Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moab Area - Day #3

This would be our last day of riding these scenic roads and national parks in the Moab area. Last night, after a good dinner, I went back to my room to catch the last episode of The Biggest Loser. I had already decided that, rather than ride the route down to Natural Bridges, I would finish up the two parks I missed yesterday: Deadhorse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky area.

As I walked out to my bike this morning to prepare for the day's ride, a small group of off-road riders were getting ready to depart. They were going to go play in the mud and snow on top of the La Sal Mountains.

Mike and John pulled into the parking lot, no doubt looking to see what other folks had planned for the day. Their plans were exactly the same as mine, so we agreed to ride together. Claye was trying to decide whether to join the off-road riders today and in the end decided to go with us to Canyonlands and Deadhorse Point.

It wouldn't be as hot today as it had been the last two days, and this was a blessing. Shade is a rare commodity in these parks and the sun is strong at these high altitudes. We headed north to UT-313 and somehow I found myself in the lead. Some nice switchbacks quickly gained 1,000 feet of elevation and there were some nice views off to the right of some (surprise!) red rock cliffs. Looking in my rearview mirror, I saw that I'd lost the group, and thought maybe they'd pulled into the overlook.

I decided to continue to the Deadhorse Point turnoff and wait for them, since I was beginning to get my fill of red rocks at this point. But soon I saw Claye gaining on me rapidly and I let her pass me, knowing that she wanted to get ahead of us for some photo ops. Sure enough, she was parked at the turn for Deadhorse Point and got some photos of us as we each made the turn.

At the visitor center, we spent a lot of time looking at the spectacular views down into the Colorado River valley below and taking photographs of the view, the flora, of each other. Claye handed her camera to a young man who looked like he knew something about photography, and he got this really great shot:

Then it was on to the Deadhorse point overlook about a mile and a half further on. Here we could see the spot where they filmed the final scene for the movie, Thelma and Louise. The park ranger pointed out the exact spot for us.

90 degrees around the bend to the right is a spire-like pinnacle where a scene from Mission Impossible II was filmed. We could see White Rim trail easily from here. The rough-road riders in our group rode on this trail the previous day.

The views from this point seem to go on forever, looking south across huge expanses of rough and desolate canyonlands. Again the feelings of vague and indescribable oppressiveness began to overwhelm me, much as they did yesterday when I was at Arches National Park. The vastness....the desolation....the lack of any vegetation....the lack of shade I found to be almost frightening.

Now we backtracked out of the park and continued west to the entrance to Canyonlands National Park. This is the Island in the Sky unit of this park, on the north end. We stopped and Claye took a great group photo of us in front of the park sign, and then we proceeded to the visitor center for the national park stamp. We would go to the Green River overlook then on down to the Grand Viewpoint Overlook.

At Green River overlook we had an excellent view of the Colorado River where it has created an unusual canyon in the valley floor below. The heights were dizzying, with views around three sides of this overlook and we got some great photos of each other as we played around on the rocks, getting as close to the edge as each of us dared (some closer than others). Claye took this of me, this is as close as I could bring myself. Ugh!!

By this point I was starting to get very hungry. It was about 1:00 PM and I had eaten only a light breakfast at 6:00 AM. The Cliff's bar I had in my purse put only a small dent in my hunger, so I was ready to head back to town and look for food. Even the enormous stash of food that Claye had in her topcase didn't tempt me as much as a juicy burger! LOL! But now I know who to go to if I ever get hungry on the road with her!

I rode back to Moab and the motel where I found Greg sitting in the shade with his laptop. I changed into shorts and sandals and joined him, unloading photos from my camera and onto my computer while I waited for the rest of the group to return for lunch. I was charged with the task of finding a good place to eat, and got a good recommendation from Greg, who'd walked into town earlier that day.

