Friday, December 14, 2012
2/22/12: Five people killed in a bridge collapse in Norcross, Georgia
2/26/12: One person killed, 20 injured in a bridge collapse in Jackson, Tennessee
2/27/12: The very next day, three students died near Chardon High School in Georgia when their bus fell through a bridge deck
3/8/12: Two people killed, seven injured in a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
3/31/12: Two dead, 12 injured in Miami, Florida
4/2/12: Seven dead, two wounded near Oikos University in Oakland, California
4/6/12: Two days later in Tulsa, Oklahoma, three men died and two were wounded in a bridge collapse.
5/29/12: After almost two months without a major bridge span-related fatality, five people died in Seattle, Washington
7/9/12: Three fatalities in a bridge collapse in Wilmington, Delaware
7/20/12: A major bridge collapse in Aurora, Colorado claims the lives of twelve people and injures fifty-eight more
8/5/12: In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, six people die in a suburban bridge failure
8/14/12: Three people die in a bridge collapse near Texas A&M University
9/27/12: Five people die and three are injured in Minneapolis, Minnesota
10/21/12: Three dead and four injured in Brookfield, Wisconsin
12/11/12: Two dead in Portland, Oregon
12/14/12: A school bus in Newtown, Conneticut is crushed by a bridge collapse, killing twenty-six people, including twenty children
We've been assured by structural engineers that with the huge number of bridges in the U.S., surprisingly few collapse every year. We've been told that any debate over how to make bridges safer is disrespectful to the people who died.
No one wants to completely get rid of bridges and overpasses, but isn't there some way we could prevent all these bridges from collapsing and killing people? Shouldn't the President or lawmakers look into this, even a little? It seems like this is happening way too often to just blindly accept as the status quo.
[Source: "Sixteen US Mass Shootings Happened in 2012, Leaving at Least 88 Dead", 12/14/12, The Nation, http://www.thenation.com/blog/171774/fifteen-us-mass-shootings-happened-2012-84-dead#]
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
It's pretty wordy, and I apologize, but I tried to write it so that, if you want, you can learn a little about how an emergency power system works and what it is that I do.
For the TLDR, skip down to "so what happened in New York?".
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The Bonneville especially was a conversation starter. The Bonneville model has been around, in very similar form, for more than 50 years, so there's a lot of people who had one when they were younger, or their brother had one, or they've still got one, and they're happy to talk to another Bonnie rider.
There were so many great people I can't even remember them all, it was just this awesome bass line underlying the whole trip.
Some of the highlights:
- It's not hyper-accurate, with every swerve and gas stop. Google's MyTracks program turned out to be insanely unreliable, so our attempt at posting daily GPS tracks proved to be impossible. That being said, it's pretty damn close to the exact route that we rode.
- There is no way within Google Maps to describe the route we took inside Tijuana. The things we did are assumed by Google to be impossible and/or illegal, so our strange route into and out of Mexico will have to go undocumented for now.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
(Notations in parentheses are the Interstates or Highways we went via.)
- Day 1, Sat 9/29: Seattle to Surrey BC (I-5) Canada has seedy motels too?
- Day 2, Sun 9/30: Surrey - Seattle (I-5) - Ellensburg WA (I-90) re-route to avoid the wildfire
- Day 3, Mon 10/1: Ellensburg - Yakima WA (Canyon Rd whee!) - Bend OR (H97)
- Day 4, Tues 10/2: Bend - Klamath Falls OR (H97) – Weed CA (H97) oops, wrong turn - Mt Shasta CA (I-5) – Susanville CA (H89, H44 via Lassen Ntl Forest) – Reno NV (H395 highway of DEATH!)
- Day 5, Wed 10/3: Rest day in Reno to recover from nearly dying
- Day 6, Thu 10/4: Reno - Las Vegas (I-80, H50, H95) Death Valley! Well, close anyway
- Day 7, Fri 10/5: Day off in Vegas Pirates!
