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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

The quick run towards Chicago

After completing my wish of seeing the Grand Canyon I realized I need to start towards Chicago. The day before sort of already was a travel east but it was more south-east than northeast which it should have been. I started from the Colorado town of Grand Junction.
The previous day travel was not pleasant at all. More like excruciatingly hot. It felt like I was in a stove and the air just kept getting hotter and there was no way of getting out. The official temperature was 36°C but I think it was higher on that overheated tarmac. I was so hot I literally escaped to a little diner in Colorado where I indulged in ice cold lemonade. The heat was bad enough but the biking gear at that particular moment did not help much. The biking jeans are quite thick and lined with Kevlar. Then there are the biking boots. Can’t do much about either but to cook or stew, whichever your cooking preference. My feet and legs were also very very close to a very very hot engine and exhaust.
Anyway, the next day was hopefully going to be a bit better. First of all the air was cooler in the morning but also I was starting the ascend crossing the Rocky mountains. Some really lovely scenerey ran pass my bike and I also saw the location of the FIS ski events in Vail, Colorado. However after descending on the other side my hopes that the air was cooler on the eastern side were quickly dashed. It was again back to the oven. The heat finally eased the day after, about 100 miles west of Omaha, Nebraska, when I drove into a severe storm system that lasted for a couple of hours. Managed to avoid one of the storms that was producing a tonne of lightning by going for lunch to Denny’s. The second storm I caught full on and I had to quickly escape off the motorway to hide under a tiny bit of roof of an abandoned shed. After that it was back to sunshine but this time without the oven-like ambience.

By the way, Nebraska not very impressive so anything was going to be an improvement and Iowa did not disappoint. Not that I have anything against Nebraska but most of the way there was a prevails long smell of pig feces that only got intermittently exchanged by the smell of cow feces.

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Grand Canyon

 

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And this was the penultimate final destination on my trip. Amaaaazing and truly awe inspiring. Those who have seen it probably know what I mean. Just the size of the whole landscape really gets you.

I was really on my way to Chicago but after sleeping on my thoughts when I was in St. George in Utah I decided to give it a go. I was going to go to the horseshoe but the local road was closed for roadworks. Plan B was to go to the northern rim and it was really really worth it.

Most of the photos are on my big camera and I truly hope the captured some of the awesomeness of the scenery.

Returned back to my route heading for Illinois. Had to tend to my bike’s mechanical needs. I apparently used it so much that I needed to re-fill the oil. Apparently it needs a special one and when I turned up at a petrol station in Kanab, Utah I got absolutely no help from the young and apparently not mechanically savvy staff. They could direct me to the part of the shop where they had engine oils and that was it. When I enquired about any motorcycle mechanics or shops they more or less just giggled. Even more astonishing when I tell you there was a mechanic shop about 100 metres down the road. Luckily they did carry it so my bike was happy again.

Another weird thing happened to me further down the road. I was at a remote part if the road going through a canyon. Now as a biker you do encounter a fair share of insects slamming into your helmet or windshield. But this time it was bigger. Much bigger. First time it happened it hit the windshield and made an almighty bang. But it happened again just a couple seconds later. And then again…. and again. At one point one ricochetted of my helmet and into my lap. It was a locust. I slowed down and had to duck low to avoid being hit in the face. This lasted for about half a kilometer. Then as quickly as it started … it finished. Didn’t happen since.

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Death Valley, Las Vegas and the Hoover dam – 4 states in one day

 

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Decided to give it a go and hope it doesn’t bite me in the backside if I turn out to be late for my bike drop-off on Saturday I. Chicago.
I decided I really wanted to see at least some of Grand Canyon and I went for it. From Bishop in California I headed southeast towards Las Vegas by crossing the “infamous” Death Valley. In fact its not that scary and there is even a small basic petrol station and motel there.
But the scenery is again really gorgeous, but in a completely different way as the others I have mentioned before. When in Redwood, Glacier and Yellowstone the nature seemed soft and pleasant then here it seemed rugged and almost alien. Lots if beautiful geology and of course there is the heat. That is one thing about experiencing the countryside on a motorcycle. In a car you are much sheltered from the elements while on a bike you are basically exposed, whatever weather, temperatures, senses … you are completely immersed in them. And here you were immersed in the scorching heat. No shade to hide in, no air conditioning to cool you down. The best way to keep fresh is to continue moving. The problem is that the air can get so hot that driving at speed doesn’t really help much.

