Monday, August 31, 2009

Hey, it's legal in Nevada!

So guess where I went today?

The Moonlite Bunny Ranch, filming location of the HBO reality show "Cathouse", and one of Nevada's most famous legal brothels.

I didn't have sex there. :P (Although not for lack of interest, mostly for lack of money). But I will say it wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be; sex can be had for as little as $200-$300, and happy-ending massages/blowjobs/handjobs can be had for even less. Maybe I should take up a collection. Anyone wanna chip in? You'll get pictures!

Anyway, the road leading up to the place has it's own sort of amusing road signs.

Anyway, after I took pictures outside, the madam buzzed me through the gate. I walked in and was greeted enthusiastically by the madam, and probably came off like a complete dork as I stammered that I was just here to take some pictures and get some postcards, not have sex. But she would hear none of it, and out came all of the girls, most wearing very little, to line up and introduce themselves. And I just about died, mostly from having so many people pay attention to me. I like being able to walk in someplace and scope it out for a bit before interacting with anyone, and here all of the sudden there were 15 very attractive mostly naked women smiling at me and probably expecting me to shell out some money to get naked with them. I think I just kept repeating "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you all come out, I just wanted to get some postcards!". I've got no problems being around pretty naked girls (I mean, for crap's sake, I'm going to Burning Man), my nervousness stemmed from that I hate being the center of attention, or having people go out of their way for me. Especially when I had no intention of partaking in their services.

Anyway, they did insist that I take a free tour, so I picked one of the girls out of the lineup to show me around. And actually, I picked the girl I did because she was the only one wearing street clothes and no makeup. She was a porn star, although I can't remember her name, and didn't ask what movies she'd been in. I did ask, and most of the girls generally don't allow pictures to be taken of them, unless you're having sex with them. So no pictures of the girls. Sorry! You can go to the website if you're curious (VERY NSFW. I mean, duh;

There was a bar and lounge area, but besides that it was mostly like a hotel. Long, long hallways with many rooms. There were two specific rooms where the HBO TV series is filmed in, and theme rooms, but given that I wasn't a serious customer, I didn't take up the girls time by asking to see them.

I guess I was there at a slow time; there were hardly any other cars in the parking lot, the place was mostly empty, and at least the girls were nice enough to reassure me that it wasn't a big deal that they came out for the lineup even though I made it clear I wasn't a real customer; they do it for just about everyone who comes in. And it was so slow that day that at least it gave them something to do.

As was to be expected, all the girls were very nice and friendly, so I did my best to be as polite as I possibly could. I still felt kinda bad occupying their time when I was just there for the novelty factor of it.

As I was getting ready to leave and poking around the gift shop, one of the girls, who was just sitting in the lounge reading a book, said "Oh, did no one take a picture with you? You can take one with me if you like". In the tour I'd seen a sign indicating that pictures with the girls were $10, and when I politely declined on the basis of not having any money, she said "Oh, don't worry about it". So hey, I got a photo with a working girl!

Aaaaaaaand . . . I'm not posting it here! Because she asked me not to. So ha :P

They didn't have any postcards in the gift shops, but I did get a few key chains which I can mail out if anyone wants them. I was tempted to buy tee-shirts for people, but I don't know too many of my friends that would actually wear a tee-shirt with "Moonlite Bunny Ranch" on them.

So, yeah! Brothel.

Anyway, I'm in a hotel in Carson City tonight, again because it was cheap and I was lazy. I've got a few more errands to run tomorrow, and then I'll head north, up into the middle of nowhere to spend a week with fifty thousand screaming naked drugged-up hippies. That's another part of the reason why I didn't partake in any of the Bunny Ranch's offerings. Why pay when I've got Burning Man coming up?
Well, I'm in Reno now. I met up with my gear-hauler an hour ago and stocked up on supplies at a supermarket. He's heading to the Playa today, but I think I'm going to take one more day to go ride around the Lake Tahoe area before heading into the event tomorrow.

