Wednesday, August 24, 2011

48 down and two to go ...

We were so close to the folks who'd had their boom box going until after 10 p.m. at Fernwood Resort that it was difficult to resist making a little extra noise when we crawled out of our tents at 6 a.m. Resist we did, however, and set out to find coffee and a bite to eat before getting back on Hwy. 1 south.

Big Sur is both remote and popular, which would mean $13 cheeseburgers for dinner and $11 omelets for breakfast unless we found alternatives. So, it was gas station coffee and big chocolate chip cookies for breakfast -- which came to just $6 a head.

After a few stops for photos and an expensive fuel fill-up in Cambria, we arrived shortly after noon on Monday, Aug. 15, in San Luis Obispo to stay with Ross and Linda, old friends of David's. Ross had been his boss and mentor when he worked as a civilian for the U.S. Navy before retiring in the 1990s. As we got out of our riding gear, Linda was shepherding her three-year-old grand daughter and 18-month-old grandson and Ross was out riding his streamlined, recumbent bicycle.

Ross is an inspiration. With the help of hip and knee replacements and a pacemaker, he maintains a level of fitness a man 40 years younger would envy and thinks nothing of 25-mile daily jaunts through the surrounding hills on his bike.

That evening, he and Linda took us to a favorite restaurant on the water in Morro Bay, about 15 miles away to enjoy calamari, crab cakes, shimp and fish and chips while the sun descended behind Morro Rock, which rises almost 600 feet above the ocean. After dinner, we drove out to the rock for a view of the harbor.

A stand-up paddler finishes a sundown outing on Morro Bay.

Linda and Ross treated us to dinner at Morro Bay and a good night's sleep in San Luis Obispo.

Tuesday morning, Linda suggested we take San Marcos Pass Road, Hwy. 154, rather than US 101 from Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara -- a great suggestion, since there were plenty of commuters on 101 and the we had the pleasantly twisty road over the pass almost to ourselves. At Santa Barbara, we rejoined 101 to ride along the coast.

At a turn-out near Lake Cachuma on our way to Santa Barbara we found decades of initials carved into the soft sandstone boulders edging the parking lot.

The temperatures stayed pleasantly cool all the way from San Luis Obispo to Ventura, but then the thermometer climbed with the highway over the pass inland towards Thousand Oaks and the San Fernando Valley.

Just nine miles from our destination in Northridge, I pulled off the freeway into a parking lot to stretch, get out of the fleece I'd been wearing under my jacket to ward off the cold and unzip the vents in my riding suit. No sense arriving in L.A. half-baked.

By midday, we arrived at the home of Nick, a sailing friend of David's, who had offered to let us store the V-Stroms in his garage. Fleiksa, Nick's wife, and Cora, his daughter-in-law, greeted us and took us to lunch at a nearby Cuban restaurant. Nick, his son and grandson were all out of town.

At Nick's place in Northridge it was time to sort out what to stay on the bike and what to take home.

I had booked a flight home to Honolulu on Thursday afternoon, so I had two days to sort my gear into things to stay and things to go, change the engine oil and oil filter and get things buttoned up. David planned to take a ride to Ridgecrest, Calif., about 150 miles northeast, to visit some more old navy friends, before flying back to Honolulu in about a week.

Meanwhile, we were entertained by Ziggy, a pet turtle who was supposed to live in a net-festooned fish pond near the large swimming pool in the back yard.

Ziggy is a Red-Eared Slider, a very popular breed of pet turtle. According to Wikipedia, "Red-eared sliders get their name from the distinctive red patch of skin around their ears. The 'slider' part of their name comes from their ability to slide off rocks and logs and into the water quickly."

Before we met Ziggy, Cora said he'd gone missing for a few weeks. The pH balance of the water in the swimming pool had gone off and the water turned green. They called a pool man, who got the pool cleaned up and found Ziggy in the process -- in the big pool.

Cora put Ziggy back in the fish pond, which was ringed with overhanging stone pavers that should have kept a turtle from crawling out. Since the pavers had failed, she hung netting over the fish pond.

