn't have to try to scrounge up exact change! The camp host was at the pay station, talking to another camper. Super nice guy, as all camp hosts should be. I saw reservation signs on almost every camp site for the next day: Thursday, as well as through the weekend. He said that, indeed, the camp site is always full on Thursday and, of course, the weekends, including the day use area.

How bad were the bugs? So bad that I used mosquito netting over my head, and wore long sleeves, even in the heat. Stefan brings the head net every trip for me, but I've never worn it. Oh, mensch, I was so happy to have it. It was really, really early, probably around 3 p.m., so we set up the tent and the air mattresses, and Stefan took a much-needed nap. I settled down on the picnic table to read the book I brought, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is rather amazing. It was the first time I'd had time to sit and read and relax outdoors. We really don't do this enough on our trips. You really have to build it into a trip or it never happens. Stefan was snoring, so I walked through the campground, then over to have a look at the Cascade River. It was gorgeous! And fast moving. And wonderfully cold. I went in only up to my calves, and wouldn't have at all had there not been fly fishermen and two other people right there to see me. I respect rivers, and know that even in one that was shallow enough to walk across, a slip would have sent me over the small falls in that fast-moving river. I picked up a few beautiful small, colorful rocks, made smooth by the water, to take home and put around my Buddha statue in the front yard. When I got back to the site, Stefan had gone back to Marblemount to get beer and ice, so I put my head netting back on and started reading again. The camp host came by to check in and say that fires were allowed in the fire ring, so I bought some wood from him. We didn't need a fire for warmth at all, but it helped immensely with the bugs.

Another camper stopped by to check out my bike and my panniers in particular. His son and his son's friend stopped by as well. He's a talker, like me, so we launched into a long conversation about camping and motorcycle riding and smoke jumping and who knows what else. At one point, he said his sister was one of the first smoke jumpers and his son said, "Aunt Patty did that?!" All night, I kept laughing at the idea of how a certain nephew was never going to look at his aunt in quite the same way again. After Stefan got back, we went to have a look at the Cascade River, and then went over to the guy's camp site, to see if he could put some of our eggs in his cooler until morning. He insisted not only in doing that, but telling me to drink the rest of their chocolate milk the next morning and to just come get it, as they would probably still be asleep when we left. He offered us beer, we took it, and we stood there and talked for a looong time, about NASCAR and F1 and white water rafting and blah blah blah blah blah. I love socializing while camping... campers are cool. Back at our own campsite, we drank Shiner Bock, stared at the fire, and marveled at how we had been surviving the heat.

The next day, Wednesday, I made a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and our pepper we had brought from our garden and that I kept forgetting to cook with. Stefan got the fire going again, to fight off the bugs. Indeed, I did go down to the other people's camp site and retrieved the half empty cartoon of chocolate milk from the cooler. And I drank it all. And it was sooooo gooooooood. We were heading out by 9:30 a.m., back through Marblemount and towards civilization. We stopped in the tiny town of Concrete, Washington, not really because we had to, but because I was just curious. It's not super picturesque, though I loved this sign from Seattle City Light. We stopped at the hardware store and were shocked that they had exactly the camera memory card that Stefan needed. While I wrote this travelogue two weeks later, I read up about the town on Wikipedia. Please, someone, write a screenplay about the Quackenbush sisters of Concrete. Oh, and the town was famous for losing its mind during Orson Wells' infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast in the 1930s.

