Motorcycle Trip to Canada 2008
SEPTEMBER 16, 2008
In 1998, Sharon bought me a 1998 Harley Davidson Road King Classic, which is a touring motorcycle. My dream has been to drive this bike to Banff Park, Canada. This year, I will realize my dream.
Next Thursday, I will leave Costa Mesa, California, bound for Canada. I will travel north up the coast through California, Oregon and Washington and into Canada. I will travel through Vancouver into Banff Park, which is a place of spectacular beauty. From there, I will travel to Calgary, and then south through Montana, Idaho, Utah and Nevada before re-entering California and returning home.
I plan to make frequent stops along the way to fly fish in the lakes, rivers and streams.
My solo journey is unstructured and unplanned, which is exactly how I like it. As with past cross-country motorcycle trips, I plan to stay in inexpensive (cheap) hotels along the main highways and eat only in authentic home-town restaurants (no chains allowed).
Other than the occasional cyber cafe, I won’t have access to e-mail. But, I will have my cell phone, which is 714/979-2159.
See you in two weeks…or maybe more.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008
I hope you do not mind if I send you a trip report now and then.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2008
I am writing this in the “Old Town Coffee & Chocolates” cyber cafe in Eureka, California. I have had a fun trip so far.
On the first day, I traveled up highway 5 and stopped in Los Banos, California when it got dark. I don’t like to ride my motorcycle at night. It was a long and boring ride, consisting of miles and miles of nothing but miles. Other than the occasional cow along the road, there was nothing to see but endless highway and big rigs. I stayed at the Vagabond Hotel. At $85/night, it was more than I like/expect to pay on these cross-country motorcycle trips, but at least I got a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, I got up and drove to the Harley dealer to have a loose hose checked. I had to take off my right saddlebag to check the hose connection. No problem, so I reattached the saddlebag and drove north about 100 miles to the home of my son (Dan), daughter-in-law (Tina) and my two wonderful grandchildren (Billy & Gavin). They live in San Carlos. When I got off the bike at their house, I discovered that my right saddlebag was missing. It fell off somewhere between Los Banos and San Carlos. In the saddlebag were my maps, Canon G-9 digital camera and a speaker system for my i-Pod. Bummer! The Canon camera is the one I purchased specifically for my Mt. Everest climb this year. Double bummer! My son and I retraced my trip looking for the bag on, or along, the road, to no avail. The next day, I retraced the trip a second time on my bike. No luck. So bye-bye saddlebag and contents.
I spent the weekend with my son and his family. We had a great time. We went to the Stanford/San Jose State football game at the refurbished football stadium. It was great fun, and Stanford won. I attended Stanford Law School in the 60’s, and this was my first trip to the new stadium since Sharon and I bicycled to games when we lived in Escondido Village. Danny also attended Stanford Law School, so it was just a delightful evening.
Before resuming my trip north on Monday, I stopped at the Automobile Club and picked up new maps. I also purchased a new camera. Canon discontinued the G-9, which is a real disappointment since I love that camera. I ordered a new saddlebag, which is being shipped to the Harley dealer in Seattle. I’ll pick it up on my way through Seattle. At that point, I’ll be whole again.
The trip from San Carlos to Eureka was great fun. I videotaped the ride across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A good portion of the trip north was through redwood forests along the Redwood Highway, which was absolutely beautiful. There is nothing quite like riding a motorcycle at 70 mph in the open air while listening to Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys and Mozart. I pulled in to Eureka around 6:30 pm, had a good pasta dinner and retired in my hotel room around 9:30 pm.
Today, I planned to do some fly fishing in the abundant rivers and streams near Eureka. But, the owner of the local fly fishing shop informed me that the fishing is very slow and I would have to travel around 200 miles inland to have a decent chance of catching anything. He also warned me not to leave sight of my bike or it might not be there when I got back. Then, he told me to beware of abundant meth farms and meth dealers in this area and don’t do any hiking or I might never return. That ended my fishing plans. My current plan is to ride to Oregon tomorrow and fish the Rogue River.
I have changed my route home. Later this month, Sharon will be traveling to North Dakota to her “Little House on the Prairie” in Egeland. So, I plan to drive from Banff Park in Canada to North Dakota and stay a few days with Sharon. Then I will travel home via Montana, Idaho, Utah and Nevada.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2008
On Wednesday, I had a great ride up Highway 101 (along the coast) from Eureka to Gold Coast, Oregon. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. I rode 39 miles east from from Gold Coast to Agness, a little fishing village in the mountains along the beautiful Rogue River. I stayed in a rustic cabin near the river and fly fished on Thursday. I caught a nice steelhead trout. That’s when my second camera bit the dust. When I fly fish, I practice “catch and release”. In my hurry to get my fish back into the river, I slipped on a rock and fell into the river up to my waist. Ooops, my new camera was in my pocket. But, it was well worth it to get that fish safely back into the water.
On Friday, I fished in the morning (no luck), packed up and rode to Coos Bay, Oregon, a beautiful little town along the coast. This morning (Saturday), I plan to ride to Eugene or Portland. I may spend the night in Eugene if the Eugene Emeralds minor league baseball club is playing. My son-in-law, Jeff Gardner, managed that team for a few years, and we had some great times visiting Jeff and his family to watch him manage the team. If I lay over in Eugene, I will probably do some fishing in the McKinzie River.
