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I am writing the Journal portion of the text as we ride north. I have a laptop computer with me, but am lacking any other writing aids such as a dictionary. So, please excuse any incorrect spelling, word usage or any other adulteration of the English language you may find offensive. I will correct the problems when I get back to Seattle and find time to complete some editing of the text. From time to time I cite a few facts about the area we are riding through. The facts have been gleaned from the Alaska Milepost, various Visitors Bureau publications, local newspapers and my personal knowledge.

Day Zero
July 17, 1999
Auburn to Belllingham

I want the days on this commentary to match the days on the itinerary, and I guess the day before Day 1 is Day Zero. The mileage is from my Cavalcade, and provides a distance point of reference for the reader.

Jan & I in Bellingham, WA on the first day of the trip.

Jan and I jumped the gun and got away on Saturday, July 17th, even though we were scheduled to leave on the 18th. From our starting point in Auburn, WA, the first day was to be about 330 miles, a fairly long trek right out of the gate. The day would have included downtown Seattle's nasty, nasty traffic as well as over 100 miles of slow, twisty roads as we made our way up through the Fraser River Canyon. The twisties are great on a two-wheeler, but not so great with the sidecar. So breaking it up seemed a good idea.

I've been asked a number of times if riding a motorcycle on this trip is dangerous, and I've often responded "not after you get out of Seattle." From our home in Auburn, there are only two routes available to head north Interstate 5 through the heart of the city, and Interstate 405 which passes through the eastern suburbs. Each is a bad choice, but you can't get there without taking one of them. We chose I-5, the shorter and more direct, and agreed we would just stay in the right hand lane and stay a bit below the 65mph speed limit.

In the heart of Seattle, I-5 drops from five lanes, to four lanes, then at one point down to two lanes with resulting slowdowns and congestion that are simply appalling. As the traffic ebbs and flows, our speed fluctuates from 50 mph to 20 mph and back, as cars, buses and 18-wheelers jockey for position and a quicker route through the malaise. I realize that death or serious injury is never more than ten feet and a split second away and if one car cuts in too soon, this trip is over. But the odds are on our side today, and with nothing worse than shattered nerves and lungs filled with exhaust fumes we finally clear Seattle's congestion an hour north of the city. We stop for a cup of coffee and an opportunity to regain our confidence. This is sure no place for a motorcycle, and if you're going to get seriously hurt, it has to be ten times more likely here, than on any road in Alaska.

Summer starts July 5 in Seattle, and this year showed up just a day early on the 4th. The weather gods can occasionally be very thoughtful. Two weeks of high 70s, sunshine and low humidity followed, so the banks upon banks of pearl gray clouds that Seattle is most well known for, and temperatures in the low 60s, forced us into our rain gear, and provided a cold and wet sendoff. Ninety minutes north of the city, though, the sun peaks through and the traffic lightens up as we slog up I-5 through the beautiful Skagit Valley. After another forty-five minutes we are in Bellingham. We're chilly, tired, a bit hungry and decide to call it a day even though we've gone less than 120 miles.

Once in the hotel, we start to remember the things we left behind a necessary first step in any worthwhile adventure. I gave my voice mail number to Eric, Julia and Randy so if someone breaks down or gets separated, we have a common point of contact. I agree to check my voice mail at least daily, and within a couple of hours if someone doesn't show up at a pre-determined destination. Problem is, I've forgotten the number I use to check voice mail. I look through my address book, but finally realize I will have to call the office on Monday and to retrieve the number. Turning fifty is sure a lot of fun!

Worse than the voice mail number, I realize I've forgotten the external disk drive for my laptop. Since both the floppy drive and the CD ROM drive for my laptop are in a docking station I purposely left behind, without the external floppy drive I'm left without a way to download any new programs or information, other than what's available on the Internet. We had called ahead to buy a digital camera in Bellingham, but now I have no way to load the software. After visiting three stores we find a Sony digital that accesses the computer via a PMCIA slot, but after a thirty minute discussion with the salesman, and a decision to spend our $1,000 to bring you daily pictures on this Web site, he tells us they are out of stock and won't sell the demo. Back to Plan B. Once a week or so, I will have pictures developed and mailed back to Trisha Ely, the Webmaster. It's not so high tech, but it will work.