As I approached the US border on my motorcycle, I realized I had left my Canadian passport at home on the dresser. The requirement for a passport at a land crossing was not in effect until the end of 2008 but there was still a need for proof of citizenship and that meant at least a birth certificate. As mine is now an antique, so I leave it at home, this was going to be a challenge.
The US border guard held out his hand and asked for identification saying, “What is your nationality and place of residence?”
“Canadian, from Kelowna, BC” then realizing my bike has an Alberta license plate I added, “I also live and work in Alberta,”
He looked down at the lonely piece of paper I held up for identification as I added, “I forgot my passport on the dresser and I only have a drivers license.”
“You need proof of citizenship,” He said earnestly.
‘I know but this is all I have.” I forced a smile.
“What do you do?” He said looking me over.
“I write humor motorcycle travel articles. Right now I am preparing a story on how I crossed the US border without a passport.”
“And why do you think that will happen?” He said, giving me the official look.
“Because I am a good guy and I write positive stories.” I smiled.
“You have to have proof of citizenship!”
“Wait, I do have something from your country that isn’t really official but should say where I was born.” I looked through my saddlebag and pulled out a copy of my book, Get Out of Your Way.
“Here,” I started fumbling for the authors bio thinking it had my place of birth listed but I found the publisher had edited it, and there was no mention of where I was born or what nationality I was.
Handing back the license he said, “You know what you have to have to get into the US don’t you?”
“Yes I do, I laid it out last night then just forgot it this morning.”
“Well next time, bring it.” He smiled and waved me on.
I cross the border at least once a month and have several similar encounters with the custom guards and for the most part, they are friendly and cooperative. However, you shouldn’t count on always getting through this easy and remember they have enormous power and can ban you from the US for up to five years for very little reason and it is almost impossible to have it over turned. So keep it light, smile and follow the rules.
On the return trip I brought our motorhome back which we had left in the US for three months and forgot I had 50 of my self improvement books, Get Out Of Your Way in it. I didn’t declare them and of course, we became subject to a search. The Canadian guard told me that he had the power to seize them all and I suggested he should as they are dam good books and they could probably use them. He wasn’t sure if I was promoting the book or insulting him.
“Promoting the book of course,” I said.
The Grand Coulee
The first day into the United States, I rode hard, south from the BC border, through Washington to La Grande, Oregon where I spent the night with my son.
On the way, I stopped at the Grand Coulee Dam, the largest dam concrete structure in the world, which in itself is a marvel to look at, especially coming from a construction background and realizing they built it in the 1930’s without the use of modern hydraulic equipment. It is truly a marvel of engineering and a statement to the power of visualization during a time of great depression and why I believe our Southern neighbors will work their way out of their current depression as well. But I digress again as that is a whole different dam story…
What really make the area interesting are the huge Coulees, the incredible formations and the theory of how they were created. This wildly exciting area features a dry falls several times larger than Niagara, which can be viewed from an interesting interpretive center that hangs out on the edge of the bank some 1,500 feet above the present river.
It is believed the entire valley was formed at the end of the last ice age. A lake 2000 feet deep and containing 500 cubic miles of water covering most of Montana, eastern Washington and into Canada was formed by a large ice dam 5,000 to 10,000 feet deep. (4,000 to 4,500 meters for those Canadians under forty)
The dam broke and the lighter ice floated up releasing the lake, which then drained all that water over just a few days. The scale of it boggles the mind. Even Texas doesn’t have anything this large. In my mind, it equals the magnificence of the Grand Canyon but to think instead of taking millions of years, it was created in less than seven days… wait a minute wasn’t everything created in just six days? In any event, it is still mind blowing.
It is believed that the river it created was hundreds of feet deep and flowed at 60 miles per hour, carrying more water than ten times all the current rivers of the world depositing huge boulders as far away as Oregon. The rush to the ocean was bigger than people from the heartland heading to the coast on the first long weekend of summer. This river carved a coulee as deep as 1,500 feet (500 meters) which is not only a marvel to look at but also a sensation to ride through. The whole area is so large that it wasn’t until it was studied from space, that geologists confirmed and finally agreed with the theory on its formation as put forth by Geologist J. Harlen Bretz in 1920.
Title: Balanced Rock Resting above Lava arch near Park Lake in Grant County, May 1946, by photographer Lindsley, Lawrence Denny, 1879 – 1974
Just a sample of what you will experience and why I list this as “a must ride”.
Caution: When riding through such areas there is a danger of loose or large rock on the roads:
The next day was clear as I wound my way through Idaho. The big road danger here is flying cobs-of-corn from open semi-sized dump trucks. (The highway is littered with them so watch out.)
I turned south at Twin Falls following highway 93 into Nevada and Jack Pot to avoid the interstate. The very word interstate is an old native word, meaning: ride from one end of the country to the other, without seeing anything.
I had a huge lunch at the Casino, I could barely eat it all and I am a big boy. I am also starring 60 in the face but here they call me son and young man. I can’t help but wonder why they serve seniors more food than they can eat in a week?
Jack Pot is like a very small Vegas for cheap old people. The folks at the next booth were from Twin Falls and they get a free room every few months just to encourage them to come down and play. Here if you can afford to drop as much as a hundred or two hundred quarters a day they call you a high roller. That is right the word roller comes from what you do with all your winnings.
After my meal, I mounted up again and continued under the hot desert sun onto Ely where I parked next to several other bikes and I settled for the night at the historic, biker friendly, Nevada Hotel.
I looked into the mirror of the old hotel at my sun burned face and the white raccoon eyes where my sunglasses had been. This was going to hurt. While fall was settling in on Canada, the Nevada sun was still as strong as ever. Not being much of a gambler, I just wandered through the place looking at all the history, antiques, articles and old bikes on display. I am not much of a drinker since I took my training wheels off but the ride was done for the day and so as not to insult them I accepted their free drinks. Bikers get a discount so the room was only $39 for the night.
