Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Final Three Days - Guess the Total Mileage?

Woke up Sunday in Battle Mountain, the motel was very well maintained.  Certainly quality lodging.  Battle Mountain is a nice small town in northern Nevada.  Most of this part of Nevada is pretty barren with a few small towns throughout. 

This is what a lot of northern Nevada looks like

From Battle Mountain, I rode across the Utah salt flats, through Salt Lake City, then headed towards Casper, WY.  Thankfully, Margaret talked me down from the long route and I detoured towards Cheyenne to save a few hundred miles and ended up staying the night at an interesting cowboy hotel in Laramie.  This was a very long day, twelve hours across 721 long miles.  It was a very windy day and dark by the time I reached Laramie.  One thing I didn't like when riding was lots of wind, especially the strong gusts, it makes you focus more on controlling the bike and less on just enjoying the ride.  Of course, the wind is much worse at night because you can't see it coming. ;-)  

 Cowboy Bill, the guardian of my motel room. 

Back to the road -- leaving Laramie, I drove through Cheyenne and entered Nebraska.  Very nice rolling fields throughout Nebraska.  I enjoyed it that much more because, due to the temperature being warm, I was compelled to pack my jacket and ride all through Nebraska Cornhusker country with my MISSOURI TIGERS shirt on!  I got a couple of stare-downs when I stopped for lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Sidney (the home of Cabella's).  I also made sure to stop at the Radio Shack next door to pick up a 'mote-controlled' car Jack wanted as his gift.  I also picked up some groovy bracelets for Kate from a hippy shop in Garberville, CA and a huge roll of firecrackers for Kyle from a fireworks seller in Laramie.  I think the only gift from a gift-shop was a snow globe with a horse in it for Kate from a Pilot truck stop in Cheyenne. 

 Middle of Nowhere

 A little bit of the rolling hills of Nebraska

I wanted to camp my final night and found a nice lake-side campground just south of Lexington, NE on Johnson Lake.  After I lathered up with insect-repellent (the mosquitoes where very thick) I was able to set up camp and enjoy the storm which was heading my way.  My final meal was a cheeseburger from the nearby filling station, some fruit, chips, peanut-butter M&Ms, and two bottles of sweet tea next to another roaring campfire.  A huge storm was approaching which made the night very interesting, especially when I woke up at 1:00 under an umbrella of lightening and deafening thunder claps around me. 

 Nice picture of my boy blue (aka, the blue mule)

 Uh oh, storm is moving in

Monday morning, after packing my wet tent and other camping items, I headed off through southeast Nebraska, through northern Kansas and to home following the California/Oregon/Sante Fe trails.  While I thought I was on an adventure, I'm sure it doesn't compare with what the Pony Express riders and settlers experienced travelling across the country with their technology. 

 One of the many small towns I passed through.  This is Frankfurt, KS

Friday, June 17, 2011

First Day of the California/Oregon Trail Route

Interesting day today.  Started in Folsom (near Sacramento) which is kind of a flat area with not a lot of scenery, rode through Tahoe, which I didn't know is actually IN the mountains with forest and streams all around, then through northern Nevada which is more desolate than eastern Oregon but when I turned north on Hwy 95 from Hwy 50 to I-80, it really opened up to some beautiful scenery. 

 A Little Barren

Still barren but at least we're in the wide open desert 

 Ah, now this is more like it.  Mountains on both sides, some even with snow peaks.


The wave of, "I'm really ready to be home" hit me about mid-way through Tahoe and lasted until the wide open spaces of Nevada.  After I ate lunch in a half-casino, half-restaurant in Fallon and then hit the "open" road in Nevada, all felt much better.  Riding at 80 miles an hour through the open desert does something good to the soul.  Something real good.  I was also listening to some worship music and singing (I don't sing out loud very often).  It had become a great ride.  If you've not ridden a motorcycle on a highway without any billboards or signs and plenty of views of the surroundings, I would highly recommend it. It's unmatchable.  Hopefully, my blog and pics will help you live a bit vicariously. 

Stopped in Battle Mountain for the night, thought there was a campground but it's been replaced by a National Parks building so I am staying at the Battle Mountain Inn.  Had dinner at a nice little half-restaurant half-bar (there seem to be many of those places in small towns) next to my new buddy (see below). I noticed two young ladies pass me by (the place was family owned) with tattoos on their arms.  After asking about them, I found the girls were twins and the tattoos are of a cross and some other tokens with a reference to Travis, the husband of one of the girls, who died last year. 

 Across the street from the vanishing campground in Battle Mountain, NV

My dinner companion

And in case, for some reason I am not able to post tomorrow, I want to wish my great friend since childhood, Rusty Kimmet, a very happy birthday.  Hope it is a great day for you (my guess is you are heading out on your boat). 

