Monday, June 27, 2011

What I know about Van Horn, Texas

I don't know a lot about Van Horn, but I wanted to tell you what I observed in the past 24 hours.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town had a population of 2,435 in 2000, with a total area of 2.9 square miles. From the looks of it, 1,435 have departed for other, better places and the remaining 1,000 denizens are all related in some way.

I counted over 30 hotels (all but two proudly advertise a rate of $29.95, though there aren't many takers) and half of those are closed/out of business. Maybe they should have charged $25.95, or maybe they should have opened hotels in other, better places.

This photo must be old, as at least two of the establishments shown (Best Western Hotel and GoodYear Auto) have since closed down. I noticed that at one of the closed down gas stations, the last sale on the rusted pump reflected 20 gallons of gasoline for $26.00. Not too shabby.

The folks here are pretty nice. Everyone is quick to talk to strangers and ask them why they're in town. The local citizenry asks lots of questions about how much motorcycles cost, why a traveler would come to Van Horn and other questions that require no answers...just sad chuckles.

The townsfolk that I met were eager to share stories, often painfully personal, about the other townsfolk with whom I'd interacted. I did not know that the tow truck driver was a philandering drunk who had swindled friends and family members out of money. I had no idea that the mechanic drank too much and was probably too hungover to come into work. How could I have known that I stayed in the wrong hotel in the worst part of town? The tow truck driver brought me to this hotel as his cousin worked here and would give me a discounted rate (how much can you discount $29.95, really?). And the "good" part of town has yet to be seen. Truth be told, I haven't walked the entire 2.9 miles yet, so maybe it gets a lot better.

It's hot in Van Horn and that may be why everyone left or is planning to leave. The die-hards can't explain what drew people here in the first place. Was it oil? Minerals? What would make people want to come -- and more curiously -- to STAY here? I could find no tangible answer to this mystery, even after asking several locals. The interviews did reveal a lot about the other townspeople, though.

Since it appears that not many families have swimming pools at their houses, they often use the hotel pools. I observed three families (actually six families arrived in 3 cars) enjoying a day at the pool of the hotel where I was staying. They brought picnic items and music and parked their cars directly in front of the pool area. Later, when it hit 102 degrees, more of their friends arrived to the delight of the actual hotel guests.

There are large, corporate gas stations on both ends of town, right off of the freeway exits. Those attract lots of travelers looking to get out of the heat and gas up as they get going east or west into more hot desert. The gas stations attract the locals, too, who congregate at the restaurant areas, much like you or I would meet at a local eatery. Entire families line up behind rolling hot dog machines and eat standing up near the gas pumps. They look at the travelers coming in and going out and don't say much unless approached.

TRAVELER: "How far is it to El Paso?"

LOCAL: "El Paso, Texas? My sister is in El Paso. At least she WAS. Ain't heard from her for two years. TWO YEARS, can you believe that? Over a lousy 50 bucks, too."

TRAVELER: "So, El Paso is close?"

LOCAL: "Oh, yeah, it's like a hunnert miles, but you wouldn't know that from her visits. She married some cop or something and they moved out of here. Bet she doesn't need that 50 dollars now."


And that's a common theme in Van Horn. Heat, people leaving, people talking about others leaving. Stuff like that.

Anyhow, that's my impression of Van Horn. But I don't know much about it as I was only passing though.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A true Triumph Rocket III motorcycle joke.

OK, here's your valuable gift for guessing correctly, a true Triumph Rocket III motorcycle joke:

A guy is riding along I-10 when he pulls alongside a cattle carrier.

One of the cows says, "Holy cow! Look at the size of the motor on that thing. It must be 140 cubic inches!"

The other cow says, "That's bigger than a Honda Civic engine!"



And the Rocket rider looks over and says, "Wow! Talking cows!"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The (not so) 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.


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 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... 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!


