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Old 04-30-2014, 11:35 PM   #1
freebooter OP
Joined: Mar 2014
Location: Australia
Oddometer: 16
Father and son, Los Angeles to New York City

I've always wanted to ride across the United States between LA and New York, and since I recently decided to quit my job in Melbourne and emigrate to the UK, it's sort of on the way. Sort of. So why not?

I quit my job in December and went back to my hometown of Perth for a glorious summer sleeping rent-free in Dad's spare bedroom and going to the beach every day. The plan was to go back to Melbourne for a bit to visit friends in mid-April, then fly to LA to buy a bike, ride it across the USA, sell it in New York (where my girlfriend would fly up and meet me) then fly to the UK together to start living in London. Easy.

I asked around here and was pointed towards James Tucker, who lives in Claremont, California, and helps foreigners out with buying motorbikes. It was going to be a solo trip, but while I was in Perth, working out all the nuts and bolts, Dad had an epiphanic conversation with a taxi driver (as you do) and decided he wanted to come with me.

The shit you pack...

We were planning to buy a pair of KLRs from the flea market by a guy named Cole ( who lives in Colorado but was storing them in LA, and after talking to him for a bit it turned out it would be to our mutual advantage if we could transport them to the east coast for him rather than buying them outright; he said he'd be tempted to hold onto them a bit longer if they were on the east coast, so he and his wife could fly over on vacation and take them up to Canada later in the year.

So we paid him a bit of cash, and after arriving in LA last week I went and picked them up with James and his wife Colleen. They've got a few miles under their belts already and come with useful stuff like seat covers and panniers, plus one of them is already lowered, which is good for Dad.

So anyway. I got here a week beforehand to sort stuff out, Dad flew in on Saturday and 24 hours later James and Colleen took us for a ride up into the San Gabriel Mountains.

In a word, amazing. Easily the best ride I've ever been on, despite the rough road surface. Snow in April! At times across the pass we we reaching elevations higher than Australia's highest mountain. And this is just behind LA, imagine the Sierra Nevadas!

This is my Dad, he looks like a biker.

This is me, I look like a doofus.


This is James and Colleen, who are amazing hosts and took us on an amazing ride. Thanks guys!

This. You do not get this at home.

Route 66. Everybody above a certain age back home excitedly asks if you're going to ride Route 66 and it's easier to just sort of nod than explain that it's only famous because of a song and is actually a pretty featureless highway.

I was actually legit jealous of Americans for having this kind of thing in their backyards. We went up to a place called Newcombs Ranch which was awesome. Whole spread of motorbikes out the front, from sports bikes to hipster cafe racers.

We headed off on Sunday morning but after getting some new sprockets fitted on my bike in Ontario and navigating LA traffic, we only made it as far as Buellton before sunset. Monday was better; it wasn't long before we were cruising up Big Sur.

It reminded me a lot of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I want to say the GOR is better, but the honest truth is Big Sur is... not twice as good, but maybe 1.5 times as good. That was it - that was all Australia had in terms of motorcycle rides, and you had to take that away from us too. Thanks America!

We're in San Francisco now and spent today doing tourist shit like Alcatraz and the cable cars (Dad was very impressed but I lived in Melbourne for three years so I'm glad we've got at least one thing over the Americans). Tomorrow we'll be heading up Tahoe/Yosemite way.
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Old 05-01-2014, 02:16 PM   #2
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"The beautiful stripped me..."
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Old 05-01-2014, 02:19 PM   #3
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Awesome ! Keep it coming. I'm subscribed. We just came home: Check out our blog right here: Around USA on Bmws
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Old 05-01-2014, 02:35 PM   #4
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Awesome trip ahead of you! Safe and fun travels.
Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded. Yogi Berra
We must look for the opportunity in every difficulty instead of being paralyzed at the thought of the difficulty in every opportunity. Walter Cole
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Old 05-01-2014, 02:56 PM   #5
Mike Yanagita
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Best of luck on your trip. Like the RR so far.
Originally Posted by freebooter View Post
I was actually legit jealous of Americans for having this kind of thing in their backyards.
It's heaven if you don't pitch it over a cliff or collect speeding tickets.
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Old 05-01-2014, 06:30 PM   #6
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Well done guys. I want to do a trip something like this in the US as well.
Marty F
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Old 05-01-2014, 06:41 PM   #7
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Oh yeah-I'm in. All the best on your trip!
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Old 05-01-2014, 06:42 PM   #8
Ol Man
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If you can throw in a route through Yosemite you will not be disappointed.

