Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SMOKE ON THE WATER – A BRIEF TOUR OF VANCOUVER ISLAND


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

Vancouver Island is a Pacific gem worthy of more time for exploration than we afforded.  But our abbreviated visit – enough to invite us to return – was probably just about the right length given the blow-over from mainland fires only a few dozen kilometers east.


The journey began by lashing the big T-bird to the sidewalls of the Black Ball Ferry sailing out of Port Angeles…


… then heading above deck to take in the view.


Smoke and haze clung to the Washington State end of the voyage, but cleared as we entered the harbor at Victoria.


The city is clean and beautiful, enhanced by many floral displays in even the tiniest of spaces.


A trip to Butchart Gardens proved unnecessary.


Day Two found us playing tag with traffic on BC 19 and BC 19 A until we reached our digs at Campbell River.  “Love Boats” were said to frequent this channel.

Smoke had settled on the Inside Passage at daybreak.  We were unlikely to see one of those Love Boats.

But a derelict boathouse ages on the rocky beach.


Fresh Salmon was purchased off the pier in Campbell River to be grilled for dinner, but the following night, our landlord provided us with fresher salmon – he being a fishing guide in real life.  It’ll take me a while to get re-acclimated to the store bought fish I find in my little berg.

Attempting to escape the haze, we sojourned to Gold River, a nice ride through verdant hills and past deep blue lakes.  Gold Lake, touted by some as an artist enclave, we didn’t scratch around deep enough to find their lairs.



The second leg of our tour found us at the Black Rock Oceanside Resort in Ucluelet on the Pacific side. http://www.blackrockresort.com/  Here, the air was cloaked in a refreshing fog.


From the resort, nicely groomed bluff side trails tunneled through foliage bridged streams and provided access to beaches.


Ucluelet has a quaint harbor with a tiny fishing fleet, some warm and welcoming bakeries and provides an un-tourist-i-fied experience on this side of the island.



Just a short hop up the road rests Tofino, a well-renowned destination and surfing capitol.


The Main Street caters to tourists with pubs and restaurants, ice cream shops and novelty stores.  A block away, the waterfront seems a bit more purposeful, harkening back to the town’s lumber and fishing heritage.


Stumbling around, as I do, I found this interesting marker that I hesitated to photograph as I hadn’t done much, if any, of the Trans-Canada Highway.


South of Tofino, beach access invites a stroll…


…and another lighthouse forces a shot.



Our trip was planned to revolve around two guys on motorcycles tailed by their wives in a car.  My riding partner, however, carried home with him from Europe some sort of gastro-bug that rendered not riding the safer choice.  Shout out here to the good folks at the lovely Qualicum Beach Inn http://www.qualicumbeachinn.com/ (in Qualicum Beach) who graciously allowed him to stash his bike in their back lot.  During our next visit to the island, the hostelry will definitely be getting our business.


We caught the BC Ferry from Nanaimo to Tsawwassen.  The afternoon mists on the Sound muted the islands and shoreline making us momentarily forget they we not out at sea on a ship skippered by Gavin McLeod.  Skirting the City of Vancouver, we returned to Washington State.

Six Days on Vancouver Island is not nearly enough.  Port Hardy calls, as do many hot springs, hiking trails and rocky beaches. 


We’re told that the smoke clears after the first big storm but that in recent years, large fires have become more common on the mainland creating the atmosphere we’d experienced touring the island.  

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Sunday, August 20, 2017

REVISITING THE OREGON COAST – FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

This trip up the Oregon Coast was primarily one socked in with fog.  But even as the Pacific’s marine layer embraces the coast, the ride up US 101 is marvelous.  Particularly when it is 106 degrees at home.  


Allowing two days, as opposed to my customary one, afforded an opportunity to stop more frequently, but the chilly, moist air prompted me not to.  Regrets.


That said, although while not fully fared, the big windshield on the T-Bird more than adequately diverts airflow around the grips.  I was never compelled to don my heavy riding gloves.

My first-day goal was to reach Bandon, a quaint coastal village only recently becoming a bit too tourist-a-fied.  Still, walking the streets, it is easy to picture life eighty to one hundred years ago when the economy was based upon the fishery and the forests.


