V-Strom Forum  Ride Reports  North America One Month, 9314 Miles
Uwe  m
No New Post 25.08.2006 21:33  
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We're back. Had a nice ride:





Two oil changes. One new rear tire. One minor coolant leak -- fixed by tightening a hose clamp. The Strom performed very well.

Will post more details as time permits.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 09:27  
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Day 1 - 25 July 2006:

We get off to a late start. It's a bit after 2pm until we're completely packed and ready to go:





Yes, my buddy Eric is going on cross-continent ride on a "crotch rocket". That's a 2006 Kawasaki ZZR 600. Ah, to be young! :-) It's about 100 pounds lighter than my Strom (empty). The difference is greater loaded since I volunteered to carry the stuff we'd both use (tools, laptop, etc). Still, Eric squeezed all his clothes and camping gear on there, and this despite the fact that the tail rack he'd ordered never showed up.

Due to the late start, we only got about 200 miles in.



There was only one "scenic" stop that day, at an overlook headed into Williamsport. It was a pretty hazy day and the only worthwhile picture was of the Williamsport Airport (which brings back some memories 'cause it was one of the destinations on my "long solo cross-country" flight when I was training for a pilot's license roughly 15 years ago.



We made it to Morris PA just in time to set up camp at the Twin Streams campground (nice place, recommended) before it got dark:



-Uwe-


Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 10:03  
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Day 2 - 26 July 2006:

Headed for Canada via Niagra Falls:



Crossing into Canada was fairly uneventful. All they wanted to know was whether I had any guns. Ditto for Eric, but since he's got a French passport, he had to stop, go inside and get it stamped.

Your humble correspondent at the falls:



My buddy Eric at at the falls:



Despite being only a day's drive away, I've never seen them before. The Canadian side (which we were on) definitely gives a better vantage. More pics of the falls:





After seeing the falls, we headed north past Toronto. There's not much choice but to take freeways. With lots of traffic. Not exactly fun. We'd just gotten out of the traffic to the north when the weather took a turn for the worse. Ugly dark sky ahead threatening torrential rain which we hit just as we got to an overpass. Did the classic stop under it to put on rain gear and since it was well after 6:00pm, find a place to stay. Streets and Trips to the rescue. Closest hotel was the Best Western Voyageur Place in Newmarket, only a few miles off course so we headed there and got rooms. This place was slightly on the expensive side, but given the weather, we weren't going to ride around trying to find a better deal. Ended the day having covered roughly 300 miles.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 26.08.2006 10:08.

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 10:44  
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Day 3 - 27 July 2006

The front had passed by morning and the weather looked decent. Time to do some miles:



This leg around lake Huron was a bit disappointing -- you hardly see the lake at all. There were some interesting rock formations between Barrie and Parry Sound, but no good place to stop and take pictures. Here we're at a rest stop somewhere between Sudbury and Sault Sainte Marie:



Ended the day after about 400 miles at the KOA Sault Sainte Marie. Nice place, far enough from the highway to not hear it. Owned by a Danish guy named Lief and his family. Recommended.



After setting up Camp, we rode to a restaurant for dinner. Now I won't drink and ride, so I had a Sprite with my dinner, but would have enjoyed a beer back at camp. So I asked the waitress to bring me one unopened. She looked at me like I was a child molester: "You're asking me to break the law!". "Sorry, I didn't know." It seems to be like that in all of Canada: You can't take a beer with you from a restaurant to drink somewhere else. Lesson learned: From then on, restaurants within walking distance got preference.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 11:14  
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Day 4 - 28 July 2006

This leg was nice and curvy, had excellent scenery and the weather was great too.



There's lots of places you see the lake from. Unfortunately, not that many lend themselves to safe stops for pictures. Here we are at a rest area:



We met a guy going the other way who had just been to Alaska. On a Blackbird (CB1100XX).



At lunch we discovered that the side stand of a loaded Strom can put quite a dent in asphalt paving even when the temperatures are moderate:



We ended the day after about 420 miles with a nice view of Thunder Bay:



And stayed at the KOA Thunder Bay:



I do not recommend this one. It's close to the highway and on a section where the eastbound trucks are all full on the throttle and the westbound trucks are all using their Jake Brakes -- all night long.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 11:42  
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Day 5 - 29 July 2006

Another day of nice weather. Sunny and cool. We covered about 370 miles.



A lot of this leg had a "north woods" feel to it. For reasons I can't explain, we don't seem to have any pictures from that day. The town of Kenora is gorgeous, but we almost missed it, having gone around most of the "bypass" before deciding we really should get fuel. If you do this leg, stopping for fuel early is recommended as there's a fair distance between towns.

We ended the day relatively early (planning to do laundry) at the Pine Tree Campground near Prawda, Manitoba.



This place is owned by a German immigrant and his family. Very nice, quiet, with a laundromat and a restaurant with 3 tables. Recommended. We did use the laundromat, but did not have the opportunity to try the restaurant since the couple from Winnipeg with a pop-up trailer in the adjacent site insisted we join them for dinner. Steak, potatoes, vegetables, beer, and they absolutely refused to take any money from us. Manitoba now has some new slogan/motto, but the old one "Friendly Manitoba" definitely still applies.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 26.08.2006 11:55.

