This is a photo laden post but don't miss the video which is short and gives a great sense of the trip.
I started out with the BMW boxes, but as I left I discovered my soft luggage from Andy Strapz in Australia had arrived.
I switched over and was amazed that the bike could be so much lighter, more compact, and still carry the same load. It seemed promising.
I started with french toast at the famous bike stop on Highway 35, Alice's Restaurant.
After careening through Panoche Valley and lumbering down Interstate 5, I emerged in the vast, open landscape of the Carrizo Plain.
I wasn't the only one moving through the plains that day.
It has an endlessness about it and is one of my favorite places in California, especially in spring when the whole area is submerged in wildflowers.
Southward still lie the mountains and the sinuous Highway 33. I stayed the night with some dear friends in Los Angeles after 520 rapturous and rigorous miles. The next day I put my head down and rocketed across the desert adding another 515 miles to the tally bringing the grand total to 1035 miles in two long days. But at last I was at the Expo. I set up camp and awoke early to discover just what I had gotten myself into.
Right away I met the inimitable Bill Dwyer, author of Anxiety Across the Americas, which was great timing as I was rife with anxiety being alone among thousands, a thousand miles from home.
Then I took in the legendary Austin Vince's tremendously engaging talk about making a proper film of your journey.
Soon another of my moto-heroes popped up in the form of the incomparable Lois Pryce. She signed my windshield for good luck and raised my spirits. Eventually Ted Simon, Chris Scott, Austin and the Mondo Sahara crew, and filmmaker Sterling Noren all contributed their signatures!
Their words of encouragement would immediately come in handy.
The next morning I joined a group ride with about thirty 1200GS riders. It was slated to be a "basic" 2 hour ride and ended up lasting for four, rutted, rocky, tree-lined, sandy-bermed, dusty hours. I stayed with the top two or three riders and learned a tremendous amount as I outpaced most of the group and felt wonderfully challenged but in control. It was invigorating and confidence-inspiring. Sterling's words to "Ride hard and take chances" resonated.
This is the dusty face of contentment and newly found confidence!
Another highlight was the well crafted Adventure Travel Film Festival hosted by Austin Vince. We got to enjoy the world premiere of Mondo Sahara followed by a Q&A with the team.
Just like that the weekend was drawing to a close under Arizona's dramatic skies.
The next morning it was time to roam. At least one of us had that option...
I made my way north to the Hoover Dam and through Las Vegas to a place I had always dreamed of going.
The internet had assured me the temperature would peak in the 80s... I was artfully deceived.
Here I am sinking to new lows in the wide, hot, open spaces of the morbidly named park. Apparently the first non-native travelers who tried to cross it ran into troubles. One person died during the trip and that tarnished the place's reputation enough that it was labeled the valley of death. The name stuck. Descending through the Funeral Mountains will still put a chill down your back and refresh any uncertainties you might have. (click the image to see it properly)
The scale of the place actually reminded my of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania... except not green. There were some proper dunes to be found and they stood lovely and forbidding in the late afternoon light.
Leaving Death Valley through the vast Panamint Valley and high desert.
I stayed in Lone Pine in the shadow of Mount Whitney. The end of a 550 mile day.
It is morning in Mono Basin, and the famous lake and its gangrenous tufa formations continue to spark curiosity and fascination.
A sunrise in miniature.
Returning through Tioga Pass and Yosemite National Park was what you might expect... simply beautiful. Perhaps I'll head to the Expo again next year. Many thanks to everyone who supported my trip, from the lovely people I met, to my employers, and crucially, to the love of my life. More journeys lay ahead...
Here is the eventual line I scrawled across the map as I meandered. Click it for more detail.
As an aside, here is a video chronicling one of the hazards of returning to civilization after having enjoyed the pleasures of more remote regions.