I originally wanted to take this trip last year, but as usual things conspired to keep me at home. This time I found myself in between projects and while the responsible thing to do was to go look for more work, I decided to take a sabbatical. My plan is to head west sightseeing and catching up with friends and family along the way. Once I get to the Pacific I’ll head up the coast and then take a ferry into Seattle. Spend time with family there and then head over to the Mackinac Bridge and then back down to Atlanta.
For the first time since Cub Scouts I’ll be camping. I’ve done as much prep as I can do, and the bike is loaded for bear. If ever there was a machine designed for long distance touring then the BMW K1200LT is it. I’ve got adjustable wind protection, mp3 music, cruise control, massive storage and a 250+ mile cruising range.
First night I made it to New Orleans and found Bayou Segnette State Park. I was expecting around $15/night instead it was $32. This first night turned out to be a disaster. The park ranger suggested a great restaurant (see proof below) but by the time I got back it was already sunset. So I’m trying to setup the tent and my flashlight goes out. Then the mosquitos tear my ass up. I finally get the tent setup and zip myself in for the night. 2am I hear wicked howling and now I’m thinking about Liam Neeson in the Grey. I’m scarred to death, thinking that wolves are circling the tent. Never been so glad to see the sun come up.
From New Orleans I make it to Royers Cafe in Round Top, TX and I’m beat. Ran into a storm front that forced me off the road outside Houston. That combined with exhaustion from not enough sleep from the night before and I’m really dragging. Fortunately the pecan pie restored my soul.
Dallas, TX – spent two nights with an old friend who took care of me like I was family. A few nights off the bike helped me recuperate. Then I’m off to the Grand Canyon.
But first a stop by the Petrified Forest
Grand Canyon Campground -
I was able to camp two nights at the Grand Canyon. This was much improved over the New Orleans fiasco. Got my tent setup before dusk and the campground was reasonably quiet, with more people camping nearby. Even heard one guy snoring. Main camp ground was full so i camped in an overflow area, had to ride back to the main camp to shower. Still fine tuning the packing and organizing. Making a lot of rookie mistakes. But its getting better.
On the last morning I noticed the rear drive was leaking pretty bad. Service department didn’t torque the drain plug and it was about to fall out. Had that happened at speed the rear end would have seized up and I would have been sliding down the freeway. Probably run over to boot.
Found some 80-90 weight gear oil that should hold me until I get to the next dealer.
I decided to swing by Las Vegas BMW (by way of the Hoover Dam) to have them check the rear drive. Good thing, they found the drain plug was loose again. Turns out there were two washers that kept it from sealing. Most repair shops have a policy of helping travelers first. Within 5 minutes they rolled my bike in and had me on my way in 45 minutes, no charge!
After leaving the BMW shop I looked around for lunch but since there was so much traffic I decided to ride down the road towards Death Valley and find a sub shop. Bad Bad idea. That highway had no services, no gas, no nothing. So by the time I reached DV I was hungry and sweating bullets looking for gas.
I found one station in the park @ $5.60/gal and was happy to pay it.
I drove through the only available campsite but decided to bail. Just too hot and too hungry to do primitive camping. I ended up staying at Furnace Creek Inn (excellent room). After dinner I’m walking back to the room and can’t believe my eyes when a coyote walks by. It stopped for a moment, maybe waiting for me to toss him some food, before heading towards the pool area.
Finally made it to Morro Bay. This segment from Death Valley to Morro Bay proved to be the best of the entire trip. I expected Death Valley to be just a drive through the desert but instead it turned out to be a diverse eco system. From a low of 100ft below sea level to 4000ft above sea level. The the ride through the Sierra foothills and finally the arrival at Morro Bay was just spectacular. I don’t think it’s possible to have a better day riding. Seriously.
Camping at Morro Bay, also turned out to be the best camping of the trip. The breeze off the ocean kept the bugs away and the campground itself was excellent.
From Morro Bay I made my way up the coast and then through Napa Valley to spend some time with my brother. The most notable event here was the clothing optional, coed hot springs. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. After leaving, I headed back to the coast and headed north along the Oregon Coast.
