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Don't think twice it's alright. Vancouver-Argentina on a CX500

44216 Views 404 Replies 50 Participants Last post by  purplecx500
I've started this new thread since the other one was getting confused with tons of posts going on for ages before I left.

You can see that at Running Away

My dad called and told me not to ride at night to visit them. Spray paint can in hand, I was just about finished painting the racks, so I was really just about ready to go. Didn't want to hang around past the day I'd said I'd go yet again.

I rode out and was the only bike on the 9pm Ferry from Vancouver to the town I grew up in Victoria, BC. The ferry takes 90 minutes so I pulled in around 10:30 at night. After a series of mix ups and dead cell phones I sat at a gas station in Victoria with no friend's place to crash at. I decided to camp since I'll be doing that for months to come it should be good practice to start in a place I know.

As it turned out the place I thought I knew well had changed a fair bit, all the parks and beaches had new gates, and have signs advertising all the fines and penalties for daring to exist there between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

I tried several beaches, and two local hills, Mt Doug and Mt Tolmie. Victoria is a no fun place now, I remember driving around all of those places watching stars, now it's a fine for stopping there. I wonder what the high school kids will do now, sit and make out in cars at the walmart parking lot?

Finally risked sleeping up on Mt Doug, rode my capable offroad machine up the foot path and back onto the road past the gates, then rolled out a sleeping bag after a nice long ride up. beautiful but cold night so I wasn't sleeping much. I relocated to the lee of a nice warm stone wall to sleep, just as I drifted off, I heard a radio acknowledgment and somebody with a light having a good look around. High tailed it out of there, I didn't know I could pack so fast. By this point it was 3am, I was tired, frustrated and getting sloppy. I rode back out the Pat bay highway to try out a trick I read on ADVrider about sleeping up beside the exits/overpasses since that no one ever looks.

I took the first one that looked good, ignoring the foot high wet grass's effect on the traction of my old Spitfire street tires. Found a perfect bowl to sleep in, so I rode down into it, intending to park the bike on the far side and sleep there. For some reason I still can't figure out I stopped sideways on the slope and turned the bike off, dropping my damn keys in the process. Reaching around uphill for them, I started to slip, and leaned out to keep the bike upright, forgetting the downhill side wasn't going to have any footing. We fell over into the bush. No amount of cursing and heaving would convince Aurora to budge, I couldn't get traction for my feet on the wet grass, and the bush was preventing the bike from getting clear even if I could have lifted her more than a few inches. I realized later she'd dug in so well that the kick stand, mirror, and left cylinder were all pretty well stuck, and the tires were right up in the air.

After a few failed attempts to drag the back end around so I would at least be lifting from one side, rather than trying to lift uphill I was about ready to throw in the towel call my parents and get a car jack to push the bike up. I pulled off all the bags, unbolted the gas tank and seat, and just dug in and lifted, dropped her on the uphill side, bolted back on the gas tank, reattached all my bags and only dropped her once more getting out. Took about three hours, I was so tired I just parked on the top of the hill and went to sleep as the sun came up.

Lost almost all my gas before I took the tank off, and burned blue from all the oil in the cylinders later that morning.

looking down the hill, gas tank already off.

Finally over lying on the uphill side so I can clean off the dirt and load my bags again.

It was about a half an hour before I got Aurora to budge that I realized that this trip is where I belong. I wasn't miserable, I was frustrated with myself, but I found that same peace kneeling in the mud in that bush trying to move a bike that got me hooked in the first place while riding an out of oil GS400 with a slipping clutch from SK to BC. I would rather be here than living in quiet desperation in my comfortable suite at home.
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I'm writing this, sitting in a clinic waiting for my last round of vaccinations, before I get on the bike tomorrow, to ride south to the tip of Argentina and back, or as close to it as I can get. No minutely organized and scheduled plans with places to stay and organized logistics; just a very good reason to go, a need to sort myself out again and a rapidly developing addiction to my helmet. So far only the yellow fever inoculation yesterday has made me really regret letting a doctor anywhere near me with those needles of infectious liquid.

It's still surreal to me that the idea for this specific trip appeared under two months ago thanks to a pair of riders at the Horizons Unlimited West meet. Over a round of beers they heard how much I wanted to be travelling. They invited me to meet them part way and ride together. The chance to actually make it happen only came about one month ago, thanks to the person who changed my life over the past year, and who really set me free from a lot of my doubts, believing in me and my idea and putting me into contact with the teacher who was willing to sign off and sort out the paperwork and contacts to let me go without losing my spot as a photography student at Emily Carr University.