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!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

San Diego to Big Bear Lake Ride Report

San Diego to Big Bear Lake: Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ah, what to do for a long MLK weekend? Hmmm, nothing to do on a Saturday with rain on the way next week. OK, now for that 10,000 mile ride (Four Corners of the USA) in May. Gotta try out my new Aerostich RoadCrafter before the USA 4 Corners ride scheduled for later in the year. Big Bear!

I hit the road on my 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring at 11 am from La Mesa (outside of San Diego, CA) with a full tank of gas and iTunes playing through my Cardo-Scala Q2 (not great, but it kept me company).

The weather was sunny and brisk as I put her in 5th. A short jaunt down I-8 west to the I-15 north and my Rocket was indeed purring over miles of concrete slab.

MapQuest claimed it would take me 3 hours? Pffft! It wasn’t likely they knew I was straddling 2300cc of British engineering. I was heading up CA-330and CA-18 with snow in sight within 1 ½ hours (130 miles later).

The “snow chains required—no exceptions!” sign caused me little concern as I zipped up the twisties.

Traffic was light considering all of the families out for a snow day. There was snow on the ground at 6,000 feet, and it was chilly at 7,000. The passing lanes every couple of miles allowed me to pass drivers who insisted on driving the speed limit. Strange, but I saw only three other bikes while heading to Big Bear Lake City; unusual for a nice—if frosty—Saturday.

I reached the cute little downtown area as my odometer hit 148 miles—just about 2 hours. After a quick drink and a snack, I put on a few more pieces of cold weather gear while filling up at a local station. My face, feet and hands were a bit cold, though the RoadCrafter held up better than expected.

The road back to San Diego was uneventful—freeway driving usually is. Reaching home 2 hours later I realized, happily, that I’d achieved 45.5 MPG overall.

Not too shabby for a big ol’ Rocket of a bike.

Sunrise Highway Loop (San Diego area Motorcycle Ride)

Sunrise Highway Loop

Not a really long ride, but a nice loop in the San Diego area. The Sunrise Highway Loop sees over 5,000 feet in elevation changes as it takes the rider from I-8 through the Cleveland National Forest, the Anza-Borrego desert, Julian, Wynola, Ramona, Lakeside and Santee before returning to the I-8 freeway.

I left La Mesa, east of San Diego, at 11 AM on a Saturday morning. After about 33 miles of easy highway on I-8 east, I exited on Sunrise Highway, S-1. After 30 miles of truly beautiful riding, I found the 79 east and I entered Julian. Famous for its pies, apple cider and fresh bread, and tourists, Julian was packed with bikes of all flavors. Any little restaurant in Julian --such as the Julian Pie Company or Mom's--will offer tasty pie, coffee and cider.

I passed right through Julian and continued to Ramona via the 78 east-south. After about 30 miles of uneventful riding, nice countryside, not too crowded, I rolled through Ramona. Stop and go traffic, lights, etc.

Locating the 67 south, I opened it up a little and headed back toward the I-8. Though a well-made road, the 67 must have its share of accidents as there were more warning signs than vehicles. Stay Alive on 67! Also, there is a significant law enforcement presence to discourage speeding and dangerous driving.

I passed by Lakeside and Santee, and hit the 110 mile mark when I reached the I-8 again. Another 5 miles on the I-8 west and I was at my exit in La Mesa.

This ride is picturesque and easy going. No fast, heavy traffic and until I reached Julian, I only passed one RV and one car passed me. There are many opportunities to open up the throttle, if that's your thing. Also, a pleasant ride for those wanting to take in the sights.

There are many parts of this loop that require downshifting to 3rd and 4th gear to negotiate the twists and turns--not a bad thing! Also, there was a small amount of debris in and on the side of the roads to watch for--no real biggie.

I saw many other motorcycle enthusiasts enjoying the day, as well, and everyone waved and smiled as they zipped past.

In the San Diego area and have 2 hours or more to burn? This is a fantastic ride.

Trip total: 115 miles in 2 hours.

