Volcanos, Wine, Weather and BMWs: a Northwest Ride Report

It was sunny, clear, dry and 75 degrees when we picked up our bikes at Eagle Rider Portland. After a week in this gorgeous place, I’m convinced all the locals are lying to the rest of us – that it’s actually a weather paradise here, and they’d just rather not deal with an influx of new people discovering that secret.

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Our story begins with a work conference. I’m lucky to work in an industry with an unusually high concentration of cool people. So our friend Dave had organized an adventure that began as soon as the last PowerPoint was finished. Dave, Jean-Marc and I arrived at Eagle Rider on Saturday afternoon and headed to the hills. Well, the hill, more accurately. Mount Hood looms in the backdrop of Portland, still topped in snow as we applied sunscreen.

I had wanted to try a totally different bike, so I was disappointed when the shop was out of Triumphs and I had to get a BMW. But luckily, the new R1200GS could not be more different than my ’98 R1200C. Close enough that I felt comfortable fairly quickly, but different enough for a weekend of learning, too.

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We headed straight for the mountain from town, aiming toward highway 26. I was a bit disappointed at the heavy traffic and the lack of wilderness right off the bat, but that would come. After about an hour and a couple of scenic stops, Dave suggested a side adventure – a luge run. Ok, so I will be totally honest – I had no idea this was a thing. I was confused and curious… surely we can’t just hope on a sled like Olympians in an afternoon. But he led us to an amusement park, a summer ski lodge’s genius attempt at revenue generation when the snow has melted.

And oh god, was it fun! Winding down the mountain side are two rickety plastic half pipes that you enter on an even more rickety little sled and bolt down the hill. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one screaming like a little kid. That good scream that turns into laughter. Smartly, we had purchased two rides apiece and didn’t hesitate to get back in line for the chair lift. What a random and awesome activity!

WATCH the short video of our ride and luge!

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From the park, we headed straight up the mountain, and that final ascent to Timberline Lodge was the best ride of the day. The air got colder, and I was thankful for heated grips. As we parked on the edge of a ledge in front of the hotel, I turned around to see the spectacular view. At halfway up Hood, the surrounding area is majestic.

After a fun evening of delicious food (served by a guy from Boone, NC, where I went to school – small world!), wine, a couple of ‘The Shining reenactments, and a late-night pool/hot tub adventure, we crashed in our funny little rooms. Artur, Marcy, and her husband Art had rented a car and come to meet us, too, which made for copious laughs and a near expulsion from the fancy restaurant (not again!)

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Saturday morning we parted ways, as the guys headed to the coast before returning their bikes. I went the other direction – northeast – taking advantage of a couple days extra planned into my trip. Highway 30 immediately didn’t disappoint. A gorgeous road directly through the national park, there are no signs or buildings or obstructions… just tall pines, rolling hills and Hood always by your side. It was a beautiful morning (again!) and I had a smile the entire ride, until I hit the Columbia River with a rumbling stomach.

Sometimes I can’t believe my luck. I saw the river and wanted to get closer. I had no GPS on the bike and hadn’t stopped to look at a map since leaving the Lodge. I picked a road and drove… straight into the wind- and kite-surfing park. I gawked for over an hour at the athletes whipping and tearing across the river, as I ate delicious food from a cart and basked in the sun.IMG_6905

Next I followed the water. Interstate 85 is nothing special, except when it’s running right along the river, and then it’s spectacular. About a half hour later, I exited onto historic highway 30 to gawk at the series of waterfalls that make this area famous. Crowded but manageable, since motorcycles are so much easier to park. These wonders are truly worth a visit, if only to enjoy the spray on your face and a moment of respect for the power of flowing water.

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Back on the highway, the road winds back toward Portland, but I exited north onto Interstate 5 on the way to my next destination. Pulling off in the tiny Washington town of Castle Rock, I checked in to my cheap hotel and was happy to meet a nice couple also on a BMW next door. I threw my things in the room and climbed back on the bike – my day wasn’t yet done.

I had picked Castle Rock on the map because of its proximity to Mount Saint Helens, the grandma volcano of this area. The two lane road into the park is perfect and dotted with strange tourist traps, like the 70 foot tall Sasquatch. But as you leave civilization and it’s just you and the trees and the mountain up ahead, it’s magical. I pulled off as the sun began to set for some photos, and then headed back down for Mexican food and my bed.

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Day three on the BMW would be varied and a bit hectic as I tried to fit too much into one day. Immediately after I woke we were on our way to the coast. South for a few miles and I crossed the mighty Columbia again, putting me back in Oregon. I would follow 30 all the way to Seaside, up and down hills, in and out of the sun, happy to have the fancy windshield that raises and lowers with a button. And when I emerged from the trees and saw the Columbia spilling into the ocean, my smile couldn’t have been bigger.

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Until I heard the sea lions. I had pulled down a side street to get some photos when I heard the barking. I raced down to the next pier and joined a small group leaned over the railing to watch the dozens of huge seals sunning themselves on a small dock, bleating and crying at one another, especially when one tried to muscle his way into another’s spot.

When I reached the end of the road, I headed south on 101, the famed coastal highway. The cool breeze off the water chilled me, but I pushed on to Cannon Beach. I stopped to admire the strange rock formations on the beach and jutting out into the water, and rode slowly through the cute beach community.

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Now I was on a mission – get to my last stop in time to enjoy, and return on time. I turned the bike back east toward the city, and then detoured southeast down 46. My cousin Christine had connected me with Alexana Vineyards, and I do NOT miss a free glass of wine! I can’t believe how many wineries are in this area. And though I only visited one, it MUST be the most beautiful. I don’t know how anything could beat the delicious wines and spectacular views at Alexana. Kudos to their team for a beautiful property, scrumptious wines and great service.

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Now a race to the finish – would I make it to Eagle Rider before they closed at 5 pm? The answer – no. But thank goodness Frank and Mike are such nice guys, and following my desperate phone call from the side of the highway at 4:45, assured me they’d be waiting. And not long after, the traffic started moving and I ended up only putting them out about 15 minutes. Whew. And Mike and his new wife were nice enough even to load me up and take me back downtown to my hotel! Highly recommend this place.

In all, a fantastic adventure through an area of the country I hadn’t seen yet. Pretty much checked all my boxes for a great trip.      

ORG.WAS trip

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