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Author Topic: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015  (Read 17076 times)

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Offline Jabus

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My route planning for this trip was minimal and I only booked the first- (Portland, Oregon) and last night (Baltimore, Maryland) in advance.  The rest of the trip was planned on a day-to-day basis.   There were only three places that I really wanted to see or visit:
•   Mt Rainier
•   Yellowstone National Park, and
•   Mt Rushmore.  
The rest would be a bonus… and there were plenty of surprises along the way!
September/October was chosen for two reasons:
1. The daily temperatures would be ideal for me when it comes to full ATGATT motorcycle riding, meaning temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius or lower.  Going over the higher mountain peaks the temperature occasionally dropped to about 3 degrees Celsius (37°F) but it was never uncomfortable (thanks to heated grips of course…  :thumleft:)

2. “Fall” with the associated change in colours in the forests was something that I always wanted to experience.  On a bike trip of course you do not only see, you experience with all the senses: sounds, smell, changes in temperatures etc.  To quote a Dog on this forum:  “When you do a motorbike trip you are not watching the movie, you are in the movie”.  The fall colours did not disappoint, especially towards the Eastern side of the US….

I made the decision to fly with my helmet, boots, jacket and GPS just in case my luggage went in a different direction.  Since I would be travelling alone for most of the trip I also carried some basic tools, a tyre repair kit, a compressor, duct tape etc with me.  This made packing and staying within the airline’s baggage weight limitations quite a challenge.
Trip Overview and basic stats

According to Google maps the most direct route from Portland to Maryland is 4,520km long.  

But my thinking was almost as primitive as a student that argues that “the more beer he drinks while it is on special, the more he saves”.  Thus my (primitive?) biker mind argued: “The longer the route, the better my R/km rental metric will be…”.
The actual GPS route that I followed was plotted onto Google earth and in the end I managed to stretch the 4,530km to 7,986km….  

As a general disclaimer to this ride report I must say that this was by no means a “tough adventure riding trip”, but rather a “scenic trip”.  I did take the occasional dirt road but 99% of the trip was on good quality tarred roads.  

The pictures were taken with my trusted Olympus TG2 compact camera.  (This is the type of camera that Johan Bakkes refers to as a “Kiekiekakker”).  A small number of pics were taken with my iPhone but I found the Olympus to be perfect.  Most of the shots were taken from the seat of my bike and I now have a tremendous amount of respect for guys willing to travel with a proper SLR and tripod!
I saw some familiar faces along the way…

And met some really interesting people….

Confirmed that Elvis is still alive (for those non-believers out there!!!)

Experienced some great motorcycle passes….

And what is a trip without taking plenty of selfies….

Day-by-Day detail:
Days 7&8 (Missoula to West Yellowstone and on to Cody) were the two longest consecutive rides in terms of time on the road.  Day 8 was 100km shorter than Day 7 but took an hour longer resulting in almost 10hrs in the saddle.  The reasons for this I will explain later, but suffice to say that if I never, never-never- ever see a Bison again in my life it will be too soon….

« Last Edit: March 05, 2016, 10:44:42 pm by Jabus »
 

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2016, 06:25:07 pm »
Ah, a US trip, now this is something I have been waiting for ....

 8)
« Last Edit: February 20, 2016, 02:54:59 am by Ian in Great Brak River »
1978. It's 6am, mid winter...two up on a XL 185S ... off to my first casino ever with all of R40 and we've got a full tank of fuel, so enough to get there we reckon.... that's determination...

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Offline Crossed-up

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2016, 06:35:50 pm »
This should be good! Look forward to following this one.
 

Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 09:39:05 pm »
“T-minus 30….”

In preparation for this trip I did several weekend trips to optimize my packing configuration.  The last weekend trip was about 30days prior to leaving for the US.  By this time I have sorted my luggage and the main aim was to gauge what the maximum time/distance is that I can comfortably do on any given day.  Just in case I have to push myself a bit….  I chose a weekend trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg and stayed over at Jean’s  place in Colesburg (Jean = “Nimmo” on Wild Dogs ).  In hindsight the pretty strong crosswinds that I experienced all the way from Cape Town to Johannesburg prepared me for what I would experience crossing South Dakota going through the Badlands…
Taking a rest in the Karoo……



Colesburg still has some old world charm and character…


The old lady can do with some lipstick but she is still in good shape...



