September 01, 2009 GMT
In Jasper Resting
Due to poor email connections we haven't been able to write on this blog for some time so this covers a week of travelling.
We left Fairbanks in Alaska and rode to Tok a small village on a crossroads 97 miles from the USA Canada border; we passed another village called North Pole which had shops selling Santa Claus and Christmas goods in August! We left Tok for the border the following day, the border passed unmarked and we rode a further 20 miles on poorly maintained roads to the Canadian Customs Post, and saw what we thought was a young Wolf walking in the road, however it turned out it may have been a Coyote, not being experts we still need to confirm this with the photograph we took. Our intended destination that day was Whitehorse, the main City of the Yukon Territories, but in the end we stopped at Haines Junction, another crossroads village. We met an American Couple each riding Harleys back to North Dakota, he was 72 and his wife 66, they had been on the road for 2 months, a very interesting couple. We continued on the Alaska-Canada (AlCan) Highway the next day to Watson Lake where we met the same couple again, after we had riden hard all day they turned up 15 minutes after us, a lesson - not to rush! We had wondered about riding on the Stewart- Casian Highway (Highway 37) having heard varying reports about the state of the road and the sections of gravel road but also how good the riding and scenery was. In the end we decided to ride it and set off in pouring rain from Watson Lake, the road lived up to its promise with 30 miles of gravel, 370 miles of stunning scenery and gentle bends that was a joy to ride; we stopped at Bell Lodge for the night 100 miles from Stewart which we rode to the following day. Highway 37a turned out be even better than the previous days riding. The final 36 miles a mountain pass built between mountains with a glacier ending feet from the road. It was a sunny day as we rode into Stewart, an old mining town which had produced Gold, Silver and Copper in the past hundred years, and is now existing as a tourist destination - the film 'Insomnia' was filmed there. The following day we took the road West from Stewart to drive to Hyder in Alaksa, and onto the Salmon Glacier, a really inspiring sight that fills a valley between mountains and continues down the side of the mountain road towards Stewart. The road was a 23 mile drive on very loose gravel winding round mountains with a sheer drop on one side.; it was an exciting ride which gave us a taste of things to come in Central and South America. We stopped on the way down the mountain road to take pictures and had our first fall when my feet slipped on the sloping gravelly surface (that's my excuse!), the bike was undamaged thanks to the crash bars, Marilyn's bottom took the brunt of the fall and my pride (and her bottom) was dented. We next stopped at Fish Creek a tourist spot to watch Bears feeding, we were lucky to see a Black Bear swimming through the mist of the Blue Lake and into the Creek, with the other watchers we followed the Bear as it caught and ate the plentiful Spawning Pink Salmon in the river. We took more pictures of this event than any other so far.
The following day we left in the rain for Prince George, a grand sounding place and the main city of British Clombia but stopped at Vanderhoof for the night and continued to Prince George the following day. Prince George didn't live up to its promise with the centre being devoid of any atmosphere, probably because all the big stores were located in the outskirts on the main highway through the city.
We left for Jasper the following day on a sunny day through rolling roads to the Canadian Rockies a really beautiful road with lots of mountains and lakes as scenery, we had intended to stay for just one night but after talking to bikers along the road realised that we would miss a lot of attractions so decided to stay for 2 nights. However when we arrived and then found a lavish hotel at an amazing rate we extended the stay to 3 nights after which we will divert via the Glacier Highway to Calgary to get new brake pads for the bike before continuing to the USA and onto Yellowstone National Park.
Posted by Albert Sollini at 02:48 AM
September 11, 2009 GMT
Jasper to Salt Lake City
We have continued to have problems with email connectivity so this entry will cover the the last 10 days.
Our stay in Jasper was a time of resting so we only did a few of the countless touristy opportunities available there. We went up Whistler Mountain on the Jasper tramway, which is a cable car that takes 6 minutes to travel almost to the top of the mountain; on the way up we saw a Spyder (a mini-digger type machine) cutting trees under the path of the car - it does this by pulling itself up the steep side of the mountain and cutting the trees at ground level. The view at the top was obscured by smoke from forest fires in neighbouring British Columbia, but it was still possible to see the valley Jasper is in. We attempted to walk to the top of the mountain, but steep gravelly paths and a lack of interest meant we only walked a part of the way up, now if we were on the bike that may have been different! The following day we rode to Miette Hot Springs which is a pool filled with water from the mountains cooled to 40C! The ride up to the spa was a winding road with great views.
On the second night in Jasper we were retuning from dinner when we passed a couple who Marilyn recognised, it was a couple who had spoken to us for just a few minutes on our the first day of riding in Alaska! We caught up on our respective journeys so far and arranged to meet for dinner the next night.