The entire Blue Ridge Parkway by Motorcycle in 3 days—May 10-12, 2007

Ride report: The entire Blue Ridge Parkway by Motorcycle in 3 days—May 10-12, 2007

This is a must for any rider who wants to see some of the best country in the Country. Not to be missed!

My three friends and I finished a very enjoyable 3-day ride of the BRP in May 2007; here's the gist of the ride:

Me and a friend departed Raleigh, NC on Wednesday morning. Another friend left the Winston-Salem, NC area. Still another rider left Church Road, VA. Our destination was Charlottesville, VA--the kick off of a 3-day motorcycle ride of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.

I'd researched just about all I could before departing and we were ready to go. We were hoping against rain, but looking forward to a nice ride.
We met at a Charlottesville hotel on the evening of Wednesday, May 9, 2007. We had breakfast, made final checks, gassed up and headed for The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Milepost Zero about 25 miles away.

The morning of Thursday, May 9th couldn't have looked better---a clear, sunny sky and brisk weather. We had some coffee and off we rode.

The quasi-visitor center by the BRP entrance was unremarkable and we almost missed it. There’s a small building tucked away behind a group of abandoned buildings/motels staffed by a very nice and very knowledgeable gentleman. We arrived as it opened at 9AM. We obtained maps and information about road closures (none) and gas stops, as well as dining and lodging recommendations.

The four of us rolled onto the parkway at 9:30 AM. I’d like to tell you we strictly followed the 45 mile per hour speed limit, but truthfully, we stayed between 40-50 MPH almost the entire route.

We stopped far too many times, as the views are really something to see. We pulled off the Parkway to eat and fill up on gas about every 3 hours or so, which provided an adequate rest. There are overlooks all over the place---each nicer than the last but not as nice as the next.

We hopped off the Parkway to have lunch at Buena Vista, a nice little town just a few miles off the BRP. Then we had coffee at Peaks of the Otter near Milepost 86. Right on a lake---a great view went well with some hot coffee.

At Milepost 174 we were at the Rocky Knob Cabins, out lodging for the evening. The lady who took my reservation didn’t have room for the four of us, but we were able to secure another cabin. After a buffet dinner in the nearby town, we headed back to the cabins for some relaxation and cold ones.

There were two other bike enthusiasts staying there, as well, and we had an interesting conversation that ended in me wearing her pink chaps. Photos at 11.

Linville Falls/Little Switzerland 316
Spruce Pine 331
Crabtree Meadows
Craggy Gardens 364
Folk Art Center 382
Mt. Pisgah 408
Waterrock Knob 451
Cherokee 469

Gasoline is not available on the parkway, but is available not far off the Parkway at many US or State Highway Intersections, including those below.

US 250 - MP 0
US 60 - MP 45.6
US 501 - MP 63.9
US 460 - MP 95.9
VA 24 - MP 112.2
US 220 - MP 121.4
US 58 - MP 177.7
US 52 - MP 199.4
VA 89 - MP 215.8

North Carolina
US 21 - MP 229.7
NC 18 - MP 248.1
NC 16 - MP 261.2
US 321 - MP 291.9
NC 181 - MP 312
US 221 - MP 317.5
NC 226 - MP 330.9
NC 226A - MP 334
US 70 - MP 382.4
US 74A - MP 384.7
NC 191 - MP 393.6
US 25 - MP 388.1
US 276 - MP 411.9
US 74/23 - MP 443.1
US 19 - MP 445.7

Rangers and volunteers present a variety of interpretive programs June through October. These are given on weekends and occasionally on weekdays. Activities include campfire talks, music and history demonstrations, nature walks and slide presentations. Program types and subject matter vary from area to area and week to week. Schedules are posted at visitor centers, campground entrances and Parkway concessions.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Iron Butt Assoc. 50CC (50 hours Coast to Coast) Ride Report: October 28-29, 2010

OK, folks, continuing with the motorcycle ride reports, here is a quick rundown on my IBA 50CC ride.

