February 02, 2007 GMT
It's Groundhog Day

I saw groundhogs in Texas, but that was a while ago.

None here today (apart from the usual film on the telly), and there was more snow overnight. The snowploughs came through again at breakfast time during a discussion about resurrecting the moonshine still hanging from the ceiling of the diner.

The reason for no booze here is that when the last bar closed because the owner died, the son sold the liquor licence out of the county and the law is that it can't be bought back into the county. So amidst the decisions on which chickens to buy mail order, someone is being dispatched to the nearest Wally World (50 miles away in Arizona) to buy cases of peaches with which to concoct something. I doubt Jimmy the Sheriff will argue.

In Texas, any given parking area contains at least 90% pickups, the rest being ordinary cars and RVs towing cars or 4x4s. Here, the proportion of pickups is about the same, the remaining 10% being largely tractors. The ATM is broken and awaiting parts, but plastic is accepted (of course) and there doesn't seem to be a problem with adding breakfast and dinner to the motel bill. Just as well, as I'm here for another night.

It's Groundhog Day.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 10:17 PM GMT
February 07, 2007 GMT
Sin City

I finally made my escape from Quemado despite a temperature of 20F, and made it to Arizona without falling off on any ice or snow, of which there was plenty still around despite the snowploughs.
Pictures and maps are HERE.

Once in Arizona I discovered a new brand of cigs called 'Montego Austin'; one assumes they don't have the historical baggage we have.

A couple of days and I was in San Diego, and after a gentle day riding around went north to stay the night with Tony and Sharon (who've been on this list for round 18 months). Poor Tony dropped his 1150GS on his foot in Mexico a week ago and has to have pins and plates on Friday. The scenario was rather similar to my Colombian soldier episode, only he didn't have enough Spanish to argue and the inevitable happened. So the GS, the Harley and the Ducati will remain unused for a while (what a nice playroom he has).

Anyway, I dithered about going to LA and finally decided I might as well so wimbled gently northwards. Most unfortunately there was a thick fog (probably combined with the famous smog) and 'gerall was visible - even the Hollywood sign was more or less obscured. But I rode up and down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, which, amazingly, resemble rather dreary suburban high streets more than anything else. The only redeeming features are exotica like the Chinese Theatre. Very disappointing. The western end of Sunset is where celebs past and present have houses, and may be the only road in the US with bends. My tyres are wearing very square.

So I headed north-east on Ventura and bits of Route 66, then out into the Mojave Desert. The shoulder being a little angry slowed me a bit and I stopped for the night in a small town called Victorville. The hotel manageress got really excited so this morning I was descended upon by the local press with still and video cameras, resulting in a bit of a race on I-15 between me and the camera car. Great fun.

And at last I'm here in Sin City, staying, of course, at Caesar's Palace (not nearly as expensive as you'd think). Huge fun at the valet parking stand, where they finally decided I should park in the secure staff parking garage by the Pepsi machine. Elton John's on tonight but the tickets are horrendous so I won't do that. But I could be tempted by either Cirque du Soleil or (horrors but think of my age) Barry Manilow.

And yes, it's just as tacky as you'd think, although the Great Pyramid, the Eiffel Tower and all that stuff seem strangely bijou. I'll have a wander around town tomorrow to see the full horror - walking isn't illegal here and in fact appears to be positively encouraged judging by the number of pedestrian bridges over the Strip, not to mention the hotel rooms being about three miles from Reception. The receptionist asked about my favourite countries, and was so pleased when I mentioned Panama that she arranged a deal on the room while we exchanged reminiscences about places around where I stayed, and she used to live, in Panama City.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 10:20 PM GMT
February 11, 2007 GMT
Wet Again but Home and Dry

Sometimes things just work out brilliantly.

My alternator rotor died 50 miles short of California BMW, to where I was heading anyway. So down to sidelight for the duration, in pelting rain, but no having to stop for map consultations as I knew exactly where I was going, for a change. It's a bit weird being somewhere familiar after so long in totally strange surroundings.

Bless 'em, they helped me swap in the one I've been lugging around since Arequipa (Peru, remember?), and had a new pair of GS gloves for me in my size (predictably loads cheaper than in the UK).

What nice people they are. I'm taking The Old Dear back on Wednesday for an oil change and and check-over - they'll even give me a courtesy bike for the day as well.

