$1.49 Gas!!!

What a terrible day.

It was December 15th 2002 and Sharon and I were driving down to San Antonio for a friend of mine’s wedding. Gas had been a little higher than normal, but fluctuations always seemed to make it higher. That and it was the most I had ever paid for gas. Isn’t December supposed to have lower gas prices? Wasn’t it just $1.19 earlier that year?

We pulled in to the Shell station on the southbound lane of I-35 not far from San Marcos. I had stopped at that gas station before and knew it had clean bathrooms and my flavor of Gatorade. Before stopping Sharon noticed the price. We contemplated going to the next station and looking for a better price. I even stopped the car to turn around, but it wasn’t enough, and the bathroom was calling.

After filling the tank at record cost something hit me; things were going wrong. Maybe it was the influx of troops in the middle east, maybe it was higher than demand (unlikely in December). Whatever it was life was about to get much more expensive.

I hadn’t even bought my motorcycle yet, but it would soon come after.

——————————————-

$3.00 Gas!!!

What a terrible day.

It was mid July 2005. I had ridden from Maine to California in just a few weeks time, and during that summer I was very aware of rising gas prices. When I left St. Louis in early June for a trip to visit the Americade Motorcycle rally gas was around $2.20, and it was going to be an expensive trip.

Just a few weeks later I was in Yosemite National Park, 80 miles from the nearest gas station, and as you know my bike doesn’t go 160 miles on a tank. The park service had a station at the bottom of Yosemite Valley for just that instance. I pulled into the station no really knowing what to expect but grateful that there was gas for me to keep riding. $3.009 x2 gallons later I had filled my tank at the most expensive place in the world. At least I was leaving California and would never have to pay $3.00 again. What an expensive day. At least I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

——————————————

$3.49 Gas!!!

What a terrible day

Yesterday, April 26th 2008 I filled my truck. It cost me $47. I wasn’t on empty, but rising fuel costs pressured me to buying early. Gas had gone up 22 cents in just one week, and with summer coming I expect it to continue in that direction.

I only drive my truck when Stephanie needs me to. She will ride the bike, but often we have to carry something larger than what can fit in a saddlebag, and today it was hailing as I prepared for work.

Hail won’t stop me now; I rode my bike every day in January and February. I can ride it now. At 50mpg the KLR gets better mileage than my truck by about 30 in the city and still better than the intruder by 20. The intruder is in desperate need of maintenance, but I don’t ever expect it to get 40mpg again. She’s been used and abused. She’s still gorgeous though, and we take her for a ride when we’re 2 up.

This summer there is no big road trip for me. I’ve got a new job and responsibilities. Plus now that I am paying back my student loans there is no extra money at the end of the month. At least the bike will be paid off before August is up. Then I can start saving for a trip in 2009 – maybe.

Long day to Northern California

This and the post next week describe two days of travel that made an impact on me. Again I was alone but this time meeting friends along the way. It takes us from western Nevada to north West California and then Portland, Oregon. Reliving these days makes me even tired thinking about them, but the scenery I saw makes me want to go back some day and spend some more time just enjoying the sights.

It started in Nevada. I awoke at Hack’s place in Fallon, and the day proceeded from there. The actual distance wasn’t as great as some other days, but the amount of traveling filled all the hours till past sundown. Our goodbyes were a little sad; hack and I had become friends on the message board, and it was a real reunion the first time we met. Our two days together are best told in another story, for this one we’re headed north and west.

After leaving hack’s I headed west to Carson City and Lake Tahoe. The change is soon dramatic as one points the bike away from the morning sun on Hwy 50, a highway that spans the entire country and even passes through O’Fallon, Illinois, my at the time home. First is desert as much of Nevada; Fallon is considered an oasis with some agriculture, and then in the distance mountains can be seen. On those mountains are windy roads and trees – quite the change from the rest of the state. I was excited to see those two towns having of course heard of them my entire life. Carson City wasn’t much change from the high desert further east, but the road made great sweeping curves of double lanes, easy travel for a motorcycle not in too big of a hurry. Cars fell behind as my power to weight ratio dominated; the bike easily maintained the speed limit without so much as breaking a sweat.

Upon arriving in Tahoe I realized why the city is such a famous place. No where in all my travels had I seen a lake so still, so beautiful. There was snow on top of the mountains; green tree lined shores, and clear blue water that ran for as far as one can see. A tour bus of elderly gamblers led me to an exquisite overlook nice enough to snap a few photos. I even remember dodging the sight of everyone to go talk to nature. Every where you turned there was the wonder of natural beauty. Only once back on the road did I see the Casinos and city that make this local famous. Alas, there was no time to stay, and I had already won money in Vegas just over a week before, so ride on. Before the lake was out of sight the sign for entering California was once again at my back, and I made the long meandering track down the west side of the Sierras.

If you’ve ever been there you’ll most likely remember that this area of the country carries a smell with it, one that is very distinct. The Red Woods I think put out an aroma that can only be described as that of artichoke, although people before have disagreed with me. Anyway, I enjoyed the smell, and it reminded me how close I was to nature and how far away from home. Only California smells like that. Not knowing exactly where I was headed, and without too much care, I followed the steady path downhill till a sign locating Folsom County, California piqued my attention. A quick glance at the map said that an ess shaped road would lead me in a favorable direction through valleys and past the prison of lore. For the first time that day I was headed north and passing through expensive countryside still colored from the leaves of winter past.

The prison didn’t come to fruition. I was on the wrong windy road and missed in entirely. That letdown and the local traffic humbled my speed to a moderate pace unlike that of the mountain passes earlier. Eventually the road left me off at an interstate, and I was back traveling again westerly. Another member of IntruderAlert and his brother were expecting me, and after a quick call to notify them of my position I was back on the road. The three of us and some friends of theirs met up for a hamburger, and we chatted like people that had known each other for a long time.

Mike, or Cali-Rider at most people know him was a nice guy and fun to talk to. After a too short break he offered to accompany me north and show me the ways around big highway riding. Now we were deep into Central Valley where the roads were flat and straight, but there were still sights to see, and I recall one large hill coming from no where protruding well above the terrain. Mike rode as far as he could and wished me a safe journey before turning around. I was really happy to meet him, and his big grin as he rode that day is still burned into my memory. With the warm feeling of making a new friend I once again was the solo rider on a journey to who knows where. My only plan was to go see the coastal Red Woods, the tallest trees in the world. Little did I know how far the ride would be.

