June 15, 2005 GMT
Western USA on a Harley: the trip begins

I suppose the trip started way back in September of 2004. That’s when my elder son, David, and I started talking about my dream of riding the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t know where the idea had come from, but it was a journey that I had dreamed of for quite some time. Anyway, we got talking about it, egging each other on, until it gained a momentum of its own.

The first plan was just the Los Angeles–San Francisco/Golden Gate Bridge–Los Angeles roundtrip, with a side trip to Yosemite thrown in. But then my sister said that she had been thinking about spending some time in Wyoming, near Yellowstone Park, and that got us thinking about extending the trip. Then a friend, Luigi, sent me a link to a Web page with photos of Dubai, but when I browsed around a bit on the site I found photos of Bryce Canyon, in southern Utah, and somehow that got added to the map.

In March I booked us flights in June from Rome to Los Angeles and from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to Los Angeles and then back to Rome. I hired a Harley Davidson Heritage Softtail (it had to be a Harley!) from Eagle Rider, to be picked up in Los Angeles and dropped off in Jackson Hole. We had a hotel booked for the first two nights in Los Angeles; after that we were on our own.

Packing was an interesting challenge. The bike had two panniers about the size of a small overnight bag (or airline carry-on luggage). And we were going for two weeks, on a motorcycle, with weather ranging from Mediterranean on the coast through high mountains (Yosemite), desert and high plains (Wyoming). Temperatures could range from 30°C or more in the desert to close to zero in the mountains and on the high plains—with the risk of snow thrown in! And on top of it all, since we were doing a one-way trip on the bike, we had to carry our ‘luggage’ with us all the way.

David had a clear idea of what luggage we should be looking for—little canvas rucksacks. We tracked down a couple in a local shopping centre, and then had to work out what we needed to take and what would fit in the rucksacks.

In the end, we each packed a pair of thermal longjohns and a long-sleeved vest, and four or five t-shirts, underwear and socks and a light-weight fleece sweatshirt, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb and that was about it. We thought that we could get whatever else we needed when we got there.

We left Rome on 15 June, flew to Zurich and then on to Los Angeles. Out of Rome, David was sat next to an elderly American couple who had been on holiday in Italy. They latched onto David and chatted to him all the way to Zurich! It was quite amusing to see, David with his long hair and leather jacket, chatting to this couple of complete strangers. I just read my book.

The flight to Los Angeles was long (more than 12 hours) and tedious, but at least there was plenty of choice in films and music to while away the time. I slept quite a lot of the way.

Posted by Paul Neate at June 15, 2005 04:50 PM GMT

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