Tuesday, 31 January 2012

January 20th-21st, 2010 pt.2

Sundown.  Not a fan of riding in the dark.  We have 3 rules we try to follow when it comes to riding; it’s kept us in good shape thus far.  Rule #1: Never ride at night.  For obvious reasons.  Rule #2: Never exceed the speed limit.  Super annoying for people that have to follow us when we're on the freeway; some might even say it increases the risks for not going with the flow of traffic, but we prefer to have the ability to stop sooner than later by not exceeding the speed limit.  It also promotes less wear on the bike.  Rule #3: Don't keep a deadline.  As soon as you start pushing for mileage, fatigue sets in and you become less aware of your surroundings.  Besides, you miss out on a lot of things if you just blow by it.  Where's the fun in that?  The only exception to rule #3 is when you're in an urban setting.  More street lights.  More visibility.  Less animals coming out of the woodwork.  Boxermoose invited us over to his place in Houston, TX to spend a night or two.  We pull into the driveway in the evening and receive a warm welcome from Boxermoose and his family out on his lawn.  We step into their house and right away we notice a slew of Canadian paraphernalia all over.  Now we've already established that Americans are nice and we've really appreciated everyone's hospitality, but this...this might be a tad over the top?  We find out later they ARE Canadians.  That explains everything. 
Casa Boxermoose
Some members of the family
Boxermoose rode to Alaska on a previous trip with a few of his friends and gave us some tips on what to expect when we get there.  Alaska...seems so far from now.  I know for a fact that when we get there, I'll look back on today and think geez that went by so fast.
Getting spooked by Boxermoose's son.  He had a lot of cool toys and costumes.
The next day Amanda and I explored Houston.  I noticed the chain to my bike was a bit slack so I tightened it.  Rode around the block to make sure everything was good and noticed a clicking noise coming from the chain.  Too tight.  I loosen it up a bit and the clicking noise was gone.  I hope I didn't mess it up.
Our first stop was at The Menil Collection; an art gallery.  I’m forgetting something; I know I did.  Darn it!  I forgot the camera back at the house.  This is the only picture we got.  The Health Museum was lots of fun.

Boxermoose and his wife decided to celebrate my birthday ahead of time and took us to Joe's Crab Shack in Kemah, TX.  Once again I left the camera back at the house.  We also had a chance to take a little stroll on Kemah Boardwalk to let our food digest.  Texans sure know how to load up the plate! 
This photo was taken back at the house.  I was so full you can see my belly bursting at the seams.  Wonder why I'm dressed up like a bird?  Amanda managed to secretly inform the waiter that my birthday was coming up so at the end of our meal the waiter puts me on the spot and gets me to flap around the restaurant like a bird while everyone sang happy birthday.  I hate being put on the spot!

Leftovers for breakfast

I think I could pass as a character on Final Fantasy.  My name would be Waayfay:  Leader of the Two-Wheeled Machina Tribe

Hey!  Fellow Canucks!
Oh, birthday shenanigans.
Finding Chocobos.

Monday, 30 January 2012

January 20th-21st, 2010 pt.1

Yesterday on our way to Houston, TX, I notice the photo of Amanda on the bike’s fairing is running on its last legs.  It’s tattered and flapping all over the place and I wonder if this has any affect on my gas mileage.  A part of me thought I should take it off and keep it since it lasted all this way.  The other part of me thought I should let the picture run its course; if the wind carries it away so be it.  As we cross the state line into Texas, I check to see if the picture is still there.  The picture was gone and that is all I have to say about that.   

Texas…The Lone Star State…gateway to the Southwest.  Where law is in the hands of the one carrying a six-shooter on their hip.  We stop to take a few snapshots at the visitor center and meet an elderly couple travelling in an RV from Alaska.  We tell them about our journey and we exchange contact info for when we get to Alaska.  They live in North Pole, AK and asked us to stop by when we get there. 

Traffic started to get a little chaotic when we entered the city limits of Houston, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle after all the saddle time we’ve accumulated riding through various major cities here in the US.  A special request was made from Amanda’s mum to visit Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church.  Joel Osteen is the senior pastor, televangelist, and best-selling author at Lakewood. 

The lobby...

