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Day One: Seattle, Washington to Astoria, Oregon

Logistics have determined that my ride through Western Oregon has to begin in Seattle, Washington. Not Oregon. That’s okay – I love Seattle. It’s a good starting point for any excursion, especially during the summer.

I land in Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, and take a car service to Bellevue’s Eastside Harley-Davidson. I’ve located an Electra Glide Ultra Limited for rent through Harley-Davidson Authorized Rentals. In the past, I’ve used the Harley Owners Group Fly and Ride, but the Motor Company has merged the two programs. Everything works out fine. I’m in and out of the dealership in 45 minutes, saddled up on a fully-loaded 2011 bike. The bike is beautifully detailed, black in color, and has a few extra features, like heated handgrips and a 12-volt outlet in the Tour Park. That may come in handy.

I don’t think I’ll be using the heated handgrips today. The temperature is in the low 80s in Seattle, and I’m in my ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) mode with H-D FXRG jacket, overpants and boots, along with gloves and Kevlar-lined Harley-Davidson blue jeans underneath it all. With my full-face helmet, I’m protected from the road, but I’m going to have to force myself to stop frequently to hydrate.

I’m eager to get to Oregon, so I jump on the superslab for a while to get out of town. I take I-405 South to I-5 South, then retreat to US 101 just south of Olympia for a more pleasant trip to the Coast. The grind of the Interstate quickly gives way to a beautiful, undulating road though pine forests and wooded hills. I see tons of fellow motorcyclists out on the road today, the majority cruisers. Everybody looks happy, and many waves are exchanged.

I finally reach the coastline, and decide to stop for a meal. I am intrigued by a sign that promises a “Historic Main Street” in Raymond, Washington, so I turn off of US 101 and head west into town. Raymond turns out to be a charming little hamlet with a real artistic bent. Life-size metal silhouettes of deer, wolves, fishermen and lumberjacks line the roadsides of town. Other public art is displayed in a totally unselfconscious fashion. It’s very cool.

I stop at the only open restaurant in Raymond on a Sunday afternoon, the Corner Café. They specialize in breakfasts, which is fine by me. A ham and cheese omelet is pretty much my favorite road food.

Back on the road again, I’m closing in on Oregon. I enter the area of Lewis and Clark National Historic Sites, which are intermingled with Washington and Oregon State Parks near the mouth of the Columbia River. I stop at Dismal Nitch, where I get my first look at Astoria, Oregon on the other side of the river. It’s beautiful. Dismal Nitch may have been one of the toughest places that the Lewis and Clark expedition faced, but today, it’s a tranquil overlook, and a great place to pause before entering Oregon.

I ride across the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the longest continuous truss bride in North America at 21,474 feet (over 4 miles). Somewhere in the middle of the Columbia River, I finally enter Oregon.

The Astoria hotel is just a half a mile west of the Astoria-Megler Bridge. I park the bike out front, and check in. I’m greeted by Seth at the front desk, and the smell of fresh-baked cookies. The hotel also has an indoor pool, library and fitness center, and even better, is right near a the very scenic Historic Downtown Astoria Riverwalk – exercise and sightseeing at the same time.

Seth recommends a restaurant within walking distance – Ann & Tony Kischner’s Bridgewater Bistro, which is in a converted wharf building in the shadow of the Astoria-Megler Bridge. I have the special, blackened locally-caught sturgeon with an apricot sauce. The food is fantastic, and the atmosphere just gets better as the sun goes down and the big windows on the river reveal the beautifully-lit bridge.

Back at the hotel lobby, I snag a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and go upstairs. My room is lovely, with a fireplace, flat screen television and a big whirlpool bathtub. As soon as I finish writing, I’ll be soaking in hot water to recover from the road, and get ready for tomorrow’s ride.

Miles ridden: 197

NEXT UP: DAY TWO. ASTORIA TO LINCOLN CITY, OREGON

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