This past weekend was the Alabama Cup Whitewater Race on the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. It was sorta on my way so I stopped in to check out the festivities. The water was up and the course looked technical but doable. After my bit of paddling back in California, I felt like I could probably ferry and climb eddies within this course. Folks were nestled along the steep bank to grab a view of the single and tandam racers.
Later that afternoon, I made it back to my friends at Common Ground in Royal, AL. It was a warm welcome from everyone and a Sunday night potluck saw 36 people come out to greet me and celebrate Darryl's 68th birthday. While visiting I had opportunity to go on hikes, plant potatoes with Martha, weed the garden, spread mulch and work on mowers. It was a constant schedule to meet friends and share meals around the community. It has been enjoyable watching things shift and grow as more younger people are attrqcted to the land and it's value for the future. There is a special warmth here and care that is shared and spread among the characters of Hamilton Mountain.
Over at Trickle Creek where I spent 6 months, nature had taken over and was in charge. Privet hedges grow quickly and much of my work has returned. My old jeans however are still hung on the garden line.
I had the thought a few days ago to clean up the trashed Royal Cut-Off Rd. In an hour of work, Nancy and I picked up 6 or 7 bags of recycling, many glass jugs and a christmas tree (fake). Here she is caught red-handed.
It was a short but momentus visit but I plan to paddle back here for the Land Party in July. I imagine it will be a much needed break from my journey to reset, repack ans relax among friends.
After a memorable visit with family, I felt ready to continue on in the northeasterly direction toward friends in north Alabama. The southerly Gulf winds blew warm and humid to drive me back to the pine forests and river campsites of central Alabama.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has built major dams and lakes along the rivers in this region. Part of their management are the many recreation sites and boat ramps for access. Each day was an easy 100 mi scoot from one camp to another. Wildlife refuges harbor migratory birdlife and create a buffer between some of the gas and oil operations.
An old log church in a bend on Watermellon Rd outside Tuscaloosa catches my attention. The dove-tailed oak logs and wavy glass windows speak to another time and level of craftsmanship.
The winds shifted to the NW and blew a cold wind down the Tombigbee valley. I was foolish to believe March would be so docile and warm. Fortunately the day would be warm on my way to friends for the next few days.
The cold weather was now resolutely behind me on the other side of a pressure system. With blue skies and breezy crosswinds I pulled in to my friend Kammie's in Natchitoches, LA. The history rich town on Cane River Lake traces it's past back to the French and Spanish colonial period 400 years ago. Cotton plantations dating to the 1800s line the banks of Cane River. I imagine the steamboats, shanty houseboats and rafts floating downstream in days gone by. The next 4 days were filled with booming thunderstorms and inches of rain plinking off the metal porch roof.
Mid-week I prepared to leave and was grateful for the rest, gear reset/repair and fabulous company. Despite the heavy thunderstorm cells and already flooded forests, I set off east for Mississippi. The rain soaked through my pants in 30 minutes and I took few pictures on the back country straight pine lined highways.
Crossing the Mississippi River in Natchez brough back memories of paddling beneath it last summer. With sun finally shining on me and a sweet tail wind, I cruised on down to the town of Bude and to the warm pines of the Homochito NF. The afternoon was ripe for a hike and a cup of Community Coffee Dark Roast as the sun set. Camped at the end of a forest road on a hill, the swoosh of wind in the pines lulled me to sleep.
The following day was dry and allowed me to pack and get riding by 6AM. By noon, thunderstorms blown from the Gulf forced me to seek shelter. Three times I stopped beneath church parking awnings before making it to Pascagoula.
My sister's family down on the Gulf Coast gave me a warm welcome and hearty meals of pork chops, steaks, sausages, potatoes and many fresh salads. For the last few days I've been catching up on maintenance and playing with my nephew. It has been a welcomed break but again I feel the pull of the road. It will be fun to paddle back down here by the end of summer.
Each time I make it to eastern Texas, I savor the welcome or goodbye from the edge of the pine belt. Just east of College Station after hundreds of miles of hill country oaks and juniper, tall stands of shortleaf pine fill the forests. Returning to forests with the damp smell of decomposing soil, swampy wetlands and the sweet pine scent is almost a religious experience after the prolonged period of time in the arid southwest.
The Sam Houston National Forest contains a network of logging roads snaking through the sandy pines. The sound of motorboats on Lake Conroe drift for miles on the dense humid air. Out on the highways of east Texas are many trucks towing 250hp bass boats to the lake.
