Honda Africa Twin ride
Circumnavigating the Pacific Northwest you’ll see everything from salt-water inlets to open ocean.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

Having grown up under the gray skies of Seattle, the Pacific Northwest is a place that reminds me of, well, rain. But it has so much more to offer—or so I’ve been told by just about everybody. I suppose I’m being a bit dramatic. I spent my childhood riding mountain bikes in the backcountry, surfing secret spots along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and exploring the Olympic Peninsula with my Boy Scout troop. So when someone suggested that a place I’d spent the better part of my life was one of the few places in the world a person could experience a variety of climates and conditions typically separated by hundreds—if not thousands—of miles, I decided to explore this idea a bit further.

Riding the Pacific Northwest
Our trip started with a ferry crossing: A common occurrence if you live in the Pacific Northwest.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

For most people the term “Four Seasons” would probably bring back memories of queen beds and conference rooms. But for me, and particularly in this circumstance, the phrase refers to the four very different terrains someone can ride, camp, and explore within the states of Washington and Oregon. So that’s what I set out to do—from nearly 10,000 feet of altitude to wet temperate woodlands then a left turn at a sandy beach leading back to an arid desert. Only at the conclusion would we reach what I consider the fourth and final season: the booming metropolises of Seattle and Portland. This idea, that you can experience all the varying climates, terrains, and topographies, was the basis for our endeavor—spending five days and four nights riding and camping in a collection of conditions unique to each area, all of which fit within the puzzle piece that is the PNW: from the high desert of eastern Washington to the tall mountaintops of the Cascade Mountain Range, the tree-lined beaches of the Olympic Peninsula, and then, finally, to the comfort and all-too-familiar surroundings of Seattle, my once home.

Riding Puget Sound
The roads that skirt the Puget Sound define the Emerald City and what surrounds it.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

My steed would be an Africa Twin with less than 100 miles on the odometer and an assortment of accessories installed—namely Touratach’s famed aluminum luggage and protection parts. Our plan was to catch a ferry from downtown Seattle bound for Bremerton, a small town on the western side of the Puget Sound, home to a large naval base and an incredible network of roads that wind their way along the water.

Kenmore float plane
A Kenmore Air float plane; among the many thing you’ll see at sea near Seattle.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

We had packed the necessities for a multi-day motorcycle trip and nothing more. This being the Pacific Northwest, however, meant weather was unpredictable at best, and so a water-resistant riding suit and multiple layers that could live underneath were the first bits we thought to bring. Also a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and inflatable pillow. Beyond that, a pair of rubber flip-flops (great for taking showers in sketchy campgrounds), as well as shorts and a handful of T-shirts were nearly all that came with us.

Riding outside Seattle
We found dense foliage just outside of the city.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

In line for the ferry, I couldn’t help but think of all the places we could go, not just those ones that were already planned. The list was endless! Off the boat, we worked our way along the inside of the Sound, sorting out a loose front fender on my father’s DR650, as well as stopping for snacks. Our first camp spot would be just outside of Port Angeles, on a friend’s 8-acre slice of Washington state, buried deep in the woods. Having camped there many times, we knew to bring firewood and beer. As they often do, jokes flew above the flames while a dismounted pannier acted as a makeshift cooler for our liquid libations. We pitched our tents, piled in, and called it quits shortly after the sun set.

Touratech’s Zega Mundo
Touratech’s Zega Mundo panniers serve many purposes; a cooler in this case.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

I’m no stranger to the Olympic Peninsula. I grew up surfing in this area exploring the rugged coastline in my father’s van, surfboards wedged between the seats. As soon as I was old enough to drive, most of my weekends were spent along these shores, still searching for surf—which meant that bringing this bike to the beach was high on my list of activities. Camping, however, would come later, as we would spend the better part of the day working our way west toward the Makah Indian Reservation. This area is littered with breathtaking beaches, overgrown forest service roads, and plenty of “pack it in, pack it out” kind of places. Neah Bay, as it is known, is one of my favorite places on this planet. It is home to the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States, as well as a small population of Native American people whose livelihood comes predominantly from the sea. A cup of coffee and some soft-serve ice cream came courtesy of my friend Jessica at the Cedar Shack and was followed shortly thereafter by an all-too-brief visit to one of the many beaches. There, perched at the entrance to an expanse of sand and sea, the Africa Twin felt more at home than I’d ever imagined. The road leading to the coast had been wide and covered in gravel. I opened the throttle of the Twin and let the back of the bike wander a bit.

