Saturday, April 17, 2010


Day 26

Miles today: 0 Total miles: 5,202

We slept in until 10 or 11 today - that was a pretty taxing day
yesterday. I think we spend about 11 hours travelling door to door. We
went out to brunch this morning with Sam and Sean and two other
friends who had flown in fir the weekend, Mik and Kyle, and had some
delicious trendy sausage and french toast. I started to notice last
night that thus city is very similar to San Francisco. Pretty hilly
streets, a lot of . . . um, different people. The difference is that
in San Francisco, there are some areas of town that tend to attract
these people of alternative lifestyles, while in Seattle, they're just
everywhere. There's the guy wearing a kilt at the yuppie bar, the guy
with the tie-dye overalls at the trendy brunch place, and the couple
dressed in all leather and trench coats at the Indian restaurant. I
can tell that I'm from the east coast because this all strikes me as
strange, while it's just business as usual for the people who live here.

We really lucked out with the weather this weekend. It's usually
pretty wet and cold in April, but it's sunny and in the mid 60's
today, so Sam, Sharon and I decided to go on a little hike. Climbing
1,500 feet in 2 miles up switchbacks is a little hike in the west. The
drive out was really nice, with cool views of Mt. Ranier in the
distance and other smaller peaks closer in. I did the hike in my
motorcycle boots because the second package I sent here from SF hasn't
arrived yet. I knew it was going to be a little painful in my $25
boots, but man did I have some huge blisters when we got back. The
hike was great, though, and we had a really cool view of the
surrounding peaks.

We sprinted down the mountain to see if we could make it to the Red
Hook Brewery by 5 for the tour. Missed it by about 10 minutes, but it
was sold out earlier that day anyway. But no worries! They also have a
bar for those of you who missed the tour! I've never really tried Red
Hook's beer, but their ESB was great.

Everyone was dragging at that point so we headed for the espresso.
Seattle is the only place I've been where coffee is significantly
different than the rest of the country. Most people drink espresso and
it is some of the strongest I've ever had. It tastes like they use
half as much water as a normal shot. It's probably an acquired taste,
because I like most espressos and didn't like this style.

Also, a note about Starbucks, according to Sam: it's really not
popular in the city of Seattle. There's only one location, but there
are others like 15th street coffee that are actually Starbucks, but
have been disguised to appear independent.

We went out to dinner to a great Indian place, and then went out to a
Belgian beer place to meet Walter, Sam's boyfriend. It's been really
fun meeting people in big cities and swing how they live, and it was
really cool to meet Walter and see the life Sam and he had carved out
for themselves. Sam lives in downtown Seattle, but reverse commutes to
Microsoft's campus. I'd never heard of this type of arrangement
before, but it makes perfect sense. The company doesn't need to locate
downtown to attract talent or be closer to any companies that it works
closely with, and the young people who work for the company want to
live in the city where it's more exciting.

After some stout at the first bar, we went out to Purr, where I got to
have my first experience with a gay bar. It was pretty interesting,
and no, I didn't get any digits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"This Isn't Fun Anymore"

Day 25:

Miles today: 192   Total miles: 5,202

By cutting our day short yesterday, we left ourselves an ambitious day of riding to make Seattle by tonight. We also had a few stretches where we had to go on divided highways and freeways for a few miles. It's not a fun feeling to be doing 45 or so when the traffic behind you is doing 60 or 65. I kept a close eye on what was approaching behind us, but there were a few cars that cut it pretty close when passing us. I always leave myself room to bail out to the shoulder if the car behind me isn't looking like they're going to go around, and I had to use that a few times today, which isn't a good feeling. When you ride, or drive, for that matter, you always want to leave yourself some "outs" which is what that shoulder is for me. So when I have to use that to avoid oncoming traffic, i don't leave myself anywhere else to go. I really don't like that feeling and that's why we've been doing all we can to avoid highways.

