Seeing Mt. St. Helens had been amazing and as it was a wonderful day I made the mistake of deciding to ride until later that night. As a rule I don’t like to ride when the sun is setting as I head West as the sun is always in your eyes making it harder to see. Heading East though means that you can ride a little later into the evening as lets be honest it is kinda cool to see your shadow stretched out in front of you. That said I still want to be off the road before the sun sets because all of the animals that hide away in the forest start to become adventurous at the sides of roads.
My goal had been to make it to Vancouver Washington and get a motel room for the night. It seemed like an easy and doable plan. Vancouver is a suburb of Portland which is a major city so rooms should be plentiful. Little did I know that an epic motocross race was being staged in town and there was nothing available anywhere! Even worse is that as you head East out of the city you drive straight through miles of state park meaning the first places to stay are 1 to 2 hours away. I eventually made to to Cascade Locks and Bridge of the Gods motel which turned out to be my most expensive nights stay this trip, even the free beer that the room came with didn’t really help with the surprise of the bill.
It is here though that I met one of the interesting people of this trip. In my travels to other countries outside of North America it isn’t hard to meet people. You are the strange one and in many cases people go out of their way to talk to you. As you travel around North America you are just another person in the crowd. Also as a general rule you tend not to meet anyone in Motels. For the most park people get their room, go out for dinner and then come back and go to sleep.
At Cascade Locks I met Paul. As I was unloading my bike he came over and after seeing my licence plate struck up a conversation. Turned out that he was from Sudbury and had turned into this motel for the same reasons that I had. Paul is an interesting guy, he is in his late 50’s or early 60’s, rides a Harley (of course) but has been riding for quite a long time on a variety of machines. Seeing that he had checked in before me he had gone down to the local store and picked up a 6 pack but didn’t want to drink them all himself. Never wanting to let a person drink alone I was happy to help him out with his dilemma. Paul has slid down an embankment in Alaska when he lost his balance, possibly while high, and more recently broke up with his girl friend because it was either settle down or ride his motorbike. The motorbike won.
On the road this trip I have also heard a few stories about what it is like to live on disability here in the states. The first couple that I met was in Port Angeles. This young couple were sort of odd. The young lady stated quite plainly that she was on disability and had to be in a Kaiser Permanente state for treatment, I don’t remember if she ever said what the issue was. Her husband was a little more forthright. He had been in the Coast Guard but had been medically discharged with depression and assorted other issues. Thing is they seemed to be living out of their tent in KOA areas and had made there way back to Port Angeles because when he had been posted there they had really liked it.
The second story of disability was the man who cooked at the KOA at Yellowstone. He had been a police man somewhere in California when he was attacked by one of the police dogs and fallen somehow damaging his back. Apparently doctors disagree about the severity of his injuries but the end result is that his family lost their house. When they were about to be kicked out of the house they were renting they decided to sell everything they had left and buy a trailer outright. Since that time he and his wife have been home schooling their son and daughter and traveling around the country picking up work in campgrounds near to national parks. At each park one of the parts of the kids education is being a Junior Ranger. After 2 years or so on the road it looks like they will be settling down as the kids are looking to set up roots again. Billings Montana will be where you find them this fall ….. probably.