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 12:09  
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Day 6 - 30 July 2006

Time to cross the prairie. About 390 miles of it anyway.



The joke up here is "If you dog runs away, don't worry about him, you'll be able to see him for at least a week".

It was pretty warm by the time we got packed up and ready to ride. This kept getting worse, to something which felt like 100F just to the west of Winnipeg. The bugs were bad too. Here's Eric's helmet that afternoon:



And here's his ram-air intake:



We ended the day at Indian Head KOA.



Nice place, with a great restaurant (owned by the same people). Shielded from the noise of the highway by somewhat higher train tracks, but of course you do hear the train whistles all night...



Some weather passed over us that night with an absolutely spectacular light show of cloud-to-cloud lightning bolts. I was laying in my tent expecting a deluge but it barely sprinkled.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 26.08.2006 12:12.

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 12:58  
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Day 7 - 31 July 2006

More prairie to cross. Our progress was limited to about 330 miles by adverse conditions.



Rode into Regina looking for a place to eat. I'm not usually big on cities, but found this shot interesting:



After departing Regina, we found that the front which had passed the night before had cooled things off nicely but brought a heck of a wind with it. We stopped to take a pictures of a mystery "mound" and I didn't want to get off the bike fearing it would get blown over:



As we continued on, the wind got ever worse. We were down to 50 mph trying to keep the bikes within our lane, which becomes especially interesting when you're getting passed by 18-wheelers doing 75. We pulled into a Esso / Subway somewhere in the general vicinity of Swift Current at around 2:00 pm and decided to wait for conditions to improve lest we get ourselves killed. By 4:30 the wind had calmed somewhat and we decided to press on. Due to the delay, we only made it as far as Medicine Hat, AB where we stayed at the Gas City campground. This is a very nice municipally owned campground, far enough from the highway to be quiet.





-Uwe-
 

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 13:34  
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Day 8 - 1 August 2006:

Departed Medicine hat bound for Calgary, where we've got a vendor who we've been doing business with for 5 years but have never met in person, and where we planned to take a day off from riding.



Arrived at his facility near Springbank Airport west of the city at around 2:00pm. Planned to do maintenance on the bikes there the next day. We were now 2700+ miles into the trip and more than 3000 since our last oil changes, and had a sheltered place to do it. Spent considerable time that afternoon/evening looking for suitable oil which didn't cost a fortune. Interstingly enough, it seems our preferred Shell Rotella T 5w40 is not available in Canada at all. We checked Wallmart. We checked Canadian Tire. We called some oil/lubricant specialty places. So we ended up buying some rather expensive Mobil 1 5w50 (which isn't available in the USA).

Day 9 - 2 August 2006:

This was an "off" day. Changed to oil on both bikes. Gave both chains a thorough cleaning. Eric pulled his tank to get at his intake system. Based on some hesitation problems he was having, he suspected a line clogged with bugs (common problem on that bike). But the Strom was still running great and didn't even need a chain adjustment.

Calgary is booming. It's difficult to get a hotel room there. We ended up spending the 2 nights here as "beta testers" in a brand new (not yet officially open) Travel Lodge in Chochrane (which is also booming).

So the (first) boring part of the ride is over. Rockies and the West Coast next...

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 26.08.2006 13:34.

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 15:47  
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Day 10 - 3 August 2006

Time to hit the Canadian Rockies. I was looking forward to this. We had originally planned to go though Banff up the Ice Fields Parkway to Jasper, then back down the Yellow Head highway (Rte 5). But after eating lunch at Lake Louise and checking the weather we decided to abandon that plan -- it was chilly and rain was predicted further north. We would have gone anyway had we been sure we'd be able to find a place to stay, but accommodations up there are few and far between (at least according to Streets and Trips). Instead, we elected to stay on Rte 1 and go through Canada's Glacier NP:



Additional pics in from the Banf NP area:











The perps at Lake Louise:



Glacier NP:







We ended this day having done about 300 miles at the KOA at Salmon Arm, BC. Which was OK. We had wanted to stop at the the KOA in Sicamous, but the only spaces they had were within a stone's throw of the highway and really noisy which is why we continued on to Salmon Arm.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 16:26  
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Day 11 - 4 August 2006

Headed in the general direction of the US West Coast through beautiful British Columbia. Rather than take the "easy" Rte 5, we stayed on the scenic old Rte 1. I'm not really sure why, but we only got in a bit over 200 miles that day:



I suppose it's because we stopped a lot to admire the scenery. From Salmon Arm to Kamloops, it's a forrest surrounding lakes. West of Kamloops, the terrain turns into what looks more like a desert, also surrounding lakes:







South of Lytton, it's back to more of a forest:





We decided to call it a day at a campground in the Boston Bar Indian Reserve which overlooked the Frazer River.

One end of the campground was literally under this very spindly looking (and very rusty) railroad trestle:



There were no restaurants close by, but there was a general store. There was also plenty of free dead wood available at the campsite, so we had to make do:





Of course, the general store also had beer:



-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 28.08.2006 09:52.

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 18:18  
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Day 12 - 5 August 2006

Through the tight part of the Frazer Canyon, then on to to coast of Washington State:



We didn't spot any good places to stop safely and take pictures in the tight part of the Frazer Canyon - but the ride through was awesome.

