|May & June 2008||Louisiana HSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
by Tim Smith, State DirectorBy now we are all feeling the heat of summer, and I know many of you have been logging some miles. I just got back from a two-day blast into Arkansas with my son Caleb. It was an awesome trip that I will tell you about in next month's newsletter.
The trip really got me to thinking about all the trips we have made to those Arkansas mountains, and the different bikes I rode, and the things I learned.Things I learned about riding, and things I learned about life. I thought it might be of some interest to see one man's journey, and the many different rides that got me where I am today. I surely am looking forward to at least 25 more years of riding. Maybe I will be ready for that Gold Wing then.....Maybe Not.
|Enjoy the reports on a Wild West adventure for the guys that went to Salt Lake City and beyond.
And Lea Nangle has a few things to say about gas prices.See the new info about Star 2009 - in Staunton, VA and check out all the new stuff on the National Web site: http://www.ridehsta.com/hsta/
|In addition to a collaborative effort by myself and the eloquent Dave Dickson to document our 4600 mile Great Western Adventure, we have TWO ride reports by Drew Newcomer, one of which covers some of the same territory, plus the irrepressibl Lea Nangle. So, dear readers, you have both multiple personalities and multiple perspectives to entertain you. Ed.|
Go West, Young Man, Go West
By Drew Newcomer
When I found out a couple of months ago that I would have 10 days off, I immediately started thinking where should I go for vacation. There are many places that I have never been and with the goal being to say someday that I have ridden in the 48 lower states on a motorcycle; I broke out the atlas to have a look. I have always wanted to go to South Dakota and the first week of May seemed like a good time. I began planning and laying out routes and checking motel information. Everything looked good - that is, until a virtual blizzard obliterated my best laid plans. There was nothing else to do but find somewhere else to go. I had never been to Monument Valley, Arizona and had never ridden a motorcycle in New Mexico. So, after a couple internet checks, I decided to head west.
As is the case when it is time for me to go somewhere I was up early. The R1150R and I got on I-20 west at 5:15am on May 1. Of course there is not much good I find in interstate riding except you can eclipse miles in a short period of time. I rode west until I turned northwest on U.S. Highway 69 in northeast Texas. I rode 69 to Sherman, Texas where I headed west on Highway 82 until I got on 287 east of Wichita Falls. The sun was out and the breeze was picking up (signs of things to come!) and I continued northwest until I stopped at Childress, Texas 560 miles from home.
I left Childress on Friday morning and headed west on Texas 86. What a great ride! The traffic was minimal and the scenery was very appealing to me. I rode through Turkey, Texas (home of Bob Wills) and headed west to the New Mexico border.
My original plans had me riding through the southern part of Colorado to get to northeast Arizona. One look at the internet in the hotel made me change my mind. Wolf Creek Pass at > 10,000 feet elevation would get snow - something I didn't want to contend with. The friendly staff at the New Mexico welcome center helped me decide that Santa Fe would be a good place to spend Friday night. From Clovis I headed west on 60/84 till Fort Sumner where I continued northwest on 84 heading towards Santa Rosa. It was here that I had my first taste of really bad cross winds. I literally was leaning off the left side of the bike trying to compensate. I was not enjoying this that is for sure! I turned west for 20 miles on I-40 and then turned northwest again on 84 headed for Las Vegas, New Mexico. I-25 and 84 run together west to Santa Fe. The wind did not seem to be as bad in the mountains and the ride from Las Vegas to Santa Fe was uneventful (which is good, of course!) I found a very nice hotel in Santa Fe and felt tired after logging 450 miles. I would eat well and sleep well knowing that the trip to Farmington, New Mexico would be easy.
When I woke up Saturday morning, it was 36 degrees in Santa Fe. It was time for the Gerbings. I wanted to go to the local BMW shop anyway so figured it would be 10:00am at best before I was on the road to Farmington. After buying the obligatory t-shirt and cap I headed northwest again on 84. This was really a nice ride. The sun was out and warming things up quickly. The mountains were peaceful (little wind today) and very little traffic north of Espanola. I turned west on New Mexico 96. Another great road! I rode in and out of the mountains with little traffic. I had one of the best burgers I have ever had in a hole-in-the-wall joint east of Galina. I entered 550 near Cuba, New Mexico and stayed on the four-lane till I arrived in Farmington after crossing the Continental Divide.
My motel in Farmington was not fancy, but it was clean and I could park the bike right out the door (something all of us appreciate!!) It was an easy walk to downtown where I found a great place for a beer and supper - liked it so much, I bought a souvenir glass which I needed about as much as the t-shirt I purchased in Santa Fe.
Sunday morning the sun was brilliant again as I continued west on U.S. 64 by Shiprock, New Mexico. 64 becomes 160 at the Arizona line and I had to go to Four Corners, the only place in the USA where four states converge in one location. Well, for a three dollar entry fee I entered and can now honestly say that I have been to Four Corners. I can also say that I don't need to go there again!! You know, there just really "ain't much to it."
I returned to 160 west till I headed north on 191. I was spending the night in Kayenta, Arizona and I wanted to enter Monument Valley from the north. Anyone who has ever seen a western will recognize Monument Valley. It has been filmed a thousand times. Entering from the north the expanse of the landscape is almost overwhelming. It is difficult to imagine people making a living in this place but the Navajo's history goes back many hundreds of years. I was in the heart of the Navajo Nation now and there were symbols and signs everywhere.
Monday had me continuing west on 160 until it was intersected by 98 which took me to Page, Arizona, home of the Glen Canyon Dam which creates Lake Powell. Page is only 50 years old and I stopped at the large information center and watched a video describing the building of the dam and the creation of the lake. From Page I traversed Highway 89 to my final destination of Kanab, Utah.
What a nice surprise Kanab was; a quaint, clean, little town with a history for movie making. Literally every star that has ever been in a western has been to this place. It was nice to know that I would be spending two nights in Kanab and not have to worry about packing the bike for a day. From Kanab, I would visit Bryce Canyon National Park and Mt. Zion National Park.
As impressive as some of man's works are, I still find Mother Nature to be the ultimate artist. Both national parks can easily be visited in the same day from Kanab. I rode to Bryce Canyon first. It was 77 miles from my motel and Mt. Zion could easily be seen on the return. My hat is off to the National Park Service for letting motorcycles in for $12.00, as opposed to $25.00 for cars. Bryce Canyon has a very nice information center and is easily ridden through. A free tram takes you through Mt. Zion National Park. In fact, you have to take the tram. Vehicles, of all kinds, are required to stop and park in designated areas. The tram has recorded messages describing the history and geology of the park.
I found two great places to eat in Kanab and enjoyed just walking up and down the main street. I was ahead of the tourist season and was in a motel that was more than comfortable enough. There was not continental breakfast, but there was no outrageous price (like in Kayenta!) either.
