Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day and I'm bored...

Seems pretty quiet around the ranch today, herself & grandaughter are off visiting grandma for the Mother's Day thing so I'm left to my own devices. The dogs are doing ugly things to their beef bones and I thought El Nino could use a bit of scrubbing off since the Mexican bugs are deeper than deep.

Bug City - post Mexico
Clean again - Nice
Before starting out on this trip I figured I'd have to replace the tires at some point but didn't want to do it before hand, there was too much life left in them. In Mexico I checked the air pressure and examined the remaining tread and all appeared well, still had plenty of miles left.

Then when I arrived home and gave the beast a bath I discovered I'd been running on air for what looks like several hundred miles, at least on the rear tire. Luck comes to mind when I think about how far down the wear was but nothing happened and a new set is on it's way.
What tread?
I haven't opened up the air filter box yet as it's no easy matter but will do so in the next day or two. Given the many dusty areas I traveled through I'm expecting to find lots of Mexican dirt and grasshopper guts clogging the filter.

You know, this was the shortest summer tour I've taken, right at 5000 miles or around half of my usual distance so I'm feeling like I need to do the other half real soon. It won't be Mexico but I'll keep you posted as soon as I know something. I should mention there's another player waiting in the wings I haven't toured on yet and I'm anxious to try her out. She's a redhead with no name as of yet but that may change soon.

Not just another pretty face...
I picked her up in New York last fall, just in time for a hurried ride home over the Labor Day holiday, then it was back to work on a Portland project I was busy with. Other than that one longish ride I haven't spent much time with her but I know with her impeccable road manners she's going to be a great touring bike.

Film at eleven as they say.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day 16 - Cinco de Mayo was yesterday? Oops...

I figured today would be the last day for this ride so I’d go easy, sort of savoring the final bits. The morning was bright and sunny; still chilly after the warm mornings in Mexico. I restrained myself and ate another sensible breakfast of oatmeal, a big fresh orange, orange juice (am I turning orange?), bagel with cream cheese (atta boy!), and coffee.
Leaving the motel I found a close by service station and fueled up. I guess I shouldn’t call them service stations any more since they stopped providing service years ago. Fuel stops might be better.  Anyway I topped off the tank and headed north.
Shasta City, Lake Shasta, Mt Shasta, all were soon in view and I decided to duck down an obscure exit for a look around. It turned out to lead to a beat up boat ramp housing the biggest Tope I’d seen in the states. The monster was made of rough concrete and managed to bottom out the Ninja for only the 2nd time on this trip. Mexico one, USA one; it’s a draw.  At least the view of the lake from this location was good and that made the tope nearly acceptable.

Beautiful Lake Shasta
Nearly acceptable but no cigar, the jolt loosened the visor on my helmet again and after fiddling around with it I decided it was time to switch helmets. It was brisk enough that the extra wind protection provided by the full coverage lid was a good thing anyway. 
Helmet repair station
I rode on for a few more miles stopping to take more pics of the mountain and then noticed I was getting cold as heck. I’d been thinking that dragging my electric vest along on this ride had been overkill but it turned out to be a welcome accessory this morning. Once I had it on and engaged the heat really felt great. How I suffer at times…

Pretty Mountain
Soon the lunch bell rang and noting an exit boasting several fast-food places I pulled off for a stop at Carl’s Jr. 
I only eat at the best places
I’ve always wondered about that name, was there ever a Carl’s Sr.? Lunch was one of their “Original Chicken Salads” which consisted mainly of iceberg lettuce and damned little chicken. You know your body can only handle so much green leafy stuff and then it goes into the warp speed reject mode wherein your brain sends disgusting messages to other parts of your body telling it to dispose of any leafy substances. Nice.  Recalling past experiences in this area I called a halt half way through it and returned to the ride; no sense taking chances.

I was now around 100 miles or so from the turn off that would put me onto my usual route home to the coast. It occurred to me I’ve done that ride so many times there’s nothing new for me to see or say about it. Earlier I’d passed an exit sign a few miles back that said “Oregon beaches” and that seemed like a better idea so I stopped long enough to reprogram the GPS with a new “via” point of Gold Beach. That seemed satisfactory to the Garmin lady and off we went leaving I-5 to those folks in a big hurry to get somewhere.

