Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!!!!!

Thanks be to the gods I don’t believe in, today was the last day collecting data in Utah.

Tomorrow, pack and roll. Saturday hit Bend and visit some fam, Sunday, home. There is no way to express how happy I am to be returning to my tiny home and friends.

Sure, the last post (so, so long ago) was full of “Oh, it ain’t too bad so far” but, quickly, it devolved into a brutal Groundhog’s Day slog of fighting the loneliness of severe isolation and intellectual stagnation. Unfortunately, the person hired to assist with the gig turns out to have the intellect of burnt toast, truly the most unremarkable, mediocre and dull human I’ve ever interacted with. Could be replaced with a bar of Dove soap. That, combined with being the definition of a Millennial stereotype, made the last 3.5 months a slog of epic proportions.

Were it not for the ability to explore the massive landscape off the clock, make a short run to visit friends in Colorado, and listen to a good number of podcasts, shit would have seriously gone off the rails. It’s been a daily struggle fighting the urge to elbow every last one of his stupid teeth out of his vapid clueless fucking head and cackling like a psycho. I resist the urge.

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Damn graffiti

Despite the challenges, there have been a staggering number of experiences, from huge vistas to deep personal insights, that have almost made this time worth it. The OT hasn’t hurt either.

Were I able to live in the deep desert with viable companionship, I could handle it for a good long time. Rising and setting with the sun, being immersed in the heat and having the chance to roam about such a varied landscape has been amazing.

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Sunrise from my morning perch

Another aspect that I truly loved was the feeling of being immersed in wildlife. every single day involved a wide array of critters in large numbers. Wild horses, Pronghorn, deer, elk, bison, black bears, cattle, sheep, turkeys, quail, bald eagles, golden eagles, Dumb birds (grouse), and a ton of weird fucking bugs. The best part was being here for calving season, getting to see babies of all the above critters. Soooooooooooo much cuteness!

“Where are the pictures?!?!” I was working, not here to provide a vicarious experience. If ya wanna see that shit, quite making excuses, get off yer ass, and come check it all out.

Fine, here’s an albino wild foal.

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Another little adventure that monkeyed with the gig:

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The Dollar Ridge Fire was right in the middle of the collection area and fucked things up a bit, but it’s really surprising what you can get away with with a yellow blinky light bar on your truck. Utards react to any color of flashing light bar as though you are seriously official, they just get the fuck out of the way. All other times they drive like LA style assholes.

Heading to Colorado to visit friends was the highlight of the trip. So good to see familiar affectionate faces and hang with old friends. Nate, Tera and the kids were happy to see me as well and I was in some kind of hot spring 3 of the 4 days.

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You’ll have to find it yourself, ain’t tellin’

This one was my favorite, can’t beat the view.

Met a fellow on a KLR at the local coffee shop and ended talking for hours. Turns out he’s a PhD candidate from Florida in Urban development and may be a good pipeline for interns to help out with summer data collection in the future. And generally, a damn good guy. Not too many times you end up hugging it out with a random guy you meet at a coffee shop.

Oh, fuck, it’s over. Been waiting for this day for 2 months. Finally here.

Just bought $115 worth of free range Bison from the Ute Market, I’ve eaten a bunch of it while here and might just have to come back now and again to get another big pile of it.

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On a different note, if you’re wanting a stunningly capable, reliable, and tough as fuck rig, get a Toyota truck. I am so impressed with this truck’s ability to easily handle the constant array of pure shit roads and off-road routes that would have hammered a POS Ford, Dodge or Chevy apart. The things are fucking tanks, well designed for real off-road work, no surprise they’re the go to truck from Afghanistan to sub-Saharan Africa. Having driven off-road professionally for various gigs since ’89 this is one of 2 rigs that blew my mind with their ability. Here’s the other one:

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This thing was truly awesome.

Well, that’s about it. Back home for a few weeks then off to NorCal for 2 weeks to tackle another project. Going to pack in as much friend time as possible and hit Common Ground a dozen times or so. Seat time on the KLR is high on the list as well, damn I wanna ride! It’s been way too long.

Smooches!

