Posted by: fergy1008 | September 29, 2013

804 miles for a rubber stamp

by: Steve Ferguson

You read it right. Angela & I traveled 804 miles in 2 days to acquire a single rubber stamp in our GT book.

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Why you ask? Well in order to qualify for a participant year bar for the RCMC GT you had to complete 10 Oregon checkpoints. Since our riding year was cut a little short due to Angela’s foot surgery, we had a slower than normal start to our season. With the way the GT checkpoints were scattered throughout the state of Oregon we knew getting them all was probably not going to happen. Especially with me working so much overtime this summer and only having two long-ish trips planned for July and September (that story to be written later), it was a long shot at best that we were going to get even close to the 10 needed to qualify. Especially considering the stops we needed to make for all the other tours we were participating in…Steeplechase, Z-to-A, Smoke Chasing, Wing Washington and, of course, the unofficial 2013 Dam Tour.  But with a lot of diligence and planning on Angela’s part we were able to snag our 10 GT for qualification. And here’s the story…enjoy!

After what was supposed to be our last “tour-requirements” trip of the season, Angela came to me saying we were one stamp short of finishing the GT and wanting to know if I was interested in completing it this year. I said yes and she informed me we could get the last stamp needed only if we did a long weekend ride. The ride would entail lots of highway riding, which isn’t my favorite, and it would basically be a there-and-back trip, squeezing in just a few other stops along the way for a Steeplechase location and a couple Z-to-A pictures. Typically the weather in September is pretty nice but with the start of fall upon us, we knew the weather Gods may not be so nice. Time would tell.

Getting a pretty lazy, non-typical start to our ride on Saturday, we left about 10:50am under sunny blue skies.  We began our day by stopping at the Tacoma Firs driving range for a really good bacon cheeseburger basket (My yelp review here.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/tacoma-firs-golf-center-tacoma#hrid:AqSlNUSUV5VYfb5ZRFfI0g/src:self) before settling in for the long ride over the mountains for our first stop of the day in Yakima.   From Angela’s text a few days prior to the trip which said “remember it’s about the adventure” I kinda got the feeling our hotel in Elgin, Oregon wasn’t anything to hurry to. I was right, but in her defense there’s not a whole lot of choices in that area of Oregon. But more about that later.

So after a good meal it was time to hit the road.  Around Noon we headed East. As we left the weather was quite good, but Angela had looked up the weather report in Ellensburg which called for thunderstorms! Time would tell. The ride out of town was uneventful going up over Tiger Summit to I-90. Before most trips I download a mix of podcasts from the Men’s Room, NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and Stuff You Should Know. So we fired up the iPod and off we went. Before we knew it we were on I-90 and, so far, the weather was cooperating and our spirits good.

Here’s a list of the planned Day 1 Stops:

– Yakima Speedway (Z to A)
– Umatilla Inn (Z to A)
– Brunswick Restaurant & Lounge (GT)
– Stampede Inn (Finish for the Night)

Let the fun begin! First stop for an Z-to-A was Yakima Speedway. Why a speedway you say? Well, it was right off the highway, easy to get on and off for a quick picture. Yakima isn’t my favorite town anyway so the less time I have to spend there suits me just fine. So, a quick picture and off we went.

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The weather was starting to get warm so I had to shed a jacket or two before heading out. Second stop was just up the road to the thriving town of Umatilla, WA for another Z-to-A photo op. Coming off the highway we simultaneously said “HEY! We’ve been here!”. Here being a truck stop we’ve stopped at a couple of times but we have always traveled in from the opposite direction of our current travel. We’ve been close to Umatilla but never traveled further into the city itself. Trust me we didn’t miss anything.

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The ride from Umatilla to Elgin was dull – a long, ride down I-82 to I-84.  Seeing dark clouds ahead, we pulled over at a rest stop to put on our rain gear but it turned out we were following the storm rather than driving into it, so we stayed dry.  The rain gear definitely helped keep us a bit warmer as the sun was setting just as we reached La Grande.  The ride was a little hairy from there – dusk is a favorite time for deer to be active so we were both on high alert, but we arrived at Elgin, just before full dark, without a single deer-spotting.  Angela had semi-warned me about our lodging for the night – a small 12-room motel, but she said it got pretty good reviews.