When the rest of the group arrived, I gave them the lunch info. They rode on into town and I walked, catching up with them soon enough. It was a cute place called Red Rock cafe, and we chowed down on good sandwiches and showed each other our photos of the day. It was a late lunch, so I wasn't hungry for supper when the others began to make their plans. Besides, it was just so nice to sit in that shady little park in front of the motel!!

Tomorrow: beginning the journey back home, with a couple of national parks along the way. Tucumcari will be the stopping point for the night.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moab Area - Day #2

Lots of stories from yesterday's riding were shared as we gathered at the Broken Oar for dinner last night. And lots of plans were being made for today's riding. The group would break up into even smaller groups of 2, 3, 4 riders for the next day's outings. Some would head into Arches National Park and Canyonlands, some would ride 128 again, some would head into the La Sal mountains for some off-road riding.

I awoke with a bit of a headache, sort of like a hangover headache but without the hangover. Gosh darned it! The least I could have done was earned the headache by imbibing in some of the fine local microbrews!

I had decided to do Arches National Park and then see how I felt. If the headache persisted, I would go back into town afterward, have lunch, and then just chill out at the motel sitting in the shade and enjoying a cool drink. I was going to head out alone, and was just getting ready to start up the bike when Claye walked up and asked what my plans were. We decided to ride the park together. This would be fun, as I always enjoy riding with Claye! We both needed gas and we regrouped in front of the motel and then headed toward Arches, just a few miles north of town.

It was only 9:00 AM but already the cars were streaming into the park. A group of four MTF'ers were entering the park just ahead of us as Claye and I stopped to take the required photo at the entrance sign, and we then went through the entrance gate and to the visitor center.

Claye got a great photo of us and our bikes at the entrance:

We met up with Joe and Deb who had plans to spend the day in the park doing some hiking. If I hadn't felt so puny, I might have joined them. I had compression shorts on under the riding pants and my running shoes in the topcase. I'll just have to come back!!

Back on the bikes, we worked our way up the series of switchbacks to the high plateau upon which this national park sits. The air seems almost rarified and the sunlight unfiltered by atmosphere, giving a brilliant, yet harsh white cast to the distant views. I pulled into the Park Avenue overlook, our first glimpse of the rock formations that created this weird and otherworldly landscape. According to the park leaflet, unstable underground salt beds from ancient seas cause the shifting and buckling and ultimate fissures that lead to the formation of "fins." As these fins erode, they either are reduced to spires or underlayers fall away to create arches. It's fascinating! The Park Avenue formations are mostly spires and fins, and it's easy to envision how the erosion progresses by looking at these. I took some photos and a panoramic video of this natural valley-like formation. The massiveness of these formations just doesn't translate well into photographs!

We agreed to proceed to the side road that would take us to the Windows section of the park but before getting there we would pass the turnout for Balanced Rock. We parked the bikes and as we walked toward the rock formation I spied an older couple trying to get an optical illlusion photograph of the man holding up a fin formation to the left of balanced rock. We stopped and chatted and they said they'd tried to do the same for the Balanced Rock but were unable to figure it out. They walked away and Claye wanted to give it a try. She scouted a slight hump of sand, bolstered by a small log and had me stand at that spot. Then she started crawling around on the ground below me, looking for that perfect angle to get the illusion that I'm holding up the rock. It took plenty of instructions - raise your arm; lower your arm; turn your hand; lift your palm, etc - before she was satisfied with the shot. Then I took her photo, and when the older couple came by again, we took their photo. In the midst of this, Dan and Janie from our MTF group walked up and fired off some candid shots of Claye as she writhed and squirmed on the ground to get just the right angle for the couple's shot. Here's Claye, making sure Balanced Rock stays up:

Claye caught me taking a swig of Gatorade:

The landscape is so stark and sterile that I found it almost oppressive. How do these scrubby little bushes survive up here? Where there wasn't brush, there was sand, and were there wasn't sand, there was petrified dunes which looked like concrete had been poured over the top of the sand, creating an otherworldly effect.