We got off the bike after one particularly hairy stretch, and Sharon said that quote above. We decided to take a nice, long break at the gas station and get some coffee/hot chocolate. We spent a little while just not thinking about the bike, and then we got out the map to look for a better way to get to Seattle. We found some county roads and cobbled together a new route that would take us a little out of our way, but would give us some kinder speed limits and less traffic. The good news for her was that she only had a few miles to go before she could get off the bike for good. When we got back on, the ride was much nicer. This turned out to be a really good decision, and we saw some great views of a few rivers. The huge plus was that we only saw a few cars in 2 hours or so before we got back on more primary roads near Puget Sound.

The route we took put us on a ferry into Seattle, which is one of the coolest ways I have ever entered a city. We came in around 10 at night, and the whole city was lit up. It was pretty cold, but we stood on the bow for a little bit to take in the view. I had also never been on a ferry before that carried cars, and it was pretty cool to just ride my bike onto a boat.

One of the first things I noticed about Seattle is that it's nearly as hilly as San Francisco in some spots. Not fun with 2 riders on a bike. We made it in fine to Sam and Sean's place (Sharon's friends from school - seriously this girl knows someone in every city in the US) and then we walked a few blocks to the bar where they were, called Canterbury Ales (insert groan). We had a couple drinks and then crashed at Sam/Sean's place. It's good to be in one place for a while and I'm glad we made it in today.

Guest Post: Some Perspective From the Back of the Bike

Greetings fair readers of Brian goes west! I'm here to offer some perspective from the passenger seat. 

First of all, California is a really really long state. Especially at 25 mph. I was pretty glad to finally leave it behind, because it felt like we weren't making that much progress when we couldn't get out. As a mid-Atlantic native, I'm used to hitting a new state every few hours. Or minutes if you're going through Delaware. 

Advantages of being on the back of the bike include not having to make decisions or pay too much attention to the road. Brian alluded to the fact that there is some active participation required from a passenger so that you're not shifting your weight too much, you're leaning into the turns correctly, and you brace yourself properly for acceleration and deceleration so that you don't hit helmets every time you change gears (i guess one good thing about only having four gears is that aforementioned gear changing is necessarily limited? Too soon?). Brian's "So today was a little uncomfortable as we both worked things out" means "Today was a little uncomfortable as Sharon kept not paying attention and ramming her helmet into mine every time we changed gears and I almost threw her off the bike."

Disadvantages to being on the back of the bike include not having to make decisions. Since there's not a lot of communication possible even at the turtle-like 35 mph, my contributions to decision making were limited to being able to request a stop. That kinda gets frustrating. Especially since I may or may not be known for talking a lot. Loudly. Also, after trying both seats, I can say with confidence that the passenger seat is much less comfortable. 

We'd been lucky enough to mostly avoid rain until this day, but less than an hour after leaving Coos Bay, we felt and saw a little bit of rain, so decided to pull off and "rain suit up!" We both looked really really ridiculous. I'm pretty sure there's pictures on Brian's camera somewhere, but let's just say it's a good thing we weren't trying to impress any young, good-looking Oregon-ers. We did stop at a delicious pizza place to warm up and watch a lot of the Masters. Needless to say, this cut down on our ability to make a lot of miles this day, but I'm pretty sure we both thought it was worth it. After getting back on the road (and, for the record, I called Lefty's victory from Day 1), we put down some miles but then hit some heavier rain. 

As we got to the early evening hours, it started coming down pretty hard. Once you get to a certain amount of wetness, it doesn't bother you as much (at least for me), and since I didn't really have great rain gear (athletic pants over jeans? Oops?), I hit that point pretty quickly. It does make the drive much much colder and we decided to call it a day pretty early in Tillamook, OR. Land of cheese making. Their cows smelled pretty bad (and this is coming from a girl who grew up next to a dairy farm and normally isn't that bothered by our bovine brethren), but the high school was the Tillamook Cheese Makers. So that was exciting. 

