Thursday, September 15, 2011

Epilogue: California Love

As of today, I ended my trip exactly one month ago. Under normal circumstances I'd probably say, "Wow, I can't believe it; it seems like only yesterday I was blasting up the PCH, with nothing in mind but a vague idea of the direction I should be going." But, of course, I've been in Law School for a month, where every 10 minutes of class time is more intellectually demanding that, let's be honest, most of that last three years of my life. So my trip seems a bit dream-like, vague, and far away.

That's a picture of Monterrey, just a bit west of the hostel I stayed in. I spent the early afternoon, after arriving in town, at the Monterrey Aquarium. I went once when a was a kid, and I enjoyed it almost as much the second time around! It was fairly crowded, so I spent more time trying not to knock over little kids than I would have liked, but the large viewing tank was as peaceful and awe-inspiring as I remembered it. The jellies were as trippy, too.

"Like, whoa, maaaaaaaan."

The trip up from Monterrey was uneventful, but it was nice going inland a bit, seeing the farm land just a few miles east of the Pacific. I was also shocked by how desolate the area just south of San Francisco is. Halfmoon Bay, outside of it gaudy golf retreats for overworked silicon valley drones, reminds me a lot of Green Harbor. The Miramar Beach Restaurant is a perfect west-coast analogue for the Fairview Inn in Brant Rock. More avacado, less lobster, but similar.

After Miramar, the city of San Francisco began creeping in; finally, 1 mergers onto 280/101, and you start seeing rows of Victorian pastel apartments, city buses, and finally the southern edge of Golden Gate Park. Luckily it was clear enough that, cresting one of the last hills before the park, I caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Home at last!

A quick photo op of the bike in front of the Law School later, and I was meeting up with Alice for a gospel brunch. The trip was, effectively, over.

So what was the best part? That's an impossible question, but a few places stick out in my mind now, one month later. The quaintness and neighborly goodwill of Jarrett's place in upstate New York. The great beer of Ypsilanti. The majesty of Chicago's architecture. The time-from-another-place that is Atlanta, Illinois. The oppressive heat of St. Louis. The backwater labyrinth of country roads in Missouri. The funkiness of Kansas City, and the good company and good riding with Harry Mallin and his Brammo. The surprising grandeur of eastern Kansas, and the post-apocalyptic isolation of western Kansas.

Then the exciting appearance of the Rockies. The exhilaration of leaning the bike over as far as I dare, as fast as I dare, around treacherous mountain passes. The feeling of entering a totally new world as the mountain are beaten down and spread out into the plains and plateaus of Grand Junction and Utah.

Words can't describe the national parks of Utah, but these images will never leave me, as long as I live.

Finally, the return of Civilization in Las Vegas, and the vauge feeling that we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere if we consider Vegas an oasis in the desert.

And then: CALIFORNIA. At first its just a collection of license plates, but heading up into the San Bernadinos, the feeling of California just seeped out from the air. The smell of pot at the camp ground in Big Bear. The cloud of smog over LA. In'N'Out. Sushi and palm tree with Annie Murphy downtown. The frantic pace of the 101, and the undeniable chill of Santa Montica. The unified weirdness of San Francisco.

And I think I like it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Souther California post-op

Just pulled into the hostel in Monterey, my LAST stop! So its probably time to update the blog!

Where did I leave off...Vegas? Vegas sucks whe you're broke and alone. Not only would that make a great country song, its true. The Cosmopolitan was awesome; pbr in the mini fridge, a "Karma Sutra" next to the bed, and a huge walk in shower. Of course, you can really only take advantage of one of those thing by yourself, so I just wandered up the entire strip. Vegas is WEIRD, not to mention having the worst drivers, hands down, of the trip. Oh, and it was 116 degrees when I left. At 10:30 in the morning. I found myself closing up my jacket to keep the air OUT; it was like riding through a hair drier.

Vegas to Big Bear was a good ride, once I got out of the desert! I never reallu felt like I was in in Cali until I started seeing pines. Then organic groceries, too-tan older women, and well-preserved vintage cars. Yup, California! I set up camp on the north shore of the lake, then got some Mexican food and caught up on e-mails. The temp plummeted the second the sun went down, so I made a fire and read some law stuff before crashing.

