On the road, USA
August 01, 2007 GMT
Back in the US

Depite trepidation over the last couple of days I'm back in the States. Yes, it is nice to be back; but it doesn't make me feel like I'm where I should be. But there again. where the hell should I be? Anywhere that feels OK for me at the moment!! And that is where the problem lies; I don't feel right, that I belong anywhere right now! If I ever felt lost and adrift its now. Having freinds at home was great. But they couldn't make up for the loss of Cai, however good the support they offered. I don't know how well I could have coped without them, I still don't know if I'll cope on the road alone. But I must try, I must find the strength and commitment to live my own life; one that Cai shares as a memory but can't contribute to himself.

My fear is greater now I'm far from home, though having Al and Lauren around makes it bearable. How can I expect to feel different; I've just lost my son! I've never put so much effort into a relationship with anyone else, I thought it was safe. How easily wrong that proved to be. Nothing can be done about this now, one redeeming aspect of it is that we spent so much time together while we could. So folks don't put off what you can do tomorrow, DO IT TODAY!!! Make the most of your loved ones and don't waste time on the negative shit.

A slight delay before I can leave for Canada, the bike's registration plates haven't arrived yet and I can't leave the state before they do. So off we go for a four day camp, hoping the plates will be back by the time we get back to Al's.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 10:26 AM GMT
August 06, 2007 GMT
Up the coast..but down so deep!

So, at long last I've restarted this god foresaken journey. It was nice to be on the road, despite it only being a four hour journey to Plaskett Creek. I had a nice bit of windy road from Ojai for about an hour and then a couple of hours thrash up the freeway. Once off the freeway the ride was a wee bit manic, the sun was low and blinded me every time I got halfway round each bend. I so wanted to wind up the throttle and crank it round the bends. I made up for it on a ride further north, to the Big Sur, on Saturday, They don't have double white lines out here, I've assumed the use of yellow ones are to provide me with a guide line for overtaking with oncoming traffic. Do Harley riders go so slow to ensure everyone sees their bikes, or are the bikes really that sluggish? Shame coz I love the sound of them!

For the first time I had to pack all my stuff up and get under way. Of course I had to reload my luggage a couple of times to get it all fitting in a balanced and logical way. I found out how chilly the brilliant desert gear is as soon as the temperature drops off. It may be fine for a quick blast along the roads at home, but not on a misty ride along the Californian coast for a few hours. I thought it was meant to be bloody hot here, all the time! I definately need more suitable clothing to keep me warm in colder climes. I did express this opinion to Cai, but he just thought I was being over cautious; bless him.
It was also a weekend camping with my Californian friends; so not really setting out as the bold explorer, conquering the unknown single handed. Not really the intention now though, more to provide the space to clear away all the crap and get on with a life I never imagined I'd have to face. Sharing this weekend was excellent, and the kids were such a joy to be around. Somehow it makes it feel good that life is still precious and I can have positive emotions, not just the painful ones. Layla and Iain seem to have taken a bit of a shine to me, which means demands for my attention leave me with less time to dwell on grief. As you can see Layla and me have become a bit close.

Despite a seemingly ever present sea Har the weekend was really nice. I got to watch some fairly impressive surfing.

And saw a small colony of elephant seals, be jay-zus aren't they big. The males are down right ugly too, with large manky flaps of flesh/fur hanging off them.

I've had to face one of the hardest moments in my life so far today. A time when I severely doubted whether I could maintain contact with my rational mind. What a change from yesterday, then I felt detached and insular. It made me feel guilty that I hadn't ended up in tears for a whole day. Well I certainly made up for it today. Hearing from those at home has tended to be a hard time emotionally, reading comments from folk today really tipped the balance. And yet once it was over I was so glad to have experienced such overpowering emotions. I have no idea how long my outbreak lasted, I believe for some time. It started as a few tears and just snowballed, there was nothing I could do to stop it and it just got worse and worse. I was in the house alone, couldn't walk straight, couldn't think clearly and fear overtook. My belly was vibrating uncomfortably, which moved up to my chest as well and scared the shit out of me. I didn't know what to do, wobbling around the house, confused and hardly able to catch my breath. Eventually some corner of my mind got me to stop moving around and get my breath under control. Once breathing more normal the uncomfortable vibrating stopped in the torso and settled into my dead as a dull pain, but still felt like it was vibrating. It was horrible, but at least I stopped it! At first I wanted to block all commments, but then I felt how good it had been. To lose it emotionally to that extent and still have enough mental faculty to get it together again waqs reasuring. Part of my anxiety of doing the trip still was if I could handle getting really upset and scared with no-one around. Now I know I can! I also know I feel stronger for that experience, and give not a shit how it sounds to anyone else. We do, after all, create our own versions of hell!

For many years I've struggled to have as good an opinion of myself as others seem to hold. I've put my vlaue in terms of my son, or other relationships; not myself. To hear people praise me and compliment me has made me feel uncomfortable. This is what started today's episode; reading people expressing their admiration for how I'm handling Cai's accident, death etc... So I realise now is the time to change that, time to focus on me and what life I have. So don't stop the supportive comments, I need to listen and take it on board; maybe then I can begin to realise my real potential, as an individual. Maybe I can be someone I'm proud of being, to see the reasons I should be proud of myself. Truly a frightening day, yet such a valuable experience.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 10:30 AM GMT
August 10, 2007 GMT
Take the high road

On the road, even if its only a very slow one; in milage covered rather than speed travelled. The Sespe Wilderness I passed through yesterday was awesome, about a 50 mile ride of continuous curves. It was all so scorched, not just by the sun either! It was so clear how vast an area had burnt down in recent years. Apparently one in every four forest fires is found to be started by fire fighters; I guess thats one way of ensuring job security!

Out the other side of the Sespe was an amazingly arid zone which was was highly cultivated. The amount of water being sprayed everywhere was equal to anything I saw being done in the deserts of Israel, with a good amount of success too. There were a good variety of crops, loads of vineyards (see picture) and citrus fruits. It was interesting to see the agriculture, just as well coz the road was straight, flat and bloody boring.

Which is what the next stretch was like! OK, an oil rig is interesting when you see the odd one or two. But seeing a whole landscape of them is dull, even annoying. All I could smell was oil and all I could see both sides of the road was those damned wells sucking our reserves dry. All so greedy bastards like me can go on joy rides with our internal combustion engines. Such is life, I can see the faults but not stop contributing myself.

The riding has been generally great, my problem has been when I stop and my emotions sweep me away. Last night was horrid, I felt like turning around and heading back to Alasdair and Lauren's. The only thing that stopped me was feeling stupid for giving up so easily, jeeez there ain't no easy way out of this is there? Unlike me, I camped close to where other people were just to have someone close by. Not that I bothered them any, just kept myself to myself. Cooked a bland meal of stewed veg and read my book until about 10pm then got an early night. The ride today has been hard itself, very emotional whilst riding; which isn't helpful. Mind you I must remember, part of the reason of being here is to allow those emotions free reign.

