Saturday, April 17, 2010


Day 26

Miles today: 0 Total miles: 5,202

We slept in until 10 or 11 today - that was a pretty taxing day
yesterday. I think we spend about 11 hours travelling door to door. We
went out to brunch this morning with Sam and Sean and two other
friends who had flown in fir the weekend, Mik and Kyle, and had some
delicious trendy sausage and french toast. I started to notice last
night that thus city is very similar to San Francisco. Pretty hilly
streets, a lot of . . . um, different people. The difference is that
in San Francisco, there are some areas of town that tend to attract
these people of alternative lifestyles, while in Seattle, they're just
everywhere. There's the guy wearing a kilt at the yuppie bar, the guy
with the tie-dye overalls at the trendy brunch place, and the couple
dressed in all leather and trench coats at the Indian restaurant. I
can tell that I'm from the east coast because this all strikes me as
strange, while it's just business as usual for the people who live here.

We really lucked out with the weather this weekend. It's usually
pretty wet and cold in April, but it's sunny and in the mid 60's
today, so Sam, Sharon and I decided to go on a little hike. Climbing
1,500 feet in 2 miles up switchbacks is a little hike in the west. The
drive out was really nice, with cool views of Mt. Ranier in the
distance and other smaller peaks closer in. I did the hike in my
motorcycle boots because the second package I sent here from SF hasn't
arrived yet. I knew it was going to be a little painful in my $25
boots, but man did I have some huge blisters when we got back. The
hike was great, though, and we had a really cool view of the
surrounding peaks.

We sprinted down the mountain to see if we could make it to the Red
Hook Brewery by 5 for the tour. Missed it by about 10 minutes, but it
was sold out earlier that day anyway. But no worries! They also have a
bar for those of you who missed the tour! I've never really tried Red
Hook's beer, but their ESB was great.

Everyone was dragging at that point so we headed for the espresso.
Seattle is the only place I've been where coffee is significantly
different than the rest of the country. Most people drink espresso and
it is some of the strongest I've ever had. It tastes like they use
half as much water as a normal shot. It's probably an acquired taste,
because I like most espressos and didn't like this style.

Also, a note about Starbucks, according to Sam: it's really not
popular in the city of Seattle. There's only one location, but there
are others like 15th street coffee that are actually Starbucks, but
have been disguised to appear independent.

We went out to dinner to a great Indian place, and then went out to a
Belgian beer place to meet Walter, Sam's boyfriend. It's been really
fun meeting people in big cities and swing how they live, and it was
really cool to meet Walter and see the life Sam and he had carved out
for themselves. Sam lives in downtown Seattle, but reverse commutes to
Microsoft's campus. I'd never heard of this type of arrangement
before, but it makes perfect sense. The company doesn't need to locate
downtown to attract talent or be closer to any companies that it works
closely with, and the young people who work for the company want to
live in the city where it's more exciting.

After some stout at the first bar, we went out to Purr, where I got to
have my first experience with a gay bar. It was pretty interesting,
and no, I didn't get any digits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"This Isn't Fun Anymore"

Day 25:

Miles today: 192   Total miles: 5,202

By cutting our day short yesterday, we left ourselves an ambitious day of riding to make Seattle by tonight. We also had a few stretches where we had to go on divided highways and freeways for a few miles. It's not a fun feeling to be doing 45 or so when the traffic behind you is doing 60 or 65. I kept a close eye on what was approaching behind us, but there were a few cars that cut it pretty close when passing us. I always leave myself room to bail out to the shoulder if the car behind me isn't looking like they're going to go around, and I had to use that a few times today, which isn't a good feeling. When you ride, or drive, for that matter, you always want to leave yourself some "outs" which is what that shoulder is for me. So when I have to use that to avoid oncoming traffic, i don't leave myself anywhere else to go. I really don't like that feeling and that's why we've been doing all we can to avoid highways.

We got off the bike after one particularly hairy stretch, and Sharon said that quote above. We decided to take a nice, long break at the gas station and get some coffee/hot chocolate. We spent a little while just not thinking about the bike, and then we got out the map to look for a better way to get to Seattle. We found some county roads and cobbled together a new route that would take us a little out of our way, but would give us some kinder speed limits and less traffic. The good news for her was that she only had a few miles to go before she could get off the bike for good. When we got back on, the ride was much nicer. This turned out to be a really good decision, and we saw some great views of a few rivers. The huge plus was that we only saw a few cars in 2 hours or so before we got back on more primary roads near Puget Sound.

