If everything goes right, we get a good experience. If everything goes wrong, we get a good story. — Simon Sinek

 

It was Sunday, July 9th and my goal was to get the lanky, stoic German head of security for World Superbike to laugh. “Yah, I am restoring a 200 year old farm house between Stuttgart and Salzburg,” Hans said to me in his heavy German accent. “But now, I has got it torn down to timbah, notzing more.” “Yep,” I say, “You sound like me. Great at demolition, not so good at rebuilding.” “Yah!, Yah!”, he laughs. Mission accomplished. I was doing a stellar job at distracting him from my nervousness because if he knew I was just an impostor with a security vest and a whistle around my neck he would have thrown me out on my head. I had no training, no experience and not the faintest clue what I was doing in pit lane at Laguna Seca.

It was Monday, July 3rd and I could not sleep. I was intoxicated with the idea of fulfilling my long standing dream of riding my motorcycle down to Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway in Salinas, California, camping at the track, then riding north up the California coastline on the return trip. Everything about the trip checked boxes off my motorcycle bucket list: camp at the track, ride my bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, tour the California coastline along Highway 1, see the Redwood Forests and explore Crater Lake. This year, I finally decided to pull the trigger and go. Once my route and timetable were planned out, they morphed into a 10 day trip. A lot can go wrong on a trip that size, and most did which, as it turned out, was the best part.

Tuesday, July 4th was my departure date. The night before leaving, my apprehension kept me awake most of the night mentally going over my packing list. Tent and sleeping bag? Check. Camp stove and food? Check. Tire repair kit and inflator? Check. My 1998 Honda VFR 800 was so fully loaded with camping equipment, gear and food that once on the center stand, it perched on the rear wheel instead of the front. To beat the July heat, I got a 7:00 am start out of Wenatchee, Washington. As I mounted my steed in the driveway, my wife spoke some sarcastic good luck wishes into my helmet, “If you crash, either come out of it without a scratch, or just die. I don’t want to take care of a vegetable.” That’s not a jinx at all.

The plan was to do heavy mileage for two days on the way down to Laguna Seca, then take my time and do some sightseeing on the return trip. So the route Tuesday was basic and boring; follow Highway 97 from Wenatchee to Klamath Falls, a 450 mile day, and stay at nearby Hagelstein County Park. Highway 97 is lovely from Blewett Pass to Goldendale, but once in Oregon, especially south of Bend, it became so flat, straight and hot that it took a lot of self-control not to pin the throttle, wake up the VFR’s growly V-four and make it all disappear behind me.

I pulled into Hagelstein County Park near Klamath Falls, Oregon, which had the advantage of not only being right off the highway, but also free and first come, first serve. Unfortunately, it was as pretty as a free campground next to a major highway could have been, which is to say, not at all. I discovered a vacant camp spot under a tree next to the pond, only to realize later why no one had taken it. After I pulled in and started to unpack, I saw the windowless, brown Dodge van with attached horse trailer parked nearby. The doors were open and it was immediately evident that it was not just a van, it was someone’s home.

That someone came out to greet me right away, and the first thing I noticed was his dress. Yes, you read that right, his dress. Well, and his massive cleavage. He was in his mid-60 with a ring of grey hair around his tan, bald head that made its way into a shoulder blade length ponytail. He had been a male at one point, but now had two big breasts that were barely contained by his pink, knee length dress. He (she?) approached me, noticed the bike and asked where I was from.

Motorcycles are great conversation starters, especially when they are dirty, have an out-of-state license plate and are loaded with camping gear. However, right then, I was wishing I could have slipped into the murky pond next to the bike and held my breath for, say, the rest of the night. “I am from Washington,” I said politely. “Hi, my name is Ted,” and I stuck out my hand to shake. I did it out of reflex and immediately regretted it. “Hi,” he said, “my name is Cindy.” Of course it was. The first thing I noticed when he shook my hand was that his hands were as massive as his breasts, which I believe is an anatomical thing. The second was that his long fingernails had trapped a lot of grease under them. At least he could have painted them.

