The Y2K "Between Jobs" Ride

Being a chronicle, June 30th to September 26th, 2000ce.

Friday, June 30th

  • The bike is packed, I'm clothed and fed, and that's the way such things start, I guess. After leaving southern Trinity county, I had to put a shirt on under my jacket as the Pacific ocean has been making the coast awfully cold. That photo was taken as I was coming down toward the coast in Humboldt county. Luckily, the coast highway itself was often quite clear and sunny.

    I finally got all the way to the sea south of Eureka in Humboldt, to the small town of Shelter Cove. Honestly it's nothing to bother photographing, but just north of the town there is a place called Black Sand Beach. I got two good photos, one looking toward the south, and one looking toward the north.

    Friday night was wonderful in its own way. I found a campground that I had been to once before, by accident. It's in the Kings Mountain range, a wilderness area with few roads, but lots of trails.

    While there, I performed my first Minimalist Motorcycle Camping effort, and it worked very well indeed. 8 bread rolls, 6 slices of Provolone cheese, a can of Pizza flavored Pringles, two bottles of Margarita-flavored "malt beverage", and some trail mix. Gee, yummy! It's astounding I didn't finish it all.

    I also hiked up to the top of a "mountain" near the campground in time to see the sunset. For my first day on the road, alone, it was a wonderful ending. The wind was blowing like a typhoon, I was surprised I didn't hear more branches breaking. The sun set perfectly, I reached the summit just as the sun touched the sea, in bright red, and I watched it slowly sinking into the ocean, until finally it vanished.

    Would that someone could have been there to share it, or that I had remembered my camera.....

    Saturday, July 1st

    The one highlight was riding through the giant redwood groves. These trees are huge! And these aren't anywhere near as big as many were before the first wave of logging in the late 1800's.

    I took one photo, mostly because you cannot get a sense of scale without being there yourself so photo's are sort of pointless. I entitle this work American Tree, Japanese Bike, Oriental Wisdom.

    If you really want to take the time, a huge version of the photo is available.

    Sunday, July 2nd

    Sunday is interesting for only one thing, the vast number of bikers that gather at Alice's restaurant south of San Francisco each Sunday to show off their bikes.

    The Minimalist Motorcycle Camping FJ1200 is in the foreground, in case you can't see it amidst all those other bikes...

    Things have stabilized for a little while, staying with friends, taking care of business, being thrown out of cell phone dealerships... (no, I'm not kidding)

    Friday, July 7th

    Note: When a motorcycle has a chain, chain wear is especially important to watch out for. Along with tire pressure and oil level, chain tension should be checked every couple hundred miles. Chain lube is important as well, the chain wears faster when dry, even if it is an O-Ring chain.

    Why do I say this? Because I forgot to check, I forgot to lube, and when I finally did remember to check it was very loose and very dry. Many thanks to Action Cycle in Napa for not only being open, but in taking good care of my poor neglected chain. As of today, I will be carrying with me a correct sized wrench and a can of chain lube. (really, I know better. ask anyone I've helped with their own motorcycle maintenance. this was a gross error on my part which shall not be repeated.)

    It does, however, highlight one of the major benefits of shaft-drive bikes over chain drive. I've had both, and chains are a major pain at times. A shaft drive just plain works. If you have a chain, spend the extra $30 and get an O-Ring style. The difference in wear is well worth it.

    Sunday, July 9th

    San Francisco to Los Angeles, approximately 550 miles in about 7 hours. A very fast trip due to high speeds, even with bathroom breaks and refueling stops. It was fun.

    Morro Bay has some of the most interesting rocks I've seen. Huge vertical granite blobs, pushed up and eroded away, looking like some kind of cosmic dotted line running inland.

    I feel I must explain the above photo. The rock looks far, far too small. The buildings and the rock are actually separated by a kilometer of water, and there are cars on a road around the base of the rock that look like small discolorations in this photo. It's a big rock.

    Out on the continental shelf near Santa Barbara are a bunch of "off-shore" oil platforms. The first time I saw them I couldn't figure out what kind of boats were all lined up like that! The oil is piped directly to shore, to a small refinery. That's about as good a way to do it as I can think of.

    LA has air pollution, very much like Tokyo. The two cities share many attributes in common, but mostly because of size. What Tokyo has done far better is maintain a central identity. Los Angeles simply spreads out. The photo I took from Griffith Observatory shows it well. There is almost no way to get around without a car (or motorcycle) where being in Tokyo, unless you want to go outside the city and don't want to ride in trains, there is little reason to have a car at all.

    Yes, as some of you might have guessed, I blame it on what governments have tried to force on their citizens. Tokyo didn't have zoning laws, so people built their businesses within easy reach of their customers. With zoning laws, American town and cities have ended up with large areas that the people have to leave in order to reach services. No matter what the idiot "planners" try, they cannot force such organic adaptation. Like small computers, it is the lack of regulation that allows adaptation of providers to the needs and desires of their customers.

    Ludwig von Misses was right.

    Ok, enough politics.

    Wednesday, July 12th

    Ah, there is only one thing better than getting back on the road, and that's.... Ok, there are lots of things better than getting back on the road, but mostly because today it was roads through Los Angeles. Hot, dry, windy, and slow. By Cromm I loath traffic jams. The air-cooled FJ gets a bit warm at such times, and I'd hate to loose an engine because I wasn't moving. There's no poetry in that.

