USA and its people might not have the best reputation around the world and our expectations were not very high. However, we had a really good time riding through the country and met some amazingly friendly people. We saw some awesome national parks such as Redwood Forest, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, just to mention a few. We ended up riding, in the dark, on a dirt road with lots of drunken fat lazy hunters waving their rifles in all directions… We learnt that the words, amazing and awesome must be the most common words in the USA. Yeah, that sums up our amazing time in the US pretty well 😉
We crossed the border from Canada into USA on the first of September. Later than planed of course, as always… The border crossing went crazy easy compared to what we have been used to in Asia.
The first stop was at Dave and his family. We had met Dave earlier up in the Himalayas in India and though we only spoke for about 10 minutes, he invited us to come and stay in his home if we ever came to Seattle. Of course we took him up on his offer when we arrived in Seattle, or actually north of Seattle where he had a very nice massive house. We had been sleeping in our tent for about six weeks in a row so we were overwhelmed over the fact that we had a bed, a toilet and no mosquitoes. It turned out that Dave also had a fantastic garage with plenty of space and all the kind of tools you could imagine for motorcycle maintenance. This was just perfect as our bikes were in desperate need for new chains, sprockets, and steering head bearings. My (Petra) front rim had also suffered after hitting a big pothole earlier and was in need to be straightened up. It turned out that Dave was a very good motorcycle mechanic and also knew whom to contact to get good quality spare parts at a reasonable cost. He helped us replacing the kits, which we’re so grateful for, none of us had ever replaced a steering head bearing before and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without his help and his tools. After the bikes were sorted out, we headed for Seattle were we visited BMW and had the oil and oil-filter changed on the bikes. Now the bikes were fit for fight again and hopefully prepared for many more miles to come.
Next stop on the journey through the US was Crater Lake, which is a crater made from a volcano outbreak. It’s filled with rain and melted snow and if I got the info right it took 250 years to fill the crater to the water level it has today. The depth of the Crater Lake was measured in 2000 and the depth measured was 594 m (1,949 ft). On the way there, we rode on the straightest road we ever been on, it just went on and on. When, we at last, arrived to the National Park it was late and the sun started to go down so we were really in a hurry. After a short ride we arrived to the crater and wow that was an impressive view. On nearly 2000 feet we saw this beautiful volcanic lake with its ridiculous blue water. It was hard to believe that this peaceful place had a violent volcanic past. The road around the volcano is called the Rim Drive, which is a very suitable name as you actually ride on the rim. It was pitch dark when we left Crater Lake and had to ride the 70 km to Kalmath Falls to find a campsite… that was closed… We decided to pitch the tent anyway, what else could we do in the middle of the night.
Next on the ‘want to do in the US list’ was the Redwood forest. What a knock out that was to ride into that forest. It felt totally surreal, like we had shrunk to tiny little people or would meet a giant behind the next giant tree. The sight of these stately remarkable beautiful trees was just breathtaking. I just can’t get it into my head that Mother Nature can create these incredible trees. I have probably mentioned it a few times in earlier blog posts but it is very seldom, manmade buildings such as temple, ruins etc. interests me and neither do crowded tourist places where I feel like a sardine in a tin. BUT this place, though it was a tourist place, I actually thought was out of the ordinary.
We stayed a few nights in a campsite at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park and it felt amazing to pitch the tent next to these immense trees that seemed to grow all the way to heaven.
Lassen National Park
We rode a very scenic route through the Lassen National Park (Highway 89) where we also saw boiling mud pots from the volcanic activities in the area. However, the sulphide steam that came up from the mud pots really smelled like rotten egg, yuck, so we left the place rather quickly.
Mendocino National Forest
After we had been on tarmac roads for a while we were quite keen on riding on some dirt roads. We decided to take a shortcut over Mendocino National Forest. Of course we got lost… yes we had a map and two navigators but we still got lost. We had to go back from where we came from which took a fair amount of time. When we at last were on the right road it was late afternoon. After just a few kilometres, we saw a guy with a motorbike standing next to the road. We stopped to ask if everything was ok? The guy turned out to be a Swedish guy, who had got a flat tyre and waited for a pick up. We have not met many Swedish people on this trip, only a handful but there in the middle of nowhere in US we had a very nice chat in Swedish. This took a bit of time and when we left him, we were pretty sure we would end up riding in the dark.
