6 Days Out, Detailed Planning, and Test Packing

Today marks exactly six days until we leave on the trip that will take us across the US and moe back to California riding solo and that means there is no time to lose and I’ve got to get every detail finalized that lends itself to the process.

The rest we leave to destiny.

I’m writing this post from my home base in San Jose where I have just returned after a one-week retreat. It was good quality down time and now I’m ready both to work and to jump into this trip with my son.

Detailed Planning

Up until today, the planning I’ve carried out with my son, Benjamin, about this cross-country ride has been theoretical. It’s not like it’s been pie-in-the-sky planning, but there is only so much you can do in advance to plan a trip like this. Here’s how I planned this journey thus far.

Routes: We’ve looked at routes -we currently have four options, all based on weather patterns that will kick in after day two’s layover in Flagstaff, AZ. The weather across the US is horrendous at present and each day’s weather-related risk factors will ultimately determine out route.

If you buy it, you won’t need it: It’s the reality of every motorcyclist who ever ventured across the country on two wheels. Yesterday I ensured that we’ll not experience flat tires or pictures by purchasing a portable time inflater and a flat-patch kit. Today I’ll get some rain-proof boot covers to accompany my water-resistant gloves and rain suite so as to guarantee dry weather throughout the trip. 🙂

Communications: I purchased two very inexpensive helmet communication systems so we can chat back and forth and listen to iPhone music at will via Bluetooth. They only have a half-mile range (They were less than $100 each) so the quality could be spotty. But as long as they hold up for a week or two, I’m OK with the less than stellar brand name.

Food: When I venture out on the bike, I usually eat light. I focus on high-protein vegetarian meals and some fruit or cereal bars at breaks. It’s important to keep hydrated as well and I have a reusable water bottle for each of us. Ben’s RT has a glove box that will keep his out of the sun, but I might need to pick up a singled handlebar-clamped bottle holder for mine – the bottle is a double-walled aluminum type that should stay cold in the sun. The first day will end with triple-digit temperatures, so hydration is a constant need.

Test Packing – The Right Way

While flying back from my week away on Saturday, I turned my attention to planning the items I’d be taking and what I could fit. Previously I’d made the mistake of listing out what I wanted to take and them working like crazy to fit it all into the various bags.

That’s a mistake.

It occurred to me that the best way to pack was to list what I’d fit in each bag (since I don’t have full-on panniers) instead. So here’s my list for the 1150GS:

BMW Top Box:

  • clothing (zip bag w/ clear top)
  • Macbook & charger
  • toiletries
  • cameras, chargers, selfie sticks

BMW City Bag (small)

  • oil (2 quarts)
  • air pump and patch kit
  • zip ties, velcro, extra pair of shoes

BMW City Bag (large)

  • tool kit
  • flashlight
  • headlamp
  • first-aid kit
  • snacks, coffee

Wolfman bag (large, waterproof)

  • torque wrench
  • sleeping pad
  • two-man tent
  • hatchet

Sea-To-Summit bag (waterproof)

  • Sleeping bag

Tank Bag (Manta style, low-profile)

  • phone
  • camera (an older phone)
  • earbuds
  • chapstick
  • sunscreen
  • map

On-My-Person

  • all protective gear
  • utility tool (on belt)
  • helmet cam remote

Today I’ll test this organization out and see where it lands. Comments welcome on stuff I might have overlooked or any tips you might have.

We’re on this journey together! Cheers!

Relocation Means Finding New Roads to Ride

Relocation

Have you ever relocated for work, for pleasure, for retirement? I’ve recently relocated from the beachside location of Santa Cruz County (80 miles south of San Francisco) to Silicon Valley.

Relocation involves all the familiar players involved in moving, including sore backs, aching arms, an array of cardboard boxes, and getting to know your new, or as in my case renewed, city’s roads and byways.

For motorcyclists, although we can can ride on any highway or city street, there might be some we’d rather avoid. I’ve been in Silicon Valley for only a few days but already encountered some local roads I’ll most likely avoid in the future.

But there are far more interesting roads to ride that offer vistas of the Bay Area from the Diablo Mountains, roads that run through and around regional parks in the East Bay, North Bay, Northern California, and of course, eastward toward Yosemite Valley.

Some Rides for the Future

Using MotorcycleRoads.com’s California tab, I’ve highlighted a few local rides to target first. The narrative is from the site contributors except where noted.

South Bay Rides

Mt. Hamilton L

Mt. Hamilton Loop – Scenery is fantastic! The route goes up a mountain then back down the other side, so you have an array of different landscapes you travel through: Meadows, forested areas, a bit of farmland, and the views as you ascend just keep getting better and better until you reach the top where you have a panoramic, 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Breath-taking! [Barry’s Note: Home to the James Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton rises 4,100 feet to offer spectacular views of the Southbay. The loop is a narrow two-lane road that offer riders the chance to hone skills on mountainous twisties and two landmarks in the Lick Observatory and The Junction Bar & Grill in Livermore. There are no fuel stations along the way, so riders are urged to fill up for the 100 mile ride.]

Uvas Resevoir

Uvas Reservoir – Beautiful rolling hills between San Jose and Morgan Hill. When the Uvas Reservoir is full it is a nice view to see. This is a pretty easy ride with no severe turns. [Barry’s Note: Though not describes a loop on the linked site, it could easily be made one. The highlighted ride is just 14 miles, but a simple loop that would involve Old Monterey Highway could extend the off-highway ride to about 50 miles.]

