Day 8                                                                                                  
June 13th, 2006
Lewis and Clark State Park                                                                 
Near Walla Walla,  Washington   

                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Because the "campers from hell," kept me up all night, I was already awake when the rain started splattering my tent.   I was mad.  I was mad at being up all night, and I was mad it was raining again.

It was not raining hard but it was going to get worse judging by the skies.  I scrambled to strike camp and get every thing packed before then.  I was rolling my tent when claps of thunder started popping over head.  It was 6 in the morning.  I camped under a thick layer of trees, not the best situation in an electrical storm.  Headline- "Long Rider from Alabama taken out while camping under big trees with storm approaching."  Making it sound like I was a dumb southern boy lost in the Washington.

By the time I completed loading the 1300 the bottom fell out and I ran to the rest room/shower for shelter.  "Can't go anywhere in this," so I sat tight.  My phone was dead, and I couldn't call anyone for advice, so went back for the charger.  I figured now would be a time to bring it back up a couple of bars.  

Talk about boring.  Nothing like having a loaded super sport tourer ready to ride, and being locked down, but it was raining too hard with too much lighting in the area to try to move out.  I stood in the bathroom door for almost an hour.  "If I can find out the big picture I can plan a route to get outta this."  With my phone back up to 3 bars I called Peter Menard.

He advised rain was in my area but riding west will take me out of the bulk of it, but not all of it.  "Man, just a lot rain in the area."  He reported it was moving east and it might get better by this afternoon.

An hour after loading, the rain let up, and I got on the road.  On the way out I rode to the "campers from hell" site and pointed the 1300 at their 2 tents (parents and kids).  I went to high beam with PIAAs blazing, lit up their tents.  I bleeped the throttle, but they might not hear the quiet purring 1300.  Not to worry, I hit the horn.  I could see their figures in the shadows of my powerful lights, and they rose up in their tents.  I wasn't leaving till I made sure I woke EVERYONE up.  Including the girl with the whiny voice.  The kids stuck their heads out and started calling out, and the father followed.

It was pouring rain.  Now he was going to be stuck keeping 3 kids happy for hours in a tent, and those aren't just ANY kids.  The fact they were going to be even more irritable at not having any sleep only made me feel better.  They only bedded down 2 hours ago.  The father popped his head out, and looked.  I gave him a salute and rode out.

I went back to U.S. 12 West and started another day in the rain.  Clouds hung low in the air, and the ST's windscreen parted the water around me  Temps were in the mid 50s so it was a little cool.

In Waitsburg I went to SR 124, and started toward the Cascades.  On previous trips I've avoided riding the west side of the Cascades because the area is so rainy.  But I wanted to spend time on the coast this tour so here I am. 

This area of Washington is mostly farmland, and grain elevators are common.
























                                      "grain elevators are common."


The road to the interstate was fast and straight, and a few miles after turning west the rain lifted, but from the looks of the sky ahead, it was only temporary.

Riding along the highway a patch of sunshine brightened the pastures and road ahead of me.  The sun managing to break through the thick cloud cover just for an instant.  I soaked myself in it, but it was over far to quick.























     "a patch of sunshine brightened the pastures"

I went to I-82 West and arrived in Richland just in time for the morning commute- and it was raining again.  I found the strip of rain Peter was talking about.  I had on my lined water resistant gloves, with the Roadcrafter zipped up.

I reminded myself I needed to call the vendor and have the PIAA light shipped to Don's house, but it did no good, I still forgot it.
The rain lasted all the way to Yakima, it was depressing.  I wanted to visit Mt. St. Helens today, but wasn't sure the weather was going to allow it.
Yakima is located just east of the Cascades.  My hope was to get across them and pray the weather would improve.

At the Gearjammers Truck Stop I was eating a peanut butter and jelly in a booth, and asked a nearby trucker. 

"know anything about the weather on the west side of the moutanins?"

"not much, but it should be better than this"

I called Debbie at the office.  "Look its still cool and rainy.  I'm going home through the desert and I don't care if its 125 degrees. I'm tired of cool, wet weather.  It's wearing me down."  "Well ok, just be careful and call me later."  "I will baby."

I left Yakima on U.S. 12 and started across the Cascades.  The road was scenic despite the drizzle. I was getting use to foggy mountains, and the curtain that greeted me near Whites Pass was no big deal.