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One Month In…

Stunning how fast time can fly when you live in a tent in the middle of the Utah desert 6 days a week. Turns out the one day a week in Vernal at the hotel is PLENTY. Shit in a real toilet, shower off the grime, do laundry, sleep in a bed, then get the fuck out of dodge and back to the hills. Beats hanging with the hordes of young girls/women with hordes of fucking twat rats the average Mormon town is infested with. Not to mention fat dudes in jacked up trucks, many fat dudes in jacked up trucks.

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There is no end to the beauty here. Well, Vernal is a shithole, but I mean out of town.

We end up going for hikes almost every day after work for 2-4 hours exploring the endless massive landscape, get back, and exchange notes on what we saw. We hike solo, get plenty of each other sitting in a truck 8-9 hours a day. A side benefit of all this hiking at 6500-7000 feet is developing wicked endurance. Combined with a Primal/Paleo diet and intermittent fasting (16 hours a day) I’ve dropped 15 pounds without even trying. Between that and the hair, gonna look much different when I get back home.

It’s about time to relocate camp again, need better access to the work we’re doing and the current area is almost hiked out. The new area is primarily PJ (Pinyon/Juniper) forest and promises great exploring. And cougars. And bears. It’s always a hoot getting back into the food chain.

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See what I mean?

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Things have settled down concerning the severe homesickness felt upon heading out to here. Having been so long since I’d last had a proper home it was hard to leave it knowing I’d be gone for so long. Now, I’m in the groove and am pushing the tempo to hit my target of celebrating the 4th of July with friends in Portland. Time will tell.

On days that hiking doesn’t sound good it’s been sitting in the camp chair and reading or staring at shit listening to podcasts, but a new activity can be pursued: Archery. Got myself a Diamond Carbon Cure compound bow and all the associated goodies for a steal and flick 25-30 arrows a night to get the skills buffed up. Next year the skills should be ready to try for deer and elk.

The transition from fire fighting to this work has been fairly smooth, many of the skills translate, but the compensation and work conditions are far superior. The allowance of freedom is so wide it’s been an adjustment. Basically, I was given $100k worth of shit, a credit card, and a human I picked, and told to have a good time, get it done. Being allergic to authority and control freaks, this is a match made in heaven. Thankfully, projects this long will be rare, once every few years, but I’ll still get to travel on the company dime every summer for a few weeks here and there from Alaska to Oklahoma.

Which is all a way to say that at 47, I’ve finally found what, for me, is the perfect gig. Good pay and bennies, a great deal of freedom and most importantly lots of room to grow and apply my broad and eclectic range of skills.

Time to take advantage of this hotel room.

 

Tomorrow, back to this:IMG_20180408_193144529_HDR.jpg

Desert, Dinos and Dirt

Fantasy Canyon

Fantasy Canyon formation

After finally getting myself the long illusory setup of a cozy home base from which to explore, I find myself pulled from it for yet another summer away from friends, family and familiarity. It’s a “same first letter triplets” kind of post, folks. Yup, got me a real job and all that and still have field season, this year in Utah for 3-4 months then up to Ketchikan, AK for a month or so after that.

The land we’re collecting data on is the dead middle of fucking nowhere Utah, where the Northern Ute got told to fuck off to after getting the boot off their ancestral land in the Salt Lake and Provo basin areas. Needed to build temples and too wide straight roads I guess.

Currently I’m in Vernal, UT, dirty little backwards shithole that it is. I can see 3 Moron, ahem, Mormon churches from the hotel. Thankfully, town is a once a week thing for a day off and groceries, the rest of the time is spent camping near the Green river, made famous by both John Wesley Powell and Edward Abbey.

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Evening boot about near camp

Having already seen some amazing sites, many spectacular desert destinations await exploration, and I’m getting paid to camp with a new trailer, for cooking and storage, I’m in a sweet tent, and roam around with a former co-worker from Apple I hired to work with me at this gig

Way better than in fire, but this has got to be the last summer of disappearance. I don’t mind a month or so here and there, but 4-6 months is a fucking haul. It’s been weird adjusting to having my own place after so long in some form of shared housing, love it, almost to a fault. The social life slowly builds, but will go on hiatus til the fall. That fact was what made it not hard to just do my own thing most of the time here, I hung with friends, but didn’t dive deep into building up a tribe seeing I’d be heading out soon.

