the Great Northern

The next part of my journey took me on U.S. Route 2 which has been dubbed as the Great Northern. It was named in memory of the pioneer railroad that parallels the western half of the route. It start in Everett, Washington and cross into Canada at the Michigan border. Then it cross back into the U.S. in Vermont and end in Bangor, Maine. Once again, I did not do the entire route due to a personal reason when it meets up with the Canadian border. So below are the list of my six favorite places of the western half of U.S. Route 2.
Going to the Sun Road – It is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park in Montana and going over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. The two lane road is quite narrow and winding, especially west of Logan Pass. I camped nearby and decided to head up quite early. Even early in the morning was full of traffic and after talking to some of the local on the other side, they suggested that I should have done it in the early evening when everyone is heading out for dinner. So here is my recommendation and maybe do the tour buses instead of driving so you can take pictures. There were not many pull off stops to get off the bike to take the pictures.

  
Kootenai Falls – Kootenai Falls is the largest undammed falls in the state. The hike offers an unforgettable and breathtaking view of the Kootenai River. Also at the falls is a swinging bridge that provides access to the opposite side of the Kootenai River. This area has been known as a sacred site to the Kootenai tribe. They view it as the center of the world, a place where tribal members can commune with the spiritual forces that give direction to the tribe and to individual members. 

  
Old Forts Trail – I only visited a couple of these forts (Fort Assinniboine and Fort Benton are located in the Russell Country Region of Montana) at the end of the trail. I wished I knew about it sooner and would have traveled the same route that were traversed over 100 years ago by wagon by the U.S. Cavalry. In addition the previous two forts, I visited several others in North Dakota as well. Some were elaborate and other you could only envision what it might have looked like back in the day.

  
Charles Lindberg’s childhood home – The home tour was simple but it was the story of Charles Lindberg that fascinated me the most. His bedroom was a screened-in porch which he slept in all year around. Something that Russ would have done since he loved sleeping outside in our yard all the time. Also, Charles was quite the innovator in anything mechanical such as a water heater and incubator for the chickens.

  
Gooseberry Falls State Park – This state park is in Minnesota on the north shore of Lake Superior. It is known for its spectacular waterfalls and river gorge. It has three falls fittingly called Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. Another beautiful hike to visit the falls, a day ride off the U.S. Route 2.   

 
Niagara Falls – The world-famous set of three large waterfalls on the Niagara River. Both the American and Horseshoe falls can be best seen from the Canadian side of the river (which I highly recommend to see it from the Canadian side). The natural spectacle attracts millions of tourists yearly so it can be a bit hectic trying to visit but it is sure worth it.

  
Many have told me to bypass the North Dakota section and head south to the South Dakota since there were not much to see. I’m glad that I stuck to my guns and got to enjoy seeing some of the forts. I only wished that I planned it better to visit all of them. This brings up many possibilities for road trips in North America that could be based on themes. I also noticed that I not a tree person so I don’t care for traveling in forest but rather be riding out in the open plains such as North Dakota. I guess everyone has their own preference of where to travel and what to see.

Two down and nine more of the old back roads of the United States to go. For more information about the eleven back roads, you can go to https://roadtripusa.com

Gina Comes to Town

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to make a pit stop to get new tires on the bike. The down fall with the TW200 tires, you can’t just go to any motorcycle shop to get them so I have to order them which usually take three to four days to receive them. So I contacted a fellow Tdubber’s to see if I make arrangement to have the tires shipped to his house. He was more than happy to help me with my bike to ensure that I have a safe journey. I met up with Kurt and his wife at their ranch in Auburn, IN.

  
While there, I learned that Kurt was avid outdoorsmen and from the pictures on the wall in his warehouse that he probably has lots of stories to tell. So, after spending of couple of days working on both of our bikes and a day of traveling together, I have inspired the blogging bug into him. Here’s his story of my visit.

