Friday, October 31, 2008

Adv #7 Continued....finishing the Pacific Coast Ride

So I had to finish riding down the Pacific Coast Highway, right? My season with Suntrek was finished, I had all of my riding/camping gear ready to go, and I met up with my buddy Chris Brockland who flew to San Francisco from Milwaukee just to rent a BMW 1200 GS and spend a week riding around with me and Peter. Date was October 19th.

We started with a quick run through San Francisco. Oh, and yes, I invested in a new helmet and jacket. Better stuff, more appropriate for the type of situations I'll get into down south.

We even had the chance to meet up with another old high school buddy of ours, Eric Baird. Eric, his wife, and two cute kids live just north of San Francisco. Good news is, Eric has very long arms which made this self-made group shot so possible and well aligned. Chris and I rode up to Mendocino County and Mendocino National Forest to chose a camp spot….. Unfortunately, Chris didn’t realize the people at REI had put the wrong size sleeping mat into his bag for him….
And then first thing in the morning, I got a call from another high school buddy, Jason Bolz, who had just read my blog and noticed that we was close to us while vacationing in Napa with his girlfriend, Katie. Sure enough, a quick & beautiful ride toward each other, and we were able to grab some lunch together in Calistoga. Small world….

So here we are the next morning, having caught a late camp spot on the Avenue of Giants to sleep amongst the beautiful Redwood trees with Peter. Good to see my riding buddy again after being apart for a couple of weeks!
Speaking of beautiful Redwoods, why not stop and give one a hug? They are so impressive….
….and they are SO tall. Most often, over 100 meters tall.
Our first day for the three of us riding together would prove to be one of those truly great days of riding. I had met Mike Alumbaugh back in August at the motorcycle shop, and we had talked about riding “The Lost Coast” as it is called in Northern California. The Pacific Coast Highway, (Highway 1) actually starts inland quite a distance, leaving a portion of the coastline practically untouched by cars, buildings, roads, etc. Mike was a local from the Shelter Cove area, he happened to know about the “Usal Road,” a dirty, rutty mess of a road that winds through the trees along the coastline. Never would have found the road on our own, so Mike joined us for what would be our first 33 miles headed south.
Quick shot of what part of the Usal Road looks like most of the way. It certainly gets more rutty, rocky, and difficult than this alot of the time though. On the big bikes, I guess we only averaged 15 mph.
Quick shot of what Chris looks like running back to his bike after a brief “dismount.” (Sorry Chris…had to : ) His BMW 1200 GS was a heck of a big bike to have a first off-road experience on!
The entire USAL Road ran along the coast, and occasionally we were able to pop out in the sun for a group shot.
Some other riders we came across (Kirk and Fritz from near Lake Tahoe) told us about a Navarro Ridge Road, which starts just south of Fort Bragg and winds for about 20 miles through the redwoods. More beautiful trails, and of course more abandoned cars like this one. Unbelievable the places some of these goofballs try to drive a car! Towing it out of there would have cost more than this piece of junk was worth, so I guess it will sit there for some time….
Nice little lunch spot on the beach right near the end of Navarro Ridge Road.

And here’s our lunch spot the next day in Point Reyes
Later that day, Hwy 1 merges into 101, which is essentially the Golden Gate Bridge on the north end of San Francisco. Yea, I’ve been there about a dozen times in 2008…..but it’s just a great photo opp!
Last night of camping with Chris, we stayed at a State Park just south of Santa Cruz. Sad to see you leave us buddy, but I hope you had a great week, and find another way to have such riding adventures. I know it got into your blood more than it was before……
Peter and I camped one more night about 45 minutes north of Monterey on the coast. He had different travel ideas for the next few days than I did, so he went east to see Yosemite, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree NP (places I had seen quite a bit of this year) and I continued down the coast. Poor thinking on my part, I forgot Matt Appel, my tent-mate and good buddy from Suntrek training was staying on his boat in Moss Landing just 20 minutes from where Peter and I last camped! So glad you caught my phone call Matt, and that we were able to hang out for a bit. It’s a vicious flex-pose like this one that gets you ready to chase the sea lions off the dock in the next picture!
I was a little late for the shot, but Matt charged them, and about 4000 lbs of sea lion jumped off into the water, barking and getting all testy with us.
Further south, the Pacific Coast Highway gets high enough that the intense fog is still below you.
And eventually, I made it to Newport Beach to visit with my old buddy Steve Tracy for a few days. Steve and I got to know each other through a mutual friend, Scott Parker, and we ended up becoming good friends when living by each other in Austin a few years ago. Pic is of his place, only about 30 yards from the sand of Newport Beach!
Exciting times....Steve had just ordered a nice new Trek Madone 5.2 road bike. Brought back some memories of riding with my Atlanta friends as we had fun putting it together.So on Friday, October 31st, I headed out for the rest of the West Coast ride. It was nice to ride through towns like Laguna Beach, and of Course San Diego. But this part of the Pacific Coast Highway isn't nearly as beautiful as what you see up north around Big Sur and the Bay Area. I took the last exit before the border....