Just below Hope, we came to a rest stop with this very pretty reflecting lake:





We crossed back into the USA at Sumass. The line for the border station stretched back a mile or so and took over an hour. This took its toll on my left hand working the clutch. Eric switched to pushing his bike pretty quick, but I didn't like pushing the fully loaded Strom much, so my routine was: Start engine, advance some car lengths, cut engine. The Customs & Immigration guy wanted to know how what we'd done in Canada. "Came the whole way across from Niagra Falls." "OK, whatever.".

Route 9 South of Sumass was very pretty. View of the mountains to the West:



Bridge to Whidbey Island:



On the other side of Whidbey Island, we had to take the Port Townsend ferry. Our timing was fortuitous. We arrived just as the it was getting ready to depart our bikes were the last vehicles taken aboard:



On the Washington mainland, we took 101 west towards the coast. What we didn't know is that there were several music festivals in the area which made campsites and rooms practically unobtainable. After being turned away at a couple of places we fired up Streets and Trips and made some phone calls. Peabody Creek RV Park in Port Angeles said they had a grassy area where we could camp. We went there and the sun had already set as we were setting up camp. Between the delay for the border crossing and the ferry ride, we only got in around 200 miles that day.

Peabody Creek RV Park is in a very neat location, only two blocks from the main part of the Port Angeles waterfront (and several good restaurants) yet down in a tree-encircled hollow so it doesn't feel at all like you're in town. Checked in with the manager, elected the grassy area next to the office. Asked him "How much?" "You're just staying one night? No charge." I gave him a $20 bill anyway. But the next morning, we found out why he didn't want to charge us: The showers didn't work, and despite posted office hours starting at 8:00am, the manager was nowhere to be found. The other drawback to this place was the kids apparently cruising around the town in circles in the until the wee hours of the morning -- in old Honda Civics with "riceboy" exhausts. When we woke up, we found the place full of wood rats:



And the camp cat "Four" became my best buddy after he figured out that I had a bottle of milk to put in my coffee:



-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 26.08.2006 18:22.

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 20:06  
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Day 13 - 6 August 2006

Olympic NP and the Washington coast:



Lake Crescent in Olympic NP:



A 200 foot tall Sitka Spruce in the Hoh Rain Forrest:



Once upon a time, the wood from these trees was prized as structural material for airplanes.

It seems almost everything in this forest is covered in moss:



Our bikes in the rain forest:



Thankfully, it didn't live up to its name that day, which was sunny and pleasant.

This place had some even larger woodrats.  They were rather inactive, perhaps due to the warm sunny weather:



After departing the rain forest and heading south, we got our first glimpse at the real Pacific coast which was cold and damp (as I understand it's apt to be in northern Washington).



We ended this day with about 260 miles at the KOA Ilwaco, by Long Island in southern Washington. This place was quite OK, but most of the restaurants on Long Island were closed by 9:00pm which is when we finally got to looing for dinner after setting up camp.

-Uwe-
 

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 21:21  
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Day 14 - 7 August 2006

Down the Oregon Coast. Much to see, and impossible to maintain a much speed on this route, so only about 235 miles:



Of course, the Oregon coast is spectacular, and we had a pretty nice day to see it:











In addition we saw Flora:





And fauna (Sea Lions):





We ended this day at the Oregon Dunes KOA. This is not your average KOA. Gotta be the only KOA on the planet where the camp store sells Chain Wax. That's because this place has direct access to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and it was packed with people riding "quads" (mostly) on the dunes. Some lightweight dirt bikes too. Sand-Paddle tires are a must. This KOA has very few tent sites. We got the last one. Our dune-riding neighbors were somewhat impressed that we'd ridden our bikes all the way from Pennsylvania.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 26.08.2006 22:06  
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Day 15 - 8 August 2006

Southern Oregon and northern California:



The Oregon and California coasts continue to be spectacular:







Eric had never been to the Pacific, so when we found this nice beach,



he had to do a ceremonial foot dipping:



Looks like the water is pretty cold.

Then of course, there were the Redwoods:







Pictures don't do these trees justice. I'd seen the giant Sequoias in the Sierras 5 years ago and was awed. The Redwoods aren't quite as massive or as old, but are even taller. When one falls across a path, the easiest thing to do is just to cut through it:



Once again, there were oversized woodrats, this time hanging around in someone's front yard:



We ended this day after roughly 250 miles at KOA Eureka in California. This place was quite OK except for the folks who showed up at 12:30 am in two cars and proceeded to (very nosily) set up camp in the site next to ours. After half an our of listening to the chatter and rattle stuff around, I got up to go to the bathroom. After that, they we still at it and I politely asked them to keep the noise level down. "Sorry man, we're just setting up camp." "Yeah, I can see that, but who shows up at a campground at this hour?" Then I got back in my tent and they... departed the scene!

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 26.08.2006 22:08.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 08:51  
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Day 16 - 9 August 2006

Down the coast of California:



We woke up that morning with mist rolling in from the ocean:



That morning I commented on the discomfort I had been experiencing in my left hand and forearm ever since the border crossing some days ago. Riding through Eureka, we came across a small bike shop and stopped in whereupon I spent a whopping $11 on some new slightly curved "gell feel" grips. The stock grips on the Strom are glued on and we had to slice them lengthwise to get them off. Installed the new grips. Definite improvement.

