Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hamburgering across the wild north west

G’day from the big bad United States of America. The Canadian oil is flowing down here thick and fast and I can tell they love it by their frantic dancing in the streets at the festival we attended last night in Portland. It’s been another great chunk of time since the last update, taking us through the spectacularly scenic northwest corner of USA. It’s basically been like taking a bag full of twisty mountain roads, smearing it with rivers, lakes and wildlife, and repeatedly smashing it in our faces until there really is nothing at all to complain about. Our sauntering pace continues to reward us with hidden gems, like the free hunters camp on Bear Creek Road just north of Libby Montana, where we got some much needed pyromania out of our system and dispelled the much discussed myth that supermarket beer has less alcohol in it that liquor store beer in America.

Mad fire jumping skills going on right here
Waterfall number 47

People are generally rather interested in our journey, and we never fail to attract longing, yearning looks from middle aged men. This is not the demographic we generally enjoy being inspected by, white whiskers poking around under our hood , but we’ve nonetheless grown accustomed to the fact that 63% of middle aged men want to Get Into Dual Sporting. It’s a phrase we like to throw around and an ongoing statistic that we keep track of with a series of spread sheets and hand calculations.

Catching some prairie action in eastern Washington

I really should get into Dual Sporting...

Gravity works differently with lanky man
Our first border crossing with the bikes was enjoyably smooth and painless. Atley was not taken into a special room and examined internally, like I’d hinted, which goes to show we do still have unused storage space. The reward of our windy drive through the Pincher Creek area was much appreciated when we cruised the Going-To-The-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park in Montana. As far as spectacular mountain passes go, this one has to be one of the most breathtaking, as you cross from one enormous valley to another pretty much at the top of a mountain. The road is edged with hand built stone walls from the 1920s, reminding you that this was once used by horse and carts when the world was still in black and white.
Part and parcel of our pursuit for free camping leaves us with days between shower access, so bathing in rivers and lakes is pleasantly becoming the norm. I can announce quite confidently that there is nothing more refreshing that washing motorcycle-induced sweat from your bearded face in glacier fresh mountain water. It’s just one of those things that feels right. Beards and mountain rivers..... together at last! And it’s these kind of quality observations that really seal the deal on being Unemployed Guy Looking At Stuff.  I can see why the wise old men yearn.

Level 1 logwalking

Figure it out

Wanna chuck some rocks mate?
Spending every morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night with the same person, over, and over, and over and over again... is a beautiful experience, however mark and i decided that we’d give our blossoming relationship some breathing room and part ways in Montana and meet up in Portland. It was a great decision, as there is something very special about solo motorbike travel. Mark headed west to go check out the bright lights of Seattle and I took the scenic route and headed to volcano country.

The dormant volcano of Mount Adams waits for you

Goddam high school kids done gone and painted them rocks again

Mt Rainier is the tallest mountain in western USA at 14,410 feet and it is one massive, glacier covered, volcanic beast! Significantly taller than the mountains immediately around it, I caught my first glimpse of it when I was still 100km away and it made me yelp. It drew me like a magnet, so I camped at the White River campground where climbers begin their 3 day summit attempts. On the recommendation from Chris the awesome park ranger, I rolled out of my tent at 5am and hit the trail that’s used to get to the epic peak. I walked myself up past the first camp used by climbers and watched the first sun rays of the day light up Mt Rainier in a thrilling explosion of pink mountain awesomeness. One day I will be back to climb you Rainier, you glorious beast you.

Mt Rainier rules the land

Mount Rainier rules the sunrise

Mount Rainier makes it very squinty

The next day I continued my volcano tour and spent the afternoon inspecting Mt Saint Helens, the gal who spewed her black smouldering lunch in 1980 for the world to see. And what a freaking meal it was! Basically the top 500 feet of the mountain blew off and scattered 20 kilometres around, killing some scientists and SMASHING some epic forest into nothingness.  It taught the world not to mess with volcanoes when they’re expanding at 5 feet a day.... who knew....

Mt St Helens. Using high tech CGI animation I've drawn in the old shape the mountain, and the volcanic spewtum in mid air for you viewing pleasure
Meanwhile in the big smoke, Atley was learning that hostels, whilst being a great source of low cost accommodation themselves, are also a rich gold veined, ruby encrusted diamond mine of FREE accommodation down the road. Enter AJ the Awesome Argentinean. You see the low cost traveller must always have the next nights dwellings in mind and it is not beneath us to offer our company in the newly met friends house, when next we are rolling through their town. Bueno! A bed in Buenos Aires! Thanks AJ! 
Keen to drink deep the customs of the local peoples, Atley meandered down to Safeco Stadium to drink deep the beer, whilst watching men hit balls with sticks. This grew tiring in the hot sun and a nap was in order.

