Saturday, June 11, 2011

The (not so) Great American Motorcycle Adventure?

THE GREAT AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE

Prologue: I went into this venture to assist a friend by accompanying him and providing real-time first-hand feedback. He'd come up with the idea of a ride similar to the USA 4 Corners Tour and wanted to see if it was viable. (SPOILER ALERT: It isn't). This is a ride I would probably not do, otherwise. As you know, 9K+ miles in 18 days is about what I routinely do. I had some reservations about the sites, as I'd already seen some of them, but most appeared worth visiting again. We did some serious side trips to manage personal visits, but nothing too out of the way. The time of year was good and things looked peachy. Then it all changed. SPOILER ALERT: This does not end well.


UPDATES:


6/12: Made it to Fairfield, CA by 9:30PM after about a 13 hour, 540-mile day. Stopped by the Aquarium in Monterey and Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl was just too touristy and too rushed.

Great weather and light traffic until we left the Monterey area. Bumper to bumper traffic for about 40 miles. For those that split lanes: It's hair raising anywhere, but in California--yikes! And this is exactly why I don't enjoy these kinds of rides. Shooting for Bend or Salem, Oregon tomorrow?

And here's Steve's input:

My riding partner on the GAMA came up from San Diego Saturday afternoon since we are headed north and I live in Orange County, CA. We talked about the pending ride, had some laughs about prior rides, grabbed some dinner, and hit the rack fairly early, not planning for an exceptionally early start. We both got up early but didn't actually hit the road until a few minutes before 8:00 a.m. starting with a gas stop in Corona del Mar to document the official start location and time.

It was June gloom cloudy outside with that annoying mist that accumulates on the windshield that causes you to turn on your windshield every 3 minutes. Oh ya, I've got no windshield. The temperature is about 60.

We head north out of town taking the 73 to the 55 and then north on Interstate 5. We headed through the Gormon/Tejon pass near Magic Mountain where the drizzle gets a bit heavier. Don't tell me we're going to hit rain this early in the trip? I didn't check the weather forecast before I left as I usually do. But I'm prepared for rain so it doesn't matter. It's just nice to know what's ahead. I didn't forget to buy some beef jerky though! We trade off leading every gas fill up and I am leading this leg of the trip.

First stop, Bakersfield, CA. where they were kind enough to charge $4.80 a gallon for gas. Were out of the pass and the sun came out and the clouds disappeared about 3/4 of the way through the pass. Equipment and rider seem to be operating well... okay, the equipment's operating well! That's a good thing for an 18/19 day 9000 motorcycle journey.

He takes the lead. Next gas stop King City, California where we stopped for lunch. We feel like we just rolled into Tijuana. There is a festival going on with Mexican music, Mexican radio station vans, and I suspect, lots of Mexicans. I didn't ask anyone, just assuming so. Rather than go for the burritos and tacos we hit a small converted Shakey's pizza parlor and opted for Italian. Please note I made no deragatory comment about the liklihood that anyone of these nice folks might have squeezed through the every-so-tight border. That's because my riding partner works for DHS and he's out checking green cards now! "C'mon, man, I'm hungry!" One slice of pizza and a salad. Trying to avoid heavy and fattening food. That should change by day 2! (See second paragraph down, let's change that to day 1)

We roll into Monterey without any directional difficulty. The GPS's and past knowledge of the area take us right to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the first photo. There is no parking anywher near the aquarium, but a 3 minute loading zone we take advantage of.

A security guard tries to chase us off, but we let her know we're "out of there" in 3 minutes. We take the picture and find a better place to park and head out to San Francisco.

It's about 3:45 p.m. now and we encounter an hours worth of bumper to bumper traffic. Motorcycle engine guage indicates we're running a bit hot but not serious yet. We split some traffic following a couple of other guys on BMW's who part traffic for us, making it safer, but not something I like to do unless I feel I have to. Got through the traffic safely and followed signs to the S.F. Golden Gate which I knew was just west of Fisherman's Wharf. We also got down to the wharf with only one minor wrong turn and pulled into the parking lot right across the street from Tarantino's famous seafood. The parking lot attendant let us pull in front of the Fisherman's Wharf sign for the "photo op" and actually saved a convenient space nearby.

