Possibly the most boring motorcycle video ever posted!

You have been warned! 

This was shot last Saturday and shows a motorcycle ride from north to south over Blewitt Pass. 

If you are thinking of purchasing a Triumph T 120 motorcycle of the current generation and want to hear how it sounds for 14 minutes of reasonably high speeds, this might have some interest.

Or if you want to see how Blewitt Pass looks.

Or if you are having a hard time getting to sleep. 

It was a lot of fun and I am pleased to have it to look back on, but that’s about it.  There was a delay in posting because it has been so long I forgot how to get it off the Go Pro camera!  Fortunately my brother in law Rich was at our home last night and solved the problem for me.  So here it is: 




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Fun with Forest Fires

Fun with Forest Fires

In these troubling times, when it seems like the entirety of the northwest United States is struggling with forest fires, perhaps an incident that was sort of fun will be appropriate.  It will take a bit of reading to get to it, however.

In 1970 I was 23 years old and embarking on my 3rd long distance motorcycle ride.  My steed was a pristine 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler.  Purchased with 843 miles on the odometer, it showed off a few improvements made by the first owner.  He had chromed both the side and center stands, and maintained the bike in a manner that would make an obsessive compulsive proud. With silver paint and gold flashes on the tank, it was one of the most beautiful bikes I’ve ever owned.

The plan was to ride from Seattle to Minneapolis to see old friends from high school and college, and then return. I had a large duffel bag on the back with my camping gear and some clothes.  That was about it. 

This turned out to be the most fraught trip I ever took, but it all ended well.

The first night I was looking for a campsite in southern Idaho, and they were all full. As afternoon segued inexorably toward evening, I was getting very worried. At last I found a campground with a big sign warning that bears had been a problem recently.  But – there was an open site!  I set up my tent, organized my stuff, and went for a stroll. I spotted an old man leaning over a water fountain, wearing a full length fur coat. This seemed odd, but as I grew closer the “old man” stood up, and it was, in fact, a bear! Everyone around me was scrambling away, and it seemed that all of them had a pickup truck with a camper shell on the back. 

Except me.

I had a tent.

I crawled into my tent, telling myself that both my bike and I probably smelled like gasoline and oil and therefore I would be OK.  This made no sense at all, as it was not true, but the bear wandered off.

A big truck soon arrived full of park rangers and dogs. The rangers, bearing rifles armed with tranquilizer darts, walked carefully through the campground, the dogs straining at their leashes.  The dogs soon found the scent of the bear, and they were off. I fell asleep to the baying of the hounds far up the hillside.

The next morning I stopped at a small town that had a motorcycle dealership, because the bike needed an oil change.  I have no idea why I did not take care of this before I left.  I purchased the oil and filter, and set to work in the hot sun.  While removing the filter I managed to pretty much weld my forearm to an exhaust pipe, raising a really impressive blister. The next day it broke and I could feel the fluid running down my arm inside my ski jacket, which is what I wore while riding in those innocent days.

After that I was streaming across Montana at about 85mph, which was legal in those days, and a bee struck me in the throat and stung me in his death throes, which seems fair.  I’d read in a magazine the previous month a letter from a woman who was arguing against the use of helmets.  While riding behind her husband, a bee had flown into his open face helmet and around to the base of this neck, where he was stung. The sting at the base of his skull paralyzed him, according to her.  The bike crashed and alas, he was killed.

So while pondering this I continued at high speed, flexing my fingers from time to time to see if paralysis was setting in!  I may not have been all that bright back then.  

Or now…

That night I found a lovely park next to a small lake.  A ranger was coming around, warning people of a possible tornado. Across the lake you could see a serious weather incident coming directly toward us.  I moved my bike up to a sidewalk behind a brick building that housed the bathrooms and showers, and put my tent up right next to it. Now on the lee side of the wind and the approaching storm, I went to sleep.  A sleep profound enough to last through the night, the storm, AND the tornado!  I woke up as the only person in the campground. There were trees blown down all over the place, and I rode across the grass and anywhere else I could find a clear path to get out.

I had departed very early, as was my habit in those days, and it was about the most beautiful Montana morning ever seen. So much so that I actually parked on the side of the deserted freeway, just to watch the sun come up.  Spectacular.

Later I stopped for breakfast. As I got off the bike and removed my helmet, an older woman came out. Obviously on her way to church, she wore a spotless blue dress with white lace trim, a hat, and gloves.  She walked toward me, her lips pursed, and I braced myself for the lecture on the idiocy of riding motorcycles many people liked to deliver back then.  She took a long look at my bike and then said “My, what a pretty motorcycle!”  Absolutely made my day.

In Minnesota I was giving a ride to a friend on the freeway. A white Ford van changed lanes straight into the left side of the bike, knocking me to the right. The ARMCO barrier was right there, and I remember the handlebar jamming into my stomach as I corrected for the slide.  The bike then went into a slide the other way, and I slewed and sashayed and swayed to the left across four lanes of busy traffic, coming to a stop on the left hand verge.  The van driver stopped and was almost crying with relief that we were not dead, and promised to pay for any damages.  (Later he changed his mind).

The damage to my bike was a clutch lever that had bent around my fingers, a white mark on the front tire where the painted bumper of the van had hit, and a grotesque swelling of the ankle of my friend David, who had been hit by the side of the van.

The state trooper could not believe it.

“Let me get this straight Mr. Preston.  He hit you back there, and you slid back and forth across all of these lanes, as we can clearly see from the skid marks (I think I had the rear tire locked up), came to a stop here, two up, and you did not crash?  How is that possible?”

“I have no idea.”

A visit to the hospital showed that my friend’s ankle was not broken, and we lived to ride another day.

The shock from this trauma did not really sink in until I was heading back to Seattle. I chose to ride up into Canada and head west, and early on I noticed that I was in a near panic if any vehicle appeared on my left.  Fortunately, Canada was pretty open back then, and this did not occur often.

While in Minneapolis and I’d spent an evening with Joel, who’d grown up next door to me in Minnetonka. He was now teaching English in New Haven, having graduated from Yale, and was touring the country with a VW van with a Kawasaki 90 that would fit, just barely, in the van.  We decided to meet, two weeks later, at a campground in Banff.

