British Columbia ride report…

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Lytton, British Columbia,  writing this update. It’s about 8:00PM and it’s still daylight out. It’ll probably be light out for at least a couple more hours at this latitude. The hotel room is dark though because of a power outage caused by a forest fire raging 30 miles north. They say that the wind is blowing in the other direction, so we are safe here and we probably won’t need to be evacuated. Let’s hope they are right, because I just unplugged the battery from my motorcycle to prevent it from dying again like it did two nights ago in Vancouver. If I wake up in the middle of the night with the town in flames, there probably won’t be very much time to reconnect the battery, load up my assorted luggage and flee. If anything – this morbid thought did strike me – I’d have to abandon yet another motorcycle in Canada.

Going back to the beginning, I rode up to Canada on Wednesday for some work with the US Consulate. I stayed at the Victorian Hotel downtown, which was a delightful little place, bright and cheerful and certainly very Victorian. Outside of the faint-inducing shock of the added taxes (HST? Parking tax?) it was quite a comfortable place to live in and the location was central enough that I could easily walk to several different neighborhoods. By the third night though, I had had quite enough of the Victorian and of Vancouver. I realize now that even though I prefer to live in a big city, there comes a point when the incessant noise, fumes, cigarette smoke, and the overwhelming sensory overload starts taking its toll. Vancouver reminded me a lot of Montreal, where I spent a couple of days last summer when I rode my motorcycle out along the East Coast. I probably wouldn’t mind going back up there for a weekend sometime, but as of this morning, I was ready to leave.

I could have ridden straight back south to Seattle, but it seemed a shame to have ridden the I-5 slog all the way to the border and not explore some of the motorcycling roads up north. So I consulted my Destination Highways – British Columbia book and plotted a rough idea of a route – the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver up north to Whistler and Pemberton, then the Duffy Highway to Lillooet (a name that’s always sounded rather charming), then south to Lytton and Hope, and towards the border, crossing over at Sumas and either I-5 back to Seattle, or the more pleasant Highway 9, depending on how I was doing with time. This is what it looks like in Bing Maps.

Considering that I can generally do about 300 miles on an average day, I figured I could even make it to Bellingham by Saturday night and wondered if I could resist the temptation to just keep going home so I could sleep in my own bed. I needn’t have worried though, because as it turns out, I only rode about 200 miles to Lytton, feeling so tired, dehydrated and sore that I just wanted to go curl up in bed and take a long nap. This then is what the first long-ish ride of the season feels like.

To be fair, the 200 miles that I did do were probably on the twistiest roads I have ridden in the past five years. I’m talking twisties with no end to them, with hardly any stretch of a straightaway to relax for a few minutes. I knew that my riding skills had gotten really rusty after the very first five miles on the Sea to Sky Highway when I realized that I was exerting the death grip of doom on the handlebars. I didn’t really let up for the next 195 miles, hence the crushing soreness in my upper back and shoulders now.

If I could analyze all the contributing factors that led to what was a really uncomfortable, not very fun day of riding today, here’s a list in no particular order – my glasses are all scratched up and they kept getting smudged (I’m out of contacts) making it difficult to focus; wearing glasses also meant that I had zero peripheral vision, which is fine for the short commute to work, but not an all-day, very technical ride; my visor was also scratched up with one big scratch right between my eyeballs from where I dropped my helmet at the border three days ago; my left saddlebag was heavier than the right, causing the bike to handle very peculiarly in certain corners; some sections of the road were extremely bumpy and my bike’s suspension is dialed up to super-stiff so that I could practically feel my brain sloshing around in my head; my GPS stopped charging from the mount (again!) and so I had no music; there was lots of traffic on the road for the first 50 miles and eerrily no traffic in the last 75 or so. The list goes on and I could keep going, except I’m beginning to sound like a right old crybaby now, aren’t I?

The last 40 miles between Lillooet to Lytton were – and I’m still a little surprised to say this – one of the most harrowing rides I have done in a long time. By this time I was exhausted enough that I wasn’t thinking straight anymore, very dehydrated, it was hot and dry, the road had sheer drops on the side that triggered my fear of heights so badly that I was practically riding in the wrong lane, the wind was blowing hard, enough to blow me around a couple of times where I almost thought I was going to drop the bike, there were a few gravel stretches that came out of nowhere, and I hit a rock that that made me wobble violently (I remember thinking that if I had been a n00b, that would have been a sure-fire trigger to panic brake and really go down), and the scenery was mind-numbingly boring. Of course, everything’s boring if you don’t dare to look around you and force yourself to keep looking straight ahead at the road.

A quote from the DH guys on this stretch of road – “At 17.3 km, the road narrows to a twisty one-lane trail across an immense gravel slope that plunges right to the river. The collapsing rubble and pockmarks on the pavement testify to the rockslides that pummel this precarious stretch of road. Afraid of heights? Don’t look to the right. The narrow road, sheer drop off, and collapsed barrier can be disconcerting. One missed corner and you’ll be on the the world’s worst trials course.”

I read this after the fact, of course.

Which brings us to Lytton. It isn’t so much a one horse town as it’s a town that used to be a one horse town except that they killed and ate the horse a long time ago. They had a Visitor Center, the sight of which made me want to giggle hysterically. I stepped in on a lark, and as it turns out, it’s rather fortunate that I did. They sold “tokens” for wifi there, which I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The entire town uses the same wifi network and there is no cell phone coverage. I was met with blank looks when I asked them what they did in the evenings. “You could go down to the river…” was the best suggestion I heard. I might just do that.

In parting, one thought that struck me during today’s ride was that I seem to have lost the enthusiasm I used to have to find new roads and to document my rides. I thought back to the times when I first started riding alone through Washington state and how I used to stop every 5-10 miles to take pictures, and did a long, illustrated trip report when I got home. As my bikes got bigger and I started riding more miles at a stretch, the desire to stop at all appears to have faded away. I didn’t see anything today that made me want to pull over and just pause and look, much less photograph. Is it because BC is so similar to Washington and there really wasn’t anything new to see? Was it the oppressively hot weather? Was the ride reflective of my general state of mind for the past week – stressed out, unhappy, trying to find an ever-elusive escape? I don’t know what it is, but it worries me a little. In exactly ten days, I board a flight to Slovenia for a one month long motorcycling vacation. If today’s ride is reflective of what that’s going to be like, am I out of my mind to be spending so much time and money on something that has lost its allure for me? I dearly hope not, but I guess there’s no way to find out without going through with it.

Riding through British Columbia next week…

In other news, I have to go to Vancouver, BC mid-next week for some work. I’m planning on riding there and figure maybe I could spend the weekend riding up north to Whistler, Pemberton and Lillooet and back. And possibly a detour to Vancouver Island and Victoria for a day if I have the time. Hmm… first long ride of the summer. I think I’m going to spend this weekend sorting out my camping gear and the like, which I haven’t really sorted through since the x-country ride last August. Cannot believe that almost a year has passed since then!


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And somewhere up in BC…

My friends John and Bernhard are riding up through the Yukon this week. John’s just posted an OK signal from his SPOT messenger from Hyder. No doubt they are getting Hyderized this very minute. He promised to have one on me while over there.

Looking at their track and the route they took - the same one Sarah and I did two years ago – makes me wistful and nostalgic. I remember that morning when we rode over from Hazelton and those last fantastic 40 miles between the Cassiar Highway junction and Hyder. It was the twistiest ride I did on that trip and the most gorgeous. I look back at the pictures and it’s difficult for me to believe that that was me out there. I miss it but all I can do is live vicariously through them and be happy that they are out experiencing the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.


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Back from the Cascades!

Vagabiker and I decided to take off towards the Cascade mountains for the long weekend after our initial plans to go dual-sporting in the Peninsula were ruined because of rain. The Cascades go from north to south through the center of Washington state and the weather to the east of the mountain range is usually warmer and drier because the mountains block the rain.

We were intending to leave around 10:00AM but we over-estimated and ended up leaving at a shocking 2:00PM. We both had issues on our bikes that we had to fix before we hit the road. Bad bikers fixing stuff right before a long ride! It’s a good thing nobody else was waiting on us. My Gerbing electric vest wasn’t getting charged from the XT. I couldn’t take the fuse out to see if it had blown, so I swapped it with the one on the SV and it worked. And Sterling’s GPS wasn’t getting charged from his mount anymore. He was unable to fix this and gave up and decided to reply on my GPS and mount. Fortunately we both use Zumos, so we decided to swap after one of them lost charge. It wasn’t ideal but it was the best we could do at such short notice.

We hit the road and headed north. We had plotted our route the previous night, which would roughly take us towards Sultan, then the Ben Howard Road towards Skykomish, on to Steven’s Pass, then off-road on a forest service road towards Lake Wenatchee, and finally another trail towards Lake Chelan, where we would stop for the night.