Why not? Parking is $3 for every 20 minutes! Two of 12 sites completed. It was very crowded with people and cars. The typical S.F. temperature dropped to the mid 50's and winds now gusting to 20 mph. It didn't effect S.F. tourists. Everyone was walking around like it was sunny and 75 with chowder and Boudin (spelling?) sour dough bread. We stopped in for a bread bowl of chowder and headed to the Oakland Bay bridge toward Interstate 5 to find a hotel outside the city. So much for the heavy and non-fattening food! What?

We stopped in at the Marriott/Fairfield at 9:15 p.m. and the day was done. I jumped in the hotel spa for 10 minutes, called Steph and jumped in bed. I was out.

Days ride: 557 miles
Ride: 11 hours, 15 minutes. (less stops)
Gas: 15.44 gallons
Cost: $62.28
Next Day: Northern California, Oregon, and might hit Washington

More when I have time... Steve

6/13: Started the day with great weather out of Fairfield, CA. Headed north through lots of countryside. I called my cousin Deb, in Redmond, Oregon to see about a visit. We opted to drive Central Oregon rather than Interstate 5 and take back roads. On the way we drove past Mt. Shasta which was covered with snow as if it were January. Beautiful! Bikes ran well. Opted for another salad along the way and got to Bend. Don and Deb have a nice home with a spectacular view. Don BBQ'd salmon on the gril and we sat around talking while me and Deb (my "favorite" cousin caught up.)

Days Ride: 489 miles
Ride: 11 hours


6/14: We hit the road about 8 a.m. and headed to Seattle and Pike's Place Market... destination #3. We opted for country roads to Portland, Oregon and then picked up the Interstate on the way to Seattle. Was a little cloudy in Portland and encountered a bit of drizzle approaching Seattle, but not enough to consider it rain. En route, we had great views of the Cascades and drove through the mountains to elevations of about 4000' under the shadows of a fully snow capped Mt. Hood. Ran into a couple of riders at the gas station near Mt. Hood, one was on a 2005 Honda Goldwing like Steve's. We talked motorcycles for a few minutes. He lived in the area and they were heading where we were coming from. Nice guys. This was a terrific ride through the mountains. Temps got down to about 48 and I was on the border of throwing on the heated vest. Decided to keep riding and we were out of the mountains. Temps ran about 57 to 65 during the day.

We got to Pike Place Market with no problems and parked the bikes directly in front of the marquis for the photo. A zillion tourists walking around looking at us, seeming uninterested. What recession? We walked around the market place and stopped in for some seafood. Rain seemed to be off in the distance so we packed up, stopped for a cold drink near Steve's cousin Judith's house in Seattle. There's a story about one of us being tossed out of the place for arguing about the food. (Hint: It wasn't me.) We met Judith at the house after she got done with work and stayed there for the night. We sipped wine for a bit, chatted, and called it a night.

Off to Walla Walla, Washington tomorrow to visit Harry, Judith's husband, who is staying at their get-away home this week. Looking forward to some country roads again. Bikes are running well. No mechanical problems. Have only encountered a few dead deer along the roads and we're not driving at night, so far. Easy days and not too many miles. I noticed on ADV Rider, a motorcycle blog I enjoy, that a husband and wife from northern California were driving to Alaska on their bikes and the husband was leading. He looked back and didn't see his wife. When he went back he found she was off the road and struck a deer. She was airlifted out but apparently going to be okay. Deer and bad drivers are not good when riding.

Days Ride: 343 miles
Ride: 5.5 hours

Off to Walla Walla

6/15: Pulled into Walla Walla and selected a good-looking place to eat. Turned out it was one of the best. It was one of the many buildings that formerly housed....ladies of the oldest profession. I understand Walla2 has quite an unfortunate history of that. Anyhow, Harrry Hosey met us before the food arrived and the adventure officially began. What a character! He is really something. Like his wife, Judith, truly salt of the earth. She describes him as a farm boy, but I see that he's a very busy, complex, kind and successful farm boy. This guy would make anyone feel like a family member or longtime friend in about 2 minutes. Anyhow, Harry provided us a tour of the Power House, a theatre modeled after the Bard's Black Friar theatre (Judith and Harry manage it). It was amazing, but not as amazing as the accompaning stories. Holy cow! We then went to the outdoor ampitheater where the same company will soon be presenting Shakespeare to those lucky Walla Wallans. (I made that up...unsure if that's the correct nomenclature for a WW denizens.) Harry and Judith own a winery, among other things, so you can imagine we partook of some of the vine's best. We turned in at about 11:30 PM after poring over the maps for tomorrow's ride.

