All posts for the month March, 2014

Was an easy ride into Seattle, but stopping along the way and getting a late start we knew we would likely arrive at our destination in the dark yet again.

First stop was in Portland, great city

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 724_1024x768

Finally arriving in Seattle late and grabbing a place close to the highway.



The plan was for me to wake up early and head out to Penticton to meet my girlfriend (as she came out a bit early not knowing my schedule).  Ryan was going to sleep in and meet me there later that day.  Was the first time we were going our own ways, we had become quite familiar with our routine and it signified the eventual end of our trip and getting back to the realities of life.

I woke up in the morning and started hitting the phones, calling any motorcycle parts shop I could find online.  We were in a remote area of northern California, but there is a lot of off road motorcycling and I was optimistic I would find a shop that had a replacement clutch cable.  I phoned by buddy John for some advice on the part I would need and how to replace it.  After calling around the closest place I could find was in Portland a full days ride away.

Being very discouraged I decided to try some of the local shops.  Leggett was a small town, but had a number of mechanics and motorcycle shops.  The first shop had no Kawasaki KLR parts, but said they could fabricate a clutch cable if I was out of luck.  The guy at the next place I tried didn’t think they had any, but went into the back to dig around.  He came back out with a fist full of clutch cables.  “What model is yours?”, he asked.  “2003 Kawasaki KLR 650”.

He digs around a and pulls one out “KLR 650, you’re in luck”.  I was elated, the cable was around $10.  Amazing how such an inexpensive part can stop you dead in your tracks.  Lesson learned to carry an extra clutch cable next trip.  We rip back to the gas station my bike was stored at and get to work.

A guy walked out who was in a band and we chatted for a while.  His tour bus broke down at the gas station a few weeks ago and they were waiting for parts to come in before they continued their tour.  Nice guy, helped me work on my bike, but I think he was bored as sin being stuck out here in the forest.



Once replaced we were on our way through the Redwood Forest.






Made it into Oregon (the picture was taken the day after on the way out, forgot to get one on the way in)

01 - IMG_2103_6567

Our destination for the day was the Sand Dunes in Oregon.  Its a vast expanse of powder soft sand that you can go offroading in.  We rented quads and played in the sand all afternoon.


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 718_1024x768




Back on the road we had killed much of the day by fixing my bike and playing in the giant sandbox.  We wanted to see how far we could get in the day, but were making good time to be in Penticton for the wedding.



Back on the road we bumped into a father son group from Calgary.  They were on a trip down to San Francisco and back – first father son trip for them, super nice guys.   He was on the newer KLR and was curious how mine held up.  Aside from gussling oil, eating batteries, and snapping clutch cables it was perfect!


We rolled into Newport in the early evening and grabbed a place to sleep for the night, finishing the night off with a great meal and beer.


Heading north out of SF we cross the iconic golden gate bridge.  I remember crossing this a kid, sitting in the back of our Volkswagen Westfalia camper.


One last chance to say bye to San Fran, one of my favorite cities.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 551_1024x768


I actually prefer the ride north of San Fran over the south coast along Big Sur.  The weather is a bit cooler, scenery just as stunning and half the traffic.  The weather was contrasting with periods of heavy fog and clear sunny blue skies. So far it was a perfect day.
02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 565_1024x768


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 581_1024x768


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 589_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 598_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 631_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 642_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 659_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 608_1024x768

For some reason I love stopping at crazy roadside attractions like this.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 703_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 700_1024x768    IMG_1981_1024x768

The day was ending and the sun was heading down.  The Pacific Coast highway takes a turn inland towards Leggett and connects with the 101.  This stretch is a windy road through the redwood trees.  It was completely back out, and the stars filled the sky.  The road was damp and fill of leaves and other rain forrest related debris, but the ride was amazing, one of the best stretches of the trip.  We pull over at the junction to 101 and reflect on the amazing ride we just had.  We had about an hour ride to Eureka where we had planned on staying for the night.

This map of the road inland does not do it justice, but shows just how twisty it is:


Ryan pulls out and merges on the 101, it was late and there was little to no traffic out.  I pull in my clutch, put the bike in first and as im easing the clutch out i head a pop and the bike lurches into first gear.  I grab at the clutch and its completely limp – the clutch cable snapped.  I’m not stuck in first gear with no functioning clutch.  If I stop the bike its going to stall and I’ll be dead in the water.  With light traffic and being in the middle of nowhere I decide to hammer the bike into the higher gears and just try to ride the rest of the night without a clutch.

