Stitched Kitty.

It’s the punchline to a story I can’t tell you. Really, don’t even ask. Or if you absolutely must, ask me privately and be prepared to be disappointed by the joke. But I think you’ll relate to how Stitched Kitty got to be a punchline. It was at the end of a story told by a good friend to a group of confidants. You know what I mean, right? The kind of folks you know well enough share a ribald and generally inappropriate story of someone else’s (or maybe your) misfortune without thinking twice about the audience. The kind of story that would make you wince if someone you didn’t know were to tell it in mixed company.

My point here? Friends and family are the things that make life great and have been, truly, the best part of our Chaptering adventure. Family — and people I know and love like family — have welcomed us into their homes, fed us, made us comfortable and told us wickedly funny stories. Some of which I can’t repeat.

We’ve seen many amazing sights along the road, both natural and man-made, but the best memories have always come from hanging out with family and friends.

Ch 3 route mapThe Chapter Three route map. I’m sending this post from Sudbury, Ontario. For the first part of the ride, I was too busy hanging out, drinking beer with friends and family to write. Since then, we’ve been riding like hell to get to Sudbury.

EverclearThey actually sell this shit out in the open at Walmart in Iowa. When I was in college at San Diego State, we’d smuggle it it in from Mexico under the back seat of a car. We’d mix it up in a trash can (no need to clean it first) with 7-Up, lime sherbet and dry ice. The result was called “Green Fog.” I probably could’ve been an astronaut if I had avoided Green Fog.

Iowa FairIt doesn’t get any cornier than at the Iowa State Fair. It it’s edible, they’ll fry it up and serve.

Left: Dee showing her farm-girl skills by milking an actual living cow. Right: The famous “Butter Cow” on display, which was the only thing refrigerated at the unbelievably hot fair that day. Heat Index of 109! WTF is a “Heat Index?”

Hazel on OrcaMy great-niece, Hazel, age 7, loves two things about motorcycles: riding ’em and going fast! I predict some gray hairs for my nephew in the coming years.

Stitched KittyThe Stitched Kitty insiders. That’s all I’m gonna say other than it’d make a cool name for a band.

Centennial BridgeI’d claim credit for this shot (technically I shot it), but “Mac” did the retouch. See his amazing work on FB here:

Jostes PizzaPartaking in pepperoni pizza at Papa’s Pizza, purveyors of perfect pies for pretty people. Yeah, we had a theme going…

Gould lunchGreat time catching up with sis-in-law, Joan, and family in Madison, WI. I changed the diapers on those two boys. Not lately, of course.

Orca and scooterIt takes all kinds to ride. Some big bike riders won’t give the “biker wave” to scooter riders, like they’re not legit. Nonsense. I don’t care what you’re riding, just that you’re riding. This scooter, which we saw in Pictured Rocks, MI, has a Georgia plate. That’s cool.

Pictured RocksPicture this: Pictured Rocks National Park, Michigan. The pristine water in Lake Superior is crystal clear.

Chamberlins 1Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn, Curtis, MI. Old-school (or should I say Ole-school?) B&B on the Michigan UP. Absolutely beautiful. Need more proof?

Chamberlins 2Okay. Sunset at Chamberlin’s.

A few more days and Chapter Three will be complete. Heading south tomorrow to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Final stop for Chapter Three (and Orca’s temporary home) is Buffalo, NY.

Adventure awaits…

The Brownie.

This is a fish story. A story about fishing. Most fishing stories have embellishments and mine is probably no exception.

I love sport fishing. I love running deep rigs for ling cod and rockfish on the ocean. I love hunting sneaky-ass bass with crank bait on farm ponds in Iowa. But what I love most is fly fishing on a river for trout.

For me, fly fishing is the most zen-like pursuit I know. Time seems to evaporate and I feel very calm and happy when I’m fly fishing. And to tell you the truth, given how involved and complicated the actual act of fly fishing is, I don’t know why I feel this way. The gear is antiquated, the river is moving dangerously fast, you stand in the boat and the boat is often bouncing all over the place while you’re trying to cast. It’s hard to focus on all that’s going on. Plus there’s usually at least one other person in the boat trying to find his “zen” place, too. It’s controlled chaos at it’s best.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not very good at fly fishing. I have poor casting technique, sketchy rod handling skills and I’m just as likely to gig my fishing partner with a hook as I am a fish.

One more thing, fly fishing is an expensive pursuit. A mid-level fly rod and reel outfit will set you back five bills. Smart anglers hire professional guides who bring the right gear for you to use and know where the fish are. The guide also provides the boat, lunch and expertise so that your day is joyful. Joyfulness is expensive. And worth it. Trust me.

I went fly fishing this week on the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, Montana, with my mentor and friend, Joe Phelps. It’s been ten years since I last fished with Joe and, seeing as I hooked him three times (thankfully with a barbless hook), I can understand if he had concerns about climbing into the boat with me. Our guide, Max, works out of Anglers West, one of the top outfitters in Paradise Valley. Max, who is all of 23, works Paradise Valley in our summer months and guides in Chile in their summer months (December though March).

The predominant trout species in the Yellowstone is the Cutthroat, so called because they have beautiful crimson-colored “cut” marks next to the gills. The river is also home to Rainbows — also beautiful — and Montana Whitefish (less beautiful, but fighters), but the most elusive and rare trout on the Yellowstone is the Brown trout.

Trout are wily, picky and arrogant fish. They want to play with you. Tease you. Refuse you. Then fight you when they strike. Trout are badass. Brown trout are the badass-est trout on the river. And the hardest to catch.

When I fished the Yellowstone ten years ago, everyone in our party nailed all three of these beautiful trout — Cuttys, ‘Bows and Brownies — except me. I did not land a Brownie, and it’s been bugging me ever since. In fact, I’ve fished other rivers and streams that are home to Brown trout and, again, failed to land one. Heck, my son, Daniel, when he was 11, waved a Brownie he’d caught on Bishop Creek right in my face.

I made mention of this to Joe and Max, as we were beginning our day. Both looked at me with that “oh, okay, that’s nice” look that folks do when they’re really thinking about something else.

As soon as we were headed downriver in the boat, the fish started to hit. One Rainbow  after another. Then I got a Whitefish. Then more ‘Bows. Then lunch. Time flies, remember? No Brownies.

The weather was perfect, albeit a little windy. My technique was, um, lacking. Max, ever the professional, was very patient and took advantage of me telling him to just bark commands at me, rather than make gentle suggestions.

“Closer to the bank!”


“Mend! Mend! Mend! ”

“Small mend!”

NO! Don’t Mega-Mend!”

“Mend downriver!”


I didn’t mind the curt instructions. I was in “The Zone.” I was just happy to be alive and in this place and at this time. Man, it was fly fishing heaven. But still no Brownies.

Then it happened. It was a bump, a refusal, then a hard strike. Different than a ‘Bow. I saw the Brownie almost immediately, the unusual light brown, almost golden, color slapping in the water and pulling on my line. This Brownie was big (relatively speaking for a trout) and was in the fight of his life. I had to land this fish.

Many times a trout will strike and you think you’ve got him. Then he spits out the fly, flips you an imaginary bird and swims away laughing at you. Other times, you’ll get him right up to the boat and ready for the net. Then you lose focus for just a second or two, lower your rod or release line tension… and he’s gone. Guides call that “Catch and early release.” Some guides, I’m sure, roll their eyes at the noob when this happens.

