Riding Blog

This weblog at mikeuhl.com is the personal web site of Michael "Mike" Uhl. Entries to this weblog and web site represent my personal opinions. The site is not owned, operated, or affiliated with my employer or any organizations other than those owned and operated by Mike Uhl.

Entries are copyright (c) Michael A. Uhl, as of date of posting.

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FYI: I ride a 2015 Harley-Davidson FLHTK Ultra Limited Special Edition.

Thank you and please enjoy my site!

Monday
Feb132017

Day 13: US 2 Across Washington State

(February 13, 2017) Day 13 of my 2016 ride to the west coast took place on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. My adventure riding back home began on US 2 at Everett, Washington. There I was just about 75 miles from the Canadian border and as about as far from home in the Lower 48 as I could get.

I started the day riding the I-405 highway north out of Bellevue to I-5 to US 2, where it starts, in Everett. The Boeing Company's primary manufacturing facility is located at Everett, as is a US Navy base.

I've ridden US 2 across Minnesota into Duluth, across the Upper Peninsula of Michigam and across New England, but have waited years for the chance to ride it across Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. It was worth the wait.

I'll write about Day 14, my ride from Spokane to Grand Forks, North Dakota in a later post. But just the ride across Washington was beautiful and relatively easy.

Cascade Loop

I appreciated riding through some places I had read about in a recent issue of HOG magazine, such as Gold Bar and Leavenworth. This western part US 2 in Washington is called the Cascade Loop as it approaches the mountains and is more specifically named Stevens Pass Highway as it crosses the Cascade Range.

In the Stevens Pass area itself there is located an elaborate ski resort. And further on in Leavenworth it's clear that the area is built to accommodate the winter enthusiasts. 

Grand Coulee Dam

After pass over the Cascades, the land flattened out and I diverted off of US 2 onto Washibgton (WA) route 155 north from Coulee City to Grand Coulee, WA and the Grand Coulee Dam itself. (I've included, below, links to videos I took a the dam.)

 

Spokane, Washington

From the Grand Coulee Dam, I rode WA 174 east back to US 2 east and on to a Motel-6 in Spokane Valley, Washington. This is the same Motel-6 at which my friend Mitch Mitchell and I stayed in 2014. It's better than average. I still worried about my bike's security at night and covered it as a precaution.

The temperature warmed up considerably as I came east. It got down to about 53°F on Stevens Pass. It's apparently only 4,056 feet above sea level there but given the snow still up there in the nearby peaks and that chilly temperature, it certainly seemed like I was higher.

Day 14 will include a ride through northern Idaho tomorrow, including Bonners Ferry, a place I'd wanted to see for a very long time. That day ended at a very hospitable campsite in Havre, Montana. 

More Videos (Mostly GoPro)

US 2 - Mile Marker 15 in Everett

Stevens Pass 

Stevens Pass 1 of 3:

 

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And as always, keep the shiny side up and pray for a short, mild winter.

-The Long Rider

Friday
Feb032017

Days 4 & 5: Northern New Mexico, including Taos

(February 3, 2017) Day 4 of 17 of my ride to the San Francisco Bay Area and then north along the Pacific coast to Bellevue, Washington took place on Monday, June 13, 2016. I got up around 5:45 a.m. and departed from El Reno, Oklahoma about 6:30 a.m. The sky seemed clear in the morning twilight, so I dressed for warm, dry weather. That didn't last. I checked the weather the previous night and the forecast looked good. I should have checked the weather radar in the morning. Live and learn.

Photo above right: That's me at in Cimarron Canyon State Park along US 64 in northen New Mexico. (Latitude 36.5375 Longitude -105.1524)

I encountered severe weather only about 20 miles west of El Reno, and because the sky was so grey, it was hard to tell until the last minute that I was entering a major thunderstorm. All of sudden there was lightning and high winds--in addition to the heavy rain. I pulled over under a bridge to get out of the wind. My friends will tell you that if I pulled under a bridge, it must have been bad.

I also discovered that I had forgotten to pack my helmet with a faceshield! I had someone how managed to pack two open-face helmets. Even with all of my careful preparation, I still managed to make a major packing blunder! Fortunately, I had backed my high-tech balaclava, which served me well.