The Central Valley of California is quite an odd place. From within you can see both sides surrounded by mountains. On the west is the coastal range, blocking all the oceanic rain and cool air from blowing over, and on the east the Sierras, an impressive range with snowy tops and grand changes in elevation. The Valley itself is very flat, very dry, and very hot. Dust blows all around you, and only places well irrigated grow crops – of course, however, they are some of the best crops in the world. After some driving one might see in the distance not one, but two, very large shield volcanoes, ones that tower above anything else visible. These giants reach heights of 14000 feet and more and can be seen from a long way away. It was a strange sensation to see glaciers, some just to my right, and others straight ahead a hundred miles or so, while I was bathing in 100+ degree heat.

Finally it was a rest break to refill the bike and my hydration. I took longer than normal expecting to be not far from my destination and already exhausted from the heat and miles. The girl at the counter had no idea where Eureka, Ca was, and estimated that the coast was only 45 minutes away. Good news to me. Someone else working there helped me explain that Eureka was the largest city on the coast in the North West, and he told me it was really an hour away. This is when I realize, learned rather, that people in California have absolutely no sense of time, distance, nor velocity. This was the third time I was duped by locals with no knowledge of their surroundings. Once earlier I had asked a woman how far it was to San Francisco, and she said a few hours, but the smell of the city was blowing past her nose. Another time cost me too when the person that should know didn’t. Between the girl and the man at this gas station they could have added their estimated times and doubled it, and they might have been close. On the map it was hard to tell, this part of California isn’t too wide, and I was already halfway across. But looks can be and often are deceiving; the road that headed west from Redding, the town I was just south of, was completely curves, the entire way. So a road that looked like 45 miles might have ended up more like 100, and in fact it was a lot more.

I wound my way through the mountains, once again taken back by their beauty. Forests and mountains both exist in Texas, but not at the same time. The combination always draws my attention and envy.  The scenery and overlooks could draw a person to spend a lifetime in that part of the world, but as always I was just a visitor passing through. Towards the bottom of my reserve tank I began to worry. The next town was listed as farther away than I expected to be able to make, and I stopped to ask for help. A couple on a motorcycle enjoying a view of the river running past couldn’t spare any fuel but said there was indeed a gas station in the direction I was headed – if I could only make it. And make it I did, but just barely; my small Intruder gas tank made it once again; it had never left me stranded, even though it was mighty close an occasion or two before.

The day was nearly all behind me now, and I still hadn’t made Eureka or even the coast. I really wanted to catch one more pacific sunset, and only the longest days in summer could have made that happen. It was mid July now, and even as the sun got low on the horizon I wished for more daylight. Finally I felt the cool moist air only an ocean can bring, and I debated finding a campsite or a hotel in town. Eureka was south of where I wanted to be but not by much. I still don’t know why, but I chose the hotel, and learned a hard lesson about reservations. Upon arriving I found out that a Corvette convention was in town and all the hotel rooms were booked. Only one room on a dirty motel was available, and it was more than I wanted to pay. So heading north with the last throws of daylight I cursed myself for being to lackadaisical and debated what to do next. Supposedly there were some cabins not far in my direction, if only I could make it.

Finally I did, but had they been any farther only my headlight would have given clue of their existence. I rolled in, this time willing to pay anything for a bed. I didn’t even really get a good look at where I was. All I knew was that the day had taken its toll, and I was soon to be in bed. There was no phone in my room, and I only had tuna and crackers to eat, so it wasn’t the luxury I had seen in Vegas not even the wonders of camping in the Grand Canyon or they big black sky of the Petrified Forest. It was just a small room without a phone, and I had lost my cell just days before – not that there would have been a signal anyway. Tired beyond belief I found a pay phone in the bar and shouted over the noise to Sharon where I was and that everything was ok. If I had a beer that night I don’t remember, and it would not have helped me sleep any better. It may have been the second longest travel day of my life; only the drive from Vermont to Columbus, OH lasted longer. The miles put it about 10th place, but sheer time wears more than distance. Even the roughness of a cheap comforter and springy bed couldn’t keep me awake. The next thing I knew it was morning.

Come back next week for the continuation and even a travel mishap that never escapes the memory.

Traveling Alone

I always write about traveling; this time I think it would be interesting to maybe put some of me into the story. Things that have happened to me along the way that weren’t necessarily interesting to the plot of the day or trip don’t always belong with the rest, and I’ve saved a couple more embarrassing moments, personal ones that no one else knows about for now.

Once I was riding in Sequoia National Park after camping in a great campground near the southern entrance. The views were breathtaking, and just being there was quite impressive. Traveling alone allows one to really observe themselves given the chance and one little mistake I made that day came to be an important memory. You know that old saying about stopping to smell the roses? This might have been one of those times when it is more prudent to keep on going and remember to go back another time. It was a steep climb of windy road into the mountains. My campsite was near the bottom at the park entrance, and the road took me many miles up and up. Even then I was still in the shade as the sun hadn’t yet gotten high enough to light up the valley. Occasionally I’d find a spot where the mountains had a break and rays would cross the road, but for the most part all of the ambient light was scattered throughout the atmosphere on this crisp mountain morning.

I was so happy to be there that every viewpoint was worthy of at least a look and probably a photo, and the views of California’s central valley from the shady roadside overlooks were sights to behold. Without hurrying too much, although I tend to keep a quick pace while riding, I’d catch glimpses of pretty flowers or trees that were special to see. At one particularly precarious place on a right bend in the road going up a steep section there was a patch of blow flowers or whatever name they go by. You know, the kind that you can make a wish on and blow, and if you get all of the white puffy parts off you wish is supposed to come true. They were really interesting to me growing on their embankment, and I just had to stop. This was a hasty pause mostly just for taking a picture, and as I got off the bike I realized that my right leg was a good bit lower than the left. The road was banked steeply to the right and left me with no ability to hold up the bike. It was too far over to even lay on the side stand, and instead went the other way – all the way over.

Some of you have seen how heavily I pack the bike, and some still wonder how it all fits on there. Well, this was one of the rare times when I began to wonder for myself why I was carrying all this crap. My bike probably weighed an extra 60 pounds, and all of that was on the top. To make things worse the bike was not even flat but below grade meaning the handlebars were below the level of the tires. This put the gas tank in an inverted position leaking profusely. I fought and fought to get the bike uprighted. The first problem was the weight, but because I was so much lower than the bike even what would have been enough strength on level ground to get her up wasn’t nearly enough for this. I was in a bind, all the while leaking gas. There are techniques for picking up bikes, using you legs with the bike behind you, and that failed too. Almost given up and waiting for someone to pass by on an early weekday morning I gave it one more shot. Falling back on my schooling and using the physics principle of leverage I was able to pick the bike up by the sissy bar enough that it could lean over the other way. I still had the problem of getting her to stay on the stand, and it proved to take a lot of balance and strength. Finally she was up right and I could breath, a little more worse for the wear. No one ever came to help me, and I learned an important rule of watching where you step, or park. I did stop to smell the flowers though.

