Old Friends: A Buddy Ride Through Arizona and Utah

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by BadWHooper, Nov 25, 2011.

  1. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    Thanks, RedRockRider...




    By <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:time Hour="19" Minute="17" w:st="on">7:17pm</st1:time>, I was sitting on the deck enjoying the last of the sunset on the cliffs and listening to approaching thunder. Pouring rain and more thunder moved in, impressing me with the awesome natural experience, but making me wonder what our walk to dinner would be like. I also started to worry about rain for tomorrow. I would be VERY unhappy with myself for taking the chance of not packing a rain suit. I started writing some postcards, including a panoramic shot of the Grand Canyon to my ex-girlfriend, who I was in the process of slowly ending ties. I think I wanted her to feel jealous, or at least to know that I was having adventures of my own.
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    Craig got out of the shower and poured his Scotch. I took my turn in the bathroom. While the water heated back up, I was able to take stock of my physical condition: pretty messed up.
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    My face was burned from the first part of the day riding through the desert and 100-degree sun. I had road rash on the elbow side of my left forearm. I had little raspberries on my shin (where the hell did they come from?!). I had a bruise and a raspberry on my right hip and thigh (interesting how my arm and hip/thigh alternated sides &#8211; really don&#8217;t recall taking an impact on either). I also noticed a strange cut on my ear &#8211; just a little line of blood. Where did that come from? Then, there was that damn rash on my right side from when I posed with those cacti in Sedona. I had been pulling and scratching those stinging needles and barbs out day and night &#8211; some were still in my skin under my jeans. My thigh looked like I had some skin disease. And, of course, I had the strange, alien spaceship, diamond shaped waffle iron-marking on my back.
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    Dinner was just a short walk down Route 9 through the darkness into Springdale. The Spotted Dog Café was the closest real restaurant we found within walking distance. Actually, it was the first restaurant we encountered on our walk that looked like it had a bar and a sit-down area, and that&#8217;s all we wanted. In the dark, we didn&#8217;t realize that the restaurant was part of motel called Flanigan&#8217;s Inn. It fit the bill, despite some young waitresses who weren&#8217;t so quick &#8211; they could have been quicker to get those kickoff martinis and refill Craig&#8217;s beers and my wine. Craig had a steak and I had a big salmon filet.
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    After what appeared to be a close-down situation (it wasn&#8217;t that late, I swear, but it was the off-season), we walked back up the dark road to home, where we retired to the balcony for cigars and single malt. After a bit of reflection about the ride and our plans for the next day as solo riders, a commotion began down in the garden/pool area below us. Did I hear German? Within a few seconds, a wild group of German speakers (Austrians?) broke through the gate and swarmed the pool. It was probably at least 11:30pm. Craig and I followed the rules. We may have wanted to hit the pool or jump in the hot tub with our stogies and drinks, but the hotel said the pool and hot tub were closed at 10:00pm. Alas, nothing stops a determined group of German speakers from taking what they want. They took over that pool and hot tub, drunk as hell. I tried to translate, but it wasn&#8217;t easy from the distance and over the multiple conversations going on. There were some interesting Mädchen in swimsuits, and what with my German language skills, we might have had a chance. But we were tired, well-fed, pleasantly buzzed, and ready to crash for one or two more days of motorcycling. I went to bed a little while after Craig turned in.



    Day Four &#8211; Monday, <ST1:dApril 24, 2006 &#8211; Zion NP to Sedona, 291 Miles Ridden (994 Total)<o:p></o:p>

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    &#8220;Oh public road, you express me better than I can express myself.&#8221; - Walt Whitman

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    The next morning, the brilliant southwestern sun blasted into the room, as if it didn&#8217;t realize we were trying to sleep. But we weren&#8217;t trying to sleep in. Both of us had long rides ahead of us. Craig&#8217;s would end up being over twice mine.
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    On this trip, we had only experienced brilliantly sunny weather, outside of that iffy bit around the North Rim and when we arrived at Zion the day before. Add to that the astonishing red and tan cliffs that laid themselves out in front of our balcony (overlooking the now-defiled swimming pool and hot tub). The sun did wonders to highlight the tan upper half of the cliffs, leaving the red lower half in shadows.

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    We took our showers, pulled on our same dirty jeans that had been worn throughout the trip and added clean t-shirts that had been hiding in the bottom of our bags. I swigged whatever Diet Coke was left in the little fridge and we headed up to get breakfast at Zion Canyon Coffee Company, just a short walk back up Route 9 towards the park. It didn&#8217;t look open at <st1:time Hour="9" Minute="00" w:st="on">9am</st1:time> &#8211; this was pre-tourist season (the souvenir shop next door sure wasn&#8217;t) &#8211; but the skeleton crew struggled to make a couple breakfast bagels with coffee and tea. We wolfed it all down on their patio and watched the sun crawl down the distant canyon cliffs.

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    Two guys knowing that they&#8217;ve got a parting coming up &#8211; especially when it comes to a multi-day motorcycle journey through one of the greatest places on earth &#8211; start to talk about random stuff: the weather, what that person over there is doing and how dumb they look doing it, the cool thing that was seen a couple days prior, and how the sun is just too strong to be drinking hot tea with skim milk. You make a few comments and laugh a bit about the roads you&#8217;d seen &#8211; the best sights, the lurking cop that gave you a scare, the time you started to worry about the gas gauge, and how you tried to get a good picture of the other person while riding at 76 mph into oncoming traffic. There was nothing left to talk about until next time or the next cross-country phone call. The &#8220;buddy ride&#8221; was over, and sitting in the strong morning sun was not going to create the easy impetus for parting ways. That would require taking a photo of the bikes and the riders, a manly, back-slapping half-hug, a promise that this would only be the beginning of many more such trips (along with some suggestions: the White Mountains of New Hampshire to my family&#8217;s camp in Maine&#8230;Salt Lake to Yellowstone&#8230;the Alps from Switzerland to Italy and back&#8230;hell, northern Italy by itself!), wishes to each other to &#8220;take it easy, man&#8221;, and &#8220;good time, good time&#8221;, &#8220;Ride safe, man. Let me know when you make it.&#8221; And other small talk about each other&#8217;s rides back &#8211; mostly about Craig&#8217;s because, he would be covering new ground.
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    Basically, I&#8217;d be headed back to Sedona the way we&#8217;d just came and then on an alternate route back to Scottsdale. Craig, on the other hand, would be cruising west through some more of the countryside of Utah (and through mysterious USAF proving grounds), ducking back into the northwest corner of Arizona before rolling through Las Vegas. He didn&#8217;t have reservations in Sin City and vowed that he wasn&#8217;t interested in spending a night there &#8211; partly because he knew his weaknesses, but mostly because he had to get back for a work assignment, and didn&#8217;t want to use additional vacation time. The more likely plan is that he&#8217;d stop at the middle-of-nowhere California town of Barstow: plenty of cheap motels and a quick sleep instead of trying to ride the 500 miles and eight hours in the saddle, which is about as hard as it goes on a bike not set up for it.
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    We walked back to the motel room. As Craig finished packing his bags, I made the fateful call to Eagle Rider. Craig gave me such great advice. He&#8217;s such an easygoing, laid back, country gentleman who doesn&#8217;t overthink and overplan situations like I do. In business/political situations where you&#8217;re trying to defend someone else&#8217;s interests, I win. When you&#8217;re trying to defend yourself, he wins. He told me to just start the conversation and let the other dude ask the questions &#8211; don&#8217;t volunteer everything right off the bat. Let them come to you.
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    All the while, Craig was busting on me about my notions of motorcycle laws and safety tips I&#8217;d heard of. I thought (based on my motorcycle safety instructor&#8217;s word) that it was Maryland law to have a two-inch square reflective sticker on your helmet. I mean, they handed out Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program stickers in class (I had one of them on the back of my full-face helmet, just in case I get pulled over and the cop appreciated it). I also kept a metal referee&#8217;s whistle around my neck or in my pocket on long rides in case I ran off the road and couldn&#8217;t move or speak and couldn&#8217;t be seen from the road (this was a tip I&#8217;d read about in a magazine that saved the life of a rider). Craig made fun of me about these items mercilessly. He said that when we eventually did this type of ride again someday, and that when I would call Eagle Rider to rent a bike, they would have my Arizona crash on file and say (in Craig&#8217;s drawl): &#8220;Uhhhh yeahhh. To rent another bike from us, yer gonna&#8217; need to have a two-inch square piece a&#8217; reflective sticker on yer helmet, have a whistle in yer mouth, and blow it at all times as you ride our rental bike.&#8221; I laughed my ass off and wanted to punch him at the same time. &#8220;Better wear an orange vest too,&#8221; he said, laughing. And, today, I do.<o:p></o:p>
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    We loaded up the bikes. I went to the motel office, checked out quickly, then returned to set up a timer shot commemorating the end of the buddy ride. Craig caught a couple interesting photos of the bikes with me setting my camera up, but my Nikon got the shot of both of us with the mountains and motel behind us.

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    It shows my big, black, bent bike in the forefront with Craig&#8217;s Softail right behind it. Craig gave a trademark rock star face. Behind a yellow Stanley Steemer van and vaguely Spanish-style motel loomed the amazing, jagged cliffs we arrived to, woke up to, and departed from. There really isn&#8217;t much more quintessentially evocative of cool than seeing yourself in this type of photo.

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    Makes you wonder what happened that they needed a professional carpet cleaner.

    I look back at this photo and it reminds me of when I started riding, only three and a half years before. It reminded me of when I flew over a similar desert countryside and dreamed of transversing it on a motorcycle, a vehicle that I had no idea how to operate at the time. I look at the picture again and there I am posing with a big Harley, laden with luggage, a big windshield to protect me from the hundreds of miles of wind and bugs. The backdrop of the cliffs is mere proof that I&#8217;d done something I&#8217;d dreamed of.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Riding motorcycles will always feel pretty new and exciting to me every time I do it.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    One night, many nights since, I was watching one of my favorite shows, &#8220;The Colbert Report&#8221; on Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert&#8217;s guest that night was Howell Raines, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times (who resigned in 2003 after the Jayson Blair scandal). He said something that really stuck with me (in his gruff old newsman delivery): &#8220;I wanna&#8217; say something about Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald. They set the artistic model for my generation, which was that you should have an adventure around age 20, spend 20 years writing about it, and then at age 40, start drinking yourself to death. Lives now have many more chapters.&#8221; I seem to be in that second 20 years while living the first 20, but hopefully not living too much of the subsequent 20.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Seeing Craig&#8217;s bike next to mine in that photo, both parked in the same space &#8211; as is the beauty of motorcycles &#8211; and his hilariously exaggerated rock star pose (he&#8217;d done a great one at the Grand Canyon the day before) meant everything. Who knew I&#8217;d be there in Utah with a motorcycle? I look at that photo and realize that I was finally a grownup, at 35 years old. I was living, at least for those short days, and until I could get back out and do it again somewhere else just as interesting, and maybe with someone just as interesting as my old coworker and friend. As I recorded my last group notes on my digital recorder, we made small talk about the time, it being <st1:time Hour="10" Minute="40" w:st="on">10:40am</st1:time> MST. &#8220;Any last words?&#8221; I asked.<o:p></o:p>
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    &#8220;That&#8217;s it! I&#8217;m out!&#8221; Craig exclaimed as he pulled his gloves on.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    &#8220;I&#8217;m out!&#8221; I said, and hit the stop button. It was time to do another one of those male I&#8217;m-hugging-you-but-I&#8217;m-hitting-you type hugs and to head onto Utah Route 9 in opposite directions, which we did. After I put in my earplugs, put on my goggles, and strapped on my helmet. Craig had already roared off to the west, so I went east. It felt a little weird to ride off by myself after three days of traveling with someone else.<o:p></o:p>
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    Craig headed west on Route 9 and took a few more pictures of the spectacular Zion National Park scenery in the morning sun.

