a.k.a. The trip to end all trips...
As I write this, nearly 18 months after taking this trip, many things are fresh in my mind, some are not, but overall I remember this trip as something really great. Jeff and I sat down a few weeks ago and jotted down some notes and memories of this trip with the intent being that we'd finally write a trip report for it. Usually, I am really good at writing things down immediately after returning from a trip. I'm not sure why I didn't write this trip report before now - probably because initially, I wanted the memories and stories to be mine and Jeff's. Also, for a trip of this caliber, I didn't want to just jot down my thoughts - I wanted Jeff's input as well. As things usually go, Jeff and I never really got around to this, except for the occasional "hey dude, when are we gonna write the Cali trip report?" Ready or not, here it comes.
This was to be the trip to end all trips. We had taken a week-long trip the year before, and had taken a couple of other trips in between. Just mentioning the word California for the weeks leading up to this trip induced a glassy-eyed look on each of our faces, followed by the consumption of beer. This was something that Jeff had been dreaming of for a long long time....at least as long as I knew him. Somewhere in our drunken banter, the phrase "I just wanna sit on a beach in California, watch the sunset, and then call someone and tell them about it" would come up. California, for me, had a different allure, and while there was no single event that I was looking forward to on this trip, I was excited about the unknown. While we talked about this trip, we referred to it as "going out to California" - that phrase alone has almost a mystic aura about it. Whatever it was we were going to see, we were definitely excited about it. I think we each had our own thoughts and ideas about what being on the road for 2 weeks would be like, and we knew that this was going to be something special, even before we threw a leg over our bikes.
It turned out to be so much more.
After extensive planning (read: we looked at a map, and repeatedly said "ooh!! We've gotta go there.") we had a general idea of the route we were going to take. I met Jeff in Oakbrook, IL early in the afternoon on Friday, and after a gas stop and a quick lunch (of lunchables and Mt. Dew), we were on out way out of Chicago. The Interstate would be our guide for the first day or so - there's no use taking backroads out of Illinois and across Iowa, as there's nothing much to see anyhow. The Interstate would get us to "the good stuff" quicker.
After a gas stop at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, we continued on across the exciting state of Iowa. Actually, it's no worse than Illinois, but that's not saying much. As we rode along the Interstate, we noticed an unusually large number of bikes....but none of them were actually being ridden. Somewhere along the way, it dawned on both of us that the Sturgis Rally was next week, and that explains why there were so many bikes. Nothing explains why 99% of them we being pulled behind a car. Hell, I remember seeing a Honda Goldwing on a trailer (see, sometimes I can say that word), and thinking "what the f*#k??" It just doesn't make sense to me, but I guess that's a part of motorcycling that I'm not meant to understand. The convoy of sad motorcycles continued into dusk as Jeff and I continued west.
As the sun went down, the temperature dropped, and the wind picked up a bit. I spotted a lone motorcycle up ahead. It took me a minute to identify the bike, and then I realized that it was a Harley. After seeing the unbelievable number of bikes being pulled behind cars, this was a welcome site. The Harley rider looked cold and tired. His over-sized sleeping bag and duffel bag were barely hanging on underneath the bungee cord as he droned along the Interstate. As we passed him, he looked over, waved, and gave a nod. We of course waved back, and as I saw his headlight slowly disappear in my rear-view mirror, I realized how much respect I had for him. He could have taken the easy way like so many others, but there he was doing it the right way. Being from Chicago, I get used to so many new Harley riders (read: yuppies with money who buy a Harley and barely ride it) who think that they are better than the rest of the motorcycling world, even to the point where they won't wave at you if you happen to be on an Japanese bike. For someone like that to not wave is not that big a deal to me, because I know that they have no clue what motorcycling is all about. Riding for me, and Jeff, is a way of life, and my only regret is that I can't spend more time on the road each year. For the lone Harley rider on I-80 to wave back was important to me. He was doing the same thing that I was doing, not because it's easy, or difficult, or fun, or cold, or tiresome. He was doing it because he could. I've got a lot of respect for people like that, and that moment when we crossed paths on the Interstate will live in my mind for a long time.
It was dark now, and we decided to stop for the night. After a couple of no-vacancy signs, we stopped for the night at the Bear Creek Inn, somewhere in Iowa.
Standing outside the hotel enjoying a cup of coffee, we notice some other bikes parked outside, and strike up a conversation with the riders. More people heading to Sturgis, and we talked to them about our trip for a bit before loading up and heading out.
We jumped back on the Interstate, and for some reason, once we crossed into Nebraska, we started hitting moderately heavy traffic. It was a dull gray day as well, and after a stop for a late breakfast, and a quick visit to a motorcycle shop (to ogle a bit) in Lincoln, NE, we continued on. The Interstate just wasn't doing it for us today, and we decided to get off the Interstate and take US 6 across. Once we got to the complete desolation of US 6, we started to make really good time. We even found time to stop at the Kansas state line. What excitement!!
As we continued on into Colorado, I noticed my fuel level dropping as if there were a hole in my tank. My CBR really wasn't liking the combination of altitude and "cruising speed" and my fuel mileage was suffering badly. We had to make an early gas stop, and then started heading back towards the Interstate so that we could get to Denver. Jeff's cousin, Joe, lived there and promised to take us out so that we could see the nightlife of the town of Denver. About 45 minutes out of Denver, we hit a horrible rainstorm. The wind was gusting from out right side and was blowing the bikes all over the place. I ended up hanging off the right-side of the bike and leaning a bit just to get it to track straight. Looking back, we probably should have pulled over, as many cars were, but we would have ended up just getting soaked, so we continued on. After a minor pucker moment where I saw the rear tire of Jeff's VFR slide on a wet patch of concrete at about 70 MPH, we made it to Joe's house - barely. I think I had .3 gallons of gas left.
The rest of the night is a blur, and even if I could remember the events of the night, "decorum prohibits mentioning them here."
Off to an early start....yeah, right. We wake up hungover, and head to Denny's for breakfast with Joe at about 10:30. At around 11:00, we finally continue west on I-70, and pass through the Eisenhower tunnel. The mountains and the views from the Interstate are incredible, and in the passes, you can see for miles and miles. We break off the Interstate and take a detour to Mt. Evans, home of the highest paved road in America. The road rises to 14,050 feet above sea level, and despite the heavy traffic on the way up, and regardless of the fact that my jetting was so bad I had to slip the clutch in 1st gear to get the bike to move, we made it to the top to find an absolutely incredible view. BTW, it was damn cold out - about 38 degrees at the top of the mountain, as Jeff and I tried to hide behind a boulder and lite up some tobacco. It was completely worth it though, and I look forward to getting back there again.
