Wednesday, September 30
As long as you're not hurting anyone or violating some universally recognized ethical standards and the law, or jeopardizing your bread and butter, the strange (by other people's standards) things you're accused of doing don't have to make sense to anyone but you! I seem to attract people (and family/friends) who feel the need to share motorcycle horror stories with me. Complete strangers come up to me and say some variant of the following: “I knew a guy who rode motorcycles for years and one day was killed just going to the store—so you could get really hurt or killed—it's dangerous out there.” Or, “I have a friend whose has been riding for 30 years and he finally gave it up because he was having close calls and too many of his friends were getting killed.” Why am I subject to this? I usually stand there, listen politely. I show with little or no affect. I don’t know how to look more disinterested. I refuse to engage the unsolicited advice beyond saying, “Thank you for sharing that.” But in my head I'm really saying, “I am sorry that you know people who have been killed on a motorcycle and that's why you want me to find another hobby. When people are involved in car accidents do you tell them to stop driving, or hit by cars as pedestrians, do you tell them to stop walking and to find another hobby? I bet not. I know you mean well but you are not being helpful. I find you annoying.” Of course, I never say this.
So, today I have at least three things pressing on my mind that prompted this little screed. Read it in good humor--but I'm serious about every word!
Screed #1: Here is my response to all those who feel an urgent need to tell me, “you shouldn't ride alone. It's dangerous.” Breathing is dangerous too but I do it. I ride solo. I prefer it. I ride to be alone. I know the risks. I accept the risks. Riding with someone, anyone, on a regular basis would cause me to quit riding. I see no fun in riding with others. I know lots of people have tons of fun riding with others. I think that's just great. For them. It's not for me. When I ride it’s “all about me and the ride.” If that sounds “selfish,” so be it. I don't want to negotiate anything. Staying safe on the road is as much negotiating as I care to do. No, I don't need “the husband” or anyone to keep me safe. Yes, there are people out there who might want to assault me because I am a woman, alone, and a host of other attributes a nut case can use as an excuse to do me harm. I can't worry about that. According to statistics, I have more to fear from family members and friends than I do from strangers. So, family/friends I am on guard around all of you.
Actually, I can hide at home, rarely venturing out, and a stray bullet can come through the window and kill me. Thus, staying at home can be deadly! I can't and I won't live being afraid to come and go as I please. The focus, concentration, and the unadulterated fun of riding, for me, is disrupted when I have ridden with others. I am thinking, worrying, and negotiating with someone about when, where, and what the plans are. My bladder has a mind of its own and, like me on two wheels, does not play well with others. So, well-intentioned family/friends, stop it. You're wasting your time and you should know that by now. If I'm killed out there, you have my permission to say, “I told her so.” Now, won't that make you feel better knowing you were right? (Disclaimer: to all those I have had occasion to ride with, it has been fun because it has been so rare that I can enjoy it knowing that it will probably never be repeated).
Screed#2: I happily ride to Wisconsin to get the warranty work done on my Beemer rather than taking it to the “local” dealership. I bought it from a BMW dealer 25 minutes and less than 20 miles from my residence. It's the second bike purchased from the nearby dealership—I really like the sale manager and would not hesitate to purchase another bike from him. However, I will not ever get warranty work done there (well, I shouldn't say “not ever,” but it will be a hot day in Chicago in February before I do!). Therefore, I ride over 100 miles—one way--and nearly 2 hours in bad traffic (and the traffic from Chicago to Wisconsin is always bad) to get excellent service.
BTW, this dealership has free pick up and delivery from Chicago! I ride there instead because it is a great time to get some riding in. Negotiating the traffic, I believe, sharpens my riding and skills. Riding in hectic traffic is like riding in the rain. Some riders try to avoid riding in the rain. If you're on the road, you will inevitably encounter rain at some point. Granted, it's not an ideal riding situation but the only way to learn to ride in the rain, is to ride in the rain. I live where traffic is robust; therefore, it doesn't freak me out because I've learned to ride in it. It's a challenge and risk I accept. So, well-meaning family/friends, it's either Milwaukee or Iowa City for warranty work. And, while I like the option of the free pick up and delivery, I don't plan to use it. Now, for all my other shop needs and accessories I go to Motoworks Chicago, best shop in Chicago hands down!
As an aside, my day in Wisconsin was filled with great weather, sites and a super lunch at Beans & Barley. Took in some sites along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan. And, at 6:45 pm while heading back to Chicago, I watched my five month old baby turned 7000 miles old.