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    He eventually got onto I-15 which would take him the whole way back home to San Diego. He finally dug his old HJC full-face helmet out of his bag for the long, high-speed, freeway ride.<o:p></o:p>
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    I rolled back up the road through the western entrance of Zion, especially enjoying the sound of the engine that sunny morning. I was following a clutch of bikes &#8211; mostly BMWs. I showed my week&#8217;s pass to the ranger at the station to get through so I could catch up to those riders up ahead. I just felt the need to ride with others for some reason. It was <st1:time Hour="11" Minute="15" w:st="on">11:15am</st1:time> MTN and I was 10 miles out of the park.<o:p></o:p>
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    I love riding alone. It&#8217;s what I&#8217;ve always done. I just don&#8217;t have any close friends who ride, and those who do don&#8217;t live close to me. Rides with the Montgomery County Harley Owners Group (www.mchog.com) was been fun, but a little stifling. The older guy in front of me on the Heritage Softail always seemed to be a bit skittish in the curves. I wondered if he was a novice mid-life-crisis rider or an incredibly experienced rider with reflexes that might just have been aging a little too much. Either way, I view curves and turns as an opportunity to challenge the skill factor. I want to prove to myself that I can take a curve or turn at the highest, safest, optimum speed and hold a perfect line through it to the exit, and onto the next.<o:p></o:p>
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    My ride on Route 1 north of San Francisco was like that. It was a great challenge to wring that bike out, a rented BMW R1200RT: manage the throttle, keep the front tire on a safe line in the lane, and position my body on the seat to make it nearly race-worthy. Every turn where I didn&#8217;t wobble a little, shift too much around the lane, or get jerky with the gas was an absolute thrill, like getting a 100% on a test in school. Realizing that I was turning my head hard and keeping my chin up all the way through the turn &#8211; in almost an exaggerated way &#8211; was like extra credit.<o:p></o:p>
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    The scenery had changed completely now that the sun was out &#8211; a nearly cloudless, satiny-blue sky. The rocks and cliffs and mesas were no longer dark and brooding under threatening clouds like the night before, but were now bright and reflective, their bases red and dotted with green, their tips nearly white. I made a point to stop at the same spots that Craig and I had stopped at the day before to get a new photograph in the sun. The BMWs I was following stopped at one of the big overlooks before the tunnel and dilly-dallied much longer than I did, so I snapped my photos (color, black and white, and panoramic) and moved on.

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    The Road King in front of that magnificent &#8220;amphitheatre&#8221; of Zion sits in a frame on my desk at work, and I love it &#8211; it nearly epitomizes the trip (except that it&#8217;s a solo bike).<o:p></o:p>
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    More wheeling around and around the curves of the &#8220;log flume&#8221; of the Zion Road, its macadam much redder than the night before (and perfectly dry!). What were they using to get it that color? The local sand? The road was great because it blended into the environment so well, and not some black asphalt or beat-up grey pavement. I stopped to photograph a stream of water making its way down a slick, smooth, round section of rock.

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    If the water had been a real flow, I&#8217;d want to try to slide down it. The moonscape from the night before was even more &#8220;moony&#8221; in the bright sunlight.
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    We&#8217;re lucky that they built that road right through the heart of the canyon, so you can truly see it from your vehicle. I stopped at what I call the &#8220;whipped cream mountain&#8221;, a mostly-white hill/mesa/mountain that looks like a gigantic dollop of whipped cream, smoothed around and around a cake in a spiral fashion as if with a celestially large spatula.
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    Lots of stripes &#8211; light colors versus Sedona&#8217;s reds and the Grand Canyon&#8217;s rust. Around the corner from there was the Checkerboard Mesa, this time lit up by the sun.
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    #41
  2. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    A nice group of bikers on some old funky Harleys took my picture in front of the site, after I took theirs &#8211; two old guys and one of their old ladies.

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    They were incredibly friendly, hairy, leather clad people who had Montana plates on the bikes, along with bags and other random luggage strapped on. These seemed to be real motorcycle adventurers, riding to their next campsite. I was thinking about my luxury hotel in Sedona. Whenever I&#8217;m around those stereotypical &#8220;Harley riders&#8221;, I always have a subliminal bit of tension: though I may not be riding a Hog that very day, I do own one and enjoy it. However, the guys I was dreading came come right over and ask me about what I&#8217;m riding and how I liked it. Even the scary dudes I saw at an Exxon station in Urbana, Maryland &#8211; grizzled faces, old heavily-laden Harleys, denim vests and jackets covered in the Stars and Bars &#8211; came right over as I was filling up and asked, &#8220;Yeah, that&#8217;s the...&#8221;
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    &#8220;Street Bob.&#8221; I replied.
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    &#8220;Street Bob, that&#8217;s right. How d&#8217;you like it?&#8221;
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    &#8220;I love it. Fast, handles great, but I practically bought it for the paint job.&#8221;
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    &#8220;Yep, the flat black looks great. Take it easy. Ride safe.&#8221;
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    &#8220;Yep, you too.&#8221; And I roared off with just about the same amount of right to be in the &#8220;family&#8221; of Harley-Davidson owners, even though, at the time, I was wearing a light armored jacket and leather gloves with armored knuckles. Didn&#8217;t matter that much. I&#8217;m sure they discussed me a bit: young-looking guy on a then-new &#8217;07, wearing a nylon jacket and a shiny helmet with a visor. I think I had a two-day beard, which may have helped a little.
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    A friend&#8217;s brother finally rented a Harley out in California to ride to Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur. Lucky bastard (I&#8217;d eventually get my turn on Big Sur, with my future wife on the back). He was a new rider and until recently had only ridden a Yamaha V-Strom 650. He shunned the Harley &#8220;image&#8221;, saying to me on more than one occasion, &#8220;I don&#8217;t get the Harley thing. I don&#8217;t need to buy an image. I saw some older guy roll into a parking lot with all kinds of chrome skulls and just had to laugh.&#8221;
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    I agreed with him, I really did, and I told him that I also felt the same way once. I would rent Harleys, but never own one. They all looked the same, I said to myself. And most of them do, and most of them are the same, until you do things to them. Heck, so many of them have the same engine, drivetrain, suspension, and electronics. Then I started getting into bobbers, the old-school, postwar, chopped down, minimalist bikes with almost no fenders, a single seat, and flat paint. I started shopping for them. Almost nobody manufactures them in any great numbers (which is righteous), so the only route was probably custom, and prices for those started at $15,000-20,000 and went up from there. The coolest modern examples of them to me are Exile Choppers. I will own one of those someday. They&#8217;re very low-down and lean, but the builder, Russell Mitchell, is at least as tall as I am, so I think they&#8217;ll fit me. Anyway, I wanted a bobber to complement my Buell dual-sport. My internet search turned up the Street Bob from Harley-Davidson. Didn&#8217;t look too much different from all the other basic Dyna models, but it had this sick, flat-black paint job, some brushed chrome pieces, a solo seat, and mini-ape hanger handlebars (quite a bit taller than your normal handlebars, but not too much to look ridiculous).
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    So, Harley finally made a bike I would buy, and that&#8217;s what I told Scott. I didn&#8217;t think I&#8217;d get one either. He described the Road King and Heritage Softail that he and his friend rented as reminding him of &#8220;riding a tractor as a kid.&#8221;
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    &#8220;I&#8217;ve always remembered that riding tractors was always pretty fun.&#8221; I replied.
    <o:p></o:p>
    And so there was a whipped cream hill and the checkerboard. I backtracked all the way out of the park, through the gate, past the bison, and to the intersection of Route 9 and Route 89 at the town of Carmel Junction. I had to pull over at the Thunderbird Restaurant right there and get a picture of the bike in front of their sign: &#8220;Thunderbird RESTAURANT &#8211; HOME OF THE HO-MADE PIES&#8221;.

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    I was tempted to go in and see the ho making them pies.

    I couldn&#8217;t believe this trip was starting to wrap up. I had a long day ahead, and was really looking forward to seeing the Glen Canyon dam.

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    Back in Kanab, I stayed on 89 east instead of Alt 89 south (the way we&#8217;d come the day before). 89 ran along more of the Vermillion Cliffs to my left. This was on purpose. I realized that I&#8217;d be backtracking over the same roads that Craig and I had just come up, so I tried to add a few different road to keep things new and interesting. When I noticed Lake Powell on the map, just over from where I&#8217;d be returning, I thought I&#8217;d go see it. Wasn&#8217;t Pam and Tommy&#8217;s sex video filmed on Lake Powell? Still never seen that. I&#8217;ll be honest, I was in a hurry. I won&#8217;t say that the ride felt like it was ending and that the big point of it was now passed (&#8220;a journey through the desert on bikes with a good buddy&#8221;), and though I was eager to see Lake Powell, I was also about to backtrack on the original route and see things I&#8217;d already seen. So, I was sort of eager to get to the swank B&B, have a bedroom to myself for once, enjoy my first professional massage, and do what I love to do: eat and drink on the town, like an undercover tourist.
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    89 East was a solid 90 minutes at speeds that I was nervous to maintain for fear of police interdiction.

