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  #1  
Old 2 May 2010
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The Good, The Bear, and Ugly. Flight to Mexico.

Bear Canada 002 - Flight to Mexico

This is an epic tale written by an idiot, full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing. I'm finally putting my ride report on here so I could share with all of you. (And I'm so in need external recognition for my efforts.) [Warning author can be a self-depreciating sarcastic basterd.] So sit back, grab a and popcorn and enjoy. I've already posted on my own site earlier, so I'll be playing catchup on here.

The reason for the trip is simple. I used work as electrician in Vancouver. Well that dried for the time being, so I had two options. One would be to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, collecting EI, waiting for work to restart and get repetitive strain injury. Or two, cash in my vacation pay, load up the bike and head to Mexico. Most of you can figure what option I picked. (Hint: this site is not called loafingaroundunlimited.com now is it.)

One thing I can say is that I thought I was an old hat at this traveling to Alaska and across Canada. Boy I've found out later that I was wrong.

Mike

PS: The Bear theme was a tradition of my old motorcycle racing club, Team Grizzly. All our projects had to have a bear in it's name. As the sole remaining member, I have a tradition to uphold!.

PPS: If you say you've seen this before, you probably have on other sites. I just read Susan's "rant" on the ezine, and thought I best stay on her good side and supply some fresh content.

PPPS: As I'm reposting this, I will add comments and observations in italics that have become painfully clear courtesy of hingsight. Also understand that every moment is a learning experience, especially if you keep your mind open to it.

Now on to boring you senseless...

---

Day 1 - April 13th
Surrey BC to Kalaloch WA
Today was a mixed day. I didn't bolt out the door at first light. So I hit the border around 9:00am. I got grilled by a US customs officer with questions, like how long have you had the bike, and have you done long trips like this before, etc. Apparently my laizez-faire attitude towards planning should be hidden at border posts.

The ride south was fairly uneventful, aside from dodging crap rain. I hit a patch outside of Seattle, but once I got to Olympia is was all fine and sunshine. While slogging through the rain I thought of diverting west from Olympia and going straight to Aberdeen on the coast. But I was lulled by the nice weather, so I decided to head north up the Olympic Peninsula like I originally planned. Well I was rewarded by finding more cold rain. I did hit Port Angeles and veered back south. I pushed daylight a bit and finally stopped in the sun at a nice campsite at Kalaloch. The temps were barely in the double digits. Thankfully my gear has held up. I may regret taking my heavyweight riding gear later, but not now. So I'm typing this in the dark at Kalaloch while the Pacific Ocean roars away outside. (Tip: Earplugs are priceless! Get custom ones if you can.)


My campsite at Kalaloch. The Pacific Ocean is just behind the hedge.

Sunset.

Day 2 - April 14th
Kalaloch, WA to Cape Lookout OR

Another day of nice riding. Well almost all nice riding. I did get lost in Astoria, OR but that's obligatory and best to get it out of the way. Also I did have some minor mechanical issues forcing me to stop early at 5pm to do some maintenance on the bike. But the weather was nice and the roads were good so it all ends up on the plus side.

The Oregon Coastline.

I did see another rider pull into camp. So I decided to say "hi" I ran into Zack. I found out that he was not only from BC, but he was from New West. (a rock's throw from home) I also found out that he's an electrician like myself. Then I find out that he works for Granby Electric, which is the industrial branch of Goodwin group of companies. I incidentally work for Bridge which is the commercial branch of Goodwin. (Cue "It's a Small World After All")

Enjoying another sunset.

Day 3 - April 15th
Cape Lookout, OR to Orlick, CA

The sun is shining and the roads starts to be good. The day didn't start out so well since I found out my tent's fly was leaking. It was a wet messy start. But the roads were nice and twisty. I rode with Zack. It was quite fun trying to keep up with a GSXR-600. The views were awesome as well. A nice oregonian lady also filled us on a nice little little detour. Traveling route 101 is best done with a sense of exploration. There were few nice little detours along the way.

Contrasting rides: One lightly loaded GSXR-600 and an overloaded DL-650A

More Oregon coastline. Rocks at Pacific City.

Proof that I am on this ride.



I will have to admit that a V-Strom will never be as cool as this ride.

I did crash a hotel in the end since arriving in California I found out that a campsite for tenting ran around $30. So I spent the extra $20 an got a hotel room.

Day 4 - April 16th
Orlick, CA to Olema, CA

OK, I have to say that it looks like too much of a good thing has nearly did me in. Heading south I rode along Route 101 and detoured into the Avenue of the Giants. This section was really cool since the road meandered through the giant redwoods. Some of these huge trees were right at the edge of the road.


The California coast. I don't have any pics of the road since I can't really do them any justice. I do have video though, which I might edit and put onto YouTube later.

Then I veered off of Route 101 at Legget and turned on to Route 1. All I can say is "wow!". The road quickly turned into a pile of "whoa, this is cool" corners. (read: super tight and slow speed.) Once I reached the coast, the corners eased up into sections of "wheee!" (nice and faster twisty sections) and "wah-hoo" (Stupid fast straight sections). There were a few "holy crap" (decreasing radius) and some "son of a ..." (sudden sharp) corners. Then after the road starts hugging the coast in sets of wild sweepers. Attacking this whole road is not recommended in one shot. All the twisting and turning got me to the point where I wasn't as sharp as I should be. I did try to stop, but several campsites were full. I figured that I was competeting with the weekend warrior, and they snuck into camp while I was out playing. I rolled into Olema and set up camp in the dark. (Tip: Head mounted flashlights are also priceless.)

Day 5 - April 17th
Olema, CA to San Fransisco, CA

The run to San Fransisco was a short one. I spent most of the day wandering the city by bike and some time at the bay waterfront. I stopped for lunch at Pier 39's Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The shrimp was good, but I recommend watching Forrest Gump before going. Why, you ask? Because I got grilled on trivia from the movie. (They drop hints so you won't feel like a complete idiot though.) I decided to hole up in a hotel for a couple of days to take a break and explore the city. Also I can use this opportunity to catch up on a few things. (Like Grant pointed out in the Achievable Dream, sometimes you need a vacation from the vacation.)

