2011 Coast to Coast
The following is a compilation of this years adventure displayed chronologically. I’ve added some extra stuff to keep things interesting.
The painting above, Intergalactic Attack Formation, was done by a guy known as “George the Painter”. His work was being shown at the Broken Spoke Campground’s Legends Gallery. His subjects are as bold as his brush strokes. He has a blog too.
The map below shows my four coast to coast journeys. The blue line represents 2011.
July 5, 2011
And so, the journey begins….Bye Bye NYC! Your palm trees just don’t compare. West coast here I come!
I’m off to a rocky start. Been sick for over a week. Still feeling it today, but it was time to go. I’ve got the traveling jones! I felt that staying home wasn’t doing me much good. Must be sleeping under TB Sheets. Gotta go. Gotta go! I wanted to leave July 4th, but I just wasn’t prepared. Still feeling unprepared, I left the following day. Last year on June 5th it was 105 degrees in NYC. This year it was a balmy 94. I always planned on stopping in Maryland the first night, but I had no defined route. Feeling ill the way I did, the thought of Interstate 95 just didn’t appeal to me. Besides it goes against my adventure’s policy to take interstates (unless necessary). I want to see the country. I want to see the little things that make this country great.
Unfortunately the only way out of NYC is a series of major overcrowded arteries. So I went due west on 78. Someone in the fast lane slammed their brakes causing a chain reaction of red lights coming at me like dominoes. I quickly looked over my right shoulder and crossed two lanes to safety. Unfortunately my new mirrors don’t provide the field of vision I had with my previous set, so I did not see the police car behind me until he was right on my tail. He did not see the two lane shift in the same light as me. I got pulled over. This New Jersey State Trooper was not the chatty type either. He told me I was up on two violations for $160 each plus points. He asked if my license was clean. I said perfectly. He told me to sit on the bike until he returned. When he did, I was handed my very first ticket. However, he said since I was cooperative, he knocked off those charges to a lesser one and the fine would only be $49 with no points. Wheeew!
I rode on to Lancaster PA. I figured I’d see some Amish stuff there, but all I saw was on old city reflecting a depressed economy. So I moved on. I did have one site I absolutely wanted to see. I rode many miles beyond it before I realized I needed to turn around. A few more wrong turns and more backtracking followed, but I found it! The Shoe House!
Unfortunately it was closed since 4:00. But well worth the oddball vision nonetheless! From there I headed to my Dad’s house for the night. In the morning a storm was rolling in, so I waited it out then was on my way.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
I left my Dad’s house and headed for Skyline Drive.
Skyline Drive. It was so nice to be away from the hustle of the east coast. Riding for miles without seeing a soul.
I was wondering where I stayed the last time I rode this way. I decided to stop at Loft Mountain and that answered my question. I stayed here before. It was 7:10 when I arrived and a couple at the registration told me I was too late to get firewood at the store. It closed at 7:00. I shrugged it off and found my site. Then I decided to try my luck. I rode to the store. Just as I dropped the kickstand and silenced the engine, I could hear the jingling keys as the store was being locked. The guy from the store was walking toward me. I grinned and asked, “Any chance I could get some firewood?” He said, “Got cash?” Yes!. I set up camp and chilled in the hammock with a local vino.
That night as I was going to bed, I heard some rustling in the woods just outside my tent. Sticks were snapping under the weight of this creature. Then I heard the grunts. It was a bear. He was right outside, but I stayed in. I’d love to see a bear, but in the daylight. Nonetheless it was exciting. In the morning a more docile creature paid a visit to the camp.
I continued south. I stopped at Mabry Mill and stretched my legs a bit.
I stopped at a ranger station and was told of a bikers only campsite. I gave it a try. Willville Motorcycle Camp is a real nice place. It’s only 15 bucks a night (plus $2 more if you want a breakfast sandwich in the morning).
The campsite has the calming sounds of a babbling brook passing through it. But unfortunately as soon as I showed up and unzipped my bags to enjoy this choice spot by the creek, a vicious thunderstorm hit, soaking me and a lot of my gear. That night I hung out with all the other bikers around a big fire and exchanged stories from the road. In the morning I was walking along and almost stepped on this little guy.
Willville really is a fine place. I highly recommend it. It is just down the road from Meadows of Dan just of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Mt. Airy, NC
In the morning I headed to Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Mt. Airy is the boyhood home of Andy Griffith. The Andy Griffith show was based on this town and the locals have taken it to heart.
Beyond the car and in the photo below you can see Snappy Lunch. It is famous for it’s fried pork chop sandwich. I got one with all the fixin’s and it only cost $3.50.
A few doors down from Snappy’s is Floyd’s Barber Shop. It is a great old style Barber Shop with lots of photos and Mayberry memorabilia.
On the way back to the Parkway I saw some old cars rusting in the vines.
I rode through some heavy thunderstorms once I was back on the Blue Ridge. I got the chance to use my new rain gloves and my hands stayed dry. What a difference that makes! In years past I tried dishwasher gloves and other rubber over gloves but they all sucked. It was getting late in the evening. I pulled over at an old mansion that said it had a visitor center.
They had just closed officially, but were still open to let people out. I tried to ask the lady inside the door for some info. At first she closed the door in my face and said “We’re closed!” Then when she saw I was still standing there she asked if I had a question. I asked if there was gas and a campsite nearby. She said “You can try Linville Falls.” I said “isn’t there something closer?” She snapped at me and said, “Julian Price is down he road, but it is the weekend so I am sure they are fully booked!” Everyone else I had encountered to this point had been ‘out of their way’ nice and helpful, so she really threw me. I was wet and feeling desperate. Grrrrr! I then rode to Julian Price campground to find out there was plenty of available sites. I set up camp and headed for a grocery store to get a steak. A rib eye cooked over an open flame is good in itself, but holding the rib and chewing the remains from it’s bone is primal delicious!
In the morning I was off for the last leg of the Parkway. There was some more rain, but not nearly as bad as the previous day.
The end of the Blue Ridge Parkway lets you out at the Cherokee Reservation.