As I rode into the campground I realized our folly. There were no campsites to be had at all. What had we been thinking?  As my heart fell, I rolled around a corner, and there was Joel, all set up in a nice spot.  He was sitting at the picnic table wearing a jaunty cowboy hat and strumming a guitar, a bottle of scotch at the ready. Wow!

Toward the end of my trip I was heading south for the US border when I came upon an active forest fire.  Nobody told me to stop, and so I kept on keeping on.  Soon I was rolling along through the middle of the battle against the fire.  There were people in hard hats on both side of the road, beating down flames on bushes and shoveling dirt here and there. 

Thoughts raced through my mind.   How was I allowed to ride on this road?  Shouldn’t someone have stopped me?  How can this be?

Then I felt guilty, and wondered if I should stop to help.  Parking a motorcycle in the middle of a fire did not seem like a good plan, and the fire fighters probably would have laughed at me and urged me to keep going.

I believe things are more casual in Canada, but I’m sure that would not happen today.

When I got to the US border the Canadian customs folks were friendly, as usual, and the US people not so much. As usual. I was directed to the side and told they would need to go through the duffel bag on the back of my bike.  

In their defense, I did not look like a guy most likely to succeed. I had not shaved in a couple of days, and had just ridden through a forest fire.  It was over 90 degrees, and my long hair was plastered all over my head.  And I probably smelled like smoke.  Or worse.

As the guard was pulling stuff out of my bag he interrogated me.

“Where do you live?”

“Kirkland, Washington, Sir.”

“And what do you do for a living?”

“I’m a junior high school English teacher, Sir.”

“Oh. Well then, have a nice day.”  Without further ado he walked away, leaving me agog, with the task of repacking my bag.

So there you have it.  If you want to smuggle drugs or whatever and wish to breeze through US customs, tell them you’re a junior high English teacher!”


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles, Travel | Leave a comment

A Triumph T 120 Bonneville at 10,000 miles

The Triumph Bonneville T120 at 10,000 miles

The odometer clicked over to 10,000 miles last week, a good chance to look back on 16 months of ownership of my 2016 cranberry red and silver Bonneville.

Cut to the chase – a fantastic design, and one of those machines that does exactly what you imagine it will do while you stare at it on the showroom floor.  It is not a sport bike, although it can be ridden in a “lively manner.”  It is not a long haul luxo tourer, yet I have taken three multi-thousand rides on it so far, with the next one a week away. It is not the fastest or most powerful bike I’ve ever ridden – by quite a long shot, but I did not expect it to be.  It has been reliable and comfy and beautiful.  Always beautiful.

To the details.  When I first saw one I was smitten by the appearance.  I immediately started thinking of the reasons I should not purchase, while chatting with Andy the amiable salesman.

“Well, I would want heated grips.”

“They come standard.”

“I would want those kneepads on the tank.”

“Also standard.”

“And ABS brakes with triple discs.”


And a few more comments like that.

To his credit Andy did not laugh at me.  Everything I would want in a new bike.  Aha!  Spoke chrome wheels mean no tubeless tires. Oh well.

Maintenance has been minor, to put it mildly. Not only compared to Triumphs of old, but to almost any other product that is used hard and (occasionally) put away wet.  The oil change interval is 10,000 miles, which seemed absurd to me. I had the oil changed at 8,000 miles, because I had a long ride coming up, and because I could not stand it any longer.  I also had a “chain service” at that time, which meant a good cleaning and possibly a small adjustment.  This dealer service shows that I am old and lazy and have more money than I did back in the day. 

On the same day, as I rode to the dealer, the low beam failed in the headlight, so I had that changed as well.   That one bulb is the only mechanical issue to date.

There have been two factory recall notices, both of them minor, that mainly sufficed as excuses to go hang around the dealership for a bit and spend more money!

Additions.  I have a Nelson-Rigg magnetic tank bag that is on the bike almost all of the time. In a fit of hubris, I wrote on this site a month or so ago that I have been using tank bags for over 40 years and have never seen a scratch in the paint.  No surprise that one appeared two days later. I believe the Triumph tank has a coat or three of clear over the color, and that clear coat now has a micro-scratch or two that shows if you cock your head at the correct angle in bright sunlight. Serves me right, but not a huge bother.

A friend loaned me a pair of Cortech saddlebags for my first long ride, and I added a black “jock bag” to the top.  This worked so well that I ordered my own set of Cortechs and added the Cortech top bag that plugs into the saddlebags.   This gives me all the space for luggage I need, although the right hand bag now had some abrasion where I overstuffed it and it chafed on the tire a bit. Must be careful of that.

I also ordered the Triumph “fly screen” in the cranberry metallic color, and while this does take some wind of your chest and arms, it is 98% cosmetic in practice. Which is what I expected. 

Oh yes, a pair of Triumph valves stems I transferred over from the Speed Triple before I sold it.

Riding the bike is a total pleasure.  Not many motorcycles can be fun to ride just puttering around your local area, and also on the freeway and also on winding roads far from home.   The Triumph seems happy and capable of anything I ask of it, and also returns 50 mpg or more on regular fuel.  The Speed Triple I owned previously struggled to top 33mpg on mid-grade.

That said, the Speed Triple would turn into a corner RIGHT NOW, whereas the Bonneville is much slower to react.   This takes some adjustment, but is in keeping with the overall nature of the bike.

All motorcycles have a personality, and the Bonneville personality is friendly and laid back.  It sort of says to you “We can go much faster if you want, but is it worth the effort?  Why not just relax and enjoy?”  Sound advice. The clutch pull is light enough that I think a ten year old child could handle it.  The brakes are progressive and easy to modulate.

Every butt will tell a different tale about a motorcycle seat, but for me the Bonneville is comfy.  On my last trip, I was determined to drone up I-5 from somewhere in Oregon to Chehalis, because I knew Chehalis to home would be a one-shot deal.  To my surprise, my three friends shot by me on the right and raced to a rest area exit.  I swerved right to join them.  They felt forced to stop because they were in butt agony, while I was fine.  They were on a Ducati Multistrada, a BMW R1200RS, and a Honda cruiser.  Your results may vary.

Tire wear seems excellent, but then most of my previous bikes had much more horsepower. The BMW K 1300 S needed at new rear tire at 6,000 miles, as did my Kawasaki ZX1200R.    The Bonneville looks like the rear tire will go 13-15,000 miles and the front 18-20.  Again, your results will vary.