We pushed on, and strip malls and ugly houses and traffic seemed just appear all at once, WHOOSH, and I was so glad we had dawdled in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest the night before. I also didn't see many places to camp at all, so we had for sure made the right decision in staying. We were heading to the ferry for Port Townsend, and the roads were VERY complicated: there are a lot of ferries leaving from that area for different places, so you can't just follow signs that have the ferry symbol on them. Eventually, we were heading over Deception Pass Bridge onto Whidbey Island. It's a lovely area at the pass, but it's state park land, and you are supposed to have a Washington state park pass to even stop there and use the bathroom. We didn't - but stopped anyway. We continued South to Oak Harbor, which is near a military base, and a loud engine on a fighter jet scared the crap out of me. I saw a sign for a restaurant called Zorba's, so I took a right - and found myself at the top of the craziest hill leading into the parking lot I may have ever seen. I went down into the parking lot, praying to a God I don't believe in that no car would back out as I came in. None did. We parked and went inside. Stefan loves Greek food, so I was happy to find this restaurant. However, he didn't know that a restaurant called "Zorba's" was the code word in the USA for a Greek restaurant - he's never heard of the movie. Our lunch was plentiful and delicious.

Then we headed South further on Whidbey Island to the ferry for Port Townsend. And I'll take a moment here to say, if you are going to do a tour of Washington state, and you are going to have even a couple more days than we did, you might want to consider getting a year's pass to Washington State Parks, because that will get you into every Washington County state park and state public land, and they are really, really plentiful. You don't need such for camping at state park camp sites, but you do need to pay an entrance fee for going to see a historic light house, for instance, or parking at some beach fronts, and the year-long pass will pay for itself quickly if you want to do that.

We got to Fort Casey and I paid our ferry toll. The employee directed us to the very front of the lines. Whoopie! Usually on ferries, pedestrians, then bicyclists, then motorcycles get on, before cars and trucks. The ferry was late - one of the ferries had broken down, so they were short a vessel - so we had plenty of time to walk around the port, pee, look at maps, talk to people and what not. There was a display of vintage ferries, and this is the one I really wanted to take (steam punk ferry!). The nearby camp site across the little bay looked awful: no trees, no privacy, total exposure to each other and the elements. Just for beach access? No thanks. While waiting for the ferry, we met a guy on a 70s era Yamaha that he had fixed up himself - he was going on a cross country trip and mostly camping rough. We also met a guy in a VW camper van who said he had talked to us earlier on the trip. We were both so embarrassed - we don't remember him! Waiting for the ferry was nice - it always makes me think of Europe. I really hope I get to ride on my own motorcycle in Europe someday...

Getting on a ferry makes me way nervous: I'm terrified there's going to be slick spot and I'm going to drop my bike, humiliating myself in front of lots and lots and lots of people. I didn't. I even ended up with one of my favorite recent photos of me (thanks, Stefan). We parked the bikes and then went upstairs to sit and enjoy the ride, and invited the guy from the VW camper van to join us.

Historic Port Townsend looked lovely from a distance. I would very much like to walk around it some day. But it was Thursday, and there was no time: we needed to be at a camp site by the early evening, even the late afternoon, because we knew now that such would fill up quickly. We got off the ferry and it worked out that I was leading all of the other motorcyclist away from the ferry. So, of course, I sang "Lead of the Pack" at the top of my lungs. Which no one could hear. Stefan and I got onto 101 and headed West.

We decided to head to Dungeness Forks camp ground in Olympic National Forest. It was really confusing: there's no sign telling you, "Welcome to Olympic National Forest." You are in an area that isn't exactly rural, but isn't exactly urban either, and there's just this big sign that says "Dungeness Trail" when you are supposed to turn off. Stefan knew to take it, so we did (after I initially passed it). It turned into farms around us, but still no signs whatsoever showing we were in a National Forest. The pavement eventually ran out, but the condition of the gravel road was absolutely excellent, so we pushed on. But after a few miles, there were no houses and no signs. Well, there WERE signs, but various people had shot up all of the signs with guns - ALL THE SIGNS - and every now and again, you could see that all that was left were the sign posts. I am leery of people with guns, and I HATE the ones that think shooting signs is fun. You should be locked up and lose your guns FOR LIFE for doing that. Assholes.