Stands of uninterupted long leaf pine once stretched hundreds of miles to the Atlantic but have since been mostly destroyed through logging and deforestation. In certain areas efforts are being made to restore these valuable habitats where Red Cockaded wood peckers drum away and the Great Horned Owl hoots after sunset. To my southern ears, few sounds are sweeter than the ebb and flow of wind through the needles.
A busy row of green caught my attention and upon further investigation led to a leaf-cutter ant nest. The 30 foot trail, nearly arrow straight, was dotted with active red ants carrying their nutrients home. I tread lightly in camp, aware of these routes, then set my tent in a safe location to avoid any damage.
Crossing Toledo Bend and the dam, a blue sign welcomed me to Louisiana and a pavement hump marked the transition to rough and worn pavement. Red clay hillsides and deeply rutted roads like chocolate milk greeted me. Cypress trees dotting the dark tanin stained ponds and bayous were a welcome sight and ushered in a flood of paddling memories.
Portions of Fort Polk are open to hunting as a WMA so I took the shortcut through the old post. The landscape was thoroughly managed to restore long leaf pines. The similalry aged 30 year old trees grow with almost no understory and a floor of knee high grass reminiscent of a savannah. The intoxicatinG mixture of pine resin and sweet hay heated by the sunshine and blown on humid southerly winds from the Gulf fills my helmet. It is a great day for taking my time and savoring the sublime conditions with no traffic, perfect weather and comforting familiarity of scenery. Coming back to the pine forests of the deep south is like returning "home", whatever that means...
It was a relaxing and enjoyable visit in Alamagordo but the call of the road led me back to the wilds. Climbing to Cloudcroft at over 8000ft meant 4500 feet of elevation gain in 15 miles but, just as last time, La Tortuga slowly topped the rise into town. After a night camping at 7000ft in the southeastern mountainous juniper forests, I descended toward the flat expanses of west Texas.
Oil rigs and pump jacks dot the horizon and a strong north wind gusted me toward the emergency lane where I likely belong. Speed limits in Texas are high with many of these two lane roads allowing legal 75mph traffic. Although the speeds are high, it makes my 35 mph seem that much slower and passing motorists assertively leave me in their dust. The reflective vest also meant folks slow a bit and recognize me as a hazard or slow moving vehicle from a mile off.
In places where oil or gas wasn't viable, monstorous wind farms exponentially expand toward the flat horizon, their blades slowly spinning with a hollow "whomp". Many of the oversize load trucks passing me carry a single nose cone hub for these generators, a component that much more impressive at ground level.
It seems like just last week that I was crossing the Colorado River in Arizona and here I was in Texas crossing another Colorado River. The drought in recent years here has led to major drops in water level, rendering many of the recreation areas high and dry for boating and access. Fortunately for me they were empty in the frosty air of February and nobody was present to demand the $5/night fee. Ample camping was about a 100 mile ride apart and I took each day slow, gradually packing in the morning sun, brewing coffee and riding when warm enough mid morning.
My friend Tom in Marble Falls invited me to stop through the Ranchito overlooking the Colorado River. There I met Gittie, his new bride and spent a few days visiting local watering holes with them, picking guitar and savoring her delicious cooking.
I fiddled around with a cantankerous chainsaw carburetor before Tom suggested we burn some brush. A year old pile of juniper that he cut was prime for lighting so he set up the weed burner and I walked around igniting the conflagration from downwind side around to windward. The heat was welcomed among the brisker winds of the dipping pressure system.
On Sunday before I departed we made a trip down to Brass Hall for some pool and pale ales. The atmosphere was relaxed and along with the jukebox, pool table and denim clad Texan, I snapped this memory with my phone. Thanks for all that southern hospitality!
Departing Arizona by way of Globe found me on wide 65 mph highways with light traffic. The direct route to my next destination of Alamagordo is only 3 or 400 miles by Interstate but by Ruckus I was forced to zig zag around an additional 200 miles. Not complaining but enjoying the lower truck traffic and fewer campers than in AZ. Approaching the continental divide, I noticed some loss of power, actually a few days earlier I felt that surging similar to what stranded me in CA. Pulling onto one of the many BLM access roads over a cattlr gate, I propped the bike on my new sidestand (thanks Dan) and replaced the variator and belt. My mistske was to choose the variator taken from my friend's Metropolitan from my choice of four. After multiple trial and error sessions I learned the two look much alike but the Metro variator has a much longer center shaft forcing it to protrude into the kick starter.