About 10 minutes into this we pass a desolate gas station with a refueling truck pulling out on the highway.  I slow down and try to gear down behind him but im forced to crawl to a stop and the bike stalls.  Its completely back out and im stuck.  I pop the bike into neutral and push it over the the now closed gas station.  All the lights are off and no one is around.  I wait about 10 mintues for Ryan to come back after he figured I was no longer behind him.

I see where the cable snapped and try to tie it together and make a manual clutch, but it just doesn’t feel safe and doesn’t seem to work.  In the end we decide to push the bike behind the gas station, leave it there for the night and double into Leggett for the night.  As we push the bike behind the gas station we are confronted by an angry supervisor who runs the gas station and the small attached campground.  He agrees to let us leave the bike there (like he had a choice) and said it “should” be there in the morning.

We double into town, grab a room at the local motel and crash for the night.  I start to worry if I will be able to find a repair or parts shop in such a remote area, and hope this doesnt cause us to miss the upcoming wedding.

The ride into San Fran passed along the coast, through Monterrey and Santa Cruz.  It was a great ride in and we made some miles as we were planning on meeting up with Ryan’s girlfriend and some of her friends who were in town for a wedding.  We parked at bikes at a nice hotel that we had booked right downtown and settled in for a couple days.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 543_1024x768

Alcatraz in the distance

Years ago Ash and I stayed at the Fairmont, perfect location in the center of the city.


I’d say San Francisco is the best riding city in North America.  Riding around San Francisco is sweet.  The roads are really build for smaller transportation and motorcycles are ideal.  Big hills, big rolling humps and lots of slow moving traffic with open spaces for bikes.  Motorcycle parking is everywhere and very cheap, at the time I paid around 25 cents for an hour.  A nice change from more ‘redneck’ cities like Calgary where parking is reserved for large trucks and hummers.


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 533_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 536_576x768

It was also Laundry Day!  We did a quick laundry run so we didn’t smell like dead bugs, sweat and motor oil, before heading out for the night.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 524_576x768

Dirty laundry neatly disguised as a cool motorcycle pannier


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 519_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 523_1024x768

Ry with his not so cool plastic garbage, er, laundry bag



None of my laundry was worth stealing so we took off for a bit, came back grabbed our now clean laundry and got ready to head out for the night.  We met up with some friends and ended up trying to catch the end of a Bob Sinclar show at a great bar down by the warehouse district.  Good night.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 525_1024x768

Sketchy ATM

Sketchy ATM



I ended up losing a bet at one of the bars we were at and had to go get a ‘free’ chair massage by creepy massage guy in the corner – so akward.




Still buddies even after 8,000ish Km




We left LA in the late morning realizing we would be fighting traffic all the way through the city.  The traffic was at a slow crawl by the time we made it to Malibu all lanes at a standstill.  In California its legal to split lanes, but with wide saddlebags we were both a bit hesitant until a guy with a loud Harley basted by us splitting lanes.  He had wide ape hanger bars and highway pegs and was likely wider than our bikes, so we quickly pulled out behind him and followed as he paved the way.


Finally we get out of the city and hit the curvy mountainous road towards San Francisco.  One of the areas we were really looking forward to was Big Sur, the coastal road between LA and San Francisco and its legendary views.  The views did not disappoint and the weather was perfect, however, it was the start of a long weekend and traffic was steady, yet busy.


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 515_1024x768


02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 467_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 475_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 491_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 499_576x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 508_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 511_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 453_1024x768

We rolled into San Simeon as the sun was setting.  Because it was the long weekend all the hotels and motels were booked.  We didnt want to ride one of the most scenic highways in the world in the dark so we started to get desperate to find a place.  One bed and breakfast had one last room available – great, although it was $300 a night – doh, and it happened to be the honeymoon suite.  I was starting to get visuals of dumb and dumber.


We decided to keep looking and by this time it was pitch black.  I thought we should just sleep on the beach, but  a biker that stopped to chat with us said we could easily get a ticket for that.  Finally we found a motel that totally gouged us, but we paid and knew we would get good sleep in preparation for the ride up Big Sur the following day.

Woke up late feeling really fuzzy, so we got a late start to the day.  The plan was to head into LA and go out one night there, maybe meet up with some of my friends from when I was working there.


