A 82-day adventure by Nathan Matcheson
  • Day75

    Grand Canyon

    November 13, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    The Grand Canyon! I had been to the Grand Canyon when I was 5 or 7, but I had only been on the rim looking across the vast scar cut into the earth by the magnificent Colorado River. This time I would venture into the depths of one of the most recognized canyons in the world. The morning passed by quickly. After waking up early because of the cold, I eventually thawed out and checked out the visitor center. After a quick video about the canyon I was ready to hit the trail. Time to unpack the gear I would need for the next three days and fit it all in my little camelbak. Another hour goes by before I manage to efficiently pack up the bike and my backpack. I hop on the shuttle bus and arrive at the Bright Angel trailhead around 11:30. The days hike will descend 4380 feet spanning 9.5 miles.Read more

    Kir McLinn

    Free shower!

  • Day74


    November 12, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    In the morning I still had another 10 miles of unpaved road to traverse. It was slow going but beautiful. I eventually came to the Roosevelt dam which was modified between 1989 and 1996 to increase the height by 77 feet. It was determined that the original height wasn't high enough for a possible flood, so that's why the damn was modified. The original dam was built between 1903 and 1911 out of stone cut from the nearby canyon. At the time it was the largest stone dam in the world.

    The ride to the grand canyon was beautiful. More mountains, cacti, and high desert. The road brought me to about 8000 feet and it got cold for a few hours. A quick stop in Flagstaff for lunch, and then I continued to the canyon. I wanted make sure I got to the backcountry office before they closed and find a spot try sleep for the night in the national forest just outside the park. On my way out of Flagstaff I had beautiful views of a lightly snow dusted Humphreys peak. A 12,637 foot peak in central Arizona.

    I arrived at the backcountry office just after 4 and obtained a permit for two nights at the bright angel camp at the bottom of the canyon just past that Colorado River. I quickly turned around and set up camp in Kaibab national Forest immediately beyond the park boundary to the south. The forest was very inviting with nicely spaced trees and a few established camp spots. I chose one and made camp before the sun started to set. Something I hadn't managed to accomplish in the last couple of days. I got ready for a cold night, as the forecast said it would be in the 20s. I donned all my clothes and climbed into my sleeping bag after dancing around outside my tent to watch the moon and keep warm for a bit.

    The night was cold and for whatever reason, I woke up at 2 and couldn't sleep the rest of the night. I tossed and turned till i couldn't take it anymore. I new it was going to be even colder outside my sleeping bag and tent, but I wasn't sleeping so I braved the cold and started a fire in the fire ring. I knew the ring wasn't a legal one (you're not supposed to have a fire in a national forest unless it's in a ring provided by the national forest) but my hands and feet were about to freeze off. The small fire I made was just big enough to warm me up so I wasn't too uncomfortable. Time to make breakfast and break down camp. Every few minutes I would come back and warm my hands and feet. Once everything was packed up, I started the bike after a few tries and went to the visitor center to warm up some more.

    Pictures: a bridge just passed the Roosevelt dam. The Roosevelt lake side of the dam. An elevated view towards the canyon. Looking back at Humphreys peak. My campsite in Kaibab. A frosty helmet next to the fire. Not the same as a frosty mug.
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  • Day73

    Racing The Sun

    November 11, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    Earlier in this trip I was chasing the sun across the country. The days were nice and long, and I could ride for as long as I felt comfortable. Then I would stop, set up camp, make and eat dinner, then find a nice place to watch the sun set. If I stopped riding before I got tired, I would even have time for a 2-3 hour adventure on foot. I don't really have a good sense of what season it is, so I feel out of touch with how short the days are now. Overnight it seems the daylight hours have been cut almost in half. Transitioning from relatively flat dessert, to more mountainous dessert has also cut extra daylight out quite literally over night. I am starting to barely have enough time to find a place to sleep, set up camp, make and eat dinner, all the while the sun is setting. It's also getting hard to sleep all the way through the night as the sun is my alarm clock and it keeps getting later and later in the morning.

