Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Skippy & Farewell USA (30.1. - 5.2.15)

We still had two open issues remaining. Skippy needed her shoes and I realized that the battery-time on the GoPro was too small to last for a whole riding day, thus I wanted to have at least one spare. We stayed for a few days in Globe, Arizona to wait for our deliveries and in the meantime had great hikes in the nearby “Round Mountain Park”.

And as every year: Skippy had birthday and this year she got some tasty vegan truffles and plenty of delicious fruits. She loved all of it.
A happy fruitarian girl.
Skippy and Wolfi in Henna-style partner look ;)
New shoes :)
Round Mountain Park in Globe, AZ.
Beautiful sunset
Boulder Canyon
We made it to the summit :D (4201 ft)
Stunning sunset from Round Mountain in Globe, AZ.
We had one last one-night stay in Sierra Vista and the next day we took off to Douglas and the Mexican border.
Apple-smoked vegan sausage (Field-Roast) and vegan maple donut (Wholefoods) - tasty vegan food and very unhealthy too ;)
Skippy's new hairstyle.
Serious mining in Bisbee.
Globe, AZ - Mexican border (360km)

Another travelogue by Skippy:

USA and Canada in hindsight

We were 277 days in USA and Canada and rode about 25300 km starting from New York City all the way to the west coast and down to the Mexican border. Out of the 277 days we spent about 5 weeks in Canada. The USA is huge! Comparing this kind of mileage to Europe, one could easily ride from the Ural mountains to Paris and from Gibraltar to Nordkapp, Norway.

We have been fascinated by the nature. We experienced the forests of the east, the great plains in the center, the mountains on the west and the deserts of the south-west. 

The hospitality, friendliness of people and their willingness to help us was overwhelming. We got spontaneously invited by people which we just met 5 minutes ago to stay at their place instead of going to a motel. When Skippy had her accident, the owner of the nearby house instantly came to help and then even gave us their car so I could drive Skippy to the hospital. In New York, we spent about one week in downtown Manhattan in the Adventure Loft. When we stayed in Colorado, we were almost three weeks at another motorbiker's home. In Portland, Oregon we even got a deluxe apartment just for us for almost two weeks. In Phoenix we were for few weeks at other bikers' homes and in all the places we could come and go as we please (got our own key) and it was even free of charge! Where in Europe would one experience that?

to all who accommodated us and helped us in one way or the other! We will remember you!

Maybe some of the pioneer spirit is left in the culture. Talking about that. We followed the roads of the Oregon and California trails and swallowed the same dust as those thousands of settlers before when they headed out west. I watched a few documentaries and got my "picture of the wild wild west" significantly demystified. The history of the US is pretty short. 200 years seemed to be a long time.

USA and Canada are pretty much free of litter. Whether we made a stop at the highway or had our walk with the dogs in the motel neighborhood, we were able to enjoy the nature without the horrible sights and smells we experienced in West-Africa.

No matter how remote we were and I would say that the most remote was in the deserts with 100 miles (160km) to the next place of civilization. Surely the distances in the west are longer compared to the east USA, especially compared to Central Europe. The north west reminded me a lot of northern Finland where it is also usual to drive a lot for grocery shopping. Nevertheless, for us (and especially after Africa) there was all the comfort always nearby.

One finds the major chains e.g. Whole Foods, Walmart, Napa, Motel 6, The Home Depot throughout the entire US. In every bigger city there are several motorcycle shops and repair places. Shopping is easy and shopping is welcome ;)

The fuel was cheap. At first we paid a bit over 4 USD/gallon (0.87 Eur/l) and in the end only 1.80 USD/gallon (0.47 EUR/l). We felt that organic produce was more expensive compared to Europe even though the produce came from the US or nearby Mexico. The accommodation was often more expensive compared to Europe but offered at the same time more luxury (e.g. the only place we had a shared bathroom and shower was in the Grand Tetons). The worst pet-friendly hotel charged 60 USD per night for the room and 40 USD per pet per night, of course we did not go there! The cheapest motel was 40 USD cash and dogs were for free.

