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Old 01-10-2013, 01:49 PM   #16
Tesla314 OP
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Day 2 9/30/12, Surrey BC -> Ellensburg WA

The ride almost stopped here. Due to a wildfire along our planned route, our actual path took us past our house. We took the opportunity to grab a few things. Unexpectedly back in the embrace of our house, the misery of last night's slum motel (seriously, it was really bad, like I'm pretty sure the kitchenette had been used to cook meth, and we slept in our sleeping bags rather than risk the bed) combined with the stress of the previous month's preparations and our fears for our first big trip, and we were both nearly ready to just call it quits right there. But we decided we'd never forgive ourselves if we backed out. And we didn't want to deal with months of questions and knowing looks from our non-rider friends.

So we got back on our bikes, and pulled out of our driveway for a second time.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:49 PM   #17
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A monster of living smoke


The smoke of the wildfire is an unbelievable sight. It is massive, and solid, and has a Presence. We rerouted to 90 rather than 2-Blewett, and a good thing, there's no way we could have ridden through the heart of that beast.
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:19 AM   #18
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Day 3, 10/1/12

[By Scalpel]
Lunch Update From Eastern Washington


We spent the first half of the day following the Yakima River south from Ellensburg, WA, after resolving some bike maintenance issues with the Bonneville. Apparently sitting in line for 90 minutes at the Canadian border (and then another 30 coming back) burned off some oil. After topping it off in Ellensburg, it's run 100 miles, through 80 degree heat, and over a pass without losing any oil, so we think we have it sorted out.
Next up is crossing the Columbia River and heading into Oregon. We'll see how far we get today after the delays this morning, but once we're actually on the road we're making really good time.
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:24 AM   #19
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Day 3, 10/1/12

I take back everything bad I've ever said about Eastern Washington

I-90 is not the way to see it. The canyons and passes are gorgeous.


Especially Canyon Road from Ellensburg to Yakima. Amazing!
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:28 AM   #20
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Day 3, 10/1/12

[By Scalpel]
You Take the Good, You Take the Bad


Who knew it was so hard to camp? After being turned away from a half-empty RV park because they "don't do tents", we chased the setting sun to the local state park, which had zero vacancies. Why won't anyone let us camp?
Our of options and with the sun gone for the day, we grabbed the first hotel we saw. It turned out to be quite nice and for not too much more than a cheap motel. When the front desk girl asked whether our road trip was to celebrate something, I said "to celebrate taking out first really long road trip on bikes." This was apparently enough for her to upgrade our room and send a bottle of champagne over for us.
So screw you, camping! You're banished until we turn around for the trip home.


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Old 01-14-2013, 10:37 AM   #21
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So with you taking back everything bad that you've said about Eastern WA...does that mean I have to take back everything bad that I've said about the West side?

Seriously tho, looking forward to this RR! Since you said it was around 80 degrees, and it hasn't been 80 here for some time (It's a balmy 18F now). I'm guessing the trip is already over and done with?
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Old 01-14-2013, 11:18 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy the Heater View Post
So with you taking back everything bad that you've said about Eastern WA...does that mean I have to take back everything bad that I've said about the West side?
Nah, I understand hating on the West side. It's gorgeous here, but the traffic on the nice riding roads can be super frustrating. Damn everyone else for wanting to see the scenery too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy the Heater View Post
I'm guessing the trip is already over and done with?
Yup, the trip was the first half of October. We slotted it into the window between the [other!] tourists going home and the start of the snow season in the passes. It was nice, it made for very little traffic, though it meant a lot of stuff (campgrounds!) were closed for the season, which caused us some trouble.

I'm posting up a day or two at a time in order to keep you all interested
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Old 01-14-2013, 11:23 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy the Heater View Post
Since you said it was around 80 degrees, and it hasn't been 80 here for some time (It's a balmy 18F now).
Is the Palouse the SE corner? Any roads you'd recommend over there? We plan to do a bunch of 3-4 days trips rather than one long one this year, so we're looking for good stuff in WA/OR/lower BC.
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Old 01-14-2013, 11:26 AM   #24
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Since I can't edit entry titles, the route thus far:
  • Day 1, Sat 9/29: Seattle to Surrey BC (I-5)
  • Day 2, Sun 9/30: Surrey -> Seattle (I-5) -> Ellensburg WA (I-90)
  • Day 3, Mon 10/1: Ellensburg -> Yakima WA (Canyon Rd) -> Bend OR (H97)
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Old 01-16-2013, 03:42 PM   #25
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Day 4, 10/2/12

Day 4: Bend-Mt Shasta-Reno near-disaster


Let me begin by saying that we are both uninjured and that the bikes are fine. We are in Reno. Faint-hearted readers may wish to skip this entry.