Uh . . . yeah, not much else to say at this point. I need to spend today farting around Reno getting some other minor things accomplished, so my brain is really not on updating the internet on my whereabouts.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Crap, I'm still about 200mi east of reno, where I ned to meet my gear hauler tomorrow at 1pm. I'm in a great free campgroud, though, along rt 50.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Redwoods National Park

And again I failed. Or more accuratly, I got lazy. I'm in Kingman, Arizona now, and ended up just getting a hotel last night. It was inexpensive, clean and nice, and has free wi-fi. Truth be told, I'll stay just about anywhere as long as they have free internet. As long as I had some down time, I figure I'll keep working on the backlog of photos.


After a night spent at the coolest campground ever (see my entry a few posts ago about Sparkplug's Motorcycle Campground), I headed south on 199 out of Oregon and into California. The weather was warm, the air was clear, and the road was kinda twisty. It was great motorcycle weather.

(sorry for the video being so shakey, this road was a lot of downhill and I needed the right hand for throttle control, so I had to hold the camera with my left hand)

Eventually, the 199 merged into the 101, which I took south, into the Redwoods National Park.

Just . . . wow.

This place really screws with your sense of perspective and reality. And for that matter, how well you can judge distance. You see things that are cool, but aren't totally abnormal. For example, you see this little hole in a tree, and you think "Oh that would be such a good home for a cute little squirril or something!"

And then you walk up to it, and you realize that no . . . it would be a good home for a Tsaven.

I would absoutly live in this. Without a second thought. And I easily could, too. The sheltered area was at least 7 feet wide at the base, easily enough for a cot, and went deep enough into the tree to easily shelter things from the elements. As long as I had an internet signal, I could be perfectly happy in there.

I took a little forest road deeper into the hills. It was a slow, 10mph gravel/rock/dirt road, which was okay, as it's twisting through the trees was just brilliant.

Perspective is a funny thing. You look around this place, see things that . . . they don't strike you as out of the ordinary, until you take a few (or many, many many) steps back, and see someone else standing next to the tree to really see how huge they are.

Can you spot the Tsaven?

Looking up just makes the problem of perspective worse. These trees are so tall that their tops seemingly vanish off into infinity.

These trees, Coastal Redwoods currently hold the record for the tallest living trees currently on earth; many of them are over 300 feet tall, and the current tallest know is a staggering 379 feet tall.

Think about that for a second. Three hundred and seventy-nine feet tall.

For reference, consider the following:

From the ground, to the top of the support structure (not the orange fuel tank, but the actual grey superstructure) is . . . 349 feet.

If you were to place the Coast Redwood next to this launch platform, it would tower over it by another thirty feet.

Walking in this forest is absolutly breathtaking.

Being there makes you, and everything you hold dear, seem so very small, pitiful, and insignificant. Some of these trees are over TWO THOUSAND years old. Again, take a second to wrap your mind around that. Thing about what was going on in this world when some of these trees first took root. Think about just how old these trees are, and your veiw of the world starts to break down.

These trees have seen more then you or I or anyone we know could ever see. These trees were here long, long before us, and will be here long, long, long after us. Think about the things you worry about and think about. And then put them in the timeline of these tree's life. Politics, movies, music, what's on TV, religions, governments, countries, empires . . . all of it, everything absolutly pales on this timeline. People will go on with their lives, and their problems, bickering about this and that, worrying about the circulation of little bits of green paper and killing each other for all sorts of reasons, mostly because they all believe in different imaginary beings, and these trees will just stand there. And watch.

Note the guy at the base of the tree in the white tee-shirt for an idea of scale.

Not all of these trees get to that age; the most common cause of death for them is actually falling (or, recently, being cut down :( ). Their root structures are expansive, but for one reason or another, sometimes they just don't hold on, and down the trees go, to rot and provide food and clearing space for new trees to sprout in it's place.

And . . . I mentioned how big they are, right?

I left the Redwoods National Park, heading down the 101, which moved over to skirt the coast for a while.

As much as people have told me about how the weather in California is always fantastic, this coastal weather was proving them very wrong. Sure, 20 miles inland it was nice, but here along the coast was drizzly, overcast, and cold. I actually kept my rain gear on for most of the rest of the day just to stay warm. This jacket I'm wearing now is all mesh, the air goes right through it. Which is perfect when it's 80f (or, recently, 120f), but not so nice when it's 60f. So I keep the rain gear on as a windbreaker.

