"This seems like a bad idea." Border-to-border on our first real trip!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Tesla314, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Dirt Farmer

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    So with you taking back everything bad that you've said about Eastern WA...does that mean I have to take back everything bad that I've said about the West side? :rofl

    Seriously tho, looking forward to this RR! Since you said it was around 80 degrees, and it hasn't been 80 here for some time (It's a balmy 18F now). I'm guessing the trip is already over and done with?
    #21
  2. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    :D Nah, I understand hating on the West side. It's gorgeous here, but the traffic on the nice riding roads can be super frustrating. Damn everyone else for wanting to see the scenery too!

    :nod Yup, the trip was the first half of October. We slotted it into the window between the [other!] tourists going home and the start of the snow season in the passes. It was nice, it made for very little traffic, though it meant a lot of stuff (campgrounds!) were closed for the season, which caused us some trouble.

    I'm posting up a day or two at a time in order to keep you all interested :wink:
    #22
  3. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Is the Palouse the SE corner? Any roads you'd recommend over there? We plan to do a bunch of 3-4 days trips rather than one long one this year, so we're looking for good stuff in WA/OR/lower BC.
    #23
  4. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Since I can't edit entry titles, the route thus far:

    • Day 1, Sat 9/29: Seattle to Surrey BC (I-5)
    • Day 2, Sun 9/30: Surrey -> Seattle (I-5) -> Ellensburg WA (I-90)
    • Day 3, Mon 10/1: Ellensburg -> Yakima WA (Canyon Rd) -> Bend OR (H97)
    #24
  5. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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


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

    Today we were on the road for 12+ hours. We began in Bend, went to Klamath Falls, took the wrong highway and ended up at Mount Shasta before heading all the way back east to Susanville and then Reno. The highway from Mt. Shasta to Susanville is gorgeous and empty and great riding and I would ride it again any day.

    The trouble began when we left Susanville. It was dusk by this time, and deserts, while always windy, begin to howl at twilight. We were fighting terrible winds from all sides, and not constant of course.

    I guess I should just say it: I brought the bike out of an 80-mph tank-slapper in front of a semi. And then continued riding for another hour to reach Reno.

    We're taking an unscheduled rest day in Reno tomorrow. Both of us are in knots and I'm sure we'll be immobile tomorrow.

    There's been some gorgeous riding on this trip. I just wish we could get through one non stressful/non terrifying day.
    #25
  6. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    [By Scalpel]
    The Terror Train to Reno


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

    The day's riding had been good, but we had been delayed by a few construction zones that brought traffic to a halt, and as we left our last gas stop we knew that we'd be arriving in Reno after dark. Being inexperienced riders, we didn't realize that we'd be hitting a stretch of 395 with steep hills on one side and Honey Lake on the other just as dusk hit and the winds picked up.

    As the light faded the first gusts hit, almost pushing me onto the shoulder. This continued for miles and miles, and over time we learned to adjust for it. But it was wearing us out bit by bit, at the end of a long day of riding.

    The "incident" occurred as we prepared to pass a semi. We had waited for the one-lane freeway to open up a passing lane, and since Natalie had insisted on being in the lead to set the pace, she was the one to slide into the left lane, tuck down behind her windshield, and gun it. In retrospect, there were a few problems with the situation. First, we were heading uphill, which meant we needed to push the bikes harder to get by. Second, we were headed for the peak of the ridge, where the wind is the worst. Third, our bikes make great sails with the panniers and gear piled up. Lastly, it was night and we were tired.

    As we climbed past 70 mph, the wind started to get worse and worse, and we were getting knocked all over the road. Then three things happened at once: Natalie cleared the front of the semi and got the full force of the wind, right at the peak of the ridge, as oncoming traffic passed us and brought it's own blast of wind. The Bonneville began to oscillate back and forth, and entered into what riders call a "tank slapper". You can go search YouTube with that phrase to see some examples, but the summary is that it's a moment when the handlebars start wobbling from side to side with increasingly violent movements, until they're "slapping" into the sides of the gas tank. This often ends with a big crash as the rider vainly tries to get the bike back under control.

