Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mormons, rattlesnakes and long boards.

Buenos dias gentes! Another week or so has probably passed, along with more exciting events in the world of Unemployed Guys Looking At Stuff. Most notably would be that Team Unemployed Guys just recruited a new unemployed competitor, Mark Ferguson, our friend from Melbourne. 4 weeks ago he woke up sweating, after an urgent bout of the midnight terrors, but this time Big Bird wasn’t involved. It was a strange noise that filled his dream. The noise of three 4 horse power Victor mowers, incessantly blaring their message at him: GO RIDE THE BAJA WITH THOSE GUYS. Not one to argue with such a specific message from beyond the grave, he promptly left his job, house and life, drawn magnetically to the thrill that keeps middle aged men trying to pass their kidney stones: Dual Sporting!

Max Fergeson, Dual Sport Enthusiast

What the old men want

Riding the Nevada desert
I write this blog post from the shady backyard of Andy and Amanda, who were so kind to host us for a few nights in their wonderful home in the hills of Los Angeles. In the smoggy distance the Hollywood sign stands gaudily, and in the foreground the delightful Mexican ghetto suburbs waft up tales of tacos and tyre shops. Tucked away at the end of a windy road, this house has been a Mecca of relaxation after the exhaustion of desert sports. The tremendous views of the hilly Hollywood suburbs below are an excellent backdrop over which to reminisce on our journey away from the Meth addicts of Salt Lake City.

Psyching up to pump iron at Venice beach 

"Hey guy, whatcha dooing?"
“Well my friend, we did bloody well to get out of that one with our bodies, minds and possessions intact,” crackled the voice of Atley over the bike-to-bike intercoms as we roared through the inner city streets of that salty, lakey, sketchy city. Religious and alcohol attainment views aside, there was something just not quite right about Salt Lake City. I suppose it was partly the numerous references to heroin made by our fellow hostellers, or comments like, “You’re riding to Argentina? You must have money?!” and the fact that Atley had 14 thong/flipflop blowouts on the 500 metre walk to the shonky Chinese restaurant. $2.88 Walmart footwear quality aside, a man just shouldn’t have to watch another man have that many blowouts. It’s just not funny after the 11th time.

Clearly just a shed.
Utah storm front threatens the Dual Sporters. Unperturbed, we pushed forward.
Utah rock features
So we were glad to be riding the Utah road with the city growing smaller in our shaky side mirrors, especially when we could turn off the interstate and ride some cruisey riverside secondary roads to rejuvenate our hobo souls. Having obligations in Las Vegas three days away, we could not take our dilly-dallying route as per normal and had to keep the throttle open at highway speeds for most of that day. While stopping that afternoon to stock up on dinner goods at a tiny town grocery store, we inquired with a semi-toothless man if there was any free camping to be found in the area. “Sure is,” he cried, and with his heavily accented responses repeated 4 or 5 times each, some spelled out pho-net-ic-al-ly ,we took off in search of the local “crik” that would host us for the evening. As luck would have it, we found the crik, the bumpy gravel track and camping, and enjoyed another quiet evening in the Utah wilderness, with good old Uncle Sam picking up the bill.

Getting prepped for the gangs of LA
Riding motorbikes is like wearing a complicated bra under a corset under a petticoat under a singlet under a blouse under a blazer, then going dancing. It takes time to go from eating lunch mode into Dual Sport mode, and it takes quiet effort. No one likes to get motorbiked up then find out you’ve gotta wait for the other guy to do some other crap. It was after a particularly hot and drawn out luncheon in Utah that we finally hit the road, after several stops on the way out of town, and a few wrong turns. We were just about to hit the right highway when Atley pulled over. Regular operation of equipment sometimes encompasses operator based failure detection. “Dude we gotta stop, my highway pegs are loose.” We pulled over and inspected the herd, observing an empty bolt hole that wasn’t previously there. “Reckon it’s important?” mumbled lanky man. It was then observed that said missing bolt previously linked the engine with the frame of the motorbike. “Depends.”

The following day led us to the mighty Grand Canyon National Park. Eager to ride the fun open roads between the park gate and the canyon, it was not surprising when the blue and red flashing lights of a park ranger pulled us over. Dubious of the nervous officer’s power to do anything other than suggest camping locations, we listened patiently to his explanation of why it’s dangerous to do 20 mph over the speed limit, then baffled him with our trip plans and talk of the metric system. Too excited to even tell us his favourite camping spot, he let us on our way with a wave, a smile and a, “I love dual sporting!”

Large hole in ground

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon did not disappoint, and through a pleasant mixture of wide angle photography, wasp stings and portabello mushroom burgers, we spent several hours pondering our insignificance while peering over the edge of a very big hole in the ground. An interesting Geologist talk taught us that the age of the rock at the bottom of the canyon is 1700 million years old, and the Colorado River started cutting the canyon only 5 million years ago. Clearly not fascinated enough with this information, Atley still took his shorts off in the carpark 10 minutes later (to put his bike pants back on of course, geeez).

