One of the beautiful things about being an AMA member, whether as a rider for many decades or as a virtual novice to the sport, is the diversity of options that are entertained each month in the pages of American Motorcyclist.
The following was featured in the May 2013 street edition of American Motorcyclist. Due to the time that has passed since this article, some information may not be accurate today…
By Ben Getz
One of the beautiful things about being an AMA member, whether as a rider for many decades or as a virtual novice to the sport, is the diversity of options that are entertained each month in the pages of American Motorcyclist. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought I would be riding trail bikes on a beach with my wife and her twin sister, I would have raised a brow at you in wonder.
Photo: Oveth Martinez
As time will have it, things do change, and thus it was that in mid-January 2013 my wife and I and her twin sister and her husband broke free from the frigid, sub-freezing head lock that Old Man Winter had on eastern Washington, and set out for the Pacific Ocean beaches to find sunshine and temperatures in the low 50s! With no guarantee as to what the climate would offer, we trailered our bikes there, but we were not expecting six full days of sunshine and light breezes!
The Long Beach Peninsula at Washington’s lower left corner is known as the oyster capital of the West Coast. The almost 30-mile spit of land that faces the Pacific Ocean on the west, and forms Wilapa Bay’s oyster fields on the east, holds several small communities and scenic state parks, as well as many beach access roads. Licensed drivers/riders are welcomed to ride the over 20-mile stretch of wide-open beach, albeit observing plenty of rules. Most are for the sake of pedestrian safety and to prevent the loss of your vehicle to Poseidon’s Impound, tricky tidal changes and unpredictable sand conditions.
This coastal region is generally temperate enough year round, but much less crowded in the winter months, which was an added plus in navigating the beach. There’s still clam digging, surf fishing and plenty of bird-watching opportunities. Bald eagle sightings were plentiful. They apparently are used to humans, or just laid back, because they allowed for incredibly close approaches.
Though the mornings were still a bit frosty, by noon it seemed the beach was the place to be and the same 20-mile stretch of sandy playground became new again after the evening’s high tide. My sister-in-law had only ridden a little 1983 CT-110 Honda automatic once before. It took a little coercion to get her to try it out in the sand and then much coercion to get her off of it as she was having so much fun! Even as a 57-year-old grandmother, it is never too late to become a new motorcycle enthusiast and future AMA member.
I, too, learned a new appreciation for this aspect of our sport, even after more than 35 years on two wheels. Although I had visions of Burt Munro’s beach blasts, or the scores of racers that blistered the beach at Daytona before asphalt, I could only imagine what it was like at those speeds. Even riding my 1999 Yamaha TW-200 elicited a few nerve-racking moments as the tires followed unusual contours and varying levels of traction and surface compaction.
There was more to see and do on this narrow sprig of terra firma than beachfront bike shenanigans, of course. We enjoyed the oyster-processing docks (along with crab and other shellfish), the state parks, and an expansive marine bird breeding and feeding sanctuary on the north end at Leadbetter State Park. The southern tip of this peninsula boasts impressive old lighthouses, such as at Cape Disappointment, that offer sightseeing opportunities and historical facts about this treacherous shoreline.
Though many shops and businesses in the main townships of Long Beach and Ocean Park are closed for the off-season, there is still ample shopping and antiquing to be done in these seaside resort towns, and plenty of eateries with their own fresh-from-the-sea offerings. The bay at Ilwaco on the southern end provides a stunning harbor with an artsy/seaside atmosphere. This is the place to go to procure fresh seafood for self-preparation later, and the locals that stay here year round are most gracious and welcoming even to a biker gang of grandparents sporting a combined total of three cylinders and 510cc.
This was a fantastic way to spend a winter week with two wheels, and a time to remember for sure—getting the sand out of the bikes’ nooks and crannies, notwithstanding!