[YEAR 7!] Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...

Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/33.html on September 13, 2012

We're due for a little break in our northern travels, so we've stopped for a couple of days at the Liard Hot Springs, just south of the Yukon/BC border. The rains briefly stop one evening, as we try to time our escape to the pools. The springs are surrounded by warm water swamps and heavy forests, lending a very remote feel, despite being less than a km away from the Alaska Highway.

So relaxing!

The Liard Hot Springs is the second-largest hot springs in Canada. We've already visited the first on this trip, Radium Hot Springs, also in BC. It's still pretty cold out, about 10C, but the waters are 42C in the "cold" pool, and the 52C in the hot one, the constant steam rising providing an eerie backdrop against the bathers in the springs.

Lounging around in the hot pool

The hot pool is too hot, can't stay in too long


Neda's tattoo turned out amazing

The rains start up again, Neda laughingly emulates the sound: *plok* *plok *plok*

The rain continues to hammer on our tent overnight, but in the morning, it is overcast and we're ready to continue our journey southwards. We are warned that a herd of buffalo are on the move along the highway, and it's not 5 kms from Liard that we stumble upon the first group grazing and lazing about.

Where the buffalo roam...

These guys were huuuge!

There's a lot of wildlife in northern BC, and we have a couple of close calls as we round the bend and encounter animals (and overturned vehicles) on the road!

More wildlife on the road

Different kind of wildlife on the side of the road

The weather is getting warmer as we stop for the night in Fort Saint James. It feels like we are slowly escaping the cold clutches of the north. At least while the sun is up...
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/34.html on September 18, 2012

It's been a long slog down from the cold north. We've pounded out two thousand kms of pavement since crossing the border - the forests of northern BC all blurring into a hypnotic mess of trees and deer, strings of closed gas stations and ceaseless sandwiches by the roadside. As we hit the southern interior of the province, we're welcomed by the warmth of the drylands. At a campsite in Cache Creek, we break out the maps in search of some off-road fun.

Basking in the heat of the sun, Fraser River in the background

There's a great-looking dual sport road that runs from Ashcroft, on the other side of the Fraser River from the main TransCanada Highway heading south. This is the first day we've ridden without layering up like Michelin Men. The temperature soars to 31C and we're thankfully for our mesh riding gear.

Looking for adventure!

Headless horseman on the hills of the Fraser

The Fraser Canyon slowly becomes the Fraser Valley around here

Beautiful day, beautiful roads and awesome scenery!

Bikes and gravel roads reflected off Neda's visor

It hasn't rained for days and there's a fairly deep water crossing. Wonder what it looks like after a rainfall?

Curious mountain sheep wondering why we are taking heavy street machinery onto a dirtbike road...

Out of nowhere, an old dilapidated church! How random!

Uphill climb through some rubble. I can do it.... I can do it...

... I can't do it....

I get done in by a conspiracy of really large rocks, ambushing me near the top. Bad line selection and the big GS suddenly becomes sleepy and decides to take a nap right then and there. Neda comes in over the intercom, "What's taking you so long...?", "I'm... uh, just enjoying the scenery..." There was no way I was going to lift this bad boy by myself, so I sheepishly radio her for help.

Standing up on pegs on the way down - same rocky mess as uphill

Across the Fraser we see TransCanada 1 and a colourful CP Rail train underneath it, snaking in and out of tunnels. It looks like a toy!

The gravel road hugs the hills as it the Fraser River twists and turns below us

Wake up! It's time to go!

Over the intercom, I hear a series of F-bombs and around the bend, I see Neda standing over her sleeping GS. The road switches back on itself as it steeply ascends one of the mountains and the inside line that Neda's taken is full of sand. Her slumbering motorcycle becomes a cautionary tale and I take the outside line, past the clutches of the Sandman, ride past her up the mountain, park and the walk down to help her right her bike... Still pissed off when I got back... :)

Okay, we're happy again!

Right at the end of the trail, a closed gate stops us from reaching the highway. I spy a padlock on the chain and now it's my turn to be pissed. It was late in the afternoon and there was no way we were going to turn around and do this trail again, cross the Fraser and then ride the TransCanada just to get back to this very spot! I was seriously thinking about how to break the lock, but when I walk up to the gate, I see that the padlock was just holding the loop of the chain around the top of the fencepost. An easy matter to slip the loop off and open the gate. *phew*

Just kidding about smashing the lock.


This is the PG-rated version

We notice a sign as we are leaving. Um... at least we didn't do any hunting...?

Starving, and a bit tired from all the playing in the dirt, we go in search of food. There's a nice Chinese restaurant just down the road, and we splurge a bit, ordering the chicken chow mein and beef fried rice. Almost as soon as the dishes hit the table, it was all gone, the final victim of a fun-filled day on the Cache Creek back roads.

