Have Camera, Will Travel: Canada to Argentina
My niece was all set to come with me...
But her mommy wasn't too amused. More to come!!! :D:D:D
Well, I'm in but I haven't got all day, get a move on for Pete's sake! I'm leaving next year and want to see your experiences.:clap
The trip so far (from SpotWalla):
I'm planning to visit close friends & family in the US before crossing the Mexican border. I'm making a big detour from Toronto to Chicago, then Texas, back north to Colorado (where I used to live), across to the San Francisco before riding south to at Tecate.
That's the plan, anyway!! :1drink
I'm in also.
Can't wait to follow.
It's been said that simply leaving is one of the hardest parts the trip. I originally planned to leave Toronto by mid-May, but my plans kept changing and suddenly July was fast approaching.
There seemed to be endless items on my 'todo' list still to be completed. And more farkles yet to install on the bike. I remember reading a Ride Report here on Adv and telling myself, "hey, stupid, you could be OUT THERE on your own ride, instead of just reading about them!" It was as if I'd rather dream of a trip, rather than actually go on one.
Weeks went by and I was burning money. I was doing "needed stuff" -- visiting relatives to bid my adieu, gathering materials for a documentary I've been making, packing here and there -- but I wasn't really getting any closer to leaving.
Finally I had to ask myself, "is this trip going to happen?" The 4th of July weekend was coming up. I needed to dig deep, just to finally leave. I made up my mind to go, ready or not.
And so it began. After a couple false starts, I was finally on the road!!
I didn't complete my 'todo' list but there was no looking back. My first destination is to visit my best friend in Chicago, and I'll have some time there to make any necessary changes.
I met up with my friend Daniel who lives just outside Toronto. He graciously accompanied me on his Yamaha R6 to the Canada/US border at Sarnia. He's planning his own trip and I know it will be epic.
Obligatory coffee stop at Tim Horton's, near the border at Sarnia
That's Daniel on the left, which means the fat bastard on the right is me. :D
That's Daniel on the left, which means the fat bastard on the right is me. :D
Great sense of humor and a trip I'd like to take myself one day. I'm subscribed and in for the haul. Not get off your fat ass (you said it first) and keep this RR going with lots of pics! :clap:clap If you end up in Bend, Oregon I'll buy you a beer.
Thanks everyone for joining in these early days!!
The day before I left Toronto, I was in full-blown 'panic' mode. I was no longer neatly packing items into carefully labelled boxes to take them to my storage space; Instead, I started to just shove everything in sight into garbage bags, and tossed them into the U-Haul van I had rented for the day.
Then at the last minute -- never a good sign -- I decided to mount a 1 gallon Rotopax to my MOD top rack:
Somehow in my rush, I managed to throw away two of the four bolts which holds the rack in place. :baldy I didn't want to delay the trip yet again to find replacements; I'd have to ride to Chicago without them, so off I went.
At this time, I'd like go give a big shout-out to Dave (twowheels) and MotoOverland. I emailed Dave about sending replacement bolts from B.C. to me in Chicago. Dave could've just taken my money, but he took time to check stock at Chicago fastener suppliers and sent me the specs for the bolts I needed. He figured I could source them faster and cheaper from a local supplier.
Dave is just that kind of a guy. Indeed, when I first bought the MOD top rack and bash plate, I was ready to PayPal him the full amount when Dave emailed to say that he was about to ship inventory to Toronto, and it could be cheaper if I ordered from a Toronto dealer (saves me the shipping). I'm sure Dave would have made more money had I purchased from him directly (no cut for the middleman), but he looks out for his customers.
Once I arrived in Chicago I was able to get the replacement bolts from Fastenal. I was so happy to finally sort out the top rack, I thought, what what else can I mount on it?
The answer was obvious. MOD top rack and ROK straps make a great combo. :clap
Gratuitous use of adorable baby & Brazilian girl. :evil
Next up: TEXAS!!
Hi everyone, I'm still trying to get used to riding & taking pictures & blogging. I'll try to catch up a little today.
After Chicago my plan is to make a huge detour: ride south to Texas, but instead of crossing the border into Mexico, I will head northwards again to visit some friends in Colorado, before crossing over to California.
I felt like I'm "behind schedule" so the ride to Texas was mostly on the superslabs. From Chicago it's five hours on Interstate 55 to St. Louis, MO so that's where I headed.