Cora told us about Ziggy, the turtle, who'd rather be here in the swimming pool than in his turtle pond.

With stone pavers topping and overlapping the sides of the turtle pond, it wasn't clear how Ziggy was able to escape ...

... but every time we fished him out, he'd be back in the pool within a few hours.

When we went to the backyard and looked in the swimming pool, there was Ziggy, happily diving to its eight-foot depths and popping up every minute or two for a breath. Problem is, the pool water is treated with chlorine -- not the healthiest environment for a red-eared slider -- there was no food in the pool and no way for Ziggy to climb out.

We found a leaf skimmer on a long pole, fished him out and put him back in his stone-rimmed prison. A few hours later, he was back in the pool. Since Cora and Fleiksa were both leaving town before our departures, David found some bricks and tried building a ramp so Ziggy could pull himself for a rest and a snack. As of when I left for home, taking the Flyaway bus from Van Nuys to Los Angeles International, the ramp was untested.

By Thursday morning, Aug. 18, the V-Strom was packed up and under a cover, with the battery disconnected and a dose of fuel stabilizer in the tank.

I was happy to be on the Flyaway bus to LAX rather than riding the 405 on the bike.

My dash to the finish line: Big Sur (A), San Luis Obispo (B), Northridge (C) and LAX (D).

The trip to the airport was uneventful and convenient. David borrowed Fleiksa's car and dropped me at the Van Nuys terminal, only a mile or two from Nick's Northridge place. I arrived at LAX by 1:30, comfortably early for my 4:30 p.m. flight to Honolulu. Little did I know the plane would be broken and I'd have to wait for a substitute to fly in from Maui. We eventually departed at 9:30 p.m. and arrived at 15 minutes after midnight -- four and a half hours late.

I began the trip having visited 40 states by motorcycle. Six weeks later, I had added eight states to the total: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. What's more, I'd gotten a start on Canadian provinces: Ontario and British Columbia. All that remain: Alaska and Florida.

My 2009 round trip from Maine to Louisiana explored Civil War battlefields, last year's coast-to-coast-and-back ride explored natural wonders -- caves, canyons and mountains. This trip began with canals -- both historic and modern -- and then followed Lewis and Clark to their Pacific destination before tracing the western shoreline from Victoria, B.C., to Los Angeles.

Along the way, we met friends, old and new. Thanks to all; we enjoyed the ride.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do you know the way through San Jose?

Our ride from Humbolt Redwoods State Park to Novato wasn't unusually long -- about 240 miles -- but the blind hairpin turns and chill winds made for a tiring day and we were ready to take a break when we arrived in Novato to stay with longtime friends Jan and Rick.

Both David and I have ridden the famous "Tail of the Dragon," US 129 from Tennessee into Deal's Gap, N.C., and we agree that the 28 miles of California Highway 1 from Leggett to Westport, Calif. is more fun, more challenging and longer. Besides, they don't let log trucks on the Tail.

Rick and Jan, old friends from Flanman's newspaper days in Marin County, let us stay in their home in Novato, fed us salmon and fresh green beans from the garden and spoiled us in many other ways.

On our way to Jan and Rick's, we stopped in Petaluma to exchange a turn signal bulb David had picked up in Eureka that didn't fit his bike for the correct part and then at the Rouge et Noire French cheese factory in West Marin, where we bought sourdough bread, triple cream brie and a couple of bottles of wine. Thus supplied, we settled in for two nights in sunny Novato.

On Friday, Aug. 12, David toured the Bay Area, visiting friends in the Berkeley marina and stopping at the BMW dealer in San Francisco to admire the latest motorcycle models. Meanwhile, I did laundry, updated the blog and took a nap. That evening, Jay, Janet and Kathy -- more old friends -- came by to share old times over a great dinner and a few too many bottles of wine.

Hannah and Ryan got a ride on the V-Strom in San Ramon.

Saturday afternoon, we packed up and rode over the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge to the East Bay. Despite the day of the week, the traffic near the Oakland end of the Bay Bridge where a cluster of interstates connect was daunting but, once we were south of the bridge ramps, it was smooth sailing into San Ramon to visit Dave, a classmate of David's wife and mine. Dave's mom was also visiting and we got to spend some time with Hannah and Ryan, Dave's kids, and Daisy, his giant Labrador retriever.