Today we were on the road for 12+ hours. We began in Bend, went to Klamath Falls, took the wrong highway and ended up at Mount Shasta before heading all the way back east to Susanville and then Reno. The highway from Mt. Shasta to Susanville is gorgeous and empty and great riding and I would ride it again any day.

The trouble began when we left Susanville. It was dusk by this time, and deserts, while always windy, begin to howl at twilight. We were fighting terrible winds from all sides, and not constant of course.

I guess I should just say it: I brought the bike out of an 80-mph tank-slapper in front of a semi. And then continued riding for another hour to reach Reno.

We're taking an unscheduled rest day in Reno tomorrow. Both of us are in knots and I'm sure we'll be immobile tomorrow.

There's been some gorgeous riding on this trip. I just wish we could get through one non stressful/non terrifying day.
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Old 01-16-2013, 03:43 PM   #26
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Day 4, 10/2/12

[By Scalpel]
The Terror Train to Reno


In the light of day, it's clear that last night's ride should have ended about 60 miles north of Reno.

The day's riding had been good, but we had been delayed by a few construction zones that brought traffic to a halt, and as we left our last gas stop we knew that we'd be arriving in Reno after dark. Being inexperienced riders, we didn't realize that we'd be hitting a stretch of 395 with steep hills on one side and Honey Lake on the other just as dusk hit and the winds picked up.

As the light faded the first gusts hit, almost pushing me onto the shoulder. This continued for miles and miles, and over time we learned to adjust for it. But it was wearing us out bit by bit, at the end of a long day of riding.

The "incident" occurred as we prepared to pass a semi. We had waited for the one-lane freeway to open up a passing lane, and since Natalie had insisted on being in the lead to set the pace, she was the one to slide into the left lane, tuck down behind her windshield, and gun it. In retrospect, there were a few problems with the situation. First, we were heading uphill, which meant we needed to push the bikes harder to get by. Second, we were headed for the peak of the ridge, where the wind is the worst. Third, our bikes make great sails with the panniers and gear piled up. Lastly, it was night and we were tired.

As we climbed past 70 mph, the wind started to get worse and worse, and we were getting knocked all over the road. Then three things happened at once: Natalie cleared the front of the semi and got the full force of the wind, right at the peak of the ridge, as oncoming traffic passed us and brought it's own blast of wind. The Bonneville began to oscillate back and forth, and entered into what riders call a "tank slapper". You can go search YouTube with that phrase to see some examples, but the summary is that it's a moment when the handlebars start wobbling from side to side with increasingly violent movements, until they're "slapping" into the sides of the gas tank. This often ends with a big crash as the rider vainly tries to get the bike back under control.

I give full credit to Natalie's rapidly growing riding abilities that she didn't end up testing out all her safety gear on the rocks and brush of the Reno desert. Later in the evening when we were safe in Reno, we each admitted that at that moment in the ride, we were both positive that she was going down. But as the bike went out of control, she did what she could to nudge it toward the shoulder, correctly judging that it would be better to crash there then into oncoming traffic. The semi she had been passing evidently felt the same way as we did, and with certainty that she was doomed, hammered on its brakes to prepare for dodging her and the bike once they were tumbling and sliding.

We have headsets in our helmets, and as the bike went crazy Natalie was absolutely silent. I was freaking out, saying "No no no no no!" over and over as things got worse. That lasted for a second or two until my brain finally found the bit info I read someplace about how to (sometimes, rarely) recover from a tank-slapper.

"Stay loose, stay loose! Let the bike do what it wants! Don't fight it, just let it slow down and it'll be okay!" I didn't believe the last part, not really. That's what the books said to do, but I didn't think it applied to a situation that had gone this far out of control. Plus, what I was telling Natalie was the exact opposite of what a rider would instinctively do.

