Motorcycle Memories: 2004 - Pittsburgh, PA to Marietta, Oh - via Death Valley

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MapMaster, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    It's freaking freezing outside (not too surprising for January), so now is a good time to transcribe barely readable journal notes and merge them with archived pictures from a trip long ago.
    So follow along, or ignore, the rest of my babblings as I create another significant deposit to my memory retirement fund.

    Why now? - Because I can.
    It's a retirement project. I have journal logs from x-country rides in 1983, 2000, 2001, 2007, and 2009 that may eventually get added to the existing ADV ride report collection. This 2004 ride is the oldest that I have digital photos from, so I'll start with it.

    Why then? A prefect alignment of season, rally, and work break.

    Notable highlights of this trip included:
    Counting coup on the last of the 50 states to ride a motorcycle in.

    Official commencement of a Continental Divide Campaign (had to set my sights on something else to serve as trip shapers).

    Fulfilling a life-long desire to see Carlsbad Caverns (a goal much older than the term 'bucket list').
  2. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I was toiling away as a contract wage slave doing project engineering work for Westinghouse early in 2004 when my manager unknowingly presented me with a golden opportunity.
    Word had come down from on high that a reduction in their workforce would be taking place.
    Understandably, before laying of employees, about 10 of us contractor scum (meant as a term of endearment, it was a label I proudly wore during my 20 years with them) would have to be let go first, at the end of March. My manager explained this to me, but then added that they would 'probably' (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) be calling me back in a month (the project had a long way to go yet). He was pleasantly surprised by my joy at that news because my immediate reaction was, "Great - a month long motorcycle trip with a job waiting at the end of it!" It couldn't get any better than that, there were various breaks in my working time, but I never had such a solid job prospect at the start of one.

    But when and where to go, and what bike to take (the '96 VFR or the '03 Suziki SV650N that I just picked up in the fall)?
    Obviously somewhere south, but I hadn't been contemplating anything specific at the time and I was finding it difficult to craft a cohesive campaign. Then I got notice that that year's "Center Of The Universe" (aka COTU) VFR based motorcycle rally would be the first weekend of May in Marietta Ohio and that gave me an endpoint to shape the trip around.

    Carlsbad Caverns and Death Valley were established as the two definite goals and the rest of plan evolved:
    Talked my girlfriend into flying out for a weekend in Las Vegas (I really had to twist her arm :evil) as a mid-point break.
    Consulted with my good friend Tony (@ssduc) about Arizona roads (the Corranado Hwy was added to the itinerary).
    Arranged visits with friends in West Virginia, Phoenix, and Des Moines.
    Decided to take the SV and eschew hauling any camping gear (with a job to come back to, I didn't have to scrimp and save as much to carry me through a longer drought).
    I would make up the specific route as I went along.

    So this was the departure photo on April 3, 2004:
    The bear did not make the trip, and I found that the fully expanded tank bag made the lack of a windscreen a non-issue
    2wingdoc05 likes this.
  3. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Early days:
    Cool to cold temps increased the number and length of stops and precluded any picture taking.
    I borrowed the girlfriend's digital camera for the trip and it did okay, but it was certainly not up to the capabilities of today's cell phones.

    Day 1 - 277 miles
    The first day's ride was to friend Dan's place near Huntington, WV.
    I went through Marietta, OH at about the 150 mile mark. I would return there for the COTU rally 8,000 miles later.

    Day 2 - 248 miles to Somerset, KY
    Started with a game of chess with the boys before heading out for a chillier ride through Kentucky.
    I could have done without the rain and wiping ice off of the face shield, but between the electric vest and several stops to warm up the day went well enough.
    2wingdoc05 likes this.
  4. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 3, 4/5/04 - 423 miles to Tupelo, MS
    Much better weather and I started to hit my stride (for today at least).
    The Natchez Trace Parkway was today's objective and while not nearly as entertaining as the Blue Ridge Parkway from a twisty road perspective, it starts out in the northeast with some very pleasant curves and the red bud coming into bloom was very nice.
    The smell of wisteria in Tupelo was another announcement of spring.


