Day 3

Chilao Campground

Overlooking a valley of the Angeles National Forest from Chilao Campground, Los Angeles, California, USA
Overlooking a valley of the Angeles National Forest from Chilao Campground, Los Angeles, California, USA



I woke up on the large puffy air mattress in the back of the dark musky bungalow. It was planted between some old sofas and a tube television with a DVD player. Another rug making machine nestled behind it. I don’t even know how they got there. I got up and inspected the DVDs. Family movies. It must be a play room for the kids. It was filled with junk. Not really a place to write home about. I got up and moved to the smaller room where my suitcase was. I still had so much to pack. Tucker was right, I needed the duffel bag.

I made oatmeal using the kettle in the bungalow and brushed my teeth.

It was 9am. I peered out the door on a sunny Califonia day. James was outside polishing one of the bikes with a cloth. “G’day James”, I said. He greeted me back and continued cleaning. Coleen came out and James went on about the ash that had fallen from the wildfires nearby at the house. “I’ve never seen seen it before, look at all the ash!”, he told Coleen. He was right. Everything was covered with light spots of grey. The bikes, the tiles. There were fires nearby. “Would you like some coffee?”, James asked. “Yeah sure” “How do you have it?” “Just with milk” “I don’t think we have any milk” “Oh, really” “You can have it black, you should get used it it” It wasn’t as bad as I thought. We spoke the night before about carrying condensed milk to save space. You can just drink it black. Which is what I would end up doing for the rest of the trip. (Note: you can get the coffee/creamer tubes that are a lot better).

I started unpacking the bags and putting them onto the bike. It was dizzying. There were 4 places to put things:

  • Two pannier bags
  • The long duffel
  • Rear lockable top case
  • A small backpack

It was obvious the small expensive things went in the lockable case. I debated where to put the tent and sleeping bag. After trying a few combinations, James commented. “Don’t worry, you’ll work it out after a couple of nights” He was right. I stuffed everything into the bags. I looked at the $10 suitcase on the floor of the bungalow. What the hell am I going to do with it? It was huge. Too big to put on the motobike. I couldn’t just leave it there. Surely, James would know what to do. In Australia we would leave it on the side of the road for the council to collect it. It was called ‘Hard Rubbish’. Maybe he knew a big dumpster somewhere. “Hey James, what can I do with this suitcase?”, I pointed. He just stared at me. “I’ll take care of it”, he reluctantly took the suitcase. Thank god that was over. It was as if this happened everytime and he had a huge pile of suitcases stashed somewhere behind the house.

James came out with a bunch of documents. “Here’s all the stuff for the bike”, he plonked it on the table outside near the bike. It was the title, registration and invoice for his work. He organised it all before hand. The bike was registered under my name. I was allowed to use his address for mail for 6 months. He’d done this a bunch of times before. “Did you get insurance?”, he asked. “No”. He signed, then moaned and groaned. “You just need third-party” “How much is it?” “80 bucks”

A bit steep for 10 minutes work. All he had to do was go to the website, click some buttons and print the result using my credit card. I wasn’t in a position to complain. He knocked off $700 USD on the cost of sourcing the motorbike. Plus he did a lot of mechanical work for a low labour fee. Plus a place to stay. I accepted kindly.

The final thing I had to do was install the Quad Lock. I ripped it out of the box and started installing it. James was intrigued. “I’ve never seen one like that” He wasn’t impressed. He told me he’d hit a cow the night before. I remember I laughed. It was unfathomable for me, we fenced all our cows where I’m from. It turned to be common for them to free range around the USA. He had a serious accident. James said he uses the headphones for audio directions instead of looking at the screen. He said he wouldn’t go back and that it’s safer. I didn’t have a choice.

I finished packing and James asked me if I’d like some breakfast. I said yes. Coleen had cooked us some bacon & egg burgers. We sat at a table by the pool. Apparently it was uncommon for the guest in the bugalow to get breakfast. We shared some chat about the house, the pair’s adventures and their plans. “So where are you headed today?”, Coleen asked me. “I don’t know, have you got any suggestions?” Another sigh came from James. He explained a couple of campgrounds up in the mountains nearby and how to get to them. As Coleen ducked out he told me Chailo Campground had a lady who lived there who apparently ‘loved motorbike riders’. He told me I could fuck her if I liked. Coleen returned. “Oh just get him the map”, she said to James. He came back with a medium sized map and drew a path on it. “You can keep that”, he told me. I never intended to use the map. I took it just in case.