    I give full credit to Natalie's rapidly growing riding abilities that she didn't end up testing out all her safety gear on the rocks and brush of the Reno desert. Later in the evening when we were safe in Reno, we each admitted that at that moment in the ride, we were both positive that she was going down. But as the bike went out of control, she did what she could to nudge it toward the shoulder, correctly judging that it would be better to crash there then into oncoming traffic. The semi she had been passing evidently felt the same way as we did, and with certainty that she was doomed, hammered on its brakes to prepare for dodging her and the bike once they were tumbling and sliding.

    We have headsets in our helmets, and as the bike went crazy Natalie was absolutely silent. I was freaking out, saying "No no no no no!" over and over as things got worse. That lasted for a second or two until my brain finally found the bit info I read someplace about how to (sometimes, rarely) recover from a tank-slapper.

    "Stay loose, stay loose! Let the bike do what it wants! Don't fight it, just let it slow down and it'll be okay!" I didn't believe the last part, not really. That's what the books said to do, but I didn't think it applied to a situation that had gone this far out of control. Plus, what I was telling Natalie was the exact opposite of what a rider would instinctively do.

    Once again though, Natalie is a better rider than either of us realized. She stopped fighting the handlebars and loosened her grip on the violently bucking motorcycle, and as the Bonneville slowed down, the shaking stopped and she was just as suddenly cruising along stably at 60 mph. What stunned me was that when I suggested we stop to give her a chance to recover, she refused, and said that we'd stop once we were done. Later on she explained: "If I had stopped, I never would have started again."

    We survived the ride and made it to Reno, but I will never forget how close we came to ending the trip in the Nevada desert, and how Natalie showed absolutely grit and a steady hand when confronted with almost-certain disaster. She's quite the incredible woman.
    #26
  7. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    In retrospect, it was a rookie mistake: I allowed too many risk factors to combine. Any two or three combined were fine, but all together they spelled (near-)disaster.

    1. High, gusty side winds.
    2. Night, in the desert, with no street lights, and limited sightlines.
    3. Fatigue: this was the longest day we'd done yet.
    4. Passing a semi.
    5. Passing in a short "passing lane".
    6. Passing uphill.

    I think what happened was that I reached the front of the semi, with its attendant bow wake, right at the crest of the hill. The front suspension lightened up as I crested the hill while still on the throttle. The wake of the semi, the wind over the hill crest, and the wind of the oncoming traffic buffeted me while my suspension was light. And into oscillation it went.

    I survived. And learned my lessons. Now I know to time my passes so they don't involve hill crests, to ease off the throttle a little at hill crests, to immediately ease off the throttle if the front starts to go shaky rather than try to fight it, and to be always conscious of the number of risks I'm combining.
    #27
  8. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Day 5, 10/3/12: Reno

    Today was planned to be Reno to "somewhere on the way to Vegas", with our usual sunrise start time. But after last night's drama I insisted on a day off to sleep off the adrenaline. So we played tourist for a day. Not much happening in Reno on a Wednesday in October.


    [​IMG]
    Recharging my Luck, after I used it all up last night!

    [​IMG]
    Says Scalpel, "Oh Circus Circus, you can always be relied on to be as tacky as humanly possible. Never change."
    #28
  9. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Day 6, 10/4/12: Reno -> Vegas

    Lots of miles to cover today, and it's going to be hot. On the road pre-dawn.

    [​IMG]
    Headed out, pre-dawn.

    ---------------------------------------------------

    Lunchtime update by Scalpel:
    Halfway to Vegas

    Our goal today was to get up very early in order to tackle what was originally planned as a two-day ride, the 480 mile route from Reno to Las Vegas. Natalie wisely decided that even though it would mean a long ride today, we were taking a rest day in Reno yesterday. It turned out to be the right call. We woke up before dawn today well-rested and ready to ride.

