Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jackson Hole/Grand Tetons

We left Logan, Utah and headed north into Idaho, my first time ever in Idaho. The ride was very pleasant, cool but not cold.

At one point, we went through a valley on Hwy 34 that was the most lush and green we've encountered on the trip. Miles of green potato plants and wheat. It was very picturesque, although the riding was too good to stop for a picture.

We rode into Jackson Hole (or Jackson), WY, about 1:30 in the afternoon. It was moderately hot, and very busy. Cars and people everywhere.

Went to 3 motels before we found one with a vacancy, the Elk Country Inn, just off the main drag. They had one room with 2 beds (actually bedrooms) and an efficiency kitchen. Although it was overkill, we needed a room. Being in a high tourist area on the weekend before a major holiday (July 4) without a reservation is not a good idea. But it worked out anyway. The fly in the ointment is that it's available only tonight; not tomorrow night.

However, they have a room with 2 beds and nothing else tomorrow night for only $20 more. Why a smaller room with fewer amenities on a Sunday night is higher, I'll never understand...

Got the room and walked downtown for lunch while the room was being readied. A good lunch at the Snake River Brewery and then back to get into the room. We rested a while and then got on the bikes and rode into Grand Tetons National Park.

Rode through part of the park--beautiful rocky tall mountains. Still some snow on some of them, although it's been record-breaking hot! Beautiful deep blue lakes as well. And the Snake River is the prettiest river I've ever seen. Deep blue water, rapids, rocks--it is gorgeous!
bike miles and 5,295 gps milrs on the trip.

Saw a group of buffalo on the side of the road, having an early dinner. Also saw one lone deer near the top of Signal Mountain, just standing and looking at us as we rode by. I think we were intruding into his territory and he was not happy. So, we kept riding and he was gone when we came back down the mountain.

A good day today, 279 miles. I'm tired, but think it's from so much running for 2 weeks. I now have 5,437 and 5,297 gps miles on the trip. The bike odometer registers fast, but the GPS is correct. And we'll do another roughly 3,000 to get home.

Tomorrow, more Tetons

Chain Repair

Today my chain dilemma was solved. We left Mt Carmel Junction after a hearty and good breakfast and rode to Bryce Canyon National Park. The ride was good-the temperatures were very comfortable and the roads not busy. About 20 miles up the road a deer was standing on the road, watching me approach him. I slowed to a crawl, and when I was almost to him, he calmly trotted off. It was as if he was watching me to see if I’d stop for him. I did!

A few more miles later, the carcass of a dead on was on the shoulder of the road. Seeing both of them made me slow down and watch more carefully.

Inside Bryce Canyon, we went to most of the points and took the usual pictures. I think my expectations were too high, because I was a little disappointed. I believe we’ve seen so many beautiful sights over the last week that none are special now. I’m accustomed to seeing extraordinary sights! A sad state indeed.

The folks at Jorgensen’s Honda in Richfield had agreed to work in my service work mid-afternoon. So, we actually skipped a couple of points in Bryce so we could be there on time to get the work done and to get back on the road towards the Grand Tetons.

Leaving the park, most folks would turn left on Hwy 12 and then right on Hwy 89 to get to Richfield just off I-70. Instead, we stayed straight, on Hwy 22 and had a high speed on a road with no traffic and good road surfaces. It was a ball! We made up 15minutes in about 50 miles!

We got to Jorgensens by 2:45. They were expecting me and had the parts. I learned that the air freight charge was $40 instead of $30, but we needed the sprocket and I did’t fuss. After all, they were working me in to keep me on the road.

Within 15 minutes they were working on the bike. Since we hadn’t had lunch, we walked to a Mexican place and had a good lunch (but no beer!)

Shortly after getting back to the shop, it was ready. I had no idea what the bill would be; I was at their mercy and I expected to pay a premium price. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually cheaper there than the last one I had done in Raleigh! Even with the air freight charge!! The difference turned out to be labor charges were much less at Jorgensens. A good break.

The bike rides so much better! So quiet. So smooth. The old chain had gotten pretty bad and was making a lot of racket and vibration. Problem cured.

Leaving Richfield, we headed north towards Salt Lake City. It got HOT again, so we had to wet and don the vests. Just south of Salt Lake City, we stopped for a cool drink and a re-wetting of vests and to get a room for the night.

After trying two places, that turned out to be full, the third had space in Logan, Utah. So we rode to Logan for the hotel. By this time it was getting late and we were tired. Stopped for a late, lite dinner on the way and when we got back on the bikes, it had cooled off considerably.

50 miles later in Logan, it was chilly. Funny how the temperatures here change so rapidly!

Got to the hotel and learned that it was “full”. After fussing, the manager came out and miraculously found a room with 2 beds. It was not non-smoking, but that was no problem at that hour.

Got into the room, tried to connect to the Internet, and had no success. So, this is being posted late again.
Rode 447 miles today, did one park, and got the bike fixed. A good day!

Friday, June 29, 2007

North Rim and Zion

Two beautiful parks today. We left Page, Az this morning and rode towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The weather was great--not hot; not cold. Perfect. Of course, it was 8:30 am, so the heat had not started yet.

