California or bust (part 2)

Once out of the valley we get into Nevada where every store has Nevada’s trademark.

After a legal ride following a NHP for what seemed like forever he tagged a speeding SUV then we resumed a normal pace. Past Tonopah we pick up hwy 375, commonly known as the Extraterrestrial Highway.

For a while it looked like we were headed for some heavy rain as part of the front we were chasing got held up by the mountains.

But our weather luck was holding as the road turned away from the storm for clear passage.

To the little town of Rochelle just outside area 51 where we had lunch at the Little A’LE’INN

The food must be good, some have come a long way for it.

Or maybe the choice was not theirs.

After some lunch and the purchase of appropriate trinkets we were under way. Crossing into Utah the road straightened out and we’re back into triple digit travel. Cedar City would be our resting place this day after a 503 mile day.

 

"Today we crossed Death Valley. It was 72F. Kinda loose some of the feeling of adventure and danger when it’s not 130*F and the landscape isn’t littered with the bleached skulls of dead cattle. Area 51 and the Extraterrestrial highway were also a bit disappointing. The A’le’inn is really a trailer park in the middle of nowhere whose “famous” burgers were pretty sad. I did pick up another rock and some alien trinkets for Aileen. I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt, don’t plan on going back (unless a job opens up at the base.) The highlight of the day was Utah. The most beautiful state we’ve been through with fast sweepers through breathtaking scenery."

 

Day~16 We start out on a cool morning with blue skies and white puffy clouds. We climb up in the mountains first thing, the temperatures drops to 24°f and there’s frost on the ground. There’s a foreboding sense of déjà vu but as the day warms all is well. Passing into Mud Canyon the area takes on an out worldly look.

Next we pass the Bryce Canyon area and there's a different view around every turn.

Past the canyons the view opens up.

After some lunch at a Subway we turn south on hwy 95. This is a 122 mile stretch of road that runs through Glen Canyon and the view is breath-taking.

Some people really like their solitude.

Out of the canyon we have nice sweepers and out of a right-hander I spot 2 large bucks grazing next to the road. 30 feet distant the closest looks up as I swerve into the oncoming lane with a look like,“What’s that idiot doing?”,then goes back to grazing. Into Colorado we make it to Durango after a 496 mile day and take the only room left in town, a 2-bedroom suite.

 

"Good thing Serp had us pack up that cold weather gear. It’s not like its 24F this morning. That’s not snow on the ground, its white sand. Yeah, sand. The cold was quickly forgotten as we had another full day of unreal scenery. 95 through Utah is a must-ride road. To the older persons in their RV who we passed unceremoniously, I apologize if our behavior interrupted your sightseeing. My advice would be to stop and take pictures, not wander across both lanes with your head hanging out the window. One deer scare for Serp, no scares for me. One more rock added to Aileen’s collection from Glen Canyon. Half of my top case is now occupied by stone. What can I say about Durango? Tourist Trap. The Double Tree was packed with tour busses, the Holiday Inn wanted $160 for a room and so did the Best Western. We ended up staying at the Best Western because they offered us a 2 room suite for the normal $160 room rate. It was their last room and I was tired of looking around so we took it. As I bantered with the girl behind the counter I asked her what the big draw in Durango was. What is bringing all of these tourists who pay these high room rates?

A train” she says.

No seriously, what is it?”

"An antique train,” she clarifies.

You’re serious, a train?

Yes, you ride the train to the top of the mountain and a bus takes you back down.”

Not my cup of tea, but if an expensive night in a tourist trap of a town is worth it for a train ride, more power to you."

 

Day~17 We set out to perfect temperatures and clear blue skies, we’re still surfing the same cold front we picked up in California. After some construction delays we dip into New Mexico and some nice curvy roads. Along the way a yellow Gold Wing called “Big Bird” joins us. Paul lets him by and radios me,“Gold Wing’s coming up to play”I run a comfortable sporting pace and he sticks right with me, so I dialed it up a bit. He was scraping hard parts around every turn and twice he went way wide in right hand turns trying to keep up. On the next mountain I waved him by, with my worn tires and questionable front brakes I thought it prudent to stop the hard playing and settled into our traveling pace. Running along at 85 mph on a short straight section of road a turkey flies out of the bushes right into my path. He was flapping his wings for all he was worth but it wasn’t good enough as he collides with my left handlebar slamming the clutch against my hand, folding back the mirror and leaving a feather behind. Paul asked,“What was that?, I saw a puff of feathers and a large bird spinning on the ground” Once I shook the numbness out of my hand I pulled over to straighten my mirror.

