Sunday, November 13, 2011

8.27.11 Day 67 Mile 0

8.27.11 Day 67 Mile 0

First thing I did this morning was check the thermometer on my tank bag. It read 45 degrees inside my tent. I took it outside and put it on the bike to see what it was like outside. It felt cold. We had a fire this morning for the first time of the trip while we had coffee. We were packed up and on the road by 9:30. It wasn’t long before we got into Pine Pass which was our first big construction area. We passed through one the other day, but it was easy to get through, just a little dusty. We had to wait for a while at this one and we chatted with the construction worker for a while and some of the truckers. Once we got moving, the road became deep gravel that was difficult to manage on the sport bike, but Clint did just fine. Some parts of it turned into wet dirt and back into gravel. Then hard pack, then gravel, then dirt. I went slow on the deep gravel. The bars just did whatever they wanted to and I could go fast enough to skim over the rocks. Once off the deep stuff, I would haul ass to catch back up. There was many 10 or 15 miles of this behind a pilot car. Then we had clear road for a while, then came to yet another construction site. This is supposed to be the last one though. This site was a lot better and easier. Got through it no problem but while waiting for the pilot car, I saw how dirty everything had gotten already and I was kicking myself in the ass for not putting the rain covers on the bags and the rain suit on. Its going to be tough to clean all this caked up mud off.

We got to Chetwyn and stopped at what was apparently the only gas station in the area because it was packed. Maybe it was just all the construction traffic stopping all at once but it took forever to get anything done. We hung out for a while and drank coffee and I had a buffalo chicken taquito from the 7/11. It reminded me of working in Virginia when Shawn and I would get these often for a quick lunch or while on break. I looked at the clock and realized it had taken us over 3 hours to travel under 100 miles.

We finally geared up and hit the road for Dawson City just over an hour away. When we get there, I see a sign for Tim Horton’s and I knew without a question that’s where lunch was waiting. I get my usual turkey bacon sandwich and ice cap and sit down with my laptop. I wanted to check out the weather for the next few days and check on email. Before I left Seattle, I was told my race car driver Jim decided to pull out for the rest of the season. Then since we were running behind, I told my boss that I wouldn’t be able to work on the other car for the next race in California. I had planned on three extra days and two of them were already gone before I even started. There was still a small chance I would have to work so I checked my email when I got a chance.

After lunch, we went looking for the Mile Zero sign of the Alaskan Highway. We got our photos and met an Asian guy from seattle in a Mini Cooper. He was driving up to Whitehorse to meet some friends. We took our picture and went on our way. The morning was kind of a downer because of the construction and lack of scenery and excitement. After lunch and the start of the Alaskan Highway, I felt reinvigorated and happy to be on the Alcan. At one point, I said to myself with a huge grin, “I’m on the Alaskan Highway!”

The first few hours of the Alcan were flat and boring and through farming country. Not what I was expecting but we were only getting started. Road conditions were fairly good for a while but eventually got worse and worse. Potholes started appearing and dust started piling up and flying into every corner and crevice. On several long sections, there were large piles of dust and gravel in the road and they were hard to see until you were right up on them or unless Clint when through them on the KLR and kicked up a cloud of dust. Sometimes, there was no chance to slow down and there was no choice but to run through the large thick patches at 70 Mph causing a quick speed wobble and two wheel slide. The passing semi trucks kicked up a lot of dust and gravel that cam comes flying at me and stinging my neck which was the only exposed area of my skin. My face shield is coated in dust and I feared wiping it and scratching it since there was still a long way to go of these conditions. I wanted to save the scratches until I was at least on the Dalton Highway. At one point, while my bike and body rattled through the potholes, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, Im on the Alcan,” but this time not in the excited manner as earlier. The novelty has already worn off and my battered body and motorcycle yearned for each time I needed fuel. This is only the beginning of a long ride up to Alaska, where the Dalton promised worse conditions.

