Very well put together trip report and excellent pictures.
I second what Christian says.....you are skipping a large portion of S. America. While I have not been I imagine it is well worth not skipping!!
Very well put together trip report and excellent pictures.
I second what Christian says.....you are skipping a large portion of S. America. While I have not been I imagine it is well worth not skipping!!
We rode to the U.S. border and with it being the day before 09/11, crossing into the states went easier than expected. Although, we did get lectured by the customs officer about having a helmet camera. Our first stop in the USA, was Lake Stevens. My friend, Joey, had just moved there with his lovely lady, Ashley, and their sweet two year old boy, London. I haven’t seen Joey in many years, it was great to hang out with him and meet his new family. Did I mention that he is a phenomenal cook? If he weren’t an engineer for Boeing, I imagine him being a famous chef.
We stayed long enough to share a few laughs and bottles of wine but, after a couple of days we had to hurry out to beat the weather. It feels like we are constantly trying to run from the cold rain. We went to Seattle, where a ferry took us to Bainbridge Island and then we rode towards… a rain forest of course.
Just outside of Olympic National Park, we found a place to camp and fell asleep immediately. Early the next morning, we entered the park and it was like nothing I have ever seen. The trees were enormous and the forest was coated in mosses that blanket trees and drape over their branches. I think it looks eerily beautiful, it would definitely be the perfect scene for a horror movie. We spent the day exploring and left the creepy forest way before it got dark out.
As we rode into Oregon, we headed towards Astoria (if you are old like Rocky, you will recognize the town from the movie Goonies). It is a really cool town with streets so steep, I felt as if I were on a roller coaster. We rode approximately twenty minutes away to pitch our tent at Canon Beach with hopes of watching an incredible sunset, but unfortunately, we missed it.
Excited to see this gorgeous coast, we eagerly waited for morning to arrive. Waking up to fog was very disappointing. We decided that we wanted to spend more time there and contacted a man by the name of Dale, on couchsurfing.org. He invited us to his home and introduced us to his Canadian wife, Wendy, and her mother, Janice.
Later that night, they had taken us for a walk to the beach. It was the first time I had ever walked on a shore with the tides gone out. We stayed up late getting to know each other sharing stories, philosophies and laughter.
The next morning, the sun peeked through clouds and after a nice long walk through town with Janice, we arrived at the house to a delicious warm bowl of soup that Wendy had prepared for us.
Before the clouds could take over the entire sky, we took the opportunity to ride back to Canon beach. Wow! It is definitely impressive. I wish that the ocean had been warm enough to swim in, it was one of the most gorgeous coasts I have been to.
Not ready to leave Dale and his family, we returned to their home and stayed one more night before saying our good-byes.
Thoughts of cheap gas entered my mind as we headed towards our first border crossing. Gas prices is Canada are slightly below the world average, but, in a few remote areas, we paid up to $1.77 per liter ($6.69 per gallon) for premium 91 octane gasoline. Heading into the U.S., I was confident that we wouldn’t be seeing prices in that range.
We pulled up the the border late in the afternoon, and, waiting in line, we watched the border guard perform a visual inspection of the car ahead of us. After waving the vehicle on, he looked back at us with a scowl as we approached the booth. Pointing to my helmet cam, we were told that it was a federal offence to photograph any federal buildings, bridges, or borer crossing. We explained that we weren’t aware of that, and we showed him that the camera was off and not recording. If I wanted to make things more difficult for myself, I would have told him that, if the intent was to thwart terrorism, I’d suggest worrying less about helmet cams and more about foreign policy. I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut. We showed our passports, and were waved on into the United Sates.
One of Paula’s old friends, Joey, was living just outside of Seattle. Paula had arranged for us to stay at his place for a night or two. As the sun was going down, we pulled up to Joey’s house and were greeted by his girlfriend, Ashley. Joey cooked an amazing dinner for us that night. We spend the following day with Joey, Ashley and their son, London, and had another great dinner with more wine and beer.
Having not thought much about it the night before, we awoke in the morning and decided that we should be on our way. We were falling behind our schedule, and there was a lot of distance to make up. We tried to get a hold of Joey, who gone to work early in the morning, so that we could stop by and say good-bye to him since we didn’t get the chance. We weren’t able to get a hold of him, and were disappointed that we had to leave without saying good-bye.
