I signed up for this ride before finishing my Four Corners tour this year... I mailed the form in sometime in June, I think.
Even then, I fancied myself some sort of ling-distance monster because I had done rides of more than 3000 miles twice. I felt pretty confident about making the ride, and, at the time, was still quite confident about getting through the Four Corners tour.
At the beginning of this week, that is, on September 9th or 10th, the weather in Seattle was just great. It was about 75 each day, and there were high fluffy clouds blowing around. That all changed on Thursay, the 12th, when it started out drizzly in the morning but got clear later on.
I don't have much experience riding in the rain. My other trip reports indicate how I give up for the day and crawl inside. I figured, though, this would be a fine time to learn. So, on Thursday morning, I ran down to Seattle Cycle Center and bought some rain gear. It's pretty simple, really: they're just waterproof nylon shells that fit over me and my leathers. (Maybe it's not that simple, though: I wear a size 50 leather jacket, and the jacket itself is very thick with leather and padding everywhere. So maybe the jacket's actual size is something like a 64-long!) But Seattle Cycle Center came through: they had a jacket for $35 and pants for $17. The pants were big (size XXXL!) and were a little baggier than I wanted and a few inches too long. But the only other pairs they had in stock were plain larges, and they didn't fit very well at all.
Just as I was before my Four Corners trip, I was really eager. I prepared by getting some tapes made: I have the new R.E.M. album and the new Rush album and the new Pearl Jam album and the new John Mellencamp album. That's just thrilling me: while I have eclectic tastes, it seems like forever between an album that I can really dig and the next album that I can really dig. But in the last two months, it seems like a doze albums have been released that I'm very happy with.
Anyhow, I played dress-up with my rain gear to make sure I knew how it would work and that it really did cover me up in the problem places.
Riding a motorcycle in the rain is just about the most miserable experience to which I'll subject my own bad self. (Perhaps the worst, which will only happen in bad accidents of planning or outright painfully sick moments of desperation, is going to a "meat market" kind of bar or club. Yuckaroonie.)
The big problem with riding in the rain is water. Water gets everywhere. It gets into your leathers. It makes your gloves feel sticky on the inside and slippery on the outside. It makes you cold. It gets into your helmet and beads on the inside of your visor and you can never get it off. It makes your breath steam up the visor much more rapidly and persistently than normal. Since the road is wet, oil ends up floating around on the water. Between the water and the oil, you're lucky to stop or start or make corners. Your brake discs hang out in the air, and they get wet, and that means the first fistful of brake you grab won't be very useful.
I'm no sissy: I put up with buckets of crappy things all of the time. But I hate to ride in the rain. I bucked up, though, and rode over to Kirkland BMW today to meet everyone else.
I split from home around 10:15am. The roads were mostly dry, but there were droplets of water here and there. I stopped for gas, and just getting over the hill in Kirkland made it dry up. I bought the gas, and rolled the rest of the way to Cascade BMW, where things got started.
A few blocks before the shop, I passed a whole herd of Honda Goldwing riders at the traffic light. One had a huge stuffed gorilla in the passenger seat with his arms wrapped around the driver. I longed for a the comfort inherent in a moose.
The parking lot was swamped. There were people everywhere: I was amazed. I didn't think so many people would show up for an idea that didn't make much sense. There were loads of Goldwings and some big Ventures. There were lots of BMWs, but they were all touring models and equipped with things like electric hand warmers. An amazing number of the bikes had extra gas tanks: I parked next to a guy on a Yamaha FJ that had a welded aluminum tank that, the fellow said, held an extra 5 gallonsdoubling his capacity to more than ten gallons. That would probably give his bike a range of something like 450 miles.
I signed in, and we finally got around to the driver's meeting. It turned out that there were three routes, and we could pick which we wanted. One went, essentially, straight to Montana and straight back. The other circumnavigated the whole state of Washington. The third went around the Olympic Penninsula and down to the sothern border of Oregon before returning to Central Washington and coming back to Seattle on I-90. The rides had check-in towns every 120 miles or so. You had to buy some gas or foodor anything else, reallyand get a receipt with the name of the town and the date printed on it.
The third route seemed all mine: I liked the Olympic peninsula, and could ride it quickly with confidence. The route fell off the south end of the peninusla and tracked US-101 all the way south to the bottom of Oregon. I'd wanted to do this ride for a long time. While I've been around the peninsula about a half-dozen times, I've never gone any further south than Aberdeen, Washington.
I got the paperwork for the route. Aside from the coast, it would also cover the innards of Oregon, which I haven't done much about, either. The route that ran the circumference of Washington included the peninsula and was only different after making it to the border, near Astoria, Oregon. I grabbed that route sheet, too, so that I could change my mind later in the afternoon.
It was probably a pretty bad idea to make this decision so hastily. During the pre-ride meeting, I found that I was only one of two people, out of a total of fifty bikes, that was not going to go straight to Montana and back. I didn't know anything about the weather: maybe that would have been a much better route. Maybe there would have been no difference. At the very least, I never though about how twisty US-101 and that would be so difficult to ride comapred to sitting my fat ass onto I-90 and booking it east to Minnesota in a straight line.
The rider's meeting broke up, and I thought about just going to Montana. If anything, it would be more fun to ride with two or three dozen people in the huge swarming pack. But I was bored with I-90. The route to Montana wouldn't be anything different than the first two days of my Four Corners trip. I stuck to my guns.
