Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Little did I know that when I added the Google "Latitudes" feature to my blog site that it would be more than just entertaining to readers. Yesterday, when a first cousin observed that I was in Reno, she left a voice mail message which reminded me that one of her sons, whom I had never met, lived there. I reached him at home and we arranged to meet at his nearby work location this morning. It was fun to connect with him not only because he is also an avid motorcyclist not too many years younger than I, but also because he reminded me alot of his grandfather, a favorite Uncle of mine who had inspired me with his work as a crop duster pilot and his sailing adventures. I think I was under 10 when this Uncle completed what I now realize must have been one of his bucket list trips -- sailing his 30-something foot sailboat from California to Hawaii.
It was great to start the day with this warm family connection -- because the rest of the day stayed a bone-chilling 39 to 41 degrees as I rode in the most intense rain I've ridden in during the previous 45 days on this trip. Thankfully my new rainsuit worked perfectly (again) and adding a second pair of socks and some extra layers kept me somewhat comfortable. The route was very straight (395 north through eastern California), traffic was not overwhelming and the rain was not constant. In fact at one point I had blue skies (though it wasn't warm) for part of the ride -- but that didn't stay long.
As planned, I put in about 275 miles and ended the day at a pre-arranged condo in Klammath Falls, Oregon -- now within about 320 miles from home -- tomorrow's destination. I'm looking forward to it!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The condo I had arranged was just 3 blocks from the main street of Reno, so I enjoyed a leisurely stroll,
took in one of the buffet troughs and got a suitable amount of entertainment from losing about $15 in the machines. Later in the evening I was treated to some company from home -- I connected up with a couple who are great friends from my hometown who coincidentally happened to be traveling through Reno to a business conference in the Lake Tahoe area. The connection rendered the "Loneliest Road" here just a fading memory.
I try to legally pass EVERY car/truck that gets in front of me -- and here are some of the reasons why:
10. I have seen a large number of cars/trucks have either one or both brake lights and turn signals that don't work. It's no fun and dangerous to try to figure out when you are braking or turning. When is the last time you checked your rear brake/turn signal lights?
9. I have seen a large number of cars/trucks with unsecured loads that are a bump away from flying into a motorcyclist's face, or worse, under a tire at 60 mph.
8. I have seen a huge number of car/truck drivers who are preoccupied with cell phone conversations or texting. I even saw one woman on this trip with a minicomputer perched between her belly and the steering wheel. [Remember, I sit high where I have excellent view into most all cars -- and I have great fun when I've found myself next to a driver who is on a cell phone, dialing or texting, by blasting my horn. It's fun to watch the offending driver's instantly come out of their distraction, trying to figure out what's going wrong.]
7. For optimum safe riding, I must enter each corner at a speed where I can continue to accelerate through the entire corner. Car drivers and many untrained/unskilled motorcyclists slow in the corners.
6. My life depends on my ability to correctly assess road condition and avoid road debris. When following a car/truck, my sight distance for road condition is severly limited. That piece of tire or metal that might just cause your car to bump, can kill me.
5. I have seen some car/truck drivers with pets sitting in their laps and therefore obstructing their steering while they drive. I'm giving 100% attention to driving my motorcycle, my life depends on it -- I wish you would drive the same way.
4. I have had several car/truck drivers spray their windshield washing fluid when I'm behind them. The drivers do not realize how much of the spray overshoots their window and hits my glasses or face shield.
3. My safety is great enhanced when I have nothing blocking my vision in the path of travel.
2. The wind disturbance created by the car/truck traveling in front of a me is significant, creating a buffeting of my head/helmet.
1. Because I can. Just kidding, of course -- but it is true. I've only ever been in one car that has acceleration approaching that of a motorcycle (Dave!).
Please note as well that none of the reasons is because I need to travel faster. In fact, often times the car ahead of me is traveling an acceptable speed -- and I'll still pass for all the reasons stated above. It is also true, though, that I will NEVER slow traffic behind me -- for even I will move or signal to the right if I perceive a vehicle behind me is moving faster than I am.
Generally, I can usually immediately tell if the car/truck driver ahead of me is either a motorcyclist or educated in motorcycling as those driver's will signal that they are moving to the right to allow me to pass immediately upon seeing me in their rearview mirror. I great appreciate their thoughtfulness -- which can be executed at any time, including when their is a double yellow that would otherwise prohibit my passing. If the leading car/truck just gives a brief signal, it allows me the opportunity to explain that my passing on a double yellow is permissible because the leading car/truck was signaling that they were either turning right or pulling over to allow me to pass.
