Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Interlude

I'm home until September 6th or so, recharging the batteries and the bank account, and resting my butt. Then I return to Portland to reclaim the scooter for the rest of the trip. See for details of this adventure.

Looking back at my blog entries, I suggest reading them from Day 1 up, rather than last to first the way they appear. They start with trepidation, move to the amused traveler mode, then to just plain tired, and finally, thank God I made it by the end. There are lots of things I remember, but didn't say in the blog. Perhaps I was either tired, rushed, or spaced out when I posted. It's tempting to go back and edit, but that's just not authentic so I won't do it, except a few songs stick in my mind from certain days, so they get added.

I am working hard back at the office, trying to catch up from being away, and trying to get ahead before the Cannonball Run. Also I am trying to let the kids enjoy the end of summer. Our house has become teenager party central this summer. Hours: midnight to dawn. I remember those good old days and am trying to let the kids have good, clean fun. On a different note, we are at about $3,000 raised for Canine Partners For Life from individuals. I am way behind on seeking corporate sponsors. I need some help with that.

We had a beautiful day here on Sunday. Before our family birthday cookout, I went for a ride with a dozen others from Annapolis to North Beach on the slow green ET2. My scooter couldn't keep up with the faster scooters. It overheated. I had to let it cool off for about 10 minutes and then I kept the speed down to 40 mph. I love the green scooter; it's my first one, but I miss the speed of the big red GTS in Portland.

My oldest child, Hank, goes off to college in a week! He's bouncing off the walls with excitement and nervous tension. Come to think of it, he's a little like I was before I started the big ride.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Day 11: Roseburg to Portland (and Seattle)

I made it to Portland at 10:45 a.m. I went directly to Vespa Portland to drop the scooter off for servicing. It has almost 5,000 miles on it since it left Miami! The muffler is loud and needs the same gasket that was not available before. Sean, the mechanic, was incredibly nice. I fear that some parts may be hard to get in the 4 weeks before the Cannonball Run.

My friends Shakti and Joe drove us to Seattle to meet up with others to see the Seattle Mariners baseball game. I know these people from the website, but that's a story of its own ... It was a beautiful evening for baseball. In the morning I'll drive back to Portland and fly home before returning to Portland in 4 weeks for the west-to-east Cannonball Run. All this riding has finally caught up to me; I am really tired.

[The uneventful flights home the next day don't warrant an entry. On the way home, I did write and send a slew of thank-you postcards to donors to Canine Partners For Life. It felt really good to say thank you. There are so many people who helped with this first half of my ride; if I tried to list them I'd leave someone out. On September 8th I'll fly back to Portland for the west-to-east part of the ride. See for information about that group ride.]

Miles today: 186.
Miles Total: 4389
Total Times I Got Wet: 3 (and for a grand total of about 10 minutes coast-to-coast)
Song for Today: Girl From The North Country, by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, just because I am listening to it as I type

Day 10: Sonoma Coast to Roseburg, Oregon

I got a late start because the 8-year-old girl in the pickup truck parked next to the scooter in the motel lot kept showing me amazing seaweed and other objects she had dragged up from the beach. It was cold, so when I hit the "large" town of Ft. Bragg, I stopped at a Starbucks to warm up. A retired guy and his wife saw my scooter and started the usual barrage of questions. This was different, though. When I told them about Canine Partners For Life, he unfolded the emergency check in his wallet, and made a very generous contribution on the spot - in fact, it's our largest gift yet!

Remember ... I dropped my helmet yesterday, and the plastic fastener for the flip-up face shield snapped off. Rich gave me some tape, but it did not hold well. In Napa I had stopped at a Safeway and upgraded it to duct tape, which held better. I love duct tape! It's legendary for good reason. Even my iPod Nano is encased in duct tape. But today I decided to look for a motorcycle shop. Coastal riding was cold, and any excuse for a stop was good. But the one in Ft. Bragg was a small Harley shop, and the conversation went like this:

Me (seeing only a couple of Harley skullcap helmets): "I broke my face shield. Do you have a helmet like this one?"

Lovely Harley Racer Girl: "Sorry, our customers don't wear helmets like yours. This is all we have. You'll have to try in Eureka."