 

All of the camping gear and food packed far back on the bike make first gear power wheelies a piece of cake, but not recommended. Still, the best conversation starter ever.

 

Cindy, starving for company, proceeded to talk at me as I set up camp, swam and then fixed myself dinner. The whole time I was thinking to myself that most people have relatively predictable 4th of July holidays filled with family, friends, barbecues and fireworks. Mine was spent camping in the dirt near a highway as Cindy talked at me for 2 hours. Nonstop. I timed it.

Cindy informed me that he had been on the road for 30 years. In other words, homeless. Since Cindy was still talking my ear off, I decided to try to make the most out of it and inquired about the best route through San Francisco to the Monterey peninsula. I grabbed one of my maps and he gave me some incredibly helpful and specific advice about navigating traffic through the urban jungle of California freeways surrounding the city by the bay. Eventually, I began to appreciate Cindy’s helpful demeanor, knowledge of California freeways and his willingness to share. It turns out that this freakish encounter was a good thing after all. This started a theme that would continue for the next 10 days; when my trip was seemingly going wrong, it really was going better than I could have hoped for.

Wednesday, July 5th meant another 450 mile day, spending most of it in bloody hot central California. The high for Redding that day was forecast to exceed 100 degrees, so that morning, I stirred at 4:30 and was on the road by 5:00. This also had the added benefit that I was gone by the time that Cindy woke up. I am no dummy.

I navigated Highway 97 and passed post-card pretty Mt. Shasta, with its 14,162 foot peak painted sunrise pink. The mountain pass getting there was over 5,100 feet and the VFR’s temperature gauge read a wintry 42 degrees. In my full mesh gear, I was cold to the core. I shivered so convulsively that it was hard to grip the bars and keep the bike in line. Although initially this chill seemed like a pain, it was in line with the newfound theme for the trip, that when thing are going wrong, they are actually turning out to be better than expected.

 

I stopped to pose for a selfie with Mt. Shasta. I was shivering so badly I am shocked the photo was not blurry.

 

Highway 97 turns into I-5 which is temporarily twisty, but then becomes Bonneville Salt Flat straight, hot and boring. My earlier morning chill was a godsend since it allowed me to use the next two hours to soak up the heat and bring my temperature up to human again. The welcome heat was the only reason I didn’t up my speed and make the scenery go away.

Following Cindy’s advice from the previous day, I hugged peripheral highways around San Francisco and made it to Seaside, California by 2:00, not bad time for a 450 mile day. After dinner and a walk I turned in early since I was only 8 miles from the entrance gate to Laguna Seca. The gates opened at 7:00 and I didn’t want to be late.

Up early Thursday morning, I could not reign in my excitement and arrived at the Laguna Seca entrance gate 15 minutes before it’s 7:00 am opening, another misstep that would become a positive in a big way, I just didn’t know it yet. I pulled into the track entrance and saw what I thought was a line waiting to get in, fell into the queue and parked behind a massive toy hauler pulled by a muscular truck. Then, a track official with a headset and “Assistant Director” on his baby blue shirt approached me quickly. Uh-oh, what’s going wrong this time?

“This is not a line!” he barked at me authoritatively.

“I am sorry, this is my first time here and I have no clue what I am doing.” Sometimes I enjoy stating the obvious.

“There is no one here to take your ticket,” he barked again. By now, the owner of the truck, entertained by the spectacle, had come to watch me get my butt chewed. It must have been quite a show.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Ah, just go on through.” he says

“Are you sure? I have my tickets and camping pass with me, do you want to see them?”

“Nah, just go.”

I quickly left before he could change his mind. After wandering aimlessly around the track for about 20 minutes, I finally stumbled upon general camping. It seems that the phrase “general camping” is Laguna Seca terminology for “Find any spot on this giant ant hill and camp wherever you want.” So I did. Well, at least I tried.

My first attempt at staking a claim was too close to other campers, so I tried a second spot and moved farther back on the hill. This spot turned out to not have a view of the track. My third and final attempt was on the peak of the hill next to an access road with an RV on the right, lots of room on the left, a perfect view of the whole track and close proximity to the showers and bathroom. Perfect.

