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Thread: beyond the dogpark - a motorcycle tour

  1. #1
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    beyond the dogpark - a motorcycle tour

    Hello, Paul Brown here. IÔÇÖm posting here to tell you about a trip IÔÇÖll be taking over a three month period beginning in just a couple weeks.

    But before talking about the trip, IÔÇÖd like to thank you all for providing tons of information, support and encouragement, not specifically to me, but across the community in general. IÔÇÖve been riding off and on since the late 80ÔÇÖs but IÔÇÖve never become involved with a club before. Over the past year or so IÔÇÖve gotten involved a bit with my local BMW club (www.BMWBMW.org). IÔÇÖve also read a TON and posted a few times on both the MOA and ADVrider forums. Over the past year IÔÇÖve learned more about bikes and equipment than IÔÇÖve learned in my forty years prior. I've also made a few pals and look forward to making more.

    So thanks! Without the good guidance IÔÇÖve gotten from you all, IÔÇÖd be an unprepared mess as I set out on this trip (note that even with your help, IÔÇÖll still likely be a mess, but at least IÔÇÖll be prepared!).

    Now on with the travel info. . . If there is interest, IÔÇÖll be happy to post updates & photos here. But at any point, the site IÔÇÖll maintain the most for all audiences will be here: http://www.beyondthedogpark.com
    The site is a work in process, but here is the text from the first post:




    Hello gang, IÔÇÖd like to tell you about a trip I plan to take starting later this month. At the end of April I will hop on my motorcycle and head west. Far west. I will come close to water and then I will turn north. Far north. Really far north. Then IÔÇÖll turn around and take the shorter, 5,000+ mile route home. Planned stops include a dirt riding class in southern California; footraces in Idaho, British Columbia and Alaska; a challenging ride up (close) to the Arctic Ocean and a variety of other meet-ups with friends, family, motorcycling folks and perhaps a hash or two. IÔÇÖm allowing three months for the tour.

    This trip has been in the planning stages for quite a while and much thought and effort have gone into equipping the bike its rider for the tour. The bike is a 2002 BMW R1150GS Adventure, a de facto bike for long distance ÔÇ£dual sportÔÇØ on-road/off-road riding. The rider is a 1966 human being with more than his share of wanderlust, a love for running and a fondness for beer. Both bike and rider are now equipped with provisions, armor and confidence.

    I plan on keeping in touch while IÔÇÖm gone. If all goes as planned, the latest info on this trip will be posted via a variety of services aggregated at www.beyondthedogpark.com

    AND THEREÔÇÖS MORE: I am raising money for the Dana ÔÇôFarber Cancer Institute in memory of my father. The total amount raised is very much secondary to the number of people we can encourage to raise their hands (or click their mice) to help. That site is here: LINK


    I suspect that most of us have felt an impact from cancer ÔÇô if not directly then indirectly via friends or loved ones. My family presents an example as my father battled more than one type of cancer in his day. That day came to a close last fall when he succumbed to a variety of conditions, some directly aggravated by cancer and others by its imperfect treatments. I believe that the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is among our best hopes in fighting cancer. Again, the amount of your gift is secondary to the simple expression of your interest in supporting this cause.

    I promise that my communications will generally not be requests for donations. They will be ride reports and tales of the unanticipated. Unless of course you all are too stingy to actually give a few bucks, then IÔÇÖll hound you like a bad in-law. . .
    .

    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  2. #2
    Rally Rat RGVILLA's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    ride safe! and keep us posted.

  3. #3
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    Greetings all! And hello from Vicksburg Mississippi. Today is day seven of the big trip and I've covered about 1,800 miles. I've stuck mostly to the parkways, so while 1,800 could easily out me much further west, I've been having a good deal of fun closer to home!

    The text below is my recent journal entry. Not sure if I should copy that here, or just refer you to the site, http://www.beyondthedogpark.com

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    From my days in school, I remember the dreaded term-long journal writing assignments. They involved a spiral-bound notebook with the word ÔÇ£JOURNALÔÇØ confidently written on the front and a date somewhere around Labor Day written on the first page. Within a week, the pad would settle toward the bottom of my desk and would reappear as part of a panicked end-of-the-term ritual that featured a Hail Mary attempt to catch up on entries and to have them appear as if they truly spanned several months. Different pencils and colored pens lent a bit of uniqueness to the first few pages, but inevitably suitable topics became nearly as unavailable as time.