    Fall Hollow:


    Cotton bale:
    2wingdoc05 likes this.
  5. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 4, 4/6/04 - 183 miles to Jackson, MS

    I started the trip with 4000 miles on the bike and what looked like well over half of the original tread on the rear tire remaining.
    So I thought that I could make it about 3000 miles out to Las Vegas and arranged to have new tires installed there.
    The previous 3 days thoroughly disabused me of that idea. Consequently today's effort was spent getting to a better locale for sourcing a new tire.
    Since Jackson Mississippi is fabled in song* as a place to address such traction needs, I headed there, even though it wasn't a Saturday night. :lol3
    A queasy stomach was also mitigating major mileage munching today, so at least needs and capabilities were matched and one tank of gas was all that was required.

    One crappy Trace pic from today (or yesterday):
    Old Tadeusz was a Revolutionary War volunteer of Polish-Lithuanian background. He never made it to the Mississippi town named in his honor.

    * Uneasy Rider - Charlie Daniels
    2wingdoc05 likes this.
  6. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 5, 4/7/04 - 233 miles to Monroe, LA

    It took more than $20, but I had no complaints with the service and the shop had a great collection of old iron to inspect while they put a new tire on.

    I resumed Trace travels and continued to enjoy an accelerated spring.
    Today's blooms added azaleas and crimson clover to yesterday's magnolia and dogwood.

    Mount Locust Inn:


    After reaching Natchez it was across the Big Muddy and proceed north to Monroe, Louisiana.

    Ouachita river ferry:
    I had no idea how to pronounce that and wondered how they got 'wash-i-tah out of that collection of vowels. Figures that it would be French.
    2wingdoc05 and davidaid like this.
  7. mpenner

    mpenner Heavy Cruiser

    Dec 17, 2008
    Centerburg, OH
    Nice start. I will be following along.

    What Westinghouse facility? I spent 1986 to 1990 working at Westinghouse in Baltimore, MD on airborne radar transmitters. Loved the job, but hated the locale.
  8. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 6, 4/8/04 - 553 miles to Waldon, AR

    Today encapsulated the absolute best of motorcycle travel for me.
    I had fantastic fun romping in the Ozarks on great, new-to-me roads. I had traversed northern AR a few years ago, but that had been a rainy day and I didn't have a great time budget to play with, so while I was aware of good riding opportunities, I couldn't take advantage of them.
    Today was not like that. I didn't go through Fayetteville, home of the Razorbacks, but helmeted exclamations of SOOIE reverberated often!
    Odd though, not one picture. :hmmmmm :lol3

    AR 7 north of Jessieville was signed as 'Scenic 7', I had to take their word for that, I was too focused on enjoying its sinuousity
    North of Russelville was a yellow and black "Steep and Sharp Turns next 63 miles" proclamation!
    I missed getting a picture of that sign because I had just gotten past a 4 cage clump and didn't feel like having to pass them again. :evil
    Only enjoyed about 30 miles of that stretch because a rest break at a motorcycle salvage yard along the way yielded a recommendation to turn off onto route 123 and that was the second best suggested route of the trip (the Coronado Hwy was more funner, but not by a lot).
    I've had better days dancing in the Appalachians, but not many! :D

    Looped around back south and finished in Waldron, AR for the night.
    2wingdoc05 likes this.
  9. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Thanks. Over the years I shifted from PCD to Nuclear Automation to the Energy Center. May have worked with an acquaintance of yours, pm sent.
  10. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 6 postscript:
    Loved some of the place names I encountered:
    Blue Ball (just one?)
    Yell county (but wtf, Yellville is not in the county of Yell :dunno)
    And while I didn't go there this trip, I have to give a shout out to Toad Suck, AR just because. :lol3

    Day 7, 4/9/04 - 340 miles to Lawton, OK
    Another beautiful day that started with a continuation of the Arkansas asphalt assault up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park.
    Where this locomotive caught my eye:



    The park was named for the then reigning queen of Holland, not because she ever saw the place, but because Holland was a major investor in the RR company that built the park's lodge.

    Then it was into Oklahoma on the Talimena Parkway, a very scenic route that descended nicely to the flatness of the Plains.