Day 1 - P1050278

Unfortunately we had such a late start that we made it to Skykomish at 4:30PM. By the time we went over the pass and reached the first forest service road, we found that it was completely blocked by snow. Bummer! It had also been steadily raining and we were cold from going over the pass and reaching 4000+ feet elevation. We decided to continue riding US-2 to Lake Wenatchee and find a campground so that we could set up camp and relax and eat a good meal while it was still light out.

This turned out to be a good plan. We found a really good campsite at Nason Creek campground – the first place we looked. Being back in nature with the familiar camping smells was so fantastic. :) We set up camp and Sterling went out to gather wood while I started fixing our dinner of shrimp pasta. We ate by the fire and then went for a long walk. We didn’t find Lake Wenatchee but we did end up in this woody forested area mottled with pretty flowers. As the light started to fail, we returned to camp and hung out around the fire, sipping wine and scotch.

Day 1 - P1030472

Day 2, we set out on the trail to Lake Chelan. We started on Chumstick Highway before getting on to the first FS road. It was a smooth, easy ride, even for a n00b like me, with lots of pretty views. There were a few spots that made me go *gulp* because of the height and drop-off, but I made it through them. Sterling was a fantastic guide and he kept a good pace that I could keep up with. At times he would take off into the distance, but I knew he would wait for me at the intersections so I kept my pace and went slow. I was probably excruciatingly slow but I wanted to finish the ride more than I wanted to go fast, and riding on dirt is still so unusual for me that I have to completely focus on it and take my time getting used to the feel of the bike on gravel, rocks and mud.

Day 2 - P1050291

Day 2 - P1050294

Day 2 - P1050298

Day 2 - P1030511

Day 2 - P1030500


Memorial Day weekend plans…

Vagabiker and I are trying to figure out what we’re going to do for the Memorial Day weekend. We’ve been riding down to Eugene, OR for the past two years for the unofficial BMW “Spring Forward” party (incidentally, that’s where we first met). This year we can either continue the tradition (which would be nice as we’ll get to see many familiar faces whom we haven’t seen in a while) or we can try something totally different.

We are toying with the idea of going dual-sporting on the Peninsula and try out a few rides from the Sound Rider Guide to Dual Sport Rides in Western Washington. This time we have the GPS files, so that we don’t get hopelessly lost and turned around. Motorcycling and camping – can’t believe it’s only a week away!



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New X-Country Ride page…

I have added a new page that shares the highlights of my cross-country ride from this summer here:


Route: Vermont – New York – Montreal – Vermont – New Hampshire – Maine – Massachusetts – Connecticut – New Jersey – Pennsylvania – West Virginia – Ohio – Michigan – Wisconsin – Minnesota – South Dakota – Wyoming – Montana – Idaho – Washington (18 states, 2 countries). I shipped the bike to New Hampshire, flew there, and rode it back.

Total Miles: ~5800 miles. I averaged about 300 miles per day.


Bike: My 2001 naked SV650. Why this bike? Because it was either this one or my XT225 and I wanted the power of a 650. I also wanted to ride what I already owned rather than going through the expense and effort of getting a new bike and setting it up for touring. I had already toured on the SV and while it wasn’t perfect, it had adequate power, was relatively comfortable, and had a hacky touring setup that would do. Not to mention, there aren’t very many touring bikes out there for a person my size, so it was up to me to rig out a bike that worked for touring. I comforted myself with the fact that compared to women who rode cross country a hundred years ago, this bike was still close to rocket science.

Time Taken: 1 month (mid-July to mid-August). I didn’t ride all day every day. I took a few days off to hang out with friends and see the sights.


  1. Visiting the east coast for the first time ever and riding up to the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Feeling the thrill of seeing the skylines of the great east coast cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia for the first time.
  3. Camping on Lake Champlain and riding through the Adirondacks.
  4. Spending time in Montreal and riding through a bit of Quebec.
  5. Vermont – my favorite state of all, so green, so picturesque and such perfect motorcycling roads.
  6. Riding through all of New England and on the coast of Maine.
  7. Seeing people driving buggies in Pennsylvania Dutch Amish country and spending a night at the historic Gettysburg.
  8. Visiting the AMA Motorcycling Museum in Pickerington, OH. I wouldn’t make a trip especially for this, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you are in the area. I sat on Will Smith’s bike from I Robot and saw Neil Peart’s bike!
  9. Riding the M22 along Lake Michigan.
  10. Taking the Mackinac bridge to the Upper Peninsula.
  11. Walking through the Badlands of South Dakota.
  12. South Dakota in general. Contrary to what I had heard from other riders, some of my favorite riding was through here, starting with the vast, tranquil cornfields to the east through miles of vast prairie in the middle, and
  13. suddenly out of nowhere lush green forest to the west, with Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.
  14. Riding through some amazing roads in Wyoming to Devil’s Tower.
  15. Mostly good, calm weather in the Great Plains. I had been dreading this stretch after hearing stories from friends who rode through winds that threatened to blow their heavily loaded GSes into the other lane.
  16. Seeing the skyline of Seattle after what seemed like an eternity and forever seeing the city with new eyes.
  17. Meeting cool people along the way, like the BMW rider in Portland, from the BMWMOA anonymous book who was kind enough to give me shelter for a night after I was trapped in torrential rains and couldn’t find affordable lodging anywhere in the city; the old Korean war veteran Harley rider in New Hampshire who took my picture and showed me his medals; the crazy kid from Ohio on a Honda 919 pulling a gigantic trailer who was doing his own solo x-country ride; the cool biker boys in Rhinelander, WI; the crusty old bikers riding back from Sturgis; the riders whom I had only ever known online and finally met in real life; and so many of those out on the road that I met and chatted with over cups of gas station coffee and cigarettes.
  18. Seeing and experiencing a little of everything – big cosmopolitan cities, historic little towns, artsy towns, rural forgotten villages, hostels and campgrounds, winding, twisty roads, iconic roads, roads that went straight for days on end, big, polluted interstates, rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, prairies, glorious sunny skies, 100+ degrees sweltering heat and humidity, torrential rains, thunderstorms…
  19. Doing this alone and making it back to Seattle alive and in one piece. For those of you acquainted with the incidents from last year, this was a bit of a big deal for me.


  1. Weather: Being plagued by bad weather for the first two weeks. They say this was the wettest summer the east coast has gotten in the past ten years. Riding through torrential downpours got very old very quick. I soon learned to start scanning weather reports and radar maps to map my route for the day. I had to make some hard decisions like completely avoiding riding through Virginia and Tennessee. I had been looking forward to riding the Skyline Ridge and Deal’s Gap, but alas, those areas were plagued by ugly thunderstorms and it didn’t make a sense to be miserable and ride through there just to say that I had done it. When it wasn’t raining, it 90+ degree temperatures. Closer to home, I gave both Lolo Pass and Glacier a miss because of pouring down rain and running short on time.
  2. Tollbooths: F***ing tollbooths. Waiting in line for miles in 95+ degree weather in full gear to pay toll. Losing ticket and being forced to pay the entire toll. I f***ing hate tollbooths.
  3. The Sick: Falling sick in Columbus, OH. I lost 4 whole days of riding and forced myself to ride while sick for three days afterward because I was afraid I wouldn’t make my deadline. Riding when you can barely stand kinda sucks. This also meant that I had to miss going south through Colorado like I had planned and I never really got to ride through the Rockies.
  4. Gremlins: My bike’s electrical gremlins coming back to haunt me where on two different instances the bike refused to start. I thought I had taken care of this before I had left by replacing the starter, but I was mistaken.
  5. Sturgis: Missing Sturgis, that is. Hokey as it might sound, it seemed appropriate to experience it on a ride like this, but I missed it by a day.
  6. Bike down! Having the bike go down on a gravel pullout and being unable to pick it up, predictably on a little travelled road in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming.
  7. Being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic near Sultan 30 miles away from home.




Beautiful, green Vermont

Montpelier, VT

Montpelier, VT

Burlington, VT

Burlington, VT

Ferry to New York State

Ferry to New York State


Camping at Cumberland State Park in NY

Camping at Cumberland State Park in NY

Lake Champlain Scenic Highway

Lake Champlain Scenic Highway

Ausuble Chasm, NY

Ausuble Chasm, NY



Auberge Jeunesse Youth Hostel, Montreal, Quebec

Auberge Jeunesse Youth Hostel, Montreal, Quebec

Downtown Montreal

Downtown Montreal

Vieux Montreal

Vieux Montreal


Crossing back into the United States


Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine

At the Atlantic Ocean with Bill Garcelon

At the Atlantic Ocean with Bill Garcelon

Along the Coast of Maine

Along the Coast of Maine


The site of the Boston Tea Party

The site of the Boston Tea Party



An iconic moment

New York City across the water from Ellis Island

New York City across the water from Ellis Island

In the eye of a thunderstorm

In the eye of a thunderstorm

New Jersey diner

A New Jersey diner

New York City

New York City



The Liberty Bell, PH

Riding through Philly
Riding through Philly
The streets of Philadelphia



Cumberland, MD



At the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, OH

At the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, OH

On Will Smith's MV Augusta from "I, Robot"

On Will Smith’s MV Augusta from “I, Robot”




At Northport, MI, the northernmost tip of the iconic M22

Crossing the Mackinac Bridge into Michigan's Upper Peninsula


The backroads of rural Wisconsin

The backroads of rural Wisconsin



Cherry and Spoon in Minneapolis





Crossing the Badlands of South Dakota

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

Camping at Custer State Park

Camping at Custer State Park


A curious tower in the distance.

