Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Now THIS is a Good Thing

Note: See updates below.

It's a funny obsessive SPIN that waiting puts on your life. Especially waiting for something you've been dreaming about for 5 years, and that's been inching towards reality for 9 months (hmmm... sounds like a baby!).

There are more than a few of us who are daily readers of and posters on the ADV Rider forum. It's proven a great place to hang out, get advice, dream a little, relive adventures, and kvetch about the sorry state of affairs as the U.S. gets dissed from BMW Motorrad on the eve of the F800GS launch last March. Nope, no bitterness there... LOL

So earlier this week... finally things get super-interesting. According to San Diego BMW Motorcycles owner Gary Orr, the VIN number on my super stealthy, uber-speedy Magnesium Gray F800GS puts me at #216, scheduled for production on July 17 (about 5 days ago as I write this). I'm guessing here a bit, but hopeful that those last several digits in the longer VIN foreshadow some ranking of build order.

But I digress. In a post this evening, a fellow on ADVRider stated that got confirmation from his dealer that his cycle was "on the boat", AND he linked to a real-time positioning map of where the boat is on the high seas (ed note: this server doesn't seem to be working now).

True or false, I don't know, but it sure does sound promising! Further, his dealer said that the boat is due into the Port of New York on July 23. Checking the Port of New York/New Jersey Vessel Traffic website, they DO have a listing for the Ever Delight arriving on 7/23/08 from its last port of Le Havre, France. So far, so good! It came out of the "Ambrose Channel" (presumably from the open ocean to the actual port), at 2:40pm.

The betting line is that it could be at his dealer in 1-2 weeks. He lives in PA, so assuming it takes an extra week to get to the Left coast, we're looking at seeing the beast around August 13. Wow. Pinch me.

Update: Today I received an email from Mike @ San Diego BMW. He confirmed that the build date of my F800GS was 7/18, leaving port on 7/27. I'm trying to estimate what the time-in-transit might be and will update this blog as new info arrives. The ship, by the way, is called the Ever Result. I like that word "Result." ;-)

Update #2: 8/3/08 - I found a new, better site to do cargo ship tracking. It is a site called: cargotracking.org and it's much more complete than the other site I stumbled upon earlier. Basically it confirms the Ever Result sailed from the Port of Bremerhaven on 7/27 en route to Rotterdam, Le Havre, France and finally to New York with a scheduled arrival of 8/4. Ummm... that's TOMORROW for those of you who are counting! ;-)

Over on the ADV Rider forum, folks are speculating that cargo from the first ship coming in with F658GS and F800GS bikes has been held, pending arrival of the Ever Result which carries the balance of the bike shipments to cover all the U.S. Dealer allocations. Theoretically that means the bikes will begin transport out to the individual dealers within a couple of days. It will probably take a week or so to get out here to the Left Coast, but having the steed "in-country" is huge. Keep ya'll posted as I come across additional info.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Adventurous Oregon & Beyond

I was determined to have a decent breakfast and get an early start on the trip over to Ashland Oregon, a full day's drive away. I wanted to visit Ashland and check out the town I'd heard so much about from friends Alex Tosheff (whose brother has a restaurant called "Dragonfly" there) and Stuart Henigson of the Allegiant time of my life (so long ago in the mid-90's). Etho and I broke camp quickly and headed to Boise where I was confident we'd find a good joint. Turned out to be a Perkins "Cake & Steak" house, so famous in the Midwest but certainly scarce on the West coast.

I had planned the entire trip, in fact before leaving, to contact Stuart and sort things out so we could stay with him in Ashland. As you can guess from the first sentence, as I was heading INTO Oregon I still hadn't reached out. Ahhh well, par for the course. I plotted our route (over a veggie omelet) that would take us the fastest way through the state (or so I thought) and as we hit the highway I dialed 411 for Ashland. *brringgg - briinnnggg* There was NO Stuart Henigson in Ashland, nor Sarah his wife, BUT there was a Lena Henigson. The operator asked if I wanted to be connected - sure. I think to myself: how many Henigson's can there be?

Turns out, Lena was Stuarts SISTER! Stuart had moved to Portland several years earlier (my heart sunk). Lena and I had a terrific talk and finally she said that Stuart was actually going to be in Ashland *tomorrow* for a consulting gig. But that he would have to relay a complicated, but shorter and more beautiful driving route to Ashland from Boise. He knew the routes well as his mother lives near Boise. Fortune was truly smiling on us!

Stuart called a couple hours later and man was it great to talk with him! Just like old times. Plus, Etho and I had just stopped for a vanilla milk shake in a small town of less than a couple hundred people. Lena wasn't kidding - Stuart gave me a route only a native could follow, but I had good maps and a strong instinct for a Westerly direction!

