Chan's Most Excellent Western Motorcycle Trip















This was my first long-distance motorcycle trip, my first journal, and my first attempt at web publishing.  It shows.  It's rough, but it gets the point across.  Enjoy!


September 19

Left town about 10:30 am...already very hot and humid.   Ran up 79 towards Chipley.  On the way I noticed that one of my highway pegs was out of alignment...i had dropped the bike in the garage last week (didn't have the kickstand down) and it had shifted, but I had not noticed it.  Pulled over in the shade at Ebro Greyhound Park, but the Allen screws on the pegs are standard, all I have are metric.  Considered going back home, but thought that David Corbin would have some Allen wrenches at his pawnshop in Chipley.  Stopped off there and chatted for a while, David told me about a 600 Shadow that he had just bought, fixed the peg, and was on my way.  Headed up to Campbellton.  Topping a blind hill, a light company truck headed my way was just nosing into my lane for a left hand turn.  I got on the brakes hard (not much room), and was stopping fast enough...but as the truck turned, I saw that he was towing a trailer with a light pole on it.  The whole rig was probably 70 feet long!  Thankfully he continued with the turn instead of stopping when he saw me.  I braked as hard as I dared.  The pole was hanging off the trailer about 10 feet...the end of it was just crossing the center yellow line as I got there.  There was another truck behind him in the opposing lane, so I could not swerve out there, but I let up on the brakes and ducked in between the end of the pole and the front end of the other truck right on the yellow line.  Thoughts...not sure if I braked up to the limits...should practice hard braking...and I was probably running 65 or 70 when I topped the hill...should have been slower.


Rest of the trip to Savannah was uneventful...ran up thru Albany, Cordele, then 280 to I16.  Got a little rain at the Tattnall county line.  Outdoor thermometers showed between 89 and 95 all day.  Only stopped once for a snack, in a church parking lot in Albany for some peanuts.  Total miles 392, max speed shows 74.5 but i know i ran 80 for a while...not sure why.


September 22

Spent the last few days in Savannah...yesterday was Dad's 70’th birthday.  Left Savannah at 6am local, 5 am CST this morning.  Started in the Joe Rocket summer gear, stayed chilly most of the way that I had it on.  Sun came up as I crossed I95, and the weather was clear and sunny to Macon.  Things got overcast beyond that, so I changed into the FirstGear winter/rain jacket, and left the summer pants on.  Traffic was light, so I decided to go into Atlanta instead of taking the loop.  Worked out well, but it did start to sprinkle on me in town and started raining in earnest as I left town.  Stopped about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta for my first meal of the day...I rode 300 miles before breakfast!  Stopped a Crackerbarrel for biscuits and a few strange looks as I laid my dripping jacket and helmet on the table.  In Birmingham took Hwy 78 to Memphis...a really pretty ride...mostly 4 lane, 65 mph limit, and hilly.  Saw a lot of bikes; there must have been some kind of event in the area.  As I left Birmingham it started to clear, and soon I had to switch back to the summer jacket.  It also got windy, gusting out of the north.  Stayed that way the rest of the day.  Made really good time all the way to Memphis, where construction held me up about 1/2 hour.  As I got on I40 I was running straight into the afternoon sun, so I put my shades on under my tinted visor, and that worked fine.  Finally stopped after 12 hours on the road at Forest City, Arkansas.  Took a clean room at a mom and pop for $35, and had dinner at a Chinese buffet.  Stats for the day:  695.9 miles traveled, moving average 68.5 mph, moving time 10:09, max speed 93.6.


September 23

Up at 5:30, out by about 6:15.  The hotel had a "continental breakfast"...oh, yeah.  Mini doughnuts and coffee.   I had 4 of the mini doughnuts and a cup of coffee.  Temp was 58 when I started.  In the FirstGear outfit and have the polartek liner in.  Shed off as the day progressed, and ended up in the summer jacket...just couldn’t cool the other one off enough as the temps got into the high 70's.  On I40 all day.  Lots of construction in Arkansas, and what isn't under construction needs to be...the pavement is pretty beat up.  Pretty wooded hillsides in Arkansas and the first of Oklahoma, giving way to dryer flatlands and rolling hills.  Very light traffic the whole way, windy, but not blustery.   Just outside of Amarillo a guy on a Boss Hoss fell into formation with me for about 30 miles.  I really don't like it when people do that.  Got a room at Red Roof Inn in Amarillo, went to check my email at the library but the computers were booked up till closing.  Had dinner and 2 drinks at a Mexican place right down from the hotel. There is a guy here on a BMW 1150gs, but he does not seem too friendly.

