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Old 06-20-2012, 05:03 PM   #1066
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6/8 Visit to the Chew Jetty

Mr Chew is one of the men who work in reception at the Star Lodge. We've gotten to know him fairly well during our stay here, spending many afternoons chatting with him about his life in Malaysia and the six years he spent living in the Washington, DC area. Chew was born on the Chew Clan Jetty, which extends into the water between Penang and mainland Malaysia. The Clan Jetties are where many Chinese immigrants lived and worked after they arrived in Penang. The most common jobs for the immigrants were either as fishermen or stevedores who worked loading and unloading the cargo ships at the port. Chew was actually born and spent his first seven years in a home on the Chew Jetty and offered to give us a tour this morning.



After breakfast, we met Chew and his wife, Christina, who then drove us to the jetty and showed us around. While most of the fishing and stevedore jobs have long since disappeared, many people still live in the houses on the jetty while working on land.



Chew showed us around the jetty, spoke of his life there as a child, and introduced us to some of his relatives. We spent an hour or so wandering around seeing the sights and then later went for a driving tour of some of the non-touristy Chinese sections of the city.

Around lunchtime, Chew took us to the Chinese Recreation Club, where he has been a member since 1972.



The CRC is a grand, old country club located in the middle of Georgetown, which is only open to people of Chinese descent. While there is no golf course, there are tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, badminton courts, a gym, and an outdoor olympic size pool. It is also home to an amazingly excellent restaurant where we had lunch. Chew and Christina are well known here, and we were treated to a great meal and service.

After lunch, they dropped us back at the Star Lodge where Re worked on some blogging for the rest of the afternoon. We finished the night with a late dinner at Kapitan and a stop at the Corner Bar. Since we only have a couple of days left, we are having to decide very carefully where we are going to have to eat.

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Old 06-20-2012, 05:06 PM   #1067
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6/9 Departure Preparations

After breakfast, we walked up to see Ms Goh, our shipping agent, and we paid our money and collected our Carnet documents. After returning to the room we spent the rest of the day getting ready to go. Re gave me a haircut, fixed her broken Rok-strap by stitching it with dental floss, and washed her filthy daypack. While she did this, I downloaded new GPS maps from OpenStreetMap for the US portion of our trip. We also started working on repacking everything for the impending flight, and then went out to do some last minute shopping. Both of our moods are pretty low today, so it was a subdued afternoon.



Later in the evening, we went out for our last dim sum supper and then spent some time with Puus.



Puus is our favorite little cat, whom we've been feeding while in Georgetown. When we met her a couple of months ago, she was just a kitten, but has now grown into a nice, young woman. She is a street cat who lives in front of a travel agency on Chulia Street and was the only survivor of the original litter of four. She is surely another thing we will miss about Georgetown. In an attempt to get ready for the 15 hour time difference between Malaysia and the west coast of the US, we decided to go to bed early tonight and get up early tomorrow.
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:09 PM   #1068
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6/10 Final Day



After our last roti breakfast for a while, Re began to repack our bags again, this time, in earnest. While she did that, I worked on our route from LA up to Oregon and where to stop and stay along the way. Around lunchtime, Re walked down to Jit Seng duck rice and picked up a huge lunch of duck, pork, and rice, which she brought back to the Star Lodge to share with Robert and Chew, our daytime hosts at the Star.

Mid-afternoon, we walked out to see Puus and to give Krishna, the very friendly owner of the travel agency that she lives in front of, a large bag of dry cat food. Krishna is another of the really friendly locals we've come to know, and he is a good friend to Puus too. After that, we walked around town thinking about all the things we're going to miss.



We went back to Line Clear for an early dinner and then went to bed at 7:30 pm.


