Sunday

Sport Touring Colorado to Oklahoma via a Tornado.




Our last day on the road left us 897 miles from home. Not usually what you want to hear. We were in Parachute, Colorado, a small town just east of Grand Junction and 224 miles from Denver. At the very least we had about 14 hours of riding in front of us. And a mountain range. Covered in snow. It was 32° in them hills. I layered up.

Not many people understand our style of riding. There are days when I don’t either. Maybe it’s thrill seeking. Maybe it’s like golf. How does one get jacked hitting a small ball all over a big garden into gopher holes? The challenge is internal. If you hit 18 gopher holes, swinging fewer times than anyone else on the planet? You’re good. In our sport, we hit as many miles as possible without killing ourselves or anyone else on the planet. We don’t compromise safety. That’s the challenge. To test our motorcycle, and us as much as possible, just short of bottoming out.

Our endurance riding has become more like running sprints. We stay fit by taking long distance rides in short spurts. Our available riding hours and geographic location play into the equation as well. After 5 years of riding like this, a 900-mile day was like another day at the office. If the road was good. If the weather held out. If the wildlife was busy elsewhere. And if RD didn’t divorce me for breaking the rules. I guess it’s time to confess I gave him the wrong destination address at the beginning of the ride to plug into his GPS. He found out when we ended up at the wrong cousins house. Not the wrong cousin. The wrong house. Rule # 592 – always double check destination street address ESPECIALLY when in the Mojave Desert.

As we left Parachute, the temperature was 42°. We stopped early the night before because RD said the road was squirrelly. Don’t know what that means. I was sure we were in moose or some other big animal country. I could hear water gushing. I was more worried about the semi-trucks cutting us off in the turns.

Hwy 70 to Denver proved to be just as RD said. Now I know that squirrelly means, “not a good one to take in the dark.” However, it was absolutely beautiful by day. Even when we went over a couple of mountain peaks instead of around them. The water I’d heard the day before was gushing by. Whitecaps included. Look great under the morning sun. My camera was getting exercised. But as we got into the higher elevations, my Nikon started getting too cold. The box was colder than the air screaming by at 70 mph. I couldn’t put it in my jacket. I settled for tucking it into my armpit to warm the metal a little.

I had one bad moment in an extremely long tunnel. The thing went on forever. There were signs for miles warning you that you were going into a tunnel. Why? Would you miss it? About half way through it, my imagination and the water seeping in the sidewalls started dancing around in my head, and I panicked. Suddenly, I had this elephant standing on my chest and I felt like the weight of the mountain was on my head. I couldn’t breathe. I must have been making weird noise on the intercom because I heard RD ask, “You OK?”

“No.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Get me out of this.”

“I’m a little busy right now. You come up with an idea, and I’ll give it a try.”

“OK.”

Then I saw sunlight up ahead and it was over. RD stopped at Castle Rock and bought me potato chips and gave me enough time to warm up and indulge in a hot cup of coffee. It’s the little things that are romantic after 26 years of marriage. Those little courtesy gestures that are created after riding through a long dark tunnel that leaks.

By the time we stopped in Pueblo, Colorado for lunch the temp had climbed to the 90’s. We found a little place at our gas stop off Hwy 25 called The Taco Star and indulged. I don’t know if it was from lost calories fighting the cold or just good food, but the tacos were great.

We were making great progress and it continued through the northeast corner of New Mexico even though we ran into herds of small antelope. We even got to see a real live volcano, though not active, called Capitulan. We came into Texas through the panhandle heading south towards Amarillo when the weather started changing.

Cloud cover started increasing. The temp was dropping. Not good when you’ve just come out of the heat. We’ve got enough tornado experience to know that mixing cold fronts and hot fronts make for swirling dervishes. By the time we got close to Amarillo, we could tell the downtown area was getting hit with thunderstorms at the least. RD decided to skirt around the city on Loop 335, which put us on the east side of the city and I40.

Texas belly punched us all the way through with gusting winds. So we weren’t very surprised to see a couple of semi-trucks sitting on their sides as soon as we hit I40. We wondered if a tornado had come through. Later we found out it had. The sky kept us anxious all the way home. Lightening flashed from one end of the horizon to the other. It stayed ahead of us, so we pushed home, passing 3 different wrecks. Our training paid off. We took breaks. We stopped more often to sip water and stretch.

