2010 Coast to Coast
July 4, 2010
OK, OK, part 3 begins today. With near 100 degree weather headed toward the East Coast I will head West. I wanted to head out on July 4th the last two years, but there were problems. The first year the guys at the shop downtown were still giving me the run around. Last year my bike was stolen on Memorial Day weekend. But this year I will hit that July 4th target. I think I have all my gear together. I never installed the cigarette lighter power cord, but I have it with me and will install it on the way. I have some new gear and much of the same. My Bonnie is ready. I hope I am too. All I can say for now is…LET”S GO! There is a lot more to come!
I was pretty sure I was ready. The bike was fully loaded. I was itching to roll. Before I took off, I asked a passerby to snap a picture of me. It was at that moment that I realized I was wearing running shoes and my waterproof riding boots were still in my apartment. Oops.
So then I was off. I wasn’t really sure how far I was going to go. I called my friend Dave in Frederick, MD before I left. That was my first stop last year. How could I resist. We caught the crest of the fireworks in Frederick as his kids were getting ready for bed.
Dave and his wife Joi have a new addition to the family since my last visit. Say hello to Sam.
He’s a tiny little bugger and seems to wear a smile like it was a part of his skin. And then there is my favorite little biker girl Noa. A year older.
She is darling. She made me feel good too. After dinner she sang a Pat song she made up, and before I left she did a Pat cheer! She kept telling me, “Pat, I like you!” I like you too kiddo!
The next morning it was time to venture to new lands. In Virginia I passed a house once owned by George Washington.
Then I road through the rolling hills of West Virginia. West Virginia Mountain Mamas served up some good riding through twisty foot peg scraping roads. It always freaks me out when those pegs scrape the ground, especially when I am fully loaded. Big Thrills! And lots of good old Americana along the way.
I went to Blackwater Falls. I had been here once before, many years ago. I remember a lot about that trip, but don’t remember the actual falls, so I had to check em out.
On this journey I have seen a number of abandoned schools. I am assuming that’s because they built new schools. But after meeting some locals one has to wonder.
I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little queezy. Could be the heat. It’s been over 100 degrees in the daytime. Sometimes I am a little over eager to get up and check things out without concern for things like eating and drinking. When I saw this sign I felt the need to investigate.
Cool, right. So without breakfast I headed up this path. It was a steep uphill climb. With each turn of the switchback there were interesting facts to wet your appetite for what was to come.
And so I continued that climb. Upward to the fort I ignored my yearning for the basic needs like water. The forested path opened up as I reached the top. Tall brush prevented me from seeing the fort. I still needed to round one more turn. And then…this.
A canon and a porta a potty is all that marks this landmark where apparently a fort once stood. Not a great way to start the day.
So I rolled along. I got a hardy breakfast at a Waffle House and chugged a lot of iced tea. I had one of those good ol’ Southern stye waitresses who overflowed with “darlins” and “babys”. “OK darlin, can I get ya some more tea baby!”
There were lots of road signs in Kentucky to visit the many bourbon distilleries. I road by just one that wasn’t open for tours.
It is inevitable that some local guy at a gas stop will ask me the same question once we get to talking and they find out I am traveling and camping alone. “Are you packing?” It seems everyone carries a gun but me. I told this guy Earl that I cross too many state lines to be packing. He said he doesn’t go anywhere without his 38 under the seat. I asked Earl about some good roads as I had gotten lost after a truck jack knifed on my desired route. He suggested 93 South. He said he has taken it when he enters the Bass fishing tournaments down there. So what is the great appeal with the guns. Maybe I should find out?
When I stepped inside this gun range I immediately heard the guy behind the counter talking to this old dude sitting on a chair. He said, “All I know is I feel sorry for the poor bastard that enters my house unwelcome.” Beside him was a box of posters of Obama they use for target practice (the one with the Joker face), and on the fence outside was a political poster for Rand Paul. Every time I hear that Rand Paul I expect him to be selling chickens a la Perdue. So I thought about renting a gun to fire off a few rounds, but I don’t really know what I’m doing and these fellers didn’t seem like they were the type for teaching me. So I just grabbed a cold drink and some jerky and moved on.
I road along the Ohio River as I headed west. It’s a beautiful ride.
I had planned on camping out once I crossed into Illinois, but I got lost again. As the sun was going down I ended up on a road that turned to dirt. Bugs were everywhere. The dirt road eventually led to a paved road which dead ended at the river. But there was this grand old bank at the river side.
The sun dropped and I was still lost. I rode like a mad man to Harrisburg to get a room. I must have killed a thousand bugs with my face on the way there. But I got a cheap room and had a good night’s sleep. Tonight I should be in Memphis.
Illinois to Texas
It’s been a lot of miles since my last post. So, when I left off I had just crossed the Ohio River and gotten lost. I ended the night at a cheap motel in Harrisburg, Illinois. Seems like ages ago. When I woke up that next morning, I wiped the bugs off my goggles, got some gas and was on my way. Before I turned to leave town I saw this old baby doing time on the side of the road.
Then it was back to my original path, South along the Ohio River. There is a place in Illinois called Garden of the Gods. What type amazing plants must grow there? I was curious. Many places I Google ahead of time. This place I had not researched. It’s one of those places you find marked on your map with a little red dot. And what plant did I find worthy of such a title. No plant at all. Buried within the forest is this magical giant range of rock formations.
I road along steamy roads as I seemed to be just missing a passing storm. Along the Ohio River I went to a place called Cave-in-Rock. Appropriately named. It is just that. If you have ever seen ‘How the West Was Won’, then you know the cave. It’s just like that! In it’s history too. I read that Louis and Clark passed the cave without investigating because of it’s reputation as a hide out for robbers, thieves and gangs. Here is how is looks from the river.
And on this inside. Very Cool. Remember the East Coast heat wave? It was literally, very cool in there. Some needed relief.
And from the inside out. Imagine seeing Louis and Clark floating by.
I saw this guy sucking on the sand. He did not look like any of the butterfly brethren I have seen on the East Coast.
Before the railroad it was the waterways that transported commerce so rivers are lined with many old towns.
This beauty sat outside a general store in one of those old towns.
There were a few sites I was going to visit which I had traveled to before, then I decided against it. One of them was Portsmouth, Ohio. I went there last April with my brother. There are some great murals that line the river there. I wanted to see them again, but it was out of the way so I decided to move on. Much to my pleasant surprise, when I crossed into Paducah, Kentucky from Illinois the same muralist had created a similar wall of paintings depicting the history of the area.
Just beside the murals was this big locomotive.
I continued South on a road which goes through an area called Land Between the Lakes. I was hoping to ride through a preserve they have for elk and buffalo, but a sign at the entrance said “NO MOTORCYCLES”. I did see this old furnace. I’ve signs for furnaces throughout my travels, but this is the first one I’ve actually seen.
