Since doing the Trans-America Trail in 2014, I’ve wanted to try another long dual-sport ride.
So, this is my last post of the blog. Below is everywhere I went, ignoring the detour I took from northern OK to Fort Worth then back. In total, I rode a little over 8000 miles.
A few parting words:
I didn’t exactly do what I was planning to do (ride to the Oregon coast), but I’m happy with my choice. Time wasn’t really on my side, and I’m glad I was able to ride all the way down the California coast versus suffering through several more days of the trail to ‘say’ I got to Oregon. Ultimately, this trip was supposed to be fun, and I think my decision made it more enjoyable.
Was it what I thought it would be? Yeah, for the most part. It was full of highs and lows, hot and cold, exciting and boring, scary and fun. The ride through the eastern US was overall disappointing. The only parts that were really all that great were western North Carolina and western Arkansas. The western US was definitely much more suited to this type of riding.
Which bike did I like better? Definitely the Yamaha WR250R, without a doubt. It was better in every single possible way except for gas tank capacity. The fuel pump never did give me any trouble, and it was powerful enough for everything I needed.
Any regrets? I’ll always wish I hadn’t had to skip that section in Utah. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish it. I’d also like to finish the Oregon section just out of curiosity. There were a few things I wish I hadn’t brought to save weight, but if I would have left them I’m sure Murphy’s Law would have forced me to need them. Part of me wishes I had done a different route, but I think what I really want is just to do another ride entirely. This time, I’d like to ride one on paved roads with some kind of sport touring bike, and do more hotel stays so I could carry less. I’d like to stop at all the sights I had to pass on this trip, and spend more time walking around and talking to people and seeing things. This trip was more about seeing wilderness I suppose. I’d like to spend more time in the small towns besides just filling up with gas, and meet the people who choose to live in them in some of these remote places, along with seeing some interesting things.
Would I do it again? I’d do something similar, but I’d change a few things. I obviously wish I had someone with me to keep me company, keep lodging costs down, share the load of some of the common items like tools, and take some of the danger out so I could ride a little more aggressively. Going by myself had it’s own reward I suppose. It was testing physically and psychologically. There were definitely some scary situations, and its sobering to know that there was no one nearby to help if something went really wrong. But I survived, and I’m hopefully better for the experience.
I had a lot of time to think since I was by myself all day with no music or anything, although granted most of my brain capacity was focused on staying alert on the trail. People that haven’t ridden a dirt bike a long way can’t really identify with how mentally exhausting it is. They think, “oh well I can drive my car hundreds of miles in a day no problem, and you barely crack 200 on your motorcycle.” But in a car on the highway, you can barely pay attention and be fine. Eat a sandwich, sing with the radio, look at stuff on the side of the road. On the rougher off-road sections of my trip, you have to have razor sharp focus every minute that you’re riding. The road is twisty and hilly so you can never see more than a few hundred feet in front of you. The road is full of surprises: hairpin turns, ditches and gullies, deep sand, gravel, mud, cows, gates, cliffs with no guardrails, and more. The worst is in rocky sections, where inches can make the difference between staying upright and tumbling over. Focusing on the terrain immediately in front of you and compensating with your handlebars, body position, and throttle all day long really wears out both your mind and body. I suppose I didn’t really appreciate how much that was until I did it.
The other thing I thought about a lot when I wasn’t thinking about the terrain feature coming up next that was trying to kill me was people a few hundred years ago. In our day and age, we have to be so secure. Everyone told me my trip was so dangerous by myself. “What if something happens, who will be there to help you?” It’s interesting to think of that question 200 years ago. Did a fur trapper going out into the woods to make a living and feed his family have a cell phone or satellite communicator to call for help? Did he have an interstate nearby to bum a ride? Our society is really insulated in a lot of ways, and I don’t know that it’s all good. Sometimes I think about what if a huge bomb went off and everyone had to ‘start over’, fend for themselves. There are grown men and women in America who have never caught a fish, gone hiking, changed a tire, built a tree house, etc. I’m certainly no expert in living off the land, but I like to learn more about it. And I do pride myself on trying to be self reliant. This is kind of a rant I suppose, but I guess part of my trip was proving to myself that I could handle some adversity. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t completely on my own 1800’s style, I had security blankets like my satellite communicator. But I really wanted to challenge myself and try to solve the problems that would inevitably come up myself. It’s satisfying on many levels to face a challenge and overcome it. And it’s human to face a challenge, try your best, and come up short. I did both on this trip.
