In Which We Ride... A Scot and South African go Long Haul

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SuperSonicRocketship, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Dundee, Scotland
    ROBBED

    ***SO i'm a bit behind in keeping up with the updates. In an attempt to stay ahead of the weather we had to move south faster than expected... Then this stopped us in our tracks***

    So it finally happened, In Crescent City, California.

    The bikes were raided as we slept last night, slashed with knives and the entire contents, as well as the bags themselves, are gone.

    Police have a taken a report and stated that the chances of anything being recovered are essentially nil.

    We have lost our camping gear, clothes, maps, tools, spare parts, waterproof gear, medical supplies, and who knows what else.

    There's no other way to put it - it's a disaster.

    I'm not sure how to proceed really. I guess we need to make a B-line for for a big city and try to replace some of this kit.

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  2. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
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    689
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    Dundee, Scotland
    *** This is copied over from the FaceBook page, but i'll post it here for some continuity***

    Firstly;

    To those who offered us help and advice I thank you from the pit of my soul. The situation is still terribly grim... really grim in fact - but it's nice to know that strangers and friends alike care enough to offer a message of condolences. It means a lot to us whilst we are so very far from home.

    Secondly;

    Guys, please.

    I can't suffer anymore advice in relation to unpacking the bikes. The bikes were in a secured lockup with a manned guard. We took every possible precaution neccesary for this not to happen. The room we slept in was actually more public and less secure than where the bikes were located overnight. We have travelled extensively throughout various sketchy regions and cities and we know how to read our surroundings. This was not a lapse of concentration on our part.

    This was a raid that affected many vehicles and more than one property.

    The situation is akin to putting your cash in the bank, only for the bank to be robbed, and then have people to retroactively offer the advice that you should have just kept the cash permanently in your pocket at all times. It was not feasible. We stored what we could securely, what didn't fit was in the lockup compound, and the place was raided.

    The Police were aware of our complaint before we even reported it.
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  3. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Taking Stock.

    OK folks, i've had a tooonne of messages asking what's happening since the theft of the gear. I've barely been able to respond to even half of them all so i'll give a brief rundown of how bad the situation is, and what we plan to do next. Really, I just want to get back to the schedule of my regular diary entries, and enjoying life on the road again. That may take a bit of time, so here's where we are at since the raid on Friday Night.

    The gear that was stolen was mostly our camping gear, clothes, and waterproof layers. They took the tools as well as our spare parts, and of course the panniers themselves. At first we didnt relaise, but since checking over the bikes it seems that one of Kylas tyres has a slash accross the tyre wall and thus will need replaced. Also the thieves seem to have dealt a huge blow to the side of Kylas bike that has damaged the subframe support strut. To bend that bar requires an enormour amount of force so it's likely not been done by accident. The same strut also captures bolts that hold the housing for the battery and starter relay. Testament to Yamaha, the bike still runs. We are not sure if it was attempt to perhaps steal the bike too, although it seems unlikely.

    For non-bike people; They stole the stuff, then slashed the tyre and smashed the side of the bike for seemingly no reason.

    Why some one would feel the need to burglarise the bike, and then further damage it is beyond my abilty to comprehend.

    For the most part Kyla's bike was hit harder than mines. She lost about 75% of her kit, I lost just a few pieces, mostly the tools, spares and a few pieces of clothes. There is no other way to put it; She is completely devastated, and on Saturday morning was ready to give up. On top of the emotional blow, there is the practical side too. We didn't yet tally up the financial damage we have incurred, but it is likely an eye watering figure to us, now over 400 days deep into this story.

    So what's next?

    Well, likely a painstaking couple of weeks to replace all of kit and fix the buckled subframe. The camping kit we had was carefully selected, extremely lightweight and specialist gear. We actually had only just re-invested in most of it in Tokyo just 6 weeks ago. The chances of finding comparable gear off-the-shelf in American stores is unlikely, as this time of year is not the best to shop for camping gear, so far most stores we have visited have only been selling off unsold stock from Summer. Tools, spares parts, clothes, maps and waterproofs should be easy enough to procure in the next large population centre we can get to.

    Alot of you have commented or sent messages offering to send us cash, or make a donation to help us replace our kit.

    I can not, and will not, ever take a penny from you guys for what happened to us. It just wouldn't sit right with me. However your kind offerings are timed rather well for a different kind of donation - one that is long overdue.

    This entire trip was built on the principles of Charity. Each summer we do a fundraiser for the 2 charities that this adventure is in support of; The Multiple Sclerosis Society, and MIND The Mental Health Foundation. These are 2 charities that work on issues that are deeply central both to myself, and the lives of my family and friends. Our plans to do our charity fundraiser for Summer 2017 were put on hold due to Kylas crash in Siberia. Amongst the drama of it all, we decided to delay it for a while.

    So I will simply ask you this, and I will ask it only once; If you happen to have a few Pound coins, Euros, Dollar bills, Russian Rubles, or anything else for that matter, and you can spare even just the price of a cup of coffee, then please consider a donation to the following Crowdfunding page. Last years fundraiser in May 2016 raised £540, which was split 50/50 between the MS Trust and MIND. A showing of generosity that I am still in awe of. I had initially expected to make around £100 - a target I will use again this year.

    I do not expect any of you to donate if you do not wish to do so. Do not feel pressured or obligated in any way to send or do anything. I write my blog so people can read it for fun, inspiration, or just good old fashioned nosiness.

    I thank you for reading another disasterous installment at our attempt to circle the planet. I promise we will get back to regular updates in no time at all.

    P.S We have not given up on America in light of what happened to us. I can assure you that the American people are the most ambitious, unique, animated, and peculiar creatures on this Earth, and aside from a few bad eggs in the basket, I love every last one of them so far. A bunch of thieves in California will never lead me to overlook that fact. They do not speak for the whole City, State, or Country.

    As for us? We will persevere.

