Monday, August 6, 2012

The relentless pursuit of the ultimate chicken sandwich

Hello from inside your computer! It’s hot in here! Well actually, I’m sitting in a dingy, soiled room in the Utah International Hostel, in Salt Lake City Utah, and it really is quite hot in here. As much as we didn’t want to do it, we had to remove ourselves from the beautiful bush and amble into another hectic metropolis to battle the bacteria growing on our bodies and clothes, and to rest our weary selves after 7 tiring days of Adventure Motorcycling through north west America. It’s been good, there’s no denying it - more mountains, ravines, rivers, awesome people, beers, fried food and inquiries into the pursuit of Duel Sporting.

Now who wouldn't have questions for these guys?
Even those with moustaches must sleep...
The previous post had us in the uber-cool trendopolous of inner-city Portland, where we could eat our panini’s and drink our whey-enriched energy shakes while basking in the free wifi oozing from every street corner. We made the decision in the car park outside the hostel that we’d skip riding the famous west coast of America, and return inland, east, to where the mountains loom and the rivers would wash the summer sweat from our bodies. We followed the signs to Mt Hood, and basked in another uncaring volcanic mountainous giant. Alas we did not stop to seek out snowboards and ride the mucky summer snow, but we chugged on with no particular destination in mind. The mountains and forest soon ended abruptly and we found ourselves being cooked alive in a flat brown deserted land, the lawn-mower-like throb of the bikes a constant drone of weariness and heat exhaustion. “Damn you Jeff and Steve, you Oregano bastards,” we cried in the relentless heat, “what kind of pub-trickery have you played on us this time?!” But then salvation appeared in the form of a lonely gas station amongst the dead shrubbery and long-given-up trees. This was no ordinary gas station. This was a desert haven oasis, manned by a generous and thoroughly fascinated family, who sell fuel and red bull. They gave us maps, they gave us refreshing drinks, they gave us the vital 91 octane that our steel beasts feed upon and they gave us good ol’fashion American hospitality, they kind that MTV and George W. Bush ruined. They gave us directions to where the best roads were, and we set off for an afternoon of seriously awesome motorbiking. Twisty roads, smooth clean pavement, and rocky desolate scenery that got bigger and better with each gear change. A free camp that night in a laxidasically patrolled State Park had us refreshed for the next day of canyon country awesomness. John Day Canyon in Oregon people: get online, buy some plane tickets, and come ride a motorbike through it TODAY, because you just don’t realise what you’re missing! Turn, after turn, after swooping bend, after whoops and dips, bridges over rushing rivers and nice old ladies serving delicious lunches, John Day Canyon taught us that the little “Scenic Byway” symbol beside certain highways on the map means good times and great classic hits, motorbike style.

John Day knows his canyons

Shirtless for easy back hair access
We rode the canyons til they turned to mountains, into rivers and back into hills. Finally we pulled up, hot, sweaty and exhausted, by some lake, in some place, just west of some other place (Baker City). We stumbled out to the lake and floated in the refreshingly non-freezing water, and slumped on the picnic table at our dusty, dry, open “camp site”. Not ones to complain, we instead sat there and pondered tonights hastily obtained dinner: 1 can of tomato soup, 1 can of mushroom soup and 2 packets of 2 minute noodles. It was just one of those days where you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve got to buy your dinner from a gas station, operated by a staring old man who probably hates you. So there we sat, not particularly interested in setting up camp, and really not very interested in the food we had to eat. And then we heard those delightful words that put a spring into every hobo motorcyclist’s step, “Hey you guys want a hot dog and a cold beer?” My reaction time was between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds. “We sure do!” And over we lurched to the Nelson family picnic, where we were instructed to consume the hotdogs, pastas, fruit salads and beers that adorned their picnic table. Quite different to our picnic table, only 100 feet away, where my soggy, sweaty socks and underwear sat smouldering on the bench seat, killing all surrounding fauna. We barely had time to tell them of our travels, when they discovered something hideous, something terrible, something downright nasty (and it wasn’t my socks), they were out of beeer! To the Nelsons, quite rightly so, this was a critical situation, where people of all walks of life must band together and fight the good fight, to somehow appropriate more goddam suds. Idle talk of going to the store was soon stomped out by Kim, who came up with the master plan, “You Aussies wanna come back to our place for a hot tub and beers?!?!?!” Atley looked at me. I looked at Atley. We both smiled. “Why yes we do.”

We packed up our stuff and followed the Nelsonmobile west to the bright lights of Baker City, Oregon, and proceeded to enjoy a super relaxed evening of beer pong, marshmellow fights, hot tubbing and checking out the RV. I woke up on a couch, not quite sure what country I was in, let alone who’s house, but I put it together pretty quickly from the family portraits smiling down at me. The Nelsons were able to spend the morning relaxing with us in our hungover state, and fed us a delicious breakfast that got us going for the day. Thank you so much for your hospitality guys, it’s people like you who make hobo’s like us feel less like hobos.