I hope you'll think of some of these reasons next time you see a motorcyclist in your rear view mirror.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I had plotted a route over a nearby 10,600 "Brian's Head" peak (the local ski resort) to the town of Parawon and got started at my usual 8-ish. I was well underway on the route when I checked the temperature. It was only 30 degrees and I still had 3000 or more feet of ascent to the summit. Not certain if the roadway would have ice, I debated with myself about returning to motel until later in the morning -- but chose, instead, to just slow my pace and continue the ascent. It made for a less fun ride (the "pucker factor" was pretty intense as it was impossible to determine whether the many tar snakes might have a frozen surface). However, in short order I noticed a lakeside country store and decided to kill about an hour there with a cup of coffee to allow time for the sun to warm the roadway.
Some of you may enjoy comparing this photo that I took just before stopping at the country store with the Google "Street View" of the same spot that you can see my clicking here. In fact, you can actually take a virtual "ride" of the entire route (and lots of other routes I've been on) using the "Street View." But like most things -- pictures may tell 1000 words but there is nothing like the personal experience.
Near the summit, I took this photo from one of the overlooks -- definitely not a Kansas "overlook."
After exiting the town of Parawon, the landscape changed dramatically to a very flat farming valley as I proceeded on State Hwy 21. I searched the first town I came to, Minersville, for a meal stop but found nothing and almost bypassed the only restaurant in the second town, Milford, because the parking lot was empty (it obviously didn't meet my "trucks" standard). But I was hungry and needed a restroom, so I pulled in. It turned out it was a lucky break to have stopped because the breakfast was delicious and the staff friendly. As I was the leaving, a cashier with smiling eyes cautioned me, when I explained my direction of travel, that "there's a whole lotta nothing that way." Indeed she was right, immediately upon leaving the restaurant I saw a sign that said "next services, 83 miles" and I was back onto Texas-like straight roads as I headed to Route 50, the so-called "Loneliest Road in America."
About 90 miles later, there was a Visitor's Center for the Great Basin National Park located where State Highway 21 meets Route 50. I briefly stopped there and enjoyed some interesting conversations with other visitors. I haven't decided whether it the fact that I'm traveling by motorcycle or just the fact that I'm alone that people seemed more willing to engage in conversation. Perhaps a little of both. I decided to forgo the one hour detour it would take to travel to the actual park and continued on the "Loneliest Road."
The "Loneliest Road" is rightfully named as there virtually no traffic and, but for a very few towns, nearly no houses or structures of any kind in sight. Just miles and miles a straight roads on desert landscape. Now I must explain that the road was NOT uninteresting nor lacking in beauty -- as it felt like I was traveling through a continuous series of large craters. But the straight riding does get monotonous regardless of the beauty of the scenery. By the time I had gone 225 miles through this "whole lotta nothing," I was in a small, run-down town of Eureka, Nevada where I found an acceptable motel for the night.
Friday, October 16, 2009
However, the next 200 miles were back to fairly straight, high speed travel through unremarkable desert landscape and the strip-mall looking town of Farmington which had been my initial destination for the day. I arrived there around 1:30pm and instantly decided to keep moving to the Four Corners Monument -- at the intersection of the states of NM, AZ, UT and CO.
The "Monument" is on Navajo controlled land for which the Navajo's charge a $3 entry fee to view a brass marker surrounded by what looks like a dilapitated flea-market of T-shirt and trinket vendors. I wasn't impressed -- but did find some humor of my seeing this microeconomic example of unregulated capitalism on the same day that we learned of bigger AIG bonuses. And, I learn tonight from my reading on the internet, the "monument" isn't even in the right spot anymore based on current technology. A mile here, two miles there -- who really cares -- I doubt anyone including the Navajo toll collectors and vendors really cares where in this flat desert landscape the true "corner" exists.
Admittedly, my bleak assessment of this spot may be clouded by the fact that I almost dumped my bike there as I was leaving -- just crawling along in the thick gravel. It was one of the moments that passes in a flash but haunts every memory of it. As much as I would like to forget this very forgettable sightseeing gimmick, I will forever remember the Four Points Monument as where I almost dumped my bike.