    Love,
    Brucie

    - - -

    https://www.gofundme.com/iwwr-annual-charity-drive-2017

    - - -




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  4. SOLOKLR

    SOLOKLR Back to work

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Green Valley, AZ
    What an amazing trip. I recently came across this ride and have now sat for 3 days hooked on it. I had no pictures until the very last post, so it was like flipping through a novel. In which I was able to travel around the globe. It was fantastic. I can not express my gratitude to you for taking the time to post this here, and also the embarrassment of recent events. If you come through southern Arizona, please let me know. I would love to at least buy you two dinner or a tank of gas. Be safe, and enjoy your time here.
    Steve
  5. dwj - Donnie

    dwj - Donnie Long timer

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    North Carrollton, MS - Traveling on the Moto
    Sorry for your loss! :cry
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  6. Cameleer

    Cameleer Europe, three days at a time.

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    328
    Location:
    Dubai, UAE and for now, London
    So sorry abt the theft, I only know the feeling too well as the same thing happened to me in Spain.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  7. juno

    juno Long timer

    Joined:
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    Wow! I am devastated and embarrassed to hear about this and I applaud you two for not giving up.
    There seems to be a trend of targeting small areas like that. My friend was a recent victim while building a house and storing some things in a very secure gated, locked nationally known storage facility that was targeted. 2 dozen units were broken into and cleaned out in one evening. It makes one wonder how that is possible.
    What is your current location and status of recovery?
  8. LightningBoy

    LightningBoy Waiting at the Crossroads

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2017
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    Sussex, UK
    Hi Bruce & Kyla,

    Really sorry to read about recent events and the theft of your kit from your bikes, it’s pretty tough losing personal belongings – losing stuff yourself is bad enough to deal with, having some low-life scumbag steal it is another matter entirely.

    As you rightly point out, you can’t let this incident taint your view of a country and people that you’ve only just begun to explore. I sincerely hope there will be light at the end of the tunnel for you both especially as there appears to be a really good, caring community here on ADV and I’m sure that there will be many people where you are now offering assistance and help in any way that they can.

    Looking forward to an update with hopefully some good news shortly.
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  9. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 433

    ***Warning, Extremely Long Post - Copied directly from the blog - 2 entries in 1!***

    Part 1

    Common Decency

    California greeted us in a astoundingly un-Californian fashion. A grey sky and a chill blowing in from the coast that carried a dreary fog with it. We stopped at the state border to take a photo of the 'Welcome to California' roadsign, but it admittedly didn't look so iconic in the wet.

    Our plan had been to enter California by the coast, and then make the short inland trip towards the Jedidiah State Park to make camp amongst the giant redwood trees. The way toward the park was a neat forest road that coiled it's way up into a deep woodland. Really it should have been a perfect nights camp, but that same fog that hit the coast soon caught up with us among the trees. The temperature dropped, the air became wet and the thought of spending a night camped on the wet floor just wasn't cutting it for either one of us. The final blow was dealt when the Park Ranger told us this campground took a $35 fee to pitch a tent.

    "We can probably get a motel room for that." - Kyla hints to me.

    She was right. A look over the map revealed a city just 20 miles away with a strip of Motels all offering late evening check-ins for between $30 and $60. We rode in to town to scope out the place.

    A combination of the rain, wind and cold, meant the streets of Crescent City were deserted upon our arrival. It's difficult to read your surroundings in such conditions. Is this a bad part of town? Wrong side of the tracks? Who knows, it's late - businesses are closed and shopfronts dark. We spent 20 minutes cruising up and down the main strip to scope out the options. Motels have a knack for all following the same blueprint. Rooms line three sides of a square and enter into a kind of a communal parking courtyard. Some are fully secured, some have a deterring fence, and others are completely open.

    We chose wisely. The most secure lot, with an outward facing room, 24 hour secured parking, 24h reception, well lit, CCTV cameras covering every inch of the place. Perfect.

    We chose our room and parked the bikes in the adjacent space. I made a point of making sure everything was visible from both the manned reception and the security box - barely 30ft away. I even got a prime spot right under a overhead spotlight. We took our bags into the room with our electronics and valuables. The rest we left outside. Ironically, on our short walk over to a nearby Walmart to pick up supplies for the following day, Kyla mentioned that she wasn't convinced that the security to the bedroom door was good enough - an old flimsy Yale style lock fitted to a thin wooden door. I made reference to those keys the Janitor had back at school. Strange really, that the parking lockup felt more secure than the room. We loaded up on camp food from Walmart, returned to our room and proceeded to have a fairly uneventful evening. I done my exercises, Kyla read her book, and we fell asleep to the backdrop of some surreal American cult comedy called 'Joe Dirt' on the unusually large motel room TV.

    I was awoken sharply the next morning, about 7am, to the rusting of clothes and Kylas panicked frolicking of the awkward door lock.

    "I think something has happened to the bikes." - Kyla screeches at me as she hurriedly pulls a t-shirt on and bursts out of the door.

    "Wait, What?" - I say, barely able to process the situation.

    Kyla ran out the door, and was immediately greeted with a rough sight; the lockup had been raided. The bikes rain cover was upturned and now rippling in the breeze. The floor littered with scraps of webbing and smashed plastic. Kylas panniers were missing, cut clean from the bike. I was missing a waterproof bag that contained miscellaneous items, inner tubes, dirty clothes, some medical supplies. Broken plastic was cast about the ground from some heavy blows delivered to the backs of the bikes near the battery cover. A helmet lock was smashed, a disclock was missing, a deep gouge to Kylas rear tire. Carnage.

    The supposed security was nowhere to be seen. 24 hour reception? Closed with lights off... The manned security guard at the entry? Nowhere to be seen... Overhead spot lights? Turned off.

