2013: The Pacific Coast

The Long and Winding Road to Oregon

There were some minor details to work out before we settled on our route and timeline, but this would be our grandest adventure yet! On the itinerary:

  • Vermont to north-central Pennsylvania on back roads and rural highways, then west on PA 6 to Oil City, PA
  • Interstate to west of Akron, OH, then US 6 and some other back roads to near South Bend, IN
  • Through Chicago early on a Saturday morning and up to southern Wisconsin to visit some human and canine friends
  • Rural Route 3 across northern Iowa and into Nebraska, where we’ll camp along the Niobrara River
  • Up into South Dakota, then west on 44 to the Badlands. Continue west to the Black Hills, then north and west to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming
  • Across northern Wyoming, then over Chief Joseph and Beartooth Passes into Montana
  • West to Missoula. From there we’ll either continue west on US 12 thru the Lolo Pass to Lewiston ID, then north thru Spokane to US 20…or we’ll continue northwest on 200 to US 2 near Sandpoint ID, then connect with US 20.
  • US 20 west thru the Northern Cascades. From there we’ll either take a ferry across the Puget Sound and ride around the Olympic Peninsula cutting back inland to Mt Rainier…or we’ll head south on Route 9, then cut over to Mt Rainier. Depends on the weather and how much time we have.
  • From Mt Rainier to the east side (Wild Side) of Mt St Helens, then back roads dropping into The Dalles OR from the north, following the Columbia River Gorge west to Hood River, then veering south past Mt Hood
  • Back roads down the spine of the Cascades in western Oregon to Crater Lake, then southwest to catch the giant redwoods near Crescent City CA
  • Up the southern Oregon coastline along scenic US 101 as far as Reedsport OR, then east to Corvallis and north to theBMW Rally in Salem OR.

Coming home, well — I haven’t gotten that far yet!

Preparing for the Adventure!

Have you ever been sidetracked by that one missing screw?

I’d made a few modifications to the rig since last summer to make it more comfy and convenient for long distance travel, as well as protecting Barley from both rain and temperature extremes.

  • I added a single highway peg on the left side so I could stretch out my left leg on those long straight sections of road. There were a couple of convenient sidecar mounting braces on the right side I was able to use, but the left knee – my bad knee – often ached after a couple thousand miles on the road. I was hoping the peg would make a difference.
  • We added a cup holder on the right side. I know, it’s so Gold Wing or Dyna Low Rider! But there are times on the road when the only food available comes from a drive-thru, and balancing the drink that comes with the meal as we pull away looking for a shady spot to stretch out has always been a challenge. Gone are the days when my crotch feels the chilly effervescence of a spilled diet coke as I navigated those last few yards to a parking spot!
  • The sidecar sported a ragtop to keep Barley dry in wet weather and shaded in brutal heat. The lid has zippered side windows that can be rolled down and secured in place for normal conditions so he and I can share glances and occasional caresses, or zipped shut to keep him out of all forms of precipitation.  And while I hoped never to have to test it, it looked big enough that I could hunker down with him if the rain came down too hard to continue riding in safety.
There is a certain dignity in a dog who knows he is loved and respected

With five weeks and a few days remaining till we set out for Oregon, our longest shared adventure yet, and I was nervous! There was so much to do, so many contingencies to prepare for! So much could go wrong! We might run into oppressive heat, torrential rain, road rage, erratic drivers high on meth, debris or potholes in the road… Come to think of it, we’ve faced all that before and managed to improvise, adapt and overcome.

But still I worried. Traveling with a dog is a wonderful experience, especially one as loyal and trustworthy as Barley. But he also adds complications that don’t exist in solo travel. His safety is a sacred trust, and I wondered if I had all the bases covered.

Barley spots a woodchuck near the summit of Smugglers’ Notch

We had done several training rides of over 100 miles getting ready for this trip, and a delightful 310 mile ride through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Barley did very well on all of them, and I was able to fine tune my ergonomics for the long journey ahead. I wished work and home chores permitted more of those prep rides, but I said that every year and it never happened. No matter. By the time we cross the Mississippi River we’ll have rediscovered the rhythm of the road.

In mid-June the rig went in for service. I do much of it myself but this time let the outstanding master technicians at Max BMW do the work. They know these bikes inside and out, and once they are done I know we’re in great mechanical shape. A week later the rig went into my home shop for one last cleaning. The sidecar and painted parts of the bike got several coats of carnauba wax. All the wiring was inspected for chafing issues. A new front tire was installed and the rear was swapped out for a car tire so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a replacement in the middle of Iowa on the way home. And then I start packing. And repacking. And redistributing the load first for convenience, then for handling, then for a compromise between the two.

I was sure I’d cherish the memories of this trip, and the incredible dog who shared it with me, for the rest of my life!

Dreaming of his next adventure…