A curious tower in the distance.

Devil's Tower, WY

Devil’s Tower, WY

Hundreds of miles of barrenness

Hundreds of miles of barrenness

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park


Galladin National Forest - worth a journey by itself

Galladin National Forest – worth a journey by itself

Riding through Galladin National Forest in Montana

The lovely mountain town of Missoula, MT

The lovely mountain town of Missoula, MT



1920s mobster themed restaurant in Sandpoint, ID

1920s mobster themed restaurant in Sandpoint, ID


Home again

Home again


Some last pre-journey words
Heading out to Lebanon, New Hampshire
Landed in Lebanon
Today in Hanover
Vermont and New Hampshire
Montpelier by Night
Nightfall at Cumberland
Columbus, Ohio
Update from Lake Michigan
From Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Getting to Minneapolis
St. Ignace, Minneapolis
Riding through South Dakota
Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, South Dakota
Update from Ten Sleep, Wyoming
Day 2 in Missoula, Montana
Update from Sandpoint, Idaho
Home Again


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Riding to Poulsbo…

This past weekend was lovely and quite unexpectedly so. I was planning on going up to Victoria, but changed my plans when I realized that I was riding up to Whistler the next weekend. I decided instead to go with Vagabiker to the “Fall Down” party in Poulsbo held every year by the sales manager of Southsound BMW. Since this meant going over to the Kitsap Peninsula, I figured I might as well make a day of it and bring the XT to go off-road.

Late Friday evening out meant waking up late Saturday morning and we still needed to get packed and ready for camping that night. We also tried to make a GPS route of the route we wanted to take between Lake Cushman and Quilcene. This meant getting a late start on our ride. One of the ferries to Bremerton wasn’t working so we were forced to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and ride south towards Bremerton. For some reason this took forever. It was raining a lot at the start of the trip and I was a little wary about being rained on and miserable for the rest of the day. Once we got past Belfair though, the rain let up. The road between Belfair and Union was twisty and brilliant. We reached the start of the trail almost at 4PM. I guess we should have checked road conditions because quite a few roads dead ended and led to nowhere and we were unable to find a path that led north. Bummer!

It was brilliant getting to practice riding offroad though. After the initial few roads and hiccups, I even started standing on the footpegs and riding quite comfortably that way. My biggest fear was not being able to react or brake in time, but I think that that will come with practice.

After about an hour of trying to find the route and failing, we got back on 101 and decided to just follow it up north along the Hood Canal and then turn east at the tip across the Hood Canal Bridge to Poulsbo. It had started to get dark by then and the fog made everything look spooky and mysterious. I found myself wondering how it was that I was having way more fun throwing around my 250cc dirt bike around the corners compared to my 650cc sportsbike. :)

We reached Poulsbo at around 8PM and decided to stop at a grocery store to pick something up for the party. We had intended to just go eat dinner at the party, but by this time we were so tired and hungry that we made our way to the downtown area (which was very charming!) and went to a European restaurant that he had been to before. Tizzley’s was great if a bit expensive. He got Jaegershnitzel and I got Swedish meatballs, both of which were very good. Mmm… good food at the end of a good ride, and the night was just beginning.

By the time we got to the party, it was already underway. We set up camp in the dark and headed over to the main area. There were many new faces and a few old friends whom I was happy to see. Whiskey and beer seemed to be the order of the night, but the beer was all gone and we didn’t want to drink whiskey all night, so we ended up drinking the wine we had brought. :P After many good conversations and cuddling by the fire, the night ended with a block of an old Volkswagen engine case made of magnesium getting ignited in the fire. Amid shouts of – “Don’t look at it! Don’t breathe the fumes!”, we headed away from the fire and retired to the tent for a very sound night’s sleep.

The next morning I had a change to actually see where we were. Camping in a field full of motorcyclists is quite something and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. We lingered over breakfast and coffee and more conversation before saying our goodbyes.

It was a brilliant day out and we decided to ride north to Port Townsend and catch the ferry to Langley and then to Mukilteo before heading back to Seattle. As it turns out, we weren’t able to do quite this because we didn’t plan enough with the ferry schedules, and ended up riding back to the Bainbridge Island ferry, but we did get some good riding in. And hanging around Port Townsend is always lovely. We rambled around Fort Warden a little bit, took a look at some of the old war bunkers and checked out the lighthouse before heading to the downtown area for a good meal at an underground Victorian cafe (antipasto salad, black bean soup and roast beef sandwiches).

The day ended with taking the ferry back to Seattle and home. I was way more tired than I had expected, but that’s the sign of a good weekend, isn’t it? :)






Home again…

I am finally home in Seattle after having ridden from Sandpoint, ID – about 350 something miles in a day.

I had originally intended to take the scenic route home by getting on Highway 20 and going west all the way to Rockport before turning south. However, the delay of the previous day waiting at Sandpoint meant that this would be a 500+ mile route and I wouldn’t be able to do it in one day. This would mean staying somewhere in the Cascades for a night and returning home on Monday morning. Now that I was so close to home, this didn’t seem like such an appealing proposition. Jake hadn’t made it to Sandpoint either in spite of his best efforts because of the bad weather and long distance that he had had to cover. The more I thought about it and mapped the distances via various routes, I realized that taking Hwy 2 home would be the shortest possible route and would place me in Seattle on Sunday evening while it was still light out and I would be able to spend the evening with my boyfriend. Somehow it felt that the moment I entered Washington the adventure was over. I have ridden through most of my home state and I didn’t have any desire to dawdle and do any side trips.

Highway 2 it was. I headed down south from Sandpoint onto Hwy 2 and then took a couple of detours via Deer Park and Rearden to avoid going through Spokane. The side roads were nice. They were mostly remote farmlands and forests and I even went through one area with little families of birds – guinea fowls perhaps? – walking on the side of the road.

Then it was back through Hwy 2 again for the next 300 miles. I went through about 200 miles of desert – big sky country again! It started off being pretty with golden yellow landscapes vanishing into the distance. This soon gave way to rough, hostile country with gusts of wind strong enough to create little dust storms. I started having a rough time of it and spend nearly the entire time crouched down and tucked in low on my bike. Not before a particularly nasty gust blew my map window clean off the tank and into the fields. I was too weary to pull over and go look for it, and kept going, feeling really bad at the loss of a piece of what had been a vital piece of equipment on my ride.

I stopped briefly at Coulee City and talked to a bunch of Harley riders who had just spend a very rainy week at Glacier NP. This matched Jake’s version of the conditions in the park the previous day and I was relieved to have missed it after all.

I had lunch at a delightful little cafe at Waterville – a Rueben melt on rye with chips and some bread pudding. It took a superhuman effort to make myself stop for that long because I really just wanted to keep going without any breaks.

Soon I went through Leavenworth and then on to the scenic highway through Steven’s Pass. It was 84 miles of beautiful scenery that was all but lost on me. As I got within 20 miles of Gold Bar, I suddenly got stuck in hellish traffic – the kind where everything is gridlocked bumper to bumper for as far as you can see.

This is when I started cracking. Why was this happening? I’d been on the road for a month and all I wanted was to go home. I was barely 30 miles away from getting to Seattle and this just seemed completely unfair. There were no side roads I could take to bypass the gridlock either.

Some of the locals said that this was pretty normal for a Sunday evening and would get even worse as time went by. Wondering how it could possibly get any worse, I got back into the road. I started seeing occassionaly motorcycles whipping past on the shoulder. While I have never ridden in the shoulder in the past, no matter how dire the circumstance, this time I said fuck it and did the same. I was willing to chance a ticket if it won me any time and got me off the road. I got several disapproving looks and gestures from cars stalled on the highway, including one diesel truck that pulled into the shoulder to block me. I can understand their disapproval but blocking the shoulder seemed a little childish and made me roll my eyes.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it to 522. My GPS must have been had some kind of Welcome to Washington agenda, because it routed me through all the major freeways – 522W to 405S to 520W to I5S. I was tired and very thirsty and running low on gas, but there was no way I was going to pull over even for a few minutes. As the Seattle skyline arose before my eyes, I couldn’t stop grinning.