In Eureka (the biggest city on the route) I found a real motorcycle shop and replaced it with a different brand, which was less expensive and more comfortable than the broken one. I love unexpectedly finding something different and better out of necessity!

Near Crescent City at the top of California, the scooter got loud, like it was in Oklahoma. A Vespa is just not supposed to sound like a Harley. But eventually I made it to Roseburg, 175 miles south of Portland. It was a little chilly because most of the day was along the coast in the 60s. I have to say it was the most beautiful whole day of riding. The coast was spectacular, the redwoods were majestic, and the scenery on US 199 from Crescent City into Oregon to Grant's Pass was also stunning. I was too worried about the scooter running loud and dusk approaching to fully appreciate that late-day scenery, though. I rolled through Crescent City about 5:30, which was 30 minutes after all the shops closed, so no one was able to look at my exhaust.

Once I got on I-5 heading north at Grant's Pass, I have to admit it was the scariest ride of the journey. It was mountainous, dark, cold, and truck-infested. In the South, they have double-wide trailers, but not on the highway. Out West, they have triple-length trailers on the road everywhere. I was exhausted, and worried about the scooter.

After 45 miles or so, I stopped at Roseburg and found the first hotel. I was supposed to stay with Rob in Portland, but for the first time in my adventure, I was going to have to cut my riding day short. I had not realized that my route called for 610 miles in one day, which was just too much, especially after a late start and many stops to warm up.

Rosedale was very welcoming. At the front desk of the Holiday Inn Express, another guest had just gotten Chinese food. He offered to share it. As we sat down to eat, my friend Shakti in Portland called.

Shakti: "Oh, you're in Roseburg? The people are really nice there!"

Me: "Yeah, I know they're nice, a stranger named Steve is already sharing his Chinese food with me! See you tomorrow morning at Vespa Portland..."

The hotel's internet did not work for me, and the exercise bike was broken, but at least the people were nice in Roseburg, I thought, as I drifted off to sleep... hoping that I'd make the last 180 miles without incident in the morning.

Miles today: 436
Miles Total: 4203
Song for Today: Talk to Me of Mendocino, by Kate & Anna McGarrigle, because the Mendocino County coast was so beautiful

Day 9: Carson City to the Sonoma Coast

I made it from Carson City, Nevada to the Somoma Coast on Wednesday, August 2.

The day started with the group setting out from Carson City. We zipped through Tahoe because Rolf seemed to be on a mission to get home. Even my brief stop to snap the Welcome to California sign was too long. So Rolf and Peter said goodbye as I dropped my helmet and the face shield mount broke on one side. Rich gave me some tape, and Rich and I descended to Sacramento together. There Rich headed south, and I continued west.

As I descended near Folsom a few minutes later, I heard a buzzing noise. Oh, no, the scooter exhaust is coming apart again, I thought. Then I saw a Yamaha sign right before the Folsom exit. I pulled off to have the dealer look at it. Well, the dealer had closed recently, but I found a Mexican restaurant with delicious chicken taquitos next door. I realized the buzzing was just the tape vibrating in the wind!

A few minutes later just past Davis, I got lost looking for Route 128 , and wouldn't you know it, this was the one day that the battery had run down on my GPS, so it was no help. I used my best pathetic Spanish to ask a farm worker to get to Route 128 toward Napa, and it actually worked.

Wow, this was the best riding yet! I thought route 128 between Davis and Napa was the perfect twisty, hilly scooter road. Until, that is, I rode the even more amazing last 35 miles to the coast on an unnumbered road between Geyserville and the coast. Two motorcyclists in full gear snapped my picture as I went by. I turned around and told them of the journey; they were stunned, and took more pictures. I made it to the coast at Stewart's Bay just before dusk. It got chilly fast as I crested the last hill and descended to the coast. A few miles earlier, I'd passed a camp run by the YMCA, another of my favorite organizations. It was 57 degrees on the coast. I was not well dressed for that weather, and it was getting dark and the Sonoma Coast was sparsely populated. Then I saw a roadside deer, which is every cyclist's second-worst nightmare (a dumb deer is still better than a careless driver turning left in front of you), so I got a motel room at the next town. I had a not-so-memorable seafood casserole dinner at a nearby restaurant.I then went on the internet for a few minutes, but I was exhausted and went to sleep right at the keyboard.