    One place I had to go was Marina Del Rey, one of the busiest coastal ports in America, and it doesn't move freight at all. Just fishing boats and personal craft. There was even a movie made about the Coast Guard post at Marina Del Rey. Maybe I'll look it up on the Internet Movie Database some time.

    Unfortunately, I did not take the time to pry into private boat yards, or any other such thing, so the above picture will have to suffice. Simply think of that same picture repeated over about four square miles.

    Yes, I had to get one good shot to prove that I was here. It's a very touristy thing to do, but I did it anyway.

    That was taken on the grounds of Griffith Observatory. This is the place that the movie The Terminator used for the Arnoids entrance.

    Unfortunately, due to the vast amount of light pollution from L.A., the telescopes have become completely useless for stellar observing. It is now used as a solar observatory, planetarium, and as an educational center. Thus the sea of blue-shirted school kids in the photo.

    Now, if you will excuse me, the pool is calling.

    Friday, July 14th

    Well, it had to happen. At some point I had to deal with my Stuff.

    But first, of course, the Universe had to throw in a curve-ball. Another point of motorcycle maintenance is hydraulic fluids. These can, on some bikes, be not only brake fluid, but clutch hydraulics as well.

    I was reminded when I got on the bike this morning, and found myself having a very hard time shifting. If you've ever needed your brakes bled, to get the bubbles of air out, you'll understand. My heart sank as I pulled the clutch handle all the way in with almost no effect at all. I had let the fluid level get low enough to suck in air.

    The only way to bleed the air out of hydraulic lines is to waste fluid to purge the bubble. This leads to bad karma, assaults by hostile EPA agents using tanks and incendiary tear-gas grenades, and worst of all is that brake fluid is one of those nasty chemicals that eats paint. It is not to be spilled, especially on bike parts.

    Riding back to Napa yesterday had one real side benefit: to the rescue came Action Cycle again, who bled the system right away and allowed me back on the road with only one hours delay when it might have been all day hunting down hose and a bottle to bleed the lines myself.

    So finally came 250 miles in the California central valley heat, up I-5 on the bike at DoD nominal speeds, to be able to pack some stuff and still get a nights sleep before driving back. A boring ride, hundreds of miles without any curves, much less corners, but what must be done must be done.

    I5 does have some interesting things to see on occasion, and finally a shot of Mount Shasta from just a bit too far away for clarity. At 14K feet, it's 2K feet higher than Fuji-san, but does not have that wonderful symmetrical cone.

    By the time the curves on California Hwy 299 come along, there will often be things 1 and things 2 to prevent fun. I miss my motorcycle, even if I can take photos while moving in the car...

    Computer parts, lamps, modular shelving that goes beyond bricks and boards but only in materials used, tools for repairing things like motorcycles and making ugly but functional wooden objects, books, more books, anime tapes, clothing in various states of repair... all those interesting things that look good in an apartment or house when one "lives" there.

    With my trusty "uncle Dirt" mobile and Running Dog trailer, I made 500 mile round trip days for three days:

  • Trip one, just the car, no externals or photos, on Saturday. (I had forgotten the camera)
  • Trip two, at the start, and loaded into the storage unit, on Sunday.
  • Trip three, at the start, and loaded into the storage unit, on Monday.

    One interesting point is how a trailer can render such useful things as rear view mirrors completely useless.

    It was time for a real push, to complete the project. So rather than sleep Monday night, I simply drove back to Hayfork, stayed awake and made:

  • A 2am run south to finish loading my stuff into the unit, on Tuesday Morning.
    I own far too much stuff.

    Then back up I5, passing under one of those interesting things that abide I5, to load the bike up for a one-man, two vehicle completion of this project:

  • The final Hayfork photo, Tuesday, July 18th. FJ, Dirt mobile and Running Dog trailer in one package, off to end the day in Napa.

    Tomorrow, the bike goes to Action Cycle for a new chain. I'm not even unloading it from the trailer. (yawn) 42 hours so far, I gotta get some sleep...

    Wednesday, July 19th

    One final photo of the storage unit, now containing everything but the car, bike, and what I carry on the bike for personal maintenance.

    Oh, right, not quite everything. Nothing flammable. Propane bottle for camping and all ammunition has to be stored elsewhere. It's surprising how heavy a case of Chinese 7.62x25mm cartridges is! Still in the original wooden crate, too, although it is beginning to break from the stresses of shipping and moving.

    Tuesday, July 25th

    Job hunting. Ugh! An abominable and exhausting process. However, today was spent back at an old haunt of mine, NASA Ames Research Center.

    I worked there for about 6 years in total, with a break in the middle to do network engineering for a start-up that never did go public...

    Some interesting sights of Ames:

  • The Worlds Largest Wind Tunnel
  • Me, in front of one of the Navy submarine chasers and Hanger One, which was built to house gigantic airships
  • A couple of Marine National Guard FA-18's on the flight line
  • Sunset over the bay, as seen from I880 on the way home

    We'll see. There is so much more to do. Another round of interviews tomorrow at Ames, and then the @Home Japan Joint Venture Success Party on Monday the 31st, then off to Colorado.

    Riding a motorcycle across Nevada and Utah in August? Hmmmmmm.... Could be worse, I could be heading through Death Valley.

