Around the States in 60 Days....ish.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Bambooda, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. MotoVentures

    MotoVentures Stromaholic

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2013
    Oddometer:
    505
    Location:
    Rocky Mountain High
    Enjoying your adventure - ride safe!
    #61
  2. Byah

    Byah Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2015
    Oddometer:
    59
    Location:
    Australia
    Nice update guys!!! looking forward to seeing more thru this thread!
    #62
  3. Bambooda

    Bambooda Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2013
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    Toronto
    COLORADO!!!!!! AAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!!! YEEEAAAHHHH!!!!!!!

    Man! Colorado was a blast! I have to admit, our initial planning of the trip had a very weak plan of what we were going to do in Colorado. Very very weak. So first off, I have to throw a big thank you to all the people who gave us suggestions and guidance of what to do there.

    So! After our last night in Moab we headed south out of town and then east on 46. As we travelled and began climbing in elevation, we soon felt the presence of the rockies ahead of us. From red, sandy, rock covered in harsh grasses and shrubs, the scenery changed to steep granite faces complete with green beards of various coniferous trees. It gave me a wonderful nostalgic feeling of being driven to the rockies in the back of the family car from the years I lived in Calgary. For Chelsey, it was the first time she had the opportunity to be exposed to the sheer might of these granite giants on two wheels. The first of our interesting roads was a 30km stretch of dirt road over the mountains in the Uncompahgre National Forest between Nucla and Delta.

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    Our first night we were hosted by @neepuk, his wife, and their bouncing-ball-of-energy daughter. Oh, and of course, their smiling dog, Shaggy!

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    The Following day was our first full day in Colorado. Once our bellies were properly filled up from breakfast at the diner @Neepuks wife manages, we hit the road toward Aspen, but more importantly, Independence Pass. What a Sight! It was a gorgeous drive up and the lookout at the top is worth the short walk.

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    Upon connecting to 24, we headed south until Buena Vista where we took a turn west back towards the mountin range and to cross Cottonwood Pass. A very easy pass which was a pleasure to drive at a leisurely pace. It’s paved on the east side and dirt on the west side. Very tame. The only time I could see it getting sketchy is during heavy precipitation. But even such, the grades aren’t that extreme it would really matter.

    We landed at a campground overlooking the Taylor Resevoir with a great view for both sunset and sunrise. That area appears to be a meca for ATV’s with trails snaking through the mountains in all directions. I hopped on the XT and went for a carefree cruise up one of the trails into the mountains. 20km round trip and I was back to the campsite.

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    As expected, We experienced some cold nights up there. It was soooo cold, despite Chelsey being all bundled up, even she got cold! :vardy It’s ok, once she had also put my new sleeping bag over hers, she was fine.

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    Day 2 would prove to be…”adventure” filled. In the morning we enjoyed a beautiful drive through the mountain valley following the Taylor river. After following that road all morning, we eventually turned left onto a dirt road. Cimaron road, to Owl Creek Pass. Thank you so much @Marc LaDue for suggesting this road. I think Chelsey and I both agree that this was the most beautiful drive we have done on the trip so far. (remember, I am writing this after having completed our Colorado portion). I think we hardly ever exceeded 50km/h on the road as it was such a pleasure to be on, it was going to be a shame to see it end. We lucked out with the weather and it made for the perfect drive.

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    We then continued to Owl Creek Pass and began climbing. Another road which was extremely enjoyable to ride at a slower pace, however, since the road is lined with pines on either side, there isn’t always a ton to look at. Regardless, an awesome drive. So here’s where the “adventure” begins.

    Upon nearing the summit, the tracks on the GPS make a sharp left off the road, when the road clearly continues straight. There is double track, and a sign with a map for “Stealy Mtn. trail”. Well, this wasn’t the first time Furkot had chosen an “off the beaten path” type route and we made it just fine out of the last one right??? Alright, let’s give it a shot.