Screed#3 I am not yet an official card carrying member of the Iron Butt Association but I have done two Saddle Sores (1000 miles in less than 24 hours) that remain unofficial. And, as soon as I can find where I've filed the paperwork, I'm submitting both rides for certification. I hope there is no statute of limitation as I did both some years ago. In any case, another one is in the plans. I enjoy long distance riding because it is mind cleansing. I know this doesn't make sense to certain family/friends. I don't seek or expect your approval. For some motorcyclist these Iron Butt rides hold no appeal. That's okay. The Japanese have a saying similar to our “different strokes for different folks,” and it's じゅうにん、といろ(Juu-nin to iro), which means ten men, ten tastes. We’re all different. Again, it doesn't hurt anyone that I get up and ride to Indianapolis or down to St. Louis and come home the same day. My Saddle Sore #1 was from Chicago to Waverly, Nebraska and back. Saddle Sore #2 was a straight shot to Golden, Colorado. My return trip was leisurely.
I have no habits or addictions that I spend money on—if you don't count books, fountain pens, Leuchttrum 1917 notebooks, motorcycle wear, and farkles for my bike. I'm kind to people and animals. Taking long day trips is a minor indulgence with huge dividends. I'm always happier when I return. So let me be. BTW, if you're really really worried about these long distance day trips why haven't you come forward demanding that I take your money and get a hotel room on your dime? Uh? Not that I would accept the offer. I'm just saying...
Am I the only one? Are there things your well-meaning family/friends/strangers don't get about your motorcycling fervor?
Saturday, September 12
One week ago, I arrived home safe and sound. Enough time to reflect on the trip but not nearly enough time to thoroughly process all the experiences, and people I met along the way. I put nearly 6000 miles on Jesse Owens II. It’s now ready for its second service.
This is a quick note of thanks and appreciation for the kindness of strangers who helped restore my faith in humankind and who made the trip worry-free.
First, a thanks to all the enthusiastic strangers traveling in the opposite direction who took the time to wave clear across the interstate, highway or just across a neighborhood street. Too often I missed returning a wave because I simply wasn’t thinking about it or it had zipped passed me too quickly. Thanks.
Somewhere beyond a 1000 miles the threading on one my Sidi On Road Gore Tex boot ripped. When I arrived in Encinitas, CA, a dear friend took me to a shoe repair. I don’t know if it was chatting in Spanish with the proprietor that did it, but he charged me $20—a figure I know was a significant underpayment. He sewed the boot and returned them to me with a shine that would pass any Army’s inspection.
Thanks goes to David Brown’s Sport Center in Amarillo, TX. On a Rt. 66 jaunt, one of the fancy little Denali lights that I love broke from its housing. After stopping for gas, I noticed the light precariously dangling near the ground. The silver duct tape I brought along looked unsightly; it would advertise--rather loudly--a flaw in my new bike. Bought some black duct tape that concealed the damage until I reached David Brown’s Motorsports. I was assisted immediately and the light was adhered to the bike with flawless expertise. The young man who fixed the light, didn’t want payment. I had to nearly force him to take a tip for this help. That kind of service always surprises me—and it’s often a rare experience. I appreciate the kindness shown me at David Brown’s.
Then, there was my visit to “San Diego BMW Motorcycles: Your Gateway to Adventure.” I desired a simple check up before heading home, and I expected to pay a minimum of $100 for the peace of mind. After the check up, Brent Rackstein, the Service Manager, gave me his “A-Okay” on the bike. He waved off charging me and sent me on my way. I was more than a little surprised—it took time to go over the bike. Such thoughtfulness is always greatly appreciated, especially when you’re far from home and you’ve been on the road for weeks.
From the moment I walked in I felt welcomed; I felt understood; and, I witnessed how San Diego BMW Motorcycles truly lives up to its “Gateway to Adventure” tagline. I think I said it in another blog entry, but it bears repeating: If I lived anywhere in southern California, San Diego BMW Motorcycles would be my go-to shop for service and accessories—loved their selection of motorcycle wear. Oh, how I wish the BMW service shop nearest me had such interest in customer service. To get service similar to San Diego, I must travel 100 miles beyond Chicago to Milwaukee—it’s worth it. So, THANK YOU San Diego BMW Motorcycles for helping to make my “adventure” worry-free.
On the kindness of friends...
Japanese American National Museum…
Strange things said to me on the road…
Stopping in a Sundown Town…
World War II & the Eisenhower Library and Museum…
Wednesday, September 2
Tuesday's ride had highs and lows in equal amounts. It was a great bag day. Every thing stayed exactly in place. The ride east from Fruita, Co could not have been more pleasant. The temps started in the low 80s and remained there for some time. In the end, the temperatures ranged from 58 degrees F, to 100. The ride through different terrains kept the temps fluctuating and interesting. For riding, the temp changes proved both comfortable and downright miserable.