It was a short ride from Lake Stevens into Seattle where we were catching the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Not being too interested in city driving, we headed straight for the port, purchased our ferry ticket, and were soon on board the ferry to Bainbridge Island. The crossing took roughly 45 minutes. After disembarking, we fuelled up and rode around the perimeter of Olympic National Park, in northern Washington. With the sun heading for the horizon, we made a quick stop at Walmart to purchase some soap, beef jerky, trail mix and a cheap bottle of red wine. We had some dinner at Subway, taking in our usual inexpensive, but tasty, $5 footlong. It was starting to get dark, so we thought about finding a place to camp for the night. With not too many options, we decided to keep driving until something turned up. We pulled into the small town of Forks, Washington. It was almost dark and my fuel light had been on for quite a while. We filled up at the nearest gas station, and found a secluded place about 15 km outside of town at the side of the road. After quickly setting up the tent, we settled in for the night and both fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit our air pillows.
We awoke early the next morning, packed up camp, and headed for the rain forest of Olympic Park. Having camped not too far from the national park, we arrived at the rain forest early, beating many of the tourists that would later arrive. The rain forest was awesome!
Just after noon, we decided to head out towards Oregon. The weather was cloudy and a bit cool. Running low on gas for the bike and juice for our gadgets, we stopped in Hoquiam, Washington to fuel up, charge our electronics and to use the internet.
After a three-hour break, we decided to push on towards Oregon (pronounced, Oh-ri-gun, not Oh-ri-gon). As we drew near to the state border, the clouds began to break and the sun shone at about thirty degrees from the horizon. We raced towards Oregon and crossed the Astoria-Megler bridge into Astoria. Our first stop in Astoria was set into the GPS. Much of the 80s movie, The Goonies, was filmed in Astoria. We rode through the steep streets of Astoria to the Goonies house to take some photos.
After a quick bite to eat at Subway, we hopped on the bike and headed towards Cannon beach. The sun was almost at the horizon, so we rushed to get to the beach for sunset, but didn’t quite make it there on time to see it. It was almost dark when we arrived, so, after getting a quick view of the beach, we headed off to find a place to camp. Driving in the dark, we found a rest stop next to the beach that looked suitable. We used our headlamps to set up the tent in the dark. As we were setting up the tent, a police officer pulled into the lot for his night check. We quickly shut our headlamps off, and, luckily, it was dark enough that we were not seen.
Waking up the next day, clouds were overhead. We packed up our gear and went for breakfast, then over to McDonald’s to use WiFi so that we could try to find a place to stay for the next few days. The area around Cannon Beach and Astoria was interesting, and we really wanted to have some time to see more of it. While at McDonald’s, we met a few other motorcycle riders who were passing through. One, whose name was Patrick, was an American originally from Argentina. He was riding an Italian bike that caught my eye. We spoke for quite a while and he offered a lot of good advice.
After leaving McDonald’s, we decided to drive around a bit and do some sightseeing while we waited for a response from Couchsurfing. We visited a few more film locations in Astoria, and finally Astoria Column – a 125-foot tall tower atop of Coxcomb Hill that provides a 360-degree view of Astoria and the surrounding area.
Nearing dinnertime, we decided to check our Couchsurfing messages and found that we had a response, and a place to stay for at least a night, in Seaside, Oregon. Paula phoned the number provided in the message and spoke with a man named Dale. He gave us an address, and we were soon at his front door in Seaside. Dale met us at the roadside, we parked Almeida in the back, and were given a tour of the house. We also met Janice, Dale’s mother-in-law, and, later, Wendy, Dale’s wife. We all sat down to a dinner that Wendy prepared for us, and, later that night, Dale, Wendy, Paula and I went for a walk on the beach. Dale, in his mid-fifties, has a thick southern accent. This immediately brought a certain stereotype to mind that was quickly dispelled. Dale is one of the smartest guy’s I have ever met, southern accent or not. Sitting around a camp fire, we drank beer and wine and talked into the night until we were all ready for bed.
Paula and I spent the next day visiting the area around Seaside and Cannon Beach. Janice, who is in her 80s, came with us on a long, 2-hour walk around Seaside. We were impressed. Later that day, Paula and I decided to ride out to Cannon beach for some photos and to take a walk on the beach. After returning, we all sat down and enjoyed another tasty dinner, and turned in for the night.
The following morning, we were on our way. We said good-bye to Dale, Wendy and Janice, and we headed eastward.
The rain forest of Olympic National Park in northern Washington
Inside the rain forest
More of the rain forest
The ferns and mosses of the rain forest
The view of Astoria and surrounding areas from atop Astoria Column
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Paula at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Paula in front of Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach, Oregon
Dale & Paula in Seaside, Oregon
Keep posting.....Good Luck and be safe in your travels
What an amazing way to see the world. I envy you! -great choice of bike too!
Stay safe, can't wait to hear what happens once you start to head south, and then into south africa!
It was nice to meet you, too. Hope your trip was great.