    These memories have returned over the last couple days as I have felt already behind in keeping in touch with you and sharing news of my recent travels. But unlike past writing assignments, I donÔÇÖt feel at a loss for content. And much like past writing assignments, I reserve the right to change fonts from time to time.

    It is the afternoon of Wednesday May 2nd and I am alone in a hotel suite in Nashville, Tennessee. In one corner is a significant collection of motorcycle luggage and gear. On the other side of the room is the luggage of a man and a woman, two people who a day ago, I would not have expected to see.

    On day five of ninety, I report that three-month motorcycle tours are a pretty good idea. IÔÇÖll be sure to update this opinion from time to time, but for now IÔÇÖll back up the opinion with a few experiences, as follows.

    Saturday April 28 was my official Day 1 of the trip. Having spent months preparing, I was actually ready to take off as planned. Goodbyes began at home with my dog Griffin and our friend (and his caretaker) Lauren. Then fifteen miles west to my motherÔÇÖs house. Then off to meet with Anna at a westward spot along route 66. Goodbyes are difficult sometimes; these were good examples. While chatting with Anna along route 66, friends Farrokh and Erik pulled up on their bikes and soon it was time to make some actual westward progress.

    Over recent months I have been riding the bike as loaded as practical to get a feel for the weight and handling. But never before had I actually incorporated all the gear that IÔÇÖve brought with me on this trip. The bike is HUGE! About the size and weight of an adolescent moose. Between the camping gear piled on the rear part of the seat and the new heavy duty boots, I have no chance of ÔÇ£throwing a legÔÇØ over the back of the bike to get on or off. Instead, I now use the much less cool method of using my hands to pass my leg over the seat. Real bikers want to hit me when they see this sort of thing.

    The three of us spent about an hour on route 66, then peeled off onto VirginiaÔÇÖs side roads, with Farrokh and Erik taking off on the twisty roads, then patiently waiting at certain points for me and my bloated moose. The weather was ideal at first, partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid 70s. But then the sky darkened and the mercury dropped. We zipped up our vents, pushed on into West Virginia and gladly never saw more than a few drops of rain. My favorite sighting that day was a goat perched on a doghouse.



    At about 5:00 Erik turned as planned to return home while Farrokh and I continued on to Seneca Rocks.

    With plans to meet others at the Princess Snowbird campground, we drove the area looking for our friends. We had been advised that there were two camping options in the area, one run by the Forrest Service and the other (Snowbird) by a private company. Having stopped at the Forrest Service campground, an employee recommended that his campground offered the better experience as the other was disorganized and often attended by a loud beer drinking crowd. He kindly gave us directions to the Princess Snowbird and we were on our way.

    The Princess Snowbird lived up to its reputation quite nicely. My first observation was that the sign for the campground makes no mention of the words ÔÇ£PrincessÔÇØ or ÔÇ£Snowbird.ÔÇØ But it has a picture of a woman and includes the word ÔÇ£Indian,ÔÇØ so I guess thatÔÇÖs enough of a clue. As we looked for our friends, Farrokh and I were waved over by a group of people gathered around a fire. They reported that they had been drinking tequila for a couple hours and they were enthusiastically agreeable to share. We parked our bikes and set out with two of our new friends to buy refreshments at the nearby general store.

    At the store we found our friend Steve. He had been climbing earlier in the day but stopped when it rained. He and his friends had been at the store for a few hours, doing the things that a Princess Snowbird camper is supposed to do. Steve introduced us to some of his climbing friends and our circle of acquaintances continued to grow by the minute. Despite the opportunity to make this a long night, we remained tame, knowing that we wanted to get back on the road in the morning.



    I started day two by slowly and deliberately breaking down camp; packing the bike will hopefully become routine soon. For breakfast Farrokh and I split the pineapple that my (creative) co-workers gave me as a going away gift. We rode southwest for a while and reached the Skyline Drive, where I said goodbye to my pal ÔÇô the last goodbye for a while.

    The Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway run continuously together and offer motorists a path along the top (more or less) of the Appalachian Mountains. The following words describe the experience of riding these two roads: scenic, peaceful, introspective, and wormhole. The first three words likely need no explanation so IÔÇÖll focus on the fourth.