Improvements?  Sure, we all want to make improvements.  Two Bonnevilles with aftermarket pipes joined us at a motel in Oregon, and they both sounded terrific.   I could replace mine, and may at some point, but at times I also enjoy the peaceful thrum.  A better set of rear shocks might help both the ride and the turn-in.  I don’t know if the high zoot shocks on the Thruxton would be a bolt-on, and perhaps the Thruxton front forks as well?   Again, on my mind but not imperative.   Perhaps some boffin at Triumph will ideate putting the Thruxton “high power” engine and the suspension on the T 120 and call it the T 120R – THAT would be tempting.

Last thing to note:  with this bike you will have conversations with people. A lot of them. People who know nothing of motorcycles will tell you your bike is beautiful.  People who think they know a bit will ask what year it is and when you had it restored, which gives you a chance to point out the small radiator and the fuel injection components disguised as carburetors.  The truly knowledgeable will ask questions and pore over the bike, because they may have never seen one up close. I’ve had people give me a thumbs up, and even take pictures of the bike.  In America, if you are away from a big city, a Triumph, almost any Triumph, is a rare sight.

Fantastic design, and I think Triumph has earned all the praise they have received for the entire Bonneville line.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

A Hope for the End of Racial Prejudice

A Hope for the End of Racial Prejudice

These days there’s a lot going on that can bend you toward a depressed mood.  Almost every Facebook thread, for example, if it has any relevance to race relations, rapidly devolves into name calling and profanities. An alarming number of the negative comments also show a casual or purposeful disregard for the rudiments of our language. I mean really, if you can’t be bothered to spell swear words correctly, what hope is there that anyone will be swayed by your comments?

But I don’t think these people care. They are so pleased to have a venue where, at last, they can vent their venom and spew their bile all over a limitless audience.

“The arc of history is long but it tends toward justice” is a quote created by clergyman Theodore Parker in the 19th century, and then used by both Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.  I think it would be more complete to add “and it varies in a sort of three steps forward and two back sort of rhythm.”  Which is course, would make it unwieldy as a quote.

In some regards I’m in a weak position to write about racism.  I’m sort of a poster boy for the history of white male privilege. I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis in a home full of books and music and conversations about chemistry and physics.  Occasionally my parents and older brothers would allow a few moments for discussion of topics of focus for me – cars, motorcycles, and sports.  I was given an excellent education in some of the finest public schools anywhere – both then and now.

I had little direct experience with racism in any form.  I knew all the black kids in my junior high. Her name was Alice, and she was a fine trombone player.   Still, even a naïve young lad can look at the TV news showing black marchers in the South being attacked by attack dogs and mounted police with clubs and know that this is wrong. 

I recall one of the issues of the day. Should patients in hospitals be told the race of the blood donor who was saving their lives?  My parents were so disgusted with the utter stupidity of it all. As my mother said, with a sad shake of her head, “Blood is blood. Period.”

I did have contact with other forms of bias.  My mother was a mechanical engineer, and one evening I listened as she chatted with a friend who was a professor of anthropology. Both women had been pretty much ostracized by all the women in their respective neighborhoods because  a.) they were educated and b.) they had jobs. I think that was my first experience of moral outrage, and I was 14.  I had been pampered and sheltered from a lot of real world issues for 14 years, in other words.

My brother married Irene in 1967. Irene was second generation Japanese American.  My grandmother, of North Dakota farming stock, was not pleased.  When she saw the pictures I brought home from the California wedding,  as far as she could go was to say “Well, I understand they are a clean people.”   I left the room.

On their honeymoon in Utah, George and Irene were stopped by the police during a train stop in Salt Lake City and queried about why they were there and why they were together.  George assured the officers that they would be gone in ten minutes, choosing not to share with them that Irene had been born just a few miles away in an internment camp during WWII.  And the subtlety of sexism is wrapped up in the fact that the officers did not question Irene at all.

Today, in addition to the overt racism of the new-Nazis and their ilk, we also can experience so many of the subtler forms that have always been there.  Would all the strident calls for NFL players who choose not to stand for the national anthem be as vehement if almost all of them were not black?  I really doubt it.

Racism and other forms of bias are hardly new, whether overt or covert, and it seems like they have been here forever. Because they have. In the last few months the haters have come out in force, both in demonstrations and in political conventions and all over social media. When will it end?  Where can we look for a ray of hope, much like the sun that peeked out again from behind the moon after today’s eclipse event?  Will there be light?    I think so. Maybe.

Consider smoking. Really.  In my youth it seemed that almost everyone (except my parents) smoked cigarettes. People smoked in their homes, in their cars, in their workplace, restaurants, trains, planes, and everywhere else.   The tobacco industry was huge and had enormous political clout and a PR war chest overflowing with hundreds of millions of dollars.  Surely nothing would ever change.

This was in relatively recent times. I can recall having dinner in a fancy restaurant before the prom in 1965.   My friend John, resplendent in his tux, showed us that you could even smoke a breadstick! One of the funniest things I ever saw. Nobody in the restaurant noticed because people were smoking everywhere.

I was in the hospital in 1969 recovering from surgery to repair the shoulder that my exuberance and lack of talent had damaged with a really stupid motorcycle accident. With my usual good luck, I had managed to stuff my motorcycle into a ditch at about 50 miles an hour – in the back yard of a very kind nurse.  

She came by to see me each day I was in the hospital. She brought me a milkshake, drew the curtain around my bed, and sat down to enjoy the real reason for her visit.  A cigarette!   In a hospital room.  This was perfectly OK at that time.

When I was president of our local teacher’s union from 1976- 1978 I had an office, and on my desk were two jars of pipe tobacco. I smoked my pipe several times a day. One of my two secretaries smoked – a lot.  Nobody thought this was unusual.

And then, so slowly at first, the worm began to turn.  Do you remember the furor that erupted when airlines began to ban smoking in planes?  For decades it was common to sit in a long aluminum tube with hundreds of people you did not know and spend hours inhaling their smoke.  When the idea was mooted that this would end, oh the hue and cry!  Many cited their fear of flying, and felt that they simply could not survive the stress of a flight without a soothing hit of nicotine.

