A Gathering Storm
OK, so itís a little melodramatic. But it ties in with the gathering of the personnel and equipment, and the clouds that we ran intoÖ.
Our actual departure date from Bowling Green isnít until Tuesday the 2nd. But after my last day of work on Friday I couldnít just sit around until Tuesday, now could I? So I fully packed the bike for a trial run down to meet Dad on his way up from GA. This way I could get some riding in, check how well I packed, etc.
I took off early Saturday past Barren River lake.
Then I took 90 out of Glasgow and picked up 92 in Monticello. The section of 92 from Monticello to Pine Knot, KY through the Daniel Boone National forest is a really nice curvy road with good views and nice clean new(ish) pavement.
Which brings the question - how many ways can you describe a road and get the point across? Twisty, sweepers, curvyÖ..I found myself trying to think of a better classification/description system. All I could come up with was: Technical and Artistic. How hard the road is to ride, and how pretty the road and views are. The problem is, technical level depends on how you approach the ride - you can putz around on the Tail of the Dragon, which is a very technical road, and conversely, you can ride balls out on your average country lane. A better method might be to describe them as musical genres:
heavy metal - choppy, hard, aggressive
Jazz - smooth, flowing
Country - country roads, what else?
Still, the riderís experience of a given road depends on their approach to that road., their attitude, their riding ability, and the equipment theyíre on.
After further thought, the concept of music as a metaphor for riding made more sense. There is the piece of music - the road itself, with itís technical challenges, flow, and beauty; the instrument - the motorcycle being used, with itís particular capabilities, or lack thereof; and the rider themselves, as musician, using their skills and equipment to interpret and put their stamp on the piece of music or pavement.
Deep thoughts for a Monday. Too much time in the saddle talking to myself.
When I stopped for gas, I had to ask the full service gas pump attendant (who knew that they still existed?!) where I wasÖ.all I knew was 92, and somewhere it would hit 25E, which would take me through Newport, TN, and into Hot Springs, NC, my eventual destination for the day.
I rode the big tunnel through the Cumberland Gap and made my way into Hot Springs, after a brief detour to Asheville. Found my favorite bar tender working at the only pub in town and made a night of it.
The musical entertainment in the pub that evening was, umm, remarkable. Remarkable in how much it reminded me of the bad lounge singer skit from old Saturday Night Live episodes. They had the drum machine and keyboard programmed with all the latest sounds of the eighties-era equipment they were using. The bongo playerís bongos werenít miked up, which was a good thing, since he wouldnít have known what rhythm was if you hit him with a drum stick. The singer/saxophone player was talented, even if he/she couldnít decide exactly which side of the male / female fence to stand on. However, as the night wore on, the liquid lubrication of the libations seemed to loosen up the band and the crowd. In other words, the more you drank, the better they sounded, and by the end of the night everyone was dancing.
209 out of Hot Springs south to I40 is a wonderful piece of road. Switchbacks, steep sections, a very technical piece of road. The only down points are occasional gravel washouts in the road and rough sections of pavement. It doesnít seem to be heavily trafficked at any time, and it definitely wasnít this early Sunday morning. It does display one of the universal signs of a wonderful motorcycling road.
After a day of beautiful weather on Saturday, Sunday didnít start out so well. By the time I got to Franklin, NC, our designated meeting spot, the rain gear was on. Funny how appropriate what I was reading turned out to be.
We were in and out of the rain gear all day, because wearing non-breathable rain gear in 95 degree super humid heat is no fun.
Dad showed up and we compared tattoos. His only tattoo is the inspiration for my latest piece.
We then rode 28 from Franklin to 143 into Robbinsville. Again, 28 is amazing. Tight switchbacks up and down the hillsides. Outside of Robbinsville we picked up the Cherohala Skyway, that connects the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest. 45 miles, no services, great wide open sweepers, smooth pavement, and not too many tourists due to the fact that it doesnít particularly go anywhere except up, down, and from Robbinsville to Tellico Plains.
68 out of Tellico Plains leads you past the Watts Bar Nuclear plant. Hopefully we didnít pick up any new mutations on the way by.
It was a fairly mundane trip the rest of the way home via I-40, 25 through Carthage and Hartsville to 231 the rest of the way. We took ourselves out for a kickoff dinner at a nice steak place. Monday we wrap up some loose ends and prepare to hit the trail hard on Tuesday. Weíre going to try to make Kansas City by the end of the day, some 500 miles away, and Grand Junction, CO by Thursday, so we have some long days of interstate pounding lined up for the next leg.
For Black Betty, the last two days were 820 miles at 46.2 mpg. Looks like Iíve packed everything necessary and not too much superfluous stuff. Iíve got the quick change rain gear routine down pat now. If I can avoid picking up souveneirs I should be alright.
Sorry for the poor photo quality on some of the shots - still tweaking.
I'll probably go with embedded full size images for better quality when it gets interesting...
We rolled out of Bowling Green on a beautiful Tuesday morning at 7 am
and had smooth sailing up to Evansville IN.
The states started to roll by on the interstateÖ
This arch seemed bigger when I was young.
By the time we hit Missouri, it was early afternoon and HOT. We were downing water and Gatorade at every stop and sweating it all off. Slathering on the sunscreen added a nice extra bit of stickiness to the hot and humid conditions. We were glad to hit Kansas
and made Topeka our first stop for the trip. 636 miles for our first day out.