I rode through Paris, Kentucky where they have a mini Eifel Tower.
Then I rolled on down to Memphis. There was a huge storm headed toward Memphis coming from the West. It was remnants of the hurricane which hit the Gulf. I wasn’t sure if I would have time to see anything as I was determined to alter my course to avoid the impending storm. Fortunately the storm held off long enough for me to pass by a few sites.
My emotions got the best of me at the next place I stopped.
The Lorraine Motel was the place where Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. When I looked up at that balcony I got real choked up. I had seen it so many times in that iconic photograph of Dr. King laying there as his entourage points to the location of the shots fired. Seeing the location in person was powerful. The motel has since been converted to the Civil Rights Museum.
Then to Graceland. It was killing me that I did not have the time to go inside. I was told it would take at least 3 hours to complete the tour. That storm would have been all over me by then. So I just had my picture taken by a family of ‘little people’ (just stating a fact) and returned to my Bonnie. (not kidding about the little people).
Bonnie must have been upset about Graceland too as she would not start. UGH! I mean nothing. I turned the key and the console lit up, but when I push the starter…nothing. Not a sound. After about 10 or 15 tries she turned over, but this really stressed me out. When I stopped for gas the same thing happened. I figure it was a loose wire, but I just wasn’t sure. And being 102 degrees out I surely did not want to be stranded. Each time I stopped for gas was unsettling. But she would eventually start. I shot down into Mississippi to avoid the storm. The parts I rode through were poor and desolate. I saw many abandoned homes even a couple old churches decaying away.
I was surprised to see the piano still inside.
You know, I am not sure if I had ever been to Arkansas before. I know I’ve never seen Oklahoma and North Dakota. Maybe by the end of this trip I will have seen all the lower 48. So I crossed into Arkansas once I was far enough South to stay dry.
Arkansas started out looking much like Mississippi. Lonely towns with very few people.
As I moved west the flora became more lush and the population grew. When I passed this factory or mill it reminded me of a Sheeler painting.
There is a bayou country in these parts of Arkansas. I got a delicious catfish po-boy before seeking a place to camp. I decided to go to Lake Ouachita State Park. It occurred to me however that it was a Friday night. A campsite on a lake may be full. I pressed on just the same. When I arrived, sure enough it looked packed. I approached the area for tents and a nice guy named Sam came up and told me the people across from him bailed out fearing more rain. So I lucked out big time! A good site with good neighbors. Sam and his family even gave me pancakes and bacon in the morning before I left. They were good company and it was great to have some breakfast to start the day. Thanks again y’all!
When I went to the park office to pay for the site, I asked the girl if they ever see live armadillos because the only ones I see are dead on the side of the road. The man behind me in line interjected, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” “To show the armadillo how it’s done!” Nice!
It’s good when people appreciate the beauty of the past and preserve it for the future as someone did with this fine old Esso station in Mena, Arkansas.
At the end of main street in Mena begins a beautiful road through the mountains. I would compare it to Skyline Drive but more swooping hills and turns. In the photo below you can see how the road continues in the background.
And suddenly this road turned from Route 88 in Arkansas to Route 1 in Oklahoma. Really beautiful. I stopped at a vista where a bunch of members from the local Harley club were taking a rest.
I rode through small spurts of rain but the only thing that really got wet was my legs from drenched roads.
That beautiful mountain road ended so I stopped to check my maps. I don’t know what is says about me that I am so attracted to decaying old structures. But I sure do like em.
Look at this old bank from the early 1900’s in Roff, OK.
Last year I covered a lot of miles in Texas and was surprised that I didn’t see any Longhorns. But here in Oklahoma I did! Aren’t they impressive?
I was feeling tired and thought of finding a motel in Lawton, OK. Lawton however didn’t have much going on and I noticed a place called the Witchita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. They had a campsite, so I headed there. I needed gas and food before stopping for the night. I found this treasure on the way.
A 90 year old woman greeted me at the door. I asked if there was somewhere nearby where I could get food. She said I could get food right there. I knew there was a sign for a restaurant, but it sure looked like an abandoned establishment. But nope. The lady told me they could cook me dinner or breakfast anytime of the day and they had home made pies baked daily. I ordered a chicken fried steak with three sides for $4.99. On the other side of the building from the restaurant was the Indian Store. It smelled funny and had a dog in there that looked as old as the woman. There was also a sign outside for camping, but that was definitely a thing of the past.
From there it was on to the wildlife preserve. I pitched tent just before dark. I sat down and ate my meal. The only thing I had not eaten was the bread soaked in sauce. Then I started a fire. While trying to get the fire started, I thought I heard someone sneaking up on me. I turned around but didn’t see anything. I figured I was just being paranoid. Then I heard it again. It was dark now so I flipped on the flashlight to see a huge raccoon opening the styrofoam container and making off with that slice of dripping bread. I went to throw the rest of scraps away. When I returned the big raccoon came back. He jumped up on the picnic table saw the food was gone and left. I cozied up near the fire and began checking out some of the photos I had taken. Then I heard that damn coon again. This time he was in front of me but because of the computer screen I was blinded to the dark. So again I grabbed the flashlight to shine it on him, but it was no raccoon. Before me stood a huge bull. 15 feet away he just stared at me completely unfazed. This freaked me out! This thing was enormous! That night I didn’t sleep all that well. Besides being hot and sticky, the sounds were incredible. The bugs were screaming, the coyotes were howling and the buffalo and cattle were moaning and grunting. But it was exciting!
The next morning I was talking to Donnie at another campsite. He told me some interesting facts. Facts about how the Wichita Mountains were formed, where the buffalo like to roam, and how to kill a man with a knife. He says he practices the move on his heavy bag at home and gestured his move for me.
The campsite was just across from this pond.
And here is some of the wildlife.
I kept creeping up closer on this guy. Eventually he let out a grunt to let me know that the next step I take could be my last.
And here is a longhorn hefer crossing the road.
I saw some cute prairie dogs too.
Their faces look like bunnies without ears.
I thought only humans were this creative.
I went to the top of one of the mountains and saw many vultures.
And more buffalo.
Now I’ve heard about those mushrooms that grow from the cow dung. Or buffalo dung for that matter.
My last stop in Oklahoma was this old house.
From there it was a straight shot to Texas.
Amarillo to Albuquerque
I decided to stay in Amarillo. I arrived moments before some heavy rains. By the time I got my gear off the bike and into my room, it started pouring. From the local hotels, a place called The Big Texan Steak Ranch will pick you up in a limo, bring you to their restaurant and return you to the hotel.
