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First Blog: 11-23-2018
San Felipe, Baja Norte, Mexico
(Readers be forewarned: you will encounter many intentionally misspelled words and “typos”; this is not done with the intention of annoying you or to offend the Grammar Police but to attempt to change the english (sic) language to something that makes a whole lot more damned sense. Word conjugation in our language is ridiculous and is full of rules that are archaic and idiotic. For example: dived has become the replacement for dove, as it should since it is closer to the root verb, to dive. Compare Weave and Leave and all their screwed up tenses for the fun of it, then think how hard it would be to learn our language for someone who wasn’t born in the USA. Try Peel and Feel. Did you pelt that carrot; no but you felt it when you peeled it. Stupid, right? Another is bake: we don’t say, I boke a cake but baked one; so I say I waked up, not woke. And that’s what I want all of you to do and put the Word Nazis in their place. I refuse to “change the Y to I, and add ES” just because my teacher telled me (tell rhymes with yell, remember) because their teacher telled them, etc, etc. As you know, I’m not good with following rules, and I encourage others to do the same. The Queen and her proper english can kiss my ass. Languages changeth, doth they not? We can now proceed forthwith.)
To begin writing my blog I have needed to take the time to sit down and start the process. It’s not that I haven’t had opportunitys, it’s I’ve lacked discipline and have not made it a priority. I also don’t understand Word Press – it sucks. And, I hadn’t really gone anywhere and didn’t have much to talk about. Now that I’m 5,700 miles into my trip, it feels like I’ve done a lot of riding but doesn’t feel like I’ve seen or experienced much, even so. Some of it could be a blurring from compressing time and space; and from not having a particular destination or timetable. When my mom died five days into my trip a month ago, I had to switch gears, turn around and make a full circle to take care of her affairs. I then departed Boise, Idaho, two weeks later than expected, and that threw off plans I had for joining my friend Marco in Baja. He lives in Tijuana and I was going to stay with his family while I worked on my motorcycle and got it ready for the rest of my trip. And I wanted to work on my Spanish, as Marco speaks perfect English. It’s always an adjustment going to a new country, and having a safe, comfortable place to land is great at reducing anxiety. It’s why when I crossed the border into Tecate, Mexico, three days ago I came straight to the Estancia Inn. Partly because it was close by, and on the main road to Mexicali, but also because it was familiar, since I had stayed here when I came through from my Cabo San Lucas trip almost three years ago. Familiarity breeds a little bit of complacency…
Entering Mexico, I realize it is a privilege to be able to afford hotels as needed. There will be times when it feels comfortable to camp to save money but that is not possible in citys. Coming to Baja is a good place to transition to a new country and get my bearings as a traveler again. My skills and decision making ability need a refresher. Baja is mellow because it is mostly open country, punctuated with small towns geared toward tourism, but most are not. There are three large border towns, and I will hit all three in a short period of time, but thankfully my Spanish is starting to come back as I slowly dust it off. The anxiety of not recalling high school Spanish, coupled with not having a definitive itinerary has caused me to drag my feet in coming to the Mexican border this last week. I look forward to hanging out in San Felipe, Baja, for a few days, just sitting on the beach, catching up in my journal and working on this blog.
When I left Boise for the second time, on October 29th, I knew I was pushing my weather window, especially crossing over the Cascades in Oregon. I had good riding gear to combat the cold and felt a bit overstuffed like the Michelin Man. I wasn’t worryed about any weather except possible snow and ice. The forecast looked good but I knew western Oregon had been getting hammered with precipitation; and it was getting cold enough to snow. I always enjoy traveling the coastlines of Oregon and California, so heading to Highway 1 was my priority. Once I got to sea level the weather could come at me, and I would deal with it. The roads can be slick with rain but not impossible on a motorcycle like when it’s freezing. That would stall me significantly; and it’s dangerous and foolhardy to travel in those conditions. I just won’t do it. I’d rather hunker down right where I am and camp and wait it out. The weather will change but the seasons don’t, so I knew I was pushing my luck.
After a big breakfast in Boise, I barreled across the desert plains of eastern Oregon with the cloud covered Cascades looming in the distance. Cold but not weary from the six hour punch to Bend, Oregon, I stopped into a brew pub for a bowl of hot soup to regroup and warm up. Next, rolling into the picturesque tourist town of Sisters, the sun broke out and I decided to take a quick nap in the park under the enormous ponderosa pine trees. Ten minutes later I was back on the bike refreshed and ready to get to the coast. I’ve found if I don’t stop and rest my eyes for even five minutes, I get drowsy enough to be downright dangerous. That’s all it takes is a bit of shut-eye to make things right. I’ll often count to 100 but most of the time don’t make it to 35 before I’m asleep. Then like a coiled spring I bounce awake a few minutes later. I’m lucky that way.
