Following a blistering summer in the Central Valley of California, the lingering heat and smoke filled air made the September transition into fall something of a repeat of the previous four years when fires ravaged the state. To any heat, fire, pandemic, and drought weary Californios, a late September departure seemed like a good time to mask up and head east for a little relief from high temperatures, smokey air, and parched landscapes. At least vaccinations made travel somewhat safer. So, what better destination to ride to than the desert in the direction that prevailing winds travel! Duh…
The cast of characters for this adventure included Pete and Andy, familiar faces from previous trips. Sadly, as life wants to do, events unfolded such that elderly parents needed attention and Andy, good son that he is, had to bow out. Likewise there were issues with my mother-in-law, but my wife and her sisters were able to care for her and with Toni’s blessings, I was given the green light.
Pete and I met on Sunday morning, September 26, at our usual meeting place, the Chevron station on the corner of Yosemite Ave. and “G” Street in Merced. Our route was to take back roads to CA-120 crossing the Sierra over Tioga Pass on to Tonopah, NV. Road repairs and the closure of any services minimized the crowds one might expect to find at the end of the summer in Tuolumne Meadows. Though not evident in the photo, the air was less than pristine with smoke from the Caldor and KNP Complex fires casting a pall over the foothills up to and over Tioga Pass. In fact landscapes of our entire ride east of the Sierra, nearly all the way into Utah, were obscured by smoke.
At the Benton Junction we pulled into the Benton Station where we met David who was traveling on a 2002 BMW GS in search of gas which apparently the Benton Station was fresh out of… Benton may have been out of gas, but bees were aplenty as we approached the California Agricultural Inspection Station just a few miles east Benton on US-6. The bees suffered far greater casualties than the three of us motorcyclists. Full face shields, windscreens, armored textile clothing, gloves and hand guards provide multiple safety functions on a motorcycle. Far greater than sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and lycra on a bicycle, our other favored two-wheel transportation…
David was traveling from Utah, heading home seemingly uninformed about services in these remote locales, and so we reassuringly accompanied him some 70 miles on US 6/95 in the direction of Tonopah, the next closest fuel on his homeward bound leg before parting company with a so-long wave at Miller’s Rest Stop, a little oasis in the basin and range landscape of rural western Nevada about 12 miles west of Tonopah. Last year we met Tim on his Goldwing, from Sacramento, who offered and egg salad sandwich and cool beverage. There’s more than the wave that bond motorcyclists.
Arriving out our motel we dropped our gear and busied ourselves with locating beverages and food.
We met a fellow moto traveler at our motel, Robert from Bellingham, WA, who was heading home from touring Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, the Escalante, and Zion National Parks. It appeared that Pete, Robert, and I were the only non-working-stiff types staying at the National 9 Inn.
Later, out of curiosity, we asked the desk clerk about the nature of the residents of the motel since we three on motorcycles appeared to be the only tourists. He said they were mostly workers from nearby mines. These miners apparently have differences with the implementation of the Biden administration’s environmental policies reversing those of the “environmental legacy” of former president Trump. His move to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah to their original boundaries I’m sure was met with mixed reactions by locals. Thus as non-locals we were left to contemplate the state of affairs in Tonopah as the relaxation, rehydration, and reflection hour arrived.
We met one of those miners the next morning, Jerry from New Mexico who had a turquoise mine near Tonopah.
After a satisfying breakfast at the Tonopah Station I was reminded of the Tour de Basin Grande in 1993 where after pedalling a bike 75 miles across basin and range mile after mile of nothing but mile after mile, stopping only for emergencies, the food at Tonopah Station wasn’t nearly as satisfying. Everything was fried, including the salads which would later prompt an emergency stop.
It was on to NV-375 from US-6 to Rachel on the Extraterrestrial Highway.
After a brief stop for a cool beverage, we stretched abit walking about the premises of the Little A’Li’Inn and noticed a message taped to the passenger window of a delivery truck.
With that, we forged on slightly amused, a bit confused by the syntax, but grateful for the forewarning.
Passing-up the Alien Research Center this trip, heeding the line from the message taped to the window of the delivery truck at the Little A’Li’Inn, “Outer space is fake,” we entered US-93, The Great Basin Highway through Crystal Springs, Caliente, Beaver Dam, and Bennett Springs to Panaca and CA-319 where at the Nevada/Utah border CA-319 becomes UT-56 through Modena, Beryl Junction, and Newcastle climbing up and up to Cedar City, our day two destination just in time as the weather was beginning to change as we departed arid Nevada for Utah at elevation.
It was much cooler with clouds gathering. Could this be a sign? We had “ears to hear” but hunger to sate so it was off in search of victuals since the rain would likely douse the fire prophesied by the Little A’Li’Inn delivery truck prophet.
Little did we know that yet another omen would be realized. After alerting the desk at our Super 8 motel that their dumpster was fully engulfed in flames, hungry and willing to disregard the ominous delivery truck message, we solicited the recommendation of a friendly river guide, who had just returned from taking USU students on Green River float, for where we might find a satisfying evening meal.
Given the guide’s directions and Google Maps, we strolled along a very busy UT-56 for about a mile and arrived at the Centro Pizzaria near the downtown of Cedar City. After being forced inside from dining alfresco as winds preceding what would later be an awesome thunderstorm nearly sent the umbrellas at tables into the Mary Poppins stratosphere, Pete and I savored delicious woodfired pizzas.
Choosing to avoid the busy highway back to our hotel, we delighted in the few raindrops preceding what the radar was showing as gully washer heading our way. Strolling through the Southern Utah University campus reminded me of my carefree youthful days at my alma mater in Chico, only now as a carefree retired geezer. By the time we arrived at our hotel, the dumpster fire had been extinguished. The evening thundershower was gathering and beginning to resound. As the relaxation, rehydration and reflection hour arrived, our nightcaps left us feeling confident that we were not about to go out in that weather to start a riot.
Perhaps you’ve notice the sub-heading identifies our third day destination as Green River, however the maps link indicates Moab. The plan was to take UT-14 out of Cedar City to US-89, then UT-12 to Torrey by way of Bryce where we saw our first eye-feast of fall color and began riding through then next several days of intermittent rain.
Then it was on to Cannonville, Tropic, Henrieville, Escalante, and Boulder where last Spring we toured the Burr Trail. Thankfully the twisty roads were dry and relatively free of traffic.
In Boulder a piece of apple and peach pie with coffee satisfied our midday hunger pangs at the Burr Trail Cafe where a couple of Ducatis joined the Versys and V-Strom. Next a snack in Hanksville then on to Green River for the night as threatening skies shortened our goal of reaching Moab.
With weather threatening we deferred camping in Moab, another hour or so away, for a motel in Green River. Our stay was at the Sleepy Hollow Motel. Buurrguurrs at Ray’s and with Ducatis on his mind Pete insisted that I consider getting a Ducati Multistrada. I am fine with people mistaking my Kawasexy Versys as a Multistrada. Besides, as we all know, Japanese bikes are reliable.
After Ray’s we procured Utah’s very own, Uinta Golden Spike for the relaxation, rehydration, and reflection hour that would soon take place on the stoop of our room as once again, clouds gathered and raindrops began to fall. Pete reflected on staying at the very same motel some two decades earlier. Interestingly, the housekeeper who we met the following morning at the Sleepy Hollow was the very same woman who worked there when Pete, two decades earlier, awakened to a dead battery on his Kawasaki Z900. Pete recalled that her husband assisted him in jumpstarting the bike. A battery failure doesn’t qualify as an “unreliability”.
There were no dead batteries upon awakening the next morning, but it had rained and more rain was in the forecast.
The next day took us through Moab and fortunately, the rain of the night before had moved east and the earlier forecasted showers arrived later that afternoon. It was here we had our first sighting of the mighty Colorado River having crossed the mighty Green River earlier. Well, historically mighty. Drought has rendered most of the west’s mighty rivers turbid. Mt Tukuhnikivatz to the east, however, was crowned with a late September dusting of snow. The precip was welcomed despite having to ride later in the day through showers on two wheels, thankful for this morning respite.
Moab was crowded with millennials and hipsters in Subarus and Sprinters and white-heads in Winnebagos and Airstreams. Edward Abbey would be turning cartwheels in his grave seeing the conga line to get into the Arches National Park, so it was south on US-191 to Monticello where we would take US-491 to Cortez now in our third state, Colorado, where we joined US-160 to Durango and Pagosa Springs all in the rain. From there it was a soggy US-84 through Chromo, and US-64 to Chama now in our fourth state, New Mexico, for another wet night.
I had read about the Y Motel in Chama on a moto-friendly website. It’s named for the three-way intersection of US-64, UA-84, NM-17 forming a Y. It seemed to meet our criteria for selecting lodging in rural areas, namely a motor court, preferably from a bygone era, and cheap. Besides, every other room was booked in Chama as deer and bear hunting season was set to begin the next day. After waiting for David, a Continental Divide Trail hiker https://glideonblog.wordpress.com/ and dead ringer for John Muir, to register and after some negotiating with Sam samschild.com, both of whom had retreated from trail because of the sudden snowfall, we secured a room.
Mike the motel’s clerk was an entertaining, you might say, eccentric chap. He seemed to be delighted to serve equally entertaining and eccentric guests. He explained how the motel was under new ownership which explained why all of the boxes of items intended for renovations were stacked in the motel office. He implied that as long as they remained in the boxes in the “lobby” he wasn’t responsible for their unpacking or installation. He also noted that Pete and I were worthy of the motel’s reputation among Continental Divide Trail hikers. It seemed some fellows on Harley Davidsons declined staying at the motel as there was no covered parking for their machines. Like parking under a cover somehow mitigates riding through the rain? They ended up riding to Pagosa Springs. In the rain.
When we were given the key, yes, an actual key and not a card, we entered the room. Spartan to describe the room would be generous. Rigorously simple, frugal, or austere comes to mind. There was no soap, two outlets, surprisingly a TV, and towels that might charitably be called handkerchiefs. Better yet described, primitive. Maybe. Rustic for sure. Actually, it was a dump. It’s amazing how the relaxation, rehydration, and reflection hour can allow for one to adjust one’s expectations, and like Brian, look on the bright side of life. Like our hiker friends, at least we all weren’t freezing outdoors in a soggy tent as the deer and bear hunters enjoyed all of the remaining cozy accommodations in town.
The next day, we bid adieu… Sam and Mike, Pete and Tom. Adios boys!
We were anxious to reach our Santa Fe halfway “Abbey’s Other Road Trip” destination at the Delaware’s, Bob and Suzanne, with the promise of fair weather on the more direct route from Chama to Santa Fe on US-84/285. We passed through Tierra Amarilla where, because of the threat of yet another day of cold wet pavement heading up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we decided to skip US-64 to Taos. So, onward through Cibola, Canjilon, Abiquiu, Espanola, stopping in Pojoaque tipping our helmets to the Camel and fueling up while alerting Bob and Suzanne of our impending early arrival.
We wasted not a minute before launching into Bob’s personal tour of his new hometown. Well, reclaimed hometown. His lovely wife Suzanne is a native New Mexican (Albuquerque) and both she and Bob attended the University of New Mexico. After a wonderful career in education in California and a brief “retirement” in Ballard, WA, they’ve settled into the ristra lifestyle in a beautiful setting in enchanting Santa Fe. A quick romp around the plaza found us enjoying an early, albeit brief, relaxation, rest, and reflection half-hourwarmup as I reflected on the public statuary saluting my ACD SoBe.
Next up was the el Rey, a classic motor court “motel” built along side of the original Mother Road, Rt-66 opening its doors in 1936 and now an iconic “boho” inn (whatever that means) where my lovely wife and I spent the night on one of our southwestern honeymoon stops some 27 years earlier. No need for a calculator, 1994. I remembered our suite. Okay, it was room.
As the cocktail hour approached, we hightailed it back to La Hacienda de Delaware where Suzanne had prepared a delightfully savory Classic New Mexican Green Chili Stew. The recipe was from her mother’s Classic New MexicanRecipes. The remainder of the evening was devoted to relaxation, rehydration, and reflection and enchanting conversation. We were, after all, in the land of enchantment…
Day 6 Santa Fe Layover
The next day we arose to yet more inclement weather. That wasn’t going to deter Bob from chauffeuring us along the the High Road to Taos, a most scenic byway. We enjoyed this authentic remnant of Old Spain, still evident in the religion, architecture, topography, history, and people along the real. The byway travels through Chimayo, a community known for the beautiful Santuario de Chimayo, a national historic landmark, and the El Posito, a hole in the floor of a side chapel filled with healing earth. Along NM-76, the byway follows the terrain; the creased and wrinkled badlands populated with scrubby pinon and juniper, with the Jemez Mountains enormous on the horizon if it wasn’t for the clouds.
Nestled in the village of Chimayo along the High Road to Taos sits a national historic landmark, El Santuario de Chimayo. Every Good Friday, tens of thousands of pilgrims make their way to this “Lourdes of the Southwest.”
Next up was the San José de Gracia Church in the village of Las Trampas. First settled by 12 Spanish families in 1751, the village of Las Trampas was originally built within a defensive wall with low buildings packed around a central plaza. The tight-knit traditional community flourished for hundreds of years, developing and retaining a culture little influenced by the outside world. Within the village is the San José de Gracia Church, one of the most-original and best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in New Mexico.
It was then on to the bridge across Rio Grande Gorge next where it’s not for the faint of heart to peer over the rail some 600 feet to the river below. It was a tad unnerving to feel the bridge vibrate with the passing vehicles, especially the tractor-trailer rigs.
After a walkabout in Taos to visit another stop on the Honeymoon Tour at the Taos Inn we made our way to Ranchos de Taos and the San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church.
Completed in 1816, the San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church is a large, sculpted Spanish Colonial church with massive adobe buttresses and two front-facing bell towers. Because of its imposing form and sculpted body, the church is a favorite subject for artists. Ansel Adams photographed the church for his Taos Pueblo art book and Georgia O’Keeffe painted a series of perspectives of the church. O’Keeffe once described it as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards.” In most works, these artists favored the view of the back of the church, with its smoothly sculpted adobe beehive buttresses. The beautiful colonial-era church continues to attract artists and the Ranchos de Taos plaza is home to several galleries.
The afternoon found us making our way back to the Delaware Hacienda along NM-68 and the Rio Grande but not before spying Camel Rock.
The next morning we would begin our return leg home having enjoyed the generous hospitality of our hosts, Bob and Suzanne. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t photograph Suzanne during our stay. So, I stole one from FB.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Homeward Bound, Santa Fe to Merced!
It all began as an invitation from Andy Neufeld to ride the moto, with whom in countless chance meetings at the supermarket or hardware store our conversation always ended with, “Let’s get together and ride some time…” The body of the emailed invitation follows:
“Please get your bike (and your core) in shape and join me for an October ride. I propose that we leave Merced on the morning of Saturday, October 12 and cross over Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass Road.”
“I propose that we then continue south from Lee Vining and stay the first night either near June Lake or near Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth is the more populated and busy of the two areas and it’s a little further along the route but in my opinion, June Lake is more desirable.”
“From the Lakes area I propose to travel to Panamint Springs and rest there through the middle of the day. Panamint Springs is a bit on the rough side as tourist destinations go. There are, however, hot springs and resort environments. There may be beer available for purchase. “
“When the sun goes down in Panamint Springs I propose to travel across Death Valley by the light of October 13th’s full moon, arriving late at our next destination, which will be Beatty, Nevada.”
“After a night in Beatty, we will travel north through Nevada and turn west toward Lee Vining, where we third and final night. The next morning, it’s back home through Yosemite.”
“I am inviting 4 people for this ride. If you can come, you are welcome to invite others. Please let me know if you are able to come, and how many you will be, and I will get to work finding us places to stay!”
I always get excited when invited on a ride. Especially one that comes with an itinerary and disclaimers and endnotes:
Weather can ruin everything. It can certainly change plans without notice. We’ll have to deal with it.
In my imagination of this trip, the riding will be the roughest part. No sleeping on the ground or eating out of cans.
There should be no expectation of any standard of any sort for gear or machines.
There are lots of individual decisions to be made and people might join late, leave early, or generally go off on their own paths at any time.
Sound like fun? Then let’s go!