And at the same time, restaurants began to offer no smoking areas.  And legislation followed.  It was not a pretty or easy process.

Despite the massive push back from the tobacco industry and millions of addicted smokers, the trend toward elimination of smoking where it would affect others continued.

It did not come all at once. For years airports had glassed in “cages” where smokers could gather. Ironically, this was the last gasp of conversation in airports.  Smokers would light up and talk to their fellow pariahs about where they were from and the affairs of the day, whereas now airport interiors tend to be human parking lots with everyone focused on their phones.

And now, just a short time later in historical terms, we take it for granted that people do not smoke in planes or restaurants or any other enclosed public space.

People still smoke, to be sure. I have members of my extended family that smoke. I smoke a pipe. But none of us indoors, and I do not smoke in my car any more.

All of this came about in a matter of a couple of decades, through concerted political action and the willingness of some politicians to stand up to the political clout and cash reserves of big tobacco.

I wonder if there was a “tipping point,” where the idea of eliminating the inhalation of tobacco smoke as a part of everyone’s life took hold and slowly began to advance.  And then faster. And then – here we are.

Could the same thing happen with racism?  Like tobacco once was, racism is everywhere. Its adherents are well funded, organized, and politically powerful.  Racism, in one form or another, has been around for centuries, and is embedded in the core of many cultures.  So was tobacco.

Could the rise of blatant racist rhetoric in the past couple of years and the ugly demonstrations we see today actually be the final death rattle of racism?  Will the massive crowds now turning out in peaceful denunciation of racist beliefs sway public opinion to where racism becomes a memory in two or three decades?

Seems unlikely, I know, but as I sit out on my deck and enjoy my pipe – I have hope!


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

How To Gain Internet Fame in Three Easy Steps

How to Gain Internet Fame in Three Easy Steps

  1. Make sure your video camera is on.
  2. Do something really stupid.
  3. Blame it on something implausible.

This will gain you a lot of sympathetic responses from people who are not familiar with what you were doing, as well as a lot of scorn from people who know exactly what you did and are dismissive of your explanation.  Both of these groups will forward and share until the cows come home, and your 15 minutes of fame will be established.

Today’s example:  an unfortunate young man in Minnesota crashed his motorcycle at speed over a cliff and then, from his hospital bed, “explained” that his “steering locked up.”

The steering on a motorcycle cannot “lock up.”  In the old days many motorcycles had steering dampers that could be adjusted to alter the steering response, and if the damper was screwed all the way down the motorcycle would be reluctant to turn.  I rode a Harley XCLR café racer with this circumstance, but it would still turn.

The Internet is twittering with experienced riders viewing the video and then offering an explanation.  He was on the brakes not hard enough or too hard (either will work), and then as impending doom loomed in his brain he stared at where he did not want the motorcycle to go – and the motorcycle followed his gaze.

Others who think they know about motorcycles have offered up the old favorite.  “He should have laid it down.”

Gack!  This drives me crazy!  How long will this myth survive? A motorcycle can stop so much faster on it wheels and on the brakes than sliding on its side.   Creating a crash on purpose is not the solution in any case.

A class or two in motorcycle safety might have prevented this accident, or it might not have.  Excessive speed into a corner is an easy mistake to make, even for experienced riders, and most have come close to this sort of accident a time or two. Hopefully a long time ago when under the influence of enthusiasm and testosterone and inexperience, and it will not be repeated.

But – motorcycle steering does not lock up.

At least he has fame, however brief, to prop up his ego in recovery. He states that he will not ride a motorcycle again, and I think that is a good choice.   I wish him well.


Copyright 2017                      David A. Preston

Posted in Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

What Killed Hydro Racing

What Killed Hydroplane Racing?  (Hint:  it’s not TV)

Oh, the hue and cry!  KIRO has chosen not to cover the Seafair Unlimited Hydroplane races live on TV this year, breaking a tradition of decades!  People are angry!  People are appalled!  People say it’s an outrage!  

All such people are wrong.

Look at the schedule for this year.  The two days of “racing” take up about three hours over two days.  What are the TV announcers to talk about?  This year the organizers have added a beach volleyball tournament and all sorts of other non-racing activities to lure race fans, but there is nothing there to entice any TV station to pony up the considerable costs of playing several hours of almost entirely dead air.  None of this is new.

Unlimited hydroplane racing has been dying a slow and preventable death for at least 15 years.  When I hosted “The Motorsports Show” from 2001 to 2004 I did a show on the races every year. The guests were drivers and owners, and even then they worried about the cost of racing and the dwindling supplies of the ex-helicopter turbines that powered the boats, and the lack of sponsorship opportunities.

The solution was obvious then, as it is now, although it may be too late.  Today, a top fuel drag racing engine in the NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel classes creates about 10,000 horsepower.  Nobody actually knows for sure, as there is no dyno that can handle that much power. Math gives us a good approximation. They are limited to 500ci by the rules, and the challenge is to get all that power to hook up to the track.  There is always enough power. They accelerate from 0 to over 300 mph in 1,000 feet, and it is a show for sure.

Now a hydroplane that needs to run for 15 minutes at a time cannot use a top fuel NHRA engine. For one thing, they have no cooling system. For another, the drag racers usually erupt in flames every few runs.  They only run for less than two minutes at a time.

However, you could put together such an engine that ran on methanol and create 3,000 – 4,000hp with reliability probably greater than the turbines provide now.   Further, such engines, while not cheap, are inexpensive compared to the jet turbines. They also weigh a lot less, and are available from a number of suppliers.

You could, if your head was not stuck deeply into the sands of time, create a new rules structure that mandated the use of V-8 or V-10 or V-12 engines that had their beginnings as car designs. Of any displacement. You could allow the creators to use as many engines as desired, and they could use “power adders” (turbo or turbos, supercharger or superchargers, and nitrous oxide) – either separately or in combinations.  Volvo currently sells a car with both a supercharger and a turbo, for example.

The real benefit?  The use of “car engines” would allow car manufacturers to get involved, both with sponsorship and with “marketing.”  And all of the suppliers and aftermarket companies as well.  Keep in mind that in such engines almost NONE of the parts are used in engines meant for sale to street customers. Makes utterly no difference.

