Tag Archives: KLR 650

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.

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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.

A New Adventure on the Horizon

Howdy!

Well, that last trip really got the travel bug fired up and thankfully I don’t have much in the way of obligations holding me back. Thus, on or around the 24th of June I’ll be heading out on a 10k+ 6-8 week dual sport moto adventure across Canada and the US.

This isn’t going to be a pavement haul across the continent and back, it’s a full on dirt road/tiny 2 track back road adventure that includes, so far, Exploration of the eastern Washington scablands, Canada Day spent in Revelstoke with friends, a run up to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories with friend B-Rad from last summer’s Oregon Big Desert Blast, bopping back and forth across the border in the Great Lakes region to see folks and hit sweet little rides, surviving the eastern seaboard, a run down the Blueridge Parkway, The Missouri River Breaks, Dakota badlands, Colorado for friends  and some high elevation riding, back to Arizona to buy Tom Kenopka breakfast, LA for friends and to finally check of the home of many of my favorite comedians, The Comedy Store finished up with a run up coast on the 1/101 (hopefully the Big Sur slide will be cleared by then) back to PDX, then home to Bend. Going to try and hit parts of the TAT while I’m at it. Then there is the eclipse to plan a remote viewing spot for.

You, dear reader, are a crucial part of this adventure! I’d love to hear about rides, meetups, cool little trails/roads that I can try and join in while on the road. Please share some of your experience and ride along if you wish.

I’d be very grateful if you could share this with rider and non-rider friends alike to get a little following going. Places to camp, including backyards, would be great to hear about as well.

There are a few companies that have provided a little support and they include:

Giant Loop Moto of Bend, OR. Harold and Ingrid helped set me up with some sweet soft luggage at a discount and I will be reviewing it as part of the trip.

Next Adventure in Portland, OR was the first job I got upon moving there the first time way back in 1999. It has since grown into the largest independent outdoor gear store in Oregon, if not the Pacific Northwest. Deek and Brian offer a unique workplace that has become refuge to many disheartened former REI employees, high level adventurers and gear junkies alike. They offered camping gear and a little cash for motorcycle specific needs. I’ll be posting on their blog, reviewing gear and doing and in-store presentation after I return.

Xero Shoes of Broomfield, CO. I used to make my own huaraches out of pig leather that were OK, then I found Xeros and am on my second pair after nearly wearing a hole through the soles of my first. Great small company with excellent products for minimalist footwear fans or those wanting compact, light durable camping footwear. They offered their affiliate program by which if you go to their site by my link and buy something, I get 10% of that purchase.

Being transparent is very important to me, hence the above info. If you are a regular reader you know I’ll be doing honest gear reviews and have no problem calling dodgy gear out.

I’ll be hauling a few stickers and such to events to give out from each company and will happily let folks check out the gear I’m using to get a first hand look.

So there you have it, a summer full of adventure hopefully augmented by you folks.

The countdown begins, 18 days till launch!

So, That Big Motorcycle Trip…..

Hooooo, boy! It has been a while since my last blatherfest.

Lots of nifty little adventures, including overnight camping trips in my lovely Oregon desert to working ‘vacations’ in Portland to assist friends, have been occurring right under your nose.

Yes, yes, I promised big bold write-ups of my little moto romp through the desert Southwest and I’ve been fantastically lazy concerning writing about it.

An overview shall follow.

Ahem.

In the beginning, there was the end of a contract with Apple. The cry “Hallelujah!” rose up from the masses. Well, me to be exact. Shit was packed into Mighty Whitey (the Soob) and hauled to Bend, a flight was procured to return to Silicon Valley and my bike, and thus the adventure began.

Being a comedy nut, I hit the jackpot in the days before heading out as Bill Burr and Doug Stanhope (with Morgan Murphy and Brett Erickson) were doing shows on consecutive nights at the San Jose Improv. Nearly wet myself with glee. Both shows were sweet and really set a good tone for kicking off a new adventure.

My route took me through a lot of So-Cal sights I’d never been to before, but had seen photos of and heard about from friends, magazine articles, etc. over the years. Hit up Carrizo Plain National Monument the first night, I’d been there before, but it’s always good to get the kinks worked out in familiar territory. Pissed down rain all night and proved my choice in tents was a gooder. Fellow riders, if you want a good, small, light solo tent the REI Quarter Dome 1 is reasonable. The foot area is a little funky to set up, but I had plenty room and stayed dry. What more do ya need? The next morning a heavy mist was about giving the feel of being on the moors.

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Carrizo Plain NM

And as many have noted, the desert flowers were blooming like crazy everywhere. Photo evidence to follow.

Starting out with a pile of wet kit to pack wasn’t the top of my list, but got it out of the way early and it was dry as hell most the rest of the trip. Headed through lovely Bakersfield where I met a cool fellow who had moved there from PDX at a Starbucks and chatted a bit about bikes, pedal and motor.

A short aside concerning Starbucks for my PDX coffee snob friends. Yes, Portland is a mecca for all coffee aficionados who love the Stumptown bright, light to medium roast that every company copies thinking they are recreating the wheel in their own special way. There are many parts of the country that would kill for Starbucks as shitty watered down Folgers still dominates the small town cafe scene in the Great American Beyond. As a traveler, ‘Bucks fucking rocks. Clean shitters, solid WiFi and decent coffee. Not to mention a lot of travelers hit it for the above reasons so you can meet some interesting folks there. Not 5th and Alder downtown interesting, but fun interesting.

Totaling 3500 miles and 17 days the trip far exceeded expectations and led to meeting a bunch of cool folks and seeing some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet. The route took me to Trona Pinnacles, Death Valley where I rode through the awe inspiring Titus Canyon, Mojave National Preserve for a hike up huge sand dunes:

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Kelso Dunes, Mojave NM

and Joshua Tree NP which was packed, but I still found a sweet little place to camp and hike sans other people. And a desert tortoise. Well, a former desert tortoise.

