The Great White North - Day 5 - "Rain, rain, and more rain"
Day 5 (7/15/19)
We would have been idiots to not expect and prepare for rain in the Pacific Northwest, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t suck when we did encounter it. We woke up on the fifth morning to it being a little overcast, 30-40% chance of rain in a lot of the cities we were riding through – cool not a problem! Wrong. We stopped for fuel before hitting the road and right then the first few drops fell, the first few drops that would lead to the rest of the day being quite wet.
From Eugene we cut straight to the coast toward Florence. It was only a little ways out of town when it really started coming down decently heavily – but looking out the direction we were traveling I was confident it would let up at any minute, so we carried on for quite a ways until it was finally becoming too much to handle. We eventually stopped and put on some of our rain gear once we were already soaked. I was actually in half decent shape since my riding clothing is water resistant so I didn’t bother with the full rain suit, but poor Bob’s pants are mesh which I didn’t realize, and so not only was he extra soaked but then a lot of water had gone through his pants and into his boots which made it extra miserable for him.
As we continued down the road toward Florence I knew we were headed directly west meaning the ocean had to be close. Where the hell is this thing I kept asking myself? Thinking that we’d finally be able to see it around every corner. Something I didn’t realize is that in this area is that you pretty much come out of some super heavy timber to then finally see the ocean which was sort of weird to me. But we’d made it from Colorado all the way to the west coast on motorcycles! Even if we went no where else on this trip I think that is still quite impressive.
In Florence we stopped to try to dry out some, get some fuel, and that’s when I decided it was time for the full fledged rain suit. I feel bad for the gas station attendant because we were taking up spaces for so long trying to stay under some cover and also get our affairs in order. I also never let any of them pump my fuel (they’re paid to do this in Oregon) but that seemed semi common with motorcycles. They’d always ask if I knew what I was doing and when I replied they would walk away. So we got ourselves all sorted out and then headed up the 101 Coastal Highway which was a beautiful ride despite all the rain. Sure it could have been better but it still made for a wild experience.
We rode and rode and road the PCH passing through these cool little coastal towns, and it would have been fun to stop but I planned this to be a pretty long day at 480 miles and we still had to catch a ferry from Port Angeles into Victoria, BC. I was hopeful we’d be able to catch the 5:20pm ferry and be able to spend a little time that evening in Victoria but the further up the road we got the less and less likely the chances were of that happening. All along the way were these Tsunami Hazard Zone signs which I thought was kind of an eerily funny necessity to the region.
So it rained. And then rained some more. And then it would think about letting up. But then the sky would open back up again and tell us to go fuck ourselves. We eventually made it to Tillamook where we stopped for gas, lunch, and another attempt to dry out. Tillamook turned out to be a cool little town well known for their dairy products and pretty much nothing else. We ate some lunch at a by-the-slice pizzeria (Fat Dog Pizza) that was pretty good but not much to write home about – they probably didn’t use Tillamook cheese on their pies! While in town Bob also got some special boot liners to keep his freshly changed socks dry. Check them out!
We finally got out of Tillamook at about 12:30pm, and with a lot more riding ahead of us, it wasn’t looking like the 5:20 ferry was going to be a reality which was fine. We could then take our time and catch the 9:30 late ferry as our safety. So we rode, up and up, getting stuck behind campers and RVs and old people. All of who would never pull over into the slow moving vehicle lanes despite usually going 15-20mph under the speed limit. Thanks! So not only was that extremely frustrating but equally putting us behind schedule. I suppose I should have expected that given the time of year and where we were, but common sense didn’t outweigh my excitement while planning the trip sometimes. The GPS was quite accurate at estimating when you would get to your destination and eventually it had us getting to the ferry just barely in time so I figured we should consider changing the route up a little. Once we hit Astoria, instead of crossing the bridge into Washington we would instead take highway 30 over to I5 and up toward Seattle. It would save us a few hours, and at this point would be well worth the peace of mind. Again we were wrong. For some reason they shut down part of I5 and now the GPS was saying we’d make it to Port Angeles at 11pm. No way, it was sink or swim time and we had a ferry to catch! I did some quick on-the-fly learning with the GPS and had it take us down back roads and through these tiny little towns to avoid the I5 parking lot. And while a ton of other people were doing the same thing, it worked out in our favor. We were able to pass through the shut down, get back on the interstate, and continue on our journey.
