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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Quezzie, May 13, 2014.
I love your thread! I feel like I'm 20 again with my car packed and headed west!
An inspiring ride - Big Bend is on my list and getting closer now. Thanks . . .
Early on, I wondered if I would grow impatient at GL speeds – Fred's had the bulletproof P200 engine in it, but it would still be an adjustment from my 4-stroke modern wonder (snerk, spoilers: I went on to buy a bike with a P200 engine). It turned out we fell into a rhythm for more frequent fill ups and stretch breaks quite naturally. The only thing that seemed to wear differently were us, the riders.
Morning at Camp Surprised Gator.
RV tour we missed out on the night before.
A full day on the GL is somewhere between harder and much harder than on my GTS, and we hadn't had a non-riding rest day yet. By the time we pitched camp I saw in Fred that mix of high-strung delirium and fatigue that happens after hours of guiding an exposed vehicle down the road – a mirror of my own state, but amplified. Our schedule was pulling us ahead, but we needed to decompress on our only night in Marfa.
In the longstanding tradition of gathering around a campfire with drinks, we made friends. Most of the other patrons were RVers, and our Vespa expedition generated curiosity.
"You're riding to Vegas?"
"To get married?"
"So how did you meet?"
"I want to hear your version of our lives, it's going to be way more interesting that what I have to say."
That particular circle around the campfire was eclectic, and included a photographer who recently broke up, bought an RV, packed up her life in LA, and took off. We called it a night before we could take a tour of her RV, but took her up on it in the morning.
Camper cat. I like seeing how others travel, and still dream a little about the comforts of an RV.
I guess I'm just not the romancing type, it hadn't even occurred to me that people might interpret our trip to Vegas as a crazy wedding scheme. It almost made me want to stage some fake photos outside a chapel once we arrived... almost. Maybe the scooters can get married. Is that legal in Nevada?
Tumbleweed Laundry, lattes and laundry go hand in hand. Pretty good latte, too.
Scrabble tile menu. How did this level of hipness find itself in the middle of Texas?
Everyone has a cool RV in this town.
And a cool Passport.
Marfa is surprising for being a slice of cosmopolitan lifestyle dropped in the middle of nowhere. It seemed like everyone, regardless where they're from, walked slightly off the beaten path and walked it with a sophistication more typical to a large city, not a dusty town. Here, a beat up old RV is beat up in just the right way, and the residents are probably brewing kombucha in there, or at the very least are part-vegan. And yet, the harsh landscape demands some level of hardiness and determination that would keep away those who don't dare break out.
I mean, Marfa, a town of less than 2,000 in the middle of Texas, was anticipating the opening of a slick new Vietnamese restaurant called Marpho. In case you're uncertain where I stand on this issue, I would eat there.
I hope to pass through Marfa again someday. If not for pho, then to look for the Marfa lights, which we skipped due to the GL's malfunctioning headlight and being tired.
Spark plug check and re-jet break.
McDonald Observatory. Observatories are great waypoints, they're up in mountains and a make for an educational break. We snuck onto a guided tour of the Hobby Eberly telescope, one of the world's largest telescopes.
Scoping it out.
TX 166 to a smaller road out of Fort Davis, snaking around Mount Livermore range.
This was perhaps the hardest day. Once we picked up TX 90 it was flat and straight, and Fred would only hold it open around 50mph for fear of blowing up his engine. We zipped by the Prada art installation with tunnel vision, and I saw Fred's head whip around but we didn't stop. Rough feelings simmered as we waited for road construction, but it was superficial and smoothed out with a hug at the next rest stop. The day was not done though, and we'd spend the next several hours turning around, chasing threads of a frontage road for I-10. When we finally hit the Rio Grande again, we combed the edges of industrial scale farmland for miles before hitting the sprawl of El Paso/Cuidad Juarez. Our plan get to Las Cruces for the night were extinguished with the sun, and subsequent drop in temperature. The reacquaintance to moisture in the air from the river seemed to make the cold more piercing, and Fred made the call: He found the nearest hotel.
So tired. Very done.
I suppose I'll always take it as a bit of defeat, that I couldn't plan or otherwise procure accommodations before resorting to hotel costs, but it was clear Fred hit the point of no-longer-having-fun. Even if I would have pushed myself or planned to take longer, I must admit the hot shower, privacy, and large bed to ourselves was hugely restorative.
