July 1999 Four Corners Tour

And on the fourth day, it all came together...

So who needs a reason to go motorcycling? 

Time to hit the road again.  Things are going very well in my life right now, and unlike many other trips that I have taken where the main goal is to think and/or attempt to figure things out, this one was just to ride.  A strange thing for me to have things in order like this.  What would this lack of confusion do to me while on a dead-straight road in the middle of the desert?  What would I do to keep my mind occupied?  I was curious to find out.

Day 1:

I left work at noon, and immediately darted towards the Interstate.  I wanted to make it as far as possible today, and get as much of the boring ride over with.   That's how I usually look at a trip - it starts with, "OK, how many miles of crap do I have to ride through to get someplace good?"  I started burning out tanks of gas in the saddle, and encountered a little rain in Iowa.  15 minutes later (I think it took me longer to stop and put the rain covers on than did the rain last) it was hot again.  The Joe Rocket gear is beautiful in the rain.  Totally waterproof and dries in about 10 minutes of riding afterwords.

As it begins to get dark, and I'm now in Nebraska, I start thinking about how far I want to ride.  I decide that I'll ride until the eyelids start getting heavy, and then find a rest stop to crash in for a few hours.  As I'm riding along, through dusk, sunset, and then darkness, I realize that I'm not thinking about anything, and that I'm really enjoying this ride.  What a concept - enjoying a long, boringly straight, yet necessary ride through Nebraska on the Interstate no less.  As darkness falls, I look northwest into the sky and see the very familiar, and one of the true constants in the world, Big Dipper.  It always seems to be there when I look.  I then look south, and see a 1/2 full moon.  Ahhh.....just a few more days until it's full.   The temp has cooled off, traffic has died down, and I'm enjoying the ride very much, trying not to stare up into the stars too much.  As I start to get tired, I see the next rest stop is about 30 miles away, and make that my target for the night.

Day 2:

I get an early start, pack up the sleeping bag, and I'm back on the road by 6:00AM.   After just a few miles, I stop for some much needed coffee and breakfast at a truck stop.  I start to remember what the Rockies look like at this point, and I'm anticipating the first view of them which is soon to come.  As I cross into Colorado, the landscape changes from the Great Plains of Nebraska, to the High Plains of Colorado.   I'm getting closer, and the anticipation is growing.  I keep looking, but they're still not there.

I'm now riding along on a two-lane blacktop, and my mind is really starting to go.   I remember being here last year, and I kinda remember what it was like to ride through the elevations.  I'm certainly not looking forward to the horrible carburation at 11+ thousand feet above sea level, but know that's all part of the experience.  Boom.  The mountains appear as I come over a little rise in the road.  My jaw drops, and I slow down, staring into their beauty - and there's still snow caps on a lot of them, which I really love.

As I cross through Loveland, CO, I glance down at my trip odometer to see that it reads 071 miles, and I see on a bank clock that it's a little past 10:30.  Cool, an Iron Butt - unofficial of course, but an Iron Butt nonetheless.  I left work at noon yesterday, and I'm here in the mountains now.  The excitement is growing quickly.

As I approach Estes Park, where the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is, I get a little discouraged by all the traffic, but once in the park, traffic thins out nicely.   Not that I wanted to fly through this park, but I hate being stuck behind RVs.   As I ride through the park, my mind drifts to the memories I have of visiting Glacier National in Montana.  This has many of the same attributes.  Each mountain peak is a sight to behold, and each valley more beautiful than the last.  A few reindeer are grazing in a field just off the road.  It's quiet here, and as I ride through, I feel as if I'm trying not to disturb nature in any way.  I feel lucky to be able to see this place.

