Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Conclusion

Shortly after arriving on the west coast I briefly met with a local reporter - the location was perfect - the HB Pier. A side-story to this journey was bodysurfing in three oceans (well two oceans & a gulf at least).

From sea to shining sea.

Signing off ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Hidden Culture

Riding a motorcycle allows for a bit of maneuvering around certain social conventions. Imagine the guy hopping out of his sedan wearing full leathers, or moon boots, etc... same guy rolls up on a bike & it makes sense.

The helmet is the key identifier in all this. Your pass to unusual fashion. I learned this recently at a truck stop someplace between Georgia & Louisiana. Virtually 100% of the time I carry my helmet with me anytime I have to go inside a store - force of habit. The GS I picked up for this trip is the first bike I've ridden with a helmet lock - I ended up using it a few times.

So ... after locking up the helmet, I stash my gloves & glasses in one of the boxes and walk in to grab some water - wearing boots, black overpants, big jacket ... Guy next to me at the counter, big guy, looking at me nervously for a while. Finally asks, "so ... it's uh, pretty cold out there yeah?" I didn't pick up on any of this at first & just replied, no, it's actually kinda hot." [ long, shifty, nervous pause followed ]. I follow up with something about being on the bike helps cool you down on the road. He suddenly looked obviously relieved and said, "oh ... I was wondering about the big 'ol jacket ... don't know that there's no insane asylum around here ... didn't know you were on a bike."

Funny that such a minor thing as carrying a helmet would take care of all the confusion.

So, still at that insanely windy KOA after taking care of laundry, some work emails came in ... great WiFi here, 6 hour batter life on the VAIO, time for the makeshift office:

I work there until around midnight & set the alarm for an early start in the morning.

The wind had died considerably this morning. The lack of tumbleweeds blowing in my path meant I could get a bit more filming in of the desert. That's when I encountered the Hidden Gila Bend.

I'd been through Gila Bend a couple times earlier this year. Stayed here one night & just blew through the 2nd time.

I wanted to check out a few places - some of what I'd photographed on the previous trip wasn't there any longer - only foundations remained of the buildings. Found another abandoned hotel & did a quick pass through for a few shots. First thought was this would be a perfect homeless shelter ... I stopped to rearrange some of the camera stuff & that's when I noticed the little things - items hung on certain doorknobs, stuff tacked to a door or window here & there - signals of some sort, though I didn't understand the code. Sure enough, a few minutes later one of the 'tenants' emerged with his dog to greet the new visitor. He just came out, waved, had a quick look around, & just as quickly disappeared back inside. Funny thing was, during his 'quick look around', he happened to make glances specifically in the direction of the doors with the signal markings attached to them. A secret society mere feet from the main highway, but a world away.

Just before leaving Steven Tyler's doppleganger happened by on a bicycle.

This guy had style. Aerosmith wardrobe, girl's cruiser, sunglasses borrowed from Bootsy Collins, Doc Holiday facial hair ...

In spite of my fascination with this place, it was time to roll.

Arizona was full of sound.

I've passed through here many times, but this time is was the sheer panoply of noise that drew my attention. From pulling into Yuma just as the fighter jets were performing exercises directly over the gas station where I stopped, to the snoring in the truck stop.

This wasn't just any snoring.

This was amazing. I went in the rest area with the benches, T.V.'s and such to look for a data port - man. The wall of sound that hit when you entered the room - it was the most violent sound I've ever heard produced by a human. There was a percussion to it - like a human impact wrench. It gave you that same uneasy feeling you get when listening to the tire guy install your wheels & just barely start to strip out the lug nuts ... I was worried this guy was going to bust some threads & send vocal chords flying across the room. The very fact that no carnage occurred is testament to the durability of the human body in my opinion.

After a few minutes I left without even remember why I had gone there in the first place. The whole "needing a data port" thing didn't occur to me until around 50 miles later.

As the day wore on, the miles seemed to blow by. I'd gotten off the 10 back in Tucson and had been following the 8 ever since Gila Bend - sticking to the original route the Everett's would have most likely taken. Fortunately, I'd been through the border crossings of both Agua Prieta and Sonoyta earlier this year & figured there really wasn't much of a direct east-west route they would have used between here & the Mexican border until reaching the 94 near Mexicali.

The 94 & old highway 80 are extremely fun motorcycle roads - weekends will see streetbikes of all kinds down there - it was a welcome relief to get off the superslab for a moment & into the twisties. The GS really seems to like that kind of riding.

