Monday, December 9, 2013

Swapping land for air and finally returning to the sea, 13,079mi later!

13,079mi/21,049km, 109 days, 3 rear tires and many, many new friends later we've made it to the West Coast!! Jenner, CA, to be specific. 
We rode up a nice gravel road to Jeremy’s cabin hidden in a Calistoga canyon. With the lights burning brightly from his cozy home, he threw open the door and welcomed us in.
Jeremy and his trusty Land Rover
Jeremy is a fellow overland traveler and has been around the world two plus times in his trusty old Land Rover. The next five (yes FIVE) hours flew by as Jeremy regaled us with stories about his world travels. Between Jeremy having successfully crossed the Darien Gap(an area of lush and challenging swampland that separates Panama and Colombia) twice (which is a dream of Roel’s for our travels next year through Central and South America) and his anthropological interests and bush pilot career (anthro was one of my majors and I spent much of my youth in the back of my Dad’s plane as he gave flight lessons,
Pouring over maps of the Darien Gap
before he began informally training me at age 16), the connection with Jeremy was invigorating… It was like finding a long lost friend, or someone who speaks the same language in a sea of foreigners. We couldn’t get enough of his stories about his experiences and adventures and both of us had trouble sleeping that night because we felt so inspired by this man that we wanted to get on the road right away and head South, East, anywhere. 

The next morning we enjoyed more stories over coffee. After hearing about my most recent (terrifying) “lesson” with the bush pilot in Australia who has gained infamy in the aeronautical industry for his YouTube posts featuring girls vomiting in the backseat of his plane as he performs surprise
stunts in his non-stunt airplane, Jeremy had offered to bring us up in his Maude and give me a “nice” lesson. Roel and I both love flying so we decided to abandon our wine tasting plans for the day and head up with Jeremy. The day was fine
and it was easy to find smooth air. Jeremy very adeptly explained the basics of aeronautics, and instructed me how to operate his plane along with him, before giving me instructions to execute on my own. It was a fun and easy hour, that really helped to rebuild my confidence in the air, and it was a great way to see the vineyards of Napa Valley. 
Calistoga Vineyards
Later that day, we met a friend of Jeremy's who owned a Rokon (quite the go-anywhere-do-anything beast), shared a home-cooked meal with new friends (such a luxury) and then Jeremy and Roel spent hours pouring over maps of the Darien Gap and discussing tactics for our journey through the jungle. 

The Rokon: a 2wd Motorcycle or Motortractor?

From Calistoga, we headed for the coast as we had plans to meet the winemaker of one of my favorite wineries later in the week and with a cold front descending, we anticipated that it would be warmer on the coast. Though we found a beautiful place to camp 
and celebrate our arrival at the Pacific
ocean, we were verrrrry wrong about the temperature… We awoke the next morning to even more frost on the tent than usual. 

The sun rising over the beach we camped next to along the Pacific Coast Highway
We rode the famed Pacific Coast Highway to Flowers Winery, tucked away in the hills of Cazadero, and were given an awesome tour of their winery and their biodynamic vineyards. From there, we made our way to Petaluma, stopping along the way for a quick taste at Joseph Phelps winery.

Upon arrival at Lindsey’s home in Petaluma, we took him up on his offer to shower and have a rest, finally warming up after a very chilly night and day on the bikes. We met up with Paul and the four of us headed off to the Oakland Motorcycle Club. 
The Oakland Motorcycle Club
We didn’t quite know what to expect, but meeting other bikers is always nice and it’s great to get recommendations for curvy, picturesque roads to travel. There were about 35 bikers gathered at the club house, a nicely decked out hall where the 3rd oldest Motorcycle Club in the USA holds it’s weekly meetings. The meeting began with very rigid order, with members, who all wear orange Oakland Motorcycle Club jackets, calling out their attendance: “Colors,” (if they’re wearing their jackets) “Colors and bike,” (if they rode to the meeting) “Colors and dog” (if they had brought their dog along that evening). Eventually, Roel and I were introduced and Roel took the floor to talk about his/our travels a bit. When Roel finished speaking, hands shot up with questions and before he returned to his seat there was a really rousing round of applause and the club decided to take up a “collection” to help support our ride. So the OMC is now an official MTTR sponsor : ) We spent the next hour chatting with club members who were incredibly supportive and encouraging. People offered us places to stay, to ride with us in the area and be contacts for the future. 

Not everyone understands what it’s like to travel overland on a motorcycle, and not everyone can understand why we would want to do such a thing. But EVERYONE has a dream, and the people we have met during this portion of our journey, including those in the Napa/San Francisco area, really just reinforce the notion that people are good everywhere and will help you out however they can. Whether it be with route advice, a warm place to sleep, a hot shower, a home cooked meal or a friendly wave from a passing car on the highway that warms our hearts when we can’t feel our fingertips.

With our spirits buoyed beyond what we could have anticipated, we rode off into the night, accompanied for a few miles by new OMC friends. We didn’t get too far before it got too cold to carry on, but we got beyond the reaches of San Francisco traffic, which would allow us to make it to Southern California in time for the Long Beach Motorcycle Show. 

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