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Old 06-20-2012, 05:12 PM   #1069
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6/11 Back to the USA

I woke up at 2:00 am with the intention of watching the F1 race live from Canada, but decided I would rather sleep for another hour and a half. We finally got up around 3:30 and did our final preparations. At 5:00 am, we walked out to find a cup of coffee before wandering back to the hotel at around 6:00 am. Chew was very kind and gave us a ride to the airport so we would not have to carry our luggage to the bus station or deal with buses during rush hour. Thirty minutes later, we were at the airport and were checked in shortly after that. We spent our last few ringgit on some coffee and breakfast and soon boarded the plane. We had a one hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, then a one hour layover until our flight left for Tokyo. The next flight took about six hours, then we had about an hour and a half layover in Tokyo. Before we left Kuala Lumpur, we reset our watches to California time and tried to sleep and wake during the appropriate hours.



At the Tokyo airport, we bought a green tea KitKat since we'd never seen anything like that before (they also had a wasabi KitKat but we decided to skip that). It was soon time to board our looooong flight to LAX. We flew on Malaysia Airlines this time and found the service and seats to be very good. After one of the meals, we ate our Kitkat bar, and it was surprisingly good. When we weren't eating on the plane, we split our time between sleeping and watching movies on the tiny screen in the seat in front of us.

We finally arrived in LAX at 2:15 pm local time and then shuffled our way through the usual Customs and Immigration nonsense. Once we cleared all that silliness, we met John (jdgretz) outside of baggage claim. John had very kindly offered to pick us up at the airport, take us to our hotel, and then take us out to dinner. He was easy to recognize by the ADV logoed sign he was carrying, after we introduced ourselves, he took us to our hotel then left to read a book for a couple of house while we got cleaned up. Maybe it was the lack of sleep or maybe it was being out of the country so long, but it seemed surreal to be back in El Segundo.

John returned at 6:00 pm and drove us to the Eva Air Cargo Office, where we ran into our first problem. While the air waybill we had listed the consignee (the person to whom the shipment is being sent)as us, the air waybill that Eva had, listed an agent here in LA. Since we were no longer the consignee (somehow) we could not pick up the paperwork. It was now too late to get in touch with the new consignee, so we will have to sort this out tomorrow. Grr. Figuring that we would need a mobile phone, our next stop was Target, where we picked up a cheap pay as you go phone as a stopgap. John then took us to dinner at Cafe Versailles, our favorite Cuban restaurant in LA. A little while later, one of John's riding friends, named Ken, joined us for a pleasant evening of food and fellowship.



It was great to spend some time with some friendly faces in a strange place. After John dropped us back at the hotel, Re walked down to the grocery store to pick up some libations. I almost shed a tear when she returned with a big bottle of Stone Brewing's Arrogant Bastard. Oh, sweet nectar of the gods!
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Old 06-21-2012, 03:18 AM   #1070
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I prefer to think of us as "Micro adjacent!"
Anyone not familiar to that area won't understand just how funny that is.
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Old 06-22-2012, 06:18 PM   #1071
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Thanks

I'm gonna miss the reports.....I had a great time following along. Welcome Home
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:40 PM   #1072
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6/12 USDA and Customs

I slept okay overnight but still woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I stayed in bed until 6:00 am, when I finally got Re up and we headed downstairs for breakfast. Last night, before going to bed, we sent an email to our shipper in Malaysia demanding that they remove the new consignee and have the paperwork released to us. This did not happen, since we ran into more of the “known shipper” issues that sent us to Canada for our outbound flight. Since 9/11, you not only have to be a known shipper to send something from the US, you also have to be a known shipper to receive a shipment in the US. It took us a few emails to figure this out, but it essentially meant that we had to wait until 8:30 to call the agent listed on our air waybill. In the meanwhile, we packed our tools and supplies and had some more coffee.

Promptly at 8:30, Re called the agent and explained our situation. The agent was very understanding and agreed to have their driver meet us at 9:30 at Eva Air Cargo in order to pass the paperwork off to us. She also informed us that there was a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hold on our shipment. Huh? She explained that our shipment would need to be inspected by a USDA agent and that it may take all day. Yay. After getting off the phone, we put on our shoes and walked the mile or so to Eva Air. At 9:30 am, the driver appeared and retrieved our paperwork from the airline. After we paid him the 25 USD handling fee and reimbursed him the 40 USD for Eva's document fee, he handed over the documents. The agent had also given us the name of a person to speak with at Eva who could further explain the import process. Jeanee (sp?) explained that we first would need to go to the Customs/USDA office about 3.5 miles away to schedule the USDA inspection and arrange a Customs release. She also said that the USDA inspector usually comes late in the afternoon, but that the inspector might not be able to inspect our shipment until tomorrow!