Wednesday we started to make our way across Kansas. Kansas is BIG COUNTRY. The human eye can see an object six miles away without the aid of elevation - I checked this bit of Dad-supplied trivia by picking an overpass in the distance and checking the mileage to reach it. My eyesight seems good for 5 miles on the flat.
So what, you say? Well, in Kansas, for hours, I could see corn for 5 miles in every direction. Big. Flat. Ugh. 80 mph on the interstate was the only solution and it still took forever.
What makes people live in such a place? In a larger sense, what makes some people stay in a location all their lives, while others wander, never actually settling anywhere permanently? The one factor I can identify is the presence of family - if you have family in an area, itís harder to leave, especially when youíve started a family of your own. The support from the extended family is a great positive resource, but it also limits the options for exploration, whether geographic, career, or personal, by tying the individual to a locale. Roots versus restless - the meditation subject for the day.
I missed adding the Colorado state sign due to a semi blocking the view. Shortly after entering the state, the land begins to roll again, adding a welcome bit of scenery variation to the sensorily deprived motorcycle rider.
A motel on the west side of Denver had been selected as the destination for the evening. As we approached the Denver metro area, huge dark storm clouds loomed over the entire city. And we timed our arrival to coincide with rush hour - not on purpose! It became a game whether we would make the hotel or get drenched. The clouds to the south and west were issuing lightning, we started to get sprinkles, we hit a traffic jamÖ.the road went towards the clouds, then curved back towards a sunny spotÖbut all the drama ended well. We got to the motel, parked our bikes under the overhang, and walked to a bar and grill across the street to celebrate our success. Jason and I continued the celebrating well into the early hours of the morning.
If youíre bored then youíre boring - Harvey Danger
Get up and do something
Your time to chose it
Do it, do it, do it, do it
And that is the thought for the day. Stop sitting around waiting for life to happen, go grab it!
554 miles on the day before set us up for an easy run from Denver to Grand Junction. Good thing, as we knew it would be raining and the roads would be more challenging. The prior two days of hard running paid off with a laid back third day run to Grand Junction.
Drizzling rain accompanied our leisurely departure from Denver. We began climbing out of the plain up into the clouds and foothills.
The heat from the previous day had totally disappeared . The cold front that brought the storm had the temperatures in Denver at 61 when we left and as we climbed the foothills the temperatures kept dropping. The air temperature gauge on my bike was reading around 45 at the lowest. This was a good reason to pull over and put on more gear!
The big guy in blue is Jason. Here he is in the Eisenhower tunnel.
Coming down the other side of the mountains it seemed we had escaped the brunt of the bad weather. We were in and out of the rain gear all day and the temperatures kept creeping up as we lost elevation. Hereís some scenic shots from the west slopeÖ.
The problem with these pics is they simply donít convey the entire experience. The panoramic view afforded from the seat of a motorcycle is my favorite way to see the world. Whereas in a car you are looking at a picture, framed by your window or windshield, on a bike you are IN the picture, you can smell the trees, feel the breeze, see up down and sidewaysÖitís wonderful.
Entering into Glenwood Canyon along the Colorado riverÖ.
And some more scenery
Looking at the variety of mountain formations and structures made me think of the Eskimos and their number of words to describe snowÖ.how many different words for mountain are there? Iím sure Dad with the geology degree could give the technical terms but thatís not nearly as appealing.
We made it to Grand Junction CO ahead of schedule and of the group weíre supposed to meet up with. Temperatures rose to 90 on the air temp gauge by the time we got to Grand Junction - a swing of 45 degrees in the space of one day. THAT is why I pack shorts and heavy leathers for the same trip - you never know what youíll experience.
America is big.
Really, really big.
Huge, gigantic, colossal, enormous.
It is hard to grasp the sheer enormity of the country until you spend entire days at 80 mph trying to cross portions of it. Todayís convenience of cross country flights belittles the vastness of the American countryside by reducing it to a couple of security checkpoints and several hours packed in a cattle car with mouth-breathing bottom feeders.
You should go see it. As much as possible. And, of course, I recommend a motorcycle as your method of conveyance, but I may be biased in my opinion.
I never understood what would make people never leave their hometown. Ever. We all know some of these people - never been out of the state, sometimes even the county, that they were born in. Arenít they at all curious about what else is out there?
Try crossing Utah, for example, on a motorcycle, like we did today. You can see mountains on all four points of the compass, and what amounts to vast wasteland filling all the space in between. An hour later, and the mountain range you could see in front of you may be closer by 70 miles but it looks just the same. Awe-inspiring, bedazzling, and a bit frightening. Letís hope you donít run out of gas while youíre between, say, Salt Lake City and Wendover, NV.
There were a few vehicles parked on the side of I-80 as we crossed the desert. They had strange markings on them that I couldnít decipher. There was no evidence of human remains, so some kind soul must have stopped and picked them up. Or they just melted into the salt and sand, leaving no trace. It could happen.
There were also arrangements of stones in the sand, apparently left by fun-loving tourists, spelling out various initials, nicknames, messages, etc. Hey, that sounds like a lot of fun, letís get out of the airconditioned car and move rocks around in the sand at 100 degrees. Not my cup of tea but I donít really understand most people anyway.
