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Random Thoughts on America
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Day 19: California Here We Come!!
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Day 17 and 18: Bryce UT to Ely NV to Carson City NV. Hwy 50 The Loneliest Road in America
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Day 16: Reminds me of a Taylor Swift song…
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Day 15: Page AZ to Bryce UT
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Day 14: The Million Dollar Hwy Ouray, CO to Page AZ
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Day 13: Colorado Springs to Ouray CO
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Day 12: Garden of the Gods and Cripple Creek
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Day 11: Pikes Peak
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Day 10: McCook NE to Colorado Springs CO

Random Thoughts on America

OK, so here’s the situation, my parents went away on a weeks vacation…(bonus points if you just sang that in your head!) No really, here are my random thoughts about America and the things that I have seen on this trip.  There is a lot of road kill out there. I mean A LOT. We have it in California, but not even close to the plethora of dead animals that I have seen so far.  Skunks, raccoons, deer, opossums, birds, ground hogs?, and who knows what else…And the smell, well it is something special. The amount of corn that is growing in this country is incredible.  I got to thinking about how much corn and corn stuff we must eat and found out that Iowa State University’s Center for Crops Research Utilization by way of the National Corn Grower’s Association has a giant infographic showing every thing under the sun made with corn. Who knew?! There was a surprising lack of political posters and campaign signs.  I thought for sure I would see more, but in fact I saw almost none. Who is America voting for?? I have a feeling we will look back on this election of 2016 with many mixed thoughts about the 2 leading candidates. In California there is a helmet law. Many states do not. There are so many people out there who do not where helmets. I personally don’t like the idea of getting hit in the face by a small rock or bug at 70mph. I get that people like to “feel free” and “feel the wind on my face”.  But I like keeping my head protected. ATGATT!! I have met way to many people who refer to California as “Cali”.  I find this quite humorous. Plus all I can think about after they say it is that 1989 son by LL Cool J. I also love one of the Urban Dictionary definitions of Cali: ANNOYING word that people who dont live in california use when talking about california, and think they are cool saying it. seriously inlanders, stfu and just say california instead. Eating on the road is not healthy.  Way too much salt. There were some days when I felt my fingers were and toes were like giant sausages.  It was difficulty to find fruits and veggies in the middle of nowhere, but there was always a Dairy Queen. There are some really amazing and nice people in the United States.  I met so many people that were so sweet and genuine, and really enjoyed talking to them about the bike, the trip and everything. And the few times we needed repairs or help, everyone was fantastic about helping us out. It is a really big country.  I was on the road for over 22 days, and feel that I haven’t even scratched the surface on traveling in the US.  There is so much to see, and I tried to make more side trips to other things but just didn’t have the time. You could easily[…]

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Day 19: California Here We Come!!

  The big day had finally arrived. I couldn’t believe that it was already the last day. I felt like I had been on the road for months, yet still surprised it was already almost over. I was also a bit bummed that I hadn’t been able to spend more time getting to know more of my fellow riders. Since I was often late getting started, and slower than most of the groups, I was usually by myself on the road, and feel I missed out on more face time with people.  I had met so many amazing people on this trip, and we had become this odd family on a strange family vacation.  And I strangely wanted more of it. The main goal of today’s ride was to get to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, to a staging area for a group photo.  After leaving the hotel in Carson City NV, our GPS took us quickly over the mountain toward Lake Tahoe.  Holy Crap did it get really cold, really fast! We were not expecting that and eventually we couldn’t take it anymore and put on an extra layer. The only thing that distracted me from the intense shivering was how ridiculously beautiful the day was turning out. Clear blue skies and sunshine, and the good to be back home in California feeling. We stopped at Donner Pass to take some pictures, but decided against having a snack. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself). We didn’t stay long though, due to a sense of urgency.  We couldn’t afford to waste time or we would miss the photo. Alisa, our rider leader had made picture time at 2:30 sharp. If you weren’t there, you weren’t in the photo. The area around Donner Pass and Donner Lake was beautiful, and it looked like we had just missed a triathlon competition, and the road closed signs were being moved out of our way. If you are ever in that area make sure to stop by the Donner Pass Memorial. There is a monument that shows how deep the snow was that fateful winter that many people died. It really is quite striking. Out next stop was for lunch at A&S Motorcycles in Roseville, where they were hosting an early BBQ lunch for us. Apparently radical temperature changes was also on the menu. (The rest of the way into bay area the temps really heated up.) I was looking forward to a break and some water. We pulled in and there were SO MANY BIKES AND PEOPLE.  Tons of motorcyclists were there to support us and some to join us on the final leg of our journey. We pulled in to park, hadn’t even turned the engines off, and people were coming up and taking pictures of us and the kids. Lots of excitement from everyone. But once again, we couldn’t dilly dally, so we ate quickly, did a little bit of socializing, then time to get moving.  We needed to[…]

