Fin

Project 2012: Day 264

Day Eleven

It’s hard to believe that the adventure is all over. So much investment and effort goes into planning the trip. Then you’re into the trip, and doing something about the ride every waking moment. There’s no past, no future, just 100% in the now, for 10 days.

And suddenly, you’re on the I5, Route 73, I405, Exit 29B and looking for Motoquest Long Beach.

Can I just say, Interstate’s are for Cars!!

They’re horrible, slidy, noisy, manic, scary, wide, incredibly fast, dangerous things designed exlusively for vehicles that can bash each other, have air-conditioning, and don’t require balance. I.e. cars.

So the ride up from San Diego was fun, but not riding fun, just staying alive fun.

CHiPs

Due to planning (awake at 5:30 on the road at 6:30) and execution (um, I may’ve stretched the 70 mph limit a tad) I was at Motoquest by 8am, an hour early. So I’m dismantling cables and mounts I’d mantled on the bike, when I see an officer of the California Highway Patrol skulking at the BMW Motorrad Dealer next door.

Now I don’t know about you, but I grew up with stalwart adventure TV shows of GenX: Airwolf, Chopper 1, Knight Rider, The A-Team, MacGyver, and of course, CHiPs. The last was a show about the California Highway Patrol, and as a teenager, with a motorbike, there were times I could see myself being a motorcycle mounted cop. So here was my chance to meet one “in the flesh.”

Officer Weddel, a Training Officer for CHP, is a great guy. They ride BMW R1200KT’s (hence skulking at the dealer) and his job is literally to ride wherever he wants everyday. That’s not a bad gig at all really. Wonder if I’m too old to apply for the CHP 🙂

Fin

Then I met a colleague of a work friend, who just popped by because he knew I’d be in the area. Unfortunately my flight booked for 10am meant breakfast on the beach or at the club was out of the question.

Then Ariel arrived, and within minutes had in-processed the bike. We chucked my luggage into her trunk and headed 3 blocks to Long Beach Airport. The ride is officially over!

What an adventure. Nothing I expected! Everything I expected! And More!

I’d camped three times, couch-surfed twice, stayed with 3 hosts from the ADVRider.com Forum (Tent Space Thread), in a motel once, and with friends once. At the end I’d filled up 17 times, at an average of about $14. Ridden 2,732.7m. Still only eaten 3 pepperoni sticks.

I got lost just twice. I say “lost” but really it was “took a wrong turn.”

Mostly my kit was pretty ideal. Below is a list of kit I used to ride, sleep, and connect daily whilst on the ride:

  • Aldi Torque Motorcycle Trousers
  • Motoport Jacket (godsend)
  • Shark Evoline helmet;
  • SMH-10 Bluetooth Headset (imperative)
  • Aldi Torque Gloves & once my DriRider Adventure winter gauntlets
  • Gaerne Aquatech G-Quad Boots
  • Overboard 60l Dry Duffel Bag
  • AndyStrapz Piggy Back Straps
  • Aldi Extreme Terrain Hiking Tent
  • Moon bag ultralight +8C sleeping bag
  • Kathmandu ultralight self-inflating mat
  • iPhone 4S
  • ContourGPS Helmet Cam
  • Flip Camera
  • iPad 2
  • Logitech Zaggmate Bluetooth keyboard
  • Canon EOS 550D SLR with 18-55mm & 55-250mm lenses
  • Velbon Tripod
  • SPOT GPS Messenger for Tracking, Check-in’s and (not needed) Emergencies

Of course there was other kit, but this is what I used every single day on the ride.

All That’s Left is Thanks.

My hosts in:

  • Port Angeles – Rainy, Jenna, and especially, Greg
  • Astoria – Brian
  • Eureka – Amy for popping by, and especially Travis
  • Santa Cruz (Scottdale) – Paul
  • Santa Barbara – Wayne and Diane

I have to shout out to Al, the Mad Virginian, riding states 19 through 21 with me. We had a blast. Motorcycling is best done with others.