It was beginning to get very hot, as well, and I let Claye know that after we went to the Windows formations I was going to start heading back toward town, having seen as much of this park as I cared to. We continued to the turnoff for Windows rocks and when we got to the parking area we got off the bikes and took some photos. Coming down this spur road, I could see several arches. the North and South Windows ahead, a cool tunnel-like arch off to the left. And at the bottom of the road, at the parking area, some excellent arches and near-arches beginning to form on some of the fins.

After some debate as to whether to make the rather long walk to the Windows, we decided we were both on the same page as far as physical exertion in that heat went. Claye rode on up ahead to find a turnout to get some photos of me and my bike underway. These didn't turn out so well, so Claye got ahead of me again, wanting to get photos of me riding back down the switchbacks.

As I passed the Courthouse rock formations, I could see Claye in the turnout in front of a tour bus and surrounded by people. I pulled over at the next turnout to wait for her, thinking she'd gotten sidetracked by tourists. Well, she a way. An elderly tourist with that group was unable to hike back on a trail and they asked Claye to seek assistance. She took off and I took off after her, catching up with her at the visitor center at the bottom of the mountain. She got the park rangers onto that situation. Some of our MTF group were in the parking lot and they convinced me to go with them into town for lunch. At this point, it didn't take too much convincing. I was ready to eat and find somewhere to sit in the cool or shade.

I followed Ray into town and he pulled into a convenient parking lot near several restaurants. The first one we chose was severely understaffed and after standing there for 10-15 minutes then watching the sole clerk answer the phone and proceed to take a phone order, we turned around and walked out. A great little Italian restaurant next door had a wonderful covered outdoor eating area and we were quickly taken care off. I was keeping half an eye out for Claye, since she said she was going to find the interagency office and check for a national park stamp before finding us and joining us for lunch. Sure enough! She rode past and we all waved at her.

After lunch, I headed back to the motel where I quickly changed into shorts and sandals, took some Advil, and joined Janie who was sitting under the trees enjoying a Frostie. Hmmm! That looks like the perfect after-lunch treat! But Claye and I had an even better idea! We walked across the street to the Maverick convenience store, bought some cold drinks and pints of ice cream and then enjoyed them in the shade back at the motel.

I was perfectly content to just sit there for the rest of the afternoon. Several of us swapped SD cards and downloaded each other's photos onto our laptops and just generally chilled out for the rest of the day. Other riders starting arriving and joined us in the shade. Soon I sensed some commotion behind me and I turned and saw that "Beemerchef" - Ara Gureghian - had ridden up in his BMW sidecar rig with his companion, Spirit. Ara maintains a blog entitled Oasis of My Soul and posts regular updates at several forums including LDRider and IBA forum. He saw our motorcycles (mostly BMW's and GoldWings) and was curious who we were and what we were doing in Moab. It was a very pleasant surprise!

This evening our dinner reservations were at the Moab Brew Pub on the other side of town and many of us piled into the two pickup trucks that came to Moab, rather than ride our motorcycles down there. The food was good but I was still digesting that whole pint of ice cream! Tonight was the final episode of The Biggest Loser on TV so I retired to my room - rather unsocial of me, I know - so that I could watch it. I'd gotten so hooked on this show, and it's the only TV show I've watched in several years! I just couldn't miss the finale! I had let others know what ride I planned to do the next day, and if anyone wanted to join me they were welcome to, but I would do the ride alone otherwise.

Tomorrow: Catching the parks I missed today, including Deadhorse Point and Canyonlands.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Riding at Moab Day #1

The parking lot at Adventure Inn was buzzing with activity by 7:00 AM Monday morning as riders started congregating, preparing to get on the road for day 1 of riding these fantastic roads.
The riders starting leaving in small groups of 2 to 4 bikes but we would cross paths with many of these small groups throughout the day. Our route today would be over 300 miles on the best motorcycle roads east Utah and west Colorado have to offer: UT-46, CO-90, CO-141, the road through Colorado National Monument, and UT-128. Four of us - Greg, Rob, Claye and I - pulled out of the parking lot at around 8:40 AM and headed south on US-191 toward UT-46.

