Chapter 23 – USA Finale

Back in the USA…

I hit the ‘Update’ button for the blog (Chapter 22), finished loading Rosie and headed out into Vancouver’s late afternoon traffic. An hour later arrived at the border, and 20 minutes after that I was back in the USA.

The same standard of living had cost me 60-70% more in Canada and I was glad to be back in the US. I found a bush camp by the river right in the middle of Skagit River and pitched my tent.

Eastbound

I followed Hwy 20 through the Cascades, past North Cascades NP, over Washington Pass and onward east.  My passport said I was back in the USA but I’d be forgiven for thinking I was still in Canada. Pine forests plunged into emerald green lakes from rounded glacier peaks and Maple trees grew amongst the evergreens as deer grazed along the roadside.

Washington Pass, WA

More photo’s for this chapter in USA PtIII and Formula Drift Finals – Irwindale 2010

Southbound

Another of North America’s long distance trails runs from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide. Just like the Pacific Crest Trail I’d ridden from Northern California to Washington in July, the motorable CDR followed the true (Pedestrians only) CDT as closely as possible.

I picked up the trail at Eureka, close to the Canadian border, and rode due east before turning south, parallel with Glacier NP. A storm was caught in the distant mountains, hiding the peaks, but the potential was there for all to see.

 

Onto the CDR

More photos in the Trails of North America gallery

I stopped at Polebridge for lunch and was immediately adopted by a family who said they had far too much to eat by themselves. Soon I was facing a full plate of cheese, crackers, Pringles, nuts…”Eat, eat, eat…more lemonade!!??” They even insisted on sending me on my way with a goodie bag and a bottle of water!

From Polebridge a dirt road led away from the CDR and into Glacier NP to join the main road at the visitor centre. As I continued east heading for the parks Logan Pass so the swirling mist would part for a few seconds and give me a glimpse of the magnificent, lightly snow dusted peaks beyond. Had it been clear it would have been spectacular but it wasn’t. It was misty and drizzling and the temperature was plummeting fast as I approached the pass at over 2200m. With such a short season (3-4 months) all maintenance is carried out whilst the park is open. Major shoring-up of the road was current ongoing project and I talked to one of the STOP/GO sign girls who’d been there for four seasons.

Glacier NP, MT

Once clear of the parks boundary it took me a while to find a suitable bush camp. It was worth searching for though and I was rewarded with a night right on the shore of Lower St.Mary’s Lake.

Lower St.Mary's Lake, WY

I awoke to the sound of rain so skipped breakfast, packed up quickly and headed back into the park. The weather in the west looked like it might break – it didn’t. My ever optimistic onboard thermometer measured 7°C on the pass so I pressed on for breakfast at McD’s in Kalispell but arriving in time for breakfast was going to be tight. I didn’t.

Warmed by copious amounts of coffee and an extra layer of clothing I ventured outside again, stocked up on food supplies and found my way back to the CDR. Lots of minor roads past rural housing eventually led me to some decent forest tracks. The weather remained pretty poor though and as I wound my way south through Montana I couldn’t help thinking it should be renamed ‘Big ‘Dark Grey’ Sky Country.

Stopping roadside for a call of nature, I noticed my tooltube was completely missing. Bugger. One of the mountings had broken a while back and I had it strapped up with a bungee strap. It contained some important  spares (front sprockets, both inner tubes and all my consumables – glues etc) as well as a few tools – tyre levers, T-bar and valve core tool. I couldn’t continue on the CDR without the means to repair punctures and so I left the trail and headed into the town of Butte.

After visit to Walmart and two motorcycle dealers I was ready to hit the trail again but whilst talking to staff in said shops I discovered a holiday weekend was approaching and I wanted to be in and out of Yellowstone NP before the major crowds hit.

As I headed out of town on Hwy 2 so the sun finally shone and I finally got to see Big Sky Country in all its glory – just in time to enter Wyoming!.

Yellowstone NP

Finally I got lucky with the weather. Clear blue skies were the order of the day but with the exception of the ‘Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’ and the thermal activity (which was stunning) I wasn’t overly taken with Yellowstone NP. Sure there was wildlife in abundance but nothing I hadn’t seen previously and without  40 camera wielding tourists chasing whatever poor bewildered beast that had the misfortune to break cover.

Yellowstone NP, WY

People’s stupidity knows no boundaries and a local guy in a petrol station told me the story of a father who was fatally wounded when a Bison lifted its head as he tried to sit his young son on it neck for a photo!!! (The Bison’s horn punctured his lung).  Riding through the park, traffic would come to a complete standstill as abandoned cars blocked the road; their occupants in hot pursuit of whatever had been spotted. The thermal activity was impressive though with my personal favorites being the Midway Geyser basins ‘Grand Prismatic Spring’ and West Spring where you could peer deep inside the earth through crystal clear water:

Yellowstone NP, WY

Yellowstone NP, WY

More pics in the USA PtIII gallery

I left the park heading NE across Beartooth Pass (as recommended by Aussie Geoff – nice one Geoff). Personally I found the scenery out here far more impressive than that of the park and so after riding all the way to the town of Red Lodge I stocked up on supplies and returned to the pass to pitch my tent.