Walking back from the restaurant to Nimmo’s place I noticed the street signs at the opposite sides of an intersection.  (Unfortunately you have to understand Afrikaans to understand the humour…)



And on the opposite side of the crossing…..



Leaving Colesburg early the next morning….


« Last Edit: February 23, 2016, 09:01:27 pm by Jabus »
 

Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2016, 09:44:22 pm »
Day 0: Cape Town–London-Washington DC-Chicago-Portland

Travelling with my IXS bike jacket, helmet and boots (and a hefty supply of Karoo Foot Powder  ;D) it can get a bit uncomfortable.  Especially when leaving Cape Town with temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius.  I chose my SIDI Adventure boots for two reasons: 1. They are very comfortable, and  2. the Gore-Tex is waterproof which I was sure I was going to need along the way.  “Comfortable” is however a relative concept when spending 39-hours in the air and on airports….



I was really excited about the trip and my parting words to Elmarie were “If this ‘plane falls before I get to Portland you can tell verybody at the funeral that I will really be de-moer-in…”
Transferring from London onto the Washington flight there was a large group of students with sweaters and T-shirts that read, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”.  No-no,  come on Dogs…. the sweaters were blue, ….. no berets either  >:D

Crossing the Atlantic….


The A-380 is a fantastic piece of machinery, but oh, the transit between terminals on Washington Dulles has always been a pain for me.  It took about two hours to get through customs and immigration which in itself is not unusual.  However, stripping down your biker jacket and boots a couple of times can be a real test of character.   It was rather ironic that after all the commotion of checking in my luggage, going through security, another bus ride, when I departed 3hrs later from the gate right next to where I got off the A380…



Leaving Washington DC on Southwest Airlines I took a seat right in the back.  The empty seats next to me were quickly occupied by my jacket and boots.  The young family in the row in front of me had a great time before take-off.  Through the window I could see the thunderstorm brewing outside…  Klein “Mary-Lou” wat voor my sit verloor haar sin vir humor soos die vlieenier ons deur die wolke beur.  Sy hou duidelik nie baie van die turbulensie nie en kots ‘n sierlike boog.…. Ek wonder of ek nie maar liewer weer my Gore-Tex boots moet aantrek nie  ;D



Clearing the heavy clouds and on the way, next stop Chicago Midway….



A bird’s eye view of the approach into Chicago….. I think to myself that any Free State farmer would be willing to donate a couple of Hilux bakkies (the bank has probably already claimed other parts of the anatomy as part of surety…) to get the rain that these guys are getting.  Especially given the severe drought that we are experiencing leading into the Maize planting season of 2015…



The day is starting to get very long and I am in desperate need of a caffeine fix.  I have to stay awake for another couple of hours to ensure that I get my biological clock tuned onto Pacific Standard Time.  It is getting hard though.  When it comes to American coffee I always remember the warning that a French guy gave me many years ago.  He reckoned that the danger of having sex on a small boat is similar to drinking American Coffee.  According to him: “Both are f@cking too close to water…. “
Luckily a Starbucks is never too far away…



There were lots of firefighting volunteers waiting for open seats on the plane to Portland. (Bushfires are running havoc on the west coast of the US).  I’m tired and very relieved when several families volunteer to take up Southwest Airline’s offer for taking a later flight.  Just before I get on the plane Elmarie sends a text message breaking the news of the Japanese Tsunami that hit South African Rugby.  She must be trying to pull a fast one on me for leaving her at home for 3 weeks, is the only way I can make sense of the message….

The flight is filled to the max and I have to keep my boots on……  I’ll just have to use a heavy hand on the Karoo Foot Powder tonight is all that goes through my mind.  I’ve now been awake for more than 30hrs and am struggling to keep my eyes open…… 

Getting off in Portland I’m happy to be re-united with my (overweight) luggage. 


Waiting for the hotel shuttle a young guy and his girlfriend walked up to me….  “You doing a bike trip?”  As I explain my trip he gets so excited and tells his girlfriend “We must do this…”.   This would be a first of many encounters with fellow enthusiastic bikers….

