L.A. - Scottsdale - Vancouver

Once my bike insurance had expired and Canada’s mafia, (government controlled insurance service) had refused to renew it until I was back in Canada, my trip was forcibly cut short.

My bike had been sitting undercover on an Arizona balcony overlooking a swimming pool. I new she wasn’t lonely but I missed her, on top of that, the owner of the balcony was moving house and my agreed transport back to Canada had waited until I arrived back in Scottsdale to notify me that they were changing their plans last minute. It was a week before the move.

I had driven across the desert from LA, about a 7 hour drive with my friend Jess. We had stayed at the Omni hotel for a night, (if you get the chance to stay there do it, its beautiful and whats more, for a fake desert city they’ve managed to capture a European vibe pretty well). The plan was to stay in Scottsdale for a week and then load up a U-haul and share the driving up to Vancouver between three of us. As it turned out, the change of plans meant my bike wouldn’t fit in the U-haul and I wouldn’t be driving back to Canada. Thankfully (I am extremely thankful-there was a lot) they could still take my luggage. So Jess and I jumped back in the car and headed back to LA to make other plans, my bike was still in Arizona, with a week until the moving date.

I googled around to find shipping services and a friend had heard about a company called Wolverine Shipping. At this point I have to stress – DO NOT USE THESE GUYS! I called and found their prices reasonable so I went ahead and paid through Paypal. I had a reserved pick up day and time and when that day arrived, and I had heard nothing I started experiencing worry. I called the following day and I couldn’t get through, please bear in mind at this time the house was now empty and the keys were getting handed over the following day. My bike was still in Arizona and upon a google search for Wolverine Shipping complaints, my heart sunk. Hundreds of pissed off customers had lost money and received no shipping through this company. Jess, the angel she is, with a smile on her face jumped back in the car with me that morning and we drove all the way back out there to bring the bike to LA.

We crossed the Arizona border around 6pm. It was 110F / 43C and the sunset was beautiful. Another hour or so down the road there was chaos everywhere. Storm warnings started popping up on our phones and before we knew it we were dodging fallen trees and pieces of buildings in the street. At one pint a man whole cover rolled passed us as the wind carried it down the main road. It was a ferocious weather front. We stayed at the Clarendon that night and as we walked into building we were greeted by the smell of damp dog and mud. The front desk was surrounded by towels on the floor and buckets strategically placed to catch water dripping from the leaking ceiling that the storm (and bad construction) had caused. The evaluators were out of order (not rude, they just weren’t working) so we had to hike up a load of stairs, we were already over the trip.

We survived the night and the next morning I headed to U-haul to pick up the hugest rental truck I’ve ever seen. They probably required a different driving licence for this thing, like a truck driver’s licence but it was all they had. It was for a three bedroom house removal and all I had to put in it was my bike. On top of which we attached a trailer to tow Jess’ car so we could drive back together and share driving the long miles. Once we picked the bike up and loaded it on (had to go and buy straps first from ‘go AZ motorcycles’) we drove back to the U-haul place, attached the trailer, and drove the car on. BANG! They had given us the wrong trailer, the front end of Jess’ car was all dinged up, the bumper was hanging off and it was a right mess. The guy apologised and gave us some wood blocks to assist in getting the car off at the other end. We were pretty tired and overheated but we were finally back on the road. It was already 4pm and in the rush hour traffic, this thing took up all of the motorway lane. There must have been about an inch either side of the wheels before the lines. It was one of the most stressful driving experiences of my life and it ended up taking us about 8 or 9 hours to get back. Each stop had to be google mapped first as we couldn’t reverse it and we needed to ensure there was a way in and out of each car park without needing to turn around. By the time we got back to LA it was past midnight. We needed to take the car off, disconnect the trailer, take the bike off, put it in the garage, re-attach the trailer, get gas and drop it all off at the U-haul drop off. On every step of this process something went wrong. I can laugh at it now as I write this but at midnight after two days of non stop desert driving we were over it.