Other than the minor mishaps, this trip has been all that I have expected…and more.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2008
(from my son Danny)
Caught a nice steelhead and lost the camera. I’ve heard that one before
SEPTEMBER 27, 2008
(from my friend, John Dorans)
SEPTEMBER 29, 2008
I am writing this from the Best Western motel in British Columbia, Canada. The trip from Coos Bay has been nothing short of fabulous. The weather has been good, my bike has been running beautifully and the fish are biting. What could possibly be better?
I left Coos Bay, Oregon on Saturday and proceeded north on the 101 (along the coast) to Florence where I turned east and rode to Eugene, Oregon. The Eugene Emeralds baseball team was not playing so I rode north on Highway 5 to the city of Woodland just over the Oregon border in Washington state where I spent the night. The next morning I took a detour from my planned route north and rode east up into the mountains to view Mt. St. Helens. This is the volcano that blew its top in May of 1980 in the most devastating and economically damaging volcanic eruption in the history of the United States. The mountain erupted over a period of 9 hours, killing 57 people and destroying 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railway and 185 miles of highway. 230 square miles of forest was blown down or covered with ash. The force of the blast was so massive that the elevation of the mountain was reduced from 9,677 to 8,365 feet. I remember when with happened and recall reading with fascination the extensive reports that were written on the event. Specifically, I recall reading about a young amateur geologist who stationed himself in a tree and filed reports in the days preceding the eruption. When the volcano first erupted, he immediately notified the Forest Service Ranger Station in Vancouver, Washington stating excitedly: “Vancouver, Vancouver. This is it! This is it!” That was his last broadcast as he was vaporized by the blast. Another elderly man, who had lived in a cabin along a lake below the mountain for most of his life, refused evacuation orders. His body was never found. In the reports, I saw photographs of giant trees blown over and lined up like toothpicks all down the side of the mountain and up the side of the adjoining mountain. It was awesome to finally see the mountain up close.
I rode back to Highway 5 and continued north to Seattle where I picked up my saddlebag at the Harley dealer. It was a good feeling having my bike back in one piece again. I spent the night in Everett just north of Seattle. This morning, I crossed the border into Canada. Before crossing the border, I stopped my bike and took some video of the border crossing. Bad idea! Three border guards quickly descended on me and told me that videotaping is strictly forbidden. They made me erase the recording of the border crossing. They were actually pretty nice about it, and I was relieved that you would not be seeing this on the evening news. I crossed the border without further incident and rode to Hope, British Columbia, where I spent the night Tomorrow, I plan to ride to Enerby, and, the following day, I hope to enter Banff Park.
I hope you are all doing well.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2008
I arrived in Revelstoke around 5:30 pm. The ride up the mountain was glorious. If this is any sign of how beautiful Banff Park is, I am in for a real treat. The Park is about a 3-1/2 hour ride from here. Good thing, because there are forecasts for bad weather later in the week.
It was cold going up into the mountains in the morning. Even with gloves on, my hands felt like they were frozen to the handlebar. The air was so cold that I had to breathe through my mouth. But it warmed up nicely in the afternoon, and I had a comfortable ride.
I love the performance of my Road King. I feel like I am riding on a cloud. So smooth and quiet. The floorboard space for my feet and the windshield really help. In 1997, I rode my Harley Softail from New York to California along Highway 40. It was a great trip, but with no windshield, I took a real beating from the force of the wind in my face. I also significantly boosted my protein intake with all the bugs I ate along the way.
In 1995, I rode my Honda Shadow American Classic from California to North Dakota. This is a long story, which includes a long stretch from Jackson Wyoming to Yellowstone Park in a snowstorm. I shipped that bike from North Dakota to Hong Kong when we moved there in 1995. I rode that great bike all over Hong Kong and the New Territories. The bike looks a lot like a Harley, and I loved it when the Chinese would tell me “oooh, nice Haalee.” The Honda is now stored at Sharon’s Little House on the Prairie in North Dakota. I plan to fire it up when I get there.
Gas costs about 1 Loonie and 2 Toonies, and I fill up all the time because my gas tank is so small. In case you are wondering, in Canada, a 1 dollar coin is called a “Loonie,” and a 2 dollar coin is called a “Toonie.” I hope you are impressed with my command of the local lingo. Eh. Please, no smart aleck personal remarks about the Loonie.
For those of you who made fun of my fish story, I will have you know that they grow a giant trout here called the “Great White Whooper.” I’ll have the photos to prove it when I return home.
OCTOBER 1, 2008
After bragging about the performance of my Road King, I now have a mechanical problem.
This morning when I started the bike, I noticed a slight gas leak where the hoses to the engine attach to to gas tank. Of course, the nearest Harley dealer is hundreds of miles away, and no one will have parts for a 1998 Road King. I thought about patching the leak with some electrical tape, ordering the hoses for delivery to the dealer in Calgary and then having the problem fixed when I pass through Calgary in a few days. But, I was worried that the leak would get worse and could cause a fire if the gas comes into contact with the engine. So, I called a dealer in Vernon, British Columbia. The mechanic said he thought that plan might work. Still uncomfortable, I decided to ask for a second opinion from the dealer I bought the bike from in California. He said NO WAY, he would be terrified the entire ride with the gas leaking, which is a view I shared. So, I called a dealer in Kamloops, which is 3 hours down the road. By a stroke of good fortune, he has the exact parts and is shipping them to me by Greyhound bus today. The local car mechanic here said he is sure he can replace the parts on the bike, and the Harley dealer in Kamloops agreed to help by telephone if necessary.