Backroads outside of San Fransisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz Prison

Day 6 - April 18th
San Fransisco, CA
So I spent the day in Frisco playing tourist. I parked the bike at the central parking lot at City Hall and began to wander.

San Fransisco City Hall

Then I wandered over to Japan Center as found much to my delight that a Cherry Blossom festival was going on. Japan Center is definitely a must see place for any Japan-o-phile (or Otaku)

Japan Center Pagoda

The "mob" early in the morning. The food line-ups were worse. I found the takoyaki (octopus balls) booth was at the end of a quarter block lineup. I had to tear myself away, since I love takoyaki.

Prepping the Omykoshi portable shrine. It is said that the shrine brings good luck especially to those who carry it.

I have been to Japanese festivals before in Vancouver, namely the Powell Street festival, so I had to tear myself away and head to Chinatown. I walked to the start of one of the cable cars that are synonimous with Frisco.

Good old fashioned cable car.

The ride is clunky and rough, but the view is cool. (Sorta like the Strom.)

The next stop is Chinatown. Now Vancouver's Chinatown is quite big, especially if you consider that the Chinese have taken over the suburb of Richmond. But I was still blown away by the size and character of Frisco's Chinatown.

The Gate to Chinatown.

A Chinatown back alley.

I did hear some familiar drumming and I decided to check it out. A lion dance was being performed to bring good luck to a business. These are cool to check out, but do be careful of the firecrackers thrown about to scare off the evil spirits.

Lion dancers. Usually in Canada there might be just one lion, but the Americans seem to like to think big. (More lion = more luck.)

The inside of a store called the Wok Shop. The Chinese seem to have clutter down to an art form. It's a lot of stuff, but it's not a mess.

I also wandered along Market St. and rode the electric trolley's. But I end the day working on the laptop, updating websites and planning the next section of the ride. More of the California coast then inland to Death Valley.
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  #2  
Old 2 May 2010
Mickey D's Avatar
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Route to Death Valley?

Looking forward to your report! Lots of great roads between San Fran and Death Valley. I can map a route for you if you'd like. All pavement.

Good time for DV, not too hot yet, but could spike up anytime in May. Some campgrounds are now closed. Try Panamint Springs.

Safe travels!
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Old 6 May 2010
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Day 7 - April 19th
San Fransisco to San Simeon

Well I'm back on the bike. I head south and reunite with Route 1. To my utter horror, it turns into a plain old chunk of superslab. So I decide to do a mail stop in Santa Cruz. After an eternity at the post office. (Apparently Canadians shipping packages home from the US may pose a problem. I I strongly advise being patient and deploy a sense of humor if needed.) I then return to the road south.
Then after being on the humdrum highway, I spot the sign for one of the holiest places in motorsports...Laguna Seca. I took the exit, dropping into the corner like Valentino Rossi. (OK I missed it and had to backtrack, but hey this is my story and I'll write it as I see fit.) I head inland and arrive at the legendary motorsports park. Seriously from the outside it does look like a park. But up over a hill, track sits in the dry lake bed that gives it it's name. (Laguna Seca is dry lake in spanish.) I manage to sneak in and pillage the souvenir shop. I almost think that's it pointless to pack t-shirts since I buy so many as mementos of my trip. Then I ride around the infield to the holiest of holy places, the corkscrew. I manage to get a few shots of the course, and the Miata's racing around the track for the race school. I have thought about a MotoGP road trip to Laguna Seca, but now the idea seems a bit stronger.





The famous Corkscrew.

Same Corkscrew, different angle.

My bike at the Corkscrew. (Like anyone would actually allow me to put the bike on the course.)

Then after getting back onto Route 1 in Monterrey, the magic returns. Route 1 goes from ugly duckling superslab to amazingly curvy and sexy two laner. It doesn't matter that there are slow drivers and expensive gas. (almost $5 a gallon) The road is good as I wind the throttle up. The Valentino impressions are cut short by the scraping of my skid plate in the corners, but hey it's all good. The bike is now lighter.
Tomorrow looks like a short jaunt down the coast to San Luis Obispo and than inland towards Death Valley.


Day 8 - April 20th
San Simeon to Bakersfield

The day started very early in the morning when it started to rain. My pro tip is to use a two man tent so that you can bring your gear inside. So at least I was dressed and dry as I packed up camp. The problem with rain is that it's everywhere and without cover, you can't do anything without getting wet. So I started east. There was a fun little detour when I had to backtrack since someone posted the "No Services for 82mi" sign a few miles past the last gas station.
So while in the rain on highway 58, the rain started to penetrate my gear. After a couple of nice hot days in San Fransisco, I decided to return my sweater and long gloves. Bad idea as things got cold. Temperatures dropped to 9 degrees C. My arms and feet became cold. Then my gear began to fail in a critical area, I started to get cold water in the crotch. The road itself was good, however the rain and strong wind made things interesting. The wind was blowing at my back as I headed east, but as the road shifted, the wind didn't. I nearly was blown off the road. In a section of the twisties near McKittrick, the wind streamed down some of the valleys. This meant that the wind blasted in some corners than other. This would have been fun if I wasn't frozen cold.
I did stop in a 3 shack town of McKittrick, and had a burger at Penny's Restaurant. quite a good burger for $6. I hit the road again after downing food and a gallon of hot coffee. I rolled into Bakersfield and did a prompt raid of Cycle Gear for you guessed it...cold weather riding gear. My worry was that there was more bad weather and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
So I crashed early at another hotel, and dried my gear out, getting ready for tomorrow. One thing I can chuckle at is that Gov. Schrwarzenegger can promote Californians to go visit the state's campsites. But at $35 for a tent spot and hotel rooms running at $55, I would say that it's a no-brainer. But I have a tent drip-drying in my hotel room. So much for trying to live on the cheap and returning to nature.
(It's not all that bad, Spike has new episodes of Deadliest Warrior on the TV tonight.)