6/16: Whew! Just arrived to Bozeman, Montana. Only 500 miles but I'm beat. I ended up taking Highway 12 out of Walla Walla, instead of getting on the I-90 and riding slab quickly. It was definitely worth it as I saw some of the most beautiful scenery anyhwere. Starting with the Palouse hills and ending with the Lolo Pass at the Idaho--Montana border. Elevation 3250, but it was chilly and there was snow everywhere. (This is June, right?).

Let me back up. Steve and I stayed overnight with Harry in a very nice guest house. The "casitas" are high-end little rooms provided to friends, family and special guests. Slept like a baby and was up at 6:30 planning the day. I'd decided to skip Boulder and just ride solo to South Dakota and see the sites. Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, as well as Deadwood and Sturgis. Yeah, I'll miss Steve's elementary school reunion...but I just have to get over it and move on. So Steve headed to Boulder --ending up somewhere in Wyoming for the night--as I headed to Rapid City. The ride was fairly short (a bit over 500 miles) but thre was some technical riding on the 12 that required a lot of shifting and my full attention.

6/17: Left a very moist Bozeman @ 0730 heading to Rapid City, South Dakota on the I-90. It had rained overnight, but it was overcast and cool when I rode out of town...no rain.

Made quick work of Montana, getting into Wyoming about 100 miles later. Just beautiful skies -- blue with white, fluffy clouds. I found that if I focused on looking at the nice scenery, I wouldn't see as many deer along the road. And there were a lot of 'em.

Fun Fact: Why is mid-grade gasoline cheaper than regular unleaded? While you think about that, I'll say that I saw 3 types of auto fuel in Montana and Wyoming: Regular Unleaded (85.5), Super Unleaded (88) and Premium Unleaded (92). The Super Unleaded contains 10% ethanol and is gov't subsidized. Hence, the lower cost. Shouldn't put that in motorcycles!

Anyhow, I turned off the I-90 onto Hwy 16; that took me into the Black Hills of South Dakota and to the Crazy Horse memorial.

The memorial was started a long time ago, and it's still not completed. Looks good, though. The back story of the family working on the memorial is fascinating.

After a very nice tour of the site, I headed north to Rapid City where I checked into my hotel. Had a burger and local brew (Pile O'Dirt Porter) while I contemplated tomorrow's activities. Sturgis, Deadwood and Mt. Rushmore were on the agenda while I wait for Steve's arrival on Sunday.

Not too tired or sore after a nice 500+ mile ride today.

6/18: Great day of riding around the Black Hills of South Dakota. Though I'm sorry to report that Rocky Raccoon was nowhere to be found...

Weather.com had predicted thunder showers today, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful, sunny day awaiting me. I left Rapid City @ 9AM headed toward Sturgis.

WARNING: If you are my mother, my wife or a responsible motorcycle rider, please skip the next sentence.

I removed my windshield, my helmet and my senses for the day (so much for ATGATT) and enjoyed the wind in my hair and the bugs in my teeth!

Sturgis is pretty much dead prior to the Big Rally.

Here's what it looked like today:

Funny thing, but I didn't see even one Harley on the road today. Yeah, right....I saw a zillion of them! Nice to report that 90% of the riders waved as they pass. That's a lot of waving.

Headed from Sturgis to Deadwood, the infamous town where Wild Bill Hickok was killed. Like so many other similar towns, it was infested with tourists (not that there's anything wrong with that). There are about 7 casinos in the span of two blocks. I spied some gunfighters walking down the street, and they didn't seem at all out of place. I didn't stay long, but opted to ride out to Mt. Rushmore.

En route, I stopped for some tasty BBQ where I chatted with fellow bike enthusiasts and travelers.

MT. RUSHMORE TIP: I was told of a spot, just before the park entrance, where one could stop and snap a photo of the 4 presidents. I found that spot and took a few great photos.

Best part? I didn't have to pay the $11 "parking fee" charged for the Mt. Rushmore experience. C'mon, folks, are we dumb? "Free" park entrance, but parking is $11? Come on! Anyhow, it looked nice.

I may have to return tomorrow when Steve arrives. Maybe I'll pass, as I've seen those 4 guys before.