I had serious thoughts about riding the Tail of the Dragon, but it was Saturday. I have been warned about the Dragon on the weekends. It is dangerous! Too many people and many of them inexperienced. This causes accidents. I stopped at a gas station and talked to a few bikers who had just come from the Dragon. They told me there had been 3 donations to the Tree of Shame already and one girl need to be medivac-ed out creating a two hour wait for all other riders. So I skipped it. I hopped on Route 28 south which is a hell of a ride too. At the beginning of the road is a sign that says “20 mile per hour curves for the next 40 miles.” I wasn’t ten minutes down the road when I passed emergency vehicles assisting a biker who missed one of those curves. From there it was smooth sailing around the many miles of twisty curves. There are a number of waterfalls along the way as well.
This waterfall you can ride under.
After a quick stop in Wallhalla, SC to check my map, I was on my way to stay with family in Pickens.
After arriving at my aunt’s house in Pickens SC, I went for a ride. At a gas station a couple good ‘ol boys told me no one in South Carolina wear helmets. So I lost the lid and continued my ride. I was looking for a local waterfall.
It’s remarkable that this waterfall has no signs to get to it. And you won’t find it on a map. Unless that map was made by locals. They call it Twin Falls around here. And that is the name by which I called it when I had to ask a guy in car at a stop sign where it was. My uncle told me about this waterfall but I missed a turn. It’s also known as Eastatoee Falls and trust me, with this one it’s easy to get lost!
This is one determined tree. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
Bob’s is at a fork in the road off a mean, twisty highway.
Chillin’ on a bench swing at the corner of route 178 and 11. I had just walked into an unlocked unisex bathroom and it was occupied by a very startled lady. Just sayin’.
And here is me and my dear sweet Nana. She is turning 98 in September!
I decided it would be best to stay north in the mountains to try and stay cool. I camped out at Cloudland Canyon State Park. Before getting there a lady told my to watch out for rattlesnakes. But when I got there the camp host told me not only to watch out for rattlesnakes and cottonmouth snakes, but watch out for….
….scorpions! I had never seen one before. He was hiding in my fire pit. So I played with him a bit before lighting my fire.
THERE IS FUNGUS AMONG US
Another fantastic thing about this scorpion yielding forest is the mushrooms. I have never seen such variety. There were mushrooms everywhere!
From Tornadoes to Hurricanes
Then another first for me. I saw the after effects of a tornado. It is humbling to see the destruction left behind from this super power. These shots are actually of the second town I saw hit by tornadoes. A worker told me this happened in April. When I passed the first town, I guess I was too awestruck to take a picture. It didn’t even occur to me until I was miles away. At first I was disappointed that I had not snapped a shot. I was not expecting to find more.
Ave Maria Grotto. A Benedictine monk, Brother Joseph Zoettl built this place. It consists of 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous historic buildings and shrines of the world.
I came upon a third town I saw with tornado damage.
This is an old covered bridge. If you click the photo you can read it’s history.
It was hot, so a 50 cent Dr. Pepper hit the spot.
I set up camp at a fine campsite in a national forest outside of Houston AL. Also in Houston is the oldest jail in Alabama. Notice the faint rainbow above the jail.
I was the only person staying at this campsite on a lake.
That night this crazy looking thing came crawling up to me. He reminded me of those party animal worms in Men in Black.
This the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies.
At the same location is a rock formation they called Indian Face.
This next town hit by a tornado was the worst of all that I saw. This pile of debris was a Wrangler factory.
Here is the path of the tornado. It snapped trees like twigs as it traveled down this ravine. Amongst the trees you can see pieces of the Wrangler factory spewed about.
I rode the Natchez trace Parkway starting at about 40 miles north of Tupelo to it’s end in Natchez.
Tupelo, MS. Birthplace of Elvis Presley. Here is the home where he was born and raised.
And here is Tupelo Hardware, where Elvis bought his first guitar.
On the wall where I am pointing hung the 22 caliber rifle Elvis wanted for his birthday. His mom said no. Instead Elvis got a guitar that was in the very same glass case my elbow rests on.
These are indian mounds. No one is exactly sure why the indigenous people built them. But there are many of them built by eastern tribes.
This is Windsor Ruins. Once a 23 room mansion. All that remains after a fire in 1890 are these Corinthian columns.
This home near Windsor has been consumed by vines.
Along the Natchez Trace Pkwy is a small cypress swamp.
In the swamp I saw turtles…
I stuck my camera through the broken glass on the above right side window. This is what was inside.
And finally, the Mississippi River.
The Pimpin’ Stutz Blackhawk.
This place was closed. Too bad. I was looking forward to getting under her dress.
This is Rosemont Plantation, home of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy.
After a long ride through some thunderstorms I am in Hurricane country on a full moon. New Orleans Louisiana, the place of my birth. The only Hurricane I hope to see is served in a tall curved glass at Pat O’Briens on Bourbon Street.
The Ragin’ Cajun
Greetings from Louisiana. It has been a wet ride, but I have visited the place of my birth. New Orleans, Louisiana! I checked in, parked the bike and hit the streets. I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking.
The flaming fountain at Pat O’Briens.
Peeping in the window at Preservation Hall.
French Quarter Architecture
At first I was attracted to just this broken window. Then I had a look at what was behind it. This is a very cool store called Roadkill 13. An excellent shop with friendly folks working there. If you are in New Orleans, check it out. Meanwhile visit their site.
When I walked out of the store I could here dixieland jazz blaring down the street. It was some type of French related celebration. It was 2 days after Bastille Day. Down here they take things slow.
Bourbon Street is an all night party. People let loose! There is live music and good time mayhem up and down the street.
Whether you look to the left or right, it is a party!
She is feeling the need for the bead! Folks throw beads off the balconies. They are especially generous if you show a little skin.
Lucky Dogs are found up and down the street. I don’t know why anyone would want a hot dog with all that delicious food in New Orleans.
I enjoyed some oysters and a Dixie beer at Acme Oyster House.
My Papa (the late husband of Nana, who you met in South Carolina) used to take me on the ferry when I was little. It was always exciting for me.