Forced to pull under a bridge east of Elk City, Oklahoma

 

I was already soaked to my skin, but I put on my rain suit anyway, for warmth if nothing else. The lightning was so spectacular, I pulled out my iPhone and captured some video. That morning ride in the rain lasted well into Texas, more than 100 miles. It soaked my wallet, which I put in what I thought was a water-resistant pocket in my rain jacket. No! I'm unhappy with my Aerostitch Darien riding suit as far as rain protection goes. Maybe it's gotten too old. Anyway, the 20 or so $100, $20, etc. bills I had in my wallet were soaked. I had to spread them out on my hotel bed to dry. The leather wallet itself and the other contents faired better--wet early but dried quickly.

Because of the severe weather in the morning, I went to Plan B on the route: I stayed on I-40 all the way to Amarillo and then got on US 87 north. I did this because I could barely see the road ahead of me at times and figured the straighter, flatter interstate highway would be easier to navigate. 

I had endured wet socks and underwear all day. Just when I was almost completely dry around 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time and wa shappy to be in New Mexico, I encountered that second storm. For the first time ever, I was pelted with hail, dime-size pieces. A 35+ mph wind whipped the rain and hail at my face. I was pining away for the helmet face shield then! Fortunately, my route threaded me quickly through this monstrous storm and I was in it for only about 30 minutes, including a short trek on I-25.

More than a few times I questioned my judgment in deciding to undertake this ride. By the way, the afternoon storm was so impressively scary-looking that I took pictures and video of it before I entered. I imagine the few four-wheeled vehicle drivers who saw me out there must have thought I was insane. The way I looked at it was, if a lightning bolt took me out, I would go out in glory; otherwise, I needed to make my reservation in Taos. :-)

In the two videos below, I give you an idea of what I rode into the afternoon of June 13. This was the second thunderstorm I encountered that day. I encountered this one as I approached Springer, NM on US 56 and then I-25 north to Cimarron, NM. I was pelted by dime-size hail, 35+ mph winds, and frequent lightning. Very scary and no place pull over.

 

Eagle Nest, NM

The weather changed to perfect as I approached Cimarron, New Mexico and rode through Eagle Nest and Angel Fire on my way to Taos. The route I took, NM 58 and US 64, into Cimarron and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway was very beautiful and worthy of GoPro video and iPhone photos.

In the photo at the right, the road sign indicates that Eagle Nest is at an elevation of 8,258 feet above mean sea level. In the photo below, that's Eagle Nest Lake. Further south and a little further west along US 64, is Angel Fire, a popular downhill ski resort.

Taos itself is gorgeous! I'm so glad my colleague Todd Plessel urged me to see it. It reminds me of Banff in that you see mountains from the main street in town. I wish my friend Mitch could have joined me to see it so he could also compare it to Banff.

Hotel La Fonda de Taos

I loved my hotel, the LaFonda DeTaos. It's a bit pricey, but very very nice. The location is excellent and it offers private parking. It's located right in the town square. For you geography buffs, Taos is at an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet. My iPhone compass app lists my current location at 6,995 feet. (I've just finished dinner at Martyr's Steakhouse. It's a bit pricey but the food is excellent.) So, the peaks around it must be at least 9,000+ feet, e.g., Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet. Wheeler is at the center of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.

I finally started using my GoPro as I had intended, as I rode through Cimarron. The remote's battery was dead--even though I though I charged it last night--so I had to use my iPhone to control the camera. I also captured video on the Enchanted Circle.

I did not arrive at my hotel, the LaFonda de Taos, until 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time, or 5:30 p.m. CDST. It made for a very long day -- 11 hours. Consequently, I am not going to ride any more of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, except what I shall ride in the morning on US 64 west. 

More Videos

US 64 & Cimarron, NM Area

This series of videos shows my ride into the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway area on US 64.

Day 5: Taos, NM to St. George, Utah

Here I just want to insert a few more photos from the morning of Day 4, as I finished crossing New Mexico and headed into Arizona and Utah, on my way to my mother's home in St. George--with a quick stop at Four Corners. (In a separate post, I'll cover the afternoon of Day 5, which included the Navajo Nation in Arizona.)

