Friday, August 29, 2014

Can Almost Taste It!

Making a final push today from the Indiana-Ohio border. Tonight we expect to be in west-central PA for my final night on the road.

I think I could do this forever (with a couple days' break every now & then) but once I'm a couple days from home, I sure can't wait to get there! I miss my baby, and I haven't seen Katrina in forever.

Yesterday, we took the back roads out of Wisconsin and steered clear of Chicago, but this ain't Montana and the towns aren't 50 miles apart and no stoplight. It took us a while.

We did stop for a legit Chicago dog in Joliet - delicious! - and then jumped on I-80, which will take us "home," or in my case, to a cozy little cottage on Lake Wallenpaupack for Labor Day weekend. That's as good as home to me, and the reunion will be sweet and long-awaited.

Let's roll!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to the W's

In my/our 27 nights in hotel rooms so far, I don't think we had the TV on 3 times.  We used to watch the Weather Channel a lot, but now between the laptop and our phones, we have instant access to the info we need on demand.  With our showers, packing for the next morning, planning the ride, updating friends, and whatever else, and usually an early start, it just doesn't get turned on.

But if it did, we'd be back to the W's.  As you know, broadcast station call letters west of the Mississippi start with K, and with W east of the mighty Mississip.  We passed that milestone earlier today, crossing into LaCrosse, Wisconsin in the early afternoon.

This was after a visit to the SPAM museum in Austin, MN first thing in the morning, which was about as neat as you'd expect.  Since they didn't open until 10, we were kind of hustling to get to the House on the Rock and Dr. Evermor's Forevertron near Madison here.

Hustling a bit too much, apparently, since a Minnesota trooper coming the other way hooked a U-turn on that rural highway and pulled us over.  We were polite, he was understanding and kind to the travelers from Pennsylvania touring his fine state, and we were sent off with a warning.  Good thing I heeded it, too, because about 30 miles down the road, an associate of his was conducting enforcement activities as well.  With us on record, I don't think the second time would have been a warning.

We decided to skip the House on the Rock.  Funny how we think:  I remember once having a discussion with Donna about either making a detour, or trying to get a little further on a given day or whatever, and I said without a trace of irony, "It's only about a hundred miles."  And without a trace of irony, she said, "oh hell, then why not?"  Now here we were in Wisconsin, and when I asked if everyone was OK with skipping this stop to keep the day from getting too late, Mom says, "Sure, just skip it.  We're close - we can come back some other time." 

We're in frickin WISCONSIN.

Not everybody thinks like we do.

Then we got to Dr. Evermor's and it was closed.  It was sad how pissed I was, after a month of seeing every amazing, fascinating, must-see scenic tourist destination in the country, I'm heartbroken for being unable to see some scrap welded together by a wacky madman.  That ain't right.

From this point, it's pretty much hammering out interstate for 2-1/2 days to get home.  We'll get a little more of the road less traveled tomorrow morning, but before Chicago we'll get on the "big road" and start gobbling up the miles.  We don't have any scenic or oddball destinations up our sleeves anymore - which is pretty much how we plan these trips.  The "week or less" stuff we save for "week or less" trips.  When we're going off the reservation, we see everything we can't get to otherwise.

For the umpteenth time, I have a bunch of pictures I want to add, and a bunch of interesting thoughts and details I'd like to document (I use this as my own journal and like to go back and read it) so there will be more to come.  But barring anything unexpected, it's hammer down from here, so I can get to the lake house with Donna and the kids for Labor Day weekend.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Familiar Faces

After Saturday's fiasco, I had a bit of sunshine to look forward to, figuratively if not literally.  After two days in the high 40's / low 50's, I could expect to reach the high 60's by the end of Sunday. 
Also, the radar showed that despite the 47 degree rain outside my window, I should finally be riding out of it sometime this morning.

But, more importantly, I had an 11:30 appointment in North Dakota to meet my mom and dad.  They left Pennsylvania last week to head west and join me for the last leg of my trip, and this is the rendezvous we ended up with.  With the events of yesterday, I could have rescheduled, but I had no way of knowing what I was getting into until I lived it. 

So, out once again into the cold rain.  I eagerly awaited the cessation of the weather event, but the miles passed with no change on the horizon.  Finally, an hour and a half later nearing the eastern border of Montana, I saw some stark white clouds against the dark gray background.  This was the same phenomenon I'd seen when I rode *into* this weather pattern 700 miles ago.  Was I finally riding *out* of it?


I was not.  Unfortunately.

Then, in North Dakota about 5 miles from our rendezvous, it finally stopped.  I was on dry road for the first time in 2-1/2 days.  Still black skies and cold, but dry.

Hugs and handshakes - never was  I more glad to see a familiar face, let alone that of my parents.  Joy!  I warmed up and had an early lunch, and after about an hour we went out to get on the bikes.  I kept my rainsuit on; mom and dad were confident.  They had stayed in town last night and had been dry for days.

Before we got the bikes started, it began to rain.

But we pulled out anyway, and aside from a brief shower 30 miles down the road, we stayed dry under the dark clouds.  Cold and dry is way better than cold and wet.

Later in the afternoon, we actually got some blue sky with our cold, and we arrived in Deadwood, SD before 4:00 and in good spirits.  We checked into the Iron Horse Inn, a legitimate period hotel with creaky hardwood floors, ornate woodwork, and lots of character.  Donna and I had stayed here a few years ago, and it was great to be back.  Things were looking up.

We walked the main drag, had a great steak dinner, and stopped in Saloon #10 for another beer or two and witnessed a re-enactment of the demise of Wild Bill Hickok, holding his eights and aces in a poker game.  (For the record, the 5th card was the 9 of diamonds.)

Next morning, after breakfast and waiting for mom and dad to check out, I plunked $20 into a blackjack machine and earned myself $11 to boot.  Eleven free dollars!  Things were DEFINITELY looking up!

We headed for Iron Mountain Road, and stopped for a family photo at Mount Rushmore (four more familiar faces!) just down the road from where it starts.  After enjoying our twisties delivered with a side of scenery, we headed eastward - turning for home for them, and resuming my own return.  We have since ridden through the Badlands, spent the night in the worst hotel ever in Mitchell, SD, seen the 2014 edition of the Corn Palace, and posed for a photo with the Jolly Green Giant.

We're in Owatonna, Minnesota for the night, and this blog is officially up-to-date.  I do have a bunch of pictures I want to add to the older posts for color and context, and I have a ton of neat stories and thoughts to share.  But for now, and for the first time in quite a while, you can read about where I am while I'm actually there.

Now time to plan tomorrow's ride.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Paying With Interest


Last night, Donna and I talked about "paying the bill" once in a while for the fun and freedom that our grand adventures bring.  I had a crappy afternoon yesterday and was glad she was not there, and happy to cover the check for my sweetie back home. 

Some days, everything is perfect, and people look at me and think, "Man, that guy has got it figured out.  He has the world by the balls."  Sometimes, they look at me and think, "Look at that stupid SOB.  I wouldn't want to be him right now."  I was about to have the second kind of day.  I've had some pretty bad ones for sure.  This would be the worst day I ever spent on a motorcycle.

Today I needed to get about 325 miles to a reservation in Miles City, MT, that I had made two days ago.  According to the reviews, it was a really nice Comfort Suites, the nicest place in town.  And good thing, because today was supposed to be like the second half of yesterday:  cold, wet and windy.  All 300+ miles of it.


Sure enough, I left with the rainsuit on again, but unlike yesterday it was not just foreboding, it was pouring down rain.  And COLD.  All geared up, ready for anything (so I thought at the time) off I went.

Getting out of town and up to speed, I noticed those same cold, strong, northerly winds that Donna and I remember from our eastward trek across South Dakota a few years back.  The bike is struggling to keep speed, sucking down fuel, and leaned over at a constant 45 degrees, it seems, just to go straight. Then, when you pass a grain elevator, a ridge, or another car, it blocks the wind for a moment and suddenly you're in the oncoming lane, counteracting nothing.  This isn't fun, and in a downpour, it's scary.  As the gusts blast you around and you fight to keep it in your lane, you are afraid to wrestle the handlebars worrying that the swerve will slide the bike out from under you.  No 75 mph today.

