Sunday, September 19, 2004

Back from Vegas Bike Fest

Home safe and sound from Vegas, I went to the Bike Fest there over the weekend. It was fun and I got to meet a bunch of cool folks from the WWR board, but I think bike rallies just aren't my thing. Many bikers -- many DRUNK bikers -- racing up and down the Strip at all hours? Getting beer baths while you're trying to walk through the crowd on Fremont Street? I prefer to stay away from the big events, thank you. I'd rather be riding than talking about riding, anyway.

I played roulette all weekend, and ended up about $75 ahead. Better than losing, but no one is ever going to call me a high roller. LOL

It was VERY windy coming home, plus the usual Sunday back-to-LA traffic made me crazy, I was lanesplitting even though I was still on the Nevada side of the line! Illegal!! Oh well, no tickets ;)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Back home, and back online

A quick entry to say I made it back home on Friday September 3rd. 16 days, just under 6000 miles, a barrelful of adventures! Unfortunately, when I got back my computer was down; the monitor gave up the ghost while I was out of town. I have just now gotten a replacement. (Thanks, Kay!) Now I'll be able to check my email and start writing up my road stories.

This blog lets me postdate entries, so you'll see stuff showing up from two weeks ago as I start transcribing my journal notes. I'm looking forward to writing down all the wonderful images in my head.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Day Sixteen

Start: Kingman AZ (23670)
End: Sherman Oaks CA (24012)
342 miles
5951 miles total

Home! Home! I'm glad to be home!One last day on the road, and I'm anxious to get home! Today's ride is uneventful, just more medatative miles clicking off through the California deserts. I think about the people fleeing the Dustbowl, making the Grapes of Wrath journey across this barren terrain in old jalopies piled with all the possessions they could carry. What did they think of this empty terrain? Did it crush their dreams, or only serve to heighten them, heading towards the promises of California? The town of Essex CA takes the cake on this trip with their Middle Of Freakin' Nowhere prices for gas and a soda. Unleaded (87) is $3.80/gallon. A can of Coke is two dollars. Onward, onward. Heading into Barstow, one more thing breaks on the bike. The spot weld on the lightbar gives way and -- clunk -- suddenly the auxillary headlights tip down and point at the ground. Oops! I stop (needed more gas anyway) and ziptie 'em to the frame, which doesn't fix the problem, but will keep them from flying off until I can get home and fix them. This is a pretty normal occurance for bikers, things just go wrong and ya gotta make do with what you have. Over the Cajon Pass and back into greater Los Angeles, it's a glad thing to be back on my familiar home roads, even traffic doesn't annoy me too much. I arrive home mid-afternoon, safe and sound. It's been a wonderful journey, my first cross-country trip and I've done it solo. I have ridden just under 6,000 miles, all of 'em good for my soul. Thanks to the Goddess for watching over me on this trip, and bringing me home again.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Day Fifteen

Start: Gallup NM (23311)
End: Kingman AZ (23670)
359 miles

Today, I'll take a little time for sightseeing. I'm making such good time on this return trip that I can have an easy day today! Let's see, pull out the map ... Arizona has some lovely, lovely places. I'm within easy reach of a Grand Canyon detour, but I've seen it before. Instead I decide to visit the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

The Painted Desert InnI take the loop road off I-40 and pay the entrance fee, and stop at the visitor's center, spending some time to chat with the usual friendly volunteers there. From there it's a lovely ride through the park. I stop to have a long look around the Painted Desert Inn, a marvelous building constructed in the 1930's. The design of the building and the interior frescos are simply wonderful. There's a busload of elderly tourists getting ready to head out as I arrive, and a few ladies greet me, and take a look at the loaded bike and ask me how far I'm traveling. I can tell they're slightly appalled & slightly elated at a single woman on the road. They make me grin.

Riding through the park reveals vista after vista of spectacular scenery. I am heading north to south, which takes me first through the Painted Desert and its wonderous colors, then into the Petrified Forest area of the park. I stop and look around a pueblo area, and then at a petroglyph site. I park near a U-Haul that I've been seeing on I-40 for a day and a half. It's funny how you'll see the same cars & trucks over and over on the road. I'll pass a slower vehicle, but need to stop for gas much more frequently than it will, so it will get ahead of me again while I'm at a gas station, so I end up playing leapfrog with some vehicles all day long. This particular U-Haul is towing a car with Minnesota plates. Walking up to the petroglyph overview, there are two pair of people there, a youngish couple who are leaving and what looks to be a mother & daughter. I overhear the mother talking to the daughter and the accent could be straight out of the movie Fargo, so when I say hello to them, I say, "You must be the ones with the U-Haul and the Minnesota car." It's good for a laugh and we strike up traveller's conversation. The daughter is starting college and they are on the way to getting her moved in for her freshman year. I congratulate her and ask her where she's enrolled. "USC," she says. "Oh, very good school, but I did some undergrad work at UCLA," I say, laughing, "so don't hold that against me." "Are you from Los Angeles?" asks the mother. "Yeah, I'm heading back home to Sherman Oaks." More smiles ... amazingly, that's exactly where they're headed! The kid already has a room rented somewhere in my town. I guess it is a very small world, indeed. We talk awhile longer, then wish each other a safe journey. I head further south. Painted desert gives way to stark landscapes dotted with piles of petrified wood. It is strange-looking and very raw. Wind is kicking up by the time I reach the south end of the park. Time to get back on the highway and make miles.