After visiting two National Parks and looking at my wallet, I decided it was time to start heading back to the home of Cajun Christmas. May 7, like every other day since I started this ride, dawned perfectly. The sun was just barely peaking over the mountains when I left Kanab. I headed south on Highway 89 Alternate. From here to Gallup, New Mexico would be the best motorcycle riding of the entire trip. Though I had been through some incredible countryside, the best motorcycle riding was on this road, especially from Kanab to the junction of 89A with 89 south of Page, Arizona. The scenery changed dramatically and I climbed and dropped 5000 feet. I saw woods reminiscent of the Rockies and stark desert with little vegetation in sight. There were ups and downs with many curves and straight-aways that disappeared into the distance. I would love to do this road again. From Tuba City to Gallup, New Mexico was through the Hopi Indian Reservation and this was a motorcycling delight as well. The party ended in Gallup where I joined I-40 and began fighting the wind on my trip back east. I was glad to get in my own bed Friday night, May 9. I had covered 3333 miles in nine days. This was my most ambitious ride to date. Except for some wind problems, I saw nothing but blue skies for the entire ride. The bike performed well and there are not enough words to describe the terrain. I will make plans to return to this part of the country. There is a lot of country out here to explore and there is no better way to do than by motorcycle.
Hill Country 2008
By Drew Newcomer
It is difficult to write much about the Texas Hill Country with so many returning from STAR not too long ago. And, most of us Louisiana HSTA folks have been to our neighbor to the west before. Having just returned from Utah the week before, I gave my "little butt bones" and the BMW a few days off before mounting up again for Blanco, Texas.
When I woke at 5am on Thursday morning, I was greeted with a tremendous thunderstorm system that had pummeled the Hill Country on Wednesday evening. Even softball size hail had been reported. One check on the Weather Channel told me to go back to bed and dream a little more. I finally got on the road, not knowing what I might encounter, at 8:45 am. For those that know me even a little, it did pain me greatly to leave at that hour when I am normally on the road before 6. I headed west on I-20 with Aerostitch on and rain gloves at the ready. Clouds were present from West Monroe to Shreveport where I turned southwest on Highway 79. I found plenty of evidence along the road that rains the night before had been pretty severe. There was standing water in many locations but I saw little evidence, if any, of hail damage. I knew I had about 500 miles to go before I reached my destination. I did not encounter any rain but did ride through a "heavy mist" a couple of times, but these were very short-lived.
Highway 79 continues southwest and will drop you off on I-35 in Round Rock, Texas if you make no changes. I rode 79 until I intersected Texas 36 at Milano. 36 runs north/south and I enjoyed the 16 miles to Highway 21. I continued on 21 southwesterly until Bastrop where I joined Highway 71. 71 runs east west on the south side of Austin and would keep me from having to negotiate much of the interstate system through downtown. I hate riding on the interstate anyway, and today I would be arriving in Austin at about 430pm - not the best time to get to a big city. 71 joins 290 which heads west to Johnson City. A little west of Henly, Texas 165 meets 290 and takes you the 16 miles necessary to reach Blanco.
I arrived in Blanco at about 6pm and, all things considered, thought I had done pretty well. My cabin was in great shape and I knew there would be a cold beer waiting for me as many from my BMW group out of Shreveport had arrived earlier and had already begun the ritual of sitting around in a circle talking about anything (motorcycles mostly) that came to mind.
I was still a little tired on Friday, so I decided not to ride very far. I took FM 1623 west out of Blanco. 1623 meets 290 a little west of Fredericksburg. I rode into Fredericksburg and parked and walked up and down main street after having a very German lunch. Fredericksburg used to be a nice quiet, little town, home to Admiral Chester Nimitz. Well, commercialism has arrived in a big way and if you don't believe me check out some of the prices they are asking for some of the local real estate! Unless I win the lottery, I won't be moving to Fredericksburg anytime soon.
I was a little more industrious on Saturday and rode 281 south till Highway 46 which took me west to 3351. I was looking for the new BMW/Triumph dealership on the west side of San Antonio. After getting off the bike a couple of times and asking directions I found Alamo BMW/Triumph. It is a brand new dealership with an interesting side-line. Along with motorcycles, they have a go-cart track in the back where you can ride very close to the ground at 30mph. You can also spend a good bit of money riding very close to the ground. I didn't feel the need to do that, but I bought a new helmet (an impulse buy I am sure) because I have had problems with my Arai and Shoei. Well, I got my "economic stimulus" check the Friday before, and the President did want us to put it back in circulation didn't he?
After leaving $250 at the dealership, I rode west on I-10 to Boerne where I ate a great Mexican meal and turned north on 1376 which is a great motorcycle ride. I stopped for the necessary visit to Luckenbach. I bought a couple of unnecessary items and looked at a good number of bikes that were parked in the various lots. I rejoined 290 and headed east to the LBJ Ranch where our 36th President was born and raised. This was an interesting stop and something I had been meaning to do for a couple of years. There is a ranger guided tour that costs $6.00 and takes about 90 minutes. I wanted to stay longer and tour the visitor center a little more but the skies were getting threatening and I thought it best to get back to Blanco and my cabin. The clouds did come in, but nothing came of them and we had a very enjoyable evening of fajitas, beer, and a cool spring breeze.
I was on the road at 5am the next morning and had an uneventful ride home (the best kind!) The Hill Country is not all that far away, and most Louisiana HSTA'ers usually find time to make a trip at least once a year. I know I am already planning on returning. I am sure there is a motorcycle t-shirt or cap I just have to have!!
|Dave and I started out on this reportage independently, me for this newsletter and he as a script for a soon to be released DVD! But when I saw what he had wrought I felt I better team up or get overshadowed! Dave graciously agreed to let me use his work within these pages and even add in a bit of my own blather. I hope you find the dual perspective an interesting twist. Dave's regular text makes up the bulk of the tale, my musings are marked by italics. Picture credits go to Dave, myself, Tony and Kevin.|
Where to start? The epic journey was twelve (or fourteen) days in length, nine or ten of which were traveling days. We would visit 14 states and wear out our tires over the next 4,821 miles.It started months earlier when my riding buddy, Dennis, a good spirited happy and avid rider, mentioned going to Salt Lake City to see the races with Tony, Bob and Kevin.
Back in 2006 our group had originally planned to attend day 1 of the inaugural AMA Superbike races at the new Miller Motorsports Park outside of Salt Lake City, Utah on our way to STAR in Avon, Colorado. The time off from work required proved to be more than some of the group to manage so we reluctantly abandoned that idea. So when we heard about the April date for STAR 08 we quickly revived the Utah trip concept. We have often talked about riding in Utah, Wyoming and the Black Hills and now was our chance.
That would be a rare double bill, the AMA SuperBike and the European World SuperBike races. A lot of talent assembled at a new race site, Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City. My work schedule wasn't fixed and I've been disappointed before so I wasn't firm in my commitment to go until the date got closer.Our same group of riders had just been to the HSTA annual STAR rally in Kerrville. The Texas Hill country is nice, but there are only a few spectacular roads. We rode all of them, some twice. I hope I don't sound jaded, but it's like a small amusement park. Now what?