The parts will arrive tonight or tomorrow, and I should be back on the road tomorrow afternoon.
I guess today I’ll pursue that Whopper.
OCTOBER 1, 2008
(from my son, Danny)
If anyone ever wants to retrace my dad’s path on this trip, just start at 1811 Tanager Drive in Costa Mesa and follow the trail of saddlebags, camera equipment, other miscellaneous gear and gasoline. You can even ride at night by lighting up the trail of gasoline. The good news is that if he gets lost, he can just turn around and follow the “popcorn” home.
OCTOBER 2, 2008
It’s Thursday morning, and no package has arrived at the bus depot. If the parts are not here by noon, I’m heading to the hardware store to buy electrical tape.
OCTOBER 2, 2008
(from my son-in-law, Jeff Gardner)
If that doesn’t work Bill, maybe get some 3 in 1 oil and some gauze pads. There is a chance this was all caused by a vapor lock in which case your ignition and transmission could be in jeopardy. I had a great nights sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Happy trails!!
OCTOBER 2, 2008
(from my friend, John Dorans)
Try expox glue–won’t have to worry.
OCTOBER 2, 2008
(from my friend, Joe D’Amico)
Duct tape fixes everything.
OCTOBER 2, 2008
(from my sister-in-law, Judy Burke)
Bill, you’re not thinking straight. Tie a clove of garlic around your neck to ward off further cycle disasters, stop at the House of Clogs and get some decent footware (who wears shoes like yours any more??), slap some duct tape on the mechanical problem and off you go. Remember, the whole family is counting on you. We’ve told you for some time that our clan has an opening for a truly crazy person, so……..
OCTOBER 3, 2008
I love all the great suggestions to top my electrical tape plan: duct tape, epoxy glue, gause. I’m sure they all would have worked.
OCTOBER 3, 2008
Dear Family & Friends:
Good morning from Banff Park.
My parts arrived on the morning bus, and I rushed them over to Grisley Auto Repair (yes, that’s the name). Jason, who has never worked on a motorcycle, agreed to give it a try. I called the service department at the Harley dealer in Kanloops who sold me the parts and had Robin talk to Jason. Good thing, because the operation is quite complex and involves removing the seat, gas tank, fuel pump and an assortment of other parts. Robin did not instill in me a real sense of security when he told me that Jason will be lucky to remove the fuel pump without breaking it. Nevertheless, I pulled the bike in the shop next to a beat up old pick-up truck they were working on. I sat outside reading a paper while Jason did his thing. I heard some loud banging and thought, wow they are beating the hell out of that poor truck. When I went in to check on progress, there was Jason with a huge hammer and screw driver pounding on the clasp that attaches the gas hoses to the tank on my bike. YIKES!! I couldn’t watch anymore so I left to have lunch. When I returned, there was my bike parked in front of the repair shop in perfect operating condition. God bless old Jason. He got the job done and received a nice tip.
Oh, I got a haircut in Revelstoke since I was looking pretty shaggy. I wasn’t paying attention to the old gentleman wielding the scissors. From now on, call me “Butch.”
The 4-hour ride to Banff Park was really nice. Great scenery as I moved up the mountain. I arrived around 5:30 pm (pst), just in time to check in and watch the Great Debate. My plan was to treat myself by staying in the Banff Springs Hotel, a beautiful rock lodge that sits up on a hill with a grand view of the mountains and valley. When I checked as to room availability, they said that had a room with valley view for 400 Canadian dollars (that’s a whole lot of Loonies and Toonies). In US currency, that’s about the price of the camera I lost and the replacement camera that I dunked in the Rogue River. I thought that if I stay at a cheaper hotel for 2 nights, the replacement camera is paid for. So, I am staying at the Caribou Lodge with a room rate of 150 Canadian dollars. I know what you are thinking: “What a cheap b______.” And, you are correct. But this place is more in keeping with my style of biking, so I’m happy here.
Today, I plan to do some sightseeing. I’ll report tomorrow.
(from my niece, Rachel)
Uncle Bill, I truly hope you consider writing a memoir one day. . . you keep the stories and the laughs coming!
OCTOBER 3, 2008
(from John Dorans)
Don’t tell him that — I consider all this public domain and plan to do the book myself!!!
OCTOBER 3, 2008
Thank you Rachel, you are very kind.
My problem with a memoir is that, at my age, I have a hard time remembering what I did the day before yesterday, much less in “The Early Years.”
Besides, John will be much more generous with my story than I would ever be.
OCTOBER 3, 2008
This is a truly beautiful place. But, first I digress.
This morning, I stopped at the Information Center in town to check into purchasing a fishing license. I was greeted by a park ranger who asked, with a smile, if I had a park permit. I said “no, what park permit?” He said “you are in a national park and you need a park permit.” I said “this town is full of people and cars, how would you even know if anyone has a park permit?” He replied “you just told me you don’t have one.” So, there we stood, eying each other, with me thinking “should I bolt for the door” and him thinking “go ahead, make my day.” I purchased the permit, thinking that I have already had enough excitement on this trip and don’t need to be pursued by a posse of Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Plus, I walked especially tall, knowing that I was the only legal tourist in town.
