Anniversary Adventure Roadtrip through Western Washington

Exploring back roads in western washington

You know how sometimes you just need ” a reason” to do something you’ve always wanted to do? “A reason” to allow yourself some flexibility and freedom to splurge on something long desired? Well for years I have wanted to spend a night at the Olympic Club in Centralia, Washington. My dad first showed me this gem of a place on our way home on a road trip from California. He’d been before and thought I’d enjoy the place. And I’ve taken every opportunity to stop in for a meal and a pint since.

Beer sampler at the Olympic Club in CentraliaBack in February, Curtis and I were on our way home from Portland and stopped in for our dinner. “I’d really like to stay here one day….” I said. As I’d probably said every time we found ourselves there. “We should” was Curtis’ input. As was probably his reply every time. But I really wanted to stay there! All I needed was “a reason”! Then it hit me. We were approaching our 5 year anniversary. 5 years of ups, downs and all arounds together. I was looking for my reason and it presented itself to me.

The old wood burning furnace at the Olympic Club in CentraliaBack home I started to do some research. I went onto the Olympic Club website. I did some price checking and comparisons with other third party websites and settled on reserving the ‘Prohibition Package’ through their site. It includes lodging for two, free billiards in the pool hall and dinner and breakfast credits for two in the pub. Plus all guests get a pass to go to the small movie theater for a flick! After I’d crunched some numbers I figured this would be the best bang for the buck. (Canadian to US funds conversion had to be considered as well.)

The Olympic Club is a historic building which opened it’s doors in 1908 as a ‘gentlemen’s resort’. In 1913 the hotel opened up and the building has been practically unchanged since. Upon walking into this place you almost expect to see men with pistols, bar fights over card bets, ladies of the night and booze being smuggled in the back door. From the beautiful mahogany bar, Belgian crystal and Tiffany lamps, down to the fixtures in the bathrooms the extravagance cannot be overlooked. With tales of train robbers to bootleggers there is no lack of exciting history to absorb.

After the reservation was set I got to thinking. Why not make this a little holiday? If the weather cooperates, we could ride motorcycles and maybe stay a second night somewhere on the way home. I found a hotel a little south of Port Townsend called the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock. The reviews sounded great and the location was ideal. I booked us in for our second night away. The Old Alcohol Plant was constructed in 1910 and for three years the Classen Chemical Company made alcohol out of sawdust. Sawdust? I didn’t even know that was a thing! But it is, and that was what they did. Then the plant closed it’s doors and remained that way for 65 years. In the late 70’s the building was converted into a hotel and resort.

Preparing for our road trip through western washingtonWith all that done it was just a matter of waiting and watching the weather report. As the date approached we weren’t disappointed. Full blown summer had arrived! I threw my packed bags onto my old Yamaha SR400 and grabbed my passport. Curt loaded up his things onto my Suzuki DRZ400 (both his bikes were in need of some repairs) and we were through the border and on our way by noon. This was good. I had a long day of scenic riding planned, along the coast and down the Olympic peninsula, avoiding freeways into Centralia. I had estimated approximately 7 hours before arriving, including stops for gas and a lunch break.

We made our way straight to the Chuckanut drive. One of my favorite roads to ride. We zigzagged through Edison, Deception Pass and the beautiful Whidbey Island and waited for the ferry from Fort Casey to Port Townsend. Amazingly enough we were given a show by a few porpoises! I’ve always stared so hard trying to will a dorsal fin into existence and then finally, unexpectedly, there they were!

Waiting for the ferry from fort casey to port townsend

We would have some time in Port Townsend on the way back so right off of the ferry we continued on. We stayed on highway 20, then the 101 south. By about 4:30 we were pretty hungry. We stopped for lunch at Hama Hama Oyster Saloon. I had read some pretty great reviews and thought this would be an appropriate place to try.

Stopping for food at hama hama oyster saloon          Oyster plate at hama hama oyster saloon

Situated a stones throw from the Hood Canal, one of the U.S’s great oyster producing regions, we ordered ourselves some oysters. We had fresh oysters, grilled oysters and a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. We washed it down with a pint of local beer. It was great! There is no indoor seating at this place. Only outdoor picnic tables. We sat and ate and watched the tide roll off the oyster beds of the canal.

