Friday, December 30, 2016

Indian Summer in Big Sur.

I haven't been writing many (or any) ride reports lately, with so many other things to do, the motivation has been lacking. Somehow, after a couple of drinks to unwind this Friday night, I seem have found my second wind, in the writing department. Funny, and not sure why that is, but here I am typing away. 

This was a short ride through Big Sur, a couple days before New Year's eve. I hadn't rode that stretch of Hwy 1 all year long. I have made that pilgrimage, at least once a year for several years now - Big Sur being one of my few favorite places in California. Not wanting the streak to end, I decided to mark my attendance before the year was over, a quick run south from Napa to Pismo Beach, where I would meet up with my good buddy Treedoc from the FJR forum, whom I hadn't seen in at least a couple years. 

It being the holidays, I expected traffic snarls, and dimwits aplenty from all over the country, and perhaps over the world, but then there was something I didn't expect...

Old man winter was in California early this December. Planning for an early departure from my parent's villa in Napa, I opened the garage door to find the driveway completely iced over. I stepped out and I could feel my moto boots slipping on it. I was going to have to wait it out till it thawed. More coffee then? Yeah sounds like a very good idea.

Traffic wasn't terrible cutting through the Bay area towards the Big Sur coastline. Typical holiday traffic heading in on a week day, but nothing like the carmageddon it normally is. With some effort I was able to get around clumps of slow moving vehicles, the sun was shining on my visor, and I could feel it's warmth, it was a good day.

As I am writing this report today, the Big Sur highway has been closed due to a rain damaged, and now demolished bridge. It wouldn't be possible to ride this stretch again, not like this, for at least a year, if not longer. It could be a blessing in disguise, if you are in the know of other inlets onto portions of this iconic highway, but it certainly isn't a blessing for the businesses in Big Sur. This place for example, where I took my first break for the day, a mainstay in the area - Nepenthe.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Glacier National Park in the Rain.

It's been over 3 months and half, and since I have not been finding time to write about it, I am doing something, which I usually do not do ever - give up, and just post the pictures instead. I will try to intersperse a few words for context, and to provide a framework for the story, but I will get directly to the titular best part, and I will mainly let the pictures tell their own. It is mid-January 2017 now, but I am going to go ahead and back-date this post to September 2016. Hey, it's okay, all the cool kids have done the same at one point or another.

I apologize if this may seem like being forced to look through someone's vacation album, but unfortunately, that is what it is going to be. 

My base of operations for spending a few days in the park, was a little bed and breakfast with a big view in Somers, MT.  Outlook Inn has a view which no other property has on Flathead Lake, and a hostess with a big heart, who has been running this B&B for 18 years now. Michelle loves what she does, and it shows. Some people just do what they do for the money, others have a true passion for what they do. Michelle is the latter.   

There was no better way to start the day when here, than breakfast at this table. Something fresh, something local, something new and something always very tasty when Michelle is in the kitchen. She has huckleberry bushes behind the B&B, and this year she was determined to beat the Bears to the berries. The result - Huckleberry pancakes, and Huckleberry jam just to mention a couple of the fresh goodies I enjoyed here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A meandering ride to the river's end.

The first motorcycle ride of my 40s. Decided to ride to the coast. A nice long ride, but shorter by usual touring standards - rode to Mendocino from Napa on Hwy 128, through the Napa Valley and the Alexander Valley vineyards, and then through the glorious Redwoods near the coast. It was sunny, warm but not too hot earlier in the day - the reason for tackling the in-land portion of the ride first.  Hugged the coast on the return journey, enjoying nature's air conditioning. The fog had blanketed the coast this afternoon - the sun struggled vigorously to burn it's way through. To no avail,  it remained a prisoner to the wall of fog.  

The ride was brisk and fun - few (almost none) leisure stops. The weather was melancholy on the coast, but there was no fog in my mind. Opportunities to ride come seldom these days. I was grateful to be out this day. 

I did make two or three notable stops. First at Point Arena lighthouse. The scene was guarded by the fog, but breached periodically by the beacon from the lighthouse. I ventured to do my best to capture the cliffs kissing the ocean - take it home with me in my mind, and also locked away inside my camera. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sometimes you have to leave the ground - to fly.

I have always maintained that riding a motorcycle is the closest you will ever get to flying, without ever leaving the ground. Although, sometimes - you have to, and it is definitely very OK to float off the ground, and soar into the sky! This occasion was my big four-O! Life supposedly begins anew at the big four-O! However, I don't feel any differently than when I hit the big three-O, which I think is a very good thing. Not that I was going to let that stand in the way of celebrating! My American family had a surprise gift waiting in the wings..and it involved a way. 