The two Suzuki dealerships I had located via the Internet the night before opened at 9:00 am. So, once we left town, the cell phone coverage stopped pretty quickly. At Bitter Springs, we stopped so I could check into dealing with my very sick chain.

The first dealer I called, in Cedar City Utah initially thought he had a chain to fit. But after checking, informed me that he didn't have one.

The second dealer, in Ricfield, also didn't have a chain, but said he could have one by tomorrow afternoon. I inquired about getting sprockets as well, and after checking, told me that he could get the front sprocket as well, but not the rear sprocket--except by air freight. I asked about the extra cost to air freight one, and he told me it would probably be about $30 extra. Because a new chain on old sprockets wears out very fast, I decided to pay the extra so I wouldn't need to worry about it again for another 15K or so miles. He checked with the service manager as to whether or not they could do the work tomorrow afternoon. He came back on the phone and said they would be able to do it. Hooray--there should be no breakdowns now. With Richfield less than 200 miles away, I feel home-free!

The phone calls took about 30 minutes and then we rode hard towards the North Rim.

It was great. I like it better than the South Rim because it is not as busy or crowded or developed. The views are equal. The lodging at the small village is quaint--lots of log cabins of different configurations for different needs. I liked the place a lot.

Then north towards Zion National Park. As it was getting later, we decided to stop at Mt. Carmel Junction to get a room. Got one that was perfect--you can park the bikes at the door of the room. Makes it so much easier to deal with carrying things into the room. The room also has Internet; hence this is being posted on the current night. As a bonus, the food I had for dinner was the best of the trip--a pasta dish that was very good! (Best Western).

Zion was beautiful. The road to the park was good--saw some buffalo along the way. The park road was fun--twisty and fairly tight at places. As a bonus, there were 2 tunnels-one short one, and one that was 1.1 miles long and twisty. FUN! Also, there was one area of multiple switchbacks that reminded me a lot of the Alps two summers ago. The riding in the park was fun.

Saw deer, turkeys, and mountain sheep. The sheep were awesome; they were walking on the side of a rock--how, I don't know. There was a ledge about 3 inches wide that they were walking on. Amazing!

The only downer in Zion was that we couldn't ride our bikes up the canyon. Shuttle busses are the only way to go up the canyon. So, the scenes were blocked by the bus. Oh well....

A good day. Most of the day we had good temperatures, with heat only in the afternoon on the ride down the hill from the North Rim to the hotel. We wet the vests for the ride from the hotel to Zion-a good move.

Tomorrow Bryce Canyon and new chain and sprockets.

Today was 320 miles.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Grand Canyon

Today, June 27, we made one of our destinations for the trip. Grand Canyon!

We left Mexican Hat and headed west towards the big canyon. The road there was fast, and very pretty. We went by the area known as Monument Valley, with a fairly level ride and huge rocks of varying shades of red, beige, and brown scattered along the way.

We also saw very poor living conditions. The road went through the Navaho lands, and I saw living conditions that appeared to be big-time poverty. It would be a hard place to live.

On to the Grand Canyon. Gary had never visited it before today; I was there about 15 years ago. I won't try to describe it; no one can d0 it adequately. It's just stupendous!

It was not too crowded, and we had easy access to all the overlooks we wanted to see. Had lunch at the Village Market; a chicken sandwich that was pretty good.

Went to the big hotel, just to walk through it so Gary could see it. A neat hotel that I'd like to stay in sometime.

Left the canyon to head to the north rim. As we left the high areas at the canyon and started downhill, it got very HOT again. We needed gas so we stopped at a gas station to get gas and to wet the Sahara vests. Oh, that helped tremendously! They make a huge difference in body temperatures.

As we rode north, it was getting later and we started talking about where to stay overnight. We originally planned to do the north rim and then head back north into Utah. As it was getting later, and we had several hundred more miles to ride, we decided to ride into Page, Az for the night and to go to the north rim tomorrow morning. A wise choice.

We found an adequate motel (with Internet), did laundry, and had dinner at a steak house nearby. Ok meal, but not great.

The Vstrom is doing okay, but the chain is failing. It's getting loose much faster, and I'm not going to make it home on this chain. So, we're going to start looking for a place to get it replaced soon. I hate it because it will be a waste of time, but it started wearing and then wore very fast. I think heat and speed kills it much faster than normal. In any case, it's pretty much gone.

Tomorrow to the north rim and on to Zion National Park.

342 miles today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cave Dwellers/Mexican Hat

Today was good. We left the hotel and headed to Canyonlands National Park. With it being only about 30 miles NW of Moab, it was an easy ride to the park.

Islands in the Sky is a good description of the area. Beautiful!! Canyons all over the place. Colors that were astounding. Just fantastic! We went to every vantage point there, and all were fantastic.

From there, we went to Dead Horse Point State Park. Again, just beautiful. These areas out in the West are something to see. A good visit.