One of the key things Stu told me was that we needed to "turn left" to get to Christmas Valley (LOL), that the Klamath Basin Marshlands would be a terrific sight (it was), and that we should try and camp in Shady Cove just North of Ashland if we wanted to do a little rafting on the Rogue River (we did). But... it was a BIG danged day of driving. 3 hours from Boise to Christmas Valley (great lunch at the town cafe, by the way), then I happened to mention to Etho that Crater Lake was nearby. Off we went!

Sadly some of the areas around Crater Lake were closed due to a late snowfall., but we went up as far as we could. The best part was our EPIC snowball fight which included an errant throw by Yours Truly *through* the open windows of my truck. I was trying to "thread the needle" from the driver's side and pick Ethan off, but he smiled, whooped and closed the passenger door. SMACK went the iceball, splatting into and all over the *interior* of the truck. Uggh! We laughed almost until we cried...

Pulling into Shady Cove a couple hours later, dusk was upon us when we happened upon a fellow washing down some rafts at the "Rogue River Rafting Company." We talked about renting one of those "bad boys" the next morning. Then got some directions to camp at a State campground called "Rogue Elk." After driving back North about 6-7 miles, the campground appeared. We quickly set up camp in the dark, and soon thereafter I shot some of the most beautiful pictures of the trip - the moon over the Rogue. I was psyched!

I hadn't rafted in a long, long time - maybe 15 years? - but the Rogue where we put in was pretty mellow - Class 3 in only certain places, but otherwise a leisurely float trip. Ethan had a good time getting us into a squirtgun fight with another raft, and I enjoyed steering from the back - Captain of the ship, as it were!

Ashland reminded me a little of La Jolla, only in the wood vs. along the coast. High-class shops, tourists, terrific restaurants, and the welcome mat to browse. Only it was HOT and all we really wanted to do was take a shower. We found a hotel and relaxed for awhile - I'd made arrangements to meet Stu at "Dragonfly", Marla and Billy's restaurant, later in the evening, but I still wanted to shop a bit and poke around the town. Ashland is known for it's Shakespeare Festival that lasts much of the year. It's a real draw and I'm sure helps upscale joints like Dragonfly thrive. Ethan and I walked around downtown (ask him to show you his fly-fishing "flies"), and did a "walk-by" Dragonfly so there would be no problems finding it later.

It was great to see Stuart again - he hadn't changed much at all (no more than I have over the last dozen years!). Good times catching up on family and work, and the food was marvelous. We bagged some ice cream down the hill and called it a night - long day, which foreshadowed the next day's drive as well!

The next morning, Ethan and I got a reasonably early start towards home. We were heading to Southern California finally after nearly 2 weeks on the road. Mary (Kim's mom) and David (her bro) expected us for dinner in Oxnard, and I vowed not to disappoint. Man I hate the "super-slab" highway through the middle of California. The "Grapevine" is a major dread, and the stupid people who do not know how to interact with fast-moving commerce truckers are a major pain as well. Still, a little route planning and a lead foot, and we were at Grandma's house by nightfall...

The trip is clearly coming to an end now. We were bunking for just a night in Oxnard, then booking for San Diego and OUR family in the morning. My two-week road trip/adventure with Ethan was nearly done. We'd clashed a bit, smelled each other's farts, ate together, hiked, rafted and spelunked, laughed heartily (usually fart-related), pitched tents at night, and met more than our share of other Americans on the road just livin' their lives. What a great country we belong to, to travel so effortlessly! And, without a doubt, what a great kid I have in Ethan - I'm truly blessed with a superb traveling companion. Can't wait for the next adventure!

From Yellowstone to Boise, Idaho

Ethan and I raced out of West Yellowstone, which was a fine little tourist town I would have liked to peruse, but time and distance pulled at us strong. Besides, we were a bit "saturated" with tourism by that point and needed to feel the open road. Our objective was Idaho Falls, a looonngggg ways away at the 55-65 mph that most traffic was maintaining on the smaller highways. Nevertheless, we forged ahead and soon were pulling into town at dusk.

Since we were essentially traveling over the 4th of July holiday, a big objective was to see some of the hit movies along the way, one of them being Will Smith's "Hancock." And lo and behold! A theater loomed just off the highway, and soon we were hunkered down munching on popcorn enjoying the flick. I'd give the movie an overall 7.5 out of 10 (would have scored higher were it not for the confusing end).

