Thursday, July 16, 2009

Back home, or at least in my hometown...

Well I made it back to Toronto by mid afternoon yesterday, and went straight to my dealer to book an oil change for next it is a bit passed due.

Once again I got really lucky with the weather and missed a thunderstorm by minutes. At one point I was just exiting the highway heading east when the north bound route I left started raining! So after 1500 miles in 2 1/2 half days I am pretty exhausted, good thing I can put my feet up at work and relax.

Yes I was back at work first thing this morning, looking like Grizzly Adams. Mid morning I headed downstairs for one of men's few "treats": An hour long shave done with a straight razor! Lots of cocoa butter lotions and about a dozen hot towels, it was the first time I have ever done it, and I have to admit it was pretty great! After work I went and got a haircut, so I am now back to my civilized self.

The three questions I have asked myself are: Did I enjoy it? Would I do it again? Did it seem like 5 weeks?

I absolutely enjoyed it! Minus the Prairies, it was fantastic, and a once in a lifetime experience. Which answers my next question... I absolutely would not do it again. I am glad I did it once, but I just can't see going through all that again. Maybe shipping my bike to the West Coast, but even then the cities I would like to stay longer in: Sonoma and Napa Valley, Moab, Vail, you can always fly to and stay for a week, which is what they really need. Doing it with my brother, and for the brief period with Dawn, was great. The majority of the time I spent by myself was unfortunately the grueling boring part, with the exception of Moab. It would be a totally different trip with a woman. I am not sure one could stand the monotony of sitting on the back of a bike for that period of time, I certainly couldn't. A woman with her own bike would be ideal!

Did it seem like 5 weeks? I would have to say yes, at least 5 weeks, things I did before I left seem like such a long time ago. I have a theory I somehow came across or developed over the years: your brain filters out all the things that are similar or routine, and only remembers new or unique things. Which is why at the end of a work week, after having done the same thing over and over again the week seems to have flown by, because your brain has deleted most of the week. As a kid every day is full of new and exciting things, as we get older fewer and fewer new things happen, so time speeds up, as your brain deletes more and more of your time.

These last 5 weeks, even with the routine of riding the same motorcycle for hours on end, has been full of new places, faces, vistas, and views. Things I have never seen, places I have never been to, and activities I have never tried. There hasn't been a whole lot my brain has had to delete for the last 5 weeks, so it seems like it has lasted for a great deal of time.

So I have come to the end of my journey, maybe my next one will be with my bike maybe not... but I do know there will be a next one.... :-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So close I can smell it....

Well the last two days have been pretty exhausting. From Rapid City I had 1500 miles to get back home to Toronto, as of this evening I have about 350 miles left. I started doing the math on if I kept going what time would I get in, when it came back around 11pm, and I have been going since 7am, I thought I would stop. Also I was given a sign... ok I saw a sign: Motel 6 $35.99. Matthew's advice was always if you can find a hotel for $20 more than camping, don't even hesitate.... shower, bed, internet, dry your tent out.... priceless....

I can put up with the heat, the rain, the cold, but the one thing that absolutely exhausts me is the wind. I have spent the last two days on the edge of a big storm and have been battling a crosswind constantly. It is like sitting in a chair and having someone trying to shove you off it, hour, after hour, after hour.... so I am extremely grateful for a hotel tonight.

Matthew and I averaged about an hour to pack up in the mornings, this morning I did it in land speed record time of about 30 minutes. Lying in my tent I had heard the rain in the middle of the night, but when at 6am the wind started howling, I knew I was in trouble. Apparently the threat of getting soaked while packing up your stuff is quite the motivator!!!

So yesterday I left South Dakota, I have been through Omaha, Iowa, Indiana, and am now in Michigan, not bad for two days!! The American Midwest is like what I thought the Canadian prairies would be. A multicolored patchwork quilt of vegetation. Dawn will be happy to know that a great deal of states practice diversified farming, instead of field after field of the same thing. Some fields even had more than one type of crop...

So sadly no picture for today, partly because the weather was so crappy, and the view was basically flat. I was partly hoping to get back to the "Welcome to Toronto" sign, but stopped short. Give or take a day getting back is no big deal, and there is no point in trashing myself to do it...

