Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Two Shorts Don't Equal One Long

I think this is the first year in a long time that I haven't -- and likely wont -- get to take a long multi-day motorcycle ride. I shipped Angus back from Palm Springs at the end of the winter because I didn't have time to fly back down and ride him home, and I'm not riding to my Mother's birthday in Utah like I usually do in August. The magazine and I skipped Sturgis this year too. Now with the pending move in a month, it means I'm not going to get a long multi day trip this year unless its later in the fall. But I've got to buy a house and get it set up etc, so chances are pretty slim.

But in the mean time I've taken a couple of long all-day trips around the state to kind of say goodbye to some favorite places and to escape while the realtors took over the house for open houses and stuff.  The weather has been glorious and I've enjoyed the rides -- but nothing quite equals a multi-day trip. Two or three short trips don't equal a long one.

I've sort of been compiling a list of great burger joints to visit on kind of a farewell burger tour this year -- a post I'll finish before I leave. This past Saturday was the last free Saturday I'll have before the moving vans come on September 20th, and wanting to ride Yakima Canyon one more time before I leave, as well as hit up some favorite spots, I took the day to make a nice 320 mile loop around the central Cascades. Although it's barely mid August the leaves are starting to change already on the passes, even though this was also the hottest day of the year so far.

Unfortunately, and even though it was a Saturday, Seattle's soul crushing traffic made my trip from home to Issaquah -- a whopping 18 miles -- take over an hour in stop-and-go surface street and freeway traffic. It didn't open up until I started up Snoqualmie Pass just east of Issaquah. THIS I will not miss when I leave.  But once I hit the open road, despite it being I-90, my blood pressure dropped and I got to enjoy the feeling of wind on my bare arms as I rode up the pass in a sleeveless t-shirt. It was warm, but not terribly hot. I-90 is not the greatest road in the world -- rough in many spots and noisy, and so I bailed off at the earliest opportunity and headed up to the small town of Roslyn, some 80 miles from Seattle.
Roslyn was an old coal mining town back at the turn of the century. (As an aside do we get to still call the 1890-1900 period "turn of the century" because technically we are in a new century now?....hmmm.) Roslyn's claim to fame however was that it was the exterior setting for the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska in the 1990's TV series "Northern Exposure". Despite the show being off the air now for more than 20 years, poor little Roslyn still clings to it's fifteen minutes of fame and tries to capitalize on it, and believe it or not people still flock to it for that reason, like they do to North Bend, WA, the site of another 1990's TV show "Twin Peaks", and out to Forks, WA, home of the vampires and werewolves in the gawdawful "Twilight" movies.

I hadn't been back to Roslyn in some years -- it was a regular stop in the 1990s whenever people would visit after I first moved here as they all wanted to see the town from the show. It hasn't changed much -- my two favorite spots are still there, Roslyn Cafe and the Brick Tavern.
I hopped back on Angus and rode down a few miles to the next town along the way, Cle Elum. This is an old railroad town on the Northern Pacific, but the few trains on what is now BNSF's secondary main across the Cascades don't stop at all. The best thing about Cle Elum though is Owen's Meats -- who's slogan is "You Can't Beat Our Meat", or "The Candy Store for the Carnivore". It's as old as the hills and is the traditional butcher shop with an old wood floor worn down soft, sawdust, and the smell fo spices. The jerky is a staple on any long motorcycle trip so I buy a pound although I'll only eat a few sticks and give the rest to friends.

Just outside of Cle Elum is a great old burger stand -- but I just rode on past Twin Pines as I was headed for Miner's in Yakima and I can't eat that much. The road here is the reminant of the old US-10 which was the main highway before I-90 was built. It ambles along the Yakima River between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, following the old Northern Pacific and Milwaukee Road rail lines -- the Milwaukee now an epic rail- trail. There are lots of floaters on the river today cooling off in the near 100 degree temps, floating lazily down the Yakima on tubes and rafts, laughing and splashing and waving at the lone biker riding by on the sparsely traveled WA-10. This is also "Trump Country", with a plethora of Donald Trump signs along the way. If I had my pistol I'd likely shoot at them as I ride along, but I only imagine doing it today.
In Ellensburg I turned South on WA-821 otherwise known as Canyon Road, and at one time was US-97. This is one of my favorite motorcycle roads in the state. Its winds along the deep Yakima River canyon, keeping pace with the river and the railway on the opposite bank. It's 25 miles has hardly any straight sections at all, with long sweeping curves that are a blast to ride -- usually. The through route between Ellensburg and Yakima is I-82 which climbs up and over the bluff on a more direct route, so only a few sightseers, rafters on the river, and motorcycle riders tend to take this road.  However I got caught behind a caravan of four motorhomes each towing a car and none of them pulling over as required to let folks pass, pretty much making the trip down the canyon not as fun as it could be on those sweeping curves. I was hopping mad. I wished I'd had Superman's laser eyes so I could melt their damn rolling shoeboxes but even if I could the air and land was so dry that we'd have an epic wildfire for sure. I tried my best to just enjoy the road, but looking at the back end of a motorhome kind of ruins it.