We were in a pitch black alley way so I had my phone light shining up under the car as I lay on the filthy floor by bins, untangling the mess of ratchet straps and chains the U-haul guy had stuck on. I placed the wooden blocks under the tires and slowly edged the car off. This time there was a worse noise than before. I looked over at Jess’ face and she was not impressed. The whole bumper had pretty much been ripped off. Fucking U-haul. I had no choice but to carry on moving the car off, I mean, we had to get it off somehow. I disconnected the trailer, moved it out of the way, that thing sure was heavy at that time of night. As sweat ran down my back and into my eyes I set the ramp down and slowly rolled my bike out. I opened the garage and pushed my bike forward when I hit a pile of gravel someone had dumped right outside Jess’ garage door. By bike went over and snapped a piece off the foot peg. Now I had the unpleased look on my face too. It was a shared feeling, neither of us had to discuss. We popped the bumper back onto Jess’ car as best we could and we set off towards U-haul. I followed Jess to the drop off center looking for gas on the way. The only reasonably prices gas stations wouldn’t accept my British credit cards so I had to spend a couple hundred dollars to fill up the tank of this beastly oversized truck at a Chevron station. We got to the drop off place and there was no one around, no signs just a U-haul logo on the way in. It was a hotel car park. The length of the truck and the attached trailer meant I couldn’t park it in a space so I parked across six instead and dumped it there. I couldn’t move it if I wanted to, it would have needed to be backed up and with that trailer that wasn’t happening. By now it was around 2am. As we walked around looking for a key drop I decided I was over it and would leave it in the hotel for U-Haul to figure out. After ringing the nightwatchman’s phone for a while he emerged pointing to a box inside the locked hotel lobby saying key drop. Another useless design by U-hual. He let me in and I dropped the key off. I was so happy to be done with it! We got back in the car and drove home to the sound of plastic and rubber grinding together as the damage became more apparent. I tore off the wheel lining and part of the bumper and sat in the passenger seat, sweaty, broken, covered in oil and dirt but not defeated. We had beaten every challenge thrown at us. We carried our bags inside, grabbed showers and water, looked at each other and both started laughing. Adventure starts when shit starts going wrong, I feel like thats life. How boring an existence it would be if there were no trials or struggles, it’s true what they say, it really is the journey not the destination.

The following day I found another company, one I had previously had a quote from to ship my bike form Arizona to Washington. The price was the same from LA, I wish I had taken their quote the first time obviously but I was trying to save money and it hadn’t worked. The change of plans had ended up costing me over a thousand dollars extra but it 100% made me stronger. I know I can take on daunting challenges and power through exhaustion and be able to laugh at it all afterwords. On top of that I got to hang out in LA and ride with some rad people for a couple of weeks, including the ‘British Customs’ guys, Zach, Andrew from cb builds and a load of others. I also got a couple of shoots in with Jess and avoided a 26 hour drive up to Vancouver.

I flew into Vancouver a few days before by bike was due for delivery and set up shop in my mate Owen’s place. After a couple of days of organising things I woke up on what I had termed bike arrival day. No company would deliver the bike across the border so I had had it delivered to Blaine, Washington, the closest place in the US to Vancouver Canada. I was all booted up and ready to drive across the border when I called the shipping company to check the delivery time. Owen happened to have the day off work and his 1950’s truck had just come out of restoration so we had an adventure planned. But the delivery company had other plans, they had lost my bike somewhere. Thankfully a few hours later they had found it again but it was going to be another three days until delivery. So three days later I tried again. This time I only had a ride to the border, which was way better than a greyhound ride with all the changes so I was stoked and thankful for that. I was however completely hungover. This was the second time crossing this border (if you read my first post from back in January you’ll understand) and I was in a terrible state again.

Once through the border, and with the help of the rad U.S. customs guy who had found me a phone number for the only taxi in Blaine (yes there is only one taxi, not only one taxi service but one car) I walked into the U.S. and waited for the cab to arrive while trying to stomach a Subway sandwich. The subway chic gave me a couple of free cookies but I couldn’t get them down so I stuffed them into my helmet bag when she wasn’t looking and walked out rubbing my stomach as if to say ‘what a great feed’.

The driver arrived 30 mins later and we immediately got lost. He capped the meter at $10 which was great but I needed out of the cab and pronto. I was nearly swallowing my own vomit every time he took a corner. Eventually we made it to the post receiving station and I signed and paid for my bike. She fired up first time although sounding a little worse for ware herself. I filled up and headed back to the border to be interrogated by some Canadian immigration ladies form hell.