It ran fine once I installed the right variator and carried me up to camp in the Tonto NF right on the continental divide over 6000 ft. The sandy road was hard to see as darkness had set and the wind blew among the 20ft juniper bushes. I fired up the twig stove and made a nice meal of curried rice and lentils under the stars.
Come morning, I descended to Silver City and knew something else was wrong. Sure enough when I stopped in town at the visitor center it died. The ground for the coil had evidence of arcing and half the tab was missing. The gap between the disconnected wire was grounding across that gap. No wonder my mileage was down to 89mpg and had a little blowby.
This.train and I passed each other all afternoon as we struggled uphill then finally reached the pass. In the morning when I left camp, a new train was waiting for me turning downhill.
The following day I road down to the Rio Grande and had to head north sinze US70 from Las Cruces to White Sands is an uphill climb with high speed traffic. Nope, I'd head upriver through scenic and verdant valley land reminiscent of the San Jaquin with cottonwoods and oaks. Soon it transitioned back into creosote bush, sage and grass. Eventually the interstate crossed a wide canyon and I was forced to either take it or keep to the dirt track. Not 10 miles of bouncing on Monticello Point Rd sheared my exhaust bolt and cracked the header from the muffler! Third muffler destroyed. I continued on for another 120 miles at 30mph with no muffler.
Fortunately out here there wasn't anyone to complain about the reverberating blat of my thumper. Even with ear plugs, I had a ringing so I put on some headphones and cranked up the tunes. Regular traffic for these desert roads but great visibility and ample passing room makes going 30mph a joy. Two fuel stops saw 130mpg with no muffler!
To my relief, the bike held in there until Alamagordo where I roared into Ara's driveway. It was excellent seeing him adjusting well to his new world here, having the accessibility of services and stores nearby and a full kitchen. The sunny and warm early February days are great for projects like painting the roof trim. Anything to help and another state to add to my "places I painted" : VA, AL, WA, TX, AK, NM.
Having been welcomed here is a special privelage and I appreciate the abundant hospitality my friend has shown here. Delicious lamb chops pan fried or a sweet nibble of the saucer-sized chocolate chip cookies have been a welcome break from road cuisine.
I was able to do some service on the scooter and surprised myself that it has about 1700 miles on it since leaving LA and 2000 since the last oil change. After reuniting the muffler and scraping the crud off the magnetic drain plug, and a headlight allignment, Tortuga should be ready to Mess With Texas!
I made my way through Parker stopping for fuel and water then pressing on. The truck and RV traffic along the highway was intense before turning east on Hwy 72. I forgot about the shitty shoulders in AZ, their only reprieve being the miles of passing zones and straight flat stretches. With much BLM land along the roadside, I never struggled to make camp. Riding about 150 miles a day seems like a comfortable pace with the length of day.
The yip of coyotes gives way to the birdsong of the desert in predawn. Through the flyscreen of my tent I watch the glow on the horizon and the gradual painting of the clouds to pinks and orange.
Down the highway I pass a van pulled over and half unloaded. I stop to offer any help bit he has a blown engine and was on the phone with a tow truck. Good luck buddy.
It takes most of the afternoon to get around Scottsdale and Phoenix but I soon set my sights on the towering Superstition Mtns. Needles and peak soar over 5000ft and are illiminated in a warm panel by the afternoon sun.
Riding up the twisty but bumpy Apache Trail led me to a jeep trail up to an overlook campsite in the Tonto National Forest. The view was impressive and the scenic landscape a welcomed break from the suburbia of mid-day.
It took a solid morning of riding to escape the pull of Los Angeles. I decided to attempt crossing El Cajon Pass on a dirt road instead of I-10. The GPS didn't show the road continuing over the Santa Fe rail lines but Satellite view showed otherwise. The northern winds buffeted the scooter and whipped sand. A freight train rumbled past up the grade in a clacking processional.
I drove through a sandy wash and up behind a road grader. Using Maps.me and google satellite view I meandered north along the rail line. The trail was rugged but avoided the bustling freeway to my right. I was soon clear of the mountains and dropped into Hesperia and on into the Mojave. Crossing through Lucerne Valley and Johnson Valley remind me of previous times I've crossed these grounds. They grow more familar and comfortable with each passage.