    Although I have no actual knowledge of the phenomenon, IÔÇÖll be happy to write with great authority and describe a wormhole as a continuum across space. It is a portal that masks the contexts of distance and time while it delivers something or someone from one location to another. The Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are (together) a wormhole. Once on these roads, one can drive for two or more days with little concept of where they are or how far theyÔÇÖve gone. Unlike a wormhole that accelerates repositioning, the parkway has a reverse effect; it serves as a 500 mile treadmill where the pavement moves at you at a rate proportional to the reading of your speedometer. This observation is made in praise of the parkway, as the treadmill effect ensures you can enjoy the scenic, peaceful and introspective aspects of the ride.



    The ÔÇ£soloÔÇØ portion of day two consisted of riding the Skyline Drive, then the Blue Ridge Parkway as far as Peaks of Otter. In some ways it was a shame to stop when I did because the early evening sunlight hit certain trees with great effect. While all seasons doubtlessly have their charm, early spring is a great time to visit the woods because although young leaves are out, they are small enough to let one see what lies beyond them. And young leaves are a bright color that can only be seen in the spring, as evidenced by the sunÔÇÖs evening angle making them appear as shining specks against a darker background. A fitting experience inside a wormhole.



    I was excited about camping at Peaks of Otter, but apparently the campgrounds along the parkway do not open until later in May. So I checked myself into the lodge and headed out for a run.

    With a map of nearby trails in hand, I picked a circuit that looked to be about six or seven miles. Having trouble finding the trail head, I started out into the woods in a direction that surely would cross the trail I wanted. Uphill. Uphill more. Lots of fallen wood. A few briars. No trail. Downhill. Sliding here and there. A prayer or two for no ankle twists. Then back to where I started. Plan B involved running the 1 mile loop around the lake next to the lodge. Plan B was much better than the first attempt. After five laps (and as many ÔÇ£hellosÔÇØ to certain people walking the loop), I showered, ate and got ready for day three.

    Nearly the entirety of day three was (happily) spent on the Blue Ridge Parkway. With clear skies and few other motorists, one can quickly become spoiled by the consistently excellent views and endless gentle curves. Without the distractions of commercial signs, tractor trailers and intersecting roads, it becomes easy to imagine the things that have happened over time along the Appalachians: the people who have lived in the area, the art and music theyÔÇÖve produced and the struggles theyÔÇÖve endured to fight for their homes. Not to mention the modern day accomplishments of those who cycle the parkway or, more notably, those who hike the area as they progress along the Appalachian Trail. It is also interesting to consider the age of the Appalachian mountains relative to, say, the Rockies. While the west is certainly more dramatic in places, the east seems somehow to be more lasting and genuine.

    A variety of things can interrupt these thoughts. One such thing is the sudden SLAP of something that finds it way up a motorcyclistÔÇÖs sleeve. The SLAP is usually the sensation of an insect hitting skin. And sometimes the insect is a bee. And when the insect is a bee, time is of the essence. A SLAPPED bee is typically stunned for some period of time before it realizes how angry it is. In that time, itÔÇÖs a very good idea for the motorcyclist to stop and take off their jacket. ItÔÇÖs tempting not to stop since it may well not be a bee. But sometimes it is. On day three it was. IÔÇÖm glad I stopped.

    Arriving in the Asheville area near sundown, I found the nearest RV campground. It looked clean and offered a shower, electricity and a wireless internet connection. But I decided to also try to find a nearby motorcycle-only campground I had heard about. I did find the motorcycle camp but it must have been a slow night: only two or three other campers, stationed near a murky man-made lake. No electricity, no internet connection. I went back to the RV park.

    I woke up on Tuesday about seventy miles away from a section of road that is legendary among motorcyclists. Boasting 318 turns in eleven miles, the Tail of the Dragon is a good name for a particular stretch of route 129 that bridges North Carolina and Tennessee. IÔÇÖd never visited before but understand that this is a must-do for any biker in the area. And there were indeed many bikers in the area on that day. And most were MUCH faster than I. Sport bikes, touring bikes, cruisers and other dual sport bikes: they all passed me and my moose like we were standing still. I didnÔÇÖt much mind. The ride was exciting and beautiful. And safe. At the southern end of ÔÇ£the DragonÔÇØ there is a tree decorated with motorcycle parts that have broken off during crashes. I left without making any contributions to the Tree of Shame, and I call that winning.