The clouds were full, threatening rain but we stayed dry while visiting Mount St Helen, in Washington state. It is an active volcano, located in the Cascade Range. It had erupted in 1980, removing most of its northern face and creating a huge crater. It was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.
Our goal for the day was to continue riding until we reached Portland, Oregon. We arrived late and it was dark out but we found a great place to pitch our tent near a forest. With the rain hitting hard in the morning, we were glad that the tall trees kept us dry as we packed.
On our way out, we stopped at a KTM dealership to pick up a few things. We were greeted by Steve and Vint when we first walked in. They answered a bunch of questions we had about products, and they also shared a lot of advice with us. Vint had his own sexy KTM 990 ready for a trip to Banff, Alberta that same day. The mechanic, Todd, asked us to ride the motorcycle around to the back parking lot. He met us there with some tools and taught us how to tighten the chain. They were so nice that they even gave us a few gifts, including a spray that easily cleaned the thousands of dead insects that our helmets and windshield had collected. Thank you KTM in Gresham, Oregon for your genuine customer service.
As we continued on our journey, we rode past beautiful, golden fields that suddenly turned black. Even though the landscape had been victim to a forest fire, it still kept it’s beauty. In need of a gas station, we had no choice but to head in the wrong direction. Bend, Oregon was a really nice town and since we arrived with minimal daylight, we pitched our tent in a grassy area on the side of an abandoned parking lot. It seemed like a great spot until the Police arrived. “Hello, is anybody there? This is the Police” we walked out to introduce ourselves and to explain why we were there. They asked for ID, ran our names and joked about us being a couple of Canadians. They told us that we were private property and the hired security called them about trespassers. We got permission to stay, but at 7am the irrigation was turned on. It was obvious that the owner wanted us gone because the grass was yellow and the dirt was extremely dry from being previously deprived of water. Luckily, we were not effected by the sprinklers and did not get wet. Nanner, nanner, nanner
During breakfast, we met a sweet couple who recommended we visit an area called Painted Hills. The area looked like smooth piles of sand in colourful layers of red, black and gold, corresponding to various geological eras. We then rode through winding streets until the sun began to set and we decided to camp on the side of the road, nestled in a forest.
The following day, we rode past many cattle farms. At one point, the road was blocked by at least fifty cows. We sat there awkwardly, waiting patiently for them to move but they weren’t going anywhere. Finally, a car pulled up beside us and a lady began yelling, “Don’t stop, drive through the herd. Don’t you know we have a job to do?” What the heck? We were on a motorcycle, not a horse, did we look like we’re supposed to know what to do? As we began to ride, the cows ‘moo’ved aside but some of them snorted snot out of their nostrils as they kicked their hind legs, threatening to charge at us. When the smell was gone, I loosened my grip from Rocky’s waist, opened my eyes and noticed we rode past them without problems. I wasn’t scared, and I definitely didn’t take revenge by stopping in Denio Junction, Nevada, a couple of hours later for one of the best burgers we have ever tasted.
After filling up the gas tank and fuel cans, we rode towards the Alvord Desert. It is in the middle of nowhere, hidden beside the Steens Mountain. Looking more like a mountain range than a single mountain, it stretches approximately 90km. We rode alongside of it, from asphalt onto gravel until we were able to see the Alvord Desert. I felt confused with what I saw. The Alvord Desert was approximately 10 by 20 km, hidden beside the Steens Mountain we were riding on. I wasn’t sure if it was a mirage by the way the sun was shining on the hard, dry, flat sand, but there appeared to be a lake in the distance. Below us was a group of people, and it was strange to see that they had sail boats with wheels. We rode towards them and they introduced themselves as well as their dirt boats. We pitched our tent, opened a bottle of wine, that we had been saving, and our new friends explained that during the day, they raced through the open space as the wind blew them around. How cool!
We were told that the Alvord desert was a dried up lake bed and not far from us were hot springs we could soak in. We stayed up to finish our bottle of wine, under the most incredible sky I have ever seen. It was the perfect night for the stars to show off their home in the galaxy. The Milky Way was very visible, Meteorites were shooting through the sky and we could see planets twinkling and satellites traveling. What a spectacular place!
The following morning, we were invited to eat a delicious breakfast with our new neighbours. Soon after, we relaxed in the hot spring. Upon returning to our tent, we were invited to race around on the dirt boats. The wind was too calm, so we decided to race around on the motorcycle instead. I got tossed and almost thrown as we rode through areas with bushes and soft sand but it was so much fun! Our new friends, Lance and Keith, invited us for beer and dinner, we stayed one more night and the four of us spent it star gazing.