I made it as far south as Rio Dell this day, and was having a hell of a hard time finding someplace to camp. Eventually I took Rt 36 ~20 miles inland (wow, that's a damn decent road), and picked at random a mountain road on the GPS. It was in a very jagged and steep area, and even with lots of NO TRESSPASSING signs blocking every little path I saw, I eventually found a clearing on the side and set up the tent at almost 12:30am. I freakin' hate trying to stealth camp in the dark.

(taken the next morning, obviously)

While I knew that I'd done a lot of uphill riding on my way out here, it was dark and I didn't have much idea of exactly how high up I'd come. Until I got back to the main road, at least.

So while it was beautiful, warm and sunny where I was then . . . I knew it wasn't going to last. That was the direction I needed to head, down into the vally.

I headed back east on 36, and attempted to use my GPS to get my to Rt 211, which on the map looked like a lot of fun. And of course, my trusty, reliable TomTom decided that some farmers gravel driveway was in fact, a main road. >: ( 45 minutes of detouring later, and I find that 211 is indeed a spectacularly twisted road, and as a benifit, it headed up the hills by the ocean, getting me out of the clouds again (at least for a short while)

This was a VERY, VERY, VERY twisty road, with some very technical riding. Seemingly endless switchbacks so tight that the pegs would scrape at 10mph, going up and down the mountains, speckled with the occasional decreasing-radius turn just to keep you on your toes.

It would have been a lot of fun . . . if the pavment hadn't been so awful. I've ridden on city streets in Chicago that were smoother then this road was. And the weird part was that it didn't LOOK that rough. Sure, there were some patches here or there, but nothing that really set off warning bells in your head. Until you went over them, and your teeth got shaken loose.

For a while, the road dropped back into the clouds, and ran along the coast.

(Looking back the way I came)

A good sign that I'm on the path to good riding is the presance of many other bikers. Most of them seemed to be on Dual-sports or Motards or bikes with a lot of suspension travel, though. They knew about this surface in advance, I guess.

At some parts along the coast, the clouds did back off for a bit, allowing in some welcome sunlight. But the wind off the ocean was still quite cold, so I kept the rain gear on all day.

After a while, the road turned back inland, into the forests. Sure, more really rough roads, but trees! Yay trees!

Wow, I thought I was hardcore. This guy is loony!

(The sign on the back behind the gas tank and cooler said "PASS ME". He was doing maybe 30mph up hills)

I took the suggestions of many other riders to get off the 101 and head down the 1, right along the coast. This was a suggestion I took, and was rewarded with stunning views! Of white.

When the fog did clear away, it was very pretty. But still bloody cold.

Sometimes the clouds would linger off shore for a few miles, but then would come right back ashore to rob me of the scenery.

Sometimes there would be clouds just over the coastline, and you could see only a mile out to sea that there was clear sky.

While on this road, I figured out why real estate prices in California have tanked so badly! It's because of people like this.

Seriously. Who the fuck thinks this looks good? "I've got a great idea, honey! Lets trim all our trees to look like UFOs!"

This chowderhead is probably dragging down propery values in the whole town, just because anyone who lives there might have to look at his shitty landscaping.

I burned miles for the rest of the day, and made it down to Oakland (just East of San Francisco), where I'd made arrangements to crash for the night with Zenadia from SA. He was a true goon biker; a garage full of nice, if slightly disassembled motorcycles, transmission parts in his living room, shock absorbers in his kitchen, and books on sport-bike suspension tuneing as the reading material in the bathroom.

Here he is posing with his totally pimp fly ride, yo.

Heading south from San Fran, I . . . okay, I failed. I had told my friend that I'd meet her in Monterey in the early afternoon, and due to my failing, didn't make it there until 6:30, when she had to be back on base by 7 :(

Along the way, I did see this, which I'm told is, yes, the real Alice's Resteraunt.

And later on, this. Which just struck me as . . . well, weird. French fried artichokes? Seriously?

I did make it down to Monterey to see my friend, who we'll call Siren. Due to my compleate lack of being able to keep track of time, we got to hang out for maybe fifteen minutes before she had to go. Girl, I'm really, really sorry that I failed so hard at getting down there :( Hopefully I'll see you again when you next visit back to your hometown?

