Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Last Chapter

 Home and back to skiing!  Hold on, I'm getting ahead of myself here...

After being home for 2 days I headed out on a quick afternoon ski tour with friends.  Crazy how much snow is still in the mountains.

OK, let me rewind a week.  After the blur of Vegas which I included in my last post, I worked my way north through Nevada.  I had an appointment booked at Happy Trails in Boise, Idaho to get my front shocks looked at in addition to picking up some new rubber for my arrival home.  Happy Trails was where I purchased my luggage in addition to a variety of add-ons for the KLR.  They specialize in adventure touring and are a really great bunch of guys.  

The line-up of bikes at the Happy Trails shop in Boise, Idaho (most of these were owned by folks who work there.)

Patiently waiting for Rojo while his shocks were ripped apart
There are a few photos on this trip that I kick myself for not taking.  I wish I had taken a photo of the outcome of my repairs at Happy Trails, but the idea was lost in the surprise I had.  Upon taking my shocks apart, the mechanic took both springs out and one was broken right in half!  They were obviously still working as the shocks are a spring/air/oil combo, but I had noticed that something was up much earlier on in the trip.  The broken spring was also wearing my front tire down in a very unique manner, giving my bike a slight bounce at low speeds on pavement, something I had been noticing for a while as well.  I am more than certain I had been riding on a broken spring from about Costa Rica north - more than 7000kms.  Once fixed, I also had the mechanic install the new rubber I was planning to pack home as my front tire was pretty much done because of the weird wear.  

A few more ADV bikes at Happy Trails, my mechanic owned the BMW on the left. 

A pit-stop beside the Middle Fork of the Payette River, Idaho.

Finally packing a spare tire in true ADV style
Riding north through Idaho proved to be quite the challenge.  The roads were fantastic, but the weather crapped out.  The rain started bucketing down and I had a really difficult time keeping my hands warm.  I have been wearing a thin, leather glove for the duration of my trip and once wet and cold it was really challenging to warm my hands back up again, especially my left hand after my 2 surgeries.  Once my hands were done, I was done, I had to stop and head inside to a warm location and it would usually take at least an hour + to warm back up again. 

My final morning waking up in Grangeville, Idaho it was pouring rain again.  I was sure I could push home in one day but needed to keep my hands warm.  I headed to the local supermarket before leaving and bought a pair of heavy duty dish gloves.  I figured I could put them on over my riding gloves and be golden and warm for my final push home.  This didn't work.  Unfortunately, the gloves were too tight and they just cut the circulation off in my hands.  The first few hours of riding north were wet and miserable, and then my core body temperature started dropping... I was very cold.  I knew I only had 2 options and one I wasn't even willing to consider, I wanted to get home. 

My strategy for warm hands in Idaho... which didn't work. 

I was lucky as the sun came out, it warmed up and I was staying dry on my final push home.

As I pulled into Lewiston, Idaho, I began looking for a hunting store.  I knew I could get warmer gloves and thermal underwear at a local outdoor - hunting shop.  I HAD thermals on my way south, but I sent them back from the Baja after meeting up my Dad figuring I wouldn't need them for the rest of the trip.  

I'm sure I had an internal radar on loud and clear as the minute I rolled into Lewiston I looked to my right and saw Black Sheep Sporting Goods.  Perfect timing as I was wet and cold and needed some help to push on.  I hopped off my bike which ended up being more of a stumble and immediately through the front doors of the Black Sheep.  Once opening the door, my eyes focused on a younger clerk behind the back gun-counter of the store.  He was cocking a shotgun and he said, 'I just love the action on this bad-boy!'  Seriously.  I had to give my head a minor shake to begin focusing on my thermal search.  Upon being asked for some assistance I was told that most of the thermals had been put away for the summer but they gladly went to the back to get something for me that would work.  I was a little upset when the head-to-toe 'cammo' underwear ended up being too big, but we managed to find some that worked.  A couple pair of gloves - thin inserts and larger ones, my new long thermal underwear, $31 on the Visa and I was out the door and all warmed up for my final stint on the road home.   

British Columbia - the best place on earth
Crossing over the border from the US into Canada was a pretty funny story in itself.  I pulled up to a border crossing I'm quite familiar with as it is a 50min drive from my house.  As I approached the red light, green light, I stopped like a good little traveler, following all directions and waited to proceed.  I figured this would be a good time to pull off my gloves and dive into my tank-bag to pull out my passport and get sorted before I pulled up to the window.  The green light was immediately turned on, so I pulled up to the window, turned off my bike  and fumbled with my stuff, dropping my gloves to the ground and barley holding on to my passport.  As I sorted myself out and looked up at the window I hear... 'BA Belton, how the heck are you doing?'.  Turns out I'm looking right at Mike, a family friend who grew up on the same street as me.  He has been working at this border for years, but the chances of getting him are quite slim.  We had a good chat as cars loaded up behind me and I was grateful it was a smooth, easy experience getting back into the motherland.  'Thanks Mike!'  

