Jack and The Bird Go Riding

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by CharlesLathe, May 25, 2019.

  1. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    This is the story about a man named Jed, a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed.

    No, no, that's not right.

    This is a story about a motorcycle who sometimes goes by the name of The Bird and a motorcycle rider who sometimes goes by the name of Jack. I will be narrating this story from the third person omniscient point of view. That means that I saw what happened, heard all that was said, and knew the thoughts of the characters, but I didn't actually take part in the incidents I will try to faithfully describe.

    The Bird is a 2013 Triumph Street Triple that Jack rescued from languishing on a showroom floor in January of 2015. He was a motorcycle who, for one reason or another, was found unattractive by everyone who had entered the motorcycle shop during the past two years.

    [Hey, hey, hey, Mr. Omniscient Narrator, you are way off base. I am the beans in this here chili. Jack is a Mr. Nobody special whom I felt sorry for. I allowed him to take me home with him. Let's get this right, right now. I am a Street Triple and that says it all. Jack is a poser who only acts like a motorcycle rider. I can scare the wits out of him anytime I want, but I always remain cool as a cucumber. Remember that.]

    That was The Bird who chimed in there. He does some trick with his ECU that allows him computer access. I can't prevent it. As for Jack, I do not think he will chime in. Jack says this trip was not epic and doesn't think it deserves a write up. I don't think we can expect him to participate.

    So let's get back to the story. Jack is an old, retired guy who is trying to develop an interior life so that he can just sit contentedly in the back yard and listen to the birds chirp, but when spring rolls around it is The Bird who does the chirping and Jack soon feels the wanderlust stirring and making an interior life distraction.

    Jack has been to all fifty states -- forty-eight by motorcycle and the other two by ship -- and he has been to forty-seven of those states on Triumph motorcycles. This year he decided to ride out to Arizona and make it forty-eight states by Triumph motorcycles. So that's what he and The Bird did.

    On day one, May 1st, they set off on the Interstate headed west. Fortunately, that didn't last long and pretty soon they were up into the mountains of North Carolina and then Tennessee.

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    At the beginning of this post, I got sidetracked by a mountaineer named Jed. Well there was another Jed who was admonished with this sage advice, "Cold iron shackles and a ball and chain, listen to the whistle of the evening train, you know you bound to wind up dead, if you don't head back to Tennessee, Jed." Well our duo headed back and do you know what happened right off?

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    That's right, our friends marked 50,000 miles together. [I did all the heavy lifting for this achievement.]

    The day wore on and threatened to become evening so Jack and The Bird called it a day and camped at Rock Creek Campground which is part of the Catoosa National Wildlife Management Area. The campground has about ten tent sites six miles up a winding road behind Wartburg, Tennessee. It's on the Emory River where Rock Creek intersects. Our friends heard a couple of trains in the distance, but other than that, only the sound of water bouncing off the rocks. The river and creek water are the only water in camp, so Jack used it for cooking and coffee, but brushed his teeth with water from his Hoser.

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    In the morning, Jack told the GPS lady to take our friends onward and to avoid dirt roads. So she took them right out of camp, and instead of turning left ,and taking the same six mile winding paved road out of the woods, she insisted they turn right and go out on ten and a half miles of gravel road. All along the way, she further insisted they turn right or left where only woods would greet them. Jack kept hollering and asking if she was drunk, but her pleasant voice remained calm and insistent no matter. The Bird kept his composure and just kept spinning his wheels. [Yep, that what I do. I'd ride plum into a tree if that's where Jack steered me.]

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    After a while, our buddies sucked it up again and returned to the Interstate. This time it was I-81 just before it joins I-40 which they rode through Knoxville and onto Nashville where they found the start of The Natchez Trace.

    The Trace is 444 miles of fifty mile an hour road with no stop signs and no traffic lights. It pretty much follows a trail, the Natchez Trace, of course, that predates the western invasion of this part of the world and runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, catching part of Alabama on the way.

    Out travelers found a National Park Service campground on the Trace in Tennessee and picked a spot that looked like it would not flood if it rained. To their delighted surprise, they found that all three of the National Park campgrounds on the Trace are free! The campground they found was the Meriwether Lewis campground and after making camp, Jack walked through the woods to the Meriwether Lewis memorial.

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    There were obstacles on the trail. In fact there were a lot of fallen trees all along the Trace and one area that looked like a tornado had touched down for a spell. This tree required climbing over, not stepping over.

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    There are about a hundred other grave markers in this field and they witness the heavy travel the Trace has seen.

    Jack and The Bird had a furry neighbor in the next campsite.

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    The camps on the Natchez Trace were the only camps Jack and The Bird shared with motorcycle riders. In fact they saw very few motorcycles on their trip and talked with even fewer riders. The group that rode with this mutt were a friendly trio from Mississippi and when it commenced to rain that night Jack was not the only one to find that he had not chosen his campsite well. The ground is so wet from rain that there's just no room for more water. Whatever water falls on the ground, stays on the ground and since it rained about an inch that night -- Jack left his coffee cup out and that's what he found in it in the morning -- the floor of his tent looked like a water bed that wasn't water tight. Everything got wet. One of the motorcycle neighbors, a round fellow with a an extra, extra large Confederate Flag tee shirt got flooded as well and he was not nearly so stoic about it as Jack was. In the morning he figured he would just throw all his gear away. Since it was warm, Jack just figured his would dry out so he packed up and split.

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    This is what the Natchez Trace looks like. What you don't see here, is that that there are a lot of turkeys along this route, more turkeys than Jack and The Bird see anywhere else they ride.

    The next campsite was in Mississippi and it wasn't swell.

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    Jack spent two nights and a day holed up in that wet tent while the rain just kept a pouring down. It was 2:30 in the afternoon before the rain let up enough to leave the tent for a while and Jack went for another walk.

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    First down to this pretty creek -- his source of water again -- and then along part of the old Trace.

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    Where ever our buddies found the old Trace, it was well worn down into a little valley. After an hour and a half walk, Jack returned to camp, assured The Bird that he was sorry about the rain, and returned to the tent because the rain had returned to Mississippi.