Day 9 - April 21st
Bakersfield CA to Pahrump, NV

Today was a day of highs and lows. The riding was better than yesterday, especially considering that I was warmer and dryer today. That is always a good start. One the lows cam while riding through Tehachapi. Temperatures dropped to 2 degrees C. I even got snowed on. (The irony here is that this is the first snow I've seen this year and I live near Vancouver which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics.) But soon after hitting the snow I dropped altitude down to the desert and more desert like temperatures. I had checked the weather and the route before I left Bakersfield. I had shifted my route a bit more south. My new route was a bit lower. I hate to think what it would be like to cross my original route with a pass 2000ft higher than the Tehachapi pass.



Snow? WTF! Tehachapi pass, balmy 2C.

After California City I headed back north towards Death Valley. I decided to check out the ghost town of Ballarat. I had a cool conversation with a trio of the locals. (One of whom happened to be an electrician like me.) They regaled me with tales of the Ballarat Bandit who evaded authorities for several years. The authorities assumed that the bandit was ex-special forces. They laugh because the Bandit was found after killing himself, and the Bandit was a simple drywall taper.


Me in Panamint Valley



Downtown Panamint and the Panamint City Welcoming Committee

I returned back to the pavement, and got buzzed by an F/A-18. The shreik of the 18's jet engines was cool. So this qualified as a high.
I crossed a couple of more passes and into Death Valley National Park. The ride was nice and warm. I had once again shifted my route south to avoid some menacing clouds. I took a loop through the wonderful colorful geography or Artist's Palette. Then I rolled into Badwater and had another low of the day. 282ft below sea level kind of low. After Badwater, I crested another pair of passes and dropped into Nevada. The sun was close to dropping out of the sky, and black clouds hung in the sky to the north. I decided to hit another hotel in Pahrump, Nevada.


Artist's Palette, Death Valley

The lowest spot in the US. The trippy part is a sign 300ft up a cliff face that says "Sea Level"

Oh, and another high part, was being warm enough to drop a layer of clothing.


Day 10 - April 22nd
Pahrump, NV to Phoenix, AZ

The ride today was literally threading the weather needle. There were black clouds nestled up to the mountains on either side of the valley, and I was riding down the middle. I made it to Vegas, but any idea of spending the day in Sin City were quashed by the biggest blackest rainstorm that hung over the city center. I rode over to Hoover Dam and on towards Kingman.
I raided the Boulder City tourist office and was promptly pegged for being a Canadian. (due to the way I said "about") I joked that I decided to come south for the warmer weather. Still haven't found any.
Kingman is a quaint little town that has captured the nostalgia of the legendary Route 66. I spent time that the museum and found out about the history of the road, from it's roots as a wagon road west. The modern Route, took shape after WWII when discharged soldiers went from the wintry east coast to the warm southwest. The reason for this migration was the boom in prosperity after the war and during the war, most military training took place in the southwest to allow for training all year round. So discharged soldiers simply wanted to return to the nicer climate of the southwest. I don't blame them.



One of these bikes is not like the other, Can you spot the difference?

I did notice a lot of Harley's on the roads heading for the Laughlin Run. I kind of wonder what it is like to ride in the rain and cold with just a 3/4 helmet or a beanie. I'm fully wrapped with about several layers of clothing and full face helmet. I couldn't imagine riding with anything less. Mind you in Arizona I started to see riders without helmets. I find that they do shelter your head from the elements so well. Once I rode in North Dakota without my jacket due to the heat. Well the wind over my bare arms felt to so weird that I had to put my jacket on. (The wind blowing over my hairy arms, tugged the hairs to the point where my arms felt tingly even after stopping.) It's amazing what one can get used to.
Funny with the spate of bad weather in the southwest, I've become obsessed with the weather channel. But it looks like the cold and miserable rain might end tonight and that it might be warmer for the ride to Yuma.

Day 11- April 23rd
Phoenix, AZ to Yuma, AZ

Today was another nice day to ride. One thing I do have to say is that one doesn't go to Arizona for the roads. Damn straight and flat. One upside to Arizona is the cool places. I visited the old prison and the quartermaster's depot in Yuma.


Cellblock of the Arizona Territorial Prison, Yuma, AZ.

Inside of a cell. Can't this mistake this for Club Fed.

The guardtower.

"I wonder why Ranger Bob doesn't come for coffee anymore? Maybe he's being antisocial."

I did a check on the rear wheel and found it's wasn't spinning as smoothly as it should be. Further digging resulted in finding that the rear bearing was worn out.


Old truck and an old section of the plank road. This is how they crossed sand in the 20's. Glad things have improved. The plank sections didn't stretch from one destination to another, they had to be moved along in sections. Also they got so beat up and vehicles had such poor suspension that going more than 10mph. would get you bounced off the road into the soft sand.

Day 12 - April 24th
Yuma, AZ to El Centro, CA

I managed to do some digging and found the numbers for the generic bearings. One good suggestion would be to have these kinds of numbers stored on a website, zip drive and a piece of paper. I did raid a NAPA auto parts store and got the bearings. Working in the motel parking lot, I managed to replace the bearing within 20 minutes. I am kind of thrilled that I could do it in the field, but I think I should of caught it before going on the road.


The V-Strom mobile repair shop.

I hit the Mexican border at San Luis around noon. I am kind of kicking myself for hitting a border at the singularly worse time to hit a border. But the lineup went well. One thing that is noticeable is the level of unorderlyness. Locals in the lineup suggested in lane splitting to get ahead in the lineup.

The rest was an eye opener. One, I have been trying to learn Spanish, but hitting the border indicates how way over the head I actually am. I sort of slog through the border and things are OK. Until I try to get some paperwork done. I need a tourist card and import permit to head beyond the border zone with the bike. Now I had made sure that my registration, passport and driver's license had my Hungarian birth name on it. My credit card has the English version on it. "Sorry no permits for you".

So I returned to the US to get things sorted out. I decided to head west to cool off since it was cooking. So I'm going to try to hit the border at Mexicali.



Day 13 - April 25th
El Centro, CA to Tijuana, Mexico.

