Friday, July 31, 2009

Day Eleven--Flagstaff, AZ to a very cool destination

Howdy! Sorry to disappoint you (mom) by not having our blogs posted last night, but we were out in the middle of nowhere—no phone connection, no wi-fi at the motel. Now, (sadly) we're back in civilization, so here it is, the eagerly anticipated Day 11 Blog!

I’ve gotta tell ya… my feller is brilliant. We left Flagstaff yesterday morning with the intention of either driving through to Barstow for the night, or making a bonsai run all the way home. My feller, however, came up with a much better plan, the perfect way to end our great motorcycle adventure.

video


But first… a recap of the day.

I didn’t expect the first half of the ride to be so great. For the first hour or so, we remained in the pines, the weather stellar, the road smooth, the smells...well... I tell ya, the most neglected sense in a car is smell. With the windows rolled up and the a/c blasting, the outdoor smells become non-existent. On a motorcycle, you smell everything—the sun on the asphalt, the pine, fresh cut hay, roadkill—and best of all, the port-a-potty truck that pulled in front of us just outside of Ash Fork. Mmmm… so fragrant. Fortunately, he was moving fast. I reckon he had someplace to go.

We passed lots of bikes heading east, probably on their way to Sturgis. Pretty cool to see them on the road and give them a happy little wave hello. Oh wait... that doesn't sound very biker, does it. No, no, I meant to say... give them a knee-level peace sign and a scowl as we roared past one another. Yeah. Or flipped each other the bird. Hell yeah!!

We took a little detour onto historic Route 66 through Ash Fork, everything you want in a Route 66 town: picturesque, charming. But that was nothing compared to Seligman. My feller has been talking about Seligman for the last couple years, after he first went through on his way by motorcycle to Tennessee. It lived up to his raving. Seligman has an interesting history in connection with Route 66. It’s where the whole “Historic Route 66” movement began, by a barber whose business nearly collapsed after Route 40 went in, diverting traffic around his little town. I won’t bore you with the entire story here, but if you’re interested, check out their website. Next May, they're doing a vintage car event in town. I’m hoping my old ’48 Ford truck will be up to the task. I think it would be great fun to participate.






Speaking of old trucks… I’m astounded by the number of old trucks rotting in fields through Utah, Colorado, and Arizona--great old trucks from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It broke my heart to see them parked that way. In So Cal, they’d actually be worth something.










My truck (above) came from Utah. Considering her condition, she very well could have been a field truck too. Poor old Mae. I’m glad she was one of the lucky rescues.






But back to the ride.

The route from Seligman on was purty darned hot, with long stretches of nothing. Before Ludlow, we got off of the Interstate, and returned to Route 66 through Amboy. Amboy’s one of those places my feller loves to go, even though the only thing there is a defunct motel/gas station. A restauranteur bought the place a while back and promises to bring it back to it’s full glory. Why? Roy’s is a very cool place. Great sign. Interesting architecture on the motel lobby. They do have functioning gas now, which made my feller giddy. He’s been waiting a long time to conduct business at Roy’s.

Now we're at the part of the journey where my feller’s brilliance comes in. From Amboy, it’s about 70 miles to Barstow. It was nearing five o’clock, and the sun was directly in our eyes. My butt had a good burn going, so I didn’t think there was anyway I could make it all the way back to The OC—which would mean a couple more hours in the seat. Plus, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to our vacation yet. It’s been such an amazing trip. Our option to stay in Barstow didn’t sound particularly interesting (sorry to any Barstow fans—if there are any). Just out of Amboy is the turn-off to Joshua Tree. We love Joshua Tree, go at least once a year. It’s a small town with a very alternative attitude nestled in the Joshua Tree National Forest and on the edge of the National Park (which is a stunning ride, btw). We like to stay in the motel where Graham Parsons accidentally overdosed. My feller is a huge fan of his music. Anyway, so we take the turn, and head sixty miles to Joshua Tree. Feller pulls over, and says, “How ‘bout going to Pioneertown?” BRILLIANT. Pioneertown was a movie set built in 1946. It’s a great ride to get here through a curvy road up into the rocky hills. Because so many people liked the area, Pioneertown gradually became real. Sort of. There’s not a whole lot, other than a very cool motel, and great restaurant, Pappy and Harriets, where we watched a few bands until after eleven. The room is filled with rustic antiques, they have great toiletries, and you can’t beat the old west charm. The price? $58 bucks. Astounding. Truly the perfect punctuation mark to our adventure.

