September 10 2012 by Jason Fogelson
I'm a creature of habit. I know this about myself. I try to find opportunities to escape my routines, and that's one of the reasons I travel by motorcycle. But even within my adventures, there's still a healthy dose of habit involved.
For instance, packing for the trip. I have honed packing down to a system, and I have checks and double-checks built in to my system along the way. I make lists, I check them, and then I second guess myself and check them again. I still forget things at home sometimes, but it's pretty rare.
When something works on a trip, I make it part of my habit. I've traveled to Washington State three times before for motorcycle rides, and I've discovered that renting a bike from Eastside Harley-Davidson is the easiest, fastest and most reliable way to start off a trip. They always get me in and out of the dealership quickly, and the bikes are always in top shape. So, this trip to Western Washington starts out in Bellevue, Washington, and I'm on my way. Jay, the salesman/rental guy, gets me all set up with a 2012 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra in Big Blue Pearl, and watches me roll around the parking lot to verify that I can indeed operate a heavy touring motorcycle. I load my gear into the TourPak and saddlebags, and I'm ready to ride. Jay secures my suitcase in the dealership offices -- I'll pick it up when I return in 6 days.
I don't have far to ride today. I'm headed to Puyallup, one of Seattle's southern suburbs, to stay at the BEST WESTERN PREMIERE Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, a newly remodeled hotel that recently took on the "PREMIERE" descriptor. I've stayed at a few PREMIERE hotels before, and I'm always happy when one is on my route. I appreciate the additional touch of luxury and attention that I get, and I recognize that the hotel's owners, managers and staff have gone above and beyond to make my stay enjoyable.
Getting from Bellevue to Puyallup doesn't take long, though the route is plagued with a ton of construction and closed roads. Washington State seems to be spending every cent of Washington, DC's money that it can get its hands on. Good for them -- the roads and bridges are heavily trafficked, and need the attention. I just wish it could happen when I'm not in town.
After 45 minutes of fighting freeway spaghetti,I arrive at the BEST WESTERN PREMIERE Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, and breeze through check in. My room is lovely, spacious and clean -- super clean, as I always expect from a Best Western. I'm almost immediately back out the door again and back on the bike. I'm headed to the LeMay -- America's Car Museum in nearby Tacoma, about 12 miles away. Located in a new facility adjacent to the Tacoma Dome, the ACM is open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day; in the winter, it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is $14 for adults, less for seniors, kids, AAA members and State Farm Insurance customers. As I ride up, I notice the BEST WESTERN PLUS Tacoma Dome Hotel right next to the Dome, too. That would be convenient!
Harold LeMay, a Washington businessman, donated his collection of over 3,500 cars and motorcycles to start the museum in 1998, and the new building, which can display over 350 vehicles, opened in June, 2012. The building is spectacular, a modern marvel that looks like a silver caterpillar burrowing into the hillside. It has over 165,000 square feet of museum space, with multiple levels of display space connected by sloping ramps. A car can drive from level to level, and the whole place retains an open, airy feel. The building recedes into the background, like a museum should, and the cars are the stars.
The collection is dazzling, with everything from horseless carriages to futuristic electric cars. I saw more Hupmobiles in one walk through the museum than I've seen in my entire life. There's a Tucker, two DeLoreans, a dozen fantastic Ferraris, electric cars from the early days of the auto, Model Ts, Model As, Mustangs and Camaros. There's even a VW Squareback. And there are motorcycles -- not enough on display, but the ones that are there are really special. An early Harley-Davidson "Silent Grey Fellow" is a highlight, sitting there in a grouping with early BMW, Norton, Triumph and BSA bikes.
I could have spent all day admiring the vehicles on display -- and that's only one-tenth of the collection on any given day. Wow. That's mind-blowing. I'm going to make a point of revisiting the LeMay on a regular basis, at least until I've seen half of the collection.
I return to the BEST WESTERN PREMIERE, hungry for some dinner. The clerk at the front desk recommends his favorite place, a local eatery called "The Rock." The full name is actually "The Rock Wood Fired Pizza," and it's a small of restaurants with locations in the Northwest, Colorado and Canada. I'm not into chains, but I am into wood fired pizza and specialty beers, so I take the quick ride over to The Rock and have some dinner. Chain or no chain, the food lives up to its name -- it rocks.
I'm back at the hotel now, enjoying the luxury of my room and studying my maps. I've got a big day ahead of me, and I want to make sure I pick the best route. In Washington State, that's not hard to do.
Miles Ridden: 74.9
NEXT: Western Washington, Day Two: Puyallup to Prosser