    Thursday, July 27th

    "Change is the essential process of all creation." --Spock

    Well, that's it. The paperwork is done, the pink slip signed off, and Nick Wilson Jr. of Silver Auto in Napa has driven off in what was my car, heading for the great consignment lot in the sky...

    Change is hard. I recently ran into some silly Japanese game show on a TV station out of San Francisco, and found it actually soothing. No matter how strange Japan had seemed while I was there, I learned the patterns. They no longer represent any danger, they are not "different".

    This is the first time I have been without a car to call my own since I was 15. Each time the car changed, it was hard to watch the old one leave. This time is no different.

    It is, however, the first time I have given up a car that had any resale value after I was done with it. Everything still works, it doesn't leak like the Pinto did, or smoke, or simply not start. I never made any major modifications myself, except for the trailer hitch it's stock. More change, more new things.

    I wonder what's next?

    Friday, July 28th

    Another try at cell phones, no luck. Oh well, they don't want my money.

    A short hundred miles, a try to get a photo of San Francisco from the Marin Headlands. Sure, another tourist shot, but today was not cooperating. Too much fog.

    I did take one photo, which I think folks will enjoy. The north end of the bridge is having some earthquake retrofitting, which did not look inspiring of confidence from the underside.

    Sunday, July 30th

    Minimalist Motorcycle Maintenance must be performed on a regular basis. Oil level, brake (and clutch) fluids, tire pressure, chain tension and battery water levels. On an FJ, the battery is located down-wind of the engine. It gets hot, and the water (well, the H2O component of the sulphuric acid / lead reaction) evaporates. Today the level was so low that the lead plates were exposed in every cell.

    Adding distilled water is best, but for as long as a bike battery lasts just use tap water. And check the levels every week, more often when it's really hot out like this week has been.

    (Ok, I admit it. I filled it before I left Hayfork on June 30th, and forgot until today. Just trying to practice what I preach...)

    Monday, July 31st

    San Francisco. But this time, photos from the warf, and the water! Today was the final "We Survived" party for a successful commercial launch of the @Home Japan internet (and more) business. A boat tour on the San Francisco Bay!

    Ok, food. In New York, the sidewalk food is hotdogs. In SF, it's crab, sourdough bread, and clam chowder.

    Ooops, I spoke too soon. I guess hotdogs are universal.

    The Golden Gate Bridge:

  • A view of the North tower
  • A view of the South terminus
  • A view of the bridge from directly underneath


  • The fleet submarine Pampanito
  • Iron-hulled Balclutha, with fake gun-ports painted on, and schooner C.A. Thayer, along with several other boats of the Hyde Street Pier display of the National Maritime Museum and national park that includes the Marin headlands and San Francisco Presidio
  • A Super Tug, seen escorting a cruise ship

    There is a display in the museum of SF history, parts of ships, models, some figureheads, and a Chinese modular house that was built in China in the mid- to late-1800's for export to America. It even still has the assembly instructions (in Chinese) at the joints! How do you say "insert tab A in slot B" in Cantonese?

    No trip to the waterfront is complete without a picture of Alcatraz Island. Actually, I was just trying to get a good picture of a seagull.

    Tuesday, August 1st

    So. Just how far is it from Napa, California, to Fruita, Colorado? I guess I'll find out. Starting odometer reading, 34340.5

    First, of course, is to get out of California. I decided on Hwy US-50, the so-called "Loneliest Road In America." And of course it's loneliest sections are exactly where I'm headed.

    As to be expected, the ride from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe is not lonely at all, with the lure of gambling, but there were a couple of places to get good shots of what the Sierra Mountains look like at their summits.

    There was only one good place to photograph Lake Tahoe that I saw, and I was already past the itty-bitty pull-off suspended above a thousand feet of sheer cliff on the side of 50 going downhill very fast. Oh well, maybe some other trip. I know where the pull-off is now...

    Once down in Carson City, the Nevada capitol, I found a sign to say exactly what I wanted it to say. I'm very glad that's in American degrees, and not centigrade.

    I must apologize to everyone to whom I said I would not stay on US-50. It turned out to be the best way to go after all, even during the endless "lonely" sections. I had one man mention at a fuel stop in Austin, that he had passed me in a valley earlier and noted that it was 107 degrees! Wasn't I hot in that jacket?

    The answer, of course, is that I'd be hot even if I were wearing nothing, and the leather jacket is far better at deflecting bugs than my skin.

    The first time I drove US-50, in 1987, I saw Sand Mountain Recreation Area. When I told people that it was one, just one, large sand dune, no one believed me. Well this time I had a camera!

    Just before Austin is where it started raining. Not too hard, and never for very long, since most rain in the desert evaporates before it hits the ground, but it was a bit of a surprise. A deputy sheriff mentioned that there were some thunderstorms coming up from the south, which urged me to get on with the ride and try to get away from them.

    This chase worked until, finally, when I was about 50 miles from the Utah border, I saw this on the horizon. A veritable wall of storm clouds.

    By the time I reached the border, I had resolved to turn around because of the lightning! This was a major thunderhead, and the road was heading right for it.

    The last services in Nevada turned out to be perfect. The Border Inn Casino, Gas and Motel.

    Should this be called "Minimalist Motorcycle Hot-tubing"? Well, more like a hot shower and a cheeseburger for dinner. Oh, make that two hot showers!

