Friday 5 August 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Eleven - Kelowna, BC to Maple Ridge, BC

Day 11 - 370km - 3 and a half hours

After a rest day in Kelowna, visiting my daughter, I headed home from Kelowna.

I've done this journey once before, when I had first bought my BMW, and I was looking forward to the trip.

The first part was along the Okanagan Connector - Highway 97C. I enjoyed this part as there was some wind which made it a bit exciting but not too much traffic and two lanes each was so it was easy to pass other vehicles.

The next part of the journey was along the Coquihalla Highway. It used to have a toll booth but that was removed several years ago. It is an easy riding highway although a little boring so I did find my self pulling over a couple of times to make sure I didn't do the sleepy nod on my bike. Sunshine was the order of the day as I rode along the well kept highway.

At Hope (the jinx-y place where I dropped my bike getting off it for the third time ever in a McDonald's parking lot) I continued on Highway 1, encountering some traffic, and then, finally, home.

4800 km - close to 3000 miles - in 11 days. 

So, upon reflecting, what did I decide?

Did I need to bring everything I did? It was pretty tight once I had packed everything. Did I need to pack it all?

Things I was glad to take. - The SRC system was excellent - I really liked being able to listen to some music - and to the navigation instructions - through the speakers in my helmet. I used the different chargers every night to make sure I had enough juice for everything. I had the right amount of riding gear - I used my rain pants, fleece sweater and even my rain jacket and was glad I had them. I was also very happy with my bright green jacket.  I threw in my winter gloves and I was glad to have them on the hail day. The packing bags were a great idea - the larger one was a real help in making sure I could get everything in the top case. Sunscreen was a good thing - and the day that I forgot to put it on served as an excellent reminder. Windex was a life saver - especially on the buggy day.  I'm glad I brought flip flops and runners - depending on the weather. I also was really happy to get out of my scooter boots at the end of the ride but appreciated them while on the BMW.

Things that I sort of needed - The hydration kit was ok - I kept it in the under seat compartment but I did drink from it on most breaks and, because I filled it with ice every morning, it helped make things like the cheese last longer. I used earplugs the first couple of days but, really, once I was off the Interstate, I didn't feel I needed them.

Things I didn't need but glad to take - I am glad I brought along the tire repair kit and even happier that I didn't need it. Ditto for the space blanket - it hardly took any room but was good to have. The toilet paper was not needed for its intended reason but was helpful when checking the oil. I didn't use the handy wipes but I was glad to have them just in case.

Things I didn't need and just took up room - My watercolour set was not a great idea - I'm just too tired after a long ride to put the creative effort needed for painting. The iPhone holder (looks like an X-Wing craft) was something I never used. I had pretty good confidence that the phone would stay in the holder but I just didn't want to take a chance of looking down at it instead of at the road. Besides, voice navigation was sufficient most of the time. My iPhone tripod was a waste of space since I never took it but, on the other hand, it took very little room.

App of the trip - CoPilot. I have mixed feelings concerning this app. It was usually spot on in directions and one thing it had over Siri was that it gave warnings 2km, 1 km, 500 m and 250 m away from where I had to turn. That way I didn't have to look at the map as I was riding.  It also allowed me to download the maps needed which meant it only had to connect to data for traffic updates. It also tried to vector me around traffic. I was able to select which route I wanted, thus overriding the route that CoPilot chose.

On the other hand, it occasionally took me through some interesting side routes which seemed to not make sense. Also, it would sometimes stop giving me directions, seemingly out of the blue, and when I was in more urban areas. Sometimes, due to traffic or some other reason I found my self taking a different route than I had originally planned.

I would probably stick with it until I see something better come along.

The route of my trip - I loved going down the coast and, if anything, I would try to do even more of it. That means staying on Highway 1 instead of 101 in California. I also would try to cover less ground on the coastal highway so that I had more time to stop.