Holy Mexican overload Batman! Today was nuts. First off the border crossing at Mexicali was amazingly painless. I sailed through the border so fast, I had to check for cops with guns chasing me. I spent more time looking for the Aduana (Customs) and Banjercito to get my paperwork done. Those offices were practically empty so the paper work actually went quick. I got a chuckle out of the clerk in the Banjercito was watching Spongebob Squarepants. He still sounds dorky in Spanish.

Then finally it was back onto the road. The road east was good. Well if you stayed on the highway and not gotten lost. I did run into an army checkpoint and gotten attacked. Yup, a gang of teenage girls, got out of the car in front. One of them said something to me in Spanish. And the best I could reply is "No habla Espanol". So she decided to communicate non-verbally and attacked me. OK she hugged me, but it took me by complete surprise.

I wouldn't be so adverse to the toll roads (cuota) after hitting a lane wide pothole. My rear suspension compressed so much that the rear tire destroyed the crossbrace for my luggage system.

I got to Tijuana and promptly got lost. City driving is plain insane. There are few signs especially for road hazards and one way streets. Potholes are everywhere. So are retardedly high speedbumps. But the best is the drain grooves in the middle of intersections, those could pitch an unwary rider right over the bars. Also traffic is a bit nuts as well. Stop signs (Alto) are merely a suggestion. Mexicans do stop for them, but if they feel that a red light is on just a little too long, they will run the light. Signage is iffy and it is easy to get lost in the cities.

Also get used to the concept of "Mexican Safety". If you fall in a hole, it's your fault since you weren't paying attention. I was coming back from Playa de Tijuana and found and entire section of the off-ramp was not there. No flags, cones or warning signs. Just a rebar fringed hole and a 6 inch drop to the road base.

I think that all this has gotten to me. I dropped the bike in a hotel parking lot. The luggage folded in a bit more. I am seriously thinking of crossing back to San Diego and holing up in hotel room while I do some maintenance on the bike. Heading back to San Diego means that I can get parts and service without (hopefully) a language barrier.

Yup the real Mexico is overwhelming. Wow!

But hey just when you think all is a pile of crap, something good comes of it. As I was fiddling around with my bike, one of the friends of the hotel staff helped. He spoke good English and he said that he had a BMW motorcycle as well. We chatted and Ismael gave me a good run down on the places to visit on Baja. Ismael would have been priceless if I had been a wine drinker. The guy has his own vineyard and knew his stuff.

Day 14 - April 26th
Tijuana, Mex to San Diego, CA

Well now my travels take a bold and daring step...sideways! I retreat...err, strategically advance in a radically different direction to San Diego. General George Patton once said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. And boy, was ol' Blood n' Guts right!

The border lineup was a breeze, since I'm beginning to ride like a Mexican. (read: lanesplit) I made it to the border to have the Customs Agent tell me I'm in the wrong line. There was only one sign on top of the building that said so. I sitll made it through, without a fine and being strip searched.
Well it is nice to be back in the US. The streets are better built and there are roadsigns. (Funny how the small things can mean so much.) I chase down breakfast and a self-storage shop. I unload the Strom of everything that is not needed. I did have a good chat with the clerk, who has a KTM-950. He did give me some good news that things get better south of Ensenada. I was thinking that between returning for my deposit in Mexicali and my gear in San Diego, I was going to have to play one cool game of connect the dots.

The lighter Storm did handle better. My tip of the day is to really and I mean really think about what you are putting on your bike. Tent camping across Canada and the US is good since the roads are better and cheap campsites are plentiful. But you might want to ditch all outside of the first world.

The next stop was C&D Cycle Center for parts. I ordered a replacement ABS sensor for one that got ripped off the bike. Also I ordered a new set of brake pads since I did quite a bit of panic stopping in Mexico. (Any guess why?) and finally some oil and a filter to give the engine some TLC.

After doing some shopping, I checked into a motel room and began to see about replacing my damaged luggage rack. I called Roger Pioszek at Caribou Cases, and the poor guy seemed beside himself. I told him that the problem was my fault, that I overloaded the bike and set the suspension up badly. He still was not happy. Stepping back for a second, I bought the luggage right after the bike in 2007. Roger sent me a replacement cross brace since the original rubbed against the tire. I only knew about that problem when I got the replacement in the mail. So I still had the older over the wheel brace when I hit the pothole on the highway. I apparently was one of the last riders using this older type brace. The newer versions go around the back of the wheel. So Roger is sending me out replacement braces just for the cost of shipping. It looks like I'm going to have to make some room in my luggage for a couple bottles of tequila and return via Colorado.




The mangled rack.

Day 15 - April 27th
San Diego, CA

Time to play tourist. I visited the Old Town section of San Diego. And boy was it cool. It was a case of Mexico lite. (and intact, complete, clean, functional...)


The Sheriff's Museum.

Inside the kitchen in Casa Machado, Old Town.

A table setting in the Casa.

The Old Town is a wonderful mix of really cool stores and stalls and intermixed at one end with museums and historical displays. It does have a cool mix of American and Spanish influences.



The Fiesta del Reyes. Very Spanish, very cool.

A concord stagecoach.

A really old Studebaker. 1858 to be exact. Studebaker was the largest wagonmaker in the US.

And this is what a V-Strom would have looked like in the 1800's

Day 16 - April 28th
San Diego, CA
OK, today is just a regular routine maintenance day. Well I wish it was routine. First off I had to find a place to do an oil change on the Strom. The store where I bought the oil wouldn't let me do it since there was issues with their landlord. Fair enough. I went to a quick lube place to borrow a pan. They wouldn't let me do it there, stating that management counts the cars that go in. The place was empty at the time. Then I went to a Harley shop, and they wouldn't do it because of insurance issues. And here I thought Harley riders were rebel anti-establishment types. So I broke down and bought a nice closeable pan and set about changing the oil in a parking lot. I sealed up the container and took it to an AutoZone parts store. They would take the oil, but not the oil containers and the filters. They also told me I would get in crap if I threw it any of that in their garbage bin. I was starting to get pissed. I walked out, and the clerk came out with the pan. I almost lost it. I mean what kind of stupid system is there that takes oil, but not the filters and containers. They have oil in them. One of the other things that steamed me is the, not my problem attitude. I would get a rejection, but not suggestion on what to do instead. Even threatening to dump the oil didn't work. I then abandoned the pan, filters and jugs on the rack at a quick lube place. Here I was thinking that doing this in Mexico would be hard.