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    We followed the GPS tracks along the double track and everything was going fine. I’d say almost going “great”. The trail brought us out of the trees and along the side of the mountin which gave us some spectacular views. However, after some sketchy spots and some more driving, we were met with our worst nightmare. A FENCE. “Private Property, No Trespassing” Yadda yadda, I looked left, I looked right… There was no way around this fence, looks like we have to turn around. No big deal. Just have to drive back.

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    So this is where I dun frig’d up real guud.

    Shortly after turning around there was a tricky little tight turn while making it up a little hill. And really, this was nothing complicated, just everyday trail riding type stuff. Shift to first, knees against the tank, lean into the turn, and gas it to grunt up the hill. But there it was, just waiting for me in the bushes…

    No it’s not a bear.

    THIS GUY:

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    My right Pannier fully and completely connected with the rock on the right hand side and whatever forward momentum I was powering up the hill with was absorbed completely in the partial destruction of my luggage. As I sit there motionless partway up the hill, I glance down to see what I had feared. The bolts ripped right through the side of the box from the inside, and the box only hanging on by the 2 removable screws at the top. With it still hanging on, I corrected myself and got to the other side of the hump.

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    :becca

    Never leave home without your rope, kids!!!

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    Using 30ft of paracord, I lashed that sucker against the rack frame. (I learned this trick in Alaska!!! :D [http://advrider.com/index.php?threa...-alaska-and-back.885952/page-4#post-21506468]). Luckily, having bought a TIG welder earlier in the year, I made my own racks. And I made them as tough as I could. Having almost completely destroyed one of my racks on the way to Alaska on a single low-speed get-off in the sand, I didn’t want history to repeat itself. I was happy to see that the rack remained intact and without any noticeable deformation.

    Up to this point I still have the box tied on. There are 3 holes in the box where the bolts used to be, and I’m a bit worried about spray from the tire getting in there, but the weather has been on our side so far. Once I make it somewhere I can get my hands on the materials required to fix it and some shop tools (Any offers?? ;D going through Vegas soon!), I will report on how I went about the repair.

    With the box strapped on, we made it to Ouray and went out for dinner. I wasn’t in the mood for cooking…

    The THIRD DAY!

    Today! THE ALPINE LOOP!!!

    With the pitter-patter of rain on the tent, we awoke to set out for one of our most anticipated days. We skipped cooking breakfast in the rain and grabbed some breakfast burritos at a cafe on the main strip. As we peered out the front window at the rain, we wondered if it was really a wise idea to challenge Engineer Pass on a day like today. We saw some breaks in the clouds, so we figured that we would give it a fair attempt. The rain wasn’t all bad, on our way out of town we were presented with one of the clearest rainbow either of us have ever witnessed.

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    Following the tracks, we turned off the highway towards the gravel road which ascended the mountain. I sat at the bottom looking up. I started laughing. This was going to be a battle. For myself, I had confidence I could flop the KLR up anything we came across. However, I knew that for Chelsey this was going to be a serious struggle. We heard only the first 2 miles were really bad though.

    We sat there looking at the loose rocks and sharp rock ledges, glistening from the gentle drizzle.

    “You sure you want to do this, Chelsey?”

    “Yeah… I think so…”

    “You sure, sure???”

    “Yeah, I want to at least try”

    And with that, we started putting our way up the pass. In a matter of about 300 ft, we reached the first section where I told Chelsey to stop.

    “I’ guess I’m riding your bike up this, eh?”

    “Hahaha yuuuuup”, replied Chelsey

    She got off her bike and started walking up. I bounced the KLR up, got off, walked down and hopped on the XT. Zig-zagging that bike through the obstacles, and up the ledges made me realize that I think I want my next adventure bike to be even smaller and lighter than the KLR. (DR650 maybe??, but that’s a discussion for another time).

    As we continued up the pass, it wasn’t long until I hear in my headset.

