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Hey I was curious as to what the weather in the Northwest corner of the US is like. Does it get cold (<32degrees) ? Are the rumors of it being "The Great NorthWet" true? I'm scouting out areas of the country to move to, and from the pics I've seen it looks like extremely scenic and peaceful. Must be great riding too.
 

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Some years are better than others, but yeah, we get plenty of rain. It's not that we necessarily get the highest yearly amount in inches, but that it rains on a high number of days. I still managed to do about 30,000 miles on my bike last year without getting very wet. It actually varies place to place (due to elevation, proximity to water, etc.), even right around Seattle, so that's something you might want to research more if choosing a town.

Winters can get pretty cold (below freezing at night). A lot of people put their bikes away for the season. With good gear and the right attitude you can ride through the winter. Some areas get a few days of snow (there are mountains all around), but we don't typically see much of it in the greater Seattle area.

Summers rock. Clear, warm (even hot), and gorgeous. Though that perception has a lot to do with enduring the other three seasons, I'm sure.

There is plenty of great riding if you know where to look. Take a look at the videos on http://www.exackley.com/myvids.htm for a sample.
 

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“Scouting out areas to move to,” that sounds ambitious. Hell, I picked up and drove west just after New Year’s Day 1990, and haven’t looked back. The western U.S. sorta grows on a certain mentality, IMHO. Others can’t handle it. I’d invite those who can’t straight back to the east coast or Midwest.

Out west, L.A., San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle are, south to north, four areas with different lifestyle, climate, and riding conditions you may wish to consider.

For street and track riding, I find the SF Bay Area tops. Endless back country roads with good run-off and few police patrols make for outstanding rides. Sears Point, Thunderhill, Buttonwillow, and Laguna Seca racetracks are within reach, also.

California life is a vast topic unto itself, beyond the scope of your question. There are significant plusses and minuses. I’d not trade the seven years I lived there for anything, but the highlight for me was definitely the riding more than anything.


Portland is part of the whole Oregon thing. Oregon’s a unique phenomenon, discreet from Washington and certainly unlike California. There are worse places to live, with good riding and a milder climate than Seattle. That, too, is another story but just FYI.

Lee outlined Seattle’s climate well. I’m a 12K miles/year kind of rider these days, not nearly as much as perhaps ten years ago. One cannot live here and fear rain riding: it can, and will, rain almost any time from about November to June, waxing and waning at either end in a typical week. Summers are stupendous, with mild temps and low humidity. These are the best summers in the U.S., IMHO, and people emerge like locusts from under rocks to ride, drive, swim, boat, etc. like mad the five months or so it lasts.

I’m also in agreement with Lee on winter riding; rain riding takes both correct gear and mindset. Without, it is uncomfortable at best and lethal at worst. “Almost” is not good enough. Roadcrafter-anything comes to mind as proper rain-riding gear. Riding these freeways during commute hours in the dark and pouring rain takes absolute confidence, cat-like reflexes, and a nose for trouble (experience/observation skills) to react before problems start. Still, fate sometimes deals us out in immediate and gruesome ways. I must admit to mostly being a cager in the wet months, choosing to work at odd hours and beat the commute issues.

The “scenic and peaceful” shots you mention were taken in the summer. The area’s scenic and peaceful because few human beings choose to brave the elements most of the year, leaving much of the area pristine. If you’ve ever been to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you understand what I mean. The Cascades are some of the roughest country in the United States. Living in the rain shadow 25 miles as the crow flies west of the Cascades is one thing, living amongst or beyond those mountains another.

Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) is a great example: for a few months in the summer, one of the most spectacular rides in the PacNW. In the winter, occasional rockfalls and more-frequent avalanches make it unsuitable for man or beast. Some of the towns west from Winthrop all the way through the mountains west are outposts of very harsh weather indeed. When it isn’t snowing, it’s raining most of the time from roughly mid-November through early May.

Skiing, back-country hiking and camping, dirt-biking, hunting, and four-wheeling are other activities one may enjoy in the Pacific NW, if you’re the outdoorsman type.

Street riding: there are great street rides around here, from the B.C. border all the way south to Oregon and beyond. Deer can be a problem, as can gravel/moss/other road slime. Runoff generally sucks on WA roads, and they aren’t as wide as those in California. The thick brush always tries to reclaim the roads, one way or another, and I’d imagine road crews spend all summer just keeping it at bay on the major byways.

The three tracks of note are Pacific Raceways, Spokane, and Portland. I like PR a lot, finding it favors mid-to-smaller bikes. Portland favors horsepower but flows together very well. I’ve not yet ridden Spokane.

