Highway 89 this morning has everything that the ride along the shores of Lake Tahoe was missing; an empty, curvy band of tarmac that
sits at between 1300 and 1800 metres of elevation - enough to keep the current heatwave at bay. However, once near
Spanish Creek valley drops to less
than 1000 metres and the mercury jumps again to 32 degrees, but soon afterwards the road turns north again at
Indian Falls and up the valley of the
I stop to drink some more water at Lake Almanor, and as so often that alien Swiss number plate of mine leads to a chat with other bikers:
When I prepared my trip this spring, I noticed that my suspenders that keep the heavy bike pants up were pretty knackered. So I
ordered replacements from the German Stihl company. For six long
months I waited, but their (excellent) suspenders, designed to keep the protective pants of lumberjacks in place, remained
out of stock. Today, just outside of Susanville the
inevitable happens; the suspender fabric rips apart from sheer age. I am now in danger of my pants dropping down whenever I get off
They have a Walmart in town. If you, dear reader, are a younger European biker, then this won't tell you much as we do not have any outlets of this company in mainland Europe. They once tried to operate in Germany and burned a couple of billion dollars in the process, but I still fondly remember shopping there twenty years ago. Basically they sell anything conceivable - and this includes suspenders. And as many U. S. citizens have to wear pants of the size that we would sell as tents in Europe, they also have that super-strong type available that I need. I should have thought earlier about this instead of waiting until the old one's snap. At nine dollars apiece I buy two of them - just in case.
Leaving Susanville a sign "no services next 70 miles" indicates that the road ahead will be another treat for bikers - which it certainly is.
At Alturas I am back in civilisation - if you can call a village of less than 3000 souls that. I am still in the mood for more biking, so I fill the tank and continue another 100 kilometres to Lakeview near the Goose Lake. Here is a view of that lake:
If you think that the grass growing all the way into the water looks a bit weird, then you should read up on the lake. It is no normal
lake, but a basin that sometimes overflows and sometimes the water disappears completely.
The Subway in town is open and that sorts food out for today. One of the attractions of Lakeview are the alkaline geothermal springs just north of the town, called Hunters Hot Springs. There is an old-style motel next door, so I book a room for the night and take a picture of Old Perpetual:
The motel has recently changed owner, as it was pretty much run down. The new guy is working on restoring it, but don't yet expect much.
The internet via the mobile hotspot of my smartphone is about 12 times faster than the DSL internet that the motel offers.
All in all this was a very satisfying day for me.
For three-hundred years out here if you did not like your neighbours you could simply pack your bags, move 30 miles further out westwards and start afresh. As
a logical result all the real nutters ended up out here on the west coast. One result of this genetic selection process is that people out here are
susceptible to the Eco-Mafia virus that so many back home in Europe have succumbed to. I notice that when I want to fill my tank this morning and an
attendant wants to do the
job for me. They truly have passed a law that refuelling must be done by an attendant. I am told that this is supposed to protect e. g.
pregnant women from the harmful vapours of the fuel. Brilliant rule; instead of a pregnant female breathing in fuel vapours once or twice during the
pregnancy now this attendant is doing it full time instead.
In California they have attached extractor vents over the fuel line so that the vapours are eliminated. Why Oregon choose the attendant solution instead is entirely beyond me.
Of course the California solution does not work at all on a European motorbike. The pump won't start until the extractor unit is pushed hard against the fuel inlet of the bike. As my Triumph has a metal rod over the inlet that prevents a below-par intelligent biker from inserting the nozzle too far means that it is impossible to fit the extractor at all. This requires that at every fuel stop I have to push the extractor ring backwards manually (and there is a considerable spring load on that extractor ring). This means that I am pumping petrol while crouching over the fuel inlet, at any second in danger that a fuel spill might cover my face and my eyes with petrol. I leave it to you, dear reader, to judge these systems for their fitness for purpose...
I am heading westwards from Lakeview on highway 140 towards Klamath Falls this morning. The initial ride is glorious, here is a view of Upper Klamath Lake:
A few kilometres onwards I stop at a scenic marker. When I put the sidestand out and my foot on the ground something jumps out of the reddish
dust - it is an Apple I-Phone, perfectly embedded in the dust so that you
wouldn't have seen it even if you were standing right above it. Someone must have
lost it while viewing that marker. I know nothing about Apple products, but will take the device with me and try to find someone who can help
me to find its rightful owner.
However, after this unexpected find the road descends from 1400 metres and 23 degrees to 300 metres above sea and 35 degrees. You might ask "why are you leaving the mountains, Pete?". The reason is that a heatwave can be tackled in two ways; altitude or proximity to a large body of water.