Our San Ramon host Dave, who visits us frequently in Hawaii, treated us to barbequed ribs for dinner and blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

Sunday morning, Hannah and Ryan got rides on the V-Strom before we packed up to leave for the southern half of Highway 1 and our final destination, Los Angeles. First, after finding our way to the Dumbarton Bridge and the road to the pass at Los Gatos, we needed to cross the peninsula south of San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

Sunday afternoon's traffic wasn't as bad as a weekday's, for sure, but hurtling over the Stevens Creek Freeway, Highway 85, at 65 mph penned in behind an enormous tow truck required our full attention. Below Santa Cruz things got worse. For reasons we were never able to discover, traffic slowed to a stop-and-go crawl for more than 10 miles through the farmlands outside Salinas and remained busy all the way through Monterey and Carmel. Then, at last, we were on open roads along the cliffs leading to Big Sur.

Eventually, we broke out of the traffic between Palo Alto and Monterey -- it was bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go through Salinas -- and reached the beautiful coastline south of Carmel.

Our campground was right on the Big Sur River -- in fact, our campsite was only 30 feet from the water.

Rafting on the Big Sur doesn't require high-tech equipment.

The Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur is open for business despite numerous landslides and several bridge and repair projects.

David found a paved road down to Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur where the path to the water was framed in cypress ...

... and we got a taste of why Big Sur is a magnet for photographers.

A gull posed for his portrait on the rocks.

Old redwood logs and stumps provide convenient benches.

Shorebirds pick their dinners out of the shore break ...

... and then dance up the sand to keep their feet dry.

In the morning, as we rode south toward San Luis Obispo, the marine layer was conspicuous along the coastline.

Our campsite in Big Sur was nestled in the redwoods adjoining the river. Unfortunately, our neighbors insisted on playing golden oldies on a boom box until after 10 p.m. -- not good camping etiquette. I resisted the impulse to ask them to turn it down, but we weren't shy about making noise as we broke camp in the morning for the 100-mile ride to San Luis Obispo to stay with David's old friend and mentor, Ross, before completing our trek in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

An ambitious homeowner's aerie is perched high above the Pacific on the cliffs.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cooling it on the Pacific Shoreline Highway

A flight of brown pelicans works the shoreline at Ft. Lewis State Park, on the south shore of the Columbia River estuary.

The glaciers of Montana and the snow-capped peaks of British Columbia were relatively warm and snuggly compared to the damp chill of the Oregon coast. After crossing the Columbia River and turning west to Astoria, we camped at Ft. Lewis State Park out on the Pacific shore.

While David explored the local attractions, I worked on getting this blog up to date. We spent two nights in the huge, state campground, which was crammed with Oregonians, kids and dogs, all of whom seemed oblivious to the virtually permanent overcast.

One point of interest was the decommissioned shore battery, which a Japanese submarine had fired on one night in 1942 -- the only hostile attack on the mainland west coast. The American guns didn't return fire, refusing to give away their positions and the sub went away.

Another, was Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent a miserable winter in 1805-6, waiting for the sun to come out before returning east to St. Louis.

Long stone jetties north and south of the mouth of the Columbia were built to contain the river's flow and maintain a channel deep enough for ships to navigate. The jetties also collected sand, extending the shoreline.

We made plans to meet my nephew Spenser, who lives in Portland and recently bought a new Suzuki V-Strom like ours, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, in Tillamook, Ore., famous for cheddar cheese and home to the Tillamook Air Museum, a collection of flyable vintage airplanes housed in a giant blimp hangar.

The blimp hangar at Tillamook is one of two built there to house a fleet of lighter-than-air vessels used to patrol for enemy submarines and escort convoys during World War II. Each hangar could hold eight blimps and the surviving structure -- the other burned down in 1992 -- claims to be the largest wooden building in the world.

