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Next Stop: Houston

The ride from Albuquerque to Houston took 2 days.  During last year’s ride, I took a slightly longer, southern route so I could stop at Carlsbad and Roswell, but this time I made a straight shot across Texas.

The scenery was less interesting (there are only a couple pictures in the photostream), but the northern route was a quicker ride.  For the most part the ride was uneventful, although I did get pulled over by the highway patrol.  The speed limit was 70 MPH, which is what I though I was doing, but the police officer said I was a bit over.  The officer was polite & friendly, with many questions about the Kingpin – apparently Victory Motorcycles are not in the Texas Highway Patrol’s computer system.  It was a quick stop and, thankfully, I received only a [written] warning.

In Houston, I’m visiting with my friend Kristen and family.  The next destination will be Nashville and should take about 2 days.  It looks like it may be a rainy ride, but schedule dictates that I get back on the road.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring

 

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Madrid & the Devil’s Throne

Jane had asked her friend Jonathan for a good riding route to Madrid and this is what he recommended:

Unfortunately, we made one wrong turn getting off I-25 and ended up on Waldo Canyon Road.  This is close to the route we took:

Unlike the recommended route, which is paved, this road is washboarded gravel.  The road is clearly for the ranchers driving all wheel drive trunks – not for a street bike.  There were ups & downs with some tight turns, but just before reaching Cerrillos, there is switchback which is slopped downward at a serious angle.  The decline is so steep, I would guess that some 4 wheel drive vehicle have trouble traversing this section of road.

We made it safely to Madrid and once there, one of the gallery owners advised us on our route.  He helped us figure out where we went wrong, what road we were actually on and the name of the steep switchback: the locals call it The Devil’s Throne.  Wrong turns and exploring new areas are all part of the adventure!

Slightly different from the portrayal in Wild Hogs, the town of Madrid is a mixture of artists, hippies & bikers.  The main drag is populated with galleries, which contain some amazing works, a few eateries and the Mine Shaft Tavern.  If you are in Albuquerque, even if you aren’t riding, Madrid is definitely worth visiting.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring

 

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Destination: Albuquerque

The ride to Albuquerque took most of the day and passed thru Hopi & Navajo reservations.  There were many scenic views along the way, but the most interesting part of the ride was the people I met along the way.

Normally, I make a fuel stop when the trip odometer is between 120 & 150 miles, but in the wide open spaces, when you are not riding the interstates, you have to be careful as it can be some distance between gas stations.

Around midday, with odometer closing in on 150 miles, I stopped into a small Hopi town for gas; this was not a normal traveler stop where the station is on the main road, but instead, I had to drive into town.  The town was like any rural community with a main store that is gas station, market and deli.  All in all, nothing unusual, except I was very definitely the outsider.

Usually in rural towns, I get noticed because I have a Pennsylvania license plate and, in these small towns, everyone knows everyone.  In this particular case there was a more obvious reason why I was an outsider: I’m the only non-Hopi.  Even with the obvious difference, this was like any other rural stop: the people were friendly and kind, asking about my ride, where I had been and where I was going.

About an hour later, I stopped at a tourist attraction which had a small exhibit detailing the history of the Hopi.  While I was interested in the exhibit, I really stopped because I wanted a break and there was a small group of riders in the parking lot.

I did stop into the exhibit, but spent more time talking to my fellow travelers.  These Hopi riders where headed to a Navajo event in Window Rock.  From the exhibit, I had learned that there have been long standing tensions between the Navajo & Hopi over land rights, but these bikers showed now ill feelings toward the Navajo.

Since it was on my way, I rode with the Hopi all the way to the event.  As we approached main drag, one of the Hopi let me know how I could skip around the event to avoid the traffic, but I wasn’t too bad so I rode thru.

The event was a huge fair, occupying the entire town, with amusement rides, some special Navajo displays and other attractions.  Had I had known about this event, I would have planned to arrive early and spend some time in town, but, with evening plans in Albuquerque, I said goodbye to my new friends and headed on down the road.

That night in Albuquerque, Jane introduced me to some of her friends at a special Harry Potter trivia event.  The questions covered obscure details from the movies, books and even related websites; our answers were very original, but not so correct.  At one point, we received sympathy candy from the hosts because we were in last place, having answer absolutely none of the questions correctly.  Despite our ability to come with the prescribed answers, a great time was had by all.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring

 

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Grand Canyon North Rim

Today I reached the most westerly point in this trip: the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The ride from Page to the North Rim takes about 3 hours with some amazing scenic points along the way; the photo above was taken from the Navajo Bridge which spans the Colorado River.

