Saturday, July 31, 2010

Astoria, Oregon

Monday 26 July
You didnt get a letter yesterday from Bend, Oregon, on account of we arrived there late after a big day in the saddle.
I was in the dogbox for getting us lost in a town called Grants Pass
trying to dodge the I-5 interstate freeway with the GPS doing its best to put me on it
the worst part about it being the 2 bikes in our group with pillions doing stop-starts around city streets
while trying to stay on the track of a headless chicken leader.

I finally gave in to the GPS getting on to I-5 but heading in the wrong direction
and I woke up I was in exactly the same predicament as last year
but this time was able to get off the freeway quicker without the u-turn I pulled last year.
Neither GPS option of fastest time, or shortest route, is convenient at times
and this situation does indicate a rare case of deficient road signage
come to think of it, I pulled into the same gas station to ask directions
and was given the same off-beam pointers
its a waste of time asking an American for directions.
From Eureka up the coast in the fog but lifting a little for the run through Redwood National park to Crescent City, then the duck inland to Grants Pass and Crater Lake.
Went past the turn-off to Oregon Caves, and was told by a gas station attendant it was something to see
next year maybe!
Crater Lake
Crater Lake was still there, a 6 mile diameter crater filled with water, not blown up in the interim since we were last here.
Interesting to hear the comments of the others, discovering what we did last year
how civilised the road traffic is
and how our great scenic asset is but a postage stamp compared to whats here.

Fast run on straight roads down to Bend with the GPS redeeming itself putting us right at the front door of a difficult to find hotel
where I scuttled away to the McMennamins pub to throw down a handle or two.
The group were a bit shocked by the heat that day, but at 85F I had to tell them, like the scenery
it gets better........

Today was Bend to Astoria through Salem where some fellow-riders wanted to go to the Harley dealer.
From the Willamette ferry
Out through Sisters with the 3 mountains on our left in clear blue skies at 7000' asl
down past Detroit Lake and an ice-cream and right on the button at the Harley shop
which was closed......
after weekend trading many businesses take monday off.
Reliant on the GPS we headed for McMinnville on the fastest route setting which took us to a ferry crossing the Willamette River
through fabulous agricultural country, hops, wheat, alfalfa, dairy farms (all housed), a huge garden nursery
to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum for a couple hour visit.
Highlight exhibit is the Howard Hughes "Spruce Goose", a monolithic seaplane that was designed to carry troops to Europe during the war, but only did one test flight at 70' off the water.
The wingspan is greater than a football field is long, and a man can stand inside the wing
the avionics are noted for the leverage of effort from joystick to aileron control.

Then down through some more shady forest winding road to Tillamook
where we dodged the aviation museum there, opting for the farmer co-op cheese factory
another example of local industry turned massive tourist attraction
glassed walkways above the production line, cafe, souvenir shop, and a huge icecream bar.
Light fading so quick rip up the coast and within 20km of Astoria, we spot a 2 block retail outlet complex open 9am-9pm,
shopping time!

In Astoria, down to Wayfarer Inn to check if the 14oz steak still lives
it does......

Final comment...
we've been in pine scented fresh air and blue skies nearly all day, (except for the last 30 odd km up the coast in cold fog)
like last year you have to think there's little wrong with US CO2 sequestration and emission ledger.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Yakima, Washington

Tuesday 27 July
Yakima's a pop 70,000 city in mid-south Washington state, steppe climate in the shadow of the Cascade range
agriculture in the form of fruit and vegetables is the economic mainstay, and there's a burgeoning wine industry
which some of our group were keen to get to town to sample.
Also note the military have a presence, and the Japanese forces train here to take advantage of live ground-fire opportunities they dont have at home
speaking of, the Yakama Indian War took place in 1855 and they were toddled off to the reservation the following year
allowing settlement to continue apace.

So it was a minor shock to arrive in 7pm 84F temps after most of the day getting across the forested range.
We left Astoria in another cold damp fog, crossing the Columbia River on the Astoria bridge which is several km long and has 2 arches for shipping.

