An overlander's account of South and Central America by motorbike - the trusty Suzuki DR650. Within are great travel tips and hints (2011).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On tour with Pops in USA

Viva el viaje
Martians, mutants, mothers, matriarchs, manly men, mammals and miniature ponies...As you read this, our current itchy situation has probably already blown over and we are back on the road safely again.  But as for now we are stuck, and later on you will find out why.  But if we take a step back in time, I’ll share a tale with you how we came to be in this situation...the tale of my father Gregory Ross, braving the world of 21st century international travel, and flying to USA to join me on a 21st century noble steed of the querky breed...Harley Davidson!

Big ol Dall sheep!
Lovely lady Mountain Goat!
Gregory.  SQUIRREL!
First time I'd seen Dad in nearly 2 years!
...and he passes out with teddy.
If you’re on this page you already know that I’d been travelling the Americas on my own thoroughbred Suzuki, Nessie, now occasionally referred to as ‘Frankenessie’ due to her slight change of heart.  After 21 months away from home, travelling from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska and back down to Canada again, I’d finally convinced my Dad to join me in USA.  The idea sprouted from me wanting to buy a Harley and ship it home due to the price difference between our countries.  Hence a new idea was born and on October 13 Dad flew into Seattle, Washington to buy a Harley and ride with me through several brazen USA states for six weeks.

The most gorgeous chopper I've seen in my life...has now inspired me to build my own rather than ever buy a Harley.  Keith, the owner, used his mate's steel rod from his leg, as part of the shift lever stem!
Former owners with Dad in the middle.
Ha, training Dad after not riding for 35 years.  Took off fine but when he went to park found out his little leggies were a little too short for my bike...all on video to, showing upon request ;)
 Our first step was to buy him a Harley, and we found one fairly swiftly, an 06 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail with only 5000 kilomiclicks on the clock!  We stayed with some friends in Seattle, who, as Dad said, “killed us with kindness”.  I only knew them (Bill and Kayel) through an extremely unlikely meeting with a guy in a walmart carpark who was extended family of these Seattlians! We geared Gregory up in some gregarious gear; riding, camping, clubbing and all.  So the bike was sorted, paperwork and all, which led us to our next adventure...reuniting with the ‘walmart guy’.

 Bill carved a koala into a pumpkin for us for halloween...F'n UNREAL mate!
So who’s the walmart guy?  I rode into a walmart carpark and asked a guy on the walkway if I could buy beer there.  Yes was the answer so I parked, only to get off and have an old fella approach me saying “you’re not from round here are you?”.  He invites me to his for a couple nights and I visit.  A few months later I return for his 80th party for a few days, and he becomes my adopted Grandad.  We had a unique connection, especially given that I’d never known either of my granddads.  Dad and he corresponded via several months later, Dad and I are hitting the interstate 90 to Lincoln Montana in a very unpimped out Toyota Yarrrrrrris!  

Dad also riding horseback for the first time in 40 years or so.
Montana, land of the big sky, and jet trails.
The BBQ at Jerry's we had, horses and all.
Jerry even brought us along to an American style wedding!  I had met Nick before.  But congrats to them both again!
We arrive and Jerry, and his lady Jane are playing some epic symphonic welcome music as we jump outta the Condensed White Beast of Yaris.   Lincoln is a gorgeous little town nestled in the pine trees of the Montanian wilderness.  The first night we had a great fire/BBQ with several locals at ‘Jerry’s end of the trail ranch/Jane’s wildnerness kitchen’.  Over the next few days, we crashed a wedding, and visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Our return from Glacier, was a 5 hour drive in a blizzard, quite the experience for ‘Tropical Greg’.  Before soon our Montanadventure was over and a sad goodbye/see you soon was said.
North entrance to Yellowstone NP
Britt, Brenna, Jane, Dad and Jerry. 
Formations within Yellowstone.  This was an old geyser.

My beautiful 'adopted grandparents' at the falls in Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Yellowstone style roadblock

Bison herd chowin down
Beautiful pools!  HOT too!
The Grand Teton mountain range.  A reputable source told me that the English meaning of this French name, means big tits.  Nice to make your acquaintance Grand Tetons!
Old Faithful blowin her load after an hour of abstinence
Couple of young bull elk we'd just seen locking antlers.
The colours are from crazy biological extremophile communities!
Dad's first snow angel.  Now in Glacier National Park.  We saw no glaciers as a snow storm just hit us.

Swan dive!  Shower time!?

Perfect driving conditions.
Back in Seattle we spent a couple days getting him used to riding again after not having mounted a steel steed in over 30 years.  So naturally I took him straight into the maniacal Seattle traffic, through busy interstate highways amidst a mist with a drop or two of liquid sunshine.  You can only get better from the deep end!  So we packed the bikes and said farewell to our Seattle friends, and Bill rode us out on the first day to Astoria on his Harley Fat Bob.  Bill did a fantastic job leading us there today and I pulled up there.  About 30 minutes out of Astoria I see a set of feet and wheels protruding from beneath a tarp on the side of the road.  I pulled over and turns out this young fella had just run outta fuel and had now obtained more and was going to camp.  The weather was depressingly wet so I told him he’d come and crash in our hotel for the night and we’d pay; and so Tucker the Terrible joined our league!

Dad and I visited LeMay's car museum in Seattle.
Dad standing next to a 37 Ford Convertible.  He used to own one of these in his young days.

And visited the history of flight museum!