We hadn't even bothered to find a motel prior to the movie because, as I'd come to learn on this trip, there really isn't any point. There is almost always extra capacity in the towns we were in, and you just come to accept the room rates for what they are - usually between $28-$50/night, although I did have to spend $70+ one night when I just couldn't soldier on to a campground.

The next morning I was committed to making it to Boise but had no idea what I was truly up against: two very cool National monuments that would consume most of our day! Ever cruised down the highway in the deep Southwest and seen the signs for "The Thing?" Been driven to near madness wondering what it was? Well... a similar fate attached its tentacles to Ethos and I in the form of the "EBR-1." What the H$#@*&ll was an EBR-1? Sign after bloody sign... poking us in the eyes, taunting us, unraveling our brains which were already starting to decompose after so many hot days on the road. Government cars and some sort of National Research Facility in the middle of bumf**k, Idaho only piqued my curiosity. Finally, we drew near. The sign pointed to the left, 2 miles further and hopefully answers aplenty.

EXPERIMENTAL BREEDER REACTOR - #1. OMG. This is the very first nuclear power plant to generate electricity (vs. blowing the crap out of things!). I was fascinated, and even Ethan was a bit excited as we pulled up to the otherwise nondescript brick building in the middle of nowhere. The heat was a blast furnace, but the horizon was punctuated by the large twin turbine-looking objects across the lot from where we parked (more on those later!).

EBR-1 was successful at making 4 light bulbs glow in 1951, followed the next day by powering the town of Arco, ID, about 30 miles to the West. The plant seemed largely how it must have operated in the late '40's and early '50's, complete with concrete floors, a warehouse-like feel and, oh yeah - an honest-to-gosh Control Room that had more dials, switches, and gauges than you could shake a stick at.

The dawn of Atomic Power, and we were standing in the middle of it. Holy cow!  My 3 favorite moments:
  1. The neon sign that says "All of the electricity now in use in this facility of Argonne National Laboratory is Atomic Power." Cool.
  2. The small push cart sporting a Teletubbies-like "Nunu" vacuum device with a small plaque that simply stated "Nuclear Measurement." Egads.
  3. The dead moth in the bottom of one of the dials in the Control Room. Huh?!! ;-)

Well... I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the "SCRAM" button for shutting down the entire joint in the event of a reactor emergency, or Etho playing with a fuel rod manipulator. Really, a cool danged place. Check out my Flickr album for additional photos of EBR-1 and those wicked turbine-looking things that turned out to be experimental nuclear-powered *aircraft engines.* Whoa!

Leaving the NukeStation(tm), we headed down the highway for Craters of the Moon. I had high hopes for this Nat'l Park, and wasn't disappointed. The place was strewn with chunky lava boulders and it could very well have passed for another planet (or moon as the case may be). Cost us $7 to take the 12-mile drive, but the hook was definitely the opportunity to do some mild spelunking. Yep, you read right: hiking through underground caves.

Fortunately, since we were camping boys, flashlights were readily at hand. And what Scout could pass up an opportunity to venture into a hole called "Boy Scout Cave." Warned that there might be ice at the bottom of the cave, Etho and I stepped lively and bravely ahead. And promptly fell on our asses! Hard to believe it was 95 degrees up top, but a cool 40 degrees or thereabouts in the interior, cool enough for the frozen sheet of floor ice to persist throughout the Summer. The footing was precarious enough, but the entrance also required some squirming through a narrow passageway before opening up. These so-called caves were actually "Lava Tubes" that had collapsed and afforded an entrance to their interior. The park signage was informative and we had a good time before departing.

As predicted (by me) earlier in the day, it was late middle afternoon before we once again stretched our legs on the highway heading towards Boise. A long day, but a rewarding one (did I mention we started at Denny's for breakfast?). Trouble was... it was a long day, and I was getting tired. My thought was to try and stake out a camp site before nightfall - which meant that we wouldn't make it all the way in to Boise. Etho was getting hungry, so we stopped by the side of the road and made some turkey sandwiches before proceeding to a town about an hour out of Boise called "Mountain Home."

The signs to a KOA campground beckoned and we followed like moths drawn to what I hoped would be a flat grassy space. When we got there it was still about an hour from sunset, plenty long enough for me to chat with a couple of R1200GS riders who were tent-camping next to the office. They were from Chicago and were just out for a general "rideabout" before heading Northward to the BMWMOA rally coming up in Gilette, WY. Nice folks with their heads screwed on straight.

Cody, Star Valley and Yellowstone

The upper half of Wyoming is truly a sight to be marveled. Nicely-sized mountains, colorful meadows and windy roads through small hardy towns. One such town is Cody. On our way to Star Valley to spend a couple of days at Bea Latham's house (the house that she and Bob built), we stopped in Cody for the night.