The Air Museum blimp hangar, completed in 1943, is 1,072 feet long, 15 stories high and could house 6 football fields within its seven acres of floor space. It can be seen from miles away by south-bound drivers on US 101. Naval Air Station Tillamook was decommissioned in 1948.

Unfortunately, Spenser wasn't able to make it out to the coast to meet us, but we spent an hour or two wandering among the many airplanes on display, which ranged from a WWI Nieuport II replica to an F-14 Navy Tomcat fighter -- like the one in the movie Top Gun. Highlights of the privately owned collection include a twin-engine P-38 Lightning, a Spanish-built German Me-109 Messerschmidt, a PBY-5A Catalina flying boat and a Russian Mig 17.

We continued down the coast on US 101 and camped at Umpqua State Park at Salmon Harbor on Winchester Bay, which is a Mecca for dune buggies and ATVs. The RV parks were crammed with campers pulling trailers stacked with four-wheeled vehicles of many kinds and sizes, all shod with tires designed to grip the sand and orange flags on whippy antennae. Drivers ranged from four and five year olds to gray beards.

The park was nestled in a woody depression near the Umpqua Lighthouse. Except for a fog whistle that tooted faintly, but incessantly, in the distance the campground was quiet and protected.

I stopped to talk to the couple in the neighboring campsite, whose Mercedes Benz camper had a large sticker -- a white cross on a red rectangle. They were from Switzerland and had been on the road for six years, beginning in Europe and moving steadily east through Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, India, Malaysia and Australia. They'd shipped the camper from there to Los Angeles and had spent the last few months in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah before coming up the California coast.

The man asked where we were headed and I said we'd probably stop the next day near Eureka, about 220 miles south.

"Oh, we never go that far in a day," he said. "We like to take small steps."

Further down the coast, we stopped Wednesday morning to stretch and take some pictures at Pacific City, Ore., home of the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, where the cape and dunes dwarf beachgoers.

"Haystack Rock" at Kiwanda Beach is one of several that share that name along the Oregon Coast.

Dunes along the Oregon coast, like this one at Cape Kiwanda, reach heights of 300 feet or more.

Seabirds cover a rocky outcrop above the cold Pacific waters.

We stopped at a scenic overlook a few miles south of the California-Oregon state line for our first look at some typical northern California coast.

We saw an electronic signboard on US 101 near Crescent City that warned drivers to be cautious crossing the Klamath River bridge because of pedestrians. We didn't pay much attention to it at the time but, sure enough, about 20 miles further south when we reached the bridge there were throngs of people parking at either end and hiking out to the middle of the span.

The bridge over the Klamath is decorated with four gilded, life-size California bears.

As we slowly rode across, over the bridge railing we could see a very large grey creature swimming in the river.

This mother gray whale, we were told, was chased up the river with her calf by killer whales. Naturalists were able to get the calf back out into the ocean after the orcas left, but the mother resisted their efforts and was still in the river, swimming in circles, presumably searching for her offspring.

A fully grown gray whale can be more than 45 feet long and is an odd sight swimming in a river. We were told the whale's predicament had been the lead news story locally for several days.

Our goal on Wednesday, Aug. 10, was Eureka, Cal., but we hadn't done much research about the place. Arriving at the Eureka KOA, we found ourselves next to an industrial area and busy US 101. The campground was devoid of trees, crowded and cramped.

At least we had cell phone service. Out came the iPhone and iPad to search for alternatives. The best option appeared to be a county campground in Ferndale, a few miles south of Eureka.

Along the way, we stopped at a Suzuki dealer for David to buy a front turn-signal bulb and a spare. With those in hand, we rode to Ferndale, where the county campground was located at the county fairgrounds. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that preparations for the county fair were in full swing, gearing up for the weekend, and the campground was buried under horse trailers, amusement rides and trucks.

The next option was Humbolt Redwoods State Park, where we found a pleasant, if dark, campsite on the "Avenue of the Giants," the road that meanders for miles through redwood groves along the Eel River.

The V-Strom looks very tiny next to a stand of redwoods.

