Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July 27, 2012 - HOME

We rode from Benton, KY to Dayton, OH without any real issue.  As soon as we made the I-71/I-75 interchange, the traffic became horrendous.

It was, after all, a Friday afternoon in July.  I suspected we would not hit any slowdowns and I was right.  Everyone was going the opposite direction.

We had gassed up just after getting on I-75 because I couldn't make it home on this tank.

We pulled into the drivway about 3:30 PM.  We quickly opened the camper and Don's trailer and began exchanging the items we had been carrying of each others.

In the meantime, as I was gathering some more items, Don was downloading all his pictures from his phone and camera, onto our home PC.

We had all that done in less than an hour.  Don had another 2-1/2 hours to ride to get to his place.  We said goodbye and had a brief conversation about the trip and he took off.

July 26, 2012 - Benton, KY - Motel

Yep - you guessed it.  More heat and a motel for the night.

This motel has an indoor pool.  We weren't real keen on an indoor pool, but thought of the one from last night being outside in the heat.  The one last night really wasn't refreshing as it was really warm.  This one was just right, although the indoor temperature was unbearable. 

We cooled off in the pool, then sat outside in the shade.

Fortunately there was a nice looking restaurant adjacent to the motel parking lot.  We just cooled off more, had a few beers and ate a late dinner.

We could make it home from here tomorrow.   Not much more to say other than ride to get home...

July 25, 2012 - Clarksville, AR - Motel

We headed out early and quickly from Elk City, OK.  The temps were already in the mid-80’s at 7:00AM.  We had planned to stop at the memorial at OKC which was about 125 miles away.

We found it despite there being absolutely no signs guiding us there.  It is still inspirational, despite the fact the reflecting pool was shut down for some repairs.  I was also surprised to find that the National Park Service has relinquished the control to Oklahoma.  It is now a private enterprise, so Don doesn’t get a stamp from here.  Unfortunately the reflecting pool was down for some repairs.

View Of OKC Memorial
This Wall Is At One End Of Reflecting Pool

Stylized Chairs Representing Each Victim
With Names Etched On Glass Base
Large Chairs For Adults, Small Chairs For Children
Columns Of Chairs Represent The Floor Victims Were On
Rows Of Chairs Arranged Alphabetically

Corner Of Original Building Left Standing
View Of Reflecting Pool (Currently Under Repair)

Personal Items On One of Many Fence Sections At OKC Memorial

We headed out for Ft Smith AR.  The heat was already unbearable.  We decided to stop at Clarksville, AR, for the night. 

They had a pool and we enjoyed it for several hours.  Our plans are to head out by 6:00 AM tomorrow and get an early start, beat the heat and stop early.  One has to plan for the weather as we had done in Alaska.  At this point, I can see us only swooping up the interstate to home.  It may be two more days and I believe we are both anxious to call this trip complete. 

I will load all the reports to the blog, add the pictures, and update accordingly.

The last report will summarize the trip and add some opinions of the adventures.

July 24, 2012 - Elk City, OK - Motel

The weather was cool when we left Albuquerque.  We were able to get on the road by 7:00AM.  We gassed up and headed east on I-40.  We knew the forecast was rain for eastern NM and windy conditions for Amarillo and east.

It didn’t really warm up until about noon or so, and we had no rain.  The wind began picking up about 50 miles west of Amarillo.  We endured it, and the up-to-35MPH gusts. 

We breezed through Amarillo (no pun intended), and even considered stopping in OKC, because of the excellent progress we were making.  Then the heat hit us.  Shortly after Amarillo, it got really hot. 

I was able to pick up a radio station from Elk City and heard the temp was currently 101 degrees.  It was about 125 miles from Amarillo to Elk City. 

We stopped at an Oklahoma visitors center to check on lodging ahead.  The gentleman gave us some good tips. 

We pulled off at the Elk City exit with many hotels.  By this time it was 103 degrees and we had no intention of camping.  The first motel we stopped at was booked.  They were kind enough to tell us all the motels at this exit were booked for some convention.

We took the road through town, gassed up, got some drinks and found another cluster of motels, basically at the next exit.  We both wanted a pool to cool of in, but the motel we were looking for couldn’t be found.  We stopped at another and they had a pool and rooms available. 

What luck…the pool is closed for major repairs, so we just went into the room, turned the A/C on MAX and had a few adult beverages. 

