Life on the Road

Day 1

I got a late start out of Torrance on Tuesday but was determined to get on the road so I didn’t procrastinate another day. After 2 hours I was out by Gorman but still 2+ hours from Carrizo Plains where I wanted to camp. I looked through my maps and found a few spots around the Los Pinos recreation area that seemed like my best bet. I grabbed some dinner from the Mexican spot near Chevron and rode west out of town.

As I got closer to Mt Pinos a sign for a 4×4 camp caught my attention so I doubled back. I rode a few miles up Tecuya Mountain Rd and found an empty primitive campground.

BMW F800GS by the Tecuya Mtn 4x4 camps

Perfect timing to squeeze in a photo of the sunset and set up camp before dark. The first night was cold and windy, and my nervous excitement didn’t let me get much sleep.

Day 2

The next morning I got a slow start after enjoying the warm sun on the tent for a bit. I was on the road around noon, and wanted to catch up to my rough schedule through California. Looking at the map I decided to ride up the eastern Sierras. Coming towards Mojave on the 14 I ran into really dangerous winds, the same place I encountered them on the way to Death Valley in March. I was following a pickup with a large camper mounted in the bed, and I was almost certain it was going to blow over considering the suspension was entirely compressed on the right side and fully unweighted on the left. Somehow both the camper and I made it to Mojave. From there the wind mellowed out as I headed a bit east.

BMW F800GS at Gus's Jerky

I cruised up the 395 and stopped at the iconic jerky joint for some $12/3oz jerky. The free sample verified it was delicious, but I could only really justify 1 pack to try at that price. Gassed up across the street and got back on the road. I eventually make it to Bishop and hit the BBQ spot across from Schatt’s Bakery. I wasn’t all that hungry but I wanted to opt for the easy dinner over a space meal at camp. The pulled pork had about a weeks recommended sodium intake, so I ate what I could and rode out towards some hot springs I had distant memories of visiting years ago. I found the Rock Tub site off Whitmore Tubs Rd nearly empty so I set up camp for the night and relaxed in the hot springs.

The Rock Tub near Whitmore Pools

I retired to the tent when temperatures dropped, then spent a miserable night freezing in my 45*F comfort sleeping bag. Twice in the night I heard a large group of coyotes howling in the immediate vicinity; it was pretty cool but all I could think of was how reliable that vacuum seal was on my new beef jerky acquisition. After the sun had been up for an hour I found the courage to reach out of my mummy bag and grab my phone. My iPhone didn’t want to wake up but after some coercing it told me the temperature was 29*F. Shit! No wonder I’m so cold. I might have been naive in my planning but I didn’t expect anything like that this time of year in CA. I looked up average spring and summer temps for the regions I expected to be more frigid, like Canada and Alaska, but didn’t think to double check places I’ve been like California off the 395.

Day 3

I made a few cups of coffee and enjoyed the view since I was awake so early.

BMW F800GS camping near Mammoth Lakes, CA

The campground was empty except for an older couple in a camper van. At one point the guy walked over to chat and I told him about my trip. Turns out he is from Patagonia and has been all over Central and South America, what a small world. I keep running into people with valuable advice for my travels.

Soon it was time to continue north. I cut through the corner of Nevada and rode the 88 and 89 to get into South Lake Tahoe.

BMW F800GS at Lake Tahoe, CA

I stopped by and visited an old friend, grabbing some lunch and catching up before continuing late in the day in search of a campsite. I figured I had to get as far from Tahoe as possible to get away from the cold. I made it past Truckee then explored a maze of dirt roads around Boca Reservoir before finding a nice spot right at sunset.

Camping near Boca Reservoir, CA

I set up on top of a little ridge overlooking a small meadow and went to bed pretty early since fires were prohibited. That was another freezing night but I wore all 4 of my warm layers in the sleeping bag and was actually quite comfortable. I got up early and found my bike and tent dusted in a layer of frost.

Frosty icing on my BMW F800GS

After packing up I headed north along the 89 and 70 following rivers through Plumas and Lassen National Forests. Unfortunately Lassen National Park was entirely buried in snow except for the visitor center, so I stopped through Old Station to gas up and determine where I wanted to stay that night. While checking the maps a few US Forest Service fire fighters stopped by to ask about my bike and I asked them about camping recommendations. They all agreed Klamath River area was my best bet so I headed west towards the 5 and up past Mount Shasta. I stopped in Yreka to get some dinner and ended up at a Mexican restaurant. While there a guy named Dave asked about my destination and after checking with his wife, he offered me a place to crash for the night. I took him up on his offer and followed him to his ranch near Montague.

