In late January of 2016, I crated up my BMW 1150 GS Adventure and shipped it from our home in Alaska to Seattle. (For all of you southerners and others who live near the equator or in the tropics… in January and February it is still very much mid winter in Alaska, complete with ice, snow and very cold temperatures.)
This was a shakedown run to Arizona to find out what we needed and did't need to take on our TravEx expedition. I found out that there was a lot of stuff I did not need---which I shipped home on two occasions---and that there was a couple of things that I should have brought along. But I learned to live without them. It is far better to find all of that out on this ride, while it is easy to remedy, than to figure it out in some third world country after we have sold nearly everything that we have (which will finance only part of the expedition) and stored the remaining little bit.
In early February, I flew to Seattle where my good friend and “brother” Merritt picked me up at the airport. The next day we hooked a trailer to his Rubicon and drove to the Tacoma area where the shipping company loaded the bike crate on his trailer.
At his house, we un-crated it, installed the windshield, and I made ready to drive it to Arizona. It is always great to spend time with Merritt. We have known each other since the fifth grade and we have always kept in close contact all of these years. I have watched his kids grow up to become very responsible adults. Merritt and his wife Lois have done a great job raising their family. They have great kids that honor their mom and dad.
I was able to spend some quality time with our oldest daughter who is an RN on the heart team at a major hospital. The only surgery that the team does is open heart, and many are very complicated cases. She is a very sought after nurse, not just because of her great work ethic and amazing skill set, but she also has a photographic memory….and that always helps, LOL!
I also got to spend two days with my favorite cousin and his family. We always have a lot of laughs…and some serious conversations about life, and where the world might be headed. Their daughter came home from college to see me. That meant a real lot.
I crossed the Edmonds Ferry and made the long loop around the Olympic Peninsula. The first half of the 300+ miles I rode that day was very nice warm weather, beautiful. But then things changed. The last half was, in typical rain forest fashion…pouring rain like mad. There was so much water on the road that the giant rain drops were making a big splash as they hit the pavement. Remarkably, I was able to stay dry in my riding gear.
That night cold, very tired and in the dark, I stopped at Mike’s, another very long time friend from high school, and spent a couple of days catching up with him and his family. Mike is a lot of fun to be around…always has something funny to say. He missed his calling; he would have made a great stand-up comic.
On the morning of my departure south from Mike’s I woke up to frost on everything. The road out to the main four lane highway is mostly covered in trees, so I waited until it warmed up, and the frost was gone, especially off the bridges where it is usually the worst.
Entering into Oregon I crossed the bridge at Astoria and headed south along the coast on Hwy 101. One of my most memorable stops was in Tillamook Oregon. I had stopped there for gas and something to eat from a grocery store.
I was driving down the road and way off in the distance I saw “Air Museum” painted on something very large…so large in fact I knew that it could not be just a mere sign post. I mean it was absolutely huge! As I got within view, I saw that it was painted on the roof of an extremely large building. Being a lover of airplanes and have owned a couple of them I had to stop. The museum was housed in an old dirigible hanger and the sign was painted on its massive roof.
In my wanderings through the hanger, I found a cockpit simulator for a U.S. Navy F8 Crusader. This was an incredible find for me…because one of my best friends was an F8 fighter jock in the Navy. Among Don W’s other remarkable flying exploits, he flew F8’s for two tours off aircraft carries in the Viet Nam war. At that time, the F8 was the most complicated single seat fighter that the Navy had ever had and there were more pilots killed in the F8 than all other Navy aircraft combined! But what an amazing performer.
So what did I do? I ran out to the lobby area and retrieved my cell phone from my riding gear, hurried back inside, crawled into the F8 cockpit simulator….and called Don, praying that he was home. And he was. (There are no coincidences in this world, only God orchestrated events and opportunities)
(Let me set the stage here for the rest of this story: Don W. and I have known each other for 35 years or so. He baptized me in Slate Creek where my grandparents and great grand grandfather used to gold mine. We have been in business together on several projects. And we have done some wild and crazy things together. Things that if I wrote about them it would have to be in fiction because many of you would never believe it. I have watched his two sons grow up and become---like their dad---very honorable men of God. And they have both raised great families with conservative Christian values.)
He answers the phone:
I said “W. (I have always called him by his last name) you will never guess where I am”.
“Sitting in an F8 cockpit simulator.”
“Get outa here!!! Where are you??!!”
“I am at an air museum in Tillamook, Oregon.”
W. said, “I have been there and I have been in that same simulator…but there is more to the story. When I was there I looked at the serial number and I know that I trained in the same simulator when it was an operating system and I was in the Navy!!!”
I thought that this was going to be a great chat but at that statement, I was simply stunned. I was chocked up. There were some tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what to say!
So while I set in the same simulator that he used to fly, he proceeded to tell me what every lever, knob and gauge did, and how it worked. And he told me the amazing story of his first solo flight in an F8 (There was never any two seat trainer versions of an F8 ever built! Your very first ride in an F8 was solo.....but Don's first solo story was truly....amazing indeed)
After all of these years, to be able to sit in the very same simulator that my good friend and “brother” Don W. flew……I have to tell you that was one of the greatest things that happened to me on this trip. For all of you non pilots reading this, you might not understand how important that experience was—and still is—to me. However, for all you pilots out there you should understand...........
