20031005 - 20031007
It's cold. I've been riding in jeans, a t-shirt, polar fleece, and a riding jacket. I've yet to throw the Gore-Tex pants over the jeans, and I've yet to throw the down jacket under the riding jacket. If I'm still cold at that point, I'll have to stop more often.
As it is, I'm getting a little over two hours of riding per tank. While the bike should be good for a maximum range of about 240 miles, I usually stop between 150 and 180 for more fuel.
I've had no trouble with the bike so far, except for one thing. Just as I was riding out of the sleet on Tuesday, entering Quebec, the ignition cut out. Suddenly, I lost all power at about 120 kph. The tach went to zero and the bike started slowing down rapidly. I pulled the clutch with my left hand and toggled the handlebar-mounted kill switch a couple of times, then the ignition key a few times. I hit the start button again, and it fired right up. I figure one of the switches has "issues". I'll be looking for a motorcycle shop soon for an oil change. I'll have them take a look while they're at it.
The weather maps I looked at today (20031008) suggest that slightly warmer weather can be found to the west of Quebec. It would be great if that holds.
20031009 - Thunder Bay, ON
Okay, so I got to the hotel in Thunder Bay - the one where they promised free high-speed Internet access. It turns out some lame wireless company is already here selling their crap. So my free high-speed access in my room turned into $10.00 access in the lobby. I complained and got them to reduce my room rate by 10 bills.
So there's this creepy guy smoking cheap cigars across from me who is doing the install of the wireless. I figure he's running a sniffer, so I'm piping all my crap through an SSH tunnel back to Hopkins and then onto my website. All of this because my web hosting service isn't smart enough to do secure ftp. Anyway, if this dood creaps me out enough, I'm going to snap his picture and make him famous. That does it, the stupid Tom Jones clothes, the bad cigars, the house red - dood, you're famous. ...well, you're famous once I get my USB cable off the bike.
...okay, now, dood, you're famous. Can you flippin' say Nosferatu? Me either. How 'bout Vlad the Impaler?
I don't deserve it, but the weather for the last two days has been outstanding! Today was a record high for Ontario on October 9th. 73 degrees!! Whooohooo.
The foliage was absolutely incredible, today. I'd show you picture's but they'd be all blurry on account of I didn't stop.
I saw a new cager trick today. It involved yet another teenager. Luckily, it didn't involve my near death, but, unfortunately, it did involve the near death of a mom and a couple of kids. I was behind two trucks and a Jeep. Behind me was a Chevy pickup. I believe my bike was the strongest of the group, and as badly as I wanted to get by the two trucks, I knew there wasn't enough room to make the pass before the double yellow, or the subsequent blind curve. So this idiot behind me decides he can make it and blasts by all of us. He hasn't cleared the last 18 wheeler by the double yellow, and still hasn't cleared him by the curve. Sure enough, the @$%@$#%@# goes around the blind curve at about 90 mph. Just as he gets back in the right lane, a mom and her kids come around the curve in a little Toyota. The butthead nearly killed at least 5 people (including the mom and her two kids, himself, and his passenger) in favor of a few minutes time.
I learned something new today. My bike will go at least 210 miles on a tank of gas. This was mildly thrilling because I started searching for a gas station at 150 miles. In the last 60 miles I slowed to 60 mph and started grabbing the clutch on all of the significant downhills. I made it to a gas station. I was so excited about not having to thumb a ride that I didn't notice the attendant coming at my bike, nozzle in hand. Sure enough, before I could stop him, he poured gas all over the bike. I have often felt awkward asking if I can pump it myself. Not anymore!
The wind was really intense again today - gusts over 50mph. Several times I just about got blasted out of my lane. When I got the bike under control, I was countersteering like a bastard and had the bike at about a 30 degree lean into the wind. If it had been raining, I'm fairly certain the front tire would have started sliding sideways. As it was, even though I was able to anticipate where wind would be coming from (more on this below) and could react very quickly, there were times where I felt like I was about to be pushed out of the ring by a sumo wrestler.