Then about 60 miles out, I realized that I had probably missed a turn.  My tank bag is covered due to the rain, and my directions are under there, but I can't see 'em.  It took me a couple miles to find a spot to pull over - US-2 out here is graded with a ditch on both sides and just wide enough for two lanes.  Sure enough, I was supposed to turn somewhere about 50 miles out, give or take, and here I am working on 65.  I betcha it was that blinking yellow light suspended across the road back there.  Now, the decision was, do I stay on the "High Line" - the term for the northern-tier BNSF rail line and the highway that mirrors it, and find another turn to the south, or do I waste the 20 miles and go back?.  Knowing I was on the shortest route already, and not wanting to get out a bunch of maps in a downpour, I made a u-turn.  This would turn out to play a very large role in my day.

The blinking yellow light was it.  I turned left on MT-66 and headed south with just over a half-tank of gas.  Really sucking it down in this wind and rain.

I found a way to get my winter leather gloves inside the big neoprene ones that I use for rain, which I had never been able to do before, but with sheer force of will, I did.  I almost got frostbite yesterday.  Now I barely could operate the controls, but my hands were slightly warmer for a while.  By now, though, they were getting numb again.  Onward, onward, though the cold, gray landscape. This is the stuff you deal with.

Next comes the Road Construction sign.  Out in the middle of frickin nowhere, we again grade both lanes down to dirt.  Fortunately, I had heeded the 35 mph signs, and now backed it down even further.  The trick to this is to keep the center of gravity directly above the axis of the front and rear wheels, whichever way they may be pointed at a given moment, and keep the momentum of the whole system moving forward in roughly the direction you want to go.  This is actually kinda fun on a 275-lb dirt bike that is designed to survive going down; not so much on a street-tired bike that was 750-lbs before you strapped all that stuff to it.  Here we go.

This was only a couple miles, fortunately, interrupted by short stretches of actual tarmac.  I was cold, wet, and miserable, and not covering much ground, but doing OK, until...

This next patch looked different.  And there was machinery parked off to the side.  I came to a stop, as quickly and gracefully as I could for not being able to feel or operate the controls.  This section was not hard-packed with gravel.  It was mud.  Straight up, Montana farming dirt that had not seen rain since May but had sucked up 6 inches worth in the last two days.  There were ruts in it 4 inches deep.

I don't talk to God very much.  I have my own relationship, which I'm happy with.  I honestly do look up once in a while when things are going really well, and say thanks.  I do.  Right now, I looked up and asked for help.  I am 60 miles from the last human sighting, in a downpour.  I don't think I have enough gas to get back to the last place I was.  I know that if this bike goes down, it's too slippery to get the leverage to stand it back up.  I can't feel the clutch or throttle.  I am fucked.

You take shelter and electricity very much for granted until you find yourself in situations like this.  What would someone do out here?  Cold, wet, alone, no food.  If someone did pick me up, what would happen to the bike laying in the mud?  Where would I stay?

I could see the other side, probably only 40-50 yards away.  But if I did get across, was I now stuck between multiple sections? 

I clumsily lurched forward into the mud.  I was completely out of control, handlebars swinging the full range of motion, rear tire pitched competely sideways, and I had to do the one thing you cannot do in the mud:  Stop.

My heart was racing in my chest.  I was out of breath, panting, my faceshield completely fogged.  I knew that if I pushed with any force with either foot, it would slip out from under me, and we'd be laying in the mud.  I was scared to death.

I really don't know what happened in what order, for how long, but I managed to create some forward motion and coaxed Gretchen out of that quagmire to the asphalt on the other side.  I put the kickstand down and gathered my thoughts and breath. I said a deliberate prayer of thanks, and wondered to myself again if I was on an island between mud pits.

A few more miles went by, and I reached the junction of US-191, where a decision not to turn back an hour ago would have brought me, and where I hoped to find gas.  At this spot, hovever, I found nothing but desolation.  Not a soul.  Continuing south on 191 a few more miles, I saw something that made my heart race again.  ROAD CONSTRUCTION 2 miles.  You have got to be kidding me.

One mile passed.  Then two.  Then three.  Five.  No road construction ever appeared, to my great relief.  Now, with my fuel gauge precariously low, my current crisis, aside from not being able to see or feel my fingers, was whether I'd make it to the next intersection without getting stranded.  Eventually I saw a sign for Roy - 20 miles.  I think I should make that.  But after what seemed like eternity, I came to the next junction, where I expected to find a gas station, and instead found an old sign, designed to be lighted from the inside with a lettered panel on each side, but now hollow and rusted.  No indication of whether this was, in fact, Roy, or which way I should go to get there.  You have GOT to be kidding me.  I surely don't have enough fuel to guess wrong, come back, and try the other direction.  There's no guarantee that Roy even has a gas pump, or if I was now in fact stopped and idling in downtown Roy, Montana.  I figure the next town to be 60 miles away, which might as well be 600 with the little fuel I have left.

There is a building standing on the parcel.  It looks dark, except I see a small, lighted sign in the window.  It says OPEN.  No indication of what it is open for, but I don't fucking care.  It could be a pottery shop.  Hell, the guy inside could be waiting to say "It puts the lotion on it's skin."  I do not care.  I'm going in.

There's a lady in there about my age, behind a counter, who sees me and says "you've had better days."  Yep, that's correct.  I look around and find myself in a little store / bait shop / whatever, and I'm clearly the customer for the day.  I trudge back to the restroom, where a coffee can on the toilet tank captures the water dripping in from the ruptured drywall ceiling.  I'm shaking violently.  I realize I've tracked mud through this lady's entire establishment and wonder if I'm about to to be fired upon.

I come out, apologize profusely, and she smiles and says no problem.  She is right now the only person in the world and is Mother Theresa to me.  I spot a little table by the window.  I put my helmet and gloves down, take off my rain jacket, and survey the place.  There's a coffeepot.  Coffee would be good.  I get a cup, and a Snickers, and pull some soggy money out of my waterlogged wallet. I then asked her where Roy is, and if they have gas. 

She says, "I have gas."

I could not have done a cartwheel right then (under better circumstances, I can) but let me tell you I would have.  Lost in the fog of my visor and of my brain, was a solitary, rusty gas pump not too far from the "nothing" sign.  I see it now, out the window.  I then asked her if there were any more mudholes in my future on US-191, and she said, "wow, you made it through that?!" and confirmed that there were not.  She also agreed that my new plan to avoid the 120 miles of nothingness on Montana route 200 and take a slightly longer route was probably a good idea.  My destination was just over 200 miles away, and the next town on my way would be Roundup, 60 miles away.

I put my jacket back on and took the bike over to the pump, where my 85-octane was diluted further by all the rainwater falling into the tank as I pumped it.  By the time I got back into the shack, my hair was soaked.  I went to collect the change from my $20 and she asked me how much I pumped.


Nevermind, she says, and grabs a pair of binoculars from when she could read the reels through the window.  I lingered until I could feel my fingers again, zipped back up, pulled the wet helmet over my wet head, and thanked my host from the bottom of my heart. 

I figured if I could break the 200 miles up into roughly 60-mile chunks, I could possibly survive, if she was right about the road conditions, and barring a breakdown or crash (which was by no means a given, with my impaired reactions and cognition.)  Off I went.

60 miles later, I saw my next sign of life in Roundup, as I had dreamed of.  I pulled into the gas station with over 1/2 tank, and filled it up.  Even off the road, out of the dark mist, and under a canopy, I still couldn't see a goddamn thing despite wiping my faceshield.  The droplets were *inside* due to, I assume, a small gap where it closes.

