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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tahoe, Sonoma, Great Basin, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, and... ColoRADo!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ok, let me work backwards here...  

First off, I made it!  I crossed the border into Colorado yesterday afternoon.  An unusual feeling after begin gone for so long.  I pulled over to the side of the road next to the 'welcome to colorful Colorado' sign and sat there staring at it for several minutes.  I was washed over with a sense of sadness that the trip is nearing an end, but also had an intense feeling of happiness that I'd made it back safe and sound, and with so many unbelievable adventures, memories, and new friends.  I had originally planned to make it somewhere near Ouray to camp for the night, but there was a random turnoff to the left that said 'visit the beautiful town of Dolores'.  I knew Telluride was that direction as well, so figured "what the hell?", reality is coming soon so random 'lefts' (detours) in life are few and far between in the near future unfortunately. 

As I was passing through I noticed an RV park called Dolores River Campground.  Normally I scoff at those, but something pulled me in.  I asked if they had tent space and they did, only one other camper at present.  In addition, they have these amazing little cabins, both of which are nestled at the backside of the property away from the RV'ers.  I pulled the bike in, selected a spot on the river, set up camp, and went to use the facilities.  There's showers, bathrooms, wifi, laundry, a store, etc, so it isn't exactly roughing it.  There is also a friendly community of older RV'ing couples, some of who've been here for months.  When I wandered up to shower I noticed a circle of gentlemen sitting around drinking beer and swapping fishing stories (apparently I'd arrived at happy hour - a nightly tradition).  They invited me over and asked about me.  I told them about the trip, and needless to say they were all impressed.  Some yelling across to the other circle, this one filled with females and large glasses of chilled chardonnay, to share the news...  "Martha, you'll never believe this!  This young man rode that motorbike over there all the way to Arg-en-teena!".  This morning as I was walking to shower and brush my teeth, everyone was waving, saying hello/good morning David, and all in good spirits.  Such a relaxing little slice of paradise here.  As we speak I've commandeered an unused cabin porch, and am typing away overlooking the flowing river.  PS...  According to the couple that owns this place, the BDR (Backcountry Discovery Route) begins near here, so this would be a PERFECT place to begin or end. 

To continue working backwards, yesterday I woke up on the shores of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon.  My campsite was stunning, as is the entire surrounding area, along with the lake itself.  I took back and side roads to end up riding through Monument Valley for the afternoon.  I've explored the majority of the US, but those two spots have eluded me.  Sweet Jesus!  I'm really glad I added them to the list, as riding around them via motorcycle is simply breathtaking.  The perfect weather, huge sandstone formations, and seemingly endless beautiful views had me speechless the entire ride.  It's also very interesting to stop and see a glimpse into the Native American history, heritage, and culture surrounding the area.  I will say, the ride from Great Basin to Lake Powell wasn't quite as spectacular. 

After doing a spontaneous hour-long cave tour upon arrival at Great Basin Nat'l Park, I selected an isolated campsite.  Not hard as the park doesn't get many visitors.  After getting settled in as the sun was setting, I collected some downed wood and made a fire.  I enjoyed a fantastically prepared gourmet meal of Beanie-Weenie straight from the can, washed down with filtered river water.  Yeah, not the best.  I'd heard that a storm 'might' blow in during the night and sure enough, just as I was finishing dinner, drops of rain began to fall.  I battened down the hatches and retreated to the tent.  I fell asleep fairly quickly due to my current reading material, which was gifted to me by my new dear friend Ivo whom I met in Salta (Alan Watts, 'on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are' - an interesting read).  Sometime just after midnight, I woke up to a storm like you wouldn't believe.  I've never heard thunder like that.  The lightning would strike, light up the sky, then BOOM!!!  Echo all the way down through the valley and into the basin.  It was so loud that it would shake the tent.  I was thrilled and mesmerized, but would be lying if I didn't say a little scared as well.  

I woke up sporadically throughout the night, and the rain continued and continued.  Finally around 6:30am there was a slight lull, so I made a break for it.  Let me say this, if you haven't had the pleasure of packing up wet, soggy, muddy camping gear in the rain, you haven't lived.  Such a pain in the ass.  Anyway, got it all done and as I was headed out, the sky opened up again.  Within minutes I was soaked to the core, but continued riding.  I thought to myself, "how bad could it be?  how long could it last?  how big could the storm be?"  Well, that was one of the longest, most brutal riding days of the trip.  400 miles in pouring rain for the entirety.  I stopped four or five times along the way.  Once at a $hit motel, but couldn't bring myself to be held up for an entire day in meth central.  Then several other times along the way for gas, to get a coffee, and warm up.  When I finally made it to Glen Canyon, the skies cleared, the sun came out, and all was perfect.  It was strange how quickly I forgot about the painful ride.  Simply set up camp, and enjoyed a beautiful fireside night under the stars.  This too shall pass...  it always does.  

