Sunday, February 10, 2019

Cabin Fever Classroom

While recuperating from the pedestrian accident last month, decided being homebound was a good time to sharpen some photo editing skills, maybe even learn a new technique or two.

After downloading images from the camera to the computer, the editing process begins with questions:  First, is there a good composition within the raw photo that can be brought out?
Is the subject matter interesting or attractive?
If not an interesting subject, can it be a good abstract design?
What do I want the viewer to see or look at?
Does the image suggest a certain mood, feeling or attitude?
Any distractions need eliminating?
Any details that need to be brought out?
Any technical flaws needs correcting?

This first photo is one of eight taken all within a minute or two, pre-dawn of an Alaskan fishing boat. With the sun not up yet, lighting is dim, not much color to work with, a foggy mist, the boat was constantly moving, changing direction and position. Background details are muted and mushy.

I always try to compose a photo before snapping the shutter button so the amount of cropping required is reduced. No cropping was required on this one, but editing can improve it.


After removing all color except red, added a copper tint overlay then remove some of the mist from the background, the tree are now sharp without completely removing the morning fog. The far left shore is brought into play in the scene and the remaining red on the boat creates a focal point for the eyes. The feeling of pre-dawn light and ocean mist is preserved while bring out details in the image.



Next photo is of a new overpass in Houston, not far from home. Though the composition is good and the golden hour light warms the scene,  the colors in the yellow and red signs detracted. They are not where I want the viewer to look.  


By converting to a black and white image, the image is now an abstract design of light and dark shapes and lines, playing off of each other, making the eye dance around looking for an anchor point until it pulls back and focuses on the image as a whole. While it first appears busy and jumbled, once you pull back and see it as a whole, it is quite simple, pleasing and clean. No cropping needed.



Liked this photo from the time I first saw it in the camera. But when downloaded to the computer, the eye wants to focus on the guys face.  Which is normal but not where I want the viewer to look. Plus there are several other distractions in the photo. By cropping out the electrical box, part of the menu sign and the colorful red poster, the image is now less busy. Too many items in a photo only confuses the viewer, they don't know where you want them to look.


With the image cropped, could now work on improving the details and focal point. In the original, the stucco wall lacked detail yet the strong color pulls attention to it. The red in the poster attracted too much attention. 

Converted the image to black and white, pulled up the wall details and enhance the contrast so the eye's focus moves from the man's face to the oversized dark shadow lighting a cigarette on a highly textured surface. The wall's texture is an important image element as it dominates the scene's backdrop adding a tactile sensation.
The Spanish menu sign, the rough stucco wall, smoking in public, exaggerated shadow figure all give a feeling of another country, another culture. far, far away. The image is reduced the three elements.



In this next image I could see in my minds eye where I wanted it to go, but now how to get there. It took more thought and trying different approaches to finally bring out a story. 


First, being taken in a large open courtyard, the man is much too small to see details so cropping is needed.  The gap or distance between the man and the wheelchair needed to be emphasized more by removing a lot of excess building. Cropping will do that.

So the viewer can write their own story of what they see here, they need to be able to see the man's posture and the separation from the chair. Color was removed as the desired mood conveyed is not one of joy. The building details did not add to the story but took away attention, so color was removed.  As is, the background is secondary to the story. Many times in a color photo the details in the background will overshadow the image or the focal point the photographer wants to emphasize. By removing color as an element, the background has less importance,  the background details are less dominating.

With the scene now set, the viewer's focus is on the only three variables in the image:  the man, the wheelchair and the distance between them. The viewer will create a story in their mind as to what is going on.


As you can see here, there were not major or radical changes made to the BEFORE images, making them totally unrecognizable from the original. No, editing many times is a simple tweaking, adjusting or shifting of focus to bring out the best in a photo.

Every photo demands a different approach to bring out their best, to serve a purpose. Some are for telling stories, others to add details to the written narrative in the blog, still others are pure artistic expressions to appeal to the eye and mind.

I have heard some comment that photos should be shown exactly as they are taken. In response to that, I'll defer to the Dean of American landscape photography, Ansel Adams. 

Quote, "Good photos are taken, great photos are made."