Documents in hand, we hit the road. We ended up walking nearly a mile back to Sepulveda Blvd before we were able to flag a taxi to take us the rest of the way. At least it was a beautiful day for a walk, with bright sunshine and a temperature in the low 70s. The taxi dropped us at the Customs office and we soon were able to schedule our USDA inspection for 3:30 that afternoon. The reason for the USDA hold was that our shipment was in a “wooden” crate, and that they may want to inspect our bikes for dirt in the tires. We explained that our crate was made from engineered lumber, but they still needed to inspect it to verify that. This was a bummer, since we'd really hoped to get our bikes out of the warehouse by noon. Officially, we were told that we would need to get the USDA release stamp on our paperwork before we could return to the Customs office for their release. Re had the good idea to try and get the Customs release before we left, and after a bit of talking, was able to get our paperwork stamped without the USDA release. She did have to promise that we would not try to leave without the USDA release, but at least it saved us the seven mile round trip and the time that would take. The big problem she ran into was the Customs officer's flat out refusal to do anything with our Carnet documents. As you may recall, we have 10,000 USD sitting in a bank in Canada, which is a financial guarantee that will only be returned once our properly completed Carnet documents are discharged. When the bikes are returned to their home country, there is a “Certificate of Completion” that must be completed and stamped by the Customs office. After Re told me what happened, I returned to try and plead our case with another officer. He again stated that their policy directed them to do nothing with Carnet du Passage documents. This turned into a confusing conversation about ATA Carnet vs CdP, and what CdP actually proves. The Customs officer thought that since our bikes were stamped out of Malaysia, that somehow equated with being stamped into the United States. Arrogance + ignorance = your tax dollars at work.

Since we were getting nowhere with either this officer or the superior he claimed to have spoken with, we left for lunch. Re and I were both tired and frustrated with the situation and decided to take it out on each other. We ended up arguing all the way back to the hotel, and it was a crummy three mile walk. Back at the room, I sent an email to Suzanne Danis at the Canadian Automobile Association explaining our Customs problem. Unfortunately, it was Tuesday, and Suzanne only works Wednesday through Friday. I also spent about an hour on hold before finally getting through to the US Customs in Washington, DC and then through to the complaint department. I explained to the agent on the line our situation, and she said she would send a report to the head office in Los Angeles, but that it would probably take up to 30 days for them to respond. Of course, the one place we have problems with Customs is our home country. Everywhere else in the world, we were treated with courtesy and understanding, and people worked very hard to help us with any of the small problems we ran into, except here. With nothing else to do, I went to Pachanga for lunch.

We got to Eva Cargo at 3:00 pm and found that the USDA inspector was already there. While we waited for her to do her inspection, we chatted with the Eva employees. The afternoon supervisor explained that normally they have to wait until the end of the day for the USDA inspector to return to the office and enter the releases in the computer system before Eva can release the shipment. The supervisor took pity on us and convinced the USDA inspector to call our release in to the office. Ten minutes later, it appeared in Eva's computer system and our crate was on the way. The supervisor had the forklift operator drop the crate in the parking lot and said that we could reassemble the bikes there, and they would dispose of the crate for us. How nice!



When the crate appeared, we were both struck by just how beautiful it was. Since we had not seen the crate in Malaysia, we had no idea how thorough a job the crater would do.



As we pried the sturdy box apart and popped the lid, we were surprised to see that they had wrapped everything in plastic wrap and had also built a series of braces on the base of the crate to prevent the forks and rear wheels from shifting. We then set about the now familiar task of reassembling the bikes and reconnecting the batteries. The reassembly went smoothly, but we lost another plastic tab off of one of the back halves of a front fender. The way these front fenders go together seems unnecessarily complex and designed to fail. Fortunately the bolts hold everything together, and everything seemed sturdy enough.



