Monday, 1 July 2013

Full Circle.

Well as some of you know things didn't work out as planned.  Conversations with Vancouver started after my house went up for sale in January.  When I was in Vancouver in March for my parents 50th wedding anniversary I went in to our Vancouver office to make sure all was still ok.  The IT department was also informed when I set out May 1st.  My journey out to the West Coast was faster than expected, so I arrived a week early.  Even so I was a bit surprised when going into the office and discovering nothing had been done to set up for my arrival.  In fact they weren't even sure there was actually enough room for me.

I am a commission employee, so when I am on vacation I don't have any income.  So 3 weeks on the road, and 2 weeks in Vancouver waiting around for my IT department to do the monumental task of putting 2 computers on a desk was my limit.  Knowing I still had my computers on my desk in Toronto, I made a heart wrenching decision to ride back to Toronto.  So after a very painful departure from my parents I headed out first thing Thursday morning, and rode 4500 kms in four days!!!  I arrived in Toronto Sunday evening, and was back at my desk Monday morning. 

My route was the fastest, most direct, line possible across the top of the USA.  So the silver lining was I rode through a bunch of States I didn't think I would, and got to fill them in on my map:

So the ride out there, 11,000 kms in 3 weeks was fantastic.  The ride back, 4500 kms in 4 days was absolutely brutal!!!!  Not something I want to repeat ever again!!!  I think my days were: 1000kms, 1250 kms, 1250kms and 1000kms.  Most days were 11 or 12 hours riding, and heading East you lose an hour a day crossing time zones......

So after a chaotic few weeks of scrambling to find a place to live, including spending 2 weeks at a Bed & Breakfast in The Beach, I am now safely ensconced in a rental condo a block from the water, and beach volleyball mecca, (at least in Toronto) in The Beach.  

There was quite a startling difference in reception here at work compared to Vancouver: all my 5 computer monitors were covered in "Welcome Home Dom" signs!!!

So that is the end.  16,300 kms of riding over 4 weeks, give or take a day.  My plans to ride to Alaska have been put in hold, maybe the East Coast..... while I am still out here.....                                                                                                                       

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Farkles and the Barcalounger......

It sounds like a seventies rock band....  farkles are accessories you purchase for a motorcycle.  Some are completely useless add-ons that aren't worth the money you spent, others are expensive, but worth it, others are inexpensive and offer an increase in comfort, usability, or reliability well in excess of their cost.

Some of mine were:

Pivot Pegz and adjustable gear shifter.  A larger foot peg is great when standing off road, and since you shift thousands of times a day, depending on the terrain, having the gear lever hit your boot in the right spot is extremely important.

The infamous Tobinators, without which I would have a migraine headache after a few hours of wind buffeting my helmet around, and would have made the whole trip a disaster!! They allowed me to find a setting that put the windshield in a position to ride in quiet, and calm, comfort.

Easily the two most inexpensive and worthwhile farkles, a crampbuster and a cruise control.  The crampbuster uses the heel of your palm to control your throttle, since gripping the hand grips for hours on end causes huge muscle pain.  The cruise control you rotate round onto your brake lever and the friction keeps your throttle in one spot.  Very helpful for huge highway miles.  Each cost less than $20!!!!! 

 Jesse aluminium panniers.  Extremely strong, and hold a HUGE amount of gear.

TomTom GPS and crossbar pad.  I don't know how you can ride, or drive, long distances these days without a GPS!  The motorcycle version is more expensive than the car version, mostly due to it having to be waterproof, and be able to accept commands while wearing gloves.  Connects via bluetooth to your cell phone, for those all important phone calls while riding off road, and to the bluetooth speakers mounted in your helmet.  The crash bar pad is just a safety item in case of hurtling forward....

 BMW stock 1150GSA top box, worked really well.

 Footpad enlarger for the side stand, so the bike doesn't fall over when you park in soft sand.

Handguard spoilers, add a bit more wind and rain protection.