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Day 17 and 18: Bryce UT to Ely NV to Carson City NV. Hwy 50 The Loneliest Road in America

Long stretches of desolation abound, be sure to watch your fuel and know you can make it to the next known stop. Take snacks and lots of water.-Sister’s Centennial Ride Guide Book This is the first sentence, or I guess I should say the gentle warning in our guide books.  Highway 50 in Nevada has it’s claim to fame written on the signs you see along the way. “The Loneliest Road in America”  So that is what we are up against for two days.  Our guide book even says: Get gas wherever it is available. Stations are far apart. Very Straight Stretches interrupted by mountain passes.  There were multiple sections where we would crest a mountain pass or go around a curve to see what seemed like an endless line that disappeared at the horizon, like someone had painted it on the ground in front of us, just to taunt us. “Look how much farther you have to go, then when you get there, you have to go even farther”   It was very lonely. It was very desolate. There was a good 400 miles of hwy 50 in Nevada, that make Nebraska and Kansas look like they are overpopulated metropolitans. We would drive for an hour and see nothing. Then there would be a dirt road with a sign noting a town in that direction, 68 miles.  What?  Who lives out here? I often wonder what drives someone to live so far away from the rest of civilization. Maybe it’s because it is not so civil…who knows.  Either way that is one hell of a commute to get to the grocery store.  Nevada did a smart touristy/marketing thing and they have this cute little booklet they call the HWY 50 Survival Guide, and you collect stamps like a passport, to the locations along Hwy 50. then you mail in the card and get a certificate and prize.  Makayla was all over that. Near the Nevada Utah border, we made a stop at Great Basin National Park, and they have a separate area and visitor center for the Lehman Caves. We were going to take a cave tour but all the tours were sold out for the day.  Apparently there was a cave convention staying in Ely, NV. I admit I wasn’t expecting that. I guess there is a convention for everything. So no luck on the cave tour, but we got our first stamp in the passport book. Every now and then you will see small signs indicating that this road used to be the Pony Express. I learned that it only around for 18 months.  Other notable stops along the way included the famous shoe tree near Middlegate, NV. The fact that there is a huge tree out in the middle of nowhere is isn’t odd enough, people hang shoes on the tree. apparently it is a well known tree.  I only  heard about it that morning, but no one could tell me why the shoes.  Stopping for[…]

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Day 16: Reminds me of a Taylor Swift song…