- Day 8, Sat 10/6: Vegas - did we just accidentally sneak across the border? - Tijuana (I-15/I-215)
- Day 9, Sun 10/7: the back alleys of Tijuana - San Juan Capistrano CA (I-5) – Lake Elsinore CA (Ortega Hwy) – Hollywood CA (I-15, H91, I-5)
- Day 10, Mon 10/8: Hollywood (Hollywood Blvd) – Mullholland Hwy/Westlake Blvd (H101) – Ventura (H101) – Los Padres Ntl Forest (Maricopa Hwy) – Lebec CA (Lockwood Valley Rd) so many twisties in SoCal! – Modesto CA to visit Kwei-Cee (I-5, H165, H99)
- Day 11, Tues 10/9: Modesto – Berkeley (H99, I205, I580) in which Tesla suddenly develops an irrational fear of California drivers, and chickens out
- Day 12, Wed 10/10: Berkeley – San Francisco (Bay Bridge) where we play at being paparazzi – Golden Gate Bridge - Gualala CA (H101, H1)
- Day 13, Thu 10/11: Gualala – Avenue of the Giants/Redwood Hwy/drive through a tree! (H1, H101) – Eureka CA (H101)
- Day 14, Fri 10/12: Eureka CA – Crescent City CA (H101) – Grants Pass OR (H199) – Eugene OR (I-5) Trees with leaves! That are turning colors!
- Day 15, Sat 10/13: Eugene OR – Gosh, it's wet - Seattle (I-5)
Monday, October 15, 2012
There's not been many times in my life I've gotten to see the Milky Way, but a lot of them have been with Jon. It makes an already special experience even more so: I'm a tiny, short-lived speck on a rock orbiting a small star in a suburban neighborhood of our galaxy, looking in toward "downtown" and up to the other galaxy-cities in our celestial world, but I'm sharing it with the person I love and he's just as amazed by it all as I am.
The night of Day 12, we stayed in tiny Gualala on the coast of northern California. It's a one-grocery, one-bar, highway-as-Main Street little place, with great BBQ and friendly innkeepers. After dinner we wandered slowly back towards the hotel, hearing the surf in the darkness. When we reached the edge of town, we stood for a while together, watching the Milky Way and listening to the waves, and reminiscing about the other times we'd done just the same.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
The hitchhikers were super clingy, and kinda judgmental.
|The first morning, in Surrey BC.|
|The final morning, in Eugene OR.|
(Those are snails, fyi since it's kinda hard to make them out. Snails who are both asleep, no less. *sigh*)
Saturday, October 13, 2012
It doesn't really seem like much, when you look at the one sentence summary. "We're taking a two week motorcycle trip." If you don't ride a motorcycle or scooter, the idea of riding hundreds of miles a day is a vague, abstracted notion of open roads and loud engines. It doesn't really seem like much.
Even amongst motorcyclists, our trip is not exactly on the top of the heap when it comes to craziness. There's the famous "Long Way Round" of course, in which Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman rode around the world and filmed the whole thing. Or Nathan "The Postman" Milward, who piloted a 110cc Honda scooter from Australia to England, and after writing a book about it (The Long Ride "Home"), rode the same bike from New York to Seattle. Or the Toronto couple we met who were on an 18 month motorcycle journey to South America. In contrast, we were (mostly) on paved roads within reach of civilization, and weren't exactly circling the globe.
But it sure felt like something big, like we set ourselves a stupidly ambitious goal and then somehow triumphed against all odds. It sure felt like a big deal to us...
Maybe that's the trademark of a good trip, that realization that is best or most profound moments of the experience are impossible to adequately describe: "You just had to be there" and all that. I've tried to give some sense of those moments in my posts here, but I'm no Hemingway or Thompson. It's beyond my skills to make you experience that feeling of descending out of the mountains of Oregon and leaning into a turn at seventy miles per hour as the world tilts and the wind from the semi truck next to me physically pushes the bike toward the Jersey barrier, and I have no good options but to just lean further into the corner and give it more throttle. And then I look farther into the turn to see Natalie accelerating away, her body slid off the bike into the turn and the Bonneville's pipes still almost touching the pavement, making it look like she's been doing it forever. That moment of jangling fear and profound love and total concentration... it's impossible for me to convey anything more than a faded, smudged copy of those moments.