Coming home through Reno and the middle of the western states was a good call. The amount of travel was absolutely fine and, although there wasn't that much to see, I made good time.

Overall it was a great trip and I was glad I had the time to do it! Now, where to for next summer?.........

Thursday 4 August 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Ten - Yakima, WA to Kelowna, BC

Day 10 - 530 km - 7 hours

If yesterday was Buggy Day, then today was Insane Weather Day.

I left Yakima after a great breakfast at the motel and had a fairly early start. That gave me lots of time to cope with my day.
Beautiful view near Ellensburg, WA

It was beautiful when I left Yakima and I thought that it would be a wonderful day. Pictured above is a view near Ellensburg.

I made a brief stop at Cashmere - the same place I had stopped last year, and picked up some Aplets and Cotlets (Liberty Orchards)  - basically fruit mixed with gelatin and sugar - what's not to like! The nice weather continued as I headed north.

 It was a bit windy, though.

Now, usually I like a little wind. The wind on the Okanagan Connector, for example, creeps up on you and gives you a wind smack that certainly gets the adrenalin going. When that happens, I usually exclaim, "Whoa!" or "Wow!" and continue on, albeit with a stronger grip on the scoot.

The wind I started to encounter was stronger than that. I found myself being pushed in the direction of the wind. Instead of staying on the left or right side of the road, I planted myself right in the middle so when the wind hit, I ended up on the side of the lane, not off the road or in incoming traffic.

The wind was bad enough as I struggled with my riding (and my hands started to cramp after all of the death gripping) but then, up ahead, I saw lightning!

Ahh! I didn't think stopping was a good idea as there was no ground cover. I continued on, battling the wind, and keeping an eye on the lightning storm.

Then the rains came. I first put in my liner as I thought that it would probably pass fairly quickly. Within minutes, the rain turned to a monsoon, and I pulled over to put on my rain pants.

While I struggled to put on my rain paints,  the rain turned to hail - thankfully not golf ball sized but still big enough to sting and lots of it! I then reached into my under seat compartment and brought out the rain jacket that I had packed for just an eventuality. The hail beat down harder and I was terribly exposed.

I got back on that scooter and slowly rode - about 20 km/hour - along the side of the highway with my emergency flashers on. I could barely see anything at all but I was extremely exposed and there wasn't anywhere to wait out the storm on the side of the road. I had to keep on doing my slow ride.

Some time later (it could have been five minutes, it could have been fifty minutes), I came upon a town - sorry, I can't remember which one - that had a couple of restaurants. The McDonald's was closed to walk-in traffic but the Subway, part of a supermarket, was open. It was packed with people and, after I had ordered a sandwich, I was stuck standing up and eating beside the napkin dispenser as there were no seats. However, it was dry and warm and that's what I needed at that point.

Finally, the rain started to let up and I continued to make my way north.

Drag racing in Tonasket

By the time I got to Tonasket, it was better weather! There I saw a short drag racing demo right on the highway! They had closed about three blocks of the main highway and drag race cars were slowly burning up their rubber. I watched for a bit while I refuelled and had a nice chat with an old-timer (with a very long beard!) about my BMW.

I continued on north until Oroville - the last stop before the Canadian border. After making a small purchase at the duty free store, I headed to the border - with a line up of two cars! The border guard was quite friendly and it took all of two minutes to get through.

From the border was the last two and a half hour blast up highway 97 until Kelowna.

Fun fact - did you know that the highway in the US is called highway 97 and is still called highway 97 in Canada? That's interesting! I don't think that it is that common! Usually the name changes over the border. I wonder how the two countries could agree to that - maybe there is hope for NAFTA continuing, after all!

View from Brian's patio near UBC Okanagan

I arrived in Kelowna and met up with my daughter who was house sitting for a relative. I took this photo from the balcony before we sat down to a nice dinner and some story telling on my part of my trip.

One more day - then back to Vancouver!