Neda's fortune cookie - how true!
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/35.html on September 21, 2012

From our Cache Creek ride, we booted to our RideDOT.com Vancouver HQ, or as our friends Kevin and Manon like to call it, "home". Yes, every 6-7 weeks or so, we scurry back to K&M's couch to catch up on MotoGP, drink lots of Cherry Pepsi and eat cupcakes and sour-cream-and-onions Pringles for breakfast! It was good to park the bikes for a few days and just hang with friends.

Helga eyes the red garage with suspicion...

We did take the bikes out for a spin in the city to get new shoes. Back to Tourances, since the Heidenau K76s vibrated too much and were too noisy. Riding shots below courtesy of Kevin's GoPro!

Chatting at a stop sign - Pic by Kevin V.

Kevin sat me down and caught me up with what's been happening in the world while we were trekking in the Arctic. He showed me Gangnam Style on YouTube and told me this was probably the most important thing that's happened in the last couple of months. What... The...?

Rabbits and Goats at the BMW dealership

Crossing one of the many bridges in the Vancouver area - Pic by Kevin V.

Manon and I must shop at the same store - matching REV'IT! jackets, Schuberth C3s and Sena coms

Judy, our ex-pat friend from Toronto, showed us a good sushi restaurant then we ate decadent donuts at 49th Parallel Cafe!


The last root beer cupcake!

It was a very relaxing break, great company, lots of decadent foods, warm Vancouver weather, and we could have easily stayed till April, but we've got to get a move on before the cold weather catches up to us!
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/36.html on September 27, 2012

After spending over a week and Kevin and Manons', we got on our bikes with great reluctance. We're leaving our home country of Canuckistan today, not sure when we'll be back next. Our friends accompany us to White Rock, a coastal town just north of the US border. They treat us to our final breakfast (cupcakes, of course) in Canada, then we hang out at the pier for a little while before waving goodbye!

The pier at White Rock, BC

Frolickin' amongst the flowers - pic by Kevin V

Kevin is a BMW Motorrad Apparel model

Boats docked at White Rock pier

Final group shot!

And then it's goodbye!

We were a bit worried about the US border patrol, since we were wondering what to say if they asked us, "When are you returning to Canada?" or "What do you do for a living?"... If we told the truth, I was expecting: "So let me get this straight: you don't have a place of residence in Canada, no jobs and you want to come into the United States *and* you can't tell me when you're going to return?!?!"

Surprisingly, those questions never came up! So all our elaborate stories that we agreed on and practiced beforehand went unused! We'll have to save them for the next border crossing!

Neda has a (very) unfounded belief that she is invisible to radar

From the border, we quickly got off the Interstate at Bellingham and rode one of my favorite roads in the area, the scenic and twisty Chucakanut Drive. The heavily forested two-laner winds its way along the Samish Bay coast, all the way to the Anacortes. From there, we took State Road 20 to Fidalgo Island and then to Whidbey Island and stopped at Oak Harbor to pick up a US SIM chip for our iPhone. After some fiddling around, we got our phone interwebs working and we were off to our campsite at Fort Ebey State Park.

It's warm again! Hiking around the shores of Fort Ebey State Park

Fort Ebey was built during WWII after the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor. The remains of a bunker look out towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and I poked around the dark and empty deserted underground bunkers while Neda basked in the sunshine outside. We've spent so long in the Arctic that we're really starved for any kind of warm weather.

Descending the deserted bunker

Through the artillery view port I spot a Neda

Hiking around Fort Ebey State Park

Everything's just Dandy!

Sun setting on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, mountains of Olympic National Park in the distance


Unfortunately, after the sun set, the temperature dropped very quickly. We were back to wearing winter clothing and shivering in our sleeping bags. It's very clear to us we need to head further south!
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/37.html on September 29, 2012

Seattle! Our first major US city in the Lower 48! First things first, we make a beeline to Touratech USA, birthplace of Neda's Touratech F650GS...

TouratechGirl right at home! I hid the credit card before she walked in the store...

The folks at TT were awesome, there were a couple of issues with some of their parts that we encountered on the road - a windshield spoiler that popped off on the highway and got run over by an 18-wheeler, as well as a locking GPS mount that wouldn't lock. They solved both problems and let us advertise their store for free by giving us these TT Seattle stickers that you can only get by visiting their store!

More advertising for Touraratech. Seriously, when does that cheque arrive again? I put one on my Givi topcase... heheh

Yaw contacted me on our website a couple of years ago and we've traded vacation pictures back and forth. Him and his girlfriend, Hélène, are avid sportbike riders and love traveling, so I knew we had a lot in common. Last summer, I told him we were going to hit the west coast on our RTW trip and he offered to show us Seattle and put us up for the night.

