The journey begins...

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WASHINGTON

9/24/2007 PM  

Still recovering from lack of sleep, we quickly rode from Anacortes to Burlington through a large industrial area along the waterfront.  In Burlington we turned north on Highway 15 and quickly made our way along the expressway to Bellingham, where we had an appointment to meet up with our friend Wayne from Kalispell, Montana in a couple of days.  We located a campground/ RV park with all the usual amenities north of Bellingham in the town of Lynden.  In fact, half the RV park was actually a mobile home park with permanent residents.  Lynden had a quaint small-town feeling for a place that supplies 65 percent of the raspberries grown in the U.S. Another interesting fact, Lynden is home to the state's largest Dutch population - with approximately 70 percent of its residents coming from Dutch ancestry and modeled its Front Street on historical Amsterdam.  We were both quite tired and decided to have an early dinner at an Indian restaurant to satisfy Darren’s craving.  After a great meal, we began shopping for a new laptop.  Unsuccessful in locating a good bargain, we returned to the campground for a long night of undisturbed sleep!  

9/25/2007   RV Livin’ da

We both slept very late.  I finally dragged myself out of bed to make the weekly call home to my mother and then spent the rest of the day either reading or writing.  It was great to have a day of relaxation.  Another camper, staying in an RV, came by on his motorcycle to ask about our bikes and trip.  His name was Andy and he was a pilot for Japan Air who lives in Thailand, but had family in the Washington area.  He keeps his RV at the park for his return visits.  He invited us to dinner with him in his RV where we all enjoyed a great steak dinner.  The RV was unbelievably roomy!  It really felt like a comfortable studio apartment, complete with armchairs and a compact laundry.  After dinner we walked to a nearby gas station where we were able to rent a DVD - “The Illusionist”.  We were able to get the laptop started and watched the movie in a small pavilion. We enjoyed most of the movie, although Darren felt the ending was a bit obvious.   

9/26/2007  Reunited Again 

After another late morning, I did the laundry while working on the website.  Darren worked on the motorbikes.  It began to rain in the afternoon, so we put up a tarp to provide some extra shelter.  Wayne, the Irish tattoo artist from Kalispell, finally arrived into camp on his KLR in the late afternoon, cold and wet.  After setting up his tent and catching up for a while, we rode to an Irish pub nearby for dinner.  Wayne was a great sport as he ordered leprechaun legs to go with our pizza…We rented another movie – ‘Babel’ from the gas station.  We all agreed that it was not really worth the $.99 and 2 hours we dedicated to it.  I guess you can’t win them all!  

9/27/2007  A day apart 

Darren and Wayne visited the Ural dealer and went to breakfast before taking a ‘boys ride’ to Mount Baker.  I spent a few hours catching up with a close friend back in Georgia before riding into town to treat myself to a Thai lunch.  Afterwards I shopped around to find the best laptop deal in town before riding back to camp at dusk.  The guys returned shortly afterwards and we all rode together to make the laptop purchase before having a meal at Billy McHale’s – a franchise bar and grill.  Darren and Wayne were both exhausted and described fantastic scenery despite riding through snow and rain, which is not surprising for the mountain that holds the world's record for highest snowfall and has the longest ski season in Washington. 

9/28/2007  Welcome to Woodinville 

Wayne packed up his gear for the journey back to Montana.  Before parting ways, we all rode to the nearby town of Everson to enjoy breakfast at a small-town diner that served huge portions.  We were disappointed to see Wayne leave us again so soon, especially after receiving the news that he and his family would be moving back to Ireland soon.  Hopefully we will all be able to arrange to met up again in the future. 

After packing up our own gear, we visited Joe’s Sporting Goods, a huge warehouse-type outdoor gear store that had a great selection of shoes.  Darren picked up some new shoes that would pack small and flat (to replace his huge hiking boots). 

We then traveled south along Highway 9 toward Seattle.  There was consistent traffic along the highway as we passed by farms and ranches for the nearly 2 hour ride.  We entered the town of Woodinville and stopped to contact Les and Shelly, the couple we had met at the gas station in the town of Teslin on our way north along the Alaskan Highway.  They had been gracious enough to allow u to use their address to receive mail and now, to provide us with accommodation as we traveled though the area.  Arriving at their home, we were greeted by the sight of two beautiful horses in a small stable in their backyard.  Shelly prepared a homemade pizza (YUM!) and we shared travel stories.  Les is an artist who creates fantastic pottery, as well as a painter and a musician.  He also spent some time working in computers for Microsoft.  He offered to help us with our laptop issues – a blessing we would never have expected!  

9/29/2007  Pike Place Market and Olympic Sculpture Park 

Les and Shelly insisted that we stay for few days, so we grabbed our rain gear and took the car downtown to check out Seattle.  We walked through the Pike Place Market, a fast-paced modern bazaar popular for both locals and tourists where the fish mongers call out to one another as they toss a purchased fish back and forth before delivering it to their customer. 

After a light lunch at a pub overlooking the market, we took a walk with our umbrellas through Olympic Sculpture Park.  The Olympic Sculpture Park sits on a nine-acre industrial site that was transformed into a green space for art.  On a clear day, this waterfront park enjoys the incredible views and beauty of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, as well as the Seattle seascape including the famous 650-foot-high Space Needle.  Unfortunately we were there on a not-so-clear day, so only the cityscape was visible.  The park includes over 80,000 plants, 554 trees and many large sculptures by top names in contemporary art.  We were all especially impressed by a sculpture of a tree that looked so life-like and fit so well into the surroundings that we almost walked right past it.  It was an excellent day!  