The reason we were crossing Utah instead of heading back towards Denver and eventually Sturgis was due to our decision to run our own race. Ever try to get 20 people with strong individual egos to do anything, especially in a timely fashion? The lack of organization of the group we met in Grand Junction was a big turn off. Dad and I rise early, ride hard, and enjoy the heck out of each otherís company. Waiting for a bunch of other jokers to get their, uhh, stuff together at every gas stop for the next 600 miles didnít sound like a lot of fun. Plus it was back tracking. Heading west and then north, basically reversing the loop we had originally laid out, just seemed more logical. I love having the freedom to change a trip in midstream and God bless him Dad is playing along.
So we headed out of Grand Junction into Utah. Sunrise was nice over the west slope of the Rockies.
Did I mention that there is a whole lot of not much out there? I mean, itís beautiful country, but dang thereís a lot of oh, rocks, dirt, more rocks, a couple of big rocks, and maybe a sage brush. Oh yeah and mountains.
We took US 6 / 191 up through Price, UT. Didnít get many pics as the road was fairly involved and the trucks running on it (dang triple trailer units) were in a big hurry.
This ended abruptly, dumping us on I-15 just south of Provo. The culture shock from scenic two lane canyon road (even with the monster trucks) to eight lanes of overcaffeinated Starbucks junkies who were way more important and busy than me was a bit much. I had to pull over, eat some lunch, and get into my urban warrior concrete jungle mindset to fight through the traffic. This has happened several times already on this trip. My temper has generally disappeared only to reappear with a vengeance, usually when confronted with too many people. This bodes not well for my return to regular society in a month.
Anyways, just north of Provo is Salt Lake City, and yes, they have a big salty lake.
No, I didnít taste it, but the white stuff here is SALT. Lots of it.
Remember the desert I mentioned at the beginning of this entry?
We cleared the desert at Wendover (right by the Bonneville Salt Flats) and headed through a few mountain passes to Elko, NV. We agreed that since we were in NV, we should gamble. Plus, my bill for gas at Wendover was $7.77 - how could I lose? We got a palatial suite at the Best Western
and ventured out to see what we could see.
I left with $100 budgeted for the evening. I won $40 at blackjack fairly quickly and took Dad to the all you can eat seafood buffet. Turning two Norwegians loose in a seafood buffet is not a money making proposition for the establishment.
Dad called it a night while I hit the blackjack tables for a while longer. I returned to the room having eaten, drank, and entertained myself for several hours, and had $106 in my pocket. Pretty good deal!
Tomorrow we get off the interstates and start hitting some interesting roads south and west towards Yosemite National Park. Thanks to Dave for the reminder to get off the highways!
Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health - Carl Jung
This pithy little statement comes from a page torn from my Hog Log. The Hog Log is a little notebook or journal for the motorcycle enthusiast, of a convenient size to place in a saddle bag or tour pack, and keep notes on the events and happenings of the motorcycling life. There are little quotes at the top of each page, to give a rider a touch of philosophy or poetry to meditate on. I use mine to track mileage, gas, and take little notes for these updates.
Now, the reason I tore a page out, was to provide my father with paper to write down phone numbers, account numbers, and pertinent data. The reason he needed to do this was, somehow, in the 90 miles from Elko to Battle Mountain, his wallet had disappeared. Not good.
We called the hotel, the gas station, and the McDonaldís we had breakfast at. No dice.
We called CitiBank, The Bank of Perry (thank goodness they were still there, on a Saturday), and the Visa 911 line.
We called Mom.
Now do you see how appropriate the little message at the top of the page is? I swear, I pulled out a page at random. I couldnít write fiction any better.
In the end, allís well. Canceled those that needed canceling, Momís wiring money Western Union, Iíve got cash, ATM card, and a credit card, so weíve got it handled. And, at the end of the day, or at least the end of the trip, the hardships endured just add spice to the stories. Heck, they give you stories to tell.
Weíve discussed rocks before. Hereís some on the way to Battle Mountain.
Having studied our map and finding we could cut out the Reno/Lake Tahoe/Carson City madness, we jumped on state highway 305 out of Battle Mountain to Austin, NV. This road was 90 miles of, well, nothingÖI mean, mountains or hills, rocksÖyou know, nothing. There were, oh, 2 ďranchesĒ and I think 1 mine on the section of road.
Talk about the middle of nowhere. Battle Mountain, NV is right next to nowhere, take a left and head 40 miles south and you are right in the middle of it.
We got to Austin, NV, where 305 hits US 50 and fueled up. There was a sign at the station proclaiming US 50 as the ďLoneliest Road in AmericaĒ. They even had ďI survived US 50Ē t-shirts. I donít know who awards these distinctions but they need to give strong consideration to 305 or our next route, 376.
Hereís how smart we are. Get on the ďLoneliest Road in AmericaĒ, and take a right onto a road even lonelier. Another 80 miles to the next anything. Advice from the other riders at our gas stop was to get gas every time we saw a station because you never know when someone was going to be closed.
Rolling down 376, there were 1 or 2 ranches, a mine here and there, and a small town called Kingston. Nevada Valley has land available in Kingston, and I bet itís cheap. Iíll get you the number if you want. I think itís where they put all the people in the witness protection program because noooooobody is going to find them there.
Oh yeah and itís hot.
But if you look up at that mountain, that white stuff is snow.