Then, a man in a headset and “Assistant Director” on his baby blue shirt barked at me and said, “Hey, you are going to have to move your tent,” It was the same man I had the confrontation with at the gate entrance. Of all the people to piss off. Again. “Ummm, sure. I guess.” I said, reluctant to give up my prime camping spot. However, I was even more reluctant to push my luck with this seemingly important track employee. When someone with an official looking shirt, a headset and a swagger tells you to move your stuff at Laguna Seca, you just do it.

Then I spotted the same massive toy hauler I saw at the gate entrance and I finally understood. He needed me to move my tent for this wheeled colossal beast. I made room and slid my insignificant, one man tent over. With the massive toy hauler parked to my left and the other RV to the right, I could only see a narrow section of the track. I swore in my head. I ripped off a pair of 500 miles days to get down here to get treated like this? However, I consoled myself and thought, “How can I complain? I am camping at Laguna Seca. There is nowhere else I would rather be.” As it turned out, moving my tiny tent for the Goliath of travel trailers was the best thing I ever did.

Again, nothing starts a conversation like a motorcycle laden with travel gear and my new neighbor was not exempt.

“Where are you from?” he asks.

“Washington State,” I reply.

“Oh, I have a house in Belfair,” he says.

After traveling to the Olympic Peninsula many times to beat the eastern Washington heat, I knew the location of Belfair on Hood Canal. We talked Washington roads for a while before he offered me a camping chair to sit in, which I didn’t refuse. It was the only item I could not lash down on the bike without looking like a sportbike version of the Beverly Hillbillies. Besides, I was still slightly ticked off and figured I had earned it. We chatted on, him in his mansion trailer and me in a lawn chair in the dirt next to my solo camping tent.

His name was Hutch Collier and he is biker by every definition. In his mid-60s with a short stubble military haircut, a sharp mind and hearty laugh, we clicked immediately. Over the next hour, this affable Vietnam veteran talked of dirt tracking, Colorado tours in June and doing a 26 day, four corners tour of the country. He has a palatable passion for motorcycling and we talked bikes, roads and the motorcycle lifestyle while his nephew Joey, who was staying in the trailer with him, listened in.

The tipping point came when he got his cell phone, flashed me a picture and asked,

“Say, can you tell me what motorcycle this is?” I recognized it immediately, but my aging brain took some time to recall the name.

After half a minute it hit me. “Yep, I recognize that. That’s a Gurney Alligator.”

 

This is a Gurney Alligator in action. Memorize it, you will be quizzed later by random people in a racetrack campground.

 

The late Dan Gurney, accomplished engineer and racer, was a pioneer in many fields. At the 1968 German Grand Prix, he introduced the first race use of a full face helmet. He also developed a right angle flap at the top of a rear wing on his racing car to increase down force, now called the Gurney flap. However, most importantly, after winning the 1967 24 Hours of LeMans in a Ford GT40 with A.J. Foyt, he introduced his most important contribution to the racing world: the spraying of champagne at the podium. Life changing stuff.

His motorcycle was just as innovative. Dan Gurney, all 6’6” of him, decided that motorcycles put the rider in a position that was too high and too far forward, so he made one much lower with forward foot controls, but by no means a cruiser. The fact that I recognized Dan Gurney’s radical bike seemed to impress Hutch and he invited me into his Taj-Ma-Hal trailer where we drank beer and talked everything from bikes to guns to our common love of being first responders.

Later that night, his son Matt sauntered in. It was the same guy with “Assistant Director” on his baby blue shirt and headset that I managed to piss of twice that day. Now I get it. Matt was waiting at the gate for his dad when I rolled up on the two of them. Also Matt got Hutch a prime camping spot, the same one I had staked out. No wonder he was barking at me.

 

Beer in hand, sunsetting on the corkscrew of Laguna Seca and plenty of bench racing while I document the adventure on my device. Does life get any better?

