Thursday, December 20, 2018

Best Photos of 2018

Well my friends, with a motorcycle trip planned to start at the end of this month, am jumping ahead with a wrap up of my best images for 2018. This was a year to learn editing techniques, work on improving compositions and find interesting angles. Every year I try to push the envelope a little further, striving to improve the images I create.

I avoid working with models or doing portraits, but do enjoy snapping quick shots of people in the street doing something where they do not realize I am taking their photo. They are natural and not posing. Encountered this Peruvian street musician in Gran Isle, Vancouver, totally obsessed in entertaining those passing by with his music.

The Russian sidecar rig URAL is old school design, not sophisticated or outfitted with modern high tech systems.  It is still being built today very similar to when they first rolled off the production line in 1938. Tried to convey the gritty throw back to an earlier era of this machine,
to its' Russian heritage.

The Atlantic coast of South Africa is cold and deep. Fierce storms endlessly batter the rocky coast. 
This image captures the feeling of frigid waters and delicate red rust lichen 
clinging to the weathered granite rocks.

A study in seasonal changes. The first snow of autumn in the Rocky Mountains blends the fading fragrance of aspen leaves with the first blast of frozen ice crystals.

One of the most difficult photographic challenges is to capture a landscape 
that looks anything like what you saw when you were there. 

Eastern Idaho is gorgeous country that one doesn't hear much about.  
Early morning fog gives way to warm rising thermals from the valley floor.

A Spanish traveler pitches his summer tent on the deck of the Alaska Marine ferry. The setting sun illuminates the clouds and pierces the tent highlighting the person sleeping within.

The calm waters of an Alaskan inlet are disturbed by a fishing boat's 
early morning return with the night's catch.

The boys hanging out at the ole watering hole swapping tales and lies... like boys everywhere!

Was surprised to see a huge elephant suddenly emerge from the thick brush, then quickly disappear again. Only the sound of breaking branches giving away its' presence. 

Shielding the eyes from a bright African sun...

The rule in capturing a good image of an animal is: their eyes must be in focus. The rest of the animal can be out of focus, but the eyes hold the key to a good photograph. Look at the animal photos you like. Look at the eyes. Are they in focus?

No one bothers a confident lion. They can rest where they want, when they want... and they know it. The scars on the face tell a history of battles won and lost.

Sometimes a simple composition well captured is the strongest. 

Thank you for following along both my photographic and motorcycle journeys this year. 

More motorcycle travels with more photographs are coming in the coming twelve months.  
Hope to see you out on the road.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Southern Rockies' Fall Colors

We almost missed the fall colors this year in northern New Mexico due to other commitments. 
Amparo and I arrived as the trees were peaking, dropping leaves daily

Captured several fall photos at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 
The rolling folds in the cloud formation after a fast rain were incredible.

Memorial Huey helicopter with golden aspen.

The wildlife is moving actively at this time of the year, but only at dusk with low light conditions.  A mule deer doe with two yearlings browse in preparation for winter.

This bull elk has gathered his breeding herd, fighting off other bulls 
for the privilege of passing on his genes.

The next morning, the first snow/sleet of the season appeared. Yes, I brought my sidecar rig along for some riding. Next day, the roads are clear and dry. 
Only 36 degrees.. ah, but still good riding weather.

Three days later, the second snow of the season arrived...

Before the second snow, I rushed up into the surrounding hills looking for a good photo of the fall colors with snow on the ground.

In another week, all of the leaves will be gone, as will we.

Ride safe my friends, see you on the road.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

North To Alaska with Nestor - Part #5: Recrossing the Lower 48

Part Five and final installment of Nestor's Alaska Adventure.

Parting ways in Bellingham, Nestor and I head south to Portland Oregon to meet up with our friend Tony from Rhode Island. Remember Tony working on his computer at the hot springs in Wyoming?  We rode with Tony for a couple of days when going north thru Wyoming and Montana in Part One. 

The return ride south may seem anti-climatic, but in reality was quite beautiful.  The northwest is gorgeous country ranging from heavy wet green spruce timber to vast sage brush covered valleys.

Getting thru the Seattle area traffic without mishap was a challenge. Nestor and I did get separated by the traffic... several times. Nestor's Colombian cell phone doesn't work in the States, so we relied upon WhatsApp to connect. With WhatsApp and a McDonalds's free wifi, we were able to reconnect.  By going online, Nestor could find me via my InReach satellite locator, but I could not find him. Plus I never knew if he knew where I was.  We'll find a better system to stay in contact when we ride South America together.