I hadn’t noticed until I downloaded my photos that the driver was giving me a big ‘ol smile.
One of the most popular sale items in New Orleans is the poncho. It rains a lot down here.
Up on the northeast coast we are used to seeing our share of road kill. Generally we see raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks and the occasional household pet. But down here in cajun country it’s gators!
I camped out in a cajun swamp. It was the hottest, wettest night of my trip. But the spiders seem to like it.
I helped this fella across the road. He didn’t seem to appreciate it.
I was pulled over for the second time this trip just after saving the turtle. This time it was for being on private property. The cajun cop was friendly after he made sure I wasn’t a wanted man.
I rescued yet another turtle.
The effects of hurricanes could be seen all along the coast.
Most of the damage could not be seen. Place were wiped off the face of the earth. Often times I’d see the landscaped yards with giant oak trees, but the house was gone.
The guy who took this picture was traveling cross country too. However he was doing it by freight train! Very cool! But he smelled very bad!
This part of the gulf shore is a far cry from the white sandy beaches you’ll find in Florida.
See ya later alligator!
Don’t Mess With Texas? Hey Texas! Don’t Mess With Me!
Outside my hotel a sign says: “A crisis is a failure to contemplate.”
Well, in Texas I failed to contemplate a number of times. But I made the best of it!
Immediately after crossing the border into Texas I saw more pelicans than I did the entire time I was in the pelican state.
I hopped on another ferry which took me into Galveston.
The coast here in Galveston was much more accommodating to the beach goer than the coast in Louisiana. But the water still looked kind of nasty to me.
I camped at Galveston Island State Park. In the two sites next to me was a Boy Scout troop. They treated me to dinner. Tacos. When it started raining at 3 in the morning, I could tell by the screams and giggles next door that these scouts were not living up to their motto. They were definitely not prepared.
Galveston was pretty much wiped out by Hurricane Ike in 2008. Very few damaged structures remain. Most of the homes along the beach are brand new.
There are a few interesting exceptions.
I had to ride through La Grange, you know, because of ZZ Top!
This is the old county jail.
I was mad at myself for not seeing Eels when they played in NYC this past winter. While in New Orleans I saw them on the marquee at House of Blues to play 4 days after I left. I decided to check their tour dates and found out that their first show back in the States after a European tour was in Austin the day I arrived! Yippeeee! They played at an outdoor venue at Stubbs BBQ.
After the show I checked out the bar scene on 6th street. It’s pretty wild. This bar specialized in Beer Pong.
I spent the rest of my evening listening to more great music. This was a blues bar and that lady in the center could belt out some tunes!
The day I left Austin I looked death in the face and said, “Go fuck yourself!” On a 70 mph road 100 miles north of Austin, 3 deer charged out in tandem before me. The first one darted right in front of me. I missed it by inches as it passed. I could see the second one in my rear view mirror leaping over the back of the bike. And the third one right behind the second. It was amazing, surreal and frightening!
Check this video. It was like this but with 3 deer!!! This is what the second one looked like in my mirrors!!!
Frazzled by that harrowing event, I wearily made my way to San Angelo State Park to camp for the night. This is the boat ramp leading to what should be a lake. It’s all dried up!
Later that night I was chasing a porcupine in the dark and tripped over a cactus! Here is the porcupine. It’s tough to get a photo from this angle because the porcupine’s defense is to hit you with his rear so he tries to keep his back to you. Luckily they are slow so I kept trying to run ahead of him until I finally got the shot I wanted. In doing so I tripped over a cactus like the one below.
Those are some large needles. So my immediate thought when it went through my shoe was that there was another porcupine. In the background you can see the shelter were I hung my hammock and slept that night.
My friend Gid gave me a couple face masks to try out. They are designed for bicyclists and skiers to keep the sun from burning their face. I am happy to say they work at 75 mph too. The skull mask was a bit too large for my face, but the other one fit snug. Since my chin is already protected by whiskers it was perfect. Not only that, I wore it through a vicious storm and it protected my face from those stinging drops.
This sign is still here, but that arrow now points to a vacant lot.
The sign below wasn’t kidding. I tried to avoid this storm by heading north on route 18 out of Fort Stockton, but it caught me. At one point it was a complete whiteout but I kept plowing through. It was scary but invigorating. In fact I quite enjoyed it! The landscape was getting boring and the heat was killer, so the storm got me all pumped up!
After conquering the mighty storm I found myself in Pecos, Texas.
This is a recreation of Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon where he would conduct trials. He called himself the Law West of the Pecos and he called the saloonThe Jersey Lilly.
Orla is a forgotten little town between Pecos and the New Mexico border.
Fare ye well Texas. You tried me and I passed!
New Mexico, from Caves to Cliff Dwellings!
New Mexico! It is interesting how the scenery changes soon after crossing the border from Texas. The first place I landed was Carlsbad. In the morning I was going to see the cavern. On the way to the Carlsbad Cavern I saw evidence of one of the many fires that hit the state a few months back. Carlsbad Caverns had to be closed for a while until the fires were contained and extinguished.
I rode past miles of burnt desert flora.
Then I began my descent into the cave. Those are not bats in the photo. They are swallows. Bats do fly out of the cave in the evening. In fact, it is as a result of this that the cave was discovered. It has been said that a young man in the 1800’s was looking for his horse when he thought he saw smoke. When he went to investigate he discovered it was bats not smoke and he found the cave opening.
After descending 750 feet below the surface, the cave opens up to reveal a spectacular display of formations.
I had to see what Roswell was like. It didn’t disappoint.
At the UFO Museum I met the owners of the BMWs parked next to me. Nice folks from Vegas.
This is supposedly a piece of the saucer that crashed in Roswell.
This was used to protect the original settlers of Lincoln.
This is the old Lincoln Courthouse. It is infamous for being the last place Billy the Kid escaped from.
White Sands National Monument
I camped out at the nearby Oliver Lee State Park.
Then the dunes. Another magnificent sight. Miles of white!
