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Do you know the way to Neah Bay?

July 2, 2009
The GTS on WA 112

Orin O'Neill photos

Rather than wallow in misery about not being able to ride to San Jose, I decided to take a long ride on Wednesday. A looong ride.

The GTS has been running so flawlessly, a road trip seemed in order, especially given the actual summer weather western Washington has been having.

And in light of Forks having nothing to see except the word “Twilight” plastered everywhere, Neah Bay got the nod. Never been there, want to see it.

Following breakfast at the Chelan Cafe (on Chelan Avenue, kinda underneath the high-level West Seattle Bridge), the GTS and I hopped on the bridge. I think it was about 7:30 am; traffic was not really light, but not moving at its usual frenetic pace.

Breakfast at the Chelan Cafe

Same deal on East Marginal Way and the Viaduct. Fifty mph, the GTS’ throttle barely cracked, I could relax and enjoy the view. Blue sky, no clouds to speak of.

Crossing the Aurora Bridge, traffic seemed to disappear. I had Aurora Avenue almost all to myself, all the way to the county line. I took the direct route to Edmonds, figuring there’d be much more time for sightseeing on the Olympic Peninsula.

There was a boat at the Edmonds ferry dock when I arrived. Downtown was deserted, so I, uh, blew off a couple of red lights getting to the attendant’s booth. “You have time to buy a ticket,” she said, so I found the kiosk quick. It’s incredibly handy, and while you can also buy a ticket online, I prefer to do it on the spot. The ticket that pops out of the kiosk is smaller and easier to deal with.

The attendant had questions about the GTS, and she loved the shape of the seat. “Totally stock,” I told her. As cars emerged, she scanned the ticket, and wished us a pleasant journey.

I was looking forward to the trip to Port Angeles. Finally, good weather and a 100% GTS. And a chance to try out the new Hood Canal Bridge.

I was a bit disappointed in the end structures, the graceful arches being replaced by these tan tubular things that look like dish racks from IKEA. But the new pavement is nice, and there’s no longer a bulge in the middle, the drawspan doing something other than sliding into the bulge space. While there are grates, the ones on the ends still have car-width parallel pads.

Once past the bridge, it was déjà vu all over again. I thought having a scooter that can do the speed limit on SR 104 and US 101 would make the trip more relaxing, but 60 mph didn’t seem to be fast enough for most road users. Still had to look for places to duck off. 😦

While the low-fuel light wasn’t glowing, it was time for a break from the speed demons and the 18-wheelers. The Washington Street exit in Sequim beckoned.

Bladder emptied, refueled and rehydrated, I pointed the GTS back onto 101 from Sequim Boulevard, the main north-south drag. A pleasant few minutes, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Traffic was light leaving Port Angeles, the Olympic foothills blanketed in green a reminder that shooting some video would be nice. When this blog starts bringing in money, absolutely. I’m not holding my breath.

Not far west of P.A. is the junction with SR 112. When I was here in February, there was a trailer-mounted electric sign saying the road had been closed due to a slide, but this time it appeared to have been dealt with. More on that later.

SR 112 was a revelation. The little bit of traffic dropped to almost zero. The road twisted and turned, rose and fell through a lush green landscape of forest and farmland. Parts of the road were smooth as a billiard table. Parts were patched or replaced. That washout from February was the worst bit, it having only progressed to loose gravel, two tracks compressed by tires. It’s only a few hundred feet, but treat it with respect if you go.

The GTS on the Strait of Juan de Fuca

The GTS is parked where SR 112 runs right next to the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Much of SR 112 runs right next to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the passage to Puget Sound. The mountains in the distance? That would be Canada, specifically, Vancouver Island.

There’s a sign: visitors please read the notice ahead. Okay. At the border of the Makah reservation is a big sign that points out the requirement for a tribal recreation permit if you’re planning on recreating or staying within the reservation. Hmmm. I plan to have a quick look around and head east. Sometimes things like this can be a kinder, gentler shakedown. If anyone makes an issue of it, I’ll play dumb, apologize profusely and hand over the money.

There’s a collection of ramshackle houses and double-wide trailers up ahead. The Makahs don’t have a casino or real estate like the Tulalips (though parts of the Tulalip rez are kinda frayed around the edges, too). The road keeps going, and so do I.

The road gets nicer, and becomes Cape Flattery Road. There are more signs mentioning the recreation permit. Cross that bridge when I come to it, I think.

Riding up a slight hill, I’m enjoying the twists and turns, the tree canopy keeping things cool. The road comes to an end in a small parking lot. So far, no one has asked to see a recreational permit.

From the parking lot, there’s a hiking trail down to Cape Flattery. I didn’t prepare for a hike, and after all this riding my legs feel like rubber. Time to dig out the map, I really have no idea where the heck I am.

Makah scooter

You'll notice a member of the Makah tribe scoots old-skool on a Honda Elite 250

Turns out the collection of ramshackle houses was Neah Bay. There’s no sign saying “Neah Bay welcomes you” as there was with the other places on the way. Well. There’s about as much to see in Neah Bay as there is in Forks. It might be worth a trip the next time the Makahs organize a whale hunt, but it’s the journey that makes the trip worthwhile.

