2014 Coast to Coast
The following is the chronological compilation of all the posts from my Coast to Coast 2014 trip. A few photos have been added and a few typos corrected.
The red line represents this years journey.
On the Road Again 2014
It was another approach to Summer with the big question pending …Will I do it again? The answer has come with a resounding “Hell Yeah!”
This year I had someone with me to see me off. Jillian was there to support me which was a good way to start this year’s journey.
I had planned on leaving a day sooner, but it was nice to spend some pleasant time with my lady before taking off. Poor Jillian is at home nursing a broken ankle.
So I hopped on the dreaded Interstate to make up for lost time. Then BOOM, I ran into a storm.
The storm didn’t last too long and left with a rainbow. You can barely make it out just above the truck passing.
I rode until it started getting dark. I pulled off in Somerset, PA, a town close to where Flight 93 went down on 9/11.
I pitched the tent in the dark at Laurel Hill State Park and enjoyed my first night in a thick forest.
The canopy was so thick above that the full moon (actually called the Supermoon this month) was unable to penetrate with it’s bright reflected light. The creatures of the night were out. Besides this little fella below, I was visited by a skunk and a couple of nosey raccoons. I couldn’t get my camera quick enough for those visits. The snail was about my pace this evening.
I rolled through the Amish country of Ohio on my way to my destination.
The destination for this weekend would be the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. Oh boy! More to come!
AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days
When I arrived at the bike show I scoped out the camping area to find a place with morning shade. There was this spot on the only edge of the tree front that blocked the eastern sunrise.
I asked if the spot was available and got the response, “Not if you don’t mind a lot of noise”, as a guy pointed to a cannon. Perfect! That was Tom who called out. He is seated to the left in the photo below. He was with his son Shawn and a bunch of guys from upstate New York. They offered me a beer and slapped a pork chop on the grill for me. I don’t think I could have picked a better spot.
Another guy Brad, built the cool chopper below from scraps and the bike in front of it was salvaged from a collapsed warehouse.
The bike show itself is multi-faceted. There is motorcycle track racing.
There is dirt track racing.
There is a huge swap meet area with endless rows of vendors where you can buy most anything from a vintage bike to hard to find parts.
This guy’s bike needed a bit of CPR before being resuscitated for the dirt track.
Here’s a nice old bobbed out Bonnie.
You gotta love a dog in a sidecar.
The AMA had an Indian theme going for this years event.
There was a group of bikes with custom fairing to compete for the best gas mileage.
This old police Honda was for sale.
Check out the custom fairing on this machine.
I saw this same Wall of Death at the Broken Spoke campsite in Sturgis but didn’t watch the show. Now I had the opportunity.
The guy below is riding side saddle with no hands.
It’s too bad the brim of the guy’s hat in front of me got in the shot.
In the evening some of the kids started drag racing small bikes in the campsite. Well as it turns out the most fun loving kids in the place were the old kids from upstate New York. They quickly got in on the action. Brad joined in with this vintage machine. A number of the fellas had colorful nicknames. They call Brad Mr. Roboto.
And here is Angry Nuts (Roger) ready for a quick start.
Mr. Roboto and son go head to head.
That’s Paul on the right shouting some encouragement. He’s the biggest kid of ’em all. And that’s his son Greg on the left looking like a young Steve McQueen.
Greg, Angry Nuts and Paul line it up.
This kid hopped on Brad’s machine for a free ride. The guy in sprinting position actually held the lead for a decent portion of this race.
Twister joined Angry Nuts in the competition.
And here we have Twister, Angry Nuts, Paul and Greg going at it.
Paul joined the only ladies in a race to the disappointed moans and groans of the onlookers. It was also the only race where he finished first.
His expression sums up the great time everyone was having at this event.
Brad brought his old rusty chopper in for some of the fun.
Throughout the night there were people up to their own kind of mischief. Here some folks were doing burnouts on planks of wood.
Some cops showed up to try to quell things down. It only seemed to excite the crowd even more. The New York guys would go on stealth missions to fire off their cannon. That was making the cops nuts. They were looking for the source of the BOOM all night.
The full moon added to the added to the evening’s ambiance.
Sadly everyone knew the night had to end because a big storm was expected in the morning. We all got up just after dawn and started packing it up. I bid farewell to my new friends from upstate and headed west for a nearly 500 mile day.
Brooks was here…so was Pat
I took a short break from all the fun at the bike show and headed north to Mansfield, Ohio.
Destination Shawshank Prison!
Although Steven King’s story is set in a prison located in Maine, the place where they filmed Shawshank Redemption was a short 10 miles north of the Mid-Ohio Speedway. It is the old Ohio State Reformatory.
The place closed at 4:00. When I arrived it was after 4:00 and the electric gate was shut. However, as I sat there in disbelief a car was exiting. So I rode on in before the gate closed again. I quickly parked the bike and went inside not stopping for anything. So as Andy Dufresne was busy breaking out of Shawshank, I was breaking in.
The place is huge. There are endless hallways and rooms besides the many tiered rows of inmates quarters.
This cell room was made up to have that lived in look.
Most of the cells look like this.
A number of the scenes in the movie were also filmed in a large warehouse made to look like a prison interior, but most of the scenes were filmed on site here at the old reformatory.
Here is the yard often displayed in the movie. The brick buildings that once occupied the land behind the yard are gone. It is now a new prison and photos are prohibited in that direction.
“Yeah, I know how you feel. I’m up for rejection next week.”
The hotel room where Brooks spent his last days is actually a room in the reformatory.
I was lucky to see this room. I had somehow passed it by during my journey through the massive labyrinth of passages. But being the last person in this place I was found by the guy who goes around to look if anyone is left in the building. Fortunately he was a nice guy and when I asked him if he knew where that hotel was where Brooks went he told me the room was here in the building. When I expressed how much I would like to see it he took me up a back staircase so I cold check it out. Then it was back to the bike show.
From Ohio to Nebraska
So I split early in the morning from the bike show to beat the storm. My planned route to the southwest quickly turned to the northwest to get above the pending rainfall. I did just that. Eventually the skies cleared and I rode almost 500 miles before calling it a night.
First through Indiana.
The Illinios River in the background.
This water tower has been continuously used by the town of Havana, Illinios since 1889 when it was first constructed.
That hill you see behind Bonnie is actually Rockwell Mound an old Indian mound also in Havana.
An old service station in Carthage, Illinois where I finally stopped after a long day of riding.
In Carthage I was looking for an old jail I saw marked on the map. I stopped to take a photo of this old drug store sign (below) while riding through the town square. After I took the photo I was fiddling about on my phone when I noticed an elderly gentleman in the window watching me. I waved, he waved back. I smiled and went inside. I figured I’d ask him where the jail was. When I did he asked “The Mormon jail?” I said I guess so. He said it was a couple blocks down the road. His name was Bob McHugh and he told me a bit about the sign and the pharmacy. He said that sign had been there since 1937 when his dad opened the place. There used to be a soda fountain there and if you didn’t find a parking spot by 5:30 you were out of luck. Then Bob went off to war. When he came back the fountain was gone and it was just the pharmacy. He has been working there since.
I ended up riding right past the jail and back around to the square. I stopped and asked this fella in a wheelchair if he knew where the jail was. He asked, “You mean the Mormon jail?” I said I guess.
Well the map didn’t mention this old jail was Mormon affiliated. It turns out this is a sacred place to them. It is the place where their prophet Joseph Smith was killed or as they said martyred. He was shot 4 times and fell out of that top left window in the house behind his sculpture.
Now, if you have never been to a Mormon site, you have to be aware. There is generally some Mormon preaching involved. There is usually a movie too. I have always said no thank you to the movie. It is still interesting history. The guy in the photo was the guide.