Motorcycle camping tent
Our first night camping was a simple one – cold beer, warm fire, small tent.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

About two hours south of Neah Bay is the small forestry town of Forks, Washintgon. Made famous by a series of bullshit books about werewolves and vampires and sparkly teenagers, the town has seen better days. Once the logging capital of western Washington, Forks is now a sad pit stop of the Seattle surfset, seeking waves on the weekends. Just outside of town is a campground, gas station, and cabins called Three Rivers Resort. My father found this place when I was three years old, and we’ve camped out there ever since. Naturally that was our next stop. Like the town, the “Resort” has drastically changed in the nearly three decades since I first saw it. More buildings, less trees. But it’s still a gem, and I would suggest that anyone in the area stop for fuel, a Quill Burger, and a malt. Camp if you can. We did. Buried in the green and brown, surrounded by ferns and unfathomably tall trees, we pitched our tents yet again.

Scenic ride
Your imagination can run wild when trying to understand how these trees came to sit on sand.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

Traveling south from Forks takes you along a stretch of Washington coastline unlike any other place on earth. The Hoh Rainforest occupies a lot of it, as do three Indian reservations, one of which visitation prohibited. The highway takes you inland, avoiding that area, and then bends back to the west a while later. We followed along, plotting a course for Astoria, just across the Columbia River into Oregon. The scenery is something pulled straight from a postcard. Tidal lowlands stretch as far as the eye can see. Mountains loom to the east. Trees taller than you can imagine line either side of the road. And then, as if it wants you to know that what you’ve just witnessed is unlike anything else, it ends. A big steel bridge stretching across the Columbia ushering you across to Oregon marks the end and the beginning. A fitting finish for an incredible section of the state.

Riding along Columbia River
On the south side of the state we encountered yet another waterway, the Columbia River.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

Like a lot of smaller towns, Astoria is known for something. For years it was the cult-classic film, The Goonies. Something I've never seen, much to the chagrin of friends who had been fed children's films throughout the 1980s. Now, however, Astoria is becoming a bit different: home to a large population of Coast Guard personnel, fishermen and now an influx of Portlandians looking for the happy medium between the city drama and the small-town seclusion. It has a bunch of breweries, small cocktail bars, and brunch spots. Bookstores, boutiques, and bespoke hotels fill some more of the space. It's a wonderful place, really. A little bit of all the things I like and not too much of any one of them. So we stayed the night at the Commodore Hotel, a recently renovated establishment left vacant for some 40 years prior. Rooms are affordable…if you share the shower with everyone on your floor.

Eastern Washington
Shrub brush and sand define the eastern side of the State.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

The next morning, we departed early and made our way along the Columbia River headed east toward Portland. We sat in traffic, sweat building along our brows. On the other side of the city, we rolled the throttle toward its stop and made up for lost time. The Africa Twin eats miles. With a windscreen, seating position, and ergonomics designed to keep a rider comfortable, sustaining highway speeds for hours on end is nothing short of easy. Roll-on throttle response was snappy and exciting at times, and power delivery was smooth and efficient. No surprises, just plenty of smiles.

Riding the Pacific Northwest
The PNW offers a little something for everyone – sweltering desert is just east of the mountains!Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

We arrived in Hood River, a small town also known for something—this time wind-sports, beer, and beautiful views. We stayed the night, turning down in a not-so-desirable roadside motel. Thus far, we had witnessed many of the wonders of Washington and Oregon. From the scenic shorelines of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the bright open beaches and blues of the Pacific Ocean. We had crossed one of the largest rivers west of the Mississippi, slept in port towns and tents, among tall trees and engulfed in Jurassic-size ferns. But there were two crucial pieces to this puzzle that were missing: the mountains and the desert, both of which could be found no more than an hour north of our current location along the Columbia.