When I last left off, I think I was planning to split from Dyann, and do my own thing due to her motor issues.  Well, on a whim I decided to point the bike back to the coast and join her for the wedding in Sonoma.  I'd never really done 'wine country', so figured I'd take the opportunity.  It was a cool experience, got to ride by Tahoe again and again, which is worth it by itself, and enjoyed my time with Dyann and her friends.  I even got to do several wine tours/tastings the day of the wedding.  From Sonoma I ended up riding east to a dumpy hotel for the night near Fallon, NV (certainly wouldn't recommend that place).  From there it was onward to Great Basin.  Dyann on the other hand hasn't had much good luck.  The engine she ordered, which was supposed to arrive in Reno on Monday, was shipped to Denver instead.  So, not only did she have to rent a car to get to Sonoma, will also be renting one to get back to Denver for another wedding this coming weekend.  Then she'll have the bike shipped from Reno to Denver at some point to pair up with the waiting motor.  What a disaster!  Poor thing.  Anyway, I wish her all the best.  And a HUUUGGE thanks to Arlo for providing us a most welcome and comfortable home base in Verdi for a few nights.  My door will always be open for you in Denver (or wherever life takes me).  

I guess that's it for now.  I'm gonna go ride the bike into town for a nice lunch on the river.  After that, it will be back here for more relaxation and probably swapping stories and laughs at Larry's RV for 'happy hour'.  Tomorrow I'll press on, not sure where.  I plan to meet a few friends on Sunday at 2pm at the café in Deckers.  From there we'll ride the last few miles home together to Denver.  Looking forward to that.  

Until then...  chat soon amigos!  ~ D

PS...  I had my first run-in with a pointless revenue collector (aka copper, cop, police officer, whatever you want to call him/it).  22k miles, 9mos, 16 countries, and only a couple days back in the 'Land of the Free', I find myself on the receiving end of a $115 speeding ticket.  Thanks Nevada!  Funniest part was, as I was sitting there waiting for Officer Awesome to finish writing the ticket, this Forest Gump looking guy came strolling by with a huge backpack, and rolling adventure case.  I asked him, "where ya headed?"  to which he responded, "walking coast-to-coast, west-to-east".  I yelled back to him, "good luck, don't get pulled over for speeding".  He smiled and walked on down the road.  Crazy guy!  Didn't get his name, but wish him luck on his own adventure.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Who Knew? KLR's Aren't Bulletproof After All...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Well let me start by saying I'm so sorry to Dyann.  Her new (to her) KLR took a $hit yesterday.  We were cruising along beautiful highway 395 when she had full power loss.  In addition to the bike shutting down, it was on temp redline.  That said, I immediately removed the fairing and checked coolant level, which was full.  I didn't want to bump the bike as I didn't want to cause further issue with the motor if she had thrown a rod or spun a bearing.  Plus, if it was the alternator or stator it wouldn't have done much good anyway.  I didn't think she blew the motor as I was behind her and didn't notice any smoke or have specks of oil anywhere.  We flagged down an incredibly nice CHP officer named Danny and he called a tow truck.  We had it towed to Reno Kawasaki, which was luckily only 10 minutes from my new friend and host Arlo (fellow ADVrider).  We prayed it was a small electrical gremlin and went on our way.  

Arlo was an incredibly generous host, and in addition to offering up the comforts of his home, provided us with a nice night tour of Verdi.  Fast forward to today, we got the call that we were dreading from the dealership.  Unfortunately the KLR had burned through two full quarts of oil in our three days of riding, and had essentially seized the engine.  Game over!  I feel guilty as I probably should have given the bike a once over prior to setting off.  She did check the oil before departure and said it was full.  The kicker, I had offered to show her how to change the oil at Arlo's so she had a full three quarts and a filter in her bag.  I'm not sure how it's possible for a bike to guzzle/burn essentially all oil in the motor in several hundred miles.  Standard for a KLR?  There was never a visible leak anywhere, and I never noticed smoke when behind.  You'd think the owner would have mentioned how oil hungry the damn thing was when she bought it.  Maybe the oil pump was faulty?  Maybe a bigger issue?  Who knows...  Long story short, her ride, and our ride together is over for now.  She will be renting a car to get to Sonoma for the wedding, and I guess I'll continue on my way home solo.  I'm bummed as I was really enjoying our time and rides together.  

