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01 New York
02 New England
03 Maine to Midland
04 Midland to Sturgis
05 Indians'n Cowboys
06 British Columbia
07 San Francisco
08 SF to San Diego
09 Baja to Canyons
10 Baja California
11 Northern Mexico
12 Mex. to Guatemala
13 Gua. to Costa Rica
14 CR to S. America
15 Ecuador
16 Peru and Bolivia
17 Chile
18 Patagonia
19 Argentina/Brasil
20 The road home
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Norwegian version

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Chapter 08 San Francisco to San Diego

Start: July 27nd, San Francisco, CA , Stop: August 21st, San Diego, CA
2466 km (1532 miles), Total Distance: 19024 km [Map]

Our schedule and itinerary is nothing much to comment on anymore. After a journey along the west coast of California southbound to San Diego, we thought we were on our way into Mexico. We've now done the full north and west boundary of the USA, and look forward to speaking Spanish again. But travelling on a motorcycle sometimes involves unforeseen problems.

San Francisco

Sunday Morning Ride

Three Tigers on a nice back road north of San Francisco, from right to left, Patrick's, Terry's and ours.

We started our stay in the city by saying yes to the famous Sunday Morning Ride, a motorcycle ride that starts on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge and goes north on Highway 1. Loads of road racers and road racers wannabees gather in the earlier hours each Sunday to race along the twisty coastal road. We met up with Patrick, another Tiger owner from the Bay area, and Terry - our host. Patrick and the three of us left the rest of the gang of motorcycles to get ahead of them. Why I don't know, since ten minutes later we had a swarm of rockets passing us along the extremely twisty coastal highway.

I hated this part of the trip, and felt I got more and more nervous as the rockets passed us in the middle of turns or wherever they found it suitable. A few miles down the road, a bike was in the ditch surrounded by biker friends, and further ahead police cars and an ambulance sped towards us, giving a real picture of what happens from time to time on the ride. We got out of the pack by taking an alternative route, and finally I felt comfortable again. There were several other Tiger owners that had planned to join us - the Bay area is probably the most densely populated Tiger list member area in the world, but planning was bad and by the time it was considered to go to the meeting place, we were too late. It was a real shame since we had hoped to meet as many as possible for a roundup Tiger photo.

Terry and me pouring beer

That's the smile you see, when people who are used to be on the other side of the bar, finally get to live out their dreams.

Ten days in hilly and groovy San Francisco was enough to learn to love the city, but not enough to experience everything. We easily skipped Alcatraz the tourist trap, and settled on walking the streets like we did in New York. Terry, our host throughout the stay, worked an odd schedule as an air traffic controller, and joined us as a guide to the different local micro breweries A beer aficionado, he was surprised and happy to learn that we too had the affection. The result was a few late nights, lots of good beer and quite a few laughs. Especially when we were invited to a roller skate hockey game with free beer. The building would be torn down the next day, and the owners supplied the beer for the last night, as a sort of homage to all the people who had hung around there over the years. The game ended just minutes after we arrived, but we got ourselves a big pitcher of beer and chatted with Terry's friends. After the second pitcher was empty, there was nobody behind the bar, and since it was the last night and beer was free anyway, Terry and I took up the challenge and were all smiles as we filled up more pitchers.

Castro, gay community number one in the world, was a fascinating brake from the rest of the city. Here men held hands everywhere and the shops sold explicit material of varied quality. T-shirts with slogans like "I can't even think STRAIGHT" were sold everywhere. It was a neet little haven for the gay world. Even though Terry and I were dressed the same - we wore the same riding jacket and similar baseball caps - and Bente left us for a while to test our masculin tolerance, we didn't feel treathened. In the modern world all three of us had gay friends, and I couldn't stop smiling at how much more tense I would have been in an area like Castro 15 years ago, when homosexuality still was a tabu back home.

Pipe dreams

"Ecstasy sold here". Did they really? We never found out...

Haight/Ashbury, the famous hippie area of San Francisco, had probably changed a lot since its heydays in the late sixties, early seventies. There were a few hippies around, but even more shops that tried to take advantage of the name. Still, it was interesting and fun to walk the streets and suck in the remaining atmosphere. The area had a lot of town homes, the Victorian style, three to four stories houses which we saw all over the city, and which made this city so special.

San Francisco has very limited growth potential, being surrounded by ocean on three sides, and since the whole region is packed with people. The San Francisco Bay area has about eight million people spread around the bay in lots of cities, while SF itself has only around eight hundred thousand. Since the Victorian town houses dominates the city, it is limited how many people can live there. A result is that there are no really cheap areas in the town, and the authorities have been forced to build what they call "projects", concrete blocks which houses the less fortunate.