Ready to leave Seattle, with Bill leading us out on his Fat Bob
Down periscope and rock on!
The huge bridge spanning from Washington to Oregon.  Shitty windy.
The Goonie's house in Astoria.
Tucker the Terrible.  AKA...Skywalker/Jedi
A rough-skinned newt I found on the road!
Dad saying gday...or maybe the sea lion is saying gday?
The big buggers sink the floating dock!
The next few days riding down the coast was, stunning, albeit foggy and moist!  We managed to keep mostly dry.  We took a detour to Eugene to visit the kind folks (who’ve helped and saved my skin several times) who supply me with aftermarket parts for my DR650.  And it was unreal to see the brains behind the magic.   We also managed to locate the Bowtech factory in town.  As Dad is an avid Bowtech fan a stop in was compulsory and they showed us about even though no one was working in that area that day!  Cheers all!
A quick tour to see a friend in the mountains saw us fed and walking up a dark, misty trail at near midnight to go skinny dipping in some cliff borne hot springs.  The crisp night air called for beers and a cigar and celebrations of life!  We headed out the next day and checked out Crater Lake National Park, where a volcano blew a mountain face out, then collapsed in on itself leaving a lake, only filled by rain and snow!  And there was snow about too, leaving a chill in the air!

Misty n moisty!
Gorgeous riding though nonetheless!
My DR650 parts store
Crater Lake
The Bowtech shooting range.
Dad chatting up some of the salesmen/etc.  They make nearly everything for the bows here, limbs, risers etc and test it all here too!
So back to the coast it was for more warmth and rain...and the giant redwoods!  These 2000 year old beasts were absolutely mindboggling.  We drove through groves and groves of them until we felt like tiny parasites.  The coastal ride for the next day was gorgeous.  Just like in the car ads you see on tele.  Beautiful winding, cliffside roads, overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean.
"Oh wow dats a big one"
Ride through a tree...yehhhh.
Stunning right?
You can see some white seals in this pic.
Lighthouse.  Good caption right!?
Finally the weather cleared a little but things were still foggy, and as we rolled into San Francisco, we would’ve missed seeing the bridge by 5 minutes at MOST!  We caught up with an old mate, Joe, who I met in Buenos Aires and then headed through the gorgeous Yosemite NP.  Dad experienced his first night camping on the road and it hit a nipply 0 degrees Celsius during the night!  Way to break him in!  The temperature rose and we headed downhill and through the stunning, mars like landscape of Death Valley NP and Dad experienced a windy camping night!  But camping didn’t last long and we made it to Las Vegas where we meet up with Vern, who I’d met with Joe in Buenos Aires.  

Dad, Joe and I.
After riding with Skywalker for nearly a week, we split up, exploring different areas of the USA!
Greg's load.
An awesome ride!  Heading up the range to Yosemite NP.
Half dome at dusk.
In Yosemite Valley.
There were some fellas rockclimbing this face...NUTS!

Heading down the range into Death Valley
Death Valley, above Panamint Springs
Beautiful campsite at Panamint Springs
This coyote was approaching two parked cars, sussing out for food I guess!
The white text about our bikes is sea level.  Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest place in USA!
And the road goes on...
Vegas can best be described as the epitome of excessiveness.  I was lost for words when I first visited, and Dad was lost for legs!  We spent a night on the strip experiencing the wonders of food, beer, atmosphere and even made an appearance in a David Copperfield magical show!
Vern and Ann took us to Fremont St on the first night where Dad paid $2 for these hunnies.
The laser show behind us in Fremont St.  We did experience some Safe Sax here too!

Dad and I came into Vegas and stayed a night on the Dad learns about bar top computer games.
The view from our $50/night, double queen room.

Sirens of TI chopper...sweeeet!
The Bellagio fountains show.  It goes off to a musical tune.
The ceiling looks like the sky, and the floor, in this pic, like water!
Hey big spender...
But it was back to the road for us and we headed on to Zion NP and camped a night under the heavy sky.  By the next morning droplets were starting to descend on our leather laden bodies so we PVC’d up!  The valley was spectacular and soon enough once dry waterfalls were spitting liquid from their bowels over the red rocky cliffs. 
Vern took us out of Vegas on a tour of the Hoover Dam/Lake Mead.  This is the wall.
The bridge crossing over the canyon which the dam wall is built.
Dad and Vern above Lake Mead
Zion Canyon NP

Meet my new love...Hail Beary! My Hail Bearing, road-gremlin devouring, friend attracting, weather telling, bear scaring black bear! Pelted by hail today in Zion NP, and now covered with snow in Bryce Canyon NP.
The waterfalls came to life!
Stunning country to ride through.  Would be even more amazing on horseback or foot!
 Which finally brings us to our current dilemma.  We rode on with a dark cloud behind us all day, chasing us down as though we had defiled the sacred valley before us!  The rain caught up with us briefly and we ducked out to Bryce Canyon NP for a quick view while there was a touch of light on it!  Finally, as we pulled back into Bryce City, the familiarly dark clouds released their conglomerates of frozen ice crystals!  We’d found shelter in a hotel for the night but were now stuck in a white winter wonderland on vehicles that require expert balance to operate in these conditions!  We made it back to the Canyon the next day as the sun heated the road up enough to melt the snow.  The view was extravagant!  Standing like hundreds of dormant red stone soldiers were snow covered hoodoos amidst a platoon of leaning pines creeping up the ridges for a better view!  We made it back to the hotel again tonight, and are debating whether we can get out tomorrow.  We debate as more pretty snow falls on our bikes parked outside.  At least it’s a gorgeous place to be stuck!

This fella is from the Harley Owners Group (HOG) in Malaysia and was stoked to see us with bikes in the snow up here!
Outside our hotel in the morning.  SLICK.
Weather(ed) bear.
The view from Bryce Point...its well below freezing today!
The view from sunrise point.
I hope this finds you all well.  Until next time, take care, thanks for reading, and for the riders out there...rubber side down.  Cheers, Rossy and ol Greg!