.https://www.google.com/maps/preview/uv?hl=en&pb=!1s0x54a3bc5b03919199:0x5a44c08164f0e889!2m5!2m2!1i80!2i80!3m1!2i100!3m1!7e1!4shttps://plus.google.com/108428610402804235141/photos?hl%3Den%26socfid%3Dweb:lu:kp:placepageimage%26socpid%3D1!5sstampede+inn+elgin+-+Google+Search&sa=X&ei=Do5AUs_gH-OBiALs54DIDw&ved=0CJ8BEKIqMAs

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I wasn’t sure as we pulled in but the room did smell clean (though they had failed to make the second bed – the comforter and blanket were piled in one of the chairs.  Angela said maybe that’s what you get when you say you only need one bed :-))  We checked in, dropped off our gear, and walked a block or so over to the location that was the reason for this entire trip – the Brunswick Restaurant and Lounge. While the back lounge sounded full, we had the small front section peacefully to ourselves.  Angela asked if I wanted to split the Club sandwich but I refused to share so she ordered a grilled cheese.  Boy, did I regret that decision!

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After dinner we walked over to the Chevron for a fountain drink and a couple candy bars then headed back to the room.  We both ended up falling asleep pretty quickly after turning on the TV.  The bed was okay, but not great, and Angela was up and dressed by 6:30am.  While I showered, she stowed the cover from the bike and began packing us up.  We walked over to a nearby convenience store, got a couple cups of hot chocolate and walked around exploring the town a bit.  We returned to the motel, packed the bike and were on the road by 8:30.

The ride home was going to involve a few stops as well and, as you read on, it was an adventure all in it’s self. Upon leaving Elgin we headed up OR204. Leaving early on a Sunday yielded us a road practically to ourselves, just how I like it. As always in areas outside any big city, deer can be a real danger to a motorcyclist. It wasn’t long before I spotted a herd of small doe’s along the roadside, we slowed down as to not startle them too much as they scampered across the road to greener pastures. The travel the rest of the way was uneventful and deer-free. We stopped to put on our Gerbings for warmth since the temperature was dropping as the elevation rose. This was our third time crossing the Blue Mountains of Oregon which is becoming a rather favorite range for me.  Angela says I comment every time how much I like this area. As OR204 ended we hung a left toward our first stop, Athena, Oregon for an Z-to-A picture opportunity. Athena is a little community just off Hwy 11 and on a Sunday morning, it was still asleep. We quickly found our picture site and before you knew it we were off to our next destination.

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From Athena we headed to the much larger town of Walla Walla. This is where the story gets a little funny. I know Angela thanks God I was in a good mood all day or this may have ended our trip rather abruptly. Getting close to lunch time and with very little food in our stomachs, we decided to find a place in Walla Walla to eat. As we rode toward town, Angela used her phone to search Yelp for a good place to eat. She found 3 places that got good reviews and we choose one called the Maple Counter. Good yelp reviews and from the sounds of it good ole breakfast type food. I punched in the address to the GPS and away we went. As we arrived at the restaurant we noticed a lot of people mingling and waiting in line to get into this place. Our rumbling stomachs quickly helped us decide we weren’t going to wait and I drove on past heading back to a Jack in the Box we had passed.  As we pulled into the parking lot, Angela, who really didn’t want a JitB breakfast, said one of the other Yelp locations was really close, let’s go try that. So I pulled back out of JitB and headed back the direction we had just come.  As we made the last turn toward Clarette’s Restaurant, Angela spotted on the far corner the third place on the list, Bacon & Eggs.  They, too, had a line. As we approached Clarette’s we thought we had a good shot at this place but as we pulled up we saw a crowd in the lobby, waiting to be seated.  DAMMIT!  Driving here we had noticed another restaurant that was sandwiched in what looked to be Old-Town. Remembering it didn’t look too crowded as we passed by, we had hopes that maybe this was the place we could stop and have breakfast.  We quickly found a parking space and headed toward the restaurant. As we got closer to the door Angela noticed that there were people… yes, you guessed it, waiting in line to be seated. At this point were both starting to get irritated and decided to give up and eat at Jack-in-the-Box.  Feeling defeated we proceeded to go in and order a couple familiar items off the menu. Although it wasn’t the plans we had originally intended, we had the place to ourselves, the food was good and our stomachs certainly appreciated it.  After a warm meal and a couple cups of coffee we were ready to hit the road again. Below is a snapshot of the fiasco of our quest for a meal.