A quick ride back to Rapid City, where I stopped at WalMart to pick up some Star-Tron fuel treatment, especially for the ethanol additive in the local gas. I'm feeding my bike $3.32 gas lately. Could my Rocket be running any better?

Rode back to the hotel to enjoy some quiet time, scribble out some postcards and call home. A very nice 100+ mile day indeed. I highly recommend this area to motorcycle enthusiasts of all persuasions. The Black Hills are just made for bike riding.

6/19: I sat and watched it rain while I waited for Steve. I ran over to WalMart to buy some gadgets, then headed to the restaurant to wait. Steve and his friend Scott really hustled in from Boulder, arriving in Rapid City by 2PM after they'd stopped briefly at Mt. Rushmore. We ate a nice meal at the Firehouse Brewing Co.

The rain stopped when they arrived in Rapid City and there was sun! After lunch we drove west on I-90 for 250 more miles and called it a day in the booming metropolis (NOT!) of Oacoma, South Dakota. Chow at the only local eatery then to bed by 11pm. Going to try to make Chicago tomorrow.

6/20: A fairly uneventful day. We left Oacoma at 8:30 AM and finished the ride in Love Park, Illinois. Scott peeled off to go home about 100 miles before we ended the ride; he lives in a northern Illinois suburb. Steve and I continued until dusk and hit a hotel. The day threatened rain and it was supposed to be thunderstorms all day. We had about an hours worth of sprinkles and grey skies the entire day but nothing dangerous. We saw more dead deer on the side of the road today than in the entire ride. There must have been about 20. Nothing really to report, just a long ride. It began raining, lightly, once we checked in.

I planned to head to Niagara Falls/Buffalo to see a friend while Steve remains in the Chicago area to visit friends; he planned to depart by noon and be in Buffalo by 10PM. Yikes. I think it's about 685 miles or close.

Miles today: 628
Total time on the road: 11.5 hrs.

6/21: Ah, I awoke to the first day of summer. Steve left early to see a friend or two in Chi-town, while I geared up and shuffled off to Buffalo; we were scheduled to meet in Buffalo later that night. When I left the hotel @ 6AM, it was already 77 degrees with 70% humidity. No worries, it got a lot hotter.

There was a slight drizzle as I headed to Chicago's Navy Pier, about 60 miles away near the downtown area. I was greeted immediately with a toll booth. I was wearing heavy gloves and my dollar bills were wet. I passed through the unmanned booth, so I expected a note in the mail asking for the 60 cents plus $200 fee...

I made it through some tough Chicago traffic to reach Navy Pier where I attaempted a photo of the attraction from the freeway.

Oh, how I'd like to tell you I succeeded.

I have ridden the ferris wheel, though.

Like many of the GAMA sites, I've been there, done that. I highly recommend against riding in Chicago traffic; it's to be avoided if at all possible.

I kept riding, moving through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. I hit some crazy, stand still traffic in PA, turning off my bike and sitting on the hot pavement for 45 minutes. Ludicrous! Best of all, I was paying for it! Tolls, tolls, everywhere. And the bad roads--usually in a state of disrepair and under construction--don't justify the $30 in tolls paid to reach Buffalo.

RIDING TIP: When planning a LD ride, dio your best to stay away from toll roads if at all possible. Yes, they normally supposed to cut through heavier traffic. Howver, it's been my experience that the $$$ does nothing but talke money and land you in similarly heavy traffic. I'm not a fan.

Anyhow, after 500+ miles of riding, I made it to Buffalo where I met my very good friend Steve Cardwell at the Founding Fathers pub. After catching up, we moved to Mulligan's Brick Bar, a local legend. We both decided against the Anchor Bar as it's just too touristy, and again...been there, done that. Howver, if you're in that city and want to see where hot wings were first created...

We dropped off my bike and his car at the hotel and we were off to see the town. I received a message from my riding partner Steve that he was stuck in Erie, PA and wouldn't make it to Buffalo tonight. Dang it! I should have skipped the hotel room and stayed with my friends locally (for free!). Ah, no biggie. We headed out to sample some Greek fare and more of downtown Buffalo's best establishments.

When we finally called it a night, it was raining heavily; I was soaked when I reached my hotel. A good day's riding and I got to see an old friend before he departs for an out-of-US assignment.

Planned for tomorrow: Niagara Falls and NYC.

6/22: Well, this day royally sucked. Big Time. It started off well enough, as Steve and I departed Buffalo and headed to Niagara Falls.

