biketrip – day 4 – PNW VFR Meet

Total Kilometres: 360 (224 Miles)
High/Low Temp: 10 Celcius and as high as 18 Celcius
Total Riding Time: 9:30am PST -5:30pm PST

i’m a member of an online discussion group about motorcycles, specifically the type of motorcycle i ride a honda VFR Interceptor. people who own any of the various models from 1983 to the present contribute ride reports, useful and useless info about the bikes and their characteristics, and each area in north america and farther afield have annual meets where members bring their bikes and go for a ride together. last year i attended the Pacific Northwest meet in Newport, Oregon and had such a great time i’m back again this year in Vancouver, Washington.

Today we got together for breakfast at the Oak Tree restaurant in Woodland which is the beginning of the ride. There were over 30 members and bikes this year.

We followed a similar route, the other direction, as yesterday’s trip into vancouver. back through highway 503 from woodland to scenic highway 99 up to Windy Ridge and the lookout for Mount St. Helens. Really challenging riding, especially for a flatlander from Alberta. We have no roads like these ones in Washington. Banked corners and twists and turns for the entire day, no straight spots for more than a mile out of the 240 miles for the day.

After some time at the top of the mountain we returned to the base and headed down toward Carson, WA. This road was one of the most technically challenging rides i’ve ever done, actually the most challenging. it had several miles of long sweeping turns in the 60-75 mph range, and about 25 miles of switchback and end to end descending curves, many with decreasing radii as the turns progressed. also since it’s an old backroad there are no signs for curves or speeds so some of the turns sneak up on you and surprise you – read: holy shit! slam on the brakes, even at only 25 mph they would sneak up on you.

Finally we returned along the Columbia River Gorge Scenic byway – highway 14, not much to see along here and returned back to Vancouver on the Interstate 5.

One sobering moment for the day was witnessing a horrible motorcycle wreck after taking a few photos of our group. a middle-aged man wizzed by on a cruiser and wound his way around the peak of the mountain. i could hear across the valley tires screeching and a crash. when i arrived around the mountain a few minutes later i found members of our group pulling the man from a near death fall off the edge of the mountain in an unconscious state. the ride goes up to a view point of Mount St. Helens and has no guardrails. in several areas the drop can be 10 to hundreds of feet straight down.

Riders often experience target fixation, or when it looks like potential for danger, you focus on the danger rather than what you are doing. in effect, you are creating the dangerous situation for yourself. he focused over the edge forgetting to brake and fell off the side of the road. luckily he didn’t miss by another 10 feet or he would certainly have fallen to his death. needless to say he wasn’t wearing proper protection and only sported on of the ‘cool’ beenie style helmets and suffered major head trauma, likely a severe concussion or worse. he had no recollection of why he was there for the day, the accident, his name, that he was on or owned a motorcycle, no idea what day/year it was, or even the american president (doesn’t everyone have a burning image of GW Bush?). needless to say it was an unpleasant experience, but also somewhat awakening. we are all dangerously close to events like these everyday, but we are only rarely affected by them. speeding and not wearing proper safety gear can be the difference between a scrape and serious injury or death. makes us realize that we are mortal and our lives are in a very delicate balance, one tip or push one way or another and the balance is upset – sometimes permanently.

on a more positive note it’s fantastic to see how people who have never met, come from various places can all come together have a good time, joke and enjoy spending time together doing something that they love. it’s interesting to see what bonds form from just a single day’s contact – i’ve made some friends i only see once a year, but we’ll have made an impact on each other for life. pretty special event. and all it takes is sharing information, communication and a little bit of planning. we were also blessed by great weather until the very second we got back to the hotel and started removing our gear – it started sprinkling rain.

tomorrow i’m off to the mighty oregon and crater lake. should be a blast.