Look at drag racing for a clue.  The “NAPA Dodge” funny car currently leading the current fuel Funny Car rankings has a body that bears very little resemblance to any Dodge ever made. The “hemi” engine contains exactly 0 parts from Dodge. The same with all the rest of the competitors.  This does not slow down the marketing efforts at all, as the manufacturers (Dodge, Chevy, Toyota and several others) bring enormous displays and fan-interactive experiences to each race.

If you created a class of hydros with two big block engines on methanol with superchargers, for example, they would put out 6-8,000 horsepower per boat, and would be far lighter than the current boats that race.  They would put on a show, for sure.  They would also be much less expensive to campaign, and would offer large areas of hull for sponsor logos, etc.

People would flock to the races to root for the “NAPA Chevy,” or the “Mac Tools Ford,” or whatever, and everyone would have a great time.

And the TV people would be back in a flash.

It ain’t KIRO’s fault, in other words. 

And the sound!  Almost forgot that.  A big block with a blower on methanol?  Two of them? Oh. Wow.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Triumph Bonneville Touring 2017 Part II

Triumph Bonneville Touring 2017                  Part II

For this adventure I had the great benefit of friends to increase the enjoyment.  Four of them, to be exact.  Even better, we were on 5 different brands of motorcycle.  It takes a village.

Me on my Triumph Bonneville T120

                              50 years of experience –  medium speed bike

Donna on a Honda CFX700 Cruiser

                              Several years of experience –  slow bike

Rick on a Ducati Multistrada

                              Decades of experience –fast bike

Pat on a BMW R 1200R

                              Lots of experience and track days –fast bike

Gary on a Kawasaki 650 Versys

                              Years of experience – medium speed bike

The plan was to meander across Washington to the Southeast, ending in Lewiston, Idaho, Day 2 would take us South into Oregon to Ukiah. Along the way for Day 2 and 3 we intended to pause for pictures at ghost towns located on or very near pavement, as most of our motorcycles are not that dirt friendly. Visiting ghost towns was the stated reason for the trip, which in motorcycle terms is synonymous for the excuse.  It’s not enough to just sail off into the hinterlands for no reason, is it?

Day 3 would end in Sisters, Oregon, and the last day would be a route virtually identical to the first day of my ride to California two weeks ago, but in reverse.

Most of the group rides I plan begin at our Friday morning brekkie meetings, which occur every week that does not coincide with a holiday.  The group varies from about 4 regulars to a maximum of 13 or so, and sometimes there’s a half day or so ride after.  Alas, most of these people have actual jobs, so those rides are a tad rare.

Leaving on July 14th and returning on the 18th, we had the advantage of a forecast of no rain for the entire trip.  I can deal with that.

The trip across Washington was uneventful, and I have done it many times before. A highlight is lunch at “Sonny’s” in Washtucna, one of the few functioning businesses left in what was once a bustling burg. The original owner won the restaurant in a high stakes poker game next door at the Grange hall, and I was told that back in the day these games drew well-heeled or pro gamblers from all over the northwest.

The ride from Washtucna to Lewiston is one of my favorites featuring a 20 mile romp on a winding and hilly back road SR 261 to Highway 12, and then on to Clarkston/Lewiston.  Every time I am struck by the large signs denoting the path of the original Lewis and Clarke expedition. The sheer labor involved staggers the mind. Amusingly, I rode this route for several years before the origin of the names Clarkston and Lewiston sank in!

The Cedars Inn in Clarkston is clean and cheap, and features a pool.  A pool is welcome after a day’s ride in mid-90s heat, until you realize that is gets quite cold at night and the pool retains that lack of heat. Wow!

Up and at’em the next morning, after a small breakfast featuring the waffles you make yourself – I love those!  The roads winds south into a downward canyon tour of multiple curves and scenery so spectacular you have to pull over for pictures, which we did.  And almost no traffic as well.

At the bottom you reach “Boggin’s Oasis.”  For years I’ve referred to this small eatery as “Boggin’s Run,” and I don’t know why. For that matter, I’m not sure why it’s called an Oasis. It sits by a river at the bottom of two steep canyons. A great place to stop if you want to be free of interruptions, as there is no cell phone service.  In this case the group decided the waffles were not enough of a breakfast, so we chose to sit at an outside table, bask in the sun and scenery, and enjoy a long and laugh-filled full breakfast meal.

Which put us far behind the time schedule in my head.  No matter, as this did not seem to concern anyone but me. We resumed our travels and coursed toward LeGrande, where I got lost. I missed the sign or signs for the small highway I was looking for and found myself in downtown LeGrande. I was looking for a shady spot that could fit 5 bikes so we could assess my error, and I found a parking lot next to a lot of blocked off street signs. To my delight I discovered that LaGrande was holding a hot rod show!

I’ve had a “rule” for over 40 years. A car show in a small town means I’m going to stop.  Nobody disagreed with this sensible position, and a glance at the map showed a small highway that led to Ukiah, our destination for the evening.  It was about 65 miles. My original route would be about 100 miles longer. It was after noon already and well over 90 degrees, so all agreed to a sensible change of plan.  Dump the ghost towns quest, enjoy the car show, and off to Ukiah!  Perhaps next year for the ghost towns.

The car show was spectacular. There were more entries than I would’ve thought (several blocks of them), and of a much higher quality than I could have hoped for.

We reached Ukiah in the late afternoon, after some fantastic roads. It was exciting to see a coyote in a field looking at me curiously. Along the way Pat and Rick raced on ahead to play. I was by myself somewhere in the middle, and Rick and Donna out of sight to the rear. Pretty much perfect – the pleasure of riding alone and the benefits of riding in a group combined.

The “Stage Stop Motel and RV Park” in Ukiah was a treat.  Elderly owners Louise and Don look like they might teach Sunday school, and have 6 small cabins, and spacious manicured lawns for campers. Our visit began well.

As we checked in, glad to be out of the heat, I posed a question to Louise.  “I don’t suppose you have… a pool?” 

She laughed and replied, slowly, “You’re in Ukiah.” 

Don piped in with “There’s a creek across the street.”

Louise: “If you strip down to your next to nothings you might be able to get some water on your ass.”  

Oh wow – I like these people!