 

A photo, and another.

 

Another time almost a year later, I did something that doesn’t seem like much and involved no physical exertion only mental instability was as I rolled into Yellowstone National Park. The park itself is fantastic and probably the best on in our country and maybe the world. I came in from the north east side on the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge, MT. It is an amazingly powerful experience, and everyone on earth should have the opportunity to go up there. I was so excited about being there that I got caught up in all the things there were to do. My plan was to stay only 2 nights in the park, and I couldn’t decide where to start. After probably 15 miles of the most beautiful mountain road following a wide grassy valley with a bubbling brook in the middle and herds of buffalo on either side of me I pulled over for a nap and to make some plans. I had to come to a decision: head left, south, and plan to spend the next two days in that area; or head north and stay up there for a night then head south. See, I needed to start heading back to Texas at that point. I had finally made it to Montana, the 48th state traveled to on one motorcycle, and it was time to go home and prepare for an entirely different adventure of moving to Germany.

I had planned based on my preliminary research to head south and spend two day there in the same campsite. This was a good plan and would allow me to see some of the biggest sights with relative ease. I made a left at the intersection and felt good about it. Something hit me though as I waited behind the long string of cars winding their way up into the mountain: the other direction didn’t have any traffic. Why was that? Maybe I should be heading that way? My insecurity got the best of me and I turned around. This was downhill and repeated some of what I had already seen. Now, some of you may think this all very silly, but I actually turned around 4 times in that short span. I couldn’t make up my mind. Everything seemed so important to see and do, and I didn’t want to miss a thing. This is by the way a time when it is nice to be traveling with another person. At least that way you’re more locked in to the decision that you came to together. At any rate I would have looked like there was something wrong with me to anyone paying attention, something terribly wrong.

Finally I pulled over, got off the bike and asked what I wanted to do. I doubted myself quite heavily at that moment and everything seemed like the wrong thing. After much deliberation I remounted and headed south, my original direction. It turned out to be a great decision and I really enjoyed the next couple days – plus it put me in a better position to make good time to the south. That wasn’t the only time I had an experience like that; it happened a time or two more, but this was the oddest case, and it sticks in my memory like a hot poker.

Vegas Here I come


I awoke the next day refreshed and ready for more travel. The road was my guide, and I followed it. There was only one way to go, and that was west back through the canyon national park. This took me past the places I had seen the day before along the short pines, which are only visible/ viable above seven thousand feet. They were on both the left and right, and sometimes between breaks on the right, northerly, side there were vast glimpses of a canyon much older and rougher than I.


Packing to go.

along the way

The day was sunny and warm even early in the morning, but at that elevation the heat was tolerable and dry. This time of day there is little traffic on the park roads. Afternoons see the heaviest load. Some busses were just pulling in as I turned south to leave the park. My experiences at the Grand Canyon were over, the images secured in my mind; I would never forget.

South of the park is a small town setup to serve the heavy traffic of 10 million visitors per year. I spent as little time there as possible, only seeking a place to burn my photos to cd, which I found for 7 dollars: quite a bargain when your memory card is full. It was late morning now, and after eating a snack I continued the journey south, and down.

The Grand Canyon is in an elevated plane well above the desert floor. It itself spans nearly a mile in elevation and therefore must be quite high at the rim. But half an hour south and it is back to 3 thousand feet and less. The trees stop growing there, and the heat really picks up. I understand that up high, in the middle of the desert, it often snows, but down here on the desert floor nothing, rarely any precipitation.

On my mind were a couple things. The canyon is located quite out of the way for any roads going anywhere. It was nearly 75 miles north on a local road through Indian reservations to reach the park, and it was the same distance back to a primary road. I was trying to make it to Las Vegas that evening, and it would be quite a stretch.

The heat picked up and so did my thirst. At every stop it was hydration time, and it seemed I was giving back less water than normal. The leather jacket was bunched up with my luggage behind me, and only my vest protected me. Vests are often compared to women’s purses. They carry everything from wallets, combs and cameras, to nail clippers, phones, change, and this time my mp3 player. The tunes kept me company as the miles clicked by. It was a hot day, and away from the park the scenery isn’t quite as demanding.



The second thing on my mind was to look for a speedometer cable. My only way of knowing speed and distance was the GPS unit loaned to me by Kerry Hill through Eddie D. It was still working, but that would change soon. The attempt was futile, as the small towns had nothing to help me except gas to get to the next stop. I did succeed in losing quite a bit of time however. The second stop that day, like the first, was to refuel and refill the water bottles. It was going fast, and I needed it.


By that second stop my lips had started coming off and would soon start bleeding. Being a native east Texan, and at the time living in St. Louis my entire body needed humidity just to survive. Pain was only part of the problem, as I am sure sores would have started once the lips split. What saved me was a nice woman at the Chevron station who showed me an all-natural lip balm, which blocked the hot, dry wind from doing any more damage.

Back on the road, but this time headed north the terrain started picking up, and big brown hills filled the horizon. There was no color to speak of, only the dusty brown dirt of North West Arizona and the near cloudless sky. The road was nice, double lane in most parts, and lightly trafficked. I was able to relax with the throttle lock on and take in some of the view. The heat was bad though, and I drank water through a straw continuously.



What you’ve seen if you’ve ever taken that road from Kingman, Arizona to the Hoover Dam is hard to forget. My imagination was working, and my memory sees it like this: glops of dried mud piled high with no real pattern. It really looked like some child had been making giant mud pies and after turning them upside down left them to dry. It seemed as if these big hills and soon to be mountains had no rocks and would wash away with any rainstorm. Of course that perception was wrong, but it was an odd sight I’ve never seen again.


Finally signs of humanity, other than the well paved road, appeared, and would you believe it: a traffic jam. Out in the middle of nowhere this was hard to imagine, and hopefully by now the source is cleared up. Construction crews were building a bridge to cross the canyon below the Hoover Dam and had blocked the road to move equipment.

I sneaked stealthily through using superpowers only given to motorcycles and soon arrived at the dam overlook. This was a happy sight, and after removing my gear I relished in the idea of cooling down at the gift shop and possibly buying some memento.




This proved dangerous. Outside the temperature had cooled down to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, but inside the concessionary lady from Washington state kept it at a brisk 70 degrees. It felt great – for about 2 minutes, then I nearly passed out. As much as it pained me to do this, it was mandatory that I go back outside to the warmer temps. My body could no accommodate the over 40 degree swing.