Fort Seldon was a US Army post built to protect westward settlers. General Douglas MacArthur lived there with his family at the age of 7. His father was post commander. It is amazing to think that this man began his life witnessing war delivered with bow and arrow and ended up being a general in a war that saw the the first atom bomb drop.
Once the location of the greatest silver discovery in the US, Lake Valley is now an abandoned mining town.
Mountains continue to disappear level by level at Santa Rita mine.
Fierro is another abandoned mining town. There is however a community of people living around it.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
People of the Mogollon culture lived in these cliff dwellings from between 1275 and 1300 AD.
Outside of the Ranger Station was a hummingbird feeder.
It is one way in and out to the Gila Cliffs if you are traveling from Silver City. The road is 42 miles long. It is narrow and twisty with loose gravel scattered on the switchbacks as you wind your way through the mountains of the Gila National Forest. It is called The Trail of the Mountain Spirits.
After rolling along side to side through the forest it was a straight shot to the next set of mountains.
The business road along Route 10 is lined with failed businesses.
When I saw the snake slithering across the road I got excited thinking it was a rattler. It wasn’t, but it was still cool!
From the Ari to the Zona
As is so often the case, I think I am going to make it further than I do on any given day. On this day I crossed the border into Arizona and made it as far as Willcox. I pulled over at a gas station and started talking to a guy in the parking lot about lodging. He told me I should check out the old part of town. He said he used to stay at a well kept inexpensive place called the Motel 8 when he was in town. At $30 a night, it was perfect!
I booked a room and headed out to eat. There is a BBQ joint housed inside and old train car in Willcox.
Before I went in for dinner I had to check out this amazing sunset. I only wish it could have lasted longer.
Then it was dinner time. I asked the waitress to take a photo while I pretended to check the menu.
After dinner, I didn’t have to cross the tracks. I just wanted to stare at the train as it passed.
The next day I was headed for Tombstone, AZ. On the way was this wicked cloud formation. I was not looking forward to another day of getting wet. Fortunately the road veered to the right before entering this monstrosity.
There were warnings of flash floods along the way and water on the road. I had my legs raised high as I crossed about 5 of these while headed south toward the Mexican border.
Douglas is a town on the US Mexico border. I needed gas and wanted to see the border so I rolled on through.
In the time it took me to hop off and snap this shot, the border patrol was already zooming down the road toward me. There are border patrol all over the place in this part of the country. Lot of cops too. On many roads they even have Border Patrol check points where you have to stop and be scrutinized. On the other side of the wall below is Mexico.
The guy I met at the Willcox gas station also told me I should check out Bisbee, AZ. On my way to Bisbee I stumbled across this little gem. If you blink you could miss it. I did not blink.
Bisbee was described to me as one of those old hippie towns and I guess that’s just what it is.
Tombstone Arizona. The place of legends. Tombstone is what I expected. A overly commercialized historic town. I checked it out and had a beer at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon.
The O.K. Corral. You had to pay to have a peak at the spot where they claim the McLaury’s and Billy Clanton were gunned down. I missed the reenactment so I passed on the fee. Besides it is questionable where the gunfight actually took place. There is speculation that it happened down the block.
I asked Doc Holliday and he concurred.
In Tucson they have what is known as the old boneyard. It is a place on Davis–Monthan Air Force Base where old military aircraft go to rest. It is an incredible sight. Adjacent to the base is a museum. The museum then offers a guided tour through the Air Force Base.
With Davis Air Force Base across the road you can see many planes still flying around doing maneuvers.
This was the first flag planted on Utah Beach at the invasion on D-Day.
Seeing all these old planes with rich history was riveting.
Then came the tour of the base. There are endless rows of planes, helicopters, and parts over the square miles on the base. CLICK HERE for a satellite view of the AFB.
After visiting the boneyard, I had hoped to see Casa Grande ruins. Unfortunately it had closed by the time I got there. Grrrrrrrr! So I pulled over to prepare myself for the ride into the blazing sun. Just as I was taking off to head west, my foot pedal snapped off. Not cool! Fortunately there was a Home Depot not far off and I could make a new one. I used the ball head from a tripod until I got to Home Depot. I think I did a pretty good job!
The Yuma Territorial Prison. The infamous prison figured in many western movies still exists today. Though no longer a functioning prison it is kept as an historical site.
These prison issue digs look quite stylish and comfy.
This is the Dark Room. It is where the more unruly prisoners did some time. Most stayed in there for short spells. One guy stayed in there for 131 days. They say he was a model prisoner when he rejoined the population. I went inside and closed the door behind me. As I got a feel for the place I saw something. A shadow moving within. Was it the ghost of a former inmate. Had I seen an apparition?
I set my camera to use the flash and found out I was indeed not alone in the dark room.
Ca la la fornia!
Just after Yuma, the hot desert turns into California. I had to put on the mask and head directly toward the afternoon sun. After a long ride on a flat baked highway I could see mountains ahead. As I got closer I noticed the mountains were strangely textured. They were covered with these giant ochre boulders.
The temperature dropped quickly as I rose in elevation. Over my shoulder I noticed this stone tower. I exited to investigate.
It cost $3.75 to climb the tower. Even for free I had little interest. It was the surrounding area that I found fascinating.
As I rolled upward toward the tower I noticed this entourage to the side of the road. There were two guys sitting on a trailer platform waving as I rode by. Behind them was a camper and a couple flying saucers.
On my way back I stopped and had a chat with these sky gazers. On the platform with them were two telescopes. They were out there waiting for the sun to set. That’s when things apparently get interesting. One of the guys told me he had seen UFO’s of all shapes and sizes out there. He has seen rectangles, triangles and most recently boomerang shaped celestial objects. If I didn’t have people waiting for me in San Diego I think I would have stayed. These guys were out there, but I liked them.
So my dad contacted some friends of his who offered me lodging during my stay in San Diego. His friend George was supposed to be out of town, so his friend Susan said I could stay at her place. And what a nice place it was. Bonnie dug her new surrounding for sure!
Susan has this great little bungalow apartment behind her house. So I had my own space. It was really nice, as was Susan.
