Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 15 - The final stretch home!

NOTE: If you are reading this for the first time please note that you are coming in at the end of the story. Blog posts are ordered with the most recent post on top. So to read the story of my trip to Alaska from the beginning please click on the left-most tab at the top labeled "Table of Contents."


July 15th was the 29th day after I left on Friday, June 17th. That doesn't even feel right to me now, doesn't make sense. It was forever ago. I can't even remember a few days ago much less 4 weeks ago. The days are so full and every day is so different it is just chaos in my head. That's why I am writing so much in this blog to capture and try to remember it all before I forget it. Sorry if it gets to be too much...

So I set the alarm again for 5:15 and got on the interstate at 6:10 am. Looking ahead at the map, my goal was to ride to Childress, TX, about 120 miles down the road, and stop there for breakfast.
Texas is a damn big state - and I covered most of it today

I rarely ride in the dark but I really do love it. It was really nice to start riding just at the very first crack of dawn and watch the sun come up for the next 45 minutes or so. I started about 72 degrees and watched it warm up quickly when the sun cleared the horizon. In fact, it broke 100 degrees about 10:30 am.

I found a nice family restaurant and got a meat lover's plate of eggs, hashbrowns, toast, and coffee. Also 3 slices of bacon, 2 sausage patties, and 3 ham strips. Ahhh, that was good!

Then it was time to get serious about making some miles so I got on the highway and plugged in my tunes (using my Garmin Nuvi's MP3 player).

Hour after hour went by as I went through Wichita Falls and watched and waited for Ft Worth to get closer.

Interesting side story. As I got closer to Ft Worth I could see it was going to be about noon when I got there. The GPS route had me going to I-35W south right through the middle of the city. But as I got about 100 miles out the GPS showed a traffic delay of 11 minutes, which is a lot. (The 765T means it has a lifetime traffic receiver in it).

So what was interesting was when I got about 20 miles out the GPS said, "Extreme traffic delay ahead, recalculating..." I touched the screen and saw that it had changed my route from I-35W to hwy 287 Business, which paralleled 35W to the west, missing all the bad traffic delay.

The detour was about 12 miles and the first 6 was through an industrial area at 60 mph. Then it got into some commercial areas, then got pretty busy with traffic and stoplights. But I ran into heavy stop and go traffic before in the Seattle area and I would much rather go from light to light than inch along in stopped traffic.

If you are not a motorcycle rider what that means is in heavy stop and go traffic you have to sit there and let the clutch out just a little bit to roll forward, then put it in neutral so you don't have to hold the clutch in. If you are going to sit there for a minute or two I usually hit the kill switch. Then hit the start button and roll forward another few car lengths, which is tricky when you are very loaded and moving slowly. Do this over and over for a few miles and an hour or so and you and your poor motorcycle are worn out!

So finally I got back on 35W and got through Ft Worth and headed south. Coming into Ft Worth the temps got up to 102 degrees and then in the city it went to 104 and 105.

I didn't stop for about 160 miles until I got well south of the city. Got gas, took a break for a while. Drank a bunch of water and ate some Fritos.

Then I rode south to Waco and turned on hwy 6 to head toward Houston. It was about 160 miles, a little over 2 and a half hours, and was the longest couple of hours of my entire journey. Not only was it hot but I was ready to get off and for this entire thing to be over. I wanted to see Susan and my dogs and every time I looked at the odometer it was only another 20 miles. The damn odometer wouldn't move like it did before! The closer I got to home the slower that damn odometer got!

So when I finally pulled into the driveway it was 104 degrees and I just wanted OFF! I completely forget to ask Susan to take a final picture of my in the driveway. Damn, I really wanted that picture. But she had cleared a place for me in the garage so I pulled straight in there and she gave me a big kiss and a hug.

Taking that damn helmet off and my riding jacket and boots never felt so good. I had been living in that helmet for 31 days and I was finally done with it! No more earplugs, heavy riding jacket and gloves, jeans, or heavy socks in my boots to absorb moisture or keep my feet warm. Just shorts and a t-shirt!

And she had made me an iced coffee! And the dogs went crazy! Ahhh, life is good again!

So there it is! There and back again! Seems like such a dream now. 29 days and 11,480 miles. Those numbers don't seem real right now.

No pics from today. West Texas, the "panhandle", and central Texas are just too flat and boring to take any pics. Maybe next time.