This trip was taking on the dimensions that I thought I was going to see in the Texas trip. Tony "I like Pie" Crowell and his long time riding and racing buddy, Bob "Tony wrecks 'em, I fix 'em" Chappuis, had planned out a long trip covering all the states around Colorado but NOT riding in Colorado itself. Is there a post office poster in Colorado? Tony and Bob had ridden in Colorado> many times and this was going to be different. I was a little disappointed to hear that we wouldn't be in the mountains of southern Colorado after reading about it so many times. What we saw and rode through left this trip lacking nothing. And still, I have Colorado for next year…
The four of us all put on new tires and each from a different manufacturer. I was on the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso on my BMW K1200R Sport, Dennis put on new steel belted Continental Road Attacks on his BMW R1200RT, Bob was shod with the most expensive of the group, Michelin Pilot Road 2's on his new Kawasaki Concours 14 and Tony had just put on the hard-to-find Dunlap RoadSmarts on his Honda VFR. I was the only one who did not replace the front tire. I've been getting 2:1 service out of front tires, 9,700 miles out of the first one and this one had 4,000 miles at the start.
Just north of Baton Rouge, Dennis and I met Tony and Bob. Soon we were eating a large country breakfast at Lea's. Tony looked wistfully at the freshly made pies in a glass case. We rode north on mostly secondary roads with a little Interstate mixed in.
We merged onto I-49 in Alexandria just a few mile north of Lecompte and rode the slab all the way to Shreveport, skirting the west side of the city and continuing northeast on LA1 through Oil City and Vivian. LA 1 becomes TX 77 at the state line and we rode it through Atlanta, TX, continuing northeasterly to Paris TX, then North on US 271 to our day 1 destination, Hugo, OK
The first test of the new tires came late in the first day. The sky was overcast all day and got prematurely darker by 2 PM. We stopped and put on our rain gear in anticipation of the likely showers up ahead as we approached the end of our day. The first day's destination was Hugo, Oklahoma. Leaving New Orleans that morning made that a very reasonable distance. Dennis and I have ridden much farther in a day's ride, but then we were at our destination, this trip would be day after day for nearly two weeks. The rains came shortly after we geared up. The rain was torrential. The winds were blowing 30 to 40 mph with gusts around 50 from the left side. The rain pelted down at a rate of 2" in 20 minutes. Lightning flashed and three seconds later thunder boomed, let's see… five seconds to the mile, so that was… TOO DAMN close. Yikes. We slowed to a speed where our tires wouldn't hydroplane. The stress levels were peaking when the skies began to clear. One thing we didn't want to do was stop along the road side. The Jane Mansfield story applies to the limited visibility / heavy rains we were in. (She was killed in poor visibility driving conditions). The RoadSmarts and my Rosso's did the best in the rain. Dennis and Bob had a scary moment or two with their tires.
I am still not sure what actually caused my two near crashes. Twice during the heavy downpour my rear tire broke loose and the big Concours threatened to tank slap me off. Once accelerating over the paint stripe to pass a slow moving car but the first time I was minding my business plodding straight ahead at a modest speed, struggling with poor visibility. Both times the front end waggled back and forth a total of about 7 or 8 times, initially increasing in amplitude with each oscillation, seemingly nearing "dumpyourass" intensity but responding to my instinctive response of easing off the throttle and my grip on the bars. In retrospect I suspect improper tire inflation may have been a factor combined with an overly tight grip on the bars due to the tension caused by the extremely limited visibility. I have since read some reports that the Michelin PR2s leave something to be desired in wet weather performance. At any rate the episodes made me quite tentative on wet pavement for the remainder of the trip.
We arrived at our basic accommodations (a.k.a cheap motel) around 3:30 PM. We walked next door to eat some mediocre Chinese food and called it a day. By this time we had been in three states. The weather had been warm and muggy.
There were not a lot of motel options in Hugo but we settled on the Holiday Motel. It was OK and relatively cheap and there was a Chinese restaurant next door with unusual but tasty food.
The next morning dawned bright, cooler and clear. We headed north on the Indian Nation Turnpike in the lush green hilly southeastern corner of Oklahoma. The Turnpike was full of high speed sweepers and beautiful vistas. Breakfast was at Bobbie's, a country restaurant, in Holdenville, Oklahoma. The rest of the guys had walked inside and as I was removing my riding gear, an old farmer in overalls and a denim shirt stopped to talk with me about our trip. I explained where and why we were going. He asked about mileage. At the time I was getting about 50 mpg. I saw his old rusted and dented pick-up truck. It had a lot of character, much like its owner.
"I've been selling hay for 60 years", he told me. "Got a thousand acres. It's been a hard life at times. I envy you guys, getting out to see the country". We talked about gas prices a bit and then I said, "It's hardly worthwhile to sell your old truck to get some new better mileage model if you don't drive much". I was mentally figuring how many miles he'd have to drive versus the years he had left to drive. He was 83.Then he said, "The oil company paid me $4,000 an acre to lease my land and they drilled up two wells. I'm getting $40,000 a month from those". More mental arithmetic, $4,000,000 in lease money and a half a million a year in royalties. I replied raising my eyebrows, "Well, I guess the new truck won't be a problem". "Nope. Got a new one back at the farm. I like this one better", smiling at his pick up which shared memories of good and tough times. Then he continued, "It's been hard to get rich so late in life. I missed so much and now…" I told him as I shook his hand, "I'm proud to be an American where there were people like you". He smiled.
It became our routine; eat a late large breakfast, no lunch and an early dinner. This day's quest was the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Tony was the trip planner and navigator. For months preceding the trip he had talked about the place for days and built our eagerness through eMails.
Oklahoma City is becoming OZ. The I-40 is still bumpy, but downtown is right nice looking. The new and the refurbished-old make downtown look very inviting. The baseball stadium is named after a local boy, national hero, Mickey Mantle.
The highlight of the ride was near Amarillo. A lumbering C-130, the USAF's largest cargo plane, made a low, low, low pass straight at us as we neared the day's end. We all thought it was going to land on the highway. Even through the roar of the wind and our earplugs, we could hear the four mighty engines.
This was a surreal experience, I felt like I was in a movie. The plane was painted flat black, like the stealth jets and it banked steeply from our right and dived straight at us, obviously intending to make a BIG impression on the folks cruising Interstate 40 and succeeding!
The Big Texan Steak Ranch (and Hotel) was all Tony had touted. The food was great. The challenge was to eat a 72 oz. steak, baked potato and dinner salad in one hour and then it was free. None of us tried. They had a steak on exhibit. All of us together would have been full dividing it up. Country music, hearty wooden tables, thick china, large servings and really good food hit the spot for four hungry travelers. The wait staff, were in old west costumes. The desserts were Texas sized. We waited a few hours after our early dinner and went back at 8 PM for carrot cake and pie. Each serving was about, oh, 4,000 calories.