A few miles later around a turn I ride up on a deer in my lane. I swerve to the oncoming lane around her as she bounds off the road. All freaked out the deer came back on the road in front of Paul who jumps hard on the binders and watches the animal run off the road again. Close one. The Rio Grande Gorge is a sight to see. There are signs warning not to throw things over the bridge as there could be rafters below, I wonder if that includes spit…It’s a long way down.

We make a gas stop and another pack lunch.

Paul notices that cigarettes are expensive in this part of the country.

Out of New Mexico we exit ‘the candy store’ and into the flat lands of Oklahoma. The speed limit is 65 mph so we settle into a comfortable pace of 90 mph. The traffic is sparse and we make good time. Then over a low rise the Oklahoma Highway Patrol shows up. I brake and watch my speed drop when he finally turns on his radar, I look up at him and he’s pointing at me to pull over. BUSTED.

A few minutes later his backup arrive. He walks up to us and says,

I don’t know how fast you were going before you hit your brakes but I locked you at 74 mph

He then wrote us both warnings.

 

                          Night approaches and the moon rises in the clear sky.

Small town after small town we passed through had no motels, finally we get to Alva, OK. After a long day’s ride expecting to find a room but out of 5 hotels there’s not a vacancy to be found, even the dumpy ones were full. We had a McDonald dinner and rode on.18 miles later in the little hamlet of Cherokee we found a room, the last one left. We checked in at midnight after a 688 mile day. Checking over the bikes for the next day I find that my chain is shot after only 7,500 miles, too many triple digit miles I guess. Paul’s chain is throwing rust on the rim also but he seems OK for now. Tomorrow I will need to divert to Oklahoma City and find a dealer. I also notice the fluid level for my front brakes is very low meaning so are my brake pads. I will be using rear brakes only from here on unless I need real stopping power.

 

"You know that cold weather gear. Yeah, I unpacked it. I was chipping ice off of my seat and the thermometer read 31F. That’s how my day started. Serp started off the day by amusing the both of us by creaming a turkey. Best bird strike of the trip. We ran into a Gold Wing from Maryland named “Big Bird” who passed me on the double yellows as a way to say hello. That’s what I get for not looking in my mirrors. So I tagged onto the rear of him as the three of us went for a spin. A bit later he waved me past and the three of us rode the straights until the next curvy section. Knowing he was fast I picked up the pace a bit. My front tire quickly let me know that this was a very bad idea. After the first front end slide I radioed to Serp that I was letting Big Bird come and play with him. This was probably a good idea since the guy was dragging hard parts and ran wide a few times following Serp. Eventually Serp radioed back that he was slowing it down, his parts were equally worn out after 7500 miles of hard riding. Thumbs up to Big Bird for hauling serious ass on a Gold Wing. Big Bird in New Mexico was the last of our real fun. From there we went into Oklahoma, got pulled over by the OHP and rode until nearly midnight trying to find a town large enough for a hotel. We ended up in a nice little mom & pop joint called the Cherokee Inn in Cherokee, OK after what turned into a very pleasant night ride under a full moon across the rolling hills of Oklahoma."

 

Day~18 We get a late start having slept away the fatigue from the night before. On our way to Oklahoma City we pass through Enid, OK and I se a big Suzuki sign. We pull in to check on a chain purchase. He has 2 the right size but too short and offers to sell me both figuring I can link them, thanks but no thanks. He informs me of another bike shop down the road. They did have the best parts counter I’d ever seen in a bike shop.

The bike shop he sent me to seemed a little gay but if they had the part I'm OK with it.

They charged me a premium price for the chain then wanted another $9 to cut it to length. I said never mind and cut it myself using a tool Paul had the foresight to bring.

Tired of Oklahoma we hit the interstate to be in Arkansas by day’s end. Doing so took us around a rain cell so that worked out nicely. We made it to Mena, AR after a 403 mile day. Not bad for a ½ day’s ride.