There were a few restaurants close by and we choose the Italian one across the street.  What a nice surprise.  It was one of the best mom-and-pop Italian meals we have both had for quite some time. 

We plan to head out early again, stop by the OKC memorial.  I have been there but Don has not.  I was most impressed when JoAnn and I first visited it in 2003 or so.

July 23, 2012 - Albuquerque, NM - Motel

The weather was good when we left Flagstaff.  We ate a good breakfast and headed out.  Our goal was to make Albuquerque, or beyond.  I fixed the cruise control issue and rearranged some things in the camper to put more weight to the front.  After we hit the interstate, the camper tracked much better and we could maintain a good 65 MPH with no issues. 

We stopped at the Petrified Forest, got a stamp for Don and walked around.  We met a couple of motorcyclists from Connecticut, who were heading to San Diego then up California and Nevada, Utah and on to Sturgis.  We chatted for maybe 10 minutes about our adventure.  They were nice people and we always enjoy talking to other riders.

Entrance To Petrified Forest

We saw rain on the horizon and about 10 miles west of Gallup, we suited up.  Not 5 minutes later it came down.  It was a combination of heavy rain and pea-size hail.  We kept going and felt it better to endure and get out of it.  It only lasted for 10 minutes, but seemed longer.  There were severe warnings out for the area.  We continued on to Albuquerque, and went to the Petroglyphs NM.  It was different small and on the main road.   Don got a stamp there, so he now has a stamp in NM.
Sign Adjacent To Parking Lot
Low-Budget Attraction Here

We know there aren’t much choices in the way of camping in Albuquerque, so we considered a motel.  As we talked about it in the petroglyphs parking lot, we could see another storm forming.  We found a motel down the road.  We pulled into the lot and two police cars were next door.  Don brought that to my attention.  I walked over the to one officer, and asked him if we should stay here tonight.  He said “No, you don’t want to stay in this area”.  Whoa…good news for us.  He said to go east for about 10 miles and stay at any motel there.  It would be much safer.

We no sooner pulled into the parking space, and the skies opened up.  It came down in buckets, and more hail was falling.  We stood outside our room and watched the rain go into a drainage swale, and commented that you could surf off the wave.
Deluge In Albuquerque
Wave In Drainage Swale Is On Other Side Of Fence

We will head out early and dodge the rain probably all day tomorrow.  It is either the rain or heat that is our nemesis.  We’ll see how far we can get tomorrow.  There isn’t much between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City.

July 22, 2012 - Flagstaff, AZ - KOA Campground

We left Needles at 6:55 AM with the temperature already at 91 degrees.  We grabbed a quick breakfast, gassed up and headed for Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.  We rearranged some of the items in the camper to make it track better.  It seemed to work.  I didn’t get the swaying I had yesterday.  Still…we can’t do the 75 MPH speed limit, but 62 MPH or so is better than 55 MPH. 
Entrance To The South Rim Of The Grand Canyon

View From South Rim Looking West

View From South Rim Looking East
View Looking At Plateau Half-Way Down With Trail

We just rode to the Grand Canyon exit and headed north.  We had both been there several times and our goal was to get Don’s NP passport stamp.  We found the visitors center, and parked.  We walked the rim trail, took some pictures and got the stamp.  We might have been there an hour or so.  It was beautiful.  The Grand Canyon was the first national park I visited in 1970.  Damn…that is almost 42 years ago.  I had always wanted to see it, walk to the bottom and see the grandeur.  I did that 42 years ago, and had since walked down part-way several times.  The area just outside the park boundary on the south rim had only one motel and one greasy spoon back then.  Now it is a suburbanites dream.  There must be a dozen motels, and every fast food joint you can name.  And don’t you know it – the same mom-and-pop motel from 42 years ago is still there, under the same name - Red Feather Lodge.  They have expanded, but still there. 

We headed for Flagstaff and the KOA.  We have stayed here before and it is nice, quiet, and convenient to the interstate.  There was a little rain in the forecast and we hit just enough drops to spot the windshield.  We checked in and headed for WalMart for some supplies. 

My clutch lever lost the cruise control fix I had put in.  Not a big deal, I have spare parts and have fixed it again.  My hand was severely cramped from holding the throttle and not having the cruise control working. 

Don is beat, has a headache, and decided to take a nap.  The heat has taken it out of both of us.  The weather here is about 80 degrees with a forecast low of about 50 tonight.  Our plans for tomorrow are to make it to Albuquerque and stop.  I think from here on out, heat is in the forecast.  We are going to play it by ear and let the weather and our endurance dictate where and when we stop. 