Riding in fifty-eight degrees F through the mountains is cold, not chilly, downright cold! It is especially cold when gusty winds blast the chilly air at you and around you. My mesh jacked wasn't made for warmth and it lived up to its "cool" design. Highest elevation encountered topped 11,000 feet (near Shrine Pass, for example). The higher we climbed, the colder the air. At times, a huge dark cloud would covered the ground. Riding under these caused a temporary drop in temperature too. These hovering clouds also made for nice contrast with the sun shimmering on the mountains White River National Forest area—freezing—but offers lots of beautiful vistas. More breath-taking views—it almost took my mind off how cold I was. Eventually, I took advantage of a rest area/overlook and changed to a warmer jacket. That, and turning on my handlebar heater, allowed me to relax and enjoy the rest of the way.
This is ski country and the area is filled with quirky shops, rentals, camping and mountain roads! Aspen, Vail, Cooper Mountain, Loveland Pass, wilderness areas—whatever your passion, it's here. Riding through canyons, tunnels, following the Colorado river, and attacking squigglies, make I-70 endlessly entertaining and spirited. The Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel, the former heads west, the later heads east, was a tad slow due to some department of transportation activity in the tunnel. Still, all the tunnels rides were fun. Lots of nice overlooks and rest areas along I-70.
I think it was somewhere around Georgetown that things turned ugly. A backup lasted forever, or so it seemed. We inched along for miles. My clutch hand was screaming. It was a challenge to stop on slanted, uneven ground. Eventually, we came upon the detritus of an accident around a bend. Police and transportation workers were busy clearing the path.
More ugliness came when I reached Denver. Chicago has some pretty intense traffic. But in Denver, the traffic around 4:20ish, was insane! Every eastbound and westbound lane was grid locked. All exits were backed up. Where I-70 and I-25 forked, the halted cars looked like a still photograph. That back up was not moving! My left hand pain returned with a vengeance. The repeated pulling and easing out the clutch for many miles left me with a throbbing palm. I had removed the stock levers because they are impossible for me to use. These Wunderlich's are a life saver but today even these babies could not save my left hand.
I called it quits in Denver. My goal was to get past Denver, like another 200ish miles out. Alas, I was beaten by traffic, and a left hand that felt as if it had been pounded repeatedly with a rubber mallet. Downtown Denver hotel prices are the highest I've encountered on the trip. Ouch!
Tuesday, September 1
Left Mesquite, NV on Monday. Made it to Colorado around 8:30pm. The day was long but fun, filled with varied weather (temps ranged from 59 degrees F to 100 degrees F) and engaging terrain. There was also lightening, thundering and rain! Where does one go when it is lightening and the nearest place "with services" is 35 miles away?! No shelter anywhere along the long, sometimes isolated stretches of I-15. Watching the lightening was quite interesting but a tad cheek clinching--if you know what I mean.
Even with all the weather variety, it was a beautiful day for riding. First time the rain gear has been used on this trip. I haven't figured out all the mileage but it was well over 500 miles. I love I-70! It has to be the prettiest, most amazing interstate! I don't know much about its construction, but it's now on my list for further research. I have taken I-70 from IL to Colorado before but picking it up from I-15 and riding it east...loved every minute of it! It is scenic, crooked, and in many places, lightly traveled. My biggest challenge was keeping my eyes on the road. Bluffs, canyons, color changes in rocks and landscape were breathtakingly distracting. I am absolutely smitten with Nevada and Utah! To my riding hero, RH, ...I take back everything I said about riding in the US versus Canada.
Took a few detours, lots of up and down roads, many long sweeping curves and twisties. Loved the overlooks and many pull outs along I-70. If you travel this way, don't miss these as they provide a nice reason to get out of the saddle and some safe areas for shutter bugging. I really enjoyed the Virgin River and Green River areas. But my most favorite (although everything was a fave) area, which I almost bypassed because it was getting late, was the ride near Moab. This ride made me dizzy with its bodacious beauty!
This detour takes you around Arches Nation Park. I left I-70 at Crescent Jct. and headed south on 191. After about 30ish miles, catch 128, which heads east. You will be riding along the Colorado River. You stay on 128 until it meets up with I-70 again. I think this ended up being about 60 plus miles altogether but it was worth the detour.