    “Agh! AAGHHH! OOF” *Crash*

    I turn around to see Chelsey and her bike toppled over on the ground. She gets up and starts struggling to pick the bike up, feet slipping on the rocks and the bike drifting away from her as she's lifting. Once I find a place my bike will stand on its own, I hop off and jog down to help her. We get her bike up, and after she's able to get her breath, Chelsey hops on the bike. We're now maybe 1000ft up the pass. We cruise up for about another 1000/2000ft until again:

    "AGGHH, NOO!" *crash*. Chelsey tips over again. I search for a place to stand the bike, and I walk down to help her.

    "Let me drive up this section, it looks pretty nasty"

    Still out of breath, Chelsey starts walking. I drive the bike a fair distance, passing my parked bike to a section that I think shouldn't be a problem for Chelsey. At this point, I'm getting tired of picking up bikes and Chelsey clearly appears dissapointed and guilty for making me run back and forth between bikes in order to leap-frog them up the hill. I get on my bike and catch up to the location of where I parked Chelsey's bike. I'm waiting ahead of her bike waiting for her to walk up the road and make it to her bike. Upon getting to her bike, she swings a leg up to get on:

    "NOO, NO NO NO N!" *Crash*

    At this point I'm getting very frustrated. "Seriously!!?!??".

    I haven't even started my bike yet, so I hop off and walk down to help.

    "Ok, that's it! We're going back down!", as I lift her bike and point it down hill.

    "NO! I want to make it!"

    At that point, I knew she wasn't just doing this for me. She wasn't doing it to impress me, or because I wanted to do it, or because she felt pressured into doing it. She REALLY wanted to get up this mountain on 2 wheels.

    So it had been decided. One way or another, we were going to get to the top of this damn mountain. Together.

    For the remainder of the earlier difficult section we took short bursts up the road and stopped to asess whether I should drive her bike forward or not. Occasionally, I would drive her bike while she was still on it (A little cozy for the two of us considering her duffel bag covered part of the seat) and other times we felt it best if I did it alone.

    After the first 2 miles, as promised, the road turned into a relatively tame gravel road. We worked out a system where I would drive around 100-150ft infront of her and give her a heads up on the condition of the road "after this right hand turn, shift over to the left tire track, once you go over the hump, move back over to the right" etc... If there was ever a section we felt would be too difficult, I would suggest that she stop and we would do the whole leap-frog thing.

    At around 9,000 ft, the rain turned into snow. Wet, heavy, flakes clung to our visors and forced us to ride with our helmets open. The wind burned, and visibility became poor, but it failed to dampen our enthusiathsm for getting up the hill.

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    As we neared the summit, we broke out of the clouds and were presented with astonishing views of the valleys below. It was a triumphant momment and I was so proud of Chelsey for pushing through despite the struggle. We communicated, worked together and we made it up.

    So at the top of Engineer Pass, I did what any reasonable boyfriend would do.



    I proposed.



    And she said yes! Woot woot! :D :D :D :clap

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    But here's the thing. I didn't have a ring! So prior to springing the question I knelt beside the bike and pretended to be working on something. At that time, I had crafted a ring out of the brass wire I carry in my backpack for trail repairs (more uses than just fixing bikes, eh!?!?). It ain't perfect. But it did the trick!
    And with that, as an engaged couple, we cruised down the backside of engineer pass (which was waaaayyyy easier) and towards cinnamon pass.

    The sun was now out and we made our way over cinnamon pass. There were a couple times we did the leap-frog thing, but not nearly as much as on Engineer Pass. As always, the views were spectacular, and it was neat to learn about all the activity on the mountain which was the reason the pass existed.

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    We sailed out of the mountains into Durango and pitched a tent for the night. Not much of a celebration in the evening as we were both exhausted from the ride.

    However, I think for both of us, it has been the most rewarding day of the trip!