Arriving at the hotel at 11pm, I’m tired but excited.  First things first, I have to unpack my big suitcase, phone FedEx to arrange for it to be collected and delivered to the Hotel in Baltimore.  Then phone the hotel in Baltimore and tell them that my bags will arrive several days before I will be in town…  This takes some explaining and I make a point of getting the names of the persons I’m talking to, as well as the name and e-mail address of the Hotel Manager.

Part of my evening routine is to check possible routes for the next day on Google Maps and then check the weather forecast for these routes on YR.no.  YR predicts some rain clouds rolling north along the coastline.  Okay that puts an end to my plans of heading straight for the West towards Seaside and then following 101 to Aberdeen which looks like an easy enough ride for Day 1.  I alter my plan and decide to go North on 5, then swing East on 30 and link up with 101 at Astoria.  That way I will miss most of the rain and only get some in the late afternoon.  Great, now I only have to charge all the electronics and hope that my trusted Garmin 276  GPS a.k.a. “Putin” will get me to Astoria.

 

Offline DUSTRIDERS

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2016, 09:55:51 pm »
Like the way you write. :thumleft:
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Offline zebra - Flying Brick

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2016, 09:57:28 pm »
Subscribe; I lived and worked for 3 years n Baltimore (the land of pleasant living). Will follow your thread step-by-step...!
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Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2016, 10:00:01 pm »
Dankie Chris, julle moet net stadiger lees, ek kan nie so vinnig tik nie  :)  Jip, een van julle Enduristan sakke was saam op die trip.   :thumleft:
 

Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2016, 10:03:14 pm »
Thanks Chris^2, and a Flying Brick bag did the job perfectly on this trip, I will include pics in the next post...
« Last Edit: February 15, 2016, 06:03:37 am by Jabus »
 

Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2016, 06:10:36 am »
Day 1: Portland to Aberdeen

Route: Heading North on 5, West on 30 to Astoria and then follow 101 to Aberdeen.



I’m ready to hit the bed when my biological clock starts to give signals that it is getting ready to wake up again….  Okay, for this I always carry enough Dormicums.  Problem solved.  When my alarm goes off at 6am I have no idea where I am….  I do some sleep walking and wake up midway through the 20minute shower…
I head down to the lobby for a quick breakfast, deliver my bag with the FedEx instructions at reception, open the Uber App and within a couple of minutes I’m on my way to EagleRider to collect the rental bike.  I’ve marked EagleRider as a waypoint on my GPS before I left SA and quickly confirm that the Uber driver is heading in the right direction.  
A trip must start somewhere….  Portland is just not distinct enough for an epic trip like this.  I explain to the Uber driver that my plan is to head North on 101 to Neah Bay.  There is a puzzled look on his face when he said “Why do you wanna go there?”  This confirms that that this is a good plan because this kind of response normally tells me that it is not a tourist trap.

As I get out of the Uber car I immediately notice that the GS standing in front of the shop is an LC model.  I am immediately irritated.  One week before the trip I double checked with the third party through whom I arranged the rental whether or not it is an air cooled or liquid cooled model.  They confirmed that it was indeed an AC model.  The reason why I inquired about the model is simply because the Touratech bag full of tools that I brought with me fits neatly in the place of the AC’s pillion seat.   This is not a big issue as long as my “FedEx bags” are still at the hotel, then I can repack my bags and change my packing configuration.  No big deal I, try to calm myself.  
 
I wait while another customer, Bob, finalizes all his paperwork and familiarises himself with a massive (>420kg) Indian Roadmaster.  He takes the bike for a short drive through the parking area and unfortunately drops the bike.  In his nervous frenzy he doesn’t take his hand off the throttle and with the Indian lying on one of his crash bars he makes a perfect donut on the tar! Bob’s ego and confidence is dented and he decides to take a smaller bike.  His friend (John “Rowdy” Oxley) hands me his business card and says “If you have any trouble or need some help on your trip, give me a call and I will ask one of my guys to assist….”  This would be the first of many encounters with fellow bikers offering help or even a place to stay.
“Rowdy” and his friend, Bob, just before Bob made an impressive donut!