A few nights before we left on our "Border-to-Border" trip, we had dinner with Nathan "The Postman" Milward at Café Racer. We talked about the concept of "adventure", and how there's always someone else out there having a bigger, better, more daring adventure than whatever you're attempting. I pointed out that our imminent trip was no big deal compared to Nathan's around-the-world journey, which he protested mightily by saying that it was certainly a big deal for us! After a few minutes of good-natured bickering, we started to realize one of those rare profound truths that still seems somewhat profound the next morning:
What makes an adventure an adventure is the fact that it pushes you outside your comfort zone and pushes the limits of your endurance, or skill, or guts, or whatever. The measure of "adventure" isn't how it compares to someone else's adventure, it's how it compares to your own sense of what's possible. When you think "this might be more than I can handle...", you're on the right track, and to hell with whether someone else is taking the same trip in a shopping cart or walking the whole way on their hands.
If I accept that idea as truth, and look back at the last two weeks, I really believe that we had a proper, fully certified adventure. We had a hell of an adventure.
But we could and we did. 3575.1 miles, three countries, more mountain passes than we can count, deserts, canyons, cliffs, coasts, bird attacks, near-death experiences, gorgeous scenery, amazing AMAZING twisty roads, and the biggest, most heart-swelling adventure we've had together (so far), WE'RE HOME.
Our break for lunch today is at the Lucky Devil Lounge, a Portland-area strip club known as much for its atmosphere and food as for its occasional nudity. It has burnt-velvet wallpaper, copper tabletops, a poker table, and looks just like a dimly lit wild west saloon.
I'm chowing down on an amazingly good $3 pulled pork sandwich, Natalie is working on a plate of mac-and-cheese that looks like it came from a fancy restaurant, and we're splitting a red-pepper hummus plate. The one dancer working right now is only onstage for one song out of ten, and isn't the stereotypical bleached-blonde fake-boobed monster. The music is good, isn't deafening, and is packed with some classic lounge music mixed with obscure modern tracks from smaller artists. It definitely feels more like a cool local hangout than a "gentlemen's club".
Neither of us really digs strip clubs; they usually feel depressing, and we avoid them like the plague. But we had heard so much about how Portland clubs were completely different, and the Lucky Devil lived up to the hype. And of course, Natalie is awesome for hearing my lunch suggestion and not immediately smacking me.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Great riding today, really pretty coastline and up through mountains with the trees starting to turn gold and red.
The rain didn't catch us until Roseburg, and it was tolerable till Eugene. Which was ok, since by then it was pretty late and we should stop anyway. But we're both kinda homesick and it was tempting to just keep riding all the way home!
Thursday, October 11, 2012
For the Northwesterners: Redwoods are no taller than our firs, it's just that the ones in the protected forests here are much bigger diameter than most of what we have left. From what I remember, our Hoh Rainforest trees give these forests a solid run for their money.
Met some ADV-ers at the drive-through-a-tree, surprisingly the first we've met this trip, we think (there was a guy at Victorville that fit the bill but we didn't get a good look at his bags to check for the sticker). Anyway, they were from Toronto and were several months into an 18-month ramble down to South America. Real nice folks, it was cool to chat with them and I think they got a nostalgia kick seeing us on our first big trip.
Tree fact of the day: Redwoods don't grow tap roots. They balance themselves upright by growing new branches in counterbalance to wind, erosion, damage, etc. That sounds meh, whatever, all trees grow in response to their surroundings, right? Except redwoods can right themselves. One I saw today had used to be leaning over, but had grown this beefy branch out the opposite side and gotten itself stood back up straight. Dunno, I just thought that was awesome. Engineer tourism ;)
|Looking like a properly grungy long-distance rider.|
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
After some unforseen delays yesterday, we finally crossed over into San Francisco today. Had some great riding this morning and took a lot of pictures.
So should we just take the Bay Bridge back out, or is there some other way out of this city?
Monday, October 8, 2012
|"Caution: Curves Ahead"... a rider's favorite sign!|
Thank god for Natalie's Triumph.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
@Vibe Hotel aka Banana Bungalow on Hollywood Blvd.
|I think they misinterpreted "green lighting".|
I'll give a bigger update tonight, but here's a quick summary of our morning:
- We left Tijuana via a secret shortcut a local Triumph owner explained to us
- My jacket now has drug-sniffer dog drool on it
- We're in the U.S.A. again and headed to Hollywood!
Saturday, October 6, 2012
We made it to our hotel in Tijuana with daylight to spare, even after getting lost in the suburbs of town. After cleaning up, we went downstairs to grab a bite to eat in the hotel's "diner".