Desert to snow
From arid desert to snowcapped mountains in just a few hours…Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

From Hood River, we headed due north toward Yakima, the Washington town where my grandfather had been born some 95 years prior and where just days later he informed me his mother had come via covered wagon from Okanagan. At first, the highway from Hood River is uninspiring at best. But before too long the barren light brown of high desert turned to hillsides and river valleys, lined by lush, green patches of farms and fertile ground. Eager to see what the Africa Twin would do off pavement, I turned onto a stretch of two-track that disappeared into the distance. I switched off the ABS. Then opened it up.

Highway and mountains
On our way back across the mountains we ventured off the highway in search of scenery.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

Whipping along a rock-strewn stretch of sand, the Africa Twin was again in its element. Eating bumps for brunch. Sand beneath its shoes, you could really feel how well equipped this Honda was for off-road adventures. The Touratech protection parts, namely the crashbars and skid plate, provided added confidence, while the addition of TKC80 tires made quick work of whatever I could throw at it. I was impressed. We followed the road for a while, looking for any excuse to extend our stay. Regretfully, we turned back and hit the highway—north for a bit then west again toward Highway 410 and the Naches Pass.

Riding eastern Washington
It was nearly 90 degrees when we left Eastern Washington, soon it was dropping below sixty.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

The final stretch of our fun was a three-hour ride from somewhere near sea level to well over 8,000 feet, cresting the mountain pass, with snowcapped peaks on all sides. Within an hour of our off-road desert detour, we were surrounded by snow and massive mountains. The highway curled this way and that, climbing for a bit, then fell away in front of us. Two lanes, one each way, takes you from the arid desert of eastern Washington to the lush green on the left side of the state. Our final stop that day was the Naches Tavern, a watering hole I had previously visited in winter—a place I would call appropriate. Cold drinks and warm food—what more could you want?

Crossing the infamous Viaduct into Seattle
Our circumnavigation complete, we crossed the infamous Viaduct into Seattle.Photo: Kyra Sacdalan

I suppose this is the part where I sum up our adventure. Where I tell you why you should look to relocate. Instead, I think I’d prefer to point out a few things, both good and bad about all this—the bike included. Washington is wonderful, some of the time. Four months out of the year, there’s no place like it. A summer in Seattle can change your life. But so will the winter, when the rain stays for eight months and the sky is as gray as the Africa Twin you recently acquired. That said, there really is no place quite like the Pacific Northwest. Whether good or bad, it will change your life. As someone once told me, the sweet wouldn’t be as sweet without the sour. I can’t say exactly the same about the bike… What’s wrong with it, you wonder? Nothing. For the price, what can compete? Honda reliability meets 94 claimed horsepower, a suspension that is soft enough for the fun stuff yet firm where you want it, an ergonomic package that left me wanting more miles, and don’t let me forget about the looks!

Sure, you’ll hear people tell you it’s underpowered or that the DCT is a dog. And they’re right. Automatic motorcycles are like player pianos as far as I’m concerned, and if you need a 150 hp overweight dirt bike, you’re probably making up for something missing in your life. But with that said, I really can’t see what’s wrong with it. I suppose time will tell. Can the motor make it to 100,000 miles? Will Honda sell enough to justify the upgrades consumers call for (perhaps an ABS system you can fully disable)? Does the aftermarket offer enough options, or will it go the way of the V-Strom 1000? Again, we shall see. What I can say though is that in 1,500 miles, both on and off the road, riding on sand and gravel, through mud and many varied conditions, the only thing the Africa Twin wanted was more. A notion I seconded. Would I own it? Without a doubt. Will things go south? I’ll take my chances.

When we got home, my father and I chatted with my grandfather about our little adventure over a pint at the local place. In five days and four nights, we had seen the sun rise over the ocean and then set in desert. We had camped beneath the stars. Raced through the rain. Followed the river from its mouth to the mountains. We pulled over to put on layers only to pull back over in a few hours to remove them when our trajectory turned inland. And when it was all said and done, we’d returned to the city and parked our adventure-mobiles in front of said “local place” so that all of our friends could see what they had missed over the weekend. I guess that’s the point of all this—these ADV bikes. You load up, leave home, spend a few days exploring, and then go back to work on Monday ready for another round. And what better a place to provide for such excursions as the Pacific Northwest? Come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t have said anything…