    At my first fuel stop I encountered a "diverse and eclectic" group of motorcycles comprised of 2 Triumphs, a new FJR, a BMW R1150S, and 2 other metric cruisers. All riding together and heading for the parkway I had just come down. They liked my choice of words describing their ensemble. I told them that I would have said "a dysfunctional & mismatched collection of misfits, but we hadn't been introduced yet." :lol2

    It was around here that I started answering the commonly paired questions as follows:
    'Where ya from? Pittsburgh'
    'Where ya headed? Ohio'
    And was usually greeted with a proper double take, whereupon I would add: "I think I took a wrong turn somewhere." :D

    I trekked across OK mainly under bright sunshine, but with a good bit of wind and the messy demise of a large number of yellow bugs.
    Near Ada there was a large black cloud obscuring the northern horizon, but it stayed there while I continued west. This was before the days of having up-to-the-minute weather radar maps at one's fingertips and I counted myself lucky.
    Suncoaster likes this.
  11. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 8, 4/10/04 - 322 miles to Colorado City, TX

    More place name commentary: LA has Ouachita, OK - Washita, AR has both. :scratch :-)

    Big Bend NP was among the potentialities at the start of the trip, but today the temps dropped again (never got out of the 40's) and the winds continued. :vardy
    The projected temperature trend for Big Bend was not attractive at all, the drop corresponding to increased elevation was going to more than offset any gain from being further south. So I shifted focus to eastern NM and decided that Roswell deserved my personal Alien probe investigation. :deal (Big Bend would be checked off 5 years later)

    Map study yesterday resulted in the Witchita Mountains Wildlife Refuge getting placed on today's list of way-points.
    I rode through in the morning and saw bison, elk, prairie dogs and Texas longhorns roaming about and the visitor's center was impressive.
    Alas, no decent pictures resulted. :(

    Entered Texas (first time there on a m/c), the Red River was really red, and worked my way south and west through Old Glory to Colorado City on secondary and Farm roads. The 70 mph speed limits on the farm roads reduced the need for interstates to get across the state in less than a week. :D

    Miscellaneous tidbits from the day:
    Old Glory started life as New Brandenberg, but the German settlers renamed the town in WWI to show support for their new homeland.

    I discovered new food items - lemon chess pie, and HST (Harry S Truman) pie - a lemon chess pie with nuts. Hunter S Thompson might match, but ordering it that way might result in some undesirable side effects (at least that's not the kind of trip I want to make :choppa)

    Saw a LOT of boarded up gas stations and failed restaurants & motels. Though given the climate, this might not indicate a recent downturn. Seems like an aged, sun-bleached patina could be achieved pretty quickly, and then maintained for ages. So it might be tough to differentiate between a depression era closure versus an 80's bust. :dunno
  12. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 9, 4/11/04 - 357 miles to Carlsbad, NM

    A cold, windy, raw day. I must have been getting used to it (or just numbed by it), the sun came out later in the day and it felt like it must have been in the 50's, then I saw a couple of bank thermometers pegging it at 45.

    I try to be open and appreciative of all of the varied terrain and towns I ride through, but southeastern NM really did not impress. Eunice and Monument were holes. But things improved and as I rode through a gap in the bluff on NM 249 the land announced the end of the Great Plains and the start of the The West (to me at least).

    Roswell was the intermediate destination and the welcome sign there proclaimed it, "The dairy capital of the southwest." Whaww?? No reference to ETs? I was disappointed.


    The UFO museum was a good funky stop. Paid my respects to the doorman:

    And I was very taken with this sculpture in town:


    The run down to Carlsbad was uneventful, but dinner options were limited because it was Easter Sunday.
    No local options were open and I had to settle for a Chili's. My love affair with NM cuisine would not ignite today.
  13. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 10, 4/12/04 - 56 miles out and back to Carlsbad, NM

    I saw a sign yesterday or early this morning for the WIPP site (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant), an underground storage facility for U.S. defense-generated transuranic waste. Link
    This was not on my original itinerary because while I knew of the facility, I didn't realize it was so close to Carlsbad. Westinghouse had supplied WDPF processing system for control and monitoring at the site and some of the folks I worked with had done work on this project. So I decided to swing by and check out the visitor's center on my way to the caverns. Nothing of particular note, and they certainly won't going to let some stranger off the road check out any of their processing system stations, so after a brief stop I moved on to scratch an itch that had been with me since seeing some TV program about Carlsbad Caverns in my childhood.

    The views from the start was pretty good:

    But the excursion was almost scuttled at the start. There was no provision at all for storing my gear anywhere. I really didn't want to leave it all on the bike, but in the end decided to risk it and fortunately no one bothered it. Don't know if I would make that same decision today.