The goal is to make the best of the situation, explore my ass off and see what can be gained from the experience. I’ve already advised the boss that next year a week or 2 here and there will be good, but no more disappearing for a season, done with that.

A former GF told me it was much harder on the one left behind than the leaver, was quite adamant about it and refused to hear argument on the topic. Now that I have the floor, I shall disagree. Yes, it is hard, I’ve been in the shoes of the one left behind, but at least your entire world isn’t disrupted by the event.

There is still YOUR home, friends, stores, hangouts, town/city, schedule, it all stays the same and provides what it always has without disruption. There is no need to try and reinvent a temporary version of your entire life in some random place every summer that may or may not suit you. Camping 6 days a week is a little rough, but Vernal is such a miserably generic cracker assed small western town that 1 day a week is plenty.

That being said, the best shall be made of the situation as the option is unpleasant. I’ve tried both routes and the effort put into self care, reaching out to friends and straight up bucking the fuck up always pays off for the better.

We shall see…

Meanwhile, here is another stunning desert photo:

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Standard Desert amazeballs

Rant

Put yer big people panties on, it’s gonna get a little rough here for a bit. I’m a little fired up. Pun intended.

So, once again California is a raging inferno, big surprise. Welcome to the West the past 15 years. Many places in the west that have fought tooth and nail to oppose any appreciable fuels management/fire mitigation work done are feeling the consequences of their actions these past 6-7 years and chalk it up to the current bogeyman of the day for anything that happens outside your house: GLOBAL WARMING DID IT!!!!!!!11!!

No, you fucking short sighted pin headed assholes, a century plus of ignoring wildland health conditions and the warnings of professional fire managers like my(former)self and scientists is why this is happening. IT’S YOUR FAULT, fucknuts!

Not the Guv’mnt (well, excepting Smokey the Bear Lying Cunt), not the evvvvvilllll corporations, not immigrants or white trash or the Muslims. YOU.

“Logging and thinning is ugly”, “Fires destroy the forest”, “The more growth the better off things are”, “We camped here when I was 6 so it has to be just like that foreeevvverrrr!!”, “NIMBY”, etc, etc, etc.

Got some news for ya, the ecological cycles of the natural world are much longer term and consequential than your sad little life. Any of ours. Do you think the Nez Perce ran around with elk hide buckets hucking water at the flames every time a fire kicked up? How do you think all these beautiful places got to be the way they are? Luck? It has been, and always will be, fire. Or the closest approximation we can apply on a regular basis in areas where fire is just too risky, mainly the wildland-urban interface.

The intensity of fires of late shows just how severe the conditions have gotten in the realm of neglect. Wouldn’t burn like this without the massive excess of available fuels across the West. Yes, it’s a collection of factors, but the others are largely moot without fuels to burn. Healthy forests with a regular fire regime don’t tend to support running crown fires. Unless that’s their historical fire regime. Stand replacement fires are a real thing, not a ‘disaster’. Every continent has a deep fire history except Antarctica, and that’s due it’s current location. Before it was there it burned like a motherfucker, just like every other patch of land.

This is gonna come off as harsh, but I’m glad it’s finally civilians getting burned up in these fires and not firefighters. I’ve lost friends and have seen the fallout of every firefighter fatality since my first fire season in 1989. Folks talk about their brave heros, build a memorial, make fucking atrocious, unforgivable movies (suck a fat dick in hell, Josh Brolin) then it snows and they forget all about wildfire fatalities till the net round.

Maybe now that the bodies aren’t clothed in Nomex people will listen, and more importantly, act.

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This is the memorial cross where Scott died, his body was right there, 30 feet from the top of the ridge and potential safety. 11 other people were behind him. 2 helitack folks went another way and died in the most miserable, heartbreaking location and manner imaginable. Since the South Canyon Fire in 1994, where he and the 13 others, many friends and acquaintances, died, 376 people have died fighting wildfires, 51 in burnovers, the most awful way to die.