Okay people, that's a long enough update for now. I'll keep trying to fill in the blanks when I can when I have time, but I can't promise much for the next few days. I'm going to spend the next day or two farting around the Grand Canyon, and then up to Reno to meet up with my gear-hauler for Burning Man on the 31st.

I need to get back on the road now, so peas out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Riding through Death Valley


I had passed through the Giant Sequoia National Park the day before, and then headed east of Vasila down Yokohi Drive, heading in the direction of Rt 190, then into the National Forest. I headed down what looked like an old, abandoned section of the road, and finding that it dead-ended into a cliff, just pitched my tent there. I have to say, of all the road signs, nothing is as tempting to me as "ROAD CLOSED". I think I camped somewhere in the vicinity of Milo, looking at it on a map. This was my route for the first part of the day; chosen mostly at random just from looking at the map for where the squiggly roads were.

View Larger Map

Now, this roads, just . . . JEEBUS H CHRIST this was a good road! VERY tight, twisting, epically scenic, completely empty, and loads of fun. Most of the corners, even the very tight 15mph ones (Of which there were a LOT) had good visibility, giving me the freedom and confidence to get the bike over more, knowing that the corner wasn't going to suddenly tighten up on me when I was already as far over as I could go. I was IN THE FUCKING ZONE for this part of the day; I finally seemed to be getting less spooked by the feeling of the footpegs hitting the asphalt.

A bike like this isn't exactly meant to carve corners; some would argue that the only thing cruiser-style bikes are really designed to do is to look cool. Because of this, the footpegs are set very low and wide on the bike, for that chillin', laid-back look. The downside to this is you can't lean the bike over very far in the corners before they start scraping the ground. They're spring-loaded so they bend backwards when they hit pavement, but lean the bike over much farther, and the non-bendy parts start dragging, removing the weight from the wheels and possibly causing a lowside. And ever since my lowside in Texas a few months ago, the feel/sound of the bike scraping the ground triggered a panic reaction. Usually it triggers me straightening up and hitting the brakes, and sometimes hitting the brakes before straightening up. (THIS IS A VERY NOT GOOD IDEA, PEOPLE. I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M NOT DEAD).

But the road this day was smooth and devilishly twisted, with aforementioned good visibility and good run-off/crash areas. I was getting some confidence back, starting to lean inwards in the corners more, sometimes starting to hang off the bike to straighten it up more, and the feeling of the footpegs scraping the asphalt no longer triggered the OHSHIT reaction. And good god, there is no feeling quite as exhilarating as hanging off the inside of the bike while you're leaning it way over in tight s-corners at 50mph with your foot and knee just inches from the road. Hitting the apex perfectly, rolling on the throttle a little bit and really nailing it once you start to straighten up. It was perfect.

It was awesome riding. Just miles and miles of empty, twisting, smooth road.

The roads were so good, that . . . uh, actually I forgot to take any more pictures of them. But people, if you're ever in that area, ride that road. It's worth it.

This road got me up into the Sierras, and once I got out of the foothills, I was back in Great Sequoia territory.

At one point, when getting off of 190 and onto some un-named forrest road, I stopped at this rest area, which had what was really the nicest outhouse I'd ever seen

But then a thought struck me: I need to know the density of poo.

You see, I realized something. When taking a dump in a pit toilet like this, if you know the exact time between the poo leaving you, and then the splat/plop as it hits the pile of poo below you, you can calculate the exact distance that your dookie is falling! This idea delighted me, so I timed it on my stopwatch and set about the calculations.

I ran into a snag, though. I don't know the density of poo, so I can't properly calculate it's air resistance, which would affect it's acceleration through air. And then it struck me that given the altitude I was at (almost 7,000 feet), the acceleration of the dookie by gravity might be slightly faster then it would be in a pit toilet at sea level, and I had no idea how to factor that in. *sigh* My great plans to calculate the drop of pit toilets through the country has been foiled.

Aaaaaaanyway, moving on.

I kept on the road, going higher into the mountains, enjoying the roads the whole way. Remember a few years ago when the news was all talking about wildfires in California? Well, this is where they were.

What a view, though

(Can you spot the road that brought me up here?)

