Here it is 2016 already and time for Savannah and I to finish our lower 48 tour. We need two more states, well I need two more she needs three. We need New Mexico and Arizona. She needs Kansas. It's hard to believe she is off to college next month!
It rained all night the day we left, the weather it was dry. The sun so hot we froze to death. Yeah I know that sounds familiar right? But for anyone that tours on a motorcycle can't deny the truth of the words to "Old Susanna". It's not uncommon to go from pouring rain to blinding sun all in one day. Or when you're in the mountains to go from snow on the roads to 100 degree heat in the low lands. All of which we have experienced.
As it seems for most years day one is going to start off with either rain or the threat of rain. This year is no exception. We leave in the rain. Granted it's just showers no heavy storms for now at least! The chances are there though today.
Look at the blue dot. That is our current location.
As we head south toward Columbus we are in the rain off and on. We are making good time and avoid the rush hour traffic. Being July 1 the Highway Patrol are everywhere today. Guess they want to make some cash off the holiday travelers.
After getting through Columbus we turn west on I70 to head to my Brother's place in western Missouri. As we enter the Dayton area we get dumped on for just a few minutes and then it eases up. We need gas by this point and pull off. I get out the phone and look at the radar. We just missed the really bad!
That little area of green between all the orange, yellow, and red is what we were lucky enough to go through!
All gassed up, the bike that is, we continue west. The rest of the day is sunny and dry thankfully! Traffic is smooth until we get to the Mississippi. St. Louis traffic on I270 is nasty! By now the heat was way up too!
Once we make it out of St. Louis we continue on for a few more hours and turn off the interstate on to the side roads for the 45 minute ride to my Brother's place.
Before long we are stopped with flashing lights up ahead. Then here comes this 18 wheeler being towed. Oil or something all over it? Then we finally start moving and see the rest of the wreck. There is a red car smashed to bits and a box truck damaged. It looks bad!
Found out the next morning it was a fatal crash for the red car. The man was trying to turn left just over the crest of a hill when the 18 wheeler hit him and pushed him into the box truck coming the other way. Killed the guy in the red car unfortunately!
We spend the next few days at my Brother's house just relaxing and expending some ammunition. Nice thing about him being in the middle of no where. Just step outside and have some fun target shooting.
The next day of actual travel and sight seeing is July 5th. We need to leave early because we want to miss Kansas City traffic. We get through the city just fine and before you know it we are 130 miles down the road and stop for gas and breakfast.
Today, day 2, is mostly a travel day to Amarillo Tx and then on to New Mexico from there to start the real trip. While on the road getting closer to Amarillo I keep seeing signs for the Big Texan Steak House. 72oz steak free the sign says. Then it dawns on me that this place is famous and I have seen it on TV.
It turns out it's one exit before our hotel. The heat is horrific at this point in the day. We are very dehydrated and hungry. We pull into the parking lot and this is what I see on the dash of the bike.
There were times before we stopped that I know the air temperature was hotter than that. You would be going down the road and it would feel like someone opened a blast furnace in front of you. If you had your visor up on the helmet it actually took your breathe away! It was cooler and easier to breathe with the full faced helmet closed. If you ever find yourself in the south west you may want a full faced helmet. Or at least, from a local I talked with, a wetted bandana over your mouth so you can breathe.
Here is a shot of the outside, inside, and my steak. I have to admit it is the best steak I have ever had! Then our Waitress, from up state New York by the way, was the best I have ever had! Even Savannah, who is a waitress also, said the same thing.
Day 3 starts out sunny with the chance of ungodly hot again. We want to take off early to beat as much heat as possible.
Savannah noticed that the Cadillac Ranch was nearby and wanted to see it. For her I did it but for me, eh... I could live without it. Here it is and here leaving her mark behind.
Just down the road from Amarillo is Palo Duro Canyon. Something I hadn't really planned on, but noticed it on the map and decided to make a side trip. We have plenty of time. It's only a 200 mile day roughly to go to our next destination of Roswell New Mexico where I hope to be abducted by aliens and move off the planet!
Palo Duro Canyon, like almost all National Parks, charge an entrance fee.
Fee paid we are on our way down into the Canyon. There are places to camp if you're interested, a gift shop we didn't stop at, and may other places of interest. The road is just a way in, turn around and same way out.
Here are a few random shots of the park. We also saw our first Roadrunner, but sadly no Wile E. Coyote. Tried to get a shot of the Roadrunner, but I missed.
Us with Lighthouse Rock.
A panoramic shot of the area.
From here we continued on toward Roswell. Another side trip along the way was Billy the Kid's grave site. Again this was Savannah's idea, glad she is participating!
They don't know the exact site because of a flood a few years after his death, but it's the best guess they have.
