Reader Ride - Washington State

Text: Will and Rebecca Stout • Photography: Will and Rebecca Stout

So goes the old country song, and in today's economy those words fit most of us more snugly than we care to admit. Nevertheless, we freedom-loving, travel-addicted, wind-in-the-face motorcyclists will find a way to explore, even when our budgets can't stretch far enough to allow for flying off to distant shores in the summer. Unlike stuck-at-home kids relegated to building forts or digging tunnels to China, a motorcyclist can uncover a lot of good times in their own remarkable backyards because, as we all know, there is no better way to start and find adventures than on two wheels.

Consider Washington State, for example, where we can ride two mountain ranges, the Cascades and the Olympics (containing Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks), view thousands of acres of national forest and wilderness areas, hundreds of state parks, a number of volcanoes, perhaps a sasquatch, and lean through miles of boot-dragging serpentine roads. We can cruise the Columbia River Gorge, get ferry-loading privileges to hop the San Juan Islands, and cool off along endless stretches of salt-water beach - all of which means there are innumerable places to explore and unroll one's sleeping bag.

Edmonds, Washington, our home, just north of Seattle along Puget Sound, is sandwiched between these two mountain ranges. We wake up to a train whistle or the ferry horn in the morning, "two of the most exciting sounds in the world," according to George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life). And that makes us want to spring out of bed, get on the bike and go somewhere, even if it's just for coffee.

A favorite backyard ride my wife and I take, one that Washington motorcyclists consider the number-one road in Washington, is the North Cascade Scenic Highway. Our most recent ride on the North Cascade took place on Memorial Day weekend over the portion of the loop that starts on the south end of Whidbey Island and ends in the Methow Valley, in the western town of Winthrop. Our plan was to load our 2004 BMW R 1150 GS Adventure Friday night and leave at the crack of dawn, or whenever the train whistles or ferry horn woke us Saturday. Once in Winthrop, along with hundreds of RVs, car campers and bicyclists, we would elbow our way into a camping site and spend a relaxing weekend hiking, fishing, and eating ice cream.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2009 back issue.