Anyway... we pulled over and decided we couldn't be on the right road, so we headed back. We stopped to talk to a guy who was off on the side in a big open area fixing his truck. He turned out to be a young student from Purdue University, out on a big pre-semester road trip. He was rough camping as much as possible. He knew where the 2880 turnoff was though: turns out that big hand-painted sign that said 2880 right where the pavement ends, for a steep road that was rutted and full of potholes, really was National Forest Road 2880 and lead to our campground. So, back we went. I stayed at the top of the hill and Stefan went down that crazy road, to make absolutely sure there was a campground down there. There was, and there were sites available.

Oh, that road. It was as hard as National Forest Road 5601 back in Gifford Pinchot, the one we turned around on. It was SO STEEP. I kept chanting in my head, "please don't let there be a car coming, please don't let there be a car coming." There wasn't, and I made it to the campground just fine. We road around tiny Dungeness Forks camp ground, and then just went ahead and chose the first site, near by bathrooms. It was perfect. I set up the tent and inside the tent while Stefan went back up the hill and back to 101 to get ice and beer. The road by the campsite continues on, but there's no official campsites on it besides this one, just lots of trail heads. I'm sure rough camping spots are plentiful. I like rough camping some times, and we have to do it sometimes, but I really don't like doing it much, because of the lack of bathrooms. I'm good with a pit toilet, but not so good with nothing. This was perfect.

Stefan returned and we walked around the campground. There are just 10 sites! And I expected it to fill up, even though it was oh-so-remote. The Gray Wolf River wasn't nearly as scenic as the Cascade River from the night before, but it was still nice. There was a water pump, but the handle had been broken off or removed. A woman from a nearby campsite was walking by, and I asked her where she had gotten her dress - it was perfect for camping. She said Columbia Sportswear, and said her husband worked at the HQ. Which meant he works right across the street from Stefan! I told her that, and we had a good laugh. He walked over from the campsite and he and Stefan talked about the big fire that had been at his company weeks before. But then they started talking about the road, and the woman said, "Oh, it's not THAT hard." I felt hurt. Really? Not that hard? A mini-van makes that much of a difference?

We walked down to the picturesque Dungeness River, which was lovely. I love being able to camp near rivers, so the sound drowns out all other sounds. We dared to go out on some of the rocks for some photos.

There was a fair amount of coming and going on 2880, to and from and passed the campground, and I was already dreading driving out the next day. I just tried not to think about it.

The camp site was almost filled up, but I knew that campsite 8 wasn't taken yet. I'd seen it on our walk. You have to park in this big open area and walk to it, but it's not far at all. A car came in, went around the campground slowly and left, then another, and I realized people weren't seeing the open campground. I vowed I'd run out and stop the next car and make sure they knew it was open. And that's what I did. We were rewarded with two beers later for that act of kindness. Told ya I'd pay it forward... but I was really mad at the campers on the other side of the campground - it turned out two trucks were just parked at one of the campsites, they weren't using it, and they left later that night - meaning someone else could have camped. Assholes!

The next day, Thursday, a car came down the road at 6:15. And cars and trucks kept coming all morning, about every 20 minutes. How was I going to get up that freakin' road?!

I struck up a conversation with the people that had camped next to us. They were in a blue Chevy Blazer, probably the same year as mine that I drove back when I lived in California and Austin, Texas in the 90s. They were Spanish: they would save up their money, take a year off, go to a country, by a cheap used car and tour around. They were having a lovely time in the Pacific Northwest, but stunned that it had been so hot that the truck had overheated twice. They were sleeping in the back of the truck, just like I used to when I first started camping with my dogs once upon a time. Ah, memories... they generously and happily agreed to take our bag of beer bottles and trash out for us, because we knew, strapped to the back of the bike, it would all come falling out on Forest Road 2880.

We packed up, and it was time to go up that road. I'm much better going up gravel and dirt roads than down - MUCH better - except for one thing: if I have to stop. Because if I have to stop, I have a devil of a time getting going again. Please, don't let there be cars, please, don't let their be cars I chanted as we went up the hill. And, HURRAH, there were three cars coming down, but somehow, they had all seen me coming and were all pulled over onto the only spot on that narrow road one could pull over. The first two vehicles were National Forest cars. I thanked them over and over - sadly, they couldn't hear me through my helmet.