Poolside view at Dave and Jill's ranch

Dave and Jill were very gracious hosts and welcomed me into their home. We chatted late into the night and the next morning they wished me luck on my way out.

Dave, Jill, and I before I left for Oregon

Day 4

I rode a few minutes up the 5 into Oregon and exited onto the Old Highway 99 S to get to Green Springs Highway 66 where my GPS tracks for the Oregon Backcountry Route started. Oregon immediately delivered the goods with awesome twisty pavement and plentiful dirt roads. I quickly got to what would perhaps be the gnarliest part of my OBDR ride, and later realized the rider whose tracks I was following had opted to skip this first section entirely. I got onto a chunky, muddy road riddled with ruts climbing up over the mountain between Camp Latgawa and Lake of the Woods Hwy 140. This was the most technical part I would encounter for the first few days, so it was a fun intro to Oregon.

I continued on riding a variety of fire roads through Butte Falls and over to Prospect for gas.

Oregon fire road safety break

By this point I was out of cell range for the foreseeable future. After gassing up I rode over to Union Creek to find some food. My tracks routed me onto a power line road with awesome flow for that section, definitely recommend that part. I was initially headed toward Beckie’s Cafe, but pulled in and noticed a chuck wagon BBQ joint and was sold.

BBQ at Union Creek

I ate some pulled pork by the creek then continued along the OBDR. I got deeper into the forests off Crater Lake Highway 62 before I started running into some tricky snow. At one point I hopped off to assess the snowpack on the road ahead and nearly stepped right onto a set of bear tracks.

Formidable bear print in the snow

So I turned around there and headed back towards Castle Creek where I found a great campsite. I hung out there for the night, pretty stoked after a successful day of exploring southern Oregon backcountry.

Campsite near Castle Creek

Day 5

In the morning I cruised off to Crater Lake which still looks like a winter wonderland.

Crater Lake panorama in May

Me enjoying the beautiful weather at Crater Lake

I looked at the maps the night before, intending to detour around the snowed out sections of the trail by hitting Crater Lake and continuing north. However, I got into the park and realized I had to return the same way I came since Hwy 62 was the only road open.

Still some high snow banks at Crater Lake

I got back onto West Diamond Lake Highway and rode up to Diamond Lake, skipping trail sections through snow play areas that were still suitable for snowmobiles. A few miles down the Cascade Lakes Highway I ran into hundreds of yards of deep snow and had to detour to Lemolo Lake.

Impassible snow on the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route

At this point I realized there wasn’t another way around without hours of highway detouring in the wrong direction, and I had a feeling I would continue to encounter snow the whole way along the OBDR. I decided to shoot west toward the coast, but I needed to find a place to camp for the night. I explored a dirt road that went towards Lemolo Falls, but the road quickly turned into a muddy snowy mess. I also stopped by a few resort style campgrounds around the lake but they were all depressing and expensive. I headed out to the 138 and found Clearwater Falls campground which seemed to be free during pre-season, perfect!

Clearwater Falls, OR

The stream above Clearwater Falls

I set up and met some other campers there who were primarily siblings from the Florida and Missouri areas I think they said? It was cool hanging out with some like minded people after all the rough camping I’ve been doing. They invited me to join in their cast iron skillet chicken and dumplings cooked by the campfire, and I offered to share my freeze dried chicken and dumplings if they wanted to compare. They declined and I opted for the absolutely delicious version Josiah cooked up. Later that night we tried to do some low light slow shutter shots with my new GoPro down by the falls but couldn’t quite figure it out.

Day 6

The next morning they convinced me it was worth a dip in the freezing water so I gave it a whirl. I also busted out my Sawyer water filter I’ve owned for a few years but never used.

Filtering water at Clearwater Falls

I filled my Camelbak from the fresh volcanic filtered water, then packed up and rode west down the North Umpqua Highway 138. This was a great twisty road that followed the Umpqua River North Fork with lots of waterfalls and campgrounds to explore along the way. I stopped by the Toketee Falls and checked out this 12 foot diameter wooden water pipe built in 1949. It supplies water to 3 turbine generators, producing electricity for 22,500 homes. Pretty awesome!

Toketee Project wooden water pipe

I wish I had gone a bit slower through the Hwy 138 area but I was eager to make it to the coast and the empty road beckoned. I passed through Roseburg and got out to Coons Bay before heading up the sandy Oregon coast, meandering between forests, lakes, and dunes.

Dunes along the Oregon coast

I stopped and looked for cool spots to camp but wasn’t impressed with the RV parking lots asking $20+. I’d prefer to be out in nature for free so I have a hard time compromising and paying that much. It was around this point my low beam headlight burned out. I kept on riding up the coast, and stopped by Yachats Brewing based on my friends suggestion.