We headed down the mountain, and back to the Interstate. Jeff was really hung-over still, and we spent the afternoon exploring some of the backroads of Colorado. There were a few twisties here and there as well, and the afternoon turned bright and sunny. It was a great day to ride and explore. Unfortunately, we must have been riding during the shortest day of the year, because it was dusk before we knew it....either that, or we didn't get an early start - I forget. We continued south into Colorado, spotted a few campgrounds on the map, but they were full. I saw a sign for a "family campground" and figured this was going to be it. It was getting late, and I think I speak for both of us when I say, "I just want to get some sleep."
We walked into the "family campground" dressed head to toe in black riding gear, and looking like hell warmed over. I asked the woman for a campsite, and before she could say a word, the old guy behind her said something like "sorry, this is a family campsite" to which I replied "excuse me??" "This is a family campsite. Only families are allowed." Now I was starting to get a little aggravated. Without thinking, I said "Yeah, he's my brother, we're a family. We're down here from Chicago, and I'd like a campsite." Heh heh heh, that oughta teach him. After a couple minutes of me bantering back and forth with the geezer, it was apparent that we weren't going to be staying there that night. Keep in mind, all we wanted was a place to pitch our tents and get some sleep, but because they saw us show up on bikes, they immediately thought that we were vagrants. I told him that his policy was asinine, and that this was f*cking ridiculous, threw a few more jabs in, and told him where he and his campground could go - after all, that's what vagrants do. I could tell that he just wanted us to leave, so we did. Back into the parking lot, we cranked up the bikes. Needless to say, we weren't happy, and we let them know that. So, if you're in the area, stop by the 160 West Adult RV Park and tell them I said hello.
Less than a mile down the road, there was a sign for another RV park. Jeff pulled in, and we went inside the "general store" to see about camping there. The woman was a little confused, and said "well, we don't really have campsites, but you're welcome to just setup in that grassy area over there." We asked her how much, and I think she said five dollars, but it was some insignificant amount of money. She told us about the laundry facilities, asked if we needed any food, etc. I remember thinking how difference a mile makes, as she really was a super nice lady. We setup camp, and immediately turned in for the night.
A couple of hours later, I woke up shivering. I have never been so cold in my life. I put on more clothes, tried sleeping on top of my riding gear to shield me from the cold ground, but nothing helped. I got up and took a walk, hoping to warm up a bit, and then tried to go back to sleep. I vividly remember thinking "god damn that ass-hole. He's probably inside his tent fast asleep!" He was. I learned the hard way that a thermarest sleeping pad is a necessity when the weather drops to just above freezing. Oh well, live and learn.
In Colorado, a stop on the way up to the top of Mt. Evans
The view from 14,050 Feet above sea level (Mt. Evans)
Our campsite in Colorado - just us and the winnebagos
After a somewhat restless night of sleep for me, Jeff awoke fresh and chipper (I guess he was happy that his hangover was gone). "What cold weather?" he asked, as I sat huddled in the laundry room trying to warm up. Once I stopped shivering, we packed up the bikes and headed out towards Pegosa Springs, CO. The morning air was really crisp and cold, but with the gear on, I was fine. We rode through town looking for a place to grab some breakfast, and we ended up eating at the Riverside Restaurant, where Jeff complained about how cold his hands were from the ride. "F-you!!" I told him, as we laughed at our differences in sleep last night.. After a great breakfast, we stood outside for a while - I was looking at the hot springs that were all over the place and thinking about how cold I was last night. Had I known these were only 1/2 hour away, I may have saddled up so that I could submerge myself into one of them.
We continued west across southern Colorado. The rolling hills were nice, and the morning air was still really cold. As we began to pick up the pace, we came upon a traffic backup. We sat in traffic for a few minutes, which was great for Jeff, as it gave him a chance to warm up. As we got close to the end of the backup, we noticed some police cars, and another image that won't leave me anytime soon: a body with a white sheet covering it up. I still remember the Keds brand shoes that the white sheet didn't quite cover. It was a solemn reminder of what can happen, and it definitely slowed us down for the rest of the morning.
In a heartbeat it seemed, the mountains turned to desert, and before we knew it, we were at Four Corners National Monument. I was amazed at the sheer desolation of the place - there wasn't a single thing in sight other than the overly-touristy shops surrounding the monument. After doing the customary "Stand in all four states at the same time" and picking up a birthday present for my mom, we got back on the bikes to head back out, but only after riding a circle around the monument. As we approached the highway, I stopped for a second to turn on my tunes. I was in a music mood, and Jeff was waaaaaay out there. He was wearing his old jean-jacket - the one that he's had since I've known him, and I could tell that he was looking forward to the next couple of hours of riding across the desert. It's moments like these that he's talked about wanting a cruiser - just to sit back, relax, and just go. Before I took off, I looked at him and said "See you on the other side." It took him a minute to register what I said, but then I saw the smile and as I took off, the sounds of the Eagle's "Hotel California" rang through my helmet.
After a while, I pulled over to take a picture, and I put away my tunes. Jeff rode past me, and I let him get a little ways ahead of me before I followed. Something looked strange when he rode by, but I couldn't figure out what it was. After a short encounter with a herd of free-range sheep, and a couple more photo opportunities, I saw Monument Valley. Adam, who I work with, told me not to miss this. He told me that I'd recognize it from all the car commercials that are shot there, and said it was incredibly beautiful. He was right, and I was glad that I took his advice. The road dipped down into a valley, and then through some incredible rock mesas. It's probably one of the most picturesque places I've ever seen. As I rode through the valley, I caught up to Jeff. He was ahead of me on the road, and it looked like the road was heading right into a mesa - he and his bike looked tiny. As I approached him, I realized why he had looked strange as he passed me. Mr. ex-gymnast himself was really kicking back and takin' it easy. See the picturefor a full explanation.