Early the next morning, we all gathered for breakfast and said our good byes. The bike was packed, the fuel cans were emptied into the gas tanks and Rocky found a ‘short cut’ out of the desert on the GPS.
It was a dirt road but it cut the distance in half and Rocky was excited to practice riding on it. The first few kilometers went somewhat smoothly, but once we were too far in to turn around, it became a very bumpy ride. There was deep pockets of sand with rocks the size of pellets and golf balls. My teeth were grinding and my body was stiff from the fear of crashing but i got distracted by a wretched stench. It was the smell of a decomposing dead cow that probably wandered away from the herd, got lost and died of dehydration. We continued past it and I was shocked that Rocky kept control for so long but I was not surprised when we finally tipped the motorcycle as it wobbled through a large patch of sand. We quickly got on our feet, checked for damage and continued towards a paved road or some sort of civilization. A short cut that was supposed to take an hour took three, it reminded me that a short cut is not necessarily the quickest way out. I was happy to end the adventure and continue our journey towards Boise, Idaho on a paved road.
Being on a tight budget for this trip, I have found that one way to eat cheap and relatively healthy food is to eat at Subway. We usually take advantage of the five dollar footlong or, in the mornings, the three dollar coffee and 6″ sandwich breakfast combo. Leaving the coast, we stopped in Astoria for our usual Subway breakfast, and headed back towards Washington state.
We arrived at the turn-off to Mount St. Helens early in the afternoon. From the main highway, it was a 60km drive to the lookout point nearest to the volcano. The temperature steadily got colder as we rose in elevation until we finally reached the national park visitors center at Mount St. Helens. After a short look around, a washroom break, and a few photos, we got back on the bike and headed back down the road from which we came to the main highway.
Hungry and tired, we rode south, back into Oregon towards Portland. With the sun fading, we stopped for some chimichangas and headed into Portland. It was dark by the time we made it into the city. We rode around looking for Forest Park where we had planned to camp. We finally found it and pulled off the side of the road and set up he tent in the dark.
The next morning was a rainy one. After packing up the tent and our gear, we went for breakfast at Subway, and made a quick stop at a camera shop. I had packed my tripod for this trip, but hadn’t noticed that the quick-release plate was not with it. I was in search of a new one since I hadn’t been able to use the tripod without it. Unable to find the specific size for my camera, we left and headed east.
I followed my GPS to KTM of Gresham, which is located just outside of Portland. We stopped there to pick up a few parts for the bike and to get some tips on tightening my chain. All the guys there were really helpful. We spent and hour or two there talking to everyone and getting a lot of good advice and help. Just before leaving, Vint, the owner, ran out and gave us some extra parts and supplies.
It was early afternoon when we road through Mount Hood National Forest, over the pass and down the other side. The landscape quickly changed from lush, green forests to golden yellow fields of grass and farm land, much of which was scarred and blackened by wild fires. We continued southeast until we came to a tee in the road. It was late in the afternoon, and both the fuel in my tank and the light of day were running low. I checked my GPS for the nearest fuel station heading east, but it was beyond the range of the fuel that I estimated I had left in my tank. Neither Paula nor I wanted to chance it. Our best option was to head 50km back west into Bend, Oregon.
Paula, Almeida and I pulled into Bend just as the sun met the horizon. It was well past dinner time, so we decided to stop for food – Mexican again. By the time we finished dinner, the sun had already set, but there was still a bit of light in the sky. We left to find a place to camp out. Driving around town, Paula, Almeida and I found, what appeared to be, an abandoned parking lot in a residential area of town. I parked the bike behind some tall bushes at the endue of the lot, and we set up the tent nearby. After we were all settled in, I decided to walk down to the nearest 7 Eleven for some snacks. Later that evening, while sipping sodas, eating candy and watching TV on my laptop, our tent was illuminated by, what could have only been, a set of car headlights. We immediately knew that it was the police. Paula and I got dressed and walked out to meet the two officers. They requested our passports, and our names were run through the system. We were told they owner of the lot had had a problem with “vagrants” and that the night security guard had seen us and made the call to the police. We explained what we were doing and, after finding out that we had no criminal records, the officers placed a call to the owner and asked if he would allow us to stay the night. We were given the OK, and we enjoyed the remainder of the night not having to worry about being spotted.
We packed up early the next morning and had almost everything loaded onto the motorcycle just before the sprinkler system (that we hadn’t seen the night before) came on. We narrowly escaped getting soaked. We made a quick stop at 7 Eleven for some beef jerky and headed to Subway for breakfast. While we were there, we met two locals who told us about a natural tourist attraction, called The Painted Hills, located in the general direction of our route. They were a bit out of the way, but, we thought, worth the trip. Before leaving Bend, we made a stop at one of the local strip malls since Paula needed a new pair of sun glasses.
