Drinking From the Fire Hose

Check out the updated photo gallery links at the end of the post.

Check out the updated photo gallery links at the end of the post.

August 22, 2015

Our first day took us up the Nehalem River on the dirt road that leads from Mohler up through Spruce Run Park, depositing us on Hwy 26, which we followed to our friends’ house in Hillsboro.   The road up the river is a favorite of mine, and always brings back memories of a storm years ago that caused floods and slides, cutting all the roads south from Astoria except this one.  In old “788”, my trusty work pickup, I followed it in the dark, splashing through swollen creeks coming down across the road, but made it through and home to Newport that night.  Things were stirred up in the high winds and rain, and at one point a huge bull elk stood frozen in the headlights, both of us worried about where to go next.  I turned off the lights and he disappeared.  Our trip up the river and to Hillsboro was less eventful.

Nathan and Chris were wonderful hosts to us, returning the favor of our hosting them earlier in the summer through MotoStays.  A place where we could just crash for the night without thinking too much was a godsend.  After all the preparations for putting our lives on hold, we were mentally exhausted.  They took us to a great Mexican place, and then all I remember was sliding into bed and waking up the next morning wonderfully refreshed.

We took a wandering route up to Tacoma, going back out through Vernonia and Clatskanie, then crossing over on the little ferry to Puget Island.  At Cathlamet, we ate our grocery-store lunches and shot a short video for the webpage.  Being a little silly is coming easier as we relax into a new life.

In Tacoma we visited with a few close friends and my family.  I have an older brother and sister, as well as my Mom and Dad.  Four days with them went by fast, and soon it came time to say goodbye.  With us planning on being gone for the next two years, and my parents being 90 and 92, it was a serious goodbye, and weighed heavy on me.  Will I see them again?  I don’t know.  Still, we have their full support and blessing for this trip.  These were people that had had adventures themselves, with Dad in Africa and Europe in WW II, and the two of them deciding on short notice to move from New Jersey out to some town called Tacoma in the 1950s just before I was born.  They rolled the dice and took the chance, and I’ve always been grateful I was raised out west where dirt bikes were plentiful.  They came out to see the motorcycles fully packed and send us off, and so turning the bikes up the drive and away from them felt okay.

We passed over the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) in Washington and followed it east.  We camped at Lone Pine, then continued on through Winthrop and Omak, and up and over Sherman Pass.  We camped again along Lake Roosevelt just north of Kettle Falls, and had a marvelous swim in the now dammed-up Columbia River.  The Grand Coulee Dam creates a lake that stretches far across northeast Washington.  That day and the next, we rode by several forest fires and heavy smoke, the fires often visible from the road.  We learned that Hwy 20 was closed not long after we rode through the area, so considered ourselves lucky we didn’t have to backtrack the long way around.  The fires leapt up from the trees in a frightening display of power, with black smoke roaring up to mix with the air and form a thick gray haze obscuring everything.

At the border going into Canada, Jalene had a friendly lesson that you can’t take small self-defense cans of pepper spray into Canada.  After giving it up and pleading ignorance (and smiling that Jalene smile) they sent her off to go have fun.

The sign in Castelgar said “Camping”, so we followed it and found ourselves at a golf course with RV spaces and a nice corner for our tent.  We set it up and then sat back and watched as the golf balls sailed into nearby trees along the 18th fairway, often followed by sounds of exasperation from the tee box.  Sure enough, along came the golf cart and the ball was rescued and swatted away.  Showers were had with “old Loonies”, the Canadian dollar coins.  I’m not sure if there is a new loony.  But old loony or new, the hot water felt great to scrub away three days of travel.  We ate at the clubhouse, tasty food and beer, and listened as the retired guys gave each other a ribbing over their day at golf.

Breakfast at the clubhouse started us down the road to Nakusp, where we spent the next three days attending a Horizons Unlimited (HU) Travellers meeting.  HU is an organization in support of world overland motorcycle travellers.  They have meetings and events at various places the world over.  This meeting was structured much like some of the fisheries science conferences I’ve attended, with each day filled with presentations by travellers about journeys, preparation, first-aid, border crossings, bike repairs on the road, and lots of fun and games.  We had purposely planned the start of our trip around this event, as we intended to learn as much as we could before setting out across the continents.  We had delayed some important decisions until after being able to get the best information at this meeting, and boy did we get information!  At times it was like drinking from a fire hose, listening to people who had just recently completed exactly what we intend to do.