    The Arizona desert is amazing to look at though. The temperature is almost perfect. When I wake up it is usually in the low 50s I'm guessing. By the time I'm done eating breakfast the temperature is warm enough that I don't mind washing my dishes with cold water. The first two hours of riding this morning we brisk, but not uncomfortable. Mid morning till noon is perfect. Then the afternoon gets a little hot, to the point where I'll seat if I stop moving. Then I'll arrive at my campsite just after the sun goes behind the mountains but just before sunset, any I'm comfortable in short sleeves and shorts. After the sun sets, I need to immediately don some pants and a long sleeve shirt. I think I'm right on the boarder of having enough daylight, and the temperature be warm enough for me to be comfortable. I feel this journey is approaching it's end. I guess the end of something enjoyable is always bittersweet. You can now look back at those enjoyable memories and put to use your new experiences. There is also something new waiting for you in your next journey. Who knows what it will be!

    I really trailed off there but it's too hard to edit this with one finger, so it'll stay. The desert is gorgeous! I stared to see the type of cacti that look like the cacti that's drawn in a roadrunner/Wiley coyote cartoon. The scenery is actually pretty close to that cartoon. My advice if you never see this part of the country is to get off your as and come see it! Then watch roadrunner cartoons and compare. Not a bad homework assignment; although I guess the first half may not necessarily be at home.

    Today I made a trip to visit my grandfather's resting place. Coincidentally it is Veterans day, and he served in the air force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was good to see him again. RIP Grandpa Bill.

    I then headed for the start of the Apache trail which my Aunt Monique had recommended. The trail started out as a paved road. It soon became very bumpy fit about 6 or 7 miles. The bumps were very regular, went across the entire road and were spaced about 10 feet. At the same time the sun was getting dangerously low in the sky. Soon the road smoothed out and the ride got a lot better. The scenery was stunning around each corner. While I didn't like the fact that the sun was about to set and I still had yet to secure a tent spot for the night, the light made the landscape light up all around me. With about 20 miles left on the trail, it became unpaved. The road was hard packed sand and suitable for my motorcycle. I did scope out the trail using my handy dandy pocket computer and paper map in search of a nice place to rest for the night before venturing down this trail. I did find a few campsites, but came across a forest service road that was begging me to check it out. I eventually found the road, just before the sun set at the virtual horizon behind the mountains, and it too looked suitable for my motorcycle. It may have been difficult for a low clearance front wheel drive car to climb back out, but my two wheels did the trick. The road was steep, narrow, windy, and without guard rails. At the bottom of the forest service road was a boat launch and several flat spots to camp. I unpacked my gear set up camp, ate a quick dinner and got ready to head to the grand canyon in the morning.

    Pictures: These are all pictures along the Apache trail. The last one is the Roosevelt dam which controls the Salt river downstream.
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  • Day72

    Dam! Where Am I Going To Sleep?

    November 10, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    The Hoover dam! What a cool piece of technology and engineering history. This dam was the largest of its kind when it was conducted, and many new technologies were created during the project. The concrete was continuously poured for 2 years. Just think about that for a minute. Continuously means 24/7/365 (it might have been 363). It was poured as interlocking blocks, not just one giant mass of concrete. The scale of the project was massive, not only for the construction itself, but the effect it has on the desert, people in the surrounding area, as well as the people hired to build the dam as it was built during the great depression. It would have been cool to see this dam as a kid when I was learning about the great depression. Things may have sunk in a bit better.

    I almost didn't take the dam tour, but then I remembered that I was here specifically to see the dam. I'd be crazy not to go inside. The tour did make me late for my departure however. The tour was worth it though. I recommend seeing this wonder if you're on the fence, or have any interest in large scale energy and construction projects. It's also cool to see how people got shit done. Under the right circumstances we can accomplish anything. The dam was completed under budget and ahead of schedule. This is unheard of nowadays. Again, I think the great depression played a big part in the construction of this dam.

    My plan for the night was to find some more BLM land as I entered Arizona. I left the dam around 3, so I only had 2 plus hours to find my home for the night. As I rode into the desert, the sun was getting dangerously low. I wasn't going to make it to where I had planned on sleeping. Lucky for me there is a lot of BLM land in northwestern Arizona. From the highway I spotted a few campers off the road, so I slammed on the brakes and set up my tent just before dark. Road noise was pretty loud but I was happy that I wasn't looking for a place to sleep in the dark. If it's for free it's for me!