I’m a sucker for lighthouses.  This one is located on the spit near Bandon’s harbor.


The layover was spent at Best Western’s Inn at Face Rock, a trick to find off the highway, but worth the effort. 

Face Rock, this evening (and the following morning) was obscured by that marine layer, but the whisper of the surf provided and apt and lovely lullaby after a long day in the saddle.


No sooner am I back on the road the next morning than I find out that, apparently, I’m a sucker for old locomotives… 


…and rusted machinery (and old trucks and old barns) as well. 


These relics are located in a foundation-run museum in Coos Bay located right on US 101.  Worthy of some time and a donation.

The bridges along Oregon’s coastal route are classic with, perhaps, the most classic being this one in Newport over Yaquina Bay.


There’s a lighthouse here…


…but I must admit that I missed a shot of one of the more dramatic examples 20 miles earlier down at Heceta due to my slow-witted approach to parking along the highway.

Boats leaving harbor intrigue me.  Where are they going?  What might be their catch?  Will they return safely?  There must be a reason for the widow's watches atop the older houses in town.


I wonder if the raven wonders the same thing, or just might be waiting for some chum.



US 101 up the Oregon Coast is a delight.  I am, however, pulled out of the reverie induced by her curves, bluffs and vistas when navigating through Newport, Lincoln City and Seaside.  These commercial and tourist centers are necessary, I’m sure, but the traffic on a summer Saturday feels more citified than I find enjoyable.

I skipped a visit to Fort Clatsop this time around, having checked in with Lewis and Clark and Jean Baptiste Charbonneau last time – heading instead for the Best Western in Astoria.  The Bridgewater Bistro, a warm and casual restaurant is close by with nicely prepared seafood and a wonderful wine list.  Perfect way to end a day.

Two things (well, more than two things) caught my eye on the walk over: the slogan on this fuel carrier…


… and something you really don’t see every day – a folding chair atop a classic (though stripped) VW.  (My '71 came from the factory painted 'Clementine Orange.')



The Oregon Coast is one of America’s great rides.  It is never the same from one day to the next.


That’s why I look forward to my next opportunity to enjoy the route.

Notes:

Face Rock: What I missed due to the fog at Bandon: http://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=47

Fort Clatsop: Well worth your visit near Astoria: https://www.nps.gov/lewi/planyourvisit/fortclatsop.htm

Bridgewater Bistro near the wharf in Astoria: http://bridgewaterbistro.com/


© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, August 19, 2017

REMEMBERING THE JOLLY KONE


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

In my career as a public school student, I was always walking distance from school.  Rosedale Elementary was just across the creek. The junior high was across town, but town wasn’t all that big.  And Chico High was through two almond orchards – one of ‘em ours – across Highway 32 and a few blocks down West Sacramento Avenue – maybe twenty-five minutes from home.

Located just through the orchards on this side of Highway 32, next to Aldredge’s Flying A, was a hamburger stand called The Jolly Kone.  I remember it being erected when I was seven or eight.

As a high schooler, while I was not involved in sports, I did engage in after school activities, not the least of which was a Dixieland style Pep Band I organized and conducted with a tuba wrapped over my shoulder.  We’d scheduled practices twice a week so rather than leaving campus at 3:15, it was likely 4:30 before I departed. 

Fifteen minutes into the walk home, I’d near the Jolly Kone and begin to salivate over the wafting fragrance of frying beef patties and potatoes bubbling in some sort of boiling oil.  For about a buck thirty-five, I could enjoy a burger stacked with lettuce, pickles, tomato, some secret sauce – probably just Thousand Island – on a sesame seed bun before Ray Kroc popularized the notion.  And the fries?  Golden and crispy outside with steaming, almost creamy white insides accented with just a touch of salt.  The Coca Cola came in a Styrofoam cup half-filled with shaved ice.  Sitting at an interior table covered with oilcloth, I’d ponder algebra, the red head Rebecca Langworthy and whatever we’d just practiced in Dixieland.  Upon completion, I’d carry the styro cup through the orchards with me, depositing it in the garbage cans beside the tractor shed before entering the house.

