This is my seventh cross-country motorcycle trip since I started riding. Beginning in 2004, seven months after buying my first motorcycle and learning how to ride, I have made a trip or two somewhere in this beautiful country every summer.
My first trip, up the backbone of the United States to Wisconsin and return to Fair Oaks Ranch through the expansive Midwest fields of corn and wheat I call my Mid-America Trip.
The following year I completed the 8000 mile trip, coast-to-coast that I call Phantom Memories and which spawned a book and a magazine article. Over the next year or so there was Big Bend country and the Arkansas Ozarks.
2007 saw me on a trip I called Footsteps that took me on a search to find each of the homes I lived in when I was a child. My 2008 trip, Northwest Passage, took me somewhat along the lines of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1805 and included a jaunt across southern Utah to Santa Fe and eventually home.
The 2009 Appalachian Adventure trip took me from the beginning of the Appalachian Mountainsjust north of Georgia by the Tennessee border all the way up into Maineand over to Niagara Falls - after which I journeyed home on the Natchez Trace.
On my Lewis and Clark Northwest passage trip coming across southern Utah it became apparent to me that I needed to spend more time in that area. Therefore, this year's trip will focus almost entirely upon the national and state parks within that lower half of the state of Utah. I will be meeting up with a long time friend of mine, Mike Egan, and other friends will join us including Barry Solomon and BJ Carr. We will take a leisurely jaunt to these parks over a 5 to 6 day period covering at the most 225 miles in a given day. It is my intent to take it slow, scope the beauty of that region, and enjoy every moment of the ride.
You'll note this trip begins on September 4. I will first journey to College Station, Texas, to attend a football game with my younger son who has season tickets for all Texas A&M games played at Kyle Field - home of the Texas Aggies football team. Ffollowing that game and not wishing to waste miles by going back home then back up to Dallas where I intended to visit with my son and daughter-in-law and triplet granddaughters before launching on the Utah trip, I will motor directly from College Station to Dallas spend a few days there and then motor westward. I will hook up with Mike Egan and others on September 12. I will try to keep daily journals and daily albums (instructions for such are in the left-hand column of this document). I trust you will enjoy following me on my trip.
The faded green line is a general estimate of the planned route on each segment. In some places the lines says I'm going out and others it says I going home. I'm confident you can figure it out. Red dots show where I spent the night.
Every trip begins with mild nervousness. So many miles. So many things that can go wrong. So long away from home. The older I get the more it seems I should act my age and stop this foolishness. But, I can't. It is impossible for me to ignore the wanderlust so long as I am able to make the journeys in safety.
It's been over a year since my last long range trip but within 5 minutes in the cool air the old feeling that makes the open road so inviting settled in on me. It is refreshing and rejuvenates an otherwise aging body. The sense of freedom and adventure return and the beauty of all that is becomes a part of the ride.
My route took me along Texas 21 east through gentle rolling prairie that is spotted with plowed fields and meadows filled with cattle. This road was once known as El Camino Real de los Tejas (The King's Highway) and once was the main route from Natchitoches in Louisiana through San Antonio into Mexico. It is a pretty road through pleasant country. Whereas bluebonnets are the prevalent flower in the spring, this time of year the fields were flooded with flowering milkweeds awaiting the arrival of migrating Monarch butterflies.
My goal today was to reach College Station and spend the evening with my two sons. Geof journeys to all Texas A&M home football games. He and his brother Greg tolerated me for the duration of the evening. I participated in the football game in Kyle Field. I say participated in that Aggie tradition in the part of the stadium I was in is that you stand throughout the game - sitting only during time outs and other short lived gaps in the game. A few beers in a local college hangoutand the night ended very early in the morning.
Not a lot of excitement in today's ride...still in that part of the process called 'getting there'. But the back roads of East Texas contain their own type of charm. Small towns with tree lined main streets every few miles accent the scattered farms and pine woods on either side of the narrow roads.
Today's target was my younger son's home in Prosper, Texas, for a couple days of playing with the triplets and visiting son, daughter-in-law, and brother and wife who live nearby. Watching the youngsters play with what seems unbounded energy makes me remember when I felt that way, let's see, uh, about two centuries ago.
No album today. Just a couple pictures of Andi, Bella, and Piper. For those who aren't aware of the triplets history, Andi and Bella are the twins of the trio. Piper, the fraternal, suffers from a genetic condition that has inhibited her motor control development.
The Utah trip will take a brief pause for the family. But I will add comments as the muse visits.
This entire day revolved around playing with the triplet girls. My little diversion into Prosper, Texas, has provided me significant pleasure. The only unsettling aspect is the continued pain when I think of Piper. Since this is a journal of my thoughts and I want to remain faithful to the purpose of the journal, I am compelled to say a few words about my continuing sadness concerning Piper. These comments have nothing to do with travel and everything to do with life. When I ride these great distances alone, my mind wanders far from the intended route that the bike must follow. And it is the richness of all living things that flow around me that gives me the sense of wonder I sometimes find difficult to define. As I journey down the many roads I have traveled, I am continually in awe of the beauty of my ride. I have mentioned this before but I state it again: When you are on a motorcycle you are not watching a movie -- you are in the movie! I will talk more of my patriotism in future journal entries. Today, I speak to the cruelty of life.
The contrast between the twins (Andi and Bella) and Piper is remarkable. Whereas the twins have shown normal development - considering their premature births -Piper's development is arrested and her condition remains painfully stable. For details about Piper's condition you can learn it best from her father's blog. Suffice it to say it is difficult to deal with.
I am aware that these circumstances are not unique. I have close friends who suffer under similar burdens. In fact, I know many who face even more severe realities that make Piper's circumstances seem mild by comparison. Some of these friends have great losses without hope. Some have hope without promises. All of them have questions. This knowledge and my compassion for their plight does not, however, reduce the smoldering angst I feel whenever my thoughts settle on a most precious little girl -- Piper. For those who are reading this and want to see a plethora of pictures and a few videos, this link will take you where you will find more than enough to satisfy your triplet curiosity.
So, I proceed with this journal with a question or two or three for theologians. [Throughout this short dialogue it is important to note that I have a degree in Theology though long forgotten] If God is a loving God, why would he allow this to happen to a precious young creation of His? If God is a justice demanding God, whose justice is served by allowing this to happen to an innocent, precious young creation of His? If God has a purpose for everything in life, why must he keep the purposes secret from those who wonder why he has allowed this to happen to a precious young creation of His? If God demands faith as the passage to righteousness, why are the faithful always those who are punished? If God loves you as He loves his son, Jesus, why does He express that love in such a cruel fashion?
