Hard Work

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Blue gloves are for handling noxious substances and for role-play
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Rear wheel bearing; this is one of the old ones.  Turns out people are right about jet washing.

DOT 5 - I'm not scared

DOT 5 – I’m not scared

Nice sunset

Nice sunset

Rear Wheel Bearings Replaced

New tools:

  • Hammer (second of trip) – discarded
  • Big screwdriver – discarded (bent)

Bearings went from noisy but no play to, surprisingly, noisy with play.  The load is so heavy, I worried they could actually collapse.

I did the work on a camposite after buying the second hammer of the trip and a big screwdriver to get the dust seals off.  I wish I’d bought new dust seals because they bend when you prise them off.

I was very conscious of the noise because it took a lot of hammering to shift the buggers.  Nonetheless, the only people that spoke to me came to make sure I had everything I needed.  One guy even brought Helen and I a beer each.  This is typical of Americans.

Front Brakes

New tools:

  • Set of picks, as used by a locksmith or a scouser
  • DOT 5 fluid

Front caliper seals replaced. Pistons so stuck I needed the hydraulics to squeeze them out… which is okay for the first one.  To shift the others, I replaced the first piston, poured back in the crappy old fluid that I had cought in a pan (no new stuff to spare), and then brought all the pistons to the brink of falling out in a grown-up game of closer.

You can get the seals out with a terminal screwdriver but it’s better to have a set of picks.  You then need to clear out all of the limescale from the seal seat; you can’t do this without something hook-shaped, hence the need for picks.

I used DOT 5 fluid.  It doesn’t mix with the old stuff and it may rot the seals… I’ll just keep an eye on it.

Front master piston replaced. Cheap master cylinder off ebay came with a replacement piston for free.  This really fills me full of confidence.

Utterly knackered now but at least there was a nice sunset.

Wednesday 23rd-Saturday 26th September- Lake Tahoe to Napa Valley

We had a great ride through the Sierra Nevada to Lake Tahoe.

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The lake is as beautiful as they say. I have only seen water so blue on the coast of Thailand and Greece.

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We stayed at a campsite right on a west shore beach near Tahoma.

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We were very lucky to have direct lake access. The temperature was perfect for lying on the beach. Even Dave lay in the shade of a tree on the sand for an hour. I think it is the first time he has reclined on a beach in about 20 years.

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We had planned a long ride around the lake to Nevada but the whole road was blighted by road works that take 10-15 minutes to get through at each road block, via a pilot car. There were 5 or 6 of these just on the stretch where we were staying. They really go to town on their road works here and they are overly safety conscious in my opinion, which really slows things up.

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We decided to have a quick ride into Tahoe City and saw the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, including a very alpine look ski village.

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We were treated to some great lake views along the way.

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We left Tahoe to head for Napa and Sonoma Valleys north of San Francisco. The plan was to spend a day touring the valleys and then a day in San Fran from our Airbnb 30 minutes outside. During the stay at Tahoe, however, it became apparent that we need rear wheel bearings urgently. A couple of hours was spent at Starbucks using the Wifi and phone to source the parts. It transpired we needed to go to two different shops, one in the centre of San Fran and one in Silicon Valley and then get the parts replaced without riding too far and putting the bike at risk. This meant the whole plan had to be changed and our days in the Napa Valley and San Fran had to be sacrificed.

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We did have a night on a campsite in the Sonoma Valley and got a good feel for the area. It is very attractive, especially early in the morning when there is no traffic but is not a match for wine growing regions in France or Italy. I guess if you have never been to Europe then it is pretty nice.

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We had a crazy trip into the centre of San Francisco.  Thankfully we have a Sat Nav. I was very excited about crossing the Golden Gate Bridge but the whole thing was shrouded in low cloud and fog (as is very common) so we did not get to see much but it was still pretty thrilling. I did catch a glimpse of Alcatraz.

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Riding through the centre of San Fran was great. We went right through the historic and civic district.The Triumph shop was located in the Mission District right in the middle of the city.

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It feels quite exotic  compared to other US cities and is definitely a city I want to come back to and explore in the spring. We managed to pick up the bearings from both shops with no fuss and secured a hotel with an early check in in Sunnyvale, Silicon Valley where we had the chance to smarten ourselves up a bit and have an evening out. We really were starting to look a bit rough, dirty and unkempt so it could not have come at a better time.

Today we are heading back to Santa Cruz for two nights on the beach at a site where Dave can work on the bearings and then we head up to Half Moon Bay and back to Big Sur-all Pacific coast beaches.

Saturday 19th-Tuesday 22nd September-Silicon Valley to Sierra Nevada via Yosemite National Park

I love California. I knew I would. In Mountain View (in the heart of Silicon Valley) people actually had pomegranates, figs, lemons and oranges growing in their gardens. 50% of the cars here seem to be a Toyota Prius. They have them in colours I have not even seen before. There is of course also a proliferation of kale salads, green smoothies and tempeh sandwiches. All right up my street. It’s hard to explain but the people in California seem  familiar to us, the most normal in the country. Apart from that the state is also stunningly beautiful.