After a short while it not only started to get dark but also the nice tarmac turned into a dirt road through a forest. Brilliant I thought… It was now pitch dark and the only ones on the road were hunters in 4×4 pickup trucks and they were many. They had built benches on the flatbeds and we even saw some trucks with comfortable armchairs on, where they could sit with their rifles in highest alert in case they saw a deer or whatever they were hunting. I have never seen anything like that in Sweden where they are hunting by foot, not in a bloody car, ridiculous if you ask me. I was thinking; -‘get your fat arses out that car and at least give these animals a fair hunt’. We also noticed that they were drinking a lot of alcohol so I was hoping that they, at least, would have a good night vision so that they would be able to see the difference between a dear and me in the dark. So riding in the dark on a dirt road with ‘crazy’ drunk hunters and a few deers, bless them, was rather challenging but we had a fantastic sunset ☺
After a lifetime, at least it felt like that, we finally arrived to a small village where they had a campground. Exhausted, we had a beer in the small restaurant, and then rode the short distance to the campground, pitched the tent and fell asleep before we hit the pillows.
The day after we packed up early and headed for San Francisco. We rode from Mendocino National Park to the coast and took the Highway 1 along the coast down to San Francisco. It was a beautiful ride, the scenery of cliffs and the ocean was spectacular and very dramatic and. The road had these perfect bends BUT unfortunately most people on the road were not used to drive their enormous cars on bendy roads… so they drove in probably not more than 10-20 km (6-12 miles) an hour. Most of them where kind to us and pulled over so we could pass. BUT my god there were a few real idiots, the slowest ones, that drove in the middle of the fucking road…. I must admit when we at last, after God knows how long, managed to pass, I showed them my middle finger…. ok I know that’s a very immature behavior but I am only a human being on a motorcycle with a little bit of a temper…
Anyway, at last, we arrived to San Francisco and rode over the famous Golden Gate Bridge. I always get these overwhelming feelings when riding into big famous cities. Just that feeling of that I have actually been riding my bike the whole way to this country and to this city. It just gives me goosebumps.
We found a 5 star camping ground in San Francisco, Candlestick RV Park which was by far the most expensive we’ve had since we started the trip or actually ever… It was a 5 star campground and it cost $56 per night, which was ridiculous. It was only a big car park, with a toilet and shower. Anyway we stayed for two nights, as it would have been even more expensive to stay in a hotel. During the night a skunk came and sprayed our tent yuck.
When in San Francisco, we had decided to visit the art museum but that was closed for the whole year while they are renovating it. Ok, then we thought we should go to see Alcatraz Island but the ticket had sold out so we ended up strolling along the Fishermen’s Wharf, China town, up and down the immense hills. We even rode up and down these hills a few times which was quite fun.
Yosemite National Park
On our way east towards Death Valley and Las Vegas we rode through the Yosemite National Park which perhaps is best known for its waterfalls, but there are so much more than just that to see. Nice valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and wow so absurdly majestic sceneries. We rode up to the Glacier Point to check out the view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the High Sierra. Unfortunately the weather was against us that day, rain, sleet, fog and around 0 ºC (32 ºF), so when we finally came up to the viewpoint we were shivering with cold and I am sure there behind all the fog was a spectacular view, tough we couldn’t see it…. oh well, when we got back online we ‘googled’ it and saw some amazing photos.
After Yosemite National Park we came to Goldfield, which is a quirky little town that looks like it’s taken straight from an old western movie. This is the kind of place I really like to visit. Love the old western style wooden houses, just waiting for John Wayne or Clint Eastwood to turn up on their horses. Anyway, in goldfield we wanted to refuel our bikes, as it is quite long distances between petrol stations from here and to Death Valley where we were heading next. However, to our big surprise, we found out that they didn’t have a petrol station in town and it was now far too long to the next petrol station for us. Again a guardian angel turned up and saved our day by giving us two gallon of petrol and refused to take any money for it, how nice isn’t that? He also offered us to sleep in his garage but we decided not to, as we prefer camping.
In Goldfield we met the Belgian couple Seb and Kim again. I think it was the fourth time we bumped into them on the road. The usually ride motorbikes but this time they were driving a van around Canada and US. We had a lovely evening in the car cemetery where we camped. They were very kind to invite us for a meal in the evening so there we sat around a table, for once, having a nice chat surrounded by all these cars that looks like they have been dropped from the sky.
Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest, lowest spot in North America. The 56,7 ºC (134 ºF) recorded on July 10,1913, is the highest temperature recorded on the planet. Luckily for us, it was “only” 43 ºC (110 ºF) when we were there. The harsh and lonely vastness of the valley and the rugged canyons and hills makes it a wonderful place to explore. It is just something about deserts that I like. Maybe it’s the tranquillity, maybe it’s the minimalism, maybe the lack of people or maybe it’s the combination of them all. I don’t know but it makes me feel completely stress-free.