The bike is weighted pretty heavily toward the rear wheel without all the gear on it. Loaded the way I have it, it's significantly biased toward the rear wheel. I think the wind and the weight balance have resulted in much faster wear on the front tire than I would have expected. Almost new 4000 miles ago, it looks like it will need repleacement soon.
So I remember reading about on and offshore breezes, and what causes them. Onshore breezes are relevent to the winds I was experiencing. Land warms up much more quickly than bodies of water. As the land heats up, the air over the land rises. Cool air from an adjacent body of water rushes in to fill the void. What surprised me a great deal was that significant wind can be generated on the shores of even very small lakes. I the last two days of riding, I learned to be ready to countersteer in the direction of even very small lakes as I passed them. Otherwise, I'd find myself headed for the inevitable Canadian soft shoulder.
Only one campground in the vicinity of Winnipeg was open. They had no water, no showers, no nothing. They said a campground in Brandon was still open. It was already 6pm and Brandon was another 2 hours west. I decided to head for Brandon. I fell for some clever signage suggesting that Transcanada 1 West could be followed through downtown Winnipeg. Well, I couldn't follow it. A half-hour later, I exited Winnipeg to the north, nowhere near Transcanada 1. I then learned that beltways are called perimeters in Canada. So I followed perimeter 101 anticlockwise until I hit Transcanada 1. So I was going to be really late getting to the campground. I started to wonder if anyone would be manning registration when I got there.
It ended up not mattering. About 20 km outside Brandon, it started raining. I immediately decided that I was not going to set the tent up in the rain. Luckily there was a decent-looking hotel just on the edge of town. I decided to check in there and wait the rain out.
I met some folks this morning from Moose Jaw. They saved me from determining on my own that Regina is a hole. They highly praised their home town and recommended I stay there instead.
Well, I'm here in Moose Jaw. The old part of town on Main Street is pretty cool. The Internet Cafe is especially useful. I'm tempted to eat here, but Nits is right across the street and reputed to be pretty good. So I'm off.
See more Moose Jaw stuff here.
Sunrise. Just as the sun is rising, it's 0 degrees just outside Moose Jaw.
I ran into some bikers in Calgary who scared the hell out of me. No, not because they were Harley types, but because of what they said: "Nobody goes up there this time of year on a bike. Egad, noooo." They told me that my one chance, given a week's worth of bad weather on the way, and after that, who knows, was to beat feet through the Rockies today. So I set out at slightly extra-legal speeds to do just that. I slowed down a little when I hit the rain. I slowed down a little more when I hit the sleet. I decided to call it quits when I hit snow. I'm currently holed up in a run-down inn near Lake Louise. Tomorrow, I'll try to make some more progress west.
At 1000, it was snowing hard. At noon, a patch of blue sky could be seen here and there. I decided to go for it. I knocked the snow off the bike cover, loaded up my stuff, and got the hell out of Dodge. I had about 150km to make before the weather deteriorated again. At the elevation of Roger's Pass, all it would take would be for a heavy cloud to roll through, and I'd be in snow again. Sure enough, that's what happened. Only the snow was extremely light and the road surface was above freezing. Here are some pics documenting the conditions at West Louise Lodge and the trip up and through the pass.
I spent the night at the Living Forest Campground in Nanaimo. I met a lot of people there, but didn't snap their pictures because it would have seemed kind of awkward. Here's a shout out to Steve, Jan, Cat, English Gary, Art, Mark, and Ted. I talked much of the night with Ted, Steve, and English Gary about motorcycles. They all seemed to have more experience with them than I do. I had a great time.
Here's one plug for the Living Forest Campground - they are the only campground I've found so far with high-speed Internet access. I figure it's only a matter of time before wireless is available at all of them. Oh, they also had the closest thing to an actual bathroom I've seen in any campground on this trip.
20031015 - 20031016
I rode into Victoria in a downpour. I checked out a couple of hotels looking for Internet access. I stumbled upon the Marriot that I'm in because they had a huge banner hanging from the hotel the said "Wireless Is Here". It's kind of ironic. When wired access was available in a hotel room, it was usually free. With the cheaper-to-install wireless access, the hotels seem to favor fee-based access at relatively high rates. Ten bucks is a common charge for 24 hours. This isn't high compared to, say, Starbucks, but it's about half or a third of the rate for an entire month of residential access.