 

Matt was tall, tan with dark hair and an intensity that went into every word of every sentence. He bared a passing resemblance to Baja 1000 champion Johnny Campbell, if Johnny Campbell put on a few pounds and used the “F” word at least three times in every sentence. Matt was hot sweaty and dusty from the day, so he, Hutch and I started to polish off beers when Hutch mentioned that he needed a parking pass for his wife who was arriving Friday night. “Here Hutch, take mine.” I said. After all, I still had mine since no one collected it at the entrance.

Matt immediately snatched it from my hand.

“Where did you (bleeping) get this?” he says, with an F-bomb sprinkled in for good measure. Right then I wondered how many times I could piss him off in one day. Is it possible to mess up more in this man’s eyes?

“I got it mailed to me when I bought my tickets.” I said with no F-bombs whatsoever.

“Do you know what the (bleep) this is?” he barks.

“Uh, it says support vehicle on it. I assumed that it was for a car if I trailered the bike down,” I said sheepishly. “Dude, this is for (bleeping) support vehicles. Like, you could go any (bleeping) where with this (bleep). Again, how the (bleep) did you get this?” he demands.

“Uh, it was mailed to me.”

“(Bleep) dude. You could (bleeping) drive on the (bleeping) racetrack as race support with this (bleeping) thing.”

Matt continued with the bleep-fest parade while I transitioned from timid answers to being wildly entertained by Matt. His tirade continued while Hutch, Joey and I laughed until we needed even more beer.

Eventually, Matt cooled off and started to complain (no surprise to me anymore) about his go-kart racing track in the infield of Laguna Seca. Evidently, the go-kart batteries needed some attention, tires need swapping and such. Only he said it in much more expletive terms. Feeling sympathy for Matt, Hutch and I agreed to help him out in the morning.

Friday morning, Hutch and I walked down to the go-kart track to lend a hand. I saw a go-kart with a cut in its right front tire and did a NASCSAR quick tire swap and Matt instructed me to go test it out on the track. Scrub in go-kart tires? I’m your man. And I did, for about the next 30 minutes non-stop. I considered it my personal mission to hot lap every single go-kart at Laguna Seca’s infield and make sure they were working properly. I literally jumped out of one kart and right into the next one while Hutch’s nephew Joey joined me and we raced around playing bump-to-pass. Well, at least I played bump-to-pass. Or maybe just bump.

That night, after the go-kart session and World Superbike and MotoAmerica practices, we cracked open more beers in the trailer and swapped more biking stories with a sunset view of the world famous corkscrew. Life could have gotten better than that, but I am not sure how.

Predictably, my ethereal moment was ruptured when Matt walked in, sweaty, dirty and tan from a day in the sun and spontaneously began complaining. I liked this routine. Matt’s tirades were becoming very entertaining. Today, his issue was that there was no one to ride as VIPs in the pace cars since there was room for passengers but no one was there to ride shotgun as the cars cleared the track. This, to me, sounded like an issue that needed to be dealt with immediately and Matt asked if Hutch and I wanted to ride in the pace cars. I could not say yes fast enough.

 

Aprillia pilots Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Salvadori pose for a photo. An ex-MotoGP rider, Laverty has the best mustache in motorcycle racing, peirod.

 

Then, Hutch mentioned that he needed race tickets for his wife, who was soon to arrive.

“Here, take mine,” I said, “after all, no one collected mine at the entrance.” As I handed them over to Hutch, Matt peered at me through sweaty, squinty eyes,

“How much did you pay for those (bleeping) tickets?”

Uh oh, here we go again. I answered just so see Matt go ballistic, and go ballistic he does. “I paid $50 a night for camping and $95 for the race tickets,” I replied.

“What the (bleep)!? You (bleeping) paid what!?”

Dear readers of these write-ups: by now, you get the idea. Simply read Matt’s quotes and assume that every other word is a “sentence enhancer.” It would be just as accurate as my retelling. Enjoy. I know I did.

“Dude, are you telling me you paid to camp here and for tickets to get in? That’s so wrong. You just paid to get in here twice! I am so talking to someone about this. This is so, so wrong. I am not letting this one die. Who filled your order? What was their name? How did you pay for these? Did you do this over the phone?…” Bleep, bleep, bleepity bleep. Bleepfest continued for quite a while. I could not stop laughing, drinking beer, or egging Matt on. All three made me smile.