Not this time.

I did everything right… for a change. I held my rod up straight and behind my shoulder. I stripped the line, rather than reel it in like a traditional spin casting rig, which causes you to lower the rod, slacken the line, and get the bird from a fish’s tail as he swims away. I got the Brownie next to the boat and Max got him in the net.

At the same time, Joe was landing another Rainbow, so we had a busy boat. This happened three times that day — me and Joe landing fish at the same time — making Max work to keep the boat heading downriver, keep us from tangling rods and lines, net and release two fish, then listen to his clients spew verbal high-fives until the next fish hit.

Joe and I lost count of the total number of fish caught that day, or who caught the most, or the biggest (it was me). It didn’t matter. It was a perfect day.

I got my Brownie.

BrownieMy Brownie. Finally. Notice the color difference? JP is green with envy.

JP working the river and the result — a beautiful Rainbow (but no Brownies for him that day).

FlyagraThis product is called “Fly-Agra.” It’s designed to add flotation to your fly to, uh, help keep it up longer. The label actually says “Not for human consumption.”

Young DublinersThe Young Dubliners were playing at Pine Creek Lodge in Paradise Valley on an outdoor stage surrounded by streams, mountains and dancing fans. Great show!

We rode through Yellowstone along the northeast route and over the famous Beartooth Pass (10,947 feet). On the way down, I noticed the rear tire wearing through a thousand miles sooner than planned. We limped into Red Lodge, Montana, to Bonedaddy’s Custom Cycles and got a new rear shoe for Orca. Of course, I had sent a set of tires ahead to our final Chapter Two stop in Iowa and have service scheduled for next week. “Wanna make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”

Devils TowerDevil’s Tower in Wyoming. Remember this place from the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind?” Did you just make the audio sound and hand gesture of “bee, boo, bah, beep” from the film? Yes, you did.

RushmoreMt. Rushmore in South Dakota. I just expected it to be, you know, bigger.

Adventure awaits! (My new sign off, courtesy of Dee)


Chapter Two: Big. Very Big.

Greetings from Missoula, Montana — Big Sky Country. Whenever I travel to Montana, I remember why they call it Big Sky Country. Big mountains. Big valleys. Big expanses. Everywhere. I’ll tell you more about how we got to the Big Sky Country in a moment, but I want to start this post with a story. A big story.

We arrived in Seattle late Friday night to begin Chapter Two of the Epic Ride. Our bike, “Orca,” was kept in the good care of Dee’s cousin Shawn, who, smartly, put a few miles on her to “keep ‘er sharp and ready.”

Our plan was to hit the road Sunday and head eastward to Coeur d’Alene (honestly, I’m a little tired of trying to remember how to spell the name of that city). That gave us Saturday to do a some local touring of Seattle.

I’m starting to love the Pacific Northwest. It’s lush and green, a departure from the parched, drought-scarred landscapes of LA. Shawn lives in Woodinville, which is north of the city. Woodinville is almost anti-urban, with greenbelts, lakes and bike paths everywhere. Really beautiful.

We stopped first at Snoqualmie Falls, then Dee indulged my love of all things airplane with a tour of the Boeing Museum of Flight. This is a world-class aviation museum, not to be missed if you’re an aviation and space enthusiast like me. I can easily name 90 percent of the aircraft on display at almost any museum, which puts me somewhere between fascinating, if you’re an aviation nerd, and an annoying smartypants if all you really want to do is read the placard that tells you the history of the bird in front of you without me yammering in your ear about development histories and operational envelopes.

So here’s my Big Story.

One of the first aircraft you’ll see on display when you enter the museum is a still-flying B-17G “Flying Fortress.” The B-17 is one of the most iconic aircraft from the World War II flight era (1936-1946), along with the P-51 “Mustang” fighter. This particular B-17 has been restored to near-perfect detail and is, frankly, both beautiful and frightening, when you consider that its primary mission was to kill people, which it did quite well.

As Dee and I walked around the B-17, we noticed a slightly-built older gentleman standing in front of the aircraft. He was wearing a leather flight jacket, the twin bars of an Army Air Corps captain on the collar, plus campaign ribbons and the coveted gold wings of a military aviator above his heart. He was also wearing a docent badge and was on duty to help explain the history of this fearsome fighting machine.

His name was Dick and, as we learned, Dick was 93-years-old and piloted a B-17 on bombing runs over Germany. He is the museum’s only currently living docent to have actually piloted a B-17 in combat.

Wow. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. I have serious hero-envy of even modern day airline pilots. Don’t get me started on military aviators, let alone one who flew in World War II. In a B-17! I mean, really, wow!

Believe it or not, I know when to talk and when to listen. This was the listening time.

Dick told us his story of being 19, living in Bakersfield, California, and begging his mother every day to let him join the Air Corps and fight, only to be told no repeatedly. She was a single parent and he was her only son. Dick told us he finally convinced her to sign off on the application by saying, “Look, Mom, I’m 135 pounds and five-foot-seven. How long do you think I’ll last in the infantry?”

Two years later, Dick was a 21-year-old lieutenant flying in the aircraft commander’s seat in a B-17F over Nazi Germany, in charge of a crew of 10, dropping bombs on targets and watching many of his friends drop out of the sky in burning aircraft, some never to return.

When Dick was finished telling us about his time flying the B-17, I shook his hand and thanked him, along with his buddies, for saving the world. I couldn’t be more serious about that “saving the world” thing and, someday, I’ll tell you about my father-in-law and mother-in-law’s contributions to saving the world, too.

We owe this “greatest generation” everything. Now most of them are gone, with more passing everyday.

As we walked away, I stopped and watched Dick standing there, alone, looking at the bird. And I couldn’t resist it. I told Dee to hang on and that I had one more question for Dick.

I walked back up and he looked at me earnestly, like a good decent does, probably thinking I wanted to know yet another mechanical aspect of flying the -17, but that wasn’t it.

I said, “Sir, I do have one more question, but I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of my wife.”

He smiled, and leaned toward me, as if already knowing what I was going to ask (and he probably did).

“At age 21, you and nine other scared kids climbed into this thing, full of fuel and bombs, flew through flak-filled skies and won the war. Can you tell me, sir, just exactly how big are your balls?”

He busted up laughing at that. We both did. He just slowly nodded his head, knowing he had lived a life in which he would never have to prove anything to anyone. Ever.

Big indeed.

B17-2The magnificent B-17G on display at the Boeing Museum of Flight. My new buddy, Dick, is the shorter of the two men in the photo. I’m amazed all of his parts fit in the photo.

Snoqualmie FallsSnoqualmie Falls near Seattle. This is in the summer when the water level is down. Imagine it in April.

Drone signSign of the Times #1: Snoqualmie Falls. I’ll bet they added this sign AFTER the “incident.”

Oysters at Matts SEAMy pre-birthday dinner at Matt’s Rotisserie in Redmond, WA. No one just “likes” oysters. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Ditto liver, or haggis.

Firewood signSign of the Times #2. It’s important to follow instructions. Saw this somewhere between Seattle and Coeur d’Alene. I’m really tired of spell-checking Couer… Core… dammit… Coeur d’Alene!

Aunt DonnaBreakfast with Aunt Donna and Uncle Schu (Earle) at Frankin’s Hoagie in Coeur d’Alene. Great breakfast menu. Donna’s not really my aunt. She’s actually Bird’s aunt, but I don’t have any living aunts, so I’m claiming Aunt Donna. So there. Donna and Earle “escaped” LA for CDA (I give up) over 20 years ago and never looked back. Smart folks.