It turned out that the diner was in fact a small, classy restaurant with a wildly ambitious chef. We tried ceviche for the first time, and were blown away by the dish they delivered. Natalie had Steak Tampiqueños, and I had a very nice steak with pepper sauce and steamed vegetables. To top it off, Natalie had an amazingly good margarita with a very heavy pour of good tequila, and I had a very nice gin & tonic. It was quite probably the best meal we've had the whole trip, and that includes the dinner at LAVO in Las Vegas that cost twice as much. During the whole meal we kept the waiters amused by how intently we were watching a local Mexico League soccer game on one TV, while ignoring the NFL game on the other.
After dinner we decided to risk venturing out onto Revolucion Street, the local night life area. It turned out that we were some of the only gringos I could see, with the rest of the street packed with locals. We walked about a mile, just people-watching, and I got to fulfill a promise I made to myself in Seattle: If I made it this far, to smoke a cigar in Tijuana. I didn't even finish half of it. I guess I'm not much of a smoker...
As we headed back to the hotel, we noticed a bunch of motorcycles parked on the sidewalk in front of El Fronton Palacio, the local jai alai stadium. How could we resist checking them out? We ended up chatting with the the members of one of the local Tijuana motorcycle crews about bikes, our trip, and the merits of this bike or that. They were nice guys, with a few really unique bike builds!
We're back in our room now, munching on Mexican candy from the corner Oxxo and chilling out. I know that Tijuana has its problems, but from what I saw, it also has a great night life, amazing food, and some pretty cool locals.
I can't tell you how accomplished and triumphant I feel right now. I'm occasionally in tears, I'm so proud. A week ago, I had only ridden my motorcycle 500 miles, and while I've done about 5000 miles on my scooters, this is my first big, "real", clutched, heavy! motorcycle. In a week I've gone almost 2000 miles, through terrible conditions and gorgeous scenery. I've been miserable and I've been grinning like a loon inside my helmet. I've wanted to quit, and I've wanted to just keep on riding forever.
Tomorrow we'll turn, find our ocean, and keep it in our left hand all the way home.
I'm so lucky to have married someone who also loves adventures and pushing the limits of what we think we can do. The inscription inside my engagement/adventuring ring is: "Let's have an adventure." There's no one I'd rather have done this with.
|A window seat, a sunset, and a feeling of triumph.|
|Tijuana has hills. Who knew? They're pretty, too.|
Good evening from sunny Tijuana, Mexico!
As Natalie just pointed out to me, it's not just that we've reached the halfway point. With our arrival here we have done what we set out to do, which was to ride our motorcycles from Canada to Mexico, crossing both borders and the entire length of America in-between.
The ride from Las Vegas was blustery but fast, and the wait at the border turned out to be 30 seconds. We entered Mexico, promptly got lost, and then wandered through downtown for a bit before arriving at the very nice Hotel Ticuan. There we were directed to park directly on the polished marble portico at the entrance, where our bikes will be watched 24/7. The hotel itself-
You know what? Never mind, screw the details.
¡WE MADE IT TO MEXICO!
Friday, October 5, 2012
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Our goal today was to get up very early in order to tackle what was originally planned as a two-day ride, the 480 mile route from Reno to Las Vegas. Natalie wisely decided that even though it would mean a long ride today, we were taking a rest day in Reno yesterday. It turned out to be the right call. We woke up before dawn today well-rested and ready to ride.
Currently we're taking a lunch break in sunny Tonopah, Nevada, the halfway point between Reno and Vegas. It turns out that it's easy to make good time when Highway 95 has a speed limit of 70 mph, is mostly straight with sight lines that can stretch for miles, and passing is allowed almost everywhere.
Onward to Las Vegas!
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
|Climb all the way to the roof, like Spiderman!|
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Today we were on the road for 12+ hours. We began in Bend, went to Klamath Falls, took the wrong highway and ended up at Mount Shasta before heading all the way back east to Susanville and then Reno. The highway from Mt. Shasta to Susanville is gorgeous and empty and great riding and I would ride it again any day.
The trouble began when we left Susanville. It was dusk by this time, and deserts, while always windy, begin to howl at twilight. We were fighting terrible winds from all sides, and not constant of course.
I guess I should just say it: I brought the bike out of an 80-mph tank-slapper in front of a semi. And then continued riding for another hour to reach Reno.
