Saturday 19 March 2011

Seattle to San Francisco. Rain, snow, tsunami, tornado

So much for every Monday huh? I have a good excuse though. A Korean man stole my netbook about 6 months ago and along Highway 101 they have only wifi and no real computers. My theory is that no backpackers really take that route and as such there are no hostels. They have alot of RV parks (camper vans) and motels and even camping. Each option is horribly overpriced and only has wifi.

So, Seattle to San Fran in 5 days. Not sure if that is quick or slow but it certainly wasn't fun. Infact I think I will happily put the Oregon coast as a place to never ever take a motorbike. I left Kevins place at about 11 on Monday morning planning to blast down the I5 into Seattle, pick up a couple of packages I had delivered and then down to Portland and the legendary Highway 101. The plan was sound the execution was not. Within 15 minutes of leaving I'd picked up a puncture and had shredded the inner tube to pieces (literally) trying to get off the interstate. Fortunatly Alex had decided to give me an escort into Seattle so by the time I got off the interstate I met him on a smaller highway and we went in search of somewhere to replace the tube. A local garage didn't mind us using one of the bays so we got the spare out. In true comedic style the spare had a puncture which we patched up and fitted. This took some time and as we were about to leave Alex recieved a call.... I'd left my GoPro behind. Seems the puncture was a bit of a godsend as I would have been long gone otherwise. So a quick U-turn (called Whipping a bitch in the US) back to Kevins, grab the camera and onward to Seattle where I picked up a wetsuit, a BCD, regs and a diving knife. My bike is now thoroughly overloaded! Alex pointed the way South and we parted company. We'll meet again somewhere down in Mexico I am sure.

15 minutes out of Seattle and guess what? Apparently We were not good tyre repair people. I felt the rear end go soft and start weaving across the road! Not fun. Hazards on and teeth tightly gritted I weaved through 3 lanes of traffic to the hard shoulder. Standing by the side of the road contemplating another hour changing tubes and another angel of the road pulls onto the shoulder infront of me. Lance, the legend and a rider of a most majestic bike, a 1989 Honda Transalp, jumps out of his car and walks on over. We soon have the rear wheel off and all my crap loaded into the back of his car. I was a bit anxious leaving the bike behind on the interstate but with little other choice we head towards Lances house. There is an independent bike shop near him so we pick up a new tire and two tubes. Get them fitted, back to the bike and I'm soon on my way again. What can I say but cheers?

Lance pointed out Canon beach on 101 so I decided to take his advice and just before portland I turned off the I5 and headed to the coast. It had been raining all day and now it was getting dark. The new road was a minor road and had no street lighting. Combined with the rain it was too much and I pulled into a motel for the night. Hands and feet white and wrinkled from wearing wet clothes I curled into bed shivering having only covered 130 miles!

The next day, and up early for a long ride to make up for the previous day. I looked out the window and the sun was shining. I could see the road for a few miles and it was all twisty. A grin spread across my face as I hurried into my still damp clothes. I couldn't care less. I was on the road finally after a month of false starts. All was good. As I straddled the bike, rev the engine and wave to the motel owner.... It rains!!! Not just a little bit either. It pisses it down and continues to piss it down for the next 150 miles! Cannon beach? I looked, it was windswept, I carried on. Tillamok with its famous cheese factory? I didn't even slow. I'll give the North Oregon cost one thing. It knows how to throw a good storm. Waves crashing against the cliff face, howling winds and rain driving sideways. At many points spray from the sea would hurl itself onto the road adding to the misery. All it needed was a lone woman standing on the cliff waiting for her fisherman husband to return home and the scene would have been set. I did finally stop in a town called Neskowin. Shivering and looking like a drowned rat I stepped into the relative warmth of a motel reception. $55 for a warm room? Done deal. I checked in, turned on the shower and without getting out of my clothes sat in the bathtub. 6 hours in pouring, freezing rain and again only 150 miles...

Tsunami + Tree =  great place for a fire pit
By this point I was beginning to think I had been very unlucky to catch such bad weather. I was putting it down to cold fronts and other scientific reasoning but there is a deeper, more malicious story here. For, within 10 minutes of stopping, after I had dragged myself out of the tub and had dressed in fresh warm clothes I decided to make the most of a bad situation. I'd head out to the beach and get some photos of the storm. If not exactly comforting a storm does have a beauty all of its own and it deserved to be photographed just as much as anything else. So warmly dressed and ready to face the storm I head out into the..... sunshine. That's right. The storm cleared and the sun came out.