One day Terry and I went to the local hardware store and bought a three inch PVC tube with rubber lids to cover the ends. With a saw and hose clamps we made a tool box that I fitted to the engine guard, just behind the front wheel. I was able to get most of the heavy tools in there, which meant we had more space in the panniers and tank bags, and that the weight distribution was moved forward and down. It kind of looked the business as well, and we both agreed that it fitted well in with the rough style of the Tiger. A little vanity is allowed. Also, Terry convinced me that I should have grip heaters installed. I had thought about this for a long time, but never gotten around to it. Quite understandably, Bente commented sarcastically that it would be nice to have when we entered Mexico in August. I shrugged and replied that some day they would come out handy. With a new seat from Corbin we were now feeling quite well set up for the next legs. Finally we were able to return the seat we had borrowed from Kevin in Michigan, after riding more than 10000 km on it. The new seat had been rebuilt to our specifications, and was just as we wanted it. Bente had plenty of room behind me, and I was now in the position I wanted to be when riding.


A simple 3" PVC tube turned toolbox.

After a fantastic ten days in San Francisco, we said good-bye to Terry and promised to keep in touch. We had seen a lot of the city, but left with a wish to go back, even a stronger feeling than we had when leaving New York. When we left the metropolis on the east cost, it was with relief, this time it was with a feeling of sorrow.

History and gifts in Santa Barbara

We found Highway One and headed south towards Santa Barbara. Dibblee Hoyt, freelance photographer and Russia aficionado - he had ventured two times in there on a motorcycle, had seen our homepage and invited us to stay when passing through. After two days, where on the first we drove along the fantastic cliffs of Big Sur, and on the second we headed inland into 40 degrees Celsius through the oil fields, we arrived very much later than we had announced at his farm house. His house was on the property of the San Julian farm, one of the largest and oldest in the area.

Built in the early 1800's, the main buildings lay a mile away from Dibblee's house. As commander of the local Presidio - a fortress run by the Spaniards 200 years ago, Dibblee's forefather Captain Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega claimed the land from the Spanish crown. Later the de la Guerra's mixed with the Dibblee's, and the ranch size was reduced by more than half. But even so, the ranch is one of the largest today. The family strives to keep it's land off the commercial marked and have succeeded so far. As a result, the ranch is frequently being used by movie producers for it's scenic and unspoiled backdrop, and also for it's historical buildings. Even though nobody lived in the main house anymore, it was a fantastic building, formed as a U with more than 17 bedrooms and enough kitchen facilities to support three large families. The furniture was still in place, creating a museum like atmosphere.

Rancho San Julian

Dibblee in the huge old ranch house of Rancho San Julian.

Dibblee took us to visit two of his life long friends while we were in Santa Barbara, John Chase and Ron Harper, founders of Chase and Harper, a company that makes high quality motorcycle luggage. He presented us first to John, who besides having a finger in the Chase Harper, also runs Foarm, a company that makes hard heat pressed cases for everything from sunglasses to life saving equipment.

After looking among the many prototype bags that lay around, we found a perfect fit, hard bag for our laptop, and two small hard bags for the accessories. This was a great improvement to our luggage, as it meant that the volume would be reduced and the protection increased for this sensitive equipment. We gave the old laptop bag to Dibblee and left with something much better. At Chase Harper, Ron Harper gave us a brief history of the company and gave us a hide away bag, which, when folded out to maximum size, fitted perfectly as an inner bag in our top box We could now leave the top box on the bike, and just take along the inner bags for all three hard boxes.

"Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard"

Santa Monica beach

Aiming for the stars. Young guys lay the ground work for impressing the girls in ten years time. The Santa Monica Pier in the background.

We were now travelling from host to host, and our next stop was with Scott and Kristin, two Ph.D. students that lived in a small apartment in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. The first night we watched a video tape from their trip two up on a Tiger to Peru together with Scott's brother and a friend, both on Kawasaki KLR's. The 6000 mile (10000 km) trip went without any mishap on the Tiger and was, according to the two of them, totally unforgettable. It was interesting to hear their experiences, since this was the closest we had come to someone doing the same trip as us. Since they had nothing but positive to say about the trip, the bike and the people they met, Bente and I spent the night dreaming of what lay ahead of us.

We stayed six days in LA. Hollywood Boulevard was nothing more than a few names in the pavement, a whole lot of tourists and a pair of oversized silicon constructions. Beverly Hills was a lot more hills than I had imagined, and the Mulholland Drive had a lot of fun turns and twisties. The most impressive part of the city, from the very little we actually saw of it, was the beach. A two hundred meter wide stretch of sand goes from Santa Monica to Venice and beyond, many kilometers long, and makes it possible for thousands of people to enjoy the sun at the same time, without stumbling into each other. On the first visit to the beach, we played in the waves and watched the red dressed "Bay watchers" roam around, screaming orders and jumping into the waves to save someone too far out, even though he was in total control. I looked around for the TV cameras.