Very soon I had gotten off the James St. exit and turned onto the street that my boyfriend lives on. I pulled over excitedly outside his house and called him. When I asked him to come outside, he said he couldn’t because he was over at my place. DOH…!

I grumbled and got back on and this time rode to Capitol Hill to my place, riding through all the familiar streets and noting that – unbelievable as it might be – nothing had changed.

I pulled over into my parking spot at the back of my building and Sterling came outside and gave me a big hug. We laughed at the mix up, took some pictures a, unloaded my bike and went inside unable to stop talking and hugging. He had brought me flowers as a Welcome Home present, which made me very happy. Gotta love a guy who manages to get everything right! :) I played with my cat who didn’t seem to have missed me one bit.

On to Top Pot Donuts, ovaltine lattes and more conversation.

Later on in the night he asked me how it felt to be back and I replied that I was too soon to say, but it almost felt like it had been a dream. Everything here seemed so normal and commonplace that I couldn’t quite believe that I had ridden my motorcycle through a continent and made it back home.

And that’s how I do feel. No doubt I will spend some time analyzing my thoughts about the journey and write them down, but right now it just seems like a beautiful dream. It will take me some time to get used to life back home. I cannot wait to see all my friends again and especially spend some quality time with Sterling to make up for my long absence.

Above all, this doesn’t feel like the end of something. It’s more like the beginning of bigger and better things to come. I can’t wait to see what the future unfolds…

Update from Sandpoint, ID

Got a late start this morning after it took almost a half hour wait to get my order of breakfast at Catalyst Espresso where I had eaten at yesterday. They were nice about it though and didn’t charge me so I couldn’t be too upset.

I managed to get out on the road at 10:30AM which I didn’t mind very much because I didn’t have very far to go today – just north 200 miles to Sandpoint, ID.

I got on 93N instead of I90W and within 15 miles, I wished I hadn’t as I ploughed straight into a heavy construction zone. I had reminiscences of Alaska as we followed a pace car through about 10 miles of the worst bits. There was plenty of non-pavement, gravel and some muddy sections. It wasn’t too bad though and could keep a good pace through it all. When it was finally over, I pulled over into a vacant parking lot to unpack my tailbag and bring out my fleece lined winter gloves.

It hadn’t been to cold when I got out of the hotel but now it as freezing. It had started to rain as soon as I had left Missoula. I plugged in my heated vest and put on the gloves. For some reason the gloves kept feeling bulky and clumsy and I didn’t very much like wearing them even though I’ve worn them in the past without any problem.

I rode about 50 more miles before swapping them back with my Helds. My vest was keeping my core warm enough that I didn’t mind my hands getting a bit cold.

By this time I was on MT-200 and about 110 miles from Sandpoint. I figured I’d break it up into two parts and stop once along the way for lunch. The route turned out to mostly connect multiple fishing towns though and I didn’t see any interesting places to stop at. When I saw that I was only about 30 miles away from my destination, I decided to keep going even though it was getting past lunchtime and I could feel a bad headache coming on.

I made it to Sandpoint by 3 and stopped in the downtown area to get lunch – a blackened catfish po’ boy sandwich with a creamy broccoli soup and some decaf cappuchino.

I spent a good part of an hour agonizing over whether I should stop there for the night as I had planned or keep going. After having taken a day off from riding I wanted to keep going and not just stop. The 200 miles seemed like a teaser and I needed more. Also, if I stopped there, it would bring me to Seattle on Monday morning whereas if I kept going I might be able to make it there on Sunday night.

On the other hand, I had agreed to meet up with Jake in Sandpoint and there was no way he could catch up with me if I went another 150 miles further. I had my doubts whether he would catch up with me anyway seeing as he was in Big Timber, MT that morning and headed up to Glacier before turning west to Idaho, but it was the principle of the thing. I also didn’t want to rush through the last two day of my ride and see nothing but interstate. I’ve ridden through almost all of Washington except for the northeast part and now was an excellent chance to see it.

It was a really hard decision to make. Seattle was so close by I could almost smell the coffee. If I just got on I90 and kept going for 6 hours, I could make it home by midnight, see my cat again and spend Sunday with my boyfriend. Of course I knew that he would never let me live it down if I did this and besides it would go against the spirit of this ride, so with a heavy heart I decided to stick to plan and find a place to spend the night.

I was starting to feel really tired too so it seemed like the best thing to do even though I wasn’t happy about it.

After Missoula I got a sticker shock when I started calling around to find a place to stay. This being a resort town nothing was under $150. I finally found a Motel 6 for $57 although it was 2.5 miles away from downtown. When I got there they gave me a room for $45 because the airconditioning was broken, which I didn’t mind at all. Score!

It was also one of the nicest Motel 6 locations I have stayed at. I flopped down on the bed and slept for 2 straight hours.

When I woke up, it was about 6:30PM – I had crossed back over into Pacific Standard Time. I got on the bike and started towards downtown. To my disappointment, everything was closed and the place was a ghost town. I managed to find a cool 1920s mobster themed tapas bar that also served sushi. I got some very good decaf french press coffee and gyoza and a Black Widow roll.

After dinner, I rode back to the motel, stopping on the way to get gas. I pondered over what else to do but there weren’t very many options. Everything was closed except for the nightclubs. I could go to one of those but I wouldn’t be able to drink because I had to ride back. There was a big music festival in the park but it was outdoors and cold and rainy, not to mention sold out.

My evening appeared to have come to an abrupt end and I’m pretty sure that I’ll get the hell out of here tomorrow morning and start heading home.

Day 2 in Missoula, MT

Missoula has proven just the kind of town I have wanted to stop at to take my rest day. It is small, artistic and dwarfed by mountains on all sides. There are coffee shops and art galleries on every block in downtown. And the one thing I cannot get over is how friendly everyone is – I have barely passed a person who hasn’t smiled and said hello.

After breakfast this morning, I went back to the inn and lay in bed for a little bit. I couldn’t fall asleep though, so I took a shower, put on some clean clothes and went walking downtown. South of where the inn is lies a bridge that you can cross over and get to the “Hip Strip”. There were some cool little shops there, little boutiques and cool restaurants. I spent a lot of time in this one toy store that had the most delightful toys like I have never seen. They actually had an action figure of Enid from Ghost World, which made me very happy. I was right in guessing that the store was owned by a woman because there were a lot of cool toys for girls which weren’t pink.

I ate lunch at an Asian restaurant that had a really nice interior. There were some Japanese style tables and seating in the inner room, but I picked a booth instead. I got jasmine tea and a bento box that had grilled chicken with miso paste, brown rice, a spring salad, a salad made with cucumber slices and sprouts and some ripe cherries. It was delicious! I resolved to make my own bento box lunches when I got back to Seattle. :)

I strolled through the shops some more and bought a silver tunic like coat which will look excellent with black leggings and boots, a bottle of purple Butter nailpolish and some sterling silver heart shaped earrings.

I put the earrings on in the shop and as I walked outside I realized that I hadn’t worn earrings for almost a year. The last time I had earrings on was when I had been brought in to the hospital in Seattle last year and they had taken all my piercings out before the surgery. When I went home, they gave me a sealed pill box with the jewelry in it which I had tossed into the back of drawer. I’d occsasionally look at them with mixed feelings of quiet anger and bitterness. For some reason that I cannot put in words, I had never put them back in nor did I buy earrings to replace the ones that had been taken out. Putting on pretty heart shaped earrings today felt like a small victory, like maybe it was time to move on. I don’t know if I’ll get the other piercings done again. I don’t know if I am that person anymore.

I spent the next couple of hours wandering through the museum and little art shops. The Missoula Art Museum had some interesting pieces, as did some of the local artists.

I am now slouched on a big brown leather couch in a coffee shop called Liquid Planet, which in addition to coffee, sells all kinds of liquid beverages like tea, beer, root beer and wine. I even saw an entire display of mead. I felt tempted to buy some and ship it home, but I think I will just wait until I get to Seattle and find a local supplier for the sake of my pocketbook.

I talked to Jake when I woke up this morning and apparently he climbed Devil’s Tower successfully (good for him!) and was heading west. Apparently my strong feelings about Yellowstone resonated with him because he decided against going that way and is heading north towards Glacier NP instead. We are planning on meeting in Sandpoint, ID tommorrow night, from where we will ride to Seattle together. I hadn’t quite planned on riding with anybody on this ride, but I think I am quite happy to ride with him on the very last stretch of my ride through washington. If I were by myself, I’d probably be tempted to take the shortest path home, but with him I might just meander and take the nicer roads.