Lamb kofta meatballs at Yachats Brewing

I had a little flight and some tasty lamb kofta meatballs. It’s hard to eat healthy on the road so you gotta take advantage when you find places like this. At this point I needed to find someplace to set up for the night, so I rode out East Alsea Highway 34 to get away from the cold coast. I checked a few locations by the river but wasn’t happy with how wet they were. I rode up into the hills eventually winding up on Cannibal Mountain, and tried to find a spot to no avail. I came across a few damp spots in tall grass that looked like great spots to pick up some ticks, but kept on going.

Creepy side trail to a small clearing

I walked down this one thickly covered side track to investigate and got a really creepy vibe when the trail opened up into this overgrown clearing with a single camping chair sitting ominously in the center.

Creepy open clearing in the woods.

It might have been paranoia but I hightailed it outa there. I rode up the rest of the mountain and got some beautiful sunset views but didn’t find anywhere I wanted to stay for the night.

Sunset from Cannibal Mountain, OR

I ended up heading farther east to get up to Corvallis area to stay the night at my friends house. I planned to meet up with my buddy Matt the next day but was happy to crash on a couch instead of trying to camp somewhere dark and wet.

Day 7

The next day we went shooting out by Mary’s Peak with a nice variety of firearms, then stopped by Block 15 Brewing for food and refreshments. Along the way I picked up a new headlight bulb.

Panorama from Mary's Peak shooting range

Day 8

Wednesday we did a 6 or 7 mile hike out at Opal Creek and headed into Portland for some late night grub and local brews.

Old steam engine and mining equipment at Opal Creek, OR

Creek crossing at Opal Creek, OR

Opal Creek, OR

Adventure Gear for Alaska

Here’s a quick rundown of the adventure gear I’ve selected for my trip north to Alaska and back.

Riding Gear

Riding Gear for Trip to Alaska

This is my main set of riding gear. The jersey will get swapped for a wool base layer when the weather dictates. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Scorpion EXO-AT950 modular helmet
  • Sena SMH10 Bluetooth headset intercom
  • Klim Latitude Gore-Tex jacket
  • Klim Latitude Gore-Tex pants
  • Troy Lee Designs Sprint jersey
  • Troy Lee Designs Radius Adventure gloves
  • Sidi Adventure Gore-Tex boots
  • SOKz various motorcycle sock offerings
  • ACR ARTEX ResQLink+ personal locator beacon
  • Camelbak backpack with 100oz water bladder

I carry the PLB in my jacket, and the following gear in my backpack.

  • Crankbrothers multitool
  • ChapStick
  • matches
  • pocket knife
  • torch lighter
  • tube repair kit
  • bottle opener
  • ear plugs

Camping Equipment

Adventure Gear Pack Shot

I’m using Wolfman Rocky Mountain side bags to carry most of my gear, with a Sedici tank bag for quick access items, and a Pelican 1450 top case to protect the electronics and valuables. Here’s the stuff I’m taking on this trip.

Left Side Pannier

  • Spare 21″ front inner tube
  • Spare 17″ rear inner tube
  • BMW large bike cover
  • ENO Atlas XL hammock straps
  • ENO DoubleNest hammock
  • Cheap camping chair
  • MSR PocketRocket stove
  • LE flashlight
  • Princeton Tec Byte headlamp with spare AAA batteries
  • Magnesium fire starter
  • Lighter
  • Pocket knife
  • Compass
  • TOAKS titanium 450ml mug
  • Espro Travel Press coffee mug
  • GSI Outdoors JavaMill coffee grinder
  • MSR fuel tank
  • Snow Peak cookware set
  • Bamboo cooking utensil
  • Snow Peak titanium spork
  • toilet paper
  • Repel mosquito repellant
  • Modern Times Electric Peak coffee
  • 3 lengths of paracord with Figure 9 carabiners
  • Sawyer MINI water filtration system
  • Frontiersman bear spray
  • Marine air horn
  • Dupont Chain Saver lube
  • Half of my tool kit, including tire pump and tire irons, etc *not pictured

Right Side Pannier

  • Outad 6’x7′ tarp
  • sleeping mask (expect 100% daylight hours as you get farther north)
  • Naturehike inflatable pillow
  • Cocoon silk sleeping bag liner
  • Klymit Static V sleeping pad
  • Rovor Buhl sleeping bag (45*F comfort, 14*F extreme rating)
  • Vans sandals
  • Extra pair of gloves
  • Assortment of freeze dried food and ramen until I get closer to bear country (then the food stays totally separate from sleeping gear)
  • 2 MSR 30oz fuel bottles mounted in 2 Wolfman bottle holsters outside the bag
  • Vans comfortable shoes
  • I have some extra room in here still for clothing, food, beer, etc