We will have to find someplace in NM, TX, OK, AR, and MO to get a NP stamp for Don.

July 21, 2012 - Needles, CA - Motel

We left the motel in Visalia later than we wanted to.  We finally hit the road about 9:00 AM.  Our goal was to get out of Dodge as quick as we can.  We looked at the map and plotted a course for Barstow.   By the time we would reach Barstow, we would have mad a decision whether to go to Las Vegas or Flagstaff.  We opted for Flagstaff. 

The heat has caught up with us.  Not much after we hooked up with the freeway, maybe 60 miles from Visalia, it was in the high 90’s. 

We pulled into Needles and it was 108 degrees.  We were stopping about every 70 miles or so to get water and cool off on the way.  Despite the fact we had a late departure, frequent stops, and limited to 55 MPH, we made excellent time.  The camper seems to be wandering more than it should and that is limiting our speed.  We repacked it after we arrived at the motel, and then went out to eat.  It seemed better.

Our Motel In Needles, CA

We had already discussed staying at a motel even before the heat maxed out.  We love to camp, but there is no way we are going to camp out in this weather.  Besides that, there is a storm heading this way.  The girl at the motel said the last time the clouds looked like that, there was 2 feet of water in the streets.  Another man told us that there is wind alert.  Flagstaff had 50 MPH gusts several hours earlier.  Right now, as I look out at the sky, it looks very serious.  Maybe it will hit at night, and clear in the morning.  Even with that, the heat is all around and ahead of us. 

I think we will head towards Flagstaff in the morning and maybe camp there.  It will be cooler as it is a higher elevation and out of the desert.

July 20, 2012 - Visalia, CA - Comfort Inn and Suites

My neck muscles were a little stiff.  Other than that, no injuries.  Thank goodness for helmet, jacket and boots – all of which took a hit in the fall.  I discovered a small abrasion on my left knee, and a small gouge out of my right shoulder.  I remember the trailer fender hitting my shoulder during the accident. 

We arrived at the Honda dealer, who was ready for us.  They found a headlight housing in Fresno in no time.  It was the one part that broke that needed immediate replacement.  Oddly enough, the bulbs still worked. 

They said in an hour they would have it accessed.  We went back to the hotel.  Don took off to Fresno to pick up the headlight housing.  In the meantime, Honda called me and told me one of the forks were bent slightly.

More phone calls and the same warehouse had some forks.  I am letting Honda determine replacement suitability and timing.  If they can be used, Don will come back with all replacement parts. 

I talked to the insurance company this morning.  I explained the whole thing, including having Honda begin work on the bike.  She didn’t like that much, saying that they need to authorize the work first.  I then explained the distance we were from home, the time needed to make the bike roadworthy and everything else.  She understood a little better and said she would do the best she could to get a local adjuster to the shop this morning. 

Talked to the adjuster.  He cut a check to Honda.  I paid the deductible.  I ended up with both fork tubes replaced and am taking the old ones with me.  I can either rebuild them or sell as is to recoup some money.  Don ended up having his blown fork seal replaced, because we suspect the lack of fork action may have had an influence on the accident, as does Honda.  I will finalize the damage with the insurance upon return to home.  There isn’t much more other than the trunk, front fender and muffler guard that need attention. 

We have the bikes in the parking garage with trailer/camper hooked up ready to roll in the morning. 

We have no idea which way or where we will be going.  The heat wave is still gripping the country, and we can’t escape it.  At this point, I believe we take the most scenic, direct route home.  There is still much to see, but the majority of the return routes we have been on a number of times, and nothing really is attracting us now.  We also have to remember the Colorado fires are still an issue.  We have to check on that, if we head to Colorado.

July 19, 2012 - Visalia, CA Comfort Inn and Suites

We had a great night.  It was SOOO dark and quiet.  It looked like a little rain on the horizon.  A few drops fell before we packed up, but were dry by the time we did the final packing.  We headed out towards some of the sights in Kings Canyon.  There are giant sequoia trees everywhere and some of them are ancient and huge.  We toured an area of giants, took some pictures and moved on.  The road ends 25 miles away, without much to see, so headed back towards Sequoia NP. 