The campsite volunteers, waitresses and waiters that served me, every motorbike that greeted me (i.e. every motorbike I passed), and people who just showed interest from a fleeting wave, to a deep conversation. Thanks.

To everyone back at home, and on the web, thanks for your support, encouragement, and comments. Over the next while I’ll consolidate photos and get them organised and on the web. Same goes for the video footage.

John Isenberg in Seattle, Ariel Krawczyk in Long Beach from Motoquest. Your professionalism, helpfulness, advice, and downright friendliness smoothed the rough edges of the tip.

My friends in Sydney, Seattle, and San Diego that put their names down as Emergency Contacts, and checked in with me online to ensure that I was ok. Sean, Phil, and others (you know who you are)

And lastly to my family, Leah, Em (back home in Aus), Amanzi & Charis (now here in Seattle), and my wonderful wife Lucy. Your trust, support, encouragement, and knowing that you were keeping tabs on my location freed me up to enjoy the ride. Thanks.

Holiday Time

So now I jump on a jet to Seattle, and vacation for the next three weeks 🙂

 

Race to the Border

Project 2012: Day 263

Day Ten

This is it. The final day to get to the Mexican border and finish what I started.

Border to border down the Pacific Coast.

Last night, my wonderful hosts, Wayne and Diane, shared their incredible touring knowledge of California. They’ve toured both by bicycle and motorcycle, and our route planning was interspersed with, “remember when we stopped here” or “this was a great road, we should do that again.”

By and large the consensus was to avoid the LA to San Diego urban sprawl, and from Santa Monica head inland on Route 2 to the Angeles Crest. Because this added over 100 miles to the journey I decided to leave early, so after another amazing (& healthy) breakfast of fruit, cereal, and homemade blueberry muffins, I was off at about 7:45. Earliest departure for the ride.

Actually, Wayne noticed my helmet had a couple of screws missing (no comments about me thank you very much) and opened up his machine shop to find some replacements first.

When I say machine shop, I mean this puts Bunnings, Mitre10 and Home Depot to shame.

Home of the Rich and Famous

The first cruise was my last down Route 1, which despite the warnings about traffic, actually left me feeling slightly wistful. There is a part of me that wishes I’d just hugged the coast all the way to the end. But 140 miles of traffic lights didn’t sound like fun either.

Despite the smog, the traffic, and the crazies, you can see why some people live in Malibu and Santa Monica. The sunrise was spectacular and there is about 30 miles of beach, all with surfers. This is entirely different to the Sydney coast where you have bay after bay. It’s literally a looooooooong beach all the way to the Santa Monica pier.

I actually have family whom own a house on the cliffs in Malibu, perhaps I should’ve stopped there for the night. Although I’m not sure how much claim I could make after not seeing them for 42 years…

As Malibu eases into Santa Monica, the traffic started to build. By which I mean it was solid metal all the way into town. Now you can legally split lanes in California, and most bikes do. Fast. Also, the drivers are totally considerate and will actually move their cars to widen the lane. I’ve rarely experienced drivers that even realise there’s a bike coming down the traffic, let alone move out of the way anywhere else.

I can say that maneuvering the GS, complete with bash bars and panniers, between the cars was interesting to say the least.

The Pier

Many places have a pier, Brighton in the UK, Santa Cruz up the coast, but Santa Monica has the king of piers. This thing has a fairground on it. It would be a shame to come all this way only to ride past without stopping.

Now I pulled into the car park, only to be told by the attendant that motorbike parking was the same price as a car. $8!! Outrageous!!! Even if I didn’t take a car spot. In fact when I wanted to share a spot with another motorbike, the attendant wanted to call security on me. Seems I should deny another family a parking space when I could just as easily park in the corner somewhere. No amount of listening, logic, or influence worked. The rules were the rules and his badge rendered him (at least I think it was a him) incapable of logical thought. Sigh.