Gina Comes to Town

Going on right now, in the world you live in, is an adventure worth noting. Ginamarie Austin is in the process of traveling the length and breadth of the United States on a Yamaha TW200 motorcycle. Solo. In and of itself that doesn’t really make her or the trip special. Lots of people have traveled this country solo and done so on small displacement motorcycles. What makes Gina’s trip special is that she happens to live in a different world…a world I happen to share. Gina is profoundly hearing impaired.
Let me tell you a bit about Gina’s world. I’m the perfect person to do it. Gina’s world is a quieter place, but it’s also a more confusing place. It’s a place of endless frustration, and let me explain that-it’s frustrating for her, and the people trying to communicate with her. Nothing is more distressing to a hearing impaired person than the words “never mind”. For us it’s game over, something lost forever. A chance to communicate forever taken away. Gina wouldn’t hear a car horn while she is riding and she wouldn’t know someone was right outside her tent at night. Developing mechanical problems go unnoticed because she can’t hear them. Interacting with people on the road is more challenging because they have to invest themselves in communicating…and some simply don’t have the time. So, Gina’s trip is special, and so is she.

I knew about Gina and her travels because I am a member of an online forum that she participates in. That in and of itself is rather amazing since I’m really not much of a forum person. But, like I said, Gina came to town. My town. And I got to spend time with her. It was an amazing experience for me, I don’t know any other profoundly hearing impaired people. At the beginning of her trip my wife and I had offered Gina tools, food, a place to stay and rest up if she need it. I really never expected to hear from her. But I did, and I’m glad I did.

We spent a couple days visiting and working on her bike. She needed new tires and there were some other small issues. For me it was hilarious at times. I would say something while leaning over the workbench and I’d hear her shout “hey, I’m just like you …turn around and speak up”, it made me smile. I know exactly what she means.

For some reason Gina has an infatuation with things on her ride. World’s larges prairie dog, windmill museums, world’s largest truck stop and museum, stuff like that. I on the other hand define a good trip as the absence of things. I dislike all the touristy things and sacrifice even the ones that could be defined as cultural just to stay away from those type of crowds. Because of this love of things along the way she has developed what I consider an unhealthy attraction to old US highways. US 6 doesn’t run very far from my home and that was Gina’s intended route when she left here. I talked her into riding a different route, and in fact I accompanied her from northeast Indiana to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and so got to ride about 250 miles of her trip with her. I enjoyed it tremendously. I took her on state routes and rural roads through what I refer to as the cornfield corridors. I figured maybe I had broken her habit. But I was wrong. I got up the next morning and started packing up. Gina emerged from her tent as I was looking at my map and came and looked over my shoulder. Then she exclaimed “oh wow, I’m only four miles from US 6.” You win some and you lose some.

So, you might see Gina out there riding home. Coping with problems she never chose to have. If you do, look at her and speak up. Take the time to interact. She’s worth it, I guarantee you.

To read more of his stories, click on the following link: http://borneodreams.com

  

The roles have been reversed…

As I travel on the old U.S. Route, I noticed that it paralleled the railroad tracks most of the time. As I watched the tracks go by as I roll down the road, I can’t help but to think about my daughter’s journey as a freight-hopper (also called train hopping, train surfing, train hitching or, in parts of the United States, catching out). Basically it’s riding on the outside of a train, a freight car or another rail transport which is illegal and very dangerous.
  
One day many years ago, she just decided to walk out and travel without a word. I was devastated when she walked out. For many years, I did not know where she was or if she was still alive. Every now and then, I would get a call from her which always gave me a sense of relief knowing that she is alright for now.

Her choices took a huge toll on me mentally and physically. It also took a toll on the family as well. Mentally, I always wondered what I did wrong and how did I failed as a mother. Due to the stress from worrying, I would get ulcers and became quite a bit under weight. Also with all of the obsessing about my daughter, I neglected my other child. Then through a support group, I learned to detach with love. I also learned that this was her journey and not mine to understand. All I could do is hope for the best and pray that our relationship would rekindle someday.
Fast forward to now, my daughter has settled down now in Oregon and has a healthy nine month old son. Last week, I got to spend the weekend in Boston, MA with my daughter and grandson at her boyfriend’s family house. They happened to be there for a wedding the same time I was in the area. We had a great time and we are slowly rebuilding that mother and daughter relationship and one night we joked how our roles have reversed. Now, I’m the one who is traveling on the back road and she is settling down as a mother. She is the one that is now worried about me. She keeps asking if I have double checked everything on the motorcycle to make sure that it is in working condition.
  