This is the jail cell on the second floor. The walls are 3 feet thick and only have two slits for ventilation. So the story goes that Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested for treason after ordering the destruction of facilities at a local newspaper that had claimed he was practicing polygamy and planned to make himself king. They were then taken to the Carthage prison. In the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith is the guy who translated scriptures from golden tablets given to him by some Native American spirit or something like that. Joseph Smith translated these tablets and so began the Mormons. Anyway while he was locked up here an angry mob stormed the place and killed him and his brother. At the time Joseph Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois and running for President of the United States!
As I moved westward I rode through a couple old historic towns along the Deluth River.
This house had a sign on the side welcoming some ghost hunter. I guess the place is haunted.
I camped in Waubonsie State Park.
Then across the Missouri River and into Nebraska.
Over my shoulder is a crop dusting plane about to swoop around and make a dive to my right. That looks like a fun job!
This was route 2, it runs along the the BNSF railroad line which transports coal in mile long trains which pass in either direction all day.
Then the day turned sour.
I stopped for gas and I put the auto click thing on. Duh! Bad move. It didn’t click off. Gas went spraying. I caught it quickly but damage was done.. My tank bag got it and wreaked of gasoline. Broken Bow Nevada, your gas pump is broken.
I continued down the road and saw a digital clock on a bank. It said Wednesday, July 15. What? I had made a reservation in Yellowstone for Thursday night! I can’t get there in a day! Panic! When I stopped for gas again I checked my calendar. It was Tuesday, July 15. Hey Broken Bow, your digital clock is broken.
Again I continued down the road. Oooooowwwww! A bee stung me on my inner thigh. It felt like it was still pumping. Damn that was a strong sting. I’ve been stung before while riding. It freaks me out that they are able to react at 70 mile per hour to get that stinger in you.
Continuing down the road once again and SMACK! When I saw the bird on the side of the road he didn’t look depressed. But for some reason as I was riding by he flew right into my headlight. WTF!
When that poor bird hit the headlight, greenish yellow guts splattered all over my face mask. It was disgusting! After that I was beat and I got a real shitty hotel room.
This day turned shitty quickly and stayed that way. Well, there is always tomorrow. Before going to bed I checked the weather. Things aren’t looking good. I can expect to spend a good portion of the next day plowing through some large storms and temperatures in the low 60’s. So much for tomorrow.
Fort Laramie and Independence Rock.
When I left off in the last post I was whining about my BS afternoon in Nebraska with bee stings and bird guts. And even though I knew the following day was going to be stormy, I was well rested and ready to take it on. When I woke up I stared at the doppler radar endlessly. On this day there would be no way to avoid riding into a storm. And some of these storms were whoppers! The previous night’s weather report said it would be raining first thing in the morning. Fortunately it hadn’t started yet when I got going and came across this old church. At least I thought it was a church. When I pulled over to have a closer look, a pick up truck pulled up and a big old grizzly looking guy named Danny leaned out and told me it was an old schoolhouse. Danny hopped out and lit a cigarette. He told me he rides too then showed me the colors on the back of his vest. We talked a bit, then I went inside to have a look.
As I crossed the border from Nebraska to Wyoming I passed through my first storm of the day. It wasn’t that bad. It gave me a chance to try out my rain gear. I was trying a new glove technique. Everything was holding up fine except the waterproof boots did not keep the feet dry. The rain let up and I saw Fort Laramie was nearby. I had passed this way before in the opposite direction. But at the time I was high-tailing it north to get to Sturgis before dark, so I never stopped.
Fort Laramie began as a private fur trading fort in 1834. As America expanded westward conflict with the native people caused a shift in the fort’s use. It became the largest military post in the US.
Fort Laramie was comprised of trappers, traders, Native Americans, missionaries, emigrants, soldiers, miners, ranchers and homesteaders all interacting.
Below is the prison.
A diorama of the fort as it was in the 1800’s.
Upstairs in this building was the soldiers barracks.
There was a bar with a pool table.
This bridge, built in 1875 crosses the North Platte River on the way to Fort Laramie.
From the visit to the fort I was headed north away from the obvious storm to the south. I rode on for a while thinking I was out of harms way. No such luck. I got slammed. It was bad but I plowed through it. After a short while you realize that you are fine and start to enjoy it a bit. Conquering the storm is character building. But this storm was getting worse. I made a stop to get gas and have a look at the radar on my phone. I did not like what I was seeing. I needed to get to Casper then go south and find camping. A storm was increasingly growing as it headed toward Casper. It looked real bad. I figured I would time it so that the red eye of the storm would have crossed Casper by the time I was arriving. I was about an hour or so away. I decided camping was out of the question. I would find a room in Casper for the night. I checked a few hotel sites and found nothing. Nothing! Casper Wyoming is a big town and everything was booked! I was talking to a couple other bikers at the gas stop. They were headed east and told me a tornado had already touched down somewhere on the Nebraska/Wyoming border. As they were leaving one of them handed me a card. He said, “I don’t know if they have any rooms, but if they do, Tammy will give you a good rate.” It had a hand written note to Tammy at the Best Western. I called ahead, there were no rooms. I checked Priceline one last time and BAM! A room available at the La Quenta. I jumped on it. When I got there the guy at the desk said he was surprised to see a name pop up. He thought they were booked. Lucky me. And the next morning as I was looking at the paper in the morning I realized it was a very good thing I waited out that growing storm.
You can see how much rain had accumulated in the parking lot.
The next morning I got up to head over to Yellowstone where I was going to camp for a couple days. On the way was Independence Rock.
When I pulled up to Independence Rock I was startled by the amount of people climbing all over it. It turns out there were multiple bus loads of these people. I guess they were Mennonite. They were dressed in some traditional garb. Not sure. All I knew was there was a lot of ’em!
Independence Rock was a stop during the time when people were originally emigrating to Oregon, California and Utah. Wagons would start at the Missouri River in the Spring and try to make it to the rock by July 4. Hence the name.
Many of those people stopping here would carve their names in the large granite rock.
There are names all over this rock, but I just climbed to the top, had a look about and split.
When I got to the bike I saw two guys having a look at ‘ol Bonnie. It turns out one of them road here from New Jersey. That’s Quinton from Jersey in the center and Karl on the left. He is from Lead, SD.
When we got to talking, I mentioned I may have a fuel issue. Foolishly I did not fill up before leaving Casper. These guys were very cool and told me they would ride with me to the next town to see if there was a gas station. If not Quinton said he had a tube to syphon a bit to get to the next station.
I call this the Jesse shot. Jesse is another two wheeled traveler who keeps a blog of his travels. I saw him take a down low shot like this so I have to give him props. http://twowheelin.wordpress.com/
Thanks Quinton and Karl for looking out! Maybe see you for Sturgis 75! Now on to Yellowstone!
On the way to Yellowstone I made one more stop in Fort Washakie to visit Sacagewea’s grave. Or is it?
After fueling up south of Independence Rock, I said later to Karl and Quinton and headed Northeast toward Yellowstone. It was further than I realized as are most places out west.
When I arrived in Yellowstone the sun was going down. When the sun drops in Yellowstone, it gets cold. Real cold. I set up my tent in the dark. I wasn’t real pleased with my site. It was very much in the open. I like some trees to surround my site. But in Yellowstone I didn’t plan on spending much time in the campsite.
There is a lot of wildlife in Yellowstone but these pelicans came unexpected.
Here an elk sat basking in the sun.
The upper part of Yellowstone Falls.
Many bison warm themselves by the various geysers about the park.
I was taking photos of three bison and was nearly one of those idiots you see on YouTube. One of the three had wandered off and I lost track of him as I photographed the other two. I had my earplugs in from riding and did not notice the third bull had returned. Fortunately I did hear someone in the parking lot yell “Look out!” I turned to see this huge beast charging at me! I ran like mad and escaped his wrath, but it was a close call!