The road crested the range here, before starting it's long and winding downhill trek down the other side of the mountains

This sort of altitude was having a very, very noticeable effect on the bike. An engine (at least, a carbed engine that hasn't been re-jetted) will make only around 75% of it's rated power output at these altitudes rather then at sea level, and on a bike with this much crap on it, it was noticeable. A lot of the even minor hills wanted 4th gear, and I had to row down to 3rd more often the I was used to.

I stopped at a scenic look-out to snap a picture of the plateau stretched out before me before heading downhill.

(That's Mt Whitney way in the distance on the left)

Down I went!

The climate change once you get to the other side of the range is drastic. I went from lush, powerful sequoias and pines to scrub brush and little dwarf desert plants. There were still some odd hillsides that were green, but not with the density that there had been just a few miles before.

At this point, I ran into a problem. Spending the first part of the day with the bike leaned way over doing Jeremy Clarkson impersonations (POWER!!!!!!!) hadn't been kind to my gas mileage, and I hit the reserve tank at just 115 miles. By my best guesses, I had maybe 40 miles on the reserve (.8 gallons), and according to the map, the next gas station was 52 miles ahead. Gulp.

Fortunately, it was all downhill from here. I spent at least 10-15 minutes at a time just coasting, keeping the clutch in with the bike in gear and only using the engine for the occasional braking. This was nice and twisty as well, but it's trickier to ride aggressively downhill then it is uphill. (Going uphill you're on the throttle a lot more, which keeps the bike balanced better)

Due to the fact that I hardly needed to use the throttle, I think, I made it out of the mountains and to a gas station with a little bit to spare. Looking back the way I came;

I'm used to seeing tree lines where there's no trees growing ABOVE a specific altitude, not the opposite.

After getting gas, I headed north on 395, taking a right at Owen's Lake to get back on 190, heading in the direction of Death Valley.

Yeah, it was flat and boring, but after the first half of the day wearing myself out flipping the bike back and forth, I didn't mind so much. It was also hot: That morning I'd started off wearing pants and a couple shirts under my mesh riding gear, but at the gas station I stripped down to only boxer shorts and a wicking under-armor tee-shirt under my protective jacked and pants.

Owen's Lake is a "Lake" in the desert sense of the word. Maybe once a year, there's water in it, but that yearly rainfall serves to keep some color in the place. I headed up out of this valley, and into another range.

Just after I entered Death Valley National Park, I stopped at this scenic turn-off for a picture of the bike (I swear, I was there too!)

And then . . .

Then I heard something. A very, very powerful sound. A sound both deep and high-pitched at the same time, a shrieking, roaring sound, a sound like the sky was being ripped open. I know that sound, but . . . what the hell?!

FUCK MOTORCYCLES. F-18 Hornets are the way to REALLY travel and sight-see.

As if that airshow back in Quebec wasn't enough, this was just another punch in the face of another direction I could have/should have taken with my life. I can't describe how much I wanted to be in that aircraft right at that second. Sure, I've got a pretty decent life, but I'd trade it, all of it, to fly those. I placate myself by telling myself that my eyesight would have kept me out of the cockpits, but the truth is, I don't have the work ethic for it. I like doing things at my own pace, on my own terms, in my own time. Translation; I'm lazy. I've seen pilots wearing glasses before, and my prescription is quite weak (I can legally drive without my glasses). If I'd had the determination, I could have made it work.


It was dumb luck I got this shot. I just happened to have my crappy little point-and-shoot camera out, and thankfully it actually focused properly this time. But he was gone in an instant, and by the time the camera recycled for the next shot, he was almost out of sight down the valley.

(view full-size to see him, a tiny dot slightly left and down of center)

I did pull out my Canon and put on my zoom lens, hoping he'd make another pass, but I waited there for almost half an hour with no luck. As long as I'd taken the Canon out, I decided I should keep it out for the day. See if you can tell from here on which pictures were taken with the good camera, and which ones were taken with the crappy camera.

I bumbled down a little side-road to what was promised to be a good look-out. This was a bad road. I was all over the place to avoid high-centering the bike.

The view was good, though, looking down over the Panamint Springs valley, and the road I'd take down there.

(mmmmmm, Twisty!)