Now it turned out Death Valley wasn’t that bad heatwise. The next valley was much worse. As you rise out of the valley the air gets actually quite cool when you on the bike but boooy, did it get hot on the other side, where the ranger post is. It felt like I was immersing myself in a stove. It just kept getting hotter and hotter. There was a point when I got worried that I wasn’t going to be able to take it. But when I stopped to get the park pass it wasn’t that bad as there was quite a lot of wind moving the hot air around.
After this I left California and entered Nevada. Took the highway to Vegas and then with the help of the Google satnav maneuvered my way through the fast and dangerous Vegas highways towards Hoover dam. It was soooo hot there but worth the trip. First I took a walk on the memorial bridge that gives you stunning views of the dam. Then I took my bike and drove across it to the Arizona side (changed the timezone briefly), turned back an returned to the Nevada side.

Returned back to Vegas and worked my way again through the highway system and desperately trying to stay alive by dodging speeding cars and trucks. I headed towards Salt Lake City and briefly passed through Arizona before entering Utah.

There is a very spectacular part of the motorway where it passes through a canyon at Mt. Bangs. At first it looks like the motorway will just hit the mountain or perhaps that there is a tunnel there. But then the road starts to weave through this very narrow canyon, parts of it were visibly man made. Really spectacular.

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Hoover dam from the Arizona side
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View from the memorial bridge
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This was the state if the public toilets at a vista point above Death Valley. And yes. Those are bullet holes. Yiiihaaaaa
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Road towards Death Valley
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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

San Francisco and the Yosemite national park

Yosemite
Yosemite

I put these two together as I visited them on the same day. They are only about 4 hours drive from each other.
I started the day in Santa Rosa and headed down highway 101 that leads into San Francisco over the Golden Gate bridge. The bridge always used to be a toll one as I recall but now they have a silly electronic system where your plate is scanned and then your account gets charged. Which is fine if you are a regular user. But what about the one-off user like myself. I have no idea what to do and the signs on the bridge are useless. There are no signs before the bridge telling you what to do.

I finally got to a computer so I could pay the damn toll on Tuesday. Such a hassle.
Got to drive round the city a bit which was thrilling. Ended crossing the Bay Bridge to Oakland and then onwards toward Yosemite national park.
This is another gem that I wished I could have spent more time at. Truly amazing and a different landscape from Yellowstone. Lots of hiking trails to explore the countryside. Also saw the almost compulsory bison but somehow didn’t get to see a bear. Well, perhaps next time.

Ended the day in a small town of Bishop where I saw the most amazing sunset over the mountains. Its unfortunately on my Canon so will have to publish it later.

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San Francisco from the Treasure Island
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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Oregon