So I'm not crossing the border at this time, but if you look closely, you can see the Mexican flag just above my thumb and just over the border from where I'm standing. That's it! From the farthest northwest point in Washington (Rialto Beach) to the farthest southwest point in California just below Chula Vista, I've ridden the entire west coast with my KTM.

I just heard from Peter that his girlfriend from Italy is flying to Phoenix November 15 through 23. Happy for him, but bummed that those plans pretty much wipe out our chance to go watch the Baja 1000.

In the meantime, I'm headed to Green Valley, AZ for November 5 through 9 or so, as my folks are flying in to visit while my Aunt Sue and Uncle Dennis are vacationing at Grandma's house there. I'm of course bummed about not being able to have Thanksgiving in Miami with the family, or Christmas in Milwaukee, so at least we get to visit now. More to be written once I leave for AZ!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Adv #8: Western Sun: One-week southwestern highlights

So here we go on my last trek with Suntrek. Just a one-week tour picking up in San Francisco on October 5th, and ending on October 11th in L.A. In such a short amount of time, we covered 1783 miles and saw such highlights as San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Lake Havisu, and of course, Los Angeles.

My group was smaller this time, only 9 people. But AGAIN....I was blessed with such a warm, fun bunch of people from 6 different countries. Father and daughter from Germany (Karl and Saskya), med-school friends from Serbia (Anna and Sandra), and 5 solo travelers from Australia (Peter), France (Laurent), Germany (Kerstin), Sweden (Susanna), and Monika (Czech Republic.) This trip more than any other really helped me get better at speaking German. Karl in particular was a huge help to me. Seemed that he and I were both trying to get better at the other language, and that just set me up for a continuing lesson on German. Here's some highlights of the trip:

On the 2nd day, here's Monika, Anna, and Sandra posing in front of the famous "El Capitan" formation in Yosemite. We all did a hike to Vernal Falls later in the day before heading to Vegas.

Tough to put into words, but seeing Karl and his daughter Saskya back together again really struck my heart a bit. Saskya had been an au pair in Conneticut and the Bay Area for an entire year, only having spoken on the phone and email with her parents in that time. This vacation was her Father Karl's first chance to see her in that entire year! I guess that doesn't seem like too much time... but I could tell how excited he was to see his daughter by a few words he said. Saskya is an only child, and maybe that was just part of why her father was so excited to see her.
The Dead Giant Sequoia in Yosemite made a good climbing point for Anna and Sandra.

Anna, is that really bear poop you're eating? Ahh....funny story behind this one. I'd rather tell folks in person how it works though.

Kind of a neat picture of Peter and Laurent standing on Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley.

Pretty Sandra, and a pretty view at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley.
Did you know you can walk into Vegas with no identification, sign a piece of paper and start firing a machine gun? Peter, Laurent and I did this. I had never fired an automatic before, so Osama took the first rounds for me. What cool experience, I shot 50 rounds out of an M4. One more thing to check off on the "To Do" list.

As a tour guide, many companies will "comp" me for bringing them some business. Peter, Saskya, and Karl all wanted to fly over The Grand Canyon, so this time I got to go for free. Papillion Helicopters choreographed this trip beautifully. Choking me up first by playing "Africa" by Toto as we fly over Kaibab National Forest on the way to the Canyon, and then timing the crescendo in "Also Sprach Zarathustra" so that it peaks immediately as I'm flying over the edge of the Grand Canyon. This was my second time to the canyon. Not afraid to admit....I was choked up again.

We grabbed carry-out pizza, and Susanna (nicknamed "Baby" for being the youngest in the group) and the rest of us headed to Yavapai point in the Canyon for sunset.

And then of course sunrise the next morning at Mather Point.

I forgot my camera for the time we spent in Vegas. What a great time though, we combined with 2 other Suntrek leaders and their groups to rent the "Party Bus," and headed out for all the site-seeing around Vegas. Like they say though, maybe it's only appropriate that I don't have pictures from the time there?

Finished the trip by hitting Joshua Tree NP on the way to L.A.

Of course we finished with a tour of L.A. Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Venice Beach. Harry Perry is the name of the roller-skating guitar player you might recognize. He's been skating and playing his way around Venice Beach since 1974, and has a really neat aura about him. Many street-performers tend to creep people out a bit, but Harry has a sort of innocence about him that is quite welcome on Venice Beach. He seems to be someone that could enjoy life, no matter what has been coming his way. Sounds like the right way to skate through life to me...