There was a light but constant rain from the moment we started off. The falls on the American side were pretty, but I sure do like the view from the Canadian side. (Does that make me less patriotic?) We snapped a few photos, gassed up and headed to New York City. That is no way to see the falls and I highly encourage you to stop and really enjoy the falls (from either or both sides) if you find yourself in this area.

Oh, NYC...There was traffic. If you intend to drive, fly, walk or bike to NYC, expect horrendous traffic. You’ve been warned. (Some great views of the skyline, though!)

Anyhow, by 6PM or so we’d arrived in New Jersey and were waiting in a 1 ½ mile line to get to the beginning of the Lincoln Tunnel when WHAMMO!— my bike died. It made a terrible sound as it gave up the ghost (Steve described it as I was wearing ear plugs and only heard a whine as she died. Here’s the kicker: I COASTED over one mile from the bridge to the tollbooths at the Lincoln Tunnel—between trucks and buses and cars filled with angry New Yorkers — where Steve expertly blocked traffic and guided me into a large NJ Transit parking lot. This was fairly miraculous as — well, did I mention the horrendous traffic? Oh, yes, and this was during rush hour. RUSH HOUR IN JERSEY, PEOPLE! (Don't do it: You heard it from me first.)

I tinkered with the bike. I called my Triumph dealer in San Diego for advice. A few other NJ types tinkered with the bike. Then it rained rats and dogs, as we were in New Jersey, after all. (Sorry NJ, folks, just SoCal humor.)

The transit lot was closing, the hotels locally were full and it was raining rats and dogs. Oh, what to do? I booked a $200 room nearby (the “last one” available. Uh, huh.), I called AMA Roadside Assistance for a tow (we’ll be there within the hour. Uh, huh.), and I sat and fumed about dependability issues with this Triumph.

I was losing faith in the bike. It’s been on the back of a wrecker more times than I’d care to admit. Warranty service or not, a bike should not leave a rider stranded like this. Heck, I could’ve bought a Harley if I wanted that! The flatbed truck arrived an hour late, as expected. Steve waited with me, though I asked him to head to the hotel. Did I mention he’s a saint? A real mensch.

We finally arrived at the hotel by 9PM. We were beat tired and frustrated. We agreed that Steve would continue on as I had the bike put back in order. I spent the next two hours reaching out to my CMA friends and fellow Triumph owners on a rider’s site. There were several repair shops nearby, but only two Triumph dealers within 30 miles. I opted for the one that had the best recommendations — Triumph of Metuchen, NJ. Then I hit the sack after midnight.


6/23: Steve was up and gone by 0530, en route to Time’s Square in NYC and the Lincoln Memorial in DC. I called AMA for a tow to the dealer, but I was informed that, although I was allowed 5 tows annually, I was only allowed one tow with a 72-hour period — so last night’s 1 ½ mile tow had caused more grief. After explaining to an AMA supervisor — in heart wrenching detail - I was allowed the tow. Ah, patience, persistence and good ol’ fashioned threatening win the day again! Triumph of Metuchen actually returned my frantic call from the previous night and said to come on in — they were confident they’d be able to get me in and out quickly. (PLAY SAD MUSIC HERE.) Sure enough, they were waiting for me when I arrived, and prioritized my repair because, “Hey, man, that dude is on a major road trip!”

After only 7 ½ hours of drinking waiting-room coffee and reading waiting-room magazines (from 1984), I was informed that it was hopeless and they just couldn’t locate the problem. But then, I heard the beautiful sound of a sewing machine cranking up (also known as a Triumph Rocket III 2300 CC motor). Wahlah, Adrian, the very sharp Triumph tech, had managed to over-ride the alarm and get my bike going. (For the record, I mentioned that they would need a special alarm tool—per my dealer’s instructions—when I first arrived.) I was then informed that they had finally realized, 7 hours into the diagnosis, that they needed a special alarm device. Oy! We bickered about the cost. I thought it should be free—a warranty repair—and they thought $700 sounded fair. You know, because they’d spend all day working on my bike and all. I then reminded them, with as much calm, grace and negotiating skill as I could muster (after 19 cups of waiting-room coffee), that:

1: This was a warranty repair and nothing I could have controlled.
2: That’s why I had a 2-year warranty—so if the bike died during that time, I wouldn’t have to pay for it.
3: I didn’t enjoy hanging out in motorcycle dealerships and preferred to spend time riding the motorbike I paid a lot of $$ for.
4: If the bike was a dependable piece of equipment, oh, say like a Japanese-engineered machine, I wouldn’t have been bothering them with my silly little problems.