Stats: 681 miles, 9:38 moving time, 60.9mph average


September 24

The best ride so far.

Had a 5am wake up call. Woke up at 3:30, couldn't go back to sleep, got up at 4, took a shower, messed around, hit the road at 5:30...sunrise at 7:30...I had 130 miles on before I could lower my tinted visor.  Took 287 to Dumas, just me and the truckers, then 87 out of Dumas into New Mexico.  Even the back roads in Texas have 70 mph speed limits, so I made good time, even thought the troopers were out in strength.  As the sky lightened, I could see the silhouettes of oil wells in the fields...they looked like some kind of strange dinosaurs.  Skies were partly cloudy and I had a beautiful dawn.  Right after I passed into New Mexico, I saw my first antelope...then my second...then my third...then the first dozen...sometimes they were as thick as cows (later I saw a bunch grazing on a golf course).  Then the wind picked up.  Heavy crosswinds, probably 30 mph, for about 40 miles.  I stopped to have breakfast at about 200 miles, even the gas pumps were rattling in the wind.  Shortly after I left the diner, the wind died down, and I crossed a ridge and got my first view of the Rockies.  Got on I25 at Raton, NM, and within the first mile saw a large black bear dead by the roadside.  Colorado (and Wyoming) have 75 mph interstate speeds...I love the west!  Saw sailplanes and stunt flyers around Colorado Springs.  Denver had lots of construction and was HOT...I wanted to pull over and vent out the jacket but traffic was too heavy.  Pushed on to Cheyenne and took 80 west...started to climb right off the bat, and started to get colder.  Windy again, too.  Stopped for gas in Laramie and ran the last, and hardest, 100 miles so far.  The crosswinds were killing me.  The wind was so bad that I hit reserve at 87 miles...I usually get 120 to135!  Took a hotel at Rawlins, found the library to check my email, bought a bottle of scotch, and had a rib eye dinner.  Stats: mileage 681.9, moving time 10.08, moving average 67.2, max speed 88.8.


September 25

Since I did not have so far to go, I decided to sleep in.  Woke up guessed it, 3:30 am.  Why don't I do this at home?  Watched the weather channel to get an update on local weather and Hurricane Isidore, which is in the Gulf, then went back to sleep, until 6.  Not sure what time I left...probably 7:30 or so.  My back was sore, so I spent a bit of time in the shower with hot water on the sore muscles, and took an Excedrin.  Took 278 out of Rawlins.  A guy at a gas station had told me yesterday to avoid this road at all costs...he said it had one of the highest fatality rates of any road in the US.  After having traveled it, I have no idea why.  The roads in north Georgia are much more challenging. 

Temps in the 40s, gray and overcast as I leave.  I got a few sprinkles on the way, but nothing major.  Today I have the FirstGear suit on with the heated liner and the regular gloves...thought I would see how I did without the heated gloves.  Worked great in these temps.  My hands did get a little cool, but not uncomfortable.  Legs were fine with no thermals, and my arms and torso stayed toasty.  It was really nice to be able to dial in the right amount of heat as elevation (and temperature) changed.

I was concerned about range after yesterday.  Speed limit on the secondary roads here is 65, and I got 32 mpg, for a real total range of 192 miles, including reserve.  But I did NOT want to push it.  Every time I stopped for gas I asked where the next gas was to make sure I was OK.  There was no need to worry, there was plenty of fuel, but one person did tell me that a lot of the stations start to shut down for the season this time of year.

Landscape was rolling, barren, and brown, with some large rock outcroppings.  Saw cows and a few sheep but no wildlife.  No timber at all.  Crossed the continental divided twice out here at altitudes in the 6000's.  However, as I neared the town of Dubois (a really neat little place, by the way) the rolls changed to cliffs, the ground color changed from brown to red, and timber got much prettier.  The road narrowed, aspens appeared (they are changing colors now), and I got up into the clouds.  As I entered Teton County, I crossed the divide again at almost 10,000 feet!  As I descended out of this pass, the clouds broke, the sun came out, and I could look ahead and see the Tetons...they were spectacular.  Stopped to pull out the videocam...battery was dead...oh, well.  Will come back film that later.  Bought my park pass at the entrance to Teton, and headed on to Yellowstone.  Stopped at Grants Village (the first developed area in the park from the south entrance) to check on lodging.  Booked 3 nights for 101 per night...seems like there was a deal on the web for 89...  I was tired and had a headache (elevation?) so went to the room, unpacked, and rested.  As I was pulling into the parking lot, my horn went off by itself, then stopped, and was dead...either the relay or the switch had gone bad.    Later had dinner (pork chops and a glass of wine) at the local restaurant...$24.  I am blowing the budget on food, going to have to watch that...especially with 3 nights of $100 lodging.