The route we took put us on a ferry into Seattle, which is one of the coolest ways I have ever entered a city. We came in around 10 at night, and the whole city was lit up. It was pretty cold, but we stood on the bow for a little bit to take in the view. I had also never been on a ferry before that carried cars, and it was pretty cool to just ride my bike onto a boat.

One of the first things I noticed about Seattle is that it's nearly as hilly as San Francisco in some spots. Not fun with 2 riders on a bike. We made it in fine to Sam and Sean's place (Sharon's friends from school - seriously this girl knows someone in every city in the US) and then we walked a few blocks to the bar where they were, called Canterbury Ales (insert groan). We had a couple drinks and then crashed at Sam/Sean's place. It's good to be in one place for a while and I'm glad we made it in today.

Guest Post: Some Perspective From the Back of the Bike

Greetings fair readers of Brian goes west! I'm here to offer some perspective from the passenger seat. 

First of all, California is a really really long state. Especially at 25 mph. I was pretty glad to finally leave it behind, because it felt like we weren't making that much progress when we couldn't get out. As a mid-Atlantic native, I'm used to hitting a new state every few hours. Or minutes if you're going through Delaware. 

Advantages of being on the back of the bike include not having to make decisions or pay too much attention to the road. Brian alluded to the fact that there is some active participation required from a passenger so that you're not shifting your weight too much, you're leaning into the turns correctly, and you brace yourself properly for acceleration and deceleration so that you don't hit helmets every time you change gears (i guess one good thing about only having four gears is that aforementioned gear changing is necessarily limited? Too soon?). Brian's "So today was a little uncomfortable as we both worked things out" means "Today was a little uncomfortable as Sharon kept not paying attention and ramming her helmet into mine every time we changed gears and I almost threw her off the bike."

Disadvantages to being on the back of the bike include not having to make decisions. Since there's not a lot of communication possible even at the turtle-like 35 mph, my contributions to decision making were limited to being able to request a stop. That kinda gets frustrating. Especially since I may or may not be known for talking a lot. Loudly. Also, after trying both seats, I can say with confidence that the passenger seat is much less comfortable. 

We'd been lucky enough to mostly avoid rain until this day, but less than an hour after leaving Coos Bay, we felt and saw a little bit of rain, so decided to pull off and "rain suit up!" We both looked really really ridiculous. I'm pretty sure there's pictures on Brian's camera somewhere, but let's just say it's a good thing we weren't trying to impress any young, good-looking Oregon-ers. We did stop at a delicious pizza place to warm up and watch a lot of the Masters. Needless to say, this cut down on our ability to make a lot of miles this day, but I'm pretty sure we both thought it was worth it. After getting back on the road (and, for the record, I called Lefty's victory from Day 1), we put down some miles but then hit some heavier rain. 

As we got to the early evening hours, it started coming down pretty hard. Once you get to a certain amount of wetness, it doesn't bother you as much (at least for me), and since I didn't really have great rain gear (athletic pants over jeans? Oops?), I hit that point pretty quickly. It does make the drive much much colder and we decided to call it a day pretty early in Tillamook, OR. Land of cheese making. Their cows smelled pretty bad (and this is coming from a girl who grew up next to a dairy farm and normally isn't that bothered by our bovine brethren), but the high school was the Tillamook Cheese Makers. So that was exciting. 

We stopped at a local gas station to evaluate our motel options and had a nice little chat with the gas station attendant (you can't pump your own gas in OR. Reminds me of my college years in fair New Jersey!). Once thing I really enjoyed about this trip is how readily people approach you to chat you up when your all motorcycle-geared up. It's an easy way to start a conversation -- where you guys coming from? -- and people were a) very impressed with Brian's lengthy trip and b) always willing to share a bit about the local area, politics, or whatever else came to their mind. It really was a cool way to travel and see the people in small towns across the West Coast and get a little insight into the various regions. And, as a professed lover of talking, it pretty much warmed my heart every time. 

We ended up staying a the Red Apple Inn, which had a very nice little innkeeper. We got some more cheese and sausage (breakfast/lunch/dinner of champions!), but supplemented with some red apples. Seemed appropriate. And some delicious Northwest Pale Ale. Or NWPA for those in the know. We had to cut Portland (land of the microbrew) out of our trip to save time (heartbreak), so I was glad to get some local brews. The heater didn't really work, so that was a little bit of downside, but other than that, it was pretty nice for a cheap motel. I called my friends in Seattle to let them know we would in fact arrive on Friday. We'll be staying with two of my very good friends from college, whom I hadn't seen in about a year, so I was very excited. 