Little did I know what was meant by disclaimer (or note) iv, “There are lots of individual decisions to be made and people might join late, leave early, or generally go off on their own paths at any time.” Especially the “go off on their own paths” part…
Day 1, Up and Over Tioga Pass
A disclaimer of my own:
Sadly, WordPress won’t allow directly embedding any of the video I took from the moto. I would first have to publish it on YouTube and link the content. I’m new at the whole GoPro thing, but there were several spectacular clips riding over Tioga Pass that would have added to the beauty and feel of the ride. The old dog needs to learn some new tricks… That’s why there are no photos of our crossing.
Another friend, fulfilled Andy’s generous offer to invite others and ignoring his second end note or disclaimer (ii), Pete Etchegaray, who you might have noticed has appeared in several of my previous moto adventures. Pete and I planned to camp. We drew the line at eating out of cans however.
Stoked to travel over Tioga Pass in the fall to enjoy the splendor of an East Side autumn was a deliciously seductive reason to ride in October. Sunny days and chilly nights were perfect, especially since we’d come off of a debilitatingly hot summer and that we’d only be riding through the night on the Death Valley leg of the journey. Perfect!
Seems to me Coulterville could use a visit from Kevin Bacon…
We began the ride by making our way to Hwy 120 via Hwy 59 north through Snelling, Merced Falls Rd. and Hwy 132 to Coulterville, Greeley Hill Rd. to Smith Station Rd. and the northern route through Yosemite. With the exception of a brief delay on the Greeley Hill Rd. leg to look for, but sadly not find, an air duct that fell off of Andy’s “Flying Brick”, we arrived in Lee Vining at the Whoa Nellie Deli for a snack around noon.
We arrived in Mammoth intending to meet with a veteran bicycle riding comrade, Karl Teller to exchange mockery, insults, and other juvenile impudence. However, as once before on an earlier Autumn East Side Moto, Karl and his son Johnny were off bow hunting elk. I guess next time I come to visit I’ll check the California Fish and Wildlife Big Game Hunting Digest to see what’s in season and when…
After a fine dinner at Roberto’s in Mammoth watching the sun set over the Sierra, the night chill began to weigh on our decision to ignore that second endnote as we motored back to the Sierra Nevada Lodge. We decided to disavow the notion of camping choosing instead to awaken in a warm motel room rather than a frosty campsite.
Day 2, Elevation Extremes
Awakening to another clear sunny day, though chilly to be sure, we set off for breakfast at the Tom’s Place Resort, Cabins, Lodge, General Store, Cafe & Bar near Crowley Lake down Hwy 395 from Mammoth.
Having time but little distance to make our afternoon destination in anticipation of the full moon rise, we took a side trip up to Whitney Portal along the way stopping at the Manzanar Camp, a U.S. National Park Service Historic Site just north of Lone Pine. A little history thanks to the NPS:
I highly recommend touring the Manzanar Camp. I recall my first visit some 40+ years ago when the visitor center facility that is now a remarkable interpretive, interactive, historical museum of Smithsonian caliber was then a road maintenance facility for Inyo County. If timed right, you could jump the fence, trespassing, and examine the camp’s ruins back then. Today the Park Service has reconstructed many of the features of the camp with the compelling story of the hardships imposed on the interned, but resourceful and dignified Japanese American citizens during WWII.
Upon arriving at Lone Pine for fuel and a mid-day snack, we were diverted from Hwy 395 to B Street so that a parade could commence commemorating the Lone Pine Film Festival. It seems that movies had been screened for three days, all day long and the event was wrapping up with a parade and later a campfire.
In 1920, Lone Pine was changed forever when a silent movie, The Roundup, was filmed in the Alabama Hills. Since then, over 400 movies, 100 TV episodes, and countless commercials have been shot in location in the area, immortalizing the striking rock formations and taking advantage of the picture-perfect weather.
I’ve always enjoyed spotting Mt. Whitney in as a backdrop to many of the western films I’ve seen over the years. Indeed the mountain is the star!
The East Side of the Sierra Nevada Range or what Mary Austin called “The Other Side of California” is captured in John Muir’s concise description, “In general views no mark of man is visible on it, nor anything to suggest the richness of the life it cherishes, or the depth and grandeur of its sculpture.”
The road to the road’s end at the portal is filled with stunning views of the peaks above and the valley below, each stretch of pavement revealing the majestic geology characteristic of this extraordinary western landscape. You have to overlook the road, movie crews, and other folks bagging the YOLO hike up to Whitney summit to appreciate Muir’s description, however, there is this…
Top pic below: Pete, Andy, and Mt. Whitney with a guest appearance by the official LP ‘Bama Hill; Next pict, Tj and Mt. Whitney; 3rd pic, Andy as Motaur; Last pic in the series, the Owens Valley, Alabama Hills, the southern terminus of the White Mountains, and what’s left of Owens Lake…
Pete on the rocks followed by a sweeper, neat, back…
Onward to Panamint Springs
No trip to Death Valley would be complete without entering the park from the north out of Lone Pine. After a brief reach on Hwy 395 south from Lone Pine to the intersection with Hwy 136 we headed in south-easterly direction through the settlements of Dolomite, Swansea, Keeler, all having seen more prosperous days when silver ingots were hauled by steamship across Owens Lake and then by rail to Los Angeles from ore mined at Cerro Gordo in the 1870’s. Had Andy and I been on more adventure worthy bikes like Pete’s V-Strom, we would have taken the 4×4 road up to the ghost town. Cerro Gordo will have to wait for the next bike upgrade.
History lesson: The 1872 Owens Valley Earthquake interrupted mining briefly rendering a pier in Swansea inoperable so enter Julius M. Keeler whose steamship “Bessie Brady” brought ore from Keeler across the lake to the town of Cartago. 1882 the Bessie Brady was destroyed by fire. There was a 300-foot wharf at Keeler, and the steamship route cut days off the time a freight wagon would have taken to circle the lake. She carried 700 ingots at a time in a three-hour crossing. Silver prices in the late 1800’s plummeted so the next boom of zinc, rallied the town along with small surges in the mining of silver, lead, and limestone. However, by the 1950s all mining had ceased. Train service was stopped in 1960.
A few reminders of those better days remain as does a small population of residents in Keeler.
A Catholic Priest and a Jedi Knight
Continuing east on Hwy 190 we rolled up and down, but more down than up considering we were heading towards Death Valley into Panamint Springs. The highway takes you through Rainbow Canyon (nicknamed Star Wars Canyon and Jedi Transition) just inside Death Valley National Park in Inyo County on the park’s western border. It is commonly used by the United States Air Force and Navy for fighter jet training and is frequented by photographers who, from the canyon rim at the Father Crowley Overlook, are able to photograph jets flying beneath them.
No jets today Pete, who is neither a priest nor Jedi Knight, as far as I know…
History lesson cont.: Father Crowley, for whom Crowley Overlook is named, is also the namesake for Lake Crowley, just north of Tom’s Place. Upon the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913, the diversion of the Owens River by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power took the water from the the “Land of Little Rain” along 223 miles to Los Angeles, resulting in that city’s phenomenal growth. No mystery in the corresponding decline of the Owens Valley farms as the once verdant and productive agricultural economy collapsed. Before long, the verdant valley was returned to desert conditions where the vegetation consisted largely of greasewood and sagebrush. It was in this harsh environment that Fr. Crowley would live during his years of service to the area. With the demise of agriculture as an economic base, Fr. Crowley turned to tourism as a potential means of helping the valley residents survive. Learn more at: https://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=1576
Tourism, that’s what gets a lake and and overlook named in your honor on The Other Side of California.
The Panamint Springs Resort in the 1950’s (top) and today…
Slipping into Darkness
After a fabulous burger and a thirst quenching draft we retreated to our respective corners. Andy found a lovely ironwood tree to nap beneath at the Panamint Springs Resort. Pete and I schemed to get a tent campsite and lodging for Andy so that we could enjoy the serene beauty of a night in the Panamint Valley as we had in the prior spring. Since riding across Death Valley under the cover of darkness illuminated by a full moon was the raison d’être, we thought we could use the resort as our base camp and tool around Death Valley and return to the camp that evening. After awakening Andy, since it was his inspiration to ride under the full moon to Beatty, we folded. After fueling up, we set off for Furnace Creek.
Since we were only 140 miles into our 290 mile day we topped off our tanks with some expensive petrol and as the sun was disappearing quickly, we bypassed the road to Zabriskie Point for the sunset. Besides, it was closed for repair, thus beginning our trek across Death Valley (278.5 feet below sea level at Badwater) in the fading light of the day. Seeing a young coyote alongside the road in the fading twilight–the soft, diffused light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, either from daybreak to sunrise or, more commonly, from sunset to nightfall, or, a state of uncertainty, vagueness, or gloom–? You decide as I began to wonder about other potentially somewhat immovable obstacles that might wander onto the road. You know, like a freed descendant from the 20-Mule Team or Death Valley Scotty’s great, great, grand burro enjoying a saunter in the full moonlight. But the air, much cooler than the temperate mid-eighties of the afternoon and the low angle of the setting sun made for a dreamlike landscape and collision concerns briefly faded. Blissful optics only lasting for a few miles so we hunkered down keeping eyes peeled for any critters or road conditions that might detract from the otherwise surreal ride.
Fooled by the Full Moon
We didn’t really see the moon or enjoy it’s illumination until we had pretty much climbed out of Death Valley and began heading east on Hwy 190 crossing the Funeral Mountains. Finally, upon seeing the moon rise over the Funeral Mountain Wilderness Area, we pulled over. It wasn’t disappointing, it was just sort of not as we had imagined. Bundled up in ATG and concentrating on the road, the whole full moon affect was not so much noticeable. At least not like cross country skiing across a frozen Ostrander Lake, hiking above the treeline on the Sierra over Muir Pass, or sailing on the San Francisco Bay under a full moon. Besides now it was getting cold as we climbed up Hwy 190 out of Death Valley and we had variously been on and off the bikes for 12 hours. Fortunately the glow on the horizon of Amargosa Springs gave us inspiration to keep going so that stopping and adding a layer of insulation would make the final 70 mile leg possible, if not a little more bearable, in wind chilled to the single digits according to Pete’s V-Strom ambient temperature gauge.
Andy as the OH (original hipster) in minimalist leather and jeans…
From Wiki: Amargosa Opera House and Hotel is a historic building and cultural center located in Death Valley Junction, in eastern Inyo County, California near Death Valley National Park. Resident artist Marta Becket staged dance and mime shows there from the late 1960s until her final show in February 2012. The Death Valley Junction Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the nonprofit established by Becket for the preservation of the property.http://www.amargosaoperahouse.org/
Next trip along Hwy 127 the Amargosa Hotel is a must stop to stay the night…
The theater was part of a company town designed by architect Alexander Hamilton McCulloch and constructed in 1923–25 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The U-shaped complex of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture style adobe buildings included company offices, employees’ headquarters, a dormitory and a 23-room hotel with a dining room, lobby and store. At the northeast end of the complex was a recreation hall used as a community center for dances, church services, movies, funerals and town meetings.
Had we only known that the now hipsterish AH&C served, “Delicious entrees and nourishing choices with ingredients sourced from a surprising abundance of local artisanal growers. No visit to the Death Valley region is complete without the discovery of how well you can eat in the desert!” (from the Amargosa Hotel and Cafe website), we could have gotten rooms enjoyed artisanal abundance and ridden those 70 miles the next day in the warmth of daylight.
Spacing Out in Beatty
Riding Hwy 127 across the Nevada border then on Hwy 95 to Beatty was to say the least, a bit of a let down. The first hour of the night ride from Stovepipe Wells was sublime. The second hour of the night ride to Amargosa Springs was “interesting”. The third hour of the night ride to Beatty was agony. Cold, hungry, and in the dark on a motorcycle riding up a lineal two lane undivided highway heavy with triple tractor trailer rigs isn’t my idea of a great time. Given my latent masochistic nature though, I kind of enjoyed the suffering. I think we all did and if by our subdued manner upon reaching the hotel was any indication, the distress was nary mentioned.
I did express early in the planning stages that when we arrived in Beatty, if too beaten up to pitch a tent in the cold at 10:00 pm in the dark, maybe staying at the Atomic Inn would be just the thing… to do… in Beatty Nevada. From their website: “The Atomic Inn is a retro themed classic style Death Valley lodge located in the Eastern Mojave Desert in the Wild West pioneering town of Beatty, Nevada. We are the gateway to Death Valley National Park, located just 6 miles from the Hell’s Gate Entrance! Established in 1979, The Atomic Inn has been under new management since 2012. We have completely remodeled the rooms in our boutique, themed hotel to offer the finest Death Valley accommodations in the area. However, we do remain the most affordable of Beatty Hotels.”
Pause to think what “boutique” and “most affordable” in separate sentences means. Yep. You can tell you’re in quality affordable boutique lodging by noting the preserved 70’s era wall panelling and luxurious see through bath towels that also work as dermabrasion devices. Notice the classic Nevada landscaped theme in the bedding…
It was late so in lieu of a hot dog from Rebel 74 gas station (note Andy grasping his stomach having eaten one…) Pete and I opted for a tasty boutique microbrewed beverage. 40 years ago such a thing didn’t exist in Nevada. 40 years ago the Atomic Inn wasn’t a boutique inn either.
Day 3, Columbus or Indigenous I’m Not
The following Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day morning awash with sun shine was much warmer than just a few hours earlier. Packing before breakfast, Pete a conspicuously minimalist rider and aspiring hipster, finished first while I was wrestling with my strap dense DrySpec bags as an aspiring geezer. Andy was enjoying a few extra minutes of snooze as a seasoned OH would. Pete happened to meet fellow motorcyclist who had also spent the night at the Atomic Inn and who is a member of the Women In The Wind motorcycle club. She had been on the road for a few days hailing from Kingman Arizona and was enroute to a club gathering on the coast of California, at Morro Bay or Monterey if memory serves, or somewhere in between. It seems the Atomic Inn appeals to we wind therapy seeking types notwithstanding gender or club affiliation. It’s also testimony of Pete’s uncanny ability to meet and collect the stories of fellow motorcyclists.
After a nice breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs, and hashbrowns at Mel’s we were caloried-up for the ride ahead to Lee Vining for the night. The service was a bit slow because the place was packed. We were only one of two tables where English was spoken. There were families and couples of French, Dutch, Asian and Spanish speakers, all of whom apparently have a knack for finding places like Mel’s. It may have some renown in the Yelps or TripAdvisors of the interwebs and therefore attracts unwitting foreign tourists. I’m sure the tired kitsched-out Happy Days theme is uncommon in Flanders or Paris. There was one hitch in an otherwise fine, yet ordinary breakfast experience. A churlishly rude and ill tempered waitress, far more so than the fabled surley servers at McSorley’s Ale House in NYC, seemed indignant to have to take orders or deliver plates. She had the customer service skills of Social Security aged Bevis and Butthead. Fortunately, we had a much nicer, younger, and far more affable waitress. Maybe if you live in Beatty long enough it changes you…
After a slight navigation error (uh, my bad) our attempt to visit Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open Air Museum installations fell flat as temperatures were rising and miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles lay ahead. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldwell_Open_Air_Museum
Passing through Beatty once more, having traveled some twenty miles in the wrong direction, we righted our course and lo and behold we encountered our first true sign that we were definitely in Nevada.
Oops, I (He) Did It Again
Our day included the option to head north on Hwy 95 to Lida Junction (home of the boarded up Cottontail Ranch Brothel) (Like Amazon, has the interwebs delivered the demise of the local Brothel?) then west on Hwy 266 to the Oasis junction then on to Hwy 168 over the twisties up and over Gilbert Pass to Big Pine. Another option was to travel further north to Tonapah then head west on Hwy 6 to Benton Springs. None of the three of us view love as a game nor do we have any affection for Tonopah. I don’t think Britney Spears, whose lead single from the album by the same name, Oops I Did It Again (not Tonopah), had geography on her mind when belting out the song on MTV in March of 2000 following the Y2K scare. Nor do I think she ever performed in Tonopah. Nor did Andy, who at mid-day, suddenly disappeared for the second time on the ride. (We are sworn to never speak of the first time he went MIA.)
I had taken the lead with Pete and Andy behind. The roads were true and in good condition so the throttle hand was itching to eat up some miles. When I arrived at the Y in the road where Hwy 266 splits from Hwy 168 I had by then lost sight of my two companions.