We did a fair share of camping, whereas camping in the US mostly refers to having a huge RV or RV-trailer with you. Tent camping appeared to be not that common. The most amazing fact was that most government owned campgrounds do NOT offer shower facilities. E.g. in a State Park, one pays 15 USD for the camping and 10 USD vehicle entry fee for each vehicle - a total of 35 USD, no showers, no Wifi and dogs were (almost always) for free. Compare that to a motel? The privately owned campgrounds had all the facilities, Wifi and so on. We also spent some nights at city-owned campgrounds which were free of charge. Of course there we had to be inventive with the showers or get lucky.

One of the most fuzzy things we came along were the immigration regulations. We have our 10-year multiple-entry visa and normally one gets a permission to stay 6 months at the time in the US. What about if you want to stay longer e.g. 8 months? Now it got really fuzzy and in my attempt to clarify this matter I must have found many patriots or woke up the patriotic feelings in those Americans which replied to my questions. In any case, the replies were less than helpful and caused me some headache.

In the end we used our own judgement and when we entered the USA for the third time (that was the critical one as our permission to stay in the US had expired) we had a solid story to tell why we want to enter the US again, all went fine and in we were.

Another side note here was I felt a huge difference comparing leaving the country and entering it. Leaving the US - nobody cares and when we crossed towards Canada there was no US immigration officer stamping you out of the country. When we entered the US for the first time at the airport, it was a normal procedure for me. When we entered the US for the second time when coming from Canada, I felt being treated like a criminal (I guess the guy was utterly jealous that we ride around the world).

Traveling with dogs has been fairly easy. Vegan dog food was available across the country and easy to find. There are vet clinics in almost every town. The shocking part has been that the prices for veterinary care are sky high compared to Finland. We spent several thousands of dollars on vet-care, maybe three to four times more than in Finland! We also had our saddest moment in the US when Hertta died on the 21st of November 2014. We still miss her a lot!

Maybe living in Finland had spoiled us. There is a legal concept called "freedom to roam" (also valid in Nordic and Baltic countries) which is the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land. When we rode through the US, had our stops and hikes, we had moments where we felt a little bit like in a prison. There were plenty of “posted”, “no trespassing”, “keep out” and so on often in combination with barb-wire fences.

State Parks were one alternative, but typically for a far too high price for a lunch brake or even camping. City Parks and National Forests were often the most convenient places to stop and camp. We had the annual pass for the National Parks which allowed us free entrance and we used that a lot as most of the great and stunning sceneries were in a National Park. The downside was that dogs were typically not allowed on hiking trails and thus the walking was limited to the parking lot area.

As already said earlier the USA is huge and we saw plenty of empty land. We noted that in most of the regions, the house trash goes to a landfill and not through a recycle system. In best cases we saw a separation of plastic bottles and the rest, or plastic/paper/glass and the rest. It really hurt my environmental soul to throw normal (AA, AAA) batteries as well as watch batteries (button cell) into trash since I was not able to find a recycling possibility besides my attempts in several shops. If one only thinks about money in short-term it might be that the recycling is more expensive compared to the throw-away and landfill mentality. However considering the long term effect of the poison in the ground which might come to people's drinking water then the story will be a very different one.

With the time and money constrains we had to make some tough decisions on what NOT to visit and experience. Sometimes the weather helped us and when it started snowing and freezing in the north-west, it was easy to go south. We detoured a few times to avoid road closures due to snow and flooding. Sometimes we flipped a coin on which way to go and sometimes we went there where we found a cheap motel.

SilberWolf entered the US pretty much naked and left with plenty of stickers on and Skippy's V-Strom also faced a few changes in the outfit.
Naked SilberWolf. Picture taken at Tim's backyard - a few days after we left New York.

Taken at Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona - after which I could add the Route 66 - sticker also :D
Pussy Ride (with only a few stickers) converted to ...
... to Fruitarian Power with a few new stickers and no more fairings.
Overall, we had a fantastic time, did some fun riding, met great people, experienced a different culture, enjoyed nature, learned a lot and spread the word of veganism and healthy life style :)

Our track (each color indicates a new riding day - light blue are solo trips by either me or Skippy)

Zoom in on the east ...
... and on the west.
You can find the track including all waypoints in this gdb file.

~ Farewell USA~