Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vegas Baby!

Thr past few days have been some on the most scenic of my life. After being punched in the face by the force of the Moab landscape we rode right into the heart of an iconic American landscape. You've seen Forrest Gump run in it and the Griswold's get lost in it: Monument Vallry. It is an absolute must see for anyone traveling this area; you would be foolish to miss it. The highway slopes down a couple mile long dip and into the vast stretch of rock spires that look like natures downtown. And we even got to see a couple giant eared desert foxes on the side of the highway!

The next day was an interesting one. First I'll start off with the Grand Canyon. Nobody that has seen it can imagine how immense it is. The sheer width, depth and length challenge the mind to come up with numbers to measure its volume or even comprehend how something so massive can be created by nature. Now I understand why everyone has always said it is a must to visit in a lifetime. And now Kyle has it checked off the list! Boo yah! 

Now to describe the day's events. These first two things will be a testament to just how tiring all this riding (and a little bit of heat stroke) can be on the body and mind. We hit the showers first thing, followed by breakfast and then hopped on the free shuttle buses that take you to various stops on the South Rim Trail. After being dropped at the east most trail stop we hiked for about twenty minutes before I had an "oh fuck" moment and realized my wallet wasn't in my back pocket. We hoofed it to the next stop with a worried pace and waited for the bus to arrive. Thankfully the bus driver had it, and I threw her $60 for being honest. Then, if that wasn't enough, I realized I'd left my watch in the shower stall! I figured my luck was ran out, there was no way I was getting that back. I checked it off in my mind as a travel casualty and focused on the day. We continued to walk the rim trail for the rest of the day, which is a well maintained, paved trail that for the most part sticks along the edge of the canyon and leads to various viewpoints that offer incredible views. It was really awesome seeing the trail that descends into the canyon, watching the people turn to almost unrecognizable specs as they reach the bottom sections. One day I would like to do that trail. Later we stopped by the shower house and amazingly enough they had my watch! These two honest gestures shows how blown away I've been so far by the friendliness of all the Americans we've met so far this trip. They have truly been some of the best I've ever met, which has blown my stereotypes out of the water so far.

One thing I can't go without mentioning is the types of campers we saw at the campground. A neighbour a couple sites down for some unknown reason threw a butane camp fuel cylinder into their blazing fire pit, which caused an explosion that I'm sure the whole park heard. And then we watched an Asian tourist try to guide their friend who was backing their SUV out of a hiking trail they had started driving up, thinking it was a road. Priceless.

Yesterday we left Grand Canyon in the pouring rain, which continued to pour on us nearly the whole ride to Vegas, so needless to say our gear is drying out in the hotel as we speak. Rain, cold, we will not be stopped. And now we're in Vegas! Our original intention had been to go to Zion National Park but the rain changed that plan. I'm happy it worked out this way, having more than two days to relax and recharge is definitely what the doctor ordered. I plan on blackjack and drinking.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Amazeballs Views

Moab in one word: amazeballs. The weather has turned for us and has become a balmy 28 degrees. This did become a temporary setback when we developed heat stroke from the very quick transition to hot weather. Riding on a motorcycle with the wind blowing can be deceiving as it makes you feel cool but in 28 degrees it's not really cooling anything. I started getting chills about 40 miles outside of Moab and by the evening it was clear we both were suffering from it. We turned in early after a healthy sushi meal and had a fitful, feverish sleep but it became a blessing in disguise when we were up early enough to head to Dead Horse Point to see the sun rise over Canyonlands National Park.

The view from Dead Horse Point is definitely in my top three, the others being the view from Kala Pattar in Nepal and the view from Healy Pass in Banff National Park. We got a head start on the crowds and arrived at 7:45, enjoying the serenity of the silence of the desert, which is only interrupted by a soft, calming breeze every now and then. Seeing the vast, canyon laced landscape of Canyonlands made me want to explore more of the park in the future.

That afternoon after a recharging nap we headed into Arches National park, which was a 40 minute drive through winding roads past some of the most surreal rock formations I've ever seen. We hiked the Devils Garden trail, which took us up along sandstone rock ridges that drop off on either side into narrow crevasses below and offered views of some of the natural rock arches that look like a feat of natures engineering. As we were still a little heat stroked we took it easy and didn't push ourselves too hard, choosing to do only half the trail instead of the loop, which was a good call because in the 28 degree heat and the dry desert air it's very easy to become quickly dehydrated. All in all I am in love with Moab and the surrounding area and really want to come back and spend some time here.

Tomorrow we're going to get an early start on the day and try to make it to the Grand Canyon by late afternoon so we can set up camp for our first days of tenting!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Riding of a Lifetime

These last two days can simply be described as amazing. When I was a kid we took road trips to Montana and Idaho, but I didn't remember how amazing the scenery is in those states. On the way up to the border we hit snow around Chief Mountain, but we were well prepared for the cold this time, and it didn't phase us. Instead, it became our ally. The mountains are immensely more beautiful and majestic when covered with snow, and contrast that with fields of green and autumn colours and you have an amazing landscape.