On the way out of the park, I catch a pretty good downpour, and decide to head west to try to avoid it.  The rain stops soon once I enter a valley, and I'm on a pretty desolate road now.  Mountains are all around, everything is green, and there are hundreds and hundreds of acres of land with very few signs of human life.  There's a few herds of cattle grazing, and some horses out to pasture, but besides the road, little else exists.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was the devil, and he was motioning to the increasingly twisty road up ahead, and whispering, "go faster."  I oblige.   I'm going through a mountain pass now, and the road is full of lefts and rights, ups and downs, and the pace is quickening.  I enter a 30MPH right-hander, and at the apex, I feel what I think is my boot scraping on the ground.  Damn.  I let off the throttle a hair, set my foot even higher on the peg, and continue on.  There it is again...WTF??  Oh wait, that's not my boot scraping.  Cool.  I guess that's what that peg feeler is for.  This road is a lot of fun, and when I stop for gas in the next town, I inspect my right footpeg, and am happy to see more damage to it.

More of the Colorado countryside follows, and I start seeing a few more ranches.   I must be getting close to the Interstate again.  I jump on the Interstate for about 5 minutes to get to another road, and the rain shows up again.  I decide to head towards the town of Leadville, stopping for a few pictures along the way, including a really cool bridge connecting a road high in the mountains.  When I get to Leadville, I'm discouraged by the number of No Vacancy signs, and there are no campgrounds available either.  I end up finding a hostel, and I'm more than willing to crash there for the night.

Pictures from Day 2:

The high plains after just entering Colorado

The CBR roadside next to a clear blue mountain stream

The CBR in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A view of the valley and the road through the park

Another shot of the CBR in R.M.N.P.

A typical shot of the Colorado countryside

The Chad Trank Memorial Picture - I always tease him for taking pictures like this

A cool bridge between the mountains in Colorado

Day 3:

I awake to a bright and sunny day in Colorado, and load up the bike.  Today is Independance pass, something that I've heard and read a lot about, and I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself.  I leave Leadville, and start heading west on route 82 toward Aspen.  The ride is absolutely incredible.  The smell of morning dew on pine trees is pretty strong, and the sun is shining, making everything appear really vivid, bright, and clean.

There's not many bikes on the road, but it's pretty early in the morning still.   As I'm heading up the pass, I wave to a bike (looked like a BMW) and I'm surprised that the rider doesn't wave back, that is until I get a little closer look.   As the Snowman would say "that there is Mr. Evil Kenival."  I glance down at my speedo and see that I'm going about 10 over the limit, and I'm glad when Mr. Police Officer doesn't turn around.  I continue, a little more cautiosly now, up to the top of the pass.  I pull into the parking lot, and park next to a red BMW with Kansas plates.  The couple sees me pull up, and we strike up a conversation.  I love this part about motorcycling.  They're here for the weekend, just riding around enjoying the mountains.  We walk together up to a lookout, and we're all amazed at the view.  We're pretty high up now, way above the treeline, and the wildflowers are flourishing in the surrounding fields.  I take a minute to let the image burn itself into my brain, snap a few photos, and start heading back to the bike.  I'm still talking to the couple from Kansas, and they are as interested in my travels as I am in theirs.  I'm jealous when they tell me it's about a 6 hour ride to get here, and he makes a comment on how my CBR must be a blast to ride through some of the passes.  I just smile and nod, as he inspects my rear tire for wear marks.  He smiles back.

I continue west hoping to find a place to eat breakfast in Aspen.  The road is really really tight now, and I can see why it's closed during the winter months.   Going through Aspen, a.k.a. Yuppieville, I'm disappointed that I can't find a typical breakfast place, so I keep going.  The scenery is really nice now, and I turn south.  133 south is really pretty, and has some nice corners to drag pegs on.   The mountains move off into the distance, and now I'm in cowboy country.   There's all sorts of ranches, and pickup trucks and cowboy hats dominate.   It's a cool place.  Then out of nowhere I see a huge canyon.  I'm not really paying attention to maps now, and I'm riding along this incredible gorge thinking "this should be a park or something."  I stop for a picture, and look on my map.  Oh, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Cool.  The road continues along the canyon, and it's a little scary to only have a few feet of run-off on the side of the road.  No pushing it here, just sit back and enjoy.  I did.

After crossing over to the other side of the canyon and heading west again, I again hit a little rain.  I guess the woman this morning was right when I asked her about the weather.  She told me that she hadn't seen the forcast, but that I can expect rain about every afternoon in the mountain passes.  I stop for gas and a quick gas-station lunch in Montrose, and continue south on 550.  All I can say is wow.  Once I passed the town of Ouray, where I stopped and ate my Lunchables(tm), the switchbacks started.  They seemed to go on for a hundred miles.  The scenery was incredible.  