One Of The Fallen Giant Sequoia Trees.
This One has Been Down For Over 100 Years

Don got his National Park passport stamp at each location.  We were approached by two other riders, who told us about a construction zone in our direction that had up to a one-hour delay.  We decided not to mess around and left the visitors center right away. 
One Of The Few Trees Not Blocked Off By Fencing.
Walking On The Ground Around A Tree Will Damage The Root  System

The Giant Called Gen Grant.
It is HUGE!

Entrance To Sequoia NP

As we drove through the Sequoia NP, we were in awe at the big trees everywhere, particularly in the area called “The Grove of Giants”.  It had been maybe 25 years since I had been to either of these parks, and as usual, the scenery was spectacular. 

We continued down the mountain and towards Visalia, CA.  We stopped in a line of traffic and thought that this was the one-hour delay.  We turned off the bikes and got some cold drinks out of the coolers.  All of a sudden the traffic started moving.  WOW – this is great, no delay to speak of. 

The road was a mix of gravel, mud, sand and everything else that made it a nasty ride for over three miles.  We ended up being the second and third last vehicle behind the pilot vehicle.  We got back on asphalt, and not 100 feet later, just before a sharp curve, DOWN I WENT. 
Park Police Investigating The Wreck
Skid Marks Seen Immediately To Her Right Foot

View In The Direction From Which We Were Travelling

The Bike Where It Stopped (now in the upright position)
We Disconnected The Camper And Moved It Out Of The Way

OUCH…I slid sixty feet and came to rest along a low retaining wall.  The bike was facing the opposite direction, and the camper was at an acute angle to the bike, still in the right direction.  I paused for a moment, and then got up.

Don and the construction safety coordinator (imagine that) Roy Jacobs, came over to me.  They both witnessed the event.  They checked me out, and then looked at the bike and camper.  We disconnected the camper, and righted the bike.  The next hour was a flurry of phone calls and people coming to the scene.  Our phones didn’t have service, so all calls were made with Roy’s phone. 

The park police showed up and did the usual questions, and paperwork.  She was very helpful as was Roy.  We weren’t sure if the bike was roadworthy, so we called for a tow truck.  There was a mix up that we couldn’t figure out, and the tow truck was cancelled.  The park police came back three hours later and was pissed nothing had happened with the tow truck.  She made some calls as did Roy and got things back in line with the tow truck. 

The park police questioned us about a stolen portable gas grill from the campground where we had stayed.  The people next to us only came to fix supper, and then stayed at the lodge.  They were all drunk and our conversation with them was odd.  They left a number of items on the picnic table and left.  I had noticed in the morning the only thing left was a cheesy tablecloth on the picnic table.  I told the park police about that and the large group of Chicano’s just across the road from the suspect site.  We offered to have her inspect our camper and Don’s trailer for the stolen items.  She inspected our stuff and said OK.  She had mentioned that some people in the campground had told her about two bikers from Ohio, who might know something.  She then went on to tell us about all the “Euros” that come over here.  They only have a passport, and large sums of cash.  They go to WalMart and buy $500.00 or more of camping gear, travel around the area, the leave all gear where they last stayed, then go home.  It is a headache for the park service.  After 24 hours, they gather the gear and store it und the description of “evidence”.  After 12 months, they have to dispose of it.  They can’t sell it or give it away.  It is another bureaucratic Catch-22.  Too bad the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers/Sisters, or some half-way house can’t benefit from the items listed as “evidence”.  

We were surprised to see a tarantula crossing the road.  We found out later, the area has thousands of them.  Once a year, they all migrate elsewhere and cross the roads in huge swarms.

Tarantula Crossing The Road
Compare His Size To The White Stripe

Finally at 6:35 PM the tow truck arrived.  The wreck happened at exactly 12:30 PM.  Don left to go down the hill immediately after the arrival of the tow truck to make some calls and meet us further down the road. 

We had made arrangements with a local Honda dealer to look the bike over.  It was too late now to drop it off at Honda, so we opted for taking the bike to a hotel down the street from the Honda dealer. 

The road down the mountain was probably the most treacherous piece of road we had had on the whole trip.  It had quite a few turns beyond 180 degrees, steep decent, and narrow pavement.  We could watch cars inching their way up and down the road from our vantage point at the scene of my wreck.  It was a slow painful ride in the tow truck down the mountain.  The hours of delay, the heat, the dust, the unknowns were quickly taking its toll on me. 

