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Old 04-02-2010, 10:48 PM   #1
Nemo Brinker
Tonight we ride
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: OAKLAND.
Motorcycles: '04 919, '04 DR650
Name: Legion
Nemo’s Big Adventure—Coast to Coast and Back Again, July-Sept. 09

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

–Christina Rossetti, Uphill

All right, I've waited too long to post this already.

So, I'd been wanting to ride across the US since I first got a bike--all that Lone Rider allure, silly as it is, worked its way under my skin, and I'd been hearing the call of the road. But how break the ties and do it? I was in a decent job, working hard and being a responsible citizen, and there was just not enough time.

Enter the recession. One late spring day, I was called into the office: boom. Layoff. My ex-boss looked confused when I reacted with a wry smile. Time to ride...

I spent some time planning, scheduling, subletting my place, and gathering gear; I'd already modded the bike for travel.

Saying goodbye was hard--the morning I left was full of trepidation, and had a couple of tearful goodbyes. But I swung a leg over and headed out.

I was going to be seeing a lot of these mirrors and these bars for the next 7+ weeks. My new headquarters:

The bike, my companion across the continent: a 2004 Honda 919. An unlikely choice for a touring bike, but you run what you brung, and she had so far proved herself scrappy, reliable and capable.

  • Givi windscreen
  • Givi engine guards
  • Stainless brake lines
  • Centerstand
  • Manic Salamander bar-end weights and foam grip covers
  • Rizoma mirrors
  • Powercommander
  • Sato Exhausts
  • Givi topracks, sideracks, and hard bags
  • Sargent saddle and homemade sheepskin seat cover
  • New chain and sprockets, brake pads, oil change, coolant flush, brake bleed, battery

I hit the road, not quite believing I was doing it.

My first stop was Sacramento. I visited my former housemate and good friend, who got a bike at age 16 and rode across the continent herself (on a '73 Honda 454) at 18. She was the first person to teach me to ride and part of the inspiration for the journey, a true eccentric and free spirit. One of the best things about friendship is the way you open each other up to new possibilities, new ways of thinking--and H certainly did that for me. I'd never have considered being a hobo rider before I met her.

She fed me lunch--it was to be the last home-cooked meal for a while.


And then it was off, up 80, then 49, into the Sierra...

Other than the savage heat, this was feeling great already.

I thought I'd be gentle on myself the first day, and camped out at Sierra Hot Springs.

Pretty cushy for a short day's ride, but what the hell. Why not soak my cares away?

Day 1 map
[gmap]<iframe width="640" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=";source=s_d&amp;saddr=Oakland,+CA&amp;daddr=sacramento,+ca+to:CA-49+S+to:39.554883,-120.340118+to:Campell+Hot+Springs+Rd,+Sierraville,+Sierra,+California+96126&amp;geocode=FVTZQAIdrUu2-CkD7aooi32FgDFnk3U11RW0cQ%3BFUS1TAIdgCTC-Cn5l4OycsaagDHbfxl0qmofkg%3BFegaWwIdhZfK-A%3B%3BFbulWwIdCazT-CmtkqJAfvebgDGz2Rw3hTW_vA&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dme&amp;mrcr=1&amp;mrsp=3&amp;sz=10&amp;via=2,3&amp;sll=39.386325,-120.727386&amp;sspn=0.529632,1.234589&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=38.796908,-121.35498&amp;spn=2.054945,3.515625&amp;z=8&amp;output=embed"></iframe><br /><small><a href=";source=embed&amp;saddr=Oakland,+CA&amp;daddr=sacramento,+ca+to:CA-49+S+to:39.554883,-120.340118+to:Campell+Hot+Springs+Rd,+Sierraville,+Sierra,+California+96126&amp;geocode=FVTZQAIdrUu2-CkD7aooi32FgDFnk3U11RW0cQ%3BFUS1TAIdgCTC-Cn5l4OycsaagDHbfxl0qmofkg%3BFegaWwIdhZfK-A%3B%3BFbulWwIdCazT-CmtkqJAfvebgDGz2Rw3hTW_vA&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dme&amp;mrcr=1&amp;mrsp=3&amp;sz=10&amp;via=2,3&amp;sll=39.386325,-120.727386&amp;sspn=0.529632,1.234589&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=38.796908,-121.35498&amp;spn=2.054945,3.515625&amp;z=8" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small> [/gmap]
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Old 04-02-2010, 11:08 PM   #2
Nemo Brinker
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The next morning, relaxed and well-soaked, I headed northeast. I've never seen much of the northeastern quadrant of California, and I wanted to explore all those high sagebrush deserts a bit. I ran across a cemetery outside a tiny forgotten town.