Side headlight modulator has been acting up.  Coming out of Amarillo, at night, it would not stop modulating...had to run on low beam until sunup.  But today, it is working fine.  Had this same problem with my first one, right after I installed it...the manufacturer replaced it, and that was quite some time ago...will keep an eye on it.  Bought a book at the bookstore…Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.  It is the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition…seems like while I am exploring the west, I should be reading about the first white men to explore the west.

stats: 293.4 miles, moving time 5:23, moving average 46, max speed 74.4


September 26

A day with a frustrating beginning, but all worked out well.

My plan for the day was to get up early for some sunrise animal viewing at Hayden Valley, then cross over and go to West Yellowstone, where there is a Radio Shack, so that I could replace my horn relay.  Sunrise at 7:30, so I planned to be out by 6:30.  Well, I woke up at 3:30, but stayed in bed till I went back to sleep.  Woke back up at 6, back sore, keeping me from going back to sleep.  Got all my stuff together and went out to the bike.  There had been a heavy frost last night (need to buy a bike cover), so I took out some hot water and cleaned off the windscreen.  Then...the bike would not start.  It has been cold natured since I installed the trigger wheel (a mod that gives a little more power and better gas mileage), but this is the coldest weather I have ever had it in.  Plenty of battery power, but I did not want to run it down, so I decided to let things warm up a bit and try again.  I don't remember what time this was, but I went back to the room and read my Lewis and Clark book.  Went back out at 9:30, still ice on the bike...sounded like it tried to fire a couple of times, but just would not catch.  Went back at 10...fired right up.  But it did take it a long time to warm up...probably 5 minutes before it would hold an idle (i had noticed this in Rawlings).  Just for kicks, I hit the horn...worked fine.  Damn these intermittent problems!  So now no need to go to West Yellowstone.  I decided to ride up to Old Faithful.  I spent about 2 hours hiking around the geysers and springs, and saw Old Faithful erupt twice.  By this time it was almost 2, and all I had eaten was some I stopped by the grill and got a cheeseburger and fries.  Back on the road, came back to Grants, then north.  Saw two elk in a meadow, tried to film them but they were way off.  Driving up to the lake area, saw a car pulled off on the right side, went past him and just as I passed, I noticed a big brown blob on the was a bison grazing right by the road.  Turned around and got some video of it.  On to Canyon Village, filmed the upper and lower falls in Yellowstone canyon.  At this point the day was getting on, but I decided to keep on going... I would probably end up riding a little bit in the dark, but not much.  In Hayden Valley large groups of bison were right by the road, I stopped and filmed some of them.  Just before Tower, in the high meadows, a lot of people were pulled over looking at elk on the plains; so far away you could hardly see them.  I would do better filming a postcard.  Also glimpsed a large bear through the trees, but the road was windy and there was no safe place to pull over.   However, a little farther ahead, some people were watching a juvenile black bear graze on berries and I got some good footage of that.  At this point, I decided no more sightseeing, as sundown was near, and I needed to make some time.  So I headed for Mammoth Hot Springs, making mental notes of where to come back to and spend more time. As I entered town, I saw a statue of a huge bull elk on the front lawn of the hotel.  Then I noticed that about 25 cow elk surrounded it...and they were not statues!  I could have walked right up to them.  The male was bugling, and they all seemed unaware of all the people standing around with cameras!  And I had to make time.  Passing through Norris, there was another big herd, right by the roadside, some crossing right in front of me.  A little further on, a solitary bull almost walked out in front of me on the road.  Oh, and somewhere out there, i saw a coyote and a mule deer.

Right at dark I stopped at Lake Village looking for cheap eats (since the only thing open at Grants is kind of spendy).  Found a deli and had a bowl of chili and a cup of coffee for about $5.  Rode the rest of the way to Grants in the dark, and got back to the room about 8:30.

