With a day to kill before arriving at the Par-Tay, I choose to ride by Mt. Ranier and then out to the Pacific coast before returning to Puget Sound.
For me, sleeping in a tent means that I usually wake up on my own at an acceptable hour, so I didn’t bother to sent an alarm. Surprisingly, I didn’t wake up until 8:40am. I slept well.
During the walk over to the bath house I noticed nice little paw prints on the Nightowl’s saddle. I’d heard something crawling around in the underbrush last evening while finishing up a trip report, so it didn’t surprise me. My first thought was a raccoon. Then, as I sat in my tent and pulled things together, I heard more brush rustling and caught last nights security team playing in the bushes.
I spent the next two hours on the internet.
Why, you ask? Well, another Par-Tay attendee and I are trying to get up into Canada for part of our trip home. That means lots of extra paperwork to ensure the border patrol that we are not bringing any interesting Covid variants with us in an effort to infect all of Canada.
One of those requirements is a proper Covid test with the sample taken within 72 hours of the border crossing. So the challenge is to find a facility that:
- Takes anybody.
- Has available appointments (or takes walk-ins)
- Is available on our way to the Par-Tay on Friday.
- Will return electronic test results within three days (72 hours).
The 24-hour-turnaround ID NOW tests from selected Walgreens pharmacies looked like our best bet for success, but they don’t have any appointments on Friday… unless I want to drive back out to Yakima to get it done.
After all that research, I still needed to pick a place to ride for the day. The only requirement is that I end the day somewhere near Olympia, Washington so I we can meet up on Friday for, hopefully, Covid tests.
I decided to brave the heavy smoke to the west and ride out towards Mt. Rainier. It would be a shame to ride this far west without actually seeing the Pacific, so I’d ride on out to the coast and poke around a bit. Then I could double back towards Puget Sound and find a hotel room or campsite in or around Olympia.
I rolled out of my campsite at high noon.
The Ride to Mt. Ranier
Last evening, I could see smoke off to the west. This morning it was overhead yet, but it was a lot closer than it was last night.
I jumped on I82 west for a few miles to the other side of Yakima and exited on US12 west towards Mt. Rainier. There are two road around the William O. Douglas Wilderness east of Mt. Rainier:
- US12 went around the south side of the wilderness, following the path of the Tipton River and passing Rimrock Lake.
- WA410 went around the north side of the wilderness, following the path of the Naches River,
I’d ridden them both in the past, and I’ve done the US12 route more often, so I decided to ride WA410 this time.
I didn’t have enough gas to get past Mt. Rainier, so I fueled up the Nightowl in Naches. I picked up a Vitamin Water and a roll of mini powdered donuts for, well, brunch I guess. Chatting with the cashier, he was just happy to be working inside and out of the smoke. I asked if he knew how far west the smoke origination was; he did not. With my luck, I won’t clear it until I can throw rocks into the Pacific.
A few miles west, and just before the US12/WA410 split, was a programmable traffic sign flashing so many screens of data that I had to slow down to make sure I’d see them all before passing it. The gist was that there were nasty wildfires along the WA410 route and I should expect to have limited visibility, crappy air quality (duh), and there may be temporary closures to allow equipment to move around along the edge of the fire.
Well, that doesn’t sound like much fun.
US12 it is.
The smoke was still thick along the US12 route during the climb to Rimrock Lake. I’d closed my helmet vents and was doing my best to limit the ingestion of ambient smoke as I rode. I did have a bandana that I could have soaked and put on, but it’s a bitch to get it fitting right under the my modular helmet.
About the time I’m thinking about stopping to dig out that bandana, I notice some blue sky in the distance through the smoke. Over the next two minutes, it was as if some god-like stage hand was lifting the haze filter from over my surroundings, eventually leaving me in a beautiful blue-skied day. I guess I didn’t have to ride to the coast to escape the smoke.
I rode past the ski resort at White Pass, all the chairlifts dormant for the summer season. A few miles down the west side of the pass, you come around a right-hand curve and, quite suddenly, there’s Mt. Rainier in the distance. This view was smoke free, but it is rarely cloud-free (I’ve only seen it devoid of clouds once). Today there were some clouds around some of the upper elevation, but not the peak. Photography ensued.
The Ride to the Coast
The rest of the ride out of the mountains and over to the I5 became a challenge of how many cars can I pass on a single 70-mile-long stretch of two-lane highway. At least it felt that way. For much of my trip, I had to pass a handful of cars here and there and was often rewarded with a dozen or so more miles of unmolested travel.
I’d pass a few vehicles, ride a mile or two, and find myself behind another set of vehicles. It was never-ending. Of course, it didn’t help that there were two sections of one-lane road to traverse, and that always gets a mess of vehicles all bunched up and harder to pass. It could have been worse; the eastbound traffic, perhaps people starting their weekend a day early, was much heavier and I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t in it.
Overall, this stretch went smoothly, no doubt due to the utter Teutonic-engineered magnificence of the K1600’s engine. It does completely spoil you.
After a quick stop before getting on the I5, I jogged north a few miles to the Chehalis exit, where I got on WA6 west to the coast at Raymond.
WA6 wasn’t as full of traffic, but it was curvier, so my pace didn’t improve much; I just didn’t have to work as hard.