We got to the hotel, unloaded the bike and settled in for the night.  We had to be at the Honda dealer at 9:00 AM tomorrow.

July 18, 2012 - Kings Canyon NP - Sunset CG

Well…we didn’t get very much sleep last night.  The crowds of tents were all twenty-something, rude ignorant, inconsiderate individuals.  I finally went over to some of them at 12:20 AM and told them it was time to be quiet.  After 5 minutes or so, they all went to bed.  However, others arose at 5:00 AM and began behaving like it was noon as they were packing their gear. 

At least the weather was cooperating.  It was sunny, and warm; almost too warm.  We headed  back into Yosemite, got gas and looked around.  The morning sun is not good for viewing El Capitan or Half Dome.  The afternoon sun is best, particularly from the tunnel view overlook.  Don got his stamp and we headed out. 

We had checked our tires, and decided as soon as we had phone service, we would contact someone to replace them.  We found a Honda dealer recommended by someone in the GWRRA Gold Book.  We called and got there about 12:45.  They broke for lunch at 1:00.  We made all the arrangements and got lunch ourselves at a Chinese buffet.  We gorged and loved it. 
An Area Of Don's Rear Tire Worn Through To The Cord
Do You Think It Was Ready To Be Replaced?

Don’s trailer tires needed replacement too.  We contacted BushTech and were unable to make any arrangements or suggestions from them.  We were SOL.  The guys at the Honda shop suggested dual-sport tires.  They had some that fit and they will work - and they were half the price of the BushTec tires..  We left around 5:30 and headed up the mountains to Kings Canyon. 

We were concerned we wouldn’t find a campground tonight.  What luck…several are open and not full.  We set up, got some adult beverages and settled in.  We are skipping supper, as we are still stuffed from the Chinese buffet. 

It should be a cool, quiet night.  The campground is only adults and serious campers, which we like, and it is not crowded.

July 17, 2012 – El Portal, CA - Indian Flats RV Park

We awoke to another chilly morning in Guernesy campground.  It was 38 degrees, but no wind was blowing.  We had built a nice fire the night before, and I was able to get another fire going immediately, since we had stowed some spare wood just for the morning.  There is something about an early morning campfire we both enjoy.

We packed up and headed out under cloudless blue skies.  We had planned to ride to Yosemite today, since there is nothing in between.

We had some delays, as much of the roads we were traveling were endless twisties and ascending/decending from the mountains.
Entrance To Yosemite NP

We arrived at Yosemite and as we suspected, all the campgrounds are full.  We ended up heading west out of the park to find a campground.  There were several national forest sites, but no showers were to be found in them.  We pulled into the first commercial campground we found and snagged the last site.

A Portion Of Yosemite Valley

The South Side Of El Capitan

View of Yosemite Valley From The Exit Road
View of Yosemite Valley From Tunnel View Overlook
El Capitan On The left, and Half-Dome In The 

There must be fifty tents in this campground.  It appears they are hikers, missionaries, or scouts.  Nobody is here now and I believe it will be chaos when they all return.  As long as they don’t disturb our beauty sleep.
We are going back into Yosemite tomorrow, take some pictures, get Don’s passport stamp and head south to Kings Canyon and Sequoia NP.  The scenery and weather is significantly different than when we were here two years ago.  Right now, it is in the low 80’s, cloudless sky with a slight breeze.  Two years ago, it was 45 degrees, rain, sleet, and fog.  It is amazing what we can see now, that we couldn’t see two years ago.

We looked over our rear tires, and it appears that both rear tires need to be replaced.  We will look up someone in the Gold Wing Gold Book and see what help or advice they can offer.  Don’s trailer tires are also in need of replacing.  He has one spare, but needs two.  We will try to contact someone tomorrow when we get internet and phone service and can formulate a plan.

July 16, 2012 - Mill Creek, CA - Gurnsey National Forest Campground,

The weather turned very cool overnight at Collier SP.  The temps were in the 80’s when we stopped, and dropped to 34 degrees when we woke up.  It was damn cold.  We ate, packed up and took off for Lassen Volcanic NP. 

We had both forgotten about Mt Shasta on our way.  We didn't stop at the mountain, but were pleased to be able to see it without clouds obscuring it.

Great View of Mt Shasta

A Plaque Describing Mt Shasta

We had plans to go beyond Lassen and onto a southern destination. 