Like the closing stanza in Robert Frost’s, The Road Less Traveled;
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Not ages hence, as I write this in November following our October adventure, and not in the woods but along a tree sided road, I sighed and thought that we had clearly discussed this junction, at and earlier junction to Goldfield on 266, when we contemplated how lost we were. You see, this part of the ride was untraversed by any of us in the past as had much of the prior route. I pitched the leg earlier because it passed by Deep Springs College once over Gilbert Pass on Hwy 168 to Big Pine.
From Wiki: Deep Springs College is a small, private liberal arts junior college in Deep Springs, California. With fewer than 30 students at any given time, the college is one of the smallest institutions of higher education in the United States. https://youtu.be/utziPMKcK3U
Deep Springs is founded on three principles, commonly called the “three pillars”: academics, labor, and self-governance. In addition to studies, students work a minimum of 20 hours a week either on the ranch and farm attached to the college or in positions related to the college and community. Position titles have historically included cook, irrigator, butcher, groundskeeper, cowboy, “office cowboy”, dairy, and feedman. Deep Springs maintains a cattle herd and an alfalfa hay farming operation.
Why I chose Chico State over Deep Springs is a something of a regret I have. What I didn’t have is the IQ to get into the place… https://www.deepsprings.edu/
When I arrived at the summit of Gilbert Pass weaving in and out of scores of perfectly banked curves I decided to rest, collect myself for the downhill, and await my pals. After a few minutes with no sign of the lads, Pete arrived and asked if I had seen Andy. Uh, I thought he was behind you… After waiting for 20 or so minutes, we decided to turn back and find out what was up insofar as we were concerned given an earlier episode (which we are sworn never to mention).
Arriving back at the Oasis junction, no Andy was in sight. We puzzled over whether he had taken the wrong road, one diverging in an alfalfa field, one less traveled by, wondering what difference it would make. After inquiring at what appeared to be a ranch where the residents were apparently checking the back 40 and not around, I stopped a car asking the two young Parisians if they had seen a fellow on an orange moto heading east in the opposite direction from them on Hwy 266, the road less traveled. They smiled and said they had not. I asked them if they needed directions. Smiling again, they did not. I thought about how my dear and departed friend Larry would have handled that encounter. I am not worthy…
Pete and I decided to ride up and over Gilbert Pass, past Deep Springs, and high-tail it to Big Pine over Westgard Pass where we knew cell service was available to give Andy a head’s-up. Getting to ride the twisties back up Gilbert Pass again distracted me temporarily about wondering where Andy was and appeased my disappointment for not stopping and checking out Deep Springs College, maybe buying a tee shirt or mug. On my first trip up and back down the road, I passed by a pick-up and camper rig that was on the side of the road with a family having lunch. There was a table and chairs and food so I didn’t bother stopping and asking if they needed assistance. On the second trip up with Pete we noticed another vehicle stopped and so we decided to inquire. Neither vehicle’s occupants spoke English. Dutch and French again. Imagine that. Assuring us they were okay and awaiting a tow truck, we departed.
Following Gilbert Pass we enjoyed Westgard Pass, one of the best ways to pass time on a moto.
We rolled into the Mobile station in Big Pine. I called Andy leaving a voicemail and text and retreated into mini-mart seeking a High Brew “for those who do” and some sunflower seeds. As I was walking out of the store, checking my phone to see any response from Andy, I look up and what do I see? Andy walking up! I was relieved to find out that he wasn’t abducted by aliens that are rumored to visit the area in a cosmic rapture but that he consciously decided to take the road to Dyer, a 30 mile detour form Oasis, to get fuel as the “Flying Brick” didn’t have the gas mileage or capacity of the Kawasexy or Wee Strom. Feeling relieved we soon hit the pavement heading to our Lee Vining destination for the night (refraining from mentioning the earlier episode about which we’ve sworn to never speak).
A quick 15 miles on Hwy 385 we continued north from Bishop taking Hwy 6 to Benton Station and the intersection with Hwy 120 to Lee Vining. Benton Hot Springs, a few miles west of Benton Station, is a funky relic of a time when miners and original Cowboys enjoyed the mineral waters heated from the depths below the thermally active Long Valley Caldera. https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/long_valley/
From the Historic Benton Hot Springs website:
The west was wild along the California and Nevada border in the late 1880s and Benton Hot Springs was no different. Horsemen came in from around the range on payday and enjoyed a good meal, a stiff drink and anything else they could find. The town was populated by fairly peaceful folks, but there was a sturdy jailhouse for those stepping over the line.
Benton was once a small mining town with up to 5,000 inhabitants. Many of the original buildings still remain, but the town has never completely died. In fact it is still rich in ranching and farming and features the Old House and Inn, a popular vacation destination.
In 1883, a railroad line was completed to Benton Station and soon train service was initiated to Laws Station, located several miles east of Bishop Creek. Benton Hot Springs got its start around 1863 with the discovery of silver in the nearby Blind Springs Hills and along the White Mountains. One of the oldest surviving towns in Mono County, Benton was once thriving, with up to 5,000 inhabitants.
It’s always interesting to contemplate how in such a short period of time, maybe twenty years, the enterprise that would support several thriving East Side communities where mining, agriculture, and commerce could ramp up to build such impressive infrastructure that would sustain a significant population for another 50 years, but is today, scarcely evident.
46 Miles of Sweepers, Rollers and Long Straightaways…
46 miles to Hwy 395 with another 13 miles of slab to Lee Vining lay ahead. Now, late afternoon with shadows lengthening, there was an “urgency” to make our way to Lee Vining for what would likely be a competition for the last room at the inn, or Lake View Lodge, where Andy had earlier made reservations. By this time our camping gear was an accessory to make our bikes look like we were hearty adventure travelers.
It was on this stretch of highway I temporarily suspended my otherwise conservative approach to riding a motorcycle by opening up the throttle to see what the venerable Kawasexy could do. Throwing caution to the wind, I experienced the landscape passing by so rapidly it was a blur concentrating intently on the road as speed clearly exceeded the distance needed to stop should a wayward elk or pika run across the road before me. Only two vehicles passed in the other direction on the entire 46 miles between Benton Springs and Mono Lake. Knowing Pete’s predilection for speed, I was surprised not to see him in my mirror.
Venerable Institutions Galore
I arrived at the Lake View Lodge and in a few minutes was joined by Pete. It seems we had the same idea about the road. Andy, maybe ten minutes behind, savored the experience, sipping the landscape as Pete and I quaffed it.
As I had considered, the Lodge was full up for accommodating two more weary travelers on this late Monday evening. However, Andy asked if it would be possible to upgrade his reservation for one of the larger “cabins” that when presented to Pete and me exceeded our budgets for hostel. The Lake View Lodge is family owned and operated since 1932 and is a mash-up of a motel, a variety of small cabins, and larger modular homes. We were given the 4 Queen Cabin that could accommodate eight guests. The math worked out getting a deal since it was unlikely to be occupied that evening so we signed the register and made plans for dinner.
After a fine dinner at Nicely’s, a venerable Lee Vining institution with a menu that probably precedes my first visit 47 years ago, we procured some après dinner beverages at the Mono Market (ditto a venerable institution) to enjoy while gathered around the smelter-caliber gas fireplace in the Queen to watch the Lions lose to the Packers on Monday Night Football. Much reflective conversation about the ride took place as we were warmed from the outside by fireplace and on the inside by a fine bourbon. The ride was on the whole quite satisfying. Covering over 800 miles by then, experiencing the changing season over a range of topography, can not be under appreciated.
Tomorrow the homeward leg over Tioga Pass…
Day 4, Adieu… As for 1/3 of the Crew, the Grind Beckons
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
I want to fly like an eagle To the sea Fly like an eagle Let my spirit carry me I want to fly like an eagle Till I’m free
The clock was ticking and Andy, anxious to get back for the obligation of work, was pressing for an early start. Since we couldn’t fly like an eagle over Tioga Pass on our return route we rolled up to gas up at the Whoa Nellie Deli Mobile at the intersection of Hwys 395 and 120.
The ride back over the pass was absent of any warmth whatsoever as evidenced by Pete’s ambient temperature gauge reading below the scale of single digits. Wearing virtually every stitch of clothing I brought, including layering up the gloves, I resembled Ralphie’s brother Randy, from a Christmas Story.
Nature is not a place to visit, it is home
Poet Gary Snyder’s words expressing the relationship between nature and home is just the sort of Zen I was feeling as the ride concluded. We arrived home in Merced sound of body, mostly, and with rejuvenated minds. Rides such as this with friends elevates the experience especially when taken across the interestingly elevated topography* from the Sierra Crest to the depths of Death Valley and across the Great Basin of Nevada and the high desert of Eastern California. Certainly a motorcycle ride is the cure for most any ailment induced by inactivity or isolation. We all agreed that another ride would surely emerge to enjoy another season over new terrain in the fine company of one another.
*Topography defined as the relief features or surface configuration of an area or schema of a structural entity, as of the mind, a field of study, or society, reflecting a division into distinct areas having a specific relation or a specific position relative to one another.
The air was lighter in October than during the early fire season where much of Central California was blanketed by smoke from the Ferguson, Carr, and Mendocino Complex fires in July through September. These fires, just three of the 8,527 conflagrations in all of California, were controlled when the tragic and massive Camp fire erupted in November 2018. In Merced, our home, we’re accustomed to fog in the winter but without the AQI 200 – 300+ ashen particulates you could taste with each breath experienced this summer. The extended summer fire season ironically put a damper of sorts on my usual bicycling, hiking, and moto adventures.
Thankfully, as fire activity rapidly diminished and the AQI resumed it’s more normal “unhealthy” rating in September before raising it’s ugly mane again in November, plans were made to travel through the Western Sierra Nevada with moto/bicycle pal Pete on local roads including Hwy 49 up to Lassen National Park, west on Hwy 36 to the Lost Coast, south on Hwy 1 to Jenner, and finally east to Santa Rosa and home .
Day 1 to Sierraville
The challenge on a four day 1,000 plus mile moto ride is that the riding part will take up a good part of the day that cuts into the stopping parts for fuel, food, and snapping inspiring pics. Most gas station stops, while a necessity, are less than inspiring food or pic ops unless beer is your food of choice.
Hwy 49, the Golden Chain Highway, would have taken us through Jamestown had we opted to go to our usual Bear Valley Rd. junction. Not wanting to deal with the Golden Traffic Chain quite yet, we opted to travel the less traveled roads through Knight’s Ferry following part of our bicycling route on Los Cerritos to Keys Rd., Lake Rd., around Turlock Lake, and across the Robert’s Ferry Bridge. From there on Crabtree, Warnerville, and Willms Roads intersecting with Hwy. 108 at Knight’s Ferry we headed north on E. Sonora Rd. through Eugene on Milton Rd. then rode through Felix, Milton, Jenny Lind, Rancho Calaveras thus skipping a big chunk of Hwy 49 when finally reaching San Andreas. From there it was on to Camp Pardee, Buena Vista, Ione, Latrobe, Shingle Springs, and Kingsville into Placerville where a first inspired smile was recorded. Bob Frost would approve the lesser road smile.
No less admiring of Robert Frost, my fellow two-wheeler friend and I often jest about our admiration for Peter Fonda’s declaration from The Wild Angles that inspires our taking roads less traveled:
Dirtbags that we are, not wanting to be hassled by the man, we figured the tourist traffic along the more established picturesque State Highway 49, say from Coulterville, was best to be avoided in pursuit of our desire to be free to ride our machines and have a good time, even though we’d miss out on Pete’s favorite twisties on Hwy 49 from the Fremont Overlook down to Bagby. From the inundated historic Bagby stop on the Yosemite Valley Railway, more twisties climb up into Coulterville where if you’re lucky, the “mayor” will be holding court on the patio of the Coulter Store …
Plans, like dreams, are easily broken and unlike a movie script we had resumed riding Hwy 49 through the suburban Sierra through Placerville to Auburn. Somehow stop light after stop light dampened our sense of freedom until reaching the Grass Valley and Nevada City nexus where less of the man’s repression was evident. Presumably because fire discouraged tourism was at an ebb.
From GV/NC we headed NE to Downieville as the afternoon shadows lengthened and we were once again free, free to ride our machines and have a good time!
Two wheeling in Downieville inclusively involves pedalling as well as twisting a throttle, although from the photo above, you’d think Downieville a sleepy little foothill burgh. Absent are the two wheelers that I recall outnumbered the school busses something on the order of 100:1 that are mysteriously absent in the photos.
From Downieville we entered the deciduous and evergreen zone of the Sierra having left the grasslands savanna riding twisties and rolling hills through chaparral/oak woodlands of the valley and foothills. We crested the Sierra Nevada near Sierra City, where the vegetation grades from mostly ponderosa pine at the lower elevations on the west side and lodgepole pine on the east side, to fir and spruce at the higher elevations. Después de disfrutar de una buena comida en el restaurante Los Dos Hermanos, we discovered the creeping seasonal change in what resembled alpine conditions that exist on the eastern side of the Sierra crest and at the highest elevations where the aspen beginning to change color telegraphed winter. But where to camp for the chilly night?
A quick stop for provisions, following that delightful mexican dinner, we procured the philosophical musings lubricant known as beer, Negra Modelo as I recall, at the Sierraville Service and Country Store. Here the delightful proprietor happily gave directions to the nearest campsite: “Keep on 89 over the hill and down at the bottom you’ll see the Cottonwood Creek Campground. It should be open.”
Indeed, the campgrounds were open with two other occupants. Running water was not available as nighttime temps were below freezing and the system was shut down. However, our cervezas didn’t have a chance to freeze as we enjoyed spirited conversation of the philosophical sort in recalling 280 some miles of the day’s riding through stunning landscapes ending the day in view of those aspen readying for winter.
Day 2 Bound for the Redwoods
Up and at’em early, thinking we would scoot out of the campground leaving no trace of our stay as did our neighboring occupants who scooted out only minutes before us and who should we encounter? Yep, Ranger Earl seeking remuneration for his dutiful 8 a.m. campground roundup. For our nine hour stay he generously gave us the “winter rate” of $10 instead of the normal $20 fee since there was no running water. Not quite the rate our fellow squatters enjoyed, we suspected our $10 provided the good Ranger with a fine huevos rancheros breakfast at Los Dos Hermanos following our departure.
Returning to Sierraville we sought breakfast at Smithneck Farms Bakery/Cafe for a hearty bowl of oatmeal and a stout cup or two of java.
Our destination was the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park to camp for the evening, but first, there was this volcano we wished to see. Heading N Northwest on Hwy 89 we rode through several small communities. For such a sparsely populated region the folks living there sure like to identify their homesteads. We rode Hwy 89 through Calpine, Whitehawk, Clio, Graeagle, Blairsden, Two Rivers, Cromberg, Spring Garden, Massack, East Quincy and Quincy two communities I remembered visiting during my undergraduate days at Chico State. From Quincey we encountered Keddie, Indian Falls, Greenville, Canyon Dam, Lake Almanor, and Chester, the latter two also remembered from the fog of Chico Daze.
Heading west on Hwy 36/89 we climbed up to Lassen Peak the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range of the Western United States. On May 22, 1915, a powerful explosive eruption at Lassen Peak devastated nearby areas, and spread volcanic ash as far as 280 miles to the east. Considering California was already smoldering, the potentially eruptive volcano didn’t really cause us any concern, our lungs hardened with forest particulates having endured the summer fires riding our bicycles. What’s a little pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis among friends?
It’s a small world after all and whom should we encounter at the Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee Visitor Center? A fellow geezer and former resident of Merced, our home town, fellow bicyclist, and grandfather who adoringly cares for and celebrates his grandson and their antics on Facebook while my former student, his son, is at work… Ken who eschewed BMW motorcycles for years owning a Honda CBR 1100 XX and who gave up riding motos for bicycles after his second or third mid-life crisis until a fourth or fifth mid-life crisis found him retiring to Lincoln, CA. We serendipitously discovered him astride a BMW beast of a geezermobile pulling into the visitor center parking lot where his riding chaps were waiting. It seems his buddies were frustratedly awaiting his return from the volcano’s summit with spectacles he both lost and later found crushed. A classic geezer move that ended with a surprising encounter and mini-reunion.