    Pictures: The intake towers. Marble floors made on the cheap during the depression. A 50 foot diameter underground intake pipe. Gratuitous dam photos. Where I slept for the night. The road is about 300 feet to my left.
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  • Day71

    Vegas Baby!

    November 9, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Just outside of Vegas is Red Rocks. On my way there I drove through the heart of the Mojave desert. Luckily for me it wasn't too hot because it is November, but temperatures here can crest 100 degrees on a regular basis in the summer. The Mojave was beautiful. Large mountain ranges surround you and it looks like you'll be trapped, but the roads sneak between the mountains like a cyclist doing the wiggle in San Francisco. Then you see more flat desert and the next range off on the horizon.

    About 50 miles outside of Vegas there is some cool technology out in the desert. Three large thermal solar collectors sit on the desert floor directing sunlight at a focal point. Imagine a huge array of mirrors all pointed at a tower in the middle of those mirrors. You can actually see the intense light beaming back to that central tower. I wasn't able to get a picture as I was on an interstate, but if you're curious look up the Ivanpah solar power facility. It's pretty cool. Apparently the beams of concentrated light can kill birds that fly through them as the air temperature can reach 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. A terrible side effect of such a technology as a dessert ecosystem is such a fragile one. About 3500 birds were killed during the first year of operation, and apparently the company that built the technology is trying to deter wild life, especially birds, from entering the air space surrounding the intense light.

    Before arriving at Red Rocks, I made sure to stop at an in and out. I'd heard of the burger joint from many people who said it was not to be missed. I didn't get to one in Cali as I was on a hunt for good tacos, which I felt was more important than a fast food burger. The Vegas area isn't known for tacos so it was time for a burger. I think I need to run some more tests to see where the in and out burger stands among others, but it was a solid fast food burger. I'd eat another one. Animal style is definitely the way to go. Thanks for the heads up Sam!

    After a burger I shot over to red rocks and drove through the park loop. I wasn't inspired to go for much hiking here either so it was time for bed.

    The next day I made my way into Vegas and got ready to see the Cirque du Soleil show O. Before the show I walked around the strip getting lost in the mega hotels near the Belagio. What an unusual place Vegas is. A gigantic city in the middle of a desert. I think it's strange how we see nothing wrong with using tremendous amounts of power and water for an adult playground in the desert, but some people are opposed to building renewable energy systems in the same area. Just something to think about.

    The circus was amazing as was the surrounding area. I had an awesome seat too. The seat was so good and I was dressed in the nicest clothes I had with me, which were my only pair of pants and my button down flannel patterned shirt, that one of the ushers jumped in front of me on my way to my seat to make sure someone with my style was in the right spot. After the show I got to see the fountain show at the Belagio. Pretty cool. After Vegas it was onward to the Hoover dam! Another renewable energy technology in the middle of fragile ecosystems.

    Pictures: The Mojave. Red Rocks. My view at O. The fountain show at the Belagio. Lake Mead which is above the hoover dam.
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  • Day70

    Oh Fu!!! Oooooh Sh! Get The FffffOut

    November 8, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    On the positive side, late night shows will have 4 more years of material. I guess that's all people care about. I can't believe this is happening...

    Mike Lambert



    Time to get involved and change the future ourselves.


    Yea. It's crazy.

  • Day70

    Climate Change

    November 8, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Leaving the LA area was not a particularly pretty ride. large roads and construction explode from the city, leaving spaghetti like tracks in the desert. Eventually the roads became sparse and all that remained was dessert and strip malls. That then became desert and dry mountains; the landscape became beautiful again as I drove further into the Mojave. The temperature increases and there were almost no clouds in the sky. This place is what I imagine when I think of a desert.

    I arrived at Sam's place where he and his girlfriend Diana and her family live just on the boarder of Joshua Tree National Park. Sam and Diana happened to be in the driveway as I drove up so I knew I was in the right spot. We caught up and hung out for the evening. I got to meet Diana's kids Davian and Cassius. Everyone made me feel at home and it was a very relaxing few days. Sam, Diana, the kids and I went out for a hike one day, and we also went to a nearby playground one morning. The playground brought me back; what a fun group.