The Pacific Ocean for example works quite well to cool the land it borders down to a biker-friendly degree. And while the altitude drops the size of the local trees increases somewhat:
Once I am within 30 kilometres of the coast of the Pacific Ocean the temperature drops from 35 degrees to a very soothing 20 degrees - just
as I anticipated. Upon arrival at today's destination of Crescent City
it actually feels somewhat nippy.
The Front Street Inn offers all a tired biker needs for 62 dollars. To my surprise there is a BMW bike with British plates already parked there, belonging to Mark from Brighton:
Mark shipped his bike out to Anchorage and does an Alaska to
Tierra del Fuego ride. We share a bottle of wine and some ride stories
a surprising amount of similarities; we used the same web resources, the same insurance company (down to the same ingenious lady at Fernet insurance
in Florida) and our views on riding motorbikes are also very much the same.
Luckily Mark uses Apple products, so he is able to extract someone from the address book of the I-Phone I found. This proves to be the daughter of the gentleman who lost the phone. We exchange details, and I will keep you posted if I was able to return the phone to its owner.
I follow the Oregon coastal highway 101 north. Here is the Marsupilami with the Pacific Ocean:
However, for most of the time the sea is hidden behind a treeline - and that makes very good sense as it is blowing a gale from the sea. But with 16 degrees this morning it is a very nice ride. However, that bottle of wine yesterday has disrupted my digestive system - I feel peckish by 1100 hours and stop at a cafe that serves American breakfast. The cafe owner obviously has a relaxed attitude to guns as well as the fact that the cafe is in a tsunami area:
I think that highway 101 is overrated. There is significant traffic and there are much fewer views than further south in California.
At Coos Bay I meet a local biker at a petrol station who suggests that I ride the eastern road around Coos bay. And he has a tip for me; there is a dead end road following the northern shore of Coos River. It is tarmac for the first twenty kilometres and the guy promises twisties and hairpins like nowhere else.
So I ride that road and I must say; it is not the Stelvio, but it is an awesome ride nonetheless. There are logging trucks on the narrow road, which to overtake on the winding road is an added extra bonus.
Soon I am back on highway 101, but at Reedsport I turn east onto highway 38 which follows up the Umpquah River until Elkton. However, the forest service is burning shrubs along the road. At one stage an unlucky gust of wind blows the smoke right across the road and for about 100 metres I am engulfed in this stuff:
Everything afterwards smells of smoke. I can smell the smoke inside my helmet while doing 88 kilometres per hour. I call it a day after 450 kilometres at Cottage Grove. The motel has a coin laundry, but the cute receptionist has no change. The Indian restaurant next door sorts that out for me - and I put my entire bike kit into the washing machine to get that smell out of it. The Marsupilami won't be lonely tonight, as a group of Canadians have come down here:
During today's ride I received a text from AT&T, informing me that my U. S. SIM card will expire tomorrow. And I haven't yet heard from the daughter of the guy who's I-Phone I found. So I ring her - just the voicemail picks up. So I text her my E-Mail, and a few minutes later I get a reply; she sends me the mailing address for the phone. So I shall try to find a post office tomorrow.
This morning I start with the good deed:
Afterwards I ride a few klicks north until I reach highway 58, which runs eastwards through the Willamette National Forest. This is a fine ride, especially as the temperature today is absolutely ideal for motorbiking. At 300 metres of altitude it is 22 degrees, at 1500 metres it is 16 degrees. Here is a picture of Odell Lake with Diamond Peak in the background:
Finally I reach the end of highway 58 and turn north on highway 95. That road is rather boring in this part of the world. At Bend I turn north-westwards onto highway 20. Initially that road is also not very inspiring, but beyond the town of Sisters it gets very scenic and curvy again:
I decide to end the day after 430 kilometres at Stayton. The reason
for this is simple; this is weekend warrior territory, and today is Wednesday. As expected the motels are all empty and I am given a suite
for the price of a regular room.
Today I have received mail from Motorcycle Express. From what I can read in between the lines their local Freight shipper at Vancouver (Leisure Cargo) went into receivership this week, and they are now looking for another freight handler, which of course renders my entire paperwork (including my airway bill) worthless, as the shipping companies name is on it. It is never boring with these guys from North Carolina, that's for sure. I'll keep you posted on these intriguing ongoings.