Down the Avenue of the Giants: This is the old highway which parallels 101 through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It's nice and twisty but we took it very slowly in order to savor the surroundings rather than the road itself. At one point we stopped and I tried to take pictures of Eric riding through but I never suceeded in getting catching him moving with really big trees in the shot.





At Legget, Rte 1 splits from 101. This northern most section of Rte 1 between Leggett and the coast is simply unbelievable. It was certainly the ultimate twisty road on our ride. Very tight corners and switchbacks. With my load and my now somewhat squared off Trailwing, there was no way I felt comfortable trying to keep up with Eric on his little 600 so I told him "go for it, just find a logical place to stop and wait for me". As I was riding along at a conservative, comfortable pace, another bike comes up on my tail. I wave him by. It was a R1200 GS, two-up. I tried to keep up with these guys for a bit, but gave up very quickly. "Ride your own ride". When the road hit the coast, there was a turn-out where I found Eric



and the couple on the GS:



These guys were from the UK, having rented the GS in San Francisco and spent two weeks touring California. I commented on the their pace and asked if they had the same bike at home. "Well almost, we have the Touring version".

We continued down Rte 1 which continued to be awesome.



We ended the day having covered less than 200 miles at the KOA Manchester Beach. This KOA seems to be located within the State Park and is less than a half mile from the beach, complete with fabulous sunset:





After watching the sunset, we decided we were not motivated enough to ride someplace for dinner in the dark. Instead, we roughed it with stuff from the campround's store:



-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 09:01.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 09:34  
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Day 17 -- 10 August 2006



Down the coast some more. The detour towards Santa Rosa was forced by closure of Rte 1 due to an overturned fuel truck.





Then one of the more famous/recognizable bridges in the world:





It was *very* windy at the north end of the bridge. Down below, some people were taking advantage of this wind surfing and kite surfing. First a pic to give an impression of the scale:



And a close-up:



I'm not sure how fast they were going but they were moving along at quite a clip!

To the north, the bay seemed a bit calmer:



After visiting the bridge and the bay (we skipped the City itself), we decided this was as far from home as we were going to get and turned east. By then it was late in the afternoon, and we got to sit in bumper-to-bumper bay-area traffic for 20 miles. All the locals were on sport bikes splitting lanes, something I've got no experience with and did not feel comfortable doing, especially with my "wide load".

Once we got around the bay onto I80, things had cleared out and we decided to press on across the central valley despite impending nightfall to avoid the inevitable high temperatures during the day. Normally we didn't ride at night to reduce the potential of collisions with woodrats, but we figured the I80 and US50 freeways across the valley would be relatively safe that way. We ended the day after about 300 miles at around 10 pm at the Best Western in Placerville.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 10:04  
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Day 18 - 11 August 2006

The Sierra and Lake Tahoe:



Across the granite Sierra:





And our first glimpse of the lake:



To KOA South Lake Tahoe, where we set up camp at 11:00 am:



After setting up camp and leaving my heavy side bags locked to a tree, we set out to do the loop around the lake. I discovered I was considerably more confident in the twisties without all that weight on the back. Still, the ever more squared off Trailwing didn't help.



I cannot remember the name of the place where we had a late lunch on the west side of the lake but the view was great:



Completing the loop around Emerald Bay:



And returning to camp, where Eric the Pyro built a huge fire:



This was an easy relaxing day of only about 170 miles total.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 10:36  
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Day 19 - 12 August 2006

Across most of Nevada on Rte 50:



Rte 50 is often referred to as "America's loneliest highway".



I had some reservations about including this in our route. I was worried the heat, which was unfounded as the temperatures were perfect for riding. I was also worried what would happen if we should have a breakdown. As it turns out, the highway is patrolled:



Oops. We first saw this guy coming out of the exit of a sweeping curve. My speedometer was showing something around 95 mph. "I got you on the radar at 88". "That sounds like a fair assessment Officer". He wrote us for 75 (in a 70 zone) which is like a parking ticket, not a moving violation. $67 each. Call it a speeding tax. But he got 2 birds with one stone. These were only "performance awards" we got the whole trip. This was a few miles west of Eureka. As we drove through the town Eureka, we noted a Highway Patrol barracks and a lot of activity, mostly busting people who were violating the much lower limits within the town.

We continued on towards Ely:



Where we set up camp at the KOA just south of town, ending the day having done roughly 360 miles. Since we had plenty of daylight left, we decided it was time to do a good chain maintenance again. For me, this is a no brainer. I have an OEM centerstand. But of course Eric's crotch rocket does not. So for about the 4th time this trip, I helped him prop it up on locally available stuff:



And here's the tool kit I've been carrying. Yes, including a torque wrench.



FWIW, the KOA Ely is gorgeous. Their tent camping area has grass that would make many golf course envious.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 10:39.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 11:12  
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Day 20 - 13 August 2006

Western Utah and Bryce Canyon NP:



Whomever called Rte 50 in Nevada "America's loneliest highway" has obviously never been on Rte 21 in Western Utah. I think we saw 3 other vehicles between Garrison and Milford (not counting a few parked ones in Frisco).