Beartooth Pass, MT

Beartooth Pass, MT

Another of Geoff’s tips was the ‘Chief Joseph Scenic Byway’ across Dead Indian Pass that runs SE from the Beartooth Hwy to the town of Cody. The roadside historical markers make interesting reading and tell the story of how Chief Joseph led 1000 Nez Perce Indians across the mountains to escape the US cavalry.

I passed back through Yellowstone en-route to Grand Tetons NP but with the weather looking set to turn I didn’t linger.

50km SE of Grand Tetons I turned south on a dirt road and was back on the CDR and heading for Union Pass. I found a bush camp on a plateau and spent a frustrating evening with a misbehaving campstove, dodging some short, sharp showers. When it stopped raining I emerged from my tent to a beautiful sunset.

Sunset on the CDR near Union Pass, WY

I spent the following morning on dirt roads across open prairie past herds of cattle. As the day wore on so the countryside became more like scrubland, the wind up and without a tree in site there was no shelter to stop for a brew. Had it not been for the sunshine and the occasional pronghorn (similar to an antelope) it would have been a rather bleak ride.

Open trails on the CDR in Wyoming

Colorado

As the CDR entered Colorado so it followed the Snake River east. Along the way I spotted an impressive residence that had obviously cost a fortune. That residence turned out to be ‘3 Forks Ranch’

3 Forks Ranch

I turned off the CDR and headed towards Boulder. In the distance the clouds looked strange and it wasn’t until I got much closer that I realized what I was looking at was smoke and not clouds. A huge forest fire was raging (headline news at the time) and so I stopped for a few photos.

Boulder forest fire, CO

My destination was just down the road in Lafayette where I was to visit Flash (Steve Ling). A friend of a friend whom I’d met once, some 15 years previously. As I pulled up on the driveway so Flash and son Mike appeared wielding beers. As we quickly reacquainted ourselves so Flash said “You’re rear tyre looks rather soft” and as we chatted so it expelled all of its air.

As darkness fell so we headed indoors and ordered pizza. ‘Ordered Pizza’ sounds easy but it was far from easy. Flash and Mike had only moved into their house the previous day and so weren’t up to speed with the local food outlets. Mike started phoning around in an attempt to find someone who’d deliver but was constantly given another number to call. Eventually it looked promising but they couldn’t find the address in their system. Flash and I listened on in disbelief until Mike finally exclaimed “You’re in Louisiana!!!” There is indeed at least one more Lafayette. A few more calls and the pizzas were finally on their way and whilst we waited I had my first shower in 10 days – dirty b@#*>rd!!!

Prior to my arrival I’d had a pair of tyres shipped to Flash. He and Mike had left early for work and Flash had taken my tyres with him (he’s a motorcycle mechanic), leaving me to pump-up my rear tyre after some breakfast. However, I couldn’t get the tyre to inflate and a closer look revealed a 2” nail I must have picked up at the roadside whilst photographing the forest fire. I had no choice but to remove the tyre, repair the puncture and re-fit the tyre just to ride to the workshop to fit a new tyre! I couldn’t complain though; it was my first rear wheel puncture of the trip!

Maintenance

The plan was to spend the day in the workshop where Flash works but upon my arrival the owner wouldn’t let me in the workshop sighting a lack of insurance cover. Instead, I set-up shop under a tree in the car park and set about preparing Rosie for the western leg of the Trans America Trail. New tyres, oil & filter, valve clearance check, airfilter wash & oil. Both my tachometer and temp gauge had recently stopped working and with the tank off it was easy to see why. A mouse/rat had chewed through 5cm of cable! Flash was a fantastic help, providing me with an oil pan and fitting my tyres whilst I worked on other stuff. Mike showed up mid-afternoon and we headed to Wendy’s for a late lunch/goodbye hamburger.

I left Flash & Steve and headed down the road to Denver to pay my third visit to Lora and Ron. As previously, Ron’s excellent cooking awaited me (he was trying out his new Wok this time), all washed down with plenty of beer. I had plenty of running around to do (replacing the last of my missing tooltube parts, replacing my riding gloves, post office etc, etc) and so stayed a couple of nights. It was something of a sad goodbye as unlike my previous visits there was no “See you later in the year”. This time I was leaving with no plans to return. That chance meeting with Lora in Punta Arenas, Chile in February last year had led to my base in the Rockies (I’ve visited three times!) on this trip. Thanks guys.

Mike & 'Flash'

Trans America Trail PtII

I finally dragged myself away from Lora and Ron’s great company on the morning of September 9th. Riding along some pretty backroads I eventually picked up the TAT NE of Salida. Back in April I’d ridden the Oklahoma section of the trail but with Colorado’s high passes still closed to snow I’d had to wait until later in the year to continue along the trail.

Riding past long abandoned mining ruins, the forest road began its climb through the tress towards Hancock Pass. I knew this would be one of the more difficult parts of the TAT (many riders choose the easier ‘dual-sport route around’) so pitched my tent for the night knowing that not only would I have plenty of daylight if it got difficult, but that I’d have the sun at my back and not in my face.

It had been pretty cold overnight, perhaps 3-4°C and I was eager to get going to warm up. I needn’t  have worried, the trail soon had me sweating as I bounced over the rocks on the jeep width track. It was the most technical trail I could remember riding and on the few occasions it leveled out I had to park Rosie and walk around corners, planning my route as I would on an Enduro special test. Taller riders wouldn’t have this problem but I couldn’t stop amongst the rocks and put my feet down so I needed to know in advance which lines to take.