Not quite so prominent here as in Canada, but significant nevertheless, is the humble salmon
  Hatchery home for salmon
first as a food source for the early Indian, then as a foundation for later industry and recreation.

We visited a hatchery further up the river
females are diverted off the annual run and harvested for roe
fingerlings are raised and released after an 18 month process.
They swim out into the Pacific, stay there 3 years, then come back home to spawn and die.
The fingerlings amused us with their jumping antics trying to leap up the mini cascade of water fed into their living quarters
Rona said her cat would be quite interested, having once fallen into their goldfish bowl in pursuit of quarry.

In a damp valley we stopped off for a look at an old covered bridge
not done for ghosts to live in, it was to keep moisture and ice off the decking so animals and wagons could cross without mishap.

Then on to Mt St Helens national park, and a look at and in a lava cave, mile and a half long full of holidaying parties of children and families
Lava cave
and the volcano itself and its lahar valley, looked a km wide
on through the park past Mt Rainier, over White Pass
and here we are.

Meant to mention, some of the group bought new helmets in SanFran
mark the make, Shark, a french product
nice style, sound-proof, drop down sun shield
and the chin piece folds over to neatly clip behind so the unit converts readily between full and open face
between $200-400 US depending on model.

Mt Ranier

From todays paper.....
doomsday shelters are booming, manufacturers claim doubling of business each year for the last 5 years
$400,000 gets you the family model, up to $4m for the corporate
power and air filtering for 3 years
ones even supplied with a countdown clock set for 12 Dec 2012.

Lahar bed, Mt St Helens
Shark helmet

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Republic, Washington

Wednesday 28 July

Yakima River

Bit of a fore-taste of things to come, we spent time today motoring in +90F temps
out through the Yakima river canyon onto a high plain.

Actually, its not yesterday as I write this, its 5.30am the next morning
I'm sitting at the BBQ table where we had a pretty raucous night with the locals.
An elk doe and its fawn has just walked down the backstreet about 100' from me!
and here comes another!!
One jumped onto the road in front of me 2 mornings ago.
Talk about GPS's doing a recalc when you take a wrong turn
in less than 3/5 sec I did one too, but the deer recalced even quicker, fortunately, and got out of the way.
The squirrels are even funnier, they'll dart onto the road, stop, re-dart, then decide to quit, and shoot off, very quick little animals.

I commented to our hostess, that I only saw one boy-racer last year, but this time I've seen 3, so far
and she said, oh yes, we're seeing that a bit now
but I'd say, NZ's still the world leader at this by far. 
There are some social programs here, and youth are catching on to the support being better than grafting
apparently this town, bit like Marton in size, is unemployment central, WA
and there's a seasonal swell in pop 2-3 times resident.

The second deer, a 6 pointer stag, hasnt seen me yet and is grazing a stones throw away
havent got my camera.

So yesterday, onto the plains from Yakima
paused to photograph the river, wide clear water
have to wonder at NZ's "clean and green" promotion image, wasted on how much of USA?
Ephrata corn
We're somewhat less clean than what we've ridden through so far.

We rode across the Ephrata plains irrigated from a lower coulee dam set up in 1920 a local told us
the corn was higher than the Hammerstienian elephants eye
fields of onions, potatoes, alfalfa
and where there was waste ground, the soil revealed as poor as Waiouru, 1100' asl, probably as cold in winter.

Past Soap Lake on our first bit of straight as a die mile on mile under imposing cliffs.
The CB pulls 80 kmph at 3000 rpm, and 160 at 6000
the tacho's red-lined between 8-10,000, but I didnt push it.
The headlights following Sam a distance behind might have been the local constabulary.

Grand Coulee Dam...
so what are we, 3 days since leaving the coast, and still following the Columbia River.
Mighty piece of water, the dam's US's largest hydro power producer, 4th in the world.
12 million cubic yards of concrete a mile wide, the equivalent of a 4' wide footpath twice round the equator.
The dam stretches 151 miles upstream, and was engineered to stop short of the Canadian border, started in 1933 as part of Roosevelt's post slump measures, completed 1941.