Hostel zombies
So now we sit in the relative comfort of the NW hostel of downtown Portland, enjoying the pleasant conversations of various internationals. Contemplating the tough choices, South or East? Refreshing coastal breezes or crisp mountain air? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode....

Stitching up a hole in me pants

Log walking level 2

Another thong is lost to the swirling waters of Glacier

Another lush rainforest moment proudly brought to you by Kawasaki

The highway. It calls us like a lonely whale song in the night.

OK guy.
and the video as always...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fresh Meat Mondays

Aloha from the beautiful town of Nelson, British Columbia! After a week of camping through various mountain and forest locales, we’ve emerged from the woods to get a welcome dose of civilisation. The weather has been warm and humid, so you can imagine the glorious glory contained within our armpits yesterday when we arrived, sweaty, dusty and stanky from the bush. Pure glorious glory.

Breaking in the new boots the hard way
Just the bare essentials

Spray lake clarity

It’s been a great second week, with another 600 leisurely kilometres put on the bikes, although it started with an unexpected slip n slide on the deep gravel of Spray Lakes Road between Kananaskis and Canmore in the Rockies. Our bikes are tall, laden with our worldly possessions and we are learning all the time how to handle them in various conditions. We were doing about 60 km/hr, in close staggered formation, Mighty Ducks style, when we entered a patch of deep, loose gravel, likely laid down by an evil minded grader operator (Canada 1, Australia 1). I was in front and my bike fishtailed like that of a guy who’s about to crash his bike. I tried my best to look cool in front of Mark and pretended I was just changing a song on my MP3 player, and I think he bought it for a few seconds, but then ach! it was too much captain, and I ended up sliding on my right side for a while. Mark watched me do this with an icy stare of control and locked up his brakes to join the party. Actually he only had time to say “sshhhhpppbb” and ran his bike into my bike, causing him to fall on his left side. We were both wearing all our riding gear, which are full of elbow pads and robo cop jokes, so both came away relatively unharmed, just a bit shaken up, but most importantly full of new found respect for grader operators. The bikes however needed some field repair, so we putted along to the next campsite, which turned out to be a glorious location for some R’n’R!
Matt got a boo boo

Atley got a boo boo

Boo boo repair
Reparaciones más

Stunning Spray Lakes at  Kananaskis

Happy with our Level 2 glue and duck tape repairs we hit the road again and headed west into BC. Mountains after rivers after waterfalls after curvy roads, fast roads, slow roads and gravel roads got us to the awesome little ski town of Golden. We camped by the river in town and soon made friends with the surrounding campers. We did a pub crawl to enjoy the sights of the town, with the intentions of seeking out Fresh Meat Mondays, but were sorry to hear that this revered tradition has since ceased. This made the pizza taste bad, so we retired back to the campground to carry on jovially with various campground characters.

Got wood?

We saddled up in the morning and hit the road in very comfortable and enjoyable riding conditions. Revelstoke filled our cases with food and we turned south to head towards the long skinny Kootney Lakes. A ferry ride took us over North Arrow Lake and we began the hunt for a free place to camp. The 3rd or 4th gravel road led us to a hippy hot springs healing resort and a group of sweaty, shirtless, middle-aged guys with far too much smiling and head nodding going on. We waited politely for them to nudge each other back into their cars and leave before chatting with the crystal wearing owner of the place, Maggie. She was all about motorbikes and hot springs and healing and offered her front lawn to camp on for $50, and even said she’d heal Mark. We countered her nodding with shaking and she was hip to our jive, baby. She gave us wacky hippy directions to some free camping and hot springs and 15 minutes later were heading down a logging road into some serious wilderness, wondering where the hell we were going.

We didn’t find a sign for B42 or the promised hot springs, but we did find a cool bridge in the middle of nowhere with an awesome crystal clear river rushing under it. We stupidly hadn’t had lunch, and it was late afternoon, hot and muggy, and Maggie had obviously cast a spell on us, because we were suddenly very much in need of some healing. So we decided this was it, and we set up camp on the side of the logging road and sat on the bridge waiting for the monsters to come.

If you go into the woods today....

Pannier camping stools

Level 3

From the wooded paradise we rejoined the highway and headed south for some awesome twisty roads and just another happy day riding motorbikes in the mountains. Pretty soon we reached Nelson and found the White House backpackers hostel, a find place to perform our bathing, washing and blogging requirements.

The White House Backpackers

With my writing now done, I shall wander into town in search of hippies and lunch. We're headed east now, to creston, cranbrook and ferny way. Peace!

And the video...