    Heading further west, I traveled the Cherohala Scenic Highway which delivered me a bit northeast of Chattanooga. I checked my voicemail to hear my mother tell me that my brother Doug and his wife Heidi would be in Nashville that night and for the next two days. Doug and Heidi will be moving near Nashville later this year and they were, by chance, in town at the same time I would be in the area. Older brothers are valued in many ways. They pave the way for their younger siblings. They provide examples of to do and not do certain things. They share their experiences. And they share their hotel rooms.

    So here I am in Doug and HeidiÔÇÖs hotel room. IÔÇÖm glad to be here, not only to see them but also to hide out for a day or two while stormy weather passes over the area. Having gone for a run, taken a shower and typed this note, I now wonder when they will be back from their home search errands so we can grab a bite!

    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  4. #4
    REBECCAV
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    What a great ride you have planned!! Safe travels.

  5. #5
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boxergrrlie View Post
    What a great ride you have planned!! Safe travels.
    Thanks! All is well so far! And mostly going to plan. Another "journal bomb" below. . .

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



    Over the last few days IÔÇÖve gone for two different runs that are worth describing. The first was in Tennessee, in the countryside north of Chattanooga. From my campground, I took off down a country road at about 7:30 PM. I passed a church, some homes and a few large cattle and crop fields. Some people were out tending to their yards, enjoying the cool air and the evening sun as much as I. There were also a few dogs. I like dogs. Dogs like me. Well, at least most dogs like me. Sometimes I think that some cranky dogs donÔÇÖt like anyone. So what were cranky dogs doing on my run?

    I respect a dogÔÇÖs right ÔÇô no, duty ÔÇô to protect his home. A dog should be able to vocally perform his duty at any range, but physical protection really ought to be contained to the dogÔÇÖs property. This is my opinion. Evidently dogs in eastern Tennessee do not share my view. Based on a five dog sample size, I proclaim that 100% of all dogs in Tennessee will chase a jogger right down the road. From now on I carry a stick.

    The second run took place in Abilene Texas two nights ago (I picked Abilene in honor of Jerry GarciaÔÇÖs ÔÇ£LoserÔÇØ). From the Comfort Inn, there is no pedestrian friendly running route. Unless the runner gets creative. The Comfort Inn is only a quarter mile from a Wal-Mart. Actually, itÔÇÖs a Wal-Mart Supercenter, the grandest of all retail super-tankers. To run the entire perimeter of Wal-Mart AND the adjacent fueling station, ChiliÔÇÖs, Cracker Barrel, nail salon and video store took me an average of about nine minutes, so IÔÇÖll call it a mile. There were multiple enjoyments with this run. First, it was a run, and I like running. Second, I got to see the reactions of various shoppers and employees as I circuited four or five times. Third, I got to see a few ÔÇ£boondockers,ÔÇØ of which I have been one many times in the past. Boondocking is the practice of parking oneÔÇÖs mobile home in a retail parking lot overnight. A boondockcer is one who boondocks. Seeing a few campers in the lot reminded me of the many nights that Griffin (the dog) and I overnighted in a similar way on our 2002 trip.

    When I wrote a few days ago I was hunkered down in a Nashville, enjoying the company of my brother and his wife. I stayed with them for a second day and I had the chance to see the areas where they are thinking to move. Having given the area my coveted stamp of approval, I wish them well in Nashville!



    There have recently been a few nasty storms in the eastern central region and my route has been reactionary to the forecast. With storms predicted for north of Tennessee but not south, I headed southwest, along the Natchez Trace parkway. The parkway parallels and at in places crosses a path between central Tennessee and a southern point along the Mississippi river. From what I read, it was initialized by Native Americans and then also used heavily by European settlers. Its use declined significantly with the introduction of steam ships along the Mississippi in the early 1800ÔÇÖs.



    The Natchez Trace Parkway is beautiful and unquestionably qualifies as a first-rate wormhole. Although it is less rolling than the Appalachian parkways, the southern portions of the Natchez include swamp lands, and thatÔÇÖs highly cool!