Hwy 97Highway 97 between St. Maries, Idaho and St. Regis, Montana. 120 miles of twisting near-perfect-motorcycling-road-bliss along the St. Joe River, followed by…

Hwy 97 dirt road17 miles of downhill twisting gravel-and-dirt-motorcycling-not-so-blissful road into St. Regis, Montana. Some parts of me felt very small during this portion of the ride.

Travel safe. And often.



Chapter One: Y-A-Mtrbk?

Fair question. And one I get asked often in one form or another.

“Why do you ride a motorcycle?”

“Why do you travel on a motorcycle?”

“Motorcycles are dangerous. Are you nuts?”

It’s both easy — and hard — to explain. I love motorcycles. I love motorcycling. Motorcycles are “my thing” (on a long list of “my things,” by the way, including cars and guitars in the past). But through all my years of learning, longing, collecting and coveting things, nothing has quite taken me the way motorcycling has. My friends who ride will tell you the same thing; riding fulfills something they didn’t know was missing. I’m sure that folks who collect classic cars or guitars often feel the same way, but they’re missing an element that comes out when you’re straddling a hot motor and two wheels, surrounded by hard road, rushing air, undefined smells and subtle (and maybe not so subtle) sounds. I wish I could explain it better, but I’d rather ride and let it be.

Is riding dangerous? Hell yes it’s dangerous. The most dangerous part isn’t the bike, it’s you — the human. The immortal/invincible dope on the bike or the tuned-out space cadet in the car. The most common phrase following a motorcycle wreck is, “I didn’t see him.” So yeah, I’m concerned about stuff like that. I take safety training courses and try to apply practical tips I’ve learned whenever I ride, but I’m also reasonably certain that I probably won’t see — and can’t control — what’s gonna get me out there, so I don’t live in a world of worry about it. Vigilance can carry me only so far.

And while we’re speaking the truth here, without a doubt, the greatest lie in motorcycling is, “I knew I was in trouble, so I decided to lay ‘er down.”

Horseshit. No rider has ever made this a conscious choice. It’s the last thing I want to do, short of ramming into a left-turning car driven by some distracted idiot texting smiley emoticons to their BFF.

So why take the risk? Simply stated: I love traveling by motorcycle. I feel more connected to my surroundings — and that includes the machine itself. Shifting, balancing, turning — all of my limbs are engaged and relying upon each other to get me to my destination. Clutch, throttle, brakes, shifter, all working in concert. It’s beautiful, man. A day of riding is probably the most zen-like experience I know or will ever have.

And as for me being just generally nuts? Yeah, maybe.

Chapter One Update:

I’m posting this from Victoria, British Columbia. We traveled here from Orcas Island, Washington yesterday by ferry. Victoria has a distinctly European city feel, but it reminds me of Sydney, Australia with its mix of classic architecture, gardens and quaint homes squeezed harmoniously into a small area facing the sea. And I swear it’s true that Canadians are just naturally polite people.

Here’s a general overview of our Chapter One route. Snow closures resulted in some route vectoring, but you’ll get the general idea of the ride plan.

Chapter 1 Route

  • Day 1: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Day 2: Auburn/Grass Valley, CA
  • Day 3: Weed, CA (Yes, they have ironic “Weed, CA” souvenirs for sale)
  • Day 4: Hood River, OR
  • Day 5: Woodinville, WA
  • Day 6-7: Orcas Island, WA (via Ferry)
  • Day 8-9 Victoria, BC (via Ferry)
  • Day 10: Woodinville, WA (Via Ferry to Port Angeles, WA)
  • Day 11: Fly home to LA (Motorcycle to be stored in Woodinville with Cousin Shawn until Chapter Two. Yes, he’ll have the keys)


Found this familiar prop at the ferry dock in Friday Harbor, WA on our way to Victoria. It starts talking when you approach. Kinda creeped me out. I didn’t ask to be “Big” — or to be a teenager again (jeeze.. who would?).

Dee sleep

Turnabout is fair play.

Trans Canada Hwy

We like doing city tours with local lines wherever we go to help us get the lay of the land. This “Mile 0” sign marks the beginning of the Trans Canada Highway. It’s 5,000 miles long and includes two ferry crossings, one in Victoria, the other in Newfoundland. We’ll be seeing more of this highway in Chapters Three and Four.


These two beautiful living city orcas are found in front of the Empress Hotel. When I saw them it hit me that I’d found the new name for my BMW K1600GTL. I mentioned in an earlier post that I always name my bikes, but that sometimes it takes a while for the name to reveal itself. Well on this trip, it finally did….Orca

Say hello to “Orca.” Big and powerful like a whale, with killer features that make other predators cower.

Other curious things present themselves when you’re learning about your new surroundings. Roll over the bottom of the photos for snide comments.

Pork Ramen

Oft-bleeped TV chef/adventurer Anthony Bourdain swears by the healing properties of a good bowl of greasy street noodles found on a cart in some back alley of Kuala Lumpur. And Tony’s right. I found this bucket of “Don’t Ask” in broth with noodles (actually fried pork belly, egg, onions, radishes and mushrooms) at Foo Ramen in Victoria. Yum!

Eating ramen

It’s not easy to take a selfie while eating something that slippery. That sounded more nasty than intended. I slurped and slobbered everything in that bowl right down to the deep bottom.


Whenever I visit Canada, I make sure to help the economy by consuming locally made products. Lots of locally made products.

Pacific Marine Route

Dee and I took a day ride around the BC Marine Route. It’s a beautiful and serene 180 mile roundtrip through small villages, virgin forests, over crystal clear streams and finally along a coastline known as “The Graveyard of Ships.” I cannot confirm whether or not the crews of the doomed ships were helping the Canadian economy by consuming the product shown above when their ships smashed against the rocks near Port Renfrew, but I sure as hell would have.


Serious Coffee in Sooke, BC sells the best chai latte. Seriously, the best.

Empress Hotel

The famous Empress Hotel stands watch over Victoria Harbor. The hotel offers a High Tea, which is quite popular and costs $75 (Canadian) per person. For tea. And some cookies. I can buy a lot more Molson for $75 (Canadian) and meet new friends much quicker.


Probably one of the most beautiful shots taken in Chapter One. The composition of elements, the angle, the mixture of soft and solid and the warm colors gather to form the perfect focal point. It stirs my heart. Oh, and those boats, clouds and water things in the background look okay, too.

Thanks for following along on Chapter One. Keep the comments, encouragements and warnings of impending litigation coming. We’ll wrap up this chapter in a couple of days and immediately start prepping for Chapter Two.

Travel safe. And often.



Chapter One: Got Friends?

Greetings from Orcas Island, somewhere in the San Juan Islands of Washington’s Puget Sound. We’ve been on the road for seven days now. Sorry it’s taken so long to post, but the pace has been, well, brutal. Self-imposed brutal, to be fair, but brutal nonetheless. We’ve covered over 1,700 miles in five days of almost non-stop riding. Two consecutive days were 380 miles and 390 miles, respectively. And while that may not seem like much in an air-conditioned car, it’s a helluva haul on a bike riding 2-up and with temperatures over 100 degrees for five of the six riding days.

