Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The end of our Journey

On Sunday we checked out of the motel and headed to visit another friend and metal sculptor, Heath. He is in the middle of setting up his new workshop after moving out of smaller premises. After a fairly quiet time over the last year or so, a whiole bunch of work has come along all at once, so he is as busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger with piles.

Nevertheless, he generously gave a couple of hours of his 18 hour workday to show us his huge new place, and have lunch with us.

With a few hours to kill before we had to head to the airport, we drove to Venice Beach which was only a few miles from Heath's studio and a similar distance from LAX. We visited the boardwalk there when we arrived in LA, and figured it worth revisiting to finish off our last minute shopping.

Metal figures.

As the sun sank lower over the water we took off for the airport. It was nearly dark when we arrived, but after going through security and into the soulless departure lounge we were surprised to find we were an hour early. Daylight saving ended at 2 am this morning, and Chris's cell phone had not registered the change. This was a little surprising because through out all our travels the phone had been rigourously updating the time as we passed through different time zones - sometimes twice or more in the same day as we zig-zagged through the 4 corner states. We had a long wait in the departure lounge, compounded by our flight departing later than scheduled.

The drug squad at the airport was really cute. We could have taken this dog home.
The flight home was surprisingly good. We bounced around a few times in the night. Being seated near the back of the plane amplified every bump. However, we managed to get some sleep through the 14 hour flight, and arrived in Sydney feeling less jet-lagged than on other trips.

The last leg of our journey from Sydney to Canberra was a 3 hour bus ride. Chris's parents met us at the bus station and drove us home. We arrived to find our house sittters had moved out and left the place spotless. Our dogs were happy to see us (and vice versa).

So now it's all over. Life will soon be back to normal (at least a different "normal" to that of the last six months). The transition imparts mixed feelings, perhaps best described as "travel inertia", a phrased we learned from Peter, one of our friends in the US.

The trip has been a wonderful experience. We rode 27,000 miles in six months. We took an estimated 50,000 photos, and over 600 Mb of video. We met and stayed with many, many friends - some of whom we had previously only met on-line through the "Sandbox" where we share information about all aspects of metal art.

We set out to achieve a number of things: to "look for America" as Simon and Garfunkel once sang, to visit old friends and make new ones, to see the spectacular beauty of America and to ride some of the best motorcycling roads in the world. We comprehensively nailed everyone of those aims except the last. Late snow last winter kept us from riding some much anticipated routes - Tioga Pass in Yosemite and the nearby Sonora, Carsons and Ebbet passes, and later the "Going to the Sun" road in Wyoming's Glacier National Park. Towards the end of our journey we missed the chance to ride to the top of Mt Evans (at 14,000 ft, the highest paved road in the US) because it closed for winter a month before we arrived. We also missed the experience of riding Independence Pass in Colorado because winter weather was closing in on us. Mind you, we still rode some amazing roads, and what we missed is just a reason to have another go.

The goals we set ourselves were: firstly not to die on the US roads as more than 30,000 people do every year, secondly not to have an accident, thirdly not to drop the bike, then not to get any traffic citations, and to have fun.

Chris put the bike down once when he hit a patch of oil on a wet road, but other than that we achieved all our goals.

America is such a great country. It's people are friendly, polite, warm hearted, caring, open and generous to a fault. It was sad to see the impact of the GEC - shops and commercial premises boarded up and abandoned, "for sale" signs out everywhere...

Thanks to everyone who has been reading our blog and sending us encouraging feedback. If anyone has any specific questions they would like to ask about our adventure, drop us an email to bridglan(at) Substitute "@" for "(at)" and you will find us (and hopefully the spammers won't)..

This has truly been the journey of a lifetime. We hope you have enjoyed the ride, too.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Selling our bike

This morning we took the Beemer back to Long Beach BMW (LA, California)where we bought it. Robyn offered us a good price to buy it outright (rather than sell it on consignment) and we couldn't refuse.

It is a fantastic bike and we were sad to let it go in some ways. (We toyed with the idea of leaving it with a friend and coming back in six months to start again. Importing it back home gave us tax issues.). If any readers are interested in a 2010 BMW R 1200 RT that is nicely run-in, fully serviced, has a GPS, radio and all its bags, detailed and sitting on new rubber, be sure to contact Robyn Smietan at Long Beach BMW Motorcycles. We have never ridden something as powerful before. It took every challenge we gave it with ease. We did avoid dirt roads however.

However, while we have recently enjoyed the benefits of an Aussie dollar being par with the US dollar, this has bitten us in the hip pocket as we sell the bike. The Aussie has incresed in value by over 10% since we bought the bike. Ce la vie! Que sera, sera...

We also had to have the bike serviced again, put two new tyres on it and get it detailed which added to our costs. Whoever buys our bike will get a real bargain...

After leavin LBBMW we drove into LA to pick up our suitcases from Vaike who has been minding them for the last six months. Vaike (aka Alex in Welderland) is a metal artist who specialises in making pet urns for holding the ashes of cremated "fur kids".

We met her friend Brenda
and spent some time chatting over a rather lovely bottle of Pinot Grigio in the warm afternoon sun before having dinner together. With another bottle of vino.

Completing our lap of the US

Natalia and Aurea, two lovely girls who live with Terrie, inspected Chris' bike before making a fond farewell.

