Saturday, June 23, 2007

Oooh L.A., L.A.!

Let's hear it for Hollywood!

Our first night in LA (ok not technically LA but just outside it) was in Costa Messa. We were put up for the night by someone Michelle used to work with in London. On the way in to town, we just had to stop at a proper American diner called 'Ruby's' (my mums name) for a decent burger, well 1/2 a burger- we share meals sometimes as you can quite often get refillable drinks and fries.

Ruby's Diner

We went out for quite a few beers (ok, 3 or 4- I'm very out of practice these days!) and the next morning I had to get my bike over to Petersson Performance Suspension in Anaheim to get my Ohlins rear shock serviced, though 'rebuilt' would be more apt as most parts that could wear out had worn out. After another $245 had left my account (man, this country is expensive) we headed over to San Fernando Valley, past Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Our hosts for the next thee days were Irl and Marni, a really great couple who both work in the tv and movie music editing business.

Stig sorting out my rear shock at PPS, Anaheim

Irl and Marni

Wanabe rock stars

Irl and Marni wouldn't be home till 7pm so we spent the day checking out some of LA including Venice Beach, which was fun as the board walk is full total characters. The houses along the beachfront and on the canals were just amazing. We rode along Santa Monica Boulivard and Bevely Hills where I suddenly realised that I didn't actually have Irl's address on me so I had to ask in some hotels if I could use their internet as there seems to be hardly any internet cafes in the US. I also wanted to go up Laurel Canyon as I new thats where the rock stars live so that was nice too. When we finally turned up at the house, Irl made us what I can only describe as the best gourmet deli sandwich ever- just what we needed.

What the Union Canal behind my flat in

Slateford should really look like!

Paying homage to the Lord of cheesy sax-

Kenny G!!

The next couple of days were spent checking out more of what L.A. had to offer including the Getty Museum and The Griffith Observatory, both really beautiful buildings up in the hills. I also had to check out the Guiltar Centre where all I could do was drool at hundreds of vintage Fender Statocasters and Gibson Les Pauls on sale for around $78,000, a bargain I'm sure you'll agree. I really wanted to see some live music while we were in L.A. and the best place to look for listings is the Rodger Waters was playing that night in the Hollywood Bowl but it was a little pricy for our budget, so I noticed that one of my favorite guitar players, Scott Henderson, was playing in a small club called The Baked Potato. And so it was that we spent that evening enjoying some live jazz fusion while eating huge baked potatoes.

Scott Henderson Trio

(baked potatos not shown)

Griffith Observatory

On our last day, we rode out to Malibu beach via Topanga Canyon road which was also great, full of fantastic properties. We also checked out Mulholand Drive, another place where the rich and famous live so we stopped outside Jack Nicholsons pad but he wasn't coming out to play. Down on Long Beach, we took a look at the Queen Mary but it was a tad expensive to do the internal tour. Cool to see her though. I have to say that L.A. is now one of my favorite cities.

Queen Mary and a Russian sub

Our next stop before leaving L.A. was George's place in Norco, just outside town. We'd met George in Baja and he'd invited us to stay. He was out of town that day picking up his daughter Sarah from the end of her college year up north but he sent me an email to say the doors would be open and just to make ourselves at home. Norco, you may or may not know, is horse capital of the USA so I think my cousin Sarah would love it. Its got a people population of around 25,000 and a horse population of 50,000 and you kind of get that impression when you ride through town ie bridle paths instead of sidewalks. No longer had we unpacked when George and Sarah came back so I helped unpack the pickup of Sarahs belongings. We had a really nice night listening to George playing one of his many banjos and I even joined in with my piss-poor version of duelling banjos! George also ran me across town to the auto store the following morning so I even managed to get an oil change in. I'm really enjoying this side of the trip where we meet total strangers, sometimes for a matter of minutes by the side of a road who are kind enough to put us up for an evening and in fact leave the front door open for us!

George showing us his banjo skills

Less 'duelling banjos', more ritual humiliation!

George and Sarah

Sunday, June 10, 2007

California Dreaming

We must be in Califiornia then!

We had previously arranged to stay at Cameron and Jessica's place in San Diego so we made a beeline for Mission Valley. Amazingly, and with very few detours, we made it with no problems. Cameron has a very shiny BMW 1200GS and is a member of the Horizons Unlimited and ADVRider sites so is pretty used to folk like us, ie threadbare clothes and in dire need of a hot shower! We stayed with Cameron and Jessica for about 5 days, during which time, we were driven to and from our respective BMW and Kawasaki garages to get the bikes sorted out properly. Michelles bike for the slipping clutch and mine for some very expensive steering and shaft drive bearings. Ouch at $750 but I guess my poor bike was suffering by this point, and lets face it,it really hasn't cost me too much over the length of this trip. I had ordered some other parts like fork seals, a replacement rear shock bolt and a new cable for my GPS which had stopped working some time ago.

Our hosts for San Diego

I did the fork seals to avoid paying BMW labour rates ($78/hour) which went fairly smoothly. When it came to removing the bent rear shock bolt (the shock had fairly severely bottomed out), it decided to sheer off inside my swing arm. Fortunately, Cameron has a very well kitted out garage and even had the right tool for removing pesky sheared bolts. Despite spending several days working on the bikes, we did managed to actually see some of San Diego and I even managed to get a pair of jeans that actually fit me. We also used the time here to have a clear out, sending equipment and stuff home we don't really need in an effort to cut down some weight. On our last night, Michelle and I made a barbeque to thank our marvelous hosts for their wonderful hospitality and Jessica's excellent cooking, and my potato salad seemed to go down well too. Next stop, Los Angeles!