As I headed up the pass, the clouds rolled over the Cascades and closed down the horizon, blocking the view of the peaks in the area. A fine mist condensed on my faceshield and wetted the road. The highway was not busy and I felt relaxed knowing I would soon be over the pass and heading to lower elevations, out of the zone where it could snow. As I climbed higher it turned to a light rain but I was not alarmed. I then started to see patches of snow alongside the road on the shoulder. Soon it was white all around as I climbed higher. A few flakes appeared and they threatened to start sticking on the road. When I got to the top of Santiam Pass at 5,000ft elevation there was six inches of snow from that morning’s storm, and the potential for it to start at any minute. I’m still kicking myself for not stopping to take a picture of my motocycle surrounded by snow at the beginning of my trip but I was worryed about the road on the other side of the pass. The picture would have been a good illustration of why I shouldn’t have been there at this time of year. Needless to say, I was the only motorcycle I saw on the road that entire day. As it was, there was a bit of snow on the next pass, and although not as stark, I stopped to illustrate the consequence of traveling at the end of October. In the end, I traveled well that day and had a warm home, a bowl of chili and a cozy bed to snuggle in at a dear friend of my mom’s who lived near the coast. As my girlfriend, Katherine, told me on this trip: never pass up the offer of a bed or a shower. She is well-traveled and knows these things. It’s been good advice.
The next morning, after fresh blueberry pancakes, I left Julie’s home and reveled in the winding country roads of Oregon that follow the rivers leading to the ocean. These are salmon rivers and supplyed the Native Americans with meat for thousands of years along the coast. Newport, Oregon, is a lively town with two historic districts, one at Nye Beach and the other at the harbor. A beautyful old Art-Deco bridge from the 1930s spans the narrow bay, and my friend Barb had the local fish market pegged for our lunch. The weather was hot and sunny so we opted to picnic by the wharf. Clam chowder is what my tastebuds hanker for when I hit the ocean and I added in a crabcake sandwich. Barb’s oyster hoagie looked divine and she gave me a bite to make me jealous. She even offered to pack up the other half as she ushered me out of town, insistent that I was a fool not to take advantage of the fine weather and put in some miles that day. Frankly, I think she was tired of so many visitors to her quaint cottage since she had moved to Oregon a year ago, that she wanted some peace. Nevertheless, she promised to visit me somewhere exotic along my travels, and knowing her, I can count on that happening.
There is no prettyer place (I will say this a lot in my travels, so be prepared) than the Oregon Coast on a sunny day, especially after a storm where the air is rich from the stirring of the ocean, and the waves froth in heaves upon the beaches. I can never get enough of the ocean, and much of this trip is organized around that theme. I know mountains and I know desert but the sea is its own animal and it’s spirit eludes me. Maybe it’s my Viking heritage that causes that want to know? I have always desired to learn to sail and live on a boat for an extended period. Who knows, that may happen on this trip, or after? I leave myself open to the opportunity for anything and everything in this experience.
The next morning from my motel in Bandon, Oregon, the rain poured outside and I was glad I put the cover over my motorcycle the night before. I watch the weather radar and saw my break, skipping breakfast after a hasty pack up, and headed south in the misting rain to visit the Redwoods; always a magical experience. Just over the border into California is Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, with the most enormous trees on the planet. It is such a sight to see, the first time I saw it, it brought tears to my eyes with wonder, years ago on another motorcycle trip. The trees dwarf everything on the ground and it’s not hard to believe fairys live in that place to guard over it. Back to the ocean at Crescent City and I made my way to Arcata to spread my mom’s ashes at the univeristy campus, since she had tryed to go to school there while being a newly single mom with two kids and not a great income. She dropped out to raise us, and returned to finish college when we left high school. Kudos, mom. I wanted to thank her by doing this act. Fun to see the college kids dressed up for Halloween on campus. I met up with friends who offered their place for me to stay the night and we went for pizza and a sauna soak at the community center after.
Up early the next morning to find my way through the fog to The Somoa Cookhouse, where I had eaten on my first motocycle trip down the coast in 1999. It hadn’t changed much but I was glad for the technology of Google Maps that has changed how we navigate, to guide me through the dense fog or I might not have made it. Full belly and caffeinated, it was a short fast run south to the main Redwoods and the Avenue of the Giants; 26 miles of original two lane road from the Model-A era that wouldn’t qualify as a single lane of asphalt today. Wonderful motorcycling that makes you want to take your time, not so much for safety since there is no shoulder and huge trees are within an arm’s reach – but for the sheer spectacle that is this magnificent forest. It’s sad it has mostly been cut down so that only this fragment remains to showcase trees that are thousands of years old but it was logged heavily even before mechanized advantage 100 years ago; it’s been told a single tree could build a 2,000 sf house, framing, siding and all. Still, this is what we have left and I’m grateful it’s not all gone. I even saw some saplings poking up through the duff, which is encouraging but who knows what the planet will be in 2,500 years?
