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PNW Tour

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There was a discussion in another thread about doing a Pacific Northwest tour this summer. Given we would likely go during the height of tourist season when odds of clear weather are best, I want to kick off that discussion now in hopes of mitigating hotel issues. It seems we should come to consensus on the following before spending too much time on route planning, hotel searches or asking people to provide some level of commitment:


Number of days

Depending on where we choose to start/end many of us will burn a couple of days to join the tour and return home. Based on experience, most people don’t like to use more than a week of vacation time for these events, so I propose 4-5 days of tour time to bring the vacation total to 7 days or less; however, if the route is compelling enough and there is interest, we can certainly go longer.




I’ve heard three options:


  • Meet at a basecamp and do daily drives that begin and end there. This means only one hotel, and if a SO attends, they have the option of staying in town rather than storming the backroads every day.
  • Do a point-to-point tour that is likely a giant loop comprising multiple hotels and points of interest along the way. Averaging ~300 miles per day is the norm on the tours I’ve done; some days are a little shorter, some are a little longer and dictated by distance between hotel options. This is a great way to see a large section of the PNW, but can be tiring for some.
  • Combine the above. Short point-to-point tour to reach the basecamp. Spend a couple of days there doing day trips, then mini tours home.

I’ve done several point-to-point tours but have no experience with the basecamp approach, although I can see the draw with the right town and the right roads nearby.



The answer to this is tightly connected to the format decision. We have less flexibility on location if we do a basecamp since we need a place that has a few different options for day drives, is interesting enough that it’s worth hanging around the same town for a few days and is no more than a day’s drive for most attendees. Ski resorts seem like a good option and are plentiful in the OR/WA/BC area, but I’m sure there are also quite a few towns in the middle of nowhere that fit the bill. Any recommendations? If we do a point-to-point trip, are there preferences for towns, sites or roads along the way that can help frame the route? E.g. Mount Saint Helens, Victoria, North Cascades Highway, Walla Walla… Is there a desire to remain in the US, or is BC an option?



Weather is a crap shoot, but our best bet for dry roads is August and early September. If we do this in Eastern WA or Eastern OR, that window broadens up quite a bit, but those of us west of the mountains may still need to contend with rain to reach the tour kick off.


Hopefully this spurs a conversation…and eventually a tour :)



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Hello John, sounds like a good plan (or start of a plan...). Unfortunately I can not attend since I do not have a Seven anymore.

Having organized several tours I can confirm the difficulty getting a number of people together for more than a week like what I preferred to do. Another experience is that tour "commitments" are often only fuzzy intentions that can change anytime.


However, what worked well was a combination, i.e. to do a 2 week trip with the hardcore group and have other people with less time join for part of the trip.

For the 2011 Black Hills trip we did a generous 2-week round trip from Jackson/WY to Custer/ND and Badlands NP. We stayed in Custer for a week exploring the beautiful roads of the Black Hills and returned a different route to Jackson. A number of people joined just for this week and others did part or all of the tour. Real nice group we had there from 4 to 9 Sevens. This is anyway a manageable number, since larger groups tend to break apart.


If you do this tour, make sure to post the pics!



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300 miles a day in my Birkin made my back sore just reading about it. :) We do have some fun roads in the Lake Chelan area, with some twisty roads without much traffic.


I sometimes go from Chelan to Ephrata, going up McNeil Canyon and following the twisties to Ephrata for lunch. Then, I can come back through Waterville and Orondo for a loop that is about an hour longer than is really fun in my little car. There is another loop through Twisp through Loup Loup pass and back down highway 97. Back roads can be taken to Leavenworth, Plain and the like as well. The weather is also pretty reliable in the summer, although it can get a bit warm later in the day.


Anyway, I would be happy to host and organize one base at Lake Chelan.


I would find a way to get to a track day somewhere in the NW with others as well.

Edited by Alfonse
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I drove the Black Hills tour with Gert, and really liked the combined approach. The two week length may seem a bit long, but it did allow people to join and leave as it worked for their personal schedule. I'm not familiar with the roads, so I'm not much help there, but I'll help however I can.



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Gert, thanks for the input. I'm familiar with the challenges of cat herding for these events (learned by watching you). You may recall I put together the NorCal 2008 tour that I believe you attended, and I had to flake out at the last minute due to an injury -- if the organizer can't commit, it's not surprising that attendees can't. :)


Ron, I've done the Monterey to Seattle trip twice when attending car week (>900 miles of freeway driving to get there and 5 days of backroads on the return). It could work as a starting point if there is enough interest from folks in CA and it's an extended trip so those of us in WA can join a little closer to home. Weather-wise, that's a generally a great time.


Alfonse, 300 miles isn't so bad. Gas stops are usually 100-120 miles apart max, so there are lots of stops along the way, and it makes for a full day. Realistically, the avg. day has been in the 250-300 mile range with occasional days pushing north of 350 or as short as 200. The problem I've seen with short days is that we usually get early starts to ensure unobstructed roads, and end up arriving in a tiny town with nothing to do pretty early in the afternoon.


I've gone through the Chelan area on tours three or four times. With a local's help for finding the right roads it's an option, but as you note, it can get really hot there.



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Randall, missed your earlier response. If there is sufficient interest from folks in CA, we could use Gert's PNW2007 tour for inspiration. Starting point was Vacaville, then the group took the interior route to Whistler, over to Vancouver Island, down the Olympic Peninsula and ended up back in Vacaville about 2-1/2 weeks later. Some people only joined for a portion; I met the group in Portland and broke off again a week later after we took the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles.



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Regarding daily distances, I have somewhat split feelings about the longer stretches. If it is just about the scenery and the road, 300 miles or more is fine (assuming one has comfy seats, no pouring rain and below 95 degrees). But on the other hand, we often regretted later having zoomed through an area without getting out once to look at some attractions, hike a bit etc. Obviously it also depends on the preference of a potential passenger. In any case I found the whole tour usually more fun when it was made interesting enough for the spouses to join, which in turn may limit the daily mileage but possibly allow for a longer duration. Another good reason for the base camp approach, since it gives more flexibility.


An important factor was the choice of hotels. There is much more opportunity to get together, chat and have a beer in the old fashioned motels with cars in front of the room than in one of the big box hotels. Safer for the cars, cheaper, and more convenient to take valuable stuff out of the car overnight.


Given the mentioned difficulties of cat herding and coming to an agreement, for the last few trips at some point I just decided the time and route, picked the hotels (in case of the Black Hills tour with Randall's great help) made reservations and posted the trip early enough (3-4 months lead time) that others still could make plans and get rooms. That worked pretty well. The likelihood of getting good group rates is anyway small in Summer and it is a lot of work to organize.

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My advice is to break up into smaller groups of like-minded drivers rather than stay in one big convoy. Speed and stopping preferences differ, and people shouldn't feel forced into an approach that doesn't match their desires or comfort zone. Bigger groups also make passing more difficult as passing zones aren't always long enough to let 8-10 cars by at a time, so the lagging cars sometimes feel compelled to pass on a double yellow or not be as safe as they'd like. Touring should be fun.


As for daily distance, sometimes that is dictated by hotel availability. We may be forced into two really short consecutive days that stretch the trip by a day, one really long day, or a reroute that removes a particular point of interest from the itinerary. We don't know what we're up against until we narrow down the options. Who knows, there may be sufficient interest to support two different tours. One shorter, more local event that centers on a basecamp, and another longer point-to-point trip that covers a much larger portion of the PNW and draws in people from much farther away.



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