...trying to sneak past security...
...Success!  Made it into the sanctuary.  The place was humungous.  We found out that this was where the Houston Rockets used to play.
Getting our picture taken right before the service
Let the show begin!  It felt like we were at a rock concert.
232 km

Poof!  Gone with the wind.
Stage dive!  Time to body surf!
Into the Wild West.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

January 18th-19th, 2010

Sun’s up!  Let’s ride!  We broke camp yesterday morning and as a rule of thumb, we try to leave the place cleaner than when we arrived there.  It’s been days since the last time we had a shower.  One whiff from our clothes would make the nastiest of scents smell like roses.  Even dry showers using wet wipes couldn’t come close to combating the stench.  We get online to see if there’s any response from the “pitch a tent” thread.  Nothing.  We try the tent space thread to see if there’s anyone close by.  Divingbiker.  Lake Charles, LA.  Has tent space at his dive shop and training facility; True Blue Watersports.  Let’s give it a shot.  Hope he doesn’t mind the short notice. 
We pull into the dive shop.  It was Sunday and the shop was closed.  You think he’ll mind if we just go ahead and camp here?  I dunno.  Look!  There’s a camper trailer.  Let’s go knock on the door.  A young man in his late 20’s answers the door.  We explain our situation and he makes a phone call to his father in-law who was none other than Divingbiker!  “All is good.  Dad’s out on a boat and won’t be back till later this evening.  In the meantime just make yourselves feel at home.”  Who says Americans aren’t nice? 

Drying out the gear
Finally!  Dinner at Craker Barrel!  Prices are so reasonable; we can use the same gift card for a second or third meal.
Mmmmm.  Meatloaf with breaded fried okra.
The next day we spent tinkering around with the bikes.  Air filter cleaned, chain tension tightened.
Amanda needed to change the spark plug to see if that would help much with the cold starts.  Divingbiker's son provided guidance and hands-on support.  Thank you so much!
Amanda getting her hands dirty...
…success!  Amanda’s reward was a ride around town two-up with Divingbiker on his Harley.  Now before you pass judgment, he’s got a GS also.  Originally Divingbiker and his friend were going to make the trek up to Alaska, but had to bail due to work commitments.  Divingbiker, if you’re not on your way to Alaska already, we hope you take the plunge soon!

291 km
Refuge at TrueBlue. 
Harley, we meet once again.
Ugh!  I smell funky.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

January 16th-17th, 2010

Now I know you might be wondering “Why is Amanda doing all the talking?”  For obvious reasons.  1.  She looks less threatening than my ugly mug.  I mean let’s face it; I look like I’m ready to bomb North Korea off the face of the planet for crying out loud.  2. Males in general respond better to females in distress.  3.  Females respond better to other females because they got the “we-gotta-look-out-for-each-other-sister” thing going on, and 4.  What can I say; Amanda’s got the white girl charm. 
Global Maritime Ministries Inc.  Incorporated in 1999, they provide safe havens for seafarers and port-related personnel.  Their mission centers are located near ports to allow access to make phone calls, internet, counseling, and to God.  Last night we met the reverend at the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Worked out well because him and his wife were going on a ship for a week to minister.  Told us we could camp anywhere on the property for as long as we needed to.  Good thing too; it was calling for rain the next couple of days.

We tried to hide the bikes as best we could...
...and camp where we wouldn't be seen.
Access to a stovetop.  Fitting that we have New Orleans style jambalaya instant rice.
A leisurely stroll alongside the mighty Mississippi River to aid digestion
Afternoon tea.  Must've been passed down from all that British influence in Canada.
Mississippi River at sundown
Supper!  Amanda got talking to one of the locals and found a grocery store close by.  Adding hot dogs makes a world of difference.
Guess what's in the bag?  That's right!  It's doo doo!  What?  It would've been rude of us to spoil their grass.
Moored on holy ground.
River flowing out to sea.
Gonna need more bags. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

January 15th, 2010

Hey!  Throat isn’t slit open!  Another fabulous day!  What a wonderful feeling it is to be alive; to be able to wake up and be conscious of the first breath of air I take in is a good day in my book.  I look beside me and see Amanda bundled up in her sleeping bag, her face as calm as it could ever be as she sleeps; this could be heaven right now.  We break camp, thank our friendly neighbors for looking out for us for the night, and ride off.  Just as I thought to myself “Glad the sketchy guy didn’t come by to see us last night,” we see that very same ratty-looking white Cadillac pulled over on the side of the road.  “Hope he’s not in the car. Hope he’s not in the car.  Hope he’s not in the car.”  I kept saying to myself as we rode past him.  Did he spot us?  I hope not.  I kept eyeing the rear view mirror until his car was out of sight.  Phew.  That was a close call.  Next thing I know, Amanda zooms right beside me and yells “I think I saw him pull out onto the road!  Hurry before he catches up to us!”  You got be kidding me!  This guy serious?  Ok.  Take a deep breath.  Think.  We could take one of these dirt roads and lose him in the forest?  Too risky.  It may lead to a dead end or worse yet; take us right into the village of blood thirsty cannibals.  Besides, this guy probably knows the area far better than we do.  Stay on the road.  I take a look at the rear view mirror.  Sh*t!  There he is.  Ok, if this guy wants to dance; let’s dance.  We make a right on the next approaching street.  A few houses in the area.  Good enough.  If things get dicey at least there’ll be witnesses or someone to call 911.  We ride up a block, just enough to see if he continues onwards or turns to follow us.  I unbuckle the holster carrying the canister of bear mace.  We wait.  There he is!  He slows down…waves his hand out the window as if to say goodbye and continues onwards.  I buckle the holster carrying the canister of bear mace.  We ride onwards. 
New Orleans is our next destination.  Don’t know anyone or what to see there, so we pull into Starbucks for a hot drink and free Wi-Fi to get some intel.  Turns out in order to gain access to the internet; you have to have an existing account with AT&T with some kind of password or something of that nature.  What a gyp!  That’s the last time we’ll ever step into Starbucks again. 