Stats: mileage 73.9, moving time 3:12, average 8.2 mph, max speed 60.8



September 27

The plan for today...hiking.  I bought a book on day hikes a few days ago, and have chosen a couple that look good...the rim trails on Yellowstone canyon, and the Tower Falls trail.  Along the way, maybe I can get some good elk footage.  Got out to the bike at 9, wasn't as cold last night, only a light frost, the bike cranked right up.  Decided that I should drop by the visitor center to check the weather, since the room has no TV and I have been missing the weather channel.  As I walked in, they were putting the weather on a chalkboard...60% chance of snow, with accumulations of 1-3 inches.  CRAP!  Bikes and snow don't mix.  So I started asking the girls at the desk some quickly will the roads clear?  How far south will the snow be?   Etc Etc.  I was not satisfied with the answers I got (mostly "I don't know"), and there is no Internet access in the park to check  SO...I checked out, with the plan of running over to West Yellowstone and finding an internet connection so I could figure out what to do.  Went back to the room to pack up, and remembered...FedEx is delivering my mail here to Grants Village this I can't leave until it arrives.  SO...I went and toured a bit to burn up some time before FedEx came.  Went to the mud volcano area, then to Norris, where I got some fair elk video.  Back to the Grant's Village desk at 2:30, just as FedEx arrived.  By this time I decided that I should head south to Jackson, WY.  This routed me through Teton National Park, and was about 80 miles south, and 1700 feet lower.  On the way saw and filmed a black bear, and at one point followed a bison that was walking down the road right on the centerline.  Awesome ride through Teton, the mountains are fabulous.  Arrived in Jackson about 5, and quickly discovered that it is the Aspen of Wyoming...lots of tony shops and restaurants and hotels...Motel 6 was $65.  Found the Chamber of Commerce by accident, and a lovely brunette named Percy found me a room at a mom and pop for $45.  There was a girl camper there at the same time looking for a hotel…she had not expected it to be as cold as it was, and had not brought the right gear…she said she had slept in her truck the night before and was very cold.  On the way to the hotel, I noticed a bike behind me and waved.  Second glance, I realized that it was a Yamaha FJR1300, the bike that I have been wanting to see for so long.  I motioned the guy over and we talked for a bit...the bike was very cool...he said that if I would go by the dealer, they would probably let me have a test ride.  Went to the hotel and checked in, unpacked, and realized that I had left my toiletry kit at Yellowstone.   Went to Albertson’s to by basics...I was originally going to go out for a steak, but by this time, decided McDonalds was good enough...I had only eaten some peanuts and a granola bar today.

Stats: mileage around 200 (gps showing incorrect data for some reason), moving time 3:40 (doesn't sound right either), max speed 74.1






September 28

Up at 7, 30 degrees outside.  Today is a taking care of business day.  Went to the Laundromat and did a load, ate breakfast at a little diner while they washed.  While they were drying I talked to a lady from upstate New York.  She just turned 60, took the MSF course, and wants to tour via motorcycle (she currently RV's), but her husband does not enjoy riding.

After laundry I went to the library to check email and do some accounting, then I mailed my receipts back to home.  At that time it was 12:30, and I went riding.  Looked for the Yamaha dealer, but never could find it.  Rode up over Teton pass to the ID border.  This was the first road I had ever seen with 10% grades!  Rode up to Teton park, and took the northbound road that went closest to the base of the mountains.  It is very narrow for about 1/2 of it's distance, and even goes to gravel for 2 miles.  There are some little glacial lakes there that are stunning...crystal clear, heavily wooded all around, with the mountains behind.  There were some canoers there, as well as a couple in an inflatable kayak.  We talked for a while...they really like the boat.  It packs down into a bag small enough to fit on the bike!  That would be cool......  Got a little rain.  Saw some elk, a moose, and a bald eagle.  Dinner was Subway.  Stats:  mileage 118.9, moving time 3:04, aver speed 23.5, max 65.5


September 29

Got started at 8:30, 39 degrees.  Headed back over Teton Pass, to Victor, ID, then to Swan Valley.  Started to get spotty rain there.  Continued on 26 along Palisades Lake, which was WAY down...probably 30 feet low (as were all of the man-made lakes I have seen up to now).  At Alpine, headed south on 89.  I was looking for a road that is not numbered on the map, and not on the gps at all, that runs up in the mountains, but I must have missed it.  This road runs through a rolling valley full of farms and cattle ranches, with hills/mountains on each side...I am closest to the east side.  The rain that is falling on me is putting fresh snow on the mountains to my left.  And I can't seem to get warm this morning...thermometers are showing temps in the 50's, but I am cold...probably not enough calories...I have only been eating one or two meals a day for quite a few days now.  The rain ended in Afton, and I pushed on to Cokeville where I had breakfast/lunch at a truck stop...I have about 190 miles on the clock at this point.  Struck up a conversation with a bus tour guide who knows the area well, he recommends a route, so I ditch my plans and go the way he advises.  A good choice.  I backtracked to Montpelier, and then take 30 through Paris and down the western shore of Bear Lake.  It is low, but still has the same turquoise color of the Gulf of Mexico.  At Woodruff I wanted to turn west across the mountains, but I had 100 miles on this tank of gas, and no fuel in I stayed on 16/89 to Evanston for fuel.  From there, took 150 thru the Wasach Mountains.  Any road that says, "closed in winter" on the map has got to be good...and man, was it.  Brilliant colors on the aspens and cottonwoods, and elevations over 8000 feet.  I saw a moose cow and calf strolling thought a pasture (they obviously thought they were cows), and my first badger...he was just grumping across the road.  There was a light dusting of snow in the higher elevations, and several little alpine lakes rimmed with fir trees that were just divine.  A great ride...I got some video on the "handlebarcam".  Came on into Heber for the night.  Stats: mileage 383.9, moving time 7:17, moving average 52.7, max speed 74.4.