Chatting to James and Coleen was interesting. They loved adventure. There was a big camper truck out the front of the house. James had been thinking of stopping from sourcing motorbikes for people. They were supposed to be retired. When I first met him, he sent me a huge list of references to show he was legit before seding him $5000 USD for the bike. “We help everyone else with their adventures, when are we going to have our own?”, Coleen finished.

It was getting towards 12 noon. There was still a few things I needed to get, like fuel, gas for my stove and a fork. The Tucker’s explained there was a Walmart nearby. There was an air of frustration. Like parents looking after a child they didn’t really want. It was welcoming but not not really. I didn’t like the facade so I put my hands on the table. “Well, I’m off”, I said with a smile. “See ya”, Colleen dismissed with a wave of her hand. “That wasn’t the response I was expecting”, I replied. “I’m sorry, we have so many people come through, you get over it”, she said frankly.

James took this as a que to keep talking and hindered my escape which we all wanted. “Remember those tires we have to collect, James?”, Colleen asked politely. “What tires?” “The ones you said we had to get today” “Oh” Colleen saved the day. “I’ll walk you out the gate”, James got up.

I threw my jacket on and grabbed my helmet. James had his phone propped up with his camera. He knew how to do it. Somehow my LTE internet had started working and I plugged in the nearest Walmart. I clipped the phone into the Quad Lock. I popped on my gloves and hopped on my steed. James was impressed by the way I packed the bike. He even told Coleen. I rolled down his driveway and stopped at the end. James held his camera up following me from behind. I said my goodbye, looked to the right for cyclists and went out the gate.


The first time riding the bike was fun. This time, I was free. There was no one looking over me. Just me, the bike and the road. I was in a foreign country and the only person I had to rely on was myself. I remember sitting on the interstate feeling the wind blow rolling at 55 miles per hour. It was incredible. It felt like everything in my life had come up to this point. Camping with me family as a kid. Learning to ride motorbikes and getting my license. Going through university and telling my housemate that one day I want to ride around the USA. Getting my first job. Saving all the money and suddenly, with a months notice, finding an opportunity to do it. I would’ve fist pumped the sky on that highway for sure.

I got to the Walmart. I swear I thought something would get stolen. Everything was in soft bags. There were no locks on anything (except the top case). I had no idea how safe the area, or the country was. It should be okay. It’s only 10 minutes. I took my helment and walked to the entrance.

I’d never been in a Walmart. Turns out it’s just like a Bunnings in Australia. It’s a huge warehouse style store that just does everything. Kind of like a supermarket and a department store in one. It kind of has everything but doesn’t specialise in anything either. I really like them. They are reliable, easy to access and always have what you need at a competitive price. I found the gas for my stove a spork and a little spice shaker (it came with salt, pepper, paprika and a few others). It was all in the camp section. I would have to go to a dedicated camp store in Australia!

The bike was untouched.

The Petrol.. Gas Station

I needed petrol. I plugged it into Google and found a path to a Chevron. Now, I knew I had to drive on the right-hand side of the road. It was difficult to remember but my life depended on it. It caught me off-guard a few times. When I thought ‘why is that car on the wrong side of the road?’, it was actually me. I wasn’t ready for the petrol station.

I rolled in and parked next to the bowser. First, it looked different. It has three buttons for different octane level and only one nozzle. We have three different nozzles for the three different types of petrol (as well as diesel and LPG). That’s fine. I stop the engine, pop the cap and grabbed then nozzle. I placed it into the tank and pressed the trigger. Nothing.

I must have to select a fuel type. I press a button and hit the trigger. Nothing. I press all the buttons. I look around at the other people using the bowser. They definitely work. I replace the nozzle, pick it up and try again. Still nothing. My heart starts racing. Oh my god, I can’t even work out the petrol pump. How am I supposed to ride around the entire UNITED STATES!

There was a credit card keypad on the bowser. Maybe, you have to pay on credit card before you pump. Declined. See, in Australia, you can fill up the car before you pay. Turns out, the USA, like Malaysia and likely the rest of the world. Don’t. It’s silly because a lot of people steal petrol (go figure). I walked into the store and waited in line.

A Spanish lady looked at me. “Do I have to pay before or after I pump”, I asked. She stared at me blankly before she realised what I was asking. “Before” I didn’t know how much it would cost to fill the tank. The currency was different, the measurement and the pricing. “Uhh, can I get $8?”, I guessed. She realised I was a foreigner. She also had a line forming behind me. “You just go pump and I give you the change of what’s left” I think I gave her a $10 note. I left, pumped the gas and got my change. “Do I have to pre-pay at every petrol station or just this one”, I asked. She looked at me blankly again. I didn’t know if it was the word ‘pre-pay’, she actually wasn’t sure or it was a stupid question. She murmered something that suggested it was just this one. It wasn’t. It was all of them. Expect one old one in the middle of nowhere.