In this brief update, I can't express the sheer beauty, the overwhelming sensory experience of riding along this, sometimes tight, twisty road. This "Scenic Bypass" was the highlight of the day! When I finally returned to I-70, the sun was setting and the sky was quickly turning dark. A sign said that Grand Junction, CO was approximately 47 miles ahead.
The road was lightly traveled. It felt a bit spooky. I imagined mountain lions and bears in wait around each curve for a lone 'cyclist. I kept my speed eight miles over the limit. In the far distance, I saw red lights and kept it in my view until I touched wheels in Colorado. I was checked in and fed by 9:30ish.
Onward and upward!
Monday, August 31
Sunday was my second day of sustained riding (i.e., over 50 miles) since arriving in California. It felt good to watch the miles fly by. I left Santa Ana, CA early to meet up with an old pal who lives in Nevada. Because I was going to arrive early I decided to take my time and treat myself to breakfast—pancakes! I haven't had pancakes in ages and the I-Hop did not fail. It was a nice change from a green smoothie! I didn't know that my friend had been alerted by his sister-in-law (my Santa Ana friend) about my early arrival. Consequently, he changed his arrival time to prevent me from waiting. In the end, we both did a little waiting for each other. It was well worth it. I'll call him RH. Nevada RH is hardcore in all the good ways. He is the only individual I know who has been riding since, well, forever! That is, all the time I've known him. The husband and I met him in the late 70s (Yikes) when he was riding in Chicago. He is still riding. He has never NOT ridden! But he's changed locations many times but the one constant has been riding. RH now makes his home in the Las Vegas area, where he is able to ride year round. He rides a HD Fatboy and he let me swing my legs over it. It's a big bike—over 700lbs, shiny and replete with cool front and back accessory lights that accentuates his presence on the road. HR is ATGATT (all the gear, all the time). We had a great time chatting about bikes, rides and old times. The time was all too brief IMHO. And, his wife gave him お土産 (omiyage) to give me. Really cool Japanese writing pad, and a beautiful pink patterned cloth. どうもありがとうございました .
RH reminded me that I wanted to ride the Vegas strip. Up one side and down the other, I rode “the Strip.” It's like Chicago's Magnificent Mile and New York's Times Square, but on some serious steroids. The traffic was crazy but I had been warned. Actually, I felt right at home with the traffic. I took pictures when the light turned red as there were no safe places to pull off for a quick shot.
I had hoped to ride about 535 miles but called it quits after about 390 miles. That's another great thing about solo riding. You can change your mind on a dime and there's no one with whom to negotiate the matter. I called it quits because my eyes looked like I had been drinking and they felt like they had been massaged with sand. I could not blink away the grating feeling of each blink. My eyes were crimson with alien like veins extending outward from each pupil. I gave up in Mesquite, NV, and got a room. The eye drops started taking effect almost immediately but only after a blinding burning sensation after application.
The ride along I-15 was hot. But I've come to appreciate just how much weather is a matter of perspective, it depends on one's reference point. Ordinarily, the 90s are hot to me, but if one's reference point is 114 degrees, then 97 feels downright cool(ish). The whole way was pleasant. I so appreciated that the temps never climbed above 107 degrees. I guzzled lots of water and when I felt I'd had enough, I guzzled more.
Just as I felt called to the road, I'm hearing the call toward home. This has been the best combo vacation/research trip. Family and friends made this special. (More on them later). It may even be the best vacation I've had "alone." Ever.
Saturday, August 22
Okay. So, the two small burns on my fingers are not unrelated to the bigger story I'm about to tell; but the burns are now minor annoyances from adjusting a bag that consistently slides too near the motorcycle's exhaust, and fries my fingers in the process. Yet myburned fingers are important to this story because the tale is about burns of one kind or another—both literally and figuratively, such as burns from a desert blasting unbearable heat, a burning desire, a burning passion, and, burning mad. And, before anyone responds that what I did was crazy, let me say first and say it loud, I have no regrets. Actually, I'm glad I had がまん (gaman), which, as a student of the Japanese language, means to me, to persevere and endure, to have patience, to hang in during a tough situation—at least that's my interpretation. During my ordeal I also thought of another of my favorite Japanese phrases: 仕方が無い (shikata ga nai), which means nothing can be done about it, that something is beyond one's control. Many interpretations exist about the positive and negative implications of both terms, I will avoid that discussion. I'll add one more saying that is of English origin: "Be careful what you wish/pray for, you just might get it," which to me is deeply cautionary advice designed, in my view, to insert pause and perhaps to even discourage one from venturing out. It seems to suggest that while wishes may come true, they might not show up in the way one expected—or wanted--so be forewarned. My philosophical problem with this phrase is beyond the scope of this report; however, I contend that one obvious issue with it is that it ingrains, intentionally or not, a hesitancy and warning that what you go after, might not turn out the way you want, so think twice about your quest. To that I say, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."