After Dead Horse Point, we headed back to Moab. Riding down towards town, I could feel the heat waves as we went lower to the main road. It felt like opening the door of an oven and feeling the heat rush out. In Moab it was hot as we stopped for an unremarkable lunch.

After lunch, we headed south towards Natural Bridges National Monument. The highway south of Moab was under construction in several areas, and we had to wait on traffic several times, each time broiling in the sun. The construction ended and we made good time then.

We didn’t know what to expect there, but found that the natural bridges were actually arches. Don’t ask me why they are arches in one park and natural bridges in another.. There’s probably a reason, but it escapes me.

After the park, we headed south towards the Grand Canyon. The roads were fast, and we stopped at a couple Indian ruins along the way. One of them was pretty interesting; cliff dwellers who lived in small caves in the cliffs. Pretty neat, but a hard way to live.

We turned south to Hwy 261, a two lane road that ran for about 36 miles. It was a good road to make good time, but about 2/3 down the road, it turned to dirt for a 3 mile section. We knew about the dirt and I hoped it would not be too difficult for me. In the end, it was easy, with the 3 mile section being downhill with switchbacks that were paved. No problem.

We rode on towards the Grand Canyon but decided to stop Mexican Hat, Ut. It was a neat place, and we chose an old motel, the San Juan Inn. It was carved out of red rock, and sat above the San Juan River, on a sheer bluff. Very picturesque. Had all of the amenities we needed except Internet (hence no post for Tuesday night until Wednesday).

Good restaurant on-site, and good dinner and breakfast (3 of the biggest, thickest pancakes I’ve ever seen!). A good stop.
286 miles today.

Arches National Park

Today it was HOT!! We left Salt Lake City and headed south towards Moab. The ride there was easy, but man was it HOT. The temperature hovered between 95 and 100 degrees after we left I-15 and got on Hwy 6.

We rode to Arches National Park and decided that a hotel room was more important than seeing the park, so we rode into town and decided on the Best Western in downtown Moab. It was a nice place with great air conditioning. We talked about staying in the room and drinking beer, but decided that we hadn’t ridden over 3,000 miles to stay in the room and drink beer.

So, we geared up again and rode back to Arches and went into the park. WOW! There aren’t words to describe the park. It was beautiful and magnificent at the same time. The arches were neat, but the rocks, in varying shades of red, brown and yellow were something to see. And it was HOT!

We walked to several of the arches, but soon tired of walking in the heat. It was worth the effort and time to go to Arches.

After Arches, we jumped in the pool, showered, and decided to eat at the Moab Brewery. I asked the front desk clerk how far it was to the restaurant, and was told it was 7 blocks. So, we started walking. Seven LONG blocks later, we arrived at the restaurant. It was least a mile from the hotel. The beer and food was good, but it consumed all of the evening, and I ran out of time and energy to write. Hence, this blog is being posted late. We were there on Monday, June 25.

We did 315 miles today.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day Nine

Today was an easy day. Stayed in bed until 7:30 and had an easy morning in the room.

Got to Miller Motorsports Park just before 11:00am, in time for the first race of the day. We decided to buy an upgrade on our tickets so we could sit in one of the grandstands. We chose the grandstand at turn 1 and took our seats. The grandstand was great. From there, we could see several turns and had a big screen TV straight in front of us. Since Speed was carrying the races, we could see the action live and on the big screen. IN THE SHADE!! At least 20 degrees cooler with the breeze and shade. Some of the best $15 I've spent on this trip.

The races were better today, with my man Miguel Duhummel placing 3rd in the Superbike race in a tight match with Matt Maladin. A very good race.

After the race, we came back to the hotel to wash some items and relax and do the pool.

Tomorrow we leave Salt Lake City headed south towards the Grand Canyon and other sights. After we visit the UPS store to ship some unnecessary items home. As I said earlier, I brought more than I needed, so I'm going to shed some items and create more space in the bags.

73 miles today. So far, it's been 3,394 miles for me. I had projected 6,000 miles for the trip--now I think it will be more like 8,000 before I get home. Hope the chain and rear tire hold out. If not, guess I'll do it along the way.

More tomorrow!

Miller Motorsports Park

Well, today was a fery easy day, riding-wise, having ridden only 107 miles. We rode around a while looking for the local BMW dealership for oil for Gary's 1200GS. After several phone calls and detailed information, we found it. The reason the GPSs would not find it was that it is located in North Salt Lake City, and we were looking in Salt Lake City, an entirely differet place!

Then rode to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Ut. The park was not hard to find, and we bought tickets and went inside the facility.

All in all, I don't like it. It's flat as a pancake and BIG. At 4.5 miles, it's a long track, and with it being so flat, it's hard to see much of the track. The facilities are pretty nice--the place is in its second year, so it's well maintained. One of the strange features is that the racers ride through the same area as the spectators looking around the place; someone's going to get hurt by unknowingly stepping in front of a racer. Bad layout.

The races were mixed. The Superbike race was boring. Spies ran away from the entire field, and Maladin was second and way in front of #3, Zemke. Boring. Race two, the Formula Extreme was better.

It was HOT! Somewhere around 95-98 degrees and no shade anywhere except the stands (and we didn't have tickets for the stands). We were HOT!