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After three nights spent in an Airbnb at Mountain View, California, seeing Foo Fighters in concert and working on job applications, we left for the beach at Santa Cruz.

foofighters

It is always hard to get camping reservations for Saturday night, wherever you are in the US but we had managed to get a last minute booking at a stunning site on the cliff top just outside Capitola. The weather has been pretty hot the last few days but the site was cool with the sound of the ocean crashing below us.

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The beach was lined with houses just like the one Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford lived in in the film The Way we Were (or just like Two and a Half Men, as Dave pointed out). This is the first Pacific coast beach I have walked on that actually had other people on it.

We set off very excited on Sunday morning for Yosemite. In order to get to the mountains we had to cross a hot, flat area, agricultural area which was not a lot of fun. California has not had much rain for 4 years and is in a severe drought. This is a real problem as the state grows most of the country’s food. We rode through many miles of totally parched landscape which is clearly desperate for rain. Not wanting to sound selfish, we hope it waits until we have left in another 3 weeks.

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This beautiful reservoir was looking very dry and the landscape had taken on a Valley of the Kings look.

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Arriving in Yosemite, we were immediately impressed by the staggering beauty of the place with sheer rock faces towering above the Yosemite Valley where most of the campsites and guest services can be found.

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Camping here is not a wilderness experience. Curry and Yosemite Villages are service centres run by the park, housing a massive supermarket, a variety of cafes and restaurants,museums and a lounge complete with rocking chairs and WiFi. Having had plenty of wilderness experiences already, we absolutely loved the convenience of it all.

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Having said that, the things that made it so special, apart from the landscape, was the atmosphere on the campground after dark with the stars twinkling and the smell of woodsmoke. It was really special.

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Bears here are very used to humans and show up regularly on the campsite looking for human food. A bear has to eat 5,000-20,000 calories per day at this time of the year-all from foraging for berries and the like so the option of high calorie human food is very attractive. All pitches come with supersize bear boxes for your food and toiletries plus instructions not to leave you food out of arms reach or even turn your back on your food. To make things worse, squirrels in the park now carry plague.

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We did not see a bear while we were there but we know they were about as we could hear the rangers guns going off after dark, shooting rubber bullets to keep the bears away. I know this sounds harsh but it is for the protection of the bear not the humans. A fed bear is a dead bear and all that. We did see a lot of squirrels though, some too friendly for our liking. We read up on the symptoms of plague to be on the safe side.

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The ride through the park this morning was really beautiful.

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Once out of the park we stopped at a cool, 50s style diner in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains and treated ourselves to veggie burger and fries.

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The landscape outside of the park is almost as beautiful as inside. In some ways better than the Rockies.

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At our motel Dave oiled the chain using an empty mustard bottle with a cool backdrop.

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Tomorrow we head to Lake Tahoe for two nights and then onto the Napa Valley. Before that one last photo of Yosemite.

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Saturday 12th-Tuesday 15th September Pacific Coast of Orgeon and N. California

We left Portland on Saturday after two very relaxing nights. We liked Portland a lot but then we expected to. It is not nearly as pretentious as people make it out to be (at least not the parts we saw). In our neighbourhood near the Alberta District loads of people owned old cars (I mean from the 70s and 80s) and lots of gardens had veg patches. There seemed a real community feel.

On the way to the coast we passed an old covered bridge like in The Bridges of Madison County.

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Clint Eastwood directed and starred in The Bridges of Madison County; shame he couldn’t let the main character be vegetarian, like in the book

As the coast got nearer, the weather turned a lot colder. This part of the Pacific Coast is well known for its fog and low cloud. Many days, even in the height of summer, the beaches are obscured. It was still exciting to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time though.

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The Rhyl Pacific Coast

We arrived at out campsite, near Yachats, pretty chilly but after quite a few days in motels and Airbnbs, we were determined to get the tent out. We camped on the beach side of the road. The beach was stunning and went on forever.The next morning, we were lucky as the weather had cleared and we were treated to some fantastic views from the road which hugged the coastline for the first 50 miles or so.

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The southern coast of Oregon had a really special feel to it. Too far from major centres to be a weekend destination, it is completely unspoiled. Our next campsite, near Gold Beach, had a weird German theme. We found out from the owner’s wife that her husband was from Berlin but the shop and bar were all decked out with a Bavarian vibe including oompah band music piped in. The owner made his own wurst which was for sale in the shop. He also sold German beer on draft which was truly delicious after 9 weeks of Budweiser and craft “beer”. The campsite was lovely and the beach was just across the road and was totally empty. Dave and I saw a Turkey Vulture picking over the flesh of something on the beach. I walked for an hour in the morning and saw not one person.

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On our third day on the coast, we entered California, probably our last state on this leg of the trip. This was a real milestone for us. This is the area of coast famous for the Oceanic Redwood trees. These are the really tall ones, rather than the really wide ones. We rode through the Redwood State Park on a very gloomy and cold morning. It was totally magical. Just as you thought the trees could not get any bigger a bigger one came along. I loved it.