Canada has always had the worst immigration officers in the world in my opinion. Having travelled to 50 countries I feel I can comment on this with knowledge and insight and there’s just no need for the harshness of their questioning. They even went through my friends phone conversations and pictures and checked another friend’s email accounts. I don’t know how this Nazism is even legal… and the U.S. get a bad rap for crossing personal boundaries.

After explaining my situation about ten times to two of the dumbest women I have ever encountered I proceeded back onto Canadian soil and cruised back to Vancouver. The trip was over. Eight months after I left, 8000 + miles and three countries later. A load of incredible experiences, an array of new friends and a lifetime of memories. That was one hell of a trip, one great adventure and a priceless escapade.

Aestival Knievel is born.

Mexico

EDR 2015

It started as a visa run and became so much more. El Diablo Run or #edr6 saw the merging of not only bike cultures but nationalities with people coming from Europe, South America, Central America and all over North America.

 

The ride from Scottsdale to Mexicali was a scorcher. i departed at 6am, fully laden with camping gear a supplies and headed south to run along the Mexican/US border.

 

I had been in touch with Bill from Biltwell and he had told me they were meeting at a place called Foster’s freeze. I set it in my maps and headed on over. I arrived and quickly realised apple maps had taken me to the wrong place, about 20 minutes from the actual Foster’s freeze. I hooned it on over towards the border thinking I had missed the party only to see a panhead sitting by the side of the road, owner in situe looking unamused. I pulled over and hung out while the dude ran into a store to look for parts before carrying on. I was sure I had missed everyone by now but as I came over the brow of a hill I saw a large golden cock (the chicken kind, not a phallus) surrounded by bikes and beards. This had to be them.

 

I got chatting to a couple of guys whom I would later befriend and ride with for the majority of our trip when I finally ran into Bill. He let me know they would be leaving in 30 so I grabbed some snacks and mounted up ready to cross the border, a convoy of maybe 20 stoked to ride into the unknown with some fellow soldiers.

 

The ride down to San Felipe was unbelievable. Every landscape imaginable from scenes similar to mad max fury road to salt flats, mirages blurring the horizon into a seamless canvas of white sand and salt into a cloud free azure sky.

 

I rode with a couple of Triumphs and started shooting some ride-by’s when my GoPro mount broke off sending my camera tumbling down the freeway at 70mph. The housing broke open and the camera took some damage but fortunately the lens was intact, pretty amazing really, the dudes didn’t stop for me so I was on my own picking up the pieces 100 meters back down the road.

 

I finally caught up with another group and followed them (hoping they were part of edr) to the campsite. Thankfully it was the same crew and I pulled up next to a speedster and got chatting with a dude named José. We were the first to set up camp on the beach in San Felipe. We started chatting about what brought us on this trip and quickly found out we had a lot in common. As soon as the tents were set up we grabbed beers and tacos on the beach and we pretty much stuck together from there on in.

 

José

That night we linked up with another group of people and headed out to check in with the Mexican nightlife. I woke up at about 5am in a million degree heat and ran for the ocean. It felt so good to be back water. At this point it’s the longest Ive been out of the surf since I was 12 years old. Although there were no waves, my connection to the Sea was reinstated and I felt instantly centred. The day consisted of cruising around shooting some pictures and video stuff and eating incredible tacos. Later on we watched the circle of death nearly take a life and the cockagon take some dignity.

 

Circle of death

The following day we were planning of leaving early to head to Ensenada. We packed up and rode out by 7am but quickly ran into a problem. As we were cruising out of San Felipe a chicken truck passed through an intersection in front of us. We pulled away from the stop sign and something whipped me in the face. I saw an electrical cable on the street which was attached to the chicken truck, the driver had forgotten to detach it and it was now winding up in my front wheel. I was on my brakes as quickly as I could but just before I stopped the wire finally locked up around my spokes and laid me down. It was slow enough that I had no injuries but it had snapped my right pedal off meaning I couldn’t use my rear brake properly and for a long ride through the twisties with my right leg sprawled back on the passenger peg I wasn’t down. Fuck you chicken man, you’re not ruining my ride. A cop saw the whole thing and the guy (stupidly) came back to get his cable, but apparently saying “I don’t have any money or insurance” is a free pass to not paying for anything. After 30 minutes of explaining the intricacies of the law that it is illegal for us to not have Mexican insurance but that its fine for Mexicans I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere and with the legend that is José we rolled out to find a welder for a temp fix. I guessed there wouldn’t be Triumph dealership locally.