Eager, hardworking, adventure seeking badasses have been putting themselves out there year after year, many temporary employees with no benefits and meager pay, and dying because you can’t face reality concerning the need for a fundamental change in our relationship with the natural world and fire.

Maybe now that wine snobs are dying you’ll give a shit.

Being All Adult and Such

Cheers, good readers!! How’s it been?

As typical, much has happened since the end of the big trip. That interview I cut the trip short for paid off well. I’m 2 weeks in on being a Field GIS Tech with a sweet small engineering firm that I’ll never name here. Like to keep personal and professional firewalled. Suffice it to say, it’s a good place with potential. Plus I get to drive a sweet Toyota around in the beautiful mountains in Washington, eventually all over the West.

Tomorrow I’ll be moving in to my new place, the first non-roommate place I’ll have had since 2007. Glory be!!!!! Cheap, cute and chill. 5 minutes from the office and the Salmon Creek Greenway with trails and such. Not that I’ll be there much as it’s field season so I spend weekdays in the field and weekends home.  Still, it’s mine and it’ll be a great place to be able to come back to and have how I want it.

Having moved over 60 times in my life (living in Govt dorms, on couches, in the dirt, with shitbag roommates) being able to have a homey base to work/play out from is a very welcome thing. Hell, I might even go so far as to get plants again. So grown up!

Thumper got me out on a few more little Oregon trips the couple weeks after I got back from the trip, but isn’t in the best of health.

Exhaust is falling off, the starter switch failed in Astoria so I had to spend the next 2 days gear starting a KLR and that ain’t no goddamn fun at all. Got it back to Bend and will deal with it over the winter.

I will use this space to once again sing the praises of the lowly KLR 650. That fucking tank is one of the most broadly capable bikes on the planet and they’re cheap as shit. One seeking a tough bike to really get out in the boonies with could hardly go wrong buying one.

I’ve been flirting with new bikes, the Suzuki V-Strom 650XT in the lead unless the Yamaha T-7 comes out awesome and under $10k. Knowing the Strom is less off-road capable than the current ride, it would have been plenty capable on the stuff I rode on the big trip. My taint was so fucking hammered after 11,000 miles on a KLR that I decided a new ride was in the mix. I mean, I have ridden around 16,000 miles this year alone, not like some of the poor bikes out there, abused by neglect, sitting around collecting dust under the ownership of one wearing a Born to Ride shirt who sells it after 6 years and maybe 3000 miles. Sad, so sad, it’s a sad sad situation. And it’s getting more and more absurd.

Met with an eclectic group of delightful folks to memorialize a good friend who died last year and had the honor of taking some of his and friend Corey’s dad’s ashes together up to a feature on the back side of Mt Hood called Snowdome. Was a burly scramble and rolled the shit out of my already dodgy ankle, but totally worth it. He asked to be there and it was important to his wife and sons.

Memories of experiences and epiphanies from the Big Moto Haul still pop up on occasion. Little things can trigger a long 1000 yard stare moment where I’m still out there having the coolest experience dirty, tired and content. Many more such excursions shall come in the near future.

For a short bit, tho, it’s time to be a happy little homemaker and worker among workers. As well as coming to the realization that, once again, Portland is my home.

Home. 11,156 Miles and 7 Weeks Later

Ugh.

Holy shit, it’s over.

For now.

That was a haul unlike any other I’ve attempted. Trying to find words to encapsulate a trip of such size is difficult, hell, trying to grasp all that was seen and done is a lost cause. Gotta love photos and blogging for keeping track of the memories and events. While an epic adventure, not the last big ride. Between the Desert SW this spring and this haul, I’ve only begun.

Blasting across Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Idaho and finally half of Oregon in 5 days wasn’t fun, but at least my crotch is still numb from the ride. Goddamn thumpers.

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The requisite Kansas corn shot. Blasting through the Midwest exposed me to a ton of smaller to tiny little towns that, again despite common impressions, were lively, attractive and flourishing. Honestly, the grossest little shitholes didn’t arrive till Colorado. My route limited my exposure to the overall picture, but I think a good impression was gained and it differs greatly from what is considered common knowledge concerning the ‘flyover’ states.