At a cost though, apart from man and money, the salmon couldnt get any further up no more
and the injuns got their food supply shortchanged, not to mention a bit of village and urupa flooding
with resulting "relocation"

Just off Grand Coulee we're onto the Colville Reservation, 1.3 million acres
but just 10% of the original NezPerce reservation first treatied, before gold got discovered.
Chief Joseph's band were the dissidents who didnt want to comply, and this started their trail of tears as they set off on the great 1600 mile flight.
Prior to this they were major cattle herders supplying the Union army
but as I mentioned last year, who got the cattle when they left?
But they did take their 2000 horses, and dunno who got them either when they eventually got run down just short of the Canadian border.
With so much grand scale land, you'd wonder how humanity couldnt share, rather than swipe the lot
although I guess having pissed off locals in your backyard, no matter how big, wasnt tenable.
Sitting Bull made it into Canada and you'd have to wonder if this was regarded as a security risk seeing General Brock clouted the yanks at Niagara.

Getting to Chief Joseph Memorial at Nespelem was something I was looking forward to
but was totally apalled when we got there,
its a public toilet
what a way to commemorate a folk hero and legend
at least the reservation appeared nice grassland and forest
but no evidence of the industriousness similar to the whites down country
probably more interested in huntin n fishin, and I'd be saying stuff you too
some pretty modest homes out on the reservation
flying the american flag

Time for breakfast.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whitefish, Montana

Saturday 31 Jul
Day 13  3577 km

Near Sandpoint
It was an easy day before yesterday, from Republic WA to Sandpoint ID
more forests, mountains, meadows, rivers, and agricultural plains
arriving early with a chance to feel the pulse of the town, and kick back and have a think.

Pop about 7000, pretty friendly place, nice people,
explored extensively and very accurately around 1807 by David Thompson and claimed for Britain
but subsequent dispute with US resulted in relinquishment to US of everything south of the 49th parallel.
Timber made the town, but recreation and tourism are now the economic mainstays.

So what do i think?
Well, North America is bulging at the eyes with clean and green
and bulging in the cheeks with food
so I cant see much point in NZ promotions involving these facets
except I havent seen any lamb on a menu yet, and at least it wont have to compete with local product like beef
we have to try and sell them something they might prefer,
so wool has a good case to my mind
we need to clear the usurers out of that temple.

I still maintain there's a quantum jump in traffic on the road compared to last year
just because there isnt a significant increase in housing activity here, dosent necessarily mean the recovery isnt on the move too.
People could well have hunkered their spending down, happy to stay with the current house, car, and appliances
and simply take a good vacation.
Some of the others add their comments there's a lot more going on here than back home
even repeating the comment theyve heard back home NZ's stuffed, with a gnawing thought it might be.

Most days one comes across criticism about US indebtedness to China
but my take is, China should think itself lucky its got somewhere like here to invest its weasel-gotten wealth
if it wants to complain maybe it should try Greece.

And further, I think given China's lack of currency harmonisation with the rest of the world.
Why should we let them into the Crafar deal, and any other national that wants to buy a bit of Aotearoa.
I've got an ulterior motive...
just as its been wrong for the last 20 years to live on capital appreciation of homes and farms
its equally silly to think we can live on incoming offshore capital
when we can drop the OCR, and live on export growth and income
and absorb the lower exchange rate import price increases if we dump the equally silly ETS.
But pigs will fly I guess...
and as Don Nicolson predicts, a 5th of sheep and beef land will go in carbon forest offshore investment, while rural service industry dies back accordingly.
Maybe NZ is stuffed.