9/30/2007 – 10/7/2007  Touratech, EMP, Twin Peaks and Amazing Hospitality 

Les and Shelly gave us over a week of hospitality and friendship that we never expected and will always appreciate!  Being on a trip as long as ours, you really miss the comforts of home and to have someone open their home to us for so long and with such kindness was really special.  We returned the laptop we had purchased in Bellingham and Les helped us purchase a much better system through his personal connections from his days working with Microsoft.  After discussing the idea of getting a larger topbox for Darren’s bike, Les volunteered to lend his craftsmanship to the creation of a custom aluminum topbox – which met all our needs and more.  Prior to engaging in this major creation, he and Darren collaborated to create secure containers that connect to the rear of Darren’s panniers to carry fuel for the cooker and a 2-quart container of oil for the motorbike as well as a ‘mailbox’ container that was attached to the front of the bike (not sure for the purpose of this box yet). 

Another highlight of our time in Seattle was a couple of visits to Touratech.  Although Touratech does not make touring items for KLRs, they are a very well-respected resource for anyone on a long-distance motorcycle journey.  Touring their small showroom and chatting with a friendly sales representative was enough to make it worth the trip. 

We visited the very modern museum, EMP – Experience Music Project.  This is not your average museum!  EMP is dedicated to exploring the creativity and innovation of music through interactive exhibits with cutting-edge technology.  It is housed in a most unique piece of architecture created by Frank O. Gehry whose inspiration was taken from dismantled guitars.  The outside of the building is a fusion of textures and colors as it attempts to represent the energy of music.  The structure’s 21,000 shingles were each individually cut and shaped from stainless steel or aluminum to fit into its specific location.  There are 5 finishes (mirrored purple, brushed silver, gold, red and blue) that take on unique shades when viewed from different angles and the colored are expected to change over time – reflecting the way that music changes over time. 

Inside the museum, you can try your skills at multiple instruments and even take automated tutorials to learn a few chords or a melody.  We had a great time in a recording studio where our antics were recorded as we made complete fools of ourselves!  Unfortunately the only one of us with any real musical talent was Les.  I was especially impressed with his patience while we completely murdered the potential of every instrument we touched…After our recording sessions, we joined together one last time under the band name Funky Clay, to perform on stage in front of a huge simulated audience!  It was completely goofy, childish fun!  We were disappointed that half the museum seemed to be closed for remodeling, but we still enjoyed ourselves immensely! 

On one of our rides through the city, we stopped for a quick photo of the Fremont Troll, an amazing sculpture created by a collaboration of 4  Seattle artists.  The troll has been lurking under the Aurora bridge since 1990 where it glares with one shiny metal eye and is crushing a Volkswagen.   I love the artistry of Seattle!

Darren is a fan of the 1990-91 television series Twin Peaks created by David Lynch, which was filmed in Snoqualmie and North Bend – small towns very close to Les and Shelly’s home in Woodinville.  So on a clear day, we all geared up and took the motorbikes for a ride to check out the filming areas of Twin Peaks.  Snoqualmie Falls are featured in the opening scenes of the show.  The Falls were actually quite impressive – throwing tons of water into a mist over the boardwalk built to overlook the falls.  Behind the falls stands the Salish Lodge and Spa – the filming location for ‘The Great Northern’ Lodge in the show.   We continued down the highway to North Bend, where we visited Twede’s Café, the location known as the ‘Double R Diner’ in the television series and feasted on a piece of famous cherry pie and ‘a damn fine cup of coffee’ (a repeated line in the movie).  It was a good time reminiscing scenes from the show and enjoying the good weather!   

Les and Shelly threw a dinner party on Saturday night where we met some of their friends and neighbors - Bill, Peter and Mary.  We all had a great time talking about traveling and motorbikes.  After dinner, we used their home theatre to show off some of our travel photos.  It was a fun night among new friends.   

10/8/2007 

We left Les and Shelly around noon and allowed the GPS to lead us along small residential roads south.  We stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch in Maple Valley before continuing south on Highway 7, past scenic farms and wineries.  We were able to see the massive Mt. Rainier looming over the trees - but never at a convenient time to take a photo.  The mountain loves to hide in the clouds!  South of Enumclaw, we stopped early to camp at a campground where there were only 2 other campers – one in an RV and the other in a tent – another sign that we should be heading quickly south!  

10/9/2007 

We woke to overcast, but rain-free skies in the morning.  As we continued further along Highway 7, we came through the town of Elbe, which seemed to be made up almost entirely of old railroad cars converted into hotels, pubs and restaurants.  We rode along Highway 706 to the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park, where we were finally able to photograph the elusive mountain.  We chose not to enter the national park and returned along the highway to continue south on Highway 7. 

As we turned west onto At Highway 12, we drove up a small side road where we caught sight of Mount St. Helen, the powerful volcano that its most famous for its catastrophic erupted in 1980 after being shaken by an earthquake that measured 5.1 on the Richter scale.  It was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.   Fifty-seven people were killed and 250 homes were destroyed as well as all major infrastructures in the area.   The eruption caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 ft to 8,365 ft and replacing it with a mile-wide crater.   I would love to have explored the site further, but we also knew that the good weather we were in would not last and we needed to continue southbound. 

Stopping for gas in the tiny community of Ethel, we couldn't resist the draw of a tiny burger cafe next to the gas station.  It had a very small dining area where they squeezed in about 8 tables.  They served simple, good food and had a clientele of tight-knit neighbors (most were elderly) who all seemed to know one another.  It really felt like a throw-back to a simpler time without the airs of nostalgia.  Put another way, I thought it was a place stopped in time, but it didn't seem to know it.

We zigzagged through small residential roads as we followed the GPS across Interstate 5, where we turned onto Highway 411, which led us to the state line and into Oregon. 


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