Once in Roswell and all checked in we head towards downtown and the tourist stuff. I was a little disappointed. There really isn't but a few shops and the museum.
We did go into the museum where I found my people! But to my dismay they didn't take me away!
Day 4 sees us leaving Roswell and heading to our final destination for today of Truth or Consequences NM.
We run south a bit on 285 and turn west on 82. 82 is a long desolate road with nothing or on one on it for quite a ways. With a few exceptions of Jack Rabbits. Had never seen one in the wild before this road. If you look very hard near the center of the picture you can see the first on we saw.
Continuing on into the Lincoln National Forrest we run across an old Railway that is no longer. Built for the lumber industry back in the late 1800's. They rebuilt the one trestle for us tourists.
This view is from the main road of 82 near the town of Cloudcroft.
We then back tracked some to take some hiking trails to see it from the other end.
You could also see the White Sands Missile Test Range from these trails.
After we leave the cool mountains and hit the bottom desert what a nasty heat wave again! Like I said before you get these heat waves that hit you and feel like someone opened a blast furnace in front of you.
We stopped at the White Sands Monument and get this, they want to charge you to look at sand! So we didn't do that we just saw what we could from the Visitor Center.
See the rain off in the distance?
We also got to experience something new. While on the interstate heading to Truth or Consequences we got stopped at a Boarder Patrol check point. At this point, thanks to a twisted mind, two things are going through my head. First is Phil Collins " Its no fun being and illegal alien" and Cheech's song "Born in east LA". We pull up and he asks if we are U.S. citizens and we say, no hablo ingles. Ok just kidding I say yes sir and we are on our way.
Later in the day we got buzzed by 2 F16's while on the way to Truth or Consequences. Speaking of on the way we had to try and beat some rain that was heading for us. We managed to get to the hotel before we got wet, but the poor bike wasn't so lucky having to sleep outside. The surrounding mountains got pounded while we just caught the edge of it. Little did we know at the time that the storm was going to make for an interesting day tomorrow.
Day 5 now and we are heading west still towards Arizona, the final state! We run down I25 for a bit and turn west on 152. This is a great mountain road with awesome curves and scenery! Due to all this I didn't get many pictures of the road because even at a reasonable speed it required a lot of attention. You never knew what was around the next blind corner.
The storms of the previous night had put a lot of rock down on the road. There was small gravel to quite large boulders on the road. At one point the road was almost entirely blocked!
Then it got even more interesting after this. If it wasn't rock it was snow or deer or both!
Then we turn north on 15 to the Gila National Forrest Cliff Dwellings. What's most interesting is all the past fire damage that can be seen! We had even noticed it on 152 while coming this way. This is going to be a common sight over the next few days in New Mexico and Arizona.
We get to the cliff dwellings and meet a nice young lady park ranger. She tells us all about the place and the hiking trail. You could tell she has a lot of Native American in her. Savannah said later she was jealous of her long hair.
We get on the trail and are seeing lizards everywhere!
It was a pretty easy hike up to the dwellings. On top we met a retired man acting as a tour guide I guess. Find out he's from Worthington Ohio. Really? That's not far from me! Then we go on to meet another Park Ranger. I ask her to take a picture of us, funny thing is if you remember the movie Uncle Buck. She looked a lot like the character Tia. The teenage lead actress.
We have to back track from here on 15, but continue south toward Silver City and much needed gas. But wait a minute! The road turns into not much more than a paved goat path. It's very narrow with a lot of tight 1st gear style corners. It's fun but you have to pay attention. One for what you're doing and for two the on coming traffic. Not that there was much.
Then we reach the bottom lands and Desert again! Go from what felt like 40's and snow in the mountains to over 100 degree heat again!
Another common sight over the next few days were large dust devils! There were times we saw more than half a dozen at one time. This is just one example.
We finally cross into Arizona and have met our goal of the lower 48! We continue on to Thatcher Arizona for the night.
Day 6 comes and the weather is going to be the same. Nice in the mountains and hotter than, well you know, in the low lands!
We turn north on 191 to head to the Petrified Forrest. A place my mother used to visit as a kid. 191 is a fun road with lots of scenery and lots of great corners!
As we make our turn onto 191 you can see these multicolor hills in the distance off to our left. We slowly get closer to them and then find ourselves in them in the town of Clifton. Here it's a giant mine. It's a copper mine.
Coming into town is an old steam engine. Yes I am a train buff.
Then as we are leaving town there is a sign to watch out for Ram. No sooner do we pass this sign and round a corner and there is a small herd along side the road!
The mine is pretty cool looking with all the different colors exposed. You can't really tell from pictures but it is huge! Looking down into the mine from the road the large trucks look small!