Tony was waiting for us at Keith and Robyn's new home just north of Portland in Washington state. 
Keith, Tony and I got to know each other four - five years ago while waiting for the Alaska Ferry one rainy night in Haines.

Spotting a sidecar rig outside the Famous Halibut restaurant in Haines, I went in and met Keith from Oregon. The next day Keith stopped to check on a rider he thought was stranded. It was Tony cooking lunch at a turn out. The three of us camped out the four nights under the Solarium on the ferry.  Since then we have stayed in touch. 

Two years later when I did the Iron Butt 48 States in Ten Days ride, Tony met me with an oil change in Rhode Island while Keith rode 200 miles to be my ride ending witness in Umatilla, Oregon. Unfortunately Keith sold his sidecar rig, having to give up riding this past year due to hip issues. 

Keith and his wife Robyn offered us camping space in their backyard. Next morning Keith and Robyn whipped up a great Saturday breakfast before we got on the road.

Nestor, Tony, Robyn and Keith

Nestor is ready to roll....

Seeing Keith's neighbor was having a garage sale, I wandered over.  Found a small one plug 12v DC/110v AC inverter and a Panasonic pocket camera, both at good prices. The inverter was put to use immediately as I was having a problem keeping the laptop battery charged while riding or when camping. The USB port won't charge a laptop. The inverter plugged into a cigarette outlet solved the problem. Well worth the five bucks I paid for it. 

The Colombia River makes up most of the Washington and Oregon border east to west. Two roads parallel that river. On the south, a heavily traveled interstate. On the north side, is a narrow winding two lane road. Of course we choose the slower more scenic north side road.

As we rolled inland, there are many stretches where the Columbia River looks more like a sea than a river. It is wide with wind blown waves moving inland rather than flowing out to the ocean. Seeing the waves move inland and the blue color of the water gives the appearance the water is flowing away from the ocean and not toward it. 

Being a weekend, a lot of people were out enjoying the late summer weather. From a distance we saw these colorful kites in the sky, wondered what was going on.

By the number of people gathered, appears this river sandbar is a perfect launching point for kite surfing and sailboarding. 

The train tracks closely follows the north side of the river as does the roadway we are on. There are numerous tunnels when there was no room to lay tracks. Note the color of the river, ocean blue.

Tony shades his camera while checking the settings. We both enjoy travel photography. 

We end the day at the Corps of Engineers Plymouth Park campgrounds in Plymouth, WA, across the river from Umatilla, OR.  Five dollars a person to camp. Soft green grass, shade trees, picnic tables, facilities, no muddy parking area, aaaah comfort!

Returning to the Beast after a stop at Walgreens, am shocked! It appears Beast has wet himself. Separation anxiety? No, but it's not oil or gas either. Is only ice water from a fallen cooler bag.

Between the weld patch and the ratchet straps, the Beast is running smooth and tight. As my confidence grows so does my speed.  Even with that extra large camper tub hanging out in the wind, the Beast can still cruise at 65 - 70 mph.

We had an unusual experience in how people think and act. At a rest area north of Umatilla, an older lady drives up and asks Tony if we are heading to Spokane or Coeur D'Alene. "Yes, we are".
She explains that she accidentally took her grandson's only truck key when she left this morning on her way to Portland. Would we mind taking the keys back to Coeur D'Alene and give them to her grandson? She would call her daughter and grandson and let them know we were bringing the keys back. Tony agreed to be responsible.

When asked why she picked three grey beards on motorcycles to trust for this task, she responded:  'My son has a Harley, so I KNOW Harley riders are safe and responsible....... " 
Tony comments later that she must not have heard about the 1%'ers. 

On the flat wheat fields west of Spokane, we wait for another long train to pass under a grey sky. 

The day was raining off and on as we head northeast toward Spokane to meet Tom Wells, the Washington State United Sidecar Association Rep. Tom has two Harley's with sidecars.  As a well traveled HD rider who does all of his own repairs and maintenance, Tony admires the rigs. 

After a warming cup of coffee with Tom, we ride over to Idaho to meet Sidecar Billie and David Irving. David is the Northwest Region Director and Billie is the Idaho State Rep for the United Sidecar Association. The 2019 USCA National Rally will be in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho in July next year. Billie, David and Tom are the rally hosts.