Thursday morning, we mounted up early, bound for Leggett, Cal., where we'd have breakfast -- we thought -- before heading down the Shoreline Highway, Cal. 1, which splits off US 101 there. It was a 40 mile ride to Leggett, where we discovered everything was closed: the cafe; the grocery store; the gas station; even the "Drive-Through Redwood Tree" tourist trap.

There was to be no coffee, before we tackled California's Highway 1.

As we started down the twisty, two-lane track, a log truck -- riding empty with the trailer hoisted up on the back of the tractor -- pulled into a turn-out to let us by, assuming we'd be faster on our bikes. After about 20 minutes of hairpin turns, sweepers and esses, I glanced in my mirrors and saw that truck still breathing down David's neck. Those big rigs are damn fast on curvy roads.

Next town, some 25 miles from Leggett, was Westport. According to my GPS, there was food there at the Westport Inn, a small B&B on the highway in the middle of the tiny settlement. We stepped through the door into a sitting room, with the usual racks of tourist brochures and magazines. Just beyond was a dining are with two tables set for a meal. The place was empty, however.

After a moment, we heard someone back in the kitchen and an old man soon came out to greet us. We said we were hoping to have breakfast.

"Oh, I don't serve meals anymore, since my wife passed away," he said. As far as we could tell, he didn't book guests anymore either.

We thanked him and crossed the road to the town store, which sold David a cup of coffee and a cookie for $4 and me a frozen breakfast burrito and coffee for $6. The gas pump in front of the store offered 87-octane for $5 a gallon. Westport has its own economy based on scarcity -- a commodity provided by being 25 miles of challenging road from anywhere.

We were running low on gas. I asked what kind of services we'd find in Ft. Bragg, the next town.

"Oh, Ft. Bragg has everything," the storekeeper said. "There's a Denny's, a McDonald's -- everything."

We left without buying any $5 gasoline.

In Mendocino, we took the road out to the point and admired the expensive houses built on the cliffs overlooking the water. The fog layer drifted in and out as we moved south. When it was in, the temperature would drop 20 degrees.

We stopped at a cafe on the corner of Highway 1 and the road out to the Point Arenas lighthouse for a stretch and to warm up. The other side of this sign reads "First Cafe Since Hawaii."

A pelican flew by to decorate my photo of the Point Arenas lighthouse, hunkered down just under the "marine layer," as they call the Pacific fog bank.

We stopped at Jenner for lunch, where the Russian River empties into the ocean. A herd of fat harbor seals makes its home, hauled out on the sand bar waiting for the salmon run.

Our two-day run down the Oregon and Northern California coast began in Umpqua, near Coos Bay (A), with an overnight stop in Humbolt Redwoods State Park ( just south of B) and a taxing, but rewarding, 240 miles from there down the coast to Westport (C), Jenner (D) and Novato, Calif. (E). We're stopping here to stay with old pals, Jan and Rick, and to visit other Bay Area friends.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The long and winding road ...

It's impossible to travel the northwest without following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, a point really driven home to me on Wednesday, Aug. 3, as we crossed the bridge from Lewiston, Idaho, to Clarkson, Wash.

We followed the Snake River on US 12 for a few miles until the river became a lake and the highway veered a bit to the south and climbed along a stream bed into southeastern Washington's rolling hills of pastures and wheat farms.

Leaving Lewiston, Idaho, we struck out over the rolling prairies of southeastern Washington. This secondary road near Pomeroy, Wash., demonstrates the challenge the wheat farmers face in those parts.

While the landscape didn't flatten out entirely, as we passed Walawala and approached Yakima it settled down into orchards and vineyards. Fruit stands beside the road offered ripe cherries for $1 a box, among other offerings.

Stopping for fuel in Pasco, Wash., we spotted the "Huli Huli Hawaiian Grill" -- another sign of Hawaiian life in the universe.

Steve had recommended Lolo Pass, followed by White Pass through Snoqualmie. Although we had to stop several times because of road construction, this route provided amazing views, like this one of Mt. Rainier.

Left to right: Rainier, David and Flanman.

We're told the view of Rainier isn't often this good.