I went inside and took off my rain jacket, sweatshirt, and long-sleeved shirt, all of which were dripping wet, leaving only a wet t-shirt.  I did not realize at the time how dumb this was.  There was to table, nor any flat surface to really put anything on, so I used the ice cream freezer.  I thought of Donna and  me heading right for that freezer at every stop to help cool us off in the very recent past.  What a contrast to today.

I got a cup of coffee, which I was told was free with my fuel purchase, and got to drink the half that did not end up on the floor due to my shaking.  It was already soaked and muddy, so a half a cup of coffee really didn't make a difference.  I was offered a towel, which I graciously accepted but from which I got really no utility whatsoever.  I dried my hair, kinda.  I was also advised that the next town on US-12 was Forsyth, 100 miles east, where it meets the interstate.  Good God.  Almost two hours, when my hands are numb in 15 minutes?

There was a run-down building next door with the only sign of active electric service being an illuminated "vacancy" sign.  This beacon of hospitality did not even have a name that I could ascertain.  The parking lot was gravel, the roof appeared to be falling in, and there was a broken down pickup truck, and I think a bicycle.

I could have cancelled my reservation in Miles City, but that hotel looked so nice, and again, I'd only have to do it under the same conditions tomorrow, behind schedule, if I wasn't eaten by rats in the meantime.

When I had expended my welcome and all the time I thought I could afford, I realized my earlier error. I now had to pull wet clothes back on.  In an instant, I was shivering just as I had been when I walked in.  Please let me get hit by a truck.

At some point during the next hour, I was passed on that 2-lane road by an 18 wheeler.  Unable to see much else, I realized that my view of the rear of the truck, and the precious few other vehicles I'd seen, was only a cloud of mist that blew straight off the right, a good 50 yards out onto the prairie, from the relentless wind.  It looked like a comet.  I continued to wrestle my precious conveyance down the road and count off the miles for what seemed like 12 hours.

Sure enough, there was little more than a grain elevator and a couple tin shacks for 100 miles.  But I survived them.  I couldn't see, feel, or think, but I was upright and upon the junction with the interstate. 

I couldn't see any town, but I knew that my exit was about 40 miles up the road, I had plenty of fuel, and there were good odds that I'd encounter human life if worse came to worse.  I was soaked to my Fruit of the Looms; what good would stopping do?  Now, I HAD to make it.  I'd come this far.  I didn't even look for Main Street - I headed for that on ramp, and accelerated.

Sometime after 4 pm, I took the exit for Miles City.  Unbelieveable.  I freaking actually made it.  I parked the bike under the canopy of the rather upscale hotel, drug my trail of mud and water to the front desk, and uttered my name.  I was handed the most precious hotel room key on planet Earth and told to get a welcome cup of soup from the adjacent table.  What a GREAT idea.  I had never seen that before.

But first, I stripped the first load of bags from the bike and drug them down the hall.  I went back out into the rain and parked it for what could have been the last time for all I cared. I carried the rest of it in, my trail behind me, and got into room 110 and got undressed.  Leaving everyting in a pile on the bathroom floor, I got into the shower.  I stood for 20 minutes and could not stop shaking, nor warm my skin.  I gave up and went and curled up under the covers, and shivered uncontrollably for another 20 minutes while calling my Donna to tell her I was OK.

Then I put some clothes on and got the best cup of soup I've ever had in my life.

Going To the Sun

As expected, your intrepid traveler left this morning with the rainsuit on.  Having been in "public" a bit at the hotel room yesterday and this morning, I got to chat with some folks.  In fact, I met 3 people from Pennsylvania in the last 24 hours.  There were two bikes parked under the canopy when I got here, mine made a third, and two more when I came down in the morning.

One of the people I had met saw me gearing up in the lobby getting ready to leave.  He says, "gearing up, huh?"  It was cold and gray, but not raining. 

By now, I know what many other people know about mountains:  they make their own weather.  On a day like this, where there's an 80% chance of rain to begin with, I know there is 0% that it will be dry coming over the pass.  So I told the guy, "well, it's easier here than alongside the road somewhere, when I'm already wet, and besides, if I wear this thing all day for no reason, I'm calling that a win."


The park is maybe 50 miles up the road.  I swung in, flashed my pass, and headed up Going-To-The-Sun Road.  It usually takes half the summer for them to get it plowed open, and I heard this year was exceptionally late. I also heard there was road construction coming down the east side, but it was passable.  Good enough for me.

You'll see from the pictures that it was as beautiful as one would expect, with dramatic effects in the clouds and the high valleys.  I was even treated to a rainbow BELOW me in one of those lush valleys as I neared the pass.

There was plenty of "pucker factor" nearing the top, again with a narrow roadbed carved into a sheer cliff, wet roads, and dense fog.  One wrong move or slip with that fully-loaded,top-heavy bike, and...

At the summit, you couldn't find a parking spot - because you couldn't tell if you were in one due to the dense fog.  I put the kickstand down, and went in becasue I couldn't feel my fingers.  The thermometer inside said 52 degrees.  Then I realized that was INSIDE!  Outside was 42.  I overheard a ranger talking about some hike or program to a visitor, and said "as long as it doesn't snow" without skipping a beat.  Sure enough, I'd find later that there was indeed snow in the forecast.  It went down to the mid 30s there by nightfall.

The ride down was tricky, but not as bad.  The fog cleared at times, and the grade less dramatic.  The construction zone was long and muddy, but solid (if slippery) and at the pace set by the pilot car, not as tenuous as the ride up.  But it did make the bike absolutely filthy, covered in mud.  Poor girl has never been mistreated so badly.

By the time I got to Havre 180 miles down the road, I was wet from leakage and couldn't feel my fingers.  After coming this far to see Glacier NP, it sure could have been a nicer day, but it could have been worse.  I was in, safe and sound, and not going anywhere.  More pizza on the way.  I called my sweetie, and she said she was sure glad she took the first, southern, part of the trip, instead of this half.  We talked about how they all can't be nice days, and you have to deal with it.  We said that I was "paying" for the good ones we shared together, a concept that we both related to.  I was glad to do it for us, so that we enjoyed our time together.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Some days, you spend half a day in a nuclear reactor.  Sometimes, you spend a whole weekend in Vegas.  (Did I mention that I did not so much as put 10 cents in a slot machine while I was there?)

Some days, you gotta cover some ground, friend.

Today I left WWW and started getting some serious East happening.  That's where I live, and after 2-1/2 weeks, it's time to start thinking about getting there.  The scenery today went from basically desert (Scrub Steppe, technically) to rolling wheat fields, to alpine forest.  I'm staying along Flathead Lake below Kalispell, MT, and it's full-on mountains right now.

I stopped in Lewiston, ID to get a t-shirt at Hell's Canyon H-D and ended up having a cup of coffee with a grizzled old fella out of Texas who was getting a tire changed.  We were of a similar constitution and spend a good deal of time talking about the things and places we've seen.  Other than that, it was pretty much hammer down. 

I have the GoPro mounted on the handlebars, I am very skilled at getting the regular ol' digital camera out of the left-side pocket and shooting while on the move, and I've also grabbed a couple cell phone shots that way too, but it scares the hell out of me so I try to keep that to a minimum.  For a number of reasons, this is not the end-all and I do have to stop for random, unexpected pictures now and then.  But the point for you to take away here is my goal was to get to a spot 425 miles away with no sightseeing stops planned.  And, I did just that.  I also lost an hour to Mountain Time, so I didn't get in until after 7.

Since my room is directly across from the laundry, I took that as a sign, even though I did not plan to do wash for the final time for another day or two.  I threw it in and sat in the hot tub and let my muscles relax while everything dried.  I may have to do a pair of jeans or two once more somewhere along the line, but other than that I'm golden.