    Along the parkway, I stopped for gas in Tupelo. This was intentional as I wanted to see a bit of the city after which one of my favorite bands ÔÇô Uncle Tupelo ÔÇô was named. I didnÔÇÖt get much of a sense for the city, but I was quite thankful that I had stopped. Just as I was filling at the gas station, the wind picked up. And a moment later it was quite dark. Then KABLOOM! Rain and thunder in a big way. I hid under the roofed station, crying and shivering in a corner like a small child. When the storm passed, I regained my composure and announced that what had just happened was but a sprinkle.



    I left the Natchez Trace shortly before its terminus, heading west on Interstate 20. I enjoy the ÔÇ£backroadsÔÇØ much more than the interstates, but the weather forecast allowed as though the ÔÇ£getting would be goodÔÇØ to pass through Texas over the next couple days before big weather set in again. So I hauled butt. For me, - for now ÔÇô hauling butt involves 500+ mile days. I know of others who pride themselves in completing 1,000 mile days; these are called ÔÇ£Iron ButtÔÇØ rides. I like the idea but(t) IÔÇÖm not quite there yet.

    Two days ago I rode from Western Mississippi to Abilene Texas. For no particular reason, I told myself that, with a full tank of gas, I wouldnÔÇÖt set foot down in Louisiana. Not that I donÔÇÖt like the state; IÔÇÖve had several memorable (and several non-memorable) experiences in New Orleans. But riding straight through would give me a distance-covering goal. Turns out that several miles in, I decided that I was too hot and stopped to shed a layer. So much for lofty goals.

    The most interesting thing to me about east Texas was the wind. Blowing from the southwest, the wind knocked me silly as I headed into it, but at an angle. Leaning to the left (yet not turning) for several hundred miles is a pretty unnerving experience. Also, the wind over time can be loud. I always ear plugs but am now wondering if I can squeeze two into my left ear.

    Yesterday I rode from Abilene across I-20, picked up I-10 along the Mexico/US border, through El Paso and into Las Cruces, New Mexico where I found a delightful KOA campground and where I am as I write this.



    The ride through West Texas was much more interesting than the prior dayÔÇÖs drive, in part because IÔÇÖd never seen this part of the country. At just about the point where I-20 ends, mountains spring up out of nowhere. I love mountains and I consider myself an expert on them. As such, IÔÇÖve decreed three basic types of big mountains: 1) big cold snowy & icy ones, 2) big sometimes cold tree-covered ones (which may or may not have snow on top) and 3) big often hot barren exposed rock ones. Those in west Texas are of the Type 3 category, one of my favorite three types.



    Riding along the border with Mexico was of interest to me. Boarders seem quite arbitrary at times and when IÔÇÖm near one I ponder how different things really are one side v. the other. Environmentally (assuming away manÔÇÖs treatment of things), things are probably quite similar. Politically and culturally, things can often be quite different. Noting that it was May 6th, the day after Cinco de Mayo, I chuckled as I wondered which side of the border had more hungover people.



    I saw three signs in Texas that I should share with you:
    1) Reminder that Texas is the home of G. W. Bush (actually, many signs announce this);
    2) Announcement of an all-you-can-eat drive-through (this works how??. . .) and
    3) Announcement of an RV Park with both an ATM machine and a Van Gogh gallery (now thatÔÇÖs full service!).



    So itÔÇÖll soon be time to pack up and head west some more. I think that IÔÇÖve cleared the bad weather and I can take my time over the next 36 hours as I drive to Phoenix to visit my aunt and then board a plane on Wednesday to fly to. . . well, IÔÇÖll catch you up on those details next time!


    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  6. #6
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    There has been some discussion recently that my riding gear makes me look a little like a Mighty Morphing Power Ranger. Ridiculous; see for yourself below. I'm the one that's NOT the power ranger.


    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  7. #7
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    I love a thread like this.
    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  8. #8
    univers zero tessler's Avatar
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    Great stuff, Paul! Congrats, best of luck, have a freaking, rollicking good time, enjoy in health and keep us all posted!