    You can take an elevator, or hoof it down the Natural Entrance trail, which is what I did. It's a steep 1.25 mile walk, but a very cool one. The opening is so large that it takes a long time for the transition to the absence of any natural light to be reached. And it was nice that the paved trail eliminated the need to hike over 45,000 years of accumulated bat guano.

    At the end of the entrance tail, you enter the Big Room, and the name doesn't do it justice. It was another 1.5 miles of walkways just around that spacious wonderland.
    I bought a photo cd, because I knew none of my pictures would do it justice.
    But I did snap this men's room view:
    Don't lean forward to check your stream without a hardhat. :deal

    My explorations were limited to the Big Room, guided tours to other chambers of the caverns are available and I see further future forays to check out some of those. And to watch the bat's evening evacuation event. It was too early in the season during my visit, the bats were still hanging out down in Mexico somewhere.

    After all that walking, I was not feeling motivated for much more motorcycle miles and moseyed back to motel it Carlsbad for the night.

    It was a beautiful day and I saw a jack rabbit, roadrunner, and small coyote while above ground. But the coyote and runner sightings were separated by time and distance, and the 'yote didn't look very wiley, so no recently dropped boulders, painted tunnels on cliff walls, or discarded Acme shipping boxes were observed.
  14. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 11, 4/13/04 - 406 miles to Deming, NM

    Today was one of those days that encompass virtually all that is best about motorcycle travel to me.
    Map study the previous day resulted in a westward south-north-south zig-zag route selection to take in a ride-by of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, skirt El Paso, swing through Alamagordo, visit White Sands and then blitz due west for a bit.

    Beautiful day:

    The mountains gradually shed their blanket of mist:


    An agave plant (I think):

    El Capitan (not quite as impressive as Yosemite's version, but still grandeurous):

    The early start on a cool morning, with the intention of getting breakfast an hour or so down the road, didn't quite go to plan but resulted in a refreshing encounter and was the first time I've had a hamburger with salsa and chips for breakfast (at 1130). This was at a cafe in Salt Flat, TX on US 180. The elderly lady running the place explained that her grandparents established it in 1928, and built the 'new' place (pictured) in '48. Pioneer history out west is still very fresh.

    The major objective of the day was White Sands National Monument, and it did not disappoint. Note to self and any future 2-wheeled visitors: have a large area kickstand support plate tied to a lanyard so that it can be deployed and retrieved while straddling the bike.

    I think this is San Andreas Peak in the distance:

    The gypsum dunes are constantly moving and growing about 2 ft/year, but the vegetation mounts a stiff resistance as long as it can:

    The unexpected surprise find of the day was the White Sands Missile Range museum. It was too late in the day for the museum proper, but the missiles on display outside it were accessible and prompted more memories of a youth absorbed by the space race and all things rockets. While there I was entertained by an F-117 and another jet (F-16 maybe) maneuvering overhead. Not very stealthy in the daylight. :deal

    I saw several old friends, so-to-speak, and curiosities that I was not aware of:


    The most distinct visual image of the day still etched in my mind was on the access road leaving the museum, a Red-tailed Hawk was perched on a fence post, illuminated by the golden evening light. I saw it launch at some unseen prey in the scrubland and was awed by it's glide over a hundred yards or so before losing sight of it. Nature's own talon missile.

    Made my way to Deming for the night, arriving just in time to snag dinner before the 9 o'clock closing bell.
    Met an older rider on a BMW R1150 setup for touring at the motel, but recent knowledge of upcoming road conditions could not be gleaned because he had avoided the Coronado Trail, saying that there were too many turns in it for his liking. That being an un-possible condition for me to conceive of, the conversation soon lapsed.

    There was no need for a fork to determine that I was completely done at the end of this absolutely awesome adventurous day.
  15. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Found one more of the evening light and shadow kissed mountains leaving the White Sands Missile Museum.

  16. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 12 - Part 1, 4/14/04 - 209 miles to Silver City, NM

    Another great day in travel mode, saw industrial and historical sites, observed wildlife, enjoyed twisty roads, adjusted to new routines, and started a new riding campaign that would shape travels over the next 11 years.

    The first task of the day (after breakfast) was a stop at a Walmart. This was my first trip using a digital camera (cell phone cameras were not yet ubiquitous) and I had no laptop to download pics too, so I cleared the nearly full memory of the camera by getting them transferred to a CD in the photo department there. IIRC, it was only about $4.