My ride continued south along the Pacific Coast Highway (not in an F8.....on my bike!! LOL).
Another memorable experience caught me quite by surprise. It unfolded in a way that I could not have guessed. (But, isn’t that how a lot of memorable experiences happen?)
I was in ridding down Hwy 101 through this little town in Oregon that I can’t remember the name of and the hwy took an abrupt turn to the left. Straight ahead, the street climbed a rather steep incline and painted on the pavement of this incline were the clearly visible words “Scenic View”. I had this very distinct feeling (an inner voice telling me)”turn here”. I hesitated for a second and the feeling got more intense. It was God telling me to turn, and in no uncertain terms. So up the hill I went.
At the top of the hill and across a small street was a parking lot with a beautiful view of the ocean, with big rocky island sticking up out of the water and the fog moving in. I said out loud…”Thank you God for this photo op!!" ”There was a big patch of fog just about ready to obscure this one big rock and I was in a hurry to get a photo….this was going to make beautiful photo. I stopped in the parking lot facing the ocean. There was only one vehicle in the parking lot, a delivery van that had been converted into a camper. There was a man and a woman, with their dog taking a selfie together with this beautiful ocean scene as the backdrop.
Facing the ocean view on my bike, the parking lot was so steep to my left that I couldn’t put the kick stand down. So I shut my bike off and set there fumbling with my tank bag to get a small point-and-shoot digital camera out for this great photo op, before the fog obscured it. I still had my helmet on and my ear plugs in. As I was trying to take the photo, the man said something that I could not make out. I continued to try to get a photo as I told him I could not hear what he was saying with my helmet on and ear plugs in. So her he comes to continue the conversation.
I did manage to get a photo, shown here, but it was not the one I really wanted. But in another few minutes, it became wildly apparent that a photo op as not the purpose of this divine stop…not by a long shot.
As I got my helmet off and my ear plugs out I could hear “Bob” now standing beside me, talking somewhere past his first sentence. He asked me what I was doing and I told him very briefly and about the Travessilla Expedition treating kids with dysentery. He said, “So you’re a doctor?” I replied in the affirmative, and that I was a Homeopathic Doctor. He then started to tell me about a life threatening condition that he had. After several minutes of this, I asked him if he wanted some free medical advice. Surprisingly enough he said, in a very enthusiastic voice, yes!. (I don’t know why that was surprising….God led me here!!) I told him to get some paper and a pencil and get ready to take notes as I had a lot to tell him. His wife got a note pad and a pen and frantically took notes as I talked and they both asked me some very intelligent questions.
“Bob”, If you are reading this post I want you to know that I have prayed for you on a number of occasions. And just like we talked about at that overlook on the Oregon coast….get healthy and get right with God! You know what to do!!
So dear reader, the followers of the Travessilla Expedition, what is your "take away" from this story? I would hope that it is this: If you listen with your heart to what God is telling you, he will use you in exciting ways that are far beyond your wildest imagination....Try it and change someones life...and change the world.
I continued ridding south
Riding along the Oregon coast and northern California coast, the ocean vistas are staggering in their beauty in any weather. The scenery is so unspoiled looking, that even near a town, with only a little imagination, a person is able to block out the civilization and imagine being one of the first explores to arrive there…like the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
I found great places to camp near the beach, most were state maintained, and fee areas.
However, living on the coast in Alaska has spoiled me for ocean scenery. By the time I reached Eureka, California I was ready to make better time. So rather than ride down Hwy 1 right on the coast of California, I kept on the Hwy 101 which runs a little more inland. I do not like freeway riding at all, but I was ready for the warm weather of the Arizona desert!!
There were a few memorable things that happened riding south in California:
One of them was the San Francisco Bay Bridge. I have been in California on several occasions but never in SF. Riding across the Bay Bridge was a real treat. It was on the weekend. There were lots of people on the sidewalks and the overlook parking was jammed full of cars. I pulled off for a few seconds but it was so packed that could not find a place to park my bike where I thought someone would not back over it. I road on. I managed to navigate my way through SF on the 101, without using my GPS and without getting lost! Not bad for a country boy from Alaska.
However, Los Angeles was another story!!! I managed to get lost for several hours. I ended up in a less than desirable neighborhood wondering how I had managed to get there. I found a box store and pulled into the parking lot to a bunch of people that new I was way out of place and didn't belong there. I stopped to look at the map on my tank bag and then everyone knew I was lost, LOL. But I have been in some real bad places in the world that made this parking lot look like an afternoon picnic with the nuns. I got my bearings and rode out with a vague idea of where to go.
I wanted to ride across part of the Mohave Desert and I pointed by bike in that direction. I went to Barstow and then east on I-40 to Needles. The Mojave Desert is pretty, lots of miles of not much. I had hoped to find a place to camp---away from a campground. However, with all of those miles of desert, it all seemed to be “locked up” with extremely few side roads to get me away from the interstate highway. Both sides of the interstate were fenced…and I understand that, they need to keep cattle off the highway. But it would be nice to have an access road once in awhile. (Maybe that is all private land?) It is certainly not like Alaska where you can find a place to get off the road and camp in many areas… even if it’s a gravel pit. But there are tradeoffs to everything. California does not have a brown/grizzly bear problem like we have in Alaska. While camping they can become bit a bit of a challenge at times.