Near the summit I met a hunter on an ATV (Quad bike). Having spent 15 years applying and being rejected, he’d finally been issued one of the limited number of permits issued annually. He was hunting for mountain goats but hadn’t seen any.

The view west from the summit (3700m)was beautiful.

View west from Hancock Pass, CO

More photos of the TAT in the Trails of North America gallery

The descent was a series of steps with rain ruts and rocks that led to another stony track. Close to Pitkin the TAT turned south and headed up an even stonier track hemmed in by trees and I kept thinking pack to Pakistan’s Babusa Pass and wondering how different it would be on Rosie. Onward through a picturesque river valley where the Aspen trees were turning a beautiful golden colour, past the town of Lakeside, onto another dirt road and some BLM land where I could pitch my tent. I shared the spot with a couple from Roswell, NM and spent the evening chatting around a very welcome campfire.

As expected it was a cold night and I awoke to ice in my 5l water container.

A cold night on the TAT near Cinnamon Pass, CO

What a day! Cinnamon Pass – Engineer Pass – California Pass – Corkscrew Gulch – Ophir Pass; I spent more time taking photos than I did riding! The landscape was magnificent, so magnificent that I’m not going to attempt to describe it…

Cinnamon Pass

California Pass

Corkscrew Gulch

Ophir Pass

More photos in the Trails of North America gallery

Heading up the east side of Ophir Pass late afternoon I got a puncture. Having had my first rear puncture of the trip less than a week previously I thought it rather odd. Upon removing the tyre I found the patch had become detached from the tube. I patched it again and was riding again within the hour and headed up to Lizard Head Pass and another free camping spot.

Ophir puncture

Another cold night with my water container once again iced up followed by a huge change in scenery. I headed downhill on tarmac from the pass and picked up a forest trail which soon turned into what appeared to be an old cobbled road. It soon became muddy with big puddles the full width of the track (which I was keen to avoid).

Avoiding the puddles on the TAT

Moab

The descent into the valley was like an abandoned Lake District farm track with rocks pointing out of the ground between the rainwater ruts. Once in the valley I was following forest roads west towards the La Sal Mountains when I got another rear puncture.

2nd one today!

Once again the patch had completely detached itself from the tube, leaving no trace of where it had been glued.

SE of Moab the tracks deteriorated into a series of really nagger, rocky climbs that had me sweating and so I was happy to roll into Arrowhead Motorsports and a hot shower courtesy of Fred the owner. It was my third visit to Fred on this trip, and his open invitation to pitch my tent in his yard.

Fred was meeting friends for dinner and invited me along. ‘We’ll take the Corvette” said Fred…”Corvette?” I asked…”Yeah, haven’t I mentioned my Corvette…?” And with that he wandered off to the garage and reappeared in his 2007 RED Corvette…all 505bhp of it !!!

I’m not a big fan of American cars generally but I’ve always liked Corvette’s. Pinned to the passenger seat, my cheeks doing their best to tuck themselves behind my earlobes, I managed to ask “So how fast does it go Fred?”…”How fast d’ya wanna go?” he said… “I’ve seen 170mph on the speedo”.

We arrived at the restaurant all too soon where we met Wendel & Michelle who’d trailered their DR350’s down from Washington to play in Moab’s unprecedented playground.

Can’t believe after three visits to Fred I haven’t got a photo to post here…damn!

The next morning I replaced the rear tube with a new one. There was obviously a mismatch between the tube, patches and /or glue and I didn’t want to be continuously fixing punctures when I hit the trail again. I was just about to refit the wheel when I spotted a broken spoke which meant removing the tyre for the 5th time in a week. (I had to remove the tyre to remove the broken spoke). Next job was to fit a new horn so I could take Rosie for her Bi-annual safety inspection (a Utah State requirement, equivalent to a UK MOT). I rode into Moab and found a garage where they could do the inspection which turned out to be a bit of a joke. The mechanic came outside, checked the lights, indicators and horn; estimated the thickness of material left on the brake pads and printed me a certificate valid for two years!

Whilst I was doing this, Marty & Scott arrived on a pair of Kawasaki KLR650’s. They too were riding the TAT and had arranged with Fred to call in to change their engine oil, replace tyres etc. There was a good chance we’d meet on the trail later.

Back on the TAT

After lunch in town with Fred we said our final goodbyes and I headed north out of town to rejoin the TAT.  The initial dirt road away from Moab was interesting combination of rock slabs and sand eventually giving way to a fast, open gravel road and eventually a long tarmac run into Green River (another place I was passing through for the third time on this trip – remember the ‘Ghostbusters’ ambulance photo?). At the western end of town I rejoined the dirt but I couldn’t find my way across the railway line. Backtracking, I rode across the baked, cracked surface of a dried mud hole only for the top to cave in. I was in third gear at the time and was nearly flung over the handlebars as Rosie came to seemingly virtual stop. Quickly changing down I sat back and nailed the throttle. The mud hole was deep enough to cover my feet and reach ⅓rd of the way up my shins. It was a thick, heavy mud that had caked everything and I had no choice but to return to Green River, find a truck wash. It took several sessions with the power washer to remove all the mud but had I not done so I would surely have encountered overheating problems later on.

