Sunday, June 14, 2009

Travel Log

I had been working on the "K" bike for over a week. The steering head bearings needed replacing and the windscreen function had to be repaired. I wrapped this up on June 5 and packed up my stuff and left for a trip north on Saturday, June 6, 2009. It had been pretty hot with temps in the low 90s and on day one that held true for my entire run straight up I-35. I made it to Wichita, Kansas the first day. The wind was at my back the whole day. I think it was gusting at least 30-40 MPH so you can imagine I got real good gas mileage. I stayed in a Days Inn near down town Wichita. I had stopped at several motels and all the desk clerks had been Indian or, who knows, Pakistani, so I kept going. These were cheap places, or should have been, but I have a distinct aversion to motels run by middle easterners and try to avoid them. But, of course, you have to take what's available and when the clerk at the Days Inn turned out to be Indian I just threw in the towel and paid his exorbitant rate of $62 plus tax. The next morning I passed a Motel 6 displaying a rate of $40. It was all of three blocks further down the road.

I have, in the past, stayed in lots of hotels/motels with Middle eastern, mostly Indian, hosts. I recall one in Houston, I think it was a Hampton Inn. I was on a business trip then so I could have stayed anywhere. This made a lasting impression on me because they didn't even put soap out in the rooms. I guess they were afraid someone would steal the "extra" bars because you had to go to the desk and "request" soap. I have had other similar experiences with these people. Their business plans include such extreme parsimony that you have to wonder if they change the sheets and towels.

Sunday morning it was noticeably cooler. It was overcast with light clouds too as I resumed my run up I-35. Well, its called 135 here cause 35 cuts off to Topeka which is north east of Wichita. I went straight north and crossed I-70 where the interstate turned into US 81. This highway took me to I-80 in Nebraska where I turned west. I-80 runs across Nebraska and Wyoming and at this stage it was my intention to head north again in Wyoming with a vague goal of going up into Montana. Well, it got cold and stayed cloudy all day Sunday. It threatened rain, and I did encounter mildly wet conditions such as wet roads but I never ran through rain myself, just a little behind assorted storms. I made it to North Platte by about five p.m. and you guessed it, stayed in a Motel 6 hosted by a white guy. I noted to the clerk that Motel 6's always had white people hosting and he said that had something to do with the fact that Motel 6 is owned by Accor, a French company. The rate was $36. That night I watched the weather closely and could see that I was in for some cool and wet weather for the forseeable future. We had the tropical jet stream dumping moisture off the south Pacific across the western half of the country with similar pushes of conflicting air masses off the northwest Pacific, across Washington Oregon and to top it off a real strong arctic air mass was falling down the globe to challenge these other two. The next morning I met some people on a Harley from Alaska and they said it was real cold up north with lots of snow still. They were headed for Florida and thought I was silly to be headed north. Oh well!

Monday the parking lot was wet and it was in the upper 40s I think with highs in the 70s expected. At this time I still intended to do some camping starting just west of Cheynne I thought, in a state park there. This was not to be however.

I suited up in my full winter regalia pretty much trying to be water proof and cold proof as well. Here is a picture of the bike at a rest area on I-80 west of North Platte, Nebraska.

As far as the eye can see it is lush green rolling prairie. Nice. So I got to Cheyenne and lo and behold there was one of those tune to your a.m. dial, so and so frequency, for urgent message about road conditions...when the orange lights were flashing. I didn't have to have gas but decided to stop anyhow to check this warning out. I bought the gas and was checking the bike for anything that might be wrong when I saw a huge gash across my practically new front tire. I could pick up one corner of the tread and peeling it back expose the inner layer of the tire, the cords underneath the tread. Well this would not do at all so cancel all plans and replace this tire.

I rode through Cheyenne looking for a motorcycle dealer and finally stopped at a car parts place where a guy in the parking lot directed me to one just down the road from where we were. Lucky strike. Well they were closed. It was monday and this is what these businesses do I have noticed. They are always open on Saturday so they take Mondays off so they can have a full weekend.

