Agave Maria's Restaurant & Cantina, Big Sur CA, Blue Iguana Inn Ojai, BMW F800GS, CA-166, CA-33, Caliente Range, Cape Hurricane, Cape San Martin, China Basin Beach, Chumash Indians, Cuyama, Garrapata State Park, KLR 650, Los Padres National Forest, Monterrey CA, Morro Bay CA, Morro Rock, National Recreation Trails, National Trails Database, New Cuyama, Pine Mountain Campground, Pine Mountain Ridge, Pine Mountain Ridge Road, Rocky Creek Bridge, San Martin Rock, San Simeon, Sea Otter CA, Ventucopa CA
Canada 2015. Days 27 & 28 (Aug 25 & 26, 2015). It took us two days to go back home from Marina, CA. This is a trip that one would normally do in one day on a car but we wanted to take time to enjoy the California shore and we did not want to cross Los Angeles during the rush hour traffic of the late afternoon. So, on the 27th day of our trip we rode to Ojai, CA, a touristic town nested in the Topatopa Mountains of Ventura County, north west of LA. We left Marina after breakfast at around 9:30 pm. A few miles south of Monterrey, CA, CA-1 begins to runs along the shoreline although usually high above the sea level. Our first stop was to watch a group of at least three whales that were swimming (and perhaps feeding) in the kelp forest close to the shore. The whales would take short dives and then emerge spouting water. Sometimes we could see large portions of their bodies out of the water. We managed to take a few shots of the plumes of water shooting out from one whale’s blowhole. The next stop was at Sea Otter to enjoy the view of the beach below and of the Rocky Creek Bridge. We continued riding south and stopping frequently to take pictures and to enjoy the breathtaking views of the shoreline. After passing Big Sur the traffic was lighter and the ride more enjoyable. I have done this stretch of CA-1 many times on a car but it is so much better on a motorcycle; there is no comparison. The next major break was to visit the elephant seals near San Simeon. The bulls were quite content lying on the sand. No major fights erupted while we were there. From San Simeon we rode to Morro Bay to visit the impressive Morro Rock—a 581-foot-high mountain of volcanic rock rising from the water. You cannot visit the rock without wondering about the decision of placing an ugly power plant across the bay from it. The plant started operations in the 1950s and it was officially shut down in 2014. Dynegy, the Houston-based company that owes the plant, put it on the market for a while but then took it off claiming that the offers for the plant were too low. I can’t wait to see that disgusting thing demolished but that might never happen.
From Morro Bay we took CA- and US-101 south. Right before Santa Maria we left the freeway and took CA-166 towards New Cuyama. The road runs along the Twitchell Reservoir (which is normally empty except after significant amounts of rainfall during the winter) and the Cuyama River (also dry) on a canyon between the Caliente Range of San Luis Obispo County and the Sierra Madre Mountains of Santa Barbara County. At the end of the canyon CA-166 opens up into the Cuyama Valley passing cattle ranches and large irrigated fields planted with vegetables that grow well in sandy soils, like carrots. The name “Cuyama” comes from the Chumash word kuyam, meaning “clam”. We did not see any but apparently fossilized clams are very common in that area. A few miles after New Cuyama we turned south onto CA-33, known in that area as the Maricopa Highway. From Ventucopa, CA, to Ojai the road is a lot of fun to ride as it crosses the Pine Mountain Ridge (part of Transverse Ranges of Southern California). We took a 5-mile detour onto Pine Mountain Ridge Road (a single lane paved road) which takes you to two campgrounds (Pine Mountain and Reyes) located at 7,000 feet in a dense pine forest. There are two additional campgrounds (Raspberry and Chorro Grande) that can be accessed from that road but one must hike to get there. These campgrounds offer breathtaking vistas of the areas around. To the north are the dry, rugged Cuyama Badlands; on other side are the tree-covered mountains of the Los Padres National Forest and the ocean beyond. We sat for a while under the tall pines of the Pine Mountain Campground admiring the amazing infrastructure that “yanquilandia” offers for outdoors activities. Campgrounds, trails, visitor centers, view points, National, State, and County Parks, National Seashores, State Beaches. The US National Forest alone lists 2,383 developed campgrounds. The National Trails Database lists 1,256 National Recreation Trails (NRT) in all 50 states. Many more trails are yet to be granted the status as an NRT so there is a lot of hiking trails to choose from in this country. The US is a great place to play outdoors. We arrived at Ojai in the late afternoon and checked in at the Blue Iguana Inn. After unpacking the bikes and getting out of the ridding gear, we went for dinner at Agave Maria’s Restaurant & Cantina. Adrián had fish tacos and I had fajitas. We enjoyed Stone IPAs and a lot of water. It was a long day of riding.