September 30

Out at about 8:30, decided to ride up to Sundance, the ski resort that Robert Redford owns.  A wonderful windy little road with a stream beside it and brilliant fall colors.  Then back to Heber and southeast on 40.  The plan was to head in a southerly direction, but to cross the mountains every chance I got.  At some point, I noticed that the bike was feeling kind of floaty, like it was wandering...but I figured that there were some grooves in the pavement that were hard to see that were guiding the front end a bit.  Boy, was I wrong.  Stopped in Duchesne for gas, got back on the bike, it felt REALLY strange.  Pulled back over...the rear tire was totally flat.  There was a garage across the street, so I went over and pumped the tire up to 40 psi and started looking for the leak.  I thought I could hear something (hard to tell over the traffic noise), but could not find the hole (soapy water did not cross my mind).  In about 5 minutes I rechecked the pressure, it was down to 35...I had a real problem.  Talked to the guys in the garage, there was a bike store in Helper, 60 miles away (along my planned route).  I bought a can of fixaflat (the label said "do not use on motorcycles"), put about 1/4 of it in, and headed south.

In about 15 miles, the bike was feeling freaky again.  I pulled over, pressure was down, but at least I could find the leak now, because it was spewing fixaflat.  There was no way I could make it the other 45 miles.  So I put the rest of the fixaflat in the tire (it held) and headed back to Dushesne.  Now that we knew where the hole was, we plugged the tire, and I headed south once again.  I decided to stay on bigger roads in case I had damaged the tire enough to cause a blowout, and to replace it as soon as possible...

Got to the bike store in Helper, they were closed (many bike stores are on Mondays).  Kept moving south, headed for I70, about 60 miles away.  Coming through a little town I saw a Kawasaki dealership and decided to give it a go.  They did not have what I needed, but knew where the closest Honda dealer was (another 80 miles, in Richfield), and they called them and helped me set up a repair. They did not have the tire in stock but could get one overnighted.

So I went to Richfield and took a room at a Travellodge, found a library to check email, and ate dinner.

Ran into a guy on a BMW RS1150 who was finishing up a 7-week trip.  He bought the bike in May and has 30,000 miles on it!

Stats: mileage 317.9, moving time 5:36, moving average 56.7, max 85


October 9

This is the first time I have worked on my journal since the 30th... I will do the best I can.

I sat in the hotel room till checkout time reading my book, then went to the Honda shop.  They are also a Polaris dealer, have a gun store, camping gear, archery stuff, a really neat place.  They also own a bowling alley next door and the local Ford dealership.  I sat in the bowling alley and read while I waited for the tire to arrive and them to install it.  Good thing I like this book!  They were done by about 3:30, $394, OUCH!  Started blowing and raining just as they were finishing up.  Ran over to McDonalds and grabbed a bite to eat, and then hit the road.  The Conners (my Alaskan friends who I was going to ride with for the next week or so) are in Beaver Dam Arizona...they were going to come up farther north, but they lost a throttle cable on the RV.  I hit the road, taking 70 to 15 south.  Started raining on me in about 10 miles.  I was up high, and soon was in the it was raining, cold, and foggy.  I had to lift the tinted visor and put on my clear glasses, that cold rain HURT! So I was ducked down behind the shield.  This was some challenging riding...coupled with a new, slick back tire...I felt it slip a little on one curve.  I thought the rain might let up so I did not put my overboots on in time, and my feet got pretty wet.  When I finally did pull over to put them on, I noticed that there was snow on the sides, and the emergency lane was slushy.  Then, at some point, it started to hail!  What a day.  It didn't last long, but if it had kept up I would have had to pull over.  After about 100 miles the rain stopped and the road dried out.  Coming through Virgin River gorge it was windy, with lightning hitting the tops of the hills.  Got to the RV just as it was getting dark.  Total mileage about 150 miles.  Sure was good to get there and see the Conners, and have some of Mary's cooking!  George had found a place in Salt Lake City to get the throttle cable rebuilt and had FedEx-ed it off.  It should be back by the 4th.