This time while outside I met a nice couple from Alberta, Canada who were traveling as I was by motorcycle, and enjoying some of America’s most prized sights. They were cool people too my first impressions told me. She was an artist pursuing a career from home after deciding the office life was not for her. He supported her and the decision, and to celebrate their new lifestyles they took this trip.

We took photos for each other and walked across the dam noting the huge updraft that came from downstream. Once we were back to the bikes she asked me if I had any time to read along my journey, and without thinking my reply was affirmative. Well, this is the time when first impressions wear off and more of a true person reveals herself in this case. She offered me a magazine entitled “The Watchtower”. I still don’t know to which religion that belongs, but taking her for a crazy person I mounted up quickly and headed across the dam, this time on the bike, in the direction of Las Vegas. I suppose my close encounter of the weird kind doesn’t have to stay there because I wasn’t yet to LV.


Thinking back they weren’t the weirdest people I had met that day. Earlier, before even leaving the campground in the park I got a chance to speak with a family camping there in a homemade RV trailer. Being as kind as possible, I’ll say they appeared Amish with the homemade clothes and girls in dresses. They looked out of place there though, the whole family 2000 miles from home – in a car! The story gets much weirder though, more than I cared to ask, but the topping of it all was their rig.

They were pulling a long trailer with plywood siding and roof. There were no windows to be seen. I supposed they were like the doors, both exactly paneled in plywood like the rest of the trailer. I can only imagine how much this thing weighed, probably 2x + what a normal trailer would have. Add to that they were pulling it with a Ford Explorer short bed! Now you probably know that Uhaul won’t rent a trailer to someone with a Ford Explorer because of the danger, but these people neglected to mention that to whomever rented them the car. Now you’re not going to believe this, and I wish I had a photo, but that Explorer was bent! This family had driven it to Oregon and somewhere up there had hit some bump. The truck went up, but the heavy trailer did not. The frame bent right where the cab met thee bed, and they drove this a-framed truck all the way down to Arizona. In all of my travels I think that was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few strange things.

It was time to get my head out of the clouds because traffic was picking up. I saw the signs to Las Vegas well before the city itself. Sin City lies in a huge valley, and once past the rim you can see the entire expanse in one view. It was late in the evening, Saturday night was fast approaching, and I was in Las Vegas.


more of the weird mud pies

Martian looking scene. – with extra water and shrubs of course

After finding a hotel, quite nice actually, and cleaning up I hit the town. Now I wish I could tell you that I met lady luck and hit some jackpot or made a lady friend, but those things don’t happen to me. I walked up and down the strip enjoying the shows; especially the water works at the Bellagio. At 1 AM the temperature was still 95F and it felt every bit that hot. The Treasure Island show with scantily clad women and a floating/sinking battle scene was quite cool, and so I went inside. Casinos are spectacular places: huge, bright, loud, and full of people. After making my way past what seemed like enough people to fill a stadium I found the tables and bars and concert halls. There is a lot to do in a place like that.


There wasn’t much money in my wallet so I watched from a distance. I can say however that I did leave Las Vegas with more money than I started (not counting gas, the 3AM breakfast of steak and eggs, or the hotel bill). I put a quarter in a machine and a full dollar came out. Greedily I gave them one quarter back before quitting, so over all I gave them one of mine but left with 3 of theirs!


The night was pretty uneventful otherwise, and I will have to go back to get the juicy stories from Las Vegas that everyone else seems to have. Truth be told Lake Tahoe is more my kind of place, and much nicer all around. But that’s another day in the life!

All the photos are here. They are more of the same, lots more.

Grand Canyon Day II

Grand Canyon Day II

previous stories here.

This was a pretty cool adventure I found myself on. It started a little earlier than planned since the giant black birds that surround the camper’s area were loud and up early. It was the second night in a row for me sleeping on the ground; the night before had been at the Petrified Forest and quite surreal with absolutely clear skies and not a sound to be heard.

The sky at the Grand Canyon was clear too. I suspect that happens a lot in Arizona. One neat thing about the canyon is that there are trees surrounding it. Somewhere in that dry desert there is a line above which trees can grow. I reckon that the line is about 7 thousand feet, and each time I approached that altitude trees started to appear. It had happened in Colorado, the day before in Flagstaff, and once again as I approached the park. One important thing to remember is that the canyon is very deep, nearly a mile, and it takes quite a height above sea level to allow it to have carved away so much.

I made a quick breakfast of oatmeal on my portable stove. It was nutritious and warming although I didn’t need the heat as much. It got cool at night but not cold, and would spend the day in shorts and a t-shirt. This was partially due to not traveling that day and another part due to having only dirty laundry. One of my goals would be to find laundry service.

There is really so much to tell about this particular day, so let’s try. I was in the far eastern part of the park on the southern rim. The view was amazing to the north, although a thick haze diluted it a little. Overnight the canyon had filled with the smoke of a forest fire on the opposite side. When the temps cool that smoke falls and fills up all that volume. It detracts from the seeing but not the overall beauty of the place.

smoky

I decided to ride west to the main headquarters and also “town” center. On any given day thousands of people would come visit our largest natural landmark, and it became quite a sight. As I rode I took every overlook and snapped a lot of photos. That is every overlook allowed. Due to the high volume of people some places only permitted bus traffic. You had to park your car or bike back at the ranger station. That was somewhat frustrating.

The canyon is so immense one can hardly believe what others say. And there is no good way to appreciate its size or wonder except by going there yourself. Everyone should go there at least once in his or her life. GO. When you do go you’ll probably notice what I did, that English isn’t the only spoken language. I heard French, Russian, Chinese, and many other languages. People really do come from all over to see it.

I made my way through the overlooks talking to people when I stopped. One couple was riding their beemer motorcycle from New Jersey to California for a job. They had taken the long route and were enjoying their sights. He planned to fly back upon completion and she take another route. We kept in contact for a few months after meeting. Instead of going through the middle of the country like planned she headed a more southerly route through New Orleans which was recently devastated by hurricane Katrina.

I met other people too. At the laundry mat there while waiting I got into a discussion I will never forget. On the left of me sitting, waiting also, was a shorter man with big round eyes and glasses. CNN was on the news, and a clip about birds as pets came on. The newscaster spoke of how they behave around people and that they could even communicate with owners more than just repeating words like parrots can. Something prompted me to speak up negating that comment, and I found myself against a wall. This man to my left started telling me about his pet bird, saved from an accident outside and brought in to recuperate. The bird was a songbird and I cannot remember more except for the extraordinary story this man was about to tell me.

His bird could tell him things. It would dance in a pattern or sing a song when it wanted food or out of the cage. He said he knew what the bird wanted. About this time another fellow came up on the right. He was much taller than either the first man or I with a long neck, narrow head, and long nose. He wanted to tell me a similar story of his pet birds. This is when I started to realize something was wrong here. This fellow on my right actually looked like a bird, and when I turned left I realized that guy too shared features with our feathered friends. I was trapped between bird brains!