At our last stop for the day at Wonowon, we took out the map and tried to pick out a campground to stay in. There didn’t seemed to be any provincial parks in the area but we were told that Sikanni campground was nice and there was also one just a few minutes past it at Buckinghorse. Inside the gas station, I found another pair of headphones for $7. I knew the quality would be junk, but hopefully they would stay in my ear better and help block out the wind noise. The ones I had purchased in the Wal-mart were complete junk and I only wore them for a few miles before the pink ones went back in.

We decided that the Sikanni campground would probably be our best bet and made our way there. At first look, the campground looked like a pile of garbage. There was a gravel parking lot where a few Rvs were camped and a couple of tent sites on the river that were right next to the highway. As Im looking at them, I could see the semi trucks kicking up huge amounts of dirt and I wasn’t dreading breathing in all that dust while I slept and hearing trucks go by all night. There were cabins available for $35 but one look at them and I decided I would rather sleep in my tent next to the road. There was wood available for purchase and when I asked about it, the owners said there was probably a handful left at the site they were putting us at. Pulled up to the site and there was a huge amount of wood sitting there. Enough for two nights. We unpacked and set up camp. Clint went to the store in search of beer while I put up my tent. He came back empty handed so we just sat at the bench and started up the fire. Might as well get one going early, there is plenty of wood to burn and its free. After hanging out for a while, an older man came up to us and said, “I heard you guys were looking for some beer. I’ve got a couple I can give you, I’m going to pick up some fresh cold ones.”

“Sure, we’ll take them! Thanks!”

He ended up hanging out for a while and talking about bikes and all the traveling he has done in the RV. We asked him about road conditions and weather further up north. Apparently the roads got a lot worse ahead and it had been raining in Whitehorse for weeks on end. Great, just what I wanted to hear. I took the beer he gave us and placed them in the ice cold river to chill them. A few minutes later, we were enjoying free cold beer by the river next to our free fire. Not bad after all I guess. It’s still not the great magnificent campground we were looking for in the wilderness of Canada. The running joke has become, “Okay, tomorrow night, we will find that great campsite.”

I ate some canned tuna with wheat thins for dinner then afterwards went to go clean up a little bit. It was already too cold to take a shower so I wiped my face down and was disgusted by the blackness of the towels. Gross, I need a shower. Tomorrow…

Monday, November 7, 2011

8.26.11 Day 66 Pink is my favorite color.

8.26.11 Day 66 Pink is my favorite color.

After coffee, we got on the road by 8:30am. After such great scenery yesterday, the day was a bit of a disappointment. There was nothing to see and nothing to do. We went through small towns spread out by distances of 40-50 miles on the Caribou Highway or 97. The town names ranged from 70 Mile house up to 150 Mile House.

Somewhere along the way, I believe it was Quesnel during a gas stop, I decided that I couldn’t take these monotonous roads anymore without some sort of entertainment. I was told there was a Radioshack in town where I could purchase headphones but after a couple of laps around town, I never found it so I went into some form of budget store where I found a tiny selection of headphones. The only kind that would even have a chance of fitting underneath my helmet were a set of bright pink JVC earbuds. Not having any other choice, I paid the $17 for the earbuds and went outside to show off my new purchase to Clint. I think he was quite impressed. Back on the road we just kept chugging along. Nothing to see, nothing to do.

We get to Prince George and decide to stop for lunch and re-stock some supplies. There is a Wal-Mart in town so we eat at the McDonalds inside and buy some food. A Big Mac was actually good. I picked up a couple packs of Ramen, rice, spam and other dried goods. I also finally got a pack of ratchet straps expecting to break one or two on the AlCan and a set of new $10 headphones to replace the pink ones. At the checkout line, a couple on a Harley was behind us and Clint struck up a conversation with them while I argued with the cashier about the total price of the rice, spam and tripod that I bought. Somehow, my total ended up being over $100. I asked the cashier if Spam was really that expensive in Canada. Apparently the headphones had some kind of error and was ringing up to be $50. After it was fixed, Clint told me that the Harley rider had offered us a place to crash for the night in Prince George. It was still too early to stop and apparently the wife didn’t seem too agreeable to the offer.