 

 

 

Weld job to get me back on US soil

 

Hung out with these guys after the chicken man incident

We headed back to camp after finding a couple of welders that couldn’t fix the peg and ran into the guy I had stopped for back at the border. It was so rad he was now helping me, the world really blows my mind sometimes. He linked me up with a local who drove me around town for an hour until we found a welder. All this time José was chilling and waiting with my bike-absolute legend! I got the part patched up, it didn’t fit but with a little botching and super glue to hold a clamp shut we were back on the road. José had moved my bike up to a palapa ands talking with a couple of guys. I said hi as I was doing the repair and we ended up gassing up with these guys. Our wolfpack was formed. Aaron, Leo, José, Justin, Blair and myself.

 

The camp and José

The route to Ensenada was unbelievable. One of my favourite riding days ever. We caught up with a large convoy somewhere in the desert, probably around 200 bikes. Such a rad group to be a part of, bikes as far as the eye can see and nothing but desert to frame it. We fuelled up on tacos and caffeine and cruised onwards, into the mountains where the 40c temperature dropped to the 20’s instantly. A few brake downs and a couple of games of catch up and were back together for the ride into Ensenada.

 

It felt like weeks since we had been in city. Lane splitting and formation riding kept the traffic in check and before we knew it we were at the giant pink hotel, the car park filled with hundreds of bikes.

 

Getting into a room with a shower and a bed after sleeping on sand for a couple of days was like heaven. A penthouse view of the pool and harbour out to sea was a nice touch too. That night was mellow, hanging out in a coffee shop sitting on pillows on the floor and a view of a couple of random kids making out under a blanket to keep us laughing.

 

The next morning we got up early and cruised around shooting and searching for waves (which we didn’t find). We got some decent shots in and had a laugh cruising around with a few off the line races, ending with a pretty epic beach rip song the sand being chased by stray dogs.

 

We loaded up early morning and headed north towards the border. About two hours in we realised we were missing Aaron and Jonathan (another guy we started crying with the day before). We turned back and rode past what seemed like a hundred bikes heading for the border, after about twenty minutes we stopped and decided that we must have passed them somewhere. A load of failed phone calls and a couple of hours waiting and we continued back towards the border, without either of them. I had an eight hour ride back to Scottsdale where I had left my things, so Blair and I stormed towards the border. After some passport stamping I was back on US soil. I left blair and headed East through some of the most incredible riding roads of the trip, didn’t see another person for ages.

 

Jonathan’s bike didn’t make it out of Mexico under its own steam

I started flagging an hour later, the EDR and no sleep had taken its toll on my concentration but luckily I was woken up by a cop I went by at nearly 90mph in a 65mph but of motorway. Without complaining about the ridiculously low speed limits in the states I was in the wrong and $200 later I was sure I was. The ride home along boring freeway merged into a blur of hour after hour of mundanity and with nearly 40 degree celsius heat I was happy to be home to say the least.

Los Angeles

I arrive in LA after a a long morning involving getting all my gear from the boat to my bike… on the other side of the marina. I sweet talk a woman into letting me borrow one from the yacht club and then persuade a couple of ladies to return it for me on the way back.

The ride down from Santa Barbara was pretty boring, only a few hours but the Pacific Coast Highway was closed so I had to take the freeway. Riding along at a steady speed in four lanes of traffic in a jacket in 27 degree weather gets boring pretty quickly.

I arrive at what I can only describe as a guarded roadblock at the entrance to Ashley’s gated community. After 30 seconds of muffled shouting through my helmet (I’m sure the accent barrier didn’t help, Americans are super lazy and only listen in an American accent) the guard worked out my name wasn’t Mary and let me in. the ten minute uphill cruise was beautiful, was more fun than the highway and only a select few get to ride these twisties.

I pull into a vast driveway with a luxury home at the end and stroll over to the front door. Im greeted by a barking dog named Boss, he instantly takes a liking to me and rolls over to play. Ashley closely follows, in a sling from breaking her arm a few days before

Fixing stuff at Ash's.

