Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the Road Again

Not long ago, my road trips were so infrequent that it might take a full day on the road before I would get in to the rythm of the road.  These days, two miles are enough.  Stuff is gravity, and I have gotten so light that it seems harder to stop moving than to keep moving. 
So after a comfortable 2 and 4/7s week-long stop in Gig Harbor (thanks Carl and Jana!), I am rolling again.  Not quite ideal conditions:  the air temp was a chilly 42 degrees.  At 55 mph, the wind chill is about 28.  And after about 45 minutes this morning, despite my not-quite-winter gloves, my fingers where quite numb.  No pictures were taken, obviously.

After lunch (bowl of chili), the air temp soared to about 49.  After a morning of 42, 49 felt like 54!  Then it started to rain.

Near the town of Seaside, Oregon, rain drops started appearing on the tinted face shield I was using.  Wardrobe choices demanded that raingear go on early instead of later, so I pulled off the road and added a layer.  Boot covers, rain pants, rain jacket, and rain gloves.  As I dressed, I noticed the rain was getting heavier, then lighter.... at least the cars coming the other way still had wipers on. 

The rain was very light though, and I stopped for the night in Tillamook, Oregon; dry, warm, and wearing 5 layers of gear.


From Gig Harbor to Phoenix

Oregon coast line.

From Gig Harbor to Phoenix

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Change of plans

    The camper (seen below), will not be available until the end of November.  So, I will be leaving Gig Harbor this week on a motorcycle, heading south to Phoenix, then flying back to Seattle to get the van once the camper is ready.  Photos from the trip will appear in the usual place (here) shortly.

Residents of Shelton, WA, hold their local politians in high regard...


Monday, October 19, 2009

Still in Gig Harbor

Ah, well, if you have been wondering what is going on, I am still in Gig Harbor, WA, getting ready for the next leg.  When I leave here (less than a week from now, hopefully), I will be driving my van, pictured below, minus the trailer and the weight I've lost since retirement happened.  Tucked inside will be two motorcycles and a bicycle and the bicycle trailer, and rock climbing gear, and a box of books, maps, and music.  

On the roof will be a new Autohome camper top, as seen below.  I plan to follow the coast line down to San Francisco, and after hangin' with my sister for a few days, continue on to LA and then Phoenix.  When possible, I'll camp on the beach or at least, near the beach, and i'll send you pictures of the sun setting over the Pacific ocean.






More adventures to follow soon....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fallon, NV to Gig Harbor, WA

The days are growing shorter and the temperature takes longer to get to "pleasant."  Leaving Fallon, I headed for Pyramid Lake.  The road along the west side of the lake led me to the Smokey Creek Desert.  This place is immense and I left the gravel road to experience riding in the desert.  The effect reminded me of driving a boat.  The surface was soft and the handling of the bike was slow but with no ditch or even tire tracks to follow, I simply glided around. Weaving or straight, it didn't matter.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor

From tub to oregon to gig harbor

The map showed the desert to be 5 miles wide and about 15 miles long, shaped like a crescent. The road I was on took a long route along the outside of the crescent to the far side and the town of Gerlach.  I was very tempted to try and ride straight across.  I had the gas, but I my water supply was down to a couple quarts, and discretion won out.  With knobby tires, a full water bottle, maybe some food, it would be fun.  But getting stuck on the far side could mean a long lonely walk.  Across a desert.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor

After Gerlach, I entered the Black Rock Desert.  Now I know the meaning of immense.  This place is so big and empty, it is where they came to set the land speed record at 763 miles per hour.  At that speed, a mile goes by every 5 seconds or so.  I only went 60 mph, and tried to imagine going 12 times faster.  The land is so flat and vast, landmarks appear to not be moving.  I stayed within a quarter mile of the edge, so I could always see that out of the corner of my eye.  Focusing straight ahead was like flying an airplane, but with a chance of falling over.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor

Off the desert, back to the mountains, still trying to make progress north.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor

From tub to oregon to gig harbor


I eventually made it to Oregon.  What a great state, it really does offer everything.  High country deserts, plains, mountains, valleys, beaches.... And a lot of National Forests.  I made my way to the Ochoco National Forest and the Frazier Campground.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor

From tub to oregon to gig harbor


I set my camp up just before sunset, just before the temperature dropped. I took a walk and approached some neighbors who had a very large fire and asked if I could warm up a bit.  The Day and Halverson families made me feel very welcome.  I warmed up by their fire, enjoyed some fine beef stew and great company.  They asked me a question I've heard before since retirement: "How did you find this place?"  If I had not come during deer season, they said, I would have the campground to myself.  If I had come a week earlier, I would have enjoyed 5 inches of snow on the ground.  Yikes!  I would find what was left of the snow on my way out of the park the next day.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor

Making haste across the state, not wanting to get caught in the snow, I continued from there to Gig Harbor, arriving late after a long day on the bike.  I'm eager to get some maintenance done on the bike and hit the road again.