It probably rains out here, oh, twice a year (except on top of that mountain, where apparently it snows). It is arid. Dry. Parched. So what do we see as we are plowing down the dead straight 376 highway? A rain cloud. Being in the Big Smoky Valley between two mountain ranges with nothing else to look at, we saw it quite a ways away. Lo and behold, it rained. It rains here twice a year (donít quote me, I didnít look it up) and it happens to rain right on us as we pass by. How convenient. We welcomed it as the cloud provided shade for a mile or two and the little rain cooled us down some too.
We made it to Tonopa, NV, gassed up, and headed for California. Tonopa over to Benton, CA is 82 miles of desert and one mountain pass.
You hear people talk about God-forsaken country. I donít think the desert is God-forsaken because you can see his work in the stark, alien beauty of it. Itís just forsaken by everyone else because there is no good reason to be out there; thereís nothing there. My apologies for the religious reference - substitute the higher power of your choice, or if you donít believe in anything, go stand in the desert for a while.
Two of the crossroad ďtownsĒ on the map were nothing but shells of buildings. What made people think they could run a casino/hotel/campground/restaurant in the absolute middle of the desert? I guess they took a hint from Las Vegas. Didnít work out nearly as well, from the looks of it.
We cleared a pass and got on the other side of this peak - Boundary Peak, 13,140ft. Itís big enough that I could see it on the horizon before we got to Tonopa.
As soon as we were on the California side, the temperature dropped 10 degrees. We rode down the valley between the magnificent Sierra Nevada range and the range with Boundary Peak and White Mountain (14,246 ft) to Bishop, CA where we found a hotel to rest our bones. We sure are roughing it.
But after 90 miles through the desert I wanted nothing more than AC and watching the X games with my dad while drinking beers and eating some fried chicken. Life is good, even though the day started off poorly.
Tomorrow is Yosemite park and northward.
We woke up and rolled up 395 from Bishop CA to Tioga Pass, the "back" entrance to Yosemite. Beautiful morning in Bishop - I could wake up to this view.
On the road out of Bishop
Approaching highway 120
The approach up to Tioga Pass, the actual entrance to the park.
There were tons of rock climbers out and about in Yosemite. Must have something to do with the abundance of rocks....
The alpine meadows at the top were beautiful. I can't remember the name exactly but it was something like tumor-lunger....pretty sure that wasn't it, though.
Roving over towards Yosemite Valley - in this picture you can see El Capitan and the Half Dome off in the distance.
Then there's this guy standing with the Bridal Veil falls for a backdrop.
And the biggest rock of all, El Capitan. 3 days to climb it. Think about it - climb all day, strap yourself to the side and try to get some sleep. I don't have a fear of heights but my fear of falling off the side of a mountain I'm strapped to would probably prevent me from doing this.
From Tioga Pass where we entered the park everything is down, in elevation. After we left the park, as we got lower, it got hotter. Lower. Hotter. We bottomed out somewhere around 2000 feet elevation. It looked like it hadn't rained in several years. Everything was dry, crackly, brown...no wonder California catches on fire every time someone forgets to snuff out their cigarrette. Whoops, forgot, California is a no-smoking state. Must be all the PO'd ex-smokers setting the darn wildfires then.
Tried to catch the brownness in this pic. Look over to the left where the grass is dead and the trees are gasping.
We rode through the historic mining region - Angels Camp, Calaveras County, etc. There were fake concrete frogs everywhere celebrating the Mark Twain story (there was also a sign for a cabin that was purportedly his). I tell you, if there were any frogs around here they dried up and blew away years ago. No jumping going on here. 104 degrees on one bank display. 101 on another.
We picked up 88 headed back towards Nevada, and back up in elevation. Coming out of Pine Grove at 2500 feet and 104 degrees, if we didn't get some relief quick we were going to have to find a place to hole up. Amazing what half an hour and 5000 feet of elevation will do for you. At 7000 and 8000 feet, the temperature was pleasant and the ride was enjoyable again.
We rode past Silver Lake, Cagles lake, and into Carson City NV where we called it a long, hot, eventful day.
Going back to Cali
We had to revisit Nevada to pick up the Western Union money as it had to be picked up in the state it was sent to. So we waited around for an office to open (friendly local Rite Aid), got the cash, and rolled up the road to Reno.
Stopped in at Reno HD to see if I could get the oil and filter changed on my bike as I just hit 5000 miles from the last change. The first answer was ďNot until 3pmĒ but after we talked a little and told them about the trip it was ďHere, roll it in right quickĒ. Not only did they work in the oil change but they cleaned the bike (and that was a serious job after a week on the road) and got me back on the road in a hurry.
Say what you want about HD dealers (Iíve said plenty myself) but when it comes to getting travelers who are 2000 miles from home on the road they do a pretty darn good job. Reno HD today; Southside HD in Indy had the right clutch cable and sent someone 20 miles down the interstate to bring it to me for my shovel head; Gainesville HD changed the rear tire on the shovel on Bike Week weekend (and that job was a pain, with the fully enclosed rear chain) ahead of scheduled service jobs. I canít complain. Donít get me started about their sales staff, though.
Took 395 out of Reno to Susanville, CA, then 44 over to Redding. 44 was really nice through the Lassen National Forest,
with Lassen Peak.
CALDOT or CALTRANS or whoever it is in the orange vests that works on the roads has figured out the same thing we have - itís nowhere near as hot at 8000 feet. So theyíre working on state road 44 in the middle of nowhere (had a big crew, too).