It was a challenge trying to find a place for everything. The rain had chased us all day so I thought about putting on the rain gear to make room but could bear the thought of being hot and stuffy when it didn’t rain. Clint had found some cheap tripods at Wal-mart. They were only maybe 10 inches long and were around $10 so I had to buy one. After we found a home for all of our new purchases, we went on our way to put in some more miles. Leaving town, I spot a bank and decide that we should probably exchange a little bit of money. Inside the bank, I exchanged $200 US and got $192 back in Canadian. Talked with the cute bank teller for a bit while Clint finishes his transaction. I walk over to him and notices that he only got $188 and I make a comment that the exchange rate must be different on this side of the bank. Clint made some remark about how it was because I had flirted with my teller. The woman exchanging Clint’s money said that there was a handling fee that she forgot to charge me. Ooops, I glanced over at my teller sheepishly and said, “ I mean yeah,…..I got $188 too. Uh….” She laughed and I cursed myself for opening my mouth.

Couple of hours and a few hundred miles later, we stop again at near McLeod Lake and start looking for campgrounds. We were recommended the Whiskers Point Provincial Park by some locals but it was close and it was still early There was a pass about 2 hours ahead so we thought we would probably want to camp well before that to stay on lower elevations. There was one more provincial park past Whiskers Point but when we came up to the park, Clint pulled in and I made no complaints. We drove around for a while looking for a spot. All the spots on the water were taken, which I didn’t mind since I could see clouds of bugs flying around the water. We pick a spot and Clint goes off looking for the registration box. As Im unpacking, a park ranger comes up to me and asks for the money and if we need any wood. Umm….Clint has my money and he went looking for a registration box.

Registration done, we walked over to the lake and watched the already setting sun finish its descent over the lake. We took some pictures and went back to camp. Fire ablaze we had dinner by headlamp. I cant remember what I had now, but I think it was just a pack of Ramen noodles. Yeah, that must be right. Clint made soup and used some of my rice as filler. It had gotten chilly tonight by the time I crawled into the sleeping bag. Starting to make up some mileage now, maybe we cant actually get back on track by the time we hit Fairbanks.

8.25.11 Day 65 Blown away by BC

8.25.11 Day 65 Blown away by BC

Even though we got up fairly early this morning, we didn’t leave the campsite until 10am. Clint had a breakfast of oatmeal and made us some coffee. This trend would continue while we rode together. I also decided to grab a shower knowing it might be a while before the next chance. We went straight for the border crossing at Blaine and for the Peace Arch. This would be my third corner of the trip. We stopped at the park and took the obligatory photos. In the park, there was a sculpture with an engine block as the base and we spent a few minutes trying to determine what it came from. Both of us being mechanics, there was a sense of defeat when neither of us could identify the vehicle from which it came. We moved on to the border crossing.

Peace Arch

Not like it matters, you can drive around them...

I was expecting a much bigger ordeal than what we experienced. There was only a short line and Clint went ahead first. He was quickly released then I pulled up to the booth. Passport and a few quick questions and then we were in Canada. We were soon pulling into downtown Vancouver and was swallowed by the city. The skyline of the city was quite impressive with lofty apartment buildings dominating the horizon. Getting through the city was not quite as impressive. Stoplight after stoplight filled with cars. We came to an intersection where Rte. 99 turned off and Clint made a wrong turn and not even looking, I followed. We continued down this way for a few miles until I finally took the lead following the GPS out of town. We killed a few hours making our way through town.

Back on the right track, I stopped at a gas station just outside of the city and filled up and ate some snacks. The fuel was more than $5 a gallon and I knew I was in for an expensive couple of weeks. Its only going to be worse from here. Rte 99 becomes the Sea to Sky Highway which is the perfect name. You ride along the coast of the Strait of Georgia and all you can see is the water and islands with glaciated peaks rising out of them. It’s a beautiful ride for a couple of hours. Then it eventually led to higher elevations through Whistler, by the Blackcomb Glacier, through Pemberton, more mountains passes with gorgeous scenery, by Duffy Lake, Seton Lake and down into Lilooet. Just before Seton Lake, I pulled my camera out of the tank bag to snap a quick picture like I normally do but when I stuffed it back into its front pocket and pulled my hand away, something immediately felt different. I looked down to see the pocket empty then in my left mirror, I could see an object bouncing on the road splintering and shedding pieces. Shit. On the brakes. When I got turned around, Clint had already picked up the camera and we started looking for the battery that flew out of it. Found it just a few feet away and I stuffed it back in and powered the camera up. The screen is shattered and the body is dented, but it still turns on. I take a couple of test pictures and it seemed to make all the right noises but there is no telling if it actually worked since the display was destroyed. I’ve used the camera in the same fashion for over 2 months now and have taken thousands of photos, I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later since I was doing it more haphazardly than before. Oh well, we moved on.