East Bay Rides

Mt-Diablo-EB

Mt. Diablo Summit Run – The Mount Diablo Summit is a beautiful view that takes you up ~3800 feet and offers an astonishing view of the San Francisco Bay Area and central valley. On a clear day you can see the Sierras to the east and the Golden Gate Bridge to the West. As you ride up will quickly pass through small hills to a quick climb up short technical turns through light trees and golden grass.

Castro Valley to Berkeley

Castro Valley to Berkeley –  Take Redwood Rd. exit on I-580 in Castro Valley and head north. Follow Redwood rd. for 10 miles until you reach Pinehurst Rd., take a right on Pinehurst rd and follow Pinehurst for another 7 miles, at which point Pinehurst turns into Skyline Blvd. Ride on Skyline for 2 miles until you reach Grizzly Peak Blvd., make a right onto Grizzly Peak. Ride on Grizzly Peak for about 5 miles until you reach Centennial Drive, where you can park. Route has lots of turns and twisties, as well as elevation changes. Road surface can be bad in some areas, but OK overall. Gravel/oil rarely seen, but always keep an eye out.

North Bay Rides

Napa-Lake-Berryessa

Napa to Lake Berryessa – This is the hills of the Napa Valley. Windy roads with plenty of places to pull off and suck in the view. Then you travel about 15 magnificent miles as the road that hugs the shore of wonderful Lake Berryessa. From Napa simply head east on route 121 until it T’s into Route 128. You then want to take a left on to Route 128 and take it north/northeast for about 4.5 miles until you see Berryessa Knoxville Rd on the right. Take a right onto Berryessa Knoxville Rd and now enjoy the ride along the lake for about 15 beautiful miles. That’s what I call the end point but actually you could continue on the road and it would take you all the way up to Clear Lake. If you decide to go all the way to Clear Lake, Berryessa turns into Co Rd 140 (Morgan Valley Rd.). Take a left on Hwy. 50, going North and this will drop you into Clear Lake.

Skagggs Spring Rd

Skaggs Spring Road – This starts on the Pacific Coast Hwy and goes over the Coastal Range for about 40 miles. It’s gorgeous hilly country with curvy roads – actually more fun than CA 36 (“Twisty Roads 140 miles” – Red Bluff to Eureka.) The first 4 miles or so are a glorified driveway going through forests with sharp turns, then the road opens up to 36 miles of mostly sweeping curves on very good roads. Some far off lake vistas. Stewart Point (south of Ft. Bragg, CA) to Geyserville, CA. This is 43 miles of curvy and twisty roads. Starting in Stewarts Point go inland on Skaggs Spring Rd. There is no street sign I could see. It looks like a driveway across from the only gas station in this 50 person town. Stay on this road for 37 miles, then turn right on Dry Creek Rd for 3 miles. Turn left on Canyon Rd which takes you under I -101 to Geyserville and if you want on to Calistoga on CA 128.

Epic Rides

Yosemite

Hwy 120 – Tioga Pass Rd. – Please click the link for a truly great description of the annual ride through Somite Valley.  [Barry’s Note: I gotta do this one. 🙂 ]

 

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 5

Three years ago I took a solo-tour around the American Southwest and chronicled the trip in the posts on this site. @chaneytweeting once told me how he enjoyed the posts and asked when I was going to finish it up. I've now done so...in fact part of this post was written three years ago.

As I plan the new father-son moot-tour across the country from California to South Carolina slated for next month, I'm reminded again the joy of the open road. Ride Safely!

Day 11 – Cypress, CA to Lompoc, CA

Day11-SW-Tour

After two restful days, my belly full of breakfast, and my bags packed with clean clothes, I departed my sister’s house in Cypress and joined the throng of Orange County commuters north along I-405 (Sand Diego Freeway). Commuting in Southern California can only be described as a nightmare. And because of my aversion to lane sharing (filtering), I feathered my clutch level hundreds of times while waiting to clear Los Angeles County.

By the time I got into Malibu via US-1, I was ready for a break and stopped at a Starbucks to get a little nibble as well as some real coffee. The two days I spent with my sister, an avowed Irish tea kind of girl, I subsisted on Via packed, the instant microbrew solution I’d come to appreciate over the past two weeks.

Traffic cleared to the point where I could gain a cruising speed and I made my way north into Ventura County, a beautiful, monied place that is a good alternative to the hustle and bustle of the L.A. Basin. The air if cleaner, saltier, and a lot cooler. The RT was happier and so was I.

A few miles north of Malibu US-1 (Pacific Coast Highway) detoured north to become one with US-101 and I rode along encountering Carpenteria,  beautiful Santa Barbara, Goleta,  and miles of some the most scenic coastlines in the world. The total mileage for the day wasn’t much at just under 200. But I wanted to get into Lompoc early and spend some time closing out the trip in my mind.

I knew that the next day would be my last on the road and then I’d be back at work and entrenched in the routine that I’d come to abhor. I was both glad and sad to be nearing the end of my solo-tour. Full of mixed emotions and thoughts, I veered off of US-101 and rode US-1 the short but scenic downhill ride through the mountains to Lompoc.