Once we reached Olympia we were able to cut back onto the other side of 101 and ride up the east side of the Olympic National Park. One thing I didn’t realize and probably should have was that this is big time logging country. The smell of wood was so nice…as long as you weren’t stuck behind the sketchy load carrying trucks. At this point (6pm roughly) it had FINALLY started to let up with the rain, the road was drying out, and there wasn’t a soul traveling the path we were on and so we were able to really get some really good riding in. We stopped for gas in Eldon, and then hammered the pavement some more. I usually ride pretty hard and ahead of Bob which likely isn’t a great idea given that I have the GPS and am equally not interested in speeding tickets, but I figured you just stay on the one road you’re on until you get to Port Angeles and so I didn’t think much of it. Well of course we were far enough apart where Bob couldn’t see which direction I took at a kind of confusing fork in the road and so he took the wrong fork and got detoured for about 30 minutes. Oopsieeee. I sat and waited for a bit so we could ride into Port Angeles together and when he didn’t show up for about 15 minutes I tried calling him and got an answer with a lot of wind noise so I knew he was at least still up on two wheels and headed to me.
I carried on solo to the ferry line to make sure we got tickets onto the boat, figured everything out, etc. while Bob rode on. That way we would be all set once he got there. Sure enough, the one idea I had worked out that day. I got our tickets, told Bob where to go, and we met up and had made it in time! Hell, we even had time to grab a bite to eat at the little restaurant next to the port.
We ate some dinner and Bob covered this one for me since I’d gotten his ferry ticket. We headed back to the bikes to watch the ferry come in and get ready to load up. As we were standing there I noticed a shiny thing on my tire, and thinking it was a bit of debris I went in close to inspect a small nail sticking out. Well the tire is still fully inflated so it must not have gone all the way through and punctured the tube thank Christ! That could have made this long day VASTLY longer. The motorcycle gods were looking out for me on that one.
Throughout the trip we learned that every boat loads and unloads differently, and on this ferry the bikes load last. Okay that’s fine, they got all the cars on and then we lined up letting the Canadian guys go ahead since it was very clear they’d done this before and we were rookies at the process. We got our tickets out, and loaded on the boat…but where the hell was Bob? They were closing the doors to the ferry and Bob still wasn’t on so I walked over there to look out the door to see just what was going on when he finally rode onto the ship. They closed the last door, Bob parked, and I asked what the problem was. The zippered pocket he had put his ticket into in his jacket decided it was done opening forever, even when forced with pliers. So Bob had to whip out his knife, cut open his jacket and get the ticket out that way just to get onto the damn ferry. That jacket would later be exchanged for one that didn’t have such a bad attitude.
Once we were all aboard and got the bikes tied off we knew everything was good to go. It was about 90 minutes across to Victoria and that gave us a good amount of time to finally relax and unwind from what felt like the longest day of our lives. It was a pretty nice night out so we sat up top on the boat and gazed back at the US knowing that we were headed into a brand new country that neither of us had ever been to before.
Eventually we got cold and headed inside where they had a little gift shop, and duty free area that they opened up for about 10 minutes. The boat docked and despite what the workers had told us before they let the bikes off first. I was the jackass who had turned my bike around thinking we’d go out the way we came in…nope, there was a side door we exited so I had to turn back around quickly. The customs/boarder patrol guy was super nice. He just asked if we were riding with the Canadian bikes ahead of us which we were not, asked a few more questions, and let us on our way. Since it was 11:30pm at this point he too was likely exhausted and ready to get everyone off the ship and go home for the night.
Luckily the ferry dropped us right close to downtown Victoria which is where our hotel was for the night, so we rode quickly over there, got checked in and the bikes put away, and put an end to the 17 hour day.