Long day tomorrow, hope to make it to Casper.

Pirsig Pilgrimage Complete

Brian has posted his pictures and comments of the trip, they are terrific.  He used a camera which took better photos than my phone and he captured some great panoramic views.  Please take a look with this url:


Started today in the mountains, took Hwy 1 to the ocean, then the forest, then across a very neat, but incredibly challenging (up and down a couple small mountains and constant, left-right-left-right very tight turns).  Had to wait at one point for a 25 minute construction project.  Had just passed a logging truck, the logs they carry are immense.  Going through that bit of forest on Hwy 1, there were a lot of residents who had flower gardens and there were also many wildflower fields.  I could smell their scents as I rode by.

This poor kid, he'd been out there for almost 8 hours. 
Kept accidentally switching the sign around and
folks behind me thought it was time to go. 

The road in the background is Hwy 1

On my way into San Francisco, I encountered a huge amount of congestion trying to get across the Golden Gate.  Found my way up the long, long hill to 300 Page Street and located the Zen Center where Robert Pirsig enrolled his son Chris who was later shot on the streetcorner outside.  I took a couple of photos then meandered up the stairs inside the large wooden doors.  It was much more professional than I had expected.  When I was a teenager, my cousin Kelli, Brian, and I went to St. Louis and visited a Harri Krishna temple.  It was a pretty worn down building, somewhat resembling a frat house's living quarters, with one fancy worship room.  In contrast, the Zen center was expansive, professional, and modern.  Very Zen.  The lady who greeted me calmly, of course, let me know there were no services at this time but they were beginning a three-day sitting meditation session.  I looked at her in a way which communicated I was not interested.  We gently walked outside together and I left and walked back to the bike.  The Zen portion of the trip was complete. 

very, very long hill with many stops

Staying in a very nice Courtyard Marriott this evening (thank you, again, to Margaret).  Walked across the parking lot to Ihop for dinner.  Ended up ordering breakfast and overdid it a bit: eggs scrambler, sausage, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, and a glass of chocolate milk.  Of course, I still got my tea to go!  The evening is very nice outside, makes me want to camp.  I'm going to try camping the rest of the trip so posts may be sporadic again depending on availability.  

And for my kids....
Slug Bug!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

3,312 Miles and Almost There (with more pictures than ever!)

It's hard to believe, one more day and I'll be in San Francisco.  While camping last night in the redwoods (I can't believe I just said that), I was listening to Adele's smooth voice singing about having it all.  I feel that way.  It's humbling to know I've been given an amazing opportunity to take this adventure, mostly because of my wife's support, and to be able to share it with my dad and catch up with my friend Brian.  The climates I've been through, the places my mind has wandered, the vistas, the people, they all help me remember we live in a great country and that God has provided us an unfathomable number of natural gifts. We just need to get outside and see them more often.

From La Pine (I'm assuming it gets it's name from the surrounding pine forest), I continued south on Hwy 97 intent on seeing Crater Lake, which many people had told me is stunning.  Unfortunately, Crater Lake was closed due to snow so I continued south towards Klamath Falls.  Klamath Lake is another marvelous find.  It's this huge, deep blue lake surrounded by mountains.  The far east side of Oregon is so much different from the middle/west.  I think it may be interesting to find which state has the largest number of climates.  I'm sure Oregon would be in the running.  I drove around the lake starting from the east side, continued south, ate lunch in Klamath Falls at another friendly cafe, then back up the west side. 

(see the funny story about my beard at the end of this post)

Moving west, I rode through snow in a fabulous forest on my way to Grants Pass.  Here's what the roadway between Klamath Falls and Medford looked like. You can't see the snow in this picture, but it is all along the sides of the roads and in the forest. 

Intending to spend the night in Grants Pass, I changed my mind because it didn't look too camp-friendly when I pulled into town.  After talking with the gas station attendant (all gas in Oregon has to be pumped by an attendant except for motorcycles, boats, and antique cars), he suggested I head to northern California's redwood forests and camp there.  I'm glad I listened.

After stopping in Ray's Grocery store on 6th street and picking up some friend chicken, macaroni and cheese, potato chips, Gatorade, and a treat of Pepperidge Farm Soft-Baked Sausalito Milk Chocolate Macadamia cookies (my diet has taken a plunge on this trip), I headed towards the redwoods.  As I passed through the "bug-check" which is required for all vehicles entering California (they want to know what fruit you are bringing into their country), I shared my story with the two checkpoint guys and they suggested Panther Flat campground.  Wandering through the forest, I stopped at a couple of campgrounds and settled on Panther Flat - they were right, it was the best one I saw.