I spent the day sightseeing on the trails by foot and by bike. The colors are out and the scenery is really spectacular. The people are so nice (okay I embellished my park ranger story a bit as I was happy to pay the fee). I have lots of photos and footage of the mountains, streams, rivers, lakes and meadows. I love trains, so I also have some good shots of the many freight trains that work their way up and down the mountains. I was lucky to photograph and videotape a vintage Canadian Pacific stream engine passing through Revelstoke. When I am too old to climb, maybe I’ll hop some freight trains and really see the country.
I wish Ollie was traveling with me. He would love this motorcycle trip. Maybe some day, when he is older, I will purchase a side-car and travel with him around the country.
Tomorrow, I plan to ride to Lake Louise, which is supposed to be especially beautiful. One fellow recommended that I ride up to Jasper Park. The highway travels up the Icefields Parkway through a glacier. The problem is that this is a four hour ride in the wrong direction. So, I don’t think I’ll make that trip. I do plan to stop in Canmore to do some fly fishing on my way home.
Despite the beauty of this area, it doesn’t hold a candle to the parks I have visited, hiked and climbed in back home. The Catskills, Adirondacks, White Mountains of New Hampshire, Cascades, Rockies, Grand Canyon, High Sierras and most of Alaska are simply in a different league. Every time I leave the country, I come back feeling so blessed that I live in the United States of America
I’ll write tomorrow about my travels to Lake Louise.
OCTOBER 4, 2008
Heavy clouds rolled in during the night. The morning ride to Lake Louise was bone-chilling cold. When I arrived in Lake Louise, it started to rain. Despite the rain and the cold weather, I am glad I backtracked to see Lake Louise. It was stunning in its beauty. The lake was emerald green in color, was surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks and was placid, still and serene. Quite a treat.
I donned my winter gear and began my trip down the mountain to Canmore. On the winding road going down the mountain, I had my second “lay-down” of the trip. This happened when I rode past a great photo opportunity and decided to turn around and go back to take some pictures. As I tried to make a u-turn, I realized that the road was too narrow to negotiate the turn. But, once a big bike starts leaning to one side, if you don’t keep moving, it is pretty much impossible to keep it upright. As I headed into a ditch alongside the road, I realized that my only option was to lay it down on its left side. So, that’s what I did. No damage to the bike or me, unless you consider ego. When this happens, the challenge is to get the shiny side up and the rubber side down because the bike weighs over 800 pounds. Some folks in a line of cars coming up the mountain watched in amusement as I extracted myself from this embarrassing predicament. But, I got it upright and continued on to Canmore. The first lay-down occurred in Agness when I decided to pull the bike up next to my cabin because I didn’t trust some of the locals in the bar next to the restaurant. I hit a low spot in the grass and the bike leaned over on its side.
By the time I arrived in Canmore in the afternoon, it was raining pretty hard. I stopped at a fly shop and picked up some flys, tips on hot spots and a fishing license. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I plan to do some fishing in the Bow River. The forecast is for 15 degrees C and rain.
OCTOBER 6, 2008
The morning Canmore air was bitterly cold, but the sky was cloudless and the sun was just peeking over the mountains. So, I put on my winter gear, cranked up some bluegrass music on my i-Pod and took off southeast on highway 1 through Calgary. Nine hours later, I arrived in Swift Current, Canada.
Most of the road proceeded through the rural flatlands of Alberta and Saskatchewan, with nary a mountain, mound or molehill in sight. The cold air didn’t bother me much, but I encountered some strong cross-winds on the last 300 kilometers of the journey.
Tomorrow, I should cross the border (yeaaa) into North Dakota, and, with any luck, I will arrive in Egeland, North Dakota in the late afternoon. Sharon is waiting for me there at her Little House on the Prairie.
OCTOBER 9, 2008
Dear Family & Friends:
I left Swift Current, Canada on Tuesday hoping to make it to Egeland, North Dakota by the end of the day. I only made it to Estevan, just north of the border. It started to rain as I checked into the Day’s Inn motel.
On Wednesday morning, I crossed the border to the music of Mozart. This seemed so appropriate as I reentered the land of big dreams, boundless opportunity, great goodness and classic beauty. This time, I avoided problems at the border. However, after looking me over, listening to my story about a solo trip to Banff Park on a motorcycle and perusing my passport, the border agent asked: “I see you have spent some time in Russia and Indonesia. What was your business there?” That’s when I explained my other hobby.
I arrived in Egeland, North Dakota around 2:30 pm. The ride was the toughest of the trip. As soon as I entered North Dakota, I was met by high winds which were clocked at 40-50 mph. The head winds and cross winds made for unstable riding conditions and pushed my bike all over the road. At times, I had to lean into the cross winds to avoid being pushed completely off the road.
Sharon greeted me at the Little House on the Prairie. She had made a pot of chili which was delicious.
I bought this house for Sharon in 1999 when I lived and worked in Tokyo, Japan. The 800 square foot house was built for Sharon’s grandfather by the Soo Line Railroad when he was a section foreman. Sharon’s aunt Gloria was born in the house and Sharon grew up in the house with her family of 8 until she moved with her family to California at age 11 in 1954. The house was abandoned and boarded up by the owner of the house in 1996. I paid $1,000 for the house which was in pretty sorry shape. Sharon’s Mom gave me a picture of the house with Sharon, as a little girl, standing with her Mom in front of the house in the deep snow. I had the photo blown up, pasted on a hard backing and cut into puzzle pieces and gave it as a gift to Sharon at our annual family gathering honoring my daughter, Lisa’s, birthday, on December 30, 1999. Sharon spent the next 2 years restoring the house to its original condition when she lived in Egeland. This involved, among other things, stripping the floor covering that had been installed on top of the beautiful maple hardwood floor, removing the garage that had been added to the house, replacing the concrete driveway with gravel and installing the original windows in the house. We spent about $30,000 restoring the house. Now, it is a little jewel on the prairie, absolutely beautiful, and we come here around once a year.