And this is Marty. He lives here too.
It turned out that my dad friend George did return home. He gave me a tour of the city which helped me get my learn my way around. We stopped and had a brew at Hotel del Coronado. It is a grand old place and you may recognize it from the movie, Some Like it Hot.
The next day I rode around the city. I passed the naval yards.
That is the aircraft carrier Midway in the background. Before it is a giant sculpture modeled ofter the iconic image of the couple kissing in Times Square the day Japan surrendered during World War II.
Of course I needed a closer look. Those are some gams!
As much as I admired this fella’s 57 Bel Air, I was also digging Bonnie’s reflection in that cool blue paint job.
I returned to Point Loma. George had taken me up there the day before, but it was cloudy and I didn’t check out the old lighthouse. So this time I did!
Seeing the cemetery up here on the cliffs overlooking the ocean is strikingly similar that of the American Cemetery in Normandy, France where US soldiers from the D-Day campaign are buried.
I was hungry so I headed toward Ocean Beach for some grub.
At this gas station I asked a guy where I could get a good fish taco. He told me the best place was at the end of Newport Street.
He said the only problem with this place is finding parking. He said on a Saturday like today, “Good luck!” As soon as I arrived, I stopped and looked around. A big dude walked up to me and said, “Hey, you want to park your bike?” He was parked directly across the street and I gave me this spot I could see from the bar.
Also at the bar, sitting next me was Julie. She was great company as I had my delicious fish tacos and a few brews.
I had evening plans and now I was running late. That night we headed out to George’s grand daughters home to meet some of his family.
The next day I rolled north toward Los Angeles. I stopped for lunch along the way and oiled my chain. It was rattling away letting me know it was overdue. When I stopped I saw this cool crossing sign.
I also stopped by the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. It was founded in 1798 and the church was build in 1811.
During my LA stay I shacked up in the Queen Mary. I had never been on a ship like this before. I’d like to take a cruise some day, but that’s not a ride I want to take solo. She’s a great old vessel. The Queen Mary’s maiden voyage was in 1936.
During WWII they painted her grey and used her to transport the military. During that time she was called the Grey Ghost.
As I was packing to leave, a bird flew through my porthole. That really freaked me out. Also a little freaky is how thin the walls are on the ship. The folks next door had a bit of a romping in the wee hours and it was if they were doing it in my cabin. I had to put on some ear plugs and watch a movie. I was watching The Wanderers. I know I laughed out loud a few times. I hope they heard that as if was in their room!
What can I say! I love Venice Beach.
Above is the Freak Show where the turtle below can be found. That’s not mirrors folks!
This guy makes homeless look good!
I saw this wacky tree on the way back to the bike. I parked kind of far away.
I stopped by to see my friend Marc. Those machines we are standing with are used to test and strengthen one’s balance. So if you are out of wack Marc can straighten you out! I took the test…perfect! Straight 9’s across the board. Doc says that’s good!
Then I went to meet my friend Diana for dinner. I love motorcycle only parking!
We went to this place the Saddle Ranch on Sunset Blvd. They kept giving us these huge containers of cotton candy. It’s fun to play with. They also give everybody free shooters throughout the night. Whooopeee!
There is a mean bull ride too. The guy on the controls is much nicer the girls. I went flying pretty quick. In the back of the bar was this cool boxing thing. Or punching bag, that would measure how hard you could punch. That was fun too. Diana’s got some shots of that. Gotta get ’em.
And there was karaoke! Being LA they had some good karaoke. Lots of want to be stars! We did not do any singing but had a great time. Then it was goodbye to the city of angels!
I had planned to go to Salvation Mountain on the way to San Diego, but I was running late. It would have bugged the hell out of me if I didn’t check it out on the way back. It was no easy ride. Heat and wind and lots of both is what you get riding past Palm Springs and then down beside the Salton Sea. As I blazed along I had my doubts whether I had done the right thing.
The place was totally cool. The man who built it used to live there year round. Now that he has gotten older he goes elsewhere during these scorching months of summer.
So I thought Salvation Mountain would be it before I crossed back into Arizona. But California was not done with surprises yet. I crossed another desert with sand dunes. It was getting hotter as I moved along. The winds were whipping sand across my face. I get so thankful when the next truck that passes is aerodynamic. Because when they are not, the slap of hot air hits with a most uncomfortable impact.
The temperature was rising. I have posted my dash again. This time do not look at the odometer. Nor the speedometer. No, draw you attention to the watch. The top number is the thermometer. Note that every time I have passed a thermometer in a town, my watch thermometer has read about 5 degrees less. Mine reads 119.4 so……damn it was hot!
And then a little ghost town. This is Vidal. It is an old town along the railroad tracks.
From Vidal I took a right turn, crossed the Colorado and bid farewell to California.
Arizona again? Yes!
It was that same 119 degree day when I crossed the Colorado River taking me from California to Arizona. The river is a peculiar shade of blue here. I say peculiar because I have bathed in it upstream and it is muddy brown.
London Bridge is falling down. No, it fell a long time ago. It now resides in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The bridge was disassembled, and the marked stones were shipped to Lake Havasu City and reassembled. No shit!
When I stopped for gas in Lake Havasu I asked the girl behind the counter if she knew of any cheap motels near Kingston, AZ. She asked why I would want to go to Kingston. Why not Vegas? I told her I was headed toward the Grand Canyon. So she said why not try Oatman up old Route 66? It’s an old mining town. Hmmmmmm, Oatman. Sounds great! So I headed up Old Route 66.
This part of Route 66 is rough. Not a lot of maintenance taking place here anymore. The sun was getting low as I headed for the mountain range before me.
I saw this structure as I approached the town. It looked like a cement pueblo. I found out later it was the entrance to an old mine.
Here’s the other thing about Oatman. The miners who once lived here left behind some of their donkeys. These donkeys have been reproducing ever since and their defendants roam the town freely. The baby donkeys have stickers on their heads. I got closer to have a look only to find out the say, “kick me.” Just kidding. They say “Stop please don’t feed me”. See, the baby donkeys don’t have back teeth. That won’t stop them from eating what’s in your hand. But then they choke on it and die. Hence the sticker.