Crossing the Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico - Three Videos

In this series of three videos, I’ve stopped just west of Taos for a look at the Rio Grande, which works its way south to Mexico.

Carson National Forest

US 64 in Carson National Forest took me to elevations over 10,000 feet and made for some chilly temperatures by great views.

Day 4 Mileage and Odometer Reading

My initial odometer reading was 12,385. The reading the night of Day 4 was 14,245. Daily mileage to date was as follows:

  • Friday, June 10: Cary, NC to Hendersonville, NC (270 miles)
  • Saturday, June 11: Hendersonville, NC to Marion, Arkansas (540 miles)
  • Sunday, June 12: Marion, AR to El Reno, Oklahoma (520 miles)
  • Monday, June 13: El Reno, OK to Taos, NM (530 miles)

(Tripometer reading was 1860.5.)

Monday
Jan302017

Day 11: Langlois, Oregon to Bellevue, Washington

(January 30, 2017) Day 11 took place on Monday, June 20, 2016. I was now more than half-way through my trip, though not having reached the further point from my home. I would reach the furthest point at Everett, Washington a couple of days later, as I turned east onto US 2 from Interstate 5.

On this day, Day 11, the goal was to get to my niece's home in Bellevue, by nightfall is possible. As it was, the day almost ended very badly. It certainly was no fun for the last two or so hours as I rode through a thunderstorm, in the dark, from Mount Rainier National Park to Bellevue, Washington. Fortunately, I arrived at the Lockwood home in Bellevue safely, albeit wet, and was greeted by friendly loving people. I was so tense from the ride I talked non-stop to those poor folks for 30-45 minutes immediately upon my arrival.

I departed the KOA camp site in Langlois, Oregon around 9:30 a.m. and arrived in Bellevue, 13.0 hours later, around 10:30 p.m. The skies were overcast all the way up the coast until just north of Coos Bay. However, the break in the clouds was brief, and the cloudy skies soon returned. The temperature was only in the low 60s--consistent with the way it has been throughout most of this ride.

I took US 101 to Waldport, Oregon where I made a last-minute change in my ride plan. I turned off US 101 and headed inland on Oregon route 34, the Alsea Highway. The skies cleared quickly and the temperature rose from the low 60s to the low 70s. That was a welcome change!

The idea was to accelerate my progress to Bellevue by getting away from slow traffic on US 101 and use I-5 instead; but I knew I needed to get through Portland before rush hour. I figured if I could get through Corvallis and to I-5 quickly and make Portland by 4:00 p.m., I'd get through relatively quickly. Wrong. Portland traffic is very bad even 4:00 p.m. It was very slow getting through the Portland-Vancouver (Washington) area. Thank goodness I was able to use the HOV lane on the north side of the city. The upside of the traffic jam was that I got a good long look at the Columbia River from the I-5 bridge as I crossed from Oregon into Washington. ;-)

The weather was great, so I decided during a dinner break in La Center, OR to stick to my original plan of getting off I-5 at exit 68 onto US 12 east. All was good until I was about 40 miles down the road and the skies darkened ahead of me. Then it began raining, and then pouring rain, and I thought that it would end quickly so I didn't put my rain suit on. After 15-20 minutes it did finally stop. Of course, I was wet, but not to the skin. I opened my vents to try to dry out as quickly as I could -- at the expense of being chilled -- so I could avoid getting really cold on the mountain pass I expected to take in Mount Rainier. This turned out to be a good call because I did dry out and I did ride on a mountain pass so high up that there was still snow along the side of the road. (By the way, I love the way my bike protects me so well from wind and rain.) 

As I departed Mount Rainier National Park, the skies darkened once again and I could see sheets of rain falling from the skies. I stopped and put on my full battle gear, including my balaclava. This was another good call because for the next two and a half hours, I found myself riding through a widespread thunderstorm as I worked my way west and north to Bellevue. It was soon very dark and riding in a thunderstorm in rural darkness is as about as scary as riding gets for me. I took WA 410 for a long ways because I knew from memory this was the road I wanted. (I vaguely recalled that I need to take it to OR 167; so when I arrived at 167 based on the navigation system's directions, I was relieved.)