The editing process starts with many questions and the finished image will either answer questions for the viewer or create new questions in the viewer's mind. It's all in the intent of the photographer/artist. 

Photography can be a great vocation or a great avocation, that will challenge one's mind and creativity. So many different skills to learn, so many different stories to tell. While I enjoy learning new photo editing techniques, polishing old skills, pushing the photo images in new directions, they still only reflect what happens in life out on the road. 

Am getting cabin fever not being able to ride. So to appease the wandering mind, have been making riding plans for this summer. 

What repairs or servicing needs to be done to which rig? 
Where to go? 
Which route to take? 
How long will it take?

Ride safe, ride far, hope to see you on down the road.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Florida Motorcycle Shipping

So what does it really cost to airfreight a motorcycle from Miami to Bogotá, Colombia? 

After the airlines charge, the next largest expense is crating the bike even if it is air freight. Is it necessary? Not really... BUT the US Customs requires it. 
So if you want to ship from the US, crate it.

MERFLEX International, our shipping agent in both Miami and Bogotá, broke down the cost for shipping my nephew's Colombian registered motorcycle. 

Prices in US$, does not include any costs on the Colombian end: as of 01-14-2019

Airway Bill                                                      $30.00
Airfreight by volume:                                   $1096.25
(What the airline charges)
Export Declaration Handling Custom         $125.00
Ibs delivery to airport                                  $58.02
Handling and services by weight                $43.85
Completing Dangerous Goods Form           $95.00
DG Airline Fee (UN3166)                             $125.00
Crating Service                                              $500.00
Complete Declaration of Export                  $30.00
                                    Total US$                  2,103.12

Note:  This is for a Vstrom650 fully loaded, stacked high with spare tires and gear.  The air freight cost by volume would have been less if the front tire, windshield, mirrors were removed and the excess gear was stored along side the bike.  Not knowing if we would be allowed to reassemble the bikes at the airport in Bogotá, we opted for leaving them ready to ride off the pallet and go.  The fuel tanks were almost empty as required. They did not ask that we disconnect the batteries. 

While a complete crate was required for leaving the US, if shipping from Colombia north, a pallet and shrink wrap would have been sufficient.

Does anyone actually look at the cargo leaving the US?  

The Customs did!  After his inspection, the officer applied bright green tape to the bike, 
clearing it for shipping.

Of course the crate for my KLR sidecar rig was even larger. 
Cost for Crating Service: $750.00.

Luckily I was able to stop the shipping process right after the accident, prior to the crate being handled over to the airlines and Customs for inspection. 

The KLR was removed from the crate so my son could haul it back to Texas. MERFLEX said they would stored my $750 crate knocked down, until I was ready to go again. 

So how did we get the KLR back to Texas?

My son Alan drove my truck without dragging a big trailer to Florida to retrieve me. Once there we looked at several options for getting the KLR home:

1). Uship, est. $1000+ plus waiting for a shipper to come get it 

2). UHaul, rent an auto transport for $650+ taxes and fees. They did not offer any other size trailer for a one way use to Texas. 

3).  Craigslist, maybe find a suitable trailer close by that's available now. Found two on the other side of the state near Tampa, a days drive there and back plus both were over $2000 each.

Every day we are in Miami is costing $300 for motel and food. After several dead ends and missed buys, on Sunday we see a new ad pop up. A 12' by 77" wide open cargo trailer 45 miles north of where we are. Quickly arranging a meet with the seller, we take off north. After inspecting the 3 year old trailer, we bought it $850 (cash from my SA travel stash).  However it has no spare tire.

Next morning we locate a nearby a boat trailer shop who sells parts and spares. The owner looks at the trailer, then drags out a used spare tire/wheel he says will fit. 
Next pick up the KLR, load it and get out of Miami.

The story should end with us safely arriving back in Houston with the KLR in tow, but... 
it was not to be.

Seventy miles east of Houston in heavily traffic on I-10, a trailer tire on the driver's side blows!  6:10 p.m.

Alan safely steers the truck and trailer off the highway, stopping behind a flashing traffic warning light with big orange barrels around it. A safe place to stop. 

