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[…]Read More
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[…]Read More
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[…]Read More
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[…]Read More
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.Read More
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[…]Read More
On our way to the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio Race Track we had the chance to go through a little bit of Amish country (we did see one horse and buggy in Pennsylvania). Today we saw families outside of their farm, kids driving the horse and buggy to town, and even saw a beautiful Clydesdale next to his red barn. Another beautiful drive through perfectly green farmland. My one surprise was seeing an Amish couple (I assumed) get into a car at the gas station while I was filling up. Later someone told me they might be Mennonite.
The plan for the group was to arrive together and get staged for a lap around the race track in between the regularly scheduled races. I did not know that. I assumed that we would be in a parking lot, and I would unhook the trailer before going on the track. When we got there, they led us directly to the gate and they lined us all up at the front of the “false grid”, I think they called it. Then a whole bunch of other bikes and riders start swarming around us and we get packed in. So, I guess this was happening now! When it was time, they then lined us up on the grid area, and with a pace car in front of us we all got to do 2 laps around the track. Makayla took video and Spencer took photos, and they said that was a lot of fun.
Some other highlights of the day: the kids got to watch part of a live race (we watch Motot GP on TV all the time, but they have never been to a race before). The most exciting thing was to see the Wall of Death, where motorcyclist ride a bike around a small wooden “bowl”. Both kids thought that was awesome. We walked around and got a lot of great photos of old bikes.
Today was considered a “easy rest day”, so by 1:30 we were done looking around and headed to our next stop for the night, Lima, OH.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that on the way to the hotel there was a super strong headwind, and I got horrible gas mileage. I hit reserve at only 58 mi on the odometer. I was in a section that did not have any gas stations for quite a bit…so I was crossing my fingers to make it to the next gas station. Well my luck ran out and it died about a mile before the exit. Not the best scenario but I was prepared! We had placed a small plastic gas can ( can I call it a can if it is plastic?) in the trailer, so I poured the emergency gas into the tank and got to the station. Not fun, but we survived.
To view more photos, click here: (more…)
The first real day of riding started with a quick trip to the tire place to get the lug nuts tightened before I took off. If you are ever in Springfield MA, the guys at Tire Warehouse are great! I then realized that the only GPS route that was not loaded was today’s route, even after I spent so much time the night before checking everything. So it took me a while to get out of the Springfield area. I may or may not have take a few wrong turns going through some traffic circles. My GPS and I were not in agreement on a few things, but I finally got out of there. I was fairly certain that these delays put me about an hour behind the main group. I went west and north, following Jacob’s ladder scenic road. I am loving how lush and dense all the tree are in this area. It is like a non tropical forest/jungle. Amazing what a little bit of rain can do, right? California needs some of that! At the next gas stop I actually caught up to the last group as they were finishing up. The next battle was getting through numerous toll roads. I am certain we were quite a spectacle going through those toll booths. We finally got farther out, and we had mile after mile of curves, hills, green farmland, hay bales and more trees. I lost count of all the big red barns that dotted the rolling hills. Our lunch stop was Shirley’s Stoney Creek Restaurant, for food and ice cream. At that point I decided to break off from the planned route to make a side trip up to the south end of the Finger Lakes area. I was not expecting upstate NY to look like a “perfectly groomed” hilly version of Nebraska. Absolutely gorgeous area. I headed to Burdett, NY to visit my old friend Dr. Roberta Mann, from my days working at Torrance Memorial. She now owns a cute little restaurant in town, that she runs during the summer season. After, we said our goodbyes, it was south to Sayre, PA for a well needed dinner and shower. The kids did great, they have not started complaining, and they are reading lots of comic books on the iPad. We covered over 300 miles yesterday, but tomorrow will be less. To view more photos, click here:Read More