Again a cool, bright and cloudless morning greeted us. Predictions for a 95*F afternoon were for those not getting out of Amarillo. Along the way out of Texas we passed the Cadillac Ranch. There they were; stuck in the ground, not using tires or fuel, just being arty. West and north we traveled on two lane roads so straight and flat, that the telephone poles alongside disappeared in the horizon. We traveled at supra-legal speeds through the barrenness of northwestern Texas into New Mexico on Highways 385 and 87. On roads that straight and flat, you get a sense that you are not moving in the universe and the world is turning under you.
Day 3 saw us leaving Texas through the northwest corner of the panhandle via often traveled US 87. We then headed west for New Mexico's Enchanted Circle: through Cimarron, Eagles Nest, and Taos, briefly retracing a leg of our route to STAR 06 in Avon, Co. I couldn't help but think of brother Paul Lefort, who had rendezvoused with us in Pagosa Springs for that trip, and the fine Cajun Meal we enjoyed there. We missed ya Paulie!
Just before Springer, New Mexico, on Highway 412, the land began to get bumpy. Hills, washes, gullies from erosion revealing multi-colored geology and finally some curves woke us from our hypnotizing straight roads. A large herd of buffalo on the right caught my camera's attention. Then a billboard, Martinello (or something) Ranch 518,000 deeded acres awed me. When you are riding in the cocoon of a full face helmet, earplugs and the muted roar of the wind which drowns out everything else, even the sounds of my engine, I think about things. Mental arithmetic again, 640 acres to a square mile divided into 518,000 is about 800 square miles. Damn! That's 10 by 80 miles or 1 by 800 or 20 by 40 miles. This is a big country. This morning's ride really emphasized this.
The road accommodated the topography of the land, much to our pleasure. This is mountain country. Beautiful lakes, twisty, windy, snaky two lane roads over passes and around mountains entertained us. Bob stopped and raised his foot peg height for more clearance. An errant semi on that mountain road was certainly out of place and couldn't stay on the road and in his lane. Just something to expect and dang if they don't surprise you now and then.
We traveled west on Highway 64 to Taos, where we stopped for gas, a Moonpie and a cold drink. Taos is worth a vacation visit. Near Taos is a mountain that tops 13,000 feet. The adobe buildings all look like they melted a little. Soft warm browns, ochre's, tans and other earth colors are predominant in this mountain resort.
We made a lengthy stop at the Rio Grande Gorge to take some photos.
64 provided many miles of fun, taking us all the way to our day three stop, Farmington, NM. We crossed the Jicarrilla Apache Indian Reservation. Towns were few and far between and those of us with smaller tanks/higher consumption limped into Bloomfield, NM, just short of Farmington on fumes. Motels were not in abundance on Highway 64, my GPS indicates some name brand motel down a side road but it looked like a bad neighborhood to me. We settled on an Americas Best Value Inn, which proved to be a rather poor value. It lacked most of the usual amenities such as conveniently located, ice machines, coke machines that actually had cokes or a manager that was on the premises. (I eventually got a coke and some ice after about 3 miles of hiking. On the plus side, the Tequila's Mexican restaurant was next door and the food and Margaritas proved to be outstanding!
We stayed on Highway 64 the rest of the day into Farmington, New Mexico. The little towns on 64 were inhabited by native Americans. (I guess that's the current PC name, it just means they got here before we did). The high point for the day was about 9,000 feet, which is about 9,006 higher than home. Just two states today, but what a change in altitude.
The motel was about the same as the night before. Better than camping and how do they make those little bars of soap so tiny? We were in walking distance of a nice Mexican restaurant and enjoyed frozen Margaritas and good food. Tony and Bob had pie.
Motels were not in abundance on Highway 64, my GPS indicated some name brand motel down a side road but it looked like a bad neighborhood to me. We settled on an Americas Best Value Inn, which proved not to live up to its name. It lacked some of the usual amenities such as conveniently located, ice machines, coke machines that actually had cokes or a manager that was on the premises. (I eventually got a coke, a refund and some ice after about 3 miles of hiking around the premises). On the plus side, Tequila's Mexican restaurant was next door and the food and Margaritas proved to be outstanding!
Tony and Bob are not early risers by my definition. But this morning we all got under way by 6 AM Mountain Time. That was 7 our time and I wake at 4:30 Central. Dennis would rather sleep in to 6 AM, so I quietly dressed in the early pre-dawn glow and got out of the room. That's why my motorcycle was always clean for the day's ride.
I think Dave may be an insomniac…I am glad his bike was clean. Mine is silver, it doesn't show dirt as much as blue does. :)
Farmington is situated in ice-age-washed-out gully. The cliffs on either side of this city rise to flat topped mesas that I suppose were a sea bottom once. The cliffs are painted with the earth's strata that so occupy geologists.
We continued west on curvy two laned Highway 64 past Shipwreck Rock. This monolith is the beginning of many huge almost vertically sided mountains sitting without companions for miles around. We rode on to Kayenta, Arizona for our late morning breakfast stop.
This is Navajo Nation country. I had three over medium, corn beef hash, hash brown potatoes, patty sausage and a Navajo tortilla. Orange juice and a diet Coke topped off this feast. The others enjoyed similar filling and delicious food. We filled up at the one gas station in this six building "town", it is the only fuel for the surrounding 50 miles or so.
Day four was a scenic day as we continued westward on 64 through the Navajo Indian Reservation and towns with interesting names such as Shiprock, Beclabito and Mexican Water. Here we veered a bit out of our way to enjoy a great breakfast at an Indian place in Kayenta and to take in the exotic landscapes of Monument Valley. The scenery continued to inspire much camera clicking as we turned north on 191 passing Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. We snapped off dozens of photos as we rode. My first attempt at taking photos while riding did not quite work out as planned. I had inadvertently set the mode to video! The result can be seen here. After correcting my error my results were better.
Cruiser riders sweat gas stops out here. My sport touring BMW has the least range of our group and I can go 230 miles between fill-ups. Gasoline range is a consideration. Something unexpected happened to all of us. As we rode in the higher altitudes, our mileage went up. Now I was averaging 51 mpg. At home I was proud of 47 mpg. All the bikes had similar improvements. I guess like flying in a light plane, the air resistance at altitude is more significant than the loss of horsepower.
I guess now is a good time to talk about my ass. Before this trip I had a problem on a hot long day coming back from Deal's Gap to New Orleans in June the year before. The skin of my inner thighs was pulled by the leather pants and the skin got sore and red. I read about UnderArmor riding "shorts'. I bought two pairs at Academy Sports before the trip. They wick away moisture, stay slippery and wash and dry in the motel shower. My BMW's seat is narrower and more sportbike shaped than the rest of the guys. The knee length UnderArmor made the trip comfortable. In fact, I was the only one who wanted to go riding after we arrived each day.
After breakfast we headed north on Highway 163 to one of the most beautiful places on this entire blue planet, Monument Valley and the southern Utah border. Seeing the backdrop of many John Huston westerns in person explains wordlessly why this locale was selected. The panoramas are vast, awe is too short a word, but then again, it fits when you are basically speechless. This is a magnificent part of the country. Knowing how it was formed doesn't diminish it, rather the contrary; it makes these monolithic natural skyscrapers even more amazing. To magnify the effect is the distance between these lonely structures. God's sandbox. I'll be back.