Not one of the very impressive days on my trip. The weather precipitation radar was showing quite a lot of scattered activity in the whole northwestern quarter of Oregon. I did have a little wish to see Mount St. Helens where that big eruption happened in 1980. This would actually take me northeast to my then position in Vancouver (yes, there is one in the state of Washington.
So this plan was scrapped. Then came my other wish … to see the painted hills in Oregon. Took the road of the interstate 5 and headed east only to endure shower after shower. I ended up turning around but then reconsidering after filling up my stomach in the Ivy Bear pizzeria. I was adamant that I shall see those damn hills. But the rain had other plans. It was quite pleasant in the area where I had lunch but the weather got nastier and nastier. It was probably adamantly telling me to turn around. After a proper soaking I relented and headed back – doubly disappointed as I not only had to give up on yet another item on my to do wish list (the first one being the Road to the Sun over Logan pass) but I also lost nearly half a day messing around that particular part of Oregon.
I was also getting a strong feeling that Oregon was a little weird. The biggest clue came when I filled up my tank – the first one I did in this state. A guy approached me who did not convincingly show that he was actually employed there. He said that I am not allowed to self-serve myself with petrol (even though the petrol had all the signs of it being self service). This happened again further south when I filled-up for the second time. Apparently I am breaking the law if I fill up my tank by myself. The first person told me its because they are trying to get more people employed … and weirdly they chose this way to do it!!??
The second person said its because of safety but wait for this. Both of them just inserted my credit card in the machine and pressed a few buttons but then handled me the petrol nozzle for me to do the ‘dirty work’. This must surely indicate that there is an amount of lunacy in the Oregon state legislature.

I decided to leave the busy and very wet interstate 5 at Eugene and head for the pacific coast. I took the highway 126 and the road literarily goes through a spectacular scenery. And the smells you get you can only appreciate if you are outside of a car. Truly mesmerising. However it was quite late by the time I hit the coastal road 101. Found this state campsite that looks like it was set in a prehistoric forrest. Pity it is so busy. Its only Thursday today. Looks like it will be fully booked tomorrow which sort of beggs the question … where am I going to sleep tomorrow and the day after.

I would still like to see some of those big Sequoia trees, park Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. But I still need to get back to Chicago to return the bike by noon on the 29th.

Day 2 in Oregon

The state has somewhat redeemed itself after I drove through some beautiful scenery. Although right by the sea I didn’t see much of it. The forrest is still very dense and there were also very tall sand dunes. Many parts were and probably still will be further down south tsunami danger areas.
Later in the morning the skies cleared and I had beautiful sunshine.

Don’t have any worthwhile photos on my phone so I could publish them here. Most of them are on my Canon.

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Seattle

 

Travel by ferry to Port Townsend. Olympic mountains not as impressive as thought but to prove me wrong would take to much time. Also the weather got worse so I had to go to a hotel for the night. The camp in Port Angeles was not really tent friendly. No soil to talk off, just a few centimetres, the coming storm would have blown my tent far away. So decided to cut my stay in the area short and took the ferry from Bainbridge island to downtown Seattle.

Got lost on the way but because of that I stumbled upon this great historic village of Port Gamble.

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St Johns church in Port Gamble

Found my way back fine and got myself queued up for the Seattle ferry.

Spectacular view of the city as you approach it from the sea.
Now I have become quite experienced with the Harley but the steep streets in some parts if the city were scaaaary. I nearly lost it on a couple of junctions. I quickly drove to the outskirts of the city, found a nice cafe and had myself a late.

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Having a well-deserved coffee in Seattle

 

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Interstate 5
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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Glacier national park

The previous day saw me hit the road big time as I rode from Yellowstone right up to St. Mary’s – a little town on the eastern entrance to the Glacier NP. My plan was to drive up the Road to the Sun over Logan’s pass. Unfortunately the road was closed due to all the snow that had to be cleared only to then have to do roadworks it in the few months that were left to do it in.

I was really keen to see Lake McDonald so I did a big detour round the park. The surroundings there was astonishing and reminded me a lot of Slovenia’s lake Bohinj.

Took a boat ride on the lake and chilled in the surroundings. I also wasn’t very up for any more riding. I think the cold night camping took its toll. Nothing compared with the morning in Silver Gate where there was frost on my bike. Unfortunately the night in the St Mary’s campsite was also very very cold. I think the temperatures fell to about 5°C.