After arranging the DrySpec bags and feeling confident that they were well-positioned on the bike, I left Holbrook, AZ sometime around 8am. Ordinarily, I thoroughly check the GPS route against a paper map and figure out the best path of travel. However, my enthusiasm to get on the road made me skip the check that morning, which would burn me later. The weather started somewhere in the low 80s. I road quite comfortably for approximately 50ish miles and stopped just to do a quick bag check and down a drink of H2O. Good thing I did. The problem bag was at it again! It was not just near the exhaust, it had slipped and was riding on the exhaust. Fifty miles previous, it was hoisted far above the exhaust to avoid that very situation. My less than two week old bags now sport a nice burn spot. Two burned fingers, one burned bag. It's getting hot in here!
I repositioned the bags. I must say that this bag problem is perhaps 50% user error. I have now learned how to position the bags so that they are never near the exhaust and the gas tank is now unobstructed. Now they slide forward rather than downward. I will maintain forever that the bags set up shouldn't be as challenging as I've found them to be daily—regardless of whether new or old strap positions are used. I'd love to see Twisted Throttle do a YouTube set up of my combo of their bags on the BMW F800GT—and ride it for some miles. Something about the rear sides of this bike and the bar around the sides, with the protruding prong on each side, make positioning and keeping the bags in place, and away from the GT's exhaust, difficult at best! I've become rather obsessed with these bags.
Back to riding...
The farther west I rode, the higher the temps. I had planned to get to Encinitas, CA, an approximate 550 miles ride from Holbrook before dark—I had plenty of time. Of course, I was assuming an uneventful ride. I donned a white mesh jacket, summer gloves, helmet, sun glasses, and summer(ish) riding pants. Physically, I was comfortable. In hindsight, I now know that traveling via I-10 West was not the wisest decision. At all. It's the desert! First, there were few places to stop for a break once I was deep in the desert. Second, the temps increased rather dramatically but I remained focused and seemingly fine. At the onset, I was not uncomfortable. Yet. I sang in my helmet, conjugated some Japanese verbs and kept myself entertained. I even stopped the bike on the tiny strip of ground along the side of the road to take a few pictures. I drank water or Gatorade—sometimes both when I stopped. By the way, water and Gatorade taste awful when they--and the drinker are hot.
In an hour it was sweltering. By the time the temps reached 110 degrees I felt it but not in the most debilitating way. Yet. I continued on. I saw zero motorcycles on the road. I saw few cars, After several hours, I realized there was no turning back. Literally, there was 仕方が無い (shikata ga nai), nothing I could do about it (at that point). I distinctly and deliberately thought がまんする (gaman). Just hang in there, I told myself. This can't go on forever. I thought too of slaves who worked in blazing fields without respite. Did the heat of working in cotton fields feel like the burning furnace this ride was turning out to be? I continued pushing through the windy blasts of smoldering air. The way through seemed endless. Eventually, my legs felt heavy. I felt corseted in plastic wrap. Increasingly, my helmet felt like a vise. It was impossible to breath in fresh air because there was no fresh air, just bursts of broiling ether that felt like I could spontaneously ignite at any moment. Still, I persevered. By the time I had traveled over 300 miles, the temps had fluctuated from 100 to 114 degrees!
It took me more than five hours and more than 380 miles to travel from Holbrook, AZ to Desert Center, CA., where according to the GPS McGoo's gas station was ahead on the right. Just 14 more miles. I needed to get off bike, which I had been on without a stop for a long time. I did finally see McGoo's sign. I felt exhausted, hot and arid. I slowed to turn into the large, sand and graveled parking lot. After traveling on a flat, smooth surface for hundreds of miles, the abrupt change in terrain was jarring to my sensibilities and I struggled to steer the bike forward. I cautiously pulled into the lot, slowed the bike and brought it to a dead stop. I put my left foot down, then the right. I sat for a few moments. I searched for the kickstand but couldn't find it. My left foot felt disconnected from my body. At that point, the bike and I did a slow motion clockwise descent into gravel. I could not keep the bike upright.
On the ground, I reached for the kill switch. I slipped my leg clear from under the bike and stood up. At least, I thought I was standing up. I felt woozy and discombobulated. Either I was swaying or the world was spinning. I could not apply the skills I've used before to lift my bike. I couldn't even walk straight, let alone bend my knees. My fuzzy head couldn't remember how to lift the bike. I stared at my bike as if looks could will it upright. The parking had about three cars in it. But not one single gas pump.