After eating a hearty breakfast and talking to an old guy whose retirement sounds like exactly the way I wpuld want to spend mine, wandering around the mountain forests taking video of grizzly bears, we hit the highway and made some serious miles, winding through the tight Montana highways that snake through the bottom of deep valleys and up over high passes that offer breathtaking vistas of the Montane wilderness.

Unfortunately the snow denied us our planned route through Logan Pass since the stretch after the pass was closed but we rode up there anyway and enjoyed the views. We took the southern route through Glacier NP, which was just an awesome. And it also offered a test of my motorcycle and a bit of a challenge when we couldn't find a gas station after my fuel light came on. With no other option, we pushed on, relying our 2 liter reserve bottle to take me the 55 miles to West Glacier. By 50 km of the fuel light being on I was sure at any moment my bike would die, but amazingly it went 86 km's on the last drops!

We arrived in Missoula at 10pm and quickly realized, after checking the forecast, that our plan of heading to Yellowstone wouldn't work out; the forecast was calling for rain, cold temperatures and possibly snow in the evening, and after two days of cold riding it did not sound appealing to get in a cold tent after another day of cold, and now wet riding. Which was s good call, because we did get rained on. Our route down highway 93, opting for Idaho Falls, rain us right into steady, cold rain. And we pushed through it like fucking chanps. And our call to opt for that route was a good one; the stretch of highway was one of the best motorcycle roads I've ever been on; crossing a high pass, winding through low, beautiful river valleys and ending up on a flat scrub plain that looked like something straight out of No Country for Old Men.

And after all of this awesome riding we ended up in a hotel with a hot tub and a pizza delivery guy that picked up a case of beer for us. Life is beautiful.

I know you would like me to back up some of these descriptions with pictures but unfortunately we haven't had a chance to download them to our hard drive, but fear not, we will get it done and have some pictures up soon.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cold Blooded Lessons

So after the past however many years where it seemed like summer lasts two months longer than it should, it seems this year, the year I pick to do this trip, is the year we get an early fall. F you, God. However, we did luck out in the way that yesterday wasn't just cold, it was cold and wet, so there is that.

Today started out as a chilly ride, leaving around noon after working a night shift last night. I was also lucky enough to get hooked up with an electric vest that my uncle Maurice loaned to Curtis to use, but since he has a Ducati and the vest has a Harley plug, BAM, Kyle has an electric vest for the trip! And it is awesome. Since most of the ride was in the afternoon and we were pretty well bundled up, it was a nice ride. Fall is a great time to be in the mountains; the air is crisp and clean and it seems like the sun is at a perfect light intensity. Couple that with fall colours and the ride was amazing.

And then the sun went behind the mountains....and the temperature dropped to 4 degrees Celsius within ten minutes. And Kyle froze his balls off. So much so that I had to pull over and don more layers, but by then the damage was done and I was cold. So lesson learned, suit up early for a preventative measure. Which I will do tomorrow morning as it's supposed to be 2 degrees. I'm probably going to roll into the Montana border barely recognizable under all my layers...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The List

Ok, so I am days away from packing my motorcycle and leaving it all packed up and ready to go for the day we leave. My logic being that after working a night shift the night before I can wake up, eat, shower, hop on my bike and leave. No time wasted, no stress incurred. Obviously I had to make a packing list to ensure I don't forget anything, and here is what it looks like so far:

-Riding Jacket
-Riding Jeans (armored jeans for motorcycle riding)
-Long Underwear x 2 (might need to double them up in colder weather)
-Rain Pants
-Leather Gloves
-GorTex three season riding gloves
-Face Mask
-Thick Wool Socks x 2
-Regular Wool Socks x 2
-Cooling Vest
-Ear Plugs
-Clear Lens Goggles (for night riding)
-Moisture Wicking Shirts x 2
-Leather Vest
-Down Vest
-Polyester Hoodie
-T-Shirt x 6
-Underwear x 6 (yes, I will do laundry)
-Regular socks x 6
-Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt
-Thermal Layer Shirt
-Sport Shorts
-Trail Shoes
-Sandals (which I will throw away after the Narrows Trail in Zion)
-Sleeping Bag
-Sleeping Pad
-Jetboil stove and fuel
-GoPro Camera (cables and memory cards too)
-RAM Mount for GoPro
-Canon 5D SLR Camera
-IPod and Headphones
-External Hard Drive (to back up pictures and video)
-Wheel Lock (security lock for motorcycle)
-Tool Kit
-Signal Light Bulb
-Spark Plug
-Microfibre Cloth
-Spare Key for Motorcycle
-Duct and Electrical Tape
-Misquito Spray
-Nalgene Water Bottle
-Travel Towel
-First Aid Kit
-Matches or Lighter
-Passport, Registration and all necessary papers
-Zip Loc Bags x 2
-Black Garbage Bags x 2
-Lens Wipes
-Toothbrush & Toothpaste
-Razor & Shaving Cream
-Sun Burn Lotion
-Lip Balm
-Nail Clippers
-Coffee Packets

So far that's what I have. I'm sure a couple things will get added to the list in the next week, but all of that has to fit on my motorcycle. Fortunately I am an expert at packing!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Culmination of Gear

