Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hospital Power Outages (Updated 11/1/12, 3/28/13)

I've been getting some good questions about the New York hospitals that lost power and had to shut down. Questions such as, "why did they evacuate?", "why did they lose the generators?", "did the electrical rooms flood?"  I thought I'd try to address them here, in one place.

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

B2B: Camaraderie

One of my favorite things about the trip was all the fellow riders I met! It seemed like every time we stopped for gas or lunch there was someone to talk to about bikes. Sometimes they would approach us, sometimes it was a mutual "hey there" across the gas pumps, and sometimes I even was the one to approach people. That's a big leap for me, usually I'm like "I don't want to bother them, they look super cool, they wouldn't want to talk to me". But I guess having the ice breaker of the bikes, and the "swagger" of being a) on a mega-ride and b) a woman on her own bike, gave me the courage to walk right up to other riders and start chatting.

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:

The Border-to-Border Route Map

Natalie had mentioned that we would be posting a map of our entire route, and here it is! There are two disclaimers though:
  • 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

B2B: Tesla's photos

I uploaded all of my photos from the trip to Flickr. Some you've seen in posts already, some not yet.  Here they are in chronological order.

B2B: Cross-country

I've just realized something astounding:

If our trip had been one-way, we could have gotten all the way to Miami, and still had several hundred miles to spare.

Somehow this makes it feel WAY farther.  o_O

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Video: The Mulholland Run

As promised, here's the first in series of videos I shot during the trip. It's my first attempt at filming and editing, so be gentle...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

B2B: The Route

We'll try to post the map soon, so the riders in the audience can check out the twisty roads, but in the mean time, here's the route in text form.

(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

B2B Moments: The stars

Back in 2005, Jon and I took our first big adventure together, a road trip to ride all the rollercoasters in California in a week. One of the best moments on that trip came about because of traffic: it took forever to get out of LA by the PCH, so we got up the coast too late to visit the Santa Cruz boardwalk. When we realized we weren't going to make it in time, we pulled over at one of the many cliff-top scenic lookouts. Using tiny penlights we made our way to edge of the cliffs, then turned off the lights and stood, wrapped in each others' arms, listening to the surf and marveling at the dense canopy of stars. 

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

The End of the Road

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.

3575.1 miles, three countries, two weeks.

It was an insane idea. Ride from one border to the other and back. We'd never taken our motorcycles out of state. I had only 500 miles of experience on a full motorcycle. Neither of us had been on a two-wheeled trip longer than two nights. I think everyone, ourselves included, kind of thought at the back of their minds that we couldn't hack it.

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.

Jon is a Lucky Devil

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


Tucked in to a monsoon-ing Eugene for the night. Tomorrow's the final push. Tomorrow night, our own bed!
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!


We're finally leaving California behind. Onward to I-5 and hopefully making short work of Oregon.

Tree Time

In other news, we rode through a tree yesterday. It was 50% cheesy, and 50% awesome.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Falling Behind

As we get toward the end of our journey, I'm finding it harder to stay current with these entries. It's not a lack of desire to communicate, merely a lack of excess energy each evening. Perhaps a few photos would do better at telling the story than I can right now?


In Eureka CA after a cool day all about trees. We'll try to shove some of the cool photos and videos through this tiny internet tube later tonight. Summary: lots of beautiful, tree-canopied roads both along the PCH and among the Redwoods.

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

In Gualala CA

Just a brief post to say we're here. A tiny seaside town. GREAT riding to get here.

We're Golden

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


We are in it.


Today we've already done something like five hours of twisty ├╝ber technical roads. We started with Mullholland, which is infamously technical, then jaunted over to Los Padres National Forest to ride deserted twisties over the mountains and across dry river crossings. We are so wrung out, we're actually looking forward to the straight lines of I-5!

"Caution: Curves Ahead"... a rider's favorite sign!

Secret Shortcuts, Drug Dogs & Beer Pong

We woke up early in Tijuana, knowing that the border crossing into the U.S. would be a long, painful wait. We set out from Hotel Ticuan, got in line about a mile from the border, and prepared for a brutal, sweaty morning.
Thank god for Natalie's Triumph.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"First" of the day: first hostel

I know not all hostels are repurposed 50s courtyard motels with free food, a tv lounge, a dance room, a tiki lounge, and everyone hanging out in the courtyard playing ping pong, foosball, and basketball while listening to the thumping sound system and trying to not knock over the rental bicycles, but if they're even half way like this, I suspect we'll be staying at more of them!

@Vibe Hotel aka Banana Bungalow on Hollywood Blvd.

I think they misinterpreted "green lighting".

Run for the Border

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

Ceviche, Cigars, and Bikes: Nighttime in Tijuana

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.

We did it! Two borders in a week!

This is it, Tijuana, the southern point of our epic adventure! We set out a week ago to ride our motorcycles from Canada to Mexico, and we did it!

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.

Viva adventura!

A window seat, a sunset, and a feeling of triumph.

Tijuana has hills. Who knew? They're pretty, too.

Buenos Tardes!

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.


Another "First"

I just had my first "animal style", "mustard grilled" burger at In-N-Out. Not bad, actually, although now I want to try the "quad".

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lemon Drop

For my scooter girls, a pre-dinner Lemon Drop with Bowie on the stereo.

Made with lemonade, no less.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Made it!

After riding close to five hundred miles, we have successfully arrived in Las Vegas. Not bad for a one-day ride!

Halfway to Vegas

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!

Sunrise in Reno

Headed out pre-dawn.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Circus Circus

Oh Circus Circus, you can always be relied on to be as tacky as humanly possible. Never change.

Photos, days 1-4

The "before" shot, look how clean we are!

Leaving from Cafe Racer, the only place to start a trip!
Stuck in border traffic. Canada's sure popular on a Saturday.

Finally earned my Canada flag! We have the flags of all the countries we've ridden in, emblazoned on our bikes and scooters.

For Zola

This is a hotel that is also the tallest climbing wall in the world! It goes right up to the top of the hotel. It's 164 feet tall and is right over the sidewalk and the street. Some day you'll have to come to Reno and climb it!

Climb all the way to the roof, like Spiderman!

On a Happier Note...

Reno is pretty cool! Taking a day to chill and be tourists turned out to be a great idea.

The Terror Train to Reno

In the light of day, it's clear that last night's ride should have ended about 60 miles north of Reno.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 4: Bend-Mt Shasta-Reno near-disaster

Let me begin by saying that we are both uninjured and that the bikes are fine. We are in Reno. Faint-hearted readers may wish to skip this entry.

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.

The Deschutes River

This is the view from the patio of our room in Bend. Not too shabby!

Wedgehead rocking out.

Dawn in Bend, OR. One of many sunrises we'd see throughout the trip.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

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.

I take back everything bad I've ever said about Eastern Washington

I-90 is not the way to see it. The canyons and passes are gorgeous.

Especially Canyon Road from Ellensburg to Yakima. Amazing!

Lunch Update From Eastern Washington

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.