  9. #9
    Slowpoke & Proud of It! BRADFORDBENN's Avatar
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    I am also digging the RSS feed from the blog.
    -=Brad

    It isn't what you ride, it is if you ride

  10. #10
    I Used to Be Someone sheridesabeemer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KBasa View Post
    I love a thread like this.
    It's reminiscent of when a young Bubba-someone set out for a trip West.
    Gail Hatch
    SheRidesABeemer's Blog
    05 R12GS
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  11. #11
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    Thanks for the good buzz everyone. It means a lot, REALLY! Totally great to have some folks "out there" involved with the trip.

    Greetings right now from the Phoenix airport, where I'm enjoying WiFi and BEER(Fi). But where am I going and why? Any votes on where it ought to be???

    . . . RE: "RSS feed" - very cool! I had to look that one up in Wiki - I had no idea that I have been doing such things!

    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  12. #12
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    Motorcycle Camp



    Between visiting Zion and Death Valley, I had stopped at the Las Vegas BMW motorcycle dealership ÔÇô no particular reason other than to meet people that love the bikes and might identify with my trip. I mentioned to one person that I was on my way to an off-road riding class in southern California and his eyes doubled in size. ÔÇ£Is it Jim HydeÔÇÖs class?ÔÇØ he asked. ÔÇ£Yep!ÔÇØ ÔÇ£Oh, thatÔÇÖs great! I want to hear all about it!ÔÇØ My report follows:

    Since childhood, the idea of motocross riding has appealed. My parents werenÔÇÖt keen on motorcycles, so I made do (quite well I think) with BMX and, later, mountain bikes. I bought my first motorcycle in the late 80ÔÇÖs, shortly after graduating college ÔÇô it was a cruiser type bike, a Yamaha virago 750. After maybe five years, I put motorcycling on the shelf until 2001 when I realized that my life couldnÔÇÖt possibly worthwhile without two wheels and a motor. Returning to the notions of my childhood, I investigated ÔÇ£dual sportÔÇØ bikes, which are great for long distance street rides and are competent in the dirt. The BMW GS is a de facto bike for traveling the world, on pavement and otherwise (ÔÇ£GSÔÇØ stands for the German ÔÇ£Gel?ñnde Stra?ƒeÔÇØ which roughly means cross-county street). I opted for the GS 1150 Adventure and I looked forward to using it both on road and off.

    In planning my current trip, I recognized from prior travel that northern Canada and Alaska involve roads that ÔÇô due to long and tough winters ÔÇô often offer little more than mud and gravel, at least in certain stretches. I know that the GS is among the best bikes for my trip but since IÔÇÖve mostly ridden on pavement, I wanted training in off-road riding. I researched different training options and decided on Jim HydeÔÇÖs program.

    In Barstow, I had entered the schoolÔÇÖs longitude/latitude coordinates in my GPS and I followed a route that approached Los Angeles from the north via route 5 (or ÔÇ£the fiveÔÇØ in west coast speak). I had forgotten that the area is mountainous and beautiful. As I glanced frequently west to see the hills and a reservoir, my GPS announced that I would soon need to exit and head west. Good sign that ÔÇ£motorcycle campÔÇØ would be in a beautiful setting!

    Following the instructions of my GPS I found the entrance to the RawHyde Adventure Camp. Set among the hills IÔÇÖd seen from ÔÇ£the five,ÔÇØ the driveway to the ranch is an uphill partially-paved, partially-gravel road; I supposed that the weekendÔÇÖs first lesson would be making it up the driveway. I let a bit of air out of my tires (increases surface area, increasing traction) and rode in. No problem; lesson one complete.

    I was one of the first of fifteen students to arrive, but already there were more than a half dozen BMW GSs on site. Without meeting a single person yet, I felt quite at home.



    Jim first impressed me as a professional, competent and fun-loving guy; a few more positive adjectives were added to the list over the weekend, including ÔÇ£capableÔÇØ and ÔÇ£prepared.ÔÇØ As other students arrived, they introduced themselves as restaurant entrepreneurs, wine makers, BMW dealers, producers and artists; a diverse group with diverse riding experience, all friendly, all there to learn and have fun. We met our two instructors, both smiling and confident.

    Once everyone had arrived, the parking area was filled with an excellent collection of bikes, mostly newer model BMWs. As vehicle enthusiasts will do when they are among their own kind, we discussed models and gear and other things that would bore you silly if you donÔÇÖt ride. After examining all the fun gadgets we had each added to our bikes, we realized that it would be best to remove as many parts as possible before hitting (literally) the dirt the next day.