Another friend picked me up this morning and we went and had breakfast at Hash House a go go (http://www.hashhouseagogo.com/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_House_a_go_go), which I’ve always wanted to try. They give insane portions which I’m a fan of. My ginger lemonade, while a complete ripoff, was delicious. And my biscuit was the most dense piece of bread I’ve ever seen. Very good though overall. Afterwards my buddy dropped me off at the airport and I made my way back to Dallas.
Today I tied up some loose ends on the logistics of my travel then mostly took it easy. Another awesome breakfast burrito from Rolberto’s for $3.50, this time machaca and eggs with cheese. Had a nice run in the afternoon too. The shipper was supposed to pick up my bike around 830pm, but didn’t show up until about 1130pm. We finally got everything loaded and on its way though.
Today I basically just tried to make a decision on how I was going to get my bike and I back to Texas by 26SEP for work. While I could have tried to ride my bike, it would have been terrible. I would have had to just take the interstate through the desert, suffering as my bike tried to blow and traffic tried to run me over and blow me off the road. It just didn’t sound fun. Another option was renting a truck/suv and putting my bike in the back, but it was looking like for a one way rental, that was going to be $500 at a minimum, plus I still had to drive it and put in some long days. Next option was flying home, flying back after I finished working, and riding my bike back but on smaller roads taking my time. While that was doable, it meant I’d probably need to budget another week for riding, and I was kind of ready to move onto something else after being on my bike for over a month already. So, my last option was flying home and shipping my bike. I made an urgent listing on Uship and found a shipper that could pick up my bike on the night of the 24th. Then I found a ticket home using United points on Thursday morning. Thanks to United for charging me a $75 fee for booking inside the 21 day window.
I got up and packed pretty quickly. I decided not to deal with the pay shower, which was $1 in quarters for three minutes of hot water. About 30 seconds down the road from the campground was the entrance to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. This is one of the few places in America where you can ride four wheelers and motorcycles on sand dunes AND be by the ocean. I’ve done the dunes at Glamis (awesome), but I’ve always wanted to go here. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or the right equipment to check it out. Sand with a worn out tire and 100 pounds of gear just didn’t sound fun. So I rode on. I bypassed the 1 where it goes from Oxnard down to Santa Monica via Malibu since I’ve already done it several times, and just took the 101. I made it to my friend’s house in San Diego in the early afternoon, and he was able to come home a few minutes early from work. I made him come eat Thai food with me since I had been craving it for a while. I got to have a long, hot shower and sleep in a real bed again, which was great.
I slept like a log after walking all over SF, but I eventually got up and loaded all my stuff back onto my bike. I had kind of been hoping someone would just steal my bike from where I parked it on the street so I wouldn’t have to deal with shipping it home, but it was still there. I headed south through Santa Cruz, Monterrey, San Luis Obispo, and everything in between. Passed by the Heart Castle (http://hearstcastle.org/) but didn’t have time to stop. Next time. Also, I got a flat just before Monterrey while on the 101. I’m not really sure what caused the flat. I didn’t see anything in my tire, and the tube damage looks more like an abrasion than a hole. Only thing I can figure is that maybe it was rubbing on the rim lock. Changing a tire 15 ft from a major highway wasn’t really my idea of fun, but I survived. I did have three cars stop and ask if I was ok, including a cab driver, a family, and a state trooper. So that was nice. Finally got going again after loading everything back up (minus my valve core tool that vanished into the sand). After a hot tip from a friend, decided to have dinner at Splash Cafe (http://www.splashcafe.com/)in Pismo Beach rather than cooking ramen noodles at my campsite. Good choice. I had some of their award winning clam chowder (but they were sadly out of sourdough bread bowls) plus a couple of grilled fish tacos. Everything was awesome. It was dark after I waited in line and ate, so I found an empty campsite at the Oceano Campground (http://www.slostateparks.com/oceano_campground/). Technically there is beach camping available, but it was alright nighttime the price was kind of high.