    This was the other camp, Rocky Springs campground, where Jack and The Bird saw another motorcycle. The camp is named after a community called Rocky Springs that hung on for a hundred years but gave up when they became so infested with boll weevils that they just couldn't hang any more. The other motorcycle was a Triumph Scrambler that belonged to a young fellow who called his bike, Burro. He had a burro sticker on the tank and a license plate that said BURRO as well. They had just passed twenty-five thousand miles together. They were also wet.

    As to the weevils, quite some time ago, Jack's mother in law had a bad stroke and Jack, his wife, and their sons went to be with her. Jack's sister in law showed up and Jack doesn't care much for her. Jack was cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the boys while Jack's wife spent the days with her mother at the hospital. They were staying at the mother in law's house and Jack noticed there were weevils in the rice in the pantry, but, being a seaman, that was nothing to him. The boys were warned and Jack made rice for dinner when the sister in law showed up. The boys kept a close eye on their aunt as she ate the rice and asked what the little dark spots were in the rice. To their credit, neither son laughed, but Jack's wife scolded him later when she found out about the game.

    When the rain let up, Jack and The Bird hit the road and were glad they'd stayed in camp during the rain because the last time they rode together through Louisiana it was cold and rainy, this time is was just about as perfect as perfect gets.

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    The road they were on turned out to be The Camino Real which is a road built by the Spanish and supposedly the oldest road in what is now the United States. Of course it's been repaved.

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    In Texas, the speed limit went up to seventy-five and that's a lot faster than the Spanish ever thought it would be. An interesting note here: Jack did some figuring when they camped that night and noted that on the Natchez Trace, with a fifty mile and hour speed limit and no stops, they were able to cover about 350 miles at an average of 49 mph. The next day, they covered about 350 miles on roads with 55 to 75 mph speed limits and stops at 51 mph. So an average of 2 mph faster, but with more stress. Not a good trade off.

    Our pals spent the night in a campground in Davy Crockett National Forest near Ratcliff, Texas.

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    They were the only campers in the tent area and the frogs in the lake behind them kept up quite a dialogue all night long. I know it was pleasant for Jack, but The Bird is inscrutable at times of rest. He just sits quietly, rain, shine, wind, or sun. The only evidence that he's still with the living is a little red LED that blinks every few seconds near the speedometer. I think it pacifies him like a thumb in the mouth of a toddler.

    I'll take a break here and see if I, or The Bird, can figure out a way to pick this narrative up later.
    #1
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  2. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    In the morning, Jack checked The Bird's oil level and tire pressure. He patted The Bird on his tank and said, "You're a good motorcycle, Bird." Loaded up, they left the Davy Crockett National forest and passed right by a Davy Crockett mural that The Bird thought would look better with him parked in front of it.

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    Soon after that, they rolled through some very wet East Texas country side. The creeks were finding their way into pastures and cows were getting fish stuck between their toes, but the grass was green and belly deep so our buddies didn't hear any whining from the soggy cattle.

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    When Matt Wise posted a link to the the story about riding 45,000 miles in 45 consecutive days, some readers thought that was too much riding. "I like to smell the roses along the way," was a sentiment shared by a few. So Jack took some photos for the flower sniffers along the way.

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    As the day wore on, Texas lost the wet look and began looking more like Texas.

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    Somewhere along the way that day, Jack saw two black deer by the side of the road. He thought that was pretty neat and when he looked up Texas black deer on the Internet, he read that they are the rarest of the rare as far as deer go. He didn't get a snapshot of the strange animals because, frankly, at 75 mph on backcountry two lane, the scenery goes past kind of quickly. The old cowboys trailing cattle along this Santa Fee Trail probably saw more of the countryside; or maybe just more dust and cow butts.

    The Bird is pretty particular about his diet, liquid, and about how often he needs refreshment. Jack, on the other hand, is not so good at taking care of himself. When people call Jack skinny, he insists, "I'm not skinny. I'm slim." I think he lost about seven pounds on this trip and admitted when he got home that he does feel kind of skinny. In any case, from time to time, our Jack felt like Jack Burns who said, "My stomach feels a little frayed from rubbing against my backbone." So Jack stopped at an American Legion post that had a shaded porch and one lone chair. There he ate a pack of Lance's Spicy Cheese Crackers while he consulted his maps. This trip included three of them, all from Rand McNally: Eastern United States, Central United States, and Western United States. By this stop, they were well past the middle of the Central United States. With a content belly, Jack saddled up and he and The Bird rolled. They rolled through Menard, Texas, past its gas station and turned right onto Highway 190 headed for Eldorado -- that's a good name for a waypoint. After twenty miles, Jack became concerned about The Bird. "I wonder just how far this Eldorado is," he said to himself and The Bird. "Better pull over and figure this out. We sure don't want to run out of gas out here, buddy." When they pulled over, Jack saw that his map pouch was not on the tank bag. "Ah oh, Bird, looks like I left the maps back at the American Legion porch. I don't think we can just blow this one off." So they turned around and rode twenty miles back to Menard. At 445 miles, this day would turn into the second longest of the trip. [You don't know if this was the second longest day of the trip. Jack forgot to check mileage on all but a very few days, and I don't keep track of that, so how can Mr. Smarty Pants Omniscient Narrator know how many miles we rode each day?] Bird, look up the word, omniscient. Sorry for the interruption and back to the story. Our intrepid travelers weren't smelling many flowers, but they weren't busting their humps either. This time, they gassed up in Menard -- real Texas gas, none of this boozy alcohol gas -- and headed back down 190 through Eldorado and on to Iraan, where The Bird cried for more fuel.

    From here, it would be south and then west with high hopes of getting to Big Bend National Park around lunchtime tomorrow. It was pretty easy navigation from here. South on 349 to Dryden and then take a right on 90. There are only two choices at Dryden, turn right or turn left. Off they went with Jack suffering a concern he had nearly every day of the trip: "Where are we going to sleep tonight, Bird?" There wasn't much traffic on the road south. In fact there wasn't any traffic. And, though there was plenty of open country on either side of the road, it was all fenced and all the gates were locked. "What's with these Texan's? Do they think a lone motorcycle rider will ruin a billion acres of desert by sleeping on it?" Eventually -- it worked that way every night -- opportunity knocked. Off to the right, a gap through the fence led to an open lot where some oil company had abandoned/was storing some empty tanks. "I sure can't see anyone objecting to us sleeping here, Bird, especially since they won't see us if we stretch out behind this tank and sage brush."