She’s a bit of a sadist and apparently has this thing about how to find Gold Beach that I’d encountered a couple of  years back while in the same locale; namely she thinks there’s some sort of route available that leads you through BLM fire roads. The last time I rode for a long ways out in the sticker bushes before finally coming to a “road closed” sign and had to retrace my route back to I-5. 
Bad directions from the Garmin lady
This time my alarm bells went off early and I turned around heading back to I-5 south figuring I’d take the exit with the “Oregon Beaches” sign. 
Good directions from ODOT
That was the right decision and I was soon enjoying a ride through some of the best motorcycling roads you can imagine. Lots and lots of nice curves with a solid blacktop base, the sort of thing you dream about. As I approached the little town of O’Brian I noticed a squad car parked facing the oncoming traffic in my lane. Ordinarily that would have caused me to back off my speed a bit but since I wasn’t going fast I continued.

You didn't fool me for a second.
There it was, an old Plymouth cop car fully restored just waiting to give unsuspecting tourists a knee-jerk reaction. It probably belongs to the people who operate the Lone Mountain RV Park and store, a great attention-getter if there ever was one.

I followed the road which was part of the Red Woods Highway and eventually rode back over the border into California again. All of this was a continuation of the great riding I’d been enjoying and I loved it; traffic was fairly light and never bogged down. When it ended I was on the coastal highway US 101 traveling north towards my home.

Whale head rock north of  Brookings
There are tons of great view points along the coastal road so I stopped to take a few more pics. I gassed up in Brookings where one of the other customers spotted my bike and came over to look at it. He noticed the stickers underneath several layers of bugs and commented “You’ve been to Alaska on this?” “Not this time” I said, “I’m just getting home from Mexico.” God my ego is so huge at times. Anyway he was duly impressed and wished me luck on the rest of my journey.

Looking south from US 101

Looking north from US 101 
I arrived home around 4:30pm or so, the dogs both recognized me and we all went a little nuts for awhile. Linda had gone to town to buy groceries and arrived a little later. She also remembered me but didn’t attempt to lick my face although she seemed glad to see me.
So there you have it, the end of this ride. I said yesterday I’d be posting a summation about how things worked, what didn’t, likes and dislikes, etc. I’m going to do that but I think I’ll wait till tomorrow after I’ve had time to reflect a bit.
Till then,

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Day 15 - High winds on the road to Redding

It was cold as the dickens in Gorman this morning; the sun was shining bright but a nasty wind turned everything down to frigid levels. I moved the bike around to the hotel’s front entrance for loading which helped but it was still time for jackets and maybe even gloves. This would be the day I’d bundle up with long pants, fleece jacket, winter gloves and boots.
Ted, the hotel’s manager said it was because of the 4000 ft elevation and they always have cold morning. Lovely, just lovely. I ate a sensible breakfast of oatmeal & orange juice, then set off for points north. Sacramento was around 320 miles or so north and would be an easy target.

I don’t care a lot for riding the slab but when you want to get somewhere the quickest way it’s the only game in town. Sadly the part of the freeway leading out of Gorman is riddled with hasty repairs and miles of those damn rain grooves. I tried to maintain a straight line but the irregularities made it nearly impossible and I’m sure anyone watching me would think I was dizzy. Which I am of course but in general I try to keep it toned down a bit.
Eventually they went away but were soon replaced with the next challenge, the monster traffic jam stretching for miles. Not knowing if this was normal or due to some catastrophic occurrence I went into my lane-splitting mode and began to pick my way through the mess. Maybe it was because it was Saturday but it seemed there were a lot of drivers who were not bothering to maintain the usual distance between lanes. It was touch and go a few times and I freely admit looking down the long narrow space between two semi trucks was a bit scary. I went ahead with it though and probably passed several hundred cars in the process; eventually breaking out of the pack to discover there’d been a big fender-bender.
Once free of that things went smoothly for awhile, then the whole process repeated itself only that time it was just traffic backed up at an exit. God only knows why people are willing to suffer through that mess daily but they do.
I reached Sacramento around 3:00pm and decided if I pushed on for another hour or two I’d be in a position to make it home tomorrow, thereby cutting an extra day off the travel time. Right about then is when I noticed the first of two signs warning about the high winds. Boy was that ever an understatement, it went on for a good 15 to 20 miles and they were so strong it took all my strength to keep El Nino on the pavement and in the same lane. Added to that was the increased turbulence coming off the big trucks and I was a busy boy.