Yes, our roles have reversed but our choices as to how we got there is different. I worked hard all of my life and followed the rules that we think are expected of us. Go to school, get a career (which may mean you have to work more than the usual 40 hours per week), get married, have 2.5 children, get a house with the white picket fence (choose a house that is more than you can afford so you can have social standing among your friends), and build a nest egg that you can hope to retire on (and you might be lucky to get it by the time you retire). Even if you do all of this, you may not get the chance to reap the benefit of all of your hard work with the one you love. Time is too short for some of us which I learned the hard way.
With this lesson learned, I shared with everyone that I will be embarking on this journey and sold off everything I owned so I can somewhat afford to take a year off from work without too much stress financially. I also arranged to be in constant communication with my loves one whether via Skype, text messages or via the Spot tracker to give them a peace of mind.
Now that I have been traveling for the last three and an half months, I do understand the lure and the rush of the open road. However, I still will never understand the concept of freight-hopping just as some will never understand the concept of traveling on a motorcycle instead of a car.
Yes, our roles have reversed. However, I can’t wait for the day my grandson is old enough for me to take him camping and to show him the wonders of the outdoors. Maybe, by having some grandma times will give my daughter an opportunity for short trips out on the road to re-energerize and to rejuvenate as to who she is and always will be, an amazing daughter, women and mother.

Expectation

I have had several readers asked if this journey has been what I have expected. I mostly tell them that it has been and much more. When I started this journey, I did not know what to expect. However, I did notice that life is interesting when you expect one thing and you get another. This journey has been full of them.
For example, I have always thought that Los Angeles had the worst drivers but I was proven wrong on Route 9 in Massachusetts. I have been cut off and tail gated more times than I could count. In addition, there roads were in horrible shape. The pavement had tire grooves in them. Something I would expect on a dirt road but not on pavement. According to Allstate Insurances, the top 10 cities that has the worst drivers are:

1. Boston, MA (which I now have personally experienced)
2. Washington, DC

3. Baltimore, MD

4. Philadelphia, PA

5. San Francisco, CA

6. Los Angeles, CA

7. Pittsburgh, PA

8. Miami, FL

9. Oakland, CA

10. New Orlean, LA

Another thing that got my expectation distorted were two museums that I visited back to back. The first one was Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) house in Hartford, CT. I was pretty excited seeing how he lived and where most of his stories came alive. So I cringed when the cost was $25.00 for the tour but decided it will be worth it. Boy I was disappointed, our tour guide was boring and spoke in a monotone voice the whole time. Then we were not allowed to take pictures inside the house which I couldn’t understand since the entire inside were reproduction so the flash wouldn’t have ruin anything. 
  
So the next day, I did a tour of the French Azilum in Towanda, PA which only cost me $5.00. When I walked up to the house, it was in sorry condition and worried that it wouldn’t have much to see in it. Boy, was I proven wrong. I got there late in the day and was the only one in the last tour of the day. Lee, my tour guide, who just started two weeks ago was an amazing story teller. She and I had so much fun walking throughout the house and letting me guess what some of the objects were and allowing me to take as many pictures I wanted. At the end, she asked about my journey and shared her story as well. She was a school teacher and quit her job seven years ago to take care of her boyfriend who had brain cancer who is now in remission. After being a care giver for seven year, she wanted to start working again but didn’t want to deal with the politic of being a teacher again. So, stumbled upon this job as curator for the French Azilum museum. She is having a blast doing it. hmm…I could do something like this. Still thinking of what I want to be when I grow up.

  
I always knew that you get what you paid for but still it is still a shock when you pay $50.00 for a a major chain hotel room and you wondered if the sheet has been washed. Then when you have limited choices in hotels and have to pay $100.00 for one and you feel like a queen when you’re in a suite with a sitting area that is separated from the bedroom area. Wish I could afford the higher quality more often but I got to be more budget conscious when traveling since the estate still haven’t closed yet.