    After a few days it was time to get back on the road. I left around around 4:45 in the afternoon, and daylight savings had ended without me really noticing, so I only had about an hour to get to my destination and set up camp. I was going to camp in Joshua Tree, but it was too late in the day so I found some BLM land just outside of the park. The sunset in the desert is gorgeous. A few clouds lit up from the disappearing sun and the entire sky was visible. Usually there are buildings or trees or hills or mountains in the way. The sunset in the desert is almost like being in the ocean.

    The next day I rode through Joshua tree. I didn't feel like going for a hike or doing much exploring as the scenery didn't appear to change much and there is no water in the park except at the entrance, so all water needs to be carried. Hiking in desserts doesn't seem to be my thing, so I rode to Red Rocks and Vegas. The ride through Joshua Tree was really nice though.

    Pictures: A view if the San Andreas fault and Palm Springs. Sunset over Yucca valley from BLM land just outside Joshua Tree. My campsite in the morning. Joshua trees in the park.
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  • Day66

    75 And Sunny

    November 4, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    South of big Sur the weather continued to improve. Route 1 was also gorgeous. I headed south toward the LA area. My plan at the beginning of the day was to find a camping spot in the mountains nearby. As I continued south I remembered that Finley lives in long Beach. The next time I stopped I shot Finley a text seeing if he was around and if I could stay on his couch. Before I could ask if I could stay over, he offered my an inflatable bed in the guest room! I immediately changed my destination for the end of the day.

    I've always heard that I would find some delicious tacos out in this part of the country. I did a quick search for the Santa Barbara area and picked a spot. I'm not sure if Santa Barbara generally has good tacos, but the place I went to sure did. I had one fish, one al pastor, and one barbacoa. All delicious. Each taco was full of flavor, especially the al pastor which has pineapple in it! Then there was a salsa bar with about 8 or 10 different salsas. I think I might need to go back to try them all. I only tried the habanero and the avocado salsas.

    After lunch, I continued down the coast. Some areas were home to beach towns and some were just mountains and ocean. This is a gorgeous part of the country which seems like a dessert one minute and beach oasis the next. Soon I started to see off shore oil derricks near Catalina island which is off the coast of LA. I was getting close. As I navigated my way into Long Beach, I new there would be traffic. I was arriving at the height of rush hour. As I passed through Malibu traffic started to back up but it was still moving. By the time I got to Santa Monica traffic was stop and go. It was also about 80 degrees outside and my bike and I were roasting in the sun. I stayed on route 1 till I got passed LAX. The traffic was almost dead stopped, however California allows motorcycles to lane split. I was too hot and my cooling fan was cranked up, so I joined in with the rest of the free motorcycles. Just 10 miles per hour, and I was a lot cooler, but I was still about 25 miles from Finley's place.

    I got on to the 405, and it was 5 lanes of stop and go traffic. I noticed that there were motorcycles lane splitting between the carpool lane and the rest of the traffic. I was out of my element so I followed suit. My eyes were darting left and right as I comparatively flew by nearly stopped cars. As I sliced through traffic I noticed a few motorcycles behind me. I ducked into a lane to let them pass. Getting back between the lanes I found that the other motorcycles were traveling at about 40mph. This speed felt way too fast especially for my fat ass panniers, so I maintained a more comfortable 30mph. Soon I became more comfortable with my width and was able to concentrate on other drivers and stop worrying about my panniers getting ripped off by slower moving vehicles.

    After 45 or so minutes of intense riding I arrived in Long Beach. Finley arrived about a minute after I started to park the bike. We went up to his apartment and I was able to take a very refreshing shower just before Finley made some rocking chicken tacos. After dinner we drove to Huntington Beach for a beer. It was a great way to wind down after a stressful ride, and it was fun hanging out and catching up with Finley. Thank you for the great hospitality!

    The next day I reluctantly said goodbye to the ocean, but was headed towards my cousin Sam's place a few hours east which made me forget about leaving the ocean.

    Picture: The beautiful California coast on route 1 just south of big Sur. I didn't take as many pictures as the landscape begged, but I was enjoying the ride too much to stop and take pictures every few feet. The road is also fairly twisty.
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    Stay out of Malibu, Matcheson!

    Nathan Matcheson

    Why is that and who is this?