The 3-way

I continued on the path to the mountains. I ended up back on the Interstate. I wasn’t sure of the etiquitte. Does everyone keep right? Do they travel at the speed limit? Does my speedo show the right speed? It was an educational experience and I was glad to get off. The bike vibrated as I cruised at 60mph.

I got off the Interstate and ended up on a backroad. I must’ve taken a wrong turn and found myself at a stop sign. ‘3-way’ it read. “What the fuck do I do here?”, I asked myself. There was no one around so I went through the intersection. It wasn’t long before I found another one. This time there were cars. “Shit, what do I do?”. I indicated for a left turn and waited for the car in-front. They turned and I faced a car on the opposite side of the intersection. The other driver waved me to go.

The 4-way intersections would become a huge pain for me. Despite reading the rules. People tend to favour motorcyclists. Which is confusing if you’re not the first one at the intersection. It’s basically a congested free-for-all. Roundabouts are a better solution. I was told they’re too hard for Americans to understand 🤷‍♂️

San Gabriels

I made my way up the mountains. The highway was smooth and wide. It was fun. The bike didn’t have heaps of power but it was enough. I was finally getting to the roads I wanted to be. I did a few lefts and rights before missing an exit. I found a turnpike with a tree and seats. It was hot. A gallon of water sat on the bench under a tree. The words “RIP” and a name written on the side with a sharpie. I looked around the scorching mountain. It was mostly desert. You can die out here without water.

I turned around and headed up the road. I don’t remember much of the road. I hit a lake with people on vacation and a resovior overlook. A man waved at me from his car. I stopped at Jensons Finest Foods, Wrightwood. I realised I would run out of water and I needed to pick up some extra food for camping. There was no 2 litre water bottles to fill my . Everything was either more then I needed of too expensive. I ended up buying sparkling water. The cashier asked for change and I didn’t know what coins where which. I let her pick them out of my hand.

I walked outside and a couple of older locals sat on a bench. I looked at them to say hello. They just starred at me. Seems people aren’t friendly out here, I thought. I filled my camelbak with the sparkling water and put it in the bin. It would get expensive to buy water bottles for 90-days. I would have to heed the Tucker’s expert advice.

“Gas stations are your friend. You can get water for free from the soda machine”

I continued up to through Big Pines and up the Angeles Crest Highway. It was an incredibly fun road. Tucker told me all the motorbike riders from Los Angeles went there and stopped at a place called Newcombs ranch. I would get there and have lunch and chat with the bikers.

The output on my USB charger began to error. I noticed when the bike revved to high it stopped my phone charging. The digital volt meter was going up and down. I wondered how long it had been doing it. It progressively got worse. When I arrived at Newcombs it was dead.

There was no one at the ranch and it was closed. I took out some museli bars and wondered what to do with the USB charger. Google Maps will drain my batteries fast without it. I wasn’t far from Chilao. I had my powerbank. I will need a new USB charger immediately. I could fix it at Tim’s house in San Jose. Hopefully I make it.

A car drove into the empty carpark. A girl stuck her head out the window. “Do you know how far to the next town?”, she asked. “I do but I don’t know in miles?! Maybe 30?”, I responded. “I’m running out of gas”, she yelled. I pointed to a sign in-front of her that read ‘36’. She thanked me and I wished her good-luck

Chilao Campground

Chilao is an excellent place to stay if you can secure a spot overlooking the valley. It’s not far from Los Angeles. It’s $25 and includes drop toilets, running water and bins.

I continued up the road and found Chilao nearby. I entered the campground and scoped it out. There weren’t many people there. It was a weekday and kids were at school. I found an information board with the ‘iron ranger’. It read about Bears, Snakes and a whopping $25 USD camp fee! I couldn’t afford to pay that much. 90 x $25 = $2,250. Here I was expecting to stay for free.

I signed the form an trundled around the site for a place to camp. I was lucky to position myself overlooking the valley. I was an incredible spot. I rode down and put the $25 on the iron ranger and went back up to setup camp.

I put some music on and setup the tent. I practiced it at home the week before. There was a group of boys flying a drone at the site near me. I tried to fix the USB charger by checking the wires. I took the headlight off and inspected it. Everything was connected. The USB charger was busted. The sky began to fall and I had dinner on that balmy night. It was a beautiful summer evening and I had an amazing view.

I wondered if every day would be like this.



Read More