A final look back at Moab, UT

Heading away from Green River for the second time that afternoon I bypassed the section I hadn’t been able to navigate and picked up the trail on the south side of the railway line.

The next section led me through a canyon, the name of which I forgot to note, which is a shame because it was quite a challenge on fully loaded Rosie. Sand, BIG rocks, rut, roots, creek beds, it had it all. Sometimes the trail followed the creek bed, in places there were ‘route arounds’(RA’s) avoiding the difficult/impassable sections. I missed some of these and ended up boulder strewn creek beds. Crossing one creek bed with a steep sandy exit into a 90° left turn I managed to drop Rosie. Luckily I dropped her towards the high side of the embankment and was able to pick her up and get going again fairly easily.

Into the canyon west of Green River

The canyon went on for ages but with the sun low in the sky and shining in my eyes I could’t see properly and kept missing the RA’s and battling my way along rocky creek beds. Eventually I found my route completely blocked and I had to go walking to fins where I’d missed the RA. I was cursing my decision to replace my ageing Arai Tour-X helmet (which has a peak) with a flip-up Shoei Multitec. Despite wearing sunglasses under my black visor I was still struggling to see and shielding  my eyes with one hand was rarely an option on such a technical trail.

Occasionally I would see a fresh pair of tyre track and so pushed on in the hope of catching up with Marty & Scott but to no avail. Once clear of the canyon I pitched my tent and watched the sunset over Utah’s spectacular scenery. Reflecting on the day I realized the effect Rosie was having on my journey: there’s no way I’d have got Lady P through the canyon.

I was up before sunrise in preparation for another eventful day. Almost immediately the trail took me into another two canyons on even gnarlier terrain.

Deep, soft sand with no run up. On a few occasions I resorted to running alongside Rosie in gear and with the motor running. When the trail dropped into a sandy creek I was so absorbed in riding through the sand that I missed the exit and rode to a dead end. Once again I walked back to find the correct route before returning to tackle it on Rosie.

And so the TAT narrowed...

Just as I thought things were improving so I encountered the deepest, softest sand yet. It was in a narrow track with banks either side so there was no way to avoid it. I managed to ride some but resorted to running and pushing as well. There were lots of corners too which made it even harder.

Things improved when I climbed a steep trail out of the riverbed only for it to descend into another soon after. Sand, grit, rock; I was glad of the early start as it was already bloody hot (30°C+).

Eventually the canyon gave way to decent gravel roads that ran parallel with I-70 and led me into the town of Salida. After lunch and giving my chain a much needed clean, I set off towards Richmond.

The horizon was dominated by a forest fire and as I climbed away from Richmond and into Fish Lake NF so I’d head one minute into smoke and the next into blue sky. Fish Lake NF was a surprise and threw up some pretty rock trails with some steep , rutted, loose descents that weren’t too easy. West of the NF the trails opened up once again and I found a nice bush camp atop Crystal Peak, approx 30km east of Great Basin NP. Checking over Rosie that night I noticed I’d shattered the chain guide on a rock back in the canyon.

I’d kept an eye out for Marty & Scott all day but didn’t see them. Either I’d passed them whilst they camped or they’d skipped the Canyons and were now well ahead of me.

Nevada

After a look around Great Basin NP I continued west. I thought the trail would open up in Nevada and I’d cover a lot of ground but the trail has a habit of throwing up the unexpected and Nevada was no exception. Sure there were fast open dirt roads but there was also a lot of jeep tracks and plenty of rocky/rutted/undulating tracks too. A fair dose of sand too and some singletrack through creek beds and under trees that I had to duck to negotiate.

A fabulous descent to a dry creek bed that led through a canyon was like a narrow version on Death Valley’s Titus Canyon and led me out to the town of Lund.

Eating homemade brownies in the local bakery I learnt about the forthcoming bi-annual ‘Silverstate’ race that was set to take place nearby. 90 miles of twisting public road are closed for cars to race against the clock.

NW of Eureka I came to a wide open valley looking across to the Shoshone(?) mountains and pitched my tent next to an abandoned mine on a plateau overlooking the valley.

Abandoned mine bush camp, NV

As I went about unpacking my cooking pots I found that my r/h pannier had burst its ream along a 10cm length and so dug out my extra straps to hold it together until I could contact the manufacturer.

The next morning I left early with the intention of getting to McDonalds for breakfast and to use the Wi-Fi to contact AndyStrapz, the pannier manufacturer. I’d only been riding for 20mins or so when I spotted Marty & Scott camping on an old slag heap. I stopped for a brew with them and whilst they packed up, learnt about the ‘Dual-Sport route around’s’ designed for those with fully laden bike to avoid the more difficult sections. (A lot of riders ride dirt bikes, have support vehicles and/or stay in hotels every night and therefore carry only minimal equipment).

We rode on together, stopping for breakfast in Battle Mountain before heading north into Paradise Valley.

With an average elevation of 1676m, Nevada is the USA’s most mountainous state. It’s striped by north/south mountain ranges which are in-turn paralleled by roads. From a distance they look like impenetrable rock masses but up close they’re a world of surprise. Beautiful gorges and passes abundant in wild flora and fauna fed by snowmelt make them a hidden gem.

