100CCC SS5K B2B
Day 6 (B2B): Otey Mesa, Mexico to Surrey, British Columbia
After my spaz attack I needed to calm down but I knew I wasn't going to be able to relax until I was north of LA. I charted a route around LA even though it was evening. It probably added 40 miles to my total route but I'm glad I did it because I made good time. I had planned to keep my gas stop a bit shorter on the first part of this leg. The reason was that I didn't know if I would be able to get gas right at the border and also I figured I would be able to run higher speeds on the highways I would be taking to get around LA. I was right.
The ride around LA was an adventure even though it was all major roads. The reason is that some of these roads were tight two lane highways with no shoulder to speak of and high walls on either side. It was like being a mouse in a maze. Also there were stop lights in some places where I just didn't think there should be some. As I was making my way north there were a few times where I thought I might be lost but the GPS seem to know where it was going and since it looked right to me I just kept following it. It isn't good to have to depend on your GPS but when there isn't a second alternative it's nice to know that it can get you out of a jam. I kept checking the GPS to make sure I was still going the way I was suppose to and that I was on the road it said I should be on. Looked like I would make it to my first gas stop without an issue.
As I had about 40 miles to go I was overrun with a group of sportbikes. Probably about 20 of them out for a ride in typical California style. I decided that I would stick with them since they seem to be making good time. I'm sure they wondered what the heck this old fart on a sport tourer thinks he's doing. I'll tell ya what he's doing. He's letting you guys attract all the attention as I slip away undetected. That's what I'm doin'. It was pretty neat to run with them for a while but eventually they hit there exit and I had to back it off again and play it safe. My first gas stop was just a few more miles up the road and I made it there without an issue. With that one in the bag I could finally start to relax. Of course the station attendant looked like he was relaxed sleeping behind the bullet proof glass. I made him get up and get me some Chex Mix. Sorry I had to disturb you while you were "on the job" sleepy.
Nothing much happened on the way to the next stop but as I made my way up along the east side of the bay I started seeing places that I recognized from years ago when I was stationed at the now closed Mare Island Naval Station. I spent about 2 years (1986-1988) there when I was in the Navy. I enjoyed that area but would have enjoyed it more with a car. There was plenty to do and Napa Valley wasn't far away. Great places to ride and spend the weekend. Nothing compares though to northern California which was the part of the ride I was looking forward to as I had never been much above Sacramento.
My last couple gas stops were slow because I had problems staying comfortable so I was getting food, changing clothes, and adjusting things on the bike. It was probably in some part do to with days of being on the road and some fatigue but it was still manageable. I still had plenty of ibuprofen so I didn't really have any muscle aches or joint pain. This gas stop I tried to tell myself that I needed to get gas and get out of here. Of course before I pulled off the interstate I ran out of water which meant going into the truck stop. It turns out I had to go in anyway because the receipt at the pump didn't have a good timestamp. I went in to pay for my gas and water and got another receipt. No timestamp. I asked the clerk if she had another receipt that might have a good timestamp on it. She tried the one for the truckers but it didn't have one either. I talked with her for a little while and she was very helpful in trying to get me something that would work but in the end I had her sign a receipt and verify the correct time. Veronica, (what a cool name) was very nice about the whole thing as I'm sure I look whipped from the road. I wished her a good day and headed out. So if you're ever in Corning, CA stop by the truck stop and say hi to Veronica.
Northern California was upon me and it was a real treat. The mountains, the pines, and the redwoods all make for great scenery. Those are the times that you are glad you're on two wheels. There's just nothing like it but I'm preaching to the choir on that I'm guessing. I really couldn't get enough of it. You get that beside yourself feeling. As I rode north though reality would set back in as my delay of getting started from Mexico would come back to haunt me just as I had suspected. Sorry to be a buzz-kill.
As I approached Vancouver, Oregon it started to rain and traffic became heavier to the point of a slow crawl. It was stop and start driving for over an hour to get about 10 miles. Looks like everyone in Vancouver gets out of work at 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday. The off and on rain along with the traffic and the thoughts of the delay getting to Mexico really brewed in the back of my head. There was no sense in getting worked up about it, again, because there's nothing I could do about it and so I just tried to put it out of my head. Man, it really got to me though. Well you know what they say about the best laid plans.
Once I was around Vancouver traffic thinned and the rain let up so it was easier going at that point except for the fact that everyone seems to drive the same speed in every lane in Washington state. Of course Wisconsin drivers aren't any better. Everyone has an opinion about drivers in other states. We think Illinois drivers are nuts and jags and Illinois drivers think we're all clueless and stupid. To each his own. I decided to start weaving in and out of with respect to everyone that was driving because driving the speed limit for about 5 hours behind someone in the left lane was not my idea of a fun ride. That made the time go a little quicker and I was making my way towards the next major traffic jam which is Seattle rush hour. Charlie had arranged for witnesses in Blaine, Washington for me and luckily Lisa and Tobie Stevens answered the call making the 3+ hour trip to Seattle to help out with the paperwork. I had promised to call Lisa as I was getting to Seattle so I made the call and Lisa was at the ready with information about Seattle which would turn out later to be a real godsend. I let Lisa know that I was pretty much on schedule but it didn't look good for rush hour traffic. She let me know about the express lanes through Seattle and that I only had one shot at them. I thought to myself, that's sounds familiar. Hopefully I wouldn't have to aim for the island again like I had to in Houston.
