I'm currently sitting in a folding chair next to the bike up on the side of a mountain above Ouray, Colorado in one of the most awe inspiring camp grounds I have ever seen.
I had tried to write a report last night in the cold and dark here but I lost connectivity and couldn't get it back. Remind me to add an auto-save feature to my blogging software.(Yea, I wrote all the software that runs this site.)
But I digress. I had stayed at a hotel in Buena Vista. Little did I know that there was a proper downtown to Buena Vista around the corner, but all in all the hotel wasn't bad albeit somewhat expensive. There are just some incredible views out in this country.
There was a truckstop and diner up the street where I had breakfast.
I sat there for a while looking at the map trying to figure out a better way to get to Ouray since I had all the time in the world. The map showed some roads from Lake City over to just south of Ouray which would add some distance but not too much. I decided to take that route. Luckily for me, I stopped into the truck stop to get a better map.
As an aside, this was the first time on this trip I had referred to the atlas I brought. I've been doing all navigation by GPS, which is great if you're trying to get to a particular address but it does the downside that you lose all sense of direction and geographical location. By following the directions from the GPS you don't ever get a sense of what's around you, what other features might be around. So for this stretch I wanted to take some more scenic routes and get a sense of what's close by for the return trip.
So I went to the truck stop, got a map, looked at the roads I was considering and for some strange reason got the feeling that maybe I should ask. I noticed a guy at the checkout wearing an Aerostich RoadCrafter. We got to talking. It turns out he was very familiar with the entire area. "Oh yea, that trail isn't doable on a street bike". Good intel. If I had had to turn around on that trail it would have added well over 120 miles to my trip. Fortune was smiling on me.
Zan rode a Kawasaki Concourse 1400. He also rode KTM's and had just returned from a trip through much of South America which had started in Santiago, Chile. He's travelled through Mexico and more other places than I can remember. It turned out that he owns a company that runs, I think he said, 16 child care centers, and had found a good manager to run it for him. Now that's how you do it. Soon he would be heading to ride around the Black Sea. I told him that normally when I tell people about my trip they say "oh man, I envy you for being able to do that.". So I told him, "Man, I envy you for doing that.".
He mentioned that he was tempted just to follow me up to Alaska. "Do it!", no problem, just point the bike north ... I've tried to refine my pitch but so far I've gotten no takers.
We parted company. He seemed like a good guy. I hope I hear from him again.
I went back to the bike and I guess I was channeling Duncan. I could not get going to save my life! I mean this was ridiculous. Put keys in ignition. Put on helmet, put on gloves. Get on bike. Shit! Forgot sunglasses. Take off gloves, helmet, takes keys out, open bag, get glasses, put everything back on, get ready to go. Shit. Glasses are dirty. Repeat process. Shit! Face shield is dirty. Repeat. Shit! GPS screen is dirty. Repeat. I bet people watching were getting amused at the idiot. I mean this went on literally for over half an hour. Then I had to get gas. Another comedy of errors. I was beginning to think I should just give up and shoot for tomorrow. But eventually I did manage to get underway.
I'm beginning to suspect bad gas as the source of my power and fuel consumption issues. Today the bike was running perfectly and I could tell the mileage had increased remarkably. Over 140 miles before the needle hit half a tank.
Eventually I happened up on a Harley on the side of the road. I stopped to see if they needed help. They didn't but I had to snap a picture of the dog carrier setup.
I continued on thinking about the mythology I had started. Whereas Kansas was the geological interpretation of absolute lack of stimulation, the Colorado Rockies are sensory overload. The mind just cannot process everything it sees. It seemed like I needed to stop every 100 yards to take a photo of some new and wonderful thing. The landscapes and vistas here just can't be captured by camera or words.
I imagined the Goddess, after having seen what her husband had done to Kansas, decided to get even and one evening while he was asleep drunk on the couach and before she moved out to go live with her mother, she got into the Universe to create Colorado. Having not had free reign to do as she pleased for some time she got carried away creating beautiful lakes, wonderful vistas, lush green fields separated by snow covered mountain peaks, deep blue streams ... and thus the Rockies were born.
I rode on for some miles and came up a scar on the land. A mining operation that had seemingly removed the side of a mountain.
It was a very ugly scar on the land. The knee jerk reaction is to say they shouldn't do that but then again I imagine that I probably benefit in one way or another from whatever it is they pull out of there. Difficult compromises.
Leaving the mind I continued my ascent winding my way around mountains and through canyons eventually coming upon the Continental Divide.
The route starting going downhill. I kept trying to capture the vistas knowing full well that photos would never do it justice, and I was correct.
The scenery here is so striking, so beautiful that I couldn't but feel that it's ashame I'm alone. Photos don't do it justice. Words don't do it either. And there's no one to share it with. No one to say "Remember when we stopped and looked down from on high?". Originally Rachel was going to join me for a leg of this journey. She had come out for a week on the last trip, back in '92. We rode through the Big Trees in California. It was a magical time. But alas, a scheduling conflict arose and she couldn't make it. Bummer.
A friend of mine has been texting and joking that she might fly out and meet me somewhere for a long weekend. It won't ever happen, but daydreaming I thought that this area would be the place to do that. Get a couple of rooms at some mountain hotel and doday excursions out. With someone else out here I would be more likely to stop and do things off the bike. At the continental divide, there was a lift to the top of the mountain. If she, or anyone else, had been here I would have likely gone up. But by myself, I just got back on the bike. It would be great to share even just a small a part of this adventure with someone else.
Of course, you think about someone flying out and, if you're me, you come up with all kinds of reasons not to. For me, it's always so easy to come up with reasons not to do a thing. I sometimes joke that intelligence is a measure of the number of reasons, per seconds, you came come up with why a given thing you're considering my go wrong. More boundaries, more cages. My mind always goes in that direction. Then I think about visiting Angela, where again I had ccome up with countless reasons why I shouldn't, yet I had one of the best times of this trip. I need to remember that. There is such a thing as being too cautious, too restrained. Sometimes it's good to challenge your basic nature.
I've been trying to convince Mike and Angela that this really isn't far away at all. They could make it out here in a day and a half. Really. It's not that far. If they trailered the bike they could be here in a day easy. We could go riding for a couple of days down here around Ouray. The riding is /INCREDIBLE/. You should do it, you know you want to, once the bike is fixed. I've got to work on my salesmanship. So far I'm striking out.
The road continued from one incredible vista to the next.
Another advantage of having someone else is that you can put faces in photos. Being by myself I tried the telescoping camera pole with mixed results.
More and more incredible vistas.
There were many rocks.
Between mountains lush green fields could be seen often with these striking winding mountain creeks.
There were larger rivers.
As I approach Ouray, I couldn't believe this place. I figured it would be out on the flat before the mountains. I was wrong. This town is nestled in between I think it's four or five 14,000ft+ peaks. There's this incredibly tight steep road that winds up one of the mountain faces on the way to the campground. It looks like something out of Tolkien.
The entrance to the Ampitheatre campground is just past the town. The road up to the campsites is nothing short of stunning. I'll get photos of it later on. I hope to take the bike around here with the helmet cam. I rolled into camp and was greeted by Bruce.
The campsite is essentially carved into a cliff. The photos don't capture it but the drops here are precipitous.
And it took maybe five minutes for me to realize I had been horribly mislead. There are 18 people here, most of them children.One of the little noise makers asked me what my name was. "Yermo", I replied. "What??", she asked. So I made the error of saying, "The last little girl I met just called me 'that guy'". Error. I am now known as "That Guy". I don't actually know what "that girls" name is.
Obviously, this just wasn't going to do. I devised a plan to contain all the noise makers in one place. With the tent opened up I figured I could lure them in, close it and be done with it. And then there would be Peace(tm). The plan nearly worked.
Unfortunately they saw through my plot and I spent the rest of the evening fending them off. At one point the whole lost of them, I think there may be as many as ten, attacked with a degree of sophistication and planning that military commanders could learn a thing or two from. The first wave distracted me. The second wave attacked low. The third wave weighted me down. The next thing I knew I was on the ground with a pile of the beasts on top of me. There was no escape. I was done for.
"Why me!?!?!", I asked. I'm the only single guy here. The only one without kids. Like cats attracted to the one person in the room allergic to them, little kids smell fear a mile away ... and attack!
We sat around the firepit until well after dark entertained by rugrats and stories. Everyone went to bed ridiculously early. Bruce and I stayed up until it was pitch black.
We had to put out the fire as the smoke was bothering some of the sleepers. Bruce retired and I sat out trying to upload photos in the cold and dark. The sky was clear showing a bright moon and stars. Another moment best shared but no one was around ... so I attempted to write as the temperature dropped. Connectivity failed so cold and tired I gave up and crawled into my tent. Note to self, do not pitch a tent at an angle on a hill. A nylon sleeping back on a nylon thermarest past is a recipe for sliding. I slept fitfully as the temperature continued to drop. When I got up to take a leak the thermometer on the bike registered in the 30's. I think it may have gotten colder than that.
I did eventually sleep. I woke up around 8, yes you read that right, 8, and was greeted by Bruce who had a cup of coffee in hand. Ha was already making breakfast.
If you are trying to get rid of me you are doing a horrible job.
Note to self. When pitching a tent do not pitch it on an incline side ways. A nylon sleeping back on top of a nylon thermarest pad might as well be a slide. I did not sleep well at all. The temperature continued to drop until it got good and cold. The last time I got up and checked the bike the thermometer read in the 30's and it got alot colder later in the evening.
I got up around 8. Getting dressed in that small tent of mine is a challenge.
Ha was making breakfast. She is so failing at getting rid of me.
The plan for the day was to tour the Bachelor Syracuse gold and silver mine. This mine had been operational for decades and had been turned into kind of an educational attraction.
Outside there was an old school blacksmith that sold what he made.
Unbeknownst to me, Bruce bought me a spork the guy had made. Cool! (I really like hand made iron items.)
The view from outside the mine was spectacular.
(as an aside, I am so going to rewrite the image manager in the htmleditor component I use. Uploading and sorting these photos the way I want using the current one is just tedious as hell ... and as I write this I am being stalked by a deer which is moving ever closer to me from behind. It's currently chomping on a small tree not more than 10 yards away ... but I digress.)
Writing these entries takes time and the "save draft" feature I built is not working for some reason on YML.COM. I've just been told there's a hike happening.
... some hours pass and I have some more time to write ...
The tour started at 11. There are many mines in the Rockies, most apparently abandoned and are very dangerous to explore. There was a placard of the hazards present in mines.
The tour was pretty simple. It consisted of a short cart ride in and a talk.
The tour was full, our group having 18 people. It meant getting up close and personal on the little cart train.
(I think Ha was getting a little worried. ;) )
The mine "adit", which is the term used for a horizontal mine as differentiated from "tunnel" which has openings on both ends, was some 3500 feet through hard rock.
The slope is uphill to allow the massive amounts of water that collect the mine to drain. The stream out of the mine was a good several inches deep.
Calcium could be seen leaching out of the walls. At 1800 feet we disembarked for a talk about the history of the mine and the techniques used. Miners had crazy hard lives.
The guide demonstrated some the techniques, such as the single jack, a hammer and drift approach to boring holes into rock very slowly.
Normally I don't enjoy these kinds of talks, but this guy did a fantastic job. He was able to convery very vividly the condions under which these miners worked. Interestingly, in all the years that the mine had been in operation there were only two recorded deaths. For mines dating back to the 1800's, that's apparently a very good record.
Of course, there needed to be the obligatory group photo.
During the day, the attacks had continued where "that girl" would instigate attacks on "that guy" from all angles. Surreptitiously, I caused all the noisemakers to occupy the first car figuring the could be contained quietly in the mine, but foiled again I noticed I had guided them to the lead car. Foiled again.
I sat outside and pondered other ways to stop the attacks, while the noisemakers went on a gold panning expedition.
We coraled the troups back into the transports. On the way back I caught a pretty good shot of the view over Ouray.
It also appears that someone built what should be my house.
We got back to the campsite. Everyone else wanted to head to the hotsprings. These aren't actually natural hotsprings, but instead are swimming pools fed by hot spring water. We had passed them on the way back and they looked crowded. I was feeling quite ill. I guess I had eaten something that disagreed with me. Guts in a painful uproar, I decided to stay behind.
Once all the noisemakers had left, the campground was eerily quiet until a group of incredibly loud ravens showed up. They would fly over directly over me only a couple of feet over my head. Of course, they refused to sit still to let me snap a photo. Cursing, I eventually caught one sitting still.
These things can be seen flying around all over the place. I guess crows/ravens are to Ouray what squirrels are to College Park.
Tired out of my mind, guts still bothering me, I decided to make some espresso. Civilization.
I sat and wrote for a while. I had gotten some apple slices at a grocery in Gunnison. Between that and the espresso and copious amounts of water I started feelinig better.
I finished my work and decided to check out route 550 out of Ouray towards Silverton, a 24 mile run that has over 400 corners. Figuring there wouldn't be many place to stop I set up the helmet cam and set it to take photos every 2 seconds. During the run out and back it took over 1200 photos. I tried to pick out the best ones.
From below the Ampitheatre Campground you can see why they named it that. When I first approach the grounds, I couldn't imagine a camp ground could be up there. Our spot is virtually at the boundary where the trees stop and the hard rock begins right in the middle of the shot. The view from up here is incredible.
Route 550 is in places incredibly curvey winding it's way along sheer cliff walls.
In other places, wide open expanses.
And crazy 10mph switchbacks.
The scenery here is so striking, so distracting and the road so treacherous. There is no shoulder. in many places there are sheer drops hundreds of feet down just inches past the pavement. Crazy switch backs and #!$@## tourists doing all of 5 mph behind blind corners conspire to make it a challenging ride.
In places, especially with the angle of the sun, an interesting and somewhat dangerous illusion presented itself. This doesn't quite capture it but in places the double yellows around a blind corner would line up perfectly with the double yellows from the level below it, deceiving you into thinking you can take the corner much faster than you actually can.
This would be a fantastic road if it weren't for the fact that it's the main thoroughfare between Ouray and Silverton, so there's alot of traffic. And don't get me started about the tourists. Guys in sports cars driving way too slowly and not pulling over. Very annoying. In one passing zone I had to fly by 10 cars all doing about 15mph.