Yellowstone is a beautiful place. This pool is deep and clear. It looks so welcoming, but it would boil you into a nice soup if you took a dip.
This geyser makes sounds like a breathing dragon.
I was watching this osprey fly around above. Then I noticed him diving. I was pretty far off, but I was able to capture this shot of the osprey defending his territory against an unsuspecting raven.
I saw more bison in Yellowstone this time than in all my previous visits.
I started to get concerned about my rear tire. When I went for gas I noticed it was completely bald on one side. Also, it was Friday. I knew most bike shops are closed on Sunday and Monday. I needed a tire Saturday. I am not sure it would have lasted another two days of endless riding. I had planned on traveling north into Montana after Yellowstone. I called all the bike shops in Bozeman and no one had my tire size. This had happened on a previous journey when no one in Missoula had my size. One of the Bozeman shops recommended I try Idaho City. No luck! Finally a shop in Idaho City recommended this place in Rexburg, Idaho. They told me they had a Michelin that would fit. So long as they could reuse my inner tube, I was set.
So instead of spending my day on Saturday exploring more of Yellowstone, I had to get up early and head to Rexburg. I had a chance to visit Old Faithful at a good time of day, because the sun was at the right angle in the sky to produce this cool rainbow.
I made it to Rexburg to see this huge bike and motosports shop. The people here were great. I talked for a while with an employee named Eugene and then one of the co-owners Jared. Jared is Mormon or LDS as they say. That stands for Latter Day Saints. He told me Rexburg is one of the most populated LDS towns in the country at 98%. In the photo below you can see the temple in the background to the right of the shop.
I unloaded Bonnie and left her in the hands of the people here in Rexburg. Besides a new rear tire I need my chain tightened up too.
It’s always strange to see someone else on my bike. Here is Jared taking her in for service.
This shop had a huge stock of bikes and accessories.
They took her in and got right to work.
With a new rear tire I could confidently continue my journey. This is a great place for your motorcycle needs. I highly recommend them if you are in the area.
As a result of having to go south to Idaho for repairs, I changed my planned route. I would head west from here.
While worrying about my tire in Yellowstone, I thought for sure a day would be wasted getting Bonnie ready to roll again. I figured I would shack up somewhere in the vicinity of the repair. The guys at Rexburg Motorsports were so helpful and efficient I still had plenty of riding time left in the day. I decided I could make it all the way to Boise.
Moving westward I crossed this unusual flat land gusting with wind. It was government land used for experiments. That’s all I knew. It was called the Idaho National Laboratory. Makes the mind wander. What could be going on here?
That question was answered when I showed up in a town called Arco. I met a fellow biker named Ron at the local gas station. He was enjoying a cherry slushy after crossing the hot gusty government territory. I asked Ron if he knew why the tower of a submarine would be placed in the middle of Idaho? He told me they do a lot of nuclear testing at those laboratories. In fact Arco was the first town in the United States to get their electricity from nuclear power.
After fueling up in Arco I stopped by The Craters of the Moon National Monument. What you see here is miles of volcanic debris. A land once covered in lava that has cooled leaving this blackened landscape.
Much to my surprise I saw a fellow Triumph traveler in one of the pull offs.
This guy Kinsey had ridden from Seattle to Yellowstone to meet his brother and now he was headed back home.
I had a shot of Kinsey with his bike but for some reason it won’t upload. Sorry Kinsey.
You pass a number of lonely towns along the way. Here an old saloon sits alone.
This beauty sits behind the saloon.
It was a long ride across Idaho to Boise. Just before hopping on the Interstate to make my passage to Boise I saw this tank.
The Idaho State Penitentiary
After waking up in Boise I looked to see if there was anything to see before continuing my journey west. Indeed there was. The Old Idaho State Penitentiary was a functional prison from 1872 to 1973.
This prison started in 1870 as a one cell prison. It grew over time being built with stone quarried nearby by the prisoners themselves. They even helped design some of the buildings.
There were large riots here in 1971 and 1973 over the living conditions. This was the dining hall designed by a prisoner who killed himself upon his release. It also was burned down during the 1973 riot.
This old sign sits weathering away next to the prison barn.
This was the women’s ward built outside the prison walls.
This is a cell on death row.
After vacating the death row cell an inmate would stand on that gray square with a rope around his neck. The executioner would pull that lever to the right.
The prisoner would then drop to this room below ending his life.
A seventeen foot wall surrounds the prison with a guard tower at each corner.
This building called the Bishop’s House sits outside the prison.
On to Oregon!
From Idaho I crossed into Oregon. I planned on getting back into the mountains for some camping. On the way I passed through some old towns. This is Baker City.
I have no idea how old this In & Out Burger is, but apparently it’s not as popular here in Oregon as it is in LA. It isn’t open any longer.
Haines, Oregon where there was no gas causing me to backtrack to Baker City.
I stopped to get some food at a local grocery store, when this guy pulled up on this gorgeous 1941 Knucklehead.
His name was Little Dan or Little Bill, I don’t remember except that it was Little “Something”. He told me he had a garage in town where he also had an old Panhead. We talked for a bit. I told him where I was headed to camp. He told me to mind the deer. He hit one up there a few years back.
I was psyched to be back up in some twisty mountain roads.
I camped out at a site under this snowy peak.
I got to break out the hammock for the first time this trip.
It also felt good to scavenge for my own wood and use my saw and tomahawk.
I rode about 60 miles through the twisty rolling mountain roads before coming to this town called Ukiah to refuel. I first stopped at the local grocery store to ask if there was gas in town because I didn’t recognize this place as a gas station when I first passed it. I figured I’d grab a banana while at the store. The old lady who ran the place said, “It’s pretty ripe, just take it.” Thanks!
Then I went to this one pump gas station run by this eccentric, chatty fella. I noticed a lot of rabbits around. He said his dad had a rabbit farm then one day decided to let them all go free, so the town is full of ’em. He also makes these kinetic sculptures to attract business he said. For me it fooled me to thinking it wasn’t a gas station.
I wasn’t far off from the Painted Hills, a place I love to visit. It is beautiful. Unfortunately forest fires blocked all access roads to the place. You can see the haze from the fires in the background.
Then I passed the base camp for the firefighters. There must have been 50 or more tents beyond those first set of trees. It looked like a festival.
Beyond you can see some of the serpentining road that is always a blast to ride on.
There were some fine old architectural specimens out here.
In this town called Shaniko there was this garage full of old vehicles.
I crossed into Washington to shack up for the night.
This Stonehenge on the Washington side of the Columbia River was a Veterans Memorial.
Back on the Oregon side I would ride in and out of rain storms throughout the day. Like Lewis & Clark I would follow the Columbia River west to the coast.
I hid out under the bridge and ate some smoked chinook I bought from the local Native Americans who set up in the adjacent parking lot.
The next stop couldn’t be passed up. It was the Bonneville Dam!
Bonnie meet Bonnie.
The dam provides this mock stream for the salmon to continue their swim upstream to spawn.
You can then go underneath and watch the salmon through glass observation windows. Besides salmon there were these freaky sucker fish. Look at those chompers!
These are the generators inside the dam.
There were numerous waterfalls along Historic Route 30 parallel to the Columbia River. The one below is Horsetail Falls.
This double falls is called Multnomah Falls.
I climbed around a bit at Whakeena Falls.
There was a large group of French folks on an organized bike tour. They had a guide showing them a giant map on the back of the truck above. I am lined up with a bunch of their Harley’s below.
I finally made it to the coast after an on and off rainy day. I had enough time to pitch my tent and go out for some food and supplies and then splashdown. More rain! And more rain. It was a mess, but my tripod and a tarp extended my tent enough to have a nice vestibule for sitting outside and staying dry. There were some breaks in the rain and I was wishing I had wood for a fire.