In Canada, I had to get my oil change done in St.Johns. The local Suzuki shop was closed, so I rolled into a Kawasaki dealership.
"I need to do an oil change on a Strom", I said.
"Don't have filter for one", he replied.
"Don't need one, just three liters of synthetic"
"That I can do", he said cheerfully, sold me the oil and pointed towards the garage.
Once in the garage, I decided to help the mechanic out by removing the skid plate, then I pulled out my oil filter wrench. I was halfway through the change, when I realized what I was doing, and look at the mechanic. "Shit, sorry for stealing your job"
"No, worries, I hate doing oil changes anyway", he said.

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  #4  
Old 6 May 2010
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Keep er coming Griz we are waiting with bated breath......... all pun intended

Dirtpig
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  #5  
Old 13 May 2010
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Day 17 - April 29th
San Diego, CA

The first thing I did today was pack my gear and my bike. I was hoping the parcel from Caribou would come in before checkout time. No such luck. So I rode off and did the tourist thing at Cabrillo National Park.

The beach at Pacific Beach. Funny, didn't see David Hasselhof running down the beach in slow motion. Maybe that's a good thing.

Juan Cabrillo was one of the first European explorers to discover this area. There is a small exhibit in the Visitor's Center detailing his exploits. Outside there is a small radio shack detailing the use of the point for defense of San Diego harbor during WWII. After seeing the emplacements in Gaspe and Cape Spear, what was left of Cabrillo was disappointing. One radio shack with a cool but small display. The point would be a good aircraft spotters place, with military aircraft flying in and out of the naval base. There was also a turn of the century lighthouse, nicely restored with displays.

The lighthouse and assistant lighthouse keepers house.

The generator shack for the searchlights.

The seaward side of Cabrillo

Then while returning to the motel, I stopped for a bike on the side of the road. As I stopped, I noticed that its tire was flat. So I pulled out my pump and patch kit. Then I noticed that the rear tire was worn down to the cords and the flat was caused by a 3/4 inch gash. I couldn't fix that. I chastised the rider for letting a tire wear that down, and apologized for not being able to help. He did say that he had a friend arriving with a truck. With motorcycle tires, grip is life. With rubber, you can grip. And with grip, you can control the bike. And with control of the bike, you can ride.
So finally getting back to the motel, I opened my door and noticed that the message light was flashing. I ran to the office and found my package had arrived. I left with my package, giddy as a school child. I began to work on the bike, trying to remember how it was all put together three years ago. But it went just as easily as before. So it looks like Bear Canada is ready to take flight again.

The Wandering Bear's mobile repair shop.

The Wandering Bear's mobile repair shop with a completely new rack.

Day 18 - April 30th
San Diego, CA to Tijuana, Mex.

Back to the land of madness...and hot latina chicks.

First off, I decided to check out some cool stuff in San Diego. I first stopped off at the Maritime Museum. I checked out the B-39 Soviet era submarine. Funny thing was that this was the same Foxtrot class submarine that was parked at a dock near my home. I never bothered to check it out since it was so close to home. Then I had to ride 5000km to see it after they moved it. (Tip: if you have the chance to play tourist in your own backyard, take it. It saves a lot of wear and tear on your bike.) The interior was cramped and rundown. For contrast I checked out the USS Dolphin, which was a research submarine. The fit and finish was night and day different.

Entrance to the Soviet B-39 "Foxtrot" class submarine.

The forward torpedo tubes

The Captain's cabin.

Interior hatch.

Diesel engine room.

And that was the Russian submarine. Originally the Kremlin wanted 1200 of these babies to defend Mother Russia from the decadent capitalistic west. The fit and finish reflect that. But hey the Russians will point out that it works and it's not likely to look any worse in combat operations. But to see the difference, check out...

Control station, USS Dolphin

The galley.

SS555 USS Dolphin, Navy deep diving research submarine.

Soviet B-39 "Foxtrot" class diesel-electric attack submarine.

Then I checked out the USS Midway. That was cool. The ship was a maze of rooms. Machine rooms, ready rooms, galleys, and quarters. The hangar deck was vast and open. The flight deck was cool, with aircraft on the deck. My only regret was not hitting the Midway earlier. The ship takes a lot of time to really explore. The ship can easily eat up four hours.. Well four hours if you skip the flight simulators on the flight deck.

The approach to the Midway

The hangar deck, looking from the bow, aft.

SNJ Trainer

One of the flight ready rooms.

.
F-14 Tomcat on the flight deck. These aircraft weren't assigned to the Midway since they were thought to be too heavy. But a pair of Tomcats did land on the Midway in an emergency.

F/A-18 painted in "Aggressor" colors for the Navy's "Top Gun" fighter school. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Top Gun aircraft are not painted with the red star, now it's something vaguely middle eastern.

F-4 Phantom.

A-7. It's sister aircraft the F-8 was called the "last of the gunfighters" since it's sucessor the F-4 didn't have cannons due to the belief that cannons and dogfighting were outdated. Air combat over Vietnam proved them wrong.

The bridge of the USS Midway CV-41.

Then it was onto Tijuana. The border crossing was painless and it was back into the madness of Mexico. I went back to the same hotel I stayed before. I then walked downtown.

Tijuana, Mexico and San Ysidro, CA. There is a border stuck in there somewhere.

Mexico is a place where you could see beaters on the road, along with a sweet, lowered 1937 Ford pickup. Now this is in the same Tijuana, where I've scraped my skidplate. And if you didn't believe you saw a 37 Ford, a 57 Chevy would roll by right after. I also saw a lot of blue and red flashing lights as several police vehicles were stuck in traffic. Or police cars driving down the road, at night, without headlights on. And there is also the mad traffic. And the best you can do is sit back, drink your Tecate and say "This is Mexico".

