Sketchbook Detour

***Temporary Sketchbook Detour***

I began a solo motorcycle trip from Los Angeles on Friday, June 22, 2012, heading north, as far as I'm having fun. I'll be updating my sketchbook with posts from the road, and not necessarily artwork. I'm too beat by the time I'm in camp or in a cheap motel.

I'll continue with the sketches when I get back in a few weeks.

Yeah right! It's been months! I'll get back to it as I finish up some classes and have more time again. Maybe in another month, like in February, 2013.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Not-a-Sketch: Intense Motorcycling - Canmore to Cochrane

After leaving Canmore, I got into the most intense riding I've ever had on regular roads in a typical first-world environment.  I'd have stopped to take photos of all of this, except that oil was leaking from my bike whether I was stopped or moving, and I needed to focus on getting to my destination.

About 50 miles down the road from Canmore, I had just passed a gas station, and have gotten in the habit of checking my trip odometer to note the mile (or kilometer) of the last station, since I've been on so many deserted stretches sin petrol.  A few miles beyond the station, my Spidey-sense started going off and I looked down at my left boot, covered with oil.  "Oh fuck.  I may be done with my trip."  I took a quick look at the motor and decided to ride back to the station to figure out what to do.  

With some parking lot wrenching, I discovered that a plastic bag wrapped up on my chain and got pulled up and twisted around my front sprocket.  It melted into and tore out part of a seal, spraying oil all over my leg and left side of my bike.  Cool.  I get to be the the only one in history to have this happen with a plastic bag.  Totally unique experience.  Wonderful.

The station owner, who became involved in assisting me with some rags and mineral spirits to clean my bike, found a Suzuki dealer in Cochrane, about 50 miles away, so that sounded like a good target for me.  I happened to have a quart of Rotella-T motor oil (relevant because motorcycles can't use just any oil) with me, so I make sure I've got oil in the crank case, cross my fingers, and head off.

The ride was stressful, intense, and scary.  First, my focus was solely on staying safe, and keeping oil in the bike.  I had to ride at a reasonable pace on the shoulder, periodically pulling over to check my oil.  Next, I realize that I'm riding towards the biggest thunderhead that I've ever seen, with a giant mushroom cloud developing near the top.   This cloud eventually spawned the beginning of two tornadoes.  I've never seen this before, except on TV--A small, but definite cone, and a tube rolling at a 45 degree angle near the cloud.  Wow.  Cool.  I'd figure out what to do as I went if this developed into something worse.

Next, with the cloud at my back, I hit the highway and 110 kph speeds, too fast for me to even feel comfortable on the shoulder, so at the next exit, I pulled off to find my GPS rerouting me to Cochrane on dirt roads.  With it getting dark rapidly, in the shade of the giant clouds, and with oil spewing from my bike, I really didn't want to, but turned down the dirt road towards my destination.

Then, with a hoot of joy, I made  it back onto a paved road.  And soon I began to feel something like giant insects hit my visor and jacket.  Nope.  It was marble-sized hail.  Eventually it was accompanied by thunder, lightening, and heavy rain.  Enough that I pulled into a closed gas station to wait it out and call Crystal, who found me the last remaining room in town, or anywhere within 50 miles.  The Calgary Stampede was going on this week, and had everything booked and at high prices, so I got a $40 room for a mere $110.  What a steal.

After letting the storm pass, I hopped on the bike and headed off for the last miles to Cochrane.  I should have waited longer, because I immediately caught up to the storm, and it had increased so much that I wanted to pull over, but couldn't because I couldn't see.  The rain was so hard on my visor that I couldn't see anything of the road but the yellow stripes in the center.  I had to rely on my GPS telling me generally where the road was going, and I got flashes of the road with the lightning strikes, so along with the yellow stripe, I was able to stay on the road.  

The lightening was terrifyingly intense, so much that the local Calgary news was talking about it days later.  Here's video of the lightning from the storm I was in, shot in Calgary.  This was what I was riding through on the top of the hills above Calgary.  I was shaking by the time I pulled into the motel.  But I did make it.  Whew!