The trip down 18 into San Bernadino was some of the most challenging riding of the trip, and hence the most fun! Once down into the valley, I was thrown right into LA traffic! Drivers there were actually pretty good, just fast.

I got In'N'Out for lunch, in Pomona, then went to Annies place. After a quick shower, I met up with here at the Paramount lot! Got a good tour, and saw three of the leads from 'Glee'. Just my luck. I hate that show!

I then headed down Sunset Blvd, took a picture of of the Whiskey A-Go-Go, then rode by to Annie's through the Hollywood Hills. After Annie got back from work, we met up with her boyfriend Scott, and decided to head Downtown for sushi, mostly because my future roomate saw a picture of The Whiskey I posted on the Facebooks, and was in town! Aftet awesome cheap sushi, we met Cat for a drink then headed home, where I passed out!

I slept in the next day, and didn't leave until 11ish. I went down Mullholland Dr to the 401 and 10 into Santa Monica, where I walked the boardwalk and got some tuna steak sandwich, overlooking the beach. What a beautiful place!

I then went up to Malibu, where I stopped at a small, isolated beach. I waded up to my knees in the Pacific, read some Steinbeck, and listened to some Fleedwood Mac. Perfect.

I didn't leave until 4, and by then, it started getting cold! I froze all the way up to San Luis Obispo, but a hot shower and some bbq downtown warmed me up.

I talk about the PCH later, because I want to go into Monterey!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bryce Canyon

The trip to Bryce Canyon was vY uneventful. The fact that cruising through beautiful canyons and high desert is "uneventful" just proves how amazing this trip has been.

Lunch was in a backwater call The restaurant was clean and locals didn't leer at me, so that's about as much as I can ask for.

My campground was a bit outside the main park, so I first set up my tent, then went on a nice three-ish mile walk down to the Sevier River, then back to the campground restaurant for local beer, river trout, and homemade cream cheese and raisin pie (apparently a local thing).

I woke up early enough to ride up to Bryce and be at the trailhead by 9:30. I went to Bryce Point first, the highest point in the main Bryce ampitheatre. I walked down through the canyon, mostly alone, then back up to Sunrise Point, the lowest point of the rim. I had an excellent lunch of elk chili, bison burger, and a rather good local dark IPA. It was an easy, sloping uphill hike back to Bryce Point along the rim, at which point I went back to the campground, it being almost 5 by now.

I took a shower and did laundry, then rode back up at sunset, all the way to the southermost tip of Bryce. A trip outside the park for a dinner of coffee and enchiladas. By the time I got out, it was dark; as the Stranger says, darker than a black steers tuchus on a moonless prarie night.

Thw temperature dropped almost immediately into the 50s! After an aborted trip back to go stargazing, I retreates to the campsite to put the windproof lining in my jacket, plus a sweater and my jeans under ny riding pants. I then made the 25 mile trip up to the 9,000 ft peak at Bryce, through tight switchbacks, fearing a deer was going to jump infront of my bike.

Sadly, the moon was still out, and at 3/4, way too bright for decent star gazing! I couldn't even look at it, it was so bright.

So I decended the canyon, and promptly passed out at midnight, warm in ny sleeping back, fairly comfortable on a bed of pine needles, with my bike cover as my pillow!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Training for Mars

Sho 'Nuff sez, "Utah is where there
stops being things."

Ross mentioned that driving through this part of the country is like living the last scene from The Terminator. He's absolutely right. But its somehow more engaging than Kansas, even with less stuff. People are more boring than sage brush and antelope. I'm stopped in Green River, after only 90 or so miles, because apparently, the next gas station is 110 miles away.

I think I know how the first people on Mars will feel in 30 years.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Its all about the ride

Boulder was awesome; it was great to see Ross and meet his roomate Max, but the trip out to Grand Junction...was magical.

I'm sitting outside a piano and wine bar, listening to a jazz classical guitarist, but in my mind, I'm still barreling through the rockies.

119 runs West from Boulder, ip through the flat irons and tge runs south west, peak to peak, through the rockies. Switchbacks, rapid altitude changes, fast sweepers; its the kind of road I've dreamed about ever since deciding to ride a motorcycle.