Tijuana at night.

Sounds like good advice.
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Old 14 May 2010
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Day 19 - May 1st
Tijuana, to La Rosario


Well I was too clever for my own good. The road to my hotel was actually closed for road work. I had managed to squeeze in. I did this for several reasons. One was that I knew the place and knew that my bike was safe in there. The second reason if it was difficult for me to get in, then thieves would have a harder time getting out. That was all a fine and dandy stroke of genius. Well until the roadwork crew went to work. Apparently road work is done at night. And they use concrete. And concrete trucks are not quiet. Did I mention that earplugs are priceless?



The next day I checked out and rode out on a small strip of gravel that was still unpaved. I headed south . It was a bit chilly due to the proximity of the sea. I did run into several army checkpoints, two waved me through while the third just gave me a cursory inspection. The road had gotten much better after Tijuana. Heck a lot of stuff got better after Tijuana. I mean it was still dirty and dusty but not as much of it. One thing I did find interesting was the Mexican talent for non-completion. There were a few buildings that were partially started or partially torn-down. The road was nice and twisty in parts. But do be careful of pulling off the roadway since there is usually a nice drop from the pavement onto the dirt.


The Baja

Mexican roads are awesome, just watch for the cross ditches.*
Actually I'm pulling your leg, the real road and bridge are off to the right in excellent condition

I rolled into Rosario early. I had to fight with myself to keep going for an hour, or listen to Ismael's suggestion of a place to stay and eat. Well I though Ismael knew better, and he was right on both counts. The Baja Cactus Hotel was a nice and neat play to stay. Immaculate rooms, hot shower, internet, comfy bed. The restaurant next door was an even better surprise. Apparently Mama Espinoza's restaurant has been a checkpoint for the Baja 1000 from 1967 to 2006. Autographed posters from almost every racer lined the walls. And the food was good too.


Third world squalor for $30 US a night.

The ceiling at Mama Espinoza's

The only downside to being near such a motorsports hotspot is being serenaded by the sounds of two-stroke dirtbikes. Now what is Spanish for "get a tune-up and a muffler!"


Some coolness outside of Mama Espinoza's, a Ural 750 sidehack for Baja prerunning duties.

Day 20 - May 2nd
El Rosario to Santa Rosalia

Today was a nice long haul kind of day. The road did meander a bit to start. But after San Ignacio, it started to straighten out. The only exciting part was the twisty steep decent to the coastal town of Santa Rosalia. One thing to keep an eye on is the truckers. They have a tendency to us the right signal when it is clear to pass. Mighty courteous of them, if you can make sense of it.

Catavina boulder fields

One of the bigger shrines on the side of the roads.

My Strom at Catavina

The sign says Ato = Open. Well it is open to an extent, open to the sky, open to the elements...

I also ran into other motorcycle riders from Cranbrook, BC. And as I wrote this, a couple of cyclists dropped in to say hi. One of the rider's has a BMW, so he could relate. But anyone cycling the Baja, has to get kudos for their efforts.

Day 21 - May 3rd
Santa Rosalia to La Paz


The seaside at Loreto.

A glimpse of the Sea of Cortez.

The road to La Paz wasn't too bad, mainly straight with a few nice twisty sections. Found a nice and spartan hotel outside of town. I also had some gobernator burritos at a roadside restaurant. They were good.
Well they were good to a point. Apparently I had enrolled in the Montezuma Diet Plan. (The Mexican government would like to avoid using the term Montezuma's Revenge, seeing how easily scared foreigners are.) The diet plan works wonders. In a few short hours I had purged everything in my system, and was well on my way of getting rid of other unnecessary stuff like my stomach, intestines and spleen.


Day 22 - May 4
La Paz to Cabo San Lucas


I crawled out bed, not feeling too bad. I had taken antibiotics and scammed the remainder of the hotel's toilet paper. So first I had to get a ticket for the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. I had a hell of a time trying to find the place since there is a real scarcity of street signs in most Mexican towns. I was getting pretty pissed off, and thought I would turn around at the next light. That's when I found the place. I managed to stumble my way through a ferry ticket. My Spanish phrasebook came in handy. Then I had to do some laundry. Finding the laundry was easier and an hour later I had some clean clothes.

I had gotten lost and was riding back, when I saw another V-Strom coming. I waved. And as the bike passed, I noticed the writing, Policia La Paz. Then I saw the rider turn around. Thankfully he just wanted to chat. "Cambio?" (change) he asked. "No, bueno por me, malo por tu." (no, good for me, bad for you)

The ride to Cabo was long. Along the coast it was fine, but going inland a little bit meant the temperatures went up. I had a camelback with water so I could sip a little, but sipping too much aggravated Montezuma.
I had made it to Cabo, and was trying to find a hotel with secure parking. Now I don't care how adventurous you like to be, don't get lost in a Mexican town. Why you ask? Simple topes are waiting for you on the back streets to ambush an unsuspecting gringo. (Topes = speedbumps) After hitting one of hundreds, the lock on my topcase failed, launching my case into my back. (Tip: Always pack extra straps and bungee cords.) Combine this with the heat, and dealing with Montezuma, I was (figuratively for the moment) having a poopy diaper moment. I'm really considering taking the ferry to Mazatlan and head north, leaving Mexico.

Day 23 - May 5th
Cabo San Lucas


The ferry schedule allowed me an extra day in Cabo. I thought something cool was going to happen for Cinco de Mayo. Well no luck. I'm still dancing with Montezuma, so I guess it's for the better. I strolled into town and checked out some the sights. The harbor was cool, except for the persistent hawking of goods. I did some exploring. I managed to walk over to Lover's beach. First I cut though a resort and did some boulder climbing. I found the beach. Mexican's seem to have a sense of humor. The calm side of the peninsula is called Playa del Amor (Lover's Beach), while the other, more turbulent side is called Playa del Divorcio (Divorce Beach). The dip in the water is relaxing, until a wave slams you into the beach. And that was on the Lover's side.