Shortly after noon, we left Bend and headed slightly north and east towards The Painted Hills. We arrived there in middle of the afternoon, riding 20km off the main highway into the middle of nowhere. The Painted Hills, striped with rusty red floodplain deposits, were an impressive sight.
Getting late in the day, we made our way to McDonald’s in John Day, Oregon to use the internet and grab a burger. I later regretted the burger. With not too much daylight left, we got back in the saddle and raced towards Burns, Oregon, where we had planned to stop for the night. We didn’t quite make it all the way to Burns, and ended up camping out in the forest about 20km from town.
In the morning, we rode into Burns for some breakfast and to use the internet. By mid-afternoon, we headed out towards the Alvord Desert. The road heading towards the desert was a nicely-paved two-lane highway. We rode up to a section of road that was roughly 1-2km long and bordered closely by a large lake on either side. Riding along, I saw a black cluster in the distance. As we got closer, I realized that they were cows, standing in the middle of the road, hundreds of them blocking our path. Being city folk, we didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure that, if I got closer to them, if they’d get scared and charge the bike. Almeida could take on a cow or two, but not an army of cattle. We stood in the road at a distance and took some photos. After several minutes, a car pulled up and a woman inside yelled at us to ride forward, and that we were blocking the cattle form trying to pass. Irritated by her tone, I told her not to speak to us the way that she did. I said, “We’re from a city, how the hell are we supposed to know what to do in this situation?!” A few other vehicles pulled up and drove slowly towards the heard, clearing a path for us to follow.
We were running low on fuel, so we decided to stop and fill up. Fuel stations in that area were very few and far between. We stopped at the fuel station near the turn-off to the desert, but they didn’t have premium. We asked if the station at Denio Junction, 40km south into Nevada had fuel, and we were told that they did. We made our way to Denio Junction, filled up at the gas station and, being around dinner time, decided to grab a bite to eat at the diner. Paula and I both ordered a burger. We both agreed that it could have likely been the best burger we have ever eaten.
We rode up to the desert around dusk, and, upon seeing it, I immediately got out my camera to take pictures. We got back on the bike and rode down to the edge of the desert where there were a dozen or so campers and pick-up trucks. We thought it would be great to camp out with other people since we usually camped alone, trying not to be seen. Immediately upon pulling up, several of the other campers came to introduce themselves and invited us to sit around and watch the stars. Paula and I thanked them, and, after setting up camp, made out way over with our camp chairs and our cheap bottle of wine. The stars were amazing. With no city lights within 150km radius, the milky way was clearly visible. We sat drinking wine and counting shooting stars until we were both tired and a bit drunk.
I woke up the next morning feeling dehydrated and slightly hungover from the $4 Walmart wine the night before. Paula and I were invited to have breakfast with all of the other campers. Everyone gathered while several of the campers cooked, and we all enjoyed a breakfast together. After breakfast, Paula and I decided that we would head over the hot hot spring that, we were told, was nearby. It had been five full days since we last showered, and soaking in a hot spring was sounding like a great idea.
The wind, that day, was a bit of a disappointment for the rest of the campers, most of whom were there to sail their dirt boats (sort of like a sail boat with wheels). We were offered rides, but there just wasn’t enough wind. Paula went with one of sailors, but there was only enough wind to move them at a few kilometres per hours. A bit disappointed, Paula and I decided to ride Almeida around the desert. We hopped on the bike and rode across the flat, dry, cracked lake bed, weaving in and out of clusters of small bushes, and hitting patches of sand. It was so much fun.
That night, we were invited to have dinner with Keith and Lance, two guys who were camped right next to us. Earlier that day, Lance, who was from Montana, helped me plot a route from Boise, Idaho to Yellowstone National Park. After dinner and a few beers, Paula and I headed for bed. We were quite tired from the day in the sun.