Traffic slowed to a crawl again and I had to make my best judgment on what I was going to do about trying to keep a decent pace through traffic. There wasn't much I could do but wait it out and hope I made the exit for the express lane. After some more stop and go traffic I made it to the express lane but it seemed like it took forever. The express lane was like being transported into another world. It pretty much went down underneath the other road ways and made like an open sided tunnel right through the city. I'm sure the Bat Cave entrance was down there somewhere. I was also surprised at how little traffic was on these lanes. At some points it was 3 lanes wide and it was great to know that I was saving myself a bunch of time getting through the city. It would be short lived though because as they ended I was right back in the thick of it and back to stop and go type traffic that would last for over an hour.
I kept getting further north and the traffic would just not let up. Exit after exit and very little traffic was getting off. I started thinking to myself maybe all these people just drive up to the Canadian border on Friday and parked their cars a the border, then walk away just for fun. I kept looking at the GPS thinking there's no way all these people are going to Canada for the weekend. After another half hour or so I realized that everyone in Seattle lived at Exit 206 off of I-5 because it was like the line to get into Disneyworld at that exit. Finally I had some breathing room to move and I needed gas. The 208 was my exit after I decided I was not getting gas at the 206. I filled up quickly and made my way back out on the road to start on the last leg to Canada.
Another tip I had received from Lisa was to use the border crossing that was in the town of Blaine and not the one on the interstate. The one in town was mainly used by trucks and was much lighter than the one on I-5. I would believe that with the amount of traffic that I had endured over the past 5+ hours through Washington. As I pulled up I could tell the border guard was in great spirits as he started barking questions at me. I was thinking to myself that all I want to do is get over to your stupid duty free store and get a valid receipt and then get back into my own country. I didn't think he really wanted to hear that though so I answered his questions politely and he was kind enough to let me come and spend some money in his country. The duty free shop had plenty of things to blow my money on but I picked up a celebratory cigar to smoke when I got home and also picked up a little Canada trinket for a friend. I almost fell over when I saw the receipt marking the end of the trifecta of rides that I had just finished (and would hopefully get credit for). It wasn't from the fact that I had just ridden across the country in every direction but the fact that the receipt was complete with more than enough information on it to prove my time, date, and location. After over 6000 miles of nothing but problems with receipts this one was worth framing on the wall as a shining example of what every gas station in the US should strive to provide. So there was one positive thing to say about Canada. The receipts at the duty free shop are perfect in every way. They should be printed on gold leaf foil.
It was all over and the only thing that stood between me and the US now was an hour wait in line. Luck would have it though and the duty free shop actually had people working there that would insert you into the line so after 15 minutes or so I was back in the US and looking for the Burger King where Lisa and Tobie would meet me. It would probably be sometime next week though if they had to deal with the traffic like I did so I set up camp at the Burger King parking lot and prepared to wait. I had picked a table outside and ate something while I went over my paperwork and my receipts to make sure everything was in order. After I had checked it all out and finished my meal I saw two FJR's pull up to the light and figured my witnesses had arrived.
Lisa looked happy with her new FJR that she seemed ready to start farkling. Tobie's was already set up for LD riding with an aux tank and some of the other usual farkles. They both were in good spirits and I was glad to take the time to visit with them and relax for the rest of the evening knowing I was finally off the clock. They signed my paperwork as Tobie snapped some shots to capture the moment. I'm sure I looked great next to a very photogenic Lisa as I looked like some sort of flaming wreckage but at that point I was just glad to be in good company and be done with my rides. We decided to hunt for a hotel at that point and find some dinner. They were spending the weekend in the area to do some riding. I wish I could have taken the time to ride with them for the weekend but I think my employer might have had a few things to say about that come Monday morning.
As we pulled up to the "International Hotel" I wasn't quite sure about the choice but Tobie was already inside and getting a room as Lisa and I looked at each other like "He can't be serious?". No matter it was a done deal and overall it was not a bad hotel. The decor was straight from the early 70's and it smelled musty but everything worked and everything was clean. We parked the bikes and found a nice sports bar down the street to get something to eat. I shared my blurry ride pictures with them as we waited for our food and swapped riding stories. I know, pretty unusual for a bunch of riders to talk about riding over dinner and drinks. As I finished my second beer I was headed down hill fast and Tobie knew it so we said our good nights and hit the hay.
The morning came and we grabbed a quick breakfast at the "International Restaurant". Pretty original name. It was ok but I've had better meals on the bike. They were all set to roll out so I went back to my room to pack and go over my route home. I waved good bye from my room as they left the parking lot hoping they would have a good day of riding ahead of them. I was hoping for the same myself. I planned my stops so I wouldn't have to think about them on the way home and it would allow me to make better time not having to worry about gas. At that point I had a plan and loaded into the GPS. I packed up the bike and prepared to head out. Lisa had left me a tasty Otwalla bar on my tank bag. We had talked about them the night before and they were better tasting and easier to eat then some of the dried out power bars I had been eating. I'll have to add them to my riding menu for the next trip.
Chapter 10: Blaine, WA to Milwaukee, WI