Before I say more: while researching something else for this travelogue, I found information for Louella cabin, a historic National Forest cabin that was near the road we took to the Dungeness River camp site. It looks AWESOME, and can be booked year round. There is also Interrorem Cabin not to far away.

It was Thursday, and we headed back onto 101 and to Olympic National Park. This required going through Port Angeles, one of the most depressing towns I've been in in a while. More on that later. We barely saw the sign for the national park and the Hurricane Ridge entrance, and traffic was oh-so-thick. We made the necessary left and went through another part of town and up into the park, stopping at the Visitor's Center, which was packed. There was a long line of people there to register to hike and camp in the back country, the parking lot was full, and staff in the back were busy washing out bear-proof containers so that they could be rented out again by new campers. We didn't spend much time there; instead, we pushed on to Hurricane Ridge. It was still morning, and we wanted to get up there well before lunch time. Which we did. It wasn't nearly as crazy, or as developed, as Paradise in Mt. Rainer, which surprised me. I was glad! It was smokey, but lovely. And there was another three-shirt deal, this time for $30. So, yeah, we now also have Olympic National Park t-shirts.

Stefan suggested we get a camp site in the national park right away, at Heart O' the Hills campground near the entrance, so that we could set up and then take off and enjoy riding along the coast and back, without having to worry about a place to stay. It was a great idea: we got a camp site in C loop by 1:15 p.m., and it was a terrific site. And, spoiler alert, yes, the campground filled right up well before evening - it was half full when we got our site.

We went to Port Angeles for a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant. The food was okay - we still long to find great Mexican food somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Texas spoiled me. But the town was so depressing: the buildings and houses were ugly and rundown, the few hotels looked scary, there were no shops to attract all the people to and from the National Park and national forests, and there were a fair number of folks walking around to find their next fix - or enjoying the one they were on. We got back on the bikes and took 101 West to state road 112 and went all the way to where the road comes back inland and meets state road 113. It was... it was a really disappointing ride. There was trash along the road and in open spaces, access to the waterfront was rare, and there were some scary looking folks even out on THIS road, walking along, looking for... something. Once we did get access down to the ocean - or Straight of Juan de Fuca - we could barely see 10 meters off the shoreline, let alone Canada, because of the thick fog. The water was also super stinky. Not even the rocks were pretty. It's the only time on the trip that the ride was meh. We took 113 back to Saphho and headed back down 101. Even the ride around Lake Crescent didn't impress me all that much. But, then again, I was VERY tired.

We got back to Port Angeles and needed to stop for ice (we still had plenty of beer), so I turned into the first gas station on the right that I saw, which was a Texaco on East First. As soon as Stefan walked away from the bikes and went inside, I knew it had been a mistake to stop there. There was a large group of people and, yes, I'm going to automatically assume they were addicted to something, just based on what they were saying ("Even my court-appointed lawyer thought those charges were bullshit"), how loud they were saying it ("EVEN MY COURT-APPOINTED LAWYER THOUGHT THOSE CHARGES WERE BULLSHIT"), how they were dressed and when I think it was they took a shower last. And, again, trash everywhere. Stefan took forever to return: turns out that the freezer for ice was broken, so they let him make his own ice bag using the ice machine for drinks. And they gave it to him for free. I could see the guy behind the counter, and as frantically as he was moving around, I'd say that fix had just kicked in... I'm not exaggerating, readers. Here's what the Google Review for this place says:

I got off work and stopped by there (5/21/2017 @ 3:45 pm, A man walked in kinda big, trimmed mustache, and began following me around. When I was at the register paying he stood behind me like he was going to arrest me or something. After I was done I turned to look at him and he looked away. I said, "You're weird". Steer clear of this place.