Nothing else important happened, so I'll stop.

Tomorrow back to Miller Motorsports Park

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dinosaur National Monument

Well, day 6 was a good, but long day. We rode from Steamboat Springs into Utah, home of the Dinosaur National Monument. It was a nice ride on a 2 lane road with rolling hills and mountains off to each side. A very desolate area, with houses and buildings miles apart for most of the way. Actually, we've been through many miles like that--very sparse population. Guess it's just too dry to support higher population??

Dinosaur was great. We went first to the Canyon Area Visitor Center, still in Colorado. We asked about the park and learned that the main center has sturctural damage and is off-limits. So, no real dinosaur bones to view! Darn!. But since we were there, we made the most of it.

We rode into the park to the Canyon Overlook viewing location. A nice ride, with lots of ups and downs and sweeping curves along the way. It was already hot, but we got pretty high and it cooled off to a comfortable temperature. The ride was great.

The overlook was over the Green River, one of the major river systems in the area. It had carved a canyon through the region and was pretty with green vegetation outlining the water. Very pretty!

We rode the 17 miles back to the center and headed to the Dinosaur Quarry Visitor Center, in Jensen, Ut. The ride there was unremarkable except for some fool woman who decided to try to pass a car, not observing that we were coming towards her in our lane. We had just stopped at the Utah state line for a picture and pulled out onto the road. We were on the road for probably 30 seconds when she decided to pass. Gary swerved to the right, which apparently caused her to see him, and she pulled back into line. Stupid! All is okay.

Inside the park, there were two options. One was a 1.5 mile walk to observe some fossils still in place. The other was to ride into the park to the end. We did both.

The walk was good, but hot. We filled up with water and walked the route. Saw a few things that mght have been fossils. Actually, several things were defintiely fossils. And many others might have been. But it was a good experience.

Then we rode to the end of the road, to Josie Morris cabin. It was built by Josie Morris and she lived in it for 50 years, doing it all herself. It was pretty interesting.

The last 3 miles to the cabin were unpaved. Except for one spot, the ride was easy. The one spot was SAND!! Going to the cabin, the spot was squirrley. No problem going to the cabin.

However, leaving the cabin, I can't say the same. We were riding along, in the dirt, gravel and dust (and it was all very dusty), suddenly the bike turned right, then left, then right and again back left ALL BY ITSELF!! I was totally out of control, wondering what all would be torn up from the imminent fall. Hoping I would not be one of the torn up things. Somehow it corrected itself, with my only input to hold on and to make one quick jab with my left leg (which I don't think was smart, but was completelt autonomic--I can't think that fast!) In any case, all was okay, but it was due to God looking after me, not my riding skills.

The rest of the ride back out of the park was pretty and easy.

Having left town, we decided to ride Flaming Gorges National Recreational Area, to the north. A BEAUTIFUL ride, one to do again. I can't describe it to do any justice at all, so I won't try. But it was a do-again ride.

Then on to Salt Lake City. We rode a 2 lane road, pretty fast, with lots of ups and downs and sweeping turns to I-80. Got a hamburger at Burger King and rode into Salt Lake City and the motel.

A long, but good day. 469 miles. Got to the hotel around 10:30pm.

Tomorrow--races at Tooele.

Rocky Mountain National Park

This post is being wrtten two days late, so it will be short. Today we did Rocky Mountain National Park, northwest of Denver.

On the way we stopped at a Home Depot and bought a new bulb for Gary's Motolight. They had one and it was changed in the parking lot. No problem to deal with it.

All in all, I was disappointed in RMNP. It was pretty, and lots of beautiful scenery, but I think it was a case of my expectations being too high. Bear Lake was beautiful--clear water fed by melting snows.

Road construction on the main road was a pain. We sat in one place for half an hour, waiting for our turn to ride. Paving during the tourist time of the year doesn't make sense, but that's what was going on.

Went through one pass at 12,110 feet-cool and pretty.

Like I said, it was nice, but not wonderful.

Saw several Elk near one of the summits, and another single Elk, but just barely. It was several hundred yards away, so we couldn't see much detail. Also saw a large herd of mule deer at one other location.

Having left the park, we rode to Steamboat Springs, Co.

In Steamboat Springs, we rode through town looking for a place to stay. We decided to check out the Western Motel. The owner greeted us and we learned immediately that he was a character. He kidded with us, telling us that one of the house rules was that we couldn't let any girlfriends into the room! That was no problem. He was originally from Switzerland but moved there in 1969 and has owned the motel for 17 years. A nice guy who loves to kid with folks.

The room was adequate. No Internet, but all of the usual things in a motel room. Not bad at all.

295 miles today.

That's it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day Five

The Great Sand Dunes were just that--Great! Huge, and weird in that they are at the base of mountains. They are pretty amazing, sand dunes hundreds of feet high in the middle of the mountains.

We left and headed north, towards Pike's Peak. Along the way, on Hwy 17, we had to stop riding to wait on a cattle drive on the highway. There were 2 drovers and one dog driving maybe 200 cattle up the road! While the delay was short, the uniqueness of such was quite a treat. I don't believe you'll see that very often in North Carolina.