Northwest of Landers I make camp beneath the cleaved section of the Giant Rock. This was a Hopi spiritual location and has rich history in the 20th century worth a Wiki.
In the morning I meet up with Matt in 49 Palms Oasis Trailhead for a 3 mi hike. It was a nice way to spend the morning exercising. It still felt necessary to get some miles down so I left off into the eastern expanses of the Mojave on Hwy 62. The odd ghost town and remnant ranch of another era stood weathered but in a stasis due to the dry air.
We camped out in the former Tank training grounds used by Patton in WWII. Miles of tracks snake through the expansive desert of creosote bush. I got the twig stove roasting and made up some sausage and peppers with cous cous. A delicious meal washed down by a Stone IPA as the sun set in the western ranges. Still owe you a few bucks for that meal so don't let me forget.
The last month was a great break from daily riding, as much as I love it. Many new roads and hidden places were revealed in the recent trip to Baja with Matt. The cost of travel was cheap and the weather couldn't have been nicer. Leaving La Tortuga back in LA turned out to be the right thing to do. Dan stored our bikes and surprised me with a custom kickstand. I can't tell you how many inadvertant tipovers there have been due to the narrow centerstand. I'm excited to load up my gear and hit the road again tomorrow from LA. I couldn"t ask for a better friend in regards to the support and hospitality Scott has shown Matt and myself. It is necessary to hit "reset" from time to time and my recent stay here in LA was just that.
My intended route will be mostly backroads and state highways through remote BLM land crossing through the lower Mojave and over the Colorado River then on toward Phoenix on the old roads. It will be a welcome change to transition back to a few months of travel by Ruckus. I will try to stop and visit if heading through your town. Should be back in VA sometime in March :)
Howdy folks. This blog will be on vacation for the month of January. Matt and I are driving the length of the Baja peninsula in his 4x4 Tacoma. As much as I will miss La Tortuga and the slow pace of travel, the 4x4 will open up new roads and routes into more remote baja terrain than possible on the 50. Hopefully everything works out and the memories don't involve breakdowns and parts unavailability like other past trips. Catch you all in February ready to get some miles in heading back to the east coast.
My buddy Dan from Orange County invited Matt and I to go dirt riding out in the desert. Stoddard Wells is an OHV area with valleys and old mines to explore. Dan let me ride his CT110 and 79' XL250S. The 23" front tire is phenomenal offroad and the powerband quite usable. It is such a capable bike and hard to believe its almost 40 years old.
We ambled about the desert checking out sandy washes and small alcoves, evidence of past mines. The fun part of being in the desert is getting separated and looking for your buddy's dust trail in the distance. The land of joshua trees, creasote bush and yuca was just the break I needed from the pace of the city.
As though my history of flat tires followed me, the Symba I had been offered to ride around lost air in downtown so Scott and Matt rode back for the Sprinter van.
A few days later Matt and I rode across town on Sunset Blvd to Malibu and then up into the Canyons and Mullholland Hwy to meet Wade on his Ruckus. The weather was fabulous and the riding grand...until my bike decided to quit running. It was just a loose connector to the coil but led to a few patches and fixes on the way home. Lanesplitting in the dark through Hollywood traffic isn't for the timid.
PLAN > EXECUTE > ADAPT
Before departing camp, I rigged up a Firestone Walker beer can as a muffler. It sounded like hell amd only lasted about 2 miles befote rattling loose. Good riddance. La Tortuga climbed over 5000ft on Hwy 33 before dropping down into Ojai. The twisty mountain road had very little traffic and I enjoyed the ride, distancing the vehicular woes and focusing on the warmth and beauty of the day. A work zone near Ojai had traffic stopped for over 15 minutes. That worked out fine since 5 minutes of roasting in the sun on the bike was about my limit. The rear tire had gone completely flat in that time so I pulled over into the loose dusty shoulder, patched it, reinflated and was back in traffic before it turned green. Hoping the patch would hold, I made it to Ojai, got some air and cooled off in a freezer section of the grocery store. 96F outside with this late fall heat wave.
On the 126, a 55mph divided hwy, traffic roared past while I struggled to overcome gusty headwinds blowing me down to 33mph. Occasionally the bike would die and I'd pull over to investigate finding nothing afoul. Spark plug looked okay and it woukd start up again each time. Somehow it made it to Castaic where I climbed up into an open hillside on a jeep trail. The Ruckus lost all power and would only idle. Revving it lead to a backfire or two and no power.