The paperwork is finished very efficiently and I’m ready to head back to the hotel.
We rent dreams…. Indeed!



The layout of the GS was familiar to me, the only real difference being the keyless ignition.  I really got used to this and think it is a great feature.  Similar to the cruise control, once you get used to it, it is very handy, not only on the open roads but also entering speed restricted areas in small towns.



The GS has a slightly bigger aftermarket screen which is a bit floppy but it did the job perfectly.  (Notice the Enduristan bag ChrisL?  :thumleft:)



The GS is also fitted with crash bars and a foot rest  ;D  



The latter was handy to hang the helmet



Switching from 5 onto 30 I crossed the Columbia River at the Lewis and Clark Bridge.  A lot of the roads that I will take over the next two weeks follows the famous Lewis and Clark route.



A Series I Landy is a rare sight in the US, so I just had to stop and pay my respects to the old lady.



Astoria is a beautiful city at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River.   The rain clouds are building fast and I obey my own “10 minute” motorbike rule by pulling over earlier rather than later to change into my rain gear.



I cross the quaint wooden bridge at Pier 39 and start the cumbersome process to get into the one-piece rain suit.    The Columbia River is massive, just look at the tanker in the background to get an idea of the scale.    (Some free advertising for the Flying Brick bag, Chris  :thumleft:).



The bike (or is it the bag?  8) ) attracts a lot of attention…



Just after crossing the equally impressive (6.6km long!!!) Astoria-Megler Bridge it starts to rain.  Motorcycle riding in the rain is great and I enjoy it (provided that you have proper gear of course).



Checking into the hotel in Astoria early evening with a room on the ground floor (or “1st floor” in the US) I have the ideal parking spot in front of the room.  This makes packing and unpacking a breeze.



“Putin’s” trip computer summarizes the perfect first day of riding…


« Last Edit: February 23, 2016, 09:04:02 pm by Jabus »
 

Offline jeff

Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2016, 08:26:08 am »
going to follow this one with interest.......
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Offline Archer

Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2016, 04:58:03 pm »
Looking forward to what's to come
 

Offline Mof

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2016, 05:15:45 pm »
Dit lyk amper soos ou Bob wat met sy 'moutersiekel' deur SA getoer het op daai Indian.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2016, 05:17:31 pm by Mof »
 

Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2016, 09:42:08 pm »
Day 2: Portland to Port Angeles (via Neah Bay)

Route: 101 North then onto 113 and west on 112 to Neah Bay.  East along 112, joining 101 to Port Angeles.  Hurricane Ridge Rd into Olympic National Park and back to Port Angeles.


101 winds through the Olympic National forest and at times the trees are so dense that “Putin” loses his bearings. 


This was the only stretch of the route where I saw a lot of adventure type bikes.  Mostly driving South on 101 which I assume is a popular route for touring bikes from Canada taking the coastal route down South…..

Kalaloch offers a beautiful view over the ocean.  There are a couple of beautiful campgrounds along this route.  However, most of them seemed to be closed for winter period (starting September?).


Some interesting places to stop along the road (note the “Brutal” Basset on a chain guarding the yard).  Are you a Chevy or a Ford man?   


Following 112 to Neah Bay with the forest on the left and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the right which has several picnic sites (and not a lot of traffic).


One of the secluded little beaches along 112 where you can sit, meditate, smoke a cigar... or just eat your bloody can of dry Tuna!  ;D


Neah Bay has a population of roughly 800 of which the majority is Native Americans.


The Makah Museum is definitely worth a visit.


The view from Neah Bay across the Strait of Juan de Fuca


A popular stop for bikers in Joyce is the Blackberry Café. 


And I can recommend the “Blackberry Barbeque Burger”


Die middagskof se kelner meld aan vir diens toe ek so halfpad deur my burger is.  Hy wil motorfietse gesels en vertel hoe hy onlangs sy Honda XR250 afgeskryf het. Hy vertel ook dat sy vriend, 'n brandweerman op die naburige dorp, ook 'n fiets het soos die een wat ek huur. Hy beaam dit met "Yes, those G5s are mighty nice bikes".  Ek grinnik en dink by myself "Boeta 'n G5 is nie 'n fiets nie, waar ek vandaan kom is dit 'n moerse groot kanon!" ;D

After checking into the hotel in Port Angeles I decided to ride Hurricane Ridge Road into Olympic National Park.  Wow, what a beautiful road which offers some exceptional scenery!  The road is in excellent condition and passes through a series of tunnels to the top of the mountain.