I reached eastern San Diego County at twilight and being only 100 or so miles from home, there really wasn't much point in camping - I figured traffic would be clearing by the time I reached town & it would be clear sailing. For the most part it was, save for the overturned vehicle that shut down the 8 for a few miles...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Seems it's always how a thing ends that sticks in your mind. So much has taken place over the past few days - visiting new places, meeting new people ... the western half of Texas provided enough wind to literally blow most of those memories away. I asked a couple people if this was normal & most said "we get a few days like this a year". A few days ... I just happen to be on a bike on one of those few days... Most people would bring it up when they saw me roll in before I even had the chance to ask. The tumbleweeds blowing around provided for some classic views however.

I had spent the previous night in New Orleans. Wasn't sure what the place would be like since Katrina ... sure enough, it bears the scars of that storm. Driving into the place is amazing ... the bridges seem to go on forever. There's a huge construction effort south of the city where a new road is being constructed over the water. Once off the bridges, building still half-stood that show no evidence of attention since the storm. Partially collapsed structures stand weakly next to piles of rubble from other previous structures. Life goes on right in the midst of this. Pulling off the freeway into downtown revealed an urban environment similar to San Francisco or New York at first blush. The most noticeable difference of this place actually came from my GPS - I was looking for a place to stay and following the directions provided - arriving at the address for the first two hotels revealed only vacant lots or piles of rubble. A quick trip around the superdome and I decided to look for a place just outside of downtown.

Getting on the road I had some miles to put in - the US is much bigger in person that on a map. I thought I was making great progress until I realized by the HUGE bridge up ahead that I hadn't yet crossed the Mississippi.\

An interesting aspect to travel via motorcycle - at least this type of travel - it's actually easier to camp in a tent that use hotels. Pulling up to a hotel requires you register & such, then unload the bike, bring stuff in, unpack, repack, reload the bike, etc... camping means you park & leave everything on the bike. Pitch a tent next to the bike & you've got everything you need right there. I was on a mission to find a campsite next to a river. Being on I-10 through Texas didn't really lend itself to that, so a quick search online found some campgrounds with hopeful names. I took a gamble on one - 40 miles off the 10, but fortunately not out of the way at all as I 10 happened to curve in the same direction as the detour to this camp ground in the hills. After pulling off the road I was getting a little concerned that the listing was old or wrong. Saw a couple massively unappealing places to camp, but soldiered on - when I got near to the supposed location of this campground it turned out to be the entrance to a residential neighborhood. There was an extremely faded, partially legible sign, indicating evidence that a campground may have once existed there. I was already here, it was getting dark, might as well investigate. I pulled into the housing tract & there were no more signs for the campground, just a bunch of older houses. After hitting a few dead-end streets, I rolled down a long hill & the houses started to dissipate ... then I saw a sign for a boat-launch - a hopeful development. Sure enough, at the end of this long road was a sign for a campground. $10 for primitive camping - exactly what I was looking for. First thing the caretaker said was "people seem to have a hard time finding this place".

No kidding.

Perseverance sometimes pays off however...

I had also been warned about deer on the roads ...

I awoke the next day with a serious mission at hand - wanted to make Tucson - just shy of 800 miles away - before dark. In go the plugs, fire up the XM ...

Then the aforementioned wind happened.

My fuel economy was literally cut in half.

You'd get used to the buffeting of the wind to a certain degree - the occasional tumbleweed across I-10 or folded-up semi served as reminders to stay on one's toes. Plus, Texas is big. The plan was to get through El Paso before traffic - didn't realize at the time El Paso just isn't all that big. First time I'd seen the Rio Grande. Interesting that this knee-deep river & a chain link fence is all that represents such a drastic line of division between the two economies.

I pulled over just outside of El Paso to consider my options...

The KOA in Las Cruces had pretty much everything I was looking for - laundry room, free WiFi, and a place to pitch a tent. I pulled in, set up the makeshift office, and tried to get caught up before what is looking to be the final few days of this trek.

From an amazingly windy campground in New Mexico - this is Jon signing off.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day 7-9 history, scenery, and bodysuring two oceans...

After leaving Georgia headed south, I was fighting the clock. Had two churches to visit to present the film to in Florida, 200 miles apart, on the same day. I had the fortunate opportunity to film a bit of the scenery around Savanah so that stop was well worth it. From here I barrelled south towards western Florida.

My home of southern California is essentially an irrigated desert. Left to its own devices, the green would return to its natural state of mostly brown. Back east the opposite seems to be true. Nature is always on the verge of taking over pretty much everything is seems. The default state of things is for grasses & vines to grow over stuff. The chore here seems to be controlling the growth rather than encouraging it.

The cultures seem to vary more. Where California is a melting pot of many cultures coexisting for the most part in the same cities, back east each state seems to have a unique identity, a unique accent in most cases as well. The culture change can range from fascinating to disturbing - at one stop I was getting some suggestions for roads south in Georgia from a local resident & was advised to "Not stop for gas or anything between here & there... you'll encounter some unusual folk." When pressed further as to what exactly I might encounter, they just made references to "The Hills Have Eyes".

