The Cold Northwest

September 14, 2011

Words by // Photography by Nita Breibish

Saying goodbye to Ahmed, Wendy and Rashad is never an easy prospect. Their warmth and generosity is, honestly, without equal – though they’d never admit it and would quickly point to at least 20 other people who do more for others. Still, I don’t believe them. Our time with them was wonderfully simple – sleep, wake, eat, do something, eat, laugh, sleep. Repeat. Ahmed works hard – he’s one of those business owners who does the stuff many CEO’s & owners think is “below” their scale. It’s the willingness to do these things that’s earned him the respect and loyalty of his employees. They’re just good, good people.

Loading up the bikes was easy – the new tent from REI is a little larger than our old one but packs to half the size. On this particular day I was pretty excited about our destination: the Pacific ocean. I grew up next to a fierce ocean in southern England – it was often moody, with raging swells and white caps for as far as one could see. I’d heard that the coast along northern Oregon could create a similar fury. I’d hoped that I’d catch a glimpse of that if only for a day.

The night before we left Portland I’d received a call letting me know that Blake, one of my dearest friends, had passed in his sleep. The details were slim but after years of abuse, and a year on the mend, his body had called it quits. I find it insincere when people only talk of the good (or the bad) when someone dies – I think it illustrates a preoccupation we have as people with perfection. We’re all flawed and we’re all amazing in our own ways. Blake was beautiful, brilliant and deeply troubled. By what, I’ll never fully understand – it was the topic of many of our conversations in the failing light of recent years. He had an honesty about things that I admired – he would always tell me what was going on and I felt honoured that he felt that comfortable with me. If Grant Hutchinson was my mentor with regards to understanding how people use technology in the real world, then Blake was as much my mentor in teaching me to lead by empowering individuals and to fight for ideas you believed in. He opened my eyes to encouraging rather than managing – and for that I am eternally grateful. My life is amazing in part due to him.

When we left the sun was out but inside, I was grey. As we rolled along HWY 26 the temperature dropped, the sun disappeared and the clouds were pulled inland. Mother-nature, it seemed, was picking up what I was putting down. Before hitting Cannon Beach and Seaside, we headed south on HWY 53 which has to be one of the best roads I’ve ridden. It reminded me of the Tail of the Dragon on the east side with it’s constantly changing pitches, off-camber turns and its rhythm of left: hard right: hard left: up: left: down. It was spectacular. My headset chirps – Nita let me know that she just dragged part of her bike. Then it happens again. It seems that the camber, heavy load and all the other goodies involved in turning a bike had her dragging her kickstand through the corners. The road is epic.

Out of the turns and into Manzanita and our first glimpses of the Pacific. “Baby, we just rode our bikes here!” I yelled into the headset. It felt great. My bike had touched the water on both coasts of the US and this was Nita’s bikes first international trip. We stopped for coffee and a recharge. I was happy to be on the road – there was a certain degree of therapy happening while I rode and I was grateful for it.

The road stretched out in front of us, twisting through mountain roads then spilling us out onto beach-front dunes. Sometimes the roads were perfect and other times the sand encroached onto the tarmac giving the handlebars a gentle wiggle as we rode through it. Even the riders enemy – the RV’ers – moved to the pullouts with startling regularity to allow us through which was always acknowledged with a smile and a wave as we passed them.

Onto the Three Cape Road and we were immediately met with a detour that took us north again on a bar of land where the road ran at sea level. We watched people on boats navigate the inlet before heading south again on the far side toward the Three Capes. The roads here were much like HWY 53 – but in poorer condition. We needed caution as cracks emerged mid corner designed to unsettle the bikes. Almost at the end of the road a barrier informed us that the road was closed. Gah! We’d have to backtrack 30 miles in failing light. A group of hikers came out of the trees and, after chatting for a few minutes, they let us know that while the road had been mostly washed out there was a narrow part left that we could cross. Sweet treat! We slipped between the barrier and stopped again just before the washed out road. It looked tight but we were pretty confident we had the space. A hiker moved a pylon and we were on our way.

This road was insane. We climbed into the clouds and the fog closed in around us so that the corners would be obscured. To make it interesting, nature threw in a dose of freshly oiled pavement and some heavy moisture from the clouds to provide the minimum amount of traction possible. Also, throw in a dude diving a white monster truck with no sense of fear and you have forty-five minutes of fun. Still, it *was* amazing, and in perfect sunshine it would have been a totally different experience.