The Cowlitz River was swollen with rain and snow melt as it came crashing down out of the mountains.  The highway and river share the same real estate over the Cascades.  The road moved up in elevation in the shadows of Mt. Rainer.  I couldn't see it well because I was so close to it, but I doubt if it would have mattered with the fog.

Out to my left great mountain vistas appeared in the broken clouds.  I could see lighter skies in the west and my spirits lifted along with the rain.  I kept the speed down on the wet road. 






















 


              I enjoyed the Cascade views through swirling clouds

U.S. 12 is cut into the side of the mountain in several places.  The weather was less then perfect, but it mattered little as I made my way across the Cascades.  Every mile west the climate improved and visibility increased.

All the high mountain peaks were heavy in snow, this is one of Amerca's great snow fields.

My motorcycle and I are a team.  He counts on me to keep us out of trouble by reading the road surface, and the minds of dumb cage drivers.  He needs my instincts to keep us upright and moving, and in return he has to be reliable and stay in good working order.  We have been in some remote, tight spots and will be in more before its over with, so we have to work together. 





























                              U.S. 12 West cuts across the Cascades


Near Whites Pass I switched on the 4 way flashers.

A fast moving log truck appears behind me, his grill the only thing visible in the fog.  I was doing the best I could at 60 mph, anything faster just not safe.  I don't know the road, the surface is wet, and I can't see more then a couple of hundred feet ahead.

He was too close, and making me nervous.  He obviously knows the road, and in a hurry.  I wanted to pull over and let him by, but I can't see far enough ahead to note a turnout coming up.  I needed to come off the road  quickly to avoid being run over.  I can't take any outs to the left, can't see far enough for opposing traffic coming at me, so I'll have to go right.

Then I caught a break, an RV immerged out of the fog.  "I'm gonna take this joker and put him between me an the log truck."  I waited for a fog break to pull it off.  About a mile later, I had a quarter mile line of sight and took him on the double yellow. "Now I feel better, let HIM deal with it."
A couple of east bound HD Road Kings came by.  The riders had on NO rain gear.  A good omen.  I came down out of the mountains and the fog lifted.

In Packwood I stopped for gas at a Shell station and found the Timber Mill Diner for lunch.  A young waitress named Mandy in tight fitting jeans waited on me.  She had on a bright red blouse, and smiled all the time, her shoulder length brunette hair was tucked behind her ears.  I'd been in a waitress slump lately, and Mandy was a welcome change.

"baby, I need you to charge this up for me," as I handed her my phone.  She took it behind the counter.

She brought my chicken sandwich over and asked-"so what do ya think of Washington?"

"well baby, I like it.  Rains alot but get use to it I bet.  The question is HOW do you like it?"

"Its ok, but I'd like to try somewhere different."

"Like where?"

" LA"

When I finished eating I called her over,  "alright now charge this," as I gave her my videocam.  "Ok."  I went back to my axim to put in some notes.
An older lady came in and went behind the counter, the next thing I know she hands me back the Sony.

"I'm sorry but we can't charge this."

Apparently she was the owner, "why, something wrong with the power?"

"we get power surges", a crock and bull story,  "and I couldn't be responsible for it."

I shot back-
"Dam NOBODY in this country wants to be responsible for anything anymore.  I wasn't askin ya to, I'm not stupid enough to ask for damages if something happens to it,  I was raised to be responsible for my actions.  But if y'all got power problems to the point you can't risk charging up a videocam, I'd suggest you get the electrician out here.  Just give me the camera."  I was pissed, but not raising my voice.  "I've had my stuff charged up in cafes from here to bumsquat, Eygpt and NEVER had anybody afraid till I came to Washington.  But this is the land of big Government so I'm not surprised,  probably need a permit of some kind."

"You don't need to get huffy."

"M'am just forget it, sorry I bothered ya"

I looked over to Mandy who was looking at me apologetically but unable to say anything.  I said to her- M'am I'm sorry if I got ya in trouble."
"It's ok, she's havin a bad day."

I wanted my videocam charged up for the ride up to Mt. Helens.  Mandy was able to get it back up to 60 minutes, before the boss busted her.
The road was calling me so went back to the 1300.  "Take me outta here, before I pull my hair out in frustration."