We stopped at a local gas station to evaluate our motel options and had a nice little chat with the gas station attendant (you can't pump your own gas in OR. Reminds me of my college years in fair New Jersey!). Once thing I really enjoyed about this trip is how readily people approach you to chat you up when your all motorcycle-geared up. It's an easy way to start a conversation -- where you guys coming from? -- and people were a) very impressed with Brian's lengthy trip and b) always willing to share a bit about the local area, politics, or whatever else came to their mind. It really was a cool way to travel and see the people in small towns across the West Coast and get a little insight into the various regions. And, as a professed lover of talking, it pretty much warmed my heart every time. 

We ended up staying a the Red Apple Inn, which had a very nice little innkeeper. We got some more cheese and sausage (breakfast/lunch/dinner of champions!), but supplemented with some red apples. Seemed appropriate. And some delicious Northwest Pale Ale. Or NWPA for those in the know. We had to cut Portland (land of the microbrew) out of our trip to save time (heartbreak), so I was glad to get some local brews. The heater didn't really work, so that was a little bit of downside, but other than that, it was pretty nice for a cheap motel. I called my friends in Seattle to let them know we would in fact arrive on Friday. We'll be staying with two of my very good friends from college, whom I hadn't seen in about a year, so I was very excited. 

Last thing -- Since I didn't get to post on the SF side of the trip, I'd like to take the time now to thank Stephen and Stacey profusely for hosting us. They are really awesome people and it was great to meet them, hang out, and offer my expert advice on furniture selection. Thanks guys! 

Into Oregon

Day 23

Miles today: 234   Total miles: 4,830

Over the past few days, Sharon and I have stuck to a strict diet of cheese, summer sausage and crackers. This is the perfect meal for the road because all the ingredients require minimal refrigeration and it can be eaten anywhere. I usually keep some of each of these foods in my lunchbox in the tankbag with a little ice. This way I don't have to stop at so many restaurants for lunch/dinner. This is a great short term solution for how to eat well and cheap, but after a little while, your body starts yelling at you, demanding something green. So we woke up this morning and I was feeling this way, craving a salad or some veggies. We talked about our options for lunch in town, which were pretty slim, and finally settled on Mike's Burger Joint. It has lettuce and tomato, right? Whatever, we had fruit last night. That should ward off the scurvy for at least another few days. Mike's was a pretty excellent choice, and reminded me just how much better burgers are with chili on them.

We crossed into Oregon today and left California behind. I guess I spent about 10 days in the state, and man was it a good time.

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but Highway 1 ended and we've been continuing on 101 since then. So I rode pretty much the whole thing, except for the stretch between LA and San Diego. Probably my favorite road in the country, unless I find one better on the way back.

We've now gotten gas in Oregon, and I'd like to comment on the state law that requires full service at gas stations (an attendant must pump your gas). This is the law, as far as I know, in Jersy and Oregon, but nowhere else. I can't think of a reason for this law beyond  job protection. There is no reason to require this attendant to pump your gas - I think the other 48 have pretty much proven that the average consumer can be trusted to fill a gas tank without blowing themselves up. So all you really do is increase the price of gas to everyone in the state so that some guy can keep his job which adds no value to the product he sells.

We put in a lot of good miles today, and made it to Coos Bay, OR. I think the big story is that Sharon made it that many miles without seriously injuring me or her backside. I'm starting to settle into a groove riding the bike with her on it; I'm starting to get pretty comfortable. Not sure if I can say the same for her, but at least we made good progress today.

Coos Bay is a pretty cool town with some nice views of the bay, nothing too spectacular though. More northward riding tomorrow.


Day 22

Miles today: 194 Total miles: 4,596

Today was a good day on the road. We slept pretty late and got going
around 11 or so. I guess we still pretty tired from thre weekend.
Today was just a great day of riding along the PCH and checking out
the awesome views.