I did stop - the rumors are only partially true. No cannibals that I know of, but the jury's still out ...

I roll into Gainesville Florida & right away stop at a coffee shop to grab some tea. First thing I read about is the unintentionally hip catch phrase adoped by a new kind of superhero ... "Don't Taze Me Bro".

Arriving at the first house where I'll be staying, we're immediately invited to a baby shower/bar-b-que ... as all the driveways around here seem to be long dirt roads, the GS gets some night-riding offroad testing in...

The decor reflected the local pastime:

Being a college town, there's a very eclectic mix of people - that was reflected in the church services:

Immediately following the first meeting, I had to make it around 200 miles to the 2nd ... the weather got a bit ugly on the way, but cleared nicely & I made it to the next town with literally only minutes to spare.

If you were just driving, you'd pass through this town in the blink of an eye. If you stop & spend some time here, you end up going back in time around 200 years...

I'm fairly confident that I'm the only person in history to ride through this town, on a motorcycle, listening to Toy Dolls' "Nellie the Elephant".

The next morning, instead of heading straight back to 10, I took 65 south to drive along the gulf to Pensacola.

Riding over cities & through the developed areas, I eventually came to where the road ended due to hurricane damage...

It was there that I did a little bodysurfing. Haven't just been in the Atlantic a few days earlier, a session in the Gulf was in order. Oddly enough the waves were far better here than they had been in South Carolina. It was an extremely brief session - just an excuse to take a break from the past 250 or so miles of riding. Afterwards, it was off to my next destination around New Orleans...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Day 4-5 ... rain, traffic, night riding, and sleeping in a forest

There are a variety of reasons to take a long motorcycle ride. On or off-road, one can come up with just about any reason/excuse to go for a spin. Typically there's a destination, training, errands to run, whatever ... As mentioned in the first post, the Hearing Everett film was the impetus for this ride ... how the ride developed however I couldn't have planned if I tried.

As I would be needing to navigate my way through 90% unfamiliar terrain, and do so quickly, I ordered up a new GPS unit - this unit came with XM! Fantastic feature as my iPod locked up during one of the flights over so that got shipped back home.

BUT ... I learned the hard way that the included antenna for the radio was bad :(
I spent several hundred miles on the road with nothing but the wind noise for company. I know many long-time riders would scoff at the idea of an iPod, but I'm a junkie for on-road audio, especially when putting in over 12 hours/day on the bike (more on that later). You mind will wander all sorts of places as you watch Salvador Dali's fishing line whiz by ... (dotted line, catches every other fish, never mind...). At one time or another we've probably all been in a conversation that ends in a sort of awkward silence when you run out of things to say ... it's really weird when that happens & you're the only one inside your helmet.

Any rate, after a couple days or riding around & filming the north east, I arranged to return the malfunctioning antenna and ordered a new one. As I'm in a different state each day (sometimes many states in a day back east), I looked at a map & figured overnight shipping to someplace in South Carolina would work. I picked a UPS depot in Wilmington and THAT determined my adventure for the next couple days.

After the replacement was ordered, shipping was arranged, I plugged in the UPS address to my GPS ... it came up with nearly 700 miles worth of roads and an arrow pointing south.

So I turned the key...

Left New Hampshire & it immediately started POURING.

While trying to follow the GPS AROUND Boston & New York ... I managed to go straight through both. Heck, I even ... somehow managed to ride around Boston, then double back just so I could go through traffic in town!

Boston was nothing compared to New York however. Sitting in traffic for literally hours. Just watching the tenths click off the odometer was cause for celebration. Heck, in Opposite-Land this place is great - 10 little parties every mile. Try as I might, I couldn't see it this way for very long. Neither could the GS apparently as having no fan or radiator it started making all sorts of odd noises as the temperature gauge ran out of room to register.

Something had to be done. I pulled over onto a busted-up embankment next to the freeway to let the motor cool & think things over. Funny that the cars I pulled over next to might have been pulled over as well. When I fired the bike back up about 20 minutes later I was only three car lengths back from when I'd stopped.

A suspension test was in order. Looking at this embankment I though "I can probably make it up this". Sure enough, the GS was well-equipped for some urban dualsporting. Escape from New York had begun. Embankments, curbs, ... small retaining walls ... all fair game. Problem was every time I got back to any kinds of "expressway" (worst use of the term I've ever seen...) it was stopped. The GPS quickly re-routed me ... straight through the Bronx. What started as a "cool urban downtown" feel, quickly deteriorated to the point my "you'd better keep moving" radar started pinging as the obvious poverty rose in direct correlation to the number of unbelievably blinged-out Escalades. The cries of "Hey MONEY!" coming from the curbside throngs were almost completely muffled by my earbuds - ignorance truly is bliss & I just kept rolling through my tunnel of semi-silence. Granted, rolling over curbs & walls & such, but rolling nonetheless.