Rooms are expensive again in this part of the world (after setting the "cheap" record for the trip last night at the Super 8 in Walla Walla) since I'm nearing Glacier National Park.  That's where I'm headed first thing tomorrow, over Going-To-The-Sun-Road, and wouldn't you know it, I'm finally going to get there, and it's forecast to be a whole day of rain.  Oh, well.  It's much easier to pack for rain and put the suit on at the hotel than under an underpass somewhere.  Life goes on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Site W

Today was another one of the "must-do" items that have been on my Pacific Coast list for years. 

I started off with an early alarm at 6, so I could be out by 7 and at my destination by 11.  This worked.  As a side note, this morning I did something I am known to almost never do, and which I had not done at all this trip, with the exception of visiting Cousin Joan in Pasadena: 

Go back the same way I came.

I hate doing it, when it's almost always as easy to make a loop and see different scenery.  But today, time was very much of the essence, and it just so happened that the Grand Coulee is now officially one of my Favorite Places on Earth, and it was a thrill to see it again, from the opposite direction.  It really is amazing, and I'd come back at the first opportunity.

So I retraced maybe 60 miles or so, then headed for Richland, or more specifically, the Hanford Engineering Works, or Hanford Site, or Site W.

Hanford is a huge, 586 square-mile "Area 51" type secret government installation along the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River.  It was hastily constructed after the experimental proof of nuclear fission, with work starting in 1943.  By 1945, nearly 550 buildings had been constructed by a camp of about 50,000 workers toiling in secrecy.  During that time, Hanford was the largest post office in the US.  The remoteness, access to clean, cold river water, and proximity to a huge electrical supply (Grand Coulee Dam) made it the ideal location for Site W.
"B" reactor core

Reactor B (I asked why no Reactor A and got a good answer) once up and running, was the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor, creating the man-made element Plutonium from Uranium-238 (at the rate of about 7 ounces per ton!) which was used for testing, and ultimately, the Fat Man bomb that ended the war.  (Little Boy, the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was made with U-235 produced in Oak Ridge, TN)

Today, the site is still heavily guarded, but I think more due to it's status as the world's largest toxic cleanup site, and whatever nefarious secrets it holds to that effect.  But the B reactor is open to tours for American citizens over age 18 -and that's exactly what I am!  The installation is so large, we boarded a tour bus at the center outside the compound, and it was a 40-minute ride to the reactor site. 
Only the shells of 3 buildings remain from before eminent domain was invoked, and in fact most of the 550 buildings related to the project have been razed and buried, or entombed.  Yet there was still much we couldn't see, and if the bus were to have made a wrong turn it would have been a security breach and all hell would have rained upon us. 

The site is still taking radioactive waste from nuclear subs and other installations, and there is an ENORMOUS amount (think hundreds of millions of gallons) of horrible stuff buried in the ground there - and that's what they admit to.

This is honestly one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life.  I'd be embarrassed for you to know how stoked I was through this whole thing. If you're also fascinated (or frightened) by this, there's plenty of material on the internet.  And as you know, if it's on the internet, it has to be true.

Tonight - Walla Walla, Washington.  Tomorrow - through Idaho to somewhere in Montana.

Wow, Pictures!

Yes, the two posts below have photos embedded.  I do have the entirety of them uploaded to the laptop (and backed up as well) and I was fortunate enough to get some up. 

The message here is that I do plan to do the same for the older posts, and tomorrow night looks pretty good right now.  Whenever I do manage, I'll put up some kind of notification so you can go back if you so desire.  There are some damn cool pictures, I can tell you that.

Grand Coulee

Oftentimes, reading our blog is educational.  Consider it a free service and an enrichment of your life.

Today I did two of the things I knew long ago that I wanted to do whenever I got to the Pacific Northwest.  Tomorrow, I'm going to do another, and it kind of ties in with today.  The other thing was to see the Spruce Goose, which I did not do but is a fun story in it's own right.

The Grand Coulee
Lower Coulee
is an ancient geological thingy that was created at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers melted en masse (also will tie in, in a few days) but not before the land was formed even earlier by volcanic activity.

Upper Coulee
Two prehistoric lakes created in this region were Lake Bonneville, and Lake Missoula, both of which were enormous, larger than today's Great Lakes.  On more than on occasion, ice dams clogged and backed up the furious Columbia River to create Missoula, only to then burst and release an unholy amount of water, greater than the flow of all Earth's rivers today COMBINED, in a period of weeks if not days.  The Grand Coulee was violently scoured from the volcanic rock during these events, over a mile wide and hundreds of feet deep.  In the middle, it created a backwards-migrating waterfall (just like Niagara is doing.)  At Dry Falls, the remains of this are plain to see - a "waterfall" that is a mile and a half wide and twice as high as Niagara, but the only water to be found rests in the churning pools that formed at the base where the water came crashing down.

Dry Falls
Today, you can ride right up the Coulee on highway 155 and imagine the force of the water.  The falls divides the upper basin from the lower, the upper ending at the current course of the Columbia river, where the "natural" flow was prior to the ice dams, and where we, of course, dammed it ourselves.
This dam is amazing.  If you were following along, you know that it must be (and is) a mile in length, is twice as high as Niagara Falls, and contains twice the concrete of the Hoover Dam, enough to build a sidewalk around the Earth twice.  It is the largest source of electrical power in the United States.

And every night in the summer, they open the drum valves at the top, and project a half-hour narrated laser show onto the thundering curtain of water.  It is an experience unique unto itself. 

What I don't understand is why the town has 3 dinky hotels and about 50 people were sitting in the park watching the show, compared to the umpteen million at Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.  I'm not saying that this is a better experience, but the difference in significance is slight, yet 99% of the world has never heard of it.

But I have:-).  And now, you have too.
Bad photo - road and vehicle for scale

Dam Gorge-ous

Terrible play on words today... sometimes my best ain't that good.  Today started in the Columbia River Gorge (indeed gorgeous) and ended here in Coulee Dam, WA, within sight of the Grand Coulee Dam.

From the Best Western outside Portland, I made two more hotel reservations and a tour reservation, so I have plenty to do the next 2 days.  I left bright and early this morning (whatever day today is) and right outside my front door was the historic Columbia River Scenic Highway,  although right here it just looked like a somewhat busy suburban street.

At this point, I have to note that there was sausage and biscuits on the breakfast menu at the BW for the first time since we left Pennsylvania.  I LOVE sausage and biscuits, but with all the crap I've been eating, I forced myself to abstain.  I'm still proud of that 14 hours later.

Within minutes, I was through the tony little town of Troutdale and on the scenic route proper.  It was the first planned scenic road in the United States, and is considered a Top 5 drive.  Within the first few miles, I was in full agreement.  It's amazing how much diverse, beautiful scenery there is to see if you just find the time to do it.

I stopped to take a bunch of photos from high vistas and below waterfalls, and of course I had my GoPro on the handlebars running.  And the iPod humming as well.  And about 75 degrees.  About as good a start to a day as you can get (except your soul mate is 3,000 miles away.)

The gorge is a relatively short drive; around 40-50 miles.  Since I had a distant destination to get to, and the first leg took me until after 11, it was time to make time.  I crossed the Columbia into Washington, and began the long climb out.  The scenery from there was familiar, yet unique, with long, sweeping curves and hills set against a tan landscape of earth and dry vegetation.

I had the best Mexican I ever had in my life in Yakima (El Porton)

Once I got to the Lower Grand Coulee at Soap Lake, the scenery became VERY unique.  Unique enough for its own post.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Goin' Coastal

Well, I left Crescent City, CA early in the morning with a plan, and figured I'd be in early tonight.  It is now 8:30.

I did get here (east of Portland) a couple hours ago, but it was by no means "early" and I wanted to get the filth and salt spray off the bike now that I'm away from the salty sea for good.  I did that while my pizza delivery was underway, and the pizza won.  It was still warm when I got around to it, though.  And the bottle of beer I've been toting for the last few days had a chance to get nice and cold.  AND, I had a salad, so that counts as a healthy food pyramid dinner.  Right?