Bottle holders,  The left one held a one and a half litre fuel bottle for
my camp stove.  I bought a multifuel stove, so it used gasoline, so I it meant I always had a bit more in reserve if I ever needed it.  The right one held a large aluminium water bottle, that plus the 2 litre Camelback meant I could make dinner even if there was no water around.

Finally the Barcalounger, or as it is really called a Russell Day Long seat:

The stock seat for the 1150GSA is a single motocross style seat, that while it works really well as an offroad seat, isn't really conducive to long distance comfort.  The Russell is what all the long distance riders swear by, and I would have to agree.  I bought mine used for half the price, and it was definitely worth the money!!!  Even after a nearly 1000km day I never once had pain in my posterior!!

And finally a waterproof cover for the leather seat, by King of Fleece.  Absolutely mandatory to protect your investment, and absolutely waterproof.  It is stretchy, so is a perfect fit. 

Not an inexpensive set of equipment, but since I plan on keeping the bike for a long time,and most of them hold their value really well, they all were a really good investment in my future travel.  I don't believe that there  is a gold plated toilet seat in the bunch.  They were all used, and all performed at least as well as the cost to acquire them.

So unless something else pops into mind that is the end of this journey.  So until next time, so long and farewell.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Der weg ist das ziel......

I have BMW Motorrad t-shirt with that expression on the back.  It roughly translates to "the journey is the destination".  When riding a motorcycle long distance cross country, it isn't so much where you end up, as the experience along the way.

The places that I stopped at and took the time to visit were fantastic.  I saw everything that I wanted, and visited everywhere I had planned.  Due to the time of year and the weather the time I spent between locales was as brief as possible.  If I was traveling with  someone else I might have chosen a different timeline, but for me it worked.

In the end I rode 11,098kms, I had estimated 10,000kms, not including side trips, so my guess was right on.  The length turned out to be 21 days instead of a month, but mostly due to my speed between waypoints.

So the before and after pannier map photos are:

One new province, Quebec, and 20 new US states!!!!!

After my last trip I said that I had thoroughly enjoyed it but that I would never do another one.  Obviously in hindsight that was a rash decision.  This time I know that I will do another trip, in fact I already have one in mind: either a trip to the top of Alaska, or a Alaska, Yukon, and North West Territory loop!!  If I end up staying in Vancouver there will be another trip in the Fall, and one not nearly as fun: driving across Canada in U-Haul...... wow is that something to look forward to????

My favorite places are still Utah and Arizona, especially the area of Page and Moab.  I would go back there again, for sure.  Some of the cities I bypassed, like Boston I think are a better weekend destination to see the life downtown.

My motorcycle performed phenomenally, and the new tires I put on before I left still have some life left in them which is very surprising.  I am currently typing on my new laptop, a brand spanking new Samsung, light, thin, and very fast.  The hard drive on the previous Dell was retrievable, as it turns out it was the mother board that got shaken to pieces.  So I was able to transfer all my valuable data over.  I will be much more careful with this one in the future!!

Thanks to everyone that followed with me through my blog.  Take care, and drive safe!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Back in Canada eh????

You know you are getting close to Vancouver when you wake up and it is raining outside!!!  I think if I had pushed on last night I might have made it in the dry....

So 400kms to go, and the only thing between me and the border is Snoqualmie Pass.  As I already knew it was raining, I also figured if I get up high enough I was going to see snow.  Sure enough, in the valley before Snoqualmie the sign said the temperature was 45F!!  The ascent takes you right up to the bottom of the clouds, and at that level there is still snow on the side of the road.

Thank goodness for heated hand grips, unfortunately at +1ookph they can barely overcome the wind chill...  So it was a pretty horrible last day riding, cold, windy, and rainy.

I am not sure the border guard appreciated my response to the question "where have you been?"  "everywhere...."

So back in Vancouver a few minutes past my estimated 2pm arrival. Glad to be under a warm and cozy roof among family.  So tonight I will ponder the whole trip and do one final summation of my thoughts tomorrow.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Almost there....

So with only one thousand kms to get to Vancouver I decided to take two days to do it rather than have one huge riding day. So a 60/40 split should work as I have to get through the border on the last day.

