Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

The ride from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas could have been a simple 250 mile jaunt through the desert. However, that would have been too easy. I extended the ride with a trip down memory lane and a date with a bridge.

Although I have certainly not had a life long desire to ride Route 66 I couldn't miss the chance to experience a little of it. It just so happens that a 130 mile stretch of the original route lies west of the Grand Canyon. I rode it, stopped at a few 1950s memorabilia tourist traps, bought the all important sticker for the bike and carried on. (Can you tell that I wasn't overly impressed with the experience?)

1950s diner on Rote 66

Dam - no Unleaded!

Route 66 was OK but the next bit was the fulfilment of a 25 year dream (well, sort of). I distinctly remember my History teacher at school telling us about this millionaire American buying up London Bridge, dismantling it, transporting it to the Arizona desert and re assembling it – only to discover that what he had bought was the London Bridge when he thought the London Bridge was Tower Bridge. What that had to do with Robert Peels Corn Laws, Garibaldi and the Unification of Italy or Lord Palmerstones gunboat diplomacy – the only other things I remember Mr. Waters teaching me - I have no idea. But I have always remembered the story of London Bridge being in the Arizona desert, so I just had to detour a couple of hundred miles to see it. 

Now THIS really is History. London bridge was built in 1831 but by the 1960 it was sinking (due to all the traffic). Robert McCulloch bought it (as a propaganda stunt to develop Lake Havasu City) for $2.5 million. It was dismantled, shipped over and rebuilt at a total cost of over $5 million. The purchase also included the cast iron bridge lampposts, moulded from French cannons captured during the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. Having been on the road for nearly three months and having juts racked up 14,000 miles it was very strange to come across something “British” in the middle of the Arizona desert. It almost made me feel homesick and patriotic. Almost....
This could be London - but it's Arizona

Las Vegas. Hum, what can I say. I think the best I can do is quote from David and Jills blog. (I met David and Jill at the adventure bike meeting in Canada two months ago. I've been following their blog and they are now just a day or so ahead of me. They left Vegas on Friday morning.

As the saying goes “what happens in vegas stays in vegas" so we won't talk about the obesity, the greed, the extravagance, the waste, the hardworn looking people or our depression about seeing it all.

I found Vegas quite hard to cope with. After 3 months in the wilderness ANY big city was going to be an assault on the senses. But Vegas takes the biscuit. I went into MGM Casino on the Friday night. The casino is the size of FOUR football pitches. And in one corner they have a glass cage with lions in it! (When I took the photo there were no lions but they are there every day from 11-7 p.m.) I found the whole experience quite sad and depressing.

I arrived on The Strip at 4:30 p.m. on Friday after a 400 miles ride through the hot desert. Way to go Dom, good plan!

Can you see the fear in my eyes?

I know it's not clear but it's the Harley Davidson bar. USA flag made out of chains.

Lion cage on right in the casino. Made me speechless.

Sunday 8 a.m. I was out of there. I hit the road for Death Valley. Stopping at a nondescript town to fill up with petrol I saw a familiar motorbike parked outside a Motel. It was Patrick! I'd hooked up with Partick way back in the Yukon and we'd travelled for four or five days down Canada. I last saw him the day Tracy arrived in Banff. Again, I'd been in touch with him – he's the one who told me about the salt flats speed week – but I hadn't actually caught up with him anywhere. Well, here he was. The first familiar face I'd seen since leaving Trents a month ago. It was great to see someone I knew and we had a good long chat comparing notes on the places we'd been to and the whole experience of being on a three month motorbike trip.

Pat's Africa Twin

Sea Level and heading down...

Death Valley - 200 feet below

Death Valley itself was quite cool. It actually rained on me for 5 minutes on my way into the valley (first time in 10 years someone said) and riding below sea level was weird but not in the same way as riding at altitude. It's not as if you really notice anything about being 200 feet below the sea. Patrick and I had slightly different agenda, and although we may well meet up in Mexico I said goodbye at Furnace Creek in Death Valley and rode in the valley of the shadow of death all on my own-some. I'm so brave...
Not much out there

Next day – next National Park. But before I could get into Yosemite I had to climb up to 9,000 feet. That meant I heading into the first snows of the winter. What a bizarre feeling. 24 hours earlier I had been 200 feet below sea level in 30+ degrees C. Now I was at nearly 10,000 and it was snowing. No two days in the office are ever the same in this job.

Welcome to Yosemite

I'd rather be on sand

You don't say

Yosemite was very pretty, very well organised and very busy. I managed to find the walk-in campground (all RV type campgrounds are booked up months ahead – even for a monday in late October). But the walk-in campground wasn't full and was only $5. It was busy though and I seem to have stumbled across some sort of rock climbing convention. Yosemite has some 3000 feet shear granite cliffs and it draws climbers from all over the world. I heard more French than English being spoken and lots of skinny young people carry ropes.

Yosemite is also quite famous for its Black Bears (here we go again). The statistic I saw said that in 1998 1,100 cars were broken in to by bears in Yosemite. When I was checking into the campground I was told to leave absolutely nothing in my car or tent – I was to put it all in the bear lockers. I did as I was told, and went to bed that night with my trusted old pepper spray.

Next morning (Tuesday 19th) I was just about to leave and I saw yet another familiar bike. This time it belonged to David and Jill. I had finally caught up with them. I went over and found them and we had a good long chat. 

David abd Jill - on Nancy a 1982 BMW R80

To cut a long story short we spent most of the day together riding through Yosemite stopping at Mariposa Gorge to see the world largest (by volume) living organism EVER on this planet. The Sequoia tree. Not quite as tall as the Redwoods the sequiou and hugely wide. Up to 12 metres in basal diameter, and they can live for well over 2,000 years, perhaps even 3,000.

That's big

David and Jill were heading for San Fransisco and I was going a little south of there so we said our goodbyes, hoping perhaps to meet up again in Mexico or beyond. It's been really quite odd to have been on my own for so long and then to bump into three people I knew within two days. But now it's just me and Heidi again as we head for the California coast. I've got the bike booked in for a tyre change in L.A. On Friday and plan to cross into Baja California Sunday morning. Another phase of this trip seems to be coming to a close and I'm going to try to savour all the things I have enjoyed of travelling through the US in the next three or four days. Once I hit Mexico lots of things are going to change.

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