It's amazing how different the climate is only a few miles inland. It never got into the 70's all day on the coastal highway, even though I was fortunate enough to finally get some peeks of actual sunlight (and some good photos) today.  I finally got out of California - it took me my whole life to get there, and almost as long to get back out - and I continued up the coast past the Oregon Dunes NRA to Coos Bay, where I turned inland for the last time, along a riverbed very scenic in its own right.  30 miles later, I stripped winter gloves, jacket, and sweatshirt and returned to t-shirt mode, which was AWESOME.  It was borderline hot, but bearable even in traffic.  Say high 80's or so.

Nothing of great interest happened between there and here.  I determined that I have a long day again tomorrow, and so despite the fact that I have all the pictures up to last night uploaded on this here laptop, I don't think you're going to get them just yet.  But it is nice to be up-to-date, and especially nice that I got my new (from over a week ago) iPod loaded last night and got to listen to music today.  I had found that turning off or removing the iPod caused a popping / clanking noise in the front suspension, so I was glad to get that fixed.

Also, the GoPro camera is not dead.  It was just overheated, apparently, and last night after recharging it in the room that never needs air conditioning, it worked just fine.  Sweet.

Really nice Best Western suite tonight... kind of a waste, but comparatively priced for the area, which will put me right at the foot of the historic Columbia River Gorge Highway without dealing with Portland rush hour, which was way more miserable than I'd have ever expected on the way over here tonight.  I didn't see the downtown, but there sure were a lot of cars stopped for a lot of miles on the beltway.  Who'd a thunk it?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Redwood Forest

I have had that damn grade-school song in my head all day.

"This land was made for you and me...!"

I attribute this mainly to the fact that my iPod is ground into the pavement of I-40 somewhere back in Texas, and I still have not had the chance to load what little music I have on a flash drive onto the new one I bought in New Mexico.  Some good Led Zeppelin would have helped me out big time today.

I only got about 80 miles in Saturday night, leaving after 5 and going just far enough out that I wouldn't have to sell my grandfather's watch for a hotel room.  Cloverdale, is where it was.  Even at that, I spent $170 for a Best Western, but I'm glad I did because had I made a reservation at either of the other two places in that little town, I'd have gone back to Santa Rosa once I saw them, whatever the cost.

Once settled in, I planned today's ride and had a decision to make:  Cloverdale is at the junction of US 101 and a California state route that goes back over to the PCH (presumably an actual road that is not 6 feet wide and boulder-strewn.)  I could take that, or the shorter and faster route to where the PCH (California Route 1) returns to 101.  I opted for the latter, and in hindsight that was hands down the right decision.

Either route took me to Avenue of the Giants, which is home to the ENORMOUS, 1200 year-old redwood groves.  It was amazing (a word that Donna and I both dislike that is way overused) and warm, which is not to be discounted, and which I will get back to in a minute.)  I went through the drive-through tree and took a bunch more pictures, although I think I fried my GoPro camera.  I wanted that thing in the worst way, and in the rare instances when I've gotten it to work properly, it has been awesome.  Now, maybe not so much.

Once thoroughly amazed, I stopped for lunch in Fortuna, where my t-shirt clad body was suddenly getting quite chilly.  I put my leather jacket on, and continued north.  Sure enough, in minutes I saw the low clouds off to the west.  Fog, along the coastline.  It went from sunny and high 80's to gray, misty and cold within a matter of miles.  I had to stop again to put my winter gloves on 40 miles from my destination, and I arrived here freezing.  Glad it wasn't like that all day.

"Here" is the Curly Redwood lodge, which is really cool by the way:

This place is stuck in the 50's - the TV doesn't even have a remote - but it's perfect for the location, and it's clean.  Interestingly, it does not have air-conditioning, and has apparently never needed it.  I think the record high here is like 65.  I have the heat blasting.

I have a feeling tomorrow will be more of the same as 101 hugs the Oregon Coast.  Crescent City is the last town of any substance in California, where I have been for a whole week.

I'm betting against it, but if I'm lucky enough that the fog lifts, tomorrow should be gorgeous.

I miss my baby :-(

Parting Ways

First thing Saturday morning, we got up and packed our bags again.  This time, there was an added twist.  Most of Donna's stuff went to the UPS Pack & Ship next door.  We then checked out, and stowed the rest of our stuff with the bell captain.  We headed out with the bikes stripped, but not in a fun way like in Vegas and LA.  This time, only one bike would be coming back to the hotel.

We made our way to Dudley Perkins H-D (oldest continuously-operating dealership in the world) and tendered Apollo to the shipper, who would take him home.  Donna was then a passenger for a few last hours of sightseeing, before catching the shuttle to SFO for the red-eye to Philly.

We made the best of those hours, riding up and down some wicked-steep hills together to see the sights and get some good vantage points, returning to Fisherman's Wharf to see the sea lions and have a snack at Boudin.  Then, just like that, it was over.

We retrieved our stuff from the front desk, and with a tear in my eye I strapped everything down and kissed my soul mate goodbye.  I headed north alone and sad.

Fog City

The ride from King City to Fog City was an interesting one.  We wanted to get into SF early (and not Klinger Time early) to get in a day of sightseeing since we only had one night. 

However, King City is on US 101, inland from the coastal California Route 1.  We did this for reasons described below, and thus to this point we saw very little of the Pacific Coast Highway.  We made the decision to get up early and cross the mountains back to the PCH, and ride up the coast to Monterey.  However, (again) there are very few highways that cross this rugged terrain, and in fact not many roads of any kind.

Me being me, I found a nice squiggly line called Nacimiento Road from Jolon across to the sea.  We like squiggly lines.


This squiggly line was barely wide enough for a car, was carved in many places from a sheer cliff, and when the asphalt was fairly well intact, it was strewn with rocks falling down the mountainside.  We've been up the highest paved road in the US at 14,000 feet, and up Mount Washington in New Hampshire, so I speak with some authority when I say this was a sphincter clincher of the highest order.  Once we crossed the highest point, you could not see the valley floor due to the fog off the ocean (wherever *that* was.)

Obviously, we made it, but it was never guaranteed.  From there, we had a very chilly ride up the coast, and saw a 5-mile traffic jam backed up the other way for a fancy-schmancy car show in Pebble Beach.  There about a million dollars worth of cars every 500 feet.  From there, it was freeway all the way to downtown San Fran, where we went out of our way to cross the Golden Gate Bridge - and back - and then checked into our swanky hotel on Fisherman's Wharf.  The hotel was a freebie from rewards points, but when I tell you we paid $52 to park 2 motorcycles for one night, you'll probably get an idea of what we're dealing with.

We (I) picked a *horrible* Italian restaurant on the waterfront, and then we spent 2 hours in a cold ass line to ride a cable car in the dark.  Then at the other end, it took us 3 tries to get a streetcar to take us back, and it was bedtime.  Whee!!

The next morning was sad...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Up the Coast

Took us quite a while this morning to get everything gathered and secured, which was not good but not a surprise.  After two nights in Vegas and three in LA, we were a little spoiled.  Back to travel mode.

We got on the Pacific Coast Highway right in Santa Monica where we had arrived on Monday, and knew that it would be a tall order to get as close as we could to San Francisco (so we could make the most of our two half-days there) while still getting in a fair share of the coastal highway.

We ended up riding up past Santa Barbara and then sticking to the 101 to make some time.  When we stopped for a late lunch, we figured that getting to Salinas would allow us to take the coastal route into San Fran and still be there early enough to make it worthwhile.  That was a great idea until...

The hotel apps on the smartphone showed most hotels completely sold out, and the cut-rate budget hotels offering rooms at $350 a night.  The Rodeway Inn, a $40 cockroach special chain that we will not stay at, was $299.  This is no bullshit.  We knew that nearby Monterey would be pricey, so we though we were being smart.