We arrived at Lassen around 2:00 and toured the visitors center.  We were hoping to camp in the park, but most of the sites were taken.  The open sites were not the best, and besides that, people were packed in pretty tight.  Additionally, there is a bear problem there and we didn’t feel like dealing with the bear lockers and everything else.

Entrance To Lassen Volcanic NP
We charted a course towards our original destination and hoped for the best.  We found a national forest campground about 30 miles outside the park.  It is just what we needed.  There were maybe sixty sites and only a dozen or so occupied.  We have to come to really like the national forest campgrounds.  They are big, open, not crowded and usually well off the road.  We also like the dead-and-down policy of gathering firewood.  This campground had plenty of downed wood for us to build a nice fire.

Me Next To Some of The Firewood Don Had Gathered

We had discovered a bolt missing on the camper.  It is holding the folding bed, support poles and frame together.  We had stopped to pick up some replacements.  At the campground, we successfully replaced the bolt and checked all the others.  Everything else was OK. 

We will most likely have a short day tomorrow.  We want to go to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia NP next.  Our plan is to camp outside Yosemite, then tour it and the other two.

July 14, 2012 - Waldport, OR - KOA Campground

We left the motel in Centrailia with overcast skies, but no rain.  Our plans were open as all we wanted to do was make to Oregon coast and ride US Rt 101 south.  We ended jumping on I-5 and heading south. 

The GPS was taking us through some uncharted roads and we ignored it and followed the map. 

The sun was shining as we got off the interstate and headed towards the coast.  I found a motel where I sent report no. 3 to JoAnn.  We shed our outer layers and continued on south on US Rt 101. 

The weather became overcast and foggy.  Hey…this is the Oregon coast and that is to be expected. 
Along The Oregon Coast - South of Waldport, OR

Me At An Oregon Coast Overlook

Don At An Oregon Coast Overlook

We stopped at a WalMart to get some supplies and regroup.  A lady in the parking lot told us all the campgrounds were full fifty miles to the north and the south.  We panicked.  I ended up looking on the internet and calling the KOA.  We got the second last spot and they have laundry facilities.  This was great as we could stop early, do the laundry and then eat. 

But first, we had to determine where the clanking sound was coming from on the camper.  It has been doing it for maybe 6,000 miles and we thought it was the left wheel.  We pulled the left wheel twice and found nothing.  Most people said it was coming from the left side.  We pulled the right wheel and brake drum.  AH HA…the brake magnet had broken free and was rolling around the drum.  After 6,000+ miles of that, it didn’t really look bad.  At least we solved the mystery and now have a quiet camper. 

We set up, and gathered our clothes.  We took turns watching the machines.  We got it all done by 6:00 or so, and said “Hey…lets eat out.  There are seafood restaurants galore and none are special. 

We headed out, found one, and had a very nice meal.  We built the mandatory campfire and by that time the fog rolled in, bringing with it the mist, dew, dampness and overall undesirable conditions. 

We went into the camper and played some cards until we both were sleepy.  We knocked out at 9:30 or so.

July 13, 2012 - Centrailia, WA - Motel

There was a light rain as we woke up in Potlatch.  It stopped before we got out of the camper, but the dripping trees continued to get everything wet.  The campground is thick with tall pine trees.  We suited up (rain gear) and headed out. 
Updating The Trip Report in Potlatch SP - Hoodsport, WA

We were expecting to get all around the Olympic peninsula loop road today.  The loop road passed innumerable small cottage and resort areas, just like any other lakeside, or ocean side area.  We stopped at the first visitors center at the north end.  Don got his stamp and we ate breakfast and gassed up in Port Angeles.  The ride to Port Angeles was not very scenic, as the fog and rain clouds obscured all the mountains. 

We continued the drive around and it thinned out on the west side.  It was just pretty much road, sky and trees.  We turned onto the Hoh Rain Forest road and to another visitors center.  The road wound back 15 miles or so to the area where there is a huge rain forest.  The vegetation and trees changed to what one would expect of a rain forest.  The trees were huge, moss covered monsters, and sub-tropical plants were everywhere. 
The All Too Familiar Welcome Sign

Paused Along the Road

We toured the visitors center and looked around.  Don noticed a sign high above the sidewalk outside the entry.  He told me to step back and stop.  He took a picture of me under the sign that read “Average Rainfall, 137.92 inches”, and a line indicating that height.  Southwestern Ohio gets about 41 inches a year.  WOW – and when we were there, the sun was shining, blue sky and puffy clouds.  What luck. 
The Sign Above My Head Reads "Avg Rainfall 137.92 Inches" and is Set At that Height
By the time we returned to the loop road, I could tell we would be pressed for time in getting to the a motel in time to do laundry and eat out at a nice restaurant.  The ride on the west side was a little better because the clouds had lifted and many of the mountains could be seen.  We were surprised at the number of high mountains here.  Mt. Olympus is almost 8,000 feet and many of the surrounding mountains are impressive too, many of them snow-covered. 