None too soon, I was back on the road ... but running very late at this point.

I ended up on the New Jersey turnpike - was hoping to avoid toll roads, but I was happy to be on anything moving ... anywhere ... at this point.

I thought my traffic woes were over once I passed NY & Jersey.


Accident on the 95 - ALL lanes closed.

Tried getting off & taking Hwy 1.

Most of the eastern seaboard apparently had the same idea.

It was around 10 pm at this point & I was getting nowhere fast.

Finally caught a break & hit some clear road, back to the 95, a little way south & pulled off at the first KOA sign I saw. Saw a steep dirt road leading to blank spots - no picnic tables, etc ... just clear a spot. Perfect.

12 PM. 17 hours on the bike. Time for a nap.


Up early & on the road by 7am - I was headed for UPS, still over 300 miles away at this point. Odd goal or not, might as well aim for something ... and nearly 700 from where I set this waypoint, the target was acquired:

I spend the next hour in the parking lot here taking the bike apart & replacing the bum antenna, packing that up & shipping it off. Also shipped off some paperwork for the bike & a few items I didn't need with me were shipped back home. Then I was off to Myrtle Beach where I would spend the night & next morning taking video & some stills.

Arriving at the Atlantic:


DAY 6 ...

Today was another very-distant-target day. I'll be visiting a couple churches in Florida, so from Myrtle Beach, I simply put one of the church names in & followed the arrow. Instead of sticking to the interstate the whole time, I'll occasionally wander off on some interesting road just to see what there is to see - the GPS will typically recalculate to get me to the intended destination via whatever road I force it to take.

Got on one such road - a sandy two-track:

...and there was indeed stuff to see:

Telling the GPS to redirect me:

That's it for today ... until then ... rolling on to the next update!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Maine to California ... via Florida

This trip came about somewhat on a whim ... I was headed out to North Carolina to shoot some production stills for the Hearing Everett film (some of the shots are on the H.E. blog). Seemed like a good idea to retrace the original route the Everett's took from N.C. to Baja, filming & shooting stills along the way.

Only time ... and the next 4000-or-so miles will tell if it was indeed a good idea :)

Step one was to find a used bike to make the trek with. Craigslist came to the rescue and I found an '06 BMW GS Adventure with well under 3000 miles on it! The service interval on these things is 6k miles ... this thing is barely broken in. The fact that it had no modifications to it other than the addition of the exact luggage I'd need for the trip sealed the deal. When I showed up, it was everything the owner made it out to be, PLUS I found a nice set of gloves in one of the boxes that he gave me! Very nice extra as I didn't know I'd encounter 200 miles of North East rain in just a few hours...

At the previous owner's place - moments before rolling out.

Less than a mile from the house, the pavement ended and I rode into the twilight along the picturesque Vermont backroads ... completely forgetting the directions I was told just a few minutes ago. God Bless GPS...

The first night I would stay in Springfield, VT (hometown of the Simpsons). Not quite what I expected - no nuclear plant, it was quite nice in fact. Took care of the DMV paperwork here ... never been in a DMV before where I could count everyone in the office, employees and customers both, on one hand.

The next day I didn't shoot too many photos. The ride from the owners house to Springfield was AMAZING. Vermont is hands-down among the most beautiful places I've visited. So it was a little surprising to wake the following morning to POURING rain (the gloves included with the bike turned out to be fantastic for rain!). I was headed to New Hampshire to stay with a friend off the adventure rider website. Along the way I had to stop once or twice to get my bearings. Lot more turns in the roads around here than the freeways I'm used to back west...

I arrive at Nate's place - great guy, great family. We stay up looking at potential routes on the computer:

Next morning I head out through a bit of the New England forest:

Then back to the highway and toward the shop where I'd pick up some tires to last me the rest of the trip.

The shop HIGHLY recommends Nancy's diner just down the road. I haven't eaten yet this day, so figure it's a good option - their recommendation turned out to be spot on :)

That's Nancy herself on the right:

While sitting in the BMW shop, there was another customer also waiting for their bike and he gave me all sort of routes to check out. Also informed me that I was only about 20 minutes from Maine. Had no idea. Being so close, I headed north for 20 minutes, entered Maine, then headed east to the coast to make my way south.

Arriving at the Atlantic:

Met another couple there who have been married & riding motorcycles together for 35 years! They gave me all sorts of insights into various roads in the area.

This road provided a good opportunity to do a bit of filming, so on went the camera rig. This will see much more use from North Carolina, south and all the way west, but this area is so scenic it makes for a perfect spot to work out the camera techniques with this bike.

Weather might not be cooperating tomorrow, so the plan is to get as far south as is reasonable & hopefully get out of any potential weather systems ... from there it's onward to Florida, hang a right, then back home to California!