Geocaching Sparks Global Treasure Hunt

Geocaching Sparks Global Treasure Hunt

Reprinted with permission: Tri-City Herald, Sunday, September 22, 2002

Story by Loretto J. Hulse

Photos by Paul T. Erickson of the Herald staff (photos not available here)

Part treasure hunt, part technical exercise, geocaching is a fancy name for a fun game. Geo stands for the earth, where the game is played; caching for what the players do, hiding small treasurers for others to find. Once a cache is found – many contain small items like books, tiny flashlights and space blankets – the finder signs the log book inside and usually trades one trinket for another.

Wayne “Sluggo” Walker of Richland is an old-time geocacher. He’s been playing the game of hide-and-seek since May 26, 2000.

Yes, geocaching is a young sport. When Walker discovered geocaching while surfing the Net, the concept was only days old. In contrast, Matt Watkins of Pasco is a relative newcomer. He’s been searching for caches just since March, but has already discovered 25. 

In geocaching, the players use a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to lead them close to a cache, usually a military surplus ammo box. Map reading skills increase chances of “winning.” So does a sharp eye, patience and a smile from Lady Luck.

Some call it a sport, some a hobby.

“To me the correct term is game. I’m the player and the caches the game pieces,” said Walker.

Try it once, and chances are you’ll be as hooked on geocaching as Walker and Watkins.

The geocaching hook sank deep into Walker when he was traveling, sometimes for weeks at a time, in his job as a troubleshooter for the nuclear industry.

“That’s not a healthy lifestyle; you tend to spend too many nights in taverns,” he said.

Once Walker discovered geocaching, late nights were a thing of the past. Before leaving on a trip he’d research his route, line up four to five catches for each week, and pack his GPS receiver.

On the road, “instead of sleeping in, I was up at dawn, hunting. It’s a healthy, mentally challenging pastime, and I found things and places even the locals didn’t know existed,” Walker said.

Watkins’ experience with geocaching is similar. He already had a GPS unit. “I’ve always been interested in gadgets,” he said. And when he read about the game in Wired magazine early this year, he was out hunting caches days later.

His first? One of Walker’s, “Sluggo’s Delta Hairlines Cache” on the Yakima River.

Now when Watkins leaves home, his GPS receiver gets packed too.

“It’s actually very useful in everyday life,” he said. “When you get off the plane in a strange town, it makes finding your hotel a lot easier.”

Walker’s enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Asked to explain geocaching, his first question was, “How much time do you have?”

Not because it’s complicated. It’s not; everyone from Cub Scouts to grandparents are doing it. “But because it’s just plain fun,” said Walker.

Watkins recently invited five children from the Boys & Girls Club to hunt for a box he hid at Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium in Pasco.

“They ranged from 7 to 11 years,” he said. “I showed them how to use the unit and turned them loose. They went right to it, located the box and traded items, just like a real cache.”

In mid-August Walker invited myself and a Herald photographer to join him and his wife, Clare, as they visited a cache he’d hidden on Chandler Butte. The day was windy, the cache well hidden, the view – even on a dusty Mid-Columbia afternoon – impressive.

“That’s part of hiding a cache,” Walker said. “You want to lead people to a scenic or meaningful spot – a pretty view, a monument.”

A site Watkins calls “the coolest” is one he found while on a business trip to Washington, D.C. It’s a four-part cache called “Uncommon Valor,” in Arlington National Cemetery.

The first coordinates send you to the headstone of a World War II soldier. So do the second.

“I noticed both had been in the Marine Corps and so was the third, another WWII vet. These have all been corporals and sergeants, so I’m beginning to wonder what’s up,” he said.

“At the fourth site it suddenly hits you. You’re standing at the Iwo Jima monument, those soldiers’ graves, they were three of the flag raisers.

“To me that’s a wow, and it’s something that’s not on the regular tour; you can’t do it in a  brochure. Very few people get to experience something like this, unless they’re geocachers.”

Sometimes those hiding a cache want to tease. Walker still chuckles as he tells the tale of a cache he searched for in another state. Approached via the road, you could spot it easily. Approach from any other direction and it was well hidden.

The catch? A tall, miles-long fence protects it. “Go the easy way and you can see it, but you can’t touch it,” said Walker, grinning. He took the harder route and was able to swap one trinket for another and sign the log book. 

That’s all part of the game. Some geocachers rack up finds like excited youngsters at an Easter egg hunt, while others are motivated by the thrill of the search. Give them coordinates and they’ll seek out everything from a hidden cache to a landmark. In a pinch, they’ll even search out a convergence, the point where a certain latitude and longitude cross.

Chances are you’ll never catch them at it. Part of the etiquette of geocaching is “be discreet, don’t get caught doing it,” Walker said.

He’s told some people he was using a light meter for his camera (it helps to carry one). He’s told others he was surveying.

Another rule is, if you place a cache, you’re responsible for maintaining it.

Yet another rule, Watkins said, is don’t put them on private, or even public, lands without permission. “Some places, like national parks, simply can’t take the foot traffic,” he said.

More than 29,259 caches have been hidden in 148 countries from Namibia to Vietnam to Yugoslavia. They’re in caves, deserts, forests, under sagebrush and in planter boxes on busy streets. There’s even one underwater with a lonely travel bug, “Nooch,” inside.

Watkins placed it on May 6, 100-plus feet deep in the chilly waters of Lake Chelan. That one’s beyond the abilities of most geocachers – you’ll need scuba gear. But for most caches all you need is a GPS receiver and Internet access.

Basic GPS units, which are roughly the size of a cell phone, cost about $100. Used units are cheaper, especially on the Internet.

“Once that’s in hand, access geocaching.com, choose a site and go,” Watkins said. Along with a water bottle and extra batteries for the GPS unit, a geocacher might want to take along a U.S. Geological Survey topographical map for the region. These are available on CD-ROM for several hundred dollars, or as folding paper maps available at sporting and camping stores, Forest Service offices and the Internet for $10 or less.

“It helps to know the terrain in advance,” Walker said, telling the tale of a cache he and his wife were searching for in the Basin. “We could tell where it had to be. The problem was there was a big canyon between us and it.”

“If, even just three years ago, you’d said a bunch of adults would buy an instrument and go out in the woods and tramp around, everyone would have laughed at you.”