Using the truck's jack and lying on the pavement as traffic whizzes by within a few feet, Alan jacks up the trailer, removes the blown tire. Struggling to mount the spare, it won't go. We finally determine the Florida trailer guy sold us the wrong size spare wheel... *_^#$*#)*!@#$%^&* 

Okay, let try the truck's spare tire. Doh..wrong size too. We finally call AAA for a tow.
As we wait, Alan suggests having the AAA driver take one of us to the nearest WalMart with the trailer wheel. There get a new tire mounted and come back. It is now 6:40 p.m. The nearest Walmart is only ten minutes away. Calling them to see if they have the size tire we need, they inform Alan the auto department closes at 7 p.m.

At 7:40 p.m. the AAA driver finally arrives. Disconnecting the trailer from my truck, he loads it and the KLR on his flatbed wrecker.  He agrees to haul it to my home in Houston, 68 miles away. Alan and I take my truck sans trailer home.

Next day we place the Florida trailer up for sale for what we paid for it. Sold.
Broke even, except for the spare tire fiasco. 

This is the second time I had to buy a trailer to haul a sidecar across the country, then sell the trailer for what it cost me. Cheaper than renting...


Back home in Texas, several people sent me articles about how unsafe it is 
for pedestrians in Miami.

Wish I had seen this BEFORE I went to Miami..... might have been a little more cautious.


Now home for three weeks, am slowing recuperating. Follow up doctors appointment next week.  Can even drive a little but haven't tried riding a sidecar yet. Swinging the right leg up and over a seat is a challenge.

Thanks for all the well wishes. 

Ride safe ya'll, but please be careful when walking in Florida...


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hackin' South America... or NOT!

South America is not in the cards for me.  Not today anyways...

Walking along the very busy NW 72nd Avenue in Miami, from the motel to the MERFLEX office/warehouse, am thinking today we send the crates to the airlines for a firm shipping price. Then on to customs and get a firm ship date. Visions of riding South America are dancing in my head.

 As I approach the NW 44th street intersection, there are several vehicles waiting to turn right onto 72nd. The young driver of a white SUV is intently look right for a gap in traffic so she can jump out into the flow. Pausing for a moment, I see there are no gaps and process to cross the well marked intersection, walking directly in from the the SUV. 

Suddenly, without looking ahead, the young driver takes her foot off the brake and accelerates, hitting me, throwing my body into a spin and slamming me to the pavement....

Lying next to her front tire, my eyes are closed, unwilling to open. Am conscious, but unable to move. I hear people frantically talking but don't understand their words. Finally I hear someone ask if I need an ambulance, I nod, weakly whisper "Yes". 

In my mind alarms are blaring as I mentally search my body, rapidly looking for damage: broken bones, ruptured organs, trouble breathing, rapid heart rate.... anything that might indicate life ending injuries.

So the is how it happens... one minute you are walking along, healthy and strong, the next you are sprawled out on the pavement wondering if this is where it ends. Thoughts of Patsy, the wife of a good friend came to mind. Patsy was out for her regular evening walk when a car backing out of a neighborhood driveway hit and ran over her, forever changing her and her husband's life. Her physical and mental damage was permanent; he became her caregiver for his remaining years.

By the time EMS arrived I was able to stand with the help of a stranger. By now, I felt no bones were broken, mental alarms are quiet now. breathing is returning to normal except for the short quick breath I draw with every excruciating pain felt when I move. Eyes are open, the mind's fog is slowly clearing. Am aware where the pain is, where it is coming from. Sharp pain teaches what movements NOT to make.

Luckily no tires ran over any part of my body, but there is severe pain in the back and right leg. No bleeding, multiple bruises of course.

Looking at the white SUV, I could see in the dirt on the hood where my hands reached out in defense, to protect the body. I must have been mid-stride when she accelerated as the leg closest to the SUV was not injured, but the right leg which was carrying my weight at the time of impact, was very sore.

Limping with assistance,  I work my way over to the curb so the Miami/Dade EMS guys can take vitals and ask their questions.

A Deputy Sheriff arrives to do her job: issuing the young driver a ticket, and me...  a ride back to the motel.