Last thing -- Since I didn't get to post on the SF side of the trip, I'd like to take the time now to thank Stephen and Stacey profusely for hosting us. They are really awesome people and it was great to meet them, hang out, and offer my expert advice on furniture selection. Thanks guys! 

Into Oregon

Day 23

Miles today: 234   Total miles: 4,830

Over the past few days, Sharon and I have stuck to a strict diet of cheese, summer sausage and crackers. This is the perfect meal for the road because all the ingredients require minimal refrigeration and it can be eaten anywhere. I usually keep some of each of these foods in my lunchbox in the tankbag with a little ice. This way I don't have to stop at so many restaurants for lunch/dinner. This is a great short term solution for how to eat well and cheap, but after a little while, your body starts yelling at you, demanding something green. So we woke up this morning and I was feeling this way, craving a salad or some veggies. We talked about our options for lunch in town, which were pretty slim, and finally settled on Mike's Burger Joint. It has lettuce and tomato, right? Whatever, we had fruit last night. That should ward off the scurvy for at least another few days. Mike's was a pretty excellent choice, and reminded me just how much better burgers are with chili on them.

We crossed into Oregon today and left California behind. I guess I spent about 10 days in the state, and man was it a good time.

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but Highway 1 ended and we've been continuing on 101 since then. So I rode pretty much the whole thing, except for the stretch between LA and San Diego. Probably my favorite road in the country, unless I find one better on the way back.

We've now gotten gas in Oregon, and I'd like to comment on the state law that requires full service at gas stations (an attendant must pump your gas). This is the law, as far as I know, in Jersy and Oregon, but nowhere else. I can't think of a reason for this law beyond  job protection. There is no reason to require this attendant to pump your gas - I think the other 48 have pretty much proven that the average consumer can be trusted to fill a gas tank without blowing themselves up. So all you really do is increase the price of gas to everyone in the state so that some guy can keep his job which adds no value to the product he sells.

We put in a lot of good miles today, and made it to Coos Bay, OR. I think the big story is that Sharon made it that many miles without seriously injuring me or her backside. I'm starting to settle into a groove riding the bike with her on it; I'm starting to get pretty comfortable. Not sure if I can say the same for her, but at least we made good progress today.

Coos Bay is a pretty cool town with some nice views of the bay, nothing too spectacular though. More northward riding tomorrow.


Day 22

Miles today: 194 Total miles: 4,596

Today was a good day on the road. We slept pretty late and got going
around 11 or so. I guess we still pretty tired from thre weekend.
Today was just a great day of riding along the PCH and checking out
the awesome views.

The bike is doing ok, but the low speeds are getting s little
frustrating. On the way out here, I ususally averaged about 45 mph
with stops, but now we're only doing about 25. With a top speed of 40
and all the curves and hills of the highway we're on, we're generally
going pretty slow. It's ok on this road for the most part. There's so
much to see that I'm almost happy to slow down and take it all in, but
it's getting frustrating and feeling a little uncomfortable at times.
During some of the straightaways, some cars/trucks tend to come right
up to your fender while they wait to pass. There are some turnouts
that I've been using, but sometimes there's just nowhere to go for a
while. We haven't been in any dangerous spots yet, but like I said,
it's been a little uncomfortable in a few instances. We had to go on a
freeway for a while today, which wasn't fun, but we did find a scenic
alternate route: Avenue of the Giants, which snakes through a redwood
forest. We hit a patch of irony when we got stuck behind a BMW that we
couldn't pass for about 5 miles until I got impatient and honked at
him to use one of the turnouts.

As cool as the PCH was between LA and SF, I think it might be even
cooler north of SF. There are a lot more boulders in the ocean up
here, and the cliffs overlooking the water are a lot more dramatic.

I don't think Sharon's seat is quite as pillowy soft as mine. It
probably doesn't help that her butt is much smaller than mine. She's
also wearing a backpack that's weighing her down more than me. Stay
tuned to see if she kicks me in the butt to even things up.

