When winter begins to descend in these parts, it comes down on you like a cloud of nickel-plated melancholy with enough weight to grind any sunny memories of the preceding seasons into worm food. When George posted up on our group’s web site a proposition to ride to Manzanita again, it was like a last grasp at the life-ring of denial, before being submerged into the unremitting sea of rideless, winter despair.
Teresa was visiting family in the Port Angeles area for the holidays, so she signed up to come on the ride. George renamed the ride in her honor as the ‘Return to Manzanita and Teresa Reunion Ride.’ I just shortened it, in my report here, to the ‘Teresa Reunion Ride.’
Marv and I, ever ready to ride, signed up for it. Like sharks and swimming, if we stop riding for very long we can’t breathe. Randy was a ‘maybe’ for most of the early planning but, as it turned out, he had his motorcycle apart for some winter maintenance, and wasn’t able to make it. We all missed him. His presence on group rides is as predictable as jelly beans buried in the artificial grass in your Easter basket. His participation is a treat you just come to expect.
Of all the members of our group, only four were able to attend.
Some members don’t want to ride soggy, and some members just have better things to do than to ride soggy. I was hoping there would be a temporary lifting of the siege of rain that had imprisoned us for the preceding week. As I monitored the weather-guesser’s web sites, I waivered in my ebullience. Like Dorothy walking on the fence rail of the pig-sty, I was doomed to fall in. It worked out to be a half-dry day on Saturday, and a full-on cold-soaker on Sunday.
I stayed at Marv and MaryLou’s on Friday night after work. Making my way on the freeway from Paine Field over to Kirkland on the cold, unforgiving freeway, passing cars trailing white condensation from their exhausts into the still night air, I was reminded of my boyhood and the frozen winters spent in the prairieland of the Midwest. It brought with it a sense of foreboding, and a hopelessness handicapped with beauty you can only appreciate at a distance.
On Saturday morning, 8 a.m. felt more like 6 a.m. After a rousing from Marv, I was up and packing my gear in my tail bags and getting ready to go. The weather was dry, and I was happy to be heading out for a weekend ride. I always take a bit longer to prepare the exodus from Marv’s. Part of me wants to succumb to the siren song of a still-warm bed. Part of me is eager to get the freeway behind me and get onto some swinging two-lane back roads.
Marv and I rode like automatons south on I-405, SR-167, SR-18 and I-5 to meet George at the Federal Way weigh station. Early Saturday morning freeway traffic, like corpuscles in a comatose patient with a weak-but-steady pulse, was navigable. We greeted George with barely a ‘hello’ before we left the weigh station and continued on-course over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. We navigated around a section of Hood Canal, and on to Elma.
The major urban centers of Tacoma and Olympia stretch their tendrils west into the southern peninsula like a malignant sea serpent with relentless patience. George had us routed through some nice sections of semi-rural two-lane roads, which we coursed through with intensifying anticipation of breakfast at the Rusty Tractor in Elma, and our rendezvous with our cool friend Teresa.
George, Marv, and I arrived a bit ahead of schedule.
Teresa appeared at our breakfast table like a ray of sunshine in a dusty sky, pink scarf in tow, ready to sally forth on the twisty two-lanes. On George’s recommendation, I had a vegetarian omelet. It was a tasty delight, and a generous portion to power me through the day’s serpentine sojourn.
We followed a fine set of roads,
We were navigating along the coastline in the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. George was marshalling us onward without a break along a scenic waterside stretch of US-101 when I realized I had more coffee than I was going to be able to carry any farther, so I stopped to address the situation. Marv stopped along with me for a minute, and then journeyed on while I wrapped up some important details.
It began to rain
About five minutes later, I came to a turn-point on our planned route. I knew it was a turn-point because I use a GPS. There was no other way to know there was a turn-point there because no one was waiting. I knew that Marv, ever-vigilant when it comes to ride protocol, would be waiting at the next intersection like a guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier, but only if he was aware that it was a turn. I made a left turn, staying on what I knew to be the route, but also knowing that Marv would not have made the turn. I knew he was going to continue on that road until he either found someone waiting at an intersection, or it fell off into the sea, at which point, I think he might have fashioned a paddle and continued on the prescribed course, following the prescribed protocol, until he arrived at the birthplace of his trusty Ninja.
So, knowing that we were now in danger of being a single-group-in-two-parts, I continued to the next intersection. As I putted along, I was wondering if Marv would be familiar enough with the route to have continued on-course out of familiarity. Perhaps he would be with George and Teresa when I caught up with them, and I could be self-righteous and admonish them all for not waiting for me at two sequential intersections. I would be able to spend some time at dinner playing the wounded road wanderer.