(The road going across this valley, and up the range, over to Death Valley on the far side)

I was down to about half a tank when I got to Panamint Springs, so I topped up, even at these prices.

Going up the range on the other side of this valley, I made my way down the foothills of the other side, into Death Valley proper.


And yeah, it was hot. It was fucking hot. Death Valley held the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on earth for a long time, at ~134 degrees. It was edged out by Lybia in 1922 by a couple of degrees, but that isn't much consolation when you're riding through it.

Riding through this really is like being blasted with a giant hair dryer. You cover up as much as you can, including closing the visor. You might think that at these temps, you'd want the visor cracked for some airflow, but the truth is it doesn't help at all when the air temp is this high. It's more pleasant to simply close the visor and all the helmet vents, and deal with it.

Of course, the air temp being this high means that my water bottle temps were this high. It was a battle to get myself to keep drinking; the water in my bottles was so hot that I've got burns on the roof of my mouth and tongue. It was made worse by the fact that my water bottles are old Gatorade containers. When it's cool, you don't notice an aftertaste, but now there was just enough of a hint of the lemonade that was once in there to make it disgusting.



I was at sea level now, but there was still a good deal of downhill to go.

And because I'm a glutton for punishment, did I take the quick route out of the valley? No, I turned right at the "town" of Furnace Creek to head down the length of the valley, to Badwater Basin (Casually named by a prospector in the 1800s after he couldn't get his mule to drink from it. He scrawled "Bad Water" on his map, and the name stuck).

On my way there, I got distracted by what was labeled as "Artist's Drive".

It's a little one-way narrow road that winds away from the main road for about five miles into the foothills. No point of it, expect to be pretty.

Not a lot of run-off room if you screw up in a corner. It was one-way, though, so you could really make use of the whole road (when you didn't have to suddenly straighten the bike up to avoid banging your head on a cliff)

It was getting late in the day, and Sol made it clear that he wasn't sticking around for long.

I pushed on down the main road; I wanted to get to Badwater Basin before the light left compleatly.

The sun vanished behind the mountains by the time I got there, but there was still enough light to see what was going on. A walkway had been built out over the lower, marshier areas of the bog, out to where it was solid enough that people walking weren't going to damage anything

Kinda reminds me of Black Rock City. Only with less naked people.

Run-off water from the mountains collects here in incredibly briny pools and evaporates, leaving salt and other minerals behind.

For as harsh as this area is, it's incredibly delicate. The life that is here clings on with it's fingernails; there's a species of slug that lives no where else on earth besides here.

Looking back at the road.

See that white sign way up there on the cliff?

Yup. We're well below sea level.

On a side note, it seemed the vast majority of the tourists here were from out-of-country, mostly french. I was hearing enough french that I accidentally greeted the gas station attendant with "Bonjour".

Walking out onto the salt flats, it was clear that some people just couldn't leave well enough alone. I don't get why they felt the need to do this.

The light was fading rapidly, so I pushed on south, aiming to at least get up into the mountians before camping. This isn't a high-altitude desert like Burning Man; this place retains the heat overnight, sometimes never dropping below 100f.

It was dark in about an hour, and I was ~3000 feet up into the mountains. Going down what looked like a promising side road, I WOAH OH SHIT.

The bike fishtailed wildly on loose gravel, and while I kept it upright, it ended up here.

God, this felt familiar.

I had learned my lesson from last time, though. I took the luggage off the bike, and using a rock as a crude shovel, excavated the ground out from behind the rear wheel. With the luggage off the bike, I was able to use muscle power (SHUT UP, those of you who've seen me naked. I DO have muscles!) to lift the bike up and backwards. It fell over once I got it out, but that wasn't a big deal. I rode it out, back to the main road, and put the luggage back on.

I kept going into the mountains, finally taking a little turn-off that looked more solid then the previous one. I ended up on what looked like an old, abandoned section of the road, and finding that I couldn't well be seen . . . well, why bother with a tent when there's no bugs?

Maybe I should have stayed lower in the valley. It got down to a chilly 75 degrees that night, which for cold-blooded me, was enough that I had to pull out the sleeping bag, instead of being hardcore and just sleeping in my riding gear. Ah well.

That was my ride through Death Valley. It made me a much sweatier, smellier person then I was before.