Look at how far over the tree is bent...high winds

Finally I couldn’t take any more and decided to find a spot to pull off and rest up for a few minutes. There was a small gas station and convenience store out in the sticks all by itself and I welcomed the chance to regroup a bit. The high point of the stop was the cool security sign they have posted over their front entrance.

Back on the freeway after my rest I kept at it until I reached Redding and the Quality Inn where I’m staying. After Mexico’s cheap digs it’s a hard swallow dealing with stateside prices but at least they give you wash cloths and the places are clean. (Except Motel 6 but if you’ve read my earlier posts you know how I feel about those people.)
Dinner tonight was at the Pizza Hut conveniently located right next to the motel. I hadn’t been in one of their places for years but I recalled they used to make a pan pizza that was pretty tasty so I figured I’d have one. The place was nearly empty when I walked in so I grabbed a menu and sat down at a table. Wrong move boy. At that exact moment the door opened and a huge crowd of people pushed in and bellied up to the order counter putting me dead last in the race for food. Realizing my error I jumped in line but by the time I got up to the counter and gave the kid my order  he told me there would be a 25 minute wait to make my piddly-assed little pizza. Notice I’m getting a little testy here?  

I was a bit astonished it would take so long and said so to which he said “So do you want it or not?” “I guess so” I said, “You’ve got a captive audience here.” Then I said “What the heck am I going to do in a Pizza Hut for 25 minutes?” This brought a repeat of his earlier question so I said “May as well have a beer” and ordered one. That’s when I pissed him off, when he asked for my ID. Incredulously I said “Boy I’m damn near 72 years old, do I look like a teenager trying to sneak a beer here?” I think I'm getting to be more like Archie Bunker every day. "I have to ask everyone who orders alcohol” he said and I could see he was ticked off. So I dug out my driver’s license and pointed at the DOB line and said “See? 1940? Do the math.” I suppose at times I’m a bit insensitive but this had to be one of the dumbest policies I’ve heard of.
So he told me he’d bring the pizza when it was ready and I sat down and nursed my beer. It didn’t take 25 minutes, it was more on the order of 10 but he didn’t bring it to my table, he sent some unknowing chicky-poo to deliver it. Gutless bugger. At least the pizza was good albeit somewhat on the smallish side but it was enough to take the edge off and probably didn’t tip the calorie’s scale over.
Tomorrow should be my last riding day for this epic adventure and if I get home early enough I’ll try and post one last entry. There are a few things that I’d like to touch on, how my gear worked, what didn’t work, and maybe a bit on why a ride that was going to last up to 8 weeks got cut so short.
Till then, Osceola….

Friday, May 4, 2012

Day 14 - Back in the USA! Whoa!

This post will be short and sweet, after leaving the Joker hotel this morning I didn’t take and more pics all day. Before leaving I did take a few moments to record the splendor of the Joker Hotel where I stayed last night so I’ll post a couple of those. The Joker wasn’t all that bad actually, at least if you could get past the heavy disinfectant smell on the bedding. That part was a little iffy for me but the rest of the place was passable and I was too tired to start prowling around looking for another place.

