Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Gorge and Mt. Hood

It turned out to be a loop day. My ride began heading west through town and onto I-84, then over the Columbia River via the I-205 bridge. There were a lot of people out and about. Once in Washington, I headed east on SR-14 and followed the Columbia upstream. Unfortunately it must have been a rally day for the Anti-Destination League as driving 10 mph under the limit seemed to be the goal of every cager.

Overlooking the Columbia River There were large numbers of motorcyclists on the road as well, and I saw several V-Stroms mixed in with a couple BMW's and more cruisers than I could count. Passing opportunities were few and far between. I pulled into the Chevron at North Bonneville, fueled up the bike and myself as well with a breakfast burrito and a frappucino.

There was no wind in the Gorge, a rare thing indeed. Several various county law enforcement officers were seen heading in the opposite direction, but I never had a chance to go more than 5 mph over the limit (I seldom go more than 10 over) so speeding tickets were definitely not an issue. I crossed back over the Columbia via the toll bridge at Hood River with climbing temperatures and headed south on highway 35.

The highway around the back side of Mt. Hood had significantly less traffic and I only had to pass two slow cagers. White River, Mt. Hood The cool temps past Mt. Hood Meadows felt refreshing and the massive piles of snow on the road side demonstrates just how much snow the Oregon Cascades can receive each winter.

I stopped briefly at Government Camp to drink some water and wave at a toddler in the rest area showing obvious fascination by the two-wheeled astronaut stopped nearby. For the first time in a long time I was able to ride unhindered down the road from Government Camp all the way to Rhododendron, without any trains of slow cars to follow.

By the time I got home the temperature was already in the mid 70's. The total loop covered 160 miles and took close to four hours.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Before, during, or after?

It's a difficult proposition deciding what's more enjoyable: the planning, the ride, or it's memory?

Unlike those in more northern latitudes, I ride all year. Granted, I'm on two wheels less often when there's 23" inches of snow on the ground, but I do what I can. The longest stretch I've gone without riding was three weeks and a record-breaking snowstorm was the cause. When I'm not riding I'm thinking about it.

I spend a great deal of time in Google Maps ( playing what-if with possible routes and destinations. It's even useful for finding accommodations and places to eat, sites to see. I've often said that I'm very spontaneous as long as I know all the plans ahead of time, and online tools like Google allow me to plan my trips, both real and imaginary, many times over well in advance of departure.

Sometimes I think my over-planning can lead to somewhat anti-climactic results when it comes time to actually hit the road. Perhaps my coldly charted arrival times and reservations have been handled so deftly that it leads to a noticeable lack of adventure. However, another philosophy might best be summed up by quoting something I told my employer the day after I got hired, "If you find yourself wondering what I do all day, why I'm so quiet, that's confirmation I'm doing my job correctly." (I work in IT and I was referring to a lack of system crashes and fire to be extinguished.)

But I think the planning and preparation of a trip is a great deal of the fun.

During rides it's comforting to know I have a place to stay when I reach each day's destination. It's not uncommon for me to have my dining options already scoped out, although I've yet to make reservations in advance. Perhaps part of the reason is because 71% of the time I'm dining on a weeknight and tend to avoid larger urban areas.

The rides themselves are gratifying for their own set of reasons. Despite my propensity to plan, I've yet to obtain the ability to control the weather, although I was friends with a guy in college that could (true story). God created the scenery, all I do is pick the route. Sometimes I'm tired, most of the time I'm exhilarated. On occasion I'll listen to music while I ride but seldom for more than an hour or so before switching to the inner solitude afforded me by old fashioned foam earplugs. Call me anti-social, but I've learned that the three of us -- me, myself, and I -- get along swimmingly, and my own thoughts have proven more than adequate as companionship for the road.

When I get to the day's destination a different rhythm sets in. Check in at the motel's front desk, weary and thankful for another safe ride. Find my room and unload the bike. Lay down on the bed and basically pass out for about an hour. Shower, then head to whatever restaurant is on my dinner list for the evening. I usually pick a restaurant within walking distance. Depending on the city and the dining destination I may take a local cab, but I never ride my bike to dinner. I often enjoy a cocktail of some kind with my evening meal and never drink and ride. That is one zero-tolerance policy I adhere to on a strict basis.

The rest of the evening is spent watching the Weather Channel and whatever movie might be on. I also spend some time writing in my journal, describing the day's events.

It's difficult to describe which phase of a trip is the most enjoyable. Ask a parent to pick a favorite child to get a sense for what I'm talking about. Each is different yet equally enjoyable. Perhaps that's why it doesn't get old. I can take a 10 day trip covering 2,400 miles, get home and want to head right back out the very next day.

Call me anti-social but there's something magical about spending that time alone on two wheels.