During a short period when the rain let up a little, I stopped and keyed in the Lockwood home address into my onboard navigation system and a gentle female voice guided me through the rain, lightning, and thunder to my destination. I was quite nervous entrusting my life to a computer, but the nav system came through for me. It would have been hard navigating by sight, i.e., reading street signs, in such adverse conditions.

 

 

More Photos

Here's a sign you don't see on the east coast. In North Carolina, we have hurricane evacuatiion signs that look very similar. 

My photo of these sand dunes are actually a poor representation of how huge they get in places. I saw dunes that were at least 50 feet high with forests of trees growing in them. They are very odd looking phenomena. 

 

The beautiful Alsea River in western Oregon. I was very happy to leave the overcast skies along the coast and soak in the sunshine inland.

I've wanted to ride to Corvallis, Oregon for many years because EPA has a lab there and I heard great things about the natural beauty of the area.

 

If I had the time, I would have loved to turn right and see Mount Saint Helens!

Washington route 123 takes you into Mount Rainier National Park from the south.

 

The snow along route 123 gives you an idea how chilly it got as I approached Mount Rainier. More snow...

 

 

The peak of Mount Rainier is often obscured by clouds, as it was for me.

 

 

 

Videos

Campfire at Langlois

 

Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial Wayside, OR 1 of 2

 

Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial Wayside, OR 2 of 2

 

Oregon Beach - 1 of 2

 

Oregon Beach - 2 of 2

 

Alsea River

 

(June 20, 2016) On Day 11 of my 17-day ride roundtrip from Cary, NC to Bellevue, Washington by way of San Francisco, I turned inland at Waldport, Oregon. My goal was to get to Bellevue, WA ASAP by way of I-5. If the weather was good, I would take a chance and ride to Mount Rainier on the way and hope to make it to Bellevue before Dark. (I wasn’t even close, and in fact, got caught in a widespread thunderstorm, just to make the ride in the dark extra fun.)

Mount Rainier 1 of 3

 

Mount Rainier 2 of 3

 

Mount Rainier 3 of 3

 

Only Alaska Remains

With my ride through Oregon, I have now ridden a motorcycle to and through all of the Lower 48 States from my home. Only Alaska remains as a ride destination. 

Day 11 Mileage Summary:

  • Tripometer = 4,339
  • Day total = 523
  • Odometer = 16,724
Sunday
Jan292017

Day 10: San Francisco, CA to Langlois, Oregon

(January 29, 2017) On Day 10 of my 17-day ride to the west coast and north on the Pacific Coast Highway, I left San Francisco and headed north US 101 to California 1 (Shoreline Highway) and then back on to US 101. My destination for the night was a KOA in Langlois, Oregon.

With my cousin Ray's help and help from the doorman, I was able to retrieve my bike from the parking garage, pack it, and be on the road by 7:30. It was perfect weather on the best day of the week to do this...Sunday! 

Of all the days of my trip, this was the one that concerned me most about reaching my destination on time. I needed to traverse a long distance at relatively slow speeds to arrive at a KOA campground before registration closed around 8:00 p.m. As it turned out, I made it with only about 40 minutes to spare.

Because I had spent so much time studying the map of San Francisco over the last few months and because Ray and I traversed so much of the northern end of the peninsula the night before, I was able to weave my way knowingly through town -- there a many one-way streets -- To US 101 and the Golden Gate Bridge. Just before I got on, I used my iPhone to queue the GoPro camera mounted on the top of my helmet to record my ride across the bridge. (First video below.)

Soon after I crossed the Bay, I got on California route 1 and saw amazing trees and vistas of mountains and the Pacific Ocean, also much of which I recorded with the GoPro. I filled up the first of two 64 GB memory cards I have for it. (Unfortunately, I drained all three batteries, which made them unavailable for Day 11.) I did feel very good about getting so much video of the key part of my ride.

