A slight miscalculation.

August 7, 2010

I departed at 7am and hit the Turquoise Trail then the High Rd to Taos. The scenery vastly improved and I took a detour up the mountains outside Albuquerque to Sandia peak where, at 10,600 feet above sea level, it looks out over the valley below. Pretty amazing. The trails themselves wound through New Mexico’s high country and small native American villages. While there were some fascinating examples of Pueblo architecture the thing that struck me the most was the incredible poverty that these people live in. Stuck on reservations “given” to them by the Europeans, thrown a bone with the ability to have a casino and then pretty much left to fend for themselves. No wonder alcoholism is rampant. It’s a disgrace what was done to the native American Indians… what is still being done to them today. Ok, rant over.

After having lunch in Taos, I decided to take a “small road” route 64 and make the trek all the way to Kayenta, Arizona because it is the gateway town to Monument Valley. It was only 1pm and the GPS said it would take about 6 hours to get there. No problem. The route I took was AWESOME… route 64 West through northern New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains and has some beautiful riding with outstanding scenery, nice elevation changes and twisty roads. There was hardly anyone on the road either so that was nice. I passed a cool little ranch called Red Rabbit Ranch and I think a return trip with my kids may be in order next year. I also dropped my gloves on a bridge overlooking a gorge outside Taos and had to turn around ten minutes later when I realized my hands were bare. People were not pleased when I stopped in the middle of the bridge to retrieve them. I also saw some cool earth homes outside Taos. They were made of all natural or recycled materials like soda cans, bottles, tires, etc. and were heated and cooled entirely by natural means like solar, wind and geothermal. Pretty cool.

I made good time on the road and arrived in Kayenta around 8:30pm. As I stood behind a gentleman at the Hampton Inn, I heard him say that this was the last available room in town. HUH???? Hmmmm… let me see, last room… ok, better go to another hotel and check it out. Holiday Inn… no vacancies, Western Inn… no vacancies. Bed & Breakfast Inn… no vacancies. 9pm at night… no daylight!!!! Now I’m starting to panic. I pop into a local restaurant and have a quick bite because I’m hungry but, more importantly, to ask where any other lodging may be. I’m told go 10 miles down the highway to the so and so inn. Ok… off I go on my bike, at night, in the AZ desert. Now, it is pitch black and my high beams are illuminating all these small road signs warning of the things you can crash into… like cows and horses!!!! Apparently, the land around there is what is known as “open range” meaning things just meander where they want to. Really? Yup… as I was leaving town there were 3 horses grazing on the grass right next to a stop sign across the street from McDonald’s!!!

So, I’m doing 60mph in the dark and looking at every side road or mud hole trying to figure out if I can camp there. The desert does not look inviting. I make it to the inn that is 10 miles outside town… no vacancies! DUH! Ok, I ask is there anywhere to camp around here. Oh yes… 5 more miles down the road you turn right onto the Navajo Monument road and then another 9 miles from there you have a campground. Oh joy… more riding in the dark, gripping the handlebars so tight that my fingers are hurting.

I make it to the campground at 9:45pm after riding all day. I have no idea where I am going or what the situation is but I pull into the first empty campsite I see and begin the task of setting up the tent. It actually went very well given that I was exhausted and was surveying the ground and surroundings in the dark ๐Ÿ™‚ I at least was smart enough to get the rain cover on because… YUP… I was camping so rain was coming. I had seen the clouds as I drove into the campsite but with the light behind them I thought they were mountains. Only the flash of lightening made me change my mind ๐Ÿ™‚ So, after I was asleep the rain, thunder and lightening came. It woke me up several times to remind me of how much sleeping on dirt and rocks hurts! However, being the rocket scientist that I am, I took both of the hip pads out of my motorcycle pants and used them to cushion my hip while I slept. It worked pretty well and I did manage to get some sleep until the rain stopped at 7am and gave me the motivation to get moving for the day. Monument Valley awaits!!!!

Deer on Sandia Mtn

Sandi Mtn overlooking Albuquerque

What passes for a ranch in New Mexico – check out the name

Cool old church on the Turquoise Trail

Gorge outside Taos

Earth home outside Taos

New Mexico Route 64 west scenery

My lovely camp ground


High plains drifter

August 5, 2010

I left Arkansas at 7am for another long day on the road. My butt didn’t mind so much but my right neck/shoulder area had been bothering me every since Baie-Comeau and it certainly did not agree to another long ride. In the end, I had to give myself several massages and curses to keep going as my neck decided to periodically spasm. When I started my bike up in the morning, the light failure warning came on… apparently a BMW bulb lasts exactly 15,000 miles! No worries as I plugged in the nearest BMW motorcycle dealer and fortunately it was right on my way through Oklahoma City. Not much to see in Oklahoma but the scenery turned quite dramatically when I drove into northern Texas on my way through Amarillo.

The landscape was quite beautiful and I never really understood what the “high plains” were until I was driving through them. The expanses were quite vast yet somehow beautiful… at least I thought so. The road kill certainly changed with a smattering of armadillos and one family dog… very sad. The drive as you approach Albuquerque, NM is also quite impressive with vast plains then the Sandia Mountains springing up and often framed by black thunderstorm clouds and pouring rain.

I was fortunate in that the high temperature that day was a frigid 102 degrees and I only got rained on very slightly. Still, doing 80mph in a short sleeve shirt and getting hit with even small drops of water… hurts like hell!!!!

I arrived exhausted in Albuquerque at 7pm but managed to squeal off to the Outback for a beer and a steak… so the day wasn’t a total loss ๐Ÿ™‚ On my way there, I saw a really great cloud that was half hidden behind a dark mountain. The sun was falling but the cloud was brilliant white due to it still getting the sun but the mountain was in the dark shadow of another taller mountain and the contrast was quite stunning. Didn’t have my camera though!

This morning I decided to tend to my shoulder and booked myself a 60 min deep tissue massage at a local spa. Overall it was an excellent spa and one of the best massages I have ever had. After that I ran some errands and have been in my room route planning for the next week. Biggest problem I have is that there are now SO MANY OPTIONS!!! Who knew there were so many scenic rides in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. What to do????

It’s pouring rain outside and a massive thunderstorm has been over the city for hours. Looks like beef jerky for dinner ๐Ÿ™‚

UPDATED: The rain actually stopped and the sun came out so I went into old town Albuquerque and ate dinner in one of the first residences in Albuquerque. It dated back to the early 1700’s and now houses the Church St Cafe. Both the food and the waitress were “excellent” ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomorrow I ride the Turquoise Trail, the High Road to Taos, then the Enchanted Circle before heading over to Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah as I slowly make my way north through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

So I’m pretty much in a predominantly Spanish speaking place so I thought I better listen to some different tunes to get in the groove… going clubbing tonight… hope they bust this!!

Listen to this for a minute!

Old town Albuquerque photos

Yikes… that stung a bit!

August 4, 2010

Just a quick update as I need to sleep. I left Asheville at 6:30am and arrived in Van Buren, Arkansas at 7:45PM EST. The ride was LONG!!!!! I lost my butt to numbness somewhere east of Memphis and I almost died 4 times from heatstroke. The temperature when I left NC was 71 degrees. By 12pm in Tennessee, the temperature has risen to 103 degrees. In central Arkansas the temperature reached 113 degrees and I was forced to stop every 90 mins or so to consume large quantities of water. When I arrived, after toiling through 788 miles of heat related misery, the temperature was still 107!!!!!

And just think… I get to do it all over again tomorrow… 733 miles of misery to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The good news is that the really cool scenic riding starts as soon as I get to Utah and Colorado!

Back to the future.

August 3, 2010

I slept in this morning in order to give the fog a chance to move on. The skies did not look promising when I left my room around 10:30 so I decided to go see the Biltmore Estate. Living in Atlanta all those years, I had always wanted to go see the Biltmore but the boss never seemed too interested. I’m the boss now so off I went and was soon standing in line at the ticket office. I about had a heart attack when I saw that a day pass was $60!!!! Sixty bucks to tour someone’s home… Geez… seemed steep. I was fortunate enough to procure a coupon from a kind lady in the next line so it only cost me $44 in the end.

My motorcycle got me special parking up front and I walked through the gates for my first look at what is without question the most spectacular home I have ever seen. Check out my blogroll for more info. Going into that house was like stepping back in time and the whole tour was simply fascinating. I highly recommend everyone seeing this magnificent estate. I could not take photos inside the building which was a shame but I will never forget what it felt like to walk around that house. I probably only saw 40 percent of the whole thing because they don’t let you go everywhere but I can only imagine what it must have been like to have lived in that era in that house. Simply amazing.

Oh Alicia, I almost forgot… THE LIBRARY!!! It was awesome. It occupied a large room on the right side of the house. The room was two stories high and wall to wall books. There were floor to ceiling windows to let ample light in and the whole room was dark wood paneling. There was a cool spiral staircase going to the second level just in case you didn’t want to use a ladder ๐Ÿ™‚ There were huge high backed leather reading chairs and chaise lounge chairs for laying down and reading. The library contains 10,000 of George Vanderbilt’s original books. There are 23,000 books in the entire house… might take you a while to read all those huh Lou ๐Ÿ™‚

My next stop was the winery located on the estate. Back in 1997, while I was living in Atlanta, I shared a divine bottle of the Biltmore Pinot Noir with a beautiful young woman. That was the first time I had heard of the Biltmore estate and I wanted to see if the wine was still as good as I remembered. Sadly, no but maybe I should have gotten a beautiful woman to drink with and I may have a different answer ๐Ÿ™‚

As I left the estate, the weather looked quite good so I headed back up into the mountains and the first hour on the Blue Ridge Parkway was quite good. Unfortunately, the fog was still around and after another 45 mins in the fog and 16 miles of construction traffic, I gave up on seeing any more of the parkway. The fog was so thick that I felt like I was in an episode of Lost and the smoke thing was chasing me. Actually, that wouldn’t have been too bad because then I would have at least been around Elizabeth Mitchell… oh yeah baby! She is definitely on my top 5 list along with Kate Beckinsale, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston and Vanessa Marcil. I know I’m getting old because Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan and Jody Foster recently got the boot.

Anyway, whatever secrets the mountains hold about life, love, booze and rock n’ roll… well they will have to tell them to someone else ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomorrow I try a marathon ride from Asheville, NC to Fort Smith, Arkansas… 800 miles and 13 hours. Ambitious but I feel like I am “behind schedule” due to the weather window for Alaska. We will see what happens.

South by southwest!

August 2, 2010

After a peaceful night in Roanoke, I got up bright and early and headed back up into the mountains! I was hoping to see more fantastic views on my 4 hour drive south to Asheville, NC. What I saw was ummm… a bit less than fantastic. Pea soup was more like it. I spent about 30 mins barely seeing 20 feet in front of me before I decided to get wise and not die by crashing into a deer or running off the mountain!

I headed back down into the valley and my GPS was kind enough to take my on a 60 mile trip through beautiful rolling hills, farmland and small southern towns. After that, it was back to the interstate and warp speed to Asheville. About 30 miles from Asheville the sun came out and the fog simply disappeared off of the mountain tops. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to let the GPS guide me back up the mountain and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway once more.

There is a reason why the machines have not taken over quite yet. The GPS guided me well for a while, heading down state route 70 through some lovely scenery. Then it took me onto “old” route 70… this turned out to be a gravel road right behind a row of mobile homes that belonged to my old friend Cleetus… apparently they let him out of prison in Georgia and he moved up to “Carolina”. He still has that collection of wheel-less cars propped up on concrete blocks. Anyway, I quickly headed back to the real roads before I got hurt.

I was lucky enough to catch up for dinner with some friends of my parents so it was nice to chat a bit about home. I turned in for the night with plans to tackle that pesky Blue Ridge Parkway in the morning.

GOย WESTย youngย man!

July 31, 2010

So… that’s where I have been for a few days, catching up with Guy and his wife and kids and generally taking it easy. I had some maintenance work to do on the bike and it was a bit more involved than I thought. Yesterday, I did manage to change the oil, change the brake fluid and change the transmission fluid without too much fuss but I still have some more things to do. I will save those for California ๐Ÿ™‚ I also changed my front tire even though my old one still had plenty of tread. The reduced level of road noise and 15 pounds less of “luggage” more than offset the $100 I spent on the tire. I figure I will start carrying tires with me again when I hit Mexico and beyond. No sense carrying them now.

Got a mass email from my ex this morning. Apparently, Alex’s 5 year cancer checkup went well. I guess his father isn’t important enough to get a phone call yesterday when he actually had his appointment. Anyway, I’m just glad that he is ok and disappointed I couldn’t get to speak with him. Way to go ALEJANDRO!!!

I left Guy’s around 2pm today and again changed the route I had planned to use to get to Colorado. I figured that since I am so close to the Blue Ridge Parkway that I should take advantage of one of the best rides on the east coast. It did not disappoint, with frequent twisty turns, elevation changes and magnificent mountain views. Only rain about 25 miles from Roanoke, VA spoiled the fun. Well, the rain I didn’t mind but the fact that the clouds were so low meant I had to ride THROUGH the rain clouds and that meant I couldn’t see a darn thing. Twisty roads, sheer mountain drop-offs, 10 foot visibilty… you do the math ๐Ÿ™‚ I wanted to ride until near dark but I eventually gave up and sought shelter in Roanoke which is were I sit buck naked at this very moment ๐Ÿ™‚

With that pleasant thought in your head I bid you good night… or good day depending on where you are ๐Ÿ™‚