I finished off the day with a bunch more straight and ended up in Blanding, UT -- which was about as interesting as Farmington. I took a chance on a $25 a night motel room, the cheapest of my trip, and got about what I paid for. Good news is that the sheets and towels were clean, and I know I didn't bother my neighbor because I could hear him snoring.
Little did I know, as I drifted off to sleep, that Blanding would turn out to be a most excellent place to begin a day long ride that will be a contender for best ride of the trip -- and among the top rides of my life. Stayed tuned.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Riding in the rain is the only time I love straight roads -- so I was glad I was still on the boringly straight roads of Texas and, when I got there, eastern New Mexico. Shortly after the rain stopped, I did my usual look for pickups and found another good breakfast stop: When I started the bike to leave this restaurant, I could see by my reflection in the glass that one of my high beam lights had burned out -- the first Honda malfunction of the trip!
When I started through the very next town (Clovis, NM - population 30K), I pulled over and checked a booklet I carry that lists all Honda motorcycle dealers. The book showed a dealer within one mile of my stop. I was delighted when the parts person assured me that he had the bulb and when he agreed to install it (I didn't know how). So, $22.50 later I was on the road with my first malfunction repaired.
Once the Honda parts guy knew what I was doing and after listening to my complaint about Texas straight/boring, he suggested an alternate route to Santa Fe that he said would be more scenic. I immediately headed on the routing he suggested and when a beautiful sky that opened up before me I got renewed enthusiasm for the day's ride.At the next gas/restroom stop I was getting ready to leave when another biker parked next to me -- and so began the dialogue I have written about before: where you going? where did you start? However, unlike the resulting answers from many other such common interactions -- this guy's answers were unusual and interesting. The young rider was from Brazil and had flown into New York City, rented a BMW GSR1200 for a one way, two-week ride to Los Angeles from which he would fly home. He had started on a northerly routing but dropped down to get away from cold weather. In Colorado he experienced snow for the first time in in his life. I learned he had a blog (in Portuguese -- but somewhat readable by using Google's web translation tool) - click here for his original blog and here for Google's translated version. Of course we exchanged emails and took pictures of each other -- and he even enlisted a nearby traveler to take our picture together (I'll post it when he sends me a copy). Unfortunately we weren't headed the same direction (he was going to Albuquerque). Hopefully our paths will cross again. Although our ages were quite different, our motivations seemed the same -- neither of us knew when, or if, we'd ever get a chance again for such an adventure.
The scenery on the rest of the ride into Santa Fe was greatly improved -- but still too much high speed (75 was the limit in NM) and flat/straight for my liking. But I arranged great accommodations, the weather is superb (even though Santa Fe sits at over 7000 feet elevation) and there are so many good motorcycle roads nearby that I decided to stay in the same place for two nights.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
"Cairo Illinois is the strangest city on the river. It feels like you're visiting a motion picture set from the 1950s and all the actors, save a few strays, have cleared the streets to hide from some impending doom. You glance back over your shoulder expecting to see the alien spaceships begin their attack or a six story high praying mantis chewing on the power lines.
Cairo is a sad place. It really feels abandoned. The population is roughly 3000 which on face value seems like a healthy number, but the city was built to sustain a population five times larger. The buildings are still there, large stone banks, churches, and government buildings; grand in design, but with their promise unfulfilled. They look sad standing their abandoned."
More explanation and pictures are at the web site: -- it turns out that this once important city of 20,000 is now just a depressed slum in part because it is a "victim of the racial hatred its citizens could not overcome." The web site and wikipedia entry are interesting and sad. A sobering reminder that not all of the USA is scenic backroads and thriving communities with multiple Starbucks. Of course I knew that -- but this town is an "in-your-face" reminder.
All in all, another interesting day.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I did choose to ride one of the two "Most Scenic" Roads in Kansas (according to Reader's Digest) along the old Santa Fe Trail and greatly enjoyed a stop at Ford Larned National Historic Site, a preserved and reconstructed site of one of the original military posts to protect the commerce and travelers on the heavily used Trail.
I also passed through Kinsley, KS which claims to be the midpoint between San Francisco and New York:
This stop prompted me to do a little checking on how I'm doing on my trip between my home and my destination, Williamsburg, VA. As of tonight, in Emporia, KS (southwest of Kansas City) I am 1443 miles from home with 1066 miles to go (as a crow flies). The actual number of miles I've ridden so far is 2,386; Total Moving Time (time in seat): 45 hours, 18 minutes.
I've also uploaded a map that includes that exact GPS track I've taken so far. You can see it by clicking here.