Friday, June 25, 2010

Yak Steak, 3 Hours Sleep and 200 Miles - Day 1

Tucked under the chin of Mt. Rainier as if it were a violin, Ashford, Washington, is less of a town than a string of unbranded tourist establishments dotted along a five-mile stretch of Highway 605. Unique places, people and experiences occupy this tiny mountain community of 267 souls.

We (my diehard biking companion, George, and Ben and Steve, who work at Insight for Living Canada, and I) wheeled up to the Nisqually Inn in Ashford at 7 pm today. It is the beginning of a two week journey through some of the twistiest motorcycle roads of the Northwestern US.  We had easily entered the US, crossing the border had been amazingly simple despite heightened security concerns. We headed south on I-5, that west coast thoroughfare from Canada to Mexico that hits every major city in-between.  We had little in the way of excitement, instead joining Seattle’s slow-moving weekend exodus. George and I remembered the same thing last year and were glad it was not as hot this year.  The problem I had was a developing headache and a mysterious-looking bright red spot in the middle of my forehead.

The most important gear for a motorcyclist of any type is the helmet. Having somehow badly scratched the visor of my old helmet by trying to clean it last night – the cleaner bottle said it could be used on plastic – I could not find a replacement visor so I had to purchase a new helmet this morning before we left. Apparently, helmets are like new running shoes. You don’t wear them for a marathon without breaking them in first. The blue (same as my bike) size XL felt like a good and snug fit in the store but began shrinking onto my head after 50 miles or so of riding. At 200 miles I felt a permanent dent was developing in my forehead. I am not sure what to do about it, but that is tomorrow’s problem. For now, just taking the helmet off felt wonderful.

We were starved (not to mention very tired, and in my case I had only slept a fitful 3 hours the night before due to working until the early morning hours). “Where is a good place to eat around here?” I asked the elderly desk attendant, immediately sensing his frustration at my question given that he obviously wanted to vanish through the door behind him to continue watching World Cup soccer. “The Wild Berry” he said tersely. Thinking that sounded fresh and homey we took up his suggestion.

After settling in at the restaurant we asked the typical question, but got an atypical response.  “Yak steak” the distinctly Tibetan server stated nonchalantly in answer to our request for the ‘special’, as if this was as common as meatloaf or fried chicken. The specialties of the house were all genuine Himalayan dishes, and tasty, at least based on my choice of the chicken curry over basmati rice, with Tibetan rice pudding for dessert. Who would have guessed that my first experience with food from Tibet would be in the culinary centre of nowhere, Ashford, Washington?

Tomorrow I will introduce the fifth member of our adventuring group. He put our modest first day mileage to shame by having traveled 1200+ kilometres (720 miles) today to meet us. But for now, I need some sleep. Although I foresee dreaming of having head butting contests with Yaks in Tibet all night.

1 comment:

  1. Head butting contest...with or without your new helmet?

    Glad to ready you got away from the office but not so glad to read about your lack of sleep....enjoy the ride!