By 5:30 pm we were ready to go, so we waved goodbye, put on our gear, and hit the starter buttons. My bike reluctantly came to life but Re's would not start. When we left the bikes with the craters, there was probably a half liter of fuel in each bike, but they must have drained the tanks further once we left. I cracked open the float bowl drain on Re's bike, and nothing came out. Since I had at least some fuel, I took off for the nearest gas station about 1.5 miles away. I made it there without running out, filled my tank, and put some in my jerrycan for Re. A couple minutes later, we had her bike refilled, and we were on our way. We made it back to the hotel by 6:00 pm, got cleaned up, and then roared up Sepulveda to the In 'n Out Burger. After a yummy dinner, we rode back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped at the grocery store for a bottle of bourbon, some Clif bars, and some fruit.


10 miles. The bikes are running good. Our only import-related expenses were the 25 USD for the agent and the 40 USD document fee.
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:45 PM   #1073
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6/13 Will We Ride Today?

I jumped out of bed at 6:30 am and immediately turned on the laptop to check email. Good news from Suzanne. We can use our air waybill that was stamped by Customs in lieu of our “Certificate of Completion.” Out of an abundance of caution, I took a digital photo of the document and emailed it to Suzanne to make sure that it is acceptable. We ate breakfast while awaiting her reply and then started packing. She returned my email around 8:30 am and gave us the green light to go. We started packing up the bikes and then I noticed Re's flat rear tire. Huh? It was fine yesterday and after checking the tire I found no evidence of a puncture. Feeling optimistic, I pumped it up to 32 psi and continued loading the bikes. After we showered and got ready to go, I rechecked the tire and it was holding air. Maybe someone let the air out as a prank?

Before hitting the road, we gave John a call and arranged to meet him at the foot of the Angeles Crest Highway. After winding our way through the surface streets of Los Angeles, we met John at noon and rode up to Newcomb's Ranch for lunch. John showed up on his Honda Helix and got a taste of our low speed touring style.



We had a nice lunch at Newcomb's and took a few photos before heading back to Upper Big Tajunga Canyon Rd. There, we waved goodbye to John and continued north to Highway 14 in Lancaster. We took the 14 east, all the way to Highway 395, where we turned north.



The ride this afternoon was very hot and dry and took us through the Mojave Desert. Our excitement of the afternoon occurred when a CHP officer pulled up next to Re and gave a short burst of his siren. Fortunately, he just wanted to give her a thumbs up and not a driving award. We were nearly out of fuel when we reached Indian Wells, but fortunately we found a service station there. We didn't expect it to be so far between fuel stops, so we hadn't filled our jerrycans. From now on, we will fill them up when we get the chance. A few days ago, when I had been planning this ride, I had expected to make it to at least Bishop on the first day. But due to our late start, we weren't gonna make it. Instead, we found an okay campground in Olancha at around 7:30 pm. We set up the tent, and then Re went out in search of food. A couple miles down the road she found a gas station and convenience store, where she bought some very expensive eggs, bacon, cheese, and tortillas. She cooked it all by headlamp, and we finally had dinner at about 10:00 pm.



235 miles in about 7 hours of riding. We are glad to be back on the road. Bikes are running well, and Re's tire is still holding air.
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:49 PM   #1074
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6/14 Ride to Carson City

Re slept well last night, but I did not. I don't normally have heartburn, but last night, I woke up several times with a burning pain in my chest. I didn't feel very well this morning, so I took it easy while Re fixed breakfast. We had a repeat of last night's dinner, and as soon as I finished eating, I had to make a mad dash for the bathroom. After a particularly bad bout of diarrhea, I was not feeling at all well. Re told me I should sit down since I was looking pale, and I was feeling shaky and slightly dizzy. While I took it easy, Re broke camp and loaded the bikes. Finally by about 9:30, I felt well enough to ride, so we hit the road.

The ride today was really pretty. It started fairly brown, but it greened up as we went.