Note: I know, this is not the sign one sees when crossing from Washington into Idaho near Coeur D'Alene, but the traffic that night was so busy I could not safely stop for a photo.

 After delivering the grandson's truck keys in Coeur D'Alene, we arrive late at David and Billie's home. They offer up a spare bedroom which Nestor accepts. After a month of constant use, Nestor's tent is not so waterproof anymore. Tony opts to pitch his tent in the backyard... in the rain.  
Me? I pop up the Beast's camper...  in their dry garage... far from the cats inside.

Next morning, Billie shows us her extensive motorcycle, sidecar and memorabilia collection. Very impressive.

Looking at the map, David recommends we follow US Route 95 south toward Nevada. 
Great advice as the ride was spectacular.

Below, by midmorning low hanging clouds slowly rise, 
exposing the golden hills and ridges of western Idaho underneath. 

The Beast looks ungainly and woefully unbalanced here, but the two boxes on the top rear are for light weight items only. The eight gallon fuel cell rides directly over the rear tire, also acting as a back rest. All the heavy tools and parts are carried forward in the white tool box in front of the camper to counter balance any weight on the rear. Looks very off-balance but the front tire feels planted, never light or twitchy even on uneven roads.

The red string hanging from the tank bag is a tether for the camera in case I drop it while taking photos from the seat of the Beast. Taking quick photos with leather gloves on can be awkward.

Near Riggins, Idaho we spot a large encampment near the Salmon River...  is a firefighters base camp and support area. This summer many parts of the dry windy western US and Canada have had to deal with fast spreading forest and brush fires. Thousands of acres have been scorched. 

From Mountain Home, Idaho, we ride the flat Route 51 south to the Nevada border.

In the distance we have our first sighting where brush fires have scorched the land.

The valley floor is still green for cattle, but the hills beyond are blackened.

In many places the road serves as a the fire break, stopping the brush fire from crossing to the other side. But when the wind is strong, the wind driven embers easily jump across the roadway, igniting more dry brush.

Here are a few photos of a Nevada roadside rest area that was wiped out by a fast moving brush fire.  

There was no color left to capture in a photo. Only grey and black remains.

This was the first day of re-opening this particular roadway after being close for weeks due to the rapidly spreading fire.

By nightfall we locate a turn out on a small dusty hill untouched by fire. Talking with a local rancher, he informed us this particular fire started seventeen miles west of our location and has burnt thousands of acres. While now mostly contained, there were still a few hot spots yet to be extinguished.

Tony covers his Iron Piggy for the night.

Next morning we can see one active hot spot high on the ridge. Raw raspy throats and itchy eyes affect us all as we ride through a smoke covered roadway.

After the green forests of Idaho and out of Nevada's fire area,  we are now rolling across a wide open sagebrush valley. This particular area has gotten some rain as evidenced by the green scrub brush.

Yet a few miles further south, the lack of rain dries the grasses and brush,
creating a potential fire hazard.

After Nevada, Utah...  then on to Arizona and New Mexico, we roll.

Anxious to get back home, we cross into northern New Mexico heading for Angel Fire 
to spend a few days resting. 

Overlooking the wide valley near Tierra Amarilla, NM, only a hint of smoke haze lingers in the sky.

In Angel Fire, we take a couple of days off to rest before the final push back to Texas. 
Thus concludes the story of Nestor's Alaska Ride.

One man's goal is achieved. Ride all 18,000 miles of the PanAmerican Highway from tip to end. Nestor has accomplished what many only dream of doing but few actually do. Nestor commented that this blog's theme inspired him: Many want, some desire, but few do.

Nestor has done it!    He is one of the few!   Congratulations!

Thanks for following along.
Ride safe my friends, 


Saturday, September 29, 2018

North To Alaska with Nestor - Part #4 Alaska Ferry Ride

After the last several weeks of riding all day, camping every night, 
the slop, mud, muck and mess of the Haul Road, resulting in busting the frame in Coldfoot...