So I parked my bike and wondered up the pier dressed entirely appropriately for 75F (25C) seaside weather. Calf high black touring boots, cordura, armoured, black touring pants, and my black kevlar jacket. Mad Ozzie.

Now I’ve been on Santa Monica Pier before, so this wasn’t about discovery, just about chilling and enjoying the warmth after Washington, Oregon, and NorCal. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to have my portrait done.

The Sprawl

Next was the fun to navigate out of LA on Route 2, which sounds much easier than it actually is. The Route follows Santa Monica Boulevard out towards Rodeo Drive and Beverley Gardens, but then does this on-freeway, off-again, on-another-freeway dance through the outskirts of the city.

Before that is about 10 miles (at least it seems like it) of lane splitting, traffic light filtering through the LA sprawl. There’s just no getting away from from the immensity of the LA population.

The Crest

Finally the road opens up to the Angeles Crest, and the temperature rises to about 94F (37.5C), and you’re on perfectly smooth, tarred, twisties. I say perfectly smooth, you do have to watch for rocks and gravel, along the whole road, which keeps the speed down somewhat. I hit a rock and nearly wet myself as the front wheel jiggled.

About midway on this 61 mile ride is Newcombs Ranch. The local biker watering hole. Great sandwiches, and it looks like they have great beers – sigh. Still I got chatting to another rider, who turned out to be a dentist (must be a dentist thing), and owns a Black Multi 🙂

I really miss Lucia.

Riding along the crest was just phenomenal. On a Monday, there is simply no traffic. Well, maybe negligible traffic. There were 2 cars, and 2 bikes all the way until Wrightwood at the end of the ride.

But apparently all good things must come to an end. And the end of the Angeles Crest as I joined the 138 then the I15 was a metaphor for the end of this tiring, yet relaxing time heading down the coast.

The Furnace

It was still about 115 miles to San Diego, and as I headed SW someone turned up the heat. Both literally and with the traffic. At the bottom of the mountain the temp got to 102F (44C), which at 90 mph was like riding into a blast furnace. I’d stopped melting & started to roast. Unlike the PCH there is no respite on an interstate. Just 8 to 12 lanes of traffic driving insane speeds, and nowhere to stop.

Then there’s the road surface. It’s mostly cement, with all sorts of ridges & ruts. After a while you get used to the bike snaking, but never fully comfortable.

The Border

It seemed the Interstate would just never end. An interminable ribbon of slippery cement into hell. But finally the exit signs turned to Spanish, and before you new it, it was 2 miles to the border.

I headed down the International Border lane and slipped into the (gated) U-Turn lane. The moment had arrived. Everything I’d been preparing, planning, and riding to achieve. The southern end of America. I’d started with Vancouver Island in my mirror on the Olympic Peninsular (part of Canada), and 11 days, 10 nights, ~2600 miles, 16 refills, and 3 Peperoni sticks later, I could see into Mexico.

Of course it was time for a shot.

Or not…

The Customs Protection Border Guard wouldn’t allow me to take a photo. As with the Santa Monica parking attendant, it seems logic wouldn’t prevail. Apparently I could be anybody. Even a terrorist. I politely asked what terrorist would hire a BMW motorcycle in Seattle, then ride for 10 days, to take a “selfie” at the Mexican border. What would be the point, or potential threat. Just as politely (well not really) I was asked to “move along.”

This is not the border you’re looking for.

Sigh.

Now I did actually have my helmet cam on, and recording, but by the time I pulled off 2 miles later at the first services in America, there was no battery life. So I’ve no idea (yet) if that worked or not.