Back on the road we made our way towards Olympia. I had dug out my Destination Highways map and found a nice side road to take us south, avoiding the I-5. Shortly after the 101 meets up with highway 8 we took the Mud Bay road exit and turned left. We then made a right onto Delphi road and followed that for a while keeping right onto Waddell Creek road. We stayed on that as it wandered into and out of the Capitol State forest. At 128th street we turned left and headed into Little Rock. At Littlerock road we headed south. Littlerock road eventually turns into Albany street which hooks left and turns into James road. At this transition we turned right onto Independence road. We then hung a left onto Michigan Hill road until we reached Lincoln Creek road and made another left. When we reached Cooks Hill road we went right and followed that all the way into Centralia. We made it! On some of the most beautiful back roads I have ever rode!

Riding back roads from Olympia to Centralia

We got the bikes parked and checked in. The room was pretty tiny with a queen size bed and a sink in the corner. The bathroom and showers are shared, European style, but there are enough of them to fulfill the needs of guests. Unfortunately our window looked out over the roof of the club at most of the HVAC equipment. Not a huge deal though, I mean how much time were we going to spend in the room anyways? We were pretty hungry so first up was dinner.

Checking in at the olympic club in centraliaPart of the Prohibition Package deal is $40 towards food and non-alcoholic beverages. We each ordered the salmon dinner which was delicious and tried some of their house made whiskey (also great!). I ordered the beer sampler as well to get a taste of as much as I could! After dinner we took advantage of the free billiards in the pool room. I had looked at old photos of the pool room and was really amazed at how little it had changed. It was interesting to think that we were playing pool in a billiards room that people have been playing pool in for over 100 years! I was pretty happy to finally be a guest at the Olympic Club Hotel, staying in a place that has such a history to it!

The billiards room at the olympic club in Centralia

Because the package I bought got us breakfast we didn’t have to think much or go far. (Which was nice after all the beer sampling we had done the night before). Over breakfast, which was great, we discussed our route up to Port Hadlock. I had initially thought to head north east from Centralia, through Tacoma, continue up over the floating hood canal bridge and along the seaside into Port Hadlock, making a sort of loop out of the trip. But after some deliberation we agreed that the roads we came down on were probably a lot more fun than the other option. We made the plan to head back the way we had come.

Riding back roads in western washington

The zap strap that caused the flat tireThe day was brilliant and the roads just as lovely. Not too long after we had got back onto the 101 north Curt pulled over. I hadn’t noticed but as he pointed to his rear tire I saw it was flat. I was in laughable disbelief. It was not far from that very spot three years earlier we ended up on the side of the road, Curt with a flat (that story here). That time it was the middle of the night in high season. Thankfully this time it was mid day during the week right across the street from a shop. It was a power company and they were friendly enough to lend us a few things to make the tube patch job easier. It was discovered that somehow a zap strap was left between the tube and the tire and worn a hole through. Pretty odd. But as far as road side repairs go it was manageable and Curt got himself back on the road in no time.

Repairing the flat tire           Repairing the flat tire

Exploring back roads in western washingtonWith less distance to cover, our day on the bikes was much shorter than the previous one. So we had some time to explore! During our lunch stop at Eagle Creek Saloon I had dug out the Destination Highways map and noticed some red squiggly lines that would conveniently get us close to our next nights hotel. On these maps the red lines mean they are the best roads for motorcycling so if we can take them we do! I tried my best to memorize the turns and we got back on the bikes to explore.

We were not disappointed! I was quickly brought back to the reality that it was still May, not mid summer like the weather was suggesting, by all the blooming wild flowers along the roadside. We hit parts of the road that were flanked by bushes of wild rhododendrons. Curt spotted a good spot to stop the bikes and appreciate the view before continuing on.

Making a side stop on western washington side roads

Making a stop while exploring western washington back roads          Taking a break while exploring western washington back roads

We arrived at The Old Alcohol Plant for night two. I was surprisingly pleased with the room! I’m not sure why but I had a bit of a pessimistic attitude that the room was just going to be a room. Nothing fancy, no view, you know what I mean. But I was wrong! A great view of the ocean, large windows, our own bathroom, it was great!