California 1 and US 101

CA 1 is easily the most fun motorcycle ride I've ever taken. It's like the Blue Ridge Parkway next to the ocean. It did wear me out though. It's a very intense ride; mistakes could easily prove fatal, so I had to be very careful and focused. A the end of the day, my shoulders were very sore from having two hands on the bars for 99% of the time. I was grateful to reach US 101 and some straight, multi-lane sections where I could set the cruise control for short periods.

Mileage Summary (@ the  KOA in Langlois, OR): 

  • Tripometer = 3,816 (Approx. halfway point of the ride.)
  • Day total (actually yesterday and today) = 565
  • Odometer = 16,201 

Videos

Leaving San Francisco northbound across the Golden Gate Bridge

I removed the audio track on this file because it was just noise. Note there is no toll for the Golden Gate Bridge in the northbound direction. I liked that very much. Also keep in mind that I rode this route at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. I've been told that the traffic can be horrendous here. Plan accordingly.

 

Muir Woods Overlook

 

CA 1 - GoPro 1 of 3

This is GoPro video of me riding my Harley northbound on CA 1 north of San Francisco on my way to US 101 and then on to a KOA campground for the night in Langlois, Oregon.

 

CA 1 - GoPro 2 of 3

This is another GoPro video of me riding my Harley northbound on CA 1 north of San Francisco on my way to US 101 and then on to a KOA campground for the night in Langlois, Oregon.

 

CA 1 - GoPro 3 of 3

This is a third GoPro video of me riding my Harley northbound on CA 1 north of San Francisco on my way to US 101 and then on to a KOA campground for the night in Langlois, Oregon.

 

Sonoma Coast Overlook (California)

June 19, 2016. This is video I took using my iPhone 6 at a stop along California Route 1 as I rode my Harley northbound on CA 1 north of San Francisco on my way to US 101 and then on to a KOA campground for the night in Langlois, Oregon.

 

Salmon Creek Coleman Beach CA

June 19, 2016. This is video I took using my iPhone 6 at a stop along California Route 1 as I rode my Harley northbound on CA 1 north of San Francisco on my way to US 101 and then on to a KOA campground for the night in Langlois, Oregon.

 

Irish Beach area overlook - Manchester, California

June 19, 2016. This is video I took using my iPhone 6 at a stop along California Route 1 as I rode my Harley northbound on CA 1 north of San Francisco on my way to US 101 and then on to a KOA campground for the night in Langlois, Oregon.

 

Saturday
Jan282017

Day 9: San Francisco

(January 28, 2017) In the early afternoon on Day 9 of my 17-day ride to the west coast and north on the Pacific Coast Highway, I arrived at the Harbor Court Hotel on Steuart Street in San Francisco to meet with my cousin Ray. Ray is fluent in Spanish and that proved very helpful when he negotiated a deal with hotel staff for me to park my motorcycle after hours at a parking garage down the street.

It was a wonderful coincidence that I was able to meet Ray and share my first time in San Francisco with him. He is very familiar with the city and knows many people who live in the area, including many who are very wealthy. This proved helpful when he texted one of them and asked for a recommendation where to get good Italian food for dinner. If I remember correctly, we got an Uber car to take us from the piers into Little Italy and we ate at Tommaso's on Kearney Street.

The waitress was an enchantress and the food was really good. The combination led us to eat far too much. I did manage to stop myself from finishing my tiramisu and took the half I didn't eat with me. Because we were so stuffed, we decided to walk all the way down Columbus Avenue to Ghirardelli Square, in spite of my aching hernia. I needed to push that food through my system that badly.

A great bonus from the long walk was being able to look up Lombard Street and see the sharp curves on the steep slope of the street, a popular landmark.

I was so full, I could not bring myself to even enter the Ghiradelli chocolate store. I am glad I saved that tiramisu, because it made for a quick and convenient breakfast the next morning as I hurried out of town on my way north to Oregon. 

My Cousin Ray 

Because of the dangers involved in his work, I'm not going reveal Ray's name or any closeup photos of him or discuss why we was even in San Fran. However, I will say that he made all the difference in making my visit to San Francisco fun and I'm grateful we had that time together. He and his older brother have always been my favorite cousins. I look forward to spending more time with him in the future.