I work my way back to I-40 and continue west. Oh, the wind gets fiercer and fiercer, and I'm not too happy about it. It's difficult riding, gusty and tiring and so dry that I feel like the moisture is being dragged out of my body with every breath. I am buffeted by trucks and fight to keep my lane. Something's not right ... the wind noise is incredibly loud and getting louder. Then, my visor breaks. It won't stay closed, popping open a half-inch to let in an unbearable roar of wind blasting straight into my face. I swear quite a bit and slow way down, and pull off at the next available stop, which is a highway rest area. I examine my helmet & find that I've lost one of the little plastic screws that hold the visor, and the remaining three are loose. I tighten them, which fixes the popping-open problem, but it's temporary at best. I resolve to stop at the first likely place to buy a replacement.

That place is Flagstaff Harley Davidson (actually in Bellemont AZ) which charges me a few bucks for a set of three fasteners emblazoned with the HD logo, which I find amusing ... somehow, I don't think that's what Shoei intended, but hey, whatever works. Next door is the Route 66 Roadhouse Cafe, which seems like a good spot for a late lunch. It's mostly empty, since I am there during off hours midweek. The setup there is that you order ... burger or steak or hotdogs or whatever ... and the waitress brings you your meat and you cook it yourself on a huge stainless grill at one end of the room. This would have been better if I hadn't felt so exhausted from the tough riding, but I've already ordered so I just go with it. Cook, eat up, and leave. (Later, I found out that I had missed running into my riding pal Jen there, who was on her way to Colorado, by mere minutes. Again with the small world!)

I come down out of the mountains and cross western Arizona, and it's a fairly miserable day, with the wind and all. I knock off early in Kingman AZ and get a room for the night. I had thought to make it to the California border, but it's just been too tiring to fight gusts all day. It was actually a wind advisory in effect today, but tomorrow should be better weather.

Next: Day Sixteen

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Day Fourteen

Start: Elk City OK (22735)
End: Gallup NM (23311)
576 miles

Oh, EWWW. Want to know the reason NOT to stay in a no-name cheapo hotel? The BUGS.

I dress and clear out of that waterbug-infested mess at sunup. Good riddance. The icky crawly feelings get blown away by the good clean wind of the highway. An hour into my day, I've crossed over into the Texas panhandle, and I am feeling good once more. Next stop, Amarillo, where I think I'll have breakfast. I've been seeing billboards for The Big Texan, a famous restaurant in Amarillo, Home Of The Free 72 Oz Steak! No, I'm not gonna attempt to eat four and a half pounds of beef for breakfast, but hey! I feel the need to do some silly touristy sightseeing around now. Since Oklahoma City I've been on the highway that replaced Route 66, and I've been seeing lots and lots of billboards for touristy stuff and 66 nostalgia spots and things like that.

It's a funny thing about billboards, ya know. I used to consider them eyesores, urban blight, and wished someone would tear 'em all down. But once you get out of the cities and into the wide open spaces, they sort of become your friends. Most days, I've been riding places where there is a whole lot of nothing, just farmlands or empty space. You can go for many miles without seeing any signs; then, when you spot one, you know you are coming up to something. The good signs will tell you you're ten miles away from a truck stop with a Subway shop, or the best pork chops in Tennessee, or the LIVE! Two-Headed Rattlesnake, or whatever! And then you know you'll have the opportunity to get gas and have a little stretch, or a bite to eat, or just a look-see at roadside America weirdness, if it strikes your fancy. The signs give you something to look at and to think about besides the stripe on the road. Billboards are an inherant part of a road trip. I have grown to welcome them during my days of travel.

There's my bike, dwarfed by the Big TexanThe Big Texan certainly does not disappoint. It's gaudy, hysterically funny in its unabashed touristy excess. It's still early, and I am one of only five customers in their immense dining hall. I get a (normal-sized) steak and eggs for breakfast, along with biscuits and gravy which are absolutely delicious. Pleasantly stuffed, I figure to make this my big meal for the day. In the parking lot, I watch a cowboy guy unload a horse from a trailer and walk him around, much as you'd walk a dog who's been cooped up in the back seat of a car. The horse obediently poops in an out-of-the-way corner of the lot. Heh. Texas.

Entering New MexicoIt's only about 175 miles across the Texas panhandle, so I am in New Mexico before I know it. Road time. I sail along, back in territory that is starting to look familiar to me. I am passing through rangeland and open desert, instead of forests and river valleys and endless greenery. Now that I've left the South and Texas behind me, the people I talk to are starting to sound more like I do, as well. ;) I climb mountains and pass through Clines Corner NM, the elevation above 7,000 ft making the weather unexpectedly chilly for this first day of September, and roll through Albuquerque around midday. It's a fairly large city, but otherwise New Mexico is empty empty empty. Riding these highways is a kind of meditation. Thank the Goddess I learned to ride a motorcycle last year. It's not an exaggeration to say it's saved my sanity. I went through some hard times last spring, an ugly breakup with a woman who I still love deeply, and it took me a long while to reach my peace with it. Learning to ride has been part of that healing. Riding is something that I had always wanted to do, and more importantly, something that called to me in some deep, unknown part of my soul. Riding is when I feel most in harmony. These days & weeks on the road, I feel better than I have felt in a long time.

Gorgeous scenery in New Mexico, near the Continental DivideStorm clouds do little more than weakly threaten by late afternoon, but never get serious about it, so I keep on riding until close to sunset. I stop for the night in Gallup, humming the Route 66 song. A lot of people ask me if I am in town for the Four Corners rally, which is this weekend. Wish I could stay for it, but I've got no time and a yearning to get my butt home, and I'm only two days out now.

Next: Day Fifteen