All posts by Julien Soudy

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Welcome to the Desert

Wild Bill, Scary Larry, Jim Senior and Jimbo. These are just some of the people we have had the pleasure of meeting during our stay at Agua Dolce, California. We had never planned on being here of course, the town being around 60 miles outside of LA and around 100 miles from our intended destination in Death Valley. Vegas is the destination of course, but when someone offers you a stay at a private airfield, it is hard to pass up.

As with most of our encounters we ended up here randomly, purely by chance and by taking the time to start conversations with everyone we can. We were on our way to Santa Barbara when we met Jimbo and Jim Senior. We had stopped for a break at a lookout which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. A smile and a simple “Ow ya doin?” soon lead to being invited in to their very American RV for a cup of coffee.

We spent about half an hour with them, Jimbo was taking his father (Jim Senior) for a trip around the coast on the RV they had bought a few days ago. Jim Senior is a true American living the dream. He started his company some 65 years ago from his house in South Dakota, re-fixing aircraft bearings in his living room and selling them to whomever would buy. Now, White Aero is a major aircraft parts seller operating out of Agua Dolce, buying and selling parts in the UK, Australia, Europe, Asia and around the world.

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They were more than happy to offer us a place to stay, and about a week later (after spending some time in Santa Barbara and LA) we showed up in this quaint rural town on the edge of the Californian desert.

When we arrived, Jimbo came to meet us at a local Pizza shop. We followed him to our lodging for that night which consisted of a well stocked caravan inside an aircraft hangar, one of two that Jim Senior owns. Exhausted from the days ride as well as from our time in Santa Barbara (for parent friendly details of this check out Thomas’ blog post) we were happy to relax, get started on watching “The Pacific” and get to bed.

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The primary objective of our stay here was bike maintenance, and we were in the perfect place. A huge hangar, plenty of tools, good lighting, a fridge stocked with about 60 beers and a bunch of helpful mechanics happy to help us with any troubles we had.

The bike maintenance list was long. And believe it or not, we accomplished everything we set out to do. We checked all our fluid levels, removed and cleaned our air filter, adjusted our balancer lever, inspected and adjusted our chain, drained the carburetor float as well as inspected and installed a new spark plug.

Thomas needed to install a new rear brake pad, as the one that was changed in Hayward had (believe it or not) completely fallen off. I spent some time working on finding a way to secure my bike panniers (beer coolers) so that they can lock. I bought some wire, made some loops and locked it around my coolers.

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That’s not to say that all this was easy. There was swearing, lost tools, misplaced bolts, greasy hands and a few occurrences of “Fuck this”. Miraculously after all this fiddling and removing and replacing of various critical parts our bikes started. Well, mine didn’t but with the help of Wild Bill we got it working again.

While we spend most nights getting our maintenance done and watching The Pacific, days were spent with Jim Senior. We went around to his office and got a tour of his company, and the things they do. Those who know me well will know that I am quite fucking fond of planes, so this was totally awesome.

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His whole family are pilots, some of whom race Tiger Moths, others just love the occasional flight around the desert, sometimes to Mexico and Las Vegas. The offer was there of course to fly us to Vegas, but we politely declined due to time constraints and the fact that we would be missing all of Death Valley. My birthday was the 23rd as well, so we simply HAD to be in Vegas for that.

After visiting Jim Senior’s home a few miles from the airport, he decided to give us a truck for our troubles. It was formerly Jimbo’s who had since bought a newer version of the same truck. Our bikes were obviously un-useable at this time due to the maintenance work we were doing so we quickly had the keys.

This bad boy was huge, and was terrifying to drive. After a while I got used to driving something the size of a fucking bus and had fun being able to change lanes without fear of being destroyed. Get out of my way, I’m in a truck!

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There were lots of famous people at this airport. Well, no-one that would be recognized by sight, but needless to say they have a shitload of money and they know how to spend it (well, to me at least). There was the creator of Monster Energy Drinks, as well as the creator of 3D printing who had hangars there. We tried to meet up with these dudes, but alas, being people with responsibilities we never managed to meet them.