Today they’re more likely to join you.

Reporter Loretto J. Hulse can be reached at 582-1513 or via e-mail at lhulse@tri-cityherald.com.


Geocaching lingo

By the Herald Staff

GPS – Global Positioning System is a series of military satellites providing specially coded signals that can be processed by a GPS receiver to determine specific locations on the planet to within 5 to 8 yards or better.

Cache – A water-proof, animal-proof container. Military surplus ammo boxes are popular, so are gallon-size plastic containers. Cache owners often disguise the container. Wayne Walker of Richland uses paint, moss and leaves to make his less obvious. Burying is discouraged.

Spoiler – A disclaimer just before the log entries for each cache warning that the entries may contain information that will spoil the fun of finding.

Encryption – Some geocachers will use a simple code to encrypt their log entries to prevent them from being a “spoiler.” Some caches’ descriptions also contain encrypted hints to make it easier to find.

Progressive or multistate cache – You find the first which contains a clue to the second, third or more caches.

Puzzle – Sometimes a single cache with a puzzle or riddle to solve. Other times portions of the puzzle are in several caches and you must find them all to solve it. “There are a zillion variations to this one,” said Walker.

Virtual cache – There’s no physical cache to locate. Instead you’re sent to find an existing sign, object or place.

Event caching -  A group activity, sometimes used as a fund-raiser or a way to spread the word about geocaching. These often include a picnic or potluck, prizes and a swapping of tall geocaching tales.

Travelbugs - Two-piece, numbered metal tags available at www.geocaching.com. You keep one piece and attach the other to an object (like a Matchbox car) along with instructions. For example Walker has a small stuffed bear – “Amelia Bearhart,” complete with flight jacket and goggles – on her way around the world, west to east. She’s traveled nearly 17,000 miles since mid-March, going from cache to cache.

—–

Update: November 2014

I received an e-mail from a person that was using this page on my website from 12 years ago.  Thanks Loretto for the article….the praise of a well-written articled goes to you.

Hi Matt,

I’m Angela, I work with kids and families in an after school program doing all sorts of fun activities. The kids in my group came across your page http://mattwatkins.org/geocaching.htm while searching for helpful geocaching tips since we are still pretty new to it and just found our first cache last week. We had so much fun doing it, we can’t wait to start looking for the next one. Thanks for the awesome and helpful info!

In the searches they also found this page http://www.fleetmatics.co.uk/resources/articles/geocaching-and-other-gps-games that explains geocaching and other similar activities you can do with a GPS and wanted to share it with you. I also was wondering if you mind adding a link to it?

I think it will fit great with your other resources and I’d love to be able to show the kids they helped contribute to your site with what they found!

Take care,

Angela Whitney
angela@afterschoolcareprograms.com

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Tech Meet 2014

Riding to Western Washington late Thursday night, October 9th , spend Friday at Whidbey, and then to Auburn for an FJR owner gathering to farkle and tire kick.  Not sure about Saturday evening…maybe back to Whidbey, home, or maybe somewhere else before returning home Sunday.

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Gerlachfest 2014

It’s my 10th year making the pilgrimage to Washoe County, Nevada for a gathering of motorcycle riders in the little berg of Gerlach.  Let the libation, pasta products, and fellowship be fruitful.

  • Depart Thursday Night, September 25. (or wee hours of Friday)
  • Friday Evening. Partake of Polish pig in plump tube form, tire kicking.
  • Saturday Day. Gunpowder charged frivolity on the playa
  • Sunday Morning. Return in the a.m.

Riding the FJR so no special back-road routes.  Pretty much ride 395 south to almost Alturas, hang a left, go through Cedarville, and then 447 into Gerlach.  I’ve even memorized that it’s 555 miles there…and the same distance back.

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Fall Ride North

Headed north….not exactly sure my exact destination, but wanna go look at green trees, mountains, rocks, and cheap land.  Taking camping gear on the FJR and planning to spend at least Saturday night camping…maybe Friday too if my new GPS is delivered Friday afternoon at a reasonable time.

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Ride The Remainder of Washington State Ferries

Update

I completed the ride fairly to the plan.  I finished my last ferry ride on Sunday afternoon aboard the MV Issaquah between Vashon Island and Fauntelroy.  I then rode to Eastern Washington and snagged my very last boat (until the next new one is built…or they pull out the Hiyu from standby) on Monday.  One more bucket list item done.

GPS Tracking

The Setup

2014 has been a good year riding the various Washington State Ferries, ferry routes, and islands in Washington State.  I remember riding the green and white monsters ever since the early 80′s on a spring break bicycle trip to the San Juans. I haven’t kept track of every single one I’ve ridden, but I’ve reconstructed the list as best I can and keep track of the boats the past few years–especially since Dad and Step mom bought a place on Whidbey Island. The idea of riding them all started to coalesce as I did my 39 County Tour.

Snagging so many the past month or so got me thinking about finishing up the task Labor Day weekend.

Already Snagged

Over the 4th of July weekend I purposely picked up a bunch of ferries, ferry terminals, and islands I hadn’t been too:

Four Islands (Indian, Marrowstone, Vashon, and Maury)
Four Ferries (brand new MV Tokitae, MV Salish, MV Tillikum, and MV Chetzemoka)
Three Ferry Terminals (Vashon Island, Tahlequah, and Point Defiance)

I followed that up by another walk-on trip after a business meeting in downtown Seattle  to snag some more on July 25th.

Two Ferries (MV Tacoma and MV Wenatchee)
One Ferry Terminal (Bainbridge Island/Winslow)

So, that sets the stage to see if I make a concerted effort over the four day Labor Day weekend to finish off the remainder of regular* WS ferries I’ve not ridden, the one ferry terminal and island served I’ve landed at but not gotten off or back on (Shaw Island)**, and add any more islands to my list ***.  My priority is ferries to be sure and a majority of the ones I’ve not ridden are currently serving in the San Juan Islands.

There are some seriously cool ferry nerds out there I’ve been enjoying reading through.  The folks at Evergreenfleet.com are a great read.

The Plan

Thursday, 8/28

After work Pasco to Whidbey Island.  Spend night at family cabin.