Paradise Valley, NV

North of the Valley the road turns west to rejoin Hwy95 but the TAT continues due north into some remote countryside. The trail was rutted, rocky, overgrown and often steep, loose, off-camper and climbed towards a seemingly never ending ridgeline. It was late in the afternoon and the low sun cast a beautiful golden hue across the grassland.

TAT wilderness, NV

I could tell Marty & Scott were keen to escape the ridgeline before darkness fell (it would be very cold up there and they weren’t prepared for it). As we dropped off the plateau so we came upon a level clearing around a cattle watering hole and with less than ten minutes to go before sunset it was perfect timing and we quickly pitched camp.

This part of Nevada is remote. Alongside a few Andean crossings and Australia’s Walkers Crossing & Lake Eyre, it’s probably the most remote place I’ve ever travelled. Even in the Australian Outback the roads were just that – roads, and so in the event of an incident you’d have to survive until the next car/truck passed. Out here in NW Nevada though we were on a farm track that a farmer would occasionally use to check on his cattle but with no cattle in sight there was no need to visit and so we were isolated.

Up before sunrise at 0600 we didn’t start riding until 0820 because we kept talking. Slow progress was set to be the order of the day with our average moving speed being some of the slowest of the TAT.

Scott (being an airline pilot) had been paying particular attention to the weather and said heavy rain was headed our way from Oregon. The TAT (particularly in Nevada) isn’t somewhere you’d want to be riding in the rain (let alone camping) and so late afternoon as the trail took us close to Hwy140 approaching the California/Oregon/Nevada border, we bailed out and headed into Lake View where the guys treated me to dinner – thanks guys!

Marty & Scott

It was quite late when we left the restaurant and said our goodbyes and so it wasn’t far from town that I pitched my tent.

It was a shame that none of us got to ride the last leg of the TAT through Oregon but Marty & Scott had a limited time in which to get home to Washington and I had an invitation to keep.

Eric & Gail

Long-term readers will remember Dutchman Maarten Munnik and Thai wife Tip who I stayed with in Thailand in ’06 & ’07 and again in ’09 now that they live in Bolivia. Maarten gave mw Eric & Gails business card and said to visit them when I got to Oregon. They were off to China on September 23rd so I had a deadline if I wanted to meet them.

I was glad to arrive when I did as it had been cold crossing the pass to get there and Scott’s predicted rain had given me a chilly soaking.

Eric and Gail have been travelling the world by motorcycle for many years (including riding 2-up along the ‘Road of Bones’ en-route from Magadan to Finland in ’92) and having received such hospitality along the way decided to open their home to fellow travelers (on a recommendation basis).

I arrived to find Shigeru (Japan) and German couple Frank and Simone in the process of painting their own signs to add to the second post in the Haws garden.

Eric& Gails

Eric showed me to my own room and their fabulous bathroom complete with heated towel draw and underfloor heating.

Eric had a very dry and often sarcastic sense of humour unlike any American I’ve ever met (perhaps a leftover from his previous life as a lawyer!) and combined with his beard that made it difficult to read his expression made it hard to tell when he was serious and when he was joking. Usually he was joking.

They took us all to visit a local fish hatchery but the rain had made the water murky spoiling the view. Every once in a while though the water would stir and a 30-50yr old sturgeon would surface! A stunning relic of prehistoric times and the first time I’d ever seen one.

Southbound

After a few days of enjoying the banter and hospitality it was time to hit the road again. As we were all heading south initially we all rode together with Eric leading the way through the backroads until he had to return home to pack his bag for China. The rest of us continued south to Diamond Lake.

Simone, Frank and Shigeru

After a picnic lunch at the lake we all went our separate ways and I headed over to Grants Pass and a company called Kientech that specialize in Suzuki DR’s and with whom I’d had many online dealings.

Just like Cogent Dynamics in NC (who built my shock), I arrived to find Kientech another cottage industry, operated from a barn in the garden of husband and wife team Jesse and Janet.

Jesse & Janet of Kientech

By the time Jesse had finished showing me around his machine shop (he manufactures a lot of parts himself) and explaining the various projects he had on the go it was dark and so he offered me his motorhome to sleep in which I gratefully accepted.

In the morning I bought a new chain guide, sprockets to see me through to Colombia (and beyond!?) and various other parts that I knew I wouldn’t find once I left the USA.

California Coast

Having bush camped my way across the lower 48, Canada and Alaska I was a little suddenly found it impossible to find anywhere for only the second time (the first being Oklahoma). Sure, if I’d headed inland (a fair way) I’d have found NF land but out on the coast there was nothing. It wouldn’t have been so bad but the state parks wanted a ridiculous U$35-45 to pitch a tent for one night. I broke the law.

It was overcast and dreary for much of the ride so I didn’t take many photo’s but I did take a few in Redwoods NF.

Giant Redwoods on the Caliornia coast

I was heading to Santa Rosa and an appointment with Renazco, who’d built my seat. I’d sent them some feedback saying that my seat was the most uncomfortable motorcycle seat I’d ever sat on (and I’ve ridden an R1 from England to Spain!). Owner James Renazco wasn’t happy having an unsatisfied customer and after discussing various aspects of the seat via email over the previous few months he invited me to visit. I arrived at my allotted 0800 to find yet another cottage industry and a welcoming and accommodating James Renazco. He already had a plan for my seat and was about to loan me a stock seat when he decided to make me a whole new one on the stock base in his possession. I paid him for the delivery and arranged for him to post it to Scott & Joanne in Reno.