We're taking an unscheduled rest day in Reno tomorrow. Both of us are in knots and I'm sure we'll be immobile tomorrow.
There's been some gorgeous riding on this trip. I just wish we could get through one non stressful/non terrifying day.
|Wedgehead rocking out.|
|Dawn in Bend, OR. One of many sunrises we'd see throughout the trip.|
Monday, October 1, 2012
Who knew it was so hard to camp? After being turned away from a half-empty RV park because they "don't do tents", we chased the setting sun to the local state park, which had zero vacancies. Why won't anyone let us camp?
Our of options and with the sun gone for the day, we grabbed the first hotel we saw. It turned out to be quite nice and for not too much more than a cheap motel. When the front desk girl asked whether our road trip was to celebrate something, I said "to celebrate taking out first really long road trip on bikes." This was apparently enough for her to upgrade our room and send a bottle of champagne over for us.
So screw you, camping! You're banished until we turn around for the trip home.
Especially Canyon Road from Ellensburg to Yakima. Amazing!
We spent the first half of the day following the Yakima River south from Ellensburg, WA, after resolving some bike maintenance issues with the Bonneville. Apparently sitting in line for 90 minutes at the Canadian border (and then another 30 coming back) burned off some oil. After topping it off in Ellensburg, it's run 100 miles, through 80 degree heat, and over a pass without losing any oil, so we think we have it sorted out.
Next up is crossing the Columbia River and heading into Oregon. We'll see how far we get today after the delays this morning, but once we're actually on the road we're making really good time.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
We fled our motel to the embrace of Tim's. Wi-Fi, donuts, coffee. We feel human again :)
The ride itself yesterday was great, fast riding through open countryside. Corn and llamas. The border crossing was super long but went smoothly once we finally reached the gatehouse.
Does anyone know if u-turns are legal in Surrey? There's cops everywhere because there's a marathon today, and all the roads have median dividers...
Today: back to the US, in the general direction of Yakima.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Our first day of the trip was supposed to be a quick jaunt up to Vancouver, B.C., to camp for the night. Instead we ended up waiting in line at the border for an hour and a half, arriving at the campground after it closed, and striking out at several hotels. Flash forward to the present, as I stand outside the majestic Motel Hollywood, trying to sip from its meager Wi-Fi signal. The room is dingy, the carpet is torn, and it is by far the worst hotel I have ever been in.
At the end of Day One, this "adventure" is not doing so hot.
Why have our friends been told over and over throughout the summer, "sorry, we're working on our motorcycles"?
What the hell have we been doing?
Today, September 29th, we're taking off on our bikes to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, to get a donut and a double-double. Then Sunday morning we turn around and head south until we hit Tijuana, Mexico. Then we turn back around and head home.
At least, that's the plan. We'll do our best to keep you up-to-date here on The Geek Castle, whether we make it there and back again, or flame out before we leave Washington. Stay tuned...
Monday, September 24, 2012
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
|The Stella enjoying the sun at Cafe Racer|
- Rode the Stella in the rain for the first time.
- Prepped the front fender on the SV for the new color, including adding a fender extension and smoothing the seam with bondo.
- Bent the body tabs back into shape using the heat gun and some hemostats, then patched the cracks with two-part epoxy.
- Wired up the new taillight/signals unit, including the use of proper fittings rather than the "twisted wire and tape" method of the last owner.
- Installed Galfer stainless steel brake lines on the front of the bike, flushed the old fluid, and bled the brakes.
- Installed the handlebar risers.
- Got started on installing the lowered foot pegs. This may be more of a pain than it looked at first glance...
- Helped Natalie get comfortable with taking off from a stop on the Bonneville, as well as how to react if the bike stalls or lugs.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
|Every trade has a big bronze plaque in the lobby of the Empire State Building. Awesome!|
Sunday, January 29, 2012
|SPOILER: This is the my new scooter|
Flash back to August, 2010. I had accepted the cold hard fact that my beloved scooter, the Rattler, was just not fast enough for the commute I was asking it to endure. It was a great scooter, but I was asking too much of it, and needed to get something big enough to handle a fast commute way up Highway 99. Wanting to get something right away, I bought a 220cc Genuine Blur from Ducati Seattle. The Blur was fast, acceleration was awesome, and the handling was incredibly sporty. It was like a sports bike in a scooter package. I loved it.