San Jose was too far away and left us with no coastline whatsoever left to see, so we booked a $90 Quality Inn in King City and cut the day a little short.  It gave me time to bring the blog UP TO DATE, although there are a lot of anecdotes and observations that are still in the notebook to be shared at some point.  Being in full "travel mode," the windshields and my saddlebags are still locked to the bikes, and pretty much one day's worth of clothes came out the top of the T-bags, and the dirty clothes are already back in.  Showers are done.  Tomorrow will be six bells, and the toiletries will be the only thing that needs to get zipped in.  We should be out of here at 7 even with a bit of continental breakfast to get us started.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hollywood Style

Today was our day to do whatever we wanted for sightseeing in the City of Angels.

Donna LOVES it out here, and could not wait to get back.  I had never been anywhere near here and thought I knew what to expect, but was looking forward to seeing how accurate those expectations were.

I mapped out a nice route with some things we wanted to see, with enough time for us to get back and swim in the Pacific.  And for the first time, IT WORKED OUT!  I hoped to be back at the hotel at 4, and damn if we weren't rolling into the parking garage within 10 minutes of it.  In the meantime, we took a ride through Beverly Hills, up Rodeo Drive, the Sunset Strip, and parked our bikes within sight of Hollywood and Vine.  Our 2 hours on the meter gave us the perfect opportunity to take a stroll down the Walk of Fame to the Chinese Theater, pick up some MORE souvenirs, and catch a bite to eat for lunch.

On the way, the crowds steadily thickened, until we were corralled in by a crowd fence along a closed Hollywood Boulevard and unable to move.  The crowd was gathered around Robin Williams' star, which had become a memorial of written blessings, candles, and personal items.  Such a sad and somber scene, and a tragic end to a loved comic genius.

Just down the street, at the Chinese Theater, the red carpet was being set up for the evening's premier of some movie that I don't remember.  We couldn't get ourselves an invite, so we looked for some lunch.

This experience gave me the insight to reroute well in advance of the traffic logjam and find an alternate route to Mulholland Drive up through the Hollywood Hills.  This in itself is an amazing drive past probably 10 billion dollars' worth of real estate and culminating with an overlook of the Hollywood Bowl below, and the city proper off in the distance, and a photo op with the famed HOLLYWOOD sign on Mt. Lee, which I was NOT leaving without.  So cool.

Despite the usual traffic on the Hollywood Freeway and the 405, we made it back on "schedule" as you just read.  We put on our swimsuits for the first time after hauling them 3,600 miles over a week and a half, grabbed a couple towels from the hotel pool, and jumped on my bike for a quick mile down to Venice Beach.

We set up shop on the sand, and I went all-in right off the bat.  That's what I came to do, after all.  We did some late afternoon sunbathing, which I suspect included a bit of a nap for both of us, and then walked up the beach to see the freaks and weirdos.

We were not disappointed.  An added bonus was all the weed doctor's "offices" which promised a legitimate health evaluation that could possibly, maybe result in a medical marijuana card within 24 hours, possibly (depending on your health, of course.)

Aside from that, it was exactly the same as Donna remembered.  I guess freaks and weirdos on Venice Beach are as permanent as the Coliseum in Rome (if a couple centuries behind...)

We had a killer burger and some microbrews on the beach and again arrived back at the hotel after dark.  This time, we had to be on the road in the morning, and there was shit *everywhere.*  There wasn't so much as a sock in any bag.  Oh well.  Tomorrow's problem.  In the meantime, we had a great day in perfect weather.  As far as what I expected, I was pretty well on target, but the reality is, well, real.  Now it's experience, and not just imagination.  And Donna is happy as a clam!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Easy Breezy

Today, we woke up in Marina del Rey instead of having to get here from somewhere in the California desert.

This worked out well.  Instead of packing up all our crap, which is getting harder and harder with every t-shirt and souvenir we buy (plus dirty clothes take up more room because of the dirt particles!) we simply loaded it all on the luggage cart and schlepped it to the other side of the pool.  We still had to wait until the room was ready, but instead of packing and riding until after lunch, we did all our laundry, got in a workout, and I got to update your reading - which then left me only 3 or so days behind.

With all that settled, we headed for Pasadena, where we were to meet up with Donna's cousin, who she hadn't seen in 15 years.  Joan, at 70, certainly qualifies as the little old lady from Pasadena, which is what I told everyone we were going to visit, but which I really don't think Donna found as charming as I do.  So, this is the last time I will say that.

Joan is a hoot.  The girls caught up with some photos and stories, and then she had us bring our bikes in the gate and we went out for a wonderful dinner in Old Pasadena off Colorado Blvd.  We walked it off with a foot tour of the immediate neighborhood, and then got an auto tour of what seemed like the entire county.  But, as I mentioned, Joan is a hoot, and it was fun and interesting.  Pasadena is old, stately, and fascinating.  We saw the Tournament House from whence the Rose parade and football game are managed, we saw the most incredible City Hall you could ever imagine (and where a film company was shooting night scenes)  and lots of interesting sights.  For example, I bet you've never seen a diagonal crosswalk.  We did.

It was 11 pm until we got back on the freeway, but the silver lining was that at that hour, the freeways were in fact flowing freely!  A cool, relaxing day in cool, beautiful weather, with another to follow.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The End of the Trail

With the decision to head directly to LA being made, we hustled along I-15 to where it meets up with I-40 in Barstow, thereby putting us back on (or next to) Route 66 for the final push to Santa Monica.  The Mojave Desert stretches all the way to Cajon Pass, where the old route still exists, and we followed it down into the LA Basin, where two things immediately became apparent.

It got twenty degrees cooler.  This was a very welcome thing.

You could see and taste the air.  This took some getting used to.

We worked our way into San Bernadino and onto Foothill Boulevard, where the old route took us past the other Wigwam Motel, neither of which I got to sleep in.  After stopping for my long-awaited In-n-Out burger, which I've heard so much about and is a West Coast exclusive, we realized we had over 35 miles of traffic lights left if we were to stay true to the old route.  We decided to move off Foothill Boulevard and onto Foothill Freeway, which worked great - for a bit.

There was an accident that had at least 3 of the 4 lanes  blocked, and we sat there again above our hot engines and the hot asphalt, as our arrival time got later and later. 

Now, we constantly hear stories - even heard some from strangers on this trip - about groups of friends or couples, who, out on the road for weeks, have complete meltdowns and end up in massive feuds.  One thing about my Donna and me; this is our therapy.  Any problems we have are at home, and the road is the cure for what ails us.  We are almost pathetic when we are on our adventures together, no matter what goes wrong.  It's pretty cool.

Here, however we did have a bit of a disagreement.

California, to my knowledge is the only state that permits (or tolerates) lane-splitting by motorcycles.  That is, you can zip right between cars whenever the spirit moves you.  This comes in handy when traffic is heavy, but the danger of doing this at 65 should be self-evident.  However, most of LA's freeways, we would come to find out, are moving at less than 25 miles per hour - five lanes across - at any given time.  And at this particular time, they were not moving at all.

This made us the only two motorcycles on the entire 210 freeway that were not lane-splitting our way out of a jam. 

Again, I point out that I have done the same in Jersey, where it is infinitely more dangerous because nobody is expecting it, and of course, illegal.  I hated it and don't do it anymore (much!)  And I would never ask my sweetie to do it while traffic is moving.  Don't want to see anything bad in my mirror that I would never forgive myself for.

But here it was becoming apparent that we would not be moving at all for some time, and every time a bike came scooting past us, I got madder and madder.  Despite my repeated pleas, I could not get buy-in on my scheme.  This became a bit of a domestic issue after a while.

I lost.

Eventually, we picked our way to the shoulder and rode to the next exit, which *is* illegal, but I did not care.  When we got to the next on-ramp, I saw that there were no cars on the freeway, so we forced our way onto it from the wrong lane (hey, we're lost tourists!) and had 5 lanes basically to ourselves for a while.

From there, we went down Sunset to Santa Monica Boulevard, and straight to the pier, where Dan Rice gave us our certificate of completion at his little Rt 66 kiosk on the pier, and we took a few commemorative photos before heading down Pacific Ave to Venice, where Donna had talked our way into an additional day at the beginning of our stay.  It was dark, but we were in a day early and things were about to get good. Again.