    Back to UTAH!
    #63
  4. NOTAGAIN

    NOTAGAIN Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2014
    Oddometer:
    133
    Location:
    Eastern WA
    :clap
    YEA! Congrats to both of you!
    #64
    IronBack likes this.
  5. humancertainty

    humancertainty Turn it on. Turn it up. Turn me loose.

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,082
    Location:
    Chicago
    Congratulations! I'm so happy for you both.
    #65
    IronBack likes this.
  6. another bagel

    another bagel n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1
    congratulations on your engagement. You guys are having an amazing ride, love the pictures and especially the story leading up to your engagement.
    #66
    IronBack likes this.
  7. Byah

    Byah Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2015
    Oddometer:
    59
    Location:
    Australia
    Congrats guys!!!!! Beautiful ADV tour through the states with the person you love and an engagement! Must be so happy!!!
    #67
    IronBack likes this.
  8. Marc LaDue

    Marc LaDue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    392
    Location:
    Hancock Township, Plymouth County, Iowa
    Dr. Laura would be so proud of you,

    All you need now is a date!

    Congrats on the lower section of Engineer's Pass Chelsea; one of the NUTS turned back there a few years ago because it was rough as a cob, but not you!
    Should be smooth sailing from here on out regarding level of difficulty. Great reading by the way; rarely has so much romance crept in to a narrative on this site, but it's a welcome divergence from the norm.

    Keep up the good work and Jeff, let me know if you want to borrow my Great Basin from Giant Loop for the rest of your "engagement endeavor"; this soft luggage system tends to be more forgiving with visually-challenged riders & rocks.

    LaDue
    #68
    IronBack likes this.
  9. Mr. Bagel

    Mr. Bagel Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    15
    #69
  10. Mr. Bagel

    Mr. Bagel Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    15
    Congrats. We are both so happy for you two.
    #70
  11. JakesDad

    JakesDad Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2016
    Oddometer:
    39
    That actually a pretty cool looking ring. GJ on the successful proposal!
    #71
  12. Max Wedge

    Max Wedge ADVenture mowing

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,167
    Location:
    Lwr Mi
    WAY better engagement story than I have. Better than any one I have heard too, now that I think about it.
    #72
  13. MotoVentures

    MotoVentures Stromaholic

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2013
    Oddometer:
    505
    Location:
    Rocky Mountain High
    CONGRATULATIONS! That is so awesome that you made it, and made it together!
    #73
    Finkie likes this.
  14. XTtracer

    XTtracer XT500 rider

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2013
    Oddometer:
    1
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Hi Jeff, hi Chelsey,
    This is Peter from Switzerland, your buddy from the Alaska Ride 2013. CONGRATULATIONS to you both great young people! Following your ride since the beginning. Great to see how you are climbing the highest mountains against all odds.
    Finished my dream ride these days (6 weeks around the Baltic Sea 2016 by XT500 through whole Scandinavia to the Northcape, Russia, the Baltic States, Poland and Germany).
    Wish you all the best for the rest of your great ride! Have fun!
    Take care,
    Peter
    #74
  15. GISdood

    GISdood Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    831
    Location:
    Prince George, BC
    Congratulations!!
    #75
  16. torch

    torch Solo Trecker

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    151
    Location:
    south west michigan
    Congratulations!
    But we thought this was an eventuality anyhow.
    Bill & Ginger.
    #76
  17. Carl Stark

    Carl Stark Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    69
    Location:
    Sheridan WY
    She REALLY wanted to get up this mountain on 2 wheels.




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    So at the top of Engineer Pass, I did what any reasonable boyfriend would do.



    I proposed.



    And she said yes! Woot woot! :D :D :D :clap

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    And with that, as an engaged couple, we cruised down the backside of engineer pass (which was waaaayyyy easier) and towards cinnamon pass.

    However, I think for both of us, it has been the most rewarding day of the trip!