Friday 8/29 – San Juans

7 a.m. Depart Greenbank.

09:00 Anacortes. Skagit County Ferry to Guemes Island.  Depart 6th and I Street, $7.00 round trip, 6:30 to 20:30 daily on 30 minute cycles, 5 minute ride each way.  Estimate 2 hours total.

Noon Anacortes to Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, Shaw Island, and Lopez Island as needed to ride on all three MV Kaleetan, MV Klahowya, and MV Elwah.

I initially was trying to divine which ferry was doing which route at a certain time…..and was quite a puzzle. With some help of WSF staff I was shown a different website to correlate which route gets which specific ferry.  I even was able to come up with a plan that hits the three needed ferries, explore several islands in layover periods, and minimize expenses by paying only for the Anacortes to Friday Harbor and island-by-island eastbound.  There’s a morning option and an afternoon option.  Since I’d like to snag Guemes Island I’ll go with the noon option to make my Shaw Island arrival best in the early evening.

11:55 @ Anacortes.  Westbound via Elwha (Position 5) to Friday Harbor at 13:00.  65 minute layover gives me time to ride to at least one end of island.

14:15 @ Friday Harbor.  Eastbound via Klahowya (Position 4) to Orcas Island and arrive at 15:05.  135 minute layover to explore a bit of the island….maybe even make up Mt. Constitution and back.

17:20 @ Orcas Island. Eastbound via Kaleetan (Position 2) to Shaw Island and arrive at 17:35.  Explore island and I scored a nice little campsite on Shaw that night (there are only 10 spots on the whole island).  My other alternative was Lopez Island (I first did this in 1982 during a spring break bicycle trip through Kennewick High), but couldn’t find any open campsites to reserve.  View from my campsite.

Friday Snags:

MV Kaleetan, Super Class (2500 riders/144 cars), Created in 1967, no noted refit since then.  Named after mountain peak near Snoqualmie.  Operates Seattle-Bremerton route outside of summer.

MV Elwha, Super Class (2500/144). 1967 with refit in 1991. Equipped with SOLAS–can run to BC.  Involved ina full speed collision in the past, has had several performance issues over the years.  Riding this ferry means I will have “slammed” the Super Class.

Compdude123

MV Klahowya, Evergreen Class (800 passengers, 87 vehicles), 1958 w/refit in 1995.  Expected to retire on this route in the next several years.

Joe Mabel CC-BY-SA 3.0

  • Shaw Island
  • Guemes Island

Saturday 8/30 Misc. Islands

Double-check to make sure I’ve ridden needed ferries.

07:30 @ Shaw Island.  Eastbound via Hyak (Position #3) (I’ve ridden the Hyak on ???? run in ????) to Lopez Island for stop, and then Lopez Island to Anacortes at 08:30.

Morning Lummi Island out of Everett via ferry.

Afternoon Camano Island via riding.

Evening Back to Whidbey for evening.

Saturday Snags

Lummi Island
Camano Island

Sunday 8/31 Urban Puget Sound

05:15 Greenbank to Clinton

06:00 @ Clinton. South to Mukilteo via Tokitae or Kittitas.

Mukilteo to Edmonds, 06:50, 20 minute layover

07:10 @ Edmonds. Westbound via MV Walla Walla (Position 1) to Kingston at 07:40.  I may have already ridden the Walla Walla in 2006, but am not 100% sure….so I’ll ride it to make sure.

Kingston to Bainbridge Island, 08:00, 45 minute layover

08:45 @ Bainbridge. Eastbound via MV Puyallup (Position 1) to Seattle at 09:20

Seattle to Fauntelroy, 09:35, 85 minute layover

10:45 @ Fauntelroy. Westbound via MV Evergreen State (Position 2) to Vashon at 11:05

Stay on Vashon

11:35 @ Vashon, Westbound via MV Issaquah (Position 3) to Southworth at 11:45

Southworth to Bremerton, 12:10, 10 minute layover

12:20 @ Bremerton, Eastbound via MV Sealth (Position 1) to Seattle at 13:20

Seattle to ?,

Where to stay on Sunday? Camp somewhere semi-urban?

Sunday Snags

MV Walla Walla, Jumbo (2000/188), Kingston, 1972 refit in 2005. I think I’ve already ridden this one, but can’t remember for sure and may have been the Spokane…so I’ll ride to be sure.  It also means I’ll have slammed the Jumbo class.  

MV Puyallup, Jumbo II (2500/202), Bainbridge, 1999.  This is one in the biggest ferry class in the fleet and will be my last to slam the class.

MV Sealth, Issaquah 100 (1200/90) , 1982 refit in 2006.  This is an interesting ferry as its the only one of the original 6 in the Issaquah class to not be upgraded to the Issaquah 130 class with two car decks on each side.  You can tell because there’s just one floor of windows at the vehicle level.  The other 5 in the class (Cathlamet, Chelan, Issaquah, Kitsap, and Kittitas) all have two rows of windows and ramps on sides.

MV Issaquah, Issaquah 130 (1200/124), Vashon,  1979 refit in 1989.  This will be my last in the class to slam.

MV Evergreen State , Evergreen State class (981/87), Bremerton 1954, refit in 1988, retired June 29, 2014, Returned temporarily to service in July 2014.

Monday 9/1 Others

  • Other islands near Tacoma?
  • MV Sanpoil in Eastern Washington?
  • Back home

Special Notes

Watch Chip Hanauer go onto the Tokitae as its being constructed.

* The Sanpoil is a WSF ferry run on the Columbia in Eastern Washington. I have long had plans to ride this ferry, but probably won’t get to it on this trip.

** One ferry terminal that’s on the bubble is Sydney, BC.  Yes, WSF serves it as a terminal, but do I really want to go to it?  I’ll be in camping mode with various “tools” that may not comport with Canadian law and don’t want to try and leave them behind.  And I also figured out that fares cost both ways, so I’d have to pay about $62 to get this one terminal on a ferry (the Chelan) I’ve already ridden multiple times.  I’m going to pass.