While El Paso was somewhat concentrated, the twinkling orange lights of Juarez stretched out in a massive blanket that hugged the land. In my mind's eye I saw the entire city grid laid out with stop signs, a surging concrete maze. I taunted Fred with the option of crossing the border just to do it, maybe get breakfast in Mexico (he said no, after looking up crime rates and recalling Voni's story about why their hotel had fresh lobster in stock. Hint: Cartel).
All that stuff fits on two scooters.
In the morning, Fred looked at the bed longingly as we packed our gear onto the bellhop. He didn't have to say anything, it was written on his face, Can't we just stay for a bit longer. Ah, how many soft sleeping surfaces I've given that look. But we have a rally to get to.
White Sands Missile Range expedition, until we had to turn around.
As a small consolation, we called it an early day and checked into Las Cruces. With luggage dropped off and the GL parked at the Super 8, we both hopped on my GTS for one place I didn't want to miss: White Sands National Monument. I hit wide open throttle as we made the long, slow climb up the Organ Mountains and accelerated to 70mph on the other side, rushing to make it to the park before closing. Admittedly, after doing 50mph for most of Texas it was exhilarating to open up my bike, even 2-up. We squeaked in just as the gates closed for sunset, and the rangers gave us an hour to wander.
Ever since visiting with Tim in the car, I've wanted to set tire here.
Sunset lit up the clouds and mountains, framing the surreal expanse of pale sand.
There's a lottery for overnight camping stays. Next time...
Got something on your face there.
The gypsum sand feels slick between your fingers. I poured a bit out of my boots when we got back to the motel.
On the other side of the mountains, I pointed out the campground where I'd stayed last time I was here. It was covered in snow. We gladly scooted back to our warm room indoors at Super 8.
Fred said he was glad for the GTS because the GL would have died on that climb, but I think if you had more time it wouldn't matter...
The town of Hatch, NM stood out to Fred, but he wasn't sure why.
Let's stop for a snack break at Sparky's anyway. There's a bison with a top hat, it's gotta be ok.
I know why the name Hatch stands out now!
That's a damn good burger. All the Hatch green chiles.
This looks more like a McDonald's art installation, but I believe it's a ranch?
No gas here.
We made it to the next pump before they closed, whew.
In our effort to stay off I-10 we took TX 9, the most remote road we'd ridden so far. I drank deep the peaceful spaciousness of the desert, completely oblivious that Fred was riding nervous beside me. He told me later he was going over in his head what he would do if the bike broke down. A few breezeblock shacks and border patrol cars were the only signs of human life for miles. The desert scrub could have looked like this 100 years ago. Judging from the man with only one tooth at the lone gas pump in Animas, maybe dental care was just as dated. The pump closed 5 minutes after we filled up.
Rusty's RV Ranch in Rodeo, NM had some space for tents by the orchard.
Aw, scooters on a camping date. Let's overlook the age difference. She's high mileage.
Break mid-camp setup to photograph the sunset.
The only game in town for food is 7 miles up at Rodeo's Tavern.
Challenge coins embedded in the bar.
Good morning, mountains and scooters.
Orchard in the morning.
A nod to Jeremy and Caitlin.
Thanks for packing up while I wandered around taking photos!
Darn, no game break because The Lost Arcade was closed.
Robots of justice?
Another state, another break! Bisbee, AZ and the usual culture shock of going from empty desert to bustling resort town. Colorful people watching over lunch, I nearly dog-napped Charlie the adorable chihuahua. We also made a Lavender Pit stop.
These boots have seen some times.
Junction to turn north towards Tucson is popular for motorcyclists.
Bisbee and Tombstone were along the route, but neither of us were feeling like the Disney Wild West and our needs for civilization were topped up before long.
Moreover, I'd started to notice a disturbing trend in interactions with strangers. As a solo curiosity, there was only one option for questions. As a duo, Fred would always be the one addressed. Naturally, the vintage Vespa with a comically oversized pack stands out, and I certainly don't need to always be the center of attention. But I began to also suspect something else...
