June 29, 2009

Motorcycle Diaries

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer -- Frank Zappa

Our weekend in Port Townsend started, as it should, in the Water Street Brew Pub with the above quote, but before I sit down with a cold frothy one, let me tell you how we got there.

The boyfriend and I decided that a weekend road trip on the motorbikes was in order and our anniversary was just the excuse we needed. We tossed a few destinations around (and ditched the idea of Salt Spring Island as the ferry alone was going to be $90 each -- for motorcycles!) and decided on Port Townsend, having passed through years before on our way to LaPush (the boyfriend also surfs -- what a dude!) and wanting to go back.

We were eager to take the bikes as we are planning a week long trip to Idaho in September, and wanted to do a small trial run. I got my motorcycle license in September and had never tackled an overnighter, rain, or the I-5. All very daunting, let me tell you. We found a babysitter for the pooch, bought a cargo bag for the bike and checked the weather forecast every day. As Saturday morning dawned to sunshine, things were looking pretty good. And then the rain started. And stopped. And started. And stopped. And started. Talk about messing with my mind. The boyfriend suggested we go anyway and take the Jeep, but that would negate the whole point of the trip (well, yes, there was our anniversary and all, but...) so I ignored my apprehension and made the call. Bikes it was! And thank god. The rain lasted for about 15 minutes and never really materialized again.

Passing through Customs was a breeze thanks to our Nexus cards, and next thing I knew we were cruising at 70mph on the I-5. I was doing it and it felt great! The motorists were respectful, no tractor-trailers were on the road and it was smooth sailing all the way to the ferry at Whidbey Island. We paid a whopping $4.50 each for the 30 minute ferry crossing to Port Townsend.

While waiting for the ferry to arrive a few more bikes showed up. Two older men (60s) got off their respective Harley's, looked at our license plates and asked, "What the heck is British Columbia?". After we explained that we were from Vancouver (which they had heard of) and they offered they were from Mississippi, we spent the wait-time discussing the merits of bikes, the fear of death, and the thrill of the ride. There is an unspoken code among bikers that when you pass you wave, but if you don't ride a Harley, don't expect a wave from a Harley. But the two Harley riders were anything but arrogant. They were just thrilled that we were riding, it didn't matter what kind of bikes we were on.

Docking in Port Townsend, we were first off and headed to our hotel.

The Palace Hotel was built in 1889 by Captain Tibbals and defines the beautiful turn-of-the-century architecture that P.T. is known for. In the 1920s it was known as "The Palace of Sweets" due to the fact it was a brothel, and now in 2009 its rooms have been renovated and named for the girls who used to work there. We had Miss Abigail's room. We dropped out bags, slipped into something more comfortable and explored the hotel. It was incredible. But all that exploring lead to a mighty big thirst.

Which brings me to the Water Street Brew Pub and the Zappa quote. We seated ourselves at a table and the waitress came right over with the menus. Zappa's quote was front and centre and in my blissed-out frame of mind, one of the most profound things I had read in days. We ordered two beers, two Strongbows, a plate of calamari, and two oyster shooters (don't ask). And the bill came to $25 including tip. We were in heaven.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around town, peeking in stores, watching romance take flight, and looking for a great place for dinner.

Which we found at The Belmont. We shared halibut stuffed with crab, artichoke and capers drizzled with a lemon butter sauce and salmon with capers and tomatoes sauteed in a garlic, white wine sauce. We had a bottle of Hugue Fume Blanc (a delicious Washington white wine) and coffee. When I asked what kind of coffee they had (with a Starbucks on every corner in Vancouver, I figured this to be a normal question) the waiter mumbled "regular and decaf". We definitely weren't in Kansasa anymore Totto.

We dragged our stuffed bellies out in to the evening and found a little coffee shop to hang out in for the rest of the night. It was to be one of those weird, other-worldly experiences. About 10 people (none over 25 years old) were sitting at a couple of little tables, sipping organic juice while their eardrums were being blasted to smithereens. And it was fantastic. The band "As the Devil Dances", a blues-rock trio, sounded surprisingly good even in the acoustically-challenged coffee shop. We stayed until the end and the permanent hearing loss was worth the experience.

A bottle of wine was waiting for us back at Miss Abigail and we finished the night off with a toast to us and a perfect day.

We caught the 11:15 ferry back to Whidbey Island Sunday morning and rode the windy Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham. The weather was glorious, the traffic sparse and we made it home in just over four hours.

Port Townsend was everything we had hoped, no expectation went unmet. And the experience of riding the motorbikes was worth a little rain. I can honesly say that I am now a biker-chick. I loved the companionship of riding with the boyfriend, but the solitude of my own thoughts and not talking, just observing, was the clincher. It's definitely the way to travel -- lightly, in more ways than one.


Summer Athena said...

OMG! this looks like the best time!

drollgirl said...

what a fantastic trip!!!

and i am mortified that those dudes didn't know where british columbia is. HELLO!?!?!?!?

gh said...

What a great trip you guys had. It was enjoyable just reading about it so i can imagine how great it was to be there riding and seeing the sights. The hotel looked excellent especially that old style bathroom.
You both have some good riding attire which is really important especially on a long road trip.
Like yourself, I always liked the solitude and lack of conversation in being able to absorb the entire riding experience and sights in my own little world. Discussing the experiences later with the partner is then just as enjoyable in its own way and makes great talk over dinner and beers.
Love the Zappa quote . . .

Cheryl said...

I so enjoyed following along on your trip! The pictures, food, interesting people you meet along the way, discovering a new way to travel. We thought of Port Townsend when were were in Seattle a few weeks ago. Now I almost wish we'd gone there instead - L. really wanted to go to 'another country.' Now I can look forward to it next time I'm up there.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. There is nothing better than a really good road trip.