    The Campaign

    Then it was time to beeline west to the continental divide on I-10 for the formal start of a quest to ride all of the paved crossings of the continental divide, that ridge line that determines whether a rain drop would eventually end up in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. This far south the first saltwater encountered would be either the Gulf of California or Gulf of Mexico.
    Having done several cross-country trips in the past, these would not be my first divide crossings, but an ultimate goal of eventually riding all of them had only crystallized with the initial plans of this trip. The goal wasn't to tick off boxes for bragging rights (though I am a bit proud to have done it :nod), but from the fact that being at comparatively higher elevations, the routes that make such transits are predominantly excellent motorcycle roads. :ricky
    So it served as a series of destinations to aim the motorcycle for many outstanding rides. I had been doing a similar exploration of all of the roads back east that cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. And in my first ride to Alaska in 2000, I sought out all of the divides in western Canada (there are only 7 of them), where the divide separates drainage basins of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

    Some of the divides are not physically discernible because the overall landscape is pretty flat and that would be the case for several of them here in southwest New Mexico, but I'm anal enough to include ALL of them. However I don't suffer from CDO (OCD with the letters in alphabetical order :evil), so there was no intent of any sequencing by elevation, or a south to north progression. And I decided that getting pictures of the elevation signs of less than 5000 feet wasn't essential (some of those weren't signed anyway), so the morning was spent crossing the one on I-10 and circling/back-stracking south of there on NM 113, 9 (W and E of the 113 Jct) and 145. Later in the day I notched crossings on NM 90, 35, 15 and U.S. 180.

    On NM 15:

    To give myself an on-line location for reference, I'm going to detour from this ride's narrative for a moment to post the list all of the roads/passes involved (from south to north) with the month and date they were ridden. This is the complete list to the best of my knowledge based on the AAA maps that were the primary source at the time that I was riding them:

    U.S. Paved road Divide Crossings - 67.
    Several passes had a frontage road that I did as well, but are not usually included in the total.
    US 6 over, and I-70 under/in, the Loveland Pass are counted separately. :deal
    The multiple crossings for roads marked * means separate divide passes on the same road, not repeated passes on the bike.

    New Mexico, 26
    *NM 9 between Animas and Hachita - 2 crossings - 4/04
    NM 113, S of I-10 exit 34 - 4/04
    NM 146, S of I-10 exit 49 - 4/04
    I-10, about mile 55 - 4/04
    NM 90, between Lordsburg and Silver City - 4/04
    US 180, west of Silver City - 4/04
    NM 15, north of Silver City - 4/04
    NM 35, north of Silver City - 4/04
    NM 59, west of Winston - 2/09
    NM 12, between Old Horse Springs and Aragon - 4/04
    US 60 between Datil and Pie Town - 4/04
    *NM 36, north of Quemado - 2 crossings - 4/07
    NM 53, between San Rafael and El Morro Nat, Mnmt - 4/07
    I-40, mile 47 - 5/13
    I-40 Frontage road, north of the interstate (counted because it had a separate divide crossing sign).
    Indian Res (IR) 49, north of Thoreau - 5/13
    NM 371, north of Thoreau - 5/13
    NM 509, between White Horse and Ambrosia Lake - 5/13
    IR 9 west of Torreon - 5/13
    US 550, west of Cuba - 5/13
    Short spur off of 96 in Regina - 5/13 (don't remember if paved or not)
    *NM 595, between NM 96 and Los Ojos - 2 crossings - 5/13
    US 84, west of Chama - 4/04
    Note: NM 471 shone on map as paved, is not.

    Colorado - 14
    US 160, Wolf Creek Pass - 6/01
    CO 149, Spring Creak Pass - 5/07
    CO 114, North Pass - 6/13
    US 50, Monarch Pass - 6/13
    Chaffee Cnty 306, Cottonwood Pass - 6/13
    CO 82, Independence Pass - 6/13
    US 24, Tennesee Pass - 6/13
    CO 91, Fremont Pass - 6/13
    US 6, Loveland Pass - 6/13
    I-70, Eisenhower Tunnel - 6/13
    US 40, Berthoud Pass - 6/83
    US 34, Milner Pass - 6/01
    US 40, Muddy Pass - 6/83
    US 40, Rabbit Ears Pass - 6/83

    Wyoming - 11
    WY 70, Battle Pass - 6/13
    WY 789, south of I-80 exit 187 - 6/13
    *I-80, Rawlins to Table Rock, 2 - 6/83 **
    *US 287/WY 789, north of Rawlins, 2 crossings **
    WY 28, South Pass - 6/13
    US 287/US 26, Togwotee - 7/15
    *US 287 in Yellowstone, 3 crossings, 9/00
    Note: WY 352 to Union pass shone as paved on map is not.

