Sunday, January 30, 2005

Practice

Recently, I've discovered the "Adventurerider" website, an on-line gathering place primarily for American motorcyclists. There are many fascinating accounts to be found here. One was from "Karim", a Brit who planned to ride the African Continent from north to south, primarily along off-road "tracks". The trip was cut far short when he became lost while crossing the Sahara and nearly died. Next to this adventure, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego is a "cake walk".

A clear dry day, I pulled my car out to wash off a week's worth of grime. Every bit of exercise is seen as training now. (I even got down on the ground to do 30 "sit-ups" this morning! It's a start.)

Suited up in my "Aerostich" and took the bike out on the road. Each ride is a test. I'm still uncomfortable on wet streets, in gravel, or whenever I encounter debris in the road. The bike is so responsive, I tend to over steer and lean too far into a turn, having to correct mid-way through. I suspect that even fully-loaded the bike will be no less nimble.

Drove up to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park for a hike. It was very warm and clear, with a slight northerly breeze. Many people in the park today. I parked at the stables and hiked toward Bald Mountain, pushing myself a bit harder this time. Dreams about my upcoming travels floated through my head.

From the summit, Pyramid Peak in the Sierras, 129 miles distant according to the sign atop Bald Mountain, glowed a bright white, clear and sharp. With an adequate line of sight, I'd wager one could see 200 miles today.

Lounged on the west-facing slope, dozing in the warm sun. After a while, I started down the mountain, surprised, perhaps even a bit alarmed at the number of groups and couples out on the trails today. ("The park is being overrun!")

Rode with a long-sleeved t-shirt under my "Aerostich", which seemed just right for the temperature (mid- to upper-60s). I still feel awkward in traffic, with the frequent stops and starts; not fully confident of my instincts and ability to take the correct action, especially in an emergency.

I started to think about taking those intermediate and advanced training courses offered by the same school that provided my basic training.

A quiet evening, reading Breaking the Limit. I'm impressed with Karen Larsen's writing, especially given her young age (31 or so). I read of her difficult decision to forgo the Dalton Highway, after numerous warnings about how treacherous it is. I'm a little less naive now. It's good to read this stuff.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tales from another traveler

I'm reading Breaking the Limit by Karen Larsen. In 2000, she rode her Harley 1200 "Sportster" from her home in New Jersey up to Alaska and back.

She gives short-shrift to California. "...Californians were a strange breed: friendly and welcoming when met in cafes and gas stations, on hiking trails or along the beach, but put them behind the wheel of a car and an ugly and inexplicable transformation occurred." She refers to us as "destination-obsessed lunatics".

She adds that the "sign that marked the Oregon border was a welcome sight."

I will be interested in comparing notes.

Experienced some apprehension concerning my trip. "Do you realize that when you depart, it could be the last time you see your daughter?"

Sunday, January 23, 2005



With Dona Moberly, my landlord for 16 years

Saturday, January 22, 2005

"Outfitting"

This afternoon, I ventured into "Sonoma Outfitters", one of the local stores whose specialty is to prepare Americans for the wilderness, in style of course.

I wandered the floor for a long time, picking things up and studying them. It's all too confusing. I'm well aware of Americans' need to arrive prepared for every eventuality. Manufacturers market a "need" for their product, playing upon our fears of the unknown.

Looking at the stoves, water filters, sleeping mats, tents, mosquito nets, hammocks, etc., it's easy to envision a scenario in which each would be "necessary".

A better, perhaps more unusual, way to attack the matter is to "visualize" how one could do without the product. "You're a resourceful creature, aren't you? There's another solution out there. Find it."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What "the doc" says

Yesterday, I visited my doctor to explain my travel plans and solicit his advice on vaccinations and getting prescriptions extended to cover the anticipated duration. He was open to working with me. He has ways of working around "the rules" governing maximum prescription quantities (such as prescribing a stronger dose, but lower tablet count.)

He also suggested I review the CDC literature for recommendations on malaria prophylaxis. The best medicine will be determined by my planned route. Mosquitoes in certain regions have developed resistance to particular pharmaceuticals. He also suggested I start working out. "You'll need it."

From my office, as other activities have died down and responsibilities are gradually shed, I've begun researching useful travel websites: the Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists country-by-country health risks and required or recommended immunizations. The State Department offers appraisals of the risks American travelers might face overseas, also listed by country.

I found an excellent website on the Dalton Highway, the "Haul Road" to Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. Read about bears and other hazards and dreamily looked at photos of the land.

I've started a preparation and packing list.