When I got back to the campground, the troops had not yet returned. Eventually, they returned and dinner preparations started. I snapped this shot of Bruce and Ha which I am particularly fond of.
Dinner was steak. Excellent. Minding my own business I was sitting at the picnic table. At one point one of the noisemakers shouted "deer!". I looked up and only a few yards stood a deer.
It had walked by much closer and I failed to notice. I found myself thinking I need to be more vigilant. It could easily have been a mountain lion or a bear.
Later in the evening, the kids wanted ice cream so the troops were packed up and we headed down into town. Of course, I can't eat ice cream so I hung around outside. There was some kind of Victory Motorcycle gathering in town.
I passed a little tourist shop and saw a coffee mug that called to me.
And finally, heading back home I snapped a photo of a waterfall I had been trying to capture since arrived.
This area is amazingly beautiful, almost dangerously so because driving around you're endlessly distracted by incredible sights. If you find your way into Colorado check this area out. You won't be disappointed.
Now, because I promised, I have to go chase some noisemakers around ... the natives are getting restless.
As I awoke I noticed my tormentors, the noisemakers, were otherwise occupied. For a short while I was able to get some work done and write. Bruce called over and said "Yermo, look behind you". I turned and saw a deer mere yards away, slowly stalking towards me.
I left it undisturbed and it returned the favor.
Eventually my tormentors noticed my presence and once again I was attacked and forced into hard labor. They demaned to be chased. Up the mountain. Down the mountain. Across the mountain. There was much screaming involved and, unfortunately for me, ever increasing distances. Before long my heart was pounding and lungs burned from attempting to shove too much air with too little oxygen into my out of shape lungs. I was done for. Seth kindly attempted to distract them so I could get a rest, but they were having none of it. A couple cups of coffee and the chase was on again.
We were all pretty tired and not up for a huge hike or offroading, which had been on the schedule for the day. So instead we went to nearby Box Canyon Falls. If you visit Ouray, Colorado make a side trip to Box Canyon Falls, which is on your right as you come up towards the Ampitheatre Campground. It's an impressive waterfall that falls through a mountain.
Of course, I had to stop and snap a photo of the Ampithreatre Campground.
Bruce treated the entrance fee and we started on the short trail to the falls.
Years ago I lamented the disappearance of the chipmunk. "I haven't seen a chipmunk in years", I bemoaned. "I think they must be extinct". To this Ian replied, "Yermo, chipmunks are typically found outdoors".
And so they are.
There were a bunch of them running around. I thought about luring them with food and then chasing them, but ....
The trail wound it's way around the mountain. Eventually we came upon a park bench. "Germans were here, no doubt", I thought to myself.
As we approached the cliff face, we came upon a sign.
The trail continued onto a metal walkway hung off the cliff wall.
The walkway extended deep into the canyon. Mist filled the air. The falls were impressive.
What's interesting is the falls fall through the mountaiin. The water has cut a hole through the rock.
Looking back towards the entrance you can get a sense of how deep this canyon is.
There's a path that leads around to the top of the mountain where there's a bridge that spans the canyon. The trail was steep and a pretty good workout. We stopped for some photo ops on the way up.
Bruce, Ha, Kaitlyn and Charlie.
Across the valley you could see that other waterfall.
From the bridge you could get a much better view of how the water just cuts a hole straight down through the mountain.
You could just get a sense of how the river was older than the mountain and as the mountain grew up under the river it carved this canyon. Given how steep the walls are I imagine it's a relatively young mountain. The varying strata on the canyon walls told of a violent past.
We continued on through a tunnel on the far side of the bridge.
On the other side you could get a good view of the walkway into the canyon.
We went back to the campground for lunch. My tormentors were momentarily occupied.
We had lunch and then went down to the hotsprings pools. As I mentioned, these aren't natural hotsprings, they're swimming pools that are fed by hotsprings water. It turns out the source of the springs is near Box Canyon.
Originally I was just going to join them so I could grab a much needed shower. But I hadn't gotten to hang out with Bruce that much and most of the rest of the troops were elsewhere so I decided to join them. This was the first time I had been in a pool is so many years I no longer remember.
We hung out in the hottest of the four pools. It was relaxing and not too crowded. Eventually the noisemakers showed up. I thought that the bright reflection coming from the extreme whiteness would provide an adequate camoflouge, which it did for a while, but I was eventually noticed.
They attacked immediately. Before I knew it they enticed some reinforcements to join them ... the next thing I knew I was dragging 7 kids around a pool all of the trying desperately to dunk me. Showing an impressive amount of coordination, teamwork and ingenuity, they did manage to take me down after a considerable time.
Man I was worn out. My legs are so sore today I can hardly walk.
It was Seths birthday so we all went out to dinner at a nice bistro. "Hey That Guy, sit next to me!", demanded the loudest of the noisemakers.
We headed back to the campground and I built a fire. As an aside, the mini machete that I bought at the Aerostich warehouse has turned out to be much handier than I would have imagined. I can take a log and make kindling in no time.
I got the fire going pretty well when Bruce and Ha's daughter, Kaitlyn, started to cough. She has asthma. But soon another noisemaker start coughing and then I felt the burning in my throat and lungs. The air became unbreathable and painful. "Everyone away from the fire!!". We retreated to the other campsite where the air was breathable. We thought that we or the kids must have burned something in the fire. I went back to try to figure out the source. A few seconds later my throat burning unbearably I retreated. We waited some moments thinking maybe whatever was burning and giving off fumes would dissipate. Cautiously we went back to the campsite. The fumes had lessened but I could still feel the burning. We focused on the fire when I noticed I was upwind of it. There was a good breeze coming down the mountain. "That doesn't make any sense, could it be coming from up there?". I climbed up to the campground above us where all I could find was a gasoline generator running. At that moment I couldn't smell anything but as soon as I went down to the fire, the burning started. I was upwind of the smoke. I turned around and climbed even higher to see if maybe there was fire up on the moutain. I began fearing this might be something much more serious. In every campsite I came across people were coughing with eyes tearing. The fumes got worse the higher I went. "It's my fault", I hear someone say. "I accidently punctured a can of bear spray".
Damn. One can of bear spray can do that much. The ambulances showed up a little while later and we guessed they ended up taking some people out of the campsite. Bear spray is very dangerous. We were over a hundred yards away and the air where we were was unbreathable. I hate to imaginie what it must have been like closer to the source.
As the fumes dispersed, we stayed up later sitting around the campfire together for the last time on this trip.
I'm in Delta, CO right now at a Family Diner. They've kindly let me plug in my laptop so I'm taking some time out before I leave for Yellowstone to put up a post. I would have done this earlier but finding a replacement for a burned out taillight occupied much of my morning ... for being alone yesterday is the kind of day I need more of.
I had promised the noisemakers that I would get up in time to say goodbye in the morning. Unfortunately, this meant I would have to willingly experience "no man's time", otherwise known as "morning".
So it came to pass that 7AM rolled around and I was up as I had promised. (I value keeping promises, especially to little kids.) We said our goodbyes, they all piled into their respective cars and off they went. The Hills stayed behind for breakfast. We went into town. I was so tired I could hardly stay awake and my legs were like jello from having dragged kids around in the pool. All in all I was hurting on multiple fronts. We found some espresso but that didn't help either.
We went back to the Ampitheatre and broke camp. We said our goodbyes and the Hills headed off towards home. I stayed behind to do a bit of work on the laptop. More software to test before we send it off.
The campground was depressingly quiet. "damn, I miss them all already, even the noisemakers". This trip is turning into a quest to collect people to miss.
I sat on a rock in the shade behind the bike and finished up what I needed to do. The contrast between all the life and commotion from just a little while earlier to the silence now was stark. It's such a pleasure to see Bruce and Ha together. I've known Bruce as long as I've known Duncan, which is forever. Bruce, like Duncan and a precious few others, is one of the reasons I'm still standing.
Ha told me a while ago, "You're not a friend, you're family". As I sat in the silence, I thought how I live my life and how foreign "family life" actually is. I can't remember if I've ever done anything like this camping trip before. Was this what "family" is supposed to mean?
I associate the words "marriage" and "family" with terror, abuse and endless hours of forced labor. I remember telling my parents when I was 7 during one of their epic screaming table pounding matches "I'm never getting married. I'm never having kids. This doesn't look like any fun at all".This was shortly after the old man had started forcing me into work. I was 11 when I did my first solo business trip to a hostile client. 12 when I did my first all nighter. 14 when I did my first stint of 100 hours weeks for an entire summer. None of it by choice.
I kept thinking if I had grown up around examples of relationships like the one Bruce and Ha have, maybe my life would have turned out a bit differently. Ever since I was a kid, people, mostly women, would tell me their problems. I've heard countless horror stories and seen into many relationships. I remember being 16 or 17 and having a friends mom crying on my shoulder one day telling me how much she hated her husband, how horrible married life was. Even bartenders tell me their problems. (You know who you are. ;) ) Don't get me wrong. I value being trusted and being a sounding board. I've been told talking to me can be good for the soul. But I guess I hadn't realized that it's affected my world view. I'm like the cop who thinks everyone is a potential criminal because it's all I see.
Challenging my own preconceptions, I found myself wondering if I had grown up seeing couples like Bruce and Ha would things have turned out differently for me?
This trip is about challenging myself to see and think differently. In some ways this camping trip was like Dancing Rabbit. I had intentionally put myself into a context that was way out of my comfort zone and after giving myself some time it began to feel ok, and it was certainly much better than sitting here alone.
After some time, a guy passed by taking his parrot for a walk. I've never seen someone take a parrot for a walk.
Eventually I got onto the bike and headed away. I couldn't resist another pic of Ouray from on-high.
My intention was to go see Telluride, mostly because of the "Smugglers Blues" song. As I left Ouray, I saw a scene Bruce would appreciate, a car show with a fully restored GTO. Bruce likes old American muscle cars.
This countryside is so beautiful and varied, you find yourself wanting to snap photos around every corner desperately trying to capture some hint of what it's like. In the end it's futile, but I keep trying. There are views like this everywhere.
... and this ...
It was only 50 miles to Telluride, but it took forever because I kept stopping to shoot photos. These flowers could be seen everywhere.
(There's so much "big" here that I found myself wanting to focus on something small.)
Telluride is on a dead-end street. There was some kind of Bluegrass music festival going on. Tents were everywhere.
Going through the center of town looking for a non-existent Starbucks the view was incredible.
It's hard to tell in the photo but on the mountain in the distance are waterfalls. Many bad ideas start with "I wonder if ...".
I followed the road which eventually turned into "Pavement Ends Ahead". The road ended but there was a fairly well travelled jeep trail heading up the side of the mountain. "Doesn't look too bad".
This is several switchbacks up the mountain. What was challenging was the size of the gravel. Much of it was the size of my fist. And, of course, the larger gravel rocks were concentrated in the steep switchback corners. Going up wasn't too bad. (Notice the foreshadowing?)
I stayed here for a while. It was nice to out and away. Jeeps and other four by fours would pass by. Every now and then a hiker or jogger would come down the mountain. I did get a few surprised looks. One guy asked "You're not taking that thing up there, are you?". "Yea, no. I'm don't have a deathwish".
So sometime later I decided I was not a wuss and headed up the mountain. The switchbacks were the hardest because of the tank bag. The Eclipse tankbag I have prevents me from turning the handlebars from one extreme to the other, which is a real problem on these switchbacks. To turn sharply to the right, I end up pushing the tank bag to the left, which means I can turn the bars to the extreme right but cannot then bring the bars back any further than center. If there's time, this is not a problem, but if you happen to hit a rock and need to move the bars in the other direction, it can get sketchy quick.
Up was no problem. Really.
I made it as far as the sign said I was allowed to go, which was right at the waterfall.
I suspect this trail was the only access to an incredible house sitting on top of the mountain between two water falls.
This may have to be my house. Simply incredible like something out of a fairytale.
So remember how I was saying that "up" was no problem? Note to self when considering scrambling up some much steeper than it looks in these photos jeep trail, down is so much harder than up.
This photo is actually a screenshot of the helmet cam video I shot. The straight sections were easy but the switchbacks were just littered with all kinds of fist sized and larger rocks and required the aforementioned extreme handlebar maneuver. This was in addition to some pretty steep downhill angle and sand. All in all it was a recipe for disaster. Unloaded, I could probably do this pretty reliably, but with the tank bag and other gear this was much more challenging that I had thought it would be. I think if I did this route up and back three times I would likely crash at least once.
Cursing in my helmet wondering why the hell did I do this, I encountered downhill sections where the bike would just slide regardless of ABS. I nearly pitched it several times. I really scared myself at one point which woke me up. "This is good", I thought. "It's important to be scared from time to time, it keeps you sharp.".
Oh, and did I mention my legs were jello and I was dead tired. Yea, probably an unwise decision. But man it was really cool to be up there.I love doing stuff like that. If I had a GS (adventure touring BMW motorcycle which is more capable in offroad conditions than my street oriented sport touring bike), it probably wouldn't be as much fun.
At the bottom I ran into a guy filming the falls. I offered to take a picture of him. If I remember correctly his name was Christian.
Christian had gotten his Iron Butt plaque which was displayed on the back of his bike. These can be obtained by doing a verified 1000 miles in a day. He had just come out from Pennsylvania to do a bit of tooling around the Rockies. We got to talking about distance, road conditions, gear and solitary travel. He had gotten here in something like two days. I commented on how I had done that in the past but was just putting on this trip. He said he would eventually like to go to Alaska; I invited him to join me. Again, I need to work on my salesmanship. I'm just not getting any takers.
Christian agreed that travelling solo on a bike kind of sucks in a way. You just never stop and go do things away from the bike like you would if you were travelling with someone else. You try your best to take pictures, but it just doesn't do it justice. We chatted for a good long while and then it was time to get underway.
I had been told to ride route 141 which was supposed to be one of the most beautiful roads in the country, so I heeded the advice and headed in that direction.
Route 145 connects up with 141. It starts out as a gentle canyon with a small river.
The canyon gets larger after a while.
After a while the canyon opens up into a huge plain.
This scene continued for some miles when suddenly around a bend the earth just opened up and the road descended down into the earth as if heading down the side of a mountain.
The road continued on through a stretch of 50 miles without services. There was a warning I had not seen before.
I did not, in fact, see any cattle on the road.