As we continued on through the desert, it got hot. Damn hot. Really scorchin' hot. I was so hot that I took off my riding pants and rode in jeans - something I rarely if ever do. It was so hot that I had to ride with my helmet visor down. You know that heat rush that you get when you open up a hot oven? Well, that's what it was like when I opened up my face-shield. I was cooler keeping it closed. We continued west across Northern Arizona, and spotted a couple of bikes up ahead - one was a red Honda Goldwing, and the other a blue BMW R1100RS - both with Illinois plates. They pulled aside to let us pass easier, and we waved back and forth and carried on. The next town we got to was Pace, AZ and it was time for a gas stop - and water. WATER!! I need water!! Not to drink mind you - but to dump over my head. I downed a quart of Gatoraide as well. Before that however, I stood there filling the tank on the CBR, when the two bikes from Illinois pulled up. "Hey, how's it goin?" the guy on the BMW asked. "Hot!!" I jokingly replied. He shook his head and said, "Can I ask you a question?" I nodded, and without missing a beat he asked "Are you f*cking crazy?!?!" as he pointed to my bike. I started to laugh, and explained that it was actually pretty comfortable, but I'm sure his BMW was a lot nicer. We laughed a bit, and the two of them took off. It was then that I began dousing myself with as much water as I could get my hands on.
It was getting later in the day as we approached the Grand Canyon, and I was starting to feel sick. I think the combo of cold sleeping and then incredible heat was taking it's toll on me. We stopped at the Grand Canyon entrance, and decided to just head to the next town and grab a hotel. We crossed the border into Utah, grabbed a Best Western room for the night, and asked the clerk is there was a sports-bar in town. She looked at us like we were from outer space. I guess they don't take their drinking too seriously in Utah. We walked down the road to a restaurant, and had a pretty good meal of chicken cordon-bleu. I think that the main thing we were excited about was the air conditioning and the carafe of water - which I think the waitress had to replace about three times. "So, do you guys want to sit outside on the patio, or inside." In unison: "Inside."
Monument Valley, Utah
My CBR in Monument Valley, Utah
Jeff on the VFR ahead on the road in the desert in Arizona
Jeff gettin into the desert thing. "Take It Easy."
I hate mornings to begin with, but this morning I woke up with that scratchy feeling in the back of my throat. The temperature changes did a number on me, and I was catching a cold. At the morning gas stop, I began inundating my body with orange juice. I struggled to down a quart of fresh OJ....it's the last couple ounces that hurt.
At any rate, we started to head north this morning, and after about an hour we hopped on the Interstate for a little while. About an hour later, my stomach was growling. Luckily, Jeff, who was leading at the time, spotted a Burger King sign, pointed to it, and gave me the "well??" sign. Although I didn't say anything, I'm sure the fact that I was bouncing up and down on the pegs and shaking my helmet furiously told him. If not, I made sure there was no mistake by pulling the throttle WFO and heading for the exit ramp. There was a bus parked in the gas station/Burger King parking lot, and neither of us thought anything of it....until we went inside. In the Burger King were about 20 high school cheerleaders, most of them giggling and bouncing around. After hanging out with Jeff, the sight of females was a welcome one, even though they were total jail-bait. Standing in line, I was eavesdropping on their conversations, and remembering how much I don't miss high school. Oh yeah, the name of the town we were stopped in: Beaver, Utah.
After breakfast, we headed west on Utah route 21. Out of the mountains and into the desert we rode. This was desolate. No cars, no farms, no fences, nothing. We stopped roadside for a bit, and I took a walk into the desert to have a look. When you need to go, you need to go, and with no trees anywhere around, right in the middle of the desert had to do. As I was...ummm, you know, I heard the sound of water hitting pavement. I turned to see Jeff, ummm, you know, in the middle of the road. I burst out laughing, not only at his clever way of continuing to try to one-up me, but since I should have done the same thing. We were stopped there for about 1/2 hour, and one car went by. We saddled up and wheelied away from our rest stop, and I noticed Jeff fidgeting on his bike and then saw both hands go behind his head. Then I took a closer look, and Mr. Ex-Gymnast was at it again, this time steering with his feet.
As we rode across the desert, the desolation continued. We crossed the border into Nevada, and a few miles later I hit my reserve. "Uh-oh." That came on pretty quick. Must be these triple-digit desert cruising speeds. I slowed to a sane speed and told Jeff to go ahead. I putted along at 50 MPH for the next 40 miles hoping that I was going to make it to the gas station. Apparently during this same time period, Jeff had a different problem, and was afraid that he might have to use the blue-towels for something they were never meant to be used for. Luckily, both of us made is safely to the gas station. What a relief - literally.
After pounding another quart of OJ, we continued west on Nevada Route 50, nicknamed "The Loneliest Road in America." It was early afternoon now, and what I thought was hot in the morning seemed mild compared to this oven-temperature afternoon. After an hour or so, I started to feel week, and I stopped for more OJ at a little roadside grocery store. Route 50 was pretty desolate, but not as desolate as Utah 21 this morning. There were a few cars, and about every hour or so you went through a town. To break the monotony, there were mountain ranges - I think about 6 of them across Nevada. You'd go dead straight for 45 miles, and then spend 20 minutes going through a mountain pass, only to return to another dead-straight desert road. The ride was nice, and with the water bottle, it wasn't too bad. No, nevermind, it was damn hot. I'm riding along, and decide to take a picture of the dead-straight road ahead of me. As I'm putting my camera away "VVRRROOOOOMMM!!!!!!" Jeff goes flying by me, and I was doing 80 at the time. Damnit! A chase ensued, except that my jetting was so rich at this elevation that I couldn't get above 135 to catch him. He slowed down a bit, and I caught up, and he's fidgeting again. "OK, what the hell is he doing now??" I thought, as he turned around. I noticed his water bottle in his hand, and with cat-like reaction, I swerved to the left to avoid getting drenched with water (which in hindsight was pretty dumb, since it was really hot and it would have felt good, but this was a game and god damnit I'm gonna play). I grabbed my water bottle and the war was on. We went back and forth for the next couple minutes, and after getting hit with some water, I realized that it felt good, so I drenched myself.
We continued through the incredible heat - it had to be 110 degrees - and eventually made it to Carson City where we stopped for gas and necessities for camping tonight. Leaving Carson City, we started back up into the mountains towards Lake Tahoe, and as we rose in elevation, the temperature dropped as if someone had turned on the air conditioning. It was a welcome change at this point, and as I was enjoying the cool air, I got my first glimpse of Lake Tahoe. It was really fantastic with the deep blue water, the green mountains, and the clear sky of that day. We stopped at a campground and took a campsite away from everyone else back in the woods. We spent the rest of the night scrounging for firewood, eating lunchables and beef jerky, and telling stories of the day. Camping is a great way to end a nice day of riding, and when the sun went down, the full moon appeared through the 50 foot tall pine trees. It truly was an awesome moment.