The motel office has Advil PM which I take, go to bed and sleep the rest of the day.

The next morning I assess the situation and what it means. Reluctantly I force myself to admit that South America is off the table. A multi-month adventure ride must start with a rider in tip-top condition, both mentally and physically. I am not. My back would not take bone jarring rides on unpaved roads for hundreds of miles, I cannot even swing my right leg high enough to get on a bike.

Calling home to Texas, I explain what has happened. I ask my middle son Alan, to drive to Florida to bring me and the KLR rig back home.  

"Oh, and bring some pain medicine with you, I'll need it".

Where I was dealt a bad hand...

Note: Returned over the weekend to take photos of the site. Not much traffic on Sunday.


p.s. And everybody thinks motorcycling is dangerous... try walking in Miami. 

Hackin' South America Part #1 Getting there

Getting the rig to SA

January 8, 2019

Leaving in a cool 42 degree weather, rode the Grey Phantom 1240 miles from my home near Houston to Miami International Airport. After four days on the road, pulled the Kaswasaki KLR650 hack into the MERFLEX International warehouse in Miami, Florida. MERFLEX is an air freight agent with experience in shipping merchandise, including motorcycles, to Colombia. 

Leaving Texas country

Texas Gulf Coast

Carlos and Johana, the MERFLEX owners, will crate the bike, contract with the airlines and handle all the customs/export paperwork in the US. I plan to remain in Miami until all administrative/export paper work  has been approved and the flight date set. Then I’ll fly to Colombia to retrieve the Grey Phantom from Colombian customs and continue riding south to Chile.

The area around the airport is very international

Why air fright to Colombia? Why not ocean shipping in a container? Isn’t air more expensive and troublesome?

Over the past three years my friend Tony DePaul and I have been trying to get his DR650 and my KLR rig down to Colombia so we could ride South America.  Over the course of those three years, we have pursued leads, ads, internet comments, suggestions, ride reports information and advice, all in vain in getting our bikes to South America in a safe and cost effective manner. 

Inside the MERFLEX warehouse

Before you ask, why are we skipping over Central America, going straight to South America? Two reasons: first, Central America is going through a lot of turmoil and political disruption right now. Two gringos on motorcycles attracts attention, too much unwanted attention to our way of thinking. Second, I had already ridden a Yamaha thru Central America when there was a shooting war between El Salvador and Honduras many years ago. You don’t have to go to a war zone to have an adventure. Been there through Central America, did it, now for something new. There several countries in South America where my front tire has not laid tracks.

Remember the seasons are reversed in South America. Their summer is our winter.  We wanted to ship in December/January to be there for their summer. 

What are the shipping options? Only two: ocean freight or airfreight!

Even if you rode down through Central America to Panama, you would still have to ship your bike either by sea or by air across the Darien Gap to Colombia. There is a well-known sailing ship that carry bikes and passengers from Colon, Panama to Cartagena. But after seeing photos of the simple rigging they use to load and off-load motorcycles, sometimes into dugout canoes to take ashore, I would not trust them to handle a heavy lop-sided sidecar rig.  While not normal, there have been incidents where motorcycles were dropped into the salty drink during the loading process. 

Remove windshield and mirrors to reduce size and cost to ship.

Ocean Freight:  

You may have heard that is the most affordable and secure way to go.  Your first hurdle will be finding an ocean freight agent who not only knows how to ship separately owned motorcycles (a complete set of documents is required for each individual motorcycle) in one container but is willing to do the complex detailed paperwork to make it happen. Living on the Texas coast, the logical plan would have been to ship both bikes from Houston to Cartagena, Colombia, and not have to take the bikes to either the east or west coasts.

Second Hurdle: We followed several leads on sharing a container with other people shipping goods to Colombia. Those never materialized. 

I have used an agent to consolidate different owner’s motorcycles into one container in the past.  My experience went well, no complaints. However more recently there have been several posting about the same agent is accused of over charging, misrepresentation, not communicating promptly, not refunding deposits, etc., so I will no longer use his services. 