In the 1980’s I loved Debbie Gibson. She wrote and sang her own songs, and played piano. So I have to admit that if I was a young teen today, I would probably love Taylor Swift. ( I am not saying I don’t like a lot of her songs now…but that’s not the point…)  Before this cross country trip started, I joked with a few people that this trip kind of reminded me of some lyrics of a Taylor Swift song.  “It’s either going to be fantastic, or it’s going to go down in flames!”  I took creative license and changed the line ever so slightly. I did not know that today the part about the flames would actually come true. The four of us were all going to ride together on the Shadow and sidecar and go to Zion. Frank and I had been to Zion before but were not able to hike the Narrows, so we were looking forward to it today. We got up, had breakfast, and got our gear on, and hopped on the bike, with me driving. I drove literally 10 feet out of our parking spot, when all of a sudden smoke starts coming up from between my legs. (Hold your comments to your self, I did not have a case of Montezuma’s Revenge, or some new STD…it was worse) It took me half a second to realize this was bad, and I hit the kill switch. We both jump off and Frank yanks off the left side plastic cover to find flames and more smoke coming from the area above the battery. Frank is trying to put out the flames, I run around and start yanking the snaps off the sidecar cover, and yelling to the kids to “get out now!”.  Makayla, my little bookworm, was already engrossed in a book and oblivious to the possible danger. While I yelled at them to get far away and sit on the nearby grass, Frank was desperately trying to prevent our ride and it’s full tank of gas from bursting into flames. I think I heard him yell for someone to bring a fire extinguisher.  I found out later that one of the other riders actually punched the glass case to get the fire extinguisher out of the case to bring it over to us! How amazing is that? I am surrounded by super women on this ride. The good news is that Frank was able to stop the flames without the fire extinguisher. The problem was that over time the wires leading to the positive side of the battery had been rubbing on the metal frame of the motorcycle, and it wore off the protective cover.  We are guessing that the extra weight of both of us on the bike seat caused the wire to get pinched down on the metal and caused a spark. The red plastic cover over the battery terminal melted, and the wire harness completely broke. Fortunately I travel with[…]

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Day 15: Page AZ to Bryce UT

Yesterday was one of our longest days, today would be one of our shortest.  Again our goal was to get up early and try to beat the heat.  We drove over the “I hope you are not afraid of heights bridge” that leads out of Page. (OK it has a real name, Glen Canyon Bridge) My picture doesn’t do it justice. It really is a deep canyon, and I am sure some people get the heebee jeebies going over that bridge. Frank and I went our separate ways not too far out of town.  He decided to go down a dirt road. I decided I didn’t want to bounce around excessively, so we stayed on the hwy, with the plan to meet up in Bryce. Let’s be honest, I don’t think anyone intended for that Shadow, the sidecar or the trailer to go off road. The kids and I kept moving and eventually stopped just north of Kanab at Moqui Cave. A total tourist trap, but we all loved it.  The name comes from Moqui (or Moki), which some archeologists believe to be an ancient tribe in the Anasazi-Hopi area at an unknown time period. It was rediscovered by white settlers in the 19th century, and served as a speakeasy in the 1920s during Prohibition. In 1951, the cave was purchased by Laura and Garth Chamberlain, who opened a tavern and dance hall the following year. Garth played professional football for the Pittsburg Steelers in the 1940s, later he also worked as a stunt double and extra in many western movies that were filmed in the UT area. He rehabilitated the cave and started collecting fossils and artifacts from his travels.  It currently has 3 big rooms, one that displays all the old bar decor and posters and memorabilia. a second room has a large display of ultraviolet fluorescent rocks, this was the favorite for the kids. Spencer now has a favorite rock, Atomic Slag, from West Virginia.  It glows bright neon green under UV light. That was a fun little stop. We met up with Frank, had a quick lunch, then on to Bryce canyon. We hit the Bryce Canyon visitors Center, then went for a hike down the trail to the bottom of the canyon. We had been here once before almost 16 years ago, but did not have the chance to hike to the bottom of the canyon. So glad that we did this time. Again, pictures don’t do it justice. We did the Queens Garden Trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point. We were staying at Ruby’s Inn, and they were also celebrating their Centennial, what a coincidence. After hiking we were really looking forward to a quick dunk in the pool before dinner. What we got was a swim in the worlds coldest pool. It was like torture, I tried to swim a couple of laps, but my jaw was literally chattering from the me being so cold. Hot tub time. Then I dared Spencer to jump back in to the pool[…]

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Day 14: The Million Dollar Hwy Ouray, CO to Page AZ