On day 28 after a lovely breakfast at Blue Iguana we rode for two hours on the well-maintained but still awful freeways of Metropolitan Los Angeles to get back home. We completed 5,592 miles (9,000 kilometers) on our motorcycles and rode through some amazing places. We have built so many memories; we have met so many interesting people on their own journeys. A fortuitous encounter with Craig from Calgary in a hostal in Argentina was the trigger for this adventure. Our minds are already thinking about the next one.
ps: In the days after our arrival to Claremont, our dear nephew Nicolas purchased a beautiful KLR 650. We are very proud of him and hope he can endure the huge amount of shit he will get from his friends for acquiring such a low performance motorcycle.
BMW F800GS, Breitenbush Road, Bridge of the Gods, Columbia River, Detroit OR, Hood River OR, Iron Creek Campground, KLR650, La Wis Wis, Limberlost Campground, Lost Creek OR, Mount Hood, Mt. Saint Helens, Oregon Skyline Road, Randle, Sisters OR, Timberline Lodge, Trapper Creek Wilderness, WA
Canada 2015. Days 19 & 20 (Aug 17 & 18, 2015). Adrián and I talked almost constantly while we are riding. It is usually about the landscape or the pains of riding a motorcycle for so many hours a day. In this trip the phrase that we have uttered the most—without any doubt—has been “Que camino divino!” (What a beautiful road!) Day after day we have encountered amazing roads. Roads that are fun and safe to ride; roads that go through very beautiful places. We planned the trip trying to avoid freeways and large cities as much as possible. That helps a lot. But both Canada and the US have an abundance of roads that one could ride for years without getting bored. We have heard and said the phrase “Qué Camino Divino!” so many times now, that we have lately switched to the sarcastic “Otro camino feo” (Another ugly road). Unfortunately we cannot take pictures of these wonderful roads as we are riding. The photos that we do share here don’t really capture the beauty of those roads. When Lucas, Lucía, Adrián and I came to the Cascades a few years ago, we took route 25 around Mt. Saint Helen. I remember thinking at the time that 25 would be a great road to do on a motorcycle one day. Today was that day. The road was as beautiful as I remembered it but there are many patches that are rough and bumpy. This is a road to ride carefully. We left La Wis Wis after breakfast and rode to Randle where we stop for gas. On Randle we took route 25 south. A few miles from Randle we visited the lovely Iron Creek Campground, where we had stayed with my kids before. Adrián and I rode by our site, 12 A, which looked as good as it did back then. We turned off route 25 into NF-99 to visit the north face of Mt. Saint Helens. On May 18, 1980, a lateral eruption destroyed the north side of the volcano and also the woods and their inhabitants (including people) for miles around. The vast explosion was followed by major mudslides that run down the valleys around the mountain. I remember the amazing pictures of the explosion in National Geographic. I could not read English back then but I did not need too. The pictures did the talking and the devastation was incredible. After all these years vegetation has come back to the area but the signs of the eruption are still obvious. On Spirit Lake at the foot of Saint Helens, hundreds of logs from the killed trees are still floating today.