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Nine - Klamath Falls, OR to Yakima, WA

Day 9 - 600 km - 8 hours

Today was Bug Day. I had so many bugs on my helmet, on my windscreen, in my gloves, in the vents of my helmet… It was horrible!

At the start of the day I wore my jacket without the liner because it was a sunny day and I thought it would be quite warm. Unfortunately it was about 18 or 19° C. but with the wind it was actually quite cool and I got a bit chilled in the morning which surprised me. 

The Whistlestop farm - lots of plants and flowers but, alas, no cheese!
An interested llama at the Whistlestop farm
At one point I thought I'd hunt down one of the exciting things that I saw on the highway - the Whistlestop farm and florist, which I had hoped would sell cheese - but when I got to a farmhouse it only sold flowers. I took advantage of the time to have some  of my last bit of Hilman cheese and was welcomed by a llama which observed me very closely as I nibbled away. 

Off I went again and the next stop that I made I actually overshot. It was P.S. Ogden Rest Stop and I thought, "Meh, I don't need a rest," so I kept going . Mere seconds later I crossed a fantastic canyon which broke up the otherwise extremely flat land.  I went back to the rest stop and took a closer look. 

Bridge over the Crooked River - bungee jumping, anyone?

Another bridge over the Crooked River.

Hang on to your dog, or else they might plunge into the canyon!

In the middle of all these flat fields was the The Crooked River canyon and it is amazing! It was definitely worth the stop and, what's more, people were bungee jumping off a famous bridge (the Crooked River High Bridge) built in 1925 - now closed to traffic but open to pedestrians) overlooking the canyon that was built many years ago.

There was a warning sign about the cliff - also reminding people to watch their pets - dogs have been known to run right into the canyon.

I continued on driving at a great pace and enjoyed passing trucks and semis! I am still getting the hang of exactly how fast I can go when I'm passing and I did unfortunately 'thread the needle' a couple of times when I overestimated my speed or underestimated the oncoming vehicle but there was nothing ever really that close - really.

I stopped for lunch at a small town called Moro which had a couple of cafés and one gas station and some scattering of houses. I thought, instead of going to Subway or McDonald's or somewhere boring for lunch, that I would try somewhere local and I was happy with his with the result. 

The young lad that served me was probably a high school student and he was very polite. I ordered a half of a sandwich that I could build myself because I didn't feel like having a hamburger or hotdog and the sandwich was quite tasty and went well with my Diet Coke. The person cooking might have been his dad but another person came into the café at the time so I didn't get a chance to ask him.

Stonehenge war monument off in the distance

The next stop I made was one that I had read about. It is the Stonehenge Memorial – an actual Stonehenge made of concrete – that is war memorial. It was built between 1918 and 1929. Unfortunately I could only see it from far away on the highway and couldn't figure out how to visit it without making a massive detour. Unfortunately the bugs and oppressive heat (as opposed to the morning cool) deterred me from exploring. It had warmed up considerably during the day. The temperature had risen from around 18° C. to  35°C.  and when I finally got into Yakima it was 40°C.

Hard to see, but there are literally hundreds of wind turbines in the distance.
What other very cool thing that I don't think photos do justice to was the wind power farm I went through. There were literally hundreds of wind turbines at one point, which was very impressive, but when I passed closer to one, it was kind of creepy as they are so large! 

The CoPilot app decided that I should go onto Main Street in a suburb south of Yakima and go along Main Street through that town and all the way out to the other end of Yakima for some reason. Possibly the freeway was busy or traffic was bad or CoPilot just has a weird sense of humour but I did eventually make it to the Best Western Motel.

The Best Western was a 'plus' hotel which means that it was probably the nicest hotel I stayed at on the trip. The room was big with a separate seating area, a desk with a nice office chair, a fridge, a microwave, a good modern TV, king size bed, nice clean bathroom… it was overall a great room. So, of course, I forgot to take a photo of it.....