Pelican Top Case

  • REI first aid kit restocked with extra supplies
  • NewTrent battery backup
  • Anker dual USB wall charger
  • Cables for iPhone, Sena, and GoPro
  • Bose headphones
  • Repair kits for sleeping pad and tent
  • Sunscreen
  • Pen
  • Lighter
  • Papers
  • Matches
  • Spare AAA batteries
  • Carabiners
  • Wet Ones
  • Yoshimura spark arrestor (for Oregon and Washington forests)
  • Desert Fox fuel bladder spout
  • Extra keys
  • Second wallet
  • Microfiber
  • Hat with mosquito net
  • Mini towel
  • Toothbrush
  • Burt’s Bees lip balm
  • Nail clippers
  • Toothpaste
  • Eye drops
  • Nasal strips
  • Tissues
  • More Wet Ones
  • Soap
  • Foot spray (to keep my feet less disgusting in waterproof boots all day)
  • Watercolor notebook
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Reading material (Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo)
  • Wrist brace for my left wrist
  • GoPro various adapters and mounts
  • GoPro HERO5 Black
  • The top case locks and secures to the bike with 4 Master locks

Tank Bag

  • Waterproof tank bag cover
  • Glove liners
  • Travel lock
  • More eye drops
  • Extra 15A fuses
  • Emergency space blanket
  • More sunscreen
  • Digital tire gauge
  • Pen
  • Belkin iPhone dongle (necessary to charge and listen to headphones simultaneously… thanks Apple)
  • More ear plugs
  • Quaker granola snack I’ve had sitting around

Strapped on Top

The Alps Mountaineering Lynx 2 person tent and MSR Dromedary 4L water bladder get strapped on top of the Pelican case with ROK Straps, and that’s all my camping gear. I also have 2 Keeper locking cam straps that I wrap around my soft bags to hopefully prevent any opportunistic thieves. And I’m running 2 Desert Fox 5L fuel bladders that I’ve rigged up as tank panniers when empty, or mounted on the crash bars when full.


The majority of my clothing gets packed into my Wolfman yellow dry duffel bag, then strapped on the pillion seat. I meant to shoot a photo layout of that too, but I’m running a bit late with last minute prep for tomorrow departure and it’s just some boring clothes… Anyway here’s a rough list:

  • SmartWool base layer – top and bottom
  • Carhartt Super Cold thermals – top and bottom
  • 5 pairs of antimicrobial boxers from Carhartt and ExOfficio
  • Assortment of socks from SOKz, SmartWool, and Carhartt that I’m still testing out
  • 2 T shirts
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of swimtrunks
  • Extra thermal tops and bottoms
  • Cloudveil fleece pullover
  • Carhartt beanie
  • Firstgear heated jacket, pants, and gloves with temp controller (thanks Migilito!) *these have been relocated to the right side bag


I put together a pretty solid tool kit, split in 2 parts. I carry the tire change gear in the left pannier, and the rest of the tools in a Wolfman Rolie small dry bag strapped to the outside of the left pannier. I also meant to snap some photos of this, but underestimated how long it takes to lay everything out in perfectly organized fashion, and didn’t look forward to inventorying the whole tool kit contents again. It’s lots of Torx bits, wrenches, sockets, ratchets, Knipex pliers, tire irons, zip ties, epoxies, and all the peculiar little pieces you need to work on this fine German machine. You get the idea. I may show some tool highlights on the road if the occasion calls for it.

BMW F800GS packed and ready for adventure.

I have a feeling some of this is unnecessary weight but I’ll figure out what I’m not using the first few weeks and re-evaluate. Adventure awaits!

Sell Everything and Hit the Road

This is the month! I’ve been busy checking off last minute tasks from my to do list, and I leave in about a week. I can’t help but feel a bit anxious as I wrap up loose ends and work obligations, just hoping I don’t forget anything important.

Most of my preparation has revolved around my bike and gear, but I had a few miscellaneous things to take care of too.

Part of that included getting LASIK eye surgery, which should vastly improve my extended camping experience (no more contacts or dirty fingers in my eyes). I also elected for a special injection in my wrist in an attempt to improve my scaphoid bone which never fully healed after a bad break 2 years ago. I’m hoping that it’s in good enough shape now to withstand the rigors of the trip.

Over the past month I sold my old ’69 Chevy El Camino and my ’83 BMW R100. I lost interest in the Elky part way through restoration, and my airhead was awesome but deserves daily attention. So I found new homes for both before I hit the road.