Thanks for taking the time to read this far if you have. Sorry it is so long but this is my only way to capture my memories for now, and also to share them with others. I may edit this down later but for now it is just my mind dump.

Time to publish and go to bed.

Montrose, CO to Amarillo, TX - Second to the last day!

At the state park about 10 miles south of Montrose, CO I set my alarm for 5:15 am. It was a cool 49 degrees out but not bad compared to the previous weeks of 45 degrees. I made myself a batch of instant oatmeal with raisins and chopped walnuts again to get me going. I loaded everything up and drove out of the park about 6:05 am.

Route from Montrose, CO to Amarillo, TX - 610 miles!
From there I rode south on highway 550 - "The Million Dollar Highway". It started off at a nice 49 degrees and as I climbed higher and higher through Ouray, CO the temps went down from there.

Here is an idea of what the terrain looked like through the mountain passes.

The road gets narrower and twistier and has a lot of 15 and 20 mph hairpin corners. On many (most?) of the corners there are no guardrails and the scenery is quite distracting to try to stay on the road! I also saw a lot of deer but they seemed to be used to being on the road and seeing traffic as they were just standing along side the road either munching or just looking at me.

This had been my strategy from several days ago as I tried to think ahead. Last year I traveled north on this hwy 550 in the late afternoon. I got into the afternoon buildups and it was solid rain, overcast (so I couldn't see any scenery) and TONS of traffic including huge RVs which made travel very slow and frustrating. I got wet and cold and pretty miserable.

So my plan (hope) was to get into position to do the pass this time in the early morning to avoid the possible afternoon orographic precipitation and hit it before the RVs rolled out of bed. It worked perfectly! What I didn't count on was the cooler morning temps and the bright sunshine in the mountains that made for difficult photography. Because of those things I didn't get any pics. My fingers were already too cold to take a glove off to snap any pics!

The coldest temp was 41 degrees as I went through Silverton. Silverton seems like it sits in a bowl and all the cool mountain air settled overnight there and it was colder than up in the passes. I got over the second pass and descended in Durango.

I checked the POIs on the Garmin and looked for a cafe. I found the "Durango Diner" and headed for main street, off the main highway. It was an old, kind of quaint, old-fashioned narrow diner with barstool swivel seats at a bar.
Poor pic from my cell phone, but it was kinda retro sitting there watching the cook and waitresses sling breakfast plates around.

I wrapped my fingers around a hot cup of coffee and checked email on my phone, some text messages, and a few phone calls.

An hour later I was on my way east to Pagosa Springs then south on hwy 84. Now, there are faster ways south and my Garmin Nuvi 765T was telling me to go a different way, but, hey - this is still a ride and going through mountains across northern New Mexico is a heluva lot better ride than more superslab in a flatter countryside. So I made up for the longer route by riding longer in the day.

It was a beautiful ride. I think it is the Carson National Forest, in the San Juan Mountains. Not sure, will have to doublecheck. I was surprised to see on my GPS that the forested landscape was actually at 10,000 at times!  Anyway, came out of the mountains into that strange area of modern, large, expen$ive looking adobe homes just west of the Rio Grande crossing west of Taos. Here are a couple of token pics, can't tell much from them.

Would love to meet the people who built this place - bet they are very interesting...

I took some pics crossing the Rio Grande but didn't stop - just shot them on the fly. Boy, that didn't work at all, just got pics of the railing going by. I had been there before and have some other pics so I was more interested in making miles.

I stopped briefly in Taos to pick up a sticker for my saddlebag and a butt break, drink and a snack. A few people noticed and asked me about my stickers - "Did you really ride that to Alaska??" I am already learning to love that!

Then it was time to motor, but still the scenic way. So I went south to route 518 and then east. Some of you may know that route, and some of my Kansas City riding buddies may recognize this pic:

The Sipapu Ski Lodge

This is where the Albuquerque BMW Motorcycle Club has its annual rally and I went there a couple of years ago with 4 other guys from Kansas City. Beautiful location (but rather cool at 8500 feet!). We had an awesome ride across northern NM led by a local guy. Different story...

So I continued through the mountains and came out on the east side and down to Las Vegas, NM, where I picked up hwy 84 again for about 40 miles south to I-40.

Interesting to note - I had been riding through the mountains in the 60's and 70's for temps. I got into some rain on the east side and it dropped into the low 60's. Pretty cool but I could see the lighter skies to the south so I knew I would ride out of it so I didn't stop to put on a liner or change gloves.