    Congratulations to both of you! What a great story! I had tears of joy for you! Chelsey,, I think you received a much better "inspirational speech" than I got! Many years of safe and fun filled miles!
    Carl and Jonnie
    #77
  18. IronBack

    IronBack n00b

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2013
    Oddometer:
    8
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Thanks Jonnie!! The important thing is that we both got back on the bike, right?
    #78
  19. Bambooda

    Bambooda Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2013
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    Toronto
    Hello again! Chelsey here – we both wanted to take a moment to say a huge thank you to everyone who has given us their well wishes and congratulations, we really appreciate it!

    Back to our regular scheduled programming:

    After leaving Durango, we headed back into Utah and drove along Valley of the Gods road. It was a dirt road, but was very easy and could be done by anyone. It was a beautiful drive with huge rock formations reaching for the sky on all sides.

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    We also did the fantastic switchback section near the end of Valley of the Gods road called Moki Dugway. Although some of the switchbacks are sharp, the turns are all paved so we found this to be a very easy road as well. It was incredible that you literally cannot see the road carved into the wall of rocks when looking up at the road from the bottom. The views from the top are quite exceptional.

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    The road continues on past the switchback section, but this was not the right way for us so we turned around and did the switchbacks again! :D

    We then headed for Antelope Canyon. This canyon is not accessible unless you take a walking tour, and I had heard great things so we decided to give it a go. You can do the fancy photography tours for upwards of $60 each, but we opted for the more budget-friendly $20 version instead in the lower canyon area. I have to say, this was a fantastic choice. We were a bit hesitant that you HAD to do a tour to visit, but it was well worth it and the tour guides will stop at all the best photo stops to let you take pictures anyways so you really do get your money’s worth. The tour lasted about 1.5 hours and we were in awe at the unique carved out façades and the colours casted throughout tkhe canyon ranging from bright orange to dark purple. The water-like quality of the walls is due to whirlpools that are formed in the flash floods that run through the canyon.

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    Our guide was fantastic and was able to give lots of detail about the canyon formations and point out all the “sculptures” that are throughout the canyon. Jeff was thrilled he got to see the Windows 7 “wave” background and got a picture of it. Good thing his computer at work still runs Windows 7 so he can compare when we get home.

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    Once we headed out of the canyon, our stop for the night was Bryce canyon National Park. It was incredibly unique with the “hoodoos” that jutted towards the sky formed from sand erosion.

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    The next day we did some hiking in the park. We did the peekaboo trail and the queen’s garden routes and hiked about 13km in total. It was a beautiful hike, and as the peekaboo trail is a bit more challenging and further from the main amphitheater, it was also less busy which was a nice change from all the crowds.

    Along the trail they have these “benchmark” signs. If you find 3 signs, you get a prize from the visitor’s center. Since we did such a long hike, it was easy to find 3 and we cashed in our pictures for special “I hiked the hoodoos!” stickers that were a pretty great addition to our panniers.

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    We then headed out towards Zion National Park. It was pretty clear to see why this is considered such a special place as the scenery is both fantastic and beautiful.

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    We took the shuttle bus to the various stops along the park and saw the weeping rock (named from the water that trickles over the rockface), angel’s landing and the courtyard of the patriachs, with each point named for a different apostle.

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    Unfortunately, all the campsites in the park were full so we had a relatively short visit. We continued on in the hopes of finding a campsite or RV park, and eventually ended up in Leeds. We found al campsite using Google maps, but when we tried to find the road that led to it we were unsuccessful. It was getting a bit late, so we decided to just go to the RV park in town. When we arrived, the office was closed! Crap, what now? Jeff mentioned that he saw a guy with his garage open, a bike in the garage, and a Subaru in the driveway. Seemed like he would be approachable. So we turned around to ask for some help in finding a place for the night. Turns out his name was Pat, and he very generously offered up his backyard for the night for us to pitch a tent. I told him it was like a de facto

    tentspace accommodation! He also had a very sociable dog named Max who became my fast friend, so we pitched our tent and settled in for the night. The next morning, Jeff was able to change the oil in both bikes and we gave them a well-needed bath from all the dust they had collected in Utah. We then said goodbye to Pat and Max and continued on our way.