I’ve also been sorting out finances, vaccinations, insurance, and all the mundane aspects of long term travel you overlook until things get serious. It was also prudent I assess my beer collection to figure out what to drink now with friends, what to give away, what to age for another year.

And today was bike maintenance day. I helped out a bit at Valdi’s Motozone to get more familiar with the F800GS internals. The maintenance schedule was well timed, so I’ll have a freshly serviced bike ready for 6000 miles to Alaska. I gotta say, the Germans build a sweet bike but they make some things unnecessarily complicated. Who knew you had to expose the valves to even change your spark plugs?

BMW F800GS Service and Valve Check

Check back in a bit for the next update!

A Taste of Death Valley

Two weeks ago I headed out to the Death Valley Noobs Rally to remind myself what desert sand tastes like.

The weather wizards forewarned us about high winds kicking up Thursday and Friday, and I had every intention of hitting the road bright and early Thursday. That would have been nice. Instead, I procrastinated some key bike prep until the last second, and figured what the hell, I might as well learn how to change my first motorcycle tire tonight too (this actually turned out to be a good idea). I found myself in the garage until the wee hours of Thursday morning, then caught just enough sleep to put myself on the road around noon.

This aligned me with about the worst weather window I could have encountered. I braved some ridiculous wind storms on the ride out, nearly getting blown off the highway every 5 seconds for a 50 mile stretch through what must certainly be uninhabitable wastelands near Lancaster and Mojave. I looked at my GPS when I hit the first strong gusts, and it showed something like 2 hours and 45 minutes left to Death Valley. Damn, I’ve only gone a third of the way so far… this is going to be pretty draining.

Heading into Searles Valley. Rode through this sandstorm for 50 miles.

Heading into Searles Valley. Rode through this sandstorm for 50 miles.

I spent a few hours averaging a 20 degree lean angle to compensate for the wind buffeting me from all sides, with the exception of a couple short-lived sections where the road twisted just enough to put the wind at my back. There were several sharp corners on the way to Trona where the wind changed direction with such force it nearly blew me into the guardrail. The weather stations in the area were reporting sustained wind speeds around 60mph with gusts up to 80mph. The ride in was pretty stressful, and I burned twice as much fuel as it should have taken due to the headwinds.

Eventually I arrived in one piece at Panamint Springs Resort and got to work setting up camp in the remaining daylight. I met the other 2 guys sharing my campsite, and we gathered in Ben’s van to avoid the wind and enjoy our dinner.

The first night around camp was pretty quiet considering no one wanted to socialize in the middle of a sandstorm, so I crawled into my tent early and laid there trying to fall asleep until the sun came up. Oh well, 2 nights of poor sleep should set me up for a fantastic weekend of intense desert riding.

2013 BMW F800GS at the Death Vally Noobs Rally

Nice morning to ride… or change your tire repeatedly.

I woke up ready to go the next morning, that is until someone pointed out that my front tire was flat. Hmm great… I’ve only ridden a few hundred feet of gravel in the campground and already have a flat, that’s a reassuring way to start the weekend. Luckily I just repaired my first motorcycle inner tube 2 nights before, and it was for a tiny Honda XR80 14″ rear wheel. If I could get that done, this 21″ front should be a piece of cake, right?

What followed was the most depressing display of tire changing skills I hope I ever have to witness. I can’t even remember if it took 3 or 4 attempts, but ultimately I got my front tire aired up and holding pressure. The original tube was back in there, now loaded with 4, yes 4, mountain bike tire patches. I cast aside my spare tube since I’d lost my patience with it (plus it was now riddled with pinch flat holes) and was lucky enough to borrow a new spare tube for the remainder of the rally thanks to Joel, the event organizer.

Struggling with a tire, still losing at this point. Photo credit: Sebastiano D'Aprile

Struggling with a tire, still losing at this point. Photo credit: Sebastiano D’Aprile

There’s a certain amount of technique and finesse that you won’t master until you’ve struggled through a handful of tire changes. I really hope my next attempt will be less demoralizing. I also realized I need to add tire lube and a valve core tool to my kit.

Earlier that morning I was introduced to Dan and Sebastiano, and we set plans for a mellow ride to a few Death Valley sights we hadn’t seen before… Then we noticed that flat tire, and proceeded to waste away the next few hours wrestling my wheel in the dirt. By the time we we’re rolling it was afternoon, and we were eager to make the most of the limited daylight.

We set our mental compass to Ballarat ghost town and headed off down the road until we reached the turnoff. We cruised south on some easy dirt sections and arrived at Ballarat in short order.