We had a long day ahead of us, as this would be one of our longest days at over 330 miles, as well as a day with the most dramatic landscape changes, and variety.  Our plan was to get up early, have breakfast and get going.  The city of Ouray looks like a little town you would find in the Swiss Alps.  I was bummed we were only there for a short time. We departed, surrounded by the Colorado Rockies,  and it was cool and, are you ready…it started to rain. We donned our rain gear and hit the steep turns leading out of town. The San Juan Scenic Byway (US Route 550), more frequently referred to as the Million Dollar Highway, offered lots of steep and tight, twists and turns through red mountains and craggy peaks as it took us down through the town of Silverton, where we saw the old remnants of a mining company. In Durango, we actually got to see a steam locomotive.  At first when I saw the blackish smoke I thought a diesel truck was spewing up ahead. Then there was more and more, and it looked like something was on fire in the middle of the road. We finally got closer and saw that it was a train going down the track. I bet that was quite a sight to see back in the day, as that monster spewed black smoke coming down the line.  We grabbed some sandwiches and continued our ride to Four Corners. We made a quick stop at Mesa Verde National Park to look at the Visitor’s Center. The kids were tired and did not want to go drive up to the Indian cliff dwellings, plus we had a lot of miles to go, so we moved on. That will be a great place to visit when we come back! The weather got warmer, as did the colors of the landscape. By the time we arrived at the intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico the desert heat was sweltering. We took the obligatory photo of us in 4 states, and looked around at all the vendors selling indian jewelry, pottery and art.   The temperature really started to heat up, and we needed to find some water to get our cooling vests wet. There are only port a potties at the four corners site, so we took off in search of the nearest gas station or anything. Luckily it was not too far we were able to gas up, get water and Gatorade, and dunk the cooling vests for the next leg of the journey. In the parking lot we chatted with an Indian man who was admiring the sidecar. He warned us about driving on the 160, to be on the lookout for horses and cattle.  We went less than a 1/4 mile when we see 2 horses sauntering across the highway without a care in the world. Once again we had great luck with the[…]

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Day 13: Colorado Springs to Ouray CO

Today’s journey took us away from Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, and led us over another high peak, Monarch Pass, at 11312 ft.  The sidecar rig chugged up that big hill pulling the weight, but we made it. The ski lift there was running to take summer visitors up for hiking and biking, but we kept moving on. We made sure to stop at the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, National Park. Very dramatic cliff views similar to the Grand Canyon.  The type of lookouts that give you a hint of vertigo when you are at the edge holding onto the rail. More twists and turns brought us to Ouray, the “Switzerland of America”. I must admit that driving through town was not easy. The road was tilted down to the right, so I had to really fight to keep the bike going in a straight line.  We finally arrived at the Twin Peaks Lodge, a picture postcard setting, and this hotel even had its own hot springs. The swimming pool was like heaven. We are already talking about coming back here. An absolutely gorgeous spot to relax and do nothing…or ride your motorcycle. Now that Frank is with us for the rest of the trip home, we should have some more photos. It is nice to have your own personal photographer help document the trip.  

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Day 12: Garden of the Gods and Cripple Creek

I’m taking a break from a long write-up since I am falling behind.  I rode Frank’s bike around and he piloted the sidecar rig while we hit more beautiful scenery near Colorado Springs. Here is what we did today: 1. Garden of the Gods: Fantastic modern Visitors Center with many interactive displays in large touch screen form. The kids loved this place. The views and the short drive were stunning.  I would love to come back here to go camping and hiking. 2. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument:  Another great visitors center with lots of fun kids stuff, lots of cool fossils, and petrified trees.  We did not have time to do everything. 3. Had lunch in a casino at the historic mining town of Cripple Creek. Cute little town with a really steep main street, and old-fashioned looking buildings. To view more photos, click here: 