So it’s Friday morning now. I’m sitting outside the room with the sun warming my back, the sounds of birds and my feller quietly playing Graham Parson’s song Wild Horses on his computer, wishing this trip wouldn’t end. But it has to. We have about a hundred miles left to go until we get home, and then it’s back to work. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like my job, but the last two weeks have opened my eyes once again to how great our country is, and how much exists outside of our little bubble we call home. It does a brain good to get out and explore.

And with that… time to hit the road for our final leg.

Until my final wrap-up tomorrow…

Later Gators.


--Eventually my feller will stop snoring, and publish his blog for Day 11 with all of our super-fantastic photos. Keep checkin' www.socal67.com. Maybe I'll go kick him and wake him up.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day Ten--Bluff, Utah to Flagstaff, Arizona


Awww... look at this adorable little toad we saw last night! Isn’t he precious??











After a fry bread breakfast at the Twin Rocks café (gee, I wonder how they came up with that name?), we headed toward Monument Valley. If you’re wondering what it looks like, well, look at the café picture and imagine more rocks like this, that go on and on and on. Pretty phenomenal stuff. Nature’s sculptures. I can’t imagine what the first explorers thought when they stumbled across this stuff. I mean, even for those who haven’t seen Monument Valley, there are enough photographs that everyone can picture it, right? From a distance, they look like castles on hilltops. Those early explorers must have been majorly ticked off when they saw them, thinking they’d discovered a new territory only to see others had built castles before them. Sadly, I have no pictures to show you. Because of the threat of rain, the cameras stayed stowed away, but you get the idea.




We stopped for gas in Tuba City. Not the best looking place in the world.







Brian found another vending machine in the gas station bathroom, one he was so excited about, he felt compelled to do a Facebook mobile upload.

Amazingly, just on the other side of Tuba City, it got crazy beautiful again. Other than the insane guys in pickup trucks making incredibly unsafe lane changes, the ride was great.

We made good time to our destination for the night, Flagstaff, and met my parents for dinner who are in town to escape the stifling Phoenix heat. Deep down, my mom wants to be a biker. She even stripped down to climb on my bike and pose for a picture.

During our walk around downtown Flagstaff, we discovered a very interesting fact: Flagstaff is an anti-pie town. No one had pie. NO ONE! Can you believe it? When I asked the girl in the coffee house where we could find pie, she said, “You won’t find pie in Flagstaff.” What???!!!! I told you my family is all about pie. No pie in Flagstaff is a very, very sad thing.

I’m too depressed to go on. Go to www.socal67.com to find out about our bitchin’ lodging for the night. He’s not as depressed about the pie as I am.

Until tomorrow…

Later gators.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day Nine--South Fork, CO to Bluff, UT

Whoa. We had the most INSANE day, full of contrasts and extremes, rife with conflict and terror… okay, terror might be overplaying it just a tad. But it was one of the wildest days I can remember having—and worth every minute.

It started innocent enough. The bed and breakfast served a great three-course breakfast: Fruit with fresh baked poppy-seed muffins, Quiche Lorraine, and an Apple Dumpling for desert. Desert at breakfast! How cool is that???

We hit the road to beautiful blue skies and ideal weather, nature luring us into her net. The ride through the Colorado Rockies had everything you’d expect, pine trees, log cabins, dead skunks… truly spectacular. I saw herds of cattle, herds of horses, and in Cortez, a herd of wild Goths, complete with tutus and skull shirts. As we continued our climb, the sky broke open, and it rained—not too much, enough to be fun, not enough to be a pain in the butt. And when you hit the sunny part of the road once again... Ahhhh... you appreciate it so much more.

Once we passed Mesa Verde, things changed dramatically. Gone were the lush agricultural fields and frolicking colts...

















...replaced with the barren, brown landscape of the high desert.

























Oh, but more wild changes were in store.


First, we had yet another traffic stop for construction. I actually like these, because it gives me a chance to get off the bike and take some pictures. Generally, if we’re going 65-75 mph, I don’t shoot while I ride. Only on the slow roads (okay, mom? See?)




Look at that sky, will ya?! Perfect blue, with puffy white. Just what you want to see, right?

Ha! What false bait that was!

I first noticed it on the distant horizon, a spectacular contrast of light. The hot sun made the brown scrub of the desert glow golden, while up ahead, the darkest cloud I’d ever seen blacked out the sky. I wanted to stop and shoot it, but heck, if I stopped to shoot everything that moved me, I’d never get anywhere.