That’s all for now. I have some rather cool dinner plans. When I came down to the front desk to extend my stay by a night this morning, the guy who worked there turned out to be Indian and he asked me if I’d to join him and his wife and another family for a special dinner they were cooking to celebrate Janmasthami, an Indian festival to celebrate Lord Krishna’s birth. I’ve never done anything special for this holiday before but the thought of good, homecooked Indian food was tempting. He even said that he could bring some food over for me if I didn’t feel comfortable joining them. I was touched at this gesture and gratefully accepted and said that I’d be happy to come eat with them. So off I go to dinner now! :)

Update from Missoula, MT…

Woke up at the abyssmal hour of 5AM this morning when my alarm went off at 6AM Central Time. You would think I would be entitled to sleep in every time I change a time zone, but noooo…

Anyway, I did turn the alarm off and roll over and wake up two hours later. I was still really tired and worn out though. Got breakfast at a shop around the corner and scarfed down some eggs, sausages and toast, the last made with white bread which I haven’t tasted in years.

Got out on the road at 9:30AM today, still feeling tired and groggy but just wanting to make it to Missoula, a whopping 300 miles away. Into the first 10 miles of the ride, I think I was in Alpine heaven as I went through the Galladin National Forest. I was immersed in a landscape that for the first time on this ride reminded me of the vast splendour of Alaska. Huge mountains, frothing rivers, little idyllic lakes, big blue sky and white puffy clouds with the sun shining down through the cold, crisp air. This here was a slice of heaven and unlike anything I had imagined I would see in Montana. I couldn’t stop pulling over to take pictures. One lake in particular was arrestingly striking in that it had thin spiny trees growing right out of it. It was like nothing I had seen before. I couldn’t stop grinning with disbelief as I each corner revealed another new landscape.

Forty glorious miles later, the forest came to an end and I descended into a flat plateau of more desert which continued for another hundred miles. I think that by this time I had had just about enough of the big sky and longed for a break in the scenery. The forest and mountains I had passed through seemed like a distant memory. It was getting hot and dry and arid again and I could feel myself tiring. My bike wasn’t handling that well either and I felt like I had to really work hard to accelerate and maintain a good pace. The wind was back too, whipping my helmet around and making me feel like I was fighting the road, just trying to get through.

There were occassional breaks with unusual colored mountains in the distance, but these were few and far between. At one such spot, I thought of pulling over to get a good picture, and as I slowed down on the side of the road, I felt the bike wash out from under me in some loose gravel and down I went, this time with the bike on me and myleft leg trapped underneath it. That made TWICE in as many days. I was not amused as I lay there fuming and trying to get out from under it. It had fallen good and proper this time, with the rear wheel sticking up in the air as it rested on the right saddlebag.

A truck that had been following me and had passed me as I had slowed down pulled over and the driver came over to help. He managed to get the bike off of my leg, but we were unable to get the it off the ground and upright. We flagged down another car and with the help of that driver managed to get it upright. It started right up and there seemed to be no damage. For some reason, both the convex mirrors that I had stuck on my main mirrors had fallen off and the right mirror was tweaked out of shape which I straightened. I felt okay too except for a spot on my left leg that felt like it was going to have a beauty of a bruise on it soon and my left hand and right shoulder felt a bit sore. Nothing serious though and I pushed on.

I didn’t feel too bad about the incident. These things happen and that gravel was most unexpected. Added on top of my already weary feeling though, that’s when I decided that I was heading straight home now
with no detours.

After this I got on I90 for a little bit and stopped briefly for lunch at a McDonalds. The prices this time were normal – they actually doubled their prices at the location in Yellowstone (can they do that?). I ate my sandwich and ignored the fries and then just lay with my head on the table feeling weary and worn out and wanting to curl up in a cosy bed more than anything else in the world.

After that bout of patheticness, I scrutinized a map and decided to take a little detour to the towns of Philipsburg and Drummond just to avoid I90. When I got on it, I saw a sign that proclaimed it to be a Scenic Route, which made me happy. For all of 10 minutes.

I hadn’t thought to check the weather before I left because I rode right into the eye of a thunderstorm. The road itself was pretty and winding and had some great views but about 20 miles in I started shivering with cold as the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and big angry clouds gathered in the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. It was too late to turn around. I made it to Philipsburg, stopped at a gas station and took out my liners from my dry bag to zip them into my suit. A trucker who was passing by said that the worst was over because it had hailed there a few minutes ago. I doubted it though and just wanted to make it to Drummond safely.

As soon as I hit the road, I saw lightning fill up the sky and I fervently hoped that I wouldn’t be a target. It would have satisfied my need for the dramatic, but it would be a rather ignominous way to go. Rain started pouring down and pretty soon I was unable to see very much except a beautiful, blurred landscape. Situations like this seem to bring something out in me though because I rode like my tail was on fire, bike not handling well be damned. It was a mere 25 miles to Drummond and I must have made it in 15 minutes.

I have often heard my friends from the south long for the thunderstorms they had grown up with and thought them quite mad, but now I know fully exactly what it was that they missed and empathize.

In spite of the tension and the need to get to shelter and find warmth and safety, I couldn’t help but marvel at the gloriousness of the country and how much more spectacular it looked in inclement weather. While on a normal day, you might pass through it without comment, when the storm was raging down, the pastoral idyllicness of the country demanded that you took notice and appreciate the splendour of nature at its most raw and primal form. Tired as I had been for most of the day, I should have been full of frustration at having to deal with the weather on top of everything else. Instead, I couldn’t stop smiling and biting my lip in glee as I sliced through the roads full of marvel and gratitude at being privileged to have experienced this. I felt vulnerable and powerful at the same time. Vulnerable in that the storm could chew me up and spew me across the landscape at any time, and powerful in that my human made machine allowed me to laugh at the danger and go my way secure in the thought that the weather posed no real tangible threat as long as I kept my wits about me. How powerful nature is and how equally powerful us humans are with our strange and myriad technological creations!

At Drummond I stopped at a gas station and went inside to get a coffee. The rain had decreased now and I thought of just waiting it out. It was another 50 miles to Missoula and I felt tempted to just keep going but I decided to be prudent instead.

As I sipped my coffee, my eyes wandered across the gas pumps to the other side of the street where stood a Used Cow Lot with a cow head mounted on the gate. I decided that this was too David Lynch even for me and knew that I had to get back on the road soon.

I checked Weather Underground on my phone and the radar map and a weather advisory revealed my folly of riding into the bad weather, a little too late. I would be fine as soon as I headed a little northwest though.

The rain subsided shortly as I had guessed it would and I set off again on I90. As far as freeways go, this part of the ride was not dreary at all and went through some rather scenic territory. I was once again riding like a madman and made it to Missoula in record time.

I pulled over and started consulting my GPS to find the closest coffeeshop when a guy that worked in the garage next to where I was, walked over and asked me what I was looking for. He told me where the downtown area was and to find the Days Inn close it it which would have covered parking for my bike. I asked him if he was a biker too and he confirmed it. What a nice way to get into a city. The way people treat outsiders really does a lot to make or break its image. I was happy to have had a good first encounter with someone. He had guided me well because the inn really was walking distance to the downtown area.

The lady at the inn was also remarkably friendly and gave me a killer rate for the room because I was a biker. Again with the niceness! This feeling of being welcomed and wanted would continue through my stay in
Missoula as I encountered nothing but cheerful smiles and nods from perfect strangers wherever I went.

I parked, unpacked and walked into downtown to find food. I was a little intrigued to find that all the coffeeshops closed at 4PM and I wondered if there was some kind of curfew that I didn’t know about. Perhaps vampires roamed the town after it got dark or something. I also saw a lot of vagrants and curiously enough they all had dogs. Curiouser and curiouser, one might say.

I ended up at a sushi bar called Sushi Hana, making me nostalgic for Hana Sushi on Capitol Hill. :) It was delightful to find some real food after day upon unending day of eating sandwiches or burgers for lunch and dinner. I polished off a dish of sauteed calamari and a Punk Rocker roll – eel, tuna and crab – which didn’t taste like any punk rocker I’ve known. Ha! All washed down with some plum sake and I was a happy camper.

Back to the hotel for a long talk with my sweetie whom I miss more than ever, and then some blissful sleep.

I woke up the next morning, felt the exhaustion in my bones and knew that I wasn’t riding anywhere today. I staggered out of bed when I felt able to, asked the hotel manager to extend my stay by another night, then wandered around looking for breakfast. I managed to walk all the way down the street for 6 blocks and back before finally finding a place that served breakfast – almost across the street from the inn. *sigh*

Breakfast was coffee – my first morning coffee in weeks since it dehydrates me and I don’t drink it in the days when I’m riding – and a three egg omelette with spinach, mushrooms and sausage, and a potato casserole and toast. They didn’t have wireless internet, so I read my book instead – “The Devil and Miss Prym” by Paulo Coelho which is a very rivetting read so far. I’ve wanted a relaxing morning like this for a long time and I was surprised that I wasn’t in the least bit guilty about not getting on the road at the crack of dawn to add on the miles. I’m close enough to home now that I don’t feel the pressure to just keep going anymore and am fnally able to relax and ramble again.