I was originally leaving earlier, but I didn't want to ruin my parent’s vacation by telling them before they left in September. Now that they are back and I've told them they have been amazingly supportive, a result I'm thankful for at the same time as I'm surprised by it. I expected a much different result, and I do feel bad about the worrying I'm sure they'll do. So, a lot of things have had to come together at just the right time to get me to this point - good and bad I'm thankful for all of them now.

All my life I've expected to travel, and so far I've always managed to keep from facing up to the idea with a limitless supply of reasons, always just putting it off a little longer. I've spent many years back packing, but always short trips. When I graduated from high school, I never suspected that I might still be here almost 5 years later, never having left British Columbia and still feeling out of place. I stepped into the “real world” early, by starting to work at 14 as a wood-turner. Once I graduated, it seemed natural to stay there, working far more than full time, always telling myself it was just a means to getting on the road, with the feeling I didn't quite belong wherever I was. Whether I never fit in anywhere because my leaving was just around the corner, or whether the need to go came from the poor fit, I don't think I'll ever know. This resulted in many failed projects, from sinking my money into building up a Jeep to travel in, to preparing for backpacking in Europe while never quite getting out the door. When I first moved to the big city to work, my mother gave me a copy of Jupiter's travels; Ted Simon's amazing journey on a motorbike around the world. This lead my dad to joke that this trip was her fault. That book led me into reading more and more online blogs and trip reports, but I probably would have ended up on the road this way eventually one way or another. After the work excuse wore a bit thin, as I still didn't have any money to show for it, and wasn't any closer to traveling I started going back to school, with everyone telling me once I finished that then I could really close the door and go. Happy with another excuse to avoid actually having to do anything I once again buried the travel idea under a long list of things to do first, still never ready to stay put. Throughout all of this time I read many travelogues, but the only ones that ever really got to me were those on the sea or on a motorbike. Not that I didn't enjoy the amazing ingenuity people show in ways of moving themselves around as strangely as possible, but the draw just wasn't there for me with those. I can't afford a sailboat, and motorbikes don't sink so the choice in the end was pretty easy.
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Here's my route over the first few days, I'm planning to spend a few nights in Lava Beds National monument, a place I visited once as a child and loved, before arriving at Larry Cargill's shop in Sacramento.

I picked up a Pentax K-7 I had shipped to my friend's house in Tumwater, buying used in the USA rocks, less than 1/2 what I'd pay in Canada.

I've had a Pentax Optio P&S for about 5 years now, it's getting a bit tired. Considering the abuse I've heaped on it from dropping down rocks to washing it in the ocean, it's a damn good travel camera.

Here's one of the first pictures with the new camera, not ride report related but a good test. now to figure out how to shoot on the bike.

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What a hell of a day three.

Left Tumwater pretty late and then, running south on I-5 somewhere between Tumwater and Hwy 12, my credit card and driver’s license vanished. The clip on my wallet came undone and they simply flew away. Good thing I was carrying a 2nd wallet with secondary ID, and my other card. There was lots of traffic and some construction along the way so I was starting to get a bit fed up with a long straight interstate and too much time with my thoughts. I even got to the point where I just felt like turning around since there was no point continuing the trip. If I'm not getting any excitement out of it and I'm not coming up with any good answers to my questions, then maybe I am just happiest when I've got something external to be miserable about. I hope that's not the case and I just enjoy the energy rush and the thinking that comes with getting dropped in the shit. A couple hours into Hwy-12 and the road fixed all my problems. Absolutely gorgeous riding! I cranked some nice Irish tunes, and rolled through a mix of nice sweeping turns, beautiful smooth new asphalt and nice scenery. The sky was clear blue, the valley floors looked up to some nice passes coming down around lakes with all the trees changing colour. The unsigned tightening turns gave me enough challenge to keep me on my toes. Lots of temperature changes made for a decent test of the rest of my gear - I definitely need some more warm clothing before Argentina. The arrow headed snake signs every few miles through a national park kept me smiling all the way; occasional sections of rough road with a “Motorcycles use extreme caution” sign and tight turns gave me a bit of variety when I got bored with the views and needed a challenge. Hardly any traffic at all except for the occasional big truck. I wonder if it's because Google maps steadfastly refuses to route anything this way unless you set it town to town manually dragging the lines, even with the highway avoidance turned on.

First day wearing Sidi Discovery boots but not sure if I'm a fan yet. The inside ankle plate on the right boot digs in something fierce when walking. I cut my leg in the few times I got off to take photos, and I'm marinating in them despite the reasonably cool day.

I wish I'd stopped for more photos but I was worried a bit by the coolness in the passes, and with my late start I needed to make some miles. This one, however, I had to stop for, after the best 2 hours of riding I've had yet. The road opened up into this valley, with the sun setting behind me and the moon rising over the ridge at the same time.