There was just one big problem. There was a dilapidated house across the street that blocked our view of the sweeping prairie. The house had been scheduled for teardown, but things move pretty slow in a city of just 27. Late one night, there was a fire of mysterious origin that burned this eyesore to the ground. Sharon was staying in the house at the time and was awakened by the bright flames shooting into the sky. No one knows how the fire started, but a photo later surfaced showing 2 men leaving the house, with one holding a gas can in his hand. He was identified as the Mayor of Egeland, who just happens to be Sharon’s Uncle Harold. As I sit here writing this report, I have a grand view of the prairie. True story.
My plans at this point are up in the air as they are forecasting snow this weekend. Much of my route home through Montana, Idaho, Utah and Nevada is in high risk snow country, especially this time of year. Sharon’s Uncle Harold and Aunt Beverly are here, and we plan to travel to Fargo to visit relatives. Before I leave, I plan to fire up my beloved Honda Shadow American Classic motorcycle, which is stored in the shed on the back of the property.
As far as the performance of my beautiful bike, I won’t write anything because of what happened earlier in the trip when I bragged. But you can fill in the blanks.
OCTOBER 12, 2008
Greetings from Little House on the Prairie (“LHOTP”):
I feel like the 101st Airborne, as I am completely surrounded by peril. Every direction I look, wind, rain, ice and snow are closing in. Beach, North Dakota, on the western border of the state, reported 8 inches of snow. Ditto for many regions of Montana that are directly in my flight path home. It has been raining hard and steady for the past two days. My current plan is to hunker down and wait it out. I don’t have much choice as I don’t want to travel on icy roads. They are forecasting better weather starting Tuesday, so maybe I’ll make my escape then.
After traveling 3,800 miles, I arrived at LHOTP with great plans to sit in my easy chair and stare out the window at the prairie. Sharon, and her Uncle Harold and Aunt Beverly, piled me in the back seat of the car and took off, saying we are going to visit a “few relatives who live in the area.” 600 miles and a day later, we were back home. Our little visits with relatives took us all the way to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. But we had a great time and visited some really nice folks.
Yesterday, we enjoyed a “Hunters’ Breakfast” at the North Prairie Lutheran Church built in 1897. It is the only country church still left in the county. The food was delicious. The ladies of the church prepared homemade caramel rolls, even grinding the flour as part of the preparation of these tasty treats. Today, we attended two church services, one in Egeland and the other in Starkweather. I reckon that going to two church services doubles the chances that my prayers for better weather will be answered.
This is big time farm country. I love visiting the farms. Two of Sharon’s cousins are farmers, and we had good visits with their families. What a different life they lead from us “city folk.” One of the farms sits on the edge of a large lake. Her cousin, Keith, has about 300 head of cattle. Giving true meaning to the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side,” these cattle swim across the lake to graze in the pastures on the other side. In the late afternoon, they swim back. But, as far as I know, their pigs don’t fly. Sharon’s cousin, Hailey, gave us bags of potatoes and tomatoes from her huge garden, and last night, Sharon made fried green tomatoes and chili covered potatoes. Yummy.
OCTOBER 13, 2008
Dear Family & Friends:
First, a weather update: Beach, North Dakota received 13 inches of snow and Red Lodge, Montana received 40 inches of snow. Snow flurries, blustery winds and frigid cold prevail almost everywhere. The Weather Channel described the situation as a “Bonanza of Snow in the West.
A little history on LHOTP:
This house is known as a “Section House.” When the railroads were being built, the railroad companies built one room shelters to house the men who worked on the railroad. When construction of the rail lines was complete, the shelters were given to the section foremen, who brought their families to live in the houses. Usually, additional rooms were added at this point. As cities developed and flourished, the houses were moved into the cities. Sharon’s grandpa Marvin was a section foreman for the Soo Line Railroad, and he lived in this little 800 square foot house with his family. He was not the first section foreman to live in the house. Grandpa Marvin’s daughter, Sharon’s Aunt Gloria, was born in this little 800 square foot house. Sharon lived with her family of 8 in this house until she moved to California at age 11.
A Little History on the Red Bike:
My Honda Shadow was shipped to North Dakota from Hong Kong in 2000 and still has the Hong Kong license plate. The bike is stored in a ramshackle shed on the back of the LHOTP property and has sat idle through 7 harsh and brutal North Dakota winters. When I visited LHOTP in 2005, I decided to see if I could get the bike running again. I went to a Honda dealer in Costa Mesa, California to purchase a battery and asked the lead mechanic what I should do to get the bike running. He said don’t bother because the bike will not start. When I challenged him on this opinion, he said “read my lips, that bike will not start.” He said he had worked on motorcycles his entire life and there is not a chance that the bike will start. He explained that my only option was to have the bike towed to the Honda dealer in Grand Forks so the carburetor could be flushed and the engine tuned. To add an exclamation mark to his point, he said he would buy me a 6-pack of beer if I could get the engine started. Undaunted, I thanked him for his advice and bought the battery. When I arrived in Egeland, I installed the new battery and the engine started right up and ran perfectly. Same story this trip, 3 years later.