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    While Jack cooked some supper, three pickups drove by. All in a short caravan. After that, nothing until about an hour after dark when another one drove by. A half hour before dawn, the fifth pickup disturbed their solitude. Jack's idea was to sleep out and watch the stars, but clouds rolled in and he set up the Hilleburg again. Good thing, because it rained a little. There was a power pole in the corner of the lot. Three wires ran to the pole -- three phase power -- and two wires ran on down to the poles along the highway -- single phase power. There were three transformers on the pole, so at one time something was going on here. What interested Jack is that the transformers were humming. That meant they were turning 35,000 volts from the wires into 440 or 240 volt three phase power for some sort of industrial motor that Jack couldn't see. He followed the wires to some bushes and on the way he found more flowers.

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    Behind the flowers, and in the bushes, there was another pole with an electric meter on it. The meter was running. Something in this abandoned lot was using electricity. Jack followed the wires to where they entered a PVC pipe that went into the desert floor. No valves, no other pipes, just this one PVC pipe in the bushes going into the desert floor. Weird. When it got dark, Jack watched the stars for a while, talked to The Bird, and climbed into his sleeping bag in the tent. The sounds started. They were very strange, like the soundtrack for an old Outer Limits TV show. Jack is kind of a Scaredy Cat and he wondered if he had stumbled into something he shouldn't have stumbled into, but his eyelids grew heavy and he went to sleep. The Bird paid no attention to the sounds at all. He just leaned on his side stand and blinked his little red LED every few seconds. In the morning, Jack woke up when the afore mentioned pickup drove past. He was glad to wake up because when he went to sleep, he wondered if he would.

    After a breakfast of grits with raisins and instant coffee, and they were good to go. It was about 60° and raining lightly.

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    Gas became a concern and when they rolled up to the pumps in Marathon, Texas even the imperturbable Bird was glad. 137 miles since the last gas station.

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    Seventy-four miles more to Big Bend National Park. Once Jack was assured that they sold gas down there, he and The Bird were on their way. It didn't take long to get there with the 75 mph Texas speed limits.

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  3. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Upon entering the park, Jack and The Bird found they had a ride still ahead of them before they arrived at the entrance gate, another ride before they came to the welcome center, and further to go after that to reach the Cottonwood campground, and one more ride after setting up camp before they found the Rio Grande River and Mexico. But they did find it all.

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    That's the Rio Grande behind The Bird and that's Mexico on the other side. Jack didn't do a very good job with his photos, but the entire Mexican side of the river is fortified by an eight hundred foot high cliff.. If the cliff was on the U.S. side of the river, no one would be talking about building a wall. Nevertheless, there were signs explaining that the border here has always been porous with Mexicans and Americans crossing back and forth to carry on economic and social endeavors.

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    The Harmonia store was built with this in mind. The idea was to establish a convivial back and forth trading relationship between ranchers, farmers, and merchants in this region where conflict sometimes raised its ugly head. This store did a pretty good business for a while, but when the United States moved its troops out of the area, the store owners went with them. There is a place where Jack could have walked across to Mexico and walked back; where the river is only calf deep. The catch is that if U.S. Border Patrol catches you doing that, they can slap you with a big fine for illegal entry into the United States. Since the Border Patrol was in the area, and since none of the other tourists were crossing the river, and since Jack only had one pair of boots, he stayed in the United States.

    I wrote earlier that Jack and The Bird didn't camp with many motorcyclists or motorcycles. However, when they pulled into the Cottonwood campground, they did find to ADV riders, one on a Triumph Tiger and the other on a BMW GS, packing up to leave. The GS rider was just getting started on what was planned to be a six month trip. In camp, a roadrunner ambled by. This surprised Jack because every roadrunner he'd seen before, including one on this trip, was running across the highway, along the highway, or through the desert. This roadrunner just walked by, stopped, looked at Jack and The Bird and then hopped up on a log about sixty feet from our friends. Jack watched the bird for a while as he, or she, snagged two lizards for lunch. Jack watched another smaller bird perch on one of those fiberglass wands with a reflector on it. The bird, a pretty red breasted tweety bird, would lunge off its perch, snag a flying insect, and return to its perch. This went on for about twenty minutes. Jack's intention was to sleep out and watch the stars since Big Bend is one of the world's official dark sites. He held out until 11:45 when the sound of javelinas grunting as they foraged for food broke his resolve and he retreated to his tent. Jack's thermometer said the temperature was 103° at 5:30 in the afternoon. In the shade, and with a breeze, that felt delightfully comfortable. One night was enough and Jack and The Bird made their escape in the morning and left the park.

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    Except for the rain in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, the weather on the trip had so far been very pleasant. That changed on the day they left Big Bend. By the time they reached Marathon, the wind was way up and tumble weeds, sheep, and cows were blowing across the road.

    An old movie called, Giant is a good one. Our friends evidently passed through the location where the movie was made and they found these big cutouts that a fan had erected along Highway 90 near Marfa, Texas.

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    Of course that's Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and, though you can't see him clearly, Rock Hudson is driving the car.

    At a gas stop at Van Horn, which was another 130 mile ride between stations, I think, a truck driver asked if the wind was blowing Jack and The Bird around. Jack replied, "It's not blowing us around so much, but it's sure making my shoulder and neck muscles sore." Jack was wearing a new helmet on this trip, a Shoei Neotech 2 and the helmet was turning out to be very comfortable without causing any fatigue. On the very windy days, though, Jack tends to hold too tightly to the handlebars and this causes some fatigue in the shoulder muscles where they connect to his neck. He knows he shouldn't do this, but it's a bad habit he has been unable to break; even after many years.