No such luck. I caught up with George and Teresa after another left turn. They were waiting roadside, wondering what had happened to Marv and me. When I rolled up, I asked “Where’s Marv?”, though I already knew. I told them we would catch up. I executed a U-turn and was soon retracing my path back to the first missed turn. I got back on US-101, from the US-101-Alt, and followed the road as I knew Marv would have, looking for the next turn. I was very happy to find the next turn wasn’t so very far away. Marv was standing sentry duty at the intersection, probably puzzling over how such simple riding protocols could be so quickly cast to the winds by a group of seasoned riders. I pulled alongside him and, not having to explain what happened, he followed me to the rendezvous with Teresa and George.
We crossed the Columbia River at Astoria, and it continued to rain.
We took a well-worn route of two-lane side roads and highways, finally arriving in Manzanita. We were all cold, wet, and tired. My Aerostich Roadcrafter® kept me dry everywhere except along a small section of the zipper line. Still, upon getting checked in and the bikes situated, I enjoyed a pounding hot shower before settling down for some ritual pre-dinner chess.
George and Teresa came by after their walk on the beach and their beer in the pub, and escorted us to where George wanted to have dinner. He picked a great little restaurant. I like the Big Wave Café in Manzanita. The food, atmosphere, service, and company at dinner were par excellencè . I had the linguini, the others had prime rib. We were all well-satisfied. I opted-in for a dessert of peanut butter pie, and it was fabulously rich. Teresa had dessert too, I think some sort of cake, but I’m pretty sure she coveted my delicious epicurean selection.
We set a meeting time for 8 am Sunday morning in the same restaurant for breakfast. I had another omelet for breakfast, a delicious black bean, cheese, and vegetable mixture in a fluffy egg wrapping. It was another banner meal at the Big Wave Café, and another occasion for nice conversation with good people. Sitting in the warm café, feeling warm and relaxed, I looked out the window at the incessant rain. I would have been content to spend another hour or two just chatting and staying dry, but that was not in the cards.
Back at the hotel and packing my gear back into my tail bags for the trip home, I started to feel like riding. Once I had my suit and boots on and my GPS booted up I was itching for some twisty two-lanes.
The drizzle continued.
We barely got to the edge of town when Teresa had to pull over to address an issue with her heated gear. She had that resolved quickly. Then a little farther up the road, Marv came charging up and pulled George over. He had a couple of loose fasteners on his clip-ons. Since we were going to have to break out tools for Marv’s problem, we elected to head back to the gas station in Manzanita and take cover under their awning. With the gas station attendant in attendance, we tightened up a couple of Allen bolts, and put ourselves back on course.
Up the road another mile and we were once again at a stop while George made some adjustments to his riding gear. Winter riding requires so much ancillary gear, it can take a few minutes to get everything just right, and set for comfort.
We took one of our usual routes from Manzanita up OR SR-53, to US-26. We rode past one of our usual haunts, Camp 18, with a nod. We took OR SR-103, OR SR-202, and OR SR-47 which would land us in Clackstanie. George slipped and fell once on OR SR-47, but he and the bike were ok.
The weather never relented, and we all agreed that it would be nice to be home so, when we got to Centralia, we bid our farewells, and rode the super-slab home.
I followed Marv up I-405 to avoid the Seattle traffic and, upon his departure at the Kirkland exit near his home, I was alone for the 55-mile ride home.
I was jamming north on I-5 and looking toward home. There was a very dense white cloud hanging low over the Snohomish Valley. Traffic pulsed along at a good pace with moderate volumes. My mind was cast back to another cold day when I was on this same course, cold and trying to get home, when I ran into freezing rain and near white-out conditions. On that trip I had to park my bike at a Park-and-Ride because the snow was too thick on my visor and on the roads to continue. The clouds I was riding into had the same full-of-snow appearance.
I saw an electronic billboard in Smokey Point proclaiming 37°, and I felt it might be optimistic. It was fortunate that the precipitation never got solid, and I was able to scoot across the Skagit valley with thoughts of a hot shower filling my mind. I was chilled all the way through.
As I was finishing up the last leg of my trip home, heading north on Old Highway 99 North, I was caught off guard by a large doe attempting to cross the road. It was dark, and rainy, and the deer was well-camouflaged. As I braked hard, my front tire only wobbled a little bit, and I was able to stop without falling. The frightened doe must have been offended by my sudden appearance and bounded over the railing into the cover of the forest. The driver of the car that approached immediately thereafter probably wondered why I was stopped in the middle of the road.
Ten minutes later I was in my garage, lubing my chain, and listening to my dog’s tales of her weekend’s adventures.
I enjoyed the ride, really enjoyed the company, and would do it again.
Click the pucture below to go to the Garmin Player page and my GPS tracks.