I stumbled--literally--to the McGoo's store. I reached for the door but it kept shifting farther from me. I finally caught the moving door handle and made my way into the store. I was met with a blast of freezing air that slapped my face and stunned my senses. It felt heavenly.
I asked a man at the check out counter if he would help me lift my bike. He and another man in line immediately followed me outside. One of them asked if I was okay. I said I was but my mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton. They lifted my bike with ease. I put the kick stand down. I think I thanked them. Because of the deep gravel and the fact that the bike was simply laid down rather than dropped, there was no damage to the bike at all. I wobbled back to the store and bought a bottle of water and Gatorade. I could barely get the funds together to pay the cashier. She asked me if I was okay. I slurred something about being hot. I saw a small wooden stool in the corner of the store and asked if I could sit inside until I consumed the beverages. She thought it was a good idea. I sat down and felt instantly worse. I felt ready to upchuck . I downed the Gatorade in seconds--it seemed; the water, even faster. The cashier, who didn't seem overly busy, kept chatting with me. After 20 minutes my legs still felt like they were borrowed from someone else. I continued to drink water. The cashier recommended that someone there could take me to a nearby fire station to check my vitals. I agreed to go if I didn't feel better in a few more minutes.
After another 15 minutes my head throbbing started to quiet. The cashier said, "You're sweating! That's a good sign." The store owner told her to give me a bottle of Pedialyte, "on the house." She ordered me to drink it all. I did. Thirty-minutes later ,I felt 100% better. Not yet normal, but 100% better. I continued to sit there, not sure my legs would work. Soon a woman, who had run out of gas entered the store. She had walked from her car to the McGoo store. "I know what the GPS says, but we're not a gas station." She said she would call Triple A, but the owner responded, "Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't." I remained at the store for a long time. I did not get back on the bike until I felt normal. I thanked the owner and cashier who kept me company in between business and entertained me with stories of people with similar and far worse fates in Desert Center, CA.
Feeling “normal” I left. The owner told me where I could stop if I needed to. “In about an hour or so, you'll be getting away from the desert. He recommended I check myself at Indio, CA. Indio was less than 50 miles west, Encinitas was still over 200 miles away. Perhaps it was residual delirium, but I felt I could make it to Encinitas long before dark. Mathematically, I could. Gaman suru! I breezed through Indio feeling confident, strong and less hot. The hot crosswinds were annoying but bearable. I don't recall exactly when things began to get ugly again it just seemed to come out of nowhere. I first noticed the winds. The day had been hot and windy, but these new winds were different, angry even. So strong that I had to wrestle the bike to keep it in my lane. Counter-steering...was key to making it through.
Somewhere along I-10 and west of Indio, I saw a sign warning of sand storms, zero to low visibility, gusty winds—situations that this city woman is unfamiliar. Fortunately, the temps were as much as 20 degrees lower than the desert! But the winds had picked up considerably. My bike swayed across our lane and sometimes edged into the adjacent lane. The wind was in control. I felt trapped in a brutal wind tunnel! The confidence I had regained from the desert experience was beginning to lag and the exhaustion returned with a vengeance. Then I saw something I'd never seen before—except in the early stages of a Chicago snow storm. The ground began to dance.
Swirling sand, churning and twirling boogied above the ground. The sand was pushed about by a weighty wind that whipped about in unpredictable directions. All of my synapses were on heightened alert. The bike felt light and ready to take flight any minute. My arms, especially my not yet fully healed rotators cuff was taking a lickin'. Then, visibility took a pratfall. The vigorous ground swirling was now way above the ground, circling the air space. Although the warning sign lights were not flashing, the winds were fierce, the sand was surging and the fact that I had just survived the burning hell fires of the desert all made me pull off at a North Palm Springs, CA exit. I had traveled about 85 miles since Desert Center, CA. A gas station was right off I-10. When I stopped the bike, I was solid on my feet—a good sign. After filling up, I called my friend and left a message that I was stopping for the day. I didn't make sense to push it for another estimated 125 miles. When she retrieved my message she said the wind in the back ground was so strong that she could not hear me. She left a message to be safe and to check in to confirm. I found a hotel right off I-10 W and checked in. Even the Bates Hotel that evening would have been a welcome relief.