Oh well, looks like we’re gonna have to do it the old fashioned way:  Dive head first and ask the locals.  New Orleans…Mardi Gras…Easy Rider.  Those were the thoughts that entered my brain as we rode south along the Pontchartrain Expressway.  Upon entering the city limits, we could see reminiscences of the damage done by hurricane Katrina.  Must’ve been crazy times.  Tragic times.  We rode in looking for Bourbon Street because that’s where the party’s at; or at least that’s what we’ve been told. 
Riding on Bourbon Street was a riot.  People were hollering from all over the place; many of them intoxicated of course.  There were women standing in front of doorways, scantily clad in g-strings; trying to entice the general public into entering their fine establishments.  I wish I had taken pictures of it all, but I was preoccupied with the challenge of dodging drunken people walking on the streets.  Just as we find a place to park, it starts to pour.  We decided to take off because we didn’t feel comfortable leaving all our stuff on the bikes.  Besides, it was getting late and we still haven’t figured out where to lay our heads for the night.  We proceeded to head west, but got stuck in traffic while in the rain.  Ugh, this sucks.  We made it to Laplace, LA and stopped at Wendy’s to grab a bite and regroup.  It also gave us a chance to get out of the rain.  We met 2 guys sitting across from us who noticed our motorbikes out in the parking lot.  We got to talking and they offered us a place to stay overnight at one of their places, but it was an hour drive north of where we are.  We declined because we didn’t have anything left in us.  We were just going to find a Wal-Mart nearby and camp.  Before they left, they gave us two bottles of sweet tea vodka and t-shirts.  Turns out they were representatives of Firefly Vodka and were attending a conference down in New Orleans.  Nice.  We could definitely use a drink to take the edge off. 

GPS gave us directions to a Wal-Mart not far away.  We get there and notice the area is a little too urban to pitch a tent in the lot.  We also notice there aren’t any RV’s camped out here.  What the heck.  Doesn’t hurt to ask.  Wasn’t surprised when Amanda came back with the bad news.  They don’t allow camping.  What do we do now?  We could go to a 24-hour fast food chain and just sit there till morning.  That’s an option.  As I was pondering the possibilities, Amanda notices a van that belonged to a Christian organization that just pulled in.  Doesn’t hurt to ask.  Wasn’t surprised when Amanda came back with the good news.  We’re saved! 

Down in New Orleans.
Didn’t get a Mardi Gras Queen.
Need to reconvene. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

January 14th, 2010

Ok…toes are wiggling…fingers are moving…brilliant!  Didn’t freeze to death!  Happy day!  Let’s pack up and get the heck outta here!

Another brisk morning.  When will this cold snap ever go away?  As we were making our way towards Pensacola, we notice a familiar bike pullout in front of us.  It was a blue 08’ KLR so we pulled up beside him to wave hello at a stoplight.  Turns out that he’s read about us on ADV so we pull over to the side of the road and introduce ourselves.  Once again like dogs sniffing each other’s butts, we all do a onceover on each other’s motorbikes.  Sallad was his username, a young lad, was on his way to school.  Told us if he had known we were in the area, he would’ve definitely let us stay over at his place for the night.  Wish we had known that.  I really liked the aftermarket foot pegs on Sallad’s motorbike and he told us we could get it on eBay for $20 bucks.  Sold!  All I have to do now is figure out where to get them shipped.  It was great to have randomly met up with Sallad and be recognized from our ride report on ADV.  For a split second we felt like celebrities. 
Sweet Home Alabama was the tune I was singing in my helmet when we crossed the state line.  Alabama…we’ve heard that there’s a bit of racial tension down in these parts.  Don’t know how the locals will take to a Chinaman motoring around with “one of their own”.   TheRidingLibrarian in Fellsmere once told me this:  “Down there there’s an unspoken respect for Orientals; like Harley riders have for BMW’s”.  Well, there’s only one way to find out if this is true. 
Amanda’s motorbike was due for an oil change so we stopped at Daphne, AL to look for a Wal-Mart.  At some point our line of communication was distorted somewhat.  The original game plan was to drain the first bit of oil into an empty Monster Energy Drink can and then let the rest drain into quadruple-bagged plastic bags.  Instead, Amanda tried to use the empty can to transfer the oil, while it’s draining, into the bags.  It was a mess.  Needless to say, we got the job done and hope never to do it that way ever again.  Live and learn.   