    Jack and The Bird arrived at The Guadalupe Mountains National Park with the intention of spending at least a night there. However, at the visitor center a volunteer told Jack they were expecting seventy mile and hour winds in two days. Jack thought he'd like to get to some higher elevation in New Mexico before that in hopes of finding a different weather system; so they pushed on.

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    When Jack pulled off the road for the above shot, he clipped the engine kill button without knowing it. He assumed that he'd stalled the engine and just took the photo. When he tried to restart the motorcycle, The Bird would not start. "This is not a good place to get weird, Bird," Jack said to his friend. When Jack figured out what he'd done, he felt bad about falsely accusing The Bird. "I'm sorry, buddy. My fault." He patted The Bird's gas tank and added, "You're a good motorcycle, better than I deserve, that's for sure."

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    They rode up to Carlsbad Cavern in New Mexico where they found there is no camping in the park so they rode on up through the town of Carlsbad where they found a lot of traffic --most of it oil field service related. If people really think the United States is going to get off oil soon, they should look at the oil and gas infrastructure that will have to be disassembled. That is going to take some time.

    I make this sound more deliberate than it was. Actually, Jack rode on up to Carlsbad, got some needed supplies, returned to the park, then found there was no camping, screwed around trying to find some camping on nearby public land, gave up, rode back all the way through Carlsbad this time, and found some very nice dispersed camping near a lake well north of town.

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    When Jack came out of the tent in the morning, a coyote stood right next to the sagebrush that stands between the tent and The Bird. He looked at Jack with little concern until Jack said in a firm voice, "Coyote!" With that, the coyote walked off looking for breakfast. Jack cooked up his usual, instant coffee and grits with raisins. For this trip, Jack brought a new twig stove. This one is made by a fellow in Idaho who makes and sells them at fireboxtoves.com. It works a treat and holds Jack's Trangia alcohol burner as well as burning wood. The stove does such a good job with wood that Jack burned less than twelve ounces of alcohol during the trip and most of that was where wood fires were forbidden.

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    The New Mexico border brought our pals onto their last map, Western United States. They continued north to Artesia where they made a left turn onto Highway 82. The sky had clouded up completely by Artesia and the air had cooled. The Bird got a full tank of gas and Jack took a photo of one of the large sculptures in town. This one is called, Trail Boss.

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    It continued to cool and look more like rain and Jack and The Bird rode through the smallest National Forest they've been through yet.

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    That was it, two cottonwood trees.

    Eventually, our buddies started into the mountains. Jack stopped to put more clothes on, but held off on his rainsuit. It began to rain, but lightly. They continued first through foothills, then scrubby low mountains, and finally into beautiful green mountains where the sun came out, the sky turned a wonderful shade of blue and was decorated with big fluffy clouds. This area was all above 8500 feet and was called Cloudcroft. It is well worth visiting. Coming out of the mountains, the White Sands area filled the view. Man o man are those sands white; and big. North from there to Carrizozo where the clouds returned. By this time Jack had determined, by talking to a couple of people at gas stations who had cell phones, that another big front was on the way. Our travelers went on to San Antonio where they found more gas and a sign above the door to the store that warned cowboys to check their boots.

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    North again on I-25 this time, but for just a few miles until they turned west on Highway 60 at Socorro. Somewhere Jack had picked up a booklet that listed National Forest campgrounds in New Mexico and it said there was a small campground called Water Canyon on the way to Magdalena. They found it all right, but there wasn't any water at Water Canyon and Jack thought they might get stuck there with the front coming in so they went on to Magdalena. Jack dithered around in Magdalena, talked things over with The Bird, and decided to go on. They did -- until they came to a stop because of road work. They waited there a few minutes before Jack said, "Screw it, Bird. Let's go back and think about this water Canyon." They stopped in at the National Forest office and talked with a ranger. The front, they found, might be rain or it might be snow. The road to Water Canyon was paved for all but the last quarter mile to the campground, Jack knew this since they'd been there already, and any other good camping they might find on the way west would mean getting off on a road that would get very ugly with rain. They left and went west out of town again. Until the were stopped at the same construction. "Screw it, Bird. Let's go to Water Canyon." They rode back to Magdalena, bought a gallon of water at a Value Dollar, and an extra can of beans, and returned to Water Canyon where they had their pick of campsites on a Thursday evening because no one else was there. Jack pitched on a slope and under a tree hoping that he wouldn't get flooded. The slope was more than he'd figured and staying in his sleeping bag proved a trick.

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    That night the rain arrived; a bunch of it. In the morning, it was still raining and Jack remained in the tent. The Bird sat in the cold rain and blinked his red LED. Everything pretty much sucked. In the afternoon, Friday, Jack heard pickup trucks and generators and when the rain took a short break, he came out of the tent to find a bunch big camp trailers filling the campground. He told one fellow that he was surprised to see people come up to camp in such lousy weather. The camper said that he and his wife were as surprised at it as Jack. Somehow he didn't understand that Jack wondered why this guy had come camping. His only issue was that he couldn't understand why anyone else would. No one asked Jack or The Bird what they were doing there. It began to rain again and everyone went back inside; except The Bird. Not far above the campground, the rain was snow.

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    Our pals spent another night in Water Canyon and Jack assured The Bird that if it wasn't raining at dawn, they would split. It wasn't, but the trucks and rain had made a mess of the unpaved part of the road.

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    No trouble for The Bird. They were on their way. They passed a string of satellite dishes that were actually some sort of telescope.

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    #3
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  4. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    Crossed the Continental Divide.

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    And stopped in Pie Town for coffee and a chance to warm up. The Gatherin' Place in Pie Town is a friendly spot to take a break. When Jack came in, he sat down and asked for coffee. Two pleasant women were running things, one was cooking and the other was dealing with customers who acted more like friends. Jack took a post card from behind the cash register and wrote Jane, his wife, a short note. He left the card inked side up and his pen on the table while the ink dried. After a few minutes, a couple who had eaten breakfast rose, said their goodbyes, and left. A rancher sitting at that table picked up his coffee and moved over to sit with Jack. They soon determined that they were both sixty-five and retired and that some of their work history was the same -- roughnecking and bulldozer driving. They had a nice chat, but Jack was ready to go. Without thinking, he picked up his pen, put it in his breast pocket, and picked up the post card and put it in his inside coat pocket, paid for his coffee, and left. It was two days later that he remembered the card and then remembered that he hadn't paid for it. He stole it. That bothered him, but when he got home, he looked up the address on the Internet and sent them $5. He wrote in an accompanying letter that if the card cost more than $5 then he wasn't the only crook.