The bikes stopped in the desert along route 21 in Utah
Look Ma!! No hands!! Jeff riding with his feet on the handlebars
The long, fast, hot roads of the desert valleys in Utah
I awoke this morning and could tell that my cold was still there. We packed up camp and headed out early this morning. Next thing we knew, we had crossed into California. No bells or whistles went off, there was no ticker-tape parade, it was just another state line. As we rode south out of Lake Tahoe on route 89, I started to really enjoy the day. We stopped at a small - I mean small - mom & pop restaurant for breakfast in some little town that I couldn't find again if I tried - not that I would try though. We talked with a family sitting at the table next top us during breakfast before heading out again. What a great atmosphere, and a great meal too.
A little further down the road, we hit the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park. After a gas-stop, and a hat stop for me (I lost my CBR hat somewhere on the road), we started to head into Yosemite. The entrance was incredible - grand, beautiful, peaceful. The views from the pass of the lake below were absolutely incredible. We continued on into the park, and the further in we got, the worse the park got. There was an overabundance of campers and traffic, and it was very slow going for a while. I actually stopped enjoying the park about 1/2 way through, and I honestly couldn't wait to get out of there and away from the people. To date, this was the worst National Park I have ever visited.
Exiting the park was good and bad. There was very little traffic and the road exiting the park carved through a river valley, but it was hot - damn hot - as hot as yesterday if not hotter. The riding was great though, and we picked up the pace for a little while. A guy on an older FZR1000 passed me, and I didn't feel like trying to keep up with him, but apparently he and Jeff had a little fun up ahead on the road. After a quick roadside stop to lose some clothing, we continued heading west across California on a 2-lane blacktop. Suddenly, we were mysteriously transported back to Iowa, as the landscape changed from canyons to cornfields. Weird.
After another gas stop, we jumped on the freeway and started heading towards San Jose. Traffic was moving at a good clip, and we made great time. Once we reached San Jose, we exited and I led us to the beginning of Route 9, a road suggested my many a CBR lister. As we sat in traffic waiting at a light, we saw a number of bikes go past on the shoulder. Two midwestern-motorcyclists looked at each other with looks of surprise on their faces. "I guess that's legal here, huh?"
We headed up route 9 towards Skyline drive.I remember thinking how great it would be to live at the base of route 9 and have these roads in your backyard. We made it up to Skyline and stopped at parking lot up there to talk to a couple other motorcyclists that were up there, and then continued north towards Alices. I was disappointed to see that Alices was closed, but we stopped there for a few minutes anyway. There were a couple guys there, one on a naked VFR that looked sweet. We talked to a couple people for a while, and they were curious about our travels and Illinois license plates. Living in that area, it's kinda strange for them to think about riding somewhere else. Lucky bastards. As we headed further north on Skyline, the typical San Francisco event happened - the fog rolled in. It went from bright and sunny to foggy in a matter of minutes, and as we approached Half Moon Bay, the temperature dropped. I was really starting to feel like crap again, and we grabbed what was the last hotel room in town for the night.
Along Skyline Blvd south of San Fran, we watch the fog roll in
After a great night's sleep, good as it was, I still felt like crap this morning. My cold was definitely not getting any better - duh! you're out riding your motorcycle in ever changing weather. What did you expect???
This morning though, I was looking forward to visiting one of my favorite places in the world - Marin Headlands Park, just north across the Golden Gate Bridge. As we started up PCH from Half Moon Bay, the air was crisp and the smell of the ocean was strong. It was a great morning ride, and as we approached the Golden Gate, the fog grew thicker, and you couldn't even see Alcatraz from the bridge. We began the ascent up the road towards the great views of Marin Headlands, but we stopped prematurely by the Road Closed sign. Damn, and I rode all this way. Oh well, back to PCH and up the coast. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to see that view, but made a pact with myself that I'd ride out here again sometime. Good, that was easy.
We continued up PCH and the ride was absolutely beautiful. The fog lifted, the air was still cool (in the mid-50s),.and the ocean was an incredible shade of blue. I followed Jeff this morning through a series of small towns, and we were having such a great ride, that we forgot to eat breakfast. At about 11:00 or so, we stopped for an early lunch at a seaside restaurant. We sat at the bar, and instead of the typical mirror behind the bottles, there was a nice window with an even nicer view of the ocean. I don't know about Jeff, but I was purposely eating my burger slowly so that I could sit and enjoy this view a little longer. That, and I was still feeling like crap, and it felt good to sit for a while.
After lunch, we continued up the coast and the great views continued. We hit a construction zone, and it was one of those times where the view is so nice, you don't mind just sitting there for a few minutes. The construction detour took us a few miles from the coast, where the temperature rose a good 30 degrees, much to the chagrin of my cold. We're heading along an inland road, and Jeff had a little encounter with a squirrel. Seems a couple of squirrels were playing "I dare you" and it was this guys turn. He darted out in front of Jeff. Now, this was not the smartest of squirrels, because I saw Jeff make at least three corrections in his path, and each time the squirrel moved in the wrong direction. Needless to say, Mr. Squirrel didn't make it through that day, and was unfortunately hit square on.
After the detour, we got to the part of PCH where it begins to head inland to meet back up with highway 101. This is an incredibly fun part of PCH - great twisties and elevation changes, and we picked up the pace significantly, with me following Jeff. The endless twisties continued for a good 30 minutes or so and we were throwing the bikes around pretty good....and then something strange happened. I started to feel sick. I thought it was the smell of Jeff's exhaust at first, but I backed off a bit, and it didn't get any better. I forged on until we got to the 101 and started heading north. I was quite dizzy and feeling a little nautious. I pulled ahead of Jeff and pulled off the road into a gravel area. "What are you stopping for?" Jeff asked, and he got his answer as I pulled off my helmet. Apparently I was ghost white. I've ridden my share of rollercoasters before, but the combo of this road and a bad cold gave me a good case of motion sickness that day. We sat roadside for a few minutes while I tried not to throw up.