UT-46 started out relatively flat and straight but soon enough picked up a few kinks and turns as we headed east toward Colorado. The road number changes to CO-90 over the state line and began to lose altitude rapidly through a series of switch-backs. Claye and Rob rode ahead to find a pullout, where they pulled over and took photos of me and Greg as we rode by. Rob caught this photo of me, Greg and Claye (farthest back) as we came around one of the curves.

We met up with three other riders in our group and played leap-frog with them as they stopped at pullouts then raced ahead to pass us. We dropped into a green, wide valley and 20 or so miles later we met CO-141 and turned left.

This road was amazing!! it ran between high red sandstone bluffs for miles.
Soon we came up upon a moving billboard - the kind they use along highways to announce upcoming construction - and it said cattle in road. Immediately after that we started seeing huge amounts of manure in the roadway and it continued for a few miles. Then, up ahead, we saw them. A huge herd of cattle being herded by several horseback riders and many herd dogs.
Riding up to such a spectacle was surreal!! Many cows, many, many calves and a dozen or more herd dogs continued along both shoulders and up the middle of the road as we approached. It took some coaxing by Rob and Claye to start creating a path through the middle of this. As the cattle parted, I inched forward, small calves bleating at me as I pass them just inches away. As we worked our way toward the head of the herd, a giant black and white bull decided he wanted to cross the road right in front of me. He hesitated, I hesitated, he stepped forward, I slowed down even more. We had a stand-off going. But he was a whole lot bigger than me and I wasn't about to demand my right-of-way. But then he stepped back a bit and I scooted past him. In my rear view mirror I could see that the bull then decided to step on out across the roadway and Greg stopped to let him cross.

That was one of the many high points of today's ride for me. We continued toward Gateway where we'd planned to have lunch. But I didn't know how far that would be and I was in need a "comfort station." Finally, with the roadway all to myself (Claye, Rob, and Greg had pulled over to chat with another small group who had pulled over) I took advantage of that and pulled over. As I was heading toward some rocks along the roadside that would give me some privacy, Claye pulled up just about then and kept guard for me.

With the four of us back together again, we headed on toward Gateway which was, as it turned out, only 11 miles up the road, and had a nice relaxed lunch at the deli located in this oasis in the middle of nowhere. From here, the road followed along the river through a gorge, which was gorgeous. High red walls surrounded us and the road presented many S-curves as it followed the contours of these walls and the river. At one point I came around a curve and came upon a small yellow SUV stopped right in the middle of the road. I assumed they'd spotted bighorn sheep or some other large animal but was too busy bringing my motorcycle to a stop to be able to spot what they'd seen. Greg, who was behind me, said there were two bighorns standing in or near the river and that was what they were looking at.
Once we got into Grand Junction, we all gassed up and headed to Colorado National Monument park. Immediately after going through the south entrance station, the road started a rapid climb through a series of switch-backs. It took us to a plateau atop the mountain, where the road brought us past some breathtaking views to the north of large gorges and the high desert beyond. The road S-curved in and out of a series of these large gorges with occasional elevation changes until it brought us several miles later to the visitor center.
Claye positioned herself at the top of a switchback to capture these photos of me at the start of the switch back, at the next level down(zoomed in) and then Greg, who was right behind me.

There was a fabulous view off the back deck of the center. It was soon time to leave the park down another series of switch-backs to the north entrance and then a few miles up the road we were on I-70 heading west. At this point it was just me and Greg, as we left Claye and Rob behind at the visitor center.
Our final road of the day would be UT-128 which would take us south to Moab. It was flat and featureless for the first few miles but! As we neared the river, we began to see dramatic sandstone cliffs in multiple shades of deep red and maroon. A pullout presented us with a terrific photo opportunity. Note the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the background and the deep red pinnacles in front of them.