The bike is doing ok, but the low speeds are getting s little
frustrating. On the way out here, I ususally averaged about 45 mph
with stops, but now we're only doing about 25. With a top speed of 40
and all the curves and hills of the highway we're on, we're generally
going pretty slow. It's ok on this road for the most part. There's so
much to see that I'm almost happy to slow down and take it all in, but
it's getting frustrating and feeling a little uncomfortable at times.
During some of the straightaways, some cars/trucks tend to come right
up to your fender while they wait to pass. There are some turnouts
that I've been using, but sometimes there's just nowhere to go for a
while. We haven't been in any dangerous spots yet, but like I said,
it's been a little uncomfortable in a few instances. We had to go on a
freeway for a while today, which wasn't fun, but we did find a scenic
alternate route: Avenue of the Giants, which snakes through a redwood
forest. We hit a patch of irony when we got stuck behind a BMW that we
couldn't pass for about 5 miles until I got impatient and honked at
him to use one of the turnouts.

As cool as the PCH was between LA and SF, I think it might be even
cooler north of SF. There are a lot more boulders in the ocean up
here, and the cliffs overlooking the water are a lot more dramatic.

I don't think Sharon's seat is quite as pillowy soft as mine. It
probably doesn't help that her butt is much smaller than mine. She's
also wearing a backpack that's weighing her down more than me. Stay
tuned to see if she kicks me in the butt to even things up.

Staying in Eureka, CA tonight, which apparently used to be a town
based on fishing and timber, but now has moved on to motels and bail
bonds. That's the surest sign that a city has taken a downward turn,
when you have 3 offices competing for the bail bond market on the same

The Journey Continues

Day 21

Miles today: 156 Total Miles: 4,402

When we last heard from our hero, his noble steed had been injured,
but he had found his fair lady. With renewed vigor and courage, he
sets out once again to traverse the hostile countryside, o'er the
cliffs of the mighty pacific, dangerously close to the water's edge,
through driving winds and constant rains, in search of the mythic town
of Seattle, land of strange music, exotic coffees and strong ales.
Will his crippled steed be up to the task? Will his fair lady leave
his side in search of a more capable but far less attractive traveling
companion? Stay tuned as our hero confronts the many challenges set
before him . . .

After a few preparations in the morning and a delicious lunch stop for
some burritos, we hopped on the bike and took off across the Golden
Gate Bridge. They only charge a toll southbound, so we got out of town
for free! That bridge is much cooler to look at than drive on in my
opinion. Still, it was pretty cool to be able to look down and see
Alcatraz and some sailboats on the pacific as you rode over it.

We didn't make too much progress today, but we did get out of town and
on our way. Sharon and I have gone for a couple rides around Chapel
Hill, but never for longer than 20 miles or so. It takes a little
learning from both riders to figure out how to ride the bike together.
Little shifts here and there throw the driver off, and gear changes
and sudden braking can throw the rider into the driver. So today was a
little uncomfortable as we both worked things out.

We made it to Point Arena, which was apparently famous for having one
of the first lifesaving boats. We walked into a seafood restaurant
with memorabilia from the boat covering the wall, and then just as I
was about to sit down, I glanced up and saw that there were about 4
seconds left in the NCAA championship. It was much more painful to
watch that live than it would have been to see the highlights.
Seriously though, this year should have an asterisk next to it. Thy
beat Butler in the championship and won by 2. That's all you need to
know right there.

We were both pretty tired and went to bed early. We're looking to get
an earlier start tomorrow so we can put more miles in.