Now the last expectation is the hardest for me to swallow. Before, I started this trip, I thought I would struggle emotionally and mentally on this journey. I was worried that living a solidarity life would be challenging but actually I’m enjoying it. There has been times that I was itching to be alone after spending several days with families or friends. Surprisingly, it is physically where I’m struggling. I never once thought that I would be physically out of shape to ride every day. The vibration from the motorcycle is taking a toll on the arthritis in my hands. I have had arthritis for at least twenty years (too young to be having them). Right before Russ got sick, my doctor wanted me to make an appointment with an Rheumatologist to find out why I’m having arthritis and tremors for the last twenty years. Well, I never got around to with him being sick, then dealing with the estate and planning for this trip. Now it is catching up with me. Every morning and night, my hands are swollen and I’m chomping down on Ibuprofen just to get through the day. So now I wonder if I can physically make the year long trip or will it be cut short. Once I get back to California, I will need to make an appointment with the doctor. If it get cut short, how will it affect me emotionally and mentally if it has to be cut short. There are still roads and places I want to go to. I set a goal to do this for a year and now I may not be able to. I know it is irrational but it make me feel like a failure. Then once I get over that feeling, will I be content staying in one place again or will I be restless? So many unanswered questions playing in my head. I just got to remember to take it one day at a time and worry about it when the time comes.
As for expectation, I just need to remember to go into it with eyes wide open and just roll with the experiences that comes my way and learn from it.

Pacific Coast Highway

As mentioned in my previous post called the “The Compass”, I mentioned that I wanted travel on eleven of the old back road of the United States. Once I have warmed up in Baja after the unusually cold front at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZ, I headed up Highway One also known as the Pacific Coast Highway.
The Pacific Coast Highway starts at northwest tip of the United States at Olympic National Park, and remaining within sight of the ocean almost all the way south to the Mexican border, a total of 1,650 miles. I started at the bottom and worked my way up north. Below is a list of the top five places I visited on the way up.
1. Solvang – Even though it is not on Highway One but it is worth the small detour to stop and visit the town. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. It is also the home of the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. The collection includes a supercharged Vincent Black Lightning, and a rare Vincent Grey Flash one of four Isle of Man TT racing specials.

  
2. Elephant Seal Rookery – Elephant Seals can be seen at a rookery near the Piedras Blancas Light Station (piedrasblancas.org) in San Simeon. More than 7,000 elephant seals live at the rookery, which is open daily. Piedras Blancas is roughly 50 miles north of San Luis Obispo, CA. Bluffs to the north and south of the parking lot are the recommended vistas for viewing the seals. 

  
3. Avenue of the Giants – It’s a thirty-one miles road that runs along the side of Highway 101 (which merges with Highway 1 every now and then) in Northern California. Avenue of the Giants features three trees in Northern California that visitors can drive through. The southernmost of these trees, Chandelier Tree, is located in Drive-Thru Tree Park in the town of Leggett. Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is near the town of Myers Flat and Klamath Tour Thru Tree, the northernmost of the three trees, is located in the town of Klamath, California. Each tree is privately owned and charges $5 or more to drive through.

  
4. Lost Coast – The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and development-free area of the California North Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, which includes the King Range. It was named the “Lost Coast” after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geo-technical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. (source is wikipedia). 

  
5. Trees of Mystery – I didn’t stop here for the trees but for the real star of the show. Paul Bunyan and his faithful blue ox, Babe, there is no escaping them. They stand tall outside the entrance, in full view of the 101 Highway, beckoning all to stop and visit. Babe reminded me of Russ’ fascination of the anatomically correct Trigger in Apple Valley, CA that I had to do a pose with it as the way Russ would have done it.

  
 If I had to do this trip all over again, I would highly recommend doing this trip from the North to the South for a couple of reasons; one is when heading north, all of the vista are on the west side of the road and during high seasons, you’re fighting with all of the RV’er to turn left into the vista or back onto the highway. Secondly, when heading north, you’re getting the head wind and not the tail wind. So by mid-afternoon, the major winds kick up and you’re fighting with it. So I when I got to Gold Beach, OR, I decided to detoured onto the Coastal Bear Camp road to head inland for the rest of my journey. Glad I did, I got to see Crater Lake which is another must see places to visit.

  
One down and ten more of the old back roads of the United States to go. For more information about the eleven back roads, you can go to https://roadtripusa.com

Till Death Do Us Apart

As long as I can remember, I had an unhealthy fear about being buried or visiting the cemetery. I think it has to do with my religious upbringing and being disillusion about the Catholicism’s philosophy. So at a young age, I announced that I wanted to be cremated against my parent’s wishes. I even knew exactly where I wanted my ashes to be thrown. After having climbed Mt. Whitney several times in Junior High and High School, I fell in love with a beautiful meadow up there. I was too naive then to know that it is probably illegal to have ashes spread out in a National Park.