Neil and I did a diversion yesterday, to visit old friends Neil and Peg Davidson
near Kimberley, about 30 km off Ken's planned route between Sandpoint and Fernie, Canada.
Neil was an engineer with Alexander Helicopters in Wanganui years ago
built his own aircraft while at Alberta tertiary technology institute
came home to Canada after his NZ stint, bought and rebuilt a wrecked Bell chopper
and ran his own business for 14 or so years ferrying geology and forestry survey teams
and fighting forest fires.
1913 Avro
He sold the helicopter more recently, using the proceeds to build by himself, their own log cabin home
and set up a vintage aircraft replica workshop
Currently rebuilding the first two of four 1913 WW1 Avro biplanes, his work having included commissions for a "woolly headed, boiler suit clad" collector in NZ, who turned out to be Peter Jackson.
Interesting fellow Neil
in his garage there's a faithfully reproduced red indian birch bark canoe
he researched and built himself.
It works fine too, totally natural product, no nails, glue, etc, sewn and lashed together with birch root strips, and caulked with birch resin and animal fat.
Up back-block country one day, Neil was amused to be approached at the gas station by an indian boy, who cheekily called out, "hey Hiawatha, where's your paddles!"
little did he know..........
According to petroglyph studies of rock carvings and paintings, this technology has been around 4400 years
old as the pyramids.  
Today we caught the group up across the plains of Alberta and into the Rarkies,
Riding to the Sun Highway
over the Riding to the Sun highway,
less snow than last year I think, and the road under extensive reconstruction, not nice.

There's been a lot more wild-life on the road this time too, deer bounding across in front of us at least once a day.
We've pondered all sorts of alertness strategy,
use the outside lane, but youre closer to the unseen leap from the scrub,
use the inside lane, but if you get hit there, it'll be a fall closer to oncoming traffic.
I've been delegated to go in front most days
I did wonder if it was for deer fodder purposes, and I'd been getting freaked by being followed too close.
This morning a deer bounded through the 100 kmph x 30' gap between me and Neil,
while I was engrossed with some sleek glossy cows in the nearest meadow.
I didnt even see it.
We figure its all a lottery, but I favour decent spacing between group riders.
Most of the accidents I've seen reported here involve one bike running up another's change of flight-plan ass.
The Harley boys reckon their big roar frightens deer away from the road,
I think more than one bike confuses the deer's sense of where the danger's coming from.
Last year on my relatively quiet ST1300, I'd coast up beside them to take a photo
at which they'd leap into the trees the moment they saw me,
never had one jumpout.

Crossing the border nowhere near last years drama
but my official couldnt find 25YEM CB1300 on the US bike registrations
and two of them barked at me, where was it registered
um... NZ, like my passport...
Tomorrow, deeper into Idaho.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grangeville, Idaho

Sunday 1 August
Day 14  4083 km

Grangeville's a little 3500 pop burg, perched up on the edge of a big plain, Camas Prairie, covered in grain crop.

We dropped out of Whitefish on H93, 70 mph speed limit, top roads in Montana, everything doing 120 clicks, even the huge vacationer RV's, towing their Ford Explorers behind on an A-frame.
Flathead Lake
Beautiful morning along Flathead Lake with the Mission and Swan ranges of the Rockies as a backdrop, breakfast stop at Polson outdoors cafe overlooking the lake.
The couples have nutted out to get kiddy meals, or share a main, the servings here are so huge
but I valiantly managed to cope with my everything-in omelette, mash, and two slabs of wheat toast.
Neil got a 3 egg and cheese one the other day that stopped his show.

Then on to Missoula for a call at the Harley dealer, (no sales tax in Montana).
Have been finding the freeways a joy on the CB compared with last year, twigged it was the difference between a cowled bike in the ST1300 being badly buffetted by the 18 wheelers, RV's, and crosswinds, and the freedom from it with the naked CB.
Lolo Pass
Also, the CB is slotting in quite nice here, ticking along all day at 4000 rpm/120  sore-ass free kph,
Sam is equally happy with his Bandit.

Today's ride over the Bitterroot Range, more Nez Perce forest and hills, and Lolo Pass...
lou lou in indian meant trading, and an early french trapper got called Lolo.
No one knows whether the Pass was named after the the act, or the actor.

Too difficult for a railroad to be built, the old injun trail stuck to the ridges.
Stopped at the visitor centre at the top of the pass, local historical society putting on a pioneer show, including black powder rifle demo.