I had used the gym at the Carson City casino hotel, bit I was still feeling sluggish from too many days without exercise. Earlier, near the restaurant, I found a gym that opens at 6 am, and I planned to get up early and use it.

Miles Today: 343
Miles Total: 3767
Song for Today: by Get Together, by Jesse Colin Young - because it's so California

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Day 8: On to Carson City, Nevada

We made it to Carson City, Nevada near Lake Tahoe tonight. That stretch of Route 50 is known as "The Loneliest Road." We had a couple of breakdowns, but it really pays to ride with the guy who trained all of the new Vespa mechanics in the USA!

All four of our scooters are the same model, but the hills proved that my scooter was slower than the others by a little bit. Peter could pass me with no effort. I was also getting about 15% less mileage on a tank. Rich and Rolf suspected that I had a dirty air filter, but it was not easy to check.

Around lunch time, we stopped for gas in a cute Nevada town, and Peter noticed a nail in his rear tire. So Rolf got out his flat repair kit and went to work. In 20 minutes, the tire rode like new.

We were on the road again ... or so we thought. Riding out of town, I was really lost in the groove of riding. It seemed like I had only been riding for a moment when Rolf passed me and motioned for me to pull over. Oil was coming from everywhere on Peter's scooter. We sensed a catastrophic breakdown. On closer inspection, the oil dipstick cap had been loose when we used oil to lubricate the tire plug. It was now lost. Rolf sent me back to town to get oil ... and to look for the cap. It was 12 miles back to town, and I knew there was no realistic chance to find the tiny dipstick cap in the scruffy desert. I pulled into a truck repair shop outside of town, figuring they'd have oil, and they might be able to figure out how to cap the oil fill tube in some jury-rigged way.

Rich was our savior. As I dismounted at the truck repair shop, he pulled up with a big grin and the dipstick cap. He'd been behind Peter. He saw the cap come off and went looking for it. Though he knew exactly where it flew off, it was hard to find in the roadside sand. When we found them and presented the cap, Rolf took a few minutes to clean Peter's scooter off and to make sure there was no apparent engine damage from the loss of oil. In the process I learned how to check the air filter, which was good. One has to take a lot of pieces off to get to the air filter.

We rode off, and had no more scooter misbehavior. We made it to Carson City by dark. We stayed at a hotel with a casino but we were too tired to gamble. What Nevada hotel doesn't have a casino, I wonder?

The pix up top are of the "shoe tree" on US 50 in Nevada (I'd never heard of it, but it was magnificent with several thousand pairs of shoes dangling like leaves), and Rolf fixing the flat tire. No rain today!

Miles Total: 3424
Miles today: 489
Song for the Day: Heat Wave (Linda Ronstadt version)

Day 7: Denver to Delta, UT

The scruffy badlands around Moab, Utah are like Marilyn Monroe: beautiful, but not my type. Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, by contrast, is 13 magnificent miles of twisting river, canyon, and lush trees. Today's ride was the most beautiful yet, but I had to keep up with the group so I took few roadside pictures.

Today Rolf, Peter, Rich and I got up early and rode 525 miles from Denver to Delta, Utah. I gave up a chance to ride solo through Jackson Hole, Grand Teton and Yellowstone in return for the safety of a small group ride to California, and a ride up the Pacific Coast from San Francisco. We had a lot of altitude and temperature changes today: up and down, and cold to hot to wet and back to hot.

My old high school friend Seth in Telluride called me back, but it was too late for me to divert through there. Tomorrow we'll ride down Route 50 all day to Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border. Maybe I'll post more later, but I gotta get some sleep, 'cause we're doing it all over again at 5 am. Ciao!

The score:
Today's temperatures while riding: high 98, low 55.
Miles today: 525.
Miles total: 2935.
Got wet: twice today, 4 times total.
Got high on scenery: don't know, I lost count fast today!