As featured in H.O.G.® Magazine Issue 047
The Seattle skyline faded into the morning fog as the MV Tacoma ferried us across Elliott Bay toward Bainbridge Island. I sat on my Harley-Davidson® Road Glide® motorcycle, parked on the back edge of the steel ship, and watched greens and blues toss in the brackish wake.
Photographer Rob and I had flown from Southern California to the more challenging climate of Washington State to put to the test riding gear from the all-new Harley-Davidson® FXRG® Collection.
The FXRG Collection is designed for the most demanding touring riders. This premium gear is extensively road tested and incorporates innovative technologies, materials, and designs. It’s a complete system that can include base and mid-layers for customizable head-to-toe comfort and versatility in any riding environment. Our 627-mile route around the Olympic Peninsula and through portions of 922,000-acre Olympic National Park would offer not just fabulous scenery and some inspiring roads, but also rolling fog and finicky weather that even in mid-July would challenge the best riding gear system.
Renting Harley® motorcycles from EagleRider Rentals & Tours Seattle, located in Burien, Washington, just a few minutes from Sea-Tac Airport, put us on the road within an hour of landing, and is a great option for riders who would like to visit this part of the country but don’t have time for a cross-country run to get there. From the EagleRider inventory, I picked the Road Glide model for its menacing style and playful chassis. We loaded our gear and rode into downtown Seattle, stocked up on supplies, boarded the ferry, and began a 48-hour road trip through what might be the greenest corner of America.
The foundation of my kit for this ride was the new FXRG® Triple Vent System™ Waterproof Riding Jacket, a multi-season jacket that layers up or down for full weather protection. The patented Triple Vent System features three strategically placed vents on each side of the body for adjustable airflow. The shell of this jacket is three-layer waterproof Schoeller® C-Change® fabric with four-way stretch for enhanced mobility. The new Coolcore® lining on the upper body wicks moisture through thermal regulation for year-round comfort. The jacket comes with lightweight CE-Certified Body Armor in the elbows and shoulders, with a pocket for optional back armor. The FXRG base layer top and bottom provided temperature regulation, and my gear outfit was completed with the Men’s FXRG Waterproof Overpant, Welton Waterproof FXRG Performance Boots, FXRG Dual-Chamber Gauntlet Gloves, and the new FXRG® Defiant-X Full-Face Helmet.
When the MV Tacoma docked at Bainbridge, Rob and I rolled back on to land. The Olympic Peninsula is a naturally occurring terrarium, where diverse creatures cohabit and new growth thrives atop decay; a showcase for the fascinating relationship between nature, life and death, and the dance between the two. Snowcapped peaks sit high above rainforest canopies, wild animals roam along miles of ungroomed coastline, and picturesque roads dip and juke with the constantly moving earth.
The main road around the peninsula is U.S. 101. Stay on it, follow well-marked road signs, and you’ll pass almost everything you’d care to see. We could’ve ridden three hours southwest of Seattle to join Route 101, then followed the road clockwise around the peninsula, but we figured we’d take the ferry and enjoy a quicker ride to Port Angeles, the largest city on the north shore.
As the day warmed I unzipped the jacket’s front, back, and side vents, orange mesh peeking through the slits. I aired out over 40 minutes on the 101, and in Port Angeles we ate fresh-caught halibut for lunch. Another 30 minutes down the road we arrived at Lake Crescent and the trail for Marymere Falls.
A mile hike through lowland forest blanketed in thick moss brought us to the viewing platform for the waterfall. I didn’t think twice about jumping the fence and tiptoeing over wet boulders to sit beside the falls, which earned me a well-deserved reprimand from a National Park ranger. I convinced Rob we should backtrack toward Port Angeles and ride up to Hurricane Ridge, which offers panoramic views of the Olympic National Forest from about 5,250 feet.
More attractive than the view was the prospect of riding up Hurricane Ridge Road, which some say is Washington’s premier motorcycle ride, a steep 17-mile stretch of smooth pavement with tunnels, chicanes, and long corners. Unfortunately when we arrived a construction worker said we’d have to wait 10 minutes for an escort to lead us up because the road was being resurfaced. Slowly following a truck with flashing yellows lights, I cheered myself up by blaring music through the Road Glide motorcycle’s speakers: A Tribe Called Quest, Tash Sultana, The Kills. Before arriving at the park entrance, about five miles up, the pickup pulled off and revealed an empty road ahead. I was first in line, with Rob idling beside me. “Don’t wait for me,” he said. I watched the ranger station disappear in the bike’s mirror and then opened the throttle.
After all, I had a dozen miles of uninterrupted pavement ahead and a Milwaukee-Eight® 107 engine beneath. The torquey Milwaukee-Eight power moved the Road Glide motorcycle with authority, and I had the footboards kissing the pavement in tighter corners. I arrived at the summit well ahead of Rob and draped myself across the top of the bike for a catnap. When Rob eventually caught up, we hiked trails lined in red mountain heather, picnicked with a curious doe, then rolled back down Hurricane Ridge Road in neutral.
Under a hot-pink sunset, we followed gravel paths to an Airbnb cabin on the banks of the Elwha River. The next morning we diverted on to the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway, State Route 112, and rode toward Cape Flattery, the very northwest tip of the contiguous United States. The briny air; opaque fog; and cold, wet roads gave us ample reason to stop for breakfast at the Blackberry Cafe in Joyce. The quaint restaurant’s $33 Sasquatch Burger tempted me: a 20-ounce beef patty with bacon and barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, and onion.
At the Cape Flattery trailhead, Rob and I ventured into the forest, leaving the nicely groomed wood-plank trail to follow an overgrown one-track that looked more interesting. Suddenly we found ourselves on a cliff, looking out at a cluster of rocks covered in lush greenery that were jutting up out of perfectly clear, vibrantly colored saltwater. Murre birds nested on the rocky walls, an otter playfully tumbled in the ocean, and a sea lion barked before disappearing into a cave. Rob and I agreed we could’ve stayed at Cape Flattery the whole day, but we had more to see and fleeting time to see it.
We found a route south to the 101, then drank roadside coffees in Forks, which is where author Stephenie Meyer based her “Twilight” book series. Just outside of Forks is Rialto Beach – a driftwood graveyard great for rock hounding – and the Airbnb-sourced campsite we stayed at that night. Our host told us about the time she heard Sasquatch’s howls and screams, and discovered giant footprints beside a tent. She said: “I’ve seen a lot of cougars around here, and they definitely weren’t cougar prints,” then walked away, like we should be more scared of Bigfoot than actual cougars. Still, I fell straight asleep in my FXRG base layers, toasty inside my tent.
Our last morning we visited the otherworldly Ruby Beach, where giant sea stacks stand just offshore, dramatic tides wash over reddish sands, and an ethereal fog thickens and thins without reason. Along the coastline are tide pools filled with purple starfish, dime-sized crabs, and neon-green sea anemone. Rob and I were overwhelmed by the beauty of this place. Neither of us wanted to start the three-hour ride back to EagleRider Seattle and admit our adventure on the Olympic Peninsula had come to an end.
We did what you’re supposed to do on any good adventure: got lost in it, riding from sunrise to sunset. Each day I watched my FXRG riding gear get dirtier and dirtier, but I noticed it very little during our trip, even though it was the FXRG gear that brought us to the Olympic Peninsula in the first place. In my mind, though, the best touring outfit is the one you forget you’re wearing. It’s working well if you don’t have to think about it, and you can focus on the freedom of the ride and the wonderful people you’re with.