Once again though, Natalie is a better rider than either of us realized. She stopped fighting the handlebars and loosened her grip on the violently bucking motorcycle, and as the Bonneville slowed down, the shaking stopped and she was just as suddenly cruising along stably at 60 mph. What stunned me was that when I suggested we stop to give her a chance to recover, she refused, and said that we'd stop once we were done. Later on she explained: "If I had stopped, I never would have started again."

We survived the ride and made it to Reno, but I will never forget how close we came to ending the trip in the Nevada desert, and how Natalie showed absolutely grit and a steady hand when confronted with almost-certain disaster. She's quite the incredible woman.
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:02 PM   #27
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In retrospect, it was a rookie mistake: I allowed too many risk factors to combine. Any two or three combined were fine, but all together they spelled (near-)disaster.

1. High, gusty side winds.
2. Night, in the desert, with no street lights, and limited sightlines.
3. Fatigue: this was the longest day we'd done yet.
4. Passing a semi.
5. Passing in a short "passing lane".
6. Passing uphill.

I think what happened was that I reached the front of the semi, with its attendant bow wake, right at the crest of the hill. The front suspension lightened up as I crested the hill while still on the throttle. The wake of the semi, the wind over the hill crest, and the wind of the oncoming traffic buffeted me while my suspension was light. And into oscillation it went.

I survived. And learned my lessons. Now I know to time my passes so they don't involve hill crests, to ease off the throttle a little at hill crests, to immediately ease off the throttle if the front starts to go shaky rather than try to fight it, and to be always conscious of the number of risks I'm combining.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:44 AM   #28
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Day 5, 10/3/12: Reno

Day 5, 10/3/12: Reno

Today was planned to be Reno to "somewhere on the way to Vegas", with our usual sunrise start time. But after last night's drama I insisted on a day off to sleep off the adrenaline. So we played tourist for a day. Not much happening in Reno on a Wednesday in October.



Recharging my Luck, after I used it all up last night!


Says Scalpel, "Oh Circus Circus, you can always be relied on to be as tacky as humanly possible. Never change."
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:54 AM   #29
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Day 6, 10/4/12: Reno -> Vegas

Day 6, 10/4/12: Reno -> Vegas

Lots of miles to cover today, and it's going to be hot. On the road pre-dawn.


Headed out, pre-dawn.

---------------------------------------------------

Lunchtime update by Scalpel:
Halfway to Vegas

Our goal today was to get up very early in order to tackle what was originally planned as a two-day ride, the 480 mile route from Reno to Las Vegas. Natalie wisely decided that even though it would mean a long ride today, we were taking a rest day in Reno yesterday. It turned out to be the right call. We woke up before dawn today well-rested and ready to ride.

Currently we're taking a lunch break in sunny Tonopah, Nevada, the halfway point between Reno and Vegas. It turns out that it's easy to make good time when Highway 95 has a speed limit of 70 mph, is mostly straight with sight lines that can stretch for miles, and passing is allowed almost everywhere.

Onward to Las Vegas!


---------------------------------------------------
Made it!


After riding close to five hundred miles, we have successfully arrived in Las Vegas. Not bad for a one-day ride!



Vegas, baby!


The important part
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:17 PM   #30
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Day 8, 10/6/12: Vegas -> Tijuana

Day 8, 10/6/12: Vegas -> Tijuana

After a planned day off in Vegas, we put our eyes back on the road. Enough rest, more miles! Today we rode from Vegas to Tijuana.

The desert has been cool to ride in its own way. Since I'm from Seattle, where everything is green and we get agoraphobic on a soccer field (as in, nothing is flat and we're surrounded by mountains), I tend to think of deserts as boring ugly flat places with straight roads. This trip's been an education. Turns out deserts aren't (necessarily) particularly flat, there's a lot of colors (even if they're all shades of brown), and there are living things (bunnies, coyotes, and dust devils). More importantly, though straight roads aren't fun twisties, they do let you focus on speed for a while And there's kind of a weird camaraderie that develops with the other drivers when there's nowhere to get on or off the road and so you become familiar to one another.

You also learn which semis will be extra turbulent and which are good... Walmart's trucks are pretty smooth, FedEx surprisingly bad, and flatbeds with loads of pipes are Satan's gift to riders.
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