USA / Astoria
We left Victoria by ferry to Port Angeles in Washington state and finally had some sun and blue sky. This time it was not as easy to cross the border to the U.S. They have asked us all kinds of questions like where we want to go, what we want to do, when we are leaving the states again,… Heiko had asked for permission to stay in the states as long as Henno and I do, until November 19th. But the lady in the custom office was being a real bitch and we were afraid she wouldn’t let Heiko enter the states at all „Why should I give you the permission to stay in MY country longer than it is written in your passport!?!“ But that lady just wanted to show off I guess and Heiko got the permission he had asked for.
We crossed Washington in just a day because Jen and Erick who we have met on the Dalton Highway in Alaska were waiting for us in Astoria. We got to stay in their cute little apartment above their huge garage. We had a bed (sorry, Heiko had to sleep on his air mattress), a shower, laundry machine and dryer and a filled up fridge!! We got spoiled! There is just a sand dune between their house and the beach and the ocean and we had sun and blue sky almost every day since we got here.
Jen and Erick went to a motorcycle meeting in Reno for the extended weekend and Henno and I took care of their dogs (Chaco and Dewey) and cats (Beaches and Jag).
And we finally got to get some exercise and went running on the beach almost every morning. That was fun!
We got new tires on our bikes which we got sent to Astoria from the German tire company Heidenau. It’s a totally new feeling from having hardly any profile left to a thick Enduro-bike profile. Henno and I went on some day trips around Astoria and a hike on the Saddleback Mountain. It is really beautiful here! The coast line is awesome and there are so many curvy little roads, just perfect for riding the bikes!
Heiko left early to see the Yellowstone National Park where we will meet him within the next couple of days. We were going to leave earlier than we did also because Henno had a flat tire when he went on a day trip to Beaverton (I stayed „home“ and enjoyed sitting in the sun). it got flat because the tube got pinched when they changed the tire. But tomorrow we will finally leave Astoria and hit the road again. We had a great time here and will sure miss Jen and Erick who made us feel like home!
From here we will go south to see Crater Lake and then east to meet Heiko in Yellowstone.
I tried to summarize the last few weeks as short as possible. (What was not very easy.) I hope I still got everything that’s important in here. If not, ask!
Hope you guys are all doing well! You will hear from us some time soon….
Alex and Henno
(we got told to look friendlier in our fotos…)
Astoria – Crater Lake – Yellowstone – Arches Natl. Park – Monument Valley, 10-13-2004
We finally made it and left Astoria, Jen and Erick and „our“ apartment. We rode down Oregon’s beautiful coast on a perfect day with blue sky. In Reedsport we turned east to see Crater Lake National Park. The lake is a volcano caldron, which we could circle on a fun windy road about 2300m above sea level. The road, the weather, the scenery and the colors of the nature were breathtaking!
We loved it! If you haven’t seen it yet make sure to go there if you happen to be close to southern Oregon!
From Crater Lake we headed north east to get to Yellowstone National Park. On our way there, we rode through beautiful desert-like nature, canyons and lava fields. Crater of the Moon National Park is completely covered by black lava with just a few trees here and there. It seems very unreal but it was interesting.
In Yellowstone National Park we met Heiko again (so „us“ means the 3 of us from now on). We stayed there for 2 nights and saw geysers (one of them, the Old Faithful, shot up to about 120m high!), hot springs and canyons.
We also got to see some more wildlife like elks, coyote and buffalos. Sometimes we could tell there was wildlife without actually seeing it just by a bunch of tourists all over the road. Funny!!
During the day the weather was just great. Sunny and up to 25°C, but during the night it went down to -5° to -10°C. Pretty chilly! Our tent was even covered with frost in the morning.
The day we left Yellowstone we had the first (snow) shower for 2(!!) weeks!! But luckily it lasted only for a couple hours and the sun came out again. With every pass we went over to get south it got warmer by some degrees. The highest pass we took (in Utah, Hwy. 150 – beautiful!!) was about 3200m high. We could tell the motorbikes didn’t have as much power up there!