It would appear, if you have a flame thrower, some sturdy ropes, and lots of extra fabric - you can be a hot air ballooner. Oh don't forget the basket - you basket case! Don't try this at home kids! 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

St. Helens and Rainier. The Pacific Ring of Fire - Part 3.

The great state of Washington is where my dear friends Lisa and Tobie live. I don't get to see them very often, perhaps once, maybe twice a year, when they make their way down to the long-distance rider gatherings or what I (probably only I) refer to as 'The Fest' in Gerlach. I had the pleasure of seeing them at the IBR start in Albuquerque, New Mexico - July of 2015, but they were volunteer staff for the IBR, just as I was, and that meant many things to do, and not enough time to visit and catch up. It had also been 4 long years, since I visited them at their mountain cabin in Packwood, WA, and as I would learn - they have been quite busy upgrading their property in this time. More on that later..

This entire trip had fallen into place almost last hour, and I was excited to see my friends today. Lisa had been in touch with me throughout the day, we were exchanging texts when I would stop for gas or food. She is a great hostess, and she knows I love good food, so she was already grilling me on what I like for dinner, for breakfast, to drink and so on .. god bless her - she is such a sweetheart! This blog post is dedicated to Lisa and Tobie - very dear friends and honest, hard working, responsible, patriotic Americans. May we all be blessed with good friends like them. 

It was after a late lunch in Hood River, OR - that I ran into the other variety of our citizens. I am not a bleeding hear hippie in any shape or form - I respect people who work, and who desire and appreciate the dignity of work. I have little patience for people who would rather mooch off the hard work of others. I didn't know in the beginning, but one such example was parked beside me in the parking lot, and from inside his car, he struck up a conversation with me on the pretext of being interested in my motorcycle. I chit-chatted for a bit, even though I wanted to just get on moving, and after a few minutes of banter - he dropped the shoe. Could I spare $20 for gas? Hahaha - I should've seen this coming! I scanned the car - there he was with his iPhone in his hands, and in the passenger seat, what seemed to be his drugged up girlfriend, who hadn't stirred despite the conversation. He had to have been speaking up because I had earplugs in and my helmet on. What I really wanted to tell this schmuck was to use that government subsidized phone to try and find a job, but instead I just told him I didn't have any cash or change to spare that I could give him - and that he should try his luck with someone-else. There is a lot more that I wanted to say to him and say here, but it's best to stop wasting time and just move on .. in the immortal words of Smashmouth - I needed to get some fuel myself - and we could all use a little change!

As I set sail along-side the windy Columbia river, I had caught whiff of the barn, lunch had been a lousy McDonald salad and the texts with Lisa had whipped up my appetite. My love for good food was now engaged in full-scale warfare with my wanderlust, there wasn't a clear winner in sight, but the stalemate did result in a much quicker pace. 

The savory Wind River Highway was first on the menu, and the GoPro was set on a 5 second time lapse, in retrospect - that was a lapse too long. I should have set it to 1 second or maybe a 2 second lapse. This highway serves up curve after delectable curve for miles and miles - in some cases you can clearly see the highway slithering away into the distance in front of you. I was hoping (counting on) the GoPro to catch these moments, but due to my own fault in setting the lapse, none of the 5 second lapse captures passed the taste test to be included here in this report.

For no fault of mine, however, the ever so kooky GPS had managed to ignore the turn-off on Curly Creek to get to NF-25, and as I would find out - also every other way-point I had set on NF-25. If I hadn't been paying attention - it would have routed me right to Mt. Adams - where incidentally (and I knew) the road was washed out and closed. Thanks wacko GPS - but I was prepared for your mischief, you weren't going to keep me from St. Helens and views such as this below!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mazama, Sisters, Bachelor, Hood. The Pacific Ring Of Fire - Part 2.

Technology has integrated itself into our lives so inextricably - to the extent of becoming an extension of ourselves, lulling, perhaps dulling us into relying so heavily on the gizmos we constantly find in our hands, or at our fingertips - scanning a screen to give us the information we need. A glowing screen has replaced paper. Although, the irony of lamenting on a weblog isn't lost on me, I brought this up because it pertains to this narrative - do we even carry paper maps anymore? I haven't for years now. I should, they are essential, but I haven't been. I have been relying too much on my gadgets. My Ultrabook to plan my itineraries - translating them into meandering routes, and a scattering of way-points, before sending all that data to my GPS devices - which have been my rudders, steering me collectively through over 120,000 miles of wandering travels over the past 8 years. Evidently, this has worked pretty well for me over the years - until it didn't. :)

Adventure begins when one leaves their backyard. Northern California - even around the Shasta area is still my backyard. I consider Shasta home after all. Adventure can still be found here, if I had decided to go way off the beaten track, but I didn't this time around. The plan was to visit Crater Lake first - come in the South entrance, snap a few photographs and exit the north entrance, to find the Aufderheide scenic byway (for off the beaten track fun). Crater Lake was hardly busy at all, it was still early enough in the morning and not a lot of souls were stirring yet. Chilly as it almost always is, but still pleasant. Not a cloud in the sky, although I would have preferred some of those white fluffy ones to be floating around. The lake was mostly calm, and reflective in that deep, deep blue hue, echoing the thoughtful and introspective state of mind it instills.     