It was a perfect day for riding:  cool, calm and barely a cloud in the sky!  An hour into the day I overcame the lure of passing an A&W and dropping in for breakfast.  You can tell when you get back to civilization when you finally see a Starbucks!  I couldn't resist the siren call of a Grande Latte!  There are quite a few well known stereotypes for Harley riders, the most well known for BMW riders is that they hang out at the local Starbucks!!  So who am I to go against tradition?

I had been told that all gas stations in Oregon are full serve, so I thought I would try and hold out until I got to Washington state to get gas.  I missed my goal by one mile!!!  I had to stop 1 mile from the state line as I had been on reserve for a while: 445km and 6.45 gallons into my 7 gallon tank!!!  It turns out the next gas station wasn't for another 40kms so I am glad I quit when I did!!

I have never been through western Washington before.  I was amazed at the number, and size of the vineyards I passed.  It reminded me of the Okanagan, or even Napa Valley.

So I am now half a day from ending my trip.  I am looking forward to not having to figure out where to sleep, what restaurant to eat in, and what the weather is going to throw at me today!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

From salt to potatoes

I woke up a bit later than I had hoped but I was still out the door by 6:30am!  I headed back to the Salt Flats to catch pictures of the sunrise.  Unfortunately my hope that it had dried out over night was proved wrong.  It turns out there had been another rain storm during the night, so it was good that I had been in a hotel room, instead of the KOA down the street.

Taking photos into a sunrise is not the easiest thing.  I should have taken them at dusk last night, but the storm got in the way:

After a quick departure from the hotel, as another storm system looked like it was moving in, I headed out, destination Boise Idaho.  My dad's cousin Susan and her husband Mark had invited me to stop by if my route took me into the neighbourhood.  Sue had a preplanned  family picnic, so asked if I wanted to tag along.  It was great seeing people that I hadn't seen in years and a few little ones I had never met.

So after a discussion on the possible routes to take to get to Vancouver, I have decided to take the faster interstate route, instead of the twice as long scenic route.  So with 1000kms to go I should be there in two days time.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Would you like a little salt with that?????

The last time I did a trip one of the places I wanted to stop and didn't was The Bonneville Salt Flats.  Lots of tv commercials are filmed there, and when it dries out, lots of land speed records are attempted there as it is perfectly flat and extends for miles.

So a cool but clear morning riding the highway:

Not a bad way to spend your time eh???

I had originally planned to stop in Salt Lake City to try and get my laptop fixed, but by the time I got there I had decided to wait until Vancouver, and just use my tablet.  It turns out my tablet works fine for updating my blog, but for some reason it won't upload pictures... so I am currently on the hotel computer.  Oh well....

While stopped for lunch I figured I should find out exactly where the Salt Flats were, Wendover UT as it turns out, a mere 150kms away.  So bundled up against the cold and impending rain I set off again.  The only thing between me and my destination is a WALL of clouds from the road up, and you can see beyond it is sunny through it.

It was BY FAR the worst weather I have ever ridden through.  It was about 5 miles deep, HIGH winds, rain, hail, and just as I was entering it....lightning!!!!  I have never had wind try to push me into the road before!!!  I could see the clearing on the other side, so just kept going.... the weird thing was my gps didn't work the whole time through!!!!

This is what it looks like from the other side:

Only about 2 miles through the storm is my destination, still quite windy, but sunny!!  Unfortunately with the storm just going through, it wasn't so much The Bonneville Salt Flats, as The Salt Lake!!!  So I will attempt to go back tomorrow morning and hopefully it has dried out some what.

The nearest town as I said is Wendover Utah, so riding in it looks just like any other small town.  Motel 6, Super 8 hotels etc.... then all of a sudden there is a sign for The Mandelay Hotel....  Isn't that a casino in Las Vegas I thought.... It turns out part way through Wendover is the Nevada state line, and EVERYTHING changes.  The Mandelay Casino, and The Nugget literally have their front door on the state line.  Following that are a dozen other casinos, very small Vegas like....   The price of gas also goes up 30 cents a gallon from a block ago too!

