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“Winter is coming…”

To go North from Santa Rosa left us with two choices- following the 101 along the coast and admiring the gorgeous Pacific or going inland and using the I-5 which would be faster but not quite as pretty. The added complication was that the 101 was flooded and a bad storm was brewing near Eureka (where we intended to pass) which would no doubt cause more flooding but the I-5 fared worse with sub zero temperatures overnight leaving patches of black ice which had caused multiple crashes already. Not yet feeling confident about riding in icy  weather (Alex) we plumped for the 101 and the already unlocked riding-through-water achievement.

We passed through redwoods and coastline but the road was slow going. The winding, close nature within the trees made it tricky to overtake safely and on the first day we only got as far as Rio Dell before night fell swiftly and made the road even trickier to manage. We opted to stay the night in an hundred year old inn and thaw out a little from the cold temperatures outside. The next morning we passed through Eureka without a storm but the road between Eureka and Crescent City (the limits of California) was flooded pretty badly. We rode our bikes carefully through the water, it reached above the foot rests which resulted in Alex having a wet foot for the rest of the day (fun in such cold weather). One flooded patch later, we stopped for lunch in Crescent City and had chowder and some ling cod- officially delicious. With white, soft flaking flesh, a creamy texture and a light finish it made the perfect fish and chips.

We noticed our progress was increasingly slow due to the unpredictable state of the road so we changed tack and headed for I-5. We plunged inland, savouring the smell of pine and the sudden change in landscape. There was no sign of this impending storm, happily, so racing through the dappled light of the trees on beautifully level roads was a pleasure.

Definitely a Rough Road

Simon and Alex scoffed at the occasional warning of “Rough Roads” as, bracing ourselves for impact, we realised that all they meant was that the road was no longer snooker table level and had occasional dips and troughs. At one point, a rather redundant “Rough Road” sign was next to a part of the road that had fallen away completely!

We made it to beautiful Oregon!

We crossed into Oregon and everything became a deeper green and more lush. The air was crisper and full of winter and we experienced the first “No-self pump” petrol station since Mexico! However, for motorbikes one still fuels as self-pumping as the stations are not insured for bikes. We were headed for Eugene and as soon as we reached the I-5, the change in temperature was perceptible. Freja’s thermometre plunged to 1deg and the puddles on the road were beginning to have a sheen to them, as it thickened into ice. Darkness came quickly and we were still 100km away from Eugene, near Canyonville when Alex pulled off into a slip road to clean her visor which was covered in misting ice. The Mustang and Brunnie pulled up behind her and it was deemed a good time to look at the map and assess our accommodation options. We checked the map and realised there were plenty of options in nearby Canyonville so we got back on the bikes and…. nothing. Alex was fine, Freja started up and the exhaust was thick in the cold night air but Brunni was stubbornly quiet. Turning the key in the ignition simply made a clicking noise and only the parking lights lit up. Realising Simon was going nowhere fast, we all stopped again and called a recovery service. Luckily, we were only 3km away from Canyonville proper so someone came in no time to rescue Brunni.

The next day, we were up at first light and having called the nearest BMW service mechanic which happened to be in Eugene, and organised for Brunni to be dropped off, we drove up to meet the bike there. As Simon enjoyed his warm car ride up with Helen in the fancy red Mustang, Alex was freezing to death on the bike. In the short 1 hour ride up, the temperature dropped down to -2 degC and Freja’s thermometre was in a panicked staccato somewhere between 0 and -2. Even under 7 layers of clothing, the icy windchill penetrated to the skin. The landscape became steadily more whitened and silvery as we progressed and the whole scenery seemed to be glittering in the early sun.

As we reached Eugene and headed off the Interstate, it became clear why everything was glittering. A polar wind had descended the night before and encased every tree, every twig and every tiny leaf in ice. Everything was trapped in its own glazed costume and it lent a festive, and delicate aura to the town. The prettiness did little to warm Alex up who was almost impaled by falling icicles at the crossroads. This was worsened by looking across at the Mustang which glowed smugly with heat and contained pinkly happy humans, so different to the cold, dribbly, chattering mess inside Alex’s motorbike gear.

Icy in Eugene

Flash frost in Eugene


















We met Brunni in the mechanics and after a brief evaluation it was found that she suffered only from a dead battery. Battery replaced, we were again ready to hit the road. We set off from icy Eugene towards Salem. We were off schedule by a day at this point as Helen had a flight to catch the next day. The road got icier and colder the further North we went and Salem was no exception. Having left the highway, we reached the town that salt and snow ploughs had forgotten. All the small roads in town were deep channels of packed icy snow and the driveways into petrol stations, hotels and resturants, ice rinks. We pulled off into a major hotel for the night and surprisingly their driveway was no different. The car park gleaned blackly in the streetlights, the tell-tale immoveable water run-off marks on the road indicating sheets of black ice. Riding on this proved a challenge- turning into a parking space was almost too much for Alex as not only could the tyres not have purchase, neither could her boots which slid and slipped either side of the bike. Cursing the lack of road salt, the bikes were eventually rolled into a space.