The ride to LA is pretty easy, we went along the Pacific Coast highway and stopped a lot along the way.  Through Laguna Beach I had a kid loose control of his skateboard and hit the side of my front tire as I rode past at 60kph, could have been bad if it was a few seconds earlier.

We got into LA as the sun as setting and went of for some beers and food in Redondo Beach.

Redondo Beach

Redondo Beach

Sunsets in LA are the best, rumors have it the smog makes them more orange then other places.  Ryan and I would usually stop our bikes and take a break as the sun went down, we were joking how we have watched more sunsets together than with our respective girlfriends.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 414_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 415_1024x768




Woke up and packed out bikes.  The night before we had tried to hide Ryan’s shiny bike behind the green pig.


Had a great breakfast burrito, which included a Cockroach skittering across the floor.  The guy at the table beside us stomped on it and splattered it on the tile floor, yet it kept wiggling around through the course of our breakfast.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 350_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 349_1024x768

The road up to Tiajuana passed a number of dustbowl towns.  I can only imagine how lively they get on Friday nights.



02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 351_1024x768

We had heard about an old fishing vessel that had run aground and wrecked off the pacific coast in the 70s.  It was still there to be seen.  We found out the location and took some dirt roads to get to the coast.  It was fogged in and make the rusted out vessel that much more impressive.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 358_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 365_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 385_1024x768

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 393_1024x768

We took a toll road to make fast time getting to Tijuana (TJ). The toll road was smooth and fast, until it merged with the main highway which was bumper to bumper with old beaters and transport trucks.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 401_1024x768

I had always wanted to check Tijuana out, it has quite the reputation and I thought exploring in the day would be safe enough.


As we got lost in TJ it became apparent this isnt the best place to be riding around exploring.  We ended up in a shanty town area that was built on two sides of a ravine.  I didnt stop to take pictures, but for the first time in our trip felt unsafe.  I read another bikers blog years ago who travelled around for 5 years in some very impoverished areas.  His advice was that when your senses tell your something isnt right, its best to just listen to them, better safe then an incident.  I stopped and talked to Ryan, we both agreed it would be best to blast through TJ and get stateside.

The border was a complete mess, 8 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic funneling into the border area.  It was unbelievably hot and guys were walking through the lines trying to sell fruit, water and junk food.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 406_1024x768


The crossing was pretty easy with Canadian passports, and San Diego was a quick ride from the border.  We grabbed a place downtown in Gaslamp district.  I had stayed there before for work and it was walking distance to a lot of good restaurants and clubs for evening festivities.




We dumped our gear , went out for some food and ended up at the Strip Club.  The Strip Club is not a ‘gentleman’s club’, but a steak house where they provide the meat and your grill it yourself with a cold beer in hand.  Great place and highly recommended, although you leave smelling like you live in a smokehouse.



After steaks we went out in Gaslamp which turned into a pretty late night.  Even ended up with a CD from one of the local buskers, his tunes didn’t sound as awesome the next day, but he was actually pretty talented.



Gaslamp District in San Diego



Day 14, the furthest day in the saddle.  Its easy to do when the roads are in great shape, visibility clear and no traffic.  I’m not a speed demon, which is obvious when riding a KLR.  My bike tops out at 160kph (on the speedo) which is actually closer to 145-150 on the more accurate GPS.  In hindsight I should have geared down the KLR before leaving by putting a taller front sprocket on.  This would help keep RPMs down and fuel consumption lower when traveling at high speeds.  There was one stretch of highway in the desert that I tucked into the bike and had the throttle wide open for about half an hour.  After a while it started feeling slow cruising at 150, and especially compared to the speeds Ryan’s bike could reach in comparison.  The consequence of this speed indulgence was the KLR was burning oil as fast as I could fill it back up.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 323_1024x768

The great thing was gas was relatively cheap, although far between fillings.  At one gas station I decided to push my bike to the side after filling up.  I grabbed the handle bars with the bike not running and started pushing the bike, while jogging beside it.  Once I got some momentum I jumped up on the side peg to coast to the end of the lot.  As I did my one foot clicked down on the gear shifter, the gear engaged and the bike screeched to a stop and started to fall over to the side opposite from me.  I grabbed the handlebar and tried to prevent it from dumping, but there was no way I could hold the bike from falling and it whip-lashed me over in high-side style on to my back.  Ryan and the attendants heard the crash and all looked over.  I could see a WTF look on Ry’s face, and the attendants ran over to help me pick up the bike as I got up with nothing more than a bruised ego.