Adventure bikes in Ballarat

Ballarat’s second nicest building…

At first glance there’s not a whole lot to see around here. I rode around a bit, we took some photos, then we checked out the “Trading Post”. I walked in and was surprised to find myself in what felt more like an abandoned gas station garage. There was junk scattered around the floor, a few makeshift pieces of furniture, and an old chest freezer with a few dozen cans of beer and soda. I kind of expected a shop full of touristy trinkets and ghost town memorabilia, but was pleasantly surprised to find a much more authentic setting. I bought a barely chilled beer from a guy who, for all I know, could have been here since Ballarat’s mining hey-day. We hung out for a few minutes, and I relaxed on the porch eating some bison jerky and organic gummy worms… what a time to be alive.

Hanging out at Ballarat Trading Post Photo credit: Sebastiano D'Aprile

We missed the nude dancing burro show for today. Photo credit: Sebastiano D’Aprile

Once we were satiated, our trio explored Pleasant Canyon a little ways, then backtracked and hit the pavement towards Charcoal Kilns. These kilns were built in 1879 to produce charcoal for the Modock Mine smelter 30 miles away, but they were only operated for 3 years. They’re a pretty cool piece of Death Valley history.

Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley National Park

Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley National Park

We cruised back down some fun twisties, then rode over Emigrant Pass and up to Aguereberry Point. The view was incredible from here, but my best cellphone photography skills hardly did it any justice.

Panorama from Aguereberry Point

Panorama from Aguereberry Point

Hard to take a bad shot up here. Thanks to Sebastiano D'Aprile for taking the photo.

Hard to take a bad shot up here. Thanks to Sebastiano D’Aprile for taking the photo.

At one point the wind kicked up pretty ferociously and caught us off guard. I leapt a few feet toward my bike to brace it and looked back to see Sebastiano do the same. Unfortunately Dan was off pissing in the wind, so his KLR earned a dirt nap and another badge of honor.

Wind: 1, KLR: 0

Wind: 1, KLR: 0

We managed to fix a bent handguard and jammed throttle tube with a little caveman engineering, and the KLR was no worse for wear, perhaps even better off now.

Wide open space in Death Valley.

Wide open space in Death Valley.

Earlier we had considered adding Skidoo Canyon to the itinerary, but by this point we were running short on daylight and didn’t like the idea of missing dinner. We cruised back to the rally campground, grabbed food, and settled in for a nice night around the campfire. I broke out a 5L mini keg of Bitburger pilsner and some authentic gothic absinthe that I’ve been saving for the right occasion. Good times were had.

The next morning was less fun, but I dragged myself out of my tent since I knew we were heading to Saline Valley Warm Springs. After breakfast we took care of some last minute adjustments on the bikes and linked up with Dave who was interested in the same ride.

Turning onto Saline Valley Road.

Turning onto Saline Valley Road.

With much less drama than the previous morning we set off in the direction of Saline Valley. We cruised a scenic road that meandered over foothills and across valley floors.

Dave coming through on his BMW R1200GSA.

Dave coming through on his BMW R1200GSA.

We climbed up to South Pass then dropped down into Saline Valley for about 30 miles to the springs.

Dropping into Saline Valley from South Pass.

Dropping into Saline Valley from South Pass.

I had a blast flying down Saline Valley Road, and now I have 3 huge dents in my front wheel to forever remind me that 26psi is insufficient for that kind of riding on those kinds of roads. Lesson learned. I’ll try to flatten them out later, but at least my tire repair seems to have passed the test.

A wild burro at Saline Valley Warm Springs

Wildlife at Saline Valley Warm Springs

We got to the oasis that is the Saline Valley Warm Springs and were greeted by a few wild burros and plenty of scantily-clad free spirits. I debated hopping in a warm pool, but opted instead for a cool shower rinse.

Cool vibe at the warm springs. Photo credit: Sebastiano D'Aprile

Cool vibe at the warm springs. Photo credit: Sebastiano D’Aprile

Candid photo of us enjoying honeydew melon. Photo credit: Dave Benoit

Candid photo of us enjoying honeydew melon. Photo credit: Dave Benoit

After relaxing for an hour or so, we put our boots back on, divvied out the last bit of water and hit the road.

Airborne on the little piggy! Thanks to Dan Amado for taking the photo.

Airborne on the little piggy! Thanks to Dan Amado for taking the photo.

Dan and I stopped on the way out for a quick low-gravity photo opportunity between the warm springs and the Batrock Road signpost. We hit Saline Valley Road and I stretched the legs on the old girl, then took a breather in the shade at Lippincott junction while the guys caught up.