I sent a text to Bradley, a local SoCal Ruckus tuning enthusiast asking for some parts. To my surprise, he had everything I needed to fix up my bike. In the morning, Matt agreed to drive me 45 mi to Palmdale to snag the parts. It happened to be Thanksgiving so we stopped in to IHOP, one of the few open establishments, for breakfast. Bradley delivered providing a rear wheel, K&N air filter, stock exhaust and Daytona Drag variator to try out.
After installing the new exhaust, the Ruckus still did not want to run. The desert heat was already nearing 90 and with no shade and many possible causes, I took Matt up on his offer to ride the CT110 to my friend Scott's in LA. It hurt to load La Tortuga onto the hitch but I knew it would likely be an easy fix if I hadn't lunched a valve.
The 7hp of the CT110 made for a faster ride up The Old Rd and down San Fernando Rd into LA. Soon I was greeting old friends and looking forward to what will be called Steaks-giving. It was so nice to have a landing pad in the city and somewhere to soon focus on bike woes.
After some investigation, I found the source of my problem was a broken wire to the coil. This is the second time I have encountered issues with this setup. The engine and swingarm move independently of the wiring harness so the constant movement eventually snaps the small gauge wires and cnnectors to the coil. Not a very robust setup in my book.
In addition to the 6 patches installed in the tire, here is what was rolling around inside. Some of the rubber pieces had worn into balls from the many miles of rolling.
With the new wheel sanded, prepped and painted, I spooned on the new Michelin Reggae. Due to my larger rear shock from a CH150, I ordered a narrower 120/90-10 rather than a stock 130. Now the front and rear tire are the same.
Next post will be some scooter riding and testing of the new setup.
Not one to let minor mechanical issues get in my way, I motored on with the reverberation of unmuffled exhaust. From time to time the bike would backfire but I chalked it up to the lack of exhaust backpressure.
The plan was to slowly work closer to LA but not 45 miles from the Carrizo Plain, I came across a sign for Apache Cyn and a campground 10 miles in. The sandy road was sinnuous and climbing from the harsh dryness of the lower valley into a forest of ponderosa and pinyon mixed with valley oaks. Coyote tracks dimpled up each sandy wash and the smell of warm pine needles carried on the wind. The fun and fast sand road terminated at a small dispersed camping area nestled in a dry river bed. A spring near the entrance of camp further entrenched this as a future campsite down the line.
Over the next day, Matt showed up and we got some fun offroad riding in the washes. The Ruckus with it's bald and leaking rear tire and no exhaust was less than fun to force offroad but new parts await in LA.
There are a handful of places I've stumbled across on my journeys which continue to attract me back. It is fascinating to watch the scenery change dependent on season and the popularity ebb and flow during holidays. The Carrizo Plain National Monument gives me a calming feeling each time I return to the vistas and arid landscape. Nestled between the busy coast and 101 and the fertile San Joaquin, it is a respite from the stresses of modernity and development.
5 miles off Soda Lake Rd is the Selby Ranch CG where the views make up for the overly chlorinated water. Hey, at least there is water out here! Remnants of the once prosperous grain ranches speckle the expansive valley.
The old barn at Selby Ranch used to be accessible but the BLM has since closed up the entrances. The Barn Owl living inside must appreciate the fewer intrusions.
Heading to the Carrizo Plain my rear tire had been plagued with flats...so numerous I quit keeping track. The plugs either would not hold in the tire or would start leaking within a few miles of install. Worried my air pump wasn't up to the repeated task had me constantly stopping for air at gas stations. Fortunately in CA, if you buy gas, they are required to provide free use of the air. While riding around the eastern half of the park, my exhaust mounting bolt rattled loose allowing my already welded header to weaken. The following day leaving camp I had.a flat tire and snapped off the entire muffler before reaching the main road. Typical shenanigans
Stopping to admire the subduction zone where the Pacific and Continental plate collide. From here I'm off to hwy 33 and the Santa Barbara Mountains.
In between rain showers, I managed to reach my friend Mike's in Geyserville. We caught up over delicious soup and the following day picked up a new refrigerator. It was nice unwinding after a morning with 4 flat tires in the same leak. The following day Mike prepared a standing rib roast which was delicious. It was great visiting but I was heading toward the coast to meet up with Katie and Erik from VA.