Best of all, not a single damn deer in sight but there are lots of dead raccoons. I'm beginning to wonder if people are running them over on purpose.

I had forgotten from my last ride (Sk to BC on a GS400) how much smell plays a part in the ride. The feeling of being there from hot and cold is one thing; but to me it's the smell that makes the biggest change from being in a car. Seems like most of the smell, good and bad comes from death, the unpleasant ones like the large slaughterhouse and cattle area I rode past, the deep peaceful earth smell of rotting vegetation in the forest, the delicious smell of all the dead trees on the backs of trucks as I pass. I can always smell the lumber trucks before I see them. Towns and States/Provinces have smells as well, over and above the smells of laundry and cooking you get close in. BC smelled sharp. So far one town has smelled like dill, another like pine sawdust, and the last, very strongly like black tea.

That afternoon of riding has solidified my resolve, I'm over the day three hump, and with such a great ride I'm looking forward to more. I'm so thankful to be out on this trip. This is where I belong. Time to do some more homework - I wrote about 2000 words yesterday but with midterm papers and a photo assignment to finish up by Friday I need some downtime, so yet again I'm back at McDonald’s for the free internet.

Here's a photo of a fellow working at a gas station who helped me sort out air for my bike, it's hard to find a compressor at the gas stations that fit into my rear wheel. We had a long visit as well while I warmed up.

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Quick question JG. Would you prefer this thread be left as the diary, and not commented upon? If so, I'll hold respect for that. Since I am here now, and writing, let me just quickly say.....

Such an incredible journey for such a young fellow. Ambition flows through your words as easily as fuel to our CV carbs.

Safe and serene travels, my friend. You are inspired, and inspiring.

Joel in the Couve

Larry is sitting here reminding me I haven't told anyone my name! I'm so used to my username, I answer to it in person too, as more people talk to me by way of the internet than in real life anyways, it's just my initials including my middle name, and some letters on the end so the forum will let me have it.

So Hi, I'm Jeremy Brown.

I did a ton of editing and posting today. I am more than happy for people to comment, it's what makes threads more interesting than a blog, I have a blog as well for people who just want the story. The only issue with the other thread was tons of my posts were out of order, I also wanted to edit out a lot of the details of personal stuff I was sorting out in my head, some of it belongs here since it is a part of the trip, but we can skip the details as well as all the back and forth setting up for the trip, now that it's all in order everything should be perfect. and easier for anyone who wasn't involved in the thread from the start.

Thank you for the nice compliments, I don't feel inspiring, but that's awesome if something good comes of this trip
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I'm going to try and find the Johnny Cash version now, thanks!

I haven't seen Paddy Tyson's trip do you have a link?

You can live out the dream too! It really isn't that expensive if you are careful.

I'm meeting a couple and their kids somewhere in South America, they are traveling in a short school bus with the bike on the back.

I know of another couple who ride around Africa with their young child, who have had a great time so far.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance wasn't my favorite book, it was interesting separate from the motorcycle part.

Two wheels into Terror was good, not quite exactly my taste, but good.

By far my favorite book is an older one as well, and the book that got me into motorcycles in the first place, Jupiter's Travel's by Ted Simon, at once introspective and very perceptive about what's going on in the outside world it is a great read.

Ted Simon is still alive, and did another trip, following his original route, it was a sad and somewhat bitter book in places, as everything had changed.

His website is running, with a blog type format as well, great reading.
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Cool, I don't have any room for more books on the bike, and he doesn't have much on his site, but it looks to me like he's living the dream!

I just realized that somehow I didn't have a link to the build thread in this thread that I can find, so here it is.

This is what has taken up the last few weeks, and why there aren't more updates.
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Day 4 into 5 part 1.

View from under my tarp

I Started off day four just past Umatilla waking up on the side of the highway after just barely enough sleep to a beautiful but freezing cold morning sunrise. I'd camped next to a huge Walmart distribution hub They had some really nice fields and a disused entry road off the side of the highway, perfect place to catch some sleep. It was cold when I went to sleep, and colder still when I woke up.

If you were at HU Canada West, you might recognize the set up style of my tarp, but this time I didn't get any complaints made about it.

Camp for the night

Frost all over the bike.