Staying in Eureka, CA tonight, which apparently used to be a town
based on fishing and timber, but now has moved on to motels and bail
bonds. That's the surest sign that a city has taken a downward turn,
when you have 3 offices competing for the bail bond market on the same

The Journey Continues

Day 21

Miles today: 156 Total Miles: 4,402

When we last heard from our hero, his noble steed had been injured,
but he had found his fair lady. With renewed vigor and courage, he
sets out once again to traverse the hostile countryside, o'er the
cliffs of the mighty pacific, dangerously close to the water's edge,
through driving winds and constant rains, in search of the mythic town
of Seattle, land of strange music, exotic coffees and strong ales.
Will his crippled steed be up to the task? Will his fair lady leave
his side in search of a more capable but far less attractive traveling
companion? Stay tuned as our hero confronts the many challenges set
before him . . .

After a few preparations in the morning and a delicious lunch stop for
some burritos, we hopped on the bike and took off across the Golden
Gate Bridge. They only charge a toll southbound, so we got out of town
for free! That bridge is much cooler to look at than drive on in my
opinion. Still, it was pretty cool to be able to look down and see
Alcatraz and some sailboats on the pacific as you rode over it.

We didn't make too much progress today, but we did get out of town and
on our way. Sharon and I have gone for a couple rides around Chapel
Hill, but never for longer than 20 miles or so. It takes a little
learning from both riders to figure out how to ride the bike together.
Little shifts here and there throw the driver off, and gear changes
and sudden braking can throw the rider into the driver. So today was a
little uncomfortable as we both worked things out.

We made it to Point Arena, which was apparently famous for having one
of the first lifesaving boats. We walked into a seafood restaurant
with memorabilia from the boat covering the wall, and then just as I
was about to sit down, I glanced up and saw that there were about 4
seconds left in the NCAA championship. It was much more painful to
watch that live than it would have been to see the highlights.
Seriously though, this year should have an asterisk next to it. Thy
beat Butler in the championship and won by 2. That's all you need to
know right there.

We were both pretty tired and went to bed early. We're looking to get
an earlier start tomorrow so we can put more miles in.

Stephen and Stacey, it was great to see you guys this weekend. It was
so cool to see the lives you guys have made for yourselves, and I'm
happy I was able to help you guys get settled in your new place. That
way, when I'm out there again, I can say, "See that wall over there?
Yeah, I painted most of that. Except for that spot there, and that one
there, which I missed and Stephen had to fill in. But the rest? All
me." I can't wait until August to see you guys again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday and a Very Unique Dinner

Day 20

Miles today: 0 Total Miles: 4,246

We were out pretty late last night, so not too much happened this morning. Sharon and I got up to go to Easter Mass, but the Direct TV guy what supposed to come that morning, so we decided to go that night instead. We had a Mario Soccer rematch so that I could affirm Waluigi's dominance, and didn't really leave the house until around 3 or 4.

We met Stacey's parents at one of the most unique restaurants that I've ever experienced. This was a combination Irish pub, Indian restaurant, and souvenier shop. I'm not sure what images are coming to mind right now, but I can tell you that this place was surreal. As the story goes, there were 2 friends in Brooklyn who each wanted to open up their own business: one wanted and Irish Pub, the other and Indian restaurant, and the third a souvenier shop. You walk in, and it looks like a pub - dark paint, dark carpet, lots of wood, and a few pool tables, but then there are tables with white tablecloths and the smell of curry wafting through the air. So I had Saag Paneer and a Fat Tire for dinner while an old Metallica concert played on one TV and cartoons played on another.

We walked back to Stacey's parents' place and caught the end of the Golden State game, which gave me the opportunity to sing the praises of Charlotte native Stephen Curry as he rained 3's down all over the Raptors. We met their dog, who I'm pretty sure would be more accurately described as a small horse. We chatted for a while and then it was time to go get ready for church.

It turns out that most churches don't have a Sunday evening mass on Easter, so I'm guessing that it's sort of a liturgical no-no. We went to a Taize mass, which was all we could find. It's sort of a contemplative style mass, with lots of repetitive chants and candles, based on the practices of some French monks (I think., Not too sure about that). It was a little strange going to Easter mass that late in the day, but I had been to the Easter Vigil so many years in a row that I was just happy to go to mass on Sunday.

When we got back, Stacey had bought us a big bag of Easter candy to celebrate (She's Jewish, by the way). I think she'll make a great mom - my parents used to hide our candy all around the house in these plasitc eggs and make us kids go look for it.