Finally back at the motel in Moab, I was tired but pleased with the ride today. We covered close to 350 miles of non-stop challenging roads!

Tomorrow: Arches National Monument and perhaps Canyonlands...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

From Farmington NM to Moab

Last night was spent at a Comfort Inn in Farmington NM after an eventful day on the road and a few hours spent at a BMW dealer in Santa Fe for repairs. Today will be a short and easy day, just 200 miles or so to Moab.

Since I got in to Farmington late - 7:00 PM - I didn't get to the Aztec Ruins national park, so considered backtracking a little to get that stamp this morning before heading to Moab. But as I walked out to my bike to pack my gear, two fellows sitting in the breakfast room jokingly said something about "biker trash" so I had to sit and chat with them for an hour or so. One was from Salt Lake City, the other from Oregon but they'd known each other for many years. One rode an FJR and the other a GoldWing trike, which he and his wife bought last year at Sturgis, trading in their two-wheeled GoldWing after deciding he could no longer handle the weight and size. He was headed to Durango to pick up his 13 year old grandson and bring him back to Oregon with him. He said that his grandson had chosen the route and, being a homeschooled boy, he hoped there would be some history credits in that trip. It sounded like a great itinerary.

So now it was 10:00 AM and I jettisoned the plan to get the Aztec Ruins stamp. So I let the GPS lead me out of Farmington and onto some really fabulous roads to get to Moab. I took US-64 west to US-491 north and into Colorado. It was relatively flat with the occasional butte or two jutting up off the high desert floor as I neared my turn onto US-160 west. The Garmin was showing a turn about 12-14 miles ahead onto SR-41. After my experience on SR-3 in New Mexico, I was unsure of the quality of this highway. But as I neared the turn, I could see a big 18-wheeler turning off of this state road onto US-160 so knew it would be a good road. And it was. It started out flat and straight but as it got further north it began to get a little more interesting but not terribly technical.

As the road neared the town of Montezuma Creek it ran along side the San Juan River for a while. This was a fast-moving muddy river that had, over the millenia, carved a nice little valley and I rode along with the river to my left and high bluffs to my right.

At Montezuma Creek I turned onto SR-262 which was gorgeous! A few miles up the road and it presented a couple of elevation-changing switch-backs. The road surface was very rough going through this section, and the bike hopped and bounced along through the tight turns. A check on the GPS showed an elevation change of 600-700 feet through here.

This road met 191 not too far south of Blanding, where I stopped for gas and a short break. I was now less than 100 miles from Moab. This was a gorgeous drive, and I was surprised at the amount of vegetation. I expected it to be more desolate than it was. Huge red bluffs, smoothed by time and erosion, rose on either side of the highway for miles. As I neared Moab, the elevation dropped gently and gradually until the road dropped me into downtown Moab.

There was a lot of traffic - cars, jeeps, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles - and every gas station was loaded with customers at the pumps. I filled up at a gas station just on the south end of the main street and then continued on to motel. A few folks were already there when I checked in and so I quickly changed out of riding gear and a few of us settled into chairs in the shade to watch one of our group change the chain and rear sprocket on his V-Strom.

After a good dinner at Eddie McStiff's restaurant, and some good visiting afterward, I quickly crashed.

Tomorrow: ride to Colorado Monument National Park and some good roads to get there.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Little Trouble Enroute To Moab

Oy, what a day!!

Last night I made it into Amarillo after riding all afternoon in 95+ degree temps through the TX panhandle. Getting off the interstate to go to my hotel, I couldn't shift down from 6th gear. With some effort, I finally got it to start shifting down, and just chalked it up to rider error.

So this morning I thought nothing of it as I headed back to I-40 to head west. The bike shifted just fine. It was very cool and cloudy this morning so I had my jacket liner on underneath my Olympia Airglide jacket. The further west I got, as the altitude increased, it started to get even cooler and the cloud cover began spitting rain.