It made me consider living and dying out in the middle of nowhere.

It was also fiercely hot, and I was not yet acclimated to the extremes of temperature you can't avoid on the bike. You're exposed to the world, and there's nothing for it but to integrate the extremes of nature as well as you can. I stewed, even in my mesh gear.

Welcome to the road.

Even up in this remote region, there was plenty of road construction; this scene was to be repeated over and over in most of the states I passed through. It seems that a third or more of the major roads in the US were under construction during this summer.

Further north, I saw a sign for a back entrance to the Lava Beds National Monument, and turned off on a whim. Why not? The road dwindled and sagged and finally gave way to gravel. At last, I came to a parking lot below a spectacular cliff; its base was littered with the tiny bones of innumerable small animals. The cliff above was covered with raptor nests--hawks, owls, falcons, they all come to breed here. It was a favorite place for the local Indians to carve petroglyphs, too.

A little way away from the other petroglyphs, I noticed a set that seemed different from the rest. When I looked closer at the carvings, they were Japanese. This area was very near the site of the Tule Lake internment camp. Despite the heat, I couldn't suppress a shiver.

Here was the site of the camp, out in the sagebrush.

History is not always a happy tale.

Back out on the main road, I was headed straight for Oregon. North of Klamath Falls, I turned off to head up to Crater Lake. At the campground, I set up camp, fed myself, and performed what would become the daily ritual of chain lubing.

Day 2 map
[gmap]<iframe width="640" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=";source=s_d&amp;saddr=Campell+Hot+Springs+Rd,+Sierraville,+CA+96126&amp;daddr=susanville,+ca+to:Unknown+road+to:Crater+Lake+Hwy%2FOR-62+W+to:42.893448,-122.13501&amp;geocode=FbulWwIdCazT-CmtkqJAfvebgDGz2Rw3hTW_vA%3BFRy0aAIdMvvO-Cnjvjba6nOdgDFu6A8iyUwHSQ%3BFXpzfgIdtKjD-A%3BFUbwjQIdfha4-A%3B&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dme&amp;mrcr=2&amp;mrsp=4&amp;sz=13&amp;via=3&amp;sll=42.896592,-122.107201&amp;sspn=0.062752,0.154324&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=41.095912,-120.640869&amp;spn=3.973926,7.03125&amp;z=7&amp;output=embed"></iframe><br /><small><a href=";source=embed&amp;saddr=Campell+Hot+Springs+Rd,+Sierraville,+CA+96126&amp;daddr=susanville,+ca+to:Unknown+road+to:Crater+Lake+Hwy%2FOR-62+W+to:42.893448,-122.13501&amp;geocode=FbulWwIdCazT-CmtkqJAfvebgDGz2Rw3hTW_vA%3BFRy0aAIdMvvO-Cnjvjba6nOdgDFu6A8iyUwHSQ%3BFXpzfgIdtKjD-A%3BFUbwjQIdfha4-A%3B&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dme&amp;mrcr=2&amp;mrsp=4&amp;sz=13&amp;via=3&amp;sll=42.896592,-122.107201&amp;sspn=0.062752,0.154324&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=41.095912,-120.640869&amp;spn=3.973926,7.03125&amp;z=7" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small>[/gmap]
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Old 04-03-2010, 09:44 AM   #3
Nemo Brinker
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I spent the night getting eaten by mosquitoes and watching the cheesy campfire program. In the morning, I took a hike by the river before I broke camp--the early morning was beautiful, I saw weasels mating by the creek , and it was good to stretch my legs and take in the landscape on foot.

Then it was up to the lake itself. Crater Lake reflects the sky in its deep blue bowl; it was just as mesmerizing looking up into the sky, then down into the depths, as it was when I was a kid.