Sea to Sky Highway

The first construction zone in Canada, this one was nice and short. Not too far after this there was a horse just walking around on the street.

This is the last picture I will ever see on my point and shoot camera. Seconds before the demise of the screen.

This is how Clint tests it.

There the scenery starts to change quite drastically. Gone are the glaciated peaks and now there is dry dirt, canyons and desert plants and brush. Even the faces we encountered seemed to be changing. There are several Indian reservations nearby and the facial features and skin color seemed to change almost instantly when we crossed over the imaginary line that separates the reservation from the rest of the area.

Looks a little drier here.

We stop at a gas station to fill up and get more snacks as we passed on lunch to make up some miles. I looked down to see my headphones missing. Damn. Why am I losing stuff today? Its going to be a while before I can find a set of decent headphones. At this point, it is time for us to start looking for campgrounds. There are so many flat bluffs where I would have loved to camp overlooking the canyon but its far too open and we would have been vacated before even putting the side stand down. Plenty of RV campgrounds around but nothing that offered the seclusion I was looking for. We kept riding further into nothingness when we happened upon the Marble Canyon Provincial Park. It’s a very small campground on a small lake but it will do. It’s cheap and we are here.

Marble Canyon campground

After setting up camp, we start making some dinner. Clint made his package of red beans and rice while I fed some bagel crisps to the ducks that were wandering around the campsite. First there was the one curious duck, but he left and came back with several of his friends. Pretty soon, I had them fighting over the bagel crisps. I probably shouldn’t have been feeding them, but it was good entertainment while I waited for dinner. We could hear a waterfall somewhere but couldn’t seem to find it after wandering around for a bit. It took a while to realize that it was on the cliff overlooking the lake and was partially hidden by trees and bushes. As we walked back to our site, a young boy and girl were stopped next their bicycles and the boy was struggling to put the chain that had fallen off his sisters bike. I stopped and replaced the chain on it for them and went on our way. We hung out for a while then turned in. Sleep came easy that night.

Monday, September 12, 2011

8.24.11 Day 64 Up close and personal.

My phone had died last night so there was no alarm clock to wake me, but I didn’t need it. The anticipation of seeing Mt. Rainier was enough to stir me at an early hour. I unzipped the door, gazed out and just starting laughing, hysterically. I’m not sure if there is a word fitting to my reaction to seeing Mt. Rainier so close. There is no better way to view this peak. Pictures and descriptions would never do it justice. Its something that one would have to see for themselves. But you would need Clint to take you there.

Clint is already up and sitting in the chair facing the mountain. I crawl out and sit beside him for a few minutes. Just wow. He is probably just laughing at me now but I just cant believe my eyes. This is too intense for first thing in the morning. I just turn away, shaking my head and laughing. Purely amazing sight to behold.

I break down the tent and we start making our way off the mountain. Clint shows me another spot where Mt Baker and Mt. St. Helen can be seen. On the way out, I see all the intense roads and cliffs we traveled through at midnight to get there. Yeah, Im glad I couldn’t see it last night. Its not any better today though. On the way down, we stop before one of the big drops and take a look down. Yikes….Lets not linger for too long. At another stop, Clint shows me a rock that has a perfect fossil of a leaf. Too cool. We stop at a few more places and look at some other cool stuff before we finally make our way down the mountain.