Enjoy our country.
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Old 05-01-2014, 07:30 PM   #9
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If you're still in San Francisco, head to the Buena Vista for an Irish coffee.

And maybe some
Pics of whatever/where ever
I used to be indecisive, now I'm not so sure.
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Old 05-01-2014, 09:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by freebooter View Post
I've always wanted to ride across the United States between LA and New York, and since I recently decided to quit my job in Melbourne and emigrate to the UK, it's sort of on the way. Sort of. So why not?
I like the way you think. I'm in.
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Two lane blacktop isn't a highway, it's an attitude.
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Old 05-01-2014, 09:42 PM   #11
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Watching! Ride safe!
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Old 05-01-2014, 10:20 PM   #12
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Keep the rubber side down
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Old 05-02-2014, 05:57 AM   #13
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Hats off; you're going to have a great ride
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Old 05-06-2014, 06:41 PM   #14
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We spent a day in San Francisco doing the touristy stuff – Alcatraz, the cable cars. (Dad thought the cable cars were neat but being a Melburnian I sniffed my nose at their inadequacy.) I’d booked the cheapest hotel I could find at the last minute and found out later that it was in the Tenderloin, apparently a crime area, and after dark it certainly felt like it. We walked through Civic Square at sunset and I felt pretty uncomfortable. Not unsafe, exactly, but close enough – and this is meant to be one of America’s wealthiest cities. It sort of made me realise that Australia doesn’t have a substantial underclass like America. On the amusing side, some Salvation Army guys setting up a mobile soup kitchen asked if we wanted a meal. Hadn’t even been camping yet and already looked like bums.

Anyway, the next day we hit the road for the Sierra Nevadas. After 150 miles through the urban sprawl of Sacramento we were once again in wonderful, windy mountain roads.

After Lake Tahoe we took a wrong turn and ended up at the state line, the sign being my first tip-off that we were going the wrong way. I’d previously said I wanted to get a photo of the bikes beneath every “Welcome to X” sign, because Australia only has six enormous states and I find crossing into a new one to be a novelty. Dad asked if I wanted to take a photo now. “No, because I was very careful to pull up short and not enter Nevada,” I said. You have to do things right, y'know?

Views amazing as always. California is God’s country.

We ended up in Mono Lake. This was the first night we camped. It’s kind of confusing; I’m told you can camp anywhere you want in any state forest or park managed by the BLM, but it’s hard to tell what exactly is managed by the BLM. Also sometimes they want permits which is difficult when you show up at 7pm and the ranger station is shut.

We ended up going up a creek and finding what looked like a semi-popular camping spot, with stone fire rings, and camped there. Went into Lee Vining to buy food to cook and the teenage cashier was vaguely reassuring about bears, telling us they were pretty much just after food and easily scared away.

On the plus side, the rushing creek water drowned out Dad’s snoring. (After the first night we spent in a twin motel room, I asked him at breakfast the next day: “Did Mum divorce you because you snore? Because I would have.”) On the negative side, Mono Lake is at something like 5000 feet and it was so cold that we were on the verge of freezing to death. OK, maybe not that cold, but it was definitely cold enough that neither of us could sleep. I had on thermals, jeans, a few t-shirts, a hoody, my sleeping bag and ThermaRest, and still couldn’t sleep because my exposed face was so cold. I ended up putting my jacket lining over it, but then was drowning in my own exhaled CO2.

We’d been told the Tioga Pass – the road over the mountains back west in Yosemite – was due to open the next day, but when we woke up, broke camp and rode past it, it was still closed. We had breakfast at a diner and asked, and they said it was due to open around noon. We figured we’d kill a few hours down at the lake, but when we rode past the pass entrance at 9.30am it had opened. So we got to be some of the first people to cross the pass this year...