It appeared the service manager agreed and would file it as a warranty repair. I had to pay about a $500 “deposit” pending Corporate’s approval (when my $$ will be reimbursed). (SPOILER ALERT: Theyt didn't and I wasn't.)

I rolled out of the parking lot at about 8PM in a state of concern. On one hand, I was extremely happy they’d fixed it and got me back on the road. On the other hand, I was discouraged that it took so long, they wanted to CHARGE ME, and I left them with $500 of my money for no good reason. Ah, we’ll see. (SPOILER ALERT: Triumph ended up picking up the tab for all costs associated with my New Joisey mishap.)

I rode over to some new CMA friends’ house where I was in bed in no time.


6/24: A really nice day of riding today. I left the house of my new CMA friends, Frank and Peggy Pettinger, at about 0545. Gassed up, had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and was on the road (in a light drizzle) by 0600. The New Jersey drizzle was the last rain I saw all day…it was blue sky and fluffy clouds for the rest of the day.

As recommended by a few riders, I took the 78 West to the 81 South, passing through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland (briefly), West Virginia, Virginia and finally into Tennessee. This is pretty, fast route. Mostly two lane, and lots of trucks, but the traffic moves briskly. I saw a few troopers out watching – and even some ticketing - but it wasn’t as bad as other states. There was some heavy construction traffic in Virginia (blasting a hillside) and one accident, but those were the only stops…not more than 45 minutes of stand-still combined.

Checked into a hotel in Chattanooga, TN after 775 miles and 13 ½ hours of easy riding. The bike seems to be running fine, though the dependability factor was always at the back of my mind.

Spoke with Steve who made progress, ending his day early in Florida, about 560 miles from New Orleans. Since I’m about 450 miles away, we planned to meet somewhere west of Nawlins the next day and make further travel arrangements.

NOTE: I saw a few deer alongside the roadway…some were even alive. I commented about this fact at a fine truck stop during one of my breaks. A gentleman who drove a big truck (I counted 18 or 19 wheels) suggested that I buy a deer whistle for my bike. I told him I’d installed one last year, but it didn’t seem to be working. Upon examining it, he grunted as he explained the problem: Apparently, I’d installed a DEER CALL, not a DEER WHISTLE. So in fact, far from repelling them, I was actually attracting deer wishing to mate with my bike. (Which would explain the looks the deer had been giving me.) The gentleman told me that if I insisted on keeping my deer call, I should install a metal deer guard to the front of my Triumph, similar to what he had on his Big Rig (I understand that’s the industry vernacular). Ah, those men involved in the trucking industry — or “truckers” — were some real geniuses.

I hit the sack early, expecting a quick 500-mile day tomorrow.

6/25: Yeah, 500 miles. Right….

For the record: Anyone who purposely stays at a Motel 6, EconoLodge, etc. FORFEITS his or her right to complain about anything in the room. Nuff said.

OK, the plan was to meet Steve in Baton Rouge, a mere 500 or so miles from Chattanooga. I arrived in said prearranged meeting city at 2PM, after an easy ride through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, only to find that the NEW meeting place was now Lafayette, a mere 55 miles further. No problem. Steve further stipulated that the first rider to reach Lafayette chose the dining location. He was in Nawlins; I was a lot closer.

I arrived in Lafayette less than an hour later and immediately pulled into the nearest What-a-Burger. For those uninitiated….well, it’s delicious! I texted Steve my whereabouts, cleaned up and enjoyed a cool strawberry shake while I waited. Steve wrote back that he’d be there in 5 minutes as he was right down the road on the I-10.

Here’s where everything went sideways: About 15 minutes later, Steve wrote that he was farther west than I was, and instead of backtracking, why don’t I ride up to his location. OK, no prob. I was at 101, he was at exit 109. Less than 10 minutes away. I finished my shake and off I went, only to realize that the freeway exits were getting smaller, not larger. He was farther east than I was. I called him to explain, but his battery was dead or dying and he was ensconced in a Wendy’s.

The next time he called, I was at the Texas /Louisiana border and heading west “quickly.” Don’t know how our signals were crossed, but I planned to meet up in San Antone or farther west. The crawdad etouffe dinner I had planned for Baton Rouge would have to wait until next time.