Something New Mexico and Arizona have in common is about a bazillion, yes that's a real number, cattle guards on the road! I guess if you're not from the area you don't realize how much wildlife they have. If its not the wild life then its free range cattle!
As we passed these cattle I say "moo" to Savannah and I guess the calf hears me and I startle it. LOL
Once we get to the petrified forest it leads into the Painted Desert. The road is in pristine condition, but is very heavy with tourist traffic.
After leaving the Painted Desert we hop on I40 west to Williams Arizona for the night. Along the way though we see signs for the Meteor Crater. Cool thing is it's only 6 miles off our intended path. So we have to take another side trip! Here are a couple shots of it.
You couldn't really see it from the east side, but once we past it and were on the west side you could see it for quite a while.
We get to Williams and check into the Rodeway Inn. The lady checking us in is probably the most friendly I have ever encountered! She explains the surroundings to us, because we are on the famous Route 66 now. Then when I tell her we'll be leaving before they serve breakfast she offers to bring stuff over to us for the morning!
She brought us over a pail with bananas, hot cereal, coffee, tea, yogurt, and hot chocolate!
Then we head into town for dinner. She had mentioned a nice steak house to us but it was still closed so we settled on this 50's themed place. Here it is with a few sights of the strip thrown in.
I think she wants me!
Day 7 is, unintentionally going to be a long day! When I had planned this trip over a year ago for last year, 2015, we were going to stay here in Williams for 2 days. But since things are so slow at work and money is tighter than I like I had shorted a few things off the trip. What I didn't realize until last night is I missed the Grand Canyon! That being said we had to reroute everything so we didn't miss it. It turned into a 13 hour day. Not sure how many miles but I know it was over 600! Too much!!
We head out on I40 again and take 93 North. We see the signs for the Grand Canyon Sky Bridge. It is located on the west side and on the Huaiapai Reservation. Make sure you have gas! There are no gas stations anywhere around it!! Thank you Victory for making a bike that gets great mileage!
From 93 its 50 miles out to the Sky bridge through very desolate territory! The roads, however, are in great shape! Again you have open range cattle to deal with. We had some on the road and beside the road.
Once there prepare for sticker shock! You have to buy a ticket to get out to the sky bridge. You are bussed to 3 different locations. There are various packages. We chose the one that provides lunch too. Our 2 tickets were almost 160 bucks! Then there are various air tours you can buy. They start at almost 200 dollars and go up from there. I wanted to but just couldn't afford it. I will say at the 3rd stop is where we got lunch and I got the baked chicken and Savannah got the BBQ beef and both were really good!
Once to the Sky Bridge you cannot take anything out on to it. They are afraid people will drop things over the edge and end up in the gorge. I get it, but if you want pictures of you on the Sky Bridge you have to pay them to take them. Again more sticker shock! You can get one picture for 20 bucks or a package of up to 15 of you and their stock photos emailed to you for 65 bucks. I chose the later.
Here's some shots of the Grand Canyon and us!
In the above picture look to the right of center. See the eagle rock formation? It may be a bit more clear in the first picture above.
The photographer had us pose for various shots. It was fun I must admit. If I remember right it is about 2000 feet straight down. I do remember him saying you have 12 seconds to think about it on the way down.
That done now onto the Hoover Dam! Like I said before we back track 50 miles to 93 north. This will lead you straight to the Dam. Thanks to all the terrorist in the world they have the road across the Dam partially blocked. You can only enter it from one direction, turn around and go back out the way you came.
Let me just say its over 100 degrees out and I am on an air/oil cooled bike. Now we get in very slow and heavy traffic trying to get onto the Dam. They have a check point where, if they want, they will search you and your vehicle before getting onto the Dam. Granted us on the bike we just got waved through.
By now I am really feeling the heat coming off the engine. It's still running fine, but I am concerned at this point. It's all stop and go across the Dam. People everywhere! Having to ride the clutch to keep the bike moving. We get to the top and turn around. There is a gift shop there so we stop for a few minutes for a drink of water and to let the bike cool some.
Go to start the bike back up and it wasn't happy! Kind of coughed and died. Started it again and gave it some gas to keep it running. Gotta get the bike on the road to cool!
At this point we are just over 300 miles from the hotel and it's approaching noon. We were going to ride the strip in Las Vegas but decide to by pass it and just hop on the interstate to make some time. We stop in Boulder to fill up and away we go.
Getting into Las Vegas on I15 it was a major smog day! It was nasty! But as we are leaving town we see a couple neat things. If you remember American Restoration on TV with Rick Dale? We saw his shop from the road and then later on the Las Vegas International Speedway.