Loads of old friends to see here, and not only that but Alec Muffett arrives tomorrow for a week. He's on this list and accompanied me on the first 20 miles or so of this trip back in 2004.

Then next weekend I'm aiming for an Airheads Rendezvous at Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

Non-Beemer peeps - Airheads are the old air-cooled boxers like The Old Dear, and the newer oil-cooled ones (like my 1200GS) are known as Oilheads. Surprisingly.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 10:22 PM GMT
February 21, 2007 GMT
Definitely Not Getting Warmer

Had a great time at the Airheads Rendezvous in Death Valley at the weekend. It was one of those unorganised dos - camping space booked, but just turn up and do your own thing. Unlike British rallies the beer was free, although I went prepared having stashed a couple of bottles of Chilean Carmenere about my person.

The ride was spectacular, but hard on the frozen shoulder as it was nearly 600 miles because I did the pretty route. Getting the tent up was a bit of a trial in the dark and largely one-handed, but the erection survived mainly due to the lack of wind and rain and my foresight in tying it to a tree instead of guying it properly.

This shoulder (like the other one used to be) is a bloody nuisance. I've done a bit of research on this frozen thing, and there's an excellent and rather too accurate description at http://www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/23069093/ which hasn't cheered me up in the least. On the bright side the broken one is holding up well now, having got used to its new configuration.

There were 130 bikes at Furnace Creek, at least half of which actually were airheads, including around half a dozen 80G/Ss like The Old Dear. Lots of mods were apparent, engendering large quantites of esoteric explanations and discussions. One of the owners was Dutch, who invited me to stay a couple of nights at his apartment in Hollywood; so I did. He used to be an actor, which explains his domicile, and now does all sorts of other things; like photography using a Sigma camera (which utilises a unique form of digital capture - see http://www.sigma-photo.com/cameras/) with old Russian lenses to obtain remarkable results.

I'm back in Mountain View/Palo Alto for a couple of days now after riding up from LA on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH, Highway 1). It was cold enough to wear a sweatshirt and fleece with the heated grips on. It gets colder from here on northwards. I'll have to take it fairly slowly because of a) the shoulder and b) the weather, which has had much of the US under several feet of snow. Well, the bits without the tornadoes, anyway.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 01:26 AM GMT
February 26, 2007 GMT
The Ultimate Drive-Thru

I stopped for fuel at a small town and again was told of bad conditions to the south. I thought I'd try anyway as I could always turn round again. But I didn't have to, thank heavens - there was only torrential rain for the rest of the way - and am back in Mountain View to dry out, warm up and rest the shoulder.

Anyone who did Latin O-level remembers the Elks and Bison chapter in Caesar's Gallic Wars Book VI. According to Caesar, the elks have no knee joints, so in order to go to sleep an elk will prop itself against a tree. The crafty Gauls come along and saw halfway through the tree trunk so that when an elk leans against it the tree and the elk fall over and neither can get up again. Then the crafty Gauls come back, kill the elk, cook it and eat it.

Anyway, it was when the carpet of hailstones reached around an inch in depth that I decided to turn south again. Stopping wasn't possible without falling over, but luckily the road was wide and empty enough to do a gentle U-turn and retrace my tyre track.

I'd made it to about 60 miles short of the Oregon state line and was clearly not going any further. I managed as far south as Laytonville, through hail and snow, and when I was about to refuel a chap told me that there were blizzard conditions further south and I should stay put. So I did.

North was clearly out. So were east and west, with chains mandated for any lateral roads.

This morning the temperature was 30F, and there was snow mixed with hail. I headed south anyway, through patches of blizzard. This is US101, which is major-ish and thus has enough traffic to keep things sensible after the ploughs have been through.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to observe a herd of wild elks, and to drive through the trunk of an ancient redwood; it's called the Drive-Thru Tree. I saw a picture of that in an encyclopaedia when I was about eight years old.

Now, you know me and plans. However, a brief consultation with the Weather Channel has decided me. I'm continuing south, will dip into Mexico and back at some point so I can get another 90 days (the Dept. of Homeland Security no longer allows extensions), and head through the currently rather overactive tornado belt to the Carolinas. How's that sound?

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 01:30 AM GMT

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