That afternoon, we hit Utah Rte 12 towards Bryce canyon, where the scenery becomes spectacular fast, starting with Red Canyon:



These rocks are unbelievably red (the picture doesn't do them justice due to the lighting).

The into Bryce Canyon NP. This is the most visually stunning National Park I've ever been in. If you've seen it, I apologize for boring you with lots of pictures:











Even sitting at one point, the visuals constantly change as the angle of the sun changes.





We ended the day at the Bryce KOA in Cannonville, about 10 miles southeast of the park entrance, having covered about 300 miles that day.

-Uwe-
 

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 11:50  
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Day 21 - 14 August 2006

Utah Rte 12, Grand Staircase, Capital Reef.



I'd heard good things about Utah Rte 12 and they were no exaggeration. All I can say is that the scenery was spectaular, and the road itself was anything but boring:











Towards the northern end of Rte 12, it crosses Boulder Pass and there are numerous "open range" and "cow on road" type signs. Take them seriously:



View from Boulder Pass:





At Torrey, we turned east onto Rte 24, and went through Capitol Reef NP:





Towards the east end of the park, there's a waterfall with a pool suitable for swimming:





We were quite tempted, but decided it was too much hassle to get out of our gear.

We ended the day in Green River, UT up on I70. The weather was looking a bit chancey for the night, so we took rooms at the Super 8 Motel, which were reasonably priced and the place looked brand new despite being 10 or 12 years old. We ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking the river. Nice.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 12:28  
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Day 22 - 15 August 2006

Arches NP and into Colorado:



Woke up, looked out the window and immediately grabbed the camera:



The bit of rain passed to our North, so off towards Arches NP we went:











Arches was a bit on the warm side. We did enough walking that for the first time I removed my riding pants and rode in jeans alone. After departing Arches NP, we stopped at a Denny's in Moab for lunch (where it was quite hot). Here we found a couple on a WeeStrom with Italian plates(!). They didn't speak much English. The were crossing the continent, east to west. What I couldn't fathom was that their luggage appeared to consist only of a Givi top-box. Talk about traveling light!

Now we had intended to turn east on Utah Rte 46, taking it to Colorado Rte 90 past Telluride and down 145 to Dolores or Cortez. But somehow we missed the turn at La Sal Junction and ended up in Monticello. This was actually fortuitous since reports from another rider we met in Cortez indicated that the weather along our originally intended route was terrible. Indeed, at the Dove Creek border we were looking at this:



This resulted in some debate whether to press on or to grab a room here and now. After noting that the storm appeared to be heading towards our left and the road was about to turn somewhat to the right, we decided to try for Cortez. We watched that storm on our left most of the rest of the way to Cortez. We could see the torrential rains and feel the winds, but we never got wet. Due to the dicey weather, we got rooms at another Super 8 Motel in Cortez. This one was just so-so. As we were unloading the bikes, we noticed that Eric was now in desperate and immediate need of a new rear tire:



After getting unpacked, we went for a walk looking for dinner and ate at the Main Street Brewery -- excellent.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 13:12  
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Day 23 - 16 August 2006

Southwest Colorado:



Woke up, had breakfast, waited for 9:00am so we could call the only non-chopper bike shop in Cortez and ask about a tire for Eric's bike. They had nothing in his size in stock, but suggested that if we were headed for Durango (which we were) that there were several shops there. OK, off towards Durango we go, with a side-trip into Mesa Verde NP:





This park has some very nice overviews of that portion of Colorado, but the park itself didn't impress me much, so onward to Durango. The only bike shop that had turned up in my internet search the previous night was a place called "Fun Center" which sells Suzuki and Kawasaki, so we went there. Fancy large new building. They had precisely one tire in Eric's size, but it was an ultra sticky "supersport" Dunlop (which Eric didn't want) and they wanted $220 for it (which Eric didn't want to pay). However, the kid we talked to recommended that we try another place called "Handle Bar Cycle", which turned out to be a Honda and Yamaha dealer, but with much less opulent facilities. They had several tires in Eric's size, including a "Sport Touring" Dunlop for a much more reasonable $149. Correction. Eric says the tire cost more, something between $160 and $180; over $200 installed. On it went:



And the very pleasant guy who installed it:



This guy was rather amusing. He thought Eric's bike and luggage were perfect for a cross-contient trip, with one exception: The fact that it lacked a center-stand. Anyway, if you're in need of something in Durango, go to Handle Bar Cycle first.

From Durango, we proceeded into the San Juan Mountains up the "million dollar highway" Rte 550. This is indeed one incredible road. No guard rails on much of it and it's a LONG way down from many places. Some pics of the San Juan Mountains:









We ran into some scattered light rain around Silverton. Rode through town, didn't find anywhere we really wanted to stay and pressed on to Ouray. Great move because Ouray is gorgeous! The bill themselves as "The Switzerland of America". Having been to the Berner Oberland earlier this summer, I'll agree. It's the closest thing to Switzerland we've got. I wouldn't normally post pics of a hotel, but the Best Western Ouray was nice:



-Uwe-


Post last edited by Uwe on 28.08.2006 09:45.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 14:11
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Day 24 - 17 August 2006

Central Colorado:



Route 550 north of Ouray was OK, but not spectacular like the section we'd done the afternoon before. At Montrose, we turned east onto Route 50. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at Black Canyon NP, which I didn't even know existed. A short discussion resulted in the decision to check it out. This one was a jewel!