My next gas stop was Santa Rosa NM where I determined that I would add another layer - a fleece pullover - for warmth. But as I started down the exit ramp, again the bike would not shift down at first. Double-clutching seemed to help get things going and it would then shift down through the remaining gears. I began to think about what the problem could be. My first thought was shift linkage problems...maybe something out of alignment or something.

I saw two Harley riders at the gas station...both wearing chaps and leather jackets, no helmets...and I wondered how they were handling the cold - it was 46 degrees at this point. Gassed up and ready to go, I headed back onto the interstate. Upshifts now seemed a little jerky so I knew something was definitely amiss but thought that once in Moab I'd be surrounded by other riders, many of whom are quite knowledgeable about BMW's, and maybe one of them could take a look at the problem. At this point, it didn't seem too serious.

My plans were to take NM-3 north to I-25 to Pecos National Park. As I exited the interstate, downshifting was extremely hard and the clutch action seemed softer than usual. Now I was starting to worry a little. As I turned onto NM-3 I saw the rickety cattle-guard and a little further on, the sign that said " Narrow, steep road with sharp curves. Not recommended for trucks or trailers." Now I'm really starting to worry.

The road was indeed very narrow and didn't look to be in very good condition. My immediate thought given the shift and clutch problems was, "This is a mistake!" I should have taken the safe but oh-so-boring US-84 up to Las Vegas NM. According to S&T it would be the same distance, but probably faster and safer. But I'm committed now, so I pressed forward.

At first the road was straight with few surprises, just some radical dips across dry low water crossings. But then the road started to climb and I was forced to start using the shifter as I slowed for the sharp turns and to manage the steep grades. But shifting at this point was extremely difficult and I very soon figured out what was wrong. I determined that there was something wrong with the clutch. The action seemed lighter than normal, and pulling the clutch lever in didn't seem to be releasing the clutch, as there would be no change to engine RPM. I figured out that if I pumped the clutch a couple of times, I could then work the shifter smoothly, but this wasn't going to work well on this road. I would need to shift quickly to adjust to the rapidly changing road conditions. So I put the bike in second gear and left it there. Posted speeds on this road were anywhere from 10 mph to 55 mph so 2nd seemed to be working just fine. But it was still a nerve-wrackinig experience.

I made it to I-25 where I turned south and rode a short ways to my exit for the Pecos national park. Once at the visitor center the bike nearly stalled as I came to a stop. There was something really wrong with the clutch! I could move the bike forward with the throttle even as I held the clutch all the way in. I played with a bit and confirmed that pumping the clutch a few times brought it back. It was just like when there's air in the brake lines and pumping the brake brings them back. So there has to be a clutch fluid leak somewhere.

I knew there was a BMW dealer in Santa Fe so pulled out my BMW MOA Anonymous book and looked for the address, then entered it into the GPS. It was only 17 miles away and looked to be very close to the interstate. This was good. I could get up on the freeway and not have to shift until I got near the dealer. And if I got off the interstate and the bike broke down completely, I'd only be a mile or so away from the dealer at that point.

Once in Santa Fe and off the highway, shifting was nearly impossible. I had to negotiate three red lights before making the turn into the dealer's and it was all I could do to keep the bike from stalling as I came to a stop at each light. I left it in 1st gear between each of the lights and hoped I made it.

Finally! I pulled into the dealer's and into the really cool service drive and as I came to to a stop the bike stalled as I expected it would. I wasn't even off the bike when the service manager was out the door and standing next to me. I explained the problem and a technician, who had followed the service manager out the door, quickly confirmed it by reaching down and sticking his hand under the bike, only to come back up with clutch fluid on his hand.

I was very lucky! They had ordered a clutch slave cylinder for another customer but never used it and were getting ready to send it back. Wow! About that time, the sales manager came out and, listening to this, said he'd have been willing to remove one from a new bike just to get me back on the road. By now I was getting really impressed with the folks at this dealership!