The climate here turned arid. I would not have been surprised to see a cactus, it was so dry. What struck me though was how lush and green it would get around the river banks at the bottom of the canyon.
From a higher vantage point you can get a better feel for it.
The further I went the deeper the canyon got. The geology also changed dramatically. I could see how someone growing up in this area could easily get interested in geology. I was grateful to the makers of "How the Earth was Made" on the history channel. It gave me some perspective on what I was looking at.
The sun was oppressive. The ambient temperature wasn't more than 75degF but it felt like over 100. I was endlessly trying to take photos only to be thwarted by the sun. There were so many incredible spots on this road that it was downright dangerous. I was overheating, tired as hell and distracted by incredible view after incredible view. In places the canyon narrowed down to the size of the river and road, in other places it expanded out dramatically. It reminded me of the Grand Canyon in some ways.
This is some of the most impressive awe inspiring country I've ever ridden through. Eventually the canyon opened up as the sun was setting.
It was still oppressively hot and the sun was blinding. At a town called Whitewater, I tried to decide do I got to Grand Junction or Delta. I knew nothing about either town but it was getting late and since it was Sunday places would be closing down. I opted for Delta since it was closer to some mountain parks that I could ride through the next day. This may have been an error.
I rode the 30 miles down route 50 to Delta. It's a rundown town with no major chain restaurants. I got a room at a motel built in 1946 and looks like log cabins. The rooms were clean but the smallest I've ever seen. Everything in town was closed, but I was starving. I found a sketchy looking bar and grill. There were just a few people inside, all clearly locals. I asked if they were still open and a rough looking misshapen woman, who I thought was a waittress, said, "Yea, we're open. Have a seat". I asked the bartender if the kitchen was still open but he said his cook had just left. I was just about to leave when he said, "Give me a moment, I'll fire up the grill.". I sat at the end of the bar next to an old Harley Rider who was, to my chagrin, drunk off his ass. He kept repeating himself loudly. Channeling a guy I know named Tony, I thought "yea, whatever". Once again, I'm outside my comfort zone.
The bartender, whose mother owns the bar, was really cool and hooked me up with dinner. After all the drunks left, we got to talking; guns, locals, travel, women. He said his new young wife was the hottest woman in town and all the other women hated her because of the way she looks. "Yea, I know several women like that. People think that physical beauty is such a benefit but in alot of ways it's more of a detriment.". "Yea, no doubt", he replied.
"Speak of the devil", he said as she walked in. A very young woman, I would guess mid 20's. "Did I lie?", he asked. I said "Nope. She's clearly the hottest woman in town.", I said thinking that, unfortunately for this town, it's not that tall of an order. I found myself thinking about relationships again, thinking about the guy and wondering how he treated her. He seemed to be paying attention to her, good. I guess I don't give people the benefit of the doubt as much as I used to. The woman looked very insecure and timid. Shortly after she sat down she got up again and started cleaning the bathrooms. "The fact that she's here this late on a Sunday solely to help you out impresses me alot more than the way she looks.", I commented. "yea, no lie, eh?", he replied.
The bar was empty. I said I should leave so he can close down but he said I didn't need to leave. He pulled out a very nice tequila and poured a couple of shots. "This is my favorite Tequila, it's called Milagro.". It was /very/ good. As I got up to leave I went to pay for the drinks and he said, "Don't worry about it. It's on me.". Very cool. His name was Rex.
I went back to the motel and fell asleep sitting down. Damn I was tired. To add insult to injury the taillight had burned out on the bike. An angry old guy complained at me that he nearly ran into me because he couldn't see me. "With all the reflection of the Aerostich suit?", I thought. Angry old guy just wanting to vent at someone.
As I write this I'm still in the diner some hours later. These things take a long time to write especially when I've seen so much. Now it's off to points North on my way to Yellowstone. It looks like I'm going to meet up with Ian in Northern Idaho to go camping Thursday evening. If I end up going to slowly I may blow off Yellowstone entirely and just head to Idaho. We'll see.
I think I need to write these things in the morning. By the time evening rolls around and I get into a campground or hotel I'm often too tired to make much sense.
I sat in the diner yesterday until almost 2PM writing. Between all the photos and trying to phrase things the way I wanted, it took me almost three hours to write that last post. I was telling Bruce that the writing is in some ways detracting from being in the moment during the trip. "It's like in physics, it's impossible to observe a thing without affecting it". Well said Bruce.
I have to admit I continue to be very surprised at the feedback I get about these posts. It's been overwhelmingly positive. Thank you all. It makes it alot easier to take the time out to do them but it's also humbling to think that so many of you actually read what I write. Trying to find the right balance in this public forum is a real challenge.
As I started this journey I had this sense that I was in search of a sense of "away". That's what drew me to Alaska. It's seems very far away to me. But more importantly I realized yesterday that what I'm really trying to achieve is a sense of "away" from myself through physical distance from the familiar. Ideas acrete during a lifetime of stress. We add unconscious burdens. Choices and wants become needs. Travelling by motorcycle knocks you into remembering how little you really need. It frees the mind to think and consider possibilities that seem impossible when surrounded by too much stuff, too many demands and too many instances of the word "should". I am thanking my former self for not incurring debt so that I can easily afford this adventure.
"away" is also about being open to new possibilities. "away" from the constraints of your own preconceptions, sense of identify, sense of self, sense of should. I continue to seek out the uncomfortable, to challenge the sense of boundaries, some real, most imagined.
That's why I try very hard to be brutally honest here about what I see, think, and feel as I ride across this vast country. While the country is in most places simply beautiful, what goes on inside me as I ride through it is often less so. It's another boundary and it's terribly uncomfortable for me to do. I should not expose those parts here. It's ill advised. I'll destroy the view people have of me. I'll lose reputation. Etc. etc. Fuck it. This is my story, profanity and all.
There's something interesting about this forum. I could just as easily write all kinds of experiences into a personal journal and keep it hidden. I could do as Pirsig did and wrap it up in a fiction. But neither of these would cause me to form my thoughts in the way I can when I write for you, knowing that you will read it. It provides a framework. I have often said "You cannot get to know yourself (in the context of society) until you understand how you are different from others". When I describe things to you, instead to myself, it opens up a bunch of insights into myself that I would not have had had this been just me by myself.
What's strange is that I'm really enjoying the writing. There's a part of me that wants to sit out in the vast open greenness and just write. I woke up this morning thinking of what I could share with you.
They keep telling me I'm free for probably the first time in my life, able to choose for myself. However, I am still completely at a loss how to use this new found freedom, hence the constant soul searching about cages and boundaries. Free a dog that's been on a chain too long and it will likely just sit there not understanding it can go past its former boundary. The external walls have fallen, but the internal ones are still very much in place.
In the mid-day Colorado heat, which was oppressive, I headed out of Delta, Colorado on route 92 to route 133 and eventually on to route 13 north. On the way I saw a number of what I believe were coal mines.
Note to self: see if I can get a tour of a working coal mine. That would be cool. Yes, it's true, I'm strangely fascinated by industry which I discovered about myself in part due to the history channel program "Modern Marvels". I keep thinking there are these salt mines under the Great Lakes somewhere I'd like to visit.
Spanning both sides of the mine was an extremely long coal train.
At one point I passed an abandoned old-school coal mine and shortly after that an exposed coal mine bed. It was literally falling out of the canyon wall onto the shoulder. There wasn't a good place to stop to take a picture. I was trying to make time so I avoided the temptation to turn around to take a picture of both. I've never seen exposed coal like that in a band maybe 4 feet thick and 50 feet long exposed plain to see in the canyon wall.
I made my way in the heat to Colorado route 133. It dawned on me as I rode through this route that I haven't talked much about motorcycles or motorcycling. I thought about this for quite a while. Motorcycling has become such a part of me it's virtually unconscious and as a result is almost an abstraction.
Most riders will talk endlessly about their bikes and the rides they've been on. They will attempt to describe the feeling of riding as being "one with the motorcycle". It's an old cliche which I don't want to use here.
People are often surprised to find out that I prefer travelling long distances by motorcycle versus a car. Car travel for me always hurts so much more than motorcycle travel, with the possible exception of my former 911, but that's another story. The forces your body is exposed to in a car seem more unnatural than what you're exposed to on a bike. Take a corner hard in a car and the car body rolls to the outside your body along with it. On a motorcycle it's different. You lean into a corner. The feeling is so much more fluid. It's less about steering as it is willing your body to shift it's weight. The motorcycle just follows that lead.
Route 133 is a wonderful mountain road with endless 30mph gentle corners in succession. As I carved these corners leaning back and forth to the rythmn of the road I thought this is probably alot like dancing. (I don't dance, but maybe I should learn.) To ride a bike well, you have to be fluid, you have to be smooth. You have to lead but you can't force the machine. You have to exist within it's parameters. Achieve that smoothness and magic happens.
My bike is not powerful, fast or nimble. What it is, however, is a great street machine. It's taken me many years to appreciate how well executed this bike is. The K100RS was never a popular bike. It was too weird for the tastes of most riders and had some serious design flaws.
But it's an eminently sensible road riding machine and the more I ride it the more I love it.
When you drive a car you're in an enclosed environment watching the outside world. Your relationship with the road is confined to gravity and suspension. The rest is just like television.
On a motorcycle, you are in the elements. You feel and smell everything. (which is not always so good as I encountered more than one dead skunk today). On a sport touring machine, you're leaned forward so as you're riding your field of vision hardly contains the bike. Get enough speed and good lean going, head tilted to keep your eyes level with the ground while, because of the lean, there's nothing between you and the road, you feel like you're flying.
I continued on route 133.
Many of the higher roads in Colorado have gates and signs indicating whether or not the road is passable. I had been told there was still 6feet of snow on some passes in Colorado which I was hoping to see, but I never encountered anything of the sort.
The road contined and, of course, I was compelled to take more mountain photos.
After a while the landscape started turning green.
This was quite a contrast to the arid conditions I had seen earlier.
Of course, there were more mountains.
I thought the clouds in this photo were cool.
Eventually Route 133 starts heading down hill. It's the kind of road that embodies what I think of when I think of the Colorado Rockies. High mountains with crystal clear fast running streams.
There was a pulloff and three riders were hanging out. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that any BMW rider knows about the Dalton highway in Alaska and Deadhorse. "it's not that bad", the guy said but he had never been on the road.
As I was standing there, a guy in a pickup rolled up. "I've got one of those and I had to check yours out", he said pointing to my bike. His name was Phillip and he had picked up in '85 K100RS, the previous generation to my '92.
He asked me some questions about his bike. We chatted for a while and I asked him to snap a shot of me in front of the stream.
This was just a great spot. The stream wound it's way around a cliff face.
The sound here was great. I have many positive associations with the sounds of running creeks.
The fuel consumption and power loss issues I was having previously seem to have resolved themselves, at least for the moment. Recently I've been getting over 50mpg.
Not bad for less than 4 gallons of gas.
After getting gas I checked the GPS and found a starbucks within 11 miles.Unfortunately it turned out to be one of those 'in-grocery-store' Starbucks which always suck. They don't make the coffee fresh, they keep it in thermoses. That sucks! I drank a cup of too stale coffee afterwhich I went to the bike to check routes. I was fumbling with the GPS and Atlas when two lades drove up and asked if I needed help.
They seemed impressed by my Aerostich suit. I asked about routes and towns and they said above Craig, CO there wasn't much. I did not realize how right they were. I mentioned I was heading to Yellowstone and the one woman said, "Don't camp there. People get eaten by bears up there every year. They don't make it well known, but it happens. Grizzlies.". Hmmmm.
I continued on and eventually the landscape changed. I found myself thinking about life and how tenacious it is. After all, we've discovered microbes that can withstand the harshness of space. But, I wondered, why is it that some mountains are covered in green vegetation and others are bare?
I didn't take a photo, but across route 70 from this range was another range that was virtually barren. I wonder if it's due to age of the rock, mineral composition or some other factor. I prefer the green covered ones, in case you were wondering.
(I have to remember that I am sick. Sometimes I forget. Man I hate it when my guts flake way when I travel. It's what so often prevents me from travelling. At least in the US if I run into trouble I'm never far from help. I'm thankful I'm holed up in a hotel right now. I guess the salad dressing I had last night had some sugar in it. Always bad ...)
I wonder what the Dalton Highway in Alaska will be like. It's 494 miles much of it is gravel. Some of it is reportedly mud. Along route 13 there was alot of construction. Is this what the Dalton will look like?
This surface wasn't bad but as I was following a car a rock was kicked up and hit my helmet with a loud thud. "The gravel on the Dalton is much bigger", I thought to myself with images of broken face shields running through my head. On this kind of road I could do a little over 30mph without too much trouble. I wouldn't want to go much faster than that because it's very difficult to see holes, heaves or the errant larger rock when you're moving too fast.
Have I mentioned the flies? There were these large flies, millions of them, all over the place. The horror story that played out on my faceshield was disgusting. Memories of British Columbia.
Eventually the landscape turned very green. I continued onto route 13 out into very empty country. I really needed to find a place to take a leak but the shoulders of the road had long since disappeared, and there wasn't a tree anywhere to be found. I rode on until I couldn't take it anymore, found a national forest access road and took it for half a mile.
I found myself in the middle of absolutely nowhere but had cell service. Welcome to the 21st century.
As I looked around I realized that for the first time I had that sense of "away". I could think there. I stayed in this place out under the big sky and watched the sun sink on the horizon.
Normally my mind is filled with concerns about my mother, the business. Am I being good for my friends? How am I going to save enough? How can I learn to invest better? Am I spending too much money? How am I going to help the people I care about? Has the way I've lived my life caused me to be unable to help those I care about the most? Have I lived my life irresponsibly? How am I going to turn the company around? How will I ever make the patience Anatoly has shown me worth it for him? How bad is unloading Fort Lamers (my mothers house) going to be? How am I possibly going to find the energy and insights to do all the networking, marketing, business development, operations, software development and project management I need to? How stupid is it to own a boat? Will I regret the money I have spent on this trip? And on and on ....
In this moment, in this field, there was none of that. I wanted to read a good book. I wanted to write. I wanted to just stand and admire. Mostly I wanted to follow that dirt road and find out where it lead. But I had little gas in the tank, the sun was setting and I didn't know how hairy the road might get.
Sometimes there are good reasons not to do a thing.