Playa del Dirvorcio.

Playa del Amor.

Rock formations at the playas.

I ran into a few friendly locals, and one person who weren’t deterred by my "Perdon, No entiendo espanol". I also ran into two ladies from Prince George, BC.

So I'm sitting in my hotel room, writing this, contemplating my next move. I think that Mexico is very Jekyll and Hyde. On one hand some of the roads are awesome, fresh and well paved. Some of the roads are disasters. My hotel room was like that too. It looked quite good with a nice little kitchenette. I noticed that the bed was nice and firm, until I pulled back the sheets. The bed was actually a brick platform. Also the person who painted the room spared the trouble of having an electrician replace plugs, switches and covers. The painter just painted them over so they didn't work. But at least the color matches. I got one plug working to power my laptop and they have internet access so all is not doomed.

Tomorrow, it's back to La Paz and the ferry to Mazatlan.


Mexican ingenuity at work.

Day 24 - May 6th
Cabo San Lucas to Mazatlan


I rode out of Cabo via Todos Santos. The road to Todos was under construction in quite a few spots. The fun part of dealing with this, is other traffic. I can stand up on the bike and ride without slowing down. Other cars will slow down to the point where it is hard to keep upright on the bike. Some of the construction sections were quite dusty, some were watered. The bike had a nice layer of mud on it. I was cool with it since I wanted to paint the bike a flat tan when I rebuild it in the winter. Now I know how the color would work.



Rolling into La Paz, I was hit by some killer heat of 50C. After the tango with Montezuma and bike breaking down and now the heat, I was getting tired of riding. I spent sometime in La Paz, checking out the waterfront.



The waterfront in La Paz.

The lighttower at the pier in La Paz.

I then rode off to the ferry dock in Pichilingue. I was one of the first people to ride on board. The loading crew was quite friendly and helpful, despite my lack of Spanish. I usually carry a pair of ratcheting tiedowns, so the bike was nice and secure. (Tip: Bring a pair of tiedowns, not every seagoing ferry will offer nice tiedowns, also they come in handy if you have the pack the bike by truck. Ratcheting ones are usually long enough to tie a bike down quite nicely at several points.) I sat in the lounge, planning out my next leg of my trip. I discovered that I was only a third of the way through my trip. I had difficulty getting motivation for riding all the way to Cancun. I tried to shorten the route to Oaxaca. That didn't appeal to me either. So I just decided to return home. I had even decided to end this trip report right here.


I had made the mistake of not getting a cabin so I crashed in the sleeping lounge, catching a few moments of sleep in between watching a Spanish dubbed Shakespeare in Love. (Tip: Earplugs, they're handy especially if you're smart enough not to leave them on the bike.)


Day 25 - May 7th
Mazatlan, to Los Mochis


The harbor at Mazatlan.

The beaches north of Mazatlan.

I headed north. The road north was nice. I felt better heading north. The heat was still there in the high 40C's. I started to ride without my jacket and gloves. I had to stop every couple of hours to apply sunscreen. Of course after a while I started to look black from both the tan and applying sunscreen to the road grime on my arms.



Day 26 - May 8th
Los Mochis to Hermosillio


The day was more of the same. I stopped in a OXXO and was scarfing down an ice cream bar. I thought everything was nice. Until I saw some municipal cops come into the store to buy drinks. The driver just had a Beretta M92F pistol, but his partner also had a nice H&K G36 assault rifle carried in front. This was one of the few indicators of the troubles in Mexico. But aside from that, there was nothing. I wasn't robbed, threatened or assaulted. The bike wasn't even touched. My alarm did go off a couple of times, but all my gear was still on the bike. I wasn't harrased going through the checkpoints. Half the time I was just waived through. And when I did get searched it was just a search of just a couple of bags. The biggest threat in Mexico was traffic and physical conditions of the roads in the towns. (Did I mention how I hate topes?)


To be honest, I am already looking at returning. I have a Guia Roji. (Mexican road atlas) The Mexican version is far better than the Rand McNally version that I carry. Next time I would look at bringing a GPS to compensate for the lack of street signs. Also I would just carry clothes and a stripped down tool kit. (I always bring too much tools.) The lighter bike handled so much better.



I stopped in Hermosillio. The town looked quite nice and clean. I almost thought I accidentally crossed the border.

Day 27 - May 9th
Hermosillio to El Centro, CA


I arrived back in Mexicali. The weather had gotten cooler. But the wind had started to pick up and things got a bit dusty. I stopped at the border and saw that the line up was tolerable. I stopped to cancel my papers. When that was all said and done, the border line up had increased. I waited in line. The amount of people running around, hawking goods, made it a little too hazardous to split lanes, so I just waited in the traffic, which was actually rolling along.


The wind on the other side was way worse. I was nearly blown to Yuma.


Day 28 - May 10th
El Centro to Van Nuys.


I rode west back to San Diego. I stopped at C&D Cycle and picked up the ABS sensor I had ordered the last time I was in San Diego. I also stopped at A-1 Storage to retrieve the camping gear I had left. The V-Strom was carefully reloaded and transformed into an overloaded beast. I then rode north and holed up in a hotel in Van Nuys.



Riding straight home would mean 4 days up I-5. But I felt refreshed. Normally my routine involves riding, and then updating the website with my travel diary. Typing is easy, but then there is the time consuming detail of going through my pictures. So I had just ridden since Mazatlan. That was a nice therapeutic break. But I still felt like I could squeeze another week in. I decided to ride back east, heading towards the Wild West.
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Old 14 May 2010
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Sounds good Grizzly but tell us all about the risk of RSI in BC

- whoops, for a moment there I thought I was still logged in to ADV rider.
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Old 15 May 2010
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RSI?

---

Day 29 - May 11th
Van Nuys, CA to Phoenix, AZ


I rode east starting in the maze of freeways that passes for the Los Angeles area. After getting out, I rode east through the desert. This was now my fourth crossing of the mountains. Funny how each crossing was different. Crossing north around Bakersfield was cold, positively freezing cold. The crossing in Mexico was awesome, riding through a nice twisty road and a moonscape of rocks. The crossing east of San Diego was rocky but greener. And the crossing east of LA was open desert with no real hill climbing.