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    We then headed for Nevada through the Lake Mead recreational park. And boy, was it HOT! :knary My impression is that really, no one should be living in Nevada since it such an uninhabitable place. We took a short (and I mean, pull-over-snap-a-quick-picture, kind of short) stop at Hoover Dam. It was extremely impressive, but the heat prevented us from walking along the bridge for a longer visit.

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    We then continued on to Las Vegas. There are literally zero campsites in the city or in the surrounding area, so we opted for a hostel instead. We ended up right next to the Little White Elvis Chapel, but don’t worry mom and dad, we didn’t get hitched at the drive-through there ;).

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    We went down to the strip and I was in awe by the neon lights and reproductions of the various iconic structures like the Eiffel tower and Rialto bridge, which I’ve been fortunate enough to see in the flesh. The reproductions were astonishingly accurate!

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    And of course, being in Vegas, we headed to the casino to gamble.

    Disclaimer: as an accountant, I am extremely risk-adverse and, under the assumption I would lose everything, I was only willing to sacrifice $10 to the gambling gods.

    Turns out, I don’t COMPLETELY suck at the penny slots, and managed to win back a whole $4.72!!!!! Jeff seems to think that this doesn’t actually count as a win, but what does he know? :wings

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    We then grabbed some beers and headed to the social event that was being held at the hostel. SOME beers quickly turned into MANY beers and MANY beers soon turned into COUNTLESS beers and, needless to say, I was still hanging out with my new friends until the sun came up. :beer Jeff made it almost to sunrise, but we traded places in the bed when I stumbled sleepily into the room around 6am and he rose to change my front and back tires. What a great guy. His hangover then came into full force around 11 am and he retired back to bed as well.

    At about 4pm, it seemed just about time to wake up and get a start to our day. We traveled back to the strip and got some Whitecastle for Jeff and McDonald’s for me, in an effort to cure our hangovers. It was relatively successful, and we walked through Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio to watch the hordes of people at the slots and tables. It amazes me that these places are busy from dusk til dawn and for every hour in between.

    We got tickets to see Penn and Teller, a duo that I’ve always wanted to see live, and headed to the Rio hotel. The show was spectacular! I still can’t wrap my head around how they manger to pull off some of their tricks, and on top of that, the show was really funny with lots of audience participation. Great entertainers! (P.S. - that's Penn playing bass in the picture below):

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    We are now about halfway through the trip, and we were thrilled that we got to spend the halfway point in Vegas. Onto California, the state that we will spend the longest time in!
    #79
  20. Bambooda

    Bambooda Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2013
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    Toronto
    Once again we've started to fall behind - at least it's been exciting!!!

    Chelsey here:

    After heading out from Vegas, we began to make our way towards Death Valley. We encountered some high winds and lots of sand blowing on the freeway and Xena was not enjoying this stretch of pushing wind. It didn't help that it wasn't a very scenic drive...

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    We sadly did not see any aliens as we passed near the Area 51 district but we did get a good understanding as to why this area was chosen for atomic bomb testing - quite a desolate region.

    We finally made it to Death Valley and were lucky with our weather in that a cold front had moved in. We've been very lucky this entire trip regarding the weather! Temperatures in September have averaged between 106 and 114 degrees in Death Valley, but we had the coldest day in September at only 87 degrees! Can't say we were too unhappy about that as we drove through the valley at sea-level!!

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    We began our upward swing towards the Northern end of California and stayed at the highest elevation campground in Yosemite - nearly 10,000 ft. in the Tuolumne campground - quite a difference from the previous day in Death Valley! We've been so amazed on this trip how varied the landscape is in such small distances; it really is quite incredible.