    Arizona was the next event. As I mentioned earlier, Arizona makes forty-eight states Jack has ridden in on Triumph motorcycles since he went to Triumph in 2010.

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    The weather was looking better, but gas was going up.

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    In Arizona, Jack and The Bird turned north. The weather was supposed to be coming in from the southwest and they, especially Jack, was hoping to avoid more of it. Off they went and Jack felt like a surfer riding a big tube. There were ugly clouds to the west and ugly clouds to the east and all the ugly clouds had a plan to meet in the middle, where Jack and The Bird were. Again and again, out friends scooted through the closing clouds. A couple of times, they felt a little rain, but it must have been blowing in because they managed to keep blue sky above them until they put all the ugly weather behind. Into Navajo country our travelers rode and they began to see the small hogans that are still popular with that tribe. The poverty of the area is in sharp contrast to the beauty of it.

    Jack and The Bird stopped at a Navajo campground in Chinle, Arizona for the night. The campground is right next to Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Jack avoided the canyon because Jane really wants to go there and they might not make it any time soon. He would have felt guilty to go without her so he didn't. The Bird didn't seem to mind. The next day, they came to the Four Corners area. This is the only spot in the United States where four states touch and while Jack and The Bird didn't go to that spot, they did visit the four states.

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    Utah first.

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    A little over zealous with the tar snakes, don't you think?

    Jack and Jane moved to Western Colorado near the end of 1976 and they rode a motorcycle all over this country for years. The roads and vistas are familiar to Jack and he doesn't tire of them. Even before that, in 1974 during an environmental science college class field trip to this area, Jack began to do what the people of the 60s had encouraged him to do: Question Authority. On that field trip, Jack was walking in a stream searching for some of the quicksand they'd been warned about when he found an arrow head. Jack was a geology major at the time and this was an interdisciplinary class -- geology, biology, and physics. Jack had not been raised with a religious upbringing and only remembers going to church three times before his mid thirties -- one of those was for a wedding. He was going to be a scientist and science is what he believed in. So he looked at that arrowhead and at the chips. No single chip was remarkable, but all the chips together were. Jack knew the arrowhead had been a stone that had been turned into an arrowhead by a knapper. Jack also understood that if he tried to convince his fellow students, or their professors, that the arrowhead was merely a stone that had been shaped by chance collisions with other stones as it passed millennia bumping around creeks and rock falls, no one would believe him. However, all of his fellow students, and their professors, would assure him that the knapper who made the arrow head was the product of random chances and collisions. It was then and there that Jack realized they were not only crazy, they were lying to him; and they were lying to themselves. It would be ten years and two more epiphanies before Jack began warming a church pew, but this was the first step.

    In Bluff, The Bird got more gas and the gas pump took a bigger bite from Jack's wallet.

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    On up the road in Blanding, our pals found a sleeping fellow charging his Tesla instead of putting gas in it.

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    Our traveling duo found a Tesla filling station in Montana two years ago, and these are the only two they've seen. Jack figures the cars know where they are. Too bad The Bird doesn't know where gas stations are. That would relieve Jack of some serious stress from time to time.

    Natural Bridges National Monument became the stop for the night.

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    That's the Owachomo bridge. In the Visitor Center, they have a picture of people on horseback crossing that one. Jack walked down for a closer look.

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    Natural Bridges is another International Darkspot and Jack tried sleeping out again. This time he stayed out all night and watched the Milky Way for about an hour in the early morning.

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    In the morning, Jack and The Bird packed up again and headed for Hanksville, Utah. There is a lot of country around here and more sheep and cows in it than people.

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    Jack had a buddy named, Jim. Jim took a girl for an evening ride up on the Uncompahgre past Whitewater, Colorado in the early eighties. Someone came upon the unfortunate pair in the morning. Jim was dead, the girl was unconscious, and the motorcycle was wrecked. The State Patrol determined that Jim hit a cow on the road and that the cow then wandered on off into the desert to die or to recover. There were plenty of cattle on the roads and they want your respect.
    #4
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  5. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    You either like Utah, or you don't. A lot of tourists do, but not many choose to live in it.

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    More gas in Hite. This was as expensive as it got, but it was this high at a lot of stations.

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    The Colorado River.

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    On through Hanksville and up and over the San Rafael, where Jack worked as a geologist looking for uranium for a couple of years after college, and down into Green River. In the seventies, Highway 50 ran through Green River and it was a going concern. Since then, Highway 50 has become I-70 and it bypasses Green River. A couple of years ago, Jack and The Bird, who called himself Wolf at the time, came through Green River and it was blowing away. It isn't thriving, but it is making a comeback. Jack decided to send a bike cover home from the post office in Green River before heading down through Moab, and back to southern Utah. When Jack worked out of Moab in the seventies, about the only people there were ranchers, a few farmers, and some miners. That was before mountain bikes, adventure bikes, and dune buggies. Now it is a huge mess filled with people and expensive toys, but our friends got through it pretty quickly.

    The difference between and arch and a bridge is that a bridge crosses a waterway and an arch doesn't.

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    This is an arch.

    South of Blanding again, and near Natural Bridges National Monument, Jack and The Bird camped in the desert on BLM land.

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    This was a great spot that they would return to, but at the time they didn't know that. First it was time for a bath. They were thirteen days into the trip with not so much as a face washing yet. Jack found a perfect little pool for him, but The Bird was left to his filth.