We rejoined Highway 191 in Utah and headed north. We passed Bob's Arch, Hole in the Rock, Mexican Hat and other wonders. Basically my lower jaw was open for nearly the whole day. We continued past Moab, Utah, where close to the west side of the highway, the land rises up a thousand feet in nearly vertical cliffs. Notre Dame Cathedral, with its flying buttresses popped into my mind but this is much, much larger and miles long. We had another set of curves through mountain passes then we were out in a relatively flat desert section. We had to jaunt west for about 24 miles on Interstate 70. The first sign we read "next services 106 miles". We turned north again on Highway 191, then up Highway 6, which turned into Interstate 15 into Provo and on to Salt Lake City.
Utah is called the Beehive State. As we entered Salt Lake City in the HOV lane at 75 mph, keeping up with traffic, we hit what I thought was a very small hail storm. There was that little sound of something hard hitting my helmet and no rain drops. Actually, all of us ran into a swarm of honey bees. Welcome to the Beehive state!
It was too warm for hail, so I had no clue what had hit me, goose crap loaded with birdshot or undigested dingleberries was the only thing that came to mind. Not until I later dismounted did I see the bee carcasses on my tail pack.
We were in three states today, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah with no tickets and no problems. Mileage went up a little more today, I was up to 51.6 mpg. We checked into the motel, met Kevin Yeats, who had done a solo ride riding through Colorado from Hahnville, a New Orleans bedroom community. We walked to the attached Perkins restaurant. Tony ate a piece of pie.
No travel today other than to racetrack. It is 26 miles from the motel to Tooele, Utah, the location of Miller Motorsport Park. To quote their website…
Miller Motorsports Park Announces
HANNSPREE SUPERBIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Event for 2008 The HANNSPREE SUPERBIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP makes its return to the United States for the first time in four years, bringing one of the top three international racing series to Miller Motorsports Park in what will be the most significant racing event in the history of the State of Utah.
The HANNspree Superbike World Championship® StriVectin-SD® USA Round presented by HANNspree will share the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park with the Honda Summit of Speed, featuring the AMA Superbike Championship and its support series. The weekend will be an action-packed celebration of two-wheeled competition for fans, with double-header races for both the HANNspree Superbike World Championship and the AMA Superbike Championship. The AMA Superbike Championship has been a fixture on the annual schedule at Miller Motorsports Park since its opening in 2006.
The HANNSPREE SUPERBIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP makes its return to the United States for the first time in four years, bringing one of the top three international racing series to Miller Motorsports Park in what will be the most significant racing event in the history of the State of Utah. The HANNspree Superbike World Championship® StriVectin-SD® USA Round presented by HANNspree will share the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park with the Honda Summit of Speed, featuring the AMA Superbike Championship and its support series. The weekend will be an action-packed celebration of two-wheeled competition for fans, with double-header races for both the HANNspree Superbike World Championship and the AMA Superbike Championship. The AMA Superbike Championship has been a fixture on the annual schedule at Miller Motorsports Park since its opening in 2006.
We rode west along the southern shore of The Great Salt Lake skirting the world's largest open pit copper mine. From their site…
Kennecott Copper Mine, the world's largest man-made excavation and first open-pit, is located just east of Tooele. 2 ½-miles across, and ¾-mile deep, the mine is so big, it can be seen from space shuttles in outer space.
The race track is situated in a valley about 10 miles wide surrounded by snow capped mountains on three sides. To the north is the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake.
The race track is very spread out over a piece of land four times larger than Disneyland. Good thing you can ride around and park. We walked a lot. Our grandstand seats were at the end of a long straightaway. Describing a race is yesterday's news, so I will skip it. I have high praise for the track and we had a 24 foot by 40 foot big screen TV across the track in the infield from us, so what we couldn't see clearly in person we could see on screen.
The weather was great, sunny and clear and so dry that I had to buy Chapstick. The announcer said the humidity was 18%. It was so dry, I don't remember having to pee. We saw the champions from two continents and a lot of expensive equipment. We ate hot dogs and green chili burritos for lunch. Traffic wasn't bad getting back. The GPS units that Kevin, Bob and I each have made the entire trip more enjoyable. It found gas stations, restaurants and routes. Back to Perkins in the motel restaurant for an evening meal.
The way I remember it traffic was actually bigtime messed up. We were initially at the end of a long line of slowly moving cars exiting the track. I switched to Daytona Bike Week mode and created a bike lane and we made a quick break. The GPS auto-routing feature really helped getting home from the track. Traffic control would not let us return the way we came and we would have been in long lines of traffic had we not had the GPS to show us alternate escape routes
No travel today other than to racetrack. Today was mostly a repeat of yesterday. We got very close to the racers. Seeing the races in person was as different as watching football on TV versus being there. In the afternoon, Bob's wife, a real estate broker, flew up to continue the trip with us. Stacie's gear was already packed on the bike. Late in the day Dennis said "After all that riding we did, I didn't think I'd be chomping at the bit to get going again, but I'm ready to ride". Amen Dennis, me too.
This would be our high altitude day. Many times this day I would look down at the GPS to see 7,000 to 9,000 feet on the altimeter screen. The way north started with a touch of Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City morning rush hour, but it wasn't bad because we were going the other way. Highway 89 lead us north and east. A patrol car sped past us as we left Logan, Utah. I guess he was off to catch mountain pass speeders. A few curves up, there he was bouncing microwave radiation off us. We were legal. Nanner, nanner, nanner.
A roadside sign announced, "Beaver Creek" and right there was a pond with a beaver swimming in it. Cool. We were stopped a construction zone and the flag-woman waved us to wait at the front of the line to avoid the dust. The mountain road climbed through lush green rocky sides following a rushing mountain stream. It was strange, sometimes it felt like were going downhill, but the water was still rushing by. Water can't lie. Snow on the ground greeted us at the top of the pass. The weather was cool and dry. There were a few scattered clouds, but mostly it was blue skies. This road climbed into the mountain passes and to an alpine lake, Bear Lake. It said Bear Lake, but I didn't see any bears. Where the road lead to the lakeshore is a little town called Garden City. I did see some gardens. There was a lakeside restaurant that looked like a typical country eatery except for the magnificent views. We ate a hearty breakfast. Bob's wife, Stacie, was doing the scene from the movie, "Harry met Sally" …"toasted on one side, no butter, jelly on the side and I don't want my eggs touching my hash browns, orange juice from a cardboard carton…" I was laughing my ass off. I was going to do "Five Easy Pieces" but I had already ordered. The food was great.
After breakfast, we continued on 89 through some high meadows. The scenery looked so familiar that I started looking for Heidi and Julie Andrews. Treeless farms and green pasture land, Idaho's and then Wyoming's borders passed. Kevin took souvenir pictures with all the state signs. All around were snow capped mountains and high alpine lakes. The altimeter climbed past the 9,700 foot level on many occasions. The next named attraction was Jackson and the Teton Mountain range. Highway 89 became 191. We stopped and gassed up in the town of Jackson. It was before I needed it, but out west gas isn't just anywhere. An older Jackson native resident was at the gas pumps. "This place is ruined, first all the millionaires, now the damn billionaires are running them out".