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Hard Livin’ in the Desert

Salton Sea was very full according to the local guy I bought a soda from in a tiny little lakeside village. And smelled like rotten fish ass. Cruising along, I noticed a film crew and checked them out. They were filming a spin off of Sons of Anarchy. Chatted with a camera man and a few actors for a bit and got a shot of a sweet moto rigged to film riding scenes:

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Can’t imagine it was fun to ride, but the results are worth the headache I’m sure.

Hit Salvation Mountain and Slab City as I’ve heard about them for years and was curious. There were a couple very cute young women taking sexy shots of each other at Salvation Mtn, which I thought was a hoot. This dude’s monument to Jesus and the girls are taking ass shots in the middle of it. Figured, what the fuck, and asked if they would take a shot with my bike and they were in, so:

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Seattle Gals with Thumper

Sometimes you just have to ask.

Oh, here’s the Mountain:

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Slab City:

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was cool and gross all at once. Cool little camps, a library, funky social clubs in a place government has forgotten about. On the down side, the volume of random trash reminded me of photos of third world shit holes and was EVERYWHERE. Apparently living off the grid and away from the clutches of The Man requires folks to be goddamn filthy pigs.

My one actual crash was soon after Slab City, going from a deep gravel road that was freshly graded and shitty back on to the main dirt road. My front tire washed, the bike went down fast and my foot got pinned facing the wrong direction under my cargo box. I flipped over fast feeling the tension on my knee and took about 5 minutes to get positioned well enough to use my other leg to push The Pig off my ankle. Another gear plug, my ankle would have been fucked bad except I was wearing my Sidi Adventure GTX boots. I had around 300# resting on my ankle and a lesser boot would not have done the job of protecting my leg. Both my knee and ankle are a little funky still, but they weren’t destroyed thanks to good gear.

A 60 MPH cross wind for many hours through the rest of So-Cal and a subsequent sand storm finished up the California in memorable fashion. Plus it was hot. Very hot.

A couple gals I went to High School with live in AZ, so I visited Tammy in Cottonwood and hiked around near Sedona and reminisced about the good old days, then turned south all the way to Sierra Vista to see Candy. On the way I attempted to visit the memorial for the Granite Mountain Hotshots that burned up in 2013, but was so pissed off by the bullshit “Our Heroes” whitewashing of their demise I chose to pass. One day the truth about that burn-over will come out and a few fuckers who are protecting their and other folks asses will be held to account. Fucking scum. For those of you unfamiliar with why I give a shit, I was a wildland firefighter for 20 seasons and had friends die in the line of duty. Our desire to get the job done was usually taken advantage of and the results were sometimes horrific. Nuff o’ that.

Candy took me on the tourist loop and we checked out the cool sights including this amazing Celtic cross:

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Our Lady of the Sierras

75′ tall, way bigger than it looks here.

All the adventures up to this point, however, ended up being a warm up for the best part of the trip and, truth be told, the previous year.

So, I mentioned early on my fandom of comedy. Well, it turns out my favorite comedian, Doug Stanhope, lives in Bisbee, AZ a short distance from Sierra Vista. Musician Mishka Shubaly and Comedians Kristine Levine, Anthony Desamito, and Carmen Morales had a show planned in Bisbee so I got tickets, an AirBnB and spent a couple days checking the place out. Met and BS’d with Castle Rock Kenny for a couple hours and checked out Floyd’s shop. Before hand I had made Twitter buddies with Tom Konopka, a long time friend of Doug’s who runs their little haven and loves on the dogs. Mentioned I’d be in Bisbee on my trip for the show and would love to meet him if possible. Ended up scaring the shit out of me while I was hopping on my bike at a diner. Apparently, he was across the street when I tweeted a thanks for recommending the place so he swung by and grabbed me in a big bear hug. Very friendly and warm, super cool guy.

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The show was top notch. Mostly locals and friends of Doug’s larger social circle in attendance. I stood out as a visitor, but it made chatting with folks easier. Saw Tom and he introduced my to Bingo, Doug’s super awesome wife and a few others including Chad Shank, one of the coolest humans alive with a voice perfect for story telling. Met Greg Chaille, Doug’s business manager, and got invited back to the Funhouse after the show.

Doug was on tour, but just being invited back to after party with the friends of my favorite comedian was spectacular. Turns out Kristine Levine grew up near where I lived and we chatted for hours about that and how Portland turned into a hipster hellhole and plenty other stuff. An impromptu concert kicked off with Mishka doing a set and Chaille riffing on guitar while 2 smashed comedians scream sang along. Met Henry Phillips and Ichabod, the aforementioned dogs Tom looks after and a number of others heard about often on the podcast.

Time came to head back to sleep and got great props from Chaille and Tom, being thankful I was polite and respectful. I still giggle thinking how awesome that night was.

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The Funhouse

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The Bingo Sign

The trip wrapped up short due to a last minute interview in Portland, so I ended up riding 1700 miles in 3 days across Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. The weather got progressively shitty the further north to the point of riding through a riving snow storm outside Fallon, NV. Still pretty though as this shot in northern NV shows.

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The last little blast home involved a night at Crystal Crane Hot Springs outside Burns, OR for a chance to warm up and decompress after 3 days of hard riding. I try and hit this place 2-3 times a year as it’s the perfect finish up for adventures and is cheap and chill.

Rolled into Bend with stiff fingers and a taint in desperate need to be off the seat of a KLR. 18 days of a whole lot of fun that has inspired plans that will be presented in the next installment of Ken finally decides to get off his dead ass and write.

Toodles!