Oregon Coast Erosion
Cape Blanco on the Oregon Coast is the western most location in the lower 48 states
While riding up the coast I noticed an inch long gash in the rear tire. BMW of Eugene Oregon was the closest location, 200 miles away. So I headed towards the dealership. 100 miles later I checked the tire and the gash had grown to about 4 inches and the white cords were now visible.
I was concerned that the tire might blow out at any moment. Fortunately I made it and got a new tire the next morning.
Mosquitoes 1 Greg 0
Camped at Fort Stewart and I can honestly say I’ve never seen that many mosquitoes ever in one place. They would seem to appear out of thin air. And I don’t mean two or three, more like a swarm. So setting up camp was a challenge.
Earlier in the day I had dinner in Portland at the Davis Street Tavern, a popular hangout of the Grimm TV show cast. But there were no sightings.
So yesterday I got new tires. New tires and wet roads are not good. New tires and wet curvy roads are worst. After Portland I had to take twisty Hwy 26 to get back to the coast and Fort Stevens. It was dicey but I managed to arrive with my assets in tact.
Goal for today is stay along the Washington coast and make my way to Bainbridge for the ferry ride to Seattle.
Seattle Ferry Looking Down
Dinner at Bizzaros in Seattle, first night
On the way out of Seattle, I decided to take the Cascade Highway. Remember what I said about the Morro Bay leg being the best ride ever? Well scratch that! The Cascade Highway was simply breathtaking.
Cascade mountains in the distance
Cascade Rainy Pass
Even though this has been a long trip I’ve only had a few key destinations. After riding the Cascade Highway, the next destination is the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. So that means a long run down the super slab to cut down on time. I was making good time out of Great Falls, Montana when I picked up my first driver appreciation certificate from the Montana Highway Patrol.
Caught me doing 79 in a 70mph zone. But the kicker is that he had his lights flashing and siren going for two miles. He even said I passed another car with him still in hot pursuit. I apologized profusely which I guess he accepted. After getting back on the bike I realized that my duffel bag probably obscured his cruiser. We could have had a Rodney King situation.
Last night I camped at Bismarck ND. Started out nice, $10 for a tent site, hot showers, life is good. But around 1am a group of people started yelling. First i thought it was a fight then I heard laughing. I was so tired that I just slept through it. It went on most of the night, then around 4:30 someone yelled shut the f up. I set up, listening for what was going to happen next. Then a car alarm went off, so i called 911. Dispatcher said they would send someone but it didn’t change anything. They kept laughing and outright screaming. Maybe they were on drugs. It definitely cut my sleep short.
Should reach the bridge by tomorrow.
They say that discretion is the better part of valor. So with thunderstorms scheduled to meet me at the Mackinac Bridge I decided it would be good to turn towards home. Actually I had planned to go ahead to the bridge but in discussing the matter with Honey Bunny she convinced me that the bridge would be there for another day. So drat and double drat.
Last night on the road. I decided to stay at a nice (non flee bag) hotel, have a steak dinner and catch a movie. Dinner at Outback was excellent and me and the bike are in for the night.
Finally made it back last night (Sunday) around 10:15pm.
This last push home saw me riding for a little over 12hours, fours hours of which was in the worst heat I’ve ever experienced. I snapped this picture while riding through Lexington KY. You can’t make out the temperature but it had just reached 100. I’ve never seen triple digits while riding at speed. Shortly after this the temp rose to 102. I couldn’t take it so I pulled off, got some water, ice for the helmet and ate some sugar wafers (had to keep my strength up).
After recovering for half an hour or so, I’m back on the bike, ice melting and keeping my head cool; then I look at the temp again and it was now 103. Unbelievable. Thought about raising the white flag and pulling into a hotel. But Honey Bunny had promised she would make it worth my while if I made it back that night. Well, I’m not sure about that, could have been thoughts from a near heat stroke.
Final stats for the trip:
Departure: May 30th, return June 24th. Just a few days short of 4 weeks.
Camping: 9 nights
Mooching: 4 nights
Hotels: 12 nights
Total miles: 7620
Highest gas price: $5.60/gal in Death Valley.
Trip Hi – Although the scenic views were spectacular and breath taking, they don’t
compare to catching up with old friends and family.
Trip Lo – First night camping, when I thought wolves were circling the tent (no kidding). Haven’t been that scarred, probably ever. Thanks to a park ranger for talking me down (sorry I didn’t get her name).