Saturday, June 20, 2009

Washington and Oregon Coast Ride

The Oregon Coast is stunning, offering pine trees and rocky coastline, windy roads and little traffic. It is also is raining and freezing cold!

We left Seattle and rode to Westport, Washington, a fishing town that specializes in crab on the southern Washington coast. They have an interesting Maritime museum, with real, giant, whale skeletons displayed outside in large glass cases. The museum is a former Coast Guard Outpost.

The best thing we found there was an area called Twin Harbors State Park, where they allow cars and motorcycles on a 12-mile area of deserted beach. On our way out of Westport, we headed off to try it, and it was fantastic. We had all of our bags on the bike, so it was very heavy, and when we hit the soft sand we almost went over. When we finally reached the hard sand and started riding, we could smell the salty breeze and see the seagulls flying overhead. The GPS was completely wigging out, the screen showing nothing but blue and the poor thing just kept ‘recalculating’. It was a great time and highly recommended.

We left Westport and headed south, crossing into Oregon, heading down the 101 to Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is a funky little town with interesting shops, great restaurants and an artsy-vibe. It is famous for Haystack Rock, which rises 235 feet above the shoreline. During low tide, you can actually walk over to the Rock and see rare birds, plants and even do a little hiking. We found a little gem of a hotel called The Sea Sprite on the Estuary, which we highly recommend. Amazing views, brand-new, one-bedroom apartment at a very reasonable price.

From Cannon Beach we continued south to Yachats, a very small coastal town, where we found another great hotel, The Yachats Inn. This place was very rustic, but our little room had a patio which was practically on the rough, windy beach, with fantastic views. The hotel also allowed us to park our motorcycle under cover right outside of our room. We met some very friendly, interesting people there, some professors from Oregon State who were very well-traveled in South America.

Yesterday we left Yachats and continued on the 101 south in the pouring rain and fog. There is an area between Florence and Coos Bay, Oregon called The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This area stretches 50 miles and features the largest coastal dunes in the USA. The dunes can go up to 500 feet. There are numerous places that rent dune buggies and 4-wheelers. Even though it was pouring, we didn’t want to pass up this opportunity, so we rented some ATVs and off we went. It was a fun, exciting, crazy experience…we would highly recommend this as a stop.

Other exciting news: During our stop at Touratech in Seattle, Troye from Touratech loved the fridge that Chris built for the back of the bike to cool my medicine…so much so that he decided to feature us in Touratech’s June newsletter.

What we recommend:
Westport, Washington: The Islander Inn- On the water, one of the only motels in this little town. Avoid: The One-Eyed Crab Restaurant, overpriced, bad food.

Cannon Beach, Oregon: The Sea Sprite on the Estuary (they also have a sister property, The Sea Sprite at the Beach, which has a great view of Haystack Rock). Highly recommended, lovely rooms, great service, great views.
The Local Grill Restaurant, Cannon Beach: on the main road, good food, reasonably priced.

Yachats, Oregon: The Yachats Inn: rustic but clean, great value, direct ocean views, pool, communal kitchen and library

Coos Bay, Oregon: The Red Lion Inn: standard chain motel, good stuff.
Highly recommended in Coos Bay, Oregon—don’t miss—The Empire CafĂ©, 541-888-5221. Handmade artisan breads, fantastic, creative food and great wine list. Best of all---super reasonably priced.
Near Coos Bay: Dune Riders ATV Rentals (ask for Darryl). Best prices and you can go on your own as opposed to in a group/tour.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Up to Now- Chris and Melissa: Montana, Canada and The Pacific Northwest

We decided to do this trip after reading Ewan MacGregor's book, "Long Way Round". Got inspired and bought the 2009 BMW 1200GSA, kitted the bike out, and started making our plan. What will our route be? Montana up through Western Canada, to Seattle, Oregon, California, Mexico, Central America, South America to Patagonia...and back to our home in Florida. I needed a way to keep my medicine refrigerated--nothing exists---so Chris built me a little fridge that mounts on the back of the bike via a bracket he made in his workshop in our garage. He mounted a thermometer on the side, and it has worked great, both for medicine and for chocolate.

When we bought the bike we bought it with as little BMW options as possible. We had met a German couple in Panama who were traveling from Alaska to South America and they advised us to do other words, decide what you want and get exactly what you want, and since you installed it, you will know how to fix it. We got most of what we needed from Touratech ( Ewan MacGregor, in his book, said that when he fell along his trip, the Touratech panniers were so tough that they basically saved his leg. These panniers are also square and relatively simple and when necessary they can be hammered back into shape with a rubber mallet. The straps are also a lifesaver.

What did we like and what did we change? We found out that the 09 GSA has a faulty fuel gauge sender (common problem) which will more than likely have to be changed regularly. We also changed out the stock seat which was very uncomfortable. We opted to buy a Sargent Seat, which has worked out well. Very hard to find backrests for the passenger for the GSA--we got mine from Pirate's Lair ( Chris used his cruiser backrest from his cruiser, which has a Corbin seat...he custom-fit that backrest to the Sargent seat on our GSA.

The route was decided..we would ship our motorcycle to Bozeman, Montana, where our friends Dan and Melissa live. They would receive the crate, we would fly to Bozeman and head north. On June 16th we did just that. We drove north Jackson, Montana to Glacier National Park, on to the Canadian side of Glacier, which is Waterton National Park, then to Calgary and Banff (all in Alberta, Canada.)