I was happy to make use of their pool after I checked in. There was a family there (which is absolutely fine) but they were the noisiest family I've ever seen or heard!  The pool was an indoor pool so that with all of the kids screaming it actually hurt my ears! Also I noticed that the dad had a ice bucket full of bottles of beer by the pool - maybe to help him cope with his own kids screaming! I left the pool, ears ringing, a bit sooner than I would have liked.

Next up was figuring out dinner. I found what I thought was the Yakima Thai Restaurant on my map app so I decided to walk there despite the heat because it's great to get the legs stretched every night. I managed to cross the highway without getting killed and ended up walking into basically a ghetto area looking for the restaurant. I followed Siri's instructions exactly and I ended up in a vacant lot beside two sketchy looking drug houses. I was not happy and at that point I thought, time to bail and get out back to the main highway, which I did. 

What's missing here?
I walked the other way up the highway and found a Chinese restaurant. You could tell that it was not an authentic Chinese because -  number one, I didn't see a Chinese person there - not even cooking and number two, there was not a chopstick in sight! I decided to order some prawns, sweet-and-sour pork and almond chicken. I was kind of surprised when all three were deep fried and the only difference was the different sauce on each one. I ate what I could and then left the rest because I just couldn't eat all that deep-fried food. The accompanying rice tasted like some sort of nasty Uncle Ben's rice rather than true Asian rice so I left that behind as well. I hate being wasteful with food but I can't take it with me on the scooter and, to be quite honest, it's just too much food for one serving.. If I tried to eat it all I would feel ill afterwards.

The restaurant did have a very nice girl who served and a very nice woman who I chatted with who I assume was the owner. They were very lovely people.

Tonight would be my last night in a hotel and while it had been fun staying in different motels /  hotels I was looking forward to talking to somebody else besides my iPhone in the evening. Sorry, Siri, you're just not that much fun to talk to!

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Eight - Reno NV to Klamath Falls, OR

Day 8  - 409 kms - 5 hours

Was it all a dream?

I quickly checked my wallet and there they were - 2 crisp 100 bills (name of president?) and various 20s.

I felt pretty good - luckily they seriously water down the casino drinks- and I actually made an earlier start - up at 6:15. After a muffin and coffee in the hotel I packed my bag and headed for the parkade.

The ride was fairly uneventful as I left Reno. The little city seems so small now but was a lot bigger to me when  I was 21 - a couple friends and I went down for a few days for an impromptu break from classes. Of course, that was before I had done any serious travelling but, still, I was surprised that there were 4 or 5 casinos on the main drag and not much else.

I did walk by a place yesterday afternoon selling $2 jello shooters and when I peered into the darkness for a second, a chorus of very drunk voices encouraged me to join them. I declined.

I left Nevada fairly early on. I noticed in Reno that scooter riders on, what looked like 50cc scoots, did not require a helmet. I later confirmed that on the Nevada DMV website. Interesting variation.

A scenic California view

Another scenic California

Scenic California desert - Modoc Forest
Today's ride was a lot like riding in the Okanagan - scrubby bald desertish landscapes with greenish brown vegetation and trees. The roads were enjoyable to ride - some straight, some curvy, and not too crowded. I had a blast passing the occasional truck, cranking up the speed, just to pass safely, of course.

Then there was the interminable wait for road work.

Waiting for roadwork
And another.

Waiting for roadwork - again!
And another.

Other than gas and road works, I rarely stopped. I filled up in Susanville and was a bit worried as the next gas station I saw was not until Tulelake, where I was forced to put $3 of regular (gasp!) in my premium baby.

Finally I entered Oregon and , shortly thereafter, Klamath Falls.

Nice big hotel room. Suitable for a maverick! 
I booked a room at the Maverick Motel which was downtown but in sort of the scuzzy part of downtown. The room was the biggest so far and it has a nice king bed and a super shower. Unfortunately there is no pool - a mistake I will have to remedy in the future. I was getting used to my daily dip after a hot ride.