Stephen and Stacey, it was great to see you guys this weekend. It was
so cool to see the lives you guys have made for yourselves, and I'm
happy I was able to help you guys get settled in your new place. That
way, when I'm out there again, I can say, "See that wall over there?
Yeah, I painted most of that. Except for that spot there, and that one
there, which I missed and Stephen had to fill in. But the rest? All
me." I can't wait until August to see you guys again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday and a Very Unique Dinner

Day 20

Miles today: 0 Total Miles: 4,246

We were out pretty late last night, so not too much happened this morning. Sharon and I got up to go to Easter Mass, but the Direct TV guy what supposed to come that morning, so we decided to go that night instead. We had a Mario Soccer rematch so that I could affirm Waluigi's dominance, and didn't really leave the house until around 3 or 4.

We met Stacey's parents at one of the most unique restaurants that I've ever experienced. This was a combination Irish pub, Indian restaurant, and souvenier shop. I'm not sure what images are coming to mind right now, but I can tell you that this place was surreal. As the story goes, there were 2 friends in Brooklyn who each wanted to open up their own business: one wanted and Irish Pub, the other and Indian restaurant, and the third a souvenier shop. You walk in, and it looks like a pub - dark paint, dark carpet, lots of wood, and a few pool tables, but then there are tables with white tablecloths and the smell of curry wafting through the air. So I had Saag Paneer and a Fat Tire for dinner while an old Metallica concert played on one TV and cartoons played on another.

We walked back to Stacey's parents' place and caught the end of the Golden State game, which gave me the opportunity to sing the praises of Charlotte native Stephen Curry as he rained 3's down all over the Raptors. We met their dog, who I'm pretty sure would be more accurately described as a small horse. We chatted for a while and then it was time to go get ready for church.

It turns out that most churches don't have a Sunday evening mass on Easter, so I'm guessing that it's sort of a liturgical no-no. We went to a Taize mass, which was all we could find. It's sort of a contemplative style mass, with lots of repetitive chants and candles, based on the practices of some French monks (I think., Not too sure about that). It was a little strange going to Easter mass that late in the day, but I had been to the Easter Vigil so many years in a row that I was just happy to go to mass on Sunday.

When we got back, Stacey had bought us a big bag of Easter candy to celebrate (She's Jewish, by the way). I think she'll make a great mom - my parents used to hide our candy all around the house in these plasitc eggs and make us kids go look for it.

Touring San Francisco and Other Misadventures

Day 19

Miles today: 0 Total Miles: 4,246

I'm feeling much better now. We went out briefly last night, but called it an early night because Sharon was pretty jet lagged. We got up this morning and lounged around for a bit, played some Mario Soccer, and then it was time to go buy a couch. Stephen and Stacey are moving from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one, so they have some purchases to make, one of which was the bed that was delivered Thursday, and another is a couch. We went to Room and Board to go check out a brand that they carried that Stacey liked (which is made in NC!). I think Sharon and I did well in our role as consultants, offering our expert opinions on such qualities as napability and TV-watchability. We also drank excessive amounts of free coffee and tea, telling ourselves that it was ok because our friends were going to spend money, so we were covered. My dad said many times that you know you've made a big purchase when you spend a lot of money and walk out of the store with a piece of paper.

After we'd covered our furniture needs, Stephen took us on a driving tour of the city. Stephen drove us all around San Francisco and showed us all the neighborhoods. We went up to Twin Peaks, which overlooks the city and is an amazing view, but we had a little trouble getting up there. Stephen's brand new, awesome car fell victim to a pothole. The road going up there was in pretty bad condition, and he had to deal with about 12 potholes in 100 yards or so. On the bright side, he missed 11 of them. That "thud-hisssss" sound is pretty awful. We got out and put the spare on, and then we got to continue the tour at Big-O Tires, where Stephen found out that his car's excellent handling is reflected in the price of its tires.

We went out to Hobson's Choice that night, which serves multi-gallon punch bowls to patrons that contain indeterminate amounts of alcohol (I think they erred on the high side in this particular case). We met a bunch of Sharon's friends who live out here and also Stacey's brother and some other friends. It was great to meet everyone and to dream up epic bachelor party plans for Stephen this fall.