    We were extremely hungry, and neither of us were in the mood for cooking, and I saw that there was a pizza restaurant in Yosemite Valley. Sounded like a great idea! Little did we realized just how MASSIVE the park is - and it actually took us about 1.5 hours to drive down to the Valley - which makes this the furthest we've ever travelled for food, probably ever. :dukegirl At least the views were spectacular!

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    By the time we started to drive back to our campground, it was dark. We had the moon (which was almost full), but no streetlights made it a dark drive back. The roads through Yosemite are very winding and there are some steep drop-offs with hardly any shoulders on the roads in some spots. We had a perfect storm scare where we were pulling around a sharp left curve and another driver was approaching from the other direction - with a steep drop off on our right side and blinding lights from the car, we both had anxiety as we pulled around this corner with no vision of the road - we could only see the yellow line up to the car and then just pure darkness. Once our eyes re-adjusted after a couple seconds, we were relieved that we were indeed still on the road, and had not tumbled over the cliff. (PHEW :thumbup)

    The next morning, after another cold night in the higher elevations, we drove back down to the valley for some sight-seeing. We hiked out to the lower Yosemite falls, but as we are so late in the season there was no more water running. We were, however, able to see the river beds and had a close up encounter with a young buck.

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    We also were treated to some awesome views of El Capitan, a huge rock face that had quite a few mountain climbers scaling the cliff. There were telescopes set up at the base for us to get a closer view of the climbers with some great information about the different climbing routes that have been conquered over the years.

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    We then hiked out to the Bridal falls and we were lucky to see a fine mist still making its way over the top of the rocks.

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    Once at the campground for the night we participated in the community campfire. :kumbaya As this year is the 100th year anniversary of the National Park service, there was a special campfire program surrounding the contributions made by Stephen Mather. He was an early NPS enthusiast and had a hand in establishing the NPS and developing the various parks into what they are today. He was against turning the parks into "amusement attractions" and turned down various ideas such as a cable car across the Grand Canyon in order to preserve the integrity of the parks. I personally am thrilled that this view was taken upfront as the parks we have been through are spectacular because they are still very much preserved in their natural states. It was a very interesting program and answered a lot of the questions that we had regarding the development of the parks and the standardized implementation of the NPS across all the parks.

    After a couple hot, uneventful days through the middle of the state, we finally made our way to the Redwood National park in Northern California. The redwood trees are absolutely incredible! 9-year old Jeff was out in full force thinking that we were really on the planet of Naboo in the Star Wars universe. We took the Howland Hill Road, an unpaved 10 mile road from Crescent City towards Hiouchi through the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and this was an absolutely beautiful drive. The redwoods are unique in that they don't have any branches for the first 100 feet, so they are able to grow right up against the roads without interfering. This was a very easy dirt road, and the old growth forest here is a definite must-see for views of the redwoods.

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    We also stopped to see the "Big Tree" which was a whopping 304ft tall!!

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    We began our drive down the coast and took a couple more (paved) scenic drives through the redwoods including the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and continued down the 101. Near the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, we took Shively Creek Road as an alternate to the 101 which took us up a beautiful winding road towards the villiage of Shively. Once we got there, however, we were confused about the road back to the 101, and a lady came over to help point us the right way. We learned that the road we had just taken was actually the villiage's winter road, as she said they don't have access to their summer road past October. Once we had continued in the direction she pointed us, we realized why. The summer road is not actually a road at all - it is just a temporary path across the river bed when the river is low. They had thrown a temporary bridge across the stream that was still flowing as an access point to the town.