We especially liked the road down into the canyon. No traffic at all, most everyone was likely scared off by the "Sharp Curves and 16% Grades" sign. This road descends 2800 feet in roughly 5 miles:



Very little braking was needed with the 'Strom in 2nd gear. The river at the bottom was great. A very quiet place:



There's a campground down there too. If it had not been early in the day, we would have stayed, despite the probably lack of showers, it was that nice down there.

After chugging back out in 2nd gear, we did the upper road with its overlooks:



Continuing east on Rte 50, we crested the Monarch Pass. Highest altitude on the trip:



About 15 years ago, I owned a small airplane (Rockwell Aero Commander Model 100). Service Ceiling was 9750 feet, but I did get it to crawl all the way to 11,000 once.

This is where you appreciate having a liter Strom as opposed to a 650. Even with fuel injection, an engine is down to about 50% of its normal power at 11,000 feet. Eric's 600 lacking fuel injection was running pig-rich and had no low-end at all.

North of the Monarch Pass is a high, but pretty green plain. I think most of it is between 8000 and 9000 feet. Here's a shot as we were climbing out of it again, somewhere around Jefferson, I think:



We ended the day back on I70 at El Rancho (between Golden and Evergreen). Dicey weather in the Mountains had us grabbing rooms at the Quality Inn there. We were also due for oil changes and there's a Wallmart just down the road. Lastly, it was convenient to the Squaw Pass Road which led to Mt. Evans which we intended to do the next day.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 15:13  
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Day 25 - 18 August 2006

We woke to find the mountains complete shrouded in clouds. Not a good day to try for the top of Mt. Evans at 14,200 feet. I looked at my rear tire which was now down to the wear bars in spots in the center and decided there wasn't any way I was going to make it home to the east coast on it. So I decided that the Denver area was a likely a place as any to find a new one. Fired up the laptop and made a list of places to call. The closest was RPM Motorsports in Lakewood. Called them up, asked if they had a tire to fit a 'Strom. Indeed they did -- a Dunlop D607 for $129. "I'm from the east coast and just passing through, any chance you can put it on for me today?" "Can you be here at noon?". I was there at noon. Had picked up a gallon of Rotella T at Wal-Mart the night before. Asked if they'd be willing to change the oil for me while they had it on the lift. Sure, no problem. Eric changed his oil out in the parking lot while they were working on my bike. We were done and out of there by early afternoon. But the weather to the west was looking really crappy. Low dark clouds. We were wondering whether we'd get back to our hotel without getting drenched. We did, but it was obvious that the ride to the top of Mt. Evans still wasn't happening. So we had lunch at the "historic" El Rancho restaurant and I went to my room to watch some TV. What I actually ended up doing was sleeping most of the rest of the afternoon. Later that evening it was raining a bit and we went back to the El Rancho for dinner. Walking there beat putting on the rain gear and riding god knows where at dusk.

Day 26 - 19 August 2006

We woke up and found the weather had not improved a bit. So we decided to pass on the Mt. Evans ride and move on:



Our original plan was to take the Virginia Canyon Road north from Idaho Springs towards Rte 119 and hug the mountains and possibly go into Rocky Mountain NP. So we took I70 west to Idaho Springs and found the Virginia Canyon Road. Which turned out to be an unpaved mess of mud only a few hundred yards north of town. Now despite owning a 'Strom, I have no real off-pavement experience and Eric's ZZR-600 is completely unsuitable for that kind of thing anyway. So we turned around, headed back east a bit on I70 and headed north on 93 through Golden, past Boulder. At Boulder we were getting pretty sick of the dreary drizzle and knowing the weather was clear in Wyoming and South Dakota, decided to find the fastest way out of Colorado. Which of course was I25. As expected, we found clear skies by the time we got th Cheyenne, Wyoming.

From just above Cheyenne, we took Route 85 north. Another pretty lonely road, it's through what's essentially a prairie. At Lusk, we decided to make for Hot Springs for the night. Just after the turn east onto Route 18, Eric's engine quit. He says it acted just as though he'd run out the bottom of the main tank, and in fact he tried switching it to reserve (despite the fact that we had filled our tanks at Lusk). So there we were, on the side of the road, with one non-running bike. Eric poked about a bit, indicating he suspected a fueling issue. I was about to get the tools and help him pull the tank so we could trouble-shoot it when he shook the bike, attempted another restart and -- it started up again. Since it was running again we decided to defer pulling the tank until it quit again or until we got to Hot Springs, whichever came first. Hot Springs came first.

When we got there, we decided that we wanted what daylight was left to pull Eric's tank and inspect his fuel system rather and not waste the time setting up camp. So we tried the Super 8 first. They wanted over just over $100 per room. We said: "No thanks". We ended up at the Budget Host for ~$60, and it was fine. First time in a "classic" motel, where each room as an outside door and a dedicated parking space right in front of it. Kinda cool actually.