Instead, on our last night there we hung out with a bunch of dudes who had some “interesting” political views. There was a pilot from American Airlines, a dude who owner a bungee jumping business among others. We drank some more beers, chilled and discussed. The guy who flew for American Airlines owned a Chinese training plane from WW2. He was happy to let me sit in that bad boy which was awesome.

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But all things come to an end and we found ourselves soon on our way to Death Valley and Vegas… (stay tuned for this post)

And so it has begun…

Well it has been a while since our last post, but to cut a long story short, we are in Eugene Oregon after riding for around 1,000kms from Vancouver. Our last few days in Vancouver were getting a bit grim, with the weather turning for the worse and both of us very keen to get moving.

10718971_818796578151869_398669272_nWe were lucky enough to make good friends with the entire crew at Burnaby Kawasaki who helped us out a lot in choosing our bikes and getting them outfitted. We headed there on the day of our departure to fit the panniers (side boxes) on Thomas’ bike, as well as attach a new skid plate to my bike. As usual, and us not really knowing what we are doing, it took a lot longer than expected and we only managed to roll out of Vancouver at around 3pm.

We hit the road and it felt so good to finally get going and to begin our huge journey we have both been thinking about for so long. We rode along the I-5 in beautiful weather and within no-time we had reached the Canadian/US border.

10721099_818796341485226_1864967680_nAs expected, we were selected for additional screening and had to wait another hour or so in line while a serious faced customs officer furrowed his brow and glanced over our passports again. He basically asked exactly the same questions we were asked in the first screening but for some reason our answers seemed even more satisfactory this time and after a $6 “land border fee” we made it to the land of FREEDOM. By  complete chance we ran into our Cambie friends Mark, Peter and Amber who had also been taken aside in their van for additional screening. Their screening would take longer than ours, so we said our goodbyes and got on our way.

The road to Seattle, to be honest, was horrendous. We found ourselves riding our bikes in what felt like a hurricane. Heavy rain and strong winds. Neither of us equipped with the necessary gear we decided to just power through it and get to our couchsurfing host in Seattle. Huge trucks would pass us by and spray water all over us, so when we arrived we were shivering and drenched. Having not heard from our host for a while, and with the time approaching 11pm, we decided to get some WiFi and try to contact her.

Luckily, our host Shirley was awake and more than happy to take us in. An awesome chick, she gave us some tips on things to do around town and after a well earned rest we awoke to see that the rain had cleared and it was another wonderful day.

1488348_818796461485214_1231312360_nWe woke up late, and with another couch surfer, Stefan we decided to go for a wander around town. Thomas and I both agree that Seattle is really fucking cool. Of course, there are huge roads and the cars are totally unnecessary but if you look past that, Seattle is definitely a place I would want to spend more time in. We ended up staying there for the weekend with our host Shirley and made a few friends as well.

We of course went out quite a bit in Seattle around the Capitol Hill area and made some good friends. We visited Q nightclub on Capitol Hill where they were hosting a dB festival night. Although for some reason we had to pay $30 entry, it was a lot of fun and we enjoyed the music a lot (especially myself who was happy to see Recondite play). The next day we chilled in a park with out host and ran into some more friends.

10523468_818796411485219_1981742774_nAlthough it was a struggle, we went out again the next night to a few other bars and probably spent more money than we should have. American bars apparently want nothing to do with the Dutch ID and unfortunately we had to resort to public drinking to get the job done.

In typical fashion, we decided to leave Seattle when it started to rain and found ourselves once again on the interstate on our bikes. Still with insufficient equipment (street shoes and jeans), we were soaked and miserable once again. Having been through this we decided to stop being morons and to buy some proper riding equipment. We pulled off the interstate and got some proper riding boots (which are actually super comfortable and badass) as well as some kevlar jeans.