I didn't know what to do except wait so I went to a motel across the street but instead of checking in we looked in the yellow pages and one of the ads gave hours for Mondays. It was a Kawasaki place and just a few blocks away so I rode over there and met Mike Ault who said they didn't keep the tires I needed in stock. He could get one for me by the next morning however. Before leaving on this ride I knew I'd have to replace the rear tire sometime during the trip. It was getting near the end of its life so we decided to do both tires. He said they'd be there by 10:30 the next day though the rear tire had to come from Texas. So next day I showed up at the appointed time and by 11:30 I was on my way. Total cost was $459 including $80 for shipping just on the tire from Texas. Mike expected $40 shipping, which is what he quoted me, and that is what he charged. Nice. I put Avons on. Avon Road Riders.

So in Cheyenne I ended up staying in the Guest Ranch Motel. They had a Motel 6 but this was closer to town. It was a decent sort of place. The lobby was full of orchids. The clerk, a real honest to goodness red blooded American, said his wife kept those and I met her the next morning and she told me some about the flowers when I went in to get coffee. The room was a little cold at first but warmed up nicely with the free standing portable radiator. I don't think the main heat was working but nevermind. The weather report looked pretty grim and it was here I abandoned hope of going further north. It showed snow and freezing temps west and north. I considered turning around and heading back the way I had come. I considered going south. Denver is a short run down I-25 from Cheyenne but snow was predicted along that path too and I really didn't want to go to Colorado anyhow. It wasn't until the next morning that I made my plans. After talking to a couple of local people at the Kawasaki place while they worked on the bike I decided to circle Colorado. I would go west through Laramie, Wyoming and turn south into Utah at the earliest opportunity. Maybe I would go to four corners. It had to be warmer there, but maybe not too warm, and I could camp at Gooseneck state park on the San Juan river.

So I put on even more winter stuff adding another layer underneath what I had worn yesterday, and hooked up my heated gloves for the ride across Wyoming. It was cold and it rained on me some but not a lot. I sort of dodged thunderstorms all day that Tuesday and the next day too.

The last time I was out here, I think it was 2007, I took Wyoming 130 out of Laramie to get over the Medicine Bow Mountains there. 130 goes right by Medicine Bow peak which tops out at 12013 feet. The pass is at 10847 feet. I knew this would be blocked by snow this year, or at least the roads would likely be icy. In '07 the snow was maybe fifteen feet high on either side of the road; but the road was clean. That too was in June.

I-80 west of Cheyenne takes you through these mountains too but I didn't encounter any snow at the lower elevation I-80 runs through. Not quite cold enough...but close. Just past Rock Springs, Wyoming you come to US 191 which goes right past the Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green river. I was in really dry country but there had obviously been a lot of rain and the desert round about was as green as you will ever see it. At the Utah line I took some pics.

I took this pic here too. You can just see some small puddles of water on the road there.

And this one.

And this is just down the road.

The above is right at the dam which is rather small I guess. Here is the dam. I was a little nervous crossing this as the roadway was full of metal apparatus, rail road like tracks for moving gates and assorted dam superstructures about. If you don't know wet metal on roadways is a bike hazard deluxe. Hard to keep traction on wet metal.

After leaving Cheyenne at 11:30 a.m. I guess I did ok arriving in Vernal, Utah about six p.m. just south of the flaming full of water. It must have been really beautiful before. I think I am against daming up every river especially if it is just to attract developers and/or increase the tax base for government.

It is 366 miles from Cheyenne to Vernal. I took this picture to illustrate the threatening skies along my path. Somehow I managed to miss most of the rain once I got into Utah but the roads were mostly wet and I had to go slow on the extremely curvy roads.

And here is a picture of my room in Vernal. It was a Rodeway Inn...hosted by Indians. There was a Motel 6 in town but it was $69. The Rodeway was $50. I engaged the clerk and his wife in conversation. We got off into the economy in India. I learned that the Rupee was backed by gold...haven't checked this. I thought that was good. The man asked what backed the US dollar and I was surprised he didn't know. I loudly proclaimed that nothing backed the dollar. He seemed perplexed. I said nothing but the faith and credit of the US government which was headed south as fast as could be. I laughed and told him if he and wife had voted for Obama I wanted my money back on the room.

