That’s Me In the Corner

The northwest corner of the 48 contiguous states, that is. Although my GPS told me to ride the last half mile down the dirt walking trail to the coast, I decided that would be a bad idea.

I’ve been pondering whether to leave Allen’s Bar Campground today or tomorrow. I even changed my mind a few times as the day went on. I decided to stay when it stopped raining, blue sky appeared, and there was no incoming rain on the weather radar. There’s a side trip I’d been considering taking to Cape Flattery. While it’s a bit of a detour off my US 101 loop, it would take me to the farthest point in the northwest of the lower 48 states. While I haven’t made it a point to go to the extremities of Maine, Florida, and California, I was so close to this one I thought it might be fun. When the rain let up, I decided to unload the KLR from the trailer for the first time since I’ve been here and go for a ride.

I went about 20 uneventful miles up US 101. Although my gas tank was half full, I filled it in the town of Forks, the closest town to where I’m staying, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of my ride. My Garmin said it was a 76-mile trip each way, and I’d already ridden about 100 miles since my last fill-up, so I probably wouldn’t have made it there and back without filling up. I turned left onto Highway 113, which then merged into 112 and took me north to Clallam Bay, where I couldn’t go north anymore without going for a swim.

This is the northern edge of Washington. The Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca lie beyond. The land mass in the distance is Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Yes, I’ve come so far north that I can literally see Canada from here.

But my ride wasn’t over yet. Highway 112 curved left and continued west, so I followed. This is where the fun began. The road narrowed, twisting along the coast and up and down hills. I had to take it easy in this section because I couldn’t see where the road went next, but that was part of the fun.

Highway 112 ended at the border of the Makah Reservation, where local roads took over. My Garmin took me down a dirt road that bypassed the town of Neah Bay, reconnecting with Cape Flattery Road on the other side. I followed it until it ended in a parking lot, and I literally couldn’t go any farther. It was the end of the road.

I would’ve liked to take the half-mile hike to the water’s edge, but the trail was steep and muddy, and I was wearing my motorcycle gear, which isn’t great for hiking. So I sat for a little while and enjoyed my accomplishment. Several people coming off the trail saw my Florida license plate — from the exact opposite corner of the country — and made comments, striking up conversations. I assured them that I hadn’t ridden all the way here from Florida, but I had traveled from there, the long way, over the past year. I admit, it’s pretty cool to have brought a vehicle registered in Florida as far away from there as I can without leaving the country.

Which brings me to a related topic. Much of what I’ve been thinking about while camping by the river for the past few days is whether to continue into Canada and cross it like I’ve been talking about. I’ll be honest — gas prices are scaring me. On two consecutive days last week, I spent $90 on gas to not quite fill my tank, and not really go all that far, either. That’s at American gas prices, which are just over $5/gallon right now in Washington. Canadians measure gas in Canadian dollars per liter, but after crunching some numbers I calculated that right now gas there costs around US $6.13 per US gallon. Prices are still creeping up slowly, and with summer upon us it’s not likely they’re going to go down.

What it comes down to is that I can’t afford to pour my entire paycheck into my gas tank. For a bucket list trip like this, I don’t mind dipping into savings a little bit, but if prices keep going up — which they probably will — I’ll have to dip more than a little bit. If prices spike again, I could find myself in serious trouble, perhaps even getting stuck in a cold place for winter in the worst case scenario.

I’d really like to get rid of my storage unit in New Hampshire. That’s one of the goals I have in crossing the country. But after crunching more numbers, I realized that even at current American gas prices, it would be much cheaper to:

  • Pay for my storage unit for another year
  • Fly from a major west coast city to Boston
  • Rent a pickup truck for a week to move my stuff out of storage
  • Ship anything I want to keep to myself on the west coast
  • Fly back to the west coast

…than to drive to New Hampshire and back.

I’m officially canceling my cross Canada road trip.

As a result, I’m not getting back to New England this year, nor to Florida to visit family or the Forgotten Angels campout I wanted to go to. Sure, if gas prices suddenly plummet the way they did when the economy crashed in 2008, I can always change my plans and go anyway. But unless something drastic like that happens, I’m staying out west this year.

This brings in the Plan B I’ve had in mind all along, which is a slow lap of the western US. I have A LOT to figure out, but my general route will include:

  • Yellowstone National Park
  • The Black Hills of South Dakota, home of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, but NOT during bike week
  • Aurora, Colorado, where I’ll meet Jenn in August and let her show me around
  • The Grand Canyon
  • Meandering back to Quartzsite, Arizona

This is NOT my route, only a very rough guideline. I also intend to look at some temperature maps and drive someplace warmer. I can handle the temperatures in the 50s we’ve been having in northwest Washington, but it’s June, and since I’m not going to Canada, I want to be warm. That will partly determine my route. So will sights I should see in eastern Washington or Oregon, as well as across Idaho. I know nothing about Idaho, but I have a friend who does, so I asked her advice.

I have two months to make this part of the trip, which would take only 15 hours of driving if I was in a hurry. That leaves plenty of time to take short driving days, and many days of no driving at all. I won’t have the internet connectivity issues I would’ve had in Canada, so I can keep working, and keep putting gas in the tank, even if prices do keep going up. It’s not crossing Canada, but it’ll still be a fun adventure.

I’ll take seeing Vancouver Island and reaching the farthest northwest point of the lower 48 as a consolation prize.

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