About 10 miles from Raymond, I saw the familiar edge of a coastal cloud bank. I’d hoped that the coast would be sunny today; no such luck. Following the line of clouds, I could see that they stretched back further east to the north. With the clouds came the chill; about a 10º F drop in temperature, down into the low 60s. I found time between curves to zip up the vents in my jacket.
I arrive in Raymond and navigate north to pick up WA105 to loop around the coast of this peninsula. Judging from the expanses of mud along the shoreline, the tide is out.
I ride past Tokeland and North Cove and didn’t find a convenient place to get a glamour shot of the Nightowl on the coast. In retrospect, I’m sure I could have found an opportunity if I’d tried harder, but I was cold and lazy.
At Grayland Beach State Park, I turn off and park the Nightowl. I finally dig into my top case to pull out the purple flannel and put it on under my jacket. That’s a bit better. I consult the park map and there’s a decent walk through the sand to get to the beach. Meh. Not today.
I ride further up the coast and then stop at the Westport Light State Park beach. It, too, has a decent hike to get to the beach, but there’s a high spot within the first 100 yards, so I can take photos of the coast from there. No vanity beach photo for the Nightowl; I’m sure she’s disappointed.
The Ride to Olympia
I ride the 22 miles east to Aberdeen and stop for gas. Now that I’m off the coast, the wind isn’t as bad and the wind that exists is at my back. This helps fend off the chill a bit, but I still can’t wait to break out of the coastal cloud bank.
It’s now nearing 5pm and the congestion levels on US101 and WA8 increase slightly. In one jailbreak of a dozen cars accelerating hard up an on ramp, I almost get sideswiped by idiot in a hot-rod Honda Insight. I lay on my horn and he jerks back into his lane. As I pass buy, I glare at him and he flashes me a “Yup, I suck” look.
Get off my lawn.
I was only a few miles west of McCleary when I could see the blue sky out the end of the coastal cloud bank. I broke out into full sunshine shortly before the interchange to the I5.
I’d forgotten just how close the suburbs in the Puget Sound metromess are bunched together. It seemed like I’d just merged onto the I5 north when I was trying to get back to the right lane so I could exit into Lacey. I parked in front of the hotel office and sat in the direct sunlight for a few minutes, soaking it up like a cold-blooded lizard.
Walking into the hotel, I’m greeted by friendly signs taped to the door saying they’re fully booked and, basically, go away if you don’t have a reservation.
Sometime during this trip, the Washington governor changed the mask rules for indoor venues (a woman I talked to back at Lyons Ferry State Park warned me this was coming). Now everybody, regardless of Covid vaccination status, must wear masks in indoor public spaces. I’ve been carrying one in my back pocket this entire trip. Now I finally get to use it.
In the hotel office, chaos reigns. The computer crashed and isn’t coming back online after a restart. By the time the computer cooperates, there are four of us waiting to check in, futilely trying to social distance in a small space.
The receptionist finally calls me to the window and checks me in. I park the bike, grab my gear, and walk up to my room on the third floor.
I hear voices inside my room.
I recheck the number on the sleeve holding my key card. Yes, I’m standing at the correct door. I know if I go back to the front desk, they’re not going to trust that I heard voices in the room. I use the key, the door unlocks and I go in. A young couple, sitting together in front of a computer on the room’s desk, look up at me in surprise and amusement. We exchange polite greeting and I go back downstairs.
The receptionist can’t find any record that someone should be in that room and is going full-on Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the mystery. I’m biting my tongue to not scream, “I don’t fucking care! Solve your problem on your own damn time. Just give me different room!” She gives me a new key and ensures me that this one is empty.
One silver lining is that this new room is only on the second floor instead of the third, not that an extra flight of stairs isn’t good exercise. I reach the new room and listen for a moment. Silence. I open the door. Unoccupied. How nice.
Moved in to the room, I proceed to coordinate a meet up with the fellow Par-Tay attendee I mentioned for tomorrow morning at an urgent care clinic in Olympia. We’ll see if we can get Covid tests so we can go into Canada on our way home.
With the logistics planning out of the way, I still need to get dinner (I haven’t eaten anything except that pack of mini donuts back in Naches). There’s a pizza-and-beer place a few blocks down the street and a Denny’s across the parking lot. I’m thinking pizza but an acid flashback to that accidental large pizza from two days ago convinces me that a wimp-out for an easy walk across the parking lot is perfectly OK.
I’m about to grab my jacket when I realize that I’m still a bit chilled from the ride. I had noticed one the way back and forth to my rooms that this hotel had a pool… and a hot tub.
I do a quick-change into my swimsuit and walk down to the pool for a quick soak. Nothing kills the chills like a soak up to your neck in 100º+ water. Ten minutes was all it took. With the chills banished for the evening, I got dressed and walked over to Denny’s.
I ordered a strawberry crepe breakfast, which included eggs, hash browns and bacon… and a Diet Coke (roll eyes). I got a start on this trip report while the food was prepped.
Back in the room, I’m almost done with the trip report and it’s not even 11pm yet. I don’t know what to do with myself. I guess I’ll catch up on sleep.
Here’s today’s map with an altitude overlay. The only high spot is White Pass east of Mt. Rainier. After that, it’s all downhill to the coast.
Get a Covid test in Olympia and get my butt to the Par-Tay.