I continued on and eventually crossed into Wyoming.
You get this feeling of being in the Big Nothing when you're in Wyoming, much more so than in Kansas if you can believe it. The sun took a very long time to set on the horizon.
My intention had been to stop when I reached I80. There had once been a gas station and some signs of life but now it was just delabitated trucks and abandoned buildings.
It had gotten much colder. When I was in Colorado the thermometer on the bike still read 100. It generally reads about 10degF hotter due to the heat effect from the engine. Now it was reading under 50. Once again I thanked Duncan for the heated handlebar grips. Flicking the switch, the grips heat up warming the blood pumping through your hands. This is enough to keep the blood flow going and raise your core temperature.
It got colder. I should have stopped and put on some warmer clothes but I kept thinking a stop had to be coming up. I continued down I80 for miles eventually ending up in Rawlins, WY. I had dinner at a diner then found a hotel. Unfortunately, the hotels were largely filled so I ended up staying in a much nicer place than I had intended. I probably should have camped but I needed to make time to get up to Yellowstone.
I'm currently about 340 miles from Yellowstrone. That's not alot of distance, but if I continue to stop every 20 minutes to take a picture it'll take all day to get there.
Ian said he's going to ride out on Thursday to meet me in Idaho at Farragut State Park in the evening. We'll camp there and then take a leisurely ride to Victoria together. Ian is great to ride with. We have exactly the same style and travelling with him is something I always look forward to. It's been too many years now since he and I have ridden together and even more years since we've ridden together with him on his Ducati.
I hope my guts don't become too much of a problem today. That could really suck. I had intended on leaving here early so I can camp in Yellowstone, but I'm glad I stayed here longer.
Note to self: no matter how self conscious you are about it, how much you'd like to believe you're not, you're sick, deal with it and move on.
I'm at Yellowstone. There was alot I was going to write but I'm barely getting one bar. I'm surprised I'm getting any of connectivity at all. Just half an hour down the road there was none.
I had tried to get a spot at a campground but everything was full, so I ended up in one of the cabins. If someone were to fly out to meet me, this would be the place to do it. There are countless things to see and all the rides are short and stunning ...
I'll have to make this very short, so I leave you with a few snippets.
There were storms. Amazing storms.
Even more amazingly I did not get wet. There was incredible wind though. At points I thought I'd get blown from the road.
There was a guy on a Triumph Trophy that I chased for a while. He was on his way to a conference. I think this name was will. We kept up a good clip for quite a while.
There was snow.
And there was a scare just before this spot.
I was coming around a corner glancing for a second at a gas station trying to figure out if, like so many others I had passed, it had gone bankrupt. I looked up and saw a wall of white coming at me. A car had been trying to pass and misjudged the distance or wasn't paying attention. I swerved onto the shoulder barely avoiding a head on collision.
I idled on the side of the road for some time thinking about what had just happened. "This is how Gesa was killed.", I thought. My sister had been hit in a head on half on half collision on March 26th, 2008. But she was in a car. With airbags. Yea, the last 6 years have been a Nightmare. And at every point where I thought it could get no worse it did. That was a very very bad day. What happened afterwards, if you can believe it, was far worse. "Evil is blind. Evil makes excuses" is what Kyrin said. Some people are just evil.
If I had been in, let's say a less maneuverable pickup, I think I probably wouldn't be writing this right now. Yesterdays event had nothing to do with motorcycling. It had to do with being on the road. A head on collision at 75mph is an accident you don't want to survive. At least it would have been quick "It'd be ironic if we both got taken out the same way", I thought.
It makes you think about the people you miss. It would suck not to be able to see them again.
After some time idling there introspectively, I rode on.
There were Grand Teton Mountains.
And there was Yellowstone.
And there were buffalo eyeing me threateningly.
And there was a gorgeous sunset.
I ended up, as I think I mentioned, staying in a cabin in Yellowstone because all the campgrounds were full. The cabin wasn't bad although it didn't muffle much in the way of noise.
What I found surprising about Yellowstone was the level of amenities. There are these "villages" in the park with complete services. Gas stations, stores, restaurants, bars, hotels, cabins, campgrounds. I wandered over to the lounge for an after ride drink and met two swiss tourists who had driven down from Seatle.
"I would never ride a motorcycle. It's too dangerous.", the one said. "You must be very brave to do a trip like this.". That's another common reaction I get.
Since Gesa died, risk has been a frequent topic in my mental wanderings. Shortly after she was killed, a dump truck swerved out into my lane and nearly took me out of the picture back then. Yesterdays narrowly avoided head on collision has me thinking once again about risk.
Clearly, riding a motorcycle has obvious conscious risks associated with it that driving car does not. Mostly these risks amount to:
There are probably other risk unique to a motorcycle. Heat exhaustion and dehydration come to mind.
I called the last risk "contact patch" risk reflecting the fact that the amount of tire rubber making contact with the road is so much less than on a car. As a result, a motorcycle can not corner as quickly as a comparable car nor can it stop as quickly, all other things being equal.
However, these risks are mitigated by behavior. On a motorcycle, if you are conscious and rational, there is no way to escape the sense of vulnerability. You see the tractor trailer. You feel the wind it pushes as it comes towards you. You feel, viscerally, deep down inside in that place where you fear is felt, that you cannot win.
As a result, you change your behavior. You know how bad hitting a piece of retread is. How badly hitting a deer could go. So you ride being hyper vigilant.
How often do you, driving a car, scan the sides of the road for wildlife? Do you notice where the driver next to you is looking before you attempt to pass him, especially at a stop light? When you come upon a hill that you cannot see over, do you slow down? Do you look through corners?
When you ride a motorcycle long enough, that sense of vulnerability transfer to any vehicle you drive. Regardless of airbags, antilock brakes or crumple zones, if you hit a large enough deer in a car, you'll be injured or killed.
So there are unconcious risks associated with driving cars that are not present on a motorcycle.
Because driving a car is such a common every day thing I've heard countless drivers go through their days with the attitude "its no big deal, what could go wrong?". Because the experience of driving a car is often much like watching television there's less of a sense of speed, less of a sense of vulnerability, and they drive accordingly. That in my opinion is very dangerous.
There has been an interesting trend in auto fatalities. As safety features on cars have gotten more advanced, fatalities have not plummeted. It turns out that all these features, from anti-lock brakes, skid control, crumple zones, air bags, auto-braking and swerving systems, just further the illusion of invulnerability, so drivers take greater unconscious risks.
I have always been against the kind of driver assist safety features. My thinking is that it isolates the driver too much from what's going on thereby never enabling that driver to really understand the car, to learn to take driving it seriously and take responsibility for it. Nothing beats a competent human. Racers using standard brakes can still outbrake a comparable car with antilock brakes.
I sometimes think every person should be required to go through a performance driving course.
There is also the risk of greater mass. Cars are amazingly heavy things. That rolling mass can do a tremendous amount of damage versus a motorcycle at the same velocity.
Most importantly, I think, cars suffer from distraction risk. How many times have you seen a soccer mom yelling into the cellphone with a troops worth of screaming kids in the mini-van run through a red light? On route 1 this seems to be a daily occurrance.
In my humble opinion, unconscious, unexamined risks are more dangerous than conscious risks. Conscious risks you accept, you prepare for and you address cautiously.
Unconscious risks surprise you when you are least prepared for them.
On a motorcycle, because I feel so vulnerable, I take a number of precautions and I take them seriously.
I have been riding a motorcycle for 35 years now, as long as I've been programming computers. I've logged hundreds of thousands of miles in that time. I started out in the dirt, obviously. Riding in the dirt gives you incredible insights into how a motorcycle behaves when it loses traction (contact patch risk). In dirt riding you are always slip sliding around. You get comfortable with how the motorcycle moves and behaves, as a result when the same thing happens on the street when you hit a patch of oil or some gravel, it does not feel all that foreign and you're better prepared to handle it This is one of the reasons that every kid I have taught to drive a car, has at the very least driven a car on wet grass, if not snow, and practiced four wheel skids.
I also pay attention, despite my years of experience, to anything anyone can teach me. This is one of the reasons why my "dangerous" trips down to Deal's Gap are so valuable. It is an education in motorcycle control. It forces you to become a better rider. There are countless races and educators down there you can talk to and learn from.
I also take rider courses. With Duncan I recently completed the Total Control Advanced Rider Clinic. This is not about riding fast. It's about applying racing techniques and insights to increase your options on the road when things go bad.
How many advanced car driving clinics have you taken? (I haven't taken one either, but now that I think through it more carefully I think I will. I have a friend who's been talking about it. I think we should go.) You're probably thinking "why would I do that? I drive a minivan". A friend of mine flipped her minivan with her three children in it because she did not know how to effectively manage a loss of traction. Luckily, she and her kids were alright. This happened around the same time Gesa died.
In addition to education, I pay very careful attention to safety gear. There is a possibility of serious injury even at slow speed. This is mostly due to head trauma. As a result you will NOT see me or a passenger on my bike without a good snell rated helment. In addition, I have top quality gear. I ride with a jacket that has armor in the shoulders, elbows and covering the back. The pants I wear are armored at the hips and knees.
However, this armor does not provide you the same kind of feeling of invulnerability that airbags in a car do. You're still out there. You will won't win in a head on collision. But airbags would not have saved me yesterday. They did not save my sister.
When riding a motorcycle seriously, you are so much more aware of road hazards. You constantly scan for that eventual deer. You look for the retread. You fear each and every car that you pass or that's passing you. You are awake.
Finally, when riding a motorcycle seriously you are much more aware of maintenance. I'm often asked why I spend nearly $700 to put a set of tires on my bike when they still have good tread left. It's addressing contact patch risk. I run sticky street tires and if they age more than three years, they get replaced. Actually, I put a fresh set of rubber on my bike each year. How involved are you in the selection of tires for you car? Do you spend the extra money to get stickier tires that don't last nearly as long as those cheap ones? Have you ever practiced hard cornering to the point of skidding?
Riding a motorcycle is more dangerous than a car. Especially out here in the West, I see countless organ donors exercising their "freedom" by riding in teeshirts and jeans or less. I see them hardly able to control their bikes and riding as if nothing can go wrong.
So I think a better question to ask than "are motorcycles more dangerous than cars" may be "are the consequences of unconscious risks higher on a motorcycle than in a car". Clearly the answer would be yes. Sans helmet, gear, maintenancem, education and vigilance you can hurt yourself seriously at much slower speeds, much more easily and in a wider range of circumstances.
However, if you take it seriously. If you practice. If you are aware, it is not clear to me how much more dangerous riding a bike is than driving a car. I might go so far as to say, because of the increased vigilance of a serious motorcyclist, their survival rates across the board might be higher. It would be a study I would like to see.
Yesterday scared the living shit out of me, and of course for a little bit I found myself questioning the wisdom of this trip.
However, as I said, no airbags, crumple zones or other safety features would have saved me given the 80mph+ speed that car was traveling at. I also don't think I could have swerved out in time in a car, definitely not a truck.
So maybe I am alive right now because I ride a motorcycle and take it seriously.
To cap it off I often tell the story of when I hit a deer on a motorcycle, a CB450 Nighthawk. Great bike. All the girls liked it. I think I was 17. I had a passenger on the back of the bike.
I came around a corner and there was Mama Deer and Bambi. Both jumped to the ledge as I came around the corner. Bambi jumps back into the road. I smacked Bambi dead center. The rear wheel and passenger went up. I guess I was probably only doing 25mph at this time. Bambi broke and fell off to the side. The passenger landed back on the bike and we wobbled onto the shoulder where I brought the bike to stop.
Bambi was dead. I was shaken. I went home, hung up my helmet and jacket and said I would never ride again. Laying there in bed, I thought to myself "motorcycles are dangerous, I'll just drive a car.". I got up to watch the news. The first story on local news was about a fatal car crash. All passengers died. "Shit, cars are too dangerous, I'll just take public transportation.". The next story was about, I forget, it was either a bus or train crash where everyone died. "Shit, that's too dangerous as well, I'll walk everywhere." You guessed it, a story a little while later was about some old guy who had careened into some pedestrians. "I'll just stay home in bed". Then there was that story Guiness Book of World Records story about the woman who got hit by a meteor in her house.
I got up, grabbed my helmet and jacket and went for a ride.
If I bite it out here I'm sure they will say "he died because motorcycles are dangerous". If I die in a car, or a train, or by cancer or a heart attack, what will they say then? Life is risk. Concious and Unconscious. We take risks every single day. Probably the most dangerous thing I do is getting up in the morning.
Enough rambling. These were the thoughts that preoccupied me yesterday.
I had some connectivity at the cabin yesterday but it took /forever/ to do anything so I packed up my gear and rolled over to the cafeteria for some breakfast. As I sat there I watched these little critters that I had seen before. During the '92 cross country trip we called the "Kamikazi's" because as we approached they would run out in front of the bike trying to commit suicide. We did our best to avoid them, but some of them achieved their warriors dream.
These things were running around all over the place chasing each other, looking suspiciously and otherwise being very entertaining to watch. Some kids showed up and started chasing them. One kid was quite the critter charmer. (He didn't have any food.)
This was just hilarious to watch. The critter would scamper up. Stand up and then scurry away. This process repeated itself for some time.
Unbeknownst to me another critter was stalking me. Eventually I noticed it eyeing me maliciously.
Realizing I had failed to take "critter risk" into account, I cautiously got me gear and left for a tour of Yellowstone. As I walked out the door I noticed the sign.
Hmm. "Wyomin' risk", I thought. The day before sitting at a gas station I saw an angry looking guy with some kind of Glock (firearm) in a holster. You see a man with a gun and you find yourself wondering why you didn't apply for that concealed weapons permit after all.
I was on fumes. I had ridden at least 30 miles with the reserve light on. Strangely, it's supposed to be a 4.2 gallon tank but it took 4.3 gallons. To bad Bruce wasn't there. ;)
A woman rolled up. Now this is what I call "family vacation".
(Yes, there are two kids on that bike. At least their wearing helmets.) She had this extended rack on the back on which all their gear was stowed. That bike must have been amazingly rear-heavy.
So I rode around, and of course saw countless breathtaking. Pointlessly I continued my efforts to capture what I saw.