Our cabins were not quite ready, so we rode into town, all of three blocks, and filled up at the only pump.  I then went to the store and sussed out ingredients for a picnic dinner. Everyone else would choose to walk to the only restaurant for dinner.  As I came out of the store there was an older guy on a Harley, and he said “Wow – you sure see a lot more Triumphs on the road these days.” We chatted for a minute and then, unbelievably, two more Triumph Bonnevilles showed up.  I wondered if there was a Triumph event going on that I had not heard about. Lance and Arnie are from Portland and were looking for a place to camp. We knew just the place!

Back in camp we settled in and met our neighbor.  Tyler had a small camper and a well-used Nissan SUV. A forest firefighter and ex-Marine. He regaled us with stories of a trip to South America last year rife with myriad adventures, and then Lance and Arnie joined the group. Now we had 8 people sitting around telling stories, and it turns out that my friends Rick and Pat are both experts on old TV shows, songs, and movies, and both are skilled in multiple accents from places all over the world, as well as several movie and cartoon characters. Soon they were replaying various scenes, perhaps in the voices of an Australian and Daffy duck or any of a myriad of other combinations. One of the most entertaining evenings ever.

Sunday morning we were at the restaurant when it opened at 8am. Another very long and slow, but enjoyable, breakfast.  I tried to keep myself in check, as I was itching to go but I knew we had a pretty short day.  In fact, we did not depart until 10am, which is appalling by my normal standard, but again the roads were fantastic combinations of hills and valleys and corners and scenery. 

We stopped for fuel in Fossil, where I managed to get lost, which is difficult in such a small town. Rick led us to the gas station, and then it was off to the West to Antelope, and then the marvelous ten miles or so up to Shaniko.

Somewhere in here we had a great group experience. Donna had an issue with a floorboard on her Honda that had come loose.  By the time she explained the problem she already had the correct tool in her hand. I was impressed that none of the men felt they needed to leap to her rescue.  We all stood and yakked while Donna took care of the problem herself.  This is compliment to her, and a lesser compliment to the men!

We were winding down a great day heading South on 95 to Redmond when disaster came to pay a visit. Rick was leading Pat, with me close behind, and Donna and Gary back a ways. Suddenly, with no warning, there was a tire rolling down the left hand lane toward us!  We think it had bounced out of the rear of a pick-up truck, but it all happened so fast we’re not real sure. Rick and Pat and I were all hard on the brakes, being careful not to hit each other. Rick was trying to read the tire as it rolled to the left toward him and then back to the right. Just as it looked like we would be OK the tire turned left at ran right into Rick’s left foot at a combined speed of about 100mph.

He did not crash, and wobbled ahead for a bit and then parked on the right shoulder. He hopped off the bike and proceeded to deliver an amazing string of profanities, as he was in a lot of pain.  First thought was a broken toe. We were afraid to take off his boot lest he not be able to put it back on. Instead, we rode on to Sisters and our motel for the night. Pat and Gary and Donna and I went off to secure vittles for a picnic dinner, leaving Rick behind with ice on his foot.

Sunday dinner was at a picnic table behind the room Pat and I shared, and Rick’s toe went from agony to discomfort.  By morning his diagnosis had changed to severe bruising – a very fortunate outcome given the circumstances.

Our last day began with a highlight. West from Sisters to the Lava Fields and a fantastic observation tower built from lava.  Pat had never been here and was entranced. Then the fabulous twists and turns for 25 miles or so to the T at 126.  From there you run North and then West and then North again on 22 to Detroit.  We stopped here and there just to drink it all in.

Lunch in Detroit was another surprise. The restaurant was full of all sorts of objet’s d art that resembled motorcycle sculptures of a steam punk sort of sensibility. And all sorts of other stuff. Fantastic.  As we prepared for the final 250 miles of our adventure two fellows on Harleys showed up. They had left Florida a month earlier, ridden to Alaska, and were now on their way down to the Bay Area and then across the country to home.  Just a bit more of an adventure than ours!

Eventually we reached I-205 and then on to I-5 and the long slog home.  Fortunately the traffic was not too horrid.

1200 miles of bliss in 4 days – and home!  There were no mechanical issues, except for the loose floorboard on Donna’s Honda.  My Triumph continued to return over 50mpg while running perfectly.

Next up – a four day trip into British Columbia in September.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

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2017 Motorcycle Tour III

Triumph Bonneville Touring Part III

(note:Part II covers a trip two weeks ago and has not been finished yet because – hey – it’s Seattle and the sun is out.

What we have here is the first draft of a planned ride in September. I have not listed the motels yet because I am hoping that readers can 1.) decide to join our small group or  2.) suggest alterations to the route or 3.) provide recommendations for motels or 4.) add “must see” attractions along the way!

Canada Tour 2017   (motels to be booked later)

Friday, September 8th

7am Brekkie and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop            30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                             85 miles

SR to Winthrop, Twisp, Okanagon (fuel)    130 miles

SR 97 to border to Osoyoos                              60 miles


Saturday, September 9th

97 Osoyoos to Peachland                                 107 miles

97A to C1            (fuel)                                                    20 miles

C1 to Golden      (fuel)                                                  134 miles


Sunday, September 10th

Golden to Cranbrook 92/95 (fuel)                   127 miles

Cranbrook to Creston on 3A/95                         23 miles

2/95 into US to Sandpoint   (fuel)                                50 miles

US2o West to Newport, North to Tiger             80 miles                      

US 20 to Colville (fuel)                                         42 miles


Monday, September 11th

US 20 West to Republic to Tonasket              78 miles

Tonasket to Okanogan (fuel)                           28 miles

To Marblemount (fuel)                                     130 miles

To home                                                              115 miles


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

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In Defense of Tank Bags

In Defense of Tank Bags

Lately, I’ve noticed comments on several enthusiast site forums about tank bags.  Most of them are negative, listing all sorts of ominous outcomes to the use of a tank bag on a motorcycle.  Since I’ve own three Triumphs, including my current T 120 Bonneville, I think I’m allowed to use a British slang term in response.

Utter bollocks.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for 50 years, and began using a tank bag in 1971. I’ve used them on two Hondas, a Yamaha, a Kawasaki, three BMWs, four Triumphs, and many others I’ve probably forgotten. I’ve racked up several hundred thousand miles on these motorcycles all over the United States. The majority of those miles within a day’s ride of Seattle, which means I’ve also used tank bags in the rain. A lot.