Packed up and ready to go

I made my traditional morning stop and McDonald’s to use the internet and warm up for a while. The sun came out, everything started warming up and I started to feel like I was really heading south into warmth and sun. Back on the road, I was drying out, but bored rolling south on I82 still wearing my waterproof pants without noticing their vents. Trying to stay ahead of trucks, and in a nice space in traffic I was doing about 65mph, to keep a nice bubble on either end. Seems that sometime in the last leg of my ride I rolled into Umatilla, and crossed the Oregon border, with an accompanying drop in Interstate speed from 70mph for everything but trucks to 55mph for all traffic. Looking back I realized I was potentially up for a performance award, as I was pulled over by a state trooper. After a bit of clarification about speeds permitted in Oregon he checked out my passport, motorcycle permit and insurance paperwork since i still thought I had lost my license and visa on the side of I5. I asked if I could get a photo for the forum, but he wasn't sure what the regulations were about it. So I took a picture in the other direction where I was stopped.

With an uncomfortable seat and soaking wet pants I'd been standing up, and shifting from side to side when I was actually sitting. I'm glad he just missed that performance or I bet I'd have a nice award to show for it.

getting off I82 and onto US395 was fantastic, Mark, a rider I met on the Port Angeles ferry insisted it was a great route better than I-5 or the 101. Despite the increase in distance, he was absolutely right.

Mark unloading off the Port Angeles ferry

It wasn't as easy as I-5s straight and fast path, or as scenic and warm as the 101. But it was a rider's road, perfect pavement, new enough to be smooth and even, but old enough not to be oily or soft. Big sweeping turns, and tons of variety in the scenery. The landscape changing from forest to fields to hot canyons with sharp tight turns and desert to high mountain passes.

Friendly trees

Looking back down the road in Oregon

obligatory sign picture

A good writer once said that riding is much like being a Prince in Amber, and it's certainly true.

All of this nice weather left me with no idea of what I was going to be doing over the next 30 hours.
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One last picture, I didn't have any idea where to put it, the forum said I had too many pictures in my post.

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JG, your quest reminds me of a good read made movie called 'into the wild'. Good luck. You're doing something many of us wished we would have (save the going through Mexico and much of Central and SA part for me). I am hopeful for a non-dramatic end to this read.

My username seems to mess with a few people, sorry! I had to add enough extra letters since somebody stole my usual username which is just my 3 initials(JGB). I answer to that pretty well, and my first name is Jeremy, sometimes I miss something I ought to reply to with JG if I'm rushing.

I forgot to introduce myself until Larry reminded me, sorry!

Thank you! I'm trying to bring everyone along, or as close as I can to making it so everyone can actually be there with today's technology. I'm still working on understanding video, I'm a bit overwhelmed with all the technology at the moment.

I hope I'm not going to end up like Alex Supertramp
either, a non dramatic ending would be nice.

I am doing my best to go in with the equipment, skills and behavior that will allow me to get there.

I find I need a certain level of risk, without the chance of failure, it seems like playing with cheatcodes, but I don't want to gamble or be reckless like that book/movie's character.

The technology that I'm bringing is a double edged sword, while I can't be truly free and alone, or entirely part of what goes on around me with it on me, as I'm always aware of it as though I'm an observer not truly a participant sometimes. It is still relatively unobtrusive for what it does and does give my family a good deal more peace of mind about the trip too.
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blindstitch said:
What kind of camera are you using for you adventure?

I'm using all Pentax. I'm sure a lot of this explanation is redundant to you since you do a lot more photography than I do, but I figure some of the details might help someone else choosing gear.

Main camera:

a used Pentax K-7 DSLR body(600$), I love Pentax. Other brands have enticing features, but overall nothing comes close for a traveling camera in my mind, mostly because of the layout, weather sealing and lens choices.

I find that the colour Pentax gets is so close to what I see that I don't need a lot of post processing,and the controls all work just right for me without taking my eye off the viewfinder. It has it's weak points, primarily jpeg artefacts and noise at higher iso settings, they are not negligible, and require a fair bit of working around, but the positives still outweigh the negatives.

Backup: Pentax Optio W10 P&S I still use this camera a lot, it's small, waterproof, takes nice pictures. After 5 years of hard use and abuse I don't mind using it where I am risking damage or theft as much as the DSLR.

Lenses: Da 35mm f2.8 Limited Macro (450$)

At least 80% of the entire trip, and all of the build except the inside engine shots, I'm using this lens, it's the equivalent to shooting a 50mm prime on film cameras, due to the smaller size of the digital sensors. It's close to the field of view of your eyeball, and as a bonus it's a pretty good macro lens too. All metal construction, built in lens hood etc and small size make it a my favorite all purpose lens, if I could only take one this would be it.

50mm f1.7 automatic aperture.(5$) This lens came off an old camera, best bang for the buck in lenses still. All metal and ground glass, in lenses they really don't make them like the used to. I use this one for portraits, and night shots. On a digital it's equivalent to 80mm a close to ideal portrait lens, I use it for low light like evenings and mornings too.