We were only about an hour away from Eureka at that point, so we decided to make that our stop for the night. As we rode up the 101, I barely noticed the huge redwood forest that we rode through. Go figure. We got into Eureka, and spotted a cheapo-motel where we stayed for the night. I noticed a "coastal access" sign across from the hotel, and the clerk told us that there really wasn't much to see. Regardless, we got back on the bikes and headed down the road. We found a broken down pier and a small beach. There wasn't much around other than that, the smell of the ocean, and some seagulls. However, there was something about that place that I can't understand. It's somewhere that nobody who lived there would go to enjoy the waterfront, yet it was quite enjoyable simply from it's lack of touristy appeal. As the sun set and the reflection shined from the rippling water, I remember thinking that I'll never forget this moment. I still have not.
The fog engulfing the Golden Gate Bridge
Headin up the Pacific Coast Highway, north of San Fran
The sun going down in Eureka California while we're sittin on the dock of the bay
Today it was time to head inland a bit and visit Klamath National forest. We awoke to cold temps and figured it would get nicer when we got away from the ocean. Heading inland, it was a little warmer, but not warm by any stretch of the imagination. The roads and the scenery were quite nice however. We passed through a number of small towns before stopping for breakfast.
After breakfast, we continued inland and North, and Klamath was getting nicer and nicer. We stopped roadside for a bit and gazed down into the canyons that the road was tracing. It was very quiet and peaceful. As we stood there admiring the view, we saw a maroon Bandit 1200 with a biga windshield and GiVI bags go past, and we both did the customary grunting at the sight of another bike. We started throwing rocks down the cliff to make mini-landslides (we're from the midwest ya know - we don't see many cliffs and elevation changes), and I turn around and see the cliff on the other side of the road. I pick up a rock and heave it up about 100 feet onto the cliff, and then scream out in agony as I remember that my throwing arm is not in good shape.
We continued on again, and the sites and views of Klamath continued to impress. It certainly was a nice detour from the coastline, both for the scenery and for the lack of traffic. Crossing the border to Oregon, we decided to make a little time by jumping on the Interstate for a bit. It was Jeff's turn to lead for a few days, and I told him that I'd just follow wherever he wanted to go. Unfortunately, I was a little impatient, and found a quicker diagonal road back to the ocean, and even after pointing it out to Jeff, he shrugged it off. I should have just followed him, but I decided to take the turnoff, even though I told Jeff that he was in the lead. At the next intersection, I apologized for my inability to just follow, and insisted that he re-take the lead. Quick sidebar - any women in this situation would not only be mad at each other for hours, but they wouldn't say anything about it. Us - "sorry dude." "Yeah, no problem." Done.
We made it back to the coast, and to the traffic and continued north. The cool ocean air was welcomed with open arms, as it was getting pretty hot inland. We traveled up the coast the rest of the afternoon, and the views of the Oregon shoreline were incredible. At one point, we came around a corner to see a lighthouse across a bay perched atop a cliff. Jeff gave me the hand signals for "Do you want to stop??" My turn signal was already on and I was already turning into the overlook. What an incredible site. We stood and looked out at Heceta Head lighthouse for a while before continuing north.
As we approached Newport, we began to once again see the No Vacancy signs, just as we had seen in Half Moon Bay a couple nights ago. I still wasn't feeling fantastic, although I was much better, and we didn't want to get stuck without a place to sleep tonight, so we pulled into the only hotel in town who's No Vacancy sign was not lit up. We'll call this the "Exercise in Futility" hotel, because there was this old guy trying his damnedest to use a mouse to reserve rooms on the new hotel computer - both Jeff and I wanted to jump over the counter and beat him senseless with the same mouse he couldn't use. Eventually (read about 45 minutes later) we, and the three people ahead of us, got our rooms. We had about 1/2 hour until sunset, so we headed just out of town to go watch the sunset from the beach. We ended up at Beverly Beach.
For a long long time, I had heard Jeff talk about wanting to ride a motorcycle out to California, and then sit on a beach and watch the sunset. He had finally made it there, and I left him alone to be with his thoughts while I walked up and down the beach and snapped a few photos. We had a perfect sunset that night, and one that neither of us will ever forget. For that moment, everything was perfect.
A beautiful ride through Kalmath National Forest in northern California
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon
Newport Lighthouse, Oregon - as seen from Beverly Beach, OR
The bikes in the sunset along the Oregon Coast
Jeff enjoying the sunset in peaceful solitude
The sun disappearing over the horizon
Thinking back on the trip, this has got to be my favorite day of riding during this trip. Everything was perfect - the scenery, the people, the roads, and the nature.
After slabbing it across the Washington border, we exited at route 4 and started to head back to the coast. Along the way, we stopped for gas at an old service station. While we were resting for a bit and enjoying the morning sun, an older gentleman came over and struck up a conversation with us - for about 1/2 hour. He was a great guy, and he told us of growing up in the area, the logging community, and we told him of our travels. He also mentioned to us that there was a great covered bridge nearby and we should go take a look. After the conversation ended, we saddled back up and after making a quick stop at Gray's Creek covered bridge, we continued towards the coast.
When we were back in the desert, Jeff hit what we tend to describe as "The Zone" - a time and place where you forget everything, including your name, and you just become one with the bike, the road, and the small part of the world that surrounds you. Before I knew it, Jeff was long gone ahead of me, and now it was me who was in the zone. The Olympic peninsula was incredibly beautiful - I had never seen pine trees that tall before, and the views of the Olympic mountains were fantastic. Occasionally I would come around a corner and ride through a part of the forest that had been strip-mined for timber, and even though that was sad, I rode through many parts that had been mined years ago and was completely regrown. I felt a little better knowing that they at least re-grow the forest, and I understand that we, as people, need timber, but it's still sad to see a part of the forest missing.
A little ways up the road, I caught a glimpse of the ocean again, and finally the route was tracing the coastline. Next thing I know, I see Jeff's VFR parked at an overlook - again, which is strange because once he gets in his EST moods, he rarely stops, so I figured this was a nice place. I hauled the CBR down, and pulled into the overlook to find Jeff enjoying a nice afternoon view of the Pacific. I snapped a couple pictures, and we were talking for a bit, and then it happened. Out of nowhere, a bald eagle flies by. It couldn't have been more than 20 feet away. We tell this story a lot, not just because it was probably one of the most incredible things I've ever seen, but more so for my completely honest reaction, which was "Oh fuck!" I had never seen (or don't remember ever having seen) a bald eagle before. I watched him fly along the coastline, and Jeff nonchalantly said "Yeah, he's been flying by about every 10 minutes." "Damn, how long have you been here," I asked. He grinned, and replied "A while." Apparently he had been wicking it up quite a bit and had the rear wheel off the ground under braking when he saw the overlook, but that's another story for another day.