We're thinking that we'll stay in SF through Monday morning and try to leave around noon. Stephen is changing his work schedule and doesn't start til around 3.

Bad News, Ladies and Gentlemen

Day 18

Miles today: 25 Total miles: 4,246

Today was the day to deal with that noise I've been hearing in 5th gear. Stephen tried to set up his internet last week, but got the run-around from AT&T (whose coverage has been pretty terrible out west by the way, even in big cities). End result is that I borrowed Stephen's computer and went down to Cole Valley Coffee to use their wireless and do some research on the bike and mechanics in SF.

I started out by using the power of the interweb to figure out what was likely wrong with the bike. This is one of the magical things that the internet has done. Getting info from other people who owned my bike and had a similar problem would have been pretty much impossible a few years ago, but in an hour or so, I had searched a few message boards, a couple of Yahoo! Answers-type sites, and I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at. I described the noise I was hearing to myself as a "rattle," but I think I was trying to talk myself into the noise being more benign than was actually the case. It was/is probably more of a grinding noise coming from the bottom of the bike. Other owners who had heard a similar noise had found out that it was from the gear itself breaking down. When I read that, I figured that I definitely needed to see a mechanic about it.

Yelp is also awesome. Finding a good mechanic in a given city usually involves talking to someone who lives there. Stephen did give me a recommendation, but I also got to go on Yelp and find out that everyone else who had gone to the shop had a very good experience. I called O'Hanlon Motorcycles and set it up to take the bike down for them to do a test drive and see what they heard. Dave took it out and confirmed that it was in fact the gear that had gone. The noise was coming from a grinding of the teeth of the gear. He told me that it was likely the 600 mile sprint from Santa Fe to Vegas that did it.

I had read and been told that this bike was not a good highway bike, which I understood to mean that it did not perform particularly well in the 70-80 mph range. I had no idea that running it at 70-75 mph for that long would actually do severe damage to the bike. It also has to do with the way the engine is set up. I'm not very familiar with the physics/mechanics of what forces are at work here, but this is my understanding: Bikes have either 2 or 4 cylinders for the most part, and mine is a 2 cylinder (V-Twin). 2 cylinder bikes tend to perform better at low rpms, where torque is high, while 4 cylinder bikes do better at higher rpms, where horsepower is high. When I was researching what bike to get last year, one of the negative reviews that this one received was that it needed a 6th gear because it was running at higher rpms at 60 mph or so than felt comfortable. When I read this, I understood it to mean that there would be less acceleration available at these higher speeds on this bike as compared to others in the same class, and that gas mileage would be relatively poorer at these high speeds. I had no idea that running the bike at these speeds would actually be harmful.

So I when I was researching what was wrong, I also looked into what replacing 5th gear would cost. I saw that the part was $90, but I couldn't get any info on what the labor would be to rebuild the transmission. I talked about it with Dave and he gave me the damage report: The genius engineers at Yamaha, in their infinite wisdom, designed this bike in such a way that getting to the transmission required completely removing the engine, taking off the carbs, valves, etc, and splitting the engine just to get to the transmission. Dave estimated that this would take 15-20 hours of labor at the shop to do. Shop time is usually $80-$100 an hour, so that's a total price tag of around $1,500, conservatively. I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but I paid $2,900 for the bike and had estimated that it would be worth about $2,000 after the mileage I would put on it this trip.

Dave told me up front that it didn't make much sense to fix the bike, at least not at his shop. I was very lucky to take the bike to him. I'd like to put in a big plug here for O'Hanlon Motorcycles in San Francisco. Dave is a great guy and was very honest an up-front with me about what I was facing and how to best deal with it. He even told me that if I were to fix it, I shouldn't do it at his shop, but at a dealer, because it would work out being cheaper for me. He also gave me his number and offered to put me in touch with someone if I needed to find a shop. He didn't even charge me for the time he spent diagnosing the problem and talking to me about it. He said something to the effect of, "You've got enough problems here - I'm not going to give you another one and make you pay for this."