I watch in awe as Piper's mother and father deal with the burden of her care. I see the love in their gentleness as they deal with her soft yet unsettling moans of discomfort. They have become professionals in a world of professionals who have no concept or understanding of the effort required to give a home to triplets of which one requires special care. I am humbled in their presence.
So I arose this morning with plans to have breakfast with my brother. At first I noticed damp pavement when I went to my bike. By the time I reached the restaurant the sky was spitting rain drops. By the time I finished eating I realized tropical storm Hermine was approaching. I normally do not follow the news when I travel and safely ensconced within my son's home I had not followed the weather. After breakfast, with a dark and menacing cloud to the South approaching I raced the storm North arriving to the safety of the house only minutes before the floodgates opened. For the remainder of the day I played with the triplets and watched sheets of rain fall from the sky each time a band of the tropical storm passed over.
I hope to launch westward in the morning. However, all forecasts indicate the storm will still be hovering overhead for most of the day. The radar indicates clear skies west of Fort Worth. I'm hoping to find a sucker hole in the storm that will allow me to escape into the drier air to the West. It's time I began this journey. For a good portion of the next two days I will be traveling through the ultimate flatness known as the Texas Panhandle. This region has been my Gateway to the West on many of my trips and the home stretch at the end of these same journeys.
I haven't done the research but it seems every time I begin a trip some sort of storm descends on Central Texas. It's true this time and at least three other times. If I was a superstitious person I would be inclined to believe I could break the frequent droughts in this area of Texas by simply getting on my motorcycle and taking a trip.
[Just remembered I forgot about the snake. Come back here later. I will add the story. Pretty good one.]
The sun came out here in Graham, Texas, just before sunset. The pink clouds graced a light blue sky after a day full of heavy skuding puffs of moisture that rained on me often once I got out of Prosper shortly after noon.
My first challenge was to find a way out of prosper as the heavy rains had caused significant flooding in the neighborhood and the normal route to US 380 was impassable. As a result, I followed some narrow and often uncertain Roads in the general direction of west until I could work my way through axle-high culvert overflows to my intended highway.
I had been monitoring the radar throughout the morning and noticed a hole in the aggregated storms that I believed would allow me to go west with haste and escape the clutch of the storm-after-storm attack Dallas and Prosper were receiving. I had about 30 minutes to achieve this move and report now it was successful. The radar showed that from Fort Worth west I should only encounter an occasional shower. The radar was accurate.
Leaving the girls and Geof and Belinda left me with a feeling of emptiness. I enjoyed my visit with the 'little munchkins', as Donna calls them, enough to give me some hesitation on departure. And for some miles as I journeyed down US 380 and viewed thunderstorms in the distance dropping copious amounts of rain beneath their blackened clouds I thought perhaps I could have somehow justified remaining with them for just one more day.
But this mission of friendship and adventure pulled me in the opposite direction and I traveled a road not only less traveled but never traveled by me before. It is though I was on a search and recovery mission but didn't know what I wish to search for or recover. The air was heavy with moisture and heavy with thoughts of times past and hopes for many times future. In the emptiness of the stretches between small farming communities I could sense the loneliness of aging where hopes and dreams don't have the legs they had when I was much younger.
Off to the south I could see wind power generators spinning their long tentacle arms against a stiff breeze that often blew me over to the white line on the side of the road. At least on three occasions I could see the dark gray of rainfall and a ribbon of highway entering its wetness in the distance. And every time it was merely a brief shower compared to the Noah-like flooding in Prosper.
I stopped in Jacksboro at a DQ for a small hot fudge sundae with peanuts. While there I shared a small room with eight local farmers. They wore either bib overalls over a T-shirt or a blue denim shirt tucked into weathered and tattered jeans. They were obviously hard-working salt of the earth men whose damaged hands and sunbleached faces were testament to their hard life in the Panhandle. They spoke of common things over their cups of coffee and this obviously routine gathering. And I tried to imagine their lives where the future depends on the whims of nature. A broken 'whatchamacallit' on a 'thingamajig' and the best way to fix it was the main topic.
It made me think of friendship and family and how these eight men gathered on a regular basis in search of companionship and sharing. And I wondered about their pasts and was certain that each of them had their litany of tragedies and accomplishments that they could communicate to each other with a simple nod or common gesture.
Once in Graham, Texas, I learned again and anew that many people are mirrors. In that I mean many people will reflect what you display. I have found that if I tell a counter clerk that I feel fantastic and exude that attitude in my demeanor the clerk becomes almost as happy as I have expressed. So it was with the motel clerk and the waitress at the Montana Club down the street where I ordered a ribeye steak (medium rare) and her choice of beer. The upshot of this discovery is that in Graham, Texas, nearly everyone drives either a Duelly or a long bed pickup truck and there are only four kinds of draft beer and two kinds of bottled beer. Things are simple in the Panhandle farm country.
Today was a short day limited by weather. Tomorrow I may try for Clovis, New Mexico, or not. Wherever I go, I trust you will join me again.
Nothing out of the ordinary blessed today's ride. It was more a ride to a destination than a ride with sight-seeing included. That is not to say it wasn't enjoyable. Five minutes into the cool morning ride and I was rejuvenated. It is amazing how the sleepiness just drains away on a cool overcast morning with the prospect of a full day on a motorcycle. The damp air left over from yesterday's rain penetrated my shirts and helped me feel alive and good.
Shortly out of Graham, Texas, I crossed the edge of a small lake and waved at fishermen already staked out at their favorite fishing holes. They waved back and one even gave me a strong thumbs up. The road was bordered by large tracts of trees similar to stunted mesquite and huisache we have in South Central Texas. But they looked to be different species. At one point I noticed those on the left side were dead while those on the right side still thrived. The deadwood was visible as far as I could see to my left and continued for up to 10 miles. There was green growth of grasses and very short shrubbery but all of the wooden growth had been killed. I can only assume it was a fire that had consumed them long enough in the past for the undergrowth to begin the rebirth of the land.