Tonight, I've even noted a sense of excitement at the prospect of my journey! Work life has been chaotic for so long, clouded by turf-battles, quarrels, mismanagement and endless schemes to rapidly extract maximum compensation for those in the "leadership". I had almost forgotten that life really doesn't need to be this way. I'm happy to leave this world to those who believe "greed is good". I don't.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Coming into focus

At home. Listening to the music of the Icelandic band "Sigur Ros", a pot of rice cooking on the stove, "organizing papers", going through bills and other mail. Scanned the local "Kenwood Press". There have been four recent deaths in the small town of Kenwood: ages 52, 53, 62 and 65. All too young. To me, the message is clear: "don't wait to pursue your dreams."

I don't usually take a notebook when I hike, but today I did. I don't want to miss any thoughts that surface that might help in preparing for my trip. Hiked to Bald Mountain in the mild, partly-sunny afternoon. Insects beginning to stir, and the fragrance of flowers drifting through the air. Very pleasant.

As I walked, I sank into imagination about travel, occasionally pulling out the pad to jot down a note, another item to add to the packing list. Thus distracted, my instincts take over and "manage" the pace of climb. Consequently, it was not too taxing. Reached the summit painlessly. (Often, this is not the case.)

The valleys to the west were filled with an unhealthy haze, no doubt the result of countless fireplaces and stoves. To the east, it was less apparent. Rested in the gravelly stubble, dozing lightly.

After other hikers departed, leaving me in silence, I took a seat on the simple, solitary bench atop Bald Mountain and gazed off to the eastern horizon, out toward the vastness of America. Shakespeare wrote "for nimble thought can jump both sea and land, as soon as think the place where he would be." For some reason, the view from a mountain top will often evoke these words. I think of friends in distant places.

To the north, Hull, Snow and St. John Mountains are all dusted in snow, and plumes of steam rise high over The Geysers. (Are those vapors now tainted since Santa Rosa has begun pumping its wastewater into the Geysers' source?)

Thought long about the trip. "Perhaps I should take a run down to the Carrizo Plain as a test?" I've come to realize I'm now "in training". Four months to go. If I can "lose fifteen pounds" that's fifteen pounds of additional gear I can carry, or an additional 100 miles' worth of gasoline.

***

Yesterday, I met with my supervisor at Robert Mondavi, and he reviewed with me the separation offer from Constellation Brands. A retention bonus would be paid for me to stay on through May 6th to help with the transition.

The meeting was short and sweet. It could have been worse. Being a manager, I was not offered anything so lavish as the obscene packages being used placate Senior Management, but the offer was reasonable. In fact, it will go a long way toward funding "The Americas Trip".

The timing will be perfect. Two weeks after leaving Mondavi, I could be on the road, bound for Alaska.

An old familiar expression, "the play is written" has never been more apparent.

Monday, January 10, 2005

So much to learn, so little time

A quiet evening at home, browsing the "Aerostich" motorcycling accessory catalog. Jotted down ideas for gear. There are a myriad books available full of insights and lessons of the road. How can I possibly learn all I need to know before leaving?

The costs may be the least of my worries. Maybe $10k in food, fuel and lodging costs. Another $5k for maintenance, gear and miscellaneous expenses.

Looked over my new maps of Alaska, Central and South America. Studying the Alaskan highways, it appears it may not be possible to drive all the way to Prudhoe Bay, at the Arctic Ocean's edge. The road is labeled "restricted".

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Research

A'Roma Roasters, Santa Rosa

A blustery afternoon, but there's a break in the rain. I had slept late this morning, hunkering down in my sleeping bag with the windows left wide open to last night's storm and frigid wind.

Awakened by a painful cramp in my right calf. (I can only imagine the intense pain a heart attack might generate!) A slightly sore throat and few other aches and pains raised doubts about my fantastic journey.

With the imminent loss of my job, I foresee a dramatically altered lifestyle. A forced austerity program. (Which might be made unnecessary by a concerted effort to find a replacement job, however I refuse to entertain such thoughts right now.) Reality will soon hit, and I will be humbled.

Went out to make the rounds of the local bookstores looking for some research materials for my trip. At Barnes and Noble, purchased road maps stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. I also browsed a hard-bound copy of Long Way Round, an account of actor Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman's recent trip around the World on motorcycles.

Aboard new BMW R1150GS motorcycles, they traveled 20,000 miles in four months. Apparently, it was a tortuous journey, even with a host of sponsors, diplomatic interventions, a trained support team traveling close behind and a film crew.

And I naively think I'll do 30 to 40,000 miles in perhaps six months. Alone.