Believe it or not this was one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had. It was impossible for me to not smile and laugh when I came to that realization. They must have thought I was crazy, but the sci-fi channel couldn’t have written this story. And it’s all true.

I made it through though, and once the laundry and I were clean again and I had eaten my lunch, I made my way to the visitor center to look around. A ranger gave me some advice as to which trail to hike, and from there I took the shuttle to the remaining overlooks I couldn’t before.

The trail I planned to take was called OooAhh or something similar, named after OooAhh point. It took hikers far into the canyon without much elevation change providing quite a nice vantage point. The point was only about one mile or less down the trail but it was steep, and in the middle of July quite hot. I had a liter bottle empty from lunch that I planned to fill at the trailhead. Someone had told me there was potable water there for hikers. Upon arriving however there was a different story. Some volunteer was at the top of the trail and told me not to go. He said it was too hot, and he had rescued people already that day. I almost believed him, but didn’t. He gave me a water bottle to carry so I’d have enough even though that one was empty too. This was right before telling me that there was no available water and begging me not to take the trail, and even if I had two full bottles of water it wouldn’t be enough.

some of the hike

Well, it turns out he was just bitter, and there was water after all. So I started down taking pictures all the way now carrying two and a half liters of water, far more than I needed, on that great trail. The trail itself was quite nice and well kept. I saw people both coming up and going down. To those coming up I asked the line my dad always used in those situations, “is it still there?” They must have though I was crazy on top of stupid carrying all that water.

I reached my destination without knowing. All views there are amazing, no one really better than the other and walked farther down till I found some wayward hikers. These fellas had broken the rules. Dave and Kevin were their names. They and some friends of theirs had traveled from New Mexico to hike across the Grand Canyon in one day. That included about 12 miles down and 14 miles back up on the other side. This was strictly forbidden. They had long since run out of water and only barely made it to the shade where I found them. Salt was crusted on their faces from sweating so much, and they looked pretty near if not past exhaustion.

At this point quite willing to help out a fellow, and much greater hiker, I was pleased to share my vast quantities of water with them unloading my burden at the same time. They were thankful, and allowed me to accompany them on the way back. They were very happy to hear it was only another mile plus some to the top. Some of their friends had already finished the hike and promised to return with more food and water. Some friends hadn’t made it so far, and they would have to wait for them to catch up. I cannot remember their whole stories, but somewhere along the way everyone ran out of water, and a lot of extra hiking had to be done to help those people out.

So, after making friends with a squirrel and rehydrating, we headed back slowly. They were as interested in my story as I was theirs. And there was plenty to discuss. Along the way we met their friends coming back with Gatorade, and we rested again, one of the many times. Finally the group reached the top, and we parted ways. I rode the shuttle back to my bike and then headed east again toward my tent. On the way I stopped to see how they were doing. The last group of their friends had finally made it to the top, and everyone was safe. I said my goodbyes quickly because a ranger threatened to give me a ticket for parking there, and I dashed off to try and make it to camp before dark.

I think it was ramen soup that night for dinner and much lonelier than the night before. My buddy Leon had ridden on, and the camp was quiet. It was a wonderful day I’ll never forget. I was tired and went to sleep with a smile on my face.

There were many great photos from that day. The rest start here.

Thanks for reading.

So there I was: at the Grand Canyon.

I’d only been there a few minutes when I met up with another biker Leon – like Leon Russell.  At that point I hadn’t even unpacked yet, nor seen any sights.  He was in a hurry to get up the road, but I’d had a long hot day of riding and needed some time to unpack and shake the dust off.

About halfway through the 40oz I bought earlier I was ready.  We rode up to Desert View overlook even though it turned out to be less than a mile.  The bike was light compared to earlier and I felt free.

My first view was amazing.  The shock of it all hit me pretty well too.  I had finally done it; I had arrived.  “Today is a turning point for me,” I thought.  I rode my motorcycle to the Grand Canyon.  My whole life had we, my family and I, talked about taking a trip there.  Well, it took some years, but I did make it.  Now it can’t be taken away.

With this confidence I really enjoyed the rest of the evening.  It was nearly sunset when I walked to the rim.  The sight was just amazing.  To the left was an amazing view straight down one of the widest parts of the canyon.  It was nearly due west and the sun hung just over the horizon.  It was actually so bright and in my face that it made seeing far off in that direction difficult.  Ahead, facing north I could see the other side, the Famous North Rim.  But even neater than that, nearly a mile below was the Colorado River.  From that height it looked only like a small stream; I learned later that it is wider than a football field is long.  And the water is green too, filtered by the dams upstream.  Beyond the North Rim and to my right I could see vast desert; hot dry expansive desert.  How did this thing get here?

Only earlier that day had I been at Meteor Crater and thought, “wow, this is big”.  Well, that was like the warm-up lab before a full sprint.  You could fit several Meteor Craters in what was in front of me.  They don’t call it Grand for nothing!

I made sure to buy some souvenirs before leaving the station that was settled into an old fire lookout tower.  A Ranger program was setup for that night.  It was to take place just up the hill still overlooking the canyon.  We sat facing the sunset as Ranger Tom told us of the history of the National Park and the first people to tame it.  As the sun went below the opposite rim I noticed for the first time smoke billowing up across and miles away.  It was a natural fire and allowed to burn unless threatening humans.

Leon and I headed back to the camp area.  There was one site between ours and it was a guy and girl from Dallas.  They were heading home from a Hot Rod show in California and couldn’t miss the opportunity to camp there.  I reopened my beer and started cooking.  Leon came over and I offered him some of my food in exchange for beer.  It was settled; we ate canned chili with crackers and cheese for dinner cooked over a sterno fire.  We shot the shit till late with the Hot Rod guy and I slept in my tent for the second time in all my travels.

When I woke it was early.  The camp ravens were about looking for food even before 6AM.  Those buggers can make some noise.  I packed a pretty good meal for lunch and heated up some oatmeal like I did the chili the night before.  I also made sure to bring my dirty clothes as it had been long enough and even the Ravens wouldn’t come near me.  Somewhere there had to be a laundromat.

Heading out, I learned I was in the far east side of the park and had to make my way west to see any more.  So, having the whole day to myself, I planned to stop at every overlook and see what there was to see.  And that’s what I did.  It’s really amazing what you can see from so high up.  Every bend showed the canyon from a different perspective and all were worth seeing.  It was neat also to just sit at an overlook and contemplate just how small we humans really are.