*** I note this potentially leaves out an opportunity to visit a bunch of other smaller islands (i.e. Blakely (6th largest of San Juans), Cypress, Decatur, Center, etc.) that are in the area and I’d like to ultimately visit one day.  However, as they’re not served by public ferries, privately owned, are protected via regulations, and/or require permission from tribal chiefs (yes, there is at least one)–I’m not ready or willing to start chartering boats or stealth swimming to them.  For this ride if I can’t take the motorcycle there I’ll probably skip it.  I’ll have to line up a sailing adventure another time to pick off the islands that are not served with reasonably doable land-based transportation.  That all said if I run across some cougarish widow at a store on Lopez with a boat docked up, takes a shine to me, and wants to take me to her private house on Decatur for the rest of the weekend–I’ll jump at the chance.

**** And the WSF does have ONE more ferry I know about on standby at Eagle Harbor.  It’s tiny by contrast, but provides some service in a pinch.  The MV Hiyu holds only 200 passengers and 34 cars.  Riding it will be a good trick though.

Examples from Olympic Class, 144 boat.

Navigation/Bridge Deck: 8′ 6″. Crew exclusively on this deck. Includes the Pilot House (one on each end), catwalks, and other mechanical rooms.

Sun/Texas Deck: 8′ 6″. Not all ferries have them, but the Olympic Class does.  Includes open areas and partially enclosed areas open to the elements.

Mezzanine Deck: Some ferries have an area between the car deck and passenger cabin that can be configured to hold bicycles or passengers.  It’s usually rather small and often confused with being part of the stairway to get to the passenger deck.

Shelter Deck: A passenger area of a ferry between the pickle forks and the main cabin area.  Open to the outdoors, but out of the direct wind. Picture.

Passenger Deck: 10′ 0″.  Includes large area where passengers sit.  Includes galley, lounges, etc.

Vehicle Deck:  24′ 6″ total.  Includes lower (8′ 6″) and upper vehicle deck (10′ 0″)

Below Deck:  Part of ferry under the car deck.  Mechanical, staff, etc.  16′ 9″ total with 8′ 0″ above design waterline.

San Juan Alternate Schedules

Option 2 $22.45
Anacortes Friday Harbor Trip Layover Notes
Friday 6:25 7:30 1 hour 4 hours Elwha – 5 Early Friday sailing
Friday Harbor Orcas
Friday 11:35 12:25 1.5 hours 5 hours Klahowya – 4 Good layovers on Friday Harbor and Orcas
Orcas Shaw
Friday 17:20 17:35 15 minutes evening Hyak – 3
Shaw Anacortes Does not include Lopez
Satuday 9:05 9:55 50 minutes Kaleetan – 2 Back to mainland early
Option 3 $24.15+$7.70=$31.85
Anacortes Orcas Layover
Friday 7:25 8:15 50 minutes 4 hours Kaleetan – 2 Less early Friday
Orcas Friday Harbor
Friday 12:25 1:55 1.5 hours 3.75 hours Klahowya – 4 Good layovers on Orcas and Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor Shaw
Friday 17:40 18:55 1.2 hours evening Klahowya – 4 About $8.50 more
Shaw Lopez
Saturday 7:30 7:50 20 minutes 3 hours Hyak – 3 Includes Lopez
Lopez Anacortes
Saturday 10:45 11:25 1 hour 20 minutes Elwha – 5 Includes Extra ride

WSF Ferries Ridden and Yet to Ride

Date First Ridden Ferry Name Class Status
6/1/1973 Martha S. Retired
6/1/1981 MV Kitsap Issaquah 130 Active
4/1/1982 MV Hyak Super Active
4/1/1982 MV Yakima Super Active
7/6/2001 MV Nisqually Steel Electric Retired
5/25/2006 MV Spokane Jumbo Active
5/25/2007 MV Quinault Steel Electric Retired
8/1/2010 MV Cathlamet Issaquah 130 Active
5/1/2012 MV Kennewick Kwa-di Tabil Active
10/1/2012 MV Chelan Issaquah 130 Active
5/1/2014 MV Kittitas Issaquah 130 Active
7/2/2014 MV Tokitae Olympic Active
7/6/2014 MV Chetzemoka Kwa-di Tabil Active
7/6/2014 MV Salish Kwa-di Tabil Active
7/6/2014 MV Tillikum Evergreen State Active
7/25/2014 MV Tacoma Jumbo Mark II Active
7/25/2014 MV Wenatchee Jumbo Mark II Active
MV Elwha Super Active
MV Klahowya Evergreen State Active
MV Kaleetan Super Active
MV Walla Walla Jumbo Active
MV Puyallup Jumbo Mark II Active
MV Evergreen State Evergreen State Retired Relief
MV Issaquah Issaquah 130 Active
MV Sealth Issaquah 100 Active
MV Sanpoil Active
MV Hiyu Active Relief
# 3 TBD Olympic Under Construction
MV Sequim Jumbo Mark II Ghost
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Day 1 & 2

Steen’s Mountain was a big treat…worth the doubling back and washboard gravel.  Camped downhill at 6000′ elevation and met a nice couple with horses.

Breakfast at Field and hard ride getting to some hot springs 45 miles north of Gerlach. Hot too. finally crashed at motel in Carson City.  Tired.  420 miles first day and 357 today.

Tahoe, Marleeville, Lake Topaz, Bodie, and Mono Lake tomorrow.

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Goin’ Back to Cali…Cali (aka ORCABDR)

Click on *CURRENT RIDE* at the top to see a map of where we are.

ORCABDR is a painful acronym to suggest Justin and I are planning to ride off-road half of Oregon we haven’t finished yet, parts of Nevada, and a big chunk of California…sorta kinda.  We were going to do the UTBDR, but because of a variety of reasons related to the perils of being a 40 Year Old Baccalaureate, we’re going somewhere else this year.

We have a colorful history including this most-excellent WABDR some years ago.  Justin and I just find adventure riding to a new place in the world now a basic requisite as Renaissance Men….without being too fruity about it.

Strained acronym aside in broad strokes our plan is to ride for 11 days and see what the West Coast of the U.S. has to offer including Eatern Oregon, Northeast Nevada, and big chunk of California can offer to guys on laden down adventure bikes with mostly street rubber.   While we’ll be riding off-road on forest service road–we’ll also be riding a fair number of twisty mountain two-laners.  This trip is far less aggressive off-road than our previous Washington, Oregon, or Utah plans…but will highlight what I think is ignored by most as a phenomenal adventure riding paradise…..Kolli-forn-’ya.