Moody Ocean
And another one
Figuring that this at least meant that Wednesday would be a good dry days riding I slept slightly more comfortably. The next morning brought more rain and another long horrible ride. My boots still soaked from the day before had now given up all pretense of being waterproof. My gloves looked and felt like soggy toilet paper. By the end of this day I would have twice poured out about 2 cups of water from each boot and spent half hour in McDonalds warming my entire body under a hand drier.

There was nothing... NOTHING that could redeem this ride. The roads were beautiful for summer riding but in the heavy rain they caused more depression. As the road turned away from the coast the mountains became an endless source of grief as frozen fingers tried to work the brakes and clutch for each damn corner. My visor steamed up and would not clear and it even hailed at one point making riding with the visor up an impossibility. I had to pullover and wait it out. I was offered sympathies by passing motorists and one lady gave me hot chocolate and a salami sandwich. I did make it through Newport and North bend all the way down to Brookings where I decided to call it a night. Just outside of the Redwood National Park and the real reason I was on the 101. I'd ride the great Avenue of the Giants, drive through the drivethru tree and generally have a good ol time.

One of the big trees
So it's Thursday morning and guess what? It's raining. I wont bore you. There were some big trees, some of them were huge even. The road would have been great except it was far too slippy to push so more miles passed with little to note the actual passing of time except those key moments when my gloves gave out and water seeped between my fingers. Or when the water, pooled between me and my tank bag, decided it was time for a change of scenery and subsequently drenched my nuts. The first bead of water to roll between my jacket and backpack all the way down to my butt crack. The inevitable shivers!

Friday morning... the last stretch. 150 miles to San Fran. I hadn't planned on visiting but by this point I just really wanted a warm bed and somewhere with other backpackers. The weather forcast for the next 2 hours ride? Rain and Thunderstorms! Tornado warnings and, you guessed it, snow!

I managed to make one good stop along the way in Ukiah. I stopped in a coffee shop where people took sympathy on me and helped me book a hostel in San Fran. I managed to not take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge but I did find the hostel on my first attempt.

I've probably been a bit unfair on the Oregon coast. It was beautiful in its own dramatic way. The riding would be awesome in the summer. I stopped several times to look at the ocean and its ferocity was something else. Speaking to locals I found they had a love hate relationship with the weather. In many ways I think the weather defines life here. In the summer it is warm and beautiful and there is huge tourism. In the winter those who tender to the tourists must deal with regular blackouts. Tsunami warnings and random snow storms all year round. They have a saying here. "If you don't like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change." I took this advice and in the worst of the storms you could find me sheltering under the nearest awning. One way or another the weather always improved a little bit.

Going to rest up a day or two here and take a look at the bike. There are a couple of niggling problems I would like to fix (the front tire has, in parts, split in two) and she is seriously lacking power. Probably one of the carbs is gummed up a bit. Wouldn't mind doing a dyno run as well but beggers cant be choosers.

There were at least a few moments of good weather

Monday 7 March 2011

Just an update

Not much to report but in the spirit of regular blogging here is an update.

So I told you that my ride was booked to reach Vancouver and if everything had gone to plan I would be there now. Instead I received an email a day before we were going to ship the bike which said "we suspect a 90-95% chance your bike would receive moderate to serious damage during transport. It is unlikely it would be ridable at the delivery destination"

Errr wot???? So as you can imagine this option was very quickly removed from the table. Fortunately I made a few posts on requesting assistance and someone got in touch. Big ups to David from Edmonton who has saved me from the pits of despair. He has a 1 ton truck and is heading West to Vancouver on Tuesday the 8th. Spoken to David a couple of times since he contacted me and we are going to load the bike on Tuesday morning and plan to be in Vancouver by the evening. He's even offered to help with accommodation in Vancouver. Brilliant!

In other bike related news everything is ready to go, I even have a new tank bag from Al which is going to be a God send further down the road allowing me to keep a map in full view and other essential stuff close to hand. Also made one or two big ticket purchases including a GoPro helmet cam and some diving equipment. As you can probably tell I am very much ready to go now and have been for a while. Once in Vancouver I really don't care if it is raining.

So, if you happen to be reading this from somewhere along the West Coast, keep an eye out for a grinning, soaking wet Welshman heading south.

Bryn Rhys and guess who? My cousins and I for the
obligatory family photo
ps. Checkout the new map on the right. The old one was a bit bloated so this one will be purely for this leg of the trip.