Finally I made it to a place were cars and bikes were not allowed.  The park is so heavily visited that parking was no longer possible and instead one must take shuttles that come ever 15 minutes or so.  That way you could just ride the busses from one stop to the next.  It was very well done although a little frustrating.

So I rode on in to the main headquarters to find some information and maybe wash my clothes.  They pointed me in several directions.  Being nearly lunchtime I decided to eat while the clothes were washing.

While I was there I met an interesting couple.  They were about my age and had been riding from New Jersey on the way to California.  The bike was a 600BMW and they packed it very tight.  I can barely fit my own things, much less another person and their belongings too.  Well, the bike was the girl’s, but she rode in the back.  Seems his legs were too long to be back there, besides they had to fold the luggage around themselves like they were packing to move.  Her name was Stephanie, and I remember that because as I explained to her, that’s the name of the bike I was riding.  We exchanged emails and discussed maybe riding together.  They’d be coming back through St. Louis maybe a short time after I went back.

So, I get the laundry and take the $2 minute long cold shower they give you.  I’d have been better with a garden hose sitting in the sun, but at least I was clean and so were my clothes.  While the clothes were drying I had an interesting conversation.

Something bird related was on the news and I remarked about how birds don’t have much going on upstairs if you know what I mean.  Well, the guy to my right took offense to that.  He at some point had rescued a broken sparrow from his yard and took it inside to live with him.  Well, according to him that bird would tell him, through song or dance, if it was hungry or wanted out of the cage.  He even proceeded to show me what he meant by all that.  The guy could do the bird whistles.  Well, if that wasn’t enough another man, on my left chimed in.  He was a bird enthusiast and had had at one point parrots.  My remark, having been about how parrots just repeat what they hear and don’t actually think about what they say upset him also.  So, being chastised from both sides I had to sit in that somber laundromat on those hospital green chairs listening to two men tell me just how wrong I was about birds.

During that little episode something struck my attention.  The guy on the left had a rather long nose and narrow head.  He was actually quite tall and his features made him look like a big bird.  I shook it off and concentrated on what the other on the right guy was saying.  Well I couldn’t help but notice his glasses, short nose and legs and belly.  So when he did that little sparrow dance it struck me that this man, if he had wings and feathers would look a lot like a little bird.  That was too much.  Here I am, between two bird men listening to how smart birds really are, and while getting visual demonstrations I started to laugh – one of those where you don’t want to laugh but it comes out anyway laughs.  First it starts as a smile but becomes uncontrollable.  Maybe I was just tired, but those guys might as well have been chirping at me because I didn’t get any more of that conversation.  That laundry didn’t dry fast enough.

So with that on my mind I packed up the bike and walked to the shuttle stations.

After seeing everything on one line I decided it was time to do a little hiking.  One ranger said “Ooh, Aah” trail was the best to visit and I should get down to the point.  Turns out that that trail is the best one for getting views as it doesn’t follow the walls but rather a rare point in the middle.  He was right.

I got off the bus and asked a volunteer where some potable water was I had been told about. The man lied and said no drinkable water was available and besides that I didn’t have enough with the one empty liter bottle I had anyway to go down into the canyon. I politely pointed out that I had no water at all and surely wouldn’t go down into the canyon without any. His job as a volunteer was to help people hiking; so I understand his concern, but he wasn’t pleasant. Finally he gave me an empty bottle of his own but begged me not to go down into the canyon as I didn’t have enough water. Of course I was standing there with two empties 😉

He left and the next person showed me the faucet with which to fill my now 2.5 liters of water bottles. Now I was ready. the hike down was pretty easy. I descended over 2000 feet with no problem and only consumed a small part of my water. It was hot and each step down was hotter than the previous. Someone told me that at the bottom it’s 20 degrees higher than at the already 100 degree top. I didn’t make it quite so far to see if he was right or not.

Finally I made it to my destination, Ooh Aah point.  It was right in the middle.  I had a great view both east and west.  The whole canyon was around me, above and below on all sides.  I could see for ever.  Well, during my break I found a shady spot on the side of the trail and talked to a couple guys from New Mexico also there.  They had already that day hiked nearly 25 miles across the canyon and were beaten, sore, and sun burnt.  Their group had been 5 or 6; some went ahead others fell back.  It is against park policies to do that, and they wouldn’t have been permitted had the told the truth earlier.

Well, those poor fellows hadn’t carried enough water and were just about to finish their last drops when I showed up.  So rather than carry 2 liters back up with me I shared it with them.  They would have made it without me, but it would have taken longer.  Their friends that had gone ahead went to get Gatorade and water to bring back down to them.  They had already finished the 27 mile day of one mile down and another back up.  So the three of us climbed back out swapping stories and generally having a good time.  Their friends arrived shortly before we were out and gave them much appreciated cold fruit punch Gatorade.

Well, it was getting late so I headed back to the bike and made the leisurely journey back across the park.  I arrived in time to see the sunset and make some dinner before stargazing and subsequently passing out from being tired.  I still had water left over!

Here are the pictures to go with the story.  Enjoy!  Flip through to see them all. Don’t forget to click the photos for larger images.

Day of Adventure Part VII

It was a new Day. I had camped for my the first time ever on a motorcycle trip, and things went well. I awoke just outside Petrified Forrest National Park refreshed, excited, and anxious to get on the road. It was quite a haul planned for that day; first I wanted to see Meteor Crater, then Flagstaff, AZ and Sedona, then ride up to the Grand Canyon. It turned out to be more than I could do in a day, and Sedona had to be left for another trip. After packing up and all I headed out. Only one thing was missing – my key! Well, I keep a spare hidden on the bike (and several more with me now) so was able to make my way first toward a locksmith. The weather promised to be hot, and it started that way. After riding through Winslow and other small towns disappointed by the lack of a decent key maker I found my way to Meteor Crater. It’s pretty flat in that part of Arizona, but from a good distance you an see the rim of the crater sticking up.

You know, things are bigger out west. I’d never seen anything like MC and was quite surprised at just how big it really is. It wouldn’t surprise me if you could fit more than a NASCAR track inside it and probably a million people. IT’S HUGE!

Here are some photos of it

Panorama

A Rock the size of a house!
I took the walking tour around the rim. It was about a mile or so there and back and quite hot. They even had water breaks along the way. Here is a view towards Flagstaff many miles away.


An old house/museum.


Me at the rim. They wouldn’t let me stand any closer! – to the chagrin of you guys here.

Of course I snapped one of my bike before leaving.

The rode from there to Flagstaff was not long, but it was hot. Also the 75 mph speed limit meant most people rode 80+. I tried to keep up for a while, but the wind really pushed me around and kept it closer to the limit for comfort.