    Wednesday, August 2nd

    The picture above of the Border Inn (more like "last chance gas, for real! we mean it!") was taken as I pulled out. Much to my surprise, they weren't kidding about being the "border" inn. The Utah border was about 20 feet from the driveway. So was the sign that said, "No Services 80 Miles."

    This photo is entitled Dawn Over Utah.

    There's not much difference between Nevada and Utah until the mesa and canyon terrain starts, about a hundred miles from the Nevada border.

    These vast areas of cliffs, canyons and rocks, and almost nothing else, are the result of erosion on a vast scale. The lack of vegetation to hold the soil together means that wind and what little rain this area receives wear away the soil leaving only gravel and rock behind. This type of terrain stretches over 8 states, the "Grand Canyon" is only a small portion of it.

    There may be very little life, but the rocks are quite beautiful in their own way. More photos will follow!

    Ending odometer reading in Fruita, Colorado, 35308.3. So, 967.8 miles from Napa to Fruita, by the most direct route. During the gold rush and settling of the American west, the average speed was 15 miles a day. I did what it took the 49'ers 65 days to do in about 15 hours, not counting sleep time.

    Thursday, August 3rd

    There are some interesting things about American farmlands, Crop dusters for instance.

    For a hundred years this area of Colorado has been blooming, living, growing for one reason only: Water.

    The Colorado river runs through this valley, but it is through the hands and minds of humans that the desert blooms.

    Sunday, August 6th

    The Colorado National Monument is the most distinct feature of the south edge of the Colorado river valley here.

    The US National Park Service runs an official site for the Monument.

    Luckily, it's a park that I can ride to and through.

    Three photo's of the Monument from the inside...

  • Looking down Fruita canyon on the west end of Monument Road, toward, you guessed it, Fruita
  • Independence Monument
  • Monument Canyon

    (Gee, such imaginative names...)

    Looking down on the city of Grand Junction, I am reminded of Obi Wan talking to Luke in the movie "Star Wars", as they look down from a mesa on Mos Eisley space-port: "You will never find a more wretched hive of skum and villainy. We must be cautious."

    There is no way to express the size of these canyonlands in photographs. The only way I can think of to truly grasp the scale is to travel through them personally.

    Saturday, August 12th

    I'm sure that some folks will wonder what is wrong with an FJ1200 that the bike would be in the shop again. Well, I can explain...

    The bike has not been ridden extensively for a year and 4 months prior to this trip. The little rubber O-rings dried out in the chain, the front tire was almost worn out when it went into storage, and it was already past due for a tune-up.

    A motorcycle is not a static device. It is driven far closer to its mechanical limits than a car is, especially on long distance, high speed or rough road conditions. It needs better oil and more intensive care than an automobile in order to remain in comparable condition. Luckily, the ongoing work can be performed by anyone who can understand what a "torque wrench" is and why it's important.

    One thing I will not do is open up the engine. A good reason is because I don't have a clean, safe and well stocked place to do it. The other reason is because I don't own a torque wrench.

    Today, Colorado Powersports, the Yamaha dealer in Grand Junction, is doing the tune-up, repairing the leaking clutch seal (where ever it is...), and they have instructions to tweak and fiddle, tighten, lube and balance the rest with the understanding that it will be thousands of miles before I am anywhere near somewhere to work on this bike again.

    (Note: Avoid Colorado Powersports like the plague! See below.)

    Maybe I'm paranoid. Before leaving Hayfork I also re-established the nation-wide emergency towing service through Motorcycle Towing Service of Las Vegas, Nevada. It was kind of nice that even after my year lapse in subscription, I was still in their computer. All I had to confirm was that, yes, I was still riding the same motorcycle.

    Many thanks to Owen DeLong of DeLong Consulting for letting me know there were two broken links on this page. Owen understands that web page design using a text editor has fantastic benefits in terms of reliability, compatibility and "bloat-ware" control, but it also means that occasionally I don't type something perfectly.

    The links, BTW, are fixed. Hopefully the bike will be soon, too.

    A promise of things to come? Or just another thunderstorm... I like Colorado weather, it's interesting.

    Sunday, August 13th

    A full moon rising over Colorado, as the sun sets behind. I adore the interplay of silver and pink...

    ...but still no bike...

    Tuesday, August 15th

    Well, it took until an hour after closing, but...

    I Got My Bike Back! And just in time, too, since I expect to bug out before the sun rises tomorrow to "beat the heat". Fueled, packed, and ready to roll, then sleep.

    It turned out they didn't have all the bits to complete the tune-up, so they cut some $$ off of the price. I wish they'd called me and told me this earlier, I would have paid the overhead for an over-night shipment of parts. All in all, I don't think I'll be going back there.

    Tonight, at least, I do not have "miles to go before I sleep".

    (Note: Avoid Colorado Powersports like the plague! See below.)

    Wednesday, August 16th

    Setting out at 04:30, off through, at last, places I have not been before. Across the Uncompahgre plateau of south west Colorado, starting out early enough in the morning that I thought I might make the Grand Canyon before nightfall. Well, almost....

    Here I thought that s.w. Colorado was going to be hot and awful, when what happens but I find out that Telluride is amazingly alpine! Trees, water, cold and rain. I thought this was August?