From NF-99 we could clearly see Mount Rainier and what to us look like a long line of white clouds in the horizon. We did not know it at the time but we were looking at a major plume of smoke from fires in Western Washington State. After visiting Saint Helens, we continued south on 25 and then took Routes 51 and 30 towards Carson. At around the Trapper Creek Wilderness area, we begun to smell and see smoke. By the time we got to the Columbia River (the one we had crossed in two ferries back in British Columbia) we could see smoke on the mountains in every direction. We crossed the majestic Columbia on the Bridge of the Gods (named after a major landslide that temporarily dammed the Columbia circa 1450). We briefly stop at the Cascade Locks to see the salmon fishing scene—which was not as impressive as the last time we were here—and then rode directly to the Hood River Inn in Hood River, OR. We had a lovely dinner on the outside patio of the hotel overlooking the Columbia. Adrian had spaghetti with salmon and I had gnocchi of lobster. We both enjoyed very nice IPAs brewed locally.
On day 18, we had a major breakfast courtesy of Best Western. We sat at the outside patio of the hotel. There was still a lot of smoke in the air. Adrián ordered scrambled eggs with chorizo, onions, and potatoes. I had a bagel with smoked salmon and potatoes. It took us a while to get the bikes ready after breakfast. We got gas at the service station next to the hotel and then rode to a nearby Yamaha dealer to buy chain lube. Most gas stations in the US do not carry anything for motorcycles. We took Route 35 south towards Mount Hood and could not believe the amount of smoke in the air. We could see the impressive peak of the volcano but behind a thick veil of smoke. The valley south of Hood River is quite pretty; full of apple and pear orchards. We got to Mt. Hood in no time and went up to the Timberline Lodge where two years ago we had taken a picture of us with the bikes and Mt. Hood in the background. From the parking area one can see for miles all the mountains in the area. There was smoke in every direction. It seemed as if the entire state of Oregon was burning. From Mt. Hood we rode to Detroit, OR, following roads that we had ridden before, National Forest Roads 42 (Oregon Skyline Road) and 46 (Breitenbush Road). In Detroit we stop for gas and ice cream. It was quite hot and there was a lot of smoke in the air there too. We then continued south on Route 22 and the US-20 to the town of Sisters, OR. Our final destination was the lovely Limberlost Campground where Adrián and I had spent the night twice before. My kids and I call the place the campground of the huckleberry girl because the first time we stayed there we met a lovely girl who was going around the campground picking huckleberries. From Sisters we took route 212 towards Mackenzie Bridge. This is a great road for motorcycles. A few miles from the town the road goes though a large field of lava from where one can enjoy great views of the Three Sisters volcanoes (North, Middle, and South Sister) to the south and Mt. Washington to the north. Beyond the lava fields the road begins to go down twisting for several miles under the canopy of gorgeous trees. Limberlost is hidden in the woods by the pretty Lost Creek about a mile before the interception of 212 and 216. The campground does not have water so we had to filter water from the creek to cook. After dinner we walked around admiring the beautiful trees. Only a few huckleberries were left this late in the summer.
Alamo NV, Baker CA, Bellagio Las Vegas, BMW F800GS, Caliente NV, Cathedral Gorge NV, Currie NV, Ely NV, KLR650, Las Vegas NV, Oak Spring Summit, Pahranagate Lake, Pioche NV, Route 93 Nevada, Thermo-Bob, Wells Chinatown Motel, Wells NV
Canada 2015. Days 1 & 2 (July 30 & 31, 2015). Adrián and I begun another major motorcycle trip. Our fifth trip together. The planning of course started long time ago. Choosing a destination, routes to follow, people and places to visit, lodging, camping, gear, etc. takes quite a bit of work. I love doing all that! This trip to Canada was born out of a fortuitous encounter with a fellow motorcyclist at a hostal in Argentina. That day on February 26, 2014, Adrian and I rode from Purmamarca to Cafayate through La Cornisa and the Quebrada de las Conchas. By the time we reached Cafayate it was impossible to find a place to stay because the city was in the middle of a major celebration. We continued riding south and eventually found a room at Hostal Río de Arena. We noticed a KLR 650 parked next to one of the cottages and I went to take a look. Through the open window of the cottage I saw a guy who I presumed was the owner of the bike. He came out from his room and we begun to chat. Craig “el Canadiense” was traveling solo on the KLR through Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Over dinner (homemade empanadas and wine), Craig told us that he was from Calgary, Alberta. Adrian and I immediately begun to think about a trip to the beautiful Canadian Rockies. We even mentioned to Craig the possibility of coming to see him in Calgary. He seemed very receptive to the idea back then so in our minds we begun to plan a visit to Craig el Canadiense. We had no idea however that in a little over a year we would be ridding north from my home in Claremont to Canada.