    This was a complete breach of our arrangement with the reception staff the previous night. They claimed some kind of family emergency situation, which led to the place being left unstaffed overnight. It was a bold lie of course - the owner had seen the motel was barely occupied and had made a call to run the shift without security, likely to save costs. A practice I was later told to be quite common. Whilst mid-argument with the reception lady I was distracted by the the sound of distant police sirens. Even though I have seen the work ethic of Police the world over in regards to this kind of crime, and so before even calling them I knew it wasn't going to resolve anything. Regardless, I called the local police on the non-emergency line.

    They arrived unspectacularly. One cop enormously overweight, and another baby-faced officer who held a notebook and said nothing.

    "Lemme guess, you got your car broken into?" - says the rotund officer, before he had even introduced himself.

    "Motorcycles actually, how did you know?" - I say

    "Yeh, well, you guys were sure caught up in it last night, this whole end of the strip got hit, we had about 7 calls outs this morning." - He says.

    "Uugh really? What's the chances of getting our kit back? Is it even worth trying?" - I ask helplessly.

    "Ah the tweakers around here are pretty smart, it's a small town so when they hit the motels, the sit on the stuff for a few weeks before they kick it to the big pawn shop on Front Street." - He tells me in a tone that sets the mood of this whole town.

    We offered the officer a hollow thanks for their visit and headed back inside the room. Kyla was devastated, fighting back the tears. I was more shocked than sad, I never get angry, but the theft of your property is a wound that cuts deep. Especially when you are as vulnerable as we are, and now so far from home.

    We had a few options. Pursue some kind of legal action against the Motel? Ask about the town as to the whereabouts of our kit? Hell, Kyla had already marched into an alleyway and spoken to a few drifters on the kerbside - all of them had given us the same name. 'Mike'. A local thief who had apparently spent his entire life in and out of prison, his favourite stunt was to hit the tourist vehicles in the Motel lots, he knows the security is just for show. The local bums talked us through it; 'Mike' resided down at the local swamp in a tarpaulin hut, he had no teeth, nothing to live for, and was likely high on crystal meth or heroin. He carried a knife and a hammer and was a complete liability to anyone and everyone around him. Even the local homeless folks gave him a wide berth. The local Police don't bother entering the swamp area either, seeing it as a waste of resources.

    We toyed with the idea of putting a bounty on mikes head for the return of our gear. Kyla offered a bunch of homeless folks $100 dollars on the return of the kit. They salivated at the idea of it and promised to have it returned to us by 2pm. It was now 10am.

    As the homeless dashed off down the boulevard as an army of rusted bicycles and shopping carts, we retreated to our room. "How do we play this one?" - Kyla asks me. I came to my senses as the emotional reaction started to wane inside me - "Honestly, lets just get out of here, i'm not hanging around this hellhole, cutting deals with junkies and thieves on the slender premise that we might have our things returned." I say.

    "I hate it here, I want to leave" - Kyla remarks in a broken voice.

    Crescent City is the first city that greets visitors from the coast into California. It is nestled between a dense forest and the Pacific Ocean. It has no meaningful neighbouring cities. It has no industry, it has a huge drug problem, and when the wrong type of person finds themselves in Crescent City, they rarely make it back out. The drug death stats here are six times higher than the national average. It's a terrible place, and frankly, I hate it - Not my words, but those of a local guy who we spoke to outside the motel as we packed up what little belongings we had left and continued south. We had no clothes, we had no camp gear, we had no waterproofs, we had no morale, and it was starting to rain.

    We pushed on regardless.

    - - -

    Part 2

    Eureka

    The next city of any appreciable size from Crescent city is the much larger city of Eureka, also on Californias Northern Coast. To give you the quickest possible summary of this city I will tell you only this; it is ten times worse than Crescent City. It offers a broad catalogue of homelessness, drug addiction, miscreants, street criminals, and a general feeling of dread. Drug induced husks crawl the streets, the hallowed shells of young men and women, barely a trace of their former selves left - it seems few of them make it past 50. They rake through bins and skips for anything they can throw into their hijacked shopping trolleys. They sit partially conscious at the doors of restaurants and diners begging every passer by for cash, as if the soul had been sucked from them.

    After what had happened to us, i was finding it extremely difficult to feel sorry for these people. I was tarring alot of people with the same brush here, I knew it, but I was angry, Kyla was hopelessly sad, and we were struck where it hurt us the most.

    "Do you guys have a few spare dollars you can give me?" - The cracked voice of a young addict asks of us as we exit a grocery store.

    I had to subdue myself. Barely able to muster the restraint from tackling him to the floor and beating his head off the concrete car park in which he probably slept. I wasn't myself.

    As ever we finally found some humanity amongst the chaos. A young drifter with his gnarled backpack approached us, just as i was at breaking point. "Hey where are you guys from? Doing a bit of a road trip?"

    Sure, he was homeless, his clothes stained, his shoes torn, but he looked to be a regular guy who just fell on hard times. He didn't ask us for cash, instead, he asked us the regular questions you would ask any traveler in your town. Where are you from?, Were are you going? Have a safe trip! - It helped ease my turmoil. We have seen thousand of homeless and poverty stricken folks on our travels and never once have I so easily dehumanised them, so why here in America, where the scope of the problem is so huge should I do the same? Honestly, it was probably the drug issue - an ingredient simply not visible in Asia.

    We used the facilities of Eureka to our advantage and picked up a few pieces of cheap disposable camping gear and waterproofs. It would keep us mobile until we could get to an area that is better stocked and re-invest in long term kit. The city had such a terrible vibe that we refused to stay there, instead riding 25 miles into the countryside to stay at in a small Old Western town called Ferndale, far from the reach of Eurekas problems.

    A good nights sleep and clear mind showed us the light; we must blast down the coast and make it to San Fransisco, there we could replace our bags, replace our gear, and put the whole episode behind us.

    It was tough, and it almost wasn't possible, but we chose not to give up on the USA. We want to see this huge nation for everything it has to offer, the good, the bad and the ugly.