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    It was while stripping down here, that Jack realized he did not have his pen. "I must have left it at the post office in Green River," he said to the wind. While he bathed, he decided that since the pen was worth more than a hundred bucks and his time was worth nothing, he and The Bird would have to go back for the pen -- 150 miles. It wasn't as bad a deal as it sounded. They would ride back to Green River, collect the pen, ride back to Hanksville, and then go west and south through Escalante Canyon, and past Bryce Canyon, and then through Monument Valley in Arizona.

    In the morning, they split. In Green River, Jack found that he had indeed left his pen at the post office . . . and that the nice postmaster had copied the address of the package Jack had sent home and sent the pen to the same address. It would be home when he arrived. Well.

    Jack crossed the street to have a cup of coffee and use the Internet at a cafe, but he was waylaid by a stranded woman who kept looking at The Bird and trying to figure out how Jack could possibly take her and all her stuff to where ever it was that they were going. Jack is old enough to know the name of a woman like this: TROUBLE. Fortunately, she was at least wise enough to see that she wasn't going to catch a ride on The Bird. Jack didn't get to use the Internet.

    Jack and The Bird don't much care for motels, but one in Green River looked inviting.

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    Someone in Hanksville had some spare time.

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    What a great house. It's even got a window. [Where do I stay? I'm not spending all my nights camped in the desert.]

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    Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and finally in Utah our friends found The Dixie National Forest.

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    #5
    Shaggie and Amphib like this.
  6. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    So Jack and The Bird have made two water crossings, maybe three but we'll get to that later. The first crossing was a creek in the Croatan National Forest in North Carolina last December and it was easy peasy. This one warned that the cement bottom was slippery. It was, but our pals crossed it and crossed back when they found the road dead ended.

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    Evening was coming on, tourists were everywhere, all the camping spots were taken, the deer were coming out, Jack threw in the towel and spent $33 for a tiny spot in a private campground.

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    See those fire pits? Each tiny spot had a little fire pit and the lady in the office sold firewood and at each campsite, except Jack and The Bird's, the campers bought firewood and made fires and around each individual campfire the campers sat and told their own individual stories and made their own individual memories. In the spot right next to Jack and The Bird, a couple of young women from California were camped. They giggled with every single sentence they spoke. In the next camp spot, a young couple from British Columbia camped. They sat, two at one fire, and two at the other, ten feet apart and tried to stay to themselves without total success. The Canadian man was prone to interject into the girl's conversation from time to time; between the giggles. It was all kind of cool in a way. Jack thought the California girls figured he was some kind of old lecher so he left them all alone and sat with The Bird on in the grass and read. He did have a fire in his stove when he made dinner and breakfast, but that didn't draw any attention.

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    Someone came off the road and fell in the creek some time back. Jack did not tell The Bird about it.

    The coal fired Navajo power plant near Page, Arizona is going to shut down. That will mean losing a lot of good jobs for a lot of good people in an impoverished part of the country, but it's probably the time to do it.

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    Monument Valley Arizona shows up in many movies so it is fitting that it should make an appearance in this post.

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    The country between the far flung towns and cities in this area is timeless, but the towns and cities have changed remarkably in the past forty years. Except for one. As Jack came down a grade he perked up and said to The Bird, "Bird, if I'm not mistaken, we are about to come into Mexican Hat." He wasn't mistaken and it looks just about like it did a long time ago. What a treat. No photo though.

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    The two amigos returned to their BLM camp, but Jack pitched the tent out from under the tree since the tree dripped sap all over the tent last time. As the sun went down, it lighted the cliffs.

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    There is an old hymn that is called, The Doxology. It goes: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise him all creatures here below, Praise him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." Seeing these red cliffs and snow covered mountains, Jack changed it around a little. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, He makes those mountains white with snow, He makes those beautiful red cliffs glow, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." It's moving country and it's no wonder that the desert has called to and continues to call to so many holy men and women.

    Not getting enough vegetables? Instant potatoes with frozen mixed vegetables from Value Dollar. Yum!

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    Unfortunately for Jack, it was here that he exhausted his supply of grits and had to switch to curried rice with raisins for breakfast until he returned to a part of the world where they know what grits are. "They're just ground corn. Ya'll grow corn. Just grind some up and you've got grits," Jack tried to explain to mystified westerners.

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    These white flowers are popular. Sniff, sniff.

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    #6
    Shaggie, Pete S and joenuclear like this.
  7. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    "Time to start for home, Bird," Jack told the motorcycle. Colorado was the next state to mark. It is the state where Jack's wife was born, and mostly raised, and where they met at a campfire more than forty-five years ago.

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    Jack is not much for cafes, but this one in Dove Creek looked inviting.

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    Supposedly an old machinist who was a big Norton fan in the old days now lives here in Dove Creek, but Jack hasn't seen him in thirty-six years and he didn't try to find him.

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    Jack and The Bird went on through Cortez and Durango and then south and back into New Mexico on Highway 511 which wound through some very pretty country. At the state line, where the road went from being called Highway 172 to Highway 511, the change was dramatic. Often at county lines, the road surface changes. Here the road went from a fine two lane highway to a very rough piece of road. It was lonely enough that when Jack had to pee, he just pulled up and peed. There wasn't no one to see him. They came down past Navajo Lake and right down the face of the earthen dam, which distressed Jack a bit for some reason. The GPS lady was having a time with the area, but there wasn't really much opportunity to find another road to get lost on. Jack bought a TomTom Rider GPS because they were coming out with a new model and the old ones were deeply discounted. He should probably have bought a Garmin because he has since read, and believes it now, that Garmin does a better job with U.S. roads and TomTom does better with European roads.

    They came to Highway 64. This same road passes within a dozen miles of where Jack and The Bird live in North Carolina. When they found the road, they wondered if they could ride it right on home. As it turned out, they didn't, but they did put some miles on it.

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    Jack read a bit about Monasteries in the Untied States. He thinks he could settle into the monastic life and think of the world only in his prayers. One of the monasteries he read about was this one. So it was a treat to come upon it. The road to the monastery was a clay road that someone in a big truck, maybe more than one truck, had driven on while the road was very wet. The truck or trucks left big deep ruts that had dried as hard as cement. After a hundred yards, Jack wrestled The Bird around without falling over and they drove off.

