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Day Seven/Eight – Forest Grove to Seattle and Home

I got up early this morning. I wanted to have time to enjoy my last full day of riding. So, I rushed through a quick hot breakfast at the, then hurried back up to my room to gather my belongings and get onto the bike. I'm still amazed at how close Forest Grove is to Portland. Just 30 miles up the road, the big city seems worlds away. Forest Grove may be at commuting distance, but it doesn't feel like a suburb. It is a community in itself, and the hotel is a great vantage point from which to explore.

Oregonians take their summers seriously. Whenever the sun is out, so are they. Today, they're out on two wheels -- mostly of the bicycle variety. They're also very fond of Farmers' Markets. I pass several during my journey today, and they're bursting with produce and people. It's a beautiful day for riding.

Instead of riding into Portland -- that's fodder for another trip to Oregon -- I ride directly north from Forest Grove through Hillsboro, North Plains and Scappoose, taking the back roads and pretty much following my nose without a definite route in mind. I know that if I keep heading north, I'll eventually hit Washington.

I stop for a cup of coffee in the village of St. Helens, a quaint town of about 12,000 on the Columbia River. St. Helens has been around since the 1850s, and is still a working lumber and mining town. It is close enough to Portland to have been somewhat gentrified, but it is a lovely step backward in time with a great dose of Americana.

Back on the bike, I reach the Lewis & Clark Bridge, which takes me across the Columbia River from Rainier, Oregon into Longview, Washington. From here, it's a freeway blast up I-5 northward in Washington State back up to Seattle.

I decide to take a detour along the way. How can I ride past the site of one of the great natural disasters of the 20th century without stopping to gawk?

I leave Interstate 5 at the Castle Rock exit 49, and ride east for 5 miles to the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake. Mount St. Helens is an active volcano that famously erupted in 1980, reshaping the local environment and shocking the world. I park, then enter the Visitor Center to explore. I watch a 13-minute film that brings back the awe that I remember from 1980, and the power of the event. Fifty-seven people died in the eruption, and over 250 homes were destroyed along with acres and acres of forest and man-made infrastructure. The power of nature is awesome to behold, and frightening enough to inspire nightmares.

The rock wall around the Visitor Center provides a postcard perfect view of the volcano, some miles away. It is possible to get closer to the Mount and to hike and climb in the area. It's even possible to hire a helicopter for a view inside the mouth of the volcano. I was quite satisfied with the view from the Visitor Center -- especially after having just watched the footage of the immense power of Mount St. Helens.

I saddle up again, and blast my way back up to the interstate and into the metropolis of Seattle. Even though it's a Saturday, the traffic is heavy. It's hot outside, and I can't wait to get out of my leathers.

I'm spending the night in Tukwila, a few miles south of downtown Seattle. I'm relieved to see that the hotel has a restaurant attached - O Sushi and Grill, a Japanese Steakhouse and Lounge.

I check in to my room at the bustling hotel. There seem to be several events happening at the same time here this weekend -- a wedding, a business meeting and a reunion of some kind. The front desk efficiently deals with the hubbub, seeming to spring into full action to keep everyone happy. The lobby is big, comfortable and full of happy customers. I like this place.

I go to my room and peel off my leathers. I'm going back and forth -- I'm just a few miles from downtown Seattle, with its bustling nightlife, tourist attractions and gourmet restaurants. On the other hand, I'm just steps away from a very well reviewed Japanese restaurant, and I've been craving sushi and saké ever since my tasting at Momokawa yesterday.

I decide to stay on the hotel grounds, and I head over to O Sushi for dinner. It turns out to be the right decision. The food is great, the atmosphere friendly and the service outstanding. I have some sushi, some sashimi and some grilled chicken. I even have some Momokawa saké with my meal. My waiter is very curious about learning to ride a motorcycle, and we have a great conversation about how to get started.

After dinner, I retire to my room for a good night's sleep. Even though the hotel lobby was bustling, my room is serene and quiet -- a restful oasis after a hot day on a bike.

In the morning, I eat my last free meal in the hotel's big breakfast room, suck down some coffee and pack up the motorcycle for the ride back to the dealership. I check out of the hotel and ride back to Bellevue.

The folks at Eastside Harley-Davidson are glad to see me. Returning the bike takes just a few minutes. I repack my gear into my suitcase, which Eastside has been kind enough to hang on to for me during my ride. I've got a few minutes before my car service will pick me up to get back to the airport, so I troll the dealership for a souvenir. I find a cool dealership hat, and hand over my credit card to make it my own.

The car service is right on time, and I get to the airport with plenty of slack in my schedule. It's a relatively short flight home, just two and a half hours. I spend some time onboard the airplane looking out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of the Oregon Coast below. It sure was a beautiful ride.

Now, I'm home, and only one question remains: Where should I ride next?

Miles ridden: 210

Total miles ridden: 1,162

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