We left early the next morning to accompany Helen and her Mustang to Seattle airport. On leaving Salem, the thermostats were reading -5degC and neither Alex nor Simon could feel their hands or feet. Alex fared slightly better- her heated grips are very effective but the wind chill was such that the tops of the hands and fingers were burning from cold. We ended up stopping only 30 short minutes later to warm up over a coffee and it was unanimously voted that Helen should continue alone if she was going to make her flight and that Alex and Simon would limp on, stopping every 30 minutes to warm up. This was the plan and despite two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks, 3 layers on the legs and 7 on the body and 2 on the neck, it was still bloody cold!

A bridge designates the change of State from Oregon to Washington. We flew past Portland into Vancouver (Washington) and pushed on towards Seattle. The snow was heavy around here and we marveled at how clean and covered the whole landscape was. Strangely enough, as soon as the road came towards Seattle, the snow disappeared. The familiar skyline of Seattle loomed large as the afternoon pulled close and we found our home for the evening – a beautiful house inhabited by artists and no less than six cats!

All the reports we’d heard were that Vancouver was unusually snowy this year and that the Interstate 5 had seen a huge amount of crashes in the last few days. We checked the weather for the week and sure enough the next day was the only day this week without forecasted snowstorms or sub zero temperatures.  Although we would have loved to stay in Seattle and visit it, the prospect of worse weather soon changed our minds and we stuck to our schedule.  Up and out by 11am, we were only 30km away from the Canadian border when we saw one collision on the I-5, we decided to pull off to refill Alex’s bike only to find teh salt scrooges had reached these parts of Washington too. The 150m from the sliproad to the petrol station was an uphill mess of pressed icy snow and frozen old fallen snow. We opted to park safely off the slip road and merely have a hot cup of coffee instead.

Snowy in the North!

We hit the border still in daylight but at this point it was -2degC and both of us were shivering with the cold. Add to that an stationary queue of cars along icy snow gutters and we were both rapidly missing the gorgeous dry heat of the south. We eventually made it to the border crossing only to notice we were entering Canada without having exited the US! There had been no sign of a US border crossing so we carried on regardless. We were siphoned off into a hallway to get our bike Carnets and passports stamped only for the officer to look at the Carnet quizzically and ask how we got the bikes into the country. We explained that we’d been on the road since Argentina and that Canada was the only country which officially needed a carnet since then. His understanding was that the US should have stamped our carnet too (despite not being listed on the carnet list of countries). After a few minutes of to-ing and fro-ing, he didn’t stamp them and assured us it would be fine. With an uneasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs, we packed away our documents and got back on the bikes only to see that night had fallen in the meantime and a light snowfall had begun.

The snowfall intensified the closer we got to Vancouver, to the point where Alex couldn’t see anything from her visor again. We were a few kilometres away from Alex’s friend’s house when the phone (the Sat-Nav source!) died and soon we found ourselves off a highway slip road, in swirling night snow with no idea where to go. Frozen and tired, we spotted a chinese restaurant where they kindly let us warm up, charge the phone all while we sipped on tea and soup. In the half hour that we were there, 1cm of snow had already fallen! We swept off the bikes and made our way for the last few kilometres to our friend’s house. Alex promptly fell at a junction having slid on some packed snow. A kind car driver helped her back up and we made it all the way to Burnaby where there was even more snow. It snowed again overnight and we woke up in the morning to find the bikes under 20cm of freshly fallen powder.

We were due to take the bikes to be crated up and shipped and did not relish the thought of riding through so much snow… Hoping for less snow the next day, we waited one more night.



  1. Joseph and Judy Bull on 02/02/2017 at 3:57 am

    Joseph and Judy Bull. Near Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Snow belt country. We live minutes from 2 ski resorts. Joseph has been working out of town the last few weeks. Entertaining himself reading your blog and watching the video posts. It’s a shame you could not have arrived into Vancouver BC in warmer weather. You were just on the edge of some of the most beautiful country in the world. Beautiful in winter time too if you enjoy winter sport and climate but not so good for world travelers on bikes. It seems you have done a lot of your travels in winter season. Hope you warm up in Asia. Several other Canadians riding the world you might connect with as they are currently hibernating in Thailand. Gene and Neda at

    • simon on 02/02/2017 at 12:24 pm

      Hello Joseph and Judy and thank you for your comment. It was freezing cold indeed and we can only wish we had more time to explore. At least, we have a good excuse to visit again. 30 degrees in Malaysia so definitely on the warmer side of the scale. Bikes are arriving this Saturday and we hit the road! Thank you for sharing the contact for Gene and Neda – we will get in touch! Best Wishes Simon&Alex

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