In the morning, an old timer in the café told me to order the steak and eggs. The waitress convinced me I should also have an extra platter of biscuits and gravy and a large cup of hot chocolate. I watched her struggle with the two huge platters and said it was far more food than I could finish and I put away a large quantity of groceries, but the waitress encouraged me to try. If only the producer of Super Size Me had seen this place. The bill was $6 for an incredible tasty steak, eggs and biscuits, $2 for the large hot chocolate and with a modest tip it brought the entire bill to an even ten dollars. Unbelievable! I now wish I had broken my 20% rule and given her more so when you are there please do so and tell her I sent you.
After investing in sunburn lotion and sunscreen, at the drug store across the street I pulled up a face mask and was on my way again.
The desert is flat, hot and lonely. According to the computer on the bike, my average speed across the state of Nevada, through the few small towns and into Vegas was 81.6 MPH. Those darn small towns slowed me down.
I rolled into Cashman Field on the north end of the strip in the early afternoon where there several bikes were already parked, but the bike show was not scheduled to open for another couple of hours.
I noticed a couple of other bikes with Alberta license plates so I pulled up beside them and introduced myself to Terry Sharp and Morley Muldoon of Vermillion.
Layton with face bandana
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Morley is one of the happiest and friendliest people I have ever met and we bonded instantly. He told me they had come the night before and gone out for a few drinks, something they normally don’t do when riding but there is something in the air at Vegas that suspends all critical thinking and sensible reasoning.
Somewhat intoxicated they decided to ride carefully back to the Bally where they were staying. As they pulled up beside a car at a red light Morley noticed the open window so he started striking up a conversation. At some point he noticed a computer sitting between the gentlemen and said something to the effect… “Fudge, you guys are cops.” The one in the open window said they were, so Morley turned off his bike so they could hear him better and said, “I have a joke for you!”
“Go ahead.” The one closest to him said.
Just as Morley got into the joke, the light turned green and his two buddies roared away.
“Can’t tell you now, I have to go,” he fumbled with starting his Harley, “the light is green.” Morley slurred.
“We don’t have to go anywhere, we are the cops.”
Now somewhat flustered he looked at them then said, “I can’t remember the rest of the story, I am just a prairie boy from Canada and I a have to catch my friends or I will be lost.” He looked down the strip at the two Harleys that were now a block away.
“No problem,” The officer said as he motioned to behind them, “Follow us.” With his police escort Morley was quickly united with his riding, buddies. He thanked his escort and decided that was a sign to retire for the evening.
What do I do with the Naked Photos?
Have I slowed down or have women speeded up? Am I getting old or has the world changed? Was I raised in naïve part of the country or does everyone just go crazy when in Vegas? These and other important questions had to be answered so I was off to Vegas to find the answer.
I arrived at the Bally, where a new friend Terry was staying and his buddy, Morley, had claimed the back parking lot as his personal campground.
Like a typical Alberta boy, Morley had a large motorhome parked in one corner of the lot with a beautiful 1950 Mercury two door car parked beside it. The motorhome was pulling a large enclosed trailer to hold these toys plus a mint 1940 Indian Motorcycle, a bright yellow Ultra Glide and Terry’s street Glide. Just the basics required for a trip to bike week.
The two asked me to join them for a tailgate party and opened up the big trailer doors removing some lawn chairs then pulling out the beer cooler. The party had just begun when security showed up on their golf cart. Smiling they joined us for a few minutes reporting to Morley that everything was okay and left. He smiled and said, “I slipped them a handsome tip to watch everything for us.”
As we enjoyed the plus 90-day, a couple from Indiana, rode up on a rented Harley bagger and they were invited to join in.
I told them I write for a motorcycle newspaper and asked if I could take their photo for a story. They agreed and posed in front of the bike. Just as I snapped the picture, a clothing malfunction occurred, reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s, as her biker husband reached around and pulled one side of her top down. I showed him the picture and commented that I thought it was okay as I couldn’t see it well on the small screen but I thought his hand was in the way and nothing really showed.
The biker looked at it and said, “That is a terrible picture, honey, drop your top and crawl on the bike so he can get some good photos.”
Quicker than he could say, “drop top” it was down and she was on the bike.
“There take some pictures now,” he said stepping back as she began posing in a manner that suggested that this was not her first time.
So, I am not use to having a man ask me to take naked photos of his wife in a parking lot, nor apparently, by the reaction to the busload of Asians, are they. I like to please people though so I did as he suggested, as I am sure everyone on the tourist bus parked next to us, did as well.
So, this is Vegas I thought. What happens here is suppose to stay her but I thought this is funny, how can I not share? Where I might need a little help, is convincing the wife the naked photos on our camera is just part of my job and I had my eyes closed the entire time… honest!
Now I know this story would only get a laugh from her, however a few minutes later an attractive slender mature woman came walking by. She was very well dressed in expensive clothes and my Alberta buddies had now lost their shyness. “Want your photo taken on a motorcycle?” One slurred.
She stopped looked us all over and said, “Sure, why not?”
She walked over and crawled up onto my bike while everyone encouraged me to get the camera out again. I asked her to smile, she did and I took a nice photo but one of my new buddies said, “The other girls took their tops off when they had their photos taken.”
“Not in the parking lot?” she said, her voice forming more of a question than a statement.
“Yeah right here.” He smiled.
“But in the light with all the people around?”
“It’s Vegas baby.” He quipped.
“I have never considered doing such a thing.” She said as she struggled to pull her top down around her waist. “Is this okay?” More naked pictures on the camera. It is a good thing the wife has a great sense of humour.