Witnessed a motorcycle crash, bloke wrapped off doing a wheelie, (mx bike)
ran out of road, bailed out on the road instead of taking off over the 20' bank into the trees option,
broke a leg.
Sam and Carol helped him back to the visitor centre, miles away from a medical facility
sobering...., but a silly manouvre on his part.

From the bottom of the pass, a climb back up 1000', and there were the Camas plains and Grangeville.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Salmon, Idaho

Tuesday 3 August 
Day 16, 5170 km

Most of the day following the Salmon River, tonights motel is right beside it, swift flowing, not too deep, still part of Nez Perce domain.
A bloke across the river is throwing a plastic bottle in for his labrador to retrieve, getting ashore 200m downstream.
He's been going an hour non-stop, the bloke is so obese, the dog should be throwing the bottle.

Stayed last night in Boise, the Idaho state capital.

Leaving Grangeville yesterday morning included a look at a mammoth skeleton reconstruction, several have been found in a bog just out of town.

White Bird

Then not long to the White Bird battle site, the first skirmish between militia and the Nez Perce.
The Indians won 34 - nil, after their white flag pow-wow party got shot at, so the US army got called in after this to start the legendary chase.

At a little town called New Meadows, the country opened out to wire fenced meadows
running significant mobs of cows and  calves.
We opted to do a loop west to the Snake River, to the Brownlee, Oxbow, and Hells Canyon dams.
Signpost at New Meadows

It was a long haul in, (we ended up doing just short of 630 km for the day), but worth it.
The road was a private electricity dept road, high in places, bluff each side, but sealed all the way, with a visitor centre and a coke machine at the end.
The canyon is reputed to be deeper than the Colorado, but I dunno...
the water in the dams has succumbed to algae, and with the enclosed canyon and 98F temp, the trip was a bit pongy.

Going to Hell's Canyon

The CB's handling the high air temps OK, keep up 70 kph or better, it can maintain an engine temp of lower 80c.

Getting late...
on the way out we stopped at a small-town diner, for a great American feed.
I had the 12oz sirloin, succulent, nearly an inch thick, salad from the bar, mashed spud with gravy, hot mixed veggies, and toast
$15......, and ate all up.

Then the twilight run into Boise...
interesting to be on the freeway, with the aroma of crops, jalapenos in particular, wafting into our helmets.
Different story this morning though, looking back on the industrial haze shrouded city.

My Whistler radar works here!
Picked up a cop giving a ticket on the way in, and this morning was puttering (fortunately) down the boulevard to the gas station when it went off, a motorcycle cop was hiding behind a tree with the hand-held gun.

Did a 20 km detour to Tractor and Machinery Parts to acquaint myself with a company who supplied parts for my crawler couple of months back.
Turned out to be 10 acres out in the desert almost, of dead CAT bulldozers, graders, diggers, log-haulers, you name it...
administration is from a shipping container office, supplying parts round the world via internet,
bit like a down-market Horopito for heavy machinery.
I got NZ$1400 worth of parts landed at my mailbox for US$314.

Sawtooth Range
Back down I-84 to ID-21 for a run over the Sawtooth Range, first stopping at a little dirt street town called Idaho City.
Pulled into a saloon for breakfast, where a woman was sweeping the dirt sidewalk, a klunky pickup parked outside.

There must be local-body elections coming up soon, we're seeing lots of hoardings along the way...
Joe Bloggs for Sherriff, Mary so and so for District Court Judge, someone else for Coroner, etc
One of our party commented "that's terrible" (as a way of politics), but I think its pretty good. Take the klunky old pickup, if the sherriff puts too many off the road, he might lose his job. He ensures the children and pedestrians get looked after.

Just imagine...,
if our rates are too high, or environmental regulations too restrictive, we sack the council CEO, not the councillors!

Stopped at a little roadside hot spring, gushing out of a hole at the bottom of the Salmon River canyon, too hot to keep your hand in.

That's the story!
US housing market on the move