Once again overestimating our capability to arrive anywhere on-time, we found riding at night, trying to navigate our way to another couch surfing host who lives outside of Portland in Beaverton, Oregon. For the first time in a while we actually had a bed to sleep in which was a big joy after sleeping on the ground for the last few nights (well, I had snagged an air mattress).

10695106_818796444818549_931469252_nOur host Kevin was great and took us out on the town in Portland to show us the nightlife. Being a Monday night, Portland was predictably dead but aside from that it is a decent city. Seattle we found was a lot more lively, but if we had spent more time in Portland I’m sure we would like it as well.

At this point it is probably a good idea to mention the bike problems we were having at the time as one of our motives to stop in Portland was to get these fixed before heading further south. My bike has the problem of, although being a Kawasaki KLR 650, is actually a C-Model KLR 650 as opposed to the MUCH more common A-Model KLR 650. If you’re like me, you don’t know the difference.

It turns out the difference is that panniers for the A-Model are readily available throughout North America, however the C-Model has an entirely different back mounting system and barely anyone makes brackets for the C-Model. This poses a problem for mounting these side boxes as I have nothing to attach them to. We were hoping to see a mechanic in Portland to try and find a solution or alternatively get a metal worker to custom make a bracket for me.

10474166_818797148151812_1714232367_nThomas on the other hand had the very bothersome problem of his bike not starting, which is obviously less than desirable if you’re planing to do another 25,000 kms to Argentina. We know it is a battery problem, but can’t figure out why it isn’t working as we had it checked before we left Vancouver.

We went to see a mechanic in Portland, but to be honest, we were less than impressed with their service. He glanced at my bike and said he could make a mount, but did not seem interested at all in taking any measurements or doing anything aside from taking my money. We decided against this guy and to head on further down the road.

10721099_818796188151908_836538717_nRather than taking the boring interstate, we chose at this point to start riding along the coast. We went to Wal-Mart (an experience in itself) and bought a tent, and I picked myself up a sleeping bag. We left Beaverton and headed West to the coast.

The riding here was much, much better than the five-lane interstate and we finally found ourselves in nice weather where we could actually really enjoy our bikes. Around winding mountain roads we had a lot of fun driving around the hills toward the coast.

That was until on a blind corner, Thomas ran out of petrol.

You might think its stupid to not carry enough fuel to get from point A to point B, and you’d be right. The problem is though, we did have enough fuel to get us there, but with a dead battery Thomas was reasonably revving his engine like a madman in a desperate attempt to get the battery to charge. This had the side effect of draining the fuel, and without a fuel gauge (as all KLR’s are) he sputtered to a halt on the side of the road.

After some careful planning, we made our move and got the bike started (Thomas switching his bike to the reserve tank and team-working to push start it) with the plan of meeting in the next town for petrol. I was also low on fuel, but managed to do a total of 400kms without running out.

1488501_818796158151911_1702292298_nWe filled up and made our way to Cape Lookout State Park to set up camp for the night. We managed to set up the tent and even get some free firewood from an elderly couple. Within no time we were sitting by the fire next to our bikes, and enjoying some fine (cheap) Californian wine.

This for us was the “real” trip. Far from the interstate and in the wilderness, chilling by the camp fire and having a good old fashioned cotch (a relax).

Luckily the next day, we had a nice stretch of coastal road ahead of us and were extremely keen to get moving. About 160 miles of winding roads along some of the best riding either of us have either done. We had to stop a few times, due to us not realizing how physical riding can be. Sore necks, numb asses, and most muscles aching or about to ache. Nevertheless we pressed on and arrived in Eugene yesterday.

Now we’re finally up to current events and our current situation. Sitting in Eugene, Oregon with our host Madisyn who has very kindly let us surf her couch for a few days. Today was very productive as we went to visit two seperate mechanics to solve our problems. The first mechanic tested Thomas’ battery and found out that the problem with the charging is likely due to our own fault.

10721139_818796281485232_1403227276_nWe had fitted the battery ourselves and had apparently not tightened the terminal enough, with the vibration of riding it had come loose and as a result had meant that the battery would not charge correctly. He tightened it up, and things are looking optimistic for a push-startless tomorrow.