Next day, the 2nd, the four of us rode to Zion under overcast skies.  What a magical place.  Had a great day, we rode all the way through the park then came back to take the shuttle up the canyon.  Just as we got off the bikes, the skies opened up and it POURED cold rain.  We got soaked!  Someone said they had as much rain in the last 24 hours as they had in the last 2 years.  But the rain created waterfalls all over the place, which really added to the experience.  I have got to come back to this park and hike.  George called to check on the throttle cable.  It was done, and shipped, but they told us they had shipped it 3-day, not overnight as agreed.  George was hot, and spent 3 hours on the phone talking to all sorts of people at FedEx and the throttle-cable-rebuilding place.  Nobody there seemed to want to take any responsibility, and the folks at FedEx offered to try and find it and expedite it for a $350 fee, no guarantees.  Not happy.


The 3rd, Eric and I struck off on our own to Hoover Dam.  We took the scenic road along the lake, which was really curvy and pretty.  We hiked on some of the red rocks and then went to the Dam, where we took the tour.  The security guard wanted to look at Eric’s leatherman…he looked it over pretty good and handed it back, saying “no knife in there”.  He had never opened it up to see the knife blades.  Sheesh.  Headed back through Vegas and up the interstate.  Rode 265 miles.


The 4th the four of us rode to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  Got a late start, around 11, so did not get down to Point Royal.  Barely made it back by dark, rode down I15 with the sun in our eyes.  350 miles, Mary was really sore! 


The 5th, we rode through Zion to Bryce, much warmer than last year, 375 miles.  Met a guy at the RV Park with a mint 58 Caddy.


The 6th, I have no idea what we did.


The 7th, we have a throttle cable.  And guess what?  It has been waiting for us since Friday.  Shipping told George wrong…they had shipped it next-day, and it had arrived as planned…but, of course, we did not go to pick it up since they told they had screwed up.  Sheesh.  Anyway, George and Mary wanted to move the RV to Moab, so Eric and I rode backroads by ourselves to Moab to meet them.  Took Utah 14 over an extinct volcano (complete with lava flows) into snow country, then 89 north to 12 and 24, the Escalante staircase.  This was the most beautiful ride yet, from desert moonscape to lush high alpine forests.  A blast.  460 miles.








8th Eric and I went to Canyonlands, very cool, and a quick run thru Arches NP just before dark.


9th Eric and I to went to Arches National Park in the morning, then a 4 hour ATV tour in the afternoon, into Canyonlands.  Our guide was a 21-year-old local who had been riding 4 wheelers since he was 5.  Eric crashed (over the handlebars) twice; I got stuck in the mud and then turned the ATV up on its rearend.  Came back dirty, tired, and happy.  It is amazing the abuse that those little machines can take, and the terrain that they can climb.


The 10th, George and Mary moved the RV to Cortez, Colorado, Eric and I rode 128 up the Colorado to Dewey bridge, then a side road to the Potash salt mine...saw rock climbers.  Then down to Cortez, and to 4 corners, ended with a tough steak dinner at a casino.  300 miles.






October 27

I have now been home for 2 days, and will do the rest of the journal from memory.  I can’t help but remember how Stephen Ambrose wrote in Undaunted Courage that Lewis had long lapses in his journals…Ambrose attributes this to Lewis being manic-depressive…let’s just say that I am lazy!


11th:  Mesa Verde.  The park is bigger than I expected, and quite interesting.  The highlights, of course, are the Indian cliff dwellings that were built around 1200 AD.  We spent some time in the museum and bought tickets to a ranger-led tour of one of the dwellings…Cliff House, I think.  The tour was let by a very cute 20-something Rangerette.  On the tour I met a neat lady, mid-60’s, a retired attorney from Marin County.  She got her law degree in her 40’s.  Now that her children are busy with families and carriers, she travels solo, and has been all over the place.  She really liked Asia.  After the tour, we continued along the park road and came to another cliff dwelling where another tour was about to start…we did not have tickets, but talked the ranger into letting us in anyway.  He was a tall lanky California-surfer-type-dude, and was a riot.  He was also very into Indian history and mythology, and, since this was the last tour of the day, we got the royal treatment.  George and Mary skipped this tour, deciding to do some more riding and head back to the RV.  Bad decision, they would have loved it.  It was getting dark as the tour ended.  I was in the lead as we rode out, and as we were climbing a hill, a deer jumped out in front of me.  I got on the brakes and missed him, but he had a buddy, and Eric was right behind me.  There was no collision, but Eric had to swerve hard and came very close to whacking the deer.  We took it slow the rest of the way; eyes open, and got back to the RV without incident.