This restaurant is famous for their 72 ounce steak deal. If you can eat the steak within an hour it’s free. Many try; very few succeed.
The limo driver told me Joey Chestnut (the Nathan’s hot dog eating champion) finished a steak in 10 minutes.
If you choose to take on the challenge, they seat you on a stage with a time clock on the wall. The man on the far right is the only one that did not pay $72 for his meal. He finished!
I spoke to my dad that morning and he told me about a canyon near Amarillo. At dinner the guy at the next table talked about the canyon as well. Being tired from the crazy night of camping at the wildlife preserve I decided I would stay in Amarillo for an extra night. This would allow me to go see Palo Duro Canyon the next day and get some necessary rest.
Below is Palo Duro Canyon. You are able to ride down into the canyon. Unfortunately I could only go part of the way on one of the roads as yesterdays rain had washed the other road out leaving silt on the crossings. Silt is a thin layer of wet clay that will take down any motorcycle. It is a super slick substance. But the other road was clear so I got a good look at the place.
I spotted this lizard chillin’ in some shade.
I saw this road runner sprint across the road and hop up in the tree.
I climbed up into this small cave. It was wet inside and very slippery like the silt.
I had to return to Cadillac Ranch. I visited this place last year, but figured I could get some dramatic shots as the sun was going down. So I went back again. Glad I did.
The picture says it all.
Interstate 40 is the main artery between Amarillo and Albuquerque. However, dispersed between many of the exits are bits of the old Route 66. I hopped off the Interstate where I could to have a look at the magical road that once connected Chicago to Los Angeles.
A few of the motels of yesteryear still exist. Seeing this makes me dislike the Interstates even more. I realize many of the lonely, desolate towns I have passed through are a direct result of Interstates. These large roads robbed the towns of the traffic that once supported the local businesses.
I stopped by a car museum and said to the lady collecting the 5 bucks that I was hoping they had some motorcycles. She directed me to this wicker bike.
I veered Southwest on Route 54. Those few dead towns along the way also robbed me of vital fuel. I passed two closed gas stations and was getting desperate.
I finally found an open station to fuel up in the town of Mountanaire. When you are out west, even if you have only gone 30 miles…if you see a gas station, top the tank off. It could really save your ass!
This is Quarai. Quarai is an interesting ruin and part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions. The natives had Pueblos here since the 1300’s. In the late 1500’s Franciscan Priests from Spain moved in with the native people and built churches in the pueblo style. This is what’s left of the church.
I had originally stopped at the ranger station in Mountanaire to ask about these sites. It was 5 o’clock and the sites closed at 6. The ranger told me I would have time to see only one. But when I spoke to Billy, the ranger at Quarai, he told be there were no gates at Abo, 16 miles west. So I should feel free to check it out.
Here is Abo. I was very happy the sun held out. It disappeared behind some dark clouds a few minutes after these photos were taken.
I saw this little guy as I was leaving.
Albuquerque to the Rocky Mountains
Hi Folks. I am having one of those rough Saturdays. It is the worst day of the week for the spontaneous traveler. Campsites fill up quickly or are completely reserved ahead of time and hotels cost more. Plus the tangent to Rocky Mountain National Park was a whole lot of extra miles. If you see what I did on a map, it’s down right silly. But let’s see it in photos.
On the outskirts of Albuquerque is Petroglyph National Monument. It consists of miles of volcanic rock that the Natives decorated with symbols. No one is exactly sure why they did it or what they mean.
This is Coronado State Monument. All that remains are the foundation bricks from the original pueblo.
This is the first picture I have taken of a hummingbird that wasn’t sucking on one of those plastic feeders. They are so fast. Very difficult to catch in a photo.
The Spanish entered the Jemez Nation in 1598 and built this church amongst the other pueblo structures. This is taken from the entrance looking in. American history is a funny thing. An Italian sailing for Spain gets all the credit for the discovery of this nation, but the Spanish explorers were considered foreign as the colonies in New England were British turned American. Then we became a nation built by immigrants. And now immigrants are outcasts. Rodney King might be dumb as a post but the man had something to say. Can’t we?
In the end of course, it ended badly for the Natives. War and disease decimated the population.
The church from afar.
Soda Dam. Soda Dam was built by calcium deposits over thousand of years from the water that travels here. It is a bizarre and beautiful site.
I am having a seat under the cavernous veil.
Back to the woods with my invaluable tomahawk.
I pulled over for some typical scenery in New Mexico.
Last year I went on my adventure with a theme in mind. I was looking for Native American ruins. This year an unplanned theme seems to have occurred as I keep running into abandoned churches. This one is along Route 17 in Colorado. For the record I didn’t know the Jemez Pueblo consisted of the ruin of a Spanish church until I got there.
Here is the church from the inside.
A lone house in an open field. In the background you can see the Great Sand Dunes and the Rocky Mountains.
A closer look at the Great Sand Dunes. The size of the dunes is magnificent. How Lawrence of Arabia survived in the desert is beyond me. I started up one of these dunes and was wiped out when I got to the top of one of the baby hills you see at the bottom. The motorcycle boots didn’t help.
Notice the small wild fire to the right of the mountain range.
This little buggar was fairing better then me across the dunes.
That night the whistling winds ripped through the valley. The sound of sand beating on the tent was intense. When I woke up I discovered I had a leak in my air mattress. This will make camping less pleasant. My goggles got a little scuffed up too, cause I left them on the picnic table and the wind took them flying.
Another abandoned church in Villa Grove, CO.
Here we have the ruins of an old mine in Leadville, CO. Leadville was a huge mining community where millions of dollars of precious metals were unearthed in the 1800’s. It was also the location of Doc Holliday’s final shoot out.
Besides old churches one comes across the occasional one room schoolhouse.
Above the tree line in the Rockies. I had to stop to put on my jacket.
And finally Rocky Mountain National Park. In this park I rode on the highest paved road in the United States that doesn’t dead end. Over 12,000 feet high.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a fine refuge for the Elk and Moose. I don’t consider it the most scenic section of this vast mountain range, but I am glad I came.
As the sun set and I headed back for camp the temperature dropped dramatically. I had to continuously reach down and warm my hands on the engine to keep the blood flowing. Below is a herd of elk grazing and chilling in the sun before it drops behind the western mountains.
CLICK HERE to see the route.