Except for a few redish cracks in the crust of the earth around Seymour and Benjamin, Texas, the geography is flat, flat, flat. Those welcome miniature canyons were a visual relief to the growing monotony of cotton fields and newly plowed acreages. In one place I even saw a sign in perhaps the most remote location between two of the smallest cities on my route advertise a plot of land for sale. Fair Oaks Ranch, where I live, was formed originally around the 5000 acre fair ranch. 5000 acres is a massive piece of property. This parcel for sale advertised 16,200 acres. My 75 acres would be lost in a parcel that size.
I chose to ride westward on Texas Route 114 which took me through scores of towns with populations ranging from 194 to 485. At one point I stopped to read a historical plaque that pointed out the city of Westover had existed from 1911 until 1950 at this spot. There was a broken down building and the remnants of a granary as the only reminders of a city's one-time existence. Off in the distance there was a home surrounded by cotton fields and a man sitting on the porch watching me read the sign. I waved at him and he waved back back and we each went our own separate ways with our own separate thoughts.
About a half mile down the road I saw a cemetery with a large wrought-iron arched entryway. On the top of the entry way were the words 'Westover Cemetery'. Inside were at least 150 to 200 gravesites - many marked with stone monuments. The sign indicated that Westover was once a booming community. But it was totally dependent upon a railroad that came through the area. And when that railroad was abandoned the city suffered a similar fate and collapsed upon itself. I found many of the small communities along the way had cemeteries with a population many times greater than the living population in the community. It was evident that the green and white city signs with a population statistics would not need correcting often in the future. Each of these communities was a central location for the ranchers and farmers that filled the great expanses of land in this part of the country.
After I passed through Lubbock I encountered a number of dairy farms much as I had done on my Thunderbird trip northwest of El Paso. I am amazed by the conditions in which hundreds and possibly thousands of black and white (Holsteins?) cows live and produce that delicious liquid many of usl enjoy. Each one of them is a mini factory performing its function without complaint.
I switched the XM radio to the 80s station and listen to a number of familiar songs from my past including the Logical Song, Alone Again Naturally, and others that resurfaced a number of memories of days gone passed. The now cloudless sky gave rise to temperatures at resembled what I knew in August at home. And then those temperatures gave rise to puffy clouds until a small thunderstorm developed in front of my route. I wondered if I would be caught in rain one more time, but by the time I reached Littlefield (home of Waylon Jennings) the rain had moved off to the northeast leaving only wet roads.
I waved at passing trains and got a whistle blow in response. In the middle of nowhere, there are still methods of communicating.
This evening I met a fellow biker outside my motel room who calls home Wickenburg, Arizona. He is heading east with his girlfriend and he gave me a number of good pointers for my planning of the Utah trip. He knows how to pronounce Boerne and even met his girlfriend in Comfort. Small world! His name is Bob Frye and I enjoyed my conversation with him about travels and dreams and motorcycles.
And that's what this is all about: dreams become travels and travels require motorcycles if you want to be in the movie instead of just watching it.
Oh. By the way. I'm in Clovis, New Mexico.
Today was a full day. Travel across New Mexico is always a full day. I went from absolutely pool table flat land into rugged mountainous land and back to pool table flat land. And as I always feel when I have traveled the South West United States, I was in awe of the expansiveness and the seemingly endlessness of the land. Right off the bat I encountered antelope grazing in the fields to my left and right. The growing desert like conditions of these fields gave me a visual reference to my approach to the real desert to the West. The air was still cool and washed my skin with freshness and anticipation. As it turned out I journeyed through heat and coolness to my destination and ended the day in a comfortable state of weariness.
The most problematic circumstance of the day was the wind. It blew constantly and rocked the bike from one side of the road to the other. At a few overpasses where the train tracks went under the road the New Mexico Transportation Department had even erected wind socks and warning signs about the effects of the wind.
The other most noticeable circumstance of the day was the general state of decline of all the small communities I traveled through. It was as though I was entering towns that were destined to be ghost town sometime in the future. Many buildings in disrepair and many others crumbling above their foundations signaled a demise. I saw very few new buildings under construction or buildings that seem to have been built within the last 10 or 15 years. It was sad seeing this but I can understand why it is happening.
I traveled US 60 and what a lonely road it is across the State. I passed no traffic in my direction and only a handful of trucks in the opposite direction. Horizon to horizon was filled with emptiness and a sense of aloneness could very easily creep into your thoughts. I planned how I would handle a flat tire or a mechanical problem in an area with no cell phone and so little traffic I might end up sleeping overnight at the side of the road. Fortunately, none of that happened.
But an interesting diversion did. Because most of the towns had no gas stations I became attuned to the need to gas up at every available opportunity. At one point, I was approaching my reserve fuel tank and the next town 15 miles ahead looked on the map to be one of those that would have no gas station. So I took a detour to a town 30 miles north, gassed up, found back roads going west and south back down to the town I had not trusted 15 miles ahead. When I arrived in town 50 or so miles further than planned I discovered four gas stations - count 'em...4. Better safe than out of gas on a New Mexico remote road is all I have to say.
Must've been 15 trains passed today each of them with about 100 cars in tow. I waved at them and they whistled back. In the distance beyond the ribbon of railroad track separated by at least 5 to 10 miles each you could see the isolated ranch houses surrounded by trees obviously nurtured by their residents. It must take a special breed of person to live in these remote locations.
I saw at least one Swainson's hawk, and a possible from Furruginous hawk, and numerous crows and vultures.
Many of my thoughts were focused on the 9/11 events and the current lapse in memory of many of those in power today. Such thoughts may not belong in this journal at this time so I will reserve them for a later moment.
Enjoy the album. I head for Page, Arizona, tomorrow.
Today was a beautiful day for riding in the southwest desert. The temperature was 36° when I first went to load the bike. It was a welcome chilliness after the heat from yesterday's ride. A group of Gold Wing Roadriders from Decatur, Illinois, arrived after I had retired to my room last night. There was probably a dozen of them with at least six on trikes. They were friendly old geezers just like me and many of them had their wife or significant other with them. Of special note was the one man hauling a motorcycle trailer that is the most unique I've ever seen. You have seen motorhomes towing their automobiles behind them. But I feel confident you've never seen a motorcycle towing an automobile. You have to look at the first picture of today's album for your daily chuckle.