A bit of bare arse sunbathing before starting was more in character for me, first chance I've had in the states! And WOW, what a lovely ride through the mountains from Lake Isabella up towards the Sequoia National Park. Into the redwood forests, through unbelievably twisty roads. I thought they were thrilling going up, coming down the other side was so tight. OK, the bike weighs a ton and takes a bit of stopping; but christ, did I have to lean the beast over a long way. And yes I did scrape my feet on the road, also overshot a few bands. Luckily the one to the right had a big run off to the side and the left one was devoid of oncoming traffic. Actually there was virtually nothing else on the road. The redwood forest was lovely and there's more to come today and tomorrow. And the smell is that gorgeous pine resin smell, mile after mile!

Posted by Leslie Kay at 12:32 AM GMT
August 14, 2007 GMT
Feeling high...9,500 ft

Seems strange, here I am writing away just the way I normally would in my own journal and then I get these people sending in comments that never fail to bring on the tears. Well keep it up people, its good for me. I could also do with a better sense of self worth, its been missing for too much of my life. And Cai can't personally help me with this anymore: but his memory can and does. .Thank you all, and thank you Cai! Please excuse the non-publication of all comments sent, some I'd like others to see; others I take as personal and wouldn't publish any personal details anyway Of course I wouldn't write anything that was personal to me either; and pigs might fly eh?

Those redwoods are really awe inspiring, they've had me speechless, whooping in delight and feeling well and truly earthy. The size of the large ones are humongous, this one is named General Sherman and is 11 metres in diameter. They reckon its 2,200 years old, mind you there are a number of others claimed to be the oldest living tree; so who knows, or cares really. I just love the smell and sight of them, how small and insignificant we seem in comparison: until some idiot goes and chops it down!

What self respecting climber doesn't get a stiffy at the thought of Yosemite? Especially El Capitan! I stayed in Yosemite Valley for three days and never stopped looking around gobsmacked at the gorgeous rock. So how many can claim to have climbed on El Capitan? Actually not me, I couldn't be bothered to scramble any further in full bike gear just to make a bullshit claim. Shame the photo just doesn't do it justice.

The pass going through Yosemite started yesterday's ride and is the highest I think I've ridden a bike before at over 9,500 ft. I rode up to 8,000 ft in just a thin top, and don't lecture me about safety! Its my risk and I've not got a death wish, I know the risks and will take what I feel right for at the time. Besides its excruciatingly hot, in the 100's. All the roads were great yesterday, resulting in me riding for over ten hours. Just so awesome I didn't want it to stop! Most was in what I'd call the high country, only towards the end of the day did I descend below 7,000 ft. No way was I going to stop to take photo's, even if there had been turn ins at the convenient places. It was joyous riding that route; Highway 120 east through Yosemite, 395 north to Carson City then Route 50 down to Sacramento. Actually starting to feel good with it all; even the grief when it emerges. For a long time on the ride I was having to control feelings of uncontrollable tears; to the extent of not being able to breath. I feel very lucky to have learnt the various techniques for breathing and relaxing with my meditation and Tai Chi. Take my word for it, they are very useful skills. It also does me good to address Cai at such times, for sure it makes me cry but its feeling good to let the tears flow now. But now onto San Francisco and the northern reaches of highway 1. Laid back beaches and wild cliffs.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 08:21 PM GMT
August 17, 2007 GMT
Wilderness days

Waah! What a fantastic last couple of days, especially as its only a couple of days. It feels like a decade, so many phenomenal sights, sounds and smells. Riding into San Fran and over the Golden Gate Bridge was definitely an anti-climax. Freeway into SF, which was dull, not even shouting "wanker" at big rig drivers improved it. The city itself was interesting; no rushing or hassle, it all seemed very relaxed and city hall was pretty vice looking. It was really misty on the bridge so I didn't get to see any of the supports while riding over. What I did see was hardly golden anyway, more like red oxide, peeling off to reveal the rust. Decided to stop and get a photo from the end as it was partially clear from the north end. Again no, too many tourists to even get a clear shot. C'est la vie, ain't my bridge!

As soon as getting off highway one and onto the notorious Route 1 the fun really began. Switchback heaven straight away, if you ain't pointing up you're pointing down and always leant over. Well, with the exception of a few score miles all the roads I've chosen have been like that. Pure joy, continuously! Ok, it did get real cold and misty yesterday morning for the first hour or so of riding. But the roads were still awesome, I just had to keep wiping the heavy mist off my visor and missed some of the views. But lots of lovely small towns, like Manchester, Westport and other familiar sounding names.

Sweeping through the Redwoods on wide open bends, no slacking off of speed just crank it over and smile. Again that gorgeous resinous smell wafting up my nose as 60 mph (more like forcibly injected), even nicer was an overpowering sweetness I kept getting and could never see what it was. Once was as I passed a home garden flower sign, and then I spied them; large trumpet shaped flowers, hanging round a main central stem.

I picked a track that would save me from going back onto Highway 101, but seemed to have missed it. Instead I turned off the main route asap. It was an unclassified road leading to Shelter Cove (Point Delgardo), even narrower, steeper and more gobsmackingly twisty. Thats where I saw this beauty, down the track that I should have taken instead of the 101.

Shelter cove seemed really promising, especially the locals I got speaking to. My first view of it was the mist rolling in over the sea, I could have camped on the beach free but wasn't prepared to leave the bike out of sight with any luggage on. The campsite was horrid and 30 bucks, so I went off to find one that was on the way to my next port of call.

It was about time I took the new set of wheels off road, there was a lot to do in the course of this trip so I had to start somewhere. So The decision was made and I headed for the campsite that was along a dirt track, from Shelter Cove to Honeydew. What I didn't realise was that the campsite was a real wilderness site with no facilities; more to the point no bear boxes to store food, but lots of signs warning about their presence. I can't really say I felt comfortable having bears sniffing around my food and stuff, so I had to improvise. I turned a bear proof trash bin into my storage bin; hey presto, problem sorted! Luckily I thought to put my crash helmet in as well, which someone else dumping fish juice all over my bags. But hey, at least I got some free fish. And some real nice company for the night, who got me stoned and made me laugh so much. Thank god for small mercies, eh? They also said not to worry too much about black bears in the wilderness zones. They tend to stay clear of us and are not too hard to scare off. Knowing they had fish heads outside their car made me very comfortable about having my food bag left outside.

The ride into the camp site had been about 5 miles of dirt roads, I had about ten to get out the other side and it was due to be rougher, steeper but passable. WOW!!! That was so true! It was definitely passable, coz I made it through. And I enjoyed it so much, though it would have been easier without the pipe I was given for breakfast. I can feel proud of the ride, it was the trickiest dirt riding I can remember doing. I felt I'd done it incredibly slowly. After I realised the speeds I manipulated the steep 180 degree bends off road was about that advised by signs for such bends on the tarmac. I felt a bit better then, but also felt there was no hurry anyway and it was fun pottering through it all.