Rocky Mountains to Las Vegas
So when I posted last I was in Delta, CO. It is not at all where I wanted to be. To tell you the truth I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but I thought I’d be camping. It was Saturday and everything was filled up. Even the primitive sites in the National Forests were full. What pisses me off in retrospect is that I was so consumed with looking for a place to stay, I took very few photos. The clouds were blocking the sun when I got to some fine looking spots, but I thought I’d be able to backtrack once I plopped down for the evening. No such luck. It was all the way to Delta. I first pulled into a KFC. I asked the girl behind the counter if she knew of a motel in town. She gave be a dumb grin with her sparkly braces beaming and looked at me as if she wasn’t sure what a motel was. The she let out an “Ohhhhh, yeah, I think there is one down that road.” Then she turned to the dude at the drive through window and sad, “right?” He said, “Yeah, I think so.” After strapping my chicken down with a bungee, I looked up. Just behind the KFC was a Comfort Inn. Ohhhhh, yeah!
So I thought I may be done with the Rockies, but no. As I traveled south I saw a huge mountain range getting closer. I pulled off to the side of the road where a couple was just getting into their car. I stopped them and asked if they would take my picture.
They lit up when they heard I was from New York. They were from New Hampshire and had moved to Montrose Colorado when the man retired. He said I should visit Telluride. He told me Tom Cruise had a home there. He also mentioned that beyond the fence behind me was Ralph Lauren’s property. I can picture him telling his friends that he moved out to Colorado near Tom Cruise and Ralph Lauren’s place. Anyway, I took his advice and road in to Telluride.
Telluride is an old gold mining town. Now it is a quaint community filled with tourists. There is a nice old town just before I got to the spot above, but too touristy for my taste. I figured if Tom Cruise had a home here it may be this one up on the mountain top next to the waterfall.
Interestingly enough, just before I left NYC I was getting my camera cleaned on 13th street. There were a bunch of photographers standing outside the building next door. I asked the guy in the camera shop what gives? He told me Tom Cruise lives there.
The road out of town wound through a canyon then up to flat farmland. Soon came these big red cliffs. I was getting close to Utah as I passed this last town in Colorado called Bedrock, twist, twist. And rock is gonna roll with all it’s might in…
Now that I entered Utah I knew exactly where I wanted to go. There is a place I camped, right along side the Colorado River in 2008. It is 2 miles south of Arches National Park. When I arrived I got the last spot on the river side. Yay!
I had skipped Arches when I was here in 08. It was time to return.
There is a lot more to Arches than the arches. All sorts of interesting rock formations line the path that takes you through the park.
Of course there are arches as well.
As my Bonnie nears 20,000 miles on the odometer I must say how pleased I am with this fine machine. That starter glitch in Memphis passed somewhere in Arkansas. All I can figure is she is an Elvis fan and was protesting after enjoying the music blaring through the parking lot at Graceland. I’ll have to take her back there for an extended stay.
Me and Bonnie road off into the sunset. It was time for some supplies to wind down the night. I had another steak to burn.
A good thing about camping around Moab, Utah is the supplies. They have a large grocery store that stays open until midnight 7 days a week. So you can enjoy a good sunset and still have time to get your grub. Food can be an issue when traveling on a bike. You have no cooler. Even if you did there is no safe place to keep your food. There are hungry critters out there. You have to get it, eat it, and toss it.
In the morning I bathed (with my biodegradable soap) in the Colorado River. It’s a great way to start the day.
I took one last look at this calm section of the Colorado and was on my way.
Onward to Capital Reef. I rode by there last year but it was one of those Saturdays and the campsite was full so I continued on. With that on my mind I got there early. I could have taken my time as the campsite never did fill, but it was good to be set up early and have a look around.
Capital Reef is another place for beautiful rock formations.
There are also petroglyphs on the sides of some of the cliffs here. Some are clearly marked with paths and fences for viewing. Some are obscure with no fences though it does take a little climbing to get to them.
When I went to get food in the nearest town the weather started looking gloomy. There were periodic thunder storms around, but amazingly I had still not been rained on for weeks. I noticed an open patch in the clouds where the sun was. And when you shine the light through the misty skies the result is always a colorful arch in the heavens above.
The next morning I wasn’t looking forward to the long haul along Interstate 15 to Vegas. But fortunately I stumbled upon some sites along the way. I passed more forgotten towns but at this point I was hoping someone remembered a gas station. Here is one that was only going to fuel my camera.
I stepped inside. It was creepy. What was once a fine looking gas station with a two car garage was now a giant bird cage. Having said that, you can guess what all those white specks are scattered along the walls.
And on the floor, proof that it was once a full service station.
Across the street was another abandoned building of sorts. I am not sure what it’s purpose was. A place to store hay? Perhaps a shelter for farm animals?
Then I rode south toward Bryce Canyon. I saw this old GMC truck.
And more decaying farms of yesteryear along Route 89.
Now came the part I wasn’t looking forward to. I had ridden on Route 89 south of Bryce Canyon before. I don’t particularly want to travel the same roads. But something strange happened. As I rode along I saw a sign on the side of the road. It read, “You are not on Route 89”. Excellent! I had somehow landed on a small road going up into the mountains toward a place called Cedar Breaks National Monument. I thought I was done with the big mountains for a while, but here I was at 10,000 feet again.
And there were stunning views similar to Bryce. You can still see snow down below.
From there the road followed a small river which steeply declined down the mountain. At one point the river flowed through a cave. I assume it’s man made.
The cool mountain road opened up and spilled into the desert as I had to get on Interstate 15. Imagine going into a bathroom with a blazing hot hand dryer. You know the kind that blows so hard you can see how your elastic flesh wraps around the bones and tendons. Now picture sticking your face in that for 2 1/12 hours. Plus there is no shade from the bathroom ceiling. You are exposed to the desert sun with cross winds whipping you around making you look as if you are having an epileptic seizure at 75 miles and hour. That’s Interstate 15 between Utah and Vegas. It also forced me to enter Arizona. I decided I would not set foot in Arizona this trip. Poor Bonnie had to roll through a bit, but my feet never touched the ground. It’s my own little protest for the recent laws there. This state although beautiful, has always rubbed me politically. They were the last state to begrudgingly accept to honor Dr. Martin Luther King with a holiday and now the immigration laws target Mexicans. Once it was the Italians, then the Irish, and so on. You may as well accept and enjoy the potpourri of a multicultural United States because that’s what this county is, was, and will be. I did meet some great people in Arizona last year and would have liked to pay them a visit. But it didn’t fit into this years plan. So I battled the harsh elements to Vegas.
Ah, Las Vegas. I have visited here during all my cross country adventures. It was time for some very necessary rest and relaxation.
From Vegas to Cali
Vegas. What can I say about Vegas. I have been here enough that the novelty has worn off. Vegas is an old hag who has had a few too many plastic surgeries. At first she seems attractive and seductive. Then one day you wake up and see her for the ugly bitch she is! I’m not putting her down. I’m just keeping it real. I mean, at $29 a night, she is one cheap comforting whore.