Dinner would be almost ready, but I would only pick at it.

“You’re a growing boy,” Mom would say.  “You have to eat your dinner,” and she’d push a plate of chipped beef on toast – or whatever had been prepared – closer to the edge of the table where I sat.

“Perhaps he’s just going through a phase,” Dad opined.

“He’s got to eat!”

I didn’t.


In order to till our five acres of almonds, Dad had purchased a 1948 Ford Ferguson tractor behind which he’d pull a disk or a spring tooth furrow.  Rather than to keep cans of gasoline in the tractor shed, he’d drive the old Ford through the orchards to Aldredge’s Flying A, so he could fill ‘er up.

One afternoon after Pep Band practice, as I’m savoring my clandestine burger and fries, I hear a familiar voice order a strawberry milkshake from the outside window.

Dad! 

Before I could determine that there was no escape, he appeared at the door to the dining area, sucking mightily on a straw filled with a thick, pink, viscous fluid.

“Son,” he said.

“Dad,” I responded.

Moments later he mounted the tractor and, holding the milkshake in one hand while steering with the other, disappeared into the orchards.

The remainder of the walk home took forever, but forever wasn’t long enough.  Dinner’s aroma was filling the kitchen – something with liver – and was about to be served.

“Now you have to eat your dinner,” Mom pleaded.

For a long moment, Dad looked at me from his end of the table.  Then he said, “Perhaps he’s just going through a phase, Honey-Bee, just a phase.  He’ll be fine.”


Recently, on the road, lunch time in Central Point, Oregon: On the east side of the old highway 99 is a burger joint called “The Yellow Basket.”  It looked familiar.  Something circa mid-sixties, perhaps?

Perhaps it was the oil-clothed tables, but more than likely, it was the fare: perfect fries accompanying a burger stacked with lettuce, pickle chips, tomato, and that sauce…

I recalled Dad’s bold statement to Mom some fifty years ago and realized that I wasn’t quite through that “phase” of which he spoke.  At least not yet.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press.

Friday, August 18, 2017

SITTING ON THE ‘GROUP W’ BENCH


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…


Years ago, when visiting Canada – and this is no joke – I’d approach the border, the uniformed agents would raise their welcoming arms, say, “Hi, Dave” and wave me through.

Then we experienced 9-11.

It had been a while since I’d visited our neighbors to the north, but on a circuitous trip involving the famed Selkirk Loop, the border agents asked for something I knew I wouldn’t need to carry – because, hell, they knew me and greeted me like family – a Passport.

“Where’s your document, sir?”  (Not Dave?  What the heck?)

“My what?”

“Your passport.”

“I think it’s in my sock drawer at home.”

“Sign here.”

“Okay.”  I signed.  “What am I signing?”

“A document that says you’re voluntarily returning to the United States.”

“B.. b.. but…”


Six years have elapsed since that little debacle now indelibly recalled as how Mr. Brilliant spoiled the Great Selkirk Loop Trip, and I am again attempting to gain access to Canada.  This time I am armed with my handy wallet-sized passport card that will afford quick and undetained entry into Canada.

As the customs lady swipes my card and asks where I was from, I know I’ll breeze right through.  She asks about any contraband – weapons, alcohol – I might be carrying – “None, thank you.” – and if I have any questions for her.  Since she was in customs, I thought I’d ask about the whole about/aboot custom, when she says “Uh-oh,” and pulls my card back.  “Have you ever been denied access to Canada before?”

I begin to tell her about leaving my passport in my sock drawer at home once in the years after 9-11, but she cuts me off – politely, mind you – and says, “I’d like you to pull over into that space with the big W on it.”

Channeling Arlo Guthrie, I remember that group W is where they put you because “you may not be moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug,” but all I’d done was to forget to pack my passport a half-a-dozen years back.  And on this day I have one!


The delay is brief, perhaps only ten minutes, NOT enhanced by my riding partner, from the other side of the gate, yelling, “Frisk him for drugs!”