Since I left Texas my concept of time and location have become somewhat confused. For instance, this morning I arose and planned to get on the road by eight o'clock as I wanted to make Page, Arizona, by about 3 PM. I loaded the bike along with all of the Illinois Roadrunners loading theirs, had a cup of coffee and a small Danish, and launched for Gallup, New Mexico, on a short stretch of IH 40. 20 minutes into my ride I looked at my watch and realized I had launched at seven instead of eight. No biggie. I went to Gallup and had a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel. It is important you keep this story in mind so you can refer back to it after I tell you the next interesting event of the day also related to my sense of time and location.
After breakfast I motored up into the back roads of eastern Arizona and rode Route 264 particularly. I had warmed up sufficiently in the Cracker Barrel restaurant and could no longer feel the chill of the morning and I looked forward to a nice ride through this deserted section of highway on my way to Page, Arizona, by 3 PM. I rounded a bend in the road and one of the electronic signs that now predominate on the highways was blinking a message to me that said "Saturday Road Closed 8 to 12 -- Parade". I approached the barricade that soon became visible in front of me and the policeman on duty directed me in no uncertain terms to turn north on the side road. There was no opportunity to ask questions -- merely obey, obey, obey. This gave me a little bit of anger, as those of you who know me and my penchant for common sense and rationality, but I put it behind me since it was such a beautiful day. I followed some of the cars that had turned in front of me assuming they were locals and we traveled a good 10 to 12 miles northward until we connected with another road that went back down to the 264 which I assumed (yes I know) it would have gotten me past the parade blockade.
Another 10 to 12 miles going south toward 264 resulted in the same reaction by the local gendarmes and I had to reverse and return to my point of origin in the north. A very helpful local Navajo lady gave me directions on how to get to the west side of town (another 10 to 12 mile trip) and explained to me that this was an annual parade for the Navajo Nation and I may or may not gain access to Route 264 once this last escape route was followed. I arrived at the intersection and had to spend the next 45 minutes waiting with all the other vehicles that wanted to access the highway. I finally asked a motorcycle policewoman if she would authorize me a right turn onto the highway (others had denied me this request) and she said "As long as you don't hit anyone".
Now over 40 miles and about an hour added to my trip and I began to feel good that I had left at seven in the morning which would now get me into page somewhere around four o'clock instead of the three o'clock I had planned. It is important to keep this story in mind as well so you can refer back to it as you have the rest of the story.
Once back down to 264 and heading west I entered a pine forest and cool temperatures that made riding on a smooth and wonderful road absolutely delightful. I emerged from this forest onto the vastness of the Arizona desert land. For those of you who have traveled in the remote areas of our wonderful country you are aware of how absolutely immense this country is. Coming off a rise and looking down the road you can see for literally hundreds of miles, it seems, and in every direction you look there is no one but you. It brought to mind that phrase than goes like: 'if no one was in the forest...' and I thought a similar phrase could be: 'if no one was in the desert...'. And it is strange that one isolated in the midst what seems nothing to the horizon on the left to the front to the right and to my rear and surrounded by nothing but total emptiness that I could feel a small sense of claustrophobia. The isolation when riding on a motorcycle on the remote sections of the Arizona desert is pronounced. Mechanical problems on these roads would certainly put a delay in your progress.
I am happy to report that I observed a golden eagle soaring about 15° to the right in front of me and I watched his beauty of his flight as he swooped toward me to investigate. It was awesome. I also saw two coyotes cross the road on two separate occasions. But saw very little other wildlife other than a few ground squirrels throughout the trip.
The ruggedness of this country is unbelievable. Rocks, rocks, rocks and more rocks separated by untold distances of desert landscape. As the day went on, the temperature warmed up until I was once again riding with just a shirt having packed the leather jacket away. And as I surveyed all that went by me I was blown away anew by the beauty of this country we call the United States. And I thought perhaps there is no other country that has such a varied geographical makeup. The beauty I see day by day across this country once again convinces me I do not need to go to any foreign country who resents my presence to see beauty. It is available for free in this free country.
There's been a lot of play in the news on this ninth anniversary of 9/11. Those of you who know me know my thoughts on the so-called peaceful people of Islam. I have read their 'sacred' book and can tell you what I read does not indicate it's a peaceful approach to life but a very oppressive and dictatorial manifesto. I become troubled at times that our leadership and its consistent and self aggrandizing positions is abrogating its responsibility to protect us against these obvious enemies. They either have not read it or having read it disregard it. In either case it's a travesty.
Gotta wrap it up for those of you who have made it to this part in the journal there's a little surprise called a Video. Enjoy it. Oh, by the way...I got to Page by 3:00 PM...Arizona doesn't use Daylight Savings Time.
Tomorrow I hook up with Mike Egan, Barry Soloman, and BJ Carr.
Today was a relaxed day with only about 160 scheduled miles. I checked out of the motel along with a bus of German tourists flooding the lobby and continental breakfast room and having animated conversations in German. Once on the road I did a loop through Page to see what it was like. It is a clean town with the most luscious green golf course in the midst of this red and brown desert area.
I went and looked at the Glen Canyon dam behind which is Lake Powell. It reminded me of my trips in years past to the Hoover dam. And when looking at the level of the lake behind the dam and seeing where it had once been it was evident that the drought in the Rockies - feeders of the Colorado River - still has an effect on the volume of water. The sheer rock walls in which the dam was built are magnificent in their greatness and pure vertical stature. It is obvious why this was a location for dam.
There were many tourists in the local area and tour buses drove through frequently. I can only assume they are going to or coming from the Grand Canyon and other tourist sites. I also assume them to carry mostly foreign visitors if my hotel lobby is any indication.
There was no rush to get anywhere early today as my GPS told me I would arrive in Cedar City by noon if I didn't stop at different places. So I loitered at low speeds through the cavernous valleys and pulled over to let other vehicles pass and allow me to just enjoy the ride. The almost total desert redness interspersed with white rock strata and the mountain outcroppings is vivid. I stopped at a Bureau of Land Management information office and studied their charts on what is called the Great Staircase -- Escalante. The staircase comes from the steps created by erosion through the Grand Canyon area where different rock strata formed over millions of years are exposed in such a fashion as they look like steps. The Escalante comes from a priest who explored this region back in the 1700s.
