While Iím waiting for someone to show up and open up the place, I realize itís time to put another videotape in the camcorder. So I open the Canon Elura and Iím waiting for the tape to pop up, but it doesnít happen! The damn thing is broken. I switch the battery. I reset the unit. But the tape still wonít come out. When the mechanics arrive, they stamp my book and then take a look at the Elura. The loading mechanism is jammed, and they manage to get it open and I change the tape. Everything is working again, so Iím off. Thanks guys.
Itís good to be back on the road again. Iíve got a cold, probably from all that fun in Portland, but it isnít bothering me once Iím back on the bike. Itís like the motorcycle is medicine. And the machine is running well after itís tune-up. Itís responsive and looking for some twisties. Good thing too, because Iím heading right up the Cascade Mountains again. Once I get out of the valley, the light cloud cover disappears and thereís nothing but sun in the sky.
The main destination today is Crater Lake National Park. Simply put, this place is stunning. Crater is one of the most famous lakes on Earth, with water as deep blue as blue can be. Every view of the lake from every angle is gorgeous. The maximum depth, at 1,932 feet, makes Crater the deepest lake in the U.S. and the 7th deepest in the world. The rim of the crater rises to 8,151 feet and the surface of the lake is 6,176 feet above sea level. The crater walls are six miles apart. The water holds the world record for clarity. Put it all together and this place is awesome.
The Rim Drive, a 33-mile road, winds around the crater with overlooks and pullouts providing plenty of stopping points. At Pumice Point, I stop at an overlook and sit on the rim of the crater. A ground squirrel scampers about and actually comes over and jumps in my lap! A friendly squirrel, but heís obviously been ruined for the wild by park visitors with handouts. I bet he hasnít stored up any food for the winter, and in a few weeks heíll be screwed. The Rim Drive will be closed, there will be feet of snow on the ground, and no one to give him food stamps. The crater gets 44 feet of snow each year, but the lake rarely freezes over. Heat from the summer sun stored in the immense body of water keeps ice from forming. At least Mr. Squirrel will have something to drink.
I get something to eat and drink at Crater Lake Lodge, a beautiful stone building overlooking the south rim. Iíd like to stay here all day, and spend the night at the Lodge, but itís not in the plan. Iíve got another stamp to retrieve. Iím off to the Oregon Caves about two hours away.
The entrance road up to Oregon Caves National Monument is just miserable. Itís well paved, but it twists and turns uphill for 10 miles. And these arenít good twisties. Theyíre short, harsh 20 MPH turns that make your legs hurt. Back and forth, Iím getting bounced around like a yo-yo. What looks like 10 minutes on a map turns into 30. When the turns end and I reach the ranger station, I feel like I really earned this one. Itís after 5 PM and the last cave tour ended over an hour ago. But I could care less after that road. The last thing Iíd want to do right now is go spelunking.
Less than an hour later Iím in California, headed for the coast. Iím thinking of every song I can with California in the title and then launching into extended re-mixes as I sing to myself inside the helmet. First thereís "California Here I Come", then "California Dreamin" leading to "Hotel California" followed by "California Girls". The original Beach Boys version, not that lousy David Lee Roth cover. My harmonies are really sounding good. No, really they are. I sing to myself all the time as I ride, and I know every other motorcyclist does the same thing.
A few years ago I took a trip up the coast from San Francisco. I rented a convertible and headed north in search of Coast Redwoods. I always wanted to see these enormous trees, the tallest living things on earth. And I found plenty of them along the Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt State Park. I kept thinking to myself how cool it would be to ride though here on my motorcycle. The open car was great, but I knew a bike would be even better.
I was right.
Well, New Jerseyís got company, and itís called Oregon. This state had a lot going for it until I pulled into a gas station. It is actually against the law for people to pump their own gas!
If you ride a motorcycle, youíre probably not too fond of full service. The last thing you want is some teen-age attendant spilling gas all over your bike. And they never top if off. One click and they shut off the pump. When the pump clicks on my bike, it still has another gallon to go. Besides, I like to pump the gas myself. It makes me feel good. Itís part of the whole process of driving or riding.
I had to stop for gas a total of three times in Oregon. And each time, without even asking, the attendants asked me if I wanted to pump my own gas! You bet your ass I did. I guess they didnít care too much about that law. I bet they wouldnít do that in Jersey!
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