At high-noon, the oragnizer fellow waved his arms about and we all got started. It was about 12:04pm on my dashboard clock. I was the third or fourth rider out of the parking lot, and a huge string of riders followed us. What a sight.
On the way out of the parking lot, the ride organizers held up traffic. Some punk in a nasty little import car decided he was more important than 50 people on motorcycles and rode around the organizer. I locked up my front wheel in some gravel on the way down the slope. Nothing happened, but I certainly didn't look very smooth.
Things didn't get much better from there. I kept an eye skyward, and it just sucked. I don't mind the soupy Seattle sky. It makes it easier to concentrate on things like work. And the main reaoson that it works is because I'm not tempted to go ride my motorcycle. You can never tell if these thick clouds are going to make it dark and gray or if they're going to bring water.
I rode south. I was having a pretty good time: I had my rain duds in the bag and just my leathers on. I rode down to Olympia, where I snagged US-101 going north. I had to make it to Shelton, Washington, first. Just after getting onto US-101, it started to drizzle. By the time I'd gone about ten more miles, it was really raning. I stopped under a bridge and put on my jacket. I figured I'd wait on the pants, since it looked like it might clear.
Since I hate riding in the rain so much, this all causes me a great deal of stress. I wanted to finish this ride, but I didn't want to get soaked doing it. By keeping my eyes low, I was able to convince myself that I was about to slide out of turns by hitting a puddle or oil patch. But that's where the comfort ended. The jacket worked great: it didn't flap much in the wind. My boots were getting wet and my gloves didn't take long to soak through, though.
The jacket worked well for the rest of the riding. I stopped off in Shelton and foudn a g as station and got three dollars worth of gas. I got a receipt, but it didn't have the name of the town printed on it. This just caused more stress: I wondered if they'd accept it as valid proof of the trip. The rain gave up a bit after I left the gas station, but I was still riding only 50 miles an hour because it was often hard to see details in the road.
Sometimes, I lean a bit forward and get up on the balls of my feet. The jacket was nice, but the thing was that being dry made you notice every little drop. When I was in junior high school, my best friend always asked me if I'd rather have lots of acne or perfect skin but just one zit. It didn't matter, since I was always covered in pussy little volcanos. Until now, with the rain, it didn't matter, either. But it certainly was annoying to be wearing a jacket and suddenly feel a single cold trickle of water fall down my back into my pants after the wind tugged my clothing one way or the other. Somehow, good things are hard to see. Why would I be pissed off about a little trickle of water when I know how much it sucks to be in the rain and entirely saturated?
The clouds were dense towards the north, but didn't look that bad to the east. I kept riding and found a tiny place to turn off. I was going to get my map out and see how late in the game I could realistically make my decision. That was the other problem with the peninsula route: if the skies did open, I'd either be someplace really expensive or someplace completely in the boonies and unable to get any shelter.
I hopped off the bike and intended on opening my rear-set pack to get my map out. But just as I turned around, I saw the bike begin to topple. It fell because I hadn't carefully thrown it towards its kickstand before getting off: a testament to how distracted and fundamentally upset I am. The bike fell over into the weeds. Initially, I thought that would be just fine but it turned out to be miserable. I can get the bike up by myself with a great, straining heave, but I couldn't get a clean grip on the low-side handlebar. Instead, I kept pulling up fistfuls of the tall grass. Since I was wasting my energy on killing the plants, I felt like there was nothing I could do.
I tugged at the bike. I was pissed. Fuck. Fuck everything. Fuck this stupid bike, fuck trips, fuck losing weight, fuck reading books. And fuck writing books all the way to the moon. I walked to the other side. The bike looked good, even kocked down. Thank goodness it did, because I almost kicked it. Some things were good, like buying a full rain suit for $50 to help protect a leather riding suit that cost almost a grand. But fuck those good things, too. Fuck they sky and the water and this damned begging need to impress myself by pulling stunts this.
On the grassy side again, I hunched down and tugged once more. I sat there, on my hunkers, after realizing that I'd never get the bike up again. What an irony, this thing that can go so fast and snap my neck back can't even get itself up. I wanted to cry.
There was a rumble behind me and a couple rolled up in their four-wheel drive vehicle. They got out and I just stared at them blankly. Why can't people learn to leave me alone when I'm pissed off? I explained what happened, and tried to laugh. It must've sounded like some sort of psychological episode. Maybe the guy was a psychiatrist and was going to drive home and write this up.
They helped me pick up the bike. I was really grateful, but I was still so mad that I probably didn't sound quite right when I thanked them. I never know what to do.
But this sealed it: I was going to ride to Kingston and get the ferry home. I wanted the skies to open up and justify my decision. I wanted to get soaked to the death on the way home so that I would feel smart and lucky. It sprinkled.
The ferry was jammed, and I was the last vehicle on. I looked backwards towards the peninsula and could see that the clouds were breaking up driectly dead center, but looked pretty bad to the north. Going counter-clockwise out there, there wasn't very much interesting after Port Angeles. So, if the rain did start, I'd have to hide under a tree or hope for the last bed in a 20-room inn before I'd have to ride another 150 miles.
So, now I'm at home and I wrote this and had something to eat. And I regret not trying to forge on, but just a little bit. I'm glad I'm warm and okay at home instead of stuck in the rain. But I'm starting to feel a bit upset that I didn't finish this test, and very upset that I always expect to do so much myself anyway. I'm trying to convince myself that nobody would be refute that giving up because of the rain was a good idea, and even perhaps saner than trying to keep on. But, on the other hand, I'm very disappointed in myself.
Last modified on 7 July, 1997.