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Day 11: Pikes Peak

Frank planned some vacation days to join us on the last part of the ride, and he met us in Colorado Springs last night. Today was a get up early kind of day. Today was an epic adventure kind of day. Today was the group ride up to the top of Pikes Peak. The night before it had rained as we were driving up to Colorado Springs CO. We were all cozy in our hotel not realizing what was going on up in the mountains above us. We dragged the kids out of bed, had an early breakfast and got on the road to go to the staging area (parking lot) just outside of the entrance to go up Pikes Peak. We ditched the trailer at the hotel so I would have less weight to pull. Two new day riders joined us for the day on 1940’s Indians.  I was impressed with the bikes, but would be more impressed when they got to the top. It was a beautiful, sunny, but cool morning.  We knew it was going to be really cold at the top, so we had many layers on to be prepared for the drop in temps as we rose in altitude. We had also had many warnings about altitude sickness, so last night we made sure to drink plenty of fluids.  The signs are headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue or general malaise, and the only “cure” for altitude sickness is to go back down the mountain. So up we went, this motley crew of old and young, new bikes, vintage bikes, veteran riders and newbies, to conquer 14,114 ft of mountain.  The road became more and more winding and the turns got tighter and steeper.  Unfortunately, two riders collided on a turn and went down in a sharp right hander, which ended in one rider with a broken wrist. Others were already tending to the accident, and waved the group on to continue. Little by little we gained altitude, and we left the evergreen trees and rose into the alpine layer. The road became a zig zag course of extremely tight U-turn type of turns that required me to really muscle the rig around. Then the ride got interesting as there was snow on the ground, quite a bit, and the road was wet as the snow was already melting from the morning sun. We continued up when all of a sudden the flow of cars and bikes in front of us came to a stop. The road was closed due to snow.  NO!!! Was this how today was going to end? We would be denied the top of the mountain because of snow? We all pulled over and shut down. We heard rumors that they were clearing the road with a snow plow, but no word on how long it would be. Some of us stayed to wait, but little by little some of the ladies on bikes decided to head back down. We took a quick[…]

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Day 10: McCook NE to Colorado Springs CO

OK. I am just going to come out and say it. Driving through Kansas is really boring. It makes Nebraska and Texas look exciting.  The other thing I noticed is that every now and then they have these road closed signs that are similar to a railroad crossing bar. You know, the ones that are in the up position until a train is coming, then it swings down to block the road.  Well, there are a bunch of these in Kansas…and no train tracks. At first I had no idea why they would need to close the road like that. Then I realized the whole Wizard of Oz weather, Auntie Em, Auntie Em, It’s a twister! thing. I am not sure I would want to live in a state that has weather so severe that it is common to have road closed barriers at the ready. Part way through the morning I was approaching St.Francis, Kansas, and noticed a sign that said “motorcycle museum”. I don’t remember seeing this on our itinerary. But I figured I would make the turn and go check it out. When I get there, about 12 other riders are already there. This was not a planned stop but everyone else saw the sign and went to check it out, too. We come to find out that the St. Francis Motorcycle Museum had just opened at the end of May, so it was brand new, and ready for visitors. We even got to put the first City of Torrance pin on a map of the US that showed where visitors came from.  So this museum was an unexpected bonus for the day and had some wonderful bikes in varied condition. And it was in the middle of nowhere Kansas. So random, but what a great find. Today, I tried to keep up with a group so I would not be alone all day. That worked out fine until after lunch. Then I made the mistake of following them on the “shorter route” to Colorado Springs, without checking that there were not enough gas stops for me. So, in order to stay on roads that had gas stations, I had to divert north, out of the way a bit, which added more time and miles to my day. Oh, well. The only bad thing was that when I was approaching Colorado Springs there was some serious weather starting to happen. I pulled over to put on my rain gear, and in no time at all there was thunder, lightning and rain. Both the kids said “Whoa!” when the thunder happened. We don’t get that too often in California. As the highway kept curving around in different directions, it kept lining me up to go straight into the rain. The last 10 minutes of the ride it was pouring, but we made it to the hotel. Have you noticed the pattern emerging where I get caught in the rain? The kids love it! I mean we rarely see rain[…]

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