I’ll get to some of our photos in a minute, but first I wanted to somehow find a way to express how grateful we are for our friends. You know who you are, too. The day after we left home, a rapidly moving brush fire broke out near our home in Topanga. Our daughter, Kelsey, held down the fort, surrounded by areas with road closures and mandatory evacuations nearby. She gathered our important stuff and had it staged and ready to go if she had to bug out. Our son, Daniel, was temporarily blocked from getting home by road closures. It’s what happens occasionally when you live in the mountains, but honestly, it’s a little rattling when you’re a thousand miles away and your kid is sending photos of smoke and flames taken from the backyard. Kelsey’s fiancé, Aron, is a firefighter. He grabbed a pickaxe from the shed and made sure we had a clear line between our home and the canyon just past our backyard. That’s reassuring. The fire was eventually contained and all is, thankfully, back to normal. We were so touched by the number of friends who called and sent messages checking on our welfare and offering support if we needed to evacuate or put up a fire-line fight.

If friendship is wealth, we’re rich.

Some Chapter One photos of our journey, so far, from home to Orcas Island, Washington:

Dee SueOn our second night, we visited Dee’s long-time friend and coworker, Sue, in Auburn. Sue took us out on her boat for an evening ride on Combie Lake, which is next to her home, to try to cool off from the day’s 105-degree temps.


Sue’s dog, Sophie, took a liking to me. Don’t show this photo to my dog, Riley. She’s the jealous type.

Ann Bill Jody

Breakfast in Nevada City with friends, Ann & Bill, plus surprise guest, Jody, my daughter’s future mother-in-law. Just for fun, I’m always looking for a new place to live. Put Nevada City on the list.

Lassen Closed

Lassen Peak, along the Volcanic Scenic Byway — and which we were hoping to cross for scenery and heat avoidance —  was closed due to snow. In June. We had to reroute through Redding, which was a balmy 104 — at 7pm. This was the first of three road closures we’ve had to vector around (so far) due to snow. Did I mention that it’s JUNE!

Bar 40

What did they serve before? Ironically (or maybe not) this place was closed and up for sale.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake, Oregon. The temperature dropped to 57 degrees — until we pulled away from this natural wonder and back into Hell (AKA Central Oregon).


Dinner with new friends, Brittany and Ryland in Hood River, Oregon. With hip restaurants, bars and outdoor adventure sports in a beautiful setting, this may be the coolest town in America. I’m being ironic. This photo was taken at 9pm when it was 94 degrees. Putting Hood River on my list.

WSF Photo

After a great evening spent with Dee’s cousin, Shawn and his boys, in Woodinville, WA, we headed for the San Juan Islands ferry terminal in Anacortes and then sailed over to Orcas Island. Shawn sent us this “Ferry Cam” photo of us (lower right) waiting to load on to the boat. The ferry ride is a beautiful excursion through the San Juan Islands and, if you’re on a bike, you get to move to front of the line. We also get to ride in the HOV lane nearly everywhere so… neener-neener-neener.

Ferry nap

Six days of riding finally catching up with me. Dee found me crapped-out on a bench on the ferry ride to Orcas Island.

Mt Constitution

Orcas Island and the view from Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands. That’s the Washington mainland and Mt. Baker in the background. It’s a comfortable 72-degrees on the island — finally.

Mt Consitution 2

Same shot, but less beautiful without Dee.


We went on a whale watching tour yesterday. More accurately, orca (killer whale) watching. The outfitter, OuterIsland Expeditions, guarantees you’ll see whales and we weren’t disappointed. They’re just so graceful and beautiful. The oldest in the pod, “Granny” is estimated to be at least 105-years-old. It seems that their markings and shapes are very distinct. The local naturalists have photos showing Granny cruising the area in 1910! They play together, jump up to have a look at us and slap the water with their fins as if to say “hello.” Or maybe “get lost.” This is a must-do when you come to the San Juans.

Orcas Hotel sunset

The sunset view last night at 9pm from the balcony of the Orcas Hotel.

Orcas Hotel front

Our hotel, the famous Orcas Hotel, which opened in 1900 and faces the harbor and ferry stop. We’re spending today relaxing in the dining room, drinking coffee, watching the rain arrive and….

Ferry Orcas

…here comes the 12:15pm ferry from Anacortes, which stops along the way at Lopez and Shaw islands. Unfortunately, I am not related to the Shaw Island Shaws. There are approximately 300 middle schoolers on the approaching ferry, headed to a camp on the island. They make a distinct sound. I can hear them from here.

Tomorrow: Victoria, British Columbia, via the Inter-island ferry.

Travel safe. And often.


The thing about a long motorcycle journey, okay any long journey, is usually the “long” part. Like you, I’ve got stuff that needs tending. I’ve got a yard that won’t cooperate, dogs that need attention so they don’t start destroying things as my punishment for being gone and, of course, family and friends at home whom I actually enjoying being around.

I love being on the road. When I get back from a long trip, I’m usually ready to roll again in a day or two. And that happens a lot in my life, too. Dee and I are travelers; we always have somewhere to go next.

I had been dreaming of doing another cross-country ride for some time. There’s just so much to see in North America — and I want to see it all. There’s that FOMO again. In 2010, I did a triangular roundtrip, LA to Florida to Washington DC and back. It was a defining moment in my life and I still think about it all the time. That trip took 30 days – and even then I was pushing hard to fit it in with my other obligations back home. How could I do a “big trip” again, but break it up into pieces to fit my life?

I read an article in a motorcycle magazine about a travel concept called “Chaptering” — breaking up a trip into pieces, or “chapters.” Here’s the idea using a motorcycle: Ride from Point A to Point B, arrange to store the bike at Point B, fly home, and after some, or even a lot of time, has passed, fly back to Point B and resume riding to Point C. Then “rinse and repeat” this process until Point D, Point E or Point Whatever have been accomplished. It could be done as a roundtrip, or have the bike shipped back from the final Point.

Yahtzee! This looked like it could work! I get to travel far and wide and the dogs don’t rip up the garden.

Like last summer’s ride, Dee will be joining me on this adventure and we set about making plans for what we’re calling the “Epic Chaptering Ride 2016.” The ride will be comprised of four chapters, one per month over four months, June through September, with each chapter lasting between 12 to 14 days, and ultimately covering over 8,000 miles by the time we reach the end of Point D. The majority of travel will be on backroads, versus main highways, and have been selected for scenery, family and friend visits, road trip oddities and general motorcycling fun.

  • Chapter One, June: Los Angeles to Seattle, Washington
    • Waypoints: Mammoth Lakes and Volcanic Scenic Highway, CA, Klamath Falls, Crater Lake, Columbia Gorge and Hood River, OR, Mt. Rainer and San Juan Islands, WA and Victoria, British Columbia
  • Chapter Two, July: Seattle to Dow City, Iowa
    • Waypoints: Coeur d’Alene, ID, Beartooth Pass, MT, Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills and Badlands National Parks, SD
  • Chapter Three, August: Dow City to Buffalo, New York
    • Waypoints: Wisconsin Dells, Michigan Upper Peninsula and Niagara Falls, NY
  • Chapter Four, September: Buffalo to Nova Scotia, Canada
    • Waypoints: Adirondack Mountains, NY, Montreal, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island, Halifax and the Bay of Fundy, Canada

We’re departing from home Thursday, June 2 and expect to complete Chapter One on June 12 with a flight home from Seattle.The other three chapters are still being planned out, but we have the general destinations in mind.

We’ll ship the bike back from either Maine or New Hampshire (open to suggestions) and fly home sometime around the end of September.