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    I was pushing it, hiding behind other fast-moving cars, then reminding myself to keep it cool. The scenery in the last 80 miles out of Zion was good &#8211; mostly classic, high, scrub desert like we&#8217;d seen, but very dry, windy, and brown. Lots of very poor-looking little homesteads dotting the roadside. The highway was straight, fast, and windy, with not too much traffic. The long cliffline of the Escalante Staircase ran along my left (north) and always provided something amazing to look at. The road dipped toward the dam. I thought I&#8217;d eat in Page then shoot straight south. I looked at the little thermometer keychain that I kept on the backpack strapped to the sissybar of my bike &#8211; it read 70 degrees. I couldn&#8217;t decide if it was so cool from the road wind, or if I&#8217;d killed the thermometer through temperature extremes and vibration (oh, and a crash?). It had been reading lots of different temperatures, and the red mercury was separated into many little sections along the meter. I suppose if you added up the different sections of mercury, you might get a somewhat accurate reading. Maybe not. I tossed the thing out at the end of the trip, thankful to my parents who had stuffed it in my Christmas stocking a few years before. It had served well on its maiden voyage, for a little while anyway, reading some amazing temperature changes from Glen Canyon to the North Rim. And then it crapped out.
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    The signs for Lake Powell increased, which increased my impatience to be there, which increased my throttle effort. No ticket, but I did start to sweat the fuel situation. Stopping in this climate meant roasting, so I put it off as far as I could. I was getting hungry, too. The only thing I&#8217;d eaten so far that day was the bagel from Zion. I was looking for a little neighborhood deli or bar/grill, but there just wasn&#8217;t anything out there. It wasn&#8217;t until about 1:00pm when I came to a windy place called Big Water that I found an industrial/trucker gas station right off the road in a dusty field within view of Lake Powell and the dam. My trip meter read 805 miles. I filled up with 4.4 gallons, which is a pretty serious amount when you&#8217;re in the middle of nowhere and on a Harley. The bike maybe had another 50 miles or so in it. That may seem like a lot, but if I were further out in the desert and exploring truly remote roads, that might be the distance between civilized areas, and doesn&#8217;t include any jackrabbit starts, drag racing, hill climbing, or just plain open-throttle blasting that I might have done. At this point, the road swooped through cliffs and rocks and into increasingly dry landscapes&#8230;every now and then, once past Big Water, I&#8217;d catch a glimpse of water: Lake Powell &#8211; shockingly blue in the constant brown. At that point I crossed back into Arizona from Utah. As I approached the lake, hoping to see the first truly big dam I&#8217;d ever seen, I passed a dirt road on my left leading up to a hill. There was a sign talking about an overview, but it looked like a service road to nowhere, not a tourist stop. I took the turn anyway and headed up a very sketchy, very hellish gravel road to the top of a big, barren, brown hill, hoping to see something.
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    The road up was straight and wide, but it was pure scree and gave me some of the willies from that dirt road in Apache territory three days before. The front wheel got a little squirrelly, but I was still in a hurry, so maybe that was my fault. At the crest, I found myself on top of a huge mesa overlooking Lake Powell. It was a grey-blue cut in the dusty brown land, lined by cliffs and mesas, streaked with the white wakes of motorboats. It looked more like the river it was, before being dammed, than a &#8220;lake&#8221;. It was long and narrow and wound around the desert hills like a snake. All that water looked out of place, especially as I baked under a very powerful

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    In the distance beyond the lake I saw three tall stacks of a coal power plant. Closer to me, on the near shore, was a good sized marina jutting out into the lake. It must have been a wild sight to be down on a boat on those waters, especially looking up to one of the high mesas overlooking the shore, maybe to see a tiny black motorcycle perched on top in the distance.

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    At the far end of the mesa were a couple large tour buses, a tractor trailer, a bunch of equipment trailers, and a few cars. There was a photo shoot going on, and as I walked a little closer I noticed a slew of Harley-Davidsons lined up in the sun. One of them was set up prominently near the edge of the mesa with a clear view of the lake. I didn&#8217;t see any H-D logos on the vehicles, so I was thinking it was a magazine shoot. I wondered if they would see me on my Road King and wave me over &#8211; a real-live Harley rider doing it for real out there in the desert! How could they not?! No, I&#8217;m not sure they even noticed I was up there. So I slowly turned around, careful not to spit out any rocks, and eased myself back down the gravel road and to Route 89, where I continued a hundred more yards to the dam. I was still starving.
    <o:p></o:p>
    A little less than a year later, I would be the owner of a Harley-Davidson &#8211; that flat-black 2007 FXDB Dyna Street Bob. H-D marketing materials would begin to pour into my mailbox. Most of it was welcome. One envelope included a smaller version of the 2007 model year catalog. As I flipped through it, I noticed that all the shots of the bikes were taken out in the desert, perched on a mesa high over some sinewy blue-grey lake or river. HOLY CRAP! I WAS THERE! I WAS THERE WHEN THEY WERE DOING THIS SHOOT! No doubt.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Lake Powell&#8217;s Glen Canyon Dam was very interesting. Despite my growling stomach, I pulled into the visitor center parking lot and took a quick look around the site. Not a place for any good photos, though &#8211; I couldn&#8217;t stop on the dam road itself. Ladybird Johnson dedicated the dam on <ST1:date w:st="on" Year="19" Day="22" Month="9" ls="trans">September 22, 19</ST1:date>66. It sits at 3,700 feet above sea level. The lake took 17 years to completely fill up for the first time. At its deepest, the water reached 560 feet up the face of the dam. It generates plenty of electricity to ship well beyond just the local region &#8211; Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Utah.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Just beyond the dam was the town of Page, the first real town I&#8217;d seen since Sedona. Nothing to write home about, but some strip malls, restaurants, various shops, hotels, and bars arrayed out on a broad hill. I was busy searching for a place to get lunch, but didn&#8217;t want fast food. Eventually, I rolled up to a strip mall with a True Value Hardware and found a Mexican place, Zapata&#8217;s. I sat outside on their patio in the shade and had a so-so grilled chicken salad, wrote some Grand Canyon postcards to friends and (foolishly) to my ex-girlfriend, and refueled myself for the sprint to Sedona. It was a hot day, so I was only down to a t-shirt under the leather jacket. At <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:time Hour="13" Minute="30" w:st="on">1:30pm</st1:time>, the odometer read 824. Page had a few nice looking developments on the way out south on Route 89, which surprised me. I guess it was a golf and boating destination for some. That area didn&#8217;t hold any charm for me, except for the thought that I might have been included in the 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle catalog. I probably had a 66 mile run to Cameron and another 66 to Sedona, and imagined I&#8217;d be there by <st1:time Hour="16" Minute="00" w:st="on">4pm</st1:time>.

    #42
  3. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    89 streaked through some canyons and finally to a spectacular descent overlooking the Marble Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and the Glen Canyon bridges that Craig and I had crossed the day before around the same time (and in the same pounding heat). I got to see that beautiful approach to the bridges from way up high as 89 wound down the hill to hook back up with Alt 89 at Bitter Springs. I stopped to take a couple shots of that crack in the earth that hid the Colorado River on its way to the Grand Canyon, and kept on rolling south.

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    The pictures of that sudden dropoff, so dramatic because of the surrounding flatness and the sharp, clean edges of the canyon rim, still give me the willies. It just couldn&#8217;t be real.

    The ride from there back to Flagstaff was pretty routine, as far as rides through beautiful desert and mountains go. I was in a hurry, and I&#8217;d already been to Flagstaff before. I only took one picture between Bitter Springs and the entry to Oak Creek Canyon: an amazing windblown stretch of Route 89 leading up to Humphrey&#8217;s Peak.

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    It was 127 miles to Flagstaff, looking at the big, 12,633 foot snow-capped mountain. It was a gorgeous ride, but damn windy, made less enjoyable by the trucks flying past in the oncoming lane. I roared past the &#8220;FRIENDLY INDIANS&#8221; sign and the other vaguely sad roadside Indian shops, most of which were abandoned and crumbling wooden stalls and tables. One of them seemed to be doing well &#8211; Chief Yellow Nose welcomed all comers.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I flew down through the dust and heat to Cameron, where Craig and I had turned off for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon two days before. It all seemed to go so much faster this time&#8230;I was only riding for myself, no pictures, no worrying about matching my speed (more or less) to Craig&#8217;s. There was the promise of a luxury rest stop for me in Sedona, complete with in-room massage. Craig was interested in keeping the hotel costs down on the trip, which was fine with me, but I definitely knew I wanted to splurge on my last night.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    The area around Humphrey&#8217;s Peak and Sunset Crater &#8211; on the approach to Flagstaff &#8211; was chilly like before, and very windy&#8230;the bike was blowing all over the road. Some other time I&#8217;ll look for the historic part of town.

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    [​IMG]

    Jump off of 89 South, a quick jaunt down 17 South, back on the little 89, and I was done with the highways for the day. Right before making the fantastic switchbacks down into Oak Creek Canyon, I made a stop that Craig and I had not: I wanted to check out the overlook into the canyon.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    It was a mob scene, but only a handful were riders. It was mostly tourists and what looked like nomad laborers taking a break in ramshackle vehicles and groups. They looked very tired.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    At about 4:15, I parked close to a clutch of BMW and big Japanese sport-touring bikes and immediately felt like a bit of an outsider. I wouldn&#8217;t say that I felt unwelcome, but the looks from the leather-suited riders at my dusty, slightly bent Harley were palpable &#8211; I was one of those guys. Didn&#8217;t matter &#8211; I know where I&#8217;d been, and when it all boils down to it, if those guys saw me pulled over on the side of the road with a big Harley, they&#8217;d still slow down, look over, and give a thumbs up-thumbs down sign to me, making sure I didn&#8217;t need help. Other riders just automatically pull over, and that&#8217;s amazing. There isn&#8217;t any other group of motorists that will do that for another.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    As I dismounted and grabbed my cameras, those riders turned back to what they were originally doing: listening to a young punk (probably 24 or 25 &#8211; God, I sound old) talk about his early &#8216;90s BMW K-series with the then-cutting edge anti-lock brakes and the cross-country journey that he was on (he had started in Maine). I&#8217;d have been more interested if he wasn&#8217;t such a smarmy little piece of crap, and if the guys surrounding him weren&#8217;t just jizzing with all the BMW talk. Don&#8217;t get me wrong &#8211; I love BMWs. I love their cars, and I definitely love their bikes. I&#8217;ve only test-driven a used 328 four-door back in 1999, but I&#8217;ve put some quality miles on their bikes: 800 on a black R850R in Scotland in October 2005, 469 on a red R1200RT in northern California in March 2007, and 1,018 on a K1200GT through northern Colorado and the Rockies in September 2007. The old Austrian BMW salesman at my local dealer told me the K1200 is &#8220;a monster&#8221; (I like to say that in my best Arnold impression), and it definitely was fast&#8230;I took one up to 122 mph on a long stretch of open road (my personal land speed record).<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Anyway, the lovefest went on for this self-avowed new rider (he said he&#8217;d only been riding for a year or so), his wild ride, and especially his rare BMW. The kid was just milking it, soaking it in. It reminded me of the movie &#8220;Shattered Glass&#8221; &#8211; this guy was spinning yarns like crazy and everyone was eating it up. I applaud him for buying an iffy-but-cool bike and riding it so far (not hard when you don&#8217;t have a job), but don&#8217;t talk like you&#8217;re some sort of grizzled road warrior until you actually have the miles and the years. Granted, I went bonkers when I started riding. Hell, I went to Scotland a little over a year after I started, but I didn&#8217;t lord it over any other rider I met afterwards, and I still don&#8217;t. I blend in. I walked over to the overview and took a couple shots of Oak Creek Canyon, with its fantastic tree-covered slopes, cliffs, and mesas. It was the most trees I&#8217;d seen in a couple of days.

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    Coming up...the ride back into Sedona, a great night in town, and a stressful ride home.
    #43
  4. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    Again, not taking too long at the overlook (luxury B&B&#8230;luxury B&B&#8230; massage&#8230; massage&#8230; cocktail&#8230;cocktail&#8230; dinner&#8230; dinner&#8230;),I figured I would be there by <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:time Hour="17" Minute="00" w:st="on">5:00pm</st1:time>. I hopped back on the Road King and had a great time careening down the same switchbacks Craig and I had crept up a day before (thanks to the old lady in the Saturn). The ride through the canyon was wonderful &#8211; cool and green, with sun streaking through the trees and from behind the towering tan cliffs.

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    Winding along the river and wondering who can afford homes down there, I again lost track of time and eventually decided I&#8217;d better capture some of the scenery before I lose the chance&#8230;who knew when I&#8217;d be back again?