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    This is a Catholic monastery and Catholics have vocations. Some have a vocation for religious life and become monks. Some have a vocation for marriage and become husbands. Since Jack is married, the abbots at the monasteries figure his vocation is for marriage and not for religious life. Oh well, if he had another life perhaps, but he's content enough with things as they are and his sons are glad he sired them.

    After Tierra Amarilla, our friends went up into the mountains again. There, picnic tables were only drifted piles of snow and the roads to campgrounds were undiscoverable in the whiteness. A ranch looked kind of forlorn for the middle of May.

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    Jack never did figure out the name of the pass, but it wasn't far from Brazos Peak and that's over eleven thousand feet high. A warning to trespassers appeared at a gate.

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    With a pretty neat looking cabin right next door.

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    They made a camp in Carson National Forest about thirty miles west of Taos.

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    While Jack was putting up the tent a couple of ADV riders pulled off the road. Jack walked over to tell them that if they came a little further, there was plenty of room and that they'd be further from the roadway. It turned out they were only stopping to pee and have a couple of beers. They all talked for a good while. These guys have been best friends since twelve years of age and they are in their mid fifties now. They seemed like fun guys, but they'd made up their mind to stay in Taos and when they found that Jack had no music, no campfire ring, and no beer, they thought that sounded dull. It wasn't.

    The ride into Taos was better than Taos itself. When our pair came out of the mountains and back into the high desert they began to see the compounds where the counterculture live. Then the earth houses, then they crossed that scary bridge over the Rio Grande River way down in its gorge. Jack didn't stop for a photo. When Jack gets to places like that he feels an urge to jump. It isn't suicidal, it's just something weird. He knows he won't jump, he never has, but it bothers him that he feels like jumping. Taos is one of those conspicuous consumption towns. When Jack and Jane were married at Jane's parents' house in Arizona, they spent a night in Taos on the way back to Colorado, kind of a two day honeymoon trip back to Colorado. Jane remembers Taos even further back than that because she made trips there as a child. Well, that Taos is gone. And the Taos of the Spanish conquistadors was gone before that. For this part of the world, Taos is an old city.

    After Taos it was back into the mountains and back to finding wind. By the time our pals came to the flat part of New Mexico the wind was waiting in all its glory.

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    At Clayton, New Mexico Jack asked a fellow at the gas pump if there was a place that served a good enchilada in town. He said he'd head ten miles south to Texline at the border and get lunch at Maria's. That's what Jack did and it was a dumb idea. The wind.

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    On the way to Texline, the wind was outrageous. Instead of an enchilada, Jack asked for a chili relleno. It wasn't a real chili relleno; probably reheated. On top of that, Jack heard a customer ask about the waitress's son who sat at the counter with a coloring book. "Does he favor you or his father?" the customer asked. "His father's birthday is next week. He would have been thirty-one, but he was shot and killed in a bar in Clayton," was her reply. Well, shoot. When he left, Jack left a 50% tip, shook the hand of the little boy, and told him to be good to his mother. Back on the road the wind was as bad as Jack has ever ridden in. There weren't any cows to be blown across the road because they'd already been blown on into Oklahoma. It was ten miles of terror, but when they got back to Clayton and turned east, at least the wind was more on their quarter than dead across the road.

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    Oklahoma is where Jack began his life, eight months and three days before Jane began her life in neighboring Colorado, and nineteen years before they would meet. By the time Jack was two, he'd moved out of Oklahoma and has kept on moving. When asked where he is from, Jack doesn't have a good answer.

    "I wonder where we'll sleep tonight, Bird." When they got to Gate, Oklahoma they saw this wayside park and asked at the cafe if anyone ever sleeps there. It turned out the sheriff was having his supper, with his rather large family, at the time. He grilled Jack and decided it would be alright if he spent the night there.

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    Just before going off to sleep, Jack watched a lightening storm to the north which would have probably put it in Kansas. He could see the lightening, but did not hear the thunder. The lightening went on and on and there wasn't really any time between bolts. Some went to the ground, some went cloud to cloud, and some started down, made a U turn and went right back up into the cloud they'd started in. But the storm didn't move and it didn't wane. It stayed over the same spot and hammered it until Jack closed his eyes and went to sleep.

    The next day was a rough one. Jack and The Bird left under an overcast sky and before noon they were in terrible wind, rain, and lightening. They stopped in a town called Medford, had a couple of cups of coffee and two pieces of Tombstone pizza at a sandwich shop that was hosting a bake sale for the local cheer leaders. Jack did a little shopping, used the porta-poti near the high school football field, and hoped the storm would pass. He looked at the motel as well, but there was more weather coming so it made sense to Jack to try and push on. They did, but it really was terrible. Finally, at Vinita, they threw in the towel and took a motel room on the famous Route 66. Cash only. $43. Pretty nice room actually. The knob for the shower was broken, but the bathtub worked so Jack took his second and last bath of the trip.

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    Jack used the microwave to make some instant rice and dumped a can of chili beans into that and turned on the news. All along their track that day there was a trail of destruction. A house turned to sticks and someones shop ruined as well. Floods, trees down, it was a mess and Jack and The Bird were glad to have gotten through. Oh yeah. I wrote about another water crossing. Passing through one little town, The Bird dropped into one puddle so deep that his front tire threw up a wave that washed across Jack's face shield. The Bird lost all the bugs he'd collected so far on the trip in all the rain.

    The weather was calling for one pleasant day and then another front. Our pals hit the road. They crossed on into Missouri and began to look for gas.

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    The Bird was into his reserve when they found a gas station. A nice lady came out of the shop and said, "The storm messed up our computers. We're trying to get them and the pumps up." "How far to the next station?" Jack asked.
    "Which way?" "East." "Twelve miles, can you make it?" "Twelve, yes mam, we can make that." They made it and pulled up to the pump. A nice lady came out and said, "The storm put our pumps out. The owner is on the way to fix them. Can you wait?" "Yes mam, I'll oil my chain." Jack pulled out a rag and some gear oil and wiped down The Bird's chain. As he finished a pickup pulled up. It was the fellow to fix the pumps. He couldn't. "How far to the next gas station?" "Six miles, can you make it?" "Have to, I guess." The next station was at a Walmart. They never fail. Plus, they had grits. No more curried rice and raisins for breakfast for Jack.
    #7
  8. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    383
    Southern Missouri is fine motorcycle country. Jack and The Bird have been there before and Jack's been there on other motorcycles before The Bird came along.

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    They'd had a lot of rain and Jack saw parks and picnic grounds that were under two and three feet of water, clear water. In one park, he could see the tennis courts clearly two feet below the surface. Jack had figured on sleeping in Missouri, but way too soon they were through it and crossing the Mississippi river into Illinois for just a tiny bit of road before they cross the Ohio river into Kentucky.

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    A lot of Kentucky is very nice.

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    Again it was getting on into the evening without a place to sleep. There were parks and wildlife management areas ahead, but the signs weren't mentioning camping. Then Jack spotted a sign that said, "Christian Camp Road." "I'm a Christian and I want to camp," Jack said to The Bird. They made a U turn and found an empty camp just waiting to be slept in. So that's what they did, them and a whole lot of fireflies, and a whip-or-will.

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    The one trouble with Kentucky is that they have roads they call parkways that aren't parkways at all. They are four lane highways with limited access and they bypass all the little towns. There are other ways through Kentucky, and Jack has found some of them, but he's spent a lot more time on the parkways than he would like.

    They camped in the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park in a spot Jack, Jane, and another Triumph had camped in before.

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    The sight looked familiar, but it was the tree with the weird branch that assured Jack he'd been here before.

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    There was another motorcycle rider in this camp. He came down from Chicago and was riding a mid 90s Katana. He and Jack talked for a while.

    The next day was to be the penultimate day of the trip. Two hundred plus miles to Willville Motorcycle Campground in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. It is an easy route: leave the campground, turn left on Highway 58, the Jeb Steward Highway, and turn right off 58 and into Willville. The GPS lady had a different opinion. Highway 58 is part of the Crooked Road, which is part of Virginia's Heritage Music Trail, and parts of 58 are four lane and parts are winding, hilly, wonderful motorcycle roads. The GPS lady told Jack to turn off 58 and he did because sometimes she finds cool roads that he wouldn't find. This time she led him down a quiet, slow road that wasn't really going anywhere. That turned into one of Virginia's single lane mountain roads. These roads are not paved as most think of paving. It's more like they filled in so many pot holes with asphalt that it all kind of becomes contiguous.

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    After eleven and a half miles of that, our friends were back on 58 and that's where Jack and The Bird stayed until they pulled into Willville. Of course there were motorcycles and friends there.

    The next day was a hundred miles of familiar road with a stop at the Triumph shop for an oil filter on the way home, where Jane snapped a photo of our intrepid travelers.

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    Twenty-two days, fifteen states, and 6598 miles.
    #8
  9. staticPort

    staticPort Meditrider Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Oddometer:
    513
    Location:
    east tn
    Well done! Couldn't stop reading . . .

    Love Bird's rear fender; gotta couple bikes that could benefit from some such.
    #9
    eaglescan likes this.
  10. JonBu

    JonBu Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2018
    Oddometer:
    97
    Location:
    Manchester, TN
    Really enjoyed your ride report. Very nice seeing familiar roads and spots along your route in TN. Catoosa is a very nice place to visit, very pretty. Glad you got to camp and ride through there.
    #10
  11. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    460
    Location:
    Langley,B C
    That was a great report, thanks. I agree with your take on Mexican Hat. We left Moab , I had made a few wrong turns in the RV ( thanks to the GPS) I forget the brand.
    Anyways , we see a sign says Mexican Hat, let's check it out. We found it, RV spot was great, right by the San Juan river. Checked out the Gooseneck Park and just have the best memory of that little town.
    #11
  12. borderlinebob

    borderlinebob Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2016
    Oddometer:
    132
    Location:
    CANADA-1/4 mile N of International Falls, MN
    Very cool ride report. Really enjoyed it. Linked in from Joe Motocross’s report.
    Thanks
    BB
    #12
  13. dano619

    dano619 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    975
    Location:
    sunny san diego
    Great report, you have a gift for story telling!!
    #13
  14. crashkorolyk

    crashkorolyk just happy to ride

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    222
    Location:
    vancouver island
    Great R.R. Never been through that area,thanks for sharing.
    #14
  15. SpiritAtBay

    SpiritAtBay Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2014
    Oddometer:
    198
    you said, "...then they crossed that scary bridge over the Rio Grande River way down in its gorge. Jack didn't stop for a photo. When Jack gets to places like that he feels an urge to jump. It isn't suicidal, it's just something weird. He knows he won't jump, he never has, but it bothers him that he feels like jumping."

    i have this same sensation. i've never heard of anyone else feeling this.

    i have been to this bridge over the rio grande you speak of. i walked out onto the bridge but the urge to jump made me walk back where i pretended to shop at the little road side stalls while my friend walked out onto the bridge to take photos.

    enjoyed the RR and the perspective (omniscient narrator pov)

    thanks!
    #15
  16. Pete S

    Pete S Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2018
    Oddometer:
    108
    Location:
    Portland, ME
    You guys aren't nuts. I think the same thing. It must just be one of those things people don't normally speak of.
    #16
  17. SpiritAtBay

    SpiritAtBay Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2014
    Oddometer:
    198
    i guess but everyone i've ever mentioned it to just looked at me like i was indeed, nuts!

    mebbe we should start a club. or a 12 step program

    now back to our regularly scheduled programming
    #17
  18. NoelJ

    NoelJ Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2016
    Oddometer:
    683
    Location:
    USA
    Great RR, glad I didn't miss it!
    #18
  19. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,842
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Hi from NZ! :wave

    Great RR! Enjoyed the perspective.

    Your Trumpy’s headlights? Aftermarket LED? Look good - I imagine they perform good too?

    Hope you write another RR!

    Best wishes

    Shane
    #19
  20. bbanker

    bbanker Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2011
    Oddometer:
    383
    Location:
    Beautiful NC
    Great RR! Where are ya in NC?
    #20