I checked out the entertainment on the strip. I had seen the Treasure Island show in 2002. It was a good pirate battle as I recall. Now they have jazzed it up with showgirls and a script filled with sexual innuendo.
Hey, I have no problem checking out hot babes. But really, the show was stupid.
I really stayed in Vegas for some necessary R&R.
So I decided it was a good idea to get out of Vegas. I looked at the map. Weekend rates in LA were twice the price so I had made a reservation for Sunday and Monday at the Safari Inn. I had two nights to waste. Barstow was a town on the map between Vegas and LA with a significantly large font. So I hit up Travelocity and made a reservation for 2 nights in Barstow. WOW! I had no idea Barstow was such a dead town. In retrospect, I found out LA people know. Mention Barstow to a person from La and the first thing you will hear out of their mouth is “meth”. Apparently Barstow is considered the town most likely for you neighbor to be a Crystal Meth dealer. What did I know? Not only that, one of the other reasons I chose Barstow is, while looking at the map, I saw there was a ghost town nearby.
Calico was an old silver mining town. After checking out a hole in the cliff, I rode into town.
Right away I realized this was no ghost town, this was a fabrication. The Brady Bunch had been here (or something like it). I am pretty sure I saw photos of the Smiths here. (The Smiths were the family I was most envious of as a child. They went on lots of road trips, and took photos. My family…not so much.)
Seeing this building with the bottles confirmed to me that the town was bogus. It’s a copy of a house in a real ghost town in Nevada.
I asked the girl in the “saloon” what he deal was. She said only 4 of the buldings in the town were original. Well, it ain’t all fake. The real ghost town was in the surrounding area.
The next day I awoke wondering, “What am I gong to do? I’m in Barstow!” I decided I should go for a day trip to LA. I rode up Hollywood Blvd. I road down the Sunset strip. On Mullhalland Drive I think Bonnie fell in love.
I took a quick trip to the Ocean, then it was back to Barstow.
Finally I was ready to check into to LA. Being a huge fan of the movie ‘True Romance’ I was psyched to stay at the Safari Inn. If you don’t know what am talking about, see the movie!
That same day I had plans to meet up with an old college buddy. Before meeting JB, I did some laundry and hung out by the pool.
I had to work on my raccoon. What I mean by that is my facial tan. I am sporting the best pair of goggles I have ever owned (and I rip through goggles). However, this pair leaves you with a large untanned patch around the eyes. I worked ’em a bit in Vegas but the job was unfinished. I met up with Jeff in Santa Monica. We had dinner at some corner joint and I learned what an Arnold Palmer was. I thought Jeff was having some fancy drink. Turns out an Arnold Palmer is Lemonade and Iced Tea. Who knew? Apparently, everyone but me.
The next day I was meeting up with more friends. First Diana.
I went to meet Diana where she lives with her boyfriend Tim. They are in the Valley, or, “Over the Hill” (another new term for me). I left Bonnie at their place and we drove to Venice Beach. Well, Diana drove and Tim rode his bike cause he had to split to play multi-player war games later.
I like Venice Beach. Maybe growing up in the Village during the 70’s helps. I am comfortable with the freaks of the world.
I had never looked around the canal area of Venice. I have seen it in movies. It is actually much nicer than any movie ever made it to be.
Then we went to see another old college buddy. The difference being, this guy is a Denton8tor! We lived on the same floor of a high rise dorm that, well, let’s say it had a well deserved hardcore reputation. This is me and Matt.
I thought for sure Matt would become a Sports Commentator. Surprise! Matt is a working actor in Los Angeles!
Sadly, I had to say goodbye to LA. I really enjoyed my stay but I had to move on. It can be difficult meeting friends when you are on these types of road trips. Firstly, because it takes time, and secondly because it throws you off. I like hanging with my friends a lot. I could hang out endlessly, but there are miles to cover.
I rode north on the Pacific Coast Highway. I was going to visit the Hearst Castle, but there was not enough time and I didn’t feel comfortable abandoning all my gear for that period of time.
So I continued up the coast. It’s a nice ride. It seems however that the coast is having a bit of a cold front. The high was in the low 50’s. I stopped to check out the elephant seals where this little fat guy was begging for my last piece of chicken.
The elephant seals. I have a feeling George Lucas had a good look at these guys before creating his aliens for the bar scene in Star Wars.
This guy was moaning and groaning, begging for someone to come out and play in the water. He was getting no takers.
The sun ripped through a sliver between two sets of clouds before retiring. It was quite a site.
Campsites were filled up the coast, so I stayed at a shit hole motel in Monterey. But at $35 a night for a California State Park camp site, hotels are a bargain. It is funny how you meet people on the road. I was riding through Monterey when I hear, “Hey Pat!” It was bikers from Maryland I had met the day before.
Up the coast there was this fine looking lighthouse. Pigeon Cove or something like that.
Then into San Francisco. It was definitely Frisco. A I road along the Bay I saw 6 men walking down the street totally naked. I decided not to take a picture.
I planned on just riding through, but decided to give my good old friend Nicky B a call. After riding around the city a bit I met up with Nick. Nick offered me a place to stay for the night. His wife and kids were at the ball game and I didn’t want to impose so I booked a room further north. Then the wife and kids came home. They were delightful. A real nice family. I probably should have stayed, especially as I watched her prepare a delicious home cooked meal. But the deal was done and I had a reservation to keep.
Now I am headed up the coast to the magnificent redwoods. Love those trees!
Notes from the road:
While traveling down the interstate away from Vegas I saw 3 deaf people in a car. I could see the guy in the back seat gesturing wildly as he spoke to the others in the in the front seat, but they were facing forward. Now how does that work?
I think people who text while driving should have their fingers severed. Afterward if they feel a loss I will gladly raise a finger in their honor.
Have you ever stared up at the stars on a clear night. Did you know that you can see satellites flying by? Lots of ’em! They are like tiny stars that travel in a straight line across the sky. Check it out!
I saw a group of Mongols at a gas station. They were all sporting their colors. I thought this was unusual because of an ongoing battle with the Federal government. To mess with the Mongols, the Feds bought the trademark to the Mongol patch making it illegal to wear. (I looked it up, the battle is still pending). I wanted to take their picture but those guys are pretty scary.
I had a bottle of juice from Boathouse Farms. It was half fruit and half vegetable with a strong berry flavor. It may be one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.
From Frisco to Idaho
Wow, it seems like ages ago that I was in Frisco. I probably should have stayed at Nicky B’s, but I headed North and got a room. The next morning I stopped at a Walmart for supplies. When I was walking out I saw two old dudes checking out the bike. One of them was excited. He hadn’t seen a Triumph in a long time. We talked for a while then I introduced myself, “I’m Pat.” The excited guy said, “I’m Tom.” I said, “I know. I really liked your show.” It was Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers.