Woke up and saw my friends off to a wedding, then walked down the street for a breakfast burrito at Tacobar. It was decent, but way overpriced. Given my late night last night and general weariness from travelling, I decided to stay in San Francisco another night. The Aggies were playing SMU, so I found out where the SF A&M Club was watching and walked about a mile over to check it out. Met a few folks, ate some salsa, saw we had a nice 30+ point lead at halftime, so I took off in search of other sight seeing adventures. I walked down to fisherman’s wharf and all around before making it back to my buddies place and having a nap. I walked a lot of miles, and wearing flip flops didn’t help. I’ll definitely have come back and see more, but I’ve at least seen a few things. The Palace of Fine Arts was definitely my favorite. I didn’t see any actual fine art, which is fine by me, but I love architecture and it was a very cool place. Grabbed a burrito at some random place, and as expected it was half rice and like 7 or 8 bucks. Sorry SF, but SD kills you on burritos. Actually, sorry world, SD kills you on burritos. Looking forward to having one in a few days. Planning to head south tomorrow morning and camp somewhere near San Luis Obispo I guess, then make the rest of the push to San Diego on Tuesday. After that, I’ve got some decisions to make. I have to do five days of telework that can really be anywhere with an internet connection starting Sep 26th, so I can either find somewhere to stay in SD until then, or try to make it back home BY then. Getting home options include renting an SUV and stuffing my bike in the back somehow, or leaving my bike in SD and flying home, then flying back later to ride it home. Or I could fly home and ship it back. I’ll think about this in the next couple of days.
After a nice breakfast at the Red Roof Inn, I set off toward SF. The morning starts out great as I make it to the 1 and start weaving through mountains and redwoods. In the afternoon though, the fog hits me and my enjoyment lessens immensely. It gets cold, the fog is condensing on my face shield so I have to wipe it off every 20 seconds, and I can’t see very far in front of me which is a problem when there are 15mph curves and sheer cliff faces. I’m not making as good of time as I’d hoped due to all the curves plus getting behind slow people, so toward the end of the ride I make a detour to get back on the 101 in Petaluma and go a little faster. I ended up riding through a Ragnar Relay race which brought back some fun memories of the SoCal Ragnar I did in 2012. In a side note, I was looking for the shirt for that before I left and I apparently lost it, not sure how. Anyways, I made it through the race without hitting any runners, got on the 101 and flew down the highway without the engine exploding thankfully even though I had it wrung out pretty good. I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge at dusk, but I couldn’t see much with all the fog, and I was a little confused about the toll situation. I finally made it to my buddy’s place in SF and go unloaded and cleaned up, then took Lyft (my first time, success) over to meet him and some other friends who were in town. We hung out at one of his friend’s houses for a while, then went out. I was pretty tired but somehow stayed up until about 3am.
I left Cedarville, CA and headed west on CA 299. It turned out to be a day of highs and lows. Highs in that it was one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on: winding two lane highway, but very smooth, up/down/around beautifully treed mountains with the Shasta River wandering on the side of the highway. Lows in that it rained off and on, and I found myself in thick, scary fog for several minutes where I could see less than 100yds in front of me. All in all, it was a great ride. I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden a road with more curves in my life. Ironically, after all these great descriptors, I didn’t take any pictures. There weren’t a lot of good places to stop, and I didn’t realize until I was past the ones I saw that they would have been good stopping points. Since I was trying to make good time, I didn’t want to turn around. So, no pictures today. In other news, I can’t believe it but I did all of this while STILL riding on the used motocross tire I picked up in Gunnison, CO. I thought it would have been worn smooth long ago. I stopped in Altura for breakfast at Subway, Redding for lunch (first Asian food in weeks), and finally made it to Eureka. Well actually Arcata, just north of Eureka. Given that it rained earlier and the sky wasn’t looking all that sunny, plus I wanted some reliable wifi, I got a motel room at the Red Roof Inn and get a gyro sandwich for dinner. Tomorrow I’m going to ride down the coast to San Francisco.