Manzanar, Mono Lake, Bodie…oh my

What do a WWII concentration camp, a 760,000 year old lake and a ghost town have in common? They can all be found in California and can be visited in the same day. Oh and there’s also a stunning view of the Sierra’s from each of them. Ok so the Ghost town doesn’t exactly have Sierra views but the road leading up to it sure does.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed we departed Furnace Creek the following morning at 7am to a perfect 20C (68F). We found ourselves puttering along the 190 when a group of BWM touring bikes caught up to us around Panamint Springs. These guys were really moving. As if on cue, the road turned super twisty just beckoning us to gear down and twist the throttle and we found ourselves in the middle of the pack blasting through the curves and s-bends that unfolded before us. Forget morning coffee, you should definitely check out this section of road for that morning pick-me-up. We soon split up as they made the turn to head south while Mike and I continued north.

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A few clicks later we found ourselves pulling into the Manzanar historic site right off the 395 in the Owens Valley. Continue reading

I’m baaaack, in the USA

First order of business once I got clear of the border was to fuel up the bike. $2.19/gallon – nice! I’m used to paying 13.57 pesos per litre which is about twice the price. I was also able to use up my remaining Pesos to pay for my gas at the Circle K. Speaking of filling up, my insatiable meat craving guided me to the nearest 5 Guys Burger & Fries for lunch. “Is it possible to get extra meat on mine please.” Thought of Denis Leary for some reason.

It felt a little weird being back on the roads in the states, it felt more dangerous somehow. Maybe being passed by someone texting on a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other had something to do with it. Cops everywhere along the highway waiting to pull someone over, just not any of the winners I’ve seen so far apparently. I somehow made it to Needles (unscathed) where I met up with Mike at a campground right along the Colorado River.

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Pretty nice spot.

Brand new REI Half Dome 2 and Exped SynMat UL 9 waiting for me when I arrived, thanks to Mike who was nice enough to deliver my new gear. That REI dividend and 25% discount code were perfectly timed I gotta say. I know this sounds crazy to some but I was so stoked about sleeping outside again. The sound of water flowing by, nature, comfy bed, no foosball games or screaming kids. Turned out to be the best sleep I had in weeks. Although I did strangely find myself missing being woken up by the sound of roosters crowing in the middle of the night. I’m sure I’ll get used to this tranquility eventually.

We made a little detour on our way to Death Valley the next morning that nearly ended in my getting arrested. Ok maybe not exactly, but it was my first brush with the law on this trip. I survived 4 months in Mexico, passing buses and transports and cops, on single yellows, double yellows, in construction zones, around topes, you name it. But park the bike in the wrong spot to take a pic at Hoover Dam and it was almost handcuffs and strip search for me! Have to admit that my usual quick wit was caught off guard by the officers greeting: “What side of the road do you drive on in Canada?” A query that I understood to be in regarding my parking the bike to the left of the oncoming traffic lane or rather the implication that I rode it on the wrong side of the road to get it there. My typical response would be “depends how sober we are” but I was kind of taken aback by the question that I simply asked him to repeat it to verify that yup, he is in fact a dick. My wit eventually caught up with me and I told him I wasn’t driving at the moment but curbed my attitude once he established that this was “an educational experience”. And that it sure was.

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Since I did pay for these pics with my freedom, I thought I’d show you the place.

Incredible to see the water line 130 feet lower than what it was in 2000.

The Transformers made this place look so massive that it was almost underwhelming seeing it in person. Still pretty cool.

Mike and I celebrated my freedom with breakfast at a burger joint in Vegas. It had been a few hours since my last feeding after all and the meat level meter was flashing dangerously low. Must have meat! MEAT!

Our next stop would really heat things up. Death Valley.

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Badwater Basin. Looks like you can just strap on a pair of ice skates and go, although I’m not sure you’d get far on this salt flat. Besides, I did say it was hot. Today’s high was a cool 98F (or about 37C). The highest temperature ever recorded on the planet was right here in Death Valley in July, 1913. A toasty 134F (57C). I know what you’re thinking, “but it’s a dry heat!” I’ve discovered what that really means to me is blowing out bloody crusties from my nose a few times a day.

At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the Continent. Can you see the “sea level” sign up on the mountain?