The closer we got, the darker the sky became. Considering it had been blazing hot for the last hour or so, I couldn’t wait to get in the rain and cool down.

But it didn't come... yet.


Even with the impending storm, we pulled off as planned at the Four-Corners monument to grab some shots—a quick side trip, since we both knew the sky would open up at any minute. I pulled off to an overlook so we could get some cool shots...




...then we rushed over to the monument to do the classic, “Look, mom! I’m in four states” shot.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

It began with a couple of raindrops. Then the wind kicked in, which stirred up the dirt, creating a wild dust storm. When the sky opened up, it turned the dust to mud, flying at 50 mph through the wind. We took cover.

Oh… but it gets worse. Wait, first take a look at this video so you get an idea of the storm’s intensity:






video



I remembered I hadn’t secured my gloves because I thought we’d only be there a minute, so I walked back over to the bikes. When you see me running, that’s not to escape the rain, it’s because the wind pushed me. Hard.

And then… IT STARTED TO HAIL. I’m not kidding you.

One of the nice vendors let us take cover until the worst of it passed. The second it started to ease, we took off. For probably fifty miles, we rode in the rain. Remember how excited I was about the lightning on Day One? Well that was cute lightning. The lightning flashing overhead today was evil, chasing us down the road, flashes so bright, my chrome tank lit up. Insane.

Oh, but that’s not all.

We went to our planned gas stop. The gas station was closed. So there we were, in the middle of the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, in the rain, with bikes that can go only 120 miles or so, and we had about 60 miles or so already on our tanks. “No worries,” says my feller, “there’s another small town down the road.” Yeah. Well, the gas station in Red Mesa? Closed due to a power outage.

I asked, “Are we screwed?”

Feller said, “Nah.”

So we continued toward our destination, Bluff, Utah. My odometer read 98. The mileage marker for Bluff? 30. Ummm… I’m no math whiz, but that adds up to 128, right?

Yeah…

Thankfully, we’d been getting great gas mileage. The good news? We made it to Bluff.

The bad news? Power outage there, too. No gas. But hey! No worries. We planned to stay in Bluff anyway. Fortunately, the steakhouse down the road cooks on an outside grill, so they were still serving food—which was a good thing, considering we skipped lunch. The food was great, the hospitality outstanding. The Desert Rose Inn is charming, the views spectacular.














The company, stellar. Life is good.

Growing up, I never saw myself as particularly adventurous, but I think I may have changed my mind today, ‘cause I had a ridiculous amount of fun. The more the weather turned to chaos, the more I laughed in my helmet. I swear, you just can’t pay for entertainment as spectacular as Mother Nature. Wind storm. Dust storm. Mud storm. Hail. Lightning. Thunder. And oh! Did I mention the flying tumbleweeds aiming for us as we whizzed down the highway? My feller hit one, and it exploded. So cool!

To see some of the cool people we met on the road today, check out my feller's site, www.socal67.com.

I reckon it’s time to get myself off this swinging bench, away from the sunset view of the red bluffs, and wash the road grime away. Until tomorrow…

Later gators.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day Eight--Denver, CO to South Fork, CO


Our exit out of Denver wasn’t exactly smooth this morning. Just as Brian staged to take off from the hotel, I realized my helmet strap wasn’t fastened, so I started hollerin’ and honkin’ trying to get him to wait. But he didn’t hear. It took about fifteen minutes for us to finally reconnect. The next obstacle came trying to navigate out of the city. These were the instructions: 287, to I-25, to US-6, to Co-88, to US-6 (again), to I-70, to Co-470, to US-285 to CO-112 to US-160. Okay. So on a motorcycle, it’s not like you can drive and check a map or GPS. You have to memorize the directions. How do you memorize something like that?? Needless to say, we got lost a couple of times, and had to stop to look at the map again. Once we hit 285, it was smooth sailing.

The 285 had lots of great stuff to enjoy—traditional mountains covered in high grasses, pine trees, and lots of wildflowers, with an occasional stream running alongside. Lots of pretty towns, and one kind of weird one: Saguache. We needed gas, and thought maybe we’d have some lunch, so we turned onto a street with a sign marked business district. I swear, it looked like a movie set. Super colorful. Totally abandoned looking. Not a single functioning business. But the photo potential… man! I could have stayed there all day getting shots. Instead, I snapped a couple, and we were on our way. (check out my feller's site for more pics of Saguache www.socal67.com). Even though we didn’t eat breakfast or lunch (other than Cliff bars), we decided to ride all the way through to our final stop in South Fork.




