Unusually for my road trips, I’m spending 2 nights in the same place.  The side effect was that I could leave my big travel bag at the hotel.  While it’s nice to travel a little lighter, what I didn’t think about, until I got into park, was that my rain and cold weather gear was in the big bag!

I had been warned that the North Rim tended to be chilly and it was.  When I stopped at Jacob’s Lake to gas up, the temperature had dropped a bit, but I thought I would be ok.  As I continued to ascend, I realized I was wrong.  There’s a few little shops along the way so I stopped and purchased a sweatshirt – temperature problem solved, or so I thought.

Continuing towards the North Rim, the next thing I encountered was rain – just a little at first, then much heavier.  My new sweatshirt was turning into a sponge.  When I reached the gate for the park, the rain was pouring down; I seriously considered turning around, but with only 12 miles to the rim, I decided to push on.

When I reached the rim, I was pretty much soaked, at least on the front side.  At the gift shop I picked up a parka.  Fortunately I had a t-shirt in one of the saddle bags – that t-shirt, combined with my new parka, meant that at least my top half was dry.

Unfortunately, the rain clouded most of the views and I wasn’t up for much of a hike, even with my new attire.  I did take a few pictures, but with the limited view, it wasn’t long before I headed out of the park.  Going back thru the rain storms wasn’t too bad – the new parka was quite nice – and by the time reached the hotel, I was mostly dry.

Even with the rain, it was great day of riding; the North Rim was my destination, but the highlight was the ride to and from the park.  Today’s pictures start in the photo stream here.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring

 

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Destination: Page, AZ

Today started off on a high note with a ride thru the Rookie Mountains. The view from US-160 is amazing, but a friend recommended a particular sop: the area is known as Wolf Creek Pass, but there is a scenic view called simply Wolf Pass. When you pull off at the scenic view sign, the first bit of road is paved, but it quickly turns to gravel.

The gravel is severely washboarded, but steep climb and hairpin turns are the most harrowing.  Even though the road is only 3 miles long, it took me quite a while to get to the top.  The ride up was a little rough, but the view made it all worthwhile.

The next destination was quite a ways down the road: the Four Corners Monument.  I had always heard that the monument was misplaced by a short distance, but according to GPS, it’s right on.  I don’t begrudge the Navajo the measly $3 entry fee, but the monument is really just a novelty.  If I had gone far out of my way, I would have been disappointed, but it’s right on US-160 and I only stayed for a few minutes.

I had planned to stop at Monument Valley on the way to page, but when I reached the turn, it was already 5:30 PM and I just wanted to the hotel.  Even though I passed it by today, I may stop later in the trip, if possible.

The photo at the top of this page is not from Monument Valley or any other park.  It is not even a scenic view, it’s just on the road to Page (AZ-98).  Stunning as it is, this kind of natural beauty is normal here.

Today’s photos start here in the stream.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring

 

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Two Lane Highways

Rookies Coming Into View

Today I left the interstates behind in favor of the two lane highways of Kansas and Colorado.

I started out on I-70, and at the first rest stop I ran into a local biker who was good enough to give me advice on my upcoming ride: for the most part, the roads are 65 MPH, but drop down to 35 or 45 MPH for each town; while the towns may be patrolled, the stretches of road in between are not.  The unofficial rule is that the 65 MPH sections are really unlimited.  (This is what he told me – I’m not responsible for your tickets if decide to test this advice and get caught.)  As I left I-70 for US-40, the sun was blazing and I was matching it, burning a path down the open road.

The scenery in Kansas and the first part of Colorado was not exciting, but I was loving the high speed ride across the plains.  I was struck by one aspect of the view: the fields were mostly brown, not green.  In many places the crops – which I’m guessing are supposed to be corn – were only about a foot tall.  Hearing about the drought on the news is doesn’t carry the same weight as seeing field after field of stunted or dead crops.

Eventually the Rookies came into view and the view changed from boring to spectacular.  The first time I came over a rise, and could see the mountains in the distance, I was struck by one thought: This is why I ride.

The original goal for the day was to make it to Cortez or Durango, CO, but that was overly ambitious (as usual).  Since it had been a nearly perfect day, I decided not to ruin it by riding thru the mountains at night: if I continued to Durango, I would have arrived around 11 PM.  I rode thru the Rookies in the middle of the night once before and it wasn’t fun, so I stopped for the evening in Alamosa, CO.

There are only a few photos from today, but they start here.

One final note: for the first time, during this road trip, it didn’t rain for an entire day.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Motorcycle, Touring

 

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