May 01, 2009 GMT
San Francisco - Coast to Coast

A slightly different and abridged version of Otis Readingís song
Sitting on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
I'm just sitting on the dock of the bay
Wasting time

I left my home in Canbíra
Headed for the 'Frisco bay
'Cause I had a challenge to live for
And look like nothing's gonna get in my way
Sitting on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
I'm just sitting on the dock of the bay
Smilin.

From 16 San Francisco

Tuesday 28th April Ė Coast to Coast

OK, ok... so I ainít a poet. You come up with a better version to suit the occasion :-) Anyway, Iím pretty relieved to have made it coast to coast, though my journey isnít quite over yet. I still need to make my way down the long and windy road along the coast to LA yet (as in strong winds and bendy as well). Two days of riding left.

The amazing thing about today was that I actually found my way into San Francisco without a GPS (hereinafter referred to as either the Bay or Frisco). Bill in Charlotte sent me a parcel containing a power unit to allow me to plug my TomTom into the bike. This was meant to greet us at Las Vegas, we were there for 3 days and UPS werenít able to get it to me on time. It was then re-directed to meet me at Yosemite, still UPS couldnít meet the challenge. They finally managed to get their S&^t together and it has finally caught me here in Frisco.

Well done UPS. Next time Bill, you might want to consider using Australia Post even they would have done it faster. LOL.

The ride into the Bay was pretty uneventful until I got close to city. I had written out driving instructions and placed them on my tank bag and they were good until I got to a fork in the highway and I had to make a guesstimate. Next thing I have a toll both in front of me and the whopping big Bay Bridge looming in front of me. I stopped to pay my $4 to cross the bridge and ask the lady in the booth if Iím heading the right way. Yep, stay on the right side over the bridge. Phew!! My instructions were saying go left. Off I head to cross the Bay with a smile on my dial that I was nearly at my goal.

Whatís that in front?? A friggin large sign reading ďStrong Winds on BridgeĒ. I donít think Iíll write what I thought. There were 5 lanes of traffic in each direction and I positioned myself as close to the middle as I could to try and get protection from all of the cars but they still found a way of beating me up. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made my way down and into the streets of Frisco and to my hotel. It is the Andrews Hotel on Post Street. A boutique hotel recommended by my man in Charlotte. Now I have since uncovered the code and now know that boutique doesnít necessarily mean Ďtop shelfí hotel. No sirree Bob. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boutique means small. Yep, Iím on the 6th floor and there are about 5 rooms on each floor and I had to walk sideways to get in the door. They used a crane that is permanently attached to the roof to lift my bags up and passed them in through the window. Nah, itís not that bad ;-) but yes, itís the smallest hotel room Iíve ever seen but itís nice enough. It is was built back at the beginning of last century and has an elevator that has two doors on it. One that you open manually outwards and then inside a steel grill gate. I also have a King size bed which I am becoming accustomed to having. Now, donít go getting upset Bill, I like it and Iím just stirring you up a little. The great thing is, that it is smack bang dead in the centre of town and easy walking distance to everything. Also, you get a complimentary glass of wine in the bar each day.

That night I ventured out for a walk and to get some dinner. Union Square is supposed to be ďtheĒ place where everyone goes. I headed there (two blocks) and came across a sign reading JAZZ tonight. It was a French restaurant with entertainment. You beauty!!! The reason I wanted to go to St Louis was to listen to Jazz and I missed out. I wandered in, ordered a celebratory half bottle of red wine, some soup, frogís legs and a pork meal for the main. It was great. The name of the place is Les Joulins at 44 Ellis street off Powell. I've eaten too much, but it was delicious.

Wednesday 29th April Ė Napa Valley Wineries Tour

Today, I have reserved myself a seat on a coach tour (Yuck, that is reminding me of going back to work soon). Anyway, Iím collected at the hotel by Tower Tours and they take me to the World Headquarters. Yes folk, their World HQ. Man, Iím impressed. They probably only have the one office. Iíve not heard of them anywhere else in the US so far, let alone in another country. ;-) Who knows they might secretly own Murrays Coaches back in Oz.

There are about 25 people on 8am coach. Yep, 25 people..... thatís 12 couples and the odd one out is me. OH well who cares. The unfortunate thing is that the driver (Will) doesnít make any effort to get people talking amongst themselves, so everyone sits there and just mutters to each other. Donít ask me to remember the names of the wineries. I only wanted to see the Napa Valley countryside really and to compare the wines to our great Aussie wines. I think I had one wine that came close to being as good as ours. My apologies to my 6 American readers, Iím parochial. If you come to Land of Oz, Iíll take you around our wineries (not on a bike) and you can learn for yourself. :-)

For lunch we stopped at a beautiful little village called Sonoma.