Eight hours and 276 miles for the day….. 

 

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2016, 06:36:57 am »
I am on board  :thumleft:
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Offline Dwerg

Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2016, 07:12:11 am »
Awesome. USA, specifically the north western part is very high on my wishlist
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Offline Vintage_Mania

Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2016, 07:27:01 am »
Very nice  :thumleft:
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Offline RobD

Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2016, 08:08:45 am »
Awesome post!! So very very interesting indeed .... :thumleft:
 

Offline LouisL

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2016, 07:30:41 pm »
I am super excited about this report :thumleft:.  Am planning a trip through the US myself (long term ie 5 year plan) so I will really be following this with great interest. 

It will also be very interesting to hear a bit about costs of different things eg bike rental, accommodation etc. I realise financial matters can be be seen as a bit "personal" but if & where possible I believe many will be interested.

Keep it coming :happy1:
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Offline Jabus

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Re: West to East across the USA [“Portland to Maryland”]: September 2015
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2016, 08:45:03 pm »
Thanks for the kind comments!  :thumleft:

The small matter of the costs.... 8)

Renting vs Shipping your own bike:  I had a look at the shipping costs and the break even point was about 4 weeks.  Thus if you intend renting for longer than 4weeks it would be cheaper to ship your bike.  The down side of shipping is that you have to ship the bike long in advance (3months?) and then wait another 3months for it to get back to SA.  Six months without your boney?
From what I could find on the net it would seem as if shipping into and out of Canada is somehow less cumbersome.  Maybe some Dogs that have experience could give more insight on shipping.

Rental costs:
My three week rental worked out to ~$95/day.  
It is the insurance that is the killer and there you have to make a personal call.  The option that I chose came to ~$20/day
I also had to pay a `$700 "one way" rental fee.  (There were personal reasons why I wanted to do the "across the US" trip.)

Rental Company:
I rented through a 3rd party but picked the bike up at EagleRider.  My recommendation is that you rent directly from EagleRider, they were great!
DS bikes are however not that popular in the US and the rental agencies have limited stock available.  Solution: Book well in advance.  A "group booking" for DS bikes may be a challenge.

Accommodation costs:
My budget was $50-$60/night and I could roughly keep to that.  Nothing wrong with cheap Motels.  They are clean and has all the basic needs.  They are without exception also close to cheap sources of food. McDonalds, Wendy's etc.
I did all the reservations on the fly.  McDonals etc has free WiFi and I could pull over and make a reservation for the night.  I used Hotels.com or Bookings.com to find the best deals.
I also tried AirBnB but short notice doesn't really fit an AirBnB home owner. I was never able to find something on the entire trip on AirBnB despite looking for it every day.  When you are on the road you cannot always wait for the home owner to reply....

TIPS
When (not if  :biggrin:) I ever do this again I will consider the following:
I will definitely consider camping.  The campsites are beautiful but as mentioned early in the RR they all seemed to be closed for "winter".  I will have to do more research on camping though.  Any comments/experience from fellow Dogs?
Camping does however require more baggage.  But I will in any event crate ship my bags to a friend to arrive a couple of weeks before I leave.  Biking gear takes up a lot of space and even though you are allowed to take big bags on the long haul flights, the proverbial hits the fan when you switch over to the regional/domestic/budget airlines.  They make you pay penalties for excess baggage.

(Look at the specials on the EagleRider website).  
Take a round trip i.e. same pick up and drop off location.  (With the $700 one way fee I could ride for another 7 days....  The US is big enough to make a huge loop.)
They also post "one way specials" from tome to time.  Most of which ends in Las Vegas or San Francisco.  Doing this you can pick up the bike in any of the participating locations and take a one way trip to Las Vegas.  (Just check, they often have time limitations on this e.g. 7 or 10 days etc)

Dogs with more experience, please comment....



« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 08:51:50 pm by Jabus »