I was really tired so the first thing I did was get some ice and make a drink and THEN started to unpack the bike. I carried one bag in and went to get another. The door to the adjacent room opened and pot smoke billowed out as a young girl exited and walked to the passenger side of the car there next to me. I greeted her. She ignored me and quickly got in the car...for safety? Right behind her came this young guy. I didn't even look at him, just got another bag off the bike and took it into the room while they backed out. Just as they were driving away I came out and saw some folding money on the ground. I picked it up and chased them on foot but they were gone. It was $60. I thought about chasing them on the bike but it had straps hanging off it, and I couldn't get going fast enough. So I nursed my drink and noticed that the truck parked in front of the subject room was from Texas. Some kind of oil field contractor I surmised. Shortly another young guy exited the room and headed for this truck. I asked him about the money and he called his friend who would head back over from his dad's. This second fellow had been living on per diem for two years. His job was to x-ray welds of pipes that go into wells. He was from Pasadena, Texas.

I just about finished unloading the bike and the first guy shows up. He told me the correct amount of money he lost and I returned it to him smilingly suggesting that if he didn't smoke that "stuff" he probably wouldn't lose his money. He was not offended by this but I could tell he didn't know what to say so he just said thanks. I told him he was very lucky a person from Texas found the cash cause anybody else and he would never have heard about it. I asked him if he too was from Texas and he said Oklahoma. "Close enough," I said, and let him go. This guy is maybe 21 years old. The Pasadena chap was looking on for all this and found it very amusing but kept his cool and remained silent. It was a very friendly exchange with me playing the role of the surrogate father which I enjoyed very much. What do you want to bet that $60 was proceeds of a drug deal and further that the dope came from the dad of the young guy with the girl?

US 191 out of Vernal doesn't go straight south. It meanders off to the West a third of the way across Utah before cutting back to the east. I got an early start that Wednesday, say about 7:30, and went out to see what would happen. After coming down out of the mountains again I ran through this kind of country.

And this.

It was still cloudy with lots of rain all around but not much directly on lucky me.

Lots of rain here too recently. More than normal as you can see from all the green.

And this though it is a little blurry.

And here is the best picture of the trip I guess. I actually stopped for this one.

That one is pretty close to Moab where you'll find the Arches National Park. This was a stunningly beautiful ride made all the more pleasant by the unseasonably cool and wet weather. You could not ask for a better run on a motorcycle than I had that Wednesday, June 10, 2009. I made a note last night about this, you know, one of those reflective mood notes I like to indulge. I lost the note when I shut down the computer but the gist of it was that the world is full of beautiful things and there is not time to touch or hold all available. We are blessed because in a grain of sand resides the whole of creation and likewise in just one fine experience, with a clever fusion of mind the whole of reality can be brought to the front of a simple landscape. You know, where you feel you have it all just in having this little bit. All of the real informs every instance of experience. Is this satori? You decide. I just make this stuff up!

It's 320 miles from Vernal, Utah to Bluff, Utah near four corners. Rand McNally estimates the driving time at 5 hours 40 minutes. I left Vernal about 7:30 or eight and checked into the Kokopelli Inn in Bluff at 6:30. Stops for breakfast, gas, talking on the phone, rest area pit stops, taking pictures, etc., sure adds up. I remember trying to hurry because at this stage, in the morning, I intended to camp that night at Goose Neck park. As the day dragged on it got hot so I nixed that option. I guess that pretty much ended my fantasy about camping, at least for this trip.

The Kokopeli Inn was quite an indulgence for me at $76. It was by far the nicest Inn I used on this trip. It was here I met a guy on a Harley, didn't get his name, but he had traveled up to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. Yellowstone, he said, was inaccessible because of snow. I'm glad I didn't go to Montana. I've been to Alaska on this bike. Montana can wait. Besides I was there in 2007 but riding my R90/6. On that trip I recall it was 100 degrees the day before I rode through Missoula and in the 30s next.