    So, like Kyla said when she crashed the bike in Siberia; The show must go on.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  10. North by Northeast

    North by Northeast Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2015
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    372
    Location:
    London, baby
    You're absolutely mental leaving anything on your bikes in that part of the world, but congrats on powering through and look forward to the rest of your American adventure
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  11. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Jupiter
    Thanks for the update!
    Tweekers - The Zombie Apocalypse come to life.
  12. dwj - Donnie

    dwj - Donnie Long timer

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    Apr 26, 2006
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    North Carrollton, MS - Traveling on the Moto
    I recently had something of less than $10 in value stolen in the Petaluma, California area. In over 500,000 miles of moto traveling in the USA, it is the only thing I have had stolen off my moto. I did have some nice orange valve caps taken off my KTM in Nicaragua once.
  13. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    ***GUYS! I ballsed it up - These following 2 updates are in the wrong order and should have been before the Day 433 Theft Entry***

    Day 426

    Washington State

    Our planned single overnight motel stay in Bellingham turned out to be a 3 night ordeal waiting for the last of the storm and rains to pass. According to the local news the rain had fell for around 50 hours straight. My hourly habit of drawing back the curtain and peering at the sky became a running joke in itself. It was frustrating to be caught in this severity of weather for so long, but what else can be done? The Motel room TV provided enough of a distraction, as the rain lashed the balcony window. Our primary source of entertainment was the string of drug deals conducted by a guy in a huge red pickup truck right by the adjoining car park on the main road. Hundreds of cars passed him, his actions obvious, and nobody seemed to care. I hoped for a US style cop bust and shootout, but the police never did arrive.

    After 3 days of food from the adjoining Casino, and countless documentaries on the US History Channel, the clouds finally parted.

    Being let loose in the USA as a pair of English speaking foreigners is quite a surreal experience. America produces such an enormous amount of TV, film and media, that anyone with a pair of working eyes can't help but have a pretty hefty visual exposure to it all. Our crossing here into Washington State had us in a part of the world that is so very far from home, and yet, it all feels so familair. Those obscenely huge Ford pickup trucks, the roadside diners, the guns n' ammo stores, the big neon Motel signs. It's Just like in those American movies.

    By West Coast standards Washington is one of the smaller states. It's essentially three sides of a perfect square with a chunky peninsular section that juts out into the Ocean, which is exactly where we headed. With clear skies, we followed the sun South down the Pacific Coastline. It's mostly quiet beaches and small towns, but by far the dominating feature is the Olympic Forest National Park, in which lurks a huge surprise for this part of the world; The Hoh Rain Forest. I would barely assosciate North America with Rain Forests, never mind away up here at the extreme North West of the USA.

    The road South cuts a scenic path through a dense and dank woodland. The trees here are old, you can tell from the thick bark, scarred from a hundred and more freezing winters. Their soaked branches hang precariously low under their own weight, and with the added burden of masses of pastel green moss that grows in deep layers from every limb. Every so often through a crack in the canopy a streak of sunlight will penetrate and light up the air, a swirling mass of moisture particles trapped under the forest ceiling. I wish I could describe the smell of the forest here. The only way I can hope to convey it is that the air just smells 'heavy'.

    It's a pretty magical place to be at this time of year, when the sun is not quite warm enough to dry out the woodland from the almost constant drizzle it recieves in Autumn. I'd never been to a Rain Forest before, so this suitably matched the image I had in my mind just perfectly. We even camped a night in Bear Creek, one of the many State Park campspots on the way. Just $16, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

    The remainder of Washington State was spent on the the iconic Highway 101, which so far hadn't been quite as inspirational as we had been promised.

    "Keep heading South guys, it's gets really awesome down in Oregon." - Promises a petrol station worker in the national dress; a checked shirt and a baseball cap.

    Onwards to Oregon.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  14. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 431

    Oregon State

    Highway 101 has you leave the State of Washington by a seriously impressive bridge accross the Columbia River. I didn't check yet, but it must be 5 miles long, and really low to the water. At the halfway point is a tiny overhead sign, barely larger that a cars licence plate, that in white text over a green backing simply says; Oregon.

    The bridge lands you in the small city of Astoria. Famous for being the setting of the 80's movie the Goonies. The highest rated attraction on the leaflet we acquired at the local campsite was the chance to stand outside the Goonies house. Normally that would be a pretty dismal top attraction, but the Goonies is arguably the greatest American Adventure Movie of all time. Everyone loves it. Fact.

    We spent 2 days in Astoria. The city is blessed with a postcard quality beachfront that even comes with it's own shipwreck. The rusted carcass of an old steel ship sits right there on the bay for kids and adults alike to climb on and risk the requirement of a tetanus shot. I scrambled up the frame like a 7 year old, and for once in my life didnt hurt myself.

    Highway 101 was growing tiresome and the promise of astounding coastline was being periodically interupted by tired looking towns and sections of road that moved inland by 10 miles or so. We thought that to only see these Western states by the coastline was to do them diservice. A scan of the map revealed a few mountain passes and areas of intersting high desert inland by about 100 miles. We plotted string of interlinking backroads to take us to the Mountains and a famous route known as McKenzie's Pass.

    It went immediately wrong. As we left the coast the roads climbed slowly onto the continental mass of North America. Just like Asia, the rules are the same across the planet, when you leave the coast in Winter, you leave the warm air. With every passing mile the tempreture dropped, as the altitude grew the riding became uncomfortable and by the time we reached the base of the old mountain way of McKenzie Pass, we were met with something we hadn't even considered; the road was closed for impassable snow.

    The trip was not complete waste of time however. Inland Oregon let us see something that Highway 101 does not. A jigsaw of colours from the Autumnal trees and leaf-fall of the deciduous broadleaf forests. The cold eventually pushed us back to the coast, but not after 150 miles of skinny forest roads and trails to get there. Every so often through the trees you would see a vision of real rural USA. Old timber built houses, chimney smoke pouring out of an old stone pipe and a rusted old Chevy pickup sat in the drive way. It's beautiful, in a very uniquely American way.

