Sometime last summer, I stopped riding motorcycles as a hobby and adopted it as a lifestyle. It wasn’t a conscious effort and I’d be lying if I pointed to an exact moment of metamorphosis, but I think the end of the first leg of my trip through the Pacific Northwest was the start of it. More than ten hours on my Ninja 250 and a frantic search for a bed had triggered a bit of an internal panic that nearly broke me, but somewhere between the Oregon border and Mount St. Helens I saw my bike’s saddle as more than a chair. I grew to love it like home.
The emotional comfort of lounging on the couch with my fiancée and our cat, but at 60 mph along the Olympic Highway through the kinds of greens and blues television can’t produce. God I miss it. I’m going back.
I knew last year as soon as I’d returned to San Francisco that I needed to make the trip again, been thinking of another week on two wheels even since. But I’m not looking for a carbon-copy repeat in a vain attempt to relive a past experience. This year’s plan calls for a different route through Oregon and, more notably, the company of a childhood friend.
The same friend I escorted to Santa Cruz last July is on board with my second venture north. Four days through California and Oregon to Seattle, one day of rest and another three days back down the coast to San Francisco; that’s the plan, for now. I’ve done a fair bit of daydream drooling over Google Maps in anticipation for the trip, and come up with this preliminary set of routes.
Day 1 | Cameron Park to Mount Shasta
I’ve agreed to kick off the trip from Brian’s home just east of Sacramento. The benefit of this starting point is an easy shot to Highway 49, which was a bad word when I was growing up and windy back roads meant car-sick kids, but as a motorcycling adult now looks like joyous tarmac. The downside is a whole lot of heat. Hopefully things will cool down by the time we find a camp site near the base of Mount Shasta.
Day 2 | Mount Shasta to Crater Lake
From Shasta, Highway 97 could take us to Crater Lake with hours of daylight to spare, but when I originally routed that way the map looked a bit depressing and in need of more adventure. Enter northeast California and Goose Lake. Probably also hot. I’ve wanted to visit Crater Lake since before last year’s trip and am elated to have worked it into the schedule this go-round.
Day 3 | Crater Lake to Mount Hood
This is the least-purposeful leg of the trip; having no other Oregon target in mind, I aimed only for a fun route that would set us up to circle Mount Ranier on the final stretch. Mount Hood came recommended by folks more familiar with the area, and the Columbus River Gorge promises stunning scenery.
Day 4 | Mount Hood to Seattle
I almost missed this route opportunity because Google Maps doesn’t render Highway 410 unless zoomed in pretty close. The Washington state byway traces the eastern base of Mount Rainier. On a clear day in Seattle (rare), Mount Rainer dominates the skyline from the southeast. It’s properly, stunningly massive, looming with the flattening imminence of a full moon low on the horizon. I won’t need clear skies to spot the mountain from WA-410, but I’m still hoping for them.
It’s a fairly ambitious itinerary, but I’ve got faith that Brian can hang. And I hope he finds the comfort and love of home on the open road. It’s a liberating state of mind.