    ** The the eastern boundary of the Great Divide Basin in WY was considered a continental divide, but that has been subject to interpretation and the "true" divide is now considered to be only along the western edge (the rationale being that if this endorheic basin ever overflowed, the water would reach the Atlantic).
    But they are/were signed as divide crossings. So they stay on my list! :deal

    Idaho/Montana - 4
    US 20, Targhee Pass - 7/15
    MT/ID 87, Raynolds Pass - 7/15
    I-15, Monida Pass - 7/15
    US 93/MT 43, Chief Joseph Pass - 9/00
    Note: ID 29, Bannock Pass shown as paved, it's not

    Montana - 12
    MT/cnty 569, south of Anaconda - 7/15
    I-15, Deer Lodge Pass - 7/15
    I-15, Deer Lodge Pass Frontage Road - 7/15
    MT 2, Pipestone Pass - 7/15
    I-90, Homestake Pass - 7/15 - The last one! :wings
    I-15, Elk Park Pass - 7/15
    I-15, Elk Park Pass Frontage Road - 7/15
    US 12, Mac Donald Pass - 6/13
    MT/cnty 279, Flesher Pass - 6/13
    MT 200, Rogers Pass - 6/13
    US 2, Marias Pass - 7/00
    GNP GTTS Road, Logan Pass - 7/00

    The final crossing, over the Homestake pass was detailed in my 2015 AK, NWT, James Bay ride report (sig line link), but the picture I snagged at the summit is worth a repeat (IMHO :-)):
  17. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 12 - Part 2

    Far more than mountain passes filled the day.

    Passed a placid passel of pronghorns:

    Later in the day saw 2 red tailed hawks on a road-kill rabbit, with some crows hanging around awaiting their chance.

    Saw the Santa Rita copper mine, which I thought was a pretty damn big hole at the time (my frame of reference would be considerably expanded later in the trip):

    Enjoyed some spectacular scenery:

    And explored the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (a place that may have never been visited had I not been chasing divide crossings):



    I didn't see any gila monsters, so this little guy will have to serve as a fill-in:

    It was a small hike with a large elevation gain:

    And I captured one last vista including the Gila River after leaving the monument (somewhere south of the Dwellings on NM 15, before or at the pass summit - I think):

    As the pictures indicate, it was a gorgeous day.
    The hike and the altitude took a bit out of me, so I called it quits relatively early (meaning before it got dark) and holed up in Silver City for the night.
  18. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 13 - Part 1, 4/15/04 - 498 miles to Safford, AZ

    A very moreish day: more mountains, more miles, and much more mine.

    Morning along US-180:
    I don't know what the official US Geological Survey name is, but it's Rhino Mountain in my book.

    The run north on 180 and NM-12 was wind assisted and I logged 160 miles before the reserve light told me to get gas soon.
    The day's route was plotted to run through divide crossings on 12 and U.S. 60, which put me within 20 of the National Radio Astronomy Osbervatory's Very Large Array. After a quick fuel stop, that provided an extended break in the day's ride and a good walk while I geeked out on more tech stuff.

    But walk carefully:

    The Array was in its second tightest grouping, at it's furthest the 27 individual radio telescopes that make up the array are spaced out along 3 radii, each 13 miles long.