Soon we bid adieu to Ken and his stuffy BMW crew who were returning from some Canadian luxury tour headed to some cushy resort at Lake Almanor to guzzle fancy micro-brews. With miles to go before we sleep, and miles to go before we sleep, we climbed back on the people’s bikes to begin the our westward journey on Hwy 36 to the famed twisties west of Red Bluff. You know you’re on the right road as you leave Red Bluff and see the sign warning…
But before you can enjoy the clutch-wrist, throttle-wrist, and shift-lever-left ankle, right-brake-pedal ankle fatigue, you happen to notice a nail in your tire after fueling next to a motorcycle dealership/shop. Serendipity again? Nah. I had to plug the tire because the shop manager wouldn’t assist me other allowing me to air up the repaired tire citing liability exposure. He couldn’t sell me a tire because he didn’t have one to fit my bike. It was a Kawasaki dealership too! Speaking of exposure, we were exposed to searing heat in the upper 90’s having just descended from the cool of the mountains adding to the fun. Indeed, our delay wrought afternoon sun angle glare directly in our face as we began the best part of the ride.
Soon the arid lee side of the Coast Range hills gave way to mountains shielding the sun with forests giving us a greater measure of confidence in being able to see through the glare the undulations and blind corners we encountered. However, as we continued through the next 100 or so miles of twisting roadways, some under repair and gravelly, fatigue began to set in.
I hastily pulled over near the Mad River Burger Bar needing a brief respite from the constant throttle twisting, shifting to accelerate, braking, and down shifting, repeat and rinse. I used the stop as an excuse to consult the map even though there was only a single road to our destination. Slightly off-balance, my topheavy packed-with-gear bike began to tip just as Pete pulled alongside. Though I had dropped my bike once before on another trip with Pete, that time when he had abruptly pulled over to take in a view on wet gravel along the side of the road on ride west over Ebbetts Pass earlier in the year, I hadn’t since. I wear the scratched hard case as a battle scar of freedom! Timing is everything and so just as Pete pulled up my candy-matte orange Versys domino struck his pristine, shiny chrome, black and white [and in a] Triumph [of gravity] both bikes came to rest, gently on their sides.
Hastily righting our bikes, embarrassed as wouldn’t you know a crowd was assembled for happy hour at the bar, we superficially assessed the damage and were pleased to notice how little damage had occurred. I was somewhat relieved sensing that Pete was none too happy with my faux pas. An eventual clutch lever replacement on Pete’s bike along with a slight headlight realignment and a footpeg replacement on the Versys made it all mo’ better.
Following a brief conversation with a local about camping in the vicinity we decided to clear out from the gawking crowd of 420 bystanders at the Mad River Burger Bar and Off Sale saloon as he recommended we just ride up a dirt road behind the bar and set up camp there… I have no doubt that his overture was sincere. It’s the 420 happy hour crowd who might just have an interest to protect whatever just might be up that dirt road, that we were concerned with. One never knows how territorial Master Gardeners can be…
Hwy 36 follows the meandering Van Duzen River just west of the Mad River through Trinity and Humboldt Counties. As nightfall was descending and not having eaten since a sammie on the side of a volcano, we passed a couple of opportunities to grab the evenings provisions in the belief that Bridgeville, CA, an actual designated town on the map closer to our destination, would have a store and/or restaurant. We were wrong. Bridgeville had been variously put on the market and sold as many as four times since 2002. Apparently legalizing pot was driving real estate speculation. As far as we could tell the only feature of Bridgeville that had any redeeming value was the old Bridgeville bridge over the Van Duzen River constructed in 1875. We declined taking any dirt roads to look for other “value added” features of the town.
Just a few miles down Hwy 36 we came upon Swains Flat Outpost and Garden Center in the community of Carlotta where Royal Gold Bulk Soil could be purchased. Given that the Outpost was along a fertile river plane in a dense forest we wondered why there was so many garden supplies so readily available. It certainly didn’t appear there was a farmers market nearby and the only food available in the Outpost grocery store was from the industrial food chain. So a pre-made sammie, some chips, and the requisite micro-brew, a fine Lagunitas IPA as I recall, were procured as we were given directions to the only campground open in the area, the Van Duzen-Pamplin Grove County Park on the recommendation of a bored yet distracted young proprietor.
We arrived at the campground under the cover of darkness. Arriving in a redwood forest at night is akin to entering a sensory deprivation tank without the water. It was pitch black and silent. Finding a nearby campsite, we pulled in for the night setting up in the light provided by our motos to enjoy an incredibly still evening, the only sound that of the crunching of chips as we ate our mediocre dry and virtually tasteless industrial sammies. The beer, however, was excellent.
Day 3 More Redwoods, But a Coastal Course Change
We had originally planned to ride through Ferndale to Mattole Road then on to the Lost Coast and down and back to Hwy 101 by way of Petrolia, Honeydew, and Bull Creek. But considering my brand new Dunlop Sportmax Q3 rear tire was plugged, we opted to stay on smoother pavement nearer “resources” should my fix fail. So, our day 3 breakfast consisted of delicious handmade sammies from the Murrish Market in Hydesville restoring our faith that a sandwich is nearly the perfect food any time of the day or night unless it comes wrapped in plastic. The sammie meal theme was established.
Intersecting with Hwy 101 in Alton, we began our trek south through the Avenue of the Giants in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The otherworldly roadway was sublimely serene with little traffic on our morning tour as mists drifted in and out of this incredible sunlit canvas before us.
Departing the park near Phillipsville we continued South through grove after grove of redwoods crossing the South Fork of the Eel River dozens of times through Garberville, Benbow, Cooks Valley, Piercy, eventually reaching Leggett where leaving Hwy 101 westward we merged with Hwy 1 getting glimpses of the Pacific as we wound our way through Rockport, Hardy, and DeHaven. It was Saturday and the road was filled with tourists and cyclists, though it was a tad misty from fog.
The cool foggy coastal route called for a warm beverage and the little community of Westport was just the sort of funky place you could find a funky cup of fog cutting coffee. And the roadside tire plug repair was holding!
Pete and I entered the store to find a frenzied proprietor behind the counter preparing a couple of dozen sammies for the volunteer fire department’s Saturday training whose CalFire Captain was entertaining us with local knowledge and history of the area. Several other customers were lined up as well. After about 20 minutes of waiting to order coffee, the master deli-man looked up for the first time as we asked his young daughter working the register for a cup of coffee. His head dropped returning to focus on frenzied sammie making and said with only slight derision, “It’s in the back, self-serve.” We decided to forgo sammies…
Wanting to make our Santa Rosa destination for dinner, hoping our friend Dale would prepare something other than sammies, we set off again riding through Newport, Inglenook, Cleone to Ft. Bragg for a snack and fuel where we met several cyclists, one of whom was traveling to or from South America. We suddenly felt small. As the let’s-take-a-drive-up-the-coast crowed continued to crowd the highway, it was on to Caspar, Mendicino, Little River, Albion, Manchester, Stomella, Flumeville, Point Arena, Callway, Fish Rock, Anchor Bay, Gualala, Sea Ranch, Stewarts Point, Walsh Landing, Timber Cove, and Fort Ross. All the names seemed to historically recall past economies of small communities now transformed into tourist stops along a most beautiful and rugged Northern California coastal region.
Reaching Jenner with grumbling stomachs we headed westward on Hwy 116 along the Russian River through Duncan Mills, Seridan, Monte Rio, Guerneville, Forestville, to Guerneville Rd. guided by the GPS to turn right and left here and there to arrive at Casa del Dale.
Dale is a friend with whom, in our other lives, I have skied, hiked, and ridden bicycles along with a group of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts who over the years lived in Merced. Joined by our wives and occasionally our kids, we lived the California dream. We skied cross-country in Yosemite, spending a couple of New Year’s Eves in the Ostrander Ski Hut feasting on unbelievably extravagant and sumptuous meals complete with wine and desserts, all hauled in on sleds and our backs. At other times we would ski out to Dewey Point in the morning then heading back to Badger Pass to ski downhill in the afternoon. Conveniently Dale relocated his family to Yosemite to head a dental practice in the park so a warm fire, mangia and bevi always greeted us following our seasonal trips on snow and into the backcountry. We were hoping Dale had not lost his touch even though it was his wife Catherine who did all of the cooking. Alas, Catherine was out of town.
Lead by our friend Larry, a ragtag assemblage of fellows rode our bikes across 11 Western States on an annual “Tour de (fill in the blank)”. Backpacking was also a feature of our outdoor pursuits. In fact Dale and Larry on a second attempt to hike the length of Muir Trail in ten days was chronicled in a self published narrative penned by Larry. Though a tough little fella, Dale once a Forest Service Smoke Jumper never joined me during my sailing phase. I guess that’s like me giving up on the golf phase. I can’t remember ever seeing Dale swim, though we variously participated in team triathlons. Dale was the designated cyclist. Sadly, while Larry has passed away the victim of brain cancer, his memory is alive in all who knew him and his service to his community, Mammoth. We continue to celebrate his memory in pursuit of adventure. Whether planning or setting about on a moto, hiking, or biking adventure, my thoughts always turn to Larry.
Dale didn’t disappoint as he prepared ribeyes with baked potatoes and wonder salad, right out of the bag! How could he fail? His son Orlando is a talented designer who completely transformed a cramped seventies kitchen into a beautiful and efficient gathering place for the family in their tastefully appointed suburban Santa Rosa home. We dirtbags were honored.
Pliney the Elder was paired with the tasty repast as we lapsed post dinner into conversation of the philosophical kind before retiring. I suspect that’s why Dale’s wife Catherine was absent…
Day 4 Homeward Bound
Anxious to get underway to avoid the Sunday-driver traffic in wine country, Pete and I packed and readied for the final leg of our four day mini-adventure thanking our gracious host.
Though I had roughly planned the course for our previous three days I really wasn’t too sure of the best moto route to take back to Merced from Santa Rosa. It was decided that we leave early to beat the traffic that would blossom as the fog lifted. So it was east to St. Helena skirting Lake Berryessa on Hwy 128 and the Glory Hole. Apparently wine drinkers get an early start as there was much traffic on our way out. Exiting Hwy 128 in Winters we headed south parallel to I-505 on Winters Rd. then east on Allendale Rd., a quick south on N. Meridian Rd., then west on Dixon Ave. West see what Dixon had to offer. Entering the town through what appeared to be a Mendota, CA like barrio, suddenly, and to our surprise, a vibrant yet quaint village square with shops and restaurants emerged from a redeveloped downtown center bustling with Sunday brunchers. Huevos rancheros at Taqueria Adelena hit the spot as we planned our stretch ride route. It’s only sort of weird to have coffee with Mexican food.
South on Hwy 113 to Hwy 12 and Rio Vista was reasonably uncomplicated. However, Hwy 12 across the Rio Vista bridge then west through Terminous into Lodi was a virtual parking lot. To avoid the interstate and freeway we rode through Lodi on Hwy 12 and turned south on Alpine Rd. until heading east on E. Kettleman Ln. to stop for a refreshing cold beverage at the Countryside Mini Mart at the intersection with Hwy 88 attracted to their bold banner screaming FAST SERVICE since by early afternoon we were anxious to get home.
Continuing east on E. Kettleman Ln through vineyards we then intersected with with Jack Tone Rd. south crossing Ruta Estatal California 26 (?) to east on Hwy 4 into Farmington as vineyards gave way to almond orchards and silage fields. South on J-6 Escalon-Ballota Rd. to east on Lone Tree Rd. took us to Valley Home where we then headed south once more. From there it was Valley Home Rd. through Adela and Oakdale continuing south on Albers Rd. on to the Oakdale-Waterford Hwy through Waterford and Hickman down to N. Montpelier Rd. that becomes Oakdale Rd. crossing the Merced River on to Amsterdam and Hwy 59 to home sweet home.
The trip could have easily taken several more days to fully appreciate the terrain, the riding, the nearly perfect weather and the people and communities through which we rode. We might have found something other than sammies to satisfy our hunger. The beauty of living in a state of nearly 40 million residents is that many of them tend to cluster together in coastal metropolitan areas. Aside from a few brief but crowded roadways much of the riding was over good road surfaces with little to worry about except for an unexpected deer crossing. Though it was only four days, spending nearly all of the daylight hours on the bike in the company of a good friend was itself a blast. Next time I’ll use other less traveled roads and maybe take a little more time for the stopping parts and pics…
In which we find Sisyphus challenging destiny through probability as his plans go awry…
If you’ve joined these accounts of my moto adventures before, you know that I get nearly as much joy in planning a ride as in actually riding. I pull out dozens of maps, spend hours gleaning websites and viewing YouTube videos of fellow travelers. I have to admit that Google Maps have made planning much easier to communicate to my mates about the trip and convey to my readers the scale of the undertaking even though the algorithm doesn’t stick to the route I’ve selected. Apparently backroads are anathema to the algorithm.
I get to anticipate experiencing new places and faces we meet along the way. I also get to lay out all of the gear that I hope to winnow as I sort them in must haves, like to haves, and are you kidding me piles to minimize weight and leave a little room for souvenirs. Pete has influenced my sorting. I can tell when I pull out an are you kidding me item and Pete smirks then reminds me of the $14 portable folding camp chair he purchased at Walmart that is more stable than my $99 REI Flexlite model. Of course he doesn’t smirk about morning coffee and hot chocolate served using my $114 REI Jetboil to heat water for the Starbucks instant coffee and Swiss Miss I pull out of my overloaded panniers. The tradeoff is that Pete always has room for the campsite rehydration at the end of the day.
Setting off on the adventure to bring those plans to fruition provides a more real reality. And despite developing an itinerary that seems real simple and complete enough, I always try to build in space for the reality of the unexpected. Whether that comes in the form of weather, a suggestion by a local to check out some feature of place that doesn’t register on a map, a wrong turn, or a mechanical, I’ve learned that I can always find my way home having had yet another satisfying adventure.
Following the ride I get to thoughtfully recall it all in reflecting and revisiting places and faces in the photos or commenting on highlights of the trip while on bicycle rides with Pete. It’s in composing a reasonable facsimile of the trip and those features I find interesting and amusing that I hope my modest, but scintillating audience, appreciates. That’s what this is. It’s a narrative in words and pictures of what it is that I do with my moto friends and hopefully convey why I do it and usually it’s great fun with a few laughs. And so I humbly offer that this sort of adventure awaits those who are a willin’…
Last October my riding buddy Pete and I embarked on a 3,000+ mile trip to Santa Fe, NM (see Abbey’s Other, On-the-Road-Trip Parts 1 & 2 on sisyphusdw7.com). We were on the road for 10 days traveling through six western states departing from and returning to California clockwise via Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Aside from some rain, some cold, and some heat the trip was largely “uneventful” save for the joy of riding a motorcycle across incredible landscapes and terrain of the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, and Mojave in the company of a good friend, me on my loyal Kawasexy Versys and Pete on his trusted Suzuki V-Strom.
Our October trip was to have been a reunion of the three amigos whose pre-pandemic ride across Death Valley under a full moon was featured in an 2019 post, Riding Under a Fool Moon. Unfortunately Andy was unable to join us for New Mexico. I was excited to get the band back together after riding out the pandemic with Pete. Even though 2/3 of the amigos are retired, family matters and other circumstances postponed the departure for our annual late Winter/early Spring ride until April 2022 when calendars and responsibilities permitted.
I proposed an abbreviated three day two night quick trip including camping at our favorite San Simeon State Campground and what we had hoped would be the Pinnacles National Park. Alas, spring break was in full tilt so we were only able to secure the last available campsite for our first night out. There was no room at the Pinnacle campground so I found myself searching the interwebs for an alternative campsite or spot to boondock. I just so happened to find in the foothills east of Paso Robles the Sweetwater BLM campground.
Day 1: Destination San Simeon
Merced to San Simeon State ParkPlease Note: I’ve learned that Google’s Maps algorithm changes the route I select and feature in the link favoring a “faster” non-backroad highway route despite filtering out highways. I’ll post a screenshot of each leg, however, the details will be fewer than the map link to the app permits. The following is the “Plan B” route.
Andy was now sporting a Moto Guzzi Norge for this brief but spectacular ramble over backroads and byways to enjoy the last vestiges of spring flora along the central coastal foothills. The ride commenced just as the first heat wave descended on the western United States. Our route would take us on CA-59 and 152 to the Dos Palos exit where we would then make our way south on North Russell Avenue then west on West Shields to Little Panoche/Panoche Roads.
It was a warm morning once we began heading in the direction of Panoche Pass, Pacheco Pass’s little cousin to the south, with the temperature soaring the mid-90’s by noon, that just days and weeks before, were in the 60’s. The normally verdant hillsides surrounding Mercy Hot Springs and beyond were barren due to the third year of little precipitation.