I rode into town and asked the first people I saw if there was a hotel available. They said, NO! The only hotel is closed this time of year because the owner goes to Sturgis. OH NO! I was far from anything. It was getting dark, and the only road in either direction was the rough twisty 66. However…they said, you can go to Judy’s Saloon and ask for Jimmy. Jimmy may have a room he can rent you for the night. So I was off to Judy’s Saloon.
I was told Jimmy is usually there on one side of the bar or the other. He is one of the bartenders. But when I arrived, no Jimmy. The bartender on duty made a call and Jimmy came on down. He came through the back door and sat at the end of the bar. He was checking me out before introducing himself. He came over and then his girlfriend Geri joined us too. We all got along just fine. We had a couple beers and then headed up the dirt hill to their place.
First we went to the place I would be staying.
It was an extended trailer and very comfortable. It was cooled, not by an air conditioner but by something called a swamp bucket. It cools water and blows the air into the trailer. It worked great! The town was pretty much shut down for the night. There was no food and I hadn’t had dinner. I had some soup in my bag, but Geri made me some delicious coconut curry meatballs with rice. It was really good. After that we went over to their place. We sat around and partied for hours. Jimmy writes some really nice tunes and he and Geri performed them and jammed out as I watch the stars drop and tapped my feet.
In the photo below is the place where I stayed for the night. I highly recommend staying there if you ever roll through Oatman. Just go to the saloon and ask for Jimmy and Geri!
After having some coffee with Geri in the morning, I roamed around town a bit.
I figured I’d let my big ‘ol forehead get some sun.
You can see why I wouldn’t want to ride this road at night. Very twisty indeed.
Route 66 isn’t continuous. There are only bits and pieces left. On the way to the Grand Canyon I joined another part of the iconic old highway.
I twisted the throttle a bit for this shot.
This old dog was at one of the stores along the highway.
Many tankers these days have that red and white striped sticker running the length of the tank so you can’t see yourself. I was quite pleased when I discovered that this one was placed much lower.
Just after I went through the gates to the Grand Canyon National Park I saw this doe standing on a rock ledge. There were others, but they ran when they heard to motorcycle.
I went to the campsite, pitched my tent and had a quick look at the canyon before the sun dropped.
In the morning I returned to the canyon. I like taking pictures of places and things. The majesty of Grand Canyon however can not be captured in a photograph. It is immense and has to be experienced with the naked eye.
From the Grand Canyon I rode deep into Navajo country.
Canyon De Chelly
I rode on to Canyon De Chelly (pronounced Shay). In this canyon can be found some of the most pristine cave dwellings.
Although Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument it is on Navajo land and the dwellings themselves are not open to the public. You can hire a private guide to take you down into the canyon for a fee.
This is called Spider Rock.
Depending on the time of day the colors of this place can be dramatically different. To get the money shots you would have to know when to go where ahead of time. I have been to quite a few cave dwellings. To see a multi level structure like this with it’s original joists is magnificent.
Just as Oatman had donkeys roaming about, the area around Canyon de Chelly has stray dogs. This adorable mom and pup was at one of the sites. I gave ’em some jerky.
The dwellings above can be seen to the left side of the photo below. This is the only one you can walk to without a guide. It is a mile and a half in each direction. You still have to stop at a fence when you get down there.
Where to go next? I surprised myself that the only foot I would step into Utah was here at the Four Corners where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. It is the only place in the United States where four states touch. As it was time to leave Arizona I could make one of three choices. I opted for Colorado.
It Gets Cold in Colorado!
As I mentioned in my last post…having the choice of 3 states (as I was leaving Arizona), I crossed diagonally into Colorado. The scenery changes quickly from the hot arid desert of reds and ochre to mountain tops of grey and white with lush green below. Welcome to the Rocky Mountains!
I don’t know if this guy was writing or sketching. All I know is he was digging this scene as much as I was. Speaking of digging…they call this the million dollar highway because of all the gold that must be buried underneath it.
You can see Silverton in the valley below. Silverton is an old mining town, but it is still very much alive and vibrant.
I stopped and got some BBQ and a local brew.
There was still evidence from the old mining days hanging rocky mountain high.
Just outside of Silverton was a nice primitive campsite. It was free, which is always nice.
A guy I met at the campsite showed me where all the firewood was. See, the river comes from the melted snow. So In the Spring it is high and washes down wood and debris from up stream. As the water recedes in the Summer, the wood is left on the banks to dry out. Perfect! This guy who showed me where the wood was, was from Upper Louisiana. He was there with his girlfriend. Very nice people. In the morning he told me he checked a thermometer in the middle of the night. It was 37 degrees. It gets cold in Colorado.
Laying in the hammock is great in these areas with very little light. The only bad thing is you have to hang it between two trees which blocks some of the heavenly glory. (“heavenly glory” should always be said in the voice of Bruce Lee. If you don’t know what I mean CLICK HERE.)
Heading north. It is an awesome place to ride.
There is continuous evidence of the old mining days throughout the Rockies.
You can see how the road is cut along side the rock. There are no guard rails. If you screw up, it’s for good!
There are many different mountain ranges. You are not always 10,000 feet in the mountains. Sometimes you come in to valleys and plateaus where you can warm up until the next range.
Some people I met at the Four Corners told me about this place called Royal Gorge. There is a suspension bridge there 1250 feet over this deep gorge. The floor is made of wood planks and the whole thing rocks in the wind. So of course I had to ride over it.
They also have a tram. They run the whole thing is run like an amusement park. I got there late in the day so I got a discount.
Now, I didn’t take the photo below. I just threw it in there to give you an idea of how high that bridge is.
It was actually scarier walking across than riding because you really feel the rocking. On the bike you don’t feel it as much though it is still pretty freaky!
This is an amazing place and like Salvation Mountain it was build by one man, Jim Bishop. The big difference being that Salvation Nation will more than likely fall apart in our lifetime. Bishop Castle will be around for generations to enjoy.