The Motel 6 didn’t have a vacancy and so I booked a more pricey room at the Holiday Inn Express. It was my last night and the upgrade did hurt, plus it was directly across the street from a Starbucks Coffee and I enjoyed an afternoon cup there as well as breakfast the following morning.

Day 12 – Lompoc, CA to Rio Del Mar, CA

Day12

Just as the ride into Lompoc was thorough the mountains, so was the ride out the next morning. After a morning coffee and veggie breakfast sandwich at Starbucks, I rode north along US-1.

When I encountered the Big Sur coastline, the road was a bit more challenging for the RT. I didn’t expect the hairpin turns and the 15-20 mph speed limit that the RT was able to perform ride them.

I stopped at the Big Sur Coffee establishment for a midday espresso and was soon joined by a foursome of BMW riders from Southern California. We chatted for a while and they before I  eventually headed northward toward home.

The ride from there gets a little murky in my memory but I do recall the joy of getting into Monterey, Seaside, Watsonville, and finally Rio Del Mar. I decided to finish the tour where it began, at the Starbucks on Trout Gulch Rd.in Aptos.

As I look back at the solo-tour I leaned a few things about the bike, about riding, about the southwest and about myself. Though it’s been three years since that trip, I’m giddy with excitement and more of the same trepidation that others have no doubt felt about an undertaking as ambitious the cross-country trip in June.

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 4

Westward, Ho!

Not, not that kind of ho...never mind.

Day 8 – Santa Fe, to Flagstaff, Arizona

Day8-mapI left Santa Fe about 7:30a and traveled with commuter traffic to Albuquerque along I-25 South and then hooked up with I-40 West that would take me into western New Mexico, through Gallup, and into Arizona.

My destination for the day was Flagstaff, Arizona where I’d booked another Motel 6 room. The ride through the New Mexican desert was a warm one, with not a lot to check out visually.  But about 20 miles east of Flagstaff the terrain started to change from arid desert to wooded hills.

When I pulled into Flagstaff I stopped at the nearest Starbucks for an afternoon jolt of caffeine. While there I met a man who started chatting me up about my bike. The conversation began about where I was traveling, where I’d been, and where I was going next.

He was a new resident in Flagstaff having recently accepted a position with the City of Flagstaff as their Director of Geomapping Services or some such title. Flagstaff is home to the largest, contiguous pine forrest in the US, a tidbit of info he shared when I mentioned being pleasantly surprised by the terrain.

He also told me about being involved in an accident driving his Cadillac in the Midwest. In this accident,  a motorcyclist ran into his car head-on at 60 m.p.h. Sadly, the motorcyclist didn’t survive, but ironically his Cadillac did.

Day 9 – Flagstaff, AZ to Needles, CA via The Grand Canyon

Day 9 Flagstaff-GC-Needles

The ride to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon was cooler than the day before and the terrain didn’t disappoint. I didn’t encounter any traffic as I rode northwest along SR180.

On one straightaway stretch of roadway I spotted a herd of deer approximately 200 yards ahead of me. They were moving slowly and just seemed to be leisurely crossing the highway.  As I approached I sounded my horn and the most beautiful thing occurred.

At the sound of my horn, the herd split into roughly equal right and left halves, each jumping in sequence over the fencing on either side of the highway. It was as if they'd rehearsed this move and the final performance was timed for my arrival.It was a beautiful sight to behold.

I guess that’s how most of nature’s natural events seem to humans. We long to classify such observations with anthropomorphic terms in order to make sense of them.

Highway 89 joined the north-south SR64 at Bedrock City, a Flinstones themed campground and restaurant. The sign out side proudly displayed that coffee was only five-cents. I had to check it out, and needing fuel, both caffeine and octane, I stopped.

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Fred’s Diner had a great breakfast and coffee was indeed just five cents. 🙂
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Fred personally welcomes you to Bedrock City.

A brief 20 minute ride north on SR64 followed breakfast. The Gand Canyon National Park awaited and it was spectacular.

The Visitors Center houses displays, educational materials, washrooms, and food.
The Visitors Center houses displays, educational materials, washrooms, and food.
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The relief map demonstrates how vast the Grand Canyon really is. Not the ‘You are here’ marker in yellow.
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And, of course, the vistas are unbelievable and breathtaking.
A German -speaking couple played a round of 'you-take-our-photo-and-we'll-take-yours.'
A German-speaking couple played a round of ‘you-take-our-photo-and-we’ll-take-yours.’
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Both the foreground and the background made capturing the memory of this place easy.
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Just spectacular. 🙂

I spend about 90 minutes are the Grand Canyon and I if I hadn’t had 400 miles to cover that day, I might have spent considerably longer. It’s a place of natural beauty and utter silence, save the scuffles of shoes on asphalt walkways and the clicks of cameras receding memories.

As I was leaving, I spotted a guy on another R1100RT whose belongings were laying all around his bike. There were no soft luggage liners, just underwear, t-shirts, and socks everywhere on the black asphalt. I walked up to him and we chatted about the bikes, routes, and decided to ride together to Needles, CA where I was already booked to stay.

"Jim," from Tybee Island, Georgia
“Jim,” from Tybee Island, Georgia, striking a pose.

