California road trip day 9

And that was it. Post road trip silence.

After a really relaxed final evening it was time to gear up for the final time on this road trip. Time to head home. The final leg from Olympia to the border was straightforward with just a couple of refueling stops.

The only issue we had was my comms headset failing. A couple of bent connection pins were found, but they couldn’t be straightened without breaking off. My fault entirely for over-enthusiastic fitting every day. We were down to one way comms, Elliot to me for the final few hours. It was now even more apparent the value inter-bike comms  bring to a long road trip. No small talk, no encouragement, no checking in. Just the occasional hand or head signal. It was a strange experience having been able to talk freely for the previous eight days, but we coped, simply just agreed who was lead, what certain signals meant and off we rode.

The big question would be how easy would it be getting back in to Canada? Easy for me, I was on my shiny new Canadian Passport, but what about Elliot? He had a UK passport and cancelled citizenship certificate. As it happened, the crossing was painless. Elliot’s explanation was satisfactory, he was back in the country and I quickly followed. 

One thing was on my mind, maintain concentration. How easy would it be to get within a few miles of home, let the brain switch off and pay for that lapse. Before heading away from Pacific Crossing, I reminded Elliot to keep focused until we arrived home. And so it was.

We pulled up outside the garage having travelled some 2400 miles, 3800 Km over nine days. And that was it. Post road trip silence. Engines off, helmets off, gloves off, brain off.

Both the Ducati and the Suzuki had performed impeccably. This road trip was twice the distance of my 2010 trip and Elliot had never ridden further than Squamish and back. It was a vey special experience that we’d shared. I’m pretty sure a lot of fathers dream of adventures like this. A motorcycle road trip on the west coast of north America with one of my sons. A very special experience, although it won’t be unique in that my other son is talking about where he’d like to ride to in the future. 

So, father and son still talking, bodies and bikes intact. I’d call that a success.

I’ve already indicated that another trip is likely with my other son at some point. Whether there’s another solo roadtrip or maybe another with Elliot before that, well, I wouldn’t bet against it. There’s something about being on the road, just moving on from place to place. Maybe there’s some past nomadic tendency buried deep in the consciousness that surfaces when one tackles these trips. Maybe it’s my way of shedding the 9-5 existence just for a brief moment, to appreciate the freedom that being on the road can offer. Having said that, my nomadic escape still requires a hot shower and decent bed.

 

California road trip day 1

Sometimes a road trip isn’t about the road or the views, it’s about the challenge and endurance.

Home to Albany, Oregon

The plan was quick route down, slow route home. San Francisco is 2.5 days.

That meant getting some good mileage in on day one when fresh. So, Saturday morning arrives and after a filling breakfast it’s on the bikes at 8.30, a swift fuel up and head for the US border. This was always going to be my least favourite part of the trip, meeting those nice folks from Homeland Security.

After a 20 minute bike push (note to self, air-cooled bike in long line will always end in a long push) it was time to face the questions, and with me travelling on a Canadian passport and Elliot on his UK passport, questions were bound to follow. Actually, most of the crossing experience was fairly straight forward. The ‘issue’ was on our way out. Guy on the final checkpoint collecting orange pieces of paper insisted that as I’d been in to the office area, I must have an orange piece of paper, even though I didn’t actually need one as I was Canadian. I was dispatched to the office. Fortunately the border staff in the car park had their sensible heads on, sent me back to the bike and radio’ed the orange paper guy to let me through. As usual, the absolute power that these guys have leads to some of them being the consummate jobsworth.

We rode through permanent dark clouds, happily there wasn’t much rain, and around noon it was time for fuel and lunch around Everett.  Having left kitted out for rain, we decided to remain in waterproofs. Good decision. We spent the next 110 km riding through torrential rain and gusting winds. Hard going but we kept chatting to keep the spirits up.

Time for another stop, this time near Olympia, Washington. Elliot was wet. His gloves could be wrung out, his sweater and t-shirt were sporting large dark patches from wicking water. A slow coffee break to refuel also allowed us to dry out and it was of again. We’d made good time, despite the weather. Sometimes a road trip isn’t about the road or the views, it’s about the challenge and endurance.

More rain, easily as heavy as before, then around 80 Km from Portland finally the sun shows up. This was a good chance for our rainwear to dry. Just north of Portland it’s time to stop again. Aching shoulders and neck are always a good sign that the physical limits are being pushed. Now we’re in blazing sun and gloves were duly left on the bikes to dry out.

Another 80Km and that was it, the end of day one. In to the motel, spread our kit out to dry and relax. Our bikes, Ducati GT1000 and Suzuki SV650 had performed superbly. Smooth responsive power, relaxed cruising, a real joy to ride. Tomorrow it’s another similar distance to Redding, northern California, with a Euro quarter final stop somewhere en-route.

Ducati GT1000

Despite me having the Ducati GT1000 for over 6 months I’ve not previously posted a pic of my summer cruise machine. So, here it is.

I’m not a hardened biker by any stretch of the imagination and how I ended up on a bike after many years of being a car only person is a bit of a story.

My only real experience of being on a bike came in my mid-late teens when I was a passenger on a friends bike a few times (a 250cc) and also had a go on another friends 50cc. To be honest I preferred having a car as I enjoyed comfort and music to the elements.

Fast forward to around 2002. As a one car family I was getting fed up walking and cycling around Maidstone where I lived at the time as Lesley used the car for work. Chatting with a friend brought up the idea of investing in a scooter for running around locally. Great idea! I decided to go for it and after some cursory research knew that the Peugeot Speedflight was the scooter for me. What I didn’t do was investigate the restrictions placed upon ‘new’ riders. As an existing car license holder I was able to ride a 50cc scooter around without taking a test, however I’d decided to go for the 100cc version of the scooter and this meant passing my provisional bike license theory test and taking compulsory training before I could even ride the bike and then, horror of horrors I had to run around with an ‘L’ plate.

I dutifully passed my theory and CBT and was able to buzz around Maidstone, and very enjoyable it was too. One nagging thought remained though. I was far too old to have ‘L’ plates. I would have to pass my full bike test to rid myself of the offending big red letter, but how?

I discovered CSN motorcycle training in Rochester and booked on to a short course on geared bikes to avoid being restricted to scooters (just in case). I decided to take the short course which would restrict me to a 33bhp machine for 2 years which wasn’t an issue as I was only riding a scooter. So, after a couple of challenging days on a geared 125cc I passed my bike test – the red L was no more.

It turned out to be a good decision to go for a geared bike test as less than a year later I needed to take the cheap commuting option which meant investing in a bike that would take for over 40 mph. I ended up with a Yamaha Diversion, a classic commuter bike. However, it was a 600cc machine packing somewhat more than the 33bhp restriction. The nice guys where I bought the bike provided me with a certificate of restriction, although the bike was left as was. This wasn’t due to me setting out to flaunt the law, the dealer simply thought that I’d be a careful rider as I wasn’t exactly in my youth. Correct. I am not a big risk taker on a bike. The bike eventually went after I changed jobs and went back to car ownership, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the fresh air freedom (in good weather) that bike ownership offered.

Fast forward to 2007 and I became a bike owner again. Yes, I had to retake my bike license again which meant theory, practical training and a full road test for a second time, just like with the car license. It was worth it as the summer was pretty good which gave me the chance to get out and reacquaint myself with biking. Why? Well, I have an aim to ride the west coast from Vancouver to, probably, San Diego within a couple of years and the Ducati is the bike for me to do it on. Okay, it’ll not be a Long Way Round or Long Way Down adventure, but it’ll be my adventure.

Watch this space.