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"Home"

I kinda crashed in bed after that hard ride in the rain on Saturday in Oregon, but the time change had me up at 630am, long before the Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar was open.  I used the time to reload the bike with the now dried out rain gear and get packed up.   From my third floor room I could look out at the street, which is essentially a frontage road off of I-84 lined with five other hotels in addition to mine, on the bluff above Pendleton.  I counted a half-dozen U-Haul's towing cars and full of the lives of people who were on the move somewhere and had overnighted at this road side strip of hotels in Pendleton.   People who's "home" is moving somewhere for whatever reason it may be, in their rented trucks, loaded with their lives.  Wondering about their new "home".  Meanwhile, I'm at "home" on the road as well -- by choice, and not necessity.
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It was cloudy to the East, but sunny to the West where I was headed when I pulled out and rode down the hill into Pendleton itself.   It was cool -- in the mid 50s -- requiring a double layer of a hoodie underneath my jacket.  The town sits about a mile off the Interstate down in a narrow valley, where the main street is lined with old buildings.  It's a long narrow town with old US-30 running through it, along with the Union Pacific main line.  There's not much room for anything else which is why the Interstate skirts the city on the bluff above. I spotted a green signal on the rail line and so pulled off to watch a stack train rumble through town before heading south on OR-37 towards the Columbia River.  The photo above is my view.  Now who couldn't resist a road like that rather than ride the Interstate?   With some good tunes on the i-Pod and no traffic on a quiet Sunday morning, this was about as good as it could get.  Rolling hills, fresh cut wheat, the occasional farm, and an endless horizon.

It feels good to be headed home, although I often feel like the road is as much a home "home" as my house in Seattle.   In fact, I've been "home" this entire time if I think about it -- Seattle, Salt Lake City, Palm Springs and the road.  All of them are my "home" in one respect or another.  I miss all of them when I'm away, and I'm glad when I'm there, and I'm always ready to visit another one of them after a while.  I'll be glad to get home to Seattle, but I'll miss the road -- and Salt Lake -- and Palm Springs -- after a while, and I'll go visit them.   I think that's a good thing.

I had to stop for gas since I didn't fill up this morning, so I hit the first gas station along the road after Pendleton.  Oregon is an oddity -- we aren't allowed to pump our own gas.  Well, bikers can handle the hose and squeeze the pump handle, but the attendant has to swipe the card and choose the grade for us.  He or she also has to pump everyone else, but for some reason they allow bikers to handle the hose ourselves.  I guess we are smarter than the average Oregonian -- or meaner, one of the two.  But its a big irritation having to wait for the attendant to work his way around to whatever pump you are at.
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I crossed the Columbia and meandered down WA-221 through some vineyards for Columbia Crest Winery, and then down into the Yakima Valley.  This is a very familiar and quiet road, paralleling the Interstate on the other side of the valley, and was at one time the old highway.  It runs THROUGH the towns along the valley not around them.  Prosser, Mabton, Status, Toppenish, Wapato, Union Gap and Yakima.  On a quiet Sunday morning I can't help but sing "Sunday Morning Coming Down" in my head as I see folks coming out of church services, or visiting with friends in their yards, and nearly everyone waves or nods to the biker rolling through their quiet towns.

I stop in Yakima for some lunch for both me and Angus.  As I sit waiting for my food I make the final notes in my journal.   I've been using this custom hand-made, leather bound journal for five years, and I finish up by filling the very last page with notes about this trip while on an outdoor picnic table. 
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There is a wonderful artist who sells these journals at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  I had her make me one that would fit in Angus' tank bra, and I use it to make notes about things I think about or observe while riding, and it's the basis for what I write here.  It's been with me on every motorcycle trip since May 2009.  That trip was the start of what will eventually become a book about US-89, which is "MY" road in many respects.  Between then and now I've filled it up with notes and thoughts and sketches of ideas.  It's well worn -- the leather cover has nicks and scratches and stains. It's had gas dribbled on it, and ketchup and grease from beef jerky.  It's rode with me along the length US-66, down the coast on US-101, through New Orleans and up the Mississippi and across the plains, and countless other places and miles. The paper is ragged and in some places the ink smeared.  But I treasure it, and it is one of my prized possessions.  It is irreplaceable.  And now its time to order another one.

The remaining miles up through Yakima Canyon and into Cle Elum are as familiar as any road, and one of my favorite rides and it relaxes me and prepares me for the hell that always ends this route.   The final 80 miles from Cle Elum into Seattle on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass.  I hate this road.  I truly hate it.  If there were a reasonable alternative I'd take it in a second.  There isn't.   It's heavily trafficked, rutted, and scared and pitted and bumpy and everyone whizzes along at 80mph on a curvy hilly road with no shoulders and under perpetual construction --  full of truckers and vacationers and people unaware of their surroundings.  It's hell on a motorcycle.  My blood pressure elevates, I clench up, and I feel like a leaf riding down a rapid on a river.  It's no way to end what has been a terrific and wonderful ride to Salt Lake and back.

I count the miles down and grit my teeth and bear it.   When I finally exit off and motor up Roxbury towards home I'm able to relax.   Pulling into the driveway it looks like no one has been home for a couple of weeks -- weeds and leaves and pine needles all over the driveway.  I back Angus into the garage, unload, and go into the house and relax with a dram of fine Scotch and a soak in the hot tub to unwind from the ride over the pass.

I unpack and settle back into this home.  I need to go through the mail, and give Angus a much needed bath and detailing to get the dead bugs out of his engine.  There are things to do, people to see, tasks to complete, just like in any home.  I'm not quite missing the road, Salt Lake, or Palm Springs just yet, but I know I will soon.  Indeed I'm lucky to be able to call all these places "home", and to visit them often.  I guess its what makes me "me".
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