 

"We slept in after our late night and hit the road around 9:30 AM. The night before, it became clear that Serp’s chain was done for. We decided that it was in our best interest to change the chain before it broke in the middle of nowhere. I called Honda Rider’s Club and found the nearest dealership to our route through Oklahoma City and off we went. Along the way we stopped into a couple of dealerships that we happened to run into which allowed us to change the chain while bypassing the worst of Oklahoma City roads. Having dropped a chain before on a trip, I brought along my chain tool and a couple of spare master links on this one in case the worst should happen. One expensive chain and an hour later and Serp was cruising along without problem. I didn’t feel that Rainbow Sports, where we got the chain, was very helpful. Normally when riders run into problem on a road trip, other motorcyclists are willing to lend a hand. They were apathetic about the whole thing. Not rude, but not really helpful either."

 

Day~19 We get an early start will plans to stretch the day so we can make it back to Tampa, FL the next day. We have cool weather with no rain in the forecast and nice sweepers. The radar detector goes off again and we drop to legal speeds in time to present ourselves as solid citizens for a passing Trouper. Farther on we get behind a farmer hauling a cow. I wait patiently for the right time to make my pass. Just as I pull back into my lane with Paul on my taillight the Arkansas Highway Patrol rounds the bend, we can’t slow much as we have the cattle truck behind us and sure enough, BUSTED.

He clocked us at 70mph in a 55 mph zone. After 'educating' me on the fact that even while passing it is illegal to exceed the posted speed limit, I explained to him that I had to because it smelled really bad behind the farmer's trailer but he wouldn't hear of it, he wrote us both warnings. My radar detector would pay for itself again this day in Mississippi. Riding in a 65 mph zone at 90 mph I approached a hill where the limit dropped to 45 mph and the Mississippi Highway Patrol was there to make sure all complied, we did and it cost me some front pads to do it. We get to Tuscaloosa, AL. This was to be our regular stop for the day but we decided to ride on to Montgomery, AL. What’s another 100 miles. We hold up in Montgomery, AL after a 624 mile day.

 

"Um, today was hot, boring, filled with slow drivers who refuse to get out of the way, populated with the wonderful stench of chicken haulers, and we got pulled over by the Arkansas Highway Patrol. To the semi driver who was doing 15 under the limit in the sweepers and 15 over the limit in the passing zones. Doing that just means you’re going to be passed in a manner which is less safe than if you had just kept the speed down for a minute in the passing zone. The finger I gave you? That was just me letting you know that I think you’re #1."

 

Day~20 My final day. Paul still has a short day tomorrow to get to Miami. We ride through Georgia as the temperature increases. By the time we get to central Florida we’re suffering from the results of acclimating to the cold temperatures we’ve had in the past 2 ½ weeks.

80 miles from home we find a refreshing rain shower, just enough to make it pleasant the rest of the way home marking the end of a perfect trip save for my chain, ending with a 520 mile day. Paul was a pleasure to ride with, Al & Mabel were super host and mother nature did an outstanding job with the weather.

 

"Hot, boring, no music since I forgot to charge my iPod. Yeah, it sucked and reminded me that I don’t want to live in Florida anymore. Make that anywhere in the Southeast except north Georgia, eastern Tennessee or western North Carolina. Final Day : Tampa, FL to Miami, FL (319 miles) Straight, boring, enough rain to keep me relatively cool but not slow me down. I stopped in Fort Lauderdale to buy Aileen her last present of the trip and grab lunch on Las Olas Blvd. It was one more reminder that South Florida sucks. Rude employees at the restaurant, stuck up idiots in the stores, more façade than substance. To the older teen in his father’s brand new 911: Did you explain how you ran the right side wheels along the curb when you pulled in too fast? The grinding noises were impressive although the loud pop I heard as you pulled away would have me worried. Did you just pull in to check out the bike or were you too embarrassed to stick around after your spectacular parking job?"

 

Trip totals

(for me) 19 different states & 2 countries18 days on the roads (20 total) @ 9,005 miles or 500 miles/day.

Paul had an extra 2 days and 640 miles.

My fuel cost = $624.66

Hotels cost = $1326,84 ($663.42 my share)

Food cost = $156.38

Maintenance cost = $160

Park tolls = $20

My tires held up to hard punishment and are just now to the wear bars

Metzeler ME880 Marathon rear and Michelin Pilot Road front.

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