We had a swell time telling stories from our recent months of travel. We drove down to Bowling Ball beach in the rental Chrysler 300 but at high tide the rounded features were below the waves. The sun was warm on our skin and the salty breeze welcomed. All in all a fabulous day on the coast. We picked up some tillapia and as a group made deliciois fish tacos in their cabin.
If you happen to be in Point Arena looking for camping, there is a nice quiet area down Stoneboro Rd with coastal access. Red sky at night, sailors delight.
The ride through the Prarie Creek and Avenue of Giants was enjoyable and, for the first time, not raining. The foggy forest of breathing giants envelopes me as I take walks down the sword fern lined trails.
Heading inland on 101, the faster traffic and trucks reminds me why I usually keep to Hwy 1. On a foggy afternoon I climb up frok Ukiah to North Cow Mtn, BLM land atop a 3000ft mountain. Up in the clouds, mist swirls around me and I set up camp when Matt arrives. Soon the siZZLE of pork chops breaks the evening stillness and the weather radio crackles with the surf report and upcoming days of rain.
A few days of less rainy weather allowed us to shift camp east toward the drier side of the mountains. The days remained sunny in the 50s with nights dropping around freezing - fabulous camping weather. The myriad of trails near camp were excellent fun for the small bikes. At times the rugged terrain was reminiscent of an African savannah. Blue Oaks CG is a memorable stop over for BLM seeking folks.
The string of sunny days on the coast offered comfortable weather for making miles. I apologize to friends in Portland but I just didnt make my way inland this trip. The shorter days make it a challenge to knock out 200 miles but in two days or so I was nearing the California line.
The many recreation areas and dunes along the coast are great for stretching the legs and observing the birdlife.
Nearing Brookings, a dense sea fog drifted in just before sunset making for some rich coloring against the sea stacks. Falling asleep in the foggy monotone forest, I let the crash of surf and snort of deer carry me to sleep.
I'm happy to report that I am once again back on the move. I said goodbye to Ken and Ron this morning and as much as I wanted to continue helping out around there, I knew this string of sunny days wouldn't last. A quick flat rate box shipped to VA and I was off into the damp but sunny morning. My only plans are Thanksgiving in LA so that gives me some flexibility. Enough time wastin', gotta get back to the road.
Friends Gary and Barbara in Port Townsend asked if I could help scrape and repaint their sailboat. The 1934 83 ft Danish trawler they converted to private yacht is a member of the family after 40 years of ownership. Gary and I began by scraping any bubbles and marks on the hull followed by sanding with heavy orbital and primer. After long days of toil, it was time to mix and paint the bottom with the toxic anti-fouling. This process took days and culminated with the final coat of enamel above the waterline.
Some nights we worked after sundown, driven by the high cost of daily yard rental and lit by La Tortuga. Gary touches up a few bolts on the rudder and inspects the new zincs.
On the final day out of the water, 12 I think, she's ready to set sail. Gary removed a section of beetle damaged plank and repaired with a patch. Wooden boats are an edible item, Gary reiterates. There is hope that they can cut into the ship and remove the beetle growth in the spring but the situation is like a cancer of a loved one.
Before sunrise Gary started the SEMI diesel two stroke twin cylinder engine which settled into a stable chug-chug blowing black smoke rings into the breeze. The wind blew us back toward the dock in a difficult blackness of predawn. I scrambled foolishly about with rubber fenders feebily attempting to avoid a scrape on the fresh paint. Finally we kiss the far dock, steer clear of the million$ schooner and pass the crab boats and red and blue-lit Coast Guard patrol boat.
Gary turns on the radar and points to the marina and hands me the wheel. The sky is growing warmer with pink waves of bubblegum clouds against the slate blue of dawn. Through the gap to Marrowstone Island stands the pink hazy silhouette of Mt. Rainier. I turn to port slightly and set it as my heading. A sip of coffee and bite of biscotti is reward enough on this fabulous morning afloat.
The month of September was enjoyed in Bay Center along the southwest coast of Washington. Returning to this small island community was a comfortable respite from travel on the road. Not only was the beleagured Ruckus overdue for suspension and brakes, but I personally needed some rest. Long morning walks out to the tidal flats or along the Dike Rd offered views of the locally renowned Willapa Bay oyster operations, a connection to the history of these coastal people.