We stood at the overlook for a little while, realizing that the road headed back inland, and this was probably our last view of the Pacific for a while. As I rode away, I remember vowing to return there someday, and I almost immediately got back into the zone. The road continued for a while, and near the north end of the peninsula, there was another road that I jumped on for a while. I'm going along, and there's some nice twisties, mostly 30-35 MPH corners, so I'm heading into them at 60-65 MPH, nothing too aggressive. All of a sudden, I'm in a 15 MPH corner thinking "Holy crap!! Who removed the 15 MPH sign!!!" as my bike drifted into the oncoming lane, where there was luckily no traffic. Phew!! I continued on a little more cautiously, and finally got back to the main road where I met back up with Jeff. He immediately asked "OK, how many corners did you blow because you were looking at scenery? I had three." To which I replied "Not just that, but who the (bleep) removed the (bleep) (bleep) 15 MPH sign from that corner!!!" We both laughed.
Evening was now upon us as we were heading for Port Townsend to take the ferry across Puget Sound. We got to the ferry, and the operator told us, on bikes, to go to the front of the line - It's about time we got some preferential treatment!! :-) The ferry ride across took about 45 minutes or so, and the sun set while were were on the boat. There were some great views from the boat, and we commented on how we keep ending up on ferries during our long trips. As the ferry pulled into harbor, we suited back up, and headed out into the darkness. We came around a corner and up a little rise and BOOM!!! There was the biggest full moon I had ever seen. It was barely over the horizon, was almost an orange color and was about 4 times the size as it normally is, and we were riding right into it. There are few sights as beautiful as that.
We made it back to the Interstate, and once again, there was not a hotel room to be found. After stopping at about 5 hotels and getting the "sorry" response, we figured that we weren't going to be sleeping inside tonight. There were no campgrounds around, and it was after 10:00 anyway. "Hey, there's a rest stop just south of here." We pulled into the rest stop, and there were a number of RVs parked there sleeping. Hey, if they can do it, so can we. Out came the sleeping bags, and the left over cookies, crackers, and wine from last night. Jeff apparently got his best night's sleep yet since the sound of the semis passing by on the Interstate drowned out the sound of my snoring.
The VFR at Gray's Creek covered bridge, Washington State
I had to take a picture of the 1000F there too!!!
A ride through the beautiful Pacific Northwest
My CBR in the Pacific Northwest - it looked exactly like I thought it would
My CBR at the Washington coastline
The Washington coastline....our last view of the Pacific
Our view of Port Townsend, WA, from the Port Townsend Ferry at dusk
We awoke that morning to the sound of birds chirping, the wind whispering......and RVs dumping their sanitation tanks. Mmmmmm, good moooorning. After laying out the suit on the ground to try to soak up some sun and dry the dew off of it, I headed to the rest stop bathroom for my morning visit. I noticed a table setup and took at look to see what was going on. A senior group was selling.....COFFEE!!! Wh-hoo!!!! This is a good morning after all.
After a couple cups of go-go juice, we saddled up and headed back north on the Interstate to get back to route 20. On the way, we stopped at a McDonalds to inhale some breakfast. It seems that the leftover cookies, crackers, and wine for dinner last night didn't fill me up too much, and on top of that, Egg McMuffins were $.99 each. "Ummm, three please." You know it had to happen at some point.
We then made it back to Route 20, and started heading east across the Northern Cascades. It was more of the same, and before I knew it, Jeff was long gone and I was back in the zone. The scenery was absolutely incredible, and the rocky peaks of the cascades kept distracting me from the road. Diablo Lake was just beautiful. This stretch of road was absolutely incredible - not overly twisty, but the scenery was unreal. A little further down the road, I saw a fork in the road coming up, and route 20 headed off to the left. "Hmmm, I wonder if Jeff is gonna catch this one," I thought. Jeff has a tendency to blow past exits, turns, etc. Most people carry a map to figure out where they are going. Jeff carries one to figure out how the hell he got somewhere. At any rate, I actually blew the turn, as the sign was pretty unclear, but immediately turned around. "Hmmmm, I wonder if I'm gonna see Jeff again," I thought, thinking that he was off on some road sitting roadside thinking "God damn, where the hell is Tad??" A little ways down the road, I caught up to Jeff. He was waiting for me in a 7-11 parking lot, and as I pulled in I said "Hey, surprised to see you here." He replied with a classic line. "I was thinking that you were thinking that I was gonna blow that turn back there. Well ya know what? You was right!!" Apparently he didn't get too far detoured before figuring out he was on the wrong road....either that, or he was really movin. I'll leave that one up to you to decide.
After a gas-up, we continued east, and we rode together the rest of the day. At one point, we hit a detour. The tore up about 5 miles of the road, but the only other way around was about a 30 mile detour, and we were actually only about 10 miles from the Canada border. We decided to wait until next time to head up into Canada, so we continued east. We crossed into Idaho, and the scenery was still very nice, but not as dramatic as the Cascades from the morning ride. We were starting to get closer to Glacier National, and having not had a bed to sleep in the night before, and me not having showered in a couple of days, we decided to haul up in Libby, Montana for the night. Plus, this would give me a chance to get my mom a birthday card and send it in time. We grabbed a room, got cleaned up, and then headed next door to a restaurant/casino for a bite to eat. After a pretty good meal, where I think I actually ate a salad, we headed back to the room, and before I knew it, I was falling asleep. Poor Jeff though - I guess I was pretty damned tired, because with my snoring, in his words: "First, I was afraid you were going to die. Then, I was afraid you weren't."
Our stay at the Iron Butt Motel
A great shot of the Northern Cascades, Washington - right near Diablo Lake
After a very restful night's sleep, we got an early start and ventured out into the cold morning air. I was enjoying the ride, and thought Jeff was as well. As we got to the entrance of Glacier National, I pulled over into a parking lot. Jeff pulled up next to me, hit his kill switch, and didn't move. "I can't move my (bleeping) hands." I started laughing my ass off - this was the exact opposite of the desert where Jeff was fine while I was broiling. Oh what a difference a couple of days makes.