You can see the results of the night’s rain on the road. The beach is to the right just over those tall green grasses then to the left it immediately becomes dense forest.
In the morning a lot of people bailed because more rain was expected so I went from site to site and gathered all the fire wood they left behind. It was cold here at the coast and I wasn’t going to go without a fire on this night.
This is the forest right behind the campsite.
I camped out for two nights at Cape Lookout State Park along the coast. The second night was because of how wet everything was. The following day was supposed to clear up so I figured I could have time the next morning to let everything dry out.
I woke up in the morning and spread out my tarps, turned the tent upside down and laid out a few other wet items to dry. Then! Kablammy. More rain! Ugh! I had to pack up my wet gear and hit the road.
This is the beach at the campsite. I never had a chance to see it in good weather.
Things cleared up and I finally got a good look at the Oregon Coast.
At the mouth of the Rogue River was this old wreck.
My gloves have gotten pretty roughed up and have a couple holes in the finger tips, so I stopped at a local Yamaha dealer to have a look. They didn’t have gloves that I liked but that assault rifle in the glass case looks nice. I’ll take two.
California. Wow! California! Here I was crossing into Northern California. What could be wrong with that? Oh, only one thing… I was freezing! I had been wet and cold for days now. I couldn’t take much more. My sole purpose for dipping into this particular part of the country was to continue a quest to boldly go where this treker has not gone before. Route 96, a wonderfully windy, tantalizingly twisted mountain road was an unexplored yearning.
I was bitterly cold. Then, after passing a sign for a tour-thru tree and getting stuck in a line for one lane construction, I turned around and waited once again in the opposite direction for this opportunity to embark the space between the bark.
I needed warmth, bringing me to Arcata, CA for a room. In the morning I saw this flash (or should I say flashback) from the past.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but when I went out to dinner the night before at the local all you can eat Chinese buffet, an old feller told me Route 96 was closed due to forest fires. C’mon! Now where to? I checked the weather to the south toward Frisco. It wasn’t great either. At this point I decided go west across Route 299. I rode across 299 once before in 2009 but it was raining hard and cold. Plus, I was going in the opposite direction. I may have lost my Route 96 adventure, but I could look at 299 in a new perspective and direction. Besides this was Bigfoot country.
Route 299 rolls along the Trinity River, east to west.
Shasta is an old ming town directly along Route 299.
How I love a ghost town. Oh surprise, surprise! Here we are at another prison in the basement of the courthouse turned museum.
The old courthouse is one of the oldest preserved buildings in the town of Shasta. It is now a museum with part of it recreated to the look as it did in the 1800’s.
Shawshank or the Ohio State Reformatory was the only prison I planned to visit. All the subsequent journeys to locations of incarcerations have been happenstance.
Welcome to the gallows.
Also in the museum is this little bit of east coast history. It’s a Browning revolver (below) that John Brown used during the raid at Harper’s Ferry. His wife then moved to these parts bringing this weapon with her and here it lies.
Along the road in Shasta this was all that was left from a building’s cold cellar.
I talked for a bit with three young transient dudes looking for what I left on the coast. They were hot and wanted to cool off and they wanted some spare change. I see a lot of transient folks out this way in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Folks floating perhaps fleeing, who knows? Anyway, we talked about our respective journeys. The guy with the tattoos of horns on his forehead wasn’t so chatty but the other two were. One dude told me that he was from Florida and if you ride down dirt roads deep inland you can find stuff. Native American stuff. He said that people used to bury their valuables and then put large boulders over them to mark it for their return seasonally. You can move these boulders and find old stashes.
I stopped at the Stardust, not for the night, but for a moment to obstruct traffic and take this photo.
I switched from 299 to 44. When I visited this area around Lassen Volcano in 2009 this road was closed off. Here you can see the results of that inferno. Far in the background you can see Mt. Shasta.
I was riding along toward the Nevada border when I saw storms ahead. This was unexpected! I thought it was clear sailing. Turns out it was more forest fires. Here you can see the Cali fires as I escape for a night in Carson City.
This would be my shortest visit to Cali in all my crossings. See ya next time Cali!
I got a room in Carson City for a decent price. When I pulled in to the motel parking lot I immediately noticed a few primo vintage vehicles. I didn’t even stop to look at my room first. I went straight for the cars.
There were some folks sitting on folding chairs near these beauties. I asked them if there was a show in town. One of the gentlemen said, ” Well today was the big day, some may show up tomorrow, but we won’t.” Alrighty then.
I have been having way to many Subway sandwiches for dinner. It’s hard to eat well when you are on the go go go! Tonight I would opt for the $7.95 dinner special at the Nugget.
Inside the Nugget. Yes it is! The Batmobile!
And how cool is the batphone? State of the art badass!
I parked in front of Cactus Jack’s across the street from the Nugget in Carson City.
In the morning I went to that place where those fellas from the motel parking lot were the day before. The car show took place in a tree filled park just a few miles from the motel.
The park was filled with these gorgeous vehicles all in primo condition.
What an unexpected treat to be here for this show. The cars were immaculate and the setting perfectly appropriate.
This golden rusty beauty was headed out and calling it a day. Beyond notice that Shelby Cobra and a Porshe like the one James Dean took his last ride in.
As I pulled out of the park and on to the local highway, in the other direction came those fellas from the motel parking lot who would not be coming to the show today. Alrighty then!
To the Northeast of Carson City is a series of 3 old mining towns. There is Silver City followed by Gold Hill and then the very popular Virginia City.
I drove past Silver City. It seems to be very active still. At Gold Hill was this fine looking old building. It was once the Post Office.
This building was behind the post office. It looks like a giant vault of sorts.
Then I rode into Virginia City. To the left in this photo is the Old Washoe Club. I have to admit I am a sucker for those ghost shows on TV. This was one of the locations visited by Ghost Adventures.
This is the Fourth Ward School from 1876.
I hung out about the town for a while. It’s a very touristy type of place, but it is a legitimate old mining town.
Even in Virginia City there were the old vintage beauties. That’s a ’63 split window Corvette.
And as I headed east more vintage hot rods passed me by. I saw a local paper at a gas station. Apparently there were numerous hot rod shows in Reno and throughout the area this weekend.
Next I would visit my most dreaded place…the Interstate. There are only 3 major arteries one can take to go east across Nevada. I had taken the other two, so here we go across I80. Having no fairing on my bike makes Interstate travel very difficult in the hot western states. Plus I hate it. The speed limit is 75, but no one does that. So it’s 75 plus mph driving in seriously hot, windy conditions. It takes a physical toll and after a while is emotionally draining.
As if the pains of the Interstate weren’t enough, while trying to adjust my swampy butt on the seat, I lifted myself up and BAM!!! My foot peg broke off and my foot hit the pavement at 75 plus mph!!! Imagine that! I was completely freaked out and wasn’t sure what happened at first. You know you do that initial inventory thing. What happened? Am I hurt? Is my foot even there? Did I run something over? Nothing makes sense for the first few seconds. Then.. Shit! I pulled over and walked back for the peg. Snapped right off! And this is not the first time this has happened. It happened in New Mexico a few years ago but then I was hardly moving. I was in a parking lot. I love my Bonnie but this is a serious flaw. Bad things could happen. As a rider you need to have the confidence that you can put your full weight on your pegs.
Having a foot peg snap off before gave me the sense to carry an extra long bolt with some nuts in my tool kit to use for just this scenario. Afterward, while at a gas station this guy approached me. His name is Jim Fox. He used to race bikes. He told me he had won some national races in the 70’s and early 80’s. He rode with me to a nearby hardware store to get some additional pieces to reinforce my newly rigged peg. Notice his boots. He said he used to race in all red white and blue leathers. Then he slapped his belly and said, “Can’t wear those anymore.”