Checked in, unpacked the bike, and cleaned up. I found sand inside my helmet, nose, and my eyes...this trip is blinding me! I reclined on the bed and despite it all, felt pretty dang good to be safe and done for the day. Next time, I will do as I usually do, which is to check the GPS along side a paper map. Remember also to check how the GPS is “enabled,” because it routes based on parameters I set. I had my GPS set for shortest distance, which was via I-10 West, through the desert. The two alternate routes, which would have been far better—and safer—were only 20-25 miles longer than the desert route. But the GPS is a device that needs human input for best output. Oh well...live and learn.
Now that I successfully have persevered through, it would be foolish to regret any part of this unanticipated adventure. It's all part of the journey, all part of playing the hand you've been dealt. I vow to be wiser next time. When I'm 85 (and riding a trike) this solo two-wheeled experience will make me giggle and tell small children that back in the day, I rode my motorcycle through the searing desert and pushed through blasts of blistering heat to visit close friends in southern California. Was it worth it? Heck, yeah!
After a good night's sleep and confidence restored, the ride the next morning to Encinitas, my first southern CA stop with friends, was a breeze—both figuratively and literally. But once I was clear of I-10's windy nature, the rest was smooth motoring. After a short stay in Encinitas, I'll head to La Jolla, Santa Ana, and
Tuesday, August 18
One upside to staying at the Bates Hotel (think the movie Psycho!) is that it got me up and out early! I paused at taking a shower because the shower area looked ghastly. Lest I'm accused of being dramatic, here are a few pictures that reveal some of the better views of the hotel room.
Here's a travel tip for Bates Hotels and even good hotels...Instead of packing shower shoes (those cheap flip flops) you stand in while showering in public facilities, place one of the hotel's hand towels in the shower. Stand on it while showering. Prevents having to stand barefoot on the shower floor and by leaving shower shoes at home, this saves packing space too.
I'm beginning to “feel” the bags. Today's set up was the best and fastest to date! I feared the same old slipping and sliding. Monday was different. The bags never budged. The only difference I can think of is that the more I've had to set them up, the better I've become. After Monday's 530ish miles, the bags never shifted! Now, they were a tad cock-eyed because I can't get the bike on the center stand (shoulder is still healing) to make sure the bags are even. Still, they worked flawlessly today--and it made for absolute worry-free riding. The previous days of riding were greatly influenced by constantly thinking that one bag was resting on the exhaust, which blocks the ride endorphins! But not today.
Only one worry remained: the Denali light patched up with black duct tape. Unsightly to say the least. Early Monday morning I called one “motorcycle sports” shop. Their decline was immediate,“We don't have anyone available to do that.” Now, even I could see that it probably only needed a few screws. When asked if he had any recommendations for Amarillo shops that might help, he said, “David Brown's Sport Center.”
Brown was only a mile or so from me. Rather than call, I showed up. Perhaps if they saw the desperation in my face, they'd help. A white haired man who looked to be in his seventies (David Brown?) told me to take the bike behind the building to the service area, “Talk to the guys there.” Met a young, blond-haired man, probably in his twenties walking the grounds. He looked at the light, said it was “no problem.” He patiently removed all the tacky duct tape and within ten minutes—including looking for the right size screws, the light was restored to its original position! We chatted while he worked. When he finished, I asked for the cost. He said, “No cost, don't worry.” We went back and forth on this and I could tell his refusal to accept money was genuine. No fake modesty. I pushed money toward him and told him to at least permit me to buy him lunch. He said, “You really don't have to do that.” He proceeded to walk back toward the service door. I urged him to allow me to show my appreciation. He smiled faintly, thanked me, and we departed.
Later while riding, I wondered if I had been too insistent about him taking the money. It made me feel good, but did it make him feel good to take it? Perhaps I should have accepted his gift to me? Turning his kindness into a monetary transaction, in a way, felt like I was devaluing the purity of the gift. I can now see where the exchange of money on the gift was a vain attempt to quantify the gift, when in reality, it couldn't be quantified—not really. Oh well...being on the bike for hours gives me a lot to mull over matters. I simply wanted to show my appreciation for his time and talents. If you're ever in Amarillo, I highly recommend David Brown's Sports Center for all you motorcycle and sports related needs.
The weather couldn't have been more perfect. It started out in the upper 60s. The cross winds made it feel cooler. But it was a welcome relief compared to Sunday's scorcher, which felt sticky and yucky the whole day's ride. But today remained comfortable throughout. It reached the upper 80s somewhere leaving Amarillo and in New Mexico the temps climbed. However, it never became sweat-popping hot. My mesh jacket was comfortable. In Pine Springs, New Mexico, the elevation rose to over 6000 feet and the roads nicely reflected the ascent. Lots of wide swoops, dips and curves—very conducive to long days in the saddle. Thanks to trucks, I did have some cheek tightening moments. I try to steer clear of trucks; I saw several sway wildly on curves and during grade changes in the road. Many seemed to waddle before finding solid ground.