We were riding along the Sierra Mountains, which made a nice backdrop for the ride. Around lunchtime, we made it to Bishop, California, and I noticed a police car following us. Sure enough, the lights came on, so we pulled over. Our new friend was actually an Inyo County Sheriff Deputy, who was concerned that we were driving too slowly. He wasn't sure if we were breaking any laws, so he made us wait while he called for backup from the California Highway Patrol. I assured him that we were legal, but he wanted to check anyway. The Highway Patrolman arrived and confirmed that we were indeed, legally allowed to ride on 395. with that, he wished us luck and let us get back underway. The afternoon brought a pretty stiff headwind, which continued for the rest of the day.



As we rode past Crowley and Mono Lakes, we started picking up elevation.



One pass had us over 8,100 ft, and we spent plenty of miles in the 7,000 ft range. Just when we thought we couldn't go any slower, we ended up waiting about 30 minutes for a pilot car in a construction zone near the Nevada border. Apparently, the police were just finishing an investigation of an accident that had occurred behind the pilot car, which resulted in the death of a couple when their motorcycle was hit from behind. We had hoped to make it as far as Reno today, but we finally stopped at a campground just before Carson City. I still wasn't feeling great, so Re ran to the grocery store and returned with some yogurt, granola, and fruit. I set up camp while she was gone, and we enjoyed a nice dinner before crawling into our tent to call it a night.



290 miles in 10 hours. Re's bike was acting like it had a fueling problem for a little while, but it seemed to clear up on its own.
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Old 06-23-2012, 06:50 PM   #1075
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The ride up to Newcomb's was obviously a bit more leisurely than I'm used to, but it was interesting. When you initially said lead the way and I took off I quickly discovered that I had no idea how fast you could go or at what speed you guys were comfortable, so I handed off the lead to you.

The relaxed trip up the hill gave me quite a bit of time to enjoy the smells of the mountain and really enjoy the scenery. While I'm not sure I'd enjoy doing a trip across the US at that speed, it would certainly give one a chance to really see the country. Of course you have to use other than Interstates and freeways, but for sightseeing I prefer that anyway.

It was a bit sad to see you two head off down Upper Big T and not be able to follow along as I'm sure I would have enjoyed the forced slower pace.

Again, it was great to meet the two of you and to spend a bit of time with you. Next time you're in the area, be sure to bring a suit and evening wear (for Re - I have no desire to see you in a cocktail dress) and we'll hit the Magic Castle.

Ride safe,

jdg
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Old 06-24-2012, 07:33 AM   #1076
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Eek

I find it interesting that you travelled through dozens of developing countries, places that many think might not respect personal freedoms, yet the nation that has given you the most hassles with Customs and police is your own home country.
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Old 06-24-2012, 04:44 PM   #1077
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The ride up to Newcomb's was obviously a bit more leisurely than I'm used to, but it was interesting. When you initially said lead the way and I took off I quickly discovered that I had no idea how fast you could go or at what speed you guys were comfortable, so I handed off the lead to you.

The relaxed trip up the hill gave me quite a bit of time to enjoy the smells of the mountain and really enjoy the scenery. While I'm not sure I'd enjoy doing a trip across the US at that speed, it would certainly give one a chance to really see the country. Of course you have to use other than Interstates and freeways, but for sightseeing I prefer that anyway.

It was a bit sad to see you two head off down Upper Big T and not be able to follow along as I'm sure I would have enjoyed the forced slower pace.

Again, it was great to meet the two of you and to spend a bit of time with you. Next time you're in the area, be sure to bring a suit and evening wear (for Re - I have no desire to see you in a cocktail dress) and we'll hit the Magic Castle.