Crossing the Mojave Desert from the Los Angeles basin to Las Vegas was hard. It was cloudy and relatively cool when we left Claremont at 10 am. But by the time we reached Baker, CA, the huge thermometer in the middle of town (apparently the World’s tallest thermometer at 134 feet / 41 meters) indicated 108°F (more than 42°C). Thankfully it was partially cloudy so the sun was not shinning on us directly. It was very, very hot though; and we were both melting under the heavy protective motorcycle gear. After Baker, we stop at the California/Nevada border to get some Gatorade at a gas station. The bikes were riding well until we arrived at Las Vegas and hit the slow traffic on the strip. At that point the KLR begun to overheat and to accelerate by itself when idling. We were a bit surprised and worried by the overheating issue because two days earlier we had installed a Thermo-Bob, a cooling system mod for the KLR650 that helps the engine run at a more steady temperature. We had installed a Thermo-Bob before on my KLR in Argentina so we were quite confident on the installation. Luckily the self-acceleration problem was gone a few hours later when we tested the bike on the parking structure of the hotel.
In Vegas we stayed at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino. We unpacked the bikes at the check-in parking lot with the help of Mariano, a very nice young Mexican man who was very curious about our trip. That night we tried our luck at the Bellagio and had a very late dinner at Broadway Burger Bar & Grill inside NY-NY. The burgers were excellent. The fries could be better.
The following day we drove from Las Vegas to Wells, NV, following US-Route 93. This is a beautiful road that offers a great alternative to Interstate 15. The road runs mainly through valleys flanked in both sides by mountain ranges. A few miles before reaching the town of Alamo NV, we stop at Pahranagate Lake to look for hydra (the little freshwater critters that I study); we did not find any. Between Alamo and Caliente, NV, US-93 reaches two summits: Pahroc (4,945 ft) and Oak Springs (6,237). Near Oak Springs we saw a sign for a trilobite trail but we did not have time to stop. The area is much greener than I expected with many junipers and pines growing at high elevations. The descent from Oak Spring Summit into the charming town of Caliente is quite beautiful and a lot of fun on a motorcycle.
North of Caliente we visited the spectacular eroded rock formations of Cathedral Gorge State Park (near Panaca, NV) and the pretty little town of Pioche, NV, where we got gas. At Ely, NV, we took a long break to rest and hydrate. We still had 130 miles to Wells and I was really tired. Approximately 40 miles north of Ely, I took a little nap on top of a metal table at a rest area. The remainder of the ride to Wells was lovely. The sun was coming down on the mountains to the west and producing long shadows. The air temperature was perfect. After approximately 8 hours of riding we finally reached our destination, the Wells Chinatown Motel. For dinner we had great Chinese food cooked by the motel’s host. The local beer was also excellent.