We had some interesting animal encounters. First we were attacked by monster butterflies. I donít know what they were but they were big and yellow on the inside. Smacked me a good one several times.
Then I finally saw some free range cattle. Iíve been seeing the signs ever since we were in the desert outside of Tonopa, NV. I guess the ones that were set free in NV migrated to the upper elevations of CA, realizing the heat wasnít as bad (great minds think alike). Any free range cattle in NV has to be the toughest animal in existence; and, probably, the source of the $5.99 steak special that doubles as shoe leather.
We descended from the heights into Redding. Iíve figured out what the lowland valleys of CA remind me of - the Serengeti. Dig the picture. I kept looking for the giraffe, the lion, maybe a hyena or two. Of course, it was hot, 105 in the shade.
Iíve got a much greater appreciation for the water battles that go on in the west now. Water is life. The difference between the Big Smoky Valley in NV (deserted desert) and the Carson River valley in NV (fertile, populated, flourishing) is water. Without it, no crops, no livestock, no reason to live there.
It being way too hot for humans in Redding, we decided to push on to Eureka, guessing that the coast had to be cooler. We took one of the most amazing motorcycle roads Iíve ever been on to get there - SR 299, 117 miles up, down, and around the Coast Ranges, through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and along the Trinity river to the coast. Itís uphill out of Redding to about Weaverville, with some really nice twisty sections, then mostly downhill along theTrinity river the rest of the way. Our biggest problem was, we were just about too tired to enjoy it, plus Dadís rear brake pads have had it.
Itís dangerous to push yourself when youíre already tired, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Kind of sad when youíre swooping through the curves along a river through the mountains and think, ď50 more miles of this?Ē We took it easy, took some breaks, and finally made it to the coast. And it was cold! A cold front had set in and we had to pull over and put our jackets on. Another 40 degree temperature swing.
As we rode from Arcata to Eureka, I thought to myself, dang, where is the ocean? Just about then I noticed it - that big bunch of water over there was Humboldt Bay. Another trip goal met.
We have to do a little brake service on Dadís bike tomorrow and then weíre off up 101 through the redwoods and the Oregon coastline.
We woke up in Eureka in the same fog weíd arrived in. Something about the cold air blowing in off the ocean, and the warm layer above, created a thick soup that we rode through on our way out of town.
First we stopped at the HD dealership and had Dadís brakes looked at. They checked and tested them and fixed a minor oil leak in less than an hour from our arrival, at no charge. HD service comes through again. We added our locations to their US map of visitors and hit the road.
The fog broke just in time for us to hit the Redwood National Park. Look at the size of this tree.
And the view as we rode down the scenic side roadÖ.
Shortly after leaving the redwoods we crossed into Oregon. The mist or clouds came back but they couldnít dampen the beauty of the coastline.
Somewhere along the way we grabbed lunch at a seafood place that caught, processed, smoked, and cooked itís own fish. Dad proposed we stay there and skip the rest of the trip. Not a bad idea, I could just write updates with pictures lifted from other sites while we gorged on smoked salmon. But we continued on.
I really liked Oregon until we went to fill up with gas. Oregon doesnít let you pump your own gas. Apparently, they never have. Iím not real comfortable with the average minimum wage pump jockey waving the super premium nozzle all over my bike, so I was thankful that all the attendants we ran into merely handed us the nozzle and replaced it when we were done. It was weird. If youíve read this series from the beginning, you recall my amazement at finding a full service pump in KY on my way to meet my dad. Complete culture shock to find somewhere where it is the norm.
We stopped in Coos Bay, OR for the night.
And continued our ride up 101 on the Oregon coastline in the morning.
I didnít take many more pictures, as the scenery is similar, and it was cold! 60 degrees, so I was wearing my gauntlets. Getting the mitt off, camera out, camera on and aimed was just too much so I left it in my side pocket.
I did catch a pic of one of my favorite street signs.
Oregon has road signs of ultimate simplicity and eloquence; one word suffices. Rocks. Elk. Slides. They do use a few more words for my other favorite sign of the day: Tsunami Hazard Zone. Now, thatís not one you see around Kentucky very often.
Speaking of Elk, we did see a few of those including this big guy:
He's a little reminder of one of the inspirations for the trip, the Rev. W. Ray Dickerson, RIP. Who is also the inspiration for my elk skull tattoo:
We crossed into Washington over the Columbia River at Astoria and had lunch in Ilwaco, WA. While the day wasnít the longest in duration or mileage, something about the roads and the climate had really taken it out of us, so we headed inland looking for shelter. Of course, 30 miles from the coast the coast effect wears off and the weather warmed up. Hereís the Columbia river along our route:
Sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Kelso, WA speaking Spanish to the help (go with what you know), laughing so hard Iím crying at the Bill Bryson story in the book Iím reading (always read travel writing while on the road, it keeps things in perspective), wearing a Grumpyís sweatshirt from the old man bar down the road, I was deep into living my own advice: travel as if the US were a foreign country. When in a foreign country, I seek familiar objects to balance out the sheer foreignness of the experience. For example, I was never so glad to see a Burger King than in Trondheim, Norway, after a week across the fjord with my family. And I donít even like Burger King. That and the week old USA Today at the English bookstore restored my balance. See and experience all you can, and even your keel by touching on those objects that bring you home. Hence, the Mexican restaurant, the book, and the old man bar.