Fixing stuff at Ash's.

The next day we shot for Ashley's company 'Seiba' and a friend of her's swimwear line. 

A shot of Ashley Olah.

A shot of Ashley Olah.

Shot of Ashley Anderson.

Shot of Ashley Anderson.

Ashley Olah.

Ashley Olah.

Santa Barbera

The next morning I left early to head for LA. I heard from Britt again, her family had a boat in Santa Barbara… and I could stay on it. So, LA was postponed yet again for another great travel opportunity and something completely different.

Diggs.

Diggs.

Morning View.

Morning View.

I arrived at the port and was greeted by what seemed like a million boats. The sun glistened of the water and finding the boat for me appeared daunting. A large beardy man was walking by, picture santa clauses younger brother so I asked the way to the first dock. What followed was unexpected yet entertaining. A thick German accent boomed toward me asking Wher arr yew fram?? After the initial conversation had run its course he decided to walk me to ‘my’ boat (it turned out his was opposite mine in the marina). He went on to explain to me how he had contacted the heads of google, apple, microsoft etc and offered to buy their companies… because this wasn’t life, it was a movie, his movie. Carrying my heavy bags as he wheeled an empty cart (I thought should I ask? No he’s surely noticed the sweat running down my forehead) I at times wished it had been a silent movie. I could see people around listening and laughing as if he where crazy, the thought had crossed my mind too but who knows maybe he’s fully awake, after all, any new way of thinking is always met with hostility.

Santa Cruz

One of the LHC (our costa rica crew) that I lived with in Tamarindo was in Cayucos. Located half way between Santa Cruz and LA, this small town was a godsend. Todays ride through Big Sur was so epic that I had kept stopping to take it all in. I lost track of time and before I knew it the sun was setting just as i rolled into town. I was greeted by that familiar smile and laugh I had heard a thousand times in the surf in Central America, the big gentle giant named Kody welcomed me into his place.

Me and Kody.

Me and Kody.

We hung out on his beachfront roof watching the sunset over the pier that was in repair and caught up on the last few years since the Costa days. As with any travel buddies, when you’re reunited it feels like no time has passed since you last spoke, even if it has been years.

The road of wonderment.

The road of wonderment.

Santa Cruz

It was hard to leave frisco, I love that city. But I am on a journey, and the road is calling.

My next destination was Santa Cruz. Ever since I saw my first santa cruz skates ad in the 80’s I wanted to check this spot out. Britt had a few days booked off work and last minute we decided to travel this leg together. Its cool having women friends, it’s super tough riding with a bro on the back… and all my luggage.

Along the road to Santa Cruz. Photo by Britt.

Along the road to Santa Cruz. Photo by Britt.

We found a great spot in Santa Cruz called ‘Hotel Paradox’. A swimming pool, hot tub, massive rooms and finally… some luxury. After a few weeks on the road I needed a little chill time. This was just the town. SC is a cross between Byron Bay in Australia and Newquay (out of season) in the UK. Surfers, hippies, coffee shops and good vibes flood the colourful streets. We hit up a farmers market with another friend I met in Costa Rica, Nina.

Nina, Britt and me.

Nina, Britt and me.

Nina is attending Santa Cruz University, she arrives on a rad fixie and takes us to a little thai place for lunch. We spend the rest of the day conversing about politics and travel over coffee before hitting a rad little Indian restaurant for dinner.

Touring around Santa Cruz.

Touring around Santa Cruz.

San Fransisco

The road to San Francisco. Mt Shasta, Northern California. Every mile of this road could have provided a backdrop to a Humphrey Bogart film or fulfil a mental image from a Jack Kerouac novel. Yet to start my trip to Frisco, we have to journey back to South/Central America.

Mt Shasta as a backdrop.

Mt Shasta as a backdrop.

I lived in Brazil a few years ago. A one week trip turned into three months, a rented apartment, a short relationship with a Brasileira and a whole lot of surfing. The guys I met there, Felipe and Denis, two cousins, where the most accommodating, frothing surfers I had met on the trip. After only a few days hanging out, we rented a place together. We had a great summer there in Florianopolis and always stayed in touch. When I saw the Felipe was now married and based in San Fran I knew i had to visit him.