So off came Eric's tank. Out came his fuel filter. Emptied the filter. Filter looked clean. We poked around a bunch but never did figure out why his engine had quit. My money is on a glitch with the fuel pump or the fuel pump relay. Yes, bike has carbs, but the tank outlet is lower than the fuel rail leading to the carbs, so there's a pump in between. We concluded that further troubleshooting would have to wait until the problem recurred, which it never did.

All told, we covered about 380 miles that day but neglected to take any pictures.

-Uwe-

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 16:09  
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Day 27 - 20 August 2006

Spelunking in the Black Hills, bad weather, Mt. Rushmore, and The Badlands:



Proceeding north out of Hot Springs SD takes you into Wind Cave NP (another NP which I didn't know existed). Its claim to fame is the cave from which it takes its name -- a dry cave know for its unique "boxwork" formations (which to my eye resemble some sort of horror movie set prop). Here's an example:



Above ground, this park also has Buffalo roaming around:



Proceeding north from there towards Mt. Rushmore, we encounter more of them, as well as some really ugly weather in our path:



The guy in front of me in that pic was on an HD. Even after the cars in front of him had passed the herd of Bison crossing the road, he refused to proceed. He sat there blipping his throttle in an apparent attempt to convince the Buffalo to keep their distance from him. We ended up going around him. That made him one of rather many HD riders we passed on this trip.

Of course we did end up right in the middle of that weather some miles short of Mt. Rushmore. It was pretty ugly, but timing is everything and we came across a restaurant / equestrian camp called Elk Haven just as the sky let loose. When it started to hail,



the lady who owns the place suggested we move our bikes onto the porch:



We at lunch there. You can have a buffalo burger or a beef burger. I had buffalo.

We ended up waiting the better part of 3 hours for that storm to move through, but it seemed as though it was hung up on Mt. Rushmore itself for most of that time, with repeated cycles of drizzle, torrential downpours, and hail. Eventually it did clear and we continued. Here's our first glimpse of Mt. Rushmore:



A few more miles of fabulous twisties taken very slowly due to being wet and the risk of the downpour having washed crap onto the road, we arrived at the main attraction. Much to my chagrin, they charged us $8 each for parking, despite my plea that both our bikes would easily fit in one standard sized parking space.

So here's the $16 picture:



I'd never seen Mt. Rushmore before. Now I have. Many of the places we've been on this trip, I'd love to go back to. This isn't one of them.

So onward we go. Past Rapid City. Onto I90 East, which was very windy, almost reminiscent of that day in Saskatchewan.  A heavy cross wind really wears on you on the interstate. At Wall Drug, we turned south into the Badlands loop. Fabulous. The skies still had some dark clouds here and there, alternating with sunshine from low in the sky, which made for interesting lighting in places:











After completing the Badlands loop, the day was pretty much shot and we continued on I90 east a bit until we came to Kadoka and a Super 8 Motel. Our arrival there was met with interesting colors in the sky:



Due to the cave tour and the weather delay, we only got in around 190 miles.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 18:43.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 16:25  
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Day 28 - 21 August 2006

Our longest day, mileage wise:



Basically a 600 mile drone across the prairie, which got progressive greener as we proceeded east. To get it over with, we planned to ride until dusk, then find hotel rooms. Dusk came at Sparta, Wisconsin. There were several hotels. All full. At one of them, they told us there would be a bunch of hotels were I90 and I94 joined. We went as far as Oakdale without finding any of them. At Oakdale, there's a KOA which is where we spent the night. Set up camp in the dark for the first time. The Strom's headlights helped. The Oakdale KOA itself is nice enough, but it's right next to I90/I94 which have a steady stream of noisy traffic all night long. We neglected to take any pictures that day.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 18:45.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 17:31  
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Day 29 - 22 August 2006

Back to the Great Lakes:



Across Wisconsin farms to Oshkosh, then up the shore of Lake Michigan:



We had planned to camp on the Upper Peninsula, but upon arriving there and checking Streets and Trips, it seemed that campgrounds with amenties like hot showers are few and far between. Therefore we ended up at the Gray Wolf Lodge in Manistique:



This place affordable and very nice. They have their own private beach right across the street, all set up for a "bonfire" (they provide the wood). The following pics are all from that beach:









We decided this was the best of all possible worlds: A fire on the beach, with a cheap but comfortable hotel room a few steps away.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 18:45.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 17:52  
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Day 30 - 23 August 2006

More Great Lakes:



At the Mackinac Bridge:





Somewhere on the shore of Lake Huron:



Having checked the weather before leaving in the morning we expected rain that day, sometime after turning south and crossing the big bridge. The forecast was correct. We encountered pretty steady raid from Alpena south. By the time we got to Tawas City, we were sick of it and decided to find a hotel. Checked the Days Inn there. They gave us the special "Wet Biker" rate -- over $100. We decided to keep going. At Au Gres, we found The Pine Tree Inn (until recently a Best Western, now an Econo Lodge) for $63. Much better. It was still early, but we'd covered ~275 miles so... Checked in, turned on the TV and promptly fell asleep. By that evening, the rain had stopped, and we went out seeking dinner. Found it at at an Irish Pub (have forgotten the name) but it was quite good.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 19:21.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 18:22  
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Day 31 -- 24 August 2006



Somewhere around Flint we got a bit of rain again. Stopped for fuel and put on our rain gear. A guy in a car headed north told us it was raining "like hell" a half hour south. We decided we were going to press on, come what may. Further south it was pretty obvious that it had rained, but was now clearing. Just past Toledo the weather looked more or less OK and it was too hot to continue wearing the rain gear.

