Saturday, September 5, 2009

4 Sep – Holbrook, AZ

Today was quite a long day in the saddle – over 6 hours – and it was all just transit. The ride along hwy 89A through the high forest was quite nice despite many of the trees being scarred from fire. But the real highlight was seeing the Vermilion Cliffs. Around this area in northern Arizona the red sedimentary rock is soft and easily sculptured by wind and rain leaving the various lays of sediment exposed. The result in one case are the Vermilion Cliffs and in another the Painted Desert. Both formations are quite striking, more for their grand size than anything else. When it rains here it buckets down and the runoff carves out channels so the desert floor is littered with these minor canyons. The largest of them all is the Grand Canyon and is nearby.

Once past these highlights there is not much of interest. A lot of the ride was through an Indian reservation so you get a small insight into their world but it is only fleeting. There are clusters of houses here and there in much the same way as we see Pa. They must still refer to these settlements as 'camps' because many of them had public notice signs promoting a camp meeting.

I arrived at Holbrook around 5 pm to find TC here so tonight it is steak and beer. TC is a 40 year veteran of the guitar so we have entertainment include.

Tomorrow I fly out.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3 Sep – Cedar City, Utah

There were even fewer cars on the road today so I can see how hwy 50 (officially called the Lincoln Highway and famous in its own right) could be construed as the loneliest highway in America. But boring it is not – well at least the first time you ride through the area. The topographical map show a number of valleys roughly linked together that appear to stretch from the Sierra Nevada to way out here in Utah. Turns out that it is indeed “The Great Basin” and it is very easy to identify areas that in the wet would form lakes. At the height of summer some are dried up and dusty whilst others have green pastures for live stock. Fascinating if you are into that sort of thing. If not then you have the geological structure to ponder over. This area was clearly once a great sea bed and today the sedimentary rock has been thrust up to expose the layers of sediment. You can identify the various fault lines as you ride along. No surprise then that last night I met a chap from a company looking for spots to drill for geothermal water.

2 Sep – Austin, NV

I finished off yesterdays train spotter day with a visit this morning to a train museum in Portola, about 30 miles on from where I stayed last night. The museum is entirely dedicated to diesel trains and seems to have one from every era and technological permutation. There was a lot to see and if you timed it right you could get to actually drive an engine. No today though. One train that took my interest was the original California Zephyr. In the 1950's this train was the height of luxury and sophistication and the display of promotional brochures show a splendid futuristic train indeed. Today the once glorious domed passenger cars lie abandoned and vandalised, shunted off to one side to await their future. One is being restored in the workshop and I understand the locomotive is in working order.

My route for the afternoon took me into Reno again and then on to Hwy 50 to Fallon and tonights stop. Hwy 50 is billed as the loneliest highway in America. I was preparing myself for it to be the most boring ride in America also but no it's a lovely ride with lots of varied scenery. Nor was it particularly hot. We are quite high up and it snows here in Austin in the winter. Most of the inhabitants of Austin appear to have left so the place is a little run down at the moment. For all that, the three motels in town are fully booked. Tomorrow I finish Hwy 50. Photo

1 Sep – Quincey, CA

Finally got my laundry done – no mean feat I tell you. Leaving Eureka you climb into the hills to the east that traps the sea fog in the town until eventually you look down on it. It made for quite an interesting picture. By mid day I had left the green hills and forest to enter the parched grassy flatlands around Redding and Chico. Much more interesting was entering Feather River Canyon which is the lowest pass through the Sierra Nevada. Much like the Manawatu gorge; road one side and rail line the other with a river in between. Except this one was around 70 miles long. Excellent road.

Western Pacific Rail Road built the track over a number of years prior to 1909 as their part of the Transcontinental Rail Road. It is still a working line and I was lucky enough to see a freight train winding its way round the bends. The train was quite long and I suspect very heavy (40 foot containers stacked two high) because the wheels protested loudly as they were dragged around the curves. There was an engine at the front and another at the rear belching huge amounts of smoke as they tried tto drag their load up the incline. The engine compartment of the front engine was so hot the oil and grease associated with the environment was at smoke point and me thought next step flash point. So I stopped and waited to see what would happen but the train stopped also so drama over – or so I thought. Seems it might have been the rear engine that caught fire. What ever happened it sure got the Forest Service activated – 6 trucks and a police car rushing to the scene. Just my luck -no picture.

I've sort of done a big loop and despite being on the road for the past three days and covered around 800 miles, I'm only a couple of hundred miles from where I started. Tomorrow I go through Reno again when it wasn't that long ago when Lildoc was buying Harley merchandise from the Casino HD outlet. I know because she shouted me an ice cream and I took a photo of her behind an elephants balls.

31 Aug – Eureka, CA

This is a funny old country. A couple of days ago we were melting in 30 degree days and tonight I have the heater on. The days ride has been quite cool because firstly I am riding along hwy 1 which follows the coast so is naturally cooler and secondly there is a heavy fog that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean and because this side of the Pacific is very cold (unlike the NZ/Aust side), the fog is also cold.

I followed hwy 128 then switched into hwy 1 for most of the morning then picked up hwy 101 again at Leggett. An obligatory photo of the road through the tree and then it was a detour to state route 254 which goes through Humboldt Redwoods State Park or more commonly the Avenue of the Giants. The road, which follows the old 1880's stagecoach and wagon trail, is about 30 miles long so you get to see plenty of trees and as the name suggests, some pretty big ones at that.

Tomorrow I leave the coast and head inland to the high desert.

30 Aug – Ukiah, CA

We left Stockton taking Hwy 12 to southern Napa & Sonoma wine regions before turning left onto US 101 to travel across the Golden Gate bridge. We got the bridge with its cloak of fog – something San Francisco is famous for. I thought this was a bonus because when I was here a few years ago I only ever saw the bridge in its naked form. Sadly no time to ride around downtown SF so we simply retraced our steps and headed north and out towards the coast. First stop a French cheese factory stuck out in the middle of nowhere then alongside Tomales Bay with their numerous, and busy, oyster shacks. We left hwy 1 to travel inland to the old railway town of Occidental (for lunch) then on to the Russian River wine region where at least 4 different valleys support wineries then to this town via yet more vineyards and Hwy 101. I was staggered at the vast plantings of grapes – they seemed to go on forever. Today was a delightful days ride.