My thought was to overnight in St. Louis, take pictures of the famous Arch before continuing to Memphis. But reaching St. Louis, there was still plenty of daylight left and I didn't feel like stopping. I quickly gassed up and ate before riding for a couple more hours, and ended up at Cape Girardeau, MO.
A moment of weakness (somewhere outside of St. Louis, MO)
The same thing happened the next day. I planned a short, 4-hour ride to Memphis -- to visit Elvis and all -- but instead of stopping in Memphis, I continued to Little Rock, south to the Arkansas/Texas border at Texarkana before finally ending in Shreveport, LA for the night.
Route: Missouri to Louisiana
I didn't know what to expect at Shreveport. Honestly it was a random destination for me. I would have continued past the city, but since night was fast approaching I went on Expedia to find a place to stay and booked a room at Sam's Town Hotel in downtown Shreveport for $67.
Sam's Town like many other hotels in Shreveport turned out to be a Casino. Maybe it was just that night, but I have to say the atmosphere was rather sad. As I walked around the casino, the clientele were mostly lonely old ladies in their mid-60s who blankly fed coins into slot machines hours on end, except for the occasional smoke break.
I did try the 25-cent slot machine. I started playing when this lady picked the seat next to mine. She kept giving me the evil eye, like I'm intruding her casino 'territory'. Then, just like that, I hit jackpot!!! Well not really jackpot but I won $80, which more than paid for the hotel room for the night. The lady next to me left in disgust -- as if I had stolen her luck. Sorry about that, lady.
I'm sure Shreveport is a fine city but the next morning I just wanted to ride on. Before gassing up to go, I stopped by Strawn's Eat Shop to taste their famous strawberry pie. It was admittedly pretty good.
Strawberry pie at Strawn's Eat Shop, Shreveport, LA
After Shreveport, I continued my journey to Austin, TX, with a stop in Houston to see my old college buddy Matt.
Texas at last! (Actually, I took this picture when I left Texas)
I had a very nice time in Austin with my friend Mara who took me to the city's local hangouts. We ate, drank, and ate some more. What to do after a three-margarita lunch at El Caribe? Cocktails at The Tigress, of course.
Corpse Reviver #2: Gin, Orange Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, Lemon Juice, dash of Absinthe
We also had surprisingly good Indian food at G'Raj Mahal and we drove to Lockhart, TX for an awesome BBQ at Black's. Unfortunately my time in Austin had to be short as I needed make my way to Colorado.
Strange happenings @ Ramada Austin :rofl
After migas & chili for breakfast, I rode to Lubbock before continuing the next morning to Amarillo. Looking for lunch, I spotted a big tourist trap (oops, steakhouse) off I-40 called Big Texan, home of the 72-oz steak challenge.
Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX
Yup, here if you can eat the 72-oz steak in under one hour, it's free. According to the waitstaff, every day many people try the challenge but almost none are able to finish.
NOT up to the challenge, I ordered a 'small' 20-oz T-bone. I can't imagine eating a steak almost four times as large, in one hour!
Texas-size (to me) T-bone
Sure enough, before long a visitor from Colorado rose to the 72-oz challenge. They started the timer and he dug in to eat the huge slab of meat. My 20-oz T-bone seemed puny in comparison!
Now THAT's a Texas-size steak!! 60-minutes to eat it all...
I didn't stick around to find out if he was able to finish it. I felt my own food coma kicking in, and I still had to ride to Colorado.
It goes without saying that I love to, er, "sample" the local cuisine. :lol3 From yummy Tex-Mex, spicy chillis, great BBQs to gigantic steaks, Texas delivered. And for that, I am thankful. :freaky
Big Texas, Amarillo, TX
Hi everyone, sorry for the sparse updates! The trip so far has been very different from how I imagined it would be.
After Texas, I headed to Colorado instead of crossing into Mexico right away. I grew up in Denver and it would be nice to visit some old friends there.
Leaving the 100° F Texas heat, it was a bit shocking to climb up Raton Pass. In mere minutes the temperature dropped nearly 40 degrees and pretty soon it was thunder and lightning in heavy rain.
The temp continued to drop and I had to flip on the heated grips. Then hail started to hit me! Yikes!! Good thing them ice pellets were small, still hitting them at speed weren't exactly pain-free. Welcome to the Rocky Mountains. Crazy!! I kept on riding until Trinidad, Colorado, where I spent the night. At least the rain stopped and the clouds started to lift.