A lovely cactus- unique to these parts (if you're at all interested)

After Choix, I went to Los Mochis to get my ferry ticket over to Baja although the ferry actually leaves from Topolobamba about 1/2 hour away. Neither town was particularly exciting I have to say and it was all I could do to save myself from utter boredom waiting for the ferry that night. I finally rode up to the ferry queue around 8pm, having been told it would leave at 11pm and to be there at 9pm. The queue was already pretty huge so I was kind of glad I'd turned up early, however, being the only bike, I was waved up to the front. Nice one, I pictured myself shortly relaxing in the truckers lounge watching Mariachi bands on the big telly.

4 bloody hours I sat there watching truck after truck after truck get loaded on to that ferry. Finally at around 12.30am, as I was wandering up to the ferry to take a closer look I was ordered to get my bike on board, about bloody time! I quickly gobbled up what was left of the restaurant food, and although I had been allotted one of those awful seat things for the 6hour crossing, I chose to try and sleep on deck. This would have been fine except with several hundred truckers wandering about, it was a bit tricky. Finally, the excitable truckers decided to shut up and bed down for the night. I managed to sleep outside till around 4 am or so and them reluctantly based myself inside the 'room of chairs', where unbelievably they left the lights on all night. Getting fed up of people tripping on me, I got up and went outside just in time to catch the sunrise over the sea.

La Paz

Ceritos, fun-ville

I arived in La Paz which was slightly warmer than the one in Boliva. It appeared to be full of retiring Americans so I didn't hang around long and instead headed for the south coast and Cabo, which turned out to be full of holidaying and etired Americans. Again, there wasn't much to grab my attention so I headed up to Ceritos, a beach up on the west coast. Michelle had been there a few days earlier and had said it was quite nice, but after a bit of surfing (even got up on the board on my 2nd attempt), I found it quite boring as it was just so quiet. I hung around till midday the following day and decided to go and catch up with Michelle who had been having chain problems further up Baja. I shot back up to Las Paz (you kind of have too, there's only one road) and from there, up to Loreto which tool me till around 6.30pm. I was on a mission by this point as I knew Michelle was leaving early that day to go up past the boulder field at Catavina and would probably keep going till she got to La Bufadora, one hell of a distance away. I rode at more or less 90mph most of that day and once I'd got to Loreto, I decided to keep going as long as there was still some light. I met a Canadian fellow on a KTM 640 in Loreto in the internet cafe who was going my way but I had to bid him farewell as I was in full speed mode and wasn't hanging around for anyone.

I made it to Mulege by 8pm and although I felt like I could ride all night by this point despite having just ridden 400miles, I decided to free camp on the deserted beach outside of town. Wanting to semi-hide the bike, I tried sticking it behind some bushes but got promptly stuck in sand. Without hesitation and for the second time this week, I hauled off all my luggage, laid the bike on its side, turned it around and somehow got it upright. Walking alongside it in 1st gear, I got it back on to exposed but slightly more solid ground. I still had a few things I could make for dinner but as I didn't feel even slightly hungry despite not having eaten anything other than cereal that morning, I opted for the next best thing. 2 cans of beer and crisps.

A healthy dinner

I pitched the tent without the flysheet as it was pretty hot and also so that I could see the stars. I'd taken a couple of sleeping pill but just couldn't get to sleep. As I was lying there looking up, I just caught sight of a bright orange meteor shooting across the sky and burning up. Amazing! I'd set my alarm for an early 5am start but around 3.30am I must have somehow dozed for a few minutes but was awoken by the sound of voices and a car engine. Sitting up in my tent with only the mesh for cover, I saw a car with its headlights on pull slowly past my tent. What the...! Then another car, then another until there must have been at least 10 cars. They had pulled up on the little spit of land about 150 meters along the beach. And they started to have a party with really bad accordion-based mariachi music blaring from the car stereos. Right, bugger this I thought to myself as yet more cars inched past only a few feet from my tent. I got dressed and packed my tent up in the dark to avoid drawing attention to myself in about 20mins (how come it takes longer in the daylight?).

I set off in the dark, something I never like doing but I was still fired up to do a lot of miles that day so an early start of 4am was no bad thing really. The soldiers at the first military checkpoint decided to be cheeky as I couldn't hear what they were saying with my earplugs in although I did hear 'inglatere' and a few 'ha ha ha's'. I had to stop after about an hour as I was freezing so I put on most of my thermal linings that I hadn't used in months. I had done 200miles by the time I stopped for breakfast and lots of hot coffee in Guerro Negro where I rugged up a bit more as I was still freezing. From there, it was several hundered miles of pretty boring desert. I rode through the boulder field at Catavina but didn't find it that inspiring so didn't stop. Just before San Quentin where I planned on stopping briefly to check my emails, I noticed a bike by the side of the road that I thought I recognized. It was Michelle having stopped for some roadside food! It was quite a reunion I can tell you and after a week apart, we decided we'd done enough solo travel by this point. It turned out I'd just ridden by lunchtime what she'd ridden in 2 days!

I was literally shaking as I'd just ridden 500 miles before lunchtime so after we'd caught up with our respective travels, I said I couldn't face much more so we pulled into San Telmo for a last nights camping before hitting the USA border the following day.