As much as I would like to be spontaneous and go by the seat of our pants, I tend to prefer doing a little research if the resources are available.  Our usual routine when we enter a big city is to ask Mr. GPS to find us a public library.  Free Wi-Fi and internet accessible computers!  This way we both get to go on the internet and not have to wait on one another. 

Lunch time!  Our first Checkers experience.
Taking the time to research brought us to Airey Camp in De Soto National Forest where it was free to camp.
 The campground had clean outhouses and running water, which is very rare for a campground that didn’t charge a fee.  There was one other RV camped here so we chose a spot up on a hill to give them some privacy.  We took advantage of what little daylight we had left by gathering wood and gigantic pine cones that were the size of footballs for campfire.  I was also very excited to use our newly acquired pocket saw.  A few moments later we see a ratty-looking white Cadillac pull up and a scraggily Caucasian male gets out of the car and walks towards us.  He starts talking to us and right away I can smell the alcohol on this guy.  He starts talking about how the military does covert exercises in the area and if you manage to spot a soldier hiding in the bush, he would give you $200.  By this point I was partially ignoring what he was saying and was focusing on sawing a big chunk of wood.  Amanda on the other hand was eating it all up, which made him stick around and talk more.  He told us he camped here last week and moved down the road a few miles or so.  He was definitely a squatter the hunters warned us about the other day.  My instinct told me this guy was a sketchy dude and that we shouldn’t reveal too much information about ourselves.  It didn’t help when he offered to help me chop wood with his enormous bowie knife he pulls out of his car and says “You see, I ain’t kiddin around.”  He told us he was going to return later tonight to “check up on us” just before he drove off.  Great.  We considered camping elsewhere, but Amanda thought it would be too risky to ride at night in these parts.  So she walks over to the RV, introduces herself, and tells them about our situation.  They had no problems with us setting our tent next to the RV.  They were an elderly couple and had a boxer dog.  The man was ex-military and had firearms stored inside the RV.  Not sure if I felt any safer camping next to this guy, but it sure was better than the alternative. 

Exxon Valdez 2
Sleeping with one eye open.
Shhh!  Can that be him?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

January 13th, 2010

Another chilly morning, but no rain though.  We said our goodbyes to the 2 hunters and right before they left for their hunt, they gave us a few hand warmers; the little sachets that contain chemicals and heats up when you shake them.  The packaging says they last for 8 hours, but I think they wear out much sooner than that.  Heat is better than no heat and they might come in handy someday. 
Riding along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico along route 98 was easy going.  The highlight of today’s ride was when we passed Tyndall Air Force Base and saw fighter jets flying all around us in the sky.  I couldn’t resist pumping my fist in the air like the way Tom Cruise does in the movie Top Gun while he’s riding his Kawasaki GPZ900R alongside a fighter plane.  “I feel the need…the need for speed!”  On a KLR?  Keep dreaming. 

We stopped in Destin, FL at Bass Pro Shops to use a gift card Amanda’s Aunt had given me for Christmas.  Spent it all on boil-in-the-bags and a pocket saw for breaking up large pieces of wood for campfires.  I guess it can also double up as a garrote for times when I need a stealth kill.   

Amanda fascinated with the fishes at Bass Pro Shops

Heat: Shaken, not stirred.
I got a MiG on my tail!
Wal-Mart allow fires?

For dinner, we were looking forward to going to Cracker Barrel and use a gift card, also given to us for Christmas from Amanda’s Aunt, but the restaurant in town was going through renovations.  We opted for Subway instead.  Night came quickly and we were too tired to look for remote places to camp.  Once again we camped at 5-star Wal-Mart in Navarre, FL.  Remember I said those hand warmers might come in handy?  Tonight was the night they were. 
A rough outline of where we've been thus far