Time to pour a glass of red wine, put on comfortable slippers, kick back in the deck chair and relax with a fine cigar. Let's watch the world slide by from the deck of the MV Columbia. (Nestor thinks they misspelled the name of the ferry, it should be MV COLOMBIA, not Col-U-mbia.) This is the Alaska Maritime Highway ferry that will carry us from Haines down to Bellingham, Washington. Three days and four nights on the ferry with stops in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. Cost is $1540 for one person and one motorcycle.
 (Note: they charge by the length of the vehicle so motorcycles with trailers 
pay more than a solo motorcycle.)

With the bikes secured on the lower level, it's time to enjoy the cruise. 

The shipping activity one sees in the narrow channels from the ferry deck is fascinating. From tugs with their barges, to cruise ships, to whales, to float planes, to dolphins, to fishing vessels...  
A daily parade of shapes, colors and purposes...

There are no roads in this part of Alaska. Everything from your morning Cherrios to rocks to diapers comes via water to where you live.

 A lone fishing boat slides across early morning waters returning with his daily catch.

What is relaxing is we are cruising between the mainland and numerous islands along the Alaskan and Canadian coasts.
No open water or rough seas here. Smooth sailing all the way.

Fading sun falls away as the ferry cruises down the calm Chilkoot Inlet channel.  
More wine, please. Any cheese with those crackers...?

What about the sleeping arrangements you ask? No, we did not pay the extra for a cabin.  
First of all, the ferry cabins are quite small, only furnished with bunkbeds. The space is confining. You really can't see much from them, but you have privacy.

To me, the ideal and my preferred way of travel on this ferry is to camp out in the Solarium section of the open deck with forty of my closest strangers... as Mark Twain commented, strangers are friends I haven't met yet. 

Roll out your sleeping bag, bring a bag of snacks and drinks.
You are sheltered on three sides from the wind and by a roof from the rain.
Too cold? Ask the steward to turn on the overhead heaters.
No matter what time of day or night you are awake, you can watch the world slide silently by. 

A warm sunny day? Simply drag your deck chair out into the open area. 
Raining or cold? Drag your chair back inside.

To me, the huge plus of the Solarium is you have a 180 degree of fresh air (like on a motorcycle) plus have a great view of the world from the aft portion of the ship. The people who choose to camp in this space are usually gregarious, friendly and respectful.  By 9 'o dark,  all is quiet for sleeping.

On the ferry we meet Steve and Phyllis from Medina, Texas who are traveling across the country, north, south, east and west on the red Goldwing you saw parked next to my rig in the first photo.
They are enjoying their retirement as one should.

Actually of the four motorcycles on the ferry, three were from Texas and Nestor's from Colombia. We also met Nick from Georgetown, TX who is tent camping on a lower level of the ferry. There is a protected area out of the wind for those who want to put up their tent on the ferry. It is not under the Solarium heaters as that would be a fire hazard.

Phyllis, Steve, Nestor and your unpaid scribe.

First morning, a bright sunrise turns the water golden as it greets the day... a small fishing boat works the water's depths.

...  further down the coast the sun disappears behind a wet fog bank making the numerous small islands look mysterious and forbidden.

Too wet and too cold to relax out on the open deck, a lonely chair is abandoned.

Being a smaller vessel than the huge tourist ships, the ferry Capitan can thread his boat between the smaller islands with deep channels.

We spotted several whales, tails flipping as they dive deep.
One whale breeching, blowing a cloud of mist.
Unless one has the camera on, focused with the correct settings and... be facing in the right direction, you will not get a good photo of a whale. I tried... blurry images... !

As the trees slide by so close, one feels they could reach out and touch them.
How calm and quiet the waters are... more wine?

Second morning sunrise, a double sun???  Sun is on the right behind mountains and clouds. A few rays found an opening in the fog to brightly reflect off the water on the left creating 
the unusual double sun affect.

Carlos from Madrid, Spain tried camping on the open deck the first night. Was cool but pleasant he said, but by mid-morning a cold constant drizzle and strong wind forced him to move in.

Tomorrow we are back on the bikes heading south, taking a wandering route east along the Columbia River, then northeast into Idaho before turning south toward Nevada. 

Securing our gear, saying our goodbyes at the Bellingham terminal loading area are
Nestor, Nick, Phyllis and I.

The wine bottle is empty, time to ride. See you on down the road.

More to come in the fifth and final episode of Nestor's ride to Alaska.


p.s. Truth be told,  drinking alcoholic beverages on the ferry is not allowed. But it was a pleasant and relaxing thought for three days.