I hope to begin my return trip home.
OCTOBER 16, 2008
The ride across North Dakota yesterday to Billings, Montana was about as cold as it gets. I felt like I was back on the southeast ridge of the Mt. Everest summit triangle…only colder. The sun was out most of the day, but the temperature stayed in the 30’s. I pretty much donned my entire wardrobe and still had to stop about every hour to thaw out my extremeties and get my core body temperature back into the land of the living. Billings got 24 inches of snow, although most of it has melted.
One poor trucker had his engine blow up on the highway. You could see the cloud of black smoke for miles. I stopped to see if I could help, but he had already called for backup.
Tomorrow, I will enter Idaho, and I look forward to traveling south to warmer temps.
OCTOBER 16, 2008
I left Billings, Montana this morning bound for Idaho via the Rocky Mountains. My plan was to travel to Butte and then head south on highway 15 into Idaho.
Big change of plans: I have decided to head south from Livingston, Montana straight through Yellowstone National Park. I will pass by Old Faithful and proceed through Jackson Hole to the Grand Teton National Park. I will then head west to Idaho Falls, Idaho and then south to Salt Lake City, Utah. While I am in the Park, I plan to do some fly fishing on the Firehole River. I picked up some flies at the Sweetwater Fly Fishing store near the north entrance to the park. Tonight, I am staying in Gardiner, Montana at the entrance to the Park.
I was warned about the snow, icy roads and changing weather conditions, so I’ll be especially careful. But, I just can’t pass up this opportunity to visit this fabulous area of the United States while I am so close. In 1995, I came through the Park from the south entrance headed north towards North Dakota on my Honda Shadow. Just outside of Jackson, Wyoming, on the way into the Park, I got caught in a horrific snow storm–the worst storm in a decade. I was the only one on the road and was steering with one hand and brushing the snow off my full face helmet with the other hand. All of the roads in and out of the Park had been closed when I arrived at the Yellowstone Inn. The Inn was full, but I begged my way into a room. The next day, when the roads reopened, I shot out of there like a bullet. I don’t anticipate that happening this time because the forecast is for clear skies through the weekend.
The scenery here is absolutely beautiful. Much better than anything I saw in Canada.
OCTOBER 18, 2008
Yesterday was the best day of the trip, and it was the most harrowing.
I spent the entire day in Yellowstone Park, and I couldn’t get enough of it. If you haven’t visited the Park, drop everything and go now. With my still camera and video camera, I was like a kid in a candy store. I could hold the camera up, close my eyes, turn in any direction, take a photo, and have a picture-perfect postcard. It was that beautiful. What made it even better is that the sun was out the entire day.
I saw lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls, hot springs, hydrothermal pools, geysers (including Old Faithful), forest, meadows, snow-capped peaks, deer, elk, buffalo and lots of other wildlife. I captured it all in video and still photos. I had to stop every 100 yards to capture some new wonder of nature. I spent so much time taking photos and video footage that I could only fish the Firehole River for 1 hour. No luck, But, who cares?
One of the highlights of the day was encountering a huge buffalo wandering down the road with a long line of cars trailing behind him. He passed right by me, so close that I could have reached out and touched him. I also captured this on video.
The downside of all this fun is that I had to head down the mountain in the dark and cold. I don’t like riding at night, especially on dark, winding mountain roads. In one long stretch just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I was traveling around 50-60 miles per hour on a pitch black road when I suddenly came upon a herd of 7-8 deer crossing the highway. It was so dark that I didn’t see them until they were just in front of me. I slammed on my brakes. Two deer made it across the road ahead of me, but a third was just starting to cross directly into my path. There was absolutely no way of avoiding a collision. Fortunately, when I was about 5 feet from him, he turned back and we avoided a crash. I can still see the look in his eyes as we were about to collide. My fault, as I was traveling too fast. But, I was cold and just wanted to check into a hotel. This morning, there was a report of a car crash with a moose in which one person was killed and another injured. So, I’ll be more vigilant and careful.
I stayed last night at the Trapper’s Inn in Jackson. Today, I plan to head straight down highway 89, through Idaho and into Salt Lake City, Utah. My tentative plan is to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon before I get back on highway 15 and return home.
OCTOBER 18, 2008
Greetings from Logan, Utah.
I didn’t make it as far as I planned, because I got a late start. Plus, I decided to fish the Snake River, just south of Jackson, Wyoming. Good thing I am not counting on that to survive. Stan, Lanny, Danny: help! What am I doing wrong? After I had been fishing a couple of hours, two chaps came up with their rods and reels and bait. They asked if I had caught anything, and I replied no, the fishing is really slow today. First cast, and one of them caught a 14-inch rainbow trout. How humiliating! As soon as he reeled in his catch, he held it up high so I could see his catch. I returned a fake smile and a weak wave, and cursed my luck. Then, to rub salt into my wounded pride, this amateur brought his prize over and asked what kind of fish he had caught. I consoled myself with the thought that they were using worms, and I fish the “gentleman’s” way with flys. So, I still hold my head high. I was kind of hoping to adopt the name “Joe, the Fisherman,” shave my head, get in a rope line somewhere and enjoy my sliver of fame in the political spotlight. Guess that dream is dashed.