So I try the Mandelay and it turns out they are full, as are most of the other casinos.  So back into Utah, the one whole block back... and I am in my usual hotel, for half the price.  So by 6:30 I have taken a dip in the unheated pool(brrrrrrr!!!!!) warmed up in the shower, taken a walk through a couple of casinos, couldn't get out fast enough!!! and had dinner....

So a nice relaxing evening in watching some tv, then off again tomorrow for The Flats...

Friday, 17 May 2013


It's late so just a quick update.  It looks like my off road adventures today killed my laptop!!!!!  So i have to try and fix it, and/or figure out how to upload pictures using my tablet.

Tablet typing.....

OK here goes trying to do an update via my tablet.  I was able to download my photos to my tablet, and it even has a rudimentary photo editing software program on it.

So I left Crazy Horse a bit late, 10am, but the ride to Bryce Canyon was only 150km or so.  The road into the canyon passes through Red Canyon and the Dixie National Forest, so a nice scenic route to get there.  The road once inside Bryce is about 17 miles long.  If you are going I would suggest going straight to the end, then stopping at all the view points on the way back, as they are on the left hand side of the road.  Bryce is what I had hoped Zion was going to be like:

Also if you are going to go, I would suggest stopping at Ruby's restaurant just outside the entrance to the park.  Absolutely fantastic food, busy, since all the tour buses stop there, but well worth it!

At one of the viewpoints i was talking to a couple of guys riding Goldwings, one of them suggested I take hwy 12 out of the park, as it is tremendously scenic.  He also mentioned a ridge that runs through it.  So even though it was completely the wrong way I followed his advice.  I even found the ridge road he mentioned.  I can't believe he took the road I did as it turned out to be 60kms of off road.  Lots of washboard in spots, thus the broken laptop that sits in my top box!!!

The ridge is appropriately called Hells Backbone:

That bridge is Hells Backbone Bridge, right at the top of the ridge line, howling wind, with a HUGE drop off either side!!

So my little off road scenic route took 2 hours, by the time I was back to the highway!  By 6pm I stopped in Torrey, perfect timing, and a great couple of hotels...all full!!! One had just sold its last room to a biker standing in front of me!!!

So instead of being fat and happy, after a good dinner, ensconced in my toasty hotel room, I was barreling down the highway in the middle of nowhere at dusk, getting colder, and hungrier, and more tired by the minute.  Finally at 8pm I was in Selina in a hotel, 15 minutes later I was in the Mexican restaurant next door...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

To Zion!!

Today was a slow paced day, partly my choice, partly not.  I headed out from Page AZ after a lateish breakfast.  Lateish in the sense that as soon as I crossed the Utah border the time jumped forward an hour!  Apparently Arizona doesn't believe in Day Light Savings!!!

A light day riding, the first goal was to get to Zion National Park, a leisurely 200kms away.  Unfortunately most of the Japanese tourists that were in Antelope Canyon yesterday seemed to have headed to Zion today....huge bus loads of them.  That and the only road going in is single lane, and no passing allowed!  To be honest Zion was a bit of a disappointment.  The road isn't very long, or terribly scenic.  It does have a couple of redeeming points though: there is the longest tunnel I have ever been in in my life, 1.1 miles!!!  Very cool... and there is a brief stretch of road that does a bunch of switchbacks like The Moki Dugway.

The parking lots were COMPLETELY full, so after squeezing my bike into a parking spot with another bike I headed for the Visitors Center, also packed... By now it is after noon, the temperature is getting up there, so between the crowds and the heat I beat a hasty retreat.  By the time I got back to the main highway it was 2pm.  I had contemplated heading off to see Bryce Canyon, but my GPS tells me it is 100kms away.

I had passed through Kanab on my way to Zion and it seemed like a great little town, like an updated little village, with cool coffee shops and Victorian hotels.  One of the campgrounds just as you entered town was The Crazy Horse Campground!!!  Having already stayed in a Crazy Horse Campground I thought it was a sign I should stay here too!  So back to Kanab I headed leaving Bryce Canyon for tomorrow.  Hopefully it won't be very busy, and I already know the road going through it is longer than today.