I knew the route from a notice board, although there were more roads than shown and many more than the map I had on me. Trouble was to take a wrong one meant ending up at a dead end; 9 miles later, OH SHIT! I made the right decision, I'm pleased to say; it wasn't the obvious one. And today I hope to make it to Fern Canyon, for the obvious vegetation and the Elk that are said to frequent the place. Still no bears though!

Posted by Leslie Kay at 12:16 AM GMT
August 23, 2007 GMT
And then came the rain/

And I thought the wilderness classed camp was basic! Last Thursday, day of last blog entry, I stayed in an environmental camp; which is a wilderness one without the facilities. I had to pack my stuff in for about a half km. So much for the reassurance of the bears from last night, its a bit different when completely alone in the pitch black. Every noise heard had me shining my rather puny wind-up head torch into the surrounding forest. I didn't even have my my beautiful bike to protect me! It was strange how a comment came into my head, as if Cai were walking by my side, as I packed in my gear. The comment was a simple one, "wow, this is really cool." It was such a strong and clear thought, felt lovely to feel his presence like that.

I ran out of highway one and it became a smaller, non freeway, Hw 101. Which took me out of California and all the way north through Oregon and taking a loop round the west and north of Washington. It remained a nice road, very little straight and boring; open, gorgeous, high speed bends with lovely smooth tarmac and the more north I got the quieter it became. But as soon as I got into Oregon the scenery changed. Long stretches of beach, lovley dark sand and totally deserted.
There were countless numbers of these that I saw from the road, I was being a bit security conscious and didn't want to leave the bike unattended while I went in search of a quiet spot to bare my arse. It also didn't help that it was just a touch nippy, though fine for sheltered bathing in the sun. I waited to get to a really long stretch of sandy coast I could see on the map; unfortunately when I actually got there it was miles and miles of enormous sand dunes. No sodding beaches for ages so I went and camped by a lake; on a pretty tacky RV park. At least I got to have a shower and shave, even if my bike gear is minging I might as well try and keep the personal stench down a tad.

Actually it turned out pretty good, I happened upon a weekend of drag boat racing on the lake and the grandstand view of the finish line was from this park. Have you ever tried to get a photo of an object travelling at nearly 200 mph? If it hadn't been for the torrential rain we got subjected to I might have stayed and watched the finals on the Sunday, but once the waterproofs were on I was sweating my cobs off. I had to get moving down the road to cool off. I was really lucky though, just before leaving I managed to catch sight of the resident Osprey and got a long range picture showing it clearly.

Thoughts and feelings of Cai were positive and reassuring for the days out around quiet wilderness areas. The last few days have changed again, for the first time anger has erupted. I was only having a semi out of control cry whilst riding and it just got out of proportion. I actually considered stopping and trying to find some source of solace, I felt so isolated and vulnerable. While considering my options a church was passed and it seemed a certainty some of the righteous followers would be sure to offer a shoulder to cry on. Oh shit, then the thought of GOD came into my mind, swiftly followed by tremendous anger at this supposed superior, all powerful being. If there is a god and he can stand by and let someone as perfect as Cai get wasted in such a horrid way I'll piss all over him. I was raging, screaming abuse at this thought of god. So much so that my throat swelled right up and I could hardly speak after. It didn't stop the crying either, but I did feel better for it. It came up again in a less ferocious way yesterday, but that was with other motorists.

Driving over here leaves a lot to be desired, once in a lane thats where they're gonna stay; however fast or slow they go. I guess in a way I feel such bad lane discipline was a contributing factor to Cai's death. Obviously this has been on the boil subconsciously for a while. Jeeez, was I forceful in my riding yesterday. I wouldn't overtake on solid lines but when they were broken I was going through; whether they liked it or not. And many obviously didn't! They did move out the way when it was obvious I was coming through anyway; they didn't need to else I wouldn't have made the overtake. Close enough for them to give me more space. And that isn't really the way I want to conduct too much of my highway riding, but it did feel warrented because of the selfish, inconsiderate driving.

My bike has been great, if it carries on in such easy style I might not throw it at the ground many more times. I don't think it minds too much though, if it does it hasn't grumbled about it.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 11:38 PM GMT
September 18, 2007 GMT
Rested and raring to go!

Many thanks to kind hearted Aunts, eh? Not even my own aunt, that of Sioned, friend and late employee from home. Amazing how people can rise to the occasion and come up trumps. Iona didn't even know to expect me, yet when I called she steered straight through my own awkwardness and invited me to stay. So while my bike got star treatment at Couer d'Alene's Kawasaki dealer I received some of the same at Iona's home. Obviously the bike was cleaned and organised before I saw to my own needs! Five days rest were definitely in need and I left feeling refreshed and revived. Unfortunately I seem to have left another canine friend; Jo, the Coon hound, who I hope won't miss me too much.

Back on the road, and some very nice ones at that! A quick trip east on the Interstate 90 allowed me to get on the scenic byway (route 97), ride along Couer d'Alene Lake to route 3 and into St. Marie's, then the St. Joe's river road (route 50) all the way into Montana. Three days riding since leaving Iona's and they've all been along scenic routes, definitely not the shortest way to Yellowstone National Park. I entered Montana at St. Regis and took routes 135, to Paradise, 200 west to Plains, then the 28 north to reach Flathead Lake. The 93 took me along Flathead to the Northern tip, where I used the 82 East purely to link up with the 83, to head back down South again. My route seems all over the place, but the scenery and roads I've travelled make it so worth while. Highway 83 connects back up to the 200, which I took just for a few miles, going off road at Ovando, through Helmville and down to Drummond (last section is county route 271). With no other choice from Drummond I used tarmac, route 1 through Philipsburg, turning onto the 38 at Porters Corner. The 38 was mainly gravel road, going over the Shalkaho Pass @ 7,260 ft, and to the base of the Bitterroot mountains; which I'm going to follow for a few days before swinging back round en route for Yellowstone. Hopefully I won't get dizzy with all the zig-zagging and miss Yellowstone altogether.
Pheww! That's just the route, without any details, of which there are, of course, many. The ride along Couer d'Alene Lake was damned good riding, undulating twists and turns, rising high above the lake then snaking back down to cross ancient bridges, over muddy creaks, and giving my new tyres a really good trial run. Yep, they'll do! A pair of Avon's, actually made in Britain; rather than the Dunlop's, which are now made in Thailand! But I diverse, its so nice to be back on roads that beg to be ridden, tyres that cry out "lean further, please, please". But for some reason my better sense holds true and I take it relatively easy, rarely exceeding 70 mph. Even down the spectacular ride along St Joe's river I kept it reasonable, despite the temptation to give it full throttle round the delightful bends, as they followed the course of the river through its lazy meandering for many miles.

The jaunt up and around Flathead lake was similar for the lake views, yet more open and developed. The East side was better, where I rode past smaller lakes with less houses and only a few staging posts for trade. This ride was endured through heavy rain, though it still couldn't detract form the beauty of the area. So many log structures being built, real ones not log clad plywood, as I'd seen before. If only I could have taken out my camera, but it was way too wet to even take the rain cover off my tank bag. The logs were not pre-prepared, I saw a guy shaving off the bark before use. The variety of different types of buildings was phenomenal, they really are common in this part of Montana. Mind you, geodesic domes seem to be popping up unexpectedly as well.