    SaturdayÔÇÖs lessons began with discussion of how certain road riding mechanics and perspectives must change for successful off-road riding. Without attempting to repeat the curriculum, things like standing up and keeping a relaxed upper body are important. Things like ABS and countersteering can be bad.

    Then it was time to hop on the bikes. Our first drills included riding as slowly as possible (primarily working the clutch), testing both the front and rear brakes to learn when they will begin to lock up and learning how to control a skid.





    The next set of drills involved tight turning, then climbing and descending hills. Then all skills were tested in drills that involved tight turns on hills.



    Jim had mentioned early on that he strives to not only teach riding skills, but to help people learn the boundaries of what they are capable of and comfortable with riding. In my mind, this is a perfect goal. Since IÔÇÖm three weeks into a three month trip, my personal goal for the course was to get practice with those situations that I might likely encounter as I travel north. While it would be very fun to ride steep hills and narrow twisty trails, I donÔÇÖt think that IÔÇÖll actually do that on this trip, in part because IÔÇÖm carrying SO MUCH gear and in part because I want to complete the trip with the same bike I started with. This is a verbose way of justifying that I did not participate in certain of the lessons.

    For me, JimÔÇÖs goal was completely met; I have learned the skills needed for what I actually plan to do and I can now discern between manageable and unmanageable situations.

    ItÔÇÖs definitely worth mentioning that JimÔÇÖs curriculum is entirely reasonable - most other students completed most parts of the class, including one or two brand new riders. IÔÇÖd like to return one day when I can better afford to break something important, and maybe IÔÇÖll take the class on a smaller bike.

    Other items to mention about JimÔÇÖs Adventure Riding Camp: 1) JimÔÇÖs ranch is ideal for the course ÔÇô beautiful and although convenient to LA, remarkably remote, 2) the rapport established among all (students, trainers, staff) is exceptional, 3) the food is excellent and ample and 4) the post-riding bar is delightfully stocked (kudos in part to my wine-making classmate!).

    If I had another hand, IÔÇÖd give it a three thumbs up!


    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  13. #13
    SNOONE
    Guest
    I'm jealous, AWESOME ADVENTURE

  14. #14
    ** newbie ** griffin738's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    Arlington, VA
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    136


    From the Los Angeles area, my next direction was north. Driving along the Pacific coast is an amazing experience and I count myself lucky to have taken the trip several times. But since I had never before taken the inland route to the east of the Sierra Nevadas, I decided on to give it a go this time. It was a great choice!

    The main north/south artery through eastern California is ÔÇ£the 395.ÔÇØ I took another road out of LA to approach 395, and the conditions were sunny, hot and windy. As I drove, these three conditions strengthened, so much so that if I were to retype those words, I would use all caps (and that means business).



    While riding this road, one has views of the aqueducts and pipelines that deliver water to Los Angeles from points north. The practice of taking water from other places is understandably political and I recall from other visits to Mono Lake that sometimes concerted efforts can successfully abate the draw from certain locations.



    Heading northward, the wind died off a bit and I was thankful for that. Riding in a heavy, gusting crosswind is difficult ÔÇô and requires the rider to lean/turn sharply from time to time, but without advanced notice. ItÔÇÖs not necessarily a hazardous situation, but after several hours, the rider has likely expended a good amount of concentration and energy.

    As I continued, I was surrounded by several places that each deserve several days just to begin to explore. To my right (east) was Death Valley, and although I had only days before taken a quick drive-through, there is certainly much more to be seen. To my left (west) was Sequoia and KingÔÇÖs Canyon national parks. I was very tempted to take a significant detour to reach the Sequoias, as there are few things more humbling than being among the worldÔÇÖs most massive living things. But I remained northward on 395. And then came to the turnoff for YosemiteÔÇÖs Tioga Pass. Ouch! To be so close and not to visit was difficult indeed! Then off to the right was a favorite, Mono Lake. And as a final blow, I needed to drive past the turnoff toward Lake Tahoe. All of these places are sincere favorites of mine and none of them have seen the last of me!



    Having typed this much, I realize that I havenÔÇÖt mentioned that I was pressed for time to ride to Reno where I had an appointment at the bike shop to fix my running lights. Turns out that I made it on time. And it turns out that the lights were a quick fix. Rarely is my luck that good with electrical problems.