The ride this morning will not follow the GPS - it will follow the radar, precisely the rain radar. A high pressure ridge is coming, but until this afternoon shower cells will pop up everywhere. Though my SIM card has expired after the 30 days I have paid for it, miraculously mobile data still works. So every few miles I get the rain radar image on my smartphone and the initial course I take zig-zags around like drawn by a monkey. Twice I have to stop and seek shelter from the weather:
Normally I wouldn't mind a shower, but my bike kit has been washed twice, the last time on Tuesday. It is therefore no longer water repellent
and I do not want the kit to get dirty again two days after washing it.
The showers force me into Beaverton and the western outskirts of Portland - the traffic is mayhem.
I head north along the south shore of the Columbia River. At Longview I have to cross the river via the Lewis and Clark bridge. This is nothing for people with vertigo, as ocean going freighters must pass underneath that bridge.
From here onwards the ride turns scenic again. The showers have stopped and once again is the temperature ideal for motorbiking. Here is a view of Riffe Lake:
I end the day at Morton. And, of course, I haven't heard anything more from Motorcycle Express. Just in case you have forgotten, my flight back to Europe leaves next Monday.
It is 12 degrees this morning. I will avoid the mountains to the east, but also the urban centres of
Everett to the west. I am partly
successful, but in some parts the combination of heavy traffic and the primitive intersection control via
traffic lights brings everything to a crawl.
By noon I receive an e-mail from Motorcycle Express; they haven't yet found a replacement shipper, but are still working on it. I am very curious how they are going to perform such a miracle over a weekend - they usually work Monday to Friday from nine to five.
After seven hours on the bike and measly 330 kilometres I end the day at Bellingham. Let's see what tomorrow brings, the journey remains an adrenalin junkies wet dream with Motorcycle Express involved.
I have to prepare for the case that Motorcycle Express is unable to ship the bike back to Europe on Monday, so I need to find a place where I can put the bike into storage and have someone else deliver it to the airport once it can be shipped back. For this purpose I have marked the local Triumph dealership in Vancouver as my destination for today. So I head north again on highway 9 until I reach the Canadian border:
But this time the customs officer just has a quick look at my passport and then I am good to go. That was painless. Much more painful however is this urban traffic with it's myriad of superfluous traffic lights. It's like biking in Europe in the 1970's. By 1300 hours I am at the dealership. Their downtown Vancouver location here however is very short on space. A quick call at their Langley branch confirms that they would be willing to put the bike into storage for me. I ride out to Langley to have a look. The place is massive and in an industrial area.
I get another mail from Motorcycle Express; they suggest flying the bike and myself out of
Calgary on Tuesday. I ask a guy at the dealership how
far that is. It's about 1000 kilometres, i. e. a two day ride. That's doable in spite of the rotten weather forecast.
I book myself into a nearby motel and mail them my OK for the ride to Calgary. They will be able to confirm the bike shipping tomorrow morning, so my options are to either store the bike here in Langley and fly directly to Switzerland from Vancouver, or ride to Calgary, hand the bike to the shipping company on Monday afternoon and fly out of there on Tuesday, hopefully with the bike on board. The plot remains interesting.
The bike will remain in Vancouver for the time being until Motorcycle Express finds a new shipping company as replacement for the one that went bust (Leisure Cargo). This means that for the first time during this trip I have a break day. There is a multiplex cinema nearby, and I haven't been to the movies in years, as in Switzerland movies are brutally switched off right in the middle, after which a 15 minute break is supposed to make people buy more popcorn. I have never gotten used to this, so I use the break day to watch an uninterrupted movie instead of the road passing by.
This morning I have received an e-mail from Motorcycle Express; apparently Leisure Cargo has been taken over by another shipping firm that will handle the motorbike. They suggest I should bike to the airport while they try to get an airway bill through the bureaucratic system. So by 1130 hours I am waiting at the cargo terminal:
Lucky for me that in spite of my SIM contract having expired on 19th June my mobile data is still working fine, so I can continue communicating
with Motorcycle Express. By 1230 hours they mail me that they have not gotten the airway bill in time for the 1630 hours flight through the system. We
are back to plan B, i. e. leaving the bike in Langley.
By 1400 I am back at the hotel. There I have some luck; I get their absolutely last room, they are fully booked.
It is a beautiful day out here in Vancouver, around 20 degrees and plenty of sunshine. I walk that half hour to the
dealership that has agreed to store the Marsupilami until transport back to Europe is available and who also have agreed to truck
the bike to the airport. Their prices are very reasonable, 154 dollars for the trucking (it's a one hour drive) plus 10 dollars per day for the storage.
I give them examples of the documents they will receive from Motorcycle Express plus a verbal briefing on what to expect when delivering a bike to an airfreight company.