We started into Glacier National, and immediately the scenery changed. We were riding through a mountain valley, and we stopped roadside for a minute to walk down to a little river. It was amazing how clean and clear the water was - and cold. I performed my typical baptismal before we continued on up into the elevations on Going to the Sun road. There was a little bit of traffic here, which was no worry, since this was not the kind of road to push it on....unless you like 1000 foot drop-offs as a shoulder. As we climbed in elevation, the views were more and more magnificent. I snapped a picture of the river that we were stopped by, and it seemed as if we were a million miles away from it. We also crossed the continental divide a couple of times before we stopped at a visitor's center, somewhere about 9,000 feet. We parked in a parking spot, grabbed a drink from the shop, and stood there enjoying the morning air for a while. A couple of guys pulled up on bikes - and older guy on an older BMW, and another guy, his son, on a Honda Nighthawk. We struck up a conversation with them, and then I noticed the DuPage Honda sticker on the nighthawk, and asked where he was from. "Naperville," he replied, which is about 20 minutes from my house. We talked about our travels, and his dad made a comment something like "Yeah, those sportbikes are great, as long as you like to f*$k the tank all the way across the country." Like they say, in order to be old and wise....
The rest of Glacier was equally as nice, and before we knew it, we were at the exit and heading south into Montana. We were away from the mountains, although we could still see them on the horizon. What we didn't miss was the "reasonable and prudent" speed limit sign. Hmmm, what's reasonable? How about 90ish. That sounds good. We were heading south on a 2-lane through some rolling hills, and I was following Jeff, and trying to take the same lines as him. We come around right hand sweeper, and then enter a left hander when I see Jeff's line change drastically. "WTF, this isn't a decreasing radius....oooohhhhhh, I get it." Standing on the side of the road, right at about the apex of the turn was a bull.....a big bull....with horns. "Hmmm, must be in free range country." We got to the next town, and stopped for gas. "Nice lines back there," I said sarcastically, and Jeff replied with some kind of FU response. As we were filling up, two bikes, an RF900 and a Triumph Trophy, pulled up. We talked with the riders and they pointed to the storm just to the south of us. Before heading out, we took a few minutes to get out the rain gear and cover everything up. It had been 10 days since our last sign of rain, and we figured we were due to get drenched. We turned out of the gas station, and almost immediately the rain started up. "OK, here we go," I thought, remembering our torrential downpour while heading into Denver a week ago. About 5 minutes later, the rain stopped, and it was bright and sunny. That makes 50 minutes of rain total for two weeks....not bad at all. It took us longer to stop and put on our rain gear than it did to ride through the storm.
After another nice high-speed run across Montana, we were approaching the Wyoming border, and decided to stop for the night, and set ourselves up for Yellowstone tomorrow morning. Wh-hoo!! Two night in a row without having a problem finding a room. We're on a roll. After dinner, we decided to partake of the hotel's hot tub and get a good soak. We met a nice family from Germany down there - the father was in the hot tub, and the two sons were practicing dives in the pool. We exchanged stories for a while, and his kids kept asking him if they could do "bombs" a.k.a. cannonballs. Occasionally he would let them do one, but most of the time just told them to practice dives or swim laps. When it was time to go, I asked him jokingly if I could do a bomb, and his kids eyes lit up. I'm not sure how big the splash was, but I figured it was pretty good when my back hit the bottom of the pool as I sunk like a ton of bricks.
Me standing in Glacier National Park, Montana
The bikes in Glacier National Park, Montana
Me riding the 1000F in Glacier National
Going to the Sun Mountain, Glacier National Park
The mountains of Glacier National
Yellowstone is often referred to as a "must see" and this morning, I was very curious to see what all the fuss was about. At the entrance to the park, we stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast, having failed to find a small mom 'n' pop restaurant for a good breakfast. As we arrived, so too did two Harley riders and we ended up behind them in the line. We weren't talking to them, and they weren't talking to us, having walked right past our bikes with nary a glance over, let alone a word. It's easy, living in Chicago, to despise Harley riders because of their "holier than thou" attitude, and this morning added just a little fuel to the fire. Not only that, but these two yuppies smelled more of cologne and after shave than of gasoline and exhaust. I chuckled to myself waiting in line as I was treated to their effervescence.
Anyway, we entered the park after breakfast, having no idea what it would look like or where we should go. As we rode through the entrance and into the park, I was reminded of the unfortunate forest fire that ripped through here years ago, and my only thought, other than "what a tragedy" was "I wonder what it looked like before." It really was a sad sight to see. Continuing on, the geysers started to appear and we were following the signs to Old Faithful, as were the abundance of RVs. The steaming geysers were something I had never seen before. We pulled into the parking lot for Old Faithful and a couple minutes later, two Harley's pulled in...no, different ones. Very different. Riding 2-up was mom and dad with son on the second Harley. They couldn't have been any nicer and were the exact opposite of the yuppies at McDonalds that morning. We talked to them for a while, sharing stories of their travels before they headed into the lodge. Jeff and I headed to Old Faithful to do the "gotta see it once" thing. We happened to arrive just a couple minutes before it erupted, and we really didn't care. We had been on the road for 12 days now, and there was one particular young woman there wearing a white blouse, tan shorts, and hiking boots with little white socks. We admired her more than we did Old Faithful.
We headed south towards the Tetons, hoping to leave the crowded Yellowstone behind us. It was good to see Old Faithful, but I can't say I'd ever care to return. There were just too many people there. Teton National Park was a little crowded, but mostly with people en route to Yellowstone, and the Teton range was truly a sight to behold. We sat along the shoreline of Jackson lake, the sun glistening off the blue water, and thought "that's more like it." The Tetons were definitely worth seeing, and they remained in view for some time. On the way out of the park, we were stopped for about 15 minutes for road construction, all the time with a wonderful view of the Tetons. That's the one time I didn't mind road construction at all.
Heading across Wyoming, we found the terrain changing from time to time. Sometimes it was forest, sometimes there were cattle ranches, and sometimes we were in canyons - but all the time, we were riding. Jeff had taken the lead out of the park and we had really been putting on the miles. It seemed for a while that the only places we were stopping at were gas stations. Jeff was just in that kind of mood I guess, and I admittedly was having trouble keeping up, as I could have used a break now and then. I had been labeled the "Mileage Nazi" by Kurt the previous year for pushing him on the Around the Lakes trip. That was a trip where we had a destination each night. Here, we were just putting on the miles and watching them disappear. At a gas stop, I stood on a concrete post, and officially renounced my throne as the Mileage Nazi. Regardless of the fact that he didn't want the title, he got it that day.