That night we had the pleasure of listening to a Blue eyed Arian family, giggly fart themselves to sleep at the next camp site. Like Atley’s thong blowouts, it got old after about the 12th time. We were on the road early the next morning, but not quite early enough to beat the $18 camping fee enforced by Ranger Walt B. Walton moments before we pulled on our helmets for departure. We had a final 450km to ride in extreme summer desert heat, towards the shimmering haze in the distance that was Las Vegas. The old sun didn’t disappoint, and we were soon frying like emu eggs in our motorbike suits in the 43C (112F) degree heat. It was all good until my bike started to act a little funny. Part of me began to ponder the strange surging that the bike was doing, while another part of me was gazing around at the blisteringly hot and uninhabited desert that we were very much in the middle of and probably didn’t want to be stranded in, and another part of me was rocking out to Jimi Hendix. After a while we pulled over and observed that the engine was still in place and the foot pegs hadn’t moved, but we swapped bikes to see if the desert heat was making me loco. Atley agreed he too could feel the surging, the heat of the desert, and the psychedelic funk that only Jimi knew how to produce, right around about the same time that I began to feel the same three symptoms on HIS bike. “Bad fuel man, bad fuel”, we cried, bopping our heads in unison to Foxy Lady. We’d already burned most of the so-called bad fuel in our tanks, so we quickly fuelled up, and surged our way through the final 50km into Las Vegas, eager to escape the desert heat, and to never speak of this surging again.

Our penthouse suite stayed this clean, even cleaner, the whole four days...
Enter Las Vegas! The happiest place on earth. Or is it the sleaziest place in the world? Or is it just some place to bet your bike on red and cross your fingers you’ll be getting a BMW? We didn’t know, but we did know we were extremely pleased to enter our 27th floor penthouse suite of the Palms Hotel and wash days of desert sweat off in the master bathroom’s 6-headed shower. And it was that day that we joined Matt, Isaac, Ferg, Mark Ferg, Damo and Jonathon to spend 4 lovely days in Vegas with. Strangely enough details of that period remain vague.

Demonstracion del burro
Mark Ferg however was not vague, and one hot August night while we were in Vegas he and I went to inspect a 2009 KLR650 that was for sale in the suburbs. The bike had enough forum-based mods to give three middle aged men the Dual Sporting Disease from 40 paces, so after some test riding he bought the thing. Thus began Ferg’s pleasant entry into Dual Sporting called The Paperwork Phase. DMVs in 2 states, insurance companies mis-spelling names on important documents and bank cheques with self-addressed pre-paid express-post envelopes of pre-specified dimensions were just some of the glamorous events that would turn this Adventure Riding Newb into a legend among men. Middle aged men.

Copping a feel
We left Vegas with clear heads and razor sharp vision. Luckily the road through the desert was straight and true, so we could pop our bikes on cruise control and head out back for a coffee and a biscuit. The Paperwork Phase forced a late departure, and that evening was actually the first that we arrived at the camp site in the dark. Lake Mead was the name, and hot temps were the game. We sweated every moment we weren't in the lake, and that made for a miserable night in the tents. The new guy didn’t complain though, and we soldiered on early the next morning, riding past the Mojave National Preserve and onto the sprawling urban beast of Los Angeles, California.

Hollywood tire service. Break time.

Atley had the mad hook ups, and we sailed into the Hollywood hills, to Andy and Amanda’s super cute house, with a backyard clearly designed for chilling out and changing tires. During the days there we picked away at jobs on the bikes, and Ferg continued his assault on the paperwork. Atley and I obtained some great new rear tires from the Mexicans in Santa Monica and installed them at Andy’s house, with just a little bit of help from some other Mexicans with a tire bead seating machine. In the evenings we hung out with our awesome hosts, going for a great walk in the surrounding hills and having the honour of becoming Tree People at a Neil Diamond concert! Nothing beats a local tour guide, and being driven into some suburb, parking the car, walking though some streets, around a fence, through some bushes, through another fence and arriving at a high point above the Greek Theatre below, we were stoked to sit and drink beers while listening to Neil Diamond belt out his classic tunes, pro bono.

Awesome Andy and Amanda!

We only change tires before fabulous views
The getaway vehicles.
Hopefully before Andy and Amanda got sick of Australians, we moved on to more of Atley’s hook ups, and stayed with Pete and Beth, and their two little boys Teddy and Evan. It is yet again a fascinating and humbling experience to have people who hardly know us, open up their home, possessions and energy to three homeless motorcyclists (looking at stuff). Here we’ve been able to continue the battle against Ferg’s paperwork demons, spend our days lounging in the backyard pool, and have a great holiday from the holiday. The highlight for me was definitely our trip out to Venture Beach on my 30th birthday a few days ago, in two vehicles loaded with 4 long boards and the family beach gear. Pete had us straight out to the point, and with his expert direction we were all standing and riding the Californian waves into the beach like champs. An awesome Mexican dinner and beers afterward was a great end to the day, and left us all fat and happy for the car ride home.

Birthday guy has a big one.

Max catches waves.
Atley caught a baby
The cute little face as he eases his nails into your leg
Well that’s about it. Paperwork Phase is still not complete, so our time in LA continues. Once we’re set, it’s half a day’s ride south to the Mexican border, where the 1000km long Baja Peninsula awaits our exploration. So stay tuned! We hope you’re enjoying The Adventures of Unemployed Guys Looking At Stuff! We are!!!

Moving photos (remember to click fullscreen, might have to "view in YouTube"):


  1. Hope you enjoyed peeing on LA.

    We enjoyed havin' ya!!!

    GO GO GO!!!

    1. There's nothing more rewarding than peeing on iconic cities. Thanks Andy!