After a layer-peeling stop at the Panoche Inn we began feeling the warming valley air yielding to slightly cooler air as we rose over Panoche Pass. Once over the pass, the temperature was somewhat moderated by the Pacific onshore winds that cause the upwelling of cooler ocean water providing that marine layer typical of coastal California as high pressure builds over the interior causing temperatures to rise. Even that slight decrease in temperature made riding so much more pleasant. It also contributes to the emergence of the growing viniculture in the region.
I’ve noticed a number of vineyards in the area on previous rides (Pinnacle Vineyards above) along with wine production facilities not far from the Airline Hwy and Panoche Rd (Alba Coast Winery, Donati, et. al.). I have since learned that Paicines is the southernmost designated AVA in San Benito County. Though associated with the production of bulk wine in the 1980s and 1990s, the region is now home to some premium vineyards producing higher quality wines made of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes. Hey Gallo, even though we grow 70% of California grapes in the Central Valley, some of which found its way into Thunderbird back in the day, is Livingston an AVA?
And now for a historical factoid: First debuted by Gallo in 1957, Thunderbird was known for its striking yellow color and intoxicating effects. The formerly fortified beverage (initially containing a whopping alcohol content of about 20 percent, which later was lowered to about 17.5 percent) was a mix of wine and citrus flavoring.
Given our preference for Panoche Pass over Pacheco Pass to get to the Central Coast, Pete and I have stopped at the Paicines Market to enjoy breakfast burritos on several prior rides. The new proprietor of the little market that serves this tiny agricultural community was a bit surley on this Friday morning. When we inquired about a burrito, she pointed in the direction of a display saying that the cook was on break and the premade burritos would have to do. I walked over and grabbed one not noticing a small note posted above the burrito vault prohibiting unauthorized entry. Apparently self-service is a no-no at the Paicines Market. The cook, who was on break, I was told in no uncertain terms, was the only authorized burrito dispenser. Methinks the proprietor could use a refresher course in customer service in regards to managing health department requirements in the Covid era and staffing.
After consuming somewhat less than satisfying dry chili verde y papas offerings, maybe a shot of Thunderbird would have helped, we hit the road. Traveling south for some 50 miles on the Airline Hwy, also known as CA-25, we enjoyed moderately undulating terrain with gentle twisties through Cienega Valley rangeland, bordered to the west by the oak studded, chaparral and sage covered Galiban Mountain range. I’d get into an armchair tangent about the formation and geology of the Coast Ranges but I suspect my marine layer or Thunderbird tangent fulfilled my tangent coefficient for this episode.
At the intersection of Hwy-25 and Peach Tree Rd we continued south through cattle country then on Indian Valley and Hare Canyon Roads to Bradley. The afternoon was warming and there was a little relief from the heat as we kept moving. Crossing US-101 we joined Nacimiento Lake Drive, aka county road G-14, where we planned to stop near Lake Nacimiento at the Oak Hill Market for a cool beverage and snack before heading over the hill to Cambria, offering certain relief from the heat and our camp for the night.
It was around 3:00 pm as we neared crossing the dam at Lake Nacimiento. Though warm, the ride was exhilarating butt we were overdue for a break. We had been on the motos since about 8:00 am stopping only briefly in Paicines for breakfast. Traffic was light, the roads sublime, and the experience of the ride over the undulating and twisting terrain was ineffable. It was only in the last half-hour or so of riding in the arid southern Salinas River Valley that the heat increasingly became an issue. As you can see from the Google Map image below, Nacimiento Lake is on a descent with a tricky decreasing radius turn followed by a sharp hairpin before approaching the dam crossing. That’s where the lot’s-o-fun was interrupted by a moment’s inattention.
There was no sign indicating the nature of the curve nor any warning to reduce speed, however, having been over this road before, I had downshifted prior to entering the curve and was decelerating. I can only attribute my inattention to fatigue and an untimely check of the navigation screen to see the name of the road I needed to take to the market anticipating a cool beverage. Since timing is essential when negotiating a curve, I missed the apex, crossing the oncoming lane, thank goodness unoccupied, to the opposite shoulder where I tried to slow and ride out my miscue. Unfortunately, for me, I drifted into what was apparently soil that had been disked earlier in the season over which grasses had since regrown. The front wheel of the bike augured in and I high-sided over the bars flying through the air. Andy who had witnessed my flight described it as a Flying Wallenda with a decidedly ungraceful landing.
Stunned, but conscious, I lay in the dried grass hastily assessing the damage. I could tell this was no pick-up-the-bike-before-anyone-could-see-me affair despite what I could feel coursing through me, that Scotch-Irish stubbornness to get up as though nothing had just happened. This was probably the initial norepinephrine response to that ungraceful landing. After regaining the wind that had been knocked out of me and what seemed an eternity though it was only a minute or so as the lads pulled up, dismounted, and stood over me. Perhaps as shocked as I, they cautiously lifted me to upright after my pleading to get up. Now standing I attempted to help Pete lift the defiled Kawasexy realizing my right ankle, shoulder, and ribs were not cooperating. He started the bike, which was a good sign, and it too was soon back on the road side, no better for the abuse I had just rendered.
I knew my body had been punished. A quick examination determined the bike was only mildly damaged with a bent windscreen, controls slightly rotated, and some scuffs to the Candy Matte Orange/Metallic Spark Black fairings and panniers. The engine guard/crash bars and soft soil saved the farm. My only thought was to get off the side of the road and continue to the market for a cool drink and debrief what had just happened. How’s that for denial?
I hobbled over to the bike after retrieving my tank bag that had flown off finding all of its contents except for a portable charging battery that I intended to use for keeping my phone and cameras juiced. I guess I preferred fleeing the scene to filming at that point. I hoped the lithium batteries wouldn’t suddenly overheat and cause a fire. Or maybe I didn’t.
What does shock induced thinking produce you might wonder? Norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, is a substance that is released predominantly from the ends of sympathetic nerve fibres and that acts to increase the force of skeletal muscle contraction and the rate and force of contraction of the heart. The actions of norepinephrine are vital to the fight-or-flight response, whereby the body prepares to react to or retreat from an acute threat. I could only imagine the threat of my wife ending my moto adventuring when she heard of my moment’s inattention.
Fighting the real reality of what had just happened, we fled to the Oak Hill Market. Hobbling through the market as the new reality began to sink in I simply wasn’t going to let some little accident interrupt our plans. After fueling up, we retreated to our coastal campsite, my mates refraining from expressing their skepticism. Or perhaps it was my convincing stoicism. Yep, just the kind of awkward things guys do in a situation like this.
Originally, plan A, was to head over the Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd, ride 63 miles to CA-1, and then ride another 40 miles south to the San Simeon State Campground. However, last minute plan checking had revealed that the atmospheric river storm event that stalled over Monterey County in late January dumped some 15 inches of rain on the unstable drainage through which the road meanders. The Highway 1 washout at Rat Creek generated national headlines, however, the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road that connects Fort Hunter Liggett and Highway 101 to CA-1 suffered significantly more damage but received far less media attention. Extensive slides, debris flows and road failures at a dozen sites along the road had rendered Nac-Ferg impassable to vehicle traffic. That’s why in this “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft a-gley,” scenario, it was good to have a plan B.
We departed from the Lake Nacimiento on mellower roads including Godfrey Rd turning west on Chimney Rock Rd towards Adelaida. Nearing the Halter Ranch Vineyard we continued south on Vineyard Drive passing Whalebone, Thacher, Brecon, Opolo, Denner, and Donati Family vineyards on twisting roads over hills overlaid by trellised vines populated by an occasional oak tree. A brief spin west on CA-46, Green Valley Rd, to Santa Rosa Creek Rd would take us through a wooded canyon on an undulating narrow road with many sharp turns. Just the sort of road I love when whole. It was a bit challenging broken.
We arrived at the State Park and an affable ranger checked us in. Our campsite was in the adjacent Washburn Campground that is not as exposed to the onshore winds typical of the Central Coast. We had a great site right next to a restroom among several families with kids and dogs in RV’s. The boys had to assist setting up my tent and bedding. In fact they had to assist setting me up and down, a feature of the ride that would play out over the next two days. Andy was busy trying to figure out how my gear worked as Pete gloated having set up his new tent in seconds. Pete is a minimalist. I’m a gear-head. He defers to my “pack for comfort” excessiveness. After further inspecting the Kawasexy and your’s truely for any unnoticed damage we decided to head into Cambria.
After exchanging pleasantries with some of our fellow campers who traipsed through the campground with their kids and/or dogs in tow, we rode into town to enjoy our second meal of the day at the West End Pub. Shrimp tacos and a delightful Central Coast pilsner took the edge off of some of the discomfort, especially my ribs that by now I feared were definitely broken. The pub’s host, presumably the owner, greeted us with some lame jokes about not serving dirtbags on motorcycles. Good thing. Had the humor been humorous, I would have suffered. Breathing was painful enough. Laughing was intolerable.
The clientele at the pub were well into the Friday happy hour as I imagined how much of a drag I was becoming to my companions who would end up looking after me like an infant. Trying not to be a big Eeyore, our normal joking and good natured ribbing was, let’s say, subdued. For amusement it was decided, over dinner, to concoct an account of sorts for what had happened so that it would seem more of an “accident due to my avoiding a road hazard” than a moment’s inattention in an attempt to appeal to my wife. The kind of juvenile thing three guys who should know better, might be persuaded to do after a long day and a beverage or two. I half heartedly proposed a couple of scenarios knowing my skeptical wife would see right through the scheme. She’s like Liz Cheney that way.
On the way back to the campground, we stopped for rehydrants and ice for the rehydration, relaxation, and reflexion hour. The ice was for the “RICE” (rest, ice, compress, elevate) camp therapy. It was now some five hours after the crash and I was feeling 9/10 on the pain index. Andy went next door to one of the RV’s asking for some ice for my throbbing ankle because, well, they forgot the ice back at the beverage depot. Thankfully, campers are best noted for sharing.
I really didn’t care for any more fermented rehydrants as I was by then swallowing handfuls of Tylenol. I also knew that getting up in the middle of the night to see a man about a horse would be an ordeal. Andy proposed I try an aromatic treatment that might help me relax and alleviate some of the pain. What did I have to lose, right?
It had been some time since last inhaling medicinal herb and I had forgotten that my delicate lungs when filled with suspended carbon particles resulting from the combustion of organic matter would induce an apoplectic attack. Coughing with broken ribs and a bruised lung was a small price to pay for what Andy promised would be relief.
Later my orthopedic surgeon would remark that if one really wanted to punish an enemy, taking a baseball bat to their ribs would do the trick. I would add, offering them an aromatic to inhale following a swing or two of the bat would amplify the effect, turning a base hit with no one on into a grand slam.
Lying on the bench of the campsite picnic table I began to partition consciousness of the physical pain from my perception of being enveloped by the night sky. I was at once one with the galaxies drifting through the space and time continuum buoyed by this magical cosmic picnic table just as Andy had prescribed as we began babbling about multiple universes or something…
… That is until I had to pee. After helping me to my feet, I hobbled over to the conveniently located restroom adjacent to our campsite.
The beverages were exhausted, so the conclusion of the three R’s was imminent. Pete assisted me and Andy joined him to lower my almost, not quite, dead weight gently into my tent. Once in the tent, removing the moto gear as the magic aromatic took a back seat to my discomfort, frustrated me to tears. I struggled to get comfortable in my sleeping bag and once in, I was unable to sleep, all stove up, finding no position in relief of my shattered right side.
Normally, I have a hard enough time sleeping on the ground, even with a thermarest pad and inflatable mattress while tuned into my favorite podcast. Further, I knew that being of a certain age, I’d have to get up sometime in the middle of the night again to see that man about a horse and I’d have to try to rouse one of my buddies to help me up and down. I could take care of the horse trading myself.
Sure enough Andy was awakened by my mournful 3:00 am cries, not unlike the cattle in the adjacent pasture who were wailing mournfully for their offspring from whom they had separated. You know who your friends are when they can distinguish your plaintive cries from that of a cow’s.
Day 2: Destination Parkfield and the Sweetwater BLM Campground
We awakened to beautifully clear skies the morning following a spectacular clear night sky. By the time the lads had helped extracting me from the tent, assisting with my getting dressed and making coffee, the condensation on our tents had evaporated and so we began breaking camp. Normally we’re on the road by 8:00 am. This day, it was closer to 11:00 am. I was moving at around 12.5% of my normal pace. Looked like it would be brunch rather than breakfast.
We made our way on this Saturday morning further departing from the original itinerary where we planned to head south through Harmony, a funky little coastal village, to Cayucos before heading east to Parkfield. Instead, it was back to Paso Robles on CA-46, jumping on US-101 north to San Miguel and Vineyard Canyon Road east to Parkfield.
Parkfield is a small place that is tucked into the Cholame Valley in the very southeastern-most corner of Monterey County. The main “industry” in the area is cattle ranching. There is some wine grape production along with a bit of tourism thrown in. Just like Harmony along the coast, Parkfield has a population of 18. The two towns are similarly quaint in feel and both are worthy to visit. I didn’t feel so bad about changing the itinerary once setting eyes on the Parkfield Cafe.
Okay, I can’t help myself. Time for a geology tangent. So, around 252 to 65 million years ago,± a million or two years, an enormous tectonic plate named the Pacific Plate began subducting or shoved under the North American Plate and dove into the mantle where the leading edge melted, five to ten miles down forming the Mesozoic Accretionary Wedge Complex. Today we call that complex the Coast Range Mountains for short. California has three main physiographic provinces. From the Pacific coast on the west to more inland positions in the east, these are: Coast Ranges, the Great Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada. In spite of their subsequent geologic histories, these are all remnants of California’s former history as a convergent margin.
Today, the region is famous as a transform boundary, where the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate slide laterally past one another along the San Andreas Fault. Parkfield is situated smack dab on top of the San Andreas Fault.
The area has become known over the last 30 years mainly because of the “Parkfield Experiment” an attempt of earthquake experts with the USGS to detect any signs that would enable them to better predict and warn about upcoming earthquakes. As noted, the San Andreas Fault runs through the valley there and seismologists have made this the most heavily instrumented earthquake area anywhere in the world. You won’t see most of the equipment however, as the sensors are buried or found on private property reachable only by gated dirt roads. You are able to see some outdated equipment at the Parkfield Cafe and read about some of the scientific work taking place there.
What we were able to see were some pretty sweet vintage British and German motos as a Central Coast club was out for a Saturday ramble.
Pete, Andy, and I quenched our thirsts with a quick soda, after the two returned from ogling the club’s hardware. It was time to set off for the BLM campground at Sweetwater. I had planned on taking the Parkfield-Coalinga Rd to CA-198, roll into Coalinga for supplies for the night and then make for the campground north on Coalinga Rd. The Parkfield-Coalinga Rd was an unknown, even with all of the maps and Google.
Uncertain, I asked a fellow who was at the cafe and who lived in Coalinga, rode a Harley (though he was there in a mini-van with his family), and was a truck driver, if the road was paved. He said it was paved and given his local-motorcyclist-truck driving bona fides I figured we were set. Now certain of the route, I was having second thoughts as I contemplated rising temperatures, another beaten-up road, and the specter of attempting to sleep on the ground another night.
We set off for Coalinga some 29 miles distant by way of the Parkfield-Coalinga Rd, but about a two or three miles down the road, the asphalt yielded to dirt. Pete went ahead on the V-Strom to see if it was worth getting everything dirty and more importantly, given that even the slightest irregularity in the road caused me to cry, he quickly returned nixing that leg. So much for using the locals for “local knowledge”.
A 62 mile detour on Cholame Rd to CA-41 to CA-43 would take us to Coalinga. By now I had successfully lobbied the lads to get a room in Coalinga ditching idea of camping. Arriving in the late afternoon as winds began to whip up, we rode through town looking for a “vintage” motel along the lines of the Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV, the Supai in Seligman, AZ, the Atomic Inn in Beatty, NV, the Sleepy Hollow in Green River, UT, or the iconic Y Motel in Chama, NM. All of which qualify for the five star rating of Sisyphus and Associates as preferred non-campground lodging when moto-touring.
We passed a nice new Best Western Plus Inn and Suites right on CA-33 just east of town. In search of something with a little less glitz and a bit more funk, we rolled into the heart of Coalinga.