Knowing I'm not exactly a Moto GP rider, and I'm lugging at least 70 lbs os gear with me, I started slowly. I'd take 25 mph curves at a comfy 30, breaking early and keeping a steady throttle. As I started getting into the groove, I started pushing more, alittle bit at a time. 35 mph curves started being taken at 40, 45, 50. I started hanging off the bike more confidently to lessen my lean angle. More than a few times a watched a bike in front of me take a turn at more than twice my speed, but seeing as I was all kitted up, I knew better than to try an chase an MV Agusta F4, or Triumph Street Triple 675. Bother if which I saw at least three of. Boulder is well heeled, after all.

While the 119 was technical and a bit scary, the ride down the rockies was completely exhilerating. Glenn Canyon, maybe 80 miles befoore Grand Junction, is a two lane raised hightway, maybe 40 feet above a roaring river, and boxed in on all sides by huge, sheer rock canyon cliffs. Traffic was clear, and 55 mph sweepers gradually became 80 mph sweepers. The road wpuld twist back and forth, them straighten out, shooting you directly at a mountainside, and through a tube-shaped tunnel.

Amazing. I can only hope LA canyons are as fun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kansas City and electric motorcycles

Sorry for the backlog; typing on a phone is MADDENING.

The trip from St. Louis to KC was rough, really rough. Missouri is desolate, but without the dramatic vistas of Kansas or Colorado. Think of 300 miles of straight road with just enough Applebees and BP gas stations to keep you technically alive and moving. I stopped in a tiny town of Blackwater. I believe the population was 199, and their claim to fame was that 1972 first-time Democratic VP nominee Thomas Eagleton gave a speach there once. Eagleton was dropped from the D ticket by McGovern when it came to light he had undergone shock therapy for depression a few years earlier. He probably got it from Blackwater.

After getting a wee bit lost in the actaully-fun-to-ride backroads of MO (all street names are letters; TT or V or JJ. And no east/north designations. So you can see how I got lost), I booked it to KC in blistering 104 degree heat. Downtown KC was actually awesome! Probably the biggest surprise of the trip. I got off the bike and changed into street clothes in a garage, then wandered for about 2 hours. The Power and Light district is a cool area of nars and nightclubs and music venues (refreshing lemon gellato, too), and across the interstate is KC's hipster district. Boutiques, design studios, record stores, coffee shops, graffiti, and ild warehouses turned into condos. It all had a distinctly art deco vibe, too.

I then headed for Harry Mallin's house, know on the internet as Brammofan. He's a gov't lawyer in KC, but got into motorcycling a few years ago when he found out an old classmate of his ran Brammo, makers of the most popular electric motorcycle on the market. We became familiar with each other the Hell for Leather Magazine comments section, and he gratiously offered to put me up for the night! After grabbing some awesome Mexican food ans talking bikes, Laguna Seca, the TTXGP, and Law School, I crashed at about 10:30. In the morning, we rode to an unfinished subdivision, amd swapped bikea to put them through their paces. I'll do a full ride report of the Brammo Enertia later, but let's say I was really impressed!

Ok back on the road; I'll type my thoughts on Kansas later.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

St. Louis.


That's really going to be the only thing I remember about St. Louis in a few years. Heat like I've never felt before. I remember the thermometer hitting about 101 in Austin during ACL, but it was a bit drier, and there was a breeze, and it cooled off at night. And, oh yeah, I wasn't wearing layers of motorcycle gear.

It was 102 in St. Louis when I pulled in, but I took an ice cold shower and changed into street clothes after arriving, thinking I'd go out at the evening aroumd 6:30, and walk around the city.

It was 102 in St. Louis when I left the hotel at 6:30, and 99 when I got back in at 10:15. It was humid and hazy, anything over three or four blocks away was almost invisible. I didamage to drag myself down to the banks of the Mississippi, where I was awe'd by the Gateway to the West Arch. Totally worth the trip up, too. I then attempted to ise the St. Louis public transportation system to get some food, but wound up walking about 2 miles when a station cloaed. By the time I got to the restaurant I was going, it was closed. So was everything else, too.