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    Right before Slide Rock State Park, I got a shot of the bike with the trees and cliffs, as well as an unfortunate posed shot of myself that was partially obscured by some bushes, which makes it look like I&#8217;ve gotten caught standing by the side of the road taking a piss.

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    I swear I wasn&#8217;t &#8211; there was way too much traffic on that road. I found my way out of the canyon and across Midgely Bridge.

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    With real relief and a bit of triumph, I rolled back into the &#8220;old&#8221; part of Sedona, past the Cedars Resort, and on just a little bit more&#8230;looking for Kallof Place, the street the B&B was on. I wasn&#8217;t finding it. Based on the website for the place, I was expecting something far off in the woods&#8230;that&#8217;s why I went a little too far and had to turn around after checking the map. Kallof Place turned out to be a short little lane off the main drag, maybe 100 feet long, lined with a couple small offices, a large Italian restaurant, and a motel. It was not the winding, country lane leading to a quiet, rustic inn that I was expecting.
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p> </o:p>
    It was <st1:time Hour="17" Minute="00" w:st="on">5:00pm</st1:time> on the nose &#8211; I rule. 993.7 miles.

    #44
  5. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    Sorry...the pictures are running out in my story...

    The Lodge turned out to be an amazingly well-hidden mini-resort that I will always go back to, if I ever stay overnight in Sedona again. As I pulled into the scary and personally upsetting gravel driveway, I was nearly overwhelmed by a feeling of joy, accomplishment, reward, luxurious decadence, and &#8211; as always &#8211; a little bit of badass-ness.

    This is a view from the lodge:

    [​IMG]

    There&#8217;s something about rolling up on a Harley, covered in the dust of miles, sporting a messed-up jacket and a road rash on my arm and alien marking on my back, and the concept of myself as an adventurer. I love arriving at those kinds of places on a bike &#8211; where they least expect it, where I can stride in, not look like a stereotypical Harley guy, check in, pay for a premium room, enjoy a great meal, and be wondered about.
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    Checking into the Lodge at Sedona meant parking the Hog and poking around a lobby that looked like someone&#8217;s home office, except that there were really nice coffee table books about Sedona and cosmic stuff for sale. There seemed to be no one there at all. It was a gorgeous interior &#8211; dark wood floors and great recessed lighting. A woman came out of some secret door and got me checked in with all the usual questions I tend to get as a single traveler, dressed in boots and a leather jacket, and holding leather gloves: &#8220;Is your wife with you?&#8221; &#8220;You&#8217;re by yourself?!&#8221; &#8220;You rode here all the way from Washington, DC?&#8221; &#8220;Can we help you with your suitcases?&#8221; The answer is always no.
    <o:p></o:p>
    The Lodge used to be a doctor&#8217;s home, arts and craft style (my favorite), with three acres of land in the back. The hostess showed me around the ground level first, starting with an amazing open kitchen area where they would be cooking breakfast in the morning and where snacks, drinks, and tea would always be laid out. There was a &#8220;business center&#8221; with The Internets, a fantastic patio for dining, lots of little sitting areas, fountains, and ponds, and, out back, a basketball court, horseshoes pit, and a full-fledged Sedona cosmic rock labyrinth. I&#8217;d heard of those&#8230;I made a note to see if it worked before I left, though I had no idea what the idea was behind them. The manager explained: some people find that walking slowly along the rock-lined paths of the circular maze to be a form of meditation and to be spiritually cleansing. Okay.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Back in the house, she led me up a set of narrow stairs to my room, which, to my surprise, was not two levels as the website let on. I had a vision of me sitting on the main level, sipping my bourbon and reading my book, then retiring to the loft for bed. That&#8217;s okay. It was a small room, but the bed was big and very tall, and there was a cozy little bathroom and shower &#8211; all with a cowboy theme. It was the &#8220;Trading Post Room&#8221;, after all (http://www.lodgeatsedona.com/rooms.htm). The windows looked west to the mountains. The manager and I confirmed that my massage would be happening at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:time Hour="19" Minute="00" w:st="on">7pm</st1:time> that evening then walked back downstairs. She let me know that the doors are usually locked by <st1:time Hour="23" Minute="00" w:st="on">11pm</st1:time> or so, but made sure that I had a key to get back into the house after my night of revelry. I moved the bike around back by the labyrinth and went back to my room with a bagful of stuff.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Lying on the bed, I took stock. It had been an incredible trip in many ways &#8211; I couldn&#8217;t believe it was wrapping up. I was trying to get to Phoenix by <st1:time Hour="15" Minute="00" w:st="on">3:00pm</st1:time> the next day, so I could probably stay in Sedona until lunchtime. Depending on how late I slept in, there might be a few things worth seeing in town. I was looking forward to the massage.
    <o:p></o:p>
    By <st1:time Hour="18" Minute="00" w:st="on">6:00pm</st1:time>, my busted-up body was showered and my sunburned face was shaved &#8211; the goggles left me with funny raccoon eyes. I needed more sleep. I had about an hour before the masseuse, Su, would arrive. She and I had arranged the appointment over email a few days after I booked the Lodge, so I never actually spoke to her. All I really had to do was say how long I wanted the massage for, that I wanted it in my room, and that I didn&#8217;t want a dude. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect. Would she be a huge babushka like the woman who gave me the shoulder rub at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland? What should I wear? Should I wear anything? I felt like I was getting ready for a date! I paced around&#8230;I put on my boxer briefs, saved especially for this evening. I wondered if that was too immodest, especially in case she turned out to be hot. I put some Marillion on the CD player in the room. I lay on the bed&#8230;it started to feel like I was waiting for a call girl. We will close the door, and I will pay her in cash for her services.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I don&#8217;t know the etiquette. Do I discuss things with her? Talk about the weather? Or do I just lie there and shut up? And how do I explain this strange Aztec design on my back? I got up and put on the complementary robe, at least two sizes too small (they&#8217;re always too small).
    <o:p></o:p>
    A knock at the door at <st1:time Hour="18" Minute="20" w:st="on">6:20pm</st1:time>! I answered in my robe &#8211; it was the manager informing me that the masseuse had arrived and was ready to come up. Yes indeed. I sat on the bed like a virgin, waiting for the next knock.
    <o:p></o:p>
    When it came, I opened the door and was relieved to see a slim, attractive woman in her early 40&#8217;s. We shook hands. She brought in her folding table and set it up with clean white sheets. She then said that she would step out of the room while I climbed onto the table and under the sheets. In answer to my wondering, she explained that I could be wearing my underwear or be wearing nothing, all depending on my comfort level. So what did I do?
    <o:p></o:p>
    I should have whipped them off. Thoughts of George Costanza danced in my head.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I slipped under the crisp, starchy white sheets, worried that I&#8217;d collapse the folding table, and called her back in. She slipped back through the door, asked if I&#8217;d ever had a massage before, and when I said no, she took control. She started by saying that she normally puts on some relaxing music of her own, unless I had something I wanted to play. I was tempted to put on one of my three Grand Canyon Mixes that I didn&#8217;t get to listen to on the ride because the rental place screwed me out of an Electra Glide Ultra Classic with a CD player. Those mixes have a ton of heavy stuff on them as well, which might have defeated the point. She put on some pleasant, tinkly, new age stuff which could have put me to sleep.
    <o:p></o:p>
    As far as talking goes, she said &#8220;Some people do, some people don&#8217;t. Do what you want to do.&#8221; She ended up talking to me, so that question was answered. The usual: where are you from, how do you find yourself in Sedona, what do you do, blah blah blah. For me, reversing the questions to her was more enlightening. Sure, she came to Sedona to find the spirituality and simplicity of life, but when I asked what she did before massaging, she said she toured with a rock band.
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;I played in bands for years. Would I have heard of them?&#8221; I asked, thinking it was some crap local group that I&#8217;d never know.
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Have you heard of .38 Special?&#8221; I almost choked as she worked my clavicle.
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Ummm, yeah! Wow!&#8221; I neglected to ask what, exactly, she did with .38 Special. Did she sing? Move amps? Wire mics? Bang bassists? Didn&#8217;t matter &#8211; it was cool, and very Sedona. From that point on, when I wasn&#8217;t about to pass out from pain and pleasure, I was thinking of when my best friend and I would goof on &#8220;Hold On Loosely&#8221; back in the 80s and 90s. We weren&#8217;t .38 Special fans, so we used to think it was &#8220;Hang On Loosely&#8221;, which I think is still pretty cool. Regardless, it&#8217;s a freaking awesome opening riff, and once I used to play it during a break at one of our band rehearsals, those of us who knew the song from hearing it on the radio would do our best to fake it. Nice. Still makes me smile, and there I was, lying on my back, getting kneaded by someone who toured with .38 Special. Yeah.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Su was very cool. I asked some of those uncomfortable initial questions in a funny way, which seemed to work: the wondering of do we talk, and what do I wear, and what else do you do for a living. After the small talk, work talk, rock talk, etc., she got to work on my busted up bod. She asked if I had any injuries that she should know about and had me roll over onto my stomach to do my back first. I told her about the bike crash and that I would have some Martian markings and odd bruises. She appreciated knowing that, then got down to business.
    <o:p></o:p>