Our next stop was Arches National Park where we had stayed for 3 nights because it was just awesome! We did some hikes to the different sandstone arches (just wearing T-Shirt and Shorts – even the nights were pretty warm!) which were great! But also the canyons and sandstone rocks in the background were spectacular!
After we left Arches we went to see Monument Valley. We got there right in time to see the Monuments in the sunset. Awesome!! The next morning we rode through the Navajo Tribal Park around the Monuments, which was a great experience and a lot of fun!
The next National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, wasn’t too fascinating to us. The reasons might be the first signs of „overflow“-syndrome and our laziness. Instead of hiking down to get close to the bridges we just looked at them from the viewpoints. But you just can’t go everywhere, right!?
For the bikers among you guys, we found two great roads on our way from Monument Valley to Bryce Canyon: north of Monument Valley Hwy. # 261 – the road seems to go right into a Mesa (huge table-like rock) and then winds up to get on top of it in a narrow gravel road.
The other one was Hwy. # 1668 between Lake Powell and Boulder („Burr Trail“ I believe). Many curves on a sandy/gravelled road through a beautiful canyon scenery. They both were great fun!
Bryce Canyon – Zion Canyon – Grand Canyon, 10-20-2004
Bryce Canyon was another awesome National Park! We stayed there for 2 nights and did some hikes through the canyon.
One morning we even got up very early to see „hoodoos“ (sandstone pines) at sunrise. Hoodoo is based on the word „voodoo“ which always stands for something bad. The Indians used to believe that the sandstone pines were bad people who had turned into stone.
The only bad thing about Bryce was the altitude of about 2500m so it got pretty chilly at night! And I was hoping it was warmer in the southern states!? On the other hand, there were no mosquitoes or other biting bugs at that time of the year.
After leaving Bryce Canyon, we went to Zion Canyon, which is kind of „next“ to Bryce. Zion is not as high as Bryce is so it got a lot warmer during the nights again. However, although we had some grey sky and a bit of rain in Zion we did a nice hike up to „Angel’s Landing“ from where we had an awesome view over the Canyon.
The hike started very easy on a paved walkway for the first 2/3, but the last 1/3 went over a 90cm (3 feet) wide cliff. Nothing for someone who is afraid of height!
We had shared our campsite with a family (Manfred, Inge and their son Niklas) from Germany who we had met in Bryce and Andreas, also from Germany. So it was a nice group around the camp fire just with some people from Germany. While we were in Zion, they had the first snow up in Bryce Canyon…
We left Zion in rainy weather and went to see the North Rim of Grand Canyon. We were afraid we would not be able to see anything at all because of the clouds, but they made the view even more amazing! Too bad it was still raining and very cold so we only stayed there for an hour or so. I tell you rain and cold can bather you a lot when you are riding a motorbike and tent every night!
When we got to the South Rim of Grand Canyon, it continued raining so we didn’t do any hikes down the canyon. We only took the shuttle bus to see some of the great overlooks and left Grand Canyon after only staying there for one night to get back to the sun, which we were sure to find in Las Vegas. Wrong thought!!! It didn’t quit raining at all so we had to stop in Kingman, about 120km south east of Vegas and took a motel – for the first time since we are on the road. With the comfort of having a TV we heard that it was snowing in Grand Canyon and the rain was not supposed to stop for the next days in this area. Let’s see how the weather will be in Vegas. I am sure Las Vegas will be a culture shock after all the National Parks and pure nature we experienced for the past 4 weeks!
We are doing great as ever and enjoy travelling a lot!! The bikes are running great, just the Suzuki is making a bit trouble. The cylinder head sealing and the sealing of the left side of the fork are lacking. We had also broke a little part when we put the tire back in after we got it changed in Astoria. That’s why the odometer and speedometer don’t work any more. We will get everything fixed in San Francisco!