    When we did hit the coast again, the change in landscape was as drastic as I had ever seen. From lush forest we had now hit a dunescape. We had landed at the Oregon Dunes National Park. Huge 100ft coastal dunes where people from all over the country come to race quad bikes and scramblers over the sand. There was a real festival atmosphere out on the alien setting and it was great to see the guys taking their machines to the limits.

    "You see the rednecks out there on the beach?" - An old man in a roadside parking area

    "Aaha so that's a redneck." - I say, as confused as ever on the issue of rednecks, hillbillies, and yellowbellies.

    Admittedly Highway 101 does start to live up to it's reputation in the Southern stretch of the Oregon coast. The road runs closer to the bay and the landscape starts to dry out, revealing a kind of crusty orange rock under dry green scrub bushes. The Pacific coast seems to be in a constant state of turmoil. Regardless of the weather or wind, the waves always seem to crash angrily into the continent. You could watch the waves break up over the rocks for hours. No wonder the West Coast has such a huge surfing culture.

    It got me thinking. The state of Oregon is unique in that it actually looks exactly like what the word 'Oregon' would look like should it manifest itself into a place. It's all Orange and Green. Rustic, authentic, and completely satisfyingly American.

    I like it.

    Up next California, and an unforseen act of evil.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  15. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    OK aside from that continuity cock up, we should be all up to speed!
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  16. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 435

    Northern California

    Eureka may have been a socio-economic hellhole, but it was in a prime location to pick up camping supplies. Nestled between the beach and the redwood forests mean that there was no less than 4 high-end camping gear stores. We managed to pick up the bare essentials at a place called the Picky-Picky-Picky Surplus Store, and thought to get the rest in the big city, San Francisco some 300 miles South.

    No longer laden with the burden of carrying our gear, the bikes felt like true featherweights, so with the sun in the sky and not a cloud to be seen, we thought to make the most of the situation and take some of Californias famous trails that hug the coast. The mountains in this part of the world are thick with pine trees and really do plunge into the ocean. The tracks and trails themselves were pretty tame, but the views were quite the sight to behold.

    We followed the trails in a pretty chaotic fashion, using a terribly innacurate map of the area, but frankly it was just fun to be avoiding the deep ruts and crashing over logs again, it took our minds off the theft. The trail eventually pops out onto the Californias Route 1, the smaller, more famous twin to the Highway 101 we had used for most of the last 600 miles. Route 1's reputation is well earned, and 2 days slow riding South lands you right at the doorstep of the Golden Gate Bridge, the welcoming mat to the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Geographically the bay itself is quite impressive, a massive inlet right off the California coast where just about every square inch of the surrounding land is carpeted with urban brickwork. These are big cities on the bays perimeter; San Francisco, Berkely, Oakland, and San Jose to name a few. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was certainly a bucket list item to be ticked off, and the view of Alcatraz island is the cherry on an impressive visual cake.

    We were headed to a place called MotoGuild, a kind of rent-by-the-hour motorcycle workshop with access to powertools, welders and bits of scrap steel. Preisely what we needed to repair the damage to the bikes. MotoGuild is located on a piece of reclaimed land in the dead centre of the bay called Treasure Island. By any measure, it should be amongst the most prized real estate on the planet, and yet there are nothing more than a few disused abandoned barracks, beat up buildings, and of course MotoGuild itself.

    MotoGuild is certainly a port in the storm for overland travellers, for just $50 dollars they gave us use of an entire workshop, and in 2 hours we had fixed the damage done in the raid. In fact the new subframe strut and tool storage solution is probably better than my original. MotoGuild is a homegrown business by a married couple from right there in the Bay Area. By the time we had finished in the workshop it was quite late, and we had not yet figured a place to stay. There is a notable lack of campsites and the whole area is eye-wateringly priced for even the cheapest of hotels.

    Testament once again to the friendliness of Americans; the whole MotoGuild family opened their homes to us. The guys there work long shifts and on especially long days they sleep in a room at the workshop in preperation for an early start the next day. They let us crash right there in the social area on a pair of surprisingly comfortable couches. They fed us, entertained us, gave us fresh morning coffee, and didn't take a penny for the hassle.

    San Francisco had been good to us, but 2 days in the big city was quite enough. We wanted to head back into Californias wilderness, but were met with a spanner in the works. We could either move inland towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range, or we could continue down to Route 1 towards Los Angeles. We dabated for a while before it was brought to our attention by the mechanic in a local Berkely Yamaha dealership, from which we purcahsed a replacement indicator bulb cover, that in fact there had been a gargantuan landslide accross route 1 and it had been closed for over 8 months, and would likely not be open til the following Spring. He was right. In February a whole side of a mountain came loose and tumbled into the ocean just South of the town of Big Sur, California.

    So, as it does so often on the road, the decision was made for us. We would head inland - for the first time since we arrived on this continent.

    To the Mountains.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  17. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 438

    Inland

    We have a knack for impossibly bad timing. The average tempretures for our target route; the Yosemite National Park, had been hovering around 11C for the whole week. Right up until the morning we tried to get there, when the whole Yosemite Valley was issued with a serious storm warning, seeing lows of -7C, which resulted in 8 inches of snow to fall in one night. The roads were closed and our route forced a little further South to the neighbouring National Park are of Kings Canyon in the Sierra Nevada.

    California is blessed with a vast network of twisty mountainous asphalt roads and in our typical search for unpaved trails it can be easy to forget how good these routes can be. We took a narrow mountain road blessed with a string of hairpin bends through the San Antonio Valley which summits a peak called Mount Hamilton. The top is a popular viewpoint and the site of the Lick Planetary Observatory, a working research station for the University of California. Of course, being America, the observatory sells food and drinks, and there was a constant stream of bikers, cyclists, and folks in sports cars stopping off to enjoy a break during their Sunday run on the 100 mile stretch of twisted road.