Washington’s a unique state, with advantages and disadvantages. From a pure riding standpoint, it’s decent but there are better places. However, combined with quality of life factors (economy, housing, entertainment, etc.), I find it hard to beat.

-=DRB=-
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Yeah I'm definitely an 'outdoors' type of guy. Mountain biking, dirtbikes, and just everything that has to do with nature. I also ride well over 20K a year, and can't stand the cold winter New York gets. Plus it's way too crowded here for me; everytime i go to one of my 'Sunday Morning Spots' there's usually at least one other person there. And I hate that.

As for rain, I've ridden in the pouring rain here in nothing but a T-shirt, and it didn't bother me as much as the cold. I hate the cold so very much. If it would just snow it wouldn't be so bad, but in NY it gets to about 20 degree for the high on the day, and never snows or lets so much as a ray of sunshine down to the ground.

So I've pretty much eliminated California; too many people and too high cost of living. Maybe if I had more money I would consider it, but right now I don't, so I was either considering Arizona or a state like Washington. I guess there's no way to fully describe it, but I have to see it for myself. I've been to Arizona, which is great, but the lack of vegatation and trees and grass must get old after a while. I think I'd get sick of seeing nothing but brown all the time. But it's better then NY, and I have an uncle down there I could stay with until I found an apartment. But housing is cheap in both Arizona and the Northwest, but I think it'd probably be easier to find a job in Phoenix, but I suppose it can't be too hard for an 18 year old to find some type of a job.

So, I gotta see it for myself. I'm driving out in January, probably no later then the 15th, cause that's when my car insurance expires. :D

I suppose the best way to judge it is if I saw it for myself, that way I can directly compare the two places, and see if I could see myself living there long term. Thanks a lot for the info! :D
 

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Oh, btw, do the leaves change up there? It doesn't get cold like NY does it? And does it rain all day every day? Or is it just a shower for an hour or two, then the sun comes out? I don't think I could deal with it being cloudy and rainy every day for a couple months. It's too bad California is so damn crowded, cause that'd probably be perfect.
 

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Oh, the leaves change. The PacNW has real seasons. I’m guessing an average Seattle snow year is a couple storms, three to six inches. Some years get none (last year comes to mind). It never lasts, thankfully: I hate snow. Fall is spectacular here, as is late spring.

No, the sun does not come out much in the winter and spring. The rain’s fairly steady, temps a little below freezing (uncommon) to mid-40s (more common). That’s prolly why Seattle is the “coffee capital” or whatever: there isn’t much reason to be outdoors November – May. Flannel’s big winter wear here (half-joke): you may understand why REI and Eddie Bauer have their home bases here.

SF is much better riding on the street, as mentined earlier. I remember riding my GSX-R750 up in Sonoma County (north Bay) New Year’s Eve 1995. SF winters are quite mild with hot, dry summers. Climate varies a lot in the Bay Area depending on location, interestingly enough.

Yes, there is work in Seattle, though the west in general is in a tech slump. I have no idea how the rest of the economy is doing. Service industry is always hiring, right? Housing here is not ‘cheap;’ just the opposite though it’s mostly flattened the past couple years. Prices rose mostly in response to the tech boom of the late ‘90s. Farther out from Seattle, prices do fall rapidly however.

Veering the thread back on-topic: Seattle has a thriving biker community. H-D folks have a place, as do sport-heads (like most of this forum’s audience). In fact one of the largest area dealers sells H-D, Triumph, Honda, and Kawasaki. I find it very amusing to wander in and order parts from the same counter with some leather-clad H-D guy next to me.

SF and LA have somewhat larger biker communities, as one might expect. IMO, if bikes are the focal point of your life, SF and LA are great places to live. For the LA scene, I’d consider Santa Monica or other northwest-side suburbs. For San Francisco, somewhere in Marin County (north of the City, across the GG Bridge). It’d be a helluva life, but could be done. At 18, hell I’d do it just for grins a couple years: nothing to stop you (jobs or possessions, i.e.) I moved to Reno at 22 on the same principal, so WTF.

If you’re taking a road trip early January, I’d suggest the southern route (I-40 out of Nashville) or even further, the southern routes through Texas and southern AZ. That’s a great time of year in Phoenix, when their riding season really kicks into high gear actually. I-80 or the northern routes through the Dakotas and Montana are a major gamble that time of year: been there, done it, regretted it (early March 2002 cross-country road trip). If you’ve got time and don’t mind camping, I’d take the southern route and angle up through LA, SF, Portland, and Seattle (I-5 all the way from LA). Hell, you might decide to park and make a go of it somewhere along the way.

Good luck

-=DRB=-
 
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