So we started talking about my options. One was to sell the bike, buy a plane ticket, and come home. That one didn't sit too well with me. Getting it fixed didn't sound too palatable either. So I'm left with just riding it in 4th gear then rest of the way. Because I had such trouble with 5th at high rpm's, Dave's advice was that I try to keep my speed at 40 mph or below. Yeah, you read that right. So getting back will be a little more challenging now, and it looks like the route might be altered a bit. More on that as I get going and figure out what kind of time I can make.

I also asked about the safety of riding this bike with this damage. The worst cast scenario is that the transmission seizes up and locks the rear wheel. The chances of this happening are very low, but just in case, I'm going to be riding the rest of the way with two fingers covering the clutch. That way, if the rear wheel does lock, I can grab the clutch more quickly and let the wheel spin freely again.

So with bad news comes good news . . . Sharon gets in tonight and will be with me for 10 days as we make the now much more challenging journey from SF to Seattle.We'll be in SF through Sunday and will try to make Seattle by Friday. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Walking around SF

Day 17

Miles today: 0 Total miles: 4,221

I spent a long time getting out of bed today, and got all caught up on
Lost. It's a good morning when you shower at noon.

I decided to get out and just go walking around town. Partly to see
the city and partly because I really needed some exercise. Stephen is
moving to Cole Valley, which is near Haight Ashbury. I walked from
there down market street to the Embarcadero and then to AT&T park. I
got hungry and found a place called Red's which had apparently been
featured on the food network. What can I say? I have good taste. I had
my welcome to San Francisco moment there when I gave my order to a
transvestite waitress. She was very classy, though, and professional.
The burger was great, and after I finished, Stephen picked me up in
his brand new Mazda 3. Really sweet car, with a lot of pickup and
really good handling. When you start work that early, you get off
early too. We went to Stacey's parents' apartment and switched cars so
that we could move some stuff from the old apartment to the new one.
After we took a couple loads over, we headed back to AT&T park to
watch the Giants play a spring training game against Oakland. They got
rolled, but the garlic fries at the park were amazing.

Made it to SF

Day 16

Miles today: 225 Total miles: 4,221

Made it to San Francisco today. I decided to scrap the idea of going
to Yosemite today because I wanted to make it here to see Stephen and
Stacey. I've know Stephen since we were about 3 years old, and Stacey
is his fiancée seeing them was most of the reason for this trip, and
I'm really happy I made it here.

Today was a nice day for riding until a storm moved in this afternoon,
so I rode through rain for the last 3 or 4 hours of the trip. Constant
rain lowers my tolerance of temperatures I can ride through, because
all the moisture combined with the wind really saps your heat. I
pulled off a fee times to warm up, and the last time I pulled off was
on the penninsula just south of the city. I told the guy behind the
counter that I was just going to stand in the corner and warm up a
litte bit if he didn't mind. He was a great guy and brought me an
electric heater to dry my gloves with. We got to talking and he said
his uncle spent $85,000 on a custom built chopper, which blew my mind.
He also mentioned that he was related to Troy Polamalu, the Steelers
safety. It's pretty hard to fake being Samoan, and this guy was about
6' 2" and pushing 3 bills, so I belive him.

I've been hearing a rattle in 5th gear since LA or so, but it's so
minor that I can't tell if it's serious. It seemed like it was getting
worse when I was riding today, so I decided to just ride in 4th for
the rest of the day. Sometimes there's an inner monologue running
through my head, and in this one, I was the coach, talking to my
pitcher, 5th gear: "Great effort out there today, kid. That was really
some performance. We're gonna shut it down early for you, though. Doc
says he's worried about your health. It's a long season, son, and you
know we need you for the long haul. Go grab a shower and we'll have to
doc take a look at you tomorrow."

I got in pretty late, and Stephen had to get up for work around 4
(that's o' dark 30 eastern), so we're all just going to bed.