The day we left Jasper started badly with the bike oil light showing only 15 miles into the journey, this was overcome with s quick rest and time for the bike computer to reset itself.The ride through the Glacier Highway as far as Lake Louise was a real treat and lived up to its reputation. Shortly after passing Lake Louise the bike overheated and we had to stop to refill the radiator, this was caused by a leaking radiator hose. We were helped by a passing road worker who told us he had been to Prudhoe Bay and back to Banff, in Canada in just 10 days in May! We continued to Calgary to pick up the brake pads we needed, the only F800GS set they had. As we arrived an employee from the bike shop came across to tell us he had driven from Calgary to Valparaiso in Chile, his homeland, on 4 occasions. He gave us a lot of information on travelling in Central & South America. The original plan had been to drive through Calgary and then find a small town to look for a motel, we settled on riding 40 miles from Calgary to Nanton. We stopped for fuel 5 miles out of Calgary and a customer stopped to tell me the chain was loose, I was aware it was slack and intended to tighten it in the morning, he persisted and found a broken link. He offered to take Marilyn and some of the luggage to his home town, High River, and show us a motel. A worrying 8 mile ride and we were in High River. In the morning I replaced the chain with a spare I had brought from England, changed the brake pads and topped up the oil and water.
The ride from High Water to the Canadian border was a dull dual carriageway with only hay bails and the occassional cow for scenery! This was prairie country bordered with the Rockies far to the West. The Border crossing into the USA was straight forward and we continued into Montana to arrive at Great Falls. We chose this destination because we assumed the name indicated a great waterfall which we would like to have seen and soon found a hotel - minus the seemingly obligatory casino that most others had. We found a leaflet that showed a series of water falls on the Missouri River. We set off in search off the geat falls in the morning but there weren't any - the falls in the leaflet are due to the power company letting water through the dam they use to generate electricity!
We rode to Gardiner in the heart of the Rockies and on the edge Yellowstone National Park, another great ride on mountain roads and the latter part from Livingstone alongside the Yellowstone River.
Our intention had been to stay at Gardiner for a night and then ride into the Park to find a hotel on the shore of Yellowstone Lake, however we had arrived on Labor Day weekend, the last holiday weekend of the summer season; when we tried to book in there wasn't any rooms available until the Monday. We booked for 2 nights at The Lake Hotel from Monday and stayed in a log cabin for 2 days in Gardiner. During the 4 days at Yellowstone Park we visited several volcanic sights and Old Faithful, a really impressive sight and took a boat ride on the lake. We saw Elk, Bison and an Eagle, but no bears!
We left Yellowstone on Highway 89 for Salt Lake City, a ride of 366 miles. Highway 89 is a scenic drive and the road from Bear Lake to Highway 15 is probable the best ride yet with mile after mile of fast sweeping bends and incredible scenery on both sides of the road.
We have spent today in Salt Lake City, visiting the Mormon Temple Square and picking up emails in the library (1 hour free computer use). From here we w
ill visit the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats and then go to Bryce Canyon in South Utah.
Posted by Albert Sollini at 02:39 AM
September 29, 2009 GMT
Salt Lake City To San Diego
We left Salt Lake City late morning on the 11th of September and drove to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. Antelope Island is reached from a 6 mile causeway that is built in the lake, the Island large enough to feel isolated on a quite day and we spent a couple of hours riding on car free roads enjoying the scenery and the Bison that live on the Island (a herd of about 600). Our only complaint was that it was scorching hot and the only drink we could finf was a soft drinks machine that was out of order.
The road to Wendover, our destination, was a long straight dual carriageway only made bearable by the scenery of the Bonneville Salt Flats, which are a remainder from the dried up Bonneville Lake that used to be there and which Salt Lake is a remnant of. The Flats go on for over a 100 miles and eventually we came to the Bonneville Speedway that has been the site of many historic land speed records, and is still used. The speedway is a 10 mile straight, and after hooking up with a BMW 650 Dakar rider we rode to have a look at the site. It was empty and with nobody to tell us not to we both rode on the salt. Personally it was a great feeling to ride fast over the shining salt.
After a few videos and many more pictures we rode with our new friend to Wendover to Find a hotel for the night. Wendover is in Utah and West Wendover, which adjoins it, is in Nevada and the contrast between the 2 states couldn't be starker. On the Utah side is a normal well lit street, but with no outstanding features, while on the Nevada side are the Casinos and hotels with bright lights and neon signs.