On a motorcycle you get warm, then you get cold - get used to it and get over it. Part of the experience.

But what I didn't expect was the temps to rise from the mid-70's in Las Vegas to the mid-90's by the time I got to I-40. Then I rode another 15 miles or so and stopped to get gas in Santa Rosa and it was 102!  Wow! And I still had on my jeans from the cold morning ride over the mountain passes from Montrose (which seemed a million miles away).

I really wanted to get to Amarillo to be ready for the final stretch home to Houston. But it was about 180 miles to get there and now it was about 5 pm.

So I got on the interstate and went about 77 to 78 mph (speed limit was 70) for the next several hours. I had a terrific crosswind from the south which really kicked around me passing trucks. 

I rode the almost 3 hours without stopping into Amarillo and was quite wrung out from the ride and heat when I got there. Amarillo is a big town and the interstate goes right through the commercial center of the city. I saw a sign for rooms starting at $26 and thought to myself - camping in my tent for $20 in 90+ degrees or an air-conditioned room with a shower for $26??? Hmmm, let me think about this for a minute...

Checked in to that motel after that minute was up. Unloaded everything off the bike which was a pain and I rarely did (the large red drybag on the back seat had my alternate summer riding gear and my freeze dried meals and some other seldom used stuff so I never opened it.

I did open it then to switch out my riding gear. I knew tomorrow would be hot so rain or not I had to change. I also got out one of the few remaining Mountain House freeze dried meals and heated up some water and enjoyed that. Saves time, money, and hassle of riding somewhere to eat. Great concept - highly recommended at the end of a long day!

So my final mileage for the day was 610 miles down from Montrose, CO. And that was not the easy way! Wow, when I look at a map that is covering a lot of country! Makes me tired just thinking about it.

But my strategy from several days earlier of being positioned well to end the ride worked. I made Amarillo the first day I left so I knew I could make it home the next day.

Slept hard that night.

Update July 13 - Jackson WY to Montrose, CO

I got up early and said goodbye to those that got up with me and got on the road about 7 am. It was a cool 49 degrees out and looked pretty foggy out but it was a low cloud layer but with good ground visibility.
My route for the day - Jackson, WY down to Montrose, CO - 510 miles!

It was a nice ride through the mountains south for a while then it turned fairly flat and straight. I knew it would be a long dull run down into Colorado.

I rode for more than an hour and decided to get breakfast in Pinedale about 80 miles south. If you want a good breakfast always look for where all the local pickup trucks are parked.

From Pinedale south it was dull and uneventful. I got down to Rock Springs, WY which is on I-70 and took a break. It was warming up so for the first time in several weeks I changed out of my jeans and put shorts on. I still wore my waterproof riding pants and 3/4 length rainproof jacket which were warmer but if I got into rain I wouldn't have to stop.

South of Rock Springs I took hwy 191 south. This was open brushy terrain like a plain. It wasn't until I saw a sign for a summit that I realized this plain was riding along at 7 to 8,000 feet. I saw a number of deer but none close. Lots of little chipmunks or some kind of small squirrels running across the road in front of me.

My next stop was at the Flaming Gorge Dam and Recreation Area. It looked pretty cool and I wanted some pictures but while I was getting a drink and some snacks I could see an organized tour was leaving the visitor building to walk across a catwalk to see the lower side of the dam (VERY high). While that would have been fun to see I just didn't want to take the time to wait for the next tour. So I mounted up and motored on...

I came down a tall pass and into the town of Vernal, UT and stopped for gas. I met a couple of guys on Vstroms but they were suiting up to leave as I pulled in. They said they were on their way back from a trip up to the Glacier National Park in Montana for a couple of weeks. I didn't get their names or where they were from.

As I got into northwestern Colorado and entered that mountainous area I could see a large anvil head cloud forming to the south. That was going to be a big storm, I thought, I wonder if I will get into it...

As I continued south it loomed larger and larger. I was out of any cell phone range so I couldn't use my phone to check radar. I started over and then down the mountain pass the other side and it got darker and darker. There were no houses or ranches, just road.

I could start to see the edge of the rain several miles away. I can ride in rain, even heavy rain, if I need to. But I like to be following someone and I hadn't see any other traffic for a while.

Then as I got closer I could feel the temperature drop suddenly and it got windy.  VERY windy and gusty. I slowed to about 50 mph as it blasted me from side to side in very unpredictable gusts from all directions. Grass and debris was blowing all over the road and there was a large cloud of dust from a dirt road blowing in front of me. This is not a good sign...