I called my mom, too, and assured her that I was not yet Dead In A Ditch Somewhere. Motorcycling is rough on mothers. More of the lake:

Tea time. Having a little thermos of hot tea was really damned nice sometimes, whether shivering in my sodden tent or relaxing and taking in the grand vistas.

O hai.

Then it was down, down, down, out of the mountains and into the Oregon desert. It got hotter and hotter, the road more and more deserted...until the nice fresh slithery chip seal construction along Hwy. 20. I was to get very, very accustomed to this sort of thing, but for now it was fresh, new, stinky, and offering less traction than I'd like.

At last, I reached Burns, a surprisingly appealing little burg out in the sagebrush desert. Folks seem real here, no-nonsense. Feeling the 105-degree heat, I decided to crash in a motel. When I went exploring around town later that evening, there were deer wandering the gravel streets.

Another cool old cemetery

complete with fawns frolicking by the tombstones.

Looking out over the sagebrush desert

Back at the Wagon Wheel motel, I crashed hard and slept deep.

Day 3 map
[gmap]<iframe width="640" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=";source=s_d&amp;saddr=Rim+Dr&amp;daddr=44.057986,-121.302795+to:burns,+OR&amp;geocode=FY-TjgId2Ga4-A%3B%3BFdUSmQId6WDn-CkjimC226awVDFNSrO6ZHWZvQ&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dpe&amp;mrcr=0&amp;mrsp=1&amp;sz=9&amp;via=1&amp;sll=43.755225,-120.440369&amp;sspn=0.989928,2.469177&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=43.225193,-120.50354&amp;spn=1.921281,3.515625&amp;z=8&amp;output=embed"></iframe><br /><small><a href=";source=embed&amp;saddr=Rim+Dr&amp;daddr=44.057986,-121.302795+to:burns,+OR&amp;geocode=FY-TjgId2Ga4-A%3B%3BFdUSmQId6WDn-CkjimC226awVDFNSrO6ZHWZvQ&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dpe&amp;mrcr=0&amp;mrsp=1&amp;sz=9&amp;via=1&amp;sll=43.755225,-120.440369&amp;sspn=0.989928,2.469177&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=43.225193,-120.50354&amp;spn=1.921281,3.515625&amp;z=8" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small>[/gmap]
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Old 04-03-2010, 10:30 AM   #4
Nemo Brinker
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Join Date: May 2006
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Motorcycles: '04 919, '04 DR650
Name: Legion
The next day I took a detour south to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, but couldn't see much from the paved and gravel roads that I was willing to tackle on the 919. Someday, I'll be back on a dual-sport to find the hidden hot springs and visit the ancient volcanoes and abandoned mines...

I did get to do a speed test on the wide, flat, completely abandoned road north of the Refuge--it has a levee on either side, so it's hard for deer to leap out and surprise you. The 919's top speed is in no way impressive, but it was plenty exciting for me.

Then it was on to Boise, Idaho, where my cousin Tony and his family live. They put me up for a couple of days, showed me around town, and were tremendously hospitable. I enjoy the irony of cousin Tony--he used to be a party guy and footloose traveler, and got in trouble with my fam long ago for teaching me to play Dungeons & Dragons when I was a girl of 8. Now he's a respectable homeowner and school principal, busting the kids he used to be and passing on his love of geeky history. And feeding his herd of feral cats, to boot.

Young Sabrina wasn't big on being put on the bike...

But then she wanted to know all about it, and went over the braking system with me. That part seemed to fascinate her.
Still skeptical.

It was good to see people I knew and loved, but time to get back on the road.

So...many...gas choices! Idaho is strange that way. As it is in many ways.

By the rushing Payette River

More construction. This time, the joys of slithering in mud were exposed. I was getting better at this, though.

A lovely evening's ride by the Clearwater River

I camped by the Lochsa River, at the base of Idaho highway 12, the famous Lolo Pass. I've been up and down this road on a couple of my previous long trips...first on a Nighthawk, then on a VFR, and now on the 919. It's an interesting thing when far-off places trigger memories, some unsettling, some nostalgic, some comforting.

It was a sweet spot to wade and ponder, and chew my evening meal of beef jerky and dried mango.