Back at the inn now. I climbed straight into bed and am probably going to try and take another nap. I feel like I could use one even though I just woke up a few hours ago. Then I’ll go get lunch and wander the streets to see what Missoula has to offer. It’s certainly a town with character and one that I’m going to enjoy exploring.

C’est la vie?

Might have helped a bit if I had checked this before taking a detour via the scenic route:

… Significant weather advisory for southern Powell… southeastern Granite… Deer Lodge and northern Silver Bow counties until 445 PM MDT…

At 402 PM MDT… National Weather Service Doppler radar was tracking a strong thunderstorm 16 miles southwest of West Valley… or 18 miles southwest of Anaconda… moving northeast at 20 mph.

Hail up to one-half inch in diameter is expected with this storm.

Locations near the path of this storm include… Anaconda… WestValley… Warm Springs… Galen… Georgetown… Lost Creek… opportunity and racetrack.

Precautionary/preparedness actions…

If threatening weather approaches your area… go indoors and stay away from windows. If you are caught outside… move to a well protected area.

Quick update from West Yellowstone…

Woke up feeling tired and worn out. If a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix it, I really do think I need a rest day. I got to a cafe down the road and saw that the time was 8:30AM rather than 9:30AM as I had assumed, and realized that I was now in Mountain Time. I could have slept in!

Ah well, time to keep pushing. Today I head towards Missoula. I’ll try to take mostly backroads and some highways as per usual. Still trying to figure out if my rest day will be in Missoula or elsewhere, but it needs to be soon.

Update from West Yellowstone, MT

I am tired and bleary eyed. I should probably have taken off my contacts before I left the motel to go find coffee and dinner, but I didn’t think of it.

Today has been quite some day. I woke up in Ten Sleep, got breakfast at the Crazy Woman Cafe and headed out. My plan was to ride the 200 something miles to Yellowstone National Park, find a place to stay, unload all my luggage, rest a bit and then go do the loop around the park. The day turned out very differently from what I had planned though.

First off, I am glad I decided to stop at Ten Sleep because heading west, there was nothing but desert. I made good time until I pulled over at a view point to look at some unusual colored rocks in the distance. Unfortunately it was full of loose gravel and when I braked to stop, I felt the bike slip away from me and fall on its side. I cursed and got off, took my gear off and tried to heave it up. No luck. I took all the luggage off and tried again. It came up about 6 inches off the ground before slipping downhill on the gravel. This wasn’t looking good. The sun was beating down and I was getting tired and hot. I hadn’t seen a soul on the road for the past half hour and I
could see miles of emptiness in front of me. I had no cellphone reception either. I envisioned a long, thirsty wait before someone came by.

Thankfully, after about 15 minutes of waiting, I heard a car far off in the distance and ran out into the road and waved like a creature possessed. The car slowed down and the couple inside it got out and helped me pick the bike up. It wouldn’t start because the carbs had probably gotten flooded. I waited for a few minutes and tried again, hoping the gas had evaporated, and it started this time. I was soon on my way although feeling extremely stupid about the incident. Of course, I had anticipated that something like this would happen sooner or later, and it was a good thing that both the bike and I were unscathed, but it really diminished my feeling of self-sufficiency and independence. I thought of how Lois Pryce picked an XT225 for her journey across the Americas even though it was a small, slow bike without much power for the sole reason that she could pick it up if
she dropped it. There was much wisdom in that but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to do the trade off on power and comfort for a long ride like she did.

My bike hadn’t been handling very well and I was getting a bit concerned about my rear tire being worn down. The shop that did my pre-ride service had said that I had about 8000 miles on it left, and I had done maybe 4000-5000 miles so far, but I didn’t want to cut it too close. I found a Suzuki motorcycle shop in Cody and asked the guys there what they thought of the tire. The tread was still visible but it was badly squared off. One of them said that I should be able to do the 1500 miles I needed to get home, while the other one said that I had only about 100-500 miles left on it. Hmmm… I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and asked them if they had a tire that would work and if they could replace it. They didn’t have the right size tire. I needed a 160, but they had a 170 which they said would work and even handle better because it was wider. The tire was a bit
expensive at $217, but the labor was only $60/hr. I decided to do it and, left the bike with them and walked down the street to get lunch.

As I walked to the diner, I called Jake to see if he had found a place to replace his tire and recommend this place to him and found out that co-incidentally his tire was getting replaced that very minute at a place he had found in Sturgis. :)

When I got back from lunch, the bike was ready and done and waiting outside the shop for me. Just like that! Earlier in the day I had envisioned a nightmarish scenario of hunting down a shop with the tire worn to the cords, being told that they needed to order one, waiting for an appointment, and all kinds of delays that would be typical in a Seattle shop. Instead, it was all done while I ate lunch! I was delighted and grateful that it had been so quick and painless.

On to Yellowstone! I was excited about finally hitting mountains and getting cool. About 20 miles within the east entrance though, it started getting really windy, something I have real issues with while riding and I slowed down. Pretty soon I started feeling really tired and harassed what with dealing with the cross winds that whipped my helmet around and made the front tire wobble. I don’t know if this is the aftermath of the crash in Alaska on a terribly windy day, but my brain and body seems to go into panic mode whenever I encounter winds while out riding.

I got into Yellowstone and showed the ranger my annual pass. It’s a good thing I bought it after all because the entry fee for motorcycles was $20 and I’ve paid well over $45 in total at various National Parks so far. Here I  found out that all lodgings and campsites were completely booked up. So much for my well laid plans. I kicked myself for not calling ahead and making reservations. I decided to ride west through the park and see Old Faithful, then head north through Mammoth Springs, out the park and to some small town to find lodgings.

It was already 4:00PM though and I was starting to get very tired. The distances in the loop didn’t look too long so I decided to go ride them. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. While the distances between each major stop were small, traffic crawled along at 30mph in 45mph zones with people acting like they were on a safari and acting excited and coming to a complete stop at the sight of a bison or elk. My brain all but exploded as I stood there sweltering in the heat. Not to mention, I’ve always found it completely distasteful to see humans standing and gawking at animals, whether in a zoo or in a park.

Old Faithful was yet another disappointment. After nearly 60 miles of crawling in traffic, I expected something just a little bit more spectacular. What was more fascinating than the geyser were the crowds of hundreds of people standing around and gaping, no doubt people who had spent a lot of time and money to get to see it. I said as much to the girl who sold me ice cream at the lodge and she said that it was probably a sociologist’s dream or their worst nightmare.

While stopped there, I made some calls to motels around the place. Most of them were completely booked for the night, but I got lucky and found a place in West Yellowstone for $68. All I had to do was head north to Madison and then to the west entrance of the park. Of course, it took me nearly an hour to get what would have been a 20 minute ride in the absence of traffic. The wind was back too which made the stretches where I could go fast not very much fun. :|

I guess I got Yellowstone completely wrong. I’m sure it’s the kind of place that is incredible to see if you got off the beaten path into the back country and went to where the tourists didn’t. I did see some cool vistas and rivers and lakes from the road, but the experience was completely ruined by the crowds of tourists milling all over. Also, I must be spoiled by my experience in Alaska last year, but it takes a lot to come even close to what I saw out there.

Maybe someday I’ll return to Yellowstone and do it the right way – whatever the right way might be, but riding through it on a motorcycle in full protective gear is definitely not it.

Tonight I spend the night in the town of West Yellowstone – mostly an outpost that thrives on tourist dollars. Tomorrow I have the choice to either head back into the park and go north through the Mammoth springs, or bypass it completely and take highways to Missoula. I’ll decide tomorrow but I rather think I will pick the latter.

In other news, I am in MONTANA!

Update from Ten Sleep, WY

I slept very badly last night. The temperature dropped to about 40 degrees and I kept tossing and turning trying to get warm. My sub-zero rated Marmot sleeping bag must have been taking the night off. I think I kept drifting in and out of that semi-sleeping, semi-awake state and finally fell asleep after a few hours. There went my plans of waking up early and seeing Devil’s Tower in the cool morning hours. It kinda sucked because next to Lake Champlain, this was by far the nicest campground I have slept in. It would have been nice to have gotten there early in the evening and enjoyed the place thoroughly. Ah well, if you ever come out this way, make sure to check out Horsethief Campground and get a spot in the big green field.

I did manage to wake up a little after 8AM but by the time I packed up my stuff and headed into town for breakfast, it was almost 9:30Am. This is what I really dislike about camping. It’s nice when you have all the time in the world to relax and enjoy the camping experience, but it is really aggravating when you just want to be on the go. Setting up and breaking down camp, including walking over to the washrooms and back takes so annoyingly long as compared to just a few minutes if I were in a motel room. I try to keep a balance in the interest of saving money, but there are times when camping is just a lot of work that I don’t want to do at the end of a long day of riding.