On a Sunday morning walk to Venice Beach, we saw more vanity, crazy people, street side healers and massage artists, muscle monsters working out in public, the joggers, roller skaters and bicyclists that exercise along the beach, tattoos bigger than the bodies that carried them and basketball players confirming the term, "White men can't jump". We saw people meditating everywhere, a guy that looked like Jesus on a bicycle - carrying more stuff on the bike than I believed possible, and we saw thousands and thousands of people, just regular people like us enjoying the sun and the spectacle around them. We had never seen such a fantastic display of the out of the ordinary before and enjoyed it immensely. There's something about USA when it comes to taste, fashion and expressing your self. Everything is allowed, and almost everything is accepted. It demands respect and approvement that a country that often seems puritan and shallow to the outside world also hosts some of the most liberal minds around.

We had deliberated whether to go to Grand Canyon for a long time now. But at this time of year the journey through the Mojave desert and into the canyon would be torture because of the heat. Both of us agreed that Mexico was too close and tempting to waste more time and not to mention money, in the States. We headed south towards San Diego and the Mexican border in Tijuana, hungry for adventure.

Adventure is often just a romantic word for mishaps and unforeseen problems. We got that alright.

Stranded in San Diego

"Dag, come over here and have a look", said James, one of two mechanics at Rocket Motorcycles in San Diego, Triumph and KTM dealer with 50 years of Brit iron traditions. I didn't like the tone of his voice, since this was supposed to be a minor service and the last check on the bike before heading into Mexico. He raised his hands in a gesture saying he was sorry, and replied, "You have to see this, I'm afraid". He was looking at a spot in front of the rear wheel. As I leaned down and followed his pointing, I was shocked to see that the lower left engine mount was gone. I held my breath and looked at the opposite mount. It wasn't gone but had a crack right through it.
"How the hell can this happen?", I asked apologetically.
Mark, the senior mechanic came over as well, and after a quick look, he said, "I have never seen this before".

I had asked Rocket MC to do a last check and minor service to be ready for Baja California in Mexico. Luckily this shop had some of the best mechanics I had met, and they quickly found error after error made by earlier dealers. For example, I had complained about the steering head bearings since before we started the trip, often having the feeling of forcing the front from side to side in slow speed, and always having a problem with a weaving front when the speed went beyond 135 km/h. Now they told me that the bearings were bad, and probably had been for a long time. Earlier dealers had answered my questions with a "The front is OK".

But this problem was nothing compared to the engine mounts. We discussed the problem for a while and agreed to make a warranty claim from Triumph, since there was no real reason the mounts should break. The alternative was to take the engine out and weld new mounts, a job that would cost us 1500 US$. They faxed the claim, and I went back to the hostel by the beach to tell Bente that we wouldn't be able to cross into Mexico the next day. She was taken aback, but like me, she looked at it with a mix of humor and relief. It would have been worse if it had happened later, and we were lucky to meet such good mechanics at the very last service in a long time. Also, we had discussed skipping this service all together. Now we were glad we didn't.

Engine mount

The left rear lower engine mount, broken through both lips where the arrows points.

The next day I was back in the shop and exited to hear what response had come from Triumph. To my great relief they agreed to replace the whole crank case on warranty, replying that they had never seen this happening either. But, replacing the crank case meant not only taking the engine out of the frame, but dismantling every little bit inside. The crank cases comes in pairs, an upper and a lower. These are machined together for a perfect fit, and a consequence is that if you need to replace one, you must do both. Mark showed me where on the engine the crank case boundaries went, and I was taken aback to see it reached far up the cylinder block. Not being a mechanic at all, I had a hard time accepting that welding wasn't good enough. It probably would be, said Mark, but Triumph wouldn't support it.

Another issue was that if they did the complete job, he could check every little internal bearing, ring and whatever else is inside the magic box. By the time we left for Mexico, we would leave with something close to a new engine, mostly paid by Triumph, with some possible costs for us if they found worn parts that needed replacement. The downside was that we were looking at a three week job. Our visas for the States expired in a few days, and we had been really eager to enter Mexico. The alternative welding would take ten days, because of a tight work schedule at the dealer, plus that we would have to pay for the job ourselves. After a short discussion with Bente, we agreed to take three weeks "vacation" while getting the job done. In addition to the new crank case and internal check of the engine, we would leave USA with new steering head bearings, new alternator - sent to us from our Norwegian distributor as a replacement for the rattling unit we had, and the rest of the bike would also be checked and ready. All in all we were lucky, and three weeks wasn't that long anyway. Our schedule, called a "pool table schedule" from some of our contacts to describe how random it was, was by now just a faint memory of the past.

Rocinante stripped

Bye bye Rocinante. Hope they treat you well and get you back in good shape. I believe they will. Rocinante in the workshop of Rocket Motorcycles, bodywork, carburettors and air filter taken off.