Then I rounded a corner and where I had not seen any before, there was suddenly 4 or 5 large, close, vertical lightening strikes. I could see the edge of the wall of rain not a mile in front of me. Now, I can ride in rain and even wind and hail - but avoid lightening always. Not only is the lightening itself dangerous on an unprotected bike but it is an indicator of strong convective activity - possibly stronger than what I had just ridden through. And those kinds of blasts in heavy rain when I could see even less would not be fun.

Then, about the same time, a pickup truck rounded the corner in front of me and started flashing his lights. Not his highbeams - I mean turning his lights off and on!  Ok, enough subtle hints for me - it is time for a different course of action. I slowed and did a cautious u-turn behind him and went back up the road. I didn't think I could outrun this monster so I needed somewhere to go.

Just a mile back up the road I remembered seeing some kind of building off to the left that had a streetlight on outside and several pickup trucks parked. So I found that dirt road and cautiously wound my way for a quarter mile or so and parked. There was a sign on the side of the double-wide trailer looking building that said "Mine Operations."

The rain was starting to come down heavier so I quickly got my cover out and put it over the bike to cover my tank bag and GPS (which is not waterproof).

With my helmet and jacket still on I walked inside and saw a guy sitting at a desk, who looked at me like a Martian for a second. I said something like "I don't know what this place is but would you mind if I stayed in here for a little while??"

It turned out that this was a mine company building and Gary was a 'mine manager.' He was the only one there and was also a motorcycle rider. For the next half hour or 45 minutes he showed me pictures of him riding with his wife all over Colorado and some longer trips. He had a large touring Harley, a BMW 1200 GSA, his wife a BMW F650 GS, and a couple of smaller 250 size dirt bikes. Great combination for Colorado!

Meanwhile the rain and lightening blasted outside for a while then subsided. In half an hour it was calm and I looked out the window and saw clear blue sky!  I needed to make some more miles so Gary gave me his card and I suited up and headed south again. In the hour that I was there that monster rain cell had moved on and now just a few miles south it was sunny and the roads were dry. Just amazing!

So I needed to make it further south than I had planned to get myself in a better position for the next couple of days to make it home. Rather than stay at a nice campground that my brother recommended for me in Rifle, CO I kept going. Gary told me about a nice state park just south of Montrose, CO. It was now about 6 pm and Montrose was another 100 miles to the south.

So I rode south for 20 miles or so, got on I-70 down to Grand Junction, and then took hwy 50 then 550 down to Montrose. I got some gas and headed south about 10 miles and found the park Gary told me about.

It was a nice state park but of course at this time of year, and this late in the evening, it was packed with RVs. I had to pay $7 for a day pass PLUS $18 for a walk-in tent site. I rode down to the walk-in tent site area. There was a parking lot and then a small foot bridge over a rushing creek to a wooded area. I couldn't see how far the tent sites were from there, but I couldn't carry all my gear that far and I didn't want to leave my bike that far out of my sight with the remaining gear left on it.

I considered going up to the RV area but then I saw some pavilions down below. The gate was closed to that section. I thought well that's good, no one will be going down there. So I slowly idled by the side of the gate between some large rocks and rode down to the pavilions. I parked behind a large tree and some brush so I wasn't visible from the gate. Inside were picnic tables, large fireplace, and a grassy field before the rushing creek.

It was about 8:30 and getting dark so I got my stuff unloaded. I heated up some water for a Mountain House freeze dried meal and while that sat for 10 minutes I set up my tent in the small grassy field. I was done and in my sleeping bag by 9:15 and passed out after a long day (510 miles and a close call with a monster rain storm).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Update July 11 - Hell's Canyon ID to Jackson, WY

I got up at 5:45 am after a cool night (46 degrees). I put my riding gear on to get warm and fixed myself a cup of coffee and a nice instant oatmeal breakfast with raisins and chopped walnuts. That felt great! I packed up and was on the road by 7 am. 

I had to take an indirect route to get across Idaho. The GPS wanted to take me south to Boise and follow I-84 across to Idaho Falls. Of course, I couldn't take the easy way. 
It's a good thing I got an early start, that was a lot of winding highways and small towns and scenic rivers to get across and through. It turned out at the end of the that would be 529 miles!
Here is a terrain map to give you a better idea of why I took the long way.