I rode out to Hill Town to get breakfast. This is yet another town that reminded me of the Gold Rush towns out in Alaska. I stopped at a cafe that offered a breakfast buffet and loaded up on eggs and sausages and fruit. Fresh fruit! All the strawberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew I could eat. I’ve eaten very badly all the time that I’ve been out on the road with barely any fresh vegetables and fruit.

By the time I was out on the road on Hwy 16, it was past 10AM. I aimed towards Devil’s Tower, which oddly enough didn’t show up on my GPS (same as Crazy Horse the previous day), so I had to rely on good, old-fashioned maps. I wonder how I ever functioned before I got my GPS.

The roads getting out to Devil’s Tower were so brilliant. I got stuck in some traffic at the really winding, twisty parts, but even so, it was a heck of a ride. Maybe I’ll get around to getting rid of some of those chicken strips before it comes time to change my tires.

This time I made myself stop a few times to take pictures. I love how the landscape changes so much as you move across the country. This time it was tiny little mountain cabins nestled up high amidst tall green trees speckled with red rocks. I don’t know how the rocks get that dark red hue, but it’s unlike any I have seen thus far. Strewn throughout the countryside were herds of grazing buffalo and occassional cows and horses.

I saw Devil’s Tower from a distance about 10 miles away and even in the bright morning sunshine, there seemed something a little unnatural eerie about it. No wonder it was shrouded in myths and legends.

Of course, all traces of eerieness vanished as I neared the tower and came upon a slew of tourists inching their way to it. To make things better, the speed limit in the last 3 miles was 25mph in the now 90+
degree heat. I all about screamed with frustration. Once there, I called Jake to see if he was around, assuming that he had gotten there long before me. I hit his voicemail though. It turned out later that he had slept pretty badly too and hadn’t set out that way at all, heading north to Sturgis instead.

I took a few pictures of the tower before escaping from the onslaught of people surrounding me. This is the one thing I loathe about travel. On the one hand, it makes sense to stop and look at amazing national monuments while I am in the area. On the other hand, I wonder if the tradeoff of dealing with the crowds and the terrible traffic is worth it.

By this time, I had a bad headache from the overpowering heat and not having eaten. I stopped at a local KOA restaurant which really needed more servers to deal with the crowds. Normally I would have gone crazy at the poor service, but instead I used the time to charge my Cardo Scala which had died on me, and took advantage of their free wireless to go online for a bit. My meal was an unremarkable chicken sandwich.

Having downed lunch, I retired to the bathroom with a cup of ice water and did the dousing my tshirt trick again. No matter how often I do this, I still don’t fail to scream as the ice water makes contact with my skin. And I still feel relieved that I did it after I emerge into the heat and don’t feel myself spontaneously melt.

To give you an idea of how hot it was, my shirt dried out completely after just 20 miles of riding. This meant that I had to stop more  often to rinse and repeat, a necessity that was not entirely unwelcome because I also had to keep cleaning my visor and taking off my helmet, this latter being because the helmet speakers I had installed keep grinding into my ears making them unbearably sore and painful. Every day I swear that I was going to take out the cheek pads and rip slashes in them to make them thinner, and every night I forget. It’s the one single thing that is really hindering my riding though, and I need to figure something out and fix it. I stopped at the towns of Gillette and Buffalo, mostly riding on I-90. I hate to admit it, but I felt like it was already so late in the day  that I really just needed to keep going in a straight line. I had gotten a good amount of twisties in the morning after all. The landscape this time was very similar to the first half of the day in South Dakota the previous day – miles upon miles of empty arid desert. It was a struggle to keep going, especially after my music cut out on my for good and I made it to Buffalo by sheer willpower alone.

I pulled over at a gas station and refueled. By this time it was almost 6:30PM and I was super overheated and figured I would just stop there for the night. The motels I looked at and just the town alone looked so dismal though, that I hated the thought. A closer look at a map revealed that a national forest was just west of here, including a 65 mile long National Scenic Byway. I knew I needed to just stop and relax but I couldn’t bring myself to stop there. The thought of the coolness of a forest was too tempting and I couldn’t leave that for the next morning. I had the energy to keep going so I got back on Hwy 16 and headed into the Big Horn National Forest.

The ride was scenic with long, sweeping curves and I could keep going at a steady 70mph on a mostly deserted road. The light was a little  strange. The sun shone brightly overhead and the glare made me squint a lot. My sunglasses helped with the glare, but there were many sections that were shaded and completely dark. After a point, it came down to just keeping on going until the next town marked on the map – Ten Sleep. (I’m not entirely certain why they do.)

I made it to Ten Sleep within the hour and it turned out to be a tiny charming looking mountain town. The population was 405, although I think that might have been a slight exaggeration. I saw exactly one motel and one restaurant and beautiful red mountains in the distance. The motel did not have wireless internet, which made me pause, but the thought of going on to the next big town 26 miles away in boring terrain to stay at an impersonal Best Western didn’t sound very appealing. I gave in, got a room and walked to the Crazy Woman Cafe a couple of blocks down.

I did stop at a Pizza place a block before because their menu sounded really good and the music made it seem pretty lively. As I walked past the patio, every head – a few adorned with cowboy hats – turned to look at me. I wondered amusedly if I was the first non-white person that had walked onto the premises. I ended up not staying because they had stopped serving. As I left, I felt every head turn again and I tried hard not to giggle.

The Crazy Woman Cafe was deserted but the server was super nice. She made me a fresh pot of decaf coffee which I downed gratefully. The meal wasn’t much if taste and quality was your chief concern, but it was satisfying.

Now to return to the motel and sleep, sleep, sleep. My eyes are red and dry and I badly need a shower and rest. Tomorrow I head to Yellowstone. My GPS says that Seattle is only 780 miles away, which makes me optimistic. Of course, this is via I90, which I wouldn’t dream of taking, but even with detours and scenic routes, it shouldn’t be more than 1500 miles. As long as my rear tire is up to it, I should be in Seattle in good time.

Update from South Dakota…

Today has been quite a day. It is 10:30PM now and I am in my tent in Custer State Park typing this out by the light of my flashlight as I eat some canned beef stew that I heated up on my little camp stove with some venison sausage. Quite a rude meal, but it was all the campground store had and it is hearty enough to fill me up. I wish it were a bit light out so I could eat and type by the light of day, but I set up camp a bit too late for that.

But how did we get here? It started like this…

My desire to wake up super early and get on the road as per usual turned out to be wishful thinking. I woke up at the late hour of 8AM and went to get breakfast at the McDonald’s down the street. For what it’s worth, I seem to be eating there a lot – they are everywhere and they have at least a couple of inexpensive healthy selections that pass muster. By the time I hit the road, it must have been well on 10AM.

I was headed towards the town of Kadoka, close to Wall, from where I wanted to turn into the Badlands National Park. The landscape today was very different from yesterday, mostly prairieland instead of cornfields. It reminded me a lot of central and eastern Washington and Oregon. It’s not my favorite kind of terrain but I figured I was close to the end of South Dakota anyway. The day was a lot hotter than yesterday too. Thankfully it wasn’t very windy.

My ride to Kadoka turned out to be a lot longer than I anticipated when halfway through there I felt my tailpack bump into my back and I realized that my Camelbak bladder and Red Fraggle were missing. I usually secure them to my tailpack using Rok Straps and for some reason they had slipped through. I debated on whether I should bother going back for them and decided I would at least try even if it was just to see them smashed to bits by cars running over them on I90.  Turning back was no easy endeavor through 14 miles of construction and no exits for almost 10 miles. As luck would have it, I saw my Camelbak lying on the shoulder and pulled over and grabbed it. Thankfully the shouder was wide enough for me to stop safely and cars were going slower because of the construction zone. I have no idea how the Camelbak made it to the shoulder considering I must have dropped in the middle of the highway, but I wasn’t complaining. Red Fraggle was nowhere to be found, alas, and I sadly hitched the Camelback to the bike and took off.

I stopped briefly in Kadoka to get gas before heading on to the turn in the road that would tkae me to the Badlands. I was intending to just see a bit of it before making my way to the town of Scenic further west. once there though, I ended up riding the entire 40 miles of it. It was a little frustrating in parts with the slow moving cars and the 90+ temperature. The vistas more than made up for it though. I’ve never been much of a fan of dry, arid deserts but the terrain here was like nothing I have ever seen. If not for the trees and occassional patches of grass, it felt like riding on Mars. I pulled over a few times to get pictures and even walked a small trail to a point 300 feet high to get a good view.

Next stop after this was Wall which I had to go to to go west. The hundreds of signs announcing Wall Drug might have done the trick because I found myself riding through the town of Wall to look at the store for no apparent reason. It was really hot by now. I parked and took a couple of pictures and got ready to take off. When I found that I had parked right outside the post office, I went in and mailed home a package of some things I had bought at the gift shop in the park.

I went to the gas station to fuel up and then went inside, filled up a big glass with ice water, went to the bathroom and dunked my Mountain Hardware base layer into it, and winced as I put it on. The ice cold water made me shiver but as soon as I walked outside, it paid off as I felt it cooling my core.