In traveling with a male counterpart, it's presumed I'm following along. Fred does a marvelous job of giving both our backstories and is not a man prone to ego, but I still don't know if he noticed the subtle, unspoken assumption of authority. Overwhelmingly, I've ridden more miles solo than with companions of any gender, but as those small moments stacked up I realized: the day I choose to ride with a boyfriend, in the eyes of the average person I'd be assigned the role of accessory. The bitter reality is my individual journey would be undermined, unless I worked extra hard to be heard. The motorcycling world puts solo female riders on a pedestal, but in a stunning display of hypocrisy forgets that same woman was noteworthy the moment she's chosen a partner for the road. Like riding solo is the only way to be a real woman rider. I'd think it's more remarkable to have found another person who's willing to take the road alongside you, but hey maybe they all just have sour grapes.
I hadn't needed to deal with those assumptions on a regular basis until riding with Fred, and admittedly I felt a hint of resentment. Of all the potential challenges I'd worried about facing together, I'd imagined scenarios like losing tempers when hungry or tired, arguing over which way to go, or becoming frustrated at the unique limitations of our bikes. I hadn't anticipated the predicament of becoming invisible, nor that it would sting so frequently. If I'd like to travel more with a significant other, I'm going to need to develop tools to handle myself and others in such situations, without too much cursing. Maybe I'll go with the cursing for now – Hey, this was my fucking idea too!
This is by no means to say it spoiled travel together. For now, it was actually a relief to let Fred be the magnet for inquisitive strangers. I'm many thousand of miles past that heady elation that consumes you when first escaping daily doldrum for the open road, but in him I saw that kind of NRE – New Road Energy. Where I may have given a more deadpan response depending on whether I'd had a snack before being accosted with, "Do you need a license for that?" (for the millionth time), Fred was always animated, and it was refreshing to see him share the excitement.
Laundry and miles had piled up, and we were overdue for a rest by Tucson, AZ. We booked two nights at the hostel, eschewing the world-at-your-service rates to mingle among the weirdos, crazies, unsocialized, or merely free-spirited (and boy did that hostel deliver). We also needed to find an urgent care clinic, to determine whether Fred's sore throat was strep. Dammit, riding hard is hard!
El Guero Canela in an old car dealership.
Cutaway view of the Sonoran dog. For science.
A sign outside Batch advertised donuts and whiskey. We were like moths to a flame.
Thankfully, Fred's throat threat was downgraded to merely tonsillitis, probably exacerbated by the dry climate. After a Trader Joe's picnic lunch at the hostel, re-knitting our paracord bracelets that had been used to line dry our laundry, we watched Deadpool in the type of theater that brings food and drink to you in your big cushy recliner. And then had Sonoran dogs. And then had donuts and whiskey for dessert.
I think it was at Good Oak the day before, tucked into the polished and tastefully lit heart of the restaurant, Fred mentioned, "On this street, in this restaurant, you could be in any city." It did seem ironic to ride so far, merely to immerse yourself in an environment not dissimilar to Boston. I suppose for myself though, this one rest day in Tucson was a wistful taste of the other side, of 'normal life'. Would this be what it's like to spend a Sunday with Fred, if I settled back into working weekdays in a fixed location? If life is like a pendulum, was mine swinging back towards dormancy? I still hadn't decided what I was doing after the rally.
The road. It wears stuff out.
Cleared of strep, clothes afresh, we had one more overnight till Vegas.
Poignant observations Stephanie and one for all of us to keep in mind. I traveled for a week with a woman on a scooter - a friend and co-worker and that was pretty much our experience even though the trip was as much her idea as mine.
Thank you Stephanie once again, for sharing pics and inspiring dreams.
"Scooters on a camping date. Let's overlook the age difference. She's high mileage..." lol. There's someone out there for everyone.
Great writing, photos, and insight as ever Steph. TY. — Safe travels. Big fun.
More goodness Stephanie. As per usual.
In the past, I made a concerted effort to travel slowly and drink deeply rather than touch briefly many places over vast distances. The intention was to break the work-vacation dichotomy that compresses personal time, forcing you to rush through places for fear of missing out. I still prefer to wander slowly, but I've become much more relaxed with the ebb and flow of scheduling – sometimes (often with other people) you hustle, and other times you crawl or are at rest. It's impossible to see everything and meet everyone regardless, but the experience is still rewarding. The balance between journey and destination is a moving target.