Near Trinidad, CO, post afternoon thunderstorms
Just before I left Toronto, I had some intermittent issue with my front brakes. Sometimes the front brake lever seems to get "stuck" on initial pull for a brief instant, just long enough to give me that "oh s**t" feeling -- then everything works fine.
I planned to be in Denver in a day or two, so I called the BMW Motorrad "exclusive" dealership in Denver to have the brakes looked at and schedule a service, but they didn't even bother to return my calls. Fed up, I gave Pikes Peak Motorsports in Colorado Springs a call, and Larry the service manager said "come on by!"
So off I went to Colorado Springs where Larry and crew gave the bike some TLC right away. Thanks guys! And it turns out their master tech who worked on the bike is also Canadian, and from Ontario too, what a small world!
At Pikes Peak Motorsports, Colorado Springs
Denver has grown a lot since I left there more than a decade ago. I spent a few days hanging out with friends & family, and visiting my old college in Golden. The Dragon Boat Festival was going on and it was fun to visit.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, Sloan's Lake
Departing Denver, it was time to head out to the mountains. The plan is to overnight in Salida before heading to the beautiful south-western part of Colorado. The weather wasn't cooperating and it pretty much rained all the way from Denver to Salida.
Bleak weather at Buena Vista, 30 miles north of Salida.
Once in Salida I rode around to see where to spend the night. It was then when a bunch of rowdy FFs waved me down: they were walking back to their motel from -- where else -- the liquor store! :rofl
A collection of ADV types at the Simple Hostel
BgDaddy, advtenn, COONDOG, kenny & friends were all there for the 2011 Rocky Mountain Adventure Ride. They were all staying at the Simple Hostel and I would soon join them.
BgDaddy re-united with his set of keys
The next morning we all said our goodbyes as we headed separate ways. I should have joined the gang for the RMAR, but it was time for me to head for Ouray and The Million Dollar Highway.
Leaving Salida, the weather gods were merciful -- the rains from the day before were replaced by the beautiful blue skies Colorado is known for. The plan today is to ride west through Gunnison to Montrose, then south on Hwy 550 to Ouray.
Hwy 50 west of Salida
Monarch Pass is only around 20 miles outside of Salida and I got there in no time. The pass forms a part of the Continental Divide. There's a tourist stop at the pass complete with a scenic-ride cable car. Quite a few bikers stopped by for coffee, most of them on big Harley's, with a few BMWs here and there, plus the occasional Gold Wing.
Continental Divide at Monarch Pass, Colorado
After the pass it was another hour to Gunnison, where I topped off the gas tank. Out of nowhere heavy rain started to pour down, but it didn't last long before clear skies returned. Weather really do change rapidly in the mountains.
Gunnison is home to the Pioneer Museum and I decided to take a look.
The Pioneer Museum in Gunnison
The museum was quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be, with 18 buildings on six-acres of land. Its mission is to "[preserve] the history of the pioneers of Gunnison County". Among of its major artifacts is a wonderfully preserved Baldwin locomotive #6002 (DRGW 268) which was part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.
Nicely preserved Baldwin DRGW 268
They also have an extensive collection of classic cars (including the Ford model T) and even a couple old motorcycles!
Frame of a Simplex Servi-Cycle (circa 1950s?)
A newly-donated Indian at Pioneer Museum
The Indian was a brand-new donation to the museum. In fact it was so new that the staff did not yet have any additional details on the bike's history available.
I really enjoyed the museum. It was time to go, so I continued west along Hwy 50. There are many scenic views along this highway, and the area near Blue Mesa reservoir is no exception.
Overlooking Blue Mesa
Two more hours of great twisty roads from Gunnison, I finally reached Ouray!! Then I dropped the bike, making a left turn on a hill, while going like zero-mph. Oops!!!
The bike wasn't even scratched, but my ego sure was bruised!!!
I've wanted to go to Ouray for years, but ironically, only after I've moved away from Colorado. They say Ouray is America's little Switzerland, a picturesque sleepy town nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Finally I have a chance to visit.
Switzerland of America
Ouray prides itself as the Ice Climbing Capital of the world. There are several "ice parks" in Ouray including one at the popular Box Canyon. There's a waterfall a short hike from the park's entrance, in the heart of the deep, narrow canyon.