Many of the roads now are being chosen for their high passes and off road properties, they are only open part of the year, so I've gotta get my arse into gear and do as many as possible before the snow arrives. I should still have time though! Coming over the Shalkaho Pass was awesome, very narrow track, really windy, very steep and with deep, deep drop offs. The road surface itself wasn't too bad, but I took it easy, there are too many hunters driving up there, I never know what might be round the next corner. So a bit of sense from yours truly, it has to happen sometimes, even to me.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 09:33 PM GMT
September 21, 2007 GMT
Running from winter

Wow, what a few days I've had. As I left the library from writing the last blog is was pouring with rain, and I mean pouring. Not one to shy away from a bit of water I just donned the waterproofs and got on with the ride.

Carried on travelling south on route 93, taking the 28 from Salmon down to Leodore. Route 29 (Idaho) and 324 (Montana) took me over the Bannock pass 7,672ft, a missed turn meant I had to take a quick blast up Interstate 15 to Dillon. Dirt riding became the order of the day, a sand/mud track provided the way to get to Alder, where route 287 went all the way into Yellowstone park.

I'm so glad that on waking yesterday morning the sun was out and the scenery was bright, breezy and oh, so clear. What a delight after the last two days, from Darby to Salmon I had to go over Chief Joseph's Pass 7,264ft; NIGHTMARE!! It had been raining hard, when I ascended the pass it turned to heavy sleet. It was bitterly cold, my visor kept misting up, so I could hardly see with it open or closed, warmer with it closed though! I could almost feel the mountain scenery just out of reach, but could see bugger all, I was deep into the clouds. Hein Gericke's waterproof gloves aren't, with sodden hands I could hardly feel them. Bloody luxury lad, zilch vision, no feeling and potentially a very slippy road. Holy moly, not my idea of fun! For once I actually cheered at the sight of a truck in front of me. His nice heavy, wide wheels cleared some of the crap off the road giving a better track to follow in; if I stayed far enough back I avoided his road spray as well. Ain't life good? At least when its that bad you know you're alive, and boy was I alive A fairly nice Motel was gladly taken that night, I deserved a bit a luxury.

I'd hoped for better weather the following morning, it wasn't raining to start with, that was an A1 improvement. But not for long, less than an hour before I had to stop and don the waterproofs. Even worse was the looming clouds over the range of mountains I had to pass over for the morning's ride (as you can see in the second picture). I decided to take a lower pass, but missed the turn, so went with the original plan. By the time I'd gone two miles along the gravel track I was in two minds; a newly layed layer of gravel was found a bit daunting, then I hit the cloud bank. At this point I lost any semblance of sanity and carried on, don't ask me why, I couldn't say. I knew when I got to the state line, in the middle of the cloud, alone, freezing weather; I felt great! So glad I hadn't turned back, a small but excellent sense of achievement. And armed with renewed confidence in my abilities to tackle the world, off I set again, just a wee bit faster.

Now its becoming more a point of finding as many tracks to follow as I can. Which is what I'd planned on doing together with Cai, just didn't think I'd be up to it alone. Well stuff it, we'll see what I can and can't do alone. There's only one way to find out! On this new high I was determined to find the next trail, going from Dillon to Alder, taking in the ghost towns of Nevada City and Virginia City on the way to Yellowstone.

What a delight, for the first time a track I took was not mainly gravel or stone, it was real dirt, yeeha! It isn't second nature for me riding dirt, I learnt to ride in heavy town traffic and my skills have all been learnt on road. I've only ever had short little goes on soft and loose surfaces. I'm getting there though, this sandy dirt was great, (3rd picture form top)I loved it. Although the bike hit the dirt again, though not with me on it. As I stopped to take the damned picture it went over, despite having checked the ground was hard enough to take the weight. No problem, pick the heap of junk up and set off, just a bit sweatier, and with a bent hand guard. It'd been such a good couple of days I took a night in a warm, cosy log cabin and got absolutely plastered with a local couple. Following morning, day lit up and Off to Yellowstone I went.

The scenery in Yellowstone can't be faulted, it was stunning. Gorgeous mountain ranges, excellent vistas from very high elevations and hot springs aplenty. The roads are all 45 mph maximum, which is a good idea, to protect the wildlife; bloody frustrating though! After spending so much time with open, empty roads, hardly anyone in sight for most the day, it was hard to sit behind a long line of traffic and not feel frustration. I couldn't sit at a reasonable speed (45-50 mph) because I had to constantly watch the other vehicles, who were likely to stop suddenly at any moment and block the whole road. I had to stop and think though, I came here now because its the end of the season and there are few people here. Oh yes Les, imagine what it would be like in mid season and count your blessings boy. So I did, and felt better. I even got to stalk a deer, well three but only really got pictures of this one, ain't it cute?

Posted by Leslie Kay at 06:13 PM GMT
September 24, 2007 GMT
More storms, but feeling good.

I don't think I can take anymore about the weather at home, it ain't got a patch on what I'm facing here now. In the last few days I've had snow laying around me, slept at 9,500ft in heaving rain, rode for hours in thunderstorms and smiled for most the way. I do need to get a move on, its getting close to risking being snowed in, which would mean swapping the bike for a skidoo; now there's an idea! Actually the thought of coming back into some of these areas for a quick trip in the snow is very tempting. I've always fancied a skidoo tour, not for too long though, a week would be enough. Meanwhile, I'd rather not use my bike as a means of combating snowy conditions.

Since leaving Yellowstone I've centred my route along highway 191, though enjoyed a number of side excursions. Between Daniel and Pinedale I took county route 352 up to Green River Lake, a return trip as it was a dead end. From Pinedale I went to Elkheart Park in the Bridger Wilderness Area, just to camp for the night, which was another return trip. And yesterday I took county route 353, through Big Sandy, out to the Continental Divide and onto route 28, about 20 miles Northeast of Farson. So I had to ride back to the 191 in torrential rain, very good timing though.

The first two pictures are of mountains I passed by, first from Yellowstone and the second from Dell fork Ranch, home of Barbara and Paul Elwin (could be Elwood), my kind hosts for a night of rest and bodily cleansing. Their ranch was amazing, they still do their haymaking by horse and the proximity and admiration of nature is wonderful. I stayed a night after being invited, it was absolute bliss. Woke early in the morning to horses grazing around the cabin, Pronghorn deer grazing up the track, with Harris's hawk and Bald Eagle flying past. All this with the magnificent backdrop of the wind river mountain range, talk about uplifting, WOW!

They advised me to go see the Elkheart Park, standing at about 9,500ft, "a spiritual experience," they said, as if their own ranch wasn't! But hey, the snow topped mountains were viewed from this park, after a night of heavy rain at my altitude, no wonder it was a bit nippy the next morning. As far as I recall this is the highest I've ever camped out at, higher than Turkey by at least 2,000ft. It was almost a shame to ride away and leave it all behind! Knowing there was much more to come made it bearable though, what I didn't know at the time was the more to come was thunder storms and very wet rides for a number of days.