The following night I staid in a basic campsite at Logan State Park at Middle Thompson Lake in Montana. As a treat the night before  went to a local bar about 5 miles down the road. On the way saw a guy walking on the side of the road but wasn’t apparently hitch-hiking. After passing him I did recall seeing a car not far behind the guy so I did fear he might have broken down. Now this was in the middle of nowhere and I might have been in the altruistic mood of helping your fellow human being. There seems to be a code like that among bikers. Quite a few times when I stopped at the side of the road I quickly had another biker slowing down and enquiring if I am OK and if I need assistance. Its like the bikers have their own Green Flag going for them 🙂

Coming back to the non-hitch-hiking guy. I felt bad passing him and abolutely no memories from maaaany US horror films about picking up strange people on the road came in to my mind as I decided to do a U-turn and try to find what was going on. The guy indeed had a car breakdown and needed to use the phone. The problem wasn’t that I had luggage on my bike – I didn’t, but I was not used to driving pillion drivers and had to quickly scramble through my memories of my training in Motorcycling training Wales in Swansea. The guy was also a little, how shall I be politically correct …. well, he was fat. Just as I got him on the back seat – still not expecting my head to be chopped off at this moment – tried to start the engine and nilch, nada, nothing. Just as I realised I had the emergency cut off switch accidentally engaged another driver pulled up and offered to take the guy to the nearest phone. Haven’t heard of any mysterious missing people in Montana or brutal murders but the whole notion only came to me as I was tucking in to my dinner.

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Lake McDonald
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Lake McDonald
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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

The Cascade mountains

After staying in a great KOA campsite in Winthrop, Washington, I took the road across the Cascade mountains. The scenery was similar to the Going to the Sun road in Montana. Very stunning mountain scenery, lakes, waterfalls … it had everything. Unfortunately i didn’t see any bears but I was told they are frequently seen on the road.

Stopped for a cup of coffee on the way and took the ferry crossing to Port Townsend. Rubbish campsite where I couldn’t even use my pegs to pitch my tent. There was also a storm brewing and my tent would surely be airborne with such poor anchorage. So I decided to go to a hotel for the night.

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Yellowstone national park

Day 8 was a travelling day from Rapid city, SD to Cody in Wyoming on the entrance to Yellowstone national park.
Got lost a little in Worland and took an unwilling detour through a town called Thermopolis.
Didn’t find a suitable camp so I took a room in a motel. And just by chance I found this charming lodge called the Grizzly Lodge in a small town of Silver Gate. This town is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, tucked between the hills north and south, Beartooth pass to the east and Yellowstone to the west. Very basic but very charming, no TV, so to speak – we did have a TV in the room but no TV signal. The owner did play a couple of DVDs every night but I didn’t get to watch any. As the main evening entertainment they lit a bonfire in the garden and invited guests  to have to have a bottle of beer. Amazeballs 🙂 Unfortunately it was so wet and cold that on both evenings couldn’t stay very long but did get to meet some nice people. The first night it was a guy from Germany visiting his son but doing some sightseeing for himself before he sees him, there was also a group of teachers on a learning visit to Yellowstone to find out more about the problems of trying to preserve the nature and wildlife as it was and to somehow co-exist with the farmers surrounding Yellowstone. One of the biggest problems was brucellosis in the buffalo. On occasions the buffalo would cross the Yellowstone national park boundaries and get into contact with the farmer’s cattle and potentially infecting them.

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On this photo you can see them right in Silver Gate, just across the road from Grizzly Lodge, where I was staying.

The second night the electricity went in the whole town because of the wind causing one of the trees to fall on the power cable. I was in the eatery next door and both the owners of the eatery and the lodge managed to get generators going so the power came back. At least the heating worked OK and boy did we need it. It was so cold I had frost on my bike in the morning.

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The Yellowstone park is amazing and has such a variety of surroundings, from the almost alpine serenity to almost desert-like hills, sulphur gushing geysers – of course I have to mention the Old Faithful, but there are many many more smaller ones in the park.

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Bike trip round the USA 2013 Motorcycling

Day 7 of 29 – South Dakota

Decided to leave most of my gear and head to the Black Hills in South Dakota to see the Mt Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorials.

The first looks much more impressive when you are actully there. The second will be even more impressive once its finished … the bus guide estimated that will happen in the next 20 – 30 years.

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