There is little to report from the 5 day ride home from Detroit beyond shitty hotels, generally monotonous scenery with the occasional surprise, and ever increasing smoke levels the further west I rode. There was a short stint spent under the tongue of a horse trailer in Colorado to avoid a severe thunderstorm, but that was about it.

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The exhaust kind of fell apart in Kansas, leading to some ingenuity in keeping it at least partially functional. Even with earplugs in, Thumper is a noisy beast when uncorked.

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The one place in SE Idaho I wanted to camp had narrowly avoided being burned up not too far in the past. As I cruised through my old BLM District there were a surprising number of recent fire scars, must be a great season for OT.

Pulled in at the Crystal Crane Hot-springs near Burns, OR for the traditional post adventure camp and soak, managed to hang out for a few hours, then said “fuck it”, packed up and did the last 127 miles to home. After so long, 127 miles was a blip, a mere blink of time through well known terrain towards real food, a shower, MY bed. Easy peasy.

Then it was done. Parked the filthy bike in the garage, hit the shower and pigged out on I can’t remember then passed out. All done. Shaving never felt so good.

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The week since then has been a mixed bag. All the fucking godawful tourists sliming around for the eclipse had the town packed and my tolerance frayed. Having to deal with regular day to day stuff and figure how to fill a whole day is now just starting to happen. When 2 months straight is ride, sleep, repeat life is pretty fucking simple. Modern life can really complicate a good thing. Obviously, I didn’t feel like writing, and don’t now, but the 3 of you deserve a conclusion to this whole thing.

Got the bike all squared away, cleaned up, exhaust repaired, oil changed and tires topped off. Never know when you’ll need to get in some ride time for sanity sake.

The eclipse was neat, but so severely overblown by the #hypetards of modern social media it was silly. In the era where snow storms get named it shouldn’t surprise me, but I’m still fairly old school in that regard. Stores are now having big blow it out the door sales to try and recoup all the coin they spent on shit no one cared to buy.

Sweet.

The reason for the cutting short and big blast back shall be attended this coming Monday.  Shaved, got my hair did and have my fancy job getting clothes all ready to go. A finalizing interview, soon followed, hopefully, by a new gig. Requiring yet another relocation to a different state, but I like Washington and will be close enough to PDX for sales tax free shopping and the visiting of all my friends still able to manage there.

So, that’s pretty much that for this trip. Epic sights, wonderful friends and family, kind and friendly strangers, minimal mechanical issues, and a passion even further stoked to do it all over again. Soon. I’ll be hitting the upper Midwest for sure for more exploring and including eastern Canada and the eastern seaboard of the US for good measure. Not sure if Thumper will be my steed for the next big haul, but it will certainly be called upon for smaller trips.

Like the one I head out on this Thursday.

Time to Willy.

 

Family Funtime

Rolling into Hartland, WI had me nervous initially, but very soon that all went away and a most excellent time was had. For a very long time family for me has consisted of my sister, bro-in-law and their kids. My folks bailed from Wisconsin to the west coast soon after getting married and didn’t keep too much contact with family. Well, my dad did, but his asshole wife cared little for his family and hated hers so extended relatives were not a part of my growing up. Other than visiting WI for the grandparents 50th anniversary as a 9 year old and my grand dad visiting for my sister’s HS graduation (subsequently getting meningitis and dying) it was us alone in the west.

A couple years ago cousin Mike and wife Sue got hold of us and said they wanted to come out and visit, catch up and see what was going on with us. It was a great visit and made me happy to have missed out on all the funky family shit that had been going on in WI we were lucky to avoid. However, we missed out on meeting their kids, we are the youngest of the family so everyone else is 15 to 17 years older, and grand kids and being a part of their lives.

All that was rectified with this visit. Met my 2nd and 3rd cousins, Aunt Pat who was married to the main family asshole back in the day, but is now more part of the family than him and his demon spawn, and Bubba, cousin Jill’s Jack Russell terrier.