As I approached Durango, I decided to grab a cheapo hotel.  For some reason, my knees were really hurting me.  I'd never had problems with knees before on a trip, and thought it may have been due to the EST (extended saddle time) of the first day.   I iced them down for a while, and then took a dip in the hot tub, where I ran across a couple from Arlington Hts, Il - the town I grew up in.  Small world.

Pictures from day 3:

A morning view of the mountains from Leadville, CO

A roadside stop on the way up to Independance Pass

One of the fabulous views on the road on the way up to Ind. Pass

The view from the top of Independance Pass

Above the treeline, the widlflowers flourish

A great view of the road heading south on CO 133 - this went on for miles and smiles

Black Canyon National Park in Colorado

The CBR stopped roadside along Black Canyon

A roadside stop for lunch, and a great, quiet, serine setting

Holy Switchbacks Batman!! Wheeeeee!!!! Scraaaaaape!!!

Day 4:

I awake in Durango, and my knees are doing much better.  I start heading east towards Pegosa springs, so that I can take a nice road down into New Mexico.  As I pass through Pegosa Springs, I start to remember being here before, and as I approach the end of town, I see an all too familiar restaurant.  Jeff and I stopped here last year, and I pull in for a great breakfast (could possibly top the breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe).

Heading south on US84, I start to think about one of the reasons that I came to Colorado this summer.  I had the thought of sitting somewhere in the mountains listening to John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" - a song that has quite a bit of meaning for me.  I was wondering why I hadn't done so yet, and decided that it was because all the scenery was so great, that I didn't want one place to be more important or have a stronger memory than another.  As I approached the border, I decided that I had to stop and listen to it, and the border seemed as good a place as any.  To say that it was a moving experience, would be putting it mildly.  As I listened to the music, the words, and the meanings, I began to think about the last couple of days of riding through this state.  It hit me like a ton of bricks, and near the end of the song, I saw a lone eagle circling around some trees off in the distance. I puffed the last few puffs of my cigar, and just sat there gazing off into the distant mountains that I had just crossed. It had all come together.

I got back on the bike, said goodbye to Colorado, and started into New Mexico, wondering what the rest of the trip had in store.  Colorado was more than I could have imagined, and New Mexico was more than I thought it would be.  Almost immediately, the landscape changed to beautiful red rock formations.  I hopped on some backroad, and felt as if I were litterally in the middle of nowhere.  My mind was a complete blank at this point, and I didn't have a care in the world.  For a while, I forgot my name.

As I approached Albuquerque, the temperature started to rise, and it got damn hot going through the city.  After a gas stop, and a quick snack, I hopped on the Interstate and headed towards Arizona.  Although I already had the song in my head, I amplified it by turning on some tunes, beginning with the Eagle's "Take it Easy."   After all, I was heading towards Winslow.

The ride across the desert was great.  Complete desolation except for the highway.   As I approached Winslow, I scouted a campground in the desert, and then headed into town to pick up dinner:  A club sandwich, bag of chips, and 40oz bottle of Bud Light.   Back to the campground, a little dinner, and then I walked into the desert to watch the sunset over the mountains near Flagstaff.  Incredible.  There were storm clouds to the north and to the south, and as the sun went down, the storm clouds were illuminated in purple, pink, and red light.   The sunset was amazing, and the colors wrapped around me as I stood there, gazing mindlessly.  The warm smell of colitas was rising up through the air. This moment in time made perfect sense to me, and I had more images, songs, and feelings going through my head than I can write down.  I turn around to head back to my campsite, and boom - there's the full moon.  Damnit, you snuck up on me.

Pictures from day 4:

A final stop in Colorado, at the NM state line

The CBR against a beautiful red rock New Mexico Background

A mountain lake view in New Mexico

The sun setting over the mountains in the desert in Arizona

The storm clouds to the north during the sunset

Day 5:

As I packed up camp, I thought about the sunset from the night before, and remembered waking up in the middle of the night and seeing nothing but the bright white light from the full moon.  I headed into Winslow for a quick picture, and so that I could stand on a corner for a while and watch the world go by.

Back on the Interstate heading for Flagstaff, I started to think about the day ahead.   The Grand Canyon was my next destination, and after a good breakfast at a roadside diner in Flagstaff, I headed towards the canyon.  I was very surprised to see that the landscape around the Grand Canyon is not desert, like it is depicted in many movies.   Rather, it's a really beautiful national forest, and the south rim is at a pretty high altitude.  As I entered the park, not knowing what to expect, I thought back to seeing Mount Rushmore - another one of those American icons that everyone goes and sees.   Unlike my view of Rushmore, which was like "ehh, OK" my first view of the Grand Canyon produced the classic "holy shit" response.  Big. Huge. Nice.   I spent the next hour or so riding along, stopping at the various lookouts, and even enjoyed a cigar for Paul & Jenn per their request.  The Grand Canyon, while not an emotionally moving experience, was definitly worth seeing.  I enjoyed staring out into the canyon very much, and I'm glad I was able to see it.

Back on the road heading north through the desert, I'm reminded of the last time I was through here, and I make sure to keep myself hydrated this time.  The weather isn't too hot, but it's so dry that sometimes you don't realize how much you're sweating.   The landscape is dominated by red rock mesas that go on for miles.  "I'll never get tired of seeing this," I think to myself as the miles go by effortlessly. As I approach Page, AZ, I see that I'm getting really close to clicking the 50 thousand mile mark on the CBR. I pull over to the side of the road to snap a quick picture.

I pass through Page, stare out into Glen Canyon, and continue north into Utah.  It looks like rain up ahead, but it never does rain very hard.  I stop roadside for a minute next to a mesa, and I notice that hundreds of people who have been there before me have carved their names into the rock.  I take a minute to scratch my three letter name into the rock, and then think about returning here someday to try and find it. 

As I continue down the road, I get back into some elevation, and here comes the rain.   There's not many campgrounds around here, and I'm not crazy about the idea of staying at a KOA campground, so I grab a cheapo motel in the town of Panguitch.  I spent the night sitting outside the room, enjoying a cigar and a few beers staring off into the mountains.  It was a neat little town and from one end of town, you could see the other end.  Life is simple here, life is simple now.

Pictures from day 5:

Well I'm a standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona....

The CBR at the Grand Canyon

One of the magnificent views of the Grand Canyon

Another great Grand Canyon View

A view of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

A cool red rock mesa in Arizona - these went on for a hundred miles

The Colorado river in a valley in northern Arizona

My CBR at 50K miles - just outside of Page, AZ

A small milestone, but a milestone nonetheless

A roadside stop in Utah - everyone seemed to have left their mark here, so I carved my name in too

Day 6:

I awake to bright sunshine again, and after a quick breakfast in town, I start heading east on route 12 towards Bryce Canyon.  Again, the landscape is incredible, and as southern Utah goes, the rock formations change back and forth from red rock to brown, and back again.  Bryce Canyon National Park is very cool, and has some of the strangest rock formations I've ever seen.

As I continue east on 12, the road gets twisty again, and the devil starts pushing me again, and the next thing I know, I'm hammering. What a great road.  No traffic, clean, and I'm fighting to both keep concentrated on the road, and also catching the incredible scenery out of the corner of my eye.  As I get further and futher into the elevations, I notice that the runoff is decreasing, and then ceases to exist altogether.   I'm riding on top of a mountain ridge right now with nothing but a 2 foot shoulder of runoff on BOTH sides of the road.  Incredible, and a good time to slow down. "Who the hell in their right mind built this road," I'm saying to myself.   "Hey, it's the....what day is it...I dunno, and I'm talking to myself.   Wow, that took a while.  Usually I start talking to myself on about the third or fourth day," I say to myself in my helmet as I try to no avail to figure out what day of the week it is.

Next thing I know, I'm riding through Capital Reef National Park, and this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  The road winds in and around 300 foot high red rock mesas, crosses little streams, and is very desolate.  There's not too much here, and I can see why there's not too much traffic, make that any traffic at all.   As I exit the park, the road continues to wind and turn and sweep around more and more mesas, and the pace is quickening, and quickening, and quickening.  I'm feeling extremely confident on the bike right now as the speed through these sweepers easily exceeds triple-digits for some time.  I'm having an absolute blast, and realizing why I've taken this trip.  I guess if this trip has to be about something, it's about hammering corners.  No problem there, I can handle that.  I've been scraping pegs all morning on the tight stuff, and these high speed sweepers are a total rush.   I stop for gas, look at a map, and see what appears to be a pretty straight road.   After about 20 minutes of dead straight road, I'm back in sweeper heaven again......OK, here we go again.....time to do something really bad to my tires.

Eventually, things calmed down, and I made it into Moab that night, and found a place to camp.  On the way through town, I saw a restaurant up on a cliff called the Sunset Grill.  Ahh, great Don Henley song, must go eat there.  Luckily, I put on my good jeans and shirt before I went there.  It wasn't too fancy a place, but I would have looked funny sitting there eating Escargot and a nice New York strip steak in my riding pants and smelly T-shirt.  So after a fantastic dinner (I usually splurge for one nice dinner/trip), I went to sleep in my tent for the night.  Kinda ironic.

Pictures from day 6:

A tunnel through the rocks - on the way to Bryce Canyon

A natural rock arch in Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park

A view of Bryce Canyon

A good detail shot of some of the strangest rock formations I've ever seen - in Bryce Canyon

A stop roadside on route 12 in Utah

A typical road view in southern Utah

Capital Reef National Park, Utah

The CBR in Capital Reef Nat'l Park

The CBR with the fantastic view of Glen Canyon in the background

Roads don't get much more scenic than this....

Day 7:

I woke up early, and it's already hot this morning.  I pack up camp, and ride the 5 minutes to Arches National Park.  The park is beautiful with really cool rock formations, and natural arches.  I decide to hike to Landscape arch, which is only a mile or so one way.  It was worth it, as not only the arch itself is really cool, but walking around the rock formations you realize how damn big some of them are.  It was starting to get really hot now, and I was glad I came to this place first thing in the morning instead of mid-afternoon.

After breakfast at a truck stop off the Interstate, I continued north to see more of Utah.  The mountains were all around now, and the road was once again a lot of fun.   After a little more peg draggin, it started to rain, but that was a welcome addition, as it cooled down the temperature quite a bit.  The views of the Wasatch Mountains were great, and the day was going along nicely.

I crossed into Wyoming, said goodbye to Utah, and then started to remember my time through here last year.  One of the things that I love about Wyoming is the ever changing landscape.  For a while, you're riding across great plains, then through mountain passes, valleys, through red rock formations, fields, and more mountains.   It's amazing that about every 1/2 hour the landscape changes drastically.  It is very windy today in the high plains, and there's a little rain to the north, right where I'm heading.  I'm not sure what day it is, I think it's Thursday, but I'm not sure, and I've gotta go that way if I'm going to make it home by Sunday night.  I head north toward Lander, WY and then head up into the mountains to Sinks Canyon state park where I grab a campground for the night - for $4. What a deal.  People are very nice in this area.  I talked to the gas station attendant a while ago for a bit, and she was one of the nicest ladies I've ever spoken to. As I'm setting up camp, the forest ranger drives by and I ask him if there's someplace to buy some firewood.   He tells me to just grab an armful out of the back of his truck.  People are really nice around here.

Landscape Arch, in Arches National Park, Utah

Balance Rock, Arches Nat'l Park

The CBR roadside in a mountain valley in Wyoming

A beautiful red canyon in Wyoming

My campsite in the mountains in Wyoming

Day 8:

After a rainy night of camping, I pack up, and get heading east.  After another breakfast at some diner, I realized that I was going to be taking one of the same roads that Jeff and I took when we came through here last year.  Not much choice - there are only so many roads.  The ride is just as I remember it - very scenic, but not extremely technical.  I've got the devil on my shoulder, and I want to shut him up, but there's no really tight stuff.  As I continue on, I see a 20MPH switchback sign......ahhhhhhhh, here we go.  As I'm coming around this corner, scraping the left peg throughout, I see a WIDE EYED Goldwing rider on a white wing in the oncoming lane of traffic staring at me.  I laugh to myself, and once a little more upright, wave to his buddy behind him before the next 20 MPH switchback.  Scraaaaaape!!!   Ahhhhhh, OK I've got that out of my system now.  Now I can start heading home.