Third Hurdle: Freight Consolidation. One can turn their motorcycle over to an ocean shipping company and they will consolidate it with merchandise going to the same port. Unfortunately shipper will not assure you WHEN your bike will arrive at the desired port. They wait until their have a full container before shipping. There are many horror stories on the internet about people trying this method. In spite of many assurances and promises of a quick arrival, riders have waited for months for their bike to reach them. Too often they are already in the foreign country waiting, paying for hotel and food, waiting and waiting.  

A major part of the problem is motorcycle shipping is such a miniscule market to the ocean shipping companies. There is no priority or urgency to delivery a low profit item promptly. 

The types of ships that agree to carry our bikes can be diverted from their original destination if a larger more profitable cargo becomes available. One story circulated of a RTW rider shipping his bike from northwest US to southeast Asia. The ship the bike was on was redirected while crossing the Pacific. So the ship's captan left the crated motorcycle on the dock in Tokyo.  The owner waited months until another shipper agreed to pick it up and finally deliver it. Any recourse for the rider? None. 

A hurdle on the other end. While not insurmountable but a headache still, there have been many stories of delays and issues in getting foreign registered motorcycles quickly processed into Colombia through Cartagena.  While motorcycles coming into Colombia via air are quickly processed with no issues. In asking a Colombian attorney about this, he replied the laws are the same in all of the country, but the interpretation is different in different offices.  On the coast, their approach is you are importing a used vehicle. That is not allowed. You must convince them you are only transiting Colombia on your motorcycle on your way to Ecuador. 

At the airport in Bogota, they assume as a foreigner, you will be continuing your ride south out of Colombia.  They assume no one air freights a used motorcycle into Colombia for import. Too costly. 

There was no problem that Tony lives in Rhode Island (he could truck his bike down south in December), but… that we could not find a Houston ocean freight agent willing to find us a container and handle the paperwork. 

Strapping to a pallet for air freighting

Air Freight:

Tony responded to an ad he saw posted by LANCHILE, the Chilean airlines, to air freight you and your motorcycle for one low price from Canada. For some reason the US Customs places a lot of obstacles on US carriers to transport motorcycles. So the LANCHILE offer sounded attractive even though we would have to  get our bikes to Toronto in winter. After many phones calls, we learned, LANCHILE only wanted to fly you and your bike to Europe, not to Colombia, even though they fly into Bogota. 

The air cargo world is like any other business, supply and demand.  US Airlines are not going to ship a motorcycle on the same plane as they carry passengers. But trying to air freight out of Houston to Bogota proved to be one dead end after another.  Not many cargo planes fly direct between Houston and Colombia.  Which lead us to Miami. 

Colombia is huge exporter of flowers to the US and Europe. Almost daily cargo planes full of flowers arrive in Miami where the merchandise is rerouted to other US cities. Many of those planes return to Colombia half empty. 

When my Colombian nephew Nestor wanted to ship his bike from Bogota across the Darien Gap to Panama, he used a Bogota airfreight company called MERFLEX International.  He was very pleased with their service and pricing. They mentioned that when he was ready to ship his motorcycle back to Colombia to contact their office in Miami.

Side note: Nestor showed up at our home in Texas last summer. I agreed to guide him to Alaska. In return he offered to guide me in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru where he has many friends and contacts.  During the Alaska ride last August, Tony rode out from Rhode Island to join us in the western states. 

After several phone conversations with Johana, MERFLEX ‘s Miami office manager, Nestor and I agreed we would deliver the bikes to their warehouse and have them do the necessary crating, inspections and documentation for the bikes to go to Colombia.

Unfortunately due to the years of delay in finding a shipping solution and a change in work demands, Tony had to withdraw from the South American adventure.  Tony is a full time working writer, while Nestor and I are both retired.  Tony can and does work from the road as evidenced by his many multi-month cross-country motorcycle rides in the US. If you have read and enjoyed the Phantom series in your local newspaper, then you can thank Tony DePaul, the writer. Recently there appeared a few new writing opportunities on Tony’s horizon. He needs to be available in the US to pursue them.  Another time and place my friend.

The bikes are crated and ready to go. Tomorrow we take the crates to the airlines for a final pricing. Then the customs processing starts.

More to come...


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,