Unfortunately James is a little camera shy so no photo, just an appreciative Thank You!

Animal House

I kept in touch with Scott & Joanne regarding my return but unfortunately it coincided with Joanne attending a conference in San Diego and Scott riding down to visit her. “No problem..you know where the key is, beers in the fridge.” said Scott.”If you’re there when we return then great. If not, safe travels”. What can you say to that!!?? Incredible.

When I arrived Scott had already left but Joanne was there and asked if I could do them a favour whilst they were away. Eager to anything to help earn my keep she showed me how/what/when to feed the dogs and feed/muck out the horses.

I wanted to give Rosie a major overhaul before leaving the USA and so the first thing I did was removed the rear shock and send it back to the manufacturer for servicing. Having already talked to them about doing this they serviced it and had it back on the Fed Ex truck the same day they received it. Exceptional service that confirmed I’d made the right decision when I chose them to build the shock.

Over the next week parts arrived from everywhere. A new chain to go with the sprockets from Kientech, spark plugs, cush-drive rubbers, all my Central and South American maps and guides that I’d left with Ian & JoAnn in Boston. I even managed to track down a new laptop battery (mine was lasting <1hr)

Maintenance at Scott & Joanne's

I stripped, cleaned and greased the suspension linkages and swingarm pivot but couldn’t do the head bearings as Scott didn’t have the right size socket. Chain & sprockets, spark plugs, new chain guide, cush-drive rubbers all got fitted along with a new Renazco seat when it arrived, and a new pair of Andy Strapz panniers. I scrubbed six months worth of dirt roads out of my riding suit, scrubbed tank panniers etc, etc.

Earlier I mentioned a 10cm split in one of my panniers. Having contacted both the USA importer and the Australian importer I was told they had a lifetime warranty and asked where I wanted the new pair sent. It’s great to deal with a company prepared to stand by its product and honour its warranty – shame the Swedish don’t feel the same way.

Mid-week, Dexter, the oldest horse hurt his leg and it swelled to three times its normal size. After discussing it with Joanne she sent the vet out who promptly gave me antibiotics to be administered twice a day (once via syringe, once in his food) and cream to apply to his leg. Getting the syringe in his mouth on the first day was easy but he soon got wise to the taste and I struggled after that!

Scott arrived home on the Saturday which was great and enabled us to catch up over a few beers before I left.

On my last morning we got up at 0600. Scott cooked egg & cheese sandwiches and we watched the last six laps of the Japanese Moto GP from Motegi where Rossi stuffed it up that Spanish prick!!!! Sorry, got a bit carried away there J

My journey would of course have taken its course had I not met Scott & Joanne but not only did they help make my life easier, they made it special and I really can’t thank them enough. Thanks Guys! See you on the road…

Snow

It had been 30°C+ everyday at Scott & Joanne’s but the night before I left so an unseasonal cold front blew in from the SW and it started pissing down. Earlier in the year when I’d visited Yosemite NP with aussie Geoff we couldn’t leave the park via its eastern entrance over Tioga Pass as it was still closed with snow. With that in mind I planned my route from Scott & Joanne’s to LA via Tioga.

It had been 30°C+ everyday at Scott & Joanne’s but the night before I left so an unseasonal cold front blew in from the SW and it started pissing down. As I got on my bike to leave, so Scott gave me that all knowing ‘rather you than me look’ – I got a good soaking before reaching Reno.

The signs said Monitor/Sonora/Tioga passes OPEN, so I pushed on south along Hwy395. Immediately after I crossed the California border an electronic sign said Monitor/Sonora/Tioga passes CLOSED. Damn! It was snowing in the Sierra Nevada.

I remembered the weather forecasters predicting snow above 8500ft (2438m) so I got out my road atlas and looked to see if there was a pas below that. There was one – Carson Pass at 8753ft (2667m). If there was a way across the mountains, that was it. Luckily for me it was open although the crossing was bloody cold! Descending the west side I saw blue sky for the first time that day and headed due west, avoiding the storm and finding a bush camp on some wasteland next to the junction of Hwy41/I-5.

‘Mucky’ Chris Harrington

Who?: Chris and I go back to Northampton and the British road racing in ’89. The following year he went to work in Greece where he met none other than Danny Burroughs (see Introduction/Profiles), 10 years before me. They struck up a friendship that led to Danny joining Chris in Malaysia at the Team CycleStop Malaysia superbike team in ’92. From there Chris moved to Texas to work for one of my then sponsors D&D Exhausts. I last saw Chris in ’95 when I spent the week with him and wife Karen after racing in the USA for the first time at Road Atlanta.

Earlier in the year I’d been trying to work out a route that would take me through Ft.Worth and a surprise visit to Chris but he beat me to it. Whilst searching online for old CycleStop photos he came across the ShortWayRound/Introduction page and got the surprise of his life. Not only did he not know that Danny and I knew one another, he knew nothing of our world trip let alone that I was in the US!

Chris, so it turned out, was working for Scion (car manufacturer owned by Toyota) as their motorsports/events photographer and so we arranged to meet in LA where he was shooting the Formula Drift Finals at Irwindale.