I’m not sure if his name was Jim, I think it was something else, but Jim will do for our purposes. Jim was from Tybee Island, Georgia and had left home just three days before (it sounded like he just needed to get away from his wife for a while). Logging incredible hours in the saddle and sleeping rough on the side of the road, he ate only soup and stayed every third night in a motel.

He’d stayed in the Grand Canyon park lands the night before and said that he’d frozen his ass off in the process. As you can see from the photo, he didn’t have very protective gear and I can only imagine his camping set up was just as limited.

We rode together for the rest of the day with the wind buffeting us like prizefighters outclassed by our opponents.  At one point my RT was leaning into the wind at approximately 30-degrees and my entire body felt like it was one prolonged muscle spasm.

The Long Arm of the Law

While still riding in Arizona, we cruised at approximately 75 m.p.h. until we saw signs of an approaching construction zone. We slowed to 55 m.p.h. as required but that didn’t stop the Arizona Highway Patrol from lighting us up and pulling us over.

I had my music going inside my helmet and didn’t notice him for about a mile in my mirrors. He insisted I was doing 75 in a 55 zone. I briefly argued my position but, not wanting a $500 speeding ticket, I apologized and promised to obey all future speed limit signs. I think he was sleeping in his car and was awakened by two RT’s riding by. He assumed we were speeding and very clearly we weren’t.

It's ironic that, at the time, I was working for a large highway construction firm back in California. As a practice I never speed through construction zones as it risk injury to both the workers as well as myself.

Later Jim was kidding me that the BeeGees must have been blaring in my earbuds prohibiting me from hearing the patrolman’s car sirens (Note: There wasn’t a single song by the brothers Gibb on my iPhone). 

Jim later told me he’d recently retired from a Special Education teaching position and had always wanted to visit his birthplace in Monterey, just south of where I live. Over dinner that evening, soup for him and salad for me, in the melting 102F environment, we talked about our prospective routes for the next day.

I knew he was going leave later than me simply because he was going to sleep in a bed for the first time in three days. He’d booked a vacant room at the Motel 6 on the phone while we had dinner. We parted ways and although I sent him a text message the following day, I didn’t hear back from him. I hope he made it back to Georgia in one piece.

Day 10 – Needles to Cypress to Visit My Sister

Day 10-Needles-to-Cypress

I left about 6a the next morning and a very long stretch of desert was my only companion. It was hot, dry, and I worried about the bike overheating as it’s a BMW oilhead and isn’t water-cooled. Hot air isn’t that effective at cooling the oil in the radiator, hence the concern. I pulled over for a fuel stop along I-40 in the middle of nowhere, where I met Steve.

IronMan Steve was crossing the Mojave Desert on a bicycle.
IronMan Steve was crossing the Mojave Desert on a bicycle.

Steve had ridden his bicycle from Denver, Colorado to California. He told me that he covered between 60 and 90 miles each day depending on the terrain. We looked at the map at he still have about 100 miles of desert in front of him.

In the photo you can see the solar charging apparatus he rigged up to keep his phone and laptop charged. He camped, cooked, and pedaled day after day. I was totally impressed.

He said the desert was about to kill him. The wind blasts from the large tractor-trailer trucks shoved him off the road surface and the heat was dehydrating him. He said he’d tried riding at night but the visibility was virtually a blackout at times.

Welcome to Los Angeles

The rest of my ride that day was uneventful, but challenging just the same. The downhill grade from the desert to the Southern California basin is a high-speed autobahn type freeway, five to six lanes in either direction with everyone driving like maniacs. I was riding at 80 m.p.h. and I was being passed on the left and right.

My destination was my sister’s house in Cypress, which is a few miles from Disneyland. My plan was to spend two nights with her before finishing up the trip with a two-day ride north on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Cypress was pleasant, and like all Los Angeles suburbs, congested and packed with strip malls and students.  The Jacaranda trees were in bloom and the light purple petals fell like snowflakes in the warm Spring winds.

Jacaranda tree in blossom.
Jacaranda tree in blossom.
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Kathy and me outside her hime in Cypress.

The two days I spent in Cypress were restful. I didn’t visit Disneyland or any other amusement park -not really my thing- instead I did my laundry and wrote notes about the trip.

Kathy and I had dinner that night at a restaurant that served soups and salads (Jim would’ve appreciated it) and all the bread and dessert you could handle. Neither of us were into gluttony so we paced ourselves and I spent two enjoyable days in the company of my big sister. 🙂

The final post in this series cover the final two days of my ride. Morning LA traffic, coastal riding, a nice night in Lompoc, lunch in Morro Bay, bikers in Big Sur, and a failing fuel filter are the highlights of those two days. 

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 3

Reaching Santa Fe on Day 5

Day 5: Page, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico

[ Part 1 is here and Part 2, here.]

On the morning of Day 5 of my solo-ride around the Southwest, I awoke in the Motel 6 in Page, Arizona. It was a clean, recently redecorated room; a nice nice place to crash in secure comfort and perfectly suited to my minimal needs on the road.

As rule, Motel 6 didn’t offer a microwave or a coffeemaker and the free coffee offered in the lobby looked and tasted like dishwater. At the very least some way of heating water for instant coffee or tea would have been nice.

I usually carry both on the road in the form of Starbucks Via packets and my favorite tea, Tetley’s British Blend. On this particular morning I was forced to use hot water from the faucet…not even close to a good result.