Anyhow I was up and out of Bluff pretty early. After buying and adding half a quart of oil...oh, that's how I met the Harley guy. He took the extra oil off my hands. I didn't want to carry it and he needed some anyhow. Come 7 a.m. I was on the road. It stayed cool a good while, and cloudy. This is serious desert here and it cools down fast at night.

This is in my path. I have to go over.

I took US 54 off of US 191 out of Bluff and followed it all the way to Raton, New Mexico. This is a very scenic route and goes from extreme desert conditions to lush green mountain valleys to high rocky crags sheathed in snow. It is a very challenging road for motorcyclists, quite narrow in the mountains with so many switchbacks and steep grades up and down that it makes you dizzy.

On the run outside Taos, just west of town, I shot this picture of the Rio Grande River. That gorge seems like about an eighth of a mile deep.

I could launch on how the hippies have ruined Taos, and especially with their earthship housing project out here in the desert near the Rio Grande. It is truly disgusting and all the more so because they delude themselves so abysmally with all the "sustainability" crap. If you are interested do a search. These people, that generation, MY f-ing generation, has ruined this country, or has bust a gut trying. See Obama in the WH! They were at this bridge above in full regalia, beating drums, playing hippie music, hawking the wares dredged from the abyss that is their degraded souls. Nihilists. Solipsists. Godless. Their self loving leads inevitably to self loathing and that is the center of their reality. They all need to be put back into the food chain. Seriously! Well I launched anyhow. Sorry. It is reflexive.

On the other side of Taos 54 climbs immediately up to Angel Fire and Eagles Nest. Coming down out of the pass I stopped for an apple here. There were a lot of people fishing this mountain stream.

Remember I mentioned all the switchbacks? Here is a nice shot of my "chicken strips". That is the part of the tire the rider is afraid to use in tight cornering. Now, I think mine are pretty narrow but you decide. My knee wasn't scraping the pavement exactly, but it seemed if I reached out with my hand I could probably pick up a pebble or two. I don't know.

OK, so it took me all day to go across New Mexico. I took the business loop at Raton, New Mexico off of I-25 and stopped at the first motel I came to after passing up the Holiday Inn. It was the Maverick motel, vintage, I guess, 1940s. The grounds were well maintained with lots of petunias along the drive and across the front of the office. Picture:

That is the view from my front door. Between here and the distant high ground is Raton, New Mexico. A woman was sitting outside in one of the chairs you see there. She greeted me with a thick accent and quoted a price of $47 total which I snapped up. Her name was something like Zorka, with an umlaut over the "o", I think. I asked her before getting her name, in German, Sind sie Deutsch? She said no, Czech. Oh! The office was full of her crochet items. They were very nice and I would have bought something had I had a way to carry it. Everything was large and she stiffened the items with sugar to form bowls for flowers and things like that. We hit it off, so to speak. Her husband, Nick, was from Croatia. He came to my room to show me how to operate the heater which I would need though it had been hot all the way across New Mexico almost, except for the mountains, of course, and the early morning over on the east side. He said it hadn't rained in a year and the desert outside town looked it too.

My room was very clean and I took to it. I like this carved headboard.

My stuff laid out in the bath.

And this is how I lived for the week. Only two restaurant meals, both breakfasts.