As we weave our way through the streets of Victoria, I offer involuntary tribute to Osama bin Ladin: a man who’s legacy carries forth long after his unceremonious burial at sea.

The reprobate.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, August 17, 2017

LONG-TERM ON A 2015 TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD


Your 12,500-mile report…
… and some thoughts from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017

Let’s start with this disclaimer: No matter what you might read here, I like this bike.  Sometimes I go out in the garage late at night and just sit on it.


Why?  Mainly because it’s so danged comfortable.  It’s like a La-Z-Boy on two wheels.  In motion, the footboards allow me to move my legs a bit every now and then.  And the windshield somehow deflects cold blasts away from the handgrips so that only on the coldest of rides do I wish it had heated units.  With acres of chrome and a deep paint job highlighted with hand painted coach lines, the thing is a real looker, inviting conversations the lengths of which are inversely proportional to how badly you have to hit the restroom.


The engine pulls like a proverbial tractor and lopes along at 75-plus miles per hour, gladly doing it all day, as it did on my recent trip to Wyoming.  Two up presents no problem.  Neither does ten days on the road.

I changed out tires a click or two before turning 10,000 miles.  In the process, the mechanic alerted me to some excess wear on the drive belt.  I’d never owned a motorcycle with a drive belt and understood that, like shafts, they are largely maintenance – and trouble – free.  Apparently, I understood wrong.  At the tire change, more than 1/8th of an inch of belt had prematurely worn away.  The mechanic said he aligned the pulleys carefully with the tire change but, “We’ll need to keep an eye on it.”  Seems to me that, coming out of the box, the drive pulleys on the T-bird should have been aligned with laser-like precision.  Now with another 2500-plus miles on the rig, the belt seems to be worn even more.  I’m thinking this is a manufacturer’s defect, but I suspect I’ll be informed it is a wear item and repair or replacement will be on my nickel.

Just prior to that tire change, the check engine light came on.  I quickly pulled over and, referencing the owner’s manual, found that the big bird is programmed to let you “limp home” should the light illuminate.  I added a dollop of oil and the light went out, but as the mechanic was testing the machine after putting on new rubber, the light it up again.  The diagnosis suggested something associated with an exhaust valve in the tail pipe (?) but was inconclusive prompting, “It may just be a bad sensor.  We’ll check on it when you come in for service.”  And they reprogrammed it to go out.  Half way through my 2500-mile loop up to British Columbia, the light came on again.  No Triumph dealers in sight and, since it was on a Saturday, even if there were one, it would likely be Tuesday before it could be addressed.  I gambled on the “bad sensor” theory and motored on.  Disconcerting, it is, to be enjoying the cruise on BC 99, I-5 and various side roads with that amber light glaring at you from the dash.  I didn’t try a dollop of oil as the dipstick indicated full.

Another little grievance is the fact that in low to moderate powered sweeping or tighter turns, a wobble develops in the front wheel.  I mentioned this at tire time and was told that new rubber might remedy things.  With a little research, I further found that tightening the rear shock might help alleviate the problem.  Still I experienced the jostle.  This I will mention at service time.

Also, one of the running (or fog) lights failed.  Not sure why.  Ghosts of Lucas Electrics?

Again, I like this bike.  As with all things complex and mechanical, things will happen.  I am disappointed in some of the minor things (and perhaps major things – like that wobble) have cropped up on this fairly new machine.  I’m also a bit bent out of shape that the relationship between my local dealer and Triumph has ended forcing me to go an additional 60 miles for warranty service.


I’ve owned four BMWs and liked them all pretty well, though their cost of maintenance seemed to escalate as they became more ‘sophisticated.’  They were nicely engineered and well suited for the riding I like to do, perhaps a little more so than the T-bird.  But I knew I would be making some compromises in an effort to try something different.  And you can’t argue with that comfortable saddle!