18-55mm f4-5.6, and 50-200mm kit lenses(0$), nothing much to recommend them except they were free, compact and light, and there is occasionally a shot where my two primes won't do, either a wide angle group shot/landscape, or something like the moon/sunset shot on day 3, which is the only shot so far on the trip with them.

Vivitar 3500 flash(0$) I just use this to give me a bit of fill flash sometimes without draining my camera's batteries.

Aftermarket battery grip (50$) This gives me a bit more stability for shooting while riding, lets me shoot left handed holding under the body and across with my index finger. Most importantly, lets me run 6AA batteries which I charge via a small USB charger, and can stay running without the grid.

Infrared remote(10$)

So I can shoot the DSLR remotely, letting me set up ahead and ride past it etc. The Optio has a timer/multiple shot function which I might use the same way.

Tripod(25$ I think) for the riding shots, and maybe some long night exposures/mounting on the bike.
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I seriously looked at a Nikon d7000, but the price vs performance compared to Pentax just wasn't quite there for me for what I'm doing.

I mean I'd love to have a Canon 5d MII with the full frame sensor, but for what I'm doing Pentax makes the most sense. If I were to ever be in situation where I would or could be sharing equipment or affording higher end stuff, I'd be shooting Canikon for sure.

The reasons I went Pentax:

-Ergonomics: Size vs grip, smaller body, but much larger grip in relation.

-Durability: magnesium body, cold resistant(rated to -10F) completely sealed, it's at least rainproof and splash-proof. Canon/Nikon doesn't do that anywhere near my price range.

-Shake/vibration reduction: Pentax puts it in the body instead of the lenses like Canon/Nikon in the body, that means my 5$ 50 has shake reduction all the way up to the 35 LTD.

-Focusing assist, in Manual focus mode, pentax keeps the light that goes on when focus is locked enabled even on old lenses, last I heard Nikon has it disabled.

-Split screen focusing, I have an old style mirror going in my camera, making manual focus even more precise.

-Colour, to my eye pentax gets the closest to what I see or am trying to create with the least post processing.

-power options, specifically AA battery compatibility.

-Lens options: nobody else is doing small, high quality primes anymore, never mind all metal bodied high end ones in such a variety of focal lengths. My 35LTD is an all purpose lens, and a quality macro all in one. For the kind of shooting I'll be doing, it's much better suited than a larger zoom.

-I download almost every day, back up to a portable external drive, and the blog is with a hosting company, I have set up a gallery program on there so I can FTP all my pictures up after editing.

-functionality, in M mode I can control shutter speed/aperture with the finger wheels, and ISO/exposure compensation all without moving my hand or taking my eye off the viewfinder.

I'm sticking to smaller cards(new 4gb Sandisk Extreme III) I've heard of too many unreliability issues with the larger cards, these are more durable, and have the faster write speeds that are needed for video.

+1 on the old film stuff, I still play with Minolta/Pentax/Olympus film stuff.

Well not to kick your pentex but one thing I learned in this industry is the big names are the way to go. That's why I do Nikon and I do like the controls. I hate the Canon controls.

But that being said I don't dislike the name. If this were a film world still a lot of our friendly cameras would still be in use. Between Melody and myself we must have a bag of Minolta film stuff. I think it's a Minolta SRT101. Probably about 7 lenses and 2x converter.

I have been with nikon for 8 years now I think. And had a few of their film cameras. One of which was stolen with a bag of gear convincing me to insure everything else.

But when I was looking for a small digi dslr I thought long and hard about the Pentex IST. But the Nikon D70 called my name and I put it to work. Paid for itself in 3 months while I was in college.

As for the old faithful I have a lot of good, expensive, and vibration reduction lenses but when it all comes down to it my nikon 50mm 1.8 has bailed me out more than the $50 I paid for it.

I guess in the end all that can really be said is it isn't the equipment but how you use it.

And any chance you get if you have a lot of pictures download them to your computer and also upload them to a place like photobucket. If you can a dedicated web server would be good. I don't trust compact flash cards, digital memory or computers as far as I can throw them. I had a friend who went to alaska and put his whole trip on a 16 gig card and he got home and downloaded them to find some corruption. 100 good photos out of thousands. Eventually recovery software brought almost everything back but he was near tears.
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Back on the road tomorrow, rain or shine but most likely rain:( heading to San Francisco tomorrow.
I had planned to stop early and camp on day 4, but when I stopping for gas and talking with the attendant around 4pm I think, since my watch strap broke I don't have exact time anymore. While talking I found out it was supposed to get even colder, well below freezing, and that area has hit some record low temperatures, so I kept on going.