Here are some of the issues mentioned.

“My bike has soft paint, and a tank bag will scratch the tank.”  The claim of “soft paint” comes up often, and may be true. I’ve never seen an article detailing the relative hardness of paint. By brand?  Can anyone educate me?

Having said that, in all these years and over all of those miles, I’ve NEVER suffered a paint scratch or other issue caused by a tank bag.  This includes over a dozen tank bags of many brands, although probably fewer manufacturers. Many aftermarket suppliers create items for others to brand.

This includes almost 50,000 miles each on a 2006 Triumph Speed Triple and a 1977 Yamaha 750 triple.  On both of those bikes I could see, toward the end of my ownership, some abrasion to the sides of the tank from the knees of my leathers, but nothing at all where the tank bag touched the fuel tank.

I’ve used magnetic bags where possible, and harness versions on bikes with fiberglass, plastic, or other material tanks.  In the case of the Triumph, I actually replaced the Triumph tank bag with a new one after the original began to look awful.

“If you leave the tank bag on in the wet, the water will damage the paint in time.”   This may be true.  There’s a simple solution of course. At the end of the ride for the day – remove the tank bag and dry the tank with a towel.

“It spoils the looks of the tank.”  Well, this is a point.  Always subjective, of course, but yes, this is a weakness.  I bow to this on short local rides when I am sure I will not need a change of gear and do not plan to purchase anything, because a Bonneville tank, in almost any color, is simply gorgeous.

And why use a tank bag?  Well, for stuff!  For many years I’ve worn leathers when possible, and mine have no pockets. So the wallet and phone for one. Also a hat. And sunglasses.  And a spare key.  And I smoke a pipe, so tobacco and a lighter. And maybe a map.

OK, so some motorcycles are not really meant for a tank bag. Most Harley’s use the top of the tank for the ignition switch and other things. On a Goldwing the tank bag, even if you could get one on, might interfere with the Boeing 747 dash board in front of you. And others.

But for most bikes a tank bag is a very handy thing, and relatively inexpensive.  Almost a must have accessory, in fact. 

After heated grips.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

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Triumph Bonneville Touring 2017 – Part I

Triumph Bonneville Tour 2017 – Part I   Seattle to Los Gatos to Seattle


Quick summary:  2025 miles – all smiles, no pain. No mechanical issues, no unforced rider errors, no intervention by official types.

Overall mpg = 55 plus, on regular.  Bike: 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120

For my first lengthy trip for 2017 I was off to Los Gatos, California, for another visit to my wonderful in-laws home. On this occasion they’d be out of town for a few days, so Susan and I agreed to house sit for a few days. Very little arm twisting was required. I would leave on the Bonneville on Thursday, June 29th, and Susan would fly down on Friday the 30th.   I would start back on July 4th, and Susan would fly home on the 5th.

For reasons I’ve forgotten (but it must have seemed sensible at the time) I decided to ride down in two days rather than three. Since my chosen route was almost 1000 miles and the first day’s ride a tad under400 miles, this meant the second day would be… long.

This time I chose to sacrifice part of the first day with a 200 mile freeway slog to Portland, where the good roads would begin. Actually, it was not bad at all, as I left early enough (6am) and in the proper direction to not be held up by traffic.  Before I got bored I was veering off on 205 to run East of Portland on US 26 to a town called Sandy, and then a turn to the right on 211 to Eagle Creek.  I stopped for fuel and a snack, and a guy who worked there told me of a great short cut to 211. This involved a few turns, so I was a little surprised when I managed it without error. 

211 runs into 224, where you turn left and head for Estacada, and then on to Detroit.   Along in here you get to deal with the yin and yang of touring alone. It’s a perfect day, and the road wends and winds past one fantastic view of a river or bluff to a forest to a bunch or corners up a hill, over and over. It is just you and the motorcycle, enjoying the experience, and it is sublime.

But in the back of your head needs lurks the caution that you really cannot afford to make a mistake. In addition, a mechanical issue would ruin your day, or at least bring a long delay.  I love riding alone, but I also enjoy a trip with friends (like the one next week), so it’s an endless internal debate that has no need of resolution.

At Detroit there’s a T intersection, with a handy little store and gas station fronting a marina – with a bench outside that pretty much demands you sit for a spell and watch the marina action below you.

Back on the bike for another couple of hours of bliss, into and past Sisters to US 97 and South to LaPine to The Highlander – my favorite motel ever.

The Highlander in a 1950’s era 12 unit motel like the ones of my youth. The current owner has worked there since he was 12 years old, and has maintainer or added a service station, a mini-mart, an RV park and rental facility, and a couple of larger outdoor areas for dinners for youth teams in town for tournaments, etc. It is quite a success story, and the rooms are always spotless.  Each one has a small container for “Oopsy towels,” so people with motorcycles or off-road vehicles or whatever can cleanse their steed with other than the bath towels. Such a clever idea.  Bizarrely, the Triumph really did not need to be cleaned, at all.  I wiped down some dew in the morning, and that was it.   Dinner at a Chinese restaurant across the street and a couple of cold beers from the mini-mart and I was done for the day. 

Mileage for the day – a very pleasant 390.

The morning of the 2nd day offered a 100 mile blast to Klamath Falls, and I put on all the layers I had with me, as I knew from prior experience that it would be cold.  I left at 6:30am, which gave me a good start on a long day, but also put me in peril with deer in the morning hours. I did see one or two, but neither of them chose to play chicken with an 80mph motorcycle. From Klamath Falls I intended to follow a meandering path that would come close to Lassen Park but not enter it. The road through the park is fantastic, and should be experienced, but I had ridden it previously and did not wish to deal with long lines of RVs and camper trailers and trucks and people who are not paying any attention.

Along the way I stopped for a rest in a little town called Aidan, and availed myself of the rest rooms at the county offices and park and library and whatever else they needed.  I noted ruefully that the library was open one day a week. For four hours.

Of course, I then failed to pay attention myself, and found myself in the small burg of Shingletown.  I think I could guess how it got its name. A look at the map showed that I was adding about 100 freeway miles to my day if I kept going, but the map also showed a road called “A6” that looked promising and would take me further South.  I asked the lady who sold me a sandwich where I could find A6 and she pointed across the street!   Of course the road was not labeled A6, and in fact it looked more like a driveway. It was labeled Manton Road. This should be interesting.