All that walking around is exhausting, so we took the rest of the day off at a campground in Furnace Creek. I never thought I could hang a hammock in the dessert. We were really looking forward to our canned beans and tuna for dinner when our camp neighbours came over and invited us for some pasta and sausage. We reluctantly accepted, but only because we didn’t want to see them have to throw out all that extra food.

Mexico, 4 months or 4 days

We arrived in Mexico on December 6th, and I finally pulled away from what was our home for the past 2 months on April 6. I made one last stop to feed the puppy all the left overs I had at the house before hitting the slippery streets of San Cris. Before I could even leave town, I dumped Tigger on the right side as the car in front of me came to an abrupt and unexpected stop. I grabbed a handful of front brake forgetting how slippery the road gets when wet, and down we went. “Well this isn’t the way to start our solo adventure now is it,” I thought to myself. I quite literally walked away uninjured simply stepping off the bike as it fell under me. I did manage to break one of the tool tubes under the side case, but only the mount at the front. I removed the contents none the less and left the partially broken tube hanging under the case. I just didn’t feel like taking the tool kit that was located at the bottom of the other case out and removing the rest of the tube. Mañana. I was actually happy Lori wasn’t there with me at that moment as she would have probably gone down with Tigger. Even though I had just gone on that group ride the previous week, I felt rusty after our 2 month break. I scolded myself for not paying more attention to the road, turned off the tunes and made a conscious effort to re-focus on the task at hand.

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And then there was one!

And then there was one!

Earlier this afternoon I dropped Lori off at the ADO bus station where she caught a bus that will take her to Cancun. At the moment she’s almost halfway into her 18 hour ride there, a bus ride I would later find out took more like 21 hours. That 219km (139 mile) section between Palenque and San Cristobal that took us about 5 hrs on the bike, took the bus about 7 in a torrential rain and fog. Don’t worry though, this isn’t one of those broken down 30 year old buses missing a wheel and with chickens and goats on the roof. These are brand new luxury buses. She’s then flying out of Cancun the following day and should be home in a jiffy. I’m excited for her as she’s off on her own mini adventure and she’ll get to see the kids in a couple of days. Being away from the kids is one thing that continues to be difficult for her, more so than for me I have to admit. I’m told it’s a mom thing.

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All her bags are packed she’s ready to go… Continue reading

Adios Sun Cristobal – Part II

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San Cristobal is a very popular tourist destination and its population swells during Holy week (the week leading up to Easter). Navigating the pedestrian walkways becomes kind of like playing the game Frogger. But take your eyes off the path for one second and you get a shoulder into the abdomen by a young Mexican girl.

Not only does the visitor count go up, but it seems there are just as many indigenous people on the streets selling stuff. In fact they seem to be carrying at least twice as much stock as normal.

Some people let the excitement of it all go to their heads… Continue reading

Tigger gets fixed up and goes for a ride

Wait! I almost forgot to mention that we went out for a walk the other day and ran into our friend Jorge from the Rossco hostel who was out for a stroll with his wife and their baby. After some chit chat, Jorge said his bike club is going out for a group ride in a few days and asked if I wanted to come. I had every intention of doing some rides around the area while we had all this time here but for some reason never did. In fact I’m still on the same tank of gas 6 weeks later (maybe I should have brought that fuel stabilizer after all). So of course I said yes.

But first I had to fix a couple of issues with the bike. 1. The engine had a very loud knocking noise at start up that eventually improved as the bike warmed up. It had been going on since before we arrived in San Cris but I was never able to figure out the cause. It reminded me of a car without a muffler somewhat, so I thought it might be related to the exhaust. However after checking the exhaust and coming up empty I began to worry that it was actually related to the head replacement that I had done under warranty last July.

So I posted a video online and within a few minutes someone noticed I was missing a nut on one of the bolts that attaches the exhaust to the front of the bike. Well DUH! Figures I’d have a loose nut, that would totally cause the problem. Not quite sure how I missed it but I did. Part of the problem is the weekly cleaning Tigger hasn’t been getting. I’ve been keeping the bike somewhat dirty intentionally down here just to try an make it look, well, dirty. I know it’s probably like keeping that red Ferrari dirty, meaning that it’s still going to be a red Ferrari. Regardless, I miss washing the bike every week as it gives me a chance to do a full inspection and possibly notice stuff like that. I also may have noticed that the centre stand was sitting much higher than normal, something Lori had tried to mention a couple of times before. “No honey, I think it’s fine,” I told her. DOH! Continue reading

Adios Sun Cristobal – Part I

Drunk on one spectacular sunset after another our month rolled by faster than we wanted so we decided to stay another. We were really enjoying ourselves here and well, South America has been there for a while and will most likely still be there when we get there.