We headed back into Olympic National Park and to our camp site, and it was time for some more bike maintenance. It was a bit of a schlep to the bathrooms, but really nice that they were flush toilets. I loved the campground, our oh-so-quiet loop especially, but I do have one complaint: there's a sign at the garbage cans asking people to take their recyclables home with them. Um... Dear Olympic National Park: a significant number of people camping at your campgrounds are well more than a day's drive home. And some, like us, are on motorcycles. We don't have room to take recyclables with us down the road, let alone all the way home. Why do you not have a recycle bin? Is there really no one who would come empty that for you for free? No one?!?

I got up twice in the night, and both times, saw something at night I'd never seen on this trip: stars. I'd really missed seeing a sky full of light at night on this trip. Darn smoke.

Also the night before, some people had asked Stefan for help in finding Little River Road, which is just outside of Olympic National Park and starts near the pay station at Hurricane Ridge. We had a look at the map later and decided we'd like to take it as well the next day as we continued through the park. After breakfast, we did just that. It's mostly paved, but there's a big part of gravel in the middle. It was mostly an easy road, except for one downhill part I wasn't fond of. There were some GORGEOUS houses near the start. When the road ends and meets a paved road, it gets a little complicated, but Stefan had his GPS, and I would look back in my rear view mirror to see which way he had his turn signal on, to know which way to go.

Back out on 101 going West, Lake Crescent was now really beautiful. I don't know why, but I enjoyed it this time far more than the day before. Maybe because I wasn't tired this time.

From what I had read, Sol Duc Hot Springs no longer had an open visitor's center (budget cuts). It looked like a great place if you had reservations at the resort or campground and were going to stay a couple of days so you could canoe or swim, but we didn't have reservations, and we had only one more night out. So we skipped it and headed to Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. I thought the ride into the rain forest was absolutely beautiful, like a fairy tale. I haven't seen those various shades of emerald green in a long, long time. The road was lovely, the speed limit was low, and there wasn't much traffic. It was heavenly. The parking lot was already full when we got to the visitor's center. We didn't have time to do much, just pee and walk around the wheelchair accessible trail. As we got back to the bikes, an elderly lady came over to tell me how much she loved that I was riding my own bike and how she would love to have done the same when she was young. She's probably the third elderly lady that's approached me to say this over the years.

We headed back out of Hoh Rain Forest and out of the national Park. We headed out, and I was nervous. It was Friday night. Where would we stay?

I needed to pee, so I pulled off for the sign for Bruceport County Park & Campground, hoping they would let me use the bathroom. The camp host said yes. Turned out there was a group of friends, mostly Moto Guzi riders, having a camp out. They were super nice and gathered around our bikes outside the bathrooms for conversation and photos. This looks like a GREAT camp site: the bathrooms have showers, the group camp site has a covered building, it has a great view of the ocean... and they take reservations! Indeed, they had been full the night before. There were two dual sport riders, one a woman, pulling out as we were finishing up in the bathroom. A shame we didn't get to talk to them.

We had lunch in Forks, Washington, at a Chinese restaurant. I did not know what Forks is famous for. I rolled my eyes over and over at all the desperate appeals to Twilight fans. No, I've never read Twilight. No, I've never seen the movies. I won't do either. BUFFY, SLAY! And now, it was cold outside. We were COLD, for the first time on this entire trip. We had to put on warmer things under our mesh jackets. The sky was gray. It felt like it might rain. If we did camp tonight, we would have to use our rain fly on the tent for the first time on the entire trip.

We passed a sign for Rainforest Hostel, and I thought about stopping, but it was still so early, and we were so far from home, which we had to reach the next day. So I road on and didn't stop.