Slacking in Seattle
So, we cut across from the coast to Kelso, WA for the evening. In the morning we rode to and around Mt. Rainier, but I only got one pic due to not stopping and it being cold. In case you didnít know, 90% of my pics are taken from the saddle while riding. If I stopped to take a pic every time I thought about it, I wouldnít get any where.
We got to Dave and Jenís place in Seattle. On Friday, they took us around town a bit. The neatest place was the Pike Place Market.
Youíve seen it, itís where these guys throw fishÖ
World Famous Pike Place Fish (just read their sign) looked like sushi on ice to me. We had a big breakfast (huge cinnamon roll sliced up and fixed as French toast - yum!) but skipped lunch so it was all I could do to keep from sawing off a chunk of salmon and gnawing on it.
The sights and smells of the market were amazingÖ.
And itís all on the waterfront downtown.
We had an amazing dinner at Rayís Cafť on the water somewhere in the Seattle Metro area. Talk about a confusing place to get around. All the roads have numbers, that seem to be random, and vary between streets, places, avenues, ways, NE, SEÖ.thank goodness Dave and Jen were there (and used MapQuest, theyíre still new to the area too).
Dinner was - Ahi tuna and smoked salmon skewers for appetizers; Crab and corn chowder; and pan-seared coho salmon for the entrťe. Topped off with a slice of cheesecake decorated with Northwest fruit (blue and black berries). We could barely walk afterward.
Thatís all for this report. We took a day and a half off, so sue me.
A crisp 40 degrees in Missoula, Montana this morning. Dad no longer makes fun of the fact that I have packed for all climates. He just borrows a flannel shirt. One time and one time only - I told you so.
We took off from Seattle early Saturday morning and crossed eastern WA and the little panhandle of Idaho. Couer díAlene, Idaho was beautiful - deep blue lake surrounded by pine forested mountains. Sorry no pics as it was, again, cold! Made it to Missoula and packed it in for the evening.
After stalling for a while, eating breakfast and generally dilly-dallying, hoping the temperature would rise, we got on the road. We interstated up over the Continental Divide down to Bozeman, where an overturned produce truck had everything stopped. Construction had traffic down to two lanes already when the truck decided to overturn. We managed to get past most of the jam on a frontage road and got back on just in time to see them loading whatever was on the truck onto a spare truck.
We got on 89 and headed south through the Yellowstone river valley towards the park. It was a beautiful, fertile valley, diametrically opposed to the deserts we had seen in other areas.
We saw a fair amount of wildlife. Before we got to the park, I noticed a bird circling above the highway. I looked up and it was a bald eagle; the only one Iíve ever seen in the wild. You hear people talk about their heart swelling up to fill their chest - mine did. I donít know why - pride, admiration, respect, whatever. No pics as it was directly overhead and I had a hard enough time riding without watching where I was going.
We also saw some elk in a meadow:
And , clichťd as it might be, Mr. Bison crossing the road. This was actually in the Grand Teton National park, just south of Yellowstone. Another silly goal of mine, the bison in the road pic, but a crucial piece of Americana, like the Redwood tree picture.
Yellowstone is famed for itís geysers and hot springs, so hereís some of those:
And your basic natural beauty:
And then, the Tetons. These are some raw, young jagged mountains, not softened and rounded off with time (sounds like some of us!) and amazingly beautiful. The light wasnít really right for these pics but hopefully you get the idea.
We got into Jackson, WY, our stop for the night, late in the afternoon. My, how this town has grown. Itís been 21 years since I was here. One constant is the horn arch in the town square:
I need a shirt, a sticker, a hat, SOMETHING, that says, ďNo, I didnít go to Sturgis. No, I donít care what the rest of the lemmings did. Iím too busy riding my bike to stand around and compare bolt on factory-authorized accessories with a bunch of people in brand new leathers.Ē Hmm, might be a little long for a sticker. Look, I appreciate the thought - itís a conversation starter. People see a long-haired tattooed guy on a black HD out in the American west in August, he must be on the way to or from Sturgis. Well, Iím not. I donít care. Iíll talk to you about bikes, riding, or any number of things for hours, but Iíve never been to Sturgis and donít plan to.
Hoback Canyon out of Jackson, WY was stunning first thing in the morning. A crisp 40 degrees, it was downright chilly in the shade from the hills. The morning light had a low, flat quality that seemed to highlight the edges of every tree along the river. I could live somewhere along this canyon - anyone want to pony up a buncha money so I can? Seems like the rich folks have bought everything in Jackson and nearby.
More wildlife today - another bald eagle, pronghorn antelope, and prarie dogs. And ravens - macho supersized versions of the common crow.
Rolling hills once we were out of the canyon down to Rock Springs. We hit the interstate for a short jaunt then took a right turn into the nowhere on WY 789. 50 miles of nothing but natural gas pumping stations and sagebrush. And suicidal jackrabbits turned into road kill jerky by the heat and the 18 wheelers.
Being out in the all alone, whether it be the cornfields of Kansas, the nowhere of Nevada, or the forested mountains of California, if youíre going to make it, youíve got to be smarter (and tougher) than average. Or you just wonít last. Thereís no Urgent Care down the street, thereís no WalMart across town, and the nearest firestation hasnít even been put up yet. Whatever comes up, is what you HAVE to deal with. This makes for some pretty gritty folks out there in the middle.