So dear reader, you’ll just have to believe that I actually made it to the border. The picture you see is the very helpful flag posts at the nearby Best Western (cropped)

Check another off the Bucket List…

…now, for the highest motorable road in the world (Himalayas) 🙂 or the Spine of Africa or Cape Horn or …

Catching Up with the Past

About 30 mins up road in San Diego, lives one of my really close friends. We’ve been friends since our teens in South Africa. Since we were proving that actually the engine on a Mazda 323 isn’t as smooth as the Nissan Skyline, and you can shorten a Yellow Mini, but not without having to carry around extra bottles of water to refill the radiator.

So my final night staying with old friends before riding the bike it’s final couple of hours to the Motoquest Longbeach office.

Pines to Palms

Project 2012: Day 262

Day Nine

Scott Valley, my sojourn for the night is literally in a Redwood Forest. Awesome location, but pretty much my last for the ride. As we head further south, the fog of Northern California coast gives way to the warmth of the sub-tropics. The pines give way to scrub, and the towns are all palm tree lined.

First stop, Monterey. Everyone, but everyone encouraged me to eat there. And whilst Courteny, with her offer of a free clam chowder sample from Louis Linguini’s, was indeed enticing; I ended up being fleeced at Bubba-Gumps. I mean they do have the corner on the “I’ve seen the movie” market.

Having said that, the service was fun, the view compelling, and the food just great. Still expensive for the US.

The Big Sur

This is pretty much the focal point of a PCH ride. Many people do just this section, and it is great. In fact there’s probably not a lot I could say, that hasn’t already been said.

The weather is splendid, the road fantastic, and the views to die for. About the only downside is, this proximity to San Francisco, ease of access, and accessible beaches, make for traffic. Both local (often inconsiderate) and tourist (often incompetent).

Mostly the traffic is ok. But there is a LOT of it.

So you can’t miss the Big Sur, but don’t expect a movie-like “only bike on the road” type of experience.

The views and the ride definitely make up for this though.

Hustle

As I caught up on updates this morning, I only left at about 11. Then close on 2 hours in Monterey put me on the PCH at past two. It was then that I realised the distance to Santa Barbara. It seems the trend on this ride is: Late start, long stop, slow traffic and frequent stops for photos – followed by 3 hours of hard riding to get to the next stop at a reasonable time.

The trend didn’t change. But I didn’t stop at Carmel, or Hearst Castle, or any number of great little stopovers. You could take a month for this trip and still not see half of it.

I did, however, finally, get my first sunset shot of the trip.

Santa Barbara

My hosts this evening are the wonderful Wayne and Diane. They’re late to this motorcycling lark, only getting into it in about 2005. But since then they’ve done 75,000 miles – mostly touring. So I’ve been benefitting from great stories, and in depth California riding experience. All the better for my (must miss LA) ride to the border tomorrow…

 

Stayin Alive

Project 2012: Day 261

Day Eight

After the “Hike or Bike” mixup last night, even though we paid so much more than the campsite fee, we decided to avoid the discussion and leave early. 7am in fact.

Which meant that we were above the fog. Literally a silver lining on the metaphorical cloud of our adventurous mishaps. I so love Serendipity.

As we dropped through the fog layer, the temperature dropped about 30F in a mile. Glad I left the thermal liner in. It was seriously chilly at the coast

Sunday Bikers

Much like the Royal National Park south of Sydney, or the Old Pacific north, the PCH is a favourite haunt for bikers on a Sunday morning. We must’ve passed about 20 sports bikes, riders all leather clad, zooming at insane speeds through the fog. I guess they know this road.

One of them overtook a car, on a blind curve, in the fog, right opposite Al in front of me. He was back in his lane about 1 sec before colliding (so plenty of time) but both he and the car were hooting. I’m not sure who got the biggest fright. The driver or me. I had nowhere to go, and skid marks to prove it.

Gratuitous Tourism

Next thing I knew, we were on the Golden Gate bridge. At least I think it was, the fog was about head height, so there wasn’t much bridge to see. But we’ll take another check for the bucket list, riding a motorbike over the Golden Gate.