In the early afternoon I have brought the bike to them and all is sorted. Once again I find myself in the situation of having left home as a motorbiker, but being a pedestrian before the journey is over. I would say that I can now call myself a motorbiker with some rather unusual experiences, having this happening to me more than once.
What to do with the remainder of the afternoon? I walk over those two blocks to the cinema and watch another movie.
Afterwards I mail the dealership contact details to Motorcycle Express, have another sandwich at the Subway across the road from my motel and pack my remaining belongings into one of the pannier inner bags - that means I shall have only cabin luggage on tomorrows long flight back to Europe.
I didn't find time yesterday to do my usual pre-checks for the journey, which contains (aside from
the bike) two essential items that are not easily replaced; money and passports. Anything else
you may have lost or misplaced can be replaced using money, or as I call it, the stuff that goes
from hand to hand but never gets warmer.
I notice that I left both my passports in my motorbike jacket - which is currently stored in the left pannier of my bike, and it is 30 minutes until the cab arrives that gets me to the airport.
Old age is clearly making the grey matter turning softer every year...
I have the cab driver taking me first to the dealership to recover my passports and then on the just over an hour long drive to the airport. Luckily the hotel has a pre-arranged fee of 75 dollars for this trip. At 1230 hours I am at the airport, where I have to kill five hours until the flight takes off. But an elderly couple from New Zealand on the next bench from me has exactly the same problem. However, we have a nice long chat about life, the universe and all the rest and my waiting period feels much shorter than it is.
The plane is on time. For use of the entertainment system I am charged 11 Euros. I am certain that if we have a cabin decompression the oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling together with a credit card terminal where each economy class passenger must first pay 12 bucks before oxygen is delivered to the mask.
The plane leaves on time, and the flight will take about 10 to 11 hours.
Touchdown in Frankfurt is
at 1230 hours. I'm not a big fan of airline food, so I use the two hours wait for the connecting
flight to Zurich to have a bite in a restaurant. Ah, it feels so good to see the price on the
menu being the price you have to pay. In North America any price on a price tag is always
a fantasy price that has absolutely nothing to do with the money you have to pay for the goods
or services received.
In the world airport ranking Vancouver and Frankfurt are both usually in the top 20. For Vancouver that may be fine, but Frankfurt? The central staircase is a massive building site and the badly signposted way from the arrival gate B42 to the departure gate A24 is a two kilometre obstacle run from one end of the airport to the other with first taking a lift one floor down and further on another lift one floor up again.
When I arrive at gate A24 the gate sign announces that the plane has been redirected to gate A20 instead. And of course the plane arrives delayed, then they can't get a refuelling tanker for half an hour, so we take off over an hour late.
At Zurich airport the train ticket booth is notoriously understaffed, but luckily I know how to get my ticket from the ticket vending machines, and manage to get on the 1602 hours train to Zurich main station and the connecting train to Rueti, where I arrive at 1700 hours. These trains are air-conditioned, but unfortunately out here this means Eco-Mafia air conditioning; instead of proper air conditioning the trains are only ever cooled down to five degrees below the ambient temperature. As this ambient temperature currently is about 36 degrees I leave it to you, dear reader, to imagine what a hellish ride these train journeys are. As our company offices are located just 50 metres from the Rueti railway station I manage to catch a lift from a workmate who's drive home passes right through the village where I live. So by 1800 hours I am back home, 40 hours after waking up in Vancouver. I set my air conditioner to 23 degrees and afterwards read about the majority of Swiss public transport users complaining about the Eco Mafia's battle to prevent proper air conditioning on public trains on the local news portal.
A week has passed since my return to Switzerland, and today is a
bank holiday in the United States. The Marsupilami is still in Canada, and I haven't heard anything at all from Motorcycle Express. As my employer has completely overloaded me with work after those six weeks of absence from the office (including myself having to work throughout the entire oncoming weekend) I am not too unhappy about that.
The heatwave is continuing out here (I fondly remember those 19 degrees maximum daytime temperature in Vancouver, which currently is the minimum nightly temperature here in Switzerland). I'll keep you posted on the ongoing process of getting my motorbike from the New World back to the Old World.
Though I received an E-Mail from MCE (Motorcycle Express) last Friday, indicating that they would
contact me today with an update on the Marsupilami, no such update has yet arrived. However, one has to consider that they just had a bank holiday last Thursday and many employees probably bridged the weekend plus the fact that North Carolina is six hours behind Switzerland.
So at the time of writing this (1900 hours CEST) it is just 1300 hours out there, so an update may still come on which I will update you tomorrow.
Below is the usual map with my GPS tracklog.