    There were oils, but they didn&#8217;t make much sense for the usual massage stuff until she ran her thumb underneath the edge of each of my shoulder blades. It was one of those feelings where you can&#8217;t decide if it&#8217;s pain or pleasure &#8211; no one had ever done anything like that to me, and, like eating sushi, I&#8217;d never thought I&#8217;d dig it. There were only a couple moments when my fears were realized and I actually felt a little turned on. The main one was when she went up the side of my legs and encroached on the buttock region, her hand slipping under the elastic border hem of my boxer briefs a few centimeters or so. It was at that point that I realized I shouldn&#8217;t have worn them. Heck, I wasn&#8217;t dating anyone at that point, and hadn&#8217;t felt anything like that in a long time. Who could blame me? She sneezed, and I blessed her, face-down.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Flipped over on my back, she worked my arms, legs, face(!), and then asked if I was interested in a stomach massage. What did I know? Sure! &#8220;Have you had a big meal recently?&#8221; was her only concern. I hadn&#8217;t eaten since the city of Page, about five hours before, so I figured I was in the clear. Basically, she sort of moved my mini-gut around in a creative way. It felt good, and I didn&#8217;t get sick, but I guess I was a little bit underwhelmed by the &#8220;Stomach Massage&#8221;. Though, as part of the entire package, I felt it was worth it, though. Maybe I should have had a bigger meal beforehand.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Finally, she told me it was over and left the room to allow me to get my full-relaxed ass off her table and back into the robe. $115 all-in. We shook hands after she packed up the table and went out the door. I was no longer a massage virgin, and, at <st1:time Hour="19" Minute="50" w:st="on">7:50pm</st1:time>, I was ready to slap a few more pieces of clothing on and walk up the street for some dinner.
    <o:p></o:p>
    My body was tingling. I didn&#8217;t feel tired. It felt like my skin was a coat that was one or two seasons too warm for what I ought to have been wearing. It wasn&#8217;t that I felt my skin was loose, but it was as if I shouldn&#8217;t have had that much skin and muscle to begin with. Very cool. Feeling all funky like that wasn&#8217;t going to keep me lying on the bed to get a good night&#8217;s sleep, that was for sure. I was headed out.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I threw on my nice pants and shirt and walked up 89 a few blocks to the Heartline Café, a place that came highly recommended from the lodge manager and my Frommer&#8217;s guide book. Eating well on the road is a key luxury for me. I&#8217;m an adventurous eater, too, the consequences be damned. Mark Twain said, &#8220;Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.&#8221; I quickly learned that Sedona was truly a seasonal place, and that going out for dinner at <st1:time Hour="20" Minute="00" w:st="on">8pm</st1:time> in April was very risky &#8211; places might even close their kitchens around then, Coming from DC, that was bizarre. <st1:time Hour="22" Minute="00" w:st="on">10pm</st1:time> was what I was used to for the fancier restaurants, and much later for more casual places. No sweat.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Heartline was packed. Cars choked the small, dirt parking lot. The smallish, white, wooden building didn&#8217;t look amazing. I knew I wouldn&#8217;t get a table, and I didn&#8217;t want one. As a solo diner, I fought through the crowds, sidled right up to the bar, got a martini, and checked out the menu.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Eating at the bar means that you can overhear conversations from the staff and other customers. When it&#8217;s the staff, you can learn about the health of the restaurant or find out what (or not) to order. When it&#8217;s the clientele, you can just get a good laugh or an outrageous tidbit to make you angry for awhile, or something to write about a year or more later.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I bagged on the suggestion from Paul, a bartender from my hometown pub, The Royal Mile. He was a great guy &#8211; looked like a youngish Huey Lewis. He hooked me up so ridiculously on my tabs that I&#8217;m guessing that was the reason he got fired. As I was planning this trip, he was planning his wedding in Sedona, so he had plenty of suggestions and lots of enthusiasm. He suggested Shugrue&#8217;s Hillside Grill, which seems to be a small chain in the area, and would have great views and a unique, worldly menu. My only problem was that it was back in the center of old town Sedona&#8230;not walking distance for me. Frommer&#8217;s liked Heartline, too, calling it &#8220;Southwestern/international&#8221;. I guess I&#8217;d agree with that, but I went more for the international.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Jay, the bartender at Heartline, hooked me up with delicious sweet potato corn chowder, then seafood ravioli. Though a bit standoffish at first, Jay and I talked a little bit about the things he had going on around town and around the area. He was a low talker, probably around 2db. He had just bought five acres at $90,000 an acre so he can continue his horse training job. He was an older guy &#8211; in his 50s for sure &#8211; and wore a ring in his left ear. He noticed my bloody elbow, knew that I ride motorcycles (after some of our discussions), and apparently knew that it was road rash &#8211; that&#8217;s what he asked about when he saw it. I guessed him to be a biker too, at least in the past.
    <o:p></o:p>
    This was a great restaurant &#8211; glad I found it. But just as I was warned at the hotel, they closed early. They were wrapping things up at <st1:time Hour="21" Minute="15" w:st="on">9:15pm</st1:time> and the employees were lining up around the bar with me to eat their comped dinner.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Eating alone lets you listen in to other people&#8217;s lives, if you so choose. You can look at your book and listen, but not actually read. I know, it&#8217;s snooping and eavesdropping, but really, what else is life in public all about but observing other people? You&#8217;re in a public place! They could have gotten takeout and taken it home, right? Unfortunately, that often leads you (well, it does me) to ask &#8220;what the hell is wrong with people?!&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    An older couple sat down next to me at the bar and ordered dinner. The man perused the menu carefully. He ordered the garlic gnocchi and pasta with red cream sauce. The menu clearly described it as being prepared with garlic (hence the name). When it came, I started to wonder if I&#8217;d ordered the wrong thing &#8211; it looked and smelled incredible. He tasted it and immediately sent it back. &#8220;That&#8217;s too much garlic,&#8221; he said, so they gave him a spinach salad in its place. I mean really, if you&#8217;ve gone from a stated-garlicky pasta dish and then decide on a plain spinach salad, you don&#8217;t know your own tastes and you should suck it up and expect to pay for the entrée.
    <o:p></o:p>
    He ordered a dessert, which they gave to him gratis. They comped him a dessert! That&#8217;s like ordering the salt cod and sending it back for being too salty and being paid for it! I tried to keep from visibly shaking my head and whispering my observations into my voice recorder, but then an older woman, very touristy, passed me as she headed for the exit. She paused to look over the free candies on the counter. In a nasally, grating voice, she began:
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;What are these? Good lord! Oh&#8230;are these jelly beans?!?!&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    I was instantly annoyed: They&#8217;re MINTS. What planet have you grown up on to not know what a jelly bean looks like versus a mint? Boy, I was in a mood. She must have gone on for a minute or two, dangling her fingers over the dish, debating whether or not to dig into it or not (and you know she would). Everything has to be dramatic with some people. I still don&#8217;t even know who she thought she was talking to.
    <o:p></o:p>
    The bartender answered politely, &#8220;No, ma&#8217;am, they&#8217;re chocolate mints.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;White mints? Do you only have white mints?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    This is what I would have said, had I been a bartender who didn&#8217;t give a shit anymore: Lady, these are the complimentary mints on the way out of a restaurant. What you see is what you get. There is no mint menu.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Back to the couple next to me. The fact that they couldn&#8217;t hear each other made their interaction all the more frustrating and fascinating to me. They were probably in my parents&#8217; age range, the early 70s &#8211; maybe a bit younger. She couldn&#8217;t hear him, which made things hard on her, but I think she was also a little bit daffy. She wasn&#8217;t putting two and two together.
    <o:p></o:p>
    On the TV above the bar, there was a basketball game involving the Los Angeles Clippers. The team name on the score line was abbreviated &#8220;LAC&#8221;. When I don&#8217;t know very much about something, I use context clues to help me figure it out (just like I was taught in middle school English class). I looked at where the game is being played &#8211; it said &#8220;Clippers&#8221; on the floor of the arena. The other team&#8217;s score line was abbreviated as &#8220;DEN&#8221; (Denver, perhaps?). But even with all of this, the lady was asking her husband &#8220;Who&#8217;s LAC? Who&#8217;s playing! Who&#8217;s playing!?&#8221; Over and over. She almost sounded as though she might have had a small stroke in the past, but I doubted that. She just had the tone and wording of a slightly daffy lady who just isn&#8217;t paying attention. In response, he said in a distracted monotone, almost out of the side of his mouth:
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;The Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    She clearly couldn&#8217;t hear him well, and quickly responded back with:
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;The Kippers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    He responded again:
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    She: &#8220;Coppers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    He: &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    She: &#8220;Clappers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    He: &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Cuppers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;No, the CLIPPERS.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Croppers? Crimpers? Clumpers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Choppers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;No! Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Champers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Chimpers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Clingers?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Clippers.&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;Who?&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    You get the idea (I might be exaggerating about the extent of the interchange). On and on and on &#8211; driving me up the wall. And he was getting damn annoyed, too. She just couldn&#8217;t hear him, but she was pretty clueless too, which she should realize and accept and not exacerbate by harping on and on about something she has no interest in (a pro basketball game on television in a restaurant&#8217;s bar).
    <o:p></o:p>
    She asked all kinds of questions, which clearly annoyed him. I immediately began to guess: these two have probably been married for 40-some years. When did it get to the point where it became unbearable? What&#8217;s more, why were they were being so difficult to the staff, to each other, and other random people? Ideas for writing subjects starting popping into my head:

    <o:p></o:p>


    Getting old: would you be happier to be alone than to be married to someone who annoys the shit out of you because she can&#8217;t hear what you&#8217;re saying and doesn&#8217;t know what you&#8217;re talking about?<o:p></o:p>

    <o:p></o:p>
    The husband was drinking Kaliber non-alcoholic beer. She was having wine.
    <o:p></o:p>
    There&#8217;s your first problem.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Aside from her random questions and his grumbling critique of the food, they weren&#8217;t speaking. Since I had arrived, they had said about four words to each other, most of them rhyming with &#8220;The Gipper&#8221;. I understand that when you get to a certain point in a relationship you don&#8217;t have to speak all the time &#8211; you can just be comfortable with each other and not feel obliged to keep a constant, forced conversation going &#8211; and I&#8217;m sure it grows with age as well. He was clearly watching the game. She didn&#8217;t know what the heck was happening on the screen and she wanted in. He might have been watching the game only because it was a way to escape communicating with her. Watching a movie on TV at a bar would be unacceptable. Watching a ball game is completely understandable, especially if you&#8217;ve posited yourself over time as a &#8220;sports fan&#8221;.
    <o:p></o:p>
    The wife would ask a question and he would answer, but she didn&#8217;t hear it or understand it so she would keep asking, which made him get testy because he had to repeat it three times. It started to remind me a bit of my parents &#8211; thankfully not the three-times thing, but once or twice every now and then. There was a hearing impairment thing going on, and it was clearly impacting their interactions with each other. You have to understand that your wife, your husband, your partner has poor hearing and you need to talk into their ear, or get them a good hearing aide!
    <o:p></o:p>
    I could sense it: the guy was SICK of saying &#8220;Clippers!&#8221; three times over again to this woman, his wife of who knows how many decades. What if he said it right into her ear with a loud voice and she got it? What if she was wearing a hearing aide? I imagine they&#8217;d be a lot happier, in general. I don&#8217;t like to see that kind of testiness in couples &#8211; it seems so pointless, and so connected to other issues. The guy was just done.
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;I TOLD you once.&#8221; He retorted.
    <o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;I didn&#8217;t hear you. I&#8217;m not smart.&#8221; She replied. It just made me so mad.
    <o:p></o:p>
    You MUST understand that there&#8217;s an impairment thing going on and that you have to adjust to it! I was reminded of an evening with a girl I was dating. She invited me to her father&#8217;s house on the Chesapeake Bay for dinner. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. This girl Kelly warned me that her father was as deaf as a doornail, which I thought I could handle since my own parents and grandparents started losing their hearing when I was old enough to be aware of how to compensate. I could project my voice with the best of them when I needed to.
    <o:p></o:p>
    At the dinner, in an incredible bayside house with windows looking across the water to downtown Baltimore, I believe I made a good impression keeping the dad in the loop of the conversations. His girlfriend did an amazing job of doing the same thing. But, his own daughter &#8211; my date &#8211; was the hardest on him, chiding him for not hearing what was going on in the room around him. I didn&#8217;t get it. In fact, I didn&#8217;t get anything that night. As she and I said goodnight down on the driveway after dinner, Kelly told me she didn&#8217;t feel any interest in me (which made me wonder why she&#8217;d invited me to meet her father and future step-mom an hour away from my home).
    <o:p></o:p>
    Good thing I had my Buell Ulysses to ride home. Nothing cures a hangover, soothes a bruised ego, calms the annoyance at insensitivity, or renews the feeling of being a badass like a motorcycle. Especially a Buell.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Back at the Heartline Café in Sedona, I finished up my dinner, shook off the annoyances, paid my check, and walked outside. The gravel parking lot was almost empty. It definitely wasn&#8217;t time to go to bed yet, but I wondered if there would be anything open &#8211; everyplace else was shutting down. Across the street was the Red Planet Diner. It reminded me of a bar in DC called &#8220;Planet Fred&#8221;. Everything was alien/UFO-oriented: wall paintings, spaceship and UFO models hanging from the ceiling, and random alien heads with big eyes. There was a big bubble up by the front door where you could buy &#8220;alien&#8221; water bottles &#8211; basically, a plastic alien&#8217;s body with a straw in it. All the employees were wearing t-shirts with &#8220;Welcome Earthling&#8221; emblazoned across them. I imagined this was probably the most humiliating place you could work at in Sedona.
    <o:p></o:p>
    As I walked in and sat down at the bar, chairs were going up all around me, certainly pushing me towards calling it a night, but I was dead-set on having a nightcap&#8230;it was far too early to go home. Red Planet was open until <st1:time Hour="22" Minute="00" w:st="on">10:00pm</st1:time> &#8211; another half hour &#8211; so I ordered a martini, and, eventually, a Captain and Diet Coke. I read my book. A waitress, who struck me as out-of-place in Sedona &#8211; a redneck &#8211; was pretty cool. As I read, she stared at me. I looked up at her, and she finally asked, &#8220;How you doin&#8217;?&#8221; She was made me wonder, for second, about inviting her back. She eventually left the bar to close out her section and head home for the night, so I started a conversation with the bartender, a portly lass named Stephanie. I learned a bit about the area from her. She lived in Cottonwood, Arizona, about 30 minutes away from Sedona. She told me about the personality of Sedona: it&#8217;s a resort town but it doesn&#8217;t act like one, and things close early. No shit.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I closed out the tab at the Martian bar, wondering why and how they stayed in business, but thanked the considerable stars out in the sky that night that there was a place that was still open for a traveling nightowl like me. Stumbling back down 89A toward home, many thoughts crossed my mind. First I had to pee on a bush in front of some random business (the darkest place I could find &#8211; &#8220;gotta&#8217; help the drought&#8221;, I thought). I was able to look up, and look around. The stars were nice. I was looking forward to getting back to the B&B, getting online for the first time in a few days, getting upstairs with my journal and music in the big bed.
    <o:p></o:p>
    At 11:05pm. I passed a strange little hovel behind a mountain bike shop. A neon sign on the building said it was &#8220;Open&#8221;. The entrance was a foot-and-a-half wide A-frame. On the other side of the building, another sign said &#8220;What you want&#8221;. What was going on there, I did not know. I walked on.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Back at the B&B, I was happy to find that the front door was still unlocked. I tiptoed across the big open kitchen to the small, one-computer closet that served as the &#8220;business center&#8221;. I caught up with new emails: got one from &#8220;Sweetbettyboop&#8221; on Match.com, a 5&#8217;4&#8221; brunette who I&#8217;d always thought was good looking and tried writing to long before. Almost a year after this trip, she popped up on eHarmony.com, a different service that I had moved over too (successfully, I might add). This time she was finally interested to hit on me after ditching me for so long on Match.com. That&#8217;s a pattern, by the way. Didn&#8217;t matter &#8211; within days I would have met my now-wife (on eHarmony). It was interesting to be hooked up to the electronic world again after a few days off. All before the days of smartphones and Facebook, too.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I shut down the computer and snuck up the narrow stairs to my room. The damn CD player wouldn&#8217;t play my &#8220;Harley Mix&#8221; CDs. Instead, I thought about the next day. I&#8217;d have to get up at around 8:00-8:15am for breakfast. I was happy to be in there after such a big trip. I&#8217;d experienced my first motorcycle crash. I&#8217;d dealt with the bike rental place. I was happy to be out in the world on an amazing adventure. I broke out my Scotch and my notebook. The thoughts and sentiments were flowing freely. I was duh-runk.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Inside one of the drawers on a side table was a guest book specific to that room. I flipped through it and found some interesting entries from people from around the country and the world. I knew I needed to add something memorable, and Scotland&#8217;s finest would assist:
    <o:p></o:p>

    I left some skin in AZ. It was a dirt road among the Apaches where I lost control. One second I felt the panic, another when I heard the horrible metal/plastic crunch, and when I realized I was sliding on my back, on my leather jacket &#8211; &#8216;I wrecked the bike!&#8217;<o:p></o:p>


    <o:p></o:p>


    No, AZ wrecked me &#8211; the bike was a bit scuffed up, as was my skin and clothing, but it ran fine and I took it all over the state. What place did I come back to twice?<o:p></o:p>


    <o:p></o:p>


    Sedona.<o:p></o:p>


    <o:p></o:p>


    A logical home base. I felt it to be a warm retreat from what I&#8217;d seen before.<o:p></o:p>


    <o:p></o:p>


    No, AZ saw my first bike crash and gave me confidence to get back on, because there was just too much left to see.<o:p></o:p>

    <o:p></o:p>
    Pretty cheesy, eh?
    <o:p></o:p>
    My ramblings ranged freely into the voice recorder:
    <o:p></o:p>
    One of the things I noticed after the massage is that I was covered in the oil that the masseuse used to work me over with &#8211; and really worked me over. I just felt a little bit &#8220;lathered up&#8221;. I found it more than kind of hot. When I was at the restaurant earlier in the evening, I would reach back and feel my neck and think, &#8220;O my god, I&#8217;ve got oil all over me!&#8221; You feel what a masseuse is doing to you &#8211; she did some technical shit, putting a finger underneath my shoulder blades, reminding me to loosen my shoulders. Awesome. She knows which muscles are where and how to work them over. Shit. Need to write. Sleep. It&#8217;s late. [Yawn] Tomorrow should be good. I know what will happen: I&#8217;ll go downstairs tomorrow. I&#8217;ll go down, be waited on, I&#8217;ll bring my notebook and write [at this point on the recording, I started singing falsetto along with U2&#8217;s Where the Streets Have No Name]. Karin [ex-girlfriend]. Just shut up. Sorry. I talked to Craig today. He got home after 500 miles, averaging in the 70s [mph, not Fahrenheit]. 6-7 hours &#8211; record time &#8211; arriving in San Diego around <st1:time Hour="18" Minute="45" w:st="on">6:45pm</st1:time>. He took off from Zion at the same time as I did, 10:45-11am. Brother hauled ass. Glad he&#8217;s home, glad he is home to ENJOY home&#8230;can chill. What else? Did I talk about the Germans in the hot tub? Did I talk about the Harley people at Checkerboard? Did I talk about the road down into Sedona was breathtaking? Once I got through the switchbacks &#8211; which were fantastic and fun, especially coming down &#8211; the road was just a creekside avenue. Depending on who is setting the pace, the fun is relative. I watched the fuel gauge today. Once I remembered where I was &#8211; &#8220;Oh yeah, this town is after that town&#8221; &#8211; I didn&#8217;t have as much fear about running out of gas. I stilllllllll haven&#8217;t fouuuuuuund what I&#8217;m looking forrrrrrrrrrrr. [Yawn] Nice room.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I&#8217;d come back again. And I crashed.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Safely, this time.

    #45
  6. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    Day Five &#8211; Tuesday, April 25, 2006 &#8211; Sedona to Scottsdale, 176 Miles Ridden (1,170 Total)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>[/SIZE][/FONT][/U]
    <o:p> </o:p>
    &#8220;Few can foresee whither their road will lead them, till they come to its end.&#8221;
    -JRR Tolkien<o:p></o:p>[/CENTER][/CENTER]
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The alarm didn&#8217;t go off the next morning, but that was okay. I had already been awake since 6:00am. Despite the flurry of voice recorder entries, I really didn&#8217;t get anything done when I got back from the restaurant the night before &#8211; no writings about past loves went into the journal and no lyrics about the desert and the vortices poured out of my head. I just conked out. My good friend &#8220;Pony&#8221; called my cell phone this morning at <st1:time Hour="5" Minute="30" w:st="on">5:30am</st1:time> PST. He lives in Delaware. This should have been expected of course, because I emailed my gang of friends last night about the adventure. Either way, even <st1:time Hour="8" Minute="30" w:st="on">8:30am</st1:time> EST is too early to call anyone.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It was a lovely day. At <st1:time Hour="9" Minute="10" w:st="on">9:10am</st1:time>, I headed down to get breakfast. My plan was to go back into town and check out the shops and old town area that Craig and I had missed on our way through the first time. Padding quietly down the stairs, hoping I didn&#8217;t look too rough, the thought crossed my mind about the last leg of the journey: maybe I&#8217;d take that other road back south if I had the time &#8211; it could be interesting, and why backtrack over the same old routes?
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Back in my room at <st1:time Hour="10" Minute="30" w:st="on">10:30am</st1:time>, I was asking myself, &#8220;Why do I eat the breakfasts?&#8221; Yes, everything was tasty, but there was sausage. And regardless of how good it is (okay, okay, enter &#8220;sausage&#8221; jokes here), sausage is the death knell for my stomach. I should learn my lesson, but it was damn good, and I rarely get to eat this well at breakfast, Sitting outside on the gorgeous patio, surrounded by the house and the lush landscaped grounds, I enjoyed a potato, sausage, and egg frittata. Songbirds and hummingbirds flitted to and fro. Another late-diner was sitting a few tables away. I began to feel like I was the lazy, toxin-riddled bastard of the inn, which I was. Guarantee: no one else snuck into the place after <st1:time Hour="23" Minute="00" w:st="on">11:00pm</st1:time> last night. The service was homey and non-intrusive. As I watched the frittata disappear, I knew I would be in trouble. It was too delicious, and too rich. I left a tip and hurried back upstairs.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Back in my room, I knew I needed to check out soon, probably around <st1:time Hour="11" Minute="00" w:st="on">11:00am</st1:time>. I would hit the Sedona Choppers shop in town for a t-shirt or something, and see what else was around. Based on the time of day and the miles I needed to cover, I wasn&#8217;t going to be able to hit a Harley dealer on this trip. My tradition of acquiring a local H-D t-shirt when I travel someplace on a Harley would have to be skipped.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Once I&#8217;d reached a physiological state as close to equilibrium as possible, I finished packing, pulled on the riding clothes, and made two trips from the room to the bike. It was already hot at <st1:time Hour="11" Minute="15" w:st="on">11:15am</st1:time> as I packed the boxes and bungeed my backpack onto the sissybar. I was parked on the gravel lot behind the B&B, right next to their much-touted labyrinth.