He was going to be headed up to Sturgis in a few days. He’s been going for twenty five plus years. He spoke of ways of doing it cheap including showering at the community center and camping outside of town. Jim says he prefers riding at night. I can’t imagine. He also spoke highly of a guy with a bike shop in Cali. So if you are in the area, Jim says Joe England is a wizard. http://englandsspeedshop.com/Contact_us.html
I hopped off an exit once in a while for gas and a beverage. Sometimes an old building would strike me.
Then I rode out to a state park outside of Elko, NV. This shot is from the morning because it was dark by the time I arrived. I hate arriving to set up camp after dark. Plus riding on desolate roads at night makes me uncomfortable.
In the morning I headed for Utah. As I flew along those roads (I was blind to the night before), two male proghorns or antelope flew across the road no more than 30 feet in front of me. They were at full sprint. And they are a lot bigger at this vantage point than they look when you see them grazing in a field from your periphery. It’s just a matter of timing with these things. Pure chance. There are no evasive maneuvers one can pull off if they are charging. In Texas a few years ago I had deer charge me like that. But not 30 feet ahead, they were headed right for me. I missed the first by inches as he passed before me and the second leaped over me. The third cleared. LUCK! That’s it! Fortunately I’m a lucky man!
Another reason for taking the blasted Interstate (besides being one of only three ways to cross Nevada horizontally) was that it is the only way to access the Bonneville Salt Flats. As you cross from West Wendover, Nevada into Wendover, Utah the salt flats are the first thing you see.
It’s massive, which is the whole point for using it to set speed records. No matter how fast you go, you are not going to run into anything.
Once again, Bonnie meet Bonnie.
I was proud of myself for flying down the speedway, then a friend of mine asked if I tried closing my eyes. With a full load and many thousands of miles to go, probably not a good idea. But damn, had I thought of it I probably would have tried. Who knows? Maybe next time!
Actually I couldn’t play around at the salt flats as much as I would have liked. Storms seem to be the real theme of this trip out west. There was a doozy headed for right for me so I made my way toward Salt Lake City. What do you know, more storms. The one below was kind enough to part like an open curtain allowing me to pass unscathed.
It felt great to pass through a storm without getting wet. Then I approached Salt Lake City and there was another. A huge storm was sitting atop the mountains where I planned on spending the night.
When I arrived at the first town before those mountains to fill up for gas, I made the decision to stay. I got a motel next to a truck stop and called it a night.
In the truck parking lot next door, these guys were making the best of the storm that had now passed.
In the morning I was hoping for a fresh start, meaning a dry day. This was not to be.
I had a couple more storms to conquer before this day was done.
There were a few breaks here and there so I could undo my tank bag from it’s protective covering and break out my camera.
Dig the old deco styling on this old service station.
As more rain started dropping I decided to hide out in Mom’s Cafe. I felt bad coming in there dripping wet as I was. But they were accommodating and let me spread out my gear.
The plan for this night would be to camp out at Capital Reef. I have been there before, but it’s got a nice campground and was on my way as I was headed south. Besides, depending on the weather and time of day it may look very different than it had before. I got excited as the sun had popped out as I approached.
On the left, blue. In the middle, the sign welcoming you to Capital Reef. On the right, well that’s where the campsite is of course. And these storms were moving from right (south) to left (north) all day.
Unbelievably, that storm ended up moving away from the campsite and the golden hour was upon the reef.
After being beat down by storms all day, the sun gave me great relief and an additional treat to the already magnificent view.
I came here last year with my girlfriend Jillian. We had a really nice time. Missing you babe!
I was headed to the bathroom at the campsite, when I stopped in my tracks. There was a bat flying in a sort of figure eight movement back and forth between the doors of the men’s and women’s room munching on bugs under the lights. It was wildly fast and repetitive. After taking a few photos I timed my charge to the bathroom between the bat’s turnaround on the ladies side and ran for the door.
In the morning the river was flowing like run off from Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
In the center of this photo you can see a pronghorn from the vantage point I prefer. Cute, small and far away, unlike those big suckers in Nevada.
Last year Jillian and I were attacked by a swarm of hungry mosquitoes while taking photos by this old cement truck.
I continued past Hanksville where the Hollow Mountain gas station can be found and headed toward Glens Canyon. There is another road that runs perpendicular from here. It will take you to Goblins State Park. That is a freaky place!
On to Glens Canyon.
This road crosses a bridge which spans the Colorado River as it opens up to create Lake Powell. However, Lake Powell should be visible behind me. All the green that you see used to be well underwater.
To the left of my rear bag (and way below) you may notice a whitish patch. That is the boat ramp that should allow access to the lake. But there is no lake. I camped out down there once and bathed in the lake come morning. It’s hard to believe that it’s just not there. Understand, Lake Powell still exists. Down by Page, AZ where the dam is, the lake is there. It’s a huge lake. But at this end it’s dried up.
Here is the bridge that crosses the Colorado.
A lot of my trip at this point is spontaneous. In my planning I was going to seek out more of the Hovenweep ruins. They are spread out over various sites on the Utah, Colorado border. However I did want to get further south and go places I had not been before. So I took a short cut.
This shortcut brings you to a 3 mile dirt switchback taking you down into Monument Valley. The road to the right is the continuation of the road I am on! And the smaller one that branches out to the left is a dirt road which travels through the Valley of the Gods. Jillian and I were there too last year, but we didn’t take this route to get there.
From the top…
…to the bottom. And back to pavement.
These rock formations outside of Mexican Hat, Utah are some of my favorites. Not just the upside down sombrero that the town is named after, but the entire erratic patterns and lines created by the mountains in the background.
As phenomenal as this place was I wasn’t sticking around.
I snapped a few pictures on the go and then headed on down into Arizona.
In case one misses the Welcome to Arizona sign coming out of Monument Valley toward Kayenta, this giant monolith of seemingly misplaced stone will let you know you are in Arizona. This is not to be confused with Shiprock in New Mexico. Similar in shape, very different in size. Sarah Palin can see Shiprock from Alaska!
From Kayenta I flew down to Sunset Crater and the Wupatki Ruins. I really wanted to try and catch some of that late day sun on the ruins.
As I approached, things looked good. There was a big storm to the west, but the sun was still shining. Hmmmm. Should I go straight down the highway and get a campsite first, then hope for some light? Or should I risk the 30+ mile NPS road on the chance that you get spectacular setting light on the ruins. Well of course I went for the latter. I made that left turn onto a dark, thin, black, asphalt road. The dry tall grass was glowing a luminescent yellow as I zipped along this ebony roller coaster. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the first ruins the sun was blocked by that damn storm. Sun or not, they are still beautiful.
I am fascinated everytime I encounter one I have not seen before. These are America’s castles.
If these storms are not on top of me they are screwing up my shots. But just before the sun dropped it found a little sliver to shine through and blast an orange glow on the citadel ruins.
Then it got dark fast. Frighteningly dark! I was on a twisty, hilly, unlit, unmarked, National Park road still about 20 miles from the campsite. To add to the scare, my face shield is a bit tinted and there were dozens of little bunnies and large Jackrabbits darting across the road. Each one scaring the shit out of me! I would only see movement at first. Could have been an elk for all I knew? Perhaps a Jackalope! I have had some close calls and I have to admit at times like these I get a bit jittery. To add to the drama it was cold and I had no food for dinner. Ha!
Oh! Did I mention the bats? At least I knew to look for mammal movement on the ground. Those bats can come out of anywhere! Once I finally found the campsite, I went to look for food before setting up. First I snapped off that tinted bubble shield and put on a pair of clear goggles. Whoa! What a difference. But it still sucked. My memory told me to make a right turn out of the park for food. Oh those bats!. They’ve got moves. But then one had a bad move, right into my chest. Ahhhhhh! I felt it flap a couple times before flopping off to my right. Aw Shit! Gross!
