Sunday, February 27, 2011

Right out of the gates...

... things ramped up...

I finally hit the trails Thursday morning (Feb 24) after 6 long months of prep and planning for this journey.  As this is my first blog post 'hot' from the road, lets settle into the picture below to see the trend that I am going to aim to abide by... this is my zone at the moment and life is very good. 

Little Rojo and Big Red in front of the Big R - Spokane, WA.

My KLR 'Rojo' was all loaded up a couple days before departure on Big Red, the flat deck diesel F350. My neighbour Tom (who helped me with various mods to my bike in addition to helping design and weld my surf rack) had to head down to Alturas, California to pick up a tractor.  It worked out perfect for me to tag along for the beginning of this trip and to get me and my bike to northern California to begin.    

We picked up Tom's good buddy Chris at the Spokane airport roughly 3 hours into our trip.  Chris flew in from Minnesota to join the road-trip.  This was the moment I said good-bye to my arse and all of the feeling it once had.  I entered 'jump-seat-zone' as Big Red only had 2 buckets for 2 guys and that made me the 3rd wheel for a several hundred kms.

En route south, Washington and Oregon were getting hammered by snow storms and the temps. were well below freezing.  

We spent the first night in John Day, Oregon before pushing on to Alturas, CA to pick up the tractor.  Tom was all fired up to get the Pasquali Italian built tractor.  It had been used by the US military at one point as an airplane hauler and then a guy in the military owned it for a spell before Tom picked it up.  Luckily, Big Red was able to accommodate both the tractor AND the KLR.

On our maps and GPS, the road from Alturas to Redding California looked like a piece of cake.  It looked as though there were a few mountains passes, but nothing a couple BC Boys and a guy from Minnesota couldn't handle, not to mention Big Red was rocking dualies with studs on the back.  The roads were some of the worst we had seen.  Heavy, wet snow that allowed about as much grip as driving on margarine... it was fun and Captain Tom was keeping it between the ditches magically.

The approach to Redding was deceiving.  It was snowing heavily and consistently until about 5km out of town.  I don't know how many times I heard en route, ... 'It never snows in Redding'... well it certainly was a couple of days ago.

I figured once we entered California that we'd see bikinis and hula shirts, hear the angels singing,... surfers, the Govenator, organic hippies and the good-life.  I mean, thats was you hear of the 'sunshine state' right?!  Not the case this time through.  I was donning my down jacket most of the time and thanks to Captain Tom, I still have it with me.  

Redding was the crux.  The moment of truth.  We unloaded my bike the night we arrived and the plan was for the boys to head north first thing the next morning and I would start my trip south.  We were sadly parting ways and all moving on.  Tom and Chris were up and out super early the next day.  I knew that I couldn't hit the roads until the frost disappeared and I was praying that there wouldn't be any snow, no offense to Redding, but I didn't want to spend any time there.

The morning pulled through.  It was California proper with not a cloud in the sky.  The kicker is that it was brutally cold.  I don't have any heated riding gear so I decided to wait it out until the sun warmed things up a bit.  I loaded up Rojo for the first time and fired the bike up.  It was slow to turnover, cranking sluggishly as it had been so cold the days previous.  I was pretty sure the battery was pooched.  Unfortunately on a KLR, you don't have a kick-start, so the battery is pretty integral in getting the wheels rolling without a push.   

Luckily it fired up and I was on my way.  It was SO amazing to be riding but I was having a tough time fully enjoying it as I was so cold.  I was finally able to get feeling to my fingers when I stopped at a cafe for a coffee and some food.

This was the exact moment that my true adventure south on my motorcycle began.  I was less than 100kms into a 20,000km journey and it all started aligning.  First off, the cafe had WiFi, I had my smart-phone in my pocket and I decided to check my email.  Low and behold, I received an email from a fellow 'ADV' rider mentioning a Kawasaki dealership just north of San Francisco.  I wasn't sure how far south I wanted to head, but my fingers were telling me not much further than the 100km I had already logged.  300km later, I arrived in Petaluma, CA and met Rivka, a fellow rider and an amazing soul.

I still find this hard to believe.  Rivka tells me that she knows the owner of a Kawasaki dealership if I need any last minute mods or parts.  I mention that my battery is hooped and when I arrived to Petaluma I head straight to the Kawi dealership.  They are 30min from closing and I first meet the owner Brad who is immediately keen to hear about my trip.  We try to stay efficient with time and we start working on the battery.  The problem is, the closed-cell, maintenance-free battery that I wanted needs to be 'trickle-charged' for 10 odd hours.  It is Saturday evening, the stores closes in now 15min, they are closed on Sunday and Monday and the battery is in the box.  The head-mechanic 'Tom' tells me that he can trickle-charge it at home and than I can come by his house the next morning to install it - the start of his days off. 
G & B Kawasaki/Yamaha in Petaluma, CA.  Tom starting to pull my battery 20min before closing...

My new found friend Rivka came and met me at the dealership, got directions from Tom for the next morning and then I followed her home.  I was bagged from my first day of riding, my bones were still cold, but I was in a euphoria on how I was being treated and couldn't believe how things were falling together.

Literally, hours before this moment, I had no clue what my future would hold...

Please click on this link here and continue...

San Francisco by night.  Rivka had to pick up a few things, so once arriving at her place, I dumped my stuff, threw my bike in a shed and hit the road south to San Fran.  One word to explain:  Un'Freakin'Believable!

I learned how to take night shots with long exposures, had a fantastic meal and got a personal tour of the city.   I must have done something right for this treatment. 
The next morning, I headed with Rivka to Tom's house to pick up my charged battery.  He had it all ready to go as planned.  I whispered to his pals at the shop and they said he liked Guinness so a case came 'his way' for going well out of 'his way'.  

With fresh juice in Rojo, it was time to take him for a warm-up spin.  Rivka was into a Sunday ride but as crap luck and bad mechanics would have it, she couldn't get her super-sweet Triumph Tiger started, so she hopped on an alternate bike and took me for a rip and some pics.  It was such a beautiful day today in the Bay area.  Warmer temps, crystal skies and nice twisty roads.  Good times. 

Anyone ask for a bad-ass tour guide?
My tour guide and new friend Rivka ripping up the track on her R1 - photo courtesy.


Thanks SO much to Brad and Tom at G&B

My KLR was handling well all loaded-up.
"I'm a tourista, which way to Petaluma???"

Highfives to an amazing day of riding and a nice lounge couch on the side of the road...

Tomorrow =  More riding.  I'm going to head to the coast on the roads in the above photos to Point Reyes.  Then, my plan is to go over the Golden Gate, through San Francisco, back to the coast and down to Santa Cruz to visit a good friend.

On the nostalgia-note, Santa Cruz is also the placed I originally learned to surf roughly 7 years ago.  I haven't been back since.  I can't wait to see beach cruisers with surf racks at the coffee shops.

Only a few more days until I fetch my board in Encinitas, CA.

Stay tuned, I'm sure there will be a few more stories...


  1. Good things come to good people. Cheers to many more amazing encounters like this one...

  2. Sick BA!!!

    it's starting to roll...enjoy the ride!

  3. Thanks for the post. You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!
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