    [​IMG]

    When you travel, you can make the biggest plans and achieve only the basics. You can say you&#8217;re going to see all the sights, stop at all the historic markers, check out the museums in all the towns, but it almost never works out that way, especially as a young working man. There&#8217;s just not enough vacation time as a paid serf in the corporate world&#8230;the same world that provides the ready cash and credit that made a trip like this so easy to dream up, plan, and purchase. It&#8217;s a double-edged sword. I thought I&#8217;d get a real &#8220;Sedona Experience&#8221; while I was there, seeing the sights, feeling the spirits, poking around in the funky places. Nope. Craig and I got a good view of the area from the Airport Mesa a few days before, and I got to roll through Oak Creek Canyon in both directions, but we didn&#8217;t do any of the &#8220;touristy&#8221; things.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The labyrinth sat there, low stones winding around and around, creating a path to a central &#8220;altar&#8221;. This was not the kind of labyrinth most people normally think of. It wasn&#8217;t like a European garden maze with 10-foot-high bushes, or a rural American corn maze where you can truly get lost. The path was made with small rocks. It had no false turns or dead ends &#8211; there was no possible way to get lost. Besides, you can just step right over the &#8220;walls&#8221;. The idea is that you just follow the turns and curves to the center, thinking and relaxing and meditating all along the way.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    What did I think about or meditate on as I stepped in and began? Nothing. I just stayed quiet, walked slowly along the path, and took time to apply sunscreen to all potentially exposed body parts. It was nice. At the center of the labyrinth was a small &#8220;altar&#8221; of stones with various trashy mementoes like gum, baseball cards, inspirational bracelets, photos of loved ones, fake flowers, and sparkles. There might have been some used dental floss there too. Whatever relaxes you&#8230;
    <o:p> </o:p>
    At <st1:time Hour="11" Minute="25" w:st="on">11:25am</st1:time> I had walked back through the labyrinth (without cheating) and finished absorbing the PABA.

    [​IMG]

    Back on the Harley, my odometer read 994 miles as I left the lodge and headed into downtown Sedona. The rental place in Scottsdale was probably two hours from there on the highway, and I wanted to arrive by <st1:time Hour="15" Minute="00" w:st="on">3:00pm</st1:time>, so I would probably not have time to fool around in Sedona or on back roads, and might not take that alternate route, but we would see. The travel writer William Least Heat-Moon said, &#8220;Life doesn&#8217;t happen along the interstates. It&#8217;s against the law.&#8221; That&#8217;s why we almost always stuck to the little roads, just like he did. Then again, Jack Kerouac said, &#8220;The road is life.&#8221; You figure it out.
    #46
  7. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    As I mentioned, I am OUT OF PHOTOS for this trip. But fear not, I shall paste in a ton of totally unrelated ones to entertain you!

    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    The &#8220;chopper shop&#8221; in Sedona was nothing of the sort. It was t-shirt shop, really (some haters might level that description at Harley-Davidson dealers). There was a slick custom chopper in the back, made by a local builder, but there were actually no &#8220;Sedona Choppers&#8221; to be sat on, seen, or even purchased. The bike in the store was made by Arizona Custom, called the &#8220;Cobra&#8221;, and lists on their website for $55,900. Yep, $55,900. I noticed they were also listing a &#8220;1999 Custom Harley Dyno&#8221; for $25,000. You figure for $25,000 they could at least get the name of the bike right (should be &#8220;Dyna&#8221;). I spent most of the time waiting to get out of the area because of a tour bus doing a U-ey right in front of me in the tiny motel parking lot where I was parked. A man was trying to direct the bus back and forth in the tiny lot, trying to keep it from hitting cars (and bikes). It was <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:time Hour="12" Minute="00" w:st="on">noon</st1:time> at that point, and I decided to take 87 south. I figured I had a little time and wanted to see some new landscapes. It was a solid 89 degrees.
    <o:p></o:p>
    At the intersection of 89 where we stayed on our first night of the trip, I took a left on 179 south. It wound nicely through the suburbs of Sedona, passing craft stops and antique malls. I didn&#8217;t think of Sedona as having &#8220;suburbs&#8221;. So I wonder &#8211; as I always do when I pass through remote places: &#8220;What do these people do??!&#8221; I guess there are a lot of yoga instructors and masseuses, but I also imagine there are a lot of just plain rich people who have retirement places or second homes out there. Many of the houses looked like simple, everyday-people houses. Where did they work? How could they afford it? I rode on and was soon out of the suburbs and back into the desert wilderness, broken only by a trailhead parking lot, and occasional abandoned buildings and industrial shops. I zoomed underneath Interstate 17, the road I vowed to avoid on this whole trip. No highways! It can be an important motorcyclist mantra.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Well, I figured a short jaunt on I-17 wouldn&#8217;t hurt if it got me back onto a small road, so I jumped on for just a few miles down to Camp Verde (&#8220;Salsa Verde&#8221; from the first leg of the journey). I exited onto Route 260 east, another road we&#8217;d been on before. I didn&#8217;t want to backtrack and see the same roads twice, but there weren&#8217;t many choices headed south. Besides, when you&#8217;ve got such great scenery, it can look fairly different going in the other direction.

    [​IMG]

    I was flying, really bombing down the road. From 260, I got onto 87 south and zipped through familiar town names like Strawberry and Pine, enjoying the chilly ride through the mountains, and making great time. After the relative metropolis of Payson, I got stuck behind a truck which slowed my pace, but at least those twisty and forested roads were nice and cool. I remembered what a precipitous drop in altitude this road saw. From Payson and the pines, I quickly lost upwards of 2,000 feet and found myself back into the low, hot desert.
    <o:p></o:p>
    87 South turned into a highway &#8211; more or less &#8211; as it dropped south into the desert. There was one final motorcycle-worthy section of road to exhilarate me before I headed onto the straight and narrow back to Scottsdale. It was the last mountain to descend, and the road wound back and forth in fantastically fast, wide switchbacks with long stretches in between that made me wonder if I was going too fast for them. Some of those curves to the next stretch had me dragging the Road King&#8217;s floorboards, which made me smile (I mean really, was I going to damage the bike any more than I already had?). I recalled one of Craig&#8217;s last orders to me before we parted ways: &#8220;Drag those floorboards!&#8221;
    <o:p></o:p>
    The valley yawned below as I careened back and forth through the curves, then finally hit bottom. I pulled off at a rest area (I think it was named &#8220;Mazapal&#8221;) at <st1:time Hour="13" Minute="45" w:st="on">1:45pm</st1:time> with 1,011 miles total for the trip that far. I was seriously hungry and thirsty, and reeling under the power of the Arizona sun. The setting was dramatic: mountains, desert, and dry heat beating down. Just 60 miles left to go in the trip. The little thermometer on my jacket said 85 degrees, but I don&#8217;t think it had a chance to get out of the cooling road wind (and I also think it was broken). It had to be at least 100 degrees. My right shoulder was killing me. It was an issue I&#8217;d always experience when I&#8217;d do long mileage in a short time frame. I needed cruise control, and not that silly little thumb wheel that Harley gives you, which only works in airstrip/Utah-straight roads that go for 30 miles without a single turn or stop sign.

    [​IMG]

    I ate the only snack I had: half a trail mix bar and a few ounces of hot water and hot Diet Coke. I got my legs back under me and started back around the driveway toward the exit and the highway. Right before the rest area exit, I waited as a strange car gingerly backed out of a space. I realized that thing was definitely something being tested by a car manufacturer for a desert environment. It was some sort of hatchback/small minivan, maybe a VW, and was all wrapped in black.
    <o:p></o:p>
    From that rest area, I spent part of the next hour or so enjoying the fascinating depth and diversity of the rocky desert, jagged cliffs, and finally the typical saguaro cactus land. It was beautiful. I never thought I could say that about a place that didn&#8217;t have lush vegetation or crashing waterfalls, or all the other stereotypical things that we think of when we&#8217;ve never been to a true desert. I wished Craig could have seen this area. It was hot, but I was loving it.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Well, until I realized that I was running very low on gas. It had been well north of Flagstaff since I&#8217;d refueled. That was over 170 miles. I figured the bike would get at least 200 miles to a tank, but when you&#8217;re on a new bike (to you) you never quite know how many miles it can take it you before you really do sputter to a stop. You have to think back to how you&#8217;ve ridden on that tank, and if there&#8217;s a reserve &#8211; and how aggressive with the throttle were you over the last 170 miles? Did you do a lot of drag strip starts or blast a bunch of slow jerks in the left lane of the highway by twisting the right wrist as far back as it would go? Were you really wrenching it out of some tight curves to see what kind of lean you could get? Were you doing a steady 94 mph for the last couple of hours? Anyway, because H-D fuel level indicators are notoriously inaccurate, you never really know how many more miles you have when that low fuel light goes on. My indicator turned on when I was deep into that desert.

    [​IMG]

    Running low on gas is always stressful, but for some reason it&#8217;s especially so when you&#8217;re on two wheels. The concept of leaving your vehicle and all its stuff on the side of the road without being able to &#8220;roll up the windows&#8221; and hide the valuables in the trunk is unnerving. And then there&#8217;s the whole hitchhiking thing. Plus, whom do you call? What if you don&#8217;t get a signal? What if the tow company can&#8217;t (or won&#8217;t) handle a bike? I just never want to have to do that. I hate having to be so desperately reliant on someone else. Especially in the heat I&#8217;d been riding through.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I rode for what seemed like 50 miles on that low fuel light with no gas stations at all. No towns at all. No civilization at all. I was tempted to ride faster, but that would eat up gas. I tried to slow down, but that just didn&#8217;t feel right &#8211; I felt like I wasn&#8217;t making any forward progress toward civilization and a gas station.
    <o:p></o:p>
    I watched for road signs. Every crossroad made me wonder if I should take a chance and head down it to find a gas station, but there was never any guarantee that one of those specks on the map (as if I would stop to look at a map!) would have a gas station. I figured it would be best to just keep rolling straight south toward Scottsdale. The needle on the fuel gauge was scraping the left side of the little window, and the light had been insistent for miles.

    [​IMG]

    No civilization in sight - I was freaking out. I was going to run out of gas on the side of the road! I was going to have to hike for miles and miles to the nearest gas station! I was going to be late to drop the bike off! I was going to miss my flight! I was feeling the stress of high levels of potential adversity, inconvenience, and monetary cost! You want your machine to always work and never break down, but you know it might. Your car might get two flats or overheat, but it doesn&#8217;t quite feel the same as being stranded on a bike.
    <o:p></o:p>
    There were turnoffs and random side roads, but they just made me wonder and question myself. My maps wouldn&#8217;t help me, and I feared stopping and turning off the engine. I had the belief that if I was running on fumes, the engine wouldn&#8217;t restart, and, if I was running on fumes, I&#8217;d better make as much forward progress as I could &#8211; especially if I&#8217;d be walking and sticking my thumb out. The only number I knew to call would be the rental place &#8211; if I even had a cell signal (go back to the concept of &#8220;stopping or not stopping&#8221;).
    <o:p></o:p>
    The desert was beautiful though &#8211; it really lived up to what I thought the it was going to be, especially coming out of the high Mazatzal Mountains, lower and lower, into vicious, rocky landscapes, jagged hills, then into what I would call &#8220;typical&#8221; saguaro cactus desert in which I was currently stressing out. There they were, the &#8220;stereotypical&#8221;, tall, green cacti with outstretched and upturned arms, just like in that pinball game I used to play on Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale. Many of them had supports and braces placed under the arms, holding them up, and keeping the bodies straight. The locals clearly valued these symbols of the region. I know I wouldn&#8217;t have felt like I had seen the southern Arizona wilderness if I hadn&#8217;t seen the most famous cactus of all.
    <o:p></o:p>
    But that was tempered by the fear of having to pull a powerless Road King over next to one of them, with no gas. I would definitely take an arm-stretch photo of myself with one of those big cacti, before starting the rescue process.
    <o:p></o:p>
    The miles ticked by. The heat beat down and reflected up. The nervousness and dread sat and vibrated in my stomach and reverberated in my head. The orange light on the dash became a constant frustration. How many miles did I have left? I thought I&#8217;d noted when I first saw it, but I wasn&#8217;t sure how many miles the reserve would give me &#8211; this was the first time I&#8217;d seen a Harley-Davidson low fuel light! Did I have 35 miles? 50 miles? Eight miles?