    If you want spectacular, I recommend hwy 145 from Telluride to Dolores, Colorado. Gaining even more altitude to the west, past Mount Wilson at 14,246 feet and several other peaks reaching to more than 13,000 feet, this wonderful road meanders through glorious passes and wide meadows. Thank you, Colorado highway department.

    However, the drop from Lizardback Pass to Dolores returns me to reality. There begins the real desert again, through the Navajo Indian reservation and other reservations. It's obvious why the winners in those wars sent the losers to this forsaken wasteland: No one else wanted it.

    Even more repulsive is that when actual value was later found, such as mineral and oil deposits, exemplified by the simple theft of the entire state of Oklahoma, the "winners" pushed the "losers" further into the wastelands. Or, like now, declared the land "preserves", "protected wildernesses" or "parks" to ensure that no one was going to make any wealth out of it.

    If anyone wants to know what life would be like after generations of totalitarian rule, one need only look as far as the American Indian reservations.

    And the "governments" have the gall to oppose "Indian Gambling", the one thing these people have found so far to lift themselves out of their destitution. Gee, here I thought it was their land...

    At the town of Kayenta, I discovered another interesting aspect of reality: The gentlemen at Colorado Powersports DIDN'T FIX THE CLUTCH!!!! I was lucky to stop without crashing.

    I pulled out the receipt and took a really close look this time. The items that the service manager deleted from the bill were NOT because he was trying to be nice to me after botching the tune up, it was because that work had not been performed. There was a little comment from the mechanic, "Clutch slave cylinder needs to be rebuilt."

    It would seem that the entirety of their labors had been while I was standing outside waiting. Nothing done the day I made the appointment, no calls to say it might take longer than they had promised or that there were any problems at all.

    Let's finish that by saying that I was surprised the hydraulic fluid didn't boil in my hands as I refilled the clutch. Again. This was not a procedure I wanted to get good at.

    There is life and a beauty to this land. Some few rivers are still not National Parks or Recreation Areas. Roadside jewelry stands abound, and the occasional casino and refueling stop bring in tourist cash.

    The canyonlands continue, and upon reaching the Colorado river things begin to get really BIG again. The Vermillion Cliffs stand on the west side of Glen Canyon. Glen Canyon is so narrow that 2 minutes after leaving the bridge I could not see it. The gorge is completely lost in the natural contours of the earth.

    No wonder the Grand Canyon was such a surprise when it was reported! A ditch, far bigger than any mountain (and many mountain ranges).

    Up 8,000 feet onto the Kaibab Plateau and things get wet again. Of course, this is also a vast National Forest. Good thing the Fed.Gov allowed one very overpriced gas station to do business in the middle of it. South then to the north rim of the Grand Canyon...

    ...or so I thought. I was within 20 miles of the park entrance when the rain was bad enough, and the lightning thick enough, to push me back, again.

    The road did have an interesting sign which I saw well before the real storm started. Didn't I already pay for this park in taxes?

    Maybe the taxes just went to the official National Park Service web page. "Look at the wonderful place we protected for you. Please don't visit." The commercial bus loads of people pay $20. The family station wagon pays $20. One more little example of corporate welfare.

    At least the National Park Service campground at Jacob Lake wasn't full yet, so the day started well, and ended well.

    Thursday, August 17th

    Traveling to the western edge of the Kaibab plateau toward Fredonia, the terrain is spectacular! The rocks are layered in such wonderful colours. And this isn't even the area called the "Painted Desert"!

    In Fredonia, the operators of Judd Auto Service had a wonderful display of wares for sale that I found very refreshing indeed. We had a nice short chat about California prohibitionists, the idea of an Arizona Free State, and how they deliberately keep their wares on display to please those like me who would be pleased, and offend those who choose to be offended.

    I took the time to buy some food and shake their hands.

    In fact, the lady behind the counter said it's very entertaining to see the looks on some peoples faces. Especially, I would think, people who vote for the likes of DiFi and BaBo, "my" senators.

    Two more photo's of these canyonlands and eroded plateau's before returning to the vastness of the Nevada "Basin And Range" style of geologic formations.

    That night I spent in Las Vegas. The good part was that I found a room for not too much money. The bad part is that I got stuck on the wrong side of I-15, on the back streets of the city in 106 degree heat! The engine boiled off about a pint of oil, and I was getting quite dizzy, by the time I was able to get across to the motel. Stop-lights and black pavement, combined with labor protests stopping traffic, make for some very nasty periods of time where there is no cooling to either me or the bike.

    Synthetic oil likely saved my engine. Chalk up another success for taking good care of my machine. Carry spare oil and hydraulic fluid on the bike, just in case.

    No pictures of Las Vegas. Why bother? Just do a Yahoo search on Las Vegas for far more "intimate" pictures than I could take. A cool shower and a nap do wonders for being overheated, well worth the cost of a motel compared to a campground.

    Friday, August 18th

    Up hwy US-95 out of Vegas. It was strange, at 07:30, when I left the motel and started out, I got caught in rush-hour traffic! I guess working through the heat of the day is better than trying to ride through it...

    There is one place on US-95 that I would have stopped if I'd realized it was there before passing it: the U.S. Department of Energy underground atomic bomb test area. Gee, look! Holes!

    Compared to the rest of US-95, holes are interesting.

    Stopping in Beatty, I decided to make my way into Death Valley, the lowest valley in the US at 280 feet below sea level.