Tuesday 7/30 Update: That all said as departure is less than two days away we see that one of the biggest attractions to the ride (Yosemite) is under threat wild fires.  I’ll be monitoring Tuesday and Wednesday to consider route changes.  While we could revert back to a Utah ride I’m also seeing the forecast is for rain in the western U.S. the next several weeks…less so in the Sierras.

Tentative Route (take with a BIG grain of salt…especially the last half)

There aren’t really 80+ points we’re going to stop and visit.  Many of the points are purposely added to try and force the route to a remote forest service road or an interesting two-laner.  We’ll be doing our best to avoid roads that start with “I-” and have more than one lane of travel in the same direction.

Green dots are points of interest we’d like to see.  There are more than we’ll possibly have time or miles for…or ultimately want to given weather conditions (especially the hot Death Valley ones), but it’s better to aspire to a little too much than find ourselves board and bag the ride to head to Vegas.

Red dots represent locations of various motorcycle friendly friends that we’d like to ride with, visit, or give us a shower, meal, and bedroom to sleep in after roughing it in the woods for days on end.

Tentative Schedule (take with an even BIGGER grain of salt)

Thursday, Day 1 – Depart early Thursday, July 31st from Pasco.  Cover a big chunk of Oregon including visiting the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, fueling up in Burns, and visiting Steen’s Mountain.  Camp in the high-country there…or maybe go farther past Fields to the Nevada border and camp in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

Friday, Day 2 – Back roads to Gerlach through the Summit Lake Indian Reservation, stop by Double Hole Hot Springs, take in the playa that hosted the world land speed record, Burning Man, and the IBA Memorial.  Lunch and/or libation at Bruno’s in Gerlach.  Check out back roads by Pyramid Lake, move on to Reno and either visit my buddy Reno John and/or Mr. Swetland (IBR finisher #5).

Saturday, Day 3 – Virginia City, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, Markleeville, Topaz Lake (aka Rickey Lake), Bodie, and Mono Lake.

Sunday & Monday, Day 4-5 – Order and plans get very fuzzy in this area.  Places of interest include Yosemite National Park, Devils Postpile National Monument, Bristlecone (oldest tree in the world), Mono Hot Springs, Mammoth Lakes, Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, Manzanar

Tuesday, Day 6 – Head west to the coast of California to Atascadero (hopefully be greeted by the head of the Candy Butt Association), semi-step relative in the San Luis Obispo area, San Miguel Mission, San Simeon, etc.

Wednesday, Day 7 – Monterey Aquarium, Laguna Seca Raceway, Bixby Bridge, Carmel, Santa Cruz.

Thursday, Day 8 – San Francisco, Napa, head to Mendocino National Forest

Friday, Day 9 – NorCal

Saturday, Day 10 – Southern Oregon, maybe make it to Sisters to Justin’s Uncle’s cabin

Sunday, Day 11 – Get back home

The Tools for the Job

Justin is on a 2013 BMW F800GS

A twin cylinder adventure bike, 85 hp, with big spoked rims and lots of active suspension goodies.  It has 4.2 gallons of capacity with a spare 1 gallon Rotopax of fuel and 1 gallon of water.  Huge hard bags make this bike a pack mule (I’ll see if I can slip some rocks in the bottom of them when Justin isn’t look) that’s also a wide-load when going down the road.  Tires are Anakee II that are considered a 80% on road 20% off-road.  Basic bike is 505 pounds unladen.  With the aluminum tumors on the sides stuffed with stuff….it probably exceeds 600 pounds. (not his actual bike below)

I’m on a 2013 Husqvarna Strada 650

It’s a thumper single cylinder putting out 58 horsepower and I’ll purposely be running cast rims and Metzler Tourance EXP 90% on road and 10% off-road.  The bike has a 3.7 gallon fuel tank and I have 1/2 gallon in several fuel bottles.  I could run more fuel bottles, but I like to pack some liquid libation in two of them for the campfire.  I’m running soft bags, a top case, and will be the one to get us into trouble first.  Basic bike is 410 pounds and probably 75 pounds of gear.

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Camping Supplies (aka ‘Camping Crutches for Pansy-Asses’)

We’ve done the one tent sans air mattress thing before and are maturing in our camping abilities and tastes.  I want my own tent for 11 days so we’re each packing one.  We’ve also suffered through air mattress failures and switched to lightweight cots.  I’ll be trying a Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Cot that’s extra long and extra wide.  Justin is trying the Helinox Cot One.  I bought one of their ubercool tables earlier this year and will be taking it.

Also we’ve learned over the years that sitting on the ground after a long day of riding generally sucks.  We both bought Kermit Chairs and will be setting our stainless steel cups of Pendelton Whisky in the optional cupholders as the sun sets.

I’ll also be packing my Canon 5D Mk III and spare fisheye lens to try and wrangle up some good photos of the adventure.

 

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Meet “Deep Thought”

As some know I work in the same company as Warchild and about 10 years ago I started pining over his 2003 FJR (back when there weren’t many in the country) and called 16 dealers in the PNW before I found a 2005 ABS a person had bailed out on the PDP.  And I put 168,000 miles on it (I called her “Heart of Gold” from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).  And I even put 50,000 miles on another ’05 non-ABS called “Zaphod”, but I never cottoned too him.  And I even won 3rd place with it in the most recent Cognoscente rally with the older one.

Riding home from the Poison Rally I started thinking about what I was going to do as she enters middle-age and the host of issues that haven’t stranded me yet, but certainly add to the maintenance regime and risk of a DNF.

Then I had an epiphany that’s simple in hindsight.  It fixes all the issues I’ve been having as well as adds even more to my riding experience. Something that money fixes well.

Meet my new friend, “Deep Thought“.  It’s a 2014ES and is ubersweet.  And as a hardened Gen 1 owner I’m here to affirm that Gen 3′s rock!  I figured that out in less than the first 25 miles….the refinement in the last 10 years is more substantial than I thought possible.

MWK08465b.jpg

 

MWK08476b.jpg

Warchild approves as well. wink.png

More to follow as I hopefully get a chance to ride her this evening.