Saturday morning was race day, and Matt’s instructions for Hutch and I were to meet in the dog pound, the area where the track workers live during the races, at 10:30. We showed up and got further instructions to be in the pit area at 1:00. It turned out that we were not riding in pace cars, but actually working security in pit lane, which explained the security tank top and whistle I got handed. I like security vests and whistles. VIPs payed big bucks to walk down pit lane for 20 minutes and view the team garages. Part of my job would be to keep them in pit lane, off the racetrack, and then shoo them out so the race could begin. This was better than hot laps in a pace car.

Hans, the head of security for the World Superbike series (I have changed his name for this story, since he is a security conscious person) is German to say the least. He is so stoic, you can never tell if he is making a joke, or if he even has a sense of humor. At 6’3” with a very slender build, tight black jeans offsetting his white corporate Dorna shirt, spiky blond hair, a chiseled jaw and mirrored sunglasses, I considered it my personal mission to make him laugh by the end of the weekend. He informed me of my duties, “You herd zem outta zee pitz at 1:22.” You bet Hans, not a minute less.

I stood at the far entrance to pit lane and soaked up the history of what had occurred over the years on this piece of tarmac. Epic MotoGP battles, manic pit stops during grueling endurance races, hard fought victories and bitter defeats, all happened on this small patch concrete under my feet. I tried to recall the weird string of coincidences over the past few days that landed me at this world famous spot with an official security vest and a whistle around my neck, but first, the Kawasaki umbrella girls wanted their picture taken with me.

 

The umbrella girls for 2013 WSBK champion Tom Sykes and three time WSBK champion Jonathan Rea take a time out with me for a media photo. Why can’t all staff meetings be like this?

 

Hans nodded to me, snapping me out of my daze and I started at the end of pit lane with one end of a red rope and Hutch on the other end. We pulled it taught and herded the high rollers with VIP badges out of pit lane. A few people wanted to linger and I said the same thing to all of them. “I’m sorry sir/madam, we can’t start the race until you leave.” Then came my reality check: I am an impostor. I had no training, no meeting, no briefing on what to do and I was working security at a World Superbike race at Laguna Seca. Just last Tuesday morning I left Wenatchee, said goodbye to my wife and chocolate lab and hit the road, a vagabond traveler. Now, I was in pit lane of World Superbike at Laguna Seca herding VIPs speaking more languages than I could count out of the pits so “we” could start the race. This all happened because I showed up to the track too early, planted my tent in the wrong spot and could identify a Gurney Alligator.

After clearing the pits, I stood to hold a long piece of red rope to separate the foot traffic from the motorcycle traffic on the pit exit. On one side, umbrella girls, mechanics and tire technicians with tire warmers hustled by. On the other, racers idled out of pit lane to take to the track. I was so close I could hold out a hand and almost touch both at the same time. Once the opening ceremonies were over and the warm-up lap was completed, it was time for the race start. When the red lights went out, racers dropped the hammer on their sponsor laden missiles as the roar from the exhausts physically hurt my ears. I loved it so. Then, I learned that we were not done with our security detail.

Chaz Davies took the win and rode to the winner’s circle carrying a #69 flag in honor of the late, great Nicky Hayden and I took my red rope to the paddock to keep the public at bay so the riders could coast their bikes to the tech inspection area. I spread out my arms along with the rope to keep public behind me and used my whistle to warn people with their backs turned that a race bike was approaching. Among my thoughts, other than how crazy the track officials were for trusting me, was to not spit out my whistle as I blew it, since it would likely nail a racer in the face shield as they rode by. They were that close. Not only am I close enough to touch the bikes, I have to get my toes the heck out of the way. After the spectacle was over, Hutch and I made our way back to the mansion he called a trailer, cracked open more beers, had more laughs and agreed that it had been quite a day, to say the least.

 

“Move it people, we can’t start the race until you leave.” How could you blame them, I would not want to leave either.