From 16 San Francisco
This place is lovely and it would be worth the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge just to see it. Oh, did I mention I went over THE Golden Gate Bridge.......
From 16 San Francisco
Yeah Stevie, you missed out. And to top it off, the Bay wasnít fogged in so we had great views of it. Sonoma is beautiful. Itís as though itís still in a time warp (not necessarily a bad thing). Nice wide clean streets, old style buildings and even some very old Buicks etc
From 16 San Francisco
running around town. I even found a cafe who knew how to make a decent sandwich, Steve. Turkey, Bacon and some real salad stuff. It was great, sitting there in the sun watching the world pass by. I was beginning to feel very mellow and relaxed when I realised it was time to wander back to the coach for our next winery.

Did I mention that nobody was talking to anyone else...... Well by the end of the next winery, people were starting to loosen up and by the end of the last one, welllll everybody was everyoneís best friend. By the time we got back to the Bay, one young school teacher lady was talking about ditching her boyfriend to me and the Canadian couple across the aisle, the couple from the Netherlands had loosened up and started to smile a little, the two pommie couples actually talked to me at a photo stop on the way back and so on. LOL

Overall, it was a good relaxing day and I copped an invitation to join the Canadian couple for dinner. This turned out to be a really fun night too. I met them at Eddieís and Joeyís a bit after 7pm and the entertainment had already begun. A trio of two fellas and a chick doing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong etc. They were brilliant. Frank even dressed like the real Frank did in his time. I hadnít felt like going out for dinner after being on the vino all day but Iím sure glad I did.

Thursday 30th April

Today had a leisurely start to the day. I had a 10am pickup from the hotel to do a 4 hour city sights tour, again with Tower Tours. The driver was a Latino and I found him a bit difficult to comprehend at times but man, he sure impressed me with his knowledge of this place. Everywhere we went he knew it inside out. Little things like San Francisco has 800,000 people living in the city but 32% are Asians, 28% are of European descent, 16% Latino and remaining 24% are of middle eastern and African descent. He pointed out places in the hippy area where Janis Joplin lived,

From 16 San Francisco
where some of the Beatles stayed for a while, Mrs Doubtfireís house, the house used in theTV show Full House
From 16 San Francisco
and numerous other facts and figures. He was brilliant. I love their coaches as well with the steerable tag axle, that is - the rear wheels steer as well. This allows for far greater manoeuvrability in tight turning situations.

At 2:45pm he dropped me at Fishermanís Wharf, I was promptly arrested by the local police. Without hesitation, I was whisked away to the a wharf, brusquely man handled onto a waiting police launch and unceremoniously deposited on an island I later came to know as Alcatraz.

From 16 San Francisco
While in detention there, I learnt that ďyou are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else you got was a priviledgeĒ. Rule 5, Alcatraz Prison Rules and Regulations, 1934. We should employ that rule in Australian cells.

Previous house mates to the island have been Al Capone, Robert Stroud ďthe bird man of AlcatrazĒ and plenty of other colourful characters. There was never a successful escape between the time it operated as a goal between 1934 and when John F Kennedy (attorney general at the time) closed it in March 1963.

Before that it had been used as a fort by the army and after the closure it was occupied by Indians who claimed it in the name of all ďIndians of All TribesĒ. This occupation lasted 19 months from November 1969.

Since 1972 it has been named a National Recreation Area.

Fortunately for me, I managed to make the only successful escape from the island and swam the 1900 metres through freezing waters to make it back to dry land.

I hid out in the Buena Vista Cafe while drying out with a couple of warm Irish Coffees. This cafe has remained unchanged for 100 years and is the home to the Irish Coffee in the USA.

After warming up, I made an inconspicuous exit out the side door to a waiting Ďtrolley carí (a tram).

From 16 San Francisco
These arenít really vehicles because they have no power of their own, ie no motor. There are actually three separate braking mechanisms for each of these heavy cars: the main track brakes are operated by the red lever in the front of the car, the front wheel brakes are operated by the foot pedal in the front of the car, and the rear wheel brakes are operated by the crank at the back of the car. Every cable car is pulled along its hilly track by an underground cable. The cable is gripped with a vice-like mechanism that is operated via a grip lever in the front of the car. Really interesting. This device came about after an accident with the very early cars which were being pulled by horses. Apparently one got out of control and ran back down the hill killing the horses.