After getting a very sudden and distinct feeling that I was not in the best part of towm at the best time, I called a cab, and ate some ribs at the hotel restauraunt. And know  BEST RIBS EVER. Seriously. The meat just fell off the bone, very little fat, and juat enough sweetly smokey sauce. As always, its best to follow the Hitchhikers creed of "DON'T PANIC".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flashback: Chicago

Hardly seems like a flashback, but I've been too busy to consistantly blog! Impossible on the road, and once I get into a city, I'm immediately figuring out where cool stuff is and walking around. But while its fresh in my mind, here's Chicago.

I pulled into the Felix hotel at around 5; its a hotel my old employer, RFP, owns, so I'm very familiar with, at least, its financial performance (thanks, Mike!)

Never having been to Chicago, I figured I'd go for a walk. But being me, that turned into the rest of my night, essentially! Walked to the canal, saw the Chicago theatre, saw the AMAZING architecture, went to Navy pier and rode the ferris wheel, then went to Millenium park. After realizing I hadn't eaten in about 8 hours, I went in search of food. But there were so many options, I couldn't decide! The problem with being downtown is that a lot of the restaurants are either super expensive, or chitzy, andI didn't have time to really understand the subway and go to a place like Lincoln Park. I did find a piano bar, and woozily steped in for a glass of cold white wine. The duet playing immediately went into a Fleetwood Mac medley. I can't escape them, and I love it! Half drunk (two glasses of wine go to your head on a dehydrated empty stomach), I went back to the hotel restaurant for some great pork, cabbage, and couscous. Wound up meeting a Red Sox fan from Arkansas, into town for an education grant proposal, amd chatting with him amd the waitstaff until closing at 12:30.

I've never been to Chicago. I always kind of mocked it as a lame midwestern New York that just didn't have the worldiness that makes NYC on par with Paris, London,Tokyo, Moscow, or Beijing. And I couldn't have been more wrong. Chicago is awesome. Beautiful, even though it was about 95 degrees with a dew point of 88. It is true though; everybody is wayyyyy more nice than the west coast. I'll have to head back sometime and really get a feel for the city...

Palms cafe

Eating a pork sandwich in the Palms cafe and grill in Atlanta, IL. Its a throwback 50s ish roadside diner, complete with blueplate specials and postwar jazz playing.

Had a great pork loin sandwich and a bowl of chili with lifesaving iced tea. A group on 15 Spaniards on (presumably) rented Harleys came in after me, though they had a "support truck" with all their clotges in it following! Attached is a picture of a giant Paul Bunyon holding a hot dog. Because Illinois. According to the two nice old ladies who ran the Atlanta historical society, its on loan from Cicero.

Monday, August 1, 2011

On the road: Indiana

I think I foumd the only Starbucks in Indiana. I almost killed myself trying to get off the highway when I saw the sign! After miles of Denny's and Arby's, it was a sight for sore eyes. I'll type up my excellent adventure in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor tonight in Chicago, but now I have to get the hell out of Indiana!

Song suck on repeat in my head: "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates

Sunday, July 31, 2011

W NY to Ypsilanti

Just got in to my brother's place, amd after an ice cold shower, I almost feel human! 400 miles across PA, Ohio, Michigan in 90 degree sun.

After realizing I forgot to put in my earplugs post-pitstop, I pulled over to the side of the road. I looked out, and saw, directly next to speeding 18 wheel trucks and swerving SUVs packed with kids and crap, was a picturesque farm, complete with a red barn. The crickets in the ditch were loud enough to hear over the traffic and when there was a lull, it was downright peaceful.

Day one

I actually got on the road at a decent time (8 am) despite being out last night until an indecent time (3:30 am) with the bamd at IHOP after and absoltely incredible show at the Middle East! All the bands were fantastic.

Got out of MA before stopping then stopped about three more times at 125 mile intervals. I overshot Jarret's exit by 4 exits, which rural NY, was about 25 miles! I turned around at a Tim Hortons and booked it back. A good thing about rural NY is you can safely hit the ton on the interstate, so it took no time at all!

Here's Jarret's now. Pig roast, lawn games, black jack, and beer. Well worth it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Obligatory everything-I'm-taking shot!

I hope I didn't over pack...time to get it all in bag!

Final pieces...

Replacing the huge ugly 2x4 of a back protector with the smaller, flexible Bionic A*s piece.  An unbelieveable difference!