    It's been just over a week since we had some of our stuff stolen, and since then we hadn't had any levelling force to offer us any perspective. That was provided quite sharply when we met a young lady by the roadside who we briefly talked with who had been amongst some of the 6,000 home owners who had lost their homes in the particularly brutal 2017 California wildfires. She had lost about 95% of her worldly possessions, and was now living out of her van awaiting her fate. She was helplessly at the hands of the state and her insurance company. The effect it had on me was instantaneous; i'd never again spend a moment dwelling on our losses. Given the perspective, we had lost almost nothing at all. These fires kill people every year, and some years the fires burn especially fierce and hot.

    We got a taste of just how potent these fires are when at our first camp we made a campfire in the provided steel fire ring. We used locally collected firewood from fallen branches, from which a thick honeylike sap oozes from the bark. The combination of the bone dry internal wood and the sticky outer sap makes for a lethal combination, the sap catches a flame as if doused in petrol - it burns hotter and faster than I have ever seen in the thousands of campfires I have likely tended in my life. My fire required constant care as it angrily spits and hisses sparks and embers out into the dry surrounding forest. Most embers die out in the air, but every so often one catches a breeze and makes it way out towards the treeline. Each of these bright orange kamikazes must be hunted down and stamped out thoroughly.

    The further East you go, the deeper you get into the Sierras you get, and the elevations start to climb. Unlike when we tried to move inland in Oregon, this time the daytime tempretures are still bearable and we felt brave enough to go for even the highest of passes. The roads climb fairly dramatically until you enter the first of a strip of National Parks that cover the peaks. The first of which was the Kings Canyon. Due in part to the time of year, most of the parks trails and loops were closed, sealed off by metal gates and a depressing 'Route Closed' sign. Anywhere else in the world we would be fine with squeezing past the gates to explore, but America takes it's Trespassing laws quite seriously, and Park Rangers patrol the area frequently. We chose not to take the risk.

    Regardless of these closures, it still did not detract our attention from the parks biggest attraction by far, the collosal redwoods, the largest trees on earth; the giant Sequoias.

    They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, which is likely true in this case, as I can't quite scrape together the vocabulary to describe just how massive these things are. Some are large enough to have been awarded the status of a monument. We found General Grant, the third largest tree on Earth, and a humbling entity to stand at the base of. It's not just the size of them either, it's the age too. Some well over 3,000 years old. I imagine everyone who stands at the foot of these trees runs through the same thought process; to imagine the sights that these trees have overlooked, and the stories they could tell. When the Romans were conquering Europe, these giants were already 1,000 years old. By the time the white man had discovered and documented them in the Americas, they had lived for 2 Millenia. These are not merely plants, they are harwood bookends for the shelf dedicated to modern human history at your local library. Half a days ride South via the mountain pass known Generals Highway takes you to General Sherman, the largest tree on Earth. It is, as you'd expect, truly unreasonably huge and beautifully imposing.

    "It's so big it actually looks fake." - Kyla says, wide eyed.

    The giant redwoods kept us company for a while as we headed South East into the neighbouring State Parks and Conservation Areas. The Sequoia National Forest offers plenty wilderness and undisturbed forest to explore as well as some campgrounds that we had almost entirely to ourselves. The only downside being that November's night still brings a biting cold, even in California. We camped 3 nights, all of them dropping well below freezing. The second night was particularly cold, camped at the base of a giant tree at about 8,000ft (2,500m) elevation, in the monrning we had found any standing water to still be frozen. I even had a jar of peanut butter in my pannier that had completely solidified, and the bikes struggled to start as sweetly as they normally do after a night of exposing the batteries to the bitter cold.

    It was an excellent field test for our new replacement camping kit, but although the stuff held up fine, the nights were still uncomfortable to any pice of your body that protrudes from the sleeping bag. Neither of us like to have them fully zipped up, so waking up in the morning with a frozen face, arm and shoulder is never fun. We made the decision to descend to warmer climates.

    So what better place than the hottest place on Earth.

    Next stop; Death Valley.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  18. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 442

    Death Valley

    The descent from the Eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada moutains into the Death Valley is an extreme one. Barely 30 minutes in the saddle will take you from 9,000ft (2,700m) all the way back to sea level. In fact the whole Geography is quite extreme. The lowest point in the entire Western Hemisphere at the belly of the basin, known as Badwater at 270ft (80m) below Sea Level, is just 80 miles away from Mount Whitney, the highest point in the mainlan United States at 14,500ft (4,400m). Our descent by road had the pressure in our ears cause havoc as our ears painfully popped multiple times as we fired down the open road toward the Death Valley Basin.

    Death Valleys reputation as the hottest place on Earth is well earned. No sooner had we made it to our roadside photo opportunity with the 'Sea Level' sign had we resorted to peeling off our mountain layers. The tempretures here are around 27C and are essentuated by an extreme aridity. The air is so dry you can feel your mouth and throat irritate by the dry dust that hangs in the air. It is a true desert climate here.

    We pulled into a local convenience store at the village of Stovepipe Wells, where looking admittedly rather rough from 3 days camping in the mountains, we struck up conversation with a guy in a 1967 Ford Bronco that he had fully rebuilt and restored. His name was Jim McLees, a name which simply screams Scottish descent. He invited us to pitch our tent at the local campground next to him and his buddies who were on an 9 day road trip from Orange County to Death Valley in a troop of 4x4 Jeeps and Trucks.

    We pitched up and met the the whole team; Wayne, Jef, Mark, Rob, and of course Jim. The guys were instantly hospitable and offered to feed us a hot meal, give us route info, advice on the region, cold drinks, and generally be as friendly as humanly possible. Whilst feasting on a plate of pulled pork sandwhiches, care of Jef, I noticed that all of them, bar Jef himself, were wearing a red t-shirt, bearing the title; E Clampus Vitus. After some curious questions I found them to be members of an adventurous brotherhood dedicated to the preservation to Western Frontier History, mostly centering around the Californian and Western States Gold Rush Days of the mid 1800's and early 1900's.