I think I was the only guest that night. In the morning I made coffee in my room with my camp stove and was on the road by seven or so. By noon I was in Amarillo and it was hot. I chased the asphalt to Lubbock and beyond but by the time I got to Post, Texas I couldn't take any more of the heat so I took a room in the Deluxe Inn which was somewhat overpriced at $50 total and not well kept compared to the Eastern European hosts in Raton. There were a lot of flies in the room and though the air conditioner worked it was obnoxiously loud. I noted and commented on the Hindu shrine set up behind the desk in the "lobby". I named one or two of the dieties, Ganapati, Ganesha, the elephant headed one, the Little Lord, and one she said was Krsna I noted did not have enough arms and that maybe in the U.S. he was less powerful. I would have recognised him had he had seven or eight arms. Krsna is the great Lord, subsuming all the others who are like angels, so to speak, if you have to compare to western religion. He is the one in the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord, the Hindu "bible") who instructs Arjuna on how to pray. The lady wore a poker face during this exchange but I had the impression that not many guests offered comments on the Hindu religion, especially comments indicating intimate familiarity, for a westerner at least, with the Hindu pantheon. I spoke to her about bhakta, told her that as I understand it, a bhakti practices bhakta, i.e., love of the lord, and her response was that Bhakta was also a surname which I responded that it was but not as popular as, for instance, Patel, to which she averred. Actually I met a Bhakta last month I told her. He was a host, what do you know, at a motel in East Memphis I had the misfortune to stay in. I didn't tell her, but it was implied, that a Christian is a Bhakta too, in as much as he is one who loves the Lord, and that this is true vice versa.

I meant to have a restaurant meal that evening in Post but my first choice, a BBQ place, I could see by the parking lot, was too busy. I went to the south side of town...took me one minute from downtown, and found an interesting, locally owned hamburger joint. Sometimes these can be real finds so I tried it but after 30 minutes they hadn't started my order so I got my money back. There was hardly anyone there but about five minutes after I arrived the whole town, it seems, showed up and my order got lost in the shuffle it would seem. No problem. They comped me the Dr. Pepper. I didn't make a scene and like it or not had a much better experience at the McDonalds...except, of course, the burgers sucked...but the service was fast and friendly. After two burgers and fries I walked to the supermarket a block from the room and got one of those bags of fancy lettuce and a tomato and ate a big salad.

From Post to home is not that far and I determined to get an early start to beat the heat so at four a.m. I was up. I again made coffee in my room and with that in hand opened the door to check out the weather. It was warm. I could ride with just a shirt on top. Funny thing, there was a U-Haul truck towing a car pulling into the lot when I looked out. The driver got out and went to the door of the office. Wanted a room I guess. At four a.m. Hmmm! The door, of course, was locked and as he climbs back in the truck I close my door and resume my preparations to leave. A minute later I still hear the truck and go out to put a bag on the bike. He is backing up, trying to turn around. His girl, they are both twenty something I guess, is trying to help him do this but it is obvious they are not practiced truck drivers as they keep jackknifing the car. I don't want to watch this, so back in the room to brush my teeth, having finished the coffee. In a couple of minutes I come back out with another bag and the truck is gone. But not the "kids". They are both running around the parking lot waving their arms and yelling at and trying to corner what must have been the most obese cat in the world record books. It ran here and there with its huge stomach dragging the ground. Really, every bound and this huge sack of fat would swing first to its left and then to its right. Funny and pathetic at the same time and the owners seemed as inept at catching what must have been the world's slowest cat as they were at backing up the truck. Well I felt myself getting pulled into this situation despite my strong intention to not even acknowledge these fools. So back in the room fast where I resolved that the best course of action was to scram out of there as quickly as possible. One more bag, and a couple of little items to tend to. I put my helmet on in my room made my last check and locked the door behind me. I mounted the bike and the girl emerges alone from the shadows down to my left. No sign of boy or cat. She is barefooted and trots across the parking lot towards the street. Her butt crack is just visible above her way too tight jeans. There is some loose gravel around and that had to hurt her feet. I pulled in behind her and just a little too close and carefully followed her to the street both of us ignoring the other as much as possible. The guy is standing on the side walk and she joins him there as I pull out and give her the gas.

It was a little after five and there was a waning moon with a large planet dogging it in the heavens above my head. Another very bright planet was on the eastern horizon and after a bit you could just make out in the east the first fingers of dawn creeping up the firmament. With the whole Texas pan handle behind me I was riding through a tremendous array of wind turbines with red blinking lights on top. These stretched from horizon to horizon and were a definite blight on the terrain but they were soon behind me too. Everything was soon behind me, because five hours later I was home. I'll be looking for you in my mirror. Come on, let's go!

No comments :

Post a Comment