 

Sunday, July 9th, was the last race day, and Hutch absorbed too much of the heat Saturday to do security detail a second time, so I decided to go it alone. No one had invited me or asked me to help this time, so I figured that if I walked up with an official looking shirt a swagger and a whistle, people would figure I knew what I was doing and let me in. It worked like a charm. I slid into the dog pound and made conversation with the real Laguna Seca staff, then walked to pit lane where I again met Hans. I asked him what he did when he was not traveling the world with the World Superbike races as head of security. He softened marginally and started to open up about restoring his beloved 200 year old farmhouse in Germany. We both joked about it like neighbors talking over a fence, and he finally broke down and laughed. Mission accomplished. “Move it people, we can’t start the race until you leave.” How could you blame them, I would not want to leave either.

I did the same pit lane detail as the day before and the wonderment had not worn off. The circus of mechanics, tire technicians, umbrella girls, girlfriends, reporters and shock and awe of a World Superbike start seen from spitting distance just reinforced that I had, by stroke of circumstance, had weaseled my way into an arena of motorcycling that is on another planet. All I had to do was show up to the track way too early and pitch my tent in the wrong spot. So continued the theme of this trip: when something seemed like it was going haywire, it was actually going better than planned.

Jonathan Rea dominated race 2, beating teammate Tom Sykes by almost 3 seconds. Again, I herded VIPs out of pit lane, helped shepherd racers to tech inspection, then turned to the victory podium and watched the victory champagne get sprayed. Thank you Dan Gurney. Afterwards, I made my way back to camp, lashed my camping gear to the bike, said my goodbyes to Hutch and hit the road. I had a camping spot in Golden Gate State Park 120 miles north and wanted to get there before dark. That went wrong too. It turns out that the Golden Gate Bridge is awe inspiring. The towers were so huge that I felt like I was riding my bike under the Space Needle. All of this distracted riding was why I missed my exit to my camp spot. Again, things were going wrong, but this time I had no idea how this could possibly turn out better than planned.

I decided not to backtrack. Instead, I pushed on to find camping accommodations up the road, somewhere soon I hoped. The sun was setting. Due to a detour, I rode the Panoramic Highway which was so narrow and winding that car side mirrors came uncomfortably close to my helmet on left hand corners. As I made my way up the coastline I was shocked that there were no places to camp. I rode farther and farther until right at dark I found a campground by the side of the road. I didn’t know where I was, but I knew that I had a place for the night, which was all that mattered. Riding winding roads at night with a tinted face shield in deer territory is how wives get dire late night phone calls from EMTs.

 

Two Teds and a Doug find each other on a random pullout along the California coast. What are the chances?

 

Monday morning, I packed my gear on my bike, left my unknown camp spot and got an early start. Highway 1 opened up before me like a postcard and it was everything I had dreamed about. The road hugged ragged cliffs that dropped directly down to the ocean. So breathtaking was the contrast of the Blue Ocean and brown cliffs, so intoxicating was scent of ocean mist that I pulled over to take a picture. When I did, two motorcycles saw me and pulled in next to me. I thought that they were stopping to see if I needed help. It turns out is was fellow Wenatchee hometown Mild Hogs Ted and Doug.

If we had tried to meet in that exact pullout at the same time, we could never have successfully planned it. It would have required e-mails, phone calls and texts aplenty to arrange such a meeting on a coastal highway pullout 800 miles from our hometown of Wenatchee. All I needed to do was miss my exit and find a random campground, then proceed as usual. This explained why missing my exit off the Golden Gate Bridge was a good thing. I began to question why I even made plans for this trip in the first place. None of the plans worked out, and everything happened better than I could have dreamed.

We rode together the rest of the day and Ted showed me one of my new favorite roads, Highway 1 into Legget. It is a tight, switchback road with some serious up and down elevation changes that made me uncontrollably giggle in my helmet. I never got the VFR out of 3rd gear because the curvy rollercoaster of pavement just kept coming at me relentlessly. For the grand finale at the bottom was the Chandelier Tree, a redwood tree so wide that you could drive a car though it, so a VFR with saddlebags fit easily.

 

I wish all trees did this when I approached them.