An interesting pedal-less bicycle outside the Leap of Taste coffee shop
I was there a lot earlier than I, or CoPilot, thought I would be. I used the extra time to have a giant nap (close to an hour) and had a really hard time motivating myself to get up. I was successful, however, and strolled down Main Street until I found a coffee shop (A Leap of Taste) where I ordered an ice coffee and sat in the shade, enjoying the coolness.

Gun shop for big shots
I continued down the street and spotted something I don't think I've seen before - a gun shop with a giant gun attached to the side of the store. Only in America?
Pretty, but with rules..

It was a very picturesque main street with flower pots, nice sidewalks, and a variety of stores. Interestingly, most of the flower pots had this rule list right below the pot.
Young lads playing croquet
At the end of the downtown was a nice city park. I was surprised - in a good way - when I saw a group of teenage boys playing croquet in the park! Kind of heart warming.

Lake Uwauna shot from city park in Klamath Falls.
Park selfie!
The park fronted onto Lake Ewauna which provided some scenic shots. Overall, it was a nice walk.

Back at the motel, I noticed there was a craft brewery next door that also served food. I decided to head over to the Klamath Basin Brewery and check it out.
Patio of Klamath Basin Brewing
There was a country band tuning up on the patio and, though I'm not a huge country fan, I thought that I would enjoy listening to them in the warm evening. I was not disappointed.

I wish that I could remember the band's name but I can't. The singer did a great job and I had fun listening to them.
Giant plate of risotto - it was tasty but way to big! Left 3/4 of it behind.
At one point I ordered dinner - chicken and mushroom risotto. Now, when I make risotto at home, I server a scoop of risotto (and turn whatever leftovers there are into risotto balls).  I was served a giant playful of risotto with a chicken breast on top! There was no way that I could finish it! I might have had a quarter of the risotto but could not finish eating the rest.

Ahh, beer samples!
I did, however, order their sampler. It was a tray of ten of their beers in sampler size - and it was only 12 or 13 dollars! Unbelievable! And tasty beers!

It was such an enjoyable evening that I thought that this was the perfect opportunity for the trip T-shirt. The pub had a couple different designs and I chose this one - the Klamath Basin logo was on the front (in white) with the 'state of Jefferson' breweries on the back (pictured). By the way, the state of Jefferson is a movement to create a new state from part of Northern California and part of Southern Oregon. 

After the beer and food that I did eat, it was time to ample back to the motel and have a nice, comfortable sleep.

Monday 1 August 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Seven - Lodi, CA to Reno NV

Day 7 - 310 km - 6 hours

So you might have been wondering, why did I go to Lodi in the first place?

I had decided to make my trip into a circle trip so I went south on the coast and the return journey through, basically, the middle of the western states - although that took a slight detour when I headed for today's destination, the biggest, littlest city around - Reno!

I left Lodi this morning not feeling very sad about leaving the city. It's OK but, as far as food went,  there were so many taqueria to eat and that' was about it. Luckily, there was a breakfast of sorts in the hotel and I had some toast before I left town and then headed on the quieter route, avoiding the interstate, onto Reno.

Unfortunately the first quiet highway I went on was Highway 50 which seemed like a massive interstate as it had six lanes each way leaving  Lodi. Luckily it became quieter and thinned out into a smaller route as I went along. It actually turned out quite nice as there were a number of parks, nice trees and gentle landscapes that were very enjoyable to go through.

When I stopped for gas there were a group of girl guides or girl rangers (not sure what it's called in the US) with their leaders that were at the gas station on their way to a camping trip.  I smiled as I thought of my kids going to camp when they were younger.

Lake Tahoe through the trees

Nice view of Lake Tahoe
Finally we got to South Tahoe and I took some nice photos of of Tahoe Lake while we were there. It seemed like it had a nice beach from what I could see.