Neighbors Ron and Jane were planning to rebuild their garage and finish some improvements on their deck and welcomed me into their historic home for a few weeks or more. The projects were numerous but the ample work offered a focus away from the scooter while waiting for parts. My buddy Matt even showed up for a week to perform his own truck ane CT110 repairs. We had a good time catching up and look forward to more adventures in the SW this winter.
I recieved word that a friend in Port Townsend needed a hand scraping and painting his large antique wooden sailboat Ladyhawk so I prepared with work clothes, rain gear and ExtraTuff boots. La Tortuga was finally ready to roll with new front axle, forks, front tire and rear shock shoehorned in from a CH150.
In the morning I took a peaceful ride from Lillooet, down on the Fraser River, up to the Alpine and glacier terrain outside Mount Currie. The towering mountains standing nearly 10'000ft around me seemed limitless in recreation. Many BC recreation sites dotted Hwy 99's many twists and river valleys.
By midday, I had reached Pemberton after descending 3000 ft in 8 miles on one of the steepest descents encountered on my travels. Over 7 truck runaway ramps gave me an idea of how serious this could be in snow or ice. Pemberton was warm in the 80's in the sunshine so I had coffee and soaked in the warmth while updating the ol blog.
Continuing down Hwy 99 toward Squamish, I noticed an uptick in traffic and volume until arriving in the large town of Squamish nestled at the end of a long bay. Blue Green glaciers towered over town on the steep peaks and each direction looked like a painting. I found a campsite on Maqmam Forest Road overlooking town for the sunset then scooted down to Raffuse Creek to camp beneath the mossy Cedars.
In the morning, I set out for some hiking then made my way down Hwy 99 pulling over frequently to let the high speed traffic past. This is my last forray into highway driving for a while since this is the only N/S route for 75 miles until Vancouver. After an afternoon of hiking in Lighthouse Park, I drive down into West Vancouver, one of the most pricey new communities in North America. More exotic cars and high rise apartments than LA! Taking my time before meeting my relative Brad, I go for a hike in Lynn Valley and bounce my way across the suspension bridge to the 30 foot pool. Gorgeous city park.
I have had 3 of 8 flats within the first 1000mi of the last 3 tires. This one took 10 minutes to fix and get back on the road. Near Lillooet in Fountain.
With a fresh rear tire, I set off from Prince George in a thick fog from their pulp mill. Down the highway, the fog gave way to smoke from the forest fires to the south. It grew worse through the day until I reached my BC Provincial Rec Site for the night. The otherwise picturesque lake had an air of apocalyptic dread hanging overhead. This too shall pass.
The following day revealed worse smoke and I finally made it on back forest roads from Dunster to Valemount. Down on Kinbasket lake, the glacier views were totally obscured. I did run into my buddy Matt though who finally is free and travelling with his 4x4 Tacoma and CT110 postie.
The next day brought rain and an immediate clearing of the smoke. We shifted camp down the road to Mystery Lake, perched over 3300 ft in an inland rainforest. The fogs and quick changing weather lent credibility to it's namesake.
The final night hanging out with Matt was down on Goose Lake off Hwy 24. We ate well and were accompanied by a vacationing couple from the Netherlands who parked less than 20 feet from Matt's truck. Fortunately they were pleasant and gave us something to keep busy through the evening, though I feel we were both humoring them more than we let on. The sunset over the pond was vibrant and rich in account of fires on horse lake. The loon called over the pond as the sun faded in the west and I was glad to have another friend out on the road.
It was a relief to finally remove the buggered rear tire in Prince George. Below you csn see the egg shaped bulge on the tread. Ordinarily there would be another 1000 mi out of this tire but not in this condition.
A big thanks to Northern Powersports in Prince George for helping me seat the bead on the new rubber. It took their shop a good 30 minutes of ratchet straps and grease but she finally set. Afterward, I took time to rewire the 12v plug to a switch and remove my second failed USB plug. I'm hopeful that by cleaning up my battery terminals and removing the parasitic drains should help my battery stay charged.
With a clean load of laundry and a full belly, I'm quite refreshed after my visit with friends Joan and Dave. The conveniences of water from the tap and electrical plugs is a real treat after being on the road. Heading toward Mt. Robson then down toward Kamloops to avoid forest fires and meet up with Matt this weekend. The weather has been warm and dry so the inch or more of rain on tap this weekend will be a welcome change and perhaps quell the fires.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 59'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.