The day was spent riding along various rivers in winding valleys. The rivers were very full and some were solid whitewater - I can't imagine rafting down those but I saw some outfitters getting ready to do just that. Other rivers weren't so bad. The green you see in the map above is very mountainous and gorgeous country. I think Idaho is my new favorite state!

As I rode along the Salmon River it was interesting to watch the terrain change from forest to barren rocks and rolling hills. Here are a few pics.

Several years ago I rode south down hwy 93 through Stanley but this time I rode across hwy 75 through the Challis Natl Forest and the Sawtooth Mtns. Here are a few pics of the mountains there.

But then I got to Challis and started heading southeast. This was a fast, straight highway through wide open, low brush and almost desert looking country. It was a long 150 miles or so down to Idaho Falls.

Along the fairly boring highway I came to a tall rocky mountain and the road seemed to go right through the middle of it. As I got closer that's exactly what it did! The wind was very strong and as I went through the canyon I was buffeted left and right as I took some pics.
It was probably a mile to go thru this canyon

Here coming out the other side and back to the flat windy country
Here is what it looks like on the map.

The Big Storm
About 30 or 40 miles short of Idaho Falls I saw some large dark clouds forming off in the distance to the south (I was traveling southeast). As I rode along a large black cell developed just to the right. It was a black cloud with rain that completely obscured the horizon. I knew it was a strong rain cell. Fortunately it was still off to the right.

Then in another 5 miles miles I could see on the GPS that the road turned slightly to the right. Uh-oh! The cell was moving slightly northward and still several miles off and the GPS showed me going right through it!

As I got closer I could see it was going to be a heavy rain but there was no lightening at all. So I tucked in behind a pickup truck. I knew if I got into heavy rain I might need to follow his lights or ride in his tracks if the rain started ponding too much.

I could see the edge of it and then in we went - but it was not rain - it was HAIL!! OMG it started as dime-sized and I tucked down behind the windshield as larger hailstones smashed against the windshield and left large clumps of what looked like snowballs. Some larger ones hit my exposed upper arms and shins and HURT! It got rather dark and the hail was coming down in sheets and was accumulating on the highway. Just enough to see it but it was slushy, not really more slippery than a wet road. This continued on for a minute or so (seemed like longer) and I rode out the other side. The road turned dry instantly.

I thought "Whew! Glad I am out of that!" I rode along for a minute and looked at the larger black sky over my right shoulder further south but was building. I wondered what that monster looked like so I looked over left shoulder. The sky was completely clear and I could see the entire horizon of the mountains behind me! That rain/hail storm had completely dissipated in the few minutes since I went through it! Unbelievable!!

So it was another 20 miles into Idaho Falls where I stopped briefly for a butt break, drink of water, snack, and check the GPS and map. I had 90 miles to go to Jackson but I had another mountain pass to go over so it wasn't a quick road.

So I arrived about 8 pm in Jackson, WY. I will take a day off and visit and relax and rehydrate and plan ahead a little. At this point I have no idea of what route I will take back south to Texas but everything south of here is experiencing a heat wave. I may plan a day or two of early departures (like 4:30 am) and ride till mid-afternoon and then maybe hotel it if it is too hot. I won't know till I get down there.
David's place in Jackson - Thanks David!

View of the stormy evening sky in Jackson
By the way, if you have read this far, you have to check out David's web site. He is a professional wildlife and natural photographer based in Jackson but has done photography all over the world and makes a serious living from it. You can see why at his web site at 

Nuff for now!

Update July 10 - Vancouver, WA to Hell's Canyon Idaho

Trip Update - Sunday, July 10

I left my sister's place in Vancouver, WA (Camas) about 8 am after a delicious breakfast my brother-in-law fixed (Thank you Steve!). I really appreciated them getting up early on a Sunday morning to see me off. 

I rode Rt 14 eastward which is the highway on the north side of the Columbia River, not the interstate on the south side. I would get enough of that later in the day.

Very nice highway and I had light traffic since it was early on Sunday morning. Saw one deer standing in the middle of the road and as I slowed he just stood there watching me. I blew my air horn as I almost came to a stop about 50 feet from him and he just walked away to the side completely unperturbed.

After about an hour I made it to White Salmon (north side of Hood River) which is where my brother Tom and family used to live (and whom I am going to visit in Wyoming now). Just had to call him and let him know I was there.
The view from near the bridge looking south over Hood River to Mt Hood

Another half hour or more and I was at The Dalles recalling another excellent motorcycle trip with friend Bill from Nashville 10 years ago. That's a whole 'nuther story but that trip is still vivid in my mind.