As I continue east, the mountains start to disappear into the distance.  I stop for one last look, and then start heading across the high plains, and into Montana.   I'm sorry to report that Montana is no longer the state of "Reasonable and Prudent" speed limits.  Nonetheless, the ride through Montana is nice.   Nothing spectacular, but I'm still not thinking about anything, and my mind is as relaxed as it's ever been.  I have to admit that I don't remember a lot of this afternoon ride, as I was pretty zoned out.  I wasn't thinking about anything at all.   I was just riding.

It started to get late, and I saw on my recently purchased map that there was a state park called Medicine Rocks about 30 miles off the highway, so I decided to try to camp there for the night.  I picked up a sandwich, chips, and a couple of beers at a gas station, and headed to the park.  I was surprised when I got there to find a really cool place.  Right in the middle of this high plains area is this 50-100 acre section of highlands with a bunch of wind-shaped rock formations.  Cost for camping. Nothing.   Number of people in the park including me. One.  I setup camp, climb to the top of one of these rocks and watch the sunset for an hour.  It was an amazing sunset - one of those where you can literally watch the sun disappear bit by bit over the horizon.

Eventually, I went back to my camp, and then the wind started up.  And then the wind really picked up, and I decided it would be best to just put out the campfire since the embers were starting to blow all over the place and the last thing I wanted to do was start a forest fire.  I retired to my tent, read for a while, and drifted off to sleep.

Pictures from day 8:

My last view of the Rockies, in Wyoming

Watching the mountains disappear....

Day 9:

After packing up camp, and bundling up a little bit, I braved the cold morning air of Montana, and started heading home.  I made it back to US Route 12, and decided that rather than get on the Interstate, I'd take 12 through North Dakota, and South Dakota, and then head south to Route 14.  The backroads are a much different way to travel than the Interstate.  I spent the day uneventfully riding through small town after small town, stopping at some historical markers, and just riding.  There was nothing special or fantastic about this part of the country, however, I was still having a great ride.  The scenery changed from the high plains of Montana to the Great Plains of South Dakota, to just plain fields.  I didn't remember there being this many lakes in South Dakota, and then I realized that these weren't lakes - there were flooded fields all over the place. "Wow, they must have gotton a lot of rain," I say to myself inside my helmet, as I continue to carry on a conversation with.....nobody.

I crossed into Minnesota, and decided to make it to the town of New Ulf for the night.   When I got there, I decided that I'd go to the next town.  When I got to the next town, I decided I'd go to the next one, and so on.  Eventually it started to get dark, and now I was having a problem finding a hotel, so I made my way back to the Interstate.  I eventually crashed at a roadside hotel somewhere in Minnesota.

Day 10:

I wake up, grab a cup of coffee from the motel lobby, and lube my chain.  An older gentleman approaches me, and starts asking me about my bike.  I begin scanning the parking lot for other bikes, spot a couple of Harleys, and a lone inline motor bike in the corner that I can't identify.  We talk for a while, and he tells me he's just out on the road, and is heading "west" so that he "can see the coast."   I can totally relate, and we share a few stories, and I tell him about my trip out there last year.  I really like running into people like this, and we continue talking for a while.  We go look at his bike, which ends up being a 75 CB750.....the bike that started it all, and the same bike that I recently helped my buddy fix up for his dad.  I tell the guy the story, and I can see the smile appear on his face as I tell it, because he understands what it's like to be back on the road after an absense from it.   I'm jealous that he is just starting his trip, and mine is ending, but that's the nature of the beast.