The Tetons run north and south and we rode north along the high altitude wetlands just east of these very rugged snow capped monsters. The Grandmammie is 13,771 feet tall. Just north of there and at even still higher altitudes is Yellowstone Park. I did see some yellow stones. We also saw snow and ice covered lakes. Lewis Lake (of Lewis and Clark fame) was first then Delusion Lake (must be the water) and finally the big one, Yellowstone Lake, all had some snow and ice covering most of their surfaces. Winter must be a bitch up there. Here it was the beginning of June and it was in the 30's and 40's. All of us had our electric jacket liners or vests on, heated hand grips were on and we were all bundled up warmly.
The snow on either side of the road was 4 to 6 feet deep in some stretches.
Time to talk about wildlife; we saw somewhere on the trip (in no particular order), prairie dogs, rabbits, horses, cattle, deer, elk, moose, bison by the herds, raccoons, beaver, eagles, red hawks, buzzards, wild turkey and other countless birds, goats, sheep, ostriches and or emu, llamas, prong horn antelope, fish, armadillos, opossum, dogs, cats and elephants. More on that later.
We traveled on through Yellowstone Park passing; evergreens, mountains, steamy vents and hot pools next to snowy ones, past slow moving RV's and shutterbug tourists, like us. Then Tony led us right on Highway 20 merging on to Highway 14 which turns pretty much due east into Cody, Wyoming. After these roads how am I going to be happy riding in the south? I am ruined.
We checked into a Best Western in Cody. Soon after check-in, curiosity led me to ride into downtown Cody alone. Actually, it was just around the corner from the motel, a mile at most. Later we ate at the family restaurant next door. Bob and Stacie are entertaining as they torture waitresses. Bob ordered "bull fries" and Stacie's food couldn't be touching anything. Bob's wife is a witty, petite sweetheart who is good natured and a pleasure to be around. She is a good passenger, leaning the right way every time. They established which side was this side, over there and her side of the bike, as opposed to that side, over here and his side.
Happy to have Stacie with me now and in an adventurous mood, I ordered "Bull Fries" for the table. Some seemed not to know what these are and the waitress was to shy to tell. I could get none to eat them with me!!! What a bunch of GIRLY MEN! Hating to waste good food, I ate both orders myself; lucky for me they were delicious…and nutritious.
After a good meal, Dennis and I rode back into town for some shopping and sight seeing. Dennis picked up a prize Tomahawk for a customer. I looked at Black Hills Gold jewelry for my non-riding wife, but decided since we were going to the Black Hills, to wait and pan some myself. In 1902 Buffalo Bill Cody established a saloon/restaurant/hotel and named it after his eldest daughter Irma. There is a Wild West show there at 6 PM nightly all summer. They even close the street for the show. We were so far north at this point that sunset didn't happen until about 9:30 local time. Cody is about 14 blocks by 10. The latitude is 44.5* North. We were in three states today, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. My mileage climbed even more and I averaged 54.5 mpg.
The next morning I was up early enough to go downtown with my camera and take some leisurely shots of the Irma, some teepees at the museum and other Cody highlights. I filled up and then rode back to the motel to meet the sleepyheads. It was almost 6AM, geeesh.
We ate a free breakfast in the motel's lobby with the RV crowd. I may dye my hair blue and rent one some day too.
Today's ride was another big mountain, spectacular sights and jaw-dropped day. The weather was once again cool, clear and dry. Are we lucky or what? The other four bikes were filled with 85 octane and we headed east on Highway 14A. High altitude gasoline is formulated differently.
Tony's original plan had been to ride north on Beartooth Highway (Montana Highway 212) to Red Lodge, Montana. This route takes you on mountain passes approaching 11,000 feet. Disappointingly, the road was closed due to avalanches. Damn Al Gore, avalanches in June! The Yellowstone Park rangers wrote it up like this:
Beartooth Pass © Vertical Media The first 15 miles out of Red Lodge takes you from the canyon floor and climbs almost 4,000 feet in elevation, taking you past Precambrian rock slides and red and yellow rock outcroppings. Expect hairpin curves, U-curves, and sinuous S-curves in the road as you climb to the canyon rim past forests, rugged cliffs, pristine lakes, mountain peaks, alpine tundra, and snow banks even in August. At 45 miles in length, you will cross the highest point in the Beartooth Highway at 10,974. Here, you leave Montana and enter Wyoming. The descent takes you along switchbacks which meander through rolling hills saturated with lakes, forests, and wildlife.
The Beartooth Mountains boast some of the highest elevations in the lower 48 states, and have 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. Glaciers are abundant in the Beartooths and can be found on the north face on almost every mountain peak over 11,500 feet. Hundreds of lakes, forests, and an eclectic array of wildlife such as grizzly bears, elk, bison, mountain goats, marmots, and mule deer can be found in the 900,000 acres that make up the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness.
The first 15 miles out of Red Lodge takes you from the canyon floor and climbs almost 4,000 feet in elevation, taking you past Precambrian rock slides and red and yellow rock outcroppings. Expect hairpin curves, U-curves, and sinuous S-curves in the road as you climb to the canyon rim past forests, rugged cliffs, pristine lakes, mountain peaks, alpine tundra, and snow banks even in August. At 45 miles in length, you will cross the highest point in the Beartooth Highway at 10,974. Here, you leave Montana and enter Wyoming. The descent takes you along switchbacks which meander through rolling hills saturated with lakes, forests, and wildlife. The Beartooth Mountains boast some of the highest elevations in the lower 48 states, and have 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. Glaciers are abundant in the Beartooths and can be found on the north face on almost every mountain peak over 11,500 feet. Hundreds of lakes, forests, and an eclectic array of wildlife such as grizzly bears, elk, bison, mountain goats, marmots, and mule deer can be found in the 900,000 acres that make up the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness.
Highway 14 leads through Big Horn Basin and then descends lower to the town of Lowell. As we continued east we were heading to a wall of a mountain range. I can't imagine the hardships the pioneers faced. I bet their food touched.
Still on the flats before the serpentine climb up this very imposing mountain range, a little Japanese car flew by in the other direction at a speed that made it hard to even see what color it was. Yeeehaww
The road climbed in switchbacks up and up, Wyoming's answer to Stelvio Pass in the Alps. It was time to turn on the heated grips and turn up the rheostat on the electric jacket liner. The view behind us was akin to being in an airliner. We climbed 6,000 feet or more into the snow lined road in the cold thin mountain air.
When Bob first got his new Concours Z14, Stacie had bumped it with her car and knocked it over in the garage. Now it was Connie's time for revenge. Bob and Stacie were riding two up since Salt Lake City. At the top of the big climb out of the valley is a scenic turn-out to view this stunning vista. Bob did and stopped where the pavement was higher for both the front and back tires and lower in the middle. The problem was, it was too far down to touch and they went over. So Connie knocked Stacie over. Debt settled and there was no more drama.