Another 30 miles I think and I arrived at Maryhill and crossed the river south to get on I-84.

View of the bridge looking south

I rode for several hours until I stopped about noon in Pendleton, OR. Got gas and munched on some peanut butter as a lunch and butt break. Then I found the Pendleton Woolen Mill and store. Very popular and famous and their store shows it. They are beautiful shirts, classic plaid patterns that I enjoyed growing up, but the price of a shirt was $105, so no shirt today! I don't think I could carry it now anyway...

Funny thing, as I pulled into a gas station a guy pulled up next to me in a pickup and rolled his window down, "Hey, what's your user name on adventure rider??" What??? He explained that he was standing outside of church (it WAS Sunday morning) and he saw my Vstrom ride by with an "ADV" sticker on the back and he told his wife we gotta go see that guy. He also has a Vstrom and rides all over eastern Oregon and Idaho. He was very friendly and we chatted for a while (he was amazed at my story) and he gave me some good tips about how to get to Hell's Canyon. 

Quick aside: Adventure Rider is a web site ( where all the long distance motorcycle riders and global travelers go to post ride reports and research local information. Having an ADV sticker on your bike means you participate to whatever degree in that forum and implies you have traveled on your bike enough to have some credibility there. I feel like I am just beginning to earn that distinction...

So I motored down the interstate another several hours. It was very interesting to see that country as I had never been through there before. I had always heard of the eastern Oregon high desert. What I didn't realize is that it is not all desert. There are the Blue Mountains to get across. The pass gets up to about 4100 feet and is heavily forested. After about 10 miles you get down the other side and get back into the arid scrubby rolling land. 

I rode the interstate down to Baker City and then took hwy 86 for about 90 miles thru Richland, Halfway, and up to Oxbow. Very winding twisty road with CONSTANT 40 mph turns along the river. Twisty roads are fun but this really got monotonous. Low rolling barren hills with sparse ranches and light farming. A whole lot of not very much...

I had heard about Hell's Canyon ( several times and someone told me recently that it was worth seeing. So I took the Hell's Canyon Road up the east side of the river and reservoir. Another very winding road for about 22 miles up to the dam. The canyon is interesting but pretty barren. Lots of recreational boats (skiing, jet skis, party boats) but not much else. The dam itself is not that big as dams go but it is pretty high.

Got a few pics and chatted with a guy from Toronto on a BMW GS for a bit. He had been on the road thru Alaska for about 7 weeks. He said that a local up at the Grand Coulee dam on the Columbia River told him that the river was so high all the spillways were open and he had never seen that before. That was a constant observation and discussion topic - lots of rain and record snowfall made all the rivers in Canada and now in northwest US at near record levels.

I didn't want to continue up that road since it would eventually have taken almost up to Missoula which was too far north. So I made my way back south to Oxbow and then continued on hwy 71 (the Brownee Oxbox Highway).

It was getting about 7 pm and still pretty warm and I thought about where to stay. I really didn't want to stay at some of the crowded RV camps that I saw along the river and reservoirs. As I made my way the road left the reservoir and started climbing up. I saw I was getting into the Payette Natl Forest so I thought about a campground. Then I saw a small sign that pointed to a campground 1 mile up a dirt road. I thought "let's go for it!"

So I slowly made my way up this steep dirt road thru the forest to this little campground. it had nicely prepared RV parking spots with picnic table and fire ring in each. And there was no one else there! I picked a spot beside the rushing creek and unloaded the bike. 

There was no firewood so I had to scavenge remnants from the other fire rings in the other campsites. I found a dead branch I broke up for starter and soon had a nice fire going. Then I heated up some water and had a Mountain House Chile Mac meal - not bad but probably won't make a habit out of it. Set up the tent and by that time I could feel the cool mountain air flowing slowing down the valley. I looked at the GPS and I was at 4500 feet so I thought it might be another cool night. I was in bed by 9:15 pm - a new record for me.
Dinner with bear spray

A couple of Tylenol PMs and I didn't remember a thing for the rest of the night!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Update July 8 - Sea to Sky Highway and back to the US

I got up and pulled out of the Nairn Falls Campground about 6:45 am and continuing down the highway. It was a balmy 50 degrees which was nice after the last week or more of 45 degree mornings.  