Hanging out with cousin Mike was a hoot. Being a contractor in the area for 40ish years and very involved in the community he seemingly knows everyone and all that goes on in the area. Quite the man about town. Fun to hit the local breakfast hangout for all the old characters in town, chugging coffee and busting balls. Spent time at 2nd cousin Angie’s place in the burbs her husband Jim had turned into a AV/man cave paradise. The garage bar beats any I’ve seen. Their daughter is a serious ball of fun.

 

Her brother Chris and his wife Beth have 2 awesome kids and a sweet 100+ acre farm where they raise chickens, make maple syrup and raise bees on top of having regular gigs.

Spent time on the nearby lake cruising around on the pontoon boat one evening, and a jet ski another. Sea Doos kick ass. If you’ve never gone 70 MPH across water you really owe it to yourself to give it a go. Soooo goddamn fun!

Lake time with the fam

Pewaukee Lake pontooning

Hanging out listening to family history and adding in gaps from my side was a great time. It was universally agreed that the family assholes were not worth monkeying up the cool thing we had going. Supporting each other and sharing time with those we enjoy are values and ideals we could agree on.

Highlighting the visit was a day in Milwaukee checking out where they all grew up in the NW  part of the city, the wonderfully reinvigorated downtown and the topper:

H-D Museum

the Harley-Davidson Museum. Holy hell, what an amazing place. I’m not a huge Harley guy, but as a moto guy I was blown away by the quality and depth of the place. Should you find yourself anywhere near Milwaukee, you need to check it out if you have any interest at all in motorcycles.

Words don’t do it justice, so here’s a ton of photos

 

 

Spent the following day tracking down parts for Thumper, which cousin Mike generously picked up, and got them slapped on to keep the adventure rolling. Rear tire, oil, and battery needed to get updated if things were to continue. That evening was Jet ski and pizza night which is really hard to beat.

Needing to get the party back on the road we spent the morning BSing with Mike, Jill and aunt Pat and chugging coffee before I headed of to the high speed ferry across lake Michigan. No interest in driving through Chicago. Nope.

Met a number of other bikers on the ferry and was the only ADV rider. Mostly H-Ds, go figure. All heading back home from Sturgis. After putting WI in the rear mirror, it was a while until land came back into view. Them Great Lakes is big! Heading across the lake facilitated getting to visit a friend in Detroit for a bit without having to drive through 3 states and Chicago.

 

As is typical, I had an important phone call that was to occur at noon, precisely the time we were loading the ferry. Missed the call, but returned it ASAP and had an excellent conversation with a potential employer. Later in the day I received and email discussing on-boarding me with the company. I believe I have a GIS gig in Vancouver, WA with a good deal of potential for growth.

Got to friend Heather’s place in a suburb north of Detroit and had a nice 2 day hang. She was generous with her time and place despite being in the midst of a whirlwind of suck in her personal life. Didn’t temper her ability to give an excellent tour of Detroit and environs. Now, the current word on Detroit out west is that it’s still stuck in the early-mid 90’s shithole, murder capitol phase and beyond help. That could not be further from the truth. While not perfect, the city is vibrant and happening. As in Milwaukee, old buildings are getting remodeled, there is a great river walk and every block was packed with businesses and people out enjoying it. Took the People Mover to get a good overview of downtown, then hit Greektown and Steeltown before heading back to her place to check out a free concert in a park on St Claire Lake and meet some of her friends.

 

Headed out the next morning to begin the return home. Yes, the trip’s eastward progress is over. 7 weeks out has been a hoot, but the new gig necessitates getting my ass back west to get the next phase rolling. This post finds me in a hotel in St Joseph, MO after 2 days of hard pushing west. Hoping to get back in Bend by Tuesday to be in place before the eclipse madness kicks off. Then to Vancouver to discuss the position.

I’m both disappointed and  relieved to be heading back. Over 9000 miles ridden, so many adventures had and sights seen it blows my mind. Not the trip of a lifetime, but another in a list of adventures in life to be had.

Tomorrow, Colorado or Wyoming depending on route taken.