Bald Mountain Pass, BMW F800GS, bolete, Brigham Young, Butterfly Lake, Fehr Lake Trail, Flaming Gorge, Hoover Lake, KLR 650, Manila UT, Mirror Lake Highway, Moosehorn Campground, Picturesque Lake, Pika, Scout Lake UT, Shepard Lake, Tiger salamander, Uinta Mountains, WYLD beer, Yellow-bellied marmot, Zion
Days 16, 17 & 18 (August 8, 9 & 10, 2013). Our next stop after the Green River was the Mirror Lake area in the Uinta Mountains of Utah (one of the few ranges in the US that goes east–west rather than north–south). Lucas, Lucía and I visited the area a few years ago and took a great hike through a series of lakes from where we collected hydra and green sponges. Adrián and I left the campground at the Flaming Gorge early in the morning and took route 44 in the direction of Manila, UT. We saw many deer, death and alive, by the road (Trevor’s story came to mind). We stopped frequently to take pictures of the wonderful views of the Flaming Gorge and some cool rock formations. Several of the different geological strata that we traversed were labeled with road signs. Somebody spent a lot of energy trying to educate travelers about Earth’s geologic history. At Manila we stopped to take a look at the rodeo. We then move north and crossed back into Wyoming. We had decided that we would camp for the next few days so we stopped for provisions at Evanston before moving into the mountains. The weekend was approching and we wanted to find a place before the campgrounds got crowded. Dark clouds were hovering above the mountains so we expected rain. We took route WY/UT 150 (Mirror Lake Highway) south from Evanston and quickly started climbing into the Uinta Mountains. The first campground we checked was Butterfly Lake. We found a campsite there but neither of us were thrilled about it—thankfully, my brother and I had a similar taste when it comes to camping. We wanted to check other places but did not want to loose that site. Thus Adrián stayed at Butterfly Lake and I continued south. At the Moosehorn Campground near Bald Mountain Pass I found a campsite I liked. It was a bit harder to secure the site because I had to track the hosts who were riding around the campground on a golf cart. I paid for two nights, left one of my bags at the table on the campsite, and rode back to Butterfly Lake to get Adrián. It was pretty cold and the road was wet. We set up camp quickly and immediately started a fire since more rain was imminent. Our campsite was at 10,443 feet (3,183 meters) so we were short of breath due to the altitude. I took a short nap in the tent while Adrián stayed tendering the fire. It rained a little while I was sleeping but then the rain ceased and we had a very nice dinner sitting by the fire to fight the cold. At breakfast next morning we met Anissa and Whitney from Salt Lake City, who were camping across the road from us. Whitney showed me a detailed map of the area and recommended the Fehr Lake Trail which turned out to be the one I had followed with my kids. So Adrián and I went for the 3-mile hike to Hoover Lake (and neighboring Maba Lake) passing by Fehr Lake and Shepard Lake on the way. When we got back to the camp a few hours later, we found that Anissa and Whitney had left beer, corn, and wood for us, together with a short note wishing us luck. Nice people! We cooked the corn wrapped on aluminum foil on the glowing coals of our fire and drink a nice cold organic WYLD beer. It rained for an hour while we were sitting by the fire. The following day we took another hike to Picturesque and Scout Lakes following the Lofty Lake Loop trail. We had lunch by Picturesque Lake where Adrián discovered several axolotl-looking creatures that were probably larval stages (efts) of the tiger salamander. On a rocky outcrop we saw a sunbathing yellow-bellied marmot (see picture) and an American pika. Later that day we rode our bikes to Bald Mountain Pass to enjoy the magnificent view of the valley below. While sitting there we met a man who told us that from out of space the Uinta Range looks like an arrow pointing at Salt Lake City, “Zion”, the promise land that Brigham Young selected for the Mormon pioneers. With a little bit of imagination, in the terrain view of Google maps the Uintas look like a fish evolving small legs in its way to conquering land. The mouth of the fish does point toward Salt Lake City. Back at Moosehorn, Adrián cooked the rest of the corn on the fire while I sauté—with onions and carrots—a wild bolete mushroom (we hoped) that was growing at the campsite.