Next day we decided to change our plans to ride to Bryce Canyon and headed for Zion Canyon instead; apart from being closer we would meet the Dakar rider there. We set off on the road to Zion while he went off-road via the old Pony Express trail. Again the road was long and straight with stretches of 9 miles of road without bends; this resulted in tiredness that forced us to stop for half an hour under a tree while I slept and Marilyn kept watch. The scenery improved dramatically as we approached Zion with the red layered rock glistening in the evening sun. We were greeted by a herd of Mule Deer grazing on the grass, accompanied by Wild Turkey at the front of the hotel.
The next day we walked along side the Virgen River, which created the canyon over millions of years, on a trail with walls of the canyon gradually getting closer to become "The Narrows" and which goes on for many more miles than we walked. The path along the river ends before The Narrows and we walked and then waded through the water sometimes waste deep, all the while enjoying the scenery and taking numerous pictures and videos. Walking back we saw people taking pictures of what appeared to be a rock until we got closer and realised it was a Tarantula - naturally we took photos too.
The next day I rode along the road alone out of the Canyon Park, a 12 mile ride that goes toward Bryce Canyon and rises towards the top of Zion Canyon along a mountain pass full of bends and hairpins that was only spoilt by all the other tourists! Later we walked the trail to Angels Landing, a 5 mile round walk, that took us up steep paths and included a steep series of ramps called Wallies Wiggles that hairpin their way up the side of the mountain. The last half mile was extremely steep and with no clear path to follow the only way up is by using the chains supported on posts. Its a precarious walk with steep drops on either side of the path. The view at the top was outstanding and the shape of the canyon clearly defined. For those that are interested there are entries on U-tube that others have taken that show the path and the views.
The following day we set off for Las Vegas, into the Nevada Desert, with the temperature rising to 38C. The first view of Vegas was through a film of mist as we rode down a hill in the desert. We were left with mixed feelings of Las Vegas, a very bright vibrant and friendly place; it was hard to shake of the feeling that it wasn't a land of fantasy - a stark contrast to the natural beauty of Zion National Park. Unfortunatly we didn't make our fortune there and left with the casinos being a little richer than when we arrived!
We left Las Vegas at noon, the worst time of day, in temperatures of 35C and rode to Needles in California. Needles is a small town on what used to be Route 66, and like a lot of these towns is now bypassed by the interstate 40. We decided that we would leave early in the morning the next day in order to ride before the sun was too hot. The ride to Brawley took us through desert and temperatures in the high 30's. We stayed in Brawley for 2 days so we would miss the weekend on the California coast with not much to say about it. The ride to Encinitas went through more desert and then green countryside into mountains with some of the most twisty roads yet encountered; one strech of about 12 miles was really fun to ride.
We stayed in Encinitas for 5 days, resting and sitting on the beach and watching spectacular sunsets. The rest of the time involved getting the bike serviced at San Diego BMW and making preparations for the ride to Mexico. We did some sightseeing around San Diego with the Old Town being a highlight and Margaritas their speciality.
Our intention was to cross into Mexico at Tecate, a quieter crossing than at Tijuana, and then get the necessary permits for ourselves and the bike sorted when we get the ferry to mainland Mexico from Baja California. However, when we had crossed at Tecate the customs told us that we wouldn't get the permit for the bike anywhere but Tijuana or Mexicali. We decided on Mexicali as it would cause less disruption to our intended route. Mexicali is about 150 KM East of Tecate and we chose to ride on the toll road motorway instead of the free road to save time. The first 60 KM passed through desert and then an amazing 10-15 KM of the twistiest road a motorway should ever take. We followed a lorry apparently driven by a frustrated Grand Prix diver who overtook everything and used both lanes of the motorway for his enjoyment.
We arrived in Mexicali at mid-afternoon with the temperature at 49C and toured the streets near the border until we found the crossing. What we didn't know was that there are 2 crossings at Mexicali and we had arrived at the one where the permit office was closed. We rode on through the streets in the general direction the waving hand of the customs officer directed us until a man on a scooter asked what we were looking for. He then drove in front of us and directed us to the second crossing point and we were able to sort out the permit. All this had taken the whole afternoon and we decided to call it a day and stopped at a hotel.
Next day we left early again and rode to San Felipe, a fishing village on the Cortes Sea in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a resort favoured by Americans who like to holiday here and there are agencies for buying holiday homes.
The temperature is still in the high 30's as we write this at 1:30 in the afternoon. Tomorrow we will continue along the coast and on tarmac roads for a while before riding some unpaved roads to join Highway 1 to the West Coast of Baja California.
