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.