While still in Baja California, Mexico, we agreed to meet Daniel – a veteran traveler from the US, whom we first met in Colombia, later again in Guatemala and now we were invited to stay with him and his wife Teresa at their home in San Diego. Daniel offered to meet us in Rosarito, Mexico for breakfast and to escort us over the border to the US and we spent a beautiful morning sharing stories over the breakfast table and riding together with Daniel.
We stayed for a week on the ocean coast in Southern California, doing some maintenance on the bikes and getting accustomed to the new country before we set off to Arizona, where, in the beginning of May, we were planning to attend the overlanders’ event Overland Expo West 2017.
While visiting the impressive sculptures in the desert at Borrego Springs in California and taking a peak at “the fabulous Las Vegas” as it calls itself, we soon reached city of Flagstaff in Arizona, where travel enthusiasts from all over United States and beyond gathered together for a long weekend of the previously mentioned event, after which, together with a group of other travelers from US, The Netherlands, Germany and Canada, we went camping and sharing stories and memories from different parts of the world.
While in Arizona, it was a no-brainer to head north towards the Grand Canyon – the iconic natural monument. The weather that day was pleasant and the views over the enormous canyon from it’s southern rim were spectacular. We decided to treat ourselves to a very nice wild-camping spot on the Little Colorado River, which had just as nice the canyon, just a bit smaller. There was barely any vegetation in the area apart from a dried tree on the edge of the canyon, under which we pitched our tent for the night. The evening seemed windy, but usually the wind would calm down over the night. But not this time. The whole night the sound of wind gust approaching would sound like a train coming at us and sometimes it would miss our tent, while sometimes it would not… And it only went worse through the night, until at about 4 AM we got well awake due to the sound of the alarm on both of our motorcycles, which started moving so much in the wind, that it triggered the security system. We got out of the tent, secured it some more with rocks we could gather around us and started packing our sleeping bags inside, while waiting for the sun to come up so we would not have to pack the tent in extremely strong wind in the dark as it meant that if anything gets blown away by the wind it may be lost for good flying down the canyon in the darkness of early morning hours… Luckily, our tent survived the wind and we managed to pack everything safely by 6 AM and while the wind was still insanely strong and cold, we rode off… The next night we spent in a motel room back in Flagstaff while it was snowing outside…
From Arizona, yet again, we rode north to explore Utah which is a true rider’s paradise: all the spectacular national parks, gravel roads in The Valley of The Gods, the impressive Moki Dugway and many more amazing passages made our time there unforgettable. But we wanted to see more of California, so we steered back to Las Vegas and from there, through the crazy hot Death Valley, we returned to Los Angeles in California. By the time we got there, we had decided to change the original plan of riding all the way to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada to visit Asta’s relatives and see the spectacular Niagara Falls as the route over the central regions of United States seemed to be long, flat and boring while the flights from Los Angeles to Toronto and back to our surprise were much cheaper than the cost of fuel and tires should we have done the roundtrip overland by motorcycles. So we arranged a plan for what seemed like a 10-day-vacation from our world-trip and agreed with BMW dealership in Long Beach for motorcycle storage. They kindly took our loyal steeds in for a safe parking inside their workshop.
On our return 10 days later, as planned before, we participated in a satellite run of Kaunas Marathon – an event that was happening the same day in Lithuania, by running 5 kilometers along the beach of Santa Monica together with the Lithuanian community of Los Angeles before we put our riding gear on, revved the bikes and continued exploring California while slowly making our way North through San Francisco and further up along the coast of the mighty Pacific ocean on Highway No. 1. The might of the ocean waves was complimented by the giant redwood trees just a bit further inland on the road that was called The Avenue of the Giants for a good reason.
Finally, the lush green forests of regular-sized trees greeted us as we entered the state of Oregon, through which we headed East and after checking out The Crater Lake National Park, which, to our surprise, still had plenty of snow all around the road and the Crater Lake itself in the middle of June, we reached the state border of Idaho.
Continuing even further East, we crossed Idaho and arrived in Wyoming with the object to visit the famous Yellowstone National Park. This park was the very first national park in US and probably in the whole world. And the place is sure worth it! The dramatic canyons, mountain rivers, lush green forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, together with free-ranging herds of bison and elk, and bears, wolves and hundreds of other animal species roaming the area make it an extraordinary experience… even when having to share it all with thousands of other park visitors…
The Northern edge of Yellowstone National Park expands into Montana, therefore this state was next on our route. Riding the most sparsely populated American state felt refreshing after the very crowded national park. Even the speed limits in Montana are very loose – on the roads where we Europeans would normally expect to have a limit of max 90 kilometers per hour, here we were allowed to accelerate up to 130! So it didn’t take long to reach Glacier National Park and through its spectacular passages, the border of yet another country – Canada!
Canada immediately made it to the shortlist of our favorite countries. The scenic nature, wonderful infrastructure and so very friendly and, most importantly, rational people.
After enjoying the famous Banff and Jasper national parks in the Rocky mountains of Canada, we took another week for visiting Asta’s relatives in Calgary and experiencing the yearly event that drives the whole city of Calgary crazy – The Calgary Stampede – a rodeo which happens for a week and creates the fun lively atmosphere of western style throughout every bar, restaurant, shop and even office building. Every type of public premises get decorated, people wear stylish cowboy hats, bars expand to fit hundreds of visitors in a festive mood and country music bands play all throughout the city all night long!
Still with the rhythm of a country love song in our heads, feeling like two cowboys, we rode our iron horses into the horizon… and towards the beautiful province of British Columbia and onwards to the legendary Yukon as we were making our way to Alaska. The places grew more and more remote, the distances between towns expanded as we were riding the iconic AlCan Highway – the Canadian stretch of Alaskan highway. “Miles and miles of miles and miles” is the expression which describes that road best. And if not for something unusual to us happening on that road every day, it would have been a very long and lonesome ride… However, the sudden hail with the pieces of ice nearly the size of the golf ball falling from the sky (luckily, we found shelter for us as well as for motorcycles right on time…), the incredible amount of black bears as well as grizzlies roaming calmly around the road, the unexpected meetings with other travelers that we have known and some other every-day-adventures made those few days of riding the AlCan a lot of fun.
Finally, we reached The Top Of The World Highway – a scenic gravel road winding on the mountain ridges and while on it, we crossed the border back into the US. In through the northernmost land border crossing post of the US, called Poker Creek, and here we were – finally in Alaska – a mysterious state that we have known and dreamt of visiting since childhood!
After making a loop and a few hundred kilometers detour on the gravel through the Dalton Highway to reach the Arctic Circle and see the midnight sun, we turned back. We have travelled all the way from Ushuaia, which is the southernmost city in Argentina, to the Arctic Circle in Alaska and now it was the time to find the way to get us together with our trusty two-wheeled partners to the next continent – Asia. The most convenient location to ship the motorcycles from was Vancouver, so we spent a couple more weeks riding the scenic routes in British Columbia before we got there and stayed for some time until our visas for Russia and motorcycle shipment arrangements were done.
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