So tomorrow I will be back home, or at least in my home town. Assuming of course they let my British butt back in the country.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Black Hills, Badlands, and Buffalo Gap

I am now in my final day here in Rapid City, I took my bike to the BMW dealer yesterday to get my new tires put on, wow what a difference!! I hadn't realized how much the others had worn to the point of making steering more difficult. I then headed out into the Black Hills for a bit of a tour, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed. There was a brief stretch of about 5 or 10 miles that was fun and twisty, but nothing to write home about(other than this of I then sat out the afternoon thunderstorm in the comfort of my hotel while doing a MUCH needed load of laundry :-)

This morning was one of the few days on the trip where I could get up when I liked, as I had no destination or mileage I needed to accomplish, so a leisurely breakfast and coffee at Starbucks was greatly appreciated. I then set out for Buffalo Gap Grasslands and The Badlands National Park. If you are picturing a post apocalyptic science fiction future where the burned out relics of cars block the way to the Badlands you would be mistaken. I know I was.... ;-) ok not really...

One of my first iterations of my journey had me doing my great big circle clockwise, going through the USA then up the coast, then across Canada. In this scenario The Badlands would have been the first of many scenic vistas I would have seen, instead of the last. In that case I probably would have taken many more pictures and been much more impressed with it. Unfortunately after 8000 miles of roads and MANY spectacular views, touring around Rapid City can't quite live up to some of the other areas of the two countries. If you have an opportunity to come here, The Badlands is definitely worth it though.

On a final note for today, not wanting to toot my own horn(but if I don't no-one else will) I have discovered that trying to pick just one or two photos to adorn my dissertation can sometimes be difficult. I have to admit I am pretty impressed with the improvement in my photography skills over the last 4 weeks. I have now taken 1140 photos, for me a monumental increase in my usual lackluster vacation snapshots. So the best of my days photos I have been uploading to webshots:

I have been wanting to have some of my own photos to use as a gallery in my house, and now I am sure I have a few shots that I would be happy to display.

Tomorrow morning I set out for home. I am both happy and sad about this; I am definitely looking forward to getting back to my life, and work,( I know I'm weird) but I am sure it won't be very long after I get back that I will pine for the open road, breathable air, and an unencumbered vista to the horizon....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Buffalo and the Presidents....

Ironically after heading out this morning 15 minutes into my ride I came across a State Park with camping, then another one 15 minutes after that!! I guess I should read my map more carefully. Yes, thanks to Matthew's influence I actually bought a map in Moab, and I don't rely totally on my GPS. It is great if you want to find a particular spot, or make your way through an unknown city, or go from point A to point B the quickest way possible, but a map will show you the most scenic routes. I really think you have to have both a map and a GPS.

Thanks to my trusty map I noticed Mount Rushmore was only slightly off route to Rapid City, so made a detour through it. It was quite a sight, and an amazing feat of artistry. Lunch was a buffalo burger in the cafe!! How often do you get to try buffalo, at Mt. Rushmore, staring at a huge likeness of 4 presidents???? Very tasty by the way.... Drove through some amazing cloud formations on the way, with the threat of a thunder shower at any time, that never materialized.

Well, I am now in Rapid City, the center for my tour of the Badlands and the Black Hills. For safety sake of my gear I have a hotel room for 3 days, so I don't have to worry leaving all my stuff behind during the day. The final Tiger woe, which I knew was coming at some point... my tires have pretty much worn out, I was most worried about riding them in the rain. I am even with the wear indicators. 8500 miles, which apparently is much more than the 5000 mile estimate most owners had given me. So I am off to Sturgis tomorrow for new ones. I figured go to probably THE most famous motorcycle city in the USA to get them put on. BTW it is mostly famous with the Harley groups, so it is pretty funny riding a Triumph to a BMW dealer to get my tires!!! lol.... I got a great deal on a new set, rather than shipping my original ones out here cross border. They will still be there when these ones wear out in a year or so.

So I start my tour of the area tomorrow. I have pretty much decided I am going to try to get home about a week early. I will have seen everything I wanted to, and I really just want to get back home, even though I won't have a home to go to for a week... It means I can put in an extra weeks work this month, and maybe take the week later in the year at some point.

BTW for you eagle eyed observers, yes I currently have a beard. Having never really grown one, I figured why not for the trip, saves lots of time shaving... :-)

"Interstate" riding....