Finding shade at the Lippincott Road rock pile. Photo credit: Dave Benoit

Finding shade at the Lippincott Road rock pile. Photo credit: Dave Benoit

We headed back up South Pass through some switchbacks that seemed much sandier than I remembered on the way down. I stopped and took a break at the lookout near the Hunter Mountain turnoff and waited for the guys to catch up. After 5 or 10 minutes I figured something may have happened. I walked down past a few corners and didn’t see any activity, so I hopped on the bike and headed down the canyon. By the second corner I passed Dave, so I doubled back, and we waited a few more minutes for Dan and Sebastiano to catch up. Dan had decided to hold us up while he rolled around in the dirt, but none of us were complaining considering this view!

Group shot at South Pass. Photo credit: Sebastiano D'Aprile

Group shot at South Pass. Photo credit: Sebastiano D’Aprile

The rest of the ride back to camp was routine but fun. I even managed to find enough wide open space to hit triple digits for a split second on dirt (on a totally legit off-highway strip, I swear, officer).

We turned back into camp and grabbed the last bits of chicken dinner as they started pre-raffle announcements. Joel, the mastermind behind the Death Valley Noobs Rally, pulled me up to the front to introduce me and my trip. Caught off guard, I rambled off the basics of my itinerary, then he took the mic and surprised me with an awesome challenge that he may have thought up right there on the spot. If I make it to Prudhoe Bay at the top of North America AND Ushuaia at the bottom of South America, with photos to prove it, then I get $500. How’s that for an offer? I felt humbled by the very idea of it. Those were already key destinations for my upcoming trip, but the acknowledgement and generosity of the Adventure Rider community is really motivating. Not sure I can show my face around there anymore until I provide some photographic proof!

The raffle ran pretty long due to the insane number of prizes they had to give out. I was hoping to catch a presentation by another rider named Elijah about his trip from San Diego to Tierra del Fuego, but missed it due to the tight timing that night. Luckily I had already read his whole ride report, and we got to chat for a few minutes while crossing paths at the restaurant.

I spent the last night hanging out and shooting the shit with some new friends.

The next morning was a slow start for me. A lot of riders hit the road bright and early, but I took my time to relax and reflect on the beauty and tranquility of the desert. Or maybe I was just recovering from a debaucherous night… You can draw your own conclusions.

Dan, Sebastiano, and I cruised back towards Los Angeles taking the route through Trona. We fueled up in Mojave and said our good-byes, then I broke away and rode another 2 hours back home.

The whole weekend was an absolute blast. I caught up with some familiar faces from the 2016 Pahrump Rally, made a handful of new friends, and met a number of riders with valuable experience to share about the routes I’m planning. I can’t wait to get back out there to do it again, but I’m still determining my schedule for South America at the end of this year. Hopefully I can make it to the 2018 edition of the Death Valley Noobs Rally!

Escape to the Mountains

I’m about 7 weeks out from my departure date. I’d like to think I’m well prepared, but I’m sure my last days in LA will be hectic. The past few weeks I’ve been getting things in order at home, kitting out my bike, planning the specific details of my routes, and trying to wrap up any loose ends before I abandon ship.

I managed to slip away this weekend for some canyon carving and camping off Angeles Crest Highway. Over winter I upgraded a few things on the bike and replaced some of my dated camping gear. I’ve been waiting for the weather to cooperate so I could take everything for a shakedown ride, and the stars aligned this past weekend.

I headed out to Highway 2 and had a great ride up to Newcomb’s Ranch. I’ve been really impressed with my BMW F800GS, even sitting on knobby tires and loaded down with camping gear, she tears up all the twisty tarmac I can throw at her and begs for more.

BMW F800GS Shakedown Ride

After refueling with a pulled pork sandwich, I continued up the 2 through surprising snowy switchbacks, and then hit the end of the road for now.

BMW F800GS on Angeles Crest Highway

It seems it’s not quite spring yet on the backside of the mountains. I was in search of a nice campsite, but everything I had passed so far was closed for season still. I doubled back and checked Chilao one more time but it was only open for day use. I started heading back down towards the lower sites, but noticed a little dirt road that headed up towards Mt Mooney and Stony Ridge Observatory.

Adventure Bike in the Angeles National Forest

I was happy to get off the pavement and lucked out with a perfect campsite about a half mile down the road.

Motorcycle Camping

After setting up camp I grabbed some snacks and hiked up to the top of Mt Mooney to watch the sunset. It looks like this area burned a few years ago. I followed some faint tracks to the top of the mountain, climbing around charred, tangled remains of fallen trees.