Mt. Rushmore was up next, about 80 miles away. I made good pace and got there around 6:30. It was crazy hot along the way, but my ice cold shirt made it feel like I was riding in air conditioned comfort. :) This made for a very pleasant ride and time flew as I made my way to my destination.

It had been flat and dull and straight for hundreds of miles now, so when I came down from a crest and saw green trees and mountains up ahead, I gasped, not quite ready for the sight. As I made my way close to Mt. Rushmore, the landscape changed completely as I saw tall, dark evergreens fringing winding Alpine roads. I wasn’t quite sure if I had just hit some kind of oasis but I couldn’t stop saying “Oh my god, Oh my god!” over and over to myself. Of course I had theoretically known that Mt. Rushmore was, well, amidst mountains, but I hadn’t expected such a dramatic change in the scenery.

As I waited at a traffic light to turn onto Highway 16, I pulled up next to a guy riding a Honda 919 pulling – of all things – a huge trailer. Not having seen very many sportsbikes pulling trailers in my lifetime, I pulled up next to him and we talked a little bit. He said he was headed to Seattle too, which of course was intriguing. It was difficult with my earplugs though, so I said that we’d talk more at the monument.

I got onto highway 16A and reached the entrance for the National Monument, paid my $10, parked and walked inside. The famous sight of the presidents’ faces carved onto the rocks was quite a sight. I have no idea how they achieved it but I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.

Next up was Crazy Horse, which was about 16 miles away. Or should I say 16 miles of twisty, winding, unbelievable road? After all the dreary interstates and riding through the great plains, I had almost forgotten what it was like to ride on true scenic motorcycling roads, but here they were. Crazy Horse was quite a bit more impressive than the presidents’ faces even though you could only see his face in profile and from very far away.

I pondered where to spend the night and decided to ride 50 miles north to Sturgis and find a motel. As I was getting ready to leave, my friend on the 919 pulled up next to me. He introduced himself as Jake. He turned out to be quite a bit crazy – he is riding cross country round-trip in a month. He had ridden from Ohio to New York to here and was heading northwest to Seattle, then south through 101 and to Florida. (Four corners, I guess). He was also riding to Devil’s Tower the next day, not just to look at it like me, but to climb it. I told him to look me up when he got to Seattle, if it was after I got there. We exchanged numbers and made plans to meet the next day at the Tower. Crazy guy… *shakes head*

I abandoned my plan to motel it and rode to Custer State Park which was 6 miles away. I got a campsite in a big grassy field for $18. Everything here was lush green and the air was cold and crisp. I couldn’t wipe the big grin from my face as I reflected that this place felt like being in heaven after the day that I had had.

All in all, South Dakota has been quite something. From big sky country laced with cornfields to dry arid prairie to lush verdant mountains, the landscape has changed dramatically three times and each has been uniquely thrilling to ride through. I’m not quite sure why the riding here gets such a bad rep. It’s been pretty wonderful in my experience. I am excited to be heading on to Wyoming and Montana next.

Ever since I fully recovered from my illness two days ago, I feel like I am truly on vacation again and every moment of every day is joyous. I feel happy and free. At the back of my mind there is a lingering sadness as I realize that the honeymoon will be over soon and I will be back to the routine of my life in Seattle very soon. I’m trying not to think about it too much but I know that it will hit me when I am back and it won’t be pleasant when it sinks in. I know that I missed Seattle a lot when I first got out on the road but the closer it gets, the less I want to go back. How does one go back from this? How does one just turn off and go back to mindless daily routines? I don’t know the answer, but no doubt I will find out. :|

Riding through South Dakota…

This morning I woke up when my alarms went off at first 6:30 and then 7:30AM. I’m supposed to be on vacation, I thought blearily, but I knew that I was also running behind on time and needed to get an early start. I packed quickly and brought my luggage downstairs to load up the bike.

Stephen and Ruth made a fabulous breakfast of eggs, toast and fresh fruit, which was just what I needed to start the day. I did feel a little guilty though about them having to wake up so early on a Sunday morning for my sake.

I got a picture taken with my bike to mark the halfway point of my journey. Yes, I was halfway across the continent and ready to begin the latter half of my ride! I got on the road at 9:30 and started tracing my way towards South Dakota.

Many people had advised me to take I-90 to make good on time, but there was no way I would take the freeway if I could help it. I got on 212 and aimed at reaching Watertown – about 200 miles away. I got there around 2:00PM, got a quick bite to eat at McDonalds (*sigh*) and then headed southwest to Pierre.

I had been bracing myself for a day of being bored out of mind going by what most other people had told me about riding in the Great Plains. To my great surpise though, I wasn’t bored for a single minute. I found the endless miles of riding through cornfields extremely calming and serene and felt completely relaxed. It was almost like an antidote to all the freeway riding I had had to do in the earlier part of my ride. The fields were bright green and gold and the sky was blue with big white puffy clouds. There was barely anyone out on the roads, just the kind of remoteness I crave. The sky was big, vast, immense.

I had completely dodged the bad weather by staying north, but at one point, about 50 miles north of Pierre, I saw big thunderclouds looming in the distance. It is difficult to describe exactly how threatening and ominous it looked. Storm clouds look bad enough when you are in a city, but they look especially spectacular and scary when about three quarters of an immense sky is full of them. In the far distance, I could see a glimmer of light, but here it had gotten really dark and starting to sprinkle a little. As I rode closer and closer to it, it took on a mushroom like appearance to the southwest. Now I could see clear skies about 20 miles down the road, and I picked up speed and rode flat out towards it. It started raining as I passed directly under the black clouds, but I kept going and riding for all I was worth until suddenly I broke through into clearer skies again. The  sunlight was blinding and I had to squint to be able to see clearly. I could see the angry black clouds in my mirrors.

I thought to myself that that had been pretty dramatic. It brought to mind another Sunday evening a year ago when I had been trying to outride a thunderstorm in the remote wilderness of the Yukon, the evening I had crossed the border into Alaska. I had succeeded then as I had succeeded now. How strange to be playing games with the weather! But then you have to when you are so exposed to the elements and in completely unfamiliar territory.

I made it to Pierre before 7PM, after riding almost 430 miles – the most I have ridden on any day on this ride. I got a good deal on a room at the Days Inn and checked in for the evening. I am tired now… but tomorrow promises to be an exciting day as I head into the Badlands of South Dakota.


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Getting to Minneapolis…

I left Rhinelander early Saturday morning and got on the road to Minneapolis, thinking of getting on the freeway and doing the 200 or so miles in a couple of hours so I could have the entire day to explore the city. After about 15 miles of riding on the freeway though, I realized that I was no longer interested in doing the freeway slab even if it saved me time. I got off at the nearest exit and onto a county road. I set my GPS to avoid freeways so that it routed me through smaller backroads.

I spent the rest of the morning riding some beautiful Wisconsin backroads that wound through remote farmlands. It was easy to see why Wisconsin is called “America’s dairyland”. County roads in Wisconsin are named by letters of the alphabet, which seems confusing but perhaps it is less so if you lived there.

I rode three brilliant hours of riding through the backroads before I started feeling impatient and wanting to get back on track to Minneapolis. Since I thought that I had been heading west most of the time, I figured I was pretty close anyway, but I was surprised to see that I was almost 120 miles away! I guess my ramblings must have added about a hundred extra miles to the route. Ah well, no regrets. I needed those roads after the really dull stretches on 2 and 8 the previous day.

This time I got on I-94 and made it to Minneapolis in one shot. As expected, the freeway slabbing was boring, but at least it got me there. (And yes, I did think of you when I crossed the Mississipi, you now who you are). :P

Rolled into Minneapolis to Stephen’s place who was waiting for me with his girlfriend Ruth. They proceeded to spoil me rotten for the rest of the day. :) We had some locally made root beer (I forget the brand) and then drove to get lunch. The streets in the neighborhood we stopped in reminded me a lot of Seattle and Portland, which made me very happy. Here’s a city that I might consider living in if I were ever forced to move to the mid-West.

We spent the afternoon checking out the sculpture park (took a picture with the cherry and spoon), the Basilica and a local arts fair. It had gotten extremely humid, even more than any of the east coast cities had been, which I find makes me really tired and hungry. I had a wonderful time though and there was never a dull moment. :)

Dinner was at Noodles & Company, after which we went back to Stephen’s place to do an oil change on the SV – my first ever! I felt very proud and accomplished when we were done. ;) The chain on the bike felt fine and didn’t look like it needed adjusting, so I just lubed it and left it at that. The tires are beginning to look a little squared off, which worries me, but I think I’ll be able to make it to Seattle on them.

I had intended to get to bed early to be able to wake up early and take off, but we ended up talking late into the night. I finally climbed into bed (a very comfy one!) around 1AM.

Photos from Michigan posted…

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