Sunday, August 30, 2009

28 Aug – Mindon, NV

The return back to Stockton was to be completed within a day and going via hwy 88 and thus avoiding the monotony of I80. Well we got as far as Reno when VSP's F650 blew its radiator fluid all over the place. Turns out that it was the fan at fault. It was fixed at the local BMW dealer so we made it to Mindon for the day. We booked into a huge hotel/Casino and had dinner in the dining room. With jeans and T shirts we were a little under dressed but the staff forgave us when we purchased an excellent Rodney Strong Merlot from the Sonoma Valley.

Next Day. Back to Stockton by mid day. Lovely ride while it was cool but it soon warmed up to around 90 degrees as we left the mountains for the flat. Rest of the day devoted to route planning for the next week.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

27 Aug – Winnemucca, NV

The HOG people have a rally centred on this town called “run-amucker in Winnemucca” so it's not just me that finds the name amusing. What's not amusing is the ride here. It was OK from Stockton to Colfax going over the mountain but then it flattened out and got baking hot. I am told that from here to Salt Lake City is even more inhospitable. Sure glad I don't have to ride this road to often. Actually the Californians do have to ride this route or one as equally onerous (to and from Barstow) to get out of the state. Anyway, heat and all we made it to Winnemucca and met up with “littledoc” who will ride with us back to Stockton tomorrow. In the meantime we had a delightful dinner at a Basque restaurant. On the menu were crumbed sweetbreads, tongue, lamb shanks and other delights. What really surprised me was the number of people tucking into the stuff. Here's me thinking that the Yanks only eat hamburgers. I still think New Zealand bread and butter pudding is better – just a little too much nutmeg for my taste. Whilst on food I must mention breakfast. VSP took me into what looked like a fruit and vege market from the 1930's. It was and it also had a dining room that was historically mostly frequented by the traders but in particular the Japanese “before they were accepted into society”. Prior to WWII and up to as late as the 1950's a lot of the Japanese-Americans were produce farmers and gardeners. The menu reflects this history to the extent that with your breakfast eggs you have a choice of hash browns or fried rice.

It's sad to think that the only useful comments about the day is the food we had but there it is. Photo 853

26 Aug – Stockton, CA

The road out of Bishop steadily climbs to around 5,000 feet and the cooler temperatures are a welcome relief after yesterdays baking hot effort. With the altitude comes greater moisture so the parched ground at the lower altitudes gives way to fields of grass and the sage brush now has a smell of sage to it, At around Mono Lake I turn left onto US120 which takes me into Yosemite Nation Park. A fee of $10 gets me entry and I am rewarded with all the visual delights the park brings. Tioga Pass at around 10,000 feet is the highest pass in the park and today is not so cold you cannot ride over it with just a T shirt. The park is mostly high altitude forest with the usual meadows of grass, mirror perfect lakes and rocky streams. Walking tracks abound and judging by the number of cars parked near by, the tracks are very popular. The pass is closed in the winter. The ride down the other side takes some time and with the reducing altitude comes the return of the baking heat. The trip into Stockton is no fun. Tonight I am the guest of VSP.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

25 Aug – Bishop, CA

Gavin and I rode to Barstow together in the morning. Barstow is a Route 66 town with a rail line passing through. It is also the start of I40. But for most people it is a hot dusty town on the edge of the Mojave Desert just over 100 miles from LA. Motels are cheap so it is a popular place for motorcyclists to overnight. US 395 runs north from Barstow and was the road I needed to take to get to Stockton. Bishop is just an overnight stop though VSP tells me there is a bakery here famous for its turkey sandwiches. US395 runs east of the Sierra's and goes through the Mojave desert, a desolate wasteland of sand and sagebrush. To my right (East) is what looks like a huge salt pan shimmering in the sun with an occasional sign inviting you to go there. "Death Valley 102 miles" the signs say. I will have to leave that invitation for another day, I'm already feeling the heat at 40 C. All the riders you see are in long sleeve T shirts – me included so dehydration is a serious issue as is the hot air coming up from below the helmet and drying your eyes. As the sun drops below the mountains to the West and the shadows fall on the road, there is a marked cooling to be felt and the riding becomes more pleasant. For all that it is 10PM as I write this and it is over 80 F outside. I am consoled by the air conditioner at full blast and a can of beer sitting in an ice bucket. I guess somebody has to do all the rotten jobs.

24 Aug – Laughlin, NV

No joy with getting Gavin's bike registered. First it was “the computers are down” in Holbrook then in Winslow the price was higher than expected so the whole idea of registering the bike was shelved. So there we were standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona .......... Just had to get that in – the ADOT (LTSA equivalent) in Winslow really is on a corner.
The ride here to Laughlin at 300 miles was of little consequence being all on I40. Laughlin is a casino town, a sort of poor mans Las Vegas, located
at the end of a lake. While it looks nice it is as hot as hell sitting as it does in a natural basin bounded by hills. The heat is trapped in the basin and just seems to notch up with each hour. Not much relief at night either. Thank goodness for air conditioning.
Tomorrow we go in separate directions, Gavin to Los Angeles while I head north towards San Francisco.