Posted by Albert Sollini at 05:47 AM
October 04, 2009 GMT
San Felipe to.... San Felipe
I am back in San Felipe and Marilyn has gone home to England so I apoligise for the lack of punctation on the remainder of the entries as my editor has now left.
We left San Felipe to ride to Geurrero Negro by the road that follows the Gulf of Mexico and then turns across mountains to join the main road south. We decided on this shorter route for the scenery and because we were told locally that the road was OK to travel on. The first 70 miles were on good tarmac on a new road being biult. However we then reached the construction site for the new road and it was in very poor condition, hoping it would improve after the construction phase we carried on only to find a corrugated loose gravel road with large rocks and several deep sand areas. After a couple of minor tumbles and in temperatures in the high 30s we fell heavily with the bike landing on Marilyn's left leg.Rather than continue the ride for that day we decided we would rest and carry on the next day refreshed. We found a hotel at a remote resort and stayed there. The next day we carried on. The road, being close to the sea and the desert, was deep sand that then became deeper and very rocky. I was unable to keep the bike upright and after only 4 miles we came off again this time the bike fell on Marilyn's right foot. The pannier trapping her ankle against a large rock. Marilyn knew immediatly that we couldn't go on and we returned to the hotel of the previous night, Marilyn riding in a pick up truck that passed us.
We returned with the bike to San Felipe in another pick up truck with a local driving and his amigo balancing on the back in the full heat of the sun hatless and drinking cold beer
The folowing day we went to the local health centre for medical aid for Marilyn where the X-rays showed no break to her ankle. The helpful staff fitted a splint cast to her right leg. We discussed what our options were and after much discussion and soul searching decided that I would carry on with the trip and Marilyn would return home. We organised a flight from San Diego to London for Marilyn and on Friday dorve there so she would get the flight home on Sarurday. She has since been to the Hospital in Lincoln and they have confirmed the ankle is broken.
I will continue the journey, and will see if I am able to do it alone.
Tomorrow (Monday) I will ride south using the longer road to Geurerro Negro and then on to La Paz to catch a ferry to Matazlan.
Posted by Albert Sollini at 11:32 PM
October 14, 2009 GMT
San Felipe to Durango
I left San Felipe and rode across Baja California to Ensenedas on the Pacific coast across a good mountain road, with the temperature dropping to 9 degrees C. The road from Ensenedas goes inland for a while before following the coast to El Rosario, where I stopped for the night and met Mark a fellow Englishman, riding a BMW GS 1200, on the same route as me. We decided to ride together to La Paz. The next day we rode to Bahia D'Los Angeles on the East coast of Baja and 66 KM of the main Ruta 1 we had been following. We stayed at a beach front hotel with an amazing colonial lobby area.
The following day we rode south through Gurerro Negro which is in the state of Baja California Sur, across a landscape of huge boulders and cacti, which rapidly changed to a lush green mountain landscape. The greennes was aresult of a hurricane and flood that happened at the beginng of September. The other immediate effect of the hurricane was the road would suddenly be gravel from where the tarmac had been washed away. We stopped at San Ignacio, a small village with a tree lined sqaure dominated by large church. Our accomadation was a yurt on a riverside B&B owned by a Canadian couple who showed us the devastaion left by the floods with the water mark at 4 feet deep and a Yurt that had been uprooted complete with it's concrete base.
We rode trough Mulege, on the East coast, the next day and stayed at a house owned by a couple who run a rewsturaunt. The property has no mains electricty and relies on a generator to run the resturaunt. They are also feeling the effect f the Hurricane and the economical situation affecting Ameica, withl ess tourists visiting the area.
The ride to La Paz was about 260 miles and was another good ride along good roads that took us to both sides of the peninsular. San Felipe is a ferry port and a resort location which is popular with Americans and Canadians.
On the Sunday I left Mark in La Paz to catch the ferry to Mazatlan, on the Mexican mainland. The overnight crossing took 14 hours, and I arrived to find it raining and the roads flooded. I stayed one night in Mazatlan, and there was another rainstorm, which again left the roads flooded.
Today (Tuesday) I rode to Durango, in the state of Durango a distance of 386 Km. The final 268 being on scenic mountain roads that are cut into the side of the mountain. The road follows the rim of a huge valley and has sheer cliffs on one side and a steep drop on the other. There where various hazards, including horses, cows and a donkey, not to mention lorries driving round bends on the wrong side.
I am staying in Durango for 2 nighs before riding south to Zacatecas, and then to the pacific coast towards Acapulco.
I have tried to download photographs to the blog, and the problem is I dont know how to compress the files. If anyone can help I wouls appreciate it.
Posted by Albert Sollini at 02:12 AM
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