We’d love to get your advice on must-sees, must-eats, say-hi-tos and avoid-at-all-costs. I’m planning to post a couple of times on each chapter as it unfolds and, as always, we love hearing from you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and texts while we’re on he road.

Now, if you’ll all open your books and turn to Chapter One, we’ll begin…

Travel safe. And often.


The Baja Ya-Ya

It’s taken me a while to get this ride report down on “paper.” As I’ve said, I can be lazy when it comes to writing the blog. It’s an effort. For me, sitting down to write is hard — mostly because I’m a lousy typist. Heck, it’s taken me something like five minutes just to write these five sentences.

So, finally getting to it… I recently went to Baja on a ride with some of the guys from the BMW Club of Southern California. It wasn’t a “sanctioned” club ride, although every participant was a club member and every machine was a BMW. It was my first long distance trip with my fellow BMW club members. I’m still working through some of the ups and downs of riding with 11 other alpha males, whose common bond – and maybe only bond – is the love of a German motorcycle brand.

As life events go, I’m not a fan of the term “Bucket List.” To me, it sounds desperate. I have too many friends facing serious illnesses who often find themselves unable address the day in front of them, let alone a “must-do-before-I-die” list created in healthier times. So I just keep a list, mostly in my head, of stuff I’d like to do or see as long as my physical luck holds out and my desire for adventure continues. One of the things on that list is “Play with Whales.”

This Baja trip offered me an opportunity to view gray whales up close and personal in Baja’s San Ignacio Bay, which is about 600 miles south of San Diego. I didn’t realize how up close and personal until I was in a twenty foot boat staring a forty foot gray whale mama and her eighteen foot baby in their eyes while bobbing in the water. Size does matter.

Baja coastlineAbove: The starkly beautiful Baja coastline along the Sea of Cortez on the way to Alfonsina’s Resort, which was our first day’s destination.

Alfonsina daytimeAbove: Alfonsina’s Resort is a famous waypoint for Baja off-road tourism. It’s set on the beach of a small cove on the Sea of Cortez. Cell phones don’t work here and they shut off the power generator at 10pm.

Alfonsina dinnerAt Alfonsina’s the beer is cold and the fish tacos, caught locally and served family style, are muy bitchen. My “roomie” for the trip, Bip, is looking into the camera with his third taco stuffed in his mouth. To Bip’s right is “The Lion” and, as is the case with any lion, shouldn’t be disturbed while eating.

Alfonsina Sunrise 2Sunrise at Alfonsina’s Resort. The serenity gets shattered when 12 motorcycles start up at the same time to head for San Ignacio.

Side Story #1: Part of the day’s journey to San Ignacio involved traversing about 24 miles of dirt road, which is no big deal on a dirt bike, but can be a little tricky on an 800-pound, fully loaded touring bike. In front of me, in the photo below, is “Pete-the-D@#%” who got his nickname during the trip because, well, he’s a d@#%. Pete-the-D@#% is a curmudgeonly older dude (but not in a good/cute way) and was inexperienced and very unsteady riding dirt on his K1200LT. I tucked in behind Pete to keep an eye on him while others raced ahead to Coco’s Corner, an authentic cantina in the middle of the desert and made semi-famous by Baja 1000 racers and featured in the 2005 film, “Dust to Glory.”

Hwy 3 Following PeteAbout halfway in, Pete-the-D@#% crashed at low speed after ignoring my repeated warnings to “pick a line and stop zig-zagging in the sand.” He went down hard. I got him out from under his bike, but was concerned because I wasn’t sure about Pete’s physical situation (as in, could he continue to ride) or how we’d get his bike up and moving. We were seemingly all alone in the Baja desert. Right then, a camper truck approached from the other direction and stopped to render aid. Out of the driver’s side emerged a blond-haired woman wearing a skimpy pink bikini top, white short-shorts and pink ostrich skin cowboy boots. Her name, of course, was Lulu.

Lulu was a nice as could be and helped me get both Pete and the bike back up. When I asked her the standard, “So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in place like this” line, she told me that she was heading north to San Felipe, having stopped for a beer or two at Coco’s Corner, where she left her pink panties tacked to the ceiling.

Oh, okay. Wait. What?

Apparently, this is a thing at Coco’s Corner. And I have proof.

Coco corner pantiesAbove: Lulu’s contribution to Coco’s ceiling is located above my right shoulder. “Forget it Jake, it’s… Baja.”

After a long day of riding, we arrived in the evening at the Baja Oasis Motel, our accommodations in San Ignacio. Bip and I were all set to bunk together, but at $22 per night, we decided to splurge and get separate rooms. Mine didn’t have hot water.

Baja Oasis MotelAbove: The Baja Oasis Motel has a dirt parking lot, poor lighting, limited hot water and, probably, rattlesnakes. The best line of the day and possibly the best line of the entire trip came from The Lion who, upon looking at his sketchy room and surroundings said, “Why the f@#% am I staying here? I’m rich!”

That still cracks me up.

After accepting our fates at the “BO” Motel (in my case, a cold shower), we found a local to drive into town for us to buy and deliver take-out tacos (not bad) and a bottle of tequila (bad idea).

Baja Oasis TequilaAbove: Here we are, 600 miles from San Diego, sitting in second-hand, busted up hotel chairs in the middle of a dirt parking lot, smoking cigars and drinking what we hoped was tequila. I think Bip is watching a rat trying to chew a way into his room.

The next morning we all crammed into a tourist van and headed for San Ignacio Bay. There we were met by naturalists who explained the local gray whale situation. On this particular day there were 137 cows, 137 babies and 8 solo whales. I don’t know how they know this, but they do. The mamas migrate to San Ignacio from Alaska and give birth to the babies in the safe surroundings of the bay. A gray whale’s biggest threat, as usual, is man.

We then split up into groups and piled into “panga” boats, which, as mentioned earlier, are about twenty feet long and have a small outboard motor for the two mile ride out to the center of the bay and the center of the action.

San Ignacio PangasIt took a little while, but soon we began seeing water spouts from these mammoth beauties. The panga captains take turns carefully approaching a cow and her calf. They kill the motor and glide up silently until a massive mammal comes into view by breaching the surface, or gliding under the boat. The calf then appears next to her. The cows seem to have an understanding with the locals and actually nudge their babies toward the boat. As a baby approached the side of our boat, head out of the water and seemingly looking at me, I put my hand over the side and was blown away by what happened next.

Yep, I got to pet a baby whale. She approached the boat about six times in all, and each of us got a chance to connect with her. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. All the while, the cow – all forty feet of her – was just hanging out next to the boat, as if this happens every day, which I guess it does. I know what you’re thinking, because at the time I was thinking the same thing, too. If you touched a gray whale, baby or otherwise, in US waters, you’d find yourself under indictment and likely occupying a US Federal jail cell, which would still be nicer than a room at the Baja Oasis Motel.

San Ignacio dinnerAbove: The group has a final dinner to celebrate a day of whale encounter-ing before heading back to Ensenada and home.

On the two-day ride to Ensenada, Bip and I stayed at the Catavina Mision Hotel in Catavina. The notable things about Catavina were…

Catavina Downtown1. It’s pretty much a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere. (Note the policia cleverly hidden to catch speeding bikers. Nice biker-funded truck, amigo.)