Snow Covered Mountain On the Olympic Peninsula
We pushed on and checked the route at our next gas stop.  Don programmed the target location into the GPS and we headed out.  The roads were very confusing even with the GPS.  I had found some motels on the internet, but when we got there, no motels were to be found.  We regrouped again, and headed south on I-5 towards Centralia.  We found a motel, but it was almost 6:30 and we decided to stay, eat in a restaurant, and skip the laundry until tomorrow. 

We will make an early start in the morning, and have a leisurely day, with plans to stop early to do laundry. 

There is US RT 101 running along the Oregon coast that is supposed to be a great ride, but Crater Lake NP is the other way and considerably inland from the coast.  We will have to plan this out so we don’t end up in the middle of nowhere, and wasting a full day meandering around.  We both wanted to stop at Crater Lake NP.

July 12, 2012 - Shelton, WA - Potlatch SP

Lake Pleasant Campground -  Bothell, WA
The night at Bothell really cooled down.  It was good for sleeping.  We headed out to clear blue skies and temps in the low 60’s.  We rode to Mt Rainer NP. 

We had to first negotiate the morning rush hour in Seattle and the outskirts.  It was a bit hectic as it was backed up for miles and us not being in traffic like that for weeks, left us a little frazzled.  We finally found a break, and the road we were after. 

We saw a sign for Green River Gorge, and wanted to go see it.  We never saw another sign for it.  We didn’t go back and continued on.  We entered the park from the northwest and continued eastward.  We took the road up the Sunrise Visitors Center, so Don could get his National Parks passport stamp.  The side road to the visitors center was 17 miles up and 17 miles down.  It was a little hairy in spots as the road was narrow, winding, and no guardrails.  It was well worth it though.  We had some spectacular views of Mt Rainer from several different vantage points.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the mountain looming over the area was awe-inspiring.  The piles of snow were still everywhere, and the visitors center parking lot had it piled up maybe 15 feet or more. 

We took the circuitous route out of the park as it would lead us to the Olympic peninsula.  We had planned to stop at Olympic and motel it and do some laundry, but changed our minds.  We will do that tomorrow after circling the Olympic peninsula.  We stopped about 30 miles up the eastern side, so tomorrow should be about 200 miles around. 

As we re-entered the park through the checkpoint, I turned my bike off to show my pass.  It wouldn’t start again.  Don had to push me up past the guard shack, and out of the way.  We did some mental troubleshooting and determined it to be the alternator.  I took my spare alternator from the camper, and swapped it out.  Don had to jump me to get the bike started though.  We let it run for a few minutes and did some after-the-fact electrical checks and it all seemed well.  We took off and it ran well, started and seemed fine.  Thank goodness for spare parts.  Believe it or not, it was only an hour delay. 

We plotted a course for Potlatch SP and continued on.  There were some detours, construction delays and traffic.  Despite all that, we made it without too much difficulty. 

Mt Rainier From a Distance Travelling Up the Road
To The Visitors Center

Mt Rainier From The Visitors Center

Piles Of Snow In the Mt Rainier Visitors Center

Finishing Up Replacing the Alternator On My Bike
At the Second Entrance to Mt Rainier.
We both noticed that the people and their campers, here at the state park are diametrically opposed to the campers from last night.  The campground last night was a high dollar, fancy-ass, preppy sort of place.  Don't get me wrong, it was a very nice campground with a small lake in the middle and all the sites around the lake.  Ducks came up our site as we opened a package of cookies.  I guess the ducks have been conditioned to the sound of crinkling paper, and expect a treat.  They got none and after ten minutes or so, they waddled off.  I walked around our campground loop in Bothell, WA this morning looking at some of the rigs.  Other than a few transients like ourselves who had very modest units, like small motor homes, and trailers, the rest were six-figure behemoths.  In the thirty or so sites I viewed, no less than twenty were massive, decked out units, with satellite, cars towed behind, and even motorcycles on the rear, in between the towed car and the motor home.  Now…the really scary part is that this campground had maybe two hundred sites, most of which were occupied with the big motor homes – and most of the them were from Washington state.  Go figure…

July 11, 2012 - Bothell, WA - Lake Pleasant CG

View Of Grand Coulee Dam

We left the campground in Coulee City sweating.  It was 70 degrees when we woke up at 6:00 AM.  We ate a good breakfast, took another shower and headed out to the Grand Coulee Dam. 