Here’s what we found…
These are screenshots from Google Maps street views. It appeared as we rolled by that these motels had become housing for the unhoused. There were shopping carts filled with belongings as were vehicles in the parking lots or streeside, likely families of the inmates at the Pleasant Valley State Prison experiencing hard times.
Since I had been the reason for foregoing a night camping, I volunteered that we stay at the Best Western Plus, Inn and Suites. Surely, there would be vacancies. I couldn’t imagine that Coalinga was exactly a Spring Break destination. When we inquired at the desk, we were told there was only one room left with double queen beds and the only roll-away they had was in use as was the only Bell (luggage) cart. I ended up having to tote my gear up to the second floor. Thankfully there was an elevator. There was no valet parking for our motos either. Dang. I sensed a flip was in the making to determine who doubled up or spent the night on the floor.
After the affable clerk registered us finding every available discount including some we technically didn’t qualify for, I further volunteered to pay for the room. “My treat boys, as a thank you for putting up with me.” I graciously offered thus withdrawing from the flip.
Apparently the traveling nursing staff and other vendors who serve the prison five miles east on CA-33 is raison d’etre for the Best Western Plus Coalinga Inn and Suites. According to Wiki, Pleasant Valley State Prison is a 640-acre minimum-to-maximum security state prison in Coalinga, Fresno County, California. The facility has housed convicted murderers Sirhan Sirhan, Erik Menendez, X-Raided, and Hans Reiser, among others. If you’re going to travel, I say, you need to stay where the celebrities stay!
I jumped at the chance to shower, well, hobbled at the chance, removing my boot and sock for the first time to see the ankle carnage. It wasn’t pretty. Pete and Andy decided on who would sleep on the floor using the Larry Johnston method of “the flip.” Pete won the honor. After sending one of the lads for ice, I suggested they go get something to eat and procure the 3-R’s beverages while I called my wife.
I decided to come clean about the crash to Toni. When I called she was suspicious because I normally call and text while traveling to reassure her that all is well. I had not done so for two days. A small detail that would have derailed any alibi I might have tried to excuse responsibility. We both teared up as I described what had happened. Toni graciously assured me that I was not to worry about her wanting to strip me of the Kawasexy knowing how much I loved touring. Besides, riding a motorcycle wasn’t the only risky activity I enjoyed. I’ve crashed while riding a bicycle all over the backroads of the Western United States and the tri-county area of our home. Equally dangerous, I’ve “yardsaled” skiing, Alberto Tom-ba style. Also rife with danger, backpacking in the remote Sierra is no less risk free than sailing in shark infested waters. What would she expect me to do, recreate inside of a hamster ball?
I was able to discourage her insistence on driving down to Coalinga that night to pick the bike and me up. It was dusk o’clock and I was done for the day and I didn’t want her scrambling in the dark to rescue me. I reminded her that I could still ride. I skipped the part about how it was increasingly difficult to use the controls, put my feet down at stops, or to get onto or off of the bike. I reassured her that it would be a piece of cake to ride the Coalinga-Mendota CA-33 to CA-152 and CA-59 home since it was a mere 93 miles with few stop signs or signals and bee-line straight highways.
Following the phone call to my wife, I felt I needed to try another dose of Andy’s Cosmic-Picnic-Table Out-of-Body-Escape-from-the-Space-Time-Continuum remedy, or something like that. The boys had returned with a salad for me and refreshments for all. Andy convinced me to try a variant aromatic that he recommended would induce sleep. So, salad downed we hobbled for the elevator. But once more a single inhalation induced paroxysmal coughing interspersed with broken ribbed, lung contused cries in the parking lot behind the inn. Upon hobbling back to the elevator and up to our room I drank copious amounts of water and one or two to of those refreshing beverages to comfort my post bronchial spasms. Once again as Andy had prescribed, I was ready for some sleep. But it was more like multihandicapped up and down horse wrangling throughout the night with more crippling rib and ankle pain than sleep. Torment rodeo was in town…
When we awakened the next morning after another restless night what with my frequent trips to see that fellow about a horse, Pete, the early bird investigated the complimentary breakfast at the Best Western Plus Inn and Suites giving it a thumbs up. I got dressed and putting on my boots was the worst of the ordeal. Since the accident, I hadn’t removed my boot except to shower. It was acting to compress the swelling. However, my ankle spending the night au natural, ballooned.
Pete who had already sampled the serve yourself break-feast took Andy’s bike into town to look after his partner Cheryl’s property in Coalinga. Andy ambled and I hobbled down to a raucous gathering of shift-change nurses from the prison who were gathered around a large table. Perhaps ten women were sharing their plans for what remained of the weekend until they had to return to Pleasant Valley. Situational irony?
I didn’t have much of an appetite. A little yogurt and granola was it for me. Andy, a recovering farm boy and practicing psychologist, shoveled in just about every item on the self-serve buffet. I was amazed at how he maintained his swelt appearance given the number of calories he consumed. I gain a pound or two for every truck taco I eat. Not only that but he has great hair. Hopefully my Texas-Kentucky hillbilly genes will grant me longevity that shorted me in the metabolism and hairline departments. That is if my Boomer quest for adventure doesn’t intervene, prematurely ending the Sisyphean Saga. Come to think of it, Pete too has great hair and can out eat me two to one. About the only thing I can do better than those two is drink beer. Or wine. Or cocktails. Neither of which had much appeal this trip and unrestrained would likely contribute to premature Sisyphean Cirrhosis to end the Sisyphean Saga.
Returning to the room to gather our things, Pete discovered I had put his boots on, a somewhat irritating moment’s inattention redux on my part, since we have the same make and model. Well, it was off with Pete’s, argh! And it was on with mine, argh, argh! After that faux pas, I half-heartedly insisted taking my own gear downstairs to pack up my bike. Be careful what you insist on. The reward for my stubbornness… It took nine times as long for me to get my bike in order but that didn’t seem to bother Pete or Andy. I was now moving at 9% of my normal pace. I’d lost 3.5% pace capacity from the previous day. It’s amazing how entertaining that little computer in one’s pocket is with wifi or cell roaming when you wish to avoid dealing with the elephant (foot) in the room as Pete checked his investment portfolio and Andy scrolled Craigslist for his next exotic motorcycle. Just ask Mark Meadows about eye contact avoidant mobile phone scrolling…
Since we had parked behind the south face of the hotel, we didn’t perceive the wind coming from the north/northwest as we readied for departure. Once on the road we soon discovered the winds, gusting to 30+mph, were unrelenting. Fortunately the road surfaces were free of most of those pain inducing irregularities that the bike’s shocks couldn’t absorb that wreaked havoc in my busted architecture. Buffeting winds presented their own challenges as leaning into a crossing wind when a gust arose and settled reminded me of my younger years sailing on Lake Yosemite when afternoon zephyrs would turn my trap rigged Coronado 15 into a swimsuit. Since asphalt and water are not the same, I did my best to stay afloat.
By the time we stopped briefly at a Sinclair station in Firebaugh to stretch, I could barely lift my right arm and I was completely avoiding using my right leg/foot. Fortunately I have a throttle “stabilizer” that works like cruise control. My right hand along with my right foot was by now unable to function optimally. Here I was on a motorcycle whose foot activated rear brake and hand activated front brake are both on the right side. I figured I had at best two or three stops left in me using only my left foot to gear down and to balance the bike at a full stop. There would only be one more dismount and that would be at my driveway back home.
Pete took the lead with Andy trailing me. That way I could anticipate a stop. Pete would come to a full stop as I rolled up slowly and join him without coming to a full stop as he would proceed. He also timed lights by slowing or speeding up to make the green and avoid the red. Andy kept other vehicles from my tail so I didn’t have to worry about any quick maneuvers to avoid phone-distracted tailgaters.
After a couple of hours on the road, we were home, accompanied by my loyal mates who were there to provide assistance, physical, moral, and psychoactively as I was reunited with my family. Once again, our three day two night version of motorcycle adventure was complete. Not complete in the sense of a victorious outing. More like a vicious outing. As the saying goes, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley…
Time for a literary tangent…
The poem, To a Mouse, was written by one of the most famous poets of all time, a fellow Scotsman, Robert Burns. In this poem, a mouse has spent a lot of time making a nest and Robbie destroys it while ploughing his field. The purpose of the poem is to apologize to a mouse. You see, Robbie understands that this mouse has put a lot of time and effort into his nest, and he had it destroyed by the farmer who had to plough his field. In this poem, the poet is feeling guilty about ruining all the hard work of the mouse and wants to make clear that he’s sorry about everything he’s done. Kind of like I was sorry to disappoint Pete and Andy as I was lamed by the accident.
John Steinbeck used this very metaphor in his book, Of Mice and Men. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck’s. Why a mouse? The fact is that human beings are animals too. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a mouse, a farmer, George or Lennie, life is filled with bad things. We’re not better than the animals, we all have to get through this life. And no matter who you are, there will be times when your hard work doesn’t pay off. (BTW, my favorite film version is the 1939 Lon Chaney Jr., Burgess Meredith Of Mice and Men directed by Lewis Milestone and filmed at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon).
When considering plans that can go awry, there are three phrases that capture the essence of the randomness of circumstance that implies destiny. “Sh*t Happens,” is a short, simple, and directly to the point conclusion about bad things. “All for nothing,” is perhaps the most literal way of saying that a bad thing has just happened to you. “It is what is,” basically intends there’s nothing you can do, so don’t worry. There will be times when your hard work doesn’t pay off. Bad things happen to good people. I guess there are four of those phrases.
I hate those three (four) phrases. They seem to imply the futility of destiny. As a rationalist, I understand agency. It’s easy to believe in agency when everything goes according to one’s plans. It’s hard to accept the consequences of the randomness of a moment’s inattention when you’ve gotten away, consequence free, for so long. I guess it’s more a matter of probability and less about destiny. At least with probability, you have a chance to win the lottery. I had time to think to “thoughtfully recall it all in reflecting and revisiting places and faces in the photos or commenting on highlights of the trip” as I mentioned in the opening. But I was unable to find a way to come to grips with the real reality to express how I was feeling about that moment’s inattention until recently.
It has taken me since April 7, 2022 to sit and try to characterize this three day, two night trip in which sh*t happened. It was a month before I could sit up for any length of time following the surgery to stabilize my ankle one week from the date of the accident, hopefully not all for nothing.It is what it is may be what came of those three days since all of the my plans for this trip took a hard left turn on Nacimiento Drive.
Just like how the mouse’s effort was all for nothing, the same can be said about George, the main character in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, or, ahem, Sisyphus in A Moment’s Inattention. Thankfully, Andy and Pete didn’t put a bullet in the back of my head and I didn’t return to find my home in a rats nest. I guess I’m just one of the good guy schmucks to which something bad happened who has good friends and a supportive and understanding wife.
Wait, my confusion must be the residual of Andy’s remedy. I’m mixing up this mouse/Steinbeck metaphore with, They Shoot Horses Don’t They? The ride was, afterall, sort of a marathon dance. An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!
I’ll spare posting Peggy Lee singing, Is That All There Is?”
Back at the ranch, rehabbing
I’m happy to report that I’m walking now and hope to be two wheeling by the fall. Maybe to Oregon by way of the coast with a return loop east of the Sierra. Sounds like fun!
To a Mouse BY ROBERT BURNS On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785.
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi’ bickerin brattle! I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion Has broken Nature’s social union, An’ justifies that ill opinion, Which makes thee startle, At me, thy poor, earth-born companion, An’ fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve; What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! A daimen-icker in a thrave ’S a sma’ request: I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave, An’ never miss ’t!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin! It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin! An’ naething, now, to big a new ane, O’ foggage green! An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin, Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste, An’ weary Winter comin fast, An’ cozie here, beneath the blast, Thou thought to dwell, Till crash! the cruel coulter past Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble Has cost thee monie a weary nibble! Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble, But house or hald, To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble, An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me! The present only toucheth thee: But Och! I backward cast my e’e, On prospects drear! An’ forward tho’ I canna see, I guess an’ fear!
The canyon country of southern Utah and northern Arizona-the Colorado Plateau-is something special. Something strange, marvelous, full of wonders. As far as I know there is no other region on earth much like it, or even remotely like it. Nowhere else have we had this lucky combination of vast sedimentary rock formations exposed to a desert climate, a great plateau carved by major rivers-the Green, the San Juan, the Colorado-into such a surreal land of form and color. Edward Abbey, A Voice in the Wilderness
Now, if you want to see how Pete and I express our appreciation for Abbey’s vision, read on!
After our destination layover with the Delawares, enjoying their warm hospitality in the comfort of their jazzy Santa Fe digs, Suzanne’s wonderful repast and conviviality, Bob’s generous tour of the surrounding landscapes and quaint New Mexican towns along the High Road to Taos, it was time to twist the throttle.
Originally we had planned to spend the night in Mexican Hat, a small town in Utah on the San Juan River on the northern edge of the Navajo Nation’s borders on our first night of the return leg. This curiously named town draws its moniker from a rock formation that, from some angles, resembles a sombrero, or a “Mexican Hat” if Messrs. Barber’s and Osborn’s high school Spanish serves me.
Apparently New Mexico and Utah have competing features of terrain. Decide for yourself if the names given are befitting.
Having departed from the itinerary, that I had toiled over for weeks prior to launching, largely due to weather I didn’t hesitate to again depart for the road less traveled. We had ridden past the Ghost Ranch through Abiquiu from Chama a few days earlier. It wasn’t weather but our desire to camp that compelled this detour from Mexican Hat. So it was off to Monument Valley through the Valles Caldera National Reserve by way of Los Alamos, Gallena, Cuba, Nageezi, Bloomfield and Farmington where the Mormon influences bump up against the Spanish and Navajo influences at least as far as place names are concerned.
Following some confusion in Los Alamos at the site of Project Y, a top secret atomic weapons laboratory, about how to proceed through the National Laboratory to get to get to NM-4, we were granted permission to pass through the facility by a fine young soldier at entrance to the Lab. He had noted our confusion as we rode past what was the entrance to the Weapons Lab. It’s amazing how the engineers were able to camouflage the public road as the entrance to a top secret lab. We were told not to stop or take any photos until we reached the narrow twisting two lane road that quickly ascended to the Caldera. Aye, aye!
Following dinner at Los Hermanitos in Farmington, we scrambled along the San Juan River past perhaps one of the most photographed ancient volcanic plugs on the planet, Shiprock., even photographed from space.
Shiprock is on Navajo Nation land and is known as Tse Bit’a’i, or “winged rock” in Navajo, according to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Legend holds that the rock was Earth that became a bird and carried the Navajo people to the desert on its back, settling down and turning to stone again after the journey. Navajo tradition holds that people should not climb or disturb the rocks, so they have been closed to recreation since the 1970s.
Geologically, Shiprock originated from a volcanic eruption about 30 million years ago, according to the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. At the time, the rocks were up to 3,280 feet (1,000 m) below the ground and formed the “neck” of a region of volcanic rocks that has otherwise eroded away. The formation is made from a potassium-rich magma called “minette,” according to the bureau, and is heavily fractured into a type of angular fragmented rock called breccia. While the surrounding rock has eroded away, Shiprock and some of its accompanying lava dikes remain as seen to the left of the towering Shiprock
Continuing on US-64 to Teec Nos Pos where we then joined US-160/191 past Four Corners and Red Mesa, we then turned north on US-163 in Kayenta in search of camping in Monument Valley.
Geologically, Monument Valley is a combination of rock layers formed during the Permian and Triassic Periods several hundred million years ago that have been subjected to differential erosion (by which hard rocks erode more slowly than soft rocks). The results can be quite complex and stunningly beautiful.
We arrived at the Navajo Nation Monuments in late afternoon. Fortunately the first three campsites we encountered were either full or closed. On a whim, I decided to turn onto Mitchell Butte Rd. where suddenly and serendipitously appeared the Sleeping Bear Campground.
The relaxation, rehydration, and reflection hour was composed of a sublime sunset. The star filled nightfall that followed gave way to an equally striking sunrise.
Day 7, Monument Valley to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The alpenglow of sunrise yielded to the cerulean skies of the morning. A relatively modest 245 mile day lay ahead giving us time to find a campsite and take in a few view ropes of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim.