After this we headed to a dual-sport dealership who had an office in Springfield, Oregon. We asked about my rear bracket problem and a kind man called Mike offered to rig something up for me for only $100 (plus $200 for the brackets). He will custom make a mount for me which will mean I can pick up some panniers second hand probably somewhere in California. After which we will finally be all set to head down Mexico way.

So there we have it! I’ll bring my bike over to his place on Sunday, and hopefully Monday we’ll continue down the coast in to Northern California. We’re currently on the lookout for GoPro’s so keep an eye out for some helmet-cam footage in the near future!

 

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Our time at the Cambie

On the eve of our departure and the beginning of our epic journey its now time to explain a bit what we’ve been doing these last two weeks in Vancouver. Bike related, Thomas has already covered in his previous post however all the things outside of that has also been quite exciting and new for both of us.

First off, as usual neither of us have really seen anything of Vancouver. Don’t expect pictures of us in front of monuments or anything like that. We have however had an excellent time at our hostel, The Cambie, located in possibly the most ratty area of Vancouver and also the rattiest area both of us have ever been (so far).

rsz_20140917_201209This is far from saying we didn’t enjoy our stay here, at the same time it has probably been some of the best times we’ve had in a hostel. As a lot of you might know we feel at home among the bin rats. It has been a great crew, great crowd and of course a great group of rowdy lads.

Most days have been spent sorting out bike affairs such as repairs, purchases and other such things. The nights however have mostly been spent with the lads. From all over the world (but mostly Australia and Germany) we’ve been enjoying our nights here by getting heinously shitfaced, smoking a lot of darts and enjoying the local wildlife of Hastings Street.

One such story is the (now famous) story of the cabinet. Thomas and I were outside punching a dart (as we do), and we spotted a very determined homeless man carrying a large wooden cabinet. He of course stopped and we were less than surprised to find out that he was looking to sell it. His asking price of five dollars was quite steep so we managed to get him all the way down to 75 cents and two cigarettes, an outright steal. We were practically making money by buying this. A shitfaced Thomas attempted to bring it up to our room, only to be stopped by the receptionist. It was eventually left in the lobby.

Fast forward a few hours, and I go down for another dart with Karl, from Quebec.10653338_10152549757247839_5910118978667696319_n To our pleasure, the cabinet is still there. For the next two and a half hours we begin to wrangle drunk and drugged people off the street to try and sell this cabinet. We put on a terrific show, however surprisingly there wasn’t much interest in a 25kg cabinet which was about 2 meters tall. We had the most success “renting” the cabinet to passers by who seemed very interested in trying to squeeze through the shelving space. We charged 25 cents for each attempt and ended up making about $1.50.

At one point a man decided he wanted to carry this cabinet on his shoulder and run from one set of traffic lights to another in under 13 seconds (It was the guy in this picture). It might have been the cocaine he was on but he did it, and we all cheered. We ended up abandoning the cabinet where we left it and the next morning it was gone. Hours of fun and even a profit was made. I’ll miss this cabinet for sure.

20140923_020141“The lads” were a big part of our stay. Sitting in the common room, we claimed the place as our own, and would often leave awful messes for the cleaning ladies. Mostly empty beer cans, but also spilled beer and wine, among other things. We enjoyed our daily de-brief in the common room as well as meeting downstairs for our breakfast.  As big of a group as we had, we’d generally lose each other throughout the course of the night but we’d always meet back up and discuss our adventures.

rsz_20140919_212210So thanks to all those at the Cambie who made our stay in Vancouver so enjoyable, as well as to the locals who made us feel so welcome. Tomorrow we are collecting our bikes from the mechanic (where we spent today being handy-men fixing panniers and brackets to Thomas’ bike) and then heading over to Seattle where we have some couch surfing lined up. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to handle the freedom in ‘Murrica, but we’ll do our best to try and not die from a freedom overload.

Until next time friends!