One stop for construction in White Pass took nearly an hour, as crews cut trees and cleared the roadside below us and we got acquainted with some of our fellow travelers, who included a couple of truck drivers using the pass to avoid the hassle of truck weigh stations on the Interstate and a group from Wyoming pulling trailers with five horses, feed and equipment inside.

"What kind of horses are they?" I asked one of the drivers.

"Warmbloods," he answered. "They're a type of carriage horse used in competitions and we're headed to a meet."

I'd heard of Thoroughbreds, Morgans, quarter horses and various draft horse and pony breeds, but Warmblood was new to me. Coming from Wyoming, you'd expect these guys to be headed to a rodeo, but their sport was putting teams of highly trained, expensive, imported horses through their paces pulling a carriage. "It's like dressage," he said.

Eventually, we were down from the pass and looking for where we'd turn to ride some 37 miles up to see Mount St. Helens. The road which leaves US 12 at Randall, is only open in the summer and features overlooks where you can see the volcano and the damage from the May 18, 1980, eruption, which blew down or scorched 230 square miles of forest and killed 57 people and countless animals.

Mount St. Helens is miles away from these trees, killed by its eruption but still standing 31 years later.

From a Mount St. Helens overlook, we got a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier.

One end of Spirit Lake is still covered by floating logs, the remainder of trees felled by the eruption. According to scientists, the logs eventually submerge vertically, because of the larger mass of their root ends, and sink to the bottom where the mineral-laden volcanic ash causes them to petrify into upright transplanted stumps.

While some of the forest has been replanted, much of it is still slowly recovering. The top of the crater, which is now about 1,300 shorter than before the eruption, can be seen in the distance.

More than 30 years after the eruption, evidence of the event is still plain to see.

At the closest overlook, there are steps to climb even higher for a better view of the crater.

After our St. Helens visit, we came back down the 37-mile road to Randall and found a campsite at a golf course/RV park. We pitched our tents near a huge cherry tree -- it must have been 60 feet tall or more -- laden with ripe fruit. We were standing under the tree when a flock of birds landed in the top branches and it began raining cherries. I tried a few; they were small, but sweet.

In the morning, we ate breakfast in Randall and then continued west on US 12 until it connected with US 101 in Aberdeen. From there, we headed north through the rain forests until we eventually emerged on the shore of the Pacific, completing my third transcontinental motorcycle journey.

Our first view of the Pacific Ocean was at Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park.

Staying on 101, we continued north and then east along Lake Crescent, also in the Olympic National Park, until we arrived at Port Angeles, Wash.

That night, we had a tasty Thai dinner in Port Angeles and checked out the schedule for the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, just across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. The first boat Friday morning would leave at 8:30. We weren't sure where we'd go after we arrived in Canada, but it occurred to me that David Black, who owned the newspaper where I used to work, lived in Victoria. I gave him a call to ask advice and he invited us to stop at his house next day.

David was up at 4:45, determined not to be left behind. I got up grudgingly at 5:30 and refused to talk until I'd had some coffee. We parked the bikes at the ferry landing, bought tickets and went for breakfast.

At about 8 a.m., the Ferry Coho arrived to pick up passengers headed to Victoria.

While we were waiting for the Coho, a chubby raccoon walked by, squeezed through a hole in the fence and found his way out on a beam, looking for treats from the waiting passengers.

Mr. Raccoon was particularly fond of salted almonds.

The fog was still rising over Port Angeles when the ferry departed for Canada.

Outside the Victoria harbor, the Russian ship Pallada was at anchor. The sailing vessel is visiting Victoria, San Francisco and, later, Honolulu this summer.

We landed in Victoria, a city that looks a bit like a Walt Disney theme park, with a lovely old hotel, the Empress, dominating the skyline.

Crossing the border in Victoria, I was sent by the immigration officer to "Area 3" to await another officer who would ask more questions. Meanwhile, David passed through quickly and disappeared up the ramp into the city.

During my 20-minute wait for the second officer, I watched while another customs officer, a woman, took apart a car in "Area 2" while the two occupants watched. She was going through a backpack, shuffling and scanning a stack of papers and envelopes and stuffing them back, when my officer number two arrived. I gave him my passport and entry form, which bore only the comment "no reservation on ferry." He took them, said "We have to do an identity check," and disappeared for another 10 minutes.