As we climbed the steep grade I caught glimpse after glimpse of deer perched on the rocky outcroppings above the road, but I dared not take my eyes off the road for a better look. As we passed a group of several bambies just above the road I spotted a turn-out and parking area. Iturned out but chose the wrong spot to park as when I put my left foot down it caught only air and by the time it was on solid ground our balance was lost beyond the point of saving. I strained with all my might but my leg buckled under the 700+ pounds of bike and gear and down we went! I could hear the deer chuckling as they bounded out of sight. Stacie was a bit annoyed but unhurt. But I had pulled a muscle in my thigh rather painfully. Fortunately it only hurt to walk and mount, riding was no problem.
Highway 14 on the east side of the Big Horn Mountain Range was one of the most spectacular roads in the country. Thank you, Tony, oh great and wise navigator.
Dennis wanted to sell his house and move to the foot of the mountain, how about Deb?
The next stop was Sheridan, Wyoming. Tony was riding the only bike with a chain and it was out of adjustment room and needed replacing, so he was off to find a Honda dealer with his chain. No luck. Bob headed to the K-Mart Pharmacy for some IcyHot pads. Kevin and I headed north alone on I-90 to get a trophy "Montana State Line" sign photo. Briefly, Montana looked like Wyoming, at least the quarter of a mile I saw of it, anyway.
We rode back and met the others at a gas station and ate gas station hot dogs for a light lunch. Hey, they won't kill you, most of the time. Later we passed through Gillette, which I believe has the largest coal mining operation in the world. As we neared the open strip mine, they set off a dynamite charge for our viewing pleasure. Spectacular, to say the least.
Highway 14 comes very close to Devil's Tower, so did we. From a distance it looks like a GIANT tree stump. I didn't see the devil.
The next state border was South Dakota. Kevin, click, click flash. We continued into another mountainous area and arrived at Deadwood, South Dakota. The casino town proudly boasts 80 gaming establishments. We went to Cadillac Jack's hotel and, ahem, Casino. They were out of non-smoking rooms by the time Dennis and I stepped up to the check-in desk so they gave us the Al Capone suite for $40 a night more. Definitely worth it.
We maybe could have done better, we had plenty of time to be more selective, but Cadillac Jack's turned out to have one nice feature for bikers: secure, covered parking. The parking was in the basement with two garage doors that were closed at night. Oddly there were hardly any cars in there and we had the place mostly to ourselves. One of the elevators opened to the basement just a short walk from where we parked our bikes. The motel also had an acceptable restaurant and adequately stocked bar. They also had a deal where 20 BlackJacks was good for half off the nights stay. Stacie's talent saved me $120.00!
Early that June 4th morning we found out we were trapped by severe weather from travel to the south without dire consequences, at least that's what I told my dear, sweet, patient, hard-working, understanding, beautiful and loving wife of 38 years.
It was really raining, honey. Bob, Dennis, Kevin and I headed out to see Sturgis, Mt. Rushmore and ride some of the crazy fun roads around in the Black Hills. Sturgis is only about 12 miles from Deadwood and there isn't much to look at until it swells to epic proportions in early August. We did find one restaurant open for breakfast and we ate at Roscoz café. It was one block off the rolled up street of Main Street. At breakfast, we got a tip from a local and after breakfast headed south on the Vanacker Canyon Road down to Rapid City. From there it was Highway 16 to Mt. Rushmore. Thanks to Chris Soppe for a good ride.
South, past Rapid City we rode to the foot of Mt Rushmore. The views are everything they are cracked up to be. Bob got lost practically at the park's entrance and headed back to Deadwood.
Kevin and Dave stopped to take a photo of a sign that said "Mt. Rushmore 2 miles". Dennis kept going and I followed but stopped a couple miles down the road when a good "free" photo op appeared. Dennis, (who did not bring a camera) kept going. After taking some nice shots, I rode on and stopped at a scenic turn-out to wait for the others. When they failed to show after 15 minutes I figured they must have returned the way we had come and rode back to Deadwood or to look for more signs.
Tony and Stacie, both avid gamblers, stayed at Cadillac Jack's playing all sorts of casino games. The National Park was worth the $10 entrance fee. Mt. Rushmore is so American. Highway 16A to the south is amusement park designed fun. The road curves around and you cross over the same road on a bridge much like a cloverleaf exit except that you are climbing in a mountain pass in crazy spiraling turns. Dennis wanted to move here too.
We rode south on 16A to 16 then back north to Highway 87. Highway 87 is a park highway and costs $8 to ride and it's worth all of it. The road had been patched with tar and fresh pea sized gravel, so we didn't ride fast. The sights were so riveting that you wouldn't want to anyway. The area is Custer State Park in the Black Hills Forest. I didn't even expect to see Custer. The features of the park are the astounding granite spires that are thin, tall and absurdly poking up toward the sky. Needles of stone comes to mind. They look delicate, yet have stood for thousands of years.
The rain showers came and we headed north on beautiful Highway 385 back to Deadwood. Dinner and then another night with Al Capone finished the day.
At this point, I felt that we were headed home. I was looking forward to seeing her smiling face again and I was getting tired of lugging the camera around. I figured by this time I had enough photos to numb anyone enough for surgery. So I packed the camera and Kevin, Dennis and I headed out. Bob and Stacie and Tony wanted to stay another day.
It wasn't exactly that we wanted to stay but that we did not want to ride in cold rain. Although the radar suggested we could quickly ride out of the rain system stalled over Deadwood, we would not likely avoid others along our path further south or an alternate route to the east. We elected to wait a day for better weather. We were rewarded with some fun hours at the 3 Card Poker table during our Day 10. A game so easy even I could play for hours without going bust!
We left Deadwood in a light rain which lasted about 20 miles. Then we continued south on Highway 385 through the rest of South Dakota, Passing through Wind Cave National Park and its herds of bison, right NEXT to the road. If you are in a giant steel SUV or pick-up, it might be okay to stop near them, but when one of them out weighs you, all your crap and your motorcycle, then you just keep moving until there is a reasonable distance between them and you. I unpacked the camera for a quick couple of shots.
We continued down through Nebraska, curiously missing Colorado yet again. We followed straight roads through farms, pastures and more farms down south and east into Kansas. The weather we had waited out the previous day had wrought its damage in the form of hail, tornadoes and flooding rains. We were in the cool dry air behind this violent front. See honey, it really was the weather.
We joined I-70 at Grainfield, Kansas and rode east a short distance to Wa Keeney, Kansas. Now, the front wasn't traveling east as fast as we were at that point and we were catching up to it. We got to Wa Keeney just after the violent thunderstorm and tornado spooked the elephants at the visiting circus. They got loose and made the national news on June 5th. We were there. Wa Keeney is Native American for Elephant Town.