12th:  Eric decided to take the day off and laze around.  George and Mary were thinking about either going to a classic car show, or heading into Durango to look around at the Harley shop.  So I decided to go back to Mesa Verde by myself.  I rode another road in the park that we had missed the previous day, spend some time in the museum, and toured another cliff dwelling.  Ran into an Englishman who used to race BSA’s and Nortons.  He kept looking at that big chrome motor hanging out of the Valkyrie and saying that he would love to stuff it into his MG!

Later, back at the RV, George and Mary showed up, raving about the ride they had taken.  The had gone to Durango, then headed up into the mountains to Ouray and Ridgeway, and then come back down through Telluride.  The more they talked, the more I wanted to go.  This was to be my last night with them, as I had to be in Las Vegas on the 14th.  The ride had taken them 4-5 hours, so Eric and I decided that I could squeeze that in tomorrow before I headed west.


13th:  What a great decision!  This was the best ride of the trip.  The mountains were huge, the colors fantastic, and the roads were sweeeet!  There was one section of 10MPH switchback after switchback after switchback.  We stopped in Silverton, elevation 10,000 feet, for pie (for breakfast), and rode the main street in Telluride.  The scenery between Ridgeway and Placerville reminded me of the Alps.  On the way back, it clouded over and got a little nasty…we had a mix of rain, snow, and hail.  We got back to the RV about 4, I said my goodbyes, and headed west.  I ran back through Four Corners and spent the night at a Best Western in Kayenta, AZ.


14th: Rode to Vegas.  An uneventful ride, through desert country, mostly flat, but some mesas and buttes to keep things interesting.  Rode across the Hoover Dam, and took the long way up the Las Vegas strip.   Checked into the Luxor, and as I was checking in, Sven and Melissa Thompson (my riding companions for the next two days) came up behind me in line…they had just flown in.  I went to the room and crashed for a while, then checked messages…this is the first time I have had cell service since I entered Wyoming!  Had a few drinks at the bar and then we went to the steakhouse in the hotel for a nice dinner.


15th:  Picked up the Thompson’s rental Goldwing about 9 (they got yellow, the best color), returned their rental car, and headed for Zion.  This is familiar territory for me now!  The weather was MUCH nicer this time, warm and sunny.  We rode the park, shuttled up to the restaurant for a beer, walked the river walk, then headed to Mt. Carmel Junction, where we would spend the next 2 nights at the Thunderbird Inn.


16th:  Bryce Canyon.  Nice weather again, and uneventful riding.  Sven digs the Wing, and Melissa says that the passenger seat is MUCH more comfortable than my Valk!  Got back from Bryce at a decent hour, so Melissa played a few rounds of golf while Sven and I set out on our own (he wanted to get some solo time on the Wing).  We rode back through Zion, and looked for a place to have a beer in Springdale…had to burn up some time since everything was closed till 5, so we just rode around.  Back to the hotel at about 6:30 for dinner, and discussed plans for tomorrow.  The North Rim was still open, but that would make a long day, and they had seen it a few years ago.  We decided to head back north on 89 and cross the volcano on UT14, see Cedar Breaks, and come back to Vegas on I15.  Sven let me take out the Wing for a spin, very impressive bike.  It weighs more that the Valk, but feels lighter, handles better, and has similar power.  I could get used to this!


17th:  Cedar Breaks and UT 14.  Almost all of the snow had melted off since the last time I was up here with Eric, but it was still a great ride.  There were some fires burning and some smoke across the road that added some interest to the trip.  Cedar Breaks is kind of a mini Bryce Canyon.  We stopped at several viewpoints and took a short hike, shot some pictures of the Thompson’s in the snow, and headed for Vegas.  Had a good bit of wind on the way back, and had a light rain falling when we arrived.  Checked into the Flamingo Casino and headed off for dinner.


18th through 20th:  Seminar in Vegas, no riding.