I had stopped at the General George Patton museum to check out the exhibits and the tanks parked in the yard. The museum was commemorating the US Army's Desert Warfare Training Center that was operational during WWII. The US response to the Nazi threat against the Suez Canal was to land in Africa in 1942 and stop Rommel. But before the invasion, the US Army sends Patton and the Third Army to the desert to train.



Statue of General Patton.

And one of his favorite tools, the M4 Sherman tank. I had watched a Canadian documentary on Canadian tank crews during WWII, the Valor and the Horror. They stated that the 75mm gun on the Sherman was inadequate for killing some of the bigger German tanks. The solution was to hit the German tank on the underside of the mantlet, which is the armor plate where the main gun is mounted. Once the round hit the mantlet, the round would bounce down through the thinner armor and kill the driver. Then the Sherman crews could maneuver around the back of the German tank and destroy it. Remembering that, I salute anyone of any nationality, who drove those tanks into battle.

And his namesake, the M60 Patton. (For some reason, the paper guide to the tanks listed the M47 and M60 as both being called Patton. Hope Generals Sherman, Pershing and Abrahms aren't pissed.)

Then I rolled east to Phoenix.


Day 30 - May 12th
Phoenix to Tucson


Today was not much of a travelling day. I had mucked about Phoenix. I did hit up a few bike shops looking at getting a Zumo. Only a Harley dealership had one. It looked nice in black and orange. I also stopped in the old town district of Scottsdale.


Old Adobe Mission in Scottsdale.

Now there is a workshop with character.

Public Art.

I then headed east towards Tucson. I had planned to check out Tombstone, but I hadn't read the map too well and discovered that Tucson was still a ways away from Tombstone. Well at least the motels in Tucson were cheap.
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Old 17 May 2010
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Day 31 - May 13th
Tucson to Phoenix


I rode to Tombstone, AZ. The town was billed as the town too tough to die. Well from all the gunplay, I'd say they put in a good effort. Downtown Tombstone looks like it's wild west days were yesterday. If you're into the old west, you have to come here. Clothing stores sold western clothing that would make you look sharper than Doc Holiday. And you could accessorize too with cowboy boots and gunbelts. And if you needed a shooting iron, there were two gunshops in town and almost every store sold replica guns as well. Too bad Canada has such repressive laws concerning replica firearms, I was starting to drool over a replica 1858 Colt Army revolver. I checked out the show at the Six-gun Saloon. The show was a cool re-enactment of some of the other gunfights the town was famous for. The shootout at the OK Corral was held at another location. I also had lunch at Big Nose Kate's. (And the waitresses there dress better than at Hooter's)


One famous grave at Boot Hill.

The Tombstone Courthouse.

Downtown Tombstone.

An Old West SUV.

Playing poker at the Six-Gun Saloon, Tombstone style. Remember that six rounds beats four aces.

Settling an argument, Tombstone style.

Inside Big Nose Kate's Saloon.


Also just for kicks, I had downloaded some music from Ennio Morricone into my iPod. Morricone did the original score for Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, "A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." There are a lot of bad imitations online, so it pays to find the original. I find riding through the Wild West listening to his music is fun.



Day 32 - May 14
Phoenix to Albuquerque


I headed east towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. The ride was nice and open. The terrain became a bit greener. The crazy part was that I had to ditch my lightweight riding jacket and put on my heavier gear. It was getting cold.


The folks around here sure are friendly.

A local band performing at night in Old Town Albuquerque.

The Church at night.

Day 33 - May 15th
Albuquerque to Las Vegas...New Mexico


I spent the first part of the day romping around Old Town Albuquerque, doing some souvenir pillaging.



A side alley in Old Town

One of the restaurants in Old Town.

Statue of the Virgin Mary outside a shrine.

Entrance to one of the Markets.

Then I rode north. I had picked up Motorcycle Touring in the Southwest. The fastest route north would be I-25, but I decided to meander a bit and rode up AZ-4 towards Jemez. The road was nice and twisty.



An oven at the Jemez Pueblo Information Center

An old indian temporary home.

Seems like an understatement.

I then rode up to a security gate. I thought I had made a wrong turn. It actually was the right road to Santa Fe, however I was approaching Los Alamos. Yup, that Los Alamos, location of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and some little weapons project known as the Manhattan Project. I stopped in a little museum and found out more about the history of the area. Los Alamos was originally the location of a Boy Scout camp where boys were turned into men with exposure to the outdoors. It was felt that a regimen of exercise and outdoor activity could help the sickly kids become stronger.



The Los Alamos Museum.

This lasted until 1943, when the Army moved in and wiped Los Alamos off the map. Los Alamos was not listed on any maps, the place ceased to exist. Mail was delivered to a postal box in Santa Fe. Residents drove cars with license plates bearing only numbers. Their driver's licenses also had numbers instead of names. Mail was sent out in unsealed envelopes so that censors didn't have to steam them open. This secrecy was essential. Germany was also working on a nuclear weapon. Japan may have well been working on a nuclear bomb, but evidence of that disappeared into Russia when the Soviet Union invaded Korea on Aug 1st 1945. Also Russia began infiltrate spies into the American weapons program after World War II. This place would make an excellent stop on a Cold War themed tour, along with the Titan Missile Museum and the Trinity site.


Reflecting on my route, I was glad the Cold War is over. I rode past several nuclear targets. (Los Alamos, Yuma, San Diego, China Lake, etc...) And I don't usually listed to the radio when I ride, so hostilities could have ramped up while I was riding and the soonest I would know is when I saw the blinding flash.



Maybe I think too much when I ride.


Day 34 - May 16th
Las Vegas NM to Boulder CO.


The riding today was cool, literally. I-25 stretched north and rose in altitude. The landscape was flat and green.


Downtown Las Vegas...New Mexico.
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Old 26 May 2010
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Hi,
Nice report, this is the sort of thing we like!
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