Nelson City

Little did the Nelsons realise that Mark was wearing a sexy corset the WHOLE time!

Oregon views
From Baker City we meandered east, back into the ripe potato lands of Idaho, and spotted some curly looking roads heading north into Boise National Forest. Stocked up with fresh corn and 'taters we headed back into the bush and were rewarded with more top notch motorcycling, through massive gorges carved out by the rushing Payette River. Some locals pointed us in the direction of Garden Valley and we located some enticing free camp sites with private access to the raging river, the perfect location to sip on the first bottle of scotch we’d appropriated in the land where any man can be president.

Garden Valley free campin'

Fancy good riding? Choose a road following a river.

Some say a man resides within.
Up fresh and early the next day, we continued riding ravines and gorges, basking in the awesomeness of the Salmon and Sawtooth National Forests. As always we chatted with worthy looking locals to gather information of the roads ahead, and if there was one man who’s camping advice you’d want to consider, it was that from Harley-riding, gun-toting, straight-talking Eddie, as he cracked a huge can of beer for lunch. It didn’t take much for us to mimic his day’s riding plan of heading North to Salmon, Idaho, for some $5 camping by the river. We met up with him that night, and had a jolly evening discussing the world over some brews and whiskey.

From there we zig-zagged our way east from Idaho into Montana, past the Big Hole National Battlefield. This was the site of the largest battle of the 5 month long Nez Perce War of 1877, fought between the US Army and the Nez Perce American Indians. We watched a movie about the battle, in the visitors centre, and I took the opportunity to respectfully sneak in a 10 minute powernap to regain some focus on the endless highway we seemed to be on. By then the mountains had opened up into a vast plain, skirted by jagged peaks in the distance, and we battled the fierce Montana winds on our way to the Lewis and Clark Cavern State Park. Here we joined the last tour of the day to be taken through a massive network of caves that had been a Wild West tourist draw card since ye olde horse and cart days.

Boil in the bag

The following day was the whole point we’d been travelling east: Yellowstone National Park! An amazing area of land, with bison, bear, wolves, elk, mountains, canyons, geysers, rivers and hot springs that certainly deserves more exploring, but from our point of view it was a bit disappointing. The blame for this disappointment can be squarely directed at the previous 7000km of travel we have just experienced through North West North America. We have seen so many spectacular and amazing landscapes, seen so much wild life, and been able to enjoy most of it completely on our own. And that was our complaint with Yellowstone – too many camera-wielding tourists, too many slow moving cars and too many swerving motorhomes to be able to enjoy the spectacular landscapes set out before us. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled with solitude so far, but there’s something so special about seeing a majestic foreign landscape with no one else around. Fees, ques, traffic and crappy food were unfortunately the motivators for us to get the hell out of there and continue our easy life of travelling the deserted back roads of North America, with only friendly locals and wild life to contend with.

Smouldering aqueous limestone spews forth in Yellowstone

But before I completely disrespect the first national park in the world (Yellowstone), I must thank Ranger John. We approached him with this predicament, “Excuse me, every camp ground in the Park is full and it’s getting late. What should we do?” Ranger John assessed the bikes, the facial hair and made a quick judgement. He then described how we were to get to a free camp, just outside the park, where we could peacefully camp in bear country, if our motorbiking skills were up to the entry track. Luckily, they were, and we bounced and throttled our way up some super steep “wagon tracks” and found ourselves on the slopes of a massive valley, with nothing but epic mountain views to keep us entertained. We drained the very last of the whiskey and proceeded to help a few dead trees reach their ultimate resting place.

Thanks for the hook up Ranger John!

The next day was filled with yet more amazing riding, this time on the switch-backed, cliff-edged Chief Joseph Highway, east of Yellowstone, and we eventually looped our way south to the Grand Teton National Park. We free-camped by yet another scenic river and met some more cool people. Our departure the next day was slowed however with my bike refusing to start in the cold. We hit it with hammers, kicked dirt at it, then ignored it, until 30 minutes later it magically started. The same thing happened then next morning, except in a worryingly remote location, deep in Strawberry Canyon of Wyoming. Concerned with the situation, we have since bought booster/jumper cables, a new maintenance free battery for each bike, and have adjusted the choke on my bike, more to Gasman’s liking. Here’s hoping she starts next time it’s cold.

"Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the oil goes in here?"

Strawberry Canyon

Chief Joseph Highway views were mostly too big for the camera to capture...
From here we point our bikes south to the world of fake Elvis's, drive through wedding chapels and crap tourney's - Viva Las Vegas!

The Grand Tetons are totally grand.
Atley takes time out to get friendly with a horse
And the video...

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