Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mira Mesa Bike Night

mira mesa bike night
Every Thursday night, around 8:00pm, in the parking lot of Mira Mesa Market Center, on the corner of Westview Parkway and Mira Mesa Blvd, is the Mira Mesa Bike Night.

It's probably one of the only bike nights that gathers around a Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery.

Bikes park in the parking lot under an amber-colored parking lot light and folks just stand around and talk about the motorcycle life. You can go in for a hot Sumatran Roast or an ice cold chocolate chip waffle cone, but most seem to be fine standing with the bikes, lighting up a cig, and reenacting a more miniaturized version of Zorba's on a Thursday night.

But then again, Southern California is full of competing bike nights. On the same evening, Cycle Gear runs a bike night at their San Diego and San Marcos locations, which tend to draw more people due to free food. After the weenies and Mountain Dew have been depleted, many riders gather at Mira Mesa for the night cap.

Sash was a little spoiled because her only two bike experiences were in Tulsa, OK, which was medium-sized, and the big one in Memphis, TN at Beale Street. Mira Mesa Bike Night is rather small, albeit it was only April, and bike nights usually don't get going until the Summer months.

We met up with an old counter-part of mine from my earlier days of rolling with indie riding clubs, Alex. Alex had been the VP of the California-chapter of Twisted Riderz, while I had been a co-founder of Heatwave RC. In those day, we had kept track of each other and our respective RCs. There were times when our clubs joined up on some outings. As the years went by, Alex left his club while the Heatwave kinda languished into hiatus. I had lost touch with Alex until I had crossed paths with him at a Cycle Gear one afternoon.

Since then, we're back to keeping an eye on each other, though still only hooking up once in a blue moon.

mira mesa bike night
Sash is in the lower-right while Alex is seen deep into the lower-right corner.

For Sash and I, hanging out at a bike night is like taking a break from our work, getting out of the apartment, and getting some of the local motorcycle culture back into our blood.

Somehow, seeing all the sportbikes in the parking lot and the guys wearing various sportbike club colors, makes me want to get a little 600cc rice burner and roll with them. But they're all in their 20s, and I'm now in my late 40s. To them, I'd be like the Piney lugging around an oxygen canister.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Icefields Parkway Motorcycle Trip

icefields parkway
Icefields Parkway, with Sunwapta River
With a name like "Icefields Parkway", you'd expect it to be pretty cold there. So when I rode it in July 2010, it was still pretty damn cold, rainy, and downright miserable. But still quite beautiful.

Icefields Parkway connects two of Alberta's great national parks, Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. Likewise, it connects the two tourist towns of Jasper and Banff. It's called "Icefields" because the route takes you right up to the Athabasca Glacier, where you can ride a bus-sized Sno-Cat right on to the ice.

Most motorcycle riders talk about starting from the south at Banff and riding north to Jasper. But I was on my way back from Alaska, and took the opposite direction.

While Banff is the most talked-about of the two national park, I found Jasper to be equally as beautiful, if not more, with its mountain peaks and serene lakes. Banff is far more touristy, more crowded, and commercialized. Jasper feels like Canada, while Banff feels like USA.

I rolled into Jasper along the Yellowhead Highway sometime in the evening. At this latitude, during the Summer months, it still manages to stay light out until late. I was with two other guys, Paul and Mike, each riding Goldwings. I was on my Honda ST1300.

We pulled into a park campground, and there were two French-Canadian employees at the gate taking camping fees. Each space cost $27.00 Canadian per night, which at the time was equal to US Dollars. Everything in Canada is way expensive.

"You will have to purchase two camp spots", the French-Canadian girl said to us as the three of us pulled up to the window.

"Two camp spots?" I said.

"Yes", she answered.

"But we're just on motorcycles, we don't take up much room", I explained.

"It doesn't matter. Each camp spot is limited to one four-wheeled vehicle. You have six wheels together, you have to buy two camp spots."

No way were we going to fork over a total of $54.00 so that the three of us could camp.

"What if one of us parks our bike outside of the campground?" Mike said.

The French-Canadian girl turned to her co-worker, and the two talked it over in French. Then she turned to us and said, "There is a limit of two tents per camp spot. You still have to buy two camp spots."

"What if I park my motorcycle outside the campground, and sleep on the ground without a tent?" I asked.

The French-Canadian girl turned back to her co-worker and they discussed for awhile in French. Then she turned back to us and said, "How can you sleep on the ground without a tent?"

"You just do it." I said.

She turned back to her co-worker and discussed it some more in French. Then she said, "OK, but one of you must park your motorcycle outside the campground, and you are limited to only two tents. We will be checking on you to make sure!"

And then they let us in.

whistlers campground jasper
I think this may have been Whistler's Campground, I can't recall.
It seems like of all the times I pulled into a campground at a state or national park in the United States, they always let us slide, often because we're on motorcycles and we're just staying the night.

Paul and Mike pitched their tents and decided to hit the sack early after a long day's ride. I wanted to go into the town of Jasper and hit up a few bars. I got a burger and beer at one place, and then chatted with some others.

One guy who was a local told me I had to go to Athabasca Lounge around 9:30pm. Apparently, 9:00pm is when all the tourist places close up for the night, and all the employees hit the Athabasca Lounge thirty minutes later and party like mad dogs.