    In Reno, I stayed with friends of AnnaÔÇÖs, Ericka, Paul and their young son Gunner. I called ErickaÔÇÖs mobile number, told her I made it to town and I was at the BMW shop waiting on repairs. ÔÇ£You mean the shop next door to the Forrest Service office where I work?ÔÇØ asked Ericka. ÔÇ£Um, maybe - - let me walk the street and take a look. Yes, I think thatÔÇÖs the one!ÔÇØ Small world (case one). I had a great visit with my (new) friends ÔÇô thanks!!

    From Reno, my next destination would be Coeur d'Alene, where I will run a foot race on May 27. The shortest route would have been to the north, but since IÔÇÖd never explored the interior of Nevada, I decided to head east, along route 50, a.k.a. ÔÇ£AmericaÔÇÖs Loneliest Highway.ÔÇØ From what I had heard, this stretch of road promised to be flat and straight and would bore any driver to tears, so much so that many have reported UFO sightings and possibly even abductions. I was mistaken in every way. I had apparently misinterpreted ÔÇ£lonelyÔÇØ to imply ÔÇ£boringÔÇØ but that is far from the case. Route 50 winds through endless hills and offers great views. In fact, other than Alaska, Nevada is reportedly the most mountainous state. At no point along NevadaÔÇÖs route 50 will you not have a mountain in sight.



    Stopping in Austin, Nevada, I saw three other BMW riders and approached them saying something very stupid like, ÔÇ£where are you taking these three fine motorcycles?ÔÇØ The men forgave my schlock and one asked, ÔÇ£arenÔÇÖt you the guy who asked where to buy a sandwich at Zion?ÔÇØ ÔÇ£Why yes, thatÔÇÖs right!ÔÇØ I had stopped at a place signed as a deli, but apparently they only served ice cream. I had asked three cone-holding men about sandwich options, and then there they were, a week and hundreds of miles later. Small world (case two).

    Most of the land in Nevada is owned by the Department of the Interior ÔÇô and interestingly, lands at higher elevations are managed by the Forrest Service while the lower elevation places are under the care of the Bureau of Land Management. Not sure who decides such things. . .

    Along with my other misconceptions of route 50, I also encountered no extraterrestrial life; but I did get my share of the surreal when I visited the east Nevada town of Ely. When in Ely, one has no choice but to be aware of the Hotel Nevada. It is heavily promoted when entering the town and it is quite colorful to see in person. I felt compelled to stay there and IÔÇÖm glad I did. For the low cost of $40, I was treated to a cultural experience beyond compare. The place was built in the 1920ÔÇÖs and the d?®cor appeals to the gaudy accouchement archeologist in all of us.



    From Ely the terrain flattens out a bit as one heads north into Idaho. As evening set in I decided to stop before entering the Sawtooth Mountains, in part to avoid run-ins with wildlife and in part to save the views for an hour when I could appreciate them. Grabbing dinner at a bar in Hailey Idaho, the bartender asked, if I had stopped along side the road a hundred or so miles south earlier in the day. ÔÇ£Yes.ÔÇØ He recognized my face from a moving vehicle. Small world (case three).

    Riding through the Sawtooth and Bitterroot mountains has probably been my favorite new experience of the trip so far. My jaw dropped so often that the bugs didnÔÇÖt even hit my teeth on their way to my belly ÔÇô quite fortifying indeed.





    After leaving the Bitterroot area, I hauled butt to a town near Coeur dÔÇÖAlene where I have an appointment tomorrow at the BMW shop there to swap tires and do some other maintenance, to prepare the bike for the long trip to Alaska. Notably, IÔÇÖll switch to ÔÇ£knobbyÔÇØ tires ÔÇô IÔÇÖve never ridden a motorcycle with them ÔÇô I think theyÔÇÖll possibly be a bit rough on the pavement but they will pull me through any gravel, sand or mud that IÔÇÖll likely encounter over the next few weeks. This will make the fifth BMW dealership IÔÇÖve visited on the trip, and the fourth at which IÔÇÖve had work done. $$$.

    Paul

    LINK: '07 Cross Country Tour!
    LINK: Support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

  15. #15
    REBECCAV
    Guest
    I'm lovin' your pictures Paul!

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