Terrie, her son Greg, and Jay web-cast an on-line blog radio segment each Thursday from 3 to 4 pm PDT, in which Jay interviews metal artists. Chris was invited to be the guest for today, so we rode back into San Diego, California around lunch time. Instead of taking the highways, we rode down the Coast Highway, which was slower but more interesting. There were people swimming, surfing and exercising. Greg is a keen surfer staying out until it gets dark.

It seemed pretty warm, and when we arrived at Jay's learned that the temperature was 99 F.

We also learned that an engine on a QANTAS A380 had exploded on takeoff from Singapore, and their fleet of 5 aircraft were grounded pending safety checks (3 at LAX airport, apparently). Our flight back to Oz on Sunday is supposed to be on an A380 - who knows if it will be cancelled? (If QANTAS know, they aren't telling).

Chris's talk with Jay went off well. You can read/hear it here. Jay translated for the benefit of American listeners, explaining "aluminium" is actually "aluminum", and so on.

Greg(left) was in control of the technology while Jay(right) directed the interview with Chris.
When it was over, we said a rushed goodbye to Jay and Terrie and headed up the freeway to LA. We were expecting peak traffic and long delays and had a sense of dread in our hearts.

It was still 98 F as we mounted up. The first part of the journey onto the freeway was slow, but as we entered the on ramp we gunned the bike to merge into the traffic at 80 mph. There was a spot of congestion and we slowed to a complete stop briefly. Once we reached the carpool lane we picked up speed - motorcycles are allowed to use this lane on the extreme left of the road, along with vehicles carrying two or more people. There aren't many of the latter, so we enjoyed a smooth fast run when the other 5 lanes slowed to a crawl.

The traffic became quite heavy when we approached LA, and in the end it took us 2 hrs 15 minutes to cover the 105 miles. It was quite dark when we arrived.

We checked into the Carlton Motel on Long Beach Bvd, the same place we stayed in when we arrived in May. AJ, the friendly young manager was pleased to see us again and hear of our exploits.

We ate at a local Chinese restaurant before riding over to Long Beach Airport to pick up a hire car.

Meeting Jay Whaley

Today was a scheduled rest day with nothing planned so we spent some of the morning relaxing in Terrie's home which is only a few miles from the ocean.

These budgies are safe from the hawks that sometimes terrorise them.

The garden is full of fruit trees and flowers. It still feels like spring here.

The ocean is only a few miles away. There are plenty of people surfing and swimming.

Terrie works for Jay Whaley, a jeweller who runs a workshop and teaches classes in San Diego, and had to leave at 6 am. We decided to follow her in (at a more respectable hour) so we could meet Jay and see his shop. Even in the middle of the day the main road to San Diego was a mad rush of traffic, 5 lanes wide all going 80+ in a 65 zone.

We were welcomed by Jay saying "So you're the biker trash from Australia?!" and were instantly friends. We had lunch with Terrie and Jay and spent some time admiring his well-equipped workspace. Not wanting to get underfoot, we left mid afternoon.

Some of Jay's artwork.

Students working on jewelery in his workshop.
It was pizza for lunch.
The ride back was even more frenetic in the heat of a very warm autumn day. We were glad to reach Oceanside and exit to some quieter, tree-lined streets.

We stopped at a supermarket to stock up on supplies for the evening meal - another barbeque.
Terrie relaxed after a hard day's work.

Thankfully we bought ample supplies - we thought it would just be Terrie and us eating in tonight, but were pleased when Greg (Terrie's son), and Natalia joined us to eat out under the pergola in the cool of the evening. This weather is remarkably balmy. We felt sorry for Elizabeth and Nick from Ohio. They are already preparing for the winter.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting lost again

Gary has a beautiful outfit. We met him while filling up with petrol.

Our plan for today was first to ride south through Joshua Tree National Park, California to Mecca. The Joshua trees are distinctive and grow quite large for a desert plant. WWe have seen them in other places, but here they were most abundant.

Our GPS was set for Mecca and off we went. After an hours travel we left the Park and entered a town where we stopped at a diner for lunch.

The service was slow, and while we were waiting Chris decided to check the map. It was only then we realised we had gone the wrong way.

Unfortunately the GPS couldn't computer that the shortest distance to Mecca was through the Park, and it took us on a semi-circular route that led to Joshua Tree, 15 miles due west of Twenty-nine Palms.

It was already early afteroon by the time we left the diner, and we were effectively yet to start our journey to Oceanside, 35 miles north of San Diego.

We re-traced our path through Joshus Tree NP and found the road south to Mecca. On the way there were varied and huge rock formations. The cactus garden also amazed us. There was a chipmunk living in these arid conditions.

Although there were postings about Tarantula spiders, we did not see any. An occasional fleeing bird would catch our eye.

The weather was quite hot (unseasonably so, we have been told) so we were pleased to stop for drinks.

Continuing south on 86, we passed the Salton Sea, 235 ft below sea level, before heading west to Borrego Springs on S22. The S22 road out of there is a great motorcycle journey, winding its way up the Montezuma Grade which climbs over 3000 feet in six miles.

The views changed from a dry desert to green grass and beautiful trees, something we have not seen for some time. We soon found ourselves on CA 76, another scenic road that took us all the way into Oceanside, where we were invited to stay with Teresa, another of our metal artist friends. Terrie has a beatiful home just a few miles from the ocean. The suburb is lush, green and full of trees. She welcomed us with cold drinks before we settled down to a Barbecue dinner with wine. Yum!

Squeek greets everyone.

We met Terrie's son Greg and her housemates Natalia and Aurea who live with her.