More PCH and Camping

Day 15

Miles today: 195 Total miles: 3,996

One thing about riding on slow, winding roads is that you can spend a
full day riding and only cover 200 miles.

I had a great breakfast this morning at an oceanfront cafe. I met two
Aussies there who had rented Harleys in LA and were riding them up and
down the coast for a week. If any of you are looking for vacation
ideas, that's one of the best that I can think of.

I kept going north and figured that this time, I would start looking
for campsites earlier in the day so I had more time to find a good
(cheap) one. I was hoping that the campsites were so expensive last
night because I was so close to Santa Barbara, and that prices would
become more reasonable as I went north. Like most of my optimistic
theories, this one was also wrong.

I checked out Pismo Beach, which allows driving on the beach and
camping on the beach for 10 bucks, but you had to drive your vehicle
out to mark your campsite, which I wasn't about to do in a motorcycle.
I walked down the beach a little ways and got to talking with a guy
who was packing up his kite surfing gear. He was a professional
motocross racer for a long time, and apparently did pretty well. He
just bought a horse ranch about 30 miles inland from Pismo and was
working on opening it to the public. "My real name is Jeff, but my
friends call me Moto, like motocross."

I did luck out and find a secondary campsite at a park near San Simeon
for only $20, and that seemed like an ok deal to me. When I was
checking in, I got to talking with the guy next to me, and it turns
out he grew up in Chapel Hill! I forget his name, but he said he was
in the inagural class at East Chapel Hill High. He moved out to
Sacramento to work at a hospital and was down doing some camping this

These campsites in California are administered by camp hosts instead
of rangers. They're like professional campers who bring their RV to
the park for a few weeks, sell firewood and generally make sure nobody
burns the place down. I decided it was a great night for a fire and
went to see the host about some wood. He said "these bundles here are
a rip off. Why don't you go unload the gear on your bike, come back
here and I'll just load you down with the loose pieces I find, you
give me 5 bucks and we don't tell nobody nothin." Sounded like a good
plan to me, so I used my bungee net to strap a bunch of firewood to
the back of the bike and hauled it back up to the campsite.

Building fires is fun. You're basically playing with fire, which is
really what everyone wants to do deep down. And once you get it going
you feel very accomplished. Everyone look - I make fire! I wound up
just looking into the fire for about an hour before I realized what I
was doing. It's supposed to start raining right about now, so I'll
head in and get some sleep.


Day 14

Miles today: 154 Total miles: 3,801

I made it out of LA today and am going North up CA-1, the Pacific
Coast Highway. I am officially living the dream. This road is just as
incredible as I remember it - winding curves and amazing views of the
pacific. This is such dramatic country out here - this road is
basically on the side of a mountain that is slowly falling into the
ocean. The beaches here are so much younger than in the east. There
are large boulders just off the coast that haven't been eroded yet by
the ocean. Waves will break around them and send spray 100 feet in the

I've given myself plenty of time to enjoy this road. Sharon flies in
to San Francisco Friday night, so that gives me 5 days to get up
there, with only a few hundred miles to cover. If the timing works
out, I might cut over to Yosemite before I go to SF.

I tried to get a campsite tonight, but it seems that the People's
Republic of California is trying to close the budget gap at the state
parks. $35 for a campsite. If I'm going to rent a square of earth for
one night and pay that much money, it had better have 4 walls and a
roof built on it. So with that line of reasoning, I went to the next
town and got a $40 motel. Buellton is a great little town by the way.
A cool little inn and some great restaurants located in the vally
north of Santa Barbara. I went to one motel and talked to the owner,
who said she doesn't rent rooms by the night (anyone ever heard of
that?) so she sent me down the road to her friend Julie. One of those
"tell her I sent you" kind of things. Julie gave me the super secret
discount and it was a very nice room. I'll keep heading north tomorrow
and I'll see how far I get.