Box Canyon Falls Park
I can only imagine how spectacular this place must look in the winter & spring time. Instead of descending down into the canyon, one can also hike the trails above, then view the stream below from a small suspension bridge.
Suspension Bridge above Box Canyon Falls
Ouray was incorporated in 1884 and was originally a booming silver mining town. In its heyday, the Beaumont Hotel in Ouray was one of the finest in the state. However, the Panic of 1893 saw the value of silver plummet, and the town's economy was on the brink of collapse. As luck would have it, within three years a very large gold deposit was discovered nearby and Ouray was spared from disaster. Today, tourism forms the bulk of Ouray's economy.
The historic Beaumont Hotel was abandoned for 30 years before restored in 2003
Walking around Main St., to my surprise they have a pretty decent Mexican restaurant there. I was fascinated by all the dollar bills stuck to its ceiling. Turns out they do it for as a fund raiser -- if you donate $1 they will show you how they stick the bill way up on the ceiling. Eventually all the bills are collected and donated to charity.
Thousands of dollar bills line up the ceiling at Buen Tiempo
The super-twisty section of Hwy 550 connecting Ouray southbound to Silverton is known as the "Million Dollar Highway" and needless to say, the view along the ride was spectacular.
Portion of Hwy 550 between Ouray and Silverton
(I actually have helmet-cam video of this section but due to its size, I can't upload it from where I'm now, so I will update the post later).
Scenic View from Red Mountain Pass
Very nice adventure. Great pictures, with the tripod on the back seat, I figured we are in for a visual treat.
Safe riding, and post when you can.
PS were you a member over on CMG, using the same name? I used to be there years ago
Hi Sunday Rider yes it's me from CMG!!! I kinda stopped riding for a few years then moved out to China for awhile. I should have stopped by a Pub Night to say hi before I left!! Maybe I'll see you at the Soapbox. :D
From Silverton I continued on Hwy 550 to Durango then rode on to Cortez for the awe-inspiring Mesa Verde National Park, home of the mysterious cliff dwellings.
I had planned to just pitch my tent somewhere nearby and "rough it" in the back-country, but in Mesa Verde camping is restricted to an improved campground, complete with hot showers, a general store, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, and yes, even free wi-fi!
Camping at Mesa Verde
The campground is well within the park boundary, but a ranger told me the that the cliff dwellings are a further 1-hour drive inside the park, which gives some sense as to the size and scale of Mesa Verde.
At night the temperature dropped to about 48 F inside the tent. I was still quite comfortable in my sleeping bag, and I don't think it will be much colder when I get to the Andes mountains later this year, so that's good news… somewhere down the road I can get rid of some of the bulkier/warmer clothing I have with me.
In the morning, some visitors strolled through my camp site.
Don't mind me, just passing by
Noticing you, noticing me…
I had signed up for one of the ranger-led tours so after breakfast I headed to Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Deeper inside the park, the view was shocking -- there were burnt trees as far as my eyes could see.
Burnt trees everywhere
Due to drought conditions, the 50,000 acres within the park are quite susceptible to wildfires. Between 1996 and 2003 alone, wildfires consumed over 50% of the park! Almost all of the fires are caused by lightning strikes: an average of 19 fires each and every year are caused by lightning.
I finally reached the cliff dwellings, and they were truly mind-boggling. Some of these cliffs seem totally inaccessible yet the ancient culture who lived here managed to build entire villages on very steep terrain. Cliff Palace alone has over 150 rooms.
I joined the tour and a ranger gave us some background of the dwellings. The dwellings were home to ancient Puebloans (Anasazi Indians) who moved from the mesa tops to the cliffs in late 1190s. Yet within a few generations, the Puebloans started to migrate south, and by 1300 the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde were abandoned. Historians are not completely clear why the Puebloans abandoned their homeland.
No leaving home after a few beers...
Inside a Kiva, used for religious rituals
Although the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are well preserved, they might not be as accessible to us forever. Sections of the dwellings -- including those at Cliff Palace -- are slowly crumbling, succumbing to the effects of time and erosion, and might already be beyond our capacity to save. Massive wildfires have also caused irreparable damage some of the archeological sites. One can only hope that the treasure that is Mesa Verde can be enjoyed by generations to come.
Prominent cracks can be seen on some artefacts
Next, I rode on to Arizona.
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