Currently, Iím laid up in a seedy hotel where I have a good view of the road and a fire escape ladder out the side window.

Tomorrow, I plan to head down Highway 1 along the coast and get half way to LA. The following day, I hope to finally make it to my destination of Ďthe city of angelsí.

Posted by Paul Brealey at 04:53 AM GMT
May 02, 2009 GMT
To the Finish Line

Friday 1st May Ė ďhe looked down, said it is finished and was well pleasedĒ Book of Genesis

Itís done. Finished. All over red rover. Iím stuffed.

I was planning to stop off at old Cambria which is about half way between San Francisco and LA but when I got there some bloody Porsche rally had taken up every damned room in the township. So I pushed on to LA.

It rained all morning and I was soaked to the bone. The Gods of America had not finished with me yet. When I left San Francisco it was a clear sunny morning, albeit a bit cool. The further south I went, the cooler it became. I thought Ďthis isnít right, itís meant to be getting warmerí. Next thing I look up at the skies and there are clouds rolling in everywhere. ďmother of mercy, leave me aloneĒ. Within 15 minutes the rain had started, but there was no damned way this rain was going to bugger up my last two days.

I had the minimum of riding gear on and before long I had to stop and put on warmer gear. After a couple of hours I pulled into Carmel-by-the-Sea for coffee and a piece of hot apple pie to recharge the batteries. This is a delightful little seaside village where the cop sets his speed sign and then walks away and leaves the car while he does something else. Probably having coffee somewhere. :-)

After a short break, I head back out into the rain and continued south. I am hoping to get to Cambria, just past the Hearstís castle. Along the way, I come across the most incredible sight Iíve seen so far.

From 17 Los Angeles
A colony of Elephant Seals parked up on the point of Piedra Blanca. There are hundreds of these huge things as far as the eye can see. The Elephant Seals first started arriving here in 1990 and within 2 years the first pup was born.
From 17 Los Angeles
Since then births have steadily increased to 1700 pups a year. This is pretty amazing because these creatures normally prefer isolated areas where there are no threats. At the moment they are malting and that takes about 3-4 weeks.

Trying to compete for the attention are cute little squirrels. They even come running up to me and sniff my hand, no doubt looking for food morsels. They incredibly fun to watch and cheeky enough to let me pat them a bit.

From 17 Los Angeles

As I said earlier, I had hoped to stay at a pretty little village called Cambria. Itís even painted like the houses in the Italian villages. But as I started to make enquiries for accommodation, it quickly became apparent that these Porsche types had snaffled up everything. It doesnít matter, Santa Barbara is just down the road a bit and that only leaves a hundred miles to finish off tomorrow.
When eventually I arrive at the outskirts of Santa Barbara, I check the time and decide...Ēstuff it, letís push onĒ.

The run down the old Highway 1 is a great riding road for bikes. There are plenty of twists and turns and hills to climb. Again, you need to decide whether you want to ride for some excitement or just cruise along and enjoy the scenery.

At 1800hr on 1st May 2009, I pulled out my battle weary Australian Flag that I had made repairs to, hoisted it onto the back of the bike and proudly drove the remaining 10 miles (16km) into the City of Angels. Within minutes of the flag going up, I had another Aussie from Perth yelling out his window at me and a coach full of passengers giving me the thumbs up. It was so great to be an Aussie finally crossing the finishing line in LA.

As I sat down at the bar after checking in, I felt a huge wave of relief come over me and a great sense of satisfaction. I had come here fully expecting that something would go wrong on the trip and that Iíd come home in a box. Not only did that not happen, but I achieved a goal that I didnít fully expect to realise.

All that remains now is to get the bike to the drop off point somewhere here in LA and then to relax for the remaining few days before heading home.

Iím not going to do a web update for my days here until Iím heading home on the plane on 6th May. So thank you everyone who has taken the time to follow our journey and particularly those who have written to us during the trip. We had over 50 people subscribe to follow our journey, some of those we met during our trip across America, some I have no idea who you are but thank you for writing to us. Itís been great. Just a short mention to the Wake Up Club on radio 2CA in Canberra. Apparently Hayden. Larry and the gorgeous Jane have been following the trip and occasionally mentioning it on air. Thank you guys for doing that. Hayden once went way out and drove all the way from LA to Vegas. Go you legend.