I ran into a couple riders in a little town who's name I can't recall that didn't even have a gas pump, this whole stretch had been very tricky and pushed the limits of my tank and spare gas can often, with detours to find gas.

bear carving at a gas station, I rode with another rider

who has a blog as well,

I stopped for gas and he rolled onwards to catch up with his friend, They were trying to make it to Burns, Oregon that night. After tanking up, I rolled onwards too, when I started to notice some signs of incoming bad weather from the north. Rolling through Burns, I stopped for gas as usual, and a UPS driver in the gas station warned me that it was supposed to start raining during the night, possibly freeze and not stop for several days. It was already cold up on the passes, so I wasn't looking forward to riding in rain equipped as I was.

I made a decision to push on, at least to Lava Beds National monument. It's an incredible place to explore, I've waited years to get back since I was there when I was a lot younger and planned to spend a couple of days there. Since it was already fully dark, and I felt the risks of heavy rain, cold conditions and very old street tires would put me in more danger than continuing as I already was. It was a calculated risk, and it paid off, seeing what followed me the rest of the way.

It did however get colder, and with no windshield, heated gear or insulated pants I had been feeling it from a couple hours before sundown. Saddly I didn't take many photographs, but I did end with some pretty vivid images in my mind I'll never forget. The trip took much longer than riding fast down I5, including many small highways who's names I didn't even learn at the time. I have always enjoyed riding at night, I would go as long as 4 hours without seeing another vehicle on the road, and enjoyed it despite the physical misery of the cold. As it was night, the travel time got even longer, while riding in the dark was an acceptable risk, as a couple hours after sundown and the deer tend to be gone from the road. the potential injuries from over-riding my headlight was not. I rolled along between 45 and 50 miles an hour, alternately warming one had then the other on the engine heads to keep my fingers working, a bit of a trick while riding and keeping the throttle open. I learned many new innovative seating positions to try and keep my legs from cramping up and stay out of the wind.

I also started to ride on the edge, a trick I've used in the past to push through on projects and work when I would normally be unable to keep going. To get on the edge is simple in concept, using your body's own survival mechanisms to keep going. The human body has many mechanisms built in. The simplest I've found to sharpen that edge is hunger and cold. By staying hungry when you are cold, your body will refuse to start shutting down for sleep and making you drift off or lose focus, honing the edge takes some practice, just like sharpening a knife, if you go too far you get dull again, too hungry, too cold and you lose that edge as surely as you can roll the edge of a blade. The trick is to keep a balance of the right amount of food for your body to be digesting and expecting more, and just cold enough to keep alert without the dulling effects of hypothermia. This is why it is virtually impossible to fall asleep camping unless you are well fed and warm.

One in the morning I rolled through the California border to find an inspection station like I would have expected at the border of a country not a state. It turned out to be an agricultural inspection station checking for fruits and vegetables that should be entering the state. The man working there was a great guy, an avid outdoors and fisherman, as well as a fellow rider. I ended up staying a couple hours swapping stories, and he let me warm my frozen gear and cold body inside his station. The unexpected kindness of strangers has started to become a theme on my journey.

Rolling onwards it started to get still colder, Riding along the edge of a lake, without any buildings or light within hours of riding and seeing lightning and thunder up on the peaks with the moon glowing off the lake, and the wind gusting waves up was an experience won't soon forget, as well as the continual concern about fuel. Getting off 395 onto some unamed two lane road I started to feel truely alone. It was an eerie ride, as the road descened continually into the black, riding through a narrow cut in the trees, with a small meadow interspersed occasionaly along the way. As usual I ran out of gas, during the day this was an irritation, at night it was frightening, even knowing I was only going to stop and refill from my gallon can strapped to the back, there is something about feeling the engine sputter and stop before you coast to a halt that really leaves a lasting impression. Fueled up and moving again I came across another inspection post where a lady gave me directions to find gas, this part of the state was so empty there were no stations open at night. It was such a small community that she offered to phone and wake up the owner of the closest station to let me fill up. I declined and rode on to find it, a tiny town, one general store with a gas pump and a population of maybe twenty, located on an old back road into Lava Beds. I crashed on the porch of the general store for a couple hours until someone woke up to leave for work, and he turned the pump on to let me fill up, with the wind picking up I didn't waste any time packing up and riding into Lava Beds.

The backroad was the kind of riding I'm hoping to find the rest of the trip, rough pavement and a few gravel sections twisting through the badlands and scrub. Part way into it I surprised a hermit walking along the road, he didn't look best pleased to see me so I didn't stop to talk or take his picture. The rest of the ride the light was amazing, I'd stop, jump off the bike and shoot for a minute then it would vanish again only to reapeear from behind the clouds a few minutes later.