We crossed most of Ohio on Routes 20 and 82. I simply wasn't in the mood for the Ohio Turnpike. Route 82 was dog slow just south of Cleveland, lots of traffic lights, lots of traffic (it was now rush hour). We had planned to continue on to find a hotel room somewhere around Warren, but past Aurora came across the Ohio Jellystone. "Eric, wanna camp one last time?" "Sure." This place was pretty nice. Biggest campground we've ever seen, over 200 acres with a 50 acre lake:







The day was about 340 miles.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 18:47.

Uwe  m
No New Post 27.08.2006 18:36  
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Day 32 -- 25 August 2006

We go home:



About 400 miles. Know this route like the back of my hand. My inlaws live near Cleveland and I've done this run about 60 times in the last 20 years. It was funny how the hills of Pennsylvania (I won't call them mountains) felt like home in a way they never have before. I finished my previous cross-continent trip (in a car in 2001) on the same route, but it didn't feel the same. Somehow I feel much closer to everything on a bike than in a car. Despite getting off to a late start, we were home by 6:00pm. And the weather gods took a respite. The forecast was for 85F with thunderstorms. I'd say the temps were between 75 and 80 and we didn't encounter a drop of rain. A good way to finish the trip.

We didn't take any pictures, sorry.

-Uwe-

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Postscript:

When we got home on Friday evening and I started this narrative on Saturday morning, I had it im my mind that we had spent 31 days on the road. That would have been a month. Hence the title. But towards the end of writing this narrative, I realized that we actually spent 31 nights and 32 days on the road. Of course that's more than any month so the title of this thread is technically incorrect. Sorry.

When we left, I had no real preconceptions about how often we'd camp vs. taking hotel rooms. If I've counted right, we ended up camping 18 out of 31 nights. We could have camped more, but there were times when it was simply easier to get rooms, and there's a lot to be said for having your own bathroom only a few steps from your bed. On the other hand, having the option to camp when you can't find a hotel room is A Good Thing too.

We only averaged ~290 miles a day over the 32 days. This was less than I had originally expected, but our objective was to see the continent, not to earn any Iron Butt awards.

What have I learned? What would I do differently if I were to do this again?

* Get bike-to-bike communications gear. I looked at this before we left but didn't find any that I had confidence was what I wanted. It would have made things easier on numerous occasions when we had to stop to discuss options, and once when I desperately needed a pee stop on the interstate -- Eric was leading and missed that fact that I was getting ready to stop.

* There are a few articles of clothing that I could have left home. A turtle-neck shirt that I never wore. A second pair of shorts, a pair of thin sweat pants and a pair of "body sensing" long-johns. But these didn't weigh a lot or take a lot of space.

* Other than that, our preparations seemed adequate. I was prepared to buy anything that we found we needed but didn't have. At Alberta, we realized could not find the spare cotter pins for our rear axles (which we thought we'd packed). Easily remedied at a Napa store. We also realized we had no tire plugging kit. Ditto. Other than that we only bought consumables like oil, tires, and Windex Wipes. BTW, a pack of Windex Wipes beat the heck out of carrying a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels.

* A laptop with Streets and Trips installed is excellent to have, particularly when it comes to finding places to stay or eat. Since I normally spend my life in front of a computer, I had originally planned to do this trip without one. But I couldn't find a GPS with a comprehensive enough POI database at a price I wanted to pay. So a laptop came (and a 12V charger too). The compromise was that it didn't have any of my usual stuff (e-mail, browser profile, etc) installed, which pretty much rendered any temptation to do work-related stuff irrelevant. But this also prevented me from posting here while I was on the road.

* The Strom is very comfortable except for one thing: The vibrations in the handlebars got annoying after a a while. The new grips helped, but I would do more (Bar Snake? fill 'em with BB's?) before I set out on a trip like this again.

Farkles I was very happy with:

* The Gel Seat topped with an Alaska Leather sheepskin pad. Yes, I wanted to get off the bike for 5 minutes every half a tank of fuel, but that was enough to do another half tank, and repeat indefinitely.

* Caribou/Pelican bags. Lock to the bike. Come off in 5 seconds. Really water and dirt-proof. Reasonable price. Could not have been happier with any other setup.

* MP Cycle 19" Sport-Touring windshield. I expect I would have been very unhappy had I tried to make this trip with the stock screen. This one has much smoother flow and much less buffeting. I have a relatively short upper body and I tend to slouch somewhat, so this height was perfect. Still, if I ever get a different bike, it will have more wind/weather protection than the Strom.

Something I was unhappy with:

* A brand new Pharos GPS 525 which crapped out 1/3 of the way into the trip. Even when it worked, it was annoying due to it's lack of a "base map" of Canada. Sure, you can download detail maps of Canada, but they limit you to download 3 per day, not nearly enough. We ended up using our ancient Garmin E-map instead, until the (cheap, Fleabay pwoer cord for it died and we decided that we could live without a GPS anyway).

That's all I can think of for now. Tomorrow, it's back to work.

-Uwe-

Post last edited by Uwe on 27.08.2006 20:32.