Tom had a 650 Bonnie back in the ‘good old days’ as he called them. I should have gotten a photo with him, but the Hirschfeld will have to do. Here is a more recent photo of Tom receiving an award from Steve Martin.
From there I hit the coast. It was rather cold and the clouds were hugging the coast making it even colder. These cows didn’t seem to mind as the enjoyed their prime real estate.
I found a nice campsite right off the coast and enjoyed some of the local beverage as I chilled in my hammock.
The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Actually they were already here. Below is Fort Ross, a Russian settlement during the 1800’s on the California coast.
This guy is a weapons expert at Fort Ross. He showed me how they loaded and fired these old rifles. The man loves to talk. You could keep him going all day.
This is the cove where the Russian settlement would dock their ships.
This is a dead Russian duck.
These blue jays are always the first to pick at a campsite once the people leave.
This is the Sea Ranch Chapel. It was created for individual prayer and meditation.
The clouds were lifting a bit at this point.
I pitched tent under these redwoods. This is at a private campsite. The one in the Redwood Forest was filled. A couple from Sacramento, Rudy and Dana invited me to have dinner with them. After many a truck stop sandwich for dinner it was nice to have some grilled fish.
In the redwood forest you have to kick back and have a good look at the monsters.
And maybe fly around a bit.
There are bigger Redwoods further North but of the 3 roads headed East in northern California, I had already traversed two. So I skipped the BIG Redwoods (that I visited last year), and took the very twisty Route 36 inland.
I turned on Route 3 and headed North. I was in dire need of gas. Fortunately there was a pump here in Douglas City, (population 60).
This hotel was a stop for stage coaches back in the day.
I crossed into Oregon and saw this guy enjoying a place called Colliding Rivers.
Then I found a great campsite. As I was pitching my tent I could hear bagpipes playing in the direction of the river. I went to investigate and found this guy, Cliff, playing away.
There were a number of these bug shells around the river. The shell are like one you find when the locust transforms. But I can’t imagine what the thing looks like now. It’s big. Like 2 inches long! Big for a bug.
I took a day trip to Crater Lake. I didn’t plan on coming here since I visited last year. But after deciding to spend two nights at the campsite it made sense to ride the 100 miles to the crater.
There was more snow here than last year. I decided to recline on a snowbank for this shot.
I stopped, hoping to photograph this vulture sitting on a fence post in front of the flag mural, but he was camera shy. What a wing span.
Clearwater Falls was between the crater and the campsite.
When I returned from the crater, my neighbor was hammered. He has been on the road since May bouncing around from campsite to campsite. He said he had been living with his daughter but that didn’t work out. This guy was a Vietnam Vet, a former air traffic controller, and a former Vegas pit boss. He told a Paris Hilton vomit story which was cool. He also had one of those round swivel vanity mirrors that were normal on one side and 5 times magnification on the other. He told me the other day he had been sitting at the table staring at the fire when he felt something burning. The sun had bounced of the magnified mirror and created a beam burning a hole into this man’s back, lighting his jacket and shirt on fire. He showed me the hole burnt threw both.
The camp host Jake, said the tree to the right (in the photo below) is one of the oldest trees in all of Oregon.
Believe it or not, this is a two lane road. It was confirmed early in the ride when an unyielding pick up truck passed in the opposite direction.
Besides being narrow the road was filled with debris, like trees…
…and falling rocks.
Along Route 242 I passed miles of lava beds.
This fire near Sisters, OR was getting out of control. By the following day you were not able to see any blue from the same spot, as it grew to over 4000 acres.
The Painted Hills. I love this place.
I visited here last year, but I had to come back.
There is something magical about this natural splash of color in this part of Oregon.
The nearest town is a place called Mitchell. I didn’t have a good experience here last year. I was almost out of gas and you can’t find fuel for 50 miles in either direction. This guy from the general store came out, sold me overpriced gas and recommended I go sleep up in these nearby mountains. It was a freaky experience. You can read about it on my Cross Country 2009 page. Last year there was also a bear in that cage behind the pumps. That big fella in the cowboy hat told me ‘Henry’ the bear now lives on a ranch. The guy that sold me the gas last year was son of the woman who owned the general store. No one likes them and everyone in town is happy that they went out of business.
This time while visiting Mitchell I stayed in a $15 dollar bunk at the Oregon Hotel.
I headed North and camped out near a river, flowing below Mt. Hood.
There were a bunch of Antique cars outside the lodge at Mt. Hood. Below is a hood ornament on an old Lincoln.
That’s the Columbia River with Washington on the other side.
I crossed the river after taking the last of the scenic roads which border the Columbia on the Oregon side.
This southeast region of Washington is all farmland and orchards.
Idaho to South Dakota
Hey! I’m still here. It’s been a while since my last post. It’s not easy to have adventures and keep up with this site at the same time. Besides, my laptop’s battery only lasts about 5 minutes. So if I am not plugged in somewhere, I can’t check out my photos. Let’s continue the journey.
I wanted to cross the Lolo Pass. I had heard about it. Apparently it is a big deal with bikers. But I have to tell you, after riding all over this country a few times I wasn’t all that impressed. It’s a nice enough ride along a river, but it’s very much like any other ride along a river except that it lands you in Montana.
On the way I met a couple guys on Gold Wings at the Lolo Lodge while stopping for gas. They were headed for Sturgis. Each of these guys bought these used Gold Wings for less than $6000. One of them came with a trailer from which we enjoyed a beer as we talked. They convinced me I had to go to Sturgis, but there were things I still wanted to see in the west. I’ve also had a concern which needed to be dealt with. My rear tire was almost down to the threads. I needed a new tire. I knew the one I was riding on was not going to get me home. I got a hotel in Missoula and tracked down some motorcycle shops. No one I spoke to carried the Metzlers that I was riding. I was determined to get a new tire before leaving town, so I rode around to different shops. One motorcycle garage I had spoken to by phone the day before never opened. The Triumph dealer has a beef with Metzler and won’t carry them. He wasn’t very helpful either, he told me they were fully booked (though there seemed to be nothing going on there at all). He was a grouch and he’s the only Triumph dealer in all of Montana. Then I went to the BMW dealer down the street. They didn’t have the Metzlers either but they really were booked with work. I could see the packed garage. They did however have a Dunlop tire that would fit my rim and the guy up front Dean made about 5 or 6 calls to different places until he found someone who could install it for me back in Lolo. So I bought the tire, tied to the back of the bike and headed to Lolo. I can’t believe I didn’t take a shot of that! But here is Bonnie on the rack at Lolo Cycleworks. The guy there Steve took care of it on the spot at a reasonable price.