As a solution, I hit Starbucks on my way out of town. 
Day-5-page-to-SFe
The particularly long ride on Day 5. It was mostly desert terrain and very few travelers until I got into Albuquerque.

The ride was a scenic one with large red-rock cliffs rising out of the flatter environment and plenty of desert heat. I think I consumed 5 bottles of water during this segment of the ride. With fuel, caffeine, and food breaks, I made it to Santa Fe in just under 9 hours.

My average speed was 75 m.p.h. and the bike performed without a single hiccup. At one point a long van kept passing me and then slowing down. I finally boosted passed it once and for all and took off doing 90 for about two miles to get well ahead it.

You never know when someone is going do something weird and I was taking any undue chances...other than riding 90 m.ph., which isn't my habit at all.

It was somewhere in the middle of this beautifully barren New Mexico desert that I had an experience that let me know I was in the right place at the right time.

Faces in the Desert

I pulled into a Chevron station to fuel up and use the bathroom. As I dismounted my bike I noticed a mini-van on the opposite side of the island with a family inside. I didn’t give it though and went inside to use the restroom.

When I returned, the woman was standing by my bike and I said “Um, hello?…are you Ok?” She appeared to be of Southern Asian decent, possible from India or Pakistan, but I wasn’t exactly certain. In broken English she managed to communicate her family’s need for fuel and it became clear that she was either ordered by her husband to inquire or, perhaps, being a woman they thought she’d convert more listeners into donor.

I looked over at the man in the driver’s seat. He didn’t return my gaze nor did he get out of the car. I looked at the two kids and immediately thought of my own when they were small. It didn’t take long for me to decide that they, above all, deserved my help.

I checked my wallet and only had a twenty on me. I handed it over to her she gushed gratitude with teary eyes. Regardless of her silent partner, she and her kids deserved the assistance.

It seemed a no-win situation because I wasn’t sure how far $20 would get them, and I wasn’t prepared to fill up their tank. But I felt like I did what I needed to. I returned to filling my bike up with fuel and saddled up to leave.

As I pulled out I saw the kids waving and the man just looking at me. I hoped they’d find further help but never knew if they did or even if they truly needed it. I waved back and hoped they make it to their destination. I still think about those faces in the desert.

When I'm situations where I can alleviate the suffering of another, I will do what I can with what I have. That to me is being compassionate without taking responsibility for the need expressed.

I didn’t take many photos on this segment of the journey, mainly because of the day being such a long ride.  I did take one photo in the bathroom of a curio shop where I fuel up outside of Teec Nos Pos in northeast Arizona.

“A bathroom photo? You sick bastard, yuk!”

Well, maybe. I cracked up when I saw this vending machine in the Gents…and had to send it to my co-worker, Catherine who I thought would appreciate the humor.

1299262D-C853-4396-9633-52A2F0B59FE9
Studded condoms for the Roughriders. I guess some like it rough. Lol…and the Love Drops for those sensual spots. I cracked up…but then, considering the desert environment, what else is there to do? 😉

Yeah, she wasn’t impressed.  As my right hand on the office team, I was in contact with here most every day. My office team checked in with her daily to see where I was and how I was doing. A map outside of her work area was the place where they could pinpoint my progress.

Although she might have appreciated photos of Shiprock (see below) or Lake Powell more, I think she kind of enjoyed -just a bit- retelling the story of how I sent her photos of a condom machine. 😉

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Shiprock rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of the northwestern New Mexico desert and dominates the landscape for miles.

I got into Albuquerque via I-25 around 3 pm. I didn’t dismount but took SR-285 north straight into into Santa Fe. It was an additional 60 miles or so. I’d booked a room in a family home via AirBnB for three days. I wanted to explore Santa Fe, rest both my leg and the bike, as well as have a few days of down time before heading west again.

I phoned Alicia, my host, from a Starbucks on Santa Fe (where else?) and she gave me more specific directions to the home she shared with her 17 year-old son.  It was a very comfortable three days and I loved being in this city with such history.

2013-05-18 07.34.47 copy
This was my home for three days and it was very relaxing. All of the homes in the city are built in the Adobe style. It was a nice change from the ramshackle California suburban style.

My room was on the ground floor next to her son’s room. I wasn’t there much as I used it mainly as a base of operations for the three days I stayed in Santa Fe. Alicia was kind and generous giving me free use of the laundry (needed by then), television room (not needed), and the lovely backyard.

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I loved the big kitchen with the massive island and breakfast bar
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The living room area

Days 6 & 7 – Sightseeing in Historic Downtown

I ventured into the historic downtown area the next day, which is dominated by the elegant Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It’s a New Mexico cultural landmark and even has a prayer labyrinth on the grounds.

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The Palace of the Governors is on one side of the main square where only Native American vendors are allowed to sell their wares
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The wares were a bit pricey for me, but beautiful handcrafted pieces worthy of every dollar
The highlight of the day was visiting the Georgia OKeefe Museum
The highlight of the day was visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Her iconic paintings and minimalist way of life has always moved me
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A popular meeting place in the downtown area is Burrow Alley…why it called this?
That's why.
That’s why

I fell in deep like with the area and its architecture. At one point I’d planned to retire here until I found out that the area gets about a foot of snow in winter and it lasts weeks at a time. Since I view my retirement as largely mobile, this could de a destination in Spring, but not year round.