Along the way, we had to decide what route(s) to take to get to Pike's Peak. There was one long route that was certain, and another that appeared to have some unpaved road, but much shorter. After some debate, we opted for the adventurous route. A good choice indeed.

The scenery was fabulous along the way. No traffic, just winding 2 lane roads through the forests and farms and ranches. In the end, the maps were wrong--there were no unpaved roads (although we truly used a combination of maps and GPS devices). But we had a great ride.

Pike's Peak was a dream I've had as a kid. I've watched the hillclimbs held there every chance I had, being awed watching the racers fly up the mountain. I've wanted to ride up that mountain all my life. Today I realized that dream.

The fee was $10 to go to the top--a small fee to realize a lifelong dream. We paid and started up the mountain. The road is 19 miles long. I knew some of the road was paved, and some unpaved, but I didn't know how much of either or how difficult the unpaved sections might be.

I don't' particularly enjoy gravel roads. Dirt is fine. But gravel tends to roll under the tires, and the bike is already very top-heavy with me and my gear on it. So, while I do gravel, I don't get a thrill out of it.

All my fears were unfounded. The roads were fairly easy. Fairly steep, too. But no problem. Almost a disappointment--I was thinking it would be more of a challenge, but it was fairly easy.

We rode to the first tourist stop and put on our dry-liners because we knew it would be cold at 14,110 feet. Then we rode on to the top.

About 1/3 of the road is unpaved, but there are several stretches of paved and unpaved surface along the way. AND very few guardrails along the way.

At the top, it was blowing pretty hard, and pretty cold. About 45 degrees! And the air is THIN! The air at 14,000 feet holds 1/2 the ozygen as air at sea level. So, walking across a parking lot made me out of breath and a little light-headed. Not sick. Not in any trouble, but the old hear was beating pretty fast just standing still! A unique experience.

After taking some pics, we rode back down the mountain. Just after leaving the summit, we heard a loud thunderbolt. A few minutes later, I felt the first drop of rain. Great, it is 45 degrees, and it's raining. Then the first ice ball hit my windshield! In another minute, it's hailing on us. I can say that heated grips are great for times like this. Just turn them on and the hands are okay. They were today.

The further we went, the rain and hail ebbed and flowed, but never really bad at any time. The road didn't get slippery, so otherwise the ride down was uneventful.

We rode on into Colorado Springs and jumped on the slab north. Rode to Castle Rock and found a motel with Internet. Had a steak dinner and now finishing the day.

All the gear is in chargers, so bedtime is here.

Oh, 323 miles today, and I think I'm over the gastrointestinal issue!

Oasis Motel at Great Sand Dunes NP

Today was a very good day. We had a good breakfast at the Best Western hotel, where we stayed last night. It was very good—eggs, sausage, home fries, fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, and great cookies. After breakfast, we headed to the old hotel to take a picture and decided to stop at the hardware store to look for a replacement bulb for one of Gary’s Motolights. They didn’t have any, but a nice lady there suggested we visit Capulin Volcano.

We left Clayton, NM, and headed towards Capulin Volcano National Park. On the way there, we stopped at a rest stop and talked with a caretaker who gave us some history of the area. Then on to the volcano.

The ride there was good; great scenery and lots of wildlife, particularly deer, antelope, and cattle. Some antelope were together in herds, and there were some singles close to the road. Each time I saw one, I realized how easy it would be for one to dart into our path. A horrible thought.

At the park, we bought our Parks Pass, the new $80 one that gives “free” (yeah, it’s free!) admission to all national parks and monuments and such. It’s only money.

The volcano was awesome! It’s extinct, of course, but pretty high, at over 8,300 feet high. We drove to the parking area and decided to walk the rim. It was only a mile walk, but at the altitude, and with the steepness of the path, we had to stop every while to get our breath. IT WAS WORTH IT!! The view was soooo far! Other volcanoes were visible (over 100 in the area), and mountains covered with snow on the horizon. Beautiful.

After walking down the rim, we rode to a nearby village (Folsom) for some grub, but discovered that there were no places to eat there. So, we headed on towards Raton for lunch.

The ride to Raton was beautiful. A back road, with lots of dips and sweeping curves, no traffic, and great scenery, it was very, very good. Along the way, as I rounded a curve, I spotted a brown bear scurrying in the other lane. It was running away from us, and had some lunch in his mouth. Glad it was not us!! I had slowed to a slow walk pace, hoping he would stop for a picture, but he ran into the woods. Darn, no picture. We were within 100 feet of him.

In Raton, we found the White House Saloon for lunch and a cold beer. It was an old saloon, 72 years old, and looked that way inside. It was filled with what appeared to be locals—they seemed to know each other. We ordered a beer and asked for a menu. The waitress informed us that the kitchen was closed, but she could heat a frozen pizza if we wanted. We wanted, and it was actually pretty good.

