Skip to content


March 30, 2012


(This is a catch-up post from my 2011 ride across the USA.  I visited Seattle and Vancouver, BC in late June.  At this point in my trip I had ridden just under 6000 miles).

After spending time wandering Pikes Market and the waterfront, I walked back to the Caponord and rode to my hotel. It was a mildly down on it’s heels Best Western surrounded by industrial parks, used car lots, abandoned motels turned into what apparently were artists lofts and an assortment of strip joints, fast food and liquor stores. This was a welcome change from the massive, confusing, disaster of a hotel from last night. I spent a pleasant evening there.

The next morning I had a service appointment at Ducati Seattle. Why Ducati? Well, the local Aprilia repair shop NEVER PICKED UP THE PHONE a single time I called over the past week. I left messages as instructed, but apparently customer service, checking messages, or returning customer calls is not their strong suit. Ducati Seattle however, answered on the second ring, was willing and able to squeeze me in on a days notice.

One thing I’ve found on my travels is that most Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha, KTM motorcycle dealers are unwilling to lend a hand to a traveling motorcyclist in need. In most cases where I’ve needed help or repairs – to something as simple as an oil change, they simply cannot be bothered. BMW dealers….. forget it.


Ducati dealers however, are the exception. Once they know you are traveling, and only in the area for a short time, they really attempt to do whatever they can to lend you a hand. When I left on this trip, my chain and sprockets looked great. At some point along the way, In South Dakota I think, I began to notice a tight spot in the chain that seemed to be getting worse.

By the time I was in Spokane, proper chain adjustments were impossible with one half of the chain dangerously loose and the other half super tight. So I called AF1 Racing in Texas and had a chain and sprocket overnighted to me figuring I could get the repairs done virtually anywhere. Which brings me back to Ducati Seattle. Talk about a great shop. Located in downtown Seattle, it’s a fantastic dealer. I rode into the service bay, spoke to the service manager and handed off the bike. Shortly thereafter, I had a cup of coffee, was sitting in a leather chair in the showroom, using their free WIFI and generally loving life.







The repairs on my bike took longer than originally thought. While changing the rear sprocket, the technician noticed the rear bearings were shot. He sourced me a set (cheaply too!) and made the change. Just as he was finishing the assembly, I asked him to pull the front wheel and check the bearings. Thankfully there were no issues. We had a discussion about chain tension. He felt that the factory spec was way too tight considering the gear I was carrying and we decided a couple of MM more slack would be a good idea.




A salesman sat down across from me (sorry I can’t remember his name) and we chatted about bikes, the dealership, and my travels. Would I like a demo to ride for a while when my bike was being serviced? Why, yes I would!

The next thing I knew, I was racing around downtown Seattle on a brand new, red, Ducati Multistrada 1200S. For the record, I’ve ridden the Multi several times now and I absolutely love it. It’s never going to be a real “adventure” bike – but really, like most Range Rover owners, it’s never going to go off-road so who cares. For street riding, sporting and touring use, it’s flawless and will absolutely crush any other so called “adventure” motorcycles.












Thinking that a new bright red motorcycle conferred me with special privileges, I wantonly rode the bike into no-parking areas and up and down pedestrian walkways, to get pictures of the Multi close to an assortment of Seattle landmarks. Park on sidewalk outside Starbucks? – Absolutely.

If you are traveling and need repairs or gear, or looking to buy a new Ducati, you can’t go wrong with Ducati Seattle. They were absolutely fantastic on every level. The service manager is great and went out of his way to get me in on very short notice. The service tech’s wear lab coats in the shop and all the salespeople are fantastic. They cut a fantastic deal on a Diavel as I was sitting in the showroom and I would seriously consider buying from them in the future. Thanks again to the entire staff!

Later in the afternoon I rode back to Ducati Seattle and settled back into a leather chair to plot my evening. Cuban cigars!  I decided that I really needed Cuban cigars. Where is a La Casa Del Habano

Next stop Vancouver, BC for cigars!  The border crossing was uneventful. After a few pleasant exchanges, I was across and riding towards Vancouver.



The weather this evening was just as you might expect in the Pacific North West – gloomy, cold and rainy. Seattle that afternoon was sunny and warm! Sheesh.