OK, folks, a quick update on my IBA 50CC ride. On October 28th @ 3 AM, I met with my friend and fellow IBA rider Steve in Old Town San Diego for the start of our coast to coast motorcycle ride. We needed to go about 2,300 miles in under 50 hours. Depending on how the ride went, we considered hitting the road almost immediately after arriving in Jax Beach and returning to San Diego to complete the 100CCC (coast to coast to coast in 100 hours).

SPOILER ALERT: We did not end up attempting the IBA 100CCC.

We hit the highway (I-10) after filling up and getting witness forms signed by the gas station attendant. We also snapped the very bad photo attached to this message!

Unbeknownst to me, Steve had gathered water and sand from the Pacific a few minutes earlier. Oh, well, I guess I skipped that part.

We hit the I-8 east and were over the mountains and in Yuma by our first stop. The sun was coming up and we were making pretty good time. The weather and traffic cooperated almost the entire time. It was a bit chilly throughout the ride (until East Florida) and we ran into some construction in Louisiana. Nothing major, either way.

We arrived in Kerrville, Texas, about 1,200 miles and 19 hours after we rolled out of San Diego. Tired and cold, we checked into a hotel and were asleep within minutes. The alarm sounded 5 short hours later and we were on the road in 20 minutes, en route to Jax Beach.

We encountered rush-hour traffic in San Antonio, but kept moving east, averaging about 70 MPH while moving and 62 MPH overall (stops included).

All gear was working perfectly. My Triumph Rocket III Touring was humming along nicely and my new Garmin Zumo 660 GPS unit was loaded with over 250 rockin' tunes, pumped into my helmet via my Cardo-Scala BlueTooth (glad I brought so much Southern Rock), but I longed for my heated vest--resting on my bed at home where I inadvertently left it. Steve had brought along a SPOT tracking device to let friends and family follow our progress on-line, but the unit wasn’t functioning properly.

We ran into heavy stop and go construction traffic in Baton Rouge, near the I-10/I-12 split. My GPS routed me to side streets as a detour, but the locals had already thought of that. An hour later, we were back on the I-12 and moving along.

Our 5 to 10-minute stops usually consisted of: A quick snack (banana/granola bar/juice) while gassing up, logging receipts on IBA forms, using the restroom and checking routes. The vast majority of our stops were under 7 minutes.

We saw few traffic enforcement folks on the highways and rarely slowed down to see the scenery. We passed a few vehicle accidents—some were a little too close.

We arrived to Jax Beach at about 5 AM, filled up to get the "close-out" receipt and headed straight to the hotel. We'd been riding for about 46 hours and 2,300 miles--well under the 50 hours allowed. The weather was warm and no one was on the road. It was time to check in, get the witness forms signed and hit the sack. We decided then that we wouldn't attempt the 100CCC, but take the long way home to enjoy The South, instead.

I woke up 6 hours later, refreshed and ready to ride. We ate some BBQ and plotted our route back to SoCal, specifically to avoid the I-10. The I-20 was selected as a great alternative and we were off and riding with Montgomery, Alabama -- 400 miles away -- as the intended stop. We arrived to Albany, Georgia 200 miles later as the sun was setting; it looked like a good place to stop and enjoy some Southern Comfort. We were swept into a large southern wedding reception taking place at the hotel. Those fine folks made us feel welcome as we sipped cold beers and ate fried green tomatoes.

We were up and rolling early, headed to the I-20 via Selma, Alabama and Meridian, Mississippi. We saw some historical sites and interesting characters along the way.

I'll tell ya, the I-20 is a sweet little piece of slab. It wasn't in as good of condition as the I-10, but it was a much more laid back ride. The weather cooperated all the way home (no rain) and we encountered no heavy gridlock, day or night. I never intentionally did the speed limit, opting instead to move with the flow of traffic (that’s 80+ MPH in Texas). We saw dozens of deer along the road---some were even alive. The deer whistles I installed on my bike last year must be doing their job as I never had any run in front of me.