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Helen standing in front of a fu very big tree

Our campsite that night was in Patrick’s Point State Park right on the stunning headland.

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This was our first campsite with a bear box for you to store your food away from bears and other critters. We read that bears are frequent visitors to the site.

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To be honest, if there had been decent affordable accommodation nearby, we would not have camped this night as it was just too cold and we were frozen but we knuckled down and got the job done. I was rewarded with an amazing walk on the beach the next morning and a fabulous sky full of stars when I got up in the night for the bathroom.  It has been a while since we camped in bear country so we had to deal with our renewed trepidation. I must admit that I clapped my hands as I walked down the path to the beach to warn any bears of my presence.

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When I got back from my walk, Dave pointed out paw prints on the front mudguard of the bike and much smears all over the tank and windscreen. On closer inspection and brief internet research we were reassured they were only racoon prints. Obviously too small to be a bear but we know how bears love our bike. The camera had a dirty lens but you get the idea.

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(hi ho) Silver savaged again

On our way to see Foo Fighters in concert in the bay area, were forced to bail out on our final planned beach night due to the cold weather. We ended up in another old style motel, just east of San Francisco, but this one really had the 70s vibe covered. It was like being at home as a child.

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Tiger at 7000 miles

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Whoa! That got outta hand real quick. We now have a new battery and new regulator/rectifier.

The bad news is that we are $370 lighter. The good news is that I now have a new multimeter.

I also had a go at the rear brake. Got the pistons moving and changed one of the pads. One of the pads? Yes. I have now bought the wrong pads from two Triumph dealers. Boulder gave me front pads, useful later, Seattle tried to give me more front pads but I wasn’t having that. I made them give me the asymmetrical pads like in the back of my bike. They gave me asymmetrical but the mirror image of what I need. Ah well. The small one fitted in and that’s the one that wears with a (semi) sliding calliper.
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Brake pads. These are the ones I need. How many sodding combinations can there be?

Monday 7th-Thursday 10th September -Washington State and Seattle-coast to coast complete

We left our good friend’s house in Big Sky, Montana 6 days ago in freezing cold weather to head for Seattle. A 4 day ride that had few highlights due to the cold weather. We stuck to the Interstate 90 in order to move as fast as possible as it was too cold for motorcycling in the gear we have (even though we have full thermal underwear and light down jackets). We stayed at a couple of cool, old style motels, ate some reasonable Mexican food and hunkered down.

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Motels – pure Americana

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We left Montana and briefly entered Idaho before arriving in Washington State. I was starting to think that this was the dullest landscape we had encountered so far when we came into an area of incredible cloudscape, The most amazing I had ever seen. This kept us entertained for about an hour. I have not photoshopped these photos. This is how it looked. The clouds were so close you could almost touch them.

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Clouds

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More clouds

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Yet more clouds

We are huge grunge fans and big fans of Frasier too (which was not actually filmed in Seattle apparently) so Seattle was a must for us. This also marked the crossing of the USA from the Atlantic to Pacific coast which is a huge milestone. We have ridden 7,000 miles since leaving Germany. We have crossed 20 states in the USA in 7 weeks. Anyway back to Seattle…

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Seattle with clouds

I was not prepared for the stunning setting of this city built on the water and totally surrounded by rugged mountains. Hard to capture in photographs to be honest. It must be a great place to live being so close to so many outdoor opportunities. We were lucky with the weather. It is famous for rain here but we had blue skies and endless sunshine for two days (despite how it looks on the picture below).

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Space Needle, Seattle and clouds

The main focus of the trip was a grunge tour where we got to see the places where grunge music began. We saw the blacksmith shop, underneath which is the practice room where the other Pearl Jam members first took Eddie Vedder when he arrived from California to join the band.

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The blacksmith’s was open, the rehearsal room is still there, it was not being used at the time, but we weren’t taken in 

We saw the famous Crocodile club.

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We weren’t taken inside here, either

The apartments where the film Singles was filmed.

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From the outside

The house where Kurt Cobain sadly took his own life and the bench where people congregate to pay their respects.

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Okay, can’t really expect to be taken inside here; I was reminded of our visit to the Dakota Building, all very sad (Dave)

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And the Black Hole Sun sculpture after which the Soundgarden track is named (note the Space Needle in the middle.

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I guess you have to be a real fan like us to appreciate the significance of these places. We also saw the Jimmy Hendrix statue. He came from Seattle too. What a great musical heritage this city has.

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Get out the van, stand by the statue a bit, get back in the van

Seattle is also famous for the Space Needle, landmark from the 1962 World’s Fair and setting of the Elvis film It Happened at the World’s Fair, which we love. Most of the site is still intact and wonderfully kitsch.

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Actually, I’m fairly sure that It Happened at the World’s Fair is pretty unwatchable; it will take a Sunday afternoon and a hangover to check

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Some clouds to lower portion of picture

We loved Seattle. The city does seem to have a lot of homeless people in the downtown areas (more than I have seen in any other western city) and feels a bit gritty in parts but there are great neighbourhoods and there is a good vibe. It is a place we could live.