As I rode through the park, I noticed seemingly endless expanses of dead trees. I had meant to look up what was causing such a massive tree die off. Interestingly, there was a whole new layer of fast growing trees sprouting up in the midst of the death and destruction.
More vistas that cannot be captured. Included here in an act of hopeless desperation. You just have to see it.
There is so much to see. The landscape in Yellowstone seems to young, so changing. Unlike the feeling you get in the Rockies, which feel like they have been there forever, Yellowstone feels like it appeared yesterday in a massive upheaval.
I came upon an impressive formation and actually hung out well over the street. The photo doesn't do it justice.
A couple pointed out a pair of nesting Ospreys in the distance.
They offered to take a picture of this strange creature they were carefully observing. Here is proof positive that aliens do exist and they are amongst us.
I rode on and at one point saw dozens of cars stopped by the side of the road everyone getting out to gawk at something. Normally, I avoid stopping and gawking, but this was too cool. An Elk.
I have never seen an Elk before. Mythical creature.
I would stop from time to time as I rode around trying to capture the feel of the place. There is so much beauty around it's almost too much. It becomes hard to appreciate the beauty of any given place because there's so much of it. You cannot appreciate beauty if you never see anything butt ugly. So formuch needed contrast I would occasionally glance at a mirror.
Obligatory flower photo.
In the distance I saw what I thought was a mining operation. It was this huge white scar on the land not unlike what you see in a strip mine. It was, instead, a huge calcite formation formed through the action of some hotsprings. And when I say huge, I mean hundreds of feet high and probably most of a mile across. I made the mistake of hiking up. There was a boarded walking trail. I pulled the things I really didn't want stolen out of the tank bag, grabbed my helmet and schlepped myself up epic steps. It was hot. In full leathers it was even hotter. I walked and walked and walked and then happened upon the parking lot at the top, next to which was what I wanted to see.
This was extremely cool. The coloration apparently comes from bacteria that thrive in this soup.
Thoroughly overheated I continued on to the next hot springs where they were steam vents and some geysers. Again, it was just too hot and the air was filled with the smell of rotten eggs, which I guess is hydrogen sulfide.
My thoughts roamed to Mordor about which Boromir said "The very air you breathe is a toxic fume.". As I walked around this landscape understanding, thanks to the History Channel Mega Disasters show, that below here is a huge magma chamber that is slowly building up pressure. Eventually this 45 mile wide caldera will explode producing what will probably be an extinction level event.
It was as if all this harsh wilderness, all this incredible beauty was just masking death itself. When this place goes it's going to be bad. 50,000 years ago a similar eruption nearly wiped out humanity. I figure humanity will probably survive in some form or another, but I suspect civization itself will be less fortunate.
A small geyser.
One thing that is very apparent at Yellowstone is how tenacious life is. Notice the trees in the foreground. Life will not be denied. There is life here everywhere, even in the acidic hot springs. Recently, it has been discovered that some micro organisms can withstand the harshness of space. Seeing this place you can viscerally believe it. All these lifeforms all over the place in such varieties.
I found myself wondering about a time when this planet is no more. What happens to the life here? Will it just extinguish? Some of the moons around our neighboring planets sluff off atmosphere constantly. I wonder how many micro organisms living in our upper atmosphere get sluffed off into space. I wonder if any of them can survive? Interesting questions.
There were more critters to be seen.
I saw only a small fraction of what Yellowstone had to offer. I think the thing to do is rent a cabin for a few days, leave all the gear there and ride out to see the various sites in some detail. It would be easy to store helmets and jackets on the bike if the bags are empty. All the rides are short and stunningly beautiful.
The next time I come out here I don't think I'll do it alone.
Overheated and exhausted I left the park and headed towards Farragut State Park in Idaho where I'm supposed to meet Ian. I crossed over into Montana.
I was making time, not stopping to take many pictures. "it's all the same anyway, one ridiculously beautiful vista after another. I'm sure they're bored with those photos by now". Nevertheless, this is sort of what route 287 through Montana looks like. Lucscious green fields like some kind of grass shag carpet interrupted by mountains.
And more vistas ...
I made my way onto I90 west. The speed limit was 75mph. At one point coming down the pass towards Butte, Montana, I thought "now this is a first. I'm struggling to do the speed limit", as I wound my way around these really sharp bumpy turns that wound their way down the mountain. No one else was doing the speed limit.
I thought about camping, but once again I opted to stay at a hotel in Butte, Montana. This is a strange depressed little town filled with casinos. Even the gasstations have casinos in them. There was a pretty good restaurant nearby, which also had a casino, of course. The food was excellent. One thing I really dislike about restaurants in the West is the lack of fresh vegetable, salads or fruits. No wonder there is such a ridiculous obesity problem out here.
I was sitting at the bar, eating a spinach salad and a salmon (yum!), when a giant of a man sat down at the bar. He was 6'9" and had the voice of someone who has that, what's it called? Giantism. An impossibly deep voice that was difficult to comprehend at first, as if the guy was hollow inside and what you were hearing was the distant echo from some cavern.
We got to talking and he started trying to sell me on the virtues of the Internet. (laugh) I listened for a while. He apparently did some kind of affiliate marketing online. In Montana, of all places. He was familiar with the lower rung of affiliate/network marketing following Kiyosaki and Trump. (Seriously, if you want to understand affiliate marketing follow what Amazon does.)
Like other marketers I've talked to he wanted to be able to syndicate a single set of content through multiple disparate channels. (facebook, twitter, youtube, myspace, live journal, etc). It's something I've thought about building as it would be relatively straight forward. I just haven't figured out a good way to make money off of it.
I went back to the hotel, processed photos and completely out of character owing to how exhausted I was, promptly fell asleep. I actually saw 7AM this morning.
I've got some software to test, then I have to pack up, get some breakfast and head out to meet Ian. Of course, since it's camping with Ian, it's currently drizzling and cold outside. I'm sure there'll be hail, wind and sleet. I still have nightmares about the last time I camped with him. Damn that was cold.
I keep thinking I would like to stop for a couple of days and implement the anonymous comments feature that I really need, so that if you want to post a comment to an article here you don't have to be a member of YML.COM or follow me on facebook. Maybe Ian and Tanya will let me hang out for a couple of days to knock that out. I'm thinking some people I meet on the road would probably want to leave comments.
On to test some software ...
Sorry I haven't written in a while. I spent the last four days riding and camping with Ian. Since it was just the two of us it didn't seem polite to carve a couple hours out each day to process photos and write. Riding with Ian is always good. It's been far far too long.
So now I'm in Victoria, BC, Canada sitting downstairs with my laptop. My cellphone is roaming so I have no data service. From here until I get into Alaska it looks like I'm only going to be able to do updates sporadically as I find access to WIFI hotspots, if any.
I don't know if I should do highlights or try to describe what happened. This will probably get to be pretty long. My apologies in advance. I'll have to figure out some kind of prize for those that actually make it all the way to the end.
Thursday June 24th to Farragut State Park in Idaho
On Thursday, I left Butte, Montana late and had to make up some time so I just did miles without stopping. The miles were good, the weather was perfect. Montana continued on as it had been with lush green fields bordered by steep snow covered mountains.
Eventually, I came upon Idaho.
What struck me immediately was how tree covered northern Idaho is. As has been the case throughout this trip, photos just do not capture the beauty of the landscape. I realized that since I left Kansas I have actually been doing what I said I would, namely staying on secondary roads. As a result I had come up from Colorado through a landscape that was constantly beautiful. The further north I roamed the greener it got.
Another thing that struck me about Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado is the number of organ donors riding around on Harleys.
If you need an organ transplant I guess the West has a rich supply. Bikes out here were overwhelmingly Harleys. The further North I got the higher the Harley density. No sport bikes. No sport tourers. No touring bikes. Just Harleys ... and me.
I had made really good time. Although I90 is an interstate, it's a very pretty winding high speed road. The speed limit is 75mph pretty much everywhere and in some places it's a challenge to keep up that speed. I was going at a good clip when I came across two BMW's, a late model R1200RT, the same bike that Phil who we met in Deals' Gap rides, and a K1200S. These guys were moving. I kept up with them for a while getting some of the hardest lean angles I've ever achieved on an interstate. Some of these corners were pretty sharp but the pavement was good and visibility was excellent. Eventually they started cutting between cars in a way I wasn't comfortable with so I fell back.
I took the exit towards the park which they had also taken. At the light, I noticed their plates. Alberta. Ok, that makes sense. Just like in Deal's Gap. Crazy Canadians. They always seem to ride the fastest. I don't know why.
I was pretty tired and had missed that I had crossed a time zone so I was hours early. I started looking for a Starbucks. My GPS said there were at least 6 of them around.
She lies to me. I don't know why she lies to me. I try to be good to her. I don't ever ask her to do much. I keep her plugged in. But there are times, you know, when a man has needs and there should be give and take in any relationship And I ask "Baby, it's been so long, you know how I get cranky and don't feel right if I go without for too long." So she says she knows just a place where she can take me ... and I believe her like I have so many times before. So off I go, hopeful with anticipation and I do exactly what she says. "Turn right in 200 yards", she states.
There is nothing there.
"Sucker", I can just hear her say.
"Oh, baby, please!", I plead.
"ok, ok, this time I really mean it", she says.
I follow her instructions to the letter, being kind.
An abandoned building.
And so it went for the NEXT HOUR as I was mislead and mislead. She lies and she lies and I don't know why.
Eventually I had had enough. There's only so much a man can take, no? So I asked a nice lady who was walking into a grocery "where's the nearest Starbucks?". "Just down that street", she replied. And she was telling the truth.
I checked my errant GPS and sure enough, that Starbucks I was sipping my coffee at was nowhere to be found.
"She lies but I keep wanting to believe her", I mused. Bad relationships are like that. You've invested so much that you want to believe it'll get better. You just so desperately want to believe.
"I should know better by now", I thought.
As I sat in the Starbucks considering my bad psychologically abusive relationship with this piece of electronics, someone asked me where I had come from. The conversation went the same way it usually has on this trip. "Maryland", I replied. "Wow, that's really far", she exclaimed. "It's only about a quarter as far as I'm gonna go ...". And so forth. A guy, who I later found out was named Tom, overheard and asked me a few questions. We got to talking. He had just come back across country to move back West.
He was in technology sales for a storage solution company. He had worked at Microsoft and from talking to him really knew his stuff. We got into a long and very interesting conversation comparing notes about building businesses, typical pitfalls that companies get into such as the "making too much money can kill you" problem. And so forth. He's someone I would like to talk to again. I get the impression I can learn alot from him. I sincerely hope to hear from him again.
When someone in sales, marketing, business development or entrepreneurship speaks I listen very intently and try to learn all I can. For someone who develops software systems for a living, this is an unusual leaning. Technology people typically can't stand the sales and marketing folks. I have made a career about of being different in this regard.
I completely lost track of time.
"SHIT!". Off I went convinced that I still had enough time. Ian said he'd be there at 6. It was 6:20. "I bet he isn't there yet", I thought. It took longer than expected but I finally arrived at the park.
I talked to the nice woman at the registration check. "Oh, he's been here over an hour.". Doh!
I rode around and rolled up to the campsite just as Ian was about to leave to go look for me. It was 6:45. "You need less flakey friends". People who know me know I am never late. I felt really bad.
But it was really good to see Ian again. It's been some years since we had ridden together.
And much much longer since his bike and mine have stood side by side.
We chatted for a while, got some firewood and started to build a fire. Two master firemakers. I decided to try to use a magnesium spark type firestarter just for kicks. He filmed while I attempted to start the fire "Survivorman" style. (I've gotten hooked on that show.)
So we carefully collected some tinder and even used crushed up peanut shells to create a little tinder basket in which to start the flame. I scraped magnesium shavings into it and then hit the spark stick to ignite it. After about 40 minutes as per the instructions we doused the thing in white gas and threw a lit stick into it. Whoosh!
Worked like a champ. Les Stroud would be proud. :)
(But even then the wood was so thoroughly soaked that it took forever to build a base of hot coals. We futzed with it for over an hour to get a good flame.) "It isn't camping without a fire", I said.
(I took a break to go scrounge up something to eat. Tanya's mom has invited us over for dinner tonight. Tanya showed me how to make an omelette and then proceeded to make me one along with a wonderful salad. We sat and talked for over and hour ... she's got a lot of work to do and I feel bad that I lost track of time and kept her away from it. :( I'm not getting much done myself either. Slow lazy day. )
Friday June 25th - Spokane Detour
In all the years that I've been travelling with Ian, he is always the one who wakes me up. Now granted, he had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before and ridden 470 some odd miles to meet up with me (and I had arrived late).
So it came to pass most improbably that I was up before 8AM and well before Ian. I hadn't slept all that well which would come back to haunt me. (foreshadowing) With kindness and forethought, Ian had bought a half dozen eggs. We pulled out my camp stove and he went to work making breakfast.
The campsite was not far from a huge lake. There was a good walking trail so, being Ian and it being a quintessential Ian thing to do, he suggested we go for a walk. It was a beautiful path.
Not so much the beasts that were walking on it.
The path we were following was over a mile long and it was a bit hot. "Ian, please remind me to change into jeans the next time we do this", I asked. I was nearly overheating.
We found a small path that lead down along the shore which we followed. As is the case with so many lakes you see up in the NorthWest, this lake was surrounded be steep mountains covered in trees.
Now I am always hearing from women who know Ian how much they like him. You know who you are. So with you in mind, I tried to take some "Ian in his natural environment shots". I do hope you appreciate the effort. The Ian is a timid yet imposing creature difficult to capture in photos.
We followed the path for a while, Ian insisting on taking photos of me from time to time. In most of our trips there are hardly any photos of me.
Another aspect of any trip with Ian is that he notices all kinds of critters you would never notice on your own. He's always been the kind of guy that's very familiar with all kinds of plants and animals and can talk about them all intelligently. He pointed out a bald eagle, another kind of eagle, neither of which I was able to get a photo of. As we were walking along minding our own business he just stopped and said "Hey, look at that".
A dung beetle pushing some dung with another dung beetle clinging to the end. Ian notices these kinds of things. I thought dung beetles only existed on the History Channel.
Not the most appetizing photo. Sorry.
As we walked back up from the lake we came across this ancient structure which turned out to be some kind of outdoor fireplace with a semicircle seating area. It was largely overgrown and looked like something out of Tolkien.