We toured the visitor center, viewed a movie of the building of the dam and the impact.  A girl asked us if we wanted to go on the FREE tour.  Of course, if it is free.  We drove over to the departure site and had a nice one-hour tour.  Most of it is restricted since 9-11.  It was still worthwhile. 

We returned to Coulee City, gassed up and headed out on Rt 2, over the mountains towards Seattle.  We talked to a few people, who told us about the heat wave enveloping the entire nation, except the Seattle area.  Coolness sounds good. 

Route 2 was a good ride, with excellent road conditions.  We were aiming for a state park just east of Seattle.  We found it, but no camping is available.  We now have some internet capabilities on our phones, so we looked for campgrounds.  We found one just northeast of Seattle.  It is a little pricey, but is good for the night. 

We will head our to Mt Rainier tomorrow.  Depending how that goes, we may circle it, then head to Olympic NP.  We will play all that by ear.  I cannot see us doing both in one day.  We will have to watch the campgrounds, since availability in metropolitan areas are scarce.  With the weekend coming up, there will be more people heading out the great outdoors too.

July 10, 2012 - Coulee City, WA - Steamboat Rock SP

The sun was shining when we got up in St. Regis.  The temps were in the low 60’s.  However, there were black clouds on the horizon.  I checked the weather at the campground and there was a slim line of showers right over US Rt 12, which we planned to ride.  We had a good breakfast at the campground and headed out towards Missoula.  It was about 75 miles away and it is ironic that that is where we were about 3 weeks ago.  We found Rt 12 and headed out onto it.  After about 20 miles or so, there was lightening in the skies.  We pressed on and only hit a few drops, although the roads were very wet.  We had missed the downpour and only caught the aftermath. 

Whoa...Is This a Warning or What!!!
After about 40 miles or so, we saw a sign that stated “Curves Next 99 Miles”.  Whoa…what a road.  There were no tight turns, but plenty of sweepers.  The road started almost at the headwaters of the Clearwater River.  It was the original route of Lewis and Clark through the area.  We followed the river for over 120 miles and saw plenty of rafters, kayakers and motorcycles.  It is a very popular road and must be a mob scene on the weekends. 

The Clearwater River Along US Rt 12 In Montana
The weather turned hot as we exited the Clearwater River Basin.  Western Washington and Oregon is basically semi-arid, high-desert areas.  The terrain and geography changed dramatically in only 5 miles or so.  By noon, we were cooking in temps that hovered around the mid-90’s. 

On US Rt 12, Above Lewiston, ID.
The Road Seen Below is the Old Road From the 1930's

We took all back roads and were shocked at the mile-after-mile of crops.  Most of it appeared to be wheat, oats, or similar crop.  The area was devoid of trees, and every square inch was crops.  All of a sudden the terrain changed to rocks and hills and then there was livestock.  This happened several times, but as best we can estimate, there was over 100 miles of crops and 30 miles of livestock.  BORING RIDE…Hey – one has to take the good with the bad.  Despite the fact we probably averaged 45 MPH on Rt 12 for 150 miles or so, had two construction delays, stopped for lunch, and several times for drinks and to cool off, we still did almost 500 miles today.  The last 100 or so was rough.  It was on a secondary road, and NOTHING was around. 

We enjoyed the ride and decided to shoot for Coulee City for the evening.  It is about ½ hour from Grand Coulee Dam.  They open at 9:00 AM so we can have a good breakfast again and take the tour, without straining our schedule – yeah…right. 

The state park where we are staying is a nice one, but the temps are straining our tolerance.  I believe once we head out west from here the temps will cool as we go towards Seattle, and most likely rain.  The campground is overrun with seagulls.  They are scavengers and several are waiting in the roadway for us to leave something out, or throw them something.

Steamboat Rock SP - Coulee City, WA
View of Banks Lake From Steamboat Rock SP