Many thanks to our friend Wayne, and fellow LABiker, for driving out our sidecar rig from California, and picking us up at the airport in Connecticut. We took the red eye on Sun July 3rd, and landed in CT at 5:30am. We were lucky to have breakfast followed by a 3 hour nap at Waynes’ house. Then we drove up to Springfield Massachusetts to check in for the Sister’s Centennial Ride. We had a riders meeting and got to meet all the riders who would be going all the way to California. Some had some amazing stories to tell, and one gal had heard about it the day before and signed up! We will have many members of the Van Buren family on the ride with us, and it was emotional to hear them talk about their famous relatives. The night continued with a dinner banquet, videos, more stories, press pictures, and more. And of course we can’t forget that it is 4th of July, and we had a spectacular view of the fireworks in Springfield. Tuesday morning, I awoke to see that it was raining outside, and had not covered the bike or put the windows on the sidecar. So I frantically went down to try to prevent more water getting on the leather seats, sidebags, and inside the sidecar. I did such a good job that it stopped raining. Note to self: we are not in California anymore, and other states do have rain. I will need to check the forecast more diligently. Today’s events included a visit to the Springfield museums and Andover Air Force Base. We had a great time meeting more of the Van Buren family, and having the Mayor of Springfield give a proclamation. See more about the morning here on Masslive.com. The kids and I had a fantastic time wandering through all the exhibits and museums. The kids had two favorite areas; the Milton Bradley game exhibit, and “the Scoop on Poop” exhibit in the Science Museum. Who knew poop could be so exciting? I, of course, loved looking at all the Indian Motorcycles, but I also loved all the Dr. Seuss info I learned as well as seeing the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. After lunch we headed out to Westover AirReserve Base, I was treated to the view of Robert Pandya of Indian Motorcycles, riding the other sidecar on this journey. He is talented enough to balance his sidecar up in the air even with a passenger in it! Pretty sure my goal is to not have that happen with my sidecar. Once we got on base, we had more amazing stories from the Van Buren family as well as the female base Commander Karen Magnus. It is truly fascinating to hear how things have changed over the years and how inspiring so many of these women really are. I am surrounded by awesomeness today that is a fact! The them for today is how we really should keep our history alive,[…]Read More
Memorial Day Weekend is our annual Sierra Rally ride, that takes place with Porterville CA as our home base as we ride all the twisty in the southern Sierras. We have gone every year since 2000, but this year would be our first with the sidecar, and the first time the kids would join in the adventure! In the past we just hired a babysitter to watch them while we were out riding. This year is the 21st annual Sierra Rally. The fantastic Lorraine Aldort organizes the hotel, the catering company, and provides maps and such for all of the attendees. As I said this was our first year bringing the sidecar, and it would be the longest all of us would be on the bike, or in the sidecar. Four days of being on the road for many miles. Boot camp continues! SIERRA RALLY DAY 1: We started out on Friday morning, and because we are bad parents and pulled our kids out of school for the day. We did our usual route of eat, ride, repeat. I had to sit in morning traffic on the 405 as I unfortunately can’t lane split with the sidecar. We had breakfast at the Ranch Side Café in Sylmar. Our route loosely followed Sand Canyon- Soledad- Valley Center -Golden Valley- Plum Canyon-Bouquet- San Francisquito, then across the desert to Willow Springs, over the windmill speckled hills to Tehachapi. We made a quick stop at the world famous Tehachapi train loop, but no luck, there was no train. Next we were dodging cattle on Caliente Bodfish rd before going over the hill to Lake Isabella. Mandatory lunch stop at Nelda’s Diner. They have the most amazing milk shakes. Of course the food is good too. After lunch I had a real test of the bike going up the 155. I had to stay in 1st or 2nd gear the whole time going up the hill. It was a lot of work getting that rig with all the weight up that hill. The rest of the group left me in the dust. Unfortunately, I caught up to them when one our our riders went wide on a turn and crashed into the dirt hill. The bad news: was the forks were bent and the bike was not ridable. The good news: the land barge had just arrived and I was able to take all of the gear from 2 riders, so they could ride together the rest of the way to Porterville. SIERRA RALLY DAY 2: The plan was to go to the annual Posey BBQ and raffle, because we love the small town fun and they have a gun raffle. No kidding. Plus it would be less miles than Friday. So a win win situation. SIERRA RALLY DAY 3: Today was to be our most ambitious day. We decided to go to Kings Canyon and Cedar Grove, then go through Sequoia National Park. No matter how many times I have dropped down into Kings Canyon, it remains[…]Read More