Monday, February 18, 2008

Astoria and Jewel Elk

Mike and I spent Saturday on a loop trip to Astoria and back.

It was clear but cool when I left my house in Sandy at 7:40AM. I got to Mike's house in Scappoose an hour and 10 minutes later. We checked out his new bike, a 2005 Suzuki M50, dubbed "Big Red", then headed over to the gas station to fuel up. Because it was still cold and we were leery of hitting icy spots, we decided to take Hwy 30 up the Columbia to Astoria, then loop back through the coast range through Jewel and Mist instead of the other way around.

Within 20 miles of Astoria we hit some drizzle but it wasn't much to worry about. Bikes and MikeMike and I pulled into a small state park overlooking the river for a bio break. We were getting hungry and lunch time was approaching so we decided to stop in Astoria for some grub.

Stephanie's wasn't too busy when we parked our bikes and headed inside. Astoria was overcast and there was an occasional mist in the air. Mike ate a Reuben sandwich and I ordered biscuits and gravy. The food was adequate but not overwhelming. Our waitress looked like Laverne's friend, Shirley, and the other waitress was probably a meth head based on the fact that we couldn't understand a single word she said, and everything she said was funny enough (to her) to warrant laughing out loud.

Two older guys came out of the restaurant as we were gearing up to head out and chatted with us quite a while about our bikes. One made the audacious claim that he had recently purchased a 1994 BMW RS1100 in excellent shape for a mere $1,000. If that was true I wonder if he could get me a good deal on some beach-front property in Aspen.

We had more mist on our face shields as we turned inland and headed into the coast range. Highway 202 was very bumpy and rough, with lots of gravel in the roadway. The damage from recent storms was evident everywhere. We could see where creeks had risen above their banks and flooded surrounding areas. The riding was slow because of the road conditions but we took our time and maintained a good pace.

Eventually we made it to the Jewel elk viewing area and were not disappointed. Elk at JewelThere were probably 50-60 elk in the field, half bulls in the velvet and the other half cows. We snapped several pictures, then continued eastward.

By the time we got back to Scappoose we had dry pavement and clearing skies. Mike's fuel light came on and I was getting tired, so we parted ways after a handshake and a "Great ride!" His loop was roughly 180 miles and mine was approximately 275 by the time the day was done.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Riding in the Valley of the Sun

I just returned from a short vacation to Phoenix. The contrast is dramatic between the mid 70's and sunshine found in the Valley of the Sun and the gray rain of my home turf east of Portland, Oregon. I saw many motorcycles out and about in Arizona, with quite a lot of Gold Wings on the back roads, even a couple traversing the somewhat treacherous Apache Trail (188) -- 22 miles of steep washboard gravel road.

Apparently Arizona doesn't require riders to wear helmets. The first indication I had of this legal status was a guy on a black cruiser, running his fingers through his movie star hair at a stop light -- with a full-face helmet bungied to his pillion seat. I just shook my head in wonder. After experiencing the crazy cagers on Phoenix freeways my opinion of helmet-less riders migrated to "those people are 100% insane". Phoenix drivers are fast and seemingly incapable of staying in their own lane.

The weather there is great in the off season, of course, and there are numerous excellent riding roads outside the Phoenix metro area. I wouldn't want to be on two wheels during the summer, though. I'd rather ride in 40 degree rain than 100+ heat, dry or not.

Besides lots of cruisers and Gold Wings, and two sport bikes, I never saw a single V-Strom. Needless to say, I could hardly wait to get home and ride. I was on two wheels the very next morning after my return, headed to work.