It started out slow and narrow with some curves, and in about ½ a mile there was a sign that said “end 45mph limit.”  But there was no indication of the new limit.  Then came a sign stating “15% grade.”  15%!  Most of the signs you see in mountain areas warn truckers to use a lower gear – for a 6% grade.  I had never seen a 15% grade sign before.  And it was bumpy.  Then it headed downhill at a steep angle, as advertised, and at the bottom was a hairpin with a “10mph sign” that was accurate!  On the brakes, over the bumps, and the voice in my head saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”  The most technically challenging road I have ridden in 50 years of looking.  Especially because a mistake and an off-road adventure would leave me all alone in the middle of almost nowhere.  This went on for a gut check 8 miles or so, and then came the gathering of buildings called Manton. The road opened up from there, and eventually turned at a T into 36, and then West to I-5.

At the next rest area I took out my maps and began calculating how I could put together a route for next year to experience that road again – slowly.

Once on I-5 it was a long and hot slog for the rest of the afternoon at 75-80mph – which is the norm for California freeways. I did notice that most of the drivers to have a concept of discipline, and stay out of the left lane unless to pass – what a concept!  I spent most of the time in the right lane to be out of the way of those romping along at 90mph or more.

I reached Las Gatos in the late afternoon, primed for a couple of days or rest and relaxation with Susan.  I timed it perfectly, as my steak dinner was literally being taken off the grill as I rode in!  Excellent!

A 565 mile day, which is a lot in high heat on a motorcycle with no real wind protection, but surprisingly pleasant.

On July 4th I headed back.  Note: July 4th is an EXCELLENT day to travel on a motorcycle. Because nobody else is.  First up and over on 17 to Santa Cruz, and up the coast on Highway 1 – a favorite ride.  The fog was in, so the views were not that spectacular, but I have seen them many times before, plus a day at the beach the previous day.  Highway 1 cuts through San Francisco, and I really appreciated the lack of traffic. I crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge while pondering why that is always such a moving experience, and paused as the scenic vista on the North end of the bridge, as I always to. 

This year I chose to stay on 101 past the Golden Gate, instead of the curvier but slower Highway 1, which I have done many times.  The rest of the day passed without meaningful event until I reached my motel in Garberville.  Garberville is just the place if you want to be alone and revel in quiet.  First time in my life on July 4th to hear not a single firecracker, or have anyone even mention the 4th of July.  My entry for the most boring town ever. What a pity I reached it on a low mileage day of only 297 miles.

Wednesday I was up and ate early, as Garberville’s charms had worn off.  The morning ride up to Eureka was spectacular, as in previous years. I stopped in Eureka for fuel at the most filthy gas station ever!  Do not use “Patriot” stations again.

North of Eureka I turned to the East on 299, and what a fine choice.  Winding roads, tumbling streams, blue sky, and little traffic.  Alas, 299 was also the main hit for repaving this year, and I should have checked the state DOL web site before I left.  No matter, as I had several miles of excellent riding punctuated by waits for construction.  The only bad one was the last one, where I was too far back to ask how long a wait it would be. The other ones were short, so I was not too concerned.  Until 30 minutes went by in the high heat.

Once past that I turned on Highway 3 and headed for Yreka. Another long stretch of perfect roads and great riding with some alarming 15mph corners thrown in to keep you alert. 

As I neared the small town of Callahan, about 40 miles from Yreka I became aware that I really needed some food and water. A motorcycle is the only place I ever forget to eat!

In Callahan I came across the Callahan Emporium, which boasts a small store, some lunch goodies, and a bar. To my shock, the sole employee replied to my question about a sandwich by whipping out an order form and proceeding to make a sandwich to my order on the spot.  Seated outside on the porch facing the road I took in all the sights – which was pretty easy. Across the street was the “Callahan Ranch Hotel” with a Studebaker Avanti parked in front of it. When I asked who owned it my host and waitress replied “Roger.”

Armed with that useless bit of knowledge, I smile and replied “I’m probably the only person coming through today who has driven an Avanti.”

She replied “You’d be surprised.”  Evidently Avanti people are seriously addicted and have been known to stop in the middle of the street to inspect Roger’s ride. They probably all have a higher opinion of it than I did. The one I drove impressed me as a Camaro with lesser build quality and higher weight, less handling, less power, and you could not see out of it very well. But cool!

Down the street was the competitor to the Emporium, the Callahan General Store, now almost entirely defunct. A long building with a second floor that looked to be waiting for an excuse to collapse, all of the retail areas were closed except for – the US Post Office!  A plaque on the end unit proclaimed it had housed a blacksmith shop from 1975 to 1927, and the plaque had been put on in 1972!

About that time the waitress asked if my intent was to ride to Yreka on 3, and when I affirmed that she told me the road was closed due to a forest fire!  No worries, she also gave me excellent instructions for the detour.  The second right out of town put me on “South Callahan Road” which paralleled 3 on the other side of whatever river. Riding down this small strip of aged asphalt I was thrilled to watch large planes making “bombing runs” with fire suppressant chemicals. The suppressant is dyed neon red so the next plane can see where to drop. A few helicopters were making return trips to a pond where they filled huge water buckets.  I stopped by a guy with a truck and pair of binoculars, and he gave me excellent directions of where to turn to get back on 3.  A great addition to the ride, and it looked like the fire was almost out.

Coming into Yreka I was set to search for the Motel 6 but no worries – it was right there on 3.  And a block from the ramp to I-5 and the next day’s long slog home.

Only a 270 mile day, but filled with adventure and fun.

On the last day I “layered” up, as the first 50 miles was up and up and over the summit of Siskiyou Pass.  Actually, it was just fine. On the other side, past Ashland, the clouds came in and it got colder.  I soldiered on up the spine of western Oregon.  A Bonneville makes a fine freeway cruiser, actually, and the upright seating position makes rubber necking to scan the scenery a pleasure.

I got through the expected traffic snarls of Portland, Olympia, Tacoma and Bellevue with less agony than I expected, and was home in the early evening.  A 500 plus mile day,  which was a sacrifice I made on purpose for the joys of the previous two days.

Next week – a tour of ghost towns of eastern Oregon with four friends.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

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