The roads in Kansas are laid out in a grid. There used to be two curves in Kansas, but the highway department fixed one. The last one is on Highway 14 in Reno County. We were there. Unfortunately, I had packed my camera. We continued on to south eastern Kansas and down through Tulsa, Oklahoma to Fort Smith, Arkansas. We gassed up there for the second fill-up of the day and finished up this day in Paris, Arkansas. We ate at the familiar Grapevine Restaurant.
Homeward bound. The treat was we got to ride Arkansas roads. We started off with curvy Highway 309 just south of Paris which crosses Magazine Mountain. Then on to Scenic 7 and east on Highway 5 which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. And to top it off, Dennis found one of our favorite breakfast stops, A Waffle House. After a hearty breakfast it was southeast to the corner of Louisiana then east to Mississippi on I-20. Then we took I-55 south to New Orleans. And of course it rained on us twice just outside of New Orleans and then again in town.
This epic journey lasted two more days for Stacie, Tony and I. Being stuck in a casino all day is not my favorite way to spend a vacation day but it was not bad at all. It was soothing to have plenty of time on my hands to get reorganized and prepared for the trip home. All my gear and gadgets were still working great but were badly in need of re-organizing. And three card poker was great fun. I broke even, if you factor in the free booze. I made a friend at our table, a local cattle rancher and he turned me on to a Canadian Whiskey he called Forty Crik.
DAY 11. Our exit from the Black Hills area took us back by Mt. Rushmore and we stopped for more photos and then again in Hill City for breakfast in a crowded café. The wait was long but the food was great. Then WY 87 and through Custer State Park, which the other guys had visited on Wednesday. Stacie and I agree that this area was perhaps the most beautiful of the whole trip. Tony talked the Park Ranger into waiving our $8 fees since we were "just passing through" but the sights were indeed worth the fee. The section of split, single lane road through a wooded section of the park was unique and there were some very tight, challenging sections.
We were soon in Nebraska. This was my first time ever in the state. I forgot to stop for a souvenir state sign photo, but I won't soon forget my visit. I found the wide expanses of rolling, emerald green grasslands, contrasted against a brilliant blue sky quite beautiful. Due to our sightseeing and lengthy wait for breakfast it was early evening (we were now back in Central Time) by the time we reached McCook and any thoughts of getting closer to home that day were abandoned. There were just a few motels and we ended up staying in a Days Inn & Suites. A suite was all they had left and we grabbed it. On the desk clerk's recommendation we crossed the road to the Coppermill Restauarant and except for Tony's Bourbon glazed steak, were not disappointed in the food.
We spent DAY 12 working our way through the upper quarter of Kansas, stair stepping along the grid. Two steps east, on step south, in what seemed like an endless progression. We kept to many secondary roads, Tony leading the way. I think his main objective was to hit as many roads he had not been on before just to try to alleviate the boredom. We ended up for the day in Fort Scott, Kansas. We settled on the Heritage Inn, mainly because we saw a Mexican restaurant next door. Turned out that was closed but the motel, which is owned by the railroad, had a café on the premises to accommodate railroad employees and we had a good lost cost meal.
On DAY 13 we took advantage of the fact that one of Arkansas finest roads lay between us and home, AR 23, the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. It was quite warm now and traffic was slow through Eureka Springs but once through town the riding was great. We stayed on 23 all the way to I-40 where Tony rode on to Russelville Best Western. Stacie and I detoured to Altus for some adult beverages since R'ville is dry. After a fine days ride we were in the mood to enjoy our final night on the road. We had a fine meal at Colton's Steakhouse, next to the motel.. There were three other bikes parked at the motel, including another Concours 14. I had a nice chat with two of the owners, a father and son.
DAY 14 Tony announced at dinner that he had decided to beat the heat and leave around midnight. He accordingly turned in early and Stacie and I had a pleasant time sitting by the pool.
The forecast suggested at departure prior to 8:00 am was a good idea, so Stacie and I were up fairly early and on the road by 7:30. Sure enough, Tony was long gone, although neither of us had heard him depart. Not much can be said about the boring trip down I-40 to Pine Bluff and US 65
To Lake Village, AR and Tallulah, LA and on to Vidalia and Natchez.. We arrived home safe and sound with a dirty bike and lots of dirty clothes but not overly tired or too hot.
This was truly a great trip! A great bike, wonderful companions, super racing, fabulous sights, fun, exciting roads and good food. When is the next one?
My rear tire was toast at 4,827 miles. My BMW didn't use any oil since the last oil change 6,000 miles ago.Dennis' tire looked better but was finished too. Tony's tire had some left and Bob's expensive Michelin Pilot Road 2's did the best.
by Lea Nangle
Motorcycling used to be economical.
I was just wondering what I could sell, to get gas money. Any ideas? It almost takes the enjoyment out of riding,... almost. I mean it is always more fun to ride than drive, and with premium gas over 4 bucks, it gives new meaning to "gas pains" What the f... is going on? Aren't we fighting a war or two over where the oil is? Since we are there anyway, why can't we get some oil? Or maybe "W" and Dead-eye Dick are busy gathering all the revenue they can before their shift is over. Even if they aren't, they sure have been no help. I live on a rural country road in No La ( that is North Louisiana, NOT New Orleans) and it has always been quiet, but now you may have to wait on twenty oil field trucks just get out of the drive. Let's see, there are Haliburton, Schlumberger, BJ, Tetra, and Hughes just for starters, and an endless stream of white pick-ups,( you know what I mean) and then there are the dump trucks -dozens and dozens of them. What is going on? Drilling. I can see two rigs from my house right now, and NO, I am not getting a dime. Oh sure there are those landowners around me that are now pulling in $20 -80K per month ( yes that is $80,000 per month) Me, I got nothin'. Nothin' except a monthly gasoline bill that looks like the GNP of some third world nations. Can you tell that I am irritated? Well, if you think this has my panties in a wad, wait til I tell you about my latest service bill at the local Honda shop. Sure, I could do my own service, but it is a pain, and if you are familiar with the Interceptor, you know it was not really made for back yard maintenance. So how bad could it be? I will save some time, and have some comfort that the bike has been looked over thoroughly. So I let them change the oil and filter, and replace the brake and clutch fluids and just listen for any noise in the valves. OMG! No noise in the valves, but plenty from the calculator! This is/was my LAST visit to the local Honda dealer for service (sans an emergency). Without hesitation, I was handed a service invoice for $ 242.00 (two hundred and forty-two f-ing dollars) My friend has a Mercedes that cost less to get the same work. Oh, I forgot they also adjusted and lubed my chain ....only I had done that MYSELF the day before. It certainly was not just my chain that got lubed... ...and where the hell is my stimulus check....still haven't seen that, and I could really stand to be stimulated about now. Screw it! I think I am going to join the ASTA ( that is ARAB Sport Touring Association) New members get a free tanker of gasoline for signing up. Bite me!
A big THANKS to Dave, Drew and Lea for their contributions. I had good intentions of getting Drew's stories out in May and this newsletter out a week ago but encountered various delays. I hope you find it was worth the wait. WE will try to get back on schedule for July! Meanwhile...Keep riding and smiling....
Bob Chappuis, Editor [email: bob@this here domain]