Not only had Chris secured me a photographers pass for the weekend, he’d also arranged with good friend and owner of World Racing, Chris Rado (thanks Chris!) to give me access to their fabrication shop to make a few repairs/alterations to Rosie.

I arrived at World Racing’s Torrance headquarters to find Chris and his RV set-up in the car park. I was soaked after an unbelievably heavy downpour heading into town on I-405. That though was soon forgotten about when Chris took me out to his favourite Indian restaurant, run by a Sikh, that evening. Incredibly good food served up in US proportions!

As had been the case in the UK, Chris new everyone in the race paddock and we were well fed and watered as we cruised around on his scooter. Everything from Sushi to breakfast burritos meant we were never hungry.

I’d previously only seen Formula Drift once on TV and wasn’t particularly taken with it. However, to see it close up and in such a confined space was quite a spectacle and all of a sudden the skill became apparent.

 

Formula Drift Finals - Irwindale 2010

 

Formula Drift Finals - Irwindale 2010

You can see my photos from the weekend in the Formula Drift Finals – Irwindale 2010 gallery

Basically drivers run in pairs in a knock-out formula. Each pair has two runs where each driver takes a turn to lead. Around the course a various markers and points are scored for speed, style, accuracy (getting close to the markers) and proximity to the leading driver. Unlike other tarmac motorsports, the idea isn’t to keep the wheels inline but to ‘drift’ like a rally car around the course.

 

Playing the Pro - Formula Drift Finals

Modifications (Teccy  – girls and pen pushers may want to skip this bit)

After a cracking weekend at the event where I got to shoot with some of Chris’s exotic Nikkor lenses, we returned to the workshop where fabricator Tito set about making some repairs/mods to Rosie. First up was to find a durable replacement to my tooltube issue. At the local metal supplier I bought a length of 4” aluminium tube. Tito welded a plate on one end and in a moment of genius Chris found a plumbers pipe pressure testing plug that was not only waterproof but needed no machining to fit.

Tito extended the drop of the r/h pannier frame and made some half-round brackets to clamp the aluminium tube to.

Tito welds my pannier frame

Sand and grit had worn away at the sidestand pivot so much so that the stand (in the folded position) had to be held away from the swingarm with a bungee strap. Tito built up the frame with weld and did the same with the stand before grinding both to fit without the previous freeplay.

Aluminium Tooltube

Finally it was time to move on. I’d planned on entering Mexico two weeks previously but the chance to spend a week with Chris was too good to miss. We had a great time hanging out, telling stories and generally sharing a British sense of humour that I guess both of us miss on a daily basis. Chris – I look forward to next time.

With 'Mucky' Chris Harrington

Final Stop

It was after dark when I rolled into the El Cajon home of Ken and Laura Nelson. Several months ago Ken had read one of my posts on the ADV Rider website and invited me to stay on my way through.

Unbeknown to me, Ken had taken the following day off work to show me around the area. We drove into San Diego to visit the aircraft carrier/floating museum USS Midway (highly recommended) as well as visiting a local fish wholesalers owned by another member of the San Diego Adventure Riders group. During our tour of the plant we were fed shrimp eggs (like caviar) straight from the shrimp (about U$60 a portion in a Japanese restaurant) and left with a huge bag of fish and scallops the size of ice hockey pucks!

Over the weekend I carried out the last few bits of maintenance I either hadn’t been able to do at Scott’s, or had wanted to leave until the last moment. I changed the engine and fork oil and went to strip clean and grease the head bearings but was disappointed to discover they were already notched (worn) and so not worth doing (see Suzuki tab for more details). Phoning around the local bearing stockiests proved fruitless so I left them alone.

Ken fabricated a bracket to hold a new, easily accessible Scotoiler reservoir and I strapped on a pair of tyres I’d ordered online back at Scott & Joanne’s and had delivered to Kens.

On Sunday evening Ken BBQ’d the fish and scallops. It was some of the best seafood I’ve ever tasted. Exceptional ingredients perfectly cooked.

Come Monday morning I thought I’d run out of time to look for the one last thing I’d hoped to find before leaving the USA – a new pair of riding boots (after 4.5yrs mine are as comfy as a pair of slippers but about as waterproof). Ken though was having none of it and drove me to every bike shop he could think of but to no avail – nobody had my size.

It was lunchtime when I was finally ready to leave and after saying my goodbyes I hit the road. Two corners later I stopped. I’d told my sister I’d phone before leaving the USA and I hadn’t to I dived into Starbucks and called her on Skype. By the time I emerged 1½hr later I was unsure about crossing the border that day. Not knowing how long the crossing would take and wanting plenty of time to find a bush camp afterwards I decided to postpone it a day and so headed down towards the border and found a bush camp.

Afterthoughts

Riding from the affluent New England, through the mining communities of West Virgina, across the Asian poor south, the Mexican South West and the hippie NW I couldn’t help wondering just how the ‘United’ part of USA fitted in. Each State has its own laws that are incompatible with other States and often contradict Federal Law. I had been shocked at the amount of anti-Obama sentiment I had encountered and the accusations of his controversial healthcare bill being ‘socialist’. It’s quite scary to consider that the election of the world’s most powerful man relies on the votes of so many people for whom the world stops at the ocean.