I planned to put some miles on the next day and leave the great state of Texas in my rearview mirrors by the following afternoon.

I was already planning a Tex-Mex dinner in El Paso. SPOILER ALERT: Not gonna hapen...

OFF TOPIC STUFF: You know, one of the pleasures of this ride--or any ride, really--has been the music pumped into my helmet via an MP3 player. I only brought about 250 songs--and I've heard them all A LOT--but I do enjoy hearing those old tunes. I guess one song I really like is Rambling Man by the Allman Brothers. I'm not a "Rambling Man" by anyone's definition, but I have always liked that song and it never gets old to me. Oops, I was rambling, man. OK, back to the ride report...

Checked into a hotel in Winnie, TX to clean up and rest and tomorrow is another day.

Total miles ridden: 745 (in 12 ½ hours).

C ya!

6/26: More bike troubles! This time in Texas. Just when you think it couldn't POSSIBLY get worse...

OK, the first person to guess where I am and how I've fared since leaving Winnie, TX this morning receives a valuable gift.

HINT: If you guessed: Uh, you made it about 640 miles through 113 degree heat, then your bike just stopped. Died right there on the I-10 west in the middle of nowhere.

Then, you waited for an hour for it to cool down but it didn't start. It was kaput--no lights, nothing, as if there was no battery in it at all.

So you called AMA. Again. And they sent a flatbed to you, Again. Then, the driver stopped twice on the way to the nearest town (Van Horn) for water and a hamburger (2 stops).

Then, you had to pay $100 out of pocket because AMA only pays for 35 miles. But then you argued with the driver because he technically only towed the bike 37 miles --from mile marker 177 to exit 140. And the extra per-mile fee is only $3.50 a mile. But then he laughed it off and asked if I'd prefer another tow truck (knowing full well that AMA had to beg him to go get you).

Well, folks, if you guessed that, you got it right!

I was tooling along at 75 or 80 MPH when I felt a little hesitation--then everything went dead, and then came back on.

I thought I'd hit the kill switch, but I was nervous.

Did I mention that it was 113 on the hot asphalt?

Another mile later it happened again, unmistakably this time. I looked for a place to pull off the highway, and it came back to life long enough for me to guide it to the side. The engine and oil lights initially came on, then nothing. No lights, nothing.

I ran through roadside diagnostics by checking battery connections, fuses, etc. My guess: The extreme heat killed something. The rectifier? I dunno.

Not having a better plan, I was throwing in the towel, getting a U Haul the next day and going home in shame. It was 840 miles home, and I didn't want to "fix" the bike, to have it do the same thing in 115 degree New Mexico heat. No sir, I'd had enough.

Do I sound upset? I really do hate to write angry. But, c'mon, how much can a guy take? And you opine? I'm interested in your input...

6/27: I officially called it quits. I'm done with the GAMA, and any other adventures having to do with motorcycles. For a while, anyhow. After exploring the town of Van Horn for hours, I realized that the situation was fairly hopeless and my outlook was grim. I was not going to get my bike repaired here--or even looked at--as the lone motorcycle mechanic in town had gone incommunicado. Everyone in town knew him and his wife. Calls were made to his business, his cell phone, his wife's business and cell phone, their home. Nada, nothing, zero.

RELATED SIDE NOTE ABOUT VAN HORN: With the economy in the state it's in, you'd figure folks would WANT to work. If you're reading this thread, you'll know that things get done very slowly in Van Horn, when they get done at all. Case in point (actual converstion):

ME: Excuse me, would you please direct me to the nearest barber?

HOTEL MANAGER: Oh, we ain't got none.

ME: What? Where do guys get their hair cut?

HM: Have you SEEN the guys in this town? Nuff said.


OK, on to Plan B: Loading the bike in a U Haul. The only U Haul dealer in town was co-located with a Chevron station. At 8:30 AM, I was informed that, "They come in around 9:30 or so. Check back at 10, to be safe." I'm seeing a pattern here. At 10:30, I met with the U Haul rep who sadly informed me that their only truck was "broke down and ain't going nowhere." I see.

I let my wife know that-- via a frustrated phone call-- and booked the hotel for another day to figure out some other options. Little did I know that my wife and sister-in-law, Cindy, were already working their magic. By the time I'd reached the hotel, hope was rising-- just like the local temperature.