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With the road's condition I was expecting to find it unchanged from my memories of years ago.

When I came upon the ranger's station the old saying about never being able to go back again finally hit me, with a wave of real sadness. Like Yosemite did, so too Lava beds has grown, from a small wooden shack to a large visitors post with all the associated t-shirts and memorbilia. Several new shiny rangers vehicles including radar trap vehicles pulled up and parked to start their day. I now believe I have learned from that and Ted Simon's experience retracing his route from Jupiter's travels and the sadness he found along the way, I won't go backwards again.

I was hoping to spend a night and explore the area, but the weather disagreed, I bought a patch for my pack, filled my water and took a quick nap, by that point the gathering clouds started to feel like rain, and a few drops made my decision for me.

I was reminded of a story my dad used to tell about a Norweigan climber who wanted to climb Everest, he rode his bicycle from Norway for years just to climb it, and made it to within a few hundred meters of the top when the weather and time turned against him. Turning around he went down and never made the summit. On such a long trip I believe it's critical to dispassionately evaluate every decision and risk.

Back on the road

Several hours of boring interstate later, I was greeted with more cold mountain passes and an awe inspiring view of Mt Shasta.

I made it to Redding California early in the afternoon where I stopped at Mcdonalds again to warm up and use the internet to write and catch up on homework, at this point I let the edge dull, and decided to stay the night instead of pushing on to Sacramento.

I put up my tent in a small patch of grass behind a gas station across from the Mcdonalds where I made an unpleasant discovery regarding the waterproofing in my tent. It seemed that Kelty did a fantastic job waterproofing the floor, designed the tent body and fly brilliantly but declined to actually waterproof the top. Every hour or two I'd be woken up with the rain inside and dry the roof out again to get some more sleep.

Around ten am the rain stopped and I packed up and rode to Sacramento, for a quick stop and bike check that turned into three weeks of working every day with Larry Cargill, resulting in a one of a kind bike modified to take me to TDF and back in one piece.
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Analogue is fun, wouldn't want to try it on such a long trip though.

this is the point in the travel thread where you should hop over to the build thread, as I arrived in Sacramento immediately and uneventfully after Redding.
Day 6.

It was a dark and stormy night, near freezing to boot. The perfect time to start riding a new bike, on brand new tires on the interstate. According to the developing trend in my motorcycle travels, every journey, like every story must start that way. I'm now three for three, riding from Saskatchewan to BC? Leave in torrential rain, harder than I've ever seen, late in the afternoon, then ride long days staying ahead of a storm.

First leg of this trip It wasn't raining at first, although late at night and dark, but it made up for it quickly by opening up once I couldn't do anything about it.

Second leg of the trip I started early for once, but made up for it by riding through the night in freezing cold again to stay ahead of a storm.

And now, after almost a solid month in Sacramento California, we're back on the road, and the weather is the same. I wish I'd bought a lighter helmet though, my neck is getting really sore, but the lighter one was 90$ more, mine was on sale for 100$, now I think I know why.

Always get nice weather after a couple days stopped when I won't need to ride for a while.

Not much to say about the interstate, it was fast with enough lanes for even the worst driver to have space, which of course meant they all felt the need to get as close as humanly possibly to us. With so many lanes I don't see any good reason for passing on the right, but pickup truck drivers(4) and General Motors SUV drivers (2) took it to a fine art. The fine art of passing a motorcycle at night in freezing rain is a complicated matter of timing you see. It's important to only pass on the right, next you have to crowd up to the line as close as humanly possibly or even over it a bit if you can. The ideal passing speed is as fast as possible, that way you can cut back to the left without needing to use a signal, as your bunper a few feet in front of the bike is all the signal a rider needs. Bonus points for timing it so that the bike will be passing a slow car, the smaller the space to squeeze through, the more points you get, since you'll be doing a good deed, giving the bike and rider a good shower and cleaning for the next mile. The two wide open left lanes don't offer nearly as much artistic opportunity, or chances to be charitable.

For anyone arriving in San Francisco via I-80 there's a 5$ toll to get in. Cash only no cards, and no way to turn around. They'll send you a 25$ bill in the mail if you like instead though, I'm hoping I get one, if I do I'll frame it. After reading other people's experiences crossing the bridge in the day, I'm glad I did it at night, light traffic, with the bridge and city lit up made for a beautiful view, the city is much more magical, felt like being an airplane gliding in to land. The smooth precise throttle control and steering Aurora has after Larry Cargill got finished with her surgery completed that feeling.