Yaw and Hélène, our hosts in Seattle - Super awesome biking couple!

Yaw and Hélène took us to the Pike Place Market downtown and we had a great time talking bikes and travel over our seafood brunch. They recently got engaged!

Yaw's Monster takes centre stage, Hélène's Ninja is hidden behind our ginormous GSes and Neda is txting all her girlfriends back home...

They clean all carbs for free? Will they do fuel-injected bikes too?

We heard they throw fish at the Pike Place Market, but it was a slow day - no fish throwing... Here's a picture of us instead...

Hélène is quite the geek - she pointed out the fractal cauliflower.
I wanted to follow up with a Mandelbrot joke but decided to reveal my inner geekiness a bit later

Colourful peppers at the Pike Place Market

Local Seattle artist Whitney Monge performing outside the first Starbucks. Killer voice!

We're rolling with different motorcycle gangs all over the continent! Seattle chapter of the RideDOT.com Riders

Lookout over Seattle from Gas Works Park

Pretty colours on Lake Union, Space Needle in the distance

Hanging out with the remains of the old coal gasification plant in the background. Very Steampunk!

It was a pretty action-packed day, Yaw and Hélène were perfect ambassadors for their city, taking us riding around all of their favorite spots, and we ended up eating dripping Cuban sandwiches from Paseo's on the shores of the Golden Gardens beach, watching the sun set over the waters of Puget Sound. Super awesome!

Kite fliers on Golden Gardens beach

We thought the day was over, but Y&H invited us to a party they were attending that night. It was packed with really bright UW grad students all working on technologies to make the world a better place. There was a lot of passion and excitement about what they were doing which was very contagious as we talked shop throughout the night. We are experiencing such different slices of life as we travel from place to place, and I can't help feeling so enriched by everyone we've met.

Seattle triptych from Y&H's apartment

The next morning was spent trading geekisms with Y&H over a comfortable breakfast at home. The chatter was so easy that I felt like we've known them for a long time. There's so much warmth and brilliance in this fun couple, Neda and I are so glad to have them as friends and wish them much joy in their life together! :)

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with iOS6 Maps! Sometimes those reddit guys just make me so... argh!"
"I know, Yaw. I know..."
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/38.html on October 2, 2012

We bid our goodbyes to Yaw and Hélène as they set off on their motorcycles to Whidbey Island for the day - which is where we just came from! We're taking the ferry over to Olympic National Park, at the north-western tip of Washington State. It boasts amazing scenery and riding roads: SOLD!

Saying goodbye to Seattle from the ferry. The ferris wheel is a mini "London Eye", just opened this summer.

The world-famous Highway 101 starts in Washington and we catch the road at it's most northern point, as it skirts the shores of Olympic National Park. The weather is a bit chilly and the scenery is not as good as advertised, but we see many bikers returning from their weekend rides, so it's still promising. The 101 is set inland a bit so we take Highway 113 (Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway) to the very tip of the peninsula, to a small fishing town called Neah Bay. Now *this* road is entertaining, were it not for the fog and rain haunting the coastline. Great views of the beaches and shores and some very tight turns. Yay!

Playing on the 113 to Neah Bay

Marina at Neah Bay

Neah Bay is set within the Makah Indian reservation, and fishing is the primary industry here - the docks at the marina are the most prominent feature of this community. We don't stay too long because the wet and gloomy weather seems to have taken permanent residence here, with the rest of the Pacific Northwest receiving an uncharacteristic long spell of sunshine.

Sunlight streaming through the trees on the 101

Doubling back on Highway 101, we travel southbound on the peninsula, visiting the many picturesque beaches that line the western shoreline.

Cue the chorus of angels

NatureGirl in her element

South Beach at Kalaloch

Waves crash on the hazy shoreline

Looking for interesting shells on the beach. Lots of crab shells!

Huge waves crashing on the shore, some almost as tall as I am

Playing tag with the waves of the Pacific Ocean

Fade to white

After spending some time hiking around the forests and beaches of Olympic National Park, we hop on our bikes again and keep riding south. Along the way, we pass through Forks, WA. If this town sounds familiar, it's because:

Lip-gloss-wearing vampires live in this town

The "Twilight museum" seems to have made its quick buck while the fad came and went. The place looks like it's been closed for quite some time! We spend the night at a campsite just outside of Forks, and I keep a tent-stake under my sleeping bag in case one of those sun-sparkly vampires mistakes me for a whiny 17-year-old girl named Bella...
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/39.html on October 8, 2012

The Pacific Northwest is normally a rainy, gloomy place, especially at this time of year. But much to the chagrin of local farmers, we've lucked out as Washington's Indian Summer has gone over 80 days without rain and the temperatures have been hovering around 20C during the daytime.

Our campsite at Brooks Memorial State Park

Come on, I promise not to Instagram you...!