The weather forecast for Victoria and points south includes heavy rain and high winds. All things considered, I decided to spend a second night in Victoria. The rain is forecast to continue through Sunday. Rather than wait it out, I'll be heading back to the states tomorrow morning on the Port Angeles Ferry.
I just heard that today may best the all-time record for rain in a single day in Vancouver. They are expecting flooding in Vancouver tomorrow. Sheesh. I also just heard that it snowed last night in Whistler. I'm glad I got through there a day early. Whistler is a ski resort on Route 99 that has already been named as the host city to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
It's official. Thursday, 16 October, 2003, was the rainiest day *ever* in Victoria. Despite the rain, I spent much of the day walking around town. I stopped at a Thai place for lunch. When I walked in, I think the owner was litterally pissed. He gave me a look like, you're not coming in here that wet, are you? I showed him while I had Lunch Combo #3.
There was a mudslide on the road I'm going to take today. An 18-wheeler got pushed into a lake by it. They are calling for flooding all around Port Angeles, WA, where the ferry will drop me off this morning.
On the trip over on the ferry I got to see a pod of humpback whales and a gaggle of seals. That was cool.
I rode all day through 50+ mph winds and hard rain. From the newscasts I saw in the morning, it looked like I had to get to Oregon to see blue sky. I made Oregon by about 5pm. I decided I'd get as far as the Salem area and then start looking for a campground. I came upon the Champgoen State Park just north of Salem. They have good facilities, and the weather is supposed to be dry until Sunday. It was 76 degrees according to a sign as I got off the interstate. I figure it's mid-sixties now, at 8pm. What a difference a few days and a few hundred miles make.
The good thing about riding in the snow is that it gave me a complete attitude adjustment about riding in the rain. It really doesn't bother me anymore. The jacket that Bern gave me combined with the army-issue Gore-Tex pants and Gore-Tex lined boots provide an absolutely waterproof and comfortable shell. I've never owned a set of riding leathers, and I don't think I ever will. Gore-Tex rules.
I had to blow off some more must-see mileage today. The drive down the coast of Washington and Oregon is supposed to be fantastic. Because of the high wind warnings and the record rains, I decided not to go. As it was, I had all I could handle trying to keep the rubber side down on the roads east of the coastal mountains. Rain is okay, but rain combined with blow-you-off-your-bike wind is not okay. I got to test whether the front tire does slide in extreme wet and extreme wind. It didn't, but my prostate may never be the same. I was riding as far forward as I could in order to weight the front wheel.
Needless to say, I didn't take any pictures today. There were times when I couldn't see anything, so don't feel too bad if you don't get to see anything.
I woke in a cloud. The morning fog was so thick, my visibility was as little as 100 yards at times. Gotta love those cagers that don't need to turn on their headlights as long as they can see the cagers coming at them. I thought that was just a Maryland trick. It turns out they've got that stunt down cold in Oregon, too.
I had the right instinct to seal all the wet bags before turning in. I thought I'd give the bike a break and let it go "commando style" for the evening. That was a mistake. I also left the bike cover "drying" on the picnic table. Well, it was thoroughly soaked this morning.
As I was riding into the last town of the day, I dislexified the reading of the sign announcing the town. I thought I saw Population: 56,000. That's when I decided the Harris Beach Campground, run by the State of Oregon would be a good stop. With 56,000 people, there was sure to be an Internet Cafe. It turns out the sign actually said Population: 5,600. Surprisingly, there were several places advertising wireless Internet access. Unfortunately, all were closed when I went through town at about 5pm on a Saturday. As I was driving back from the far end of town, I noticed that the most promising looking place had its door open, where on the first pass it had been closed. I pulled a U-ie and parked. The sign still said closed, so I figured I'd walk in and ask if they were closed for good, or might be reopening some time. I was told they were closed until Monday, but that I could make free use of their wireless for the next 20 minutes, at which time they had to leave. I took them up on their offer. At 5 o'clock, I packed up and thanked them for their generosity. They said they really didn't have to scram until 5:30, and, if I wanted, I could stay and use the net until then.