I sent a facebook message over asking if he would be around to meet up and he kindly offered to put me up while I was in town. His lovely wife Tatiana cooked us up the meanest breakfasts (including my favourite Brazillian food, Acai). It was nice to chill and catch up, play some guitar hero and catch my breath. The first week had been all go, long non stop stints to break through the coldest weather in Canada and Oregon and make it into Northern California.

My plan was however somewhat stifled when the 49 day drought came to an end and a three day non stop storm hit, the day after I arrived. I had also caught up with Britt, a traveller who had passed through Costa Rica (where I was living at the time) a day before, we spent the rainy days with her friends eating a drinking downtown.

Cruising with Britt.

Cruising with Britt.

Golden Gate Bridge Up's.

Golden Gate Bridge Up's.

I also got to catch up with one of my good friends from University in England, Jonni. Since I last saw him he too had married and moved to SF. We, driven by his husband (who in a past life must have been a SF historian) checked out the entire city. It was basically the most fun day in a car you can imagine, and I learnt a whole heap, which is kind of important when figuring out how and why a city is what it is, ate some great food and laughed all day long.

A view a far, me cruising, photo by Britt.

A view a far, me cruising, photo by Britt.

It was hard to leave frisco, I love that city. But I am on a journey, and the road is calling.

Waterfront rips.

Waterfront rips.

 

    Ashland

    The calm before the storm.

    One night spent in this sleepy town. The ride here was incredible, the rain ferocious and the memories unforgettable. 

    The last sign of blue skies until California.

    The last sign of blue skies until California.

    I spent the best part of the evening drying out my clothes and warming up. 

    I spent the best part of the evening drying out my clothes and warming up. 

    Dinner was from a small pizza joint next door to the Timbers Motel, the water was off so I asked if they had bottled water to which the owner laughed and shook his head. I miss the Canadian service.

    Dinner was from a small pizza joint next door to the Timbers Motel, the water was off so I asked if they had bottled water to which the owner laughed and shook his head. I miss the Canadian service.

     

     

     

      Portland

      The ten hour ride from Vancouver to Portland should have been closer to six.

      Picture the worst riding conditions imaginable. Rain, wind, low visibility, freezing cold temperatures and high volumes of traffic. The wind screams adventure as it forces it’s way past my goggles and into my helmet. I follow the vague red lights ahead, as if looking out from behind a frosted window. I can no longer see the road surface, just mirror images of the lights of the sea of rapidly moving traffic that surrounds me. The rain strikes my body like bullets from a kalashnikov, legs now numb, are responding less and less to my brains commands.

      Day one, blinded by the fog.

      Day one, blinded by the fog.

       

      I pull over to seek refuge from the storm. An all night diner, inside people’s faces say more than the niceties they speak. I no longer feel alone. The cold is now recognisable as an externalisation, something my physical body is aware of but that I no longer fear. I feel our universal connection, empathy or even compassion, I know they feel my pain.

      When I finally got into Portland, 10 hours after leaving Vancouver (4 hours later than planned) my Canadian sim card wouldn’t work. It was 10pm and I was trying to find my friends address so I could get into a warm bed and finally rest. After 30 minutes of driving around in the dark looking for his street I came across a domino’s pizza spot, the same one I had come across 30 minutes before. I had been going around in circles. I went inside and got the delivery driver to draw me directions. Who ever said pizza couldn’t save lives? 11pm I finally made it onto what seemed like the worlds most comfortable sofa and passed out.

      Pittock Mansion

      Pittock Mansion

       

      The next day, my hosts Tim and Mark take me to Pittock Mansion to see what I couldn’t as I rode into town the night before. As in life, reflection requires clarity of vision. Often we are too caught up in the physical and emotional to see the beautiful wonder of life.

      The view over Portland.

      The view over Portland.

       

       

      Vancouver B.C.

      Vancouver. A home away from home for me. Ten years of visits and it still keeps me coming back for more.

      Weight testing the new suspension

      Weight testing the new suspension

      Route planning.

      Route planning.

      Sharp shooting by Dan.

      Sharp shooting by Dan.

       

       

      At the Canada/US border I had to wait an hour in the line because they decided to do an award ceremony (while we were waiting in line) for all the immigration officers ‘efficient work’ go figure.