Monday, July 9, 2012

First week on the road

So here we are in sunny Calgary, slumped into an enormous couch in Kev and Tony’s 9th floor apartment, hiding from the cowboy hats, pointy boots and tasseled shirts that jangle at us from every street corner. The Calgary Stampede just started, so the city is in party mode, adorned in its shortest jean shorts and sleeveless flannel, ready to drink enough beer to kill a small caribou herd. And while our livers slowly process Stampede related toxins, it’s a good time to reflect on an awesome first week of transcontinental adventuring.
Matt ponders. Matt sips.
With 1900kms on the clock so far, we took the scenic route from McMurray to Calgary, via Nordegg, Jasper and Banff. Remember the goal of this trip is not to get anywhere specifically, it’s just to have fun ride motorbikes for a year, so we’ve got plenty of time to check out the side roads. If you have any suggestions of where we should go, please let us know!
Lakes make Atley hungry
First up we headed to Red Deer for Atley to meet the infamous Caveman. After our 2 previous weeks of working on the bikes and general trip preparation in Fort Mac, it was great to be able to kick back and not have a million jobs to do. Cavey treated us to some expensive tequila and pickled fish, a stone age standard. We celebrated Canada Day at Sylvan Lake without Caveman however after we lost him on the highway in the first 3 minutes of the ride out there, but still made the most of the cheery national celebration without our local tour guide. We spent most of the time in Red Deer reading about suspension upgrades for our bikes, as Mark’s rear shock seems to have failed. He’s managing with it ok though, so we’ve left the problem for Future Us to deal with when we’re in USA, the land of cheap motorbike parts and oversized everythings.
Caveman make fire
From Red Deer we headed west through the rain to Rocky Mountain House then Nordegg. I hoped to be able to find a free camp somewhere near Abraham Lake, that big blue lake the highway follows between Nordegg and Banff National Park. Luck was on our side, because the first unmarked gravel track we turned down was blocked by several boulders with Kawasaki KLR650 size gaps between them! You’ll have to try harder than that Canada:  Australia 1, Canada 0. With a huge lake front area to ourselves, a fast flowing stream, and awesome views in every direction,we decided that we’d best camp 2 nights there.

Lake Abraham
"This place is shit, do we really have to camp here?" -Atley
Seeing as this was the first time in the history of the universe that Mark Atley had seen the Rocky Mountains, we threw a few things in our backpacks and headed off to see if we could get to the top of this thing:

Vision Quest
Turns out we totally could, and smashed the 800m ascent and decent of Vision Quest Mountain in 4 hours. Mark celebrated the ascent by wearing flat soled skate shoes that slid easily on all surfaces, to up the ante of his first mountain hike.

Converse One Star skate shoes. Footwear of choice for the majestic mountaineer.
Coincidentally the next day was scheduled as Awesome Motorbike Riding Day, so we removed our side cases, stashed them in the bushes near our camp, and proceeded to ride the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic roads in Canada. Glaciers, mountains, rivers, the continental divide,wildlife, massive RVs driven by retired Americans and zero police enforcement of the speed limit, what more could you ask for? This 300km route weaves through valleys between untouched world class peaks in the middle of Jasper and Banff National Parks and it’s truly a privilege to travel through such spectacular country, so I’d like to thank Kawasaki and my mum.

Icefield Parkway glory
We returned to another fantastic evening at our camp on Lake Abraham that night, and were sampling some chilled cans of Pilsner, when who came wandering by:  Herman the black bear, trawling through what quickly became HIS stream! Luckily Mark and I had so far resisted the urge to spill the blood of the local fauna while at that location, so with no carcasses to fight over, Herman wandered past our palid, boney limbs, and off towards the delicious garbage of the lodge 2 km away. Moments later he returned expressing interest in a straight-to-VHS video arrangement, see below for the outcome.

The next day we rode the southern end of the Icefield Parkway in more blue sky and warm weather, through Banff on the way to our destination of Calgary. Once there Kevin treated us to a tour of some local Ale Houses with great success. The next day began with a free Stampede breakfast, boccie ball in the park, a few hours at the Stampede grounds eating pizza on a stick and drinking beer with the local wildlife, then ended with Chinese food and scotch on the 9th floor balcony. It’s a hard life being on a motorbike trip.

Air Quest
Majestic Quest

Glacial Ice. Need a really big Scotch.
Lakes make Matt very excited. Very.
Cowboy line at the Calgary Stampede

Now click on Herman below to watch him tour our campsite! 
Make it full screen by clicking on the very bottom right corner of it.....

So that leaves us about to depart Calgary and head west to see what there is to see in the land of British Columbia. The forecast for Golden says 31 degrees for the next 6 days and we've stocked up on a few supplies from MEC, so we're ready for some more mountain adventures. Peace!