Anyway, this was my last Suntrek trip for the year. See what I'm writing about in Adventure #7 if you want to keep in tune to what I'm doing next. Looks like I've got some pretty neat plans taking shape, and this blog might have quite a bit of life left in it....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Adv #7: A Ride down the West Coast...and Beyond

My buddy Clayton Purvis (fellow Suntrek trainee) mentioned once that he had ridden all of the Pacific Coast Highway on his motorcycle. Well, I finally had a week off of work last week, so I figured I'd start working on a similar journey (it just sounded good.) But instead of just doing PCH, or Highway 1, why not drive all the way to the top of the west coast in Washington?

I started Saturday, September 27th after a few days of visiting here in Napa/Sonoma Wine Country with my brother, his wife, and her mom. Leaving Petaluma, CA, I made the 2-day drive up to the furthest northwest point on US Hwy 101, near La Push or Rialto Beach, Washington. Took a left, and started driving down. Here's a couple of things I saw along the way and some of the people I met who might become a long part of this story I'm writing.

Okay, first get into the state of Washington.

And there's the start of the 101, which runs north through a loop in Washington's northwest corner, and runs down thru Oregon to eventually meet up with the Pacific Coast Highway, (California 1.)

Hustled to make it to see the sunset at Rialto Beach. Let's just say I was very close to being on time....

There's my travel companion....watching guard over our campsite that night.

I thought this was a neat picture at Rialto Beach the next morning with the burl wood in the foreground.

Recognize this house? Now I'm all the way down in Astoria, Oregon. And yes....that is the house that "The Goonies" lived in from that famous movie in the 80's. Why is my shirt up? was a subtle attempt at doing the "Truffle Shuffle" as "Chunk" was forced to do in the movie. Google it or find it on YouTube. What a great scene if you don't remember. (And yes, there were plenty of other tourists there checking this house out! I think the same house was also used in "Kindergarten Cop" and a few other movies.)

So further down the coast in Port Orford, Oregon, I ran into Peter Fischer from Germany. This is where my story gets a little more interesting......

Peter is an Adventure Riding Instructor working for BMW Motorrad (Motorcycles) out of Germany. When I took this picture, he had just finished riding for 40 days along the TransAmerica Trail. That trail is 95% off-road, starts in eastern Tennessee, and ends in Oregon. He had ridden most of it by himself, so Peter was quite happy to see another Adventure rider in the area. We ended up grabbing dinner and splitting a camp spot for the next two nights. Not to get too far ahead of things here.....but I can't tell you how excited I was to learn from him that jobs & careers like his exist. Aside from being a good guy to hang out with, he's helped me generate some neat ideas about my plans for the future.

So there's a quick shot of our motorcycles in front of our camping spot at Cape Blanco State Park, just north of Port Orford, Oregon.

And it just wouldn't be right for a couple of Adventure Riders to get together and not go for a ride, right? The next day, we headed down to the beach, despite the fact that sand/water/motorcycles don't really mix together well.

We thought it was so cool that we could dig our wheels in a bit and stand our bikes up in the sand without any side-stand or center stand being used! Oh....this was a mistake....

Peter really wanted to make sure his bike would stand up by itself....

And then when we're starting to show off how cool it is to have his bike buried, and my bike standing on it's own.....I was juggling two cameras and forgot to notice the inbound tide and wave rolling in (see next pic.)

And here's the mistake I was talking about. Didn't notice that the wave had knocked my bike down! So sure enough, we spent about 3 hours taking my bike apart to get the water out. Mostly laughing....but also dealing with the uncertainty of how to get it running again. Must have gotten into the intake system somewhere, so we had plenty of digging to do.

In the end, after the battery had been run down enough from trying to start it, Phillip had been walking by with his wife Laurie (both from Vancouver) and they offered to tow my bike behind the van in order to bump-start it. It worked! Unfortunately I didn't get the picture of Phillip, Peter, and myself pushing 400+ pounds of motorcycle about a half-mile through the sand to get back to the van! Thanks again for the help, guys.

We all had a barbeque that night around the campfire. Here in the pic is Phillip's wife, Laurie, and Jeff who was another one of our camp-neighbors, also from Vancouver. It's so neat how many good, fun people I've been meeting in this lifestyle and career I'm living.
And wouldn't you know it: I made a huge mistake accidentally bumping the heated-grips switch on my bike and accidentally depleting the battery all night long. So thank you Jeff for sleeping late, and still being available for a quick tow (about 6 laps) around the campground so I could drag-start my bike again! What a silly little mistake....killed the battery completely.

OKAY.....this story is not over. Gotta take a week for one more Suntrek trip, and then this journey will continue. The biggest news is: Peter and I both have open schedules after mid-October, so we're talking about riding to Argentina together. He has work lined up with the Dakar Rally (formerly from Paris to Dakar, but now beginning and ending in Buenos Aires) and needs to get to Argentina by late December. I've been planning on working/living internationally after Suntrek, so this might be the sign I follow for now. We're setting up plans day by day's 99% sure we're going at this point, and I can't tell you how excited I am about this.....