We made it back to the campsite when he pointed out that we were being followed. As Ian once said years ago, "Yermo, chipmunks are typically found outdoors". This little bugger did not want his photo taken, but I managed to get one in the end.
We packed up camp. I'm usually not very slow, but do you ever have one of those days where you just can't get going? It seemed like Ian was always waiting for me, not the other way around. Usually we get everything that we need to at the same pace but today and the following days I was really holding up the show. I started to feel a bit self conscious about it to the point where I started feeling like I had to rush just so I wouldn't slow things down too much.
I got my act together and got on my bike and we were underway.
Our intent was to try to make it to the North Cascades in Washington State and find a campground.
The night before Ian had mentioned that he was getting a strange smell from his bike, a hydrogen sulfide rotten egg smell. I mentioned that we had noticed the same thing on Duncan's bike but had not been able to figure out what it was. I investigated but wasn't able to find anything. We agreed we'd keep an eye on it.
We rode for some time and stopped on the side of the road. Ian reported that the smell had come back at which point he noticed that fluid was dripping out of the battery overflow. He pulled off his gear, seat and lifted the gas tank. The water level in the battery was exceedingly low.
There was no way we could trust the bike with a battery in that condition. We decided to ride to the nearest town to see if we could get some distilled water to add to the battery. While Ian was packing his bike a rider stopped to ask if we were ok, which happens when you're stopped. I've stopped for countless riders myself.
On the way to the little town we stopped to take a photo. Since I was feeling self conscious about being in "go slow mode" I wasn't stopping to take any photos for the blog, so in this one spot we stopped and used the telescoping arm to snap of a photo.
This was probably ill advised since it wasn't clear the bike would start again but it did.
We continued on to the town of Ion where I suggested we head to a grocery store. While I went in to get some distilled water Ian pulled out the battery and set it on the ground. It was bone dry and super near-melting hot. It was going to be some time before we could add any water to it, so we hung out in the parking lot. A woman who was selling puppies showed up. One of them took an immediate liking to Ian.
Another woman showed up around the same time on a quad asking if we needed any help. At this point we had already decided the battery could no longer be trusted and needed to be replaced but it was an odd size that is not stocked in most parts stores. Anyways, the local parts store had already closed.
We mentioned this to her. She said she knew the parts guy and would track him down for us. That was amazingly nice. After quite a while she drove past in her car saying she was going to meet him. Shortly after that a woman walks out from the grocery and said to us we had a call from the parts store. Ian went in and verified the size of the battery and make of the bike. He came out and I said, "You know, I have a feeling she's going to come back with battery in hand". "No way", he said.
A few minutes later the woman returned battery in hand. Did I call it or what? She was very nice and kept saying "we know how to help people around here, it's what we do". Unfortunately, the battery was just one size too large and didn't fit. A guy from the parts store showed up on a quad. We thanked them both when the parts guys said "Oh, I just wanted to see the bikes". We discussed some options. They could order the correct battery for us but it wouldn't arrive until Tuesday.
I had reception so I used google maps to see if I could find a Ducati dealer anywhere closeby. All the shops were down in Spokane. There was some concern that we might not make it and could get stranded somewhere in the No Mans Land between Ione and Spokane, but we decided to risk it.
Off we went and rode pretty much non stop to spokane to a dealership that said they had the battery in stock. It was already late and they were closed so we explored close by hotel options the thought being that we would need to get there very early. Unfortunately, we had arrived in Spokane during "Hoop Fest", some kind of three on three shut down the streets and play street hoops fest, so all hotel rooms were booked. I asked about the hotel next door and the clerk said "It's pretty sketchy. I wouldn't stay there".
So we went there. The room was cheap but man it looked sketchy. On top of that it was a smoking room. The section of the hotel across from the room was condemned and boarded up. We prepared for the worst.
But frankly it wasn't too bad. The room was clean and there weren't any bugs. I've definitely stayed in much worse.
Rolling over to the room Ian noticed something strange about my rear tire. I swear I had checked it earlier and while it looked worn it did not look dangerous. I guess during the days ride the tire finally wore out. Cords were showing. Doh! I have /never/ ridden a tire long enough to have cords show through. As I mentioned in na previous post, I typically replace tires at the half way point.
I checked my records and it looks like I had misjudged the mileage on the tires by 1000 miles. I can typically get 6000 miles out of a set of tires. Usually I replace them at 4000. I figured I could go 7000 before getting into trouble. Unfortunately, I had more than 8000 on these tires. Not 7000. Oops.
So now we were going to be pressed for time. Not only did we have to get a battery but we would have to find tires for my bike. There's no way I could go any distance on these tires. I was feeling more self conscious.
It had been a long day. We went over to the Denny's, had something to eat. I guess between not sleeping, all that walking in the heat, all the hanging out in the parking lot in the heat combined with all the riding.
I was sitting on the bed, Ian was getting the thermarest pad ready (I forgot to mention the only room available had a single king sized bed and since Ian has this fancy new luxury thermarest pad it made sense for him to get the flooor). He heard me say "You know, I think I'm going to pass out" and I was out. Man was I crazy tired exhausted.
A few seconds later he evilly snapped this shot and threatened later to post it.
I didn't move for like four hours.
June 26th - Kalee, Tires and Tank Bags
We got up early because we had to grab breakfast and get to the stop early. Once again I was up before 8 and before Ian. Clearly this is a sign of the end time.
We had breakfast at Dennys. I once again had an omelette. I hate to think of why my blood test numbers are going to look like after this trip. We needed tires. We needed a battery.
I called the shop where we were going to get the battery. As had been the case the day before I was on hold for ages. Eventually someoone in service answered and said they probably couldn't fit me in. Then the guy said, well call parts and see if they even have the tires in stock. So I got transferred and waited on hold for ages. They claimed to be a BMW dealer but were not familiar with my bike. Ok, that's not good. It turns out they only had tires for Japanese bikes in stock. I asked the guy if there was another shop somewhere that might have them. He suggested Ed's Snowmobile and Motorcycle and gave me the number.
So I called over there and a nice woman answered the phone on the third ring. They didn't have the Metzeler tires in stock that I usually run, but being proactive, she checked other brands and saw that she had Michelins in stock that would fit.
A guy sitting behind Ian at this point started talking to him and said the dealer we were going to get the battery from sucked. Ian told me to ask the woman whether they had his battery in stock.
"Yes, we do, but we're booked solid and close at 12. I've checked with the service manager and we can fit you in if you get here as soon as you can". We wolfed down breakfast and rode the 10 miles there.
The woman at the parts counter was Kalee. The service guy was Cody. They really hooked us up. The bike was in the shop getting tires put on and the battery was on the charge.
Ian and I sat at Starbucks and considered routes from here. We would need to make some mileage the next day if we were going to get close enough to the Ferry to make the 1PM ferryride on Saturday.
The battery was charged and the new tires were on. The old tires were just shot beyond belief. "Yea, you were in danger of a blowout", Cody said.
Oh not good.
I've ridden with nothing but Metzeler tires for years. The bike had originally come with some form of Michelin sport touring tires which I really didn't like. I wasn't entirely happy with the idea of switching brands but beggars can't be choosers.
As I pulled the bike around front the handlebar was stopped at an inconvenient point by the tank bag yet again and I nearly dropped the bike in the parking lot. Ok. I'm done.
They had a selection of Tourmaster Cortech tank bags. I started going through them but unfortunately my gastank is aluminum so none of the magnetic mount bags would work, and as Ian pointed out having alot of expensive electronic media in my bag when there are strong magnets might not be such a good idea.
So I checked out the bags they had but everything was too small. "I've got a larger back in the back.", Kalee said. She rummaged around back and pulled out the Mega Tankbag. "It's got a strap kit around here somewhere". So she went off to look for strap kits. The large cortech bag had a magnetic mount, so she pulled the strap mount pad off another bag but could still not find the strap kit. "Bummer". I was really tired of the bag I had. I had decided finally that it was just dangerous.
"I think we can put something together to at least get you on the road". So for the next 45 minutes or so we experimented with straps, hooks and other bits to rig up a way to mount the tank bag. She was out there in the hot sun helping me every step of the way. "You rock. Have I said that too much?". "not yet", she said. :)
She really went above and beyond the call of duty. "I can ship your old bag back to you and I'll send you the correct strap kit".
"You rock. What's your favorite flower?"
Note to self. Have address. Send flowers as a thank you.
So new tires and tank bag set up off we went to make some mileage. We wanted to make it to a town called Winthrop which was close to 300 miles away. I had once again held up progress with my tank bag experiment.
Unfortunately we made two mistakes with the improvised tank bag setup. While all my gear fit into the bag and the bag sits further back on the tank freeing up the full range of the handlebars, the setup we came up with isn't secure enough so the bag has the tendency to fall over. It's really rather too tall. Separately, we strapped it down not taking into account that I would eventually have to put gas into it.
So at the moment putting gas in the bike is a rather time consuming ordeal where I have to unpack the bike, lift the seat and undo straps which are fraying through repetition. I'm going to have to come up with a better way of attaching the bag or unfortunately maybe get another bag. Otherwise, the bag is great. It's a massive improvement over the Eclipse bag. Difficult parking lot maneuvers and off road work are much easier now.
Off we went. I was skeptical about my new tires. "Michelins", I thought, "I'm a Metzeler guy.".
I began to think about that. I've always run Metzelers. To my knowledge all they make it motorcycle tires. They make the best motorcycle tires. I've always really liked their sport touring line. The current model is their Z6's which I had been running. Great tires.
But now I'm running Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires. I felt strangely uncomfortable with this change. "Membership", I thought. "It's about membership.".
When you meet people you key on certain symbols that give you some hint into what kind of person they are. I can usually peg an Iron Butt guy (super long distance rider) just by looking at the gear he has and how his bike is set up. I can peg a racer wanna be, a real racer, a harley rider, etc.
The gear we choose has certain meta data that comes along with it. In business it's called branding. I generally am loathe to talk about branding because it has always struck me as an application of phoniness. Marketeers will attempt to "create a brand" and fake it's way into meaning.
But in it's pure sense, "branding" is about what we perceive a choice of a given thing means. What does it say about the kind of person you are?
From another perspective it's completely silly. People will make purchase choices based on the "brand" they feel they want to project regardless of what their natural choices might be.
"I'm a metzeler guy and that's completely silly. They are just tires. Maybe the Michelins are good tires. What if they are better tires and no knows? Do I really care if someone would dismiss me because of my tire choices? ", I would think. It's interesting. Another "branding" moment is the kind of trip I'm taking. I'll do over 15,000 miles before I'm done. I'm going to travel to remote areas.
Everyone assumes I'm either a memmber of the Iron Butt guys or the Adventure Riders guys. The gear I have, the bike I ride and the way I hold myself would seem to indicate I'm one or the other. "How many miles do you do a day?", they all ask expecting to hear at least 1000.
"I did 180 yesterday, sipped espresso and had a nice lunch", I would reply. Instant status deflation. It's really funny. There's this brand out there, this sense of membership in an exclusive club and if you do not fit all aspects of the brand you're dismissed.
I considered it carefully. Do I care? If I'm totally honest about I do care. There are people I have met on this trip that I would not have met if they had thought I was a Harley riding biker, or a racer wanna-be. But I'm an unsusual one. I don't really fit into any of the categories. I do it my own way largely alone. I don't belong.
But I like it that I can meet certain people. I really enjoy talking to the Iron Butt guys and the Adventure Riders much more than I do the racers or racer wannabes or the tourers or the Harley guys. I guess I have more in common with them.
If I run Michelins instead of Metzelers will it affect who I am able to meet? A silly question.
Marketing is about getting attention. If you do it well it's about getting the right attention. In the context of a trip it's about the kind of people who walk up to you and are curious about what you're doing. I look like a long distance traveler when I'm out here.
Membership is not something that I feel deeply in my life. I was born into a "family" that was more about work. There was never a sense of togetherness. I was born in the wrong country raised to live in another. So I've never felt like I belonged here. I spoke English with a German accent and was always overly former. Foreign despite the fact that I grew up here. Even to this day I struggle with the cultural rift. Too German for the Americans, but too American for the Germans. Over there I'm called "Der Ami", a derogatory term for American.
I've never been one to belong to clubs or have any real sense of membership. It's not something I feel strongly.
I've been developing software my entire life, not by choice but because I was forced into it. So I don't feel much in common with other developers with the possibility of old school Unix hackers from back in the day.
I'm in business not because I'm born to be in business but because I like going my own way; but I've suffered enough and seen enough that sometimes I have a common experience bond with other business owners.
But mostly, I feel like an outsider, a guest. Visiting.
But in smaller ways, I guess I do experience aspects of membership. I feel membership with motorcyclists, especially those guys you see out in the middle of no where on sport touring bikes carving up the canyons. Motorcyclists wave as they pass each other. Even the Harley riders do it out here.
I remembered I had read an article in Motorcyclist or some other magazine where a guy was ranting about this tradition of waving as you pass another motorcyclist. "Heathen", I thought. I was offended. You wave. It's what you do.
So I sucked it up and gave the tires a chance. Scary as it sounds they are great. On my bike they completely change the handling. I'm not comparing a new set to an old squared off set. I remember, since it was only a short while ago when I initially put the Metzelers on how they felt that first day. I enjoy these tires more. The bike leans so much more easily, I'm guessing because the profile is different. Once leaned over the bike is so much more stable. I have a confidence to corner that, on my bike, the Metzelers never gave me.
I found myself wondering if I would make a choice based on the assumed membership someone would assign to me. But it's only tires and I do have my Transit Suit which has been getting alot of comments.I remember talking to Angela about her degrees. She doesn't like to talk about it, but she has a Phd in Computational Chemisty, has been professor at a medical school and has an MBA. I think she should say she does not like the "membership" that this gives her because of the prevalent view of people like that. It gets in the way of seeing the "real" person underneath.
In a personal context I agree with her, unless it gets in the way of meeting really cool people who happen to share that interest. Keeping it hidden may not be good in all cases.
In a professional context however, signs of membership are necessary. Is this the kind of person you want to hire? Do business with? Partner with? Invest in? The decision to explore these opportunities are done very quickly and at a human level based on the membership symbols we observe.