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And this is just the beginning of the little adventure surrounding Walla Walla. Leaving the main metropolis, we headed down Stateline Road to our next Z-to-A destination, a local nursery. Stateline Road, as you might guess, runs along the divide of Oregon and Washington so, on one road, sometimes you’re in Washington and others you’re driving in Oregon.  The location itself wasn’t much to look at, it looked more like a wholesaler than a place for the public. The only place to really take a good picture which had the Walla Walla name was the warehouse so we hurriedly parked the bike and took the shot required.

IMG_0422After the Wing Washington snag our next stop was for a Steeplechase.  Angela always does a real good job of running down addresses, printing out pictures, and trying to make it as easy as possible to find locations. So, following her Google directions, away we went to find the Stateline Seventh-day Adventist Church about 5 to 7 miles down Stateline Rd. Boy, was that wrong! As we traveled down a gravel road with no church in site across open fields we knew something was wrong. We stopped, put the address into the GPS, and turned around heading back the way we came following the new directions.  Can you find the church in the photo below?  We couldn’t either.

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We drove a bit further on, doubled back and checked the address again. Finally, Angela pulled out her iPhone, entered the address, got a different set of directions and we continued our search, heading back down Stateline toward Walla Walla.

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Along the way we did pass by some happy cows grazing on fresh feed. It seems to be a thing with us when traveling. When we pass by cows we can’t help but moo at them, if they are close enough, trying to make them look up at us. I know, as we passed by this herd for the 2nd or 3rd time, if they could talk to each other they would probably ask one another what the heck are these crazy people doing driving back and forth? The only nice thing about trying to find this particular church was the section of road we had to travel on was well paved with rolling hills, a few nice corners, little traffic, and the scenery was beautiful.  As we reached our original turn off point, we passed by Walla Walla Nursery  where we had taken our picture 30 minutes earlier, and, sure enough, our mystery church wasn’t more than a couple of blocks away. Funny thing is it’s called a steeplechase, but no steeple was to be seen on this location. Oh well, we double checked our placard and confirmed it was the right location. That’s one of the things I love about riding, it’s those quirky unforeseen moments that make life on two wheels an adventure.

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Getting to be late afternoon it was time to get headed home. We didn’t have anything special planned as far as the route home, but along the way down Hwy 12 we saw a sign for Wallula and thought to ourselves “hey this is a chance to get one last Z-A before going home”. So we turned off the highway to look for a business with the name of Wallula. As you can see from the picture below, Wallula isn’t the biggest town.

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It took us all of 5 minutes to scour the town for a required location but nothing had the towns name on it. Angela remembered seeing an orchard before entering town so we double backed, parked the bike in front of the sign and took the picture. We’re not sure if the picture will count since it’s not on a structure but we’ll see.

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Picture taken, it was time to go home. We knew the weather was going to be an issue going over I-90 so we stopped for a bite to eat before heading over the summit. The trip up the summit was pretty uneventful but then the rains came and, boy, did we got our fair share!  For a few minutes I had to use the taillights of the car ahead of me to know where the lane was. As we came into North Bend the rains lightened and the rest of the trip was uneventful, the way I prefer it. So, after two days we traveled 804 miles for a rubber stamp. Was it worth it? Hell yes it was! It won’t be our last either. We have many, many more adventures just like this one ahead of us and I look forward to blogging about them so I can relive them when I’m old and crotchety.


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