Sunset Atop Mt Mooney, Angeles National Forest

The peak of Mt Mooney was eerie but peaceful.

View from Mt Mooney, Angeles National Forest

I relaxed for a bit and snapped some photos, then hurried back down to camp as the temperature dropped.

Sunset Panorama Atop Mt Mooney, Angeles National Forest

Back at camp I boiled water for a dehydrated lasagna courtesy of Mountain House… not necessarily their best work, though it’s hard to mess up pasta and tomato sauce. I’m less enthusiastic about these space meals with each one I have, but they can hit the spot after a challenging day in the saddle (today wasn’t exactly that day). I washed that down with a growler of Monkish IPA, not a bad way to end the night.

While I was tossing and turning, looking for a comfortable position to fall asleep, I noticed that some combination of my Smartwool clothes and new synthetic sleeping bag and tent had worked up crazy static electricity, to the point where I could see visible electrostatic discharges when I brushed the tent. I got a kick out of it, so I tested a bit more and used up all the static energy I had accumulated. It was like a storm of mini lightning bolts conducting between my fingers and the tent wall when I ran my hand over it. Cool for now, but that might get old fast if it doesn’t wear out soon.

BMW Adventure Bike on Mt Mooney Rd

In the morning I packed up and hit the road, continuing down the rest of the dirt loop back to Highway 2, then up to Newcomb’s for a quick breakfast. The place was packed for a Motorsport Exotica event, and the kitchen was temporarily closed due to a gas line issue. I made due with coffee and watched the bikes come and go for a little before the kitchen reopened.

Packed House at Newcomb's Ranch

While waiting I chatted with two guys who had taken their GS1200s up to Alaska. They highly recommended taking an easterly route through Idaho and Montana, which was something I was considering. I’ll probably take that route on my return.

I had my breakfast and headed back down the mountain to get a jump on traffic. Passing through downtown LA on the ride home was surprisingly pleasant, and I verified I can still split lanes easy enough, even though my new Wolfman Rocky Mountain soft bags are a lot wider than my BMW Vario panniers were.

All said and done, it was a smooth shakedown ride. There were no glaring problems in my setup, which is good since a lot of these bits are new replacements for older equipment that was somehow lacking. I’ll post some details about the upgrades to the bike and gear I’m carrying soon.

Beautiful Day to Sit Inside and Make a Blog

It’s a beautiful Saturday, but I’m sitting inside writing my first blog post. I had decided last minute to go camping off Angeles Crest Highway today, but got home from work yesterday to find my bike wouldn’t crank over. Oh well, could be worse. I’d rather find myself stranded in the comfort of my garage than out in the middle of nowhere. The battery was already on my list of premature maintenance tasks to take care of before my upcoming trip; I guess my winter neglect was the final straw for it.

Since I have a bit of free time, I figured I’d put this blog together. Bear with me, this is basically the first time I’ve blogged; I’m hoping I’ll settle into a smoother rhythm as things progress.

What’s the purpose of this blog you ask? Well, over the past few months, the idea of riding my motorcycle around the Americas evolved from a far-fetched fantasy into a very tangible reality. A few weeks ago I notified my boss that in May I will be leaving to ride from California to Alaska. My plans are pretty flexible, and I’m leaving myself sufficient time to slow down and experience as much nature and culture as possible. I expect to spend about 6 weeks riding north from Los Angeles to the Arctic Circle, then I’ll wind my way back down to California during the month of July.

The next leg of the journey will take me down through Mexico and Central America. At this point I’m anticipating 3 months of travel down to Panama, but I’ll play it by ear and adjust accordingly. The only hard date I must make is the final crossing on the Stahlratte. I’m booking a space on the 114 year old sail boat to leave San Blas, Panama on October 30th and arrive in Cartagena, Colombia on November 1st. I’m hoping to stick to this time frame, but I should be able to reschedule earlier or later if I’m off track. Their final run from Panama to Colombia this year is at the end of November giving me a 1 month margin of error to handle anything unexpected along the way.

Once I’m in South America I have loose plans to wind down the west coast toward Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of Argentina. I’m hoping to catch up with the Dakar Rally in early 2018, hike to see the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, ride the huge expanse of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, and be thoroughly immersed in the regional cultures. I’m not sure how I’ll end my South America travels, but I think I’ll figure out by the time I get there what I want to do next…

Anyway, this first post took a lot longer than I expected. I’m going to have to get a bit better at this if I expect to document my travels without spending all day on a keyboard. Check back soon for some more updates. I’m going to post some of my trip preparations to help anyone else considering an adventure like this. If anyone reading along has any valuable advice, feel free to clue me in, I’m just figuring this out as I go!