    Currently we're taking a lunch break in sunny Tonopah, Nevada, the halfway point between Reno and Vegas. It turns out that it's easy to make good time when Highway 95 has a speed limit of 70 mph, is mostly straight with sight lines that can stretch for miles, and passing is allowed almost everywhere.

    Onward to Las Vegas!


    ---------------------------------------------------
    Made it!


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


    [​IMG]
    Vegas, baby!

    [​IMG]
    The important part :1drink
    #29
  10. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Day 8, 10/6/12: Vegas -> Tijuana

    After a planned day off in Vegas, we put our eyes back on the road. Enough rest, more miles! Today we rode from Vegas to Tijuana.

    The desert has been cool to ride in its own way. Since I'm from Seattle, where everything is green and we get agoraphobic on a soccer field (as in, nothing is flat and we're surrounded by mountains), I tend to think of deserts as boring ugly flat places with straight roads. This trip's been an education. Turns out deserts aren't (necessarily) particularly flat, there's a lot of colors (even if they're all shades of brown), and there are living things (bunnies, coyotes, and dust devils). More importantly, though straight roads aren't fun twisties, they do let you focus on speed for a while :evil And there's kind of a weird camaraderie that develops with the other drivers when there's nowhere to get on or off the road and so you become familiar to one another.

    You also learn which semis will be extra turbulent and which are good... Walmart's trucks are pretty smooth, FedEx surprisingly bad, and flatbeds with loads of pipes are Satan's gift to riders.
    #30
  11. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    We did it! Two borders in a week!

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

    I can't tell you how accomplished and triumphant I feel right now. I'm occasionally in tears, I'm so proud. A week ago, I had only ridden my motorcycle 500 miles, and while I've done about 5000 miles on my scooters, this is my first big, "real", clutched, heavy! motorcycle. In a week I've gone almost 2000 miles, through terrible conditions and gorgeous scenery. I've been miserable and I've been grinning like a loon inside my helmet. I've wanted to quit, and I've wanted to just keep on riding forever.

    Tomorrow we'll turn, find our ocean, and keep it in our left hand all the way home.

    I'm so lucky to have married someone who also loves adventures and pushing the limits of what we think we can do. The inscription inside my engagement/adventuring ring says: "Let's have an adventure." There's no one I'd rather have done this with.

    Viva adventura!


    [​IMG]
    #31
  12. DC2wheels

    DC2wheels Castle Anthrax troll

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    Looking good- I'm watching from northeast USA

    Went through Reno years ago....in July :eek1
    #32
  13. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    [By Scalpel]
    Buenos Tardes!

    Good evening from sunny Tijuana, Mexico!

    As Natalie just pointed out to me, it's not just that we've reached the halfway point. With our arrival here we have done what we set out to do, which was to ride our motorcycles from Canada to Mexico, crossing both borders and the entire length of America in-between.

    The ride from Las Vegas was blustery but fast, and the wait at the border turned out to be 30 seconds. We entered Mexico, promptly got lost, and then wandered through downtown for a bit before arriving at the very nice Hotel Ticuan. There we were directed to park directly on the polished marble portico at the entrance, where our bikes will be watched 24/7. The hotel itself-

    You know what? Never mind, screw the details.

    ¡WE MADE IT TO MEXICO!

    [​IMG]
    They had us park on the patio where they could keep an eye on them from the desk. Great service, cheap rooms, we recommend Hotel Ticuan!

    -----------------------------------------

    [More from Scalpel:]
    Ceviche, Cigars, and Bikes: Nighttime in Tijuana

    We made it to our hotel in Tijuana with daylight to spare, even after getting lost in the suburbs of town. After cleaning up, we went downstairs to grab a bite to eat in the hotel's "diner".

    It turned out that the diner was in fact a small, classy restaurant with a wildly ambitious chef. We tried ceviche for the first time, and were blown away by the dish they delivered. Natalie had Steak Tampiqueños, and I had a very nice steak with pepper sauce and steamed vegetables. To top it off, Natalie had an amazingly good margarita with a very heavy pour of good tequila, and I had a very nice gin & tonic. It was quite probably the best meal we've had the whole trip, and that includes the dinner at LAVO in Las Vegas that cost twice as much. During the whole meal we kept the waiters amused by how intently we were watching a local Mexico League soccer game on one TV, while ignoring the NFL game on the other.