From one extreme to another, next stop was Las Vegas, a place we never thought we would visit but we did. To our big surprise we enjoyed the three days we stayed there. To be honest I think what we really enjoyed was the fact that we stayed in a nice hotel, and we had some really nice food. Las Vegas is definitely the place that proves the foolishness of humanity. If we will visit Las Vegas again? No, once is definitely enough.
Slightly relieved we left Las Vegas to go to Grand Canyon. We rode through Zion National Park, which is a stunning park with remarkable landscape.
When we arrived to the Grand Canyon, the majesty and beauty of the scenery was spectacular. I have seen so many photos of Grand Canyon, but none of them, and I really mean none of them, have been even close to show the magnificent scenery in a truthful way.
We visited both the north and the south rim and both were magnificent in their own way. We wild camped at the north rim on 2500 meters (8200 feet) above sea level and my God we were freezing so much that we had put on all clothes we had with us and also zip together our sleeping bags to get warmth from each other and we still froze like hell. In the morning it was -5 ºC (23 ºF) and frost on the ground and the motorcycle had a layer of frost on them too, freeezzzing.
Towards Los Angeles we happened to end up on Route 66, just by chance. For sure we couldn’t have missed it as from now on there were signs constantly that made sure that you should be aware of being on the famous Route 66.
Later on we came to Oatman, a small town in Arizona that was completely full of donkeys that walked around free. The donkeys were, early in the gold mining era, pack animals, but 1941 when they closed down the mining industry the donkeys were turned loose by the mining people and are today protected by the US Department of the Interior.
We’ve certainly had donkeys in the middle of the road before, but never so many and certainly not while riding through a town that looks like it was set in a wild west movie from the nineteenth century.
Los Angeles must be the most boring place to ride a bike or drive a car. We tried twice (two days) to get into the city centre and Hollywood, but all these stop signs just made us crazy so we said to each other – fuck it, we have better things to do.
However, we decided to go to IKEA and have Swedish meatballs which felt far more important than to see Hollywood and Walk of Fame 😉 we have certainly got other interests and priorities as we have been on the road for a while. However, on the way to IKEA the police and military stopped us. We were told that President, Barack Obama, was there on a meeting. As I am a big fan of Obama we decided to wait and see if we could get a glimpse of him. We were waiting together with others for quite a long time when you, at last, could see in a very long distance, cars driving towards one of the huge helicopters. I had the binoculars and Anders was photographing. I ‘think’ I saw Obama getting into one of the helicopters. I was amazed to see how many people that were involved in just getting Obama from one place to another. Anyway after Obama had left, they opened up the road again and we could, at last, go to IKEA and have some Swedish meatballs we were so longing for.
Carlsbad, Mike and Brenda
Before we came to the Mexican border we stayed with lovely Mike and Brenda at their beautiful house in Carlsbad. We had met them earlier back in England. Though Mike was poorly he insisted that we should come and stay at their house with the most fantastic view. John, a friend of Mike and Brenda, was also there and we had such a lovely time with them. When we, at last, decided to leave and packed everything on the bikes, they talked us into staying one more night… let’s say, we didn’t need a lot of persuasion to take all the stuff off the bikes again and spend another lovely evening with these fantastic guys.
Not far from Carlsbad was the BMW Escondido garage where we bought new tyres, Heidenau K60, hard fuckers to get on the rim. Anders also found a new pair of boots, which was really in time as his old ones were falling apart. The owner of the store gave us a very nice discount and was also giving us a lot of useful info and advice about where to go and what to see on Baja California. I think we ended up staying there for a whole day talking to all the nice people working there. As that was not enough, the day after we took one of Mike’s bikes, the BMW G650 GS, to the BMW Escondido garage to get serviced. I really enjoyed riding a smaller bike and without any luggage for a change.
Riding through USA was much better than we expected and there were so much to see. The landscape varied from one magnificence view to another. However, there were also a few things that was as we excepted it, such as huge cars, huge roads, huge people with huge hairdos, huge houses, etc., etc.. The stereotype gun carrying non-geography knowing Americans using the word awesome and amazing in every second sentence was kind of spot on but of course as in all countries people are different and most people we met were incredible friendly. So will we be visiting America again? Yes of course we will, but there are a few other countries we would like to return to first.
Random photographs from USA