We missed dinner last night so we decide to have a good breakfast before we take off to Canada. I order my usual omelet and Clint orders a breakfast of ham. The waitress asks if he wants to upgrade to the bigger size for a dollar and he agrees to it. When it comes out, we both immediately start laughing at the enormity of the piece of ham. It needed its own plate and it still hung off all the edges. He’s going to have to work at finishing that one. I wish I had a camera on me or my phone had battery life because it deserved to have its picture taken. Clint manages to finish the whole thing minus a small piece that I tried. He’s going to be feeling that one later.

Back at Clint’s house, I load up the bike and get geared up. Clint, however, is still packing. He disappears into the house for a while and I just sit around, bored and anxious to get on the road. We are a day and half behind now. I am now counting the time we need to make up if I want to stay on my schedule. I know the schedule means nothing to Clint, but its something that Ive come to live by. He gives me some warm socks, a fleece and a full coverage rainfly for my tent and Im really appreciative. I know I’ll need it in the coming weeks. I didn’t really feel prepared to tackle Alaska in September but I was just going to deal with it the best I could. Now I feel better about it.

Finally, at 2pm, Clint was ready to go. He wanted to go by Cycle Gear to buy a new tank bag so we go by there and pick it up. As he is packing his new tank bag, he realizes he cant find his registration and the address to the insurance company where he needed up pick up proof of insurance. We rummage through his things but find neither one. We had to go back to his house a half hour away, with no traffic. Of course, there is traffic. He finds his registration and we are back on the road again. We jump on the highways to get out of town as fast as possible. There is a lot of traffic on the way north and the bank where we need to pick up Clints proof of insurance closes at 5 and there is no way we will make it now. He calls ahead and has them leave it outside for him.. We get almost to Bellingham where the bank is, pick up the piece of paper he needs then sit down to decide our next step. Its getting late now and we still had a border crossing to contend with. It could be easy, or it could take hours, then we had to find a campsite. Just across the border is Vancouver so chances are that we need to get a ways past it to find a campground. We decide to just make it a short day and camp in Washington tonight somewhere on the way up. We go next door to a grocery store and buy some dinner to cook and start heading towards Larrabee State Park that is recommended by Clint’s friend. We are not too far away and are riding down the coast now into some fairly nice views. The park sits right on the coast but is between train tracks and the road. We ride around looking for a suitable campsite and until finally deciding that they are all pretty much the same. As we unpacked, we hear cars, Harleys, trains and planes going by. So much for peace and quiet. We decide to head down to the beach and are rewarded with a gorgeous sunset of bright red and orange hues. Okay, so not the best campground, but the sunset made it worthwhile.

Back at the campsite, we start cooking dinner. We boil up the sausages and snack on the hummus with wheat thins. I break out the garlic bagel crisps and snack on those as well as a bag of nacho cheese Doritos. I start dipping everything into the hummus and find out that I like nacho cheese Doritos in hummus. Then the sausages are done and I have them in tortillas, with hummus and Doritos. Haha. I was ready for bed after dinner. Third corner of my trip tomorrow, border crossing, Vancouver and then I didn’t really know what to expect beyond that.

8.23.11 Day 63 Just when I thought the day was a wash…..

Early morning to finish working on the bikes and get on the road. We work on finding a way to get Clint’s KLR up in the air to remove his tires. After several attempts, we get it onto a milk crate and stable enough to work on. Now my bike. Ive had the bike in the air before in Indianapolis without the proper race stands so I have a good idea what I need to do. The swingarm spools went up on jackstands and I got a jack underneath the front and got the bike stable. I pulled the rear axle out of the wheel and was sliding the chain off the sprockets when I see the bike starting to tip over. I dropped everything in my hand and grabbed the bike. But it was too late and too heavy. The bike fell over with an astounding thud leaving me standing there in total disbelief. What just happened. I immediately try to lift the bike up as fuel was pouring out but I couldn’t get on the right side of it to lever it up. Clint comes over and moves stuff out of the way and pushes while I pull. A jackstand is stuck underneath the swingarm so I had to lift up the back and pull the stand over before the bike will go upright. We get the bike upright and then I remembered the rear wheel has the axle out of it. I jack the back of the bike up and get the wheel off and examine the rear brake caliper and bracket. The rotor and spacers are chewed up but not in the important areas. After the back was supported, I checked out the front and there was some pretty good damage. The nose has several large cracks, the headlight housing stay was broken and the tabs and pins holding the side fairings and ram air ducts were broken off. Everything was hanging loosely. This is going to be expensive to fix. New nose, new headlight assembly, new ram air ducts…..I made sure there was no further major damage to the bike and continued working on the getting it back up in the air to pull of the wheels. Nothing I can do about it now but to just suck it up and keep working. Clint has a friend just down the street who has a workshop. Ted is a former AMA racer, well seasoned mechanic and is taking care of a couple of racecars so at least I have a place to disassemble the bike and fab up some mounts and things to hopefully hold the bike together for the remainder of the trip.