For the next four or five days, Iím just going to chill out and relax. However, I have instructions from the grand daughters to make sure I bring them something back from Disneyland.

Next instalment should be a wrap up from both Steve and I.

Bye and Thank you for your support

Steve & Paul

Posted by Paul Brealey at 06:34 AM GMT
May 06, 2009 GMT
The End

Tuesday 5th May Ė LA
I have 5 days here and thus far, Iíve not done a whole lot. Iíve been at the Sheraton Downtown LA. For the Aussies that is yank speak for the CBD. Itís certainly not the flashest place in town but itís been a great spot to finish off. All the people here have been fantastic. The fella on reception, who commented on my helmet as I was checking in and asked what I was doing thought ďI was a bit crazy but a legendĒ and then gave me an upgrade to their executive floor and free parking instead of $26 a day. To the older Asian concierge who wanted to talk about Australia all the time and the bartenders who got to know me pretty well because I didnít feel like going out at night. Fantastic people here and I highly recommend the place.

Saturday was a Ďdowní day Ė laundry, haircut from a lady from Ecuador who gave me a head massage for 5 minutes and not much else.

Sunday, was a bit of a fun day. I booked a tour of Hollywood, LA Downtown, the beaches, Beverly Hills etc.

From 17 Los Angeles
Yep I went shopping on Rodeo Drive. I bought a coffee.
From 17 Los Angeles
I met another guy from Oz. He was Cairns and a public servant who must have won the lottery or something because he was travelling around the world in business class. Also had a lot of fun with two African American ladies, Sheila and her sister, Denise. Denise is an ex NYPD Officer and theyíve both promised they are coming to Oz for a holiday soon. Yeah right.
From 17 Los Angeles
The three of us went out for dinner on Rodeo Drive last night and got lost because my damned TomTom charger wasnít working. A note of warning though. If you come to LA and decide to do a tour, do not use VIP tours.
From 17 Los Angeles
From 17 Los Angeles
The coach was filthy before we boarded and then the driver reminded us at least 6 or 7 times about giving him his 15% tip. Needless to say, nobody did. Some people even got off and gave him nothing.

Monday I had to fix a flat tyre on the bike. Can you believe it, I travelled over 6,ooo miles and nothing went wrong the Honda and then I pick up a screw in LA. Yeah, a screw in the tyre!!! At 3pm I finally handed the bike over at the drop point in Costa Mesa and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that both bike and rider were in one piece.

Tuesday, (today) I drove down to Disneyland at Anaheim in a Chrysler PT Cruiser. I arrived at 10am and was outta there by 2pm. This is not a venue to go by yourself. Itís a fun place no doubt but an old fart wandering around on his own...... I did my shopping for the kids and got out of the place, which was the only reason I went there.

From 17 Los Angeles

Wednesday (tomorrow) Iíve decided not to bother going to any of the film studios but to an auto museum, something less touristy and then itís back on the Qantas A380 Airbus for the trip home.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in America, it has had its challenges for sure but all character building Iím sure. Iíve seen some fantastic sights from the glitz of New Yorks Times Square to the unbelievably beautiful Grand Canyon. Of the cities that weíve visited, Washington DC was my favourite, but tonight I learnt that itís the murder capital of the country. Bugger. This is one great country to see and the people are wonderfully friendly. You only need to pull out a map and somebody will be at your shoulder offering assistance. I had an instance on the bike where I had missed the off ramp and was trying to work out where to go and a bike pulled over to offer assistance.

I must make a very special mention to Bill and his lovely wife Deb Kniegge back in Charlotte, from www.bluestradatours.com. If anyone is coming over here and want to hire a bike, you wonít find a better bloke to do a deal with. These two have helped us all the way across the country. From loaning me gear on the bike and clothing to keep me warm to organising things like a ride in a Nascar, to recommending hotels and great things to see. Thank you so much you two and if you get down under, Iíll pull in all the favours I have outstanding to ensure you guys have a great time in Australia. I am sure that had I told him that I hadn't ridden a bike in over 20 years, he would have had some reservation about hiring one to me. So Thank you for ensuring we had a truly memorable trip.

So thatís it from me guys. I hope this has provided some entertainment and some useful information to those who might be planning a similar trip.

Asta la Vista Baby.

Posted by Paul Brealey at 05:35 AM GMT
 


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