    Death Valley also has its spot on the National Park Service web page. Actually, I'm quite pleased. They've done a good job with it, and if I'd seen the web page first I would have known that there is gasoline available in the park!

    But NooOOOooo! I rode my motorcycle into the hottest, driest, lowest place in the western hemisphere, and discovered that the road I thought to take north was dirt! So I turned east to Scotty's Junction, and realized I had to return to Beatty, after 141 miles and almost 4 hours, to refuel.

    While there I looked at the official park map I was given for my $5 (cars $10, half price for bicycles and motorcycles... bicycles???) and discovered that no one had bothered to put up a sign on the road toward Scotty's Junction that said, Hey! Idiot! You just passed a gas station! Behind those trees back there! No, Really!!!

    My pictures of Death Valley:

  • The long road down into the valley from the east and Beatty, NV. I wish I'd snapped a picture of the sign that said, "Steep road. Use lower gear next 13 miles"
  • Hells Gate toilet and information booth
  • ...and the Hells Gate view down toward the bottom of the valley
  • Looking up and east from the bottom, to one of the dry peaks that surround the valley

    Oh well, back on US-95, north to Tonopah, then west toward Mono lake and Mammoth Lakes, site of the 2000 Iron Horse Ride And Feed, and camping out for a couple of days in the cool mountains instead of the hot valleys with some old acquaintances.

    Saturday, August 19th

    It's good seeing people I haven't seen in years, and meeting new folks. Since I'd ridden in from the east the day before, while many other riders were off in the mountains or looking for hot springs, I took a ride up to one of the nearby lookouts and took a nap. Ah, the bliss of not needing to be anywhere, for one day at least.

  • The Minarets, named for their resemblance to the towers on a Mosque
  • A close-up of the Minarets in full picture size, 1536x1024, in case someone wants to make a poster or something. Hang it next to the other full sized picture of the Giant Sequoia...
  • Mammoth Mountain ski slope. Ok, maybe when it's covered in snow it doesn't seem like such a bad idea
  • A volcanic fissure left over from the last time this area had some serious volcanic activity
  • Trying to get a "pretty picture" of some of the flowers blooming in the cold air
  • Cute Woodland Creature found munching something near those flowers

    During the day Saturday, the rest of the attendees showed up in ones and twos, and while I missed getting a photo of the entire parking lot, I did get a photo of many of them.

    By the time I came out from my afternoon nap, the caterers had arrived and started cooking. Maybe it was the scent that got me up...

    Then it was talk, drink, eat, and be merry (Aw, I wanted to be Frodo) well into the night. I won the award for the furthest distance to attend the Joust, at 1,581 miles from Fruita to Mammoth Lakes.

    Several other awards were given out, but it was astounding what ones were not awarded. No one got a speeding ticket on the way to the joust this year. Usually, the award is given for the person with the speeding ticket written for the greatest number of miles per hour over the limit.

    No one was riding on tires best turned in for scrap rubber, and no one got the award for "Rat Bike", which is given for the motorcycle least likely to make it back home because of its obvious mechanical shortcomings.

    The man who's bike had won the "Rat Bike" award last year was there, but he'd bought a new bike. Surprise, surprise!

    The award for "Best Crash" was given to the only crash this year, also something of a surprise since it involved no mechanical or organic damage to anyone or anything, but the story of the crash was well told to a very appreciative audience.

    Check the official Joust page for more pictures of people. I was remiss in my photo-taking this year, but there were others walking around with cameras too.

    Ah... A campfire, good friends, wine, roasted chicken and beef ribs on a cool summer evening in the mountain air. Where, I wonder, is someone to share this with? May you who view this page enjoy it, please. Receiving the gift honors the giver.

    Sunday, August 20th

    Bear. No, not the cute, cuddly kind, but the kind of bear that wakes one up at night with its pawing through dinners leavings. The cute bear was wearing a pin that said "I Survived US-50 America's Loneliest Road". Hey! Me too!

    Since napping Saturday, and turning in before the end of the nights festivities, I was awake to hear some of the bears doings. At first I thought the party was just still going on, but realized that those grunting sounds were not being made by human throats. Had my brain engaged a little sooner, I might have yelled and scared the bear off, or at least gotten a picture, but after living in the mountains for good portions of my life I simply don't consider bears all that much of a threat so long as no one is stupid enough to keep food in the tent with them. The bear ran off long before the sun came out anyway, no real harm done. Just a little clean-up work.

    It turns out that folks had gone to sleep without putting the garbage and goodies in the thoughtfully provided anti-bear steel box, or in the even more imposingly built bear-proof garbage containers. But as has been said before,

    "Efforts to bear-proof campsites in the National Forests have not been fully successful, due to the substantial overlap in intelligence between the smartest bears, and the stupidest campers."

    Oh well, the bear didn't get anything important, there was little food left that anyone would have wanted to eat. Anyone but a bear, it seems.

    And breakfast was provided by the caterers at 07:30 anyway. Oh, the joys of camping in the wilderness!

    Someone did have time the night before to T-P a couple of the bikes. Gee, I wonder what those riders did to deserve that? Hmmmmm...

    And so began the long ride down US-395 toward San Bernardino and Los Angeles, through the Mojave desert. Just before leaving the Sierra volcanic area, I tried to get a good photo of one of the cinder cones just off the highway.