Maps--into and out of Boise
[gmap]<iframe width="640" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=";source=s_d&amp;saddr=burns,+OR&amp;daddr=Narrows-Princeton+Rd+to:Narrows-Princeton+Rd+to:Narrows-Princeton+Rd+to:43.524655,-119.031372+to:boise,+id&amp;geocode=FdUSmQId6WDn-CkjimC226awVDFNSrO6ZHWZvQ%3BFd4DlAIdegvr-A%3BFd4DlAIdegvr-A%3BFcoDlAIdpgzr-A%3B%3BFdd5mQIdfMIS-SmdtEfpcvGuVDGbnWc2m5hbmg&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dpe&amp;mrcr=1&amp;mrsp=4&amp;sz=8&amp;via=1,2,4&amp;sll=43.615995,-117.631775&amp;sspn=1.98441,4.938354&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=43.612217,-117.630615&amp;spn=1.909042,3.515625&amp;z=8&amp;output=embed"></iframe><br /><small><a href=";source=embed&amp;saddr=burns,+OR&amp;daddr=Narrows-Princeton+Rd+to:Narrows-Princeton+Rd+to:Narrows-Princeton+Rd+to:43.524655,-119.031372+to:boise,+id&amp;geocode=FdUSmQId6WDn-CkjimC226awVDFNSrO6ZHWZvQ%3BFd4DlAIdegvr-A%3BFd4DlAIdegvr-A%3BFcoDlAIdpgzr-A%3B%3BFdd5mQIdfMIS-SmdtEfpcvGuVDGbnWc2m5hbmg&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dpe&amp;mrcr=1&amp;mrsp=4&amp;sz=8&amp;via=1,2,4&amp;sll=43.615995,-117.631775&amp;sspn=1.98441,4.938354&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=43.612217,-117.630615&amp;spn=1.909042,3.515625&amp;z=8" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small>[/gmap]

[gmap]<iframe width="640" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src=";source=s_d&amp;saddr=Boise,+ID&amp;daddr=46.167824,-115.571365&amp;geocode=FSt-mQIdrVoS-SmdtEfpcvGuVDGbnWc2m5hbmg%3B&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dme&amp;mrcr=0&amp;mrsp=1&amp;sz=13&amp;sll=46.148919,-115.566216&amp;sspn=0.059343,0.154324&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=44.980342,-115.817871&amp;spn=3.730161,7.03125&amp;z=7&amp;output=embed"></iframe><br /><small><a href=";source=embed&amp;saddr=Boise,+ID&amp;daddr=46.167824,-115.571365&amp;geocode=FSt-mQIdrVoS-SmdtEfpcvGuVDGbnWc2m5hbmg%3B&amp;hl=en&amp;mra=dme&amp;mrcr=0&amp;mrsp=1&amp;sz=13&amp;sll=46.148919,-115.566216&amp;sspn=0.059343,0.154324&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=44.980342,-115.817871&amp;spn=3.730161,7.03125&amp;z=7" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small>[/gmap]
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Old 04-03-2010, 12:24 PM   #5
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It was the siren song for my good sticky BT016 tires, and I used them to the fullest roaring up the big sweepers of Lolo Pass (once I was past the construction, that is). That road is just delicious.

Grinning up on the Montana side

My next stop was my friend Oskar's place in Missoula, Montana. I got settled, then went over to Big Sky Motorsports for some new sport-touring tires. Their prices made me wish for more lube, :| but their service was fast and skilled, and the mechanics were cool folks.

With that chore taken care of, it was off to have ice cream, late-night intellectual conversation about motorcycling, writing, travel, and contingent identity. One of the themes was the stripping away of previous ideas of the self that traveling on a motorcycle accomplishes. A dip in the river didn't hurt, either.

I told him about my nervousness about leaving, my fears of wrecking, loneliness, storms and tornadoes across the midwest, all the stuff that preys on your mind when you're out by yourself and have too much imagination for your own good. In true deadpan style, he gave me his seasoned traveller's tornado advice.

"It's no problem. If there's a nasty thunderstorm and the sky turns green--it's a very particular color, you'll recognize it--turn around, get off the road, whatever it takes. If a twister catches up to you anyway, get off the bike and get in a ditch. Your instinct will tell you when. You'll be too terrified to ride anyway, right?"

