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Fall motorcycle rides

Washington is a paradise for motorcycle riders

Get your motors running and discover the Northwest on your bike. File photo

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The yellow lines on his map that marked the routes Gino Moroni has ridden his motorcycle across the state, told the story.

Perched on his bike, he's been there, seen that.

"I've done all this yellow stuff," Moroni said with a grin, pointing to his map highlighted with yellow lines.

There's a lot to see. With the cooler temps and fall colors coming up, Washington is a haven for day rides.

One of Moroni's favorites is heading over Stevens Pass on Highway 2, cutting through small towns like Monroe, Sultan, Skykomish and Goldbar. Index, a towering peak, is also on the way and worth a peek.

"It's beautiful," said Moroni, parts and service manager at Triumph of Tacoma. "There's lots of places to stop along the way."

Just keep heading east and head for Lake Wenatchee. The 300-plus mile ride takes you through the Puget Sound basin to the Cascade foothills and through the Okanongan, Wenatchee, and Mount Baker national forests. Along the way, there's stunning views of craggy, snow-covered peaks. Moroni usually returns going over I-90, giving him another view of the foothills.

For riders wanting to make it a two-day journey, there's camping at Mason Creek and at Lake Wenatchee.

"I haven't camped at Lake Wenatchee a lot, but at their main campsite it actually has showers," Moroni said. "It's a nice place to camp."

At Cole Corner, a small town along the way, there's a burger joint worth stopping at.

"It's a Happy Days place," Moroni said. "You can get milkshakes and burgers. Can't think of the name of it. There's a place just down from that on the right that's been there forever and it's called the Squirrel Tree."

For a shorter and just as scenic ride, there are several rides to Ashford, Buckley and Wilkenson, small towns that border Mount Rainier. Moroni suggests going through Orting, staying off an often busy 410 Highway. Continue through Elbe and head into Mount Rainier National Park. For a longer rider, stay on Highway 12 and ride through Randle, Packwood and Rimrock, and go left on 410 and stay on that to circle Mount Rainier.

Moroni enjoys riding along Skate Creek Road, a windy, two-lane road that heads into Packwood.

"Sometimes it's in good shape - sometimes it's not because of the weather," Moroni said. "That can be a fun jaunt into Packwood and then come back through Elbe."

It's a good day's jaunt, filled with beautiful stop-and-look spots.

Dan McNamara, director of the South Sound Harley Owner's Group, enjoys riding the back roads to Mount St. Helen's. Staying off I-5, McNamara heads south, taking the side roads, heading through small towns like Ethel, Glenoma and Randle along Highway 12. Then go south at Randle onto Highway 132, catching 503 and heading west.

"The road up to Johnston Ridge is awesome," McNamara said. "Beautiful scenery."

For the ocean lovers, there's a beautiful 260-mile round-trip ride to Long Beach in southwest Washington, taking riders through Pe Ell and Raymond along Highway 6 to Highway 101, which then takes you south along the coast.  

One of Moroni's old favorites is heading over the Narrows Bridge along Highway 16 and go left at Purdy, taking you along the Puget Sound for 20-some miles through Allyn and into Shelton.

On Moroni's to-do-list is the Olympic Loop, the scenic 311-mile loop around the Olympics and pass near the Hoh Rain Forest. Just follow the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway along the Hood Canal, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. It's a beautiful mix of magnificent views of the ocean and marvelous shots of the majestic Olympic range.

If you like riding on islands, catch a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island and you'll find quiet, rural roads and ride through small fishing towns.

Moroni is a ride-and-look guy, not just wanting to put in the miles and get there and back as quick as possible.

"Yeah, if I see a side road I'll take it just to see what's going on," Moroni said. "That's how you learn stuff."

McNamara just loves heading down the road, taking in the sights.

"Every ride I go on is my favorite ride," he said. "I don't really have a favorite. Any good road that's got some twisties and is a couple of hundred miles long is a good ride."

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