I finally left the wind, rain, snow and ice, and it was nice to shed some of the heavy clothes. The weather in the north reminds me once again that California has only two seasons: summer and next summer.
The incident of the day occurred on highway 89, on a winding road that leads down the mountain into Logan. The traffic proceeds at a very fast pace. As I was rounding a curve, I encountered three cowhands on horseback herding a head of cattle directly up the center of the road. Needless to say, this was extremely dangerous for both the cattle and the cowhands. I decided this warranted a turn-around so I could film this unusual cattle drive. While I was filming, a car coming down the mountain nearly collided with the cows. Right after that incident, I had to brake hard and swerve to avoid running over a ground squirrel that ran across the road right in front of me. I decided I had enough excitement for the day, and I stopped in the next town–Logan.
On a sad note, Rob Gardner, my son-in-law, Jeff’s brother, died yesterday of muscular dystrophy, a disease he fought valiantly his entire life. This is so sad for Jeff, his Dad, and his entire family. So, I am dedicating this trip to Rob, and to Danny Dougherty, another young man, who was like a second son to me, and succumbed to cancer several years ago. These sorrowful passings remind us of how precious life is, and how we should live it to the full and savor every moment. God rest their blessed souls and provide comfort to the grieving families.
Tomorrow, I hope to make it to Bryce Canyon National Park.
OCTOBER 22, 2008
Yesterday was another harrowing day, but this time on purpose.
Sunday was a travel day as I rode from Logan, Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park. I spent most of Monday in the Park. The Park is just as stunning and beautiful as I remember it from my trip in 1995. I stopped at almost all of the lookout points and took lots of photos and shot lots of video. The red rock spires, fins and pinnacles and the horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters, all created by the action of millions of years of wind, rain and snow, are truly breathtaking. On Monday afternoon, I rode to Zion National Park, which is about 1-1/2 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park. I spent the evening in a cabin at the Zion Lodge in the middle of the Park.
I spent most of Tuesday at Zion National Park. Zion is also beautiful, and is often referred to as the “Land of the Rainbow Canyons.” Like Bryce, it features bright red-orange sandstone canyons, but its towering peaks distinguish it from Bryce. I took in most of the recommended stops, which are accessed by tram from the
Lodge. One of those stops involved a 3-mile round trip hike to the “Emerald Pools.” Because of the lack of rainfall and snow runoff, the pools were more like puddles, and they were not emerald in color. But, all of the other sites were exactly as advertised–just spectacular. Have you ever tasted water that is 1,200 years old? I have. I hiked up to “Weeping Rock,” where the water literally weeps out of the canyon wall. According to the tram driver, the water begins as rainfall or snow runoff on the high plateau above the canyon wall. It is absorbed by the red sandstone rock like a sponge. It works its way down the canyon wall until it reaches shale, which it cannot permeate. At that point, it travels horizontally until it emerges from the canyon wall 1,200 years later. Now there’s a marketing opportunity!
I decided to hike to the summit of Angel’s Landing, which is a mountain that towers above the canyon floor. The hike is about 5-miles roundtrip and involves a 1,500 foot elevation gain. The first 2 miles up the mountain are on a well maintained trail, some of which is even paved. This section has 21 switchbacks that are called
“Walter’s Wiggles.” Okay, so no big deal. It was the last half mile that was memorable. This section proceeds up a steep rock rib along a narrow fin with exposures of more than 1,000 feet on each side. My heart was pounding almost like it did when I was crossing the ladders in the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest. I have never fancied myself as a rock climber. My climb of the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia was a technical rock climb, rated in one section as 5.9, but I was clipped into a fixed line for most of the route up the mountain. Not on Angel’s Landing. It didn’t help that I had to use one hand to carry my still photo and video camera equipment since I did not bring a back pack, so I was basically climbing with one hand. Fortunately, they had some chains to use as hand holds in the steeper sections of the climb.
As I crested the peak, I was relieved that my climb was over and I could return to terra firma. That’s when I noticed an even higher peak off in the distance that was accessed only by a jagged knife-edged ridge. I was glad that was not my destination. Wrong! The peak I was looking at was Angel’s Landing, so my trip was far from over. In fact, the hard part was just beginning. At that point, I was reminded of some sage advice that was passed along to me by my good friend Bud Allen, who is a pilot. His flight instructor once told him, as they contemplated bad weather: “I would rather be down here wishing I was up there, than up there wishing I was down here.” But, I decided that if I sucked it up and moved slow, I could make it to Angel’s Landing. And, I did. The fairytale view from the summit was spectacular. I could see the entire Zion Canyon, the Virgin River directly below and all of the neighboring mountains, including the famous “Great White Tower.
Tuesday afternoon, I traveled to the Grand Canyon and stayed in a cabin just outside the Park. On Wednesday (today), I visited the North Rim in the morning and then traveled 205 miles around the Canyon and visited the South Rim in the afternoon. Last year, I did a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon with some friends, hiking down the South Rim and up the North Rim on the same day. So it was good to re-visit this great national treasure.
The next report will be my last, as I hope to make it home tomorrow. In case you are wondering, I plan to post some of my photos and video footage on my “eightsummits.com” website when I get home. I’ll let you know when they are posted.
OCTOBER 24, 2008
Palm Desert, California
I’m home safe! Well, sort of.
As discussed below, I took one last detour through Joshua Tree National Park. This put me within 30 minutes from our condominium in Palm Desert, California. Since Sharon is pounding the pavement in Las Vegas this weekend, getting out the vote, I decided to take a few rest days in Palm Desert before returning home.