Well, we hope you guys are all doing as well as we are!? Take care, safe riding and hope to hear from you soon!!
CHEERS!! Alex and Henno
Las Vegas – Sequoia National Park – San Francisco, 11-11-2004
We were right, Las Vegas was a bit of a culture shock!! But at least it had stopped raining when we got there and the 2nd day the sun even came out again. Since we kind of have to save our money we did not join the gamblers but went to see some of the amazing hotels like „New York New York“, „Paris“, „Venetian“, „Caesar’s Palace“, … The first one looked just like a shrinked New York with a roller coaster on top of it. The „Venetian“ looked like Venice with Gondolas going on small canals. And the ceiling made you feel like you were outside on a nice sunny day.
In a crazy way it was amazing. We only stayed on our campsite – rather an asphalt parking lot right on the „Strip“ (THE Hotel and Casino street in Vegas) for two nights before we hit the road again.
From there we headed towards Death Valley. It was not very easy to get there because a lot of the main entry roads were closed due to the bad rains that had washed out the roads 2-3 months before we got there. We wanted to enter the valley from the east on Hwy. 190, which was closed as well. But we met a trucker who told us it would not be a problem to take that road with our bikes as long as we won’t get caught by a ranger. It was almost getting dark so we decided to take the closed road instead of taking the detour.
At some points the road was not just damaged but even big pieces of the road were missing. We had to ride on deep gravel through a dry river bed that connected the still remaining parts of asphalt. It was not very easy on two wheels and at some point I couldn’t handle it and fell. But nothing really happened except some scratches on the side of my aluminium box. Falling without getting hurt is probably a good experience!?
We had stayed three nights in Death Valley. We went to see a dry Salt lake which is 85.5m below sea level, some sand dunes and the ghost town Rhyolite. We didn’t think it was that great, but we liked the weather and the decent temperatures. It was not too warm, just perfect.
We also got to meet some lovely creatures: Tarantulas. They had their mating season and we really had to watch out for them on the road so we didn’t run them over.
Just in time before the rain came into Death Valley (I had thought it would never rain in the desert!?) we took off towards Sequoia National Park. On our way there we got into some heavy rain so we „had“ to take a Motel again. The next day the sun came back out and we went on a nice curvy road through the Sierra Nevada California’s where it had snowed the night before. It was so pretty!
We also had about 30cm (1 foot) of snow in Sequoia Park. It was just beautiful with the huge snow covered trees.
Once in a while it was even snowing pretty bad when we were riding around in Sequoia Park, but the roads were still passable for us. That was probably the last snow that we will see for the next few months. Just 20km west of Sequoia Park – on our way to the west coast – we went along palms, orange trees and cotton plants again.
Through the American BMW forum Henno got offered a place to stay in Los Gatos, about 140km south of San Francisco. After we called there Henno and I went to Stephen’s and Sharon’s (www.burnszilla.com) house. They are a really nice people who live in a beautiful house in the middle of the Redwood Forest. We stayed there for two nights and changed the oil in both bikes what was about time! It was really nice and we just left some of our stuff there which we were going to pick up after we went to San Francisco.
On the 31st of October we went to see our friend Jeannine from Cologne who goes to University of San Francisco and celebrate Halloween with her. It was crazy and downtown was packed with drunk people. We didn’t like that too much and decided to go to a more quiet place and have a beer there. We could not stay at Jeannine’s place for our whole visit in SF because she lives in a dorm on campus. But again through the American BMW forum we got another offer to stay just about 20km north of SF. That’s where we (Heiko was with us this time) went the next day. Our host was Thor, a really nice 71 year old retired guy who loves to travel all over the world on and off road on two wheels (!!). We could even stay there for more than a week and went on day trips to SF and the surrounding area. Thor also gave me a BMW heating vest which is great since I’m always freezing and Henno got some „left over“ parts for his bike!!