    [​IMG]

    Turns out, as I went down and down and down, feeling the beat of the sun through my jeans and leather, I&#8217;d gone only eight miles under the low-fuel light, though it felt like about 30. Every one of those eight felt like a half an hour. Every tenth of a mile ticking by on the odometer was like a drop of sweat. Later, as a Harley owner and as a more experienced rider, I&#8217;d learn that the low-fuel light means very different things depending on the bike. With a Harley-Davidson, it practically means you have a quarter tank left &#8211; that could mean 40-50 miles or more! With my Buell, I&#8217;ve read on the Internet that it means 35 miles &#8211; I&#8217;ve never tested it.
    <o:p></o:p>
    At <st1:time Hour="14" Minute="39" w:st="on">2:39pm</st1:time>, I approached the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation and a massive, bizarrely square, blocky casino with huge electronic signage along the highway. Then I knew I was going to be okay. At the very first gas station after the gaudy sign, I pulled in and basked in the shade of the overhang &#8211; the first shade I&#8217;d felt since leaving my room at the B&B about three and a half hours earlier. My body went limp after hours of hard, fast, highway riding in blazing sun. The trip odometer read 1,146 miles, just 30 miles from Scottsdale. I was so glad to have gas back in the tank. Now I could forget about fuel and think about lunch.
    <o:p></o:p>
    After some air conditioning at Wendy&#8217;s, I cruised along East McDowell Road, a suburban street through strip mall areas, residential areas, along interesting canyon cuts, but ultimately back into a major desert metropolis. The red lights were brutal, sitting in that heat in my leather, but knowing that the trip was just about over made the last traffic-choked miles a little sweeter. I even got slightly lost, not knowing which direction to go on Scottsdale Boulevard &#8211; north or south &#8211; back to the rental place. I was even so humble as to ask for directions at a gas station. It was just another few minutes before I found my way back to Eagle Rider, parked the Road King back out front where I had originally found it, and trudged in to make my case as to the cause of the damage. It was <st1:time Hour="15" Minute="50" w:st="on">3:50pm</st1:time>, and the ride odometer said 1,170 total miles. Pretty good trip.

    [​IMG]


    The finale is to come...
    #47
  8. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    It was a different guy at the front desk this time, which made me happy – the guy who initially rented me the bike was kind of a jerk. This guy was much more easygoing. He couldn’t have been cooler about the crash – an “don’t worry about it – it happens to the best of us” kind of attitude (as long as you had the money to fix it). I would find out the next day what the “damage” would be. The guy used to race Ducatis and Aprilias and made a decent amount of money doing it, but he also has a new hip, ankle, and plenty of aches and pains and stories of broken backs and bones for all of his 27 years to show for it (compared to my then-34 years and water-ski-broken little toe and snow-ski-cracked shoulder). When I showed him the wee little spot of road rash that I had incurred underneath my leather jacket, he told me a sobering story of when he went down in full leathers in a race and found his whole body covered in road rash even though he was fully covered. It’s just what can happen.

    [​IMG]

    He took a few minutes to examine the Road King and document the damage, which I signed off on. The plan was that his superiors would determine the cost and call me with the damage. I just wanted to get out of the heat, get out of my old sweaty clothes, and get to the airport and make my flight (the likelihood of which was starting to make me nervous). The cabby was taking his sweet time. In my many bike rental experiences, I’ve noted that the cabbies seem baffled by the concept of taking me to a business address rather than to a residential address. They get especially freaked out when the place is located in an industrial area. Can’t blame them.

    [​IMG]

    The consequences of the crash? Yeah, I boofed it. The basic insurance program I signed up for ($4.50 per day or something) had a $2,000 deductible. Unfortunately, the damage amount came up to $1,500 or so, which still strikes me as being crap. For $2,000, I would have had to really messed up that bike. Makes me think – if it hadn’t just plopped itself into that ditch on the side of the road, and instead went down on its side, I might have gotten the benefit of the insurance. I can imagine bunged-up grips, broken clutch levers, broken gear shifters, broken foot boards, busted luggage guards, etc.

    Finally the cabbie arrived, after I’d changed into a more-or-less clean shirt and into some street shoes and clean socks. Knowing that I’d have to go through airport security, I didn’t want to destroy the machinery when I put the footwear through the system, and didn’t want to leave funky footprints on that short walk of humiliation that we all take when we fly. “To the airport.” I said. I could have said, “To Sky Harbor International Airport.” Portland, Maine calls their little airport a “Jetport”, but a “sky harbor”? Arizonians must have lack of water on the brain.

    I was finally in the cab and finally out of that infernal heat, only to be hit in the face by some serious B.O. It was not mine, surprisingly, especially after dealing with stop and go traffic lights in Scottsdale in a leather jacket. I only saw one other dude on a bike wearing a helmet on that final 10 mile stretch through the Saguaro desert, and it was someone on a sportbike. And of all the other riders, only one of them wasn’t wearing shorts. I don’t want to know what my back and legs would have looked like on that dirt road if I hadn’t been wearing my leather jacket and jeans.

    [​IMG]

    I talked a little bit with the fragrant driver. He had moved to AZ because of frostbite. Seriously. He had been living in the upper United States and had gotten stranded on the side of the road one bitter winter, was rescued, and barely survived, but not before suffering some frostbite on some of his extremities. He was so embittered (badump-bump) by the experience that he vowed to move the hell (badump-bump) away from anyplace that had anything that resembled a winter, and became a cab driver in Phoenix. He hadn’t even been up north to Flagstaff or any of the local ski areas.

    [​IMG]

    Aside from the gruesome story about frostbite, it was a routine trip to the Sky Harbor and onto a Southwest Airlines flight back home, which gave me several hours of time to think about the trip.

    It was done, and it was a learning experience, if anything. Some bruises, raspberries, a bit of a jacket-burn, a mysterious little slice on my ear (perhaps from a flying rock), and those damn cactus needles. And don’t forget the interesting design on my back…and the requisite sun/windburn on my face.
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    I was still really mad at myself for such a simple mistake and boneheaded screwup. I fixated on that deep sand and the bike went right at it. I resolved to never let myself make that kind of mistake again.
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>Anyway, another great experience in one of the world’s most incredible places…something to check off the big list (and Utah was a new state for me).
    <o:p></o:p>
    And now my friend Pony is calling me “Captain Roadrash”.</o:p>
    #48
  9. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    So, what would be the next big bike journey? And next time, I really do want that Road Glide with a CD player! &#8220;What? No Road Glide? A Road King instead? Here&#8217;s what I think of your Road King!&#8221; CRASH!

    [​IMG]

    Craig and I talked about doing Highway 1 up California to Oregon and back. That would be a long one, and could involve lots of different weather. Arizona was easy as far as that goes. Craig talked about doing Wyoming too, which would also be awesome, but he hates riding in cold weather (not that I like it, but I&#8217;ve got lots of good experience tolerating it and the equipment to handle it). I still have in mind a ride around Spain, or maybe the Alps.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    But who knows&#8230;I might get lucky with one of these chicks online and all this bachelor frivolity will be a distant memory until my next 1/3-life crisis, around 60. One can only hope. Just me and the bikes. Then again, why should I think that I won&#8217;t meet someone who will be more than happy to let me disappear for a week every now and then? I think I&#8217;ll stick with my optimism.<o:p></o:p>

    [​IMG]

    Back at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, I wearily picked up my baggage, opened up the red ski boot bag, and yanked my jacket out. Putting the sun-baked leather back on &#8211; cold from the plane&#8217;s cargo hold &#8211; was a nice feeling. It felt like armor. I half-expected some sand or grit to fall out of it as a reminder of my trip, like that Dido song &#8220;Sand in My Shoes&#8221;: she finds her shoes have remnants in them from a getaway at a beachy paradise with a lover and is reminded of the trip&#8217;s events. Good song. No sand in my jacket, but the weight of it reminded me of everything, no sand or sun or cigar smoke needed. My nose felt a little bit like a dry leather jacket though &#8211; a nice sensation from another part of the world, and that&#8217;s what I was after. That&#8217;s why I do these things, and why I go these places, and why I write about them afterwards.

    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    #49
  10. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    Epilogue<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>

    <o:p></o:p>

    “We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”


    Hilaire Belloc

    <o:p></o:p>
    This trip was not like Scotland. I didn’t have to fly so far, I didn’t ride through constant rain and cold wind, and I didn’t have to change my currency. However, I write about this trip to Arizona as if it was a trip to a foreign country because, like a solo motorcycle tour of Scotland, this is something many people will never do. One might definitely go to the Grand Canyon, and drive on some of the same roads that I traveled on, but most will almost likely never do it on a motorcycle with a good friend trailing behind or leading ahead. One might rent a convertible, which will provide a bit of the experience, but only a bit. Aside from the wind in your face, the fact that motorcyclists are restricted as to what they are able to pack plays a part. The fact that you are physically taxed at the end of each day on what many would just consider a “road trip”, and that you find your back a bit achy after 200 miles on that road that day – this all plays a part.
    [​IMG]

    The impact of weather plays a part. The sheer reliance on the 100% reliability of those two tires under you is significant…there is no spare, no jack, no “easing it over to the shoulder” if a tire blows. It’s different. Henry Ford said, “Today the American road has no end; the road that went nowhere now goes everywhere.” You know the gas stations, the fast food, the motels, and the traffic patterns. Arizona and Utah weren’t foreign in a nationality sense (geographical, yes), but they were still someplace strange for us, and constituted a trip that many have never taken. In some way or another, I recommend everyone see them like I did – in direct contact with the sun, wind, sand, and stone.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Oh, and I did get married about three years later to a woman who seemed cool with the bikes at first. Heck, I plowed into a deer a few months after I met her and she still got on the back of an Electra Glide and went down Big Sur with me for a few days, just a month or so after that crash! Well, after the ring was on the finger, the fear of my riding starting to increase. Understandable. And, she understands that it’s not something anyone will convince me to give up…it has to be a personal decision. I haven’t done any long trips since Big Sur, over four years later. Hm.

    [​IMG]

    Thanks for reading...I hope I can document another of my rides soon...

    Keep riding as long as you can, when you can, if you can, and because you can. We're lucky to be involved in one of the great experiences of life, and sharing it all here.
    #50
  11. jbcaddy

    jbcaddy Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,238
    Location:
    Oroville & Placerville, California U.S.of A.
    did many of the same roads on a solo trip a couple years ago. really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks
    #51
  12. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    Thanks for the comment...I'll definitely be back there one way or another...
    #52
  13. 1955BIKER

    1955BIKER Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    Virginia
    Sounds like a great trip. I have flown over the Grand Canyon but have not been to it yet!!
    #53
  14. BadWHooper

    BadWHooper Quick, rather than Dead.

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Silver Spring, MD
    You gotta' see it! It lives up to the reputation!
    #54