We took 101 to the coast and headed down. It had cleared up a bit, and when we could see coast line from the road, we could also see ocean. But we didn't stop to look at the ocean. I did turn into the Kalaloch Ranger Station, mostly to pee, but I talked to the ranger station employee. I asked her if she thought the campgrounds at Quinault, 33 miles away, were full already. She said she hadn't heard anything, and usually they called her to tell her they were full. She also said whales had been spotted off the coast and we should stop and take a look. And I so wanted to, because I've never seen whales except on TV... but I knew we had to push on, because we had no campsite reservations. She was also in awe that I went down the road to Dungeness River Campground on a motorcycle (take THAT, woman in the minivan who thought it was no big deal!!!).

Welp, all of the campgrounds at Quinault were full. And there were no private campgrounds anywhere around, which was stunning to me. Someone, please, move to nearby Amanda Park and open a campground! We drove up 101 a bit and I waited on the side of the road while Stefan checked for rough camping on a forest road. He came back and said NO WAY, there was trash everywhere and it looked like a party site. We pushed on, stopping at one road that said there was a state park campground, but after just a few meters, the sign said it was actually 20 miles down the road, and I didn't want to travel 20 miles out of our way just to find it was full - which meant another 20 miles back to the road. We pushed on, to a town called Humptulips.

Yes, Humptulips. It has a population of about 200 people. Humptulips is mentioned in Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins as a base of operations for an order of assassin monks. A book mentioned in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett was written by a wizard named Humptulip (no terminal "s"). The name comes from a local Native American language, but the meaning has been lost. It may have meant hard to pole, referring to the difficulty local Native Americans had poling their canoes along the Humptulips River. Or the word may have meant chilly region.

Somewhere north of Hoquiam we pulled into a road that had a sign for a camping. But before we got to the entrance, I could see that this was more of a campground where people lived than camped. And while they may have been able to accommodate tents - in fact, I think they had a sign saying such - I just couldn't deal. So we pushed on, through Hoquiam, and saw that every hotel had a "no vacancy" sign. SHIT! We stopped at one place and he had one room left - a massive suite. We chanced it and said no and pushed on. In Aberdeen, we got gas and watched a whole lot of motorcycles going through town, obviously looking for rooms. We pulled into the GuestHouse Inn and Suites, and miracle of miracles, they had a room! And it was affordable! Since it was still daylight and it was our last night, I decided we'd treat ourselves to supper out on the town, something we rarely do on these trips. I asked for a recommendation and he immediately said, "Amore. Italian Restaurant. Just a few blocks that way."

We unpacked, changed out of our bike pants, and headed down to Amore. Here's my review from Yelp:

Nothing but amore for Amore Italian Restaurant! We'd been riding our motorcycles for nine days, and this was the last night of our trip. The hotel receptionist recommended this place, and we were in heaven. My husband had the best lasagna he's had since coming to the USA in 2009. I had cheese-filled manicotti (or some huge pasta filled with cheese - I'm bad with Italian pasta specifics when it comes to names) and could not stop saying, "This is unbelievable" after every bite. The vegetable minestrone put all ministrones I've ever had before to shame. The half carafe of house red wine was delicious and affordable. My German husband was impressed that they had Birra Moretti on the menu (and very happy to drink two of them). And we were never rushed - we got to linger over our drinks after the meal. My husband's only complaint would be that they kept playing music that I wanted to sing along to. Live long and prosper, Amore!

Yeah, it was good.

On the way, we saw an usual sculpture on the way to the restaurant, which apparently is the long extinct Grizzly Hare. Here is the explanation for this and other unusual creatures around the town. We were too full to enjoy the retro ice cream parlor in a vintage gas station. We did see a small Navy plane either being built from a kit or being restored. I was loving the funky, out-of-the-way feeling of Aberdeen. It was only after we were back that I found out it's where Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic had met.

We got back to the hotel and I decided to take a shower. It would be so nice to be clean when we got home the next day, instead of sticky and disgusting. After having flat, straight hair for most of the trip because of my helmet and the lack of humidity, here's how it looks after it's clean and slept on in humid weather.