We reached Deming, NM, late on November 1st and decided to stay there and get an early start on the final leg of the bike ride. By 6 AM the next morning, we were already 30 miles down the road watching the sun some up over the desert. We parted ways in Yuma as Steve wanted to sit down and eat (and rest) while I needed to get my bike to the dealer in San Diego by 4 PM. I made great time through El Centro and over the mountains, arriving at the Triumph dealer by 3 PM. I had ridden about 4,700 miles in 6 days and had racked up another IBA title: The Iron Butt 50 CC.

This is my 3rd IBA ride and, as much as I enjoy them, I'm tiring of them. Literally.

A rider doesn't see a lot of the country when going really fast. At night. On freeway slab.

I think I'll look at more interesting motorcycle tours in the future: Canada and Alaska, the National Parks, the Pacific Coast Highway. I'll keep you posted...

USA 4 Corners Tour Ride Report: May 25-June 10, 2010

I hope this USA 4 Corners Tour Update, from my May 25-June 10, 2010 ride, helps, or at least amuses, someone.

The USA 4 Corners ride is is a motorcycle tour and the entire distance must be ridden on your motorcycle; M/C with side cars and Trikes are considered motorcycles for this event. See

Sponsored by the Southern California Motorcycling Association.

The four (4) official checkpoints are:

1. San Ysidro, California;
2. Blaine, Washington;
3. Madawaska, Maine;
4. Key West, Florida.

There are no other checkpoints. SUBSTITUTES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE.

You may visit the four checkpoints in any sequence and by any route that you desire. You do not have to return to the first checkpoint to finish this event.

You start the event by visiting the first checkpoint of your choice and by mailing the required proof of visit information in the stamped, pre-addressed envelope provided.

You are allowed Twenty-One (21) days total time to complete this event. Time will be measured on the postmarked dates on the checkpoint envelopes mailed by you. The first day is the date of the postmark on the envelope you mail from the first checkpoint. There are no time extensions given to anyone for repairs, flat tires, rain, cold, illness, etc.

You must take a photo of your motorcycle at each checkpoint, parked next to a building or marker; such as a police station, post office, public library, city limits sign, monument or landmark that clearly shows the checkpoint city name.

You will be declared a finisher of this event after the committee has received, reviewed, and accepted your photos and proof of visit information for all four checkpoints. The decision of the committee is final.

I completed the USA 4 Corners Tour on Monday, June 6, 2010, when I rolled into Key West, Florida, 7,000 miles after I left home at Midnight on May 25.

Staying with friends and family, and at roadside hotels and campsites along the way, I was on the road since midnight on May 25, when I departed San Ysidro. After completing a 1,000-mile ride the first day (to Albany, OR, in 18 hours -- my first Iron Butt ride), I stopped by the other three corners, averaging about 500 miles a day.

Typical for this time of year, I encountered a "little weather” along the way. I ran into rain in the Pacific Northwest and New England, and heat in the Southeast and Southwest. The weather varied between sweltering and chilly as I went through Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to reach Sault Sainte Marie where I crossed into Canada. The fine Customs and Border Protection folks at the SSM port of entry offered me a VIP tour of their POE when I arrived.

I rode almost 1,000 miles though Canada, stopping overnight in Montreal. Brushing up on French terms definitely came in handy. I met some nice Canadians (self-described as "a couple idiots in a bar") who explained in clear, beer-fueled French Canadian, the differences between Americans and Canadians. Bottom line: Not much.

I crossed back into the US at Ft. Kent, Maine, where US Highway 1 begins. I arrived to Madawaska – my 3rd corner – just a few minutes later where I joined my friend and fellow Southern California rider, Steve; having left San Ysidro 8 hours before I did, he had arrived in Madawaska via Canada just 2 hours before me. Talk about great timing!