5 dollar gas2. There isn’t a gas station in Catavina. There is, however, two enterprising locals selling gas for five bucks a gallon at either end of the town. You’ll need to fuel to make the next town. You know it and they know it.

Perfect Margarita3. The world’s best margarita is served the Catavina Mision Hotel. You know it and they know it.

Side Story #2: Our final destination in Baja was Ensenada. The plan was to meet at the San Nicholas Casino Hotel, stay overnight, then cross the border in the morning, split up and head home.

On the ride to Ensenada, four of our guys decided to take a side trail ride to the famous Mike’s Sky Ranch, which is where many Baja off-roaders go for adventure. Which would’ve been fine, except our guys didn’t have the right tires on their GS bikes, or really know the difficulty of the terrain. Long story short, they spent the night in the open desert, sharing a bottle of water and a half-bottle of tequila. We waited late into the night for them to arrive in Ensenada, growing more concerned by the hour, and then we launched a search party early the next morning. The four were located and returned safely to Ensenada, albeit hungry, thirsty and little humbled.

Rescue ReunionAbove: Here’s a shot of the relieved reunion with our missing four guys. You live. You learn.

I can now take Baja and whale petting off my list.

Up next: Chaptering.

Travel safe. And often.

Bye-Bye, Baby!


Even after a few months, I remain conflicted. On the one hand, it made complete sense. On the other hand, it was like deserting a trusted friend. The decision didn’t come out of the blue and no one in my riding circle (is there such a thing as a “riding circle?”) was taken by complete surprise. After seven years of taking me to magical places like Jasper, Alberta, Montana’s Glacier National Park, and Zion National Park (four times!), or on adventures both good and bad along the Backcountry Discovery Routes (see earlier post: Smoothtah), or simply hauling me to work on a near-daily  basis, I sold “Baby,” my 2008 BMW R1200GS. In her place, I acquired a 2012 BMW K1600GTL, name TBD (these things have a way of presenting themselves).

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was considering making a change. Baby was/is a fantastic machine, capable of flying down the highway at 85 mph, or nimbly navigating around — and occasionally over — toolbox-sized rocks on a choppy dirt road. BMW designed the GS family of bikes specifically for this multi-purpose role, although most GS owners only go over dirt when they hit some road repairs in the parking lot at Starbucks.

Following our epic ride to Canada and back last summer, I became convinced that Dee and I would need a larger, more comfortable touring platform for our future 2-up travels. The BMW K1600GTL is the state-of-the-art in touring motorcycles and is the largest bike in the current BMW inventory. It has a six cylinder, 1.6 liter motor that cranks out 160 horsepower. The bike is ridiculously fast, yet very smooth and quiet. You can have a normal conversation with the passenger in the cockpit — at 65 mph. In addition to ample side-mounted panniers, the GTL has a top box that serves as a trunk for gear and backrest for the passenger. There are multiple ride modes that adjust throttle response and suspension pre-load (rain, road, dynamic, single rider, 2-up, with/without luggage, etc.). The seat is heated, the windscreen is adjustable (you can select the number of bugs you’d like to receive), there’s cruise control and a complicated audio system that I have so far ignored.

BabyBaby, all cleaned up and ready for sale. The new owner, a lucky guy named Bob, doesn’t ride much and never on the dirt. Bye, Bye Baby!

GTLOur new “adventure bike,” a 2012 BMW K1600GTL. I know, I know… a heated seat seems excessive — until you try it on a cold day.

Zero 9TThe new license plate on the GTL. Some of you get it. The rest of you will be hearing about it soon.

So there it is. I’ve traded an adventure motorcycle for a two-wheeled luxury resort. Now it’s time to take her out on the open road. Watch for my next post, “The Baja Ya-Ya” as the adventure continues.

Travel safe… and often.


Bartók Slept Here.

Preface: I’ve been fortunate to travel to some amazing places in our world, building great memories — and not always on a motorcycle. I’ll be posting some new stories about old travels on hankwentthataway. Enjoy or unfriend, it’s all up to you.

Béla Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered by some to be one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is often regarded as Hungary’s greatest and probably most well known composer. Just ask any Hungarian.

As I write this, My Buddy Bird, is traveling through Europe. Lucky dog. His last stop is Budapest, the magnificent capital of Hungary. I was there once with Dee in 1989 — and at a pivotal point in Hungarian history. He didn’t ask, but I decided to give Bird some traveling advice in the form of an email. This post is the final draft of that email.


When we were in Budapest, in the fall of 1989, we ate at a famous restaurant called “The Margit Terasz” which is on Margit (Margaret) Island near the city center. The island is in the middle of the Danube River and is a popular tourist destination. All of the big name world statesmen, including presidents Reagan and Carter have dined at the Margit Terasz. I don’t recall the food as being spectacular, but I’m pretty sure we both had the paprika chicken. In fact, the latest Frommer’s Guide says to “avoid this tourist trap.” More on the restaurant experience later.

In 1989, Hungary was still a Soviet satellite country with a Communist/Socialist government installed and controlled by the then-USSR. Soviet soldiers had been stationed in and around the city following the somewhat spontaneous Hungarian Revolution in 1956, which left nearly 4,000 dead, including over 700 Soviet soldiers. There had been a similar dust up in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the so-called “Orange Revolution,” and the Soviets weren’t taking any chances. They wanted to make it clear to NATO that the nuclear dividing line ran along the borders from Poland in the north, to Hungary in the south. When we left the US in early October, there were no known plans by the USSR to give up Hungary to democracy any time soon. Hence, there was a fairly large Soviet military presence in Budapest.

We had planned this Europe trip very carefully. It would be our first “big adventure” together, of which there have now been many. Including parenting. As I’ve said many times before, “When choosing a mate, choose wisely.” Getting around most of Europe was easy. Setting up the Hungary part of the trip wasn’t easy at all. For example, the hotel room had to be paid in full prior to arrival, using US dollars. Credit cards were not accepted anywhere in Hungary. The Hungarian currency was called the “forint” and it was strictly prohibited to remove any amount of forint out of Hungary, or, for that matter, to bring any in, so we couldn’t change money at a currency exchange prior to entering the country. We also had to get visas to enter Hungary before we left the US. It all seemed very formal and bureaucratic. We even used a travel agent to set this up (I mean, really, who does that?) and had to go to the Hungarian consulate/tourist/local spy office in downtown LA to pick up our visas. It was was big deal for us, having only traveled to the UK previously.

We were told by various sources, including our travel agent, that “consumer comfort items” that were common in western countries might be hard to find in Commieville, so we swiped the toilet paper and soap from our crappy little hotel room at the Best Western in Vienna.

By the way, we loved Vienna. Make sure to have chocolate cake with a coffee at an outdoor cafe on the Graben around four in the afternoon. It’s how civilized people live.

We arrived in Budapest by rail from Vienna in the mid-afternoon of October 23. It was cloudy and gray outside the train station and the atmosphere had a kind of shabby, eery, spooky feeling. It was like being in place we didn’t belong. On top of that, there were people in the streets everywhere shouting and marching, which, given the last time they did this in ’56, didn’t seem to bode well for us. Soviet soldiers were everywhere — and armed.

One of the things I’ve never gotten used to in my travels abroad are police and para-military officers casually walking around tourist sites with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. Frankly, it’s unsettling.