When he came back, he asked me to name all the states where I've lived. I went through the list and he said, "What about Minnesota?"

I said, "I spent the weekend there two weeks ago at my sister-in-law's, but I've never lived there."

He said "OK," gave me back my passport and said I was free to go. I asked if not having a reservation to ride the ferry was a problem leading to my being sent to "Area 3." He said no -- there were "a combination of factors."

Luckily, David was waiting just outside the gate and his GPS still worked. Mine, however, only had maps of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Moreover, David's T-Mobile cell phone had no signal and wouldn't again even after we got back to the U.S.

My Verizon phone had service, but it was on "Extended Roaming" and I was receiving text messages warning me to turn off "Data Roaming" or pay the expensive consequences. David's iPad used AT&T's 3G network, which was proving to be spotty in the U.S. and non-existant in Canada. We stopped at a gas station and bought a map.

Newspaper tycoon David Black, a former employer of mine who lives in Victoria, graciously invited us to stop for lunch at his ocean-side home, which was formerly the U.S. consulate in Victoria. Here, he shows us the view from an upstairs room he recently remodeled.

We decided to ride up to Nanaimo and take a second ferry from Departure Bay on Vancouver Island to Horseshoe Bay, just north of the city of Vancouver on the mainland, and then ride up to Whistler, site of the 2000 Winter Olympics.

We found a campground -- a new one with sparkling new plumbing, electrical hookups and bathrooms, but a bit raw landscape-wise -- south of Whistler, where this was the view of the morning sunrise.

After an evening tour of the Olympic playground, we set out in the morning to ride a loop from Whistler to Lillooet, down the Frazier River to Hope, B.C., and back into the U.S. We think this is Wedge Mountain but David and I disagree on what made the nearly vertical the tracks in the snow near the summit. He says rockfalls; I say skiers delivered by helicopter.

This view of Duffy Lake, between Whistler and Lillooet, is almost too perfect ...

... so I took another shot with the bike in it to prove we didn't just buy a post card.

If you click on this picture to make it larger, and then look closely at the edge of the lake, you'll see railroad tracks. This is at Seton Lake, a reservoir near Lillooet, which bills itself as "Truly Rugged."

The road from Lillooet to Hope, B.C., along the Frazier River is spectacular, but there are almost no overlooks or places to stop to take photos. So, unfortunately, you'll just have to check it out online.

From Hope, we rode west and crossed the border at Sumas, Wash. It was late Saturday afternoon and we needed to find a place to stay. Happily, most of our mobile devices were working again: GPS, iPhone and iPad -- the T-Mobile phone was still out of service. Electronically enabled, we were able to find a KOA in Birdsview, Wash., east of Bellingham and, after a pleasant hour's ride, checked in.

The KOA campground in Birdsview had some great trees, including a Sequoia, which you don't often see standing alone in a field by itself.

Down the road from the KOA was an event at a local brewery. They called it "Birdstock 2011" and it featured beer, brats and burgers for $4 each, plus a lineup of local live bands. What more could you ask?

In the morning, we saddled up to find the Oregon coast with a plan to ride south on US 101 and California 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. David had been as far north as San Francisco and I've been up to Mendocino, but neither of us had seen the Oregon coast or California's above Mendocino.

We rode south on I-5 through Seattle on Sunday morning, expecting no traffic. Doh! The road wasn't packed, but there were plenty of cars and trucks all going 75 in a 60. We chose the HOV lane, figuring we'd only be exposed on one side. Good plan, except that the HOV lane was mostly paved shoulder, just tacked on to the main road. It was an exciting ride, needless to say, with beautiful views of the city as we sped by.

We stayed on the 5 south past Aberdeen, where we'd been before, and all the way to Kelso and Longview, where we crossed the Lewis and Clark Bridge to Rainier and turned west to Ft. Lewis State Park for a day of rest before going south toward L.A.

Lewis and Clark. There you go again.

Lewis and Clark Bridge between Longview, Wash., and Ranier, Ore.