After getting the bike fixed it was getting kind of late to ride very far. I wanted to camp out somewhere and one of my favorite spots was less than two hundred miles away along what is called the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. It is also home of Crystal Park where I have dug up crystals the past couple years. So this place and Vegas are spots I’ve returned to on all three trips.
I even got the same camping spot I had last year. Here are a couple pieces of wood I cut last year with my awesome folding saw.
With such an abundance of fire wood you can can have lots of fun dancing by the fire all night long.
Fun with flashlights too.
I really like it here. In the morning I found a guest climbing around on my bike. I often find little foot prints. Sometimes not so little foot prints. But this time I caught the little guy with the camera.
Then I was walking to get some water when I saw this mama bird sitting on a stump. I think she thought she was camouflaged as this big hen would not move even though I got very close.
I packed up camp and went to dig up some crystals before continuing the ride. I got a few decent crystals, but I think I had a better booty last year. Below is some of the farm land near Polaris when you first turn onto the byway.
Just before getting back to the highway the weather looked bad. I stopped for a bit to assess the situation. There was a group of mares across the road. Some with newborns and some still pregnant. This mother was nudging her little one to keep her walking about.
Eventually the little gal plopped down for a rest.
There were other people pulled over at this intersection too. One guy pulled up to the corner on a mint vintage Honda CB 750. He was there to get picked up by a trailer. I heard him telling the other guy how it’s not a good day to ride. Not a matter of choice for me. One older gentleman pulled up on a bicycle from the direction I was headed. He said the weather looked bad but I wouldn’t get wet. He and his wife were alternating bicycling and driving. When I say alternating, I mean he bicycled to this spot. His wife drove. Now it was his turn to take the car as she took off on her bicycle. His name was Dave, he was a tough old codger from Scotland. As his wife road off, he told me his first road trip ever was on the back of a Bonnie from Scotland to Wales. He said it was awful, “it was pissing rain the whole time.” He recommended many roads to me as he had traveled much of the West. Many of them will have to wait for another road trip. For me, it was time to wind my way east after a slight southbound detour.
I decided I had to see Yellowstone again. I thought it would have to be a choice between Yellowstone or Sturgis but I decided I could swing both of them into the mix. The weather was gloomy but I hadn’t been rained on for 35 days now and I began to think the clouds just got out of my way. Yellowstone would prove me wrong. Very wrong! Things started out OK as I stopped by Mammoth Springs.
As I was walking away I noticed this baby buffalo head image in one of the trees which attempted to live in this hostile environment. Bizarre!
Then it happened. The clouds obscured the sun and the sky quickly turned black. The rain came down hard. This was the first time I needed my rain gear since I left home 35 days ago. BAM! Then hail! The winds began gusting something fierce and people were slowing down to the point where my face shield was constantly fogged. I was trying these Seal Skinz gloves I got from the International Motorcycle Show. They sucked. Maybe my hands were dry. But the outermost layer of these gloves hold so much water that your hands freeze in mildly cold temperatures. Then there was a 40 minute wait for a one lane construction area. I just sat there and got soaked. The weather was so severe no one was stopping at any of the sites within the park. By the time I got to the Old Faithful Lodge I was miserable. Cold and wet. I went inside to get some hot coffee and warm up a bit. Fortunately the rain was letting up now, but I had made a reservation at an historic hotel in Greybull, WY and I was still far away, deep within Yellowstone.
When I rode through Cody, WY the sun was sinking low. It looked like some night driving was ahead for me. This concerned me because I had ridden in this area 2 years ago and it was the ride with the strongest persistent winds I have ever experienced.
It was almost 10PM when I arrived in Greybull. I checked in and was told there was only one place to eat that might still be open. I quickly rode over to Lisa’s for a steak with pepper sauce. Steak au poivre anywhere else. It was delicious and the staff was very friendly. I was also introduced to Fat Tire beer. Good brew. Then I got a good nights sleep on a comfy old bed at the Hotel Greybull.
This is the lobby of the hotel where I went for breakfast. One guy with long hair and a cowboy hat was telling joke after joke. Many he made up as he went along. After he left the owner told us he used to be an actor in some Westerns. He was even in a John Wayne movie. He said this guy’s wife had died of cancer, he moved to Greybull and gave up acting. Actually in the framed photo on the table below is the owner on the left and the actor on the right.
From Greybull it was on to Sturgis. I booked two nights at the Buffalo Chip Campground. I had to stop for more one lane construction in a quaint little town called Ten Sleep.
Construction stops are commonplace these days. Lots of construction going on all over the States. As I waited, two guys on Harleys pulled up behind me blaring 70’s rock. They were all decked out in leather and were in good spirits having just left the bar down the street. Once we got going they passed me by. I tried keeping up with them but they were flying. I did manage to keep them in sight after passing a few cars. We were crossing the Rockies and these guys were zipping above 85MPH. I saw one of the guy’s hat blow off. I thought about stopping for it, but he didn’t seem to care so why should I. They ended up pulling over for some reason. When I stopped for gas at the first town past the Rockies they showed up. We got to talking again. They said a cop had lit up the lights as he passed them up in the mountains. I saw that cop and was concerned myself but I didn’t get flashed. The one guy, Rusty went inside to get some beers. The other guy (don’t remember his name) started asking about guns. This happens a lot. He said he is not into guns but Rusty’s probably carrying. Rusty is an ex cop. Then Rusty came out of the store complaining that they don’t sell beer. So he got a Coke instead which he mixed with some Jim Beam from his saddle bag before they continued. A girl who said she is a flagger at a nearby construction site warned us of a problem at the on-ramp to the Interstate. She said it is sandy and a biker had gone down earlier and broke his leg. She said it’s best go west one exit then turn around and go East (actually she said “I’d prefer if you’d go…” which I thought odd). We all took off together, but it seemed those two guys didn’t understand the chick. They turned down the road which said 80 East. I kept going. Later after looping around I was headed toward South Dakota when I saw the two of them exiting headed West on an off ramp. Oh well, later dudes. I was on a mission. I was going to STURGIS!
I really had no idea what to expect from Sturgis. I decided to stay at the Buffalo Chip Campground because that’s where all the awesome shows were. This first night I arrived Bob Dylan was opening for Kid Rock. I rode through town on the way to the Chip. Bikes everywhere! It was packed. I had been told you can cut through the neighborhood to get around the mayhem. But the real mayhem is at the Buffalo Chip and surrounding campgrounds and the only way to get there is through town. There were as many bikers winding their way through the neighborhood as there were on the main road. It was nuts and I was totally digging it. No matter which route you take you are funneled into the one roads that goes to all the campsites. After about 2 miles one approaches the action. There is a new place on the left. They have some big bands playing there too. On the right is the Full Throttle Saloon followed by the Legendary Buffalo Chip.