We liked SF a lot. It is not too big and there where many pretty just recently restored Victorian houses. Of course we went to see all the tourist attractions like Chinatown, Japantown, Golden Gate Bridge von from all directions, Fisherman’s Wharf and the curviest road of the world, „Lombard Street“.
We also just walked and rode through the city and enjoyed it’s flair. Henno and I tried to see our friend Jeannine as often as possible what was not easy with our booked out calendar (stressful vacation, you know…?!). Meanwhile we did some work on our bikes as well (Henno’s BMW got a new battery, the Suzuki got a new fork seal and oil) and just hung out which can be also nice.
If you were ever wondering what had happened to our friend Rudi, Heiko had started travelling with: we accidentally ran into him on the Golden Gate Bridge! He is doing well, just his bike needed some new parts and he is still planning on going to the east coast. Henno and I met him one last time to wish him all the best for his trip before we went back to Stephen’s and Sharon’s place in Los Gatos. We just wanted to pick up the stuff we had left here and leave the next morning, but since it is raining pretty bad they offered us to stay one more night with them. Now we have enough time for finishing with our new entries for the website and trying to find our camera that we had lost yesterday. The worst thing are the slides that are still in it. But we have to admit it was our own fault. Luckily we still have the digital camera.
Tomorrow we will meet back with Heiko in Santa Cruz where he went to get new tires. From there we will take Hwy. #1 down the coast – and get pretty soaked if it keeps raining like that. Our Visa for the USA will expire on the 17th of November, so we have about one week left for the last 900km before we go down the Baja California in Mexico. So far we are on the road for almost 4 months now and made about 25.000km. Not bad, eh! I’m sure things will get a lot different once we get to Mexico, but we are really excited about that.
We hope you are having a nice November with less rain than we are having right now…. Maybe I should mention that we did have a lot of sun for the last 10 days we spent in and around San Francisco! It’s not always raining in California.
Take care, ya’ll, Alex and Henno
San Francisco – Los Angeles – Palm Springs, 16.11.2004
Although we had spent only a few more days there was a lot things I want to tell you: Like we had „planned“ we had left Los Gatos the next day with a nice sunny sky! We picked up Heiko in Santa Cruz and cruised down Hwy. #1 along the cost to get south. A bit north of Santa Barbara we saw a huge herd of Elephant seals on the beach. It was so much fun watching them, we could have stayed there forever!
Our last days in the States were not as relaxing as we expected them to be. Our time of bad luck that had just started with the loss of our camera in SF – which, of course, we never got back – continued. I lost a mascot my brother had given me before we left. It was glued to the „cockpit“ of my bike and it had fallen off. I was really upset about that! The following day – we were just having dinner – one of our tent poles broke. The tent was untouched and put up hours before that. The next day in Santa Monica Henno had ran into a Mini car. Luckily nothing happened besides broken plastic parts on the Mini.
Finally in L.A. we only went to an outdoor store to get a new tent (it has life long warranty) which was not a problem after we asked to talk to the manager. Well, we didn’t really feel like staying in L.A. much longer so we decided to go farther south along the coast to find a campground. Since this was an area where people go with their huge RVs we had to go all the way to Newport Beach to find a place where we could put up our tents. We were just done putting everything up on one of the most expensive and fanciest campground of our trip so far, when 3 police cars stopped in front of our tents and we were told not to move and stay where we were. First acting a bit silly, later rather scared, we watched the policemen running into a cabin about 15m next to us with loaded weapons. We assume it had to do something with drugs…
We were quite relieved that there where no shootings and after all the excitement was over and we were allowed to move again we decided to just sit and relax in the Jacuzzi. The camping place manager felt really sorry about the inconvenience and paid our money back…
The next day Henno and I went to Palm Springs to meet Ruth and Claus, some of my parents‘ neighbours to spend some time with them. It was really nice to meet people from home and we all had a great time. Heiko had gone ahead to Yoshua Tree National Park where Henno and I picked him up 2 days later. All together we drove through the park with it’s interesting and nice trees.