We hit bugs galore as we trekked through the mountains. This was my view through the helmet for the last hundred miles. Nice, huh? Ew?! (To truly appreciate the disgusting nature of this, you need to click on the picture and see it in it's full-sized glory.)

Speaking of being inside the helmet, man I sure am glad I’m all alone in there. The second we started climbing the Rockies, John Denver started speaking to me again, making me sing Rocky Mountain High (It’s all my mom’s fault. She was obsessed with John Denver when I was a kid). Even I cringed at the sound of my voice echoing in the helmet. I’m not a good singer. No one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to hear me sing. When I was in Australia covering the Olympics, I started singing one day in the car (I was delirious. Really) Our driver Jess groaned and said, “Please don’t sing!” That’s how bad I am.

But back to this trip…

Along the way, we’ve tried to mix up the places we’ve stayed. Tonight, we’re at a B&B. My feller and I were a little uneasy about doing the Bed & Breakfast thing because we’ve had not so great experiences in the past, but this place, The Apple Dumpling Inn, is pretty darned cool. There are critters (chipmonks, hummingbirds, moles) and wildflowers galore. We have great views out of all of our windows. The hosts, Bill and Robbie, have been very friendly and easy to be around, and they have a very cool kitten named
Yoda who is having a heck of a good time watching the hummingbirds buzz around, and we’re having a heck of a good time watching her.
















































Right now, I’m sitting on the porch swing watching the sun set below the mountains, the sounds of hummingbirds and dusk critters filling the air. It’s so insanely relaxing and beautiful.








So I reckon I'll sign off and enjoy the peace and solitude. Tomorrow, it’s on to Bluff, Utah and Monument Valley.



Until then…

Later gators

Day Six and Seven Wrap--Denver



Lucky you! Today is gonna be a two-fer! I’ll wrap up the weekend now, and write about today’s ride later. It should be a great one, and I'm itchin' to get movin' again.

My pool lounging plan for the weekend? Never happened. For one, an indoor pool isn’t particularly inviting, and two, I had enough other things to keep me busy. With a couple thousand bikers in town for a motorcycle event, things get pretty fun. I especially like that a few rebels bucked the system and parked at the Marriott anyway. I mean, why be a host hotel for a motorcycle event if you don’t allow motorcycles?? Makes no sense to me.

Saturday night, went to a fun party, where everyone donned their Bronson All-Seeing-Eye. Good crowd, good food. Not too many shenanigans.

That came Sunday night at Coyote Ugly.

If you’ve never been to one, it’s worth it for the experience. The bartenders (all hot girls) dance on the bar and basically abuse their patrons.

The best part?



The bar sliding. Had I not been in a dress, I think I might have liked that. They soak down the bar, the girls take a running start, and then dive down and slide across the wet surface.






I got to hang with my pal, Paul, who is always fun. He was originally going to ride with us, but work got in the way. Maybe next time, Paul. We missed ya, buddy!

We met a great guy from San Salvador—Jorge—who joined in with our group. He and Araña especially hit it off.












The always-entertaining life-of-the-party, Disco, did a little Bull-Robatics for us. He also moon-walked, clogged, and in general, infused our group with life.



(Almost) everyone danced and whopped it up.














My feller and I mainly took a bunch of pictures that will probably never see the light of day lest we loose all of our friends. (To see a few other select pictures, check out www.socal67).

















A random guy asked to have his picture taken with me. It was dark enough that I guess he didn't realize I was old enough to be his mother.









So I was talking to these two guys at the bar, James and Rick, and it turns out, they passed us on the road. I remember them well as we were coming over the I-70 into Denver. James gave me a peace sign. They thought we were pretty bad-ass, hard-core for riding Sportsters from Southern California. Heck. I don’t know any better, so I don’t feel too tough or anything. Feller , who does know a difference, says touring on a Sportster is pretty cool, and would do it again. That doesn’t mean he’s giving up his Road King or anything, but other than higher speed freeway stuff, he said the Sportster performed like the champ that it is.

And now… it’s time to hit the road again. We’ll be heading down the 285 toward South Fork, where we have reservations at a cool looking Victorian B&B.

Until tonight….


Later gators