    "War of The Worlds" comes to mind:

    There's an extra telescope to allow them to be rotated in for regular maintenance:

    The dish is 82 feet in diameter:

    Array Art:

    After gazing at star gazers, it was time to head west across another divide and then through Pie Town (don't blink or you'll miss it).
    I wasn't in need of food fuel at the time, so I can't vouch for any radio dish shaped baked goods.
    RedDogAlberta likes this.
  19. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 13 - Part 2

    The wind was against me now causing the reserve light to complain after only 130 miles on this tank.
    At about the same time, I stopped for this shot:

    The significance of this event is that I had now ridden a motorcycle in all 50 states. Odd that Arizona should be the last, Hawaii or Alaska would be the more likely guess, but the Navy gave me the opportunity to notch Hawaii in 1983 (not only did I ride a motorcycle in HI, I rode there to do it :deal), and the Alaskan itch was scratched in 2000. Unlike the just commenced continental divide quest, riding in all of the United States was not a long held objective. Had it been I could have achieved it on one of my earlier cross-country trips, but those had all been in the summer and the thought of riding in the dessert southwest in July or August had never appealed to me.
    But I was happy to grasp the opportunity this ride presented. At the start of the ride; MS, LA, TX, NM, and AZ were the known missing pieces with AL being a slight question mark.
    Riding the Natchez Trace took care of the eastern gaps (confirming AL by catching the northwest corner of it) and the rest were a matter of course.
    I don't really think of it as any sort of special achievement in regards to perseverance or motorcycle skills, it's not like I did it as an Ironbutt challenge. What it is testament to is how fortunate I've been to have the time go on a lot of long rides.

    And the best part of the day still awaited!
    After a stop in Alpine (note to self - AZ in April at 8,000 ft is really cold :vardy) to fuel both bike and body, I headed south on the Coronado Trail, aka US-191, formerly known as US-666. :boid

    Did I mention it was cold?:

    But this sign warmed me up with excitement:

    Another caution sign that caught my attention was:
    As it was already after 5, and I noticed a distinct lack of guard rails; the 25 and 30 MPH speed limit signs were not given much due, but I did keep my exuberance under control.

    The road was an amped up and elevated version of the southern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.



    Virtually deserted (only 3 vehicles went by in the opposite direction) a lone VFR was the only other southbound traveler the entire run!. Ben, from Colorado Springs, passed me as we approached the southern end of the magic and both of us stopped at an overlook of the Morenci Mine. He was Mexico City bound and clad in a new Aerostich Roadcrafter nearly identical to mine, he was envious of the road-worn patina my suit had acquired. As his future plans held further round trips to Mexico City, matching patinas would not be long in coming.

    It seemed like the open pit Morenci copper mine could hold 5 of the Santa Rita mine I saw yesterday (image from the web, it was too far into dusk for me to get a good picture):

    And the road was signed as 'Temporary 191' in the vicinity! It gets moved as the mine grows.

    A relaxed run into Safford finished the day.
    Though I mis-managed the miles morning mapping maneuvers mandated, missing my mark minusculely marred my mood. :D

    (Have I mentioned that I have an alliteration addiction? :lol3)
    dano619 likes this.
  20. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Sep 28, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Day 14, 4/16/04 - 244 miles to Tuscon, AZ

    Calls last night set a Phoenix arrival three days hence, so there was time to explore without having to pound out many miles.
    Scenic roads as marked on AAA maps are often sinuous as well and that made Chiricahua National Monument the first of today's aim points. Nothing in the log or memory bank recalls anything specific about the road (NM-186), but the site was a very good one.

    The unusual rock formations reminded me of the hoodoos in Alberta, but these are crafted from volcanic tuff instead of sandstone.
    How many faces do you see in these pictures? (I always enjoyed playing that game with mom when I'd show her images like these from my travels):

    There's a dog licking a face in this one: :-)


    Great day for hiking:

    Mug shot:

    And the profile:

    Rocks weren't the only thing that demanded attention. A spiny lizard escaped a candid camera capture.
    But this tree agreed to pose, gnarly and fire scarred indeed:

    Tombstone was the late afternoon objective, but that turned out to be a discordant, disappointing, and depressing destination.
    I don't know why. Maybe I was tired from the previous day's long ride and the earlier hike. It wasn't an excessively obnoxious tourist trap, but I didn't get any authentic Old West vibes either. The bar and stores I checked out seemed to be mashups of dusty cow town and souvenir shops that just didn't work for me. No interesting conversations where to be had, but that may have been more due to my mood. Whatever the reason, stops like this happen occasionally and I moved on.


    That night's motel's funkiness finished my funk.


    This wasn't my first time to a desert environment, but I was being bewitched and enchanted by the cactus, lizards, and the small splashes of color that were all the more vibrant against a dusty tan background. The contrast to the predominant greenery of the east was refreshing. Though I'm not ready to swap permanent residences. I have no desire to experience a full summer out here. :D