    It turns out that it's no amatuer organisation either. Some 2,000 members exist in over 10 states and they are responsible for an impressive catalogue of monuments and historical information in the region. The campsite here had around 50 members present. They were having an annual celebration and spent the whole weekend exploring, crawling down abandoned mineshafts, discovering treasures in the desert, feasting on banquets at the campsite, and generally having a ball of a time in the process... and the best bit? We were invited to the whole celebration. These guys are pretty dedicated to their cause, one of the group, Rudy - originally from El Salvador, crashed and rolled his brand new truck 2 times on the way to the camp, the police towed his truck away, but he just caught a lift to the meetup.

    Essentially, we parked the bikes up for 3 days and were gifted a seat each in 2 of the guys Jeeps to explore the Death Valley and it's surrounding landscape. Kyla went up with group organiser Wayne in his impressive Rubicon Jeep, and I took a seat in Jef's handcrafted Jeep that had a heart transplant with a 5.3l Chevy V8. In a patrol of 5 vehicles we set off to see the sights and learn the History.

    For a place that is so devoid of life there is a surprisingly large amount of things to see and do in Death Valley. Canyons, gorges, dunes, mines, ghost towns, mountains, salt flats and ruins all in a small area. The landscape is iconic of the Wild West and the tales of the lives of the Gold Rush are typically that of boom and bust. People gave up everything to find their fortune in the valley, and frankly so very little ever did. Many died, many went bankrupt, and many simply fled the hell that lurks here. Imagine working the land, where the summer heat can so easily reach 50C. Where there is no water, no shade, no life, no trees. Just desolation. It's a fascinating place, and with the history being so very recent, it's very thought provoking. One of the mines here was still working well into the 1970's. The fact is, there is still plety gold in these hills.

    After 2 days exploring in the very capable 4x4's with the team, we were invited to sit at the table and enjoy the final days banquet - but not before a major surpise. Jef, unknown to him was to be inaugurated into the E Clampus Vitus brotherhood and was to undertake the initiation ceremony that would earn him his red shirt. Unknown to me, I was going to be asked too as an honourary member. An honour I simply couldn't turn down.

    The initiation ceremony is a secret held closely by the guys at ECV so all I can say is that we were blindfolded, led by ways of a rope into the desert in the darkness, and subjected to the horros of various beasts and rusted hooks. And yes, I am being serious.

    Once initiated I was deemed a satisfactory brother of the ECV, given my red shirt and announced as the fist known non-American member. Really, quite incredible, seen as it all started as a chance meeting with Jim at the local shop in town.

    These are a tremendously kind-hearted and authentic bunch of guys. Kyla has bonded especially well with Wayne and shall now only refer to him as her American Dad. We have all made friends for life here, and it is yet another reason that I find myself astounded by the random and chaotic nature of life on the road.

    After 3 days, we said some tough goodbyes to the team and made our way East.

    Next stop; Las Vagas.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  19. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 447

    Nevada

    I often forget, but prior to this adventure Kyla actually built tyres for a living. As you would expect from anyone who has been around tyres for so long, she has a keen eye for defects. Although it didn't take a pro to identify our problem.

    "Yeh, these tyres a really pretty bald. Plus the front ones have a really awkward wear pattern and I have a couple pretty serious gashes in my sidewall." - Kyla surmised, crouched on one knee in the bikes shade.

    We were due to depart Death Valley, and had identified a small dotted line on our map, likely a gravel track, that made for a shortcut accross the Nevada state line and would take us towards Las Vegas. Given the state of the rubber, we weren't sure how they would hold up.

    As expected, the bikes snaked pretty wickedly on the loose pebble based track. It was proving quite good fun, bouncing and buffing your way over the surface as opposed to tearing it up as you normally would. A couple of tight turns over looser sand provided a white knuckle moment or two. Growing in confidence with my bald tyres I thought to try scaling a small mountainside to get a photo of the valley floor that the Nevada California state line bisects. It perhaps wasn't my best of decisions, but at least I didn't die on the way back down. Note to self; Replace tyres at next opportunity.

    Entering Nevada takes you into more of the arid semi-desert that Death Valley provided. The landscape is pretty vague here; neither flat, nor mountainous - just vaguely hilly. Neither barren desert, nor lush forest - just vaguely patchy scrub and bushes. Every direction you look provides mush the same view, without a map it would be extremely easy to get lost here. I imagine in days past, when the West was still wild, many did.

    Even though it is well into November, the air still grows hot in the sun. There is no humidity to the air you breath and your nose and throat dry up every 15 minutes. So dry in fact that I resorted to snorting water out of the palm of my hand like some kind of desperate addict. Anything for relief.

    Our track finally connected at a sharp angle with Highway 160, which we followed through much of the same endless loop of scenery until the highway approaches a steep mountain pass. Marked only as 'Mountain Springs' on my map; it peaks at a moderately impressive 5,500ft (1650m) - but it's not the mountain that gets to you. It's the view on the other size.

    The setting of Las Vegas.

    The city is lay quite casually in a bone dry basin in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Even though we knew we were going there, it's existence still caught us by surpise. We approached as evening fell, and the hive of neon lights and advertising screens sparkle in the desert like someone dropped a whole cup of glitter into a sandpit.

    It really is quite the sight to behold. From an engineering standpoint I imagine it must have been quite the task too. It is a huge city; every home and business needs running water. Where does it come from? I haven't seen a so much as a trickle in a riverbed for well over a 200 miles. By any measure, the city shouldn't be here, and yet, there it is. Over half a million residents and seemingly another half a million tourists at any one time.

    We were two of those tourists, so we checked into Kyla's chosen hotel; the Hooters Hotel and Casino resort no less, and booked 3 nights. Neither of us are gamblers so weren't really sure how to kill our time in the city. Once we checked into the room we found our view was that of the Mandalay Bay Resort. Where just last month there had been a serious mass shooting in which 58 people died and 546 were injured as they attended a country music festival. We had been in Korea when it had happened, where it didn't make the news. An American flag flew at half mast for 58 days, a day for each that died.