We get the tires off both bikes and loaded into Clints truck. Head down to Cycle Gear to drop them off and meet his brother for lunch. I cant remember the name of the restaurant now but I had the best sandwich I’ve had in years. After lunch, we go back to Cycle Gear and they are still working on the tires. This is taking forever. I guess we are not leaving today. This will put us a full day behind now. After a long wait, we finally get our wheels back and they charged me $70 to change the tires! Unbelievable! Normally its only $20 a wheel, I argued and complained about the price but they told me it’s a Cycle Gear standard. Not so, Ive paid $20 at Cycle Gears several times. Whatever, I complained some more to be sure they were aware of my extreme dissatisfactions with their slow service and high prices then we left. The wheels and tires went on easily and now its time to disassemble the bike again to cobble it back together. We ride over to Ted’s place and I start the long arduous process of removing all the fairings and the headlight housing. Its worse than I think and there are a lot of things I wont be able to repair correctly. This is where the plastic epoxy and duct tape comes in. Im still angry at the fact that Ive been riding for so long and have come so far to only have the bike fall over on stands. If it wasn’t for the jack that the bike fell on, it might not have been so bad. But that’s just what ifs…..

While working on the bike, I talk to Ted about his racing career and found out a lot of extremely interesting things. I’ll have to look up the dates and everything again, but I remember years ago watching a documentary of a aircraft carrier that was on fire and experienced several explosions. There was a massive fire on deck and missiles and bombs mounted to planes on the deck were going off after being enveloped in flames. I vividly remember watching the people on film pushing planes off the deck hoping to stop the string of explosions. The video plainly shows the concussions as the bombs were going off. It was an insane ordeal. It turns out, Ted was there. He was in a helicopter and when one of the planes exploded, a piece of a turbine flew just past his head and lodged itself into his craft just inches above him. He showed me the piece of the turbine. Here I am, standing in someone’s workshop in Puyallup, Washington, full of self pity because my motorcycle fell off the stands and I was piecing it back together the day, no night before leaving for Alaska which is a big enough trip in its own right, holding a amazing piece of history and staring at the man that it almost killed. Wow, I didn’t even know what to say. All of a sudden, my problems meant absolutely nothing. I’ll never forget holding that piece of turbine in my hand….

Feeling painfully simple and self centered, I continue working on the bike and make a few brackets to hold together the headlight housing and a spacer to zip tie through to hold the ram air ducts onto the side fairing and nose. Then I slather some parts in epoxy and duct tape together the rest. Its pretty bad off but it seems to be somewhat sturdy. Hopefully it lasts the rest of the trip. The Alaskan Highway is a rough ride so Im expecting another side of road repair at some point. Its almost 11pm before I finish cobbling the bike together. I thank Ted profusely for letting me use his workshop and Clint and I head out. No way we are leaving today so we decide to go camping. Probably not the best idea at this point but Clint says he has an awesome spot near Mt. Rainier only an hour away. A trip to the store to buy some water and a 6 pack of Alaskan Amber Ale and we were on the way, in the dark.