Thinking about it now, we should have spent at least one more day in the desert; it was really awesome. But, that next morning, we packed up our things and made our way out. I followed my GPS to a “shortcut” out of the desert that looked like it would save quite a bit of distance. The shortcut, ended up not being such a great idea. The “road” that we took was mostly large rock, stone, and sand. With a fully-loaded bike and an extra passenger, my riding ability was put to the test. I didn’t have much trouble with the rock an gravel, but the bike was very difficult to control in the loose, sandy soil. I almost lost control of the bike twice going through sand and loose pebble, but, somehow, I managed to keep the bike upright. Trudging along, I noticed the dead and rotting carcass of a cow at the side of the road. It likely got lost in the desert and died of dehydration. There were patches of the road that were relatively compact and flat, and we were able to pick up a bit of speed, and then, suddenly, we’d hit some sand or loose pebble or big rocks and have to slow right down. At roughly the halfway point of the 60km route out of the desert, we hit a large patch of loose pebble. The front tire skidded and wobbled as I applied the break, but, this time, Almeida went down. I looked back to see if Paula was OK. Her leg was trapped and twisted under the left pannier, so I rushed up to lift the weight of the bike up so that she could free her leg. She hobbled up and was sore and bruised, but she was OK. We rested a minute or two, unloaded the bike and heaved it upright. After a few concerned false starts, we managed to fire up Almeida’s engine again and continue along.
After two and a half to three hours riding the length of our shortcut, we finally made it to the main highway. It was a good introduction to what we knew we would have to endure in underdeveloped countries, but It was a relief to see pavement again.
With a lot of distance to make up, we pointed Almeida east and made a beeline for Boise, Idaho, stopping only once to fill up with gas. Nearing our destination around dinner time, we stopped for some Mexican food just outside of Boise. After eating, we made our way into the city to a McDonald’s to use the internet and try to get in touch with Kent, a couch surfer whom Paula had contacted several days prior. We were able to get a hold of him, but he was unavailable until later that evening. We waited around until after 9pm, and went to meet Kent.
A view of Mount St. Helens in Washington State
Another view of Mount St. Helens
Paula in Bend, Oregon. This was taken atop of Awbrey Butte.
The Painted Hills of Oregon
Near John Day, Oregon
Hundreds of cattle blocked the road towards the Alvord Desert.
Dusk on the edge of the desert, just after arriving in The Alvord.
The Alvord Desert at sunrise.
The edge of the Alvord Desert, near where we set up our tent to camp.
Everyone gathered in the mornings for a big breakfast that was cooked by several of the campers.
Kieth (and his dog), Paula and Lance
Update: We are currently in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, waiting for parts to arrive. We couldn't think of a better place to be stuck.
On September 21, we rode into Boise Idaho to stay with a man named Kent that we had contacted on couchsurfing.org. He owned a granite shop located behind his house and he spent his days selling gorgeous pieces of stone. Since we arrived on a weekday, Kent was busy working when we woke up the next morning. After we were given a tour and introduced to his employees, we took the chance to give the motorcycle a little TLC. She was covered in both white and red sand and her chain was filthy. There was nothing we could do about a few scrapes that she acquired the day before, but I think it gives her more character.
All cleaned up, she was looking good and ready to go exploring. We went out of the city and followed a river through large hills and small towns. I love being able to ride on the motorcycle with the gear off.
Idaho is very unusual, in comparison to where we have been. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is not mandatory, it was common to see someone riding with their hair blowing in the wind and dead bugs splattered on their face. There were large billboards everywhere, preaching about religion. Just about every car had a bumper-sticker reading something about “If you believe in Jesus, your sins are forgiven” “Only Jesus, can offer you immortality”"Every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future” or “Sarah Palin for President” and “I partied with President Bush”.
Kent had invited us to dinner, so we returned to his house between 5-6pm. His home is really big and beautifully decorated with an interesting collection of art. There were 3 or 4 kitchens and while I helped to make dinner in one, Rocky helped prepare home made salsa in the other. Just earlier that day, I had wondered why anyone would need more than one kitchen, silly me. After a nice meal eaten outside on the patio, we relaxed by watching an awesome movie, called Motorcycle Diary’s. Unfortunately, we were all too tired to stay awake through it. Well rested, we were up early the next morning, and with some of Kent’s help, I prepared blueberry pancakes for us and his employees. We enjoyed breakfast with some hot coffee and shared some ideas on routes to take or avoid before packing up the bike and saying our good byes.
After stopping for a spare front tire tube, we rode north east for a few hours until we reached a town called Stanley. Hungry, we decided to stop for a bite to eat. The town was tiny but very pretty, and the pizza was delicious. There were many hunters everywhere, and also, a group of the most annoying so called ladies, it made me wonder why the animals were the ones being targeted. With a lot more sunlight left in the day, we continued riding until we reached a town called Salmon and we found a spot by the river to pitch the tent. While Rocky walked to the store for some treats, a sweet lady walking past with her child stopped to talk to me for a while. She offered her phone number and a place for us to stay in the case that we had any troubles camping there. It was extremely kind, so I would mention her name with thanks but my phone has unfortunately deleted all my contacts
With no troubles, we woke up early the next morning and continued riding towards Yellowstone National Park, but we wouldn’t enter the park until the following morning.