Monday, August 24, 2009

23 Aug – Holbrook, AZ

It was kind of sad to see the end of Colorado. The ride back to Holbrook was without incident and not much to report en route. We rode through a Navajo reservation which looked pretty depressing – poor housing and 4 generations of used cars out back. Rode past a train so long it required 5 engines, 3 up front and two at back.

22 Aug – Pagosa Springs, CO

A long day in the saddle today – almost 11 hours. We rode over four major mountain passes : Monarch Pass on route 50 at over 11,000 feet, and 3 others on route 149 at just under 11,000. Most of the days was therefore spent at quite high altitudes with both bikes and riders feeling short of breath. This is Colorado mountain country at its best. There is evidence of spruce beetle infestation but not nearly as extensive as I saw in British Colombia last year. Tomorrow we leave Colorado for the high green pastures of northern New Mexico.

Friday, August 21, 2009

21 Aug – Canon City, CO

No biggie today, less than 70 miles. The reason is that we visited the Royal Gorge suspension bridge. Built in 1929, it spans the Arkansas river some 1053 feet below. What ever the truth of the matter the river is a long way down. Being America this bridge has to be the 'biggest' at something – seems like it is the highest suspension bridge in the world and next door is the highest Skycoaster (registered trademark) in the world. The Skycoaster (read gondola) claims to have carried over 5 million passengers across the chasm. There is also a funicular that will take you to the river below – also worth the ride.

20 Aug – Salida, CO

Ever flexible, we shelved the plans of yesterday and instead decided a tour of Colorado might not be better. We took hwy 85 south out of Cheyenne, through rural northern Colorado, passed Greeley and made our way to I70 West from Denver. I70 from Denver through to Grand Junction must be one of the most beautiful main highways in the US. The road climbs to around 10,000 feet as it crosses the Rocky Mountains. At the summit there is a huge tunnel I remember from an earlier ride when we stopped to don wet weather gear. When it rains up here it buckets down. I remember the tunnel more for the sight of VSP head down bum up cannoning out of the tunnel in full flight, heading as we were to find out later, for a motel to wait out the rain. He comes from California.

We turned left onto hwy 91 to Leadville and Salida but not before having a bite to eat for lunch in Idaho Springs. Along this part of I70 are a number of tiny settlements that grew out of the mining activities. The mining of ore has long gone to be replaced by the mining of tourists. Tonight we are in Salida where by pure chance we are in the midst of a Gold Wing rally. The town is full of yellow whispering Tupperware machines with riders in matching his and hers riding gear. I guess there will be no room at the Dairy Queen so we will have to settle for a couple of 9 oz fillet steaks at the place next door. Photo 728

19 Aug – Cheyenne, WY

Got to Boulder without problem and met up with Gavin – with shiny new looking silver and black Vulcan. What with one thing and another we never left till after lunch and headed north to Cheyenne. It was our intention to head West across the plains of Wyoming to Salt Lake City ostensibly to have a look at the Mormon Tabernacle. I quite like the open spaces of Wyoming and South Dakota so this was promising to be a nice ride.

I saw here for the first time one of the original style motor hotels, later to be shortened to Motel, where the motor vehicle had its own 'garage' next to room being rented. Right here in the main street of Cheyenne which has to be said was once the main route before the interstate was built. I80 killed most of these places as did the building of I40 to Route 66.

18 Aug – Pinon, CO

Left Holbrook reasonably early and headed for Boulder, CO. about 700 miles away via Interstates 40 and 25. Pinon is really just a truck stop 30 miles north or Pueblo on I25. For the most part getting here was just a case of winding the throttle round to 80mph and filling up when the tank emptied, which at this speed it did quite quickly. But $10 fills it up and away you go again.

By the northern regions of New Mexico the desert had given way to green pastures and slightly cooler weather and you would never guess you have crossed into Colorado except for the sign welcoming you to “Colorful Colorado”. At one point earlier I rode under some very dark clouds and it was clear that rain was in the offing but right now it was the lightning that was my immediate concern. Lightning really gives me the willies. Anyway it left me alone this time but just over the hill there was the prettiest scene straight from a winter wonderland – white everywhere. The traffic was at a crawl and there were many vehicles stopped on the side of the road. The white carpet turned out to be hail stones and the road was awash with water from the melt which put paid to my dry boots and pant legs. Not to worry, I ran into the hail storm just down the road and that finished the job. By the time I got to the shelter of a gas station I was soaked to the skin, not to mention bruised all over by the lumps of ice.

Monday 17 Aug 2009 – Holbrook, AZ

A lazy day catching up on things with my hosts and being reintroduced to the Nomad. The bike has a new set of tyres and handles much better for it. Gavin should be in Colorado by now and have purchased the bike (a VN800A).