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    Once we had crossed the river bed, we exited onto the Avenue of the Giants road, which runs parallel to the 101 but is a beautiful and scenic drive through more redwood trees. This road has multiple little towns along it that have developed with fun "redwood tree attractions" including the one log house, the living chimney tree, and the drive-through tree. We stopped at the drive through tree for a photo-op, but I was much more impressed with the huge truck behind us that managed to make it through. For us - it was easy-peasy! :D

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    We then ended up on Hwy 1 for some beautiful coastal driving. Our first view of the Pacific was breath-taking and we said "WE'VE MADE IT!!!!" :clap The start of the highway is very winding which was extremely fun on the bikes, but the RV's seemed to be having a hard time. Luckily the majority of drivers yielded to us so we were able to take the road at our own pace. The coast was absolutely stunning and it was amazing to be driving so close to the ocean - definitely a new experience for both of us!!

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    We took Hwy 1 the rest of the way down to San Francisco. It is easy to see why this was such a highly recommended road by the advrider community and considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world - it really was spectacular!!!

    We made our way to our tentspace host in San Francisco, and got our first taste of the steep grades and stop signs that engulf the city. Some of the grades of the road were really crazy and steep - we were in awe with these roads are and the way people manage to park! I guess they don't have to worry about snow - you wouldn't see these types of roads in Southern Ontario!! :lol3

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    We ended up at Goat Hill pizza for dinner, and on Monday nights they have a community pizza night which entails all-you-can eat pizza and salad bar. The pizzas are sliced into small pieces and the waiters will walk around to the tables and offer you a slice of the pizza. They had some really excellent combinations - Jeff liked the pineapple/bacon/jalapeno and the sun-dried tomato/artichoke heart/feta cheese combos; I was partial to the pesto/chicken/goat cheese and the pepperoni/green pepper/red onion combos.

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    Our first full day in San Francisco, we toured the city on one bike for convenience. We stopped at the Twin Peaks lookout of the city and the Chrissy Park view of the Golden Gate bridge, but unfortunately there was a lot of mist and our views were not that great. We continued towards Union park, and took the most expensive public transit trip ever - $14 for the cable car which we only took about 5 blocks to Chinatown rather than the full trip out to the pier (but it was totally worth it!!!). The cable car ride was a bucket list item for me so I was thrilled I got to ride on it.

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    We strolled over to Chinatown where we ended up at Hang An dim sum, which is the oldest continually operated dim sum restaurant in North America. The food was great!

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    We then walked around the downtown area to explore and took in the variety in neighbourhoods and people. We headed back home where we made some delicious red-neck tacos from the conglomoration of ingredients in the fridge. They were pretty awesome.

    The next day we headed to the cable car museum to see the history of the cable cars and the mechanics behind them. We were both fascinated with the way they operate and the finesse that is needed by the conductor to know when to grab and when to let go of the cable pulling the cars.

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    We headed to the piers and parked near Pier 1. We grabbed some lunch, and then walked along the docks to pier 33 where our ferry was departing for Alcatraz island. We boarded and made our way to the island, and were treated to some great views of the original buildings and signage.

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    The island has some very interesting history - 4 stages of life including a military fort, a prison, a protest site for Indian Tribes, and a national park with a focus on nature preservation. You can still see some of the remnants of the tribal occupation mixed in with the older history of a prison site.

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    We took the audio tour through the cellhouse, which was really well done and very informative. It took you through the history of some of the more notorious criminals like Al Capone and Robert "the Birdman" Stroud, as well as escape attempts and every day life. I would highly recommend this tour (audio tour is included as part of your ferry ticket purchase) for everyone who visits San Fran as I thought it was extremely interesting.

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    The island also offered some stunning views of the city and of the Golden Gate Bridge. I can imagine how the prisoners were tormented with the sounds and the views of the big city just over a mile away.

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    We were ready to head out on our way and said goodbye to our fantastic host Paige and her adorable dog Dr. Diego.

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    We found San Francisco to be a very interesting and unique city and were glad to spend a couple days there.

    Las Vegas was technically the half way point to our trip, but San Francisco really feels like a climax to the trip. From here on, we will be leaving the coast and heading East. However, we're a long way from home! There will surely be much to see on our return!
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