Our night at the old alcohol plant

I love trying to find locals only joints and maybe even strike up a conversation with one. It’s so interesting to see things from someone else’s perspective. To hear how their lives, opinions, passions can be so different and unexpected. So I found Valley Tavern, 1 mile from out hotel. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be one of those hidden gems? Or a legitimate dive? We doubled over on the Suzuki for some beers and burgers.

Valley Tavern was a small town bar. Being a Friday I expected it to be a little busy. It wasn’t. There were a few other people but it was quiet. We ordered a veggie burger to split and took advantage of their Friday night fish ‘n chips dinner. The tavern has no kitchen and typically only does burgers on a broiler with a side of ruffles chips. Except Friday’s when a deep fryer is brought in. The food was decent and the beer was cold. I can’t complain about our evening at Valley Tavern.

The next morning we spent some time exploring the beach before getting on our bikes and heading north to Port Townsend again. I wanted to grab breakfast at Sweet Laurette Cafe & Bistro. It sounded like a delicious, local, healthy, farm fresh eatery. A welcome opposite from the previous nights dinner. With no real panic for time, as the ferries run quite frequently, we casually made our way to the cafe and had to spend some real time pondering our breakfast choice. Everything looked so good!

Exploring the beach in Port Hadlock washingotn

Sea life in Port Hadlock Washington          Sea life in Port Hadlock Washington

I ended up with a rhubarb and strawberry dutch baby (I know! not exactly the most healthy choice!) and Curt had the farmers scramble (which I really should have ordered). Both plates were fresh and delicious. The service was a little on the slow side. It took a while to get our food and we had to ask a few times for things like water and coffee refills. But all in all I would definitely go again.

CHecking out the farm market in Port Townsend WashingtonWe explored Port Townsend a little as I’d really only spent time on the main strip. It’s worth heading up town as it really is a cool place! The farm market next door to the cafe had some really cool booths. I ended up leaving with an unglazed clay mug by The LaughinGnome. The unique way they fire their mugs allows them to leave them unglazed. This creates a surface that enhances the flavor of your drink. Pretty interesting! And made right there in town by such a cute couple. I had to buy one!

I was also on the hunt for a book called “The Egg and I” by Betty MacDonald. Not far from where we had stayed is Egg and I road. I didn’t make it to the road but I did read about how it came to have such a name. The book was published in 1945 and is a comical autobiography of sorts about Betty’s time as a newly wed wife trying to make a go of a commercial chicken farm in the rugged Olympic peninsula. Me being me and loving all things chickens these days, I had to own this book. I needed to know this story. So I dragged Curt to a few book stores until I got my hands on it. Feeling satisfied we made our way back to the ferry to Whidbey Island.

The ferry from fort casey to port townsend washington

Once on the north side it was smooth sailing. We stopped in Edison (my most favored American town) at The Longhorn Saloon for dinner. Another place we make a point to go to when possible. The food was delicious as usual and then we were back on the bikes up the Chuckanut, winding our way home.

Dinner at the longhorn saloon in Edison washington

It’s so easy to pass up on these fun, interesting little holidays. For some reason we don’t think about vacationing in our own back yard. It seems like when things are close to home they are valued less. Why would we stay in a hotel when home is only a couple hours away? Because it’s freaking awesome! That’s why! I needed the excuse of an occasion to grant myself the permission for this holiday. That’s actually quite silly. The fact that I have been adventuring with my fella for 5 years shouldn’t be the only reason we allow an adventure.

Our motorcycle road trip in western Washington

We were lucky to find each other 5 years ago. And while the going hasn’t always been easy, it’s the rough that makes the smooth that much better. We are two people who see the world through different eyes. We make each other laugh and drive each other crazy. Curt makes me a better person and I like to think I do the same for him. There is no one in the world I would rather chase down a windy road on my motorcycle, flip rocks over on the beach in search of critters with or sit on the back porch with the dog and the chickens mooching dinner off us. No matter where our adventures take us, whether it be the other side of the world or the pond down the road, it is an adventure and I’m looking forward to many more years of them.

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