    Lava flows erode quickly, and this entire area south of Yosemite and west of Death Valley shows much evidence of recent volcanic activity. Yeah, like "recent" is 70 thousand years.

    But now its time to care for the cats, watch the houses, and await some friends return from their vacation. Glad I could help.

    Tuesday, September 5th

    It's fun on the first day of a year of Highschool, when it's someone else who is going to school. I dropped off one of my friends in L.A. at her highschool, and her friends got a good eye-full of her arriving on the bike. Just the kind of image to make an impression!

    Then back to pack up, do some Minimal Motorcycle Maintenance(tm) and get on the road back toward the north. Stuff to be done, don't you know.

    I hit the I-10 I-15 interchange at 09:00, making my getaway after I expected the roads to be clear of the majority of insane commuters. Then over the north side of the mountains that make up the Angeles National Forest, and winding off to the coast via some squigly little lines marked "scenic" on the map. As little Interstate as I could manage.

    ...or at least that was the plan.

    To those who notice, the United States runs its National Parks and National Forests through two different cabinet level departments. That means that there is no consistancy in signs, rules, or regulations between the two.

    I found CA-126 (or, as I said in my head, "Hyaku ni-ju roku") just fine, but soon after I lost track of it while going through Santa Clarita and ended up going north back through some very nice Angeles National Forest. It might have been nice, but it was not where I wanted to go. It's a fact: For about 60 miles, I was lost! But that is the price we pay once in a while when we ride roads for the first time. ...and it was a nice road.

    So I decided to just push up I-5, the endless long line of interstate highway up the flat part of California. Hundreds of miles of orchards, cotton fields, tomatos and rice. No corners. Boring! ...but quick.

    To pass the time, I was counting tenths of miles in Japanese.

    ...go-hyaku ni-ju nana...go-hyaku ni-ju hachi...go-hyaku ni-ju kyu...go-hyaku san-ju...
    ...kyu-hyaku kyu-ju hachi...kyu-hyaku kyu-ju kyu...Kuso! I forgot the word for "thousand"

    That happened several times. It's a long ride.

    There is one interesting feature of the San Joaquin valley, it is where the California Aquaduct runs. Thousands of miles of water, running south from the mountains and rivers to feed the massive industrial farms of the valley, and send water to Los Angeles. I believe that it rivals the Great Wall(s) of China for size and visibility from space.

    You might imagine that so much water flowing would have a massive current, and that things like pipes, pumping stations and smooth concrete sides might make someone think twice about taking a swim. Add to that fences and warning signs. Well, they still have to fish bodies, and once in a while someone still alive, out of the ditches. Not too often any more, it seems that natural selection has already removed the "must die while swimming" gene from most people. At least those close to the ditches.

    Exciting, right? Not after 400 miles of it, I assure you.

    While I was gone, there was a 5.2 earthquake right near my storage unit. I'll be going tomorrow to see what I have to throw away of what stuff I still own. Ugh, I am not looking forward to it.

    (Note: As I write this there has been a 2.2 aftershock! No, I didn't feel it. Sorry.)

    Wednesday, September 6th

    Comparing the pictures of the storage unit before the quake and the unit after the 5.2 quake, I am glad to report that nothing was broken. That bodes well for putting the bike in there while I'm away. Parking is such a hassle when one does not have ones own place.

    Thursday, September 7th

    Part of every venture is the journey, the quest, the process being enacted. Each effort includes its endpoints, as well.

    One of the things about this trip that has been interesting for me is seeing how people treat those endpoints, as well as how those endpoints treat people.

    Korbel champagne winery is one of the endpoints I like to visit. Not just for their red wine champagne, which is really good, but for their gardens.

    Being one of the older wineries in California, they've had time to put in quite a garden.

  • A flower called Love Lies Bleeding
  • Annual flower bed, looking out through the redwoods, across the original Korbel brothers vineyard
  • I do wish I could remember what these were called...

    Turns out Korbel is now making four different red wine chapagnes. Oh No! Choices! Thankfully, like other wineries, they have a tasting room.

    On a bike it's just a sip of each, then some lunch at their deli to make sure all the alcohol is out of my system before I get back on the bike. There's no reason to take chances, and alcohol on a motorcycle is a very bad combination. A little bit of thought makes for far more fun.

    I can recomend the Merlot and the Cabernet variations, for even more "spunk" and flavor than their original Rouge. But they don't sell these reds anywhere but their winery store. Thus my trip out today.

    And no, they're not paying me for this. I'm just a pleased customer.

    Monday, September 11th

    Tomorrow I leave for some job interviews. Yes, that's right, the "unemployed" ride may be nearing its end.

    The final milage on the bike is 37936.1, and I left Hayfork with something about 32800 on the odometer, which means it's been about 5 thousand miles on this run.

  • The bike is now in storage, too.

    We shall see when it will ride again. sniff

    Wednesday, September 13th

    Tokyo. Hey, I never said I wasn't looking for work in interesting places!

    Humans spread across the globe, east and west out of Africa through Asia Minor. This is unless you subscribe to one of the creationist systems, which differ mostly in what spot was the point of origin.

    Nevertheless, those walking east must at some point meet those walking west. Either Lief Erickson or Collumbus has that distinction, though we may never stop arguing over which.

    But it remains that humans have certain fundamental aspects in common.