At one of the stops for a wreck, a teenager pulled her car up beside us and rolled down her window. She asked me if I was cold riding in the rain. I almost jumped out of my riding gear and RD nearly dropped the bike. He had a few expletive moments. I giggled. She didn’t realize she had startled us. Maybe she was bored.

We made it home shortly before midnight. I wouldn’t recommend riding in a thunderstorm. Obviously. But I’ve got to tell you; riding behind one was pretty spectacular.

See you on the road,
Donna

Saturday

Sport Touring Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle

Thursday was our day to play. We’ve been gone from home for 5 days and 6 nights. We’ve traveled through Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Utah. Today we got off the main highways. I wanted to slow down and indulge in photography and sightseeing. RD wanted some fun. He had been in the Zion National Park and the Bryce Canyon National Park on an earlier trip, so he agreed to take me on a tour.

The temperature was still cool in the desert, when we left Mesquite, Nevada. By the time we go up into the hills of Utah there wasn’t too much of a warm up. The sky was so clear and the wind was kind. No gusting belly slammers.

Once we got into Zion, I was blown away by how red the mountains were. I didn’t even mind the small tunnels dotted here and there. In my photos it almost looks like a Martian landscape. The contrast between red cliffs and blue sky is that unreal.

Today RD danced with me on the The Mistress. I can always tell when he’s relaxed and having fun. We’ll hit a stretch of long straight road and RD will lean from side to side, weaving the bike back and forth. It feels like a sideways rocking chair. I usually close my eyes, enjoying the sensation of his “motorcycle waltz.”

When we stopped at Bryce Canyon, I giggled about a sign warning of dangerous cliffs. It thought, “Well, duh.” Then we started climbing the path to the cliffs over looking the canyons. Before we got to the lookout the fence ended. Just that quick my fear of heights kicked in.

I froze.

RD laughed.

I grabbed the nearest solid thing. Him.

He still laughed.

I felt the edge of the world drop away at my feet, and I was going over next, when I heard a very quiet, “You OK?”

We got to the lookout, which I’m happy to say had a very stout metal fence and guard rail. RD took most of the pictures because I needed both hands to cling. I took a picture of the sign. I think it should be six feet tall with giant arms that slap parachutes on your back as you climb the path. Just a suggestion.

After the canyons, we descended pretty quickly into desert. As we crossed the Colorado state line, the terrain was flat with couple of mesas breaking the horizon.

We stopped in Parachute, Colorado for an early evening. We’d played all day on the twisty turny mountain roads. Mileage was low – a little over 400 miles. Dramatic sweeping landscapes were in abundance. And then we danced.

See you on the road,

Donna.

Friday

Leaving the Holton Desert Oasis



The roads taken:

Pearblossom Road in Palmdale, CA to Hwy 18

Hwy 18 to Apple Valley, CA, Hwy 15

Hwy 15 to Mesquite, Nev.

While RD attended Rawhyde Adventures offroad motorcycle course, I found refuge in the Holton Desert Oasis for home cooked food and free pitching lessons on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Thanks to Mark, Lisa, John and Alex for a wonderful visit. We were on the road, Wednesday, after a fantastic omelet and heading for Mesquite, Nevada.

Leaving Palmdale on Pear Blossom Highway, we took a slight detour on Hwy 18 to get in a few miles of hilly road that was fun. Next we picked up Hwy 15. Traffic was great. The wind wasn’t much of a hindrance at all. We made good time and stopped in Baker, California for lunch. It’s not hard to see the Bob’s Big Boy restaurant from the highway, but we chose The Mad Greek across the street because we were curious about the statues out front and the music inside. When you walk into the place, the first thing that hits you in the face is the glass display of baked goods and fruit. We feasted on the cold and sweet watermelon while waiting for the food. RD had the gyro and I dove into the Greek Salad, complete with grape leaves and rice. The music and tons of pictures of celebrities and murals were pretty restful while recuperating from the desert heat.

While I was finishing lunch, RD decided to top off the gas tank and met 3 riders from Finland. They drove from Chicago heading to Los Angeles. All three were dressed in plaid Bermuda shorts and helmets. We think one guy was even barefoot. They were all enjoying themselves. Don’t they sunburn in Finland? These guys were smiling big; it was hard not to smile back. They were definitely living in the moment.

