As I mentioned earlier I was summoned to the Mothership for a day of meetings on Tuesday. I decided to go up the day before and spend the night. The other option was to leave home at 3 AM. I've gone that route and it makes for an extremely long day when the meetings end at 4 PM or so. The trip is a bittersweet thing for me. The sweet part is riding so far. It's funny how we all get a reputation for certain things. Among our group I'm known as the bike guy. Gee, I sort of wonder why. Whether to our retreat in Idaho or a trip to headquarters it's expected that I'll ride. I used to get ribbed about riding when I could be more "comfortable" in a car. Now I'd get ribbed if I didn't ride.
The bitter part is the location of our corporate office. A journey there means dealing with Seattle area traffic. Granted, we're not right in Seattle. Our office is in Kirkland. To me there's not much difference. The traffic and big city feel extend their influence over an extremely large area. Seattle's just the central hub. Traffic and activity funnel in and out in all directions. This post isn't really about that part. It's about finding the places off the beaten path. Tranquility can be found by one willing to wander a bit.
I do want to mention the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, though. Motorcycles are allowed in these lanes, as they rightly should be. Sometimes that does me some good and sometimes it doesn't. Jammed up is jammed up no matter what lane you're in. Monday afternoon, though, found me in just the right time slot. One of the slogans I've seen is,
"If only the passing lane had a passing lane!"
Well, I'm here to tell you that this came true for me on Monday. It was so glorious! Mile after mile passed speedily below the bike and I. Once in a while we'd catch up to a bus in the HOV lane. No problem. We'd slide into the regular hammer lane and pass the bus. Then back into the HOV lane. We even busted a move on an old couple in a sedan. The old man had absolutely no friggin' idea that the whole point was to be able to roll a little faster. Okay, I admit it's a conservation thing, but we all have our own interpretations, don't we? All the driver knew is that there were two people in his car so, by gum ( sorry for the old guy pun ) he was going to drive in that lane. At an electrifying 52 mph. His interpretation and mine didn't match. So long, Buddy!
There's something about riding a motorcycle that puts us into a different state of mind than cagers. Sometimes that's bad. We're more likely to find ways to get into trouble, you know! On the other hand, or maybe just the other side of the same hand, I find myself so much more open to the world around me. I see more, feel more, and thus experience more, than when in a car. I find myself so much more willing to wander off the beaten path. The age old question. What's down there? Let's go find out. I'm not so likely to bother with it in a car or my truck. On a bike, in vivid contrast, I'm ready for adventure at a moment's notice.
I think most people who ride experience the same thing. Using a bike for regular transportation amplifies the effect. I spend a lot of time on a bike. So I also spend a lot of time in an open and inquisitive state of mind. It's become a regular trait of mine. Riding is a Zen-like journey. There's so much personal growth that comes as a result of, but not directly tied to, riding. Thus my journey Monday evening.
I found this restaurant in 2006 while wandering around Kirkland. Cafe Veloce, as you can surmise, is an Italian place. What makes it neat is that it features a vintage Italian racing theme. It's primarily focused on Italian motorcycles. In another life I must have been Italian. I love Italian food, at least. By the way, I don't currently believe in reincarnation but I did in my past lives. While I dined I got to drool over a new Aprilia on display. Word of my arrival into town must have spread. I pulled in a few minutes before six and I was the only customer. Just before I left a couple wandered in. The wait staff to customer ratio was most excellent.
Actually, I think everyone was enjoying the sunshine and doing something outside. I've put photos of this place in the blog previously. On summer nights the place is crowded with sport bike riders who park their bikes in the lot and eat on the patio.
If you look to the left of the cafe, you can see another building. It's called the Yuppie Pawn Shop. Handy in case you spend more than you have in your pocket on food and drink, I guess. Then, I got to wondering what the other building is. You can just see the peak of a roof in the background. Now I had to go see what's down there. Turns out to be a quiet little hotel called the Carlton Inn. It's the kind of place you'd never find unless you knew about it already or stumbled onto it when wandering. Kind of a familiar theme isn't it? Wandering on a bike often reveals unexpected gems.
It's interesting to read how they describe themselves on their website. I think Jack Riepe must have written that spiel! Anyway, I usually stay at a Comfort Inn. Now that I've discovered this new place I plan to change my habit. Again, word of my arrival must have preceded me. There was hardly anybody staying there. Can you say peace and quiet? In literal distance the hotel really is near the high volume buzz of I-405. On the tranquility scale, it's miles away from the hustle and bustle.
The actual hotel was more like a well maintained older bike. Clean and functional, easy on the eyes, and still exuding a little elegance. Here's a quick shot of my room. By the way, after spreading my stuff out, I couldn't believe all that crap was actually packed on the bike. It all went back just fine. Before I posted the photo I had to do a quick check and make sure nothing incriminating was visible!
Here's me trying to be "artistic" with my photo! This is from outside the hotel. After dinner I decided to wander around on foot. You can call it exercise if you want. It was actually spurred by a guilt trip over all the chicken parmigiana I ate! Armed with my new Gorilla pod and the Nikon, I succumbed to a combination Steve Williams / Conchscooter mood. I was determined to get some good photos of the area around me. I wanted to be able to post some good shots with witty little comments on each. I was at least successful on the first part. Minding Steve's gentle coaching to go back to my firearms training, I literally told myself to "squeeze the trigger" on each shot. Thanks, Steve!
As to the comment part, I can't say, yet. You see, I seem to have reached some sort of threshold for the amount of photos Blogger will allow me to post here. At least I think that's what is happening. It refuses to let me upload any more pictures. The site is blaming some sort of internal error. Maybe Blogger is trying to tell me the post is getting too long and to shut up, already. So consider this the beginning. To quote the late, beloved Paul Harvey, stay tuned for the "Rest of the Story".
Miles and smiles,