A classic example was meeting a wonderful couple from Mexico City, Javier and Isabel, who spent an afternoon with our giant Michelin map of Mexico spread out on the table, circling and drawing out all the best roads and their favorite places to visit.  Many others bent over to lend a hint or pick up some of what was being offered.  It seemed like each time we talked to someone new about a region we might go through, the deck got re-shuffled as we got excited about another new idea.

But soon Sunday came and it was time for everyone to pack up and say their goodbyes.  We had a fantastic experience at Horizons Unlimited in Nakusp, and hope to make many more of these meetings either here or in other places of the world.

So now here we are in camp at Cedar Lake, just outside of Golden, BC.  Tomorrow we will head up the road to Lake Louise and Banff not far away, as we begin the real trip.

Addendum, Kampground Karma – August 24, 2015

After I had finished writing, a 1200GS came rolling in, with a rider in good gear swiveling his head about as thought looking for a site.  As they were all filled up, I waved him over and offered that he could pitch his tent with us.  Turns out that the rider, Lee, worked for the regional power company and was actually at work on his GS checking out potential sites for substations for people wanting to put power back INTO the grid.  After a chat, he set up his tent and took off to find some dinner.  We went to bed before he got back, and he was also up and out of there early as well.  When Jay and I rolled out, we found $20 on the table.  Totally unnecessary but much appreciated, Lee!  It’s paying for our campsite up here near Lake Louise tonight.

Speaking of Lake Louise, what a crazy swarm of humanity we saw at the lake.  I couldn’t tell which was more impressive – the incredible head-dress of the Native American Indian, or the massive turban of the Indian fellow having his photo taken with him.  And along with our two Indians was a mix of languages of all sorts – lots of Japanese and German, also Australian, American, and plenty of Spanish – quite the pleasing assortment of flavors.

Ready for some pictures to go along with the stories? Head to our Photo Gallery.

Post by Keith. Photos shared by Jalene. What a team!

The Fears That Bind Us

We’re finally on the road.  Somehow, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do 6 months ago.  All of our lives are now packed onto and into two motorcycles that for the next two years will carry us over the length and breadth of two continents.

This past year found us questioning our pattern of existence.  Both of us were realizing that it was time for a substantial, fundamental change in our lives.  It was time for us to live by our own standards and on our own terms.

The mental shift from “I’d like to…” to “How can I…?” is subtle in language but tectonic in force.  As soon as we started asking specific “How can we?” questions, the answers started coming.  And before long came the realization that all the obstacles and all the fears that bind us to our present lives were created ourselves, and exist mainly in our heads.  People have asked us where we found the courage to do this, and it comes from the knowledge we gained by asking those specific questions and finding the answers, one by one, until finally the obstacles were gone, and all that was left was our own fear.  Our love of motorcycles and travel pushed us over the edge – there was no decision to be made, only an opportunity to grab right now before it vanished with the years.

Jalene and I have no more kids at home, no pets still with us, no big responsibilities at the present.  This is the time when we can just go.  So now, in our 50s, while we are still healthy and strong, the decision has come to just go.  Before our resolve failed us, we resigned our jobs, and started selling and giving away all the unnecessary stuff that our lives surround us with.

The garage sale netted $400, which started the process of letting go of all the crap we’d accumulated.  Work began in the administrative categories of health insurance, re-organizing our bank and credit accounts, vehicle registrations and licenses, contracting with a property management agency to rent out our house, and myriad other details.  The amount of work involved in “Quit your jobs, sell your crap, do what you love” is daunting.

Friends stepped up in unbelievable ways.  Patty offered her empty storage building for all our household stuff, relieving us of the need for paid storage, and letting us keep more for when we return.  Matt stored the air compressor, welder, and other bulky equipment, I hope he gets good use from them.  So many people did so many things for us that I don’t know where to start.  I’ll simply say that we are blessed with wonderful people all around us, without which we would be lost.

And then August 10, the target date for departure was at hand.  By some miracle we seemed ready.  I got up and watched my last beloved MotoGP race I’d recorded, and then turned it off for good (Rossi retaining the points lead).  By noon we had the last of the stuff out of the house.  The very last thing we removed was, of course, the cable modem, internet ‘till the end.  I boxed it up and strapped it on the bike, and turned it in to the Charter office, actually having a small credit due, the first ever that I didn’t owe MORE money to the cable company.  Just as we were finishing up the UPS truck arrived with the last parts shipment - spare fork seals to carry with us.  We locked the door, rolled the bikes out of the garage, fired them up, and said goodbye.

Post by Keith