Flagstaff was a neat town set at the base of a mountain around 7000 feet. Trees were growing there which were the first trees I’d seen since the mountains of Colorado. I guess out there, where it’s so dry something makes it possible for them to grow at that altitude and above, but none below. The town was somewhat crowded but that meant it had a library. So I stopped in for my first internet in several days. From there I learned that the Lowell Observatory of fame was only a little higher up the mountain and I decided it was not worth missing. Here’s a pic from the outside

Luckily there was a locksmith nearby that had keys for me. All day I’d been checking my pockets constantly looking for that one key I now had. He was nice enough to charge me $15 or so for 2 keys :0

Somewhere along the way that day my speedometer broke. Ouch, I nearly cried when I realized it. To me, a person so proud of his miles, losing his odometer was like death. What would I do? I had a backup though that lasted quite a while, just long enough actually. Eddie D had given me a GPS unit just a month before that Merlin had given him. Just the night before I hard wired it to the bike so batteries wouldn’t be needed. Without that I would have turned around and looked or paid whatever necessary for a new one. It was that important to me. Less so now, I’ve gone several times since without one.

In one of the small towns I found a walmart and bought some food for the next couple nights planning to camp at the Grand Canyon. And just before entering the local Indian Reservation I stopped for some beer. Good move, it was high in the park

Luckily I got there on a Thursday when it wasn’t so crowded. Oh, it was a very hot dry ride out to the Grand Canyon. Every ride would be like that for another week or so.

This is going to be a long episode, I’ve got more pictures to show! Leading up to the canyon was as I said hot and dry. This is what you’ll see when you go.

Even on the Reservation I started seeing signs of something grand approaching. I thought at this moment I had seen what I came for. Boy was I surprised. This was barely the beginning.

I was already excited. These next two pictures were the climax of the day. They have become a little famous too.

This was my actual first sight of the Grand Canyon.

That’s it for now. I’ll talk about the Grand Canyon next time. SOON!

Motorcycle Adventures Part VI, On My Own

It was day 6 of my trip west. Lenny and I had just parted in Durango, Colorado. I was heading west and he back east to his home in Pueblo. He and I had ridden 3 days together for more than 700 miles in a tour of Colorado. It is such a beautiful state; I only wish that I could have stayed longer and seen more.There is a sense of freedom that comes with being alone. For the first time in my life I was on my own. Never before had I been so far away from home with no where to stay. I had no reservations, no one waiting for me, no plans other than to head west. There were things that I wanted to see, but every destination was just a part of the journey.

I was 1200 miles from home, and even if I wanted to go back there was no one there to greet me. My things, even my truck and clothes, were in storage. I truly had no home other than on my motorcycle. My home was the road. Some may think that silly: to be so far away with nothing but a direction, but I found it liberating. Nothing could have been better except maybe someone to ride with. It was a lonely ride that day, and I had no one to share it with. For the next couple weeks and many more times later that would be my story.

That day I had a couple goals. I wanted to stand on the 4-Corners monument where Colorado meets Arizona and Utah meets New Mexico. There is only one place in the U.S. where you can stand in 4 states at the same time. I wanted to go there. Between me and there was Mesa Verde National park. That seemed like a great place to start.

It was early, but after 8AM when I got on the road. I’d never been there before, but I have a good memory for maps, and from Durango there are signs that lead you to the park. It didn’t take long to find the entrance, and after waiting for my turn I proudly showed the park attendant my National Parks Pass that would allow me to enter any National Park without paying. It had cost me $50, but it saved me much more than that over the next 6 weeks. I would visit many parks. There were 2 more to visit that very day.

From the welcome sign one can see the large Mesa in the background. It is of course green. The roads up it were very windy and slow going until I could pass the cars in front of me. They must have thought me silly for riding up there so fast, but I had a big day planned, and I wanted to do as much as possible.

Mesa Verde is a beautiful park in the middle of the desert. What make the park famous are the many cave paintings and Indian shelters from long ago. Those combined with great views and scenery make it something to see.I spent a great deal of time at the visitor center and at the gift shop across the way. There were lots of people, and I wanted to ask questions. In the end I didn’t see much of the park beyond the roads and the views they offer. There was just not enough time for me to see it all and still make it to Arizona by night. I did stop at the fire overlook to catch a great view where I could see for many miles in every direction.

The day was moving quickly so I had to also. From there it was on to 4-Corners. I stopped for gasoline and a snack in Cortez, Colorado. A few people riding motorcycles were at the station also and we talked a little. They were interested that I was riding so far all by myself. I told them, ”that’s what I do.”The road was quite a neat road and it went around the Mesa I had just visited. It turned out to be a very large Mesa and I was near it for quite some time. Finally I turned my back towards it and rode the last few miles I would be in Colorado. On that short stretch another biker passed me traveling very quickly. I kept up with him for a while, but he was going faster than I wanted to. At one point we both stopped to take a picture and I asked him why he was riding so fast. He wanted to make the Grand Canyon by nightfall. I wished him luck; that was my goal for the next day.

By now it was very hot. It was still early July, but the sun is intense in that part of the country and I had to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Finally I arrived at Four Corners. It was not like I had hoped. The land there is on an Indian Reservation. You wouldn’t know it though because there is nothing anywhere to see besides rocks and dirt. When your road finally nears the monument however you begin to see the tourist trap. That is exactly what it was. There is a $3 charge to get in the area, and it is surrounded by vendors selling everything from snow-cones to vest pins and silver jewelry. After seeing the monument and swapping pictures with another person by himself I walked around to see what they were selling and bought a couple pins.

The monument itself is not much to see. It is on a raised platform and is only big enough for a couple people at a time to stand on. Of course there are plenty of people around, but I suspect like myself, those people will not return. I would like to have that time back, and the $3.

From there it is 236 miles, the quick way, to The Petrified Forest. I can remember many times from my childhood thinking about the Petrified Forest. One teacher had brought rocks from there to show our class. It always seemed like a far away place, almost fantasy like. Here I was less than 4 hours away from something I though I never would see.This wasn’t the first time I felt that way. Twice before in my life have I felt like that. Both times before were on a motorcycle trip I had taken the previous summer that had taken me to 33 states all over the East Coast and South Eastern Canada. Those two places were Maine first, and Minnesota. Growing up in Texas everything seemed far away. Texas is after all a big state and far south. So as a little kid looking at maps of Minneapolis – St. Paul I was amazed that anyone could ever get there much less live so far away. I would never get there myself; it was too far.

Of course those were kid’s thoughts. I am an adult now, but sometimes I still get that feeling. Someplace is just too far away to ever get there. Maybe that is why I like to travel so much: to go impossible places that were too far for my childhood imagination. It is like lifting a million pounds; I’m doing something that could not be done.