So, our rest in Tucson was too short, but we only have one more night till Vegas!
Gates Pass to Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson is one of my favorite rides (see March 2015).
Mountains, cactuses, curvy roads.
Lunch break at a soul food shack in Maricopa, AZ.
Spotted quite a trailer while filling up outside Gila Bend.
Halfway between Tucson and Vegas, we found a classy motel in Salome, AZ.
The Westward Motel is full of rustic, retro details.
...They're also full. They recommended the Stanford Inn, a mile down the road.
Less charm, but the rate was reasonable and we had breakfast at the attached restaurant.
It seemed even our slight turn northward resulted in a sharper drop in temperature as soon as sunlight faded, and our fingers were numb by check in. Our gear was unceremoniously chucked onto every surface so a hot shower could be attended to. It was swiftly followed by nuking some soup in the microwave, opening the beer, and pillaging our collection of Trader Joe's snacks for dinner. We ate in bed to the soft sound of reruns on TV, sharing an unspoken agreement not to go outdoors again for the rest of the night. It was like that, in bed surrounded by jerky wrappers and with the lights still on, I passed out confident that I'd demonstrated to Fred the finest scooter travel could offer.
Morning at camp-motel scoot.
I think left before we definitively found out how 'Salome' is pronounced (Wikipedia says 'Suh-loam'). Along the Colorado River near the Parker Dam were clusters of RVs and boats, but they appeared eerily deserted. Another stretch of just two scooters along a river, it felt like we were the last people on earth.
Nice view from the Parker Dam viewpoint, crossing from Arizona into California for a hot second.
Actually we pulled over here because the GL's clutch cable broke, but Fred came prepared with an entire set of spares.
Oatman, AZ. Back among humans and burros, for a Navajo taco snack and Rt 66 kitsch.
One of my favorite rides is Sitgreaves Pass, along the Oatman-Topock Highway. Big tour buses may clog Oatman, but this road climbs and twists, and is too rough for them...
...But look at this view!
That scooting life.
Hauling along NV 93. The last stretch.
Riding into a brilliant sunset. Fred opened the bike up, figuring if it blew up we're close enough! It was fine, holding 60-65mph.
We made it!
Fred, figuring we're close enough, opened the P200 engine wide and we flew over the Hoover Dam at 65mph. The brilliant orange sky faded to deep blue as we hit the first traffic lights of Vegas. We checked in under cover of nightfall, which is to say around 7pm.
And we were asleep by 9:30pm. This party is pooped.
The road shared, about 2,200 miles over 12 days of travel. 19 days total including Austin and LVHR.
A few stats for this leg of the journey: When we compared mileage, we discovered our counts were similar at about 2,200. From start to finish was 10 days total of riding, 3 days setup in Austin, 1 'rest' day in Big Bend, 1 rest day in Tucson, and 4 days remaining to rally rally rally. We rode in 5 states and 3 timezones. On the last day we crossed into California briefly in Parker, making it a 3 states day. We spent 5 nights with friends, 4 nights in motels/hotels (the first in Kerrville featured a Texas shaped waffle iron and patrons sporting black cowboy hats trying to negotiate the rate, reinforcing villainous or at least slightly sleazy black-hatted stereotypes), 3 nights camping, and 2 nights at a hostel. Including the group rides with LVHR, Fred used all 4 liters of 2-stroke oil. Breakdowns include one fuel line falling off (Serenity) and a broken clutch cable (GL).
And now, to rally!
Donuts at Pawn Donut & Coffee (now closed, boo), followed by wandering through the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, setting of Pawn Stars.
A mild-mannered strip mall from the outside, Pinball Hall Of Fame on the inside.
Some people go to Vegas for the shows, or strippers, or gambling. Fred's pilgrimage is for pinball. Is that The Who I hear?
More useful things to collect on a scooter!
Feeling buzzed, buzz button buzzed.
An excursion to Frankie's Tiki Room was a given, but Fred claimed to have a novel way to make my tongue tingle if we're willing to go to the Strip – how could I refuse? We headed to the Chandelier Lounge in the Cosmopolitan for The Verbena, a secret menu cocktail. Instructions were to first chew the flower bud, a Szechuan button, then make like Alice down the rabbit hole and drink the drink. The cocktail was similar to a margarita at first, but after thoroughly macerating the flower I began to get a sensation like sparkling water constantly sitting on the surface of my tongue. It felt like my salivary glands were going full tilt, but actually much of the sour element of the cocktail was neutralized by the kind of 'numbing spiciness' found in mapo tofu. It made for a confusingly smooth and buzzy experience. Leave it to Vegas to turn mapo tofu into a margarita.
