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July 1, 2006

I should start out by mentioning that yesterday evening I spent $5 on a slot machine. I lost it all in a rather fast and boring fashion, at which point I thought to myself "I could go upstairs and flush dollar bills down the toilet." Thus I stopped gambling.


Today I woke up a little later and had a pretty groggy start. I eventually made my way down to a restaurant and had breakfast (lunch - pizza). Following that, on my way back to my room I thought it might be interesting to give Blackjack a shot. So, I put down the minimum bet ($10) and away we went. Turns out I'm kind of good at it (or lucky, or both). By the time I decided to stop (since it was getting even later, and I was actually ahead) I had turned $20 into $175. Not bad, in my opinion. That experience was actually fun - I could do it again some time.

Well at that point I spent some time calling family and lethargically packed up my stuff. It was nearing 5:00 pm (I had a late checkout time - 6pm). I finally got everything packed up and loaded up my motorcycle after checking out of my room. And I was once again off to continue my travels. Next stop: Death Valley.


Now, Death Valley seems on the surface to be an interesting name. As it turns out, it's called "Death Valley" for a reason. People die there. People die there because it's the hottest, driest, lowest place in the western hemisphere. I went there during the summer. It was around 120 when I arrived, and over the night it really didn't cool off a whole lot. When I woke back up the following morning (at 5am - long before the sun had risen) it was still 100. Needless to say, that was a very memorable experience. Something that I firmly believe warrants adding the word "extreme" somewhere in the name of this trip. Nevertheless Death Valley was interesting. When I arrived I stopped one of two or three restaurants (there are actually people that live there!) and had dinner. After that I setup my tent in an area called "Furnace Creek" and attempted to go to sleep. I slept some - but I spent most of the time sweating.

July 2, 2006


When I awoke this morning (around 5am) I packed everything up and took off into the valley - planning to explore a little before temperatures returned to ridiculous levels. I went to the lowest point in the valley (and western hemisphere for that matter) at 280 feet below sea level - Badwater Basin. That was interesting since you could still see all of the salt leftover from the dried lake (which held water around 2000 years ago). After that I started down a dirt road towards a natural bridge, but got sick of gravel pretty quick and turned around instead heading to the "Artists Palette." Not only was the road leading to it awesome (it curved all over through narrow passes in the foothills) but the sight upon arrival was fairly impressive too. There were many colors, all a direct result of mineral content in the surrounding rocks.

Having had about enough of Death Valley (the sun was coming out) I headed out for LA. Along the way I saw some interesting signs - one about shutting off A/C (I looked all over, but couldn't figure out where the air conditioning was on my motorcycle), the other repeatedly indicating "radiator water in 1mi." Nice.


I made it to LA around 2pm and met up with two of my friends - Matt and Evan. Matt was staying with a friend's grandparents so I ended up crashing with Evan. But, Matt and I went hiking around LA for a bit first. I saw the Hollywood sign and other interesting areas of LA - we went down to 3rd street in Santa Monica for dinner. Once that was done with we returned to Evan's apartment and went to sleep - I was exhausted.

July 3, 2006


Today I woke up and decided to head to San Diego for a day. So, after driving for two and a half hours I arrived. I drove around downtown for a bit and got some food then headed over to Point Loma where I checked out the Cabrillo National Monument. It was really neat. It provided a good view of San Diego as well as an old lighthouse and some tide pools. All in all it was a good place to visit.


After I was done there I gave Jesse a call (my girlfriend's sister) who happens to live in San Diego. We got together and had dinner and since it was so late I ended up crashing at her place. We first went to the Sunset Cliffs though and explored there a bit. There are caves facing the ocean that you can actually climb down to, which we did. Sadly since it was getting dark and we lacked a flashlight neither of us went very far into the caves. It was still interesting though - the lower parts of the cliffs were covered with tons of crabs. Exploration complete we returned to Jesse's apartment complex and visited the hot tub for a bit before heading off to sleep.

July 4, 2006


Today I woke up around 9am and returned to LA (practicing lane splitting a little along the way - it's legal in California!). Once I got back I met up with Matt again and we continued to explore LA. We went and saw Warner Brothers, Fox, and then headed over to Hollywood Blvd. There we wandered around for a bit until we got bored and went to the beech (Santa Monica Pier, to be exact). Following that we got dinner on 3rd street (I had a fish taco). I should mention we ate at In N' Out Burger for lunch - a place that I had eaten at once before when I was in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl with the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band my freshman year.


Finally we made our way back to Evan's where everyone met up and decided to go see some fireworks. Evan and his roommate both own motorcycles, so we all took our bikes down to one of the bays and watched what I would describe as a pitiful fireworks show. Though it was still a blast, since we practiced lane splitting pretty much all the way back since traffic was completely gridlocked. Lane splitting is when you drive basically on the lines dividing the lanes, between vehicles. It's awesome - mostly because it's challenging and arguably stupid.

We made it back safely, and I'm going to finish packing up my stuff in preparation for my departure for Sequoia and Kings Canyon tomorrow. It's back on the road!

July 5, 2006


So it's been a while since I've had a chance to write in my "journal." As you may suspect by my tense inconsistencies not all of my journal entries are made on the day in question. It is now July 9. Nevertheless, July 5 was a great day. I departed Los Angeles for Sequoia National Park along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, or US-1 for those of you not from the West Coast). It was a gorgeous drive. I stayed on US-1/US-101 (they intermingle) for about four hours. The original plan was to drive all the way to Carmel, California where I had been informed there were beautiful sights to be seen. However, as I continued driving the fact that I had such a short amount of time before the end of the trip and so many places left to see finally got the best of me and I resumed my original plan of going to Sequoia National Park.

I made it later that evening and found a beautiful site to pitch my tent - once again right by a running river (The Middle Fork Kaweah River). This river was quite spectacular - it was clear and had numerous rapids. I even utilized this opportunity to wash my hair, despite having bathed the day prior.


Despite my strong desire not to share this part, I should probably mention that I took a little trip down "stupid lane" again shortly after arriving at the campground. The site I selected was on a bit of a hill - the area to park your vehicle being at the top. Well, being the genius that I am, I thought I could roll my motorcycle backwards into the actual site (I've done this numerous times in the past - just not on a steep hill) to make unloading easier. Hah. My first mistake was not having the motorcycle running so I could use the engine to move the bike forward in the event that it started going backwards too fast. My second mistake was not considering the fact that the vast majority of the weight was on the rear tire and I was using the front brake to slow the bike. Well, I eventually locked the front brake and at that point realized that the front tire, now scraping along the concrete/gravel, was insufficient to halt the momentum the bike had obtained. So I skidded backwards (still slowly, but not able to stop) for a bit until I had no choice but to lay the bike down on its side or risk other problems. Though I am now able to stand my bike back up when it's over on level ground, it is too heavy to do that on a hill (not to mention with only one person I still would have ended up relying on the front brake again - something already determined to be unwise). So I recruited help from neighboring campers and we soon had the problem remedied. That was my excitement for the evening.

That done I built a small, pitiful fire and sat for a bit before going to sleep - tired, and a little embarrassed.