Days 1 & 2 (July 24 and 25, 2013). We just checked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Carson City, Nevada. It is relatively early in the day (3 pm) but we did not want to continue because the sky was pitch black and we could see lightning at a distance. We did not want to ride our motorcycles under an electrical storm. Unlike cars, which create a sort of Faraday cage, motorcycles do not provide any level of protection against lightning (the rubber of tires is not enough!) Adrián is sleeping while I write this; we are both tired. We have been on the road for two days now. We left Claremont at around 8 am yesterday. Lucas and Lucía kissed us goodbye and took the first pictures of the trip. We crossed the Mohave Desert early in the morning so the air was not very hot. Our first stop was at a gas station at Kramer Junction, 82 miles from home. I usually stop there when I take US-395. After we got gas, we parked the bikes under a nice palo verde (cina cina) tree to rest. The palo verde had several green pods so Adrián and I got to eat the semi-sweet seeds—like we used to do when we were kids in Argentina. We reached the Southern Sierras at around 11 am. At a rest stop at Pearsonville, Adrián noticed a bit of oil on his right boot. We thought it was coming from the oil filter cover of the KLR, so we tightened the two bolts (no more oil after that). For lunch we stopped at the famous Erick Schat’s Bakery in Bishop. We sat outside and enjoyed a nice break (and an expensive sandwich that we shared). When I came back with the sandwich, Adrián was conversing with an older man sitting next to him. The friendly man thought we were Italians so he was practicing his Italian on Adrián, who responded in slow Argentinian. The man is going to Italy in the Fall and was excited to find Italians in Bishop. That night we camp at the French Camp Campground at Tom’s Place near Crowley Lake. This lovely, huge campground is set along Rock Creek among aspens, junipers, and pines at an elevation of 7,500 ft. The views from the campground are beautiful. After pitching our tent and unpacking the bikes, Adrián and I went fishing on the creek. With my new 3-weight fly fishing rod and an Elk-hair caddis, I caught the most beautiful brown. The trout hit the fly fast and hard. It took me a while to get the fly from deep inside the trout’s mouth but the fish was released unharmed (I do need to get hemostats though). There were very few fishable spots on that section of the creek so we went back to camp to prepare dinner. If you have been following our motorcycle adventures you have probably guessed what we made. Yes, Ramen noodles! (the gourmet type, from Marukai). After a short after-dinner walk around the campground we had a nice cup of mint tea and popcorn. Before going to sleep we had to put everything away into the bear-proof box in our campsite. The following morning we had coffee, repacked everything onto the bikes, and rode in the direction of Mammoth Lakes. The ride through the loop of lakes was gorgeous. The campgrounds were all full and there were tons of boats fishing on the lakes. After completing the loop and visiting the ski area we rode onto June Lake. We took a break by Gull Lake next to a place where I collected hydra not long ago. The forecast for the Mammoth Lakes area indicated thunderstorms but the morning was still clear and the temperature was perfect for our heavy motorcycle gear. We took the road through Silver Lake to visit remarkable natural limestone formations at Mono Lake’s South Tufa. To get to the shore of the lake we had to ride on gravel for a few hundred meters. Neither of us had ridden on gravel since my accident in Patagonia. We both agreed that we hate the feeling. As we were ridding north from Mono the sky was getting darker and we could see rain at a distance on the mountains. We stopped for lunch at a campground—deli sandwiches and bananas we bought in Bridgeport—when it began to rain (very lightly). We continued north but were stopped for over 20 minutes because of road work by Topaz Lake. It was stormy and hot while we were waiting for the lady with the stop sign to let us through. A long line formed behind us. Meanwhile, as we were reaching boiling temperatures inside our jackets, people at the lake were water skiing. We stopped at a gas station to wait for the rain to pass and to make hotel reservations. We reached Carson City—a legendary town featured on many cowboy stories we read as kids in Argentina—under a patch of sun but with menacing dark skies all around us. For dinner we went to Bully’s, a sports bar near the hotel, and broke our diet!