Also, that bar is beautiful.
No tie downs? Just buckle up for safety.
We went this far without a flat, so why not get one at the Strip? The best part was how Fred was nearly arrested on the rescue mission, for 'stealing' a ramp from his friend's unlocked van – security looking on didn't know they were already acquainted. The ramp was returned safely after the GL was buckled in, nothing on anyone's records.
Another hitchhiker, from the pinball prize collection.
I wonder if that weighs the same as Fred's pack.
Rally! In both senses of Rally.
Marco met up for the group ride to Bonnie Springs.
Annual Red Rocks Canyon ride.
Live music and porthole peepholes at the Golden Tiki.
Topcase is for snacks! Ronald's Donuts for everyone!
Lake Las Vegas had the authenticity of a movie set, so Cyd, Fred, Marco and I bailed in favor of a sign for Crystal Palace Skating Center on the way back...
There's a sadistic side of me that enjoys watching the varying discomfort levels when other's feet are replaced with 8 wheels. Cyd grew up in an era when this was just what kids did for after school, and Fred was a skater and thus natural on wheels. Marco, however, had never skated, and spent about an hour dragging himself along the outer wall before progressing to another hour of slow shuffle. I did my best to teach him to skate, but eventually the training wheels had to come off. At least he was enthusiastic.
As for me? It was exhilarating to be on quad skates again. It brought back memories of roller derby days, and I regaled Fred with various drills with did in PRD. Every so often Cyd would skate by and mime body checking me, and then pretend to flail and bounce away. I counted Marco as 1 point every time I lapped him. With wind in my hair and rumble beneath my feet, I began to wonder if I should cross the continent on roller skates. Apparently I like going around in circles, on all sorts of wheels.
Also notice Fred has lost the facefuzz.
Getting my $3.99 shrimp cocktail on at Du-Par's.
If you think that dress looks familiar, you'd be correct: I wore it for Davide's wedding! I left a small flat-rate box with Tim Orton when I stayed with him in Herford, NC. As Fred and I closed in on Vegas he shipped it to the hotel concierge, who held it for me until arrival. Thanks to Tim, I have lady-clothes to flounce around in at the rally!
Meanwhile, at camp Moose: Meatfest.
Moose and Joe also rode into Vegas from SF. They went with a more traditional camping rally activity though: cooking meat around a big fire... In the backyard of their AirBnb.
PublicUs has the most delicious get up and go brunch cocktail: Espresso old fashioned.
The end...for now.
Until Sunday, I'd been focused on getting to Vegas and enjoying my numbered days with Fred. With raffle prizes allocated and scooterists catching their flights home, the question was, What now? Do I relent to travel fatigue, store Serenity in Vegas, and grab a flight to Boston with Fred? Do I ride on, in spite of exhaustion and longing, which is to say the same old for me? Perhaps I set the bike aflame and pursue a completely different path. I thought I was playing tour guide on this trip, but maybe I was the tourist in Fred's life. How would I know?
On the morning of February 29th, with a lump in my throat and a fist around my heart, I packed up the bike. The open desert road soothes all. By the end of the day, I'd crossed the mountains and could smell the Pacific again.
My brilliant reply - Wow!
If I may, I would like to offer a perspective on the male/female dynamic. I don't know if most of the people approaching you and Fred were male or female, but as a male, I have always been taught that when there is a couple, I should address the male. It's the polite thing to do. And in some company, it prevents jealousy, which as we all know, can lead to far uglier things. If I am out and about with my wife, and some guy is trying to strike up a conversation with her, I do not appreciate it. I will interject myself into the conversation. So I approach the male. If he gives me the cold shoulder, then I go away and mind my own business. It's not because I value the female less in any way, it's just custom.
If the female is not with a male, then my feeling is I should be cautious if I want to talk to her. Again, not because I don't value/respect her, it's because I don't want to come across as some overbearing horny old man. So for an old fashioned guy like me, it's important that she be open and friendly. If she isn't, I go away and mind my own business.