This is an extremely rugged part of our country. Masses of rock formations greet the eye everywhere you look. Great expanses of erosion-formed planes spread out for you after every summit passage. Sagebrush, creosote bushes, and other desert flora flow to the horizon. And then out of nowhere as you climb to altitudes, scrub trees begin to show up followed by large pines and then fir or spruce trees (I'm not sure which). What is certain is that some disease or insect has destroyed vast quantities of the trees on the ride between Route 89 in Cedar city en route 14. It looks like 80 percent or more of the trees are dead. Interspersed among them are healthy looking trees so perhaps it is another one of nature's cycles were those that survive will produce a much stronger and more resistant tree to the disease or insect which has killed others of its species.
I stopped for lunch in a desert city called Kanab. Had my usual favorite sandwich on the road, a BLT, and then discovered one of my passing lamps had burned out and the passing lamps structure had become loose on the frame. Since it was Sunday, no auto parts store was open so I will have to fix the light later. I did tighten the frame, however, which apparently was knocked loose during the hours of my jostling on rutted dirt roads during my Parade experience in New Mexico.
There was one FM station which had some rather good Christian music. They were doing the top 15 Christian music songs of the week. It was very well done and professional. Later, I shifted to the comedy channel on the XM and had a few good hearty laugh moments as I carved my way through the mountain forests and rolled into Cedar City.
Mike, Barry, and BJ arrived. Tomorrow we do Zion.
Special bonus with this journal: five videos! Don't forget to close the window to return to this page.
Today was Zion. It was awesome as usual. I have little time as it was a long day and I am not a single this time with all evening to fill with my writing. So I will simply relate that Zion is a natural wonder that everyone should experience at one time or another. I hope to find the time to give you more words and may find that time over the next few days. So check in from time to time and see if I've been able to add stuff.
A few words must be provided. It remains my favorite southwest national park. Its grandeur and scope are beyond capable description.
As I mentioned yesterday, I would write the rest of the Journal tomorrow: well it is tomorrow. I have great difficulty describing Zion National Park with adequate adjectives and descriptions. The sheer magnitude of the cliffs, their red color, the altitude each of them has, a nice significantly vertical edge. They all gave me a sense of wonder. Even though I was at the bottom just looking up I had similar feelings of my 'edgeraphobia' as if I was at the top looking down. This is the second time I've been in Zion but this time I saw more of the park then on my previous visit. Back then I was in awe. This time I was as much in awe, if not more, than last time.
Before going to Zion, however, we took two side trips. The first was up the Kolob Canyons Road which, I understand, has very little traffic. It is a beautiful ride with some beautiful scenery. After that, enroute to the park there is the Kolob Terrace Road up to the Kolob Reservoir. It is a much longer road filled with curves, mountain crossings, and isolation. Along the way we noticed a large extensive forest of cedar trees that stood dead and their deaths made me wonder of the cause.
Following this diversion we then went towards Zion Park. When we arrived at the park we heard that the road to the tunnel was under construction. Those few people we were able to ask about this condition warned us against driving motorcycles on the road. After a brief discussion as to whether or not we would attempt to travel to the tunnel, we decided to take the shuttle up into the canyon and discuss our options over lunch... which we did. This trip up the canyon can leave a person exhausted with visual overload. Is one of the most magnificent, massive, beautiful, rock-lined canyons I have ever seen. There is an ethereal sense about it that leaves you suspended until you realize you haven't taken a breath for some time. The red sandstone is brilliant. The cliff faces are sheer and smooth. The tops of the cliffs are nearly out of sight; in fact, under many situations it is difficult to bend your neck back enough for you to see to the very top.
No vehicles are allowed on the road up into the canyon other than the shuttle bus and employees. This is a good rule because otherwise no one would ever reach the end of the canyon. Every vehicle would have been stopped on the road to look at the spectacle of this canyon. The two dimensional photographs that you see in the album do not do justice to what the eyes see when they are there in person. The sense of depth, breath, and height cannot come through in a simple photograph. The massiveness of everything involved is beyond the simple explanation. If I ever felt small in the broad expanses of the desert, I felt even smaller within the overpowering confines of this canyon.
By the time we had finished reviewing the spectacles in this canyon there was little time left to even think about riding the road through the tunnel. As a result, we headed back to Cedar City. BJ, however, volunteered to ride up to the tunnel to reconnoiter personally the condition of the roads others had said were treacherous. If her findings were positive, we could go through the tunnel in the morning on the way to Bryce Canyon and destinations east. Her report was that the road was entirely passable and those who said it was treacherous were not experienced cyclists. We did, however, decide that the detour, for this purpose, would preclude us from reaching the destinations we needed to reach on this one-week trip; so we deferred for a future time the tunnel ride.
The day was good, the views were magnificent, and we went back to Cedar city with a very healthy wearyness in a very full and good day.
Check out the album and these three videos. And remember, close the window to return.
Today has a couple exceptional stories. This could be a very long journal but I will condense my comments and make them more palatable.
After yesterday's failure of the lamp on my passing lamp system, I had purchased a replacement from the local NAPA store and installed it that evening. Checking its successful operation once again in the morning we departed for route 14 East and then connected with Route 143 over the mountains toward Panguitch, Utah. It was a
gloriously clear and chilly morning and knowing that we would be climbing to over 10,000 feet, in fact close to 11,000, we bundled up in layers and leathers. What a wonderful ride along curvy smooth roads winding our way in a ribbon of road between tall forests trees. At first, the sun was in our eyes but as we entered the forest we were able to escape its brilliance on the dips and turns that took us into the protective shadows of the spruce and fir forests.
It was an exciting ride. There were tight twists, even tighter turns, and the ever enticing views off to the left or right, which if you tarry too long looking, you find yourself in an adrenaline rush to correct your wayward passage into the opposite lane of the next turn. It is this glory that drives motorcyclists again and again to mount their trusty steeds and ride off into the wilderness. The freedom of movement in the sweeps, the turns that require the constant attention to your actions, and the immediate feedback to any subtle error in your control of the motorcycle makes you feel more alive on a cool crisp morning than you've ever felt before.
So it was, that after I had rounded a posted 5 mph turn and negotiated a 180° turn with no more than a 50 feet width while climbing an 8% grade, I noticed the motorcycle was no longer handling as it should have. We were nearly at the summit of this one pass on her journey towards Bryce Canyon. We were near Cedar Breaks where we planned us make our first scenic stop. As we climbed a little more I felt something very familiar. It was the sensation of an underinflated tire and in about 10 seconds of checking my motion left to right I confirmed I was indeed suffering my sixth flat tire of my short motorcycling career. I pulled over onto the 3 foot paved shoulder having crested the summit. I stopped the motorcycle and dismounted.