In Randle I saw the turn off for the Windy Ridge lookout at St. Helens, but I wanted the more scenic SR 504 access road to the south.

U.S. 12 took me to I-5.  I missed the 506 turnoff which would have saved me a few miles.  But what's 10 miles or so in a 8,000 mile tour?

I rode the interstate south to the Silver Lake, the jumping off point for the mountain.  I took a break in a con store.  In Washington they like their latte.  Drive up places are everywhere.  The con store I was stopped at had a drive up window in the rear.

Sitting outside in the cloudy but warm skies was nice.  I drank my Mountain Dew and thought about the rest of the days ride.  It was 50 miles from here to St. Helens.  That makes it 100 in all to get back to here.  Add another 100 to get over to the coast, and I have a busy afternoon ahead.

While sitting on the curb a lady came out of the coffee shop entrance and started talking to me.  "So you know about Harley Davidson."  "Yes m'am a little."  "My dad was so and so, and he helped bring them to Washington."  "Oh really?"  She also told me he had something to do with Boeing a long time ago.  The lady was about my age, and I assumed her father was deceased by the past tense she spoke.

"Here take this," as she handed over a cup of latte.  I don't know if she thought I was destitute, cute, or honoring her father.  Surely she didn't think I was down on my luck eating snacks, riding a 15,000 dollar motorcycle all the way from Alabama, so I'm hoping it was the last 2 conclusions.  "thanks m'am your awful sweet."  I didn't have the heart to tell her I didn't drink coffee.  "You have a good ride."  I waited for her to leave and throw the coffee away.  It was the thought that counts.

Time to head for St. Helens.   SR 504 is the only route to the mountain from this side.  I followed it up through the valleys and over the high peaks.  About 20 miles from Silver Lake you start to see the devastation.  Folks, when that joker blew out it wiped out stuff for 50 miles. 




















 

            These trees were downed when the mountain blew out


I could see downed trees and wasted meadows where the lava flowed down.  Mud and ash swept down the valley like pouring concrete downhill.  The deeper into the forest I traveled the colder and higher it got.  I stopped at several lookouts to see the valley where lava layed claim to everything.  How awesome that must have been.  


























                               Lava poured down this valley like a river


It was easy to see nasty weather in the distance, but I did not let that deter me from Mt. St. Helens.

The fog grew worse, and limited visibility.  About 10 miles from the visitor center it was really thick.  The road was very twisty as I went above the tree line.  Temps were in the low 40s and I was cold.  I had the 4 ways on the last few miles.  At 2 pm in the afternoon it seemed like 7pm as the dark clouds and mist blocked the sun.

Fog was so thick at the welcome center I couldn't see 5 feet, never mind the 5 miles out to St. Helens.  I was disappointed.  All this way and not able to see anything.  I did see pictures of it in the visitors center.  That's the way it goes.  What can I say, it is rainy and foggy in this part of the country, you deal with it. 


























                     The visitor center is back there somewhere


Fifteen minutes later I was riding back down the mountains to Silver Lake, and from there on to the coast.  My plan was to camp in one of the state parks near the ocean.

I battled the same fog on the return ride, and was glad to see it roll away when I returned to flat land, and temps return to the 60s.

I spotted 2 sport bike riders with soft bags at a turnout and came in.  "Y'all goin to the top?"  "yeah"  "I can save ya the trouble, not gonna be able to see anything, and the riding ain't good.  The best parts are socked in fog, and its cold."  They took my advice and went back to Silver Lake.
Two hours later, I was back at the con store I started, checking maps.  "Well that was interesting."  After checking a few routes I was ready. 
 
A quick ride on I-5 followed where I exited for SR 4.  I got bogged down in Longview.  The city was busy, and cars were everywhere.  A lot of stop and go.  I topped off the tank at a con store on the north side of town.  It looked like Longview had seen better days.  The weather was partly cloudy and warm.  

The afternoon was waning as I cleared the city and rode to the coast.  SR 4 was a nice ride along the wide Columbia River.  I was in the heart of Lewis and Clark country.  I wanted to stop and check out the site they winter quartered but its going to be too late in the afternoon when I arrive on the coast.

So much of life around here depends on the Columbia.  One of the great rivers of America.



