Our hotel room cost $200 for the night, so I was glad to split the cost with him. San Francisco is an expensive place. I'm glad I was there only one night.

Here are some more photos with captions from my visit there.

That's the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

That's Coit Tower in the background.

 

Ray looking very contemplative at the piers by Fisherman's Wharf.

The Ghirardelli building at sunset

 

Sunset over the Bay

A view of the Oakland Bay Bridge from our hotel room at sunset

 

 

Videos

San Francisco - Riding North on 19th Avenue

 

Riding through San Francisco on a Beautiful Saturday Morning

 

Harbor Court Hotel on Steuart Street in San Francisco

 

Sunset over San Francisco Bay

 

View of Oakland Bay Bridge from Hotel Room Window

 

Daily Log

Here's a copy of my daily log for that day, which I posted on Facebook:

Day 9 of 18 - Mike Uhl's Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Ride  

(June 18, 2016) I slept very well in my fancy bed in my expensive hotel room. I tried to stay in bed late, but the sun yelled at me to get up at 6:45 PDST. I enjoyed moving slowly, standing in a hot shower and letting the water soother my sore shoulders, and then make myself a tasty cup of coffee. There's definitely upside to staying in a really nice hotel room. 

My hotel room is so big, the king-sized bed looks small and there's actually a couch in front of a large bay window with a westerly view. I can see mountains. It's kind of cool being near Menlo Park, Palo Alto, etc. where the great Tech Boom in America got started.

My ride into town yesterday reminded me how much I appreciate living in a less-crowded, less-hectic place. Unfortunately, the RTP area seems to be looking more and more like Atlanta all the time.

In the morning, I rode CA 84 to CA 1 through La Honda and San Gregorio. I stopped for a cigar and photos at Half Moon Bay. I saw many, many motorcycles (and bicycles) on my ride to La Honda, San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, etc. It's a rider's paradise.

From Half Moon Bay, I continued on CA 1 and then through downtown. Using my onboard navigation system, I worked my way slowly across the city to the Harbor Court Hotel where I met my cousin Ray, around 2:15 p.m. Traffic was slow and the hills treacherous, but I'm grateful it was a Saturday. It must be brutal trying to move on a weekday. 

We have got our luggage into our room and my Harley safely stored in a nearby parking garage, Ray and I walked through the Fisherman's Wharf and got a little something to eat. Then we continued walking from pier to pier until we arrived at Pier 39, where got some ice cream and looked at the seals lying on the docks.

Ray wanted a real dinner and texted a friend who lives in the area for a recommendation for an Italian restaurant. We got one and Ray got us an Uber car ride to the restaurant in Little Italy. Uber is great; our ride was there to get us in about two minutes and cost us (Ray) about $6 to get us to our destination.

After a dinner in which I ate way too much -- the food was fabulous -- we walked to Ghirardelli Square where Ray got a treat. Our timing was excellent for arriving there as we were able to watch the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge. What a great way to end a really fun day! Also, we could see the Bay and Oakland Bay Bridge right outside our window. It was beautiful lit up at night!

Ray and I talked almost constantly as we discussed our family and our personal histories. It was very therapeutic and enjoyable.

In spite of the hernia I developed in May from exercising too vigorously (I suspect), I managed to do a lot of walking with Ray. We then got an Uber ride back to our hotel. I went to bed immediately and was asleep very quickly. Ray had to make a call for his work but returned after a short time and after a shower was also soon asleep. He had a long day and I simply had a busy one.

It was complicated getting my bike in and out of the parking garage, but Ray's fluency in Spanish helped smooth things out because he developed such a great rapport with the bellman. In the end, it cost me only $10 total to store my bike overnight, and $5 of was tip to the bellman because he had to walk over to the parking garage with me and use his access to get me in. And Ray gave me $5 of that $10 as a gift.

I rode only about 65 miles. I didn't record the mileage for the day, so I'll estimate it with tomorrow's numbers.

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Keep the shiny side up and pray for a short winter! -The Long Rider