Anyway, I rode along excited to be visiting Vancouver. My first stop was the local outlet for Habanos – the Cuban official Cuban cigar exporter, in downtown Vancouver. When I got there however, it was closed. No reason why, just closed. The hours and days of operation were posted, I was there two hours prior to closing, yet it was locked up tight. That sucked. Yes, you can buy Cuban cigars at other places but authenticity is impossible to guarantee and counterfeiting is so rampant that I’d rather wait until tomorrow.

By now the evening sprinkle turned into a downpour. Lovely. I rode over to the Howard Johnsons and checked in.

Howard Johnsons are, well, for the most part, DISGUSTING.   The rooms are tiny, the hallways are almost always dingy, dimly lit and ½ the width of other cut-rate hotels.

Whatever,  I decided to enjoy the smells, and the strangeness of this foreign city. I did however, have pause, after I passed the Ice Machine and noticed the “THIS IS NOT AN ASHTRAY” sign. That killed some of the strange charm for me.


I stowed my gear, showered and hit the lobby bar. An assortment of Trip Advisor reviews said the wings in the hotel bar were the best in Canada. So I tried a few. Uh, no, they are not. So I had a few beers, settled my tab, and walked outside.

Construction scaffolding along the sidewalk offered shelter to a variety of homeless people. From the truly needy to the more than mildly dangerous looking, homeless are everywhere I the PAC Northwest. It seemed epidemic in Vancouver. You could not walk a half a dozen steps without being accosted by someone for something. I was surprised too to see garbage and trash on the curbs, streets, and sidewalks. Add an assortment of strip joints, hostels, Starbucks and fast food places, and you have what begins to look like Times Square in the early 1980’s.







One of the best places I visited was the bar in a Hostel.  It was jam packed with travelers from around the world and the DJ was having some sort of trivia game that encouraged everyone to get to know each other.  The PBR was cheap too.




You gotta love this T-Shirt.


Not what I expected at all. I’m not sure what I expected, but this was not it. I gradually began to notice burned trash barrels, huge scorch marks on the streets and many, many buildings whose windows were shattered and covered with plywood. What happened here? I wondered.




Then it hit me. I had arrived shortly after the riots following the Stanley Cup. Just about every building in a 5 block radius had some sort of damage – with the exception of bars, strip joints, and coffee houses. It’s amazing that the destruction would continue along un-interrupted, stop at a bar, then continue along at whatever was immediately the next business. I guess Canadian rioters have their priorities figured out.



All of this sort of changed my perception of Vancouver from being an interesting and charming city to “as soon as Habanos opens, I’m getting the hell out of here” I spent the rest of the evening dodging homeless, hookers, and drunks to eventually settle into having a few drinks at the bar of a nearby hostel. The overall feel of Vancouver can be summed up as grimy and wet.

The next morning, I packed the bike, stowed my gear securely and walked back to La Casa Del Habano. I arrived ½ hour after the posted opening time – and of course, it was still closed.



This made me want stage a riot of my own. I’m sure the locals would understand if I tossed a burning trash barrel through the front window and went on a rampage inside. Defeated, I walked over to yet another Starbucks and had a beverage. 50 minutes later, a woman walked up and casually unlocked the door. Apparently, not only do they have Cuban cigars but they operate on Cuban time as well. Needless to say, I got what I wanted and was glad to spend the last of my CAD there.


Riding south towards the border, the weather improved and the sun came out again. Nearing the border I know something was seriously amiss. The lines were insane. A guy on a bicycle shouted at me that there was another border crossing nearby that would be much less crowded. I thanked him and rode toward it. Unfortunately it was just as bad.


The sun now fully out, cooked me for more than three hours of sitting in traffic moving an inch at a time. I passed the time happily by stripping down to a t-shirt and smoking a fine Cuban cigar. After finally going through customs and crossing the border, I rode back toward Seattle to meet a friend for a drink before continuing south to Portland, Oregon.

It’s amazing how even a bad experience, a filthy, dingy city, filled with homeless, shattered glass and plywood covered windows can be a great experience via motorcycle. People always ask me “do you get bored” the short answer is no. The long answer is that as long as I’m still moving forward and seeing new things, every day is amazing. I am constantly driven by the desire to see new things and places. The lure of “out there” is passion from which I’ll never recover.


One Comment leave one →
  1. B Hawkins permalink
    April 1, 2012 9:32 am

    Great story, they always get me excited about my next trip. I know what you mean about dealers and not wanting to help stranded riders. I have found Harley dealers to be a little better, but not by much, kind of hit or miss. Keep up the good work, ride safe. If you are ever in Southwest Florida, give a shout, I will get a couple of friends and show you around this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: