Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grand Canyon

There are no words for the beauty of the following day. We rode to the Grand Canyon, then took a long meandering way back to our friend's house in Flagstaff. The pictures say it all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lights and Top Case

I'll go back to the ride report tomorrow, but for the moment I'm really excited about my new auxiliary lights and top case. The lights were a Christmas gift, and the top case was a birthday present. My husband has been working on getting all the new toys put on my bike for the past several weeks. I am thrilled with the results, but it makes it even more difficult to sit around and wait for Spring to get out and ride.

The top case is especially important to me. I love photography, but am always worried about my camera on the bike. Now I have a safe place to keep my camera bag and extra lenses so I don't miss shots while I'm out riding. It also gives me a place for some secure storage when I'm out riding alone. My husband has had to put anything we needed secure in his panniers up until now. But since I'm hoping to do at least one multi-day solo ride this summer, this means a lot.

This is my new dash with led lights now that the wind screen is back on.

These are the new auxiliary lights. They should improve not only visibility for me at night, but also my visibility to others.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Route 66 and a Snow Storm

We had a good steak dinner after arriving at our friend's house, slept in a comfy bed, and took a long hot shower. There was a little blue peaking out from the clouds when we looked outside. Let’s ride!

We decided to double back and pick up the rest of route 66 that we missed yesterday because of the time crunch and taking the Interstate. State route 180 is just out of the subdivision so we were off and on our way. It was a nice morning, cold, but mostly sunny. The pine forest was pretty, and there was almost no wind. At the junction with 64, we turned west. This is marked as a scenic route, but really 180 had a lot more to look at. We stopped at a roadside tourist stop complete with teepees and took pictures. We talked to the people there for a few minutes about a motorcycle trip the man almost took as a college student, backed out of, and has regretted missing ever since. We told him it isn't too late to live that dream, but I think life has drained his spirit of adventure. It's too bad because it could be regained if he would just get started on a trip.

So, back on the road. First it got a bit windy. Hmmm. Then it started to snow. HMMM. Then the snow started to fall so heavily I had to wipe it off my visor every few seconds. It completely covered the motorcycle windshield. Fortunately, we turned another corner and the snow turned back to rain, then stopped and the sun came out. After a gas stop and food we finally made it back to route 66 in the early afternoon. And everything came together. The wind died down to almost nothing, the sun came out bright, and we were riding route 66 with all its history. We went all the way back to Kingman before turning around and coming back. At Seligman we turned back toward the interstate. We figured if we did 75 or 80 we could be back in time to do a little shopping, and maybe explore Flagstaff before it got dark.

On the pass just outside Williams, AZ my husband pulled me over and commented that the clouds looked pretty threatening, and asked if I wanted to put on my waterproof gear. I decided not to, I figured if we just rode hard we may get a little cold and wet, but nothing we couldn't handle. Then the snow started again. This time for real. We’d ridden in snow a few times on the trip, but this was different. This was blinding snow. This was snow that had trucks and cars pulling of the road. Snow that stuck to the road. Snow that caused a cop car to slide into the ditch. I slowed down to 55 and just focused on staying in the tracks of the truck in front of me.

In retrospect, had I had winter gloves with me and had I agreed to stop and put on Frog Togs, it wouldn’t have been as bad. As it was, my left hand got soaked through from scraping snow from my visor, and one of the few cars going faster than we were, passed me flinging slush everywhere and soaked my crotch. Getting hit there with ice water gives you a shock you won’t soon forget! YIKES! But, all is well that ends well. We made it home safe, with 340 odd miles on the day and some great memories and stories.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Laughlin to Flagstaff

We woke up relaxed the following morning. We only needed to get as far as Flagstaff, and that is only a few hours away from Laughlin. We have a friend who had said we could stay at his house, even though he was going to be out of town. After breakfast my husband called our friend's contractor to arrange for picking up the key. It was about 9:45 when Bobby called and we had done nothing to get ready to leave. No problem, says the contractor, but I’m only available until 2:00. It took an hour to get everything repacked and ready to leave, so we pulled out of Laughlin, NV around 11:00. Time’s a little tight here. Pulling out we took a wrong turn, and we somehow ended up on historic route 66 rather than the interstate. This part of route 66 is really pretty, with a 35 mph speed limit, lots of 15 mph switchbacks, and steep drop offs with 1950’s style “guard rails.”

There was no way we were going to make it to Flagstaff by 2:00. We stopped once or twice for pictures. At one spot the view was nice, but it wasn’t until my husband walked up a little incline that we realized how appropriate it was that we had stopped at that particular pullout. Hidden from the road, and only visible once you had walked past and turned around, lies a memorial to “The Alaska Mountain Man.” What are the chances?

We finally hit the Interstate and with it, mind blowing wind gusts. We pulled into Kingman, and called the contractor back. Well, he says, just get here by 4:00. I won’t be able to take you to the house, but we can meet and I’ll give you the key. We pulled into Flagstaff at 3:45. Thank goodness he was close, and we were able to find our friend’s house easily. We stopped at a grocery to get food for the evening, and only when we got ready to eat did we realize that our friend, a true bachelor, only had one plate! We spent the evening relaxing and watching tv. It felt nice to be "at home" after a few days on the road.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Death Valley to Laughlin

The singing birds woke me up in Death Valley. There were at least five or six different kind of bird sounds, and they all sounded happy. I had no idea such a desolate place could be so full of life. We got up early, shortly after 6:00 and had broken camp and were on the bikes by 7:00. That was a record for us on this trip! Our camp was almost 200 ft below sea level. The day before we rode from almost 8500 ft down to -200 ft. Talk about extremes!

The previous night we had talked about the things we wanted to see, so we had a rough plan for the day. First stop was Artist's Drive. The colors in the rock formations are unbelievable, ranging from soft pinks and greens, to intense reds and purples. I took many photos, but would love to go back someday and spend an entire day photographing the changing light. I can unerstand why the Native American's here consider this to be a spiritual place.

After Artist's Drive, we went to Dante's View, the highest point in the valley. The road up to the parking lot is at a 13% incline with lots of 10 mph switchbacks! No trailers, or RV's allowed. No words can describe the extent of the view. You can see the entire length of Death Valley, and are looking out directly over Bad Water, the lowest point in the park.

After grabbing a quick lunch at the Furnace Creek restaurant, we headed out toward Bad Water. The ride was fast, though I have to admit I have a bit of trouble busting speed limits by 20 or 30 mph. A little over I'm ok with, but the ticket for 30 over in a National Park? Scary! Anyway, Bad Water is an interesting place. Salt Flats at 278 ft below sea level. There's a sign up on the cliffs on the other side of the road that shows where sea level is. Quite a perspective! As we parked a really scary looking guy on a Harley with old tattered leathers and a wild full beard walked up to our bikes. He was a dangerous looking guy. Turned out though he was really nice and we spent quite a while chatting. He has a son who lives in Anchorage. Again, we were struck by what a small world it really is.

We left Death Valley around noon, and headed for Shoshone, then on to Baker. As we left Shoshone, we ran into some sort of law enforcement marathon that kept us at a crawl (10 - 15 mph) for ages! Bobby was annoyed, I was bored. When we finally got to Baker, we hit the Interstate toward Vegas. Initially I took a wrong turn and we had a comedy of errors trying to get turned back around. But once we were headed the right way we could drive a bit faster. Before Vegas we turned off onto the Nipton Road. OMG! It is straight, flat, and endless. I have no doubt you could see a car coming for 5 miles, except that there are no cars! The town of Nipton looks like a set from an old western movie. I should have stopped for pics, but we still wanted to get to Laughlin, and I was getting very tired. We did stop for a few shots in Joshua Tree.

Finally we made it into Laughlin. I was so tired I was afraid I would drop the bike if I had to stop. The first hotel was sold out, but Bobby got on the phone and got us the last room at a place down the street. By the time we got the bikes parked, and got cleaned up I was ready for a quiet dinner, and bed. Looking back on this day, we made a serious mistake that led to a series of dangerous mistakes. We allowed ourselves to get dehydrated and it made us stupid and careless. It also made me exhausted and wobbly. I have completely learned my lesson. I will never again allow myself to go more than an hour or so without drinking water, and usually drink a lot more often than that!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tahoe to Death Valley

The forecast was for 1 to 3 inches of snow during the night. When we got up this morning…Nothing! We packed up as quickly as we could and got on the road. It was cold, but mostly sunny. We knew we had a couple high passes to get over, but I didn’t realize how high they were. We took Hwy 50 from South Tahoe into Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and then on until the junction with Hwy 395. The first pass had a top elevation of something over 8000 feet. It was cold, about 28 degrees! We were driving through some of the most beautiful country so far, but I failed to take many pics. I was so cold, I just wanted to get done! After the pass we dropped into Bridgeport, where we stopped for coffee. I was in BAD need of a warm up.

The next several hours we rode mountain roads, rarely dropping below 6000 feet. BRRRRR.... At one point snow was building up on our windshields. Finally we dropped into Lone Pine, and the visitor info station leading to Death Valley. After being reassured that the pass between there and Death Valley wouldn’t be wet or cold, ("This is a desert, that's why it looks like it does out there, and we are in the hot season now." said the condescending park ranger) we set out into rain and wind over the passes into Death Valley. I had my heated grips on all the way, and didn't take off the Gerbings until we got into the valley itself!

Death Valley is beautiful, and we got some pretty nice photos before arriving at Furnace Creek where we camped. As my husband scouted around looking for a spot, I sat and watched a beautiful sunset. Not sure why I didn't get pictures of it. When we pulled in we were pretty concerned. All the regular camping spots seemed to be taken. Then one of the guys who ran the campground waved us into an RV spot. We certainly had plenty of room! The campground is pretty, the night is warm. All that is wrong with this night is a loud drunk old lady in an RV behind us. As it came time for bed I was more than ready.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The holidays were crazy, and followed by my entire family getting sick, one having to spend a day in the emergency at the hospital. It is such a relief that life has finally gotten pretty well back to normal.

So...I got some great farkles for my bike for Christmas and for my birthday. Installation hasn't all gone so easy, between electrical problems and wrong size parts. Here are a few pictures of what we've done so far.

We installed engine bars

Replaced the old wet battery with a sealed battery

Replaced the old dash lights with led lights

Installed a new fuse box

Installed a charge guard

There is more work done and not yet photographed, and still more that is waiting to hopefully get finished this week.