Here's a shot of the coffeehouse in Brookings, OR. The proprietors were very friendly, and generous, and the coffee and banana nut muffins were very good and fresh. I recommend the place.
The extra time came in really handy. In addition to being able to contact Bernadette, Mark, and Harold, I was able to do useful things like get directions to Leslie's and check the weather forecast for the next couple of days. It looks like tonight and tomorrow hold the greatest chance for wet weather. If tomorrow is not too bad, I'll stick around. Otherwise, I hear it's pretty dry within 100 miles south of here.
It's starting to spit here. I decided to head south. The guy at the coffeehouse said south of Eureka should be dry.
I'm sort of in screw around mode until 22 October, when I meet Bernadette in San Francisco. So I'm not to particular about where I stay in the next few hundred miles. Of course, drier would be better.
I passed though some incredible sections of the great redwood forests.
I had my sights set on Ukiah, thinking the town was big enough, they had to have wireless. I struck out there, but I did get to enjoy the last hour of their annual Pumpkin Fest. Some locals suggested Santa Rosa.
On the way to Santa Rosa, I passed Dry Creek and the Russian River. I've had some kick-ass Zinfanel from the region, so it was cool to see it.
The people running the coffee shops in Santa Rosa are idiots. Not all the coffee shops, mind you. Just the folks at Starbucks and Aromas. At Starbucks, the person I got didn't know anything about the wireless they offered. She got info from the back, and informed that a T-Mobile account was required. I asked about other Internet Cafes in town. Again to the back. She came back and said, "Go right on Mendocino, Aromas is across the street, you can't miss it, there's a sign." After leaving Santa Rosa to the north with these directions, I turned around and returned to the Starbucks. I chose a *different* person to talk with. She, from the back, informs, go *left* on Mendocino for 6 blocks, make a right on W. 3rd, then right on Wilson. This sounds very different from the first set of instructions, and probably right. When I get to Aromas, it becomes clear I shouldn't have bothered. They've got 3 Macs, no switch, and no wireless. I push out of town looking for a place to pitch a tent because it's already dark.
On the way out of Dodge, I pass a Borders. I remember hearing Melanie say something about wireless at Borders, so I make a U-ie and inquire within. Once again, T-Mobile is required. I tell you what - I'm going to boycott any business that pulls this T-Mobile crap on me. I'm going to patronize the hell out of businesses that offer free wireless. Next semester, all my textbooks are coming from Barnes & Noble. Feh!
I'm staying in the closest campground to San Francisco I can find. The host, Susan, is pretty cool. Last night she tossed all the teenagers out of the park. I got one of their sites and all of their firewood this morning. That's cool. Yer outta here! Feh!
In the last 12 hours, 1000 raccoons, 6 deer, and 5 wild turkeys have visited my campsite. I'd provide pictures, but it's a walk-in campsite and I left my camera on the bike. I figure they'll all be back, so I'll take some shots tomorrow morning.
Wow. Fires in SoCal, fires at the Grand Canyon and points north. You guessed it, another record was set. The air quality and visibility was the worst on record in Page, AZ. I was within 1000 feet of the vermillion cliffs, but I couldn't see them. I figure I can start advertising my route and take payments from most municipalities to stay the hell away.
20031031 Kilomile Day!
Staring at the map a couple of months ago, I got it in my head that Big Sandy, Texas might be a cool town. Maybe I'd get lucky. Well, Big Sandy is a hole. It's also devoid of hotels, motels, and campgrounds.
Today was the first day without at least 40 mph winds in several days, and, despite beginning at 37 F, it had warmed to 83, and was still in the mid seventies at 6 pm. I decided to press on until I found some place suitable to sleep.