    Outside, through the window from my room at the Hotel Okura Tokyo, is a shrine/temple built in/on/like a standard city building.

    The reason this struck me as strange is that I have become used to Japanese shrines having existed long enough for them to be separated, or at least insulated, from the surrounding city.

    This of course illustrates my own cultural experience, since I wouldn't look twice at a christian "church" built that way in the center of a "western" city. Maybe huge Gothic Cathedrals like St. Bart's and St. Pat's in Manhattan look as different to those who migrated east as the Hie Shrine in Akasaka did to me when I first realized it was there, behind huge gates on a tree-shouded hill.

    On the other hand, I could simply be suffering from nasty jet lag. No "could" about it, it's 05:23 am and I'm wide awake.

    If you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for a full day of interviewing.

    Saturday, September 16th

    Sightseeing. Ok, I had to hit at least one tourist trap that I'd missed on my first trip to Japan, so I took the subway up to Asakusa. Very impressive, very big, and the surrounding buildings and shops were stuffed to the rafters with tourists. Ugh!

    Some day, I'd like to hook up one of those towers to a frequency generator and see what kind of standing wave patterns they generate.

    After a lunch that was just too serious, I came to the edge to Tokyo Bay, and got a chance to see the Rainbow Bridge. It's obvious now why Tokyo is where the international tsunami watch center is located. This city sits perfectly poised to be flooded totally by such a wave, from practically anywhere in the Pacific.

    I hope that the Hawaiian islands don't have one of their landslides while I'm here, or such a resultant wave could be ... ah ... Interesting, in a Chinese curse sort of way.

    (I asked one person I met who happens to be chinese, she said she had never heard of "may you live in interesting times" but it seemed perfectly clear in intent...)

    Well, the news is that I have accpeted the position of network engineer at the company I interviewed with here in Tokyo. I start on the 25th. Yes, of September. Yes, that's only a week away, and yes I'm a bit nervous about getting my life together sufficiently to make such a severe change.

    However, everything I own is in storage. Most any book keeping can be done remotely, and as long as my friend Ed doesn't mind acting as a mail drop it should work.

    So I fly back Sunday the 17th, sort out what I can carry back with me, buy another pair of walking shoes (because Japanese stores simply do not have anything big enough for American feet) and say goodbye to friends.

    If there were a bridge across the Bering Straight, I'd ride my motorcycle to Japan. Then this missive could be that much longer. But in sooth my homeless, jobless, girlfriendless ride is about to end, at least in part. I got a job.

    The rest remains to be seen.

    Monday, September 18th

    Some folks have set up a going away party, on Tuesday, September 19th, at 7pm at the Duke of Edinburgh pub in Cupertino. Come one, come all, if you would like. I would enjoy seeing anyone who happens to read this far down this page. You have courage and tenacity!

    Tuesday, September 19th

    Thank you. It was wonderful seeing all six of you. One photo was taken, of Matt, myself and Alan, in full jolly party mode!

    Does it get any better than this?

    Well, yes, in fact it does. The Golden Gate Bridge was partly shourded in fog as I crossed it an hour after midnight. The ocean wind carried swirls of mist past the street lights, as if it were the bridge itself that was moving. Turning east toward Napa, the moon floated yellow in its last quarter, not bright enough to see by but shining in the water none the less. One thing I'm going to miss about living in the Big City again is how wonderful it feels for night to be dark. I hope the stars and planets don't vanish before I can see them again...

    Saturday, September 23rd

    I got to see the movie Almost Famous this evening. Besides having a java-loaded impossibly slow and cumbersom web page, it's actually a very good movie.

    It chronicles the rock and roll years I never had, but somehow remember as if I actually had been there. Well, I was, but I was 10. I grew up with the music, I was party to the culture, it is my history.

    One glaring anachronism: in 1973 a Boeing 727 would NOT have wingletts. But as Ed pointed out to me, there is only so much money in a movie budget, and to remove wingletts would cost far too much for a minor detail that no one would notice...

    This movie succeeds where Dazed and Confused failed, by capturing the atmosphere without being farcical. Highly recommended.

    Sunday, September 24th

    Everything but the cloths on my back in three bags.

    There are so many photo's I wanted to take. The sky, the bridges, maybe the airport, certainly the DDG's in the airport, but for whatever reason I didn't take any. SFO, NRT, the bus ride into Tokyo, remain merely memories.

    Maybe I just couldn't make up my mind when the end was going to be. Arriving at SFO, getting to the office or the temporary living space, or maybe Tuesday morning at the moment of "going to work"...

    At lunch on Saturday, the fortune cookie had three fortunes in it:

  • Life to you is a dashing and bold adventure.
  • There is a prospect of a thrilling time ahead for you.
  • You have an active mind and a keen imagination.

    Because of these, it was clear that the plane was going to crash, "dashing" against the sea, in a "thrilling" roller-coaster ride, feeding on an over active imagination.

    No, no such bad luck. Just an ending, a passing, closing a chapter with the slow smelly sneaking of a bus through Tokyo traffic.

    I thank you, honorable reader, for your patience and interest. The making of this page has been both wonderfully easy and impossibly hard, with no where near the number of pictures I want or wanted, or places, or people. Enough, maybe.

    Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to upload this missive and have a hot shower.

    05:50 Tokyo time, Tuesday, September 26th.

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