Monday, May 16, 2011

Motorcycling - Redding to Eugene

Eugene, Oregon

Some thoughts: I'm only a few days away from  returning to Homer, my home for the past 28 years. Yet, exactly where my actual home is these days is a continuing mystery. I have another life of sorts in Thailand. I have 28 years and many friends in Homer, in Alaska. But is it time to leave the Great Land in favor of someplace warmer, sunnier, easier to get to and out of? All my relatives are in the lower 48, and I'm finished with winters. Logic says I must leave Alaska. But where would I go?  Bothersome questions, and questions without answers, at least for the present.

The narrative resumes: The last leg of the motorcycle tour brings me back to my starting place, my son Tuli's home in Eugene. As always, I try whenever possible to avoid using the Interstate highways. They're boring and at the same time, dangerous for motorcycles. So I opted to take the scenic route back to Eugene, north and west on California Rte 299 to the coast, north along the Pacific shore on U.S. Rte 101, then a quick run east on Oregon Rte 126 from Florence to Eugene. Much longer but much more scenic. I had purchased a new front tire in Redding and consequently wasn't as  concerned about hitting wet roads as I had been -- I was feeling confident and up for the challenge. In addition, I was coming off of three days rest so my body was saying "no problem", it will be a great last ride before battening the bike down for the summer.

True to its promise California 299 was a hoot, offering great curves, smooth pavement and pretty views. The road runs alongside the Trinity River after crossing the height of land -- it's awesome highway and gorgeous scenery all the way to the coast.

Trinity River -- CA Route 299
The coast. The north Pacific coast. Damn it! It sure got chilly all of a sudden. I felt the change in temperature as soon as I sighted the ocean. And I had about 200 miles of coast road to cover before turning east. I stopped in Trinidad for coffee and clam chowder and to get warm. While I was in there I changed into my long johns, long-sleeved wind shirt, again added the fleece liner to my Kilimanjaro jacket and otherwise prepared myself for the cold. When I resumed my travels I felt fairly comfortable and I took my time running along the Redwoods Highway. I'd visited here a few years ago when I had made this very same trip in a rental car. However, the redwoods are always a special treat. How could we have cut most of them down and made them into decks and lawn chairs? An incredibly stupid waste.

In the redwoods

Elk grazing in Prairie Redwoods Park
By the time I got to Gold Beach the wind was blowing fiercely. A headwind of course. How can it be, I asked myself, that I always get headwinds, and never a tail wind? I've traveled north, I've traveled south, and east, and west, and never have I had a sustained tail wind. The wind died down after a while but I had lost enough heat while fighting it off that a warming stop, preferably over a hot cup of coffee, was what I wanted most now. I passed through town after town but I found no coffee shop, restaurant, or even a greasy spoon that was open, or so it seemed. I finally did spot a drive thru espresso shop in Bandon that was doing a brisk business. I pulled over and ordered a big latte. Clutching the cup with both hands I took my coffee over alongside a nearby supermarket and jumped up on the bags of mulch that were stacked in its lee, there to soak up some precious warmth from the sun's last rays.

Oregon coast - U.S. 101 - 208 miles traveled, 195 to Florence
Florence is but a hop skip and a jump from Bandon and before long I had covered the 70 or so miles on Rte 126 and was back in Eugene. I parked the bike, unloaded my stuff and sat down to some supper with Tuli, Shannon and Harper. Full circle. Walking upright, and safely back. A small miracle I suppose.

Trip stats: Tuesday, May 11th (my brother's birthday) 469 miles -- 8:46 ride time -- 11:02 total time. This is the most mileage I've ever accrued in a single day on a bike. And the longest time in the saddle.

After I had been back a few days, I found myself wondering again what I should do about the bike. My original idea had been to keep it here in Eugene and ride in the fall and spring, on my way to and from Thailand. And while this trip has been quite an experience I do not relish the thought of driving three or four days just to get back to southern Utah. Throw in a week or three of bad weather, a few days of gale force winds, some ghastly American road food and expensive motels, and Thailand is looking more and more like the best place to own and ride a motorcycle. Add to that the fact that I really can't afford financially to travel like this (staying in American motels and eating restaurant food) and the question becomes, why did I buy a bike here in the states in the first place?

I reckon it had to do with my assumption that motorcycling here would be essentially the same as motorcycling in Thailand. I've never entertained the notion of owning a bike in Alaska. Why? The climate is too damn cold. And this trip, here in the "mellow" lower 48, was a cold, windy one. Carrying enough clothing to meet every situation you might encounter in the springtime means carrying a massive amount of gear. Contrast that with Thailand winters where weather is rarely a factor, the winds light or calm, accommodations inexpensive, the food delicious, and cheap to boot.

And too, the distances one needs to cover between the fun motorcycling roads are vast here in the states. Example: the trip from Needles to Tucson was a tough one, 352 miles, brutal miles on I-10, that were not very scenic. We had a 3-day interlude in Tucson before driving another 93 miles on I-10 until we got into good roads again on the way to Silver City. So was it 500 miles between Needles and the next "good road"? No, not quite. Actually, the last good road before Needles was in Death Valley, 196 miles back. We drove roughly 700 difficult miles to get from one good motorcycling road to the next. Sort of crazy, eh? Or maybe I'm just soft. Not cut out to be an American long distance biker. At any rate, after much soul searching, flip-flopping and gnashing of teeth, I've decided to sell my bike; the same bike I spent so much time researching, so much time looking for and so much time driving last month.

The VStrom is an awesome motorcycle and I hate having to sell it. While I wish I could own two bikes of this caliber, one here and one there, I simply can't afford to do that. A choice must be made. I've looked into importing a bike into Thailand but everyone says that process is fraught with difficulties. The DL650 would eat up those Thailand hills, even riding 2-up and carrying all of Nut's and my gear. If I can sell this machine for about what I paid, I will turn around and start looking for a similar motorcycle in Thailand.

All dressed up and no place to go

I'm not sure when I'll write again. It will be early spring in Homer when I get there. The pushkii will be just showing, the French Open will be playing on TV and my partners may or may not have work for me. I'll do a little salmon fishing, ride my bike, and play some tennis. Before long it'll be time to head overseas again, back to Thailand and back to Nut, my BTGF. I have tentative plans to visit Nepal next fall.  And then too, my buddy Joe is back in Fiji running the dive school at the Manta Ray Resort in the Yasawa Islands so a visit there could just possibly be in the cards. A return to Fiji would really be going full circle because that's where all this wanderlust began. Stay tuned if you wish....