    We used Vegas to our advantage and stock up on much needed parts for the bikes. The regions favourable weather means that motorcycles are on the road 12 months a year, so motorcycle stores were well stocked for us. Although frustratingly none of the 8 shops we visited had suitable tyres.

    The remaining two days we spent walking up and down the Las Vegas strip in awe at just quite how plasticky and tacky the whole place is - but in a charming way. Almost like a city scale theme park, and certainly not to be taken too seriously. Each Casino is themed in the most outrageous fashion. One is French themed with it's own Eiffel tower, another has an Egyptian pyramid, one has a pirate ship, we saw Venitian canals with little pretend Italian boatmen. My personal favourite was the casino that had an active volcano. It erupts 2 times a day for the tourists, or 3 times on weekends.

    "Vegas is kinda weird, but I like it." - Kyla says to me, as we watch the Bellagio Resort fountains dance to Michael Jacksons Billie Jean.

    3 nights is quite enough in Vegas and after eating our bodyweight of In n' Out Burger we left the city to the East. We had a simple objective; to see if the state of Utah is still passable in November.

    Love,
    Brucie

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  20. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 453

    Utah

    Utah in November was always a gamble. We had been told at a ratio of about 7 to 1 that Utah would be uncomfortably cold to ride in between November and March. The odd gristled veteran would tell us it would be fine, although that was usually followed by "I didn't do it myself, but I had a buddy who did it."

    As usual, the locals were correct. From the dry desert climate of Nevada you must only ride a few hundred miles to find yourself quickly climb up onto the Utah plateua and the tempreture falls with every mile. Searching for a campground to pitch for the night is a lost cause, wether it be state or private; they all closed for the season at least a month ago.

    We weighed up our options, and chose to proceed. We have ridden in bitter cold before. Scandinavia, The Balkans, Siberia - they all pushed our limits, but that was shoulder season riding at best. This was different, winter has truly taken hold now. It took us right to our limits.

    Admittedly our first 2 days in Utah wasn't too chilly at all, we had wondered what the fuss was. We rolled into the mountain town on Panguitch and found a cheap motel on the edge of town. It was run by an Indian family from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. We were there almost exactly a year ago, and shared tales of good food and nice weather. They discounted the room for us, and wished us a good night's rest.

    The night proved to be eventful. Around 10pm we were kept entertained by a strong wind that rattled at the slats of the shaky timber building. By 1am we were awoken by a fierce round of hail, which by 3am was replaced with a light showers of snow. We were right on the threshold of a cold front. It lived up to it's promise.

    The following morning was indeed bitterly cold. -11C / 12F at 7am. We had little option but to keep moving, it would stay cold for at least 3 days before the tempretures got back to their normal range.

    Many times I have written about the raw exposure of travel by motorcycle, the smells, the humidity, the bumps in the road - but by far the most potent ingredient is the tempreture. Riding in the cold heightens the senses like nothing else. We wrapped ourselves up in every layer we had. Kyla even purchased an extra layer from a local thrift shop, a Salt Lake City University Graduation Hoody from 2007, and headed out to be bitten by the frozen air.

    The interior of Utah is truly blessed with an alien landscape; Mars to be specific. Country roads carve unbelievable paths through jagged pillarbox red canyons and overlook deep gorges in the split and brittle rock. I'm no geologist but I know sandstone when I see it. We have sandstone cliffs back in Scotland too, but the wet and windy climate back home rounds it all off into smooth rolling faces. Here they rock is raw, sharp an rugged. Around every bend is a striking view worthy of stopping and taking. moment to appreciate. We made slow progress.

    There are some especially good highlights. An area called Bryce Canyon has a section aptly named 'the Amphitheatre' where red spines of crumbling rock protrude from the earth. In our case the colours contrasted by the snow that lay in every recess. There is the Zion National Park, a route that would probably serve as a geologists dream, where every poasible colour and composition of rock and stone is on public display. Shimmering granite cliffs? Endless layers of yellow and orange sedimentary rock? Exotic patterns of swirling canyon walls? They have it all and more. It's really one of those places you just ride through and wonder just how exactly it all came to be, and more poignantly, how we got there.

    Our route in Utah was cut short from how we would have liked. We tried to push North, but after a trip over the Boulder pass and subjecting ourselves to snow, ice, wind, and a few sketchy skids, we thought to keep it sensible and make the loop to the South, but even on our exit route we were treated to more of the same landscape that has made Utah so famous. Our route took us through the Navajo Native Indian reservation towards monument valley.

    We took the chance to speak to a few of the American Natives, although admittedly they were mostly older drunk men, or youngsters trying to sell us dreamcatchers. One lady however was very pleasant and asked us about our trip where we were from. It got me thinking... Where are they from? I know they are American Natives, but when I look at these people, I could be back in Mongolia. These people are central Asian - no doubt. I became obsessed with idea. When we got to our evening motel I jumped onto the WiFi and researched their history.

    "Ha! I told you!" - I scream at Kyla.

    "Listen, Native Americans entered the Americas over a 10,000 year old landbridge between Siberia and Alaska. Ha." - Quite chuffed with my accurate guesswork.

    We spent so long in Central Asia that I dare discern the subtle differences in the various Oriental faces. 10,000 years may seem a long time to us, but to the scale of our human evolution it is barely the blink of an eye. These Navajo people would look perfectly at home in Ulan Ude in Siberia, or Tsaanaguur in Mongolia. In fact, at the risk of sounding disrespectful, some of the Navajo camps actually look similar to the Mongolian and Siberia villages. Basic, scattered and minimal. They resemble a temporary camp even though they are in fact permanent homes.

    Our time in Utah ended at the Arizona state line, right on the frontier of the Grand Canyon.

    Love,
    Brucie

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