We did slow our pace after that, and Jeff actually threw on the jean jacket for a while as we continued on through the canyons. It was a bright sunny day - it couldn't have been more perfect, and Wyoming couldn't have been any nicer. We grabbed a campground at a place called Big Bear, hoping not to run into any of the residents. I stoked up a big fire and watched as the stars came out, but tonight, there was something else on my mind. My girlfriend (at the time) had been very lonely on the phone lately and was giving me a hard time about still being on the road. I couldn't get it out of my head and I was walking about trying to get a cell phone signal to try to talk with her. The signal failed, and I returned to watching the stars, but I didn't know what to do about that whole situation. I was certainly enjoying myself and the trip was coming to an end, and I was getting tired of the tears. It was too late to figure it out tonight, but I didn't know what tomorrow would bring.
Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, WY
The Grand Teton Mountains, WY
A far away view of the Tetons as we were stuck in construction traffic - not a bad view
Damn....I didn't realize until writing this (some 3.5 years later) that this happened on the 13th day. Call it TID-Day.
I awoke this morning to the strangest sound, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me what it was. I eventually emerged from the tent, only to find a herd of sheep walking about 100 yards away from the campsite. Hmm, that's a new one. I've heard of counting sheep, but never as a way to wake up.
We packed up camp and continued east, hitting the Interstate about an hour later. The mountains were disappearing quickly in my rear view mirror, and so too did it seem that the trip was quickly ending. What I didn't know was how quickly. As we rode along this morning, I couldn't get my mind off the crying voice on the other end of the phone. Here we were, on the Interstate, heading east, the mountains were gone, and my mind was all messed up. It was at this time that I made the biggest mistake in motorcycling that I have ever made (and I've lowsided and was lucky to walk away). This one takes the top billing.
I exited the Interstate at the next meeting up point, and Jeff wasn't far behind. "Dude, I'm done." I told him. "I'm heading back" I continued as I tried to explain the situation. I know he didn't understand, but he didn't try to stop me either, and for some reason, despite the fact that I call this my biggest motorcycling mistake, I'm glad he didn't stop me. I had to learn the hard way. We parted ways with only a handshake, and a "see ya back home." That is pretty normal for Jeff and I, so don't read into that too much.
I continued across Wyoming, stopping at Devil's tower for a photo op, and I then made my way into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is another one of those places that you just have to see once. The Black Hills area was very pretty, but I could tell I was near another one of those touristy spots. I wove through a little traffic and made my way to the entrance of the park, and I didn't bother going in. The four Presidents were in clear view, and I didn't feel like waiting behind the line of RVs to get into the park, so I called it good and continued on back to the Interstate.
I almost didn't take the exit for the Badlands, but I'm sure glad I decided to take the detour. It was mid-day as I pulled up to the ranger station. The young woman working there noticed the "Mom's Birthday" reminder that I had in my map case, gave me a smile, and informed me that I better send a card, which I had already done from Montana. The ride through the Badlands was like nothing I have ever seen. In the middle of prairie land is this area of strangeness. A full spectrum of colors are displayed against the eroding rock formations, and the road winds and twists through this incredible place. I'm sure glad that I took the detour here. There wasn't much traffic at all, and I was starting to realize that the less popular places are often the nicest.
Back on the Interstate, I started to make pretty good time, and I made it to some small Interstate "gas station" town by darkness. It was incredible how many bugs were out, and I was actually having to stop sometimes to clean my helmet visor, rather than to stop for gas or a break. The mosquitoes were the size of birds and they were out in full force. I stopped and made a phone call, thinking that I was going to ride through the night. She convinced me that I should not try to make it home in one day, and she was probably right. I ended up paying for gas and noticed that they had a hotel attached, so I grabbed a $24.95 room for the night and called it good. I remember wondering where Jeff was at, and I was hoping that he was enjoying the miles. Despite my decision to head home, I did enjoy the ride today very much.
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD - it looks the same in person as it does in any picture
The Badlands, South Dakota
Another shot of the Badlands
I don't remember the ride from today very well. The Interstate led me all the way home, with a gas stop here and there, and despite my desire at the time to always have a map visible, I was running without them. How hard is it to get from South Dakota to Chicago without a map?
What I do remember are the last few miles before returning home. I remember wondering where Jeff was at, and I remember feeling a sense of relief that I was almost home. I was hoping that she would be happy and that the tears would be over. I did feel bad for having left her for two weeks, and upon pulling into the driveway, I wasn't ready to be home. I was greeted immediately, which was nice and all, but I didn't even have a chance to get my helmet off, exhale, and stretch. That's a sign of how much I was missed....for some reason or another.
Oohhhhh, many miles, many more bugs.....
I awoke the next morning, and the very first thought that went through my head was "Why the hell am I not on the road still?" Actually, I take that back, as I had those feelings the night before, so it was more of a continuation of thought. I'll get the mistake out of the way first, and then I'll wrap this up.
On day 13, I thought I was doing the right thing. My mind was elsewhere, being pulled there from outside forces. I was confused, felt guilty as hell, and didn't want to continue the trip this way, so I chickened out and folded.
Lesson Learned: The trip is over when you want it to be over. Don't cut it short for anyone else. Just like in life, there are those things that you need to do for yourself. Selling yourself short here is not the right thing to do, if it's due to outside pressure. It's one thing to end a trip if it's over...it's another to end it because someone else wants it to be. I admire Jeff for not following me, but this was a lesson that I had to learn on my own.
On the other hand, pressure from home isn't a good thing either. I'm not talking about missing you - that's going to happen. Constant crying and guilt tripping, for me at least, just won't work. My time on the road is vital to who I am, and I can't have that message coming from home. Luckily, I no longer do.
All that aside, was this the trip to end all trips? At the time, it sure was. We saw so much of this country, and there's nothing like having that much time on the road. We saw so much different terrain, a few National Parks, and met some great people. Yet, we only caught a small glimpse. Looking back on it, we had two weeks to take a month long trip. I know that's overstating it, but we did rush through quite a bit, simply because we were on a timeline, and an unavoidable on at that. I don't regret the trip at all - we did make the best out of it that we could, and the sights that we saw are still fresh in my mind. As I write this, there are still places that I see on a map and think "Man, I gotta get back there." That's how fond the memories are for me.
Was it the trip to end all trips? No. It was only our second year of riding - I still didn't have a friggen clue what this was all about. This trip was a great eye opener - more of an appetizer for what the main course will bring. Despite my mistake, I look back on this trip with very fond memories. It's amazing how much we saw, but it's also amazing how much we missed. I hope I can spend the rest of my life filling in the blanks.