I’d originally planned a day ride out to Taos about 60 miles north but on the third day I was too tired and needed to rest for the following day’s ride to the Flagstaff, Arizona.

I had a great time in Santa Fe. On my last evening there, Alicia invited me to join  her and her parents for dinner downtown. I did and we had a lovely time. If I’m ever in Santa Fe again and need accommodations, I’ll definitely see if Alicia has room.

I left early the next morning under cloudy skies that rapidly dissipated giving way to more desert sunshine.

Part 4 of this series includes my interesting ride to the Grand Canyon, my lunch in Bedrock City -the only place where coffee is really just five cents- an unexpected riding partner,and getting pulled over by the Arizona Highway Patrol. 

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 2

The Ride Begins: Days 1-4

Day 1: Santa Cruz to Bakersfield

Solo-Tour-Days1-3
From the coolness of the Central Coast, through the searing heat of Central California and the Nevada desert, through the beauty and cool temps of Southern Utah

With my bike fully packed and tested, I departed Santa Cruz  for my first night’s destination in Bakersfield. I’d fueled up the night before, performed all the routine checks on tires, electrical systems, brakes and fuel systems that one normally performs before riding anywhere. The temperature was about 68 degrees when I left.

I waved goodbye to my 16 year-old son, his mother- who’d kindly agreed to stay with him in the house during my absence-  and rode out on to the Pacific Coast Highway (U.S. Route 1) heading south. My route took me only about 10 miles southbound before taking SR-152 East toward the Central Valley. About an hour later I was traveling south on Interstate 5 (I-5) where the temperature had already risen to about 80 degrees.

I-5 is a heavily traveled freight route for large semi-trailers and trucks containing all sorts of freight, including cattle and other livestock (always a pleasant aroma around those), other goods, as well as freshly grown fruit and vegetables from the San Joaquin Valley, also known as the California’s breadbasket because the the large amount of crops grown there.

I-5 in this area is surrounded my mountains to the west and rich agricultural and ranching lands to the east. As far as scenery goes, there isn’t much, which is a good thing because the semi’-trucks demand your full attention. I discovered quickly that each truck leave a different draught signature behind them.

These draught signatures can affect a bike in many ways from inducing a sudden impact from an air blast to what felt like a high-speed wobble. Later in the trip, especially in Arizona, it felt like a giant fist was punching the side of my bike over and over.

And because of the hundreds of trucks on the Interstate, there is always another truck just ahead. I soon stopped fighting them and settled in behind a fast moving truck in the left lane just stayed at a distance I could tolerate.

My first day’s ride was only about 4 hours long. In fact, when touring on these 12 days I seldom planned a route that lasted over 5-6 hours. I did this for several reasons.

  • As an older rider (55 at the time) I tire more rapidly than my younger colleagues
  • I wanted to enjoy each day’s ride and not have a strict mileage quota
  • I wanted to stop often for coffee, bathroom and water breaks, etc.
  • I don’t see as well at night and prefer not to ride after sunset…again, an older guy thing

First Lesson: Two Star Hotels are Really Zero Star Motels

I made room reservations whenever possible at the nationwide Motel 6 chain. Because I need little more than a hot shower, a bed, and a safe place to park my bike, there was no need to spend a lot on my accommodations. Motel 6 suited me just fine and represented the lowest standard I was aiming for in my lodging for the trip.

However, on my first night’s stay, I was in a Super 8 motel in a particularly seedy-looking areas of beautiful downtown Bakersfield.

The exterior of my luxurious introduction to life on the road.
The exterior of my luxurious introduction to life on the road.
Bakersfield smells like onions most of the time anyway and on the day I rode into their fine city, it smelled like onions combined with urban grime.

When I rode into Bakersfield, my iPhone displayed a balmy 100 degrees.  I quickly checked into my room and turned on the air conditioner. If the Super 8 Motel was any indication of the level of comfort I could expect for the rest of the trip, I was in trouble. It was obviously a lower standard than I’d previously encountered at Motel 6.

The photo below reveals their choice of fine writing instruments, luxurious note paper, and state-of-the-art communications systems.

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Just the basics…but when you think about it, what else do you really need from a Zero Star Motel?

The room was also adorned with graffiti. Why go outside when you can read the walls in your own room, or in this case just outside the shower?

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The ill-schooled author might have been barely literate, but he captured the ambiance of the place perfectly when he wrote: “This is a nasty ass hotel, strate (sic) the fuck up.”

But Bakersfield was just my first stop and the second night would find me occupying a great room in the Circus Circus Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. However, there were a few adventures waiting for me during this day’s ride.

Day 2: Bakersfield to Las Vegas

I left at about 7a after eating a small breakfast at a nearby Starbucks and headed west along SR-58 stopping in Barstow to fuel up. While I was filling the tank I noticed two guys over by the mini-mart, also on BMWs. Putting aside my life-long introversion and solo-rider persona, I walked over an introduced myself.

Beemer Bros: These to Canadians were headed to Morrow Bay and then north to Santa Cruz.
Beemer Bros: These two Canadians were headed to Morrow Bay and then north to Santa Cruz. The guy on the left rode his bike from Canada and the guy on the right, the more friendlier of the two, rented his.