Last day!

Well, its here. The last day. I can't even describe the swirl of emotions I'm feeling, mostly because I have too much to do? Below is a picture of the bike getting her last pre-trip inspection, including new synthetic oil, a thorough brake bleeding, and a couple loose fitting tightenting.

Also, here's a picture of my traveling companion for the trip! Its a Chinese good luck cat I've had with me since the LAST time I was in San Francisco! Only trouble is, I don't know what to name her/him/it. Ideas?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Testing testing

Just a picture of my new gloves (I figured I'll need two pairs for the trip) to test if the blogger app works on my Droid.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Crunch

Departure is in T-19 days. 19 days. 19. 19.

Substantive planning has taken a bit of a back seat over the past few weeks, as there's lots of legwork (and paper work) to finish up finalizing my enrollment. Byzantine student loans rules, master promissory notes, finding a place to live (done!), mentally preparing myself to go back to'll be nice to be able to think about motorcycling again!

I have done plenty of long riding days recently,
as well as started trying out my gear. About three weeks ago, I did a solo ride up to Kancamagus highway in New Hampshire. Its a beautiful, isolated country road that runs 35 miles through the heart of the White Mountains National Forest. Stunning views of the valley, swiftly flowing mountain streams, waterfalls; its what I imagine Colorado will be like, just at 1:3 scale. Its also lightly patrolled by police, so traversing them at a, ahem, "sporting" pace is very acceptable. I did about 150 miles up to North Conway for lunch, the 35 miles across the Kanc, then another 165 miles back to Boston. 350 miles is one of the longest days I plan on, so this was good practice.

Less fun were the Black Flies, but I took a few of those bastards with me...

While going up to New Hampshire was a good endurance test, I didn't need to bring anything with me other than my usual tool kit and some water. The next step was to do some serious over-nighting. Luckily, my friend Eileen from school was getting married out in Western Mass, and all of my college friends were staying 3 nights afterwards at a cabin nearby. The trip was 5 nights total, I needed to pack for both a formal wedding and camping, the first leg was 110 miles, and it was forecast to thunderstorm. PERFECT. (ED: Mark's idea of perfect is fairly abnormal)

I had recently purchased a whole bunch of fun touring tools, so it was time to put them to use. First of all, the rain; I bought a nice Frogg Toggs rain suit. While I'm normally skeptical of hi-viz stuff (not to mention too vain to wear it), I figured if there was ever a time it would come in handy, a rainstorm would be it. Both the pants and jacket fold up nicely into a little carrying bag, and fit snugly over my pants and gear. While breathable, they definitely added another insulating layer, so I was a bit sweaty on the way out (despite the fact that it was night, raining, and actually hailed at some point in time). Next time I'll remember to take out the insulating/windproof layers in my pants/jacket, respectively. They certainly did their job, as I was bone-dry upon arrival.

I had also bought saddlebags. While I'd love to fit up my bike in full Kriega gear, I just don't have the dough, so I bought a set of very cheap "Motocentric" sport bags.

Zipped out and expanded, they held a 3-piece suit, dress shoes, my Docs, rainsuit, bike cover, water bottle, tool kit, military jacket, and a few other bits. Not bad. They also came with some elastic rain-proof covers. Not the most confidence inspiring things, but they stayed on through a driving rain storms @ 75 mph, so hopefully they'll last the trip out. Here's the bike all loaded up; I just bungied my tent and duffle back to the top (all my clothes were wrapped in a garbage back for cheap rainproofing).

Speaking of my tent, its a cheap 1-person bivvy from Eureka. Take about 5 minutes to put up, the fly is attached, and it was plenty warm the 3 nights I used it (too warm in the morning, actually). Here it is in the middle of being attacked by my friends.

So, other than those two trips what have I done? Well, it is now The Crunch, so I finalized my plans. Its the same route as before, just starting a day earlier on the 30th, so I get an extra day to hike around Bryce Canyon. Already made reservations at the Annie Oakley Motel in Oakley, KS (whooo...), as well as the Wacker Hotel in Chicago. But now it really is THE CRUNCH.

Up next; detailed plans, the joys of gearing changes, and why you should wear flowers in your hair...