After coaxing myself from my lap of luxury hotel room I hit the road heading for my previous days destination: Boulder Colorado. Ironically the temperature was much cooler and got progressively more so as the day went on. Riding on the interstates in Colorado is not quite the same as slab riding the 6 lanes of the 401 in Toronto. With the river on one side(not sure if it was the Colorado or not) and mountains on the other, it is truly gorgeous. With a mild 250 mile day planned I cruised along in cool comfort. Vail is truly gorgeous and definitely a spot I would return to, especially in Winter.

The peak of my day literally was 11,158 ft. as I rode through the highest vehicular tunnel in the world the Eisenhower Tunnel. Yes there was snow 50ft. from the road at one point!! So having gone from over a hundred degrees to putting all the liners in my gear, it was quite a change!!

Arriving in Boulder at a comfortable 1pm, I discovered it wasn't the picturesque Whistler type outdoorsy town, but more like the University district of Denver. Very disappointing. So giving up on staying there I headed towards my final waypoint of my journey Rapid City South Dakota.

Well having gone from a leisurely scenic pace to high speed multi-lane boring hot riding, 3 hours later I was ready to give up. Having not seen a campground for hours I finally pulled into a small town and settled for a hotel again. :-(

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The view of Moab from 10,000 ft!

Ok those of you that have seen my Facebook update know what is coming.... Moab is considered one of the top Adventure destinations in the USA, from mountain biking, ATV and dirt biking, river rafting etc.... so I figured it was the place to try something I have always wanted to do: skydiving!!

I was supposed to go 6pm last night but the winds were too high so I headed over at 8am this morning, and saw two groups of 2 go ahead of me. There are two instructors jumping tandem, so you are strapped to one of them. The benefit of this is if you jump by yourself the height is much lower, and the chute opens straight away. Jumping tandem means freefall!!! The photo isn't of me, but the group ahead of me, but I have a DVD being sent to me, so I will try and upload it when it arrives.

How to describe it... the first few seconds is like sensory overload. The wind is howling, you are spinning all over the place, then you arch into position and fall stomach first for a while, then the chute opens and everything goes quiet. I was given the controls for a while and manged to put us into a pretty good corkscrew! Thanks to a fantastic instructor, and owner Paul, who I was strapped to, I did a perfect standing/running landing!! It was absolutely fantastic and one more thing checked off my list of things to try.

Having flown over the National Parks in the 20 minute flight to get to 10,000 ft. I figured I should hit the last one which was the north end of Canyonlands Park. Lots more photos, lots more heat, and I was ready to hit the road by 4:30. I had hoped to be gone by noon, but the skydiving took longer than expected. The ride out of town was not the fastest, I chose a route that ran along the Colorado River, but it was certainly gorgeous! By 7:30 I was cooked, I was so hot and tired from the previous nights lack of sleep, I pulled into this little town after seeing a sign for "Wine Country Inn" thinking it sounded like a nice "mom and pop" kind of place. Well it turns out to be a gorgeous(slightly expensive)Inn next to a vineyard. Being too tired to go on, here I am in my king sized feather bed typing quite the change in venue from sweating in a tent last night!!

Going it alone...

Matthew and I had our last breakfast together in Green River Utah. After packing up our bikes he was heading east and I was heading west. In typical Matthew fashion he suggested I ride off into the sunrise. The last image I saw of him was the dwindling reflection in my mirror....

I have to admit the thought of heading to the cooler north was quite tempting. Unfortunately I had one more stop in Moab, that I REALLY wanted to do so further south it was.... having zipped through town checking hotels and camping I headed south to the southern end of Canyonland National Park and the Needles region. Fantastic scenery, took a TON of photos. One of my plans didn't work out for the afternoon(more on that tomorrow), so I headed to Arches National Park around 6pm, two hours or so before sunset. Rode through the park taking lots of photos, then got to the end just as the sun was setting, and changing all the colors, so raced back through the park re-taking pictures everywhere. Unbelievable difference!!!

I might start a huge debate here, but I found the National Parks in Moab far more stunning than the Grand Canyon. Partly because you can ride along the edge of it for 25 miles or so, with pullouts every hundred yards. (and yes I did stop at just about every one of them!) The terrain is phenomenal, and the ever changing topography is amazing...

Not a fun night, camping in the heat, lying on my thermarest sweating until about 2am when it finally cooled down :-(