Two of the spectacular roads we enjoyed were the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park and The Icefields Parkway in Alberta. The Icefields Parkway was loaded with bikers, lots of them Harleys---it is a road fronted by the Columbia Ice Fields, lined with glaciers and spectacular scenery (apparently also with bears, who come down to lick the salt off of the road.) In Calgary, check out Blackfoot Motorsports, an amazing store which sells an incredible variety of motorcycle brands--the most we have ever seen. We bought a new back tire there from the knowledgeable and helpful staff.

From Banff we rode on to Lake Louise and then on to the Canadian Wine Country, the areas of Kelowna and Penticton, lined with small boutique wineries with some of the best wines we have ever tasted. Unfortunately, they can't ship any of their wines to the U.S. and we couldn't transport very much on the bike. When going from Kelowna to Penticton, go down the west side of the lake on the road to the wineries. When returning back to Kelowna (if you have a bike that can handle gravel) go through the town of Naramata and look for the turn-off that spells Chute Lake. Aim for this road. The GPS will not show it connecting to Kelowna, and the locals will tell you it is not passable. Trust us, it is a 30-mile high energy, windy gravel and dirt road with incredible hilly vistas of the lake. Exactly what the GSA was built for.

On to Vancouver Island. Highly recommended: Tofino, which was on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. From Horseshoe Bay, BC take the ferry to Nanaimo. Tofino is about a 3-hour ride along windy roads which proved to be some of the best asphalt we have found on this trip. Slow down on the straights, create a gap between you and the car in front of you of about a mile. When you reach the corners, you have a gap in front of you and you can step on it around the corners and have a blast. Be careful of deer and other animals on the straights. Tofino is a great little hidden treasure, granola, surfers, incredible views and great, fresh seafood. A true gem.

From Tofino you can take the drive to Victoria which also takes a few hours. Victoria is a sight to see, The Empress Hotel with it's high tea and British traditions, the lovely harbor and great vistas. We caught a ferry to Bainbridge Island (motorcycles first on, first off on all of these ferries) and then on to Seattle.

In Seattle we visited Touratech Headquarters, where it was a thrill to see the motorcycles that had been ridden for years on around-the-world tours. We got great service, and some more straps for our Touratech panniers with the Zega bag system---a MUST HAVE for this type of trip. They make all of the difference. We also bought an Ohlins shock..had some issues with the back tire losing tread as we are riding 2-up and have 2 bags on top of our Zega bags, so weight was a little heavy. The new shock makes the ride a dream.

From Seattle we rode to Westport, on the Washington Coast and found a real biker's experience. Twin Harbors State Park, which has a 12-mile stretch of beach which allows vehicles. Fully loaded, bags and all, we hit this beach. Getting onto the hard sand was tricky, and we almost went over, but once we got onto the hard sand it was incredible. Seagulls, cool air, and the smell of the ocean--fantastic.

We are now on the Oregon Coast---a beautiful, picturesque ride. Spent one night in Cannon Beach and tonight in Yachats.

Where to Stay:

Jackson, Montana--the only game in town is The Jackson Hot Springs Hotel. Owned by a biker and has natural hot springs.

Missoula, Montana: Goldsmith's B+B--well located, right on the river, nice rooms, well priced

Glacier National Park: Glacier Raft Company has 8 cabins. Brand new, clean, great views. Super deal.

Waterton National Park area: Bayview Inn- on the water, mid-priced, well located

Calgary: The Travelodge Calgary (this one had an in-house comedy club, The Comedy Cave)and Laundry facilities, gym, great service

Banff: The Douglas Fir Hotel- cabin-like, full kitchen, pool, good location

Near Icefields Parkway: Num-Ti-Jah lodge- give yourself a treat. A bit on the expensive side, but worth it. Rustic log inn with old-time decor. Right on Bow Lake with great hiking and incredible views. Minutes from the Icefields Parkway. Don't take the dinner option as it is robbery at $70 per person with no wine. Opt to get on your bike and ride 30 minutes to Lake Louise for dinner.

Lake Louise: The Mountaineer Lodge. Met lots of bikers there, well-located, nice rooms, inexpensive.

Kelowna (Wine Country): The Abbott Travelodge is the best deal in town. Right on the lake, breakfast included, great staff.

Vancouver city: The Moda Hotel-very nice, boutique hotel with no air conditioning. Don't go there in an 88-degree heat wave like we did.

Tofino-Ocean Village Hotel-Highly Recommended. We loved this place. Little cabins on the beach, full kitchen, all wood interiors with amazing views of the rocky sea. Don't miss this one.

Vancouver Island: The Huntington Hotel- walking distance from the ferry, great hotel

Seattle, Washington: Stayed with my brother. Sorry, folks, no vacancy!

Westport, Washington: The Islander Inn- good price, well located, cute town

Cannon Beach, Oregon: The Sea Sprite at the Estuary-great views, relatively mid-priced. This is a cool place to be. Put it on your stops!

Yachats, Oregon: The Yachats Inn-Great value, on the beach, views...and best of all...they let us park our bike on the sidewalk in front of our room.

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