Does wet and cold equal misery and gloom? Well bugger me, no it doesn't have to! OK, it would be nice to have glorious sunshine; and free fuel, as much beer as I wanted and cord en bleu cooking. However, the knack of life is to make what you can of what you've got, which is what I've been managing. The thought that came into my head whilst riding was, "I ain't running, I ain't scared, throw at me what you want." So, at present, I'm starting to feel pretty strong, at least bloody stubborn. For sure I've had torrents of tears streaming down my face, if I hadn't I'd be worried. But in my heart I hold more love for Cai than I could have imagined, and it isn't going away. Unlike this bloody Chipmunk, who wouldn't keep still!

Riding tracks and trails has been a delight, and a fright; generally both at the same time. To Green River Lake I had the most horrid washboard effect I've experienced so far, just when I thought I'd got it sorted. No problem at first, open the throttle and coast over it all; if you go fast enough it smooths out. So I got pretty confident and felt happy at 50+ mph; until I hit deeper, wider corrugations with deep, loose gravel strewn over it. It felt like I was on a bucking bronco set to vibrator mode, not nice at all. It was easier on the way back though, especially as I was expecting it.

The route through Big Sandy was aptly named, it was sandy mud for many miles. Heading straight for the mountains, over enormous open plains at very high altitude; pure joy, well almost. Being compacted earth was lovely to see after riding over so much gravel, and good speeds were kept. Having learnt my lesson I did take a more cautious approach to cornering, but even that got more confident and felt better leaning the bike over and accelerating through. Not quite the same when the earth isn't so compact and turns to mud! Again, I took it easy at first, while I got used to it. By the end, when seeing a muddy patch in front I didn't slow down at all, just gave it a handful. WRONG, the bike snaked horribly, scared the life out of me, and had me laughing manically. Scary, but really good fun! Although it will take me a bit longer before being quite so foolhardy with the throttle. My timing was perfect thjough, just as I reached the highway it starting pouring with rain, and hasn't stopped yet, 24 hrs later.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 07:40 PM GMT
September 25, 2007 GMT
It'snow joke!

The weather has failed to detract from the amazingly beautiful scenery I've been constantly passing through. Not one place can be given precedence over any others, they're all magnificent. Each mile, each hour, each day, each state has been unique and I feel so privileged to have been able to do this. My mind has been blown away at every instant, its such a shame others can't experience these things, in this manner. The tremendous feelings could never be communicated fully, I can only give the most minute aspect of what its like. But again, I feel honoured that everyone has joined in and made it worth while for me to do. This first photo is on the road from Rock Springs to Vernal, a gorgeous ride over high plains, it actually let up raining fro nearly an hour, so I could get the camera out.

What was that about getting down south before the snow fell? Oh well, it was a good plan! Even though I'd seen it coming lower, and gloried in its proximity, I didn't actually believe I'd get caught out by it. Me, what could possibly befall me? These photo's were taken when I stopped to put my gloves on the engine and warm up a bit. It got heavier and colder, I bent my head down and sang stupid songs. Thanks for that idea Tor! Mind you I think the motorists who were stopped, to take photo's, must have thought I was mad.

Without joking though, it was bitterly cold! No, I didn't get disheartened, which I felt real proud about. Over twelve years ago I decided this was one side of motorcycling I did not want to experience, I'd had enough. So here I am again, and it hasn't put me off. What is becoming a major effort is the lonely nights in hotel rooms, alone. And no, I don't want to go and trawl the local bars for company, I'd rather be a sad, lonely, old git thank you. The grief I can bear, well, better all the time. The thoughts of a future, without Cai I can't comprehend; can't even begin to get my head round it. Even getting far enough to write this opens up the void, one I can't face, one this trip will not sort out. At least that I feel sure about now, so if nothing else, it has already been a valuable lesson. I haven't been writing much about the tears, the pain, how often it comes, or how bad. Shit, you'd all be fed up by now and I'd have no readers. So you see, this has changed from this being all about me, to being something that is to share, with you all!

Posted by Leslie Kay at 01:58 AM GMT
September 26, 2007 GMT
All quiet on the western front

I finally left route 191 at Vernal, it had taken me a lot further away from the Continental divide than a wanted to be, so zig-zaging it has to be. And wasn't it just worth it, I've now crossed it numerous times and experienced a continuous variation in the scenery and roads. The roads and directions I've taken make no sense, mainly because I choose each day as it comes. Because my head is firmly rooted up my arse, it changes track every minute, let alone every day. Anyway, I headed East From Vernal, in Utah, on State route 40 for bloody ages, almost to Denver. God'damn, had to ride along the freeway! A scoot along Interstate 70, cut south through El Ranco, Evergreen and Conifer to reach route 285 for a few hours ride South, to Poncha Springs and joining the 50 headed West. Arrived in Montrose where I plan to head south again, for the ancient cliff dwellings of the Mesa Verde. But that is yet to do, and who can predict the future?

From Wyoming, through the corner of Utah and into Colorado proved never ending pleasure. All the riding has become that way, I've used all my memory cards and missed more photo opportunities than taken. This part of the ride had brought me closer to the actual rock again, no longer looming monsters in the distance. There are rock overhangs at the roadside, crumbly, treacherous looking sandstone, with constant warnings of falling rock. Only one solution, the less time spent riding past, the less risk there is, right? I haven't been thrashing the bike at all recently though, rarely ridden faster than 70 mph. I tend to keep at about that speed, round as many of the bends as possible, maybe ease off to look longer at specific views; but try and maintain a respecable speed of at least 60 mph. So I proclaim yet again, how brilliant!

After my snowy experience two days ago the weather has been a lot nicer. Mind you, I have ridden in much snowier conditions at home, it just seems more severe when away on a long trip. I must remind myself as well, that knowledge still doesn't make for a more pleasurable ride at the time; its still as cold and unpleasant! Even the town where I stayed, Granby, stood at 8,600 ft, and it started to snow heavily once dark. I fully expected to get snowed in, all ways out of town were over high passes, that doesn't sound promising to me. All I wanted to do was ride round the Rocky Mountain National Park, its been impassable for the last couple of days, and the pass down South is the highest around, at 11,315 ft, though was fine earlier.

With some relief I awoke to clear roads, no snow; just heavy frost! A phone call confirmed the national park was a non-stater, so Southward is the only choice. Done no checks on road conditions south, just went for it. If I can get through I will; if not, well at least I tried. Jeeez was it cold, glorious scenery though! As is often the case with heavy frosts, it was bright and amazingly clear; a crispy, winter wonderland. The views from the top of Bertoud Pass were phenomenal, no way could I stop for photo's, so only got one on the way up. So many of the spectacular sights I've seen have gone unrecorded: actually they haven't, they're in my head and my heart! They're part of the experience, at times stopping and taking a photo can detract from that experience. It breaks it up, making it lots of smaller parts, rather than a smooth continuation of the ride. One of the most joyous things is to allow the road and scenery to take over my consciousness, it really is about being at one with my surroundings, totally absorbed!