Here is a view of a falling creek beside the road that was quite common.

After 30 miles or so I got down to the upper village of Whistler, which was the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. As you can imagine it was a very opulent looking area. 

I ate breakfast in a homey little diner ("Southside Diner") and then headed down the highway. 

It continued to descent and it got larger and faster. Alternating passing lanes and later a full time 4 lane highway. 

Interesting thing. The Canadian speed limits seem to be very conservative - and almost universally ignored. The speed limit on the lower 4 lane highway was 80 kph (48 mph) and all the cars and most of the trucks were going 60 to 65 mph! 

It was a beautiful ride down to the coast and views of inlet. Then it started getting busy. Traffic was heavier and people were in a hurry and there were lots of trucks. Then I got down into Vancouver, BC and in a totally urban corridor. Traffic was terrible!

That continued for an hour or so until I got down to the border crossing on I-5. Had to sit for about 30 minutes to get through there. It's funny, the guy asked me about where I went and if had any weapons. Then he seemed quite interested in hearing about my trip so we chatted for a few minutes. I think that's what they do now, instead of asking specific questions I think they are more training in behavioral analysis and are looking for certain signs of nervousness or whatever. 

After that I went through the Hell of Seattle and stop and go traffic for 100 miles or more. A huge long urban chaos that I couldn't get out of quick enough. I should have gone around the city to the east.

My goal for the day was to get down to Tumwater, WA to the Gerbing factory before they closed at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon. I arrived at 3:30. I explained to the friendly receptionist about my gloves not working. She inspected the plugs and pins and plugged my jacket, controller, and gloves into a little testing station. The gloves worked independently but not when plugged into my jacket, so some connection is bad in my jacket. 

She looked me up in their computer system and saw that I had purchased them over 2 years ago so was out of warranty. But, she explained, they have a lifetime warranty. She said I could leave the jacket and they would repair it and send it back to me at no cost. I told her I couldn't leave it now as I might still get into some cool mornings or mountain passes. So she gave me a return authorization number to sent it in after I got home. Great people, great company, great gear!

So after that it was about a 2 hour ride down to my sister's place in Vancouver, WA (actually Camas, a little town east of Vancouver). It was great to see her and her husband, Steve, and relax and enjoy his cooking (fantastic!). 

I spent the next day, Saturday, cleaning the bike, air drying the tent, airing out the sleeping back, mink oiling my leaky boots, cleaning, organizing and repacking all my gear and storage places. It was a warm day (80's) and a clear blue sky and I haven't seen anything over 70 degrees since I crossed the border going north about 2 weeks ago!

So tomorrow I will head east to go across Oregon and Idaho to go see my brother, Tom, and his family in Jackson Hole, WY. We may go camping for a day there in the Tetons, then I will head for home. I am feeling the end coming nearer and I want to get home to my wife and a warm comfortable bed and my dogs. 

Nuff for now, gotta go to bed!

Update July 7 - Farewell to Sandy, Ride the Sea to Sky Highway

We got up Thursday morning in the RV park in Prince George to a decent 50 degrees but dry (except for the heavy dew). Sandy got a head start and headed for Walmart and I left a few minutes later and headed down to the "NR Powersports" where Sandy had an appointment to get a new rear tire. 

After he checked in and gave them his rear tire we walked to a small cafe 3 or 4 blocks away for a nice breakfast. The cafe owner told us he had just sold his business the day before and he was going to go work up north in the oil fields. He figured he could make about $2 million in the next 5 years and then retire (he was 50ish). 

We got back and got Sandy's tire back on and loaded up and finally got on the road about 11 am. It was a long ride south on Highway 97 through Williams Lake and 100 Mile House (name of a town). The highway was much more civilized and populated than before, not as many mountains but some nice scenery. But we rode through rain and heavy rain for hours. We dodged a few of the heavy cells but got into some others. It was a long dreary ride punctuated with some really nice scenery and historic towns I wished we had time to visit. 

Here is a map of our ride today.
Long, relatively unexciting ride - 378 miles

It was late when we arrived at the junction of highway 97 and 99 where I would turn off to head southwest toward Vancouver on the "Sea to Sky Highway." The junction was about 7 miles north of Cache Creek. Sandy was continuing south through the Okanogan valley to Spokane to visit his son. 

We stopped on the side of the road and chatted for a few minutes, took a picture (10 second delay with the camera set down on the road), and departed our separate ways.