21st.  Got to get to Albuquerque today, 600 miles and a time change, so I was on the road at dawn.  Back across Hoover Dam and to I40.  An uneventful ride, until…. I was past Grants, NM, and was planning on riding till I hit reserve, then looking for gas.  Cruising about 85, I noticed that I was getting good mileage on this tank, but didn’t think any more about it…mistake.  As the trip meter rolled to 130, the bike stumbled, so I reached down to switch to reserve…and the petcock wouldn’t turn.  So I twisted the other way, and it turned…I had been on reserve the whole time, and had just drained my tank.  I coasted to the foot of an exit and drug out the cell phone…no coverage.  There were some houses off the exit, so I walked up the ramp.  To the left I could see a little bar, and what appeared to be a gas station.  As I approached, I could see that the gas station was abandoned, but the bar had a pay phone, and there was somebody unloading firewood in the back.  I walked up and got the guys attention, explained my situation, and asked if he could sell me some gas.  He said, “You’re screwed”.  Now, there he is, in a pickup truck, with gas in it, telling me that the closest gas station is 6 miles away.  Anyway, I persisted, and said something like “I was hoping maybe someone had some lawnmower gas they could sell me”.  That seemed to spark him, and he said to hang on.  It was at that moment that I notice that there were two 5-gallon jugs FULL OF GAS on the back wall of the bar under a little wooden cover.  But he soon re-appeared with an empty one gallon Clorox bottle, poured me some gas, and would only take two bucks, even though I tried to give him more.  He did not, however, offer me a ride back to the bike!  Oh, well, this could have been a lot worse, but I could not help but think of how much more help I would have been to someone in the same situation.

Anyway, I walked back to the bike, which had not been bothered, and got to Albuquerque without further incident.


22nd: Visited with friends, no riding.


23rd: The trip is over, heading home.  I was on the road about 6.  Had clear skies for the first 30 miles or so, then thick fog set in.  The temperature kept dropping; I had on the electric jacket, and kept cranking it up until it was on full blast.  I had never had it up that high before!  Windy again, and the bike once again went to reserve sooner than expected…about 92 miles.  I consulted the GPS, and it looked like there was not any gas for quite a ways, so I backed the speed down to about 60 and prayed.  Made it to a gas station, probably on fumes.  I had decided that if I ran out today, I would stay with the bike and broadcast MAYDAY on the CB until a trucker picked me up!  While I was filling up, I asked the cashier (who commented that I had to be a loon to be on a bike in this cold!) what the temp was, she said that the radio said it was 30.  I added the heated gloves, and MAN, did that help my hands stay warm…they were toasty the rest of the day.  It stayed cold, foggy, and windy till I turned south at Amarillo.  Things warmed up slowly, and by the time I got to Dallas, temps were around 70.  Traffic was heavy, it was dusk, and there was a light rain falling, so I took it easy, and took a room at a Super 8 in Terrell, Texas, just east of Dallas.


24th.  On the road at 6, after having a doughnut in the lobby, still dark.  Headed down I20, I decided to make a quick side trip to ride by my old college campus, which is on Highway 80 just north of the interstate.  I passed the campus just as the sun came up.  That 15-minute side-trip brought back lots of great memories.  Back to I20, keeping speeds up around 80 unless I could tuck in behind someone running faster…I REALLY didn’t want a ticket!  I only stopped for fuel, and once to munch down some peanuts that I had in the bags.  Got home about an hour after dark, the GPS showed 13.5 hours on the road, a moving average of just over 62 MPH, and 819 miles covered…my longest day yet.



This was a great trip, a fabulous experience.  I enjoyed the times by myself, and could cover a lot of ground, but also enjoyed riding with others.  It was a nice mix.  I REALLY want a bike with more range.  Running out of gas sucks, and just having to worry about it, and stop every 100 miles or so, is a pain.  I want a bike with longer legs than my bladder!  Also, integrated, lockable, waterproof storage would be really nice.  My bags are weatherproof, but small, and the locks are a joke…a strong tug and they are open.  When I was parked and away from the bike, I was concerned about someone stealing my stuff.  The GPS and MP3 player worked great and were a nice addition to the trip.  My radar detector was useless; I could not hear it go off even when cranked up all the way.  I didn’t even mess with it after the second or third day.  The videocam on the handlebars, worked pretty well on smoother roads.  I just have to remember not to shoot through the windshield…too much glare.  This was a great time of year to travel, with wonderful fall colors, but perhaps a bit late…I hated to lose a day in Yellowstone due to the threat of snow.  Perhaps a better plan would be to head across country on Labor Day weekend.

I didn’t get to do several things that I wanted to do:  The Bitterroots, Glacier National Park, the Pacific Coast Highway, the sequoia and redwood forests, and visiting friends in Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, and California.  Next fall….