A couple shots from today:

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Rest Day.

Today was my first “rest” day in two weeks.  I think I spent a total of a half an hour on my bike.  To make up for that I spent 6 hours hiking!!!  Coming back to my previous comment about using Google to check the place you are going to visit, when I used Google Images for Arizona one set of photos stood out from all the rest.  A place called Antelope Canyon.  Actually there are two, Upper and Lower Antelope.  The ironic thing is when Matthew and I rode from The North Rim north, he back to central BC, and me on to Moab, we rode within 50 miles of here, and never knew it existed.  It is a slot canyon, formed in the sandstone by high speed water runoff causing fantastic abstract shapes in the reddish hued rock.

When I rode out to Monument Valley yesterday I rode right by the entrance to the Antelope Canyons.  Then further on up the road I rode by the entrance to a touring company called Adventurous Antelope Photo Tours.  So last night I looked them up on the internet, then called and made a suggested reservation for this morning.   It is not cheap, just under $200 gets you a 6 hour 4 Canyon tour.  Obviously just doing Antelope Canyon would be cheaper.

So after meeting my tour guide Nate, and my four fellow tourers we set off for Owl Canyon, Rattle Snake Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, then after a delicious Pizza Hut lunch our final stop Sheep’s Head Canyon.   Upper Antelope was crazy busy as there is a VERY small window when light beams stream into the canyon, so ALL the tour groups arrive at the one canyon from 10:30 – 12-:30.  The rest of the canyons we had to ourselves for the time we were there. 

Nate was fabulous, as he knew when each sun beam would be where and had our small group at each one about 15 minutes early so we all had front row seats for photo taking.  The tour guides toss sand into the air so you can see the sun beams more clearly.  Over the course of the day I took about 300 photos!  So to narrow it down to submit here was tough!!!  These are all exactly as were taken with the camera, not a single one has been “Photoshopped” in any way.  They are in order of the day:


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

One of the best riding days ever!!!

 This is why I ride an Adventure motorcycle!!  

With the exception of the heat this was definitely the best day I have ever spent riding.  After leaving Page AZ early this morning to escape the heat I traveled just over 200kms to reach Monument Valley:

Just north of Mexican Hat Utah you start the Trail of the Ancients, part of the National Scenic Byway.  Off Highway 261 there is a loop called Valley of The Gods, a nice twisty gravel road running through the wilderness:

Thanks to a couple days of off road training, even the thought of road biased tires didn’t put me off the route.  The bike handled really well, and fortunately I had left most of the luggage back in the hotel.

One word of advice: if you are ever going to visit a place, Google it, then check the Google images and follow the links.  One of the links I found when researching Utah and Arizona was a photograph of a place called Moki Dugway.  It is described as follows: “Caution – gravel road 10% grade with switchbacks for 2.5 miles speed limit 5 mph”!!!!!  After seeing the photo and reading that how can you not jump at the chance to ride it????  It ascends from the canyon floor to the top of the canyon in a VERY fast fashion.  I rode to the top, it is a good thing the speed limit is 5 mph, as I might have been zipping along at 6 or 7 mph!!!!!  At the top I turned aound and this is the view:

About a third of the way down is the viewpoint of the photo I had seen which gives you a good idea of the route:

After my descent back down to the canyon floor I set of for Comb Wash Rd., another dirt track running from hwy 163 to hwy 95.  Unfortunately it wasn’t very well marked so I missed the turnoff.  After realizing I had passed it I back tracked and set off down the road.  After a couple of miles I pulled over to check the distance to the nearest town on the other side.  I had a very limited margin for error with gas.  If the road was closed for any reason and I had to turn around I wouldn’t have enough gas to make it back to the nearest town.  So I turned around and left it for another day.

So another 200kms back to Page, back to the comfort of air conditioning!!!  So just over 650kms, and a few hours off road, with some of the best roads I have ever ridden on.  Does it get any better than that?????