Of course we had to stop for the photo opps, so dropped down to the “Warming Hut” only to find a marathon on in the city. More on that later.

The bridge, even in fog, is spectacular, and certainly rivals the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Scale is to be seen to be believed. Then there’s also Alcatraz off to the right, and downtown in the distance.

Hello to Old & Goodbye to New

I finally caught up with Peter Roosakos, after 2 days of trying to sync. We were going to have breakfast together, but the marathon meant all roads to the watefront cafes were closed.

This meant we got the scenic tour of the city, trying to find a secure park for the insecure bikes. Either San Francisco has a lot of homeless people, or I was especially sensitive to them. My bright red duffel bag, stuffed with camping and clothing goodies was particularly vulnerable to simply unstrapping and carrying away.

After about 40 mins of trying to hook up, Al decided he was going to push on. He needed to make LA for Monday, so was planning to head about halfway down the coast. As I was hooked up for a night in Santa Cruz, the day was mine to fritter in SF.

So after 4 days of camping, couch surfing, dining, riding, photos, videos, and sharing a bunch of laughs. My new good friend, Al the mad Virginian, and I parted ways. I still reckon he snores louder though.

Pete and I then parked my bike, parked his Lotus Elise, which promptly broke down. So we humped all my luggage about a (very long) mile to his car, and filled it up. To the brim.

For a second day running I had breakfast at lunchtime. Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs (& cheese & potatoes). So much for losing weight before the family arrives.

Pier 23 is very much like Watson’s or Double Bay. Full of well to-do yuppies, watching the sailboats in the harbour. Perfect!

Golden Gate Take Two

Besides the fog, my helmet camera batteries were flat, so I totally missed video of riding across the bridge. Given the fog had mostly lifted, and I’d taken receipt of new contour batteries, it was time to rectify that.

So across the bridge I went again – North, loop, then Southbound. Then just continued on Route 1 towards Santa Cruz.

This was not riding. Just bumper to bumper traffic getting out of the city, for about an hour.

Then it was on the edge of the cliffs again for more great riding. Seriously I don’t know how you could live here and not have a motorbike.

Santa Cruz

What a great little town (pop ~100k) The wharf, the boardwalk. A real surfer & student town. The sun was shining as I decompressed along the wharf, taking in the seals, seagulls, and locals.

My second scare, pretty much on the whole trip, was entirely my fault. I was stopped at the lights in the middle lane, and suddenly thought I should be turning right. So I checked my mirror, indicator on, and pulled out to the right. This white pickup who was behind a truck behind me had the same thought about 5 seconds before me, and was accelerating up the inside lane as I pulled out. He ducked right, I stopped, and we missed each other by a ball hair.

Seriously, the first head check I’ve missed in 2 years of riding, and 2,000 miles on this trip, and there’s a car there. Rule #1, look with the Mark 1 eyeball before maneouvering. Phew. Not making that mistake again.

Then it was over to meet my next friend, and ADVRider host for the evening, Paul. Another great guy, Paramedic, Fire Fighter, and motorcyclist. Not to mention adventurer.

Paul has travelled the world. Literally. On a bicycle. The next time you consider “glamping” for a taste of life, think about cycling from, oh, say Darwin to Sydney…

…after South-East Asia.

As all my hosts in this fabulous country, he is super-friendly, kind, and hospitable. As a fellow adventurer, Paul knew just what I needed (shower, laundry, beer, food, and conversation) and supplied in bucket loads. We went into town, to an Irish pub, Rosie’s for a great dinner, and they even checked my ID (not without some prompting, mind)

Our conversation was varied and interesting. Of course we avoided all the taboo subjects that can lead to arguments: Politics, sex, and religion. 🙂 Not.

And in the morning, there was Power, WiFi, Eggs, Toast, Tea (!!!), & clean dry clothes.

Awesome.

I love camping, but after 8 hours in the saddle, a mattress is most welcome.