Site #4 sits under several 150+ foot redwoods near a stream.  The difference between this forest and those in Montana and Idaho is they contain moss and ferns and some other tree species are tucked among the firs and redwoods.  And the difference between the bathrooms is the ones in California provide running water and a chance to take a shower - if you have enough quarters. I unpacked, set up camp, poached other sites for some wood, started a fire and sat down for my last Pirsig campout.  I must have found the world's greatest log for the fire.  It was a huge log, about 16 inches in diameter and heavy. But man, it burned like it was infused with lighter fluid.  It was still smoking this morning when I woke up for my early morning trip behind the tree.  A guy walking by my campsight last night, who was from Bend and was down here camping with his wife and two border collies, couldn't help but comment that it was "some fire". 

The evening was superb and silent.  The only sounds coming from the stream and blazing fire.  It seems weird but I really haven't been lonely this trip.  Probably because I have been keeping busy.  So much so that I have not had the time to read what I had planned, which makes it one of the poorer decisions of the trip that has lead to me lugging around an additional 25 pounds in books. (Mag - a Kindle for Christmas?)  After the fire was going well enough, I turned on my itunes and listened to John Mayer, Pink Floyd, and Adele serenade me during dinner.  Margaret introduced me to Pepperidge Farms cookies so when I sat down on the bench next to the fire with the full moon peaking through the canopy of the redwoods to eat them, it was her I was thinking about.  Mmmmmmmmm, macadamia nuts, milk chocolate, and thoughts of my bride.  It was truly a Zen moment. 

But alas, time vanishes quickly when one is sitting in front of a great campfire in the middle of a redwood forest. 

This morning, I slept in as long as I could, then packed up, talked to my neighbor from Bend for a bit, and headed south towards Hwy 101.  Nothing could have prepared me for the vistas along this route.  The giant redwoods run right up to the ocean and the road is high on the cliff above the rock outcroppings.  The views on this trip just keep getting better.  The ocean is crashing on these massive rock formations and is so stunning.  At one moment, I'm riding next to an amazing view of the ocean then in another, I'm rolling through the redwood forest.  It was an incredible day. 

I stopped for lunch, just because I was hungry and the sign for the exit said there was food, and stumbled across a postcard seaside town named Trinidad.  I've never been to the Trinidad or Tabago, but this Trinidad could have been any exotic island in the world.  I may need to amend my statement from Montana, this could be our retirement home.  Mag could have the ocean and I'd have my mountains, all from one super-charming seaside town in Northern California. 

These pics are from Trinidad in Northern California

Continuing the awesome visual spectacle I've been offered today, along the Avenue of the Giants I saw hundreds of redwoods that were 300 feet tall and up to 10 feet in diameter.  It's hard to image such a tree until you've stood next to one.  Do kids see adults this way?  I kept thinking "wow", which may not be a sophisticated word but it pretty much summed up the experience. 

(Paul and Babe say "Hello")

I had planned to stay at the Redcrest Resort in Redcrest, CA where Robert Pirsig had stayed. However, sometime between 1968 and 2011 the price escalated to $132 a night for one of the cabins.  When I travel on business, the rooms are very expensive.  But when I'm traveling by myself in remote towns and looking for a room with a bed and a shower (which is about all I got tonight) I don't want to pay more than $50.  So, now I'm sitting here in a $55 a night, very low rent for CA (and the room is, well, very very poor quality) in the Lone Pine Motel.  It may be the worst room I've ever been in.  But, I was fortunate enough to land in a Thai restaurant near the motel for dinner after walking up and down this eclectic town's main street.  Ate some delicious spring rolls and this shredded chicken thing over greens.  

 (for you ZMM aficionados - notice the name)
 I really wanted to eat in this cafe, but it was closed. 
You can't tell in this picture, but this is a neon sign and
he's flipping a moving flapjack into his pan. 
It's also located next to the Hemp store - this is California after all.

(Bel Aire?)

 (the safety pins were provided, they were already attached to the curtains)

(which is worse, plaid or shag? Again, decor is very "vintage") 

(you have to lean a bit left if you want to wash in the sink and look in the mirror)

I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts through this trip, please continue to comment, it makes me feel connected.  Tomorrow is the final day of the Pirsig trip, down Hwy 1 and on to San Francisco. I'm planning to make a stop at the Zen Center where Chris was attending when he was murdered.  After that, I'll head out towards Sacramento and begin the return trip along the Oregon/California trails.

And the beard story.  After sending Margaret a picture today of me eating ice cream (I'm trying to make it an afternoon ritual), she commented that my beard is making me look old.  I disagreed.  Later this evening while I was walking through town I decided to stop at another motel I had considered staying in to see about their rates.  The young lady at the counter asked if I qualified for any discounts, AAA, and, can you believe it, AARP!