One day, Russ and I were having our “grown up” talk (so I thought) and I told him that I wanted my ashes spread up there. He would joked about being too old to hike up there and I teased him right back stating that he can ride one of his donkey up there to take care of it. Then when I would inquired about his preferences, he would just scuff and say “If I become incompetence to take care of myself then put in a wheelchair and push me out to the middle of the desert and leave me there”. Sigh, I would never get a serious answer from him.
In January before his death, Russ, a friend of our and I did a tour of weird and wacky sites in our area on the TW200. We visited the burial site for Brownie, the Railroad Dog, Victorville Rock Faces, Concrete Dinosaurs and the Roy Rogers and Dale Evan’s cemetery. The latter site was Russ’ favorite for two reasons, one, he idolized Roy Rogers and two, there was an anatomically correct life size statue of Trigger (Roy’s horse).

  
So when Russ passed away, I knew exactly where to have his ashes spread out, right behind Trigger. You may be asking how come I had him cremated since he never let it known what his wishes were. Well, he was kind of claustrophobic, so I knew that he wouldn’t like the idea of being in a coffin as much as I did. So I had him cremated. I also had a paver made at the cemetery in memory of him. I originally did this so his parents would have a place to go to visit him. However, it was I who visited him at the cemetery frequently. Anytime I was down or needed guidance from him, I would go and visit him. I have become more and more comfortable being at the cemetery.
  
Since being on the road, I have stumbled across several unique ones and even visited my family’s cemetery in Toledo, Ohio. Some were elaborate such as the Springs Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, OH which is the second largest in the United States. Others, were either ghostly or lonely such as the Betani Lutheran cemetery in North Dakota. Then there is a sad one that I visited on Barlow Road in Oregon. In 1924 when the Department of Transportation was building the highway, they discovered a grave of an unnamed pioneer woman.
  
  
  

  
Now, I’m having second thoughts about having my ashes spread out in remote area. Oh don’t get me wrong, I still want to be cremated. I still don’t like the idea of rotting in the ground. However, I’m starting to appreciate the idea of having a headstone placed somewhere for my children, grandchildren and future generation to visit and maybe hear my stories in the wind like I do when I visit Russ, my grandparents and my great-grandparents at the cemetery.

Follow Your Passion

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a place called Pie Town Cafe that Russ and I stumbled upon during our honeymoon. It was a story about experience, strength and hope when she purchased the cafe and eventually build a successful cafe that specialize in unique pie. I stumbled upon another place with a similar story last week.
I have been riding through Wisconsin via Route 2 for a bit and haven’t seen any street sign pointing to any historical places nearby for my daily detour from the route. So I came upon a Visitor Center and stopped to pick up map for the state (the best place to get a free map). So asked the lady at the counter about any significant historical places in the area. She said that she didn’t know of any but there is a good place next door that make Mead. Mead? I didn’t know what mead is and decided I had to check it out.
As I walked into the shop and it looked like a typical wine tasting room that is found all over the west coast. It had a bar full of various wine bottles and knicks-knacks associating with wines in the rest of the shop. So I approach the host and asked what kind of drink is mead. She explained that it is just like wine but instead of fermented grapes, it is made from fermented honey. I never knew that there was such a thing and she explained that mead is older than wine. She also goes on to explain that the term “honeymoon” comes from the tradition of giving the newlywed couple a “moon” supply of Mead to ensure a fruitful union. Sweet Mead was especially prized because it was believed that the “sweeter” the Mead the more “fruitful” the union and hopefully produce a boy from such union. Now I know where the term “honeymoon” comes from.

So, I asked her if she was the owner and how did she get into the business. She said yes and she and her husband has been running the place for almost twenty years now. It originally started as one of his hobby with making honey. However, the cost of producing honey was out weighing the cost of selling it. So instead of giving up his hobby, he discovered that the cost of fermenting the honey was more profitable. This in which turn into a new hobby of making mead. Enough where they could quit their day job and opened a winery in a town where they’re originally from. In another word, they moved back to their roots and doing somethings they love.

One of the other reasons for this journey I’m on, is to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I do know that I’m tired of working fifty to sixty hours a week with nothing to show for it. I have lost that passion in what did for work. I want to find my passion again, I just do not know where or what yet. Hopefully, someday I’ll figure that out. Until then, enjoying the ride and taking it one day at time.

White Winter Winery 68323 Lea St. Iron River, WI 54847 http://www.whitewinter.com