Leaving Barstow I rode the 2.25 hours along I-15 northeast to Las Vegas, stopping in Baker for lunch even though it was only about 10a. In Baker I took a few shots of my surroundings.

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The world’s tallest thermometer.
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Desert and mountains
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The roadside oasis of Baker, CA
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Bazza II in Baker, just south of the Soda Mountains, ready for the push to Las Vegas

Freshly rejuvenated by caffeine, water, and nutrients, Bazza II and I made our way north to the Las Vegas Strip. I’d booked a room at the Circus Circus Hotel and Resort, one of the strip’s oldest existing properties. The room was a steal at only $20 plus $11 in miscellaneous resort fees.

It was about 100 degrees upon arrival and inside the parking garage the air seemed superheated.

Day 3: Las Vegas to Panguitch, Utah

But by the next morning, I was rested and ready to ride to scenic Southern Utah.

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Day 3: The route was uneventful in terms of landscape until I got to Zion National Park

The ride across SE Nevada and NW Arizona was uneventful and the terrain was largely flat. It wasn’t until I entered Utah that the scenery started to change. The small highway towns took on a charm unlike the roadside towns in Nevada.

Here the people were friendly and most of the towns were dominated by the present of a local Mormon Church. In Utah, the Mormon Church is a powerful cultural as well as religious force. Small town life was being played out all around me in any ways.

Zion National Park

Just north of St. George, UT, where I stopped for fuel, I picked up SR-9, Utah’s Scenic Highway, and rode it 20 miles east toward the southern entrance to Zion National Park. Although this road only gives motorists a glimpse of the beauty waiting further northwest, it afforded me some truly stunning vistas.

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The strata on these spires speak to millions of year’s exposure to the shaping forces of water and wind
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With a backdrop this stunning, even a bunch of restroom look impressive. Of course, it’s probably the flashy bike-bling in the foreground…
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Note the sign in the foreground: No Bikes. Darn.

 

Just before leaving the park, I shot this brief clip.

It was an enjoyable ride approximately two hours northwest to Panguitch where I’d booked a room for the night.

Day 3 Zion to Panguitch
Panguitch, UT seems to me an isolated town that was only found if you wanted to find it

 

I entered Panguitch and  right off noted the dated appearance of this out-of-the-way town. Old brick buildings and friendly people gave it a real small town feel. I could feel time slowing in this small town.

I pulled into a fueling station and right way a young man , about 25, bounded up to me and asked me where I was from. I told him I was from Santa Cruz, CA and  he immediately asked me if there were jobs available there. Apparently, he’d been laid off from his job and only his wife was working. He was originally from Hurricane (he pronounced it Hurrican’ as if it rhymed with Amer’can) a town I’d passed through on SR-9.

It was the BMW that he seemed most interested in, however. Can't say that I blamed him. 

I rode to the Panguitch Inn, the hotel I’d booked and found the doors unlocked, the front office devoid of life, and only a note on the front desk. The note relayed this message:

“If you’ve booked a room for tonight, please drive to the North end of town to our other Motel, The Marianna Inn. Our front desk person had a family emergency.”

I found the Marianna Inn and was immediately glad about the swhich. The Panguitch Inn was a two story brick building and although it was closer to downtown, it looked a little suspect. The Marianna Inn was also was an older place, complete with a dead insect lying on the bathroom floor, but it had certain charm.. Once again, my budget for overnight stays was minimal and I’m fairly easy to please.

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The Marianna Inn….cute, comfortable, and the dead bug was free of charge.

The motel had been recently repainted and the room was actually quite comfortable. A little too gingerbread for my taste, but hey…it was cheap and quiet. 🙂 There wasn’t a Starbucks in this little town, but I had my own private stash for the road. I can’t recall where I ate dinner in Panguitch, but I had breakfast the next morning at a coffee shop just across the street from my little abode.

From there, I rode out headed east on SR-12 for Bryce Canyon.

Day 4: Panguitch, UT to Page, AZ

Bryce Canyon was a an hour’s ride from Panguitch and it was well worth the mileage thus far to see it.

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If I lived in these conditions I don’t think I’d be smiling either

 

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Confession: I took this photo on my way out of Bryce Canyon. 😉

 

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Stunningly beautiful rock formations; the hoodoos are the vertical piles of rock

 

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I was impressed by this seemingly precariously perched rock formation
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Bryce Canyon from another vantage point

 

A tiring ride for day 4
After hiking around the vista points at Bryce Canyon, I headed south to Page, AZ

The ride to Page, UT -for the first two hours- was one full of curves and twisty roads…in other words, perfect.. then the terrain gave way to more desert with hotter temperatures and less interesting, but still beautiful surroundings.

It ended at a Motel 6 with a nearby Starbucks. I was again in the land I knew best.

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Bazza II’s preferred parking: unpacked and tucked in for the night.

🙂

——

In Part 3, I'll take you to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I stayed for three days soaking up the rich culture and art, then on to Flagstaff, AZ.

The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 1

This begins a series of posts devoted to my 12-day, 3,000 mile solo-ride around the American Southwest in May 2013. 
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Bazza II, pictured here in Baker, CA about 90 miles from Las Vegas, NV

 

In May of 2013, I rode my 2000 BMW R1100RT around the American Southwest. It was a solo-ride, something a lot of motorcyclists don’t undertake for fear of running into trouble in the middle of nowhere. To be honest, there were times when I would say out loud, inside my helmet and to no one:

"If I break down here, I'm screwed."