Firing up the GTS, the fuel gauge reads a bit less than half full. Gas stations are few and far between on SR 112, so it would be prudent to fill up at the convenience store I saw on the way.

Said convenience store sells highway diesel fuel and 87-octane unleaded, i.e., regular. Uh-OH! The GTS requires premium.

Think, think. Okay, there’s about half a tank of premium. If I put about the same amount of regular in the tank, the total amount should have a high enough octane rating to not crater the piston. If I go easy on the throttle (most of the time on a GTS, you’ll barely crack it open) and keep speeds down, I should have no trouble getting back to Port Angeles, where I can top off with premium.

However, the plan to go back on SR 113 and around Lake Crescent is out the window. While the forest moderates the temperature and kicks up the oxygen content more than a notch (the PX would’ve loved this, I think), it’s best to spend as little time running on possibly substandard fuel as possible.

Gosh, I love SR 112, I think as we wander back through the woods. Going west, all the traffic seemed to be heading east; now there’s a steady stream of campers and pickups towing boats headed west. The road trip gods are watching out for me, for sure. The GTS seems to be running fine, no pinging or knocking, but the speed limit’s 35 mph, so there’s no reason to run hard.

“Thank you for driving on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway” reads the sign at the junction with US 101. I’m going to have to give the GTS some stick now. Traffic is light, but the speed limit is 50 mph. I crank the throttle gently. There’s still no knocking. There’s no hesitation or misfire, either. The software in the ECU must have enough intelligence to deal with less than ideal gas.

There’s the Clallam County Courthouse, I say to myself. The gas gauge is only a couple bars short of what it showed in Neah Bay. I’ve found it’s almost impossible to add gas from a gas station pump if the tank is more than half full, and it’s only about 60 miles from P.A. to Kingston. I noticed several gas stations in Edmonds selling premium for less than three bucks a gallon. I’m in full penny-pinching mode these days, and it seems possible to make it on the gas in the tank.

It was time to stop for a bite and something to drink. As I sat in the Mickey D’s sipping sweet tea and munching on a McDouble® I realized the family sitting at the table next to mine were speaking to each other in German. In Port Angeles, Wash. Go figure.

Hitting the road in time for the afternoon commute (yes, Port Angeles has an afternoon commute), the GTS is still running just fine, even as traffic thins out and the speed limit goes up to 60.

The GTS has been running sans windscreen and topcase lately. While the former can protect you, it can also act just like a sail. Or a kite. The weather forecast said it would be breezy, but I didn’t notice much wind. The windscreen might have made the trip more comfortable. Live and learn.

On SR 104 near Port Ludlow, the low-fuel light comes on and there’s just one bar on the fuel gauge. Crap. Luckily, a blue “Gas Next Right” sign appears. There’s a gas station at the next intersection. *Whew!*

Except that gas station is three miles from the intersection. Traffic is sparse, and there’s a hard shoulder. I can putt-putt along, no problem. Except there’s now a sign that says, “gas next right.” Geez, how far is it?

I guess it was three miles, but I wasn’t paying attention. The Chevron station is one more right turn away, but the gauge still shows one bar. I don’t think running your GTS completely out of gas is a good idea, but this way the last of the regular gas should be purged.

They’re charging $3.079 for premium. The price has dropped a smidge in the last couple of weeks, probably because the summer driving season is on the downward slope. No matter. The idea of a splash ‘n dash to make it to Edmonds doesn’t work here. I’m buying two gallons, or less. It’s less than a quarter’s difference than the station in Edmonds, for gosh sakes! I’ll just fill it here.

Once again, my ferry timing is perfect. The sign on the ticket booth says “Selling tickets for 6:30 sailing.” The clock in the instrument cluster shows 6:28. The M/V Puyallup is in the slip, the cars unloading as I wheel the GTS into the motorcycle holding area.

Waiting at the head of the ferry queue

As I’ve said, the best thing about owning a scooter. Favicon

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One Comment
  1. July 2, 2009 11:30 am

    Orin:

    A few years ago we stayed in Clallam Bay at the Chito Beach Resort and went to Cape Flattery. It is about a 1/2 mile easy hike/walk from the gravel parking lot. From the lookout below you will see Sea Caves and the pounding ocean. You probably missed the best beach in Washington State — Rialto Beach which is on the same road as La Push. It is the last virgin/untouched wilderness beach in North America and they plan to keep it that way. Rugged shoreline, pounding waves and there is an island there which has a lagoon only accessible from the Ocean side at low tide.

    Rumour has it that the Makah used to ravage the other tribes along the coast. A friendlier band had their village on the top of that Island and used to throw boiling oil over the sides when the Makah tried to attack them. I think the ambiance of Rialto Beach rivals or exceeds the scenery of West Coast Vancouver Island (ie: Tofino/Long Beach, IMHO)

    bob
    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

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