Heart of Gold won’t disappear though.  She’s gonna still get a spot in the garage and a battery tender connection for a ride here and there I’m sure…..or hope.

 

 

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Poison Plan

It’s like 8 rallies possible and you need to do at least 5 of them.  I’ve prioritized and doing the Dog Eat Dog, Blister!, End of Days Zombie Apocalypse (Mayhem thread), Range & Altitude (not yet done…but it’s a peek into next one), and White Pine Fever with an option to switch to Where the Hell Is Peter Heesch?.

General plan is to ride south to Ash Springs (know it well from a month ago), ET Highway (know that one REALLY well), Tonopah, over to Big Pine, California, back up to Austin, then to Gerlach.  May try Jungo Road to Winnemucca and then east along I-80 to Elko.  Then back to Ely.  Need to get back by 12:45 a.m. for that leg to be worth the points.

Estimated Route

Then I try laps of what’s called the Nevada Fast Triangle involving Ely, Ash Springs, Tonopah, and back to Ely.  One or two if I’m lucky.  REALLY lucky includes a trip to Vegas, but I doubt it’s doable.

If you see me linger at Middlegate at 3 p.m…..I maybe be changing it up a bit.

Should be fun!

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Poison – A Cognoscente Event

Every two years the Cognoscente Group hosts an invitational rally and I’ve been on the list since 2006.  This year’s event is an amalgam or have elements of the last 8 events or so and promises to be a exciting rally.  I won the last one…so that means about squat with this competition level.  And I’ve also been scrambling to get the motorcycle back to rally form after having to replace the shock (pretty $1300 shock from Ohlins), replace a bunch of corroded needle bearings in the suspension relay arm (probably why I’ve experienced premature failure in the last 3 shocks), and fix a light fuse popping issue, replace a slider that fastener fatigue cracked and fell off, and other miscellaneous issues. 

That all said, I’m looking forward to returning to Nevada.  I had one helluva ride a few weeks ago…more than I will ever post online certainly….a ride for the ages.  I also have a long list of special items I had to procure or process…including one cow femur devoid of organic matter.  This involved a 2 week process that involved boiling one end (this thing is so big it won’t fit in even the largest pot); picking and cutting off icky bits including muscle, tendons, ligaments, & goo; and bathing in hydrogen peroxide to give the appearance I was able to remove more bits than I actually was able to.

Schedule:

  • Thursday, June 19, Evening – Commute to Ely, NV
  • Friday, June 20 – Arrive in Ely, nap as I can, odo check, registration, banquet dinner.
  • Saturday, June 21 – 5 a.m. the rally begins….probably staged at 1 minute increments so I’ll be out sometime close to 5 a.m.
  • Sunday, June 22 – 1 p.m. The rally is over….32 hours or less after I departed. Banquet in the evening.
  • Monday, June 23.  I need to be back for a council meeting…so exact time I commute back will be a bit variable.

Gary Eagan returns after riding 1800+++ miles in 24 hours in the 2006 White Pine Fever.  Note the huge fuel cell on back.

Greg Marbach returns after another 1800++++ mile ride.  I had 1800++, but 6 years later I’d ride an 1800+++++ mile ride with a cell about the of Gary’s and a 2nd tire.

GPS Tracking:

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Finished ride safely…blew shock

I finished safely, rode 1800+ miles, had lunch, and went to ride home with spare wheel and fuel….shock blew.  Friend is bringing a spare  from Vegas.  Doh! But glad it happen after event.

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Protected: Team Lyle Silver State Round-Up – The Private Club

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Big Money Rally “Gold”, Peruvian Consul General, and Pasco….de Peru

Headed over Friday afternoon to Seattle and meet the Peruvian Consul General and delegation from the “Pasco” region of Peru. My city is named after this region and looking forward to the cultural exchange….they’re also coming to Pasco (my version) on Monday.

I’m also doing what is probably my last or next-to-the-last ride for the Big Money Rally. I should earn enough points to cross from Silver to “Gold” status. (I need 10.7 points)

I’m planning on riding the Husqvarna as the FJR is still getting some brackets welded and installed for a special ride in May. Heh, heh, heh!

 

Schedule

Friday

Noon: Depart for Seattle

Later Afternoon: Snag a few bonuses in Issaquah, Bellevue, and South Seattle

7 p.m.: Receiption at Fairmont Olympic in downtown Seattle

Afterwards: Snag a few more bonuses on the way to Whidbey Island

Saturday

Relax on Whidbey Island

Sunday

Come back from Whidbey

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Big Money Rally and Adventure Riding

Headed to Idaho to spend Saturday night in the woods and also pick up some Big Money Rally points in the search to make Gold level finishers status.  Plan is to head east towards Orofino, ride some roads around Dworshak Reservoir I haven’t been to before, continue a loop north back through Moscow and Pullman, and back home Sunday evening.  Leaving about noon on Saturday after my City Council retreat.

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My First Motorcyle “Race” – The Desert 100

Rally vs. Race

I’ve been riding competitive scavenger hunt RALLIES for so many years that when I decided to sign up for the 2014 Desert 100 RACE–I feel a twinge everytime I type and say that four letter word that starts with an R and ends with an E.  It’s a totally different thing than RALLIES–that R word is much easier to say.

I’ve never “raced” a motorcycle before and both excited and a a little nervous at the prospect of flogging 700 pounds of dual-sport and rider through the scrub lands of Odessa for 50 miles in amongst hundreds of other riders.

Race Flyer

My Ride

I’ll be riding a 2013 Husqvarna TR650 Strada (that’s the street ABS version) converted to off-road by swapping to spoked rims and knobbies.  Essentially the bike I’m riding and camping from for the weekend is the bike I’m racing…and the bike I’m relying on making it back home with.  I’ll be leaving behind bags, top case, windshield, mirrors, and a few other accessories.

Daddy O’s History

The race is also a surreal event with almost 45 years of history.  My dad raced it in the early 70′s and even won the team class one year….and I was there as a 5 year old kid.  Some things are a bit different today including the fact two-stroke oil isn’t made from castor beans anymore, the suspension on even my compromise enduro bike is light years ahead of the death machines they rode, but several details are exactly the same as before.

Ready, Set, BOOM!