Fortunately, I had planned a fairly easy day today, and only had about 150 more miles to my next night's destination. So I wasn't worried. But even if I had to wait for parts, I had resigned myself to spending a few days in Santa Fe. But with all the needed parts in stock, I wouldn't need to fulfill that plan.

The dealership offered me the use of a bike while waiting, but with no need to get anywhere, I chose to just stay and wait. The parts manager offered to drive me to a nearby C-store to buy some food and I kindly accepted his offer. Every step of the way, the mechanic kept me apprised of the status. At one point, after he had the whole rear-end of the bike disassembled, he came and got me and showed me what the problem was. The San Diego BMW dealer did the same thing when they fixed my paralever bushing a year ago. I appreciate that, and like knowing what's wrong and how it will get fixed.

In chatting with the service manager, he mentioned that he had a couple of other riders in earlier today who were also heading to Moab. Surely a coincidence, he said, since it's a popular destination. He said one of the riders needed a new coil. I asked him if their names happened to be Fletcher and Don by any chance. I mentioned this since I knew from their SPOT locations, that their route was very similar to mine and that they were just a few hours ahead of me. In fact, it was Fletcher and Don! He said Fletcher was from Mississippi many Fletchers are there who live in Mississippi and ride a BMW?! Tonight, looking at Don's SPOT, I see that we missed each other at the dealership by no more than 30 minutes!

The treatment and service I got from Santa Fe BMW today was exemplary! I will nominate them for a Gold Dealer at the MTF forum.

I was finally back on the road at 4:30 PM, with 150 miles to go to Farmington NM. A quick stop for gas in Bernalillo and I was headed north on US-550. What a fabulous road! Four-lane, high speed sweepers, I made quick time to Farmington and had great scenery along the way! Red bluffs and buttes lined the highway for the first half of those 150 miles. These began to give way to lower, buff-colored buttes and eventually the terrain settled into flat high desert. Much of the way was at 7,000 ft, according to the elevation signs posted along the way. I made it to the hotel by 7:00 PM with daylight fading and walked across the street to Village Inn restaurant for a late dinner.

Tomorrow: I may or may not back-track to Aztec Ruins National park before heading north to Moab.

Friday, May 8, 2009

First Day on the Road to Moab

8:15 AM and on the road and already I was second-guessing my decision to leave a little later. Traffic was at a stand-still on 288 just a mile from my house. As we crept along, sweat was beginning to trickle down my back. It was already 80 degrees at 8:30 in the morning with about 99% humidity. This misery was caused by an accident that had been cleared to the shoulder but rubber-necking was still going on. I rode through a field of debris left behind by the accident and hoped it didn't damage my tires.

Finally! Traffic started took nearly 20 minutes to go 4 miles! The rest of the ride through Houston and to the north side went smoothly and I took the Hardy Toll Road from 610 to The Woodlands, and saw very few cars on that road.

Woo hoo!! I'm on my way at last. Up I-45, a quick stop at the Love's just before the I-20 interchange, and now I'm heading west through heavy traffic on I-20. More stop-and-go north of Fort Worth on 820 and on 35W, but once past the 287 split and I was moving right along again.

There's not much to look at up here in north Texas, so even the simplest things caught my eye. At one point I saw a blackbird giving chase to a hawk twice its size. The hawk must have been a bad boy, maybe marauding a nest, or a territorial dispute over roadkill, of which there was plenty out here. So no need to fight over it, boys!! Praying cowboy silhouettes are popular in Texas and a little further up the road there was one sitting on a rail on the other side of the road. It was accompanied by a horse silhouette and sitting right next to the horse was a real hawk, with its back to the roadway. Very cool!

Big bodies of water are scarce up here in this part of Texas, so it was ironic to see a powerboat on a trailer, parked underneath a small water tower or catchbasin. Someone has a sense of humor!