...which must surely be one of America’s best roads. Or maybe I’m biased because of the snow and stuff. I wish I’d taken more photos, but it’s one of those roads where you just don’t want to stop riding. It’s beautiful.

Yosemite – not so great. Amazing, yeah, there’s a reason it’s a national park, but it’s one of those places (like Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Lijiang in China) which is seriously compromised by the amount of tourists there. We walked up to Yosemite Falls, paid $20 for a pair of sandwiches, and decided to keep moving. We'd considered camping there but it was booked solid, and in any case, fuck paying to "camp" in a lot surrounded by 200 RVs.

Kings Canyon was much more manageable – although we were about the same altitude as Mono, so we tried to book rooms in the lodge. No dice, but the clerk told us the general store was open for another 7 minutes so we scrambled over there to buy fleece sleeping bag liners. Dad jokingly asked about bears as we were leaving, and when the cashier told him that this was indeed bear country, Dad looked at him with an expression as though he’d made a really inappropriate remark and said, “Fuck off. You’re joking?”

“It’s California,” I said, halfway out the door. “There are bears everywhere. Everywhere is bear country. Get over it.”

Apparently a lot of them did indeed shuffle around camp at night, though I slept like a log inside my new fleece bag and didn’t hear any of them.

The next day we were further south, trying to cross the Sherman Pass. We came to a point where the road was closed with an iron barrier, but there was a side road next to it, and my brain (eager to find the most convenient explanation) suggested the side road must be the way over the Sherman Pass. That was how we ended up lost and riding around the southern Sierra Nevada for an hour and a half while the sun was setting. We ended up camping in a little waterfall gully, planning to turn back the next day.

The next day we looped south via Kernville and ended up in the desert. Still really amazed by California – that you can go from palm trees and beaches to snow-covered mountains to arid desert in the space of a few hours.

Death Valley was pretty neat. Then we were in Nevada properly this time.

Straight from the amazing splendour of California, into one of the worst rides of my life. It’s all very desolate and beautiful and that, but my God it was windy. Not since I was blown across three lanes of the Bolte Bridge and nearly went over the edge have I put up with such a windy ride – and this one lasted for hours, leaning 30 degrees to the right all the way to Vegas.

So we were pretty exhausted after that and got lost going up and down the Strip because the Flamingo is doing construction on its normal entrance, and by the time we finally found the parking lot were were fed up. Fortunately my good buddy Mike happens to be in town on business, and came by to visit us just in time to help lug all our shit up to the room.

He even ironed my shirt while I had my first shower in three days. What a fellow.

We went and had dinner at the Harley Davidson cafe, which Dad found quite entertaining.

James said that on your first night in Vegas you will stay up until at least 3am no matter how tired you are. Mike went back to his hotel at 10 because he’s sharing a room with his boss and didn’t want to stumble in late and drunk; Dad went to bed about 2am; I stayed up until 6 or 7 playing blackjack with a bunch of Korean businessmen and a guy from Ulladulla, and won $300. Gambling is not normally one of my vices but it’s surprisingly easy to let the clock go round while you’re getting free drinks and doing inexplicably well. I was fairly drunk and disoriented when I stumbled out onto the Strip and it was daylight; then I wandered up and down for a bit before remembering I'd been gambling in my own hotel.

Las Vegas is pretty amazing. I'm not sure what to think about it. I mean there's orphans in Africa and all that and yet we have a gigantic, unsustainable city of flashing neon leisure in the middle of the desert. It makes me either really ashamed or really proud of the human race. Probably both.

We were only planning to stay 2 nights here but booked a third because three nights of camping left Dad half-dead and he wanted a bed again. Tomorrow we’ll probably head east past the Hoover Dam and up towards the Grand Canyon, then I think just sort of across the southern Utah and Colorado/northern Arizona and New Mexico area, which seems to be where all the national parks and stuff are. If you know any good rides or anything we absolutely shouldn't miss around there, let me know!
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Old 05-07-2014, 07:54 PM   #15
Mike Yanagita
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Congrats if you leave Las Vegas with more money than when you went in.
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