Out of the clouds and into Cape Kiwanda for a nights rest. It was only the second hotel of the trip so far and it was a good one. Right on the beach, overlooking a “haystack.” Life was very good.

After morning coffee we headed out on the 101. This was going to be one of the only days spent almost entirely on it. The 101 is an interesting road in that while it’s designated a scenic route (the I5 is the major commerce thoroughfare heading north/south) it’s still heavily used. Though, to be honest it’s a million times better than any interstate I’ve been on. If you manage your speed we’ve found that you can create gaps that’ll leave you alone on the road for quite a while. It’s peppered with towns whose history is steeped in mining and fishing – towns filled with tough, hard men. They all seem to show pictures of these men and their past on every wall, in every restaurant. It’s hugely interesting to me to see these faces from another time where the work was *so* hard and the times even harder.

The road loops and rises, then drops. Across a bridge and into another one of these towns. Sometimes the seagulls fly with us for a time barely flapping a wing while they keep pace. We stop now and again to take pictures and also to keep things slow. I had a real fear of this trip becoming a race to get somewhere – when the point was to go slowly and plan as we go. So far it’s worked well and the days are short on travel and long on enjoyment.

Before we know it we pull into our campground at Bullard Beach State Park and joined a long line of folks waiting to register. Turning the bike on and off I noticed it was struggling to turn over. In fact, by the time we’d reached the office, the bike would turn over once, pause, then start. Shit. I’d noticed some issues a while ago and, well, done nothing. I figured that it may be the battery or worse, the starter. Tomorrow I’d need to find a battery.

New tent up and settling in, we were joined by our neighbors Nancy and Rick – a great couple from Eugene, Oregon. We shared some wine, talked about love, our bikes, their camper, and travels. They invited us to get in touch with them should we head their way and I can say that that will definitely happen. If you guys are reading, we’ll bring the wine :)

Waking up, we decided to hit the road early. I knew that we were going to have to change the battery which would, of course, require us to find a place that actually sold them. The day before we’d passed a large motorcycle store in a small town and I was kicking myself for not stopping. We packed quickly and said our goodbyes to Nancy and Rick before heading out. Our bikes were swarmed by wasps which almost made me want to clean my bike. Later. Almost.

Todays destination were the Redwoods in northern California and (hopefully) getting to camp surrounded by them. But first, the battery. I decided to try Napa Autoparts in Gold Coast out of sheer desperation. A quick search on the GPS showed me that all my options were North and we were basically out of luck until San Francisco. Surprisingly they had my battery, charged it while we ate and I installed it in about 25 minutes. In no time we were on our way to Jedediah Smith State Park – praying for a campsite. Off of the 101, the park is nestled alongside HWY 199 which is a wonderfully flowing road. A minute in line and we were told to pick on of the two remaining sites. This place is wondrous. Our tent sits in between giant trees which are sure to be dwarfed by tomorrows behemoths along the Avenue of the Giants.

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I’m a Canadian writer, adventure motorcyclist and world traveller of British and Libyan descent. I’ve spent the past two and a half years travelling the globe by motorcycle as one-half of We Love Motogeo, following a route that makes little sense to anyone else, while supporting our non-profit organization, the Lost for Good Project. I’ve been chased by all manner of animal, detained as a spy in North Africa and waited out a hurricane in the bowels of a ferry. While I’m no spy (honestly), I am a lover of decent coffee and great yarns sewn around a campfire.


  1. Comment by Janice Springer

    Janice Springer September 15, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Your observations about Blake were so amazingly beautiful, accurate and honest. He was truly troubled, it is the nature of the disease, and none of knew how to help him.
    Thank you so much for being in Blake’s life and being his friend. We are being inundated with comments from people expressing how much he impacted their lives. All these wonderful recollections of Blake each day a little easier to face.

  2. Comment by Jan Thain

    Jan Thain September 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Sorry to hear about Blake, and after reading your thoughts of him and realizing what an impact he had on you -I’m glad you could use the road as a time for reconciling the loss of such a close friend.

  3. Comment by Maaike

    Maaike September 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    What a poignant entry. I could see the road, smell the ocean and feel the wind. Scary roads, I probably would have cried, I’m a scaredy-cat ;-)

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