So I went there.

Jasper is full of college kids who work there during the Summer months. The town is far enough away from other cities that it's like an island. The college kids all have sex with each other as a result.  One guy told me that Jasper has the highest STD rate in the country. While I was at the Athabasca, a girl wearing a banana costume stuffed my hand with a few condoms. Girls were asking me to buy them drinks and go dancing. I bought them drinks and danced, but that was it.

Around 1:00am or so, I parked my motorcycle right in our camp spot where I was told not to by the French-Canadians. I didn't pitch my tent because it was already pitch black. But I managed to find a soft spot on the ground and laid my sleeping bag on it for the night.

The next morning, the rains came down.

As soon as I felt it tapping the material on my sleeping bag, I hauled myself out of the bag and rolled it up before it took on too much water. The last thing you want after a long day of riding is to slip yourself into a cold, soggy sleeping bag.

We hit up a coffee shop before heading out.  I pulled out the three unused condoms I had and put them into basket of sweetener packets.  They blended right in.

By the time the three of us got on the road, the rain was falling quite hard.

I stopped to look at Athabasca Falls, and took a few photos. From there it was a 180 mile ride south down the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93).

athabasca glacier
Athabasca Glacier with vistor center.
The coldest section of the road came at Athabasca Glacier, about the halfway point of the Parkway. There's a visitor center that sells tickets to ride the Sno-Cat. Otherwise, it's a warm, dry area to get some food and hot coffee.

Once you get further south to about Lake Louise, the highway becomes congested. It's a mecca for tour buses and RVs. There are fast-food restaurants and gas stations everywhere. It doesn't really look like a national park anymore. It was around this time the rain let up.

I opted to stop at Johnston Canyon, which is a hike up a rocky stream, where there's enough water and rapids for kayaks to brave.

I pulled into the town of Banff, cold, wet, and miserable. I decided to get a room for the night. Banff is just like Jasper, really touristy, but about 10-times bigger. Lots of pubs, shops, boutiques. It's a great place to take the wife for an romantic vacation.

TIP: Between Lake Louise and Banff, take the Bow Valley Parkway (1A), which parallels the Icefields Parkway, it's much less congested and more twisty.

athabasca falls
Athabasca Falls
athabasca lounge jasper
Athabasca Lounge, Jasper, AB, where all the night life happens
big rock brewing calgary alberta
Big Rock Brewing, based out of Calgary, AB. I had a glass at a restaurant near Lake Louise.  Canadian microbrews tend to be more malty, less hoppy, than their American counterparts.
maligne lake jasper
Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park
lake louise
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, it's difficult to get a good panorama photo due to all the tourists that get in the way
johnston canyon kayaking banff
Kayaks navigating down Johnston Canyon, you can hike the canyon and watch them go by.
banff, alberta
Downtown Banff, AB is heavily touristed, but still very picturesque

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lost My Motorcycle Glove in Canada

lost motorcycle glove
8th Street, Dawson Creek, British Columbia, July 2010
Going through photos from my Alaska ride in 2010, I came across this one, and decided to write about it.

On my way back from Alaska, I found myself in Dawson Creek, BC, at the start of the Alaska Highway (for me it was the end of the highway because I was going the other direction). I had been looking for a motel to stay the night and had ridden out towards the airport when I decided to stop and check my phone.  I took off my gloves and stuffed them into the handrails on the backseat of my Honda ST1300.

When finished, I turned around and rode back into the main part of town.

I was in the downtown portion of Dawson Creek, along 102 Ave, where business seemed to be dead. I was stopped at an intersection pulled my phone back out to check the location of nearby motels, when a woman pulled up beside me in her car.

"One of your gloves flew off of your bike!" she said.

She had followed me this far just to tell me about it.

I knew right away what she was talking about. I realized I had left my gloves stuffed into the handrails and never put them back on.

"Where did you see it fly off?" I asked.

"From your back seat!" she said.

"No, I mean where in town?"

"Oh, back on 8th Street!"

I thought about asking her where on 8th street, since it's a big street, the main drag of the city. But I opted not to, because it appeared she was ready to get going. I turned around and headed back for 8th street.

I rode slowly along the side of the road, scanning in all directions for a small summer glove either in the roadway or in the gutter. I must have traveled along the entire length of 8th street, and didn't find it. Finally I turned around and headed back, figuring my glove was lost for good, and that I would buy another pair.

About halfway back, I saw it laying there, on a grate.

To think, that glove had traveled from China (where it was probably made) to San Diego to Fairbanks, AK and over to Dawson Creek, BC, only to wind up in the sewer. The stories it would tell to rats and other pieces of junk about the places it had seen over the past few years.

And yet, I managed to rescue it.

It was actually a pair of Harley-Davidson gloves I bought a couple years earlier at a Harley dealer in San Marcos, CA. It was only $19.99, which is really cheap for Harley gear. It had a thin leather layer for the palms, and breathable textile on top. I really like those gloves.

I believe it was in Norfolk, VA, last summer on Road Pickle, that those gloves finally fell apart. I tossed them into the trash at a gas station. I had worn them for about 5 years.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)