I tell a story of the Mercedes mechanic I ask to work on my car. He speaks with a strong German accent. The shop is spotless. The mechanics had lab coats on. Do any of these symbols in any way really communicate how good they are at their job? It's membership. Membership in the group "professionals". Maybe Bubba down the street in a disorganized dirty shop could do a better job. I'll never find out because I wouldn't be comfortable taking my car there. It's not the right membership.
If I think about the business and the marketing where membership and relationships are so important I wonder how many little things I'm doing to short circuit those conversations ... you would never approach me to talk about stock market software because I dont' have any outwards symbols that would lead you to believe I know something about the stock market or software. I don't exhibit "membership". And the truth is I'm not much of a stock market guy. I've learned alot about it but I don't live and breathe it. I do software and systems. But I intentionally down play that these days; because I wanted to learn the business side. I wanted "membership" on that side. And I've achieved that to some degree. "You clearly understand business but I have to ask are you technical?", someone asked me once. I suspect not having membership is sometimes a detriment.
People are approaching me about motorcycles and long distance travel and the "Long Way Round" all the time. I've never had anything like this happen before that I can remember.
And this is how my mind works, all the time. I'm constantly thinking stuff like this through. It's probably not normal.
We rode on to make time but Ian compassionately stopped from time to time so we could take photos. The road was incredible and beautiful. It was curvey with good pavement winding up and down green mountain sides next to crystal clear streams and dark blue lakes.
At one point we ran into a guy from Alberta. Ian started talking to him. He has this gift to get just about anyone to talk. I'm always amazing.
I think his name was Martin. He had ridden this crazy little bike over 1200 miles down from Alberta most of it in two days. Ouch.
Riding a bike. Drinking a beer. Talking about how cool it was to ride without a helmet in Montana or was it Wyoming.
Like I said, Crazy Canadians.
We made good time despite me holding up the works every time we had to stop for gas and eventually made it into Winthrop well before the sun went down. There was some kind of Harley gathering there. Harleys everywhere. Most hotels were booked and the ones that had rooms were ridiculously expensive. At one hotel the clerk mentioned that they sometimes let people camp out in the field behind the hotel. $20 later we were heading out there. She had said to camp as close to the river as possible.
Someone walking back there mentioned there was a trail down the hill to a little area next to a picnic table. We rode the bikes down and found the nicest little spot to camp we'd seen in years. It was a little mowed area with a firepit and a picnic table right next to a very full stream. I checked the weather forecast. A surprise storm could ruin our evening but the forecast was clear for the next several days.
Ian wanted to walk to dinner. 1.2 miles away! So we forced marched it over there. Slave driver.
On the way we stopped at a bridge.
I have to admit, it was a nice walk. The walk back was a bit brutal but that's another story.
Winthrop is this touristy "west" town with an "west style" raised sidewalk and old school looking buildings. We decided to have dinner at a Saloon, in front of which there were flower pots.
They sort of match his clothes, don't they? ;)
Saturday June 27th - Victoria
We got up early and headed to the Ferry, but at this point I've been writing a very long time and dinner is calling. I'll try to include those photos tomorrow.
While I'm here at Ian and Tanya's I want to see if I can write the anonymous posting code so you don't have to have a YML.COM account to post comments here. I think I can get that done in a day or two. I also have to wash the bike, which I'll do here shortly, figure out a better tank bag set up, change the oil and filter and repack everything before I had up into BC proper.
As I mentioned, Ian and I had set up camp behind a hotel in this wonderful little spot next to a river. It was one of the best camping spots we'd ever found.
Ian had wanted us to get up early so we could reach the San Juan Ferry with plenty of extra time. I woke up around 7:15 to the sound of a hot air balloon being inflated.
I packed up my gear while Ian slept. The balloon rose high overhead.
For the previous few days I had just been slow. Ian had patiently waited on so many occasions for me to get it together that I wanted to be ready before he got up. As it got close to 8AM I woke him up. As it happened, despite my head start I only finished shortly before he did. Granted, he has less gear, but still.
We had breakfast at the same saloon that we had had dinner at before. It was the worlds slowest breakfast. By the time we were done it was well after 9AM, later than Ian wanted to get going.
We were off to run through the Cascades. Route 20 continued on through passes and around mountains. As has been the case in so much of this trip the vistas were beautiful.
There were many masochistic bicyclists in the Northwest, more than I have seen anywhere else in the country.
As we rode along we saw countless small waterfalls pouring out next to the road.
There were high overlooks, as have been present in almost every mountain range. Unfortunately, you can't really see the road way down below.
Riding with Ian is simply great. Strangely we have exactly the same riding style, ride at the same pace. We can each anticipate the other. There's never any hurry or stress. We set up and carve corners the same way. It's extremely rare that either of us does anything that surprises the other.
It was sunny but cool. Cool like an early Maryland spring after a morning rain. The road was clear and traffic was light, although there were an annoying density of RVs that refused to pull over to let us pass. Interestingly, there are signs in this part of the country that say having 5 cars behind you waiting to pass and not pulling over at the turnouts is illegal.
We also passed many signs, as one does in almost every part of the country, warning of deer. At one point however, there was a sign saying that there had been 97 deer strikes on a particular section of the road. I slowed down and saw this stupid deer boldly standing on the side of the road watching the cars go by.
I stopped. Fumbled with the new tankbag, grabbed the camera and the stupid deer just stood there boldly posing.
On a motorcycle, I fear deer.
I caught up with Ian who was unimpressed by the deer and had kept going on a ways until he realized I had stopped. We continued on only to get caught behind a line of a few cars, two RVs and some conversion van thing for a really long time. After far too long we were able to pass legally and went on our way but it had taken alot of time.
As it turned out we made it to the ferry with plenty of time. Motorcycles board first and disembark first on this ferry so we were instructed to go to the head of the line.
I noticed this bike caddy on the front of a pickup. I don't think I've seen a setup like this before.
As we waited, a couple for adventure riders rolled up on BMW R1200GS's. Ian now calls them "R1200GPS's" because every one he's seen has a gps mounted on it.
These bikes are much better suited for the kind of terrain I'll be seeing up in northern BC and Alaska. It turns out the guys riding these bikes had been on the same ferry with Ian on the way out. They had been to some kind of GS adventure riding rally.
I'm not exactly clear how to define adventure riding. There's quite a debate on advrider.com about it. Intuitively, adventure riding involves alot of miles over mixed terrain; pavement, gravel, dirt, trails, fields, etc. It usually involves camping and roughing it. Think "Long Way Round" or "Jupiters Travels". The latter I still have to read.
Nevertheless, adventure riders typically ride bikes decked out like the bike above. There's a certain look. I was giving these guys a bit of a hard time about how clean their bikes were. Mine certainly had more mud on it, but they had been doing some fairly intense offroad riding and had washed their bikes.
Out here you do see a fair number of guys riding bikes set up like this but where all the gear is shiny and new and their suits are spotless.
But I ride a street bike. Now I have spent a fair number of miles off road on this trip, maybe totalling 55 or so, but it's been a lap of luxury trip. I don't think it qualifies as "adventure riding'.
After a little while longer an older guy on a BMW K1200GT sport touring bike showed up.
This is essentially the modern version of the K100RS I ride. It's set up for "sport touring" in which you can go distance but once you get there you have enough performance to carve up canyon roads and have some fun. The K1200GT is wicked fast.
After a while longer, a couple of BMW K75's showed up; a '91 K75S and an '85 K75C. These are 750cc bikes equivalent to mine. Same model line, essentially the same vintage. I noticed some black tape on the K75S's gauges.
"ABS fault?", I said looking at him with a wry smile. He laughed. You would only know this if you own one of these bikes but if the ABS faults it blinks at you very annoyingly. It can also be expensive to fix; the less expensive approach is just to cover up the lights. :)
It dawned on me that there was coffee nearby, so I and one of the adventure riders whose name I forget, went to the espresso shack. As we came back to the bike there was a security announcement saying that we were not allowed to leave out bikes unattended. Ian was there so I didn't think it was going to be an issue. Whatever.
They started loading the ferry but I still had coffee. I improvised a coffee cup holder with Ian's help.
Duncan would be proud and will no doubt give me a bunch of shit for it. (If you knew how much shit I've given Duncan over the years about his desire for a coffee cup holder on his bike, which he does solely for the purpose of bugging me, you'd understand.)
On the ferry coffee cup in hand I'm finally looking at the Pacific Ocean.
As we pulled away from the dock I saw these critters flying around.
And managed to photograph one flying just inches above the water.
It was pretty cool, overcast and drizzly on the water. Ian was, as he always is in situations like this, stoic.
The ferry was exceptionally cool. I had hoped to be able to do something like this. I took countless photos but because it was so overcast few are worth looking at. There are a ridiculous number of closely spaced mountainous islands around Victoria.
I saw a couple of cute Irish looking women with a camera. "Would you like me to get a shot of the both of you?". Always works as a way of asking someone to take a photo of you and your buddy in return.
The ferry ride lasted about 3 hours. So there was plenty of time to gawk at the landscapes in the distance.
As promised the bikes disembarked first.
It was a quick pass through customs. Ian waited patiently with the ferry we had travelled on in the background while I continued to fumble with gear.
And it was off to Ian and Tanya's house. They have this incredible house and yard surprisingly close into the city. I had always thought it was further out in the countryside.
Anouk, their 8 year old daughter, in the foreground.
Inside I was greeted by Arlo, their 5 year old son.
Tanya, the Salad Queen, had made an awesome salad and Ian grilled up some steaks. I have determined there is excellent food here. No good can come of this.
They have a very comfortable guest room with it's own full bath. Life is good. I slept well and managed to get up early the next day.
Monday June 28th
Yesterday was a rest day. I spent most of the day either talking on the phone or writing that long blog article. My use of roaming minutes is going to add up. Oh well. Apparently text messages are supposed to be free. We'll see if that turns out to be true.
Ian and Tanya had to work so I tried to make myself as unintrusive as I could. They have a separate building here that's split into an office and garage. It's very nice and provides a much needed separation between living and work spaces. Very smart. With the way I have my house set up with all the offices and servers in the house I don't have the separation so I never get that ritual distance from work. I have thought that maybe at some point I should set things up differently.
Ian and Tanya do web application development and are working on some very interesting and IMHO very promising projects. Tanya has this amazing ability to create very professional looking, very slick designs that work. In the web application development space that's what I lack. I just don't have the visual design skills to make what I build look good. It's all extremely funcitonal and the code is written to professional standards, but the look is always lacking.
This is why YML.COM is so ugly. I do think about attempting to up my visual skills or maybe I can establish a relationship with a good designer to help me make what I build more attractive. It's one of the things I think about as I consider ways of making the Joomla/Drupal competitor I've created, the formVista content management, community and social networking platform, more "adoptable".
It's about membership. Because the design doesn't look good it doesn't feel like it "belongs" to professional class solutions.
Tanya has some excellent insights into human behavior and it shows in the work she does and how she lives her life. It's always such a pleasure talking to her. We can get into these long in depth conversations and the time just flies by. I fear I was an attractive nuisance yesterday as she stayed and talked much longer than she should have, but it was an enjoyable conversation.
Tanya's Mom had invited us all over for dinner. The kids were already there and Tanya was going to follow in the car so Ian and I walked. It's like a 15 minutes walk. On the way we passed a huge granite bolder several meters high called Moss Rock. From there you can get a good view of Victoria.
You can hardly make them out but the Olympic Mountains in Washington are visible under the clouds in the distance.
There was a good breeze and one could see all these crazy Canadians flying parasailers over the coastline.
We walked on through a cemetary that had a row of impressive looking gnarly trees.
As I've mentioned a few times, I'm sick. I have a chronic intestinal disorder called Ulcerative Colitis and probably some associated problems. Several years back the last meds stopped working and I was out of remission for months. It's an unpleasant painful disease. When it got bad I started losing weight at an alarming rate. People who knew me back then will tell you I looked like I was approaching deaths door.
My options were somewhat limited. I really didn't want to take steriods and I didn't want to go down the road to surgery.
It got so bad though that I couldn't leave the house as I couldn't be more than 20 yards from a bathroom. This went on for weeks. There was alot of bleeding, incredible near pass-out levels of pain and just all in all unpleasantness. There were arthritis like symptoms, unbelievable debilitating fatigue, memory loss and all kinds of other problems that were all part of this complex.
Disgusted I tried yet once again to do some searches online. The official AMA stance is that diet has no effect on this disease or your long term prognosis. That just didn't make sense to me.
Searching on "Ulcerative Colitis and Fatigue" I found mention of a book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle. To make a long story short, the rather well articulated and basically non-flaky hypothesis is that the consumption of sugar (sucrose), starch and lactose somehow keeps the cycle of disease going making it chronic. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns disease are not curable, unless you chop out the affected sections of intestine.
So I decided since I was stuck in the house anyway I'd eat pork and broccoli for a week breakfast lunch and dinner. "What the hell, eh?", I thought. "Maybe it'll give me a heartattack but that would be a better of checking out than I'm checking out now ...". So I did.
I saw incredible improvements within 48 hours. The bleeding stopped in about 6 weeks. I went in and out of remission over the next year and a half. Within three years I was largely symptom free. By my five year checkup the doctor said he could see no evidence of disease.
The downside is that I have to stay on diet. If I stray from the diet and get just a little sugar like what you get in commercial salad dressing, Bad Things happen.
Over time I should be able to reintroduce some strarches into my diet but I haven't felt confident enough to try yet ... because when Bad Things happen they tend to ruin a few days.
It's funny because every once in a while I'll think to myself that I'm just making it up. It's all mental. So I'll order a Guiness. And it'll be the best Guiness of my life. So I'll order another. At that point the next five days are spoken for and I confirm that I'm sick.
I keep telling Ian he needs less flakey friends.
So Tanya and her mom had a long discussion about what I can and can't have. Smoked Salmon? Nope, look at the ingredients. Sugar is added. Salad dressing? Nope. Sugar, see? etc. etc. Garlic? Love garlic, it doesn't love me back though. Almonds? Bummer, allergic to almonds.
I always feel self conscious because cooking for me is so problematic; I eat a ridiculously plain diet. I don't like to impose but if I go off diet it just goes really badly.
I remember a time a rather attractive woman had made dinner and dessert for me and showed up with it on my doorstep before I had had a chance to explain this situation ... a pasta dish, a cake ... "ummm, I'm so sorry but I can't ...", yea, that didn't go so well. Sometimes you just can't win.