Our stay at the Ocean Beach Backpacker Hostel was meant to last two nights. On the second evening we sat down with a few beers and laughed at how close, but still so far away, Mexico was. The hostel was completely filled up with youths travelling through the States, just arrived from Mexico or on their way south. Most of the clientele was more than ten years younger than us, and we quickly found out we were slightly out of tune with the hoards of surfers, backpackers and tattooed, tanned and cool people here, often sagging their shorts so low that any minute their private parts would pop out.

The first night we heard guitars and singing from the back yard patio. We were already to late to catch up with the atmosphere, but sat around listening for a while. When we went to bed in our separate dorm - Bente was placed in a six bed dorm with some of the partying girls from the patio, while I was in a mixed dorm, both rooms were very warm and noisy - we promised our selves that on the next night we would be out there early enough with a few beers to join in the party. So we did, and after an hour or two we were wondering what had happened to the spirited atmosphere from last night. Nobody showed up, and we spent the entire evening on our own, getting slightly drunk and laughing at how bad our timing were. Later we learned that the previous night a free barbecue had been arranged, explaining why everybody was in such a good mood.

The second night we slept in the same dorm, and finally, on the third night, we got our own double room with bath. Sleeping in messy and crammed small rooms with a lot of strangers hasn't got the same pull on us today, but would have been no problem at all 15 years ago. I guess growing up meant developing some oddities and demands which fits badly in with the communal thinking of a backpackers hostel. Maybe we can learn something here.

It took a week from we arrived at the hostel by the beach, until the bike was to be delivered to the mechanics for serious surgery. We passed the time playing beach tennis once a day, reading books, drinking beer in the hostels back yard, sight seeing San Diego and reading more books. I felt the momentum of our travel diminishing, and I hadn't been so empty of ideas and plans for a very long time. It was an odd feeling. The year behind us had been spent planning, preparing and finally executing the trip, and all along the 19 000 kilometers we had gone so far, even though we stayed a week here and ten days there, there was always something to do and plan and prepare for the next leg.

This stop in the flow of forward motion was different, and I had to admit, after talking lightly about what a nice break it was and what was three weeks anyway, that it was in reality difficult to change speed, to shift down and just let the days pass with no real purpose. Bente handled it a lot better, saying to me that this was an opportunity to relax and just enjoy the sun. What was I to complain about, with the beach just down the road, lots of friendly people around us, and the sun shining all day long. We had no worries, no duties or time schedule to keep, no reason to look at the watch at all. I agreed in principle and promised to adjust, since I realized that it was a stupid way of thinking, to let myself get restless over such a short break.

Ocean Beach Hostel

Ocean Beach Hostel in San Diego on a Tuesday - the farmer's marked day.

The hostel is definitely the most social place we've been, and just hanging around the front porch introduced us to a lot of new people, like Roger from Mandal, Norway, travelling for 15 months through every continent on the globe, Thomas from Austria on the same mission, Alberto from Spain, working his way around the globe on boats, and lots of other people from New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Germany, Sweden, England, Ireland and many more. Like Ian from a village outside La Paz in Baja California.

An American on early retirement financed by stocks left him from his late father, he had been back in the States with his pick up truck to get his newly purchased Suzuki DR650, a one cylinder dual purpose motorcycle. The nicely crafted home made aluminum panniers caught my attention and for the evening we discussed motorcycles in general and off road touring in particular. I pulled the cover off Rocinante to show him what extra gadgets we had mounted, and after seeing the bicycle computer, the Scottoiler and the Throttlemeister, he declared he needed all three of them. We laughed about it the next day and agreed that the world of information was creating ever more needs. If he hadn't seen the gadgets on Rocinante, he would have continued to live in the (mis)conception that he had what gear he needed for his bike.

Now it's late in the night on Monday the 21st of August in the year 2000. Tomorrow morning I'm leaving Rocinante to her saviors. On Thursday we have to be out of the country, at least for an hour, as they told us at the border station today, to get a new three month visa stamped in our passports. Next time you hear from us, we will answer the question to where we spent the waiting days, and how long it took to get Rocinante back on the road.

Big Sur
The coastline around Big Sur was fantastic in the low afternoon sun. [Large image]

Meditating on Venice Beach. Never mind that the National Democratic Convention in the city brought the police to every little corner.

Dreaming about success in Hollywood.

Venice basketball
Basketball fun on Venice Beach. White men supposedly can't dunk, so I kept my distance.

Bay Bridge San Francisco
Another impressive bridge in San Francisco, the Bay Bridge has five lanes in two stories to accommodate the traffic to and from the main land.

Another place where I kept my distance. The Venice Muscle Beach club is a place for the big guys and the exhibitionists.

Scull San Julian
Keep off! Surrounding Dibblee's property were skulls hung up on the fences.


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