The whole of yesterday took me over numerous mountain passes, the majority close to 10,000 ft, the highest over 11,000; so the thermals have stayed on so far! It has all been awesome, every bend opening up a whole new vista, every angle shows a different scene. When stopping I've looked around and been amazed at the view behind, how did I miss that? I'd have to ride every road from every direction to truly appreciate all it has to offer, and then of course any variation on weather would give it a whole new perspective too. I so wish I didn't have to marvel at all this alone; I'd swap it all, to share one more moment with Cai, just to say one more time how precious he's been to my life. Too many why's don't help, I know; but why can't we have just one thing in life we could change? Probably because we'd all use it up a million times, before we most needed it! No, why is a question, in these circumstances, that brings so much extra grief.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 03:13 AM GMT
September 27, 2007 GMT
Passing the day away...

Its good when things just happen, you go with the flow and are well rewarded. I got away from the motel as late as I could, and buggered around in the library for a couple of hours too. But it was worth it, being unsure of which scenic route to take south, a chance meeting with another biker decided for me. He was emphatic about taking the 550, from Granby to Durango, then heading east to Cortez and the Mesa Verde. where the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians could be found. All too often such strongly put advice can put me off, but a bit of trust doesn't necessarily amiss, in this case it was well placed. What an inspiring ride it was, from only a few miles out of Granby, almost to Durango itself. I've missed having close proximity to rugged, breath taking rock, rising vertically from the roadside, or dropping dramatically within inches of the kurb (or where the curb should be).

Definately one of those rides to write home about! Switchbacks came thick and fast, hellishly steep climbs for thousands of feet, the bends were of dreamlike quallity. Wide sweeping bends, curving round back onto themselves, then tight dramatic turns on the very edge of gorgeous chasms. Ooooh, its bliss! And there were an infinate number of noises, much better at communicating contentment, pleasure and pure adrenalin. The road just sucked me in, took me breathless to the very edge, then forced me to retreat. No matter how desperate I was to give it more on the throttle, to do so would mean a long plummet, down a gobsmacking gorge.

It was amazing the amount of restraint I showed, whenever getting stuck behind other traffic I just pulled over and got the camera out. Anywhere I could pull over provided a good photo opportunity, I would have been rude not to have made the most of it. It didn't matter whether the road was between tight cliffs, cut from the bare rock, or meandering through an open valley floor; it was still incredible to see, wonderful to feel the majestic beauty of the passes.

Due to the lateness of my departure this morning I didn't think I'd have reached the Mesa Verde, but I did. Once clear of the mountains there was no stopping me, open the throttle and let here rip. Not really that bad, I kept at 80 mph for a couple of hours, only stopping to buy some Tequila. So, by the time it was dark, I was putting up my tent. Spent the evening chatting to a couple who were about for the Louisianna hurrican, it didn't sound nice, and made worst by the complete lack of response from government sources.

Today's humour was delightfully provided by some older guy, he had just the cutest white socks on you can imagine, they really suited his sandles! OK, I was about to swing my leg over the saddle when he said something I couldn't hear at all, because of my crash helmet. Apologising for not hearing, I stepped closer, "How does your bike work?" I was absolutely sure he didn't want me explain the four stroke cycle, maybe it was the means of transmission he didn't understand. Naa, haven't the time! I was so perplexed by the question I could only ask what he meant. I know, I'm horrid, I've an aweful sense of humour and I shouldn't be so wicked to such innocent, sartorial guru's. He settled on knowing the engine size, amd from his reaction it was obvious he found it to his satisfaction. A truly bizzare meeting, it tickled me though.

It's been hard for me, the type of questions I've been punishing myself with! Everything from why did I get Cai interested in bikes to why didn't I give him a couple of grand and let him go off for a nice, group, summer of fun? Its obvious, there are endless ways to prolong the grief, will it serve any useful purpose though? Of course bloody not! Feeling sorry for myself, and finding ways of further diminishing my self esteem, is not good. If I respect Cai, as the equal he was, then I must respect his choices, his ability to think for himself and follow his own dreams. Ain't guilt a funny thing?

Posted by Leslie Kay at 10:44 PM GMT
October 01, 2007 GMT
Colorado and the Anasazi.

A nice and early start, tainted only by the onset of a hangover. It didn't really start until after visiting the cliff dwellings, grogginess was the only initial set back. Strong coffee and magnificent views were enough to delay the pounding headache, which persisted for the whole afternoon's riding. I came to the Mesa Verde for the Anasazi cliff dwellings; the cliffs, canyons and views alone were worth while. Climbing up to the top of the Mesa was awesome, the horizon stretched as far as the eye could see, viewed from so high it gave a god like over view of the world. The formation of sandstone was excellent, a slow, steady climb had to be made to absorb all the surrounding beauty, despite the yearning for a thrilling, boot scraping ride over pristine tarmac and round sweet sweeping bends.

It would be wrong to conclude I'm a speed freak, very wrong! Its not speed alone; there is something about leaning the bike over, right over, and accelerating out of a bend. It is thrilling, but not pure adrenalin; its smooth, graceful, Tai Chi as opposed to kick boxing, meditation as opposed to masturbation. It can be very exhilerating at higher speed, but the goal is poetry in motion, beauty within the beast. But the devil in me does take over, at times, when I'm going to overtake everything I come across on the road, drive my bike to its extremes and push my personal limits till its scarey.

I followed the 160 from Durango, across to Cortez and, after my tour of Mesa Verde, continued on that route to Tuba City, where I pitched my tent in a hotel car park, wierdest place yet. Also the first time I've had anything go missing on this trip, god'damn tea leafs! All I done was to leave a top out on a picnic table while I went to the bog, came back, packed my stuff, and only later realised it was gone. Such a shame, it was one of my designer tops, so I'll just have to go out and buy another nice one to make up for it. I assumed I'd already packed it, another lesson to be learnt! In Latin America everything is at constant risk of vanishing, including my bike.

The Mesa top was so good for long range views, even better for the depth and frill of leaning over the cliff tops. Its amazing to think the original inhabitants used only toe and finger holds to climb up and down these cliffs, every day they'd climb out, to hunt and farm the mesa tops. They certainly get my respect, now-a-days there's no access for climbing, what a damn shame! The workmen in the picture lowered down off a mechanical boom. There was only a water pipe left, drooping down off the cliff top to provide a water supply for their work. I did think to switch it off, to see them get hoisted back up, deciding they'd only radio and get someone else to switch it back on I curtailed my immature impulse and carried on enjoying things in a more constructive way.