Ride safe,

jdg
Thanks again, John! Glad you enjoyed the ride.
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Old 06-24-2012, 04:45 PM   #1078
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I find it interesting that you travelled through dozens of developing countries, places that many think might not respect personal freedoms, yet the nation that has given you the most hassles with Customs and police is your own home country.
Strangely, we weren't surprised...
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Old 06-24-2012, 04:51 PM   #1079
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6/15 Ride to Lakeview, OR

The wind blew hard most of the night, and it did get a little chilly, but we both slept very well. The sun came up early, so we hid our faces in our sleeping bags until the alarm finally went off. This morning while we struck camp, had breakfast, and packed up, we seemed to have a continuous stream of curious RV-ers stopping by. After telling our story another ten times or so, we finally stole away for a shower and hit the road at around 9:45 am. The day began promisingly enough, with me finally feeling better, and with a sunny and clear morning. The 395 took us through Reno and the traffic got heavy very fast. Sometime after 11:00 am, Re signaled for us to get off the highway when she saw an In-N-Out Burger.



This is potentially our last chance to visit In-N-Out for many years, so we had to have just one more Double-Double. While we were stopped, we ended up answering the questions of several more passersby. Back on the highway the traffic tapered off dramatically as we left Reno in our rear view mirrors.

The rest of the day's trip was hot, windy, and slow. We again found ourselves picking up elevation, and for long stretches, we were stuck in third gear and at 30 mph. The scenery was interesting though.





On our ride through the mountains, we first came upon Honey Lake, a vast, dry lake bed, and then rode along Goose Lake, a massive but shallow lake.

Late in the afternoon, Re pulled alongside and signaled for me to pull over. She noticed that my rear wheel was wobbling. We stopped at a rest area and got out the tools to remove the rear wheel. A quick inspection showed that the right side wheel bearing in my rear wheel was failing, and that the left bearing was not turning. I do have a complete set of wheel bearings in the spares kit but do not have anything to use as a bearing driver to install the new ones. Since we were only about 65 miles south of Lakeview, I decided to tighten the rear axle, as tight as I could, while still allowing the rear wheel to turn freely. With Re keeping an eye on my rear, we rode the last few hours into Lakeview. While I scouted the campground at the local fairgrounds, Re checked several hotels in town. She found a nice, inexpensive hotel, and we decided to sleep indoors tonight. While she walked to the grocery store for dinner and some beer, I checked over my rear wheel again. The bearings didn't seem to be any worse, so I decided to try to make it to John Day tomorrow, where I have friends with shop space and tools.



290 miles in about 10 hours. Between the wind, elevation, and the rear wheel bearings, this ride felt like it would never end.
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Old 06-24-2012, 04:53 PM   #1080
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6/16 Ride to John Day, OR

After a great night's sleep on a comfy mattress, we both hated to get up, but we still had miles to cover. After breakfast and coffee in the room, we loaded the bikes and were on the road at 9:00 am. The ride here was familiar to us, since we used to live in eastern Oregon and had made a trip through this area on my old V-Strom a few years ago.



The highlight of the morning was the ride past Lake Abert, which provided a twisty respite to the otherwise arrow straight ride of the day. Once north of the lake, the scenery was typical high desert with rolling hills, sage brush, and the Steens Mountains in the distance. Blissfully, the wind took the day off and we were able to make pretty good time. Re constantly checked on my rear wheel, and I put the wrench to it at every stop. Lunch was Clif Bars, fruit, and water on the roadside, and then we were back to riding.

Early afternoon, we hit Burns, Oregon, where we stopped for fuel and then began the final 70 miles to John Day. This stretch of road has a few twists in it also, and trees appeared, adding some green to an otherwise brown ride. As we descended from Star Ridge, I was very nervous about the effect the fast sweepers were having on my bearings. The last ten miles into town, I thought I heard the occasional squawk from my rear wheel but decided to ignore it and just hum louder. We pulled into Clyde Holliday State Park at about 5:00 pm and set up camp in the “bike and hike section.” Riding through the campground, I could very clearly hear some metal on metal sounds from the rear wheel. I decided to stay off the bike until tomorrow when I could replace the bearings, so Re rode back into town to get some groceries for dinner. Since it was chilly, I decided to build a big fire in the firepit, and we enjoyed hot dogs, backed beans, chips, and crudites. After a few phone calls to make arrangements for tomorrow, we spent the rest of the evening around the campfire before turning in at about 10:00 pm.



230 miles in about 8 hours. I hope I haven't done any permanent damage to my rear wheel.
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