Well, here I was: less than days ride to the Petrified Forest and as I learned that day also the Painted Desert National Park. I headed south to Gallup, New Mexico and over the state line to Arizona. Having never been in either place I stopped at the welcome centers to add maps to my collection. And as you suspect, my collection of state maps is nearly complete. I’d like to finish the set this summer.

The temperature that day was over 100 degrees, and it was very dry. Even the water I carried with me was hot, like bath water, so I looked forward to stopping for gas and a Gatorade. At the Arizona welcome center I found out it was only an hour or so to the parks and that I had better hurry as they closed the gates at 7PM. It was 5 then and I wanted to see some of the park before it locked up.

It is funny how much the desert there is different from where I was in New Mexico only a few hours ago. New Mexico and the Four Corners area was completely dry and brown. There was little to no green to see at all. Arizona is dry too, but where I was there were green plants, very small, that covered the desert. Somewhere nearby had to be a source of water.

Finally I arrived at the gate after stopping for some ice and dinner. The ice was for a couple beers that I had saved from the night before. I wanted to celebrate my newfound independence and cherish the day I had just experienced. Don’t tell the park rangers at the Petrified Forest however; I think it is illegal to carry glass on park property. I didn’t drink them until later though.

Petrified Forest National and Painted Desert are different from most National Parks. From the highway there is only one way to go through, and you cannot camp. First the road takes you north to the best part of the Painted Desert and then south to the Petrified wood. But there is no exit over the interstate at that pass. I stopped for pictures many times so I could remember how beautiful they were. In my mind I would go back through the next day and see it all again, but that did not happen. Thankfully my pictures all turned out great.

Several times I was told how magnificent the sunsets are in those parks, especially in Painted Desert. I longed to see that, but it was summer and the sun doesn’t set until nearly nine, long after the parks are closed. If you ever go to see the Petrified Forest make sure to go later in the year or in early spring when the sun sets before 7PM. And if you do, please tell me how the sunset is and maybe snap a photo or two.

The southernmost part of Petrified Forest has the best rocks to see. Some are full trees lying on their side. You can walk through them, touch them, and sit on them. You just cannot take any. It is truly amazing to see such sites. Everyone should go there in their lifetime.

I rode out of the park just before closing time. The sun was still up and I found easily the free camping place I was told about. The place was a private store that sold petrified wood for lots of money. Camping was free there, but there were no facilities after the store closed. This was my first time motorcycle camping. Always before I had big coolers, chairs, tents, a propane stove, and company. I was alone that night and doing something new. I had never even used that tent; it was brand new and replaced the one that I had lost just a few days earlier in Colorado.

It was windy and I made camp beside a muraled wall. I made sure to be out of line of sight from the one light at the store. That way I could enjoy the desert at night. First however I had to finish camp and eat. Using my Sterno stove and fuel I made some Ramen Soup and sipped a beer. That night I really enjoyed the sky. No clouds and no light pollution make for a great view. The stars were shining brightly and I snapped a few photos of the sky.

After dinner I home-made an electrical connector so I could charge my cell phone on the bike. It worked great, and I also made it work with the GPS Merlin had given me via Eddie D. I learned some things that day: there are two parks there instead of one; the forest really isn’t a forest but rather rocks lying on their side; and I can go anywhere I want, all I have to do is try.

There was something special about being there that I cannot describe to you. Things were going well; I felt like I was really doing something. Life was good and even though it was dark out the sun shone on me.

Motorcycle Adventures, The Story Continues Part V

The story continues

Strider1 and I were in Montrose, Colorado and headed south. This was new territory for both of us: he having grown up near there had never taken the Million Dollar Highway south to Durango; and this was already the farthest west I had ever been.

After finishing up the BBQ we headed out on what was to be another amazing ride. By now it was past midday and we still had over 100 miles to go. That may not sound like a lot, but you weren’t there. The sights were a plenty and too good to pass up. The roads were awesome and rode like the backbone of a snake up and down the mountains. This would be our 3rd 10000+ ft high pass that day and our second over 11000.

Headed south the first thing you notice are the beautiful snow capped mountains directly in front of you. They are a ways off, but the jagged peaks are thrilling to see.



Finally we made back into the mountains. These were as amazing as the last few ranges but were a little different though. If you ever get the chance go to Ouray, CO then I suggest you do. It is north of Silverton a little ways and has a great history. I’ve never seen a town so well ingrained in the mountains as this one. Go there, you’ll like it.

Well, Strider and I pushed into the mountains stopping only for a few snapshots. We rode hard and our bikes pushed themselves. At the altitudes we reached carbureted engines have trouble, and when I let off the gas the bike would pop. Not to worry though, Mr. Suzuki made them well.

Some of you may already know this but for those of you who do not: mountain roads are lots of fun. They wind and change elevation. Some times you can see for many miles; sometimes only for a few feet. All in all mountain riding is great… until you get behind an RV. Now, I don’t belittle RVs; they are having their own fun; but they sure do know how to put a damper on mine. We found ourselves behind a nice train of cars and leading the pack was an RV. This was a special RV however. Being made so long ago it was quite a sight to see. I’m surprised they ever put motors that small in such big machines. Well, that’s that; we were stuck in a parade of slow goers.

Strider and I had discussed what we would do in case of this, and here it was. We were rising several hundred feet per mile at a pace just a little faster than climbing the mountain on foot. I didn’t let that get me down however. Since I was leading I asked Lenny to pull up beside me; gave him the “leap frog” signal and motioned “one at a time”. I think he understood.

Now, it always surprises me how close cars will actually follow other cars when going that slow. This was no exception and in fact a perfect example of that case. Since these guys couldn’t pass the 12 cars in front of them they rode as close as possible to their bumper. I didn’t let that stop me however and as soon as there as a straight shot I took the opportunity and passed a car.

Now, the reason “leap frog” works is that one bike will jump ahead and make room for the other. So, when I got in front of the car I slowed just enough that when Lenny got the chance he could pass it too. Warning: This does not work 2 at a time and should only be conducted in this manner.

So, Lenny figured the pattern and we were off. About 15 minutes later I had passed every car and Lenny made a glamorous finish and passed the last car and the RV up front. I soon followed. At that moment the sun came out and beams of light came through the clouds… or that’s how I felt at least. At last we were free and able to ride our own ride.

The day got better from there. We crossed Red Mountain Pass at just over 11,000 feet.

And soon we were in Silverton and stopped to take this picture

I took this picture as we were headed down the mountains into Durango

I now know why it is called the “Million Dollar Highway”. It has to do with Silver, but in my own heart it has more to do with the beauty of those mountains.