A young man driving a black VW Golf passed me and gave me the "rock on" sign. Fun! Somewhere along the way I was playing leapfrog with a small SUV with a little boy in the backseat. He got lots of waves from me! :-)

In Amarillo for the night at my favorite hotel which sits next to one of my favorite restaurants.

Tomorrow: Into New Mexico, off the interstate and some national park stamping.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One more day to go...

Tomorrow I leave for Moab UT! I can hardly wait! I have the bike packed, the house plants watered, and the mail stopped. My kitty seems to always sense when I'm getting ready to abandon her for a few days...she's been a bit mopey all morning. Or maybe that's just a little "transference" going on, as I miss her when I'm gone.

I'll leave around 8:00-8:30 AM to let some of the morning traffic thin out a little. My route will take me straight up I-45 to I-20 west toward Ft. Worth where I'll pick up 287 on the north side and head to Amarillo for the first night.

Did I say, I'm excited??

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Getting Ready for Moab

On May 8 I leave for Moab, taking a somewhat less-than-direct route in order to collect some National Park stamps along the way. I know, I know....I thought I would stop this foolishness after finishing my third NPT, but damn this IBA activity is addictive!! Plus, on this trip, I'll have opportunity to visit some national parks I've not been to.

So, the bike has been freshly serviced at the BMW dealer's and I have recently-new tires in place (2400 miles on them, from the Cape Fear trip). I washed about 10 lb of bugs off of her, as well. I was quite pleased with the new topcase I acquired just before the Cape Fear trip. It's not as large as the Givi I have on the FZ6, but is big enough to carry a couple of lightweight but bulky items (running shoes and bike cover) that have been my nemesis on previous long trips. I was using a tail bag on previous trips but hate having that bulk sitting right behind me on the pillion seat. It made it hard to swing my leg over to mount and dismount and I never felt I could pack anything valuable in it since it could easily be pilfered.

I've been tinkering with the routes for a couple of weeks now. I'm reasonably comfortable with the routes I have planned, which include national parks, AMA Grand Tour bonus locations, and gas stops (very important, considering the secondary roads I'll be on once I get into NM). My first day on the road will be mostly spent getting as far down the road as I I'll be stopping in Amarillo for the night. The next day will see me off the interstates for good, once I get past Tucumcari. I plan to head north through Santa Fe, visiting some national parks along the way toward Farmington NM for my second night on the road. This should get me into Moab around noontime on Sunday.

I've also routed three one-day trips out of Moab, one to Colorado National Monument, one to collect Canyonlands and Arches national park stamps, and a third that will do a big loop south, getting Natural Bridges and passing through Glen Canyon NRA along the way.

After Moab my plan is to ride south to Tucson and participate in the MTF regional SS1000 event being sponsored there. I've looked at the in-state SS1000 route (for IBA members only) and plan to do this route. I've prepared and uploaded the route between Moab and Tucson into my GPS. This route will go south on 191 through UT and into AZ to I-40, picking up Canyon de Chelly and Petrified Forest/Painted Desert along the way. I visited Petrified Forest two years ago on my way to a get-together in Williams AZ. I really enjoyed riding through the park and look forward to doing so again, exiting out the southwest side and heading up to Holbrook for gas and then to continue my trek toward Tucson going down 77. I'll stop for the night in Globe AZ then pick up a couple more NP stamps before arriving in Tucson Friday afternoon.

So....I have now uploaded all of these routes in my Garmin Zumo 550 and have checked them for any wayward detours against the S&T routes.

What else is there to do? Check the weather along the route! I really hate packing for trips like this where the weather will be so variable. According to the long-range forecasts, some mornings are going to be in the high 40's, but some afternoons could be as hot as 100 degrees. I'd love to wear my mesh riding gear, but these may not cut it on the cold days, even with a liner. And I really want to put the Gerbing jacket liner away and not even look at it until next fall, I'm so tired of wearing it and being so bundled up! Well, I'm just going to keep my eye on the forecasts and make packing decisions closer to departure.

Is it Friday, yet??