All that said, I'll try to fill a portion of this post with some positive writing/thoughts.  When I left off we were in Sequoia National Park.  From there we ended up riding north to Yosemite, which was absolutely beautiful.  Indescribable beauty really.  The ride leading to the park, the roads within, and the ride out had me smiling and stopping for photos the entire way.  We found a really nice campsite within the park, which surprised me.  After exploring the park that day, and laughing fireside with a couple of new friends that evening, we set off yesterday morning for Arlo's/Verdi.  East on 120, then north on 395, the entire ride was stellar.  Not only was the scenery breathtaking, but the ride is peppered with quaint old towns like Lee Vining and Bridgeport.  It feels like you are riding back in time to the 50's...  back when the US was filled with small towns and friendly people.  

Speaking of Arlo and the great guy he is, he's been following my posts from the beginning.  It's been cool and motivational to have people along for the ride.  Over long conversations last night however, I couldn't help but feel like I may have disappointed him a bit.  I think along the way he expected me to find the 'golden ticket' to life, the perfect career, an exotic beach to live on, and the love of my life.  Well, I didn't.  It was like the author of a book he enjoys reading was there in person, and he was urging said author to finish the damn thing!  It was a strange feeling.  During the ride yesterday I was smiling the entire time.  I'm so happy at present.  I'm confused as $hit with everything, this trip ending, not knowing how things will pan out, BUT I'm excited about all that.  I can really do anything I want now.  Along the way I've been gifted with much more patience, I've overcome and lost the majority of my fears and anxieties, and I've certainly become more comfortable being uncomfortable.  I honestly feel comfortable now not knowing how my book will end.  I'm not terrified of the unknown.  In fact the opposite, I'm giddy with anticipation at this point.  Life is special, good, and God knows...  short. 

Anyway, I guess that's enough rambling for now.  I'm gonna get Dyann drunk to ease her bike woes and help Arlo prep some ribs for the grill.  I think tomorrow we'll do a loop around Lake Tahoe, then head out on Friday.  I have three options.  First, head to Sonoma solo to join her for the wedding festivities, then ride back to Verdi to rendezvous with the KLR and continue our planned ride to Denver.  Second, I could head to San Fran to visit with a couple of friends, then meet Dyann back in Verdi when her bike is done.  Third, and the option I'm leaning towards at present, head out Friday on 50 towards Great Basin Nat'l Park.  Then kick it down through Zion/Bryce, and Monument Valley.  Then enter Colorado near Four Corners for a ride through 550, then ultimately back to Denver solo, the way this whole thing began nine months back.  Decisions, decisions...  Hmmm...  

Anyway, chat soon.  This adventure ain't over yet! 

~ D

Back in the US... Back in the US... Back in the USSA!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I'm baaaaaack!  Literally, and figuratively...  back in the States both physically, and back online with another post.  

Since I booked my flight with United miles leftover from my previous life as a posh businessman, routing wasn't ideal.  Can't complain when the flight/s were free though.  Plus, I've gained a hell of a lot more patience on this trip.  I boarded my flight in BsAs the evening of the 5th, which put me into Houston the morning of the 6th.  From there I had relatively painless flights to San Francisco, and then on to LA.

Reuniting with the motorcycle was a long process, but fairly easy.  LAN Cargo is very close on Avion, so you can actually take any of the free hotel shuttles and walk the one block or so to the office.  A brief thanks to Dan (PlacesBeyond) for the tips.   Once there you present your paperwork and pay your fees, then take a taxi to US Customs where you fill out a few forms and get stamped in, then after all that, head back to LAN where your bike will be delivered via forklift.  I unwrapped the bike, reconnected the battery, mirrors, windscreen, and luggage, and was on my way.  