The next day he and his housemate loaned me fishing gear and a backpack. I stopped by the store for some victuals and wine and a little something extra:

We headed up some remote dirt roads and backpacked the rest of the way to Prospector Lake, about 2 hours out of Missoula. The lake was completely deserted and we had it all to ourselves. I admit that I was glad Oskar had bear spray--there had been a recent grizzly sighting within 20 miles.

Prospector Lake

We spent a very fine evening fishing and relaxing, and I caught my limit of trout

I busted out the wine, and we fried the trout with a bit of bacon and some shallots from Oskar's garden. I will never forget how good that trout tasted; the evening spent under the stars that reflected in the lake water wasn't bad, either. And by the time I was floating around in that innertube without a stitch on or a care in the world, I felt pretty fine and expansive, indeed.

Go where no one knows who you are, or has any expectations of who you might be. It’s good to be out of context for a while.

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Old 04-05-2010, 01:34 PM   #6
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Old 04-06-2010, 03:02 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Nemo Brinker View Post
I called my mom, too, and assured her that I was not yet Dead In A Ditch Somewhere.
my mom uses that expression too

and looks amazing so far!
I BARF long distance.
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Old 04-06-2010, 04:18 PM   #8
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I like where this is going.
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Old 04-06-2010, 05:25 PM   #9
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Old 04-06-2010, 05:37 PM   #10
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While I have not done a coast to coast run, I have done 10 states and 5314 miles in two and a half weeks... what a blast! I can relate to how you are feeling. ENJOY!!!!

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Old 04-06-2010, 06:15 PM   #11
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this is one of the best posts I have ever read! Love it
Where you can usually find meBARF Sport Touring

I go wherever my ZR-7 can take me, and not worry about the places it can't.
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Old 04-06-2010, 07:15 PM   #12

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Envious! Continue to enjoy and ride safe through your many journies!
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Old 04-06-2010, 09:21 PM   #13
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Right. Been looking forward to this... you're one of the better and deeper writers on BARF.

Currently, enjoying the story and coveting your mirrors.
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Old 04-06-2010, 09:23 PM   #14
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I was sad to leave my buddy's company and head back out into the uncertain world, but it was time to hit the road once more.

Out into the hot afternoon, I followed the Flathead River for a while, and headed north--through lovely forested country towards Glacier National Park. I'd be wringing a lot of value out of my National Parks Pass...

One thing about National Parks, though; they favor the prepared over the spontaneous traveler. There were places I found deserted campgrounds in beautiful spots with only the birds and the deer for company; summer in Glacier is not one of those times or places. Wishing I'd had a laptop or an iPhone to make reservations, I was turned back at the gate, and scrambled to find a camp spot. At last, the kindly gal at the KOA called around and found me a spot at a family-run RV Park. They were sweet folks, and though the campsite was full of yowling peacocks, I found a peaceful spot, chatted with the owners, and settled in. Heck, they even had laundry, showers, and homemade cinnamon rolls in the morning to mitigate my disappointment.

Note the peahen to the right of my tent.

Maps--into and out of Missoula

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Old 04-06-2010, 09:42 PM   #15
Nemo Brinker
Tonight we ride
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: OAKLAND.
Motorcycles: '04 919, '04 DR650
Name: Legion
Glacier. I'd thought of coming here for a long time, and finally made it--me, and about 10,000 other bikers, hikers, cyclists, and damn slow RVs, that is.

I wished for a dual-sport, too, hearing Oskar talk about all the muddy 4x4 roads into the forgotten, savagely beautiful spots way out in hinterlands of the park. Someday, someday. There was plenty of beauty to behold right here, right now, with what I had on hand.

When I saw this, it hit me just how far I was away from home. In SF, the bears are very different creatures...

The air, smoky with wildfires, and the delicacy of the near-dawn light made me pause.

Stopping to stroll by the river

Man, I thought I'd overpacked!

I stopped and locked up my gear for a short hike. I couldn't go through the mighty Glacier without stretching my legs and feeling the land on foot for a little while.

The creek carving through the gorge at the start of the Avalanche Lake trail.

The glacial cirque surrounding Avalanche Lake (alas for the smoky air, obscuring the bright blue sky).

Arnica montana

Ducks swimming in the impossibly blue, absolutely frigid water of the lake. I made it in up to my knees, but couldn't stand to go in any farther.

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