Leaving Sacramento at 8pm in the rain I rode to San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate bridge at night I was actually able to poke along slowly without being packed in miles of cars, the ride felt like descending to land as a bird in a beautiful city of lights. I discovered a new ability of my front tire, the knobs follow the grooves in the pavement like a needle on a record, a very disconcerting experience at first.

As requested by a reader(which means the following is entirely their fault, and I hope they feel guilty for it.)

I'm having adventures already.

Aurora got a break for this one however.

I found a hostel on the internet, and remarkbly for those who know me, actually navigated my way there in only one try from memory of seeing google maps in Sacramento. No parking out front so I rode around and tried some hills that are so steep you're not allowed to drive up them(so of course I went up and down and almost tipped over). That was plenty of fun, but wasn't helping sort the parking. I found some proper motorcycle parking in front of Cafe Trieste, and went in to buy a tea. They took cash only, and I didn't have any on me, but the guy working loved bikes, owned several in the past and we talked bikes for a long time, then he gave me a free tea and sent me on my way saying "oh, the hostel you were looking to stay at is just around the corner, you can just walk over from here." I unloaded all of my gear, since I have everything but the kitchen sink, including a full sized claw hammer, it was heavy. Two saddle-bags, large rear pack, small backpack, tank bag, cooler with tarps etc in it, tripod bag, helmet and a spare rear tire. A lot to carry on foot, in a full insulated suit and armored jacket. Arriving at the hostel after 20 minutes hard work, a lot farther than just around the corner. Thankfull to have made it as my gear weighs more than I do, only to discover that they were full! They knew of a hostel just a couple blocks further, which turned into 14 blocks by the time I'd walked past it and back again. I would walk as far as I could, at first I could make it three blocks, stop and rest and lift it all and go again. By the end I was lucky to make it halfway down a block, and get moving again only with the realization that I had no other options, and a fair bit of cursing. I could feel every muscle in my back, and actually had muscles give out, something I haven't done since I quit working as a stone mason.

Finally someone in a bar saw me stumbling past, spotting the helmet and spare tire realized I wasn't just a nutter cursing at thin air and carting about a bizarre array of bags and a tire.

He came out, grabbed my bags, and took them inside, looked up the hostel on a computer, which was back the way I had just walked and told me I could leave my stuff there until I'd sorted out the hostel. Turned out he was a fellow rider, with a KLR250 for getting around San Francisco. I wouldn't normally trust my stuff to anyone, but at that point I wouldn't have cared if they sold it so long as I didn't have to carry it one step farther.

Dave, the manager of Pacific Trade Winds, the hostel I'd missed turned about to be another rider. He came down and helped me carry my bags back, poor guy had a speed triple stolen here. That story led to a sleepless night of worrying about Aurora for me. Definitely a great place to stay. The girl working the desk even stayed past the end of her shift to get me sorted out with a bed etc. As a bonus, on the weekend there is free parking out front of the hostel all weekend until 2am sunday night when the lane reverts back to bus only. If you are passing through on a bike, I don't think you can find a better place to stay. The beds have enormous lockers underneath that could even fit hard bags, or in my case 5 bags a helmet and a tire. The hostel is brilliantly run, and the cleanest nicest I've ever stayed in. Dave even knew all the local hidden spots to park a bike for free indefintely. Meals were all shared, and the age of the other guests ranged from 18 to 60, everyone talking and eating made for a great stay. Dave took us out for a night on the town, he knew of a Castro bar with an 80's night every monday, with 80 cent beer and 2 dollar drinks. For those of you who aren't from the USA, the Castro is the gay area of San Francisco. That was a different experience, I sadly managed to offend a friendly couple. A guy and his partner; either the most perfectly transgendered guy I've ever seen, or who was actually a girl invited me over. I didn't really expect someone to be quite so forward, or ask for what they wanted quite so bluntly, I do wish that someone had a chance to take a picture of my expression however. I was pretty embarrassed. In my defense, if I'd asked a girl something like what I was asked I bet I'd have been slapped, or had a drink chucked at me. I felt a bit bad, different rules for different places, but still, I wouldn't have minded at least being asked my name first.

The bar mixed the stiffest drinks I've ever come across, a large glass full of vodka with a small splash of whatever juice you were hoping for. Two drinks was enough for me, so I retired to a couch with all our coats for the rest of the evening. Proving that age is no barrier, the older gentlemen from the hostel, a filmmaker from Iran and a British traveler came along. They broke out some incredibly dance moves, if I can move like that when I'm their age, I'll feel younger than I do now.
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This is exactly why I was avoiding doing this type of update, it really confuses readers, rather than keeping it going at the pace of the story. If I go back and edit the post later to the next step in the story, it doesn't show as a new post and people miss it.
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