One of the big draws to stopping there was the Buffalo Bill Museum which featured the Cody Gun Museum, an absolutely world-class collection of every gun the Wild West saw in action (and some it didn't).

Ethan was enthralled and it goes without saying that I was mighty impressed as well. Thousands of guns from long-time manufacturers like Winchester, Remington and others. And cool dioramas too, like the one where Etho took on a Polar Bear!

Leaving Cody about mid-day (after the museum), we cruised through Yellowstone and Jackson Hole on our way to Star Valley and Thayne. Loads of touristas (like us) driving the speed limit, but there was enough scenery to keep us busy. Plus, a fellow had showed us a short-cut to lop off 45 minutes easy from the trip.

An extra-special stop was "Lewis Falls", a 35 ft. drop on a fast river. The falls are no-nonsense, and the meandering river that follows down the valley below them tranquil.

Thayne lies in the middle of Star Valley, down from the Grand Tetons. A sleepy town that seemed not much more than a collection of businesses on the highway, it was about 5 miles from the house we would call home for the next 3 nights. The house is modest from the outside, but with an open floor plan, a full-finished basement with 3 bedrooms of it's own, and a spectacular porch overlooking the 6th tee of the local golf course, this thing was clearly meant for family parties. That's certainly what Bob had in mind as the long-term plan.

Etho and I had only intended to stay a couple of nights, but got caught up in family stuff, and mostly things that we were psyched to do anyway. Golfing, hiking, fishing. I actually played a decent game of golf - at least I think so. I shot a 102 for 18 holes in my first game in over 8 years. I said playing golf on the Nintendo Wii had kept my skills sharp - ha!

The next day we hiked to a place called the "Intermittent Spring", which is a spring feeding a pretty nice river. One of only 3 in the world! Thing is, between September and May, the Spring will shut itself off through a weird series of bends in the rock for about 30 minutes a day.

It was really nice for Ethan to hang out with the cousins - Tamara and Kim's kids: Logan, Brody, Dane, Caiden, and Abbie. He really bonded with Dane, the eldest. The day we left Star Valley, we actually went fishing for 1/2 day, and Etho caught a fish like he was born knowing how to do it! Fun stuff!

I was looking forward to heading back up through Yellowstone, but due to our extra couple of days we were definitely behind schedule. Still, I wanted to make sure we saw Old Faithful, and stopped when we felt like it through the Nat'l Park. We blew through the Grand Tetons (for the 2nd time), and got to the Geyser Visitor's Center and viewing area with about 15 minutes to spare. Good seats for the show! Ethan was really excited to use the new camera to take a movie of the eruption. I thought it was cool when the rain started just after the geyser blew, almost like one caused the other.

As we drove out of Yellowstone to the West, I was struck (for the millionth time) at how beautiful it is. The Nez Pierce river, a stand of trees, fly fishermen in a quiet stream, hot springs everywhere, bison by the road, colorful meadows, mountains on the horizon filling the mind's eye with majesty.

(more pictures on my Flickr space)

Fulfilling a Wish

The ceremony for Bob Rhinesmith was a quick and private affair in Buffalo, Wyoming's local cemetery. Bea (his wife at the end of his life) had arranged to have a portion of Bob's cremains buried in a plot next to Frank "Dutchie" Schmitz who was the man who raised him. My step-brother Pat was as eloquent as usual in these difficult circumstances, painting a clear and present picture of the man for everyone. I was reminded of how effective speakers wrap their words around a few simple points, and Pat does that as well as anyone I know.

I could only bring myself to say a few words, overcome as usual with the emotion of the moment. Frankly, I suck at eulogies - it seems pointless to try to sum up all the memories of a person in that manner.

As the ceremony ended, we all turned as an antelope walked through the cemetery about 50 yards behind the group. What was it thinking we were thinking?

It was about lunchtime and the consensus was to have some food and browse Bob's history in downtown Buffalo (which is about 4 blocks long in actuality). In the late '40's, he'd owned the Buffalo Bar which is now an artisan gallery, and a hotel called the Idyllwild.

Bobby and Pam Rhinesmith spent some formative years living in the apartments above the bar. Bobby recalled with a twinkle in his eye sneaking down the stairs in the late evenings to watch the rough men smoke, drink and play poker until closing time.

In the early afternoon, we started on the road to Cody, WY and into the Bighorn Mountains where Bob expressly wanted his ashes spread.

A lifetime, in a handful of gritty gray ash I hold. The harder I squeeze, the less compression I can feel. The ashes are dense. My arm arcs, sweeping across my view of the Bighorn Mountains as I release the powder and whisper "Thanks" to Bob and the memory of what he meant to me. The ashes drift slowly down on the beautiful vista that he will forever overlook.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wyoming or Bust!