Government run gas stations

Government run gas stations

Cool cacti

Cool cacti

In the late afternoon dark black clouds formed off to the east.  We tried to pick up the pace to avoid the imminent desert storm which can turn sections of the highway into raging rivers.  Instead of building bridges over rivers that are dry 99% of the time, they build the road down into the bed of the river then back up the other side.  We never saw any water, but I suspect it may cause a few hour delay as you wait for the river to subside.



In an attempt to prevent Baja from becoming a drug trafficking route, the military has setup periodic military checkpoints.  Most of the time you approach, they see you are a tourist in a motorcycle and wave you on.  Occasionally they are bored and want to stop you to ask about your motorcycle, how much it costs and how fast it goes are the two most popular questions.  Unlike Ryan’s bike, the KLR gets very little attention and my responses are usually “its cheap and its slow”.  Almost always as you are diving off they want to see you do a wheely.  Its tough to push past peer pressure when a whole group of macho military personnel are chanting “wheely” whey holding their clinched up fists up as if to hold handlebars and twisting their wrists.  Sometimes I’ll pop a little wheely, but I was never good at stunting and with a loaded up 500 pound bike I wasnt really in the mood to dump the bike while showing off.



This character was straight faced and all business until we started talking motorcycles, by the end we were joking around and he graciously posed for a photo.  As a kid I always admired the adventurist side of the army and thought it would be ‘cool’ to one day be out in a remote lands exploring with the latest technology in hand.  It was probably the Hollywood heroes that glorified war and made it ‘cool’ , however as I grew older the thought of my job being responsible for taking, not saving lives turned me off pretty quickly.


Most of the military personnel speak enough English to hold a basic ‘where are you going’ conversation.  One checkpoint we pulled into had a bit different vibe.  They pulled us over and told us to get off our bikes.  None of the crew spoke English and they started grilling us in Spanish.  The main guy was rattling questions at us as his subordinates stood behind straight faced.  We could recognize words like Marajuana, cocania, drugas etc.., knowing they were asking if we had any drugs we started answering every question with ‘no’.

Questions started coming faster and faster and both Ryan and I stood there shaking our heads saying ‘No, no, no’.  It wasnt until I noticed one of of the military crew fighting to hold a straight face before bursting out in laughter.  I stop answering and say “No entiendo, Sólo un picito español” (I dont understand, only speak a little Spanish).  The guys stops and stares at us before saying in perfect, no accent English: “I know I was just messing with you guys, go ahead” and they whole crew bursts out laughing.  Ryan and I join in with nervous laughter, and after getting over the initial shock of the incident couldnt stop laughing about it myself.  It must get so boring at those stations in the desert, I’m sure I’d do the same thing.

It was hot out and we were burning through water.  It was not uncommon to drink a liter of water every hour, never once stopping to take a leak.


The art of drinking without removing your helmet

As the day went on a we were approaching a section that would have long stretches between fuel stops.  We knew where gas was available based on the way down.  Unless I needed to fuel up I liked keeping my tank as low as possible, kept a lot top weight off the bike.  However, I misjudged our wide open throttle riding and as the day closed on us I found myself hitting reserve much earlier than I had anticipated.  We were about 100 km from El Rosario (the finish for the day and the next gas stop) and my bike hit reserve.  I knew i could stretch about 50km with regular riding, maybe 70 if I took it easy, but no way could I get 100.  With that in the back of my mind we just moved forward.  Just as the day was closing we came over a long switchback hill climb and my bike cut out – totally out of gas.

The spot the fuel ran dry

The spot the fuel ran dry

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 334_1024x768

We debate siphoning fuel from Ryan’s bike, however, its better to have one bike that can make it to a station than two bike run dry.  We decide that I would wait while Ryan makes the 40km run into El Rosario.  He left and the sun went down.  I had not seen any cars go by and it felt a bit eery.  In the desert once the sun goes down it gets really dark, really fast.  The night was pitch black and i was out in the middle of Baja alone with no transportation, I’ve seen horror movies start this way.

After about an hour and a half Ry made it back with two water bottles of gas – back in business and lesson learned.



We made it back to El Rosario, a town that celebrates its Baja 1000 tradition, found a great little place to crash (sleep), and went out for a few cervezas and tacos before calling it the longest day.

02 - Cabo Motorcycle Trip 348_1024x768

Wall of Fame