Please don't feel like you are in any way less valued because you are female. Quite the contrary, you are the star of this show!
Thanks for continuing to read along! These last few posts took a lot to put together, it means a lot to me that you guys are still following this crazy trip.
Old fool, lightcycle: Thanks for paying attention to what's seems to be so easy for half the population to overlook. I hope to find many more people like you!
mrbreeze: Thanks for that insight, and affirmation. There are probably plenty of men who were brought up with similar customs. While well-meaning, it's still rooted in the assumption that the opinion/potentially hurt feelings of the male in the party takes precedent over the opinion/inclusivity of the female – after all, she's probably used to being overlooked, amiright? But as others have pointed out, I do consider the source (older gentlemen, southern gentlemen, foreign culture...). It doesn't change my feelings, but I realize while I can't control the behavior of another person I can control how I react. Fred is a friendly guy, and when I have the energy I'll pipe up. I suppose I'm so accustomed to male spaces (riding, jiujitsu, working in a shop) it doesn't even occur to me that I may be treated differently on the occasion I present myself as part of a couple, and thus didn't realize that I'd be required to work harder to be heard.
This is DEFINITELY not meant to come down on you personally, and I can hear the "not all men" resounding in the background even as I write. I'm sure some women also prefer to keep a guy around for 'protection' or as a foil... just not all of them, and not me.
I want to believe it IS possible to address more than one person at a time, and it IS possible for a man to address a woman directly without being creepy. Unless he's a creep, which is a different problem.
Anyway, I'm not THAT scary am I?
Tell your new beau that when the two of you are in public, YOU do the talking...his job is to sit there and look pretty! Problem solved.
Anyone who has read this blog and still believes it is necessary to 'mansplain' for you is a fool. Keep riding and writing, please...
Still following along and still enjoying every word, and pic. Thanks for still putting it together. I'm especially enjoying the old/new scoot perspective.
Love this ride report! Like many others it's magnificent photos and narrative are just awesome!
"it's still rooted in the assumption that the opinion/potentially hurt feelings of the male in the party takes precedent over the opinion/inclusivity of the female"
To a degree...for me, when interacting with strangers (which I rarely do) it boils down to muscle mass and upper body strength as to whose feelings I give precedent to. Live to fight another day sort of thing.
Great read, thanks for sharing.
"LAST MAN STANDING"
Great following this RR!
yes, there are some people who consider the women to be "property" (and some ladies like it that way), and if a male strikes up a conversation with one of these ladies, he's probably going to need to defend himself. Why bother? Talk to the man. The only feelings I am worrying about hurting are my own.
Interesting twist this has taken. Personally, I agree with Stephanie, and I am an older guy (63). Whereas there may be historical reasons for this behavior, it wasn't right back in the past, and is not right now. I see it as a sort of unconscious, unintentional discrimination. Because it is not intentional, it is that much harder to recognize. That makes it insidious indeed. How can a situation be corrected if it not even recognized?
My wife also rides, and has for over 30 years. I spent some time last night discussing this post with her, and asked her if she felt like Stephanie. She said she hadn't, but wondered if that was because 1- she always assumes whoever is talking to one of us is talking to both, and she just speaks up as if that is the case, and 2- because she rides a fairly large bike (BMW R90/6), that that fact sort forces recognition of equality. I asked if it was different when she was younger, because perhaps some may view her as 'safe' because of her age. She didn't like that. At all. She said it was troubling to think that she might be viewed as old enough to be beyond the risk of flirting. But she also said that it never struck her as the case when she was younger, either. We have been riding together since 1982, when she was 26. She said she always just spoke up and acted as if she was equal, to the point of not being even willing to recognize a situation like Stephanie has described. But thought it could be an issue if she thought about it.
Based on this, I would say, take the bull by the horns, Stephanie!. Don't let others define you or your position. Refuse to acknowledge it if they do. It seems to me that your partner would accept- nay, welcome, such an approach. I know it is what I have always viewed as a plus in my wife, and why I always have found myself with strong willed women. They are far more interesting and 'complete' individuals.
Humans are as they have always been, creatures and creators. Were it not for our stomachs, we would take ourselves to be gods.