Bonus pictures.
From tub to oregon to gig harbor


From tub to oregon to gig harbor

From tub to oregon to gig harbor



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Las Vegas to Fallon, Nevada

Google Maps says you can get from Phoenix to Fallon in about 16 hours. I've been on the road for 10 days to get this far, which is about 95 minutes of progress per day, which is slow, even for me. But it has been a good time so far, and here are some of the highlights.
Death Valley. The landscapes are out of this world. At the low point, Furnace Creek, the temps were in the upper 80s, but not bad. Throughout the day, I was regularly adding or removing layers of clothing to deal with the temperature changes as the altitude changes.
From Vegas to Fallon

From Vegas to Fallon


Titus Canyon was a great side trip. High-ground clearance advised. And narrow vehicles recommended. At one point, the trail was barely wider than a jeep.
From Vegas to Fallon

The Kangaroo Rat can go months without drinking water. Assorted wildlife photos are taken especially for Godiva Lady. ;)
From Vegas to Fallon


Racetrack rocks are blown around by the wind after the rain makes the lake bed wet and slippery.
From Vegas to Fallon


While riding across the desert, I saw four guys sitting on dirtbikes. I turned off the dirt road I was on to pull up and say hi. After a bit of chit-chat, they asked where I was camping and invited me to join them at "the tub." Apparently, in a search for geo-thermal heat, three wells were drilled. Two of them were too hot to use, one was too cold for geo-thermal energy. It was ideal for a hot tube though, and this cement hot tub was installed, fed by the well. The invitation included dinner, breakfast, and tequila, since one of there group had injured himself the previous day; I got his share.  Here's to you, Bud, get well soon.  The group spends at least a week there every year. I was sworn to secrecy on the location though. But I'll be back to it.
From Vegas to Fallon

From Vegas to Fallon

I left the tub-campground promptly around noon the next day.  Tonight I'm in Fallon, NV, planning to really pick up speed over the next few days. I'll keep you advised.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Las Vegas

I've arrived in Las Vegas where I will get new tires, just in time.  After riding a few more miles on roads like the one pictured below, my rear knobby tire was so worn that I smoked it in gravel trying to climb a little rise.  On the pavement I had a big slide making a right turn.  Definitely time for new rubber. 

Here's Nevada's version of a rocky road.  Keep right!
From Drop Box

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tuba City, AZ, to Mesquite, NV

I spent the night in Tuba City at an over priced motel. But I was tired from a long day on the bike battling the wind and sabotaged by my own navigation skills (or, navigation indifference). So a hotel was called for. In the morning, I headed out to the west, battling a significant sand and dust storm. The winds were ripping along at an estimated 35-40 mph, right in my face. The dust moved across the road like snow does during a blizzard. Eyes blinking rapidly, I puttered along holding up traffic....


Turning north, I found a dirt road that looked promising and would get me out of everyone's way on the paved road. The dirt proved to be mostly sand and the 30 miles took me well over an hour, much of it in first gear.

At one point, a dust-devil, that swirling tornado-like dust plume, passed RIGHT in front of me, crossing the road not more than 50 feet away. From a distance, they always look playful and fun. Up close, they look very angry. I watched it move across the plain and tried to get a picture when I realized it had climbed very high.
From Mesa to Tuba City

Looking for a break, I spotted an interesting rock formation next to the road. I pulled off, shut off the bike, and pulled out my ear plugs. Then I could hear the howling. So loud I was able to record it with my cell phone, the wind whipping around the rocks, combined with the snapping and crackling of the powerlines over head made the place very spooky in the middle of the day!

Miles of sand made riding slow and difficult.
From Mesa to Tuba City

From Mesa to Tuba City

Down the road aways, the map indicated a place called Copper Mine Trading Post. Feeling in the mood for some ice cream, I pulled off the main (dirt) road onto a siding, but the town was deserted. A ghost town. I parked the bike and walked around with my camera. Check out the stone building. Some of the rocks contain so much copper ore they turned green.
From Mesa to Tuba City

From Mesa to Tuba City


After checking out the Glenn Canyon Dam, I headed west, but soon made a serious error.

I saw a side road on my map and the urge to see where it went struck me. It went down to the river, but dropped fast and the surface was mostly sand. Getting to the bottom was difficult, but getting back to the top was almost impossible. I got stuck several times, the rear wheel digging fast in the soft sand, till the bike would stand up on it's own while I stood next to it. I would grab hold of the luggage rack in the back of the bike and pick it up out of the hole, drag it to one side, and try again, only to dig another hole.

Finally, I took off both saddle bags. This made the bike lighter, so it would not sink as fast, and also permitted me to walk along side it, pushing and driving at the same time. Twenty yards of this and I stopped to take off my helmet, gloves, and jacket. Pushing up the steepest part took several minutes, stopping to catch my breath and cool the engine. Finally, I made it to the top of the hill, where I could park the bike and walk back down the steep hill to where I left my gear. It took me two trips, and I was still a quarter mile from the road, but at least it was level the rest of the way.

I camped at a BLM campground called Whitehouse. A storyboard near the campground explained why. I'll spare you.

Photo taken at midnight by moon light.
From Mesa to Tuba City


In the morning, I continued west and ended up on a dirt road connecting to the town of Mesquite, Nevada. The road was epic. I lost track of time, got tired of the view, fought the rocks, thought I was lost, it just wouldn't stop. I felt hungry and thought it must be near lunch, checked my watch and saw it was almost 5 PM.

I met two guys riding the other way on KTMs.  Most places I go, people have never heard of KTM.  Out in the middle of nowhere, they are the only vehicles I encounter in half a day!
From Mesa to Tuba City


Rocky road.  It's not like the icecream.
From Mesa to Tuba City


Only 17 miles to go.
From Mesa to Tuba City


I don't know how many miles it was, it must have been over 100, on some horrible roads. The last 10 miles took an hour, most of the time spent in first gear, riding the front and rear brakes, unable to stop due to the steepness and rockiness of the road. Instead of being in control, I felt like I was only making recommendations, the bike was doing what it and gravity wanted.

My destination lies in the vally behind the mountains.  The jeep was abandon with a broken suspension.
From Mesa to Tuba City


Only 14 miles to go...
From Mesa to Tuba City


In the end, I made it to Mesquite, tired and dusty, but intact.  I can't wait to do it again!