Can you see El Nino in front of my room?
They also have that neat restaurant and I scored my last meal in Mexico for breakfast, eggs ranchero with a new twist, mole` sauce. I have to stop eating those damn tortillas; it’s getting difficult to see my feet again.
The Joker's restaurant
Earlier this morning I’d set up a route that would take me to Yuma, AZ where I planned on turning north to meander through AZ and thereby avoid all the mess around Los Angeles and its environs. I’d cross the border at Mexicali if that worked or in Yuma if not.
I really didn’t want to see Yuma, I just set it up to give the screaming Garman woman something to look forward to while I figured out something better. Like so many well laid plans this one was in the toilet the moment I got to TJ and missed a turn. I don’t actually sweat missing turns as there’s no real hard allotment on them so you can take as many as you like. I did.
As soon as I recovered from the first one that had me double back I bumbled the 2nd time and this one was sort of fatal. I knew I was dead when the up ramp I took suddenly developed into what appeared to be a major traffic jam, all at a dead stop. Traffic jams don’t particularly bother me either as long as I’m on a bike so I figured this one would probably be no different. Wrong again Bozo, this is the freaking line up for the Tijuana border crossing!
Now the way I see things the easiest method of gauging how serious a traffic snarl is seems simple; if there are people wandering around between lines of cars selling stuff that means you may be there awhile. In this case they had sales stalls set up with all sorts of stuff, food, drinks, gawd-awful souvenirs, newspapers; the whole enchilada.
I sat there mesmerized for several minutes wondering if it would really take two hours to get through this and if it did would I have other options than to ride north through freaking Los Angeles?!! As I pondered my fate one of the food hawkers strolled over and said “Hey Mon, you know you can go ahead through these cars, you don’t have to wait.” That was already on my mind but having never tried working El Nino with those big fat panniers I wasn’t too sure about it. On the other hand I didn’t relish the idea of baking my brains out in the hot sun while waiting for the 500 cars in front of me to move on.
Well what the hell I thought, I’m fairly adept at staying upright and if I’m careful I should be able to make it through the mess so off I went. Wobble, wobble. It seemed to be working as it wasn’t long before I arrived at the border gates and slipped in front of a guy who looked away for a moment.
The guard motioned me up, I stopped and shut the motor off and answered the usual questions about “Where are you going?” “Bandon, OR ” “Why there?” “It’s where my dog lives. It’s also where my clothes are.” “Ha ha ha. OK, you can go.” “Izzat all, aren’t you gonna say welcome home or anything?” “You’re not home Bub but welcome to California.”
And then I was off into the southern CA freeway blitz from hell. Actually it wasn’t so bad and with my newfound experience of lane splitting I began to apply everything I’d learned in the waiting lines only faster. Subscribing to the principal that cats use, if they can get their face through a hole the rest will follow El Nino, fat butt and all was much the same, we probably threaded our way past several hundred cars all of whom were courteous and kept a mini-lane open for bikers at all times. Those drivers who failed notice me and then did would immediately pull over far enough to allow me to squeeze by. What a deal, I have new respect for CA drivers. They’re still quirky as hell but I like ‘em anyway.

Today's ride north
Once out of the LA area everything lightened up and traffic moved at an astonishing rate, so much that I soon found myself approaching the before unheard of megalopolis of Gorman. Timing couldn’t have been better; I was feeling pooped and ready to call a halt to it for the day. Luckily there’s an Econo Lodge complete with a nice restaurant attached. Uh, what kind of restaurant you ask? Mexican of course, what else?

Just now as I was getting primped up for dinner I noticed my suntan mask has returned, same as it does every year. Probably looks scary to little kiddies... 

Rocky Racoon look 

Tomorrow I’ll continue this saga by attempting to reach Sacramento, all in one day. That should be a truly exciting event but someone’s gotta do it and I’m first in line. Sorry about today’s lack of interesting pics, I’ll try to do better tomorrow.
PS - I forgot to mention this, I only had to deal with one military checkpoint this morning. I don't know what I'll do being able to ride around without those people watching me but I'm going to try to adapt.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 13 - Longish ride to Ensenada

Osmosis People,

Today's ride covered 613 kilometers, lots of twisties, plenty entertaining. Glad I'm not running knobby tires.

I'm just a little bit pooped tonight and since I've already done one post this evening I think I'll just put up the photos for today and not get into creative writing 101. The short version goes something like this:

I met a nice guy at breakfast who lives in Cabo and he told me his life story. He spoke Spanish and paid for my breakfast without my knowing it until it was time to leave. I like surpises like that.

The weather was cooler, cloudy at first so I wore my warm fleece jacket under the HiViz yellow thing. It really works great and I may have brought the electric vest along for nothing.

I bought gas from a guy way the hell out in the sticker bushes. I knew about this in advance and was glad he was around and had fuel; I was on fumes.

After gassing up I stopped to visit a defunct geodesic museum. It's open alright, open to the elements. Great cactus growing around the area though.

Further north the land began to show greenery, most welcome after all the desert. Lots of intensive agribiz in this area.

Four military check points today. That pretty well topped off my torture tank; they're still nice and polite so I guess I shouldn't crab. Wouldn't it be great to have one of these old signs for your yard or den? I suppose they'd get mad as hell if you took one.

I'm staying at the Joker Hotel in Ensenada tonight; the place is cheap and tacky. I like tacky. Restaurant next door belongs to them too, decent food. I was the last customer of the day and had the place to myself.

Better a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy
 That'll do it, thenkuvermuch.