    [​IMG]
    Yes mom, we are trying to give you a heart attack.

    After dinner we decided to risk venturing out onto Revolucion Street, the local night life area. It turned out that we were some of the only gringos I could see, with the rest of the street packed with locals. We walked about a mile, just people-watching, and I got to fulfill a promise I made to myself in Seattle: If I made it this far, to smoke a cigar in Tijuana. I didn't even finish half of it. I guess I'm not much of a smoker...

    [​IMG]

    As we headed back to the hotel, we noticed a bunch of motorcycles parked on the sidewalk in front of El Fronton Palacio, the local jai alai stadium. How could we resist checking them out? We ended up chatting with the the members of one of the local Tijuana motorcycle crews about bikes, our trip, and the merits of this bike or that. They were nice guys, with a few really unique bike builds!

    [​IMG]
    Our new friend's bike. Function over looks, I can appreciate that.

    We're back in our room now, munching on Mexican candy from the corner Oxxo and chilling out. I know that Tijuana has its problems, but from what I saw, it also has a great night life, amazing food, and some pretty cool locals.
    #33
  14. vaara

    vaara Been here awhile

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    This trip seems like a great idea. :clap
    #34
  15. mouthfulloflake

    mouthfulloflake Not afraid

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    great trip, looking forward to more!

    how did the Dryspec D38 perform, what are your thoughts on it?



    #35
  16. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    :wave

    July, bet that was hot!
    #36
  17. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Hi Sara, we really enjoyed our too-brief stay, and we met some awesome people there. I'm sure we'll be back! The CEO of my company has been <s>pressuring</s>encouraging me to ride the length of Baja. Maybe I can convince him to explore opening an office down there and send me on a paidfact-finding trip :rofl
    #37
  18. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    I was very happy with it.

    I ran it through the full gamut of [on-road] stresses, from 100mph desert runs to the deluge of a Washington freeway in rainy season. It came through bone dry and in great repair.

    It was bigger than I needed it to be, but I'm glad I used it rather than the next smaller one: I'd rather have room to rummage around in and pack souvenirs than to have exactly the space needed and have to pull everything out to find stuff. I used it for a couple changes of clothes, toiletries, camping pillow, anything that I wanted to have with me in the hotel/tent. Everything else was in the panniers (tools, camping gear, food).

    I especially liked the attachment system and the billion tie-points. The mounting straps detach super easily, so you loop them around something convenient on the bike, then clip them to the bag and cinch it down, easy peasy and fast. You can see the accessory tie-points in good use in the pic :D

    My only complaint is that the removable handle is pretty useless (unless I was putting it on all wrong, though I tried multiple configurations and couldn't get it to work). It's just velcro and shears itself open/off in no time while you're trying to carry it. This is the only handle, so without it you just wrap your arms around it and lift, not real convenient. I eventually stole the shoulder strap from Scalpel's bag.

    tldr: Get it, but buy a shoulder strap to clip on when you need to carry it.
    #38
  19. GoinPostal

    GoinPostal Been here awhile

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    Very well written. Really enjoying your trip! The next time you head down there (and I'm sure there will be a next time) consider crossing at Tecate. Very easy, less traffic and a nicer ride south. If you have the chance to ride to Cabo, do it, you'll love the roads, people and experiences you'll have along the way.Don't forget to eat at the roadside stands. I've been doing it for years and haven't been sick once! Because hotels are so cheap down there, consider not carrying the camping gear, travel light, more fun
    #39
  20. Tesla314

    Tesla314 >_<

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    Thanks! Cabo's on the someday-list, I keep hearing how pretty it is!

    We love eating at roadside stands and other local places, it's often the best food! One of our favorite things from our time in Thailand was snacking our way down the street every afternoon. The hipster food trucks back home just don't compare!

    Thanks for the heads-up re. the hotel prices.
    #40