After lunch, we got on I-25 into Colorado and on to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Along the way, more wildlife. We were riding along, came over a crest, and there was a black bear standing in the other lane. It was just standing there, not walking or moving. I hit the brakes, got stopped, pulled the camera out, and tried to take a picture. Unfortunately, the little knob that gives the option to review pictures had gotten rotated to review, so taking a picture wasn’t an option until I could diagnose why the damned thing wouldn’t work. At the same time, a truck was approaching, and the bear was moving towards us. About the time I got the camera in the mode to take a picture, the bear ambled into the woods. Damn! No picture.

The other wildlife was a big rattlesnake slithering across the road. He was in the other lane, so it was not an issue. But he was big!

The ride to the sand dunes was much longer than it looked on the maps. We had to stop for gas, and decided to call to see if any rooms were available in the area around the dunes. I used the GPS to call the only one listed nearby, and was informed that no rooms were available there.

So, I asked if there were other possibilities nearby. They told me that the Oasis Motel might have one and gave me their number. I called and learned that they had one. So, I reserved it, hoping it would be okay.

In talking with the lady at the Oasis, she casually mentioned that the motel was not located where she was. She told me to come to the Oasis General Store (also a gas station, souvenir shop, RV Park, and restaurant.

As we came into the park area, we passed a brown building, all to itself, in the middle of nowhere, off the side of the road. A sinking feeling hit my stomach. I knew that was our home for the night. Gary said he wasn’t staying in that place.

We drove on to the Oasis General Store, met the lady I talked with, and asked about the room. She let us look at the room. The motel consists of a grand total of 2 rooms, and we had the choice if either room. In reality, it was fine; set up as a motel room, with a TV, 2 beds, a tub with shower, commode, and lavatory. And air conditioning! No phone. No Internet (so this is being posted a day late). The room was not bad at all. So, we took it, and it’s quite adequate.

Drove only 274 miles today. Went slow and enjoyed the ride.

Stomach better, but still having diarrhea. Looking for some Immodium tomorrow.

Sand dunes and Pikes Peak tomorrow!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Day Three--Back from the Dead

Well, I survived! Actually, I've felt pretty good today. We rode 400 miles and stopped for the night in Clayton. No, not home, but New Mexico.

Last night was not bad, but I did wake up twice drenched in sweat. Guess the virus was breaking up. Didn't ache this morning like I did yesterday morning. So, maybe it's over.

The day started with thunder and rain, but it stopped by the time we left the hotel. We went to see the Oklahoma City Memoral--well done and very sad. Glad we stopped to see it. I'll never understand why someone kills folks fror nothing.

Rode west and stopped at Lucielle's Diner, on old Rte. 66 in Weatherford, Ok. Met the owner, Bill Lindley who was a very good host, and from Raleigh. Neat!! He talked with us for most of the meal, making us feel very much at home.

Rode on old Rte. 66 for a few miles until it disappeared under I-40.

Had pretty good wind from the south-had to lean pretty good to go straight. Got hot also as we went west and left the cloudy weather behind. Not a bad ride.

The bike has done great! No problems at all, but at the speeds we're running, the fuel mileage is not good. Around 40mpg at a true 70-80 mph. Normally it is around 50, but with the luggage and extra weight, plus the speed, it's doing about 40 mpg most of the time. Oh, and the roads here are straight for eons! Even the 2 lane roads have a 70 mph speed limit, and we took advantage when we could (which was 99% of the time).

The landscape has varied from flat as a rock to deep ravines. We've seen some buttes off in a distance, and have had a gradual rise as we headed north towards Colorado and am at 5,044 feet where we're staying. Cooler here, too.

A good day for the 3rd day of the adventure.

Picture of Gary and the bikes at New Mexico state line.

Had dinner at a neat place, the Eckland Hotel, established in 1892. Good taco salad and cold beer. It was a nice respite for a long, but good day of riding.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Day 2

Today was a long day. I woke up this morning feeling bad. I hurt all over. Not sure if it was from riding hard yesterday, but what I knew was that I felt bad when I woke up.

We did our usual walk, and as we were walking, it felt like all my energy was being drained right out of my body. We had breakfast and got on the bikes, headed to Oklahoma City.

As we started out, I felt drained. Legs hurt, back and shoulders ached, and I had no energy. It felt like a hangover, but I knew it wasn't from a hangover.

After a couple of hours riding, I started feeling very nauseous. The thought of throwing up wearing a helmet was not good. What a mess! We stopped so I could visit a restroom and discovered that I had diarrhea. I felt really bad.

We got back on the bikes and I felt a little better. For a while. Mid afternoon, I started feeling sick again. This time I felt even worse. The further I rode the worse I felt. I knew I was in trouble when I started feeling lightheaded, started sweating all over, and the world was turning black. I was about to faint! Recognizing that I was about to black out, I pulled over and got off the bike and laid down on the side of the road.

Gary brought me some water, some of which I drank, and some I poured over my head and chest. After a while, the nauseous feeling subsided, and we started out again. I wasn't sure if I could do another 10 miles or not, and we were about 300 miles from Oklahoma City.

Another bathroom stop later, I started feeling better. Stronger. I started thinking I'd be okay after all.