At the base of the canyon I finally passed them and emerged out into the orchards around Selah -- and promptly got hit smack in the face by a yellow-jacket who doesn't die on impact but proceeds to sting me multiple times until I can brush it off my face. The remaining 10 miles into Yakima are a bit painful to say the least.  But ahead was Miner's -- a wonderful old burger joint with traditional fries and ice-cream shakes, and burgers the size of car tires -- and an ice pack for my face. This is a regular sized burger and a medium fry. It was my only meal of the day, along with a peach-pie milk shake, all eaten in their outside picnic grounds in the shade of some wonderful trees.
I did my best to avoid getting the "itis" from all that food and rested and digested and burped a bit before climbing back on Angus and heading West along US-12 and WA-410 up and over Chinook Pass. It started to cool off along the Naches river as the road wound higher up the pass towards Mt. Rainier. There are small fishing camps located along the highway, and one of my favorites is the old Elk Ridge Lodge outside the hamlet of Cliffdel. I had photographed it for my Ghosts of the Road series a few years back, but riding through this year it seems like it's been restored and reopened.  I was glad to see the neon sign brought back to life and it looks like a charming little property. Lets hope this ghost has come back to life.The road was quiet all the way up to the pass and down past Tipsoo Lake as the sun started to set, a few straggling hikers still walking around the short loop trail. Riding down WA-410 past Crystal Mountain and Greenwater and into Enumclaw it stays warm with ultra fresh smelling air and is wonderful with little to no traffic. The Mountain rises up to catch the last of the suns rays as I wound my way home through the traffic in Maple Valley and Renton, pulling into the garage 10 hours and 320 miles later.
Two days later I ride down to the Fauntleroy Ferry dock and head west across the Sound and ride over to the Olympic Peninsula to visit my friend Judy and her husband out in Sequim. Judy's my dental hygienist and I've known her for 25 years. You know when you find a good dentist you keep going to them, and a great one when you see them socially. I was fortunate that when I moved here in 1990 a co-worker recommended a dentist near the office in Redmond. That's how I found my dentist, Ron and his hygienist, Judy. And even though I left that company and started my own firm and my office was no longer in Redmond, I'd still go over a couple of times a year because they did such good work.  Judy and I clicked right off the bat and became good friends, laughing our way through my cleaning sessions (which are 3-4 times a year in my case), sharing photos and stories about family and friends and trips. I felt I knew her husband and watched her daughter grow up. We'd have to shut the door to her suite sometimes we'd be laughing so much folks would wonder what the heck was going on. And even though it was a teeth cleaning, I'd always look forward to going over and seeing her.
She and her husband bought a weekend place in the town of Sequim out on the Olympic Peninsula along the shore of the Strait of Juan De Fuca a few years ago and she's been inviting me out ever sense. When I returned from Palm Springs this year for my scheduled cleaning with her I got to the office and find out she'd retired a few weeks before I got home. I got in touch and we scheduled a visit out in Sequim where they live full time now, and she wouldn't have to have her fingers in my mouth the whole time.It was rather cool when I left -- so much so that I turned around after a few blocks and came back to the house for a leather jacket -- much different than the hottest day of the year two days before. The ferry dropped me off in Port Orchard and I rode out along WA-3 towards the Hood Canal Bridge and onto the Peninsula. There were some gray rain clouds gathering over the Olympics but by the time I got over the bridge and the 70 miles or so to their place the sun was out.  Sequim is in the rain shadow and gets just a fraction of the rain even Seattle gets.  This too is Trump Country as evidenced by yet another great burger joint, Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, and a number of home-made Trump signs along US-101. And no, I didn't stop for a burger here either. If I stopped at every great burger joint on my farewell to Washington burger tour I'd put on the 70 pounds I lost last year in no time. Besides I didn't want to sit under a "Trump" sign saying "Make America Great Again."  You see I already think America is pretty great now.
I rode up to Judy's place and we chatted for a couple of hours on her back patio with it's stunning view overlooking Protection Island and the Strait, nibbling on cheese and crackers and laughing up a storm as we always do, watching boats go by and seals in the water. Too soon it was time for me to head back, so I threw my leg over Angus and turned back towards Seattle. The sun started to go down and I chased my shadow down US-101 and then onto WA-104 and back over the  Hood Canal bridge. I made it just in time for the 825pm ferry as the sun dropped behind the Olympics.The boat was nearly empty as we glided east towards Seattle, and it was cool out on the deck. There's a lot I won't miss about Washington and Seattle -- chief among them the traffic and the politics.  But I will miss my secret quiet roads, the ferry boats, the water, my favorite burger joints, and most of all my friends. And I'll be back a few months each summer for sure, but my time as a Washington resident is rapidly coming to an end.

  • Latest Magazine Column

    For over ten years I've been writing a monthly column in Quick Throttle Magazine -- a regional biker publication. The confluence of the changes…

  • May/June QuickThrottle Column

    With the pandemic shutdown, the loss of revenue, and everyone staying at home, the publisher decided not to put out a May issue and put out a…

  • April QuickThrottle Column

    This whole pandemic thing, in addition to being very trying, has delayed a few things, including the publication of my column. I just got the April…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.