The question is, how do you end up out there in the middle? If you werenít born there, then how? I want to stop and ask people in the tiny towns what their story is. Iím worried that theyíll ask me about Sturgis, though. Happens at every gas station.
We fueled up in Baggs and continued into CO where the road turned into CO 13 to Craig, CO, where we picked up US 40 into Steamboat Springs, CO, our stop for the night.
Getting up in Steamboat Springs, we rode through the Routt National Forest on US 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 ft). The road up to and down from the pass was gorgeous, alpine meadows, forested mountains, the whole Colorado kick.
Stopping for gas in Granby before heading up 34 into Rocky Mountain National Park, I found a nail in Dad's rear tire. I stopped him before he could pick it out! We needed it to keep the air in there over the mountain and into Loveland, the nearest dealer I knew of.
We paid our fees and headed into the park. As we started to ascend the Trail Ridge road, elk and deer both caused traffic stoppages. Elk are as big as horses and you sure don't want to hit one on a motorcycle. Deer either, of course. And the males tend to have sharp pointy things on their heads for extra bodily damage in case of impact...
Heading up past the tree line...
Somewhere along the way there's a sign as you pass through 10,500 ft elevation - "Two miles from sea level". That's a loooong way up.
Top of the world, ma....
We stopped at the visitor center and had some coffee and hot chocolate to warm up. Took a few pics from the overlook also.
And the road heads up from the visitor center. I'm not sure of the highest elevation on the road, but I'm sure it's over 12,000 ft. The speed limit along the way is 35 mph, and the traffic wasn't bad, so once we crested the high point, I put it in 3rd and one handed my way down, taking pics along the way. I hope regular readers aren't tired of mountain pictures because here we go again....
I'm not sure what the fascination with mountains is, but I've sure got it bad. And the American West is full of them. I get excited with 6000 ft peaks in the East and here I am riding at 12,000 feet taking pictures of 14,000 ft peaks.
34 drops you into Estes Park and then takes you out a canyon along the Big Thompson river.
There are signs all along the route stating, "Slow vehicles use turnouts", to allow faster traffic to move along. There was a guy in a Mini Cooper ahead of me that could not read. He'd futz along, braking to 20 in the corners, almost getting to 40 in the straights, and would not pull over (speed limit was 45 if I recall). Finally passed him on a long straight and he sped up to try and keep me from getting by. Jerk. And I wasn't riding his bumper prior to passing, either...just close enough to let him know that the "Slow Vehicle" signs applied to him.
We got to the dealer in Loveland and got the tire replaced. I hope Dad's HOG roadside assistance covers road hazards, because it was a fairly new tire and the replacement was not cheap. They did get us in and out in a hurry.
We wanted to clear Denver before stopping so we wouldn't get the morning rush hour when we left. Of course, it started raining. Hard. We put on the rain gear, over already wet clothes, and soldiered on. Dad said, " I think it's going to blow over."
Cue the Bill Murray character from Caddyshack: "I don't think the heavy stuff is going to come for a while". (paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact quote).
It poured rain, big fat drops the size of golfballs, water 3 inches deep on the road, lightning in every direction. Great.
We made it as far as Colorado Springs and quit for the night.
The next morning we headed south out of CO on I-25 into New Mexico, where we picked up 87 down into Texas. In Amarillo we hit I-40 and made the turn eastward. We're in Weatherford, OK as I write (I love a high speed internet connection in my hotel room) contemplating Memphis for tomorrow.
The turn eastward brings the question of "home". What defines home? I've gotten the "Where are you from?" question quite a bit on this trip (not as much as the Sturgis question, though) and it's a bit hard to answer. From? Well, I was born in North Dakota and haven't been back in over 30 years. I live in Kentucky, but I'm not from there. It's where my stuff is, and where I live and work currently, but is it really home?
I guess most people have a familial connection associated with a location, defining home, but my parents have moved more than I have. They currently live in Georgia, in a town I've never lived in, so it's sure not home. Most of my formative years were spent in Michigan, but there's no family there - some friends close enough to be family, though. Ten years in Georgia made me awfully fond of it, and a bunch of people there, but again...
What brings the question is, Dad and I will be back in Georgia by the weekend, and I have another week off. And no real desire or need to go back to KY until I have to be back to work - well, maybe a day or two to decompress. So I think once I drop Dad off, I'll go visiting. Grandpa Chub in Little Falls, NY isn't getting any younger - and I've got all next week. And friends to see in Athens and Asheville. Pile up the miles while I've got the time.
I'll pop back with any interesting updates from the road, and a wrap up once I get home. The Art of the Motorcycle is in Memphis, and it should be interesting.
Thanks for listening.
We got to Memphis in the early, very hot, afternoon. I'd heard that the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit was in town at a place called the Pyramid. When I asked where the Pyramid was, they just said, go downtown and you can't miss it.
Well, no kidding. As we were rolling across the bridge from Arkansas, a huge pyramidal structure came into view on the opposite bank. This, obviously, was the Pyramid.
We paid our $15 admittance fees and a $2 photo fee and went on in. We had parked on the wrong side of the building and by the time we walked to the correct side we were dripping in sweat. So we were very happy, in fact nearly ecstatic, that the Pyramid and the exhibit were air conditioned.