My good friend Sam lives in Santa Monica and offered his place for Dyann (my friend and current/new riding partner - see last post) and me to stay for a couple of nights.  Talk about culture shock, after 9mos of slummin' it I found myself in a deluxe oceanside penthouse w/ ample garage parking.  Sam if you read this, THANK YOU so much for the hospitality and for showing me/us around the area.  I've spent some time in LA, but never really explored Santa Monica, Main St, or Abbott Kinney, all of which are great.  There is also a Deus Ex Machina location nearby, and I ended up there three times in two days having coffee, drooling over custom bikes, and enjoying fantastic conversations with new friends.  We sampled fantastic cuisine, craft beer, amazing coffee, and expensive wine.  We even ended up at Jumbo's Clown Room (don't ask) one of the nights for several pints of piss, bad decisions, and a solid headache the next day.  Long story short, I really enjoyed my time with Sam and Dyann, and hopping around the city.  A great way to start my reintroduction Stateside.  

From the city Dyann and I rode up the coast a bit.  Around Ventura we ventured north towards McKittrick.  From there we took 58 west to Santa Margarita, then cruised the coast all the way to Big Sur, where we found a sweet cliffside campsite overlooking the Pacific in Los Padres Nat'l Forest near Will Creek Rd.  Being essentially brand new to riding, I'm really proud of Dyann.  Not only is it her first street bike, but her first trip as well, and she is ripping around like an old pro, and has all the gear sorted perfectly (probably better than me I'm ashamed to say).  I'm hard pressed to think of another girl who can clean up for a successful business career, is witty, fun, loves motorcycles, and also doesn't mind camping multiple nights in primitive settings (i.e. no showers, water access, etc).  Needless to say, she's 'down'.  

After our first night under the stars, we broke camp around 8am and headed up the coast.  Near Kirk Creek we hooked a right up and away from the coast on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.  Let me just say this, that road is F'ing amazing!  Also, plenty of choice, free, motorcycle-friendly camping dotting the roadside.  From there we continued east on beautiful roads all the way to Sequoia Nat'l Park.  The day and ride reminded me how much I've missed some parts of the US, and California.  We ended up finding another amazing, free campsite just north of the park, into nat'l forest area (north of Stony Creek - near Horse Camp/Big Meadows on Forest Rd 14S11).  We set up camp last night, and will be here through tonight.  Tomorrow we'll head to/through Yosemite and spend the night there.  After that, we'll head north on 395 exploring our way up to Tahoe.  No real plan after that, just need to be in Sonoma on the 15th.  

Being back has been surreal to say the least.  This morning I was abruptly awakened by a tree cracking and falling near our camp.  It startled me, and for a second I didn't remember where I was.  For a brief moment it felt like the whole Central and South American portions of this trip were a dream, and that I just woke up back home.  It was a strange feeling.  

Another weird thing happened yesterday.  As we were nearing the park, I was behind a car full of 20-somethings.  As I was about to pass, the driver brake checked hard.  I didn't react negatively, and just went around slowly staring to see what kind of asshat would endanger a life behind him.  As soon as I passed, the car sped up and drove about six inches off my tail.  Again, I chose not to react, just turned on my GoPro.  They refused to pass, and rode behind me for a couple miles.  Finally, when another lane came available they passed quickly and fingers were flying out of the windows.  My first instinct was to 'salute' back, but I just laughed inside my helmet and let it slide.  After a few miles the kid slammed on the brakes again and came to a complete stop in the middle of the road.  I'm assuming they wanted a reaction, but I just waited until they turned into a parking spot on the left.  I slowly rode by staring intently and gave them a friendly wave.  The whole car started shaking and again there was a flurry of one-finger salutes.  I just rode on and wondered what had gotten them so riled up.  I laughed inside my helmet thinking of all the real shit I encountered on this adventure.  It was my first experience with true American road rage since I've left.  I think it was an entitlement thing.  He felt he was entitled to be at the front of the line, and when I went by, it hurt his ego somehow.  The whole thing is a testament to how I've changed.  That would have pushed my buttons to no end before, and would have ended differently for sure.  It felt great to just ride on.  Anyway, I hope the juggalo in the silver Mazda3 w/ tag 7ENM193 had a better day today.  PS...  Nice neck tattoo, I'm sure that'll help you land the job of your dreams!  

I guess that's it for now.  I'm in a café inside the park getting caught up, but am gonna go check out a few sights on the bike.  Dyann went to tour one of the caves, but I can't be bothered with throngs of tourists at the moment, so I opted out.  I'm gonna take a few fire roads to enjoy the perfect weather, and get lost in some good tunes.  Until then...

~ D