Then the showers started! Not just a sprinkle, but the kind for which cars pull over to the shoulder. We kept going, got soaked. I stopped under a bridge to pour the water out of my boots; I was wearing mesh pants, and the rain ran down my leg and filled the boots. We were within 100 yards of the Oklahoma state line!

After a few minutes, the rain subsided, and we took off again.

Got almost dry, and I saw another cloud with rain ahead. We pulled off the interstate and got under a shelter so we could put on some rain gear. The roadcrafter felt good--I was cold! But I felt so much better than I had felt all day. Maybe everything was going to be okay after all.

The second storm wasn't too bad, and the remainder of the ride to Oklahoma City was not bad.

I think we've figured out how to deal with the communications system. We have a checklist of things to do before starting out (turn on GPS, connect communication plug, turn on walkie-talkie, etc). Seems to work better when we do that. We could both hear each other most of the day until the batteries died on the walkie-talkie.

Guess that's enough for today.

Oh yes, we rode 572 miles today.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Finally on the Road

After what seeems like months of preparation, we're on the road! Today's ride, from piedmont NC to Jackson, TN, was 572 miles.

The day started out cloudy and misty, but not raining. We left Gary's house about 7:45am, stopped at a nearby fast food restaurant for biscuits and coffee, but didn't get any because a bus load of people just stopped and had the place full. We didn't want to wait, so we got back on the bikes and rode across a big parking lot to another one. Unfortunately, the other place had the other half of the bus!! So we decided to ride up the road another 20 miles or so for something to eat.

Breakfast was unremarkable. But upon leaving, the first mishap occurred. Gary was getting ready to leave, was on his bike, and dropped his bike right there in the parking lot! He had raised his kickstand and had reached down to pick up his communications lead to plug it into his helmet, the bike leaned, and it fell over! He thought the kickstand was down, and his foot was not out away from the bike to support it. No damage to anything but the crashbar, and only scratches on it. No damage to luggage or plastic. So, his GS is no longer a virgin.

We had other small glitches, all with communications. His Autocom unit has a short in it, making it malfunction in sometimes him not hearing me, and sometimes me not hearing him. Also one of the major problems was me forgetting to turn on my radio! Talk about operator error--I could be the definition of operator error!

The ride itself was long and not exciting. The high for the day was supposed to be around 85 degrees, but it actually reached almost 95! So, the Roadcrafter got its first day of hot wearing, and it wasn't unbearable. Hot, but not miserable. Had I known it was going to be so hot, I would have worn the mesh. Tomorrow it will be mesh for sure.

Got here about 6:00pm, checked in to the hotel, washed today's stinking clothes, and jumped into the pool to relax a few minutes. Had dinner at a Logan's. The beer was great, but the rest of the meal was just average. Then back to the hotel and to this blog.

Tomorrow, another long ride--to Oklahoma City. Hot!

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 15, 2007

On the Eve

Well, it's almost time to go! The packing list has been amended several times after sending it back and forth to Gary--sometimes him adding an item, and sometimes me thinking of another toy to bring. In any case, I think the list is done. And I believe everything on it is in one of the cases or extra bag I'm taking.

As usual, I know up front I have too many clothes. I seem to do that on every trip, and I'm not sure why except that I don't want to run out! Somehow I've got this worry (not really a fear because I know it will be okay if it happens) that I'll need something that I don't have. The weird thing is that I know whatever I need I can pick up at any one of the million or so Wal Marts across the country. Be that as it may, I'm taking what's packed.

Had dinner with my son, his wife, and my only grandson, Skyler last night. We celebrated my son's birthday and fathers day in one visit. Went to one of my favorite restaurants, Maccaroni Grill, and had a good meal. Skyler, who's now 10 months old, was very good. It was fun feeding him little pieces of the things we were eating, along with his food. Had a good, relaxing evening.

Today is running around on last minute things to get done, and leave for Gary's house. Tonight I guess we'll look at maps and decide for sure where we're riding tomorrow. Of course, we'll have to show off all the new farkles we've gotten since the trip planning started. I know he's got the Zumo gps and a new walkie-talkie for bike to bike communications. And I've got a few new items to show off, so we'll be like a couple of boys on Christmas morning showing off our new toys. Hope I never grow up!

The bike is as ready as it will be. Oil changed day before yesterday. Checked the air in the tires (no, actually I didn't check the air in the tires--that would be a foolish thing to do. What would I check it for--ozone??). Actually I checked the pressure of the tires! Installed the headlight guard (looks and fits good). It's held on with hook and loop; hope it stays put! Reinstalled the headlight modulator that had come unglued to the inside of the fairing. Secured a spare bike and luggage key in a discrete place on the bike in case I somehow lost the keys along the way (it's been known to happen!).

Lots of stuff to do when biking. A car is simple--check the air pressure in the tires and check the oil level and go. Not so simple on a bike! But so much more fun!!

I'll close this entry with a phrase I last heard from Rob Beach's mom when she called to see that everything was ready for an Alps tour two summers ago. Bon Voyage!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Trip Beginnings

Well, not really beginnings, but some definite answers as to when and where! I plan to ride to Gary's home in piedmont North Carolina on Friday evening this week. We'll spend the night there and start this adventure on Saturday, June 16!