It is strange the wierd thoughts that come to mind unbidden, people tend to keep them to themselves, for obvious reasons. However, they shouldn't crucify themselves for dark, negative thoughts. They are only thoughts, acknowledging them can open deeper parts of your mind, recognise what's there and strengthen yourself, never to become that dark creature we are all capable of being. I was surprised today at the thought of how easy it would be to steer my bike over the edge of the road and plummet hundreds of feet to the canyon floor. More surprised at having such a thought, actually no; I made an observation, not an intention. It was recognising suicide could be that easy, and dramatic, beautiful, but most of all destructive. How could a person do this to those who treasure them? In my mind at the time, how much damage would such an act do to the historic treasure I was visiting? The thought of free fall past all the cliff dwellings was strangely, appealing; if I were inclined to wasting my life in such a way, which I ain't, so forget the comments on that one folks.

Riding away from Mesa Verde took me into desert, and it stayed that way for days. Lots of people complain about Arizona, "...just continuous desert, boring, uninspiring, monotonous.." screw them! Take some time, have a closer look at the variety of sandstone there is. Colours vary from light, light beige, through yellowy orange, bright red ochre, to dark mud brown. And the different shapes, wow, jagged peaks standing alone on the desert floor, bluff topped slopes spreading for miles along the horizon and weird swirls/worls looking like a kids attempts at mud pies. I couldn't keep my eyes on the road, there was so much to look at, just as well the roads are extremely straight. But bored? Never!

There's been an increasing tendancy not to hang around the last few days, on open and straight roads I've been blasting along at 80-85 mph, wazzing past all and sundry. In some way trying to outrun, or work off, a growing frustration. I've been making myself stop to take photo's, when the impetus is to ride hell for leather and get to the next place, as quick as possible. Being plagued by, "whys and what ifs" over Cai's death have been the driving force here. I know he was doing what he most wanted to do at the time, but what if I never rode bikes? What if I never went adventuring? Why did I not pick up the bikes in a pick-up truck, like planned? Why did we set off straight down a bloody great freeway? A thought directed at Cai marvelled at what a good choice we'd made to buy new KLR650's, then I was consumed with guilt, his death seemed to be attributed to a fault in his bike! Why wasn't I on the red bike? And on, and on..... This may well be an amazing experience doing this trip, but the cost is not worth it, Please can I go home and have my son back?

Posted by Leslie Kay at 10:46 PM GMT
October 04, 2007 GMT
Ain't that Grand?

From my dismal experience of Tuba City it was a pleasure to get away, heading further west on the 160 for another ten miles. Route 89 provided a link to route 64, which followed the Grand Canyon east along the southern rim, then on down to Williams. And there the real manic, non-stop slog started! I rode hours along Interstate 40, halfway across Arizona and then the width of California. Every two hundred miles or so I'd stop, refuel the bike, have a drink, some food and a cigarette myself, then off again for another two hour jaunt. Mile crunching, only way to get them covered when you really want to. After the Grand Canyon I just wanted to get to Alasdair and Lauren's house, to be able to flop down, knowing tomorrow I won't repack the bike, neither will I even unpack tonight. Knowing where I'll be, that I won't be going anywhere tomorrow, that I can sleep as long as I like. Sounds like luxury to me! However bad the LA driving is, it was not going to detract from the pleasure of getting back to Ojai. And it was bad, as it always is, mental drivers with no thought for anyone else on the road. Thank god, I only skirted around the edges of the city, taking alternatives than using all the interstate connections. It only took me about 10 hrs riding to get back from Grand Canyon, I think its about 700-750 miles.

On the way to the Grand Canyon winds the Little Colorado River Gorge. LITTLE, pretty damned deep, if you ask me. Couldn't get close enough to see the bottom, the sides were prime, climb time. Not that anyone's allowed to indulge in such wanton pursuits, its protected reservation land. There could well be an arguement here for opening up more land, for the pursuit of happiness. So the climbing fraternity aren't deprived of further feats of prowess. I mean, isn't it about time there were new awesome endeavours to conquer, more rock to smear with chalk, amidst accusatons of degrading the rock by doing so. We need more places that are beyond the reach of reasonable medical aidwhere only the strong and foolhardy go, where rock gods can strut their stuff, expectant of a hero's welcome. There's always some lesser mortal, easliy impressed, to bow down, and lick their arses! But I digress!

The top picture is of the "Little" gorge, and yes, compared with it's big brother, its ain't so big. I wouldn't like to try jumping it mind you! It shows itself for miles, on and off, snaking along the desert floor. All the time I followed its course I was above it, never being privileged to enter the gorge and marvel at the multi-layered, sheer walls. So tempting; all the tracks wound alongside, but never got closer than a mile or so. Foolish I may be, but lazy with it; I was not about to walk a couple of miles, not in scorching desert sun, and bike gear!

Before getting my first glimpse of the king of Canyons the crowds put me off, but I didn't allow it to detract form the phenomenon. Not even the large number of Germans, thrashing Harleys up and down the car park for photos, were going to put me off. Once viewing over the rim I realised nothing could overcome the amazement, the sheer mind blowing immensity of it. Still I doubted this gargantua of nature, expecting it to be same, same, all along. No way! Each time I travelled along a bit and stopped my mouth was agape, A short walk round the rim continued to expose features not apparent, until that second, where do you even start to try and capture this by photography? And no, clicking furiously would do you no good what so ever. Surprisingly I was frugal with my snapping, me and the camera were way outclassed. A brave attempt was made to highlight the tiniest fraction of its awe, some longer views and some individual formations.

Going back to Tuba City! The ride in and the time there felt very strange to me. The Navajo have a widespread area for a reservaion, its an amazing jumble of exceptionally beautiful desert views. But "desert" is the operative word, no good to graze, no worthwhile agriculture; the only money coming in seems to be from tourism, and government handouts. There is a big cultural difference, as with many native americans, I felt it smacked of ingnorance, from a white man's point of view of course! My first stop was Kayenta, at a fuel station. I thought there must be something wrong with me, kept acknowledging people, only for them to ignore it. Actually made a point of saying hi to a few people, no response at all. I must admit, there isn't much reason for native americans to acknowledge a white interloper to their reservation. Its not as if, as a race, we've done them any favours.I found it a real shame though, so when a "local" did stop to talk I was delighted. We passed flippant, pointless, questions and answers between us , it wasn't in danger of becoming the most profound of conversations, then he asked if I could give him some money. Oh, dear! What a let down, so I do only represent a dollar sign. After all the miles, thousands of people and scenes I've passed and felt in touch with, it comes down to, "hey bud, spare some change". Is that really all there is to link older, more lasting cultures, to ours? Can I only ever be a money symbol to so many people? The women I meet working in service industries, like cafes and hotels, were friendly and efficient, those on the street and other customers made not attempt to exchange words, smiles or friendship. It made me feel like a worthless piece of shite! Someone I spoke to suggested verbal communication is not so important in the Navajo culture; the return of a family member, absent for some time, isn't likey to be greeted back into the house with a verbal dietribe, few words would be spoken until family members had got used to the "feel" of each other again.