Heading out of town, it quickly turns into country roads. Then we head into the national forest near Mt. Rainier and onto a forest service road. At first, its just a dirt and gravel road. Then it gets pretty gnarly after a few turnoffs. Im glad Clint has been here dozens of time before because I cant see where we are going. We are driving through bushes and trees and the road isn’t even visible from where I’m sitting. The road is full of massive holes and rain bars. The truck bounces around the pot holes and when going through the rain bars, all I see is the ground, then sky. Ground then sky. At a few points, just a foot or two to my right, is a cliff. A cliff into darkness and no trees to stop the truck should we go sliding then rolling off the edge. Im glad its dark and I cant really see whats going on because Im pretty sure it would have freaked me out. There were a few times I had an unnerving feelings welling up deep within my stomach and I had visions of us tumbling down the side of the mountain, lost for days, weeks before anyone found us. Ive done some crazy things, but this is up there. Its just a new kind of experience. After miles of intense(at least for me) four wheeling we get to the summit and Clint’s campsite.
Getting out, I look up at the stars. “Holy Shit! I have never in my life seen so many stars.”

“Just wait until your eyes adjust.”

A few minutes later. “Holy Shit! There are even more stars!”

Shooting stars pass by constantly leaving long colorful streaks in the dark sky dotted with hundreds, no thousands of stars. The dust of the Milky Way galaxy shines as bright as a star normally viewed from places Ive been. Satellites and planes go idly by while I strain my neck to keep staring. It takes a few minutes for me to realize how cold I am. Before we left, I asked Clint if it would be cold and he comments that I should bring a sweater. I grabbed a sweatshirt just before we left. I threw it on realizing that it wouldn’t be enough. I look at Clint and he’s putting on a thick down jacket. “What the hell?”

“Oh,that’s all you brought? I said bring a sweater.”

“This is a sweater! I didn’t know you meant a down jacket or something.”

“Sorry, I guess Im used to people who are used to camping in cold weather.”

“Yeah dude, Im from Atlanta, there’s no such thing as cold.”

We get a big fire going and I warm up. My neck is already hurting from staring up at the stars. Just amazing. Clint points out Mt. Rainier just the next ridge over. I didn’t even realize that was there, but looking at it now, how did I miss it? Even at night, its so prominent. You can see the darkness of the mountain and the brightness of the snow on top.

“Just wait until you see it in the morning.”

I set up my tent just behind the fire and face the door to Mt. Rainier so I could peak out first thing in the morning at it. We have a couple of beers then call it a night. I use my sleeping bag liner for the first time and Im so very happy I bought one. I went to bed thinking about the day and how terrible it started and how magnificently it ended. It’s hard to believe it all happened in the same day. I shut my eyes and the stars are emblazoned onto the back of my eyelids. Im excited to see Mt. Rainier up close in the morning, but I had no idea what I was in for.

PS. Heres the Wiki article on the USS Forrestal.

8.22.11 Day 62 Clint vs. Tengai

8.22.11 Day 62 Clint vs. Tengai

Lots of things to be done today. I needed to mount new tires, change the oil, clean and lube the chain, change spark plugs and change the air filter. Of course, I got a late start. The plan is to do the work at my friend Clint’s place. Clint joined me for a few days in the southeast riding through the Tail of the Dragon and through Kentucky. Now that the racing season is over for him, he returned home to Puyallup, Washington and was planning on joining me on the trip to Alaska. At a gas station near my destination, I pulled over to refuel and find the address to Gerbing heated clothing where I had an appointment to meet the Marketing manager to talk about sponsorship for my ride into the Great White North. Seeing that Clint had called, I checked my message and found that he needed a part for his KLR from just north of Seattle. If I had received the call an hour ago, I would have been able to pick up the part for him. He needed to leave soon to beat the traffic through Seattle to get his part so I cancelled my appointment to ride back to Seattle with him. At his place, I stripped myself of riding gear and hopped in his truck to go back the direction from which I just came. Traffic had already started and was fairly slow moving all the way back up. We picked up the part he needed which was just a small oil seal for his sidecase. He found an oil leak on his way back from a ride around the northwest just the day before and needed to fix the leak before the long trip up to Alaska. We picked up the part and a spare and started back down south. Traffic was pretty much a stand still so we pulled off and got dinner at a Red Robin. Well, this day has not gone according to plan.