Nelson, BC - my home

A nice tail-gate reunion with my pooch upon arrival home, we were pretty happy to see one another.
I knew I would have a transition to work through once arriving home, but I wasn't really prepped for how it would all pan out.  The first few days were busy, speedy and non-stop, somewhat like the roads in Guatemala.  I was visiting friends and family, hitting the coffee shop for catch-ups, I went skiing one afternoon which was incredible and then hit a weekend wedding!  The true challenge has been being off my motorcycle and dealing with the norm of life at home.  Banking, grocery shopping, networking for work, driving my truck with x4 wheels have all been very difficult.

I don't think one can ever understand this unless you've been there, unless you've tasted it for yourself.  It is tough. 

Double thumbs-up to a fun afternoon ski 2 days after my return home
Loving my new long underwear thermals purchased at a hunting shop in Idaho - (which saved my bacon on my final push home.) 

Haircut, shave and my bikes back in the shop where I started this surreal journey

Nelson, BC - (I took this photo yesterday on a quick hike with my dog)

Overlooking Nelson, BC

I know it'll take time being home and getting back into the swing of things.  Just the other day someone asked me if I'd do it again... and without hesitation I said yes.  Half of me wants to pack up today and to continue heading north to Alaska.  I'm sure this will happen one day, but for now I need to focus on working my way back into my community, getting back to work and keeping my 'stick on the ice' as we say here in Canada.   

Final Thoughts:

It was surprising how many people I met on my trip thought I was completely nuts for traveling solo throughout Mexico and Central America.  A question I was hearing over and over again was, 'Isn't Mexico dangerous?'.  My answer would always be 'No, it is great'.  My advice is to 'turn off your TV', in the loose sense.  We live in a day and age where this would be extremely difficult due to our connectedness, but it is truly amazing how the media plugs the fear in people.  Dangerous, unfortunate things happen to humans on a daily basis, all over the world, regardless of where you are at.  I had countless challenges on my motorcycle trip, but 99% of the people I met were really interested in me and in helping me in any way possible.  Sure, I had to be very aware, alert, 'on my game', but it is truly surprising what a positive attitude, a smile, some basic communication, and a simple laugh... can create.  It is amazing.

I read a quote once years ago that really stuck with me, and it goes something like this:

"The World is like a book, and those that stay at home never leave the first page."

My advice to you...

Get Out There!  

Thank-you SO much for all of the support, encouragement and positive energy sent my way... it aided me to my destination and back thus accomplishing my goal and I'm still in one piece... so thank-you again and again.

My next trip?  Who knows... for now, I'm sticking around, but stay-tuned, I'm sure something will start bubbling and brewing.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Home. 20,054kms. Full circle. Wow.  Time for some sleep.

I'm certain it will be quite the transition being back home and getting into normal 'Life-stuffs', especially after a journey of this magnitude. I plan to approach it like I did this adventure, slowly and one step at a time.

Stay tuned for a couple more posts in the next short while.  I'll include my last week of travel, some final thoughts, photos, and maybe even a gear review and rough cost breakdown of the trip.

I was inspired through other ADV motorcycle riders, reading through their forums and blogs, and I hope that I too can inspire others through my experiences throughout this journey.

Thank-you for following...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Final Countdown

The first thing that comes to mind when I typed 'The Final Countdown' as the title for this post was that uber classic 80s tune by the band Europe that I used to mimic playing, you know the synthesizer riff, so classic.  Come on... put your hands out as though you are playing a hot 80s keyboard and start belting it out, 'dun-na-na-NAA, dun-na-na-na-Naaaa...'  Awesome.

Time to slam-dunk a few more words down in this blog before I end up home, shake my head, and then try to figure out what the hell just happened over the past 3 months.  What a blur already.  At times this trip seems very surreal.  At other times this trip has been uniquely present and vivid, it is hard to explain.  

And then there was Vegas. 

Vegas was fun.  Vegas IS fun.  Hold on, where did I get that tatoo?

The past week has been a whirlwind.  I've managed to successfully cross back into the USA.  I'll never forget the BEST question asked to me by a US Department of Homeland Security customs official upon arrival, 'Umm, do you have anything illegal with you?'  Seriously, it was asked exactly like that.  I had to pause for a few seconds for the question to sink in before I proceeded to provide my non-sarcastic response.  It was tough.  
I started seeing these signs as I was approaching the US border so I decided to take full advantage of the situation by stripping down buck-naked to ride my bike without any hassle what-so-ever, it was great.
My cookie cutter cabin for a night in Ajo, Arizona

Some serious l-o-v-e was happening while filling up at this gas station

After arriving back to the US, I figured it would be a cake walk home.  I didn't want to let my guard down while on the road, but I figured I'd been through the more challenging situations while in Mexico and Central America. 

I was wrong. 

I encountered winds between Arizona and southern California that almost blew me clear off the road.  It was roughly 2 hours of hell where I was even reluctant to stop as it was blowing so hard.  Then, I ran out of gas.  The first time in my entire trip I had to hit reserve on my bike (when you run out on a moto, you have a 'reserve' that you can switch to which gives you a few more kms).  Luckily my reserve got me to the next gas station.  By the time I arrived back to Encinitas, California, I was ready to sit, chill, and decompress.  I headed straight to Pannikin, sat in the sun with an expresso and tried to put things back in perspective. 