Thursday, I left Grand Canyon and put my bike on a heading due southwest for Costa Mesa, California. At the last minute, I decided to detour off highway 40 through the Joshua Tree National Park in California. What a great decision, since this put me on the Historic “Route 66,” a highway that originally stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles for a total of 2,448 miles. Route 66 has long been replaced by the interstate highway system and is marked by abandoned gas stations, cafes and motels. I snapped some great photos of this classic highway and these wonderful landmarks, including one gas station/café that still sports a wonderful old west mural at its entrance.
As I was about to enter the Park, I noticed a strange scraping noise coming off my front wheel. I pulled into 29 Palms and had a motorcycle mechanic check out the noise. He declared my bike safe to ride, expressing the view that the noise was probably caused by the brake shoe or the speedometer cable. Not satisfied, I stopped at another motorcycle shop and asked for a second opinion. The cigar chomping, bearded, tattooed, ear-ringed and grissled Harley veteran pronounced the same judgment. So, off I went. By the time I entered the Park, it was getting dark, so I rode through the Park and stayed in a cheesy motel in Joshua Tree City. This morning, I re-entered the Park so I could capture this experience in photo and film.
Joshua Tree National Park lies between the high Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert and is known for its rare Joshua trees, rock formations and wildflowers. It is very popular in the rock climbing community. It has some of the most interesting geologic displays in the California desert system. It was declared a National Monument in 1936 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The ride through the Park in the welcome heat of the California desert was fantastic. I arrived in Palm Desert around 11:30 am. I notified my family of my safe arrival. My daughter, Lisa, responded that she won’t breathe easy until my bike pulls into the garage in Costa Mesa and is locked down for good. Given the freeway system in California, I suppose she is right.
One of the many reasons I love these solo motorcycle trips is that it gives me the freedom to make these last second detours without having to answer to the “group.” For example, I almost bypassed the trip through the US National Park system, which would have been a mistake of colossal proportion. Traveling on a two-wheeler is an indescribable thrill. Everything is experienced up front and personal. The sights, sounds and smells can simply not be enjoyed through a windshield. In addition, not once did I have to answer any of the following questions:
“When will be get there?”
“How many more freeways?”
“Why are we stopping here?”
“Can we leave now?”
“We already saw that”
“It all looks the same”
“I need to pee”
“Johnny is kicking me”
“Suzie is making faces”
“Is there a pool at this stop?”
“My game boy isn’t working”
“When are we going home?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love my family beyond description. We went on many trips while our family was young, and I cherish the memories of every one of those trips. But, traveling on a motorcycle is just plain different. I can’t begin to count how many times I passed a point of interest on my motorcycle and turned around and went back, only to tell myself that I am so glad for the turnaround.
I thank all of you for letting me share this trip experience with you. I hope my adventure at least provided some comic relief. Maybe you will be influenced to live and experience your own dream. That would be a very good thing.
God bless all of you,
SOME INTERESTING/HUMOROUS STATISTICS:
- Bike Specs: 1998 Harley Davidson Road King Classic; 1,450 cc’s; dual stroke V-twin engine; 728 pounds; air ride suspension; rubber mounted motor
- Bike performance: 10 out of 10
- Elapsed time of trip: 37-days
- Logged miles: 6,279
- Top speed on the trip: 90 mph
- Typical cruising speed: 65 mph
- Gasoline consumption: 48 mpg
- Close calls: 5
- Bike lay downs: 2
- States visited: 10 (California, Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and Nevada)
- Canadian Provinces visited: 3 (British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan)
- National Parks visited: 7 (Banff, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree)
- Favorite Park: Yellowstone
- Favorite days (not in order of importance): Jason fixing my bike in Revelstoke; re-entering the United States from Canada; hooking up with Sharon, Uncle Harold and Aunt Beverly at the Little House on the Prairie in North Dakota; and summiting Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park
- Least favorite days (not in order of importance): losing my saddle bag on the second day of the trip and almost meeting my maker outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming (the image of that deer, seconds before the near collision, will be burned in my memory forever)
- Most humorous moment: when the female bartender in Agness, Oregon challenged her drunk male patron to a fight. The outcome of the fight is unknown, since I left when the challenge was issued (sizing them up, I am pretty sure she would have whopped him good)*
- Chain/franchise restaurants: 0
- Favorite motel: the brand new cabin just outside of the Grand Canyon
- Most stayed-in motel: Best Western, since they have free computer service
- Favorite meal: pasta with chicken in the lodge near the Grand Canyon
- Tickets and police stops: 0
- Rivers fished: 4 (Rogue, Bow, Firehole and Snake)
- Fish hooked and caught: 1
- Items lost: saddlebag and its contents (G-9 camera, I-pod speaker & maps), camera dunked in the Rogue River and 1 pair of gloves lost in Bryce Canyon
- Clothes purchased: gloves
- Number of photos: 525
- Video footage: 5-hours
* This requires an explanation. I do not frequent bars. But, when I stayed at the mountain lodge in Agness, Oregon, there was only 1 television in the entire complex, and it was located in the bar adjacent to the restaurant. USC was playing Oregon State, and I wanted to watch the game. The fireworks started after the game was completed. Outcome of the game: USC lost its first game of the season and its number “1” national ranking. Boo hoo. I attended Stanford.
Click here a video of the trip.