The Art of the Motorcycle is an exhibit that originally displayed at the Guggenheim museum in New York quite a few years ago. A somewhat reduced number of bikes make up the traveling exhibit, which is still amazing. It traces the development of motorcycles from bicycles with motors strapped on to the plastic wrapped carbon fibered multi-valved monsters of today. The exhibits are laid out in chronological order.
My personal favorites run from about 1930 to 1973 and there were plenty of representatives.
A nice feature of the exhibit is the fact that the bikes are on stands you can completely circle, so the motorcycles can be examined from all angles and views.
We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit, even though we cruised through fairly quickly.
After meandering our way out of Memphs via side streets to avoid the interstate rush hour crush, we headed down 78 into Mississippi where we spent one more night in a hotel. 78 intersects I-20 in Birmingham and we headed east towards Georgia, Dad's destination.
Just outside of Birmingham we pulled off to fill up with gas. Coming down the off ramp, I saw a sign for Barber Motorsports. I knew the complex was in Alabama but didn't know it was right here. I told Dad we were taking a little side trip.
This place is amazing. The building housing the museum is a 5 level multimillion dollar glass steel and concrete construction with motorcycles everywhere....
The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit was no slouch but this place had at least 4 times as many motorcycles.
There was a definite racing focus, with many pedigreed race winning bikes.
Like the other exhibit, there was everything from motorized bicycles to modern bikes, with plenty of vintage British iron for me to drool on.
Specials weren't neglected either - here's a nice NorVin (Vincent motor in a Norton frame).
I don't know where the Barber money came from but they sure spent a ton of it amassing this amazing collection. If you're anywhere near, I strongly suggest touring the facility.
After burning up the batteries in my digital camera and tiring myself out from jumping up and down going "Ooh! Ooh! Look!", we continued our journey into Georgia.
Dad and I split in Athens with plans to meet at the house in Hartwell for dinner. After a brief expedition in downtown Athens, I headed up 29 towards Hartwell. This was a major trip on memory lane for me - I went past my old machine shop, the road towards my old house, the hospital where my friend Ray worked, etc. Seems like I used to know the stories and who lived where for half the houses on this stretch of road.
Another amazing coincidence - as I rolled up 29, Driving and Crying's "Straight to Hell" came on the radio. If there was a soundtrack for me in Athens in the early to mid nineties, that was it. Hearing it while tripping down memory lane gave me the shivers.
I stopped in Royston at The Bike Shop and visited with my friend Johnny, telling him about our trip. Eventually I made it to Hartwell for dinner and later back to Athens for drinks.
The next day, after I had my traditional Taco Stand lunch with my friend Neal, I headed up 441. In Maggie Valley I again visited the Wheels Through Time museum since I had a free pass from my previous visit. I spent the night in Hot Springs after a refreshing midnight swim in the river and multiple adult malted beverages at the Paddler's Pub.
Leaving the next morning I headed up 208 towards Greenville, TN, with the intent of catching I-81 northwards. I stopped in Virginia to gas up and consider my options. Getting in touch with a friend in DC, I made plans to spend the night there.
Immediately after getting back on the interstate, I could tell that something was wrong...the back end of the bike wanted to steer itself. What the heck. I pulled over to the side and took a look.
I rode on the flat for a mile to the next exit and made it to a gas station where I grabbed the phone book and my cell phone. Once again, HD to the rescue. There was a dealership 10 miles back on the interstate. Normally their service department wasn't open on Sundays but there happened to be a tech there doing some work. We loaded my bike into the trailer and took it back to the shop where I had new rear rubber installed. I was out of there and back on the road in a couple of hours.
Made it to DC only a few hours behind schedule and stayed up late drinking beer, playing guitar, and telling stories. This morning I'm taking advantage of the high speed internet connection for this update and then I believe I'll head down town and look around. I've always wanted to visit the Smithsonian. Eventually I'll end up in upstate New York to visit my grandparents.
Warning - strong patriotic content. May not be suitable for some audiences.
It stands for
which, if you recall, has a price.
Each one of these names
all along this wall
was a mother's baby, with hopes, dreams and possibilities, who paid the ultimate price for our country.
You may not agree with the man who lives here
and you might not agree with the decisions coming out of this building
but you had better support and respect those who are doing, and have done, the job that our country has asked them to do.
Thank a veteran. Every chance you get.
I parked the bike and walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capital Building, taking pictures along the way.
I covered a loop several miles long and wore a blister on my heel.
But I couldn't walk down the Vietnam Veterans Wall. I didn't lose anyone personally in that war but seeing the names and the size of the wall hit me hard.
28 states and the District of Columbia.
2 tires and 2 oil changes.
Longest day - Little Falls, NY to Bowling Green, KY - 857 miles, 13 1/2 hours.
Shortest day - 2nd Day in Seattle, no miles. Only day off the bike in a month.
What did I learn?
That I have more questions than answers.
That I like mountains, water, trees, and motorcycles. Guess I actually knew that ahead of time but the trip sure confirmed it.
That I don't like deserts, cities, construction, and traffic, the last three of which have formed an unholy alliance aimed at driving me insane.
That certain people, places, and cultural icons have a much stronger effect on me that I would have ever imagined.
"Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life." Henry James
Thanks for riding along with; I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed the ride and the writing.
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