Two things however did unite the states. One good, one bad…

The bad is the bastardisation of the English language. Two phrases in particular grated on me: ‘Right from the get go’ and ‘Where you at?’ All English words granted, BUT THEY DON’T MAKE A SENTENCE!

The good was the hospitality I was afforded everywhere which was AWESOME!

The USA is a beautiful country and I for one will return.

PHOTO GALLERY -click the Smugmug logo


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Graham & Pat
Graham & Pat
10 years ago

Hi Adam, great to read the latest news. Happy New Year & hope 2011 is as eventful as 2010. Best wishes from Graham & Pat xx

kinger
kinger
10 years ago

Hello mate, great update again, yes a do read every word!! Pics are really cool. Happy new year Bro and good luck for all this year. Kinger

Mike Jones
Mike Jones
10 years ago

Adam, I know that you are now in Cancun Mexico so missing all of our strange wet weather.
Glad you enjoyed the states….You have did the back roads in areas I have travel on the main roads…My hope before I am too old is to do the backroads as well. I have enjoyed your journey. I will not be camping as much as you do however. Just not safe, especially in Mexico…Be careful and be prepared…

Aussie Geoff
10 years ago

Another terrific read Adam and more ‘awesome’ photos ! I don’t think the ‘yanks’ realise the fantastic geography their country has to offer, I too was blown away by many parts of it.

As a visitor your ‘Afterthoughts’ were fairly accurate and I do agree with most of them, the nicest by far being the people and the hospitality. As for the language… “I’m Done” ?

Ian Longstaff
Ian Longstaff
10 years ago

Hello fella… Happy New Year to you!
Just spent the last hour reading your update, always good to catch up on where you’re at 🙂
Bubble sends you a big sloppy kiss, all the best for now, hope to buy you a beer or two in April.
Sossig.

Belanda Goreng
Belanda Goreng
10 years ago

Great read, fabulous pictures!
Enjoy the ride (safe).
See you out there…………
Ilse Maarten Lilou & Kaya

Mark Hill
Mark Hill
10 years ago

Hi Adam, thanks once again for a terrific read, I start to get withdrawal symptoms after a couple of months(that is nothing sexual!)4.5 years eh, bit more than the 2.5 you originally set out for.What’s after south America 2, Africa? if so I recon you have at least another 4 years. Stay safe.
M.H.

dave gumn
dave gumn
10 years ago

Happy New Year Adam. This is one hell of a trip, incredible. All good in sunny Wales. Alan the Bikeshed now lives in the Forest of Dean, so I get to see a southern face occationaly. Have fun. Dave G

Chris Harrington
10 years ago

Adam- Brilliant time for me while you were in LA…I can’t remember laughing as much for years. Hurry back!
On top of your visit my daughter Bianca arrived from Germany the day you left so I ended up having one of the best ever months.

I’ll make sure I have a bike on hand when you make your next visit so we can do a bit of riding.
How is the 300s doing??

Take care mate.

Cheers
Chris

Frank & Simon
10 years ago

phantastic fotos! WOW! Why didn´t we take your route through the USA?
Hope to see you soon on the road again!
Hurry up with the next chapter, to enable us, to use your experiences in Central America!

Tomorrow, we hope to enter Belize!

Long term travelling with a motorcycle is sometimes no fun – but somebody has to do the job!

Frank & Simone

Tea Boy
10 years ago

Yeah, this is really boring, write about that cool guy you met in Mexico, the one who likes porridge, cold nights and a sore ass….handsome fella, you know….

Of course, just jesting me pedigree chum…..hope to see you again soon, often think how you are doing….stay well…., Nick

Ken
Ken
10 years ago

“It’s quite scary to consider that the election of the world’s most powerful man relies on the votes of so many people for whom the world stops at the ocean.”

This is so true, Adam, and I appreciate your candor. As for the language, I’m reading a book written by an Englishman about his motorcycle travels across the USA in 1919…same comments! Pretty damn funny.

Be safe and you’re welcome back here any time.

Ken & Laura

Kezzajohnson
10 years ago

Awesome stuff. Your photos are fantastic. I especially enjoyed the photo of Jesse and Janet Keitech. Having had online dealings with them as well, it’s great to put a face to the name so to speak. It’s amazing how you build up a picture in your mind about a business, and here I was imagining a mega bike shop in metropolis. But as you stated, they operate out of a barn in their backyard. makes me want to deal with them even more now.
safe travels

adamlewis
adamlewis
10 years ago
Reply to  Kezzajohnson

They are a great couple (Jess & Janet Kientz). Helpful, sociable, knowledgeable and afforded me the usual exceptional USA hospitality. I for one will certainly be dealing with them again.
Glad the updates are helping!

Boyd Galloway
Boyd Galloway
10 years ago

Hi Adam, best wishes for 2011, have been watching your progress online,we had a locomotors reunion in Andover last year , it was very good except it was full of old people !! Take care , Boyde

Gordon Blackley
Gordon Blackley
10 years ago

Good to see its all still going well, must get the GS out on another trip, its become a commuter of late, albeit in Naples Italy where we’re now living, so if you’ve been here you’ll know that every trip’s a mini adventure.
I take it the new bike’s a bit easier off road then.
Cheers
Gordon Blackley