One joy of having an adventure motorcycle is the endless stream of maintenance and modifications. When you’re planning on driving around the world for a year and a half (or longer), the importance of this labor is magnified: a breakdown in the middle of nowhereistan has a magnitude of shit far greater than a breakdown in Snohomish. How do you know if things are in good working order? A
hoedown shakedown run of Olympic peninsula, of course!
The Cascades are the crown jewels of Washington State, dotted with volcanoes, jagged peaks, and alpine lakes. To the west of Seattle are the Olympics. At first glance, their statistics are not all that impressive in comparison. Mt. Olympus, the tallest peak in the range, is just shy of 8,000 feet tall. These dry stats (cue chuckle) are a red herring, because what the Olympics lack in pure amplitude, it makes of for in its remoteness. The range is a pain to get to from Seattle. In the time it takes to go to the Hoh Rain Forest from Seattle, for instance, you could be in British Columbia or Oregon. The really intrepid could be in Idaho. Yea, it’s far. It is also quite diverse. There are glaciers, bears, rednecks, and temperate rain forests.
With a mid-June departure, Kit wanted to use the extended Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to do a shakedown. The bikes should be, in theory, very close to trip-ready. Sometimes, however, there is some stress.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Olympic loop was inspired from ADVrider.com. The comprehensive route from Grip Twister was the choice for the shakedown. It provided an opportunity to hit a bit of everything: highways, perfect paved twisties, cruiser logging roads, garbage logging roads, and single track, all nestled on the perimeter of the Olmypic mountains.
The plan was to depart on a Thursday evening. Friday is naturally the get-the-hell-out-of-town day, so roads, ferries, and everything else would be slammed. Even when leaving on Thursday, we joked that if we left at 5pm, we would get to our first camp on the east side of Mt. Townsend by midnight. Past experience suggests that nothing goes quite to plan. Somebody oversleeps, gets stuck in traffic, forgets a fork, etc.
Were we testing fate? Only one way to find out.
Kit, Kyle, Chris, Grant, and Jordan, the crew for the weekend, assembled in Mukilteo and set out to cut the mega line at the Edmonds ferry terminal.
Day 1: Testing Fate
If past experiences indicated that nothing goes to plan, then I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge that the Ricks departed Mukilteo TEN MINUTES earlier than anticipated. Like clockwork, the Ricks were able to bypass the entire ferry line and get on the boat.
Ok, so we all boarded the ferry we aimed to take? Strange…
The Washington State ferries are one of the top “attractions” in the state, and for good reason. On a stellar weather day, such as this departure day, it’s hard to beat. Ricks took the opportunity to bask in the ferry glory with beer, hot dogs, and ice cream.
None of us ran out of gas. Provisions are acquired… and we arrive in Quilcene on schedule? What’s going on here? This has been operating far too smoothly for comfort.
Finally we run into a bit of a snaffu: a junction in the road. Which way do we go? This is more like it! Except… it’s not… within seconds, we cruise up one of the finer single lane paved roads in the entire state and arrive at our goal: a ridgetop camp before sunset. In this remarkable feat, the ricks chopped down trees and built a fire, paired perfectly with beer, chu hai, and chili mac.
Day 2: Fire and Ice
The morning vista contained a striking Mt. Townsend, Admiralty Inlet and, in the distance, Mt. Rainier. Not a bad way to start the day. To boot, none of the Ricks were hungover. It was truly a miracle.
Kyle, Kit, and Grant all had more off-road orientated bikes, so they ventured off to the Lower Big Quilcene trail. It is only one of a few trails in the entire area open to motorcycles. With Kyle’s extensive familiarity with the trail (one ride), he said it would take about 30 minutes to do the 6-mile stretch of trail. That was a very rick estimate.
Needless to say it took 30 minutes just to get to the trail, but it was well worth it. We encountered two couples early on (the second was quite triggered by our loud presence – sorry man, but it’s allowed). After the bridge, things got a bit more exciting.
Some sections were a wee bit washed out. Some areas were rather tight for a motorcycle, but enjoyable nonetheless. All in all, the trio of Ricks made it out in about two hours, and joined back up with Chris and Jordan for the ride to Sequim.
Riding a motorcycle differs from driving a car. It is physical, and draining in a different kind of way. No, this is not like running a 5k fun run, but the use of body, and the constant attention and awareness of sounds takes a mental drain on the soul. So the Ricks refueled with holy burgers before stopping by the Wal-mart cathedral.
Unlike the previous day, the Ricks were running a bit behind schedule, so after attaining a quorum, the Ricks voted to skip a couple of sections and go get onsen-brained.
What is onsen brain? Well, let’s break that down. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring. Patrons of Japan will know they’re everywhere. This is not hyperbole. Some towns will have a dozen or more. So prevalent are these onsen that it is intertwined in the culture. These hot springs are quite mineral rich, with varying degrees of pH balance and lovely egg smell. After a good long soak in the onsen, a human becomes something akin to a jellyfish, and the brain has difficulty operating in any capacity. Any ambitions for apres onsen activities usually die a slow, onsen-boiled death.
Despite being on the Ring of Fire, Washington State is pretty much devoid of hot springs. You can count on your two hands the number of hot springs with “easy” access. It just so happens that two happen to be on the north side of the Olympics. One, aptly named “Olympic Hot Springs” is a more “authentic” hot spring, complete with a hike, free access, simple rock construction, and copious nudity. This is where we wanted to go, but with extensive trail maintenance, the prospects were grim, so it was off to other hot spring: the country club-esque Sol Duc.
A fun drive, and a good soak, the Ricks stayed relatively hydrated with barley Shochu. They achieved a decent amount of onsen brain.
Remember how it was a holiday weekend? Yea, well we didn’t bother with the campground at Sol Duc; it was very full. Our handy guide said there was a 4-star campsite in them hills very close nearby. It was up a different road that *theoretically* required a lengthy backtrack to Higway 101. But we’re on motorcycles, after all. Upon summoning the cutting prowess utilized at the ferry dock, the Ricks crossed through vegetation to a different road, and up we went… until there was too much snow. Kyle used the blueberry WR250R to scout past the snow, only to discover… more snow.
It was getting dark. The road was essentially impassible. There would be no “epic view” tonight. Even with the setback, spirits were still high. The Ricks established camp, built a fire, mixed up juicy Fanta chu hais, and began the mountain rave.
So far, the shakedown was going remarkably well. Sure, we didn’t hit every single mile of the route, and the snow, heavenly in the winter, stymied our efforts today. Could our luck continue? Was disaster around the corner?