Sandy,it was an amazing run for a week and a half or more. Not sure how or when we might see each other again but it would be nice to see you and meet Jeanette and your sons. Someday I might take another trip up to the northwest and stop by to see you. If you ever get down Texas way let me know and I will show you the Texas Hill Country. 

So then I headed down the highway 99. The land had turned to an arid looking scrubby brushy country - very different from just a few miles ago north. Also it was a narrower, twisty road weaving around the rolling hills. As I continued it seemed like I was descending and the hills were getting larger and the valleys deeper. 

One sight I saw as I cruised by was a tall power pole (taller than a normal one) with a big nest perched on the top of it, and peering down at me was a large white head of a bald eagle sitting in it. Too late to get a picture - I kept going.  

After some distance ( about 40 miles) I turned into a large deep valley. There was spotty rain again and sun. I caught glimpses of the valley and it looked deep.

Here is a Google Map of the valley I was following and where the following pictures were taken.
The deep valley was to the right, but I caught this view of some sun shining on that field while it was overcast and raining all around.
At one point I saw the sun shining on a field on the other side of the large valley and there was a veil of rain falling between me and the sunny field. It was surreal! And I did get that picture!
I'll bet there was a gorgeous rainbow on the other side of that!

It became apparent after a while it was quite a canyon I was following. Finally I got a view of the river below. 

Another 10 miles or so and I came upon the Indian village of Lillooet, and the river was the Lillooet River. Interesting note in Wikipedia about Lillooet,

"Considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations on the continent, the area is reckoned by archaeologists to have been inhabited for several thousand years"

View of the railroad trestle below. The river was very high and very fast moving.

I did a video of this scene to try to capture the power of the river but I'm not sure it does it justice.

The few little villages and houses along the way were very poor looking, with dilapidated old houses and trailer and lots of old dead cars laying around. But the surrounding mountains were quite amazing. 

Then another 20 or 30 miles the terrain changed again to more rugged mountains covered with the pine forests, but with a defined tree line and bare rock above with lots of snow still on the tops. 

The road got narrower and twisty with some significant grades like 10 to 12%. It was an awesome motorcycle road! Except that the road was wet (with no rain in sight!) and there was dirt and gravel in some corners from cars cutting into the shoulder. Very tricky.  

The highway descended into a deep valley and the temps cooled significantly. I was down in the valley and it the pine forest - very cool and humid. 

It was getting late and I wondered where I was going to camp. I noticed the thermometer said it was 48 degrees and the GPS said I was at 4200 feet. Then there were some signs that said "Trucks use lower gear - 14% grade!" Over the next few miles I descended from 4200 feet to about 8 or 900 feet and the temperature was 58 degrees! 

I think this picture is of the Lillooet Lake as shown on the map above

After a little while I came into the town of Pemberton. Very cool, kitschy touristy kind of town. I needed gas and something to eat. I ate at "The Pony", a very trendy looking cafe. They didn't have wifi but told me to go sit outside the library down the street and use theirs (it was now about 8:30 and most everything was closed). So I went down there to check weather and email Susan. I also looked at the map and saw a provincial park campground just a few miles south so I went down and found it. 

The Nairn Falls Campground was a nice well-prepared campground with RVs and campers. I found a site and the host came around so I paid for my site. It cost $18 which was the most I have paid for any campground yet and it didn't even have any services. Somebody has to pay for all that Canadian free health care I guess.  

I found a Youtube video of the Lillooet River and the surrounding mountains, it gives a good idea of the grandeur of the area.

And here is a Youtube video of the Nairns Falls which I couldn't take the time to hike up to. Now I wished I had.

Right over the fence at the back of the campsite was a river about 50 or 75 feet below. It was very full and fast moving and made quite a roar. 

The campsite at Nairn Falls Provincial Park
This is the view of the river the next morning. Very fast current, full river, and it was LOUD!!

I talked for a while with the campers beside me. I asked them if there were bears in this area and they said yes, keep all your food put away. One of them told me that there were 4 bears killed in Pemberton just in the last week. If a bear gets into food (around a house or a restaurant) it has to be killed. It will return and get aggressive and it also might teach its cubs. I saw a billboard once a week or so ago on the Alaska Highway that said "A Fed Bear Is A Dead Bear."

Had a good nights sleep with the roar of the river in the background. 

I rode 389 miles down from Prince George which was pretty good since we didn't leave town until 11 am.