I am beginning to believe I should sign on with motorcycle tire companies as a consultant in their attempt to find a motorcycle tire that will never go flat. My experiences are such that I could provide significant experience for further research efforts. However, at the top of the mountain Mike and Barry were following me and stopped to ascertain why I had stopped. We were on our way to the Sunrise View of the Cedar Breaks and BJ had proceeded ahead unaware of my problem. After considerable effort pushing the bike forward and backward to locate the cause of my flattening tire (it had not gone completely flat yet) and with the assistance of Mike's spit and better hearing than us old farts and Bary's pushing and pulling, we located the leak. The appropriate application of a reaming tool, and a plug for a tubeless tire, and an absolutely wonderful device called a Slime tire pump, we were able to inflate the tire back to 42 pounds pressure with no apparent leak. It gave us a miraculous escape from an otherwise inconvenient experience.
During this period of tire repair BJ had gone on ahead and now showed up as we were finding the leak. She told us that our destination of the Sunrise View was no more than about 100 yards ahead around the next turn. Had I been able to maneuver the bike forward for another hundred yards or so we could have completed our duties on the flat parking area of this unique overview. Not to worry: the combined efforts of us all provided successful comraderie and accomplishment. We drove ahead the hundred yards to the overview. Checked the tire pressure again (which seemed to be holding) took a few pictures, checked the tire pressure again (which seem to be holding) told some stories, had a few laughs, then headed onward. To put this story to bed: the tire held its pressure throughout the rest of the trip another 150+ miles to Torrey, Utah.
Along the way, we ventured into Bryce Canyon National Park, took some pictures, ventured back out, and headed up Route 12 to the east. While going into Bryce National Park, the Park Service was conducting controlled burns within the forest and we had to penetrate dense smoke from those fires to enter and then exit after we had viewed the magnificence of Bryce Canyon. Later this evening, Mike, Barry and I discussed how much the beauty overloads your ability to absorber its significance. Sometimes I think I am a closet lover of the Southwest because every time I have been here I am blown away even though I've seen it before. The pinnacles in Bryce Canyon that have been formed over thousands of years defy my abilities to describe. Hopefully, the pictures will give you some idea.
The rest of the day was journeying along Route 12 towards Torrey, Utah. There is one exceptionally challenging section of Route 12. I call it exceptionally challenging because of my edgeraphobia I have described to many others in the past. I do not fear heights. I fear edges. There is a section of Route 12, as you climb out of a valley up onto the ridge of a spine in the mountain range, that is treeless and apparently constructed on top of a chalky, rocky material. At one point there is a thousand foot edge to the left of the road 10 or 20 feet off the shoulder and at the same time another thousand foot edge to the right of the road 10 or 20 feet off the shoulder. The road does not just go straight. Almost as punishment, it has to turn left then right then left than right with me clutching the handlebars and riding the center line the entire mile of this torturous route. I have survived it in the past and I survived it today. It remians a most adrenaline induced ride.
After this and more youthful, wonderful, mountain riding to a height of 10,000 feet with countless twisties and turns through thick forest country, we arrived in Torrey, Utah, for the evening.
What a blessed people we are to live in this country. What great opportunities we have in this country. I earnestly hope we have enough common sense to retain the freedom we have fought so hard to gain against the encroachments of those who feel they know better than you or I what's best for us. It is a constant concern of mine in these times when I consider our very Constitution under attack. The beauty, the freedom, the independence, the opportunities of this country are boundless so long as we retain the freedom to choose. What I have seen in the last two days convinces me even more that it is all worth protecting.
A couple more Videos.
Today was a destination day. In that, I mean we didn't intend to visit any national parks but just intended to reach a destination point for tomorrow's activities.
We spent the night in Torrey, Utah, and arose to a most chilly morning. As we packed our bikes we shivered with goosebumps and decided we would have a lengthy breakfast in a nearby café before launching on the 200 mile ride to our destination. We expected there would be limited scenic views on this ride so we planned to take our time and recuperate somewhat from the previous overwhelming scenic overload we have experienced.
But what we didn't expect was the massiveness of the initial portion of our ride through the Capital Reefs section of Utah. The overwhelming size and mix of its rock formations is, as I said in a previous journal, indescribable. The lack of three-dimensional vision on this two dimension website does not do justice to the glory that you can see as you drive through this wonderful country. I have mentioned before my belief that this country is the most diverse and beautiful on the globe and I still believe that. I know New Zealand, the Alps, and other locations throughout this globe have their own significant and unmentionable beauty. But, I have not yet been convinced that any single country exceeds the variety of natural wonder that I have observed in my travels throughout North America.
We then traveled north over some very flat country with significant geological features to our left. Our mission was to reach Interstate 40, ride east 40 miles, then cut down to 128 and follow the Colorado River Canyon into Moab. At first the ride was very flat and somewhat boring. The only excitement along the way was the sighting of a golden eagle which was Mike's first. We arrived in Moab after a delightful traverse through a magnificent canyon.
The Colorado River carved its way through red rock cliffs much like the Grand Canyon. Mike even mentioned that it looks like a mini-Zion national Park. The river is racing to our right hand side most of the time down this valley and to our immediate left and right are sheer canyons over 1000 feet high. Their redness looks like blood and the anticipation that rocks in their precarious heights may fall into our path is fascinating. At one point, as I rounded a curve in the road a mule deer doe was standing squarely in front of me. I brake. She moved off the road. And I passed safely.
As I mentioned, this was a destination trip so there's not much more to say about the ride. Tomorrow we go to the Natural Bridges Park, the Needles in the Canyonlands Park, and end our day in Blandon, Utah. Plans have changed, as they often do, and we will complete this trip on Friday night. Mike will go home on Saturday morning. And Barry and I will go to Santa Fe on Saturday. BJ has been called home on business and will head northward. Our short but enjoyable association must come to an end.
After tomorrow's journeys into the national parks I will attempt to provide more descriptive comments. Until then enjoy the album and these three videos.