Back on US-163 to US-160 we intended to take AZ-98 to Page and check out how puny Lake Powell had become. But we missed the interchange and ended up continuing on US-160 through Tuba City where we took the two lane US-89 north on freshly oiled two lane roads with no markings and passing lanes about every 5 miles through Willow Springs and Bitter Springs to Marble Canyon. Something about freshly oiled roads with intermittent passing lanes that increases the pucker factor by 2x when on a moto.
Upriver from Marble Canyon is the Glen Canyon Dam behind which is Lake Powell. When considering inclement weather enroute to Santa Fe from Chama on our planned route, we gave consideration to using the ferry at Halls Crossing near Bullfrog to avert the rain, at least according to NOAA radar. However, since the lake level was so low that along with several other launches, the ferry wasn’t operating. Not an option.
At Jacob Lake we headed south on the Grand Canyon Highway (AZ-67) over the Kaibab Plateau to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but not before securing a campsite at the Demotte Campground.
Campsite secured, it was off to the North Rim!
The crowd wasn’t too distracting from the awesomeness of canyon of the Colorado River as appreciated from the North Rim. After what would be our dinner of sammies from the North Rim Deli in the Pines, we made our way back to the Demotte campground.
Our cheery and accommodating camp hostess, Darlene, made sure we had a bundle of wood for a campfire as the chill of the evening descended. There were a group of spirited high school kids from The Holbrook Indian School who were camped just above us. We later learned they were hiking the “rim to rim” trail the next day and were intent on securing wood for their campfire from the surrounding forest as the afternoon shadows lengthened and temperatures dropped.
The boys raucously went about breaking large branches with rocks. They didn’t have any tools, in fact they declined a saw offered by a fellow camper, but as we were later informed by one of the boys from the group who offered us their unused timber for our campfire, Pete asked if they camped much. A suppressed chuckle coursed through the group, and one of the lads replied, “We’re Indians, we know all about camping…”
From the Holbrook Indian School website, “Outdoor School is one week of classes that take place in the great outdoors. Every year, the eighth- through 12th-grade students help to plan and coordinate the details of the trip. Each year the students travel to one of five locations that have been selected: Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Rocky Mountain National Park, and one city trip to San Diego that includes a day of tidepooling at La Jolla Beach. For many of the students, the trip to San Diego is the first time they’ll get to see the ocean and learn to navigate a big city.”
It brought back many of my most cherished memories from my teaching career when I accompanied students to the Jack L. Boyd Outdoor School at Fish Camp in the Sierra Nevada just south of Yosemite. I hope the lessons of the Miwok material culture still resonate with the kids who were lucky enough to attend.
We awakened to a bright clear sunrise as temps had dipped enough through the night to dust our tents and motos with a layer of glistening hoarfrost. A quick coffee powered by the JetBoil to defrost our innards and the low angled light of the sun soon dried the gear.
By now adapting the itinerary was the thing. Our choice for today: check out the conga lines at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon or deal with conga lines in Flagstaff. Don’t get me wrong about Flag or the South Rim, they’re both enjoyable stops that given time and inclination offer many opportunities for enlightenment. But we were destined for the desert, Route 66, with more rain on the horizon. Gotta get to gettin’…
We stopped for breakfast at the Jacob Lake Inn where just before ordering a French toast combo, I received a call from my wife about our 12 year old Labrador, Luna. We had been watching her decline as she was reaching the Rainbow Bridge phase of her life. Her ability to walk was compromised to the point that she could no longer stand and a trip to our veterinarian who had cared for her from a puppy, was not available. The vet who consulted with my wife and granddaughter about Luna’s fate only added to my remorse for leaving on this fool’s errand of a trip. Not only was the decision to euthanize Luna made by my brave wife, reluctantly, but there were other issues with loved ones at home. Needless to say, I was saddened beyond words to be so far away from my family, unable to say good-bye, to our Luna Long Toes or provide support to my wife and granddaughter for the difficulty of laying her to rest…
By the afternoon, I had to shake my sadness induced silence and tear obscured vision to summon the strength to not be such a buzzkill. Our first stop would be the South Rim of the Grand Canyon so I tried to lose my sadness in the depths of the canyon that John Wesley Powell described as:
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
The canyon from the South Rim reminded me how absolutely elemental we are in scale, time, and place and my sense of how unified we are all within an indifferent Earth, bound by its land, waters, and sky, that my sadness lifted. I was not even discouraged by the crowd. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to be a rebel, please excuse the “taxed-out graphic art” below…
Unlike the North Rim, I was discouraged by the crowd that was massed at the Maswik Lodge so we decided to find a warm caffeinated beverage in Tusayan just outside of the park. We have this running mockery bordering on scorn for motorcycles parked in front of a Starbucks. And what did we find? A Starbucks in front of which we parked our bikes…
Williams, our original destination for the evening was replaced by Seligman, now anxious to ride the original “all weather highway” as weather was once again threatening. We discovered that the “original” Route 66, was in ruin just west of Williams where the roadbed disappeared under the eastbound lanes of I-40 . So, we jumped on the interstate to Ash Fork onto a replica (in highway engineering terms, a “realignment”) of what John Steinbeck dubbed,”the mother road” in his novel The Grapes of Wrath.
My father, his father, and sister, were a displaced farm family, like the Joads and thousands of real-life Americans who fled drought and poverty in Oklahoma, Texas, and neighboring states during the Great Depression and traveled west along Route 66 in search of employment. Riding comfortably with no hardships, save a little rain, with all of our needs easily obtained, and convenient destinations left me feeling impressed by my family’s struggle to make my life so abundant.
Westbound from Ash Fork we rode on Crookton Road segment of historic Route 66. All the alignments of Route 66 then resurface at Exit 139, where they head towards Seligman as the longest remaining segment of Route 66 in the whole of the U.S. that ends at Topock on the Colorado River at the California state line.
Per our usual decision at the day’s end, with clouds once again gathering, we opted to stay indoors in what we hoped to be an iconic Route 66 motel for the night. Upon entering Seligman, we began our quest for finding this iconic Route 66 lodging. Seligman has a population of just under 800 so we weren’t expecting to find much. That was until…
Anxious to secure lodging, the motel appeared to be closed as there were no vehicles in the parking lot nor was there an attendant in the office. However, there was a note with a phone number taped to the window of the office door. We called the number and the fellow on the other end explained that indeed the motel was open and he would send his wife from their other motel to open the office as he was coaching a youth basketball team.
Kim arrived from their other property in town, the Deluxe Inn. She and her husband acquired the properties from his parents and were in the process of restoring/renovating them. The hotel wasn’t of the same vintage as the Y Motel in Chama as the Supai opened in 1952. The early 1950s postcard upper left states:
SUPAI MOTEL SELIGMAN, ARIZONA. Phone – 953. Seligman’s newest and finest motel. (In center of City on Highway 66.) Tile baths, tubs or showers. Air-Conditioned by Frigidaire, panel type heat. Franciscan furniture, spring air mattresses, carpeted floors. Owned & Operated by Mr. and Mrs. H. Lanier.
The spirited inn keeper, Kim, recommended we park our motos under the cover of our room’s porch. She also recommended two restaurants, not the Copper Cart or the Snow Cap, both closed, but Lilo’s Cafe featuring German cuisine and the Roadkill Cafe/OK Saloon. Having dropped gear we walked to dinner at the Roadkill Cafe, since OK Saloon was included in the name, where the menu featured Deer Delectables, Bad-Brake Steak, Fender Tenders, Caddie Grilled Patty, Splatter Platter, Swirl of Squirrel, Big Bagged Stag, and Highway Hash.
The very entertaining bartender Larry was servicing a table in the bar where Pete and I sat for our buuurrrrguuurrrs. He was Googling drink recipes as he had returned to post-Covid lockdown employment, reinventing himself as a bartender and plying the assorted exuberant patrons with elixirs and concoctions decreasing their inhibitions in direct proportion given his pours. I only hoped they walked next door to their lodging… To the Deluxe and hopefully not the Supai!
The evening ended sitting in front of our room, enjoying the relaxation, rehydrating and reflection hour with a few of our fellow road-tripping and deer hunting guests, as by then there were no vacancies despite the display on the brilliant neon sign at the Supai, once upon a time, “Seligman’s newest and finest motel.”
Day 9, Seligman to Shoshone
Seligman to Shoshone ~284 miles by way of Peach Springs, Truxton, Valentine, Hackberry, Antares, Walapai, Hualapai, a deluge in Kingman, Bullhead City, with washouts on the way to Searchlight, Baker and the Mojave Preserve to Shoshone
Off to an early start en route to our favorite high desert destination between Baker and Death Valley Junction, the Shoshone RV Park and Campground, we would first have to cross three state boundaries. The Route 66 portion of the ride was relatively dry as we sped down long stretches of straight as an arrow pavement next to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe through once prosperous rail towns that like Seligman, that were trading on nostalgia and a sentimental yearning for Route 66’s past as present day tourist stops.
And now for some of that nostalgia, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe featuring Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers with Paul Weston and his orchestra from MGM’s 1946 production of the Harvey Girls, “A Gay and Lusty Romance Musical” with “Two-Gun Judy Garland…” The Harvey Girls Trailer
Kingman, still thriving as a railtown along side of the historic road’s role in American history that is celebrated at the Route 66 Museum, set inside the Powerhouse Visitors Center. Murals, dioramas and a library at the Mohave Museum of History and Arts trace local history. Locomotive Park, featuring a 1928 steam engine, and the Kingman Railroad Museum document the city’s past as a 20th-century railway hub. None of which we saw, virtually trapped in a Denny’s as the clouds burst…
After a couple of hours sitting out the front as the lightning and horizontal rain ceased, we returned to our bikes to helmet-up and make our way. Helmets we left on the mirrors of our motos. Exposed. Wet. Thankfully it wasn’t terribly cold, so they dried in no time once underway.
US-93, AZ-68 took us across Golden Valley where we encountered light-flashing Highway Department vehicles positioned where washes from the flash flooding covered the road, none of which were impassable by the time we arrived, but required caution crossing as water, sand, and rocks made for less that ideal pavement on a two-wheeled platform.
With miles to go we crossed the Colorado River for the last time on the trip just below the Davis Dam entering Nevada on NV-163 to Palm Gardens and US-95. Reaching Searchlight we then headed west on NV-164 crossing the border into California passing through Nipton, approximately 12 miles southeast of Primm, Nevada and the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility that shone eerily with a dark, clouded sky backdrop. I shoulda’ stopped to take a picture. Since the interwebs is full of pictures, how about this one?
Nipton, by the way, could be yours as it’s for sale for a mere $3 million doll-hairs. From the LAist:
I’m a fan of Brent Underwood’s YouTube channel, Ghost Town Living. It seems buying an old ghost town and monetizing a YouTube channel is a thing these days. Not quite reaching I-15 we turned south onto Ivanpah Rd. It only took about ten miles for me to grasp that we were headed to Kelso in the opposite direction of our destination. We then headed more or less in the correct direction on Morning Star Mine Rd. to the small town of Cima. Originally Cima served as water stop for trains going up the long Kelso Valley grade. Later, Cima functioned as a shipping center for mines and ranches in the area. For us it functioned as a route correction back to Barstow Road, a.k.a. I-15, and the Shell Station west of Mountain Pass where we paid $5.90 for a gallon of Premium. Thankfully, I only needed 3.96 gallons.
Off to Baker zooming on I-15 we paused to stretch and delayer from the cooler rain influenced gear into the lighter desert gear and check to out an interesting vehicle on the side of the road.
In a bit under an hour, we’d be in Shoshone. If my calculations are correct, Jim “Jet” Nielsen and his 700mph jet car, who incidentally holds 4 land speed world records but prefers not setting them on salt beds, could make in about 5 minutes…
Pete and I set off from Baker on CA-127 across the Mojave National Preserve. From the National Park Service website:
Singing sand dunes, cinder cone volcanoes, a large Joshua tree forest, and carpets of spring wildflowers are all found within this 1.6-million-acre park. A visit to its canyons, mountains, and mesas will reveal long-abandoned mines, homesteads, and rock-walled military outposts. Located between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Mojave provides serenity and solitude from major metropolitan areas.
After setting up camp, we strolled over to the Crowbar down the Old Highway 127 past the Maury and Bernice Sorrells house. As far as we could tell, the only private residence in Shoshone.
After buurrgguurrs and beers I asked David, our waiter where folks who worked in Shoshone lived since there didn’t seem to be any houses except for the Sorrell’s. It turns out he was a Covid layed-off waiter from one of the restaurants at the sheik Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas who was commuting from Pahrump to work as a server at the Crowbar. From our perspective, Covid had given him the opportunity to step up in the world. IMHO, Shoshone may not have what Las Vegas has, but Las Vegas comes up lemons, bananas, and cherries to what Shoshone has.
On our way out of the restaurant we met two motorcyclists, Mark on a BMW R9T and Ray on a BMW 1200 RT from the Bay Area on a trip like ours, or rather, one we’d done before. They were staying at the Shoshone Inn, part of the Sorrells grand slam of owning all of the commercial businesses in town. They were headed to Kernville from Shoshone having toured Zion and Bryce on their sleek and shiny German machines.
As usual, we procured beverages for the relaxation, rehydration, and reflection hour and met fellow campers Ann and Dave from Chicago and New Jersey by way of a sand-to-shore motor tour of the Mojave and Death Valley from their home in Salt Lake City. Their destination, Morro Bay in search of wineries. They were an affable couple who like us last spring, just by chance, discovered the Shoshone RV Park and Campground.
Given the pressing desire to return home to help out with my wife’s mother’s affairs, join my family in mourning Luna’s passing, and concern that the next weather front to come through was forecasted to close the passes over the Sierra to get back home, we decided to forego plans to go to Rhyolite and Goldfield. No disappointment, only new opportunities to return.
The new plan instead was to head to Panamint Springs for lunch and decide whether to camp in Lone Pine where we stayed last spring or Independence where we stayed a couple of years ago on another adventure or press on. (Posts of those trips can be found on the home page.)
Since our favorite desert oasis, food and beverage dispensary, and campground was closed, we headed to Lone Pine for lunch at the Bonanza Mexican Restaurant. Hunger sated and weather updated we made the decision to press on and make our way over Tioga Pass before a storm, headed our way, was predicted to be cold enough for snowfall to close the pass. This atmospheric river was equally likely to complicate Walker Pass to the south on CA-178 and snow was just as likely to close Sonora Pass on CA-108 or any of the passes to the north .
A quick refuel at the Woah Neli-Deli along for a cocoa laced coffee and we were off once again crossing Tioga Pass as the shadows lengthened. There was no less beauty in this segment of the ride, but we were homeward bound, road weary and anxious to return so my phone was tucked away. We arrived home right around sunset, glad to reunite with family but satisfied that yet another moto tour to celebrate was complete and no accidents or mechanicals befell us.
Edward Abbey has best expressed how I am drawn to the Mojave, Colorado Plateau, and Basin and Range through which I’ve pedaled in my youth and throttled more recently. In his words:
The geologic approach is certainly primary and fundamental, underlying the attitude and outlook that best support all others, including the insights of poetry and the wisdom of religion. Just as the earth itself forms the indispensable ground for the only kind of life we know, providing the sole sustenance of our minds and bodies, so does empirical truth constitute the foundation of higher truths. (If there is such a thing as higher truth.)
It seems to me that Keats was wrong when he asked, rhetorically, “Do not all charms fly … at the mere touch of cold philosophy?” The word “philosophy” standing, in his day, for what we now call “physical science.” But Keats was wrong, I say, because there is more charm in one “mere” fact, confirmed by test and observation, linked to other facts through coherent theory into a rational system, than in a whole brainful of fancy and fantasy. I see more poetry in a chunk of quartzite than in a make-believe wood nymph, more beauty in the revelations of a verifiable intellectual construction than in whole misty empires of obsolete mythology.
The moral I labor toward is that a landscape as splendid as that of the Colorado Plateau can best be understood and given human significance by poets who have their feet planted in concrete — concrete data — and by scientists whose heads and hearts have not lost the capacity for wonder. Any good poet, in our age at least, must begin with the scientific view of the world; and any scientist worth listening to must be something of a poet, must possess the ability to communicate to the rest of us his sense of love and wonder at what his work discovers.
The road beckons, as usual, Sisyphus and Associates are willin’ to scratch the “Quest into the Unknown” itch on this proposed journey that will reprise a scene or two from where we’ve been before (check out the links). This is to satisfy our incurable quest into the unknown, including some new territory close to Tucson and Tucumcari. Tehachapi, meh.
