“A nun and a biker walk into a bar…” began no joke ever.
I think the nicest types of people I’ve probably ever met are nuns and bikers. So far, I haven’t met any nuns on this trip, unless they were incognito. You know, undercover nuns. I have, however, met a number of bikers. Well, more like I’ve talked to a number of bikers. I have yet to meet a biker-nun (nun-biker?), but I’m sure they exist.
First, let’s get the nun thing out of the way. Okay, I know some nuns. My daughter, Kelsey, attended Louisville High School, an all-girls catholic school, and we got to know a few of the nuns, who are Sisters of St. Louis, through parent organization meetings and the like. Many of the sisters have become our friends. Why? Because they are just outstanding human beings — the kind of people you want to be associated with and wish you were like, short of, well, you know, the nun commitment thing. And I’m a dude. Anyway, these women have devoted their lives to making the world a better place, which is usually a cliché, but absolutely the day-to-day deal for the Sisters of St. Louis. We’ve become close to a couple of them, Sister Brid and Sister Michele, and have been fortunate to stay with them whenever we’re in New York City — and they with us.
What I love about the sisters is their acceptance of all people, good and bad, and the sisters’ unshakable belief that we are all worthy of grace and have value. I come from the business world where success is measured by one’s ability to “scale up” an idea – put a product into as many hands, and for as much profit, as possible. The sisters help others find their way and are content to do it one person at a time. So I like nuns.
Bikers are also, generally, good people. I know some bikers. To be clear, I’m not a biker, per se. I think of myself as a “rider.” I ride all styles and brands of motorcycles – call me “bike agnostic” — and I don’t really embrace the perceived biker “culture” of Harleys and leather outerwear. I don’t have a problem with that culture, but it’s just not me.
What I like about bikers/riders is that we share a common love of two-wheel-driven exposure to the elements found on the road (or trail, or track, or whatever). And we’ll talk about it to any other biker/rider who’ll listen. And to some who won’t.
It seems that everywhere that I’ve stopped on this trip – for meals, butt-unnumbing or an Advil reload – I’ve gotten into a conversation with a fellow rider. It’s summertime on perfect roads, so they’re everywhere. We pass each other by the hundreds, going in opposite directions on the highway and, most often, returning the familiar two-fingers-held-low wave that says, “Yo, you and I get it.”
When we’re stopped and talking, the tone is collegial and the topic is always about the ride. We almost never speak to drivers in cages (cars), unless they start up the conversation and have that “Man, I used to ride a bike…” look in their eyes, as their kids drop Cheerios and apple juice between the seats of their mini-van. I don’t know, it’s just an unwritten rule. “I’m cool with you asking me about my bike and where I’m headed, but you gotta start the convo, Mac.”
But fellow riders? Jeeze, we get right into it and only stop talking because we have another hundred miles or so to ride before we reach our destinations.
This is my bike. You wanna talk about it?
Random thing along the way that I can’t explain. If there’s a ship in the yard, would that make it a shipyard? Help me out here.
I got into a conversation with a biker yesterday as we both were checking into the Motel 6 in Coos Bay, Oregon (truly much nicer than the parking garage suite). Two dudes, who’d never met before, riding different bikes and within 10 minutes we were like long lost pals, deep in conversation about our shared passion. We decided get some dinner at a nice Coos Bay workaday burger and beer joint called “Walt’s Pourhouse.” Get it?
My instant pal, Randy, hails from the Florida Keys and is a retired air traffic controller. I know a little about aviation and air traffic controllers. You’d think a guy who made a career out of talking to people – lots of people – all day long would be kind of reticent. Not Randy. Man, we talked for over three hours about life, the places we’ve been and, of course, motorcycles.
My new riding buddy, Randy. 11 years my senior, riding 9,000 miles to my measly 4,000. Badass. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down, brother!
Randy rides a top-of-the-line Harley, his 18th bike I believe he said, and is currently on a 9,000 mile, “round the US trip.” His target destination is Sturgis, South Dakota, where about 500,000 (mostly) Harley riders converge each summer to hang out and, you guessed it, talk about bikes. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the event. BMW has a similar annual event, but only draws about 7,000 attendees.
More randomness. Grant’s Pass is NOT a small town. (Inside joke)
Randy and I agreed to meet this morning and ride together for about a hundred miles along the central coast of Oregon from Coos Bay to Newport. This has some of the most beautiful coastline you’ll ever see — from a motorcycle or a cage (car). We stopped for breakfast at a joint called the Newport Café, which was voted “#1 Breakfast in Newport.” It says so on the sign out front. Who am I to argue? We both had the breaded and fried razor clams and eggs for breakfast (OMG! Just…OMG!). We talked for at least another hour about bikes and life before Randy headed east towards Sturgis and I continued north. If clocks didn’t move and the sun never set, we’d probably still be there debating the merits of liquid-cooled motors.
Razor clams, breaded and fried, with a Lipitor chaser. Worth it. Why is the crab smiling while holding fries and a soda? Think he knows what comes next? If everything I liked to eat was presented in it’s cute animal form, I’d probably become a vegan right quick.
More fantastic Oregon coastal vistas continued and, along the way, I stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in (where else?) Tillamook. Ah-yup, they make a bunch of cheese there. Like 167,000 pounds per day. That’s what the sign said, anyway. I trust signs. You can watch the assembly line floor from above and behind glass on the self-guided tour, then walk through a salad bar type line to sample various Tillamook cheeses using a toothpick. Or fingers, if you’re a four-year-old. Yeef. I was probably there for a total of 22 minutes, including the time it took to secure my bike and gear. Go there, or don’t.
Those blocks of Tillamook cheddar cheese in the lower right corner weigh in at around 40 lbs. About right for my kinda cheeseburger.
The problem with the cheese sample bar is that most four-year-olds can’t read the sign that says, “Please use a toothpick to select samples.” Ew.
Nope, still not sick of the views.
I arrived at my destination, Astoria, Oregon, in the late afternoon. Astoria is a city of 10,000 people on the Columbia River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, and is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. The city lines the south banks of the Columbia River, and the north banks of Young’s Bay. What’s interesting about Astoria in pop culture is that the city was the filming location for “Kindergarten Cop” and, more famously, “Goonies.” I love both of these films (“It’s naht a toomah!”) and Astoria was the perfect backdrop, with a gentrified and hipster-vibed city center and classic Victorian homes on the hillside overlooking town. Just beautiful.
I watched the sun set on this warm evening at the Fort George Brewery and Public House, while sampling their small batch brews and enjoying a bowl of rich and spicy clam chowder. I guess today’s dining theme was “clams, two ways.”
Tonight, I’m staying at the Commodore Astoria Hotel, which is a funky, retro Euro-style hotel (as in a shared bath in the hallway, which is fine). I’m in comfortable room that’s apparently nowhere near the county jail.
Tomorrow I’ll cross the Astoria-Megler Bridge (a very imposing structure at 196 feet – can’t wait to see how windy it is on the GS) into Washington and head to Seattle to meet up with Dee, after she flies in tomorrow night. From there, the adventure really begins. Dee is much more outgoing than I am. She’s a great conversationalist and has the gift of being able to engage almost anyone. That said, if there’s a biker-nun in our path, trust me, Dee will find her.
Oh, okay. Wait… what?