By now I realized that the town I was thinking of for food, was not where I remembered it to be. It was in the other direction. I turned around, totally freaked out by the dark and the bat thing of course. And still I had no food. And still I had not even set up my tent yet! But that’s the way it goes on the road. Sometimes everything falls into place. Sometimes it’s a disaster. I eventually found a gas station and got a crappy sandwich and headed for camp.
In the morning everything was fine and I woke up early to see the ruins. I didn’t know what the weather would bring. I only knew at this moment things looked good. So I hopped on Bonnie and had a look at that crazy bunny hopping road from the night before. Now that I think about it. I think my headlight sucks. I am having halogens put on her when I get home and my foot pegs welded to the frame.
Now I could see what I passed in the dark the night before. I rode by the lava stuff quickly.
I was eager to get to the ruins. I first went to the Wukoki Ruins.
I saw a sign for them the night before but it was too dark to visit them or the larger Wupatki Ruins. But today, they would be magnificent!
Out popped one of those damn bunnies that was shooting across the road last night here to say good morning.
Then on to the Wupatki Pueblo down the road a bit. This place is phenomenal and because I was so early I had the place to myself.
From hunter-gatherers to farmers, herders, ranchers, and caretakers, many people have called Wupatki home. (I ripped that from the NPS website).
By the time I got back to the campsite it was cloudy and beginning to drizzle. I quickly packed everything up and hit the road. That drizzle got progressively stronger as I rode into it. I pulled over for gas and to get some coffee. I was now at the place I had searched for the night before.
I sat outside under the overhang when Boom! Lighting was popping everywhere, but this one took out the town’s power.
Turns out pulling over here was somewhat fortuitous. This dude pulls in from San Diego on a Harley. He was here to sit out the storm for a bit. At first no words were exchanged. He probably felt the same way as me. Tired and fed up with the weather. Eventually we started talking, that’s how I knew he was from San Diego. He was on his way home from Seattle, where he was visiting his nephew before he goes off for college. He seemed to know his way around a bike too. I mentioned my chain was loose. I knew something had to be done, but I hadn’t made the move. He said, “Hell, as long as you are stuck here, why don’t you make some calls to Flagstaff.” That is just what I did. The first shop didn’t have my fit, but they recommended Mike’s Bikes! Score!
Mike’s Bikes is an old school bike shop with Mike and his two serious and conscientious mechanics. They hooked me up. The mechanic pulled one bike off the lift and rolled Bonnie on. He replaced the chain, tightened some other parts up and lubed her all around. Fortunately my sprockets were still in good shape and I was good to go! Thank you! That chain had been bugging me. I was spraying the shit out of it but it was stretched out and shot.
I also found out I should avoid the road to Sedona. An old timer hanging out at the bike shop told me it’s a mess down there. I took the Interstate south instead from where you could see and smell the Sedona fires.
I headed down to Montezuma’s Well. The well was formed by the collapse of a limestone cavern. Over a million gallons of water a day flow into the well making it a prime location for warm fresh water.
Along the rim of the well are some cliff dwellings. 11 miles away is a place called Montezuma’s Castle, a most impressive, multi-storied cliff dwelling that I visited a few years ago.
As I continued south toward Phoenix it got real hot and I began to notice giant cactus growing all around. I hopped off the interstate when I saw a sign that said Bumble Bee. I remembered reading about a ghost town by that name. This off ramp quickly turned into a wicked switchback and then to dirt with a sign that said 6 or so more miles of dirt to get to Bumble Bee. I turned around, so all I got from that excursion was this big ass cactus photo.
People in the Phoenix area drive fast. Real fast. The speed limit was 75. I was doing 85, and I was being passed by folks on my right and left. What a hot, brutal ride! I finally got past Phoenix and was looking for a place to camp out for the night. A guy at a gas station told me of a couple of places. One was along Route 88, which is where I had planned on riding. He told me that road is unkept and dangerous. He also told me about the Lost Dutchman State Park. It was closer. That’s where I stayed on this night.
This campsite in the hot desert east of Phoenix was like no place I have ever stayed before. It’s called The Lost Dutchman State Park. Apparently there is much lore in these parts about the Lost Dutchman, some crazy old miner. Also, it sits below the Superstition Mountains.
It’s a big park and apparently I was the only one on this Earth who even thought of this desert campground as a viable option in August. Because I had no electricity at my site, I went to the bathroom area and set up shop there for a while. They had an outdoor outlet so I set up on a ledge and checked out some photos and whatnot. If you camp throughout the states you will learn that there are different sounds for different places. The Lost Dutchman exposed me to a sound I had not yet heard. The coyotes howling in the background were a commonplace sound out west, but then I heard some rustling. I could tell there was more than one of these critters. And I could tell they were not small. Then I thought I saw something go by. Then another. Then the sound! It was a snort. The sort of snort I’ve only heard at farms. Like a Big Hog Snort! Wild Boar? What were they? Jillian sometimes does a little research on the places I am headed and she let me know they were what you call Javelina. Never heard of ’em. Apparently they are much like wild boar. The wild boar of the west. Nothing good could come of this. I held my place. They seemed to linger for a while on the periphery of the brush before me. Eventually I didn’t hear them anymore and my next distraction awaited me. Whatever that would be, there’s always something.
The next morning I got up fairly early. Different bird sounds here in the morning too. The desert is an intriguing place, but it’s too damn hot! On the way into the state park the day before I noticed a tourist type of ghost town. Of course they can’t be taken seriously, but they certainly have their own kitchy charm.
It was early and like my time at Wupatki, I was the only guest there.
A couple shops were open including the cafe. I went in as I hadn’t had breakfast yet. No one was inside at first. Then an older tattooed woman with a British accent walked in and asked what I would like. I asked what the difference was between a regular lemonade and a prickly pear lemonade. She said she made the prickly pear lemonade this morning and it’s good. I’ll have one. The grill wasn’t open, but she gave great descriptions of some pastries that were freshly made. I had some apple strudley thing, with whip cream on the side. She said she took it with the whip cream. She was right. It was good. We talked about all sorts of things and then I asked about that Route 88 I talked about at the gas station the day before. She said, “No, no, no, you don’t want to be taking that road. So many sad stories.” She proceeded to tell me one about 3 (what she called) lovely European folks who had breakfast and chatted with her. The three left and about 20 minutes later only one returned in a complete panic. The others were dead. The other two spent their last day on Route 88. Two local warnings is enough for me.
Here you can see the Superstitious Mountains in the background.
I opted for Route 60 instead of the forewarned 88. Still a scenic route that ended up in the same location not that far east of here.
These two gentlemen came roaring past me side by side. They kept this side by side formation as I stayed behind them for many a mile.
Miami, Arizona is a copper mining town. If you time lapsed this shot, after a while you could watch this mountain slowly disappear.
As you enter Miami, there is this shrine on the side of the road. I’m not sure why it’s here, and it didn’t say why.
Welcome to Miami.
More storms in the background. After last night’s scorcher perhaps a bed tonight.
I got a room at a place called Reeds Lodge in Springerville, Arizona.
With the storm coming it was nice to give Bonnie some shelter as well.
I was on to New Mexico but somehow forgot a day in the life during my Arizona travels.
There was another ruin I wanted to see called the Kinishba Ruins on the Apache Reservation. To get there I had to ride on another twisty road through the Salt River Canyon.
I had never heard of this canyon before so it was a pleasant surprise on my way to the Apache Reservation.
By the time I arrived at the reservation ominous clouds lay ahead again. I have to admit the weather has been taking a toll on me physically and mentally. But I keep calm and carry on.
Then I got to the road leading to the ruins. It was a rough road that lead to dirt. At the entrance to the road was an old wooden sign stating that if you were not Apache you must have a permit to enter. It also warned of flash flood wash outs.
The road conditions and warnings should have been enough to turn me around but I continued. Then the road got worse and I saw strange movement to the right. It was a bunch of vultures taking flight from a dead horse. It’s not the first dead horse I have seen on these cross country trips, but this was the extra push I needed to about face.
I was bummed that I would not be seeing these ruins but fortunately there was another historical site in the area. Fort Apache.
Camp Orde was the first post here in 1870. It would grow under various names over the next 9 years until For Apache was established in 1879 and remained active until 1922.
General George Cooke became commander here in 1871. He recruited Apache scouts to help his army in the eventual capture of Geronimo in 1886.
It was difficult to tell which direction this storm was moving. Unfortunately phone service was difficult to get on the reservation so I couldn’t check the radar. It has been difficult to get a phone signal on a number of the reservations I have visited.
As has been the continuous saga of this trip, I got wet again. It has been the coldest wettest summer I have ever experienced and it wasn’t over yet.
I got a room at the border which I shared in the last post, then entered New Mexico in the morning.
In one small town I passed this sign that reminded me of the sign from MASH. It said NYC was 2483 miles away. Not on the path I would be taking.
This is a monument to Elfego Baca in Reserve, NM. He was a Mexican that stood up to the abuses by some American Cowboys and sought revenge for those that could not defend themselves. As a result of his actions the atrocities here stopped.
Outside of town, I stopped to put the rain gear back on. It seems there are still some gun toting bad boys having their fun in these parts.
Next I was headed east to see the Three Rivers Petroglyph site. On the way the road opened up and I could see more storms ahead.
To the side of the road was the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. You can also see that the rains were just beyond the observatory obscuring the mountains and the winds were kicking up.
I rode through a couple small towns. The sun popped out just for a minute to give me a nice shot of this old bank turned cafe in Magdelena.
Had I taken this photo below on July 16, 1945, I would not be here to tell about it.
This is the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was detonated.
I arrived at a small town called Carrizozo just before dark and got a cheap room for the night.
In the morning I would visit the last of my wild west curiosities, The Three Rivers Petroglyph site.
At this location are more than 21,000 petroglyphs.
They were created by ancient native people between 1000 and 1400 AD.
From here I had the depressing task of putting the mountains behind me and heading east. I made one last stop for gas in the mountains at a questionable unmanned gas pump. There were signs around from neighboring businesses (like the one in front of that white pick up truck) letting you know they have nothing to do with these pumps. Apparently they are not reliable. Fortunately they worked for me because it would have been some serious backtracking to get fuel in the previous town.
Then the always heartbreaking, inevitable sight of nothing. The mountains were now to the west as I headed east. I was riding the high plains on a straight shot toward Texas. It’s always emotionally draining to leave the rockies. But it was time to change my focus and begin my long trek home.
Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi. Moving East!
Drifting across the high plains. Oh, the pain of the plains. A sudden change from vertical glory to a horizontal line of endless horizon is now all that awaits. Below is a photo looking back at the quickly shrinking mountain range in the great beyond. At least the weather was getting nicer.
Occasionally you may encounter a crevice in the Earth as you pass. It’s a welcome break in the monotony of this great nothingness. Any pimple on that horizontal plane is welcome sight. A hill is a thrill.
The vast scenery of dry grass is eventually dotted with oil pumps sucking up the precious nectar from deep below that keeps our machines rolling along our journeys. The pumps get thicker and the grass less prominent although strangely there seems to be more cows surrounding this industrial complex than back amongst the endless miles of grazing fields I’ve passed since the mountains.
The first town worth mention as I head east is named after what I have just witnessed, Plains, Texas.
This route would then take me through many towns slowly decaying over the years.
This was Route 82. It would take me all the way across the northeastern rim of Texas and into Arkansas.
Sometimes you will find a town that has put some effort into restoring the grandeur of yesteryear.
You might think it’s a movie set, but it’s the real deal.
I tried a local snack. I kept it in the sun under my bungee net for a while so it was an ooey gooey mess when I bit into it. Don’t think I will be trying another, but it held me over until I could find something more substantial.
After all this depressing scenery I yearned for some type of historical site or some point of interest. I found it at this unassuming local museum. The museum wasn’t open , but I heard of an interesting item in the carport that you could visit even when the museum was closed.
Hanging by straps from the rafters of the carport is the tail section of the plane that crashed here in Dekalb on New Year’s Eve in 1985 killing the former teen idol, Ricky Nelson. He was in fact the first person the term teen idol had been applied to by LIFE magazine. He also played the part of Cherokee in one of the great John Wayne movies along with Dean martin, Rio Bravo. Here’s a great musical number from that movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpXp90wi8MQ
And below the tail section of the plane that took down Ricky Nelson and members of his band.
I found a great campsite at Bonham State Park.
It was thickly wooded along a lake.
And best of all, I was the only one there besides the camp host who was far from my site. There was plenty of wood to gather here as well. Always a plus!
Throughout the night there are the ever changing sounds of the nocturnal activities. Here I had coyotes in the background. A pesky raccoon came to visit. He was bold, but eventually got the hint he wasn’t welcome and scurried off. Then there was this occasional thumping sound. The sound was scattered from spot to spot out there in the darkness. Every once in a while a heavy thump sound! It was one of those, “What the hell was that?” kind of sounds. Not scary but puzzling.
This mystery was solved the next morning when I found this giant fruit or nut on the ground. This sucker is heavy and they were dropping throughout the night.
I rolled through Paris, Texas. Not much to report here, but an old sign is always cool.
Someone had a plane in their yard.
I crossed into Arkansas. The trees got thicker. In fact, there wasn’t much else to see but these trees for some time. I even saw a bunch of logging trucks. But I don’t really have much to show as I crossed this part of Arkansas. I was hoping to fly across Arkansas and into Mississippi before nightfall anyway.
My goal of crossing the Mississippi River was dashed as the sun set and I rode to Lake Chicot State Park in Lake Village, AK. I was blasted by bugs as I made my approach to the park. I set up the tent in the dark as I often do.
Faintly over the sounds of crickets and tree fogs I could hear a strong steady hum on the horizon. I am still in Arkansas but the mighty Mississippi River is but a few miles away. And that roar is the sound of a monstrous tugboat giving an assist down that twisty, chocolate, liquid highway. I know that sound. I was born a New Orleans boy.
In the morning I got up to have a look at things that I couldn’t see as I had gotten there in the dark. Chicot Lake was lined with beautiful cyprus trees all around. All the little rooted knobs you see here are called Cypress Knees. Normally they are just beneath or barely poking out of the water’s surface. Obviously the lake was dry.
I left the park and noticed another little gem hidden from me the night before. On this location Charles Lindbergh made his first night flight. In April 1923 the young mail pilot had engine trouble and landed his plane here. That evening he took his host, Mr. Henry for a moonlight flight down the Mississippi River and over Lake Village. It was his first night flight.
Then I crossed the Mississippi River. (Always a noted milestone in any coast to coast adventure.) Unless you’re north of Bemidji, you’re gonna cross it.
Across the river I visited the Winterville Mounds. It’s the second tallest mound in Mississippi next to Emerald Mound. The platform mound here was build by native americans between 1200 and 1400.
Mississippi is filled with old abandoned stores, schools, churches and homes.
I rode north along the great river for a while then got lost in Clarksville. If it weren’t so hot and muggy I might have enjoyed exploring this town more. It is rich with history from the early days of the Delta Blues.
