Overall: Great sights, great places to visit and ride, socially and culturally didn’t find a lot that was interesting.
Success: I’d consider this trip a success. I pretty much achieved the goals i set out to: distance, time and places to see. I can honestly say there’s not much more i could have crammed into each of those 19 days, but it’s allowed me to see some of the most popular and scenic destinations in the US in a very short period of time.
Why I’m Proud to Be Canadian: As always, a trip out of the country makes me that much more aware of how great it is to be Canadian. The abject poverty in the US is appalling, and it’s not just big city or rural phenomenon, it is everywhere. Poverty is a lot more apparent and a lot more prevalent in US society. The ever-widening gap between rich and poor is abundantly clear, all you have to do is look around. It also frightens me a bit since many of our businesses and our politicians want a more US style of capitalism, frankly i’m happy with a semi-socialist country. We have our issues but not to the same extent as in the USA.
On Breaking Cultural Stereotypes: I’d hoped that spending a somewhat extended period of time in the US would help me get past some of the cultural stereotypes of US society. I’m afraid, it hasn’t. My stereotype of the undereducated, underinformed and militaristic and insular society has proven true through my experiences. Now, i hesitate to paint an entire country with one brush as the US has some of the brightest minds in the world, it’s just that i didn’t run into any of them on my trip. That’s not to say they don’t exist, i know they do, but talking to the ‘average’ american showed how little they knew about the world around them, geography and such. Not recognizing the geography or even simple details of location of our country was appalling, but then when i ‘quizzed’ a few on the local area or even US geography, they knew little of it as well. I won’t dwell on this, but, i can see why the TV program King of the Hill and the Movie Talladega Nights are so popular.
Common Sense and ‘Rights’: A modern society that considers it an unalienable ‘right’ not to turn on headlights during the day even though it could save their life or someone else’s? A modern society that requires no special headgear or helmet for motorcycles or scooters? No rider training or minimum age requirements to operate ATV vehicles or the ever popular electric bikes for children? All i can say is, wow! If gov’t intervention into the safety of those not able to make intelligent decisions for their own safety is socialism, then, well, i’m glad we’re ‘socialists’. I also find the billboards and bumper-stickers quite crass and sad – decrying homosexuality, liberalism, vegetarianism and on and on. I guess ‘freedom’ is a bit of a relative term in the USA – seems like it leaves out a whole whack of people.
Good Hosts and Great Scenery: I must say i did meet some excellent people along the way. Folks that were at the VFR meet in Vancouver, WA were top notch, excellent company and good hosts. Bjorn from Vancouver and his excellent research into sideroads and service roads in Oregon made the trip interesting and so much more enjoyable. My two riding companions in Utah, Gary and Andy who were good guides and excellent ambassadors for the state of Utah.
For scenery and places to visit, the US is a great vacation. There was an abundance of things to see and do, and for that i’d return to the US in a second. Culturally, i’d have to say there is a lot missing there. It’s hard to find a newspaper in all but the largest centres, no bookstores, and few pubs or restaurants that aren’t large chains. As for tourists, the National Park service is first rate, but the places i visited couldn’t be bothered one way or another if you were from somewhere else, nor did they cater to visitors – i found this quite odd. Everyday life in these towns and centres is focused on, well, everyday life and not on attention to those bringing tourism dollars to the country. I guess if you don’t travel much as a nation, you have no idea what the standards are elsewhere. Needless to say there is a lot of room for improvement down there.
Understanding US Culture: Perhaps spending real extended time is the only way to get to really know US culture and people better. To be honest, it’s a great place to visit, for short periods of time, but honestly i can’t say i’d spend any more time than the 19 days i did on this trip. Hopefully it doesn’t give the wrong impression of this trip as i was dazzled by the beauty and grandeur of the western USA, but it was a journey of destinations with relatively few social experiences, or cultural experiences, that leave a lasting positive impression of our southern neighbours. Perhaps, i’ll have to try again and visit the eastern half at some point.
Facts of the Journey
Here are some relevant, or possibly irrelevant, facts of the journey this year:
Total Distance Covered: 10,386 kilometres (6,454 miles)
Total Number of Days Travelling: 19
Average Fuel Consumption: 362 kilometres (225 miles) per tank (22 litres/5.81 US Gallons) – roughly 39 miles/gallon
Territory Covered: Two Provinces and Nine States
Highest Recorded Temperature: 42 celcius (Mercury, NV)
Lowest Recorded Temperature: 2 celcius (first day of trip, Chain Lakes Road, AB)
Number of Days of Rain: 1.5 days (not bad for a 19 day trip)
Motorcycle Repairs: New Low-Beam Headlight – $15.00
Most Expensive Accommodation: Kelowna, BC – Accent Inn – $124.00/night
Least Expensive Accommodation: Odell Lake Resort, OR – $55.00/night (absolutely the best deal of the trip)
Best Hotel Chain for Accommodation: Days Inn – most consistent rates, best value, best service
Worst Hotel Chain for Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express (not sure what Express stands for, how quickly they remove money from your wallet? I got half price in both locations for group discounts, but really, $140 USD/night?)
Most Scenic Highway(s): Highway 1 (California/Oregon) and Highway 12 (Utah)
Least Scenic Highway: Interstate 15 (Montana)
Most Technically Challenging Roads: Highway 1 and Highway 20 (California) – More twists than a corkscrew – the two best roads i’ve ever ridden
Least Technically Challenging Road: Interstate 15 Montana – Great for making up time, not much to look at or points of interest (except maybe the grandiose Missouri River)
Dumbest Question: “Where’s Alberta? Where’s that? Canada? Where’s that?”
Best Question: “Nice bike, where do i get one like that? Is it a Ducati?”
Best Item(s) Packed on Trip: the iPod and accessories, evaporative vest (saved my ass in the desert a couple of times), Underarmour Clothing (way better than anything else under gear, no chaffing in the tender areas – n what i mean?)
Worst Item(s) Packed on Trip: iEZclick from Monster – stopped working after only 4 hours of use, and didn’t work properly in that time (i’ll be getting my $70 back), $12 Home Depot rain suit (uncomfortable and still got wet)
Biggest Surprise: Utah – man Utah is scenic, one of the most rugged and beautiful places i’ve seen, i’d love to go back and spend more time. In spite of the heat this was the biggest surprise and most welcome one – more scenery and beauty in this state then you can shake a stick at.
Biggest Letdown(s): Flaming Gorge, UT – a reservoir? hardly a tourist attraction – it’s no Grand Coulee or Hoover Dam – strike this from your list if you’re going since there’s plenty of really cool stuff in Utah.
Also, California left a bad taste in my mouth – predatory prices on accommodation, food, drink and abundance of white trash (i’d go back, but only for the southern mountains and the beaches – honestly, the people there really put me off). With so much to see in neighbouring Arizona, Utah, Oregon and New Mexico – it’d be a hard sell to go back.