Twice I met people on the road who told me Jim Bishop was nuts. When I arrived at the castle I saw hand painted signs. The first one said to make sure and read all the other signs. It also said you must sign in. I walked onto the porch of the house next to the castle. There sat this man. He said “Hey!” I asked him if he knew where I was supposed to sign in. He said, “I don’t believe anyone should sign anything they don’t want to sign, but it’s in there if you feel like writing your name.” Then he said, “I’m Jim, the castle builder.” I said, “Hey, I’m Pat” as I shook his powerful gnarly hand. The hand of a castle builder.
People are free to climb all over Jim’s creation. From the palatial interior to the many ramps, spiral staircases and balconies and that surround the massive structure.
You can barely see my bike in the top left corner from the highest tower.
Here is the castle from behind.
As I was leaving I could see Jim Bishop was back to work. I said “Thanks Jim.” He turned and said “You bet, come back again!” I will. And I don’t think this man is nuts at all. I envy his drive and commitment to something wonderful that he shares with anyone willing to visit.
If you would like a worthy tax write off, throw some money Jim’s way.
I passed the largest rocking chair in the world in front of a store that was closed and gated off.
I figured I would save some time as I was eager to go to Sturgis. Instead of continuing north through the mountains, I would hop on the interstate between Colorado Springs and Denver. It wasn’t until I was deep in in back to back vehicles that I realized I put myself in rush hour traffic around an enormous city. After some painful riding I made it back into the mountains of Northern Colorado.
I found another primitive campground 4 miles down a dirt road. This one was off a lake.
The St.Malo Chapel would be my last photo in Colorado before descending down from the majestic mountains and into a completely different reality. I was headed for Sturgis, South Dakota.
It was on this day August 16 in 1977 that Elvis died.
Sturgis – 2011
And then there was Sturgis! I went last year and had a blast. I was psyched to get there again. So where the Rocky Mountains ended, the fast road to Sturgis began. The only thing that caught my interest on the way was a sign in Wyoming that said Oregon Trail Ruts. I thought, that sounds cool, so I altered my route slightly. On the road to the ruts I saw this truck.
And here are the ruts left from the Oregon Trail deeply grooved in the sandstone from heavy usage between the years 1841-1869.
From there it was straight to the Buffalo Chip Campground. When I say straight it really means, side to side, up and down, and all around. Through hot and cold, passed young and old. From open stretch to quite compressed then on to the Buffalo Chip.
My first night there Lynyrd Skynyrd was supposed to open for Greg Allman but they didn’t show up. Greg did though. Having just gotten there, I was running around like an excited kid but Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson), played before Greg and caught my attention. He sounded really good. Gonna have to keep an ear on him.
I knew from the previous year that shade was important. That sun gets hot first thing in the morning. After the inevitable late night at the Chip you want as much morning shade as you can get. So I got Bonnie to help me out.
My neighbor Brian however is the shade king. He has three shade tents. One for morning, one for evening and one for the tent. And he happily shares his shade with all.
I visited a couple places near the Buffalo Chip. First the Full Throttle Saloon. It’s a labyrinth of bars and activities.
Outside they had a round arena where a guy performs the wall of death. The whole thing rattles as he whips around on the wooden slats just beneath you.
I also went to the Broken Spoke Saloon. This guy Randy from Texas had shown me this place last year. There is a big pool there and they have a bar that you can drive your bike into on the way to the parking area.
Randy said he might stay at the Broken Spoke this year and I was hoping to bump into him. He’s a funny dude.
Unfortunately there was no sign of Randy, but poolside still looked good.
Jeff Bridges and then Stevie Nicks opened for John Fogerty on my second night there. I got caught up hanging with people at the campsite and missed Jeff Bridges.
I got there for Stevie, but she only played a few songs. The wind was blowing hard and there were storms in the background. It made for a nice effect. In fact it was like a Stevie Nicks video. But as a result they pulled her early.
Here…see what I mean for yourself.
This girl from the Miss Buffalo Chip Contest was posing for some photos. Then she asked does anyone want to pose with me? Nobody stepped up! She asked, “Nobody wants to pose with me?” I was as shocked as she was. So I quickly hopped up there.
The guy taking the pictures called out, “I’m not sure that worked!”
“So take another one!” I said. Duh?
The raging storm passed and John Fogerty played a great show!
And now it was time for me to ride the zip line. They have wires running from tower to tower over the entire concert area. During the storm it was closed, so as soon as I saw it reopen I jumped in line.
Here is a video of the zip line and John Fogerty.
You can get 2 photos printed from your ride for 20 bucks. When I got back down on the ground I bought them, then I had someone take this picture below. To look cool I took the white envelope with my printed photo of me on the zip line and stuck it under my jacket.
I went back to watch the concert over where Tim and Jean were. Tim and Jean are a nice couple I met from Phoenix who are also my camping neighbors. And Jeff Bridges came out and joined Fogerty for a tune.
As I am grooving to the show, I realized the white envelope with the zip line photos is gone. Noooooo! I decide I am going to find them. Amongst this giant maniacal party I was going to retrace my steps and find my photo. I walked all over the place until I got to the area where I had taken that photo with those girls. And then I saw it. A white envelope. I did a little happy dance, ran over, picked it up…looked inside… It was me!!! Then, when I stood up, there he was. Standing right in front of me was that big, 6 foot 5 five inch, Texan truck driver. It was Randy who I had been looking for earlier that day. How crazy is that? Right there standing over the envelope. Amazing!
The next day I was going into town to get a new rear tire. I am talking about the bike, not the photo above. All my center tread was gone. (As you can see, the center tread is firmly in place in the photo above.) I wasn’t risking riding all the way home on a bald tire and this was as good a place as any to find a motorcycle tire to fit my bike.
After getting the tire I had a look around Downtown Sturgis. Even the cops have bad ass bikes!
I do believe Custer is standing once again! Check out the details on this guys bike.
Then it was back to the Chip.