Still, the ride was 99% worry free, which makes for stress-less motoring IMHO. I don't recall furrowing my brow once! My eyes, however, are bloodshot, dry and itchy. I think I'm a tad dehydrated. Still, Monday was simple joy: ear plugs in, sunglasses released from its internal housing inside the Nolan helmet, DrySpec bags, rock solid, and my mind cleared of worries, taking in all the gorgeous landscape that lined both sides of I-40. I jumped off the interstate for bits and pieces of old historic Rt 66—nothing more could made Monday's ride more perfect.
I'm headed to southern CA tomorrow.
Monday, August 17
Finally sleep won out. After what felt like an hour--but was more like four--I awoke to lightening and thundering and a very sore neck from sleeping in one small spot in a bed I hope I can one day erase from my memory. Hoping to find someone to fix the Denali light before getting on the road.
Greetings family and friends,
August 15th: Oklahoma roads have been the worst encountered thus far. So bad in fact that one of my Denali lights was jarred from its housing! I discovered the dangling light on one of my many bag checks! It needed to be fixed and I didn't want silver duck tape drawing attention to the fix. Called around for motorcycle shops in the area. Every shop was closing within 10 minutes of my call and none would be open on Sunday. That night, I reluctantly gave Walmart my money and bought black duck tape to adhere the light.
Night of August 15th: It's official. I detest the DrySpec bags. More problems with keeping the left bag away from the exhaust. Burned my finger on the hot exhaust during one of the adjustments. Big ouch!
August 16: Left Oklahoma City but not before making up with the bags. Still not loving them, but no longer hate them. Today was the best adjustment so far. My goal was to free the gas tank to allow easy access. Success! And, the bags seemed to stay in place. It took me about 20 minutes to get them on satisfactorily, which is down from...what? --the nearly two hours on the worst day of fiddling around with them. As of today, the bags are growing on me. Let's see what tomorrow brings. But never having to remove a bag to fill up the tank--huge accomplishment.
Oklahoma City's National Memorial and Museum, dedicated to the innocent lives lost in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building is a site to behold. It's difficult to say something so tragic resulted in something so beautiful and serene, but the grounds are amazing. Because I thought I lost one of the cameras I brought, I only have phone pictures of the site. The chairs have the names of the innocent. And, the smaller chairs, signaling the lost of a child, yanks at your heart. Of the 168 people killed on that morning of April 19, 1995, 19 were children. Over 650 people were injured.
After visiting the memorial, I needed something light. Before leaving OK City, I headed for the Milk Bottle Grocery. This tiny structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits on a triangle and is an old Route 66 attractions. Very cute!
August 16th night. Camera found! Did I mention that the entire day of riding was hot? How hot? Really really hot. I felt fine as long as I was riding at 75mph. The second I stopped, the sweat poured. Literally! One of the great things about solo riding is never having to negotiate when to stop, what to see, where to eat, blah, blah, blah. I decided to cut out all my many Rt 66 stops and just hit the Interstate to get to Amarillo, TX.
In Amarillo, I accidentally found a neat little diner called Thai Garden. I had hoped for some authentic Tex-Mex food but the place I selected didn't look open although it said it was open and, well, it didn't look appealing at all. But right next door was the Thai Garden. Interesting that every worker in it spoke Spanish. The staff was great and attentive. The owner, who is Thai, was welcoming. We chatted a bit. I ordered vegetable fried rice and it was among the best I've had! All for a whopping $7.
Accommodations for the night. I've been relying on Priceline and I've not been disappointed. I've stayed at nice places at huge discounts. I took someone's advice and stayed at a "mom and pop" motorcycle friendly place, the kind I've stayed at before. But I find these outfits to be hit or miss. This one was a huge MISS! First, it's only $20 cheaper than my Priceline deals. But it is by far one of the worst places I've EVER stayed in. Ever! And, the scariest! How dare they call themselves "Luxury Inn and Suites." Let me say it makes the Bates Hotel (from the movie Psycho) look like a five start palace! Were I not utterly exhausted from the heat and blazing saddle (remember that movie?)--my butt actually got hot, I would have motored on to find a better place. After all it's one night, I told myself. One looong scary night...The good thing is, I'm so paranoid about sleeping in the bed, I'm up blogging. Its also dark?! The two lamps must have in them the smallest watt bulbs ever made! And, there's a whiff of...oh well, nevermind.
New Mexico bound!