Still, as I completed my loop from Vancouver Island, I got a nagging twinge or, perhaps, a longing for the lighter feel and the legs-under-you seating position of my old GS.  As luck would have it, driving into Port Angeles, WA, I followed and then conversed with a fellow rider who’d swapped out his expensive-to-maintain GS for a Yamaha Super Tenere.  “9500 miles,” he said, “and nothing’s ever gone wrong.”  (His ‘nothing’s gone wrong’ comment seems to be borne out by the comments of many others on the Tenere owner’s page.)

The Super T has been on my wish-list back burner since I first laid eyes on one at the Grand Canyon in 2010 or 11.  From time to time, I’ve checked in with the motorcycling press on the Yamaha. Good reviews.  Substantially competent at most of what the Beemer does at a much-reduced ticket for admission.  Plus, service intervals and costs are reportedly much less than I’ve paid for either my BMWs or the current Triumph.

A Yamaha dealer outside of Salem, Oregon had several on the lot and very inviting out-the-door pricing.  The young sales lady with whom I spoke, insisted that, since I had my gear on, I should take one for a ride.

As I said earlier, I like the T-bird.  Not sure how much longer I’ll have her, however.


Damn test rides, anyway.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WILD HORSES OF THE HIGH DESERT


…on the road from the Jackson Hole Writers Conference…

I’m not a horse person.  I can’t imagine one totin’ me around or feeding one or scoopin’ up after one.  Nope. Horses, I think, are not for me.

But when I’m riding some ribbon of asphalt across a sweeping section of backcountry plains when, over a rise or around a bend, maybe a quarter mile away from the pavement, one of ‘em stands silhouetted against a ridge line and involuntarily, a tape of something composed by Elmer Bernstein starts playing in my head.


I love the west, I know, and horses, roaming these expanses, are the west.


On a recent run through Oregon, I happened to visit the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse corrals, just south of Burns on US 395.  The following collection of shots, hopefully, will convey the good work these public servants are engaged in.  (Click on any photo to enlarge it, but consider expanding those photos of text in order to understand the whole story.)

Of the three-day trip from Jackson Hole to home, this day was going to be the shortest, clocking in at about 325 miles.  The variable weather created a cloudscape as dramatic as the land.

I knew I had time to visit places I might otherwise pass by, something too easily done in the high desert.  It’s one thing to fly over this country in a 737.  It’s inexcusable to do so on a motorcycle, I’m thinking.

Gingerly, I guide the big Triumph up the gravel road and into the parking area.

A well-appointed kiosk contains signs that tell the story.

Mustangs and Burros, being non-native to the area, have few natural predators.  Thus, they can breed and soon over populate the delicate dry reaches of the basin and range.  The BLM makes efforts to control the population by rounding ‘em up and making them available for adoption to highly qualified applicants.  But fewer than 25% of these animals ever find adoptive ‘parents.’

A self-guided auto tour rings the expanse of the operation.  Not being in an auto, I choose to hoof a good portion of the route.

A series of chutes and corrals allow BLM wranglers to herd and sort the mustangs retrieved from the wild.  As I fumbled for my camera, a group was coaxed through this raceway.

Beyond, a complex of fence lines cordoned off areas.  Not sure I understand the sorting process…

Back at the kiosk, we are told that the colors of the wild mustangs are as varied as the colors of the landscape from which they come. 

Not being a horse person, I was surprised at the emotions I felt observing these beautiful creatures. 

Can I take this one home?

o0o

There’s a spirit or culture that exists in our west – a relationship that cleaves humankind to the land.  Integral to that relationship, I come to believe, are the horses - wild or otherwise - of the high desert.

Perhaps this poem says it best...

And like so many other times when I stop to check something out on the open road, when I leave, a new tune is stuck in my head… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iteRKvRKFA

o0o

More about the BLM’s efforts in this regard: http://momentsoftruthproject.com/oregonblm

A little on-line research shows that there is some controversy surrounding this program related both to the herding practices (the use of helicopters) and some of the sterilization efforts.  I, myself, had harbored some concerns about restricting the freedom of these wild beauties, but, with consideration to their non-native status, I begin to understand the rationale for the program.  All that said, a visit to this BLM facility is engaging and informative and worth an hour’s respite from the road, offering a fine opportunity for one to form his or her own opinion on the matter.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press