Then another unexpected thing happens. We find ourselves in Zion National Park because route 9 east just happens to go through it. Now that's not a bad thing per se except you have to pay whether you want to or not. It cost us 15 bucks on the bike to get through it. It was beautiful though!
Once we made it to our hotel in Page Arizona we had a great view of the sunset.
Day 8 is here and is essentially our last day of the trip. Granted we have 2 other days of travel ahead of us still. To my Brothers in Missouri and then home, but its all just travel no real stops.
We take off early in the morning as usual to beat the heat and traffic. Our first stop of the day, gas not included, is to see the Four Corners. Where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona all come together. Funny thing is we are on the boarder of Pacific and Mountain time. Between the GPS and phones they don't know what time it is!
We get to Four Corners and yes you pay to see it! They also have a lot of Native Americans there selling things.
We stop for the mandatory picture then back on the road towards Colorado and Pikes Peak. Kind of the "Peak" highlight for me. Pun intended.
It's funny now that we have crossed the boarder into Colorado. All of a sudden there is life, people, and most of all, motorcycles! We have seen so few in Arizona and New Mexico! Must be the heat I guess.
We get on the "Million Dollar Highway" 550 north towards Manitou Springs Colorado. It's a beautiful ride, but a lot of construction delays along the way. Savannah said we had 6. I wasn't counting. At least they were in the hills where it was still cool!!
Coming down off one of the mountains we get behind some traffic. Leading the way is a truck pulling a 5th wheel. Let's just say this guy has more money than brains! By the time we catch up to him you could really smell the brakes burning. He's oblivious to it! You could see the heat, the smoke. Finally we have to stop for a construction zone and he finally notices, after the flagger points it out to him. WOW! Then he gets the idea and pulls off the road for a while. I hope he was smart enough to get things checked at the next town.
Here are a few shots of 550.
Along the way I see a Steam Engine so I make a quick side trip to get a picture! I try and take a side street to go back the way I came and it comes to a dead end. But there are tracks people have made through the grass back onto the road. It looks rough so I take it. Probably shouldn't have. I bottomed the bike out, but luckily do no damage. Then I stop to get gas because you never know where the next one will be. I leave the station and go the wrong way. Got myself all turned around. Savannah pointed it out as soon as I got on the road. Good laugh!
The road to Pikes Peak you would think would be easy to find right? Not! There was one sign and needless to say I missed the turn and had to go into Manitou Springs and turn around. That itself was a pain! The sign said gas all 3 exits, NOT! Had to go through all the tourist traffic to what would have been the last exit to find a station.
Now all gassed up its time to ride the Peak. And wait for it, yes another fee! 24 bucks to ride it. We start our trip up the hill. The road is completely paved now to the top, but the top itself is gravel but very manageable for motorcycles. Most people on the way to the top would pull off if you came up behind them. Same on the way down but there are always those few. It's not like I was trying to go fast at all! Too many place to go off the road and get down the mountain the fast way! Some people were just barely moving though.
Here's shots from Pikes Peak.
Day 10 comes and it's just a ride to my Brother's place. We wake up and I check the radar because there's a chance for storms all day everywhere we are going. In the middle of Kansas is a big storm. Great! Just where we are heading. But luckily we are chasing it all day and are never able to catch it. We do, however, catch a massive thick fog bank! That was a challenge!
Talking about no gas remember? Well after we leave the hotel we are traveling the State Routes for the first few hours to get to I70. Well we about run out of gas because there is none! I had 1 gallon left once we got to a station. After that it was smooth sailing for fuel. Again thank you Victory for the fuel economy!
We stop for Brunch around 11am Mountain time and the storm we are chasing is in Kansas City and its nasty! They are showing it on the TV. My sister in law says its as black as night there.
When we get to my Brothers place it's clear and sunny but the humidity is horrible! I park the bike in his barn because it's going to storm more over night and possible tomorrow on our trip home.
Day 11 starts out nice! There's some stuff on the radar but we miss most of it, but today is drive like a complete idiot day in Illinois and Indiana! Made for a stressful trip home. Then just as we hit the Ohio boarder, yep! The rain finally gets us. Thank you Ohio! It rains from the boarder to Columbus, which of course, we hit at rush hour.
How can 5 lanes come to a stop? It's something I'll never understand. All because of 1 car! Yes we saw them push it off the road. At least while we were stuck in that traffic jam the rain had stopped. That is until we got on I71 north. It rained for a bit then turned nice for the last hour ride home.
Have to admit I am glad to be home!
The end ride mileage report. GPS and bike are close.
Then the final detail after I wash the bike.
It took us 6 years and 4 trips to do this. I wouldn't trade it for anything! It's bitter sweet. It's great we did this but sad it's over! Now my little brat is off to college next month.
Come along on a ride with me!