Friday, 21 December 2012

East to West

We said goodbye to Ray and Marguerite as they left for work, we’d be gone by the time they returned. We headed west towards the coast and then south and headed for Los Angeles. We’d met Pete at the HU meeting in Cambria (do you see a pattern here – meeting lots of lovely people through motorcycle websites Horizons Unlimited and ADV Rider) and were going to stay with him for a couple of days. The road down the Californian coast is stunning. That night we stayed at El Capitan campsite, just above Santa Barbara – expensive we thought at $35 for a night and the few facilities they did have were not that good! Only saving grace was getting to see a pod of dolphins playing in the early morning surf. From there we headed down through Malibu (very nice!) and then over Topanga Canyon Road – a great road to ride.  Pete and his wife Margaret moved out to the US about 30 years ago but thankfully Pete hasn’t lost his love of a good cup of tea and that was the first thing on the agenda when we arrived!
Pete on his outfit
 Whilst in LA, we visited Hollywood and Beverley Hills. I was hoping to see some bloke called Ewan Mcsomething – apparently he did a trip like ours a few years ago as we’ve had a few folk ask if we’re doing our trip because of him. The simple answer to that
We also went to a British bike meet held at Hansen Dam Park by the Norton Owners Club. We have never seen such a huge display of British bikes in one place and the great thing is that they’d all been ridden there – not brought by trailer. We then had the great privilege to spend that afternoon with Mike Parti. Mike is a bit of a legend in the US motorcycle world. We spent a few hours listening to his stories of his outlaw motorcycle club days and then his racing days. A real treat.



We said goodbye to Pete and headed for Death Valley National Park visiting the Trona Pinnacles on route. As we left the Trona Pinnacles and headed along the Searle Valley, the sun went down, making the mountain tops glow a dusky red colour before throwing them and the salt patches on the brown dusty valley floor into darkness. As we enjoyed Pete’s homemade soup for our tea, the sky was illuminated by millions of sparkling stars. More than I think I’ve ever seen. It was fabulous.
Trona Pinnacles
Our first stop in Death Valley was the charcoal kilns. They were only used for a short time in the late 1870’s and are in remarkably good condition.

There was a very cold wind blowing while we were there so we put our warmer layers on but then found ourselves melting when we reached sea level at Furnace Creek. From there, the only way was down – to Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level anyway.   We passed a group of folk travelling in old wagons which was great, lots of waving to each other ensued and then we headed to Las Vegas.


Before getting to Las Vegas, we ventured to Red Rock Canyon. This, for us, was the highlight of our weekend in this area as Las Vegas is just not for us. We did get a superb view over Las Vegas at night though, from our 29th floor window.


We continued our journey east, catching a small piece of Route 66, towards the Grand Canyon.
Gettin' our kicks.............
It is absolutely stunning. It’s difficult to gauge the distance to the other side but where we were was at least 10 miles, it’s further in other places. We camped that night close to the south rim and it was absolutely freezing. We left some water in a plastic cup to see when it froze – about 2 minutes after sunset. The temperature continued to drop but we were ok in our warm sleeping bags and our bivvy bags. Other campers ended up sleeping in the toilet block.    


As we continued east, we had another puncture but nothing as exciting as the blow out although we did have to buy another tyre. We rode over Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado and beat our elevation record – 10818 feet. There was a lot of snow but none on the road thankfully. We decided that it was time to head south towards warmer climes and after a few days we found ourselves in Woodward, Oklahoma. There is not much in this town but it has Boiling Springs State Park just outside it with cheap all year camping and good clean toilets with free hot showers (El Capitan State Park in California please take note).  While there we popped into a local bike shop which turned out to be Covington Customs. We got chatting to the guy behind the counter and then Dave, the son of the owner. He invited us through the back for a tour of the workshops. They do everything in house – design, machining, painting - not like some customs places who outsource all the parts and literally just put it together.


Then down to Vicksburg in Mississippi. Vicksburg National Military Park preserves one of the battlefields from the American Civil War. The Battle of Vicksburg was fought in 1863. The park has plaques to show which troops attacked and defended where. Some of the plaques are only metres apart. The park also shows the USS Cairo, a naval ship sunk in the Mississippi River during the conflict. Then onto the Old City Courthouse, which was an interesting insight to a time gone by.
USS Cairo
Old City Courthouse
Upon returning to our hotel that Friday afternoon, we received a message to phone home urgently. Iain took the phone call that we all dread, being told that his mum was seriously ill. At this point we were over 1000 miles from Miami but we covered that in 2 days and left the bike at the shippers on Monday morning and boarded a flight back to the UK later that evening. Thankfully, as I type this, she is making progress in the right direction and for this we are very grateful.

We had both admitted some time before, that we were missing riding on our own 2 wheels. We had already planned to be back in the UK just before Christmas so this unfortunate news just brought the end of our trip forward by a few weeks.

We count ourselves very lucky to have been able to take this trip and cannot thank the people who have helped us along the way enough. We have seen and experienced amazing places but the folk we have met along the way have been equally amazing. There are too many to name individually but you know who you are. It has been a wonderful experience and now we have a good basis for our next trip.  We still have a great desire to explore South America – watch this space.