Forest near Carson City

Nice bike! near Carson City
Then I pressed on and went through more forested areas and had some nice curves and twists and swooping curves that I really enjoyed riding on my BMW scooter. It was a nice enjoyable ride and it was warm – the thermostat on my BMW said it was around 30 to 32°C most of today and that was quite tolerable.

Rose between two thorns - or Harleys - in Virginia City

Nice sign!

My first real stop of the day was in Virginia City. Virginia City has been restored or preserved as an old cowboy town or old frontier town. It has some beautiful buildings but they're all quite commercial. In fact I found after a while once you've walked a couple blocks the actual stores started to repeat. For example there was a photo place every block and a half where you dressed up for photos and there were numerous saloons and places selling leather chaps.

Lunch stop in Carson City
Having a cold one (don't worry, it's a light beer) at the Silver Queen saloon!
I ended up stopping at one of the saloons and had a enjoyable light beer and an acceptable taco salad (more Mexican food).

I did look for a acceptable T-shirt but nothing seemed that good so I pressed on in my search for the perfect trip T-shirt.

I then continued down the road and then made my way to Reno. I parked in the free parking at the El Dorado hotel and checked in.
Front entrance of the Eldorado hotel.

Nice, King sized bed at the Eldorado.
My room that I booked for $53 US was the best of the trip so far. Clean, spacious, and not A bit grotty. It was a great deal and I'm very happy that I decided to stay here 36 years after I stayed here before, way back when I was in university.
Twisting by the pool...
I checked with the pool which was the same as it was 36 years ago – a rather small pool but not overly used so it was easy for me to sneak by the group of little girls playing in the shallow end and loll around the deep end of the pool. I really enjoyed being in a clean the pool with no bugs all over the surface and it was very enjoyable if not a little hot. After my dip which lasted about half an hour I sat in the shade by the pool and listened to a podcast which was very relaxing and needed at this point in the trip.
Ravioli Porcini at La Strada
After consulting some reviews in my room I decided to go to La Scala which is an Italian restaurant inside of the El Dorado. It is an Italian restaurant and I know that Cath and I had a just OK experience at an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas four years ago but this one was excellent. I asked for  some prosecco to start then ravioli porcini accompanied by a Chardonnay which was amazing. The sauce and the filling of the ravioli rivalled our best dinners in Rome! It's too bad Cath wasn't there to share the meal.  I topped it off with an espresso/ gelato combo and a limoncello. Bueno!

After a brief nap in the room, I decided to hit the tables. Earlier in the day I had gone and lost $20 at the slots in about five minutes. I wasn't feeling really positive but I thought I would take another $80 and see where it went. No more, of course, because I have a limit of $100 a day if I do go to Reno or Vegas.
I remember way back when the tables were only two dollars for betting. Now they are five dollars or even $10 for a minimum bet. You can crank through a lot of money pretty fast at five dollars a bet! However I did my best and I started off with $60 US.

I lost the first $30 fairly rapidly and was a little worried that my initial betting would not go well. However, aided by some bourbon and cokes (still free),  I slowly start to build up my reserves. While chatting with the gentlemen at the table I steadily increased my reservoir of money until I was about double at $120. At that point I realized that if I made a side bet (special casino rule for that table) - the bet was if I could get a 20 in my first two cards, I could make a fair bit of extra money as that was the "lucky ladies "part of the table. I did this a few times and because I had 20  I got either 4 times or 10 times my side bet. This lucky lady bet combined with some success in my actual black jack play ended up with me taking that $60 stake to $275! I was worried that my $50 dinner was too much but as it turned out, it was more than covered from my gambling!

I had to quit the table because I have to go to the bathroom so badly and I took that as a sign to stop gambling for the night because I was well ahead and anything further would probably result in me getting less money rather than more. I retired to my swank hotel room feeling a bit fuzzy from the numerous water downed bourbon and Cokes that I had received from the waitress while I played and kicked back to watch some TV before tomorrow's long ride to Klamath Falls.