                           The mighty Columbia River nears the Pacific Ocean


The highway carved along the banks and I found myself leaning the Honda in some good curves. 
 
In Cathlament I stopped at a store to see how far it was to the coast.  A GL rider from Arkansas, in his daughters car, (in town visiting) informed it was raining back on the coast.  "Dang, how much longer?"  I was getting bummed at the lack of sun.

The road carried me by farmland and homes, as I moved toward the coast.  It also brought me into a slow, drippy rain.  Again fog drifting in from the coast covered the road and view.

When the land was low the fog lifted, and I could see several barges moving up river.

A pick up truck bolted into a stop sign, making me go for the brakes.  It looked as if he wasn't going to stop and I had to be ready, but he stayed planted.

The fog was not as bad as in the mountains, visibility was half mile, but the cold coastal wind off the water seeped the into the Roadcrafter.  I tightened my collar and pulled to the side to to remove the Oakleys and returned to standard glasses. 

The Lewis and Clark campsite gate was down.  But I could still see enough to see why Lewis lamented their winter quarters.  He wrote something of rain more rain and clouds.  Day after day.  I was just getting a taste of things.  The historical I read was  gloomy beyond words.  How they kept their sanity I don't know.

It was late, and I still had no place to spend the night.  Although a number of campgrounds were in the area, that option was out.  Too cold and wet, with more stuff blowing in off the ocean.

I scanned across the river at the lights of Astoria, Oregon.  "Looks like I can find a motel there."  A long bridge across the Columbia connects the two states.  Harbor lights bobbed and dipped in the water.  "Yes, salvation lies across the bridge, I shall go there."

With the Pacific ocean on my right I swung the 1300 up and over the bridge.  I was at the end of the continent, my ride across across America complete.  The gray skies hung over me as I spanned the water into a mythical looking Astoria.

Astoria, Oregon was so bleak looking in the dusky light and mist, I thought it might dissolve away before I could get there.  Several roads sketched across the cityscape but the only one that mattered was U.S. 101.

I took the 1300 past a row of hillside wood frame house with glass windows pointing toward the harbor.  Many needed painting but no one seemed in a hurry to do so.  Several seafood shops were scattered among the con stores and gas stations.  

The Columbia Motel looked as good as any so I went into find out the rate.  I fail to see why motels REFUSE to post the rate where you can see it.  "How much?"  "49 dollars, tax makes 53."  "I''ll take it."  The main selling point of the Columbia? The entire parking lot was covered.

A man stood by in the corner with debit card problems.  Seems they say he has no money in the account and he says otherwise.  Can you say identity theft?  I'm thinking somebody got his numbers and fleeced him.  Happened to Chris just a few months ago.

I put the 1300 asleep after a 431 mile day.

It was too late to call home so I cleaned the screen of the 13 and took a shower.  The room appeared to be clean, so I had no complaints.
It was almost dark when I stepped out to walk the few blocks back to the restaurant I noted on the way in.  It was still drizzling rain.  It rains over 130 inches a year in Western Oregon.  So much so, even an old seadog like Sir Drake complained about it, and he came from a rainy place.  People here get use to rain like Texans do wind, and Alabama natives hot and humidity.

Inside Josephine's I took a booth next to 3 sea captains, their charter hats pulled back tight on their heads.

"Y'all fish for a living?"

"not from around here are ya?"

"WHY does everyone keep sayin that?  But no"

"Use to fish, but the waters are all fished out, and too much regulation.  In the charter boat business."

"so y'all take tourists out for whale watchin?"

Kind of like riding with training wheels after riding a Honda ST 1300.

"Its a living"

The grilled chicken was lackluster, but should have expected it in a seafood place.  Again, I had a waiter and NOT a waitress.  Must be a conspiracy.  I reviewed video and pics, put notes in the Axim, and paid my tab.

A dismal walk followed back to the motel.  I stopped in a stop and rob for popcorn and Mountain Dew.   Water dripped off the edges of everything.  My guess it had been raining here for DAYS.  

"At least tomorrow I turn south for California, and will be there the day after.  Surely the clouds and rain will be gone by then."  I made a final call on the routes, and wrote them down.  

I was tired from no sleep the night before so had no trouble drifting off.  










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