The BEST WESTERN PLUS Park Place Inn and Suites went up another notch on my personal ranking system this morning, when I discovered that they have an omelet station in their breakfast room every morning. In addition to the regular hot breakfast selection, there’s an actual chef there to make you an omelet to order. All included in the price of a night’s stay. Excellent.
You know those racks of brochures that you walk past in just about every hotel lobby? They promote local activities and attractions, and I’ll bet you walk right by in a hurry, luggage in hand as you rush to check in to your room. Not me. I stop. I look. I pluck a handful from the rack, and bring a bouquet of brochures to my room. Because I always make discoveries, no matter how carefully I have planned my trip.
The brochure rack at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Park Place Inn and Suites has proved to be very fruitful. I knew that Chehalis had a historic downtown, with buildings that dated back to the late 19th century. What I did not know is that one of the buildings, The Hotel Washington (built in 1889), houses The Vintage Motorcycle Museum . The Vintage Motorcycle Museum is home to a collection of a few dozen spectacular motorcycles from the early days of motorcycles. There are Harley-Davidsons from the teens, along with Indians, an Excelsior, a few Pierces, a Henderson, a Thor and others. There are sidecar hacks, and even an Amphicar on display, along with a quirky display of memorabilia and collectables, arrayed on two floors of the building. Admission is $5, and the museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Down the street from the Vintage Motorcycle Museum is the Lewis County Historical Museum, housed in the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot building from 1912. I pay my $5 admission to the museum’s historian, a woman who looks like she might have been present at the dedication of the depot. We chat about the museum and local history. She tells me the story of how the depot came to be built. Apparently, there was another depot location nearby, at a higher elevation on the other side of town. That meant that the aspiring businessmen on this side of town had to haul their goods uphill in order to get them onboard. One clever businessman heard that trains on the Northern Pacific had to stop if they were flagged down on the tracks between scheduled stops, so he flagged the train down at the same location every day for weeks. Finally, the Northern Pacific gave in, and bought the land where the Lewis County Historical Museum now stands.
I wander the simple displays throughout the building. The highlight of the museum is a working model railroad that is complete with scale models of the local towns that were served by the original line. It takes up a 50 foot by 20 foot space in an old waiting room, and is very impressive in its detail. I can’t resist pressing the button that starts the train running on the tracks, and watching it make its stops in Chehalis and Centralia.
I bid the ancient historian farewell, and return to my Road Glide, just as a real freight train rolls through town. This train doesn’t stop at Chehalis, bypassing the old depot. It makes me a little sad. I wonder if I can flag the next train down?
My next stop also came out of the BEST WESTERN PLUS Park Place Inn and Suites brochure rack. I ride north a few miles to Centralia and locate Centerville Western Store, a Western Wear outfitter whose brochure intrigued me with an offer of a 10% discount on all purchases. Since motorcyclists are like modern cowboys — well, sort of — a lot of Western Wear works as well on a bike as it does on a horse. In a pinch, I’ll wear cowboy boots to ride if I want to look a little dressier on arrival, and I really like Western shirts. Centerville Western Store has a location in Milwaukie, Oregon and this one in Centralia, right near a cluster of designer outlet stores. I find a shirt for myself, and one for my wife — both on sale. Cool.
Shopping binge complete, it’s time to ride again. I pick up US-12, the Olympic Highway toward Aberdeen. I plug my iPod into my helmet speakers, and crank up the 1990s grunge music — Nirvana, to be precise. Both Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic grew up in Aberdeen, and founded the band there after high school. Listening to Nirvana while riding through Aberdeen and its surroundings is surreal. The town is so benign, surrounded by beautiful trees and sitting on picturesque Gray’s Harbor, that Nirvana is thrown into high relief, and sounds even more raw in context.
At Aberdeen, US-12 and US-101 merge for a few miles. At Hoquiam, US-12 disappears, and US-101 turns north. I continue west, on WA-109, and ride toward the Pacific. When I reach the ocean 16 miles later, I continue to follow WA-109 north, along the coast, exploring. I stop at a local pub in Copalis Beach, the Green Lantern Tavern. It’s a little weather-worn, but there are a few shiny Harley-Davidsons parked out front and a lot of cars all around. I take a chance, and walk into the crowded bar. All the tables are taken and there’s a pool tournament in progress on the establishment’s lone pool table. A kindly gentleman offers to share his table with me, so I sit down. Turns out that Jim (that’s his name) is a local, and he’s a former motorcyclist. He tells me that they have two pool tournaments every week: this one on Thursdays, and one in Ocean Shores on Wednesdays. Jim plays in every tournament. He says that in the winter, he and his fellow pool players are the only ones in the bar on Thursdays; not like today, when the place is packed. Jim used to ride a Goldwing; his sons ride a Suzuki and a Harley. He got his first bike in the 1960s, when he traded a horse for a Honda 70. He says it was the best trade he ever made. He’s very careful to call me a “motorcyclist,” and not a “biker.” He makes a distinction. Jim leaves our table to take his turn at the pool table, and I cheer when he wins his game. I finish my lunch, and wish him good luck with the rest of the tournament. He reminds me to ride safely, and we part ways. Two motorcyclists of different generations, tied together by a common passion.
I ride back down WA-109, this time taking the turn for WA-115 to follow the coast down to Ocean Shores. Two and a half miles down the road, the ocean looms ahead, and the last building along the road before the beach is the BEST WESTERN PLUS Lighthouse Suites Inn. I pull in to the parking lot, and park outside of the lobby beneath the canopy. I check in, and ask about motorcycle parking. The front desk clerk assures me that I can leave the Road Glide right where it is. There will be someone at the desk all night, and they’ll keep an eye on my ride. My room is on the third floor, overlooking the beach and the ocean below. The weird heat wave is bringing a blanket of deep rolling fog over the beach. In a few hours, the hotel will be buried in fog. I go up to the Observation Tower on top of the hotel, and I can see that the fog has crept inland already — I can’t see any other buildings in the surrounding area.
Luckily, there’s a seafood restaurant called “Waves” attached to the hotel, and guests of the BEST WESTERN receive a coupon for a discount on meals upon check in. Seafood on the ocean, and a discount? I’m in. I order the Lighthouse Salmon, and it’s fresh and deliciously cooked. Since I’m not riding anywhere tonight, I add a beer to the table.
Now, I’m back in my room. I’ve got the sliding glass door to my balcony open, and I’m listening to the surf as it pounds the shore. Such lovely music. I may sleep with the door open, and let the sounds of the ocean lull me to sleep.
Miles Ridden: 98.3
NEXT: Western Washington, Day Six: Ocean Shores to Bainbridge Island