We're nearing the end of the journey in Utah and last night stayed in Moab. This morning I checked the air in my rear tire to see if the puncture was completely sealed. The reading indicated I lost some air pressure overnight from the previous night. As a result of this uncertainty on continued good air pressure and the upcoming solo desert travels over the next few days, I decided to have the rear tire replaced. We found a local Yamaha dealer and after a nice breakfast traveled thereto to only discover they had no tire to fit my bike. They did have one enroute by UPS and expected it shortly after noon. I made arrangements to return after we toured the Arches National Park.
The last 3 to 4 days has seen us overwhelmed with red rocks of every size and dimension and today was no different. After a steep ascent onto a plateau that housed, according to the literature, over 2000 arches we viewed a few of those available for viewing from the roadside. Nearly all of the 2000 require some sort of hiking to view up close. As we descended from time to time into small valleys between the viewing areas we noticed the heat building to a predicted 97°. As always, the immensity of my surroundings and this geologic wonder caused me to think of how small the human is in relation to the planet on which he lives. Nearly everywhere we look, we could see rock formations that were each in its own way a unique display of beauty in that harsh climate. Having gotten a late start we completed our tour the Arches National Park by about 12 o'clock and journeyed on to the dealership to see if I could get my rear tire replaced posthaste.
Barry and Mike followed me to the dealership and when we determined the tire had not yet arrived they motored into Moab for exploration while I awaited the tire. That wait took over four and a half hours, so after Barry and Mike finished their Moab exploration they proceeded to Monticello where we intended to spend the night. The time it took for the tire replacement and the delays involved in our planned journey resulted in us having to skip the Needles National Monument and save it for a future visit.
There not being much more to tell after the Arches National Monument I was reminded byothers of two stories on this trip I have not told. I will tell the sad one first and the exciting one last.
Living in the desert under the harshest of conditions is most telling when you see how animals must work to survive. Any creatures on the ground are constantly fearing for their lives from a creature in the air. If there is no creature in the air, they are constantly fearing for their lives ffrom creatures on the ground. And if the creatures on the ground are unsuccessful, humans and automobiles achieved the same fatal results. As humans we rarely concern ourselves with this kind of preservation. However, it is most evident in its most stark form on the road to Torrey, Utah, two days ago. On a short stretch of road at the foot of a small hill we observed a coyote that had been obviously struck by a vehicle and killed in the middle of the highway. The incident must have been very recent as the coyote lay on the centerline in good form. The harshness and sadness of all life and death struggles was immediately apparent as what appeared to be a pup of the adult coyote was lying next to the dead coyote refusing to move as cars sped past it both directions barely missing the young pup in the process. It cowered as each vehicle sped past within inches of its body but it would not retreat. All three of us had feelings of sadness at the reality of life in the desert.
This next story is somewhat of a comedy but at the same time has its own tragedy. It is the snake story I promised to tell some time ago. When I was visiting with my son's family in Prosper, Texas, the nanny was entertaining the Twins on the back patio. I worked upstairs in the granny suite. I heard a call and emerged from my second story room to observe the nanny with the Twins in the entryway below. She informed me that they had encountered a snake on the patio just moments before. Belinda, my daughter-in-law, emerged from the room where she was working at about the same time. As any mother would be, she was immediately concerned for the safety of her children unaware of what type of snake they had discovered. Since the home is located in recently converted farmland, it would not be unusual to have assorted animals encroach. I proceeded to the patio and discovered a 14 inch rat snake near a flowerpot and attempted to corral it with a short stick. It immediately became aggressive striking at the stick and causing me to jump approximately 22 feet in the air. Gathering my wits about me, I grabbed a WalMart plastic shopping bag with the intent of bagging the snake and taking him back to the field where he belonged. I was successful in getting the snake into the bag whereupon I twisted the top tight so he could not escape. I then proceeded through the house towards the front door. Unfortunately, as I passed through the kitchen the snake in his wily disposition discovered a small hole on the bottom of the bag and proceeded to exit his confinement onto the floor near the refrigerator. With a shriek that brought my attention to the sudden event near my feet, Belinda alerted me to the snake's current attempts to hide beneath the refrigerator. As this is not an appropriate place for snakes in Belinda's home, I had to use my foot on the snake keep him from moving. I then asked Belinda if she would give me her tongs so I could capture the snake with some sort of positive control. With some reluctance she agreed as long as I agreed also to sterilized the tongs afterwards. I then successfully removed the snake from the house. (RKS: this one's for you)
We exit our tour tomorrow morning, each of his heading in directions that will make Saturday's trip less onerous. We leave with some reluctance as the beauty has been overwhelming and there is still more to explore. But we can come back. As far as I remember it is still a free country and we still have the freedom to move about. Over the next 2 to 3 days I will offer some thoughtful comments that I will develop during my solo rides across this country back home.
In the meantime, I do have four videos for your pleasure.
We are in the process of exiting Utah for our independent trips to our independent homes. Last night we gathered and reviewed the maps and planned a generally southern route with a slight diversion on a scenic route out of Blandon, Utah, in a general U-shaped direction back to Bluff, Utah, both on US 191. We journeyed west on Utah 95 and at the intersection we would have taken south (Utah 261 - the bottom of the U-loop) we noticed that the Natural Bridge National Monument was only 7 miles ahead. We agreed to travel to that monument before completing our U-shaped travel back to US 191.
Ten miles later and after determining there were no roads into the Natural Bridge National Monument (at least that we could find) we stopped while some took a nature break. Some time later we turned onto Utah 261 and immediately noticed a large yellow sign that indicated the road was filled with 20 mile an hour twisties of the narrow gravel surfaced kind. We retreated immediately to Utah 95 and retreated further to US 191 were the morning's travel had begun.
The rest of the day was a process of reaching destinations that would take us a step at a time toward our homes. Mike set a target of Flagstaff for the day and I set a target of Gallup, New Mexico. The heat began to rise as we came down from the higher elevations into the flat and expansive desert countryside.The few pictures that are in the album associated with this journal are the last fragments of the beauty we have been seeing for a week as the ruggedness of southern Utah melts into the broad vastness of desert geography.
There is a real sense of isolation when you ride on a narrow ribbon of asphalt surrounded by thousands of acres of sage brush and chalk-colored ground with no cars anywhere nearby and only you on two wheels totally dependent on the quality of the engineering and construction of your motorcycle. Desert highways become exceedingly hot in the direct sun radiation and that radiation bounces upwords onto your legs as you travel. The asphalt is known to reach temperatures in excess of 150°F but I felt comfortable with my new rear tire and no worries that the damaged tire would have given me. I was not in favor of a perceived reality become a true reality in the middle of a desolate stretch of highway.