We made our way to the Hotel Bekke on Lenin Kart (Lenin Street, as in, Comrade Lenin). It turned out the hotel was a Radisson property. Furthermore, our room was quite plush, with a king-sized bed, marble countertops and brass fixtures in the bath and — in the ultimate reminder what travel noobs we were — SkyChannel satellite TV from London was broadcasting the BBC. Oh, and the toilet paper was quite fluffy and plentiful. There was even French milled soap.

So what about the masses out massing in the street, you ask?

So did I. I went to concierge and asked, “What’s going on outside in the streets with all the people protesting?”

She responded with great glee (use your best Hungarian accent), “Is not protest! Is great day in Hungarian history! Today we declare Hungary to be independent republic! We ask Soviets to leave!”

Dee and I looked at each other with wide eyes (me, having told Dee the story of the failed Hungarian Revolution while on the train ride from Vienna), then back at the concierge, who looked like she couldn’t wait to end her shift so she could hit the streets, and we both said simultaneously, “And what did the Soviets say?”

The concierge looked back at us like we had just served her a dead cat. She rolled her eyes and said, “Ach, Soviets do not care. They no longer wish to support our economy and are happy to leave us. Good riddance to them!”

Later that evening, and at the concierge’s recommendation, which I correctly suspected as being a “fleecing,” we went to Magrit Terasz for dinner. Like I said, the food wasn’t memorable, but the rest of the evening certainly was.

The restaurant featured a gypsy band moving from table to table like Eastern European Mariachis, except they played violins, a string bass and an accordion. A swarthy-looking bunch, for sure, all with dark hair, eyes and pencil-thin mustaches. Right out of central casting. The most notable musician was the bass player, who had a crooked smile and a goiter on his neck the size of an adult python.

We placed our order with the waiter, who could speak English just fine until you tried to order whatever wasn’t the “special” that night. While waiting for our dinner, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the bandleader now had our table in his sights, which, to him, I assumed, meant a Western “mark.” The entire six-piece ensemble started to shuffle over to our table, dragging instruments with determined smiles. I was starting to get uncomfortable knowing that I’d have to have another “conversation” with a selective English speaker. I’m pretty good with languages and made a sincere effort to pick up some basic Hungarian on the train from a Budapest local (who explained to me that it’s pronounced Buda-pesht, not pest), but Hungarian is a hard language. It sounds like a combination of the language of the Steppe from southern Russia and Finnish, with a distinct lack of organized vowels. We English speakers need vowels in order to operate. My two Hungarian friends are going to dispute this.

The other thing gnawing at me was that I didn’t really understand the currency exchange in Hungary. At this point in our journey, we had been to England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria — and this was way before the Euro became the common currency.

It turned out the band leader spoke pretty good English. He asked me if I had a favorite tune that the boys could “play for the lady.” I stared back at him for a full 10 seconds, hemming and hawing, until I remembered the name of the only Hungarian composer I knew. I pretty much shouted out,“Bela Bartok! Anything by Bela Bartok would be great!” The band leader seemed impressed that I didn’t request “O Solo Mio” or the more obvious, “The Lady is a Tramp.”

They started whacking away at their instruments, bows flying in every direction. I had no idea if they were playing Bela Bartok or Bela Lugosi. What I DID know was that I had to tip them when it was over. In my head I was desperately trying to remember the exchange rate of the forint to the dollar. Or the dollar to the forint. Shit, I just didn’t know. It seemed that you got a lot of forint for a dollar. I mistakenly kept reverting my calculations to the Austrian schilling as the currency guide, which, I think, was worth 17 US cents in 1989. I was starting to sweat as I placed my hand on the wad of bills in my pocket that I had exchanged about a half an hour prior to coming to the restaurant. The band finished the piece with a flourish and everyone in the restaurant was clapping wildly, like it was the greatest tune ever written by a Hungarian, which it may have been, and just the sound of it caused grown men to shed real tears.

The restaurant fell silent as people returned to their meals, probably trying to figure out what they had ordered. I pulled my hand out from under the table, stood up, thanked the band and pressed some bills into the bandleader’s hand. He gave me a knowing wink, like, “Oh man, you are gonna score tonight! That Béla Bartók tune really softens the ladies up. You, sir, are welcome.”

Then he looked at the bills in his hand and I watched as his eyes grew wide. He shook my hand furiously saying, “Koszonom! Koszonom! Koszonom!” That’s “thank you” in Hungarian, which is one of the two words I’ve retained. The other sounds like “Yo, eshteet,” which loosely translates into ‘Sup? He grabbed the band, they dumped their instruments and booked for the bar at the end of the restaurant. They ordered up drinks — lots of drinks — and smiled and waved at me over and over again for the rest of the evening.

After a couple of minutes of looking into each other’s eyes, Dee leaned over and gently said, “So… just exactly how much did you tip those guys?”

I made a look of disdain, like someone was asking me how much money I made, my political affiliation or religious leanings. Dee pressed me on the amount, as only she knows how to do, and it became obvious that dismissing the question was out of the question. So I replied…

“It’s like this. You and I are in Budapest(pesht), the gateway to the east. Across the Danube is the beginning of Asia. Neither of us has ever been this far east and I have waited my entire life to travel to this place, and, in the best of all worlds, I get to be here with you. A gypsy band just played a beautiful Béla Bartók composition for you by candlelight. This is probably the most romantic evening we have ever experienced together and you can go to your grave knowing that your husband has just tipped the band either six, sixty or six hundred dollars*** because I haven’t got a !@#$%^& clue!”


Originally called the Millennium Monument when construction began in 1896, Heroes Square is the centerpiece of Budapest. It was the flashpoint of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, where thousands lost their lives in the fighting. I’d insert some funny line here, but I don’t have one.

Budapest Hank

Over my left shoulder is Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge, an architectural and engineering masterpiece built in 1849. The bridge spans the Danube River and connects the old city of Buda with the new(er) city of Pest.


The Citadel, like many other buildings in Budapest, still has bullet and bomb damage from the Second World War. Many homes in the city still have bomb craters in the front yard.

Budapest Train Dee

This is my girl on the train from Vienna to Budapest. You just gotta love someone willing to travel with you to a country undergoing a revolution that you didn’t know about. Now I always check the State Department website before heading overseas.

*** It was $6. Six bucks bought a lot of booze in Budapest in 1989.


FO·MO (ˈfōmō), acronym — “Fear of Missing Out”

noun, informal

Definition: Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.

Used in a regular sentence: “I forgot to check my Facebook and now I’ve got FOMO!”

Used in a sentence if under age 30: “Fgt 2 ck FB. Ttl FOMO!”

I’ve got FOMO and I’ve got it bad.

I didn’t even know what FOMO was until a young friend explained it to me one evening over dinner. He’s the same young man who once called me out for having “First World Problems” when I was complaining about some stuff I owned being a hassle to maintain. I love this guy, and he knows it. He’s got FOMO, too. Big time.

For most of us, FOMO explains why we’re constantly tethered to communication devices. What if I miss an email, text or post that causes me to miss out on something? That’s almost unbearable for some people I know. Maybe even me.

My FOMO tendencies manifest not so much as in what event I might miss. I’m not much of a party person and I have more than once said out loud that my favorite part of a concert is when it’s over. Unfortunately, I tend to say this at the beginning of the actual concert without first looking around to see who’s listening.

No. For me, FOMO is about what sights, sounds and smells I might miss because I didn’t take the time, strike that, MAKE the time to take in these senses along some journey when I had the chance. I want to see it all (even things that can’t be unseen). I want to hear it all (unless it’s a concert) and I want to smell it all (even the bad smells).