As the seasons begin to change, we hope the weather cooperates and foregoes any extreme behavior. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Our first two days are familiar as they include previous stops in Tonopah and Cedar City with drive throughs in Torrey, Caineville, Hanksville, and Green River. Our ultimate destination and turnabout will be Santa Fe in the Land of Enchantment. I’m curious how the state motto, “Crescit Eundo,” translated from Latin, means “It grows as it goes.” I’ll have to ask Bob and Suzanne our enchanting hosts about the allusion to dynamic progress…
Sisyphus is an insufferable map geek. The roads over which our route will take us fall into the Butler designated “road qualities” of Lost Highways, G1, G2, and G3 segments. Check out Mojave Moto Spring 2021 for Sisyphus’s expansion of the Butler “road qualities” descriptions at https://sisyphusdw7.com/2021/04/29/mojave-moto-spring-2021/. There will be deserts and high forested mountains, river valleys, and arroyos to cross through small towns on backroads that are our preferred intermediate waypoints. What did folks do before Google Maps and Earth? Okay, our quest will sort of be into the unknown. Sorry Mr. Natural.
You may think this trip isn’t so much a quest into the unknown what with having covered ground on previous rides and extensive use of mapping. And you’d be correct. The quest into the unknown isn’t so much about the terrain. We know we’ll be awed by the varied landscapes we’ll ride through. The quest is more about the journey following some of Edward Abbey’s travels and the romance of the road that seems to permeate the long-haul trucker’s, poet’s, and map-loving motorcyclist’s zeitgeist. So, why not let’s call it, There and Back Looking for the Other Abbey’s Road (Trip2021).
Sisyphus humbly offers a scroll-worthy (at least click on the blue map links) proposal for this twelve-day moto adventure, broken into Part 1, Eastward We Go, and Part 2 Westward Down and Bound. Bring your imagination along and join us if you’re willin’ as a brief narrative of the route with some images captured previously in-person and from the interwebs detail our intended waypoints and consider the ese on Guest-friendship that follows.
The Sierra poses the first “obstacle” to overcome. We’ll take CA-120 by way of J-59, CA 132 to Smith Station Rd. (281 miles) with the Tioga Pass Option, or the CA-108 over Sonora Pass Option (~309 miles) to Bridgeport then Lee Vining on US-395. It just depends on which route is on fire…
From Lee Vining, it’s US-395 to the junction w/ CA-120 to Benton (Hot Springs). From there we make our way on US-6 to Tonopah, across range and basin country, where Sisyphus and his Associate Pete stayed in the fall of 2020. You can read about that trip and the next two legs we are reprising from the Burr Trail Here We Come blog post. sisyphusdw7.com, Burr Trail Here We Come
From Tonopah, we ride on US-6/NV-95 through Warm Springs and catch the road to Rachel on NV-375. We hope to avoid being abducted by aliens who are allegedly held captive at Area 51. That doesn’t preclude stopping for a souvenir T-Shirt at the Alien Research Center at Crystal Springs should we escape. T-Shirt safely stowed, we proceed on US-93 through Caliente, perhaps for a delightful lunch, infusing cash into the local economies, to the junction w/ NV-319 in Panaca.
From Panaca it’s NV-319 to the Nevada/Utah border where the road becomes UT-56 to Modena. Modena, just an R away from mRNA vaccine name recognition fame… I wonder if there’s a Pfize Utah?
Following breakfast, an early departure takes us on UT-14 to Tod’s Junction meeting UT-14 and US-89 through Hatch to the junction w/ UT-12 through Tropic, Cannonville, Henrieville, Escalante, and Boulder where we will tip our helmets to the Burr Trail, then roll into Torrey to the junction w/ UT-24.
From Torrey, it’s UT-24 along the Fremont River, past Capitol Reef, through Fruita, Caineville to Hanksville. Staying on UT-24 we make our way through Green River via a brief spin on I-70 to US-191 to Moab, Arches, and red rock country.
Via Moab US 191 through the La Sals and into the Rockies to Monticello and the junction w/ US-491 we make our way through Lewis and UT-184, to Mancos and UT-3 and US-160 to Pagosa Springs. Here we take US-84 through Chomo, cross the Colorado/New Mexico border to the junction of US-84 and US-64. The last leg on US-64 is to the junction w/ UT-17 into Chama.
Via US-64 from Chama, we pass through Brazos, staying on US-64 at Tres Piedras, we cross the Rio Grande on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on our way to Taos. It’s fun to walk to the middle of the span and jump up and down. More fun if an 80,000-pound rig passes by.
From Taos, it’s UT-68 to Pilar, where we roll alongside the Rio Grande to Espanola and Pojoaque, then take US-285/US-84 into Santa Fe.
= OR =
Abbey’s Road Trip 2021 V1.1, a.k.a. The Aspen Anna Option (with a nod to Taos)(?)
This route option skips the Moab to Chama, Chama to Santa Fe Days 4 & 5 legs of The Other Abbey’s Road Trip V1.0.
With this option, the riding distance for days 4 and 5 increases by 140 miles so that we might visit Aspen. One of the other Associates, Andy, who you will recall from the Riding Under a Fool Moon post, has daughter who resides there. And Anna happens to be a former student of Sisyphus. Who knows, maybe we’ll see Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie riding their bikes, neither of whom is a former student, but Aspen is a small town. The bonus of crossing the Continental Divide resplendent in fall color looms as we make our way through the Rockies.
Briefly, south out of Moab on US-191 to the junction w/ UT-128 to junction w/ UT-46 in La Sal. A short distance to the Utah/Colorado border where UT-46 becomes CO-90 we roll to Naturita where we don a few extra layers and take CO-141 up and up to the junction w/ US-50 just south of Grand Junction to Delta. Junction US-50 w/ CO-92 to Hotchkiss and junction w/ CO-133 to Carbondale and the junction w/ Rds. 101, 100 to CO-82 on to Aspen. Lots of twisties in the mountains.
Out of Aspen, likely wearing every stitch of clothing we’ve packed, it’s CO-82 over Independence Pass. Unless closed whether the weather! Then on to the junction w/ US-24. US-24 due south to the junction w/ US-285 near Johnson Village. US-285 to junction w/ CO-17 to Alamosa where we pick up US-285 crossing the Colorado/New Mexico border to Tres Piedras and US-64 to Taos. From Taos it’s UT-68 to Pilar where we roll alongside the Rio Grande to Espanola, and Pojoaque and take US-285/US-84 into Santa Fe.
Should the decision be made to skip Taos, remain on Hwy-285 to Santa Fe (Aspen to Santa Fe) ~303 miles. If my vote counts, I say Taos it is.
Meanwhile, on to Santa Fe…
Day 6 – Santa Fe Layover*
Without imposing too much, while in Santa Fe we anticipate that the Bob and Suzanne Delaware, our resident hosts, will consent to allow Bob to summon his considerable skills as a platinum tour guide to provide Sisyphus and his Associates with a condensed tour of Santa Fe. This skill set has been honed over a number of years shepherding student travelers to the nation’s Capitol and the Big Apple, as well as his personal European and stateside rambles.
Hopefully we’ll not have to deal with any plague spreading oppressors! Besides, Bob’s tour will get us out of Suzanne’s lovely red hair…
From Santa Fe, we head north on US-84 to Pojoaque and cross the Rio Grande on US-285 to Espanola. Remain on US-285 to La Quachia (US-84) along the Rio Chama to Abiquiu, with Georgia on our minds, or choose the option to head west and visit Los Alamos via NM-502, -501, -4, and check out what’s shakin’ at ground zero for mutually assured destruction. In either case, then proceed to NM-126 through the mountains to the junction w/ NM-96 and US-550 near La Jara. From the US-550 Interchange, we roll through Counselor, Nageezi to US-64.
On to Farmington along the San Juan River to Shiprock where US-64 will take us across the New Mexico/Arizona border to Teec Nos Pos and the junction with US-160 and the Four Corners Monument north on US-160, a six-mile (x2) round-side trip.
Back on US-160 near Red Mesa, we cross the San Juan River just west of Bluff to the junction w/US-163 to Mexican Hat.
Day 8 – Mexican Hat to North Rim Campground ~265 miles
From Mexican Hat on US-163, in the midst of the Navajo Nation, to Kayenta and the junction w/ US-160 and AZ-98, up to Page and the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell where we’ll spend a moment considering the abject reality of climate change, then head to the junction w/ US-89 across Antelope Pass to Bitter Springs and US-89A crossing the not so mighty Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge across Marble Canyon to Jacob Lake (from Mexican hat it’s ~220 miles to Jacob Lake Campground) where Hwy-67, which takes us to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, lies some 45 miles south from Jacob Lake.
Backtracking, as the North Rim is an out-and-back, we take US-89A back to Bitter Springs, then US-89 south to Cameron, where we roll to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on AZ-64.
Leaving the South Rim, we motor on AZ-64 to Williams before getting on the Historic Rte-66 the following morning. Maybe we can find a corner to stand on with fine sights to see, not Dallas Alice, but the takin’ it easy girl…
Take’ It Easy You may recognize JB. How ’bout the fiddle player? Hint: DL
Getting our kicks on Historic US Rte-66 while takin’ it easy, we roll through Ash Fork, Seligman, Yampai, Peach Springs, Truxton, Cozier, Valentine, Hackberry, Antares, Hualapai, Berry, Getz, to Kingman perhaps to mistakenly stand on a corner scanning to see a flatbed Ford. Road-weary, a kind passerby reminds Sisyphus that the corner about which Jackson is singing is in Winslow, not Williams, or Kingman for that matter, though either city’s name satisfies the meter of the song… There’s probably a corner in Seligman we can stand on too, though there is one too many syllables.
In Kingman we take US-93 to the junction with AZ-68 to the Arizona/Nevada Border.
Entering the great Mojave at the interchange of AZ-68 and NV-163 and crossing the Colorado River again, what’s left of it downriver from the Davis Dam, this time in Laughlin, we head to Palm Gardens on NV-163. From the junction w/ US-95 in Palm Gardens, we roll to Searchlight and the Nevada/California border as NV-164 becomes Nipton Road to the I-15 (Barstow Fwy). From there we “slab” over Mountain Pass past the historic but abandoned and vandalized Hi-Lo Restaurant, to Baker and the world’s tallest thermometer where the Mad Greek Restaurant and Alien Fresh Jerky all await a similar fate.
Our early departure from Shoshone takes us past Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House on CA-127 or we detour through Death Valley CA-190 ~164 miles to Lone Pine*
CA-127 becomes NV-373 at NV border where we continue to the Interchange of NV-373 and US-95 to Beatty, maybe catching Rhyolite on a short side trip on NV 374 (six miles, twelve round trip) that we missed on the Riding Under a Fool Moon, Death Valley by Moonlight ride (because of Sisyphus’s navigation error) for a picture or two. Then it’s back on US 95 to Goldfield (to check out the Santa Fe Motel and Saloon). Parenthetically speaking.
From Goldfield we take US-95 south, backtracking as it were, to the junction w/ the Lida NV-266 junction crossing the Nevada/California border to the junction w/ CA-168 at Oasis where circular irrigated alfalfa fields thrive. This was the scene of an alien abduction during our Riding Under a Fool Moon, Death Valley by Moonlight moto adventure linked above. This was a pre-pandemic ride in the fall of 2019 with the Associates Pete and Andy, one of whom mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately, for Anna’s sake, he was released by his captors and we were reunited in Big Pine.
Over Gilbert Pass, past Deep Springs College, where Sisyphus regrets not having the wherewithal to have attended, and over Westgard Pass to Big Pine Hwy on CA-168 where we take US-395 to Lee Vining and CA-120 over Tioga Pass and CA 140 to la douceur du foyer where there are numerous corners to stand on, but not many flatbed Fords. Thus ending the story of our route with a hard-to-read text, according to my editor…
But wait, there’s more…
Abbey’s Road Trip 2021 Layover Days: Lessons From the Past Regarding Guest-friendship, An Ese…
Where Sisyphus considers a dialog with an Homeric epic. The italics indicate Sisyphus’s considerations…
While ours is scarcely an epic journey, Sisyphus will reflect on how the classics deal with road trips and apply their wisdom to our contemporary adventure. Sisyphus has considerable regard for how the past informs the present and future.
According to J. B. Hainsworth, in the course of the Homeric epic Odysseus encounters several examples of xenia, “guest-friendship” providing models of how hosts should and should not act. The Phaeacians demonstrate exemplary guest-friendship by feeding Odysseus, giving him a place to sleep, and granting him many gifts and a safe voyage home, which are all things a good host should do.
The Delawares have Phaeacian DNA.
Polyphemus demonstrates poor guest-friendship. His only “gift” to Odysseus is that he will eat him last. Calypso also exemplifies poor guest-friendship because she does not allow Odysseus to leave her island.
Polyphemus and Calypso offer classic “six of one, half dozen of another” poor guest-friendship outcomes. I’ve always known the Delawares to offer the finest beverage upon their guests’ arrival and to offer exceptional repast and delightful conversation before bidding adieu. Neither Bob nor Suzanne have ever once hinted at cannibalism. Their abiding hospitably permit their guests who’ve either satisfied or have exhausted their memorable visit to exit with good cheer. The Delawares conduct all guest-friendship with exceptional grace and decorum unlike Polyphemus or Calypso.
Another important factor to guest-friendship is that kingship implies generosity. It is assumed that a king has the means to be a generous host and is more generous with his own property. This is best seen when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, begs Antinous for food and Antinous denies his request. Odysseus essentially says that while Antinous may look like a king, he is far from a king since he is not generous.
I promise to not relegate Pete or Andy as beggars to test Bob’s hospitality, as Odysseus did to Antinous since I know Bob, unlike Antinous, is kingly in his every manor and exhortation. If at all flawed in his sincere humility, Bob is indeed kingly in his generosity. I am reminded of his wise counsel: It never happened.
Guest-friendship follows a very specific pattern:
The arrival and the reception of the guest.
Arrival will be on September 30, 2021, mid afternoon, baring the incalculable unforeseen delays of any quest into the unknown.
Bathing or providing fresh clothes to the guest.
A garden hose or perhaps a refreshing Santa Fe thundershower will do. We may need to do laundry. Perhaps we can obtain a wash tub and scrub board from one of the vendors on the Plaza.
Providing food and drink to the guest.
We will sustain the first three rounds of any beverage occasion. Beyond that, neither Santa Fe nor the Delawares bear any responsibility for poor choices. The Delawares may still be on the hook to shuffle us off to the nearest pub or contact our loved ones for bail.
Questions may be asked of the guest and entertainment should be provided by the host.
Good cheer and maybe a beverage or two are the only requirements for entertainment since exposure to centuries of Santa Fe culture and history requires more time to absorb and greater tolerance than the Delawares can muster for weary moto riding dirtbags despite my earlier comments about Bob’s superb skills as a guide.
The guest should be given a place to sleep, and both the guest and host retire for the night.
A curb for our mounts, a yard for a tent, perhaps a couch or a chaise lounge will do. Should the Delawares elect to get a room for the night elsewhere, I think we can support their choice, as we pledge to limit damage to their domicile. We can’t guarantee that no harm will come to Bob’s tomatoes, however.
The guest and host exchange gifts, the guest is granted a safe journey home, and the guest departs.
Our gift will be our departure. As for the safe journey home, guaranteed. We will leave more or less on time.
Another important factor of guest-friendship is not keeping the guest longer than they wish and also promising their safety while they are a guest within the host’s home.
Departure will be on the morning of October 2, having stayed with our gracious hosts Bob and Suzanne for two nights max. It likely takes longer than that for the Santa Fe authorities to evict us. Regardless, the Delawares know Sisyphus’s attention span is limited.
Sisyphus will guarantee the safety of our hosts, only insofar as the pharmaceuticals and preventives guarantee our safety. We will respectfully do our best to erase any plague spores the heretofore mentioned oppressors have spread…
Thanks to Wiki for informing Sisyphus of the specifics of the Homeric epic.
The actual post trip narrative will arrive sometime in October, Sisyphus is already feeling it…
From 2018 Pete on his Bonny joins Tom on the Kawasexy.
Somehow lost in the quanta of physics, the ether of the interwebs, or my incompetence at blogging on WordPress, I originally posted this as a “page” intending that it join its brethren in those vignettes found in my “posts”.
Since I barely understand how navigation on my site works, I thought that linking the page to my posts would patch my bungle. Please enjoy…