While at The Mad Greek we watched the giant thermometer across the street read 97 degrees. And we still had the Baker Grade climb ahead of us. But we made it better than OK and actually survived going through Las Vegas during rush hour. I was surprised to see so many new casinos under construction. If the rest of the country is in a recession, no one told Las Vegas. What surprised me even more were the miniature Las Vegas towns before and after Vegas. And what happened to the Bonnie and Clyde car with 10,000 bullet holes? I know it was there in the 70’s.

About 45 miles north of Vegas is a little town called Mesquite. It is midway between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Ranch land started back in the 1890’s by Mormon families traveling along the old Spanish trail has become a modern desert town complete with golf courses and casinos. At the Virgin River Casino, hotel rooms are $29.99 per night, Sunday through Thursday. They increase to $69 on the weekends. The lobby is full of slots and big screen TV’s with a long bar for watching NBA basketball during the playoffs. Or not.

Tomorrow RD is going to show me some sights from an earlier ride he took. Utah and Colorado here we come. There may be wildlife.



Thursday

Iron Butt Saddle Sore 2009


We started our ride this time with a change of our itinerary. RD found out he had to report to Rawhyde Adventures one half day earlier than we planned. We could attempt our Iron Butt Bun Burner Gold, but he would have no time to rest and recuperate. The main focus of this trip was the off road 3-day motorcycle course on Sunday. The decision was easy. We would hit the road later in the day on Friday and do what we could. We had two days to get to California. So we were both pretty big headed when we made it through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to Needles, California for a grand total of 1087 miles in 23 hours and about 4 minutes. We hadn’t completed a Bun Burner Gold, but we snatched up an Iron Butt Saddle Sore with no problems…except for the UFO thing.

As usual getting out of town with the first receipt was the problem. Our 1st gas receipt to start the ride didn’t have a street address. It took about 15 minutes to get the clerk to print another receipt, which still didn’t have a street address printed on it. But the date, time, town and store ID were there, so I had the clerk sign both receipts and headed out.

We made it to Amarillo, Texas without any trouble. One short gas stop and a quick sub sandwich and we were off. The weather was just perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy. It felt so good to be on The Mistress again. Nice to know my rear end still felt very comfortable on the bike. I was the picture taking fool until the sun went down.

When we hit Albuquerque, New Mexico the temperature dropped. I decided on this trip to add layers at gas stops before we got into the cooler temperatures. I had this theory that if we didn’t get too cold, we would stay comfortable for a longer time period. It worked. But 42° in sunshine is a lot different than 42° in the moonlight. We were getting cold, but not unreasonably so.

We rode under a fool moon. It was gorgeous. Every canyon and gulley looked mysterious. The landscape had a navy blue cast to it. Cloud cover was patchy until it finally disappeared, letting the stars shine through. RD and I chatted a little. The scenery was so surreal; I couldn’t help my imagination from seeing all kinds of spooks. However, deer duty was easier under a full moon. The signs for elk, though, are fierce. Are they really that big compared to a deer?

Finally, I asked RD what he wanted to see on this trip. “Everything,” he said. “What about you?”

I thought for a moment. Remembered this old man in Roswell, New Mexico that told me there were lots of strange things in the desert at night and not to go out on my own. “UFO’s,” I said. “I want to see a big huge UFO go flying by. But I don’t want it to stop and mess with us.”

A few minutes later, we saw a meteorite streak across the sky right in front of us. It was too close to us to be a shooting star. Both of us yelled “Whoa!” at the same time. After a few more minutes RD said, “Go easy on the wishes back there.” I couldn’t agree more.

We stopped in Gallup, New Mexico and caught about 5 hours of sleep. Grabbed a quick fruit and muffin and headed out. The weather was clear and sunny with little wind. We made such good time, we were able to sit down and eat a good breakfast at Flagstaff, Arizona. Our last 200+ miles were increasingly hotter. The landscape became desert and Joshua trees. But we hit Needles in good time and good shape. Our first ride of the season went extremely well. And since we don’t know if we saw a meteor or a falling star, I guess I got my UFO after all.

See you on the road,

Donna