There comes a time when a man just has to do a road trip with his son. This is my time, and my story. Bob Rhinesmith passed away about 15 months ago - my step-father from the time I was 9 years old. The same fellow who matter-of-factly suggested that it was "time for me to go" when I moved back into the family homestead after college for a couple of months. That was some pretty straight-shooting from a solidly grounded man. Best advice I ever received.

We're spreading his ashes in the Bighorn mountains west of Buffalo, WY tomorrow. All of Bob's kin and many grand-kids are here. Etho and I are ready, having already paid our road dues on the trip up from San Diego.

The first leg found us leaving around 10am on a Saturday, and heading through Las Vegas and St. George, UT onward to Zion Nat'l Forest. Wow - what a great choice! Zion is unbelievably beautiful, with red rocks ablaze above. I'd done some research and determined that what we really needed to do is hike the Zion "Narrows", where the Virgin river carves its way through the mountains and affords the intrepid adventurer an opportunity to "hike" up river.

After being turned away for a campsite at the Nat'l campground, we found a place 1/4 mile from the entrance. The campground was on the same river, just a bit slower and more narrow at this point.

Ethan barely helped erect the tent, then was in his bathing suit and in the water. I love his free spirit! Really cool that our campsite neighbors had just come from Thayne, WY and live in San Diego - lots to talk about!

The next morning we rented some Canyoneering boots from Zion Adventure Co. for about $18/ea. These are truly the ONLY way to go - they are little 4x4 vehicles for the feet, made by the same 5.10 folks who make exceptional climbing shoes. A walking stick added to the mix and we were off for the free shuttle to the river.

Etho and I had an awesome time: hiking, cruising through the river mostly ankle deep (but sometimes waist deep), and later bouldering up a finger canyon. He was in heaven, despite the minor cuts and cracked shins. The water was cool, but not frigid as we were told was the case earlier in the season. We were fast, sure-footed, and covered massive ground compared to our flip-flopped or Teva'ed cousins.

Still, it took most of the day and it wasn't until about 2:30 that we found ourselves at Oscar's having burgers and burritos. We were actually exhausted, but I was determined to get as far up the road towards Salt Lake City as I could; which turned out to be Provo. We did have energy enough to see WALL*E at the local mall, then searched for a hotel at which to crash. Marginally clean, but comfortable enough for our lazy butts.

The next morning saw us on the road somewhat early, and through SLC to "Kaysville", where my old Linspire pal Tom Welch now lives with his wife Holly and 4 kids - Preston, Parker, John, and Rebecca. Great to see Tom again - he's good friends with my work-mate Tony Corbell.

After Kaysville, Ethos and I hot-footed it to Rawlins, WY and - with no real destination in mind - ended up at a sweet campsite on Alcova Lake. What a beautiful spot. Dramatic, mind-blowing lightning storms all around us when setting up camp, and a few drops here and there, but otherwise dry through the night. We played Scrabble in the tent before bed - the first time Ethan had played - and finally called it around midnight.

I snapped awake at about 4:45am and quickly saw that dawn was on the horizon - a perfect time to take pictures. I quickly hustled the camera, Tony Corbell tripod, and a couple of lenses down to the water and experimented for 30 minutes. Nasty bit of dust on one of the lenses, but the images are pretty danged cool.

We had the whole day to kill and only about a 4-5 hour drive to Buffalo, WY, where I now write this missive. We stopped at a gas station/store in Mud Flats and signed our names to their wall as a memento. Ethan got a kick out of that.

Hung out in Casper for a couple of hours waiting for our Zion Narrows film from a cheapo digital camera, to be developed (at a Walmart SuperCenter no less!), then had a nice relaxing lunch in Kaycee, about 40 minutes south of Buffalo. Classic small-town diner with old people, patriotic flags and dead animals on the wall. Nice though.

I'm glad we arrived into Buffalo in the early afternoon, ahead of the rest of the family. Gives one a chance to chill out and check out the environs. About the time Etho and I were heading to dinner, the gang rolled in, really everyone: Bea, Richard, Pam & Pat, Bobby & Theresa, Kim & Glenn, and Tamara & Justin. And oh doctor, so many kids! ;-)

So... this is the big Cowboy country of Wyoming. Pretty damned great. Lot's of diesel pick-ups, 99% of which are American-built. Cows. Horses. Fences. A rich pioneer history gravitas that you can just taste as you roll through and absorb the land.

Ethan and I are less than half-way through our father/son road-trip, and it's been solid so far. Just like my step-father.