It's coming quick, the bike trip is only weeks away! Curtis and I have been slaving over our computers, ordering gear and back checking every little item that we think we may need, then ordering more. I budgeted myself $1000 for gear, and have reached that limit. The purchase list includes:

-Riding jeans that have sewn in Kevlar lining and inserted hip and knee armor
-Throttle lock so I'll have cruise control
-Down vest for cold weather
-Wheel security lock
-Saddle bags
-Cooling vest for that hot desert sun

Over the last few days we've booked our accommodation for a bunch of stops, which was pretty much a necessity in places like Moab and the Grand Canyon, which is still very busy during September. We got the second last available hotel room in Moab on Hotwire! I've been hard at work researching hiking trails we can do in the national parks, and a few notable ones I've found are the Zion Narrows in Zion N.P., the Devil's Garden Trail in Arches N.P., and the South Rim Trail in Grand Canyon N.P.

Next week I take my bike for it's 8000km service, which will give me peace of mind that the bike has been completely checked over and will be good to go for this trip. Also next week I will do a dry run on packing the bike with everything I'll need. Shit is getting real.

As for the rest of my summer, it's been a lot of working on my backyard, which has produced amazing results:

My Uncle Maurice and I have been hard at work grading the backyard, disposing of twelve tons of waste soil, dumping another twelve of good top soil back in, tamping a pad of road crush which I laid my stone patio on, building a fence to keep the riff raff next door out of sight and out of mind (except for her barking ass dogs), and laying 1200 square feet of sod. After all of that, it's looking great! 

And for the rest of the house, I had some plumbers bust up the concrete floor in the basement to lay drain and water lines for the new laundry room, which will replace the old location so I can turn it into a second bedroom. And I had that old beast of a furnace replaced with this new, shiny Cadillac of a furnace that also blows cool air from my basement upstairs and makes summer nights in my house quite pleasant!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

On a Steel Horse I Ride

And the official start to my summer is here! It would have been last month, but working 27 days of the month kind of limits how much a person can enjoy their free time. That doesn't sound like many days, but when you work 12 hour shifts, it definitely is. And now that I been makin Arab money, I can actually enjoy myself:

I had thrown out the idea of a motorcycle trip to a few friends, but nothing was able to be set in stone, until a couple weeks ago when I pitched it to my cousin, Curtis. He hummed and hawed about it, but finally gave me a solid "I'm in". The plan is a 23 day trip from September 12th to October 3rd, covering a ton of ground and seeing some of the most spectacular scenery North America has to offer. The maps I've posted are interactive, so feel free to explore.

The trip from Edmonton to Vegas:

I've noticed that the route from Moab to the Grand Canyon didn't set to the 163 through Monument Valley but we will be taking that way, in the footsteps of Forrest Gump.

Las Vegas seemed like a good place to call a halfway point, also due to the fact that Google Maps won't let me input any more destinations on the route, pfft. And since we're two single, handsome motherfuckers, it's a good place to chill for a couple days and do some partying. September should still be fairly hot in the desert, from what I've read the daily average high will be around 35, but it's really the sweet spot for this trip, since any earlier it would be too hot in the desert, and any later it will be getting cold in the Rocky Mountains on the way back home.

The return home:

The ride through Death Valley is a maybe. Why? Because they call it Death Valley for a reason. I was there years ago in July and it was 51 degrees at 9pm. I doubt it will be that hot in September, but it seems like every year we're breaking temperature records so if that's the case, I don't want to be sweating my balls off on top of a hot motorcycle engine at 51 degrees. We'll also do a couple day stop in San Francisco since Curtis has never been there before and it's an awesome city to spend a few days in. And then it's a few days of working our way up the coast of California and Oregon, which should be some of the best motorcycle riding in the world. That's right Bon Jovi, eat your heart out.

This trip is going to be fan-fucking-tastic, the first every long haul I've done on my bike. There will be a lot of preparation for it; I'll be putting an oil cooler on my engine to keep it cooler during the desert rides, and I'm going to buy a cooling vest for the hot weather, along with a pair of Rokker waterproof riding jeans. The money I will have to put into that will pay itself back tenfold in comfortability while riding. Curtis and I have also vowed to get ourselves back into good shape, which for me will include a combination of weight training and yoga, hopefully 6-7 days a week, as well as a regimented diet so I can gain back all the muscle I've lost from neglecting to exercise properly when I was renovating my house.

And now to that topic. I've decided to hold off my plans for registering a basement suite and opted instead to have contractors build the two bedrooms and bathroom downstairs so my room mate can take that part of the house. After working so much in May and realizing that if I keep going on the grind of dedicating so much time to this house, I'm going to miss my summer and wear myself out. Instead, this month I will continue on the landscaping that my uncle Maurice and I have been working on. We dug out the backyard with his tractor and laid drainage pipe under the new window wells on the west side of the house that drain to the street, and another one along the back of the garage to drain the backyard into the walking path next door. And in the next couple weeks we will build the steps coming down from the back door, lay a flagstone patio down and fill and sod the rest of the yard. Hopefully soon after that I'll have a fence put in so no more pesky neighbour dogs shit in my yard, and I can start building my garden!