But I was on my way to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Along the Natchez Trace are a number of native american mounds as well. I had ridden south from Tupelo following the Natchez Trace to it’s southernmost point a few years ago. This time I would once again start in Tupelo but head in the opposite direction completing the Trace to the north in Tennessee.
Tennessee to New York. Going Home.
I forgot to mention this curious milestone while riding across Texas. When crossing certain parts of the country there really are times when there is not much to see or do, there is just time to think and ride. I knew the sixes were going to be rounding the odometer soon so I planned this shot. To ham it up a little I went the perfect speed.
Now on to Tennessee. Actually this is me crossing the Tennessee River in Alabama. The Natchez Trace Parkway cuts across the Northwestern portion of Alabama. Tennessee is still a few miles from here.
I was finally riding peacefully along the parkway when I see a Park Ranger standing in the middle of the road waving me down. He said I had to exit. I’ve dealt with detours before on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This one was a little different in that there were no directions. Just a “You must exit here.” I asked, “Then what?” He says he doesn’t know. I asked when can I get back on. He said he doesn’t know. Another Ranger pulls up. He asked her how long before I could get back on. She says, “I don’t know, but it’s a long way!” Really? That’s the answer? What is this the Keystone Cops of the Natchez Trace? I exit and ride blindly along. The sun is setting so I know where West is. I try to continue in the right direction. After about 40 minutes on the road I found an entrance to the Parkway. I figured there would be a ranger directing people coming South to exit the parkway. There was no one. Nothing. People were riding in both directions as if there was never an issue. Weird.
As a result of this silly excursion I ended up at a campsite after dark again. It’s always something. I must say though, the campsites along the Natchez Trace are great because they are free! This place was especially dark. With the light of my headlamp, I set up the tent and prepared for rain. It rained a little. I had no signal here to check radar. I had to be prepared for anything. A raccoon showed up during the night and made off with a gift I got for Jillian. A raccoon is not discerning. If they see a bag, they will grab it and run. They can then check for food later. They are not dumb creatures like deer. Fortunately I immediately chased after this sucker and he dropped the bag half way down a hill.
I was prepared for that coon. I was not however prepared for this giant spider. This sucker was fast. He was about 4 inches leg to leg and hopped side to side like a freaking bunny. I have heard so much about the Brown Recluse Spider and it’s bite. I knew I did not want one. I thought this guy might be one of those Recluse suckers adding to my anxiety. I looked him up since. He ain’t Brown Recluse, just a speedy freak of a brown furry arachnoid.
This next stop was an appropriate destination for this trip. On my way west I visited the supposed gravesite of Sacagawea, the guide Lewis and Clark used on their westward adventure. Now here in Tennessee was the final resting place of Meriwether Lewis, the man Thomas Jefferson chose to lead the famous journey to explore the newly acquired Louisiana territories. They were attempting to find a waterway to the Pacific and I have visited many locations from their incredible trip.
This stone foundation is all that remains of the Inn where Meriwether Lewis’s was at the time of his death. There is mystery surrounding Meriwether Lewis’s death. Some say he took his own life, others say he may have been murdered. Either way it’s sad. He was only 35 years old.
Below is the Gordon House. It is one of the few remaining houses associated with the old Natchez Trace Trail. This house dates back to 1818. The Gordon family operated a trading post and ferry crossing from here. The ferry crossed here for 90 years until a bridge was built in 1896.
This is a rare moment without my jacket on this trip. I wore my jacket nearly the entire summer. Not just for protection, I was cold.
A little Dukes of Hazard action in a local town.
I was now headed east and off to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I had two choices as I approached the Blue Ridge Parkway. I could take either the Cherohala Skyway across the mountains (probably the wiser choice), or I could ride the Dragon. The Tail of the Dragon is Route 129. It takes you through 318 curves in 11 miles. It has become a right of passage for many bikers. It has also been the last ride for many bikers.
Fully loaded and having a bolt as a foot peg left me weary about riding this road. Not to mention it was getting dark (a constant battle I keep facing). I’ve ridden it before. I know what I’m up against.
Moving east on 129 there is a pull over where many bikers riding the Dragon stop for a rest. From here it is hairy as you serpentine through unreal twists cutting the thick forested mountain.
I made it through unscathed. It can scare the shit out of you if you push it. And you have to push it!
Those who don’t make it are memorialized in the Tree of Shame.
There were a lot of custom vintage bikes here at Deals Gap. The Dragon leaves you here in Deals Gap, NC if you ride it west to east. I figured I would camp out here, but I had no food and the Deals Gap store and gas station were closed.
So I rode 12 miles to the Fontana Resort for supplies, then I would go back to Deals Gap and have some biker fun!
As I approached Fontana the fog was accumulating on the river and spilling out to the road at eye level. They had a campsite at Fontana Dam so I figured I had better not ride back to Deals Gap in the dark and fog.
That night the storms came down with a vengeance. I had to get up at dawn a cut a quick trench with my tomahawk to drain the water that was pooling outside my tent.
The Fontana Dam is the highest dam west of the Rockies. That’s what I was told by a local fisherman. My tent is just to the right of those trees.
Gunter Cabin is on the Fontana Resort property.
My stuff got pretty wet. I decided to stay another night because more rain was predicted, besides I was pretty beat up from a month on the road. I could use some rest. This night I would build extra flashing around my tent to protect my stuff from the rain.
When I finally left I rode to the top of that dam. The patch of grass along the river is the campsite where I stayed. Other than that it is a deep forest.
After two solid days of rain I figured I was safe to have a leisurely ride home on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Those hopes for a leisurely ride were obscured by a wicked fog. It got so bad that not only did that vehicle in front of me disappear, I could no longer see that yellow stripe in the road. On top of that it began raining again as it had periodically throughout the day.
I had to get a hotel. It was too dangerous to continue.
The next day I would go visit a good friend from college whom I hadn’t seen in at least 15 years. The fog hadn’t lifted so I was not about to take the Blue Ridge. I can’t say whether I made the right decision or not. I got clobbered by rain and fog all the way to Floyd, VA where my friend Pete lived.
After more hours of riding through the twisty mountains in the rain and trekking up a 3 mile wet dirt road, I showed up at Pete’s . The twisties have lost their thrill. I was soaked and exhausted!
Pete was bragging about the views that are normally there. He said this fog was like nothing he had ever seen. There should be multiple mountain ranges seen from this vantage point. On this day it would be more fog.
With a short break from the rain Pete showed me around his 17 acre property. It was good to see Pete.
I had to stay 3 nights to see how it looked in the sunlight. It is really a great place in a pristine location. Many a tree house could be built here.
It’s a beautiful home designed to get sunlight all day in all seasons.
Up the mountain is the guest house. Even further up the mountain is a gazebo where you can get a 360 degree view.
Deer were regularly grazing on the lawn here.
Me and Pete, 30 years after college.
It was great hanging with Pete and his housemate Bob. Bob once had quite the cross country adventure himself. He and his brother created something called the Freedom Train. It was an old steam engine they owned that pulled a rolling museum throughout the 48 states over 2 years to celebrate the United States Bicentennial.
This old service station is along the dirt road that leads to Pete’s.
Knowing that it was finally going to be a sunny day, I popped off my bubble shield and gave these goggles a try. They are made to work with this helmet but I am not sure I like them. They are really large and block a lot of my peripheral vision, but I hadn’t had my face exposed to the elements for this entire trip, so that felt good.
I stayed the night with my brother and his wife. We stayed up late even though they had to work the next day. I probably should have stayed longer but I was eager to get back home. In the morning some of the neighborhood kids helped me wash and pack up the bike. The kids loved the goggles and helmet. They said it was like wearing riot gear.
From Maryland I rode back to NYC and hopped a ride out to Fire Island to see Jillian.
Coast to Coast 2014 complete! Thanks for following along!