Change of Plans

After two days of ridiculous heat, and not enough "to-do's" scratched off our list, I proposed to Donna that we skip Death Valley altogether, skip our overnight planned for eastern California, and take the 15 all the way in to the LA basin, where we'd pick up Route 66 for the final time and follow it as much as possible to the end in Santa Monica.

The Chrome Princess turned up her nose and said, "Its a hundred and goddamn five degrees here, and ninety at midnight. I'm all for driving straight to LA, but let's get there a day early and enjoy the 80-degree weather instead of spending an extra day in the parlor room of hell.

Smart chick, that Donna. Off to LA.


Yesterday in the desert heat, Donna noticed a problem with the display on her dashboard. She lost the clock / odometer and got some weird petroglyphs. As we got near Las Vegas, she noticed that her turn signals were also not working, and when I did a walkaround I saw no brakelight. The good news was, this was not a problem with the repair I made before we left with the shorted wire from the tire change. I figured it was simply a fuse, and we just had her be careful. When we got near town, Donna advised me that I had no brake light, either. Everything else seemed to work. Talk about "checking your six..."

After we got the bikes in the parking garage and our asses in the A/C for a half hour, I went down with the tools to start checking fuses. When I pulled the "lights" fuse out of her bike, it was fine. Uh-oh. I pulled another, and another, and all were fine. Uh-oh. At that point I had no idea what to do, so I figured I'd check every one of them. About 3 fuses later, I found the one that was blown ( I forget how it was labeled, but you'd never have known it was the turn signals and brakelight.) Since I carry spares, that problem was solved. On to my bike, which was only a single problem and was assumed to be the bulb itself. I pulled it, too, and it looked like one of the filaments was bad. Time to find an Auto Zone.

The other thing was that the switch for my decorative LED lights (you don't want to know how much we spent on these) went bad back in Missouri. The whole plan was to ride down the strip brilliant with green and amber lights, and Donna's cool multicolored effects. I also had the tools to bypass the bad switch and operate them strictly from the remote control, so I pulled the fuse for that to prevent a short circuit while I worked on it, and I performed my surgery. Now here's the weirdness: I connected everything back up, and the lights went on BEFORE I put the fuse back in. Now I'm no dummy and I wired these myself, and I can tell you this should NEVER happen. I put the fuse back in anyway, gave it a "WTF" and a shrug, and moved on.

Then, on the way to the parts store in the morning, the brakelight started working.

THEN, when we went out that night to take our cruise, Donna's remote turned on MY lights. And so did mine. So, either one of us could now turn mine on or off, and nobody could turn hers on. They worked the day before at the dealer in Kingman.

THEN, I saw that the ones that I was afraid of being crushed at the dealership when they put the bike up on a lift still worked fine. But at least half the others were out.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Day 10

Today is our first two-nighter, which means we've unpacked a bit instead of our more efficient mode that gets us in and out more quickly.  It also means we get to do what we want, although of course I had a plan.
This plan probably, unbeknownst to us at the time, went out the window sometime around 10:30 pm, when we returned to our favorite bartender at the sidewalk bar on Fremont St for our third round of drinks.
At that time, it was still well over 90 degrees, as it was when we peeled open our eyes Sunday morning. (Part of this due to the effects of the dry wind over them all day.)
The plan was to ride out to Badwater Basin, 252 feet below sea level in Death Valley. But after our experience the day before, our current state of advanced dehydration, and an expected temp at least 15 degrees higher than yesterday, we realized that even with a gallon of water each, we very likely would end up dead, and in the very best case extremely miserable for 350 miles. That ain't vacation.
We skipped Hoover Dam on the way in because of the heat, so we took that quick 30-mile ride instead. We went deep into the base of the dam and learned all the fascinating details, which was cool.
We waited until after dark to cruise the Strip on our shiny, LED-enhanced Harleys, but even that was unbearable in the heat, and we took the freeway back. It also ties back to the gremlin reference, which
I'll cover in another post. Packing up to leave in the morning.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sin City

We're still a couple days behind with the updates here. When we last spoke, our heroes were en route to Sin City in 108-degree heat. Let's stop right there for a second and debunk the "dry heat" thing. One hundred frickin eight degrees blasting you in the face is hot, with a capital H. Period.
So then we see Vegas appear in the desert before us, and I realize that my plan to get on the Strip all the way at the south end, take the picture by the iconic sign, and ride the Strip through traffic and a hundred traffic lights all the way up to our hotel in old downtown is simply not a good idea at all at this point. So, we get off at one of the first exits to reroute via the freeway, and you'll never guess what happens while we're drinking our extra large iced teas...
It starts pouring down rain!  2,200 miles through all the humid thunderstorm states, and the rainsuits never came out of the bag. Here we are in Las Vegas watching it pour buckets!
We did wait it out, though, so the gear is still stowed. And we were very relieved to get into our posh room at the Downtown Grand casino, and just decompress for a while before hitting the town. We did just that, drinking and dancing until after midnight, and we have a bunch of pictures of shenanigans and weirdos , which I STILL am hoping to get up soon.
The next installment will have us dealing with gremlins and dehydration.

Hello??? Anybody There?

OK, OK... I know it's Monday night, and I'm putting up Friday's post. And where the hell are the pictures?


I won't spoil it and say where we are tonight, and if I ever get that damn laptop connected to the interwebs again, I'm going to fix the date on this post (which you can't do on the mobile app) **NOTE: DONE! ** and get some more photos up. But a lot has happened the last couple days.

Let's just get it right out there that Monument Valley and the Painted Desert are some of the most spectacular places on Earth. After miles and miles of unpainted desert, the upgrade was amazing. You also get a sense of the vast scope of things out here. You see things very clearly in front of you; the only feature in a featureless landscape, and then you ride for a half hour, and it's still there in front of you, only bigger.

We skipped the Petrified Forest and the meteor crater (which was a huge disappointment to me) and went for Flagstaff tonight, because I recognized an error in my calculations that makes our ride up to Las Vegas a much longer one than I originally planned.  The extra seat time tonight will go a long way to making a happier tomorrow.

BONUS: We happened upon Black Bart's for dinner tonight and has a good old fashioned Western hodown complete with costumed, singing, piano playing waitstaff. Pretty cool. But, pulling in after dark again, and up with the sun. You probably won't see this post until Monday :-)

Don't feel bad; I still don't have any music on my iPod yet.

Two REALLY good days

We CANNOT seem to get in early and put these swimsuits that we've hauled 3,200 miles to use.  I knew we were trying to cram a lot into our time on the road, and I do my best to walk that line between making the most of our time, and making every day a chore.  We haven't crossed it yet, but every day at 4:00, we are pounding westward into the late afternoon sun instead of sitting next to the pool with a cold bevvy.

At this point, I must acknowledge my awesome lover, soul mate, and partner in crime.  I spend the afternoons worrying that she's gonna get cranky - as the saying goes, 'if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.'  But every day when we pull in, she's tired, worn out, and understanding, and if anyone's gretzy, it's been me.  God bless the Chrome Princess.

We have a little down time here while Mother Road Harley-Davidson in Kingman, AZ replaces the rear tire on my bike.  It had too much life left to replace before we left, and not enough life to make it the distance.  I got a little scared looking at the tread bars on Thursday, so I called ahead and got Gretchen to the front of the line first thing Saturday, and here we are.

I'm going to tell you that the last two days have been simply amazing, seeing the American Southwest that you see in travel guides the world over.  And meeting people from the world over.  We're tracing Route 66 for the most part, making detours where the traveler of old would have done the same, and we're about to make another today.  I'll put up a separate post for our recent adventures, and try to keep up-to date, but for now I'm going to take this time to try to get some photos added to the old posts.


Well, it seems blogger is having a bad hair day. The post from last night, I could not post and can no longer edit. Like a good application designer / tester, however, I seem to have found a workaround. I'm in the lobby here, 3 days ahead of where this post describes.