It’s a “running start” race.  That means 750+ riders stand behind their motorcycle about a hundred feet, a cannon goes off (shotgun’s can’ be heard or seen by everybody in the 3/4 mile long line), riders run to their bikes, start them, launch, and everybody tries to make the hole shot about a mile later across a giant undulating field.

Cannon Start from spectator view: http://vimeo.com/63758003

Running to Your Bike on an F800GS (about 100 pounds heavier than mine…got 3rd place last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqcEZB25Kqg

The whole premise of me signing up for this is that I’m forty-something, don’t own an actual “dirt bike”, and signed up because they’ve recently added an “Adventure Class” to the event.  Supposedly, I’m starting in a second “wave” that includes “Vintage” class bikes before 1986, 15 years of age and under, women, seniors (which scarily are considered 50 and older), and only have to do one lap instead of two that the boy racers and grizzled old timers will do.  I’m sure some of them will be lapping me.

Regardless, I’m guaranteed to be passed, to pass, and to encounter bottlenecks.  My goal is to finish….and if possible 3 hours or less.  Again, I’m my racing machine IS my transportation, so I have a big interest in being able to ride it back home.

And I can’t forget that this is adventure riding too.  I’m camping for the weekend and hanging out with THOUSANDS of other people.

Schedule

Friday, April 4

Noon-Afternoon – Depart on Husqvarna TR650 with knobby tires, camping gear, and supplies to camp two nights a few miles west of Odessa, WA.

Afternoon-Evening – Arrive in Odessa and camp with other adventure riders and an adventure riding acquaintance I’m planning to ride the UTBDR with in July.  William B. will be riding in the same class with a KTM 690 Enduro.

Evening – Stories, Frivolity, & C2H6O

Saturday, April 5

7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – “Dual Sport Poker Run”.  The first 100 “adventure bikes” to sign up get a free lunch at the brewery in Odessa.  I understand you get to ride part of the course to get a bit of a taste for things…anywhere from 20-150 miles.

Afternoon – Who knows

Evening – Stories, Frivolity, & C2H6O

Sunday, April 6

8:30 a.m. – Riders Meeting

9:30 a.m. – Race Starts with Wave 1 (the big classes doing 100 miles or 2 laps).  I’ll be in Wave #2 and will undoubtedly be lapped by riders in the first wave.

I estimate riding 2 1/2 to 3 hours to finish the event.

2:30 p.m. – Awards

Late Afternoon – Ride back home.

Monday, April 7

400mg Ibuprofen administered orally every 6 hours or as needed.

 

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Big Money Rally Ride #4 – I’m Going To Where Liz C Has Been

Watch me do this ride with the tracking mapS below and as I bag bonuses near real-time at Big Money Rally.

This will be my fourth Big Money Rally ride of the season and includes collection of up to 90 points AND a signed napkin by Liz C. The latter would be if I successfully capture an image of ALL the green circle bonuses below in less than a 24 hours period….which is about 27 of them by my count (the list is curiously missing LC013) and goes to LC028.

Liz C has ridden in every BMR rally to-date. Liz is always enjoying the ride and shares her fun so very well. And she’s always riding beautiful motorcycles and she has a posse of followers in tow to many of the BMR bonuses she earns.

Here is your chance to be one of those followers, ….or at least go to where Liz has already gone. We’ve taken a few of Liz’s past BMR bonus pictures and created a theme. These are good spots, in good locations. Note: Your emphasis should be on the item in the picture, and include your bike and placard unless noted otherwise.

I’m also doing this ride on Friday, February 28 because it is the last day of the optimal point month.  It makes those 27 bonus locations worth 70 points instead of 56 points a day later.  They were worth 2.0 in January, 2.5 in Feburary, 2.0 again in March, and trail off to even less points April and May.  In fact, the ride organizer echoed these points:

Earning the signed napkin is an accomplishment that will be relished the rest of your life, …even longer if you choose to take that napkin with you to your burial.

A few things to consider:
On Saturday the points for this theme go down. Earning the napkin when point value is at it’s current peak is icing on the cake.

Many western riders have already forfeited the napkin by already earning a LC bonus. So, you are truly in an envialbe position: Not only earn world-wide fame, but also bragging rights and admiration from BMR participants and spectators.

If you go and earn this napkin on Friday, BMR will kick in something special.
Certainly you’ll want to permanently display the napkin in your well-stocked trophy room with all of your other moto-bike awards. BMR will access it’s resources and furnish a zip-lock sandwich bag to showcase the napkin.

We’ll be watching…….

RenoJohn

A ziplock bag?  Whoa!  I can’t not go now!

Weather?

HOWEVER, there is a hitch to the giddyup.  It’s frickin’ February!  And PNW has been pummeled the past 2 or 3 weeks with WINTER weather.  Yes, they plow roads, but another weak storm is coming through on Thursday, clear again for most of the day Friday, and another weak storm on Saturday.  The trick or issue is that one of the bonuses is on Mt. Hood at Government Camp and 4800′ elevation.  Two others are at 1900′ elevation in some remote areas of Washington.

I’ve been burned 3 or 4 time in this area of the world including this season opener of the Dam tour near Hood River on the exact same day of the year, and barely made it to a lake near Mt. Hood the third time in MAY of another year:

This narrow weather window (as of Thursday 10 a.m. it’s raining) says Government Camp has high of 46 at 1 p.m. on Friday, partly cloudy with 20% chance of rain, giving way to low that evening of 26 and chance of snow of 80%.  And once I snag my first bonus at Rufus, I’m committed to the ride.  I either earn the napkin on this ride or never at all.

Watch conditions as I go up the hill from Tygh Valley to Blue Box Pass Summit at 4000′, Frog Lake, merge onto Highway 26 at 3735′, and Government Camp here.

I Want the Napkin!

The question I’m pondering on Thursday morning is whether to ride up at o’dark thirty and crawl my way in the cold night when no other cars are around or wait until what heat there might of the day to melt the slushy roadway, but with many cars around.  I’ll probably go the latter option on this one as I want a good night of rest Thursday to do what is a 900 mile ride in less than 24 hours.

If Government Camp isn’t reachable…so be it.  I’ll as far as safe, turn around, loop to Portland area via Hood Rive,  and snag the other possible bonuses.