We kept up with the Spanish lessons for part of the second month before taking a break. We still really enjoyed learning the language but going to school every day was becoming a chore somehow, so we took the last two weeks off to you know, unwind.

Because we have far too many photos, here are some more sights from San Cris:

Meet Fiona, the Spanish school mascot? She was so excited to see us every morning as we arrived for class. Definitely well taken care of with that manicure. Lori promises she will stop shopping if we can bring her with us instead. I don’t think Luis and Silvana (her people) would like that much. On a side note, we really enjoyed our time with both our teachers, Luz and Lorena. They were both fantastic and we can’t recommend the school enough. If you’re ever thinking of taking some Spanish lessons and are in the area, definitely put San Cristobal Language School on your radar. Continue reading

Life in SUN Cristobal

This adventure of ours has gone from having a plan to go here and there in order to see as much as we can, to going somewhere on the spur of the moment. Either because someone suggested something or because we simply felt like it was the right thing to do according to our internal compass. When we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, we didn’t know how long we’d be staying for or where exactly we were going to next. We wanted to keep moving south and thought we’d be in somewhere in Guatemala within a few days. Our (very) broad plan was that we’d make it to South America sometime this spring, before possibly taking a break and flying home for the summer.

Suddenly we find ourselves residents of San Cristobal. Although the first order of business should be to re-name the place SUN & Hyde Cristobal. Why? Because it’s pure heaven here when the sun is out. The temp soars to around 30 Celsius with very little humidity, it’s absolutely perfect out. We find ourselves having morning coffee and playing cribbage on our balcony and working on our tans. Of course as I write this I’m buried deep under several layers of blankets because it’s cloudy. Cloudy here means the high is between 13-16 Celsius and unless you have a heater inside your all concrete house, it’s F-F-F-F-F-F-cold. According to the Weather network, it’s always 31C here – NOT!

I realize that our friends and family back home are experiencing a typical -30 Celsius winter, so this might all be falling on deaf ears. However, y’all have central heating – something that is seemingly unheard of here in Sun Cristobal even though night time lows are single digits. My new friend the parking lot attendant at the Chadraui told me it snowed the other night. SNOW! We finally broke down and bought a heater, even had to put on socks and start wearing a sweater. Ok I admit it, we’ve become soft

Some of our neighbours don’t even have windows. Ok I’ll stop whining about the cold now. Continue reading

We’ve become foster parents!!

We’ve become foster parents!! We have temporarily adopted a young boy named Billy and his dog Bess from our friends Kim and Seb of Wandering Souls. Billy and Bess are the brainchild and braindog of two great people Beau and Trish from Australia. Billy and Bess are travelling the world and represent the faceless tragedy that are orphans/street kids and abandoned dogs. They represent hope. Check out their Facebook page here.

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At this rate we may never leave San Cristobal

Lately we’ve been changing direction quite a bit. I have to say that I absolutely love the freedom to be able to do that. No timelines or schedules to keep, it’s almost intoxicating. We definitely started out very driven to get to some of the places on our bucket list: from Newfoundland to Alaska, HU meeting in BC, then south to Ushuaia before it gets too cold. But that has changed somewhat. That destination is no longer the driving force being everything. Ever since the HU meeting in BC we decided to slow down and enjoy things more, putting that into practice almost immediately coming down the Pacific coast as we stuck around at various places that we liked, and then in California. I think this adventure was always about the journey in between those destinations and not the destination itself. Maybe it’s just that I have a better understanding of what those words mean now.

Our stay here in San Cristobal seems to have somehow dragged out from one day to another to another. We’re on Guatemala’s doorstep and had full intentions of being there already. First we stayed an extra day for Sumidero Canyon, then we realized that it was the weekend. Now this might seem strange to some, but we rarely have any clue what day of the week it is. Some people lose track of time, we lose track of days & weeks, I’ve even forgot what month it was recently. I blame it on our lack of schedule although to be honest, I kind of like it. What’s the weekend got to do with anything? Nothing really. But my understanding is that the borders are busier on weekends and typically understaffed. So we thought let’s wait till Monday. Continue reading