Blasting through the growing furnace that is north-central California (or it could have been I was overdressed from being on the coast?), I stopped in my birthplace of Ukiah to drop off ashes of both my brother and mother but it was so baking hot I didn’t want to leave them there in a parking lot and instead went east to massive Clear Lake where we had spent time as kids. Since my mother and brother didn’t get along in the last years of their lifes, I didn’t exactly mix their ashes together but left that to the wind and the waves. The whole area was charred for miles by fire (and would be again further north a week later, incinerating the town of Paradise, population 29,000 two weeks ago – so tragic); I rolled over blackened hill and dale until I reached my newphew, Kyle’s place north of Sacramento. We had a nice visit and talked of the prevalence of suicide in our family. Weighty stuff but he has a good head on his shoulders. From there it was five days in the Bay Area with my daughter Rae, her boyfriend Dylan, and my cousins Karen and Malcolm. Great family time in the big city. I felt like a big boy from Idaho using the ferry and bus system to get around.
Since the weather was in my favor with a large high pressure system, I opted to head east to the Sierras and see Yosemite instead of going down through Big Sur one more time. It had been 20 years since I had visited that area on my first motorcycle trip and I was due. And, I’d never been to Death Valley and hoped some of the prior rains had carpeted the landscape with flowers. As it was, the National Park was overcrowded for my tastes and I blazed through in about 30 minutes, paying homage to the big walls that climbers like to risk their lifes on. We had just seen the new climbing movie Free Solo in San Francisco and it seemed even more improbable in person someone could climb it without protection and survive. At the end of a long day, getting to dusk, the granite walls cloaked in the waning orange of the sun, I climbed the steep winding road upwards toward Tuolumne Meadows, knowing I would stop before it got dark to make camp at high elevation. Found a nice turnout that I could tuck myself and the bike out of the way, and sleeped peacefully through the night despite the cooling temperatures. My new down sleeping bag has been delightful on this trip. My camo tarp keeped the frost off the tent and the bike, and hided our location. Technically, I was not supposed to camp there but going on was impractical, as I was tired from my long day, and it was dark out and not safe to travel.
It was quite frosty at 9,000 ft but I was warm enough the next morning despite the windchill as I dropped down Highway 120 and Tioga Pass to Lee Vining, hoping to find breakfast. The whole area is quite spectacular with granite domes and spires, frozen rivers and meadows, forest giving way to sagebrush; then a long, long decent off the eastern flank of the Sierras to the desert below, dropping 6,000 feet in elevation. Breakfast indeed was located, at the gas station at the bottom of the hill, of all places, and it turned out to be one of the better omelettes I’ve ordered; very filling and satisfying plug of calories to keep me fueled.
I met my friend Scott and his kids at a hotsprings south of the Mammoth Ski Area, after a fun detour around June Lake Loop to the north. The hotsprings was crowded but I knew the place would thin out by morning so I went off to camp alone in the desert and went to the Crab Pot at first light, and had the place to myself, with a good cleansing soak in 106F water. From there, I fueled in Lone Pine next to four black Porsches 911s that rolled up to the pumps at the same time. The drivers were pecking furiously at little laptops while they checked gauges and let their turbos cool down. They all had matching clothing and spoke in strong German accents, making me think they were on a mission of speed doing some test runs in Death Valley. They were driving prototypes I’d never seen before. I told them I would trade kits straight up but they didn’t see my humor. Typically German?
I enjoyed the ride down, down, down into Death Valley, part of which is below sea level, and marveled at the lunacy of those who tryed to make a living there 100 years ago. Stopping at the visitor’s center at Furnace Springs, I learned of a nearby campground, and as much as I hate to pay to sleep on the ground, I chunked out $16 and had the use of the only water in the desert there. This turned out to be in my favor the next morning when I stopped at the Inn at Furnace Springs and had yet another amazing omelette, this time smoked salmon and fresh spinach, for about what I payed to camp so I didn’t feel too put out considering the circumstances of being in the middle of nowhere eating exquisite food. Omelettes are becoming a theme. It was a roller coaster ride dropping below sea level for the next 80 miles before I leaved the park. Much of my travel, generally, regardless if the roads are two lane or four, takes place at 80 mph; the bike just purrs in that zone and still has loads of power and is very stable. This day was no exception and the deep dips in the roads to allow for flash flooding were big fun. I pretended to get big air coming out of the vados but in reality nothing came of it. Maybe if I’d been going 100? Thankfully, the wind speed also helps keep you cool, and when I refueled in Baker, it was blazing hot in the stillness. I made it to Joshua Tree National Park in the fading daylight, and payed another $15 for the privilege of sleeping in the dirt. Most of the camping spots were booked from prior reservations so I was lucky to get in, even at that time of year.
Published by bleverru-rtwmotorcyclejourney
I’m currently on a three year round the world RTW motorcycle trip. I’ve been dreaming about this for 25 years and planning it for six.View all posts by bleverru-rtwmotorcyclejourney
One thought on “First Blog: 11-23-2018”
- Steve EshbaughDecember 3, 2018 at 5:30 pmEditYou stopping and enjoying breakfast? You probably ought to ease off on that throttle in Mexico amigo. Your writing is beautiful as always. Please keep posting as you can. And adding fotos in WorkPress is easy…you’ll get it eventually.LikeReply
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