There are many tourists visiting Yellowstone national park and I was surprised that we had found a place well hidden to set up the tent for the night. I wondered if I would be annoyed by all the traffic, but, upon entering the park the next morning, I realized that it was too big and too beautiful to even notice all the people. This was the most magical place I have been to.
Fearless Buffalo roamed the land and sometimes crowded the street. We even caught a glimpse of a baby Grizzly Bear in the distance. But, what truly amazed me, was the landscape. It was constantly changing from rolling hills to mountains and gorges. It had fields of many colors, covered in flowers and grasses with huge rocks sporadically placed by past glaciers. There were still bodies of bright blue/green waters and many rivers, some that flowed down water falls. Even more incredible, was the volcanic activity in the area. There were holes in the earth causing geysers of boiling hot water to shoot up from the ground or form pools of hot springs that carved cascades down hills. Some were so large that the hot water flowed across shallow ground causing minerals and bacteria to create a rainbow of extraordinary brightness on the surface of the earth and steamed into a warm mist that filled the air.
With so much to see, darkness fell before we were done exploring. Outside of one of the exits, we found a place to camp for the night. It was on top of a hill, above a small town and we placed our tent on a very large flat rock. A local, collecting fire wood, warned us of some fleshy bones located not to far away but, since we had all scented items in an air proof pannier, no food, our first fire lit, and a loud whistle to scare off the wildlife, Rocky convinced me that it was ok to stay there. Undisturbed, we were alive the following morning and ready to re-enter the park.
With another full day spent in Yellowstone National Park, we rode out just in time to catch the sun setting on the Grand Teton mountains. With only enough sunlight left to capture a few pictures, we tried to hurry so that we could find a safe place to camp, but found it difficult. We had no choice but to ride further than planned until we arrived in Jackson, Wyoming at approximately 9pm. Cold, hungry and tired we warmed up to a full belly of mountain high pizza pie, and found a park to pitch our tent on the soft, plush grass.
Exhausted, we immediately fell asleep. It was a cold but comfortable night as we cuddled close until we were awoken at 4am by a familiar sound. Oh crap! The irrigation had turned on and began spraying water at our tent. Luckily, we personally, did not get wet but having to pack up the wet tent in the morning sucked! There was frost on the grass and my fingers were numb but at least the snot dripping rapidly from my nose froze before reaching my lips. We packed as quickly as possible and stopped to split a breakfast burrito before gladly heading south towards Salt lake City, Utah.
We met Kent late in the evening at a McDonald's new his house. Paula rode in the truck with him, and I followed them back to his place. I parked the motorcycle, and Kent gave us the tour. His place was huge. It had 4 or 5 bedrooms, several kitchens, at least 3 or 4 bathrooms, and a home gym. Kent runs his business of selling stone out of his home. His warehouse and much of his large lot were filled with an amazing collection of marble, granite and limestone slabs.
Kent is a very cultured and well-traveled guy. His house is full of painting, photographs, sculptures, statues, rugs, and other artifacts from all lover the world. Kent is also very religious, although he considers himself to be spiritual despite accepting Jesus Christ as his personal savour. Having just met, and being late in the night, we managed not to get into the religious discussion too much. The three of us talked for a few hours over a couple of beers and, when we got tire, headed to bed.
The next day we gave Almeida a wash and cleaned her chain. Kent suggested a route for us to ride in the area surrounding Boise. After lunch, Paula and I got on the bike and rode through the mountains and hills surrounding on the outskirts of Boise. We arrived back around dinner time. Kent and I went grocery shopping while Paula stayed at the house and got everything ready to prepare dinner. While shopping, I got to talk to Kent about politics a bit, one of my favourite subjects, despite it being one of the ones that "you really shouldn't talk about".
After dinner, Kent, Paula and I decided to relax and watch the movie. The Motorcycle Diaries, one of Kent's favourite films, seemed appropriate. Half way through the film Kent, nodding off, decided to hit the sack, and, shortly after, Paula and I found ourselves falling asleep and also decided to turn in.
We awoke the next day and started to pack up. Kent cooked us a nice breakfast and we chatted with some of his coworkers and friends. One of his employees, Jeff, had found a new job in San Antonio, Texas, and mentioned that he would be moving out there in several weeks time. He offered us his contact information and a place to stay if we decided to pass through there.
Before leaving Boise, Paula and I decided to visit Happy Trails, a well-known adventure motorcycle shop in town. We spoke with a few of the guys working there and picked up a spare front tube.
Shortly after noon, Paula, Almeida and I set out from Boise to ride the route to Yellowstone that Lance, our friend from the Alvord Desert, had helped plan for us. The scenery around Stanley, Idaho alone was worth the ride.
