Those of you who know me, know that I've been a motorcycle bum for some years now. I work as little as possible and get most of my exercise jumping to conclusions and ducking responsibilities. This has allowed me time to travel and many of my (mis)adventures have been documented in this column. Sometimes, my Fearless Wife went with me but many times she was working and had to stay behind. Partly that's due to the fact that she's a saver and I'm as spender. I say that makes us the perfect couple. She says... well. I won't repeat what she says because this column may be read by children or others with delicate sensibilities and I don't want to offend them.
I do want her to travel with me though and for years I kept suggesting that she join me in retirement. She would roll her eyes and get on her bicycle to ride to work. Still, despite my addiction to fast motorcycles and my frequent contributions to various traffic enforcement funds we are surprisingly well off. Did I mention that me wife is a very thrifty person?
This year though, I finally convinced her to retire. Well, that's not completely correct. She finally achieved an age that allowed her to collect Social Security. I will take some credit for that though because I'm sure that it was my skilled driving that allowed her to live this long. Oh, there had been a couple of false starts, promises to retire in the past that she had backed out of so this time, I devised a cunning plan to lock her into the Grand Scheme: I booked her on a non-refundable air flightJ
"Honey, what would you like to do when you retire?"
"I'd like top visit my Mom in Portland and then take my sister to the Sisters Oregon quilt show."
"But if you were to take a trip, what would you really like to see."
"Well, you always get to take you Boy Dog trips to the races in California and ride down the Oregon coast to get there and I'm jealous of that. I've never seen the whole coast in one trip. I'd love to do that.
Exactly five minutes later, due to the wonders of the Internet, my Fearless Wife is booked on a Wednesday flight out of Friday Harbor through to Portland. The credit card is charged and the flight is not refundable. To seal the deal, there's not enough time to change her mind and ask work to change "retirement" to "vacation" so she's locked in now. She has to retire! She'll visit with family and go to the quilt show and I'll show up on Monday and we'll head for the coast on the BMW touring bike. Wednesday comes and she's packed and ready and at the exact time that she would be walking into work, instead, she's getting in a Kenmore plane to head into a clear blue sky. I love it when a plan comes together!
I putter around for a couple days and get packed to head down and meet her. I'll stay the weekend before I pick her up with my best friend who lives in Vancouver. We get together two or three times a year and it's always good to see him. We'll hang out and get to do guy things while the FW is doing girl things in Bend.
I'm set to leave on Friday but it's a long grind down I-5 on a motorcycle so I contact a friend in the Centralia area to see if she wants to meet for lunch. I'll need a break there anyway and lunch with a friend is better than lunch among strangers. She claims that she knows just the spot and we agree to meet at 12:00. I know it'll be a tight schedule leaving on the 8 AM boat but I'll be heading though Seattle at mid-day so traffic should be OK. "Seattle", "traffic", "OK" in the same sentence. You're all laughing right?
Well, it was OK at first, only a little behind by Everett but I knew that I could catch the Express Lanes going south so I wasn't worried. I would make up the time by zipping through the downtown core and pull in to Centralia just in the nick of time. I was doing fine, really. My radar detector was on and chirping at me to alert me to potential tickets. I was weaving and dodging along and feeling pretty smug.
I slid over to the left as I went by the downtown ready to pop out into the Portland bound sunlight. One problem. In most civilized parts of North America the left lane is the "through lane". In Seattle, it's the "Gotcha!" lane.
I suddenly realized that I was on a "5th Ave exit only lane". Notification of this occurs long after a concrete barrier prevents lane changes and instead of sunshine on the Espresso lanes, I'm in the multi-storied shadows of downtown Seattle and it's noon and everybody is going to get a latte!
I make a snap decision and turn left towards the stadiums figuring to get back on the I-90 ramp. Oops! They're staging equipment for the viaduct replacement tunnel and I'm shunted farther on to surface streets in the SoDo district. I keep going towards a distant sign indicating the freeway "on" ramp. Then the view is blocked as a train crosses in front of me and slows down and stops!!!
25 minutes after I was shunted into the city core I finally merged back onto I-5 but the Practical Joke Department wasn't done with me yet.
There is a new law on Washington highways. In the interest of safety, if an officer has pulled a car off onto the shoulder on the freeway you are supposed to vacate the right-hand lane and move left to give them a cushion. A well-intended law but on a busy day it turns a simple traffic stop into An Event as three lanes suddenly try to become two.
This happened several times during the trip and as people suddenly dove to the left, chaos reigned and traffic crawled! I know the law looks good on paper but the frantic shuffling around seemed dangerous and I wouldn't be surprised if it causes accidents
Just north of Tacoma, I realized that I was going to be even later than I had supposed so I left a message on my friends cell to expect me at 12:30. Many delays later, I rolled into Centralia at 1:15 fully expecting to be eating by myself. I followed the instructions I had folded into the tank bag, turned a corner and found out that I had a pretty good friend indeed.
Mandy was waiting. She'd been patiently sitting on the steps like a lost waif, enjoying the nice day. Still, 45 minutes is a long wait and a damn good friend. I hope that it was worth the wait for her. It was for me. The Berry Fields café was as good as promised and an hour later I was motoring on to Vancouver looking forward to a week with my buddy in the Big City of Vancouver.
I need to back track at this point though and recount one odd occurrence that happened on the ferry coming over. I was sitting in a booth on the ferry reading when a man about my age stopped and looked at me and said, "Do I know you?" I'd been getting this all week because for the first time in 25 years I had shaved my beard off. I did this for the 4th of July parade to walk with the Community theater group. All week long, people had been looking at me with a puzzled expression, sure that I was familiar but not quite recognizing my freshly exposed face.
I stuck my hand out and said my name, "**** *****" and started to launch into an explanation about how I had recently shaved when he replied, "Keith Davies". Wow! That stopped me cold. Talk about a blast from the past.! Keith was one of my best friends from well over four decades ago. We'd lost track of each other when I'd moved to San Juan Island back in 74. Of all the people on the ferry, he was the only one who'd know what I looked like without a beard!
"I saw you walking around earlier", he said, "and you were the right height and walked the same way."
"Really? The way I walk?
"Yeah, most people have a distinctive walk. You especially and we spent a lot of time wandering all over the Willamette valley together when we were at OSU."
I sat there with my mouth open. "I'll be damned!" We traded contact numbers and a couple of days later I met him at his house in Portland and we caught up on some of the missing years with a promise to do it again soon.
Chance meetings with an old friend from the past. Late arrivals with a new friend. All these things were on my mind as I rolled into the parking structure at my best friend's apartment in downtown Vancouver.
"A lot of excitement for a simple drive down the freeway!" I thought. "It'll probably be dull as ditch water from here on." Famous last thoughts!
Next, Part 2: Pole Dancing lessons and flaming Rust Rods!