But I didn’t break down, although on the last day of the 12-day ride my fuel pump started acting up and although I got home, it was a closer call that I’d wanted to experience. But we’ll get to that in this series that relates the experiences I had in those 12 days on the road.

The Bike

Bazza II is a 2000 BMW R1100RT. You can read about how I traded by BMW f650 for it in this post. Long story short, I left home on Bazza II in mid-May and had an epic ride for the next 12 days.

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Parked in Las Vegas at Circus Circus Hotel and Resort. The room was only $20 via Priceline.com

This bike is made for the highways and feels really solid at high speeds. It’s not so great for around town riding; I guess that’s why the California Highway Patrol used this bike, and now the R1200RT for it motorcycle officers to ride.  What a sweet gig, right?

As you can see from photo above, though the bike felt fully packed, I didn’t take a lot with me. In fact, I never used the tent I purchased for the trip except for the test-camping I did about a month prior to leaving on my ride. But I packed it with hopes of camping that never materialized.

For hard luggage, I used a Givi top case that I purchased from a fellow BMW rider; it held my clothing, Macbook, toiletries, and some odds and ends, each inside a backpack for easy removal at the end of the day. I purchased and mounted two medium-sized Wolfman Rolie Bags secured by a Wolfman Rolie Saddle Bag Mount, and packed my first-aid kit and some medical tools (just in case) in one bag and some roadside tools in the other. It was a very secure luggage system on the rear of the bike.

The front of the bike was another story. I purchased a very roomy aftermarket tank bag that contained my cell phone, Nikon camera, Flip video camera, snacks for the day, pens and paper, small flashlight, water bottles, and a few other items.  The only weakness was in the way it was mounted.

This is because the RT’s fairings are plastic, as is the fuel tank. Because of this, the popular magnetic tank bags wouldn’t work. However, with some maneuvering and customization, I devised a way to keep it from sliding from side the side and it worked, though it’s still not my preferred tank bag system.

I packed a Coleman 15-degree rated sleeping bag and used it instead of the motel room beds. Each night I unrolled the bag on top of the bed and crawled inside.  Given the level of accommodation I could afford, (photos to follow) I didn’t trust the bed linens. There was no way of knowing how many or why kind of people split in the bed the previous night. :-\ Nor did I want any invited critters tagging along with me on the ride.

As I mentioned before, I brought along a tent that was packed between the sleeping bag and the top case, just behind me on the passenger seat. I really should have camped, but there was one reason that far outweighed the others that prevented me from doing so.

Three weeks before departure, I suffered a leg injury.

 The Injury

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Three weeks prior to departure, my bike and I went down.  (Not really a crash, but we still went over.)

I needed to ride from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, about a three hour ride in the morning morning traffic, for a couple of days worth of work. I rode the RT everywhere and so it was not unexpected that I’d ride it there and back a few days later.

At 5:45a I mounted the bike and slowly backed it out of my carport. The RT is a heavy bike and it was fully fueled at the time. Unfortunately, I turned the handlebars a little too far and the balance of the bike shifted to the right so much that I could retain its upright position.

The bike an I fell over en masse. It wasn't pretty.

My right leg was pinned between the right cylinder head of the transverse boxer engine and a concrete slab. Yes, it hurt. 😦 After some wriggling, I managed the free myself from the ground and tried to lift the bike. Even with the adrenaline coursing through my system, I couldn’t manage lifting it back upright.

I woke up my son Jay and he helped me upright the bike. I took off for Sacramento and a few hours later, my right leg was swollen, bruised, and very painful.

I wasn’t concerned so much about a fracture as I was about compartment syndrome, a condition that results when blunt-force trauma causes swelling in enclosed spaces like the lower leg. The swelling has no place to expand and literally compresses blood vessels and nerves in the process. I was lucky and this didn’t result.

A week later, x-rays revealed the absence of any fractures. My doctor told me I couldn’t take my trip. (He obviously wasn’t a motorcyclist.)  I chalked it up his inexperience and proceeded to plan my departure anyway.

It turned out that I did have a nasty bone bruise on my right shin and so I purchased a padded, elastic compression tube to wear during the day. Aided with large bottle of ibuprofen and some chemically-activated ice packs, I set out on schedule.

The Route

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3,000 miles round trip with the western destination of Santa Fe, NM, a place I considered moving until I got there.

The seed that resulted in planning this ride began after I view Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s epic Long Way Round series on Netflix. In 2004, the best mates and fellow actors rode their BMW 1150GSAs from London to New York, going east. They traversed Europe, Asia, and the United States in about 4 months.

After viewing the video I read everything I could get my virtual hands on about motorcycle touring, camping, trip planning, long-distance riding tips, etc.  It was great fun planning the ride and the route.

The route came about because I’d wanted to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico for some time. Its backdrop against the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, its Native American and Spanish history and culture combined with its reputation for artistry contributed to its allure.

I also had two weeks of vacation available to use. So with Santa Fe as my eastern-most destination, I looked at places to ride through and a natural highway route emerged.

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In Part 2, I'll tell you about my ride to Las Vegas, meeting other riders on the way, and riding through southern Utah's Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.