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lassen and Shasta. The Pacific Ring Of Fire - Part 1.

What drives my fascination with volcanoes? It's not the danger or the peril. On a day to day basis, those are practically non-existent for volcanoes which lay dormant for decades if not centuries. Yet, being fickle, mysterious monoliths, often shrouded in the mist - volcanoes permeate mystical in our legends and our psyche. We are drawn to them, like the one ring destined to return to it's fiery origins in the depths of Mt. Doom - volcanoes exert an inexplicable pull on the strings of my heart and my mind.    

When Europeans settled the West-unknown,  in some instances they were undoubtedly drawn to settle in the stunningly gorgeous and fertile shadow of these sleeping beasts. Unaware of their history, or the fire which churned in their cores. The natives who roamed the land before the Europeans arrived, had no written history, only legends passed on through word-of-mouth, of the explosive battle between the gods of the sky and the earth, atop these mountain peaks. It's easy to theorize that when the West was conquered, the victors paid little attention to these fairy tales from the natives. 

It had been a long 4 years since I toured these volcanoes in the Cascade range. July of 2012 was the first time ever, that I had strung together a vacation ride through the Cascades. At the end of that trip, I had vowed to return again within the next couple of years. Although, as most resolutions often do, it fell victim to life, work and responsibilities galore. So it was to be 4 years - almost to the day, and countless invitations later, when I embarked once again stringing together volcanoes along the way from Lassen to Rainer, with the goal of seeing and spending some quality time visiting my very dear friends Lisa and Tobie, who have a mountain cabin near Rainier.  

Archiving the memories of the first portion of the trip in this post, taking some time here and there to do so. Hopefully, I don't run out of time, or steam in it's midst .. it might happen. Ride more, write less.. sigh.. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Getting out .. to anywhere - Touristy Images of Yosemite Valley.

The year had started off bright, with a few sun-bathed days of wandering around the wine country and the Northern California coast, but I hadn't been able to get away on the motorcycle - somewhere, anywhere, for a few days at a time since then. I foresaw in January - that this year, I may ride, but I may not write as much. True to that vision, I have been able to ride on some weekends, but I haven't been writing about those rides, neither have I really been riding anywhere to write much about. As a matter of fact, I am feeling quite rusty as I am writing this right now. Work has been keeping me very busy this Winter, and while I am enjoying the challenges at work, with long days and dark cold nights, filled with puzzling problems to solve with methodical detective work - the longing to once again roam wild and free on the motorcycle has only been growing stronger, and overpoweringly so. I needed to get away, and decompress, the best way I know how.

To let the visor filter in the sun again. To ride the conduit towards the glimmer at it's end, and come bursting out on the other side. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Sun Also Rises in Winter.

Winter has come to California. We had missed the memo last year, and maybe ignored it the year before, but we have it now. Winter is coming .. is here! It has also brought some life changes and lifestyle changes for me in particular. Gone are the days, perhaps, of riding every weekend, or taking off often on long cross-country trips for days on end. I am still young (very young?), those days might return, perhaps when I am a bit older, so maybe I can enjoy the free time a lot of my much older friends seem to enjoy, but I am in no hurry to get old. For now, professional challenges have a very firm grip on me, and I seem to be enjoying them also - I may have shirked away from responsibilities sometimes or some days, but I have never backed away from a challenge, and the new gig is nothing but..

But, the sun also rises in the Winter. Now, more so than ever, I have to grab every opportunity that presents itself - to get away, to let the wind scrub away the worries, the stress, the niggles from my mind. Let the sunlight color my face, and let the sun burn away the clouds and the fog which collect in the winter of my mind.

On these scarce days, I will ride more, and I will write less. I will extend my ride to pull in places farther away, but perhaps not extend the lens as much to do the same. New Year's Day was one such day to extend my wine country ride out to the coast. A perfect opportunity to start the year, the best way I knew how, astride perhaps the best motorcycle that I have ever owned - the tried and tested companion of many years now, the veteran, the been through hell and back, the quirkier now than before, but still the very enjoyable FJR.

I hope you enjoy the images that follow. I am going to be writing less, but I am hoping the images will convey more than my words could manage. Happy New Year!

Leave the archway open, let the sun shine through..