I pulled in, registered and went looking for a place to pitch my tent. I pulled up to what looked like a good spot and introduced myself to my would be neighbors. They were a real nice group from Washington, Dave, Kelly, Diana and Wog. They offered me a beer before I even got my tent set up. They had a canopy tent which is a nice piece of equipment at a campsite with no shade.
We were sitting around talking before the show when my other neighbor came over and introduced himself. He was Randy from Texas. A self proclaimed Good Ol’ Boy with wonderfully colorful descriptions on matters of daily life. He stands 6 foot 4 easy and is very funny as he tells stories with ease.
I rode around the campsite to get my bearings strait. It is quite a scene. In some areas are big campers as far as you can see. In other areas tents, cars and bikes. I had a look at the stage area as it was filling up. Inside are all the vendors and a grocery store. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The first night I was going to see Bob Dylan and Kid Rock. I was excited to be here and walked all over the place with a smile on my face. Sturgis is a fun place to be. I only had my small camera this night. I went back to the campsite to get my big camera, but a dweeb at the gate said Kid Rock doesn’t allow those types of cameras. Geek. I probably could have tried another gate, but I just brought the camera back to the tent.
The show was great. I missed the end of the show because I went back for my camera to give it another try, but people were exiting as I was returning. I had no sense of time and didn’t really care. I was having fun. I got stepped on while taking this shot below. I didn’t have a tripod, so I had my head under a bush trying to balance the camera on the ground when,”UGH” this dude steps on me. Later I was walking around and this guy next to me said something about being lost. I say, “Yeah this place is nuts!” He says, “I know, I just stepped on a guy back there.” I didn’t tell him it was me.
During the day you can ride your bike right into the stage area. At night they have a cut off time as to when you can bring your bike into a show.
Words and pictures can’t describe the buzz you get from being here at Sturgis, but I’ll try to let some pictures do the talking.
This car was all banged up from the previous years’ hail storm.
Here is Mikey from American Choppers. He and his brother were out there promoting the new show.
Then Mötley Crüe rocked the place.
A Sturgis Family.
Some of the campers brought their own stripper poles.
The day after Mötley Crüe, Randy my big Texan neighbor, offered to show me around a bit. We rode out to the Broken Spoke Campsite with a drive thru bar.
Randy treated me to a bike wash. Bonnie was filthy.
Then we rode down the Spearfish Canyon before returning for Ozzy.
All of the shows were great. I had a blast at Sturgis. I will definitely be back!
At about 4 in the morning I saw a bunch of cops come flying into the campsite. I walked over to see what was going on. I heard people yelling, “Over here, Over here” to the cops as they passed. When I got there I saw a girl had been run over while in her sleeping bag. She was pulled up into the wheel well. The guys from the truck were saying the parking break slipped. I heard someone else say they saw two guys jump out of the truck. It was horrid to see her stuck up there screaming. The fire Department came and lifted the truck. They slipped a board under the girl and removed her. A helicopter came to take her to the hospital. The next day I asked around and was told the girl was OK. She only had some slipped discs and was going to be fine. I took this after she was removed. It didn’t seem right to take a photo before that.
I left Sturgis with a bang as I fired off this 1929 Thompson machine gun.
From Sturgis it was time to go home.
I was having a similar feeling as I had the previous year when I left the Pow Wow in Montana. Sturgis was a highlight and it was time to head East. However I was still determined to stay off the Interstate Highways for a while. But before I could head North and get off the Interstate I had to take a look at the Badlands.
There was a whole family of Turkeys at this one spot. This mama was checking out some of the little ones that were on an adjacent cliff.
A couple of serious photographers were setting up their cameras on tripods to photograph this range. (click to enlarge)
I was staying in St.Pierre some 150 miles away this night and the sun was already setting. I had some night driving ahead and I was pretty beat from Sturgis. You don’t get a lot of sleep at Sturgis.
The next day it was due east on Route 14. A South Dakota straightaway. I hit rain for the second time this entire trip and it wasn’t bad at all. I bumped into a guy at a gas station who stayed in Sturgis another night to see Guns and Roses. He said Axl didn’t come on until after 2AM and people were throwing beer cans at the stage. Then I saw a sign that said Home of Laura Ingalls. I knew the name from “Little House on the Prarie” but I didn’t know she was an actual person. Below is the house that “Pa” built.
In another town called Sleepy Eye there was a Del Monte factory. They would push the corn around with bulldozers toward these staircase conveyor belts. Then the corn rolls up the stairs and inside for processing.
Crossing the Mississippi is always bittersweet coming back east. It’s exciting to be headed home after 6 weeks on the road. But knowing I’m leaving behind all the amazing things I’ve seen leaves me feeling a little empty.
Empty is how this house was once feeling. Then one day on 4/24/95 a 55 ton boulder became dislodged from the cliff 400 feet above the house and plowed into the living room.
The rock remains planted firmly in this house at 440 North Shore Drive, Fountain City, WI. For the suggested admission of $1, to be deposited in this toolbox you can enter the home and have a look around.
You enter through the kitchen where the lady who lived there was standing when the boulder invaded her bedroom next door. This monster bashed through the fake brick exterior and it remains as it was when it came to rest.
This house below was not hit by a rock. It is weathered by years of neglect.
I had to head south at some point. If I continue east at this latitude I would run into Lake Michigan. So I decided the best route south would be highway 35 along the Mississippi.
Samuel Clemens could write a sequel had he still been around. Life on the Mississppi still has a very different vibe than that to the east or west of the mighty river.
As I moved away from the river I entered farmland. A few Amish buggies passed me by along the side of the road.
I spent the night in a town called Dickyville, WI. As I was looking for some food the night before I saw this strange sight next to a church. It’s called the Dickyville Grotto. A serious of shrines built by a Catholic Priest in the 1920’s occupy the side and back of this church.
It is built with all types of stone, shells, ceramics, and glass. Some of the round stone knobs were meant to be used for gear shift knobs but were donated for use at the shrine by Henry Ford.
It’s like a Gaudi meets Mosaic Man.
Later I rolled through Galena, IL. It was the home of Ulysses S. Grant.
From his home high on a hill you could look out over this well preserved town of Gelena.
This small log cabin was moved to this spot, but it was still pretty cool. That’s Grant’s house in the background.
Lesson: Don’t open a gas station in Amish country.
I saw a flash of the sunset as I passed this abandoned house. So I turned around to take a photo of both.
The following day I hopped on the Interstate. As I zoomed along, I passed a sign. It said you are passing the highest paved point East of the Mississippi River, 2000 something feet high. I smiled. It was time to go home.