We checked into Madawaska's finest motel (Martin’s) then hit the only bar in town. “Chug a Mug” is the last of 27 bars standing after the economy devastated local businesses.
There was no shortage of characters there. Bartender Lana, professional barfly “Bucket” and local pool hustlers Jamie and Amy were all Acadians — a French/ Indian mix that resides along the St. Johns River. These warm, wonderful people impressed me as excellent representatives of Madawaskans, Mainers, Acadians and Americans in general.

Note to self 1: Do NOT drink whatever the locals put in front of you — even if it's free — if you have an early day and a long ride ahead of you the next day. The salted shallots and specialty drinks were tasty, but yikes!

Note 2: The 4 Corners Tour is a big part of Madawaska and the locals have gone all out in putting together a really beautiful memorial for the riders who have undertaken this ride. Jamie from the pub was proud to tell me that his father, James Morneault, successfully completed the USA 4 Corners Tour in 2005.

On June 1st, Steve and I stopped by Houlton, Maine, to see a friend on our way to Augusta. It rained on us gently for the next 2 days. I stayed with friends in Augusta as my bike was serviced (tires and an oil change) at the Triumph dealer. Blue Knights folks supported me along the way—in Michigan, Maine and Florida.

We left the next day for a short ride to the Foxwoods Resort and Casino near Norwich, CT, where Steve took almost $500 off their poker tables (that’s OK—they got it back at the dinner table). Passing through New Hampshire and Massachusetts, we learned what Mass drivers are called — and why.

The next day I accompanied Steve to an exit in New York where we parted ways: He stopped to see Orange County Choppers on his way to visit family in Pennsylvania as I headed to Raleigh, NC, 650 miles away. A series of questionable routes turned a 650-mile 10-hour day into an 820-mile 14-hour day! I rolled into Raleigh after 11 PM on June 3rd and stayed with a good friend (see a pattern here?).

An easy 700-mile ride landed me at my mother-in-law's house in Tampa, FL, late on June 4th. I stayed an extra day to recuperate, leaving for Key West on the morning of Sunday, June 6th.

A leisurely 450-mile ride brought me to Key West by 1 PM. I was fortunate to enjoy nice weather while in Florida. By nice, I mean it was sweltering, buggy, hot and humid — but no lightening or thunder showers. I snapped the obligatory "southernmost point" photo,

thus completing my USA 4 Corners ride. Coincidentally, US Highway 1 ends in Key West, 2,390 miles after its start in Ft. Kent, Maine. I stayed as a guest of the US Government at NAS Key West’s Basic Officer’s Quarters, just a short distance from Duval Street.

I had travelled 7,032 miles in 12 days. It was then just a matter of "several" margaritas and 3,000 miles back to San Diego via the American Southwest — piece of cake. That got me to contemplating an interesting return home. I settled on an Iron Butt Saddle Sore 2000—two consecutive 1,000-mile days sounded fun…at the time.

After a brief rest, I was ready for the trip home. Leaving Tampa at 7 AM on June 8, I enjoyed an easy ride to Houston, Texas, in about 15 hours. The weather cooperated and the I-10 Westbound was like an old friend — familiar and easy-going. In Houston, I rested overnight while it stormed outside. I started off the second 1,000-mile ride at 8 AM the next day. That’s when the weather changed.

I encountered rain, wind, thunder, lightning — and more rain — between Houston and San Antonio. I’m used to riding in difficult weather and rain rarely if ever stops me from making forward progress. This time, however, good sense prevailed over a need for speed and I hunkered down at a small gas station with several other motorists while the storm passed. The travel gods seemed determined to foil my plans as wind gusts, heavy traffic, construction and more weather conspired to keep me in Texas. Passing through another time zone, I stopped briefly for a Whataburger in El Paso before continuing on to Tucson. I was drowsy and tried all the tricks I knew to remain alert. Singing loudly to myself did little to keep me awake as I rode through long stretches of desert highway in the warm night air and into the midnight hour. Unlucky lizards and an occasional cactus were the only witnesses to how bad a full-volume, off-key “Louie, Louie” sounded at 1 AM.