We left Albuquerque and headed due north to the Grand Canyon, which I think is the law when you are in Arizona, and were joined by half the Earth's population along the south rim. We did not have time to do much off the beaten path, but I gotta tell you, Canyon de Chelly, which is on the east side of AZ and is the second largest canyon in North America, does not compare at all to the largest one. After some really cool photos - which I STILL CANNOT UPLOAD - we headed back down to RT 66; an actual old section far from the interstate highway which replaced most of it.

Starting in Seligman, which is the Interstate exit and has loads of cool nostalgic stuff, we headed off through MORE desert toward Kingman, where we stayed the night. I had the worn rear tire replaced at the dealer down the street first thing in the morning, and we left on the OLD, old route through Oatman, AZ, which must bee seen to believed. It's an actual ghost town, without the ghosts, but which time has essentially forgotten. The busted old pavement runs right down the center of town, where burros freely roam anywhere but the wooden sidewalks, where saloonkeepers shoo them away. Nobody wants mule dung on their nice wooden sidewalks.

Another blessing from fate had a hand drawn map in the hallway to the men's room in the place where we had our sandwich and sarsaparilla, the gist of which was a shortcut to Las Vegas, our next stop. By now, it was getting *very* hot - no more jackets in the morning and uncomfortable all day long, and dropping down out of Oatman seemed like the furnace of hell.

At the next outpost near Bullhead City, the thermometer confirmed the 108 degree heat, and the nice lady in the convenience store, where we drank a gallon of water, confirmed the shortcut. And good thing, too, because it was Saturday and Laughlin NV had a float-your-ass-down-the-Colorado-River fest thing which would have made getting through that town a nightmare. As it was, Donna was ready to kill me when I detoured to find the "welcome to Nevada" sign for our obligatory pic. So just so we're square here... Next stop is Las Vegas for Saturday and Sunday night, today is Tuesday and we're far from there already, and I'm trying to get a dozen or so pictures up here for posterity.

Got it?

Thursday, August 7, 2014


After blowing through states 3 & 4 at a clip the first couple days, we spent the better part of Sunday in Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle on Monday. We spent the next two nights in New Mexico, then left Rt 66 in Gallup (after buying another iPod to replace the one that went bouncing down I-40 somewhere in Texas.)
We took the Devil's Highway north, but it's no longer designated US 666 because it freaked some people out, and it cost them a fortune in highway marker signs. But it sounds so much more exciting than saying we took US 491, doesn't it?
At Four Corners, we did the four-states-at-once thing, and noticed a swarm of bees at the garbage can. We then clipped the corner of Colorado (no, we're not bringing you any weed) and arrived at the Utah border, where 2 young Austrian girls with the same name took our "Welcome To" photo, and were giddy to have us take their picture in front of our dusty Harleys. We stopped for gas up the road, and couldn't get near any garbage can to ditch our water bottle because of all the bees. Utah's state highway markers, like our Keystone shapes, and Kansas' sunflowers (and Jersey's sorry-assed white circles,) are beehives. Utah, in fact, is the Beehive State. Guess that ain't no bull.
We are in Monument Valley now, at the San Juan Inn on the riverbank in Mexican Hat,  and the landscape is simply indescribable. A couple quick thoughts before we head out for more:
-We've been in some really neat hotels, but the cell & internet service service has sucked.  Page back to these posts, and we'll have some really cool pix up.
-The sun is RUTHLESS out here. Even though we've been really fortunate with weather so far (no twisters through Tornado Alley!) and it's actually cool in the mornings and comfortable in the shade, that sun will wilt you with sheer force. And there ain't no shade out here.
-We ran into the same girls at dinner here at the hotel last night. They're actually going to be in San Francisco the same time as us in 1-1/2 weeks.
-I'm pretty sure there are more Europeans out here than in Europe right now.
-We said before that we appreciate and respect all people, and it's not fair to generalize,  but the Chinese are by far the worst. And the shopkeepers agree. They're bitter, inconsiderate, and pushy. We do have a deeper respect for the Native American today.
-We're running into other people over and over, too. We've passed the same two couples on full dressers three times now. We know this because one of the couples wear the cool Captain America helmets that I love. Kinda hard to miss them.
OK time to pack up and head back out into the desert. We're winging it tonight; all we know is it will be somewhere in Arizona back on 66.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Land of Enchantment

Well, I wrote a post this morning before we checked out of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari.  It was titled "Tucumcari Tonight" which was the siren's call beckoning for 300 miles, kind of like South of the Border to us east coasters.  But... it took forever to load and one of the things I mentioned is how we'd been getting in late, blah, blah, blah, so I shoved my phone in my pocket while it uploaded, and we took off.  I fought with it the rest of the day, and I can still see it on my mobile app, but it's apparently lost in the ether of the dry plains.

Suffice it to say that we've had an adventurous two days here, having spent some quality time on Route 66, as well as the high altitudes of Santa Fe -- which was on the original 66 for a handful of years in the beginning, but not since 1932.  But technicalities aside, how can you not visit Santa Fe?

So we did, along with Pecos National Monument on the way up the hill, and passing through the San Felipe reservation on the way back down to Albuquerque, from where today's report is submitted.  Most people don't realize that Santa Fe is way higher in elevation than Denver, and it was 10,000 feet over Glorieta Pass on the way in.  I had a sweatshirt on until noon.

Now, here it is 10:00 again and it's my turn for the shower.  And the laundry is dry and needs to be rolled.  We wear fresh everything else every day, but jeans are expected to last a couple days.  We know we won't be able to do laundry for the next 3 nights, and since the we're 5 days in and we both got carnita juice on our jeans from the cart at Governor's Palace today, that left us on our last pair.  What if we want to go out one night in Vegas?  So we did wash tonight, and enjoyed our evening cocktails on the stoop of the laundry room right next door, and now we're good for another 8-9 days easy.

We've been booking rooms same day or one day in advance so far - tomorrow is our first real reservation in Mexican Hat, Utah, in the middle of Monument Valley.  It will be our first real deviation from Route 66 since we picked it up in Springfield MO, but like MacArthur, we shall return. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Oklahoma is OK

Their slogan, not mine. And wouldn't you want to tell the world that you're a bit better than just OK?

Anyway, I'll tell ya what's better than OK: 75 mph speed limits! We spent the last 60 miles or so truckin' down the Will Rogers turnpike, and I gotta tell ya it was awesome with traffic cruising along at our usual freeway speed without a care in the world. In the interim, we saw some cool stuff, some oddball stuff, and ran everything from concrete 4-lane to a few miles of dirt road on the old Ozark Trail. Things went wrong in threes for us today. For me, it was three wrong turns-from a guy who regularly goes 2,000 miles on back roads without making any. But I knew the minute I missed 'em, so no blood, no foul. Donna started off with a broken strap on her main bag first thing in the morning, but we worked through everything, had a great, sunny day of adventure, and we're safe, sound, and on schedule.

Tomorrow is the rest of the Sooner State and the Texas panhandlers.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Mother Road

Well, we made our 1,000 miles, but in 26 hours, not 24. We stopped at Ozark H-D anyway and got a poker chip, but no witness form.
About 80 miles down the interstate, we jumped off and our Route 66 adventure began. After a ride through Springfield, we stopped to see our friend Gary Turner at his old Sinclair station
 and give him a vintage PA tag and a LV HOG license plate to display. He again told us to help ourselves to a free water or pop and some fresh watermelon, and gave Donna a free t-shirt for her birthday.
He kept  us entertained for over an hour and also recommended a nice little mom-and-pop hotel 30 miles down the road in Carthage, where we're enjoying a beer on the porch waiting for our pizza to show up.
Tomorrow night we'd like to find a bed
somewhere west of OKC, so we don't get caught in the morning rush. It will be a much more relaxed day of maybe 300 miles. Weather is supposed to be hot but no chance of rain. We'll take it!