Louisiana smells bad, and Shreveport is either the armpit...or worse. I walked out of the first hotel before making it all the way through the lobby. I walked out of the second after smelling the hallway. I walked out of the third through sixth either because they had no Internet access, or because it came "free" with a room that was only 100 dollars. Don't get me wrong, there are many cities where I've paid over 200 for a room; Shreveport will never be one of them.
At this point, I decided I might as wll just tough it out to New Orleans. In the process, I'd become a legitimate iron butt, logging over 1000 miles in a single day - 1083 to be exact. I left Tucumcari, NM, biked completely across Texas, and stopped riding in New Orleans. The bike is 12 years old, and fully 2% of the miles on the bike got put on it today. Despite my fatigue, nothing exceptional happened today on the road. Before I forget to mention it, let me say that Texas is the absolute Mecca for cagers hanging out obliviously in the left lane like total effing idiots. I don't have all of the territories completely mapped out by driving skills, but I feel comfortable talking about a few regions. Canadian drivers are extremely curteous and cautious, except for the teenagers. New Mexican drivers are pretty good. Texans suck. I think someone is kidnapping texan drivers and bringing them to Maryland.
As you might guess, New Orleans is alive with costumes and beads on Halloween, even at 2 am, when I got in. As I saw a few drivers doing really crappy jobs of staying in their lanes (like missing the lane by half a car width), I decided that riding through New Orleans on a bike on Halloween was a really stupid thing to do.
20031101 - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans is the 10th planet. First, everything about it is designed to slow your pace, and then slow it, and slow it, and stop it, and then slow it some more. I'm not sure who laid out the traffic patterns, or whether they're self-organizing. Usually, when you're in the heart of a city, one way streets will alternate left, right, left, etc. Not in New Orleans. Left, left, right, left, left. When you want to make a left turn, you can't. You pass the street a half block, and then hang a u-ie, and then make a right turn.
I did laundry in the French Quarter so I could sneak out for some gumbo on Bourbon Street. Before I could sneak out, I got propositioned by a pair of twins. I'm not making this up. I must really look like hell, because these twins turned out to be triplets. The missing sibling was John Madden; he's the looker of the three.
Bourbon Street is just plain crazy, even at noon.
I left New Orleans and jumped on Highway 90 to cruise the gulf coast. I think my roadkill sightings are now as complete as they can be without traveling to Australia. Today I saw multiple instances of gator roadkill. I learned that marsh-front houses on the bayou are called camps, and that there is a strong tendency to name the property with some sort of cutesy name. This is evident because the name is displayed on a sign on the road, usually with an even cutsier graphic.
I cruised the gulf coast into Pensacola, and then headed north into Alabama. You know what's scarier than snow? The abundance of large biomass along Mississippi and Alabama highways at night. I was first clued in by ex-biomasses strewn for hundreds of feet down the highway. I couldn't make out what the biomasses had been, but it was clear that many were very large. Shortly after viewing some of the carnage, I started noticing lots of deer hanging out at the roadside sorta kinda thinking about hari kiri, or whatever deer call it. What was really unnerving was being able to spot a deer within seconds of every time I decided to scan the roadside. It was kind of like stargazing in the desert: no matter where you look, you see one. I started to try to estimate the odds that an ex-deer/ex-motorcyclist incident would happen based on the number of splatter scenes on the road, the number of vehicles on the road, and the number of deer on the roadside. Obviously, I didn't approach anything like an exact figure, but I did scare myself a lot.
I stayed overnight just outside Montgomery.
20031102 - Asheville, NC
I left Montgomery and headed to Mark and Beth's. I met Mark and Beth in college. Mark was a roomate, and Beth was a good friend to us both. Over the years we've kept in touch. Mark and Beth just moved here to Asheville, NC a few weeks ago.
Mark is the best male friend I have. I love him. No, I'm not gay, not even a metrosexual. But I appreciate a man who has more integrity than I, and also more compassion. He is a truly great friend. He is a friend who knows my limitations, loves me anyway, and saves my ass when I'm beyond helping myself. Good on you, Mark, and thanks for everything. You are a truly great friend.
Beth and I went for a cager tour through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here are some pictures from the hike up Chimney Rock and beyond.