It is because of this perceived reality that can become real reality that one of the most important rules of riding in a group in remote territory is the 'follow the leader' rule. Each person in the group is responsible for the person behind them. In essence, each person is a leader of the person behind them. Should one of the group encounter a problem, the person to his front will go to his assistance and the person in front of him will see that activity and so on up the line until the leader receives notice that the ride must delay for a period. The lead then awaits return of those lagging behind or information that indicates no further waiting is necessary. Any failure in this basic rule will inevitably result in a fragmented group with parties going separate directions.
I promised yesterday that I would provide some thoughtful comments from today's ride. And those comments are centered around the human condition that allows what a person thinks to become what is. I believe it is more appropriately phrased by someone I don't have in my mind at the moment as perception becomes reality. I have observed this phenomenon twice this trip where the reality based on perception created an atmosphere not as was intended. And as I drove through the emptiness of the desert I was tempted from time to time to worry about things that did not exist; perceiving that if something should happen to my motorcycle I could be stranded and helpless in the desert. I fought off the perception as there was no reality in it at that point and any concern was self generated. The ride to Gallup, New Mexico, was uneventful. A few flagman events in construction with the pilot vehicle and waiting in hot desert conditions. But nothing worthy of remarks.
I look back on this trip now with mixed feelings. Southern Utah is a massive collection of unbelievable beauty. I met a man this morning as I was loading the bike. He is from Park City, Utah, and just this year for the first time ever he journeyed to this area. He told me he is sorry he didn't come down here sooner. He raved about the beauty and the climate and the awesomeness. I agree with his feelings. There is great beauty everywhere I've been. All that beauty is unique to its own location. The beauty here is wrapped up in a thousand mile bow of unmatchable splendor. I don't want to leave but I want to go home to the beauty I know there.
We Americans need to stop all the political crap and admit that we live in the most wonderful place on earth. I'm tired of hearing about apologies for the greatness this country has achieved through hard work with the assistance of freedom! You want to apologize for the lives we gave to Europe to release them from Nazism? Go ahead. You want to apologize for the lives we gave in the Pacific to rescue Asia. Go ahead. But don't talk to me. I'm fed up with all that crap. We have discovered and nurtured the most advanced society in history. And we have shared our vision with a sincere desire for others to enjoy the freedoms we take for granted. We have a few problems but we don't need to amputate the arm to remove a wart.
My fear is paramount, however, that we are about to destroy that which made us able to do all we have done for the world. Please think before you vote in November.
What's going on in Washington, [Chicago] D.C., now is reality and if you don't get the perception and stop it, we are ..................
Okay - Here's The Videos.
Many years ago I followed sports, particularly football, when the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins were arch rivals. It was an enjoyable pastime that eventually eluded me as I pursued other interests. At some point I even thought it was a waste of time for people to follow sports. I now understand it substitutes for an instinctual satisfaction that the human condition is slowly losing in evolution. Today was a day that proved I should still be following sports. I will explain as this journal comes to a close.
My time in Gallup, New Mexico, consisted of a great meal at the Cracker Barrel restaurant and a less than great night's sleep in the Quality Inn nearby. Collapsing from near exhaustion at 1030, I awoke at 130 to the gloriously vibrant sound of the two long, one short, one long whistle/horn of a locomotive announcing its arrival at a vehicular crossing. For the next five hours at approximately every 20 minutes or so I was treated to the individual styles of the engineers who offered these four blasts of noise as train after train approached the crossing. I didn't get much sleep, but I did learn that each engineer has his own unique way of pronouncing his train's arrival at the crossing using merely that two longs, one short, one long series of announcements of his arrival. The result was that I was prepared to travel homeward much sooner than I would have normally departed.
My original target was Cortez, New Mexico, and as I rode to the east with the rising sun fully in my face I recognized my earlier departure subjected me to the 6800 altitudinal early-morning temperatures and I was immediately chilled to the bone. I hugged the motorcycle with my legs to prevent passing air from hitting them and set the speed control and cruise so I could alternate warming each hand in my lap as I raced toward the sun and it raced overhead to warm everything in its path. This approach worked and soon I could feel the sun's warming rays working into the nooks and crannies of this territory and give me relief from the shivering cold.
There is no album today because I took no pictures. The purpose of the trip was now complete. This stage of the trip is to find a way to home territory and I focused my attention on destinations one more time. Like the rental horse who knows his journey out from the barn is over when his rider turns his head towards the corral and the evening meal, I was now focused on getting home. I don't have the documents in front of me now but it's been like four days at home in the last six weeks and I am ready to spend a few days attending to duties at the Homestead. What began as chilly ended as hot and I happily ended my ride as I rode into Lubbock, Texas.
Now: the reason I should take up sports if I am to travel this country during odd periods of its yearly cycle. I chose Lubock as it would allow me a shorter ride on the final leg of the long ride home. What I didn't know was that the University of Texas and Texas Tech had a famously rival football game this evening. After seven hours on the motorcycle in cold then beautiful temperatures than hellacious heat, I discovered there were no rooms at the inn and I wasn't even Joseph or Mary. I spent the next hour and a half finding a place to rest my weary head. And I have determined that when I travel I will research sports activity and its effect on my destination before I proceed unarmed.
With the most helpful attitude and generous concern for my predicament, a local desk clerk found a place for me and once again America comes through. People helping people and working to find solutions to problems on the independent and private strata. If you don't know by now that I am fiercely independent and resist a clueless and bliind governement telling me what and how, then you haven't read much of my stuff. But this clerk found solutions and I am forever grateful to him.
This trip has come to an end. Tomorrow I will rise and journey southeastward to complete the final leg of the Utah trip. I hope you have enjoyed traveling with me. It won't be long before I begen thinking of another trip somewhere in this wonderful country. All of us who are citizens of this great country need to remember every day how lucky we are to live in a period of history where the greatest freedoms ever allowed a society existed. At the same time we need to remember how fragile those freedoms are and do all in our power to protect them for our children and grandchildren. Do not be misled. There are those, even within our society, who would overrule those freedoms for their own personal gain in an ill-conceived belief that they know better than you or I how we should live our lives. Resist them always.