I stayed a third night. Puddle of Mudd opened for Tesla. It was cold this night and the crowd was not raging like the nights before. Back at the campsite we sat around and laughed a lot. A new guy had pitched tent there too. Jim. He was from nearby and very happy his boss gave him a few days off and told him to go to Sturgis. And later in the night Brian and this guy Die Hard showed up with some hilarious stories of their nights adventures. Sure, there is a lot of fun and exciting things to do at Sturgis but it’s really the people that make it great.
The next day I did some laundry and said my goodbyes. Die Hard rolled by just before I left and almost had me convinced to stay for George Thorogood, but I felt it was time to go.
So as nearly everyone makes that left turn on 34 out of the Buffalo Chip to seek more Sturgis entertainment, or to board that Interstate in their desired direction, I made a right turn and headed east down a long lonely highway.
And off into the sunset with the cows.
East Bound and Down
The sunset photo at the end of the Sturgis post was a little premature. It was placed for dramatic effect. Between that long lonely highway and the sunset was the Missouri River.
The river crept in and out of view. Lewis and Clark were hoping the Missouri was going to be the one to take them all the way west. Not quite. Just before Pierre, SD there is a sign that says this area was used to film Dances with Wolves. The river in Pierre was flooded. You can see the playground below is well beyond the shoreline in the water.
And now for the appropriately placed sunset.
I spent the night in Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. They have been changing these murals made of corn annually with new designs since 1948.
I checked out the Prehistoric Indian Village while in Mitchell as well. I’d have to say it’s not worth the price of 6 bucks. The one thing I did find interesting was the buffalo skeleton. I didn’t know the hump on it’s back was shaped by vertical bone.
I stopped by Baltic, South Dakota. I had been here for the first time when I was 11 years old. Back in NYC my friend Michael and his mom Donna would often take me to the movies. To this day I probably have seen more movies with them than anyone. Then one summer they took me with them to Baltic, South Dakota.
I believe the population at the time was 80. I even remember the movie we saw when we came to South Dakota. It was The White Buffalo with Charles Bronson. And I remember meeting Conrad Bain at the Minneapolis St.Paul Airport where we had to transfer to a small propeller plane. Anyway, Facebook got me back in touch with my friend, but I found out his mom had passed a few years ago. As I was leaving Sturgis, it occurred to me that she had probably returned to Baltic. Donna was very kind to me growing up, so I went to pay my respects. In Baltic if you need to know something you can just go to the general store, generally everybody knows everything about everybody. I asked the cashier if she knew Donna. She said she was new to Baltic but we could go ask Mr. Slanzky at the American Legion (to the left below). She left the store with me, brought me to the Legion and introduced me to Mr. Slanzky. Mr. Slanzky directed me to the spot in the cemetery and I had a visit.
When we were kids this was our fishing spot. We caught 35 catfish one day.
I was moving along fine through Iowa as the 65 mph highways turn to 55 mph. I had just passed through the town of Estherville. In a line of traffic headed east out of town, a police car jumped ahead of some other cars and got right behind me. He followed me tight, staying right on my ass, uncomfortably close for about 6 miles before he pulled me over. I was wondering what his justification would be. He told me he pulled me over because he couldn’t read my tags. I said, “that’s funny because that is the only part of my bike I cleaned just this morning so it could be seen.” These guys know Sturgis just ended. I wasn’t doing anything to warrant being pulled over. It was straight up harassment. He was hoping to find some dirt when he ran the drivers license. Bullshit!
Just the fact that they think they don’t need a reason to pull me over is pissing me off as I continue and it’s taking the fun out of my ride.
I felt better after a night of camping in some cool shade at Pilot Knob State Park.
The landscape gets hilly again and the roads get more interesting right until it opens up to the Mississippi River. The plan was to head south along the Iowa side.
If You Build It, They Will Come
I saw on my map that it said Field of Dreams in little red letters. Field of Dreams? Really? Wow! I got the biggest grin on my face as I made my approach to this place. It was exactly as it was in the movie. They do such a good job making this place magical in the movie that it feels really special being there. They call me Shoeless Pat.
Ray loves Annie.
I am told on Sundays real old timers come out and play ball here. They built it, and they do come! How about that?
I continued south toward Clinton.
My reason for going to Clinton, Iowa was to get some Flavor Flav’s Chicken. I read about it a while back and I decided as well as I’m headed in that direction I was going to try some. I got to Clinton and asked a girl in the store where I could find Flavor Flav’s. She told me it was closed. Apparently Flavor Flav’s staff wasn’t getting paid and the place closed down already. Disappointed I crossed the mighty Mississippi River into Illinois and settled for a chicken sandwich from Hardees. I stayed in Morrison Rockwood SP. The log below burned the entire night and into the morning. it was about four feet long and burned from one end to the other like a cigarette. It you ever stop here bring your bug spray. I left my feet exposed and got chewed up bad!
It was time to make some miles. I hopped on the Interstate and flew. Illinois, Indiana, Ohio…blew right through ’em. In Pennsylvania I decided to get off the interstate and back into the mountains. I took Route 66. No relation to the old road out west.
I was headed east on 6 to go to a place I had visited on my first cross country trip. Cherry Springs State Park. Considered the darkest place on the east coast. Below is Kane, PA.
This old bus house is in considerably worse shape than when I saw it 4 years ago.
On the way down Route 6 an old barn caught my eye. But there was more than just a barn at this location.
Looking up into the old barn silo.
The truck traffic on Route 6 became so bad I started yearning for the interstate. The truck traffic is due to natural gas drilling going on all over this part of Pennsylvania. Water tankers make up the greater syndicate of trucks. Apparently natural gas drilling involves lots of water! I was talking to this guy Steve who drives one of those trucks. He says the locals hate it but if it’s not him it’ll be someone else cause it pays real good! As a result of all the truck traffic there is lots of construction and flagmen stopping traffic for one lane roads. The ride started sucking. So I headed back toward the interstate. After a couple delays caused by a fully loaded truck going up hill and an Amish dude on a buggy I was back on the super highway on my way home.
And now I am back in NYC with many mixed feelings. Good to be home? I am not quite sure. Certainly, home or not, the adventure must continue.