Tanya's mom went way out of her way and made an excellent Mahi-Mahi dinner. It was wonderful.
Like being around Ted and Sarah, Bruce and Ha, being around Ian and Tanya is just nice and comfortable. They both rock as individuals but the two of them together makes me think of the cliche "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Totally.
I was telling a friend this morning, as I had mentioned here before, if I had grown up seeing examples like them and not the horror stories I saw, maybe I would have lived my life a bit differently.
But as Tanya and I were discussing yesterday, it's very hard once you're fully formed to change ... to distance yourself from the nightmares you were exposed to and the associations you've grown up with. Like a dog that's been kicked every time it's been offered a treat, it irrationally associates the treat with being kicked and will recoil at the thought. It takes a very long time for that association to be broken and, as I told her, in many cases it's not even that the association is broken, it's that you just learn to work around it.
But on rare occasions a caring human being can come along who through honest kindness opens a door inside you and suddenly the world is changed. It's through this incredible kindness and unbelievable patience of a few Very Important People that I'm still standing and now open enough to try to see things Differently. I guess that's part of why I'm out here. To see Differently.
So to you and you know who you are, thank you. There's no way I would have made it this far without you.
In a little while Ian and I will start working on the bikes. My bike is a macabre horror show of insect entrails that needs to be cleaned off. I also need to come up with some better mounting system for the tank bag. And the oil and filter need to be changed. We'll probably head over to the BMW dealer later to go get some supplies.
Soon it'll be time to head north out into the Big Cold and Lonely. The weather forecast in the north is looking disturbingly ominous. Very Cold Rain.
Ian keeps saying "You don't have to go all the way. If the Dalton Highway looks sketchy just turn around".
It was a slow day. I did some work in the morning. I thought I'd have more time to work while I was here, figuring that Ian and Tanya both had alot to do, but as it turns out there haven't been the long stretches of time that I need to get into building the anonymous comments extension to the blogging software. It may have to wait until I get home.
So if you want to post comments here, just ask me for an account and I'll send you an invite or you can friend me on facebook. I guess that's been working out ok. I actually got friended today by a BMW rider I had never met. Interesting.
It continues to be a source of amazement to me how much positive feedback I'm getting about these articles. I originally started writing these because there were several women, all mothers, who were concerned about my well being. One mentioned that maybe I could write a blog journal. I thought about it and decided that a blog might be a good way to show everyone that I hadn't died yet.
To make it easier on me I try to write for someone as if I'm telling them a story.
Ian came back in the middle of the day and said he saw a racoon in the yard which ran away. "I was told that if you see them in the daytime it usually means they are rabid.", I mentioned. "Normally, that would be true, but this one was not acting rabid. Usually they'll look drunk and be stumbling around and acting weird. This one wasn't. I don't know what his problem is.", Ian replied.
Shortly afterwards I decided to take the camera and see if I could track it down. It had moved into a thick cedar tree and then moved off into the next yard. I gave up, went back to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. A short while later I noticed the critter in the back yard, so I quietly and cautiously stalked the beast with the telephoto lens. It looked up just as I snapped the picture.
It looked at me for a second and then sauntered off unbothered. Ian it ran away from but me it was unbothered by. The rabbits in my back yard treat me with the same lack of respect.
Ian, being a man of much motion, came down later in the day and suggested that we clean the bikes. It was kind of late and I wasn't feeling particularly motivated to do anything, but with Ian's prodding I got up and we started cleaning the bikes just as it started to rain a bit.
Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming had not been kind to the bike. It's a horror show of bug entrails. In a macabre fashion, other bugs would swarm around my bike and pick off their fallen breathren.
You know it's time to wash your bike when a small flock of birds lands on it to have a feast. I kid you not.
The photo doesn't do it justice.
Little Arlo was designated Rinse Man.
After alot of work and copious quantities of S100 the bike was more or less clean. Some of the bug stains just don't want to come off. Even after the last Alaska trip that wasn't the case. In some ways this was worse than that.
After washing my bike I like to run it until it gets really warm and as much of the water that's gotten onto the engine and whatnot evaporates off. So, as I've been doing for years, I let the bike idle until it got good and hot.
Ian, continuing to be Mr. Motion and Motivation, suggested that I go ahead and change the oil since the bike was warm. I didn't feel like it but I could not argue with the logic. At least Ian provided with a stool to sit on.
Changing the oil on my bike is a major #!$!@#@. First you have to remove the belly pan. Then you remove the drain plug to drain the oil.
Then it gets messy because for whatever reason BMW decided that, despite being a metal cartridge car type oil filter, it should sit in a hot oil bath behind a three bolt cover. There's no drain in the cover so when you remove one side of the cover oil goes everywhere and only gets worse as you try to remove the other two bolts. Of course you need an oil filter wrench which itself gets covered in oil as you unscrew the filter. Oil everywhere. Countless paper towels. Very resource intensive. Ted and Sarah would be horrified.
About 45 minutes later or though I did have the oil changed. We had gone to a BMW dealer earlier in the day to get the filter and oil. I figured they would have the BMW synthetic oil I always use which is just Mobil 1 rebranded, I believe. They told me that because that oil is not available with french and english labelling it's not available in Canada. Instead, they had some kind of 10w40 racing synthetic that they use in all their bikes. I usually run 15w50. On top of that all this stuff was crazy expensive. It would have been cheaper just to have the oil changed in the US. Oh well.
I reason that since I'm going to be travelling in much colder climates the 10w40, being thinner than 15w50, should not be a problem.
So the oil is done. The bike is clean. I have a new tires. All I need to do now is figure out a better way to mount the new tankbag and repair a serious crack that's developed on the saddle bag that fell and I should be set.
A little later today I plan on heading over to a climbing equipment store to see if I can get some clips to fit the bag so I can mount it better. I am not hopeful. Tourmaster seems to use their own kind of clips that don't fit anything else. At least it'll give me an excuse to walk around in downtown Victoria for a while.
We went in for dinner. Tanya had made an amazing chicken dish with an organic yogurt mint sauce along with an incredible salad to which she made a diet legal salad dressing which was incredible.
I need to learn how to cook better. You should have seen it. Delicious. It reminded me of back when a friend would make these wonderful feasts and invite me over to join her and her family for dinner when life for me was at its worst. Incredible kindness. Good memories.
Feeding the Yermo is always dangerous.
After dinner Ian asked if I wanted to see something cool. I figured it had to be another critter. I was right. Ian Watts, Critter Master.
He had noticed a humming bird that had made a nest in one of the trees in the yard. I have never seen a humming bird sit still before.
It just sat there virtually motionless but you could tell it was watching us. Very cool. Ian always notices little things like this.
We walked around outside. I had long since noticed how much rock there is around Victoria. It's nuts. When foundations are made here they just build right on top the rock. Basements are blasted out.
Ian showed me how his house is just placed right on top of the granite. There's no foundation the way we know it back East.
Ian and got to talking and I mentioned how he and I are very different in alot of ways. He's a man of motion. Once he gets up in the morning he's always moving around doing something or another. I on the other hand am a man of inaction. I guess I'm just low energy. Always have been. I can just Sit and Ponder. I go from Starbucks to Starbucks and am perfectly content to sit endlessly until I get a feeling I've been there long enough. Sometimes it's hours later.
So Ian asked if I had enough energy to help him adjust the suspension on his bike. So with a couple of shots of scotch in hand we walked out to the garage and futzed with his bike for a while. I don't have much experience in suspension tuning but my impression is that his forks have some excess stiction. They just don't seem to move the way they are supposed to. Ryan or Al would know much better than I.
It's not right but I was starting to get tired and it was after 11 so we went back to the basement and chatted for a while.
I have alot of respect for Ian. He has always had this Zen like quality about him. He also values his state of being. He didn't like having computers in the house so he had an external office built to create a separation. He values his lifestyle and makes compromises that are kind to himself. He works hard but tries not to work too hard. He rests. He goes for walks. He swims with Orcas.
Me on the other hand. I am different. I guess because of how I was forced to grow up, never being allowed to make choices for myself and endlessly being forced to learn how to do things that I didn't want to, I am not kind to myself. I don't make choices with myself in mind. My best tool is my ability to suffer through just about anything. That's what I relied on to suffer through the Nightmare. Duncan endlessly wondered how I could have made it. But I'm good at that kind of thing. Micro (Mike Rowe) jokes semi-seriously that I am allergic to endorphins. Find something I actually enjoy and I'll go into anaphylactic shock.
But like a soldier whose come back from war or a prisoner whose been let out of a cage after far too many years, the skills and tools that served me well in war do not serve me in this new context.
Ian asked why I don't move away. "I've got to take care of my mom", I replied. Ian moved away and has a good life here. Sure, it has it's issues and problems, but every good life does. I wonder what he would do in my shoes.
"You could move away. A change would be good for you. Maybe you should move to Annapolis, or DC. You could even move to Santiago". "Santiago?", I thought without saying anything. I wonder why of all places on earth he would mention Santiago. Very strange. It's one of those cities that I've thought about more in recent times. Maybe, like Buenos Aires, it's one of those cities I should eventually visit.
Move away? Change my life? Do something different? Change the way you think then the way you act will follow.
I was telling Ian that I'm not any good at being good to myself. On my own I either seek out struggle. I seek difficulty. A friend who took her family on a cruise shortly after I left asked why I didn't go on a cruise, or go to a resort or do something "fun". Why this epic trip up some risky dirt road to visit some dirty cold rainy oil operation?
When left to my own devices that's what I do. Could I be kind to myself the way Ian is to himself? He certainly does challenging things, but he generally attempts to avoid pain and discomfort unless there is some benefit in it. Me, not so much. Difficulty and self denial are their own reward to me for some reason.
And maybe therein lies the bad association. I've had to force myself to do so many things that I didn't want to. Driven by obligations that were handed down to me I built up this skill, but possibly to a degree that in my mind if it's easy, if it's comfortable, if there isn't an epic struggle involved with it, I feel it doesn't have value.
Which is the exact opposite of what I was suggesting to Angela. "Just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it isn't of great value", I commented. I guess I do have the saving grace that I sometimes listen to myself talk.
I've had countless conversations with Anatoly about these piss-ant little programs that people have slapped together that have made millions. Stupid stuff.
We, on the other hand, apply decades of serious technical experience to create very solid technologies addressing the problem spaces we've chosen. The quantity, quality and technical superiority of what we create rivals what the fortune 500 companies can produce. Even in business I don't know how to do anything other than the Very Difficult. I don't see the Easy. I don't think I even know how. It's not good for business especially in the role I find myself in.
Behind us yet another set of critters was making some serious noise. There a gerbils here. It's amazing the kind of noise they can make.
I went to investigate and I found myself once again being eyed by some furry rodent.
Soon I'll leave here and head out into the cold and lonely. The forecast for up north involves alot of rain and alot of cold as is to be expected. There will be mud, critters, ice heaves, sudden patches where Pavement Ends.
Ian keeps saying I can turn around any time. I don't have to go to Deadhorse.
But I set out to do this. I don't know if I really want to. It's a silly destination. There's nothing there. It's just the farthest point north you can go in the US by public road. Talk to any adventure rider and they will have heard of the run to Deadhorse. The countryside is supposed to be stark but beautiful. But there's nothing there. Just a dirty grimy oil operation with lots of tractor trailers coming and going. Ever see Ice Road Truckers? Yea, that's the place.
I keep hearing from people I meet along the way that I must be brave to take on a trip like this. I must have guts. I don't know. It doesn't feel like it to me. It's just a ride. A long introspective ride. Maybe it'll be a cakewalk. Maybe it'll be horror.
Like Ian was saying, maybe to get away I should spend some time in Africa, which is really away. For me that would take alot more guts. Or riding through South America. That's something that scares me.
From riders I hear alot of envy. So many have said if they could they would join me on this trip.
But I find myself thinking NOT going is more uncomfortable for me than actually going. Strange, eh?
But maybe this whole trip is just a manifestation of the messed up associations I learned over the years. Almost all of my "recreation" is like work. I used to go four wheeling and it wasn't a good day until we got stuck and had to, using hard labor, just dig ourselves out.
For it to be worthwhile it has to be hard ... for me ... and this trip has not yet been nearly hard enough I've found myself thinking. But what I have never thought through is how messed up that is.
"Allergic to endorphins", Micro always says.
I imagine myself stuck in the mud on the Dalton Highway somewhere in the rain, in the cold, grizzly bears in the distance ... trying my best to make progress not stopping until Deadhorse. And doing it all for no reason at all other than it's Far Away.
I could go on a cruise. Sit on some Carribean Island. Drink oddly colored drinks and watch the sun set.
But alone that thought is too much for me right now. Maybe in the company of the right woman, but she either isn't available or doesn't exist.
The comfortable easy thing for me right now is to go do the Difficult Thing on a motorcycle by myself. Yea, I think Micro is on to something. I think of Dancing Rabbit and that feeling I had walking into that place, that uncomfortable feeling.
I realize at this moment, probably for the first time, that walking into an Easy Thing, like a resort, a cruise, some far away island beach, makes me more internally uncomfortable than any Hard Thing I've ever done.
And challenging myself to uncomfortable has been a theme on this trip.
Maybe that's why I don't think of this as a vacation. Small parts of it, camping with Bruce and Ha, spending time with Angela, spending time here with Ian and Tanya or on Dancing Rabbit with Ted and Sarah felt like vacation. Come to think of it, isn't it strange that what I think of as vacation is spending time being included and welcomed at the dinner table in a family setting? There is something very telling there that I have never noticed.
Maybe this is why I've always, even since I was a little kid, understood that I was No Fun.
"This is vacation for me", I used to tell her as she put away the dishes after yet another fabulous healthy dinner during my very worst times a couple years ago. Those compassionate breaks from my life included in the daily lives of someone else and their family did me so much good. It was through her efforts, actually, that I became much more comfortable around kids, but that's a story for another time.
Like a solder who measures his self worth through the battles he has won, I believe maybe I measure my self worth by the Difficult Things I've done. I wonder if this could be a form of workaholism.
Whatever it is, as I sit here I feel that it needs to change, but it's too much for me right now. I'll be kind and let myself be me and press on.
But if the the opportunity ever presents itself, maybe I'll go on that cruise or island beach after all ....