On the way home, we stopped at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge to pee. The bathroom was closed. Signs said it was closed in the evenings and on weekends (when people need it most) because of vandalism. So now people pee all around the building on the grounds, thereby polluting the wetlands and creating a disgusting mess.

It was still cool, but not cold, and I suspected the weather would clear up as we neared or passed Astoria. I really wanted to stop one more time in Washington and take a photo. At last, I saw a chance, just before we got to the Astoria-Megler Bridge, to pull over and take some photos. Just before we left, a car came blasting into the spot as well, and came to a sudden stop in a cloud of dust. Two guys got out, taking photos, and after a while, one came over and asked if I would take a photo of them. I was happy to! They said they were from Saudi Arabia, so of course I said, "Sa'lam alaykum," and they could NOT believe it. "I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it!" Which made me happy... and kind of sad, because I would have assumed lots of other people would have greeted them that way here in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Seattle, where they had been working. We gave them advice on where to view the upcoming solar eclipse, as well as what to see on their way down the Oregon and California coast. Because they were so thrilled that we said yes to taking photos with them, and that I know a whopping four words in Arabic and that I made a list of things they needed to see and told them how to get a national park interagency pass, they absolutely INSISTED on giving us something. So they gave us two packages of roasted seaweed and two apples. I was overwhelmed by their generosity, but holy cow that seaweed is vile....

Back into Oregon, we went to downtown Astoria to eat. After stealing a parking spot away from a shop that had hoped to use it for a truck that would be unloading furniture (sorry, guys!), we had lunch at the Wet Dog Cafe. We hadn't eaten there in years, but we had enjoyed it those previous times. Our meal was delicious, and our view gorgeous. As we left, here came the Clan Macleay Pipes and Drums, playing drums and bagpipes as they marched down the wharf. It is one of the oldest continually existing bagpipe bands in North America and is based in Portland, Oregon. I don't know why they were parading down the promenade in Astoria, Oregon, but it made me cry, in a good way. What an ending to this trip.

We headed back to 101 and went down it briefly, headed to 202. But before we got to the intersection where 101 turned off, we saw a line of about a dozen pickups, all flying big American flags and a few with "Don't Tread on Me" flags, headed across our road. Did they come from the Astoria column? I felt a sense of dread. I had read the news on my phone earlier, and seen that there had been a White Supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia the night before, and that today, someone had been killed. Was this in conjunction with those marches back East? Oregon and Washington state have a disturbingly large number of right wing groups...

We've ridden 202 from Mist to Jewell a few times, and from Mist all the way to Astoria two or three times, but I don't think I had ever ridden from Astoria to Mist on the road. It felt like a completely different road. It was a gorgeous day: sunny, and not hot. The first perfect day of the trip. I'll take it. No, this hadn't been the best trip ever, but it had been a nice one, and being out on the motorcycle is usually way, way better than being at home. We had had no wind, just a few sprinkles of rain that day, and been to new places. It was a worthwhile trip. And now we were going home! We stopped at Jewell Meadows State Wildlife viewing area, one of my favorites, but for the first time, there was no elk to see. Still, a great place to pause, especially since there are flush toilets there.

It was back through Mist and to 47. We stopped at Mariolinos Pizza in Vernonia, because we were dying for ice cream, and another restaurant recommended them. I am having some rather serious dental issues, and this is the first ice cream I've had in about four months. It was hard to eat but, wow, it was delicious. I asked if they had benefited from the Banks-Vernonia trial, and she said no, not at all. But, honestly, that may be their own fault: this restaurant is almost impossible to see from the main drag, and they have no sandwich board out on the main drag. Some more visibility, and bike racks out front, would do wonders.

And then we got home. And it was wonderful to be home. Lucinda was out and about with neighbors, and seemed reasonably happy to see us once she came home, but with our skittish Mexican princess, it's not always easy to tell.

Here are all our photos, on Stefan's Flickr account.

Here's our 2012 trip in Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

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