Thursday, 11 November 2010

My Tour Is Nearly Over....

It seems hard to believe, but my tour of the USA is nearly finished. In less than a week, I will have delivered my bike to the docks in LA and I will be on a flight back to the UK. The end of the tour has arrived very quickly and I have only about another 600 or 700 miles to go!

I had a fantastic ride on day 140, with just under 200 miles of mainly twisty roads ridden through some terrific scenery. The ride out of LA made me smile as I could feel myself un-winding from the tension in the city. I even got to enjoy some lane-splitting and it was just like being back in London traffic for a while!

I stopped on the way at Forest Lawn Memorial Garden as I liked the way the sunlight was catching the fountain as I rode by. So, for about the millionth time, I did a U-turn and went back....



























I had planned to ride California Highway 2 from near Burbank to Wrightwood but I found the first part of it closed due to a recent fire and land slides. Out came my California map and I soon worked out a detour that took me north of the closed part, rejoining Highway 2 further up the road. I was then able to ride across the San Gabriel Mountains and it was a terrific ride. It is a twisty road that follows the contours of the mountains and rises up to 6,800 feet which I hadn’t expected. At about mid-day the heated grips went on and by 1pm, I stopped to put on more clothes! It was chilly to say the least!

Known as the Angeles Crest Highway and in parts the Angeles Forest Highway, the road is 59 miles from near Pasadena to Wrightwood and is a real pleasure to ride. The road is very quiet and I didn’t see many other cars and not one other motorbike. I was riding it during the week though and I imagine it gets busier on the weekends. I was having so much fun being out on the open road again I hardly stopped at all, but here is one of the views I looked at....







































By the time I went passed the Mountain High Ski Resort I was very cold. I was much higher than I thought I would be and I hadn’t dressed properly for such elevations. When I arrived at Wrightwood I needed to warm up and I stopped at the Grizzly Cafe for a much needed bowl of warming soup. My hands were grateful that the road then descended down a few thousand feet and I then joined California Highway 138 and then 38, followed by 18 on my way to Big Bear City. My hands complained once more as these roads climbed to 7,100 feet on this road through the aptly named Sky Forest.

I did get to see Joshua Trees for the first time....


























In previous states, I had seen many trees turning yellow with the onset of autumn. On Highway 138 I saw magnificent oranges and reds of leaves losing their last grip on life....




















Another scenic view from the road....




















I did stop at look at Silverwood Lake....





















The road after the lake was even better than Highway 2 as it was even twistier, steeper and narrower and the views were spectacular....




















I am glad it wasn’t stormy when I went passed this sign....


























A great view of the road passing through the mountains....




















I really liked this hairpin bend....




















If you ever get the chance, go on a road called Rim of the World as it makes its way towards Rimforest on Highway 18. The road has splendid views over San Bernardino....



















I finally arrived at my destination for the night, Big Bear City. I had to look twice at a ski slope nearby to my motel for the night as it was covered in snow. I realised it was man-made but it made me realise that the snow could come at any time and trap me here. I checked the weather forecast for that night and determined it would be cold in the morning. 20F or minus 7 Celsius is really too cold for California, even in November!....






















I might have a few extra layers on in the morning as I set out!

I forgot to mention something a few days ago when I was in Carmel. After wearing them every day for all 20,000 miles so far, I have worn my poor bike boots out. The soles are coming away from the uppers (the main part of the boots) and I had to go buy some Super Glue in an attempt to hold them together for the last few days. So far it seems to have worked and it looks as if they will be able to make it all the way to the end before they get retired. I have to say, they have been fantastically comfortable and unlike many boots I have had over the years, I actually enjoy wearing these.

12 comments:

Canajun said...

I think you should get those boots bronzed as a keepsake of your trip. They've been through a lot!

Arkansas Patti said...

NOOOOOO, say it ain't so. I am so sorry you are nearing the end--I mean you totally ignored Arkansas which has great bike roads.
Seriously, thank you for a lovely trip, you are an amazing guide. The only good thing for me is that I joined late so I now have the option of going back to the beginning.
You really made me see my country they way it should be seen. Thank you.

George F said...

Gary, love the pictures :-) what camera do you have and what lens was used for the switchback picture? I just love that picture :-)

Geoff James said...

I have enjoyed every minute travelling with you Gary, both for your narrative and equally superb photographs. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share in your marvellous journey. Probably too early to ask you "what next?" as I suspect you'll enjoy chilling out for a while.

Stay alert for these last few days!!!!

motoroz said...

As you near the end of the trip I know it is bitter/sweet. It will be nice to go home, but the road is a great place to be when you are on a bike. Love the photo of Silverwood Lake. Bundle up for that morning ride.

iansolley said...

Home in a week - amazing - when you are home and recuperated we need a nice long lunch in a smart London restaurant for a full debrief. Take care these last few miles

Charlie6 said...

Gary, make sure you keep those boots as a memento of the grand tour you're so close to completing....also, maintain vigilance while riding....don't let down your guard until you hand The Leading Ladies over to the shipping guy!

dom

Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bobskoot said...

Gary: Even though you are getting the "end of trip" blues it's always nice to get back home, back to familiar surroundings (and back to Jackie).

. . . and go on a vacation to relax. you've been riding on the wrong side of the road for so long you may have to re-learn your bad UK habits. Isn't it amazing that just when you think you have ridden to a warm state such as California, you would find yourself in below freezing temperatures.

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Eve said...

Wow Gary...don't even mention the end!!! I love the photos. That hairpin turn is my fav. You'll have to have those boots bronzed or something!
Stay warm and ride safe!

Axel said...

Amazing, what a change after 5 month on a bike into a airline seat and boredom. All the best for his difficult transition.
You planed 15.000 miles, it will be well above 22.000, that's 50% over budget. You must have been working in the construction industry in your previous life :)

Gary France said...

Canajun – They have been through a lot! The poor things have nearly had enough now though!

Patti – Thank you for your kind words, When I was planning the route, the hardest thing was not what to decide to see, but what I had to leave out! I am pleased that I was able to share so much with everyone that read my blog. I am lucky that I was able to see so much of your great country.

George – My main camera is a Nikon D200 and I carry two lenses – my everyday lens is a Nikkor 17-55mm 1:2.8 which is incredibly versatile. The second lens and the one I used for the switchback picture is Nikkor 10.5mm Fisheye that I purchased especially for the trip.

Geoff – Thank you. I am glad you have enjoyed the ride. Sharing it has been so much fun. What next? I am going to make an announcement about that on this coming Saturday!

Oz – You are right about bitter / sweet. That is a great way of putting it.

Gary France said...

Ian – That’s a deal!

Charlie6 / Dom – I am being careful right up to the last mile. Today I delver my bike to the shipping agent and I am sure that will feel odd as I leave it there.

Bob – It will be nice to get back home to Jackie. I am sure it will seem odd to me to drive on the wrong side of the road when I get back to the UK. It was nearly 80 degrees yesterday in California and I hear it is cold and raining back home. Oh no!

Eve – The end is very nearly here. I leave the Leading Ladies today in LA and tomorrow I fly to NYC. On Wednesday I then fly back home. I had been looking for a hairpin turn to photograph.

Axel – That is very good and funny! I cannot imagine what I will feel like sitting in that airplane seat.