Along the road, to and from the GC, can be seen many signs advertising Indian crafts, its common to see signs declaring, "friendly Indians". Obviously these are the ones who realise, to practice common aspects of our culture can be beneficial for them, even if it is only to get some money from the rich white man. I prefer putting it down to cultural differences, It allows me a more constructive world view, and stops me feeling a worthless shit. The truth rings true in both views, and won't the world be a better place to if we all hold the more enlightened view?

Posted by Leslie Kay at 03:28 AM GMT
October 12, 2007 GMT
Sespe hike...on the way to Baja

After being in Ojai for two weeks I've come to a stand still, no blog, no writing in my journal and no riding the bike, except down the shops. In this time I admit, I've done little to write about. There hasn't been any exciting roads to thrash along, no awesome scenery to slow me down, my grief has taken a back seat and I've relaxed into obscurity. Actually, not quite! While it may be true about the lack of riding and writing; it certainly isn't about no scenery! Last weekend I went hiking with Alasdair and Lauren into the lower Sespe wilderness area, accompanied by their son Iain and a couple of friends.

We were only away for a few days. There was a three hour hike in, with full packs, on Friday. You could call it lucky, the hike in was mainly down hill; I'd call it unpleasant, having to think of the hard climb out all weekend. But I didn't, and we actually made better time on the way out than coming in. My legs ached after the hike in, first morning was stiff city central, the second not a lot better, and the next saw me walking very stiff legged; not the best situation when you're in a hurry to get to the loo. But it was only when first getting up, after a few stretches and a walk around there was no problem. I really thought there would be the morning after we got back, hell no! Jelly legs, from the walk out, stiffened up right enough, it went in no time and I felt so relieved. Nothing remained to hinder my service and upgrades to the bike.

Staying at a base camp made things much easier, needing nothing else than something warm to snuggle into for the cold nights, all our supplies and a desire for peace. Base turned out to be a lovely sandy beach, near a deep swimming pool. I expected the water to be really warm, like it had been before heading north. I was not so lucky, it was cold and took me a day of going in to get used to it. On the last day, acclimatised, I started to enjoy some of the higher or dodgier jumps/dives. Didn't get round to the big ones I had earmarked, leaving time came up unexpectedly and I didn't want to walk in soaking shorts. A bit of a bummer, but I need to trust to Al's experience of the area, and follow his itinerary. It worked fine Saturday, we made it to Devils gate, a lot further than they've managed for quite some time.

Meals were basic, with plenty available, which we all shared carrying, for the hike in. Getting out was easier for weight, stuff your face full of all remaining food and there's nowt left to carry. Mind you, I made the mistake of taking too large a day pack Saturday, I ended up carrying rather more than desired for the long day's hike. The sandstone along the gorge was lovely looking, but loose as Britney Spears. definitely not worth climbing on; much too dodgy! Once we'd started, Al's ulterior motive became clear, uprooting Tamarisk, a non-native that easily becomes dominant over the natives; sounds like white settlers to me. Mmmm, maybe that's the way to rid the world of many of its problems, rip out the non-natives and make room for the native species to flourish in peace. Staying on the topic of the environment I'm not sure how I feel about such actions. There must be an argument for allowing species to flourish where they can, hasn't nature always balanced itself out in the end? Mankind has a weird hypocrisy, surely if something arrives in a place naturally let it live. Of course I know its not that simple, many alien species devastate an area, ousting well established native species; but isn't this the way of nature? Are we not playing god by deciding what will, and what won't, be allowed to survive in any particular place? Tricky question, and one I'm not qualified to answer! Don't we all like to maintain what we percieve as beautiful in it's natural state? Just not in relationships, eh?

One of the big differences the last couple of weeks has shown is having time to look at the bigger picture of my life. Despite plenty of soul searching questions, whilst on the bike, they can always be noted and put to the side. There's always more important things to focus on! When kicking your heels, with little to do, the mind wanders/wonders, and there's no ignoring it. As a person dear to my thoughts informed me, maybe I just need to peak over the edge into that viod, start seeing what's there for me. All the time I'm travelling I can keep my mind on that, not seeing what life might hold for me now. That is the tendancy for me, to ride, mile after mile, day after day, the travelling being the dominant purpose, only dealing with the grief as it comes, not daring to face the future. I'm very good at the travelling, deal with all eventualities in a no mess, confident manner. Its not what I want in my heart though, I don't want to be an eternal wanderer, alone, to keep moving being the only purpose in life. People hold me in awe, for my ability to travel, to deal with the unexpected, to be out there doing it. I don't know how they see it like that, I'd rather feel able to hold down a caring relationship, for there to be enough there to negate the alternative, to wander the world alone. In many ways, travelling could be seen as the bane in my life. Its imposed a very heavy cost, not one I'd have chosen if given the choice. But that's all hind sight, best acknowledged, remembered, but left behind.

How better to jolt yourself out of a rut than a bit of retail therapy! I love shopping, give me money and I'll spend it; unfortunately it wasn't on clothes this time. Not so unfortunate though, I spent it on upgrades for the bike. Sensible ones too, nothing purely cosmetic, although it will look very different when finished. After talking a lot of people it really is apparent, the biggest hassle in South America is theft. Travelling alone now makes this even more of a risk, never feeling comfortable leaving my bike anywhere, not being able to pop in any store, toilet etc without risking my stuff being slit open, cut off, or any other means of skulduggery. Of course with two people it would have been easier, one could look after both our stuff, while the other was away. So now I've ordered a set of aluminium hard luggage, two side cases and a top box. Its so much cheaper than what there is available in Europe, I'm even getting it epoxy coated for a better look and more durability. My tank bag assemblage has taken a sever beating as well, which it won't get over, so that's had to go too, Hein Gericke will refund me when I get home. To replace it I've got a pacsafe tank bag, this has wire mesh built in so it can't be cut open or off the bike. Shame it hasn't the small panniers the Hein Gericke one did, but I should still have at least the same package space. And so I become a type of motorcyclist I havent been for ages, no longer to chuck it over and strap it on, more like shoestring touring. A change is as good as a rest too, it takes away loads of anxiety in this case. So with a freer mind, I set off for Latin America, speaking hardly any Spanish, and not giving a damn!

On the performance side I wanted to improve the low end response; better pick up from low revs and easy adjustability of the air mixture. So After market parts were the only answer; a new exhaust (Supatrapp), improved flow air fliter (re-usable), and I drilled out the factory sealed air screw and put in a 'T'handle mixture screw, for really easy adjustment. This is important when hitting high altitudes, I won't have to mess around with a screw driver, a quick twist one way going up, a twist the other way coming down. I've also bought a disc lock with an alarm, for a bit of bike security. Apart from spares, thats about all I've bought, very restrained of me, eh? Oh, I forgot about the laptop! After so much time and effort spent in libraries through out the USA and Canada, I decided to invest in one to save hand writing a personal journal as well as this blog. Of course, this wouldn't have been possible had I not got hard luggage. It all makes perfect sense to me, upgrades to fuel and air are done already and work a treat, better, crisper low end acceleration and more raucous exhaust noise; just my sort of bike!

Posted by Leslie Kay at 08:45 PM GMT

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