"Which way to Watership Down?"

Unfortunately, this has also caused a lot of forest fires in the area, and one of the dual-sport roads we were looking forward to riding - the Washington Backcountry Discovery Roads - is closed. Despite the long break in Vancouver, we're still suffering a bit of fatigue from our hectic race away from the Arctic winter, so we've really slowed our pace in the last few days, just catching up on our reading and doing a bit of hiking in the area, relishing the warm and dry weather. This is the kind of leisurely pace we were missing on all of our shorter trips - the ability to wander wherever with no set schedule, not knowing where you'll end up for the night or how long you'll stay - and we are loving the freedom!

All Star Wars, All the Time at the Star Wars Store in Aberdeen, WA. With a little bit of "Live Long and Prosper" thrown in...

We follow Highway 101 hugging the western Washington coastline until we hit Aberdeen, then turn inland towards Mount Rainier National Park where we camp out for a couple of days. One evening, before we head for dinner, we run into a trio of riders just outside the park:

Ran into Tamas, Dmitri and Rey at Mount Rainier National Park, 3 local riders from ADV as well

A few days later Tamas sends us this pic and says hi to us on our thread on ADV!

Mount Rainier is Washington's highest mountain and can be seen from all around the area. Neda found us a great road that cuts further inland, State Road 410 AKA the Chinook Pass, which gives us great views of Rainier in the distance.

Riding up the Chinook Pass

Doing some hiking just off the Chinook Pass

Views of the valley of the Cascade Mountain Range

From Yakima, WA, we turned south on Highway 97 and visited Stonehenge!

Situated just north of the WA/OR border, this Stonehenge is a full-size replica of the one in the UK. It was built in 1918 to commemorate the American soldiers that came from the immediate area who lost their lives in WWI. The surrounding hills are covered in wind turbines, lending a surreal anachronistic quality around it.

Tilting at windmills

Can't imagine a structure this big built 3000 years ago without the help of aliens!

"These aren't the druids you're looking for"

Proud to be inside Stonehenge with the bikes

On a side note, it's Canadian Thanksgiving and to commemorate our ex-pat holiday (the Americans have their Thanksgiving over a month later), we eat a turkey sandwich at Stonehenge! We've been keeping in touch with family and friends over the Internet and social media but it's just not the same as being there with them in person, especially during the holidays!

Racing down the Columbia River

The Columbia River starts out in BC, but we now follow it as it snakes westwards back towards the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River Gorge acts as a natural border between Washington and Oregon, and it's hard to keep your eyes on the road when you're riding beside something that spectacular!
Update from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/40.html on October 10, 2012

The Oregon shoreline reminds me a lot of California. It's just as pretty, with large rocks rising out of the coastal waters and miles and miles of sandy dunes tempting us to get off our bikes, which is just what we did:

Hopping off the bikes for a scenic hike

The coast of Oregon is well-known for its sand dunes, there are tons of dune-buggy rental places as we ride south along the 101. I've always wanted to get paddle tires for our dirt bikes and go blasting up and down the dunes, it looks like a riot! That, and getting/making some studded tires and riding out onto a frozen lake are two motorcycle items on our bucket list.

A dog runs out to greet us

And then his owner chats with us for a while

We love dogs, we've met so many on this trip. On the beaches of Port Orford, Bernie introduced us to his owners, Jean and Don, and we spent some time talking about our trip and where they are from. They own a cottage about a mile away from the beach and after finding out that we were just wandering around with no place to stay for the night yet, they insisted that we sleep in a proper bed for the evening!

Bernie enjoys long walks on the beach during sunset and being scratched under the chin

Even though we've been offered accommodations and meals and plenty more while we're on the road, I always marvel at how generous people are to virtual strangers. We made sure we didn't remains strangers, sharing our travel stories with Jean and Don, and learning a bit about their lives and family. They own an almond (pronounced "Ammin" - like "Jammin'") farm in northern California and they had plenty of stories about their kids riding motorcycles (pronounced Motor-Sickels). Which brought up a good question - why do you pronounce bicycle "bi-sickel" and motorcycle is pronounced differently?

Mickey Mouse painting dreams over Neda's sleeping bag

Unfortunately, I am allergic to pet dander as it collects on carpeting, furniture or anything indoors - which is ironic because I'm always the first to pet and play with dogs on our travels. This means that I can't sleep inside the cottage, but Jean and Don put us up in the cabins that their grandkids sleep in when they visit.

In the morning, we had home-made apricots and Ammins, and fresh scones!

Don and Jean and Bernie!

Jean tries out the motor-sickel!

We thanked Jean and Don for their generosity and left Oregon in the late morning, our bellies full of homemade food and our hearts filled with the kindness of two "Ammin" farmers from Northern California!