I rolled into a Chevron station at 1:08 AM where the clerk witnessed the necessary forms and pointed me to a nearby resting place. I caught 4 hours of much-needed sleep on the parking lot next to my bike before pushing on to San Diego. By noon on June 10, I arrived home to waving flags, signs, banners and video cameras courtesy of my wife and well-wishing neighbors. I was tired but in high spirits, pleased to have completed such and enjoyable ride. I’d seen some beautiful parts of the country and met the good folks, described as the fabric of America, from the back of a steel horse. Hmm. Where shall I ride next year?

The Good, the Bad and the Unleaded:


· 9,864: # of miles completed from start to finish.
· 7,032: # of miles specifically ridden during the USA 4 Corners Tour.
· 27: # of US states passed through during ride.
· 2: # of Canadian provinces passed through during ride.
· 956: # of miles ridden through Canada.
· 3: # of 1,000+mile days.
· 3: # of law enforcement encounters.
· 0: # of speeding tickets.
· 0: # of accidents.
· 6+: # of “close calls.”
· $2.54 Average cost of a gallon of gas.
· $690: Cost of fuel.
· $665: Cost of bike maintenance.
· 29: # of signs (in 80+ degree weather) warning of the possibility of icy bridges.
· 1: # of times I ran out of gas at 80 MPH and coasted to a gas station conveniently off the I-10.
· 15+: # of guys who told me during roadside exchanges that they wished they were doing this ride.
· 7: # of times my Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face” patch elicited nice comments or “thumbs up.”
· 20+: # of times a large bug smashed into my windshield moments after I’d cleaned it.
· 1: # of times I used my tent.
· 1: # of times my wife predicted I’d use my tent.
· 5+: # of times my wife told me, prior to the ride, that I was too old to sleep on the ground in a tent.

The Gear (in order of usefulness):

· 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring: 2294 cc’s/140 cubic inches of good-looking, road-eating motorcycle.
· Aerostich RoadCrafter riding suit: The “Stich” is costly but worth every penny. It was little hot in Florida and Texas and not quite warm enough in Michigan and Montana, but a necessary piece of riding gear.
· Sidi Canyon Gore-Tex boots: Again, costly but well worth it. My feet were comfortable and dry the entire time. Never too hot or too cold. Great gear for the serious rider.
· Custom-made saddle. A local upholster made this for me before I left. A little costly, and it looks like a large blue marshmallow, but this is why my butt never ached during the ride.
· Garmin StreetPilot 2650 GPS unit with RAM motorcycle mount: This older GPS unit did the trick, although I plan to upgrade to a Garmin Zumo soon (mainly for the BlueTooth capability).
· Cardo-Scala Q2 helmet BlueTooth set: Allows the rider to answer phone calls and listen to music while rolling down the road at…a reasonable rate of speed. One of my favorite pieces of riding equipment.
· Bobster sunglasses with prescription inserts and interchangeable lenses: These sunglasses have worked well for over 15,000 miles, since I purchased them in Yellowstone in 2008.
· Microsoft Zune 120 GB digital media player: With 10,482 songs loaded in my MP3 player, I didn’t hear any songs twice. I prefer this to the iPod.
· Military Gore-Tex rain gear: This lightweight Marine Corps camo rain gear has always worked for me.
· Woodblaster protective bike shorts: The gel-padded shorts were cool and comfortable under my Stich.
· Kruzer Kaddy handlebar-mounted cup holder: Allowed me to safely and easily hydrate while riding.
· Custom Accessories deer alert whistles (2): Maybe nothing more than superstition, but I hit none of the many, many deer I passed along the way. Plus, they were “chrome.”
· Aerostich Elk skin gloves: These were terrible in cold and wet weather. I wanted to toss these $120 gloves in the garbage, but then how would I have sent them back to Aerostich? Too bad, Aerostich usually puts out better quality products.