Riding a motorbike heightens sight, sound and smell. You’re out there — exposed — and it’s why I love being what the military refers to as “Oscar-Mike” — on-the-move. If I’m not traveling somewhere, I’m scanning whatever room I’m in and looking for, I don’t know, something, with my FOMO tingling. If I’m not scanning the room, I’m dreaming, consciously or unconsciously, of where I’d like go forward towards next. The key is the “forward towards” part. I simply love the road. I love the road because I have FOMO. I can take or leave a lot of destinations, but I don’t want to miss a thing on any journey.

The Northwest Epic Ride (With a Twist) is a perfect example of my FOMO in action. Now it’s over and I’m scanning the room…

Dee and I returned home safe and mostly sound on Saturday, August 15. It’s taken a number of days for me to process the ride and to wring out any remaining FOMO thoughts from this 24-day, 4,674-mile journey. I’m confident that we left nothing unseen, unheard or un-smelled out there. 

And I was ready to leave again the next day. Come to think of it, I just about did. All told, when the month of August concludes in a couple of days, I will have spent only seven nights at home out of the past 40 days. FOMO, for me anyway, at its finest.

In fact, I’m writing this post in Dow City, Iowa, which is Dee’s hometown, and which depends on your definition of a “town.” You know that 70s song by the late, great Sammy John called “Chevy Van?” It has a verse that goes like this, “I put her out in a town that was so small, you could throw a rock from end-to-end.” That’s Dow “City,” Iowa, population 516, which is down from 556 when I first came here in 1984.

We’re visiting my mother-in-law, Estelle, who, aside from being 93 years old, the mother of six and what would be described as “active” on a doctor’s evaluation, is a proud Navy veteran from WWII. She still fits in her uniform. She met my father-in-law, Lavern, when they were both serving and saving the world, along with the rest of the Greatest Generation.

Man, talk about your FOMO!

I’ll conclude this post with a couple of things to consider.

First, people have asked me what I’ve learned on this adventure. It’s hard to boil down 24 days into bullet points, but I came up with two key learnings.

  1. 24 days is probably too long. By the end of the second week I started to forget what I saw, heard and smelled on week one. Writing about it helps. Also, admittedly, I pushed us pretty hard, schedule-wise. For a guy who claims to favor the journey over the destination, I found myself pretty focused on covering a lot of miles each day. That kind of energy comes at a price.
  2. Comfort is king. The BMW R1200GS is possibly the most perfect motorcycle ever made. Adaptable, capable, some would even say beautiful (more would say, “What the hell is that weird looking bike?”). It can go most anywhere — I don’t necessarily recommend that, but it can — and is perfect for long highways and short dirt roads… for a single rider. Riding 2-Up on a GS is another story. For two regular-sized humans like us, the cockpit of the bike is cramped and the seating position is, um, stiff. Yeah that’s it. Anyway, I want Dee to join me on more of these adventures. The best way to make that happen is to ensure a comfortable ride — for the both of us. I have a dual sport bike I can ride offroad with the Smooth Crew, so we’re good there. So next up is to start looking for the right machine to carry two. I’ll let you know what I decide and give you the opportunity to say goodbye to “Baby.”

Second, my friends and followers of this blog are awesome. I love and appreciate your encouragement. Folks like Dave B, Bird, MC Tom, Aunt Donna, Jen and Bob, Ramber, T-Boz(s) and #1 Niece, to name just a few, make staying up late, after a long day’s ride to get it all down in a post, totally worth the effort.  I treasure every comment and every “Like.”

It’s impossible to get everything we’ve seen, heard and smelled on the Northwest Epic Ride (With a Twist) into this blog, but I’ll close out with a few photos and a slideshow.

Parting thought: Whenever Dee and I came around another turn and could see yet another spectacular vista in front of us, we’d simultaneously say, “Wow.” This happened so often that I thought of calling this last post “America, the Wow.” It really is, too. There’s so much to see, hear and smell and I don’t want to miss out on seeing it all. FOMO!

More to come from hankwentthataway… down the road.

Travel safe. And often.


First stop after Glacier National Park was a visit with my friend and mentor, Joe Phelps, and wife, Bridget, at Rancho Relaxo in Paradise Valley, Montana. As you can see, much nicer digs than the Town House Motel in Eureka.


Joe took us for a jaunt in his Jeep through the surrounding hills to show us the wild beauty of Paradise Valley, home to my favorite fly-fishing destination, the Yellowstone River. Remote campsites along the valley have signs that made me think, “What exactly is a positive encounter?”

Next stop: Yellowstone!


Yellowstone National Park Statistic #1: At 308 feet, the highest waterfall in Yellowstone National Park is lower Yellowstone Falls. Yellowstone National Park Statistic #2: The smelliest animal in Yellowstone in August is a bull bison in full rut mode. Even the inside of my helmet didn’t smell this bad. Seriously nasty, even at 75 yards away. They get cranky when chasing chick bisons through the park, so this is as close as we dared get.


Just another “Wow” moment. When you’re riding on a motorcycle everybody offers to take your photo, because they know you’re cool. Right?


Here’s a photo of “Old Faithful” at Yellowstone, plus some famous geyser that apparently goes off on a regular basis.


I have, like, five photos of me taking a photo of Dee taking a photo of me. There’s only so much natural beauty my brain can process in a day before I develop behavioral problems and start “acting out.”

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Left: Grand Teton National Park is about one-tenth the size of Yellowstone, but I think it has twice the beauty. Right: Like the view from my office?


Jackson Hole, Wyoming has a park in the middle of the town where each entry point has an arch made out of elk antlers. It’s somewhere between really cool and really creepy.


 Even statues hate getting a “Wet Willie.” Yes, I’m misbehaving and acting out in this photo. Again.


Chillin’ at the Rustic Inn Creekside Resort in Jackson Hole. Why yes, that is, in fact, a 24oz tall boy of PBR in my hand. Thanks for asking.

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Dee had to fly from Jackson Hole to Sacramento for a meeting while I took off for Heber City, Utah. Solo again, this time through the Star Valley in Wyoming (left) and the frickin’ middle of nowhere (right) in Utah. Or Idaho. I don’t remember. I love riding on roads that look like this. It’s where I do some of my best “wondering.”

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Met up with Dee in Heber City, Utah, then started the push south toward home. Salina City, Utah has “Mom’s Cafe,” which may be the best chicken-fried steak anywhere I’ve been. However, I can’t really recommend consuming it for lunch on a hot — like 102 degrees — afternoon in the Panguitch Valley of Utah while riding. Nap time.

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Left: Zion National Park. Possibly one of my favorite photos from the trip; Dee in full FOMO mode. Right: I’ve been to Zion four times in five years, always on a bike. Dee’s been twice. Beauty happens here.

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Left: Quick overnight in Las Vegas included dinner with old friends, Tom and Deb, plus we dominated on a craps table. Dee hit a “Hard-8” 11 times that evening. Her dad would be proud. Right: After we got home, the dogs seemed pretty happy to see me

Here’s a link to a slideshow with highlights from the Northwest Epic Ride (With a Twist).

Music: “Highland Shuffle” by my buddy, Carl Verheyen, off his album “The Road Divides.” Used by permission. Carl is my favorite guitarist in the whole wide world — and my neighbor and friend. It’s like hitting the lottery for an amateur musician like me. Check out Carl here:


What’s next? Not sure, but count on my FOMO to make it happen.