 

We completed the rest of the day riding together until I broke off to Eureka as Ted and Doug continued on to Crescent City. After riding from early in the morning until dinner two days in a row, I was exhausted. As I contemplated my plan for Tuesday, I remembered I had a big loop planned: out on Highway 36 and back on 299 then up to Crescent City for the night, almost 300 miles of winding road. I just couldn’t do it. I was road weary. It would have meant another full day in the saddle from early in the morning until dinner. Instead, I decided to just ride the 90 miles to Crescent City and take my time to sightsee instead.

Best decision ever. I saw a perfect one room schoolhouse, a whole herd of elk bedding down in a meadow and the tourist trap life size statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. However, the highlight of the day was when I left Highway 101 to take Drury Scenic Parkway through the Redwood Forest. In all ways, the Redwood Forest commands your attention. The imposing trees block GPS signals, cell phone reception and the sun, asking you to pay attention to them and them only. Hearing a barely muffled V-four exhaust ricocheting off these giants and echoing everywhere around the forest gave me goosebumps. I pulled into Crescent City and noticed that the 90 mile journey had taken me 4 hours. Time well spent.

 

It’s a good thing you can’t smell this picture, it’s an appalling concoction of no laundry for a week, low tide and a sleeping bag that smells like a sweaty locker room, which explains why nobody can be seen anywhere close to my campsite in the photo.

 

As was the theme, my timing was amazing. The Battery Point lighthouse in Crescent City is accessible by walking, but only when the tide is out. I had timed the tide perfect and waltzed out to the lighthouse to explore the grounds and marvel at this fully functional antique. I made sure to make it back before the tide came in so as to not get stranded. That would be bad timing. Wednesday, I woke up knowing that I would go to Bend, Oregon for the night, but what I didn’t know where I would stay. At this point in my journey, I knew that fate’s plans for me would end up being much better than whatever I had planned, so I made no plans whatsoever. I simply rode and let fate have its way with me. That morning, I checked my phone and saw a text from the man who teaches math next door to me. He said he had a friend in Bend willing to let me pitch my tent in her yard for the night. Perfect!

Leaving Crescent City, I made my way to Crater Lake. Beautiful and deeply blue, Crater Lake is essentially a big volcanic divot filled with snowmelt. Since snowmelt and rainwater are it’s only sources of a refill, these pure water sources give it a deep blue hue and visibility up to 130 feet of it’s United States record depth of 1,949 feet. Considering the heat, I was seriously considering a swim until I realized that given its steep rocky sides, a trip down to swim would likely be a one-way affair.

I left Crater Lake and headed north, avoiding the heat by going around Mt. Bachelor to arrive in Bend where I immediately did what everyone in Bend does, find a brewery. I found one by accident (go figure), filled my growler with beer, which I had managed to squeeze onto the bike (priorities, you know) as payment to my gracious host Mikal. That friend of the math teacher next to me, she is a hiker, adventurer, and keenly understood how I was feeling on day nine of camping off the bike. She was kind enough to let me shower (or force me to) since I smelled like a Pacific Crest Trail hiker about two months in, and offered her RV as nightly accommodations. Considering I hadn’t had a roof over my head or air conditioning in over a week, I didn’t refuse. That night, we shared laughs and war stories from hikes and various adventures as we polished off the growler, then her stash of cider, then whatever else was lying around. I turned in at midnight.

 

So tempted to take a swim. It’s only snowmelt. How cold can it be? I’m sure the water is not that deep. What could possibly go wrong?

 

The next day, Thursday July 13th, I was ready to be home. I blitzed the 350 miles to Wenatchee by early that afternoon and pulled into my driveway, desperately in need of laundry and my own bed. I switched off the bike and just sat on it in the serenity of the driveway, decompressing from the whole experience of 10 days and over 2,000 miles camping off the motorcycle. In the silence, I was surprised at my first thought: would I turn around and do it all again tomorrow? Absolutely. In fact, I would do even less planning and let the winds of fate take me where they may, since their plans for me were far better than mine. If everything had gone as planned, it would have been a good ride. Instead, I had a great story.

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