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!