After our conversation, I hop on the Interstate, and soon enough I'm approaching La Crosse, WI.   I stop at a truck stop for breakfast, and park my bike next to a couple of Harleys.   When I come back outside, there's about 20 more Harley riders there, and believe it or not, one of them actually recognized my existence, being a sportbike rider and all.

So, I'm standing there, drinking my coffee, looking over my bike, and a camper pulls up to fill up with gas.  The dad gets out and pumps the gas, mom goes inside the store, and then the daughter gets out.  She's probably around 19 or 20, blonde, nice looking, wearing a brown overall type outfit that's actually a very short skirt.  In my typical fashion, I notice her immediately.  Her dad asks her to clean the windshield of the camper - man, there are a ton of bugs through South Dakota and Minnesota.  Well, this poor girl couldn't reach the middle of the windshield.   She cleans the driver's side, and then stands on the bumper, puts one hand on the hood, and leans over to clean the middle part of the windshield.  I almost dropped my coffee, and then I heard a variety of the Harley riders start saying things like "hey man, look at that."  About all thirty of them are chuckling to themselves, and now I'm laughing too.  One of the guys turns on his bike, honks the horn, and shouts "All Right!!!" to the girl, who then turns around, realizes the show she's been putting on, and turns bright red.  She got a standing ovation, and a round of applause from more than one member of the motorcycling community that day.

Time to head home.  It's still early in the day, and I'm glad that I'm going to be home about mid-afternoon so that I can relax a little bit before the dreaded W word tomorrow.  As I'm passing through Madison, I feel something wrong with the bike.   It's bad enough that I decide to pull to the side of the road and check, but as soon as I try to turn, I realize that it's a flat tire.  Luckily it was the rear tire, and even better, I was only about a mile from the next exit.  I made it to the gas station there, pulled out my trusty tire patch kit, and plugged the hole.  As soon as I applied air pressure, it failed.  Damn, try again.  The second plug held 40 psi of air, and I thought I was all set.  Unfortunately, about 15 miles down the road, it was flat again.  The third plug didn't hold either, so it was HRCA to the rescue.  After being on the phone with them for a couple of hours trying to find an open shop to fix it, and then trying to find a U-Haul to get it home, I decided to just stay there that night and have the tow truck bring me to the dealer the next morning.   I got a hotel room, and called Jeff to ask him to feed the cats for me that night.   Next thing I know, Jeff offers to drive up with a tire.  I get out of the hotel room, and two hours later he's up there, and it takes us all of 15 minutes to change the rear tire. "Damn, I shoulda called you at 2:00."  It was a great thing that he did, and, as usual, I owe him big time, even though we weren't paying attention, as usual, and mounted the tire backwords......se la vie.  At least it was holding air.

The last 120 miles home were uneventful, with the exception of a little game of cat and mouse with Jeff and I.  I had the song "I'll Get by with a Little Help from my Friends" in my head about the entire way home.  I was fortunate to have broken down so close to home, and not in the middle of the desert.  We got back to my house, and sat in the garage, as usual, had a couple of beers and smokes.  Someone up there has a sick sense of humor, because I cracked the first beer, raised my bottle, and toasted "here's to finding the answers." Click.  At that instant, and I mean right at that instant, the garage door light clicked off.  All you heard then were chuckles in the darkness as I tried to drink to my toast without having beer come out of my nose.


What to say.  This trip was pretty different from most trips for me, but it served it's purpose.  It was great to be out on the road again.  The National Parks were incredible, and it was cool to see places like Winslow, Arizona, and camp out in the desert, mountains, and high plains.  The solitude was very very relaxing, and my co-workers could tell that I was totally zoned out when I returned to w-w-w-work.

I didn't think about too much on this trip.  I just rode.  It didn't matter if I was on a dead straight Interstate, or if I was on a peg-scrapin' twisty mountain pass.  I was riding, and that was what was important.  Nothing else mattered.   That's the way it should be.  Life was simple.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about my welcome home surprise.  Every time I go on a trip by myself, Jeff watches the house for me.  One time I returned to my house with my car parked sideways in the garage, and another time returned with a Shania Twain poster strategically placed on the wall in my bedroom.  The car has since moved, but Shania remains.....

Here is my welcome home surprise this time.