My options were as follows: 1) My brother would drive out to get me in his F150 and we'd drive back ASAP. 2) Cindy's dad, Mark, would rent a U Haul in Albuquerque, come get me later that evening, then we'd ride out to San Diego together. 3) I'd arrange to have the bike shipped to San Diego, while I hopped a flight from El Paso to San Diego ASAP. 4) I cut my losses, set fire to that evil monster of a bike and take the first Greyhound back to Cali. I chose option #2, and all the players started making it happen. Mark is a retired Air Force officer, a very intelligent guy, one of the nicest men I know and he's a generous guy, to boot. I couldn't be more grateful.

So I wait in Van Horn for a ride back home (to my wife and my Triumph dealer). As the ride ended, I made some decisions about my Triumph and any future long-distance rides. While I plan to continue riding -- a lot -- I will do so a bit differently. Destination riding is out. I'm not too fond of racing to a site I've already seen, snapping a quick photo, then racing on to the next site. I prefer to limit my riding days to under 400 miles and enjoy the ride AND the destination. As well, I plan to stick with my BMW for a while as I figure out my Triumph's future. I see a sale soon. The GAMA is not for me. I do plan to re-ride the USA 4 Corners Tour in 2012, though.

OK, folks, thanks for tuning in. ** THIS ENDS THE GAMA RIDE **

Epilogue: Wow, that didn’t go as planned! The ride wasn’t what I expected, though two episodes of mechanical failure on a bike will tend to sour the riding experience. The GAMA is what it is. If you’re interested in seeing those 12 sites, then this ride is for you. I had already seen all but three of the sites, and only one (Mt. Rushmore) really thrilled me. Like many motorcycle enthusiasts, I am not one for big cities or the traffic they offer. Chicago and New York are particularly nightmarish, and places to be avoided by motorcyclists whenever possible. Likewise, the I-95 isn’t a favorite route of mine. Arguably, it’s a necessary evil if you plan to tackle the East Coast, but not my cup of tea. The USA 4 Corners Tour and some of the Iron Butt rides I’ve done were enjoyable in that I wanted to go to the places that the rides entailed; with the GAMA — not so much; I don't recommend it.

I realized a few things on this ride:

• I don’t have 3+ weeks a year to spend on the road and I must select rides that I will enjoy. Perhaps retired guys would find 30 days of riding to the 12 GAMA sites enjoyable, but it’s not for me.
• I much prefer the lesser-traveled roads and interstates (I-20 and I-40 vs. I-95 and I-10).
• If riding with others (which I probably won’t be doing too much in the future), I must delineate ahead of time specific plans in the event of changes (due to side roads, breakdowns or differences of opinion). There is nothing inherently wrong with change, as long as it’s spelled out and understood ahead of time.
• I’m not really one for organized rides. I don’t like paying for them and I tend to enjoy choosing to stay in or pass through sites that catch my fancy. Or not. That being said, motorcyclists want to ride. They want to ride to and through interesting locales — I could visit the Grand Canyon 20 times and still want to return. But this ride reminded me that I want to be free from destination rides and focus more on the road beneath my wheels. Be safe out there!

GAMA:

I am preparing to leave for a 17-23 day ride around the Great USA. This is the GREAT AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE, or GAMA ride. I'll provide updates as I go, but here's the gist of my planned ride (from the website):

The Great American Motorcycle Adventure requires you ride to 12 destinations. The sites you visit are uniquely American such as the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center). It is a tour around the country on a 2 or 3 wheel motorcycle allowing you to visit remarkable American locations. Upon registering we provide you with pretty cool stuff including materials to organize the ride, sticker and license plate backer. Upon completion you will receive an Award Certificate, a custom designed pin similar to the logo. You will also be listed on the web site as an Adventure finisher. For an extra fee we put together a hard cover professionally bound photo book. Of course, this is optional. We aim to give you great value and most recently we partnered with Road Runner Motorcycle Touring magazine. Our first 25 registrants receive a one year subscription to their magazine. The first certified rides can begin anytime after the rider registers and receives their registration number. Click on the GAMA tab below to see brochures and download information from the COMING SOON page.

You can also print information on endurance rides from the COMING SOON page.
Until the we site is up registration forms will be e-mailed upon request. Be one of the first to ride the Great American Motorcycle Adventure!

www.GreatAmericanMotorcycleAdventure.com

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