I got the new front tire replaced on Saturday, installed a fenda extenda on the front fender (protect radiator), and a headlight protector over the weekend. More farkles for an already over-farkled bike! Also bought a Steibel Nautilus air horn, but can't find a place to mount it and have decided that it can wait until I get home. Running out of time for a significant addition such as the horn.

Gary finally broke down and bought a GPS for his bike. Not just any GPS, but a Garmin Zumo! Up to this point, he's been a rider who didn't want any electronics around the bike--he felt that they took away from the ride and were simply distractions from the bike. I don't know what changed his mind, but he's now a proud owner of a Zumo as well as an Autocom communications system. So, not only will he not get lost, he'll be able to talk to folks on his phone, talk with me over the radio, listen to his GPS tell him when and where to turn, and listen to mp3 WHILE RIDING! As the old saying goes.."you've come a long way baby".

While we're not sure about the route, but we will likely head west on I-40 and ride to Oklahoma City, Ok or Amarillo, Tx, and then swing northwest towards Colorado Springs, Co. We'll ride 500-600 miles each day on the way to Colorado, and then slow down to see some of the sights.

We're due in Salt Lake City, Ut. on Friday, June 22, to watch the Superbike races in Tooele, Ut. over that weekend. So, any sights along the way are potential sightseeing spots.

We plan to get one of the new National Parks passes (the $80 variety) that is supposed to give "free" (yeah, nothing's free) admission for a year to all of the National Parks, Monuments, and forests along the way. I really don't know if it will work as advertised, but we'll find out.

In Colorado, the one thing I want to do most is to ride to the top of Pike's Peak. Somehow I'm attracted to seeing the mountain (might be because of all I've read about the races to the top over the years). I'm a bit nervous at the thought of riding a topheavy bike up a steep GRAVEL road, but I plan and hope to do it without dropping it. (If it ever falls over, it will take MEN to pick it up!) I don't particularly like to ride on gravel. Dirt is okay if dry, but gravel is hard to manage. Maybe luck will be with us and it won't be loose gravel. Maybe it's the challenge drawing me there. Maybe I'm just a lunatic....

Haven't packed yet, but am starting to throw things in piles on the floor. I've decided to take an extra bag, a Dowco bag that will fit on the pillion seat and provide some backrest as well as extra storage. I don't plan to pack it full, but rather to use it for trinkets I'll buy along the way. With us being on the road for a full 3 weeks, I'll probably pick up a few more farkles or souvenirs along the way. The Roadcrafter is definitely going and the Belstaff and FG overpants are staying home.

Probably written more than I should have written tonight. But I'm getting excited about actually leaving! More later...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bike Preparation

Gotta get the bike ready for the trip. Actually, there's not a great deal to do, even though I thought there would be a fair amount of work necessary.

My Suzuki Vstrom 650 has almost 42K miles. I bought it used with about 2.5K miles almost 2 years ago. It came with a Givi 46 topcase, SW Motech engine guard, Hawke oiler, Cee Bailey windscreen, and BMW power plug. Since then, I've added lots of farkles: Givi E36 rack and sidecases, Motolights,a modulating headlight, hyperlights, Autocom communication, StreetPilot 2610 GPS (car use also), Sirius satellite radio, SW Motech centerstand, and a Corbin saddle. It's a wonder the bike can move!!

Back to preparation--I thought I'd need a new chain and sprockets. They now have about 15K miles on them, but when I had my mechanic to look at them, he said he'd wait until the ride is over. Since the ride will be around 6K miles, I hope it will be good for those miles. The original lasted over 17K miles but the present set is better quality and has been maintained better than the original. So, I'm going to chance it.

Also thought I'd need to change brake pads. He looked at them and said they had about 30% remaining. At 42K, that would give another 12-14K miles left, so he advised to wait on replacing pads as well. He reminded me that pads were widely available and easy to change, so even if I needed them on the road, I could do it while on the ride if needed.

Front tire has to be changed. I use Metzler Tourance, and the front has over 23K miles, so it's going to be changed for sure. I have the tire already, so it's just a matter of getting it to the shop to have it changed.

Need to change oil and filter before leaving. Simple job.

Even though the valves have not been checked in about 20K miles, I've decided to wait until on getting them checked until I get back. When I had them checked at 21K, all were within tolerance, none getting close to service limits. Given that, I should be safe to wait until I get back.

Rear tire has about 6K miles. I usually get around 12K or better on them, so I'll need a new rear tire when I get back.

Hummm when I get back, I'll be needing new brake pads, chain and sprockets, valve adjustment, and rear tire. Those items will burn up a 500 dollar bill. Who said riding a bike was cheaper than driving a car??? Not so! Guess it's only money...

Oh, BTW, the Roadcrafter arrived on Friday! I feel like a big bumblebee wearing it! I should be seen by the cagers..

Next is trip planning--when we're leaving, when we're coming back, and where we're going. More on that later.....