Back at Clint’s place, I decide to do everything but the tires tonight as we needed to have them mounted at the local Cycle gear. Clint worked on his oil seal while I changed the spark plugs and air filter. This necessitated quite a bit of removal of parts off the Honda. While removing the fuel tank, I found that the fuel line had come loose and was barely clipped on. Lucky this never came off completely. It could have resulted in quite a nice fireball of fuel, aluminum, magnesium and flesh. The air filter was completely clogged like I have never seen before. There were hundreds of bees, bugs and butterflies lodged in the paper element. Several large stones were also in the airbox and I had to actually vacuum it all out. Filter and plugs changed, I reassembled it all making sure the fuel line was plugged in nice and tight. Oil was changed and everything went remarkably well. I was confident that tomorrow we would leave by mid afternoon on our Alaskan adventure.

The airbox after the 1st round of cleaning.

getting stripped down.

Clint having fun with the oil seal.

Clints job however, was not as easy. The oil seal goes into the case no problem, but there were several obstacles keeping the side case from going on easily flipping the seal inside out on almost every attempt. It was hard to tell whether or not the seal actually went on as it should. The side case was put on and pulled off dozens of times and finally after a few hours, Clint was somewhat satisfied. We had a couple of beers then cleaned up and went to bed. I crashed on the couch for the night.

8.21.11 Day 61 Meals on top of Meals.

8.21.11 Day 61 Meals on top of Meals.

I slept in as late as I possibly could today. I needed sleep and rest desperately. Once I was finally awake and mobile, I decided to ride down to the Fremont Sunday market as my brother had suggested. As I entered the market, I saw the “Manog Lady” I’d heard about so I stopped to get a Mexican style mango. The mango is peeled, then shoved onto a chopstick, then sliced and covered with chili powder, lime juice and salt. At first it sounded like an unusual concoction of flavors, but it ended up being quite good. I perused the market as I gobbled down the mango. Many people stopped me and wondered what the hell I was eating and with mouth full of juicy mango, I’d point at the “mango lady” and grunt. By the time I devoured the mango, I was at another food stand. This time nachos. I ordered the small plate and was delighted at how good it actually looked. I have a thing for nachos and Ive eaten a lot of nachos as I travel and these are the best Ive had on this trip. Good sliced beef, white cheese, fresh homemade salsa, everything was as it should be. I also got a Horchata drink that ended up being the best Ive had. Im liking this Fremont market. With a big plate full of nachos, I sat down on the curb and feasted. I was pretty full but when I walked by the empanadas, I got one anyways. Now I can barely walk but I managed to waddle through the rest of the market sipping on my horchata. I found a book about riding bicycles in Puget Sound for my brother and bought him a pound of Rainier cherries. Well, almost a pound, I had a few handfuls.

Fremont Market

Mexican style mango

nachos and horchata

Back on the bike, I headed back towards my brothers place to let the full belly sit. On the way back, I decided I wanted a drink so I stopped by a coffee shop and got a pomegranate tea. While sitting there sipping on my tea, I noticed a Pho place across the street. Its been a while since Ive had pho. I think Ill waddle over and have a bowl. Cant have pho without some boba tea. I barely managed to shovel the last bite into my mouth. Waddled back to the bike and sat on the bike for a minute. Oh my god, what did I just do to myself. At the apartment I just sat there reading for a while. I couldn’t lay down and I couldn’t move. I could just sit.

Eventually my brother came home from work and wanted to get dinner. Dinner….Ive already eaten three meals today, but sure, why not. We decided on a Greek restaurant in Bellevue. It was a nice drive into town and at the restaurant, we got the Farmers Dinner and the kabobs. The meal was massive. As soon as it came out, I knew I was in trouble. I was going to be defeated by my food for the first time in a very long time. It was a great dinner, but I hardly put a dent into it. I left absolutely stuffed and regretting those last few bites desperately attempting to make it look like I ate something off the plate. Then after dinner, we went to a ice cream shop that made homemade ice cream and special flavors. The flavor of the day was banana cream pie and actually really tasted like bananas. Regrettably, I ordered a coffee drink instead of the ice cream. It was good, but the ice cream was better. Now I am really and truly filled to the brim. I cant take anymore. We went back to the apartment and watched some you tube videos and then a movie.

Its back to riding tomorrow. Need to do some work on the bike and start making my way up to Alaska.