That night, we stopped in the small town of Salmon, Idaho to camp. We rode around town and found a spot by the river to set up the tent, ignoring the "no overnight camping" sign. After getting settled in, I walked to the nearest gas station for some drinks and snacks, while Paula stayed back at camp. Paula had struck up a conversation with a woman who was taking her young daughter on a walk along the river. The lady, whose name I have forgotten, gave us her number and address in case we had any problems with police that night.
The night passed without any run-ins with the local police. We packed up, went for breakfast, and made our way out of town. The plan for the day was to get to the edge of Yellowstone National Park. We rode into Montana - through Wisdom, south to Jackson, then east towards Wyoming. It was dusk by the time we arrived in West Yellowstone, the small tourist town at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Driving through town, we found a field between a McDonald's and two hotels that had a nice cover of pine trees where we knew we could safely camp for the night. We waited until it started to get dark so that we would not be easily seen, then headed into the centre of the field, behind tree cover, and set up camp for the night.
Paula and I packed up in the morning, went for breakfast, and headed into Yellowstone National Park. We purchased the $80 interagency pass, which would allow us both entrance to all the national parks and many other state parks for the period of one year. We spent the day riding from the west entrance of Yellowstone, down to the south end of the park and all the way up the east side. We visited Old Faithful, a huge geyser in the south end of the park, and saw many kinds of wildlife roaming freely. Yellowstone was just awesome!
I'm sure that we could have found a place to stealth camp that night inside Yellowstone, but Paula and I decided to head out the north exit to camp, as if the wildlife was somehow confined to the imaginary boundary surrounding Yellowstone. Leaving the park, we crossed from Wyoming into the small town of Gardiner, Montana. After grabbing a quick dinner at the Subway in town, we went through our usual routine of looking for a suitable place to camp. We rode up to the top of a large hill overlooking the town of Gardiner, and found a large, flat, open area that we thought would be good for the night. Upon pulling in, we saw a young couple, who appeared to be in their early twenties, gathering firewood into their truck. The girl and I acknowledged each other as we passed, when she warned me that she had seen bones with meat on them where she had been gathering wood. Despite the warning, it was getting too late and too dark to be looking for somewhere else to camp. I also thought that, if there were bones with meat on them off in the distance, there was no reason for bears to come near our tent.
Wearing a headlamp, I began to gather fire wood in the area while Paula set up camp. That night, we had our first campfire. I kept the flames going late into the evening. The wind picked up during the night, and, in the morning, there was a light layer of dust, ash and fine dirt that had blown in while we were asleep.
After packing up and grabbing some breakfast, we spent the day riding through Yellowstone, seeing some of the things that we hadn't seen the previous day. Ideally, we would have needed at least four full days in Yellowstone to see everything that we wanted to see, but we knew the weather would soon be turning cold and we needed to start heading south.
Getting late in the day, we raced towards Grand Teton National Park, arriving at the mountains just before sunset. We stopped to take some photos at a few spots along the way. Getting low on fuel, we needed to find a gas station to fill up. Heading south, we came to a tee in the road, and I checked the GPS for fuel stations. The nearest was 15km east. Our route headed west, but this was our only option. We rode towards the gas station and the sky got darker. After filling up, we had a quick look around the area and realized that there were no good spots to camp, so we decided to head into Jackson, Wyoming for the night, which was just under 60km away.
Being an area with a lot of wildlife that tends to venture out onto the roads at dusk, we rode cautiously towards Jackson in the dark behind the inadequate illumination of my front headlight. With the sun having set, the air got colder and my hands began to freeze. With stone-cold fingers, barely able to work the clutch, we arrived in Jackson, Wyoming to discover a really interesting country and western cowboy-themed town.
We were hungry, so we stopped at a (not so country and western) pizza parlour in the centre of town to eat. After polishing off a large deluxe pizza, Paula and I headed out into the residential part of town to try to find a place to camp. We found a public park and pulled in to check it out. The spot looked good. We checked for irrigation heads but were unable to see any, picked a spot, set up the tent, and settled in for the night. In the morning, we would be headed for Salt Lake City.
Kent and Paula in Boise, Idaho
One of my most beautiful victims. This one stayed on for almost 1,500km.
Heading into Stanley, Idaho
Somewhere in Montana
A heard of buffalo lounging in a field in Yellowstone
A field of grazing buffalo in Yellowstone National Park
Paula in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces
The colours of Yellowstone
Steam from The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.
The Grand Prismatic Spring
The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented archaea in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water (I stole this description from Wikipedia).
The sun setting behind the Grand Tetons