Ride Plan (Estimated Times)

  • Depart Tri-Cities – 6-7 a.m., Friday, February 28
  • Begin route at Rufus, OR – 9 a.m.
  • Important Trout Lake & Glenwood, WA Bonuses – 10:30-11:00 a.m.
  • Critical Government Camp Bonus – 1 p.m.
  • Astoria – 5 p.m.
  • West of Portland option to stop at 8 or 9 and and sleep for 6-8 hours
  • End route at or near Sweet Home, OR – Midnight (or morning before 9 a.m. if I stopped earlier)

Note that I have 24 hours from the first bonus to complete the ride.  I may end up using it all.

Technology Testing

On this ride I’m also trying a little technological experiment. I have TWO different GPS tracking devices. I’m trying my new SPOT 3 unit out and I’m trying my iPhone running the recently released SWConnect app in parallel.

SPOT 3 Satellite Transmission

 

SWConnect and iPhone Cellular Data

They both will provide GPS coordinates, but have different performance characteristics.  The biggest difference is that the iPhone with SWConnect will NOT transmit a position unless I’m in cell phone data range.  If I’m out of range it will “buffer” those locations and report them in a burst as soon as I’m back in range to transmit data.  The SWConnect is free (in that the app is free and I already have an iPhone).  The SPOT unit cost me about $150, but I also pay about $175 a year in a fee for the tracking service.

Additional differences will be the reporting frequency.  The SPOT is set at 10 minutes (unless I want to go to the $225 level) and the iPhone can go from 1-10 minutes depending on how I change the application.  Since it cost nothing…that’s a bargain.   With SWConnect I can also choose about 10 different custom messages…where the SPOT has technically only 1 “custom” message.

After The List of Bonuses

After the LC bonuses (with a few libraries thrown in)–I’ll find myself in the Corvallis area probably around midnight Friday.  Get some sleep at a hotel, and then ride around Saturday for some more bonuses in the area and aim for Portland area Saturday night.

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The Road Well Traveled

On a subject completely unrelated to rallying I wondered the other day if I’d been to a particular place in Wyoming and tried recollecting in my rallying over the years…to no avail.

Then I remembered as I’ve accumulated various rallies, rides, and trips using my SPOT tracker over the years–I wondered if it would be in the various trips I’ve accmulated via SpotWalla.  Unfortunately, I have about 80 trips since I purchased my tracker in May of 2009.  Then I thought in a brain flash–just create a trip that spans those 4 1/2 years!

Wow.

Full

It doesn’t include rallies I’ve done since 2005 including the 2007 Iron Butt Rally, 2008 SPANK Rally…that would include more on the map including Northeast and Southeast, but still illustrates how one can cover the country fairly well on a motorcycle.

And have I been to Gilette, Wyomong?  Yes, I have!  Once….at least.  The morning of September 1, 2009 in the final leg of the 2009 Iron Butt Rally.

11-7-2013 9-57-30 AMAnd judging by the spacing of reports and position of the one icon I’m fairly sure I fueled up here…fairly quickly….at a Kum & Go near the freeway.  Not that I remember it exactly since it was Day 9, but mystery solved.

I love technology. :)

11-7-2013 11-43-02 AM

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Autumn at China Hat

I’ve been watching since August the planned gathering of NW Husqvarnas near Bend, Oregon at a place called China Hat.  And other than the weather being potentially very harsh in the high country in the end of October I’m pleasantly excited by the promise of decent weather this weekend.

Friday, October 25

I’m planning to leave Friday morning from home, stop by Cycletown in Hermiston to pick up a Oregon ORV tag (Oregon doesn’t honor my street plates from Washingon when off-road).  $10 for 2 years….so I guess I can live with the slight hassle. (I got my newly required Oregon “ATV Safety Evaluation” and got my card in the mail….best 3 hour waste for 15 minutes of something worthwhile I’ve ever seen).  Besides, maybe they’ve got some dirtbike boots I can try on and pick up a 1/5 of hooch as it’s cheaper in Oregon these days.

Then meander through Lexington, Spray, and Prineville, before getting off the pavement for the last 10 or 15 miles.

This is my tentative route.  I updated it a bit Thursday as I thought I’d like to visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monument do a bit of mix of paved and non-paved cut-offs.  The route takes me through Post, OR which is a single pump outpost of a place and only 60 miles from camp…leaving me 3 gallons of fuel to play with on Saturday.

Or, as an alternate I could also choose a more direct route via paved roads and gas up last in Prineville.

Ultimate destination is a campground with supposedly a dozen or so campsites just south of the actual China Hat cone.  I find one pretty good video of the area riding…except for the ending part.  Reminds me I need to take my GoPro…and not fall down.

Saturday, October 26

Ride around, see the countryside.

This year seems the 3rd or 4th year of a larger Husky end-of-season gathering and if this picture from last year is indicative of the tenacity of this group–they seem like kindred spirit to me!

DSC_3576Fear not!  Weather forecast is for mostly sunny, highs in the 60′s, lows in the high 20′s, and no chance of rain.  Morning’s oughta be brisk and I’ll be packing my heavier sleeping bag.  Although, if there were snow–this looks fun!

43.65777665, -121.0369419

UPDATE: Here’s what I actually did when I got there.

Picked a nice place to park my bike and setup for a cold night of camping.

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Went for a little ride before dark.

Once the sun went down…the fire warmed up.
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The music played, stories of the days ride exagerated, the booze flowed, and the embers warmed.
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Sunday, October 27

Ride back home.

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Moonrise and Packwood in the Autumn

A little impromptu ride to visit my friends in Packwood for the evening.

On the way I’m going to stop at Chinook Pass for a hike in the full moon, but since the full moon should be rising at 6:20 and sunset at 6:03 (my location, but similarly adjusted when I move a hundred miles to the west) I think it *might* be an interesting event to photograph…maybe I can get some interesting background in the twilight.  Figure I’ll get there early to see what I can see.

MWK03993c

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FJR PNW Tech Meet

I was invited to attend an FJR Tech Meet and Greet to talk about rallying and looking forward to visiting about 20 fellow FJR riders in Auburn Saturday, October 5th.

I’m planning to ride up either Friday night or Saturday morning for the event and spend the night at the family cabin on Whidbey.  Should be fun. :)

 

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