'Round the US in 21 days -- GA to CA and back
We managed to scrape together a few weeks of vacation this fall, and thought we'd take a little trip across the US to see some sights. Our point of origin is the north Atlanta suburbs, and our primary destination is the Santa Monica pier in California... we intend to dip our toes into the Pacific. One other strong point of interest is the Grand Canyon, although there are other destinations we're hitting on the way, and other events planned for this trip.
Day 1 -- Atlanta, GA to Ocean Springs, MS
We didn't quite make it to our original goal of New Orleans, but we got pretty close -- we are in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, just short of Biloxi, a respectable 400 or so miles from home.
Todays' ride went smoothly, although we did get a late start. We thought we were this close to being finished with packing and prep last night, but of course that last 10% of preparation seems to take 90% of the time, so it was about 11AM when we finally headed out on our trip. Day 1 was a perfect day in the southeast, clear and warm, so once we got going we made good time.
We have a total of four duffel bags on our bikes; two are waterproof and contain clothes, another contains bedding and towels for times we 'camp out' in a KOA cabin, and the fourth has food and tools. Plus we each have our own tankbag to hold an extra sweater, cellphone, camera, cash, and the like. We thought we were packing light, and for a three-week ride perhaps we are, but it looks like a lot all tied up on the bikes.
Today was largely uneventful; rural Georgia and Alabama are just not terribly exciting. But tomorrow, we're expecting some interesting sights in New Orleans. Tomorrow morning, we'll cross Lake Ponchartrain!
Day 2 -- Ocean Springs, MS to Beaumont, TX
We're in Winnie, just outside Beaumont, TX. We made about 400 miles today, and would have made more, except I-10 in closed west of Baton Rouge, and the detour route was very congested. It took us a couple of hours to pop back up on I-10, 30 miles down from where we were detoured off. We were told there was a gas explosion late last week that required the interstate closure.
Our Day 2 route:
Crossing Lake Ponchartrain on a 44-mile causeway:
We lunched at the rest stop in Port Barre; for this trip, we take picnic lunches, using JetBoils to heat water for ramen, and adding meat and fruit to the meal as well.
As the terrain begins to change in western Louisiana, we are treated to some pretty skies.
I think our favorite view from yesterday was Lake Charles, and the view of the refineries on the west side of Lake Charles as you crest the I-10 bridge. Alas, no photos of this.
Least favorite was the smell of sulfur from what we guess was a meat-processing plant close to the border of Louisiana and Texas. Phew.
Day 3: Beaumont, TX to Denton, TX:
We started out today in really warm weather, spent most of the day under clear skies in 80°+ weather, and then, around 3PM, we crossed paths with a cold front, the temperature abruptly dropped 30°, and the winds cranked up to a steady 20+ knots with gusts higher than that. I think we earned every one of the last 100 miles, particularly the hour-long fight through Dallas traffic! Dallas featured some of the most aggressive drivers either one of us have experienced. People always say, "ride like everyone else on the road is trying to kill you," and I always think, "Yeah, yeah, I know, whatever" but this afternoon was the first time that I actually had the feeling that everyone else on the road was trying to kill me. Someone even dropped a TV set out of their truckbed just in front of us; we hate those poorly-secured loads. Still, we arrived in Benton intact and in good spirits around 5:30, and had a tasty barbecue dinner next door to the hotel. Tomorrow, we will leave Texas and spend some quality time in Oklahoma.
Getting ready to leave Beaumont:
Stopping at Woody's Smokehouse on I-45 between Houston and Dallas; it was about 30 miles north of here that we crossed the cold front:
A local told us that people come from everywhere for the smoked meats at Woody's Smokehouse; and the place was packed. We purchased a smoked sausage and included some of it in our lunch, and we agree, it is very tasty.
Sam Houston (and here's a little more info about this statue):
Day 4: Denton to Amarillo
The ride from Denton TX to Amarillo TX was a nice prelude for things to come. The temperature ranged between 29 and 38 degrees which sounds cold but we are well prepared so it was actually a comfortable temperature range. The ride was replete with great expanses of very flat prairie. I cannot help to think of how the first explorers of this area actually made it across some of these arid areas. We also passed a windmill farm which we thought was real cool and had to stop for a photo... but the windmills don't show at all in the picture! Oh well.
One of us ran out of gas some where west of Sayre... turns out that at 95 MPH, gas economy drops pretty far below what one would expect at, say, 70 MPH. Out here gas stations are few and far between.
We enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal in the hotel room after getting in fairly late; unlike Atlanta, even the pizza delivery places and the Chinese restaurants are closed on Thanksgiving.
Geared up for a cold ride:
Really remote terrain on Thanksgiving day:
Out of gas (Luckily, we were within view of a gas station, and the smarter rider was able to bring back a gallon of gas within a few minutes.)
This morning we've had some snow, and worse forecast, so we stayed in the hotel late into the morning to monitor the weather. Now, at 10:30 AM C, it looks like the worst is past and the weather in general was not nearly as bad as forecast, so we're going to head out. Given the weather and temperatures, there is reasonable chance we'll have to stop somewhere prematurely.
Day 5: Amarillo, TX to Albuquerque, NM
We're here in Albuquerque after an, um, exciting trip over the high plains and mountains between Amarillo and Albuquerque. The temperature varied from 20-27° until we descended into the city, at which time we were shocked at how warm 33° felt.
The view when we finally left Amarillo:
Entering New Mexico:
We met this family at a tiny gas station, they were enroute to South America.
The view out the window at Cline's Corners, where we stopped to warm our toes 60 miles east of Albuquerque. Cline's is on a high plateau, elevation over 7000'.
The Route 66 sign inside Cline's; I-40 parallels much of historic Route 66.
After Cline's, we had 60 miles of at times snow-covered roads, lots of semis, icy bridges, and a very steep descent through mountains as night fell, to contend with before we reached Albuquerque, taking us about two hours. Even our suits were iced over when we arrived.
As we approached the city, we saw passengers in at least two vehicles (one a passing 18-wheeler!) leaned out of open windows to take photos of us. Maybe we'll turn up on some internet forum somewhere.
Day 6 -- rest day in Albuquerque
We took Saturday as a rest and bike-maintenance day while in Albuquerque.
Saturday morning, even after all ice melted, we found the bikes to be encrusted in reddish, crumbly silt, and it occurred to us it might be prudent to get the grime and any road salt rinsed off, as well as an oil and air filter change. We took them in to Sandia BMW, where they squeezed us in between a bunch of maintenance being done on several police bikes. There, they told us the red stuff is a mineral salt mined elsewhere in New Mexico, and used in place of road salt. It is also considered to be highly corrosive :eek1
Sandia BMW treated us very well, and the dealership itself was a really pleasant place to spend a couple of hours in front of the fireplace, drinking coffee, reading magazines, and plotting the next legs of the route. They even have a rooftop 'lawn' with a view of the Sandia ridge, although, notably, the grass is fake!
Saturday around sunset, we rode the Sandia Peak tram, the world's longest tramway. On the ground it was in the high 30s; at 10,000+ feet on Sandia Peak, it was eight degrees with twenty knot winds, so needless to say, our stay outside the tram shelter was brief!
Day 7: Albuquerque, NM to Winslow, AZ
We got a bit of a late start Sunday, waiting for the temperature to get out of the twenties in Albuquerque; it was as low as 10° along our route in the morning, although later in the day we saw some high 40s.
We've been paralleling old Route 66 for some time now:
Crossing the Arizona state line:
Some scenes from the petrified forest and painted desert, where we had a late picnic lunch by the Agate Bridge (a petrified fallen tree):
There were vast petrified forests, all the fallen and petrified trees had cracked under their own weight, making it look as though someone had come along and chopped it into firewood!
We found a cool hotel, La Posada, in Winslow AZ ('standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona'). La Posada is an old railroad hotel in the process of being restored. We stayed in the Clark Gable room! (Photos will be included in the next post...)
We continually overestimate how far we'll progress in a given day; the distances here are so much more vast than we're used to at home, that we've become pretty bad at time/distance estimation. But, today, we think we'll spend some time at Meteor Crater, and then continue on to the Grand Canyon.
:lurk Awesome trip so far. Thanks for sharing.
The spirit of adventure lives here!! :bow :bow
Awesome crazy ride!! :thumb
We will have to agree totally on the Dallas traffic problems. I thought Atlanta was nuts; but these cowboys are totally crazy.
Barbie lived there for 6 years; so I usually just follow her lead while there.
Great ride report. Thanks.
That's some seriously cold riding. Glad you survived Dallas! :thumb
that is some cold riding... i went through flagstaff once when it got to 6, but i was in a ford pick-up. great adventure can't wait for more.
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