Pannikin Coffee and Tea in Encinitas, CA is in an old Santa Fe Railroad station built in 1888

Hot off the press!  The recent talk of Encinitas is the infamous and very recent Surfing Madonna mural under a trestle in the city.  I guess it appeared unannounced a few weeks ago.  I read an article about this mural while I was in Mexico about a week ago and I was keen to check it out if it was still on the trestle.  Once arriving to California en route to my friend's house, I found the location of the mural and snapped these photos.  By the sounds of a recent MSN article <here<, the mural is going to be taken down as it is looked at by officials as a type of graffiti as it wasn't sanctioned by the city.   Too bad as it is very beautiful and I'm sure took a great deal of work.  Back to the land of rules I guess. 

The Surfing Madonna mural in Encinitas, California - slated for removal

Very intricate and detailed with tile and glass mosaic
More surf-art at the Patagonia store in Cardiff.

Hang-Loose California!

I personally received the traditional Hawaiian hang loose at least 4 times that I can remember while cruising both in, and out of Southern California with my board strapped to my bike.  The first instance was on the #5 freeway between San Diego and LA.  A shiny Lexus passed me and the driver proceeded to pump his fist out of the sunroof in hang-loose-fashion at me over and over again.  I started smiling, waved back at him and gave him a verbal thanks as he carried on - not that he could hear me as we were both rolling over 60mph.  The other few instances were in passing while either on the PCH heading out of town, or on a variety of freeways while working my way north to Las Vegas.  The bottom line is that Californians are stoked for surfing and were excited to see a dude on a motorcycle with a surfboard.  Thanks California!    

My yard sale at Andy and Nicole's in Encinitas.
I spent 3 nights in Encinitas with my friends Andy and Nicole, the same place I spent 3 nights on my way south before I headed into the Baja.  They are fantastic hosts and it was really great to be with friends, to cook meals, to do my own laundry and to get things sorted before my final push home.  This was the first time since being with my Dad in Cabo over 2 months ago where I was able to spend time in a home, in a familiar, comfortable environment with people I knew.  It was fantastic.  I ended up staying 3 nights, got some amazing rest and now my bike is lighter for the last stretch.  I packed up a box of stuff to ship home which included travel guides, some clothes and other items I wouldn't need on my trip back to BC.

The Las Vegas Strip

'Viva Las Vegas!'

Caesar's Palace fountain

Caesar's Palace exuberance

'You can't win if you don't play'... I managed to win $65 on a 4 of a kind!  Then I pulled in another $50 at a Blackjack table - my winnings will pay for my fuel to get home.

'Look Ma, free drinks when you gamble, who knew!?'

Loading up the bike to head north out of Vegas - views from my plush $29.99 motel digs
South of Caliente, Nevada


I was jumping for joy today for a couple of reasons.  

1.  I'm getting closer and closer to home
2.  Seeing snow in the mountains makes me happy 
3.  I no longer have sweat beading down from areas on the body I didn't think one could acquire sweat

Next up...


That's right...


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Snap-Shots and Captions-Captain.

The road from Durango to Mazatlan was a stretch that I didn't want to miss... 300+kms of twisty, mountain fun on a motorcycle (and well deserved after all those straight, boring toll-roads as of late)

Hotel Plaza Cathedral in Durango - situated on a pedestrian road closed to traffic

I rode my moto right down the pedestrian-only road, past some Policia and right into the hotel lobby for the night, I love Mexico!

Main Lobby - Hotel Plaza Cathedral in Durango, Mexico.

The first 100km of road between Durango and Mazatlan heading West brings you high into pine covered forests and logging country, I felt like I was back home in BC.

This wasn't the Mexico I was used to.

TREES with bark and needles!

Quick pit-stop on the side of the highway for a hot bevy-warm-up... I was freezing at ~2800m.

Starting the decent of the El Espinazo del Diablo between Durango and Mazatlan MEX.  No more snap-shots as I was having too much fun riding this amazing stretch of road.  200+ kms of pure-incredible. 

Back to the Pacific!  Playa Olas Altas - Mazatlan Viejo.

'When in Rome'... or Mazatlan, I figured to be a true tourista... I'd have to get a lift in one of these babies!

Luis, my driver, putting a hint of petrol in his VW tourist-mobile.... 'muy economico!', he says.

Cruising Mazatlan in style, or I should say, just like all the other tourists.


Living the dream...

Back to the Pacific Coast to Tourist-Ville-Mexico.

Mazatlan, Mexico.

Views from my $32 Mazatlan room - muscled it down from $45

Rolled 30K on Rojo heading up the Pacific Coast

'Under the Mango-Tree' - time for oil-change number 3 in a deserted RV Park - San Carlos, Mexico.

San Carlos, Mexico - Snowbird haven, but they had all flown back home, the RV Parks were deserted.
San Carlos, Mexico - just north of Guaymas, roughly ~450kms from the US border.  Another day or two and I'll be back into the US of A with 15 borders down and only 1 to go.